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!

 

dEAr diary ~ times they are a changing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A day of contemplating change and munching mouthwatering Magnums. x

dEAr diary ~ bonnie Scotland

We travelled up to Scotland (to our wreck of a cottage by the sea) last Thursday it was a gorgeous Spring day.

We stopped for a picnic lunch close to the start of our journey at a place called Windy Hill just off the M62 not far from where we live rather than pull into the services.  The layby looks over a beautiful expanse of wild untouched moorland which if you kept walking from here into the distance would eventually meet up with the famous Saddleworth moor. Now look behind me – not so quiet and untouched as this is the busy M62 cutting through across the Pennines at its highest point.Now look again – every verge as far as the eye can see littered with rubbish. We drove 250 miles in all, mainly on motorway and a major ‘A’ road, and every verge revealed so much litter – even this lay by near Dumfries in bonnie Scotland!  Not so bonnie at the moment.Dumfries and Galloway Council in their wisdom have removed many of their litter bins from the lay-bys on the A75 down to Stranraer – a decision they may live to regret.

I am saddened – our journey was like driving through a landfill site – just who is it that is leaving this litter and feels the need to throw it out of their cars as they drive along rather than take it home and put it in their bin?

……On a brighter note we had a lovely few days at the cottage (staying in the caravan still).  We had not expected such good weather and we spent all our time in the garden.  It was so peaceful broken only by the sound of birdsong and the waves of the sea.

As usual even though I had rid the borders of every weed possible on our last visit it looked like we had done nothing.

The cottage garden is much further north than our garden at home in West Yorkshire but is much further on due to the milder weather of the Gulf stream.  Most of the daffodils are already out – each year new ones are springing up all over  – I am always surprised at some of the places they choose to grow – these are growing through some beach pebbles in quite a dark spot hidden from the sun but seem happy enough. The catkins on the corkscrew Hazel are just coming into flower.The big surprise was our family Rhododendron growing in the lower wood (named after DH’s grandfather who grew it for the Castle Kennedy estate, he was head gardener).  We grew this from a cutting, it is an early flowering variety but even this is quite early and the one at home in our garden is only just in bud. And some even more unexpected news – coming home late yesterday evening we left the M62 at Milnrow as usual and drove through New Hey, Denshaw and Delph towards Marsden and to our surprise came across about 8 fire engines and a few police cars parked on the verge side with flashing lights.  At first we thought there had been a bad collision on the road but as our view opened up we saw the mass of fire on the moorland (this is looking from the other side of the moor you see in the top photo).  It was quite bizarre as the fire raged in straight lines across the open moorland – some of the burning lines zig zagged across the moors way into the distance.We stopped on the side of the road with many other passers-by to take pictures and spoke to some of the fire beaters who were having a break.  They told us it may have started in the nearby lay-by and could have been just a cigarette.  Although quite spectacular it is sad for all the wildlife that will have been harmed by this.

….Today we have been busy unpacking, washing and shopping as tomorrow we travel up to North Yorkshire to collect my mum again and bring her back to stay with us for a few days – needless to say I will probably not have the energy or time to write very much for a day or two as mum is quite high maintenance now, bless her.  My sister is having her respite – she is feeling a little stressed trying to sort out all my mum’s recent health problems, she seems to have developed a lot of niggly complaints that need my sister’s constant attention.

Any plans we had are now put on hold once again for a few days – I am finding it increasingly hard to pick up where we left off on a project and we are ending up with a load of unfinished jobs.  Every time we turn into our drive I am reminded that we still have to paint the front door, then there is the shed waiting for a coat of weatherproofing paint and we must get in touch with the contractor who does the resurfacing for the driveway – that is just to mention a few but all of them require warmer weather and I think it is about to turn cold again according to the forecasts.

The plans for the pantry are progressing slowly – during the cold spell DH moved the cupboard in the garage housing our household cleaners and ‘stuff’ to a different position to make room for yet another cupboard to house the vac and outdoor gardening coats which are presently kept in what will be the new pantry.  We will have to have another visit to IKEA to get the new cupboard but that is no hardship for me – I love to have a browse around.  Once this is in place we can move the coats and vac out and I think we will be ready to strip the walls of the old wallpaper and put in the new cupboards and shelves.

So I will leave you there and I hope to be back in a day or two – unfortunately my constant coming and going at the moment on my blog is just a reflection of all the coming and going in my life.

Welcome to my new followers and sorry if my posts are a bit erratic at the moment and a bit of a ramble.

Back soon x

 

 

 

 

crEAting Christmas ~ days 3 & 4

As we left for home yesterday we drove past the sad little bay just round the corner from our cottage where the recent tragedy happened, all was completely calm and peaceful now as if nothing had happened and at that moment a rainbow appeared.It is a community in mourning, feeling the loss of a friend and neighbour – many of the locals are calling for a road barrier to be put in place now so this loss of life does not happen again in the future when the sea is at high tide.  The sea that I love so much has suddenly become quite a fearful place but even so now I am back in landlocked Yorkshire I miss going to sleep with the roar of the waves in the background.

As we were on the road yesterday I had a really simple Advent activity – something only available to ‘us northerners’ and something I look forward to getting each year…

…the Booths Christmas Book and for you southerners (and any readers from other parts of the world) Booths is a family run grocers business founded in 1847 and now a chain of supermarkets across the North of England and often refered to as the Waitrose of the North.  It trades on quality, local produce and great customer service.   Their release each Christmas of their hardback, bound book is always eagerly awaited by all their shoppers and followers.Our nearest store is – a bit too far away for a our weekly shopping but we always call in on our way to or back from Scotland at the Penrith or Kendal branch.  It is packed with photographs of deliciously tempting Christmas fayre to order or buy in store interspersed with a few recipes to make.

So I collected mine yesterday and spent my elevenses this morning pouring over all the Christmas food on offer and a quick look at the recipes in the back.  I find it remarkable that Booths can produce such a lovely little book and give it away free – I was a truly happy bunny.

Todays activity…As you may remember from last year I decided to do something different to the usual wreath on our front door so I hung my chicken wire cone see post here (a left over from my daughter’s wedding that hung on the Church gateposts full of flowers) and this time filled it Christmas foliage.  I quite liked it so have done it again this year.  If you don’t find wreaths easy to make this is a simple alternative…

…first bend some chicken wire to form a cone shape – making a hanging loop at the point on the back.  Pack the front and sides with moss (I had collected a small heap in the summer in readiness).  Find an empty jam jar and push down into the cone as far as it will fit and so it is not visible. Remove the jar again and push some chicken wire into the jar to hold the stems steady when filling with foliage.  Fill the jar with cold water and start arranging pieces of foliage. Hold the cone steady in a small bucket then lower the jar into the cone making sure it is a snug fit. At the moment I am using some dried red hydrangea heads and a dried white one, some ivy and a few holly stems.  As we get closer to Christmas I will swap these for eucalyptus, holly and Hypericum like last years.

I have hung mine to the side of our main door but they are quite light and will hang on a door.As you can see I am no florist but it is not too difficult to get a pleasing arrangement.  You could add sprayed leaves, ribbon or pretty much anything.  Just remember to keep topping up the jar of water.

We have placed a small rooted Christmas tree by the front door (only £10 at Wilko) and put a few lights on it.  DH has still to do the rest of the lights in the front garden and paint the front door – I will take a few photos when it is all finished.

Whilst in Scotland we went over to Portpatrick for a stroll by the harbour and found they were having their annual Christmas craft fair in the village hall so went for a look around.  There was some lovely things to buy – after much deliberation and bearing in mind I had to limit my spending I chose these……a pack of watercolour notelets (right) painted by a local artist to support the Aldouran Wetland Garden and these two pretty little felted Christmas tree cards for each of my daughters – made by a local crafter.

I also bought a few other bits and pieces whilst we were out and about – goodies that I never see down here in Yorkshire.The frilly cake band takes me back to my childhood and reminds me of Christmases past – they would appear each Christmas round our Christmas cake – at 99p I just had to have one.  The packet contains an iced ginger cake – we always buy one when we are at the cottage but usually we get the un-iced version – these too are only £1 from Tesco or Morrisons but I have never seen them south of the border.  I thought the iced one would be a nice treat for Christmas. And on the way home a few small inexpensive things for Christmas from Tebay services of all places – each of these little tissue parcels were a £1 – you will have to wait a while until I unwrap them to find out what is in them.

Welcome to my new followers too.  Christmas is a lovely time in Blogland – everyone is so busy making and baking.

Back tomorrow for Day 5 of Advent. x

 

 

crEAting Christmas ~ day 2

Today my Advent card reads…

‘fill the house with the scent of Christmas and make pomanders and dried fruit slices’

At home I would do these in the oven to savour the wonderful smell it produces but here in the caravan to save on the gas I used the microwave to dry out the slices and I wasn’t sure if it would work. I stuck a few cloves into the end slices and the smell was really nice.  I wasn’t very impressed with this microwave method – one or two of them scorched a bit but this won’t be that noticeable when the colour darkens with age.  I will take them back home and put them in the airing cupboard for a while.  I decided not to continue with them here and wait until I get home and can use my oven.

As promised in my last post a few pictures from the Stranraer Christmas parade and switching on of lights.  The town has a population of about 13,000 and is around 70 miles from the larger towns of Dumfries and Ayr so the people here have to provide a lot of their own entertainment and they do it so well.  There are few national chain shops – a recent but small New Look, Argos and Peacocks and a WH Smiths, Boots, Superdrug, Mac & Co and a Subway; the rest are all little privately run businesses.

Most of the outlying community had come into town eager to see this event – the cafes were full and the shops very busy.  Eventually you could hear the distant pipes as the procession arrived in the town centre… …with the Three Wise Men on camels who were awesome (as Sybil would say) though it was hard to get a good photo without all the police escorts and minders getting in the way of taking pictures. They were like big cuddly teddy bears and didn’t seem the least bit phased by the noisy crowd, the bagpipes and the loud speakers on the castle belting out Christmas music; and were very amenable to the children stroking them.

Santa made an appearance too in his chimney …As it is quite a small town the parade circulated a couple of times and as it became dark everyone gathered in the square by St John’s castle (which had become Santa’s grotto for the day) for the countdown to the switching on of the lights by the winner of the Primary Schools competition.  There was such a sense of excitement in the air.Once the lights came on a big cheer went up and it was quite spectacular but not something easily caught on camera.  It felt so nice to be part of this community spirit here. All the shop windows around the town have been dressed with a Christmas theme and lit up too – it was a wonderful sight that you don’t see very much now on most high streets (well not in Huddersfield) since the national chain shops seem to have taken over and don’t really go in for window dressing in this way;  but up here in Stranraer the majority of shops are mainly small family concerns and whether they are bakers or hairdressers they all join in to make their little town look delightful.  Here is a quick tour of the shop displays and haven’t they done well.

…even the man at the antique shop has done a lovely old-fashioned display…

…and this one with the Nutcracker soldier is for Sadie if you are reading this!

Tomorrow we will be travelling down home again – it has been a very mixed emotional time for us this visit – I think for once I might be glad to be home for a while.  I may have to delay tomorrow’s post until Tuesday – but I already know that my Advent activity for day 3 is a very simple one.