Singing and gardening

Today’s guest picture comes from my Canonbie friend Simon. He was in Lancashire yesterday when he came across this fine bridge over the River Lune while on a walk near Kirkby Lonsdale.

We had a warm, sunny and breezy day here today. As we were singing in two choirs, morning and afternoon, we didn’t get out of the garden in between singing.

The hymns in church were on the dull side this morning, but I got the opportunity to read the lessons so that made the service more interesting than usual for me.

After church, we had coffee, and then got busy in the garden. Mrs Tootlepedal did those mysterious things that gardeners do, and I mowed the vegetable garden and greenhouse grass, and then cleared another load of well pecked moss off the middle lawn. I didn’t see any jackdaws on the lawn today, so maybe they have finally eaten all the grubs that there were to eat.

I also gave the tray under the bird feeder a good scrub in the dam, and I was pleased to see the birds back on the feeder soon after I had replaced it.

I did spend quite a lot of time walking around with cameras in hand looking for bees. I found one on the ajuga . . .

. . . and one in the close embrace of an azalea.

I took a picture of the azalea too, because it has such a delicate colour, and the sharp eyed will be able to spot the bee in the top right corner of the bush.

We are really pleased with the tree peony this year as it has never before been so keen to reveal its flowers as it is at present. I don’t what it is about the weather that has caused this, but I hope it happens next year too.

There is plenty of sweetness in the garden at the moment with Sweet Rocket flowering . . .

. . . and Sweet Williams looking very promising.

There are Welsh poppies wherever you look.

Mrs Tootlepedal is not very happy with her Choisya, because it doesn’t look as well as it should, but it does have some flowers on it.

Against the wall of the house, the Cotoneaster Horizontalis has more flowers on it than you could count . . .

. . . and the pansies, purchased on our East Wemyss holiday, have survived the trip back to Langholm very well.

I fortified myself for the afternoon choir with a large bacon sandwich for my lunch, and then went out and took a lot more garden pictures. At 19°C (66°F), it was a grand day for wandering about aimlessly in the sunshine.

To be fair, there was plenty more to point the camera at, so it wasn’t entirely aimless wandering.

I saw fungus in the wood chip soil covering the bed beside the drive . .

. . . and an archful of future roses . . .

. . . pretty polemoniums . .

. . . elegant aquilegias . . .

. . . classy clematis . . .

. . . and an attractive azalea.

After a last look at the bird feeder . . .

. . . we drove off to Carlisle to sing with the Carlisle Community Choir. It was a happy experience. Our conductor, Ellen, was in sparkling form, we learned new songs and sang old favourites, and best of all, we took a vote of those present and abandoned social distancing so that for the first time for two years, we could finally hear the rest of the choir properly.

We drove home in lovely sunshine and a very contented state of mind.

The leaves on the walnut tree looked particularly pretty in the evening sunshine when we got home.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow. Unusually for a flying bird of the day, this one is flying backwards under pressure from a goldfinch.

Bike test

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Gavin. He broke his journey back to Langholm today with a stop in Fort William. He was in just the right place at the right time to see a steam engine crossing the Caledonian Canal.

We had a warmer, sunnier day today which was very welcome. The better weather let me take my road bike for a thorough test of the new handlebars and saddle. As cyclists will know, both the riding position which is determined by the handlebars and the saddle comfort are key components in the enjoyment of a ride. Saddle soreness can ruin the best views, and an uncomfortable riding position can make cycling a penance, and give you back trouble as well.

I set out to do 100 kilometres (62 miles) with a few hills at the start, and a gentle flattish second half, hopefully with the wind behind me. My new handlebars don’t let me change my hand position so I was very careful to take my hands off the bars (one at a time) and give them a good stretch and shake for a few seconds every mile or so. This worked well, and my hands and shoulders survived the ride without giving me trouble. The saddle turned out to be excellent, and let me sit with as much comfort as can be expected on a longish ride.

I stopped every half hour or so to stretch my legs and back, eat a snack, and take photographs. It was very hazy and not a day for views . . .

. . . so I concentrated on wild flowers in the hedgerows of which there was a plentiful supply.

I noticed the built environment from time to time too.

I made a little diversion near Rockcliffe to the very edge of the marsh at the mouth of the River Eden. I enjoyed a verse inscribed on the wall of the old boathouse there.

I could have no complaints about the roads, which were mostly quiet and picturesque, with hawthorns and green trees on every side.

I stopped to chat to the people at the bike shop on my way back through Longtown, and that combined with my other stops for stretches, sustenance and shots added fifty minutes to my cycling time. I got home in exactly six hours for my 62 miles. The only fly in the ointment was the mean wind which decided to hinder me rather than help me on the last fifteen miles home.

That left time for a walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been busy gardening while I was out.

My day was not over yet though, and after a cup of tea, a shower, and an evening meal of slow cooked beef stew, Mrs Tootlepedal got our electric bikes out of the garage, and we went off to look at a wood on the edge of tow. The Tarras Valley Nature Reserve managers have cleared it after it was substantially knocked down by Storm Arwen. Mrs Tootlepedal was impressed by the scale of the undertaking, and then as it was a lovely evening, suggested that we might like to cycle along the track to Broomholmshiels and come back home by the road.

The electric bikes proved to be well up to the rough track, and it has been so dry lately, that there were only one or two soggy spots where we had to get off and push.

It was a most enjoyable five mile excursion, and it showed that we had made a good decision when we bought the electric bikes.

All this to-ing and fro-ing didn’t leave me much time for the birds, and I found an angry siskin above the seed level when I got back from my longer ride.

The siskin below, who had found a seed or two, was unmoved.

A dunnock, I think, looked on from the holly tree.

Our spell of milder weather looks set to continue. This will keep the gardener very busy as things are growing at pace.

I had no time for a flying bird today, so a rook is sitting in.

Twenty seconds of sunshine

Today’s guest picture is another from our friend Gavin’s tour of the outer isles. It shows a lapwing and a chick.

It was Friday 13th today so we were braced for bad luck. In the end, it was only the weather that gave us a bad time. It was gloomy, windy and occasionally wet. I was happy to stay indoors. In fact I was so happy to stay indoors that I forgot a health centre appointment. They were very kind though, and gave me another appointment later in the day which I did not forget.

I entertained Dropscone to coffee, and in return for his excellent scones, I presented him with some rhubarb which he took away with him.

Before I went off to my re-arranged appointment, I filled the feeder and watched the birds. There was a slightly better attendance today, with siskins on the feeder . . .

. . . and collared doves on the ground below.

It was very windy again and birds found it hard to get a grip on the willow twigs which waved about furiously behind the feeder.

Less welcome visitors were in evidence too. You would think that they would have eaten all the grubs by now but they don’t let up at all.

I settled down and put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, and looked at the hymns for next Sunday. At lunchtime, Mrs Tootlepedal got back from taking the minutes at yet another meeting of the Langholm Initiative. They are very busy people.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to her regular stitching group, and I did some masterful idling, mixing a look at a redpoll . . .

. . . putting in another week of the newspaper index, and watching the end of today’s stage of the Giro d’Italia.

After Mrs Tootlepedal had returned and we had had a cup of tea, I went for a short and gloomy walk. It had got a bit warmer at 55°F (13°°C) and the wind had dropped, so in spite of the clouds, it wasn’t a bad day for a walk by this time. I took the track to the Becks burn.

I enjoyed the cheerful bed as the track passes Holmwood. A keen gardener plants this bed for the pleasure of passers by.

I noted a delightful patch of mixed wild flowers . . .

. . . looked down over the shades of green in the valley to my left . . .

. . . saw plenty of blossom on the crab apple trees . . .

. . . smelled the wild garlic . . .

. . . appreciated the delicate violets . . .

. . . couldn’t miss the marsh marigolds . . .

. . . and crossed the Becks Burn bridge.

On the way down the road on the other side of the burn, I came across this striking burst of new growth in the hedgerow.

For a heady moment, there was some sunshine on Meikleholm Hill . . .

. . . but as it only lasted twenty seconds, I didn’t get carried away.

I passed some geums growing on a bank beside the road, high enough up for me to look up at them

I crossed the Auld Stane Brig and climbed up the hill to join the track down to the Stubholm and the park. The weather had got very gloomy again . . .

. . . so I didn’t hang about, but pressed on home. I had time for a look round the garden before going in for the regular Zoom with my siblings. Another azalea is almost fully out . . .

. . . and there was a good amount of colour to brighten up the day.

In the evening, we heard the sounds that herald the start of the preparations for our Common Riding. After two lean years, a cornet has been elected tonight, and he will carry the flag on Common Riding day on the last Friday in July. Our two bands marched round the town to remind townspeople to go and vote. First the pipe band came . . .

. . . and then the Town Band.

This was definitely a sign that life is returning to normal. We keep our fingers crossed that there will not be a relapse into restrictions again.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

A welcome return

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia. She found this splendid knobbly tree when she visited Milton Lodge Gardens, near Wells.

We had another day here where the enjoyment of some welcome sunshine was tempered by very brisk winds.

We got out into the garden though, and spent quite a bit of time clearing up both lawns after more ravages by the jackdaws. I used the mower to clear up the front lawn and it looked semi respectable for a while . . .

. . . but it was not to last.

Mrs Tootlepedal earthed up the maincrop potatoes . . .

. . . and I wandered about taking photographs.

Other flowers were available.

It is an exciting time of year.

There were a few more visitors to the feeder today but not many more . . .

. . . but I did see a dunnock busy collecting seed under the feeder, and as I don’t see one in the open very often, I took several pictures of it and added a redpoll who was nearby to fill out the panel.

Just after lunch, I finally got the call from the bike shop to say that my bike was ready to collect. I went down in the car with Mrs Tootlepedal, and when I had collected the bike, she drove on to Gretna to do a bit of shopping at the shopping village there, and I cycled home, hoping to find the very brisk wind in a helpful mood.

It turned out that my old saddle had broken, so I was not only trying out my new handlebars but a new saddle too, and I set out feeling quite nervous. In the event, the wind was helpful, the handlebars were just what I had hoped for, and the saddle wasn’t too bad for a first outing. It always takes time for a saddle and you to get properly acquainted. I enjoyed the sixteen mile ride home on back roads, and stopped for a couple of pictures on my way. The hawthorn hedges are coming out . . .

. . . and my favourite oak tree has acquired a lot more leaves.

I took pictures of my refurbished bike when I got home.

Strong cross winds at times on the journey helped to prove my theory that the wider handlebars would make me more stable, and a very brisk wind pushing me along the flat at 25 mph at times gave me a chance to try the new brakes too. First impressions are very good.

I looked round the garden to find that hard working blackbirds were in evidence . . .

. . . but rather annoyingly, so were hard working jackdaws.

At least I got a chance to see what it was that they find so attratcive.

Mrs Tootlepedal got back minutes after me, and we sat down for a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit or two.

I had another look at the feeder and saw a goldfinch and a greenfinch clinging on to twigs waving about in the wind.

In the evening, my friend Susan arrived and drove us down to Carlisle to play with our recorder quartet. We had a good play, beginning with two Bach fugues arranged for recorders which got us off to an excellent start.

It was raining heavily when we drove back to Langholm, and it looks from the forecast as though it may well still be raining tomorrow morning. The rain will fill up our reservoir a bit so it is welcome, though it was not not much fun for the driver.

The flying bird of the day is that greenfinch which finally left the twig.

Grateful for a push

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He is pleased that this handsome bridge in Derby, which he uses a lot, has won an award for good design.

We had another generally sunny day here, but the brisk wind made it feel a little chillier than it should have been. Mrs Tootlepedal was busy writing up minutes of meeting, so after coffee, I occupied myself by making a batch of ginger biscuits and wandering around the garden taking pictures.

There are usually new things to find at this time of year, and today I noticed the first flowers on two azaleas, a tiny lily of the valley, a bold hosta and a selection of Welsh poppies.

The tulips are basically over.

For some unknown reason, perhaps the strong winds of recent days, there were hardly any siskins about today, and the feeder was still nearly full when this one appeared just after lunch. . .

. . . and the seed went down quite slowly as only occasional birds arrived at the feeder. The feeder was still half full when these redpolls arrived after four in the afternoon.

I went for a twenty six mile ride on my electric bike in the afternoon, and I was very pleased to have the extra assistance. Once again I found myself cycling into a strong wind. I only hope that I don’t get too big a shock when I get back on my push bike. To be fair, I might well not have gone out at all on such a windy day if I had had only my part worn legs to rely on for power.

As it was, I thoroughly enjoyed the sunny ride and took a few pictures as I went round.

I was particularly interested in see how the willow plantation, which looked like this in March last year . . .

. . . would look after some good growing weather a year and a bit later. It is doing wonderfully well.

Willow growing as a renewable bio fuel was going to be a big thing a few years ago, and there were quite a few plantations in our area, but this is the only one that I know of which seems to have lasted.

My route took me past the Korean pines in the churchyard at Half Morton, so I popped in for a look. The cones are at various stages of development.

My final picture was of a Pyrenean Valerian. They will be out in force in a couple of weeks.

By the time that I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had gone out to a meeting of the Woodland Trust in the Buccleuch Centre to talk about the moor buyout. I had a solo cup of tea and one or two ginger biscuits, and another wander round the garden.

There may not have been many siskins about, but we have plenty of blackbirds feeding young at the moment . . .

. . . and a male was perched on the greenhouse serenading all and sundry with gusto.

Jackdaws flew above my head . . .

. . . waiting for their chance to descend and do more damage to our lawns.

When I went in and looked out to see if there were any siskins about, a collared dove gave me a most old fashioned look.

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from her meeting in time to join the regular Zoom meeting with my siblings and then we enjoyed some ham rissoles for our evening meal.

I hope to get my road bike back tomorrow but hope springs eternal.

The flying bird of the day is that collared dove making off.

Footnote: Dropscone points out that it wasn’t an avocado, it was an aubergine.

Party time

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend and neighbour Gavin. He was on North Uist today and was impressed by the amount of work two crofters had put in to provide their only source of heat for the coming year.

We had a generally sunny but very windy day here, with some gusts making us worry about possible damage. I had a busy morning as Sandy came for coffee, I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, I sieved a barrowload of compost, and I converted some ham stock, which Mrs Tootlepedal had prepared, into a tasty broth.

When I had calmed down, I looked for birds to watch and found none. An hour later things had returned to normal . . .

. . . and the birds piled back in, with an occasional chaffinch mixing with the siskins.

Down below, a team of pigeons were cleaning up fallen seed.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent the morning taking minutes at a meeting, and after lunch we walked round the garden. It was so windy that taking picture of flowers was hard as they kept blowing about. I did my best.

I used the mower to collect up a lot of the moss which the jackdaws had pecked up on the front lawn, and when I put the mower away, a blackbird on the roof of the greenhouse was waiting for me to move off so that he could get on with the job of feeding the young.

The rest of the afternoon, in contrast to the busy morning, was a bit of wasted space. The bike shop had told me that they would ring at some time to tell me that my bike was ready. My plan was to get a lift down with Mrs Tootlepedal, and then to bicycle home at a furious speed, pushed by the very strong wind. I waited patiently for the call.

Finally, they rang up right at the end of the afternoon to tell me that my bike still wasn’t ready. Luckily Mike Tinker came round for a cup of tea and a chat so that helped to pass the time agreeably.

When he left, I could see that the pesky peckers were back hard at work making a mess on the front lawn which I had mowed clear earlier in the day.

The wind had got stronger by this time, and at 35 mph, the gusts were really too strong for sensible cycling even on the electric bike. I went for a short three bridges walk instead, just to stretch my legs.

There had been some heavy showers overnight, and it was good to see a bit of water in the rivers, even though they were by no means full.

I walked along the Kilngreen, over the Sawmill Brig, round the new path on the Castleholm and back home over the Jubilee Bridge It was impossible not to enjoy the play of sunlight and shadow.

There were smaller things to see as well . . .

. . . and I ended my walk with a look at the honeysuckle in our garden hedge.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I put on smart outfits and walked next door to join our neighbour Margaret in celebrating her birthday. Liz and Ken from next door came too, and we had a merry time with wine and nibbles, a slice (or two in my case) of birthday cake and a lot of cheerful conversation about past times. Outside, severe gusts of winds and heavy squalls of rain battered Margaret’s windows, but they stopped in time to let us walk home in peace at the end of a good day.

The flying bird of the day is one of the many siskins.

Footnote: Dropscone dropped by in the morning to give me a present of an avocado which he had found in a supermarket in Annan at such an advantageous price (29p) that it would have been a sin not to buy it. He is a kind chap.

Not quite a Zephyr

Today’s colourful guest picture is another one from my sister Caroline’s holiday in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight.

We got a reminder of how gentle the breezes have been lately when we woke to a grey and very blustery day today. I read on the internet that Zephyrus, the god of the west wind, is supposed to be the bringer of gentle spring breezes. He must have had indigestion today.

I spent a good part of the morning producing the Langholm Initiative newsletter. In between times, we went across to visit our neighbour Liz for coffee and biscuits. It wasn’t a day for leisurely gardening so I was pleased to have a visit and a useful task to do. To be fair, I also wasted quite a lot of time try and failing to update the satnav system on our car.

I had filled the bird feeder after breakfast, and by the time that I looked at it after lunch, almost all the seed was gone.

The wind ruffled the feathers of a siskin waiting for me to refill the feeder.

Taking the hint, I did refill the feeder, and then, in spite of a rather gloomy forecast and a 20 mph wind, I went for a bicycle ride. My road bike is still at the bike shop getting serviced. It has been going to be done “tomorrow” since last Tuesday. However, it was quite a good day to take the electric bike out and let it take some of the strain of pedalling head on into the stiff breeze.

I chose a short loop because I wanted to get home before any serious rain started, and I only stopped for a few pictures. As it was a very grey day, this wasn’t a great loss.

I noticed that my favourite oak tree is getting new leaves on the sunny side of the tree.

At one point I was surrounded by black and white cattle. This was one side of the road . . .

. . . and this was the other.

I was photobombed when I tried to take one more shot.

The beech hedges are gradually turning green to match the hawthorn hedges which have been green for some time . . .

. . . but nothing could stop it being a very grey day.

I had timed my ride very well, as it started to rain just as I got home. The rain was light enough to let me take a quick tour round the garden to get a little colour into today’s post. The azaleas are a treat in any weather. I hope that a night of wind and rain won’t do them too much harm. At least it is not going to be very cold.

Rhododendrons are coming to join the azaleas as quickly as they cam.

The tulips are fading fast but there are one or two standouts.

In the back border, the tree peony is promising . . .

. . . rodgersias are poking through . . .

. . . and the cow parsley is really finding its feet.

It wasn’t at all welcoming in the garden though, so I was happy to dive indoors and wait for Mrs Tootlepedal to come back from a meeting and have a cup of tea.

The bird feeder gave me something to watch to help to pass the time.

We have a lot of siskins at the moment. The chaffinches and goldfinches seem to have found somewhere better to go, so the siskins often have the feeder to themselves.

. . . though redpolls are fairly regular too . . .

. . . but in much smaller numbers.

They are not frightened of the siskins.

A regular Zoom meeting with my siblings rounded off the active day, and after that, we found things to do indoors as the rain and wind buffeted the house and made it feel like winter again.

Thinking of winter, I checked my gas and electricity bills, and found that although we had used less energy this April than we did last year, we are paying almost twice as much for the privilege. I hope that we get a lot of good weather this summer!

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

Footnote: there are no footnotes today.

Sunshine and song

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Caroline. She has just had a short holiday on the Isle of Wight, and found a sunny day to visit Ventnor Botanical Gardens.

We had a warm day here, with a lot of excellent sunshine and light winds. It would have been the perfect day for a long cycle ride, but as there were two choirs to go to, cycling had to take a back seat.

The parish church choir has been in abeyance for several weeks, so it was an extra pleasure today to cycle round to church this morning to join other choir members at the service. With seven choir members in attendance, we did our best to raise the roof.

It was time to visit the garden after we had had a cup of coffee on our return. I sat and watched the birds from a garden bench for a while . . .

. . . and Mrs Tootlepedal mowed a strip alongside the dam at the back of the house and then got busy in the vegetable garden. I lent her an unskilled hand in between doing some dead heading, tidying up the lawns after more pecking, and taking several photographs.

I was happy to find quite a few more insects about today.

The vegetable garden is filling up. I could see beans, parsley, sweet peas, turnips, celery and potatoes.

Mrs Tootlepedal is very pleased with her mini oak tree nursery, grown from local acorns.

Today’s garden flowers are yellow. A slightly eccentric yellow tulip came into flower today.

I am able to identify two of the most persistent lawn peckers. They carried on as if I wasn’t there.

Two blackbirds ignored me as well.

Our friend Bruce asked yesterday if we see any greenfinches, and I told that they come from time to time. This was one of the times.

Mostly we had siskins . . .

. . . and one of them made such a ferocious attack on a goldfinch . . .

. . . that both it and the goldfinch went flying off the perch and the space got taken by another bird behind their backs.

After lunch and a bit more gardening, I had time for a quick three bridges walk down to the Esk . . .

. . . and then to the Castleholm, where I looked at trees . . .

. . . and a game of cricket . . .

. . . was impressed by a field of dandelion seed heads . . .

. . . admired a view . . .

. . . and then had to scurry home as I had spent too much time dawdling, and was in danger of being late to set off for our Carlisle Community Choir meeting.

We weren’t in our usual cavernous school chapel this week as it was being used on school business. The replacement venue, a community centre in the town, was a great improvement on the chapel, as not only could we hear what our conductor was saying, but we could hear the other singers too. The good news is that we will be moving permanently to this venue in the autumn.

We had a most enjoyable sing, but it was a hard working session, and after singing in the morning too, I was quite tired by the time that we finished.

The weather was still fine as we drove home, and only the sight of more of those persistent lawn peckers when we got home cast a shadow on a really enjoyable day.

The flying bird of the day is a hopeful goldfinch, trying to find a place at the table unoccupied by siskins.

Footnote 1: I took a pair of pictures of crosswort on my walk yesterday and forgot to put them into yesterday’s post. I like them so much that I am squeezing them in here. Like many wild flowers, crosswort isn’t that amazing seen from a distance, but a close look shows hidden depths. It is worth clicking on the gallery in my view.

Footnote 2: The final East Wemyss gallery includes Pictish carvings from the famous caves. You have to look at the carvings with the eye of faith. The website is very interesting if you like that sort of thing.

Increasing our range

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony in East Wemyss. It shows the seals who arrived the day after we left.

We had a better day than the forecast suggested. It was grey, but it was calm and pleasantly warm for the time of year at 55°F/13°C after breakfast. I went up to the town to visit the street market after breakfast, and purchased some fresh fish and two bottle of locally brewed beer. I haven’t tried the beer before so it will be interesting to find out what it tastes like.

Margaret came round for coffee and when she left, Mrs Tootlepedal and I got busy in the garden. I started by clearing up the latest results of the lawn pecking festival, and then I mowed the greenhouse grass and the vegetable garden paths. Mrs Tootlepedal prepared a bed and planted some celery which we had bought on our visit to the garden centre in Fife. It says in her book that growing celery is not for the faint hearted, so we have got our fingers crossed.

I did some dead heading and found a good number of new flowers brought on by the recent rain and the current bit of warmth.

I didn’t forget to enjoy the tulips . . .

. . . and recorded some other things that interested me, including potential poppies and an allium full of promise.

I spotted a bee on an apple blossom, but a lone bee won’t be enough to get round the great number of blossoms on all three of the espaliers.

Our friends Bruce and Lesley dropped in to say hello, and Bruce asked if we were seeing many redpolls. I said we usually had quite a number, and luckily there were several redpoll visitors today to prove me right.

As well as redpolls, we had visits from young blackbirds. They tend to stand around looking indignant that no one is feeding them. One tried a tulip petal for flavour but didn’t like it.

Bruce and Lesley had mentioned that the bluebells were looking very good, so after lunch I went to have a check on them myself. It was a grand day for a stroll even if it wasn’t sunny, and I took a lot of pictures on my short walk.

The hills are definitely getting greener at last, but the people who go round slinging electricity wires up in front of fine views have been hard at work again.

My favourite view of the whole walk was the track along the Stubholm. It brought a lift to the heart just to be there.

When I got home, I found that the resident ducks were back on the dam behind the house. The water is so low that they are crouching on the bottom rather than swimming in the stream.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I were keen to see if the battery on her new bike would be up to a twenty mile ride with a few good hills on the route, so we got the bikes out and set out to pedal over Callister and round the Solwaybank windfarm.

A smir of rain was falling as we left the house, but we pressed on regardless and were rewarded when the rain soon stopped. We stayed dry, but wet roads as we returned showed that it must have kept raining for quite a bit in Langholm itself.

We passed a fine bank of primroses at Westwater . . .

. . . and we were very surprised to see a small flock of geese in a field later in the ride.

Mrs Tootlepedal enjoyed cycling down the green tunnel at Solwaybank.

. . . and I was impressed by the thriving blaeberries (bilberries) beside the road at the Kerr.

We got home with power to spare in Mrs Tootlepedal’s battery so the whole ride turned out to be very satisfactory. We will be able to put the bikes in the car and explore new roads with confidence.

On a general note, a lot of concern is being expressed about the drop in numbers of insects, and in all the time that I was looking at flowers, both tame and wild, today, I only saw two apart from the bee in the apple.

The garden should have been buzzing on a day like today.

We ate the fish that I had bought in the morning for our evening meal, and very good it was too.

The flying bird of the day is yet another redpoll.

Footnote: A penultimate East Wemyss gallery today for those interested. I haven’t titled them but I feel that they give a flavour of our walks in some rather grey weather (with a little sunshine as we left).

Up on the moor, down at the river

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s oldest son who now lives in Devon. He took this picture of people taking dressing up very seriously at a local festival.

We had a day that started out wet and grey, and continued in that vein until the evening, when it brightened up just late enough to be annoying.

Dropscone came round for scones and coffee, and he was in a very cheery mood. He had been for a check up at the health centre, and after careful examination, they had come to the conclusion that he was still alive and kicking. And he had played a good round of golf earlier in the week.

After he left, Mrs Tootlepedal and I put on our wet weather gear and drove up to the moor to do some planting of dog roses round the edge of the recent tree planting. Other volunteers were coming up later, but Mrs Tootlepedal had a meeting in the afternoon so we worked alone.

Sphagnum moss and bog cotton surrounded us as we put the roses in and protected them with tubes.

We got back for a late lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal went off to join a group of stitchers who have a sociable meeting on a Friday afternoon.

I stayed at home and had a walk round the garden in the drizzle . . .

. . . watched birds . . .

. . . and then found that the first stage of the Giro d’Italia bike race was on the Welsh language channel on the telly. I enjoyed the cycling pictures but couldn’t follow the commentary!

Mrs Tootlepedal arrived home just in time to see the finish of the stage.

I had been hoping to get a telephone call from the bike shop to say that my bike was ready, but it never came, so after a cup of tea, I went out for a walk.

Just as I left the back door, a glimpse of sunshine lifted my spirits . . .

. . . and after taking a picture of a fancy tulip against the wall of the house . . .

. . . I walked down to the river. The sun soon disappeared, and the only bird that I saw flew off to the far side of the river as soon as it saw me.

There were hardly any birds about at all, but I took a few pictures in spite of the fact that it was getting progressively gloomier as I walked round a short three bridges route.

As I went round the top of the Scholars’ Field, my eye was caught by the thriving corydalis growing out of the wall, and a host of dandelions clocks telling me that it was time that I was home.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round, and while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal put the world to rights, Alison and I enjoyed playing some Handel recorder sonatas.

We seem to be set for a dull and rainy spell of weather, so perhaps I will be able to catch up on some of the work at home that I should have been doing.

The flying bird of the day is a redpoll.

Footnote: We saw a lot of common wild flowers on our East Wemyss walks and I have put some of them into a gallery here. The most unusual for us was the Few Flowered Garlic which we had never seen before. I read that it is considered invasive, and it is an offence to plant it in the wild now. It was doing well in the places where we saw it. Our favourite was probably the Fumitory, another new flower for us.

The flowers are named if you scroll through them.