Posts Tagged ‘larch’

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia.  She has strayed as far from Somerset as Madeira and sent me this picture from the Mercado dos Lavradores there.


After yesterday’s very dank and gloomy weather, it was a relief to wake up to some friendly sunshine this morning.  As it was combined with reasonable temperatures, it seemed like a good day for a cycle ride.

I didn’t get off as early as I should have done because I spent a little time watching the birds.


A greenfinch doing a little basking in the plum tree.


The goldfinches looked a lot better today.

I keep hoping that some waxwings will visit (they have been seen regularly in Dumfries 30 miles away) but there is no sign of them.  I had to be content with a blue tit above…

blue tit

…and a blackbird below.


I was further delayed by the need to have another go at repairing my mudguard.  This required the removal and then the replacement of the front wheel but I was pleased with the result as the wheel turned smoothly.

By then, I needed a cup of coffee but I got away at last, stopping to buy two filled rolls and a couple of bananas from out local shop on my way.

The sun was shining, the larches were golden…

Wauchope larches

…and all would have been perfect if my mudguard wasn’t still rubbing.  I decided to ignore it rather than go back and start again and I managed to live with the noise for quite a few miles before a halt and a rather desperate attempt to sort the problem actually succeeded.  The rest of the ride was trouble free.

I chose a route that would take me past yet another wind farm under construction near Gretna.

Gretna wind farm

Most of our wind farms are up in the hills but this one is down near the sea on flat land.

I wondered whether the famously large (but invisible) moon would have resulted in a high tide and when I saw that the tide was in, I pedalled down to the shore at Gretna to have a look.  The tide certainly was high…


…and was lapping at the very side of the road.  I took a minute to eat one of the rolls and a banana as I watched some very excitable gulls having fun.

gulls at gretna

You can see from the fence post in the middle of the water how high the tide was.

From a few yards further on, I could look out over the Solway…

Solway at Gretna

…which was gleaming in the low sunlight.

Solway at Gretna

I cycled through Gretna and on into England, keeping to flat roads.  I did less climbing in 45 miles today than I did in 30 miles on my last outing and as a result, my legs were in much better humour.

England was looking very pretty and I thought that this view near Rockcliffe might be the best of the day….

Rockliffe road

…until I saw this one a few hundred yards further along the road.

Rockliffe road

I made a loop that took me back to Gretna and then had to choose between a rather dull ride straight back up main roads with the wind behind me or winding back across country on a longer, more hilly and more adventurous journey.

Of course I chose the direct route and with the wind behind me,  rattled along very comfortably.

I made a quick stop to eat my other roll and banana beside the Esk near Longtown…

Esk at Longtown

…and then made only one more stop to enjoy some very pretty young larch trees on the new road just outside Langholm.

Larches at Auchenrivock

Mrs Tootlepedal had had a busy time volunteering to help with serving meals at the Buccleuch Centre while I was out and we were both quite happy to settle down for a quiet time for the rest of the day.

It was already getting almost too dark for looking at the birds though I did notice that the robin had been beaten to the fat balls in the cage by a dunnock.

robin and dunnock

Looking at the forecast, it seems that we will soon be back having chilly nights so this dangling poppy may well be the very last flower of the day…


…but I hope to see many more chaffinches as flying bird of the day over the winter.


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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan, who has been kind enough to send me this massive but hungry looking  figure which is currently hanging around at the British Museum.

skeletonWe woke to another grey and wet morning but we weren’t downhearted because Dropscone was due to come round with treacle scones and the forecast was for an end to the rain well before lunch.

Both of these happy events came to pass.

I even got to see a short  video of Dropscone practising his golf swing under the eye of his golf professional.  What a great start to the day.

After coffee, I took a stroll round the garden.  It is getting very near the end of its flowery life but there are still bits and bobs about.


The chives are still brightening up the vegetable plots.


The orange crocosmia is very durable and I was surprised to see a honeysuckle blossom


The yellow crocosmia arrived late and is staying late

clematis and nerine

There are a few clematis flowers and a lot of nerines.

But the prettiest thing in the garden today was this Charles Ross apple….

Charles Ross…and some of them went down very well in the evening when stewed and taken with custard.  The cool summer and the relatively good autumn have left the apples tasting as good as they have ever done this year.

While Mrs Tootlepedal busied herself with some apple branch sawing, I made some potato soup for lunch.  She was frequently visited by a robin while she worked but my only glimpse of one when I had a camera in my hand, was this one out of the dining room window later on.

robinI saw several jackdaws when I put out some pellets…

jackdaw…but sadly the best one flew past a telegraph pole just as I snapped it so I couldn’t use it as flying bird of the day.  The chaffinches were in a kinder mood…

flying chaffinchflying chaffinch…though I did catch one making off with a pink pellet that should have been reserved for blue and coal tits.

chaffinchAs well as all the flying birds, there were some standing around too.

dunnock and blackbird

A dunnock and blackbird, frequently seen in the garden but not feeder users.

After lunch, while Mrs Tootlepedal did more tidying and bulb planting, I went off for a pedal.

Because I don’t like taking medicine if I don’t have to, I have been experimenting with cutting down on my asthma puffers over recent days but after feeling rather gloomy yesterday and very cold and tired while I was pedalling, I returned to the full dose today with very beneficial results.  I was much cheerier all day, I was much warmer when I went out for my bike ride and I went quite a bit more quickly too.  “Keep taking the tablets,” as they say.

I even had the energy to stop and take a picture or two of the larches along the Wauchope road which are probably at their autumn best.  A little sunshine would have helped but they looked good anyway in my view.

Pool CornerlarchesApart from the larches, it was a bit gloomy and wisps of cloud were still sitting on the tops of the hills.

CleuchfootWhen I got back, we had a visit from Mike Tinker who came to tell us that his wife Alison was a bit poorly and so wouldn’t be coming to play duets in the evening.  This was a disappointment as they have been on holiday and I was looking forward to a tootle on their return.

It did give me some time to practice some choir music so there was an upside.

The flying bird of the day is a blue tit who was legally carrying off a pellet from the new feeder.

flying blue tit

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Today’s guest picture is from one of my sister Mary’s walks. She was impressed by the disciplined formation of these gulls.

The seagulls do like to line up neatlyAfter a couple of tumultuous days of wind and rain, we were blessed with a day of peace today.  The wind dropped away to almost nothing and the sun shone and all was right with the world.  The temperature even played its part by keeping above 3° C and leaving the roads frost free.

It was still pretty chilly after breakfast so I had time before the thermometer crept up to a heady 4.7°C to look out of the window….


Goldfinches gather in the chilly morning light.

sparrow and goldfinch

The cold weather didn’t improve anyone’s manners.

chaffinch and goldfinch

robin….but in the end, I pulled myself together and set about getting the speedy bike out, pumping up the tyres, putting on several layers and arming myself with two bananas and a Kitkat chocolate biscuit.   I had had a route in mind but very fortunately Joyce, who works in the shop where I bought my bananas, told me that she had driven along part of it on her way to work and the farmer had been cutting the hedges so my chosen road was covered in thorns.

I changed my plan and after a quick stop to admire the larch trees at Mrs Tootlepedal’s manure mine…

larches in autumn….I headed over the hill and onto the road to Kirkpatrick Fleming.   I saw two interesting sights.  The first was Dropscone whizzing along past me in the opposite direction too quickly for me to get the camera out and the second was a large bunch of starlings in a tree.

starlingsI wondered if they had started to gather in large flocks at Gretna in the evening yet.

Dropscone told me later that he had done a thirty mile trip starting when it was still very chilly.  He had not wanted to come with me as he is suffering from saddle sores and thirty miles was his limit.

I pedalled on peering into the strong low sunshine and in the end turned down to Gretna and then crossed over into England.  My knee is a bit delicate and I was anxious not to put it under too much stress so I kept to flat roads.  I crossed the main line railway a couple of times and was impressed by the length of this goods train which was creeping up the slow lane near Todhills to let an express flash past.

goods trainIt makes the heart glad as a cyclist to see how many lorries a train like this keeps off the roads.

North Cumbria has many fine lone pine trees in its hedges.  This one was near Blackdyke.

Todhills pineI worked my way back to Longtown where I ate my second banana  just downstream of the fine bridge over the Esk there….

Longtown bridge…and then popped into our local bike shop to get an opinion on a rather loud and somewhat alarming bicycle noise.  The verdict was ‘nothing fatal’ so I pedalled on, passing this wonderfully bright gorse bush in a hedge on the way to Chapelknowe.

gorse buch

Not a common sight in late autumn.

From Chapelknowe, I took the direct route home and racked up 55 miles just as I came near the house.  Thanks to the light wind and the flat roads, I managed to keep up a respectable speed (for me)  and anyone with time hanging heavily on their hands can see the route by clicking on the map below.

Garmin 29 Oct 14After a late lunch, a relaxing bath and a quick look out of the kitchen window…..


A greenfinch glowing gently.

…I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal that a trip to Gretna (by car this time) might let us see some interesting starling flocks.  I was quite wrong about interesting starling viewing although the trip was quite good fun in itself.

The evening light was lovely.

gretnaWe did see a few small bunches of starlings but there was nothing to write home about.  The views were wonderful as we drove over and the Lake District hills looked striking in the dusk on the far side of the Solway when we got there.

Lake District

You can see a tiny flock of starlings in the top left corner of this shot.

There was quite a good sunset going on too….

sunset at Gretna…and to add to the excitement, there was a terrific traffic jam on the motorway which had been completely shut because of a lorry fire further south so the normally quiet road through Gretna was awash with lorries that had been diverted.   As we drove home, I took another sunset with the outline of stranded motorway traffic in front of it.

Gretna sunset The traffic jam was so severe that the party of singers in our Langholm choir who come from Longtown were delayed on their way to the choir two hours later.

The moon was out in a light haze by the time that we got home.

autumn moonWe had time for our tea before going to the choir.  We had a very well organised and useful practice tonight.  As we have two concerts coming up in early December this was definitely a good thing.

Believe it or not the rather grainy flying bird of the day is not a chaffinch.

flying greenfinch

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Today’s picture is another from the eclectic collection which my brother-in-law Huseyin has sent to me.  This one shows his wife, my sister Caroline, enjoying some blossom this time last year at Hillier’s Arboretum in Hampshire, England.

Caroline at Hilliers Arboretum_2

Mrs Tootlepedal and I had a leisurely breakfast which, thanks to reading the Saturday newspapers, merged seamlessly into morning coffee and excellent ginger biscuits (courtesy of Mrs Tinker).

Rousing ourselves from our torpor, we went out to face the brisk wind on our bicycles.  I had a check with my natural rain gauge as we got near to Wauchope School and it showed that it had rained quite heavily overnight.


The roads were pretty dry but the combination of the brisk wind and a few drops of rain persuaded us that a six mile ride would be quite sufficient for the moment.  I liked the contrasting colour  combination of these trees by the waterside as we pedalled home and resolved to take a closer look at them when a convenient moment came.


The rain had stopped by the time we got home and we walked round the garden.

colourful corner

This is Mrs Tootlepedal’s favourite colourful corner at present

She likes it so much that I took it (under instruction) from another angle.

colourful corner

In the foreground of the picture above, you can see a Rodgersia.  I thought that it was worth a solo appearance.


A striking leaf

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting and I got out the speedy bike and had another short ride.  This one started with a second climb up the hill to the White Yett.  I managed it a bit more quickly than my last effort and this could have been from one of three reasons: a) not having having cycled 12 miles before I got to the bottom of the hill; b) natural talent and determination;  or c) the favourably brisk wind behind me.  I incline to suggestion c).

I cycled back down the hill and then went up to Wauchope School to stretch my legs after the climb.  I was going to look at those interesting trees on my way but I realised that I hadn’t got my camera with me so I left them for another occasion.

That occasion came sooner than I expected as Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her sewing group and eagerly took up the suggestion of a trip to see the trees again.  This was because she could combine it with a visit to her manure mine.  We drove up in the car as cycling with two buckets of manure on the handlebars is not recommended. One misjudgement and you could really be in…..difficulties.

As Mrs Tootlepedal filled her buckets, I walked down to the trees.  The green ones were larches, showing their spring clothing…

Larch in spring

…and the ones sprinkled with colour were spruces (I think).  They were liberally festooned with flowers.


A close up.


I don’t recall seeing them as richly covered as this but Mrs Tootlepedal suspects that this is because I haven’t bothered to look at them properly before.  She may be right but I still think that they are quite a bit richer than usual.

After the trees had been inspected and the buckets filled, we walked through one of my favourite gates….

gate at manure mine

…down to the river and walked along the bank of the Wauchope.  We went a little way upstream first, battling through brambles and fallen trees.


The Wauchope in busy mood


And, a few yards away, in a more relaxed mood.

Then we turned back downstream and came upon a delightful woodland path.

Woodland path by wauchope

A movement on the ground ahead made me think of rabbits but it was a less common animal altogether.

red squirrel

It is a rare treat to see a red squirrel

It didn’t let me get close enough for a good picture but scampered off up the tree. It was curious about us though and stopped halfway up to see what we were up to.

red squirrel

It got our measure and disappeared into the canopy and started to throw things at us, chattering crossly.  It was answered from another tree nearby.  I will have to go back and sit quietly.

We walked on a short way to the end of the path which was at a beautiful spot.


The sun, which had appeared intermittently, had sadly gone off in a sulk by the time we got here.


I was impressed by the sticking power of this tree on its own little island.

The river goes into a narrow gorge here so we returned to the field through another fine gate…

gate at wauchope

…and then I rushed back to the car as the rain started to come down heavily and drove along to pick Mrs Tootlepedal up further down the road.  I doubt that we had walked more than half a mile but it will be well worth another visit when the sunshine is more reliable.

By the time that we had done a bit of food shopping and Mrs Tootlepedal had suitably disposed of the manure in the garden and I had taken a photo of the first Icelandic poppy to appear so far this year….

icelandic poppy

…..it was time to start cooking tea.  This was just as well because the rain had had enough of equivocation and started to pour down in earnest.

The flying bird of the day is one of our siskins.  By coincidence ‘siskin’ appeared as a solution in today’s crossword..





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