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Now we are three

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother’s current visit to the Lake District.  He walked to the top of Blencathra on Tuesday and found himself in quite crowd.

blencathra

We had another dry and occasionally sunny day today but the rude wind had returned so I was not unhappy to have plenty to do that didn’t involve cycling.

In the morning I went to a meeting of volunteers at the Welcome to Langholm office where we heard an interesting and well presented talk by a man from Strathclyde University about a website that is trying to better organise visitors from abroad who are interested in their family heritage.  The idea is that they should inform us of their interests and desires before they arrive and we should inform them of our capabilities to meet their wishes before they have spent money coming to see something that perhaps is no longer there or meet people who cannot help them.  It sounded like a good scheme.

I walked round the garden when I got home while Mrs Tootlepedal planted out the tulips that she had bought at Alnwick yesterday.  She dug up some of this while preparing the ground…

honey fungus

….and wonders if some knowledgeable gardening reader could help her in identifying it.  She fears it might be some sort of honey fungus.

I looked at the established tulips.

tulips

tulips

It was a degree or two warmer today and the tulips were looking good.

tulips

I saw an unexpected flash of yellow in a red tulip…

tulip

…which revealed itself as a sport as the morning went on.

The cowslippy things are loving the conditions.

cowslips

…and the dicentra is doing well too.

dicentra

I was pleased with that picture of the dicentra but even more pleased with the next one that I took.

dicentra with bee

Bees are always welcome in the garden.

It was a good day for seeing welcome things.

frog

A very small frog in the pond.

I went in to have lunch and was given a couple of hard stares by a blackbird and a chaffinch.

blackbird, chaffinch

I don’t know what I had done to offend them.

The main business of the day was a trip to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and help her celebrate her third birthday.  In honour of that momentous occasion, I am putting  in three pictures of her taken today.  One was taken by her mother in the morning on Portobello beach…

Matilda in Portobello

…and one by her father at the same venue.

Matilda in Portobello

…and I took the third as Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda enjoyed the handsome butterfly wings that had been our birthday present to her.

Matilda and Ally

Time simply flew as we played, sang and danced the afternoon away, though I will pass over the fact that the birthday girl wiped me out when we played Pelmanism.  I have mastered dancing while sitting comfortably in a chair.

After tea with cake and candles, it was time for us to go home and once again the view from the top deck of the bus was very pleasant.

Edinburgh from the bus

Edinburgh showing that it has cherry trees too

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch winning the race to get to the feeder.

flying chaffinch

Matilda says hello and goodbye for today.

matilda

 

Up the garden path

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s holiday in Skye.  It  shows his daughter Susan, my fellow recorder player, enjoying a magnificent view on her birthday earlier this week in the company of one of her brothers.

Susan in Skye

We spent all day today crossing the country to visit the gardens at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland.   We were hoping to see 350 Japanese cherry trees in their full glory but we probably arrived two or three days too late.

alnwick cherry trees

There was plenty of blossom still out but a lot had already fallen and the leaves were starting to appear.  In real life the cherry orchard was wonderful but for the camera, the leaves got into the picture a little too much.  It was a dull day which didn’t help.  Having said all that, it was well worth the two hours of driving each way (and the rather stiff entry fee).

The gardeners have thoughtfully placed many swings among the trees and Mrs Tootlepedal had a moment of reflection on one of these benches.

alnwick cherry trees

We walked through the plantation, which is on the side of a hill, down a serpentine path…

alnwick cherry trees

…which was lined with fallen petals.

alnwick cherry trees

The plantation is still young and the trees will soon form complete arches overhead but for the moment, we could see the grey sky above.

alnwick cherry trees

The camera cannot convey how beautiful the scene was, far whiter in real life than the pictures show.  Rather oddly, I think a black and white shot coveys the colour better.

alnwick cherry trees

The gardens are very popular and even on a dull midweek morning, they were full of people enjoying the scenes.  A bit of blue sky for a contrast would have helped.

Apart from the cherry trees, the main feature of the gardens is a rather showy water feature….

alnwick garden water feature

…which bursts into life every half hour so that childish people like me can enjoy themselves.

alnwick garden water feature

Fountain at the bottom with sky high squirting behind

alnwick garden water feature

More fountains appear every moment until the entire cascade is alive.

There are other smaller water features all over the place…

alnwick garden water feature

…along with well trained hedges….

alnwick garden water feature

…both large and small.

alnwick garden hedge

The hedge on the left in the panel above is in a large walled garden. It is made up of crab apple plants and will look sensational in a few days when the blossoms come fully out.

The walled garden is divided into small ‘rooms’ each with with their own ‘walls’…

alnwick garden walled garden

…and tulips were the featured plant today. …

alnwick garden walled garden

…though there were other plants to see as well.

It is a great pleasure to wander through this recently created garden and see so many people of all ages enjoying the little nooks and crannies filled with plants and features.

I enjoyed these two clematis in one of the garden corners.

clematis

We left the flowers and cherries….

clematis

…and went and had a good lunch in the cafeteria before going to have a quick look at the town centre.

We passed the castle on our way.

Alnwick castle

There was a lot of extensive planting as you can see and we noticed a fritillary meadow and a scilla meadow as we went along.

I was much struck by two street names in the town….

Alnwick

A gate is a street of course and not a gate.  This is a gate….

Alnwick

…and it is this that the streets are within and without.

Within the gate is a market place with a fine hall…

Alnwick

…which has an attractive portico.

Alnwick

We didn’t spend long in the town and went back through the gardens, where Mrs Tootlepedal bought a plant or four in the plant shop, before passing this fantastic tree house….

Alnwick tree house

…on our way back to the car.

Google Maps had offered us choice of routes to Alnwick.  It is almost exactly opposite Langholm on the map but unfortunately there is a large lump of hills and moorland in between with no direct route.  We could either take main road to the south and travel 100 miles at speed and take two hours or go by more  minor routes to the north and (rather surprisingly) take two hours.

I chose to do both and went by the main roads to the south and came back by the more scenic northern route.  Just as Google said, they both took two hours, more or less exactly.

As the sun started to shine just as we left the gardens, we were a bit annoyed about our timing but it did make for a beautiful drive through the border hills on our way home.

We got home in time to fill the feeders, have some tea and then for me to go out to a practice with our Langholm Choir.  After 60 miles cycling yesterday and 180 miles driving today, I was quite tired but all the same, it was a useful practice and I enjoyed the singing.

I found a moment to catch a flying bird of the day when we got home.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

A family reunion

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew, who was at the sea side in Morecambe yesterday.  He was lucky enough to find the sea at home.

MorecambeThe forecasters promised us a coolish day with light winds and no rain and they got it exactly right.  There was a light frost when we woke up which caused the tulips to hang their heads in distress but didn’t appear to actually finish any plants off completely.

The chill meant that I was in no hurry to get out on my bicycle and in the end, I waited until eleven o’clock before the temperature crept up to 7.5°C and then I went out.

The sun was out and it shone on the siskins…

siskin

One wisely leaving before being awarded the order of the boot from another

…who were in a rather factious mood…

siskins

More evasive action

…but for all its cheerful brightness, it wasn’t doing much to heat the day up.

For a change, I decided to leave the town following the road up the Esk  rather than my usual route up the Wauchope.  This does involve a couple of quite sharp but short climbs as soon as you leave the town and as I am not supposed to cycle up too many steep hills with my new tin knee, I use this route sparingly.

I took it very gently though and arrived at Eskdalemuir in good order.

Bridge over the Esk

The bridge over the Esk there is guarded by many power lines and poles

I could hardly hear myself think because of the insistent baa-ing of sheep and lambs in the field beside the river.

Eskdalemuir lambs

The thrifty people who built the church at Eskdalemuir in the early nineteenth century didn’t waste any money on frivolous ornamentation.

Eskdalemuir church

I was in expansive mood though and popped into the cafe at the Eskdalemuir Hub in the old school for a cup of coffee and a slice of lemon drizzle cake.  This gave me enough strength to head out over the hills to Lockerbie.  The route elevation….

garmin route 18 April 2017 elevation

…shows that the first part of my journey was quite hilly and annoyingly having climbed up a long hill to get to 900 feet before Eskdalemuir, it immediately drops sharply before leaving me with another climb of 400 feet or more to get back to 950 feet, the highest point of the trip.  These are not like Tour de France climbs but then I am not like a Tour de France climber and they were quite steep enough for me.

Once over the undulating plateau between Eskdalemuir and Boreland, there is some welcome down hill and the rest of the journey bobbed up and down over very gentle country.

Not all of our handsome stone bridges have survived modern traffic and this one over the Dryfe Water…

Dryfe Water bridge

…was so battered by a passing lorry that they gave up and put in a metal trough.

Once I was through Lockerbie, I was on the old main road south, now bypassed by a new motorway.  This is quite a dull road but it was brightened up a lot in places by a fringe of dandelions.

dandelions verge

It has a useful cycle lane on each side of the road.

I stopped to eat an egg roll near Eaglesfield and was reminded that this has been a busy place for many years.  In the foreground is a bridge over the Carlisle to Glasgow motorway and the flat topped hill in the background….

motorway and roman camp

…..was home not just to  a Roman camp but an Iron Age fort as well.

I didn’t stop for many pictures as the day had become quite dull and I needed to keep my mind on my cycling rather than looking for wild flowers in the verge.

In the end, I needed to go through the town for a mile and then back again to ring up exactly 60 miles on the computer as I swung into our drive.

I had enough energy left to walk round the garden and check that the frost hadn’t done too much damage.

hellebore, dicentra and dogwood

It hadn’t.

tulip, lamium and wallflower

One of the Euphorbias deserved a picture all to itself I thought.

euphorbia

There is no frost in the forecast for the next few days so perhaps we have escaped very lightly.

I filled up the feeders and in no time the siskins were back, taking every perch at both of  the feeders but behaving very sedately this time.

siskins

It was the goldfinches that had taken on the role of hooligans…

goldfinch kicking siskin

…though the siskins were not going quietly into the night.

goldfinch facing up to siskin

I was pleased to see a couple of redpolls keeping calm amongst the mayhem.

redpolls

I had time for a shower and then we welcomed my younger brother and oldest sister to the house.  They are spending a few days in the Lake District and came up to have a meal with us in the Douglas Hotel.  The meal and the conversation were both very good value and the evening was a great delight.

We arranged to see them again in the south in July and September.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

goldfinch

Those interested can find details of my cycle ride by clicking on the map below.

garmin route 18 April 2017

It was a pity that the sun didn’t last for very long.

Pedal, pedal, tootle

Today’s guest  photograph comes from Dropscone who is on holiday in Skye.  He managed to take a rather clever picture of himself taking a picture of a rainbow.

Dropscone

After yesterday’s dull, drizzly day following a good forecast, we had a sunny, bright day today following a very gloomy forecast of frequent showers.  The general forecasts remain pretty sound but the detailed local forecasts are sometimes rather ropey.

Still, we were very grateful for a good day.

I took a couple of pictures of the effects of yesterday’s rain…

lupin and pulsatilla

A lupin holding a watery diamond and a battered pulsatilla

…and set off to cycle round my 20 mile Canonbie circle.   Although the temperature was in single figures and the sun wasn’t out, the lack of wind made it feel quite pleasant for cycling and I went round at a good speed. Since I wasn’t having to battle the breeze, I was much more in the mood to stop and take pictures so I paused for a primrose, waited for a wood anemone, dawdled for a dandelion and ran out of alliteration for a bluebell.

primrose, wood anemone, dandelion, bluebell

The dandelions and anemones were out in force near Canonbie.

anemones and dandelions

I stopped on the Hollows Bridge to show that the trees are getting a welcome green tinge.

Hollows Bridge

By the time that I got home, the sun had come out so I mowed the middle and front lawns and took a lot of flower pictures.

violet, bergenia, pulmonaria and fritillary

Dog tooth violet, bergenia, pulmonaria and fritillary

berberis, wallflower, hellebore and tulip

berberis, wallflower, hellebore and tulip

tulip waving goodbye

Tulip dead heading will shortly be required

There were quite a few bees to be heard and I was very pleased to see some of them at work on the plum tree….

tulip waving goodbye

…though the forecast of a frost tonight might be too much for the blossoms.

I think that the tadpoles are far enough on to survive a cold night.

chaffinches

It was such a nice spring day by this time, although still not as warm as it should be on a sunny day in April, that I went into the house and took three shots of the garden from upstairs windows.

The front beds, the front lawn and the pond (on the right)

The front beds, the front lawn and the pond (on the right)

The plum tree, the middle lawn and the biggest flower beds

The plum tree, the middle lawn and the biggest flower beds (and a glimpse pf the gardener).

The vegetable garden and the compost bins

The vegetable garden and the compost bins

This doesn’t show the beds along the front of the house and the small area to the right of the greenhouse.

The birds were pleased when I filled the feeders before I went cycling and by the time that I got back they had got the level well down again.

chaffinches

We wanted to do some shopping at Gretna so we took advantage of the continuing sunshine by packing the bikes into the car after lunch and going for a cycle ride before we did the shopping.

The advantage of cycling from Gretna from Mrs Tootlepedal’s point of view in particular is that the roads are mostly flat but this didn’t mean that we had a dull outing.

Todhills horses

Bridge of trees at Todhills

Mrs Tootlepedal passing under an arch of trees

We went south from Gretna and cycled round a 12 mile loop that took us through Rockliffe.  After passing through the village, we took advantage of a rough track to cycle down to the bank of the river Eden.  We were able to look back at the church where we took a walk a week or so ago.

Rockcliffe church

Which ever way we looked, up or down the river, the view was delightful.

River Eden

Up river

River Eden

Down river

And the bank itself was covered with a lovely little wood.

Rockcliffe wood

We were a bit alarmed by some very black clouds ahead of us as we cycled back to Gretna but they passed over to the north before we got back to the car and we enjoyed an excellent cycle ride.

The 12 miles had given us an appetite so a cup of coffee and a cake was necessary before we completed some satisfactory shopping.  (Slippers were the main thing on the list but quality prunes came into it too.)

We got home to find that the rain shower had missed Langholm as well.  This was lucky as we had had washing hanging out.  I had to fill the feeders again as they were quite empty by this time.

chaffinches

Cycling and shopping had taken up most of the afternoon and it wasn’t long before it was time for our evening meal and then I went out to play trios with Mike and Isabel.

We haven’t played for some weeks as Mike and Isabel have been busy on church matters over the Lent period and it was very good to get back to playing again.  The time off hadn’t got too much rust into the works so we enjoyed our playing a lot.

Sometimes, I can just push the shutter button in the nick of time to catch a flying bird and today was one of those times.

chaffinches

A disappointing day

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary’s walk in Kenwood Park today.   She came across this glorious azalea display.

Azaleas

The day here didn’t work out to plan at all.  After reading the forecast at lunchtime yesterday, I thought that the wind would drop and it would be dry all day, ideal for cycling.  In fact, although the wind did drop, it drizzled almost all day.  As I woke up feeling a bit below par with a sore throat and a slight headache, that put paid to any idea of making good use of the day.

Apart from walking 200 yards to get milk from the shop and filling the feeders now and again, I showed no visible sign of life all day.   As a result though, I now feel a lot better than I did in the morning so perhaps the drizzle was useful in its own way.

I did manage to peer out of the back door to record the damage being done to the lawn by the jackdaws.

Azaleas

We originally thought that they were taking the moss for nest building but Mrs Tootlepedal spent some time observing the jackdaws at work and concluded that they are not picking up the moss but pecking at food in the soil underneath, probably leather jackets.

Some starlings joined in.

starlings

It is good to have biological pest control.

I saw a male blackbird with the starlings and a female under the feeder…

blackbirds

…so perhaps we will have tiny blackbirds to look at in the course of time.  A blue tit paid us a single off the record flying visit but otherwise the bird visitors were the usual suspects.

siskins and goldfinches

Some birds didn’t come to eat but just did their Muscle Beach keep fit routines instead.

goldfinch

Others came to make trouble.

siskins and goldfinch

Tomorrow looks like a rather soggy day according to the forecast so I may have another chance to recover from my slight cold but I will at least try to get out for some fresh air.

I have been rather overstuffing my blog with photos lately so I hope that readers will appreciate this more slender offering.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

goldfinch

The guest picture of the day comes from Gavin who has deserted the wild woods of Yosemite and taken to the groves of Academe at Stanford University.

stanford university

We were expecting wet weather today but in spite of a gloomy forecast, it remained pretty dry and this would have been more welcome if it hadn’t come with a drop in the temperature and a very nagging and cold wind.

Under these conditions I took my cue from the celebrated Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator, who became famous for hanging around doing nothing during the Second Punic War.  He was an amateur compared with me this morning.

I stirred myself a bit after lunch and went out into the garden where the sun was shining and Mrs Tootlepedal was quietly snoozing in the warmth of the greenhouse.

I looked at the tulips which were glowing in the sunshine.

tulips

Peered inside one.

tulip

Dark secrets

Admired the wide spreading petals of another group….

tulips

…but realised that in the prevailing brisk winds, this broadness is just a prelude to tulip death.

daff and tulip

A morose daffodil and wind blown tulip reminisce over those great days in the garden that are now gone for ever.

There are hundreds of daffodils in the garden and the cool weather means that they have lasted very well but there are still a lot that need dead heading every day so I did my rounds and then went back to see Mrs Tootlepedal.

I disturbed her by mowing the grass round the greenhouse.   When she emerged into the real world, we set about simultaneously narrowing the raspberry bed and widening the path beside it in the vegetable garden.

Having achieved this, we went inside for a cup of tea.

On my way, I had a check on the espalier apples.

apple blossom

It is nearly apple blossom time.

Unlike me, the birds were very active again today.

We had two very occasional visitors, a starling early in the day….

starling

…and a greenfinch a little later on.  It seemed to spend more time flying away than coming…

greenfinch

…but it managed to fit in a nibble or two.

greenfinch

While i was having my cup of tea in the afternoon, a flock of birds descended on the feeders.  I tried to see how many flying birds I could get in one shot.

busy feeder

Four and a half in this shot

busy feeder

Five in this shot

busy feeder

And seven in this shot

Several threatening clouds rushed by without raining on us so I thought that I would cycle round to the Jubilee Bridge to see if I could see the nuthatches.

When I got there, I could hear them but I couldn’t see them.

I spent so long waiting that the light had gone for taking any bird pictures by the time that I cycled back past the Kilngreen so I contented myself with a picture of the poplars on the river bank below the suspension bridge…

poplars

…and came home again.

The light perked up for a moment and I looked at the rosemary bush…

rosemary

A decent close up of the flowers still eludes but I will keep trying.

Mrs Tootlepedal went out to a celebration dinner for one of her ex work colleagues in the evening and I relaxed again.  I felt surprisingly tired considering my quiet day but the wind is going to drop tomorrow so I hope that my day of rest will have put me in good fettle for a cycle ride.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

siskin

Today’s guest picture is another from Gavin’s visit to Yosemite and shows a quite well known waterfall there.

yosemite

We had another chilly but dry day today.   This was a bit of a surprise as we had been promised rain.

Dropscone is going on holiday on the Isle of Skye next week so he came round for a farewell cup of coffee.  He completely failed to bring traditional Friday treacle scones with him but made up for this with several hot cross buns which did very well instead.

After he left, I spent some fruitless time on my computer.  National Savings had sent me a letter politely suggesting that I might like to register on line as I am a premium bond holder and this would save them the trouble of constantly sending expensive letters to tell me when I have won a prize.

This seemed fair enough, though they don’t send me many prize letters I can assure you, but having gone through the online process unsuccessfully a couple of times, the website ended up by telling me to print a form out and send my application to go on-line to them in the post.  I was mildly amused.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went up to the Laverock Hide at the Moorland Project Feeding station, she to see if there were any raptors about and I to look at smaller birds.

She did get a brief view of a passing hen harrier and I saw a lot of small birds.

greenfinch

This was one of only two greenfinches that I saw today

great tit

But there were a lot of great tits about

chaffinch

And an unusually marked chaffinch

There were some slightly larger ones too.

woodpeckers

Woodpeckers chased each other round the trees,

woodpeckers

And then this one relaxed

I got a glimpse of a passing jay….

jay

…and couldn’t miss this pheasant which stood right in front of me and stared me out.

pheasant

Two visitors came into the hide hoping to see a goshawk but left fairly soon and then more bird watchers with big binoculars and a telescope arrived and they did see a goshawk…

bird watchers

….but it was far too far away for me to see at all.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I decided that goats on the moor might be a better bet so we went up onto the hill and saw three or four goats wandering around some distance away trying to look like boulders or clumps of heather.

goats

We had thought that we had seen a goat or two near the Tarras Bridge on our way out so we had hopes of seeing some nearer to hand on our way home.

We were not disappointed.

goat

A clue

We parked the car and I walked up the road with my camera at the ready.  I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible but this was a wasted effort as the goats didn’t care how close i got to them.

wild goats Langholm Moor

They just kept munching…

wild goats Langholm Moor

…though they did give me the occasional glance.

There was a small group among the bracken.

wild goats Langholm Moor

It was a very peaceful scene.

wild goats Langholm Moor

People say that kids don’t climb trees any more but some do.

wild goats Langholm Moor

And others joined in.

wild goats Langholm Moor

Weighing up the job

wild goats Langholm Moor

All hands on deck

And then back to mum for a cuddle.

wild goats Langholm Moor kid

We left them chomping away in peace….

wild goats Langholm Moor

…and drove home.

It started to rain as we got back so we went inside and had a cup of tea.  It soon stopped raining but in spite of a temperature of 10°, it felt so chilly and unwelcoming outside that we left the garden to itself and found things to do indoors.

I had a look at our own birds.  They were still arguing.

goldfinch

And even this rather placid looking pigeon…

pigeon

…had chased another three away from under the feeder.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I tootled away merrily while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal watched Gardeners’ World on the TV.

The orchestra and I found some agreeable tempos for the trickier pieces and we had moments when things sounded really good but there were also moments which indicated that a little more practice might not go amiss.  Such is life.

After TV and music, we joined together and put the world to rights.

The flying bird of the day is a garden goldfinch.

goldfinch