Category Archives: Spring

If You Go Down to the Woods Today…

Which is precisely what I managed to do last month for a few days. With Dave on the mend following his op, my friend Avis and I slipped away by coach, visiting the beautiful county of Warwickshire, England for a “Bluebell Walk”. The bluebells were out early this year, and are stunning. Knowing this and when combined with a touch of literary culture, Avis and I we were in for a treat.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

First to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (William Shakespeare’s wife). I visited here back in the 60s, as an 11-year-old on a school trip, and well remembered the thatched building and gardens, although 50 years on one now enters through a different building to reach the cottage, and the gardens have expanded. Following a brief history of the house we were allowed to wander at leisure with staff on hand to explain and inform. I’m certainly glad I didn’t live there – no mains electricity, no water on tap and no central heating; one could well imagine how difficult life was back in the 1500s. Outside, I was disappointed to see that the bluebells amongst all the colourful tulips in the beautiful front garden were the Spanish non-native type. They certainly wouldn’t have been found here in Shakespeare’s time. I hope the gardeners dig them all out soon.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Then on  to Stratford-upon-Avon. Again, it’s some 50 years since  first exploring this town. The main street on which William Shakespeare’s house  is located is now pedestrianised, thankfully, but a large visitor centre now sits incongruously alongside it. We decided against doing the house tour; instead we took a pleasant walk through Stratford and enjoyed a spot of lunch.

Walton Hall Hotel

A few miles outside of Stratford we arrived at our hotel, set in 65 acres of park and farmland. What a fabulous place! Although the main part of the hotel is modern, it’s built in the grounds of a large 16th century mansion (history & info link) recently owned by the late Danny La Rue.  The rooms were lovely, the beds so enormous they could easily sleep 4 persons! And joy of joys, I had a balcony too so as the dawn chorus started, I opened the French doors and enjoyed my early morning coffee outside as I listened. Bliss! The food was excellent, the staff faultless. In fact, it’s one the few hotels I’ve stayed in where I wish I could have stopped for longer, only the bluebell woods called and thus, after a delicious breakfast we were on the road again, heading for Coughton Court (pronounced Coat-un). I’d never heard of this National Trust Tudor treasure until this trip. Can’t understand why.

Once there, we headed straight for the woods and the bluebells, after all this was the main reason for our trip. There were swathes of them. And the scent glorious. If you’ve never smelt an English bluebell wood you are missing a treat. However, there is only so much one can say about bluebells, but I did take lots of photos, mainly for painting reference.

Of course, Thugs Bunny and Mr Tumble had to get in on the act!

We spent several hours wandering around enjoying the spectacle before heading back to explore the house itself. Coughton Court is still occupied by the sixth generation of the Throckmorton family, infamously involved in the plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I in 1583 and put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. Inside, we could wander freely, allowed to touch things, sit on the furniture, even try on some of the Tudor clothes on display. Helpful guides were on hand to explain items and various histories of the house and family. Coughton also boasts magnificent gardens, better than Hampton Court apparently, but I have to admit we were too exhausted to venture further so settled on coffee and cake instead. This is definitely a place to go back to. To read more about the house and the Throckmortons I’ve included this link .

Coughton Court

Time eventually caught up with us to make our way back to the coach and home. A lovely, relaxing two days and a much needed break. Now patiently waiting for the next one.

PS: Meanwhile, I feel a painting coming on…

 

Gallery

Benches

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Happy First day of Spring. Nancy sent me an email with pictures of benches yesterday and I so enjoyed it I decided to share. This wasn’t what I intended to blog on, but I’m getting a late start on composing … Continue reading

Spring On Its Way

Gosh, doesn’t time fly! I can’t believe January has melted into February already. Talking of melting, so far this winter here in South West England we’ve escaped snow, apart from one day when we awoke to an icing sugar dusting which disappeared by lunchtime. It’s been chilly but not cold, but certainly miserable, damp, wet and grey and occasionally windy.

Which all means in the garden spring is well on its way. The front lawn is exploding with snowdrops and the first of many clumps of crocus in full bud about to open with the next burst of sun. The back garden is still in permanent shade until March but that hasn’t stopped the hellebores, with the first of many flowers already open. (Sighs contentedly. I do so love spring!)

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Meanwhile, back indoors, we have hit this year running. It began with the excellent news my husband, diagnosed with diabetes last summer, has beaten it and is no longer diabetic, although he will now always be at risk. He managed this without drugs because he refused to: a) accept he had the condition (there were no outward symptoms or signs), and physically the last person in the world you’d think suffered with this as he’s slim, doesn’t smoke or drink, is fit and walks for a living at work despite being 69 years old and does gardening for recreation; and b) simply refused to take the medication prescribed.

So, how has he achieved this? Purely by diet. He’s a sweet tooth, likes chocolate, especially chocolate cookies, ice-cream, and my baking and dessert efforts thus all were banned from the house. He stopped putting sugar in his coffee, no puds or ice-cream have touched his lips, and I’ve only baked three cakes in nine months, two of which were made using the sugar substitute Xylitol. Thank you so much, Tricia, for putting me on to this sweetener. In fact, the two cakes I made with this were the best and definitely to be made again, according to Dave. One was our Christmas cake, the only “goodie” he ate over the Christmas season, the other being orange cake, the recipe for which Jane told us about here in December. So thank you too, Jane, it was simply delicious, moist, and by switching the sugar to Xylitol, can claim it’s sugar free, fat free, and great for me ­– flour free.

An aside to all this is, because of the change in our eating habits and because I had to help Dave as much as I could, I have managed to lose a little weight. As Dave is determined not to go back to his old ways the diet changes remain in place, hopefully more of my extra poundage should continue to shrink. A new me for 2017, starting with a change of hairstyle. For many years I’ve kept my hair short but never liked it, so I’ve been growing out the layers. At the moment it’s untidy and the style wanted not there yet but, like spring,  it’s well on its way.

2017-02-01-11-51-43I’ve also taken a big plunge and booked a table at a local arts & craft fair in June, to show and (hopefully) sell some of my paintings (and a few copies of my book, with luck!). This will be a difficult day for me as I’m shy and nervous among strangers when “on display”.  Plus, I’ve entered a few competitions, with the hope of winning a painting holiday abroad (something I would love to do), and I’ve entered one of my works into a national painting competition. My fingers  are crossed, but not too much else I shan’t be able to hold my paintbrush for the next one.

On top of all this, I’ve been busy editing a novel for a client and am busy proofing my own next bestseller (she says, laughing) whilst knuckling down to working on the other books waiting in the wings. So all in all, this gal’s been on a roll and doesn’t intend stopping. Not yet anyway.

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Give Me A Hammer! by Valerie J. Patterson

I need a really big hammer–but not so big that I can’t lift it!  Must have a smooth, flat surface and be easy to swing with near-perfect accuracy.  I’m thinking I need Thor’s hammer!  Or perhaps Thor and his hammer!

You may be wondering why I would need such a hammer.  Have you ever heard of the video game Whack A Mole?  That’s why I need such a hammer.

You see, there seems to be a family of moles residing in my beautiful backyard.  I mean, it has to be an entire family, right?  Everywhere you walk there are holes evidencing their intricate subsurface tunnel system.  Everywhere you walk there is loose earth that gives way beneath your feet so that you sink into the lawn.

They’ve taken to tunneling beneath my beautiful stone patio and are leaving mounds of earth behind causing the stones to rock and shift.  They’re tunneling–apparently they’re very hungry while digging tunnels–and they’re eating healthy plants along the way because two of my Azalea bushes have bit the dust.  Among the other plant casualties is one of my thickest grape vines that they’ve managed to eat through and kill.  This does not make me happy.  I used to have a lovely apricot Azalea tree, too.  There are only a few remaining live branches left because they’ve eaten through the roots.

So, I need a very large hammer so that when they venture to stick their vile little heads above the surface of my once beautiful lawn I can whack them on the head!  It might sound a little drastic, but I’m frustrated and nothing else has worked!  Besides, unless you have better solutions to suggest, I can get a good workout whacking them on the head!

Until next time, I hope the only pests in your outdoor space are butterflies whose fluttering wings add grace and beauty to your world!

PS…no moles were harmed during the writing of this blog!

In And Out The Dusty Bluebells

Spring has finally turned a corner in England now we have slipped into May. Typically, it being May Bank Holiday here, the weather is still on the chilly side (I have the heating on!) and it’s raining. The forecast promises warm weather by the end of this week, much to everyone’s relief. It has been a good year for spring flowers though and now the daffodils have given way to the most glorious (I think) wild flower displays this country puts on, for May represents bluebell time. Whilst in some locations they often appear in April if the weather is warm enough, invariably it is the non-native species that bloom first.

mXPDKBMIt is a sad fact that English bluebells are unique but being slowly but surely eroded by foreign counterparts introduced here way back in the early 1900s.  Known as Spanish bluebells, they are different in many respects to our own native species but so common now, most people do not know the difference. The plants are common in people’s gardens too, as seeds can be readily purchased and easy to grow. As a consequence, they have self-seeded along hedgerows and verges and able to cross-pollinate with our native species, thus destroying their uniqueness. This is such a shame.

So, how can you tell which is which? There are four simple ways.

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The Spanish Invader

First is colour. In the Spanish varieties (hyacinthoides hispanica) the bell-shaped flowers are pale blue, often white, and occasionally pink. The native English (hyacinthoides non-scripta) bluebell flower is darker, more a cobalt blue. The second is the way the flowers hang on the stalks. In the foreign variety, the stem is upright with the bells flowering around it, the flower heads fairly large, open tipped and more prolific. In our native plant, the stem arches with the flowers hanging on one side only, and with fewer bells.

English native

English native

The third clue is pollen: the Spanish flower has blue or green pollen; in the English variety it is white or cream. The fourth, and to my mind the most important, difference is perfume. There is no smell to Spanish varieties whilst the true English form will scent a woodland glade with a subtle, honey-like perfume that is unmistakable.

There’s nothing quite like an English wood when it is in a full swathe of blue glory. A walk through these can raise the spirit and lift the heart as they herald the onset of summer. The show is short-lived as once the leaves on the trees come out fully, the flowers vanish. It’s one of the reasons why I love painting bluebell scenes – to preserve this unique English spectacle for longer. Now, if only I could find a paint that has the same sweet perfume…

Bluebells

Happy Easter Weekend!

Oh, I love Easter. It’s perhaps my favourite time of year. The days are drawing out, daffodils are everywhere, the lambs are frolicking in the fields around us, and we have the promise of better weather on the horizon.

20160325_131758Today the weather here in the UK is glorious, so we took Vivvy to the seaside. It’s the first time she has seen the sea and felt the sand beneath her paws and she absolutely loved it. We did an hour’s walk one way, then stopped for coffee and a hot cross bun at a lovely seaside cafe, before heading back the other way for another hour’s walk. Apart from coaxing her still for a photo shoot, I don’t think Vivvy stopped running once. There were so many dogs around and it was lovely to see them all playing and enjoying themselves in the sunshine.

20160325_164603I’m going to do an awful lot of walking this weekend because then I can have a guilt-free chocolate Easter egg. A friend bought one each for me and AJ and I’ve spent the last couple of days with that egg sitting on my table just calling to be eaten. I so love chocolate. And I heard that the chocolate of an Easter egg once broken becomes devoid of all calories. Apparently, it’s something to do with the chocolate pieces coming into contact with the air 😉 Ha. Works for me 😆

Happy Easter!

 

Backyard – Spring 2015

image-7I am so happy I decided to move to Jubilee. For years we enjoyed the bigger place but Jack did most of the outside work and had it looking like a park. I knew I couldn’t keep it up. I remember working outside and after hours of work, instead of feeling an accomplisment I’d feel overwhelmed at all that still needed doing. I could see things coming up behind me faster than I was taking care of the things in front of me.

Here it’s even possible to hire some of the work done without breaking the bank.

Last year Barb helped me put up the fake window and planter on the little utility shed. The picture makes it sort of look bare around it but in reality it’s pretty busy. The window is an old window without glass that Linda gave me. We put a mirror behind it so that it looks like you’re seeing into the shed instead of the reflection from the yard.

The pictures are a photo tour of the yard. Like Barb says, it’s something that will continually be a work in progress but at least it’s a manageable job.
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