Basildon Park

  

These photos are from a visit to Basildon Park a National Trust property in Berkshire, which we visited on Sunday. I’m glad we went before the storms of this week, as I reckon the petals of the rose garden might now have been blown away!

The interesting thing about this is that Lady Iliffe didn’t die until 2007 and so there is a video of her speaking about how she and her husband came to buy the property after the War. It’s not very often that you have the opportunity to see and hear the last inhabitants of an NT house, for obvious reasons. They had seen it before, in the late thirties, and hadn’t forgotten it. One day they passed nearby, wondering what became of the place, and ended up joining Men from the Ministry of Works on an impromptu tour. It had sat empty for fifty years, apart from being requisitioned during both the First and Second World Wars. As you see it’s a solidly impressive building. It must have taken a big pot of money to renovate and restore; but as Lord Iliffe was a newspaper magnate, photographed with Winston Churchill and Lord Beaverbrook amongst others, that probably was not a huge issue….

 I loved the view from the gardens at the back. The Berkshire (pronounced “bark-sher”) countryside rolls beautifully on. We had a good walk in the woodland and looked around the house. It was good to revisit as I had memories of some horrible 1950s decor in the house in the early noughties (I think): a plastic bed-surround with a white plastic teasmaid and polyester bedspread. The lovely gallery guide told me the house was now much improved and we’d find it very altered. I was much younger (practically a child) that first visit and expected faded grandeur, not a pink telephone by the bed! 

When I win my pot of Lottery money I shall buy a Lifetime Membership of The National Trust. It’s always a great day out, with chances for a good walk too. (This reminds of a film we had a recommendation to watch: Golden Age, it’s fun and has a fantastic British cast.)

Greys Court 

Such a lovely day at Greys Court, National Trust property, yesterday.

We did the woodland walk and ended up sort of mindlessly following a couple who were far ahead along the path, although for most of the time we hadn’t seen anyone else at all. I’m glad there were still some bluebells out. The upshot of following others, and not taking much notice, was that the 1 3/4 mile trail turned into 3 miles! But actually that’s perfect as 1 3/4 miles is not really a long enough walk for me. Things turned a bit surreal when we got chatting, as we all tried to find the official path, and I recommended they visit The Fan Museum in Greenwich, not so much for the fans but for a perfect example of a merchant’s London townhouse. She then mentioned a town up north where there are a number of great NT properties to visit. He interjected with “Oh, where your friend X lives?” And I’m not sure why, but I asked if it was the X married to X? This is something that’s always amused me when I’m travelling abroad; someone will ask if I know Liz in Ealing when I mention London. But, would you believe it was the same X who is indeed married to X! The woman and my friend are trustees of the same charity and know each other very well. It just shows that however random the question seems, sometimes it’s really worth asking.

We then moved on to girl-talk about the best place to buy girlie shoes while the men plodded on behind, trying to make sense of the map and find the correct path! Eventually we four found ourselves back at the car park and had completed our circular walk, in a wiggly fashion.

I really love NT days out as there’s usually a good chance to walk amongst stunning countryside. They’re often built on the side of a hill so there are plenty of great views and you get out of puff, which always makes you feel like you’ve done a ‘proper walk’. Of course then there’s a cafe or picnic, if we’re really organised, for lunch (and cake?) at the end. Basically if you’re stuck for what to do on a Sunday, I’d say choose to visit a NT property for: great walks, gardens to explore, a house (…cottage, townhouse, manor, priory, windmill, castle….?) cafe and shop. The free tours can be fascinating and well done too.

I spend much of the time imagining I’m the lady of the house wandering around. Or perhaps the Governess, or the house-keeper. When I’m not drifting about in a day-dream I find the other visitors are usually friendly. I always end up chatting to someone anyway. I’m not keen on some dogs, but they all have to be kept on leads and are mostly the relaxed and well behaved type of family dogs, that don’t make my hands sweaty and my heart race.

Greys Court have a very easy and unfussy system of selecting free flow tickets to see the house; we simply selected our own ticket from a box for the time we fancied. It was so much easier than being offered and accepting a specific slot, without time to think and opportunity for a quick conflab. I am so glad we left 2.5 hours for exploring, since our prolonged walk and leisurely lunch were not rushed at all. By the way: I always go for the ham salad sandwich at NT cafes as I reckon they’re usually the best.
The gardens were a delight too, kitchen gardens in particular fascinate me. I stroll along imagining snipping a bit of this and digging a few of those to cook. Or in Housekeeper mode it’s the kitchen lad or maid, of course. It’s also the pleasing parallel rows of vegetables that are so soothing to my orderly soul. (Another word is sometimes used, but I live with a barbarian.)

Mum has been telling me for a while that I should visit when the wisteria is flowering. I see why now. The scent was heavenly and it wasn’t at its best either; after weeks of very dry weather, then torrential rain. Plus I guess it’s coming to the end of its flowering season. I’ll make a note to go back next May…

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A little walk

I wanted to test out my knee yesterday, I can’t tell you how cabin fevery I got resting it all last week. So we set off to look at the work of local artisans. Just a little stroll, gently does it, if it felt ok we might slowly wander to the next village too… 

                               The sun was out, it was lovely and warm. I love to feel the sun on my face as I walk, well who doesn’t? Cow parsley, buttercups and bluebells are in full bloom, plus who can resist stopping for a little chat with skittish calves, oohing and ahhing over lazy lambs and watching birds effortlessly soaring overhead?

We walked 9 miles, with a pit stop at a lovely country pub for a pint of lager shandy and bag of crisps. This was really not the plan! Luckily my knee is pretty ok. It was a lovely, lovely ‘stroll’ ! 

Have you had a good weekend?

In the bluebell wood

                    Once again Mum and I went to the bluebell wood to wander. So many flowers! Bluebells of course, but also cowslips, orchids (pyramid apparently, though she was going to check this when home) crab-apple blossom, cherry blossom and little violets. 

No deer thundered towards us, unlike last year although we walked quietly to the same spot in the adjacent field (planted with beans this time.) It is such a peaceful spot, the birds were singing their hearts out and we had the whole woods to ourselves; no dog walkers or snipper snappers like me.

We ate a cosy picnic in the car because the wind was pretty chill outside in the open. I was amused to see a woman with five large dogs: (eek!) a retriever, rottweiler, labrador, an-other and ditto) having to carry the sixth; a naughty greyhound, to her Range Rover because it completely refused to leave! 

Springtime at Cliveden 

                It continues to be a gorgeous sunny warm Spring here in the South of England. Walking at Cliveden (6.5 miles, now pretty much a breeze apart from really steep bits!) in beautiful sun, seeing abundant wild bluebells and primroses feels like such a treat. You need to catch bluebells while they bloom; it never feels as if they are around for long. I’m sure we usually go to the bluebell woods of my childhood in May, everything seems earlier this year. 

Here are some photos from Cliveden last Summer if you’re interested in comparing the planting of the parterre then and now. 

What’s the weather like where you are?

Snowshill Manor & Garden

Yesterday we had yet another late Summer day; t-shirt, sandals and sitting outside weather. We’ve been really fortunate this week. It seems that oop north the weather is not being so kind. I overheard a couple from Yorkshire saying that it’s much warmer down here. Being determined to make the most of it we went to explore another National Trust house and garden. It’s about twelve years since we first visited and found Snowshill Manor and Garden a delight.

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“Snowshill Manor is a Cotswold manor house packed with extraordinary treasures collected over a life time by Charles Wade

Inside these rooms you can discover this eclectic collection that he restored and displayed. We have maintained the atmospheric settings he created with low lighting and few labels. From tiny toys to Samurai armour, musical instruments to fine clocks, thousands of objects are laid out for you to see just as Mr Wade intended.

The garden is the perfect place to unwind and explore hidden vistas, quiet corners and unexpected delights including Charles Wade’s uncomplicated home, the Priest’s House.

“Let nothing perish” was his motto, and his life was dedicated to doing just that. From the everyday to the extraordinary, you can discover his passion for craftsmanship, colour and design.” National Trust Website, 14th September 2014.

You’re never quite sure what you’ll discover next when exploring the house. The collection is not to everyone’s taste; in one room a woman exclaimed that it was all a bit spooky. This might be due to the gloomy lighting, the strange mix of things or perhaps the many faces depicted on items, which can be unsettling. I know exactly what she meant, but it’s a fascinating place to look around. For me the garden is the best part…

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I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos. I always think of people far away from the English countryside who enjoy seeing glimpses, but know picture heavy posts of outings and holidays are not everyone’s thing.

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I’ve heard that there’s a new crochet magazine coming out in the UK this coming week called #crochet. I’m trying to find who, when, where but my friend Google has surprisingly not thrown up any answers at all. If you have any info about the mag, please share!

On another island

It feels like eons since I shared any craft here but that’s because I’m temporarily unable to do any, so have nothing to share. My elbow pain has flared up and I’m trying to avoid anything that might aggravate it. I’m feeling a little sorry for myself as I’m in the middle of a few makes and watching tv with still hands feels incredibly unproductive. At the risk of sounding whiney my knee is also sore. When I sit with an ice pack on it at least I can usually listen to an audio book and make something but that’s not happening. Boo!

Still, it was a lovely sunny bank holiday weekend and we hopped over to the Isle of Wight and had a super time. The Garlic Farm is a must-see. You can go to the tasting experience room and try most of the products, then spend way too much money in the shop. My tip top favourite product is their smoked garlic bulbs. I first tried some years ago and if anyone I know is visiting that’s always my “please buy me” request. It’s truly delicious added to tomato sauce or roasted with chicken. I added some to a homemade BBQ sauce last night and I can’t wait to eat it later.

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We drove to Shanklin and wandered along the beach to Sandown, collecting a trove of sea glass. Finding a few different shades of blue felt like coming across treasure! My collection’s growing now so it’s been re homed in a larger jar.
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Ventnor and the excellent Spyglass Inn is a must during any visit. Lager shandy, a shared plate of whitebait and a wander along the sea front rounded off the day beautifully.
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We visited a National Trust property on Monday and I’ll share some photos from the visit soon. I’ve found another Shepherd’s hut…

What did you do over the weekend? Are you busy making anything?

Even the cows think it’s hot

After my trip to the Grand Union canal in London yesterday, and recent waterside walks, I felt very inspired to visit the library to pick up some canal history books. Ramblin Rose by Sheila Stewart is going to be a treat. If you can get hold of a copy of Lifting the Latch then I recommend it as a fascinating read. If you’re interested I’ll pass on interesting snippets about canal life and history as I go.

I’ve always been drawn to photography of people, particularly from past times, and I think I’ve got some great bounty in these four books.

Although my family owned a boat and kept it moored in a marina ready to take on the canal while I was growing up, I’d never been on a traditional painted wooden narrow boat. Of course I was excited to see the gorgeous baby again, chat to her Mum and catch up with my other friend, but I admit to feeling a huge fizzle of boat related excitement all day! I came away as if after an interview with questions I knew I wanted answered and details I felt sketchy about, but hadn’t got round to asking. Maybe I’ll remember next time. I blame the rinky dink baby who stole the show with cuddles.

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Today it’s been summer! We’ve had mid-twenties here and I notice everyone’s dug out sunglasses, sandals and lighter clothes. We’ve got to make the most of the sun when it makes an appearance, in what has so far been a pretty dreary season. Tonight there’ll be a run on charcoal steaks, salad and beer at the supermarkets! I once thought it would be a nice surprise to have a BBQ after work; but when I got home found identical supplies as somebody else had had the same cunning idea. That was a funny moment.

When I went past the meadow after getting my mini canal book haul (plus some fiction) I had to stop and take photos of the cows having a paddle in the pond. The sight of all of them congregated like this made me giggle.

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They were all closest to me to begin with but the longer I stood nearby I noticed they gradually moved over to the next bit of water. One stared me right in the eye and let out a bellow, I told it to calm down and it carried on staring, seemed to wink at me and then ambled off to join the others.050

The grey sky must have been a heat haze because by the time I’d stood for a few minutes photographing and chiding noisy cows I was very warm indeed.

048I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these English pastoral scenes. It’s a lovely country, and you know what they say: There’s no place like home.

Tonight I will begin my next new make, it’s something I’ve been thinking of trying for, oh, ages and ages. After the success of Monday’s posh cotton bib I’m feeling very inspired to try new patterns and makes.
Thank you for all your lovely *likes* and comments on the bib. It suits the baby very well. She looked SO cute wearing it. Actually I’ve told the baby’s mum that I plan to fill her boat with crochet. She said “That would be lovely, we love your craft.” Will she be saying that this time next year I wonder?!

Buttercups & Bunting

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Sunshine, blue clouds and lush green fields of buttercups, fringed with cow parsley. Rural England is beautiful in the Spring.

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This was a very steep walk back up the hill from the river but taking a few photos always gives the perfect excuse for a quick rest.

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Home to eat some delicious local produce from the farm shop and continue with the Yarndale bunting. As you see it’s really fast to crochet. I forgot to ask if any of you are planning to go? I’m thinking of going on the Sunday.