seasons :: all is safely gathered in

Come, ye thankful people, come;

Raise the song of harvest home.

All is safely gathered in

Ere the winter storms begin.

God, our Maker, doth provide

For our wants to be supplied.

Come to God’s own temple, come;

Raise the song of harvest home.

There is something very comforting and reassuring about the words of harvest home – gathering in for the winter ahead, reaping the rich rewards of our earlier efforts of sowing and growing – picking fruits and berries from the hedgerows – and then making, baking and preserving – what could feel better and feed the soul at the same time. It is as nature intended.

I have spent the week here ‘gathering in’; apples for cooking, blackberries for pies, ripening tomatoes in the sun and stacking logs for the wood store – and thinking ahead, I have been foraging for useful Christmas decorations – pine cones, hydrangea heads and a few lengths of willow for a wreath.

I feel now that I am well gathered!

We have lived very simply here over the last two weeks at the cottage – only buying enough food for a few days ahead and mainly fresh food – vegetables, dairy and bread. We don’t keep stocks of anything very much in the caravan just a little salt and pepper, a jar of dried pasta, some rice, a carton of lentils and tomato passata and a few teabags. You might even find a tin of baked beans, if you are lucky.

But with Brexit upon us I have been thinking long and hard about what action, if any, I should take to stock my larder at home. There will be panic buying – I have no doubt – judging by the food shopping frenzy at Christmas – it seems it is a very British thing – but I hate to be a part of that. On the other hand the words in the hymn ‘all is safely gathered in‘ suggests to me that it is a wise move to gather in before the winter storms and what could be more of a storm in the making than Brexit.

At the beginning of this year I decided not to keep large stocks of food in my cupboards at home so that it would never end up as out of date waste and I have loved the emptiness and the fact that we have not needed huge amounts of food in hand or added to the ‘waste’ mountain; but now I feel I must heed the words of the hymn and gather in for my family. So when I return home I will be buying a few extra tins and long dated dry products, ready for the long winter months, ready for Brexit whatever shape that takes.

It has been the most wonderful few days here in Scotland, dry sunny days, not too hot, just perfect for gardening; it has been oh so quiet, just us and a few birds, who have also been busy gathering in – so before we return home, and I am sad to be leaving, here are a few pictures from around the garden…..

back soon – have a lovely weekend and welcome new followers. x

beaching :: getting used to this slower life

We started in the garden early today, well early for us; the sun was shining and we didn’t want to miss the opportunity so we had breakfast then I did a few floor exercises, as I have done every day, to loosen up the tight lower back muscles; not easy to do squeezed in between the table legs and the seating (space is hard to come by in a caravan),

It was back to weeding around the pond today, what you can see of the pond, as over the summer we had a bit of a primula explosion amongst other things. DH took off the leggy branches of the Fuschia that overhung the pond – shame – but it had grown into a tree and really got far too high but it will grow quickly again next year. In fact we are feeling a little exposed in places now as we have pruned many a tree and bush over the course of the week – some of our plants must be suffering from shock after being plunged suddenly into the sunlight.

After lunch we read, I actually dozed off for a while – unintentionally of course. We decide a brisk walk to the village would waken us up; as the tide was in we had to go by the road rather than along the beach. For a change we took the main high road past all the houses – I like to have a nosy now and again to see what everyone is up to. There are always plenty of new delights to spot.

We walked up to the village store and bought an ice cream and fresh rolls – I resisted the temptation to buy one of the Christmas magazines on display – each one had a few free goodies enclosed in the plastic wrapper and I could have chosen between chocolate moulds (might be handy) or coasters and any number of those rubber stamps and dies; but it still felt a little early so I put them back and just bought cake – Eccles cakes – my favourite.

We then strolled on down to the harbour and along the shore road cutting through the little garden of the end cottage (they don’t seem to mind) that takes you down through the sand dunes and onto the beach. By now the tide had receded enough for us to get back round the bay to our cottage.

I love hunting for little treasures amongst the pebbles, bits of sea glass, unusual stones and shells – it is amazing what you find. Today I collected a few small pearl shells and an empty crab shell.

As the tide had only just gone out the sand was all rippled and I managed to capture the photo above where the wind was blowing the shallow water in ripples across the sand.

Once home and a cup of tea later I went foraging around the garden collecting flower heads and berries. Even though I forgot to pack my flower press I didn’t want to miss out on some of the colourful flowers that are in bloom at the moment. The fiery oranges of the monbretia appears everywhere in our garden and certainly cheers up the dark corners – it makes wonderful confetti too when the petals are dried. The pretty blue campanula is still scrambling around and flowering – brilliant ground cover and so dainty.

In the absence of my press I had to improvise by using the pages of my moleskin gardening notebooks to sandwich the petals between. I will transfer them into my press when we get home.

These pretty hydrangea petals are even lovelier when they start to get the speckled vintage look. I had the idea that I might make some cards and gift tags with them, it is a long time since I made pressed flower cards so I am looking forward to having a go again. Time willing!

Tomorrow will be a final rush around the garden to finish off what we can before we go home. As always we could just do with another week here.

Hope everyone is having a good week – and welcome new followers.

beaching :: sheer enjoyment

I have been enjoying myself far too much to stop and blog the last few days. Despite a few lot of aches and pains (self inflicted from gardening) I do feel quite revived. I even spent a lazy afternoon with a book – Miss Read of course – I like to be transported into the idyllic village of Thrush Green and the lives of her characters. And why not read Thrush Green at Christmas in September?

In the garden we have spent a lot of time pruning some very straggly shrubs – it is amazing how they grow to monsterous heights behind your back. We have had to be ruthless and now have a wood pile the size of the caravan. I have no photos – it would be far too dangerous to take my camera outside when we are hurling branches around.

In and amongst we have been making some simple but quite healthy meals to offset the chocolate biscuits and Danish pastries we have been devouring for elevenses with our daily cuppa. Gardening certainly gives you an appetite. Tonight we rustled up an easy egg salad for tea rather than the fuss of making an omelette and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I have continued to make tomato soup and our healthy green soup and each batch lasts two or three days which frees up more time to be relaxing and not cooking. We took some with us in our flask when we went further up north near Glasgow to visit the Scottish relatives on Thursday and that’s when we discovered our flask no longer works – the soup was luke warm – almost a vichyssoise. I didn’t think there was very much to go wrong with these modern flasks but obviously I was wrong. I don’t suppose it can be repaired so that will be another expense to add to the list.

On the way back down the coast we stopped for tea in Ayr at the little Italian restaurant we have been to before. We ordered the usual marguerita pizza with mushrooms that we have had many times only to find that they have increased the size to 12″ (way too big for me) and dropped the other choice of sizes they used to do.

Disappointed about the size I then found the tomato sauce so laced with garlic I couldn’t eat mine. I have an allergy to garlic (breathing and cramping problems) – I can just about tolerate it on a pizza – I am still not well afterwards, but not as ill as some meals would make me and I have not as yet needed a trip to A&E after a pizza.

On Saturday we set down our gardening tools and went to Castle Kennedy gardens for the afternoon just around the bay. Long time followers will know this is the place where DH’s grandfather was once head gardener and lived on the estate in the Head Gardeners cottage until his retirement in the early sixties, we also held our elder daughter’s wedding here back in 2016 with a marquee on the lawns by the old castle ruins and of course the guest of honour our favourite tea room of all time.

It is only a little wooden hut and resembles an old cricket pavillion and a bit of old England…well Scotland….but it has been there as long as I can remember and had one or two face lifts in its time – the most recent being removing the painted wooden benches along the walls and levelling the floor inside so they did not have to prop the tables up with pieces of wood nailed to the legs so that the tea cups didn’t slide off. Now they have a set of new bistro tables and chairs. I must say I do miss sitting on a slope and still find myself trying to compensate by leaning over to one side. I hear that next year may be the year they build a new tea room and when they do I for one will be distraught but things have to progress. I suppose.

Inside the walled garden we were met with a lavish display of colour – vivid hot pinks and vibrant yellows, a corner of beautiful and fashionable dahlias and many of the flowers attracting so many butterflies it resembled butterfly world – every flower seemed to have one perched upon it or bees buzzing round. They were none too keen on having their picture taken but I did get one or two by creeping up on them.

Tomorrow, if the weather holds, I will be catching up with the weeding – the pond and surrounding borders are a mess and need a good tidy up; the walkway of the woodland walk is covered in bittercress and the wild geraniums are spilling out and have spread so much I will have to cut them back into the confines of the border.

The issue with the pizza has not managed to overshadow our time here at the cottage and as usual I will be sad to leave but normality is calling and we have daughter’s, grandchildren and a mum in need of our help as well as a pantry that needs finishing. So only one or two days more before we have to leave.

Back to my book now or maybe a game of patience, having no television here is no real hardship at all. Back soon x

beaching :: simple pleasures

The low road to the village – once a road and now only a footpath.

We are at the cottage at last – it has been a long time since we were here.  It was a turbulent summer, but for now the dust has settled and daily life resumes.  Things have not resolved though – and won’t for a while – the outcome is a long way off and like Brexit we will have to live with uncertainty, until certainty gains some ground.  But I firmly believe in the fact that good always comes out of bad.  Just not quick enough sometimes!

I had forgotten how some very simple pleasures can ignite a feeling of well-being and here at the cottage simple is one of the great attractions.  Snuggling down at night under a heavier duvet than we are used to – I like the weight of it – it would feel too stifling at home where the bedrooms retain the heat longer with better insulated walls – but here I need the extra warmth to keep away the chill in the caravan once the heating is turned off.   I am reminded of my childhood long before we had central heating in the bedrooms and a sense of being wrapped up tightly against the cold night air – at the same time bringing feelings of security too.

Lying, warm and cosy in bed in the caravan I listen to the beat of the rain on the roof.  Steady at first, then a sudden torrential burst, but like the roar of the sea at night, soothing in its rhythm.  At other times there is absolute silence here and always, once the lights are out, an inky black darkness which is only lit on the nights we have a full moon.  We have street lights at home, security lights too and any chink in the curtain throws light into the bedroom no matter how hard I try to keep it out; there is never a moment when the world is completely black to us. 

Here there are no street lights – only nature lights a path.  There was talk of putting solar lighting along the low road, which is a path leading into the village that runs alongside the beach – I hope not as the nesting birds and wildlife in the surrounding bushes need darkness…..we need darkness.

There are other pleasures here too – cooking by gas, the whistling of the kettle on the hob, cupboards that hold ‘just enough’ to get by and no more.  There is a sparseness of decoration that brings quietness to this little temporary home – a vase of tiny sea shells, a jam jar of coloured sea glass and a display of beach pebbles or pine cones collected on our walks.

We have time here too – time to eat breakfast and read, time to ponder and collect our thoughts even managing to put them into some kind of order.  We watch the rabbits scampering around and the birds foraging in the undergrowth for food – they have all day – we have all day.  And I ask myself how it is once we are back at home life takes over again, demands surface and problems begin to mount up.

The Rosa rugose hedge running alongside the lane is dripping with rosehips.  The abundance of nature here is wonderful – the hedgerows and woodland – the call of the cuckoo and wood pigeon mingled with the cry of the gulls – the expanse of deserted seashore.

One of my first tasks will be to pick a few herbs and flowers from the garden to bring inside, whatever is still in bloom. I am annoyed with myself that I forgot my flower press; I will have to assemble a makeshift one from a stack of heavy books and some kitchen paper.  I have ideas to make some gift tags and cards from the pressed petals.

There was a huge amount of windfall apples lying on the ground – I salvaged a few and left the rest for the wild life to devour. Hopefully, the ones remaining on the tree will fall before the weeks out.

The rain continued to lunchtime so after our initial walk around to inspect the garden we decided to go for a walk to the village whilst it stayed dry.  The garden will have to wait for another day – it has waited our return all summer and many of the plants have grown unchecked to dizzy heights, whilst others have been and gone leaving only a skeleton behind to suggest they had once been there at all.

For the benefit of new readers we are camping out in a caravan pending the reinstatement of our cottage after the flood – you can read our tale should you be interested in the tab Beach Cottage above.

beaching :: a week at the cottage

I expect you may be wondering if I had got lost in the wood, or fallen into the compost bin, or down a rabbit hole; but no I have been a little quiet this week because I needed some ‘me’ time whilst on holiday – amongst the gardening of course.

As usual when we arrived the garden resembled a jungle, all but the grass, which had been cut by our dear friendly grass cutter, Kelly.  5 days in and it was ready for cutting again; so DH got the mower out and cut them again.

I had the usual first day dithers wondering which of the borders to start on; in the end I did none of them and decided the garage needed a clear out.

 It is a big space but we were only using the last few feet by the door because I could not get past all the equipment and garden sundries blocking my path.  I found some interesting things though and a few things I had forgotten about.

Through some clever prompting on my part I managed to get DH to go through the wood pile and keep or toss.  It is now much reduced.  The rest was put outside on the concrete standing and yesterday had a journey to the tip along with a few bags of weeds that I don’t compost here like goosegrass.

There is still a lot to do as you can see from the photo but it is very much a work in progress I am pleased with what we have achieved and presently we can get to much more of the garden equipment. I also collected up a number of plant pots strewn around the garage and clay planters, gave them a hose down and laid them out in the sun to dry. Some of them I will be taking back down home to use there.

So it wasn’t until last Sunday that we gardened, the wind had dropped by then and it turned quite hot, so much so that I had to do my usual border hopping to avoid the sun.  Dowsed in sun cream I began on the border by the pond but within minutes realised this was a mistake, far too hot, so I moved to the holly tree border.  So many tiny foxgloves have seeded themselves and a flurry of hypericum seedlings but also many bitter cress were hiding amongst them.  I fished out the bitter cress and hypericum and left the foxgloves – these will grow on and flower next year.  I do like foxgloves they are welcome anywhere in my garden, but a few more white and pale pink ones would be nice. 

The delphiniums in the lower wood have been spectacular and I only lost one to the rabbits before we put the netting round.

On Monday I began in the long trellis border.  This is full of tiny poppy seedlings again there is bitter cress amongst them and some other unwanted weeds like dock.  DH tackled the early flowering clematis on the trellis giving it a hard but not over excessive prune.  The later flowering Etoile Violette had entwined itself with the earlier flowering montana rubens and we spent a good hour trying to separate them so we didn’t acidentally prune off the buds.

Eventually by the end of our week here I had just about done most of the borders and cleared a heap of weeds. The rose is looking magnificent and smells divine. The falling petals have been collected and brought inside to dry. The pink mallow is just on the point of flowering – sadly I will miss it in full bloom as it will be over by the time we come again.

On the Monday afternoon we went into Stranraer and down to the waterfront to look at the Skiffe boats.  I know nothing about boats but these are beautifully made rowing boats and we watched as the teams from all over the country and abroad heaved them in and out of the water. They each had a little tent to shelter in which looked like a row of beach huts along the promenade.

Princess Anne had been flown in by helicopter to attend the start of the races but we didn’t see any sign of her other than the pictures in the Free Press which we bought later in the week (the Free Press is the local paper, which isn’t actually free, now £1 and extremely thin on news of late).

During Skiffie week there were plenty of activities and entertainment laid on for the visitors and locals, one of them was a classic bus rally and I managed to get a quick snap of this one as we left town.

On Tuesday it rained so we went back into town to look around the shops and stock up on provisions – I bought two birthday presents from my favourite gift shop, Baxters, they gift wrap them at no extra charge too.  We had a drink at one of the cafes and then took a drive up to the north of the peninsula near to Corsewell Lighthouse, then followed the road down to the little harbour village of Portpatrick.  By this time the rain had stopped and the sun appeared and it was the best part of the day so we bought an ice cream and had a walk around.

Today we have been in the upper wood to clear some branches left by the Council who have turned our lovely grass verge into a tarmac path and in so doing have thrown all the grass sods, grit and left over tarmac into our wood, not to mention cutting back our hedge that separates the wood from the main road; so now there is no hedge.  It had only just grown again since Scottish Power reduced it to the ground 11 years ago.

So we are back where we started.  The council have a workforce of only 5 men for an area of over 100 miles to do any kind of direct works jobs – the ones that are not large enough to be undertaken by outside contractors.  They apparently do not have the necessary skills do many of the jobs proficiently – as we noticed! The man from the council apologised profusely for the bad workmanship, and said it was because when the workforce was cut – most of the men who could took early retirement or got new jobs elsewhere and they were left with quite unskilled men who could not get jobs anywhere else.

They are coming back to deal with the rubbish – I just hope they do not make a worse mess. I will show you pictures of the mess in a later post.

All to soon it is time to pack up and go home – I hope I don’t find my garden there in need of a lot of attention as we need to prepare the house inside for our Aussie visitor.

I had a text from the hospital on Friday to say that I need to travel to Leeds in good time for my appointment on Monday as there is a demonstartion in the city centre by the Extinction Rebellion group. They are targeting the banks and could cause a lot of disruption. Whilst I am all for this kind of protest, getting to Leeds and through the centre and out to Jimmy’s is difficult enough, and I will be stressed anyway wondering if my results are going to be OK – so I think we may go further round on the motorway and drop down from the north avoiding the centre.

So that is all from Bonnie Scotland – there will be more about the garden in my garden notes section when I get time to publish it. Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

Welcome to new followers and I hope my my regular readers are enjoying the advert free posts now. x

dear diary :: driving north

On Saturday with the rain still lashing down and the road spray coming up to meet us we made our way along the M6 as we headed for Scotland and by the time we crossed the border the sun had appeared and the world looked suddenly like a veil had been lifted. 

We pulled off the road just past Gretna in the sleepy little village of Dornock to eat our soup and sandwiches. We parked near to the little church we discovered on a previous visit – the one with the historical gravestones with viking links I mentioned in this post.

By now it was a long time since we ate breakfast but once our rather ravenous appetites had been fully satisfied, almost to being a little stuffed (who was it put in a bag of crisps and some biscuits), we took a gentle stroll down the lane to see what we could find. 

Exploring is always a favourite pastime of mine so we followed the lane round to the right as it skirted around the bottom of the graveyard.

The wind coming across land from the Solway coast in the distance was quite forceful but for anyone with a love of the sea lying in this tiny peaceful graveyard, as overgrown and wild as the surrounding countryside, and only the sound of the wind and birdsong must surely be a heaven of its own.

To the left the lane meanders round a bend and past a cluster of outbuildings and barns and a very large house stands complete with a magnificent copper beech in the grounds and a tiny blue seat outside the gates waiting for passers by to stop and rest a while. 

The verges sheltered a little from the winds by the stone wall were laden with heavy drooping branches of elderflowers.

Once back on the road we decided to take the route through the centre of Annan, a nearby small town famous for its connections to the Scottish writer and philosopher Thomas Carlyle who is know to have said ‘A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder’ and ‘Music is well said to be the speech of angels’, amongst many other quotes.

As we sat at the traffic lights we spotted a sign ahead we had not noticed before pointing to the harbour.  Now for those who do not know this area Annan is located to the north of the Solway Firth but is a little way inland so the harbour it refers to, as we found out, is on the River Annan that winds its way inland from the estuary.  We followed Port Street all the way down until we couldn’t go any further and this is the harbour.

I was amazed at how narrow this channel is but it obviously does have boats going in and out at high tide. There was plenty of decay round about – some quite sad looking boats have been left to rot on the harbour side – a sorry end for some of them.

The same sad end for the Albert Hall which was thought to be a former town hall. All around Annan there are run down buildings and many run down areas that remain neglected as the local council, like in many other towns, struggle to improve or maintain them. Property is lingering unsold, or unwanted or just unloved….

….. but every so often you come across a little pocket of delight and someone who takes pride in their surroundings.

We continued our journey to Castle Douglas and just made it in time for a quick look around the impressive craft shop on the main street. Closing time in many of these small towns can be 4 o’clock but luckily for me the craft shop stays open until five. It has an expansive stock that is far better than any Hobbycraft shop over two floors and an annexe or two – you can buy anything from wool to watercolours – but on this visit I was purely ‘window shopping’ from the inside of course.

Afterwards we joined the queue for our usual tea of chip butties and a piping hot cup of tea from Moore’s award winning fish and chip shop.  Saturday tea time is a busy time but well worth the wait.

Fed and watered once again we continued on to Newton Stewart so we could shop at the tiny Sainsbury’s – it was the best part of the day with the evening sun reflecting off the sea as we drove around the bay. 

We usually buy fresh butter, cheese, yoghurt and milk from here together with a fresh loaf and rolls and some frozen peas rather than bring them from home. DH treats himself to a bottle of red wine and I go for the bar of dark chocolate.

At last we reach the cottage and still in daylight which is not difficult at this time of year in Scotland – even down in the south it is light until very late. So much has grown since our last visit – this is the view that greeted us from our caravan window looking out to sea – a pure mass of frothy flowers. I just love it.

Bedtime beckons…I will be back tomorrow with more tales from the garden. x

bEAching ~ bordering on the edge

Another sunny day today but a little windy; rather more than a breeze and less than a gale.  I thought the trellis border looked quite calm from the caravan window.  I thought wrong.  But decided to carry on with it anyway wrapped up in a woolly hat, and my trusty fleece lined gardening coat ( with the hood up of course as I hate wind on the back of my neck it gives me a bad neck for days).

I actually got quite a bit more done and have nearly removed all the stone edging and re-edged the grass trying to give the border a nice flowing curve – not an easy thing to do as the curves look better or worse depending on your viewpoint in the garden.  I didn’t take any pictures today (other than the one of the plants I bought and are still waiting to be planted) – I will surprise you another day.

DH was on hedge maintenance all morning but at 11.30 precisely calamity struck when he discovered he had a slightly flat rear tyre (well the car had).  It was a slow puncture from a nail that had embedded itself in the rubber.  He went to change it for the spare but with limited tools here he couldn’t get the nuts off the wheel – he decided he would need help from a local garage.

Oh no…as you might know it was already lunchtime by now there is no garage in the village and when we checked most of the garages in town had closed for the weekend and the bank holiday on Monday.  We didn’t want to wait until Tuesday or we would be stuck without and car over the long weekend which is not a good idea in case we had an emergency on our hands.  We searched around on the internet and eventually found an MOT station open until 3pm  – so he pumped the tyre up a bit and drove carefully into town and they kindly changed the wheel for him but would not accept any payment and DH had to force a few pounds onto the old guy.  People are so helpful up here.

Whilst he was gone I put the tray of apricot Violas I had bought into the planter and then made some mushroom soup, just an excuse to use the new blender really.  The instruction leaflet gives the speed settings for different foods – soup or sauce, milkshakes and ‘carrots with water’.  Can anyone enlighten me on the ‘carrots with water’ – is this a new drink maybe?

I mentioned yesterday that after going to see (and climb) the mound we headed off up to New Luce.  The pictures for this are far more exciting than my garden but I am still in the middle of preparing them so as bedtime is beckoning I will have to have a go at finishing the post tomorrow. x

 

bEAching ~ drip, drip, drizzle

Raining all day here today – the forecast was right, but it was not heavy rain more a constant drip and drizzle so it didn’t sound like we were sitting in a tin can as caravans often do in the rain, in fact we hardly heard it at all.

We had a lazy day.

In the morning we made tomato soup ready for tomorrow and then realised we didn’t have a blender here or tomato paste. I spent some time catching up with a few blogs and realised how many have fallen away recently – pressure of time, nasty commenters and some just run their course – but they are missed.

We made egg and cucumber in cheese rolls for lunch with ‘leaves’ on the side – a nice change as we hardly ever have egg sandwiches at home.  I say ‘we’ but actually DH made them.

After lunch we listened to the Archers and then drove into town as we needed fresh bread and more milk.  We overcame the lack of blender too – we bought a cheapish one from Argos and then a tube of tomato paste from Tesco.

Whilst in Stranraer we drove out to the local garden centre on the other side of town and bought a few ‘filler’ plants mainly for the empty pots but others to put in the gaps in the borders.  It is essential here to fill all the spaces to prevent the weeds and wild flowers taking over in our absence.  DH told the shop assistant we were buying rabbit food – we might well be if they get a whiff of them – I am rather hoping the plants I chose are not caviar to the rabbits.

More wire netting might be called upon.There is nothing so lovely as a few raindrops and I just had to take one or two quick snaps.  I absolutely love these little cones on this pine tree they are like tiny raspberries.

After a leisurely look around, stopping to chat to some friends we bumped into from the village, we had a cup of tea in the cafe and our treat for the day, some dark Scottish fruit bread, buttered of course.

The garden centre also sells cards, a few gifts and pots.  I solved a birthday present whilst browsing and bought a mug for my friend and former colleague Miss T – and that is what it says on the mug – it is identical to the one she bought me last year that says Miss V. It was always our greeting.   She would call out to me on arrival at the office ‘morning Miss V’ and I always responded with ‘morning Miss T’ – it stuck over the years and everyone else always addressed us as Miss V and Miss T like the shop assistants were called back in the day.  Some things I still miss about working!

To catch up on the gardening – yesterday I did no more than tidy the border by the gate.  A bit of a dark corner that the sun hardly reaches – perfect for the ivy but little else.  I was so pleased that the hydrangea I planted last year seems to tolerate the shade and damp well – it is filling out nicely and I have added a clump of pink geranium and ground covering periwinkle.  So far the rabbits have left them alone but I have to cover the roots of the hydrangea with large stones to prevent them digging and nibbling them.  I think the ivy needs a bit more of a trim tomorrow then, weather allowing, I will be moving on to the trellis border.

There is quite a bit to sort out here – a shrub to move and a lot of weeding.

A lot of weeding.

The valerian has grown well now so I am also going to remove the netting and the stones that edge the border.  It has been difficult to weed inside the netting and also difficult to mow up to the stones….. we are left with a bit of a grass fringe.  I will just edge the grass instead.

Ah well my cocoa has arrived now….coutesy of the catering department (as DH calls himself).

Time for bed x

bEAching ~ taking the high road

It is 8 o’clock in the evening and I feel like I am in heaven – I am sitting here in the caravan with a piece of Walter Burnett’s famed Kirriemuir gingerbread (only to be found over the border) and a cup of tea, the tide is in but the sea is quite calm and has faded to a beautiful silvery grey colour and there is a general hush outside – not even a little twitter.   It is so still  even the feather light plumes on the Pampas grass, which are usually dancing about on the sea breeze, are still and the only movement is the odd cow in the field to the side of us that cannot decide where the best grazing is…..and of course Rag, Tag and Bobtail hopping around on the hillside.  The only thing that could make this moment any better would be if I were sitting in our cottage, but that still seems like a distant dream.

As the weather man is forecasting rain here tomorrow we thought we would make the best of the warm sunshine this afternoon; so after lunch we downed our garden tools to take a stroll into the village along the beach, as the tide was well out, and returning by the high road………..stopping at the local store for frozen peas and a Magnum each as a treat.

A visit to the village is often the first thing we do when we come up to the cottage – I like to see if there have been any obvious changes.  Sometimes after only three-weeks between visits things have changed and not always for the better.There is plenty to see along the beach, gulls flying in, gulls flying off…mysterious footprints in the sand and part buried objects and I spend some time searching our pieces of sea glass. I love this rusty sheet of metal it is quite a work of art.

We left the beach by the hidden path to the cottages on Shore Street – one of my favourite places – there is always a seat or two along here for passing the time of day beneath a Palm tree.  The carpet of daisies is like a light covering of snow. At the far end of Shore Street is the Harbour master’s office in this little cottage.  I have a feeling it is no longer used as there used to be a sign on the door.From Shore Street and the harbour we have to climb up the hill into the centre of the village.I just love this ladies garden (I admire it every time we pass) and in particular her clever use of the Japanese Quince edging the full length of her whitewashed wall.  I might just have to pinch this idea for myself though I don’t have any painted walls and without the contrast with the white it would not have the same impact.

Once we had bought our ice creams and read the notice board of What’s On in and around the village we took the high road back home.You may think that I have come away on a Mediterranean holiday with the Palm trees and blue skies but I assure you this really is down on the Mull of Galloway today and the photos have not been enhanced in any way.The high road looks over the beach and harbour – such a beautiful view from up here.

The hedgerows are full of bluebells.Just as you leave the main stretch of houses and before the doctor’s house that stands alone at the junction of the low road (which is now only a path and closed to traffic) is the Community Garden kept neat and tidy by volunteers.  The scarecrow was part of the village Scarecrow Competition last summer but was so well liked it has remained in the garden since.  Once past the doctor’s house we are nearly at our cottage – we are the last house in the village, the secret cottage hidden by the wood – I hope you will keep that quiet.

It is now 9.15pm and just going dark enough to need a light on and late enough for cocoa – then time for bed and a long read.  What bliss – surely this is retirement at last!

dEAr diary ~ times they are a changing

Yesterday was such a gorgeous day – too nice to be travelling – but that is the British weather for you– when I needed a nice warm day to dry the washing…..it rained.

There seemed to be more packing than usual.  We had to fit the old water-butt into the car – we have bought a smaller one for home and will use the larger one at the cottage – good job we hung on to the estate car as it is most useful for ferrying things up and down.

I also had a box of old papers to take for the bonfire and a bag of items to drop off at one of the charity shops in Stranraer.  The two Christmas trees will have to wait until our next visit.

As there is less room in the caravan and less storage space I am not able to keep as much stuff like gardening clothes, towels and bedding and I forget what we have up at the caravan when we are down at home.  We keep a few extras but nothing like we had in the cottage.  So I really need to work out a better packing plan – one that takes me less time to get it all together.  When we were both working and set off for Scotland on Friday tea time I could get the car packed inside an hour – now I seem to take well over two hours and I cannot put my finger on why.

As it was such a lovely day we pulled off the motorway for lunch at the South Lancaster junction.  We had packed a flask of homemade tomato soup which is far nicer than anything you can get at the services.  The area to the right of the M6 is one of outstanding national beauty within the boundaries of the Forest of Bowland and has a wealth of delightful little villages with pretty cottages and those quaint country village churches.  But it is an area we have never explored before.  We drove through Hornby and stopped for lunch on a quiet country lane just outside Gressingham (famous for its ducks) to admire the view.  The flatter plains of farmland are enclosed by the surrounding hills  – not hills like the Pennines at home but a gentle rolling landscape and so green.  We felt like we had driven into another world – no busy roads – just a few sheep grazing and an occasional tractor.  It was so peaceful you could have heard a pin drop.   We will be back on another visit to have a better look around but yesterday we had to press on and reluctantly head back to the motorway.  We made it to the cottage by nightfall but as is often the case it was too dark to see the garden – that is usually a surprise for the morning.

We awoke to more sunshine streaming through the caravan windows today and the temperature was warm too, so after a meeting with a lovely man from highways this morning over a wee problem that affects our woodland we set to in the garden.

A day working in our cottage garden is far more punishing than any Yoga class and we have to be very careful on the first day not to overdo things.  So after lunch we had a walk along the beach and into the village, bought an ice cream (a rather lavish £3.80 for 2 Magnums) and sauntered back. On our first walk to the village after the winter it is surprising how much has changed.  When we first bought our cottage in 2004 it seemed like life down here on the Mull never changed; but increasingly year on year brings more.

This flight of steps that take you from the beach up onto Shore Street at the bottom end of the village by the little harbour used to be fully hidden  by willow bushes that have now been chopped down.  It is actually someones garden but they do not mind you using them – I preferred it when it was a secret entrance hidden by the bushes.At the far end of Shore street you can just about see the Ship Inn – once a thriving little pub but has suddenly closed and up for sale again.  It has been sold on two or three times in recent years and each of the new owners just cannot make a go of it.

The Queens Hotel in the middle of the village is looking so very run down now this could be next.  The notice in their window is supposed to be a joke – but might well be true – either way I am not sure it is helping them draw in more custom!The pub at the top of our lane might end up being the only watering hole in the village soon.

We also noticed that the door of the old corn store down by the harbour that used to be locked with the aid of an old shovel and has been like that for all the time we can remember… has now had the broken windows  boarded up properly, a proper padlock put in place and a notice pinned to the door. …but I thought the little wicker heart a very cute touch.Wards garage in the village now looks very forlorn; the forecourt has been stripped of the petrol pumps as under new laws the owner is no longer allowed to have petrol pumps within 2 metres of the road (he is allowed a Palm tree however!) and without the sale of petrol has been forced to close – such a shame this business had served this man and the community for years and now we all have to drive over 15 miles to the nearest petrol station in Stranraer.  This is a picture we took before the recent closure – such a sad end. On the way back to our cottage we passed the community garden – the person who looked after it is not able to carry on and the local community council are appealing for another volunteer.  Sadly it cannot be us as we are not here permanently.  This might end up being yet another casualty.

So many changes each year – they may only be little but sometimes are quite significant and are just another example of our ever-changing world even in backwaters like this.  I am sure that even in the Forest of Bowland that looks as if it never changes those who live there will see plenty.

A day of contemplating change and munching mouthwatering Magnums. x