Thursday, 25 May 2017

On the cusp of summer

I feel this week signals the tipping point from spring to summer around here. Though, I might retract this statement when the week-long rain that is forecast for next week arrives.The air is very warm, and it smells of grass and moisture, in the way that early summer always does. 

27 C is our predicted high today. I am making the most of the clear and warm days by drying a few loads of washing, opening all the windows and the French doors, as well as walking barefoot around our courtyard garden to admire the English lavender I just planted. I have plans for lavender ice cream, and almond & lavender cake too. Dining al fresco is on the cards. Lemon-spiked G&Ts are already a regular occurrence. 

The garden is in a little lull- the blossoms and bulbs of spring have long faded- but the summer blooms haven't quite arrived yet. The honeysuckle and climbing rose at the front of the cottage will burst very soon. As will the elderflower tree at the bottom of the garden. I have tall spires putting out as-yet mystery flower heads. I think they'll be larkspur. But they might be delphinium. It's a waiting game.

Mr Red-breasted Robin is giving himself afternoon dust baths below his beloved hawthorn tree. He's rather flighty. I try to photograph him, but he's very shy and much too fast. I'm hoping if I start putting seed out he'll allow me to make friends with him.

In late March I sowed a box of 'mixed blue garden' flower seeds. Who knows what was actually in it, but the seedlings are pushing up at quite a rate now. I'm hoping there will be forget-me-nots and cornflowers in there somewhere. 

Kate  x 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Courts Garden, Holt

One of the very best things Alex and I have done since moving to England is become members of the National Trust. The Trust is a charity organisation taking on the monumental task of preserving some 500+ homes, gardens, churches, nature reserves and stretches of coastline for now and future generations. I am consistently amazed at the work they do with the money they raise. If you ever get the opportunity to take a preservation tour at one of the properties, I recommend doing it. You will come away with a renewed respect for the task at hand. I did the tour of the Abbey at Lacock this way and I left feeling very proud that my membership contributed to the work, but equally that the membership fee is woefully small for the service the National Trust is providing for the nation and our heritage. 

There is a bit of an assumption that membership is for people of a certain age, ie. retirees with lots of time on their hands. As 20-something-year-olds, we can honestly say that day trips to National Trust properties are some of our favourite days. Lucky for us, we have one or two on our doorstep and many more within easy reach. As I write, we've visited eleven properties in the eight months that we've been living in the UK. 

A couple of weeks ago whilst out furniture shopping we stumbled across The Courts Garden in Holt. It is within easy drive of where we live, but we had intended to visit at a later date because our priority at the time was furnishing the home we now live in. I am so glad we decided to actually visit the garden that day though, because it was such a perfect spring day, and the garden was magical to see in its spring time flush. I had left my good camera at home, thinking we'd just be traipsing around antique and collectables stores and not pretty gardens. Nevertheless, I managed to capture some of the beauty of the seven acres of gardens on my i-phone.

This is the path visitors take when entering the property. The house is a grade II listed 18th Century manor, built from local Bath stone. The manor house is not open to the public as it is still lived in by the owners of the estate. It's beautiful from the outside, and sits in the grounds so wonderfully. It is 'very happily situated', to borrow a line from Elizabeth Bennet. 

At the rear of the manor is a handsome lawn surrounded by hedging and herbaceous borders, from here the garden leads on to other garden rooms, the kitchen garden and eventually the orchard and a three-acre arboretum. 

I really love a good arbour grown using trees. I imagine this is an ornamental pear or similar, but I can't be sure. I wish I'd seen it when it was in full blossom. As it establishes and matures it will be very beautiful. A lot of work, but so timeless.

The apple blossom in the orchard part of the arboretum was really at its peak. I could have happily picnicked underneath it all afternoon. So English, isn't it? 

See how well the house sits in its surroundings? Each yew-hedged garden room is so beautiful in its own right, but collectively the garden has been so well designed. The vista back to the house from numerous points around the property showcase the grandeur of the house and quirkiness of the garden layout.

The site was once home to a 19th Century woollen mill, and apparently some of the features from this industrial past have shaped and dictated how the garden has been constructed- crooked borders, skewed paths etc. The lily pond, above, was brimming with tadpoles.

The Pillar Lawn is a lovely formal space, contrasting well against the relative 'softness' of the neighbouring lily pond and dye pool.

I'll admit, I'd love to poke around inside. Given the exquisiteness of the garden, I imagine the interior is equally impeccable. Perhaps the garden benefits greatly from the house being closed though? Sometimes the money and effort needed to preserve great crumbling country piles means the attached gardens and parklands suffer, but given that this property is still privately occupied maybe means the emphasis is on the garden?

In any case, it is well worth a visit if you love formal gardens. 

Kate  x

Monday, 8 May 2017

Wisteria watch

April 21st

The wisteria was slow to show its pale purple beauty in Castle Combe. It felt as though it really blossomed a good month behind London and the east of England. Some vines in the village are still colouring up now, yet to show their full flush. This particular vine is tucked in on the side of a cottage in the village, its backdrop is a mysterious door to I don't know where...

I thought it would be interesting to photograph this vine as it coloured up and bloomed. It was lovely in all stages, and is currently at its peak.

April 28th

The lovely late evening light has been magical, and lent a warm golden glow to the scene. I think I am really going to love British summer time.

May 7th

Here she is in all her beauty! The scent was just as magical as that enveloping golden hour light on our post-dinner walk. After a long stretch of chilly temperatures, it is nice to thaw out, walk of an evening and watch as the earth comes back to life. It never ceases to amaze me, the seasons ebb and flow in such a remarkable but dependable way.

And on the topic of seasons. I just booked our Christmas break. I know! This post is all about spring and blossom and daylight savings, and yet the seasons march on... I don't want to leave our festive season plans until the last minute again this year. Time and Christmas waits for no man.

I hope my premature Christmas talk doesn't scare you too much.

Kate  x

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

The law of attraction

I'm not sure I buy into the idea that simply imagining your wants and desires will bring them to fruition in reality.

But weirdly, in a round about sort of way, I think I might have imagined us into this very village we now call home. Or, I might be clutching at straws.

Last year on my birthday, January 12th, Alex took me to dinner at Jamie's Italian and told me his boss wanted him to take on the task of expanding the UK office of the company, and how would I feel about moving to England for a few years. My gut reaction was 50% "I've been waiting my whole life to live in England" and 50% "No! I have just signed up to do my masters degree, moving will make completing it messy and difficult, and I want to just buy a cottage in the Southern Highlands and never have to move again. We've moved enough!"

So, for about a month I said an emphatic, No! But it niggled at me. I was saying no to something I had spent a long time wanting to experience, I just hadn't been brave enough to make happen under my own steam.

A couple of weeks later, sometime in late January, I mindlessly posted this image on my tumblr. Then promptly forgot about it. I had no idea what the image was of, where it might be capturing, or really that it was even somewhere I'd ever want to live. I just liked the image.

A gorgeous scene, isn't it?

I was scrolling through my tumblr archive the other week and I was stopped in my tracks when I saw this image. It is in fact the village we now live in. I recognised this view instantly. It is the view we get each and every time we drive into our village. 

Strange, huh?

Here is a photograph of the village, taken by me at golden hour a month or so ago. A different perspective, but equally gorgeous.

We are quite at home with village life. We love wandering along the street to our two local pubs, going for walks in the surrounding woodland, foraging spring greens from the roadsides and undergrowth, and photographing picture postcard perfect scenes, all the while pinching ourselves. 

The law of attraction at work, or just plain coincidence?
I guess that depends on who you ask.

Kate  x

Now, I wonder if that questionable dream I had the other night about me and the Harrison Ford lookalike on a submarine will become reality too? Not sure I'd actually cope very well on a submarine...