beach cottage, bEAching, cottage garden

bEAching…an unexpected weekend break

It has been a grey dismal day here today at the cottage (caravan) – we decided to sneak away for a few days with the hope of better weather and yesterday it was pleasant enough to be in the garden but today we are back to cold and wet.

When we cleared some of the upper wood on our last visit at the end of February (if you can remember so far back) we ended up with stacks of rotting wood and trailing ivy and not a hope of burning it in the gales.  However, yesterday was mild and calm so perfect for a bonfire.  It won’t be long though before I generate another pile – it is an ongoing job here. So far I have made a pathway through the wood.  The old concrete bunker on the right makes a great log store.  It is a left over outbuilding from when the pub at the top of the lane was a Creamery and until the seventies this land was just a field with no trees.

In the afternoon DH found time to cut the lawns and I did a bit of weeding in the borders and pruned some of the Hydrangeas.  The ones by the conservatory had grown too big and so I have cut them back hard and will probably have to sacrifice some blooms later on although last time I did this they still flowered despite the gardening books saying they wouldn’t if cut back too far.

It is very noticeable that everything in the garden is very late compared to other years and so I was quite surprised when I came across the Delphinium bed and some of the plants are already a good foot high.  I can almost hear their tender shoots calling to the rabbits ‘eat me eat me’  – hence I have them well protected with chicken wire!

The grand fernery beside the pool with the majestic Royal ferns is a sorry sight at the moment – all the leaves have been burnt by the cold weather and salt spray and are shrivelled and brown and will have to be cut back to ground level and wait for the new growth.   I spent ages doing this last year and usually only need to do it every other year if the winter is milder.  The Fatsia is the same.  I will leave both for now just in case it remains cold and we have some heavy frosts.

We had a brisk walk into the village and back tonight just before the light went.  There had been talk of adding solar lights along the ‘low road’ which is the old road that runs alongside the beach and is just a pathway now, not accessible by car.  If you walk along here in the evening it is a real treat as you can hear all the hedgerow birds in full song.  I for one am glad that the solar lights have not materialised as I think it is not the place for light pollution it is a quiet place for the wildlife to live undisturbed.

It is only 20 days until we go to Italy eeek…I still have to resolve the footwear and handbag problem.  I still have to resolve transport to and from the wedding and reception.  I still have to resolve what exactly is the breakfast at the hotel when it is only 3 Euros?

Hoping for a sunny day tomorrow.

Back soon

 

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beach cottage, bEAching, general chit chat

bEAching…stuck in the tin can

 

Well – we are well and truly stuck up here in Scotland with not a hope of getting back home to Yorkshire yet.

Our only route back first to the border, then down the M6 and finally across the M62, which is at present closed, sounds far too risky and I would rather be in a rocky, noisy tin can of a caravan than stuck for 12 hours or more without heat, food or drink as some motorists have been.

The noise from the gales battering our caravan is horrendous and has prevented us getting much sleep for the last two nights but the rocking is something else – it is making us feel quite sea sick and with each gust I fear our anchorage might give way and we will be whisked off into the sea and looking at the huge swell on the sea from our window here I would not want to end up in it!  The swell is so high that we can barely see the land opposite across the bay and every now and again a huge wave hits the caravan window.

Luckily no trees down yet – but no roofing felt left on the log store that has been ripped away last night.

However, as you can see thankfully we are still snow free unlike the rest of the country and all our relatives who are snowed in from Yarm through North Yorkshire to Sheffield and also those in Lincolnshire and probably everywhere in between.  We had thought we could get as far as our nearest relative from here and stay with them for a while but looking at their Facebook pictures that is no longer a possibility.  So we will have to put up and stay put for a while – I am expected back at work on Monday – we will have to wait and see if Sunday travel might be possible.

Obviously there has been no gardening going on here – yesterday we braved the elements and drove to the next village for lunch at the local cafe just to get away from the noise for a while – we were their first customers.  They had just had their power switched back on after a morning long power cut – eek power cuts – if we get a power cut now we would have no means of heating (gas boiler like any other is powered by electricity) or cooking (gas cooker has a fail safe electric ignition) we would have to go to bed I think and stay there to keep warm!  One of the villagers had some quite spectacular pictures of some frozen waves and I could see icy slush along the shoreline as we drove up the coast road which I have never ever seen before.  Today the temperature is up to zero so feels comparatively warm to what it has been.

You would think that having an enforced break might be an ideal way of using the time to plan and think but I find the weather going on outside far too distracting and we are spending most of our time reading up on the weather news.  I think our plans today are to go into Stranraer – we found the winds were not as strong further up the coast in the basin of the bay so might go and replenish milk and bread and buy some lunch out.

We will probably avoid what the locals term the ‘Car Wash’ that is the stretch just along the main road from here where there is a concrete sea wall around Terally Bay and when the sea hits this with force sends up huge sprays of sea water across the road but complete with rocks and pebbles – exciting to see – the kids love it but many a car is dented around these parts from using this road.  I think we will use the back road today which comes out after the ‘Car Wash’.

Taken earlier today by a local – the ‘Car Wash’  – the road snakes around just where these waves are crashing over the sea wall on the left.

Apparently there is a local pantomime in the village hall tonight – we need a good laugh so might go along.

 

UPDATE – since going in to town this afternoon we unexpectedly  learnt of a diesel shortage here as the tankers cannot get through – we only knew because on our way out-of-town we saw a huge queue at the petrol station so went to investigate – guess what our car runs on – on discovering this was the only petrol station in town to have any diesel at all we joined the queue – we were amongst the few lucky ones – after we filled our car they only had another 120 litres left.

Reports say M62 is still closed tonight and there have been more power cuts – luckily not local to us.

But what next I ask?

 

 

beach cottage, bEAching, general chit chat

bEAching…a weekend escape

We escaped to our cottage in Scotland for a few days this last weekend – for those of you who are new readers we are camping out now in a static caravan in the garden of our cottage since the flood in 2014 made it impossible for us to use the cottage.

We had already been warned of bad weather up and down the country so went with no expectations of getting in the garden and instead I went prepared with a few indoor jobs and a pile of books and magazines to read.   I actually like this time of year – the place is deserted and kind of bleak looking but it has a beauty of its own in the greyness.

Unexpectedly Friday was dry and sunny, although bitterly cold, and we decided to make the best of the weather and have lunch out and then drive over to Portpatrick and Stranraer and have a wander around before the weather turned.  The shops are well stocked with Christmas gifts and trimmings so much so that I actually wondered who will buy it all.  Many of the smaller gift shops and cafes in the area are only opening at the weekend even over the Christmas season as trade appears to be very slow this year – it is such a shame for these small businesses who rely very much on the extra boost to trade that tourism brings.  We always try to support these shops where we can buying locally and not buying goods down here to take up there.

We stayed indoors on Saturday as the heavy rain forecasted had set in and continued through the night so it was like sleeping in a tin box and because we are so close to the sea the constant roar of the waves crashing around made it even harder to sleep through the noise.

I filled my time trawling through old family photos that, once edited, will be part of a photo book we are compiling to have printed by Blurb books for my mum’s Christmas present.  We did the same for my mum in law some years ago capturing a snapshot of her life and she was really pleased with it.

With hundreds of photos I found it quite hard deciding what to put in or leave out – some of the older photos bring back very happy memories for me as we had so much fun as a family especially in the 1950’s and 1960’s when I was growing up so it was quite a slow job.  I can even remember all the dresses that I am wearing as they were made by my grandma and the cardigans and jumpers knitted by my mum.  Here are just a few of my favourites –

1954 – This is me with my family when I was only a week or two old – note the old-fashioned dustbin and air raid shelter in the background – granddad had turned it into a garden shed…

1957 – Does anyone out there recognise this Lion – could it be in Skegness or Scarborough?

1957 – somewhere in Torquay – Dad (on the right of the picture) used the automatic setting on the camera and we are all laughing as he only just made it into the picture – an early form of selfie!  Wonderful bathing costumes though…

Great Gran (back left) always had her Sunday best hat on even on a picnic – mum in the centre looking glamorous as ever…

1958 – The Promenade at Blackpool – mum and my Aunt in their very fashionable headscarves and me in my knitted Pixie hat!

1958 – One of my favourite pictures my Aunt and Uncle improvising when camping by washing up in the cake tin – we went everywhere with that tent – hardly a deluxe model it looks like it is about to collapse and I think it often did but all added to the fun…

1958 – me again with Spot the dog picking wild flowers (certainly not allowed now) – always into mischief, we did everything together…

1964 – I am 10 years old here and we are collecting the tiny four berth caravan that was going to be our home for over 6 months on the site where Dad built his own house…

and this is the house – quite an achievement – dad had the help of  3 brickies / joiners and laid all the drains himself – whenever we wondered where dad was he would be mixing concrete or digging trenches.  During this time mum fell unexpectedly pregnant with my sister and she was born just after we managed to move in…

1966 – me with my mum and little sister – anyone remember these pushchairs? – pre buggy days – you could sit either way round but it was hard work heaving them on and off a bus.

Ah well enough of the ‘Good old days’ and back to the Christmas preparations – I also began the Advent calendars on Saturday but found they are not as quick to do as I thought and getting the photos for mum sorted has to take priority so we can meet the Blurb book deadline.  I am thinking now that I may have to abandon the calendars until next year.

 

On the positive side we now have our family get together date fixed and it only took about 100 messages to one another via Messenger (what did we do before Facebook) until at last everyone is able to agree on a time, a date and a place which is just as well because there is very few weekends left and I now have only one free weekend to get everything done – the cake, the nut roast and the cards and gifts.

On the decorating side the new bed arrived Monday and the wardrobe doors Tuesday, so now it is just the finishing touches.  The old bed that is to go to my daughter’s house is proving difficult to transport – too big for our estate and the little van my daughter can have loan of is just that…too little!  So we have to find a creative way of squeezing it into our estate – I will leave that job to OH.  If we cannot move it I have visions of it being part of our living room decorations over Christmas so I will just drape some tinsel over it!

This week I am looking to bake the cake and start the Christmas cards.  How are your plans going?

Back soon x

beach cottage, bEAching, cottage garden, drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, sEAsons

what we didn’t do on our holidays…

Hello – I’m back – well I have been back at home for over a week but soooo busy that blogging has not been an option for me.

To say I was a little disappointed on holiday is probably an understatement.  All was going to plan, we got off on time and ambled our way up country stopping for lunch and tea and arriving at the cottage early evening.  After a good nights sleep we had a lovely day in the garden the following day with the sun shining down on us and the sea so calm with a beautiful silvery cast and then the next day it happened – my back went into spasm, I couldn’t move and I spent the rest of the holiday in pain and discomfort unable to do any gardening!! We also had to abandon the visit we had planned to go up to the Cowal Open Studios at Dunoon. (Sorry we missed you Freda if you are reading this).

OH plodded on as best he could all week in the garden trying to do as much as he could inbetween the rain and the cooking.

One or two of you asked me to bring back some pictures of the garden so I thought I would show you the progress so far to the stream bank.

Remember the flood – this was the original view at the bottom of our garden with the little wooden bridge.

After the flood we were then left with this gaping void where the sea had taken not only the bridge but a slice of both our garden on the right of the picture and the farmers land on the left.

This is what it looked like back in January this year (looking from the other direction) when the engineering work had been completed and the boundary of our garden re-established using gabion baskets to form a stable edge and then black mesh laid over to create a more natural looking banking.

This is how it looks today – the grasses and wild flowers are beginning to grow back through the black mesh and the gaping void we were left with is narrower and much less obvious now and… we have grass – you can hardly call it a lawn but it looks better than the mud heap we had up until Easter.

There were pockets of colour dotted here and there in the garden – the bright orange of the nasturtiums and Monbretia, the glossy red berries and hips and the bobbing white daisy heads of the chamomile, and of course the Hydrangeas and White Anemones.

 

 

We had bought a pond cover to install over our pond to try to minimise the amount of leaves that fall into the pond at this time of year.  It was not an easy thing to put together and seemed to have a few basic design faults which added to the frustration, but it is now in place so we will have to see how it goes.

On my only day in the garden we managed to clear a patch and sow the grass seed where we wanted to extend the lawn on the wood side garden.  Once this has taken we will plant a few shade loving shrubs along the banking to give it some structure.  I am not sure the netting is going to keep out the wood pigeons.

 

Whilst indisposed for most of the holiday there was little to do (with no internet or TV) other than read.  I had taken a number of library books and one in particular I found quite thought-provoking and I will come back to this another day as the ideas are quite useful.  I also made use of this time reading all the diet and health articles I had clipped from my pile of magazines and taken with me on holiday. I learnt a lot and will be putting my findings into practice over the next few weeks and will share this with you.

On the last evening after having been straightened out by the local osteopath ready for the journey home the next day we celebrated with a meal out at Henry’s in Stranraer and then took a detour on the way back to the cottage to Portpatrick a delightful little harbour village.  The white-painted Harbour Masters cottage by the lighthouse with its mustard yellow window mullions and contrasting blue shutters (that are often tight shut against the winter storms) is one of my favourite houses.

As the day was drawing to an early close I captured the last of the sun setting over the Irish sea.

 

Back at home it has been a busy week and a half as we have been going up and down to North Yorkshire on my days off to help my younger daughter move.   She is now renting a place further away from Masham but this one has central heating and double glazing.

Luckily my back has fully recovered and I have been scrubbing cookers (she has two – an oil-fired Rayburn which they have had difficulty keeping lit and the back up electric oven in the adjoining laundry room).  I have no idea how to work a Rayburn but I hear they have already made pancakes so must have overcome the lighting problems.

I am ever hopeful that one day they will be able to afford their own home but the prices in the area are far too high for first time buyers.  Each time she rents we end up fixing things that really the landlord should be doing but typically never do.

At work it has been a round of appraisals and notice of forthcoming changes that will be implemented soon.  Since the appointment recently of two new directors we have been told to expect plenty of change.  On average I believe we have had some kind of change every three months for the past 3 years even before the new directors!  As they say nothing ever stays the same and the family feel our firm once boasted has now disappeared.  I meet people in the corridor and I don’t even know they are new employees.

Onwards and upwards.  I need to have a good catch up with everyone now.

 

beach cottage, bEAching, drEAming, general chit chat, holidays, mEAndering

home for a rest…

Back home from our two-week holiday and break in Scotland at the cottage – you may have noticed my absence.  The weather in our part of Scotland (the South West corner) has been absolutely glorious – so many hot sunny days and blue skies – who needs to go abroad!

Thank you to everyone for your recent comments on my previous posts –  I was not ignoring you all I have no internet connection at the cottage and so am oblivious to life in the rest of the world. I would normally reply to your comments but time is a bit scarce at the moment as I have a lot of catching up to do both in the house and in blogland so please accept this general acknowledgement.

Whilst we were on holiday (which I will write about in another post) I had my birthday, and also a funeral to attend  – not on the same day but close.  The call to say that OH’s uncle from the Scottish side of the family had unexpectedly passed away came as we were enjoying the first day of our holiday but being close to Kilmarnock (82 miles up the road from our cottage) we decided it would be fairly easy to attend the funeral.

Not everyone gets to go to a funeral on holiday and like most people we had not packed clothes for such an occasion so we had no option but to go in our holiday attire – the best we could do was black jeans each, a suitable top for me and dark t-shirt and jumper for OH and yes as you can imagine we did stand out from the crowd who were quite soberly and traditionally dressed, the men in black suits, white shirts and black ties and the women black dresses or skirts, but the family did not mind rather they were pleased to see us.

The funeral director and staff did however show a look of horror once or twice especially when the announcer called for any family members to enter the crematorium chapel first and we stepped forward – until then it was probably thought we were just passers-by!

Being on holiday for my birthday does mean I have spent a lot of my day today opening cards and presents and answering messages.  So back to the unpacking now as it is work again for me tomorrow.

I will just leave you with a few holiday snaps…

 

Kipford and Rockcliffe 

Ardwell Walled Gardens

Broadstones Stranraer

Across Agnew Park Stranraer

 

 

beach cottage, bEAching, cottage garden

“weeds are flowers too…

… once you get to know them”    

A. A. Milne, said by Eeyore from in ‘Winnie the Pooh’

 

We returned last week from 6 blissful days at the cottage (but in the caravan) – the weather was quite mixed but we managed a spell in the garden.  The mild weather at the Mull this winter has meant that everything has continued to grow.  I have French Lavender in the trellis border coming in to flower which made the clipping back hard to do.

I love the deep purple colour of these tulips –  I can’t even remember planting them!

I also love the wild flowers but left to their own devices they take over the garden.  As you can see here the wild garlic is rampant and the bare patches are where I spent a good hour or two pulling up bulb after bulb in an attempt to curb the spread.  There are a few patches like this is the garden and through the lawn.  Bulbs are far worse than rooted plants to weed out so I am resigned to the fact that I will have to weed over and over to get rid of them completely.  The smell is quite nice though even if I am intolerant of garlic in food!

We also have an army of rabbits who have been digging in the borders – they go for the roots of plants – so all my plants have stones around the base and in some cases wire netting to prevent them getting close.

Hubby was on ditch management – clearing out the earth and leaves from the ditch that divides the garden and woodland walk from the main part of the wood.  It is a heavy job heaving shovels of wet mud up onto the banking – once it has dried out I can then move it to other parts of the garden.

His other project this visit was to make some caravan steps – we have been managing with an old milk crate but as the caravan is 2 feet off the ground it is a bit of a drop coming out of the van with no steadying handrail.  We had a large assortment of wood in the garage from other projects and with a delivery of decking planks as well we have managed to make some steps with a useful platform outside the door for around £60.

We have generated a large shredding pile of shrub prunings so I will need to spend an afternoon with the shredder – the resulting wooden pellets make good ground cover for the paths on the woodland walk.

On this visit I decided to concentrate on the pond for a couple of days.  We have had to do some heavy pruning of the self seeded Elder at the back of the pond and on our next visit will cut back the Fuchsia as well as the ‘Fernery’ – I have to do this every two years as they creep over their demarcation line and also the old leaves start looking dry and discoloured – cutting them down to ground level allows fresh young green growth to sprout and in no time we will have the Fernery back in full force – just a little less of it!

This is a picture from 2 years ago when I began to clean up the pond and I uncovered a layer of buried stones around the edge.

This is it fully cleaned out

The wild yellow Irises were a strong group at this time flanking the right hand side slope of the pond.

Some of the Irises struggled to survive last year under the deep shade of the Elder branches that had taken over at the back of the pond.  This year when I removed some of the rotting roots I discovered more stones beneath the clumps and the rest of the afternoon was spent on a bit of an archeological dig.  Below is a picture of my discovery – a beautiful old flat stone with a hole in the middle.  What purpose this stone originally served I have no idea but it makes a nice flat platform to the edge of my pond and I am sure the Irises will once again multiply quickly to fill the empty spaces.

The two wooden stumps must have once held a seat and we hope to replace this using a piece of wood from our wood pile in the garage.

When photographed from a distance you can see the extent of the stones – all this was buried under leaf mould.  the Elder has been pruned back to about 2′ as it does grow very quickly.

This was the edge of the pond last year when the Primula and irises were in full bloom it is one of my favourite spots in the garden.

Can’t wait for this years show.

beach cottage, bEAching, being thrifty, celebrations, cottage garden, drEAming, fEAsting, general chit chat, trEAsury

highlights from the week…

During last week I was on holiday from work so we decided to head up to the caravan in Scotland for a few days whilst also arranging to meet the engineer who came to get our water and gas connected.

I was sitting in the caravan looking out over a calm, silvery winter sea during the time just before dusk sets in.  The wood-pigeon was gently cooing outside and inside a very peaceful quiet. Just like in the cottage we have no means of communicating with the outside world – it feels almost like being on a desert island – all we can do is just sit and be.  A very odd experience – 250 miles away from our usual existence at home where there is always some pressing ‘To Do’ to be done and I would normally, like a lot of the population, be at work.  I quite enjoyed this break – so did hubby who was often found gently dozing in the corner!

The highlight of the trip was at last we have running water, central heating, a flushing toilet, fully operational shower and gas cooking facilities.  Thank goodness for all these modern inventions – being without such comforts is good for the soul once in a while as it reminds us of how grateful we should be for these services we take for granted and how they free up our lives.  For the last few weeks we have managed with containers of water, a bucket under the van to catch the sink waste and a chemical camping toilet to catch the other waste!  I won’t go into detail here!!  We had to have a wash with one bowl of water each and clean our teeth with a glassful.  All hot water had to be boiled on our little gas camping stove and our meals consisted of soup, soup and more soup – the easiest thing to heat up when you only have one gas ring.

The caravan is now a real home from home and is actually warmer, cleaner and more comfortable than our cottage was whilst we attended to the renovations.  But it does not have the character or the space.

Now the caravan is fully up and running we can turn our attention to the garden maintenance.  It suffered a lot last year due to shortage of time and the cottage being out of action still.  We had to limit our visits and stay at a nearby B&B or hire another cottage.

Many parts of the garden were badly affected by the flood and all though most of it has sprung back there are still some strange effects to overcome even now. The lawn and borders on the wood side of the cottage are covered in wild garlic leaves, the bulbs being washed through the garden and scattered by the flood water.  The only way is to dig them out by hand one at a time.  So far I have done a patch about one metre square – the amount of garden affected by this is probably 20 metres square – some of it appears in clumps and others more scatterd – funnily enough the ones in clumps are easier to pull out than the numerous single bulbs dotted around.  Any good ideas anyone?

The stream bank is looking so much better and as soon as we hit a drier patch the contractor will be back to spread the top soil and re-seed the area.  The black protective mesh will eventually allow the vegetation to grow through it and it will look like a natural grassy stream bank.  Of course the stream bed is much wider now but will probably, hopefully, look narrower again as the vegetation takes hold.

 

Stream Bank

 

Back at home now we celebrated Burns night here in England with a few friends – it was a great night and always reminds us how good it is to have a get together.  I have never cooked Haggis before but it was quite easy – not so easy is mashing a huge pot of potatoes and turnip.

For eight of us (5 meat eaters and 3 vegetarians) I spent

2 x Haggis  £5.00

1 x Haggis veggie £2.50

1 large bag Potatoes £1.29

2 x Swede £0.80

1 pot beef gravy £2.00 (already had some veggie gravy)

8 mini Scotch pies  £2.70

2 macaroni pies £1.15

Add in some Scottish delicacies

1 box Tunnocks chocolate teacakes £1.60

1pkt Tunnocks Caramel wafers £1.60

1pkt mini Scottie shortbread  £1.00

 

A total of £19.64 or £2.46 a head – one friend brought fruit kebabs for a starter and another friend a Rhubarb crumble for afters.  So quite an economy meal.