Friday, 15 May 2015

more bluebells...& Belfast botanic gardens...

I have rather fallen in love with the bluebells this year. Not sure if I've just seen more or if I'm noticing them more? Or maybe they are just having a particularly good year? I almost pulled the car over on a little back road the other day when I spotted a stunning patch in some trees at the roadside - then realised I was on a bend on a single track road so probably not wise!

Bank holiday weekend saw us heading to the Midlands to spend a couple of days with middle son and partner ahead of a trip to Belfast, which was part leisure, part work. The Monday was a beautiful warm, sunny day so we decided to visit another National Trust property (definitely need to sort that membership! Have dropped birthday list hints!!) Calke Abbey, where there are lovely grounds to walk in.


Love this little tree growing out of the top of an old dead tree trunk - isn't nature amazing in its ability to regenerate?!


The bluebells were really breathtaking...




I couldn't resist this sneaky pic - can you see the elderly couple in the sunlight? They had just stopped to let the lady rest on the fallen tree trunk - made me feel a little pang of aloneness (even though of course I was with my family so not alone at all) - how lovely to be able to enjoy that together.


It was lovely to see my boy and his partner (and their dog, Poppy - soon to be joined by another red fox labrador puppy!)


...and my sister and niece, deep in conversation as they walked...


The park was beautiful to walk through on such a lovely day...



There were deer down by the water...



and although, on a bank holiday, lots of people had the same idea, it still had a lovely relaxing feel.


On to Belfast the following day, the weather difference couldn't have been more striking with torrential rain greeting us and a cold wind that cut through you. I had never visited Northern Ireland before and we had a couple of days looking around before I had to go to the conference I was there for. Belfast is actually a beautiful city, with some interesting buildings and history and everywhere we went everyone was so friendly. It has, of course, its share of troubled past and that still is very evident with the peace walls and famous murals in East Belfast but I suspect it had a very different feel just a few years ago and the city centre certainly feels as safe as any other now.

It's a relatively small place to walk around and you could see to the hills from the viewpoint at the top of the shopping centre...


Loved this sculpture on the way across to the titanic exhibition...


...and you really can't help but be impressed and moved by the history of the shipbuilding industry and the sinking of that great ship...



I actually took very few photos in the first couple of days because it was so cold I couldn't feel my fingers! I actually had to buy gloves...in May!!

It was still nippy, but at least brighter, when we went to the beautiful botanic gardens over near the university - stunning displays of tulips outside the grand Palm House...




Lovely trees and shrubs...




and inside the glasshouse, heat enough to mist up my lens, with orchids, ferns, and many tropical plants...








I'd definitely recommend Belfast as a place to visit, and would love to go back and see more of Ireland, both North & South - think it has some beautiful countryside and some interesting history to absorb.

A little less wet and wind would have been nice though... :)

Til next time 

S x

Thursday, 30 April 2015

bluebells at Blickling...

Blickling Hall is National Trust property near to us, famed for being the home of the Boleyn family and, according to popular legend, haunted by the headless ghost of Anne Boleyn, beheaded at the behest of Henry VIII.  As a child, I was always a bit daunted by Blickling - we were taken to lots of National Trust properties and Blickling always seemed to me a bit cold and impersonal; I could never quite imagine the people who had lived there.

But returning as an adult I am much more fascinated by it - both the grandeur of its architecture and the sense of history that oozes from its walls and gardens.

It is a beautiful building, with its imposing facade that faces towards the road...


You can just imagine horse drawn coaches sweeping up to the house to deposit grand guests at the imposing entrance...


I haven't been into the house for years and made a mental note to do that again sometime but our visit, this time, was all about the parks and gardens. I had never been here for bluebell season and had been told they were worth a visit so we parked up, decided to pay the NT fee to see the formal gardens too and headed off past the lake for the Mausoleum walk.

The track took us down between these two fields - one speckled with bright yellow dandelions, the other heady with the pungent scent of oil-seed rape...


Even on a fairly dull day, the vivid yellow of the rape is almost too much for the eyes to take in, stretching away into the distance...


Up close these flowers are rather pretty...


...but not the 'main attraction' so onwards to the woods where our first glimpse of a little hazy patch of blue had me ooing and aahing...


...even before we got to the main part of the woods where the ground is covered in bluebells...




Up close these are such delicate flowers but en masse they are stunning...


There are some lovely knarled old trees in the woodland here...


Getting a bit chilly by this point, we walked back towards the hall...


Love this little thatched cottage on the estate, much more homely!


Time for refreshments in the NT cafe - love the pretty ornaments on the windowsill...


...before moving on to the formal gardens.  I wonder if this moat had water in it in Anne Boleyn's day?


More bluebells, on the lake side of the gardens...


Then forget-me-nots on the way to the 'secret garden' behind the hedge...


Lovely views across the estate from the end of the formal gardens...


We came across a new venture - the 'sitooterie' project - a place to sit and think, with coloured glass, music and poetry (though if I'm honest I preferred the sounds of the garden - the recording was very loud and felt a bit intrusive to me, but perhaps aimed at those with poorer hearing) 



The azaleas are enormous and in full bloom...





Walking back down to the parterre, with its clipped hedges (how much work must these take?!)


...where the sun obligingly came out as we looked back towards the hall...


and the air was suddenly full of the scent of these stunning hyacynths...


Slightly hidden away, these beautiful tulips fill the double border, and for me the NT fee was suddenly completely worth it...









A riot of colour that lifted my spirits. Feel very tempted to renew my NT membership just so I can revisit the gardens more often through the year - there is the promise of so much more, great stretches of wisteria, the rose garden... should I?!

S x