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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Bruce who visited the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway which runs (rather smokey) heritage trains between Duffield and Wirksworth, in the Derbyshire Peak District.  By the way, Henry Ellison was built in 1947 so it may be heritage but it is still younger than me.

Ecclesbourne Valley Railway

Easter Sunday was another day of splendid weather, with sun from dawn till dusk and it would have been possible to sit out in the garden all day if we had wanted to.

But we had other things to do, starting with a visit to church to sing with our choir.

We had some guest singers with us today as we sang the Hallelujah Chorus as our anthem and with six sopranos, five altos, four basses and two tenors we made a very reasonable sound.  We are between ministers at the moment and the services are being run by a sort of works committee.  They are making a very good job of it so it was an excellent start to the day.

We had a cup of coffee when we got home and then Mrs Tootlepedal planted some potatoes in the new bed.  When she had done that, she set about making a Swiss roll with lemon curd.  My Achilles tendon was still very tender so apart from wandering gently about the garden dead heading daffodils and taking occasional pictures of both delicate…

pulmonaria, lamium

…and ostentatious flowers…

end of drive colour april

…I was happy to have a particularly complicated crossword to spend time puzzling over.

After lunch, it seemed like too good a day to spend at home so we went on a small expedition by bicycle.  Our mission was to see how the repairs on the Tarras road had progressed since we last saw them two months ago, when they looked like  this…

tarras roadworks scene

Our route took us along the bank of the river Esk where we were entertained by a pair of male goosanders on a fishing trip and Mr Grumpy poising on a rock.

goosander and heron

There are definitely less attractive roads to pedal along in springtime than this one.

Broomholm road out

We saw lots of wild flowers on our trip…

violet, anemone, primrose and celandine

…so we had to stop a number of times before we got to the works.  When we finally arrived, it looked as though the re-building of the road was nearly complete…

new tarras road top

…and when we took a closer look, it was plain that a substantial embankment had been built complete with landscaping and drainage and the road put back on top of it.  The workers had been busy and it shouldn’t be too long before the road is surfaced and open to traffic again.

new tarras road banking

Instead of cycling straight home, we turned right past this tree…

tree broomholmshiels

..waved to some Easter lambs…

lambs broomholmshiels

…and puffed up the hill to the Laverock Hide bird feeders which are now being run by a new project called Wild Eskdale.

There wasn’t much wildlife about today though.  Mrs Tootlepedal scanned the skies in vain for any glimpse of a raptor while I sat in the hide and watched a number of chaffinches and siskins.

I did get one good march past though…

pheasant at laverock hide

…and saw a great tit too.

great tit at laverock hide

I wasn’t complaining though as it was very pleasant just to be sitting there on a beautiful warm day.

I had a look at one of the larches before we set off home.

larch tree at Laverock hide

The trip home, involving some serious downhill work…

Broomholm road back

….was over a good deal more quickly than the trip out and it wasn’t long before we were sitting down to a cup of tea and two slices of Mrs Tootlepedal’s Swiss roll which was so delicious that it took iron self control to stop at just two slices.

The six mile cycle ride had actually helped my Achilles tendon problem to ease off a lot and I was able to walk round the garden with no pain at all when I went out to look at the tulips.

pink tulip

Which were well worth a look…

orange tulip sun

…as a little late afternoon sun enhances everything in general but tulips in particular…

red tulip sun

…either singly or in a clump.

cloud of tulips

I admired a bergenia…

bergenia in sun

…and was delighted to note that the first apple blossoms are beginning to come out…

apple blossom

…before picking some rhubarb for stewing and going in to have a second helping of yesterday’s fish pie for my tea, followed by stewed rhubarb and ice cream.

As both my feet feel not too bad tonight, I am hoping to get out for some exercise tomorrow but the trick will be to take some but not too much.  The forecast is offering us two more lovely days before rain arrives so I hope to make the best of them that I can.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch approaching the feeder with care and attention.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He has gone to Wales for a jaunt and on his way, he stopped at the ancient city of Chester.

chester

I started the day by selling some postcards to the paper shop to help Archive Group funds and then visited the data miners in the new Archive Centre.  They were working hard in cramped conditions as an art exhibition had taken some of their space.

We were promised some sunshine today but it was rather grey and windy when I set off south to visit Mary, my singing teacher for another lesson.  After concentrating on basic technique and breathing in previous lessons, we moved towards singing a song today. This was exciting but it only went to prove how difficult it is to put lessons into actual practice as faced with having to think of notes and words at the same time, I relapsed into many of the bad habits that we had worked on eliminating.  However, there were moments when things went well and I had plenty to think about as I drove home.

As I neared home, I met better and better weather and by time that I got there, it was a lovely day.

I had a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch and then went out into the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal.  The drumstick primula is nearly spherical and a cheery daisy winked at me from  the lawn but the recent frosty mornings have turned the tips of the magnolia petals brown…

white garden flwoers

There was some colour about too.

pink garden flowers

I helped Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been working hard all morning,  to get the first of the new vegetable beds level and then left her to sort out the soil while I went for a pedal.

I aimed to add a couple of miles to yesterday’s distance and that was enough to let me go for a circular trip of fourteen miles up the Wauchope valley, over the hill, and back down into the Esk valley.

It was quite windy so I was easily tempted into stopping for some pictures along the way.  I thought that I should note a bare tree as it will not be long until the trees are covered in leaves again.

bare tree wauchope school

I looked back down the Wauchope valley as I climbed up the hill.  It was a pastoral scene indeed…

pastoral scene wauchope

…with added calf.

calf

I was accompanied by the bleating of lambs as I went round.

new lambs

I liked this combination of blackthorn and pine tree at the Hollows…

blacthorn and pine Hollows

…but I liked this newly surfaced patch of road there even better.

repaired road Hollows

There had been some savage potholes the last time that I cycled through the hamlet.

Hollows Tower was open for business but the lack of cars in the car park showed that it probably wasn’t doing a lot.  It is still early in the year to expect tourists.

Gilnockie Tower

I didn’t see much in the way of wild flowers but there were celandines and dandelions here and there…

wild flowers in verge

…and I saw the wood anemone when I left my bike for a moment and walked down a fisherman’s path…

path down to river

…to the river at Broomholm.

Esk at Broomholm

As the leaves are not out yet, I could see the bridge to Broomholm Island through the branches.

Broomholm briodge

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had finished the veg bed and had added some compost at the far end to help the soil.  She has also dug in her winter beans which were grown as green manure.

new veg bed

Nearby, she has a planting of tulips.  They are Mystic Van Eijk, a pale pink variant….

mystic Van Eijk tulip

…of the ordinary Van Eijk tulips….

Van Eijk tulips

…which look very lovely when some low evening sunlight shines through them

Van Eijk tulip in evening

We sat on our new bench, enjoying the welcome warmth of the sun.  We were sheltered from the wind and thinking that life wasn’t too bad at all.

Then we went on for a cup of tea and the last of the home made ginger biscuits.

I had a look at the birds.  They had not eaten much seed at all during the day as not only had Mrs Tootlepedal been busy in the garden, but we had had builders in working on our roof as well.

It hadn’t improved the birds’ tempers at all.

goldfinch shouting at chaffinch

Then  Luke came round to play the flute and we rediscovered something that we already both knew very well, practice makes perfect.  Well, we weren’t quite perfect but we were both a lot better than we were last week and you can’t ask for anything more than that.

Sunday’s slow cooked lamb stew made another appearance for our evening meal and Mrs Tootlepedal made a tasty broad bean hummus to go with it.

The better weather means that we are due to have some chilly mornings, but the days should be fine for some time ahead so I hope to be able to get a few more cycling miles under my belt.  This will be a very good thing, as thanks to being off the bike for a month, I have a great deal more of me under my belt at the moment than is good for my health.

A chaffinch once again is the flying bird of the day.  They are very reliable.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Alistair and shows the indomitable Matilda scootering to infinity and back.

Matilda scootering

It is a rather hasty post tonight as it is late as I write this after a full day.

The weather gods relented and let me get out for a dry cycle ride today.  Perhaps they were fearful that if they rained on me again, I might go over to the dark side and take up cycling indoors.

Two days ago I passed a rook playing king of the castle, today it was bullocks.

cattle king of the mountain

Although I had a good day for a pedal, it was quite chilly and there were still clouds about which led me to having a few nervous backward glances…

Bloch view with cloud

…though the clouds made a good backdrop for my favourite tree…

Bloch tree

…and stayed away fro most of the journey.

As we were going to Edinburgh in the afternoon, I didn’t have time to take many pictures while I went round my 20 mile Canonbie circuit but as I have been short of bridges lately, I stopped for this one at Irvine House.

Irvine Hosue bridge

Mrs Tootlepedal had made soup for lunch and as I waited for it to finish cooking, I noticed a bird showing that I had had to deal with quite a brisk breeze while I had been cycling.

fluffly flying chaffinch

Mostly the birds consisted of chaffinches looking down at other birds.

supervising chaffinch 3supervising chaffinch 2supervising chaffinch 1

In the garden, a bit of sunshine had persuaded a crocus to come out.

early crocus

More colour is provided by cotoneaster berries on the wall of the house.  I don’t know why they aren’t attractive to birds.

cotoneaster berry

After lunch, we drove over to Lockerbie and caught the train (ten minutes late) to Edinburgh.  The weather was lovely as we whizzed along but once again the hills seemed to be attracting the clouds.

Tinto hill from train

When we got to Edinburgh, we caught a bus down to the flat where Matilda and Co are staying until their new house is ready and on the way, we caught a glimpse of a fine rainbow over the Edinburgh rooftops.

rainbow in Edinburgh

Once at Matilda’s, I had a chastening time being thrashed at Pelmanism and Snap by the diminutive demon.  In my defence we were using very small cards with very small pictures on them and her eyesight is much sharper than mine.

We had another excellent Persian meal for our tea and then Matilda demonstrated a dance routine that she is learning for a possible dance school competition.  When I think how hard it is for me to learn new songs, I can only marvel at her ability to remember complicated moves after only one lesson.

I took a picture of the National Gallery in Princes Street when we got off the bus back to the station.  The fine frontage is usually covered with banners advertising exhibitions so it was good to see it almost as the architect intended for once.

National nGallery

The train home was on time and a very tricky crossword meant the the journey flashed by.  The drive home was comfortable with no rain, snow, ice or fog.

As an added bonus, Sandy sent me a message to say that Joe had appeared on a television show talking about his film earlier in the evening and we were able to watch it on catch-up when we got in.

That rounded off a cheerful day.

I have a gender balanced flying bird of the day portfolio today.

Ladies first.

flying chaffinch febflying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo in Manitoba where they really know how to have a winter.  Her picture shows her cat contemplating the hard life that a rabbit has when it has to scratch up the snow in order to find a blade or two of grass.

cat and rabbit Manitoba

Although we have still got two days to go until the winter solstice arrives, the days still seem pretty short so it was a blessing to get a brighter day after yesterday’s pervasive gloom.  Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy day relating to her volunteering activities at the Buccleuch Centre but I idled about, drinking coffee and doing the crossword until I finally managed to get myself and my bicycle out onto the road.

In fairness, I was waiting for a text message to say when a parcel would be delivered.  They very kindly offered me a one hour slot for delivery but took four hours to tell me when that one hour slot would be which wasn’t entirely helpful.  On the plus side, it did give me time to stare out of the window in the hope of seeing some birds.

Things were very quiet again with a lone bashful goldfinch on the feeder and a single pensive chaffinch on the plum tree.

first birds

But there was more action after a while and a small flock of goldfinches flew in…

goldfinches come back

…soon to be joined by some chaffinches.

goldfinch and chaffinch reappear

I was hoping to catch a flying bird of the day at last but the goldfinches taunted me by doing their flying behind the feeder…

angel goldfinch

…and the chaffinches got in each other’s way.

scrappy chaffinches

The message about the parcel came at last and showed that I had time for a pedal so I pedalled.

It was around 6°C but the wind was light and there was even a promise of some blue sky ahead…

Callister

..though it was still grey on the top of Callister where the workers on the new Solwaybank windfarm were busy…

solwaybank wind farm workers

…preparing for the arrival of the turbines.  They are currently pouring concrete for the bases but  I read on their website that the turbines are not due until mid summer 2019 so I shall stop craning my neck to see if they have arrived yet every time I go past.

By the time that I had got to the bottom of the far side of Callister I could see a hint of sunshine at Crowdieknowe…

sdr

…and as I went along the road towards Gair, passing good looking trees…

gair road tree

…I found myself bathed in the weak sunshine which is all you can expect at this time of year,

I expect that the sheep were grateful too.

view from gair road

A clump of gorse certainly looked very cheerful.

girse near gair

Once I had got to Kirkpatrick Fleming and had turned for home, the sunlit beech hedges along the road were adding a welcome touch of colour to my trip.

beech hedge KPF road

I stopped to admire the very severe haircuts which the council men have given to the shrubs in the graveyard at Half Morton…

 

Half Morton kirkyard

…and took a little breather going up my last hill to enjoy the colour of the trees beside the busy main road.

A7 with larches

Although it was only early afternoon when I got back, the light was already fading and this was the best that I could do to capture a welcome late visit from a robin

dark robin

We also had visits from a coal tit, a blue tit and a collared dove.  This was cheering but there were still very few birds about in total and those that came didn’t linger so I am beginning to think that sparrowhawk activity might be a factor in our current bird scarcity.

My parcel arrived on time and that was the high spot of the rest of the day as by now it was almost dark.  Indeterminate indoor activity saw me through the unforgiving winter hours.

We had home grown turnips and potatoes with our tea.  This is not exactly self sufficiency but it is very satisfying none the less.

Mrs Tootlepedal has gone out to a well deserved small celebration of the work of the volunteers at the Buccleuch Centre as I write this so I shall take the opportunity to do a little singing practice while she is out.

I could only manage a very blurry flying bird of the day but any bird in the blog is better than none.

flying chaffinch gloomy

Tra la la.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She encountered this impressive prancing beast at Covent Garden.  It is doing some serious strutting but as it seems to be standing in the sledge it is supposed to be pulling, it looks like a bit of a freeloader to me.

covent garden

It was cold, grey but dry today and I was happy to have a cup of coffee with Sandy while the thermometer crept up a degree or two but after he left, I stiffened my sinews and summoned up my blood and actually got my bike out and went for a pedal.

There were hints of breaks in the clouds as you can see from this picture of this fine tree near Waterbeck…

tree between the waters

…but the sun remained stubbornly hidden behind a low bank of cloud to the west and I was glad that I had several layers on as a nipping wind blew across me or into my face for most of the thirty miles that I covered.

I stopped for a banana near Kirkpatrick Fleming and looked wistfully at hints of sunshine behind a phone mast…

phone mast KPF

…and with wonder at a tree beside the motorway which was positively dripping with catkins.

vatkins at KPF

I made a final stop with three miles to go to have a drink of water and a wall inspection.

It was a good wall with lots of moss…

irvine house moss

…and more moss with added lichen…

irvine house moss lichen

…and even more moss with added lichen and ferns….

irvine house moss lichen fern

…and there was lots of lichen too….

irvine house falt lichen

…of many different varieties.

irvine house cup lichen

I like walls.  When I was very young, there was a slogan that stated “Walls have ears” to discourage talk that might be useful to an enemy agent during the war.  After several years of close examination of walls, I can safely say that they may have many interesting things on them but I have never seen any ears.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had been cooking some delicious biscuits while I was out pedalling, no weight loss has been involved in today’s activities.

The light wasn’t too bad when I got home and I half thought of adding a walk to the day’s entertainment but cycling in a chilly wind is tiring so I had a look at the birds….

peaceful goldfinches

…where once again goldfinches were ruling the roost…

angry goldfinches…and then I had a short walk round the garden where I noticed the last survivor of the sweet rocket still hanging on….

sweet rocket Dec 12

…and then I went back inside and had a warming bath instead of taking any more exercise.

Mrs Tootlepedal has brought a little bit of the garden inside and one of the geraniums that flowered well outside is now on the windowsill….

geranium indoor

…alongside an African violet, a present from a friend for our wedding anniversary in January, which has been flowering for several months.

indoor plant

In the evening, Luke came round and we played a Loeillet sonata.  We are going to take this sonata seriously and try to put the correct ornaments and playing style into place.  This will require me to do some learning for myself as I have always been a bit hit and miss when it come to trills, turns and mordents.

I spent some time in the evening watching political events unfold and I am very interested to see if the politicians who voted against Mrs May and lost will now take the advice which they have been freely offering to those on the losing side of the recent referendum and respect the fact that they lost the vote and shut up.   It would be a blessing.

I am not holding my breath.

The flying chaffinch of the day is very angry about the whole thing too.

angry flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s archives.  For some reason he came upon the picture from 2004 of certain young(ish) golfers enjoying a break in Majorca to get away from Langholm’s winter weather.  It snowed and I still have the umbrella that I had to buy while we were there.

majorca 2004

I don’t know what the morning was like because I made the mistake of lying down for a moment after breakfast and the next thing that I knew, it was lunch time.

Generally speaking the weather forecast had promised severe gales and rainstorms for Scotland and good weather for the north of England so for once, we were very pleased to considered English and we enjoyed a reasonably dry and warm day, though it was bit windy.

The light was very variable but I could see enough to recognise a great tit on the feeder…

great tit on feeder pole

…watch chaffinches fly in all directions…

chaffinches coming and going

…enjoy a blue tit visit….

blue tit on feeder pole

…and check out the differing styles of a greenfinch and a goldfinch.

greenfinch and goldfinch

The goldfinches gradually took over the feeder over lunch and had to compete among themselves for a place at the table.

goldfinch creeping up

As time went by there was a tiny glimpse of sunshine…

a snatch of sun on the plum tree

…and encouraged by this, I went for a walk in the afternoon.

There are still plenty of  rosebay willowherb seed heads about…

willowherb seeds

…and a lightening of the sky to the west behind this tree on the Becks track made me hopeful for a while…

becks tarck tree

…but things soon reverted to grey.

I had gone along the track in the hope that the forestry works in the Becks wood would have finished and I would be able to use the path down to the bridge across the burn.

When I got to the wood, everything was very neatly tidied up and the machines had disappeared.  I was able to walk through the felled wood upstream of the bridge and see the burn as it hasn’t been seen for many years…

 

becks burn bridge

…with new trees planted on all sides.

I could look down on the little cascade which I have photographed before…

becks burn cascade from above

…and because the trees have gone, there was enough light to let me take a reasonable picture from below the waterfall.

becks burn cascade

Luckily I had my wellies on so that I could stand on the middle of the burn to get the best angle.

I went back to the path and found that it was easy to cross the bridge, walk up the steps on the other side and look downstream towards the Wauchope valley.

 

 

Becks burn above cascade

I followed the road downhill, admiring the fine growth of catkins on every side.  It has been a good month for catkins.

catkins

There is no sign of autumn left now ….

auld stane brig

…but with only two weeks to go until the winter solstice, we are nearly on the way up towards the light again.

Another tree beside the road back to the town caught me eye…

springhill tree

…and as always, moss and lichen provided a bit of interest on a dull day.

moss and lichen

I didn’t have a great deal of time to sit around and think when I got home because it was soon time for an early tea and my second visit to Lockerbie in two days.  On this occasion, I picked up my fellow choir member Mike and we went over to sing in a Langholm Sings concert in the Episcopalian Church there.

It is a snug little church and it was very nearly full for our performance which was very gratifying.  The members of the audience were kind enough to say that they enjoyed the evening but no one could say that we were faultless and we are going to have another practice next week before we have a joint concert with the Parish Church choir in Langholm next Friday.  Practice makes perfect, we hope.

It was windy as we drove home but the threatened rain held off so the evening went as well as we could have expected.

The flying bird of the day, checking out a freshly filled feeder, is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from our friend Bruce’s Highland tour.  It shows McCaig’s Tower in Oban, a prominent granite folly overlooking the town.

oban folly

It was a rotten day here, rainy, cold and with gusty winds.  It was hard to see the birds at the feeder…

coal tit with seed

…but much easier to see Dropscone coming round with scones in his hand.  He is going to Glasgow for a week’s holiday at the weekend so I was glad that he was able to fit a little coffee drinking in before he went.  We were drinking some of the ‘awful lot of coffee’ from Brazil today  and it went well with the scones.

Dropscone left but the rain kept coming….

chaffinches

…and I stayed indoors and made some sweet potato soup for lunch and did the crossword.

The rain eased off a little after lunch so I put on my wellies and a big woolly hat, picked up my golfing brolly and went for a damp walk over three bridges.

There was very little to see but against the general greyness, a gull stood out…

sitting gull

…and a bare tree too.

bare tree

Although it was only a degree or two warmer than yesterday and it was drizzling, somehow walking was more pleasant so I extended my planned walk and went along the road to the pheasant hatchery…

pheasant hatchery road

…before walking back along the riverside path, looking across the field to the misty slopes of Castle Hill.

misty trees castleholm

One advantage of winter is that bridges are more visible once the leaves are off the trees.

Duchess Bridge

I was quite ready for a warming cup of tea and a slice of toast when I got home.

Since outdoor activity was off the menu now, I made use of my time by putting a parish magazine from 1967 onto the Archive website.  Sandy is scanning and formatting these and I add them to our collection.  (Those with time to kill can wander through them here.)

Then I put a week of the newspaper index into the database.  It was not an entirely wasted day.

Mrs Tootlepedal made a nourishing pasta dish for our tea and then I went to the final rehearsal of Langholm Sings before our concert in Lockerbie on Friday.  We sang through the whole programme which was reassuring but it might be a slight exaggeration to say that we were note perfect.  Fingers crossed for the concert.

Flying birds of the day were very hard to come by in the rain and gloom so this goldfinch was the best that I could manage.

flying goldfinch

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