Posts Tagged ‘wallflowers’

Today’s guest picture is the last of the Derby insects sent to me by my brother Andrew.

derby hornet

I am irresistibly reminded of my favourite limerick.  I remember it as:

There was a young man from St Bees,
Who was stung on the knee by a wasp.
When they said, “Does it hurt?”
He replied, “No, it doesn’t,
Thank goodness it wasn’t a hornet.”

But I see that the original was by W S Gilbert who wrote:

There was an old man of St. Bees,
Who was stung in the arm by a wasp;
When they asked, “Does it hurt?”
He replied, “No, it doesn’t,
But I thought all the while ’twas a Hornet.”

With the greatest respect to WS, I think my version is snappier.

But I digress.

Dropscone recently took a boat trip across the North Sea to Amsterdam, coming back on what should have been the final day before Brexit and he dropped in this morning on his way back from the gym to have a cup of coffee and tell me about it.  His main impression was that Amsterdam is a very easy place in which to get run over by a cyclist.

I had resolved to have a very quiet day today as I was feeling far from my peak so after he left, I constrained my activity to a brief walk round the garden.

The cold and wet weather of the last week has put new growth on the back foot again and there are few developments but some flowers are doing well in spite of frost and rain.

wallflowers, dicentra, cardamine

And the fritillaries are fabulous.

fritillary in sun

There were sunny spells in the morning and these four chaffinches looked very cheerful in one of them.

four happy chaps

The blossom on the plum tree is just waiting for a warmer day to break out fully.

chaffinch in plum buds

The sunshine didn’t keep everyone happy as this study of a lady chaffinch giving a little siskin a kicking shows.

chaffinch kicking siskin

However, the siskin had the last laugh because it stayed in the perch and the chaffinch had to retire in confusion.

For the first time this year, we had several redpolls on the feeder at the same time and although they are small, like the siskins they are tough little birds and not afraid of anything.

three repolls

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off by herself to visit Matilda in Edinburgh (and her other grandparents who are visiting too). Matilda is basking in glory as she came second in her first ever dance competition yesterday and got a medal!

I stayed at home and mooched around in some showery weather until the skies cleared and I thought that my foot might benefit from a little walk.  I don’t want to seize up altogether and I have been severely limiting my exercise for five weeks now so it is important to keep moving, even if very slowly.

I walked up onto the Meikleholm hill and looked back to see the town bathed in sunshine while Whita Hill in the background was still under a cloud.

sunny town cloudy whita

Six minutes later, the town was in shadow and the hill was sunlit.  It was that sort of day, with a very brisk and chilly wind.

sunny whita cloudy town

I had intended to do a Grand Old Duke of York and go to the top of the hill and then come down again but I found a herd of cows in my way and thought better of it and went back down and continued my walk by going along the track to the Becks Burn.

I stopped and had a chat with Stan from the camera club who was walking  his dogs.  He told me that he has already sold a picture from the exhibition at Canonbie so that was good news.

I walked further along the track with one of the smallholders who have fields there.  There was no need to ask which were his sheep because as we approached his field they careered down towards him in the justified hope of some food.  He has already got some traditional spring lambs…

lamb oanel

…and there were other more exotic ones in a neighbouring field.

There were white things to see as I went along…

white things on walk

…and plenty of new growth in the hedgerow when I had crossed the burn and was walking down the road on the other side.

hedge buds

I crossed the Becks Burn again by this bridge which carries the Wauchope road back into the town.

becks bridge at Wauchope

In spite of the recent rain, there is still very little water in the stream after our dry spell in March.

As is so often the case, where there is a bridge and a wall, there is lichen.

Becks bridge lichen

I had thought of a slightly longer walk at this point but my foot put its foot down and told me to go straight home so I did.

When I got to Pool Corner, I lifted up two of the little squares of roofing felt which a nature lover has put there and underneath them, I found two baby slow worms and an adult.

slow worm and mat

Just before I got home, I passed a man with an unusual hedge.

quince fence

It is a quince hedge and he told me that when the fruits come, people pick them and bring him a jar of jelly in return.

When I got back, I found that there were more redpolls about…

redpoll pair

…and they weren’t averse to trying to establish a pecking order…

redpolls beak to beak

…though the one on the top right seems a bit astonished by the bad behaviour of the other two.

repolls flyting

I was cooking some ginger biscuits when Mike Tinker dropped in and I was more than a bit embarrassed to peer into the oven and to see no biscuits at all.  The little round balls of dough that should have melted out into flat biscuits were still little round balls of dough.  When I took them out of the oven (after Mike had gone), I found that they were dry, tasteless and inedible.

A bit of brain racking ensued (as far as I still have a brain to rack) and a second look at the recipe told me that I must have forgotten to put the sugar in.  I made a second batch, hoping not to miss out some other vital ingredient this time.  I must have got everything in because I got some undeniable biscuits out of the oven and they tasted quite good.  I am going to have one or two with a cup of tea when I finish writing this post.  Or even three.

In the absence of Mrs Tootlepedal, I had a very quiet evening in.

The flying bird of the day is a sunny chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s picture is another from my siblings’ current visit to Spain and shows the water feature in front of the Catalan National Art Museum in Barcelona.  It was captured by my brother.Catalan National Art Museum

We had a very nice sunny day for the most part today but as Dropscone and I found out when we went to Waterbeck for our morning pedal, there was a pretty strong and chilly wind blowing from the west.  I spent most of the ride puffing along miles behind Dropscone and then, to his justified annoyance, whizzed past him when he waited for me at the top of the final hill before a downhill rush home.  The whole thing was not a triumph of teamwork.  Still, the scones were as tasty as ever.

As Dropscone has got a borrowed bike at the moment, there was an unlikely moment when he actually washed it before taking it home.  I was impressed.

When he had gone off on his clean machine, Mrs Tootlepedal and I cycled up to the Moorland Bird Feeders as I was filling in for one of the usual volunteers.  It was glorious as we pedalled up the hill, with a bit of warmth from the sun imparting a definite feeling of spring in the air.

going to the feeders

View from Broomholm

I was distracted by a flash of yellow on a tree beside the road.

Sensational lichen

I would have passed this by without looking twice in times past.

It was chilly and muddy in the shade of the trees at the feeders so we didn’t linger.  In contrast to our sunny ride up the hill, our return trip downhill was accompanied by a violent hailstorm.  Luckily, we were under trees for most of it and it had stopped as quickly as it had started before we arrived home.

Once home, I checked on the frog army.  The picture below is of poor quality but I have put it in because it was the best that I could do and I think I can count twenty frogs at least in it and there more out of shot.

frog swarm

I took some individual portraits as well.

three frogs

Under the bridge


Soaking up the sun

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to work and I went up to try to offer my friend Arthur some assistance with a malfunctioning computer.   Its ills were well outside any small area of competence that I have in these matters so I left him to seek more useful help elsewhere while I collected our car from the garage and drove home.

At a recent camera club meeting, the lecturer was extolling the use of continuous shooting.  I haven’t tried this before so I had a go today at some chaffinches in the sun and got some promising results.  I will have to get used to the extra work that producing so many shots entails.

I was looking at wings.

chaffinch wings

chaffinch wings

chaffinch wings

I looked at some flowers too.


This will be our first daffodil of the year in a day or two if the weather permits.


Like the primroses, these wallflowers have been in bloom all winter.

The sky above the garden was full of rooks circling the town in a noisy procession.


After a pause to grapple with the crossword, I drove down to the Kilngreen to see what was to be seen by the river there.

dancing ducks

There were dancing ducks

Then I went home and put my boots on and walked up to the new bridge on Gaskells Walk.  The men had worked wonders in manoeuvring the heavy beams into place.

Gaskell's bridge

Handrails almost complete

It may not look much from the path but seen from below, it is quite a construction.

Gaskell's bridge

I hope to be able to photograph (and walk across) the finished product soon.

I took a roundabout way home and noticed an exciting slime mold on my way.

slime mold

Some time during the day, I took a picture of a perching chaffinch for those like Mrs Tootlepedal who prefer a calmer bird.

perching chaffinch

In the evening, I went to the Archive Centre with Jean and Sandy and rounded off a pleasantly busy day with an hour’s data entry with appropriate refreshment to follow.  If any local reader has read this far and has a Common Riding programme to hand, a correspondent has asked us if we can tell him who won the hound trail in 1909.  I seem to recall that the programme has a list of hound trail winners  in it.

The flying bird of the day was a dancing duck who had achieved lift off.

flying duck





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Today’s picture is two pictures, contributed by my sister Mary, from the South Bank in London where, stealing an idea from Paris, they have created a beach…


…and added some beach huts too.


The day was forecast to be foggy and still and, once again, the forecast was right. It was sunny in our garden but quite foggy by the time I got to Skipper’s Bridge. I was on the speedy bike to take advantage of the continuing high pressure by going a decent distance. I hadn’t entirely chosen my route until I got to Longtown when I finally definitely decided to go to Dumfries by way of Caerlaverock. This is a largely flat route with some very nice views across the Solway and the Nith estuary. I went through Gretna and Annan before turning off on the coastal route to Cummertrees and Bankend.

It had been quite cold when I started and I had a light waterproof on. By the time I got to Gretna, the mist had cleared and the sun was out and this is how it stayed for the rest of the day. I just had a couple of bananas with me so I needed to stop for food. I chose the WWT  cafe at Caerlaverock at 37 miles for an early lunch of a cheese and tomato toastie and a bowl of soup. I was able to watch osprey cam while I ate because they have a big screen showing live pictures from the nest site. An osprey was sitting on the nest and it continued to do this while I ate my snack. It was interesting but not exciting.

The WWT is on a side road, a mile and a half from the main road so after my toastie, I had to go back to the road and turn left for the Nith estuary and the road into Dumfries. As I left the WWT, I took the picture of Criffel which dominates the view on this part of the ride.


You can see the last remnant of the morning mist drifting upwards from the hill side.

I whistled up the estuary into Dumfries, passing through Glencaple. When you are a mile or two out of town, there is a very nice bike path into the centre of Dumfries along the river bank but there were so many pedestrians out for a sunny walk that it was not very satisfactory. I turned for home to find that the wind had got up quite a bit and it was now straight in my face as I went back down the river side. The road surface was also very poor. This hadn’t bothered me too much when I was cycling up it with the wind behind but it was very uncomfortable battling back down it into the wind. The murk of the last few days had cleared off to a large extent and so I stopped to get a rest from the wind and the bumps to take another picture of Criffel across the river.


At the bottom of the estuary, the road turned to the east and the wind was now behind me. I stopped for another quick meal at the 57 mile mark. This time I tried the cafe at Caerlaverock Castle.


It too offered soup and a toastie, which I took. The only difference was the price which was a good deal higher than the decent environmentalists of the WWT.

The next 40 miles were made very pleasant for me by the stiff wind mostly at my back. Even when it was from the side, it was still no problem. It is not often that the wind behaves exactly as it should and today was a day when it did. It is all the sweeter for its infrequency. The traffic was very light, the surface from Caerlaverock to Langholm was fine, I didn’t get a puncture, I couldn’t have asked for more. The only slight fly in the ointment was discovering that I was 3 miles short of the hundred when I got back to Langholm and this necessitated a short excursion up the Wauchope road to fill in the missing miles.

The flat route and the helpful wind conditions, combined with a temperature that never got too hot, meant that this was probably the easiest 100 miles I have ever pedalled. I didn’t go very fast, the outward journey being at 15.2 mph and the whole thing ending up at 15.6 mph.

When I got home I had a nice cup of tea and then met our B & B guests for the night. They were on a walk from Durham to Oban which is a pretty good hike. The man had done the London-Edinburgh-London bike event last time it was held. This entails doing 800 miles without stopping. He had taken four days. That put my little 100 into a proper perspective. I bow down to him.

The garden was looking lovely in the early evening sunshine.


The birds are harder to see among the leaves


Not a typical tulip at all


The march of time. A tulip lets it all hang out.


Mrs Tootlepedal can't remember planting these tulips. A pleasant surprise.

The next big thing is  the arrival of the wall flowers. We are at the fist stage of this process.

orange wallflower

The old and the new..

 wallflower tulip

I showed selected apple and cherry blossom yesterday and by today the apple espaliers were nearly fully in flower.


..and here is a fuller picture of our neighbours cherry.


Amongst all this brilliant colour, the blackbirds continue their work of denuding the soil of worms. Here is one of them sprinting across the lawn, a valuable soil conditioning expert in its beak.

sprinting blackbird

Still, they fill the garden with song so perhaps I shouldn’t grudge them a worm or two.

We shall see how the legs feel when I wake up tomorrow morning ready for the usual excursion with Dropscone.

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