beaching ~ homeward bound

Our time at the cottage came to an end, as it inevitably does, all too soon with many gardening tasks left unfinished or not even started but we just have to accept we do what we can in the time available.

Of course in hindsight travelling home on a Bank Holiday Monday was not the best of ideas but one borne out of the fact that our half way overnight stop in Carlisle at the Premier Inn was so much cheaper on the Sunday night.

It was exceptionally busy, both in the hotel and on the roads.

Once I am orientated towards home I suddenly get a longing to be back and reacquainted with all my own things, especially my bed, so we didn’t have a leisurely trip down this time. We left Carlisle at about 10am and as we neared the top of the Lakes the traffic had increased considerably but no queues had formed and we seemed to keep rolling. Our main stop was when we pulled off the M6 at junction 36 (Crooklands Interchange) and headed for Burton in Kendal, hoping to find a cafe for a drink.

A very interesting village with some grand architecture which I thought had quite a French influence in style.

Some interesting street names too.

Sadly, the little village only has a shop with a coffee machine and no tea, the Kings Arms is presently closed for a refurb and the main road through was like a race track and parking non-existent for visitors……I took a few pictures on a quick walk around – it is a long drawn out village and halfway along we decided to cut the exploration short and never made it as far as the church as the noise level of the through traffic drove us back to the car and we moved on ending up at the notorious Lancaster motorway services with a hundred other fellow travellers lunching at Costa. The queue for service was long and the vegetarian selection limited but luckily we managed to grab the very last two mushroom, egg and spinach baps to tide us over – but again with all the noise and grubby tables we didn’t stay long.

Once we arrived home and unpacked I realised how exhausted I was but a quick walk to our village was necessary to pick up some fresh milk and rolls. We came across the end of the village Scarecrow Trail and stopped here and there to admire the ‘Royal’ scarecrows.

The ‘quick walk’ took much longer than we thought and once back home again I prepared a nourishing lentil and leek stew for tea and then relaxed in front of the TV for a while….promptly falling asleep while the tea cooked itself on the hob.

I promised pictures of the cottage garden. As we left many plants had grown over the fortnight we had stayed there and were just about to bloom. The ferns had grown so much in height unfurling as they go.

I was surprised at how many primulas had sneaked up around the pond as I thought we had lost a lot under the heavy leaf fall from the sycamore it lies beneath – they might be a spectacular sight that we will miss by our next visit.

Looking down from the lane it all looks under control but believe me in a garden like this with the wild flowers like red campion and blue alkanet poised and ready to invade nothing is under my control….we only manage it.

This is the view from below looking up toward the lane – doesn’t look so good now from this view does it!!

DH has still to finish the staging – but it was never going to be this visit and I had to content myself by removing as many of the overgrown wild planting of campion, buttercups, alkanet, some extremely viscious nettles and the straggling goosegrass, as I could – uncovering the few actual plants that had not been nudged out or given up. It was a place I didn’t get to weed last year and the results are always the same – the invaders move in swiftly.

These old terracotta drainage pipes I use for herbs. I had to clear them of the old ones as they had become huge and woody. The rosemary had reached 5 feet with a four foot root and had lost the will to live – probably through exhaustion a couple of years ago and no amount of pruning back encouraged it back to its former state. It is a sheltered and sunny and spot by the conservatory and the open ended drainage pipes act as a deep rooted bed and the soil here is very fertile so I will set some herb seeds at home and plant fresh ones again this year.

The solomon’s seal is one of my favourite plants in the lower wood and they continue to spread and march along quietly interspersed now with the bluebells – well, unfortunately they are the Spanish variety set by the previous owner and there is no hope of ever getting rid of them to replant with the English variety so I just have to tolerate them – but they look equally as beautiful at this time of year covering the wood floor.

I left a little patriotic contribution to the Coronation celebrations next week.

The dicentras are spreading nicely again and the white have now merged with the pink.

The cherry tree keeps going – it needs attention too but we keep thinking it will not survive much longer – it must be getting on for 50 years old, has some form of hard fungus at the bottom of the trunk and has had to undergo some rather extreme pruning in its time but it merrily carries on flowering each year although the striking pink candyfloss that looms up over the weeping larch is not as abundant as it once was.

The tale of our latest confrontations with the new site owner will be told another day. As always it tainted our visit somewhat – my head says to leave but my heart is still drawn to our little tumble down cottage with its wild garden looking out over the sea.

meandering ~ Portpatrick

We took some time out on Thursday to go over to Portpatrick, a little harbour village known locally as the Port. It was an overcast and grey day with a cool wind coming off the Irish sea. The fields were full of baby lambs of various sizes and markings – these playful ones came to the fence when we stopped the car to look at them.

Very little was open but we had a look in the Smuggler’s Cove and the Lifeboat shop. I always try to buy at least a card from them – the lifeboats are mainly funded through donations and every little helps.

We had our picnic lunch of homemade mushroom soup and fresh rolls in the car (the only warm place) and afterwards braved a walk around the harbour and then along the back roads past the putting green and eventually coming out again on the main road.

We headed for the old parish church, abandoned long ago in 1842 and now just a ruin, and situated on the north side of St Patrick Street in the centre of the village. Strangely the church is dedicated to Saint Andrew rather than Saint Patrick and was built in 1628-29 to serve the newly created Portpatrick parish. The building is in a cruciform or Greek cross plan and may be the earliest cruciform church in Galloway.

The adjacent graveyard continued to be used for burial until the later 19th century when it was replaced by the New Cemetery on Portree Terrace. Below must be one of the earliest graves.

I am always drawn to this little forgotten church as the graveyard is full of relatives on the maternal side of DH (who was born in Stranraer – the nearby town) and whose family are of the Kerr clan and lived throughout the area. They are said to be left handed and their clan towers had circular staircases that spiralled in an anti-clockwise direction rather than the usual clockwise.

The warlike Clan Kerr trained to use their weapons with their left hands. Scottish Poet James Hogg (1770-1835) wrote, in The Raid of the Kerrs:

But the Kerrs were aye the deadliest foes
That e’er to Englishmen were known
For they were all bred left handed men
And fence [defence] against them there was none

and Walter Laidlaw wrote, in The Reprisal:
So well the Kerrs their left-hands ply
The dead and dying round them lie

And if you are wondering DH is right handed but two of the grandchildren are quite markedly left handed – maybe skipped a generation.

Many of the graves contain a whole family of people and at the top of the gravestone it gives the length and breadth of the plot.

On close inspection there are numerous spelling mistakes and whole words left out like on this one where the actual length is omitted.

I love this gravestone that resembles a doorway into a secret garden. At the moment the grass is covered in a sea of bluebells – who wouldn’t want their soul to rest here.

We continued along the North Crescent – GR postboxes are quite rare to find and this one warns of a revised collection times. Thankfully it is still in use – I always think it is so sad to see them in disuse with a piece of wood blocking off the posting slot.

And of course no visit is complete without taking a photo of my favourite little house beside the harbour lighthouse. I just love the striking colours and brightly painted wooden shutters that protect against the raging winter sea.

We have spent most of our time in the garden whilst the weather has been good but there has been a change today with some heavy showers and quite a damp feeling. There have been days when it has felt like hard labour and we are now ready for a rest. It is almost time for us to pack up and leave and we will of course miss so many of the plants about to burst forth. We have had upsets too from the new owner of the little caravan site beside us – it is becoming all too frequent now – but more about that later when I put some pictures on another day of the work we have done.

Have a lovely weekend everyone and welcome to all my new followers. xx

dear diary ~ holiday almost over

I am writing this in a few snatched moments of peace while daughter and granddaughters are out for a wee while. The quiet and calm is just what I need for an hour or two to recharge.

On Easter Sunday we had all the family for tea and the sun managed to come out for a while so the grandchildren could enjoy the Egg Hunt around the garden. Of course we had to make sure each of them found a similar amount of eggs so I hid some quite well so they were not so easily spotted.

The chicken casserole went down a treat and I got the thumbs up from my younger daughter who was chief taster during the cooking process – being vegetarian I never get to taste what I cook if it contains meat. Whilst dinner was cooking the children made me some lovely Easter name cards for the table using a sheet of stickers I found in our local post office and crayons.

They also helped with some of the decorations – I had bought some of those white chalk marker pens for glass and let the grandchildren loose drawing patterns on my windows – they thought it great fun….and yes it does wash off.

Little Freddie was far too excited to eat very much, being an only child (though not for long now) he likes nothing better than having Little L and Sweetie to play with him and didn’t really want to stop for tea. DH played hide and seek with them and at one point Sweetie came to say that they had searched the house and could not find grandad anywhere – which is surprising as our house is not that big and DH not that small!

Yesterday we took all the grandchildren and their mums out to Portland Basin Museum in Ashton-under-Lyne. They have a lovely old fashioned indoor street of shops, a doctors, schoolroom, pub and chapel complete with dummy people dressed in appropriate costumes. They can seem a little creepy at times as they are so life like a bit like the wax works.

How many people remember £, shillings and pence.

There is plenty to see and do for little ones including a craft session making paper bunnies and mice – the museum is completely free and the craft sessions only £1.30 a child – so very reasonable in price for a lot of entertainment.

We had to eat our packed lunches in the car though as it was bucketing down with rain just as we arrived. Luckily, the museum is mostly indoors with a picnic area outside by the canal and being the holidays they were running boat trips on the canal. There was a big queue for the boat but we decided against a trip in the rain – perhaps another day.

I was a bit worried that the boat might have been this old wreck by the notice….luckily not…it was an old barge and you sat inside out of the rain but seeing through the steamed up windows wasn’t easy according to the people getting off the boat.

Tonight’s tea will probably be pizza with sweetcorn – finding meal combinations that fit everyone’s likes and dislikes is not getting any easier – though surprisingly there is never a problem with puddings – they can be too hot, cold, crunchy, sweet, sour or full of bits but they still eat them with no complaints!

Today was our last day with the grandchildren and tomorrow, if I have any energy left, it will be all hands to the deck to try and get ready for Scotland. The weather here has turned Siberian cold with an overcast sky and outbreaks of rain all day so no washing was done because I couldn’t guarantee I would be able to get it out on the line to dry and there is no space inside at the moment. I was too tired to go into the garden too so there will be jobs to finish before we go if we can. It suddenly occurred to me that I won’t be able to sow any seeds until we get back from Scotland as there will be no-one around to water them and they will probably need doing almost daily in the greenhouse if I cannot open the ventilator – so it would be a big ask of my neighbour who generally steps in and does a little watering whilst we are away. Oh well I will just have to hope they germinate quickly when we get back.

Hope you all had a lovely Easter holiday xx

dear diary ~ always the unexpected

Well it is in my life!

I thought things were going too well but after the last few days I am resigned to thinkng that my life is never going to be simple or straightforward.

Last Sunday night we made an unexpected trip up to North Yorkshire to stay with my younger daughter and our two granddaughters, Little L and Sweetie, as she was in a fix. Her car had broken down the week before and it was still waiting inspection at the garage it had been recovered to. It wasn’t evident if it was the battery or the alternator or something else and the garage were fully booked with work for a fortnight. Last week she managed to borrow a car from a friend but that was not possible for this week so it fell to us to help out as she had the children to get to school and nursery and herself to work.

We stayed until Wednesday night when she managed to hire a car to get her through Thursday and today until the car is fixed, hopefully by clse of play tonight. Before we came back down home we drove up to see mum with flowers for her birthday which was yesterday – it was a nice surprise for her as she wasn’t expecting us even though we could only stay an hour. I never make firm plans for visiting her now as she gets confused over dates and times so I tend to tell her the night before a visit but in this case I didn’t even mention we might call just in case we couldn’t. My sister took her out for a meal yesterday to celebrate her 97th birthday.

I was telling Sweetie who is only four that great granny has now had the pleasure of 97 birthdays and very soon in 3 years time, fingers crossed, she might be celebrating one hundred – she was impressed and keeps asking her mum now when she will be 100 (Sweetie that is not great granny).

So back home again and we found it had been snowing whilst we were away and it is mighty cold – not good for the heating bills. On totting up the receipts for the four days away we had spent the grand sum of £110, mostly on bits and pieces and buying snacks and drinks out to keep us going as well as bits of shopping for evening meals and lunches. DH also did a few jobs around the house for my daughter – one of them was replacing the sealant around the kitchen worktop and along the bath – the price of a tube of sealant now is £9.80. As he has only used half the tube I suggested he replaced some of the sealant in our shower with what is left before it goes dry in the tube.

I was amazed at how the money adds up so quickly. We didn’t have time to fill a flask on the way up and I need a stop to give my back a break from sitting in the car so our first spend was the motorway Costa – £9.20 for two drinks and a packet of oat biscuits which we shared. On Monday our daughter was working around Northallerton all day so after dropping her off we had a look around the town and then went to Strikes garden centre cafe just outside the town centre for lunch but what a rip off. DH had the cheese and chutney sandwich which was served with coleslaw and side salad but his double espresso was charged as 2 @ £2.25 making it £4.50 (most places charge about 70p to £1 for the extra shot of coffee in a double).

I am not a sandwich fan and prefer baked potato with cheese. Their menu only had baked potato with Chicken Tikka or a Butternut Squash Curry filling and they were both £8.95 and more of a main meal. I had wanted something a bit lighter so enquired if they did a plain baked potato with just a little cheese and coleslaw. Yes, the lady said that was fine but when it came to paying they charged me for a Chicken Tikka and I pointed out I was having cheese and coleslaw but she said it would be the same price as the Chicken Tikka as they had no other price point to press on the till. So our light lunch cost a staggering £22.55 – needless to say we will not be going again.

I bought mum a lovely bunch of mixed colour tulips and stopped to get her a take out cappuccino and a lemon tart (her favourite) from a local Costa. Unfortunately, although I asked for a lemon tart and they had plenty and it said lemon tart on the receipt, when I took it out of the bag to give to mum it was a cherry bakewell! Still she enjoyed them.

Today it is little Freddie’s 4th birthday – so we will be going to see him with his card and present. He is super excited to be having a Paw Patrol party with a few friends on Sunday and now my younger daughter is mobile again she will bring Little L and Sweetie down to join in the party.

So I had better get my skates on to prepare for their arrival tomorrow – I have beds to make up and food to prepare. We are on rations now until next week as part of the £110 we just spent on our travels was really this week’s housekeeping, so I will have to be very creative to conjour up some satisfying meals from very little.

I am a little disappointed that all my plans for January have already gone off course and the money I had saved from being very careful and not spending money unless necessary has had to go on eating out. Let’s hope February proves to be a bit better.

Welcome to new readers – you will notice a lack of photos until normal life resumes, and apologies for not being able to join in with the Scraphappy Challenge for January.

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