Poppies at Renishaw Hall Gardens
Taken from my Art Journal – ‘Celebrating the Year 2009’
Watercolour Sketch July 2004
That beautiful season the Summer!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light;
and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
July is one of my favourite months. The flower borders are bursting with summer colour and if you have never been to Renishaw Hall Gardens and you live nearby then you are definitely missing a treat. It is the home of the Sitwell family and their history is steeped in the Arts and Crafts movement.
Here we all are (apart from me – I’m taking the picture and we are missing a daughter and partner and a neice) on our recent family picnic posing in front of Renishaw Hall as if it were ours!
The extensive grounds are a mixture of formal gardens near to the house leading into the naturalised woodland area
complete with this Laburnum walk.
There are also plants on sale that you will have seen growing in the garden.
We have been lucky enough to be there when they have had musicians positioned behind the huge Yew hedges playing flute and violin. The sound is carried around the gardens on the breeze with the nearby fountain bending and spraying spurts of water as if in time.
On a warm summers day I could sketch happily here for hours popping into the tea shop in the popular Courtyard for refreshments and a home baked scone then a wander around the grounds what could be a more perfect relaxing day? You can also book ahead to attend a performance at the outdoor theatre or fireworks or have a tour of the vineyard and sample their own wine.
The courtyard also houses a little museum and art gallery. In the tea room you can buy a cold salad lunch by weight. Just help yourself to a plate and choose from the vast selection of salads and meat, then weigh and pay!
If you go in Mid April to early May they have a splendid display of Auriculas (a type of Primula) in a purpose built Auricula House. This is like a small wooden bookcase painted black to enhance the colours of these delicate blooms with a wire netting front. They are quite fascinating when displayed this way.
I hope everyone has a glorious July and that we have some of those warm halcyon days we can all remember from our childhood when it never rained all summer long!! This will be posted ahead of time (I know it isn’t July until Monday) but I will be on my way to Scotland and without any internet, TV and a very intermittent mobile signal.
I cannot believe it is May already and I have only just found time to get back to my blog – this must be my longest gap ever. There is so much going on in my life at the moment but the main reason for my absence is the office move. It is taking forever to get sorted out and I am finding it is well after 6pm every night before I leave work and by the time tea is over I have completely run out of steam. I really dislike being caught up in someone else’s agenda – I certainly would not have added this amount of stress to my life at this moment!
On the good side at last we can put the cold wintery days behind us and look forward to summer. This year Spring has been a long time coming and I am not very prepared as my current wardrobe is still in winter mode and my summer outfits are packed neatly away in the spare room. It is so long ago that I cannot even remember what I wore during the summer last year. As usual I will start off the month with a look back at one of my old Art Journals and this excerpt is taken from Celebrating the Year 2009 and the pencil and watercolour sketch dated May 2003 from my sketchbook.
“Winter is many months of the year
But now at last Maytime is here;
And birds sing from a leafy screen
In the trees and hedgerow freshly green;
And the wood-anemone is out in the shade,
With its blushing petals which too soon fade;
Once more the bracken is unfurling there,
And bluebells gently perfume the damp air.”
Veronica Ann Twells, Maytime
Whilst wandering around the gardens at Tatton Park one glorious day in May I came across this unfurling clump of fern along the edge of a pond and stopped to make a quick sketch. They looked so majestic – about to burst open and produce their feather like plumes. At this moment the heads were tightly wrapped into little balls as if hiding away until the moment is right to spring into action.
May itself, like the unfurling fern, reminds me of little surprise packages. All around us nature is surprising us with its secrets. Bare trees become laden in blossom, buds burst open to produce a green leafy canopy, and everything springs to life once again.
May is also the month that the Well Dressings begin in Derbyshire. The true origins of Well Dressing are lost in the mists of time. According to many sources, it developed from a pagan custom of making sacrifice to the gods of wells and springs to ensure a continued supply of fresh water. Like many folk traditions, it was later adopted by the Christian Church as a way of giving thanks to God for His gift to us of water.
From May until September in villages across the whole of Derbyshire there will be a different well dressing week. Look on welldressing.com for more information if you live near enough to visit.
Ashford in the Water Well Dressing
We go more or less every year and have never been disappointed. It is a time when the villagers get together and design and make these decorative boards from flower petals and foliage. They often have a carnival or similar event to mark the start of the week and most places offer cream teas in the local village hall.
I can’t promise that I will get to my blog every day or even every week until things at work calm down a bit – but I am missing you all and am trying to keep up with your blogs here and there. Have a good Bank Holiday weekend to everyone in the UK.
Now the clocks have changed and October has slipped by it feels as if we are really settling into winter. Dark mornings and colder weather greet us each day, but how pleasant to sit in the evening by the warm fireside with a candle or two flickering away in the background. This is now the time for planning; getting prepared for the celebrations to come as Christmas is just around the corner. This is what I wrote in my Art Journal from Celebrating the Year 2009.
with its misty mornings and crisp starry nights.
An inky black sky lit up by lamplight and stars and of course -fireworks.
Both the trees and ground are now bare once again as everything settles down for rest. The leaves that have fallen from the trees crunch and rustle beneath us – as crisp as the air itself, making the acoustics for this month stand out from all the others.
Although November is remembered mostly for its traditional events of Bonfire Night and Remembrance Day my own memories will always be of the November day when my youngest daughter married in the village church in Masham, surrounded by family and friends in such a charming place. The brilliant sunshine cutting through the sharp cold air giving a special quality to the autumn colours and the photos we took. For us it was a day of celebration and joy from beginning to end.
“My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.”
– Robert Frost, My November Guest
This is a really busy month for me, people and Craft Fairs to visit, lots of making and baking to do not to mention the shopping – I can’t wait to get started. Have a great November I know I will.
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O Hushed October morning
As October is now fast approaching and September draws to a close the changing season is now very noticeable – the darker nights and cold mornings with bright sunshine and swirling mists. The leaves are just beginning to turn and fall – this is what I wrote for September in my Art Book ‘Celebrating the Year 2009’
“September is the month when the summer draws to a close. Those warm carefree days now fading away and we begin to cherish the sunny days we have left. I begin to search out my recipes for warming casseroles and Bean Stew flavoured with tomatoes. My dad always grew tomatoes and my mum would spend her time making Tomato Chutney and pickling onions when we had gone back to school. September is traditionally a month to preserve the fruits of our allotments and gardens and begin the baking once again. There is another kind of preservation that is important and that is our heritage and this is the month that you are able to take a peek at places which are of historical interest that are not normally open to the public.
This year we went to Stannington near Sheffield (where I lived when I was two) to see the little Unitarian Chapel which has beautiful and original stained glass windows.
We then went further afield to Hathersage in the Peak District to North Lees Hall, an Elizabethan Tower House (which is now rented as a Holiday let) and is thought to be the inspiration for Thornfield Hall in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre as it is said that she often stayed here.
Inside you can wander around the rooms where many original features have been maintained and eventually if you make it to the top of the house by climbing the crooked winding staircase you come out on the roof…not for the faint hearted!
Heritage Open Days celebrates England’s fantastic architecture and culture by offering free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission. Every year on certain advertised days in September, buildings of every age, style and function throw open their doors, ranging from castles to factories, town halls to tithe barns, parish churches to Buddhist temples. It is a once-a-year chance to discover hidden architectural treasures and enjoy a wide range of tours, events and activities which bring to life local history and culture.
Scotland holds a similar event and whilst on our journey home we came across this little Chapel in Ruthwell near Dumfries. A very simple little stone whitewashed building on the outside…
…but quite surprising inside – dramatic contrasting colours adorn the plastered walls and to one side is the finest example of an early Anglo-Saxon Stone Cross said to date from the 8th Century. It used to be located outside but has been brought inside to help preserve it where upon it had to be sunk into the floor because of its height. After our tour we were directed across to the little church hall to have tea and home-baked cakes…delicious!
Sadly we didn’t get to visit any of the open days this year nor make Tomato Chutney – where did September go?
I should have posted this back in August – it is a page from my Celebrating the Year Art book from 2010 illustrating one of my favourite poems together with one of my favourite hedgerow flowers the majestic Cow Parsley. I love the creamy white heads swaying in the breeze and to me they are just as beautiful when they begin to dry. At the moment the verges are full of the distinctive tall brown stems so characteristic of Autumn settling in and I couldn’t let it pass without a mention.
The quick sketches I did some years ago whilst on a walk through one of our favourite spots in Derbyshire called Lathkill Dale and if you like wild flowers is a definite must to go and see.
From Over Haddon village near Youlgreave and Bakewell take the narrow lane down the very steep slope from the village until you reach the house at the bottom (which incidentally is the setting for a Mills and Boon novel!) At the bottom you can turn either way – left will take you to a little hut that sells tea and coffee to passers by and right will take you on the path which meanders west alongside the river towards Monyash and eventually through the patch of towering Cow Parsley. It is a delight to see such an expanse of this spectacular wildflower majestically swaying in the breeze. It is so tall you can hardly see above it at full height.
The river Lathkill rises just below Monyash and flows down to meet the Wye just below Haddon Hall. The valley it forms is one of the finest of the limestone dales and the upper part is a National Nature Reserve in the care of English Nature. It is a famous trout-fishing river, and Izaak Walton declared it to be the ‘purest and most transparent stream’ he had seen.
We often make it a day out and go and see Haddon Hall near Bakewell (not National Trust though) where you can get an excellent home made lunch in the restaurant and then roam around the hall and gardens. This is the cute new Kiosk just through the gates.
It has one of the finest Long Galleries in the country and was the setting for the latest Jayne Eyre and some scenes in Pride and Prejudice. There is also an interesting little Chapel within the house. Be warned though, if you do visit, don’t take any alcohol with your lunch or you might regret it when you realise that the whole place is quite crooked and not one level surface anywhere to walk on.
For more information if you live close enough and fancy a trip out have a look at their website www.haddonhall.co.uk