Not quite all there

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan. She was very impressed by this cheerful stall which she encountered on an outing. She didn’t tell me whether she had sampled its wares.

We were greeted by a sunny morning with cloudless blue skies here today, and a crisp coolness to go with it. Once again, it had stayed above freezing though, so there was little to complain about.

Thanks to my niggling back, I was in no rush to get up and sample the early morning chill, and the temperature had crept up into double figures (10°C, 50F) by time that I had had a quick cup of coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal and Margaret in the garden. I left them to their conversation and set out to see what Dr Velo could do for my back.

I chose to cycle round the new windfarm route as this would mean setting off with the wind helping me on my way. I stopped to look back as I went up the hill at Callister….

…and it was evident that our world has changed from mainly green to largely brown.

More work has been done on the turbines, but the latest addition to the plantation has only got two blades on it at the moment.

I crossed the little bridge at Linnbridgeford…

…and pedalled on until I got on to the Solwaybank road.

The lady I met a few days ago who assured me that they were only going to erect nine turbines had clearly got wrong information. I could count ten and two thirds already up (as can you, if you look at today’s header picture) as I cycled past the site and there are two more half built towers waiting for completion.

There were glimpses of some autumn colour as I cycled on….

…and once again a grey squirrel crossed the road in front of me (once again too quickly for me to take a picture).

Looking down to my right, I could see why the wind farm has been built where it has, as there is nothing to get in the way of a helpful breeze between it and the northern English hills, 25 miles away.

Mind you, the chilly wind was coming from the north today and a buzzard, taking off as I approached, hovered into the wind for long enough for me to get my camera out.

Our oldest local windfarm in the background showed me that I would have a spell of cycling straight into the wind coming up soon.

Just before I turned into the wind, I passed a new road being driven into a plantation. They have used material from a nearby quarry to make the road and I suppose that these spindly trees, left exposed after the last bout of felling, will be next in line for the chop.

There are plenty more trees left to fell, as I could see when I looked over towards Cleuchfoot.

Luckily, the wind wasn’t too strong as I came over the hill and I was soon cycling home in the shelter of the Wauchope valley, passing this increasingly dilapidated cottage on my way.

I took nearly two hours, including photographic stops, to cycle the twenty mile loop, and the gentle exercise seemed to have loosened my back up a little, though the many bumps in the road on the way hadn’t done much to reduce the pain.

Having taken twelve flower pictures yesterday, I looked round the garden when I got back to see if I could find twelve other flowers to take today.

I was spoiled for choice….

…and was able to throw in two potentillas….

…and an Icelandic poppy as a free gift.

I took a closer look at the poppy. It had a good selection of varied visitors.

I was back in time for a bowl of soup and some bread and cheese for my lunch and then I settled down to watch today’s stage of the Giro with Mrs Tootlepedal. The weather in Italy was appalling. The racing was excellent.

From time to time, I looked out of the window.

A lone siskin was at a loss with no one to shout at and soon left.

A blue tit arrived…

…and goldfinches approached and landed with care…

…while two sparrows waited for their turn at the table.

When the stage ended, it was time for a shower and a shave and the weekly virtual choir practice with my Carlisle Community Choir. There was no mention of our virtual performance so I fear that it might never see the light of day. This might not be an entirely bad thing.

After the choir, we went off to combine some recycling with shopping and this neatly filled up the time until our evening meal. I impressed myself by using the Co-op phone app to take up an in store offer.

As well as stretching my legs on my bicycle, I have also been working on some stretching exercises while lying down. The combination is showing some promising improvement. It is too early to say yet, but I may have hit upon the road back to leaping about freely. Tomorrow will tell.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

A bridge too far

Today’s guest picture is another from Tony’s Highland holiday. One of his dogs answered the question posed by a bench.

We had another dry day here, cool when the sun was in, but pleasant enough for us to have coffee in the garden with Liz and Margaret, and actually warm when the sun came out.

After coffee, I walked round the garden while Mrs Tootlepedal did some useful work. Every day, we get a little closer to the end of the flower garden season but we are not there yet…

…by any means.

A blackbird kept an eye on me as I wandered around.

My back was still niggling away so I didn’t do anything strenuous and soon went back inside for a sit down, lunch and then a quiet spell watching a suitably quiet stage of the Giro.

Outside the window, there were chaffinches flying about and other birds posing.

We had a very active coal tit….

…which got a bit of a shock when a greenfinch snarled at its approach to the feeder.

It did get its share of the seed though at another visit.

I went back out into the garden and enjoyed the nerines. Mrs Tootlepedal has cleared away the plants in front of them, and they are on full view now.

It was a reasonable afternoon, warm enough to walk without gloves, so I thought that I might stretch my legs and try to ease off my back with a gentle perambulation of the Becks track and Gaskell’s Walk.

Cows were having a quiet day too as I passed.

There were some quite dramatic cloudscapes about…

…but far less autumn colour than I had hoped for. Looking across the valley to the slopes of Warbla, I could see a row of almost leafless trees….

…and when I looked lower down, the only vivid colour came from an evergreen.

I came down to the Auld Stane Brig across the Wauchope, looking a touch nervously at more clouds gathering over the Wauchope Cemetery….

…but it seemed fine enough to take in Gaskell’s Walk on my way home instead of the quick route down the road.

I kept my eye out for fungi but this gloomy specimen was the only one that I saw.

Like the photographer, it was a little past its best.

As I got up to the Stubholm, I could see one half of a rainbow so I scuttled up to the top of the hill and looking round the trees, I could now see the other half….

…and I had to walk halfway across a field before I got far enough away from the trees so that I could use the panorama function on my camera to get almost the whole bow in. Of course it had faded a bit by this time.

Not unnaturally, I reckoned that the presence of the rainbow might indicate some forthcoming rain, so I didn’t hang about, and I made my way down to the park without delay. Curiously, by the time that I had got to the park bridge, it was a fine and sunny day again…

…and the clouds were taking their business elsewhere.

As I was crossing the park bridge, I realised that with the bridge over the Becks Burn and the Auld Stane bridge, once again I had done a three bridges walk. Encouraged by this and the sunny weather, I decided to add three more bridges to my walk and cross the Suspension Bridge, the Sawmill Bridge and the Jubilee Bridge on my way home.

I kept an eye out for waterside birds and spotted an old friend at the Meeting of the Waters.

The sawmill Brig was looking very autumnal in a marked contrast to the trees on the open hillsides…

I saw a rather meagre collection of flowers and other small things of interest as I went round my walk…

…but it must be said that I was more concerned about watching where my feet were going than looking around. Stumbles tended to be a bit sore on my back.

I made it home safely but I was more than ready for a sit down when I got back. On reflection, it would almost certainly have been better to have left the walk at three bridges rather than clock up the whole six. The trouble is that you only find out this sort of thing after you have gone a bridge too far.

Mrs Tootlepedal had made an apple crumble with apples given to us by our neighbour Liz and I cooked some custard to go with it and we had crumble and custard as a pudding after some mince and tatties for our evening meal. Even this feast failed to stop me grumbling about a sore back for the rest of the evening. I am hoping to try the bicycling cure tomorrow so we shall see if that is any better.

The flying bird of the day is a great tit. It flew so neatly in two directions that I have put them both in.

Back again

Today’s guest picture is from my sister Mary who went to play tennis in Regents Park in London and visited this magical garden while she was there.

We had another generally fine day here, although it did rain a little in the afternoon. It was chilly though when the sun went in, with a mean wind reminding us that winter will come.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to have coffee in an approved group in an approved location with her ex work colleagues while I put on my coat and gloves and walked up to have coffee with Sandy in his garden. His electric bike has proved a boon while his foot recovers from his operation and he told me about his ride yesterday which he recorded on his latest blog.

We sat and chatted in the sunshine, well sheltered from the unkind wind but like everyone else I daresay in these confined days, we didn’t have as much to talk about as we did in the good old days. Still, it was a pleasure to see him as always.

When I got back, I went to the shop for bread flour and then made some leek and sweet potato soup for lunch and waited for Mrs Tootlepedal to come home.

I watched the comings and goings of the birds after lunch…

… and in the unexplained absence of siskins, other birds took over the role of chief shouter.

Chaffinches shouted at chaffinches…

…and greenfinches went beak to beak at the feeder.

Blue tits waited for quieter moments to arrive….

…and a robin ticked off a visit on its bucket list.

In general I had a very quiet day because my back is playing up and giving me occasional painful twinges. It doesn’t stop me cycling or walking but it is making me rather nervous as I never quite know when it is going to ping me. My usual back exercises aren’t having any effect and I am a bit at a loss to know what to do. I will see what a few quieter days can do to help.

In pursuit of rest, I sat down to watch a good chunk of today’s stage of the Giro with Mrs Tootlepedal (who crochets while she watches). Mrs Tootlepedal has had to pay a small amount of good money to watch the Giro on her tablet as it isn’t on free to air TV, so it is lucky that it has been pretty exciting so far and today’s stage was no exception.

I roused myself enough to think that a little leg stretch might help my back and went for a short walk when the stage ended.

I strolled round the garden before leaving home and found white…

…and colour.

The forecast for next week is looking good at the moment so I hope that the colour will last.

I was looking for autumn colour on my walk to Skippers Bridge and back, and there was some to be seen of a subdued nature when I looked across the river…

…with a brighter splash when I got to the bridge.

The sun came out as I crossed the bridge, so I was tempted to walk a few yards down the road beside the river…

…until I could find a chance to go down to the river bank and look back.

It is interesting that the water can pick up the blue sky above better than my camera can.

As I looked, a log lorry crossed the bridge…

…and it is tribute to the sturdy construction of the bridge that it is only its reflection that ends up in the water below. The bridge was not built with traffic like this in mind.

I took a last shot…

…and began the walk home along the other side of the river.

Like Lot’s wife, I couldn’t resist a look behind me as I went…

…but I wasn’t turned into a pillar of salt.

On my way home in the continuing sunshine, I passed a lot to enjoy…

…including the poplars and willows by the church.

I realised that although this wasn’t my usual ‘three bridges’ walk, I still crossed three bridges on this walk; the park bridge over the Wauchope, Skippers Bridge over the Esk and then the suspension bridge back over the Esk again.

I took a view of the suspension bridge and the birch tree beyond it…

…and a view of the town bridge from the suspension bridge.

I then walked home with a neighbour who was very pleased to see how well the tall Michaelmas daisy which she gave to Mrs Tootlepedal was doing.

A cup of tea and a slice of newly made bread with strawberry jam completed a pleasant outing.

Then it was back to the quiet life, a zoom with my siblings and macaroni cheese for tea.

I had the opportunity to take a couple of less common flying bird shots today…

…but in the end, I settled once again for a chaffinch as flying bird of the day.

Out and back

Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony’s Highland holiday. He was looking across at Skye from the mainland when he took this shot.

We were offered a fine morning with light winds so the sensible thing to do would be for me to get going as soon after breakfast as possible if I wanted a good bike ride. To the amazement of both Mrs Tootlepedal and myself, I was out of the house and cycling up the road towards Hawick by ten o’clock.

The downside was that in spite of the sun, it was still pretty chilly at the time, but I was wrapped up well, and even the sight of the moon still in the sky above Potholm Hill…

…didn’t cast a damper over my enthusiasm. A little autumn colour along the way kept me cheerful too….

…and I got to the head of the Ewes valley in good order to enjoy one of my favourite views.

It was a lovely day….

…and I pedalled on up to Mosspaul and then down the other side of the hill, following the course of the River Teviot towards Hawick.

The rather curious monument to Henry Scott Riddell, the bard of Teviothead, stood out prominently on the hill to my left on the far side of the river.

And below me, a shiny new bridge crossed the river.

My target for the day was Branxholme, twenty miles north of Langholm and when I got there, I stopped for a banana and a view of the river.

When I looked down, I found that I was surrounded by dandelion-like flowers and I had to look hard to find one that didn’t have insects or bees on.

At Branxholme, I was at 125m, roughly 50m higher above sea level than I had been when I started out from Langholm, so although I had to climb back over the hill at Mosspaul at 262m, I had more downhill than up on my way home. This is always welcome.

As I had already looked at the scenery on my way out, I put my mind to cycling on the way back and only stopped for one more autumn colour picture on the way, and that was in sight of the sign welcoming me to Langholm.

Although it was a working day and there was a fair amount of traffic on the road, there were enough gaps between the busy moments to make the ride seem quite calm and the gentle gradients made for steady pedalling so I thoroughly enjoyed the outing.

And I got home in perfect time for lunch. The weather in October has been kind to cycling so far. I hope that this continues.

I took a walk round the garden when I got back before I ate my soup with bread and cheese.

Mrs Tootlepedal had cut down the tall sunflowers outside the front door because they were over, but there was still plenty of floral sunshine to be had.

And finally, a coloured cosmos has produced a flower very late in the year when all hope had gone.

Its stands near a hosta producing new flowers long after its leaves have turned yellow. It has been a funny year, as I may have remarked before. There is no frost in the immediate forecast, so we hope that more of those cosmos buds might still come out.

The Japanese anemones are bursting with health…

…the cornflowers are standing up to be counted…

…and what I think are privet berries (Mrs T says that they are honeysuckle) have come out to join more berberis berries above the new bench.

All the same, my favourite shot today was of a dead flower…

…though a red admiral butterfly on the new daisy ran it close.

After lunch and a shower, I joined Mrs Tootlepedal who was watching the Giro d’Italia. There is an endless fascination for us in watching bike stage races and this particular stage was as watchable as ever.

After the stage was over, we went out into the garden where Attila the Gardener continued tidying up after the massacre of the tall sunflowers, and I rather pointlessly swept walnut leaves off the lawn. More leaves fell even as I was disposing of the ones that I had collected.

I gave the potential mini meadow on the drying green some more rough treatment and then went inside to have a cup of tea and watch the birds.

At first the lone seed customer was a chirpy chaffinch…

…but it didn’t take long for other birds to arrive. A goldfinch was quite calm when another goldfinch arrived but stood up straight when a strange bird joined the company.

A sparrow loomed over a sparrow…

…a greenfinch enjoyed a little sunshine….

…and as we had several visits from a great tit and a blue tit…

…I had a good variety of birds to look at in a short spell at the window.

Mrs Tootlepedal had bought me a ready made steak pie from a local butcher for my tea and that went down very well with turnips and potatoes from the garden.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

Free of charge

Today’s guest picture comes from my Canonbie friend Simon. He is back at work at outdoor sporting venues. He came across this fine crop of fungus on a Scottish golf course.

We had another generally fine day today, although it inconsiderately started to rain just at the right time to spoil the chances of morning coffee in the garden with Margaret. It was quite breezy too so I was happy to have my coffee indoors even when the rain stopped.

I looked at the birds. They were frequently coming and going at the feeder.

And sometimes going and coming.

Goldfinches showed that siskins aren’t the only ones who can start a fight to the disgust of a greenfinch…

…and another greenfinch vented its frustration at this continual bad behaviour.

The rain clouds cleared away and I went out into the garden and savagely attacked the drying green with the scarifier while Mrs Tootlepedal collected the results in the wheelbarrow.

This was not just bad temper. Mrs Tootlepedal has a plan for a wild flower mini meadow round the drying pole and for that she needs much less grass. Too much grass tends to smother any possible wild flowers. Her plan is for another scarifying effort and to follow that by sowing yellow rattle which impoverishes the grass and will make space for the wild flowers to take hold.

I then took a walk round the garden to check how the garden flowers were doing.

Pretty well on the whole. And there were butterflies too.

Having done that, I went for a short three bridges walk before lunch.

These are the three bridges which I crossed today.

Autumn is definitely getting into its stride, and although we don’t have the vivid reds of New England, we are starting to get some really lovely mellow tints such as these along the Lodge Walks…

…and others across the Castleholm.

I passed the Lodge and took the low road towards the pheasant hatchery…

…where I exchanged a nod and a wink with a bullock.

I liked the picture made by this tree as I turned to walk along the top of the hatchery…

…admiring the trees….

…which lined the path down the other side.

After a last look across the field…

…I put my camera away as I found that I had already taken over 100 pictures.

Only to take it out a few minutes later when I passed a fine clump of fungus which I have added to one I saw earlier in the walk,

This time I really did put my camera away (almost).

I crossed the Duchess Bridge and got home in time to make some lentil and chicken soup for lunch.

The afternoon was spent driving to Dumfries where Mrs Tootlepedal had a hospital appointment. One of the benefits of driving an electric became evident when we were able to find a empty parking space reserved for electric vehicles in an otherwise packed car park at the hospital. An added bonus was that we could plug the car in and get some free electricity while we were waiting for the time for the appointment to arrive.

This was my view from the car as i waited fro Mrs Tootlepdal to return form her appointment.

From that point of view, the efficiency of the infirmary in taking Mrs Tootlepedal in bang on time, treating her with great care and attention and then sending her out again in a very contented state of mind, all within a quarter of an hour, was disappointing.

We only managed to acquire fifteen miles worth of free energy before we were on our way again.

Still, it gave us time to visit a nearby farm shop and cafe where we enjoyed a cup of tea and an enormous scone each, as well as buying some good quality cheese and meat.

The drive home was very restful, and we arrived back in time for me to have a quick look round the garden and add a fine red poppy to some weigela flowers which I had photographed after my walk in the morning to make a final flower panel for the day.

I then joined in our regular sibling Zoom while Mrs Tootlepedal cooked our evening meal.

All the remained was to eat the meal and sample some of the new cheese. This was no hardship.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

Going to churches

Today’s guest picture comes from Natasha, Marianne’s daughter. It speaks for itself.

We had a dry day, mostly sunny, fairly warm and very welcome.

After my customary leisurely start to the day, I left Mrs Tootlepedal to have a sunny cup of coffee with Margaret in the garden, and went off to make the most of the good weather and light winds by looking for things to photograph while cycling.

I made a honey sandwich and then started my ride by visiting the shop to get two bananas and a KitKat biscuit bar. Armed with these and a few dates, I took the Solwaybank road to get me going, a wise choice when it looks like this…

…and this…

…and this…

…and there was a peacock butterfly waiting to be photographed by the side of the road as a bonus.

After such a good start, the ride could only go downhill. I was very grateful for this as the Solwaybank road is quite undulating. The local lady who told me that they were only going to build nine turbines at the new windfarm seems to have got her information wrong as I counted ten as I went past with at least one more tower to complete. I have spared the patient reader yet another turbine picture as it has to be admitted that one turbine looks very like another.

Once I had gone downhill as far as Gretna, I crossed into England and took the road to Rockcliffe. Once again, this proved to be a good choice because at the corner near Rockliffe Cross there was a fine display of autumn colour.

Another elderly cyclist had stopped and was snapping away with his phone camera but we managed to keep out of each other’s shots.

There were many possible shots to choose from.

It was hard to tear myself away. Indeed I met the other cyclist, who had left before me, coming back to take a few more shots.

I had a last look round, including a very fine yellow wild flower in the verge…

…and rather reluctantly pedalled onward. As the sun was behind clouds while I was there, I was tempted to wait until the sun came out, but I had miles to cover and other things to see.

I had thought of going down to the seaside on the English shore of the Solway but a look round at Gretna had showed that once again the tide was so far out that i could probably have walked to Ireland. Instead, I made a circle round inland and followed a route that took me past three English churches.

I stopped for a snack at Blackford Church (built in 1870) as it has a handy wall, just right for leaning on, paused for a glance at Scaleby Church (possibly 13th century, major restoration in 1861) and got off my bike for a look around at Kirkandrews-on-Esk (built in 1776).

They appear in reverse order in the panel below.

Kirkandrews is one of my favourite churches, sitting in a park beside the river and overlooked by a old peel tower.

I met a lady who was painting the gate to the churchyard and she told me the she and her brother used to cycle to the church from Gretna in the 1950s, crossing the suspension bridge over the river on their way there.

The church is very plain and rectangular but attractive all the same.

The sun clock on the tower was put there in gratitude for the survival of two sons who returned safely from World War 1. The inscription on the face says: After darkness light, and and around the perimeter: For our two dear sons FFG & RPG who lived to come home from the great war. Thanks be to God alone.

And remarkably, after 100 years, the clock is still working and telling the correct time. I took the picture at 2.40 and allowing for BST, the correct time was 1.40.

I pedalled home up the main road and arrived back after 53 miles feeling that I had had a good day out.

Mrs Tootlepedal was away doing some shopping, so I had a wander round the garden before she got back.

The first thing that caught my eye was a red admiral butterfly on the sedum outside the back door.

And when I looked around some more, I discovered two more on the new tall Michaelmas daisy which was very satisfactory.

Dahlias are still going well, although the more elaborate ones have lost a bit of their colour. One was even attracting a bee.

The Crown Princess Margareta and Lillian Austin are still showing that when it comes to roses, ladies are tough customers…

…and the little red poppies and the orange hawkweed continue to delight.

More colour was supplied by elderly hostas and Icelandic poppies.

Mrs Tootlepedal arrived back and we had a cup of tea. I had the last of a batch of Garibaldi biscuits which I made a few days ago with mine.

There was time to watch the birds for a while.

It was a peaceful scene at the feeder, with goldfinch, greenfinch and sparrow nibbling in harmony…

…until the siskins arrived and the shouting started.

It was a day when the action was often going on behind the feeder just to annoy the photographer.

But I did get a good view of a coal tit and a great tit.

I went off for a shower and then it was time for tea. Mrs Tootlepedal produced a tasty ‘spag bol’ which provided a satisfactory end for an enjoyable day.

The flying, or rather diving bird of the day is a siskin which got such a shock that it dropped its supper.

Quiet morning, busy afternoon

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony who is having a break with Marianne on the Isle of Skye. He couldn’t have chosen a better place or had a better day.

We had what looked as though it was going to be a good day here, but it flattered to deceive and if there was any sunshine around making colours look bright on the other side of the river when I cycled to the shop…

…it had given way to rain by the time that I had got my mask on and was ready to make my purchases.

And the pattern of alternating sunshine and frequent rain showers kept me tied to the house for the morning.

I passed the time by watching the birds…

…among which was a redpoll, an infrequent visitor lately….

Mrs Tootlepedal had the window open in an attempt to rid the house of the pervasive aroma of last night’s kippers, so I was able to have a good look at the feeder.

This poor chaffinch not only had the rain to contend with but the characteristic rudeness of a siskin too.

A couple of starlings dropped in, but after a quick look round…

…they went on their way without eating any of my seeds.

I got two views of a robin at different times during the day…

…and it is a moot question as to whether the two pictures show the same bird. Robin watchers will know that robins can change their body shape very easily so it may well be the same one.

After watching a goldfinch show off its clinging skills…

…I noticed that it had stopped raining and went out for a wander round the garden in one of the dry spells.

It has warmed up a bit and the flowers are showing their gratitude.

Once again the purple sprouting broccoli was looking good enough to get in with the flowerbed specialists.

The rain came on again and I went back in.

A great tit shared its views on the weather with a friend….

…while down below, a siskin stopped shouting at chaffinches and shouted at a greenfinch with a ringed leg instead.

After lunch, things looked a bit more settled, so after checking on the time…

…I combined a visit to the High Street on business with a walk to stretch my legs a little.

I passed a lichen rich wall and a fungus encrusted tree stump….

…on my way up Hallpath and on to the track to the Round House.

It was a bit soggy in places after the recent rain but I got a splendid view of Warbla….

…and the sun shone on me as I walked through the woods….

…so I didn’t mind a little puddle jumping here and there.

The Round House and its bench tempted me to dally for a while…

…but I didn’t trust the weather and I had an appointment to keep, so I pressed on down to the river….

…and noted the advance of autumn there. I crossed the bridge when I came to it….

…and walked home along the Murtholm track…

…keeping the sun with me for most of the way back.

I got back in time to hear sad news of the collapse of Geraint Thomas’ hopes in the Giro d’Italia from Mrs Tootlepedal. She had been following the progress of today’s stage.

After a cup of tea, it was time for a Zoom with our granddaughter Matilda and her father Alistair in Edinburgh. We had hoped that by now there might have been some chance of an actual visit, but that seems to have receded into the distant future again, so Zooming is the best that we can do.

It was still very good to see them both and be thoroughly entertained by Matilda, who is a keen singer and dancer.

That Zoom was followed by another with my brother and sisters where we shared pictures and talked about the politics of the day with such gusto that the time ran out while we were all still talking.

Under the tutelage of Mrs Tootlepedal, I made a chicken casserole with mushrooms and peppers for our tea and we ate it with home made bread and bashed neeps from the garden. (Note: The neeps weren’t bashed in the garden, I did that when I had cooked them.)

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch, possibly singing in the rain.

Much better

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan. She has got a new phone and took this shot with it and sent it to me. She knows that I like canals.

There were two and a half inches of rain for the week in Mary Jo’s rain gauge when I looked this morning, most of it from yesterday. However, we were far from being underwater when we got up today. The sun was out, the morning was quite warm by recent standards and the surface water had all drained away.

I strolled down to the river to see whether the water was high and found a modest rise in the river level and a day that felt far more like spring the autumn.

Though when I looked in the opposite direction, there was a definite hint of autumn about.

I walked along the river bank…

…and considered that the world was not such a bad place after all.

A walk round the garden when I got home confirmed that feeling.

There were single flowers that caught the eye…

…and multiples too.

The most unusual sight was a very late second flowering stem on a hosta, while the fuchsias are half going over and half powering on, and small poppies and Lillian Austin are not giving up yet.

It was warm and pleasant enough for Margaret to come and join Mrs Tootlepedal for a cup of coffee in the garden and our neighbour Liz dropped by after her morning walk. I had a quick cup of coffee with them too but then, while the coffee meeting continued, I nipped out on my bicycle to make use of the better weather.

I couldn’t go too far because I had a Carlisle Community Choir practice in the afternoon, so I chose an undemanding 34 mile circular ride down to Gretna and back.

There was a fair bit of water in the rivers but not as much as I had expected after the lengthy rain yesterday. This is the little cascade in the Wauchope near the old school.

I crossed the Kirtle Water….

…by this bridge…

…near Waterbeck Church…

…where my great uncle was the minister in the 1930s.

I passed two cows near Gretna Green, one standing and one notwithstanding.

I stopped for another bridge, this time over the Black Sark a little further on…

…and was grateful for the neat set of steps which made getting down to the waterside an easy task. Every bridge should have one of these.

The view from the bridge was almost as good as the view of the bridge.

The migrating geese are back in our region and I chose a route which I hoped would let me see some feeding in the fields. They are noisy birds so I was able to hear them long before I could see them. Unfortunately, they had chosen two fields a good way away from the road that I was on and I couldn’t get a good picture of the hundreds of birds that were there.

It was a lovely day for a pedal and the wind, having blown me down to Gretna, was obliging enough to help me home over the last five miles.

I arrived back in a very sunny mood and had a plate of Mrs Tootlepedal’s leek and potato soup for a late lunch.

I glanced out of the window after my soup and was greeted by a robin posing on one of Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden stakes…

…and a blue tit in the fake tree.

On the feeder itself, goldfinches were in command and I sympathised with the chaffinch in the background who was just passing, having decided that there was no place for it at the table.

I had a shower and a shave so that I was ready for the choir practice and enjoyed some cheerful singing with 40 other choir members on Zoom. It may not be perfect but it is keeping the choir going. Our leader is hoping that the virtual choir performance which members recorded individually might be ready for next week.

After the choir, I had another look out of the window. Gold had been replaced by green.

But the fine weather didn’t seem to have improved their temper at all. There was a lot of grumpiness…

…although being shouted at by siskins is enough to make anyone a bit testy.

Then Mrs Tootlepedal and I took a turn round the garden and did some tidying up before we went back in again.

Last night, to add to the general gloom brought about by the weather, my computer had been misbehaving in a very irritating way, leading among other things to the disappearance of a set of handy macros on the photo editor. I had written these to make producing the two and four panel shots that I use a lot in these posts a one click process. This meant that I had to sit down today and re-write them.

It wasn’t a difficult task but it took me up until it was time to cook some kippers for our evening meal. They were very tasty and this rounded off a very satisfactory day.

The flying birds of the day are some of those geese moving from one field to another.

Rain stopped play

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset corespondent, Venetia. Her hedge has been clipped and revealed a large flock of sparrows.

This was a day with very little to be said for it so I shall say very little about it.

It was raining overnight, it was raining in the morning, it was raining in the afternoon and it was raining in the evening.

Mrs Tootlepedal has been levelling off a bit of the drive to put in new paving stones. This was it today….

…and that summed up the day.

We did drive down to a garden centre in the afternoon just to get out of the house, but as the roads were very wet and the garden centre was more full of Christmas tat than garden stuff, this excursion didn’t bring us much joy.

I peered out into the gloom to watch the birds for a bit…

The feeder wasn’t very busy and the camera makes the weather look a lot better than it really was. There were moments of action…

…and moments of peaceful seed chomping…

…though you always have to keep an eye out for incoming siskins.

I went shopping and Mrs Tootlepedal made some leek and potato soup, and that was that for a day which will probably not figure largely in our scrapbook of golden memories.

It is supposed to rain all night.

A just flying goldfinch is the flying bird of the day.

Gentleman in waiting

Today’s stunning guest picture was sent to me my friend and fellow church choir member, Anne. It was taken by her son, David, on the Moray Firth. He didn’t realise at the time that there are two animals hidden in the picture.

We had another fine day here. This was very lucky as Mrs Tootlepedal was meeting with a couple of environmentalists from Yorkshire who are interested in the buy out group’s plans for the Langholm Moor. She and fellow members of the group met the visitors for socially distanced coffee and then took them up to the moor to show them around.

This took her most of the morning and as I was waiting for a delivery of much needed tea leaves and coffee beans at an unspecified time, this gave me the perfect excuse to have a very idle spell.

And plenty of time to watch the birds. Fortunately, there were quite a few to watch including a goldfinch and a siskin chewing in unison.

Blackbirds stalked the drive, sneaking in to eat cotoneaster berries from under the window when I wasn’t looking.

For a while the busiest visitors were a great tit and a coal tit.

The great tit posing…

…and the coal tit hiding….

…and both on the feeder.

Other birds appeared, sometimes at such a speed that emergency braking was needed when approaching a perch.

After I had had a cup of good coffee, I went for a garden wander. Mrs Tootlepedal had had to defrost the car windscreen before setting out after another chilly night, but many flowers soldier on regardless. Some are in the pink…

…and others just keep going over the months.

I was surprised to see these today…

…Mrs Tootlepedal told me later that they are barberries. Some berberis berries are edible and some are poisonous. I am not going to try to see which these are.

I really like the new tall Michaelmas Daisy variety with dark stems whichMrs Tootlepedal has grown for the first time this year. She was worried that it wouldn’t come out in time but it has thrived in recent weeks and is looking better every day.

Although it was still a bit damp from the early morning dew, I mowed the front lawn. The sun is already low in the sky and the lawn doesn’t get a lot of sunshine even on a sunny day. I didn’t get much grass in the mower’s grass box, but I was still pleased to find it looking respectable for the time of year. I leaned out of an upstairs window later in the day, just for the record.

I wasn’t the only one at work in the garden.

Mrs Tootlepedal got back in time for lunch and was very happy to find a smoked salmon roll on the menu together with the hot lentil soup.

After lunch, I got my bicycle out and headed off round my undemanding 20 mile Canonbie circuit. Propelled by a favouring breeze, I got down to the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass at just under fifteen miles an hour. I intended to take it very easily coming back up the gentle hill to Langholm into the wind, but my legs ran away with me and I got back home with my computer showing an average speed of 14mph, a very rare speed for me these days.

I did get a rest at both of the traffic lights on the way which might have helped, and I also stopped for a picture or two on my way up the road….

…and along the river.

It was a little warmer than it has been but the trees are turning as you can see.

(The cycle computer obligingly stops recording the time when I stop for traffic lights or photo ops so it doesn’t reflect the real time that I spent on my trip.)

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal came for a walk round the garden with me. I picked out a spirea for attention…

…while she thought that the little red rose deserved a place in this post. (I did too.)

Our neighbour Kenny has got a fine clematis on his garage, and we get a good view of it so we are grateful to him.

I had taken a picture of a clematis and what I thought was the last zinnia standing in my morning wander, but on this afternoon walk I found another zinnia doing well under the shelter of the sunflowers and I liked the sun shining through the clematis petals. I have made a ‘morning and afternoon’ panel.

Different zinnias but the same clematis. Isn’t light wonderful?

After we went in for a cup of tea, Mrs Tootlepedal kindly cut my hair. I then had a shower and a shave and was looking my best for the evening Zoom with my siblings. Sometimes we run out of things to say before the meeting’s time limit is up, but we must have been in sparkling form today as the meeting ended before we were ready for it.

The flying bird of the day is a traditional chaffinch.

Footnote: The coffee beans and teas arrived safely.

Further footnote. The header picture today is the heart of a daisy

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