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of this year I decided not to keep large stocks of food in my cupboards at home so that it would never end up as out of date waste and I have loved the emptiness and the fact that we have not needed huge amounts of food in hand or added to the ‘waste’ mountain; but now I feel I must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 ~ 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

 

 

 

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 ~ borders and mounds

Yesterday was a wonderful gardening day, sunny and dry and not too hot.

I switched between the cooler shaded stream or burn border and the trellis border.  Neither are finished, nothing in this garden ever resembles a finished state, but as they say – ‘tomorrow is another day’.The stream border is on the northern side of the cottage.  Edged with pine trees, rosa rugosa and the Fatsia which needs pruning, it has become a bit leggy but keeps the border cool and shady and protected from any strong inland winds.  The buds on the rosa rugosa and hydrangea in the border are only just starting to unfold as they too were quite leggy and I cut them back quite hard this year.Meanwhile in the trellis border on the seaside of the cottage the plants I put in last year………have now been un-netted so I can weed inside (no doubt watched over by the bunnies on the hill pondering on their next juicy meal) and I am in the process of removing the stones edging the border for easier grass cutting.

It is slow work.  And a long border.Around the garden, especially in the lower wood and woodland walk,  things are stirring and beginning to flower. Solomon’s Seal

Dicentras and Tiarellaand apple blossom.

The sea yesterday was a beautiful indigo blue – such a contrast to the silvery grey earlier in the week.  I woke up this morning so late, it was a quarter to ten when I finally got up – I think I had gardened myself into a standstill yesterday so we decided a day doing very little was in order.

A long shower, the last of the tomato soup and then a little afternoon jaunt in the surrounding countryside.  Our only fixed point was to go back to Dunragit a few miles outside of Stranraer to see the ‘mound’. The Mound of Droughduil was identified only a few years ago by archaeologists from Manchester University as Neolithic dating back to 2500BC and not Medieval as originally thought.  In stone age times it was a ceremonial centre and meeting place for the local community.  We went to take a closer look today as it is magnificently covered in Bluebells.  We climbed up to the top –it stands some 30 feet high and is quite flat on the top – a lovely place to picnic maybe – just a touch draughty;  the summit being reached by a tiny trail path through the grass and bluebells.  Strange to think how many feet through the ages have trodden on this very turf.  Although not quite the dizzy heights of the Eifel Tower the view from the top is still worth the climb. Going down seemed much steeper than going up. Afterwards we took the road up to New Luce –  but that is a story for tomorrow.  For now it is my bedtime, DH is already tucked up in bed – I can hear the gentle wafts of snoring coming from the bedroom – no doubt I will be back in the borders 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 ~ taking the long road

Sandhead beach

We have arrived in Scotland at the caravan.  It was a long journey as we went up the A1M to Scotch Corner and cut across on the A66 to Penrith rather than take our usual route up the M6.  The reason for this was I needed to meet with daughter No2 to show her some sketches and discuss ideas and fabrics for the Christening dress for Sweetie because when we go back home there will be less than two weeks to cut a pattern and make up the garment in time for the big day.  For new readers, Sweetie,  granddaughter No2 is growing so fast she has already outgrown the family heirloom Christening gown – so I volunteered to make a new one.

We met just outside Knaresborough in the St James retail park – it was convenient and had a Costa so we could get a drink and break our journey.

Of course as soon as I had said I would make a Christening gown the party preparations got in the way but I am not too worried about the shortage of time as I can sew quite fast – I used to have a wedding dress business making bridal and bridesmaids dresses.   Once I had the pattern made I would cut out a bridesmaid dress or two in the morning and have them completed by tea time, net petticoats and all – no pins or tacking either, and I would be going slower than normal to take extra care over the finish.   Of course a brides dress would take me a little longer because of the boning and net petticoats.

I learned to sew quickly when I took a summer job in a local dress manufacturers workroom in Cheltenham during my Fashion and Textile course.  We were expected to make around 100 dresses or skirts a day on high-speed sewing and overlocking machines – we could not pin or tack any pieces together and even zips were put in without being pinned in place.  All the cutting out of the pieces was exact and so you held them in place with your fingers as you stitched them together making sure that any side seams did not end up with one piece longer than the other when you got to the bottom.  Sleeves could be tricky as you did not run a gathering stitch around the head like a dressmaker or tailor would to ease it in – though I did do this for my bridal wear to get a nice even gather.  It was working on a fast paced production line that helped me to combine traditional couture methods with the faster trade methods and in the trade you either got good at it or you were out.

Tonight I will finish the unpacking, make up the bed and then relax and read.  It is too dark to see the garden – that will be tomorrow’s surprise and I hope it will be a nice one, though I am sure the weeds will have grown knee-high in our absence.

On the way down the peninsula by the coast road to our cottage I saw one or two seals on the beach and then a deer bounding through the woodland.   Then I spotted ‘bunny no mates’ (the white bunny that the brown ones won’t play with) in the farmer’s field to the side of our cottage.  As we had not seen him all winter we thought he must have been a gonner!

Even though I did not grow up in this region I always feel a little bit like I have come home when we reach the border at Gretna and turn the corner.  Not quite like DH does as he was born and lived in Stranraer so for him it really is coming home, whereas I grew up around Sheffield and spent many a weekend in the Derbyshire country side, which I love just as much, but there is something about being close to the sea that always gives me such a sense of peace.

When I was about twelve years old I came up to Stranraer on holiday with my mum, dad and little sister in our touring caravan.  We loved this part of Scotland and stayed on sites all around the area and often went into Stranraer, the main town here, to buy groceries and go to the bank (no cash machines back then!).    It is odd to think that I would have no doubt walked past the places where my future husband and his relatives lived – and unknowingly at that time they were to become a big part of my life eight years later.  I even wonder if we may have passed each other in the street!