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Posts Tagged ‘Azalea’

Today’s guest picture is a look back at Venetia’s African trip.  There are so few bees in our garden that I wondered whether a relative of this handsome carmine bee eater might be responsible for the dearth….but it is probably just the cool weather.

carmine bee-eater

A cold and sometimes drizzly day made it easy for me to persuade myself that another more or less complete day of rest might be good for my feet so it was fortunate that we had plenty of visitors to brighten our day.

Our first visitor was Sandy, who came round to enjoy a cup of coffee and some biscuits.  He has been very busy in his garden organising new fencing and a sitting area in front of his garden shed.   He is also about to fly away from our cold climate and visit the Canary Islands with friends.  All in all, he was very cheery as a result.

Just as we had finished the coffee pot, Scott our ex minister turned up with his wife Jane.  Obviously living in a big city has slightly blunted his coffee radar but it was easy enough to brew another pot and we sat and caught up with their doings.

While we were sipping and  chatting, the third visitor of the morning arrived in the plum tree.

rook peering

It was a rook demanding attention.

rook shouting

Always eager to please, I picked up my camera and took two profiles…

rook right profile

…showing the rook as both sensitive and serious….

rook left profile

…and then, happy with the result, the rook flew off, leaving the centre of attention to a blackbird.pecking blackbird

When Scott and Jane left, I took a moment to wander round the garden. There is little novelty at the moment because of the cold mornings and grey afternoons.

Such tulips as are still around are in a state of suspended animation…

 

thin tulip

…and only one more flower has appeared on the garage clematis.

two white clematis flowers

I went back in and when I looked out of the kitchen window, I saw the power of a pigeon’s stare.  The one on the left had caused the one on the right to completely lose its focus.

hard stare pigeon

A chaffinch, though larger than  the tiny siskin, still thought it wise to nip round the back of the feeder rather than try to oust the sitting tenant.

chaffinch nipping round the back

I made some vegetable soup, with added turmeric which is rumoured to benefit arthritic joints, for our lunch, and having eaten some, I went out and mowed the middle lawn in a very gentle way.  While I was out, I noticed that the very first astrantia of the year had appeared.

first astrantia

Regular readers will know that they can expect many more shots of this flower before summer is over.

I went in and put a week of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group’s database.  I am a bit behind the data miners and will have to find time to put in more weeks soon.

When the week was entered, I went out to see what Mrs Tootlepedal had been doing in the garden all afternoon.  She had done a lot of tidying up of the early spring growth and is busy getting ready for the next stage.  Because of the stop start nature of the weather, the first azalea is now nearing its full glory before the others have hardly produced ten flowers between them.

red azalea out

It will be a pity if it goes over before the rest have come out as it will spoil the picture which the gardener has designed.

The marsh marigolds in the pond are out of my reach and so escape dead heading but the seed heads look quite pretty in their own right.

marsh marigold

The bergenias are reaching up and still putting out new flowers…

bergenia

…but this is just about the last of the trout lilies which have come and gone quite quickly this year.

last trout lily

I was just looking at a sturdy row of pea shoots growing in an old gutter in the green house…

prize peas

…..when our fourth visitor of the day arrived.  This was Mike Tinker and as it was four o’clock, we went in for a cup of tea and some ginger biscuits.

I am adding the shreddings and sawdust from his felled cherry tree to compost bin A in judicious amounts with other materials to try to get the perfect combination of green and woody layers which will result in rich compost later in the year.

After Mike left, the fifth visitor of the day was my flute pupil Luke.

We have been working hard on improving his breath control and today I finally managed to get my thoughts about this into an order which made sense to him and we made good progress.  It is always useful for a teacher to remember that if a pupil isn’t learning something which has been explained clearly to him, then it is the fault of the teacher and the explanation not the pupil.  Don’t just say the same thing again, try something different.  This is sometimes a hard lesson for a teacher to learn.

Mrs Tootlepedal has a way with quorn mince that makes it very tasty so we enjoyed a good meal to round off an interesting day.

I did spend a few minutes before tea on the bike to nowhere in the garage just to make sure that my legs won’t drop off entirely from inactivity.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin, one of our most frequent visitors of the day.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture is a second one from my brother Andrew’s recent walk in the Peak District.  He enjoyed this fine view of Wetton Hill from a nearby peak.

wetton hill

My feet were giving me some grief this morning so I had a very quiet time, rising late and doing no more than a little light mowing and some garden wandering.

A few new flowers were to be seen.  This is a polemonium or Jacob’s Ladder…

polemonium

…and this is the first of dozens, if not hundreds of clematis flowers on the plant that surrounds the garage door,

first garage clematis

Although parts of the garden are very neat and ordered, the back border has a more natural look.

back border

I was pleased to see that at least one of the poached egg flowers has developed a little white to go with a big yolk.

poached egg flower

The Charles Ross apple has so many blossoms that I thought that there wasn’t room for any more but a closer look showed that there are still a lot of buds waiting to open.

very blossomy charles ross apple

As there were no bees about, I went around with my little pollinating brush, buzzing in an encouraging way as I dusted the flowers.

A euphorbia won the prize as the greenest thing in the garden today.

green euphorbia

The birds were hard at work and the feeder was half empty by lunchtime, leading to vigorous competition for places.

goldfinch and siskin in a scrap

Doubtless correctly worried by the possibility of being caught by a passing sparrowhawk, most birds are unwilling to risk sticking their necks out, but this goldfinch plunged right in.

goldfinch tucking head in

I filled the feeder though before we left to drive to Lockerbie in the new little white thingy to catch the train to Edinburgh.

Mrs Tootlepedal drove, her first go at driving an electric car any distance.  Like me, she found it very easy to drive, light on its feet and very responsive.  We arrived safely and made our way to the station where everything went wrong.  Our train wasn’t just late as usual, it was cancelled entirely.   They offered us the chance to wait for an hour and catch a train to Glasgow and then change to a train to Edinburgh.   As this would have got us to Matilda’s with roughly an hour in hand to talk, play, eat before leaving to catch our train home (if there was one), we declined the offer gracefully and went back to the car.  What made the whole thing worse was that Mrs Tootlepedal had made sticky toffee pudding especially.

It tuned out to be the fault of a signal failure somewhere up the line.

To cheer ourselves up, we extended our trip home to include a garden centre where we had a modest cream tea and Mrs Tootlepedal bought some stout garden string.  Not an entirely wasted outing then.

The sun was out and the first azalea of the year was enjoying itself.

red azalea

With the lilac and other azaleas on the way in and the tulips on the way out, there is plenty of colour about.

lilac, tulip, azalea

It was even warm enough for a blackbird to do a little sunbathing on our neighbour Betty’s garage roof.

blackbirds on betty's garage

A lone bee was doing its best among the apple blossom…

bee with full sacs

…and I thought about a short cycle ride until I looked up and saw some very threatening clouds massing over the town….

clouds over holmwood

…so I went in and read the papers….and looked out of the window from time to time.

partridge and pigeon

Once I had decided to not to go for a bike ride, the clouds drifted off and the bird action continued.  Siskins are equal opportunity bullies and will attack anyone, friend or foe.

two fierce siskins

We were forced to have big helpings of sticky toffee pudding after our evening meal.  Ah well, it’s an ill wind…

According to the forecast, we are in for a week of much chillier weather starting tomorrow, with some early morning temperatures drifting down towards freezing again.  The cycling shorts are going back in the draw and we will welcome the return of the winter vests.

The flying bird of the day is a redpoll.  I see that it has been ringed so I wonder where it has come from.

flying redpoll

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Today’s guest picture is a weather vane from the Somerset Rural Life Museum sent to me by Venetia, my Somerset correspondent.  The weather vane is a memorial to a long serving volunteer at the museum, a nice idea.

weather gauge somerset

The weather here was warm and sunny but not quite as warm and sunny as yesterday as the wind was stronger and the sky a bit hazier.  Nevertheless, it was a great day to be out in the garden, and after an early visit to the town for a bit of business, I spent a lot of the day in the garden.

Before I went out into the garden, I took the advice of a correspondent and tried applying some ice (in this case, a packet of frozen peas wrapped in a  tea towel) to my tender Achilles tendon.  It gave me some relief and I repeated the process a couple more times through the day.

There was plenty to look in the garden as well as to do so in between dead heading daffodils, sawing the sweet pea frame down to fit the new beds, and sieving compost, I admired a small corps de ballet of Ballerina tulips…

ballerina tulips

…and a single in-your-face orange variety of which I do not know the name.

bright orange tulip

Pond skaters have come to the pond in numbers.

three pond sketers

Blossoms have come out on two of the three espalier apples…

two apple blossoms

…and it shouldn’t be long before they are joined by the third one.

Mrs Tootlepedal is very pleased with her trilliums which have just come out too.  They were given to her by Mike Tinker and by coincidence, he passed the garden just as we were looking at them and came in to share the experience.  They are beginning to multiply so we are hoping for more next year.

trillium april

I am noting new things all the time and these tulips, the bluebell, the Solomon’s seal and an alpine clematis have all appeared over the last couple of days.

new flowers april

On top of that, we are getting very excited by the prospect of entering the age of the azalea.

first azalea

If you want eye catching green, then euphorbias are the thing to have.  Mrs Tootlepedal has them in flashy and discreet but they are both very green.

euphorbia panel

We had to stay at home as we  were expecting a visit from an electrical engineer who was going to do interesting things to our meter.  He arrived bang on time, was very polite and efficient, did some extra work beyond the call of duty to make things convenient for another engineer who is coming next week, complimented me on the coffee that I made for him and tidied everything up very neatly before he left.  Not everything in the modern world has gone to pot!

I was interested to see that he took photographs before, during and after he had finished his task as a record of what he had done.   That seemed like a very good idea to me.

While he worked, we stayed out in the garden and I looked at the trout lilies which are enjoying the good weather a lot…

trout lilies

…and the Christmas tree which is growing in every possible direction.

christmas tree busting out

We went in for lunch when the engineer had gone and I saw this blackbird with nesting material on the chimney pot outside.  Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is nesting in the climbing hydrangea growing on the front wall of the house.

blackbird wirth nest material

On the feeder itself, things were much as normal…

normal feeder

..but we did have visits from too very contrasting birds, a dove and a hawk.

collared dove and sparrowhawk panel

The hawk paid us several visits over the day without catching any of our little birds…

sparrowhawk staring

…and gave us a very exciting chase sequence to watch as it pursued a little bird across and out of the garden with many a squeal of rubber and handbrake turns on the way.

In the afternoon, I looked at the front lawn and felt that this was the day to scarify it.

The panel below shows the unscarified lawn on the left, looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth, and on the right, the very large amounts of moss that the machine lifted as it passed.

lawn scarifying

The bottom panel shows the results of going over the lawn a couple of times with the mower on a high setting to pick up the moss and one of the three wheelbarrow loads of moss that I took away.  Don’t be deceived, there is still a mass of moss in the lawn.  I will scarify it again in a few weeks time.

A poor peacock butterfly was trying to sun itself on the drive and had to keep flying up into the air as I passed with wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow.  It settled down again each time and must have been really fed up by the time that I finished disturbing it.

peacock butterfly sunning

The peacocks are appearing about a week earlier than usual this year.

While I was caring for the lawn, Mrs Tootlepedal was preparing her sweet pea fortress for the coming hostilities with the sparrows.  I predict a win for Mrs Tootlepedal this year.

sweet pea cage

As the afternoon wore on, I felt that I should make good use of the day by going for another short cycle ride and went out for fourteen miles at a gentle pace, clad in a T shirt and shorts.

The wind was gusting up to 20 mph and blew me up to the top of Callister.  I stopped on the way down to take in the view.  The garden may be springlike but it will the best part of another month until the hills go green.

callister view

I had to pedal hard just to get down the hill into the wind but I made it back to the town and enjoyed the cherry trees along the banks of the Esk between the bridges.

cherry tree beside esk

Our good spell of weather is coming to an end and it is going to get gradually but steadily cooler over the next few days and we may even see some much needed rain soon.  I just hope that it knows when to stop.  I won’t need my cycling T shirt and shorts again for a while, I fear.

The flying bird of the day was almost a sparrow hawk…

missing sparrowhawk

…but as you can see, I was too slow, so a goldfinch takes over the duty instead (no doubt keeping a sharp eye open for any hawks).

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture come from Venetia’s trip to Toulouse a couple of weeks ago.  She came across this very cheerful lady with a rather macabre exhibit in a local flea market there.

toulouse flea market

Our spell of remarkably fine weather continued with temperatures so far above the seasonal average that we were quite pleased to find them moderated by a brisk wind.

We didn’t have much time to enjoy the sunshine before we went off to sing in the church choir.  The choir sang a short anthem between the bible readings and we were stunned to receive a totally unexpected round of applause from the congregation when we finished.  It might have been sparked off by the visiting minister who was taking the service. I have never encountered this in the middle of a service before but it was very pleasing to be on the receiving end of it.

My throat is not much better but as I was singing bass, I was able to croak my way through without too much trouble.

When we got back to the house, there was a few minutes to look round the garden.  There is a lot to look at as the garden has been transformed in the week that we were away.

There is a good variety of colour ranging from the white of the  clematis round the back door…

clematis

…and a new veronica beside the middle lawn (which Mrs Tootlepedal assures me is blue but it looks dead white to me)…veronica

…and some sweet rocket near the silver pear.

sweet rockety

Slightly more colour can be seen in the pale aquilegias…

aquilegia

…and more still in the potentillas along the back wall of the house beside the dam.

potentilla

This year Mrs Tootlepedal has decided to be pleased by the various Welsh poppies which tend to pop up randomly all over the garden…

welsh poppy

…this one beside a promising looking hosta.

On the opposite side of the dam, Kenny’s euphorbia is going from strength to strength.

euphorbia

Stronger shades of colour have cropped up unexpectedly beside the yellow potentilla in the shape of this blue aquilegia which has dropped in from somewhere unknown.  It is very welcome.

aquilegia

In the garden, there was more blue as the first cornflower has come out.

cornflower

But for ‘big colour’, it is hard to beat a peony.  This is the first of the year.

peony

However, all things considered, this azalea does probably carry more zing.

azalea

Mrs Tootlepedal was worried because its leaves were tinged with what looked like an unhealthy colour but as you can see, it is looking very well.

We didn’t have time to do any lawn care or large scale watering as we had to rush off to Carlisle to get to an early start for the last practice of the community choir there before its season ending concert next Sunday.  Our excellent conductor is leaving us to go on to bigger and better things and as he will be sorely missed, the practice was a bitter sweet occasion.

My croaky voice just about stood up to singing the tenor part as luckily, the parts were generally in the lower range of tenor part singing but there were times when it gave up and I was left looking a bit like a beached fish with my mouth opening but nothing coming out.  The conductor has prescribed a week of not talking.  Those who know me will gauge how likely that is to happen.

It was a beautiful evening when we got home and Mrs Tootlepedal rushed to water her seedlings in the greenhouse (the temperature was in the mid twenties) and then she was able to do some useful work in the garden while I took a few more pictures.

The clematis at the back door is at its best when the evening sun lights it up…

clematis

…and the peony looked good too.

peony

Also looking good but not quite so welcome was this striking rhubarb flower.

rhubarb flower

The rhubarb has been neglected while we have been away and may be past its best for eating but there are promising signs of meals to come in the bean department.

broad  beans

The evening light was kind to our white potentilla…

potentilla

…but a new plant, recently purchased by Mrs Tootlepedal, was looking good in a shady bed.  It is a Choisya…

choisya

…and a good one as far as I am concerned.

The ornamental strawberries are having a very good year and Mrs Tootlepedal is spreading them about a bit.

ornamental  strawberries

I had no time to linger around at the kitchen window waiting for birds to come to the feeder today…

siskin

…but I did catch a siskin having words with someone.

The best I could do for a flying bird was a couple of shots of an aggressive pigeon trying to get another pigeon to fly away.

pigeons

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows an ingenious planter which my brother Andrew encountered on the platform of Penrith Station…..

penrith station

…where he also met my sisters Mary and Susan.  More about that later.

We had another generally fine day with just the merest touch of rain in the early evening but the sun was not so hard working as yesterday and it felt a good deal cooler.

I had intended to embark on a bicycle ride of some length but my legs had other ideas so instead I was happy to welcome Dropscone for a cup of coffee.  We sampled some of Mary Jo’s Canadian jam with his scones and found that it went very well.

Dropscone brought with him a small gift of crusty rolls which he had acquired at an extremely reasonable price from a Hawick supermarket just before it shut for the day as he passed through on his way home from a  golfing meeting late last night.  In return, we sent him off with a bag of rhubarb stalks.

I mowed the drying green and the greenhouse grass and then had a walk round the garden.

There is no shortage of things to look at.

The anemone is among my favourite flowers.  Its hand painted look appeals to me.

anemone

The white bluebells are looking strong.

bluebell

And the good weather has the tulips opening their petals to the world.

tulip hearts

At noon, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre Coffee shop and I went in to have lunch and keep an eye on the birds.

Goldfinches appeared to be unhappy about something.

goldfinches

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal reappeared and I got out the new bike and went off for a gentle and short run down to Canonbie by my usual route.  I don’t have any pictures to show from the trip as most unusually for me, I did the whole twenty miles without stopping at all, except on the two occasions when I had to cross the main road.   I have added a pannier to the set up and the bike coped with this without difficulty.

Since I hadn’t taken any pictures on the cycle ride, I took a few in the garden when I got back….

bees on dicentra

Two colours of dicentra both acting as bee magnets

garden ferns

A ferny corner of the back bed

strawberries

Ornamental and edible strawberries both in flower

lamium, tulip and rhododendron

Lamium, tulip and rhododendron

daffodil

The daffodil of the day (not many left)

azalea

This is the dawning of the age of azalea (with more to come)

…and then, as it was sunny for a bit,  Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to see the bluebells.  Unfortunately we had left things just a moment too late and by the time that we got to the bluebells, the sun had gone in again.  There was plenty to see on the way through the park and along the river…

park trees

Blossom in the park

…but the most surprising thing that we saw was several young rabbits scuttling across the grass at the far end of the park and disappearing into holes in the banking.  We stopped to watch them scamper about and one rabbit felt mistakenly that it was well enough hidden…

park rabbit

…to avoid the inquisitive lens.

We walked on.

wild garlic

wild garlic along the path

easton ferns

ferns everywhere

P1100090

bluebells and more wild garlic

When we got to them, the bluebells were at their best…

bluebellsbluebells

…but the clouds had thickened up and the dull weather didn’t do them justice.  However, the scent from the flowers was not affected and gave our walk special pleasure.

We came home along the Stubholm track…

Stubholm track

…and walked back through the park, passing stitchwort by the Stubholm track and…

stitchwort and white wild flower

…and an unknown white flower in profusion at the park bridge.

We didn’t have long to wait after we got home before my brother Andrew drove up bringing Susan and Mary, my two eldest sisters with him.   Andrew is on a holiday in north Lancashire, my sister Susan had been staying with friends in Cumbria,  my sister Mary had joined them for a short break in the Lake District based in Penrith and all three had come to Langholm to test the new bench, marvel at the new bike and have a meal at the Douglas Hotel with us.

The test, the marvelling and the meal all went off well and we waved them goodbye as the light began to fade at the end of a good day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch showing strong shoulders as it approaches the feeder.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s trip to France.  She met this emerging monster in the Japanese garden of Toulouse.

japanese garden Toulouse

Our spell of good weather continues.  We find it a bit unnerving but it is very welcome.

I couldn’t make the best of a fine morning though as I was in duty on the Welcome to Langholm Office.  I did a little welcoming and a lot of entering data into the Archive Group newspaper index so it wasn’t time wasted but I did look longingly out of the window from time to time.

When I got home, I mowed the middle lawn and found surprisingly little growth considering the weather.  Perhaps the soil has not warmed up yet after several long cold months.

The rhododendron is enjoying the weather.

rhododendron

And a present of cow parsley, which we got from a friend who was a wild gardener, is doing well too.

jenny's cow parsley

I had an early lunch and got my new bike out and set out to do a few miles to see if everything was still going well.

It was.  It was a treat to ride.

On the down side, the hills seemed to be still there and although the bike is new, the engine has seen a lot of wear and is definitely past its best.

It was a fine cycling day with just enough breeze to keep me cool but not enough to discourage me.  The new bike doesn’t encourage constant stopping for pictures but the need for an occasional breather meant that I took a few on my way round.

hottsbrig bluebells 2

A delightful small mound sprinkled with  bluebells near Hottsbrig school

gair view

The view from the Gair road, looking back to the way that I had come

dandelion clock

The dandelions are going over

Gair road

The neatly clipped beech hedges are turning green again

Irvine House

Irvine house is disappearing behind the leaves

old A7

A welcome bit of shade ahead on the old A7

I did an undemanding circle of 31 miles at a modest speed of thirteen and a half miles per hour and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Mike Tinker had promised to come round to inspect the new bike and I found him chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden when I got home. To show what sort of a day it was, rather than sitting on the new bench in the sun, they were sitting on the old bench in the shade.  And very sensible too as it was quite hot by this time.

As well as inspecting the bike, Mike and I went to look at Kenny’s euphorbia beside the dam at the back of the house.  It is impressive.

euphorbia

Before I went in for my shower, I checked on the tulips.  A little late afternoon sun brings out the best in them.

tulips

orange tulip

And Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out the first of the ornamental strawberry flowers of the year.

strawberry flower

The azalea was ablaze.

azalea

It was a genuine Tootlepedal day because after my cycle ride, my flute pupil Luke came and we had a very encouraging play and then after tea, (another) Mike and Isabel came round and we played some enjoyable trios.

The word from the weather forecasters is that our good weather should continue for several days.  We are considering renaming Wauchope Cottage as Shangri-La.

On account of the warm afternoon weather, the flying bird of the day was having a little sit down when I took her picture.

sparrow

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from another inveterate traveller.  My Somerset correspondent Venetia has been eyeing up some tasty chocolates in Toulouse.

toulouse chocs

It was a day that would have been familiar to fans of Waiting for Godot….except that in this version, Godot finally turned up.

While I was waiting for the call from the bike shop to come, a perfectly wonderful day of sunny weather with light winds was just begging for some bicycling.  The garden offered consolations and I sieved some compost and chatted away while Mrs Tootlepedal worked at some of the many tasks a gardener faces in spring.  We also tested the new bench again.

There was a lot of colour about in the sunshine.

New on the scene was this anemone….

anemone

…and the first of the azalea flowers to open.

azalea

There was a colourful corner, entirely of tulips with a hint of grape hyacinth in the background…

colourful corner tulips

…and some individual flowers to admire as well.

tulip

Particularly this one.

tulip

The spirea is at is best.

spirea

And on the back wall of the house beside the dam, the first potentilla flower of the year was to be seen.  I expect to still be able to see potentilla flowers in autumn.

potentilla

More unusually, I found our neighbour Charlotte’s dog cooling its heels in the dam.

kenny's dog in dam

Charlotte was sitting in the sun nearby but resisted the temptation to jump in too.

There was fauna as well as flora.

A rook flew overhead…

rook

…a bee buzzed about…

bee

… a baby blackbird looked indignant (they always look indignant).

baby blackbird

…and a frog basked in the pond…

frog

…with what looks like a tadpole hanging from its lip.

The most interesting visitor to the garden though was human.  Our friend Bruce arrived on his electric bike…

bruce

…with news that he had not only heard a cuckoo on his bike ride but seen it as well.  Seeing a cuckoo is a very rare experience so he was quite excited.  His electric bicycle looked very exciting too.

Mrs Tootlepedal had seen a sparrowhawk collecting its breakfast from the feeder early in the morning and while we were eating our lunch, presumably the same sparrowhawk returned for another meal….

sparrowhawk

…but this time in vain.

After sitting in the tree for a while, it suddenly flew to the ground and started prowling about among the flowers.

sparrowhawk

I have never seen this behaviour before but I suspected that it was after one of the baby blackbirds which tend to lurk in the undergrowth there so I went out and shooed the hawk away.

It went reluctantly, circling round the garden for several minutes getting higher on each turn before it flew off.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to an Embroiderer’s Guild meeting and I killed a little time until the phone finally rang and I drove off to collect my new bike from the bike shop in Longtown.

Levi at the bike shop fitted the pedals of my choice, I paid him a king’s ransom and then, putting the slow bike in for a service at the same time, I drove home with my prize.

Mrs Tootlepedal arrived back from her meeting shortly afterwards and got her bike out and came with me for an inaugural ride up to Wauchope Schoolhouse.  Then she returned and floated back downhill and downwind to Wauchope Cottage while I completed the twenty miles of my usual Canonbie circuit.

She took this picture before we set out.

new bike

The bike may not look much but it has sealed bearings, a belt drive, a 14 speed internal hub gear, mudguards and a rack so it is dirt proof and needs no day to day maintenance at all and is in every way suited to the needs of an elderly cycle tourist.  I say nothing about the state of the cyclist.

It was still a beautiful day, although the clouds were beginning to build up….

Cloudscape

…and as a day to test a new bike, it couldn’t have been better.

I kept an ear out for Bruce’s cuckoo as I went across the hill but there was no sight or sound of it and I had to be content with seeing both  a fox and a hare crossing the road in front of me (but not at the same time).

The sight of a rain shower developing to the south made me keep pedalling rather than stopping for photo opportunities though and the new bike couldn’t have been more co-operative.  It is light, firm and comfortable with the feeling that every bit of power that I was putting through the pedals was being put to good use on the road.

The 14 speed hub gear has a ratio for every occasion and I was able to drift up any little hills with an ease and grace far removed from the inelegant puffing occasioned by striving to get the slow bike up any incline.

For those with a motoring interest, it was like driving a Lotus 7 (but quite a bit slower).

I did force myself to stop a couple of times, the first to note the leaves arriving on my three favourite trees at Grainstonehead…

trees at Grainstone head

…and the second to pay tribute to fine bunch of primroses at Irvine House.

primroses

I arrived home having done 17 miles at 15 mph, a very satisfactory speed for me these days and on a real high.  I had been worried that I might have found the new bike not to my taste and would have regretted the money invested but it turned out that Levi had been quite right when I first visited him after my old bike needed replacing.  He said then that he had just the bike for me in mind and it turned out that he was quite right.

Now I hope for some good weather and the chance to give it a real workout.

The flying bird of the day is the sparrowhawk as it circled above the garden after I had disturbed it.

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