Posts Tagged ‘family’

Today’s guest picture shows an ingenious planter which my brother Andrew encountered on the platform of Penrith Station…..

penrith station

…where he also met my sisters Mary and Susan.  More about that later.

We had another generally fine day with just the merest touch of rain in the early evening but the sun was not so hard working as yesterday and it felt a good deal cooler.

I had intended to embark on a bicycle ride of some length but my legs had other ideas so instead I was happy to welcome Dropscone for a cup of coffee.  We sampled some of Mary Jo’s Canadian jam with his scones and found that it went very well.

Dropscone brought with him a small gift of crusty rolls which he had acquired at an extremely reasonable price from a Hawick supermarket just before it shut for the day as he passed through on his way home from a  golfing meeting late last night.  In return, we sent him off with a bag of rhubarb stalks.

I mowed the drying green and the greenhouse grass and then had a walk round the garden.

There is no shortage of things to look at.

The anemone is among my favourite flowers.  Its hand painted look appeals to me.


The white bluebells are looking strong.


And the good weather has the tulips opening their petals to the world.

tulip hearts

At noon, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre Coffee shop and I went in to have lunch and keep an eye on the birds.

Goldfinches appeared to be unhappy about something.


After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal reappeared and I got out the new bike and went off for a gentle and short run down to Canonbie by my usual route.  I don’t have any pictures to show from the trip as most unusually for me, I did the whole twenty miles without stopping at all, except on the two occasions when I had to cross the main road.   I have added a pannier to the set up and the bike coped with this without difficulty.

Since I hadn’t taken any pictures on the cycle ride, I took a few in the garden when I got back….

bees on dicentra

Two colours of dicentra both acting as bee magnets

garden ferns

A ferny corner of the back bed


Ornamental and edible strawberries both in flower

lamium, tulip and rhododendron

Lamium, tulip and rhododendron


The daffodil of the day (not many left)


This is the dawning of the age of azalea (with more to come)

…and then, as it was sunny for a bit,  Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to see the bluebells.  Unfortunately we had left things just a moment too late and by the time that we got to the bluebells, the sun had gone in again.  There was plenty to see on the way through the park and along the river…

park trees

Blossom in the park

…but the most surprising thing that we saw was several young rabbits scuttling across the grass at the far end of the park and disappearing into holes in the banking.  We stopped to watch them scamper about and one rabbit felt mistakenly that it was well enough hidden…

park rabbit

…to avoid the inquisitive lens.

We walked on.

wild garlic

wild garlic along the path

easton ferns

ferns everywhere


bluebells and more wild garlic

When we got to them, the bluebells were at their best…


…but the clouds had thickened up and the dull weather didn’t do them justice.  However, the scent from the flowers was not affected and gave our walk special pleasure.

We came home along the Stubholm track…

Stubholm track

…and walked back through the park, passing stitchwort by the Stubholm track and…

stitchwort and white wild flower

…and an unknown white flower in profusion at the park bridge.

We didn’t have long to wait after we got home before my brother Andrew drove up bringing Susan and Mary, my two eldest sisters with him.   Andrew is on a holiday in north Lancashire, my sister Susan had been staying with friends in Cumbria,  my sister Mary had joined them for a short break in the Lake District based in Penrith and all three had come to Langholm to test the new bench, marvel at the new bike and have a meal at the Douglas Hotel with us.

The test, the marvelling and the meal all went off well and we waved them goodbye as the light began to fade at the end of a good day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch showing strong shoulders as it approaches the feeder.

flying chaffinch







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Today’s guest pictures are of a couple of harebells on the hill which my neighbour Liz met on one of her early morning walks recently.

harebellsThe day started with a farewell as I drove Mrs Tootlepedal down to the station in Carlisle where she was going to catch a train to London on her way to visit her mother.   She sent me a message later in the day to say that she had arrived safely but it was raining quite hard.

Had she stayed at home, she would have enjoyed a lovely day, cool and misty in the morning but sunny all day and warm in the evening.

On my way back from Carlisle, I bought some more bird seed to top up my supplies as the birds are eating a lot.  They were still busy munching away when I got home but I was more interested in the flowers.  The poppies are wonderful at the moment with new colours appearing every day.

poppiesThese are just a sample of what is on offer.

I like the huge variety in the evolution of flowers so that you wonder what circumstances can have led to such difference.

nasturtium and astilbe

Simplicity and complexity

My walk round the flowers was accompanied by a frenzied chorus of buzzing as the insects were out in force enjoying the fine weather too.

sedum with insectsI like the very stylish specs on the fly on the right of the sedum head.

sedum with insectWho knew that flies have a stripey pattern on their backs?

Michaelmas daisy with insectI was hoping to see butterflies on the Michaelmas daisies but this elegant insect was there instead.

Michaelmas daisy with insectI had to wait until the morning dew had dried off but then I was able to mow the middle lawn today. It has survived the terrible summer remarkably well, although it is now past its best by some way.

I feel that I had quite a busy morning but looking back, I can’t actually remember doing very much so maybe I have forgotten something really interesting which I did, or more likely, I didn’t do much and what’s more, I did what I did do very slowly.

I certainly spent some time being entertained by a blue tit gymnastic display…

blue tits…and watching blue and coal tits sharing the new feeder.

blue tit, coal titAfter lunch, I got ready to go out for a bike ride but saw a puzzle in the garden before I went.  What was this on the fence?

blackbirdIt turned out to be this.

blackbirdOther birds were available.

robin and chaffinchThe chaffinch is in a better position than the robin.  The birds have to keep a good eye out for danger as the garden is infested with several neighbours’ cats which prey upon them.  I saw a cat making off with a chaffinch in its mouth today.  I once went up to a lady who was collecting money for the Cats’ Protection League and said I would give her plenty of money if she could protect me from cats.  She was most offended.

A greenfinch was keeping well above ground.

greenfinchMy cycle ride was gentle and undemanding. callister …and very enjoyable in a Gerald Manley Hopkins sort of way as it was a day of dappled views.

WhiteknoweThere were signs of autumn on every side.

signs of autumnMy route took me as far as this fine pond which someone has just created and which is already looking promising.

pond on wauchope roadMy way home was slower than I would have wished, as half way along the road someone took the stuffing out of my legs and what had been two finely honed steel pistons became two sticks of spaghetti al dente so progress was slow.  Still, I wasn’t worried as they have had a fair bit of use lately and were due a rest and I got home safely with time to admire the views.

Once home, I was pleased to see a goldfinch again….

goldfinch…and amazed to see that it was the parent of not just two hopeful youngsters….

goldfinch…but three.

goldfinchIt seems very late in the year to be bringing up a new family but it has been a funny year so perhaps that explains it.

The day ended with a welcome.

In the evening, I went to the first meeting of the season for our Langholm Community Choir.  We have acquired a new conductor and accompanist and I think they are going to be very good.  The conductor is an accomplished singer herself and has some very useful tips to pass on.  In no time at all she had got all the sopranos singing top Gs with relish.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.


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Today’s picture shows a chaffinch in the plum tree at a rare moment when it wasn’t raining and the wind wasn’t blowing.

dry chaffinch

This was too good to miss and so I gulped down a plate of cereal and, rudely leaving our guests to be entertained by Mrs Tootlepedal over their porridge,  I seized the moment and my slow bike, switched on the front and rear lights and set off up the Wauchope road.  I didn’t have a lot of time as our visitors were catching a morning train back to London and I had to be back to see them off.

Because of my tight schedule and forecast rain, I didn’t take my camera with me and so I can’t show you the progress that the foresters are making in cutting down the wood at Bigholms.  Holiday season or not, they were hard at work as I passed them on my way to the top of Callister.   At the summit of the hill, I turned for home and when I got back to Langholm after 12 miles, I worked out that I just had enough minutes in the bank to go back up the road to Wauchope Schoolhouse and still have plenty of time to say my farewells.  I got my little legs spinning round and covered the last seven miles at a good pace.

My sisters and Pat were just packing their bags into the car as I got back.  Mrs Tootlepedal had volunteered to take them into Carlisle with a thought that she might see what the sales had to offer while she was there.  I waved them off and sat down to a cup of coffee and a slice of toast.

I didn’t sit still for long because the still weather and the relatively light sky made taking bird photos more possible than recent days.


This jackdaw visited the flat feeder quite a few times but never took any seed.

chaffinch with spread wings

A female chaffinch approaches the seed feeder

chaffinch approaching feeder

This is obviously the chaffinch approach technique. A male at the flat feeder.

I had to go out to fill a feeder and I was reminded that there is one flower still in the garden….


A Forsythia flower by the back door

…and there is promise of more to come.

potential daffodils

Potential daffodils

The chaffinches were very busy at the flat feeder.

busy chaffinches

And they were certainly eating the seeds.

seed explosion with chaffinches

This is my favourite picture of the day

A goldfinch found something to eat on a twig.

goldfinch on twig

Other goldfinches spread out among the feeders.

goldfinch and siskin

At the nyjer seed

Goldfinch flying

At the sunflower seeds

By the time I had had my lunch, the moment of peace had passed and a light rain began to fall.


It didn't stop this siskin visiting

And by two o’clock, the familiar plum tree chaffinch was back.

wet chaffinch

It was nice while it lasted.

Mrs Tootlepedal got back safely from Carlisle and we both decided that what was needed after all the work and fun of the festive season and the stress of playing cards night after night, was a good sit down.  That seemed to last for the rest of the day.

Over Christmas, we had a couple of days of strong winds and no rain.  Then today we got a day of rain and no wind.  Now, as a treat we are getting both together and  we are promised heavy rain and gale force winds for tonight and tomorrow.  We will have the buckets out for the end wall.


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Another picture of my brother’s Christmas to make up for our grey days.  He’s getting ready to swim here.swimsuit

We are in a period of very consistent weather at the moment, grey and windy.   The idea of a little boxing day outing was not very attractive but it was quite warm and not actually raining in the morning so we all piled into the car and I set off to the moorland bird feeding station to do my stint of filling up the feeders while Cat, the project manager, is on holiday.

We dropped Pat and Susan off at Skippers on the way and they walked the mile back from there and then after I had topped up the feeders, Mrs Tootlepedal and Mary set off to walk the two and a half miles home while I waited around hoping to see some birds.


There was not much in the interesting bird line at the feeders…

blue tit

A blue tit tries the peanuts



There were quite a lot of chaffinches scuttling about

..but the fact that the feeders were still pretty full when I arrived didn’t fill me with much hope that there were a lot of birds about so I didn’t hang around for too long.

There were more birds in our garden than up on the moor.


Goldfinches showing off their back and front plumage


 green finch

A green finch turned up


One of the handful of siskins we have at the moment

There are still a good flock of chaffinches around as well.

After the ladies’ morning walks, we had a light lunch of ends and then went out mob handed for another walk. This time we went across the bridge on to the Castleholm and round the new path.

setting off

On our way. We come in all shapes and sizes.

One of the benefits of winter walking is that, even if the light is not very good, you can get a clear view of things that are obstructed by leaves in the summer.  This is the new footbridge over the Esk. It is quite an impressive structure.

new bridge

This is the castle. It is not so impressive.

Langholm Castle

It was demolished by royal command.

It used to be quite impressive.

Langholm castle signboard

This is the picture on a information board by the new walk.

I was pleased to see that the heron was in position at the Kilngreen but my little camera was not up to the task of taking its picture.

Exhausted by all this walking, the ladies indulged in some sofa surfing in front of the telly while I watched a broadcast of  Edinburgh playing Glasgow at rugby. The attendance was very good at 13,000 equalling the number at a top football match in the city yesterday.  It was an exciting draw at 23-23 with the very strong winds making playing quite tricky.

We followed this up with a light evening meal of more delicious ends and another highly entertaining couple of games of Oh Hell.  Once again, I managed to avoid the embarrassment of coming top of the leaderboard.  It is an aptly name game.

Our visitors go home tomorrow and we have had a delightful time over Christmas.  It has only been a pity that the weather has been so grim that we haven’t been able to enjoy an outing.



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Family fun

Today’s picture comes from midsummer day earlier this year.  It was raining them too.


It was another grey day today, windy and occasionally wet.  Not a good day for photographing birds or scenery.  I did wonder if the absence of birds might be partly my fault and spent some time cleaning out all the bird feeders and refilling them with fresh food.  The result of this was more traffic on the feeders but what with work to do in preparation for the arrival of family and  the shyness of the dratted birds every time I took up my camera, you will have to take my word for it because I only got two usable but unexciting pictures.


another siskin

After lunch, I went to fetch my sisters, Susan and Mary,  and my stepmother Pat from Carlisle Station.  They are joining us for a few days.  Their train arrived a minute late.  This is not bad for a three hundred mile journey in three and a quarter hours.  The much maligned “nowadays” should get credit when it is due.

We sat down for a nice cup of tea on getting to the house and I took the opportunity to capture this congregation in the kitchen.


There are 302 accumulated years worth of wisdom and knowledge represented in this picture.  Wikipedia, eat your heart out.

While Mrs Tootlepedal was preparing a chickpea and bacon casserole for our tea, a couple of skilled bauble handlers got to work on our Christmas tree.

Bauble handlers

Mary does the top work

bauble handlers 2

Pat does the crouching

Apart from the magnificent tree, no expense has been spared on the bauble front.

green baubles

Green and blue ones

More baubles

And white and red ones too

In my opinion, they look better every year that they come out from the cupboard under the stairs.

After the bauble handlers had done their work, the tree was inspected by the bauble supervisor and found to be up to an acceptable standard under the European Union, Fun at Christmas (1994) Regulation, clause III, subsection XVIII, as amended in 2006, 2007 and and 2009.  Mrs Tootlepedal has her photograph face on here.

bauble inspection

After all this excitement, we were happy to sit down to our tea.  This was followed by a couple of rounds of the excellent round table card game known as “Oh Hell”.  I was at  my most diplomatic here and kindly allowed myself to come last in both games.

Exhausted variously by losing at cards, cooking, travel, sociability and good food, we sank into an early bed.


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Today’s picture shows a goldfinch on a feeder.  Now that the builders have stopped work, the birds are back in force.

This will be a brief post because I have had a long day.  After a little tidying up here and there, I went out for a gentle pedal on the slow bike just for the sake of some exercise and so as not to waste a lovely morning indoors.  I did 12 miles to the top of Callister and back in an hour and enjoyed the fresh air a lot.  I took a single picture just to show what a nice day it was for mid November.

View of Glencorf

Looking over the Bigholms Burn

Although we were busy with preparations for meeting the family today and friends tomorrow, I was able to stare out of the window from time to time.

The goldfinches were busy.

goldfinch approaching

I like how neatly they keep their feet tucked up when flying

goldfinch cornering

Aerodynamically sound

Our neighbour Liz’s garden lends us a little autumn colour.

Liz's tree

I was told that a recent TV programme had talked of foreign blackbirds with black beaks coming to Britain.  How will we tell them from resident lady blackbirds?  I shall have to investigate


Which is this?

We were visited by a rather dishevelled but very plump greenfinch. It looks as though it has had a hard night on the tiles.

Plump greenfinch

During the afternoon we amassed 14 more family members in addition to Annie who was already here and we enjoyed tea and biscuits and animated conversation.  The haul included my stepmother, three sisters (one with husband), two nephews (one with partner), and three children (one with wife, one with partner and one with partner and child). We were delighted that Dropscone had time to join us so that blog readers could meet the star of the morning pedal in the flesh.

In due time we all re-assembled at the Douglas in an upper room for a really splendid meal.  There was a great deal of photographing by almost everybody else but me going on in the modern way of these things and I am sure a collection of these will appear at some time in some place but meanwhile  I will post just a single image of myself and Mrs Tootlepedal and my son’s partner Marianne enjoying a moment.

family party

It’s very exhausting having fun and I will need a lie in tomorrow morning.  Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie who having have been cooking relentlessly will need two lie ins.

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Today’s picture was sent to my sister Susan by a relative of a relative who had come across her family history site.  It shows our great uncle in a splendid motor.

The bishop in his car

I was in our rather less glamorous motor as we spent the best part of the day taking Granny to Warrington where she was picked up by Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother who took her back south.


The rendevous at the Holiday Inn by the motorway outside Warrington

Mike had taken on the lion’s share of the travelling as his journey was 340 miles while we had a mere 280 miles to go there and back.  You always take a chance on hitting a big traffic jam on a motorway and we were alarmed to see notices telling us to slow down to avoid debris on the road at one stage of the trip south. However, this was a false alarm as any debris must have been cleared away by the time we got to it and we had a smooth trip and made the meeting place with time to spare in spite of driving into a very strong wind all the way.  Mike had got there before us and after a cup of coffee, we waved goodbye to Granny and set off north again.

The journey back was even more uneventful, apart from a stop at Tebay for a sandwich and a visit to the farm shop to purchase interesting cheese.  The weather was mostly sunny and as far as driving up the M6 can be, it was an enjoyable day out,  the northern part of the road going through some beautiful countryside.

Before we set off, I had another look round the garden for survivors in the flower world.

In my recent  round up of clematis in the garden, I had completely overlooked the one in the back border and to my surprise I saw it was still blooming well today.

clematis back border

Mrs Tootlepedal has cleared a lot of the nicotiana away but there are still a few around in varying condition.


The white phlox had a very hard time of it, coming out in the worst of the wind and the rain, but this one is having a second go.


The weather has gone back to being very mild so it may well flower fully over the next few days.  I am not so sure that the rose next to it will manage but I am amazed that it is even trying.

rose potential

I was even more surprised to find a little foxglove on the go.


You couldn’t describe the garden as being a riot of colour at the moment but there are little bursts of colour about.



No bees about though on the sedum

The fuchsias have been hard hit and look very sorry for themselves.

fuchsia sad 1fuchsia sad 2

These fuchsias should survive another winter but Mrs Tootlepedal is contemplating literally burying the two fancy fuchsias which have done well in chimney pots over the summer to see if they will survive to flower another year.  This would save having to buy two new ones next year.

Before we took Granny off, I had a look to see if the birds were enjoying the sparkling new feeder I had put out yesterday evening.  There was not a bird on it though this greenfinch was enjoying the peanuts hanging below.


I had another look when we got back and there was still no sign of a bird on it and no sign that the seed had been eaten at all.  Perhaps the mellow weather has sent the goldfinches back into the country.  There was just a blue tit on the peanuts and it wouldn’t even pose for a proper picture.

shy blue tit

The weather forecast looks quite good for the rest of the week so I hope to get some cycling in.

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