Posts Tagged ‘Ewes Valley’

Today’s guest picture comes from my cycling reader Paul. He lives in Lancashire and he sent me this picture of a reservoir to show that we are not the only ones having a dry time just now.

I am starting today’s post with a picture from yesterday. I almost always only use pictures in a post which I have taken that day as this blog is a daily diary, but I had this one ready to put in yesterday’s post when the new block editor made me forget about it. The blackbird had made such a good effort to pose nicely for me that I thought that it would be a sin not to reward him.

Back to today.

It was another day of wall to wall sunshine but with a brisker breeze to keep things a little cooler.

Neither of us had slept well in the heat last night so we had a quiet start to the day. Then, instead of street coffee, we enjoyed Zoom colour bingo event curated by our granddaughter Matilda. Through the wonders of technology, it involved all four of her grandparents, two of her aunts, a cousin, and her own parents (and three of the four countries of the United Kingdom). The rules were simple enough for even me to grasp and the method ensured the games ended in good time so we had space to chat and catch up as well as play.

After Zooming, we went out into the garden, where Mrs Tootlepedal did useful thinks and I wandered around, a bit at a loss to find something to do. In lieu of anything more productive, I looked at flowers.

There are new arrivals, an orange hawkweed…

…the first of many Sweet Williams…

…a beautifully dark pansy…

…and the first bud on a rose.

I was passing the bird feeder and noticed that a greenfinch was ignoring me. I didn’t ignore it and got the benefit of photographing a bird on the feeder in good light and not through a window.

I was happy even if it it was not.

Our neighbour Kenny, who gardens the far bank of the dam, has produced a really lovely lily there…

We went back in to have lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal took the sensible view that it was a good afternoon to sit quietly indoors out of the heat. I was restless and split my time by being bored indoors and doing nothing useful outdoors. As usual, when left with nothing better to do, I pointed cameras at things. The bright light was a problem so I looked for shady corners with Welsh poppies…


…and musk.

And I found an ornamental onion.

At one stage, I went for a shady sit down on our new bench and was joined for some quality time by a blackbird on a nearby hedge.

I checked to see what had captured the bees’ fancy today. It was chive diving.

I went back in to get set up for my second Zoom meeting of the day and while the computer was warming up, I looked out of the back door at the dam to see if any birds were cooling off there. Starlings were making use of the facilities…

…but they flew off in a huff when I got too close.

The afternoon Zoom meeting was the weekly Carlisle Choir virtual rehearsal with our energetic leader Ellen. Once again she was well prepared with a really good grip on the technology. All the same, the current technology will still not let everyone sing at the same time so it was more of a chance to get together and keep the spirit of the choir going than a great singing experience. About 50 members signed in and I enjoyed it.

There was another gap in the day now, with nothing much to do so I made a batch of 30 ginger biscuits as the last lot of 30 biscuits has mysteriously disappeared.

Then I had to time to check to see if there were more birds swimming in the dam. There were none but a white clover by the back door caught my eye instead…

…and I had to look out of the front window to see some birds. The feeder was half full and the bottom layer had been taken over by three greenfinches…

…who weren’t going to let any other bird get a look in. This led to some wistful flying birds, hoping for a perch but not succeeding in dislodging the incumbents.

And then it was time for the third Zoom meeting of the day, the usual get together with my siblings. My brother was absent but my sisters were in good form. I didn’t stay for the whole meeting as I wanted to get out for a cycle ride in the comparative cool of the early evening and still be back in time for our evening meal.

it was 25°C but the sun was down in the sky a bit and a cooling breeze kept conditions ideal for the elderly cyclist. I headed north up the main road out of town, hoping that there would be little traffic on the road and that the wind would be helpful as I headed uphill.

Both hopes were fulfilled. There was hardly any traffic and the wind was not only helpful up the hill but by some fluke of meteorology, helpful to me on the way back down again. As a result, I was home in plenty of time for a delicious meal of liver and onions prepared by Mrs Tootlepedal.

I took two pictures just to show that I had been out. The first was soon after I had set off, and shows the Ewes valley at its best…

…and the second was at the head of the valley as the shadows were closing in on the road to Mosspaul.

I was passed by two cars in the ten miles back home. Cycling heaven.

Looking at my cycling spreadsheet when I got home, I see that I have cycled 15 times this month and covered 450 miles, my best month this year by a good distance. As I have gone for a walk on the other 16 days, it has been an excellent month for exercise.

The flying bird of the day is a duck who was passing over the garden while I was wandering about.

Footnote: As an experiment because I am using the new block editor, I have put the pictures in at a larger size than usual. I don’t know if this will make any difference but if it does for good or bad, I would be grateful for any feedback.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia.  Owing to an easing in the lockdown in England, she was able to visit the Fragrance Garden at The Newt, and very pleased she was to be there.

fragrance garden

A quick examination of our garden this morning showed that the frost attack hadn’t been just been a bad dream, the azaleas and most of the rhododendrons were truly dead.

four dead flowers after may frost

And what was nearly as bad from my point of view was the discovery that all the potential plums had turned black (top right picture in the panel above). As a devoted plum eater, this was very sad news.  One of the espalier apples looks doomed as well and we can only wait to see what happens with the other two.

Wherever Mrs Tootlepedal looked, she seemed to be able to find signs of more damage on other flowers and shrubs but I wouldn’t want to say that there are no flowers left in the garden…

yellow and white survivors may frost

…with the ‘wilder’ flowers looking to have come through best.

six may flowers after frost

I will have something to photograph in the coming days.

six may colourful flowers after frost

Like this dicentra.

dicentra survivor

We did a lot of wandering around feeling unhappy but our usual socially distanced street coffee morning cheered us up.  Afterwards, Mrs Tootlepedal settled down to removing and shaping box hedge plants for most of the rest of the day.

I lent a hand now and then, and in between times mowed the front lawn.  Both lawns badly need some steady rain and some consistent warmth and they are not looking good at the moment.  However, my target date for having the lawns looking good is mid June and I haven’t given up hope yet.

It was rather grey with a chilly wind so I was happy that it was a walking rather than a cycling day, and after lunch I picked up my walking  poles, put on my walking shoes, and went for a walk.

As I walked along the Ewes Water, I saw wild flowers on the far bank and a wagtail on a rock (with a reflection below) and as I walked up the hill past the Estate Offices, I saw two black lambs.

wildflowers, wagtail, lambs

Our neighbour Liz had told me that the cattle had been taken off Castle Hill for a while, so this seemed like a good opportunity to walk up my least visited of the hills around the town.

There is a steep start to the track up the hill and I was happy to pause for a moment among the hawthorn trees to look across the valley at Whita Hill…

whita from castle hill track

..before heading on up the very dry track to the summit.

track and tree castle hill

I say summit, but that is perhaps allowing Castle Hill a little more majesty than it really has at a modest 270 metres (885ft) above sea level.

But you do get a good view from the top.

This is perhaps the best of view of Langholm from any of our four hills as you can see the whole town.

langholm from castle hill

You can also look up Eskdale…

esk valley from castle hill

…and Wauchopedale too.

wauchope valley from castle hill

Castle Hill lies on the end of a ridge and my route today  took me along the ridge.

potholm hill ridge

One of the joys of walking round Langholm is the good supply of easily attained ridges that offer fine walking with splendid view on every side.

As I went along, I could look down into the Ewes Valley on one side…

looking up ewes

…and when I got to the highest point on the ridge, Potholm Hill at 310m…

cairn potholm hill

…I got a fine view of the Esk valley on the other side.

You can see our local racing stable’s all weather training track in the foreground.

look over craig up esk

You can also see that there is a lot of forestry on the hills in Eskdale compared with the Ewes Valley…

looking up ewes from potholm hill

…but as I have remarked before, there will soon be a lot more trees up Ewes as sheep farms have been sold for tree planting.

I came down  the ridge to the little col between Potholm and Wrae Hills and turned down to meet the track back to Langholm, passing these three trees as I went.

three trees wrae hass

This section of the walk is usually very boggy but it has been so dry that I could have done the whole walk in carpet slippers without getting my feet wet.

I was soon back among green fields…


…and headed back past Potholm Farm towards Langholm.

Instead of sticking to the main track, I branched off into the woods above the track, following a minor track used by the pheasant keepers.  It was my intention to see if I could join up with the track that Mrs Tootlepedal and I had enjoyed last week when we walked into these woods from the far end.

The woods were dark after the airiness of being on top of the hill, and I began to wonder if I would find my way…

walk through woods above longfauld

…but fortunately I met a friend coming in the opposite direction, and she gave me some sound advice which I followed and I soon came to the track that I was looking for.

Unlike the hill, where the sheep had eaten everything except the occasional tormentil, there were plenty of wild flowers in the woods…

wild flowers longfauld woods

…and some sensational bluebells and wild garlic in the more open areas.

bluebells and garlic

This very lovely crop of speedwell deserved a solo picture in my view.


I finished my walk by crossing a mass of dandelion clocks on the football pitch on the Castleholm…

dandelions castleholm

…and they told me that it was time for tea and a Garibaldi biscuit so I didn’t take any more pictures.

When I checked, I found that I had walked just under six miles and once again, I had had a wonderful variety of terrain and views on my short walk.  This is Walk 4 of the Langholm Walks (I had done it in the ‘wrong’ direction) and I can heartily recommend it to anyone who hasn’t tried it, especially just now when the going is dry underfoot and there are no cattle on the hill.

I had time for my tea and biscuit before my regular sibling Zoom meeting and then I sat down to a welcome meal of roast chicken prepared by Mrs Tootlepedal, washed down by a small glass of cider, part of the gift from our son Alistair and his wife Clare.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, sneaking past the drops of water coming from the sprinkler that Mrs Tootlepedal was using to try to get a little moisture into our dry soil.

flying sparrow hose drops

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce.  Meeting a stranger while out on a recent walk, he engaged him in polite but socially distanced conversation but found him rather uncommunicative.

bruce's friend

I had a disturbing morning.  We had arranged a visit from our bench supplier to discuss a modification to the new bench and he arrived at nine in the morning.  This seriously upset my normal routine of letting breakfast, the newspapers and the crossword run almost seamlessly into getting dressed just before coffee time.  As a result of being dressed and shaved so promptly, I had two hours of wandering around wondering what I was supposed to do before we even got to coffee.

I did go out and look at flowers.   They were not hard to see.

six flowers

It was another decidedly chilly morning with a brisk wind so although we had our customary socially distanced street coffee morning with ginger biscuits, it didn’t last as long as usual, even in the sunshine.

Someone remarked that our tulips are nearing the end of the road, but they are not going out without a final show.

four old poppies

The droplets on the petals are not rain but more of the endless watering that we are doing every day.

New flowers are coming to replace the tulips so we won’t be wanting for colour.

iris, cornflower, geranium, polemonium

My favourite flower of the moment is the aquilegia.

aquilegia close up

There was plenty of bird action today with the feeder appealing to goldfinches and siskins…

siskins and goldfinches

…and an assortment of other birds posing round the garden.

blackbird, jackdaw, thrush and pigeon

The birds that were making the most noise were baby sparrows clamouring for attention from their parents.

sparrows feeding babies

A young blackbird was less successful.


After lunch, I went for a cycle ride.  This was a surprise to me, as the brisk chilly wind in the morning had been enough to make me think of having a day off.  It had warmed up under the sun though, and the wind had eased off quite a bit by the afternoon with the result that taking a spin up the main road north of the town felt like the right thing to do.

This was a good decision, with the Ewes valley looking at its best…

ewes valley view

…and Ewes Kirk, pretty as a picture when framed by green leaves.

ewes church

I was cycling into the wind so i wasn’t unhappy to pause to enjoy the view…

view from A7

…and I think that you may well agree that there might be worse roads to be cycling up.

A7 near Unthank

There was a bit more traffic than there has been lately but it was still pretty peaceful.

I cycled 15 miles north into the wind, and this brought me to the bottom of the hill that has this strange conical monument to the local poet and minister Henry Scott Riddell on it.

ridell monument

The people who spoil views with power lines have done superb work here!  And yes, that is a gull perching on the very top of the monument.

The return journey, with the wind behind, was glorious.

At one stage I was bicycling up a gentle hill though wooded country at exactly the same speed as the wind was blowing.  There was no a whisper of wind in my ears. The road surface was newly laid and silky smooth.  My bike has a superior hub gear and a belt drive so it has none of that loud clanking that goes with a chain and derailleur gear.  There was no traffic.

The upshot of these happy coincidences was that for a good few hundred yards, I was pedalling along in complete silence, in a world of my own, entirely at peace.

And then there was the rush down hill for the last ten miles of the trip, accomplished in just over half an hour.  What fun for an old man.

After a slightly unsatisfactory Zoom meeting bedevilled by technological mysteries and a very satisfying meal of scrambled eggs, baked beans and fried potatoes, the second shock to my well drilled lockdown life occurred.

The powers that be have decreed that we may now go out more than once a day for exercise, so Mrs Tootlepedal and I drove up to the White Yett car park and walked up to the monument.

track to monument

We had coats and gloves with us but while the sun was out, it was warm enough to keep the gloves in our pockets.

Mrs Tootlepedal scanned the moorland for signs of harriers and thought that she could see a couple of them flying in the distance below us…

view of tarras from whita

…but we were totally unprepared to see a bird of prey sitting on a fence not far in front of us.

Although it sat and let us watch it for some time, it was too far away for a definite identification, but looking at the picture when we got home, we think that it was a short eared owl rather than a hen harrier.

short eared owl

When we got to the monument, the view over the town was a reward for the climb…

langholm late evening from whita

…but Mrs Tootlepedal hadn’t come up here to see local views.  Her ambition was to take advantage of the currently unpolluted skies to see if she could see the Isle of Man, eighty miles away.

Quite amazingly, she could.  It wasn’t the clearest sighting but with her binoculars, the island could be seen.  She gave me a go, and I could see it too.

My camera was quite a bit less sucessful!!


It’s out there somewhere.

It had better luck looking at the Lake District hills which are a lot closer than the Isle of Man.

lake district

The sun had gone behind clouds by the time that we walked back down the hill and it had got quite chilly.  A sheep suggested that we shouldn’t hang about.

sheep on whita

The shades of night were falling fast as we got back to the car.

evening view from white yett

Thanks to the wonders of technology, we are in constant communication with our families so we will be quite happy to remain very vigilant and homebound for the foreseeable future whatever the government may say.  The second daily outing for exercise will be welcome though.

The flying bird of the day is a lark which we saw on our way down the hill this evening.

lark in sky

You don’t believe me?  Here it is.

lark close up

You can spot it in the middle of the big picture just below the line of blue sky if you look very, very carefully!

In the end, it was not the early rise or the second walk that was the biggest surprise of the day.  It was putting that failed picture of the view towards the Isle of Man into the photo editor and finding out what the camera had really seen.

iom contrast

Now that was a surprise.

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my brother Andrew, but was taken by his son, my nephew Dan.  It shows the trail along the disused Nottingham Canal.

nottingham canal bridge Dan

We woke to another dry and sunny morning and I got up early enough to have a wander round the garden before coffee time.

The daffodils are all but over but a single fine specimen is still holding its head up high.

last daffodil

The sunshine made the flowers glow.  The trout lilies are on their way out but a few good specimens remain.

berberis, rhody, trout lily and tulips

Among the newcomers is the brilliant blue of the lithodora.  The camera cannot do this flower justice for its absolute blueness.


The cool mornings mean that we are still waiting for the red rhododendrons to come out and other less showy flowers are waiting in the wings too.

garden promis

What there is in the garden is a profusion of sparrows.  They are everywhere.

four sparrow panel

I didn’t have any time after coffee for garden wandering as Mrs Tootlepedal was keen to take a walk to see if we could see a hen harrier up on the moor.

When we walked along the moor road a few days ago, we had not had any sight of the birds at all so we were not over optimistic but after we had driven the two miles up to the White Yett car park, we still walked along the road in hope.

Like yesterday, the Ewes valley was a place of sunshine and shadows…


sunshine and shadow ewes 2

…but when we crossed the cattle grid and looked into the Tarras valley, there were a good many more clouds about, and it looked as though it was raining not far away.

rain up tarras

We were not discouraged though and walked on down the hill.  We were rewarded when a female hen harrier put on a spectacular flying demonstration, more or less straight over our heads…

flying hen harrier female panel

I only had a 300mm lens with me so I couldn’t get a close shot but the light was kind and these cropped pictures give an idea of how good it was to watch the exhibition.

Mrs Tootlepedal, who had her binoculars with her, had a very good view and was extremely happy.

We hadn’t gone very far when we stopped to watch the bird, and the rain clouds were now looking more and more threatening so we nearly turned back to the car.

When we examined to sky carefully though, it appeared that in spite of the wind blowing towards us, the clouds were actually blowing away from us.  Curious.

We walked on, and after a while the sun came out…

tinnis in early may

…and we saw a male hen harrier flying past us in the opposite direction to the female.  He was not so obliging as the female and stayed well up the hill from us.

male hen harrier

When I took my eyes from the skies and stared at the ground, there was plenty to see there too.

moss and blaeberry

Little spruce trees, seeded by chance, had new growth on the end of their twigs that made them look like decorated Christmas trees.

things beside Tarras road

The fluffy headed grass looked like bog cotton to me  but Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is Hare’s Tail and the bog cotton will come later in the year.

We walked down the hill for a while and then walked back up again.

It was a good deal warmer with the wind behind us and the sun out.  The rain clouds  had disappeared and it was a fine day on the moor.

sunshine up Tarras

As we walked back up the hill, we were treated to the sight of the male hen harrier quartering the ground on the other side of the Little Tarras Water.  Although he was clearly visible to the naked eye, he was too far away from my camera.  Mrs Tootlepedal had a good time tracking him with her binoculars.

We were both in a very good mood by the time we had got back to the MacDiarmid Memorial and the car park.

macdiarmid memorial may

The Ewes valley was still a place of sunshine and shadow.

sunshine and shadow ewes 1

We got home in time for a late lunch.

After lunch, I attempted to make a cake, a thing that I have hardly ever done before.  I was following a recipe for a farmhouse sultana cake and I came across one of those mysterious phrases that torment the novice cook: “add milk to the mixture until it has a dropping consistency”.   I find that these days almost anything I touch has a dropping tendency so that wasn’t very helpful.  In the end, I think I erred on the side of stiffness and the cake has come out tasty but rather crumbly.  Practice makes perfect though and I will try again.

While the cake was cooking, it rather unexpectedly started to rain outside.  For a while, it looked as though it even be useful ran and a greenfinch looked a bit disgruntled by it.

reflective greenfinch

It didn’t discourage birds from coming to the feeder though…

busy feeder

…nor did it dampen this male chaffinch’s need to explain to a female just where she was going wrong.

chaffinches talking

But it didn’t last and after getting lighter and lighter, it fizzled out without getting the soil really wet at all.

Grey skies are forecast for tomorrow so with a bit of luck we might get another drop of rain.

On a normal day, this chaffinch might easily have been the flying bird of the day…

flying chaffinch in light rain

…but not today.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s delight takes pride of place.

flying hen harrier female

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She mowed her lawn today but tells me not to look too closely at it.  It looks good to me.

mary's garden

We had another lovely morning and as a result, Mrs Tootlepedal had to spend a good deal of the day watering the garden.  Even after a good soak, things stayed very dry and more watering is on the cards for the coming days.

I went out into the garden after breakfast and poked my nose into tulips.

tulip closeup 4

They come in all shapes…

tulip closeup 3

…and colours…

tulip closeup 2

…and styles.

tulip closeup 1

I was pleased to see a Welsh poppy developing…

welsh poppy

…and an azalea too, although there are still only a few flowers opened so far.

azalea blossom

Willows are a source of endless fascination for me.

willow cloe up

Instead of having coffee, I drove down to Longtown to pick up my bike from the bike shop.

The drive was fine as there is still hardly any traffic on the roads but I had to wait for quite a long time before I could pick up my bike, standing physically distanced from other bike enthusiasts, while the reduced bike store staff dealt with a queue of customers.

However, it was my turn in the end, and I packed the bike into the car and drove home.

I didn’t have to pay anything as this was the final after-sales free service for the bike. I have had it for two years so that seemed very generous to me.  I had to pay for a new back tyre though.  Looking at my records, I see that it has covered 6800 miles since I bought it, so the old tyre served me well.

When I got back, I put the Zoe on charge for the first time for ages and then joined Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden.  She has been using compost steadily as she plants things out, so I sieved another barrow load.

Then I wasted time by running the mower over the front lawn.  There was nothing to cut as the grass has simply not been growing through a combination of cold mornings and lack of moisture. The lawn had to wait its turn to get watered but I am hoping to see a little growth soon.

After lunch, I did some high quality procrastinating by wandering around the garden as if I was going to do something useful without actually doing anything.  Then I leapt into action (rather slowly).

It should have been a walking day but as Mrs Tootlepedal is considering a walk tomorrow, I got my newly serviced bike out and went for  a pedal instead.

I wasn’t in the mood for an adventurous ride, feeling rather creaky and a bit tired, so I headed straight up the main road north out of the town for twelve and a half miles and then turned and headed straight back home again.

It started to rain at the very moment that I got my bike out of the garage but I wasn’t alarmed as I thought that it wouldn’t come to anything.  I was quite right, the drizzle stopped half a mile later, and I was treated to some lovely sunshine and shadow as I cycled up the Ewes valley.

hill view ewes valley 3

A lot of the land here has recently been sold to a timber company and I could see that work on new forestry has already begun.

preparing for planting ewes

There is a drive for new trees and land has become more valuable for timber than sheep.

I wasn’t always in sunshine myself but there always seemed to be sunlit uplands ahead.

hill view ewes valley 2

But always some little distance ahead.

road up to mosspaul

All the same, it was warm enough and the wind was light so I did my twelve and a half mostly uphill miles north at twelve miles an hour.

I turned at a quarry beside the road.

quarry over mosspaul

The ride out had been so pleasant that I was afraid that I might find the wind blowing in my face on the way back  but it turned out to a cross wind and more behind and in front so I had an easy ride home too.

I stopped for a drink and a cube of guava jelly at Mosspaul on my way back, and once again admired the ability of this tree to grow straight up from a steeply angled bank…

tree at mosspaul

…and enjoyed a the warmth of the sun.  The old Mosspaul Hotel is no longer open to offer refreshment to passing cyclists so I headed back home to get my cup of tea and date roll.

mosspaul hotel

I had more sunshine on the way back than I had had on the way out…

hill view ewes valley

…and had a thoroughly refreshing and invigorating ride, finishing  it feeling a lot perkier than when I started out.  That Dr Velo knows a thing or two.

I got home in time for my daily Zoom meeting with my siblings.  Mrs Tootlepedal joined in for a while and was a useful source of gardening information.

I had a moment after the call and before tea to look out of the window.  Jackdaws have been pecking at my lawn again, and we name one of the guilty parties.

jackdaw pecking lawn

The feeder was unusually busy and a goldfinch and chaffinch gave a sparrow  a hard stare as he tried to move them on.

sparrow in waiting

He had to sit at the side until the goldfinches were finished.

busy feeder May

Yesterday’s mince and tatties turned into an excellent spaghetti bol today and as I have enjoyed first rate cheese and delicious dates as well, it has been a good eating day.

After tea, it actually rained properly for ten minutes while I was talking to Dropscone on the phone….and then it stopped!  The weather gods do this sort of thing just to annoy.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch talking politics with a friend.

flying greenfinch quarrel

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew’s permitted walk today.   He was pleased to see such cheerful blossom.

blossom andrew

We had cheerful flowers in the garden here today.  They were pleased to see the sunshine on another rather chilly day with an east wind sweeping down from the far north.

two tulips

I went out to view them after my standard start for the day (another good crossword helped pass the time)

Mrs Tootlepedal enjoyed a coffee and some of my ginger biscuits in physically distanced but socially integrated conversation with our neighbours, while I did some daffodil dead heading in the garden.

Later on, I clipped and sawed the remains  of the pruned lilac and added the logs to our tidy log store.  I didn’t go so far as to wash the bricks again today (though they needed it) but contented myself with a gentle brush.

And of course, I kept an eye open for birds…

dunnock blackbird goldfinch

…and bees.

red tailed bee

The daffodils are fading but the trout lilies are taking their place with some verve.

daffodil and trout lily

The star of the garden today for me was this freshly flowering Amalanchier.


Seeing the ducks in the dam behind the house, I put a little bird seed into the flow and this attracted their attention.

female mallard dam

Mrs Tootlepedal made some tasty green lentil soup for lunch with chicken stock from the recent roast chicken.  There is no doubt that real stock is an improvement on commercial stock pots but we can’t eat chicken all the time just to make stock.

After lunch, I idled round the garden a bit and then went for a walk.

In spite of the nippy wind, it was a good day for a walk and as I wanted to get in a view or two, I resolved to walk  up to the monument on top of Whita Hill.

My route took me onto the golf course where I found an old friend.

oyster catcher on golf course

It wasn’t a brilliantly blue sky day but the light was interesting…

view of ewes valley from golf course

…and although there were plenty of clouds about, I seemed to walk under the sun the whole time.

two trees from golf course

I got on to the open hill at the top of the golf course and took the track up the Birnie Braes which is followed by the horses on Common Riding day.

It was very dry and peaceful today.

birnie braes path

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that is it described as a road 20 feet wide in old documents  but the road has has fallen into disuse and the current path goes to one side of it.

I took this route as it offers a gentler gradient as it goes diagonally across the contours rather than the direct path which goes straight up to the summit.  When it gets to the shoulder of the hill, it joins the vehicle track from the road to the monument and a handy seat has been placed there.

The seat is modest…

seat on whita track

…but the views for a person who sits on it are magnificent.

views from seat on whita track

Looking down to my left, I could see a glimpse of the road up the Wauchope valley which i had followed on my walk on Tuesday.

view of wauchope valley from whita

I arrived at the top of the hill (355m) and paused to enjoy the view…

view from monument

…and inspect the monument, which has some fine algae at the bottom but is pretty clean further up.

monument views

The keen wind made sure that I didn’t hang around too long and I was soon on my way down again, going towards the road and enjoying the contrast between pastoral land on the left of the wall ahead of me and old grouse moor on the right.

view of grouse and sheep moor

I didn’t take the vehicle track back down but followed a charming path through the heather, used by mountain cyclists.

path down whita

There are plenty of cairns to be seen all over the hill and I have put three of them here and a look at one page of the MacDiarmid memorial too.

three cairns and a memorial

When I had passed the MacDiarmid memorial, I followed the road down to the bottom of the hill, passing this unusual tree…

tree copshaw road

…and a delightfully sinuous wall…

sinuous wall copshaw road

…on the way.

On approaching the  town, instead of taking the direct route home, I crossed the Sawmill Brig and headed across the Castleholm towards the Jubilee Bridge in the hope of seeing interesting birds.  I heard a lot of tweets but didn’t see any birds, interesting or otherwise.

However, I was rewarded by this refreshing sight so I wasn’t complaining.

Castleholm trees

My walk ended up at just under five miles and was very satisfying, a joy to the eye, a tonic for the spirit and some healthy exercise too.  Who could ask for anything more?

The mince and tatties made a welcome second appearance for our tea and as I went out and pulled some rhubarb, stewed it and made some custard, we ate like kings and queens to round off as good a lockdown day as we could wish for.

The flying bird of the day is a passing gull.

flying gull

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Today’s guest picture is a delightful pastoral scene which my Somerset correspondent Venetia captured a week ago on one of her permitted walks.

venetia's pastoral

The temperature was back to being well down in single figures again this morning and I dressed accordingly when I got up after my usual lockdown morning routine of leisurely breakfast and crossword.

I made coffee and Mrs Tootlepedal took hers outside in spite of the chill.  Luckily the sun had made an appearance so her regular al fresco but socially distanced coffee and conversation with our two nearest neighbours, Liz and Margaret could go ahead without anyone freezing to death.

coffee morning crew

When the world had been set to rights (again), Mrs Tootlepedal came back into the garden and set about moving a hydrangea from the pot in which it had been bought into a spot in a border.

While she slaved away, I made a batch of ginger biscuits.  I was a bit nervous after my recent failure with the hot cross buns, but the biscuits turned out well.  I enjoyed the indoor tulip while I cooked…

indoor tulip opening

…and was pleased to see that the rest of the transplanted tulips were doing well in their new position when I went out to see what Mrs Tootlepedal was up to.

transplanted tulips

She had dug a hole and together we heaved the plant out of its pot and into the barrow, and we were all ready to put the plant in the hole when a serious setback was encountered.

hydrangea being moved

This was the setback, an infestation in the root ball of the dreaded vine weevil.


They had probably come in the pot from the garden centre where the plant was purchased, and may well have accounted for the fact that Mrs Tootlepedal had wanted to move the plant because it was not doing well.

They found a use in the garden though as food for a sparrow.

spoarrow eating vine weevils

On a more cheery note, the first Banya Luka tulip has come out to add a touch of gaiety to the garden.

fancy tulip

While the big bumble bees go for dicentra, the smaller bees seem to like the euphorbia and the grape hyacinths better…

bees euphorbia hyacinth

…but I hope that all flying insects will soon turn their attention to the plum and silver pear which are more than ready for pollinators.

plum and pear blossom

In spite of the chill, I saw the first pond skater of the season….

pond skater

It may need proper skates as the pond  may well freeze tonight.

The dicentra is bursting out and there is more honesty to be seen in the garden every day.

dicentra and honesty

I don’t know what has caused the scars on the dicentra flower and would be interested to hear any suggestions.

We are getting quite excited by the possibilities of azaleas and peonies.

azalea and peony buds

Mrs Tootlepedal is slightly worried that I am losing my grip thanks to the lockdown.  This feeling was brought about when she found me in the garden after lunch washing the bricks that make the paving around the newly tided log shed.  She thinks that this may be going a step too far.

washed bricks

I think that every house needs nicely shiny bricks.

It had warmed up a bit by mid afternoon, enough to persuade me to stop washing bricks and put on my cycling gear and a peacock butterfly to try warming up its wings on a path.

peacock butterfly warming

As the wind was coming from the north, I headed north towards Mosspaul with the idea of getting blown home.

I took a couple of contrasting views on my way up the valley….

mosspeeble view 2

…which included one of the bases for the workmen who are maintaining the pylons.  If you look carefully, you can see the power lines in the pictures.

top of Ewes

I was cycling straight into the wind and I was hoping that the steep sides of the road up to the summit at Mosspaul would give me some shelter from it…

mosspaul valley

…but as the wind was coming straight down the road, I just had to grit my teeth, put my head down and puff on up the hill.

I went on down the other side for a mile or two until I came to the little church at Teviothead.

teviothead church

We are not supposed to stray too far from home on our cycle rides, so I stopped here and turned back.

The wind was very obliging on the way back.  I had taken an hour and twenty minutes to do the first fifteen miles, mainly uphill and into the wind, but only fifty five minutes to do the fifteen miles back home…

…with a single stop to take another view on the way.

mosspeeble view

By taking my time to get up and then leaving my exercise until as late in the day as was sensible, I managed to fill the day painlessly.  And as I did some compost turning as well as daffodil dead heading and brick washing, it was a fun day.

I didn’t get a flying bird today and I was going to use this  chaffinch to fill the position of perching bird of the day…

chaffunch perching with seed

…but just as we were sitting down to our evening meal, a loud quacking from the dam made me look out of the back window.

And now we have a swimming bird of the day today (and perhaps ducklings to come).


duck in dam

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