Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Summer Flowers & Sweet Visitors

You know how quite small things can make you feel disproportionately happy all of a sudden? I'm sure it's not just me that feels that way...and it's usually nature (or Mozart!) that does it. The swallows and swifts who have now returned from their African winter and wheel overhead, screaming joyously as they flicker and swoop....the first blooming of the crimson peony I planted 2 years ago...

the beauty of the little robins egg I found, sadly cold and abandoned under the euphorbia...

I've moved it under the day lily in our big, iron urn...I know it's purpose has gone, but it looks so pretty..

The first flowers, so heavily scented and lush, from my rose bushes (the darker one is Gertrude Jekyll...I don't know the name of the other one, but it's gorgeous too)


we have now had a few days of rain, and the garden is just bursting into early summer glory...I'll post my June garden soon...but here's a peek, taken late last week...

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my blog followers (and one whose blog I follow) for the first time! It was wonderful to welcome Guillaume, whose blog Vraie Fiction I have enjoyed for a long time, and his sweet wife for tea and scones! Quite a surreal experience, because we knew much about each other already...but had never before exchanged a word or heard each other's voice! You can read about the encounter from his side on his blog ( a lovely tribute,I was very touched!) but for me it was a lovely experience and I hope to meet more friends like this through the years!

And then, this morning, walking back from The Coffee Tree, my heart leapt as I spotted something unusual out of the corner of my eye in the churchyard. I couldn't believe it at first, but it was this little fellow...
a gorgeous hedgehog! I don't think that I've ever seen a real, healthy wild one...they are usually sick or squashed on the road when you see them this close. I wanted to make sure that this one was safe from harm before I went inside. I took this photo and also a small video of him, for posterity...and then drew back to watch him. His little nose was snuffing the air as he bumbled along...his eyes weren't too good as they are usually nocturnal foragers and I knew he should be asleep! Sure enough, he found a cosy, sheltered spot under the corner of the gravestone you see him near. I watched for a few minutes after he disappeared to make sure that he was no longer visible to possible predators...and then I returned to the house, with a huge smile on my face! Beautiful flowers and unexpected visitors...the week has begun well! I hope that you had a lovely weekend - a holiday for so many of us - and that your week will be full of magical surprises too...they are everywhere if you look!
xoxo




Tuesday, 24 May 2011

More from The Lakes..

This was my lunch last Tuesday...well, this and the best twice-cooked cheese souffle I've ever tasted! We always try and have a few special meals while we're away...and this was one of our favourite places last year, so we decided to revisit!
Th Drunken Duck Inn at Barngates near Ambleside...high in the hills.. usuallywith stunning views over the town below although last week it was too misty..so this is the stunning view inside the inn!.
See the dried hops hanging from the beams?
Luckily, most of the rest of the trip was drier...so we were able to take advantage of the amazing countryside...




We stopped for a picnic beside Yew Tree Tarn (above) and Alice went for her first proper swim! She loves water...but has never done more than paddle before. This time, we heard a surprised yelp as her paws came off the ground and she headed out in the fresh water! When I called her, she executed a perfect turn and swam slowly back before rushing out of the tarn & shaking her wet fur all over our sandwiches!

As well as Beatrix, the Lake District is famous for being the home of William Wordsworth. The home he shared first with his sister Dorothy & later with his wife Mary and their children is Dove Cottage, on the outskirts of Grasmere. We didn't go in as it was SO busy, but I took some pictures of the outside..and garden...


In Grasmere itself is the ancient church where he and his family are now buried..

a beautiful and peaceful resting place!

Another of our very favourite walks is around a small lake called Rydal Water...about 6 miles...perfect for a fine morning..



Wordworth also lived at Rydal when Dove Cottage grew too small for his expanding family..

The garden here was so beautiful too...the house is called Rydal Mount.
Part of this walk is along what was known as the Coffin Route. As there was no church at some of the smaller hamlets, they would carry the coffins along the path so that they could be buried properly in Grasmere churchyard. Although there were flat stones all along the route to lay the burden down and rest...

the distance they travelled was around 5 miles, over quite steep and rocky terrain. As we walked, it made me really think about how easy our lives are now in so many ways. Imagine anyone doing this now?

White Moss Tarn is man made and was originally used probably for washing fleeces before market. If you know Wordsworth's poem 'The Leech Gatherer' (which I studied at High School!)...then this is the place that the poet encountered his subject! It's very beautiful and peaceful...full of birds and yellow irises.

We had such a wonderful time in Cumbria and look forward to going back soon....I'll leave you with some gorgeous pictures taken at Coniston, of the fell they call The Old Man of Coniston (a popular hill to hike!) and a last look at serene Lake Windermere too...



I hope you're having a wonderful week so far...I'm just back from my day on the Farmer's Market, so it's time for a coffee and a cuddle with Alice...xo

Friday, 20 May 2011

What Beatrix saw...

For the past few days, we've been having a break in the wonderful Lake District, in Cumbria. You may remember that we visited there last year too...my first introduction to what is some of the most incredibly breathtaking countryside I've ever seen...

We rented a little dog-friendly cottage in Windermere village again...the perfect base for exploring the Southern lakes region. The weather wasn't as wonderful as last year - the North West is rainy country, which is part of what keeps it so green and lush - and we weren't there for as long. But we made the most of it and the sunny days we DID have. I'll show you more in my next post...but for this first one, I wanted to share the blissful experience of Hill Top - which was Beatrix Potter's home before she married, and which she kept to receive guests and write her timeless books in later years...

I didn't take pictures in the house itself - this is forbidden, and I wanted to respect that. Besides...you may want to visit yourself one day! All I can say about the interior is that if you love Beatrix, it will be just as you imagine. A jewelled, burnished treasure of a place...with secrets and special corners everywhere. There is no electricity (this was her choice) and how I would love to see it at night...glowing with candlelight and magic. Everything in the house belonged to her...except some of the curtains & rugs, which have been perfectly replaced. She had a true artist's eye for things of beauty...antiques, wondeful paintings (many by her younger brother, Bertram, who seems to have been almost talented as she was) Charm and love flow through the heavy old doors and envelop you as you rest on the wide, ancient window seats and peer through the 17th century glass at the hills and gardens below. Because the entry tickets are timed, the little cottage is never too full...and yesterday I found myself alone in her bedroom for long moments. Carved four poster bed, muted ancient patchwork quilt, original William Morris wallpaper and bed hangings wonderfully embroidered by the lady herself. I sat, and breathed, and tried to remember everything before I was disturbed and the spell was broken...

The garden mirrors the house in it's charm & carefully considered beauty. As you walk up the long slate path from the road towards the house, the first thing you notice is the birdsong, the fragrance of flowers...and then the vivid colours and the gentle flock of Herdwick sheep in the little meadow that runs alongside the garden. Nearing the cottage, mellow woodsmoke from the log fire that burns all day in the range in the hallway is there too...but enough, enough. Let me show you...
the view across the valley (from the front gate)...

at the gate, towards the house...



first sight of the sheep...

a better view...

Nearly at the house now...

the kitchen garden...

was this the inspiration for Mr McGregor's garden, I wondered...
and then, at last...

there it is!

I found a wonderful 18thC jug on the mantelpiece of her bedroom fireplace. Primrose yellow and full bellied...it had handpainted flowers and, in the centre, a little poem inscribed. So beautiful, so Beatrix & so Hill Top...I felt tears fill my eyes - and I had to share it, so found the little notebook & pen I always carry and wrote it down. I will leave it with you until next time...have a wonderful evening xoxo

Let the wealthy and great
Roll in splendor and state,
I envy them not I declare it:
I eat my own lamb, my own chickens and ham
I shear my own fleece and I wear it.
I have lawns, I have bowers
I have fruits, I have flowers
The lark is my morning alarmer.
So you jolly boys now
Here's God bless the plough
Long life and success to the farmer!

Monday, 9 May 2011

My May Garden....& Giveaway Result!


As you can see...we have beautiful weather here today and a certain someone is enjoying the sunshine very much! We'd just come back from our  walk when I took this, so she was feeling lovely & mellow...!

The garden is now starting to 'fill out' & look really gorgeous at last...I am having to keep on top of the weeds, especially as we had quite heavy and much needed rainfall yesterday...
Paul's favourite hostas are in their glory. We used to be plagued by snails and slugs eating their way through the leaves of these...but I refuse to use slug pellets in case Alice or the birds ingest some...so they take their chances and as they get more mature, they don't seem to be affected. Keeping them potted helps...as does keeping them away from the hedges or anywhere that snails might lurk...

the late-flowering clematis will be a while yet...but it's creeping beautifully up the old wall...in front you can see the hollyhock, which has blood-red flowers...soon.

The roses are almost out..

the wild geraniums ARE out...

so are the columbines..

the herb garden is running away now...catmint (in the foreground) will soon have it's mauve flowers on show...

the day lilies won't be long...more buds every day...and the beautiful white allium are just beginning to pop too..

My lovely friend Sandy sent me some sweetpea seeds.....which are doing very well now too! Can't wait to see the fragile fragrant flowers all over the tangled foliage...


New to the garden this year are some irises....3 different kinds...the first one just flowered...

and I can't stop looking at it! This time next month, it will almost be time to open our garden to the public!! More on that in June....but for now, the results of my Great British Giveaway!! Lots of names this time...

all carefully written out and put into a favourite and seasonal Emma Bridgewater bluebell mug...

and then I picked one out....and the name was....


SHANNON!! Well done to you sweetie...if you'll e-mail your postal address to me (MozartsGirl1756@gmail.com) I'll get the parcel off to you asap. Thanks so much to all who entered...I would love you all to win, every time! But I loved reading your comments anyway...and there will be another giveaway before long! I can't resist them!!

Happy week to you xoxox