Mrs Tootlepedal goes up in the world

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She has a very tall wall at the bottom of her little garden and she was quite surprised to look up one day to find a fox sitting on top of it. She is going to try to get a better picture next time it appears there.

We had another muggy day here. It started with sunshine and got progressively greyer as the day went on until it ended in rain.

The good weather let us have the morning coffee meeting in the garden. I mowed the drying green before coffee and the greenhouse grass afterwards. A father’s day present of interesting coffees in a box had arrived courtesy of our son Tony in time for one of the bags to be sampled today. It was very good.

When I finished mowing, I had a wander round.

The first delphinium flower has appeared…

…and even more importantly, the walnut tree, which was badly affected by the frost, has started to put out some new leaves.

They may not look much to you, but they are a great relief to us.

There is plenty of pink and white about….

…and what seems like hundreds of Sweet Williams too.

The Weigela, which has been in the garden since we came here many years ago, is enjoying the warmer weather and is looking unusually perky in my opinion.

I started my wander with one new flower and I end it with another, the first Martagon lily of the year.

Then I pumped the tyres on Mrs Tootlepedal’s bicycle, and after lunch she pedalled up the long hill to the Langholm Moor where she joined other members of the buy out group. They were being interviewed by Border Television for a forthcoming news program. Mrs Tootlepedal was not interviewed herself but provided ‘colour’ in the background to the interviews by doing some meaningful bird watching with her binoculars.

Meanwhile, I went for a walk. I was intending to walk briskly along the riverside to Skippers Bridge but I found myself behind a large family party of six so I slowed myself down and took some pictures while they walked ahead.

I liked this waterfall of buttercups in the park, cascading down the banking to join a small sea of daisies.

It was not hard to find things to slow me down as there were plenty of wild flowers along the way.

There was Herb Robert in the wood…

…and an encouraging amount of bramble flowers all along the track.

There were pink umbellifers….

…and umbellifers with insects…

…meadow vetchling..

…and loostrife.

These were only a small selection of the plants that I passed and I had no trouble in not catching up with the group in front.

When I got further along towards the bridge, I looked up instead of down and liked the play of branches and leaves in this fine tree.

The forecast was for “rain later” so once I got to Skippers Bridge I pressed on a bit but as I hadn’t taken a picture of the bridge for almost exactly a month, I thought that I ought to reassure anxious readers that it is still there.

I continued along the Tarras Road and when I got to the bottom of the Broomholm hill, I took the path up Jenny Noble’s Gill back towards the town.

I met a couple of friends on the track to the Round House and stopped to chat for a moment, but for the first time for ages, the midges were out and started biting me so I didn’t chat for long!

The day was getting gloomier all the time and I didn’t want to get bitten by more midges so I tried to keep up a brisk pace, but there are always things that demand attention…

…like nettles, broom, St John’s Wort and cow wheat so I did stop once or twice.

And when I got back to the river, I had a look for oyster catchers….

…and saw two adults and a youngster, all very unimpressed by a mallard’s antics nearby.

I would have really liked to have sat down to a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit when I got home but there was a complete absence of any ginger biscuits.

So I made some, and then made a beef and mushroom casserole for our tea and then sat down with Mrs Tootlepedal who had come back from the moor. In spite of swooshing back down the hill on her bicycle at a good speed, she hadn’t quite missed the rain, although fortunately the TV business had been completed in the dry.

After the biscuits had come out of the oven, I watched the birds in the rain for a while.

A rough looking blue tit arrived at the feeder.

Then we had a a WhatsApp chat with Matilda, or rather with her parents as Matilda preferred honking like a horrible goose to chatting with us. Her parents told us that this was the result of a very educational computer game that she has been playing called the Untitled Goose Game.

Mrs Tootlepedal recently made a crochet blanket and sent it to Matilda…

It has arrived safely and Matilda’s feet are sleeping under it we are told.

Our call finished with a fine display of dancing from Matilda, who had stopped honking by this time, and there was just time for us to join in the last few minutes of my siblings’ zoom meeting after Matilda’s dance.

The weather is turning a bit fresher tomorrow and although it will be cooler, I will be pleased as I have found these last few warm humid days quite heavy going.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

Moving in a different circle

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan who found this very striking plant in a garden on one of her walks round her neighbourhood in London.

I’d like start this post with a word of thanks to reader Derrick who spotted that three pictures were missing from yesterday’s effort and was kind enough to notify me. Although this was my fault for not checking carefully enough, it was also thanks to WordPress who whimsically would not let me load pictures into the post from my media library where I had carefully put them. This would not have been too bad but it only happened sporadically and with some of the pictures. In the end I had lost track of what was happening. I am adopting other means tonight and hope that all goes well. (I have put the missing pictures back into yesterday’s post.)

With no threat of thunderstorms in the offing, we had a lovely summer’s day here today, and after breakfast and the crossword, I had a look round the garden.

Things were sunny.

The Queen of Denmark has arrived. (There should be a Handel march to accompany her.)

I took a general view to try to give a flavour of the garden as a visitor might see it.

We had the neighbourhood coffee morning in our garden today and we were slightly distracted by a series of bubbles floating across above our heads.

It turned out that a visiting grandchild over the fence was having fun with a bubble creator.

As we put the chairs away after coffee, Liz and Margaret were surprised to see that a siskin stayed happily on the feeder even though we were only a few yards away.

I wasn’t so surprised as I know that siskins are the least flighty of our small bird visitors and show very little fear of people.

I should have been out cycling already but I wasted a little more time looking at Goldfinches, not the birds but the roses….

…and I spied on a blackbird having a bath in the dam.

I went to say good bye to Mrs Tootlepedal and found her tending to a bed of grasses. There are occasional flowers among her grasses and you gain great credit if you can recognise this one from a close up.

It turns out to be common clover.

I did finally get going sometime after 12 o’clock. I had hoped for a long flat ride but the wind was coming from the north east and was a bit stronger than I expected, so a long flat ride would have meant cycling a long way home into the breeze. I didn’t fancy that, and I opted to take my pain early instead as I headed up the main road north out of town.

It was hard work going gently uphill into the wind and my average speed was only ten miles an hour when I got to the head of the Ewes valley and looked back.

My favourite valley doesn’t look so attractive from the top, with the pylons marching relentlessly down, but this shot does show how flat the valley bottom is.

I turned off the main road at Fiddlelton Toll and cycled along the valley of the Carewoodrig Burn.

It was pretty as a picture.

The sun was out, the road surface was smooth and life was good…for a while.

Just ahead lay a steep hill and I was happy to pause as I went up it to take a look behind me.

I distracted my legs from complaining about the gradient by telling them to enjoy the views as we went up.

The steepest part of the hill is only about three quarters of a mile long but it climbs nearly three hundred feet so it was hard not to feel that the worst was behind me when I got to the ridge.

But I hadn’t reckoned with the wind. I had been protected from the breeze as I climbed the shoulder of the hill. Now I was on the top, I was exposed to its full force in my face. I had to pedal flat out to go down the slight hill at 8mph at the start of the ridge.

And I had forgotten that that there was still another two hundred feet of climb left before I could look back from a height of 1000 feet at a job finally done.

It was hard work and the average speed of ten miles an hour to Fiddleton had been severely dented by the time that I came to the county boundary and began the descent to Hermitage and Liddesdale.

It had been a punishing eleven miles but the worst was over now, although the hill down to Billhope Bridge…

…is so steep and twisty that my speed didn’t really pick up until I got over the bridge and into the valley, where a well maintained sheepfold or stell caught my eye….

…and even here, as you can see in this look back, the mean road builders had managed to find another little hill for me to climb and descend before I got to Hermitage Castle.

The castle in sunshine made the hard work worthwhile.

From then on, with the wind behind me, I flew down the road to Newcastleton, unwilling to stop for more pictures now that I was making progress, though I did make an exception for some roadside roses, typical of many that I had passed…

…and some interesting livestock in a farm field.

With the wind still behind me, the ten undulating miles to Canonbie from Newcastleton, usually a tedious pedal, were most enjoyable. I was a bit worried that when I turned for home at Canonbie Bridge, I would be back to struggling with the wind, but I was well sheltered as I cycled up the banks of the Esk and I got home feeling extremely cheerful. My legs were feeling cheerful too and I was able to sneak in a couple of extra miles without complaints when I got back to the town to bring my ride up to a neat 40 miles. (I may be a bit decimally fixated as I see from my records that no less than eight out of my ten last rides have ended with a 0)

I finished my day by mowing the middle lawn, having a nice cup of tea, Zooming with my siblings with Mrs Tootlepedal, and polishing off some fishcakes and spinach for the evening meal.

What with bubbles floating past the coffee morning, lovely flowers, lots of sunshine but a perfect temperature, a route that I haven’t cycled for 16 months, and finally spinach for tea, no one could possibly doubt that this was a day to be entered on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

The only downside was that I couldn’t find time to get a really convincing flying bird of the day.

It’s fairly fuzzy greenfinch time again.

Those interested can click on the map below to get further details of the ride.

If at first…..

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Sharon who was walking by the river at Canonbie. Billy Bell, who is a fisherman, tells me this is Cauldron Pool.

We had a second day running when the weather forecast warned of thunderstorms. After getting drenched yesterday, we did not take this lightly. All the same, things didn’t look too bad after breakfast so I got into my cycling gear and went out for a pedal instead of having coffee with the neighbourhood coffee gang. It was cloudy when I set off, so I didn’t hang about taking pictures until I had got through Canonbie on my customary twenty mile circuit.

By this time, the sun had come out and I had stopped worrying about getting a soaking. I looked over the bridge at the Hollows to see if yesterday’s rain had caused the river to rise. It had, but not so much that it really made a difference.

The river was still pretty low.

The five miles home back up the old road and the cycle path were rich with flowers in the verges, especially daisies, bird’s foot trefoil, hawkbit and knapweed.

It turned out to be a lovely day for a pedal, warm and sunny with light winds.

When I got home, I mowed the front lawn and had a wander round the garden.

White campanulas have arrived to join the blue…

…and Mrs Tootlepedal’s favourite coral peony has come out in style.

I didn’t have time to do the garden justice so I noted some of the flowers that appealed to me today…

…and will try to do better tomorrow.

After lunch, we considered the weather. The sky was blue, the clouds were high in the sky and there was no sign of rain. We decided to do the walk that we had started but not finished yesterday. Surely we couldn’t get hit by another surprise thunderstorm.

But I packed a rain jacket this time just in case.

It was hot and muggy so we adopted an easy pace and took our time and looked around as we walked. Mrs Tootlepedal noted this striking tree trunk, decorated with moss and lichen .

I took a picture near the spot where the rain started yesterday. It was a different day today.

We had noticed a new wild flower here yesterday but in the gloomy light, my photograph had not come out well. I had another go today….

…and when we got home and looked it up, we found that it was hedge woundwort, Stachys Sylvatica.

There were also a lot of of good looking foxgloves growing in unpromising soil as we went up through the woods.

It was hot as we toiled up the hill but we found one of the paths built by mountain bikers which helped us on our way.

This was a well constructed track with berms and jumps. Mrs Tootlepedal looked at it and wondered how anyone could be brave and skillful enough to ride down the steep hill and not come to a sticky end.

We had a pause halfway up the hill to cool off for a moment and I was entertained by a tree which looked as though it was dancing.

We were high enough up already to enjoy some good views.

When we got going again, the bike track disappeared into the woods but we kept on up the hill until we came to the new track that I had wanted to show Mrs Tootlepedal. She found it as attractive as I had done when I first walked it a week or so ago, and we walked along to the far end, where she contemplated the excellent view up the Esk Valley.

As we walked back, she was particularly delighted by the natural wood above the track.

Further along, the track goes through an old wood, full of twisted trees and ancient fungi.

Mrs Tootlepedal would happily have stayed here for a long time looking around but I was getting a bit nervous about the prospect of rain so we carried on out into the open hillside and followed a track round the hill above the trees….

As you can see, my fears about rain were needless and there were fluffy clouds over Whita when we got to the track down Castle Hill.

In the sunshine, it was pretty hot and we were reasonably tired by the time that we had walked down the hill and across the Castleholm to get home.

After being refreshed by a cup of tea and a slice of a banana and date cake which Mrs Tootlepedal had made a day or two ago, I had time for a shower and a walk round the garden to enjoy the continuing sunshine picking out campanulas….

…and a rose.

The feeder was quite busy with goldfinches, greenfinches, siskins and sparrows.

A siskin acrobatically hung onto the feeder pole while waiting for an opening…

…and I left it there as the evening sibling Zoom meeting took place.

After the meeting, I cooked omelettes for our tea and they went down well with turnips and spinach from the garden. I slightly spoiled the healthy eating mood by ordering some more cheese on line later in the evening.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

A 5% chance

Today’s guest picture comes from East Wemyss where our son Tony spotted a heron going somewhere on business.

We had a day that was not quite as warm as yesterday but whichmanaged to be more muggy. I arranged to have coffee with Sandy and then went out into the garden to see how the flowers had enjoyed a little rain.

They seemed quite cheerful under the circumstances….

…and the peonies which can be a bit sensitive to rain had kept their heads well.

I was happy to see a new flower, the first campanula of the year…

…and I was equally pleased to see that regular dead heading has kept an excellent supply of Icelandic poppies on the go….

…though when it comes to orange flowers in bulk, nothing can compete with the orange hawkweed.

Mrs Tootlepedal has bravely taken down the sparrow defences round the peas in the hope that they are sufficiently well grown to resist the depredations of the little feathered blighters. We are certainly going to get some peas whatever happens.

The Goldfinch rambling rose is filling out every day….

…and there will be scores of them out soon.

Because our days are following a well rehearsed routine at the moment (and for the foreseeable future), there is a certain similarity between one of my posts and the another. You will just have to forget how many tropaeolum pictures you have already seen, and marvel once again the aerodynamic sleekness of the flower.

I marvel at it it, every time that I pass.

Coffee with Sandy was most enjoyable as he has got a very good Sumatra bean on the go at the moment. He has been managing some short walks lately without making his foot sore, so he is very pleased to be getting some real progress at last. I am hoping that he will be able to walk down and have coffee in our garden soon.

When I got home, I was in for a shock. The neighbourhood socially distanced coffee morning was not in the street, it was not in the shade of Margaret’s garage, it was not under our walnut tree. Where could it be? It was in Liz’s garden. All this gadding about is making me quite dizzy.

After we got back into the garden, I had a look to see how the gooseberries are doing.

Pretty well was the answer.

I went in and made some soup for lunch and then we considered our options. There had been threats of rain when I looked at the forecast in the morning, but a check after lunch showed that there was now less than a five per cent chance of a shower in the opinion of the Meteorological Office. We decided to go for a walk so that Mrs Tootlepedal could sample the new track on Castle Hill that I had walked recently.

Mrs Tootlepedal took a rain jacket just in case but I had faith in the forecast.

As we left, I took a picture of a rose in the garden that can only be seen from the road.

We walked up the river, crossed the Duchess Bridge and went round the pheasant hatchery, where I liked this collection of old trees among the general greenery.

It was dry and warm as we walked past the North Lodge passing elderflowers…

…and Pyrenean valeran…

We had just girded our loins for the uphill section of the walk when Mrs Tootlepedal detected a drop of rain. We walked on. Mrs Tootlepedal detected several more drops and soon even I had to admit that in spite of the forecast, it was in fact raining.

We sheltered under a tree, grateful for the good protection the summer leaves gave us. The rain got heavier and the leaves buckled under the strain so we got wetter. We were considering how long we might wait under the dripping tree in the hope that the shower might pass, when the shower turned into a deluge and a burst of thunder made standing under any tree a less than attractive proposition. We headed for home in an absolute downpour and when we got there, Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge showed that an inch of rain had fallen on us in half an hour. There was some very impressive streams running down gutters and off the slopes but I didn’t dare take my camera out of its protective case so you will just have to take my word for them.

I was quite sorry that I hadn’t taken a rain jacket with me but we were both thoroughly soaked when we got in and a warming shower and a complete change of clothes were needed before we could contemplate life with equanimity again.

I contemplated some birds too.

The thunder and lightning hadn’t discouraged them from coming to the feeder.

On the ground, a dunnock crept around…

…and on the pole, our resident blackbird kept a wary eye on the weather.

The rest of the day was a slight anticlimax after walking through the storm (at no time was I alone).

I had received a note from WordPress this morning to say that I have now been blogging for ten years and I see that I have produced 3651 posts in that time so I was hoping t have had time and some nice landscape photographs to produce a better than usual effort today to celebrate this. However, the rain put paid to the photographs and then Adobe thought that this was the night to mess me about unmercifully when I tried to use my photo editor to improve what photographs I had got. As a result I have spent hours grumpily watching the little window that says “updating 50%” instead of cheerfully honing my deathless prose.

All the same, I would like to thank all those who read the blog, with a particular mention to those who comment either online or in real life when I meet you. Your kind words keep me enjoying the task of taking the pictures and writing the words. Especial credit goes to those few hardy souls who have actually read every one of the posts. They have gone far beyond the call of duty. In the course of the ten years, I have written literally millions of words and cycled roughly 40,000 miles so it has been a long journey for all of us.

Here’s to the next ten years.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

Footnote: I have had a look at the new format for the blog as it appears on mobile phones and I must say that it doesn’t work very well on their small screens. If you normally read the posts on your phone, try them on a tablet or laptop if you can, and you will see the full effect of the changes.

Hot work

Today’s guest picture is another from Bruce’s visit to the woods yesterday. He came across this ancient tree, affectionately known as the King of the Kernigal.

It was another hot day here, and a rather muggy one too making anything more than gentle work seem quite hard.

It was an easy crossword day so I was out in the garden before coffee, having a look round to see if things caught my eye. They did of course.

I was particularly pleased to see a good flower on the rosa moyesii (bottom right in the panel above) as the bush had been looking very promising until it was hit by the late frost which affected it badly. New flowers are coming though now and that is very cheering.

There were quite a few bees buzzing about and the geraniums were an attraction today, whether open….

….or closed.

A small bumble bee had a good whirl round in a Welsh poppy.

We had our coffee meeting in the shade cast by Margaret’s garage. Liz reported that the close heat had made her morning walk hard work so we all resolved to go gently for the rest of the day.

I did mow the middle lawn after coffee but I did it a really steady pace and then wandered round the garden and along the dam even more slowly.

The big red poppies along the dam may have lost most of their petals but there are more to come so there will be more big red photos soon. The buds themselves are not without interest to a photographer.

More roses are starting to come out which will be welcome after the failure of the azaleas, as the garden could do with more colour.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s current favourite is still the beautiful iris.

After enjoying the grasses that I met on my walk yesterday, I had a look at some of the grasses in our garden today.

I took many pictures but only three came out well so I had to make up the panel with some daisies.

No birds were coming to the feeder today for some reason so after lunch, I didn’t waste any time watching them, but got on my cycling gear and went out for a ride.

The sky had clouded over, so although it was still warm, it wasn’t too bad for a pedal. I headed north out of the town towards Bentpath, and as this meant starting my ride with a couple of steep climbs, I took things very gently and kept an eye out for excuses to stop and take a photo.

I saw this wild iris near Bentpath…

…and on the other side of the road, a nice mixture of daisies and red campion grew in front of a wall.

I stopped in the village to take the traditional picture of the church and bridge…

…and again a little further on to note the clover which had appeared in the verge for much of the trip so far…..

…and two red hot pokers which came as quite a surprise to me.

At Enzieholm Bridge, I turned left and headed up to Bailliehill. There has been a lot of recent forestry work here. In the old days when we first came to this area, the forest floors were left covered in brashings after felling. Nowadays they take clear felling literally, and nothing is left after they have scrieved the hillsides.

I turned left again when I got to Bailliehill and stopped to record the small city that has been built as part of the work involved in creating a new windfarm, at Crossdykes.

And they haven’t just built a city, they have constructed a brand new road across the hill from Corrie to bring the turbines in.

This is a big undertaking and you can see the new road winding across the top of the hill in the distance.

When I got to Paddockhole and turned left again (perceptive readers will have noted correctly that I was going round in a big circle), I found that I had the wind in my face and the ten miles home, with a steep climb over Callister in the middle, were hard work.

I was pleased to stop half way up Callister to have a breather and record the view towards Kirtlehead.

I liked these trees beside the road up the valley.

You can see wind turbines in the pictures above. They belong to the Ewe Hill windfarm, the fourth that I had passed on my ride. There was one more to go on top of Callister, although like Crossdykes it is still waiting for the turbines to be delivered. I think that five windfarms within twelve miles of Langholm is probably enough but there is a proposal for another big installation with huge turbines that will dominate the Ewes valley. I hope that the powers that be see sense and turn this down, as it will irreparably change the nature of our countryside.

I stopped again before I got to the top of the hill when a flash of blue appeared in the verge.

I thought that it might be something exotic but in the end, I think it is just a very pretty vetch.

I had planned to add a little extension on to my 25 mile circle but over two hours of pedalling at a modest pace at well over 70 degrees F was enough and I stopped as soon as I got back to Langholm.

After a shower and our standard sibling Zoom, I stood in the garden while Mrs Tootlepedal completed the planting out of a dahlia which she had begun in the heat of the afternoon but wisely paused. We just got back in before some very heavy rain started. There were rumbles of thunder too but in the end, the rain didn’t amount to very much and the threat of a thunderstorm passed.

I mentioned before that the birds weren’t coming to the feeder. This was strange because it had plenty of seed in it. I had a look at the feeder and found out that it wasn’t as strange as all that because the bottom fitting had moved and the access to the seed had been completely blocked. The poor birds must have thought that I was teasing them.

I thought that this would knock any chance of a flying birds of the day on the head, but when I looked up at Irving’s holly tree while Mrs Tootlepedal was planting her dahlia, I could see a starling or two…

…which were soon joined by a few more….

….and then more and more arrived…

…until the whole tree was outlined with starlings….

…and finally, as suddenly as they had arrived, they all left, perhaps seeking shelter from the impending thunderstorm. Anyway, I was spoiled for choice when it came to flying birds in the end today.

Two short walks

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce who met an ugly customer when he was walking in the woods today.

We were blessed with a genuine summer day here, warm from start to finish, and with plenty of sunshine to be going on with.

I took advantage of the good weather to put a coat of decking oil on the old bench before coffee, and it was so warm by coffee time that we had to find some shade to sit in while we sipped and chatted.

After coffee, the garden beckoned. While Mrs Tootlepedal did useful things, I mowed the front lawn. It is by no means in top condition yet but when I looked at it from an upstairs window, it was certainly looking a lot better than it did a month ago.

I try to cut it in a different direction every time that I get the mower out and today was a diagonal day.

I had a look at flowers after I had finished mowing. Once again, I found it impossible to pass the peonies without giving them a glance…

…or two.

The unusual orange potentilla is thriving and getting more flowers every day….

…and the tropaeolum is threatening to overwhelm the yew bush.

By contrast, the alliums are all but over, although they are going out in style.

After another lunch of healthy soup, I went out for a short walk. It had to be short as I needed to get back for the virtual choir practice of our Carlisle Choir. This was a bit of a pity as it was a lovely day for a stroll in the sun. I started off walking along the river bank and was impressed by how rich the grasses there are now…

…and how patiently an oyster catcher posed for a photo.

I was nearly deafened by the loud calls of a bird in the trees above my head as I watched the oyster catcher family. Hoping that it might be an interesting bird, I was a bit dashed when it turned out to be a chaffinch,. It was quite upset about something.

The Kilngreen was far busier than it has been for months, with a substantial but socially distanced queue waiting at the ice cream van and people enjoying fresh air and fun.

I crossed the Sawmill Brig and walked on to the Castleholm. I have been keeping an eye out for the first flowers on the red horse chestnut trees beside the cricket pitch and I was pleased to see that they had come out today.

The flowers are hard to miss!

There was a good selection of grasses about too….

…and a modest jungle of nettles beside the path.

When I got home, I was greeted by two roses, neither of which were doing very well but at least they offer promise of more to come.

Having made sure that I was back in time for the virtual choir practice, I was rather disappointed to find that it had been cancelled for ‘technical reasons’. I thought of dashing our for a quick cycle ride before the Zoom meeting with my siblings but I made the mistake of starting to watch a YouTube video made by an interesting art restorer, and two hours later it was time for the Zoom meeting. They shouldn’t make these things so interesting.

I had a quick look round the garden while tea was cooking.

The dark pansy was looking gorgeous.

But an outburst of noise made me look up at our neighbour Irving’s holly tree. A starling was flapping everything that could be flapped.

After our evening meal, Mrs Tootlepedal suggested a walk to the monument, so we drove up to the car park at the White Yett and walked up the hill. We hoped to see the short eared owl out hunting and we did catch a distant glimpse of it but the bird that sang to us and posed for us most was the ubiquitous meadow pipit.

There wasn’t a moment in our walk when we couldn’t hear the pipits calling.

It wasn’t a day for great views but it was extremely peaceful as we sat on the bench at the monument and looked up the Esk valley.

Down below us in the town, the church, freed from its surrounding trees, stood out as it hasn’t done for many years.

The surprise encounter of the walk was this red admiral butterfly which we met at the top of the hill.

It was a beautiful evening for a walk, and although the walk was not long, it was very satisfying.

I didn’t manage to get a flying bird of the day today but the birds had an excuse. It was just too hot for flying

A ride of four halves

Today’s guest picture comes from another visit to Regents Park by my sister Mary. She would like to be playing tennis there, but that is not possible yet so she enjoys the flowers instead.

We had another unpromising morning and light drizzle put paid to a garden coffee meeting. Luckily a rather annoying crossword kept me busy indoors and I had to test out a new input page for the Archive Group’s newspaper index on its website. Our son Alistair has made the new page, designed to replace a Flash page which will not be supported after this year, and he has done a good job. As always, there were small bugs to be ironed out but when the data miners are able to get back to work, entering their data will be more pleasurable than before.

We did get out into the garden about noon and it was easy to see that it had been raining.

The rain had been light though, and no plants had suffered any damage.

Even the delicate ones seemed to be okay.

We have some white foxgloves coming to go with the more standard colours….

…but a bee stuck to its old fashioned tastes.

Luckily, it was wearing a head cam so we could see what had attracted it. “Follow the dotted line.”

We had more healthy soup for lunch and then I had a moment to watch the birds where I saw a matching sparrow on a stalk…

…before taking advantage of the better weather by going for a cycle ride. The day had got warmer as it went along and for the first time this week, it actually felt like summer.

There was still a northeast wind blowing, and though it wasn’t very strong, I wasn’t feeling very adventurous so I settled for a dull ride down main roads to Newtown on Hadrian’s Wall and back. When I say dull, I refer to the scenic value of the ride because I enjoy this flattish forty mile ride a lot as an exercise in steady pedalling. I realise that mathematical pedants, looking at the heading for this post, will have been saying to themselves that a ride can’t have four halves by definition, but this ride did.

There was the first half of the way out, slightly downhill with the wind across and behind, the second half of the way out, slightly uphill with the wind across and in my face, and then the return journey with the first half slightly downhill with the wind across and behind and the second half with the wind across and in my face. I make that four halves.

My turning point as usual on this ride was the bench at Newtown where my bicycle enjoyed the opportunity to have a little rest.

…and I took a short break before the second half of the second half on the way home in a lay-by beside a gentle curve in the River Esk.

I was much more concerned with cycling steadily than taking pictures today, though this view of daisies on the banking beside the Canonbie by-pass called out for a picture.

The wind was so evenly distributed that it took me one hour and twenty two minutes to get to Newtown and one hour and twenty three minutes to get back, very satisfactory.

I got home to find that Mrs Tootlepedal had been out collecting more horse manure for the garden while I was away, so once again, we had both had a good time.

The drizzle of the morning was a distant memory by this time, and it was a lovely summer day when I went for a walk round the garden before having my shower.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s vegetable garden is looking quite healthy in spite of the continuing depredations of the rotten sparrows.

We had had to put up more protective netting in the morning and to add insult to injury, Mrs Tootlepedal found an evil sparrow trapped inside the netting this afternoon and had to let it out.

I enjoyed a backlit lupin…

…and went inside.

I had put a wholemeal loaf into the breadmaker earlier in the day and it was ready to come out as I went in. It takes five hours to bake but the results are good…

…and we hope that it is better for us than plain white bread.

After a shower and a sibling zoom, I watched the birds for a moment. Goldfinches circled the feeder….

…while a rather part worn dunnock looked on from a hedge.

I left the birds to it and took another walk round the garden while Mrs Tootlepedal was cooking the tea. The early evening light was a treat.

And so was our evening meal. Mrs Tootlepedal had found a recipe for mince and custard in a cookbook provided by a community group in Lymington in the New Forest many years ago. It didn’t on the face of it sound very promising but if you think of it as a meat quiche without the irritating pastry, it makes more sense. We approached it with some trepidation but it turned out to be delicious, especially with a light fresh salad on the side. As a way of making some mince go a long way, it is brilliant.

The forecast holds out the prospect of a warm week ahead, with light winds and occasional rain so both the gardener and the cyclist are looking forward to the immediate future.

The only downside of the day was a failure to capture a good flying bird of the day but I do have a very nice anemone to take its place.

A new look

Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia, my Somerset correspondent. She has taken advantage of the new latitude allowed in England to visit Lytes Cary Manor where she found a doorway of infinite promise.

I have been fiddling about with the new editor and have settled on this layout at least for the time being. I hope that it is acceptable to readers, especially as it may not be possible to go back to the old layout easily.

Unfortunately, it was a grey and windy day today with occasional drizzle so perhaps it was not the best day to try to enter the new dream of putting in clearer pictures.

It was windy enough to cause the morning neighbourly coffee meeting to be cancelled and there was not much work done in the garden bar some wind protection schemes in the veg garden by Mrs Tootlepedal and a quick mow of the middle lawn by me.

I did have a look around while I was out.

In spite of the chilly conditions, there were bees about, and this one was clever enough to find one of the few azalea flowers left by the frost.

Hostas are filling out well, but I noticed that a faddy eater has been picking a few holes in this one.

A dunnock was upset about something and filled the garden with piercing cries for some time.

I soon went back in and turned my hand to making some soup. We have decided to try to eat a bit more healthily, so I roughly followed a recipe out of a book involving leeks, chick peas, tomatoes and spinach. I was a bit worried as the recipe provided enough soup for several meals but it turned out to be quite tasty. This was a relief.

As it had been so windy, I was considering going for another walk even though it should have been a cycling day, but when I looked out of the window after lunch, the wind had dropped a bit. I rushed to put my cycling clothes on and set off for a ride before it picked up again.

The wind may indeed have dropped a bit but it was still pretty vigorous and it blew me up the road to the top of Callister in fine style. I noticed that even the sheep thought that some shelter was a good idea in the conditions.

I didn’t want to go too far with the wind behind me, so I turned back when I got to Megsfield after six and a half miles….

…and set off home into the breeze.

I adopted a policy of using a low gear and keeping my head well down and managed to get back down to Wauchope Schoolhouse quite happily. Here I took a two mile diversion up and down the Bloch road as a break from pedalling into the wind, and then puffed my way back to Langholm.

As I cycled through the town, I found a wild rose growing beside the Esk.

In order to add a few miles to my trip, I went out of the town and up the main road north for a couple of miles. This was straight into the wind and was hard work, but it did give me two splendid wind assisted miles back home to round off an unexpected twenty mile addition to my monthly total.

It had been drizzling sporadically during the second half of my ride so I took a walk round the garden when I got back in case it started to rain more heavily later on. I often take pictures of individual flowers and I thought that I might put some of them in context on this occasion.

There should be more peonies to marvel at soon as the ones on the middle lawn are nearly out.

The astrantias are looking very healthy….

…as are the little yellow alliums moly.

A Polemonium was at a bit of an angle…

….but all the lupins seemed to have enjoyed the rather odd weather this year and are standing up very straight….

…and the yew bush is getting covered by the Tropaeolum.

I went in and went upstairs to change and have a bath in the hope of easing a few of the aches and pains that come with having had too many birthdays. When I checked, I found that I still had my camera in my hand, so I opened a window and looked down on the bird feeder.

A little greenfinch and sparrow drama played out before me.

Scene One: greenfinch ignores sparrow:

Scene Two: greenfinch tales exception to sparrow:

Scene Three: what was that all about?

A chaffinch landed with great elegance…

…and a greenfinch adopted the usual greenfinch threatening manner.

The bird being threatened is a goldfinch but I think that it must be moulting as it has lost its head colouring.

Refreshed from my bath, though even a good shot of Radox can’t heal the all the ravages of age, I came down in time for the Zoom with my siblings. My sisters have all been caught out by being enrolled unwittingly in Amazon Prime but they were very pleased to report that they had all managed to extricate themselves from the net. A triumph.

Mrs Tootlepedal cooked a delicious chicken casserole for our tea and that ended another day that didn’t deserve to be classified as a summer day at all, no matter what the date is.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch at full stretch.

Blown up

Today’s guest picture was kindly sent to me from America by blog reader Gunta. Knowing that I like bridges, she sent me this picture of one of her Oregon examples. It is in Newport, Oregon crossing Yaquina Bay as one travels along the Oregon coast highway.

Our spell of rather cool weather continued today. The rain had stopped but to make up for that, a strong wind was blowing so it didn’t feel much like summer when we were out in the garden.

We had our weekly WhatsApp chat with our granddaughter Matilda and her father Alistair at coffee time and then went out to do some gardening.

I mowed the greenhouse grass, the drying green and the front lawn and then did some shredding as Mrs Tootlepedal was clearing away a vast quantity of ivy from the rowan tree beside the compost bins.

I had time for a look at the flowers before lunch.

Pink peonies are coming out…

…and a pretty iris has arrived as the aquilegias are thinking of leaving.

When the sun shone, it felt quite cheerful and the flowers smiled at me.

After lunch, I took some time to watch the birds. I was surprised to see a pigeon had mastered the art of standing on the tray to get at the seed feeder.

The rooks do this but I hadn’t seen a pigeon try it before. The small birds were rather indignant so I went out and shooed the pigeon away. The small birds were grateful.

The theme of the afternoon was looking.

Everyone was seeking something.

But not always finding it, like this young sparrow hoping for food.

Or this chaffinch who found a dusty welcome.

A goldfinch won the prize for the most elegant searcher.

I left the birds to it and went for a walk, while Mrs Tootlepedal did some computer work for her community land purchase group.

If I had stuck to my lockdown schedule, it should have been a cycling day as I had had a walk yesterday but with heavy and frequent gusts, the wind made cycling unattractive.

I set off up the path beside the park wall. We may not have summer weather but we certainly have got lush summer growth.

I was a bit more interested in taking some vigorous exercise rather than I was in taking pictures after a quiet day yesterday, so I pushed on up the track to the top of Warbla almost without stopping. I say that I pushed on, but it might be more accurate to say that I was pushed on as the strong wind was right behind me and I don’t think that the walk to the top of Warbla has ever been easier.

The morning sun had disappeared and the light was very flat when I looked at the view below… I thought that some foreground interest would be a good idea…

…like the only tree on this part of the hill.

You get good views from Warbla and I was able to look across the town to see the walk along the ridge to Potholm Hill that I had done three weeks ago.

I could also see the new path that I had walked along the side of the hill a week ago.

It was too windy to hang about at the top of the hill so I continued down the other side of the hill…

…taking in the last view over the town before descending into the valley.

I was pleased to get out of the wind and swapped looking at views for looking at things beside the track as I walked back to the town by way of the Kernigal wood.

It looks as though there will be a good crop of wild raspberries this year.

I would like to be able to identify the little yellow flowers and the tiny white moth that I saw but if I ever knew what they are, I have forgotten. On the other hand I can recognise ajuga and for some reason the track up the hill towards the woods was lined with it for about a hundred yards.

The track down through the woods was a different thing altogether. It has been made by mountain bikers so that they can whizz down through the trees at a frightening speed.

It has jumps and berms and sudden dips and rises that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up just walking over them.

I got down safely though, making full use of my walking poles and was grateful that no cyclists were using the track.

Once on the flatter ground, I had leisure to check out the sloes…

…which are looking promising for the gin drinkers.

Once again the paths were showing that it is summer.

When I got back to the park after walking along the river, I found that the grounds maintenance crew had been tidying up the path edges.

Once home, I found that having missed her morning coffee meeting with our neighbours, Mrs Tootlepedal was enjoying afternoon tea in the garden with Margaret instead. I sat and chatted for a while but it was beginning to get a bit chilly so we decided that indoor life was the best thing and ended the party.

Once inside, I relapsed into peaceful indolence, only stirring myself to Zoom with my siblings and eat the excellent meal that Mrs Tootlepedal cooked.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

Service with a smile

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Alistair in Edinburgh. He spotted a visitor on his garden fence.

We had some long awaited rain overnight which was very welcome. Conveniently it stopped for long enough to let us have our regular garden coffee morning, though it must be said that a light drizzle had started before we had finished. We are hardy coffee drinkers though, and didn’t break up the meeting at the first drop of rain.

The drizzle was light enough to let me have a quick garden wander after coffee.

The big red peonies have gone the way of all peonies…

…but replacements are on the way.

As always, I found it hard to walk past a lupin without a shutter finger twitch and this was today’s result.

The flowers look like a fleet of little sailing boats to me.

I went out to look at the damside and found that the rain had given the big poppies a terminal bashing….

…but had left the fuchsia looking refreshed.

Near the new bridge, a potentilla is looking promising.

Back in the garden, there was a drift of daisies outside the front door…

…and plenty of new Sweet Williams and a clematis to greet visitors.

I didn’t stay out long, partly because of the drizzle but also because I had to make up a picnic lunch (a honey sandwich and an apple) to take to Carlisle where the Zoe was going to get its first annual service. It should have been serviced in April but the garages in England have only just re-opened.

The twenty mile trip to the garage in Carlisle was the furthest that I have driven since March but I am happy to report that driving the electric Zoe has lost none of its pleasure in the interim, and I got to the garage safely and in good time.

Having handed over the keys, I looked at the sky and then at the weather forecast on my phone. The weather forecast said that it was raining heavily in Carlisle but the sky said that it wasn’t. I chose to believe the sky and went for a walk.

The garage is on the edge of the city, so I was soon walking along a road with fine roses in the verge.

I wasn’t out in the country though and when I looked over a fence beside the road, I was quite surprised to find a railway line going past me.

This was the Carlisle to Newcastle line and not long later, I walked underneath it…

…on my way into the village of Scotby.

Scotby has a church with a sturdy tower perched on a mound on the other side of the railway bridge.

I walked through the village and was surprised to find myself walking under another railway bridge, though not quite such an elegant one.

This turned out to be the Carlisle to Settle line which had branched off the Newcastle line a mile further back. This line has survived two attempts to close it and is now a thriving concern.

I took the picture of this bridge after I had decided that I had gone far enough and begun the return to the garage.

This was a smart decision, as it started to rain not long before I got back and I had to lengthen my stride to get into the customer reception area without getting soaked. At least I had had a three and a half mile walk which I hadn’t expected.

There were some well spaced and comfortable chairs for customers waiting to pick up their cars, but as I was the only one waiting, there was no one to be socially distanced from. I had prudently brought the crossword with me to keep me occupied and it didn’t seem long before the car was ready and I drove home through some heavy rain.

Apart from a possible slow puncture in one of the tyres, which the garage thought was due to a leaking valve, the car had had no problems. Mind you, as we have driven less than 6000 miles in it since we got it, I would have been quite cross it had had any.

I was quite touched when I got home to find that the garage had sent me an email with a video in it, showing all the things that they had checked on the underside of the car during the service. This was not something that I had ever seen before and I thought that it was a really good idea.

When I got into the house the rain persisted, although not so heavily, so I abandoned any idea of another walk and watched a programme on a Hans Holbein painting with Mrs Tootlepedal and then watched the birds.

Both the programme and the birds were interesting.

A young greenfinch sat on the feeder pole in the drizzle.

A young sparrow waited patiently while a goldfinch ate seed…

…but a greenfinch wasn’t so patient.

A great tit arrived, a rare visitor to the feeder…

…and made off with a seed to eat it in peace somewhere else.

I didn’t blame it as greenfinches are ugly customers when hungry…

…sometimes very ugly.

At times, the feeder was so busy with goldfinches and greenfinches…

…. that it was hard to pick a flying bird out of the melee.

In the end, I managed to find a solo young sparrow to take the starring role of flying bird of the day.

The Tiny Potager

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