Summer Holiday: Part 1 Guildford

As mentioned in my last Six on Saturday blog we have returned from a holiday down South. We have had a fabulous time and are exhausted now. But in true fashion returning home, we have decided to get on with several jobs around the house and garden. There is painting to be done to finish the extension and the front garden can be planted up as the path has been rebuilt. Before Amy starts on the painting I have a little bit of time to start recalling our holiday.

On the way down we stopped off for a night in Guildford so Amy could catch up with one of her friends. We didn’t really have any preconceived ideas of Guildford. It’s been the butt of a number of comedians jokes. But we found it to have a nice town centre with lots of interesting old buildings. We weren’t aware that Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carrol, lived in Guildford for a period. It would seem wrong to visit the town and not see some of the sights of Alice’s namesake and we managed to catch a few of the sights on our way around. The happy scholar statue celebrates the town as a centre of learning.

Alice found a rock from Perky.posts that she wanted to take home. She accepted leaving it for other people to find so I didn’t get stuck carrying it along with whatever else she found she wanted me to carry.

Across the way, we got a glimpse of St Mary’s Church where Lewis Caroll preached and his funeral was held. With scaffolding and restoration work underway we didn’t go in.

We stopped for food in the Star Inn. The pub has a blue plaque declaring that the Stranglers played here. It was one of the first places they got started in. The pub has apparently been a big part of the music scene in Guildford for many years. Staff were friendly and I got a decent burger and Alice enjoyed her chips.

Alice wanted to show us how her teacher told her to sit.

Before taking a more relaxed poise.

We enjoyed the delights of the whisky shop and sampled a number of whiskies. We bought the most expensive bottle of whisky we’ve ever bought but it did make a nice holiday treat. Amy has started to get a taste for whisky and has started stealing my whisky so she wanted her own glass.

We had a nice wander through the Castle Grounds. It was all very nicely managed and we saw a few of the gardeners hard at work keeping the lawns in their pristine condition.

A picturesque little pond. Alice spotted lots of water snails but was disappointed she couldn’t spot frogs.

The beds were currently planted up with nice varieties of cosmos.

The paths cross each other creating tunnels.

The little holloway planted up with fantastic ferns.

Athyrium nipponicum

The bandstand made a good spot for dancing.

We made it round to the castle. The castle has the one room downstairs and stairs up to the walls at the top. Probably not worth the entrance fee, but it helps maintain the castle and grounds.

Alice was scared of the height but there was a good view of Guildford from the top.

Lots of Asplenium Trichomanes fern naturalised in the walls.

Alice found the looking glass.

She enjoyed colouring in the gallery. She has leapt on with her pencil control recently and is trying hard to stay in the lines. But as she colours each section the same colour it doesn’t make much difference to the overall effect.

She liked white as free biscuits were available. I think Amy would like the staircase.

I’ll be posting more of our holiday over the next few days as I manage to write it up between getting the house and garden back in order.

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I’ll leave you with bedtime. Amy has a theory that Alice goes to bed more easily for me. This is her bedtime on the night Amy went out with her friend.

Six on Saturday: 17.8.19 Exbury Gardens Hydrangeas galore

We have returned from our holiday down in Dorset having seen some lovely gardens. It’s interesting travelling down South. The difference in climate makes a massive difference to what is grown. Cordylines tower over roundabouts. Camellias look healthy rather than windswept and it feels like everything grows that little neighbourhood taller with pines common across the county. Visiting gardens gives me a chance to see specimens I wouldn’t necessarily see locally.

This weeks six comes from Exbury Gardens which we visited earlier in the week. Exbury is located on the edges of the New Forest. It is owned by the Rothschild family famous for mass wealth made through banking. It is known for its rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias which I imagine were spectacular earlier in the year when the majority will be in flower. It holds two national collections: Tupelo and Oxydendrum. With a small steam railway and 200 acres, it has a lot to offer visitors. I may have gone overboard on the photos but believe me I could post a lot more.

1. Hydrangea paniculata

We enjoyed this spectacular walk, which I think was from the Jubilee Pond. My love of hydrangeas has been discussed a lot recently. This stretch was largely made up of hydrangea paniculatas of different varieties. They were clearly well positioned and well established as they were thriving. One of the great advantages of hydrangeas is the long season of interest and these I’m sure will be looking great for a good while to come.

I spotted this variety great star that was a bit different from any I’ve seen before. I was quite taken with it, but then I was quite taken by the whole row. Earlier today I saw a quote from Vita Sackville-West that seems relevant here.

“In some gardens the hydrangeas were making a great display, but they look their best in large clumps, I think, not as a single specimen for which a small garden has only room; and in any case they always remind me of coloured wigs” Vita Sackville-West

The hydrangea were massive. Here are photos with family for scale.

2. Hydrangea walk

Further round there was a dedicated hydrangea walk made up of lots of varieties but mainly the dome mopheads of macrophylla. In my neighborhood, the soil largely creates pink hydrangeas. It was interesting to see a mix of colours along one walk.

Alice wasn’t so taken with the Hydrangeas. She only allowed us to continue as we’d told her it was the route to ice cream. Though she did enjoy playing hide and seek.

3 Steam train

The little railway gave us a tour of the gardens Alice couldn’t manage on foot so we got glimpses of the rock garden and the dragonfly pond. At Halloween, it transforms into a ghost train and at Christmas offers Santa Steam Specials which sounds great fun. Alice enjoyed the train ride even though it wasn’t her favourite colour red.

4. Ferns

The sheltered conditions of the dense woodland and sheltered slopes combined with the milder Southern climate gives ideal tree fern conditions. I have given up on my tiny little specimen. It’s either been too cold or too dry and it’s going to be years to form a trunk.

5. Rhododendron

While the majority of the rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, the gardens are famous for, are past their best there were odd flashes of colour. Alice liked this vibrant red.

6. Ice cream

Alice eventually got her promised reward. She enjoyed it lots. She did well walking good distances. She almost got ice cream for dogs before I realised what I’d got. There were a lot of options for dogs around the area with many of the pubs and restaurants we visited offering snacks and drinks for dogs. Quite a dog-friendly part of the world. Unusually Alice went for strawberry ice cream rather than her usual chocolate but she enjoyed it lots.

We barely covered a fraction of what Exbury has to offer but was more than satisfied with our day out. I could happily visit again at a different time of year or even the same season as there was so much ground we didn’t cover. If I lived close I’d be buying a pass.
We’ve had a great time away and I’ll be posting more about our trips out over the next few days. Check out other sixes through the propagator’s blog.

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Six on Saturday: 10.8.19-Summer colour

We have gone off for a breakaway this week, so this weeks six has been pre-written. The garden is reaching a zenith of full flowers with many of the finest flowers reaching their peaks. It’s a nice point of the year where I have to choose six rather than struggling to locate six things of any interest. Much of the time I choose plants for long-lasting foliage more than flowers but this week we have six bright choices.

1. Cosmos-double click cranberries

These were grown from seed purchased from Sarah Raven. I grew several varieties moving them inside and outside when it was still chilly. But unfortunately several of the seed trays were flooded by rain and many of the cosmos seedlings died off. These, however, have flourished into a wonderful thick patch.

2. Fuschia-Alice Hoffman

I’m not a big fan of fuschias but this one has proved hardy enough and I like the contrast in the flowers and the dark leaves. I’ve kept it confined to a pot and cut it back each year and it seems happy with this arrangement. It is flowering well.

3. Hydrangea paniculata-Limelight

I’ve featured lots of other peoples hydrangeas but haven’t shown my own off. I planted two of these in the back garden and one in the front garden. These came from Thompson & Morgan. I didn’t expect much from them in their first year but they are looking fabulous. They should only get better as they grow taller. I was worried about how the one in the front garden would do with the sea winds but so long as I keep it watered it should be fine. The combination of a shaded North facing garden and lots of heavy rain this SUmmer has helped it settle in well.

4. Solenostemon/coleus

Coleus changed name this year to Solenostemon but I’m sure it will still be known as coleus for many years to come. I grew a few varieties from seed. These have been used in the ground as filler in the front garden, as house plants, and a few in pots on the patio which had bulbs in before. The foliage comes in a wide variety of bright colours adding to the mix between the hostas and ferns.

5. Peacock butterflies

After the excitement of the influx of painted ladies, the garden has seen lots of peacock butterflies. Just as colourful as this week’s flowers.

6. Dahlia’s Bishops Children

These dahlia flowers have been the results of months of work and I am very happy with them. For people who have followed their progress through this blog and Twitter, you will have seen them grow through lots of stages. It is my first year growing dahlias and I am enjoying the bright bursts of flamboyant colour they offer. These were bought from Sarah Raven as seeds. Almost every seed germinated and I’ve kept most going to end up with just shy of 30 plants. I didn’t expect as high germination rate or to keep them all alive. I’ve passed lots on to friends and family with plenty to go in my own garden. Amy even passed one onto the window cleaner to clear the patio. Some have gone in the border, some in pots.

They flower in a range of colours. So far I’ve had deep pink, red, yellow and orange flowers. The foliage is lovely in itself. Dark, crimson foliage with pointed leaves contrasting well with the hosta fortuneii on the patio. I was concerned about these growing quickly enough up North to flower well. With colder temperatures, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get them outside with time for these to grow enough to flower from seed. But I didn’t need to worry. These have grown spectacularly. I will probably try saving some seed for next year.

The forecast for our week away is lots of light rain so while we might be having a wet time away at least the garden will be looked after. Hopefully, I will return from my break having visited one or two gardens to report on. We are potentially going to Peppa Pig World. Not somewhere you’d think I’d voluntarily go but Paulton’s park also has gardens including Japanese gardens so I might manage ten minutes seeing those. Enjoy your Sundays!

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Six on Saturday: 3.8.19 from the in-laws in Summer

I wrote earlier in the week about our trip to the in-laws at Robin-Hood’s Bay but I left out how their garden was looking. So here it is six things from their wonderful garden. It featured earlier in the year in Spring. They’ve got the scaffolding up around the house and garden but still plenty on offer. Not least the entertainment of following the cat.

1. Roses

There is a smorgasbord of roses on offer in the garden currently with many hitting their peak. I am classing this mass of roses as one choice on my six, though if I knew more about them I could have written this six purely on the roses.

2. Sea holly

There are a few patches of sea holly around. I’m trying to grow my own as this featured as part of my wedding flowers. Mine are in their first year and not showing any signs of flowers this year but plenty of foliage.  I did start them quite late on so I may not get anywhere with them this year.

3. Japanese anemone

These again are a lot further on than in my own garden with plenty of flowers on many.

4. Pond

The pond was revamped last year and is now surrounded by many wildflowers. There were tons of butterflies and bees enjoying the flowers. The pond is attracting plenty of life with tadpoles and newts in resident.

5. Painted ladies

This year has seen a higher number of painted ladies. Every ten years or so we get a record year. These wonderful butterflies undergo the longest butterfly migration on Earth. There is a great documentary on the BBC but only for a limited time.

6. Hydrangeas

I’ve written about hydrangeas a lot recently and there are lots to view at the in-laws.

The limelight is fabulous. It was seeing the ones in the in-laws garden that led me to buy mine. You can see the flowers at various stages from the lime green to white.

If you fancy taking part in Six on Saturday read the guide. There are lots of wonderful plants and gardens to view. I have my own garden to tend today. I want to have a good weed over the next few days before we go away. I’ve still got a few more Bishop’s Children dahlia’s to find spaces for as well. They are flowering away well now and looking stunning. Now I’m starting the regular feed of tomato feed.

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Saving Water in the house

Using water wisely is significant to help protect our natural world. I’ve written about the advantage of using a water butt before. Since adding the water butts to the front and back garden we’ve had a few people in the neighbourhood tell us they’ve added one. By saving water this helps protect habitats within the countryside. If we have water shortages streams will be potentially be redirected for reservoirs harming existing wildlife. Yorkshire Water was offering a free pack of water-saving devices for the house. As it was free I thought I’d order and see what we got. I have few DIY skills so if it was anything too complicated I wasn’t going to be tackling it and ending up needing to call out a plumber.

In the pack, we got a cistern pack. This is a bag with a biodegradable polymer. Pop it in the toilet cistern and the bag fills up and the polymers enlarge taking up space in the cistern. This is much like the old advice to stick a brick in as it reduces the amount of water used with each flush.

The pack includes tap inserts. The website reckons this can save a household up to £36 a year. These reduce the velocity of the stream and limit splashing. It was easy to fit. It came with a little tool for unscrewing the end of the tap. The pieces slot in and screw back together. 2 minutes work. I don’t know how much of a difference it makes to the water use but out the end of the tap was so gunked with limescale it feels like it flows better. I think it tastes better but this may just be in my head.

The shower regulator is again designed to regulate the flow. The website states 25% of the average UK utility bill is on heating water. This may potentially affect the pressure of the water so I will give it a try and see if it stays.

Then the last item in the pack is a four-minute timer that suctions onto the wall. Trying to cut down the time in the shower cuts both water bills and even if you’re not on a water metre it will save money on heating the water.

If you’re interested in the set check here.

Saving wastewater has made it into the news this week with the Guardian pushing people to give street trees a boost with their washing water.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/01/use-your-waste-water-to-save-street-trees-experts-urge

Well worth a read. Too many trees are planted to expire within the first year. Enjoy!

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Bay and Bempton

We’ve returned from visiting the in-laws at Robin Hood’s Bay. We’ve had a lovely time despite the grey weather. It’s been back and forth between glorious sunshine, mizzle and thunderstorms. But we did manage to get out and about a bit.

We made it to the local Horticultural societies competition. Some very good veg entries. Alice liked the children’s gardens.

She was also quite taken by this sardine tin display.

The all-important amusing vegetable category.

We’ve had plenty of time playing in the garden but I will probably save that for this weeks six on Saturday.

This was the weather for much of the weekend. Grey with a mist of light rain blowing in.

Though we didn’t let that put us off. We just got kitted up.

Alice did really well going up and down the cliff. It’s a steep walk and we see lots of tourists panting back up every visit but Alice has managed walking up and down several times this trip. Previously she’s travelled in the baby howdah but she’s too big now and the pram is useless at the Bay.

Alice had a good time rock pooling though we didn’t find much beyond snails. She did enjoy throwing seaweed back in the pools. Though she couldn’t handle getting her shorts wet. We’ll need a swimming costume next time. Previous visits she hasn’t even wanted to go in the water at all though. Whereas now she’s happily exploring.

Lots of dead crab shells around.

Her best catch.

At the bottom of the hill, there are these big belly bins. They have solar panels on the top and we’ve been wondering what for.  I looked it up and they are rather fascinating. The solar panel powers a compressor so the bin can hold more for busy locations. It can also signal when the bins need collecting to reduce the number of pickups lowering its carbon footprint and saving trips to difficult to reach locations. The bottom of Robin Hood’s Bay is as bad a location as you could ask for. It has a steep narrow road with little turning room. So these seem a very clever solution to keeping the place neat.

On the road down the walls are covered in ferns. the ravine is one of my favourite parts of the bay with a mass of ferns and mosses growing from every crack. I could happily replicate this in my garden with my fern obsession.

Alice has enjoyed very too many ice creams in the last few days. She has been going through lots of tantrums recently and we’ve been making it clear whiney whingey girls don’t get ice cream.

Alice is becoming very adventurous at the park climbing and jumping off greater heights.

We had some moments of sunshine.

The Victoria pub has finished its extension since we got married last year. It’s looking good and has probably the best view out of the bay of any of the pubs and restaurants.

On the way home, we stopped off at Bempton Cliffs. Traditionally it rains whenever we visit but we actually had glorious sunshine for a change. Alice wasn’t up to walking very far as she was in a tired, hungry mood. We did make it down to the first observation spot to see the cliffs. The seabirds flying from the cliff swooping down to the water is always a spectacular sight.

We managed to see one of the star attractions up close. Normally we’ve seen the puffins at a distance through telescopes but there was one close enough for a recognisable photo rather than a blur in the distance. I’m not winning wildlife photographer of the year with this one. But nice for Alice to actually be able to make one out.

Though it’s not all about the birds. The insect life was pretty amazing too in the sun.

The wildlife at Bempton face so many threats with habitat destruction and changing climate that I continue to support the RSPB even though we probably only manage a trip a year. Each time we visit I hope for Alice’s sake these wonderful birds are still there as she grows up.

Amy was taken with this lovely little chappy so he was brought home which is now stopping the door rattling in the wind helping Amy’s dislike of noises.

We’ve had a lovely time and have more holiday left to enjoy.

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