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Posts Tagged ‘bluebells’

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia, who like Dr Foster went to Gloucester but, unlike him,  found that the weather was fine.  She enjoyed a singing day in this lovely building.

gloucester

Our fine weather continued and with the breeze still coming from the south, we had an even warmer day than yesterday.  The watering seems to have encouraged the azaleas (though it may just have been another sunny day that did the trick) and there was a lot more colour about when I went out for a walk round the garden after breakfast.

azaleas coming out

Every flower had turned its face to the welcome sun.

poppy and peony

There were colourful corners about.

colourful corner

…and the clematis by the front door has finally plucked up the courage to open its buds and see what life is like outside.

front ddor clematis

Among the flowers, I found a siskin having a rest on the pond bridge.

siskin on pond bridge

I went in to make coffee in preparation for the arrival of Dropscone (with scones) and I got so excited when he came in that I knocked over the full coffee pot which was standing om the counter top, covering the counter top, my hand and the floor with a rich stream of coffee and grounds. I said a bad word and put my hand under a cold tap.

On the advice of Dropscone, I got old newspapers out and laid them over as much of the mess as I could before keeping Dropscone happy with a cup from yesterday’s coffee pot while I got everything as clean and dry.  Mrs Tootlepedal came in, took one look at the carnage and went out again.

Thanks to the good work of the much reviled mainstream media in soaking up the excess liquid, it didn’t take as long as I thought it might to get tidied up and I was soon able to sit and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and a scone while Dropscone told me of his recent golfing triumphs.

After Dropscone left, I decided to test out some shoe advice I had received from our daughter Annie and go for a walk.  It proved to be good advice and I managed to walk a mile without too much trouble.

I went round Easton’s Walk and as I strolled through the park, I saw that a wood carver had been busy on a fallen tree.

carving in park

My main object was to see if the wild garlic was out and it didn’t take long to see and smell the pretty white flowers…

wild garlic may

…which lined my walk on all sides.

wild garlic panel

The were still some bluebells out so it was a walk to exercise the nose as well as the eye.

late bluebells

Although garlic and bluebells were by far the most numerous flowers to be seen, other plants were available…

wildflowers eastons walk

…and the first sighting of vigorous grasses…

grass seed

…were a hint of more pollen to come.

The hawthorns which are in a  position to catch the sun are coming out and it will not be long until there is blossom everywhere.

hawthorn stubholm

It was a glorious day to be out for a walk even with slightly sore feet…

stubholm track

…and my mellow mood was enhanced by azaleas and rhododendrons in the park.

azalea and rhododendron in park

We have so little rain lately that our rivers are reduced to a trickle and I could see a reflection of the suspension bridge in the Wauchope above the Kirk Bridge.

suspension bridge reflection

When I got back home, I made some vegetable soup for lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal went off for a short course on how not to set the customers on fire at the Buccleuch Centre where she is a volunteer.

She had spent the morning slaving over her Embroiderers’ Guild branch accounts as she is the treasurer and had finished up with that most annoying of all accounting errors, a difference of £1 in the balances.  I trained as an accountant for a few years after leaving school so while she was out, I went over the books and pinned the error down to a slight mistreatment in the recording of the petty cash and when this was regularised, the books balanced and all was well.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and before I could even show her the books, she whisked me out of the house to record an emperor moth which she noticed sunning itself on the side of a building on Henry Street.  It was worth looking at…

emperor moth

…but annoyingly, it wouldn’t spread its wings for me, so we left it to bask and went home.

Mrs Tootlepedal got her accounts ready to print and then we went out into the garden and finished off netting the fruit cages.  It was still very warm but the sky had clouded over and it felt for a while as though we might get a thunderstorm.  Happily, the rain stayed away and we completed the task and went in for a cup of tea and a moment to watch the birds.

Two goldfinches were in hot competition for the same feeder…

goldfinch competing

…and when I looked, I saw that some bad bird had made off with the perch from the opposite side of the feeder which might account for the pushing and shoving.

I just had time to go for a nine mile bike ride on the slow bike before tea and when I started out, I was very pleased to see our friendly partridge trying to work out a reason for crossing the road in Henry Street  (you can see the loss of feathers on its neck)…

Partridge and oyster catcher

…and I came across an oyster catcher nesting in the middle of the bus park at the Rugby Club near the end of my ride.  It got up when I stopped and stamped off in a huff so I took a quick shot and pedalled off apologetically.

In the evening, I went to the last practice of Langholm Sings under the direction of Mary my singing teacher, who has been our conductor for the past few years.  I will miss her when she has gone and rather annoyingly, I will also miss her final concert with the choir as we will be on holiday next week.  We had a very good sing though.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch heading towards the missing perch.

flying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew and scores high points as it has two of my favourite things in it, a canal and a bridge.  It is at Butterley.

Butterly Canal

It was a beautiful day with a hint of genuine warmth about it but still with enough bite in the light wind to keep you from shedding garments recklessly.

I had a walk round the garden and was very impressed by the force of this tulip.

flash tulip

The chief business of the morning was a trip to England to visit our friend Sue for lunch and an outing.

We got there safely and took a walk round her garden where there was a lot to see….

sue's garden

…and then we enjoyed an excellent lunch before setting off in the little white zingy thingy to see how it got on in narrow lanes with many steep ups and downs.

It went well and in no time at at all we found ourselves on the other side of the valley at Hadrian’s Wall and parked beside Banks East Turret, one of the mile castles that were built into the wall.  You can see the remains of the wall itself in the centre of the picture below….

hardian's wall

…and there is a fair bit left of the mile castle too…

milecastle 56

…though it would have been more impressive when it was originally built.

poster of milecastle 56

This is the view looking south from the wall.

view from milecastle 56

Sue then took us into the back country on the north side of the wall and we finally parked on open moorland next to a secretive RAF facility at Spadeadam.  Curiously, we could see an old aeroplane resting among the heather near to the car park.  It may be a used as a marker for virtual target practice.

plane at spadeadam

We sensibly went in the opposite direction towards the River Irthing and after a short plod across some flat and boggy ground, found ourselves on the edge of a deep gorge where the River Irthing flows over the Crammel Linn waterfall.

Crammel Linn waterfall

It looked so smooth and regular at first sight that I almost took it for a sluice but a closer look shows that it is flowing over an impressive 10m rocky ledge.

Crammel Linn waterfall close

Sue told us that it a popular bathing spot in summer and enterprising young people dive or jump off the central buttress into the pool below.  The gorge was too steep to allow me to clamber down to river level so we admired the falls from a distance and headed back to the car.

The gorge narrows downstream from the waterfall and it is hidden from sight by this impressive river of birch trees.

trees at Spadeadam

The little white car took us back down into the valley and then up the other side to Sue’s house with no difficulty.  Steep hills do not seem to pose the electric motor any problem and the simple controls make driving on narrow winding roads stress free.

After a cup of tea, we thanked Sue for taking us on such an interesting excursion and set off home.

We ended up having driven 80 miles but using less than half of the battery charge so it would seem that it would not be unreasonable in the summer months to expect to be able to drive 140 miles without having to worry about recharging.  Of course this is achieved by driving steadily and without hurrying, but that is my preferred mode anyway these days so it is no hardship.

Once we got home, I cut a little mount for Mrs Tootlepedal’s latest embroidery, using the mount cutter which I share with Sandy, then conferred with my sister Mary about a very obscure clue in the day’s prize crossword and finally went off to stretch my tendon by cycling a gentle five miles.

I got distracted by carpets of bluebells on the open hillside beside the road.

bessie bell's bluebells 4

This is quite an unusual sight as bluebells are woodland flowers and it doesn’t happen every year as vividly as this.

Unfortunately, the sun had slipped off down the valley by the time that I had climbed up the hillside…

View from bessie bells

…but I enjoyed the colour all the same.

bessie bell's bluebells 3

There were bluebells on every side and I can only think that sheep don’t like the taste otherwise there would be none left.

bessie bell's bluebells with sheep

These open hill bluebells were much shorter than the ones that I recently photographed among the trees.

bessie bell's bluebells 2

I hoped that the sun might come out again but when it stayed behind the clouds, I went back to my bike and pedalled off up the road…

bessie bell's bluebells 1

…closely supervised by the sheep.

sheep spectating

Although the day’s two short walks were a bit uncomfortable, the cycling was pain free and if the good weather continues, I might try a longer ride next week.

In all this excitement, I didn’t have time to look for a flying bird and the crouching bird of the day is a partridge.  It arrived very early in the morning and spent three hours perched on our outside windowsill.

partridge on window sill

You can’t see it in the picture but it has sustained some damage to the other side of its neck.  It might have been attacked by a cat or caught its head in netting, I suppose.  We wondered whether it would need help, but by the time we left to go to Sue, it had moved round the house to another windowsill in the sunshine, and by the time that we came home, it had disappeared.  We hope it is OK.

 

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Today’s guest picture shows a fine display of wisteria spotted by my sister Susan on her way to catch a bus.

london wisteria

We had a frosty morning here, followed by a fine but chilly day with a brisk  and biting north wind.  If you were out of the wind, everything in the garden was lovely and if you weren’t, you got out of it as soon as you could.

I started the day with some shopping at our producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre where the essentials of life such as honey, cheese, haggis and fish were popped into my Canadian (courtesy of Mary Jo of Manitoba) shopping bag.  Then after another excursion to top up supplies from our corner shop, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went to visit our friends Mike and Alison.  Their daughter Liz had arrived with her chainsaw to help Mike cut down the cherry tree at the front gate which had grown too big for its situation and which is due to replaced by a rowan.  They were making a good job of it but kindly broke off for long enough for Alison to offer us coffee and ginger biscuits (and a potted plant to take home with us)..

Later in the day, three bags of shreddings and sawdust arrived in our garden for which we will find very good uses.

When we got back, I took a walk round the garden in the sunshine.  A bee which should have been busy on the apple blossom was wasting its time on a dicentra, a new ranunculus, one of batch purchased at a very advantageous price by Mrs Tootlepedal, was looking sublime and one of the last of the tulips was trying to open wide.

dicentra, ranunculus tulip

It has been an odd year, and I noticed when I looked back at a blog of a year ago, that we still had lots of daffodils out and the tulips were at the peak on this day then.

Now almost all the daffodils are gone and most of the tulips too.  We are in a pause, waiting for azaleas and alliums to appear.  I saw a very fine spider’s web, the sole rhododendron flower that is fully out, a hosta that is developing well and some mustard grown for green manure whihc is coming up in the vegetable garden.  Mrs Tootlepedal is very keen on mustard.

hosta mustard web and rhodie

In the absence of much bright colour, the greens are doing their best to keep me entertained.

fern and euphorbia

A pair of blackbirds appeared on the front lawn…

blackbird pair on lawn

…and a pond skater stopped skating for long enough for me to take its picture.

pond skater

Although my feet are still not co-operating properly, I felt it was too cold and windy for a pleasant cycle ride so I went for a walk after lunch.

There was plenty to take my mind off my feet as I went along.  Daisies and cherry blossom lined my walk along the bank of the Esk between the bridges.

daisies and cherries beside esk

And a pair of oyster catchers looked as though they might be setting up home on the gravel bank above the town bridge.

oyster catchers on gravel

In spite of the chilly wind, a cricket match on the Castleholm pitch reminded me that it is May and the season has well and truly got under way.

langholm cricket club

Sound defence with a straight bat was the order of the day.

LCC match

I walked on up the Lodge Walks with any amount of flowers to keep me company.

lodge walk wild flowers

I had met my friend Nancy as I was crossing the Langhom Bridge and she told me that she was going to check out the bluebells in the woods above the Lodge Walks because she is leading a visiting group of walkers on a bluebell hunt next week.  Taking the hint, I walked up a path through the wood.  She will have plenty of bluebells to show the visitors.

bluebells in lodge walk wood

It has been a good spring for bluebells.

bluebells above holmhead

As I went along the path at the top of the wood, I could see more bluebells mixed in with other wild flowers.

six lodge walk wild flowers

I came back down to the waterside and walked back along the bank of the Esk.  The paths are at their best.

two castleholm paths

Looking across the field, I saw the sun pick out a small tree surrounded by larger specimens.  I liked the way that grazing cattle have kept the bottom of the tree looking so neatly trimmed…

castlholm tree

…and looking around, I saw that it was not the only one.

cattle cropped trees

I came back to the cricket ground to find the game still going on and watched a fielder at long leg doing what cricketers do a lot of, standing around.  He had found a good spot for standing around though, surrounded by fine trees and with the ruins of Langholm castle in the background.  He had plenty to look at if the game got boring.

outfileder and castle

A dandelion clock told me that time was getting on so I headed for home…

dandelion clock

…passing my favourite sight of the whole walk.  It was almost as though nature had taken up flower arranging.

saplings scholars

The wall at the end of the Scholars’ Field has a good crop of flowers growing out of cracks and crevices.  I saw ivy leaved toadflax, wild strawberries and corydalis.

wall flowers

I was ready for a cup of tea when I got home and then we got into our new little car and went off to collect some more wood chips.  On our return, we put the wood chips onto one of the paths in the remodelled part of the vegetable garden…

chipped paths

…and parked the little white thingy.  It hadn’t gone far enough to need charging.

renault

We had fish for our tea and I made some chips (potato not wood) to go with my helping. We finished the meal with the last of the lonely sticky toffee pudding.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin flaps down

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Today’s guest picture shows a feature of the Sheffield Peace Gardens. They were seen by Bruce on a recent stay in the city.

sheffield peace garden

Today started very oddly when I woke up realising that I had just had a good night’s sleep.  This was so unusual that it took me until Dropscone arrived with Friday treacle scones for coffee to recover.

The scones were very good though and by the time that Dropscone left, I was back on an even keel and able to appreciate that the geums had started to flower in the garden.

geums in garden

They are droopy flowers and I had to resort to the mirror to get a good look at one from underneath.

When I went back, I looked out of the window and saw that the jackdaws were back in search of nesting material.  They have discovered where Mrs Tootlepedal has buried the rest of the woollen mulch round a rose and they were busy digging it up, under the supervision of a senior member of the group.

jackdaws panel

At the feeder, goldfinches and siskins were in charge again and a lonely chaffinch appeared.  I thought that it looked a bit wistful.

lonely chaffinch

Since the chaffinches have been the most regular customers of the feeder all winter, they must feel a bit put out by these spring interlopers, much as loyal insurance company customers feel put out when they discover that new customers are getting preferential rates offered to them.

Not that the goldfinches look happy about their end of the bargain either.

goldfinches stamping

I made some bacon and lentil soup for lunch, ate a bowlful and then got my bike out.  It was quite a lot colder than my last outing and I had leggings and a waterproof jacket on as I faced a light north wind.

I had worked quite hard last time I went out and my feet had been painful afterwards so I took things very easily today, stopping frequently to admire the view…

road to burnfoot

There were fifty shades of green

…to take in the passing bluebell woods,…

bluebells on benty road

…and to record some of the many wild flowers which have started to appear in the road side verges.

wild flowers on benty road

I crossed the Esk by the Bentpath Bridge…

river esk from benty bridge

…and admired the assistance that someone had given to nature on the other side of the bridge.

flowers at benty bridge

Then I cycled up the far bank of the river, noticing more wild flowers…

wildflowers near benty

…and finding that some work by foresters in felling trees had made it much easier to spot the old suspension bridge that allowed residents on the west bank of the river a shorter walk to the church in times gone by.

esk suspension bridge georgefield 1

I wouldn’t be inclined to walk over it now.

esk suspension bridge georgefield 2

A little further on, I noticed what I thought was a tree in full flower by a gate…

pink tree westerhall

…but a closer look showed that the colour came from buds and the flowers are not out yet.  It should be spectacular when it blooms.

It wasn’t hard to spot wild flowers as the banks were covered with them..

bank of wild flowers

…and fields were full of them.

meadow of wild flowers

When  I came to the furthest point of my short ride, I had to cross the Esk again, this time using the Enzieholm Bridge, which looks modest enough when you cross it…

enzieholm bridge from above

…but turns out to be a pretty substantial bridge when you look at it from the waterside.

enzieholm bridge from below

The wind was behind me now (good route planning for once), and I didn’t stop so much on the way home, though I did like these fine copper beeches…

copper beeches beside esk

…and yet more wild flowers…

wildflowers benty may

…which I passed before I got back to Bentpath village, where I took the obligatory picture of the church and bridge.

westerkirk church may

I did the last five or six miles with only one more stop.  This was to take a look back at the Gates of Eden…

gates if eden May

…before cascading back down the hill into Langholm, very cheerful after such an enjoyable and leisurely fifteen miles.  (The pedalling took me an hour and twenty minutes and I added another twenty five minutes to the trip by stopping to take so many pictures.)

I had a quick walk round the garden before I went in…

FOUR GARDEN FLOWERS

…to find Mrs Tootlepedal, after a busy morning, sitting quietly over her embroidery.

Although the day was still quite cool for the time of year, when the sun came out it seemed pleasantly warm and Mrs Tootlepedal and I were able to have a short sit out on the new bench until the sun went in again.

Then the sun came out again and I was thinking of going for a short walk but as soon as I put my walking shoes on, the sun went in and a few drops of rain fell.

I abandoned the idea of a walk and cooked a feta cheese, tomato and potato bake for our tea instead.   It was followed by some sticky toffee pudding.  It is hard to have to eat all of the sticky toffee pudding ourselves instead of sharing it with Matilda and her family but we are being brave about it.

One of the thieving jackdaws is the flying bird of the day.  It wants to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.

flying jackdaw making off

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Today’s guest picture shows one of our son Tony’s dogs enjoying the sunshine on the East Wemyss Riviera.  It’s lip-smackingly good there.

Tony's dog.

Our spell of dry and sunny weather started its drift to normality today as the temperature dropped a degree or two and the sun became rather shy as the day went on, but it was still a remarkably nice day for the time of year.

The morning was made even brighter by the arrival of Sandy for a cup of coffee and when he left, I had a look for new flowers and found that the Limnanthes douglasii, better known as the poached egg plant had come out….

poached egg flower

…though there was not much evidence of the white of the egg in most of the flowers.

Mrs Tootlepedal has two perennial wallflowers and the second one is just flowering…

perennial wallflower new

…and it has so many potential flowers that I have a feeling that it will appear many more times in posts before the end of its season.

The chief event of the morning though was a visit to Mike and Alison Tinker’s garden.

This charming acer brillinatissimum welcomes  visitors to the estate.

acer brilliantissimi

I reported a few days ago that after waiting twelve years, Mike and Alison’s Kowhai plant from New Zealand had produced a flower.  I can now report that it hasn’t stopped producing flowers since…

kowhai

…and it was looking very impressive indeed.

Mike showed Mrs Tootlepedal another of his Antipodean guests.

wollemi pine and gardeners

This is a wollemi pine, a plant so rare that it was thought to be extinct until a few specimens were discovered in a remote valley in Australia in 1994.  In order to preserve the species, the original plants were the subject of a scheme of propagation and material was distributed round the world.  Mike’s daughter, a professional gardener obtained this plant for him and it is now thriving in his garden.

wollemi pine

There were several other interesting plants to see.

There was a snowflake, a bulbous perennial of the Amaryllis family.

snopwflake

And a wine and rose rhododendron.  As it is an early flowerer it had to be carefully protected by Mike and Alison with fleece during the recent frosty nights but the trouble they took was well worthwhile.

wine and rose rhododendron

As well as white trilliums, they have these striking red ones too.

trillium

And as he knows that I like fuchsias, Mike pointed this Fuchsia Thalia to me.  It is certainly unusual but I don’t think it is my favourite Fuchsia.

fuchsia thalia

We may have white and red pulsatillas, but Mike and Alison have purple ones.

pulsatiila

Their garden may not be the biggest in Langholm but it is probably one of the most interesting ones.

We went home and I sieved some compost and then went in to do some business which involved phoning a large insurance company.  We are on a roll just now and after the very satisfactory visit from an engineer yesterday, I got straight through on the phone to a competent and courteous young man and resolved my business satisfactorily in just a few minutes.  What are things coming to?  I won’t have anything to complain about soon.

Then we had lunch.

After lunch, we were visited by the representative of the power company who had come to weigh up the scheme for replacing our old and rickety electricity pole which sits in the vegetable garden.  After some discussion, it was agreed that they would bring in a mini digger to dig the hole for the new pole and that company agreed to make good any damage to the vegetable beds affected.    This meant moving our present strawberry bed so Mrs Tootlepedal gave the strawberries a very good watering and while this soaked in, we went off for a short bicycle ride to view the bluebells which she hadn’t seen so far this year.

I couldn’t help taking a few pictures while we there.

more bluebells 5

They have spilled over from the top of the hill and the whole banking is now going blue.

more bluebells 4

Wall to wall carpeting was to be seen on all sides.

more bluebells 3

Mrs Tootlepedal was thoroughly pleased that she had made the effort to visit.

more bluebells 2

We pedalled home by the long route, going along the Murtholm, across Skippers Bride…

distillery with leaves

…and back to the town along the other bank of the river.  I stopped on the suspension bridge to admire the cherries and remark on how low the river was.

cherries by esk between bridges

And looked downstream too.  The trees are green.Down river esk from suspension bridge

When we got home, we moved the strawberry plants to their new bed and gave them another good watering.  They look healthy enough so we hope that they will not mind the move too much.

I went to our corner shop to buy some eggs and came upon the travelling fishmonger’s van on the way back so I had smoked haddock kedgeree for my tea and Mrs Tootlepedal had hot smoked salmon.

After tea, I went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our community choir, and it was good to be singing together again after the Easter break.  We have a concert coming up in a month so we worked hard.

The weather had finally broken and it was raining as I walked home.  Fortunately, I had checked the weather forecast before going out and I had a brolly with me.  The rain is welcome  but the drop in temperature is not so welcome.  We may even see the return of the vest.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch creeping up on a redpoll.

flying goldfinch and redpoll

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Today’s guest picture comes from our neighbour Liz, who recently visited the Eden Project in Cornwall and came across this giant insect.

eden insect

We had another lovely day here and the flowers were looking very cheerful as a result, whether hanging over the edge of the dam…

aubretia

..or popping up in a flower bed.

ballerina tulip

New tulips are opening on all sides…

yellow and orange tulips

…and the euphorbias are growing ever bigger and brighter.

euphorbia

I had a close peer at the magnolia because a reader had asked me if it had a good scent, but sadly, it is scentless for all its handsome looks.

magnolia flower centre

I got out some magic granules that I had bought in a garden centre.  The packet says that they will perk up my grass and eat the moss on the lawn without the dead moss needing to be raked out.  This sounds far too good to be true but nevertheless, I measured and weighed carefully and spread them on the middle lawn as per the instructions on the packet.   I await developments (without holding my breath).

It was warm enough for a blackbird to do a little cooling down on one of the hedges…

blackbird sunning on hedge

…so I resolved to go for a walk to enjoy the sunshine and look for bluebells.

I found a charming red currant beside the river…

currant beside esk

…but soon came upon a good show of bluebells along my favourite bluebell path.

bluebells 5

They are not fully out yet but could still provide the blue ‘carpet’ that makes them so special at this time of year.

bluebells 3

I don’t know who was more surprised when we met, this pheasant or me.

bluebells 4

I walked through the bluebell wood…

bluebells 1

…and took the path the leads to Gaskell’s Walk.

blackthorn stubholm

Although the larches below it are very green, Meikllholm Hill still looks bare.

meikleholm hill from gaskells

There were several peacock butterflies warming their wings on the path as I went along.

Most of them flew off as I approached but this one settled down again for a moment.

peacock butterfly sunning

The path itself was very springlike, and I think that this is the best time of the year to walk along it.

gaskells in spring

When I got to the Auld Stane Brig, I took a couple of pictures to show that we are still waiting for the leaves to appear on many of the trees around us…

stane brig

…but the bridge is attractive at any time of year on a sunny day.

auld stane bridge with reflection

Sadly, by the time that I got home, it had become apparent that while wearing gel insoles might be very good for arthritic toes, it might also put a strain on an achilles tendon and my ‘good’ foot was so sore as a result that the rest of a lovely day was wasted in sitting around and moaning.

I did get outside enough to admire a pulsatilla…

pulsatilla

…but that was the extent of the excitement.

The foot situation is very annoying as things were definitely getting better.  I hope that a good rest over night will see things back to where they were as it is a pity not get a cycle ride in when the weather is so fine.  Today taught me not to get too adventurous.

Mrs Tootlepedal made fish pie and apple crumble for our tea and that brightened things up a lot.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is a triumph of patient gardening.  Mike and Alison Tinker have been tending a kowhai plant (a New Zealand native) for twelve years and this year it has finally flowered.  Alison took the picture and Mike sent it to me.

kowhai flower

I leapt out of bed, had breakfast, dashed on my cycling gear….and then footered a couple of hours away in drinking coffee, reading the newspapers and doing the crossword.  It was a perfect day for cycling and I can only put my reluctance to get going down to mental feebleness brought on by a combination of various aches and pains and possibly Brexit.  Brexit has been blamed for everything else so it might as well take the blame for my idleness too.

But I did get going in the end and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  The first bit of the ride, with more downhill than up and with the wind mostly behind me, was a treat and I soon found myself in England, in the shelter of the motorway banking, eating a sandwich and a banana after twenty miles and an hour and a half of pedalling.

M6 at gretna

There are still not many wild flowers about but there were dandelions along the the whole route.  At one point I saw a good crop of Danish Scurvy Grass beside the motorway and near Longtown, I met a nettle just about to flower fully.

dandelion, scurvy grass and nettle

In order to keep my foot happy, I stuck to flat roads and tried not to press too heavily on the pedals.  This last was quite easy to achieve with the wind behind me but when I turned east and passed a fine pine tree, it was harder as the wind was not negligible and my speed dropped.

tree near todhills

I won’t complain though because it was genuinely warm by then and pottering along was no hardship.  To avoid going as far as the busy main road into Longtown, I turned on to a track which is part of National Cycle Route 7.  These routes often have artistic trail markers.

bike route sculpture post

This particular track follows an old railway line and takes you across the river Lyne by way of a new bridge on old piers.

railway track on NR 7

It is a very peaceful place and the track is well maintained.

Unfortunately, I can’t ride the old railway all the way back into Langholm as the chance to turn it into a cycle way was lost after the line was closed and many bridges and viaducts have been knocked down.

Back on the roads again, I crossed this small bridge…

bridge near arthuret

…near the fine church at Arthuret.

arthuret church

I took the main road out of Longtown as it has recently been resurfaced and it is always fun to ride on a smooth surface for a change.  Sadly, the new surface has been done using a method that ensures that it will become very bumpy again for cyclists in the not too distant future.  Ah well, I will enjoy it while I can.

Somewhere along the road between Longtown and Canonbie, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a carpet of bluebells under some trees.

bluebells

This seems to be early for bluebells and is a week before they have appeared on the blog before and a fortnight before the usual time.  Still, they are very welcome as they are sign that spring is really springing.

On a stretch of the old A7 north of Canonbie, there were several butterflies warming their wings on the road and fluttering away as I got near them.  I stopped and one of them obligingly flew back and perched on a dandelion.  As I was getting back on my bike, I noticed a bonus ladybird crawling up a wall.

peacock butterfly and lady bird

My legs were a bit rusty but by stopping regularly for a stretch and a rest, I manged to cajole them into taking me round just under 44 miles.  As this was the furthest I have been since the 22 February, I regard it as very satisfactory distance.  Tomorrow will tell me what my foot thinks about it but I am optimistic.

When I got home, I had a walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal who had had a busy day indoors.

The warmth had brought a new tulip out….

new tulip

…caused others to open wide….

three tulips

…and encouraged the trout lilies to lift up their skirts and dance.

trout lilies

A striking dark red pulsatilla had also emerged.  I liked it a lot….

red pulsatilla

…as did a bumble bee.

pulsatilla with bee

We went in for a cup of tea and a biscuit and when Mrs Tootlepdal went back to work, I watched the birds for a while.

Redpolls returned to the feeder…

redpoll in sun

…and one took a very dim view of the  loutish behaviour of a chaffinch.

chaffinch about to stamp

Strangely, I felt a bit tired so the rest of the day faded away into quietness, interrupted by giving Mrs Tootlepedal a little help with her project and then eating a tasty meal cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

Footnote: The curious might want to know what Mrs Tootlepedal was so busy at during the day.

She has finally finished turning this…

old rocking horse

…into this.

new rocking horse

We are thinking of entering it in the Derby.

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