Posts Tagged ‘kowhai’

Today’s guest picture is a triumph of patient gardening.  Mike and Alison Tinker have been tending a kowhai plant (a New Zealand native) for twelve years and this year it has finally flowered.  Alison took the picture and Mike sent it to me.

kowhai flower

I leapt out of bed, had breakfast, dashed on my cycling gear….and then footered a couple of hours away in drinking coffee, reading the newspapers and doing the crossword.  It was a perfect day for cycling and I can only put my reluctance to get going down to mental feebleness brought on by a combination of various aches and pains and possibly Brexit.  Brexit has been blamed for everything else so it might as well take the blame for my idleness too.

But I did get going in the end and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  The first bit of the ride, with more downhill than up and with the wind mostly behind me, was a treat and I soon found myself in England, in the shelter of the motorway banking, eating a sandwich and a banana after twenty miles and an hour and a half of pedalling.

M6 at gretna

There are still not many wild flowers about but there were dandelions along the the whole route.  At one point I saw a good crop of Danish Scurvy Grass beside the motorway and near Longtown, I met a nettle just about to flower fully.

dandelion, scurvy grass and nettle

In order to keep my foot happy, I stuck to flat roads and tried not to press too heavily on the pedals.  This last was quite easy to achieve with the wind behind me but when I turned east and passed a fine pine tree, it was harder as the wind was not negligible and my speed dropped.

tree near todhills

I won’t complain though because it was genuinely warm by then and pottering along was no hardship.  To avoid going as far as the busy main road into Longtown, I turned on to a track which is part of National Cycle Route 7.  These routes often have artistic trail markers.

bike route sculpture post

This particular track follows an old railway line and takes you across the river Lyne by way of a new bridge on old piers.

railway track on NR 7

It is a very peaceful place and the track is well maintained.

Unfortunately, I can’t ride the old railway all the way back into Langholm as the chance to turn it into a cycle way was lost after the line was closed and many bridges and viaducts have been knocked down.

Back on the roads again, I crossed this small bridge…

bridge near arthuret

…near the fine church at Arthuret.

arthuret church

I took the main road out of Longtown as it has recently been resurfaced and it is always fun to ride on a smooth surface for a change.  Sadly, the new surface has been done using a method that ensures that it will become very bumpy again for cyclists in the not too distant future.  Ah well, I will enjoy it while I can.

Somewhere along the road between Longtown and Canonbie, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a carpet of bluebells under some trees.


This seems to be early for bluebells and is a week before they have appeared on the blog before and a fortnight before the usual time.  Still, they are very welcome as they are sign that spring is really springing.

On a stretch of the old A7 north of Canonbie, there were several butterflies warming their wings on the road and fluttering away as I got near them.  I stopped and one of them obligingly flew back and perched on a dandelion.  As I was getting back on my bike, I noticed a bonus ladybird crawling up a wall.

peacock butterfly and lady bird

My legs were a bit rusty but by stopping regularly for a stretch and a rest, I manged to cajole them into taking me round just under 44 miles.  As this was the furthest I have been since the 22 February, I regard it as very satisfactory distance.  Tomorrow will tell me what my foot thinks about it but I am optimistic.

When I got home, I had a walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal who had had a busy day indoors.

The warmth had brought a new tulip out….

new tulip

…caused others to open wide….

three tulips

…and encouraged the trout lilies to lift up their skirts and dance.

trout lilies

A striking dark red pulsatilla had also emerged.  I liked it a lot….

red pulsatilla

…as did a bumble bee.

pulsatilla with bee

We went in for a cup of tea and a biscuit and when Mrs Tootlepdal went back to work, I watched the birds for a while.

Redpolls returned to the feeder…

redpoll in sun

…and one took a very dim view of the  loutish behaviour of a chaffinch.

chaffinch about to stamp

Strangely, I felt a bit tired so the rest of the day faded away into quietness, interrupted by giving Mrs Tootlepedal a little help with her project and then eating a tasty meal cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

Footnote: The curious might want to know what Mrs Tootlepedal was so busy at during the day.

She has finally finished turning this…

old rocking horse

…into this.

new rocking horse

We are thinking of entering it in the Derby.

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Today’s guest picture is another from Mike and Alison’s NZ holiday and shows the very pretty kowhai, generally regarded  as New Zealand’s national flower..


In spite of the many and much appreciated good wishes from correspondents, my cold was a lot worse this morning and I had to struggle to get out of bed at all.   I had an incentive though. A neighbour had told me that while I was lying nursing my incipient cold yesterday morning, a flock of waxwings had visited our walnut tree so I stirred myself at first light to see if they had come back today but no such luck.

In the end, I dozed on and off, getting up to look in vain for waxwings and finally got up for a late breakfast and idled about feeling sorry for myself for most of the morning.

I didn’t feel so sorry that I couldn’t set the camera up and look out of the window though.

It was a day for robins.


This one took up a perch on the willow and stayed for an unusually long time.  I took several pictures.


The reason for the look out became clear when this other one arrived near the feeder.


It wasn’t long before the first robin descended from its perch and chased the newcomer off.  It was a gentle shove rather than an all out attack and it didn’t chase it right out of the garden, which I have seen happen in previous years.

The dunnocks, which seem so small and calm, also chase each other about and it is hard to get a good shot before they move along.


There were some very bright moments during the morning….


…and I was sorry that I had had to turn down an offer of a pedal with the minister…..but a bit less so when I found out that he had done 30 miles with 2500ft of climbing.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Gretna to do some necessary shopping and I perked up enough to go for a short walk at a very steady pace.  As the temperature was at a mild 10°C, I thought a little exercise could only do me good.

I was happy to stop and look around as I went.

This rather curious composite tree caught my eye as I got near Wauchope Churchyard.

naked tree

The solid shape is a cypress in the churchyard and it is straight behind the tree in the foreground.

The lichen on the fencepost at the Auld Stane Brig was flourishing.


There were leaves to be seen.

leaves in December

I came back through the park and this little composition of paths, leaves and tree trunk appealed to me.

Park tree

I went down to the river to see if I could spot a dipper….

River Esk

…but had to settle for a view of the river….


…and a tree full of catkins.

I walked along the river past the church continuing my search for dippers but only saw Andy Little, of the camera club, on the suspension bridge.  He instinctively posed for a picture while his wife Sheila instinctively tried to get out of the shot.

Andy and Sheila

When I got up to the road, I could hear some loud bird song but it wasn’t a dipper this time.


There are robins everywhere.

I did spot a dipper in the Wauchope as I walked up Caroline Street but the light had gone a bit and I couldn’t get the Lumix to focus before it had flown off.  There was still plenty of light if you looked high enough into the sky.

con trails

I looked up into the sky later on in the evening when Mrs Tootlepedal told me that the International Space Station was due to fly overhead before tea.

I used a convenient planet to get the camera to think about the conditions…


Venus takes a bow

…so I was ready when the space station arrived.

It is very bright and its trail easily shone through the aeroplane trail still drifting in the sky far below it.


The station moves quite briskly across the sky.  The picture above was taken with a 6 second exposure.

I had another go before it went over the hill.


It is moving from right to left.  This was another six second exposure and the wobble at the start might have been caused by the mirror movement in the camera.

I am going to try to capture much more of the  movement across our skies with a longer exposure on the next occasion its arrival coincides with a clear night.

I suppose that the space station could have been the flying bird of the day but here is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

I’m still a snivelling wretch but I am hoping that another day will bring relief.

I should add that you can see Sandy’s pictures from Las Vegas, which he has at last got round to posting on his blog, if you click here.

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