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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Dropscone and shows the opening day of the golf season at Langholm.  Dropscone, the club captain this year,  is modestly holding the trophy which his team has just won in the opening match.

golf opening

We had an unquestionably pleasant day of weather here today, with wall to wall sunshine, light winds and no chill in the air at all.  It was lovely.

In younger days, I would have been off on my bike like a shot, but things are slower now and I was happy to have coffee and treacle scones with Dropscone instead of pounding the pedals.  Both before he came and after he left, I wandered round the garden for a while.  There was much to see.

tulips and daffs

The garden is full of tulips and daffodils at the moment.

The tulips had spread their petals wide to welcome the warmth.

two tulips

The silver pear is covered with blossom…

pear blossom

…and although I have been dead heading a lot of daffodils, there are still a lot on the go of many varieties.

three daffodils

The plum is getting leaves to go with its blossoms and I only hope that the few bees that have been around have managed to pollinate those flowers which were too far above my head for me to reach with the pollinating brush.

plum blossom

Mrs Tootlepdal’s river of blue with the grape hyacinths doesn’t go all the way round the front lawn this year but it has  produced some good splashes of colour all the same…

three flowers

…and trout lilies and a new fritillary  are keeping the garden looking cheerful.

I was so encouraged by the warmth and a good forecast, that I got the lawn scarifier out and scarified the middle lawn.  It has a little basket  of its own to collect the debris but it is so small that I find it easier not to use it and then run the mower over the lawn to tidy everything up.  I took this picture while I was having a rest in the middle of mowing.

scarifying the lawn

It is a pain free process if the lawn is firm and dry as it is at the moment.

When I had finished, I admired some more tulips…

drive tulips

…and the magnolia (which is looking well if you don’t look too closely at it).

magnolia

Mrs Tootlepedal has used the old rotten planks from the veg beds which have been redeveloped to make a little wild life hotel beside the compost bins.  We are hoping for interesting (and useful) guests.

pile of planks

I had a rest on our new bench for awhile and noticed a bee visiting a dicentra beside me…

bee on dicentra

…and then we went in for lunch.

After lunch, I went back out to look for frogs in the pond as we had heard them muttering away while we were working in the morning, but hadn’t been able to see them.

They were easy to see in the afternoon, surrounded by tadpoles.

frog and tadpoles

We had filled the pond up before lunch because it hasn’t rained for ages and the level had dropped a bit and I thought the pond was looking better as a result.

pond in April

The date stone is one of several in the garden that are a reminder that a stone mason lived and worked here once.

The better weather had obviously encouraged birds to find food elsewhere today as we had many fewer visitors than recently and the feeder was still half full quite late in the day.

three birds

I was visited by a member of our Langholm choir who is coming to sing with the church choir on Sunday and we went through the hymns and then, while Mrs Tootlepedal had a well earned snooze after a hard morning the garden, I went off for a cycle ride.

I am still looking after my foot so I chose an easy route of just under 26 miles and took things steadily.  However, I was quite daring and put on my cycling shorts and exposed my peely-wally knobbly knees to the world as I went along.  The world took this in its stride.

The hawthorns on the hillside up the Wauchope road are in leaf and we should see the blossoms soon.  In the meantime, it was hot enough for sensible sheep to seek some shade under one of the bigger bushes.

hawthorns on warbla bank

Although spring is springing, the rough pasture on the hills is still in full winter mode, and there was no colour to be seen when I stopped for a drink and a stretch and looked down a farm track after my first five miles.

kerr view

I was getting near to Canonbie when I came across a quite unusual gate…

oystercatchergate

…with a plump oyster catcher perched on each gate post.  I was very surprised that they sat still and let me take their pictures.

On the other side of Canonbie, I liked this variegated lamb and ewe scene…

variegated lambs

…and noted that it has been so long since it rained that the moss on a bridge parapet has begun to dry out.

dried out moss

When I got to Langholm, I cycled through the town and out along the Ewes valley for a couple of miles.  This gave me the opportunity to record a fine deciduous tree near the High Mill Brig…

high mill brig tree

…a rather hazy view up the valley…

ewes valley view

…and a romantic looking conifer near my turning point.

Ewes tree

When I got home, I got the washing in and made Mrs Tootlepedal a cup of tea.  Then I watered the middle lawn as I am going to put some treatment on it tomorrow and it says that the soil should be moist..

That concluded the business for the day.

Today’s flying bird of the day came a little late to the table.

flying chaffinch attempt

Footnote:

WordPress offers blog writers a wealth of statistics about their blogs if they have the energy to look at them and last night, I browsed the word count since I started this blog in mid 2010.  I was staggered to find that I have written 2,150,000 words, an average of about 700 words per post. It seems a tremendous amount of writing to use to record a fairly humdrum existence but to be fair, there has been a lot of repetition so I don’t have to constantly find new words and phrases.  If I look back, I find that life was much the same last year and the year before…and the year before….but that is how I like it.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who is back from Wales.  She found herself looking across the Thames and reflecting on how enormous the new buildings in London are when compared to the Tower of London which can be seen cowering on the extreme right of her shot.

London skyline

We had another dry day today and it is now so long since it has rained that Mrs Tootlepedal was heard to say (very quietly), “We need a bit of rain.”  She is right as things are starting to dry out too much.  But at least it was slightly warmer today with less bite in the wind and things are forecast to get warmer still over the next few days.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a very busy morning and afternoon with things to do, including getting her hair cut  and then helping out at the Buccleuch Centre Coffee Shop, followed by doing the front of house duties at a screening of a film about the current big Rembrandt exhibition.

I, in contrast, had a very quiet day involving a crossword, coffee, biscuits and bird watching and two very short spells on the bike to nowhere in the garage.

The birds at first were very excitable…

all action goldfinches

…but getting out a different lens slowed them down a lot until they….

still life goldfinch and chaffinch and siskin

…almost looked as though they were frozen in time.

still life goldfinch and chaffinch

We had another siskin at the feeder today.

sisikin april

In an effort to improve my brain power I had a sardine sandwich for lunch on the grounds that P G Wodehouse always claimed that Jeeves, who was a clever fellow, ate a lot of fish.

Then I went for a gentle walk.

I decided that it was time to go up a hill so I walked up the Kirk Wynd from the middle of the town and took note of some colour on the way.

There was a fancy garden escape just at the entrance to the golf course…

colour on Kirk Wynd april

And a native berry a bit further up but how such a fancy daffodil found its way all by itself even further up the track and far away from a garden is a mystery.

The noise of creaking and groaning as I got to the top of the golf course alerted me to the fact that elderly golfers were playing nearby.

Jim and George were basking in the glory of having won prizes in the winter competition which has just ended.

two old golfers

I went through the gate at the top of the track and walked on to the open hill.  It was rather misty so there was not much in the way of views but there was sea of gorse…

sea of gorse whita well

…and trees…

two trees above hillhead

…. silhouetted against the misty hills.

conifer above hillhead

These three trees are remarkable in that a closer look will show…

three trees whitshiels track

…just how slimly attached to reality they are.

wholly holey tree

I had crossed the Newcastleton road and I made my way back down into the valley by way of these sheep pens.

 

bw sheep pens

I walked back to the Sawmill Brig where I saw a dipper again.  It flitted away before  could catch it so I walked on round the bottom of the Castleholm on the new path.

There was plenty of variety in the conifers beside the track.

conifers blooming

And plenty of signs of life on all sides.

spring growth

I enjoyed the sight of this tree plainly stretching its back beside the river.

stretching tree

I know just how it feels.

I waited for a while on the Jubilee Bridge to see if a nuthatch might be using the nest site in the big tree there.  In the end, I was disappointed to see a blue tit popping in instead.

blue tit at nest

I met Mike Tinker and Mrs Tootlepedal when I was nearly home.  They were admiring Mike’s handsome new fence.  I walked home with Mrs Tootlepedal and we enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea and a biscuit or two.

Because I was going out in the evening, I put my pictures onto the computer straight away and then made a shepherd’s pie for tea.

While it was cooking, I walked round the garden and took a final picture.

yellow and orange tulip

After tea, I picked up my friend Susan and we went off to play recorders with our group in Carlisle.  I had missed last month’s meeting because of a clash of dates so it seemed a long time since I had last played.  As a result, the music was even more welcome than usual and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time puffing away on the bass recorder while Jenny, Sue and Susan played the more elaborate upper parts.  We had a good selection of music and some excellent biscuits to go with the after-playing cup of tea so the evening could hardly have been better.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch in full aerodynamic mode, heading into the wind.

determined flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another of my brother’s Derby insects.  He suspects that the face of this grasshopper might have been modelled on our prime minister after recent events.

grasshopper

We finally got a reasonably calm and occasionally sunny morning today and as it was a good day for gardening, it was almost inevitable that Mrs Tootlepedal should have had an all day embroidering workshop arranged.  To add to her misfortune, by the time that she returned home after the workshop, she began to feel a bit poorly and had to retire to bed and thus the whole day was wasted from a gardening point of view.

I was luckier and able to make the most of it as far as my unhelpful foot allowed.  Although it was quite chilly at a mere 5°C at 10 o’clock, I managed to get my cycling kit on and tested my foot by cycling 14 miles on my new bike.  I took a few pictures to celebrate being out and about as I went along.

As it is getting late as I write this, I append them with the general comment that I enjoyed the views.

glencorf burn march

cleuchfoot gorse

cleuchfoot tree

bigholms tree

Bigholm farm

The cycling was pretty painless but I could feel my foot complaining if I had to go up any sort of a hill, so I kept to a low gear and took my time.

Just before I got home, I passed my neighbour Liz, who also has a troublesome foot.  She was walking her dog and I as I thought that we both might benefit from a cup of coffee, I invited her to drop in when she had got home.

I had time to get changed and make the coffee (and tidy the kitchen table) before she arrived.  The coffee was consumed to a background of really interesting foot conversation.   When Liz left, I had a quick scout round the garden and noticed that more of the fancy cowslip flowers had appeared…

three cowslips

…and the magnolia bud is developing but not flowering yet.

magnolia bud opening

I went back in to prepare some soup for my lunch and watched the birds while it was cooking.

There were a lot of siskins about again.

siskin in a hurry

I liked this chaffinch checking out the feeder spaces.

angelic chaffinch

The siskins are not above giving each other a hearty kick if they want a perch…

pre stamping siskin

…while some chaffinches may suffer from bad breath it appears.

female chaffinch blown away

A goldfinch kept an eye on proceedings in an avuncular way, maybe auditioning for a role as a wise old owl.

goldfinch pondering

The siskins kept nibbling.

siskin feederful

As my foot was a bit too sore for a walk but had not got much worse after my short morning cycle, I went for a flat ride on my slow bike after lunch, with plenty of stops to watch the oyster catchers on the Esk…

oyster catchers composite

…and to go on a very short walk up the track at Whitshiels to admire the moss…

mossy stone

…and a little glade.

glade at whitshiels

The larches are just about to come out and it will soon feel much more like spring.

I cycled back through the town, passing this sensational shrub opposite the Townfoot tollbar…

yellow bush

…and made my way down to the Penton road where I took the obligatory picture of Skippers Bridge…

skippers

..fighting my way past some recently fallen branches to get to the waterside…

fallen branches

…and then went further along the road until I got to the mossy wall.

mossy wall

Then I pedalled back home, stopping at the Co-op to purchase some fish cakes for my tea.

All in all, it was a very satisfactory five miles, though it has to be admitted that my foot was more sore by the end of the day than it was at the beginning so I will have to moderate my enthusiasm for cycling.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I had arranged to go to Carlisle in the evening to hear our friend Sue singing in the Cathedral with the Cumbrian Rural Choirs, who get together once a year for a major sing.  Mrs Tootlepedal didn’t feel up to going, but as she was well enough to look after herself, I went off on my own.

There was a big audience and the best seat I could get was a hard wooden bench in the back of the choir stalls.  I sat under the blue sky ceiling of the cathedral and enjoyed the music.

mde

The choirs, complete with a very good professional orchestra and four excellent soloists, sang  the setting of The Seven Last Words of Christ by Haydn and Mozart’s Requiem.  As this amounted to nearly two hours of music sung in German and Latin, it was a tribute both to the composers and the performers, that I hardly noticed the uncomfortable seat at all.

I really enjoyed the Haydn, which I had never heard before.  There was a translation of the German in the programme and I always feel that it makes listening to church music much more enjoyable if you can get a feel of how the music and the words go together rather than just listening to some pleasant sounds.  The programme notes said that this piece is not often performed as it consists of seven adagios one after another, but I found it rolled on without dragging at all. It ends with a terrific earthquake.

The Mozart was good but the text was not so interesting as the Haydn and as the parts were often singing different words at the same time, it didn’t have quite the same emotional impact for me.  I sang it at a scratch performance a year or so ago and had more fun singing it then than listening to it now.  I don’t want to complain though. The performance was good and the music is lovely.  Also, it might have made a difference if it had been done in the first half of the concert while my mind and body were still fresh.

A flying siskin rounds off the post in the important position of the flying bird of the day.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture is another from the Derby shopping centre insect infestation.  My brother tells me that you can talk to the insects but I wouldn’t know what to say to a stag beetle.

stag beetle derby

I didn’t have much confidence in a weather forecast that said that it wasn’t going to rain today but I was proved wrong and the weather stayed fair until  well into the evening.

It was only just above freezing when I set off on my slow bike to see our local vampire at the Health Centre and give a little blood.  This was a check to see if my anaemia is under control.  The process was prompt and painless as usual but the health centre computer server was on the blink so I wasn’t able to make a follow up appointment.  The poor staff were absolutely flummoxed as hardly anything is written down these days and they had no idea who was coming in for appointments.  Fortunately it was soon fixed and I made my appointment later in the day without trouble.

After coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal, and with the thermometer showing 4°C, I plucked up my courage, donned as many layers of clothing as I could and set off on my new bike to see how my legs were feeling.

I hadn’t been out on my bike this month so it was a bit of a shock to the system but the sun was out….

cleuchfoot valley

…my legs were very cheerful and the snow had retreated to distant hills so it wasn’t too bad to be out and about.

The wind was strong enough to make life hard when pedalling into it but the forecast gales hadn’t arrived.  I stopped to take a picture of one of those little corners that make cycling round here so visually interesting.

three cleuchfoot trees

And then I cycled to the top of Callister to see if there was any sign of the turbines arriving at the new wind farm.  There wasn’t and as the road was very muddy from quarry lorry traffic, I turned back and pedalled down to Langholm, through the town and out of the other side.  The snow was on distant hills there too.

ewes valley with diostant snow

On my way back through the town, I checked to see if the big gull was standing on its favourite rock.

It was.

gull on rock

I was pleased to manage 20 miles at a modest pace and after a walk round the garden when I got back…

three spring garden flowera

…where the forsythia is just coming out…

forsythia

…and some of the frogs spawn seems to have survived the frosty mornings…

frogs spawn

…I went in to find Mrs Tootlepedal making a nourishing pan of bean and vegetable soup for lunch.

It went down well.

After lunch I watched the birds for a while.  Goldfinches had got in early today under the watchful eye of a chaffinch…

goldfinches on feeder

…and there was no visit from the sparrow hawk to disturb them or this chaffinch’s moment of reflection beside a puddle in our drive.

reflective chaffinch

Against my expectations, the weather stayed fine in the afternoon so I went for a walk.  The wind was still nagging but otherwise it was a good day for sauntering about looking for signs of spring…

view from scotts knowe

…which weren’t hard to find.

dandelion march

There were signs of life on the larches…

larch

…and fresh flowers on the banks beside the track…

P1170432

…and best of all, many clumps of primroses on every side once I got near the Becks Burn.

primroses

I walked through the felled wood, across the burn and up onto the road on the other side of the little valley, where I found incipient honeysuckle…

honeysuckle leaf

…curious sheep looking down on me…

curious sheep

…and any amount of lichen on different stones on the same one metre  length of wall.

lichen on wall becks road

I visited the old curling pond and wished that it could be developed into a wild life area like the one near Lockerbie which we have visited before. It needs a real enthusiast with time and knowledge to a job like that though.

curling pond

I didn’t linger for long as my foot was starting to feel sore and I soon headed down the road back to the town.

I passed this fungus on a fallen tree trunk…..

fungus becks road

…and got right out of the way as this huge lorry passed me.  It had been delivering sheep to the farm at the end of the road.

big lorry becks road

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal at work in the garden and together we put in the new blackcurrant bush and, having exhausted my gardening skills, I gave her moral support while she planted out a new lupin and pruned a rose.

Then it seemed like a good time to have a cup of tea and a slice of toast so we did.

The day was rounded off by a visit from my flute pupil, Luke and we had a productive half hour showing that practice makes you, if not quite perfect, then certainly a lot better.  This is most satisfactory.

I don’t often watch Master Chef on the TV but this season, a young lady from Langholm is one of the contestants and it was very pleasing to see her do well and get through to the next round.  We will follow her progress with interest.

The forecast for the next couple of days is for 50 mph winds so it was a good thing that we got as much out of today as we did.  There are some sunny intervals promised so it might not be a total write off.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with a determined air about it.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia, my Somerset correspondent, who turns out to be in Namibia at the moment.  She sent me this portrait of male and female Long-tailed Paradise Whydahs.  The males are in full display mode.

Long-tailed Paradise Whydah

Our welcome spell of fine weather continued today but with a reminder that we are still in the winter months in the shape of some early frost on the lawns.

The temperature was slow to rise and I was feeling a bit tired so I went back to bed after breakfast and read a book until midday.  It was very relaxing.

I got up into my cycling gear although it was still rather chilly unless you were out in the sun.  I gave Mrs Tootlepedal a hand in the garden for a while and then went in to make some lentil soup for lunch…

…and watch the birds of course.  There were plenty of shady characters hanging around the feeder.

shadowy chaffinch

After lunch, I had another wander round the garden and after I had visited the pond, where I found a pile of  frogs which had not been put off by the chilly morning…

three frogs get friendly

…I helped Mrs Tootlepedal set up the boards for one of our new fruit beds.  They are going to have cages on them this year to protect the crop from the birds.

I couldn’t pass by a particularly fine bunch of crocuses without my shutter finger twitching…

sunny crocus clump

…but I finally pulled myself together and got my bike out and went off for a pedal. It was genuinely warm in the sun and I passed a cyclist coming the other way in short sleeves and shorts.  I am glad that I had retained a few layers because by the time that I finished the ride and the sun was dropping in the sky, it felt pretty chilly.

My  route took me past two ruined cottages.  They are both getting more dilapidated with the passage of time not unlike the photographer.  The first one is only a couple of miles from home.

Blochburnfoot cottage

I couldn’t have asked for a better day for a pedal as there was hardly any wind and the sky was cloudless.

callister view sunny

It wasn’t quite hot enough to get the gorse flowers to smell of coconut though.

gorse flowers

A correspondent asked me recently if there were a lot of poles and pylons in our area and I thought that I would show that there are and that they cast a long shadow too.

view with pylon shadow

As I came down from Kennedy’s Corner onto the Solway Plain, I passed the second ruined cottage, which is now almost wholly holey.

ruined cottage

The tree beside it looks a lot better than the cottage does.

tree by cottage

Although the sky was blue and it was pretty clear in the hills, there was a very murky layer lying on top of the land below me as I looked ahead.  It didn’t look very appetising at all.

murky mist

When I got down that level, it wasn’t visible but it was colder.

There are telephone  and electricity poles along almost every road around us and quite often a pylon makes its presence felt as well….

pylon at the end of the road

…but if you choose the right road, nothing interrupts the view at all.

bent tree

There was quite a lot of traffic about today and I was passed by two low flying aircraft….

low flying plane

…and held up by a traffic jam near Glenzier.

traffic jam near Glenzier

The farmer told me that they were having to move the sheep out into the fields by day as it was too hot for them in the shed at the moment.  This was them going home to bed for the night.

When I got back after 30 gentle miles, Mrs Tootlepedal had finished planting out the raspberry canes in the new bed.  They are Malling Jewel and should fruit in midsummer (if we get one this year).

new raspberry bed

There are gooseberries and blackcurrants to be sorted out next.

I admired some hopeful wallflowers and went in to have a cup of tea and some ginger nuts (shop bought).

wallflower feb

I was just getting up to make a slice of toast after I had polished off the biscuits, when my eye was caught by movement under the feeder.

Our part of the town seems to have two resident partridges now…

partridge

…as neighbours on both sides of our garden have seen them perched on their fences.  I wonder where they are roosting for the night.

The day wound down with a shopping trip for me and then Mrs Tootlepedal created a delicious evening meal with the products from the shopping bag, a very satisfactory division of labour.

I was pleased to see that the proposed deterioration in our weather has now been put on hold for a day or two and we are being promised another sunny day tomorrow.  We are really being spoiled and will get a big shock when normal service is resumed.

A questing chaffinch obliged by posing as the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony.  As well as looking up at celestial wonders, he has also looked down and found a monster on the seashore.

monsters head (1)

I drove south after breakfast to visit my singing teacher.  She lives under the shadow of the north of England hills and the mist was just burning off when I got there.

misty penines

I had a second look at the tree in the foreground with its additional sheep.

misty tree hallbank gate

The mist depended on the direction and distance of the view.  This little tree covered mound was only a few hundred yards away and mist free….

trees on tump hallbankgate

…and the monkey puzzle tree in her garden was bathed in sunlight.

monkey puzzle hallbankgate

The singing lesson was very interesting and left me with a number of things to work on regarding breathing, posture, relaxation and sound production.  Now, if I can only remember all of them, I should get a lot better.  Or indeed, any of them.

On my way home, I stopped to look at the bridge over the river Irthing, near Brampton.

It was not surprising to find that it has got many metal ties on it as it is a very narrow bridge on a busy road and with sharp bends at each end, it has had many a battering from passing traffic over the years.

Irthing bridge

When I got home, I was welcomed by Mrs Tootlepedal who had had a very busy morning in the house and garden and by a frog in the pond who had been taking things quietly.

frog in wed

The garden was busy with bees…

bee in crocus

…visiting the crocuses.

And the air was busy with contentious birds…

goldfinches squabbling

…being rude to each other.

Goldfinches were shouting at other goldfinches and chaffinches…

birds bickering

…and chaffinches were going beak to beak with each other.

chaffinches beak to beak

Sometimes it all got a bit too much and they just threw up their wings in despair.

chaffinch in despair

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Dumfries with our neighbour Liz who had a hospital out patient visit arranged and appreciated the company.

I took my cycle out for a gentle spin round my customary Canonbie 20 mile circuit, keeping an eye for trees, either in groups…

three trees grainstonehead

..or standing alone…

Irvine house tree

…or posing another puzzle for monkeys.

monkey puzzle canonbie

I had a walk round the garden when I got back, hoping for an opportunity to take a better bee picture.  Sadly, it had got late enough in the day for all the bees to have gone home so I had to settle for some attractive white crocuses instead.

white crocus

The early daffodils are coming out and adding some fresh colour to the snowdrops and crocuses.

february daffodils

Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely having managed to call in at a garden centre for a cup of tea and a scone on the way back from Dumfries where she acquired a new rose as if by magic.

The rest of my day was musical, with first a visit from my flute playing friend Luke.  He has been practising and as a result we played one of our pieces better than ever before.  We were both very pleased.

Then after tea, I went and played three trios with Mike and Isabel, our first meeting for some weeks and all the more welcome for that.

We have one more day of warm, calm, sunny weather to go before things start to return to more standard levels of rain, wind and cold so I am going to do my best to really appreciate the last sunny day while it  is here.

Among all the shenanigans at the feeder, I did manage to catch one calm chaffinch and he is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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The guest picture of the day is a curious sculpture of a bicycle on a  railway line which Bruce encountered on his recent Annan walk.

Bruce's bike at annan

We had a splendidly sunny day today but from a cycling point of view, it wasn’t as useful as it might have been as it was also very cold for several hours in the morning, with too much of a risk of ice for a unworried pedal.

Under the circumstances, I was more than usually happy to see Dropscone arrive for coffee with treacle scones.  We managed to eat all the scones ourselves with perfect timing just before we were joined by our neighbour Liz who had been walking her dog and Mrs Tootlepedal who had been putting another coat of paint on her horse.

As we sipped our coffee, the conversation, as conversations among people of more than three score years and ten tends to do, turned to the many and various strains and stresses that come with the turning of yet another page on the calendar. The upshot of the discussion was a firm injunction from the rest of us to Liz to seek medical advice today as she won the competition for the most serious immediate ailment by some distance.

When the coffee group broke up, I went for a stroll round the garden.  Although the shady parts were still frosty, the sun had encouraged the crocuses…

clump of crocuses

…with some even popping up uninvited among the moss and grass on the middle lawn.

crocuses on lawn

The snowdrops along the back path are almost at their peak and don’t seem to mind the frosty mornings at all.

back path snowdrop zenith

A euphorbia is showing welcome signs of spring.

euphorbia

I went back in and did the crossword and ate some soup and waited in vain for some birds and the sunshine to come to the feeder.  Birds were scarce but in the end a siskin arrived before the sun.

siskin in shade

Occasional chaffinches joined in but annoyingly for the would be photographer, kept getting their heads into the shadow of the feeder.

siskin and chaffinch 2

In the end, the thermometer rose enough to make cycling a pleasure so I left the birds to it…

siskin and chaffinch

…and went out to see how far my legs would take me.

I was very pleased to find that the potholes on the muddy road past the site where the new wind farm will be on the top of Callister had been repaired and the road cleaned, so I was able to cycle down to the valley of the Kirtle Water in comfort and safety.

I had my eye on bridges today and stopped at the second one over the Kirtle Water that I crossed.

kirtle water bridge near Waterbeck

As well as the bridge, I looked at trees…

tree at between the waters

…on both sides of the river.  These three are being undermined by burrowing creatures.

three trees Waterbeck

I stopped for the next bridge at Sprinkell…

kirtle water bridge sprinkell

…and then stopped again in the village of Eaglesfield to show another side of the gaily painted bus shelter there.

eaglesfield bus stop 2

From Eaglesfield, I headed south to Gretna, very pleased to get away from a chilly and nagging headwind that had made progress a rather slow business.

The wind had been stronger than I had expected and I would have been much happier when it gradually dropped to a mere whisper, if this hadn’t coincided with a change of direction in my route so that now it was behind me but hardly helping at all.

Still, it was a sunny day and it was a treat to be out and about with my ankle giving me no trouble as I pedalled along….and of course there were more bridges to cross.

This one was over a little tributary to the river Sark, just a short distance from the border between Scotland and England.

sark tributary bridge

There was a very inviting path along the stream…

riverside walk Sark

…but I didn’t have time to follow it as my slow progress meant that I needed to get home before it got too dark and cold for comfortable cycling.

I pressed on as fast as my legs would let me and after a very short visit to England, I returned to Scotland and got back to back to Langholm with thirty eight and a half miles showing on my bike computer.  I was seized by a decimal obsession and emulated Mrs May’s Brexit tactic by going round in ever decreasing circles without getting anywhere until the 40 miles finally came up on the screen.  At this point I stopped.

I was just having a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal when our neighbour Liz dropped back in to report that she had followed our advice and actually gone to the Health Centre to see the practice nurse.  She now has an appointment with a doctor.  We were mildly surprised but very delighted with this outcome as her joints are giving her no peace at the moment.

Having discussed pain over coffee in the morning, now we discussed death in the afternoon over tea.  You can see what fun old people have when they get together.  Actually both conversations were very cheerful and interesting, all things considered.

 

I am glad that I got out for a cycle ride today because when I look at the forecast tonight, it tells me that we will be back to windy weather tomorrow.

I did manage to catch one chaffinch in the right time and the right place over lunch, so it is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

For those interested, clicking on the map of the ride below will bring up further details.   It should have felt warm at 56 degrees but the wind was cold and I was happy to be well wrapped up.

garmin route 15 Feb 2019

 

 

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