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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony who was spotted by a deer on one of his walks.

ant's deer

It was another grey day today but although it promised to rain for quite a lot of the day, we got nothing worse than a few spots every now and again.

I went off to the producers’ market at the Buccleuch Centre after breakfast and was very disappointed to find that neither the  fishmonger nor the cheesemonger were present.  I made do with some stewing steak and honey and made my way home again.

As it wasn’t raining, I mowed the front and middle lawns and was pleased to find a fair amount of grass growing on both.  Then, following up a suggestion from the gardener, I went into the greenhouse to check on the argyranthemum.  It was a surprise to me to find that it has such a cheerful flower.

argyranthemum

I look forward to seeing it out in the garden in due course.

Things were generally looking quite cheerful in the garden in spite of the cloudy weather and the two and half inches of rain which we have had this week.

six flowers

I went out to look at the hedge along the road and found that it need trimming.  While I was there,  I looked back into the garden and saw the view which the passer by gets.

garden from road

I looked at some of the paler flowers…

four yellow and white flowers

…and went indoors to look at the birds and have lunch.

A pigeon was taking time out on a garden seat…

pigeon ion chair

…while the sparrows rushed busily about.

two sparrows incoming

After lunch, we went to a recital by our church organist Henry, seen here consulting with his page turner.

henry at the organ

He played the recital which he used for his degree examination recently.  Mrs Tootlepedal had heard him play it in St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh last month but it was new to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The recital is part of a series held to raise money for the restoration of the church organ.  I hope that they succeed in raising the substantial funds required as the organ is a delight to listen to, very clear and mellow in tone so that the audience doesn’t get the battering that some of the bigger cathedral organs administer.

We enjoyed a cup of tea and some dainty cakes after the performance and then we went home.

Once home, I spent some useful time practising the songs for our Carlisle Choir concert which is coming up next week and then I checked the weather forecast as I was thinking about a cycle ride.  Unfortunately the forecast was very gloomy, promising heavy rain shortly so I gave up the idea of pedalling and sieved some compost instead and had another walk round the garden.

A rhododendron which has been threatening to flower for some weeks, has finally got its act together.  It was worth the wait.

late flowering rhododendron

And on every side, hostas are growing.

four hostas june

In spite of the forecast, it didn’t  rain so I decided to put a brolly in my pocket and go for a walk until it started.

The recent rain has put a little water into the rivers but they are still pretty low as this view of the Kirk Brig shows.

daisies beside Wauchope

Beside the Esk, I spotted a pair of ducks.  The male was looking very calm while the female was making a big splash.

drake and duck

I crossed the river and walked along the Kilngreen under the supervision of a black headed gull.

black headed gull on post

The clouds were well down on the hills round the town…

cloud on Timpen

…but on the Castleholm, a cricket match was in full swing.

cricket in prgress

I didn’t stop to watch the game and turned to admire an ornamental horse chestnut tree instead.

red chestnut

I continued round the new path and enjoyed the new growth all around me, both looking up..

cones and wildflowers castleholm

…and down.

It was gloomy in the corner by the two noble fir trees and female and male fruits had an air of mystery about them.

noble firs castleholm

There were flowers beside the path including a lot of crosswort…

wild flowers castleholm

…and an unknown (to me) yellow flower and a superb hawthorn.

As I walked over the Jubilee Bridge and round the Scholars’ Field, the trees were full of interest…

tree fruits castleholm

…and there was lots to see at ground level too.

four wild flowers scholars

When I got home, I was amazed at how many pictures I had taken on such an unpromising day.  I have bunged a lot of them into the panels in spite of the poor quality of many of them just to show what I saw.

I was also rather annoyed to find that as time went on, there was no hint whatsoever of any of the forecast rain and much as I had enjoyed my walk, I could easily have gone for a decent cycle ride which would have done me more good.

Still, the lawns are cut, the compost buckets are full and I saw a lot of interesting things on my walk so I should regard it as a day on the credit side of the great ledger of life even it didn’t have a pedal in it.

The poor light made getting a good flying bird picture tricky so I have put in a gender balanced pair of sparrows today.

twi flying sparrows

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my brother.  He took while he was waiting for a few stragglers to catch up at the end of a recent group walk.  As they had been going for nine miles, I am not surprised that there was a bit of straggling.

heart group walk

It will be a bit of a rushed post as I was in Carlisle for a concert with out Carlisle choir and I got back quite late.

It was a generally sunny and pleasant day with the pleasure slightly moderated by a brisk and chilly wind again.

The was enough sun to persuade the tulips to open and to illuminate an advantageously priced bargain from a garden centre.

april garden flowers

While I was having coffee and treacle scones with Dropscone, Steve delivered two new vegetable garden bed frames.  Mrs Tootlepedal was not well today as she is suffering from a persistent cold so the beds have not been put in place yet.

new bed frames

Whereas it was early chaffinches yesterday, it was siskins first today…

sisins at home

…and the chaffinches didn’t get much of a look in.

siskins on feeder

When the siskins left, the chaffinches piled in.

chaffinches landing

A goldfinch found a quiet moment to think deeply about food.

goldfinch concentrating

And later on, some greenfinches turned up.

two greendfinches

And a single redpoll dropped in.

redpoll on tio of feeder

I sieved a bit of compost and  made some soup for lunch and then went for a short walk to stretch my legs.

I did a three bridges to keep on the flat today.

The lady’s smock on the banks of the river has come out.

lady's smock

The two sets of oyster catchers were in their usual positions.  They are creatures of habit.

There was a pair of goosanders there too but they slipped away as soon as they noticed me and I could only catch the female.

oystercatcher and goosander

Some non standard ducks were lying about.

two odd ducks

I went round the new path at the bottom of the Castleholm and saw spiky things, both new and old.

pine blossom

The noble fir at the corner was showing very bright new growth and some fresh fir cones.

noble fir cone

Signs of life on the deciduous trees were to be seen.

new growth

And the coming of spring and summer was heralded by the arrival of the posts and rails ready to be put up for the race track. (Flat racing obviously.)

flat racecourse

I walked up to the Duchess Bridge and down the path on the far bank of the river.  I was only able to do this because someone with a big saw had come along and sawed off a tree which had fallen across the path in the recent storm.

fallen tree

There were wild flowers to see on my way.

wildflowers early april

And a large bumble bee was enjoying the blossom on Mike’s cherry tree as I went past.

bee on cherry

I left Mrs Tootlepedal recuperating at home and went to Carlisle in the early evening for a benefit concert in a church for a local ‘hospice at home’ charity.  The full choir was singing three songs and the rest of the concert was made up of turns by groups of choir members and their friends and solos from our conductor and accompanist.  It was a mixed programme with a capella singing, a violinist playing the mediation from Thais (very beautifully), a ukulele group and other cheerful singing groups.  Our accompanist played a Bach fugue on the church organ and our conductor sang a Jerome Kern song which brought the house down.

The choir sang their songs well and all in all, it was a good evening with the size of the audience the only mild disappointment.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

Footnote:  During the day, my doctor rang up to say that my recent x-ray showed that I do not have a stress fracture in my foot.  However, the x-ray did show that I had serious arthritis in my big toe joint and other arthritic joints elsewhere on the foot so it was no wonder that it has been a bit sore.  The fact that there is no bone damage is good though, as it means that I can go back to cycling (if the weather permits) without fear of making things worse.  Grinning and bearing it is the prescription, allied to the hope that the arthritis may go away as it often does (and using spongy insoles for my shoes).

Finger crossed.  I would cross my toes too but I can’t.  🙂

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Today’s guest picture is another from Mike and Alison’s New Zealand adventure.  Mike thought correctly that it might warm me up.  He tells me that it shows Mapua with Rabbit Island in the background.

mapua-rabbit-island

At the other end of the earth from Mapua, we had a suitably dark and grey occasion here as we approach the shortest day.

Sandy has been suffering from a cold too but he was improved enough to venture out for a cup of coffee this morning.  Mrs Tootlepedal had made some mince pies last night and these went down very well with the Monsoon Malabar.

I took a moment to look out of the window after coffee and was rewarded with a display of landing skills from the chaffinches.

Chaffinches landing

A robin arrived….

robin

And a chaffinch posed prettily for those who like a more restful bird shot.

chaffinch

Over lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to be a volunteer at the Buccleuch Centre and I thought that a walk in the woods might be a good idea, especially as a friend had suggested a spot where I might find some bullfinches and/or redpolls.

I didn’t want to walk too far so I set out in the car to get to a convenient spot but I hadn’t gone far before a slightly stuttering engine and two warning lights suggested that a visit to the garage might be prudent.  As I was just outside the garage when the warning lights came on, this wasn’t too difficult to arrange and having the left the car in the care of the mechanics, I walked on regardless.

A walked up Hallpath, past an intriguing wall….

Hallpath wall

Why the same wall should be so different just a few yards apart is a mystery to me.

…along an undulating track…

Round house track

…until I came to the spot where the birds might lurk.  There were certainly a good number of small birds high in the trees but the light was so poor that I had no way of telling what they were.

I turned off the main track and struck up the hill towards open ground….

View of Meikleholm Hill

It’s a wonderful spot for electricity wires getting in your view.

…but even when I got clear of the trees, the view didn’t improve much.

Misty view of langholm

I was following a well worn path…

 

Whita

…and heading for the pylon on the right….

whita pylon

I thought it might look more impressive in black and white

I walked on past the pylon until I came to my favourite stile…

stile at Whita quarry

…and was very surprised to see a gorse bush in full flower on the other side of the wall.

gorse on Whita

From there, my route was across the face of the hill on the old quarry track.  I passed a sheep sensibly lying down with its back to the increasingly gusty wind.

sheep on Whita

After passing a lonely tree…

whita tree

…I dropped back into the town by way of the golf course and the Kirk Wynd.

Town Hall

The clock told me that I had been out for just under an hour which was quite enough as it was threatening to turn from mist into drizzle.

Beside the suspension bridge as I crossed the Esk, an old friend was standing on a rock….

heron

Facing him, a duck had found a rock of its own.

duck

When I got home, I had time to look at a robin trying all the feeders in turn….

robin

…before the light disappeared completely.

Although it takes a week before the days actually start getting longer again, it is good to know that tomorrow is the literal depth of winter and it will be uphill towards the sunlit uplands from then on.

I got a call from the garage saying that inexpensive repairs were required and these should be completed by tomorrow.   I may complain about computers in cars from time to time but it is undoubtedly a good thing to be able to hook up your car to a machine and have it tell you within moments exactly what is wrong.

I am still suffering mildly from my cold and so the rest of the day was spent in gentle activity indoors until we went off to a film in the Buccleuch Centre in the evening.

As the film was White Christmas, this turned out to be a cheerful way to round off a dull day.

The flower of the day is a tiny yellow flower which I found on the practise fairway at the golf club…

yellow flower december

…and the flying bird of the day is an expansive chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture’s subject was spotted in the window of what she called a ‘posh shop’ in Mayfair by my sister Susan.  It must be quite posh indeed if it is selling this.

Elephant

We woke to another day of undiluted blue sky.  There was an additional factor though.  This was the view of the green hill I walking on yesterday as seen from our garden today.

Castle Hill in snow

The snow wasn’t deep and had largely gone by the end of the day.  There was only the merest sprinkling of snow in the town itself but it was enough to provide some seriously slippery patches of ice for the unwary pedestrian.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I had to pick our steps carefully as she headed to the church…

Langholm Parish Church

…for a choir practice and I headed to the Archive Centre to read the meter.

With the meter read,   I picked my way carefully along to the Kilngreen in pursuit of oyster catchers.  There were none to be seen and I had to content myself with a passing duck or two…

ducks

…and a sedentary flock of gulls.

black headed gulls

You can see the light sprinkling of icy snow in the picture above and I spent some time wondering whether I should put on my Yaktrax and go for a walk.  I took a picture of the Kilngreen and the Meeting of the Waters while I pondered…

Meeting of the waters

…and another of a view of Whita across the Esk as I walked home, still pondering…

Whita

…and then I made myself a cup of coffee while I was still trying to make my mind up and in the end I had spent so much time swithering that the opportunity had slipped past and I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Database instead.  At least I was at no risk of slipping over indoors.

While I was tapping away, I received a call from Dropscone to say that the doctors wouldn’t let him out of hospital for a day or two yet as they weren’t happy that his lung was in good enough condition.  He was understandably fed up but at least it made me feel a bit better about not having risked a fall in the icy conditions.

I had a look out of the kitchen window from time to time but the feeder remained in deep shade and I had to look elsewhere to see birds.

chaffinch and sparrow

When the feeder finally came into the light, the birds were most uncooperative and flew everywhere except into the centre of my lens.

uncooperative birds

Some bird lovers in the town have seen no goldfinches in their gardens this winter at all so I am pleased that we have  small flock of regular visitors to brighten us up.  They were here again today.

goldfinches

As usual though our stock-in-trade are the chaffinches.

sparring chaffinches

After lunch, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel and we had an enjoyable session.  We played two Telemann sonatas and two Mozart Divertimentos so we weren’t lacking in good quality stuff to play.  We did our best to do the material some justice.

When I got  home, I noticed a blackbird tucking into the coconut treat…

blackbird

..and then I had a cup of tea with Mike Tinker, shifted some compost from Bin C to Bin D and finally enjoyed a phone conversation with a customer services person from the Archive Centre power providers.

I have formally complained about the incomprehensible bills they keep sending in spite of having many meter readings and they keep asking for more meter readings.  They asked for some today.   I gave them some and pointed out that their bills are incomprehensible.  They sucked their teeth and said that they would get back to me.  I was remarkably calm.

The International Space Station was due to fly over Langholm at tea time so we went out to look.  It was a very good night for staring into the sky.  I saw the moon very clearly….

half moon

…but only caught a glimpse of the space station as I had got bored and drifted off before it came.

After tea,  my flute pupil Luke came and for the first time we played through all four movements of a Loeillet trio sonata which we have been practising for some time, accompanied by my computer at the harpsichord.  We had to stop and restart a couple of times but we got through and were very proud of ourselves.

Our short but very welcome spell of calm, cold and sunny weather looks to be coming to an end but it has been a real pleasure to have had a few days when we weren’t in danger of being either blown away or flooded.  People have been very cheerful as they walked round the town.

The flying bird of the day is a late afternoon chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows the River Derwent in Derby in full flow after the visit of Imogen.  It was taken by my brother who lives in Derby.

Derwent in flood

We had a day without any hint of sunshine today but curiously, it was much brighter for the most part than yesterday had been.  This was not just a subjective view.  The exposure meter on my camera as I peer through the kitchen window does not lie about the light.

The relative brightness of the day was slightly marred by a gentle but persistent rain which dropped gently from the heavens for hour after hour.

I had two visits from a redpoll after breakfast.  They were about and hour and a half apart and I wondered if this was two visits from the same bird or one visit each from two different birds.

redpoll

I think that the white feathers show that it is the same bird.

I will keep an eye out when I next see a redpoll to check if it looks the same again.

There were plenty of birds about in spite of the rain. The temperature had dropped a degree or two so maybe that was enough to bring them back to the garden.

busy feeder

Some birds had to be told to wait for their turn.

busy feeder

Others waited for a quiet moment and then dashed in and out.

robin

I was spoiled with some scones to go with morning coffee when Dropscone came round after his customary visit to the gym.

After coffee, I put out some pellets for the jackdaws and once again was impressed by their pink pellet radar as they were on the scene within seconds.

jackdaws

Some held a watching brief and others held pellets.

The garden was full of blackbirds today.  You might think that all blackbirds are the same blackbird but as usual if you look at things closely, you can see differences….

blackbirds

..some more obvious than others of course.

blackbird

The rain eased up for a while so I popped out for a quick walk to inspect the ducks.  There were plenty to inspect today.

Kilngreen ducks

Although our ducks are mostly standard mallards…

Kilngreen duck

…there are differences to be seen.

Kilngreen ducks

As well as the ducks, there were two other visitors who were very welcome as harbingers of spring.

oyster catchers

Oyster catchers having a paddle

There were workmen on the Sawmill Brig starting the repairs to the parapet which was damaged by falling trees in one of our gales.

Sawmill Brig

I walked over the bridge and up the Lodge Walks.  I am keeping an eye on a log pile there becuase it looks like a promising spot for fungus and I was rewarded today by spotting some shiny new ones.

fungus

When I came to the Lodge, I had to take the high road as the low one is still flooded….

Flood on castleholm road

…but this was not a bad thing as it gave me a chance to see the first signs of the snowdrops at Holmhead.

Snowdrops

They are looking very promising and should be well worth another look in a few days time when they ought to be fully out.

I walked back along the river but the rain had returned so I didn’t dilly dally, stopping only for a quick catkin shot.

catkins

They are showing signs of spring too.

I hadn’t been at home for long when the phone rang.  It was Sandy asking if I would care to join him in a walk.  I had to decline because my mind was set on a cycle outing in the afternoon.

It took me a bit to get up the pep to put my gear on and get the bike out as the rain kept appearing and disappearing but I finally finished a tricky crossword and ran out of excuses for not going so I got up and went.

It was raining lightly so I opted for doing twenty miles  in my ‘outdoor gym’, that is pedalling three times up to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back.  There was enough wind to make the out and back journeys quite a contrast and my legs were in a very co-operative mood so I enjoyed the trip in spite of the dampness.

I made some sourdough bread during the day and it is baking as I write this so my plan is to have a slice or two of fresh bread and then retire to a relaxing tub to round off a gently pleasant day.

We may have a genuinely sunny day tomorrow and there is no rain forecast for the rest of the week.  We are quite excited.

A chaffinch appears as flying bird of the day.  There wasn’t quite enough light to catch a flying duck or oyster catcher.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my brother-in-law Mike and shows his granddaughter Lara putting in the last pieces of an enormous jigsaw puzzle.

LaraMrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to see our granddaughter Matilda today but I stayed at home.  As soon as she had left to catch the train at Lockerbie, I went back upstairs to catch some extra zeds as I was feeling rather tired.

Refreshed by my snooze, I came downstairs and saw some feathered friends hanging around in hope.

jackdaw and starlingThere was nothing in the lawn feeder.

starlingI quickly put some of the famous pink pellets out and stood back to watch the fun.

starlings queuing upThe starlings put on a neat demonstration of whirling through the air.

starlings flyingI left them to their antics and retired indoors to prepare a practice version for another of our Carlisle choir songs.  It takes me a bit of time, not being a pianist myself, but I enjoy it and it is just the thing for when I want a quiet day.

After lunch, I had time to look out of the window….

goldfinch

A very grumpy looking goldfinch

collared dove

The first visit for some time of some collared doves

…and a quick walk round the garden…

pretty in pink

Pretty in pink

Icelandic poppy

In my pursuit of Shirley poppies I have been neglecting the Icelandic poppy.  The stay in flower for months on end.

…before a fellow member of our Langholm choir came round to put a bit of much needed practice in.  Our new musical director may think that we are better than we actually are so we felt that a bit of homework would not go amiss.   We will see whether our work was any use at the choir meeting tomorrow.

It was a cool, dry day and it seemed a pity to spend the whole day inside so after Eric had gone, I went off for a walk.

I headed for the Kilngreen, home of many sitting ducks….

ducks…swooping gulls….

gull…and of course, Mr Grumpy.

heronMy walk then took me over the Ewes Water and onto a track which runs along the top of the banking above the river.

It is an path that I rarely use but it provided me with pictures of an excellent gate…

gate….some luscious looking berries…

berries…and some improbably green moments.

pathhead trackThe track ends above the A7 as it leaves the town to the north.

A7Across the valley, I could see a single tree shining our among the conifers.

Ewes valleyAnd below me, the High Mill Brig which I would cross on my way home.

High Mill BrigThe brig is a handsome single span construction.

High Mill BrigMy walk home along the road was uneventful and I had time to do a little more work on the computer and make a risotto for my tea before Mrs Tootlepedal got home.  She was excited because she had seen an enormous flock of migrating geese grazing at Carstairs from the window of her train.

Instead of going to Carlisle in the evening to play recorders, Roy and Susan came to Wauchope Cottage and we were joined by Sue, an ex member of the group for an evening of quartets.  We played a varied selection from J S Bach to Whistling Rufus and enjoyed ourselves a lot.

Over a cup of tea after playing, Sue told us of her adventures in buying and fitting out a container as a garden room.  The container is being delivered this week and the whole thing sounds very interesting.  I am hoping that she will send me a picture or two as the project develops.

The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull.

flying gull

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Today’s guest picture, which comes from my Newcastle correspondent, shows her two children sitting on top of an old coal mine at Weetslade.  She tells me that you can enjoy nature here while watching planes landing and taking off and trains speeding by at the same time.  Paradise.

weetslade

After yesterday’s optimism, I was back to full moaning mode again today and spent most of the day slumped in my chair.  Fortunately the gods who had organised the return of the painful hip had also organized two cycle road races at the Commonwealth Games to coincide with it so I had plenty to keep me from dwelling  on my ailments.  The fact that it was a pretty windy and often wet day outside helped me to not mind being inside.

Finally, when the bike racing was over and the weather had taken a turn for the better,  I took a few steps out into the garden.  I was trying to take a picture of a bee on a sunflower when the bee flew off but I thought that the sunflower looked so cheery that I have left it in.  You can just see the bee leaving if you look carefully.

sunflower

The yellow crocosmia still hasn’t quite created the look which Mrs Tootlepedal wants with the Shirley poppies but another bunch is looking quite smart with some phlox in the veg garden holding bed…

crocosmia and phlox

…and the Shirley poppies are defying the wet and windy weather.

shirley poppy

As we had to go shopping and the sun had come out, we thought we might combine a visit to the shop with a trip to the moor for a quick spot of bird watching.  We stopped at the Kilngreen on our way and were nearly mobbed by a large flock of ducks thinking we might be bringing them some food.  They were disappointed.

duck

duck

This what a duck looks like when it is giving you an old fashioned stare.

We rolled on up the hill while the sun was still shining and were able to watch a hen harrier soaring above the distant horizon.  It was a job for binoculars though as this was the best that the camera could do.

harrier

There is no doubt that the year is turning as a view down the valley shows.

Tarras

The greens are turning to browns.

The hill should be covered with purple heather at this time of year but a lot of the heather is obviously not well and looks like this…

heather

There is a lot of this. I think it has been attacked by the heather beetle.

…when it should be looking like this.

heather

And very little of this.

Large sums of money have been poured into restoring the heather moorland but it seems that they may be fighting a losing battle.

The little spell of sunshine was coming to an end so we went back to the town, did our shopping and got back just in time to avoid some very heavy rain.

If things have not improved by tomorrow as far as the hip goes, I think another visit to my physio will be necessary.  Usually just saying that I am thinking of ringing her up immediately cures minor niggles and saves me the trouble of a visit so I will just repeat that if things have not improved by tomorrow as far as the hip goes, I think another visit to my physio will be necessary.  That should do the trick.  Fingers crossed.

The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull spotted among the disgruntled ducks.

flying gull

….and a bonus.

flying gull

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