Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The edge of the world...

Just a quick post today...so busy with work, but I wanted to show you this little video I took with Alice earlier. I hope you enjoy it (for some reason, I sound like the Queen...:-) I don't THINK I do normally....?


Happy Wednesday xoxo

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Back to my roots...

Some of my happiest childhood memories involve visits to the East Anglian county of Suffolk. My mum was born & brought up in a market town on the Suffolk/Norfolk border, and my grandfather (like my great-grandfather Walter & my great-great grandfather Robert) owned the bakery/restaurant in the marketplace. By the time we were born, Grandma & Grandad had moved to a wondeful former Captain's house on the coast...we girls loved visiting so much, even though it was a long journey cross country in those days (and we were usually horribly carsick!)

Even though my grandparents are both long gone, the county still draws me back...so beautiful and, in contrast to where we live, so unspoilt and empty. Last weekend, we had a break there with my parents - and Alice, of course! We rented an ancient cottage in the medieval heritage town of Lavenham...


Alice wasted no time in making herself at home! We were blessed in that the weather was absolutely perfect from the moment we arrived...and so we could enjoy everything to the full. On Saturday morning, Paul & I took our little dog for a wonderful country walk in the fields overlooking the town...

listening to skylarks and picking crabapples, damsons and wild cobnuts as we went...
Then it was time to wander the streets of this historic place....jewels were around every corner...



ancient beams held every roof up...somehow!

the gardens were so gorgeous & humming with bees in the morning sun...

Pink is a very traditional colour for Suffolk cottages...



I think that if you own a house here you must feel very conscious of the fact that you are looking after it for a short time...and preserving the history for the years and generations to come. I feel this a little with our own home, but the fact that many of these places were 600 years old was awe inspiring. I think that this was one of my favourite places...

I loved the huge and abundant hanging baskets, the intricacy of the herringbone bricks and these fellows who had obviously been guarding the front door for more years than they could remember...

When I walked up our sloping street (Shilling Street) to the market square to buy fresh bread for breakfast early in the morning, I happened upon this secret garden behind the little door that had been left open...

Now if they hadn't wanted me to peek in, they shouldn't have enticed me like this should they?? I couldn't resist..

Isn't it darling? I heard them getting ready to come out for breakfast...so I beat a hasty retreat! My cousin Mike lives in nearby Bury St Edmunds - another historic place - and we visited his fabulous new restaurant (also a nightclub & live music venue) The LP on Saturday lunchtime where we joined Mike & his sister Emma for a gorgeous meal ...salads, breads, smoked salmon and amazing pizzas cooked in the restaurant's huge wood-fired oven. Dad adores his niece & nephew and it was so great to see him bloom in their company (we love them too!)
Afterwards, we all took a walk in the nearby Abbey Gardens...the site of an ancient ruined Abbey built in the 11th century (or thereabouts!) and, again, wonderful gardens and the church of St Mary...

Perfect afternoon. Much of East Anglia has links with the USA...not least because so many brave young American servicemen were stationed here during WW2, and inevitably lost their lives on bombing raids when their planes took off from the many airfields and bases around here bound for the occupied territories of Europe. There is much commemoration of their sacrifice and still so many traces of their time here, helping to defend our nation from the evil of nazism...

there are stones like this everywhere...and in Lavenham, a special and now famous reminder. The huge and ancient hotel in the centre of town, The Swan , was somewhere that the servicemen loved to spend their free hours. The main bar there is known as The Airmen's Bar because preserved on one wall are the signatures and messages left by the boys who drank there - their hometowns, their units and usually the date too. Young men so far from home and facing death every day. I love to look at the names...wonder and think about them. Did Chuck survive the war and get back to Arkansas? I'll never know. But I do know that they are remembered with gratitude, alway,s and honoured in this place and countless others.
Elsewhere in the bar, and left by those same airmen are cap badges and other memorabilia...

and many veterans and their families still make the journey back here to remember that time and the friends left behind...they add their signatures to the wall (I couldn't photograph it because it was just too dark!) The ghosts from 70 years ago still laugh & drink here, I'm certain of that...
As we meandered our way back home on Sunday, we stopped in the village of Clare...my Grandad lived here for a few years as a young boy after his mother died of tuberculosis at just 23 during WW1...and it's another gem of Suffolk beauty.
We took Alice for a walk and found the old railway station...disused for over 40 years...but still preserved and now used as a visitor centre...

the grassy path is where the traintracks once lay...and you can clearly see the old platform on the left as well as the station itself. A wonderful walk and the history of the place with it's trails and traces of the past - OUR past- was a fitting end to our nostalgic weekend. I love Suffolk - I'm sure that you can see why!

Hoping that your week is a great one so far. Thank you so much, too, for all the comments on my previous post. The farm is heaven...and I'm so happy to share a little of it with you.

xoxo

Monday, 15 August 2011

Walking up the glade...

The weekend has gone again...but we had a wonderful one. I hope you did too? On Saturday, Paul & I drove over to buy a few bits & pieces to finish the makeover of our attic room. My beloved sister, Esther, & her children are arriving a month today for a visit...I can barely contain the excitement which bubbles in my stomach - I feel like I used to the night before my birthday as a child! They are mainly staying at the farm with Mum & Dad but will be spending a few nights here too...and they'll be in the attic room so it has to be perfect! I have a post waiting until it's finished...I took 'before' pictures...so as soon as I have the 'afters' you can see it!
I spent yesterday afternoon at the farm, as Paul had to work & Alice was exhausted after her long morning run. My youngest sister, Lucy & her partner David were there too, along with my youngest nephew Will. William is only 3, but he is absolutely golf mad and frighteningly good at it! It doesn't interest me at all usually...but it's amazing to watch this little blond boy spending (literally) hours whacking golf balls around. He hits them perfectly every time and knows all the right names for the various clubs! Lucy can't bear golf either, so all the enthusiasm is coming from him...and he has plenty of it!
It  was a beautiful afternoon, so I left them all to it and took a walk in the mellow golden sunshine - I thought you might like to come along?

I left my tea mug on the fence post so I wouldn't forget it...


In the 1930's, the farm was owned by a famous gardener called Percy Cane...and he planted what we now call The Glade. It's really a wide, grassy promenade bordering the Home Paddock....edged with many beautiful species of tree...maples, azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias, lilacs...

Certain areas are purposely left wild...Dad is a great naturalist and this is a beautiful way to encourage the wildlife to share the space. It's a riot of bluebells here in Spring...but as you can see right now it's mainly grasses and the heady pink of the Rose Bay Willowherb...which is rapidly turning into what we call Old Man's Beard (you can see why!) All along the edges of the glade are little burial spots....here lie all the cats & dogs that have died in the 30 years we've owned the farm...even the ones who lived with us girls after we left home. They all come back to rest here, in this calm & peaceful shady place...I love to think of them as I walk...
Most lived long and happy lives...Sasha, Ruby, Winnie, my darling Poppet, sweet Sadie, feisty little Widget, Papagena....but some went far too soon...Buster, Ben, Teazel, Myrtle, Suki and Esther's beloved Staffy Funky...all lie under the trees where they used to love to play & run. I can almost see their little ghosts around me...

Near the top are Dad's hosta beds....huge and magnificent. He doesn't have the trouble with slugs & snails that I do here in town...due, we think, to the hedghogs & badgers that live in these woods...

At the very end of the glade is a pond, built after we moved here and now taken over by huge bullrushes...it's a wonderful place to stop and take a few breaths and admire the scenery...



Although it's only August, the hedgerows and trees are full of fruit & nuts already...

rowan berries...

hazelnuts...

walnuts...

acorns..

apples..and my favourites..


the glorious purple blue damsons.
Lucy & I managed to prise William away from his clubs for a while and we went off on a picking spree for my preserves this week...
we came back after only a short time with quite an impressive haul!

I've already extracted the juice from the damsons to make jelly...and I plan to make Victoria Plum Jam and Apple Thyme Jelly too later.
We  are so lucky to have grown up in such a place, and to be able to share it now with our children. I can't wait until Esther's three are running around on the wide lawns and laughing with their little cousin...not long now!
Have a happy week xo

Friday, 12 August 2011

After the rain....my August garden

We have had so much rain lately...much needed...and the plants, bees, birds and trees have been so happy! There's definitely the first touch of Autumn in the air now. My family subscribes to the old farming seasons rather than the modern ones...this means that August, September & October are Autumn, November, December & January are Winter and so on. It definitely makes sense to me. By this time of year, everything is calming down...the big push of growth & production is over and we settle into the time of ripening and harvest. I love the garden right now.....
Sweetcorn is almost ready..

the scarlet runner beans and thyme are running riot in the vegetable plot...



blueberries are still there to be picked by the handful & stirred into my morning yoghurt...and after a rain shower everything is especially glorious I think...




the hydrangea is so vivid...
and new to the garden this year is the echinacea which the bees adore..


they are still so busy and producing much honey...I can't wait until we harvest it!


I took these two pictures at twilight...it's such a wonderful time of the evening I think...can you just see Alice watching me from the deck?
She was rather hot and bothered last week in all the heat...it made her very lethargic

so I took her to see Tanya, her lovely groomer...and here she is now, a little shorn but so much happier!

We've just returned from a delivery...and a walk  was fitted in too. It's overcast today, but warm and a little humid. I'm just finishing some baking for tomorrow morning's orders before I hop on a train to London to meet some friends for dinner. You will have heard, no doubt, about the awful riots & looting that took place in parts of the capital (and other cities) earlier this week. It was a terrible time...one that made me ashamed, angry and so sad. But happily things seem to have returned to normal, more or less. Let's hope it was a moment of madness that won't be repeated. 'Our' part of London, thankfully,wasn't affected...and I'm looking forward to a fabulous evening.
I hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with good things.
xoxo