creating a simpler Christmas * day 5

Day 5 to 8 is all about creating simple enjoyment and Christmas traditions

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and hoorah, the car is back – fully recovered and repaired and it has also had a good wash (it needed it too). It did cost us just short of £400 for the pleasure – and it probably did breakdown from having a spray of grit, from passing the grit spreader on the motorway, thrown up under the car and into the ball bearing that is part of the hydraulics that snapped – but we are mobile again and we can carry on with plan (A) today which is to drive up to North Yorkshire to collect my mum who is coming to stay for a few days on her annual Christmas shopping visit.

We do very little Christmas shopping these days as mum cannot walk as well as she could but she loves to go to the same places we have always been – they have become a tradition and are quite enjoyable if not a little tiring.

So it will be a trip down to town on Friday, then round to Sainsbury’s to check out their clothes and buy all the family a tin of biscuits each – something my dad started when he was alive; finishing with a fish and chip supper at Compo’s restaurant (broccoli bake for me) where my brother will join us.

Saturday will be a trip out to Derbyshire for lunch – we usually go to the little village of Tissington but as it gets quite busy there now I am wondering whether to reserve a table. Afterwards we will go down to Ashbourne or over to the Chatsworth farm shop or maybe even Bakewell to visit the pudding shop.

On Sunday we will have a leisurely drive back up North to take her home, possibly stopping in Thirsk to browse in the White Rose book shop and see what is on display outside the greengrocers where they sell very reasonable flowers and plants.

The next few days of meandering will form part of my creating Christmas after all it is not all about the ‘making’ but also about enjoying the festivities out there. I love to see all the villages and market towns in Derbyshire dressed and decorated for Christmas – it has that ‘olde worlde’ feeling that is so typically English.

And it is surprising what you can find over a garden wall.

The photos above are all from our previous Christmas trips but I am hoping I will get chance to take a few new photos….. but don’t hold your breath as just getting mum in and out of the car and on her feet and then keeping her there takes a lot of effort -trying to take pictures on top is almost impossible!

At least I hope there will not be any guitar players where we intend to go.

We were given an early Christmas present at the christening with instructions to open on 1st December; I promptly forgot but remembered this morning and what a lovely surprise – a Pukka Advent calendar (though not for DH he doesn’t drink tea – so they are all for me!) and I have a few days to catch up on.

I have no idea what the tea ‘tulsi clarity’ will taste like but no doubt all will become clear on the 7th. Today I have mint refresh – just right with a chocolate mint if I had one….do you think a packet of Maltesers a good substitute?

I hope to pop in over the next few days with tales of our meanderings and a few photos -but you know how it is! x

dear diary :: there’s no place like home

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my last post. I am sure we will be making some time soon to get the cottage plans sorted but it is no use starting when we know we have a Christening to organise, a first birthday party to attend and Christmas looming on the horizon.

After leaving Scotland we drove down to North Yorkshire to stay with my daughter and the two grandchildren Little L and Sweetie. We tend to stay with my daughter now rather than with my mum as she cannot manage washing and changing the bedding anymore in her spare room. She is about 30 miles from my daughter’s house so we are able to take her out for a drive but eat and sleep at my daughters.

On Saturday we went out to a garden centre just outside Northallerton for lunch and on Sunday we had an absolutely beautiful run down through the North Yorkshire moors to Helmsley – a dry sunny day cold and crisp and the trees turning a wonderful golden orange colour. I have no photos as mum requires full attendance on her now all the time we are out.

On the Monday and Tuesday we went out with the girls and one of our visits was to the Druid’s Temple at Swinton Bivouac. Little L ran in and out of the caves and hidey holes that make up this Stonehenge type folly hidden in the surrounding woods. Sweetie just slept through it all as usual and only woke up when food was mentioned!

We travelled down home early yesterday evening and it felt so good to be back and not living out of a suitcase (or rather a selection of those blue checked laundry bags in our case). We didn’t stay anywhere long enough to fully unpack.

The house was quite cool when we arrived and being quite tired after the journey we just unpacked the car, put the food away and then went to bed early with a hot water bottle and read. Today I did the rest of the unpacking and putting things away. I had brought a few hydrangea stems home from the cottage to dry in our kitchen – although from the same bush the colours are quite variable. They do brighten up the kitchen though and I love all the muted autumn colours together.

Being away from home, even in the nicest of places, always makes me glad to be back in my own little house. Sometimes when we have been away and visited houses that are beautifully decorated and presented, like my friend’s new house the other week, it motivates me to have a good clean and declutter in my own, however, when we have been to stay at our daughter’s rented house I am always glad that we do not have to put up with the poor standards of the majority of rented property and it makes our own house look like a palace in comparison.

To say that rented properties are so expensive you get very little in return for handing over the rent money every month. It does make me feel rather cross that a tennant is expected to live with battered and substandard equipment and fittings – missing knobs, mouldy sealant, windows that don’t open, doors that don’t close and fans that won’t work as well as cracked ceilings, damp walls and poorly painted woodwork…the house she is in at present is marginally better than most she has lived in but still has its problems.

DH has spent quite a bit of time, effort and money trying to make some of our daughter’s rented properties just that little bit better to live in. Sometimes just a few little changes can make a big difference. In the present one he replaced the dirty old rag stuffed in the ventilation hole to block the draught in the kitchen wall with a proper air vent cover and this time we bought an old fashioned plunger to help unblock the drains as the plumbing is rather old and the pipework does not have a good fall on it so allows the dirty dishwasher water to gurgle up into the kitchen sink through the plug hole – not very hygenic in my mind. The plunger did help to get the water draining better.

Whilst we have been away there has been a heavy fall of leaves from our cherry tree so I spent half and hour in the garden this afternoon raking them up and piling them into a bag to make leaf mould.

Whilst on our travels I bought these from the little vegetable shop in Thirsk – they always have some very reasonable bedding plants and I couldn’t resist these colourful outdoor clematis which I will put into pots at the side of the front door.

These painted clay pots are waiting to be cleaned and then they will go on one of the stalls at our annual ‘Crisis’ coffee morning in November where we raise money for the homeless at Christmas. They are from a lady in the village where our cottage is in Scotland. She has bought an old mill building to renovate and found hundreds of these pots inside – so she leaves them at her gate for anyone to take away. I think they will be quite nice with spring bulbs in them.

That is most of my news – DH is feeling much better now and has been back in the pantry today doing a bit of sanding. The next step is to buy the paint tomorrow and make a start painting the walls and ceiling. I also need to go to town to buy food and a few bits and bobs.

I am going to make the tea now – something quite quick I think and I must go around and change the rest of the clocks as we were away during the hour change, so I keep thinking it is later than it is!

dear diary :: October…so far, so good …and not so good

Goodness, it is twelve days since my last visit here and during this time it has been quite a rollercoaster. So I thought I might just sneak in and surprise you all. Of course, there have been developments to our recent problems that erupted during the summer – not unexpected but not altogether good news either – it is a long term situation with no long term resolution.

And there has been more illness (nothing serious), some frantic moments, some joyful moments and a moment or two of sheer despair and frustration. I can’t say this is normal life by any means but I still have many blessings to count.

I captured this view across Wigtown Bay last night as we made our way to our cottage in Scotland (well, caravan for those who know the tale). I am in great need of a period of recovery, a little refreshing of body and mind and DH, who has come down with a cold, needs a bit of TLC too. The sea air and our garden will undoubtedly restore us – as Mary says, it is my happy place.

So during all the recent turmoil just what have we been up to?

Our plans to come to Scotland over a week ago changed suddenly the day before we were due to set off. You know the kind of thing where one phone call can change everything – not only did ‘the problem’ suddenly throw up more problems and angst but our younger daughter, in North Yorkshire, was not well and so we dropped everything to go and look after Little L and Sweetie for a few days so she could rest.

It was actually quite pleasant; we spent the morning at Jervaulx Abbey wandering the grounds in the warm sunshine and playing hide and seek amongst the ruins.

We found a secret door to add to Little L’s excitement, but no matter how hard she knocked no-one, not a fairy or an elf, came to answer!

After all that running round we opted for sandwiches in the abbey tea room followed by a visit to the ice cream farm and playground nearby.

Not everyone joined in the fun – some of us were catching up on our beauty sleep!

On the Sunday we battled through the pouring rain with push chair and raincovers, umbrellas and hats and took the children to Preston Park. They have a mock Victorian street with shops and a tea room.

Little L liked the old fashioned toys in the toy shop, especially the jack in a box – she realised very quickly that it would jump out at the very moment the tune got to ‘pop goes the weasel’ and watched it over and over again. In the sweetshop she bought a lolly from the policeman – he was manning the sweet shop because they were short staffed!…..not sure who was manning the police station, maybe the grocer….

On the Monday and Tuesday the weather was good again so we had a drive over to Easingwold and surrounding area. As our daughter felt so much better mid week we decided to return home. Just as we were leaving the mist was swirling across the valley – she has such stunning views to wake up to each morning.

There was not enough time for us to get to Scotland and back before the weekend, when the plasterers were booked to skim the pantry wall, so we stayed home and spent some time in the garden tidying and moving pots around, packing away garden furniture and cleaning out the shed.

It always gives me a sense of satisfaction to clean up the tools for the winter and wipe them with oil. I like the feeling that everything is packed away and in order ready for next year – and when the garden furniture covers are finally in place it signifies the end of the warmer weather and the start of the colder seasons.

Our neighbour is having her back garden completely flagged soon and was throwing away this little white metal table. I thought it too good to go to the tip so with her permission rescued it for our garden.

Just as they had said the plasterers arrived first thing Saturday morning and overboarded the ceiling in the new pantry and skimmed the back wall where the tiles were pulled off. It is now a bare shell.

The work generated quite a bit of dust throughout the downstairs so I had to set to and clean everywhere but that is the worst of the mess over with now and I am quite excited that the next step will be to decorate and then assemble the units. There is hope it will be finished before Christmas.

I borrowed a few more books from the library – one or two that have some fresh ideas in styling the home and one in particular, called Spirit of the home, I am finding quite an interesting read. I don’t know about you but some rooms in our house always feel better than others and some rooms seem to get more cluttered. I am on a mission at the moment to find everything we own a permanent place as well as reducing the amount of stuff we have – I find I have now got three empty drawers in the spare room since I had a bit more of a purge on some old clothes; but it is an ongoing project and one that will soon be put on hold as the Christmas preparations will take over.

We only have a few days here at the cottage because at the end of this week I need to go back to North Yorkshire and visit my mum and take her out for a day or two whilst my sister is away. Then we will go to my younger daughter’s house again on the way back down to stay a day or two with them and take Little L and Sweetie out once again during their half term week. I daresay we will be doing some pumpkin carving.

I am beginning to feel like a nomad and all the packing, unpacking and repacking – this has not been my best career move so far – I had far more time for myself when I was at work!!

meandering :: down country lanes

We decided at the weekend that we would take a day off in the week to go out somewhere – just the two of us – no grandchildren, no daughters and no mother – just us.

An opportunity came on Monday as the rain appeared to have stopped. I was up early and got the washing out on the line, then made a fresh batch of green soup. At 10 o’clock we decided that the weather was holding and good enough to go out; so we hastily filled a flask with hot soup and buttered some bread, brought the washing in again in case of rain, jumped in the car and headed south with a vague idea of going to Buxton. One of my forever favourite places.

We had passed through Glossop and Hayfield but feeling rather hungry by now we pulled off the road at a tiny place called Slackhall just outside Chapel en le Frith and followed a rather narrow winding country lane into what seemed like a hidden valley. Glorious.

We pulled into an opening to admire the view whilst eating our picnic lunch. Afterwards, I couldn’t resist picking a few of the ripe blackberries from the hedgerow down the lane. Just enough for a blackberry and apple pie to herald the start of the coming season.

Mingled with the blackberries were plenty of fat rosy hips of the wild dog roses and along the grassy verge many of the wild flowers have now died back to a delicate skeleton of seedheads in every shade of corn yellow and brown, dancing around here and there as the cooler breeze swept in waves across the valley.

The corkscrew spirals of rose bay willow herb with the fluffy white seed heads so intricate and pretty and these tiny pearl like seeds of the plant below looking like little raindrops – can anyone recognise this flower, it doesn’t seem quite like cow parsley?

Being immersed in these beautiful surroundings amongst nature and undisturbed by traffic certainly does your soul good – it was so peaceful here I really didn’t want to leave. We will be back one day with our sketchbooks.

But sadly, once lunch was over and I had filled my bag with a few choice blackberries, we had to move on in order to leave us with plenty of ‘afternoon’ to look around Buxton.

For those of you that have never been, Buxton is the heighest town in England, has more than its fair share of snow every winter and rain too and is split into two parts – the lower and higher town – divided by the slopes, a tree lined park connecting the two parts – the upper housing the Town Hall and market place and the lower the magnificent Crescent and drinking fountain – the latter a memorial to Samuael Taylor.

We parked at the higher part first and headed for the famous secondhand book shop Scrivener’s. Every corner of the five floors is piled high with books and every tight little space has a seat for browsing. I could get lost in here for hours.

Scriveners, Buxton

Then we walked down to the local museum / gallery but found it closed. Monday is not a good day. Along the snicket by the side of the museum we discovered The Green Man gallery has a new home in this adjoining building.

I had seen the building many times before because it has a distinctive turret formed by a stack of wooden bays on one corner and looks like it needs some repair and attention but has a quaint shabby chic feel to it. I have always wanted to see inside and now, it seemed, was my chance. So we followed the little green footprints to the doorway and went inside for a browse. Every surface, including some of the windows, has been ‘artistically’ painted both inside and out and the gallery spans about four floors with rooms for workshops and dedicated artists.

This was looking out of one of the green bay windows in the turret onto the slopes below through a decorated pane.

My favourite artwork had to be this unusual mosaic set into rocks…..

….and this old fireplace set in a stark, almost empty room in one of the bays and which felt like a piece of art in its own right – a ghost of the past paying homage to the fine building it might once have been.

Once outdoors again we just went for a wander around the town. I can never visit Buxton without taking pictures of the shop fronts. From the simple….

…to the more elaborate. This is by far my favourite – the old chemist on Cavendish Circus – representing a piece of old England – of days gone by – an independant shop displaying goods in the window like a treasure trove for passers buy to browse and admire.

The tiny tobacconist come toy shop on Grove Parade
Potters – the local drapers on Terrace Road – now selling Joules and Sea Salt labels, keeping up with the times whilst still holding onto everything that is endearing about this magnificent old shop.

These shops are just a joy to me – the beautiful architecture and canopied buildings – I am instantly transported back to the Victorian era when this growing Spa town was a desired destination of the genteel ladies flocking here to ‘Take the Waters’.

And then there are the buildings – to attract more visitors to this developing Spa town the Pavillion, built to replace the old Edwardian bandstand in the gardens, opened in 1871 – a glorious glass and steel structure echoing a seaside resort. This was followed by the Octagon Concert Hall – (distant left in the picture below) in 1875 and then at the turn of the century the distinctive Opera House was built.

Buxton and domes it seems go hand in hand – they are everywhere against the skyline, looming up through trees and proudly displaying its long heritage, a stately tribute to past and prosperous times. Buxton is home to the world’s largest unsupported dome (the Devonshire Dome) until more recent times – quite a structural achievement back then. But that is another day, another post.

The gardens around the Pavillion are beautifully kept since being handed over to a management company. Within these iron gates is everything for a good family day out – including a minature train and boating lake.

After a good stroll around it is always worthwhile to visit No6 The Square just opposite the entrance for one of their afternoon cream teas. Indulgent…yes, delicious…absolutely.

No 6 The Square Buxton

dear diary :: back home again

Have you ever felt like you are constantly on the move from place to place and don’t have time to settle. Last Wednesday our younger daughter came to stay for a few days with Little L and Sweetie then we took them back home to North Yorkshire on Saturday staying on at her house so that we could take my mum out on Sunday and Bank holiday Monday and then travelled back down home yesterday after taking the girls out for the day to their local park.

Both DH and I are shattered. Having a mix of two lively children, an infirm mum and the blazing heat consolidated into a few days is not a recipe for relaxation – everyone seems to be needing our services at the moment in one way or another and we are dividing out our time amongst them. So my stress level is a bit high and I am trying hard to remember what I was doing at home before all this. It is not quite the retirement I had imagined.

I know I have paper work to attend to – bank statements to check, meals to plan and a shopping list to write and then I think a little bit of gentle housewifery will be in order – some mindful tidying and dusting. When we have had a few days recovery and the car has been to the garage and fixed of the engine fault which turned out to be one of the filters being blocked then we will be off to the cottage again but at the moment I am quite content to be at home in the peace and quiet.

Recent events in our life have left us quite worn out and our coping skills rather weakened so just when you think ‘things’ in life cannot get any worse it seems that inevitably they do.

We had a bad day last Friday when my daughter and grandaughters were here. It was the first of the warm sunny days after the rain and we decided we would all go on a picnic to our local park and my elder daughter and little Freddie joined us too. So there was both our daughters and 3 grandchildren; seven of us in all, a cool bag full of goodies and a tin of buns Little L had carefully decorated for the occassion.

We found a picnic table in the shade by the duck pond and got our spread out. We were all enjoying ourselves when a man came along with five assorted dogs and sat himself down on one of the empty tables near to us and let all the dogs off the lead for a good run around and toileting whilst he browsed his mobile. Unfortunately they made a bee line towards us and our food.

Although I do like dogs I am nervous around them since an attack by two Alsatian guard dogs kept by a neighbour when I was six – I was taking some tomatoes next door from my dad just as they had been let out of their cage. They rushed towards me before the neighbour could grab them and he shouted to me to stand still – I did but they bit me anyway!

More recently when our own children were only toddlers we were sitting on Scarborough beach and a large dog came bounding up to us and unexpectedly cocked his leg up against me and wee’d on us all soaking me and the babies. I can tell you dog wee in your face is not very pleasant!

So you could say I like dogs at a distance but if one comes towards me I freeze and inwardly panic and I am very watchful when we have the children with us.

I felt quite frightened as the five dogs, all shapes and sizes were suddenly surrounding us and the smallest of them were then under the table snapping at our feet. One in particular kept advancing towards Little L’s mini scotch egg – you can see here in the picture his eyes are fixed on it – DH tried to shoo them away but the man objected and said if we did this they would certainly bite us which caused me to panick more not knowing what to do to protect ourselves.

We asked him politely but firmly to call his dogs back as the children by this time were becomming quite upset and starting to cry especially Little L as she has been bitten before. He just laughed and said this was a ‘dog friendly park’ and the dogs had every right to be off the lead and we shouldn’t come to the park if we didn’t want to be near dogs.

I know he has a point but there is nowhere dog free to go with the children anymore as more and more places even cafes, supermarkets and hotels become pet friendly – so we try to fit in with this best we can but feel we are always on dog watch when we are out. Normally most people do not let their dogs pester you like he did so it is not a huge problem.

He then became very obnoxious and although he called their names a couple of times the dogs just ignored him and continued to pester us as we tried to eat our picnic but by this time I was shaking and felt very threatened by the dogs not leaving us alone. The owner was taking great pleasure in being obstinate and when I said I was fearful because of previously being bitten and that I was visibly shaking he said he hoped I had a heart attack.

Although two of the smaller dogs eventually disappered off into the rest of the park the whole situation had become impossible so in the end we had to pack up our food and retreat to a bench within the tiny fenced play area which is dog free but with no picnic tables or grass. The whole incident was quite distressing.

Later in the day we happened upon the park caretaker – he knew the man we had encountered and the dogs and said they had had trouble with him taking his dogs into the library too and other dog owners in the park. He sympathised and said he should have kept them away from our food but said there was nothing he could do as dogs are allowed in the park and it is only advisory they are kept on the lead and cannot be enforced – he then made a quick retreat.

What a shame that some dog lovers can’t appreciate that not everyone feels the same about dogs and are frightened by them no matter how lovable and cute they seem to them and we are certainly not keen on them hovering around us while we are eating our food. So in contrast it was so lovely to go to Masham park yesterday where they have a much larger dog free fenced play area with picnic tables and grass within it and all the children could play happily and free of stepping in dog poo.

To further compound our stress after the park incident we arrived home to find the washer had gone into fault mode and it took DH an hour to retrieve the dripping wet towels inside. We are now waiting on the engineer and no doubt more expense.

Ah well life continues. What else can go wrong?

Hope you all had a wonderful Bank holiday and enjoyed the weather – bit hot at times for me.

PS – this post has just reminded me that we saw a minature horse in Sainsbury’s in Northallerton a while ago. Apparently they are being trained as service animals in place of dogs. It did sound rather odd hearing the clip clop on the tiles down the aisles – usually with the service dogs you never hear them just see them.

pleasurable :: some good moments amongst the bad

Thank you for the wonderful supportive comments to my last post – as Sybil Witters On would say – ‘you are all awesome’ and I can’t tell you how lovely it was to hear from you all. I know there are plenty of readers that are also going through some difficult times and blogland is certainly a very supportive community.

It has not been all doom and gloom here – there have been highlights and it has been helpful to me in preparing this post to see that amongst the bleakest of days there has been some bright spots – so this is a quick round up of my last few weeks.

We have been harvesting the ‘fruits’ of our labours with salad freshly picked from the two wooden tubs I planted earlier this year. The land cress and radishes have been particularly good.

On the morning of my birthday I baked a batch of mini cheese scones and then some fruit ones. I had just enough flour to make a Victoria sandwich cake that I filled with fresh cream and strawberries. I usually have friends and family dropping by during the day and like to have something to offer them with a drink.

We were still munching late into the evening when the last of our friends came round, luckily there was just enough left over for the Aussie cousin when he arrived next day.

Not knowing him very well, but hearing that he liked gardens, we decided to have a trip down into Derbyshire to visit the Winster Open Gardens. Winster is one of the oldest and most historic villages in the Peak district, full of quaint cottages and beautiful well kept gardens – the pub itself dates back to 1472 – so we thought it would be of interest to an Aussie who would not see anything quite like this in Australia.

It was one of those really hot days that we had (if you can remeber them before all the rain) and I was just coming down with a nasty chest virus but felt I had to soldier on to entertain our guest so I felt a little disappointed at the lack of enthusiasm he showed for anything we saw. However, DH and I enjoyed ourselves – especially the cream teas and Morris Dancers and we saw some very impressive gardens and delightful little corners.

I was in bed after this for a few days and DH had to entertain the Aussie by himself – I did feel a bit bad about it but not as bad as the virus was makng me feel!

It took a while for me to get back on my feet so Little L’s visit had to be postponed for a few days. It was still the hot weather when she came and we decided to take her out to a nearby village of Marsden to Tunnel End for a trip on the canal shuttle and a picnic.

We walked along the canal from Marsden until we reached Tunnel End and the little cafe. At this point the canal disappears into the hillside to reappear in Diggle over the hill – the tunnel is 3.5 miles long and takes 2 hours to travel through by canal boat. There is only just enough room for a single boat in the tunnel and it is quite dark and cold – I believe that to get the original horse drawn boats through the tunnel at one time you had to walk it through using your feet against the sides of the tunnel. Goodness knows what they did with the horse!

I know I would feel rather claustrophobic going through there and I am not sure Little L would have liked it so after our picnic we opted for the little shuttle instead that took us back down the canal to where we had parked at the station in Marsden.

Then we walked down to the village for a homemade ice cream. Marsden is a large bustling village sitting at the head of the Colne Valley with plenty of local independant shops, a small Co-op, and a few cafes and bars…and its own micro brewery and pub. It is nestled into the moors that stretch over to Greater Manchester and was once an important place for the woollen industry and dominated by the vast stately mills. Some of the cottages are quite old dating back to 1610 and, a new discovery to me, they still have the old village stocks – apparently last used in 1821!.

The Marsden Mechanics Hall is central to the village – looking as grand as any town hall and home to many events and activities it is the hub of the village, in fact we have been to a weddding reception here.

The River Colne flows through the centre of the village with a spectacular waterfall that has glints of gold like tinsel on a sunny day as it crashes over the weir.

We had plenty of trips to the park before Little L went home for her birthday and a party with her friends from school. She had decided on a local soft play centre as a venue and we went along to help. I was not prepared – the sheer volume of noise in these places is ear shattering and if you didn’t suffer with tinnitus before you arrive you certainly will when you leave! But a good day was had by all and then it was time for a visit to my mum’s.

We took her out to Saltburn on the Saturday and then Eggleston Hall on the Sunday – still enjoying that long spell of warm weather.

Eggleston Hall gardens are a real treasure – having mum with us now limits the amount of photos I can take whilst holding on to her. There is a nursery attached to the gardens with the most wonderful stock of plants if you have the time to browse. Sadly the browsing days are over now for mum but she did find a nearby bench to sit on whilst we had a quick wander round.

We so enjoyed Saltburn that we took Little L there the following weekend. The weather was not as good but it didn’t spoil her absolute pleasure playing on the beach.

This coming week we are having Little L to stay again but this time Sweetie and mum are coming too for a few days. That is if the car gets sorted as we are going to be fetching them. We suddenly had one of those engine warning lights appear at the weekend so the garage will be having a look today to see why. I have a feeling this could be another expense we don’t need at the moment.

I hope you have all had an enjoyable summer – I am trying to catch up with all the news. Going up and down to North Yorkshire and looking after the Aussie and the grandchildren has left little time for anything else this summer. At least the virus has gone and I am feeling a lot more human now. Whilst we have had a run of bad weather I have been having quite a tidying session in the house and crossing a few jobs off the list.

Today I am going to make some nutloaf and plan a few days meals ready for our next visitors. My washing and ironing is completely up to date for once and yesterday I managed a few hours in the garden removing what seemed like a thousand self seeded Aquilegia plants from the front borders.

Have a good day – back soon 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

meandering :: the Bonsall magical gardens

A stroll around the beautiful village of Bonsall in Derbyshire on the trail of their Magical Gardens last weekend. This post is dedicated to Lucinda from Lucinda Sans blog to provide her with a little piece of Englishness. (Sorry Lucinda no tea shops though).

Bonsall is set in the hillside above Cromford village, the nearest main town being Matlock and with Derbyshire being completely landlocked the nearest place to a seaside is the stunning Matlock Baths along the dale; complete with illuminated ‘promenade’ running alongside the river and traditional seaside shops.

Bonsall we found is a village with two parts – the upper and lower levels and a very steep climb between the two. If was a very hot day and we really felt the heat as we went up hill and down dale on this trail – you need plenty of puff to complete it – but there are refreshments waiting at the top should you need them.

For me the village open gardens are not always just about the gardens on show but discovering the unusual, the quirky and that mysterious ingredient that makes a village special and more than just a collection of buildings. And this one is different to many – it has been named not just active but hyperactive as the residents all pull together in so many ways to deliver a wonderful village life here that most people would envy.

Starting to climb up the steep hill to the top; the cottages are snuggled into the hillside with gardens that require plenty of terracing made out of the beautiful soft grey of the Derbyshire stone, covered in moss and a tumbling of flowers everywhere.

Notice above the way the same plants, red geraniums along the front wall and in the background lavender, have been placed in rows but in differing pots giving a very striking arrangement.

These little water fountains and wells are everywhere in the village but this is quite a notable one as I love the way it is the community centre at the top of this hill for the bus stop and post box.

Every now and then a little lane would appear off to one side with more gardens to discover.

It was steep going up but seemed even steeper on the drop down the other side. As we continued further down into the valley it was noticeable how the planting becomes very lush with trees and vegetation. Flowing alongside the road is a little stream, often disappearing under some of the houses and then popping up unexpectedly in a garden or two.

Above must have been the tiniest garden on show – a strip only three feet wide between the cottage wall and the roadside where the stream had been left uncovered and only paved to enable access to the front door. Stunning.

This house below is one of my favourites. No showy planting here – just a relaxing vista of greenery, such a peaceful garden with the gentle sound of the trickling water from the well in the corner.

Every now and then there was an alley way…and a footpath….. it would have been so tempting to have explored where they go but with 30 gardens to see no time for detours.

Some gardens had the quirky – I absolutely would love this outside lav and what looked like an adjoining laundry in my garden.

Then there are the eye catching corners where plants have just grown into an unusual or quirky display!

Still winding our way down the hill (it goes on for ever) the road opens out into an open space with houses round about and we find the village cross – this must be the highest set of steps for a village cross that I have ever seen and forms the centre of the upper village even though it is halfway down the steep hill. The road going off at the left corner leads you to the church. I will take you there another day.

On the way to the church are more tiny cottages with verges crammed full of wild flowers and cottage flowers mixed together producing a wonderful untamed show.

Sometimes just a little splash of colour in a pot is all that is needed to make a big statement.

This garden below so appealed to me – the tidy ramshackle – a brilliant collection of bits and bobs brought together in a display by the shed. Notice how the well cut short grass round about gives it more prominence. It reminds me of those little unkempt gardens they try to replicate at the Chelsea show.

The garden above was so tiny it was called a ‘peep over’ and you viewed it from the garden gate. The owners had cleverly used an open metal gate to allow more of a view and presumably let more light into the garden. I so wanted to walk down that little gravel path. Instead I walked up the hill by the side and peeped over the wall. What you don’t see from the gate is the ‘hidden’ table and chairs beyond the planting – so well thought out.

On the way further down the hill now and back to our starting place in the lower village. Here you will find the Fountain Monument in the centre and the tiny village stores – if you are passing do go for an ice cream.

I will leave you with yet another photo of how you can make any little nook and cranny, shed or corner look appealing.

dear diary :: rest and restore

Oooops….how did so much time pass by since my last post – it has been more than busy here since our return from Scotland at the beginning of May, a bit of a roller coaster, and I am feeling rather fraught and fed up at the moment. Mum has been on another visit and they don’t get any easier. By the end of the last day, as lovely as it is to see her, she is such high maintenance now and has me in such a tizzy. I certainly needed my calming yoga class this morning. She is steadily going downhill, no major or serious illness more an accumulation of niggly complaints that are limiting her mobility and confidence; she is constantly anxious about her deteriorating condition which is making her frustrated and a bit demanding. She would like things to be as they were when she was young and fit and well – sadly her body and mind will never return to that….. but that is true for all of us as we age, and she is both in denial and expectant that the doctor is going to hand her some magic pill to restore her to her old self…….and that is not going to happen. In fact the more tablets she takes the more problems are occurring because of the side effects. It feels like we are fire fighting added to which her daily diet of sausage rolls, mini cheddar crackers and Magnum lollies in place of a good balanced meal is not helping but she wouldn’t agree! Still at 93 does it really matter if she is enjoying them.

Yesterday we took her back home to North Yorkshire and on the way we stopped in Thirsk for lunch. It was beyond busy with the bank holiday visitors and the outdoor market taking up most of the parking places near to the shops and cafes. With no disabled spots available mum had to hobble along the bumpy cobbles with her bad knee (it was actually her good knee until she managed to twist it badly on Wednesday and is now back to a pronounced limp). After lunch she insisted on walking to Boots as she had her mind fixed on getting some Ibuprofen to help with the inflammation on her knee. When the pharmacist knew she took blood pressure tablets she advised against taking the Ibuprofen tablets but suggested continuing with the Ibuprofen gel the doctor had prescribed as it is more localised (taking tablets can cause kidney failure in people with high blood pressure). Mum reluctantly put the tablets back. Later on though whilst shopping in Sainsbury’s in Northallerton I discovered she had sneaked a packet into her trolley! What can I do? She is determined to take them and ignore the advice. She is looking for a quick fix. Aren’t we all!

The Christening of Sweetie took place on the Sunday before last at the little church in Healey, North Yorkshire; a beautiful church in a beautiful village setting and at the moment one of the churches taking part in the Art Installations Trail around the Masham area – for anyone interested see the link here.

It was a gloriously sunny day and the vicar, who was on TV last week and married my daughter in 2008, delivered a very memorable address during the service reminding us that whatever shape, colour or creed we are all unique and handed ‘mum’ a picture of a Zebra as a reminder for Sweetie when she is older (each Zebra’s stripes are unique to them). We sang the hymn with gusto…….well the vicars wife did….’One more step along the way we go’ and then Sweetie was doused with the baptism water…..Sweetie did not take kindly to this.

Making the dress was a labour of love – a joy to make but I am not sure it was my best work – I found my eyes are not as sharp now for such intense sewing and wearing reading glasses all the time is a bit cumbersome and gave me eye strain. Added to which I spent so much time looking down that by the time the dress was finished my neck and shouders had become so tense I was quite dizzy moving my head.

We had a change of mind about the fabric and in the end we used some leftover ivory silk from my daughter’s bridesmaid dresses and Nottingham tulle lace left over from when I made wedding dresses.

If nothing else making this dress helped me to see that there is no way I could do this kind of intense sewing now – any ideas I have had recently about starting another business in this line are firmly quashed. As much as I love to sew and make things my life has moved on now, I am older and slower, and I must move on with it and accept that any sewing I do will be as a hobby….for pleasure only and something not time limited. Although I enjoyed making the dress nothing else got done and I feel like I am back to square one with the house. You should see it now (well no you shouldn’t it is an absolute tip). I have washing and ironing to catch up with, phone calls to make, general cleaning, gardening and it is now time for a visit to Scotland again.

During all the must do’s we have managed a few days out and about – this is the best time of year to look around other gardens. We spent a lovely day walking around the hidden gardens of Little Ouseburn, near York – some of the participants have been opening up their gardens for many years now and it is interesting to see how they have developed and changed over time.

Little Ouseburn Gardens

After my Yoga class last Tuesday we had a trip out to York Gate gardens in Leeds – one of my favourite small gardens now in the care of the charity Perennial and their many volunteers.

I am in need of rest and restoration at the moment – a few days relaxing and time to think about the days ahead and what I might plan to do during June. You may have noticed my lack of comments recently – I have been reading along with my favourite blogs as much as I can and I hope normal service will resume soon.

bEAching ~ rambling around the borders and New Luce

I must put plasters on the shopping list.

DH was making anti-bunny cages for the plants yesterday and had a slight argument with a hacksaw.  Ouch.  This is not unusual when he is doing ‘things’ in the garden – sometimes it’s his head, sometimes his fingers – luckily for him today it was only his finger.

This is why a flat tyre might prove fatal one day if we needed to get to A&E.

I continued in the trellis border….. all 40ft of it.  It is beginning to take shape, well some kind of shape – not exactly the shape I had intended but I can titivate it later;  flowing curves are not easy to cut so they look good from all directions…..…. but for now the hard work is done, the lawn edged, the bed weeded and the stones removed other than the ones that are there for decoration or bunny protection.

This is the end of the border before….and after……When I get the rest of the planting in and there is less bare earth and more colour it will start to look better.  As this is the seaside garden I am planting a mix of seaside plants – Valerian (a good spreader and so far anti-rabbit), lavender, Santolina, kniphofia, Erigeron and thrift.

No doubt by our next visit it will once again be covered in weeds and maybe bunnies.

Rag, Tag and Bobtail have now been joined by bibbity and bobbity, hippity and hoppity and what seems like many distant cousins.

But the sly old fox is very close on their tails – hiding in the gorse – just waiting his chance. I am still keeping a few bunny cages in place just in case…..

…and a few stones to prevent nibblers from damaging the roots whilst the new plants ‘settle in’ and grow stronger.

At last I have uploaded the photos of our little venture last Thursday.  After climbing the ‘mound’ we set off travelling north on the road to New Luce that runs on the eastern side of the Stair estates at Castle Kennedy just outside Stranraer.  Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a Hen Harrier flew overhead (Lord Stair had mentioned to DH sometime ago that they are nesting on his estate at Castle Kennedy), a beautiful bird and quite a size with a very large wingspan.  It came extremely close to us and swooped past gliding gracefully into the woods.  Apparently, there are not many in the UK so we are lucky to see one.  Sadly it was one picture that I didn’t manage to take.

New Luce is a tiny conservation village part of the Glenluce parish. It is on the road to nowhere and developed as a village through the necessity of having a meeting place for all the local outlying farms of such a large parish.  It is like an oasis in the dessert only here it is a lush oasis in the middle of moorland.  The locals affectionately call it Nineveh.  There are 62 homes and about 90 residents of all ages.   It is positioned where two rivers meet – the Main Waters of Luce and the Cross Waters of Luce.  Like the river the two main streets of the village form a T shape each of which has a bridge over one of the rivers.

Take any of the four roads to New Luce and you will not pass through any other village or hamlet on the way,  save Glenwhilly, which I believe is nothing more than a couple of houses clustered at the old station on the way north to Barhill;  strangely it boasts Scotland’s most remote signal box though goodness knows where the passengers would have come from in such an uninhabited place.   Like New Luce , the station at Glenwhilly closed in 1965.

Glenluce, a small rural village to the South of New Luce has a village shop and is the closest place 5 miles away, and where the younger children now attend school, Stranraer is 9 miles to the South west and Barrhill 13 miles to the North so it feels more isolated than remote;  surrounded on all sides by open moorland (that has not yet fallen to any great swathe of forestry planting) and where sections of the winding road are single track with passing places and cattle grids.  As you descend down from the moors towards the village the scenery changes into a more gentle landscape of farmland with farmsteads dotted here and there….– complete with grazing sheep…. lots of them and on the road too….. and in no hurry. We entered at the lower end of Station Street.Just to the left of the picture stands this old iron bath tub filled with an array of flowers.  Just one of the many repurposed artefacts around this village. At one time this old tub was to be found in one of three Inns as this notice tells me.  That is a lot of drinking establishments for such a small place.  Interestingly in the 1846 census there were not only 3 Inns but several village shops serving 278 villagers and a school attended by 50 children.It is a haven for the red squirrel;  sadly we saw none on our visit but I just love the way the locals in this area make the road signs their own and have added a cheeky little apple sticker – often the cow signs have been adapted to resemble the belted galloways with the white band. And just look at this wonderful play park for the handful of children who live here. Libbie would have loved to play in here for the afternoon.Over the Main Water bridge now and I just had to take a picture of this house with the sun pod in the garden – I have only ever seen them displayed in John Lewis before and wondered who bought them!They had a collection of rare breed sheep wandering about- the one at the back resembling a big teddy bear was so cute.

Opposite is the little village shop and Post Office offering free herbs in the window boxes, beside it is a red telephone box (mobile signal is poor) and a post box – all a good sign of a thriving village.With limited stock and limited opening hours and a bus service only on 3 days of the week and no train link you do not want to run short of anything living out here.At the top of Station Street is the junction with Main Street and what appears to be a little public garden, where a cottage once stood, no doubt lovingly tended by the local villagers.

It must be one of the best kept villages I have seen in ages and I love the way they reuse, repurpose and recycle so many discarded objects, turning them into planters and sculptures as you will see on our little walk around.

At the back of the garden was a flight of gravel steps leading up to this monument – we couldn’t quite read the inscription on the stone but given its position here it must be quite important to the village.The gravelled path continued along what seemed to be a little lane running high above Main Street at the back of the row of cottages.  Here we found some very curious allotment style gardens with sheds…..I have never seen so many sheds in such a tiny village….everyone had a shed, or two or three! The Ferrets Nest certainly appeared to be more of a weekend chalet than a shed.  And one or two had a caravan – possibly in use!And whichever wall you looked over everyone had a display of household artefacts and recycled objects …..or even an old ruin in their back gardens.Eventually the little lane came out onto the main street again.

Some of the cottages had quaint window displays inside and out….

and fancy wall plaques… sadly not all were delightful – this window is displaying a notice announcing a closure –It appears that the last of the Inns, the Kenmuir Arms Hotel, is also now ‘closed until further notice’ – the owners having closed up in the winter of 2018, gone abroad and as yet not returned.  Though noticing a skip outside the back with mattresses dumped in it I am thinking perhaps they are not reopening.  It was a popular Hotel – especially with walkers… and campers who could pitch their tents down at the bottom of the Hotel garden by the water ….with the midges. Going further along Main Street and over the second of the bridges (Main Bridge) I came across this cute little cottage with a recent extension… It is possible it might have been a Toll house.This garden outside this chalet caught my eye – where else in the world would you come across a scene like this on the road side where there is an open invitation to passers by to play with the little toy cars…….and no one steals them! There were so many unusual things to see in this village I will take a break here and continue in part two a few steps away at the church and village memorial hall.

Apologies if there are spelling mistakes, it is late, I am tired and WordPress spellcheck has disappeared off the editing toolbar.

Back soon x