Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. Like my sister Susan, she visited Kenwood House recently. She chose this wonderful copper beech as her subject for photography.

After a comparatively warm night, we had a warm day. It wasn’t very warm, just about average for the time of year, but it shows how cold it has been that when we went outside, it felt positively balmy.

The forecast was for showers later, so I managed to get out for a 20 mile cycle ride down to Canonbie and back and still be home in time for coffee outside with Mrs Tootlepedal and Margaret.

My legs were shocked by this early effort and my average speed was unimpressive. I didn’t stop for views or flower pictures as there was nothing new to see today. My only stop was at the Hollows and Gilnockie Bookstop (that is not a spelling mistake)….

…a mini book repository in the bus stop shelter in the village.

After coffee, I had a walk round the garden.

Tulips are still a feature…

…but other flowers can be seen too, both where they have been planted…

…and in the paths in the vegetable garden.

Then I set to work using the lawnmower to clear up the mess left by the jackdaws on both lawns yesterday. They had pecked up an amazing amount of moss.

The middle lawn looked quite respectable again when I had finished…

…so I wasn’t best pleased when Mrs Tootlepedal spotted that some jackdaws had returned to the scene of the crime in the afternoon.

During the pecking, there was an outbreak of violence…

…but order was soon restored and the pesky birds went back to making more work for me.

The weather was not quite good enough to persuade all the tulips to open…

…but it shouldn’t be too long now.

The two families of blackbirds keep the garden full of birdsong…

…and I caught a glimpse of a youngster waiting for worms in the nest by the garage.

My favourite blackbird view of the day was this mother on the fence.

After lunch, I caught up with a little business on my computer, checked on the bird feeder (not so busy today)…

…and then enjoyed a quiet sit in the peace of the greenhouse with Mrs Tootlepedal while it rained outside.

I went back in, leaving Mrs Tootlepedal in the greenhouse as the rain got heavier, and joined the virtual choir practice with the Carlisle Community Choir. I have got a week to record my contribution to the next virtual performance and I am quite pleased to find that I have at least memorised the music and words, something that I often find a struggle.

It was Hen Harrier day today, rebranded as Skydancer Day. Mrs Tootlepedal had watched the online event in the morning. It featured a well made short film about the Langholm Moor buyout in which a picture of Mrs Tootlepedal wearing her home made harrier T-shirt last year made a fleeting appearance. It seemed a good idea then, after the choir practice, for Mrs Tootlepedal and I to drive up to the moor to see if we could see a hen harrier or two.

We had planned to park at the White Yett and walk down the road, but when we looked back after going a few yards, the cloudscape looked thoroughly alarming…

…so we went back into the car and drove down to “Harrier Corner” where a large lay-by lets bird watchers park in safety.

As it hadn’t started to rain, I took a short walk along the road while Mrs Tootlepedal watched a stonechat from the car.

I enjoyed the view down the Little Tarras valley…

…and was pleased to find that there was enough water to make small streams run…

…as we have been dry enough for fire to be a hazard in recent weeks.

There were things to look at beside the road as I walked back to the car…

…but there was no sign of any harriers.

We were just getting ready to drive home, when Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a bird flying across the road in front of us. It wasn’t a harrier but it was the next best thing, a short eared owl. Although it was some distance away, it stopped for long enough on a young tree to let me take a picture or two.

Then it took off and we watched it quartering the ground in search of prey until it flew above the horizon and disappeared over the other side of the ridge.

We drove home very satisfied with our brief outing and found ourselves in a heavy shower which we had just missed while we were on the moor.

We have another reasonably warm day in store for tomorrow, but once again modified by a brisk wind and frequent showers.

The flying birds of the day are a joint effort by a siskin and a goldfinch.

Moss mayhem

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan. She came across this very elegant bench on a visit to Kenwood House in London.

After what is supposed to be the last of a long series of cold nights, we got another cold morning with added rain. However, as I write this in the evening, the temperature is as high as it has been all day (50°F, 10°C) and the era of frosty nights is finally over for a while at least. As the garden needed the rain, we are hoping that the next few slightly warmer, wetter days will see plants that have been waiting in the wings, burst on to the stage.

We got a shock when we looked out of the window after breakfast. An army of intruders was vandalising both lawns.

It was a gang of jackdaws…

…digging up the lawn to get at leather jacket grubs (we think). Whatever it was that they were eating, there were a lot of them about and the jackdaws kept busy for most of the morning.

Mrs Tootlepedal kept busy too, painting a bedroom window. I installed a new router for our internet. This was a nervous business, but everything went smoothly and we managed to connect our various appliances to the new gadget without difficulty. The new router has even made writing this blog a slightly quicker process. This is very welcome .

It rained fairly gently all morning and most of the afternoon too, so there was no cycle ride or walk and my camera only got used for looking out of the window. There were many, many birds for it to look at, and the seed in the feeder went down at an alarming rate.

Chaffinches battled over a perch as the seed reached the bottom…

…and a siskin ignored an incoming chaffinch when the feeder had been refilled.

The traffic was so heavy that two birds found themselves gripping the same perch at one point.

Goldfinches clung on to whippy willow withies in the brisk wind as they waited for their turn..

I made some potato and onion soup for lunch and while it was cooking, I went back to watching the birds again.

A male redpoll appeared on the feeder pole…

…and it looked so handsome that I took another picture of it…

..before it dropped down to join a greenfinch on the feeder.

Our smallest and largest regular visitors to the feeder made a good contrast.

By the time that I looked at the birds again after lunch, the seed had gone down again and the rain was beginning to take its toll…

…though a sparrow looked a bit more waterproof than the greenfinch.

I did some singing practice after that as we have another virtual performance with the Carlisle Choir coming up, and my voice is rusty from lack of use. I have another few days to get it in order.

The rain faded to a drizzle as the day went on, and finally gave up altogether just in time to let me get out for a three bridges walk before our evening meal.

It was still very gloomy but the cherry blossom beside the river brightened the day up…

…and the blossom itself was very fine.

Although the light was poor, bridges turned out to be good spots for seeing birds today. I saw a goosander from the Town Bridge and an oystercatcher from the Sawmill Brig…

…and in between, I passed a pair of chatty mallards on the Kilngreen.

Views were not available as the hills were covered in low cloud…

…so I concentrated on some very welcome greenery among the trees. Spring continues to arrive.

The strong winds of the morning had dropped away, and it was a treat to be out in the calm, damp, early evening, surrounded on all sides by new growth and the calls and songs of birds.

When I got to the Scholar’s Field, I was greeted by the amazing corydalis which grows out of a crack in the wall there.

The jackdaws have left our lawns in quite a state…

…especially when you consider that I scarified that lawn myself a couple of days ago. I will have to go and collect up the moss as soon as there is a dry moment tomorrow. If there is a dry moment tomorrow that is, because the forecast is a bit gloomy as far as more rain goes.

Fortunately, Mrs Tootlepedal has taken out a month’s subscription to Eurosport, so we will be able to spend any rainy afternoons watching the Giro d’Italia bike race for the next three weeks. It is inspiring to watch really good cyclists at their peak. The winner of today’s short 5 and a bit mile individual time trial completed the course in under 9 minutes! I make that well over 30 mph.

The flying bird of the day is one of the peckish jackdaws.

An adventure

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He found a really lovely patch of bluebells on his walk today.

We had anther chilly night here which only just stayed above freezing, and it stayed pretty cold in the morning. The forecast suggested changeable weather all day but offered a dry spell after breakfast for a while. Encouraged by this, Mrs Tootlepedal set out, with me in tow, to cycle up the top of Callister, round the Westwater forest tracks, and then back down the road again in time for lunch.

We don’t have mountain bikes so we just took the bikes we use for shopping which meant walking up a few of the steeper hills. Although we have walked round these forest tracks, we hadn’t cycled round them before and it was open to question as to whether this was entirely a good idea.

More questions arose soon after we set out from Langholm when it started to rain, and indeed there was a hint of snow too. We persevered though, and by the time that we had got to the top of Callister, the bad weather was behind us…

…and as we left the road and took to the forest track…

…prospects looked not too bad.

As we went on, if we looked over to the south, it appeared that several nasty looking showers had passed us by…

…but our way ahead looked dry….

…and finally we got to a bit of downhill which was most welcome.

The forest is still quite young so we could see our track through the trees round the head of the valley in front of us.

We stopped there for a while to enjoy a banana and a date to give us the strength for the return journey along the other side of the valley. The cycling conditions varied a bit but the bikes coped very well…

…and there were always some ominous looking dark clouds about to make sure that we didn’t take too long about the trip. I didn’t stop to take many pictures but the moss caught my eye and the many self seeded spruce trees on at the side of the track showed that spring is springing.

Before our final (cautious) descent back to the road, we got two fine views, first into the valley ahead of us…

…and then into the neighbouring valley of Cleuchfoot.

Although the pedal along the forest roads had been fun, it had been bumpy and hilly so it was with some relief that we hit smooth tarmac and found the wind helping us back down the road to Langholm.

At just under sixteen miles, it was the longest ride that Mrs Tootlepedal had done for some time, and she was very pleased to have suggested the trip. I thoroughly enjoyed it too and it is a tribute to the solid back tyre (no pneumatic tube inside it at all) on my shopping bike that it got me round quite comfortably.

After lunch, we did some gardening, and some quiet sitting in the warmth of the greenhouse listening to the blackbird singing above our heads.

I sieved some more compost, catalogued the tulips…

…checked two of the espalier apples for apple blossom and the cow parsley for promising buds.

Then I went in and looked at the birds for a while.

I really like the look of the new willows round the feeder….

…and the birds seem quite happy with them too.

I made a lamb stew for a casserole, and then I got a bit restless. After fidgetting about for a bit, I went off for a walk out along the Murtholm and the road to Broomholmshiels and back to Langholm through the woods.

Once again, there were black clouds in the offing…

…but once again, I was lucky and the showers passed me by.

In the sunshine, I saw colour in the trees on the other side of the river…

…sparkling wood anemones beside the track…

…a very surprising row of daffodil survivors against a background of young birches at Broomholm…

…as well as flower heads on the wild garlic in the riverside wood, wood rush beside the road and any amount of primroses on banks.

The sun went in for a lot of my return journey home but it shone on the gorse. It is too early for leaves on the oaks, and the mature birches were not as green as I had hoped. There are some very old oaks there.

When I got back to the river in the town, the cherry trees on the bank made for a cheerful sight.

I made Mrs Tootlepedal and myself a cup of tea when I got back, and then it was time for the regular sibling Zoom, followed by lamb stew for the evening meal.

After a final chilly night tonight, the weather is supposed to get considerably warmer, so I hope that there will be a lot of new growth everywhere to photograph in the coming week. It would be nice to get out without having three layers of clothing on.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Running scared

Today’s guest picture is the third and last of the inviting gates and doors that Venetia discovered when she visited that garden at Whatcombe in Somerset.

Once again we had a frosty night here (min 25.5 °F ), and once again we had a chilly morning. It was dry though, and the wind was brisk and nippy but it was far from a gale. Once again, I managed to get out on my bike before coffee time. With the temperature only just making 40°F (4.5°C) as i set off, I was well wrapped up. Unlike yesterday, there was no sun to warm me up and taking my gloves off to take pictures was not an attractive possibility so my camera stayed firmly in my pocket as I went round my familiar 20 mile trip to Canonbie and back. It wasn’t a clear day at all, so I couldn’t even see if there was still snow on the Lake District hills.

I did stop a couple of times on my way back from Canonbie when I had warmed up a little. They have finally almost finished work on the new Canonbie Waste Water Treatment site, a project that has been in development for what seems likes decades. It is a very neat construction but as you can see, they obviously feel that it has to be screened by exceedingly dense rows of new trees.

When I got to Irvine House, I was struck by the progress that the Jack by the Hedge is making. It is bidding to take over the world.

A little shower of mixed hail and sleet discouraged me from any more photographic activity, though the sun came out just as I got back in time for a quick walk round the garden before lunch.

I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had already voted in the Scottish Government election. Feeling full of energy after this good deed, she was proposing a cycle trip round the forest track at Westwater, a fifteen mile outing. I was up for it but when I cycled along to the Buccleuch Centre to place my vote in the ballot box after lunch (and a check on the birds)…

…I was nearly blown off the road by a heavy gust of wind. Cycling back home, it was obvious that the wind had got up a lot since my morning rid. As there was a possibility of rain too, we decided to postpone the cycle outing and do some gardening instead.

I used the time to get some more moss out of the front lawn with our electric powered scarifier. In spite of a bit of light rain, I got the machine to work and it did a good job…

…and helped by Mrs Tootlepedal, I cleared the moss off and then mowed the lawn to give it a finished appearance. It is only a small lawn, but we got five wheelbarrow loads of moss out of it. If there was a market for used lawn moss, I would be rich.

Moss is almost impossible to compost in a standard compost pile so Mrs Tootlepedal took a sackful and she is going to see what happens if you keep it hermetically sealed for a year.

As I mowed the lawns, the weather gods had their bit of fun by making the sun come and the wind drop. It was too late though, and we will cycle round Westwater another day.

I needed a sit down after the lawn work and I found another insect on the doronicum beside the new bench.

Insects are still scarce. Later on we saw a lone butterfly flutter across the garden, and a single bee working the dandelions in the vegetable garden.

After trying the new bench for a while, I went in and picked up my bird camera…

…and then went out to record the many blackbirds about in the garden. There was a lot of competitive singing and collecting worms and grubs to feed the young in the nest in the clematis.

Then I sat on the bench outside the kitchen window. This gave me a fresh angle on the bird feeder.

The birds were not bothered that I was sitting close to them and clicking away.

Suddenly it was time for a cup of tea and some ginger biscuits.

Since the sun was still out, I decided to go for a little walk to stretch my legs and ward off some unwelcome lethargy which was creeping over me.

I started by crossing the suspension bridge.

This was more significant than you might think, as the bridge is going to be closed from next Monday for several months for some long overdue repairs. I wonder how often I will automatically walk down Caroline Street on my way to the High Street before I remember that the bridge is closed and I will have to use the Town Bridge instead.

As I walked over the bridge today, a pair of goosanders swam underneath it.

The bank on the far side of the river was rich with Lady’s Smock.

I followed the goosanders down the river and felt that spring is finally arriving…

The water in the river is still low, so after I had crossed Skippers Bridge, I scrambled down the bank to stand on the stones beside the water and look at the bridge from the upstream side for a change…

…and I took a special picture for my cello playing friend Mike who is interested in water levels..

I saw a sandpiper on the opposite back, and it would have been nice to stop there for a while to try to get a good picture of it, but black clouds were looming up. I wanted to avoid getting wet if I could, so I set off along the Murtholm track.

There were more signs of spring beside the track…

…but sadly, the sun had gone behind the clouds by the time that I got to the bluebells. They are coming along well…

…and should be at their peak next week with some more rain and some genuine warmth on the way.

The clouds had not yet produced rain so I finished my walk by going along the track from the Stubholm, past a fading blackthorn…

…and taking the Gaskells Walk path through young birches.

This got me out onto the road at the Auld Stane Brig and I walked back to the town at a good pace as spots of rain were beginning to fall.

My last shots of the day were a tiny ivy leaved toadlfax flower next to an impressively hairy Herb Robert plant on a wall near Pool Corner.

Mrs Tootlepedal had purchased an individual steak pie from the butcher for my evening meal and I felt that I had earned it.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin seen from the bench outside the kitchen window.

A sign of the times

Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia. It shows another of the garden doors that she met on her visit to the NGS garden at Whatcombe.

Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that we had another sub zero night followed by a very cold morning.

The cold night hadn’t discouraged the hedgehog and our trail camera found him/her pottering about beside the greenhouse at ten o’clock last night.

Although it was cold, it was fairly sunny and dry, and as there was no danger of ice on the roads, I managed to leap up after breakfast and get out for a cycle ride before I had even had a cup of coffee.

I had a quick look round the garden before I left and was pleased to see an insect on a doronicum as they have been very scarce…

…but I was even more pleased to see an orange tip butterfly fluttering about. It kindly settled on a hosta leaf to take in the sunshine, but sadly, it didn’t open its wings fully out. It did open them just enough to show why it is called an orange tip.

In spite of the benign looking views as I headed up towards Callister…

…it was very chilly, especially as I was pedalling into a keen north westerly breeze. My back, with the sun shining on it, was quite warm, but my front was freezing.

Things got better when I changed direction, and I found the wind behind me as I crossed the bridge at Linnbridgeford..

It was a clear day, and I could look across the whole of the county to see Criffel in the distance on the other side of the Nith Estuary.

Things are slowly greening up…

…but there is some way to go before I will be cycling through an all green tunnel at Solwaybank.

I was on the road down to Canonbie when I got a surprise. This was not what I expected to see when I looked across the Solway to the Lake District Hills.

I hope that any walkers on the fells were properly equipped.

Wild flowers in the verges, apart from dandelions, were few and far between so I was stopped in my tracks by a burst of yellow. Disappointingly, it turned out to be a field escape bunch of oilseed rape, but there was a little patch of what I think is stitchwort beside it.

The dandelions were doing a good job of directing cyclists round the corner when I got to Hagg-on-Esk.

In spite of the sunshine, pleasure in the 25 mile ride was modified by the chilly wind and I was pleased to get into the warmth of the kitchen when I got home.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to be part of a group escorting a distinguished visitor and his wife up to the moor to have a look around. As she left a sprinkling of rain encouraged me to get the washing in but it didn’t last long.

When she returned, she reported that the party had been caught in a short but heavy snowstorm while they were up there. Not a flake of snow had fallen in the garden while she was gone.

I had been able to watch the birds at the feeder in the dry.

The feeder was busy and a rare great tit visitor got so frustrated that it dived down to get away from the crowd.

Goldfinches wasted time squabbling instead of getting on with eating..

Mrs Tootlepedal’s new willows seemed very acceptable to the birds.

I had a moment to sieve a batch of compost before Mrs Tootlepedal came back and as usual, I had a look around while I was out in the garden.

There is not much progress, but new tulips are coming out from time to time.

…but primula, magnolia and clematis are not doing so well. The primulas keep trying but several heads get knocked back by every frosty night, the magnolia has a lot of flowers but most have brown patches on their petals, and the lone blossom on the garage clematis has not been joined by any others yet.

I keep dead heading the daffodils, but some are lasting well.

And the blackbird keeps singing.

Mrs Tootlepedal spotted him feeding young in the nest which is hidden in the garage clematis today.

The evening turned out to be the best part of the day as far as the weather went. I should have gone for a walk after the sibling Zoom, but I was overcome by that sitting down feeling, and only managed to look at a greenfinch and a sparrow on the feeder pole…

…and admire the neat work that Mrs Tootlepedal has made of the new bed beside the drive.

The mini greenhouse is protecting some self seeded poppies. The rest of the bed is planted with vincas.

Looking at the forecasts it seems that we have got two more chilly nights to come before a spell of definitely warmer weather. On the downside, there is rain in the forecast for every day for the next week. At least things should start to grow. Mustn’t grumble.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch going at full throttle.

Less rain, more wind

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He was pleased to find that recent rain had refreshed the Markeaton Brook in Derby. He tells me that although it looks very bucolic, it is actually running through the heart of the city

We had a miserably cold start to the day, with a cruel northerly wind making it feel colder than it was. It wasn’t at all warm to start with.

On a brighter note, Mrs Tootlepedal had her hair cut professionally for the first time for ages. The result was very smart.

We had coffee indoors, and although we did get out into the garden, we didn’t linger too long. I did some dead heading and compost sieving while Mrs Tootlepedal distributed some decorative bark about.

I had a look round for new flowers and found brunnera and trillium coming out, and I saw that old favourites hellebore and lamium are still doing very well too.

The rain had filled the pond and pond skaters were enjoying themselves.

It was a lot warmer being inside and looking out at the birds.

A greenfinch turned up in a sunny moment and as time went on, chaffinches tried unavailingly to get a seat at the table.

With rude siskins about, chaffinches queued up when a perch was free…

…and then became just as rude as the siskins.

Photographing pot plants indoors was warmer too.

I had got rather low by yesterday evening, after a day of being stuck indoors. During the lockdown I have become a bit addicted to my daily exercise outdoors, and miss it when I can’t get it. As a result, in spite of a showery forecast and a chilly wind, I went out for a walk in the afternoon. It certainly wasn’t an attractive day for cycling so walking was the best option.

I met my friend Gavin, who was also out for his daily walk, and we admired the green of the willows and poplars beside the church and the pink of the cherry beside the Esk.

I stopped to photograph a pair of goosanders on the Esk…

…while he walked on in the hope of finding a dipper at the Sawmill Brig. When I caught up with him, he had had to make do with an oystercatcher. At this point, he went his way and I went mine.

He went up the Lodge walks. My route was to the Hill Mill Brig and then back towards the town along the Baggra. I passed lichen, hawthorn, marsh marigolds, and moss and more lichen…

…and with a little sunshine and the wind now behind me, walking along the Baggra was a pleasure. I looked back as I got near to the end of the track.

I turned up onto Castle Hill, and after a shirt climb, I took the track round the contour of the hill. When I looked back over Langholm, I was very happy to see definite signs of trees with leaves in the foreground…

…and there were more when I looked ahead along the track.

This so cheered me up that I was almost able to ignore the light rain which had started as soon as I had got to this exposed section of my walk.

However, I was soon walking in the woods and only the odd clearing with added bluebells…

…took me out into the rain again.

I followed the forestry tracks until I got to the track above Potholm where I joined the road down to the bridge over the river. On the farm wall above the bridge I saw my first Welsh poppy of the year and from the bridge itself, I saw my second sandpiper.

As I walked along the road back towards Langholm the rain persisted for a while, but I was distracted from it by lots of lichen when I looked at the wall beside the road, and occasional lambs when I looked over the wall..

Luckily the rain didn’t persist, though it stayed rather grey and damp. As I had my walking poles with me, I ventured along the narrow and sometimes rather exposed path cut into the bank above the river down to the Duchess Bridge.

At the bottom end of the path, there was a wonderful display of wild garlic.

In spite of the rain, the path was still very dry and I got safely down to river level where I crossed the Esk twice, once by the Duchess Bridge and then back by the Jubilee Bridge. In between, I walked down the Lodge Walks (with added colour today) and then round the new path on the Castleholm.

I had a check on the Noble Firs there, and found that a lot of the male flowers had now gone and the female cones were developing nicely.

My route had been well chosen for shelter from the wind, and as the rain had not been very heavy and didn’t last too long anyway, I was able to enjoy my seven and a half miles without qualification. I felt a great deal better for the exercise.

I ate three of my ginger biscuits with my post walk cup of tea so I am not sure that it will have done much for my weight loss programme.

While I had been out, Mrs Tootlepedal had gone down to the river and acquired several willow branches. She used these to replace the buddleia branches which we had stuck into the ground around our bird feeder to offer the birds a bit of protection and a perching place while waiting.

She hopes that the willows may root. They certainly look better than dead buddleia branches.

The change didn’t put off the birds and soon after I had refilled the feeder, three greenfinches arrived…

…and goldfinches and chaffinches tried the willows as leaping off places.

As the evening went on, we got the best weather of the day and Mrs Tootlepedal cycled down to the co-op to do some shopping. It was too late for me though and I just enjoyed the sunshine vicariously without going out into it.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch full of determination this morning when the buddleia was still in position.

Wet but welcome

Today’s guest picture shows the regular East Wemyss walking partners of our son Tony.

The forecast promised rain and wind but there was a moment without either after breakfast, and Mrs Tootlepedal seized the opportunity to cycle up to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back. The rain had just started by the time she returned, and then it didn’t let up until after our evening meal. Our local weather station reported that three quarters of an inch rain fell during the day. This is by no means a large amount, but it will freshen the garden up and bring things along.

On the down side, it was cold all day with the temperature actually dropping as the day went on. I nipped round to the shop after breakfast but otherwise, I stayed in.

This made for a dull day with only the birds to keep my cameras interested.

A blackbird was singing in the rowan tree again when I went out to the shop…

…and a siskin had the good sense to get to the feeder before the rain started.

After that, the rain came down and the birds turned up ready for an argument.

The feeder was busy and a siskin had to hang about.

At times there was a siskin overload.

We had coffee indoors and then Mrs Tootlepedal, who was in a very active mood today, drove off to visit a garden centre. I cooked some ginger biscuits while she was gone. As I had plenty of time, I weighed each ball of biscuit dough and ended up with a very evenly sized tray of biscuits.

They don’t taste any better for all being the same size, so I probably won’t bother with the weighing again, but it was visually pleasing.

After lunch we had an entertaining Zoom session with our son Alistair and our granddaughter Matilda. Matilda read us a story from the Beano, a children’s comic, and in a sign of the times it featured Hannah the Hacker saving humanity from enslavement by robots by using some cunning coding.

After the Zoom, I went back to watching the birds for a while.

They were wetter now.

A chaffinch gave me two contrasting poses on the feeder pole.

At the feeder itself, there was a lot of action again.

…but this quieter picture summed up the day well.

I needed a bit of action myself but didn’t fancy getting cold and wet ,so I resorted to a doing an hour of pedalling on the bike to nowhere in the garage.

By the time that I had finished, evening meal preparations were required, and following that we enjoyed the regular zoom session with my siblings.

The rain had stopped as the Zoom ended. I made a token gesture and went out into the garden for a few minutes before our evening meal.

It was good to see properly wet soil in the vegetable garden…

…and new tulips are coming up to replace the red ones which are going over in the bed at the end of the lawn.

A white dicentra has arrived, looking a bit soggy after the rain.

There was another flower to photograph when I went back inside. Mrs Tootlepedal has been nurturing a geranium which she had taken in from the garden for the winter, and it has just produced a flower. It will have to warm up a bit before it goes out again.

There is more rain to come in the week ahead and it is not going to get much warmer, if at all until the weekend. “Ne’er cast a clout till May is out” will be the order of the day it seems.

The flying bird of the day is another goldfinch.

Footnote: Yesterday’s post of April header pictures has been generally welcomed, but unfortunately many readers, perhaps those who get email notifications in particular, must have not realised that it wasn’t the proper post of the day, with the result that Sunday’s diary post only got two thirds of the usual visitors. If you like bluebells and missed the post, you can find it by clicking this link: Blue Sunday

April in headers – an experiment

I wondered if readers might find a review of the past month consisting solely of header pictures interesting. Click on any picture to go through the gallery. It starts at the end of the month and goes back to the beginning.

For goodness sake, don’t click the like button out of habit or politeness unless you think that this is a good idea.

It is very easy for me to do so if it goes down well, I will do one for each month for this year. I am not wedded to the idea, it was just a notion.

Blue Sunday

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia. She likes to take advantage of the National Gardens Scheme and found this inviting door while visiting Whatcombe, a ¾-acre mature Edwardian garden with colour-themed, informally planted herbaceous borders, in Winscombe in her home county.

We had another chilly morning, and when the sun wasn’t out it felt rather miserable. Luckily the sun was out when we walked through the park on a trip to see how the bluebells were getting on.

As we left the house, I noticed that the clematis over the garage door is showing its first flowers.

We hope for hundreds more!

There was plenty to see in the park on our way out. We looked up at a fine noble fir and down at a thrush on the grass….

…and on our way back, we spotted Herb Robert and a wild strawberry growing on the park wall.

The park itself was looking very peaceful.

When we got to the bluebells, they were making a good show in spite of the very dry, cold weather…

…but they are not at their best yet, with many flowers still waiting to open…

…so another visit will undoubtedly occur, probably next weekend.

Needless to say, Mrs Tootlepedal had brought her manure bucket with her, so while she paid a visit to the manure mine at John’s stables, I admired the nearby trees…

…and the view of Meikleholm Hill and Timpen in the background.

When we came to the bridge over the Wauchope from the park on our way home…

…I tried to remember when it was installed. A look in the extensive Langholm Archive Group’s photographic collection showed me that it was built and installed in 1989 by a local firm. I also found a picture of the wooden version of the bridge in 1931 and another of the old bridge being demolished in 1989 to make way for the present one. The photo archive, which is looked after by Sandy, is full of delights.

Luckily the sun shone for most of the time that we were drinking coffee in the garden with Margaret and we could see a strangely twisted con trail in the sky above us.

It got too cold to sit for long when the clouds came over, so Margaret went home and we got busy in the garden.

We were visited twice. Mrs Tootlepedal was planting some pansies round the chimney pot when a neighbour brought in a chaffinch which she had found in poor condition on the road after it had crashed into a window. After holding it for some time, Mrs Tootlepedal tucked it safely into the chimney pot to see if it would recover while she went on with the planting.

We were also visited by Gavin and his grandson Leo. Leo was hoping to see tadpoles in our pond.

Rather to Mrs Tootlepedal’s surprise, the chaffinch did recover and flew off, and much to my surprise, Leo did see quite a lot of tadpoles.

I sieved some compost into the wheel barrow and inspected the lawn where I was happy to find that a patch of daisies had escaped decapitation when I mowed the lawn a day or two ago.

I would have had those daisies out in years gone by, but we have a different attitude now.

Tulips are still the stars of the show.

We didn’t stay out long as it was chilly, and I made some lentil and celery soup for lunch, ate a bowl of it, and then watched the birds.

The forecast for tomorrow is not good, I don’t know if birds can recognise that there is a change of weather on its way, but the feeder was really busy, with sometimes as many as forty birds milling about. At the moment when I first looked out of the window, it was total world domination by goldfinches.

Some siskins got a foot in, but a chaffinch was consigned to waiting in the wings.

I was able to add a greenfinch portrait to the gallery of our regular visitors….

…and a female redpoll posed for me too.

We had considered an afternoon bike ride but I was struck by an unusual burst of good sense and decided to have a genuinely restful day. While Mrs Tootlepedal retired to read her book, I went out and sat in the garden.

After noting some future promise from trillium, allium and peony…

…I sat on the bench under the walnut tree and let life pass me by. A small flock of big gulls passed me by too.

From my bench, I could see that a euphorbia had got its claws out and that I hadn’t managed to kill the Wren rose when I pruned it earlier in the year.

Beside me, a bumble bee explored the dicentras….

…and a on the rowan tree, a blackbird once again provided a musical accompaniment.

It was very pleasant, and I might well have stayed there longer if it hadn’t been for the regular virtual choir practice with the Carlisle Community Choir. The virtual practice went as well as it could. I miss listening to the sound of a large number of competent singers. All I can hear in my kitchen as I sing along is me. That is not quite the same, to say the least.

My quiet day continued after the practice and there is nothing to report about it.

The overnight trail camera caught another picture of the hedgehog, but it was only of it walking away again. More thought will have to go into placing it in the right position to catch it walking towards the camera, but that will wait for a day or two.

We are battening down the hatches for a day of wind and rain tomorrow. The rain will be welcome, the wind less so.

The flying bird of the day is one of the passing gulls.

Cheese but no biscuits

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Gavin. He came across this classic situation on his way to have a walk in the country a day or two ago. It was good enough to make an appearance on the BBC Scotland website.

We had another chilly morning after another frosty night, so I was in no rush to get out and about before coffee. I did just find time for a quick cycle round to the corner shop. Luckily our neighbour Liz was back from her walk in time to invite Margaret, Mrs Tootlepedal and me to have coffee in her garden which is good deal more sheltered than ours. As a bonus the sun came out, so we were very happy as we sipped and chatted.

After coffee, we went back into our garden and Mrs Tootlepedal continued watering while I sieved some compost, dead headed some daffodils (and the first of the tulips), mowed the greenhouse grass and took a few pictures.

There is not a lot going on but the grape hyacinths are looking better than ever, we have literally had a drop of rain, a single poached egg flower is out, two of the apples have got one blossom out each, and the silver pear is going well.

Thank goodness for the tulips which are keeping up the colour quota.

Ambient music was provided by a blackbird.

In a probably hopeless effort to improve my brainpower I had oily fish for lunch in the shape of sardines in a tasteful yoghurt and lemon juice pâté.

After lunch, I made some goats cheese and while the milk was slowly heating, I watched the birds.

It was busy again and I spotted a redpoll definitely shouting in the wrong direction….

…but I was wanting something more peaceful today so I took a look at those who were standing and waiting. I found representatives of three of our most frequent visitors.

I made the cheese and put a press on it to help it drain. My original plan was to follow the cheese making with some ginger biscuit baking, but the day had warmed up a bit and it seemed a crime to spend time inside when I could be out walking, so I went for a walk.

Ever since I twisted my knee during the great drive project, I have been having some discomfort in my right leg. I have trying to find the best form of exercise to get it going properly again and for once, cycling doesn’t seem to make things better. Walking up and down hill is definitely not helping, so I went for a gentle, flat stroll up the Wauchope road today to see if that was beneficial.

There was very little wind, and I was soon able to take my jacket off and tie it round my waist. Even though it is now May 1st, there was not the riot of greenery that there should be. There was some…

…and there were new catkins dangling…

…and there are lambs in every field…

…but it just does not feel like spring yet. There isn’t that overwhelming feeling of newness, of freshness, of a new start. There is still a lot of winter about.

I walked through the little wood beside the road and noticed a large number of cones on the path…

…and looked around to see if I could see a squirrel. I have seen one in this wood before, but there was no sight or sound of one today.

Not every bridge round Langholm is built of stone, and not every bridge passes the test of time, and this one has definitely seen better days.

Although, the long dry spell has dried up a lot of the moss and lichens on our walls, some lichens are enjoying the weather.

I got to Wauchope Schoolhouse and walked a little way up the road towards Cleuchfoot. It had blackthorns to provide a gateway for it…

…which is why this is a popular spot for sloe gin drinkers in autumn.

I took pictures of the three burns which meet near Wauchope Schoolhouse, Bigholms Burn, Logan Water and Gencorf Burn…

When they have joined together, they from the mighty Wauchope Water which winds through a tree lined valley for all of three and a half miles before it joins the Esk.

Today, it had an added oyster catcher.

Walking back to Langholm, going generally gently downhill, was a treat and I even got a little more of the day’s sporadic sunshine as I got nearer to the town.

I like the way this tree is trying to bend its shape to the slope that it is on.

The only disappointing things abut the walk was the lack of new wild flowers, but the sun did its best to cheer me up and picked up the three familiar flowers that had been on show today.

A horse looked down on me…

…and just to prove that the weather gods have not lost their sense of humour, it started to rain just as the sun was warming things up nicely. I thought that I was going to get wet in the last half mile of my walk, but the weather gods soon had had enough of their joke and the rain stopped as i got to Pool Corner.

A movement by the caul caught my eye and when I looked again, I saw an unusual bird. It didn’t help by hiding its head and turning its back on me…

…but when it moved off among the rocks, I got a better view. I am pretty sure that it is a common sandpiper.

When I got home, I was able to add a fourth posing portrait to today’s bird collection.

When I looked at the feeder, the redpolls were busy there too.

I had taken my time over my seven mile walk so there was no time left to cook biscuits when I got home. That was unfinished business. The forecast for Monday is for strong winds and rain so that may be a good day for biscuit making.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.