Thursday 30 July 2020


Tackling many tasks these days outside of the home takes so much longer than prior to Covid-19. This week we had our car serviced, normally it is picked up from our home and returned back later in the day. Alternatively the company lend us one of their cars, but these choices are no longer available due to social distancing restrictions. We had no alternative other than to take the car to the garage ourselves arriving by 8.30am, but then the car wasn't going to be ready until 1.00pm. Whatever could we do for 4½ hours stuck in some unfamiliar, rather boring suburban area, several miles outside the city of Gloucester. Fortunately the morning dawned fine so after leaving the car, we set set off on the long trek to find our way into the city centre. After walking for an hour, a bus going into the centre came along, so we quickly flagged it down, hopped onboard, and found our way to the cathedral. 
Fan vaulting is an English innovation not seen elsewhere in Europe, and Gloucester Cathedral's Cloister boasts a magnificent example of the first ever fan vaulting developed in Gloucester during 1350. Following its success, fan vaulting then spread across the country. The Cloister is built in a quadrangle, and it is where the monks of Gloucester lived and studied. It is a magnificent piece of architecture, and although once privy to the monks only it is now open every day for all to enjoy. The Cloister must also be familiar to many Harry Potter fans where it featured as the mystical corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in three of the films. One wonders whatever the Monks would think about such goings on in and around their holy cloister, a place where they spent their lives, living, eating, meditating, and praying.
The cathedral has been a place of Christian worship continuously for over 1,300 years, since Osric, an Anglo-Saxon prince, founded a religious house on the site in 678-9 AD. At the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 the Monastery was not thriving so in 1072 King William l appointed Serlo, a monk from Mont St. Michel in Normandy to be its Abbot. He was an energetic, charismatic, devout man, who built up the wealth of the Monastery to the point where in 1089 he was able to start building the magnificent abbey church seen today.
The King that never was
In the cathedral is a memorial to Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy, the eldest son of William the Conqueror. He did not succeed his father to the English throne. On the death of William the Conqueror his lands were divided up: Normandy went to Robert, and England went to William the Conqueror's second son William. 
As a result of social distancing, the cathedral to my eyes has never looked more magnificent. It has been pared right back i.e minus chairs or furnishings, and now looks more like it would have appeared a thousand years ago. The fine Norman architecture now takes centre stage and is shown off to its full glory. We actually enjoyed this glorious building virtually to ourselves.
Having the car serviced in what appeared at first to be rather tiresome circumstances, did in fact turn out to be a very pleasant few hours away from home.
I did a post on Gloucester Cathedral here if you are interested seeing more of its interior.
images courtesy wiki

Friday 24 July 2020

Hidcote Manor Garden

Cobaea scandens, cup and saucer vine - completely covers the front of the 17th century manor of Hidcote. As soon as I saw it, I made a mental note to buy myself some seeds next year. It is a plant that I have grown previously which flourishes well, and is native to Mexico, Central and South America. 
The garden is located in the north Cotswolds near Chipping Campden. It is one of the best known and most influential Arts and Crafts gardens in Britain, with its linked 'rooms' of hedges, rare trees, shrubs and wonderful herbaceous borders.
Join me in a leisurely wander around this colourful, attractive garden.
Spotted lurking around the edge of the pool, but don't worry it's only a Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) they are harmless to us. However, the same does not hold true for any frogs or newts unknowlingly swimming around in the pool. 
 Unfortunately it wasn't until we arrived back home that I realised my camera had been on the wrong setting during the whole of the visit!  
Where shall we head off to next week? At the moment I haven't a clue, just taking one day at a time.

Sunday 19 July 2020


Walking down this very steep driveway leads to a valley that was once known as Deorham, an Anglo Saxon place name given to what is now called Dyrham.
The Battle of Deorham was fought here in AD 577 between the West Saxons under Ceawlin and his son Cuthwine, and the Britons of the West Country. The outcome of the battle was a decisive win for the West Saxons, allowing them to colonise three important cities - Glenvum (Gloucester), Corinium (Cirencester), and Aquae Sulis (Bath). Losing these three major cities was a huge blow to the Romano British. 
During the 17th century, Sir George Wynter, owned a deer park here, a farm and a Tudor manor house, but as he neared the end of his life he was suffering severe financial difficulties. However, his daughter Mary, who was his heiress, married William Blathwayte, and he took over the estate following the death of her father in 1689. William was the Secretary at War to William lll (William of Orange) and as a result of his strong royal connections, Blathwayte filled Dyrham with furniture, delftware and fine pictures that had a strong Dutch influence. The collection, which is still within the house, includes several very large delftware tulip vases which were designed and made during the period referred to as 'tulip mania'. 
vase courtesy V&A tulips added by Rosemary
It's a long steep walk down into the valley but well worth the effort.
The fine 17th century baroque house seen today was designed for William Blathwayte by William Talman, who was also the architect of Chatsworth House. However, interestingly, the house still retains much of its Tudor origins hidden away at its core.
Almost hidden from view on the lefthand side of the house is a very attractive attached Orangery and,
on the righthand side, but within the grounds, is the local parish church. 
Both the house and the church are Grade 1 listed.
The church and this western view of the house would have been the first sight that visiting guests would have seen as they arrived at Dyrham. The  west side of the house was designed by a different architect, a relatively obscure Huguenot named Samuel Hauduroy, completed in 1694.
But it is now time to tackle the climb back out of the valley - next week we are travelling to the northern edge of the Cotswolds to visit one of the best known and influential Arts and Crafts garden in Britain.

Saturday 11 July 2020


There are so many things I really should be doing but currently I can't seem put my mind to them - they can wait. Thank goodness for my pile of new books which are offering such a great source of relaxation and escapism. 
Although published last year, I have only just read The Salt Path by Raynor Winn - a great read full of love and pathos. This is her first book, I enjoyed her writing, and am now looking forward to her follow up book 'The Wild' due out this September. The Salt Path begins in Minehead, a Somerset seaside town, and a place where we stayed last Autumn. The path runs all around the South West coast for 630 miles until it finishes in Poole, Dorset. Whilst reading The Salt Path, I recognised many of the small rocky coves and fine sandy beaches, quaint towns and pretty villages that the couple pass through whilst on their journey. I had forgotten just how much of the SW coast we have actually visited. Our visits to that area have always been happy, relaxed holiday occasions, unlike those of Raynor and her husband Moth, who are dragging themselves along the pathway in the depths of despair, seeking a solution to their profound problems, but ultimately, in doing so, find themselves. 
The Dutch House by Anne Patchett, was the next book on my pile, but when I went to find it, the book had disappeared, but was found in the hands of my husband. He was finding it a page turner, but fortunately he is a much quicker reader than I am, so I waited patiently for him to finish.
Fall in love with the Dutch House, you will want to visit it or maybe even live in it. Interestingly my vision of the property, both its situation and its architecture was completely different to that of my husband. Don't you just love this painting of Maeve? one of the main characters, and the daughter of the owner of the Dutch House. Her piercing blue eyes stare straight out at you from beneath her long, thick, black, glossy hair?
Why does the Dutch House hold such a pivotal role for both Maeve and her younger brother Danny throughout their entire lives, and will a resolution ever be found?

PS - for anyone living in the UK - did you watch the wildlife programme on BBC2 - 10th July called The Fens - a Wild Year. The programme explores the vast patchwork of ancient wetlands and fertile farmland that make up the fens of East Anglia. You can get it on BBC iplayer catchup, it is one of the most beautifully filmed wildlife programmes I have seen. Whooper swans fly in from Iceland each winter, there has been a re-emergence of Cranes, wild ponies roam the Fens from Poland, and there are Asian water buffalo in the water meadows. Apart from the scenery and the diversity of animal/bird life, there are some really interesting human stories too.
Felicity Irons - one of the last full-time rush weavers in the country.

Saturday 4 July 2020

The Courts Garden, Holt, near Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts.

How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
in an English country garden?

We'll tell you now of some that we know
Those we miss you'll surely pardon

Daffodils heart's ease and phlox
Meadowsweet and lady's smock

Gentian lupin and tall hollyhock
Roses foxgloves snowdrops blue forget-me-nots

In an English country garden.


All of a sudden I am really appreciating just how fortunate we are to have so many beautiful gardens to visit. Places to escape to from our careworn world and slip off into an earthly paradise of flowers.
The Courts Garden, which began in 1902, is entered via a green oasis down a pathway lined with elegantly pleached Lime trees.
Rest awhile in the neo-Georgian temple made from the local Bath stone.

I was amused by the topiary seen above, and wondered what they would look like if they were adorned with some hats and scarves for fun!
The stone tower of Holt Congregational church can be seen popping up beyond the boundary in several areas of the garden.
An archway of apple trees leads on down to....
....the working side of the garden.
Pots of succulents lined up on the steps - these are to keep all visitors travelling around the garden in the same direction, and help maintain safe distances.
The rich colour of these Aeoniums is far superior to the colour of mine, however, now it is time to bid au revoir to The Courts Garden and go home for supper.