Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Bare rose bushes

Summer roses are a very distant memory now. My three rose bushes are in a deep slumber. They were only planted in the spring, so hopefully an autumn and a winter to settle their roots will result in a more prolific flowering period next year.

Kate  x 

Friday, 17 November 2017

Pemberley (aka Lyme Park)

Pemberley sits on the border of Cheshire and Derbyshire, and Miss Elizabeth Bennet was correct, "I have never seen a house so happily situated."

The reflection lake lives up to its name, creating the perfect mirror image of the house on its calm surface.

The gardens are small and mostly informal, preference is given to a more natural arrangement that sees the trees and the woodlands as champion features. The parkland is extensive, with wide views stretching out over Derbyshire below, a deer herd roam the moor-like land.

Of course, Lyme Park celebrates its fame as the Pemberley in the BBCs adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. Visitors can dress in full regency attire as they wander the opulent house and beautiful grounds, all the while imagining the life Mrs Darcy married into.

The Orangery

The angle we are most familiar with, is actually the rear of the house. And despite what the television series would have us believe, the driveway to the house doesn't go past the lake at all. Still, it was magical to see this beautiful place with my very own eyes. And no, I didn't pull on a busty regency frock, nor was Alex tempted by the velvet overcoats and top hats on offer.

I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It was too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun. 
Jane Austen.

Kate  x

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

"God's own county" Yorkshire: Part Two

On the cusp of Samhain as the sun goes down, the floodlit remains of a tenth century monastery takes on an other worldly atmosphere. We arrived at the ghostly ruins of Fountains Abbey as the sky turned to pastel shades of pink and blue, and stayed until the clouds began to part and the stars appeared above us. 

Seeing the silhouette of the abbey against the darkening sky as monastic hymns carried through the ruins was incredibly magical.

We sat in a now-empty window of what was once the cellarium, where the Benedictine monks would have eaten and slept, to hear the choir perform their beautiful music. 

And with another Samhain observing the end of the harvest season behind us, we now begin to think of all things Christmas.

Kate  x

Thursday, 2 November 2017

"God's own county" Yorkshire: Part One

Yorkshiremen have absolutely no hesitation in proclaiming Yorkshire as God's own county. Whether it is a legitimate claim or not? That's for anyone who dares debate the point with a born & bred Yorkshirian to answer. Let me know the outcome. 

An American decided to write a book
 about famous churches around the world, 
so he bought a plane ticket and took a trip to Rome. 

On his first day he was inside a church taking 
photographs when he noticed a golden telephone 
mounted on the wall with a sign that read $10,000 per call' 
The American, being intrigued, asked a priest who was 
strolling by what the telephone was used for. 

The priest replied that it was a direct line to 
heaven and that for $10,000 you could talk to God. 

The American thanked the priest and went along his way.

Next stop was in Moscow. There, at a very 
large cathedral, he saw the same golden telephone 
with the same sign under it. He wondered if this 
was the same kind of telephone he saw in Rome 
and he asked a nearby nun what its purpose was. 

She told him that it was a direct line to heaven 
and that for S10,000 he could talk to God. 

'O.K., thank you,' said the American. 

He then traveled to France, Israel, Germany and Brazil. 
In every church he saw the same golden telephone 
with a '$10,000 per call' sign under it. 
The American finally decided to travel to the UK to see 
if the British had the same phone. 
He arrived in York and again, in the Minster, 
there was the same golden telephone, but this time 
the sign under it read '20p per call.' The American was surprised 
so he asked the priest about the sign. 
'Reverend, I've traveled all over World and I've seen this same 
golden telephone in many churches. I'm told that it is a direct line to 
Heaven, but everywhere I went the price was $10,000 per call. 
Why is it so cheap here?' 

The priest smiled and answered, 

'You're in Yorkshire now Lad, - it's only a local call'.

We started at York's crowning jewel, the glistening York Minster.
The first church on this site was built in 627. Since then it has been damaged, destroyed, built and rebuilt numerous times. Much of the building was constructed between the 13th and 15th Century, and in 1472 the completed cathedral was consecrated. Today, York Minster requires a sum of 
£21, 000 per day to run. The restoration bills run into the millions. On more than one occasion it has had to be rescued from fire or near-collapse. But as one of Europe's finest Gothic cathedrals, it is more than worthy of the care, attention, and staggering cost.

The Nave

The Crossing

The King's Screen

Some of York Minster's 128 stained glass windows date back to the 12th Century. The famous Rose window was successfully saved from ruin by a fire ignited by suspected lightning strike in 1984. 

The Five Sisters Window

This series of windows dates from the mid-1200s and was removed during World War I to protect the stained glass from Zeppelin raids. It is the only memorial in England dedicated to commemorating the women of the British Empire who were killed during the Great War. Amongst the names inscribed on oak panelling beside the window is Edith Cavell- the British nurse who was shot in 1915 by German firing squad for her role in assisting 200 Allied soldiers to escape from German occupied Belgium. 

Climbing the 275 steps to the top of the central tower is a great, albeit blustery, way to take in the city from the highest point in York. 

From up here you can see the historic streets of York, parts of the city walls, the ruins of the Abbey of St Mary's, and on a clear day, as far away as the Yorkshire Dales.

If you're a National Trust member, The Treasurer's House, tucked in behind York Minster is very much worth a look. Historically the house was provided to the treasurer of York Minster, the man responsible for overseeing all of the finances relating to the Minster. Filled with beautifully ornate furniture and exquisite portraits, it was one of the very first properties complete with its land and all of its contents to be given intact to the National Trust.  

Of course, you can't visit York as a tourist without braving a walk down the best preserved mediaeval street in the world, The Shambles. Cheek by jowl, sightseers flock to see the crooked, slanting timber structures of what was once a row of butcher shops and homes. It is still possible in places to see the butcher hooks that the meat would have hung from.

'In some sections of the Shambles it is possible to touch both sides of the street with your arms outstretched.  The architecture which now appears so quaint had a very practical purpose.  The overhanging timber-framed fronts of the buildings are deliberately close-set so as to give shelter to the ‘wattle and daub’ walls below.  This would also have protected the meat from any direct sunshine.'

York is a bustling and lively city. You can't stand still for long, lest you get swept up in the crowds of tourists and locals alike, as they're funnelled through the narrow entanglement of streets in a city comprised of centuries upon centuries of layered history. 

Kate  x

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Living in an English idyll

Logically, now is about the time I should be sitting down to compose my thoughts on a year living in England. Realistically, I find it hard to reflect on an entire year and translate those feelings into a single blog entry. For the first six months we lived a little like nomads, in three different temporary places, our shipment from Australia frustratingly still in boxes in an Oxford storage shed. But these past six months of being settled in our own space, has allowed for a proper sense of living in England. I feel better able to articulate the last few months, rather than a whole year.

You can recap on the anticipation of moving, here if you like.

As I type, over six months have passed since we moved into this Cotswold cottage next to a brook in what is often described as "the prettiest village in England". We are feeling more and more at home; our neighbours recognise us and chat to us if we pass them on a walk in the woodland. We've volunteered for the village charity car boot sale. And we are very excited to attend the next few Christmas social events organised by the social committee. I am particularly looking forward to Carols by candlelight in the village church. 

As village residents we've seen three seasons, and all the delights that they each have to offer. We moved in at the very beginning of spring, when the daffodils were blooming en masse on roadsides and along the brook, seemingly welcoming us with their endlessly cheery disposition. Primrose carpeted the churchyard, vines unfurled. Wild ramson shoots scented the air, lambs bleated in nearby fields, ducklings appeared on the brook and bluebells in the woodland. I clipped whatever was in the garden to bring spring indoors whenever I could.

Summer swept in with warm breezes that swayed the branches in the towering trees around the cottage, windows were flung open to let in the grassy scent of summer and the rustling noise of the tree canopy. Farm traffic thundered through the village multiple times a day, a frenetic energy took hold of this beautiful agricultural region as farmers used every second of the long days to harvest & bale and plough & sow. Sunlight stretched long into the night and the birds anticipated dawn sometimes as early as 4am.

Autumn has gripped now. Misty mornings are frequent, smoking chimneys the tell-tale sign that fireplaces are being put back into use. And those lush green trees I gazed up at all summer long? Some days I silently curse them as another burst of wind leaves the doorstep inches deep in leaf litter. Again.

A couple of days ago I lit our first fire since moving in. 

Our basket of woollen hats and gloves is back next to the front door for easy reach as we walk outside into crisp morning air. And there is a lovely comfort that comes with walking through the house at dusk drawing the curtains and switching on lamps.

We're still buying pieces for the house to completely make it a home, but I think i'll start sharing pockets of the house as we find items and style rooms. I had intended to photograph and share more of the interior of the cottage- an 18th Century building is interesting after all. In truth, it's been a slower process than I anticipated to find furniture we truly love. But with a few recent, much dreamed of finds, I hope to get some photographs taken before the autumn sunshine is dimmed by winter fog and it becomes too dark to take pictures indoors.

Kate  x

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The world-famous garden at Stourhead

Stourhead is always a popular place for visitors, but that is especially true in the autumn months when the trees put on a spectacular show and tourists flow in to see a riot of burnt oranges and yellows. 

We arrived first thing, when the early morning shadows were still long and the sun hadn't quite risen high enough to dry out the dewy lawn on the banks of the lake. But this meant the lake path was still relatively quiet. It was a perfect early autumn morning, crisp but sunny with no breeze, giving the added bonus of a completely still lake that acted like a mirror, reflecting the autumn foliage perfectly.

The Pantheon is the primary feature, the temple of Apollo a close second. But as you make your way around the lake to the Pantheon, there are other surprises. Grottos and follies have been built into the landscape, hidden until you come upon them suddenly. They're peaceful places, classical style statues spout water, and carefully placed 'windows' draw the gaze across the lake. The path passes by this scene too. The Gothic Cottage with its flaming tree on the doorstep looks like something from a Grimms Brothers fairytale. 

The Stourhead estate is more than a Palladian mansion with impressive landscaped gardens. It is comprised of over 1000 hectares of land, the village of Stourton, as well as farmland and woodland. These cottages, on the estate, are both lived in and rented out as holiday lets.

By mid to late October the trees are really at their best, but even when we visited almost a fortnight ago they were pretty colourful, showing signs of what is to come.

Really though, I imagine its an estate worth exploring no matter the season. I think it would be spectacular on a bright winter morning blanketed in a hoar frost.

Kate  x

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

A very dapper house

Can a house be dapper?

If it is indeed possible, Montacute House in southern Somerset, would surely take the cake. Or bow tie & bowler hat, probably.

We visited last month, and it was well worth the drive down there from north Wiltshire. Look at that driveway! In fact, the whole village is picture perfect.

The 'grandness' of Montacute is especially impressive as it was originally built by a family of yeomen farmers who rose in status to become one of the preeminent families in the district. Montacute has a long history and consequently a roll call of notable tenants. Once home to Sir Edward Phelips, a key prosecutor against the gunpowder plotters, and for a short while, Lord Curzon.

The yew hedges in the formal gardens are almost as handsome as the house, at the very least they are tall, well groomed and in places quite quirky, very befitting of a house such as Montacute.

These days, Montacute boasts a small collection of works owned or entrusted to the National Portrait Gallery. They hang in what is the longest 'long gallery' in England. At 53 metres in length, it runs the entire width of the house, and was once used as a sort of exercise room. When the weather was too bad to be outdoors, the family would walk up and down the gallery to get their daily steps in. Pre pedometer times call for such measures I suppose.

The lawn was being put to good use the afternoon we visited. A group of silver-haired locals had gathered to play croquet. If it weren't for their 21st Century attire, I am sure the scene would have looked not unlike that of a summer afternoon a century or two ago. 

The everlasting sweet peas were living up to their name, still in flower and reaching high, even at the very end of summer.

This is what passed for graffiti in the 18th Century. And in the library no less!

See those quirky yew hedges, trimmed to imitate the irregular shapes of clouds perhaps? I love how they're allowed to grow into that undulating, almost pulsing, formation along the pathway.

An Elizabethan mansion is always going to be predictably impressive, but Montacute House is beautifully kept and somehow 'elevated' above other homes of the same era that I've visited. It might be the orderly garden with just the right amount of quirk. It might be the collection of exquisite and historically important portraits. Or it might just be that sweeping driveway, emphasising the perfect symmetry of the house.

What ever the magic of Montacute, I stand by the 'dapper' description.

Kate  x