So, following on from my last post, here is the Christmassy National Trust property we visited. Greys Court is somewhere that we’ve visited in the summer, mainly because they have a sculpture exhibition and so the grounds are filled with all sorts of impressive and also weird and wonderful sculpture! Lots of it’s available to buy and some of the fun is in looking at the price tags. However we’ve never visited at Christmas. It’s absolutely lovely, as you will see…
And my crafting? Lady Brunner would not be particularly impressed. (Still haven’t made that chutney.) But LOOK! I’ve crocheted a brussel sprout! I know, it’s only one but at least I’ve made one.
Next time I need to get some safety pins to hold the leaves in place, as I found it really really fiddly to hold them while I sewed them onto the sphere. I still need to glue on the eyes and thread some sparkly thread so it can hang on the tree, when we’ve got one.
It’s been an exciting morning. It’s been really stormy here overnight, with Storm Arwen bringing very, very gusty winds but luckily no damage. I think the north of the country have had it far worse with 98 mph winds.
I kept having shouted weather updates from downstairs first thing, as we were anticipating some changes. First it was “It’s only raining at the moment” yawn, then “I think it’s starting to sleet” ok a little more interesting and then I got a WhatsApp video showing snow falling!
At the time I was sat up in bed ordering more wool for my blanket and toy eyes from Wool Warehouse. I tried to support my local yarn shops, but neither of them had the right sized toy eyes. It was enjoyable browsing online, as it’s months since I have properly looked. But when the snow video came I ended up jumping out of bed, grabbing my iPad and FaceTiming a friend to show her our blizzard of snow. I can’t help squealing, and my snow face was definitely on.
Last night I started to join two of my Coast Blanket granny squares together. Actually as well as JAYGOing I initially went all the way round the outsides too, but wasn’t happy so unravelled it all. Now they’re just joined in one line across, with a third block added to make a longish rectangle.
I can’t really do anything else now, until I’ve got some more of the yellow grey blue wool. But as I did far too much crochet my hand is really protesting today, so a break isn’t a bad thing. I want to make some chutney soon. I might have to have some help peeling and chopping the apples. Oops.
I have three more blocks to join, but I just don’t think the colours go. Although looking at the photo above they look fine. What do you reckon? During the lockdowns, last year and this, supplies of wool ran really low. Across the country people hunkered down to knit and crochet their way through the anxiety and boredom. So, I ended up with three quite different colour-ways of Hayfield Spirit DK for my Coast Blanket. Hmmm. I have a feeling that they will be turned into two smaller blankets, instead of one king-sized. No matter. If this 2° weather continues I’ll be wrapping myself in both! Brrrr!
Because you stuff the gingerbread man as you go and add his eyes, before completing the rest of his head, the poor little thing is eyeless and looks like he’s had a lobotomy. He’s by the magazine for scale. I think if I’d used the proper cotton and smaller hook he’d probably be half the size, but I love him. (The pattern’s by Victoria Kairis and was featured in Simply Crochet mag, issue 115.)
On Thursday I met Cathy for a walk in Badbury woods. We did a 40 minute circular walk, with a sit to admire the long ranging views across Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, then a wander around the Clumps. It was a chilly 3°, so I wore my Edenvale cowl I am very glad we went, because those trees will definitely not have leaves now. It was really rather beautiful as the breeze blew Copper Beech leaves down on us, as we walked underneath the trees.
Afterwards I went into Faringdon for a wander around the churchyard and then had a pot of tea and a wrap for lunch in Costa. Later I had quite a fright as I went into a shop. You remember in my last post I was talking about dogs making a beeline for me, although I’m a cat person? As I opened the shop door and walked through the doorway a head shot out to the side, coming straight at me, between bags hanging on hooks. I shot up into the air and squealed a most peculiar sound. If they’ve got CCTV I bet it would be hilarious to watch. Nothing scary after all, but what a surprise!
Isn’t he gorgeous? He’s an older cat, who lives in the shop. The guy was at the till and his partner (I assume) was running a yoga class in the back room. After a fuss and photo session I went to browse the candles and teas, the cat jumped down from the shelf and walked past me. I thought he was hinting for some more strokes, but no he obviously knows the class routine well; the yoga finished and as people came out of the back room, lots of them stopped stroke him. It was time for more fuss. Clever puss.
I bought this little decorative pot which came in a reusable bag, made from old sari silk. I thought after asking to take photos of the cat and having a chat with the owner, it was the least I could do. I gave it away as a little gift that afternoon. I will definitely go back for more, the shop is called The Lotus Retreat.
It’s opposite a bakery which has been there for years. It’s well known for their Lardy Cakes. My FiL used to drive a lot for work and seemed to navigate the country via bakeries. When I once said I was in Faringdon he immediately recommended the bakery and Lardy cake, for next time. (Oxfordshire should be on that list too Wikipedia.) But I’d already found it and bought us one! I have a good nose for cake too. So, if you’re anywhere near Faringdon, Oxfordshire, you now have a recommendation for a nice walk in the woods, a browse of independent shops and are well prepared for a cat who will shoot his head out and make you jump! Plus a source of fresh cake and breads to take home.
We have planned to go to a Christmas craft fair this afternoon and the switching on of the lights tonight. I’m not sure if I fancy 40+ mile an hour winds, we will see…
Into the woods, around boggy bits, along field edges, slipping up hills and slivering down others in the mud, catching on brambles and holly, walking in pelting rain, climbing over fallen trees and back into the woodland, until I finally implored them
“SLOW DOWN! Aunty Rachel’s legs are a lot shorter than yours!”
I felt like I’d been through commando training!
Chop, chop, chopping for a chicken and pearl barley casserole.
Ohhhh. Not sure about including the sweet potatoes!
Do we want a pink dinner?
I’m now on my second granny square. The decision whether to keep going on and make a huge one-square blanket was made when I laid it on out a table at the weekend. I realised the edges were starting to frill. Rather than fiddle around adding extra chains along the sides I unravelled some rounds until it wasn’t frilling any more, fastened the yarn off and began another square.
Sometimes decisions are made for you and it’s easy!￼
I need to decide whether I carry on using this colour combination (it’s Breeze) or buy some more Hayfield Spirit DK in another colour combo. I can’t decide whether I want a purely blue and grey blanket, or one with a more colourful patchwork effect. I’ll have to decide soon because I have only half a ball left￼…
A walk on a lovely warm May morning in the bluebell wood.
It is an annual tradition to go whenever the bluebells are flowering, to listen to the swell of birdsong, to notice the leaves on the trees rustling in the breeze, to drink in the haze of colour of the bluebells and to smell their dusky sweet perfume. This only seems to happen if the breeze is blowing in the right direction, or the sun is filtering through the leaves of the trees above to warm the flowers. When I catch the scent it instantly reminds me of other walks in this wood.
When you see the candles on a horse chestnut tree you don’t expect them to be such pretty flowers, do you?
We were the only people in the woods this visit, apart from at the beginning of the walk when a girl came out of one of the paths onto ours, carrying her puppy. She said she was worried because he is very young and gets so excited, he would be jumping up at us. I’m ashamed to admit that this country girl replied: “Oh good because today I put new jeans on and I don’t want muddy paws all over the legs!”
It was a dachshund puppy…I’m blushing as I remember.
Mum and I have looked out for deer since the time we came across a huge pair running in the field at the back of the woods.
I regularly see muntjac deer where I walk at home, but that pair (roe deer I think) near the bluebell woods were enormous. And scary. But exhilarating and wonderful too.
This time we experienced mild disappointment when we left, the wildest animal having been a small over-excited puppy with mucky paws…
Celandine and bluebells look so eye catching together. There are delicate patches of celandine in the woods. So fragile, some are along the very fringes of the paths, that I watch where I place my feet. Aren’t those dark green heart shaped leaves lovely?
One: I can’t tell you how good it is to have made something. From beginning to end in about 10 days. Yes!
Less yes, and more noooo was experiencing the sewers equivalent of yarn chicken. I’d asked on Instagram for any suggestions and someone said tie the old and new thread together. That seemed a bit rubbish, so I undid it all and started again with a longer thread and, would you believe, it happened all over again! I Googled thread tying and it is a thing. Sorry to whoever suggested it – I was an unbeliever – but it worked. It was initially a bit tricky trying to get the knot to stay at the back and not pull around, but anchoring it behind a tuck of the gathered material worked perfectly. Looking at the back you wouldn’t know.
Two: As mentioned on my last post Corinne Lapierre sent me a thank you gift, and someone there wrote a really lovely note. It’s so lovely that it’s pinned on my noticeboard in the little room.
Three: Yes your eyes are not deceiving you… I have managed to do some crochet this week. The first picture was taken after my allotted ten minutes. The first time I’ve done any crochet since, I think in about November. I had the yarn and hook poised in my hands ready to go just before I started the ten minute timer. I wanted every second! I felt thoroughly relaxed even having just done a little. Crochet always feels like a tranquilliser!
Ahem… The second picture was a few days later and I completely blame Nikki and her lovely Nan for my going way, way, way past the ten minute timer.
I’ve never got into vlogs. Generally I find them full of umming and ahhing, repetitious and overly long without enough content the fill the time. (Say what you think, why don’t you?!) I think this is probably only the third one I’ve ever watched in full. I’ll definitely watch another. This is the episode.
Four: This fluffy lovely spent ten minutes sitting in one of our two balcony feeders, sun basking and occasionally pecking at the crumbs of mealworm. I was right next to the window chatting to him and he just blinked at me. Looking at the fluffy tummy feathers I would say this is a juvenile.
Five: And it’s bluebell season again, seems to come around fast doesn’t it? This isn’t even my official bluebell visit, but some that are filling my local woods. What a gorgeous sight.
The Woodland Trust has lots of general info about bluebells and a search box to find bluebell hotspots. I enjoyed reading the article about ancient woodlands too.
A choir of birdsong, a gentle breeze and the rustle of leaves overhead
Ferns gradually unfolding
Cowslips with a background of bluebells make such a pretty picture. I always think of Uncle Silas getting merry on his homemade cowslip wine…it might be time to reread that delightful little book.
The only other people Mum and I saw in the distance yesterday were a couple with a greyhound, later there was a ferocious sounding barking match between two dogs somewhere near the boundary of the woods. We never did see the other dog, but came across the couple again. According to the owner the dog had met his brother: “It’s like that in some families, isn’t it?”
A glimpse of a field of rape flowers through the trees.
Last year’s visit, with links to previous posts in the same bluebell woods.
“This is proper England” I found myself saying this morning, on another Tuesday morning walk with my friend B. This is a stunning new find for both of us: Evenley Wood Garden. It’s one to return to through the four seasons, to see how it’s changed.
While there we heard a woodpecker, saw various birds and heard their birdsong, caught a group of about five beautiful pheasants picking their way through the undergrowth and came across no other walkers at all, no dogs, no children and no traffic noise. A perfect patch of England, and it was all ours for an hour and a half. I love this tall variety of snowdrops. Look! It’s a carpet of cyclamen.
Hellebores, my Mother’s favourites (along with snowdrops) and there were other colours too. I didn’t photograph any more though, as we are meant to be walking briskly while looking, not just stopping and staring slack jawed.
A stream runs right through the woods. There are various bridges to cross, but I drew the line at one which was little more than a plank. Guess who had walked a mere ten steps at the beginning of the walk, then slid in slow-motion to the left, ending up lying in mud? B helped me up, like the old lady I felt I had become and then cheerfully stated: “It could have been worse; you could have choked on your pear drop!” I was walking and squelching for a while, until the mud and puddle water dried off a bit.
I came home and announced: “I’ve had a fall.”
“Don’t be ridiculous; you’re too young to ‘have a fall’, you’ve just fallen over in a lot of mud. Ha ha.”
More cyclamen, and a close up of some of the patch.
I’m not sure what the yellow flowers are…something in the far reaches of my brain (aka custard) is whispering aconites. Am I right?
It’s Knit Night tonight, I haven’t been for weeks. I think the last, and actually only, time I’ve been this year was back in January. Then the call of the sofa and the recent Siberian weather made me cling to the tv remote and sofa, hard. It’s time to come out of hibernation now.
Is it the sofa for you, or are you heading to the great outdoors to socialise one/some/most evenings at the mo?
This year’s makes were mainly small gifts and blankets. Every year I say that I’ll put blanket making on the back burner and concentrate on other things; but I’ve realised that’s not working at all. I simply enjoy making blankets, even more so when they keep popping up on friends’ Facebook feeds or when I visit family. Nothing beats seeing a blanket den or a blanket on the head picture, a snuggly sofa covering, at the end of a bed or a glimpse of one on a pram.
A mix of longer term and quick projects are so satisfying. So whatever 2018 brings will be fine, there’ll be no rules or resolutions this coming year, apart from one. (Can you guess?)
I have three things on the go right now: The garter stitch blanket which was planned for pub knitting at Knit Group and is definitely a longer term make. My first ever sock paused after the heel, but I’m definitely going to end next year with a pair of socks to show you. I hereby solemnly swear that you will see two handmade socks in my 2018 montage, unless death or imprisonment stop me. (Even then I imagine that in an open prison I might be able to do some craft therapy or activity, so socks could still happen. There’s no excuse really. Unless they make me give them away as part of my rehabilitation? I really don’t know how these things go. Now I’m wondering if any of you know?*) As for the lovely blue Hitchhiker which was Mum’s Christmas present, and finished in plenty of time** that now might be an Easter gift. Let’s not talk about that malarkey just yet, I can’t face it.
I’m not turning into a mad cat blogger, but I’m just so glad that the little kitten who slept in Mum’s garden, when he needed respite from the two young boys of his house next door, or in a chair in her kitchen when it rained, came to be adopted by her in the summer. His family ended up returning to their home country, a long, long way away and the cost of taking him was prohibitive. They told Mum she was the obvious person to take him. But I know he’s been missed because one of them called on Boxing Day to wish Mum a Happy Christmas, and asked how he is doing! So, there you have the full story of the little black cat with the powder puff tail. I’m taking him to the vet on 5th January for his booster jab. I hope he still likes me afterwards!***
Today it’s my blog’s SIXTH BIRTHDAY! Wooo! Where did the time go? Here’s my first post. So many metres of yarn and blankets later. Initially I planned this as an online diary while I carried on learning to crochet, without a plan in mind. Of course I wouldn’t have carried on without readers, so a big warm THANK YOU to you all for reading, for the comments, emails and messages. Welcome to all my new readers too, it’s great to have you along.
Have a lovely New Year’s Eve and Happy 2018.
* I’m not tempting fate am I? Now I’ve worried myself. Whatever happens please believe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I’m innocent Governor
**Well sort of – 24th December, apart from the ends
*** Not a mad cat blogger at all, apart from a longish paragraph about him on my end of year post….
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…
Not many words are needed today. I’d run out of superlatives anyway; trying to describe the beauty of this bluebell wood.
This year again we didn’t see any deer, though we did stand still several times when we heard rustling in the undergrowth.
Mum, when I first started blogging, used to say: “You’re taking so many photographs!” Now it’s: “Have a look at your blog later to see when we came here last year.” And: “Take the bluebells in front of that magnificent horse chestnut. There are such pretty celandines here with bluebells behind, the colours look lovely together. Here’s a pretty group of cowslips.” She’s right of course, so I snapped them all for you.
Here are blog posts from previous visits to the same woods, in 2014, 2015 and 2016. I think you might recognise some of the trees and paths.
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!