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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Stephen, a friend of my sister Susan.  He took this picture of  a fabulous Sydney Harbour sunset. The occasion was the opening night of the annual Opera on the Harbour.  I hope he will forgive me for only using part of his shot.

sydney harbour

We had a wonderfully spring like day today, with lots of sunshine, no rain and a moderate wind.  It was a perfect day for cycling but good sense suggested that I should give that a miss.  Instead, I rang up Sandy who came round for a cup of coffee over which we decided that a leisurely walk round a nature reserve would be the best way to use the day.

Mrs Tootlepedal was recovered enough to seriously consider coming with us but in the end, good sense overtook her as well, and she decided on a quiet day at home to continue her recuperation from her cold.

Watchtree, the reserve whihc we chose, is on the other side of Carlisle, between the Solway Firth and the Lake district hills.

lake hills from watchtree

It is not your run of the mill reserve as it is on an old airfield which now is the site of half of a wind farm.  In addition over half a million sheep carcasses were buried on the site during the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001.  All this might make for an unattractive place to visit in many ways but a lot of work has been done to make it worth a visit.

And they serve very tasty bacon butties in their little cafe.

Fortified by the bacon butties we set off to walk round the old airfield among the wind turbines.

watchtree wind turbines

Our first stop was at a bird hide on a pond.  The walk down the side of the pond was fringed by hedge plants covered alternately in lichen or blossom.

watchree bird pond lichen and blossom

There was not a great deal of activity on the water but I was happy to see a tufted duck emerge from diving under the water for long enough for me to get a shot.

watchree bird pond tufted duck

A coot also emerged from under the water with a little weed in its beak.

watchree bird pond coot

The pond was looking very charming with reeds..

watchree bird pond reeds

…and the reflections of the turbines to add variety.

watchree bird pond

Some bird feeders had been placed behind the bird hide and we saw two tree sparrows enjoying a snack.

tree sparrowsd watchtree

We moved on to a second pond, passing a gorgeous clump of gorse with a strong smell of coconut on the way.

rampant gorse

There were quite a few waterfowl about on this pond but as usual, they hung around at the very far end so I could only get some rather blurry pictures of a goose literally trying to blow itself up.

goose inflating

Having failed, it paddled off very calmly.

goose serene

My binoculars were more use than my camera.

pond with waterfowl

We left the hide and walked round the pond to the edge of the site where we came across this slightly macabre reminder of a local air crash.

crashed jet engine

We then followed a half mile circular path through a young wood on the edge of the site.

Half the route was lined with trees in leaf….

watchree wood track green

…with the other half still bare.

watchree wood track

Leaving that wood, we crossed a runway and went into an older wood where the sharp eyed Sandy spotted a deer lurking among the trees.

hidden deer

There were willows on all sides but my favourite of the day was this back lit one in the wood.

sunlit willow

Bird feeders had been set up in this wood but although we could hear any amount of twittering in the trees around us, the feeders were unused so we walked onto to the pond in the centre of the wood.  It too was very quiet and nothing could be seen swimming around in its clear water.

watchtree pond

It was very pleasant strolling through the woods in the sunshine so we continued our walk in good spirits, eventually coming to the site of the old control tower from the airfield where the was a handy aerial photograph of the site on an information board.

orton aerodrome

Our roughly two mile walk took us round the triangle you can see in the picture, starting at the bottom right corner and going round anti clockwise past the first three wind turbines,  You can see the two ponds and the two woods which we visited.

The control tower itself has seen better days.

control tower watchtree

Although my feet were not very comfortable, the fine weather, the ponds, the woods, the wildlife and the good company made the outing thoroughly enjoyable and we were tired but happy when we got home.

While I was in active mode, I made an effort at giving the middle lawn a mow and even though there is a lot of moss on it, I was able to add a good heap of grass cuttings to my compost bin.

Then I went in and made Mrs Tootlepedal a cup of tea.

And watched our local birds for a moment.

chaffinches at feeder

Later on, I was just waiting for my flute pupil Luke to come when I noticed movement outside the kitchen window.

The pair of partridges were visiting.

red legged partridge close up

They are undoubtedly our most handsome visitors.

red legged partridge

Luke has been practising again with very beneficial results and we enjoyed playing through our Loeillet sonata a lot.

As we are going to get to work on our Quantz sonata next, I will have to copy Luke and do some serious practice myself.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch with its wings firmly shut.

flying goldfinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was taken by my brother Andrew on his recent visit to Delft.  He remarks that the weather was perfect for ducks.

e weather was just right for ducksWe had another brilliantly sunny but chilly day today and as we drove over to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh, the snow covered Lake District Hills and Criffel looked wonderful.  The countryside that the train ran through wasn’t so spectacular but it was pretty enough to interrupt my study of the crossword from time to time.

Clyde valleyPocketcam did well to capture the scene through the double glazed window as it whizzed past at 70 mph.

When we got to Edinburgh, the day was so good that I left Mrs Tootlepedal to walk down to Al and Clare’s alone while I took a short tour of the Old Town.

I walked up Fleshmarket Close (seen on the left in the double picture below)…

Old Town closes

The old town is full of these narrow closes.

…until I got to the Royal Mile.  Up the hill is St Giles’ Cathedral and the castle…

Royal Mile…and down the hill, Canongate leads to Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament.

Royal MileI eschewed the Royal Mile and walked down South Bridge until I got to Chambers Street.  Walking along Chambers Street,on one side of the road I passed Guthrie Street, where I first met the future Mrs Tootlepedal in 1962 and on the other the fine Museum building.

museumThen I turned and walked up George IV Bridge back towards the Royal Mile.  Those unfamiliar with Edinburgh may wonder about walking along roads called bridges but all will be made plain.

When I was a student here and feeling peckish, I would assuage my hunger with a mutton pie or a cream doughnut.  An expert once suggested that the most nutritious thing about the 1962 Edinburgh mutton pie was the paper bag that it came in but I thought that they were delicious.  Today I bought a pain au chocolate.  It was quite nice.

Near the top of George IV Bridge,  I turned down the steep hill of Victoria Street and the West Bow…

Victoria Street…until I reached the Grassmarket.

GrassmarketLike the transformation of the mutton pie into pain au chocolate, the Grassmarket has turned from a place of ill repute and homeless hostels into a trendy meeting  and eating spot.

I didn’t meet or eat but turned into the Cowgate, the evil twin of the Canongate. It too leads to Holyrood Palace but by the low road.

It passes under George IV Bridge….George IV Bridge

…and beneath an impressive array of gargoyles…

gargoyles…and then under South Bridge.

South Bridge.  The Cowgate is a dark and narrow road and architects have tried to brighten it up.

CowgateHalf way down this gloomy cavern, the sun shone amazingly brightly on St Patrick’s Church.

St Patrick's churchI must have passed this way many times without the light being quite the same because I have no memory of seeing this church before.  I think that that the stonework has been cleaned.  In my youth everywhere here was the dull grey colour that you can see on the tower.

I arrived at the Scottish Parliament, an expensive and leaky testimony to the vainglory of clients and architect alike….

Scottish parliament…and on the other side of the road, The Palace of Holyroodhouse, an expensive testimony to the excessive number of rooms the titular Queen of Scotland needs when she stays in Edinburgh.

HolyroodhouseI say titular Queen of Scotland because of course everyone knows that the real queen of Scotland can be found a few hundred yards away.

Matilda

Matilda at her Granny’s knee

I didn’t have long to sit down when I got to Matilda’s because Mrs Tootlepedal and I volunteered to take her for a walk to give her parents a few moments of peace.

These few moments turned into an hour as our walk stretched out in the sunny weather.  In the absence of Edinburgh’s usual biting wind, it really was a lovely day for pushing the baby about.  I didn’t take my camera with me as I thought that I had taken enough pictures but I wished that I had had it with me when we came to a small frozen loch in a park and stopped to watch some coots practising their ice skating.  One bird leapt onto the ice from the bank and skidded neatly across the ice until stopped by a tree. It stood up looking very hard done by.

After lunch, we sent some time being entertained by Matilda, sympathising with Clare who is a bit poorly and chatting with Al before leaving to catch the train home.

In all, I walked about 6 miles split into three sections, during the day so quite apart from the views and the pleasure of meeting Matilda, it was a really good day out with my knee.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I played duets in our customary manner of mixing a lot or perfect notes with some that weren’t quite so spot on.

In the absence of a flying bird, a skating coot caught on my phone will have to do.

skating coot

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