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Posts Tagged ‘crocus’

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He took his son Nick on a ten mile walk up as many hills as he could find.  Nick is going on a Nepal trek soon and needed some practice.  Here is Nick on Ecton Hill at 1211ft.

Nick on Ecton Hill

My morning walk to the (corner) shop once again took me along the river.  The weather had improved enough for the oyster catcher to get its head in the air.

oyster catcher sideways look

The weather forecast was a lottery today and trying to find out what was going to happen depended entirely on when you looked at it, as it changed every hour or so.  This made planning a dry cycle ride tricky.  It was supposed to rain at eleven and be sunnier in the afternoon, but it didn’t rain at  eleven and the sun came out at twelve and lit up the siskins.

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Sunshine is always welcome but does pose shadow problems for me.

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There was plenty of action but not enough to call for two feeders, so I took one back in and washed it thoroughly.

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The sunshine was a great motivator though, and I had a very early lunch and went off on my bike to add a few miles to my meagre monthly total.   February has been a rotten month for my cycling as it started with dizzy spells which kept me off the bike and just as I recovered from them, the rain and gales started and didn’t stop for two weeks.

It was a novel experience to be cycling in the sunshine.

I wanted to record that it was a  colourful day compared with yesterday’s monochrome ride so I took a picture of a tree.  Because it was not raining or snowing, I was able to look at the result on the camera and much to my surprise, I found that it wasn’t colourful at all.

dead tree bw

Behind my back and without my permission, the camera had gone into monochrome mode and that explained the extreme lack of colour in yesterday’s landscapes.  I apologise for misleading readers but I would say in my defence that it was a pretty monochrome day and curiously, my photo editor still insists that the picture above is in RGB colour so the camera must be withholding secrets even from Photoshop.  I like the monochrome tree anyway.

Still, I moved the dial on the camera back to its proper setting and took a picture of some more trees.

two trees chapelhill

The sunshine became rather variable as I pedalled round my customary Canonbie circuit..

tree beside Canonbie by pass

…but it was shining when I got to Hollows Bridge and found that there was still a fair amount of water flowing down the Esk.

esk at hollws brodge

On the other side of the bridge, a fragile tree looked as though it might plunge into the river at any time.

old tree hollws bridge

The roads were generally quite dry but there were still puddles about and shortly after I had passed this one…,

puddle auchenrivock road

…I was forced to stop at a traffic light.  This had been put up to cope with yet another roadside landslip.

I could see trees at dangerous angles…

landslip with trees irvine house

…and as the road is close to the bank of the river here,  trees had been pulled out of the soil as the bank collapsed.  The road was just intact but barriers were encouraging the traffic to keep away from the affected side of the road.

The wood on the other side of the road has recently been felled and these trees are not so sheltered from the blast as they were.  I don’t know how long these unaffected trees will last…

surviving trees at irvine house

…or the ones that perch in a lonely fashion on the steep bank on the other side of the road.

tree at irvine House

During the second half of my ride, it had started to rain once or twice but I scowled so furiously at the clouds that the rain apologised and went away.  I was enjoying myself so much that when I got back to Langholm, I was thinking if adding some extra miles but this time it started to rain seriously, with a bit of snow thrown in for good measure, so I took the hint and went straight home.

Mrs Tootlepedal was working in the garden and the rain was so local that it had hardly stopped her at all.   I had a look round the garden myself.

four spring shots

..and felt that the flower of the day was the single blossom on the winter honeysuckle.

winter honeusuckle

The sun came out again as I went in.

siskin on feeder arch

Mrs Tootlepedal told me that the helicopter which is taking materials to the pylon on the golf course was back in the air again, so I went upstairs to have a look to see if I could see it.

It was very busy zipping to and fro.  They must have been pleased to be able to get back to work after the strong winds of the past two weeks.

pylon helicopter

As I watched, the rain started again so I shut the window after I had taken this final shot of the helicopter, like young Oliver, going back for more.

helicopter over monument

I was thinking of going for a late walk but the weather seemed too unreliable so I settled down to try to improve the security of the Langholm Archive Group website, a necessity these days when browsers may stop people viewing insecure sites.  This is above my pay grade but I ploughed on and succeeded with two of the three parts of the site but made the third part so bad that my browser had a fit when I tried to view it.

Fortunately, the web hosting company was able to provide a solution when I retailed my woes to them.

Unfortunately, the security certification process has upset the formatting of the sites and I have had to ask for help again.  This sort of thing makes my head hurt.  They have kindly replied but the suggested solution may need me to seek yet more help.

In the meantime, I did find a sunny flying chaffinch of the day. Hooray.

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Today’s guest picture is another from camera club member Simon.  He took a walk along the old railway line to Longtown and managed to find himself under three bridges at the same time, the main road, the old railway and a footbridge.

simon's bridges

The weather, which likes to have its little joke, decided that a day when there was no time for  walk and when Evie was due to go home would be just the day to put on a show of sunshine after a week of more or less continuous rain.

Now I like a joke as much as the next man, but even I thought that this was going a bit far and allowed a smidgeon of bitterness to enter my soul.

Leaving Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie to combine Evie care with talking to the project leader about the proposed community land purchase, I went to church where a diminished choir and a service with few hymns made for a thin singing experience.

As we were preparing for Annie and Evie’s departure after lunch and I had to some shopping, there wasn’t even a lot of time to look at birds when I got back.

Still, it was good to see them perching in the sun.

sunlit siskin

sunlit robin

sunlit chaffinch

When I went out into the garden for a moment, I turned my eyes to the hills and wished that I had had time to climb.

Castle hill with Cattle

In the garden, there were still no frogs to be seen but the first of the miniature daffodils has come out…

miniature daffodil

…the chives are looking promising…

chives early

…and the rhubarb is developing.

rhubarb developing

I used to think that hellebores were a bit dull but in recent years, I have changed my mind.

hellebore backlit

Back inside, there was another moment to watch the birds.  The sunshine hadn’t improved their manners at all…

two siskins vs chaffinch

…but at least one chaffinch made it safely to the feeder and enjoyed a seed.

sunlit chaffinch looking round

After lunch, I had a quick look to see if the sun had brought the crocuses out…

open crocuses

…and then it was time to pack Annie, Evie, the pushchair and an enormous case in to the car and pray that the Zoe would behave and take us to Carlisle.

The Zoe behaved impeccably and we arrived at the station in plenty of time and found that the train was more or less on time.  These days the railway experience wouldn’t be the same without some excitement, so a train from another railway company got stuck at the platform at which our train was due to arrive.  With a couple of minutes to go, there was a rush of pushchair, case and passengers over the footbridge to catch the down train from the up platform.  All was well  though and we got Annie, Evie, the case and the pushchair onto the train and it pulled out on time as we shed a tear and waved goodbye.

It really was a lovely day in Carlisle as they left…

citadel in sunshine

…but we ignored the lovely day and headed indoors to our Carlisle Community Choir practice.  Fortunately, it was a very good session and the tenors recovered some of their self esteem after last week’s travails.

And even better, it was still light as we drove home so we were able to watch a pretty spectacular starling murmuration over our heads as we went back through Longtown.  If we get a decent day, we will try to go down to see the starlings with camera in hand next week.  There seemed to be a lot more birds than when we watched them a month ago.

The house seems very quiet.

The flying bird of the day is a choice between this rather impressionistic study of a goldfinch…

impression of flying goldfinch

…and this neater but duller shot.

flying goldfinch

Take your pick.

I have time on my hands tomorrow: the forecast is for sleet and snow.  Ha ha.

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My brother Andrew passed on this guest picture of the day from his son Nick.  The River Soar has burst its banks and Nick’s garden near Nottingham was in this state when he woke up this morning.

Nick's flood

We had another grey but dry day here today but the forecast is offering us a lot more rain to come.  I couldn’t take advantage of the weather to get out for a walk as I had a visit from a man looking for photographs in the morning.

We had a good look through eight years of pictures, courtesy of the excellent media search system on WordPress and selected ten possibilities.  That took time but was relatively easy.   Then I had to try to find the originals as the pictures I use on the blog are too small to be useful elsewhere,  This took a lot of time but I did find not only an old external hard drive but the connecting lead too so I was able to get originals of most of the selection.

This didn’t leave me a lot of time to look at birds, although my visitor kindly pointed out this resting blackbird as he passed by the window.

blackbird resting on hedge

It was a day of few birds but there were enough chaffinches about to annoy one of our resident dunnocks.

dunnock and chaffinch

One chaffinch is enough to annoy a dunncok.

Some birds did turn up in the end…

goldfinches

…but this one preferred to remain anonymous…

flying chaffinch hiding

…and reflections in the window spoiled this one’s efforts to become FBotD.

flying chaffinch with streaks

I walked round the garden but it has got colder again and crocuses, whether singly…

closed crocus with raindrops

…or in clumps, were sulking.

closed crocuses with raindrops

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle to collect our daughter Annie and her daughter Evie from the London train.

They had survived the journey very well and Annie was full of praise for the station staff at Euston who had gone out of their way to get her on to the train with her pushchair before the other passengers boarded and had found her a suitable seat.

The only drawback to the Zoe is that the battery takes up a lot of room and as a result our boot is very small.  We just managed to squeeze Evie, Annie, the pushchair and a big case in and drove back to Langholm safely.

Evie has settled down well and is sleeping quietly as I write this.  She was undisturbed by a gang of recorder players who came in the evening and played music in the front room.

I am quite tired at the moment and will try to write more fully tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is another chaffinch who avoided the worst of the reflections in the window.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from camera club member Simon’s recent walk in our hills.  It was so grey today that I thought we needed at least one bit of sunshine to brighten up the day.

simon's walk

Storm Dennis arrived softly but it was raining by coffee time and the wind got up as the day went on.  Luckily we seemed to have been spared the worst once again but it was still a gloomy and miserable day.

Like the rain, the birds arrived slowly and a lone siskin started things off…

lone siskin in rain

…although when it looked left, it saw a bird arriving…

siskin nand chaffunch

…and when it looked right, it saw that another had arrived.

siskin and siskin

In the end it stopped looking around and concentrated on eating seed.

busy feeder

Once the siskins had taken over the whole feeder, new comers got a dusty welcome whether they came from on high…

siskin coming from on high

…or on the level.

siskin coming in from below

The rain occasionally eased off and the gusty wind dropped too…

placid chaffinch

…but it soon started to blow again.

goldfinches in the wind

I took advantage of a moment when the rain had dropped to a drizzle to walk to the shops and purchase some necessities.  There was cheese involved.  I was pleased to have the ample hood on my new coat to protect me from the rough wind.

When I got home, I checked to see what was going on in the garden.  It is quite warm today at 10 degrees C and the early daffodils seemed quite perky…

daffodil in Dennis

..while some crocuses…

yellow crocus in Dennis

…had even defied the elements and opened their petals.

pale blue crocus in Dennis

The rhubarb is still sulking.  Following a conversation with our friend Mike, Mrs Tootlepedal is going to put a bucket over one shoot and try a little forcing.

rhubarb not doing much

After a quiet afternoon in front of the telly, I took a walk down to the Wauchope to see if the rain had caused it to rise.  It was still pretty calm.

wauchope storm Dennis PM

This was more than I was as I went home, because a tremendous gust of wind accompanied by a mini deluge of rain filled my wellies with water and got my socks wet.

I went out again at seven o’clock in the evening when the rain had stopped to see what was what.

The Wauchope was full but not alarming but the Esk was raging.

Esk storm dennis 1

…and dangerously close to its banks.

Esk storm dennis 2

Quite a few others were out doing some river watching too and this lady showed my some pictures of severe flooding in our neighbouring village Newcastleton, which is just over the hill from us.

spectators storm Dennis

We have more than enough water in our river so here’s hoping that we don’t get more.  It was still rising even though the rain had stopped.

Esk storm dennis 3

An orange street light at the suspension bridge showed how high the water is.

Esk storm dennis 4

More strong winds and rain are forecast for tomorrow so we will just have to wait and see what happens.

A siskin is the flying bird of the day.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia.  Knowing that I like trees, she sent me this sunlit picture from Margery Fish’s East Lambrook Manor Garden which she recently visited.  She tells me that it has excellent plant sales.

Margery Fish’s East Lambrook Manor Garden

I could hear some heavy rain in the night so I woke up expecting to see that the snow in our garden had disappeared.  It had hung on so it appears that the rain must have been rather sleety.

The lawn covering is more ice than snow but it had survived yesterday’s sunshine and the overnight showers so it get prizes for pertinacity even if it doesn’t look very sparkly.

snowy lawns

The poor crocuses have been sitting around for ages now,  waiting for a warm and sunny day to open their petals…

drippy crocuses

…but the honeysuckles are getting their spring leaves out regardless…

honeysuckle leaves

…and the snowdrops continue to shine.

snowdrops front lawn

While I was out in the garden, I noticed a reflective chaffinch pondering on life, the universe and everything.

cross chaffinch

We should have been going to Edinburgh today to see Matilda but an appalling weather forecast had persuaded us to tell her parents that we would probably not be coming.  It tuned out that the morning wasn’t too bad and we could have driven to Lockerbie without too much difficulty.  All the same, the gloom of the forecast had pervaded our minds and left us unwilling to risk a long journey, so we rang to confirm that we wouldn’t be going.

The day improved as it went along and in the end we decided that we ought to got to Carlisle to buy a baby car seat as our other granddaughter is coming to visit us next week.  We felt a bit guilty about this but our guilt was assuaged when we checked the railway company’s app and found that trains to Edinburgh from Lockerbie had being cancelled anyway as a result of overhead line difficulties.    We had made a good decision.

I spent some time before lunch watching the birds.

There was a good deal of posing going on.

A chaffinch was being cautions and quizzical on the feeder pole…

quizziczl chaffinch

…a blackbird was checking to see if the seed was too his taste…

hungry blackbird

…a siskin was out on a limb…

siskin out on a limb

…while another was having a snack.

happy siskin

On the ground, a dunnock was pretending to be a rock..

dunnock being a rock

…while up above, a chaffinch was obeying her mother’s instruction to sit up straight.

chaffinch sitting up straight

We were visited by five pigeons today…

pigeon strut

…and two doves.

collared dove

When it came to approaching the feeder, different techniques were in operation,

There was sneaking in from the back….

siskin sneaking

..putting your best feet forward…

goldfinch putting its feet up

…and using no feet at all.

siskin feet tucked in

After lunch, we drove to Carlisle in amazingly friendly road conditions and when we got there, the friendliness continued.  A very helpful man at Halfords met our wish for a car baby seat by installing the showroom model in the car, checking that it fitted and that it was what we wanted, taking it out again, selling us a new one in a box, taking it out of the box and fitting that one in the car and finally waving us on our way.  Amazon can’t do that.

As regular readers will know, we suffered a disappointment on our wedding anniversary  in January when we drove all the way to Carlisle to go to the pictures only to find that the cinema was unexpectedly closed because of a problem with the water supply.  We were more lucky today.

The cinema was open, the  film which we wanted to see was still on and there were plenty of seats available.  We took two of them and watched The Private Life of David Copperfield.  It was a very interesting film.  Mrs Tootlepedal enjoyed it without reservation.  I enjoyed it too but would have enjoyed it more if the camerawork and editing had been a bit more restful.

The drive home went without trouble, although we passed a large sign warning of of impending heavy rain.

We have had quite enough rain already and when I looked at Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge this morning…

rain gauge

…I found that it was full to the brim, showing over six inches of recent rain.  I emptied it and I hope that it will take some time before it is filled up again.

The flying bird of the day is an expansive siskin.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia.  She felt that as I had been a bit lacking of flying birds recently, she should help me out.  She visited RSPB West Sedgmoor on Saturday and saw a great many teal.

RSPB West Sedgemoor teal

My first picture of the day was taken very early in the morning indeed.  As I went to bed last night,  I was surprised to see that the moon was out and although it was lightly covered by a very thin cloud, I thought that I should celebrate being able to see it at all in the midst of our bad weather. This was six minutes after midnight.

full moon February

When I woke up this morning, the day was remarkably peaceful and dry.  After breakfast I got a call from fellow archivist Nancy to say that one of our microfiche readers wasn’t working and I was able to walk up to the Archive Centre without getting wet.

The Wauchope was unrecognisable from the river that we had seen on our way to church just a day ago and Mr Grumpy had found a quiet pool to stand in behind a bush.

calm after storm

After some head scratching and with a bit of a “let’s try that” technique, we got the reader to read again and I left Nancy to her work and walked home.  In spite of the improved weather conditions, the continuing brisk wind made me grateful for the warmth of my new coat.

In the garden I found the (small) host of daffodils had survived, a starling was doing some supervision…

in the garden after storm

…a first flower had appeared on the winter honeysuckle and Mary Jo’s rain gauge showed that quite a bit of rain had fallen.

The wind was no discouragement to the birds today though and enough goldfinches arrived to start a fight…

squabbling goldfinches

…though experience has led me to believe that sometimes two goldfinches are all you need to have a scrap.

Peace did break out and we got a collection of siskins and goldfinches that swapped places from time to time.

two triples on the feeder

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some business and shopping  and I made some lentil soup for lunch.

Fortified by the soup, eaten with bread and cheese, we drove down to Canonbie to have a walk.  There were spots of rain as we drove down but luckily, the rain stopped when we got to the Byreburn Woods, and so we started our walk.

Our plan was to keep among the trees for as much of our walk as possible because the wind was very cold and the excellent path took us along in the shelter of some very tall conifers.

Byreburn Wood walk 1

Here is Mrs Tootlepedal giving a sense of scale.

Byreburn Wood walk 2

When we came out of the trees, some well constructed steps took us the steepest part of the hill….

Byreburn Wood walk 3

…and a handy bench provided us with a resting place at the top.

Byreburn Wood walk 4

The path is part of the Council’s Core Path Network and is well signposted and well maintained.

As we got to the most exposed part of the walk, there was a hint of sunshine…

Byreburn Wood walk 5

…which was fully realised as we came out of the wood and walked down the road…

Going down to Byre Burn

…to the modest bridge over the Byre Burn.

bridge at top of Byre Burn

We crossed the bridge and took the track which goes back down the hill alongside the Byre Burn itself.

fairy loup track

Here we spotted the only fungus we saw all walk…

fungus fairy loup track

…enjoyed the glowing moss on the bank above the track being picked out by the sun…

moss in sun fairy loup track

…and listened to the music of the burn…

cascade fairy loup track

…as it chattered over the little cascades on its way to the Fairy Loup and the River Esk.

cascade fairy loup track 2

We had to stop to take the obligatory picture of the Fairy Loup when we came to it, although the view would be greatly improved if someone would come along and trim the trees in front of it.

fairy loup february

When we got to the road at the bottom of the track,  we crossed this much more impressive bridge.  It carries the road which used to be the main Carlisle to Edinburgh trunk route.

Byreburn bridge A7

We had done two miles by the time that we got back to the car.  Although this was not a long walk, it had had a lot of variety on the way which had made it most rewarding.

When we got back to Langholm on our way home, it was obvious  that it had been raining in the town while we had been away.  This greatly added to the pleasure that we felt from our walk through the woods.

In the garden, there were signs of things to come.

crocus and hellebore promise

Mike Tinker’s tea radar was finely honed and he arrived just as the teapot was put on the table and we a good chat.  The Langholm Walks Group is planning to add a route from Canonbie to Langholm to its collection of waymarked walks and he told us that one section of this will go through the Byreburn Wood.

In the evening, my friend Luke came round with his flute and we had a go at a Quantz sonata.  We haven’t played it for some time and although we played a couple of movements, it was clear that we will need to practise a bit harder if it is to go smoothly.

Storm Ciara has treated us very lightly considering what happened not far from us.  There were damaging floods in Hawick and Appleby, Carlisle had floods again and the west coast main line railway was closed because of floods.  Meanwhile, I have been able to get out for a walk every day even if it has been too windy to cycle so I can’t complain.

This may change though, as the forecast for the week ahead is very uninviting and next weekend is due to bring us another very deep Atlantic depression.  The Norwegian forecast for our area is once again slightly better than the BBC’s so I think we will settle for the Norwegian arrangement and keep our fingers crossed.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, probably looking for a fight.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest post is another from Joyce’s Bermuda collection.  As well as glorious beaches she visited the zoo at Flatt Island where she found this lovely lemur.

ring tailedlemur flatts village aquarium

When we woke up, we were very pleased to find the Norwegian weather forecast had been reliable and we had a second sunny day in succession.  What was even more satisfactory was that there was no sign of the strong winds with which we had been threatened so it was as good a day as one could reasonably expect in early February.

We had to wait in for the gas man to come and service our boiler so I had time to admire the smash and grab technique of the robin…

smash and grab robin

…and cycle to the corner shop, passing an oyster catcher on the way.

oyster catcher on gravel

When I got home again, there were starlings on every side.

There was one on top of Irving’s holly tree and one  on top of the walnut tree …

starling on walnut and holly

…and when I went round the back of the house to investigate loud twittering, I found many more starlings in a bush at the back of Henry Street. (There were noisy sparrows in there too.)

starlings back henry street

While the gas boiler inspection was going on, I walked round the garden.

The crocuses had opened to greet the sunshine…

first open crocus

…and there were signs of life all over the place.

wallflower, euphorbia, crocus, magnolia

In defence of the often criticised service industries, I have to report that the gas engineer came on time, did the job cheerfully and quickly, and went on his way with a smile.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy morning at the computer on the proposed community land purchase business and she had more to do after lunch.  While she slaved away, I took the opportunity to test my cycling head to see if there was any dizziness still in it.

I got the slow bike out because it has wide handlebars for a steadier grip and it doesn’t have toe clips on the pedals so if I needed to stop quickly, I could put my foot down immediately.  I cycled at a very sensible pace so that I wouldn’t put pressure on my breathing. As a result, I enjoyed the outing.

It was still a lovely day…

field near Bloch

…and I stopped after three miles for a little rest and a chance to view a favourite cascade on the Wauchope Water.

I took a bird’s eye view from above…

Wauchope Schoolhouse cascade from above

…and a trout’s eye view from below.

Wauchope Schoolhouse cascade from below

I turned up the Cleuchfoot road and followed the Logan Water for a mile.

Logan Water

I looked politely at the lichen on the wall when I parked my bike for that photo.

wall lichen

In the end, I managed ten miles in just over an hour and got home without having to stop for a dizzy spell.  This was most satisfactory and if the weather stays friendly, I will try to go a little further tomorrow.

Mrs Tootlepedal had finished her work by the time that I got back, and she kindly agreed to forgo a gardening opportunity and come for a walk with me instead.

We went along the Lamb Hill….

Lamb Hill tree

…and on to the road to Newcastleton.

There is a gap in the trees there which gives a fine view up the Ewes valley.  I like the way that the hills meet each other on the diagonal just as a child might draw hills in a colouring book..

view from Copshaw road

We walked up the road and then took the path across the lower slopes of Whita which leads to Whita Well.   We couldn’t see much ahead of us as we were walking straight into the sun but when we stopped and looked back, we were well rewarded for our little climb.

ewes valley from Whita

After a soggy start, the path across the hill became very acceptable.

grass path on Whita

Above us, we could see the monument pointing out where to look to find the moon.

monument and point

When we got to Whita Well, we came to the bench which kind people have put there for the convenience of elderly walkers who are in need of a sit down.

We sat down.

bench at whita well

We were well sheltered from the light breeze, and it was a great treat after so many damp and gloomy days to sit in the sun and take in the rays.

As we walked back down to the town, we passed a good show of gorse, though it wasn’t warm enough to generate the coconut scent that gorse has in summer.

gorse at whita well

We also passed this sign at the top of the golf course.

helicopter warning sign

It was laid flat on the ground though as the helicopter wasn’t flying today.

We got home after two and a half miles of quite hard work and were very happy to have a sit down, a cup of tea, and several slices of fruity malt loaf which doubtless more than made up for any calories we might have expended while going up the hill.

Although the atmospheric pressure is due to stay high tomorrow, we might find ourselves in some misty conditions and the temperature might be low enough for a morning frost.  Looking at the BBC weather forecast for the temperature in the afternoon, I find it is two degrees better than the Norwegian offering, so I will opt for the BBC this time.

The slow cooked lamb stew made a third and final appearance for tea, this time in the guise of a light curry with rice.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

A literal footnote:  Sandy has sent me a message to say that his operation has gone well.  Thank you for the kind wishes that you expressed.

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