Saturday, 29 June 2013

A white rose, a spivvy hat and some particularly bad parenting

I managed to find this lovely rose in the garden, white as requested by Lou in her Nature in the Home series.  Not much else is white, so I popped in the first of the sweet peas.  Hope that's not cheating.

I've been enjoying sitting outside lately.  The plants are doing the whole green June thing, and it's still new enough that I always stop to look.

I'm reading Bob Flowerdew's "Gourmet Gardener" and checking a few veg growing details.  When should I stop picking the asparagus?  When to pinch out the tops of the broad beans?  Should I pinch out aubergines and peppers?  I rely on Bob and Sarah Raven for most of my information; between them they have most things covered.

I've also got these books in my reading pile.

You can see that six of them are from the library.  We're huge library users.  It's one of the first places we go in the school holidays, and as soon as we get home there is a long blissful silence as everyone disappears into the books of their choice.  Although I usually have to go and make the tea.  And on a good day a cherry cake from Harry Eastwood's "Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache", which is without doubt the very best cherry cake to be had.

Yesterday was an INSET day - no school and a fistful of Tesco vouchers = a day out at beautiful Longleat.

Oh how I love giraffes.  We did the safari bit first.

We were slightly lost for words when this divine camel sashayed past.

It's not a look everyone can pull off.

The house is truly magnificent. 

Maybe one day I'll even get to look inside.  But in the meantime we do all the things that small boys love.  Adventure park, Deadly 60 challenge, the maze and a falconry display, which we nearly missed because of being lost in the maze.

I went up high and tried shouting directions.  It didn't help.

We got to the falconry by the skin of our teeth and saw some fantastic birds.  This is a tiny burrowing owl that runs around on the ground and lives in a hole.

On the way home there was a glimpse of Bath from the car.  Bath is one of my favourite places in the world.  We used to go there all the time Before Children, and spend hours exploring the beautiful streets.  It's further away now, and we go much less, but every time is special.

Despite a long day and a late night, everyone was up early this morning.  The biggest boy had a sports event to attend.  I attempted to arrange a lift share, but a friend's father offered to take him and bring him back.  I also attempted to give him fruit to take, but at the last minute he decided that carrying anything other than water was far too much of a trial so he put it back.  When he got home, some five hours later, it transpired that everyone else's parents had not only taken them, but had waited through the entire thing to help out and cheer on, everyone else had a packed lunch and everyone else was also bought a hot dog.  Biggest boy was starving, having had nothing but water since breakfast and having been given no money by his mother.  Oh yes, and I forgot to put sunscreen on him, so he also has sunburn.  It was, as he would say, an epic fail.  Must do better.

Spent the afternoon at Slimbridge, splashing about and burning off much energy.  The littlest boy has a very spivvy hat which he had for his birthday.  He is not afraid of bold accessories, so he hoppity skipped his way around in it all afternoon and was happy as a clam.  I'm kind of wishing I had the chutzpah to wear a statement hat.  Maybe I could start with a little hairband and work my way up.

Hope the rest of the weekend is good for all, hat or no hat.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A weekend afternoon at the country park

Whilst the biggest boy was away at cub camp on Saturday, we visited our local country park, one of our favourite spots.  There's a wonderful orchard with apples, plums and pears, perfect for tree climbing.  If you look closely you will see two little people in amongst the branches.

The trees are quite old, and covered in moss and lichen - wonderful.  And it was good to see plenty of fruit developing.  I've got a few apples at home this year, and I'm hoping we do actually get a little crop this year - last year was a washout. 

The park is a lovely place to go for a wander.  There are lots of animals, including these fantastic cows.  I should maybe mention that I was on the other side of the fence to all those enormous horns.  There's a fishing lake with a floating duck house and wonderful views out over the River Severn.  You can just about see the Severn Bridge (the old one) in the left of the photo.

On the way back up the hill we passed the donkey that the littlest boy refers to as "his" donkey.  He'd found a big feather, and he spent some time tickling the donkey's nose.  The sweet thing was very forbearing and didn't seem to mind at all.  There are cute little ponies as well, and even some llamas.

Back at the top there is the most wonderful walled garden.  It's partly grassed for playing, but there is still a big soft fruit area, espaliered fruit trees against the wall, a fantastic vegetable plot and a big run full of chickens.  Basically, if you add in the orchard and the bee hives, it's my dream garden.  And if you take into account the assault course, football goals, bouncy pillow and many pens of animals, it's the children's dream garden as well.  So much beautiful space, and always so much to see.  There really is something for everyone - I'm thinking of the deckchairs in front of the trampolines for OH...

Amazing how quiet and trouble-free the weekend was with one less boy about the place.  He arrived back at tea-time on Sunday having had "no sleep at all", and he's still nowhere near caught up now.  The rest of us are trying to be patient, but it's wearing a bit thin now.  I'm hoping he is all sunshine soon.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

A midsummer evening's stroll

The day before the summer solstice I took my camera and went for a little evening stroll.  I left the other half in charge of sending the biggest boy to bed at 8.30pm and set off down the road towards the streamside walk.

I may have said it before, but I do so love this time of year when everything is so very green; before it starts to get a bit dry and brown and fall over, and when the lush growth is peaking.  From the path you can hardly see the stream (in the bottom right-hand corner of the picture).  So very different from a couple of months ago.

Along to the end and up the road towards the church, past this lovely building and a profusion of cottage garden flowers.

The castle is just behind the church, and you can glimpse it from the road.

It's a beautiful Tudor building, begun in 1511.  Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed here in 1535, so it has a real sense of history about it.  It's a luxury hotel now, but every so often events are held for the local children here.  I've been to a Beavers ceremony there in winter, in front of a huge roaring fire, with a long oak table and silver candlesticks and tales of ghosts.  And last Hallowe'en there was a fantastic free party with a witch treasure hunt and apple bobbing and all sorts of wonderfulness.  We always feel incredibly privileged to visit such a stunning historic building.

Onwards we go, past the church.

The graveyard is beautiful, especially in the quiet evening air.

On past the entrance to the castle and a lovely climbing summer rose...

past the little meadow opposite the church...

... and past the old grammar school.

Then we've reached the high street.

In between the usual shops are a few treasures - a wonderful little deli and the local wool shop for example.

Then we've pretty much reached the end of town.

These are the last houses in town, and just opposite are the allotments.

Over to the right are the playing fields, the park with its little paddling pool, football pitches and tennis courts.  On a clearer day you can see Wales in the distance, beyond the river.

Time to turn left and head back through town.

Past the town museum - how wonderful is this tiny place?!  And past many lovely gardens.

The town loves its flowers, and always does well in the Britain in Bloom competition.  Last year it was awarded Champion of Champions, which was such a wonderful testament to the amazing people who give up hours and hours of their time to raise funds and do the hard work that it entails.  There are flowers in all sorts of places, not just bedding plants and hanging baskets, but in little borders and small plots there are shrubs and cottage garden planting.

And it really struck me on the walk home how many people have made a huge effort with their front gardens.  I didn't feel I could blatantly take photos, but really there were some amazingly beautiful plots.  Very inspirational; it certainly makes me feel I need to make an effort with mine, which is very bare.  These cottages only have tiny front gardens, but they are wonderful nonetheless - something simple and green is completely transformational.

Anyway, that was my wander on Thursday evening, I hope you enjoyed coming along.  I got home at about 9.30pm.  The biggest boy jumped up guiltily from the table where he was reading in the (almost) dark and professed to have no idea that it was long past 8.30pm.  Other half was bemused by the whole incident until I reminded him that he was supposed to send biggest boy to bed an hour ago...   It's cub camp this weekend, so I am expecting even more tiredness tomorrow evening.  And judging by the shipping forecast, this may be The Year The Tents Blew Away.  I'll let you know.