Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Now for something completely different . . .

I couldn't resist this acrylic painting (by artist Michael Long, and painted as part of a 2 hour challenge with a Bristol art group).  I talked myself out of it in the shop, but then HAD to go back for it, and absolutely love it. I have it on the mantlepiece in the sitting room, and as darkness falls that sky gets darker and more threatening - more snow on the way, that's for sure.  The scene is a corner of Gloucestershire . . .

 Last week turned out to be quite a busy week.  Brecon for grocery shopping and taking shoes to the cobblers.  Hay-on-Wye for the market on Thursday and then on Friday, an outing to Leominster as now we are in Powys, that was the nearest B&Q, and we wanted to get paint sample chips and chose a paint for our bedroom (one mixed.)  We have a Jewson's here in town, but that's no good unless you want bucketfuls of white emulsion.

We chose the same blue (Midwinter Solstice I think it's called) that we had in our bedroom in our last home, as it was a lovely colour, and came out with handfuls of paint chips for Tam's bedroom and the Library.  The latter is going to be a deep pink (it will look better than it sounds).  It's a room which doesn't get a great deal of light - the only dark room in the house - so will look warm and cosy. Tam wants a very pale pink in her bedroom - not baby pink, far more subtle than that.  She is still deciding exactly which shade.  We also got a new bristly doormat to replace the one which never recovered from being tramped on by wet and muddy feet when we moved in.  Any passing resemblance to a patchwork quilt did not influence my choice in any way.  (No, really!)

In the car park was this beautiful white Cherry tree.  So pretty.

The antique shops were open.  Temptation - the first one was very quiet - perhaps 5 other customers spread over 5 floors.  The garden out the back had garden furniture and decorative pieces for sale. 

19th C Irish Wrought Iron D?? Hearth Toaster (£110).

A painting of Church Street Ledbury, where we were recently.

I can imagine this took some hauling up to be put in place on the front of the roof of a Georgian building in the town . . .

It was market day but all we bought was a piece of cheese.

There are half timbered buildings through the town.

Above and below: two attractively-dressed shop windows (same shop) .  It would have been at home in Glastonbury.

Above and below: lovely old cottages by the river.

Next post: Garden Open Day . . .

Monday, 3 May 2021

Witch's Whiskers and the Monks Trod Part II

 I forgot to say yesterday, but the Witch's Whiskers are the name given at the Nature Reserve to the grey moss found on trees round here - I had identified it as Oak Moss but prefer Witch's Whiskers!!  Apparently there are 140 different types of moss on the Reserve at Gilfach.

At this spot on the river is a wooden viewing point and we saw a pair of Dippers hunting for insect larvae in the water.  They nest nearby . . .

I couldn't resist lots of river photos . . .  Towards the end of the year, there will be Salmon leaping up the river to spawn.

Gilfach is a locally unique mixture of habitats for wildlife - from high moorland to enclosed meadow oak woodland to rocky upland river.  (I quote the Reserve page on Visitwales here).  On the Gilfach homepage it mentions it being home to 413 species of litchen, 55 breeding bird species, and 6 species of bat (they are very much at home in the nearly-blocked up tunnel (enough room for bats to come and go).

Though you can't see them in this view, some of the fields had huge grassy tussocky anthills which would certainly attract Green Woodpeckers.

Gilfach was for centuries a working hill farm. This was the farmhouse - an old longhouse with the living accommodation for the farmer  to the left of that door below the bigger of the dormer windows, and to the right the beasts were kept.  There is now a display about the wildlife on the Reserve, and the upper half of the split stable door was left open with battens across, to allow Swallows access to nest.  Because of Covid it's not open at the moment, but hopefully will be later in the year.  The farmland was never improved with chemicals and so is as it always has been, and its diverse habitat supports much wildlife.  HERE is a link so you can look up some of the inhabitants.

The Tussock Grass shows this was rather sour wet ground, but what wasn't much good for farming is good for wildlife now.

Wherever we looked, the scenery was amazing.

The last little bit - a track beside the cutting where the Mid Wales railway line used to be.  We'll go back.  I can't wait to see the birdlife, butterflies and wild flowers this summer.  But not today, when there are 50 mph + gusts and heavy sideways rain.  Not much fun but the land DOES need a good watering.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Witch's Whiskers and the MonksTrod


This morning Tam and I went for a walk around Gilfach Nature Reserve, which is just outside of Rhayader.  She met up with a best friend from school and her husband there recently and they had a lovely walk and picnic, and froze their feet wading in the river!

The scenery was beautiful - as you will see from the photos - and wild, as I like it.

The two abbeys of Strata Florida and Abbey Cwm-Hir are separated by about 25 miles.  A (Cistertian) monk could ride this far in a day.  I've only been to Strata Florida just the once, back in my Uni days when we had a Field Trip there, but now we live closer we shall visit this year.  Abbey Cwm-Hir is closer, t'other side of Llandod, so we will go there too, although there's really not much left of it. I think all the stone went to build the village - just as Builth Castle stone built the town!

This blocked-up tunnel was once used by the Mid-Wales railway, which opened in 1864 and provided a vital route which linked the South Wales coalfields to mid and north Wales, especially during WW1.  The line ran from Three Cocks (on the Hay & Hereford road) to Llanidloes.  However, it was never really financially viable and was closed in 1962 (I assume Dr Beeching may have been involved . . .)

This is the River Marteg, hurrying towards the Wye, which is joins the other side of the A470.  It was cutting through slate bedrock and reminded me of the River Cothi, the way it had carved out the rock.

More tomorrow.  Plus our visit to Pontsioni House, where their garden was open under the National Gardens Scheme.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

A Marmite Hen . . .


Today was a Hay Market day.  As yesterday had been a TOTAL return to Winter (my goodness it was cold) I was debating what to wear, but opted for my new blue long sleeved blouse and a vest top under, and my seldom-worn chunky knitted long cardi.  (Mind you, I put a jacket in the car, just in case).  It's nice to dress up just a little bit now and again.  Here is a scene from the lay-by with a view near Brecon, where we stopped to eat our Patisserie stall lunch.  Those lemon tarts with white lemon and strawberry topping were calling out to be bought! Keith tried the dark chocolate and ginger, which has a big walnut on top.  Yummy!

Hay wasn't quite so busy as last time we went (I think Lockdown had only just been lifted then).  Here is one side of our friend Kath's shop window - a tempting display.

Looking along that same row of shops - I love the old timbers, left to age and not painted with black paint (I have a thing about black - or white, inside houses - painted beams.)

Opposite, woven baskets outside of the indoor market in the Buttermarket, where we used to stand at the Wee Flea there on a Friday.  I have a few of these, which are used for holding craft supplies.  I noticed prices had gone up, but that is the way of things.

I looked in the window, but was very good and didn't get tempted to go in.

One side of the window display at the Antique Centre has been changed, very spring-like.

Inside looking out, this was the opposite window which has also been altered.  Lots of Carltonware china.  I can remember when it was flavour of the month and you couldn't touch it at auction, now no-one wants it! The sort with the Foxgloves on still charms me.

Hen and chicks. I liked these and would put something like this on my stall.  Keith and Tam just went YUK!  Ah well, Keith has always said he doesn't know why I bought chicken-orientated stuff (well I do, as it always sold!)  So, this is a Marmite hen - you either love it or hate it!

Above and below: Velvetfern.  We went in, and she had some lovely things, and at sensible prices, so I am hoping she will make a go of it.  So many people come to Hay and think it is the land of milk and honey and put silly prices on stuff.  This shop is well worth visiting and I am going to treat myself in there next time.  I've just noticed my reflection below . . .

The plant stall.  I looked, and a couple of things were appealing, but having spent £25 the other day, I thought I had best leave my purse in my bag!

A curious little prickly thing on another junky stall.  It was quite weighty and I think was for parting the fibres of flax or similar, when it had been retted in a pit.  Again, I didn't even ask the price.

Finally, Hay castle. Work is still ongoing, but it looks like it is mainly the roof being worked on now.

Purchases from the Market were White Rye Flour and Brown Rye Flour, for bread (I have a recipe for a Rye Loaf made with plain yoghurt (in fridge already) which I will make tomorrow.  It was on Kate Humble's farm programme recently.  Also more jumbo oats, and some flaked almonds.  Oh, and those little patisserie pies of course.  From the butchers, a Steak and Ale pie for our meal tonight.

I have been busy in the garden this afternoon, and finally planted the two gooseberries, the first (and biggest) of the Autumn fruiting raspberries, one of the golden ones.  I also sowed some of the grass/wild flower seed mixture (and hope that the wretched pheasants don't discover it's there - though I did sprinkle soil* over.)  I transplanted some more of the Astilbe to the other side of the pond where there was an abandoned area covered in ivy. Then I planted the orange Geum (Borisii), and two more Delphiniums, this time white ones.  

* This came from one of the ceramic pots left behind by the previous owner.  It had two unhappy Primulas in it (now transplanted to the bank) and some gone-over Tete-a-Tete daffs, which I shall bung in elsewhere.  The spent compost was fine for spreading over the grass seed mix, but no goodness in it for growing any fresh plants.  I have another couple of the same to empty and replant.  I will be working all year to try and get the paddock area sorted, as still lots of roots and stones up there.  

As we drove round the countryside today, the Blackthorn was still in flower, though just starting to go over a bit now, just as the May (Hawthorn) blossom is starting to flower.  I don't recall seeing the two in bloom at the same time but this has been a long and very cold start to spring.  All the oil seed rape fields are golden yellow with flowers, and the verges equally golden with Dandelions, and the last of Celandines and on the way to Brecon, the roadside banks have plenty of Cowslips. Sadly, our one Swallow doesn't have a mate yet, and there are none to be seen - hoping they are just held up over Europe due to the cold weather and not decimated by the trigger-happy lot in the Med. He/she looked so disconsolate sat on the power wire by the stables today . . .  Do you have them returned to your area? wherever you are.