seasons :: warm September days

Such warm and glorious September days at the moment; but without doubt the very last of summer is slowly slipping away. I never mind too much though and I look forward to this new season like I do every season as each brings its own rewards. Even though the last of the flowers are fading fast the hedgerows here are bursting with colour, bright red hips and berries, leaves turning to that rich golden brown and the majestic skeletons of thistle and cow parsley towering above the dying grassy verges. 

For me this is the season of gathering. 

Gathering in the last of the homegrown produce from the garden; tomatoes, apples and courgettes…. gathering free food from the hedgerows and restocking my pantry with dried fruits, lentils and chickpeas (shortages allowing) ready for those warming one pot meals that go well together with chunks of homemade bread.

But there is also a different type of gathering that I look forward to – gathering new recipes to try at this time of year – I probably do most of my baking during this season, gathering books to read – old and new and magazines that will provide inspiration for the coming months, and of course gathering together candles and my cosiest of blankets ready for those long lazy evenings by the fireside and best of all gathering the family together around the table sharing a meal and a bit of chit chat.

We have been at the cottage here on the Mull of Galloway for just over a week now, the village is sleepy quiet as most of the visitors have returned home. We have spent most of our time as usual in the garden and I can’t deny that it has been such hard work.  A mixture of old age causing tired and aching muscles and a garden far too overgrown through not having been here for the last few weeks.

I had planned to do some knitting and a bit of tidying in the caravan when it rains and we couldn’t work in the garden but guess what….it hasn’t rained yet other than a little overnight.

DH has spent most of the time in the garden trying to reshape the holly trees which is a mammoth task.  They have not been attended to as they should have been and are far too tall and a bit misshapen.  Getting them back into a pleasing shape is going to be difficult. There is much muttering going on.

Meanwhile, I have been crawling around on hands and knees weeding in all the borders. They need a good sort out this autumn.  Some plants need dividing, some are just in the wrong place, and some need cutting back drastically. There is an abundance of chickweed this year but it is easily removed along with the bittercress and red campion but the alkanet not so as the tap root goes down deep into the soil.

I have been snipping off the heads of the chamomile that self-seed around the seaside garden to put in the flower press, they make wonderful cards

Each morning we seem to be finding a cooking apple on the lawn which has dropped from the very top of the Bramley tree; it is too high up for us to pick them so we just wait until they fall off and hope we get to them before the wildlife.  Yesterday whilst we were roaming around the countryside we picked some blackberries too so I could put the two together and make a blackberry and apple crumble. I don’t keep flour at the caravan or have any sugar (I like my apples tart though) so I cheated and bought a packet of Tesco’s crumble topping and stirred in a handful of desiccated coconut for extra crunch.  It was amazingly good.

Once our evening meal is over and the washing up done we both flop for a while. I usually play a couple of games of patience but recently I have become addicted to those Codeword crossword puzzles. Normally I have just torn the odd one out of the back of my mum’s Woman’s Weekly that she passes on to me but this week I actually bought myself a book of them in Tesco.

After ringing my mum at 8 o’clock (when I know she will have watched Maigret which is being rerun at the moment) we settle down to watch a video which I can play on my laptop as we don’t have a TV here at the cottage and the radio is often not that entertaining.

Currently we are going through the Royale Family box set….howling with laughter – I know all these people in one way or another though thankfully I can say my dad was absolutely nothing like Jim Royale and luckily my daughters are not like Denise in respect of their childcare!

We did have a day off from the gardening last Sunday.  It was a gloriously warm and sunny day so we made mushroom soup, poured it into a flask and went for a drive along the coast road to the neighbouring village of Ardwell for a picnic.  We drew into the picnic site that overlooks the bay and watched the seagulls bobbing about on the waves.

Afterwards we did a couple of quick 5 minute sketches before moving on to the Castle Kennedy estate to the tea room for a cup of tea and a scone…..saying yes to both jam and clotted cream as a treat. I brought the little piece of dried seaweed home with me so I can have another go. The light sitting on the beach was so bright that it was hard to capture the depth of colour and often it is easier to see this in a photograph more than in real life.

It was too late in the afternoon to go around the gardens so instead we drove on to New Luce and had a pleasant walk around the village.  I feel every day of sunshine is now quite precious as all too soon the weather will change.

I love this wee cottage and the gardens beyond. Each of them displays the personality of the owners.

Not sure if Mary and Billy refers to the occupants, two dogs or maybe even two goats!

A cottage with a true upcycled garden full of repurposed artifacts. I especially love the fact that the owner has used the front of an old shed as an archway.

Yesterday we were in WH Smiths in town and I own up to the fact that I couldn’t resist purchasing this year’s Country Living Christmas magazine. Starting to think about Christmas this early does go against the grain a bit but I do need to think ahead and start planning especially as I want to make more homemade presents this year for friends and I need some inspiration.

Welcome as ever to new followers and readers – I am never quite sure why anyone wants to hear my ramblings but there you go – I know I always love to know what you are all doing.

back soon x

dear diary :: autumn closing in

Hello, remember me?…..It has been a while and far longer than I thought since I last ventured here into my quiet little space. I hope everyone is well and life is good for you.  For me it has been the usual comings and goings and the holiday season, during July and August, was a bit of a whirlwind…but I survived and now DH and I have retreated to our little cottage in Scotland for a long rest; well it might be a rest or not as there is a lot of gardening to do again.

We seem to have come to the end of summer now, the grandchildren are back in school and nursery and routine has come along once again. I can feel autumn closing in on us with the each new day – the morning dew soaked grass and the darker evenings. Everywhere is awash with the brightest red berries and a few dried leaves can be seen to flutter down. We are eating freshly picked apples from the garden and foraging in the hedgerows for the ripest, juiciest blackberries and those heady days of summer seem far behind us.

It is hard to remember all that has happened in the last few weeks, there has been a lot of visits here and there, so we have not been in one place long enough to really get down to blogging – I will fill you in briefly and I think the pictures I took along the way will speak for themselves.

I believe I left you abruptly back in June when we were at the cottage for 3 wonderful sun packed weeks, knee deep in weeds and with a task list the length of a fresh toilet roll, and no we didn’t get everything completed but then we never do and looking around now it is as if we never spent those 3 weeks in the garden everyday as everything has grown again but this time with a vengeance.

We began the summer in mid-July with a garden party complete with Disco Dome for Little L’s seventh birthday and her friends – as you can imagine it was a great hit with the kids. It was the hottest day of the year though and we had to rush out and buy a cheap gazebo to provide some shade for the guests. The soft drinks flowed all afternoon to make sure no-one became dehydrated and social distancing for the adults was observed.

There has been lots of cake too as the birthday continued over many days and two weeks later we had another get together with a picnic at Newby Hall to celebrate the birthday with family members. Another lovely day, the gardens (especially the two long perennial borders) were beautiful and the girls had great fun in the teddy bear house and the children’s play park and water fountains.

It is worth a trip here just to see the spectacular shell designs covering the walls of two identical summerhouses down by the river.

Somewhere in and amongst these events we had a quick trip back up to the cottage for a few days and managed to clean out the pond (more about this later). The rose was out in full bloom which I was relieved to see as I had hard pruned it later than I should have but it didn’t seem to mind.

On the way up to Scotland we took the longer scenic route from Gretna to Dumfries for a change and stopped off at the lovely little historic village of Powfoot (again I will tell you more about this interesting little place another day).

Back home and a quick turnaround to unpack and repack and we were off on our jolly hols with all the grandchildren and mums and dads to Scarborough for a week. It turned out to be one of those great British family seaside holidays and we had good weather which was a bonus and spent many days playing on the beach and in the sea.

And what a week we had – so much fun…but quite exhausting we did everything on offer from the castle to the Pirate Ship, the beach, the Spa theatre, shopping in the old market hall, picnics in the park and a ride on the little train and of course the donkeys and if that wasn’t enough we had a go at painting some pots.

We had one morning of torential rain but that was OK as we had booked the Spa theatre that day for the Teddy Bear’s Picnic put on by Scarborough’s resident spa orchestra (they are brilliant by the way and as part of the performance introduced the children to all the instruments and the sounds they make individually).

Here are some highlights of our week.

We mainly kept to the North bay side where it is often much quieter and you can catch the little train round to Scalby Mills from Peasholme Park but before we went home we spent a day on the south side where they have all the amusement arcades and rides. We could not miss going on a trip out to sea on the Pirate Ship even with a long long wait in the queue – all week Sweetie had been singing her favourite song – the Pirate Song she has learnt at nursery.

Note the hair in the picture above….Sweetie has certainly inherited the untameable wild hair of DH’s family. DH has always had fine flyaway hair that just does what it wants and no hairbrush has ever managed to tame it.

The week went so quickly, too quickly for the children who did not want to leave all this fun and the beach. We left with the intention of doing it all again next year. Our first night back at home in our own beds and we slept like a log probably from sheer exhaustion of a week with 3 grandchildren to entertain.

But the rest was short lived as once more it was all hands to the deck to unpack, wash, iron and repack ready to go off again. We had some of those passporting tickets for the Ryedale Outdoor Folk Museum in Hutton le Hole in North Yorkshire that expired just before the August Bank Holiday. We went there last year and everyone loved it so we spent a few days staying with my younger daughter and the two girls so we could go for the free revisit. And after the cost of Scarborough we needed free entertainment. The great British seaside holiday is certainly not a cheap option especially now that accommodaton prices and entrance fees have in some cases doubled.

The outdoor folk museum is a big hit with the grandchildren – they just loved the little old cottages and shops full of interesting old things.

The next day we drove up to Preston Park near Stockton and conveniently just down the road from my mum’s apartment so we were able to pop in to see her with the grandchildren (who she hadn’t seen in a long while due to the Covid restrictions). Preston Park is equally as good for kids as the Ryedale museum – they have an outdoor Victorian street with little old fashioned shops which includes a sweet shop and a toy shop where you can actually buy things. I chose the chocolate raisins (my favourite) from the rows of sweetie jars on the shelf. They are weighed out on the old fashioned scales by the ounce and poured into a paper bag – quite novel for little ones to see these days. There is also a haberdashery shop where you can try on old hats and the Police Station complete with a very harsh looking cell. They have now extended the grounds and have the most amazing walled garden and a woodland walk.

Decisions, decisions….

In and amongst all the comings and goings I hardly had any time for any craft work but had to carve out some time to make my sister in law’s birthday card and present for her 65th birthday. As it was a special birthday I made one of my concertina cards which some of my readers will remember from past posts on here. They are all watercolour sketches from my sketchbook over the years with a little poem running through and it folds into a tiny keepsake book tied with a ribbon. I have started a list now of who I have given these to so that I don’t forget and send them the same again for another birthday.

I finally got to finish this project I started last year which was turning some of my watercolour sketches into seed packets.

I dropped a picture of the sketch into a seed packet template and printed them out onto creamy cartridge paper to give them an old fashioned look. Then cut around the template to the form the packet shape. Once folded and glued together I filled each one, there were five in the set, with seeds I had collected and bundled them up and tied with rafia. I also enclosed a garden voucher for her to buy something for her garden.

We didn’t have much time to ourselves over the summer just an odd day here and there and in and amongst our comings and goings we spent a delightful afternoon in the beautiful gardens at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire with our sketchbooks. I am certainly out of practise but intend to try and do more when time allows as it is such a relaxing activity.

I haven’t been buying books recently but these two caught my eye. The knitting one is from The Works and I am attempting to knit the little dress with a fabric skirt – the long sleeved version for the winter. I have some pretty floral soft lightweight corduroy for the skirt that I bought last year and never got it made into anything. I am aiming for Sweetie’s birthday in November (finger’s crossed). The novel is a true diary and part of the Mass Observation project during the second world war. You may remember the screen play about Nella Last, Housewife 49, played brilliantly by Victoria Wood – well this is the Dewsbury version (Dewsbury being only a few miles away from us) about a shop assistant called Kathleen Hey.

So there you have my summer in a nutshell, I hardly had time to draw breath until 3 weeks ago when I visited the dentist and afterwards promptly came down with a cold – annoyingly the first for many years and it meant we had to postpone our ‘respite’ visit to mum over the August Bank Holiday….to say she was disappointed is an understatement but I recovered enough to go and see her the following weekend. She is going downhill quite quickly now as her ability to move around is difficult and very slow. She has even allowed the carers to cook her evening meal now so things must be bad! We are in the throws of looking for a rise and recline chair….though mum is adamant she wants a settee – they are available in a two seater but are near on £3,000…..phew.

Must go now to venture into our jungle once again….there are beds to weed and a lot of pruning back to get the garden winter ready. I am unimpressed that the weeds thought they had free run of the garden whilst our backs were turned.

Welcome to my new readers and followers – it is strange that I acquire many new followers when I am not posting – perhaps my silence should be telling me something. And thank you for the ‘ hope you are OK’ enquiries from long time readers it gives me the prompt I need to restart posting and your concern is much appreciated. (And Jayne I know I owe you an email it will be coming soon and sorry I missed you on your last visit to the Mull).

Have a great weekend everyone…love to all x

PS: apolgies for any spelling, grammatical errors I have done this post in a rush!

dear diary :: a productive day

With the warm sunshine, high humidity and fleeting showers everything is growing at a rate of knots and as other bloggers are saying some of the flowering plants are almost over before they begin with the heat.

The free tray of the long flowering valerian plants given to me by Elizabeth McGregor at her nursery in Kirkudbright a few years back is now well installed and flourishing in the seaside garden (top photo). I love the wispiness and I am hoping they don’t go under too quickly in the heat.

Further along the border there is no sign that the clematis Montana Reubens will stop flowering anytime soon it is still dripping in flowers this year even though we hacked it back with no precision at all – it must like a good hair cut.

Yesterday I cleaned. I was waiting for the heating engineer to service the gas boiler in the caravan. He didn’t show….again…. but that is typical for this area. As usual we rang him to arrange another day, no explanation was offered as to why he didn’t come and now we will wait for him to come on Friday….or not as the case might be!

But the caravan is spick and span… seating hoovered, bed changed, bathroom sparkling, windows washed and everywhere had a good hoover. If there is a spider left in here I would be surprised.

Meanwhile DH hung some cheap net curtains at the cottage windows. It was looking rather forlorn so earlier this week we cleaned down all the gutters and drainpipes, then the windows inside and out and it has made it look less of a ruin. The curtains will stop anyone looking inside and give it a more lived in look to passers by.

After lunch the cleaning continued and I washed pots. Remember the free pots….everyone in the village has them, every house you pass it is like spot the pots. They are extremely useful and I have turned them into quite few gifts for people adding herbs and bulbs. The lady who is giving them away is now onto her very last crate full – so I might just go and take a few more.

Meanwhile DH did a tip run with umpteen bags of garden waste in the trailer and on his return he continued with our new project….the banking that runs down beside the lane. We thought it was quite steep until we saw the open garden at the weekend where it was almost vertical in places; ours is not quite as bad as that. A while ago we had the idea to terrace it just using planks of treated timber – this will give the plants a more stable pocket of soil to grow in and prevent them from toppling over in the wind as well as making it easier to weed. Many a time I have been balancing at the top of the slope and lost my footing only to end up sliding all the way down.

The large conifer that overshadowed a lot of this patch came down last year as it had grown through the power line and with all the extra light that flooded in a lot of everything suddenly wanted to grow here. We put in a chicken wire fence at the top because with the conifer gone it was feeling a bit exposed.

As you can see from the photo ferns love to grow here – they are all self seeded but it would be nice to have other plants here as well – the jury is out on what the planting might be but I have some ideas churning around. We have been building the banking up over time with rotted compost from our bins and it is extremely fertile. Rather than have the planks in straight lines we are running them at angles to form wider and narrower beds for more interest and some of the boards will be single height and some double.

This is the view from on top of the banking looking down.

Today we shall be doing more in the garden and hopefully get the first stretch of the terracing completed before we go home next week.

I still have the stone path to complete and the border above in front of the Olearias which really needs a complete overhaul and reshaping. originally it was quite a large bed with 3 fairly modest Olearia plants. Now the Olearias have grown the border has shrunk considerably and some plants have been lost altogether beneath the shrubs.

It may be my imagination but my list does not seem to be getting any shorter even though we have both been working hard and ticking the jobs off as we go.

dear diary :: a nudge in the right direction

Saturday was hot. I started numerous jobs and then had to move to find more shade as the sun moved around the garden.

I have been scouring our garden finding more flat stones to lay down at the entrance to the lower wood that leads to the pond. They keep a lot of the weeds down in a place where nothing grows very much other than self seeders. Bark just rots down quickly and doesn’t stop the weeds as they just root into the bark but the flat grey stones have been really good at supressing them.

Before long the heat was far too intense and I had to abandon the job; instead I moved round to the patch beneath the holly and apple trees which gave me an umberella of shade to do some weeding. In this bed there is always a scattering of the sneaky self-seeder tellima nestling in alongside other plants and eventually overcoming them. To leave this part of the garden looking natural is actually hard work and requires more management than you might think. So very carefully whilst crawling around the bed to avoid the pain of kneeling on the fallen holly leaves ….ouch…. I managed to selectively extract the tellima that had muscled in on my delphiniums – well the delphiniums that the rabbits have not devoured yet.

After lunch I decided to tackle the curly wurly tree (corkscrew hazel) and give it a trim. It should have been pruned earlier in the year while it was dormant and leafless to reduce the height …drastically…. as it collides with the apple tree that grows next to it; but we missed the moment with the restrictions and a light trim is all we could do at this point. So out came the long pole that has some pruners on the end to reach the upper branches and that believe me is a job in itself and I gratefully passed the task over to DH. I love this tree as the canopy is low and falls over one of the entrances to the lower wood and woodland walk.

Sunday was much cooler and by teatime the rain had set in and we were treated to a glorious double rainbow over the bay in the early evening, unfortunately both didn’t come out on the photo.

After lunch on Sunday we set off to visit an Open Garden up the road high on the hill above the village with fabulous sea views. It was the very cottage we had looked around in 2004 just before we put in an offer on our cottage so it was really interesting to see what changes had been made. I remember it as being in need of a lot of renovation, probably more than ours, though it did have a new roof. The garden was just long grass at the time – not really a garden at all.

The cottage has changed hands since the original buyers in 2004 who did quite a bit to the place but the current owners have done a lot more and made it into a very desirable property whilst still retaining a lot of the character and cottage feel; in fact when we arrived we realised we knew the new owners from the caravan site – they have decided to up sticks from Halifax and live here permanently.

The garden is on a steep slope with steps leading down from the cottage above.

This brilliant two story Bothy that they have built in the garden and sleeps 2-4 people is a great place to put up visiting family and friends and they also let it out for around £40 a night. It has a fridge and microwave, composting toilet and washbasin and breakfast is provided by the owners.

There is a series of winding gravel paths cleverly taking you down and around the slope through the garden. The welsh poppies are scattered everywhere, little specks of brilliant orange and yellow dancing around in the breeze.

Although windy up above (they are much higher up than our cottage down by the sea) it is a very sheltered garden down below so they can grow the palms and more tropical plants quite easily and they do not suffer from the salt spray like our garden does.

They even have a tiny ‘beach’ at the very bottom where the burn runs through. It is much clearer water than ours as they are at the top of the hill and their burn feeds down into the harbour whereas we are at the end of the run and so we get all the run off from the farms above us which often makes the burn rather sludgy in the summer when there is little water coming down.

Since they acquired the cottage at the end of 2019 they have added an extension as well as the Bothy and now they have bought the adjoining cottage which they are doing up to let out as a holiday let. I was beginning to think maybe we had chosen the wrong cottage to buy!!

However, after visiting their cottage and garden and seeing all they had accomplished in so short a time we have been inspired and motivated to get back to sorting ours out. Since the flood we have really been muddling along not really able to make decisions and then Covid has certainly made things worse – but somehow this visit has really helped us turn a very difficult corner and as my title says it has been a nudge (no less a mighty big push) in the right direction!

Today we started on a project in the garden which I will share with you in another post.

Back soon x

dear diary :: roamin in the gloamin once again…

Just dropping by again to say hello from bonnie Scotland.

It has been a while but one daughter is now moved and settling in well and all the empty boxes have been passed onto to someone else – boxes are so hard to come by these days. Everything went to plan on the day and I was assigned the job of cupboard cleaner and organiser in the kitchen so now of course my daughter cannot find anything and when I go next time I probably won’t find anything either as she will have rearranged everything to suit her. Still the main thing was that all the boxes, but for a few craft items and nick nacks, were emptied and put away by the time we left.

We are now in Scotland once again with a to do list as long as a toilet roll. The woodland walk is in full bloom with pretty white sweet woodruff, pink dicentras and the elegant Solomon’s seal.

The pond is full of rotting leaves as we couldn’t clean it out last year because of the restrictions on our visits or put the pond net over last September to catch the autumn leaf fall. Thankfully, with little rain it is quite dry so will be easier to scoop out and clean then refill with fresh water though it is not a pleasant job and not one I look forward to. The primulas have multiplied and look stunning, I do need to plant some more of the deep orange coloured primulas though as they appear to have gone.

We have plenty of thick moss to scrape off all the paths and then we will spray some cleaner onto them to remove any residual bits. The cows have been watching our every move with curiosity all week.

After a mornings work we stopped for light refreshments! These small assorted danish pastries courtesy of Tesco are one of my treats when we come up here. There are five in a box so we always share the jam centred ones.

In the afternoon we visited Castle Kennedy gardens. (Jayne at The View from Bag End has more lovely pictures here from her recent visit to the area.) We always manage to fit in a visit when we come up and I really missed not being able to go during last year so it was lovely to see that it is open for visitors once again.

This is a very special place for us as DH’s grandfather was head gardener here from the late 20’s up to sometime in the 60’s when he retired. His granny and grandad lived in the head gardener’s cottage on the hill by the little bridge that takes you into the car park. DH stayed here for a while when he was younger with his mum and dad when they moved back from Ireland and he tramped daily around the estate trying to keep up with his grandad.

Because of our connection to the place we held our elder daughter’s wedding here in 2016 and had a marquee by the old ruined castle that sits next to the walled garden and the cute little wooden tea room.

The wedding was in July so the walled garden was at its best.

And the marquee took in the spectacular views across the estate and of course all our guests could relax and roam around the grounds during the afternoon.

And when it went dark in the evening it was quite magical.

Of course her wedding day would not have been complete without having the old tea room part of this big day. It has over the years had many coats of paint and also had the floor levelled so the tables no longer have blocks of wood beneath the legs to even them up. Today it has even had the addition of a disabled ramp.

The guests all enjoyed the afternoon tea provided on the picnic tables.

Everything was homemade and done on a tight budget – I made all the invitations, confetti, table flowers and favours….

…spent hours making yards and yards of bunting and a few hours decorating the marquee and putting up cheap white paper lanterns from a very wobbly ladder.

So it was lovely to wander around in the same warm sunshine that we had enjoyed that day with our memories and see that thankfully the place remains quite unchanged. We had gone specially to see the magnificent collection of rhododendrons that are in bloom at this time of year – they are renowned all over the world and they did not disappoint. They were stunning.

Many of them were planted by DH’s grandfather who also propogated many of the hybrids on the estate such as ‘Lord Stair’ and one named after himself RW Rye. He was awarded an RHS gold medal for them and of course we have his rhododendron in both our gardens. He is also credited as the person who propogated the pale lavender buddleia named ‘Loch Inch’ which many people will have in their gardens.

The round lily pond which is 1/4 of a mile across is another feature which is absolutely glorious.

The ‘newer castle’ built around 1860 is where Lord and Lady Stair reside and is situated between the two locks (the Black Loch – Loch Crindil and the White Loch- Loch Inch) and has magnificent views across the landscape.

We spent the afternoon sketching in the sunshine before treating ourselves to tea and scones – it was so nice to do something quite creative for once though I need a lot of practise I am decidedly rusty, especially the watercolour which is spectacularly bad – but at least I made a start – it takes time to get back into it.

We decided that today would be a ‘rest’ day and we are walking to the village and up the steep hill out towards the Mull to see one of the Open Gardens at a cottage that adjoins one we nearly put in an offer for, but we bought our cottage instead so it will be interesting to see what they have made of the garden.

The weather has been so hot here everything is beginning to look parched and dry and many of the flowers are soon over. Even the foxgloves have bent over heads from a lack of water. Our garden ranges from peaty and waterlogged to dry sandy dust and my style of gardening is just to let the self seeders find their own home where they are happiest.

So that is all my news so far which just leaves me to say a warm welcome to all my new followers and sorry for the lack of posts – life just gets incredibly busy and my energy levels incredibly diminished – but I hope everyone reading is enjoying the good weather, though personally I could easily tolerate it much cooler but at least the sea breeze helps to cool me down. I have had to garden all week wherever there is shade so I have been constantly moving around and consequently no one patch or task is fully complete. We have also spent some time over a concerning problem that has arisen because the new owner of the caravan site next door wants to put a locked gate at the top of our lane over which we have a right of access to our cottage. This would be very restrictive for anyone coming to the cottage if we had to hand out keys to everyone who has to have access, especially when we start to have contractors on site again to renovate the cottage.

Nothing ever stays the same for long these days and it is so easy to get swept up by other people’s agendas – I am feeling pretty upset by it all especially as it has been such a difficult time with the flood and then the Covid restrictions.

But tomorrow is another day as they say!

Back soon x

dear diary :: garden progress

Just a quickie as I drink my cocoa as my bed awaits – I am utterly shattered from a few days of intense gardening and we have only just scratched the surface. Apart from the horrendous wind and rain on Saturday morning we have had good weather for most of the week with clear skies and sunshine and each day has got a little warmer than the one before. Tomorrow we have to go down home for two or three weeks to attend appointments and do other things including another visit to my mum whilst my sister is on her respite holiday.

Everywhere I look there are jobs to be done here, weeds to be lifted, branches to be pruned and order to be reinstated (well as much order as you can get in a semi-wild garden). Most plants seem to be quite late coming out this year – everything is in bud and about to burst forth and probably waiting for the moment we leave!

I made a start on this banking below the lane and on the wood side of the cottage.

The banking is one of those places that I find hard to decide just what to plant here. I have cleared it a few times and then never got to put any plants in as by the time I have cleared it all it is time to go home and when we get back there has been another flurry of seedlings – but never quite so bad as during this lockdown period. It is dry and sandy near the top, almost like dust, then it can be quite boggy at the bottom where the water runs down and collects. It gets a lot of wind from both directions and until last year had an enormous conifer at one end which gave us plenty of shade and privacy. The conifer was taken down by Scottish Power as it was situated just underneath the power line to the cottage and every year or so they had to take a good three metres off the top of it which left it looking rather an odd shape and in the end a lot of brown bare stems. It wasn’t very pretty so we had it removed and we will grow something a little lower in height.

Over time the soil has washed down the banking with the rain because it is quite steep and so our plan is to build it up a bit more using the well rotted contents from our compost bins and then we will terrace it with some wooden planks of treated timber to make planting pockets. Well that is the plan.

Most of the weeds are pink campion and blue alkanet – both lovely wild flowers but quite invasive and they crowd out any garden plants so have to be well controlled. As you can see from the picture below it is a slow job clearing such a backlog of weeds. In the picture, but well hidden behind the fern, is a little Robin sitting on its nest – 3 little eggs – she has been quietly watching us garden all week – we probably relieved the boredom of having to sit still for hours on end!

Above is looking across the garden from on top of the banking next to the lane. I cleared this patch from unwanted invaders fairly quicky. The lane gets a lot of wind and sea spray so anything planted here has to be fairly tough. Below is the little blue gate leading to the daisy path that takes you down to the cottage. The Rosa Rugosa hedge on the right should have been well pruned this year to reduce the height to keep it bushy and prevent it being ‘leggy’ but of course we could not come up to do it. The holly tree like the rest of them in the garden is waiting clipping but that will be another job another visit. The conifer used to completely block the view of the cottage making it more private so something will be put in its place.

There are one or two nice little spots in the garden here and there.

Solomon’s Seal
Sweet Woodruff and Astrantia
Primula
Braeburn Apple blossom

I really don’t want to go back home – I miss the sea when we have to leave.

I won’t miss my aching back though!

Back soon x

meandering :: down by the harbour

It was bitterly cold on Thursday with a capital B. We poked our heads out of the caravan door and quickly retreated back inside. We could see snow on the distant hills and the civil engineer confirmed that he had driven through snow in Dumfries on his way to us. It was a quick meeting with him – too cold to stand outside for long discussing the burn banking and what we might do to stop further erosion. We talked quickly and once he had gone I did a quick turn around the garden to see if there was any part of it sheltered from the howling wind passing through…. but it seemed to be circulating all around the cottage from every direction and so it was declared a definite no gardening day. 

So instead we gave in and went out.  At least it was toastie warm in the car. We packed a flask of soup and bread roll and decided to drive around the bay to the Machars across the water from us. 

We took the scenic coast road round to Stairhaven and ate our lunch in the picnic area looking out across the sea.  The place was deserted and peaceful. Wonderful. We then drove on further into Port William.  Anyone who has been there will know it is quite a cold place anyway by the harbour so it didn’t seem quite the time to stop for a stroll.  We drove on through Monreith and Glasserton and at the crossroads chose the windy road down to the Isle of Whithorn and parked by the little harbour. 

I don’t ever remember seeing it without water and the boats bobbing up and down but yesterday the tide was well out and all the boats quite still like they were sleeping. It felt warm sitting in the sun so we braved the elements and went for a stroll around the village.  The wind had dropped a little by now so it seemed a shame to have come so far and not to have a walk around. There were plenty of bright little planters dotted around filled with a wonderful mix of tulips. A good use of an old boat. I have shown pictures of this village before but I can never capture too many photos here and of course the light is always different. For anyone wanting to see more pictures of the Isle of Whithorn click here.

The cute little Tower House.

We decided against a walk to St Ninian’s Cave this time – much better on a warm day.

There has been a big problem in the area with overnighters sleeping in laybys and everywhere you go there are signs saying no overnight parking. Many of the grassy parking areas don’t have any facilities or they have been closed due to lockdown and the virus so people without their own facilities on board have been resorting to using bottles and crisp bags…..I won’t go into detail……but many volunteers have spent an afternoon clearing up this mess and picking up a mountain of rubbish.

We noticed many of the houses around the harbour have changed hands since we last came and have been spruced up a bit by their new owners; a lick of paint, a house name sign and a pot of bay or olive trees on the doorstep seemed to be the norm. I much prefer the properties to be done up sympathetically and not over done or as I would say ‘done in’ or done to death. The character of the village would disappear if it becomes too gentrifeid by comers in with too much money. Many of the wee country cottages are now being extended and turned into monstrosity mansions and look quite out of place in the countryside.

I do like a bit of dilapidated and shabby though (even without the chic) – it has a kind of charm.

And my favourite picture of all – I do so want to make some little red gingham curtains for this tiny boat and take it home with me.

Well I hope you enjoyed the tour – today was a much better temperature – good gardening weather and I have pictures of the garden (when I remember to take them) to show next time – those wonderful before and after – and in some cases just the after when I forget the before!

Back soon x

dear diary :: good to be back

It is so good to be back by the sea and nothing lifts my spirits more – though a little less sea breeze and a slightly higher temperature would be better. It is sunny, bright (and breezy) but certainly very cold and as we look across Luce Bay we can see the snow topped hills in the background a reminder that although my calender is telling me it is May the weather has still to catch up.

I am having to choose my position in the garden very carefully – the seaside garden is a definite no no and the wood side, although more sheltered, is shaded by the trees at this time of year while the sun is still a bit low. So I am nestled into a cosy spot outside the little porch that leads into the kitchen. The giant Fatsia and privet hedge providing shelter from the wind on one side and the cottage itself on the other. It is not the worst part of the garden by any means there are places crying out for resuscitation after being ignored for more than a year….but one step at a time.

We had a visit from the ‘ratman’ this morning – during the lockdown they had taken up camp in our wood being fed nicely by the escalation of the takeaways and leftovers of food in the bins belonging to the pub next door (part of the legacy from the government initiative ‘eat out to help out’ scheme). I don’t think they had included the rat population in this – but they had a good feast nonetheless.

Afterwards I managed a couple of hours gardening while the leek and potato soup simmered away on the stove. After lunch we had a stroll to the village chatting with one or two of the locals at a safe distance and catching up on the news and generally just passing the time of day. It was obviously washing day. I always find it is an immensely satisfying sight for some reason to see washing on a line and blowing in the wind by the sea (no tumble driers needed up here) and I just had to have a few pictures.

We took the low road that runs by the shore back home to view the now famous artwork – the painted stones – which have grown in number over the past year and many more painted stones have been added to the collection, an obvious sign of what everyone has been doing during lockdown. I loved these simple little leaf paintings.

Tomorrow we have a visit from a local civil engineer who will hopefully make some suggestions for the repairs we need to have done to the burn; we lost a bit of the banking this winter when the willow tree fell over into the water taking part of the banking with it. The farmer next door removed the tree for us with his tractor and now we need to repair the hole before it erodes any more.

A lot of land was lost to the sea this year on the seabank below us but luckily this is not our responsibility and falls to the new owner of the caravan site. Presently, he has the civil engineers in with diggers and hefty looking Tonka toys making the banking good and laying armoured rock against it to hopefully stop further erosion. The power of the sea should never be underestimated.

Ah well my bed beckons….night everyone x

dear diary :: just stopping by

Just thought I would drop by and say hello – where has the time gone? (That same old question!!)

I have been battling recently….not with Covid or any illness, apart from my old age aches and pains, but just with life in general and in particular the pace of my life. Recently I have not had the time to stop and think let alone write a blog post as I am experiencing many upheavals that I hadn’t actually bargained for.

Currently, both my daughters are on the move and requiring a little bit of help. One daughter rents and her move is imminent the other daughter is trying to prepare her house for sale and although we cannot help inside we are allowed to go in the garden now so we have been giving that a bit of an overhaul.

Added to which we have had the usual trips up to north Yorkshire to visit and check on my mum whilst my sister has had a little respite from caring.

Since my last post both Mother’s day and Easter have been and gone (both quiet affairs for us this year) and little Freddie has gone back to nursery. The house fell extremely quiet when our services were no longer required but we had a load of jobs to catch up on and we are still wading through the list.

In between the usual jobs around the house I managed a few hastily made cards – including these 3 tiny Easter ones for each of the grandchildren…..

….a few simple stamped ones for my family and friends…..

….and one for a friend who sadly lost her daughter this month a few years ago.

We have continued to walk without little Freddie with us and discovered more new tracks and paths near to where we live with glorious views stretching out towards the moors.

One day we had to collect a machine part from Buxton for the chain saw so we packed up a picnic lunch to eat in the car and then took the opportunity of stretching our legs around the lovely Pavillion Gardens.

I was overjoyed to see that the Crescent has now been completely renovated – over the years we have watched its demise but now it stands once again as it would have looked in its prime. Originally designed by John Carr of York it is a very significant building and popular in Georgian England as a very stylish hotel and spa attracting people from all over the country to bathe in the thermal waters of Buxton. It became a spa destination as far back as in Roman times, when a settlement was built around a clear, warm-water spring that still sends up more than one million litres a day from the original source underneath the Buxton Crescent.  

I have almost forgotten now exactly what I have been doing day to day over the last weeks – but it hasn’t been lounging around thats for sure. There has been a lot of catching up to do in the garden – we lost quite a few plants over winter and the frosts have been quite vicious here attacking the new shoots on the hydrangeas more than once.

Most days have been bright and sunny although still very cold but it has been quite cosy in the greenhouse where I have at last managed to sow some seeds.  The garden is starting to take shape as everything springs to life once more after some very persistent wintry days.

I wish I could say the same for inside the house where we seem to be continually on high alert ‘mess wise’ with a growing pile of things to be put away everywhere I look.  There is still unpacking to finish from the recent trip up north to see mum, this task being abandoned mid week to attend to urgent paperwork, which was not on my task list as it related more to someone else’s problems rather than our own, but nonetheless had to be dealt with.

I managed a few days catching up with my own paperwork – balancing statements, scanning bills and setting up payments online.  DH has made another start on the Laundry room fixing the damp floorboards by the back door where water seems to be coming in.  We ordered a Karcher commercial style vacuum cleaner (like a Henry) on the internet as there is no shop around here that stocks them. We used to have one at the cottage which had to be skipped after the flood; they are really good for those excessively dirty or dusty jobs like cleaning out the car or when decorating and should help preserve my lightweight Dyson which doesn’t take kindly to swallowing up chunks of plaster and grit.

I have in mind that I need to get back to doing a little exercising to ease my stiff back, hips and shoulders which occurs every morning after a night in bed.  I used to be very flexible and even now have a good range of motion but my joint and muscles have been a problem since I had my thyroid removed and I am dependant on taking the synthetic Levothyroxine each day, which does the job of the thyroid but not nearly as well. A lump appeared in my neck a few weeks ago so my consultant sent me for an ultra sound and I am now waiting for a CAT scan so they can see more – after this it might be a biopsy – I am trying not to think too hard about what it might be – hopefully not serious and not a return of the cancer.

Presently, I do feel rather lethargic – more in mind than body and with the new ‘ease down’ everyone is out and about but I am finding the crowds and the busyness out there quite overwhelming and even after a short walk to the village I can’t wait to get back behind our own front door, back in the peace and quiet we have grown accustomed to now.  Up until today we have not even attempted to go out to the shops (other than the usual supermarket run for food) or to sit outside in a café – I just don’t feel I want to mix in this overloaded environment.  It all feels rather artificial and for the moment I am quite content staying at home. Having said that we are about to pack to go up to Scotland to our cottage but we will be keeping ourselves to ourselves up there; I feel certain the jungle of a garden will keep us quite busy. It will be amazing to be back by the sea though I have missed the sound of the waves at night.

I have little other news to tell so I won’t ramble on but before I go I must say welcome to my new followers that have appeared in my absence; even though I have written no new posts for a while – I can only apologise for the lack of attention I have given to this little space and hope to do better. And thank you Cathy for your kind message it has spurred me on to write this post.

I hope all my readers are well and enjoying the better weather. Once again I have so much catching up to do – story of my life! I might even manage a post or two when we are up there. Until then…..

dear diary :: on a brighter note

Thank you for all the comments yesterday – I really value your support and comments. I know most people probably have some family issues from time to time without actually being a dysfunctional family. As a family we have always stuck together and we will get through this. I know that mum is a very unhappy person at the moment and lashing out at everyone but I am surprised that this now includes my sister as she has always been her favourite; she is eleven years younger than me and the baby of the family so she was left at home with mum and dad from being six years old when my brother and I left for Art College. They have always been so close, worn the same style clothes and at one time had similar tastes in furniture and spent a lot of their time together including holidays so it is sad to hear how she is starting to complain so much about her.

On Sunday we will go up to North Yorkshire to see her for the day and give my sister the Sunday off. I usually take a homemade Quiche, a trifle and a chocolate cake (all mum’s favourites) and of course some Sainsbury’s shopping – unlike my sister I do go to Sainsbury’s so it really won’t be any trouble. I am hoping my visit will cheer her up and have a lasting effect for a while. I might even take my box of photos so she can sit and reminisce for a while of the ‘good old days’ and I will politely listen as if I have never heard the stories before (even though it will be the umpteenth time I have been told them!).

The washer comes today and DH failed to get the new flooring down in the utility – there was no hope really once the leaks had to be dealt with but at least we have made a start on stripping the walls.

We decided not to change the units in here, even though we have had them for years, probably 30 years, but they are plain grey so back in fashion and go quite well with our new cabinets in the kitchen. They consist of a double wall cupboard and one of those slim line pull out larder cupboards with wire shelving. A good clean down and some new handles and I think they will be fine. I bought the wallpaper a few years ago now and I got it out the other day to see if I still liked it….and yes I do. There is only one wall papered the rest are painted so I only got two rolls as it was £20 a roll so I hope the pattern repeat is not too wasteful.

We had a long walk with Freddie in the afternoon. DH decided to down tools and go with us, but it was mostly in the rain – the cold damp rain.

We walked down the rough old mill road to the site of the dye mill – now demolished – until we could go no further with the pushchair.

We then walked back and along the road which runs parallel to the pleasure grounds but much higher up and it runs above this old terrace of mill houses where we once lived. I loved my old house it had four stories and some beautiful old features. By the time we sold we had lived there for 8 years and had done quite a bit of renovating. The modern estate house we are in now was only a stop gap for 3 years until we found our dream home. That was 36 years ago and we never did move to our dream home – instead once the girls had left home we bought the ‘retirement’ cottage in Scotland and began our 10 years of renovations before the flood took all that away.

We continued a little way down this road having a good nosy over the railings to see what our old neighbours had been doing to their houses – a lick of paint, some new windows but it is more or less the same as when we lived there. Eventually we cut off along a disused driveway and came across another snicket running through a more recent estate that took us back to the village. By the time we reached home the rain was quite heavy and our coats rather soaked.

Today is our recovery day after the childcare and I have lots to do on the list – chase up John Lewis again for one who have so far failed to send the ‘care package’ they promised last Friday. I also need to make the food to take up to mum’s for lunch and plant the pots of bulbs if they have not died of thirst in the greenhouse. Then I must try and tidy up this chaos around me, all I did last night was tidy the toys away and make our evening meal before collapsing in a heap.

I did pop my head around the door of the spare room that has become a temporary store for the laundry heap, pending the new washer. It had not self destructed – or washed itself – this new washer had better be good it has a lot of work to do.

Hope you have a good weekend everyone.