Help for old knees

Today’s guest picture shows the West Mill at Darley Abbey Mills in Derby. My brother Andrew passed it on his walk today, and a good deal of noise indicated that it was being used as a wedding venue.

We had a generally dry day, with only one short shower to disturb the gardeners. Both Sandy and Margaret came for coffee so we had a sociable morning. When they left, we went round to the Buccleuch Centre to cast our votes in our local council elections.

I did some shopping and Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do a it of business at the Langholm Initiative.

After lunch, I had a quick look at the siskins . . .

. . . and then we got busy in the garden. The pesky peckers . . .

. . . had been hard at work again earlier in the morning, so Mrs Tootlepedal and I cleared al the uprooted moss off what was left of the lawn. There was a wheelbarrow load.

Then I cut the edges of the middle lawn, dead headed daffodils and tulips, sieved a little compost and took some pictures.

While Mrs Tootlepedal took a break from gardening to clean some windows, I mowed the front lawn and found quite a lot of grass growing among the vast areas of moss. I am going to keep mowing the front lawn, but we are going to leave about half of the middle lawn uncut for at least another month.

My road bike is at the bike shop in Longtown, and among other things, it is getting new handlebars. I had phoned to see how it was getting on, and foubnd that the mechanic didn’t want to fit the handlebars without me checking to see if they were what I wanted. Under the circumstances a visit was required, so I got out the electric bike and cycled down to the shop. Because I had powerful assistance, I took the hilliest route down to Longtown, crossing the Liddle Water at Penton . . .

. . . where I came across a Pyrenean Valerian beside the handsome bridge.

The trip to the bike shop and back across country went well, with pleasantly green views to be had and wild flowers to spot in the verges.

The projected handlebars looked to be what was required for greater control of steering and brakes together with a more upright riding position to protect my back a bit. I hope to get my road bike back soon.

Meanwhile, the folding electric bike performed very satisfactorily, getting me round 31 miles and up and down a lot of hills with no trouble at all. I only used the power assist when it was needed to make life a little easier going up slopes or into the wind, and as a result I had well over half the battery charge still to be used by the time that I got home. A longer ride could be undertaken with confidence, which is good to know.

The sun had come out by this time, and I watched a calm siskin and fierce redpolls at the feeder in the sunshine . . .

. . . while the wrecking crew reappeared on the middle lawn.

You would think that there was nothing left to peck by now.

The flying bird of the day is a redpoll sneaking past the feeder pole.

Footnote: Today’s East Wemyss gallery shows some of the buildings that we saw, and many of the ingenious planters created by the volunteer group that looks after the area.

Safely home

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony’s partner Marianne. It shows the Tootlepedals and Tony on the harbour wall at Pittenweem yesterday. Tony is highly amused as he is taking a picture of Marianne taking a picture of us.

Tony is recovering from an operation on his wrist, and as a result he was able to spend some time with us when he would otherwise have been busy at work. It’s an ill wind as they say.

Those who know the ways of the weather gods will not be at all surprised to hear that since we were going home today after two rather murky days in East Wemyss, the weather cleared up a lot this morning, and we had a set of very fine views across the Forth.

Of course it couldn’t last, and when we went for a short walk, it started to rain. The gods had the last laugh though, when the sun shone brilliantly as we prepared to get into our car and drive home.

We had a really good time visiting Tony and Marianne. East Wemyss is a delightful place, with a wealth of paths to keep a walker entertained. We arrived at lunchtime on Monday, and by the time that we left after lunch today (Wednesday), we had had four excellent walks, and I had taken nearly 200 photographs. My plan is to put a some of them in themed galleries of holiday pictures into posts over the next few days rather than throw them all in in a great heap.

The first of today’s galleries shows some of the sea birds that we saw, not great pictures as I didn’t have my bird camera with me, but they give an idea of the rich bird life in the area.

The second gallery is a glimpse of the buildings in the village of Pittenweem, situated in the East Neuk of Fife, 16 miles along the coast from East Wemyss.

The third and last gallery shows shots of the harbour at Pittenweem, where we had a stroll after we had eaten the excellent fish suppers obtained from the local fish and chip shop. It was a very calm evening.

Our drive home today went without incident, and once again we stopped at ASDA in Galashiels where we topped up the car with a few free miles while we had a coffee and a bun and did some shopping to provide us with food to eat when we got home. We could easily have driven the 106 miles without topping up the battery, and it was very pleasing to find that we had been able to drive about 250 miles over our little holiday, finding working and available charge points without any worry about running out of juice.

Future posts will contain East Wemyss village pictures, wild flowers, country views, and caves and cave art seen on our walks.

The weather and traffic were very kind to us on our drive home, and it was still a lovely day when we got back to Langholm.

In the garden the red azalea is in full bloom . . .

. . . the Japanese azalea is ready to join it . . .

. . . and a lot of the tulips are still looking pretty good.

I filled the bird feeder, and before any small birds could start tucking in, a sparrowhawk arrived and looked round wondering where all the birds were.

The sparrowhawk left and the little birds arrived . . .

. . . and it was good to see them again.

Although we were royally entertained at East Wemyss, and it is a great place to visit, it is also good to be back home again. We had some excellent walking in Fife, and now I hope to be back on my bike as soon as possible.

The flying bird of the day is a very upright goldfinch.

Charging, a castle and chips

After breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal, Tony and I drove in the Zoe a mile and a bit down the coast where we found a charging point that worked and promised to fully charge the car in a couple of hours.

Leaving the car to charge we walked back to East Wemyss along the coastal path, enjoying the views, the apple trees, wild flowers and a visit to Macduff Castle.

After a refreshing cup of coffee, I walked back to the car, found it fully charged and drove it back to East Wemyss. We then all got in to Tony’s car and visited a very well stocked garden centre, where we had lunch and made some judicious purchases.

When we got back to East Wemyss, we collected three dogs and went for a walk. The sun did its best to appear.

In the evening, we drove to the East Neuk and had some first rate fish and chips which we ate at the harbour side in Pittenweem.

This is possibly the best way to end any day.

A very satisfactory day

We set off to visit East Wemyss after breakfast with a little trepidation as 110 miles is a long way to drive these days. The car behaved perfectly and ate a little extra electricity in a supermarket car park while we had coffee and a bun in the cafe. We arrived at lunchtime and after a good meal, Tony and Marianne took us out for a four and a half mile walk.

I will put on a little gallery from the walk tonight but I will do a full post on the beauties of East Wemyss when I get home.

Tomorrow we hope to find a charger to top up the car with enough electricity to get us home.

A stroll and a song

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She stopped to take in this pretty view on her way to play tennis yesterday.

After some welcome rain overnight, it was still raining gently here when we got up today. There was enough rain to make the birds on the feeder look a little bedraggled and grumpy . . . .

. . . and to persuade me not to go for a morning cycle ride even though it was quite warm and not very windy. I took my umbrella and went for a walk instead.

In spite of the gloomy weather, it was a very uplifting walk. The rain and a frost free night had turned a lot of things green and brought out some good colour too. I snapped away as I went along, and have put the some of the results into panels and overstuffed galleries.

There was rhododendron out in the park . . .

. . . and there were lots of new leaves on lots of trees all along my walk.

The bluebells are out and there was wild garlic too. (It was just a pity that the sun was not out as well.)

I walked along the Murtholm track . . .

. . .noting items of interest (to me at least) along the way.

When I got to Skippers Bridge, I was struck by the ivy leaved toadflax and herb Robert on the bridge parapet . . .

. . . as well as the rather romantic view of the bridge itself when I looked back after crossing it.

I walked up the main road and then took the riverside path. The newly green canopy over the main road and the first sighting of Welsh poppies were welcome, but giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed beside the river were not welcome at all.

The hogweed and the knotweeed have resisted many attempts to get rid of them.

I had filled the bird feeder before I went on my walk, and it was very busy when I got back. The weather had improved too.

A rook shook its feathers as it perched on a wire overhead.

I had a late coffee and then lunch, and this left me with time for a walk round the garden to admire the last of the daffodils, the first of the azaleas, new sweet woodruffe and promising lilac flowers . . .

. . . and to have a check on the ducks in the dam (walking not swimming as the water is still very low) . . .

. . .and spot a nesting jackdaw . . .

. . . before I left Mrs Tootlepedal to do some gardening while I went off to Carlisle to sing with the Carlisle Community Choir.

It was just as well that I went, because only one other tenor turned up. He is a good singer though, and we did our best to makes ourselves heard. Ellen, our conductor for the last four years, is leaving us as she has been offered a career opportunity as a solo singer which she cannot ignore. She will help us choose a new conductor, and we can only hope that we will be lucky again, after having had two first rate conductors since the choir was founded ten years ago.

We are going to visit our son Tony in East Wemyss for a couple of days so I will revert to brief posts from my phone while we are away. Unfortunately, although East Wemyss is the sunshine capital of Scotland as regular readers will know from Tony’s guest pictures, it looks as though we will arrive in the middle of an uncharacteristically grey spell. That’s life.

The flying bird of the day is an expansive siskin.

A change in the weather

Today’s guest picture comes from my Canonbie friend Simon. He is working at the Belfry golf course at the moment, and sent me this pleasant view of a place where you definitely don’t want to put your golf ball.

After another chilly night, we woke to another dry day here. It was cloudier than recent days, and this heralded a change in the weather. As I write this post in the evening, serious rain is falling for the first time for weeks. Although rain is not welcome to a cyclist, it is much needed in the garden so we are not complaining. It looks as though both the nights and days are going to be warmer next week, and that will be welcome in the garden too.

Mrs Tootlepedal made the best of the morning and got her sweet peas sorted out out, while I cycled round to the shop, and did a little dead heading before and after coffee with Margaret.

Although we are not overwhelmed by bees and other poillinators, there are a few about and the dandelions were getting one or two visitors.

The pair of ducks who seem to have taken up residence on the dam were back again today.

When I was not dead heading, I was looking around the garden.

I made some dull soup for lunch, and looked at the birds while it was cooking. We have a plentiful supply of redpolls just now.

After lunch I considered my options. As I was considering them, a light rain started to fall and that ruled out cycling. I decided that I would go for a short walk in the hope that the forecast heavier rain would wait until I had finished.

This hope was well founded, and I was able to get back home without getting significantly wet at all, although it rained lightly the whole way round. The rain was light enough for cricketers to keep playing . . .

. . . and for the cherry blossoms to look delightful and not soggy . . .

. . . but I still thought it wise to take a sheltered route until I had seen what the rain was going to do.

At the top of the Lodge Walks, I came across a bank of wild flowers including wild strawberries and Jack by the hedge . . .

. . . and I was able to enjoy the greening up of the trees across the pheasant hatchery, and the bluebells in the woods along the top path as I came back from the North Lodge.

When I came to the start of the Baggra, the rain was so light as to be almost unnoticeable. I decided to walk along the track and come home by way of the High Mill Brig.

The trees have been felled at the start of the track, and this let me look down on a game of rugby being played at Milntown, the home of Langholm Rugby Football Club. Langholm, in red, were pressing, but had unfortunately dropped the ball at a crucial moment.

Leaving the game behind, I strolled along the Baggra . . .

. . . enjoying the unusually dry conditions underfoot. The change in the weather may mean that I won’t be so lucky next time that I walk along here.

There were wild flowers to be seen beside the track, marsh marigold, primroses, buttercup and violets.

Having come down to the main road, I passed the rugby ground on the other side, and was able to look across the ground to the top of the clear felled bank from where I had watched the match earlier.

While I watched, Langholm contested and won a lineout . . .

. . . and shortly afterwards scored a well worked try.

I walked on, and an uncivil goosander flew away with a flurry of wings when I tried to take its picture. I caught up with him later as I came to the Langholm Bridge.

As the rain seemed to be getting a little heavier when I got to the suspension bridge, I abandoned thoughts of going down to Skippers Bridge and took the direct route home, satisfied to have got four pretty dry miles in.

For some reason, perhaps from trying to keep up with Mrs Tootlepedal on our recent cycle rides, I was quite tired by this time, and I was more than content to idle the rest of the afternoon and evening away.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch bearing down on a siskin.

Two pedals and a tootle

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. As the azaleas in our garden are not out yet, she kindly sent me this stunning display from Kenwood House.

After more overnight frost, we enjoyed a bright and sunny day here, with very little wind. Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the morning, so I went up to help the volunteers plant trees on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve by myself. Because it was such a fine day, I went up on my electric bike (the push bike is still at the bike shop).

They tell me that about one thousand trees have now been planted, and we did our best to add to that total this morning.

As you can see, there is some natural regeneration going on, but new growth is getting badly nibbled by wildlife, so it is important that our little trees are well protected.

We worked for nearly two hours, and I was ready for lunch by the time that I got home. Mrs Tootlepedal was out for lunch, and while I was waiting for her to return, I wandered round the garden.

The tulips were enjoying the warm sunshine and had opened their petals generously.

Note: One of the flowers in the panel above is not a tulip!

The red tulips are eye catching on a day like today . . .

. . . and I was able to catch a reflection of a date stone in the pond behind a row of yellow tulips.

More apple blossoms are coming out each day . . .

. . . so it was good to see a bee attending to business.

Mrs Tootlepedal has allowed a lot of dandelions to flower, and it has been disappointing not to see any insects visiting them so far this spring. Happily, there were a few visitors today.

I stuck my nose into an ajuga.

I filled the feeder and watched the birds for a while.

Later in the afternoon, I saw a pond skater being rocked by the ripples created by whirligig beetles and one of the beetles stayed still for long enough to get its picture taken, a most unusual occurrence.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her lunch, and we were walking round the garden when a butterfly zoomed past us. I rushed in to get my camera but it flew off before I could get a good picture. Nevertheless, I am putting in this fuzzy picture of a peacock butterfly just for the record, so that I can remember when one first appeared this year.

Following her lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal had a parcel to deliver to one of her fellow lunchers who lives up the Esk Valley. As it was such a fine afternoon, we decided to make an outing of the task and pedal up to Enzieholm Bridge while making the delivery on the way.

As well as lambs, there are calves in the fields at the moment.

I found a rather gloomy picture that I took when we cycled through the Gates of Eden last night, and I have added a slightly brighter picture looking across the valley taken on our ride today.

We saw a lot of Lady’s Smock beside the road all the way round our trip, and I have added a bluebell, a stitchwort and some wild strawberries which we saw near Georgefield on our way back.

The route took us along the banks of the Esk . . .

. . . and just as we got near to Bentpath village, we heard the chimes of Pelosi’s ice cream van, so we were happy to stop and enjoy delicious ice cream. While we were there, I took the opportunity to take a picture of the church . . .

. . . and a curious structure on the roof of the village hall.

We pedalled vigorously back to Langholm, and got home just in time for an evening zoom with my brother and sisters.

Later on, our friends Mike and Alison came round for music and conversation. This is usually a regular Friday occasion, but for one reason or another, we haven’t been able to meet for some time. This was a very welcome visit.

While Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal chatted, Alison and I played recorder and keyboard duets, rather rustily, but still to our great satisfaction.

The last two days have been quite busy. I am hoping to sleep well tonight.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin, getting straight to the point.

Not a dull moment

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan. She was greatly cheered up by meeting this colourful cow yesterday.

We had another cool, dry and occasionally sunny day here today. It had been below freezing overnight and was only 3°C when I got up. It soon warmed up a bit, and it was 6° when I drove down to Longtown to put my push bike into the bike shop for a service (and new tyres, brake blocks, and handlebars).

No sooner had I got back home and made up a honey sandwich and a flask of coffee, than my friends Gavin and Mike arrived and we set off up the road to Teviothead in two cars. The reason for the two cars was an end to end walk from Newmills to Teviothead. We parked my car at Teviothead, and all drove up the road to Newmills in Gavin’s car. Then we walked back to my car over the hills.

This was a new walk for all of us, so there was a sense of adventure on the air, as well as some very welcome sunshine, when we started out. Because it was a new walk, I took too many pictures and I have put them into easy to skip over galleries.

After a track up through fields, we came to a very quiet back road which led us past Branxhome Easter Loch where we saw geese and nesting swans.

When we had passed the loch, we stopped for a snack and a drink. We were serenaded by larks.

We were well up in the hills for a lot of the walk and didn’t see many wild flowers. It was interesting to find quite a few wood anemones in the middle of the grasses, showing that there must have been woods there at one point.

We went along the road for a while and then followed a track across rough country as we turned back towards where we had parked my car.

Here is a gallery of animals that looked at us and views that we looked at in the middle of our walk..

We had a bit of trouble with indistinct tracks on our walk. Should we go left or right here? . . .

. . . but we safely navigated our way past swans in a pond at the Wood Burn . . .

. . . and arrived at Broadlee Loch which had several geese swimming about in it.

We circled the loch and found a convenient knoll where we stopped for a light lunch.

Refreshed by this, we headed on for the last little climb of the day, enjoying the views behind us more than the prospect of ploughing across some tussocky country in front of us.

We had trouble pinning down our exact route but without ever losing our way, and we finally came to the ridge where we could look down on the H S Riddell memorial and see our way back to the car.

When we got back to the car, we found that we had walked eight miles and climbed just under 1000 feet. It had been a very varied walk and we had enjoyed it a lot. From a photographic point of view, it was disappointing that the sun had gone in after a bright start, but it was a rather hazy day so the excellent views might not have come out too well even in the sun.

I drove Gavin back to his car, turned round, picked up Mike, who had waited at the end of the walk, and drove back to Langholm in a very contented state of mind. It was good to have explored anew walk in excellent company.

Fresh supplies of bird seed had arrived while I was out, so I filled the feeder and watched the birds. It was a goldfinch moment.

I went out and had a look round the garden. The light was good for flowers.

Mrs Tootlepedal made cottage pie for our evening meal, and then, as it was still a fine day, we went for a ten mile hilly cycle ride round the Gates of Eden. The electric bikes made this a really enjoyable excursion too, and it took us exactly an hour. We laughed at steep hills, and did as much unassisted pedalling as we could on the downhill and flatter sections. The light had got rather odd by this time, being pale and rather metallic, so I didn’t take any pictures.

We watched a fascinating programme on the telly about the restoration of Notre Dame in Paris introduced by Lucy Worsley. If you get the chance to see it, I would recommend it.

The (just) flying bird of the day is a siskin.

Push and pull

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s niece Hilary. She rode the 130km route in the ‘Dirty Reiver’, a gravel bike event at Kielder. I take my hat off to her.

We woke to another dry, fairly calm, rather chilly, and occasionally sunny day here. When the sun was out, it felt warm, but when the sun went in, the north wind made it feel less than springlike.

I lingered over breakfast, the newspapers and a knotty crossword, though I did manage to sieve some compost, and fill the feeder . . .

. . . before going across the road to have coffee with our neighbour LIz. She had made scones to a recipe involving full cream and lemonade. They tasted very good.

After coffee, I got out the hover mower and tidied up the vegetable garden paths and the greenhouse grass.

Before I went in for lunch, I checked out the apple blossom . . .

. . . followed the sound of buzzing . . .

. . . and found a bumble bee flitting about among the dicentra . . .

. . . took a picture of two tulips . . .

. . . and went out to the dam to try to do justice to the marsh marigolds without getting distracted by ducks.

Before tucking into the last of the curried parsnip soup, I watched the birds for a moment or two. Redpolls were very visible.

When I first looked, the feeder was quiet with some siskins in charge . . .

. . . but redpolls soon put the boot in and siskins fell like chaff.

. . . and the siskins became nervous and missed their footing . . .

. . . while goldfinches fought among themselves.

After lunch, I went for a ride on my push bike. I had learned my lesson from yesterday when I did ten miles out with the wind behind me and sixteen miles back with it across or in my face. This time I went north first and let the wind blow me back home. It was a better idea altogether.

I cycled up the main road to Mosspaul, stopping to record a couple of the many lambs which lined the route.

As always when I stop beside a wall, I look at the wall. Today I saw not only some good lichen but a bonus bug as well.

The sun seemed to be tantalisingly just ahead of me as I pedalled along . . .

. . . but I caught up with it when I got to the top of the hill at Mosspaul.

In fact the weather was so cheerful, that I went on over the hill and down to Phaup Cottage on the far side. The Phaup Burn runs down a little side valley here . . .

. . . and goes under the main road just at my turning point.

With the wind behind me, I went at such a good speed on the way home that I didn’t have time to stop for any more pictures.

I did have time for tea and toast and a shower before the regular Zoom with my brother and sisters. After the Zoom, the early evening weather was encouraging, so Mrs Tootlepedal and I got our new electric bikes out and zoomed up the hill to visit the bird hide on the moor.

The helpful pull up the long hill to the hide that the electric motor provided left us with plenty of energy to enjoy the view in the evening sunshine . . .

. . . and we were able to cycle back home with only a very little help now and again, as it was mostly downhill.

In the evening, we were able to watch the second act of an English National Opera production of HMS Pinafore on Sky Arts. It was a treat. We were very sorry that we had missed the first act.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

Wounded by wind

Today’s guest picture comes from my Lancashire correspondent Paul who is visiting Cumbria again. It shows the “Tufa house”at Holehird Gardens near Windermere, run by the Lakeland Horticultural Society. He is thinking of volunteering with them.

We had another dry, cool and windy day here today, and I was in no rush to be up and about, so it was lucky that Sandy came down for coffee and got my day kickstarted. Sandy has felt perky enough to check the battery on his electric bike, but not actually to use the bike yet. I am hoping that we will get to go for a ride before too long.

After he left, I went out and did some more daffodil dead heading, and cycled round to the shop for provisions.

When I got back, I went in and looked at the birds through the window. We have a lot of customers at the moment, and I took a series of pictures over a two minute spell. This shows how quickly the picture at the feeder changes . . .

. . . though the observant reader will have noticed that the same two siskins stay on their perches as goldfinches and chaffinches whirl about.

A minute later and all was peace and quiet.

I had time before lunch to wander round the garden again and enjoy the colour. We are getting very excited by the azaleas and hope that low temperatures tonight don’t do them any harm.

I had a look at the pond and saw an interesting but unknown (to me) bug, as well as two little whirligig beetles making waves.

After lunch, I went for a bicycle ride on my road bike. Since I have to supply all the power for this bike, I think that I should probably describe it as my push bike.

Wild flowers are starting to appear in enough numbers to brighten up any cycle ride, and I spotted this selection on the road to Gair.

Unlike my last ride in this direction when everything was smothered in very low cloud, I could see the wind turbines at Solwaybank very clearly today. . .

. . . but as they had their backs to me and were going round briskly, it was not as welcome a sight as it might have been. I could see that I was in for a hard ride into the wind to get home.

At least I could get a good view across the Solway Firth.

Dandelions are growing with great enthusiasm at the moment.

It was hard work pedalling the push bike into the brisk wind, and I ended up with my slowest ever average speed for this particular route. I took the chance to stop for a breather at the bridge at Irvine House and looked both ways . . .

. . . and I needed another break a mile later to appreciate new growth on a spruce.

I got back home after 26 miles, feeling very much as though I had done a marathon.

Mrs Tootlepedal was talking to a friend at the garden gate, and I had another wander round the garden before I went in for a cup of tea. Mrs Tootlepedal likes the lone red panel on the otherwise orange tulip, and I like the gaudy bunch. The drumstick primulas have lasted well but are beginning to go over now.

The sun was shining after we had eaten our evening meal, so Mrs Tootlepedal went out to sow some broad beans and I lent a helping hand. It is hard to ignore the tulips at the end the drive on a sunny evening . . .

. . . and a lone tulip on the drying green also caught my eye.

I had to pop down to the Co-op for a late shop and I met Dropscone there. He was also topping up his supplies. On my way back, I paused on the suspension bridge to capture a beautiful scene to end the day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, keeping himself to himself in the midst of the midday mayhem.