Monday 31 May 2010


Off down to Hampshire (New Forest) via Devon (househunting) for a few days to house- and animal-sit for a friend. Will report back at the weekend. Here's hoping No. 1 son doesn't have a huge party in our absence . . . He has had a guided tour of the plants which will need watering but heavy rain is forecast for tomorrow, so that should let him off the hook unless another heatwave follows . . .

The photo at the top was taken near my horsey friend Nia's place in mid-Wales. A lovely spot.

Saturday 29 May 2010

Padding out the family history

Well, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy indeed. I shan't bang on any more about painting, but the above photo will perhaps show the extent of outside painting we have had to do on the house. This is the view of the house from the paddock. My husband finally got the limewash dilution about right and has been able to improve on the formerly patchy weather-worn look of the walls. It isn't too far different from the colour on the gable walls either. As you can see, we have yet to repaint the oil tank . . .

We are off to Hampshire shortly, and I am meeting up with a new "cousin" of mine next week. I am sure we will have lots to talk about with our family history (I think her research is more widespread than mine).

However, the Moretonhampstead History Society has some wonderful stuff on its website and I printed off the school log of a school in Pound Street (1876 - 1891) recently. In July 1877, "several boys reported for stealing gooseberries. Given reprimand." Discipline was strict: Oct. 1877: "2 boys punished by good thrashing with cane for insubordination." Dec. 1877: "Mass absenteeism as boys collecting holy bushes for Xmas season." (Not sure if they meant to write holly bushes or whether they were called holy bushes . . .) July 1878: "Half boys off school hay-harvesting and picking wortleberries."

There was regularly trouble with the chimneys - the down draught being problematical and causing the school to be closed because they were choking on the smoke. There were problems with absenteeism and truancy - children who lived a good walk away from the school couldn't make it in if there was much snow or rain. Obstreperous parents came and threatened the teacher: "Refused to admit boy as no fees with him. His reputed father, a low rough known as 'the general', threatened to put his fist in my face if I did so again." Truanters were hunted down and punished with a "good thrashing". Parents of persistent offenders were prosecuted for their childrens' non-atttendence.

In July 1884, "2 boys in a month 'try to kick and bite' teacher while he is punishing them." In January 1887, it was noted that a "large part of ceiling fell in".

Parts of it read rather like the problems teachers report in the present day with discipline, but with a lot of mass absenteeism due to helping with the harvest, planting potatoes, picking wortleberries, collecting the holly etc - anything that would help the family and bring in an income . . .

Wednesday 26 May 2010

So Weary . . .

Right now, were I to shut my eyes, I should be asleep. Straight away. No hanging about. So I daren't shut my eyes. We are STILL painting. Getting towards the end, and tidying up as we go along, but it's like being on a particularly energetic roundabout and you can't get off . . . Everything will come together at once. It's just the bit inbetween which is difficult. I am currently up in the attic, where the two end walls badly need painting. Rather than limewash, we are using "earthborn" clay paint, which goes on like thick emulsion and covers very well. I am delighted with it, and the price, whilst a good bit dearer than ordinary emulsion, is a worthwhile investment. With an old house like this you just have to use breathable paints. Of course, this paint is eco-friendly too - no nasty chemicals in it, just completely natural.

Corner by the yard.

OH dabbing the last bits on the front of the house where lime-wash was needed. It goes on turmeric colour, and then calms down . . .

Just the three sash windows above the bay to paint. Getting up to them should be fun - last time we had scaffolding.

A rather beautiful Allium in the long border.

Left a bit along the same border.

The garden is coming together too, though I have made a rod for my own back and created two new planted areas in the paddock. They are mainly planted with my own plants - self-seeded or divided - from the garden here, with a few cheap ones from the car boot sale.

Next week we are house- and animal-sitting for friends for a few days, and viewing properties in Devon on the journeys down and back . . .

Saturday 22 May 2010

Saturday's walk

Some of my Welsh poppies in the garden . . .

My husband and I had a lovely walk yesterday. We had to drive over to the next valley to have some work done on the car (oil change etc). Whilst it was being done we walked along the lane for an hour or so. It was hot. I mean, REALLY hot. There wasn't much shade. Most of the downhill bits were on the outward journey . . .

But it was a lovely walk and this was a lane we rarely drive along (haven't been along it for years now) and so walking it was a real joy. The car wasn't quite finished when we returned so we had a wander round the village.

Then it was back home to more gardening and more painting. I hope I never have to lift a paintbrush again once we've moved.

View across the fields. The little white cottage, top left, used to belong to friends of ours. A lovely peaceful spot at the end of a trackway.

The roadside banks are a mass of wild flowers right now. you should see Bluebells, Rose Campion, Cow Parsley and what my mum called "Shirtbuttons" - Stitchwort.
Looking across to the Black Mountain . . .

This beech tree was growing on a roadside bank and was absolutely huge.

Isn't this the most beautiful house? Many, many years ago I visited here with friends and have remembered it ever since. The Clematis montana rubens is superb.

It has a beautiful garden, with the stream running through it.

This was obviously the chapel pre-1838 . . .

The wording of this plaque conveys a sense of slight disgruntlement . . .

A little terrace of typical Welsh cottages.

I love the proportions of this cottage and the lovely jadey green paintwork.

The steps to nowhere. The old doorway has been changed into a window now, but once the male workers in this house who "lived in" would have used these steps to go to bed. Needless to say, any female servants had different accommodation . . .

Thursday 20 May 2010

Retro sewing

I have to confess that my x-stitch has been temporarily abandoned. I have been so tired in the evenings that all I do is watch tv for an hour and then go to bed. Last night I was determined to break that behaviour pattern, and I blew the dust off 4 lovely Crinoline Lady embroidered mats which had come to me as part of an Auction box and needed restoring. So I sat down with a bundle of embroidery threads sent by a friend from a Ringwood charity shop (you know who you are when you read this!) and picked a pink as near to the original as possible, then in two strands and using tiny chain-stitches I stitched a new bonnet on the first. Aren't they dainty? Some of the flowers have been unpicked and need re-sewing too. I like them so much I may just try a couple more, but getting exactly matching material will be difficult. They will just have to be similar.

I like to think that the lady who had been unpicking them (and who probably embroidered them originally, possibly back in the 1930s when this design was so popular) was with me in spirit. She had been unable to finish them - I inherited a whole pile of bits and pieces from stuff she had made over the years, very useful bits and pieces too - and I am still working my way through the bits. I certainly got so much pleasure from doing such a simple thing - totally out of proportion to the few stitches set . . .

Tuesday 18 May 2010

In the garden

Phew. I think I have just worked out my desperate urge to garden! Emerging from the behind the raspberries and loganberries just now, I found myself covered with bits of detritis (mainly in my hair), dust making me sneeze from where I had been yanking out the most determined weeds, and a back which was complaining bitterly. Going behind the gooseberries was even worse, as I just had no room and my bottom was getting prickled mightily by the gooseberry bushes which shelter in front of a very old stone wall like chicks sheltering beneath a mother hen's wings.

I have cleared up a bit around the intake soft fruit area and will carry on after a cup of tea. The weeds (mainly grass and teasel) are something else and very appreciative of the muck heap mulch I laid down last year.

I also got my runner beans planted out (Scarlet Emperor, which do best here) and some Italian flat beans, which I love and also do well. I am growing on another couple of trays of runner beans, and have Borlotti beans coming out of my ears! I'm about to plant out some more Sweet Peas I started a few weeks back and some Pot Marigolds which need to go in the ground now.

I have had a couple of Casualties - none of the Delphiniums I planted last year have grown again, and the two prettiest Aquilegias - little mound-forming Alpine ones - have snuffed it too. William Guinness black and white Aquilegia) is also M.I.A. presumed dead. Then to make up for it, I have another Aquilegia which is totally new to me (long spurred sort) and I don't know WHERE that came from. Never mind, I have lots of self-sown ones to fill any gaps.

Right, this won't do. Too nice a day to be indoors (though it's back to painting again this afternoon . . .)Blue Lungwort in a shady bed by the wall.

A deep red Aquilegia.

Aren't these tulips gorgeous? I have grown these in tubs but now they have the freedom of the garden.

One of my Cranesbills with almost black flowers. These are another of my favourite plants and I plan to add some more variety to my collection this summer, and when we move.

Border with various stuff in - Solomon's Seal nearest.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Spring flowers - and Caught Out!

I managed a short walk last week, in between bouts of painting, and strolled along down by the river. I had a lovely chat with our neighbour at the Mill, and together we put the world to rights!

I went up to the junction and turned left and walked up the hill a little way. The wild flowers were growing in profusion along the banks which faced East, as they caught the sunshine for most of the day. There were tangles of Bluebells, including some pink ones which you hardly ever see; some Celendines and Primroses in their final days of blooming; Red Campion (though I prefer to call it Rose Campion as the blooms are pink and not red); Stitchwort; Bugle; Ground Ivy; Ramsons and Sweet Woodruff.

Shining Cranesbill.

The view downstream.

Young Hart's Tongue ferns unfurling.

The beautiful little blue flowers of the common Speedwell. The Latin name of Veronica is given to this plant, and it is named for St Veronica. Apparently when Christ was struggling with the heavy cross he had to carry, sweat fell from his brow and a young girl - St Veronica as she became - ran forward to wipe the perspiration from His forehead. Apparently the marks were indelibly printed upon the cloth, and it is said that some species of the Speedwell are like a little face.

Common Bugle amongst the ferns. It is also called the Carpenter's Herb, because traditionally it was used to stem bleeding. One of the favourite nectar sources for several butterflies, including the Pearl-Bordered Fritillary, the High Brown Fritillary, the Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary and the Dark-Green Fritillary. I think it may be the latter which is particularly found localized in our area.

Sweet Woodruff, which smells like hay when it is dried. It grows commonly along the banks locally. In Germany it was used to flavour the May Wine (Meiwein or Maibowle), brandy, beer, sausages, jelly, jam, a soft drink, ice cream and to make a herbal tea with sedative properties. I see I have some recipe-collecting to do!! Woodruff ice-cream would be WONDERFUL. Hah! Just found a recipe - will share it with you later on.

Stitchwort embellishing a cooler bank.

You will have to enlarge this photo to see the Speckled Yellow Moth in the centre. It was very butterfly-like, and didn't care to be photographed - I had to pursue it stealthily!

Floating in a little raft down the river were the shed leaf cases from the beech trees which line the banks here.

A trio of Canada Geese and a Mallard keep company by the bridge.

Fahly and I used to jump this little stream and then canter up the hill.

Looking along the stream as it chortles down over the stones.

Our nearest bluebell wood . . .

As a little afterthought, I thought I had shed every trace of my Southampton accent many years ago. Yet when I was browsing the aisles in T*sco today, I fell into conversation with a lovely "old bwoy", and he suddenly said to me, "Where are you from then?" I told him, Soouthampton, and he said he was from Portsmouth, so my Hampshire accent must still be there in the background!!! We chatted for about 10 minutes and it was nearly as good as a holiday : )

Thursday 13 May 2010


With downsizing in the offing, I am currently listing items we no longer need on e-Bay. So far, so good. Stuff I've sold has paid for the industrial quantities of masonry paint we have needed! I have only bought myself some M&S cords (2prs, dirt cheap) and a Clematis (Elizabeth - "Mile-a-Minute"). I talked myself out of a further bid on some Foyle's War DVDs, but I have now fallen by the wayside by looking up Aquilegias on e-Bay. . . .

In my defence, I have only bought a packet of seeds so far, for the princely sum of £2.19 (I know how to party!!) They are Aquilegia skinnerii "Tequila Sunrise" and absolutely stunning in coral and yellow. I shall probably find that amongst the babies I am growing from the seeds I bought at Touchwood Nurseries last year, that I have this as some of the labels (I used lolly sticks) lost their wording. And the Aquilegia cearulea blue (6 plug plants for 99p) - well, I might have left a bid . . . I shall get some little envelopes today and list some of my Aquilegia seeds too (might as well, I have a lot of seeds I saved from last year). Then it will just be a "swop"!

My garden is starting to look very pretty. I have the arching stems of a little white Dicentra spectablis (prefer the white to the pink one), and a big bush now which was a little slip of Geranium pyrenaicum "Bill Wallis", and I have big clumps of Geranium phaeum "Samobor" all over the place, and am happy to let it self-seed.

I can still remember seeing the first Columbine I had ever seen growing by an old cottage on the Purbecks (Ridge on the Arne peninsula I think). I had only seen it in my Observer's book of wild flowers prior to that and I was smitten . . . They are such beautiful plants and very promiscuous. I love the different types of petals from the big showy clematis-type to the shaggy Norah Barlows and the pom-poms and some I have just like little chandaliers . . .

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Another bluebell-y day . . .

I thought I would add the rest of my bluebell photos today, as these are mesmerising. I have never seen acres of bluebells like this. Sadly, on our way up to Builth a couple of weeks back, we were too early to see them. They should be out now though. I should imagine this was all woodland at one time, but then the trees were cut down and the bluebells remain. It was the same on Skomer island when we went there a few years back. Scarcely a shrubby tree remains, but masses of bluebells and wood sage, showing a relict landscape. There were acres of Red Campion too. Just magic. I hope to go back to Skomer before we finally leave Wales.

Anyway, this spot above is on the road to Builth from Llandovery, on the right hand side, and behind where a loop of the old road has been sidelined. Blink, out of season, and you will miss it. Right now you will be stunned by its beauty.

It's bluebell time . . .

Yes, it's bluebell time here. These photos were taken a couple of years back, on the way up to the Smallholders' Show at Builth. Our local woods are mistily purpley blue and smell divine . . .

I'm surprized I'm still awake - I feel literally asleep on my feet, and everything above waist height is aching from painting bits just out of reach, or from coopying down to get rid of the moss on the bit of the wall at ground level. OH is doing the high bits and I am doing the bits I can reach from the ground/on a step ladder. Yesterday we cracked on with the back of the house. The far end, beyond OH, gets all the weather and there was hardly any lime-wash left on it, so we have thought long and hard and decided the wall would be painted with masonry paint this time, to try and protect it, as there is crumbly shale in amongst the stone, which is why the top half of the wall is slated up.

I did as much as I could do today, before running out of limewash and then bits I could reach, so I have been indoors painting down in what was mum's bedroom. I can now almost count the number of indoor walls left to paint on the fingers of both hands . . .

I would love to be able to crack on in the garden, but the nearest I got to that today was mowing the lawn before it came on to rain. Ah well. I managed to prick out some seedlings the other day and have some good Hollyhocks and Giant Stocks growing on well. Need to do the same with some Nicotiana and Double Blue Cornflowers in the next couple of days.

My Aquilegias are about to start flowering. I think I lost some over the winter - the nesh kind which of course were the more unusual colours or petals, but I took plenty of seeds last year so I will sow a couple of trayfulls and see what comes up. I have lots of good seedlings from the seeds I bought from the nursery on the Gower last year, ones with golden or splashed foliage, and unusual colours. I can't wait for them to flower. They will be coming with me to the new garden in some shape or form (plants or seeds or both).