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

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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.

 

 

 

 

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

home and away…

We came back from our jolly hols in Scotland yesterday.  It has been a mixture of hard work in our cottage garden interspersed with a little relaxation and the odd trip out (or two) – more news on this another day.

Drummore2

 

As I have been away from my blog for what seems like a lifetime I have a bit of catching up to do as well as filling regular readers in on just what has been happening over here and just where the journey has taken me recently.  But not all at once – this is merely to check in and say hi – hope you are all well and enjoying the summer.

Drummore

 

Stairhaven

 

I know tomorrow when I return to work I will hit the ground running.  I seriously wish I could leave now – all though I do love my job it has begun to take over my life and there are so many things I want to do whilst I still can.  I have lost all control on our finances and I have a heap of receipts to deal with.  Luckily the bills are always taken care of so I need not worry too much about missing a payment but I do like to balance my statements and know where my money has been spent.

Having said that I did arrive home yesterday to a letter from Yorkshire Water saying we had not paid them.  For some reason when we had the meter installed last year I thought we had switched to direct debit but it appears not and I should have reset the standing order in April.

My other mail was an assortment of the usual marketing junk, voting papers for building societies and bank statements which I still get on paper; hidden amongst the pile was my most recent issue of Country Living so that brought a smile to my face and eased the pain of dealing with all the rest.

I spent most of today unpacking – funny that it seems to take longer to unpack than pack – but  because it was hot during the two weeks we were away and the rented cottage we stayed in had a washing machine most of the clothes I took came back clean and could just go straight into the drawers leaving only two or three small loads of washing to do which I did manage to get outside and dry on the line before the heavens opened.

Cottage

Now I only have the really dirty gardening clothes to wash but these will have to have a pre-soak as we have both spent the best part of the fortnight scrambling around in the undergrowth.  The cottage may still be in a dire need of repair but the garden has certainly sprung to life and become even more vigorous since the flood  – all that fertiliser washing down over the fields I expect.  I don’t suppose there are many people who take their gardening outfits on holiday LoL!!  I should really splash out on some designer gear – something a little more special than Sainsbury’s own t-shirts and stretchy jeans.  Perhaps Joanna Lumley takes her gardening clothes when she holidays at her cotttage up the road from us!

My travel items have been sorted, refilled and repacked ready for our next visit and what my long-suffering hubby calls ‘the mobile library’ that we take is back on the book shelves – this consists of three bags full of a variety of gardening books and note books just in case I need to know the best place for a plant or need some design inspiration.  Of course since the flood we have to take everything up and down with us now unless it will keep in the garage – but usually this is just the gardening tools that we store in there as it is a bit too damp for most things.

Annoyingly I have found that the mice quite like to eat gardening gloves and shred my green kneeling pad to bits to build their nests so I have to hide them in a drawer!

I am now in the throes of planning out July.  I have a few appointments – hair, eyes, mammogram and one to make for a massage using my mother’s day token.  I have a few birthdays and anniversaries; my sister-in-law, myself, a couple of friends and our wedding anniversary.  I desperately need to go shopping for clothes and shoes  – a combination of a little excess weight acquired during our last few months of very unhealthy eating and having a big clear out leaving me with very little to wear!  We desperately need to buy a new computer and shredder too.  Part of my lack of posting has been down to the temperament of my computer which is on a go slow at present and nothing we do will make it get a move on not even the threat of a new one.

Luckily it is only time not money that prevents me from buying one.  The good thing about working all hours is there is no time to shop so you spend very little whilst all the extra overtime money builds up.

Well I have written more than I thought – my aim is to keep it short and sweet and try to make an hour for blogging whenever I can.

Back to crazy world tomorrow – must get some sleep in.

 

beach cottage, bEAching, cottage garden, drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, out and about, sEAsons

“and the Spring arose on the garden fair…

“And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

We spent Easter week at the cottage..not in the cottage exactly as it is still without kitchen / bathroom / power / water and floors!  We stayed in a beautifully spacious cottage up the road.  We were busy in the garden all week – I love this time of year when everything is just coming to life.  Of course all the plants are much later in Scotland but the weather last week was so sunny and warm you could almost see the buds bursting open.

Cottage front garden

Below is the seaside garden – a lot of the top soil washed away with the flood water but it wasn’t the jungle I had prepared myself for.  There is no point in us doing anything at this side as the contractors will be coming and going so best to wait.

Cottage garden

 

The woodland walk is once again taking shape – the planting here has recovered very quickly you would not even know that it was 2 feet deep in water last August.

Woodland walk

We laid fresh bark over the pathways – we had to buy this as we have no power to make our own with the shredder and a few bags does not go very far.

Woodland walk 2

 

I always support my Dicentras with a strip of chicken wire around the base of the plants this keeps them from being blown about and is completely hidden by the foliage as it grows.

Dicentra

 

The Primroses are now beginning to spread around and keep popping up here and there.

Primroses

The burn has a few clumps of Daffodils dotted along its banks.

Stream bank

Ideally the border needs a major reshape and move around, but it may be too late to do this when we go again.

The border

 

One day whilst in Stranraer we took a walk along Broadstones – I love these rows of the wooden breakwaters along the beach.  Broadstones 2

 

Broadstones Stranraer

This is looking towards Stranraer – the beaches are becoming so much cleaner now the ferry has been moved across the bay to Cairnryan.    Towards Stranraer

Breakwater

Rock

This is part of the new Marina that the council are creating to attract more yachts.

Stranraer Marina

 

We had a lovely break – a shame a week is not long enough but being at the cottage and in the garden reminded us why we love the place so much.  Even after the flood we would find it hard to leave.  We did look around at other properties in the area as we have been undecided whether to sell the place and move on – I am not sure I could deal with another major flood and I am not sure the cottage will be reinstated even by August – one year on – but having looked at other properties we realise we would struggle to find anywhere quite the same with a wood and a sea view and so for the time being have decided to stay and battle on.

We have been contacted by the nice man at the Scottish Flood Forum – they provide help and give advice and he is coming to survey the situation and will approach the local Council on our behalf to see what their plans might be, if any, to prevent a reoccurrence in the future should we have the misfortune to experience such a heavy downpour again.  The Witches Glen from where the water came hurtling down has now reopened and the Council have rebuilt the edge of the road that had washed away and made major improvements to strengthen the stream banking.

All too soon the week was over we had to put away our gardening tools and clean our rented cottage and get ready for the journey home on the Saturday morning – the weather by now was much cooler and we could see snow on the distant Galloway hills.

Snowy hills in April

 

Well that is my update on our Easter break how was yours?