mEAndering, open gardens, sEAsons

“What is one to say about June…

… the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise
of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
–  Gertrude Jekyll,  On Gardening

 

Last Sunday we decided to take the day off from cleaning and clearing and go down into Derbyshire for a walk around the open gardens in the village of Birchover near Bakewell.

It was if you remember a very hot day and not a lot of shade for me but I was determined to see as many of the gardens as possible I just had to walk more quickly around the ones out in the open.  Luckily most people have a tree or two which provided me with some cover when I needed it.

We began our tour at an artists garden – this was my absolute favourite although my photo does not do it justice.

I have never seen a garden with such a limited colour palette before but this one really works.  There were three basic colours –  green of course with many shades and tones  of purple and cream through to lemon.  The planting was casual and mainly Ferns, Irises, Alchemilla Mollis, Geranium and Lavender and the majestic plant to the right (which may be a Thalictrum?) all surrounding a daisy lawn.  The paint colour of the house toned in well with the garden.  The effect was amazing.

Behind this ladies cottage is a tiny white-painted chalet used as an artist’s studio and gallery complete with wood burning stove.  This would be my absolute dream.

 

Before long we headed for the village hall named the Reading Rooms were they were serving tea and cakes.

 

 

The hall has now had a full refurbishment and is well used by all members of the community.

The notice on the wall made interesting reading – the hall opened in 1907, but only men were allowed to go and read the newspapers provided to broaden their horizons.   The rules state that 3 newspapers had to be provided (which I forgot to make a note of but I think one was the Sporting Times!) and no women were allowed.

It was a good cup of tea and a delicious slice of Victoria sandwich cake made by the village ladies.

Lower down the lane is the church of St Michael’s originally built as a private chapel for the owners of Rowtor Hall.

It is a modest church with a tiny graveyard sited next to the huge old vicarage (now a private residence).  In the large picture below you can see that this would have been the garden entrance from the hall which then became the vicarage from what I understand.

 

In contrast to the traditional window in the chancel the stained glass windows pictured below in the South wall are the work of acclaimed artist Brian Clarke and generously gifted to the village.  Clarke lived in Birchover for a number of years and his work has worldwide recognition.

 

The striking clear colours and simple shapes are stunning.

 

The pew ends had been delicately decorated with a few wild flowers for the event.

On leaving the church we decided to wander further down the lane to stay in the shade.

The notice above is asking the Council not to spray this section of verge to preserve the wild flowers and the organic garden beyond.

 

We eventually came across Rowtor Rocks – a series of caves and intriguing rocks to explore  – we will definitely go back and have a walk around here another day.  This is just one of the unusual caves at the entrance.

 

Such a beautiful day the light dancing on the water and through the overhanging trees was quite spectacular.

We walked all the way up to Rocking Stone Farm with the promise of Pimms and strawberries – well worth the trek even in the heat.

We walked back into the village and spent another hour wandering from garden to garden.  On the South side of the village all the gardens seemed to have a stream running through or a babbling brook probably coming from the same source and occasionally disappearing underground in places.  Most of the gardens had made a feature of the water like the picture below.

Out on the main street under the shade of the trees was a pottery stall run by two lovely ladies who belonged to a co-operative pottery studio.

 

This little bowl in particular caught my eye  – I am told it is a bubble glaze – and you might now spot it on my dining room table!

 

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bEAching, cleaning, cottage garden, drEAming, general chit chat, mEAndering, nEAtening, out and about

a new year…a new start…

Saying goodbye to 2015 has not been hard for me, a difficult and challenging twelve months.  It is odd how the not so good bits are often more established in your memory than the good bits.  It was only when I came to upload photos of my year that I realised I had many good bits and below is a quick tour through my year with some of my highlights and only a few lowlights!

 

In January almost at the start of the year my mum-in-law died unexpectedly – she was only a few days away from her 91st birthday.  I love this picture of her leaning out of the upstairs window way back in the early fourties.

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At the end of 2014 the cottage was stripped out ready to be re-instated – all our hard work over 10 long years ended up in a skip.  They removed the kitchen and bathroom and the place is now just a shell – even the wooden floors have been removed and temporary boards put down.

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On Mothers Day we baptised my granddaughter in a beautiful little church in Heeley near to where my daughter lives.  It was a bitterly cold day but full of sunshine and daffodils.  We unpacked our treasured family Christening robe – a very delicate cotton voile dress with tiny pintucks and embroidered flowers.  I think it was made by my grandma who was a fine seamstress.

 

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Here is baby L with her great Grandma – she was 7 months old here – a bit old for the size of the dress which only just fit and we had to have one of standby that I bought in John Lewis just in case – but all was well and she managed not to put a hole in it!

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We celebrated the day amongst family and friends and everyone had one of these gorgeous cupcakes made by Caroline a girl I used to work with until she set up her own business making cakes.

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I managed a few clearing out days at the beginning of the year spurred on by the wave of Kondoism sweeping blogland.  I have just to finish the rest of the house now!

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Even though the cottage is looking quite forlorn inside the garden continues to flourish and after the flood it just sprang back to life – no doubt helped by the heap of cow manure brought in with the flood water from the nearby fields!

 

The cottage garden

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Even my new long border was full of unexpected colour as Foxgloves and Poppies had self seeded here and there.

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My greatest surprise though was uncovering more stones at the side of the pond – buried under a few years of leaf mould.

Uncovering stones around pond

Paving around pond

 

Uncovering these led me to get on and clean out the pond which lies behind those Irises.  Below is a picture taken before I cleaned it out – no water (a suspected leak) and full of mud from the falling leaves which I had to remove by the bucket load – but I persevered to the end and what a joyful moment when it was all cleaned up and the hole in the concrete that was causing the leak repaired by hubby.

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before

Water in pond

after – just waiting for some rain now to fill it.

Middleton Well Dressing

after a few days the pond was full and the flowers surrounding it a joy to behold.

In August another kind of pool was up and running – this is our new leisure and sports centre in town – it has been long-awaited as our nearest leisure pool was in nearby Barnsley and the old sports centre was way past it’s sell by date.  I got to go on the Private Viewing tour with my architect hubby and the rest of his team who put in such a lot of hard work over the years to bring it in on time and on budget.  Friends and family of everyone who worked on the design and build as well as the people now running it were able to sample the pool and fitness suites before it was opened to the public.  I just went to take photos but I am thinking of joining soon as it is only up the road from my office and I could do with a bit of exercise!

The Leisure Pool

Another day of excitement when we had a two-week break in Scotland and took a ferry ride across to Dunoon to go and see Freda and her Open Studio.

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approaching Dunoon

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We had the most delightful time with Freda  – she provided afternoon tea and cakes and we had a long chat, a wander round her beautiful garden and studio.  Her pictures of the garden do not compare with how stunning it is in the flesh.  We left of course with one of her pictures and it hangs in our bedroom at home  – a reminder each morning of our wonderful day.  Find Freda here at Live Simply, Simply Live.

 

I can’t remember just when but at some point during the year hubby had a meeting down near Cambridge and we took advantage of this to go and see the Potton Self Build homes – you can actually go inside four different houses to get a feel for what it might be like if you design and build yourself.  I won’t say very much here because nothing as been finalised but watch this space.

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A very different self build home – I think this cute Tree house would be every child’s dream – it was near to some gardens we were visiting in Derbyshire when my mum came to stay.

The Tree House

We also took her to Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield – one of my all time favourite places.

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They just happened to have craft fair event with a Punch and Judy show.

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We couldn’t go into Derbyshire without going to see one of the many Well Dressings that are held during the summer.  Middleton by Youlgreave always have plenty to do and see and such a cute little church in the middle of the village.

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On our way we also stopped at Cromford Mills for lunch and found that the nearby St Mary’s church was open for viewing.  Inside the walls are decorated with wonderful wall paintings and stained glass windows by A.O.Hemming to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

Cromford Church

 

So maybe it has not been such a bad year after all – although I feel like I have spent most of my time at work and my promotion in May has meant a lot more responsibility when I was actually looking to reduce my hours – I must be mad but I could never ignore a challenge and it has been just that at times.  Faced with a huge backlog of work to sort out when I took over and two trainees to train it has proved almost impossible at times.  However, going forward I feel we are in a much stronger position at the beginning of this year than last.  I still miss Helen my colleague and life at work will never be the same without her.

 

I am looking now to choosing my new word for 2016 – many of you have already announced yours.  I struggled at first to decide and then it was there on the screen and I couldn’t ignore it – in fact it is two words that are both very appropriate for my situation at the moment in so many ways and I think they link together quite well…

Restore

Restore – to brink back, re-establish, to repair or renovate.  I definitely need to restore myself, the house, the cottage and my free time.

It is very much linked with Replenish – to fill up again and I feel like I need to recharge my batteries ready for the year ahead and all the plans I have.

Happy 2016 everyone x

crEAting, sEAsons, sketching

Ne’er cast a clout till May be out…

 

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

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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.

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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.

crEAting, mEAndering, out and about, sketching

Majestic Cow Parsley…

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.

English: Lathkill Dale. The start of the weirs...

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.

And This Is The Living Room...

For more information if you live close enough and fancy a trip out have a look at their website www.haddonhall.co.uk

 

mEAndering, open gardens, out and about

Secret Gardens of Winster…

It has been a busy Monday today at work, then shopping afterwards.  This morning I had to haul myself out of bed to go to work after a tiring non-stop weekend.  My mum arrived on the Thursday evening and after a good nights sleep she had her tooth removed at the dentist on the Friday morning at 10.15am and at 10.40am we were in town, in Costa, having coffee and cake (well mum was – I had hot chocolate and a mushroom and egg breakfast roll).  Given that my mum is eighty…..something (she wouldn’t thank me for advertising her age on the internet – but she is more than halfway through!!) she did very well.  It is only her second ever tooth removed so I hope I do as well at her age.

We shopped for a while then returned home for a quick nap for mum and a mountain of dishes to wash for me.  An hour and a spotless kitchen later we drove over the hill to mums favourite place for tea – ‘Compos cafe’ for a Fish and Chip pensioners special.  Being vegetarian I had Lasagne and not, I might add, a pensioners special – I don’t quite qualify yet in age – only look as if I do at the moment!

Saturday it managed to stay dry and sunny so we set off for Derbyshire and had lunch at the Hassop Station Bookstore and then on to Winster to wander round their Secret Gardens.  Below are a few photos I took on our journey around the village.

Coloured bunting was strewn across the main street…

…and there was a mass of colour everywhere despite the awful weather we have had…

…many of the gateways and paths are so inviting…

…and we saw vegetables growing everywhere from tiny borders

…to more creative spaces…

…in raised beds…

…and purpose made kitchen garden plots…

…there was even one or two hidden surprises!

Many thanks to the talented gardeners of Winster – we loved your gardens and had a wonderful day – can’t wait for next year.

You may also like to read…

Stanton in Peak Open Gardens

mEAndering, out and about

Flying the flag…

On Sunday we spent a lazy afternoon down in Buxton in Derbyshire – one of our favourite places to go for a potter about. I managed to capture a few of the Jubilee decorations that caught my eye – it seems that everyone is suddenly flying the flag – from toilet rolls to cushions, bun cases to duvet covers if you haven’t bought something yet with the Union Jack on it then where have you been???

 

 

 

 

 

 

I could get quite attached to seeing this display of ‘Britishness’ everywhere and in a way like the Christmas lights I will be sorry to see it go.

 

 

 

 

mEAndering, open gardens, out and about

Oh what a day…

I am almost too tired to write this blog tonight after a whirlwind weekend and a tiring trip to the hospital yesterday for a routine appointment.  I had a great time with my mum although it was both hectic and disappointingly cool weather.

On Friday we began our day with a visit to the dentist for a quick check up followed by a leisurely stroll around the town doing a bit of shopping and browsing and chatting, followed by a visit to see my new-born nephew (very cute),  followed by tea at Compos Cafe in Last of the Summer Wine country (a fish and chip treat for my mum) and finally we ended up at the village theatre.  We sat upstairs in the best seats (on the front row of the balcony!) and managed to chomp our way through a packet of Maltesers and some After Eight Mints and even found room for a Choc- ice in the interval.  This is not a very good picture – but as you can see it is a delightful little theatre and all run by volunteers and amateur actors.  My own daughter used to entertain us with her dancing each year on this very stage at Showtime when she had ballet lessons.

I think it is important to support local groups like this and I admire all the actors for the time and effort that they put into producing these plays which are always great fun and although only amateur I enjoy them as much as going to the professional theatre in town.

On Saturday we ventured further afield into Derbyshire and had our lunch at the Bookstore and Cafe at Hassop Station (highly recommended).  We chose a ploughman’s lunch which came with three homemade salads and some homemade chutney.  Afterwards, feeling rather full, we drove over to Stanton in Peak to walk around the village Open Gardens.  It was bitterly cold as you can tell by the cheeky alteration to the notice by one participant!There were a number of very interesting gardens – and some had a real garden party feel.Then there were the quirky…The intriguing…

The artistic…

The natural…

The inviting…

and the comic…

We had a great day despite the cold and the residents had put in a lot of time and effort to make it an enjoyable event.  We stopped halfway round to take advantage of the tea and cakes on offer in the village hall and of course to thaw out a little before continuing up the hill as Stanton is a village that nestles into the hillside which makes it even more chalming.

English: Stanton in Peak - Road Junction

Most of the gardens are small and everyone makes good use of their space.  This is a stunning little garden someone has created from a strip of land running beside the road.I have a few more pictures to share – but that will be another day.