Monday, 27 March 2017


an eastern Mediterranean island of two nations - in the south live Greek Cypriots, in the north live Turkish Cypriots. Passport controls operate at what are known as 'the green line' crossing points from one side of the island to the other. We stayed in the Turkish northern half, a less visited area revealing it's very long history at each and every turn.
This is a snapshot of places seen and visited, wildflowers enjoyed, and a guessing game for all of those who love a quiz
Bellapais Monastery
It was in northern Cyprus, in the hills above Kyrenia in the village of Bellapais that Lawrence Durrel wrote his autobiographical book "Bitter Lemons".
Deserted beaches fringed with wild Asphodelus fistulosus
Sheep safely graze - can you imagine the solitary life of a Cypriot shepherd who spends everyday of the year wandering the countryside with his flock of sheep? In Cyprus as in many other eastern Mediterranean and Asian countries, there are no boundaries enclosing the land. Sheep roam freely along the marginal areas and it is the shepherds job to protect them from harm.
On one distant peninsular live herds of feral donkeys, but they seem to have a canny way of detecting apples or oranges hidden away in pockets! Here several of the them turned up at an isolated Monastery we were visiting but luckily they received some treats

The architecture reveals a history of occupation stretching back over thousands of years

In the beginning Stone Age man arrived in Cyprus crossing the seas on wooden rafts from Asia Minor. They co-existed with dwarf animal species such as very small elephants and pygmy hippos.

Cyprus has been occupied or lived in by Mycenaeans, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Richard the Lion Heart, Knights Templar's, Normans, Venetians, Ottomans, and the British

Anenome coronaria
Hyoscyamus aureus
Asphodelus fistulosus

Family Convolvulaceae
Tassel Hyacinth - Leopoldia comosa - apparently the bulbs were considered a delicacy by both the Romans and the Greeks. Today on Crete, and also in Puglia, Italy, the bulbs are still eaten. Initially they are soaked in water for several days to remove any bitterness, then cooked in white vinegar before finally being preserved in olive oil - they are then used as an antipasto.  

Cyclamen persicum
Yellow Oxalis pescaprae looks wonderful scattered  over the island, but it is not something that you would want in your garden. It spreads everywhere and is impossible to remove
 Family Portulacaceae 

Ferula communis, giant fennel grows in abundance all across the island but it is inedible
Anagalis arvensis - Pimpernel
 The Mimosa trees were just coming into blossom 
Quiz - what is the purpose and function of 
the building below?

Thursday, 9 March 2017


Greek goddess of love, beauty and pleasure - her Roman equivalent, Venus
Birth of Venus (detail) - Sandro Botticelli

Three years ago we explored the remains from antiquity of a city called Aphrodisias lying in the fertile upper reaches of the Meander Valley, Turkey
Tetrapylon - the magnificent monumental gateway which led into the city

At its heart are the remains of a great pagan temple dedicated to Aphrodite. Once there were 40 Ionic columns surrounding the temples perimeter, now most lie where they fell during severe earthquake temors in the c4th and c7th.

Birth of Venus Sandro Botticelli - 1484 in Uffizi
But we seek antiquities new as soon we head off to an island where Greek Myths tell us Aphrodite was born 

In the garden this week a large male Green Woodpecker

captured through the window - males have a red moustache, females black - his beak is caked in mud from digging in our lawn looking for grubs

Some garden corners taken this week - fulfilling a request from Catherine
Botticell images via   

Monday, 6 March 2017

Let's Make Cakes

Quick, simple, easy cakes
When it comes to cooking I tend to be an improviser depending on whatever happens to be at hand. In Austria they make a cake called Zwetschkenkuche which uses fresh plums so naturally I substituted a persimmon instead! - also known as sharon fruit or kaki - I can't believe that it is now over 30 years since I first saw them growing in China.
Make any light sponge mixture you favour but sufficient to make a sandwich cake, the mixture is going to be divided into two for separate cakes. 
On top of the first half thinly slice and layer a persimmon - then add a small dab of jam. If using plums or apples a sprinke of brown sugar would be in order.
For the second half of the mixture add a generous spoonful of pure cocoa powder, sultanas and glacé cherries then top the mixture with flaked almonds. The permutations that can be used here are endless, two quick and easy cakes - coffee with cake anyone?
Elsewhere I am very happy as our garden is once again giving us a host of Spring colours♡

Thursday, 2 March 2017

More Tales from along the Towpath

'Spring was in the air' along the towpath - 'pussy willows' were laden with pollen and nectar 
Of the 150 mills that once crowded these valleys only two are still working woollen mills. Many are now utilised as business premises, places where artisan craftspeople work, specialised shops, and art galleries. In this valley some of the foremost sculptors of our time have their work caste in bronze within one of the mills.

  A mill race runs beneath this building where originally a large water wheel would have turned

Five of these little round houses were built along the edge of the Severn/Thames Canal following its completion in 1789. They housed what were known as Lengthsmen who were responsible for maintaining the towpaths, managing the water levels and controlling the weirs. They also kept the banks in order on their 'lengths', cut back the reeds and vegetation, and if there were lock gates on their 'length' it was their duty to keep them in good order.

Life along the waterways was not the
idyllic place of leisure and recreation that we know and enjoy today. 

For the canal watermen and their large families living was tough and physically demanding - a life lived in a cramped, confined area, often coated in black dust from their cargo of coal. They led itinerant lives crisscrossing the country along the waterways with no fixed abode. Their children, born as they travelled, were expected to help on the boat and were unable to attend school. Such a tough life resulted in the whole family having an extremely low life expectancy.
In stark comparison, life for the successful Clothiers was good - they built themselves fine houses on the upper slopes of the valley 
whilst down in the valley bottom 
dwelt rows of modest cottages to house the 'weavers' and their families 
However, as mentioned in the previous post, many of the Mill Owners were extremely benevolent to the area, building fine schools, and churches, and families tended to remain totally loyal to the mill where they worked for their entire working lives. Today one of those locally endowed schools is nationally recognised as being a top state school which achieves a very high level of successful entrants to Oxbridge every year.
old images via