Getting the point

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba. She had ventured into Alberta when she took this picture of a bridge made especially for wild animals to cross a major road in the Banff National Park. She says that this is a very good idea, as running into a passing moose is not a good experience for either the moose or the driver.

We had a cool but sunny morning here, and when I drove down to Canonbie with our neighbour Margaret after breakfast, we saw our countryside looking at its best.

We were going to have our booster Covid vaccination and the flu shot at the same time. The village hall was being used as a vaccination centre, and we were greeted and treated very promptly. After the obligatory 15 minute sit down to check for immediate bad reactions, we were able to drive home, and arrive in plenty of time for a brief pause before we met again for coffee.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to combine a bit of business with some shopping and I took some flower pictures . . .

. . . and found that some busy buzzing was coming from green bottle flies on the big daisies.

Then I clipped a bit of hedge at the back of the vegetable garden and went back in.

It was too good a day to sit inside all afternoon though. I didn’t think that I ought to go cycling in case I suffered from a reaction to the vaccination. Falling off with a dizzy spell is never fun. However, when walking, you can always sit down if necessary, so I went for a walk.

I followed Walk 8 of the Langholm Walks project, starting from the Kilngreen, walking past the Lodge Walks and up on to the Baggra . . .

I walked along the Baggra, stopping to admire the cladonia lichen, went down over the High Mill Brig, and then along the track beside the Ewes Water . . .

. . . until I got to the little bridge over the Ewes at the old shooting range.

I didn’t cross the bridge, but turned up through the woods on to the open hill, passing some fine fungus under the trees as I went.

The ground on the hill was remarkably dry after our recent rain, showing just what a long dry summer we had this year. All the same, it was quite hard work going up the hill, and I was happy to stop and enjoy the view.

The route follows a very straight wall up to the road to the White Yett, and it doesn’t look too steep from the bottom, but when you look back down from near the road, you realise why you are breathing a bit harder than usual.

When I got to the road, I kept going uphill and took the track from the MacDiarmid Memorial to the Monument.

On my way up, I was able to look down on the town tucked into the valley below . . .

. . . and when I got to the Monument, I looked over the wall at the patchwork of commercial forestry across the moor. . .

. . . and up towards the north. There I could see in the background the portion of the moor that the community buy out group wants to buy next to add to the section already purchased.

It was chilly standing on top ofWhita in the north westerly breeze, so I didn’t stay to enjoy the views for too long before heading carefully down the face of the hill towards the town.

I was careful not to rush as there are many opportunities for the unwary to slip and slide, especially towards the top of the hill, so I kept my eyes firmly on where I was putting my feet.

Once I was able to pause and look around, I did so.

As I got down the hill, the track became easier . . .

. . . and by the time that I got to the Kirk Wynd, I had leisure to dawdle and enjoy more lichen and fungus.

The light was beginning to fade as I arrived back at the Suspension Bridge . . .

. . . and when I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had come in from working in the garden.

The day was rounded off with our regular family Zoom which had some lovely pictures from Hardwick Hall taken by my brother Andre. This was followed by a second helping of Mrs Tootlepedal’s apple sponge with custard at our evening meal.

I didn’t have a moment to look at the birds at the feeder today, so instead of a flying bird of the day I will have to make do with a sitting bird of the day.

Mr Grumpy looks as though he’s beginning to feel his age. My knees feel for him.

Suffering from the wind

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. Having seen our neighbour Liz’s garden fungus in yesterday’s post, she wants to point out that she has fungus in her London garden too.

We had another sunny morning here today, but as is to be expected at this time of the year, a sunny morning brought low temperatures, and our garden thermometer was registering a measly 1°C when I got up for a rather late breakfast.

We had a leisurely morning, idling about until we had coffee with Margaret, although I did manage to cycle round to the shop to top on supplies. When Margaret left, I had a look round the garden to see what the low temperatures had left flowering.

I was delighted to see that the snapdragons were laughing at the chill . . .

. . . and other flowers were quite perky too.

Even more surprising was the sight of hopeful insects on some flowers.

The prize for effort goes to the little red rose which is covered with optimistic buds.

I picked the last of our beetroots, and although they were very small, they cooked perfectly well and tasted very sweet. I also dug up a leek and made some leek and potato soup for lunch.

After lunch, I took a moment to watch the birds and found a female chaffinch disturbed for a moment by a passing male chaffinch which did not stop for a snack.

Chaffinches and goldfinches made up the bulk of the visitors while I was watching . . .

. . . and some birds had to wait their turn.

Still, the sun was out, so it was probably no hardship to perch in the plum tree for a while.

Although the temperature had risen by the afternoon, it was far from warm, with a brisk north westerly wind making me wrap up with several layers before getting my bike out.

I stopped almost as soon as I had started, when a heron at Pool Corner flew up as I approached, and perched in a nearby tree. This is not Mr Grumpy.

When I got going again, the wind turned out to be a considerable obstacle to swift progress, and I got to the top of Callister at a miserable 8 mph. I wasn’t helped by my legs. They were still feeling yesterday’s walk, and were not in the mood for vigorous exercise again today.

I humoured them, and pottered round Gair and the Solwaybank windfarm at a modest pace.

On my way to Gair, I stopped to look over towards the hill fort at Burnswark and was once again impressed by how many electric wires the powers that be can put up in front of a good view.

There were light clouds about, and I liked the way that one of a pair of turbines at the windfarm was in shade and the other in sun.

I had the wind behind me by this point so I wasn’t as pleased as I might have been by the tree lined road a little further on . . .

. . . as despite its beauty, it was definitely keeping the wind from helping me along.

I was impressed by a how small my bike looked when I leaned it against a big tree beside the road . .

. . . while I stopped to take a picture of the first bridge over the River Sark.

Looking upstream, I could see that nature had provided another temporary bridge.

I took a final picture to show what a fine day it was . . .

. . . and then concentrated on getting my legs to carry me round the rest of my 25 mile tour.

Mrs Tootlepedal had done some useful gardening while I was out, but it had been too chilly to stay outside long.

It was good day for eating garden produce. After the beetroot and leek earlier on, Mrs Tootlepedal made an apple sponge for afters at our evening meal. I contributed some custard and it made a tasty end to a quiet day.

It was mildly annoying to see how many of the birds at the feeder approached it from the shadows cast by the feeder itself. Today’s flying chaffinch is a good example of finding the only shadow in an otherwise sunny spot.

Up, up and away

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia. While she was on a shopping trip, she passed this family of swans sitting quite happily a few metres away from a very busy road.

After a series of warm but wet days, we finally awoke to a chillier but sunny morning today. It was very welcome.

After breakfast, I went out into the garden to chat to survivors. If I looked carefully, I could find quite a few.

Among all the bright colours, I was struck by this nasturtium skeleton on the bench outside the kitchen window.

I got the wheelbarrow out and sieved another load of compost from Bin D. It has rotted down well and is easy to sieve, a reward for trying to have a varied selection of material going into Bin A, and some regular turning.

I just finished the compost task in time to make a pot of coffee to drink with Sandy, who dropped in for a chat. He told me that he had had his booster vaccination in Canonbie yesterday, and that he had seen me pedalling through the village. He remarked that I hadn’t seen him because I had had my firmly head down in the rain.

When he left, I watched the birds for a while . . .

. . . and was pleased to see a couple of dunnocks about among the finches. This one posed on the hedge for me.

Mrs Tootlepedal had gone to have her coffee with our neighbour Liz. I went across to join them and found Margaret and Liz’s daughter Jane there too. As we left, Liz pointed out some good fungus on her lawn.

When I go back in, I had another look at the bird feeder. Sometimes there is more going on at the feeder than the human mind can take in.

A coal tit and a blue tit provided a couple of quieter moments.

Although the sun went behind clouds at lunchtime, it remained a very reasonable day, and I considered the relative merits of a walk or a cycle ride. The fact that my walking boots were only slightly damp after my wet walk of two days ago, while my cycling shoes were still soaking from yesterday’s rainy ride, swung the vote in favour of a walk, and I set off to climb up Meikleholm and Timpen hills.

I passed a good selection of fungi on my way . . .

. . . and a bit of colour was provided by golden grasses, red hawthorn berries and dappled bracken.

It was wasn’t as windy as I had expected when I got to the top of Timpen, so I walked along the ridge before I circled back down to the road, enjoying the slightly misty views of ridges and valleys as I went, and a distant view of the Solway Firth gleaming in the west. (Click on a gallery frame to get the bigger picture.)

It was drier under foot than I had expected, although there was more water about than on my last walk along here in June.

Among the general views, a few details stood out.

And I could look down on the enormous greenhouse that will become a medicinal cannabis growing facility when official clearance is granted.

I liked the mosaic of colours on the Potholm Hill ridge across the river.

I had chosen a route that gave me a fairly gentle walk back off the ridge towards the road home . . .

. . . and fortunately the road down the hill is not as steep as it seems in this picture . . .

. . . though it does seem quite steep when I cycle up it in the other direction.

As I had my walking poles with me, instead of going all the way back along the road, I took the narrow and fallen leaf covered path along the hillside above the river. . .

. . . which leads down to the Duchess Bridge.

I had hoped to end my walk with a feast of fungus among the woods, but I only saw a handful.

After five and a half miles of quite strenuous walking, I was more than ready to have a cup of a tea and a slice of freshly made bread and raspberry jam when I got in. Mrs Tootlepedal had had a busy afternoon too, with Langholm Initiative business and gardening keeping her occupied all the time that I was out, so she joined me.

We are promised another good day tomorrow. If it turns out to be true, I will go cycling this time.

The flying bird of the day, caught in the nick of time, is a greenfinch stretching out for a landing.

Not Tootlepedal but Totalpuddle

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He took this reflective picture of his son Dan resting on a bridge while they were on a recent walk together.

After some overnight rain, we woke up to another grey and damp day here. It was still rather warm for the time of year, but the persistent drizzle did not encourage an adventure into the garden .

I had a good excuse to stay indoors, as Dropscone brought his laptop round to get my assistance in installing a new program on it. He has a touching faith in my computer expertise, but on this occasion, I was able to help out.

He had brought some of his excellent scones with him, so as soon as we had finished the computer business, we set about drinking a few cups of coffee to wash the scones down. We were joined by Mrs Tootlepedal and our neighbour Margaret, and the general conversation lasted for some time. Dropscone, Margaret and I were a bit cross that Mrs Tootlepedal had got her booster and flu vaccines while we three more elderly people had still not received the call.

When they left, I walked round to the shop under my big umbrella, and then I peered out of the window through the gloom to see if any birds were arriving at the feeder.

A chaffinch appeared from the left . . .

. . . and a sparrow turned up from the right . . .

. . . and then another chaffinch arrived.

I was so excited that I had to sit down for a while to recover.

A bedraggled goldfinch . . .

. . . and a mixed bag of greenfinch, chaffinch and sparrow completed my bird count.

After lunch, I surprised myself greatly by deciding to go for a bicycle ride in spite of continuing drizzle. A look at the forecast suggested that the rain might stop soon, and then there would be a dry interval before some really quite strong winds (gusting to 30 mph) would get up just in time to blow me home. It seemed like a suitable moment to go cycling.

The plan worked well in one respect at least. There was indeed a brisk wind to help propel me back home. In other respects, it wasn’t quite so successful. It turned out to be quite windy at the start of the ride and very windy as I headed down to Canonbie. The drizzle didn’t continue, but this was only because it soon turned into quite heavy rain and this came round with me fort most of the ride of the twenty miles to Canonbie and back

Even though I was well wrapped up, I got pretty wet, but as it was still warm, I decided to regard the outing as an adventure and not a penance. As a result, I enjoyed myself battling against the elements. I found myself humming, “There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent his first avowed intent to be a cyclist.”

I hadn’t brought my camera with me as it was still drying out after yesterday’s walk, but when the rain stopped for just a moment as I crossed the Hollows Bridge, I took a picture there with my phone.

After I got home, I found that my skin was the only thing that I was wearing that was truly waterproof.

However, my day was made a lot better when Dropscone rang up to say that he had found a number to ring which had let him book a vaccine appointment at the end of the week. I quickly rang up and was able to book one for myself and, quite amazingly, the lady on the end of the phone let me book one for our neighbour Margaret too when I explained that she can’t drive and I would be able to give her lift down to Canonbie where the vaccination centre is. The national Covid rates are so high at the moment that all three of us will be pleased to have a bit of extra protection.

I realised that I hadn’t taken any colourful pictures during the day, but by this time there wasn’t much of a chance to correct this omission. It was still a very gloomy day.

There might be a chance of some sunshine tomorrow, and if it comes, I will try to get out onto a hill and make use of it.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Going the extra mile

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Caroline who woke to an unusually coloured dawn over Portsmouth today. Shepherds were quaking in their boots.

We woke to a miserably grey morning here, and the day showed admirable consistency in remaining miserably grey all day.

I was happy to do some work for the Langholm Archive Group on my computer, looking out at the birds after breakfast . . .

. . .and before coffee with Margaret, when greenfinches were prominent to say the least.

I also found a moment when it wasn’t drizzling to sieve a load of compost. Mrs Tootlepedal is improving the soil as she does her autumn tidying up, and there has been a run on sieved compost.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s late lettuces have done very well, and are proving to be surprisingly sweet and crispy for the time of year. I had some lettuce leaves in my lunchtime bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, and fortified by this, I went for an afternoon walk in some light rain.

After getting very wet socks on a recent walk, I have just purchased some gaiters, and I was keen to try them out today. I struggled to fit them properly, and Mrs Tootlepedal kindly suggested that I might like to watch a YouTube video to learn how to do it. I was too proud to admit that I needed help and didn’t watch the video. However I did secretly listen quite carefully while she watched it herself, and managed to get them fitted correctly in the end.

Now, well prepared for a rainy walk with gaiters, waterproof trousers and my big winter coat, I set out boldly to walk ’round Potholm’, and see what I could see on a very gloomy day.

To get a bit of colour on my walk, I took a picture of a nasturtium at our front gate as I left.

Otherwise, I largely found black, white and grey subjects, like this gull . . .

. . . and an old friend on an island in the river.

It was another day with no views of the hills. . .

. . . and mostly all that I could see was the track in front of me.

It was unseasonably warm though at about 15°C, and as I was well protected from the light but persistent rain, I was quite happy to potter along looking at fungi . . .

. . . and distant figures on the track in front of me.

I found a tree stump and more fungus at Potholm.

I crossed the river and found myself walking into a light breeze and more noticeable rain now that I had come out of the woods. I stuffed my cap in my pocket and pulled my hood over my head as I walked along the road past Milnholm farm.

A cow was no happier with the weather than I was. (All UK cattle have to have individual identification tags.)

The wall along this road is always a rich source of lichen, and as the clouds were very low, I looked at the wall instead of the hills. . .

Some way along the road, the rain eased off, so I pulled down my hood and would have put my cap on if only I could have found it. After patting every pocket, it became obvious that I had dropped my cap along the way, so I turned and retraced my steps until after nearly half a mile, I came upon it lying soggily in the middle of the road.

When I got going in the correct direction again, I found that the clouds had started to lift off the hills a bit . .

. . . and I could get a better view of the river below me . . .

. . . and, if I peered hard enough, even a glimpse of the mast on the top of Warbla ahead of me.

This was only a tease by the weather gods though, and the clouds soon came down again.

I had a last look at the trees beside the river . . .

. . . before getting onto the road back to Langholm.

It was not at its most beautiful.

I got home without getting too splashed by passing traffic, though I am always grateful for the opportunity to give motorists the enjoyment of covering an old pensioner with dirty spray when they drive merrily up the road without slowing down as they pass me on a wet day. Simple pleasures.

The new gaiters worked very well and my socks were snug and dry when I got home.

I took only my second flower picture of the day before I went in.

A cup of tea and a slice of toast with bramble jelly replaced any energy expended on walking 6 miles and I was fully restored when it was time for our regular Zoom with my siblings. We often share pictures on these Zooms, and today we got a visit to an art gallery and a canal.

Looking at the weather forecast, I can only hope that patient readers won’t mind a few more misty pictures in tomorrow’s post!

I couldn’t choose between two flying chaffinches for the flying bird of the day today, so I have put them both in as they flew past a disapproving greenfinch.


Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. It shows my sister Susan chatting to an old friend in Granary Square in London. (Susan notes that the flowers are plastic.)

After an inch and a half of rain overnight, we woke to a grey and drizzly morning here.

Chaffinches didn’t seem to mind the rain too much . . .

. . . and quite a few visited the feeder after breakfast.

Mrs Tootlepedal boldly cycled to church in a light drizzle, but I walked under a large umbrella. I was pleased with this plan, as it was still raining when we came out of the service.

Our organist Henry got married yesterday, and for some reason didn’t turn up to play today. No substitute could be found, so the few choir members who turned up joined the congregation in the body of the kirk, and we all sang to pre-recorded music.

After a restorative cup of coffee (and the last of the date rolls), I went out for a three bridges walk. The drizzle had stopped, but I took a small umbrella with me just in case.

It wasn’t a day for views as the cloud over Whita came down as far as the town . . .

. . . Castle Hill could not be seen behind the Town Bridge . . .

. . . and there was no sign of Warbla in the opposite direction.

Mr Grumpy could be seen though . . .

. . . and there were a lot of sitting ducks to shoot at the Kilngreen.

As I like misty trees, I was not entirely bereft of photographic subjects . . .

. . . and the Lodge Walks were looking very nice, even on a gloomy day like today.

I spotted a few more misty trees . . .

. . . and I kept an eye out for fungi as I went along . . .

. . .and found decorative leaves to enjoy, both on trees . . .

. . . and bushes.

It started to rain as I walked, and I was grateful for my little umbrella. I peered out from underneath it at trees on the far side of the field.

Did I mention that I like trees in low cloud? There were plenty to choose from on this walk.

At 15°C, it was very warm for this time of year, but I still didn’t go very far as the rain was quite persistent. I soon found myself going across the Duchess Bridge.

The path back towards the Scholars’ Field on the far side of the bridge had been blocked recently by a fallen tree, but someone with a chainsaw had kindly sorted that problem out . . .

. . . and I was able to get home with no scrambling involved.

I had a look round some very soggy flower beds before going in for a late lunch.

The best flowers were to be found in a vase on the kitchen table when I went inside.

Outside, a pigeon arrived to pick up fallen seed.

In the afternoon, I drove down to Carlisle to sing with the Carlisle Community Choir. The tenor section was extremely thin, and as we have to sit quite far apart at the moment thanks to Covid, there wasn’t much in the way of support from other singers, and the best that our conductor could come up with after one tricky section was, “Well tried, tenors.” Nevertheless, I enjoyed the singing a lot more than the Zoom practices which we had during the full lockdowns.

As we have no interval for social chatting these days, our practices are a bit shorter than they used to be, and this gives me a bonus. Not only can I listen to an early music show on my drive in, but I can now listen to some of a jazz record request programme on my way home. These are my two favourite kinds of music so I am very happy about this.

After our evening meal, I was content to collapse on the sofa and do a little television watching to wind the day down.

There were flying birds about today, but not generally at the moment when I was looking out of the window with my camera in hand, so this mishmash was the best that I could do.

The end

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. It shows a member of his walking group wondering if there is a possible chance of a lift home.

We had another chilly, grey morning here, with the temperature at three degrees when I got up for breakfast. Once again we were in no hurry to get out, though Mrs Tootlepedal and I both made short shopping excursions. We waited until after we had had coffee with our neighbour Margaret before venturing into the garden.

I was in optimistic mood and when I saw one or two surviving dahlias . . .

I hoped for the best. Mrs Tootlepedal is more realistic though, and she saw all the dead and dying dahlias, and very soon a lot of them were in the wheelbarrow.

It was very sad to see the dahlias and other flowers going over after they have given us such good value, but even I realise that there comes a time when things are definitely over..

Still, there are other flowers that have survived the cold . . .

. . . and when I looked carefully, I could find quite a few more.

It was hard to miss the big Michaelmas daisies . . .

. . . and the Lemon Queen . . .

. . . and as the weather is set to warm up a bit, they should be with us for a bit yet. In fact, our cold spell only lasted for two days, and as I write this in the evening, it is warmer now than it has been at any time today.

When we went back in, I had another go at making a tarte tatin.

While the tarte tatin was cooking, I spent a moment looking at the birds. I noticed there was a tendency for the birds to stand up straighter as time went on.

A goldfinch was looking so severe that a chaffinch was in two minds as to whether to venture any closer to the feeder.

Then I got the tarte out of the oven. I left Mrs Tootlepedal to get it out of the tatin pan when it had cooled, while I went out for a cycle ride down to Canonbie and back. It was still pretty cool, so I had to wrap up well.

It was calm, but it was very gloomy, so I pedalled along without stopping to take any pictures until I got to my half way point approaching the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass.

I had hoped that the two cold nights might have brought about a change in colour in the trees, but in truth, it was not much different from the last time I was out on my bike.

I did see one or two hints on my way back up to Langholm from Canonbie . . .

. . . but they were only hints.

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal in full Attila the Gardener mode, and where there had been dazzling dahlias, there were now only bare beds.

I shed a tear.

The dahlias may have gone but the slime mold is popping up all over the vegetable garden.

I took pictures of two more floral survivors. . .

. . . and went in to see how the tarte tatin had turned out.

It turned out that Mrs Tootlepedal had turned it out very neatly.

It went down well with some cream for afters at our evening meal.

According to the forecast, we are in for a few days of warmer wetter weather, so I may get to try out some new gaiters which I bought after getting very wet socks on the guided Tour of the Moor last weekend.

The flying bird of the gloomy day is a blue tit.

A double whammy

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan. She came across this Antony Gormley figure in Winchester Cathedral on her recent visit.

We woke to a beautiful sunny morning here. The price to pay for this was a temperature of 1°C when I got up. After a quick peek showed me that there was ice in the car windscreen, I was in no hurry to get out and about. I was quite happy to read the newspapers and do the crossword until Dropscone came round for coffee.

As well as some of his excellent scones, he brought news. He had had a letter telling him that his winter fuel allowance, which the government hands out to old people, had gone up £100. I had had no such letter, and he explained, rather gleefully I thought, that this was because I was two months too young to qualify for the extra payment. He then went on to point out that as I had missed my flu vaccination because I was a year too old, I had managed simultaneously to be too young and too old at the same time. How we laughed.

When he went home, I ventured out into the garden. The ice on the car windscreen had melted by this time, and when I looked around, I found that the dahlias had survived the chilly night with aplomb.

And, as you can see if you look carefully at two of the pictures in the panel below, there were even some bees about.

The nerines were totally unaffected.

I had a look at the clover in the vegetable garden.

Along with the long grass around it, it is due to head for the compost bin soon, as Mrs Tootlepedal gets ready to dig the bed over and plant potatoes in it next spring.

I passed a hosta, which I thought was ageing gracefully, on my way to the front garden.

Although it was only 6 degrees, the sunshine was enough to bring out both red admiral butterflies and various bees.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy writing up the minutes of a Langholm Initiative meeting, so I was happy to go back indoors and do nothing much until lunchtime. At this time of year, the sun takes a long time to get round to the bird feeder in front of the house, so I couldn’t even watch the birds profitably.

The sun stayed out and there was hardly a cloud in the sky, so after lunch I put on several layers of my cycle gear and went for a ride. At 7° it was still quite chilly, so I chose a route that would keep me in open sunshine for the most part.

It was not the most scenic route but it did have its moments.

And even when I stopped for a snack at junction with the motorway near Kirkpatrick Fleming, there was an interesting pattern in the gravel to keep me visually entertained.

There was just enough wind to slightly annoy me on the way out, but not to help me noticeably on the way back, so I had to concentrate on pedalling.

At this time of the year, the sun is already beginning to sit fairly low in the sky all day, and by the time that I got near Canonbie, the shadows were starting to lengthen.

After cycling along the newly surfaced and now wonderfully smooth section of the Canonbie by-pass, I stopped to take in the view . . .

. . . and then made a little diversion down to the bridge over the Esk at the Hollows . . .

I have been using tinted wrap round cycling glasses for some time now, but there is no doubt that they make winter cycling a bit gloomy, even on sunny days. It occurred to me that non-tinted glasses might make my cycling life a bit more cheerful, so I have purchased a pair with interchangeable lenses ranging from dark to light. I wore them for the first time today, and it was wonderful how much brighter both the scenery and my mood were.

The bird feeder was in sunshine when I got home . . .

. . . but a great tit perched on the shady side . . .

. . . and a small cloud came over when a coal tit perched on the sunny side . . .

. . . and on top of that, my timing was seriously off when it came to trying to capture a flying bird . . .

. . . so I gave up, and went and had a shower before our regular Zoom meeting with my siblings. My brother was in very good form, because yesterday he had been to his first live concert since the lockdowns started, and he had heard a Brahms piano trio played very well.

Because of my failure to catch a flying bird of the day when the sun was on the feeder, today’s candidate is a shadowy figure from the morning.

Walking, cooking and tootling

Today’s guest picture comes from my Lancashire correspondent Paul. He crossed the border to Yorkshire to see this nice scene at Linton.

We had another grey but mostly dry day here, after another night where the temperature didn’t drop very much at all.

My legs have been quite busy over the past few days, so they put in a request for a quiet morning which I graciously granted. We had coffee with Margaret and then went shopping at the Co-op. When we got home, I made some brown lentil soup for lunch, and while it was cooking, I made three pots of raspberry jam with some raspberries which had fallen into my shopping basket. The great thing about raspberry jam is that it is very easy to cook, and pretty easy to eat too.

Mrs Tootlepedal was keen to get some bracken to cover her bare vegetable beds over the winter, and after lunch we drove a mile or two up the Wauchope road so that she could collect some. I left her clipping away and went on a fungus hunt in the nearby wood.

I found plenty of fungus growing in the field before I even got to the wood.

And when I walked through the wood . . .

. . . I found a lot more.

It was a gloomy afternoon, with the threat of rain about, but the bracken brightened things up as I left the wood and made my way back to the road.

Mrs Tootlepedal drove home with a car load of bracken, while I walked back down the road, enjoying the contrasting leaves on a bramble stem . . .

. . . and noting the fall in the river at Bessie Bell’s since my last walk on a very wet day ten days ago.



Rather than follow the road the whole way home, I turned off onto Gaskell’s Walk . . .

. . . where I found more fungus.

It was rather dark to be taking photographs but at least the leaves have fallen enough to give me a chance to see the river dashing down the valley below the path. There are lots of leaves still firmly fixed to the trees though.

I picked a few sloes as I went along to the end of the wood . . .

. . . and then went down through the park and along to the suspension bridge over the Esk. The water has fallen enough to allow for work on repairing the pier footing to recommence.

I walked along the river for a bit . . .

. . . before heading home.

Mrs Tootlepedal had laid her bracken on a couple of the beds . . .

. . . where it will stop the winter weather from compacting the soil.

She had noticed another quite separate outbreak of the slime mold . . .

. . . and I found prettier things to look at.

There were no bees or butterflies today.

It wasn’t a day for hanging about in the garden, so we went in and I made a batch of date rolls.

In the evening, the other three members of our recorder group arrived, and we had an hour and a half of most enjoyable music making. We feel that we are getting back into the groove after our long lay off.

It was raining heavily when we finished, but two of the group stayed on for a cup of tea and a fig roll, and luckily the rain had stopped by the time that they left.

Although it is going to get quite chilly in the early hours of tomorrow morning, we are promised a good spell of sunshine, so I hope to persuade my legs that a bike ride would be a good idea.

I didn’t get a chance to see a flying bird today but I did see a standing and a swimming bird when I was down by the river.

Remembering a recipe

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone. He found this fine toadstool on the golf course while he was playing recently.

The brisker winds forecast for today did not make an appearance, and it was cool, grey but calm and dry when I went for a walk round the garden in the morning.

I looked for plants that have not appeared in recent posts, and found quite a few.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s mini orange hawkweed meadow has come up with some late flowers.

The thornless blackberry on the fence has produced a few bonus berries in its first year, but they are ripening rather slowly and even the black ones are not very sweet. We hope for better things as it matures next year.

In the back bed in the vegetable garden, some vandal has been attacking our autumn colour . . .

. . . but the dogwood with white berries next to it, is in prime condition.

In the same bed a ‘volunteer’ verbascum is standing up straight.

When I walked from the vegetable garden into the middle garden, I passed under fresh set of honeysuckle flowers.

On my way to the front garden, I passed a the red potentilla which has had a second flush of flowers . . .

. . . and a lonely Welsh poppy.

There was more yellow in the shape of a crocosmia when I got to the front garden, almost the last one of this year’s show . . .

. . . and the deep red of a Sweet William in the front bed almost challenged my camera.

I didn’t hear or see any bees until I got to the sedum outside the back door, but when I did see one, it was big.

After coffee, we went down to Canonbie for the second day in a row. This was a sad occasion though, as we were going to the funeral of the husband of an old friend, the father of one of our son Alastair’s close friends at primary school.

Archie, who had been the factor for the Duke of Buccleuch in our area, was a widely known figure and the funeral was well attended. The service was well conducted and very touching. Mrs Tootlepedal was feeling the effects of her double vaccination yesterday so we didn’t stay for the reception afterwards, but headed home for a late lunch.

As it was still fairly calm after lunch, I went for a short cycle ride. I had intended it to be a bit longer but just when I got within touching distance of England, it started to rain. Since the cars coming towards me had their headlights on, it seemed sensible to stay in Scotland and take a shorter route home. Some very light drizzle encouraged me to press on up the road and not stop for pictures.

I had noted a bit of colour on my way down the main road before the rain came . . .

. . . and I was hoping for some good tree shots. However, my revised route took me mainly through open country after that, but it did finally bring a glimpse of blue sky.

This was reassuring. I had been passed by a former teaching colleague who stopped his car for a chat. As it was right at the top of a steep hill, I was more than happy to take a moment to talk to him.

After that, I slowed down a bit and looked around . . .

. . . and, as usual, animals looked back at me.

The sun didn’t actually shine on me, but the view were I was . . .

. . . was a lot better than the massed clouds over where I would have been if I had stuck to my original plan

There were often little patches of sunlight ahead or to the side . . .

. . . but they had always gone before I got there.

All the same, I got home dry and in time for a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike Tinker who was visiting. He reported that his boots had almost dried out after our very wet walk last Saturday.

We checked on the fuligo septica slime mold before he left . . .

. . . and we found that although the original patch had diminished a lot, a new and yellower patch had formed a few feet away. We await further developments with interest.

In the evening, I made a tarte tatin. As I hadn’t made one for about a year, this was a re-learning experience, and the result could have been better. However, it was no trouble to eat, and as I have puff pastry in hand I will have another go soon, and hope to have learned from experience.

In the course of quite a busy day, I didn’t have time to look at the birds, let alone take any pictures of them, so there is no flying bird of the day at all today. A pair of cheery lilies is standing in.