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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s trip to France.  She met this emerging monster in the Japanese garden of Toulouse.

japanese garden Toulouse

Our spell of good weather continues.  We find it a bit unnerving but it is very welcome.

I couldn’t make the best of a fine morning though as I was in duty on the Welcome to Langholm Office.  I did a little welcoming and a lot of entering data into the Archive Group newspaper index so it wasn’t time wasted but I did look longingly out of the window from time to time.

When I got home, I mowed the middle lawn and found surprisingly little growth considering the weather.  Perhaps the soil has not warmed up yet after several long cold months.

The rhododendron is enjoying the weather.

rhododendron

And a present of cow parsley, which we got from a friend who was a wild gardener, is doing well too.

jenny's cow parsley

I had an early lunch and got my new bike out and set out to do a few miles to see if everything was still going well.

It was.  It was a treat to ride.

On the down side, the hills seemed to be still there and although the bike is new, the engine has seen a lot of wear and is definitely past its best.

It was a fine cycling day with just enough breeze to keep me cool but not enough to discourage me.  The new bike doesn’t encourage constant stopping for pictures but the need for an occasional breather meant that I took a few on my way round.

hottsbrig bluebells 2

A delightful small mound sprinkled with  bluebells near Hottsbrig school

gair view

The view from the Gair road, looking back to the way that I had come

dandelion clock

The dandelions are going over

Gair road

The neatly clipped beech hedges are turning green again

Irvine House

Irvine house is disappearing behind the leaves

old A7

A welcome bit of shade ahead on the old A7

I did an undemanding circle of 31 miles at a modest speed of thirteen and a half miles per hour and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Mike Tinker had promised to come round to inspect the new bike and I found him chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden when I got home. To show what sort of a day it was, rather than sitting on the new bench in the sun, they were sitting on the old bench in the shade.  And very sensible too as it was quite hot by this time.

As well as inspecting the bike, Mike and I went to look at Kenny’s euphorbia beside the dam at the back of the house.  It is impressive.

euphorbia

Before I went in for my shower, I checked on the tulips.  A little late afternoon sun brings out the best in them.

tulips

orange tulip

And Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out the first of the ornamental strawberry flowers of the year.

strawberry flower

The azalea was ablaze.

azalea

It was a genuine Tootlepedal day because after my cycle ride, my flute pupil Luke came and we had a very encouraging play and then after tea, (another) Mike and Isabel came round and we played some enjoyable trios.

The word from the weather forecasters is that our good weather should continue for several days.  We are considering renaming Wauchope Cottage as Shangri-La.

On account of the warm afternoon weather, the flying bird of the day was having a little sit down when I took her picture.

sparrow

 

 

 

A sunny Sunday

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who has returned from Spain and found this fine windmill at Lytham in Lancashire.

windmill at Lytham

A spell of good weather has crept up on us surreptitiously.  It has gone gradually from being cold and grey to generally warm and fine.  It has been raining in the night but by day, the sun has developed a habit of coming out and the wind has lost some of its usual fierceness so we are finding ourselves in the unusual condition of having nothing to complain about.  It is most annoying.

Being Sunday, it was a day of singing rather than cycling or gardening but I found a moment or two to walk round the garden and see what was going on.

Before church I checked on the progress of the alliums…still a bit slow.

allium

There are plenty of buds but precious few petals.

In one of the new beds in the vegetable garden, beans are looking healthy.

beans

And near the bird feeders, the first wallflowers are beginning to show.

wallflower

After church and before lunch, I had another look.

Mrs Tootlepedal has planted a perennial wallflower this year which is looking good…

perennial wallflower

…but a closer look showed that some evil leaf nibbler has been hard at work on it.  Hmm.

Nearby, the first rhododendron buds are giving promise of a great show to come soon.

rhododendron

They are a contrast to the restrained white dicentra.

dicentra

I went to check on the pond and saw these bright flowers along the edge.  Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that they are poached egg plants (Limnanthes douglasii for their Sunday name) but the white of the egg is not very much in evidence yet.

poached egg flower

In the pond itself, a frog was banging its head against the wall.  It had possibly been considering Brexit.

frog

I made some potato soup for lunch and there was time for a last visit  to the garden before going off to Carlisle for our afternoon choir.

We did some bench testing but I was tempted into chasing after a white butterfly which flitted from flower to flower so briskly that this was the best that I could do.

butterfly

Mrs Tootlepedal eyed some tulips in the bed opposite the bench with some satisfaction…

tulips

….and resolved to buy a few more for next year.  A sensible decision in my view.

We had a good session with a substitute conductor with the Carlisle Community choir.  The drive down through the fresh green leaves of spring was worth the journey alone but the singing was enjoyable too.

During the day the blackbird male was assiduous in attending to the needs of his two offspring. ..

blackbirds

…although, as usual, they never seem very cheerful about things.

A keen eyed jackdaw visited the feeder to sample the fat balls…

jackdaw

…and left enough for a sparrow to enjoy later on.

sparrow

On the seed feeder, goldfinches sparred…

goldfinches

…siskins loomed up…

_DSC4018

…and a pair of redpolls made a determined effort to dislodge some siskins.

siskins and redpolls

We had a vague plan for making the best of a sunny evening as we drove back from the choir but once we had got settled into the kitchen over a cup of tea on our return, the rest of the day slipped away before we could rouse ourselves to action.

We seem to have been quite busy lately and as neither of us sleep as well as we would like, we were a bit tired and the sitting room sofa held a lot of charm.

I am hoping to get the new bike out again tomorrow if the good weather holds.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

goldfinch

 

 

 

Today’s guest picture comes from another inveterate traveller.  My Somerset correspondent Venetia has been eyeing up some tasty chocolates in Toulouse.

toulouse chocs

It was a day that would have been familiar to fans of Waiting for Godot….except that in this version, Godot finally turned up.

While I was waiting for the call from the bike shop to come, a perfectly wonderful day of sunny weather with light winds was just begging for some bicycling.  The garden offered consolations and I sieved some compost and chatted away while Mrs Tootlepedal worked at some of the many tasks a gardener faces in spring.  We also tested the new bench again.

There was a lot of colour about in the sunshine.

New on the scene was this anemone….

anemone

…and the first of the azalea flowers to open.

azalea

There was a colourful corner, entirely of tulips with a hint of grape hyacinth in the background…

colourful corner tulips

…and some individual flowers to admire as well.

tulip

Particularly this one.

tulip

The spirea is at is best.

spirea

And on the back wall of the house beside the dam, the first potentilla flower of the year was to be seen.  I expect to still be able to see potentilla flowers in autumn.

potentilla

More unusually, I found our neighbour Charlotte’s dog cooling its heels in the dam.

kenny's dog in dam

Charlotte was sitting in the sun nearby but resisted the temptation to jump in too.

There was fauna as well as flora.

A rook flew overhead…

rook

…a bee buzzed about…

bee

… a baby blackbird looked indignant (they always look indignant).

baby blackbird

…and a frog basked in the pond…

frog

…with what looks like a tadpole hanging from its lip.

The most interesting visitor to the garden though was human.  Our friend Bruce arrived on his electric bike…

bruce

…with news that he had not only heard a cuckoo on his bike ride but seen it as well.  Seeing a cuckoo is a very rare experience so he was quite excited.  His electric bicycle looked very exciting too.

Mrs Tootlepedal had seen a sparrowhawk collecting its breakfast from the feeder early in the morning and while we were eating our lunch, presumably the same sparrowhawk returned for another meal….

sparrowhawk

…but this time in vain.

After sitting in the tree for a while, it suddenly flew to the ground and started prowling about among the flowers.

sparrowhawk

I have never seen this behaviour before but I suspected that it was after one of the baby blackbirds which tend to lurk in the undergrowth there so I went out and shooed the hawk away.

It went reluctantly, circling round the garden for several minutes getting higher on each turn before it flew off.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to an Embroiderer’s Guild meeting and I killed a little time until the phone finally rang and I drove off to collect my new bike from the bike shop in Longtown.

Levi at the bike shop fitted the pedals of my choice, I paid him a king’s ransom and then, putting the slow bike in for a service at the same time, I drove home with my prize.

Mrs Tootlepedal arrived back from her meeting shortly afterwards and got her bike out and came with me for an inaugural ride up to Wauchope Schoolhouse.  Then she returned and floated back downhill and downwind to Wauchope Cottage while I completed the twenty miles of my usual Canonbie circuit.

She took this picture before we set out.

new bike

The bike may not look much but it has sealed bearings, a belt drive, a 14 speed internal hub gear, mudguards and a rack so it is dirt proof and needs no day to day maintenance at all and is in every way suited to the needs of an elderly cycle tourist.  I say nothing about the state of the cyclist.

It was still a beautiful day, although the clouds were beginning to build up….

Cloudscape

…and as a day to test a new bike, it couldn’t have been better.

I kept an ear out for Bruce’s cuckoo as I went across the hill but there was no sight or sound of it and I had to be content with seeing both  a fox and a hare crossing the road in front of me (but not at the same time).

The sight of a rain shower developing to the south made me keep pedalling rather than stopping for photo opportunities though and the new bike couldn’t have been more co-operative.  It is light, firm and comfortable with the feeling that every bit of power that I was putting through the pedals was being put to good use on the road.

The 14 speed hub gear has a ratio for every occasion and I was able to drift up any little hills with an ease and grace far removed from the inelegant puffing occasioned by striving to get the slow bike up any incline.

For those with a motoring interest, it was like driving a Lotus 7 (but quite a bit slower).

I did force myself to stop a couple of times, the first to note the leaves arriving on my three favourite trees at Grainstonehead…

trees at Grainstone head

…and the second to pay tribute to fine bunch of primroses at Irvine House.

primroses

I arrived home having done 17 miles at 15 mph, a very satisfactory speed for me these days and on a real high.  I had been worried that I might have found the new bike not to my taste and would have regretted the money invested but it turned out that Levi had been quite right when I first visited him after my old bike needed replacing.  He said then that he had just the bike for me in mind and it turned out that he was quite right.

Now I hope for some good weather and the chance to give it a real workout.

The flying bird of the day is the sparrowhawk as it circled above the garden after I had disturbed it.

_DSC4008

 

 

 

 

Fingers crossed

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary’s visit to Kew Gardens.  The sedentary minded can view the gardens from this land train.

Kew Gardens 6 May 2018 006

We had a fair day here today with very occasional sun, a good breeze and some late rain.  It meant that Mrs Tootlepedal could garden until she was exhausted and I could do some lawn care and go for a walk.

I had hoped to have my new bicycle by now but an enquiry to the bike shop revealed that it might not even be ready for tomorrow.  I hope that it will be but I have steeled myself for more delay.

Anyway, in the absence of cycling, I scarified the front lawn and collected up huge quantities of moss to the great interest of our resident blackbird who followed behind me pecking up food for his family.

baby blackbirds

I got a better picture of one of the youngsters later in the morning.

baby blackbird

They seem to be bigger than their parents so it is no wonder that the parents have to keep busy to feed them.

The dead heading of daffodils goes on (Mrs Tootlepedal must have hundreds of daffs in the garden) and the dead heading of the tulips has just started (she has hundreds of these too)  I counted over eighty of the red tulips in the narrow bed at the end of the drive and as Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that she only planted twenty, they have done remarkably well.

There is other colour about.

lithodora and primula

But still some daffodils and lots of tulips….

daff and cowslips

…and the long lasting cowslips too.

tulips

I sieved a little compost which Mrs Tootlepedal promptly used for planting out a recent purchase and then it seemed to be lunchtime.  Time flies when you are having fun.

After lunch, I went for a walk in the hope of seeing bluebells.

I saw fine blossom in the park as I walked though…

park shrub

…and many unfolding ferns along the way…

fern unfolding

…but best all, I saw the bluebells.

bluebells

I had time on my hands so I followed a track that the local mountain cyclists use through the woods.  At times it looked very inviting…

cycle track through wood

…and at times it looked truly terrifying.  I wouldn’t be able to tackle a track over bumpy roots and  fallen trees, through small streams and up and down steep banks so I take my hat off to those who do.

I am more interested in looking at things as I walk along.

There was a lot to look at.  As I took too many pictures, I am going to add only the barest number of words.

ajuga

Ajuga

larch cones

Larch keeping its cones over the winter.

view

A view at the end of the track down the hill

lichen

Lichen on a wall

blossom

Blossom

blossom

And more blossom

bluebells

I went to another bluebell wood but it wasn’t quite ready yet.

moss

There was interesting moss to make up for the lack of blue

hairy moss

Very interesting moss

dandelion

The dandelions were in good condition

distillery

Spring comes to the old Langholm Distillery

river esk

Looking down the river Esk from beside Skippers Bridge

skippers Bridge

And looking back at the briodge

wildflower

Wild flowers beside the river

heron

An old friend getting his feet wet

cherry blossom river esk

Blossom between the bridges

It was a delightful stroll and only needed a drop or two of golden sun to make it perfect.  I got a little splash of sunlight near the end of the walk but it only lasted a moment or two.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been working hard in the garden while I was out and by the time that I got back from my walk, we were both quite tired enough to make going inside and having a cup of tea seem like a really good idea.

Once inside, we got planted and didn’t go out again.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Mike I enjoyed a small glass of Old Speckled Hen, a quality bitter beer, and then, while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal caught up on all the news that was fit to hear, Alison and I enjoyed some good music, ending with a Partita in G by Telemann .  This was a really good way to end an enjoyable day.

If only my new bike would appear all would be well with the world.

I have put out some fat balls at the feeder and they attracted the attention of a sparrow today.  It is the perching bird of the day.

_DSC3957

 

Today’s guest picture shows an old bridge with more arches than water.  It came from my brother Andrew.  He tells me that it is the Segovia bridge in Madrid, over the river Manzanares. Completed in 1584, it is the oldest bridge in the city – the architect was ‎Juan de Herrera

bridge

The over night rain had stopped by the morning and I was able to get out for a standard twenty mile pedal down to Canonbie and back.  I hope that this will be the last on my slow bike for some time.

I wasn’t going to stop but my legs had other ideas so you can thank them for this view of bluebells in a roadside wood…

bluebells

…and the first look at some wild geums and a marigold which was playing host to a lot of insects.

geum and marigold

I had a choice between a chilly early start and a warmer windier later one and chose the windier option which resulted in a very slow bike ride indeed.  Still, I was pleased to get again as it meant that my hand is not suffering because of cycling.  I don’t know what set it off last week but I hope that it doesn’t do it again.

When I got home, I found that our friends Bob and Nancy were helping to reduce Mrs Tootlepedal’s manure mountain by taking some of it away to their allotment.  That is what friends are for.

I went upstairs and looked out of the window.

front lawn may

The daffodils have almost disappeared and we are relying on tulips for colour until the azaleas and alliums come out.

middle lawn may

I took this picture of the veg garden before cycling.  It is looking well organised.

veg garden may

More is getting planted out in it every day.

The tulips are holding up well…

tulips

…though the very earliest to come out are now over.

Other things are coming along nicely.

lilac and solomons seal

It is nearly lilac blossom time.

Some flowers are so small that the camera finds it hard to pick them out.  This is berberis and rosemary.

small flowers

There was plenty of evidence of yesterday’s rain.

P1090843

I had a few moments to watch the birds.  This sunny moment was before breakfast.

GOLDFINCHES

After my cycling, siskins arrived in force.

flying siskin

busy feeder

I had to refill the feeder before we went to Edinburgh.

After lunch, we set off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh.  It rained on us as we drove across but the sun shone for our train journey and our stay in the city.

Matilda was in good form and came out to play in the garden.  Alistair had mowed the pocket handkerchief sized lawn just as we arrived and Mrs Tootlepedal took the opportunity to smarten up the edges while I played with Matilda and her mother Clare and snipped away at protruding meadow grasses with some shears.  Both the gardening and the playing were most enjoyable in the warm sunshine and we looked back down on the lawn as we went in for tea with some satisfaction.

Al's lawn

Apart from Matilda being offended when I remarked that she was a small person  (“I am not small.  I am four!”), the visit went well and Mrs Tootlepedal and I walked back to Waverley Station in beautiful early evening sunshine.

Arthurs seat

I hadn’t noticed before that the architect of the Scottish parliament building had intentionally or unintentionally echoed the line of the Salisbury Crags with his roof.

salisbury crag and parliament

Mrs Tootlepedal’s wildlife detector was working well and she spotted this rabbit in the gardens beside the road.

edinburgh rabbit

I like the way that this old churchyard has survived in a valuable piece of real estate…

Edinburgh graveyard

…but as in all the cities we visit, the cranes were very busy.  These ones were a few yards up the road.

Edinburgh cranes

Our journey home was smooth and uneventful and as a mark of the passing of the months, we got home in the remains of daylight for the first time this year.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

 

My sister Mary has been visiting Kew Gardens and with a guest picture like this, who can blame her?

kew gardens

Our spell of good weather is rapidly receding in the memory and we are back to ‘business as usual’ –  grey skies, brisk winds and occasional rain.

Still, the first part of the day was forecast to be the least windiest so I got out on my bike after an early breakfast and did twenty miles and was home in time for coffee.  It was quite strenuous as I did nearly as much climbing in my twenty miles today as I did in Monday’s fifty miles.  I creaked alarmingly but got home safely.

I stopped beside a violet at ten miles…

wild flower

…and the camera played its usual trick of focussing on the dull background more clearly that the colourful  intended subject.  I should have taken more pictures just in case this happened.

On my way home, I passed a superb bank of wild garlic near Waterbeck….

wild garlic

…and several examples of Jack by the Hedge or garlic mustard a bit further along the road.

garlic mustard

I have passed this little glen at Falford many times but I don’t think that I have ever seen it looking better than today in spite of the grey weather.

Kirtle water

As forecast, the wind got a little stronger as time went by and thanks to sound route choice, I got blown home in  a very helpful way.

When I got back, I shifted a little of Mrs Tootlepedal’s manure heap and put some buck-u-uppo on the middle lawn in an effort to encourage more grass among the moss.

I had a look round too.

We have dead headed the vast majority of the daffodils now and only a few remain.  This one was my daffodil of the day today.

daffodil

There are ferns springing up all round the garden.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s current favourites are the ostrich feather ferns…

ostrich feather fern

..which are gently unfurling in the back border.

There is a smaller fern growing between the stones behind the pond.

fern

There are other things going on.

We are getting very excited by the development of the azaleas.

azalea

A bergenia is hiding its light under a bushel.

bergenia

An alpine clematis is flowering modestly.

alpine clematis

And the river of grape hyacinths is still flowing.

grape hyacinth

I didn’t have much time to watch birds today but I was pleased to get my first sighting of a baby blackbird today before I went out cycling.

blackbird baby

Ironically the baby is the larger looking of the two birds.

I saw the mother again later.

blackbird

The birds are making a mess of the lawns.  Both blackbirds and jackdaws are busy digging things up.

A jackdaw sat on Mrs Tootlepdal’s bean frame and tried to look not guilty…

jackdaw

…but I caught one at it later in the day.

jackdaw

There was plenty of seed eating on the feeder today, perhaps because there wasn’t so much gardening being done on account of the gloomy weather.

flying goldfinch

The birds didn’t look very grateful though.

redpoll and goldfinch

I made some soup for lunch and then a persistent rain started which lasted on and off for the rest of the day.

I found a dry moment to walk up to the garage to collect the car.  Mrs Tootlepedal had dropped it off there while I was cycling as we have decided that it is time to take the winter tyres off and have the summer ones put on.  Surely it can’t snow at this time of year……can it?

We put the afternoon to good use by doing the sort of tasks that need a wet day to get done and then we were cheered up by a visit for a cup of tea of not just Mike Tinker but by Scott, the minister too.

In the evening, I walked through the rain for the weekly practice of Langholm Sings where I sang several notes that were in the right place and at the right time.  Some of my other notes were not quite so accurate.  Home practice needed.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch supervising traffic at the feeder.

flying goldfinch

 

 

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia who strayed as far as Berkshire to take this picture on a sunny walk in Twyford a day or two ago.

Twyford, Berkshire

Our brief summer has gone and we are back to normal spring temperatures.  It felt a bit chilly as a result this morning but it was quite a fine day and there was even a brief glimpse of sunshine to light up Dropscone and Sandy who were doing a bit of bench testing after our morning coffee.

Dropscone and Sandy

They are both keen travellers and as Sandy has just come back from a holiday in the Canary Islands, he was complaining of feeling the chill as a result.

Needless to say we had some good scones with our coffee.

While I waited for them to arrive, I spent a little time staring out of the window in the effort to catch a flying bird.  Birds were scarce though and only goldfinches arrived in any numbers…

golfdfimch

…and they either spent their time deliberately turning their backs on me…

_DSC3857

…or nipping quickly into the feeder before i could catch them.

goldfinch

When Dropscone and Sandy had gone on their way,  I wandered about the garden.

I ignored the tulips today and spent a lot of time dead heading daffodils as the day of the daffodil is almost done.  There are some late comers to the feast…

daffodil

…and this is my daffodil of the day…

daffodil

…but most of them are gone now.

They will soon be replaced by these…

allium

…which are lining up to come into flower.

The silver pear is doing its best…

silver pear

…but although it is covered in flowers, they are so discreet that a casual passer by would hardly notice them.

A single clump of  apple blossom packs more punch than the whole pear tree.

apple blossom

I heard a lot of buzzing on the gooseberry bush and managed to take a striking but indeterminate shot of a visitor to the flowers on its way.

wasp

It looks like a wasp but I couldn’t get it to pose nicely for me.

wasp

It has been a regular visitor to the gooseberry so I hope that I will get a better look at it soon.

Things are going over….

hellebore

The hellebores have been great value this year

…and things are coming on

willow

The willow showing three stages of development on one twig.

Mrs Tootlepedal has three trilliums in the garden and although they are not quite showing up like the carpets of trilliums that appear in America, two of hers are looking quite healthy.

trillium

This is the best of them

I got the hover mower out and mowed the grass round the greenhouse.  Just to annoy me, it has been growing more quickly than the grass on the lawns.

I woke up very early this morning and was nearly deafened by the dawn chorus outside.  Some of the noisiest birds in the garden are the blackbirds and one has taken to sitting on the silver pear during the day and singing as loudly as possible.

blackbird

Mrs Tootlepedal has seen a mother blackbird feeding a youngster and I hope to be able to catch some blackbird family action with the camera.  There are plenty of blackbirds about…

blackbird

…but I haven’t seen a baby blackbird yet.

It started to rain after lunch but that didn’t affect us very much as we spent the afternoon going to Dumfries where Mrs Tootlepedal had an eye appointment.  The eye department is still in the old hospital which has recently been superseded by a brand new building elsewhere in town.  This has the wonderful effect of  letting us park without problem in the vast and largely unoccupied car park.

It made going to hospital a pleasure and we added to the jollity of the day by stopping off at a garden centre on the way home.  We met another Langholm couple there who had been visiting the new hospital.  They told us that parking there was a nightmare.  Land values in the UK are curious and it is an oddity that they can find millions to build a new  hospital but still can’t afford to acquire enough land for adequate car parks for the patients.

A little rain won’t come amiss in the garden after some hot dry days but we just hope it knows when to stop.  The forecast is ominously unsettled.

I couldn’t get a good flying goldfinch today and this rather pointillist effort was the best that I could manage but at least it is flying and it is a bird.

goldfinch