Posts Tagged ‘England’

Driving through the village the other day I was a bit taken aback by a brightly coloured figure lurking in the corner opposite the old pump. I needn’t have worried. It wasn’t going to step out in front of the car as it turned out to be a scarecrow, part of one of the many competitions taking place for the Flower Show on Saturday. marquee

A really proper, old fashioned marquee had been put up on the playing field for the flower and produce displays and the village hall was serving steaming cups of tea and homemade cakes. With rainclouds being driven across the sky by a brisk breeze, we were lucky to escape a soaking and the sun even came out from time to time.

old ladies drinking tea

There were two lady llamas on display. They make odd high-pitched mooing noises and tried to turn away from the camera shyly whenever I came near waving my phone. Apparently they are very good at guarding livestock as they can be quite aggressive if anyone unknown comes along.


As expected, there were lots of traditional activities, such as ‘hook-a-duck’ and stalls selling cakes (the Women’s Institute now rebranded as County Something). We pottered around admiring a couple of girls selling professional-looking preserves and a gluten-free range (very Zeitgeisty) and watched the adults’ running-backwards race, just starting below.

start of the adults running backwards race

dreadlocked woman and child

girl sitting in a toy cot

Everyone seemed in a good mood and, while the bric-a-brac at the car boot tables was a bit half-hearted by the time we turned up two hours into the afternoon, we all came away with something that suited us. In my case, a bulb vase for 50p, my friend with some sheet music for her daughter and her husband, popping back to the WI, with a cake for tea.

sheet music

I was tempted to buy a verbena plant at the plant stall, thinking maybe third time lucky, but I didn’t. I just don’t think I can grow them here. Not that this is a verbena in the pushchair before anyone points this out. That much I do know!

plant in a pushchair

My ‘best bit’ – which was something I always made sure to ask my children about whenever they went to any events when they were small – was the produce on show in the marquee.

table full of competition cups

There were competitions for the most scary vegetable creation, the best vegetable person and the best plant jewellery, which is a brilliant way of getting children to engage with vegetables. Growing them can frankly be a little boring and disappointing if you’re small. Children are so creative and it must have been a lot of fun making the entries. I hope not too many of the mums ended up making them at half past midnight on the night before!

most scary vegetable creation

There were also the traditional fruit and vegetable displays. Comfortingly, there was nothing outstandingly vast, other than a huge cabbage and a giant lettuce. I remember being quite put off by some enormously long parsnips one year.


huge lettuce

best potato competition

red onions

competition beetroot

I do love the conventions around how things like beetroot and onions are displayed. It’s so very decorative.

best vegetable basket

It looks like the entrants must do it for the love of taking part or the kudos of winning a trophy. They certainly can’t be in it for the prize money, which is very modest indeed.


Mmm, anyway time to go home for tea and cake…

cake competition

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Blissfully quiet it’s been for weeks. Hardly any passing traffic, no huge machinery going from farmyard to field. Only an occasional whirrzzz as a bicycle flies down the hill, a bit of banging from the convertors of Winter’s Barn into New Holiday Let over the road, and the rustle of leaves in the hedge as the twice-daily milk tanker hauls itself between parlour and dairy.

Glancing out of the window in the early morning, though, I saw not grass waving in the breeze but grass cut and lying in the sun to be gathered in. Now, late in the day, every other field round about lies combed into rows, neat and green, pale and dark. And vast machines dance a well-rehearsed display of shoo, vacuum and spray into the evening.

Days of noise and dust are due, then, as all this must pass our door before the silage clamps are full.

At least the forecast must be dry.



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Having not blogged properly about Spring Cottage for a while, I thought we might take a tour of the back garden.

It’s mostly grass, or rather, moss that’s slowly smothering the grass because we don’t mow frequently enough. On the other hand, not mowing allows the wild flowers to have more of a life cycle.

On the right, there’s the end of a bit of concrete covering the septic tank — a feature of all properties that aren’t attached to sewers. I’d forgotten it was there. I recently exhumed this from a large patch of comfrey that was threatening to overwhelm the rest of the garden. The bare earth I also uncovered has already been colonised by small seedlings. Time will tell what they are. I’ve scattered various things here over the last few months and we’ll see what survives into next year. Or maybe the comfrey will win, again. It’s the yellow sort. I don’t think it’s really very pretty but the bees love it and this part of the garden is usually loudly abuzz with their activity.


The ‘lawn’ lies beyond the area in the picture below, which is a mixture of paving and gravel laid by my predecessor here. In the middle of the gravel an old wagon wheel is set into the ground and I replanted this with herbs a few years ago. They’ve come on a lot since.



Below is one of the cut flower beds full of Higgledy Garden flowers for the second year running. These have been more hit and miss this time following some, er, rearrangement by Nora the dog, who had a digging frenzy in late autumn. It was an autumn seeding of hardy annuals this time. Last time was a spring sowing. I’m not sure which I prefer. Both would be ideal obviously. I’ll have to have a think about where and how to do that.


The beds were disused cold frames that I filled with earth for the glorious summer that yielded six carrots. So I gave up and decided to grow flowers instead.

The bed on the other side of the railings is planted with, amongst other things, alliums, marjoram, some fennel and a half-hearted rhubarb. I think it was intended as a kitchen garden by the previous inhabitants. You can see the ornamental vine too. It had great grapes last year although the jelly I made has only been added to gravy so far, as it’s more like syrup. I cut it back rather cruelly, having seen how hard vineyards are pruned, so we’ll see what happens this time around.



I was given this poppy which I manage to miss flowering almost every year. At least I caught one of them this year. It’s in the wrong spot at the front edge of a bed but I didn’t plant it – the giver did and I have left it alone.


Here is a really old rose with a beautiful scent. It was rather weak and straggly so I cut it back far more than in previous years and it’s really benefited. Much less mildewy, stronger stems and more flowers. I think it’s probably been here for a very long time and will probably outlast my tenure here.

Finally, some of the most ordinary things, these geraniums which are everywhere and are so lovely up close.



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Frayed around the edges and over-sensitive for no good reason. Always the paradox of wanting to leave one place and be in another, and then the fret about doing it and what I might find when I arrive.

Work over the road going on apace. Winters Barn, sold at the end of last year together with the field it stands in, has been completely pulled down. The field is full of heavy machinery and the radio goes all day. A flock of sheep is grazing and they appear to be charmingly right in amongst all this but they aren’t. Closer inspection reveals an electric fence.

They’ve renamed the place and I disapprove. The old name was good and the new one inappropriate. Like the doubling in size of the cowsheds down the road, these changes make me feel sad. I liked what I’d found here – the remoteness and the dark skies. Now there is orange light on all night in one direction (why, do cows crave streetlight?) and soon there will be people over the road plus the additional traffic all this creates. It’s already a local rat run. You NIMBY incomer, I chastise myself. What makes you the arbiter of how things should be?

Nice things: Sunshine, birdsong, lambs bleating in the distance. Leaf buds bursting everywhere: hazel, beech, hawthorn and rowan. Blackthorn blossom, tiny flowers nestling among brutal thorns. Gorse now fully out and wafting coconut after months of being only half in bloom. Delicate little short-lived wildflowers crouching close to the ground, easily missed. A new fern stalk standing proud of the crushed fronds of last year’s dry remains, unfurling slowly as if stretching after winter’s long sleep.

And lazy, bad-tempered me, who didn’t bother to take a proper camera because it’s only a walk.

a wood tree branches against a blue sky and clouds wild flowers

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I went back through my photographs today and realised that I’ve got very lazy about taking pictures, which I used to do with a passion when I first came to Somerset.

Weather vane

With the arrival of Nora the dog, now eighteen months old, the big camera’s excursions dwindled to only a few times a year. Then I bought a compact camera so that I didn’t have to lug the DSLR about and that kept me happy for a while, although I only really liked its ability to take pictures in low light. The rest of the images could be disappointing with the focus often not quite right. Being a bit longsighted doesn’t help and I’ve missed having a viewfinder. When I got a newer iPhone the photographic equipment’s outings stopped almost completely. It takes pretty good pictures and I can use Photoshop to improve the original, but I don’t enjoy it as much. So, although I haven’t made any resolutions this year — I hate the idea — I intend to go about a lot more with the big camera in 2015.

Here are some ‘proper’ photographs, then, that a recent photo request reminded me I had taken in 2010 in Montacute, a village centred around a late Elizabethan mansion, that I’ve blogged about before. They are not fantastic pictures. I don’t claim to be any kind of photographer but they remind me of a good day in a beautiful place.

Montacute House, Somerset


Tudor window with leaded lights

tudor window exterior


Chinese screen

Row of shaped trees

Signpost in MontacuteHouse in Montacute

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When I first moved here, my neighbours had opened permissive paths and bridleways across their land as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. We could do a circular walk across their land, over hills and past ponds right from the front door without driving anywhere first. Since then, their old age and the austerity of the last few years have meant that the Council-run scheme ended and the paths fell into disrepair and were closed.

On the positive side, the closure of our most walked local route has meant I’ve been trying to discover new ways across the land nearby. Being a bit more adventurous and going in new directions is always a good thing.

We found a lovely walk the other day through the wood on the brow of the hill that I can see from my kitchen window. I haven’t found a way through the trees to a spot from which I can see the cottage yet, so lots more scope for exploration here.


labrador retriever

path through woods with dog


winter sunshine through trees

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But wait, I still have some pictures to share of that pretty white stuff. It’s all melted and wet now but it was lovely while it lasted. It makes everything so… I don’t know … picturesque, somehow. Silly, isn’t it?

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Hamlet in the snow.

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