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

beaching ~ the rhythm of the waves

I have been embracing my time here and the slow quiet days listening to the rhythmic sound of the breaking waves; it has been something akin to a retreat, which in hindsight we both needed. Our days have been interspersed with hard physical work too in the garden (but only as hard as my back allows, though it has stood up to the constant bending and stetching quite well – there is hope on the horizon it may be going in a positive direction).

It is only when I am away from a situation that I can appreciate the fact that my life has become far removed from any natural daily rhythm and I often feel that I have just got through a day rather than enjoyed it and in turn this becomes quite unsettling and I feel rather out of step with the world.

Changes, I think, need to be made.

Away from the hussle and bustle and demands of daily life back at home I have been able to spend time just thinking. Seeing life from a different angle and pondering on what changes might prove useful. Having time just to sit and be is as hard as it is rewarding.

During our time here there has been plenty of nurturing food – homemade soups, bean stew and lentil curry – we are still enjoying warming foods and not quite ready yet for the start of the salad season. So even though an odd biscuit may have slipped into my hand at elevenses, generally our diet has been good but I am still niggled with one or two health problems – sleep (too much at the wrong times) and a lack of vitality. In other words I seem to be lacking well-being rather than having any major illness.

During our downtime I have been listening to podcasts, mainly interviews with leading UK consultants and GP’s who are passionately trying to convey their take on well-being which is now backed up by science. It is heartening to know there are so many small changes we can make for ourselves to keep healthier, and equally disheartening that many GP’s still just want to offer the quick fix pill that will only relieve the symptoms and not investigate the cause.

Anyway, I have learnt a lot and as I am fast approaching seventy which I see as a kind of threshold when the illnesses of older age can take hold and from which there is no return, I want to do all I can to delay such health problems from creeping in. There is no doubt that once you hit 65 many of our bodily functions struggle more – we lose muscle tone and muscle, our energy seems to deplete rapidly, bending stretching and balance becomes more difficult and we may start to suffer with hearing and vision impairment, high blood pressue and so much more.

I am already planning on implementing some of the suggestions from the podcasts which I will share with you as I go along. Some may prove beneficial others not so.

Today we will have the pleasure of a visit from the ‘tree people’ contracted to Scottish Power who take care of the power lines and make sure that no tree branches are in the way. Such a visit will always guarantee a rise in my blood pressure as it is never an easy time with them; rather than dealing with professional tree surgeons we find that they just prefer to get out their chain saws and get on with the job cutting off limbs here and there as they think best and leave you with a very misshapen tree and a pile of shredding! We always have the ‘is it really necessary’ conversation to try and preserve what we can but in the end these people want to hack off as much as possible so they don’t have to have so many return visits.

Having a piece of woodland is not as wonderful as I once thought.

beaching ~ guess where I am?

Sun, sea, sand….it can only be one place. Yes, we have arrived and it is glorious…so good it reminds me of why we bought the cottage and why many moons ago we planned to retire here.

The two guys who now cut our grass, and are doing a good job of it, had been yesterday and so the place looked quite tidy though on further inspection every border needs a good sort out. We woke early with the sun this morning and after a leisurely breakfast and a few household jobs we were straight out into the garden. It feels so good to be outside.

The only border I managed to weed on our last visit is not too bad and the hydrangea has not suffered from the cold.

DH has been collecting up the endless goosegrass that has sprung up everywhere and removing the dead leaves of the ostrich, royal and harts tongue ferns.

Not the evergreen Japanese tassel fern (Polystichum polyblepharum) in the fernery though, which has gone a bit rampant and taken over my little bench seat by the cherry tree.

This is a job for another day…in fact it can take a couple of days as I usually cut this down to ground level each year or two so that fresh new growth springs up.

The hosta I planted at the back of the pond has formed a nice clump which can now be divided.

The large overgrown pink rhododendron that I cut back almost to ground level two years ago is growing well (you can just see it emerging at the back right of the picture) – I am not expecting any flowers this year but at least I didn’t kill it and it is looking healthy.

I concentrated on pruning down the rosa rugosa hedge running beside the lane (the one that our new neighbour decided to cut hack the front half to the ground last year).

There was a lot of dead wood that had to be cut away and I reduced the height considerably from 6′ down to about half. Once I throw a bucketful of manure around the roots it should sprout new growth and thicken up quite nicely and I bet by the end of the summer it will be looking much healthier.

Thankfully it is difficult to kill and where it had been hacked to the ground there are new shoots appearing and if I can prevent them from being damaged by his strimmer then we might have a chance of resurecting the hedge and regaining our privacy.

After a morning of working, many cups of tea and a few idle moments sitting in the sunshine we down tools and made lunch. Afterwards we had a stroll to the village and called in at one of the local pubs down by the harbour for a hot chocolate.

So overall a very pleasant day and now we are retiring to eat a mushroom lasagne and then perhaps watch a DVD or read (no TV here).

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