Archive for the ‘Out and about’ Category

Snow and snow

Heh. Couldn’t resist the pun.

Well, as anyone following the news/weather would be aware, the wet and mud gave way to snow. Severe weather warning type snow. A snowcopalypse. We were on the edge of the zone for the ‘red’ severe snow warning, and it was quite impressive. The school was closed and we were actually snowed in for a couple of days. It was incredibly pretty. The trees over our entrance drive were weighed down with snow and arched over the road.



Then we had a few days where it would thaw slightly by day and freeze by night. Which means… icicles!


And then… it was warm and wet. There was some heavy rain and in the space of a day, all the snow had gone.

But look! There was something even better in their place!


(In the background you can see the river. We’ve had a *lot* of rain!)

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When I choose a word for Weekword, my choice is often based on what I’d like to see other people interpret; I rarely choose something because I’ve already had an idea for a post. This means I often find myself scrabbling around at the last moment trying to think of a post for my own word. But this choice was a bit different, because it came out of a thought I had on Monday.

We’ve been having pretty grotty weather here lately. It’s been chilly without that lovely autumn crispness. Drizzly rain that goes on and on, rather than downpours which fade into pale sunshine. Wet mist that doesn’t lift, just hangs around like a bad mood all day. When the weather’s like this, it’s easy to think that the outdoors is ‘nothingy’. It seems to be lacking – the temptation is to stay inside and ignore it. But sometimes that’s not possible (when one has a dog who needs walking and small people to get to school) and the outdoors must be faced.

I walked the Little Girl to the school bus on Monday, and turned to walk back to the house. My first instinct was to put my head down and get back through the grey drizzle as fast as I could, but something stopped me. Even on the greyest, most unprepossessing day, our little valley has something going for it.

The river wasn’t a low, clear trickle, singing its way over the stones as it is in summer, nor a thundering torrent as it is in winter. It flowed gently along, quietly, a thin brown like petrol station hot chocolate. The ground beneath my feet had gone to mud – in some places balletic leaps were required as I hadn’t worn wellies. There were no pleasant breezes or high winds, just a gentle buffeting which made leaves flump wetly from the trees. And the autumn leaves, without the sunshine to illuminate them, didn’t glow with that bright, joyous flame immortalised on all those photos of fall foliage. They glowed gently through the murk, like a fire banked down until the family return.

The elements – water, earth, air and fire – not in their pure, flamboyant state, but there nonetheless. Subdued and muted, perhaps, but not gone. Not nothingy.

I enjoyed the rest of my walk back to the house.

Why not go and see what the other Weekworders have come up with this week?







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We were in London a couple of weeks back, and so we decided to go to the zoo. Goodness me, the zoo is expensive! Fortunately we used some supermarket coupons, and so instead of costing us £75, it cost us £15-worth of supermarket vouchers. Excellent!

I hadn’t been to the zoo in years. It has changed a lot since I was little, mainly because the animal enclosures have been hugely improved. We didn’t see the tigers this time; they were hiding – not something that was an option for them when I was little. You’d see the poor beasts pacing up and down in front of the glass. And I remember being upset by the polar bear, as even as a child I could see that the poor creature was going mad. So, no polar bear, big tiger enclosure, huge gorilla enclosure, the old elephant enclosure now has small bearded pigs and the elephants (and rhino and hippos) are living it up at Whipsnade. There’s a new penguinarium (that’s what I call them, it’s not a proper word, although it should be) – the old one is now Grade 1 listed so they can’t demolish it, or even get rid of the sign.

Would you like to see some pictures?

The new penguinarium:

Rather huge beastie in the Butterfly house:

Pelicans at feeding time. I am fond of pelicans.

They had an enclosure with free-range squirrel monkeys. They were super cute and the kids loved them.

A lioness briefly woke from her nap to gaze disapprovingly at us.

This is Zaire, the matriarch gorilla. She’s splendid. She was lounging about, picking her teeth with a stick in a marvellously louche manner.

We love giraffes Chez S&S. So we had to go and see them.

Littlest S&S liked the aquarium best – I didn’t take any pictures but it was great. By the way, did you know that ‘aquarium’ was a word coined by London Zoo for their aquarium? Before that, the name was ‘aquatic vivarium’.

All in all, a lovely day, although I think the children will get even more from it when they’re a bit older. We’ll keep saving those supermarket vouchers.

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Well, that ‘coming back to the blog’ went well, didn’t it?

I’m still swimming along, and there’s plenty I want to blog about but I can’t seem to convince myself that I have time. It seems a bit of an indulgence when there’s work to do (frequently) or the house is a tip (constantly). But my work is done for the day, and the family are out so the house (disgusting) isn’t going to get any worse, so here’s a belated post from this year’s visit to the Festival of Quilts.

It was great fun – I took my mum with me this year and we had a lovely time. It was bigger this year, a whole new hall, lots more sitting down space. Lots more shopping, too. I was restrained and bought a fat quarter of some ladybird fabric I’ve had my eye on for a while, and a transfer pencil and stabilising paper for the embroidery I really want to get round to doing.

Anyway, the quilts.

This one was lovely:

This was interesting, as it had layers of beads sewn in:

I liked the combination of modern style with traditional elements here:

This was beautifully done:

This was another ‘trad with a twist’ – it was called ‘Hexagon Revolution’

I loved the colours in this – it reminded me of Kaffe Fassett fabric:

I liked this one of moths:

Here’s a detail:

This was probably one of my favourites – it’s Lichens.

Here are some close ups:

I didn’t get many pictures of the traditional quilts – which are usually my favourites. I took some but they were either blurred, had people wandering in front of them, badly lit (the NEC lighting is dire in some parts of the halls) or were wholecloth quilts which were breathtaking in the flesh but unimpressive when photographed. But trust me when I say they were all lovely!

All in all, a lovely, lovely day!

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Jubilee fun

I’m not a royalist by any means, and am usually one to avoid enforced jollity, but I did enjoy the jubilee celebrations. Not the ones in London, which passed me by, but the village picnic organised by some community-minded souls. I think pretty much the whole village was there for food, football for the grown ups, races for the children, face painting and balloon races and the rest.

There was bunting aplenty, but there are times, apparently, when mere bunting will not cut it. Oh no.

There was free tea and coffee all day and the WI provided a huge array of cakes:

No village occasion is complete without a small child attempting to carry a bear larger than they are:

The children ran around and got themselves overtired and overexcited, and Littlest S&S held Daddy’s raffle tickets (red, white and blue, naturally) during the draw.

The Little Boy won second prize for his crown, but refused to model it for photos and so won’t be in the local paper. Boo!

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The Smallholders’ show was a while back now (it was there that we got our new ducks) and while I was there my trusty and beloved camera died. I was so distraught that I forgot about the pictures I’d managed to take, so here they are.

I was very good and didn’t buy any plants – despite the tempting offers – as I don’t actually have a garden at the moment, more a jungle/bramble plantation, so it would have been silly. Still, I did like these ‘Ladybird’ poppies:

There was a lovely display of lilies:

including a climbing lily – I’ve never seen a climbing lily before but I think it’s rather nice:

There was also the obligatory veg stand with pristine veg in geometric arrangements. I don’t know why, but I always find these inherently comical:

There was also a lovely display of auriculas. It seems that people get quite obsessive over these plants:

They are rather lovely – there’s something very ‘Regency’ about them, as though the flowers have been painted by hand. They look like they’ve come straight off some antique china:

And then we took the kids to the have-a-go circus. This is where my camera died, but not before it captured this – a lovely example of ‘Mid-Wales time’:

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This weekend is Wonderwool, so Littlest S&S and I tootled off together yesterday to see what we could see. (Littlest S&S slept pretty much all the way through in her sling, oblivious to all the admiration she garnered. By the end of the day I felt like having ‘My baby is 9 weeks old’ written on my forehead, but that’s what happens when you take a cute baby out, I suppose!) I had plans to meet friends at lunchtime, so once I got the knitting needles I knew I needed, I spent the first hour and a half moseying around, browsing aimlessly and taking photos of all the lovely yarn and fibre. So many pretty colours and lovely textures. Want to see? Of course you do.

Pretty coloured fibre:

Purple yarns aplenty at Fyberspates:

Jubilee yarn at EasyKnits:

Lovely subtle colours at Natural Dye Studio:

Gorgeous threads at Oliver Twist:

Gorgeous natural colours at Jillybean:

Recycled sari yarn:

Silk and sequins:

And some lovely natural fibres:

Then came lunch – a Scotch egg from the marvellous Scotch egg man (he makes lots of different types including a gluten-free version, God bless him) and a chat with some friends, and then more ambling and purchasing until it was time to go home. I tried my very best to be restrained as I absolutely don’t need any more yarn, and was moderately successful. If anything I was even more inspired to use up my stash, as I want to go back next year and be able to stock up on new projects. I saw some utterly beautiful needlefelting:

and the most gorgeous crocheted throw:

and some gorgeous yarns which I long to be able to justify buying.

So, are you wondering what came home with me? Well, a relatively modest haul, for once.

The needles and cable I knew I needed:

Some lovely stitch markers I knew I didn’t, but couldn’t resist:

And um, about that not buying yarn… and especially not laceweight because I have far too much. Well. I bought this:

The photo doesn’t do it justice – it’s called ‘Treacle Toffee’, but I think it’s the colour of new pennies and I’d not seen anything quite like it before. It’s silk and merino laceweight and I tried very hard to be strong, but I kept thinking about it and then I figured that if I was actually taking people to the stand to show them the yarn, I had better buy it. I’m already pretty sure I know what I’m going to make with it. Mr S&S is very rude about it and keeps making remarks about the Bristol Stool Scale, but knickers to him; I think it’s lovely and unusual.

I also picked up this magazine in return for a donation to the Air Ambulance:

I like this pattern for a girl’s coat:

And this shawl:

I also bought some shell buttons and a pattern for a very pretty tie-front cardigan. All in all a good day and apart from the yarn, no real extravagances, which is nice.

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Well, I haven’t managed to do a Tuesday 10 for a while since I restarted, but here I am again.

My garden is a work in progress – long term readers will remember that we started re-landscaping last year. Since then, we were overtaken by work, pregnancy and needing to replace all the pipes in the house because water was coming through the ceilings. So the garden is, to put it mildly, not what I hoped for. The flower beds are either overgrown or dug over and covered to await replanting. The veg beds are no more – we removed the last lot and didn’t manage to build more. Hey ho. But despite that, there are still some signs of spring.

The primulas are out – including the ones I transplanted from the bed that was dug up. They have survived being transplanted at completely the wrong time of year and look marvellous:

And there are primroses everywhere – they’ve even spread into the lawn, which makes me very happy. I’m not someone who longs for an immaculate lawn (which is probably a good thing, all things considered…)

The daisies are up and out and being ruthlessly picked by Miss S&S the Elder:

There are lots of new leaves:

And lots of new lambs:

And my herb pots by the back door are showing signs of life – my parsley:

And my mint:

I shamefully ignored my strawberry plants last year. They’ve sat outside in all weathers, but I have a few flowers, which is more than I deserve!

The marvellous magnolia stellata is going over now, but here’s a picture I took a week or so ago:

And the cherry blossom is out in force:

Plenty to gladden the heart even without the flowerbeds … but next year will be better!

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I know, I’m dragging this out, but I can’t miss showing you my pictures of the Eden Project, now can I? I’d heard a lot about the Eden Project and had a feeling that it was somewhere I’d enjoy. So, can I just say, if you’re in the St Austell area and you wonder, ‘Is it going to be worth £20-odd quid to see some plants?’ then the answer is yes. Yes it is. (Although you can get discounts if you book in advance, and we got a 25% off voucher at Heligan). Because this is simultaneously all about plants and about so much more. I had high expectations of Eden, and I was blown away.

The scope of the project is astonishing. The creators wanted to make a site which would showcase the amazing influence of plants on our lives – their very centrality to all life. And that’s what they’ve done. It brings home the importance of conservation, but at no point is it preachy. They also wanted to do it in an environmentally sensitive way, both in terms of the ‘green-ness’ and in terms of respect for the local people and local economy. So they found a disused chalk quarry and made a garden. They didn’t import soil, they made it, from local ingredients. And they carried on from there. You can find out more about it here.

You come through the entrance and step out to the lip of the quarry and you see this:

Well, you see more than that, but my camera couldnn’t do the whole panorama. To get the the bottom, you walk down zig-zaggy paths, past some truly gorgeous planting.

In one of several very imaginative touches, they have little cut-throughs for kids, which are not only fun, but mean they don’t have to walk as far, so less whingeing:

In fact, there are lots of touches that are great for kids. A building where you can enter via a door or a slide. Hidey holes and climbing frames and things that have signs saying ‘Yes, you can play in here’. Lovely.

The outside areas at the bottom of the site are filled with gorgeous planting – herbaceous borders, willow hedges, and when we were there, roses, dahlias, sweet peas – I’d love to see what was planted at other times of the year. I took dozens of pictures, but here’s a taster:

Inspiration for ‘hot’ planting…

… and ‘cool’.

Another apple arch – I love these.

A wall built to encourage insects.

Lovely – I love the willow planters.

Dahlias (I always thought I didn’t like dahlias, but I saw some terrific ones in Cornwall – I think I’m being won over.

Dahlia with bee.

So, into the biomes. The first is the rainforest biome and it gets hot. Wear layers, take water – that’s all I’m sayin’. It’s incredible. Obviously, there are plants, wonderful plants – but also some witty, informative touches, and lots of information about what the plants are and how they’ve impacted on us. Again, lots of pictures, but here’s a small sample to give an idea of the scale:

Obviously, me being me, I took lots of pictures of flowers, too.

See that bottom one? That’s the Madagascan periwinkle. It’s endangered in its natural habitat, but is widely cultivated elsewhere. Why? Because it’s saved thousands of lives as a treatment for childhood leukemia. That little plant right there is the most powerful argument I’ve seen for habitat conservation. It’s not altruism, it’s self-interest.

And of course, we saw rice and tea and coffee and cocoa and rubber and spices and, most exciting for the kids:

This is just a fraction of a sample of what’s there.

So, then, after losing the Little Boy and finding him again, we went to the Mediterranean biome. Lots of more temperate plants, and vines and herbs and tomatoes and olive trees and chilis… (and a wonderful Spanish guitarist, which was a bonus).

There was more outside – plants for brewing, plants for dyeing, plants for … pretty much everything.

I loved this veg bed:

and this giant bee:

We had brought our own lunches, because we weren’t sure what the catering was like, but Mr S&S couldn’t resist one of the Biggest Scones In The World.

So, a tiny taster of the wonders of Eden. But to end, in one of the exhibition spaces, we saw this:

And it’s pretty mindblowing. These are the first architect’s sketch of the big biomes, done on pub napkins. It gave me a bit of a shiver to realise that it was the sheer force of human will that turned a pub-napkin pipe dream into huge, real, growing, flowering reality.

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The first place on my Cornwall hit list was the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The gardens were part of the seat of the Tremayne family, and in the late 19th century, they were at the height of their beauty. But not long after (partly because the men who tended them went off to war in 1914) the gardens became overgrown, and were finally ‘lost’. In 1990, a team of gardeners and garden historians and general good eggs set about restoring the gardens – and they are wonderful. When you arrive, you’re given a sepia-coloured map and a wee compass, which does set the tone for some serious exploring!

The gardens have been restored in a manner that is sympathetic to the original, but in no way does it feel like a period piece – it’s very much a contemporary garden. I suppose what they’ve done is created the garden to be as it would have been if it had never been lost, so rather than create an Edwardian garden in aspic, they’ve just skipped the intervening years as though all the 20th century head gardeners had been there, making their changes and following their fashions. It’s very clever. We couldn’t see the ‘Jungle’ and wild bits as we had wheel- and pushchairs in the party – so we’ll just have to go again! In any event, I’d love to see it in spring. And in high summer. And in deep autumn, too…

Would you like to see some pictures? I do hope so, because I took lots.

I love hydrangeas, and the Heligan ones were almost obscenely healthy and vigorous.

Some of the tree and grass planting in the ‘wilderness’ area.

The walled garden – this was magnificent. It was so productive – flowers, herbs, fruit, vegetables – and not at all sanitised. It was a working garden with compost heaps and the odd area that you could see was next to be weeded.

A lovely mixture of fruit and flowers.

A longer shot of the walled garden – you can see how huge it is!

One of the beautiful glasshouses.

These are the niches where the bee skeps were kept – and they’ve retained the skeps over the more modern hives.

I loved the orchard – or ‘poultry orchard’ as they called it – with the hens and ducks and geese as big a feature as the beautiful trees. I dream of one day restoring the derelict orchard here, and having my chickens pecking around underneath. One day – probably in time for the great-great-granddaughters of our current hens…

A traditional herbaceous border – it was just starting to go over, but it’s easy to see how brilliant it must have looked when the red hot pokers were at their hottest and the whites at their crispest.

There are lots of little nooks and niches – this is the Italian garden, complete with sunken pond. The children were most taken with the fish.

Then it was into the main walled produce garden, which was fantastic. Here’s a beautifully espaliered pear tree…

… and a lovely arch of apple trees. I imagine this is stunning at blossom time.

Some beautiful beans.

The long serried rows of beautiful veg – here some salad leaves – with the gardener off in the distance.

I loved this companion planting of flowers with the veg – I must remember this. It apparently cuts down on pests, but also means you can cut the flowers for the house without spoiling your borders, in a veg and cutting garden combined.

Finally, how’s this for planting? I love the mix of colours, tone and texture. Gorgeous.

This is a fraction of the pictures I took, and we saw a fraction of the garden. I can’t wait to go back.

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