gardens/flowers/travel/Tea and Cake
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Somerset Delights

We came back from 5 days in Somerset and even in March and cold winds, the blue sky and the shining sun made it a very pleasant experience.

One lovely little town we visited was Ilminster.

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Ilminster is the first Fair Trade town in South Somerset and has lost of quirky retail outlets and local produce. The shops are still very much in the same layout as they were originally and the streets are bendy – there is a Minster of course – which is a church and the town’s name means: ‘The church on the River Isle’ . it was founded in the 8th century as a church town by the nearby Abbey.

It currently has a population just over 5000 so it is a small market town.

It has set up 15 shops in its Fairtrade map and the one we really fell in love with was The Green House. This shop sells mainly recycled / upcycled goods. For instance earrings made from tins, old tables refurbished and made into garden ‘ladders’ for plants, and lots of dresses from other dresses… one of the best ideas that I saw though were the note books. They had equipment for ring binding hardback books and used it on all the old hardbacks that no-one buys these days in second-hand shops. They then took the backs off and inserted clean paper to write on, but the special aspect was that they left in small amounts of the original text also, so you would have a chapter at the front and then clean pages and then maybe another page and then more clean and so on.  This is such an original gift and also such a brilliant way of dealing with these books and giving them a new lease of life.

We also loved the deli. And bought several pieces of local cheeses of which they had a great selection including sheep and goat and different flavourings of cheddar of course.

Somerset has been lived in for a very long time of course and many of the towns are very ancient. Andover is such a town. We ate a quick lunch there but had hoped to eat at the Angel Inn which is situated at the heart of the medieval area. it is said to be the 7th oldest public house in England and dates back to 1174. although largely destroyed by fire in 1435 along with most of the town, it was rebuilt for the princely sum of £400. it is still a timber framed inn and has been the host to many royal visitors including King John, Kings Edward I and II,, and Catherine of Aragon. as with many of these old buildings it does have ghosts – 2 farmers and a dog!

One thing we noticed as we drove through Somerset was how deep the road was compared against the road banks. In some places the road banks were the height of a 3 storey house with full grown trees on top! Of course, one way to find out the age of a hedge in England is to count the species. If the hedge has stopped being a hedge and has become a mini forest you know it is old! If the road has sunk that far too – you know the road is old! In fact we were travelling on the Fosse Way, which was a Roman road and possibly a major footway before the Romans came to the England too. One reason the road may have sunk so dramatically is that the area is largely sandstone – see Odcome Hollow – where the road is very sunk indeed and it is as though you are driving in a tunnel almost.

According to wikipedia the Fosse way may have begun as a ditch – a defensive ditch that gave the barrier of the Roman empire to the rest.. or not of course.. it  links Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) in South West England to Lincoln(Lindum Colonia) in Lincolnshire, via Ilchester (Lindinis), Bath (Aquae Sfulis), Cirencester (Corinium) and Leicester (Ratae Corieltauvorum). It joins Akeman Street and Ermin Way at Cirencester, crosses Watling Street at Venonis (High Cross) south of Leicester, and joins Ermine Street at Lincoln.

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I also made sure I kept a short note of some of the places we stopped for tea/coffee and cake and here is the list:

Crewkerne: Market Square Deli: Coffee/pot of tea + cake £3.50. This is a great deli with lots of interesting foods and cheeses and a lovely bright clean cafe attached with interesting quotes on the walls including ones about love and chocolate and coffee and so on.

Ilminster: Coffee Shop Tea £1.60, cake £1.80 for a generous slice of Red Velvet which really looked as though it had some beetroot in it.

Lambrook Manor: [Margery Fish’s garden] Folter coffee £1.90 inc refill, Cake £2.20 in the Malthouse.

Margery Fish was a very important writer on horticultural matters especially how to create a cottage garden and her garden was full of hellebores with the snowdrops – where there were some very rare varieties – lining the ditch, but just going over. The hellebores were so tempting – they were in a great variety of colours from darkest purple to cream. Some double. Some spotted. Some cascading. And we went into their plant shop and bought 3 new ones for our front garden… we did see a lot of bees in her garden from bombus to honey.

Due the fact that the garden is built on levels and all the paths are stepping stones/ uneven flags, the garden is not suitable for wheeled vehicles from pushchairs to wheelchairs.

 

Margery Fish's garden Lambrook ManorP1030162

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Hellebores and more

This is a note on one of the gardens we went to visit while in Somerset.

East Lambrook Manor Gardens were the home of Margery Fish, the garden writer.

Margery began her career as a ‘normal’ journalist assisting Lord Northcliffe of the Daily Mail in the 1920s. When she moved out of London, just before WW2, she and her husband took over a derelict manor house with a comparatively small garden – as manor houses go.

As she developed this garden she also wrote many articles and books. She wrote for Amateur Gardening, The Field and her first book was the story of how she made the garden at Lambrook Manor.

She was the gardening writer who made the ctaooge garden style so very popular and her garden at Lambrook is recognised as the prime exemplar of this and is listed as Grade 1 by English Heritage.

She died in 1969 but her garden has remained in private hands each owner maintaining faithfully the garden she set out.

As is our garden, hers is divided into different areas and is lovely in the early Spring as now as there are great collections of snowdrops including ones developed in the garden, hardy geraniums beginning to come out, and of course, hellebores. I’m afraid we couldn’t resist and bought 3 doubles: Yellow Speckled, Apricot and Purple Cascade. The first two are photographed here already inserted into our front garden.

hellebore double yellow speckled

Our front garden is intended to be at its best at this time of year and as well as hellebores we also have drifts of blue pulmonaria but the crocii have already faded.

Below you will see a couple of photographs of our garden with the cornus stems standing proud.

Anemone Blanda open blue and white when the sun shines and the magnolias are opening too. We still have a winter cyclamen in flower – like a small crimson flame but fading fast. All the daffs and narcissi are also bursting out and then fading.

cornus frontpulmonaria and hellebore frontunder the blue firHellebore_double_apricot[2]

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Cake and Canals: a divine mix

The Cake Shop in the Garden

by Carole Matthews

A  Netgalley Review

A feel-good story here of the spinster looking after her mother – a very demanding and nasty tempered old woman – although it turns out not so old… who took her bed as they used to do in Victorian times when upset. The latest research says that middle age lasts until 74 at least for women – 15 years before you are due to die according to the insurance actuaries.  So at 70 she was still very much in her middle age.

In fact the main character was an enabler here and psychologists would be very unhappy with her behaviour. Whilst it is difficult to change habits as one grows older – don’t I know it – this kind of behaviour needs to be changed. Pandering to her mother enabled her mother to continue to bully her and to continue to undermine her own health.

So the story is set alongside one of our lovely British canals, a cake shop in the garden of a house that backs onto the canal. Tea and cake, as regular readers of my posts will know, is quite a feature of our days out and something we British all look forward to, especially good home-made cake, and thus this cake shop is ideally situated.

Walking the canal-sides is also a regular feature of our time out and most canals have excellent paths alongside them used regularly by both walkers and cyclists.

Also, many have houseboats permanently moored as well as those who wander the canal by-ways. Canals of course were designed for horse drawn boats and often near bridges as the tow-path narrowed horses might slip off into the canal. Thus, if you look carefully, you will find some steps under the water for horses to climb back out. Additionally, you might wonder just how did horses get under some of the very low bridges? The answer is simple, they didn’t. What happened was that were taken off their harnesses and walked around and over the bridge, and the boat was taken under the bridge by men ‘walking’ the surface underneath. An interesting experience no doubt.

And of course there are a number of wildlife that make their living along British canals. Swans and other water birds including herons and cormorants.

Father Thames kindly permits some people to live on boats....

Father Thames kindly permits some people to live on boats….

canal bridgeP1020873 P1020875 P1020876 P1020877

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Okay things to mess with on the web when bored

Okay – I’m being lazy? – or just wanting something different  to rest my mind having completed an article about clematis for a journal and lots of posts in preparation for going on holiday and… – so have been looking at the Internet and some recommended sites just to see something of what’s out there.. so much!

So here are some sites I’ve looked at for Ladies and others.

Nailsomething.tumblr.com

For those of you who like the new nail art and I confess I think it’s fun and have started having my nails painted different colours (3 one shade and 2 another for instance) or using the new varnishes – currently they are shellacked as per my birthday present from my daughter. A lovely sparkle over a deep plum. And then I had them painted deep witchy green with a sparkle. So I looked on this site for inspiration and fun. Have you ever thought of having your nails painted as Simpson Characters? Or as  part of a painting – Picasso for instance?  Well, see what other clever people have done. I confess I tried some dots and they weren’t good but practice I guess..

On a more serious note a great book site for women –

Forbookssake.net. ‘For and by independent women’ , is its strap line and lots of good ideas for what to read and conversations with authors and of course you all know ‘GoodReads’ which has some good groups to join with book challenges and so on. I challenged myself to read 125 books last year, and made it!

http://www.whatshouldireadnext.com/  like Amazon suggests what you should read next but without the money element. So I put in Nora Roberts the series about the detective and it offered me Catherine Coulter; Heather Graham; Lara Adrian;  Nalini Singh; Shelly Laurenston; Stephanie Laurens; Tami Hoag (who I do also love); Sherrilyn Kenyon; Amanda Quick; and Christine Feehan. None of which apart from Tami Hoag had I heard of, so I shall search these authors out in the future.

Then there’s SoulPancake.com, a site with a mix of art, culture, philosophy and so on; and some conversations that you may or may not think are good or even useful – with some really bad spelling. Why do people think that just because you are commenting on a website, you can spell anyway you want? Don’t they ever check what they say? I confess I do get the odd mistake from time to time – but at least I try…

On a general note – for everyone – probably especially my husband who LOVES QI (I have some great QI facts to share in due course) there is mentalfloss.com. There’s even a magazine you can purchase with them. Lots of lists and so on…

Then there’s  Engrish.com   with Misspelled wording and poorly written grammar,

This is a site that takes photos from all over the world of things like signs or product packaging that are riddled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, or just convey an entirely different message due to translation errors and extreme unfamiliarity with the English language. There are lots of different categories for the spelling errors and I just had to check out Stationery. The number of stores that just can’t spell this! But it was about stationery and the funny things written on it by – mostly – Japanese manufacturers. I always say just remember the little saying:

E for envelope and a for car and why will you then have a problem? But don’t get me going on the apostrophe!

A nice site is http://webtrends.about.com/. They will even teach you how to make an Internet meme – you can waste a lot of time on that!

I also waste time on Zulily. Now here is a shopping site par excellence. You can get all sorts especially cute stuff for kids from small designers and occasionally well known designer end of lines, at a tremendous discount. Not much for men and some stuff for the household but seriously shopping addictive – warm up that credit card!

http://shutupandtakemymoney.com/ is another shopping site, but this is full of useless but addictive items eg mugs with pictures that come and go with hot or cold water – and something possibly more useful – a car desk that you can use when on the road for business…

And finally, in my list here,  there’s www.theuselessweb.com.  This will take you to a new site every time you click on it, some will be fun, some will be quirky, some will be …..

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May in the garden blooms:

And now we look at our flowers.

There is a Welsh proverb that says ‘flowers before May bring bad luck’ but with Global Warming affecting our weather – it is 23 degrees (C) out there as I write this post, we have flowers all year round – certainly we work on this in our London garden.

So what is out today? Well I wandered round and found that areas were awash with blue or pink or contrasted orange and white too, so here’s hoping you like what you will see below.

white  clematis white  perennial wallflower anemone blanda art in garden begonia and nettle blue and art crab apple and pear fire red perennial wallflower hellebore double yellow speckled hellebore single speckled Hellebore_double_apricot[2] primrose and pulmanaria see the acer flower the blue have it the blue path the blues hide the new black tulip the orange contrast

 

 

Alexander Smith says:

It is curious, pathetic almost, how deeply seated in the human heart is the liking for gardens and gardening.

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