dear diary :: here at last

At last we are here in Scotland at the cottage but staying in the caravan in the garden of course (as those regular readers, who know the flood story, will know).

And what of the garden? Well did you ever read the Secret Garden as a child? Then perhaps like me you can remember having an image in your mind of the moment when Mary discovers the entrance to the hidden garden and unlocks the door to discover a wild and beautiful place – well that is just what our cottage garden looks like now after 6 months of neglect. Very wild but also quite beautiful. My heart was both heavy and lifted at the same time.

The daisy path
The stone trough
Looking out to sea at the end of the trellis border
The lawn garden and pine tree border looking towards the entrance to the lower wood and woodland walk

Everything has grown in abundance including the wild flowers and those that are definitely weeds. The goosegrass is draping itself around so many plants and weighing them down.

The stone steps to the pond – all but disappeared!

Sadly, we cannot leave it in this state as even a wild garden has to be managed or the most vigorous plants eventually take over and the smaller vulnerable ones are crowded out. If left unpruned the trees and shrubs grow so tall the reduced sunlight causes the undergrowth to die back and with little light plants like ivy soon settle in and can sweep through a wood floor like a fire. It is a fine balance I have to strike in this garden to keep it in check but also keep it looking quite natural.

Looking back across the lawn garden
The entrance to the woodland walk in the lower wood
The streambank border with self seeded giant thistles

After an initial tour of the garden I estimated it would probably take us about 2 years to get it back to what it was like before, but now having spent a couple of mornings in the garden I might revise that to 3 years hard labour! Everywhere I look trees and shrubs need attention, the invasive weeds removing and many plants need thinning out or cutting back. The ivy is heading for the farmers field next door and some of the weeds have settled in so well they have tap roots more than 2 feet long.

But it is not all doom and gloom, despite the rather wild and shaggy appearance, and the fact that some areas have been fully taken over by something far too vigorous, there are delightful little corners to discover where self seeded foxgloves and poppies have made a new home.

The laneside border

The picture below is by the lower woodland pond and I now have a very green mossy path with daisies that was once bark chippings – but I quite like this and will probably keep it as it is. The little seat by the pond has disappeared altogether into the undergrowth – it may take me a while to uncover it.

The pond by the woodland walk in the lower wood

There will be plenty to keep us busy for a while – thankfully we do not have to maintain the caravan other than it needs a wash down on the outside to remove the green winter film it collects. And of course there is soup to make – mushroom maybe and tomato.

On our very last visit here back in January we did not get to replace the empty gas bottle so that was on the priority list, there is nothing like running out halfway through cooking a meal. So a trip into our nearest town of Stranraer was required in the afternoon…..that and it was good to take a break. Frequent rests are much needed at the moment until our backs are stronger and can cope with the strenuous work in the garden. Being at home for so long during lockdown just pottering around the house and our very small Yorkshire garden has left us with weaker unused muscles.

The weather was so lovely yesterday that whilst in Stranraer, which was eerily quiet, we decided to take a walk down to the harbour and round through Agnew Park. The light and cloud formation was incredible – I will leave you with a few pictures.

It is time for bed now – I am not sure I am making much sense in this ramble – I have an early start in the garden tomorrow….weather permiting. x

dear diary :: homeward bound

Nothing much happened yesterday other than a trip into the local town of Stranraer – but for me that is quite a pleasant event.  We decided to put the final portion of the tomato soup in a flask, make a sandwich and take lunch with us.  All was calm weather wise and the sun came out so we stopped in the pretty village of Ardwell further up the coast and watched gulls bobbing about on the sea whilst lunching.  The two cottages facing out onto the bay are my very favourite on this coast – much more sheltered than we are.

Would you believe it though, as we turned off the main road into the picnic area by the shore the car beeped and a fault message suddenly flashed on the dashboard screen ‘automatic parking brake fault’ and the service light came on?   Usually when we stop the car when parking the handbrake automatically engages as there is no handbrake to pull on and luckily even if the automatic parking brake doesn’t work you can operate the brake manually with a lever – but it is yet another problem to add to the list.  When we arrived back at the caravan later all messages had disappeared from the screen and the car’s automatic brake came on – so maybe it has corrected itself…who knows!

After lunch we took a quick brisk walk along the beach looking for beach finds then headed off into town – it was bitterly cold so we kept dodging into shops just to keep warm.  I got mum’s card and a lovely one that opens out into a train for Freddie’s 1st birthday.  I had to write mum’s card in the local café to get it in the post – I slipped in a book token for her – as she cannot get out much now reading is quite important to her but this means buying a lot more books.

After a trip to the post office we went round to my favourite hardware shop which is more like a mini department store.  Here you can still buy something as basic as a steel fire basket for your coal fire or some of those old varieties of seed potatoes ….and sure enough they had jam pot covers –there was even a choice and I opted for the mixed pack of waxed circles with the cellophane covers.

It is one of those shops where you feel you can buy anything and coming across a pile of cloths between the dishcloths and floor cloths marked ‘udder cloths’ was no surprise.  They are quite nice – like stiff muslin (maybe you had one Pat on your farm?)  I am sure they might be quite useful for something other than udders – but I couldn’t think what so I put it back.

A lot of the shelves were quite bare having cleared away all signs of the decorations, artificial trees and lights that they have on display at Christmas to the delight of the local children (it is their only Santa Grotto for miles).  The assistants were busy having a bit of a change around as shops do now and just starting to put out their new stock.  It is a struggle for these independent shops to keep going – a lot are family owned and when they retire they are lost and gone for ever leaving increasingly empty gaps like on most high streets.   I always try to buy things when we are up here to help keep them going.

We had a bit of a shock in Tesco though – it is not a big store but bigger than one of their Express stores.  A few years ago they removed the instore bakery but have continued to sell a range of freshly baked bread and Danish pastries; now the section selling the freshly baked bread and rolls has halved in size to one small fitment and they have stopped selling wholemeal loaves altogether unless you want the wrapped steam baked Warburton’s type which I don’t like (too squishy for me). 

What made it worse is the fact that they have now expanded the sugary cakes and doughnuts section to fill the space.  This feels like a big step backwards to me especially in a region that is known to have a pretty bad diet of high fat and sugar foods anyway.  Are people substituting cakes for bread I wonder?  The Tesco assistant said this was not the only store to remove the wholemeal loaves.

When we come here for any length of time we are going to be quite stuck for bread now – we can bring some with us but obviously not for a whole week or longer – I like my bread on the dry side but stale is another thing!

We bought the haggis, a few wee scotch pies (the men love these), macaroni for the vegetarians and some after dinner treats….Tunnock’s of course. There is no way to make haggis look appetising in a photo but here it is.

So today we are homeward bound – car allowing, stopping in Castle Douglas another fine market town full of little independent shops, a huge Wilkos and the best craft shop ever.  Oh and did I mention they have an award winning chip shop – so a bag of freshly cooked chips is a must.

I just need one more turn around the garden to say goodbye until next time.

Have a wonderful weekend. x

PS. The tomato soup recipe is now in the recipe section – click on the tab above the header. Hope you enjoy it Wendy x

dear diary :: a bit blustery

Its not hard to spot the difference between the calm photos of the beach I posted yesterday and these. Waves crashing around and the roar of the swell coming before it has to be seen and heard and can feel quite threatening stood so close – so I didn’t linger too long.

I stayed indoors and made red pepper, tomato and basil soup (click on the Recipes tab for the recipe) while the guy we found to fix the garage door came down. We called him at about 9.30am and he came about 11am – not a bad service. We didn’t even have to pay for parts as we could supply him with the cables (in fact both had gone in the end) and the spring just needed respringing rather than replacing.

So one job down. Umpteen to go.

We didn’t make it into town either we kept warm and read instead, so we are going today. I have two birthday cards to get; one for my mum (she will be 94 come Sunday) and one for little Freddie who is just one year old. Then I need to go to the wonderful Homes and Gardens store for jam pot covers and a mooch around – they have a fascinating collection of everything you could possibly want for your house from teapots to drain cleaners.

Then I need haggis and some Scottish pies to take back with me for Burns night.

Surprisingly, the weather is quite calm today and the tide is way out – it did feel like it was coming up into our garden yesterday so I hope not too much land has been lost on the banking around the bay here.

Have a good day everyone and keep warm x

dear diary :: roaming in the gloaming

The journey to Scotland didn’t start too well.  We were up, packed and ready to go on time but then a power cut delayed us, as we had to wait to be sure everything electrical was off and the burglar alarm set OK, then as we drove the first mile it was obvious the car is still not as it should be….smooth.  The suspension was suspiciously rather bumpy and hard which is not like Citroens at all.  We circled the block a couple of times, me driving, then DH driving as it seems far worse on the passenger side, then we went back home to decide on what we should do.  Already having forked out £1200 for this problem we are reluctant to go back to the same garage.

We decided we would carry on to Scotland turning back at Preston if the suspension had not settled down by then or had got worse.  It more or less remained the same – probably better on the smoother roads like the motorways and no warning messages had activated so we pressed on, fingers crossed all the way.

Anyway we are here in Scotland now and despite all the weather warnings it was gloriously sunny yesterday, but bitterly cold in the breeze.  I have said this before but I do love these grey winter days by the sea, they are quite calming and relaxing. 

And we have no plans other than to relax.

Because of the earlier set backs and subsequent late departure we didn’t get to the cottage (caravan) until 9pm. It was cold inside the van, the central heating boiler had lost water pressure and was flashing fault. Hastily, we scrambled around for the manual to check the fault code – most likely due to a leak it says – no obvious signs inside so we will need to examine the outside pipes under the van in the daylight – in the meantime DH is able to let more water into the system so that we can get the heating up and running again.

Meanwhile, I start to busy myself unpacking and making up the bed with clean linen only to discover that the electric blanket that I had taken home to wash…. was……you guessed it…… still at home. Memories of the recent cake saga flood into my mind. Luckily, we keep a hot water bottle at the van and so this was requisitioned to warm and air the bed which was so cold I could only envisage a night of discomfort. Trying to heat up the whole of the bed a few square inches at a time takes some effort when you are tired and cold and just want to climb into a warm bed and sleep.

After a while we managed to warm up the room and the bed and eventually jumped in fully kitted out with t-shirts and socks….. and actually slept quite soundly.

It was quite late when we surfaced, tired after the long journey, but the sun was shining so after breakfast we went out to survey our land – not quite roaming in the gloaming (which means twilight – I had to Google it) but rather midday.  We always have a wander through the wood and round the garden then down onto the beach to check everything is OK.

Everything was as it should be with no evidence of any fallen trees or flooding, even the burn running alongside the cottage was not as high as it might have been.  It would seem we had survived storm Brendan – only the little path that takes us onto the shore was covered in a pool of water so we had to make do just looking from the banking.

Round the corner from us is in the next bay is a different story; where the coast road runs alongside the beach the road is closed – an action that has been taken far more seriously since the death of the couple and their two dogs last year when they were swept out to sea one stormy night.  It is a long diversion and one that the locals are loathed to take but one that will save lives.  The spray from the sea covers the road and sends up quite large beach stones with it…a treacherous mile known here as the car wash.

So all seemed well until we came to open the garage door only to find one of the cables of the up and over door has snapped.  Being so close to the sea there are certain things you have to get used to – rust is one of them.  The cables rust with the salt from the sea spray, which finds its way in through any crack, and so need replacing quite frequently.  DH is quite capable of replacing them and we always keep a spare or two.  However, as he started to replace the cable the tension spring went as well so now we have a door that we cannot close or open fully.  With this and the car problems I won’t deny the stress is building up a bit.  The search for a garage door fixer is now on. And we have still to locate a possible leak.

In all this turmoil, both in our lives and the world generally who can deny the beauty around us and tuning into nature is one of the best ways to calm down – I tell myself – and it does – I was delighted to see snowdrops dancing around in the breeze and the first daisies appearing in the grass.

There are little signs of new life everywhere and the rabbits have not, as yet, been scratching up the bulbs but I do need to put a little food out for the birds….the table is empty and the robin sits looking quite hopeful at me.

So today while DH is on the phone trying to find a Mr Fix it man I will be making some warming tomato and red pepper soup for lunch. I am hopeful we may get into town for a look around the shops – only a look – there is nothing much we need other than jam pot covers, and we will certainly find them here – we had no luck at home. Keep warm everyone.

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