Thursday, 21 June 2018

Italianate grandeur at midsummer...

I started my day yesterday with a run - of sorts... Having not run for about 4 years it was more of a walk-run affair but it was good to be up in the early morning sunshine alongside the river and step 1 on the way to my target of getting back to a regular running habit achieved!


I met a friend later at Ickworth House, near Bury St Edmunds. It is a rather imposing building, the Georgian palatial 'folly' of the Hervey family, maintained now by the National Trust. It was such a beautiful day that it seemed a shame to spend it in the darkened rooms required for these buildings of conservation so we opted to walk around the vast gardens and surrounding estate.





Then today, I visited somewhere I have been meaning to for years. Known as the Secret Garden in the   shadow of St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral in the centre of Norwich, the Plantation Garden is the restored Victorian passion of a prosperous local upholsterer and cabinet make, Henry Trevor, who created a quirky mix of Italianate terraces, Gothic features and medieval style walls built from reclaimed bricks and stonework in the hollow of an old chalk quarry.


The entrance is quite unprepossessing and then this surprising space opens out in front of you...


A path leads up the side of the garden before steps leading down to the North end of the garden, where a small summer house tops the terraces.


And the view from the opposite end of the garden of the quite formal central part of the garden...


I loved these walls that look as though they are full of odd bits of interesting masonry and bottles and brickwork...


With opportune ferns sprouting from the gaps in the masonry...







It was very peaceful sitting here and then the sun obligingly came out from behind the clouds and lit up the garden...


I sat and watched this thrush for sometime - I was reminded of my childhood when the tap tap tap of the thrushes bashing snail shells against the patio was a common occurrence. I hardly ever see thrushes any more so it was lovely to catch this one - though it was so busy I struggled to get it in focus!


It was a beautiful space and a welcome place to sit and enjoy some peaceful sunshine...




Midsummers day...goodness, the months are flying by again...

S x






Sunday, 17 June 2018

the beauty of nature...

Sometimes the simplest flowers and plants seem to capture the perfection of nature at its best. I love the blues and lilacs of early summer and the light dancing off spring raindrops.  A wander round Blickling Hall's beautiful gardens last month resulted in way too many photos of which I found it hard to select favourites. But I love the simplicity of these daisy-like flowers against the last of the bluebells...


And you have to admire the stamina of this little tree, smothered in blossom and hanging on at such an unlikely angle...


The woodland walk takes you past swathes of  frothy forget-me-nots...


The branches of wisteria drip with heady blooms...



I missed the main tulip season this year but I can't help loving this showy number in the 'cut-flower' border of the kitchen garden...


I have always loved the tactile leaves of Lady's Mantle, particularly sparkling with the last shower...


By contrast with the formality of Blickling, but just a few miles down the road, is my Mum's garden - 30 years of dedicated tending which has resulted in an eclectic mix of wilderness and clipped yew, traditional cottage plants and the odd exotic...


I have spent a lot of time with Mum over the last six months and I think this garden reflects her personality perfectly. She is a complicated mix of post-war 'collector' (she cannot throw anything away - so her home is crowded and chaotic and every plant she propagates she has to plant, even the weak ones that 'deserve a chance'!), lover of rituals and order (absolute rota for everything - from changing beds to cleaning upstairs and down to shopping) and acceptable eccentricity. The last six months have seen her deal with the challenges of ill health with dignity and bravery but have meant that, for the first time ever, she has had to entrust her very large garden to someone else. 


Early June has seen her selection of roses flourish - each has a meaning and a memory for her, which I can't pretend to remember. I have a slightly mixed relationship with roses - I do think they are beautifully formed blooms and some have a lovely fragrance but I'm often disappointed with the problems that come with them and, frankly, when not in flower they are pretty uninspiring (in my view!). However, whats not to love about a 'red, red rose, thats newly sprung in June...'?


And even just past its best, this pale pink rose which festoons Mum's has an appeal I can't resist...


By the back door, this rose has a complete bouquet on one branch, to my mind - whilst the oldest bloom is looking a bit ravaged, I love the range from pale to deep pink and the perfection of the buds and semi-open flowers...


And in the sun this apricot shade looks almost a bit too brassy...


Back in my own little bit of garden, the rose that drives me crazy because it grows so rampantly, reminds me why I can't get rid of it as its manic growth is festooned with these gorgeous sweetly fragranced beauties...


Back at Mum's there is a peaceful spot at the bottom of the garden where I took a few moments out to  reflect...


Before wandering back past the alliums with their infinity patterns...


And the maples glowing against the blue sky...


Life is so busy. And our family is going through some sobering times but I am reminded of the William Davies poem...
'What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare...'
So here is to standing and staring, to appreciating the patterns, colours and fragrances of the natural world and to taking time to think...

S x




Sunday, 15 April 2018

Spring, anyone...?

I have been trying to be very strict with myself about unnecessary purchases but today the desire to have a bit of Spring won...


This has been a particularly miserable weekend and even my go to baking therapy was something of a disaster so I needed something cheerful to look at. I was experimenting with eggless lemon cake for a friend but mine looked nothing like the photos on the website! I suspect its that old issue of US measurement conversion - I appreciate for those familiar with it it must be a simple method but for those of us that don't have a supply of 'cups' (even assuming you can work out what size cup exactly you are supposed to be aiming for...or how full/packed etc they are) it has always struck me as a particularly haphazard way to bake and so much messier than scales! Give me ounces (or ok...grammes if we have to) and a very basic set of scales, tablespoon and teaspoon and I am fine.

Rant over. If anyone knows of a good, reliable and impressive eggless cake suitable for a birthday cake (and a recipe a middle aged Brit can interpret!) do let me know... :-)

S x

Saturday, 31 March 2018

a long winter...

A somewhat belated post... but it feels like the cold weather is endless this year. A few weeks ago the sky was blue so, desperate for some sunshine, I took myself for a walk up on the coast. Looks were deceptive though - there was no warmth in the air and within a few minutes my eyes were watering and my hands so cold I could barely use the camera!


Cley Mill looked lovely across the marshes though...


...and the low sun lit up the tidal pools...


The path was icy but a patch of snowdrops gave promise of Spring on the way...


...and then within a few days winter was back, with a vengeance...



My leaky gutter issue became a bit more apparent!


but my friendly robin was happy to take advantage of a bit of unwanted fruit cake...



The snow didn't last that long really but it is still mostly wet and cold and a walk into the city today was a fairly dismal affair, guaranteed to make me want to retreat to the warmth of my living room and curl up with a book...


Definitely ready for winter to be over. Beginning to feel like a hermit...
S x


Sunday, 14 January 2018

winter skies...

I can't pretend this is my favourite time of year. I'm not great at cold weather and endless bleak grey days which don't lift the spirit much. But we do have some lovely skies - and the lack of daylight has one advantage inasmuch as I am more likely to catch the sun setting or rising. In the depths of December I feel as though I go to and from work in the dark and barely see a ray of light but just in the last week or so I have noticed the mornings lightening a little bit.

Believe it or not, this first picture was taken last weekend, about 10 am as I walked into the city, looking across the market towards St Peter Mancroft church. Loved the light in the clouds. It poured shortly after this - but for a few moments it was beautiful.


And a week later, a little after 7.30am on the way into work, definitely not still completely dark. It was very cold, with an ethereal freezing mist, which didn't clear until the middle of the morning, that made Waitrose car park look slightly eerie.


Today, I spent a few hours tidying up my courtyard garden. It is so sheltered that it never catches the frost and everything starts shooting sooner than out in an open garden. I uncovered early snowdrops just beginning to flower, crocuses, hyacinths and a few daffodils pushing their way into the light. Spring colour not too far around the corner...

S x

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Another year begins...

This year seems set for a new series of challenges. Perhaps that is the reality of life. Maybe all we do really is negotiate our way through 'life events' - some good, some less so. I guess it is how we allow those events to shape our emotions and responses that dictates whether we can feel positive about them.

So, in an an effort to remind myself that even when things feel a bit bleak there are beautiful, funny and poignant moments I have resolved today to try to capture more again - both thoughts and in pictures as we meander through 2018. I feel I want to freeze frame some memories, just in case the sands of time run away...

Today, Mum and I took a trip to nearby Blickling Hall to breathe some crisp winter air and wander round the winter gardens. Although this has never been my favourite NT property, there is no doubt that it is a stunning building, with beautifully kept gardens and some fascinating stories and secrets in the fabric of the house and its contents. I always wonder what visitors to this mansion, built in 1620, must have thought as they arrived at its imposing front entrance...


I'm not sure I quite know what to make of the stars adorning the neatly clipped hedges or the somewhat surprised looking twiggy reindeer either side of the path in the main garden...


...but I suppose they are a bit of harmless festive fun, if a bit starkly contrasting to the rather imposing house with its royal connections.

Although it was cold today, it was very still and the view across to the lake was very peaceful...


I have been to Blickling many times before but don't think I have ever visited the walled gardens before, where the original grandeur is being gradually recreated with fruit espaliers, rows of productive beds and greenhouses. Of course, the winter kitchen garden is a bit sparse and we decided, come what may this year, we will endeavour to return regularly throughout the year to see the changes through the seasons.

But even mid-Winter, a strip of chard threw a bold splash of colour in the low sunshine...


So today...I am thankful that we could walk in the sunshine, admire the fastidiousness of the walled garden and tread the boards walked by Elizabethan ladies and gentlemen, imagining them sweeping down the imposing staircase in impossibly uncomfortable (but undeniably elegant!) grandeur. And that, even after many visits, we learned new things about the ageing of textiles and the lives of the staff running this place as a grand household even in the 1920's. That we could warm up over a bowl of soup in the pub on the estate and enjoy the bliss of no mobile phone signal for a few hours! Then laugh about the flurry of incoming messages as we rejoined the mobile network half a mile down the road! 

Note to self...remember the proper camera next time! Which is another thing to be thankful for - at least the phone is a substitute!

S x