Two choirs and three bridges

Today’s guest picture comes from my files. Looking back, I don’t think that I have used this fine slightly surreal shot taken by my brother Andrew. (If I have, it deserves another outing anyway.)

It was rainy when we got up, and the prospects did not look good. However, it stopped raining as soon as we set out to walk to church under our umbrellas, and we soon furled the brollies up and strolled along enjoying the very mild temperature.

At four strong, our choir choir was a little underpowered, but we managed a short introit and gave the hymns our best effort. I went downstairs during one of the hymns as I was going to read the lessons, and I was very impressed by how clearly the singing of the other three members in the gallery could be heard in the body of the kirk. Their labour was not in vain.

It was still fine after the service, and I had the opportunity to have a look round the garden before going in for coffee.

The rudbeckias looked cheerful, and a white buddleia has come out to join the others. Mrs Tootlepedal is building up a good collection of varied buddleias.

I had filled the bird feeder in the rain after breakfast, and it had already gone down quite a lot by the time that we got back from church. Pigeons were picking up scattered seed, though this one did not look very grateful.

I saw a chaffinch looking very pleased with himself on a perch . . .

. . . although he didn’t look so confident a minute later. He puffed himself up to look more imposing when he attempted a comeback.

By this time, there were siskins flying in all directions.

The Carlisle Community Choir started again today for the autumn term, so I didn’t have time to go for a cycle ride. I went for a short three bridges walk before lunch instead.

I crossed the suspension bridge and walked along the far bank of river to the Kilngreen. I passed a gull on a rock on the way, and spotted what I think is a pied wagtail when I got there.

In spite of another inch of rain in our rain gauge, the rivers are still very low as you can see from this shot looking back at the Town Bridge.

I crossed the Sawmill Big and went on to the Castleholm. There are pretty young lichens on the new stones on the parapet of the bridge, and early autumn colour on some leaves beside the road.

Once I was on the Castleholm, I looked for acorns but saw very few, and I wonder how long the ruins of the castle will last if the vegetation growth on its walls is not controlled.

I noticed as usual that the chestnut tree near the gate onto the field is one of the first to turn in autumn . . .

. . . but it was much more unusual to see a giant illuminated teapot behind it.

This turned out to be part of the fun for a Pony Club celebration which was being held today.

I walked through the trees beside the new path . . .

. . . and left the Castleholm by crossing my third bridge, the Jubilee Bridge. I didn’t have the option of going a little further and crossing the Duchess Bridge because the path back from it on the other side of the river is still closed.

The good news is that work has started on clearing the fallen trees from the path, a legacy from Storm Arwen, and it should be open for use in a week or two if all goes well.

I looked about as I followed the path round the Scholars’ Field. I wasn’t tempted to try a laurel berry . . .

. . . but I was happy to see lots of insects on the umbellifers as I went round.

When we saw the large white butterfly caterpillar yesterday, I said to Mrs Tootlepedal that considering the number of white butterflies that we have in the garden, there should be quite a lot of caterpillars about. When I looked at the nasturtiums round the front gate today, I found that this was indeed true. There were lots of them, steadily chewing away at the leaves.

I became an unwitting expert on caterpillar poop or frass, which was also to be seen everywhere.

I think that this is the chewing end of the caterpillar.

I read on the internet that some gardeners recommend planting nasturtiums next to cabbages to distract the caterpillars from eating the greens. They certainly like our nasturtiums.

Rather annoyingly, the weather got much better as we drove into Carlisle for our afternoon choir, but that is just life. We have a new musical director, Laura, and she took us for the first time today. She was full of pep, and I think that she will have a good effect in the choir if she doesn’t kill off all the older members by making us jump up and down a lot. We had 50 members present today, and although that is still quite a lot down on pre-covid numbers, it was still enough to make a joyful sound.

We drove home in beautiful early evening sunshine, and I added a sunny dahlia to a gloomier selection that I had taken earlier in the day.

This is the bracken that we collected yesterday, doing its job of keeping heavy rain from flattening the earth in a veg bed, . . .

. . . and this is some phacelia in the next bed that the rain had failed to knock over.

We had a second helping of the failed tarte tatin with our evening meal. As Mary Jo points out, at least you can eat your cooking mistakes and you don’t have to live with them.

The flying bird of the day is mallard heading down the Esk as I walked up it today.

A fairly dull day

Today’s picture comes from our younger son Alistair. He came across this very fine fungus last week.

We had a marked change in the weather here today, with some very heavy but short showers interrupting a grey and damp day. Luckily, the early rain had stopped by the time that I walked up to the town to make some purchases at the monthly market in the Market Place. Fish, meat pies, quality bread flour, local honey and a bar of soap found their way into my shopping bag, and I walked home in a rather lopsided way, thinking that I should have brought two shopping bags with me for better balance.

We had coffee when I got home, and Sandy dropped in to pick up some of the backlog of Archive Group work and had a cup of coffee while he was here.

As he left, another heavy rain shower made sure that we stayed indoors.

When it stopped, we went off to do more shopping at the Co-op, and tried not to notice that things have got more expensive.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to visit our local council recycling centre. It is our nearest centre but not very local as it requires a thirty mile round trip to get to it. While she was out, I made a tarte tatin with apples from one of our espaliers. It turned out to look quite reasonable . . .

. . . but the pastry hadn’t cooked properly throughout so it was not quite such a treat as I had hoped. Still, the apples were very tasty.

When Mrs Tootlepedal got home, we watched the end of today’s stage of the Vuelta, and then I finally got out into the garden for a look around.

Once again, sunflowers provided the only sun to be seen . . .

. . . but there were bright spots. A new uninvited yellow verbascum has appeared to join the white ones that pop up all over the garden . . .

. . . and I was very surprised to find a red admiral butterfly on a buddleia.

We haven’t had any cold nights so roses are still trying to come out . . .

. . . and there were a heartening number of bees and flies about.

It was generally too grey for good pictures, but the hoverfly on the Japanese anemone stayed very still for me as I leaned in.

In spite of the heavy rain showers, there were still plenty of flowers in the front beds for the insects to visit.

The rain made Mrs Tootlepedal think about protecting exposed soil in her vegetable garden beds so she proposed a visit to a spot two miles up the Wauchope road where we could collect some bracken. As we came out of the drive, she spotted an interesting caterpillar on one of the nasturtiums at the front gate, so there was a slight pause . . .

. . . while this was recorded. It is the caterpillar of the large white butterfly. There must be lot more of them in the garden.

She had chosen a good place for collecting bracken . . .

. . . and after gathering a couple of armfuls myself, I left her to it and had a look round for wild flowers.

Then I strolled through the field and down towards the river.

I didn’t go through this gate . . .

. . . but walked on through eyebright . . .

. . . and what turned out to be a large crop of fungus which must have been enjoying the rain.

I hopped over a stile under a larch tree, and went to the river bank. There was not much water running in spite of the heavy showers. The path beside the river is getting badly eroded as more and more trees fall into the water.

When we do get some big floods, there are a lot of trees waiting to be swept downstream.

Mrs Tootlepedal had got the car as full as possible by the time that I got back, and we drove home where the bracken was distributed on the veg beds.

I got my phone out and took a couple of rather dim pictures in the deteriorating light. A euphorbia looked rather mysterious . . .

. . . and the border beside the middle lawn still has something to offer with a good combination of shapes and shades of colour. (The flowers that look orange in the picture are in fact bright yellow in real life.).

The feeder had been very quiet all day, but when I had gone inside, Mrs Tootlepedal came in to tell me that if I wanted to see birds, there were plenty of starlings on hand. I went out again and found that she was quite right. These are just some of them.

We had fish and tarte tatin with custard for our evening meal and settled in for the night, hoping for better weather tomorrow. A hope that is not going to be fulfilled judging by the weather forecast.

The flying bird of the day is one of the starlings.

Some music at last

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. It was her birthday today, and as the planned family activities had to be postponed for reasons out of her control, she went for a walk by the canal instead. She was very impressed by this floating garden.

We had another fine day here, but it took us some time to get out into the garden (housework, archive business, coffee etc), and it was midday before Mrs Tootlepedal got to work, and I got to wander about.

I was chiefly looking for butterflies, and they were not hard to find today, with a good number of red admirals and peacocks about.

I saw one small tortoiseshell and lots of the white butterflies which have been regular visitors all summer.

Potentillas have had a rather patchy year in the garden, but there are a couple doing well at the end of the middle lawn just now, and the perennial wallflower nearby is enjoying life freed from the shadow of the no-mow long grass. Our heron keeps watch over the pond behind the Michaelmas daisies.

The main gardening business of the day was an assault by Attila the Gardener on an aged weigela which has been in the garden for about 50 years. Mrs Tootlepedal had decided that its time had come so it went. It was probably a good idea, as it had interesting black fingers of fungus growing from its stem. There are some promising new shoots though, and I sieved some compost to go round their roots.

After the branches of the weigela had been shredded, I got out my electric bike and made good use of the fine day.

I headed up the main road north out of town, passing the gentle hills of the Ewes valley, until I got to the old toll house at Fiddleton.

Here I turned right, and took the narrow road up to Carewoodrigg . . .

. . . being very grateful for the electrical assistance as I cycled up the steep hill onto the ridge.

The views from the ridge are good . . .

. . . but my enjoyment of them was tempered by several notices telling me that road was closed ahead at the bridge at the bottom of the far end of the ridge. I thought that I might have to turn round and see the views again sooner than I wanted.

However, all was well. Although the bridge was indeed shut for a comprehensive repair, a temporary mound with a culvert under it was in place beside the bridge, and I was able to cycle over that.

I was able to enjoy the views on the road down to Hermitage . . .

. . . and the sight of some sheep beside a neat circular sheepfold.

I was heading for Hermitage Castle, and when I got down beside the river, the road was lined with wonderfully colourful rose hips. The track to castle had scabious and sneezewort on it.

The castle was open to visitors after having been shut for a long time during the lockdowns, but I didn’t have time for a visit. I took a picture of its forbidding appearance from the visitor centre.

That imposing arch is not the front door. That can be found round the side. It gives an idea of the scale of the building.

Leaving the castle behind, I cycled down the Hermitage Water to Newcastleton. I passed a farm where goats ran about as I approached. They were too quick for clear pictures but I have put them in anyway, as I know that there are readers who like goats.

I didn’t stop in Newcastleton today, but went straight through and up the steep hill that leads on to the moor and over to Langholm. I had noticed a monument half way up the hill when I was cycling with Sandy and Mrs Tootlepedal a couple of days ago, and I stopped for a closer look today.

In view of his nom de plume ‘Bluebell’, I took a picture of a harebell beside the monument.

It had got rather grey by the time that I was up on the open hill, and I even felt a spot of rain, so I didn’t dilly dally, though I did pause for a look at the bonnie purple heather. It turns out to be quite pink when you get close to it.

Even with electric help, the 32 mile route was very energetic with some big hills to climb, so I was very happy to sit down quietly when I got home and have a cup of tea.

During the day, I kept an eye on the feeder and saw a lot of sparrows.

A siskin was keeping an eye on the sparrows too.

What had already been a good day was made even better in the evening when our friends Mike and Alison came round. For various reasons, it had been a long time since their last regular Friday evening visit, so it was a special pleasure for me to be able to play some good music for recorder and keyboard with Alison, while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal put the world to rights.

One of the sparrows is the flying bird of the day.

The treacle mine is working again

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone. He was in Eyemouth on the east coast to attend a BGA golf competition recently, and he found time to visit the harbour.

Dropscone also found time today to make some treacle scones to bring round with him when he came for coffee this morning. His daughter has had the misfortune to catch Covid so I hadn’t seen him for three weeks, and it had been longer than that before he had found treacle for sale, so both he and the treacle scones were a pleasant novelty.

In order to stop the birds eating them all, I had picked some plums before he came. I was going to offer him some plums to take home, but it must be a good year for plums as he already had a large number of plums given to him by a golfing friend from Hawick.

Margaret, who joined the coffee morning meeting, did take some plums with her.

I had done some archive work after breakfast so I didn’t get out into the garden until after coffee. Once there, I looked for butterflies to photograph in vain. There were one two two flitting about but none settled for very long. I turned to flowers instead and at least found a fly.

I did some dead heading and went in for lunch.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal set about some serious tidying up in a border while I mowed the middle lawn, sieved some compost and looked about.

It was hot when the sun was out and there were plenty of flowers enjoying the sunshine.

The phlox is going over but there are still a phew phlox phlowers enjoying a phinal phling.

The dark colour of this shy dahlia . . .

. . . offered a striking contrast to this delightful combination of dahlia and delphinium in the front bed.

I left Mrs Tootlepedal to her tasks and got out my electric bike to make a start on some September miles while the weather was good.

It was a perfect day for a pedal as I went along the road to Claygate.

At Claygate, I turned across country to Harelaw, passing honeysuckle berries in the hedge . . .

. . . and fine trees in the fields.

At Harelaw, I turned south and headed for Canonbie, passing through the old coal mining village of Rowanburn.

I disturbed some ducks when I stopped in the village.

There is a new digital speed sign at the 30 mph limit on the steep hill down to Canonbie Bridge. Rather to my surprise it flashed up a beaming smile as I approached. I was apparently doing 28 mph and so was just on the side of the angels. It is a very steep hill!

I went through Canonbie and joined my familiar Canonbie route, though going in the opposite direction to my normal practice.

Some vetch by a hedge caught my eye as I went up towards Glenzier. It had attracted a bee.

My favourite oak tree looked past its best. Perhaps the very dry weather has affected it.

And the ruined cottage at Blochburnfoot is well past its best to say the least.

In spite of some dark clouds looming over the monument, the day stayed fine . . .

. . . and I got home after 24 most enjoyable miles. The electric power had certainly helped me over the many undulations on the route.

We had picked so many plums that Mrs Tootlepedal had spent some of the time while I was out making stewed plum puree and several jars of plum chutney.

After a cup of tea, I went out into the garden with my bird camera to see what there was to be seen.

I thought that the white butterfly in the panel above might have found a friend but another angle showed that it was clinging to a hydrangea petal. Mrs Tootlepdal pointed out the very piebald jackdaw.

At the bird feeder, which I had refilled, greenfinches and sparrows competed for attention.

I see that the weather is due to change at the weekend, so I am glad that I made good use of the sunshine today.

The flying bird of the day is one of the pigeons that scavenge the fallen seed under the feeder retreating to the walnut tree when I came out into the garden.

Some ups and downs

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew’s visit to his local park today. He chose a good day for it.

Once again I managed to keep to my resolve to do some work on the Archive Group’s newspaper index after breakfast. I am getting back in the groove and completed more pages than I expected, which was gratifying. When I had finished that task, I went round to the corner shop and came home and filled the bird feeder. Then I took a walk round the garden. There was hardly a butterfly to be seen today, and not many bees, but there are a lot of flies about and it is sometimes hard to take a flower picture without one or two sneaking into the shot.

I am a bit addicted to taking pictures of the salvias because I love their colour so much, and the pale blue hydrangea also casts a spell on me.

I went to check on the astrantias and found a visitor that was new to me also checking on them . . .

. . .and since it was unusual, I took a second photograph of it

I think that it may be a potter or mason wasp, but I am happy to be corrected if anyone knows better.

We had time for a cup of coffee before Sandy arrived on his electric bicycle. We had arranged to cycle across the moor to Newcastleton to have lunch in the Olive Tree cafe there with him. We jumped on our e-bikes and set off. About a minute later, we were back home again. It was apparent that Sandy’s tyres needed to be pumped up. Once they were inflated properly, we set off and soon found ourselves going up the hill to the White Yett in very nice conditions, sunny but not too hot.

Thanks to the electrical assistance, it wasn’t much longer before we had climbed the hill and were heading over the moor . . .

. . . past a lot of purple heather, looking good in the sunshine.

The road to Newcastleton is narrow but on the far side of the county boundary, it has been very well resurfaced.

The down side of this is that in many places the edge of the road is quite a bit higher than the verge. We often had to pull over to let cars by, and on one of these occasions Sandy found himself putting his foot down where there was a considerable drop before there was anything to put his foot down on. As a result, he unavoidably but gracefully toppled over. Very fortunately, he landed on a soft tussock, and after a moment for him to get upright and orientated again, we were able to continue as planned.

We arrived in Newcastleton without further incident and enjoyed a good lunch in the cafe.

We had rushed down the hill into the village on our way over but we went considerably slower up the steep hill on our return journey. This let us appreciate the wild flowers in the verges. There was a lot of scabious.

The hill is so steep that the village is completely hidden when you look back.

Our trip home went smoothly without further incident until Mrs Tootlepedal, who has a small battery on her bike, found herself without any power left with the last hill still to go. This was annoying, as we had done the journey a month ago with sufficient charge to get us both home. Still, it is no fun pushing or trying to pedal a heavy electric bike uphill, so I put on full power, whisked home as fast as I could, got into our car, and drove back to pick up the stranded cyclist and her bicycle. Sandy had politely stayed with her to keep her company. We drove home, and he pedalled back behind us. Why the battery died this time when it had managed the last trip is a mystery. We went at the same speed.

It was a pity because the small crisis had cast a little shadow over what had been, and still was in spite of it, an enjoyable and sociable outing.

We had a cup of tea when we got home, watched the last kilometres of today’s Vuelta stage, and then heard a knock at our back door. Our neighbour Kenny had come to ask Mrs Tootlepedal’s advice about greenfly on his lupins. We went to investigate. He certainly had greenfly on his lupins.

Thousands of them.

I went to check on our lupins. They were seedy but greenfly free.

While I was in the garden I took a quick dahlia survey . . .

. . . registered a very late delphinium flower . . .

. . . and then went back to join Kenny and Mrs Tootlepedal. The verdict was ‘cut the lupins back severely’. Kenny has some lovely flowers in his garden along the dam side at the back of our house.

This is very good as we get the benefit of seeing them without the work of growing and looking after them.

I had to refill the feeder which had been emptied in our absence, and it didn’t take long for birds to notice. First, a siskin . . .

. . . and then a goldfinch.

As I hadn’t caught a flying bird yet, I went out into the garden after our evening meal to see if there were any birds flying overhead. Luckily for me, a squad of homing pigeons were out doing their training.

I had gammon and spinach for my evening meal but there was no roly-poly to go with it. Heigh-ho.

The flying bird of the day is a pair of those keep fit pigeons.

Going wild

Today’s guest picture comes from Mark’s marathon walk over the twelve hills round the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve last Sunday. It shows the party at 5am in Langholm at the start; on top of Tinnis Hill (the first hill) at 8.30am; on the high point of the walk at Roan Fell cairn (the fourth hill at ) at 12.13pm; then on the final leg (passing the eleventh hill) at 17.50pm; and finally on the top of Whita (the twelfth and last hill! ) at 18.15pm, before getting back to their starting point after 27 and a bit miles at 18.54pm. The dogs thoroughly enjoyed the walk too.

I started the day with some more Archive Group work after breakfast. Realising that three pages a day would not make a dent in the backlog of entries for the database, I upped my game and put in six. I was very pleased to find out from Sandy when he came down for coffee, that he had put in a lot of pages over the last week, so between us, we are probably catching up.

I filled the bird feeder and was pleased to see a chaffinch take up the offer of free seed.

We have had a good response from camera club members about restarting the monthly meetings of the club, and Sandy is going to make enquiries about booking the hall. It will be good if we can get going again.

Margaret joined our coffee meeting, and we had a good chat. When our visitors had left, I went on a butterfly hunt in the garden.

I found that there were more than usual about. I took pictures of a red admiral, a small tortoiseshell and a peacock.

Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a painted lady, but it flew off before I could get my camera out.

I had time to admire some flowers too.

Finally, I ended the morning by strimming some of the long grass along the back wall of the house beside the dam. Mrs Tootlepedal had already done half, so I had a go at the other half. I managed to get the strimmer jammed up with twisted grass stems so it didn’t go as well as I hoped.

After lunch, I did a little work at the computer for the church choir, and then I went for a walk. It was a fine day, and I thought that there might be some fine views from the top of Timpen. I set off to climb Meikleholm Hill which lies in front of Timpen.

Rosebay willowherb is seeding furiously.

When I got to the hill, I found that the gate was wide open, a welcome sign that there were no sheep or cattle on the hill. I chose the track that contours round the hill . . .

. . . and found that, with no sheep to munch them, the ground was liberally sprinkled with wild flowers. I spotted lots of the little yellow things that aren’t dandelions, eyebright, tormentil and nipplewort.

There was a positive carpet of scabious, and one small patch of sneezewort.

It doesn’t take much climbing up Meikleholm Hill to be rewarded with good views of Warbla across the Wauchope.

When I got to the col between Meikleholm Hill and Timpen, I could get a taste of the views to come . . .

. . . and thanks to the very good going underfoot in the dry conditions, it wasn’t long before I was enjoying the full view from the top of Timpen.

Looking to the north, my phone saw a slightly more dramatic scene than my camera did.

My camera looked west and south.

I went back to my phone to take a picture of the trig point itself and the extensive view over the Solway.

I had intended to walk along to the end of the ridge before coming down to the road, but the sight of cattle in the distance persuaded me that a more direct route down might be a good idea. It turned out that there were cattle on both sides of me, but I found a route between them and they grazed on peacefully and I descended undisturbed.

I could see Tinnis, the first hill on Mark’s marathon walk in the distance.

Below me stood Craigcleuch.

Visitors to the area can now get self catering accommodation in a wing of the big house. An ex-member of the Archive group has just stayed there.

As I came down the hill, sunlight and clouds . . .

. . . gave an ever changing light to the Gates of Eden.

Once I reached the road, the way home was direct and easy, but there were still plenty of distractions on the way.

I had to keep stopping . . .

. . . but I got home in the end.

It was only a short walk of four miles, but as I may have said before, the great thing about the area round Langholm is how much variety you can get in a short walk.

An excellent evening meal of eggs, gammon and bubble and squeak rounded off a well filled day of activity.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

Footnote: if you got this far, well done. I am sorry about the amount of photographs but it was a great day for taking pictures and I couldn’t stop myself.

Taken for a ride

Today’s guest picture is an interior from Venetia’s visit to the Roman villa at The Newt. They have made a thorough job of the building.

I managed to stick to my plan and do some Archive Group work after breakfast. Then the crossword had to wait as we cycled up to the tree nursery on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. Mrs Tootlepedal stopped to adjust her saddle on the way, and as it was right next to the river, I popped over the fence and took a picture.

From the look of the ripple in the water, there must be fish about.

We went to the tree nursery because there had been a call for volunteers as a large new delivery of trees was expected. However, when we got there, one of the crew that are working for the reserve at the nursery said, “Didn’t you get the Facebook message?” Alas, we had omitted to check fully before we came out, and thus had not discovered that the session was cancelled. Far fewer trees than expected had been delivered.

Still, no time on the moor is wasted, and as the weather was good, we decided not to cycle straight home, but to cycle on and complete a circular tour of Whita Hill. This involved a couple of rough farm tracks and an intrepid crossing of the Tarras Water by the ford at Perterburn. I sent Mrs Tootlepedal ahead to see if it was safe to cross . . .

. . . and followed on once she had got to the other side.

It was spiritually uplifting to be up on the hill on such a day . . .

. . . and the electric bikes made light of any uphill work.

I took a moment to stop to look at my favourite view up the Ewes valley . . .

. . . before we plunged back down the hill and got home after ten miles in time for a late cup of coffee.

After coffee, a rather depressed looking blackbird reminded me to fill the bird feeder . . .

. . . and then I spent ten minutes roaming around the garden.

The ornamental strawberries have had a new lease of life and are looking very decorative . . .

. . . while the lamium continues to flower unobtrusively as it has done all summer (I took a picture of its first flowers in April).

I was looking for butterflies but there were few about today, so I snapped passing flowers instead.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s chimney is on fire at the moment . . .

. . . and on the back hedge, apples and snowberries are looking better every day.

Although I couldn’t find a butterfly, there were plenty of other insects to be seen. A bee on the phacelia . . .

. . . a big fly on the mint . . .

. . . and many tiny flies on the euphorbia.

After lunch, I checked on the bird feeder and found some serious seed eaters at work . . .

. . . and once again, sparrows were well to the fore.

We are still planning what to do with the no-mow part of the middle lawn next year, and in the meantime, I gave it a going over with the hover mower to keep it quiet for the time being.

Then I left Mrs Tootlepedal to do some light gardening and went off for an afternoon ride on my electric bike. I intended to take things very easily, expecting my legs to be feeling the effect of the long ride on Saturday and the rough tracks of the morning outing. However, once I got going, the intoxicating freedom of the electric bike took hold, and I couldn’t stop myself going as fast as I could round my familiar Canonbie route. My legs loved it.

The result of this was to make me unwilling to slow down to take pictures but one sight did bring me to a halt. There has been a lot of talk in the newspapers and on the radio today about rockets to the moon so I thought that I should show Hollows Tower, where Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, stood on the balcony when he visited this area in 1972 to receive the freedom of the Burgh. Then . . .

. . . and now.

As it is open to the public, the owners have thoughtfully put a railing round the turret. I was sad to hear that the proposed launch had had to be delayed.

I had a cup of tea when I got back, and I took another quick look round the garden. Some sneezeweed called out to me.

Then it was time for the sibling zoom and an evening meal of salmon.

It was a delightful surprise to find that Only Connect, my favourite TV program by far, had returned for its latest run. That rounded off a very good day.

I took several pictures of flying sparrows today, but they were trumped by a greenfinch when it came to choosing the flying bird of the day.

Plum pecker

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia. She visited a Roman villa with my sister Mary recently. Or, to be more correct, they visited a very detailed reconstruction of a Roma villa in the grounds of The Newt in Somerset.

We had a warm and mostly cloudy day here, but it stayed dry. We cycled to church after breakfast to sing in the choir, and then Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre to lay tables for a lunch for people attending an afternoon concert there.

While she was busy doing that, I went on a butterfly hunt in the garden and found red admirals, small tortoiseshells and peacocks. I took pictures all three varieties with two different cameras without getting a really good result.

I took two pictures of salvias with the same camera, and was struck once again by how variably cameras see the same colour.

The dahlias continue to delight.

W hen Mrs Tootlepedal came back from her table laying, we e-cycled up to Cronksbank on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve to water the many thousands of trees in the tree nursery.

There are sprinklers there . . .

. . . but they seemed a bit underpowered for the task, so we used a lance and did the job by hand. The tiny saplings are looking pretty happy in their new boxes.

When we had finished the watering, Mrs Tootlepedal cleared out a little drain in a wall, and I went for a short stroll up the farm track.

Signs of autumn . . .

. . . were all around . . .

. . . but a patch of marsh woundwort held a memory of summer. They are beautiful little flowers in my opinion, just as good as our local orchids.

We got home in time for a rather late lunch which curtailed our afternoon activities. I managed a shopping visit to the Co-op, a bit of watching the mountain biking world championships, and some desultory gardening and photography. Mrs Tootlepedal preferred the Vuelta stage.

In the garden, I got yet another shade of the same colour from the salvias . . .

. . . and was very impressed by the size of a fuchsia flower.

I did some dahlia and Icelandic poppy dead heading in between looking around.

I didn’t spend much time watching the feeder today, only seeing this one headless bird . . .

. . . but while we were sipping a late afternoon cup of tea, we spotted a jackdaw in the plum tree.

It had only got one thing in mind – plum theft.

There will be quite a competition between us and the blackbirds and jackdaws when it comes to eating the most plums.

Then we went out into the garden again. There was no shortage of sparrows to see there, as they rose up in waves in front of me as I walked about.

We wish that all our roses would produce hips as colourful as the ones on the Frau Dagmar Hastrup . . .

. . . and we worry slightly about the ajuga spreading to cover the whole garden if left to its own devices.

We cut back a cotoneaster that has got too big for its boots and shredded the cuttings. Compost Bin A is filling up nicely, and it is feeling satisfactorily warm.

Then we retired indoors for the rest of the day.

In the evening, loud noises from the sky drew my attention to the usual noisy evening excursion of the jackdaws, filling the sky above our garden.

Two pairs of them take on the position of flying birds of the day.

Footnote: my walking companions Mark and David, together with two more keen walkers, joined three of the recent walks which we have done together into a continuous row, climbing all the 12 hills that form the boundary ridge of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve and covering just under 28 miles and ascending about 5000 ft in the process. They managed this stupendous task in 14 hours. Hats off to them.

Tea and cake at the abbey

Today’s guest picture is an intriguing notice spotted by my Lancashire correspondent Paul while he was in the Lake District.

We had a very pleasant day here today, warm but not too hot, cloudy at the start but sunnier as the day went on, and with a very light wind. It was a day made for cycling, so I cycled. My target was to get my cycling mileage for August up to 400 miles and at the same time to do more miles on my push bike than those done on my electric bike.

To help me with this scheme, I chose the flattest route possible and headed off down the main road south. On long rides, I make sure to stop regularly to ease my back and knees and take on regular drinks of water. My first stop beside the Esk after ten miles was enlivened by the sight of the Canonbie Vintage Tractor Society having a ploughing match.

This is along standing tradition as the first report on a ploughing match in Canonbie appeared in our local newspaper in 1854.

My 20 mile stop was at the Carlisle bypass bike path. I have mentioned this before, but I continue to be pleased by how many wild flowers get planted these days when new roads are constructed. I could see four varieties from where I was standing eating my first banana of the day.

The next flowers of note that I came across were far from wild. An enterprising Cumbrian farmer had put a long row of stunning dahlias beside his barn along the road side. I couldn’t do them justice with a single shot. This is less than half the row.

I was pedalling along the rolling country between the Solway Firth and the Lake District hills at this point. Looking north across the Solway, I could see the familiar shape of Burnswark Hill on the Scottish side.

The little stream was crossed by a fine bridge . . .

. . . which had a useful low fence where I could rest my derriere and eat a honey sandwich. This was my thirty mile stop.

I found myself on some unfamiliar roads after a while, and passed an alpaca who was as surprised to see me as I was to see it.

The roads were so unfamiliar and the signposting so erratic that I had to stop and ask a local for directions. She said that if I went down there and then turned left, I should end up where I wanted to be. I took her word, went down there, turned left, and ended up at Abbeytown, the home of Holm Cultram Abbey, which was indeed where I wanted to be.

I took a picture of the front of the Abbey. It always looks a bit odd in my view . . .

. . . and when two passing ladies assured me that it was open to visitors, I went in and had a look around.

The roof burned down not long ago but it has been replaced by a fine new construction. The reason for the rather odd facade of the building is explained by a model in the little exhibition inside.

While I was looking around, I was waylaid by another lady who pointed out that if I was in need of a cup of tea and cake, I had come to the right place as the abbey has a small cafe attached. I was struck by how much a cup of tea and a cake was just what I wanted, and while I ate and drank, I had a good conversation about the church and ended up making a contribution to its restoration fund before I left.

This was my 40 mile stop.

Refreshed both bodily and spiritually, I headed down to the Solway shore and the road home.

I was to pass several more churches on my way.

I crossed the tidal river Whampool on my way to the shore and thought that it was very low . . .

. . . so I was very pleased to find that the tide was well in when I got to Bowness-on-Solway and the coast road.

I stopped once or twice along the shore, looking at the Gretna turbines on the far shore. I had passed these on my way out.

And I found a convenient bench at my 50 mile mark, ideal for a sit down and a second sandwich, and a look around.

Behind me, I could see the Lake District hills which had been covered in cloud earlier in the day.

With the light wind now behind me, I soon found myself back on the Carlisle by-pass and after that I followed a well used route home which didn’t call for any photos. I couldn’t resist a favourite view of the River Lyne though, taken at the 70 mile stop for a final banana.

It had been my hope to keep up a speed of 13.3 mph for the outing. This gives a neat three hours for forty miles, and I managed it for 75 miles. The final ten miles, with two modest hills to climb, proved too much for my knees, and I faded away to 13.1 mph by the time that I got home. Still, anything over 13 mph is good for me these days so I wasn’t complaining. I also achieved both targets, getting to 402 miles for the month, with comfortably over 200 of them done on my push bike. (And incidentally cycled 5 more miles than I have had birthdays which is always a minor triumph now that age has caught up with me.)

Mrs Tootlepedal told me that she had seen many butterflies in the garden, so after a cup of tea, I went out for a look. Alas, I was too late and only saw one. I took some flower pictures to make up for the lack of butterflies.

Mrs Tootlepedal had made a delicious cheese flan for our evening meal, and that rounded off a satisfying day. I didn’t take any flying birds today but I might have taken some good sea shore birds if I had been paying more attention. I only saw these two when I looked on my computer after I had got home.

Footnote one: For those interested, I append a map of today’s route. A click on the map should bring further details.

Footnote two: I have been having a lot of trouble with WP lately when trying to make comments on blogs. If I haven’t commented on your blog, it is not for want of trying. They have become obsessed with logging in when I am already logged in. I seem to be able to comment on my phone app, but not always when I am on my computer.

Moor and garden

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony in East Wemyss. He doesn’t just look at the sunrise when he is out. He sees seals beside the sea as well.

We had a fine, warm and calm day here today, with the bonus of a sunny afternoon. I managed to fit in a bit of Archive Group work after breakfast before cycling up to Cronksbank to help with the new tree nursery there. I stopped on the way up to see if any of the trees we had planted in earlier volunteer sessions were showing progress. They look as though they are doing well.

The Reserve is paying workers to get the thousands of seedlings potted on at the nursery, so the volunteers concentrated on getting the nursery area rabbit proofed and tidied up. My task was to clear the last of the unwanted turf off the hard standing, and although there wasn’t a lot left to shift, I found it hard work.

It didn’t help that the midges were out in force, but I was able to borrow a protective net to keep them away when my midge repellent wasn’t up to the task. I noticed an interesting plant on a wall while I was taking a breather.

It repaid a closer look.

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is a stonecrop, a type of sedum.

The nursery area looked well organised by the time that we finished . . .

. . . and Mrs Tootlepedal and I will be up again of Sunday to do some watering of the many thousands of little trees. Unless it is pouring with rain, of course.

On my way home, I stopped off at the bird hide as the sun came out and sat in perfect peace for a while. It was perfectly peaceful because there wasn’t a single bird in sight. After a while, I gave up, photographed a fine gate outside the hide . . .

. . . and pedalled home in time for lunch. Mrs Tootlepedal had been having a sociable coffee morning with her ex-work colleagues while I had been on the moor.

I filled the feeder and checked on the birds before eating my soup. A demure siskin posed for me.

After lunch, we went out into the garden. After her coffee morning, Mrs Tootlepedal had strimmed the grass along the dam at the back of our house, and she told me that she had admired the fuchsia at the back gate. I went and had a look at it from the dam side of the gate, and I agreed with her. It is admirable.

I had a look round the garden to see if any flowers had come out behind my back and found a leycesteria in the back border.

Old favourites are still supplying elegance and colour . . .

. . . but as you can see in the bottom right panel above, the sedums are now out enough to attract insects. There were lots of flies on them but some bees as well . . .

. . . finding enough half open flowers to make foraging worthwhile.

Other bees preferred the dahlias.

There were a few butterflies about as well, but not nearly as many as there would be in a normal year.

While Mrs Tootlepedal, in the guise of Attila the Gardener, put paid to some past their sell by plants in the border beside the front hedge, I did some gentle shredding, sieved a barrowload of compost for the border, and generally mooched about complaining of feeling rather tired. I wasn’t too tired to take some more flower pictures before we went in for our afternoon cup of tea though.

We spent a little time watching the end of today’s stage of the Vuelta, and came back out into the garden later on. I cut back a cotoneaster and then joined Mrs Tootlepedal for a quiet moment on the new bench beside the middle lawn. Opposite us, the sun was shining through the long leaves of a crocosmia.

The birds had finished all the seed in the feeder so I took the feeder in for cleaning and put out a fresh one. Siskins soon appeared to try it out.

I don’t know where all the sparrows were today.

The day drew quietly to a close with a sibling zoom and an evening meal of salmon followed by the last of the gooseberry fool.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch coming to try the new feeder.