An improving day

As we had a very wet and grey morning here, I am pleased to have an East Wemyss dawn as the guest picture of the day by way of a contrast. Tony was up early again.

It was so wet here in the morning that Dropscone came round in his car for coffee instead of cycling as he normally does. The treacle scones were just as good as usual though. When he left with some runner beans, I did some cooking. I made a batch of oatmeal and raisin biscuits and a pot of potato soup. The biscuits were good but the soup could only be classed as rather dull.

I had a look to see if the birds were enjoying the weather and found several candidates for the most miserable bird of the day.

One sparrow was not bothered. It was tucking in regardless.

The feeder got busier as I watched.

After lunch, I put a good number of entries into the Archive Group newspaper database, finishing one week and starting another and then, since the rain had eased off, I took a damp walk round the garden. It was so gloomy that the nicotiana thought that it was the evening and had stayed out.

The tall daisies were my favourites today.

A check on the forecast suggested that the rain might have finally passed over us by this time, so I put on my walking boots and went for a stroll. By agreement with my legs, no hills were to be involved today and I started along the river where I met two wagtails . . .

. . . several ducks . . .

. . . and my friend Mike Tinker who was also out for a walk. We chatted for a while and watched one of the wagtails and the water going under the Town Bridge.

I walked on up the main road to the High Mill Brig. There, under a watchful eye from a spyhole . . .

. . I walked up round the field to the end of the Baggra. I had company in the form of a pheasant.

It was remarkably dry underfoot in spite of the heavy overnight rain . . .

. . . and I had leisure to look around as I went along.

During this part of the walk, there were some early autumn colours to be enjoyed.

I came down on to the Castleholm where I could see the preparations for the Langholm Show which takes place this Saturday.

Sticking to low ground, I went across the Castleholm and the Jubilee Bridge, round the Scholars’ Field, where young girls were getting some football coaching, along Eskdaill Street, and then up to Pool Corner and along to the Auld Stane Brig. It was good to see some water running down the rivers and streams.

At the Auld Stane Brig, I turned and headed back towards the town along Gaskell’s Walk. Fungi in various states of health and disrepair could be found here.

Rabbits have been busy in the banking beside the new path.

At the Stubholm, I rejected the opportunity to take the quick route home and went along the Murtholm to Skippers Bridge before walking home on the other side of the river. I picked a few hazelnuts for Mrs Tootlepedal as I went along, and looked across the river just before I got to Skippers.

I found interest along the way.

I was surprised that some fungus which had looked very fresh when I saw it yesterday, had started to go over today.

I found that I had done six and a half miles by the time that I got home, further than yesterday but with only a third of the ascent.

After our evening meal, we went out to a practice for a centenary concert which the Langholm Amateur Operatic Society is presenting next spring. Rather to my dismay, the musical detector told us that not only will we will have to learn the songs by heart, but there will be movement too. This may prove to be more than I can cope with. I enjoyed the singing though.

It was an unusual experience to walk home in the dark. We have not had a night out for a long time.

There is a miscellany of flying birds today.

Fame at last.

Today’s guest picture comes from my walking friend Mark. It shows a curious old gentleman who went with him on a walk yesterday.

We were up and away promptly after breakfast when we cycled up to join the volunteers at the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve tree nursery. The last few trays of seedlings needed to be transplanted to bigger trays and added to the many thousands of trees there.

Those with sharp eyes and a familiarity with BBC Scotland TV programmes may spot a well known face in the background. The presenter Dougie Vipond, with a producer and a cameraman from the programme ‘Landward’ had come along to film a segment which should be broadcast next month. He interviewed Jenny, the estate manger . . .

. . . and then the producer and cameraman wandered about taking ‘colour’ pictures to go behind the commentary.

All three of the visitors were very pleasant, open and undemanding. We watch Landward regularly anyway but we shall watch this programme with special interest when it comes on.

The sun came out from time to time while the filming was going on and the countryside looked good.

With the camera crew departed and the final seedling tree transplanted, we made our way home for lunch.

We had a quick look round before we went indoors.

The Special Grandma rose is having a final fling . . .

. . . and although there were no butterflies about, there were still quite a few bees to be seen.

I filled the feeder, but there was not enough demand to create squabbles today and all was very peaceful.

When I was walking yesterday, I made somewhat hard work of the outing. I had felt the lack of walking miles in my legs. As it was quite windy and rather grey after lunch, I thought that perhaps it would be a good idea to get a few more walking miles in this afternoon rather than battling the breeze on a bicycle.

I set off over the river, through the town and up the Kirkwynd in the direction of the monument on top of Whita Hill.

As you might expect with only two days to go until the autumn equinox, there are no great patches of wild flowers left but there were still plenty to see if you stopped and looked.

So I stopped and looked.

And as I came on to the open hill, there was lichen on a wall and fungus among the grass.

There were also a few spots of rain and I could see a light shower drifting across the town and up the Ewes valley. Luckily for me, the wind kept the rain away from me and I got to the monument without getting wet.

In spite of the grey skies, there was even a moment of sunshine as I walked along to the end of the ridge and looked over the Solway plain.

Turning to my right, I followed a mountain bike track down the hill until I got to the new timber extraction track which goes down to the wood where we were pulling out unwanted rhododendrons last Saturday.

Work will soon be done to narrow the track to walking width but at present it gave me a broad and easy route to walk down the steep hill, with an excellent view on the way.

There were wild flowers here too, the last of the bell heather and many of the widespread little yellow tormentils.

I didn’t go straight back to the town along the Hallpath when I got to the felled wood, but doubled back to the Round House . . .

. . . took the track down to the old railway through the oak wood . . .

. . . and came down to Skippers Bridge. I looked up the river from the bridge . . .

. . . and then took the riverside path to the suspension bridge, passing invasive Himalayan balsam in profusion and a fine outburst of fungus behind the Co-op.

Oddly enough, my legs felt a great deal better today after yesterday’s exercise and they coped with five miles and 100ft of ascent without any complaints.

Mrs Tootlepedal is amazed at how heavily our runner beans are now cropping after a summer when they produced no beans at all. We had beans with our evening meal.

The regular Zoom with my brother and sisters finished the day off. It looks as though it might be quite a wet day tomorrow so I should be able to catch up with the Archive Group work that I have missed.

I had two rather unsatisfactory candidates for the flying bird of the day. I couldn’t chose between them so I have put them both in.

Two sociable outings

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Alistair. He took his daughter Matilda to Jupiter Artland near Edinburgh where she found a friend.

I didn’t have time for any Archive Group work after breakfast today because I had arranged to meet my walking friend Mark to show him a route that he hadn’t taken before. He arrived bang on time with his dog Henry and we drove off up the Wauchope road in two cars so that we could leave one car at the finish of the walk and one at the start.

I was showing him the horseshoe route round the valley of the Glentenmont Burn with a diversion into the Logan Water valley to end the walk. To put it another way, we were walking round Westwater and back through Cleuchfoot.

It was a cool, calm and misty morning so there wasn’t much in the way of a view and the very large turbines of the Solwaybank wind farm were invisible when we looked back soon after we started.

But the skies cleared as we went along, and we could soon see our way ahead along the west side of the valley . . .

. . . and we not long afterwards, we could see the turbine blades of another nearby wind farm peeping over the top of the hill.

The valley has been heavily forested recently and the nature of the walk will change as the years go by and the views are lost behind taller trees.

It is still quite open at the moment and there are always things to see if the views fail. I like the variety of lichen to found on and beside the track, with different sorts on the west and east sides of the valley.

There is a prehistoric settlement marked on the map, and we think that these mounds may be part of it.

It is not the best walk for distant prospects but the company was excellent . . .

. . . and the valley is quite attractive even on a grey day . . .

We stopped for so many photo opportunities that sometimes Henry got a bit impatient.

As you get near to the grounds of Westwater itself, there are some magnificent old roses which have thrived on neglect. They were covered in luscious looking hips today.

The sun came out as we got near the end of our walk but I forgot to take any pictures to show this. With roadside ponds, fungus and some very fine sloes to look at . . .

. . . I couldn’t fit everything in.

Our walk was almost exactly 7 miles long, but Mark was excited by by the possibilities of linking it up with another walk that we did together recently to make a 21 mile round trip starting and finishing in Langholm itself with no driving involved. That might be step too far for me though.

We got into my car at the end of the walk and I drove Mark and Henry back to their car at the start of the walk. There we parted with thoughts of more walks to come.

I drove home and had a considerably shorter walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal before going in for lunch.

When Mrs Tootlepedal paused to dead head a great number of dahlias, I took a few flower pictures as she snipped away. I liked pink and red . . .

. . . of which there was quite a lot about, though I had to throw in an orange poppy to complete the second panel of six. I liked the back view of a dahlia looking almost as good as the front view.

When I looked at the front view of the dahlias beside the middle lawn, there were lots of bees to be seen again today . . .

. . . though I have to admit that one of the bees is a butterfly.

After I had taken the pictures for the panel, the butterfly moved carefully to the middle of the flower so I took a solo picture of it.

Then we had lunch.

While I had been out walking, Mrs Tootlepedal had spent the morning writing up minutes of a Langholm Initiative meeting so she was ready for some fresh air after lunch. We got out the electric bikes and had a very pleasant 14 mile ride round a shorter version of my familiar Canonbie circuit.

We looked about as we went and saw clover, ragwort, bright red guelder rose berries and deep black brambles.

The brambles were sweet and juicy.

When we got to the trees covered with red berries near the suspension bridge which I had mistakenly thought were rowans on a previous outing . . .

. . . Mrs Tootlepedal told me that they are whitebeam. I don’t know why the birds don’t like the berries.

I took another picture of the gentians in a pot when I got home as I didn’t think that I had done them full justice in a previous photograph. They are stunning little flowers.

I had picked a pocketful of hazelnuts while we were out on our ride . . .

. . .and Mrs Tootlepedal, who likes nuts, cracked and ate them after we had had a cup of tea. Not all of the shells had good kernels inside, but there were enough to make picking them worthwhile. I will keep my open for more. There are a lot of them about this year.

After what had been a busy day, we were content to let the rest of the afternoon drift comfortably away, though I did pop out to the garden again where I saw a blackbird sitting in the silver pear tree find a honeysuckle berry and eat it.

I hoped that it would pick more but it obviously didn’t enjoy the berry that much. As a result the flying bird of the day is a blackbird.

A slow day

Today’s guest picture comes from Jane, the wife of our ex-minister Scott. They are currently in Menton on the Cote d’Azure where she saw the sun rising over the Italy this morning. I can give Menton no higher praise than by saying it is obviously nearly as good as East Wemyss. Jane remarks that it s a bit warmer there though.

We had a calm, still, cool and grey day here (10°C, 51°F at nine o’clock). I entered several pages of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database after breakfast, and then walked up to visit Sandy with another month of entries under my arm to give to him. The data miners are working hard at the moment.

I had a look round the garden before I left Mrs Tootlepedal watching the late Queen’s funeral on my behalf.

The nerines are coming along well . . .

. . . and I love this dahlia which looks as though it has been freshly hand painted every morning.

A very late white clematis has come out at the front door in a rather half hearted way.

In contrast to the garden colour, two weeds caught my eye as I walked up the hill to Holmwood.

There was more colour when I got to Sandy’s. His little wildflower bed, though past its best he says, was still looking pretty good to my eyes.

We had a good cup of coffee and a slightly despairing conversation about the state of the world before I strolled back down the hill in time to join Mrs Tootlepedal for the last part of the funeral service.

As the service ended, I looked out of the window and saw a bird at the feeder suitably dressed in black.

It wasn’t disturbing the chaffinch on the other side of the feeder.

Starlings are handsome birds and worth a close up . . .

. . . or two.

When I looked out again after lunch, goldfinches had taken over the feeder.

It had warmed up a bit by this time, but it was still cool enough for an extra layer when I took my road bike out for a trip round my familiar Canonbie circuit.

After a few miles, I had to stop to investigate an annoying rattle. I tried taking off my rear light which often rattles, and I must have looked a bit distressed as a motorist stopped to ask if I needed assistance. I politely declined his kind offer, took the light off, and pedalled on. The rattle continued.

I stopped again, and this time identified and sorted the cause. I must remember to put my back light on again.

It was rather gloomy on the ride, and there was an occasional spot of drizzle so I didn’t stop much except to take two tree pictures . . .

. . . just to show that leaves are still fully in place in spite of the imminent arrival of the autumn equinox this week.

I feared that I might get wet when I saw some cattle lurking under a tree beside the road . . .

. . . and there were some dark clouds about too. Then, a few miles before I got back to Langholm, the sun suddenly came out . . .

. . . and things looked a whole lot brighter . . .

. . . for about three minutes until it started to rain.

I thought that I might get soaked before I got home, but the weather gods, knowing that I had a rain jacket in my pannier, didn’t want to waste their time, and the rain stopped almost as soon as it had started.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal told me that they had had a short but heavy shower in the town, so I had been lucky.

I managed a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit before it was time for a Zoom recorder lesson with our granddaughter Matilda and her father. Matilda had made good progress with her tone and technique, and furthermore was able both to sight read a new piece and play an old piece from memory, two useful skills for a budding musician. Her father is a good recorder player himself, and it was a joy to hear them play together.

Next, before the regular Zoom with my brother and sisters, I had another look at the feeder and found some fierce sparrows had taken over, involving beak to beak confrontation . . .

. . . and back stamping.

Our family Zooms are usually interesting, as my brother Andrew loves to visit interesting stately homes and often has a good stock of pictures to share. Today was no different, and we got a tour of Hardwick Hall and some of its treasures.

After a week when we have been living in a sort of fairy tale country, blessed apparently by universal love and togetherness (and no advertising breaks on the commercial TV programmes today), it will be a shock to wake up tomorrow to the real world and its many pressing problems.

Mrs Tootlepedal wondered as she watched the impressively clockwork organisation of the massive event of today why, if they can organise that so well, they can’t organise things like the national health service, social work and education a bit better. A very good question.

The flying bird of the day is a horizontal sparrow.

Two choirs and a stroll

Today’s guest picture is another from our friend Gavin’s trip to the Isle of Coll. They do good beaches on Coll. This is Crossapol Bay.

The day here started well with a set of good old fashioned hymns at the church service, with the added benefits of easy bass parts for me to sing. With two sopranos, one alto, one tenor and one bass in the choir, we were never going to deafen the congregation, but we did our best.

I had filled the bird feeder before going to church and the seed level had already gone down a lot by the time that we got home. More birds arrived all the time . . .

. . . and there usually yet more waiting in the wings.

It was grey morning, but it was still dry so I was able to mow the middle lawn after we had had coffee and a ginger biscuit. I took the opportunity to wave my camera at the dahlias while I was out in the garden. You could have them plain . . .

. . . or with added bees.

There were butterflies about too, and with the buddleia flowers going over, some had to share and some took to Michaelmas daisies.

I noted the first nerine of the year . . .

. . . and a fine pot of gentians . . .

. . . which are both late season flowers. On the other hand, the Lemon Queen is still doing good business and an odd orange coloured opium poppy is out too.

I could hear sounds of birds in the dam and so I went to investigate. I had to stop on the way when a robin at the back gate demanded attention.

When it flew off, I peered over the gate and saw two starlings in the water, an adult and a youngster.

The adult went away with an instruction to the youngster to be sure to wash behind its ears. It was only too happy to obey.

A watching sparrow got so excited, it joined in too.

After a nourishing plate of Mrs Tootlepedal’s excellent Scotch broth for lunch, I went for a short walk before the trip to Carlisle for our afternoon choir.

I chose the newly re-opened Gaskell’s Walk to start my outing. I noticed that a blackthorn was carrying a good crop of lichen but it wasn’t to the detriment of a good crop of sloes too.

Kind people have put a number of benches in suitable spots around the town . . .

. . . but I didn’t have time to try this one out. I pressed on down the new path that by-passes the chasm crossed by an old bridge, now removed for safety reasons. The path is in good condition at the top, but unless the do something about the drainage, it looks as though it might not take long for the bottom part to get seriously eroded.

Back on the old path at the bottom of the hill on the other side of the chasm, someone has gone to a lot of trouble in creating arches.

I look forward to seeing how they develop.

At the far end of the track, I had a look at the lichen garden grwoing on the top of a fence post at the Auld Stane Brig. It is flourishing.

Instead of going straight home along the road, I had enough time to walk up the Becks road and come back by the track to Holmwood.

The Becks road had plenty to distract me on the way up . . .

. . . but I made it to the bridge across the Becks Burn . . .

. . .and walked briskly along the track on the other side. Everything is very dry again and I had no need for boots on my walk. Along the track, there were a lot of crab apples on the crab apple tree, a vivid sedum, and another well placed bench with a view . . .

. . . but the prize for the best dressed bench of the day went to the last one that I saw.

I got home just in time to get ready to go to Carlisle. The Carlisle Community Choir is preparing for a ten year anniversary concert in a couple of weeks, so we had a very hard working session today. I like all the songs that we are singing at the concert, so it was no hardship to buckle down and concentrate.

It had been a bit drizzly as we drove down to Carlisle, but it cleared up as we drove back to Langholm

A visit to the Co-op on the way home followed by a serving of Mrs Tootlepedal’s very tasty fish pie for our evening meal rounded off a satisfactory Sunday.

The flying bird of the day is a bumble bee.

Watch the birdie

Today’s guest picture comes from my Lancashire correspondent Paul who is visiting the lake District again. He spotted a lake.

We had another cold night here but, once again, the temperature stayed just high enough to avoid any great damage to the garden and I was able to trim the front hedge in pleasant sunshine . . .

. . . and then wander round the garden taking pictures of flowers looking well, including another flower on the very late day lily and two fuchsias which are dripping with flowers

And then I took some more, including two potentillas which started late but are keeping going.

The honeysuckle has stopped flowering but it is producing lots of bright red berries.

As regular readers will know, I really like astrantias, and one of ours is simply refusing to lie down.

There were not so many butterflies about after the cold night, but there were enough to catch my eye (as well as a bee visiting the astrantia).

I filled the bird feeder just before lunch, and greenfinches and sparrows soon noticed that there was food to be had.

As it was a fine day with no chance of rain, Mrs Tootlepedal thought that it would be a good afternoon to go out on our electric bikes. Rather than go round a familiar local route, we folded the bikes up, packed them into the car, and set off for the English side of the Solway shore, thirty miles away.

We parked the car near Port Carlisle and I remarked to Mrs Tootlepedal that I had seen a little egret here earlier in the year on a previous cycle outing. I was very pleased to find that there was a little egret to be seen today too. It did a dance in the brisk wind for us.

The egret had found some shallow water to splash about in, but the tide was well out and you had to look quite hard to see any serious sea.

Indeed, when we had started our cycle ride, it looked as though you could walk across the sand to Criffel, which is beyond Dumfries on the Scottish side.

Our ride took us along the coast round the radio station at Anthorn . . .

. . . and there were times near the start when we were grateful to hedges for protection from the wind.

We could see marsh cattle through gaps in the hedge.

The radio station at Anthorn is a giant affair on an old airfield, and it interrupted our view of the Lake District hills . . .

. . . but we got a better look when we had pedalled round to the far side of the headland and could look across Moricambe Bay.

As we cycled along, Mrs Tootlepedal thought that she could hear the cry of lapwings so we stopped from time to time to see what we could see. There was not a lot of water as we looked across the winding course of the River Whampool and things didn’t look too promising at first . . .

. . . but once we had got our eye in, we saw there were quite a lot of birds beside what water there was. They were quite far away from us . . .

. . . so it was lucky that I had my little Lumix with m. It has a good zoom for such a small camera and could see birds that we couldn’t really see with the naked eye. There were lapwings about . . .

. . . as well as quite a large flock of what we think were knots on a mudbank.

The bird with the long beak in the picture above is definitely not a knot. There were a number of these birds wading about, and at first sight we thought that they were curlews . . .

. . . not least because we could hear the distinctive curlew calls. However, when we looked at the pictures on the camera, it became obvious that they weren’t curlews as their beaks were not curling like a curlew’s. A search on my phone told us that they might be black tailed godwits. I got a better picture at last.

I am open to correction if anyone knows better.

There were more egrets here, along with gulls and other birds too far off to recognise. Time was getting on though, so we couldn’t stop for as long as we would have liked.

We did have a last pause at the bridge across the river where we saw a fisherman in action.

Shooting into the late afternoon sun gave the Whampool river a more dramatic look than it had in real life.

It was not a warm day with the brisk northerly wind keeping the temperature down, but it was still a great delight to pedal along the quiet back roads ion mostly good sunshine as we made our way back to Port Carlisle and our car. When we got there, we found the tide was coming in at speed.

We hadn’t rushed at all and the 17 miles took us just under 2 hours of pedalling with another 20 minutes added for bird watching.

We folded the bikes up, packed them into the car, and drove home in a contented state of mind.

A delicious meal of mince and tatties rounded off an excellent day.

The (almost) flying bird of the day is an egret on the River Whampool (at full stretch on the Lumix zoom and then cropped).

Pulling, pushing, perambulating and playing

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He found this fine mediaeval bridge for me on a visit to Fountains Abbey.

We had our first genuinely chilly morning since the late spring today. Our local weather station recorded a low of 3°C (38°F) in the early hours. It was a generally sunny day though, so it was a bit warmer by the time that we got out and about and the garden had survived well.

I looked to see if the bird feeder needed filling, and was very surprised to see a young starling trying the seed . . .

. . . but I wasn’t as surprised as one of our local goldfinches was.

I filled the feeder and then went up to do some more rhododendron clearing in the felled wood on the edge of town with the Tarras Valley volunteers. It is rough going underfoot . . .

. . . but I managed to stay upright, and the small team of volunteers got a good many rhododendron shoots uprooted and piled up for disposal. As most of the shoots were coming from branches that had previously been cut and then left lying on the ground by former clearers, the disposal of the piles will be important if our work is to have any useful outcome.

It was nearly lunchtime when I got home but there was time for a walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal. She had been going through great piles of documents to see which could be thrown away and she needed a breath of fresh air by this time.

We found a small tortoiseshell butterfly resting in the sunshine.

Mrs Tootlepedal is very pleased with the rampaging growth of her green manure in the potato bed, and I like the ever increasing size of the Charles Ross apples . . .

. . . and I found a few flowers on a spirea and a lonely poppy hiding in the vegetable garden.

After lunch, I looked at the feeder. The seed had gone down a lot since the morning, and there was keen competition for a place at the table . . .

. . .which led to some most regrettable chaffinch stamping.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some embroidery with her stitching group and I set about being useful in the garden.

I started by cutting up a barrowful of green garden waste, the result of Mrs Tootlepedal’s tidying yesterday, and adding it to Compost Bin A. Then I sieved a barrowful of rotted compost from Bin D to add to the compost bucket. Next, the hover mower came out and I mowed the greenhouse grass, the drying green, and the vegetable garden paths.

Then I took a look for butterflies but found hardly any around. There were a lot of other insects though.

Two red dahlias caught my eye.

Then I needed a little sit down. Luckily there was a good spot for a sit down nearby.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her stitching and after a cup of tea, she started cooking our evening meal while I went for a short three bridges walk.

My first pictures were black and white, or rather, white and black.

Then I spent some time trying to catch some of the many wagtails by the waterside standing still for long enough for me to get a good picture . . . and failing.

The wind is from the north at the moment and it wasn’t very warm, but as long as the sun was out, it was a pleasant enough day for a walk . . .

. . . and once I had passed the little church at the Lodge gates . . .

. . . I pottered along past the cricket club . . .

. . . and up the Lodge Walks . . .

. . . enjoying the sunshine . . .

. . . and the trees.

I was hoping that the walk across the Duchess Bridge might be open, but although some big machinery had pulled fallen trees out of the river above the bridge . .

. . . the path on the other side of the bridge still has not been cleared yet and the bridge remains shut.

I got home in good time for a Zoom with my brother and sisters, and then after our evening meal, our friends Mike and Alison came round for their regular Friday evening visit.

Although we were both a little lacking in recent practice (busy people), Alison and I enjoyed playing a set of duets for keyboard and recorder and quite often played the right notes in the right order at the right time. Meanwhile, Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal exchanged views on the news.

The flying bird of the day is an angry goldfinch, caught up in the heated moments at the seed ran low. Chaffinches had a hard time today.

Slowing up

Today’s guest picture is another from my Somerset correspondent Venetia’s trip to Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands. She was very taken by the beautiful countryside she found on her visit.

We had another fine day here, occasionally cloudy, occasionally sunny, but always dry. A cool north wind reminded us that summer has perhaps permanently slipped past now.

I haven’t been keeping up to my resolve to do some Archive Group database work after breakfast every week day, so I did a good session today and finished a week off. Nancy brought some more of the data miners’ work round the other day, so the backlog has increased again. I must try to stick to my plan.

I had time to get out into the garden before coffee and found dahlias looking delightful in the sunshine.

There are still roses to be seen but I needed a foxglove to complete a panel of four.

There were several drone flies on a yellow flower. I liked the delicate wings in this picture.

Margaret came round for coffee, and she and Mrs Tootlepedal exchanged notes on the many interesting things they had seen while watching the royal coverage on TV. I kept quiet and ate ginger biscuits.

After coffee, we went out into the garden and did some much needed dead heading and tidying up. There were lots of butterflies about again, mostly red admirals, but with one or two peacocks and whites as well.

Lots of starlings live in our neighbour Irving’s holly tree and there is often one standing on the very top of the tree.

I don’t know if it is always the same starling that stands there, or whether they take turns. This one flew off before I could ask it.

Although I haven’t dead headed the little red poppies at all this year, they keep on flowering. The salvias have spread and flourished too.

I filled the feeder in the morning and while we were having our lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal noticed that goldfinches were taking an interest.

Sparrows and greenfinches soon took over.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal did more gardening and I took the electric bike out for a ride. The rather chilly wind persuaded me to put on an extra layer and I was glad that I did. In spite of occasional sunshine, it was far from warm when I was cycling into the wind, and I did exactly that for the first ten miles.

I headed north up the road towards Eskdalemuir, passing through the village of Bentpath on my way.

I noticed a flourishing ragwort and a crab apple tree loaded with little apples.

I didn’t go as far as Eskdalemuir but turned off at Enzieholm Bridge and headed up the valley . . .

. . . to Bailliehill. Here I turned left again and passed the Crossdykes wind farm. Looking back towards the Esk valley there was a fine cloudscape behind me.

. . . and ahead of me was a sign telling me that the road might be closed at any time during the present week for road surfacing works. This wasn’t very helpful but I pressed on and was happy to find that the resurfacing work had already been done . . .

. . . and I had a smooth, if slightly sticky, brand new surface to pedal along.

I stopped to take in the valley views, including a modest bridge across the Water of Milk . . .

. . . and a good stand of trees which had just a hint of autumn about them.

The road most unkindly leaves the river here and heads back up the hill as you can see in the picture above. The wind was being more helpful by now though, and with the aid of a little electrical power, I floated up the hill and down the other side to Paddockhole without much difficulty.

In contrast with recent e-bike rides, I wasn’t trying to go as fast as possible today. Instead, I tried to pedal as much of the route under my own steam as was compatible with a hilly ride and the pressures of cycling into the wind. The e-bike is much heavier than my road bike and doesn’t roll nearly so well so it is far from easy to get it up even quite undemanding hills without a bit of help.

From Paddockhole, I made my way across to the Solwaybank wind farm road where I was delayed by some heavy traffic.

After the traffic cleared, I cycled on, finding some more freshly resurfaced road. At Solwaybank farm, I turned down the road towards Chapelknowe, passing an outstandingly red display of haws in the hedge.

Bypassing Chapelknowe, I whizzed along the road through Glenzier to the Hollows. Gulls were very interested in a farmer ploughing his field.

When I got to the Hollows on the A7, I might have gone up the main road back to Langholm but I made good use of the e-bike by crossing the Esk by the Hollows Bridge, climbing up the steep hill to Gilnockie, and taking the much quieter back road home.

I got home after 34 miles, feeling that I had done quite a lot of work in spite of the assisted pedalling.

After a cup of tea, I walked round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal to see what she had been up to while I was out. The garden was much tidier.

The star of the late afternoon sunshine was the latest flower on the Crown Princess Margareta . .

. . . though it was run close by a small tortoiseshell butterfly.

We picked some spinach leaves and a large turnip from the vegetable garden and went in to prepare our evening meal.

In the absence of a convincing flying bird of the day, a white butterfly steps in to fill the gap.

Better late than never

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Gavin. He has added to the collection of Scottish islands that he has visited by going to the Isle of Coll of our west coast.

We had another dry and fine day here with quite a bit of sunshine. The active part of it started with first a visit from Dropscone, armed with treacle scones, and then a visit from our neighbour Margaret. She appeared on our local TV station on Monday when she was interviewed at a lunch at the Day Centre. We looked at her with great respect.

When Dropscone and Margaret left, I had a look round the garden and found that the butterflies were making up for lost time. They were out in force again.

They could be found in all corners of the garden feeding on sedum, buddleia, Michaelmas daisies, rudbeckias and dahlias.

And did I mention astrantias? There were assorted other insects too.

All in all, the garden was a hive of activity.

I like peacocks . . .

. . .and Mrs Tootlepedal is good at spotting painted ladies. This one was taking in some rays while lying on the bare earth of a vegetable bed.

I went in and looked out at the birds. A goldfinch was feeding and a greenfinch was considering its options.

I was picking some of the good crop of blackberries from Mrs Tootlepedal’s thornless bramble when what I thought was a leaf fell into the bowl. I had a second look . ..

. . . and when I realised that it was in fact an angle shades moth, I took it out and put it on a leaf. They are beautiful little creatures.

I cycled round to the corner shop for supplies, and I was just putting them away when a sudden racket in the garden pulled me outside again. A flock of jackdaws had settled noisily on the very top of the walnut tree. They then flew off again with a good deal of shouting and screaming.

Down below, more insects were hard at work,

All the bee and butterfly activity has made me neglect the flowers so I took a few pictures before I went in for lunch.

I saw our first Icelandic poppy in early May this year. They have been flowering for four months. They are good value.

Mrs Tootlepedal is secretly growing a large marrow.

After lunch, I got ready to go for a cycle ride on my road bike round my familiar 20 mile Canonbie circuit. Mrs Tootlepedal was doing some gardening, and when I went over to look at what she was doing, I noticed yet another garden visitor.

A European garden spider was repairing the damage caused by a bee to its web.

My legs turned out to be in a very good mood, so I went along well on my cycle ride. There are lots more insects now beside the road as well as in our garden . . .

. . . but I would be much happier if they had been about earlier in the year as well. There must have been many wild flowers that were not well pollinated.

I stopped when I came to a herd of Belted Galloways. Some were interested in me . . .

. . .and some had better things to do.

Margaret had been interviewed by the TV because the Day Centre was celebrating the visit to Langholm of the family of Neil Armstrong, the lunar astronaut. He visited Langholm fifty years ago. The family were also supposed to have attended an event at Hollows Tower, home of the Clan Armstrong Centre, last weekend, but it had been cancelled because of the death of the Queen. The tower was looking very smart in the sunshine when I passed it today.

Although I can’t manage the same speed when I am under my own steam as when I am electrically assisted, I was very happy with my progress on the bike ride today. The wind was light and in a kind direction which helped.

When I got home, I made a batch of ginger biscuits . . .

. . . and I will try not to eat them all at one time as I have been putting on a bit of weight lately. I do like a ginger biscuit with my morning coffee (unless there are treacle scones available of course).

There was time for another visit to the garden where Mrs Tootlepedal picked some autumn raspberries and some more of the blackberries.

She is impressed by the height that her mustard plants have reached . . .

. . . and I was impressed by the drawing power of the Lemon Queen. It seemed as though it almost had a bee on every flower.

During the day, I picked up a lot of windfalls from one of our espalier apples. We will have to decide what to do with them. I feel another tarte tatin coming on, but there may be apple chutney too.

We made a puree of the raspberries and blackberries and had it with custard as afters at our evening meal.

I was tempted to have another butterfly as flying bird of the day . . .

. . . but two greenfinches leaving at speed have got the honour.

A really interesting outing

Today’s guest picture is another from my brother Andrew and his outing to Scarborough with my two older sisters. They had excellent weather today.

We had a lovely day here too which was lucky as Kat, the volunteer leader for the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve, had organised an outing for us. We were going to visit the Carrifran Wildwood, a major restoration of a valley near Moffat, 44 miles to the north of Langholm.

We picked up John, a fellow volunteer, and set off in our electric car, hoping that our battery would not let us down. The drive up was a pleasure in the sunshine and we arrived safely at our destination.

Carrifran is a fairly narrow valley out of which this stream issues.

Kat and the other volunteers arrived after us and were greeted by Andy, the Borders Forest Trust worker who was going to show us round.

Carrifran was originally a area farmed for sheep, and as a result it was like our hills, very bare ground with not a tree in sight. 22 years of dedicated and extremely thoughtful work have gone into its development, and every tree that you see in the pictures in the post has been planted by the organisers and volunteers who have worked on the project. There are hundreds of thousands of them.

Essential to the success of the project was keeping sheep and deer off the land as the new planting went ahead, and the fence dividing the project from neighbouring spruce plantations and sheep ground can be seen here.

The valley has been developed with a mosiac of different environments so there are open spaces as well as thickly planted areas.

We followed a rough path up the valley enjoying the changes as we went along. Remember, every tree in these pictures has been planted in the last 22 years.

The hills at the head of the valley are quite big at over 2000 ft, and we were over 1000 ft in our walk along the valley bottom.

Andy stopped to explain the thinking behind each section as we went along, and outlined many of the hard choices that the project managers have to make.

As there are no sheep to eat every growing thing, there were plenty of flowers to see along the path.

. . . and lots of other things of interest as well. The crop of sloes on the blackthorns was magnificent

We walked up towards the head of the valley and got into more open country as we gained height.

We didn’t cross the little bridge, which is there to give access to the far side of the valley for volunteers doing the tree planting. Looking back down the valley, the left hand side was planted first . . .

. . . so the trees on the right hand side are some way behind in their development.

It is an exceptionally beautiful place to have your packed lunch . . .

. . . with better views round every corner.

. . . and the gentle noise of the stream as an accompaniment.

The crag in the background is called Raven Craig, and we saw ravens and buzzards as we ate our lunch. Andy pointed out that the density of the planting looks very different when viewed from different places, and the woods which looked quite open as we had walked up through them, looked much more closely packed when we looked back at them

After lunch, and more discussion of the project and its aims and ambitions, we walked back . . .

. . . through the varied planting, still finding out more from Andy as we went along.

A final plunge through the thicker planting at the bottom of the valley . . .

. . . brought us back to the small car park and the end of our adventure.

My pictures in no way do justice to the scale of the project, the immense amount of work that has been done, and the wonderful results that 22 years of hard, hard work have achieved. It is an inspiration to everyone involved in our Tarras Valley scheme.

An interesting contrast is provided on the other side of the main road which shows the stark results of sheep farming and commercial forestry on the same hills.

We drove home greatly inspired.

We took the old main road, now a quiet B road beside the M74, and a vehicle fire on the motorway meant that we had to face streams of traffic using the back road that we were on coming in the other direction. Apart from a tense moment at some traffic lights at road works in Ecclefechan which threatened to produce a complete bottleneck, we got through safely. For the motorway traffic going north, it must have been a miserable experience.

What was very pleasing was that we drove the 88 miles there and back without using even half of our car battery storage. The good weather probably helped that quite a lot. We go further for less electricity when it is a hot day.

After the rough country at Carrifran, our lawn looked very smooth and green when we got home.

Although we hadn’t walked very far in the Wildwood, we had been on our feet for a long time and we were more than grateful for a cup of tea and quiet sit down.

We did get out into the garden later, and we found that it was full of butterflies again.

Starlings flew overhead . . .

. . .and a jackdaw on the roof couldn’t decide which was its best side for a portrait. I took both.

The flying bird of the day is one of the butterflies.