A holiday within a holiday.

I love it. We have finally managed to get to Spain after 12 months away. To garden. To deal with house issues. But. . Ian has said. “ We aren’t working in the garden for three whole weeks. We are going away.”Before I knew it he had planned a three night adventure where we would have our breakfasts made. Suppers cooked. Ian is the holiday person in our household. He researches and organises. But we had to do some work before we were able to go.

The trip. A 1hr 45 min drive toward and beyond Granada. To Moclín. No. I had never heard of it until recently but to be honest I had never heard of Competa before March 2017. Now I bore the pants off everyone in my posts of Competa. My photos. Just generally wittering on. But Moclín it was. Booked. Suppers arranged. Bags packed.

So. Moclín. What about Moclín. Well. its 1,065 metres above sea level on the route of the Caliphs and has an impressive 14 th century Moorish Castle looking into the valley. There are breathtaking views towards the Sierra Nevada as well as toward Granada, and the Alhambra. Imagine. Me visiting the Granada Province and not going to the Alhambra. That’s a first. Actually. No a second.

The road to Moclin

Driving into Moclín you are struck straight away with the volume of olive trees. As you drive up along the main roads there are olive trees as far as the eye can see. So Ian told me as my eyes were on the road most of the time. But he was right. How many olives can people eat. There were literally millions of trees. All in straight rows. All looking beautiful. I’m having words with the one tree in our garden. Though it is full of olives this years. You can’t miss Moclin Castle though. . Talk about high on a hill. And yes. There was a lonely goat herd. Ibex actually.

The castle dates from the 12 th century when the Nasrid Kings built their stronghold. The Moors managed to stave off the Christians when the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabella ordered an assault on the village in 1485. Enough history. If you want more you can always google it. I don’t want to bore the pants off you. Again. There is more to come before you fall asleep.

Olives as far as the eye can see

Ian had booked Casa Higueras Moclin for three nights. It’s a beautifully restored house high on the hill with amazing views to Granada and the Sierra Nevada. Owned by Ian and Andrew ~ which may confuse some. But we are Andrew & Ian. They are Ian & Andrew and they have the skills and patience at making you feel welcome. I’m too miserable to run a B&B. I had followed them on Instagram. I had listened to Ian’s podcasts where he interviews people who have settled in Spain. Looked at their website. Followed their adventures. Have a look at their blog www.twosouthofgranada.com which details their adventures > a great read. I too had done some research.

Casa Higueras at night

We arrived to a great welcome. It’s even better than the pictures. Amazing views from the terrace . Tea and cake on arrival and a natter taking in the amazing views. Talking Spain. Previous lives in London. Future lives in Spain. More Spain.

They also run some fabulous courses from Moclin. Art. Flamenco. Cookery. Children’s book writing. The week after we left they had guests arriving for an art course. Check out their courses www.granadaconcierge.com

Views from the terrace

As well as great hosts the cooking is amazing. We decided that for two of the three nights we would eat in. Give them 48hrs s notice and they whizz up restaurant quality food. One night we had a lovely starter of roasted tomato tart, teriyaki salmon with a delicious salad. Why delicious? Isn’t a salad a salad. It’s all in the dressing. Dessert a chocolate olive oil cake with homemade plum lemon and ginger ice cream. The second supper was an amazing pork dish with a sherry reduction and sliced mango cheek in lime and ginger syrup. I know it’s called a cheek as I sourced the recipe as I forgot to ask Ian. I’m hoping that one of their projects is a book of their recipes.

I would have normally taken photos. Surprisingly we were too busy eating and talking. To each other. Breakfasts were great too ~ Homemade granola. Homemade jams & marmalade. Homemade fruit compote. Get the drift. Homemade. And delicious.

Alfie

Did I mention the entertainment. No? Meet Alfie the resident entertainer. Now I’m more cat than dog but you couldn’t help but love Alfie. He entertained from the time we arrived. And if you ever need an almond cracker Alfie’s your dog. Found in the campo at 7 weeks old and initially fostered by Ian and Andrew it’s easy to see why he hasn’t left.

Ian & Andrew ( it feels weird saying that) ~ have a wealth of suggestions for trips from Moclin. But before we ventured too far there was Moclin to see. There are great walks around the area. Yes. You can guess we walked a short way up to the castle each day no further. But it’s a great base for longer walks.

Moclin

One of the recommendations was to stop off at a Roman Villa on our way to Priego de Córdoba. That’s the joy of staying somewhere where the hosts are full of recommendations. We had asked for some places to stop at on our drive, over dinner and at breakfast there was a note of where to go ( politely of course) and leaflets and directions.

First stop was somewhere that wouldn’t have been on our radar. Almedinilla to see a 7thc Roman Villa. The Villa Romana El Ruedo. The site dates from the 1st to the 7th century A.D. and is one of the largest on the Iberian peninsular. It is notable for its enormous structures,mosaics, paintings and paving. It’s remarkable to find the place ~ you can easily drive past and not know it is there. We did as we turned off the main road and drove straight past. A really unassuming entrance and ticket sales with a really helpful person to go and open the gates for us. We were the only ones there at the time and had the place to ourselves. Shame we had left our Roman togas behind. Imagine the photos. No. Don’t. Ian would not be amused.

Roman Villa

As well,as an original Roma ruin there is also a faux amphitheatre on the edge of the pueblo. very faux indeed.

Faux

Onward we go. I’ve probably said it before but the roads in Spain are excellent. Often just double lanes. Usually quiet where tourists like me pull over to let the locals go past as they know the road. unlike me they don’t stop breathing as they drive into the hillside towns and breathe in further as you drive through the narrow streets. Going into Priego de Córdoba was a bit like that. I’m not going to mention leaving. There was a diversion at which I chickened out and went the other way. Thankfully it was a short cut. But Ian wasn’t allowed to,speak until we were in the main road. It was a better route out of town actually and one I will remember for next time.

The diversion I avoided.

Priego de Córdoba was an Ian research find. It’s a very lovely place with an extremely helpful tourist office. Plied with information leaflets we headed for a walk around. It’s a place we will go back to for a long weekend.

Priego de Córdoba

We had walked and walked over the previous two days and decided to go into Granada for our last full day away byes. I know we have been to Granada a few times. In the first 12 months of buying Casa Verano we or I had been to Granada so many times. But not into Granada itself but skirted the outskirts on the drive up to the Alhambra Palace. Every visitor we had wanted to go to The Alhambra. I could have had a job as a tour guide I went so many times. But to be honest I love the place. Our next visit will be a night one.

This visit we were going into Granada just to go into Granada. Oh and Ian & Andrew had recommendations for Tapas for lunch. But first we had to get into Granada. I knew the approach to our favourite car park. Yes. I have favourite and least favourite car parks. I once nearly cried when I lost the car in the car park of EL Corte Ingles in Malaga. I didn’t realise there were two buildings on different streets and the car park spanned both. I learnt my lesson that day to make a note of where I exited the car park. Oh and the car park in Torre del Mar. Must have the darkest parking spaces in Andalucia. In Granada my favourite is next to the Monastery. We found it.

We had walked past the citadel San Juan de Dios twice before but had never ventured in. That was a mistake and I was glad I had my sunglasses with me. All that glitters and all that. Glitters wasn’t the right word. Bling bling bling. From the Lonely Planet guide “Built between 1737 and 1759, this spectacular basilica unveils a blinding display of opulent baroque decor. Barely an inch of its interior lacks embellishment, most of it in gleaming gold and silver. Frescos by Diego Sánchez Sarabia and Italian artists Corrado Giaquinto and Tomás Ferrer adorn the ceilings and side chapels, while up above the basilica’s dome soars to 50m. The highlight, however, is the extraordinary gold altarpiece in the Capilla Mayor (main chapel).

Have you been dazzled by the light? I was. An amazing example of opulent baroque. An excellent audio guide and at times the whole basilica to ourselves. What better to do after all that bling. A garden. Another treat close to my favourite car park. The Jardin Botanico de la Universidad de Granada ~ a small botanical garden attached to the university of Granada.

A small but lovely gardens with most plants labelled which is a joy to see. I’m not good at plant names but it’s a help to be able to identify them. Easily.

Lunch at Paccuri a great tapas bar and a general wander and a people watch through the streets of Granada and back up,to Moclin for one last night. That’s one last night for now.

Back to Competa for more gardening. Cleaning. Eating. And Spanglish for me. Spanish for Ian.

1Year, 365 days, 52 Weeks, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, 3153600 seconds.

Well that’s a mouthful. But that’s how long it’s been since we have been in Spain. I know. We are lucky. We have got this far without being ill. Have had a garden and open spaces to go to and have spent part of the summer in the garden in Somerset. But. There is always a but. We have missed our Spanish friends. The Spanish garden. Oh. And of course the food. Ok. The weather as well.

Hello. It’s been a while

But yes. In the words of Peter Paul & Mary we were leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when we”ll be back again. There was some truth in that. We do have return flights. Two. With the current Government travel rules we arrive into Spain between two travel updates. So we have booked an emergency return in case Spain goes red. As I sit writing this the update we expected yesterday has not materialised. Nor has it been announced today. So the emergency flight has been cancelled and we have even more vouchers to paper our walls with. Or maybe a refund. I have lost the plot.

To be fair we have some idea of when we will be back and forth for the next 10 months. Brexit and the departure from the EU means we now have to count our days ~ not just in Spain but in any Schengen country that we visit. We need to be aware of not overstaying our welcome of 90 days in any 180. For the first time our passports were stamped by border control as we entreated Spain. I have found an app ( isn’t there one for everything) to record them.

But ~ another but. . We are back. Travel is different now with airport checks are all done on line. Forms to fill in. COVID status to upload. Spanish entry forms to be completed. I even had to tell Ian the address to put on the form. Our Spanish address. We don’t get post delivered in the Campo so we rarely have to give our address. It goes to a mail box in town So t’s easy to forget your address. Isn’t it. Our original flights cancelled. Rebooked to London City which to be fair is our airport of choice. Everyone masked and I didn’t leave my seat for 2-5 hrs. And yes. I was wearing pretty attractive flight socks. But not with shorts and sandals.

I felt a tear as we circled Malaga and landed. I had desperately wanted to come but didn’t want to travel and get caught in Spain nor did I want to quarantine in a hotel prison if Spain became red. If I’m going to spend £3k plus on a hotel for 10 days it’s going to be one of my choice and not one where I only have room service; no pool and no company other than Ian. Sorry. Ian. But we would have killed each other.

Welcome home

Eternal Summer. It certainly was an eternal something. But the feeling of walking through the gates was one of joy. I loved the garden the first time I saw it. But I hadn’t seen it in a year other than a few videos and photographs sent by our friends who had watered the garden and checked the house. Trust me I’ll be forever thankful for good friends and neighbours. In times of a pandemic they are invaluable.

Through the gate

Behind the gates the lovely curved path was welcoming. The garden had been cleared. We knew that as when we pulled up into the drive there were 4 large dumpy bags ready to be taken away. We had lost things. The lavender path had struggled for the last two years. I had replanted it but still it struggled. So most of the lavender had gone. The gaura cut back or three feet tall. It was either one or the other. But to be honest. I was happy just to be home.

Up the garden path

The house had been opened regularly. Aired. The bed linen taken to the laundry and was back on the bed. Clean. Ironed. There was milk and orange juice in the fridge. Bread. Cheese. Biscuits. A welcome pack from the neighbours. Have I said good neighbours are invaluable. Well I will say it again. And again. Because they are.

Slowly I started to put things out. The garden furniture. The cushions. The umbrellas. Just to make it feel like we were home fo a while. Pots moved around. Oh. And washing done. Endless washing but only during the cheap times. One other thing that has changed in the last 12 months. Electricity prices in Spain. Wholesale prices increased by something like 250%! Timers changed to the cheap periods. If you can work them out.

The garden coming back to life

Many plants had fared better than others. There is very little colour at the moment. A bit of purple of the Durante repens. The scent of the white jasmine. A lilac of the ruella. But the heat has been hideous. Apparently ~ how would I know. We hadn’t been there in a year. I’m not sure if I’d mentioned it.

Take a seat. A break on la rampa

This is new in town and says it all and it is very true. Halfway up La Rampa where I’m still overtaken by people twice my age and who don’t need an asthma mask and a sit down when they get to the top. I’d like to say my fitness regime in the various lockdowns had given me the body of a Greek god. Sorry. It’s more like an Indian Buddha. There’s always next year.

Evening visors to Plaza Almijara

This was one of the first views we saw on Plaza Almijara four and a half years ago. It was an omen. This was the welcome sight on our return as we sat at Casa Paco eating chuletas and chocolate mousse. Not together obviously. But an old favourite. Being told off in the restaurant to speak Spanish. The thing is being away has meant my Spanish has stalled. Well to be honest it’s gone into reverse whilst Ian’s progressed hugely. But it was right. I must get back to at least trying to put a sentence together. Even if I make mistakes.

Just another sunset

Another thing I’ve missed. Sunsets. The view from the terrace as the sun goes down is a treat. At this time of the year they can be spectacular. But so can the mists. But I will never tire of the sunsets.

We have ventured out to eat. A lot to be honest. We have eaten out more in the first week than we have probably eaten in the last 6 months. Not surprising really when a lot of restaurants in the UK have been closed for months and are now struggling to get staff. Chefs are as rare as hens teeth at the moment. Maybe I’ll restrain. Maybe I won’t. Have I mentioned I retired. Early. One month short of 6 years ago. Not even lockdown made me want to return.

Competa by night

‘ Why are we stopping here’ says Ian. So I can take a photo. “How many more photos do you need from the same spot” He replied. .I haven’t taken one from here in over a year” So I can. The view of the pueblo Blanco taken from the viewing point on our way home from a night out. That sounds more exciting and later than it is. We’d been out to eat. But the food as ever was fab it may have been at El Pilon. At Cortijo Paco. At Casa Paco. We have been to them all.

Coffee at Casa Paco
Cortiijo Paco
El Pilon

The wearing of masks is still a thing here. Much more evident than back in the UK. In shops. In restaurants. People of all ages. To be honest I’m happy to continue to wear a mask indefinetly. ~ at least no one can see me sighing oh no. Not again. Or swearing. Or pulling faces. My worry is that I’ll forget when I’m not wearing one and get caught out. Like last week when

I was wittering on about some nonsense or other and Ian was thinking to himself ‘FFS shut up’ except he wasn’t. He actually said it out loud and was then horrified. It was hilarious. To be fair ~ I would have told me too.

It’s been great to see friends. Visit our favourite restaurants. Our favourite shops. To be welcomed back. Some things haven’t changed. The warm welcome. The great food. The wiggly and windy roads. The mozzies. . Gawd they are truly awful this year. You could draw pictures on the dot to dots on my legs after the first day.

We have been lucky having the house checked whilst we have been absent. A few things to do. Bulbs replaced around the pool. A few bulbs gone indoors. On the mention that I had to get new bulbs Ian’s reply was ‘ we have only been here 5 minutes and your on about ordering bulbs’ Wrong type Ian. Light bulbs~ but thanks for the reminder. That’s now on my list.

The hedge needs a cut. A job I gave decided to retire from as it’s a job I hate. It’s not an easy cut. Ok from one side but not great from the other. The cutting has been arranged as has the clearing of the roundabout that’s not a roundabout as well as the bank behind the house. There have been significant fires in Andalusia this last week which have spread far and wide and have lasted for days. . The summer has been dry and it is a worry when there is dry ground around the house which has two years growth.

Bulbs sorted

But now we are on holiday. Yes. A holiday. I can hear you say but you’ve gone to Spain on holiday. For the last 10 days we have been sorting out a 12 month abcence. We have been washing clothes and linens. Sorting out the clothes cupboards. Dusting. Gardening. Rearranging pots. Ian had said that our trips should also include trips out of Competa ~ there is so much to see and explore. Spain has so many possibilities. This time It’s a three day trip to the Granada province. Just an hour and a half away to stay in Moclin a small town even higher in altitude than Competa. More windy and wiggly roads to conquer. Plenty more photo opportunities.

Next week is busy. Grabbing coffee with Niki & Paul from Competa Escapes They have two , soon to be three ( one in renovation) gorgeous rental properties in Competa. Have a look if you plan a visit to Andalucia. Supper with Sergio & Juanco from SF Properties who sold us la Casa. A well needed visit to see Ruth at Happy Feet Can you guess why.? These poor old trotters haven’t been sorted in a year. I need Ruth to work her magic. Lunch with friends who arrive on Monday. Add to that the work I still need to do in the garden it will be a busy old week. Oh. I forgot. I need to go and see Lorraine at https://www.viverosflorena.com You can never have too many plants.

Feet not authors own – from a Hobbit in New Zealand !

Then it’s a flight back to Blighty. To have our passport stamped on leaving. To enter the days in or Schengen calculator and count the days to our next visit. No Peter Paul & Mary here. I do know when I’ll be back again. I can tell you. It’s 21 days. If you are really interested I can tell you up to July 2022. Give or take a few weeks.

To be continued.

Didn’t we have a lovely time. The day(s) we went to *******

We have spent more time in Somerset since the lockdown rules were eased in May than we have spent there in the last few years added together. Who would have thought we had wanted to sell to make our lives less complicated and now have fallen in love with Somerset again. Especially as we have been unable to travel.

May 2020

We arrived in May after a five month absence. Five months for the weeds to party. A sad looking garden at the rear. The joy of the tulips to come at the front. So from May until now we have spent our waking hours either in the garden when we are there. Or at a nursery restocking. I say we as it has been a joint effort. Ian has found a new interest in the garden and is suggesting plants when we go to the nursery. Another lockdown bonus for me instead of hearing do you really need more I now hear. What are these. They would look good.

End of July

It’s been hard work and still we turn our back and up pops up more bindweed or ground elder with a V sign. It’s a never ending battle. Which at the moment we are not winning so don’t look too closely. Or I might cry.

But. This last few weeks we had decided that we couldn’t jus get up. Garden. Afternoon nap. Garden. We also needed a few days out. It was school holidays after all ~ I’d forgotten my life since retirement has been a never ending holiday. Of sorts. Those words still echo in my head constantly ‘ Won”t you be bored? ‘ they asked. Bored. I haven’t had time to be bored. Tired. Exhausted maybe. But never bored.

So with the lyrics ‘ Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to ‘ —— ringing in my head off we went on a few little visits. Who recalls who sang it? It was decades ago and despite its popularity was new ever number 1 in the hit parade. No 3 yes. Ask you mother about the hit parade. Pre streaming. Pre downloads and sitting around the radio awaiting the BBC charts on a Sunday night. Maybe recording it on a cassette tape. Only for the thing to get tangled in the cassette player or your Walkman which was the size of a brick and then trying to unravel the tape using a pencil. I digress trust me. Some things weren’t easier then.

Do you fancy a coffee and a walk around the Piet tomorrow? Do I. let me think about it. Yes. I love the Garden at Hauser & Wirth. Particularly at this time of year. Or I should call it by it’s proper name. The Piet Oudolf Field.

Entry booked and arrangements made and a glorious sunny day ~ and a catch up with the Flower Farmer.

Now I don’t have many criticisms of this garden. But the one thing I would have loved is for the open space in the Radic Pavillion to have been positioned to look down the garden. You would have got a great aerial view of the planting. Looking at great swathes of glorious colour. Hats off to the gardener. It’s looking fabulous.

The joy of getting there early meant it felt we had the garden to ourselves. Which is just as well as we talked non stop wandering through the garden. Talking plant. And often talking pants. Nonsense talk but catching up of months of only virtual conversations. That’s me and Georgie. Ian and I have actually talked in lockdown.

A bonus of a walk through the gallery _ where we could be silly for 5 minutes when seeing the exhibition. We are mature adults aren’t we?

Secret service agents

So. Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to the Piet Oudolf field at Hauser and Wirth Somerset. Doesn’t quite fit the music. But…..

When your coat matches the colours of the scenery

There’s a lot of green about. The wet weather has certainly greened everything up. Including Ian’s rain coat. We bought these ~ One green. One blue in a trendy little shop in Greenwich. Served by a trendy young man to whom I replied to one of his questions. “ No I’m buying it to go to Chelsea’ oh he replied. “You follow Chelsea Great team” No I replied “ Chelsea Flower Show “. His response was typical and made me feel old. “ oh. My mother loves the Chelsea flower show too”. The truth was I was old enough to be his grandfather. Just. I digress yet again.

Dunster Castle. A National Trust property. In. You’ve guessed it Dunster. We had been to Dunster before when we travelled from Taunton on a steam train. Before you ask or even suggest it was not when steam trains were in normal service. It’s a lovely route along the coast to Minehead.

This isn’t on Rightmove

Used as a private dwelling until 1976 it was bequeathed to the National Tryst and it is one of the nicest properties I have visited in a long time. I would love to see the areas not open to the public but that’s the nosey in me. It’s set high up on a hill with amazing views.

The rooms were lovely and light and had amazing views across the channel to Wales. I forget how close the Welsh coastline is. I haven’t forgotten the day trips with school from Penarth pier to Weston Super Mare. I used to hate walking the pier at Weston as I thought the gaps between the wooden boards was too big,

Flowers in the rooms

The gardeners had been busy. I loved that each room had a display of flowers from the gardens. All different and fresh. Oh to be able to pick as much for the house. My dahlias are just in bud.

Garden room goals

I could have sat in the garden room for hours. Reading. Listening to music looking out at the magnificent views. Wondering why the handle on the door to go out into the garden was almost at knee level. Important things like that.

Down in the basements. The pool room. The gun room with the gun cabinets. The muniment room. No not a spelling mistake. The munimemt room. a room to store the family legal documents. I have a draw for mine.

But it was outside that was a delight. The gardens have a tropical feel. Large banana. Massive ferns on the riverside walk to the Mill. Wide sweeping perennial borders. Acanthus as far as the eye can see. Enourmous gunnera by the gorgeous bridge. Ian has always wanted a gunnera. Have a look at that one _ he’s changed his mind.

The riverside walk leads you to the mill which is still used to mill flour having been renovated and a new mill wheel installed. It also leads you to the tea rooms. You have to stop for tea and cake don’t you. It’s the rules of visiting either a National National Trust property or a National Garden Scheme garden.

Pooh sticks anyone

So didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Dunster. .

We need to get the benefits out of our National Trust memberships It’s a case of use it or lose it. The rule is if we don’t use a membership then it won’t get renewed. Last year was different. We didnt use any of them very much so as things have gradually reopened to various degrees we are determined to make the best use of them.

So. To be continued. This is quite long enough and if you have made it this far take a gold star.

If not there may be questions.

Nosey? Who me?

What do you love about Open Gardens I was once asked. What don’t I like. I’m nosey. I like to see other people’s gardens. Their planting schemes. Their plants. Gain some ideas. New plant ideas. Oh. And cake. There’s always great cake. Except in lockdowns when visits were limited. And no cake.

We missed one of my favourite gardens this summer. Philippa Burroughs garden has given me so much inspiration over the visits. New tulip varieties. Planting ideas. Plants from the plant stall. Oh. And tea and cake in one of the fabulous black barns.

I’d told Ian that I needed to make up for it when we were in Somerset and go to some new gardens. One good thing to come out of lockdowns has been Ian’s interest in the garden. Looking at plants and suggesting that they would be good in our garden. It’s been a win win situation. He has worked just as hard as me in combatting the dreaded weed collection that grew out of five months of neglect.

Having looked at the NGS app I found exactly what I was looking for. A garden I’d tried to see previously but we were never here when it opened. I’d first heard of Special Plants and Derry Watkins from two people. Georgie Newberry from Common Farm Flowers had mentioned her to me regarding seeds when I was looking for something. Then I’d admired some Honesty Corfu Blue which was planted en masse at a neighbours garden. Always generous with advice she said I will let you have 6 plants as I know you will look after them. I did look after them. I nurtured them. But the wet cold winter drowned them. All six. I hadn’t the courage to tell her as I didn’t want to be a disappointment. The truth is I have never told her. Those plants were grown from seed from Special plants and Derry and my neighbour are friends.

Special plants is roughly an hour from the cottage. Unless the bridge in Bath is closed and you go on a tortuous route around the city. Through the city. So it took longer. Then down a single track road which looked like we were going nowhere. I couldn’t hear Ian breathe. I suspect like me he was waiting to meet an oncoming tractor. We didn’t.

Have you ever stepped into a garden and thought you’d died and gone to heaven. Into a garden you could easily have as your own. Tulips at Ulting wick does that for me. As does the exotic planting after the tulips have been lifted. This garden adds to the list. Not showy. Just beautifully planted. Gorgeous sweeping borders. As you arrive you are given a map of the garden. A planting list of “ plants looking good on Open day July 2021.

A plan with numbered beds with the accompanying plant list detailing the contents of the beds. Allium Alley. Box ball bed. Lemon and LIme. Black and white beds. Twenty three beds in total.

Of course I still had to ask what something was in one of the beds.

The variety of plants and the colours were amazing. The views from various points in the garden were something else. There was so much to take in that I know I will have to go again before the summer is over to make sure I see things I missed this time.

There is an office in one part of the garden with an amazing green roof. Just adjacent to the vegetable garden. The views from the office made we want to be working looking at the view. For a nano second. Looking at the view yes. Working. No. Retirement suits me so much better than I ever thought it would.

The vegetable garden. With the green roof of the office.
Gorgeous paths

I love a pathway where you brush against the plants on either side with some letting out a scent as you brush by. There were plenty of walkways around the borders. Through the borders and along the borders with colours and scents that drew your eye and captured the scent.

Great differences in texture and shape so close to each other but in different named beds. Much better named than mine. Top bed. Side bed right. Side bed left.

Of course there was tea and cakes. Delicious cakes too as is usual at an open garden. Served by Derry herself which gave me an opportunity to say hello.

Not that she knew who I was of course but Georgie had asked me to say hello,from her and I chatted about how I’d bought a salvia patens from her last year at a Rare plant fair. And we talked about my neighbour and the plants she had given me. As soon as I said honesty she replied Corfu blue and then went on to talk about Pitcombe and how when she visited she drove down into the dip ( the centre of the village) and there were fireman practicing their drill on the viaduct. This used to happen every year but it hasn’t happened for I guess over 10. But she remembered. So did I funny enough. Who wouldn’t. Firemen outside your front door climbing ladders,

I said to Ian. Go grab those two deckchairs. His reply “ Are you having a laugh , once you get in one of those you’ll never get out” so he found a more suitable seating arrangement! Nothing but honest. He was right I’d never have got out ~ well I would but not elegantly.

The viaduct. In Pitcombe ~ without Firemen

I digress which is t difficult. It’s like me in the garden. A butterfly going from one chore to another and back again.

Just a walk in the wood

The obligatory photo of Ian. Ten paces in front as we head out of the main garden into the wooded area.

Of course I bought plants. Not as many as I had bought the day before. But I did buy plants. It would be rude not to wouldn’t it. A salvia involucratahadsoen, Astrantia maxima and a few others. I could have spent all my pocket money on plants had I been on my own. But I did come away with the catalogue. If I was any good at sowing seeds !!!!

.

I moaned about the diversion via Bath on the way there and I moaned about the diversion through Bradford upon Avon on the way back. But I’d do it again. But later in the season. I must check the dates I don’t think we will be leaving the country for quite a while.

The nursery is open Tuesday ~ Saturday and the garden is open on Wednesdays. Now that is workable. A visit to the garden and a trip into Bath.

Local parks revisited ~ Burgess Park

It’s been a long hard slog this lockdown business. Never knowing how long we’d be in lockdown. When we’d be released. What we could do and what we couldn’t. How far we could travel. Where we could travel. How much exercise and when. But there have been benefits.

It was the exercise rules that forced us to walk more this last year. By allowing us to get out at the start for an hours exercise meant that we just had to get out of the house. The car stayed outside the house for months except for the very occasional trip to the supermarket. Mostly we shopped local so as well as our daily walks we walked to the shops. Every day. Sometimes twice a day. Sometimes for no reason other than to get out. But we walked.

Walking gave us the opportunity of finding the local parks along with everyone else. I say the opportunity of finding the local parks like we are new to the area. Funny that. We have lived here together for nearly 30 years. Me a bit longer so we aren’t new to the area at all. Yes. We know the area but when we were both working it was out of the front door to the office at 6.30 and often home 12 hours later. At weekends we would head west to Somerset. Now we had time on our hands. 24 hours a day in fact. 24 hours a day together which was in itself unusual especially as that 24 hours also meant 7 days a week. For the last 16 months. To be fair we haven’t got to nearly 30 years together by being together all day. Every day.

Yesterday we revisited Burgess Park. A park we walked to a lot in lockdown. It’s a short walk from the house and to be honest up to lockdown I skirted the park a lot. We’d often cut along it in the car. On our way to the flower market. Sometimes as a cut through on my way home from work. Always driving. Often at the Walworth Road end on the no 12 or the 171 bus travelling into or from central London. The good old days ( there’s my mother speaking again ~ sometimes I open my mouth and her wisdom comes out) when you could hop on and off the route master. I loved sitting downstairs just by the open door ~ there wasn’t a door in fact ~ on one of the bank of seats. Never upstairs where smoking was allowed. There was one exception. On summer weekends you could often find the no 12 ~ which you could get at the bottom of our road and heading all the way to Shepherds Bush ~ Was an open top bus. An open top route master which wasn’t a tourist bus. I loved it. And definitely sat upstairs.

But lockdown forced us to explore. Burgess Park was an eye opener. Large. Diverse. A lake. A cafe. A skateboard park. Avenues of trees. It held a large annual Latin festival. So it became one of our favourite circular walks.

I can’t remember being there at this time of year in 2020 but looking back at my photo timeline it was the first time in 6 months that we were able to get to Somerset. So we missed July. I know I would have remembered it as the planting is amazing.

We walked to the park from the house past the award winning Peckham library and past the new Mountview theatre school and theatre space into the end of the park.

Big trunks July
Spring blossom

Further into the park the line of trees follows the route of the old Surrey Canal ~ from the Friends of Burgess Park ‘Burgess Park is one of London’s biggest parks. But its significance is due not so much to its size as to its history, and the unusual way it was created. Inspired by the Abercrombie plan and post-war optimism, the park was set up after hundreds of dwellings, factories and churches were demolished, thirty streets were covered over, the Grand Surrey Canal was filled in, and bomb-damaged areas were incorporated and grassed over. This unusual method of park development took place gradually, within living memory. The ever-increasing patches of green which stretched along the canal route were named Burgess Park in 1973. Over the following years various additions were made to the park such as the community sports facilites and the tennis centre.’

https://www.friendsofburgesspark.org.uk

The park also has listed buildings. The early 19c lime kiln which I’d walked past quite a lot before finding out anything about it. The almshouses of Chumleigh gardens. The former church of St George designed by Bedford, now converted into flats, is also listed and Its war memorial of Christ, head bowed, holding a crown of thorns, by the Danish artist Arild Rosenkrantz is also listed

Continuing our walk I know I would have remembered this planting from last year. It’s pretty spectacular and colourful and something I’d love to replicate at the bottom of the garden in Somerset. One can dream. It’s natural and not forced. It has a kind of flowing rhythm.

It was completely different to when we were last in a few months ago and is exceptional for a council maintained park. Hats off to Southwark Council who do a great job of maintaining their parks. Mt memories of many parks is the municipal style of planting. There is nothing of the sort here.

We didn’t walk around the lake which I’m disappointed about as I now remember that the last time we were there was a nesting swan in situ. I’d like to have seen if the cygnets had hatched. Maybe that’s tomorrow’s walk. But we headed past the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ built in the early 20th century and spanned the Surrey canal saving a long walk to a place to cross. More information from The Friends of Burgess Park

Our destination was Chumleigh gardens another area within the park itself. First to the cafe ~ and then into the gardens.

From the London Gardens Trust ~

‘In 1821 the Friendly Female Society, founded in 1802 ‘for the relief of poor infirm aged widows and single women of good character who have seen better days’ opened its almshouses for 20 occupants in Chumleigh Gardens, the north and south sides built in the early 19th century, the west side c.1840. They were occupied until World War II, when they were bombed.

After remaining derelict for many years, the almshouses were renovated and now house meeting rooms, offices for Park Rangers and the Art in the Park team of artists. There is an English Garden in front of the buildings and a World Garden with four different styles of garden – Oriental, Mediterranean, African and Caribbean and Islamic – at the back. There is a café round the corner on the north side of the buildings.’

The English garden at Chumleigh gardens changes with the seasons. When we were last here it was Spring and there were tulips and spring flowers in these beds. Which was really pretty. Also I’m sure at this time last year the gates were locked and we couldn’t walk around the garden.

Tulips April

Through the gate into the African and Caribbean Garden with its tree ferns and large plants. In the centre a now empty small pond with the remains of a little boat. All overgrown. Around the small area into the Islamic Garden, with a very large palm and a geometric pond in the centre. A lovely cool place to sit. Not in the pond but on some of the table and chairs or the bench.

Walk around the blue tiled pond and though the pergola and back out into the park. Don’t miss the glorious colour of the tree on your right as you leave.

Gate into the world garden

The flowers change in the park as the seasons change and along the edge of the park in Spring is some surprising wild flower planting. This is from Spring this year.

We are so lucky to have so many well kept and maintained spaces in London and in lockdown they have provided an essential lifeline to people who needed to get out where many didn’t have any space of their own.

The friends of Burgess Park website gives a lot more information on the park. Details of walks. Some history. Fundraising. There is also a good book available from Amazon ~ which I have bought.

Tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow is another walk.

Summer in the Country

When I retired (early before you ask) in 2015 the intention was to,spend more time in Somerset. To travel. We bought a house in Spain and spent time there. Our time in Somerset diminished. We were going to sell the cottage. Three places was excessive. Expensive and time consuming. One had to go and we decided on Somerset. Things were slow. The cottage didn’t move. So we kept it with a decision to review.

Along came the pandemic which changed plans even further. We arrived home from a trip to Mexico in March 2020 to lockdown. I escaped to Spain in late July for 3 weeks and ended up staying 9. More lockdowns. Quarantines. Plans were changed and we haven’t travelled anywhere in nearly a year. We’ve followed the lockdown rules and quarantined in London. Not venturing to Somerset until allowed.

Which has set us into a new pattern. Interestingly this last year has seen us receive a written note asking if we would sell the cottage. Contact through an acquaintance in the next village asking the same question and estate agents asking if we’d like to put it back on the market as they ‘ could sell it tomorrow’. The thing is. We’ve done a turnaround of sorts. The plan will be to spend more time here and Spain. Here and there. There and here.

The day after we were released from lockdown prison and could travel down. We did. Car packed with stuff as after 5 months absence we didn’t know what we had here. We had been lucky for the whole of the lockdown absences. The cottage was checked weekly. Cleaned. The grass cut, but the garden was untouched.

What was the most exciting thing about arriving here. Tulips.

In 2020 we didn’t get to see the tulips. At all. Planted in Nov 2019 we missed them through quarantine in London.. By the time we could come they had gone over. I’d hastily planted the tulips for 2021 on an in between lockdown visit and had to do it quickly. But to be honest. I wasn’t disappointed. All the planning I’d done on colours and numbers went out of the window and I threw them all together. No artistic thought at all. But it worked. We arrived to a glorious display. Even if I say so myself.

A bit of an eclectic mix. Glorious brown sugar. Dutch dancer. Ballerina. Queen of the night. Barcelona. Hocus Pocus. The white of Maureen. I have to try and beat the show for 2022. Quite how I will manage I don’t really know. I have some thoughts but I’d better get my act together before my choices become limited.

Well the tulips have gone. Some to a good home. It was an awesome season but I’m so over tulips. Till next time that is and I’m busy planning the tulip choices on another wet weekend.

For now replaced with geraniums and coleus. Not earth shattering inspiring but needs must and practicality has to ensue. Worries of more lockdown when we couldn’t get here and the summer weather. Two lovely salvia in pots along the front door. A gorgeous scent as you brush past. I haven’t grown coleus since the 80’s but I’m a fan once more.

The biggest problem with the geraniums has been the lashing rain. Once beautiful flower heads quickly rot and turn to mush. But there are more coming.

So it was onwards and upwards. Well not quite. More like downwards and weeding. The thing about being away for 5 months are the weeds. Here in Somerset we are plagued with ground elder and bindweed. Anything else I can cope with. Not these two. You turn your back and they are halfway up a rose tree. Leave it three days and it’s smothering the sweet peas. In Spain it’s just the heat. In London the snails. Wherever you garden there are challenges.

Project one was to revive one of the beds next to the terrace. It was full of yellow daisy and golden rod with a massive clump of day Lilly. Can I just say I loathe golden rod. I’d only kept it as it was something my parents grew in the garden as I grew up. But someone who helped in the garden used to divide it. Then plant it everywhere. We were overrun with it and not surprisingly I swore every time I passed what seemed to be a new bit.

The patch was tired. Overgrown. Some of the roses needed a good hatchet job on them. Which I did. We were late to the pruning party this year so after a shout out on Instagram for advice I did as I was told. Light prune and some later flowers. All in all it’s been a good rose season so far. Including the new roses I bought for the revived bed. The golden rod disposed of except for a small bit and the taller plants moved. But as usual I’ve over planted. I also overwater. Which bearing in mind the rain we have had that’s difficult.

I’d forgotten how many roses there are in the garden. With things cut back and tidied they have been given a new lease of life. So much so that I bought half a dozen more for the revived bed.

May
June.

I have planted a lot of new perennials. I suspect all too close and too tight. But you need to hide the weeds. Don’t you? Existing plants have been feed ~ or as I like to say I’ve poo”d my plants. Using alpaca poo from Lou Archer. They’ve had a really good feed and it’s showing in the results. The Astrantia are fabulous this year too.

Astrantia

There are two new dark red Astrantia. Hadspen”s Blood was one of the first I ever bought. We bought it at Hadspen gardens nursery when we first moved here over 25 years ago from Sandra and Norrie Pope Over the years it’s disappeared and I managed to get two this year. They are just coming into flower and I expect there may be a pic or six.

Added to that is another whose name escapes me and I’m too,lazy to go and look it up. But I will for next time when I can also get a good photo.

I’ve discovered a new nursery not far from us. Blooming wild Nusery owned and run by Will and Lauren. They have a great selection of plants and are really helpful and knowledgable. Added to that the quality of their plants is awesome. I have developed a bit of a thing. It’s dangerous and expensive. I’ve got a bit of a thing for Persicaria. Which is a good thing as Will at Blooming Wild likes them too and they have a great selection.

Work in progress June

We are getting into the swing of things here this summer. Up and down the A303 to london and back. But we are getting the benefit of the garden. We are also seeing things in the garden that we would normally miss. This year the Cornus is an example. It’s pretty glorious and we missed it totally last year. But I always struggle to get a good photo of it. This was taken from the bathroom window.

Make hay while the sun shines.

It wasn’t all weeding. We took some time to walk up the Lane to Rye Ash. Over the years I’ve got to know the names of the various fields. Rye Ash. Alders. Pump Ground. Big Ridge. My godson and Grandad were hay making and we went to sit on a hay bale and watch. Not the first time and Grandad ( not mine but I’ve called him that for years) reminded me that we sat in Rye ash over 15 years ago on hay bales and had a picnic lunch during a break. He remembers as I took a photo which he still has on his wall.

We were privileged to see a red kite hovering over the field. Such a magnificent bird. What a great place to sit and watch the farming traditions. Especially when you have the hay fever day from hell.

Red Kite

Things are moving. One of the things I like the least about the West Country is that when it’s wet. It’s wet. The the sun shines. Then it’s wet again. In June I grew webbed feet. Try wearing flip flops with webbed feet.

But the salvia have started to flower. Some I thought I’d lost through neglect have come through. Some that shouldn’t have minded the neglect have got the hump, and disappeared .

We also have fruit. And one type of veg~ runner beans. No. I didn’t dig a trench and I know that somewhere my father is appalled. But they are now at the top of the bean sticks and heavily flowering.

There are green & red gooseberries. The red so sweet you can eat straight off the bush. The raspberries don’t even get into the house.

I always check underneath before I pick the gooseberries . As a naive child I though that babies were found under a gooseberry bush. Imagine. What would I do if I found one? It was either a gooseberry bush or the stork. Thankfully we only have herons.

There are currants. Red and black. Some rhubarb. Apples. One plum ~ disaster and the pigeon will eat that I’m sure. A couple of pears.

Handy village post box

We’ve had a walk or two. Through the village mainly as my foot continues to be an issue. Plantar fasciitis is a pain. A pain in the heel and the sole literally. That’s my days of wearing heels and flip flops over.

Church path

A walk along church path. Something we hadn’t done for a while. Well we couldn’t really. We had either been in lockdown london or if here weeding.

Ian said . ‘Remember when we first walked along this path”. ‘ i was 25’. Thanks. That was decades ago. Someone said ‘ Ah. That’s romantic’. Really. You don’t know us very well. Romantic we are not. It’s scary. We have been in the village for nearly 30, so maybe now we are the village people and accepted.

St Leonard’s Pitcombe
Stonehenge. Again.

And so it’s back to old London town for a few days. a few appointments for me. Another trip past Stonehenge. Another time I say to Ian. “Will be nice when it’s finished” and another time he says “when will you stop saying that” . Me. Never.

Back to a very different garden. No ground elder. No bindweed. Just snails. Tree ferns and agapanthus and the two old boys. Not us. The 16 & 17 year old cats.

The tree ferns have gone bonkers. The feeding Friday regime is working as well as a handful of alpaca beans in the crown at the start of the growing season. With a weekly liquid feed. Another line to wind up Ian. I’m off to poo my plants.

The front gardens looking good. All but one of the agapanthus are flowering. The one that’s not just happens to be my favourite. A tall fat white flowering one. Except it’s not. Why? Who knows. Maybe like me it’s a sulker.

From September there will be garden number three to contend with after an absence of 12 months. Well. Maybe. Dependent on the Delta variant. Or as some radio presenters are calling it. The Johnson.

Who knows. At the moment it’s just one day at a time. We are healthy. Double jabbed and at least have the luxury of being able to get out into a garden. Or two. And to deal with the humongous number of airline vouchers we have for cancelled flights. Enough to paper the sitting room.

What will be will be.

Release from Lockdown prison

We weren’t quick out of the blocks on 12 April when the rules were relaxed. We couldn’t. We had hair cuts booked. Six months of cutting my own hair. It wasn’t my head that was lopsided. It was the hair.

But the day after at the crack of dawn we were off. It was strange. Packing the car. Actually driving over 20mph. Driving out of the Borough of Southwark. A motorway. A service station. Past Stonehenge ~ will be nice when it’s finished.

Finally singing the good old Peters & Lee song. “Welcome Home’

Welcome Tulip pots

We had been away for nearly 5 months. Lockdowned in London. I’d planted tulips in haste in late November and crossed fingers that they would pop up. Crossed fingers that this year we may just get to see them. Unlike last where we relied on the generosity of friends and neighbours sending photographs. Watering the pots. By the time we arrived after lockdown 2 they had gone. The tulips. Not the friends and neighbours.

Ten days later

It’s amazing the difference ten days makes. Well. Ten days and sunshine. Cold nights. Some frosts. No rain. Georgie from Common Farm Flowers down the road said there had been no rain since 16 March. You can tell. Talk about dry. We are lucky to have a spring opposite the cottage ~ Jack’s shute. Don’t ask who Jack is/was. I haven’t a clue. But the water gushes unless it’s the end of a dry summer and then it’s a dribble. But the water is cool. Drinkable. And free. And great for watering the pots. I leave a watering can by the pots and kind people water them when we aren’t there!

Chop chop

Now I know that people say a weed is just a flower in the wrong place. Yes. The wrong place is in my garden. The weed. Mainly ground elder of which I must have the National Collection. Imagine. 5 months of the stuff. Romping away in the garden. No control. That question. Why don’t slugs munch on it. Or the rogue badger digging up the lawn.

We had dug out the ground elder from two beds during the period between lock down 2 and lockdown 3. Had planted up. Had put a cover over part of another border. Turned the key and left. The two beds weren’t bad. Anyway I had to clear one bed of the perennials. Well it wasn’t had to ~ I wanted to plant a bed of roses and agapanthus with some acedanthera amongst other things. These beds still had some ground elder but they were manageable.

We also hadn’t been able to cut back the perennials. To prune or just to generally tidy last years growth. So there was a lot to do. Trips to the dump. Decisions to be made.

Before.
During

We also had builders in which meant for 3 days we couldn’t really go out. Except to buy biscuits. Coffee and milk. My mother always said ‘ look after the workers and you’ll get a job well done’ We did. And we did. Apparently we have set the bar high. But as soon as they had gone we did manage to go out. Food shopping. A bit. But better still to a local nursery

Blooming Wild Nursery.

Blooming Wild is lovely nursery with a great plant list and helpful friendly owners in Will and Lauren. All set down Cabbage Lane, a great name for the address of a plant nursery. The added bonus is that it’s not far from us.

I of course bought plants. It would be rude not to wouldn’t it ~ some Baptisia. Both the blue and the Dutch chocolate. Some geums, some cowslips which will hopefully self seed. I will be back. They have a few things on my list and will reserve them for me.

Cowslips
From the honeysuckle arch.

I also planted 80 freesia along the path ~ it’s an experiment but the ones I planted in pots in London two weeks ago are up and running. I planted some in Spain three years ago and to coin a phrase they are ‘blooming lovely.’ This year they have adorned our neighbours table as I have asked her to pick them. Which she happily does.

The old loo.
The river steps

Just past the old loo with its broken door and ivy clad roof is a small sitting area with steps down into the river. At this time of the year you can cross the river with barely getting your feet wet. Don’t try it in the winter months. Steps have been cleaned. The seating area tidied up under the large spindle which last year was glorious. The bonus of not being at the cottage for such a long time is that things haven’t been pruned back. This old spindle has flowered brilliantly over the last 12 months and is set to do the same this year.

The two pots with tulips are a surprise as I potted up agapanthus in compost without fully clearing last years tulips. The lovely red Uncle Tom have pushed their way through. Amazing really as they haven’t been watered in months.

The old loo is due a makeover. New doorframe. A new lock but we are trying to keep the old door ~ some clearing of the ivy from getting under the roof tiles. I don’t have to say it’s not used these days. Trotting 120 ft down the garden to the loo in the rain wouldn’t be my idea of fun. I remember having to use the outside loo at my Aunts. In the dark. In the rain. Thanks. But no thanks.

Blossom

Being down in the bottom of the U in the valley we are prone to catching the frosts which means we often lose the apple pear and plum blossom. Despite the late frosts so far it hasn’t hit. But who knows. Apples are usually fine but the plum usually gets it. That or the wasps and the birds getting the little fruit that does develop. I don’t mind feeding the birds but wasps aren’t welcome. Two years ago I got stung near my eye by a wasp and had to go to the minor injuries unit. Apparently at my ripe old age I was allergic to wasp stings. Not epi pen allergic thankfully but enough to make me look like I’d done ten rounds with Henry Cooper.

Pink rose

A singularly unattractive specimen which needed a tidy up. I missed the timing for pruning but a call for advice from insta friends helped. This rose bush gives plentiful pink flowers repeatedly through the summer ~ so it’s been pruned a little and fed. Underneath the rose Pulmonaria have gone mad and are covered in bees. Again had we been around it is likely that I would have cut them back a bit. Lesson learnt as the bees love them early in the season.

Lungwort
Old and new

It’s a little surprising to find that some of the salvias are romping away and that the canna are starting to poke through Why? Because these are in the greenhouse which hadn’t been opened in 5 months. I bubble wrapped the inside in December, watered and shut the door only to be reopened mid April. So yes. It was a surprise. A pleasant one.

Salvia super trouper. Canna Annei. Canna musifolia and a couple more canna.

The boxes are the 5 new roses from Todds Botanics along with the 6 agapanthus to go in the new bed. Thankfully I got the delivery address right unlike last year.

Tulip brown sugar

As the days went on more and more tulips opened. The pots were full of tulip Brown sugar which stand head and shoulders above the others. The others will be out. Hopefully when we get back.

I have sweet peas growing in London to plant in Somerset in the middle of the rose bed. . Two things I’m rubbish at are seed sowing and plant labels. I must do better in both. I labelled the sweet peas ~ but!

Sweet peas

The dahlia tubers I bought from Todds Botanics are popping through and will be taken to Somerset to plant out.

It’s back to the London garden and an easier time to sort things out. No lawn. All in pots. Tiny garden. Lockdown 3 has meant it’s manicured of sorts to a T. Ian would say with a nail scissors. It’s not.

London
View from above

But from now until September I suspect we will be up and down the A303. Then to tackle a Mediterranean garden where we have been away from for a whole year. That will be a whole new story.

Another day in the City.

The excitement of it. Another appointment at the Dentist.

I’ve never looked forward to a trip to the dentist as much as in 2021. Why? Because it’s a day out. Well not quite a day but most of it. Boy do I need one. This last lockdown has been a struggle. A mixture of the weather. Not seeing other people and engaging in everyday frivolities. Buying take away coffees and not being able to linger for the conversation. Being together in a household just the two of us. For 12 months. Usually we spend time apart. Different counties or countries. In 30 years we have never spent so long continually in each other’s company! But we are still talking even if Ian does say that most of it is nonsense.

Warwick Gardens and the Holly Grove shrubbery

With the sun shining I set off with a little trepidation. Would the train be busy. Would I feel any pain. Would I need the loo.

But first a walk to the station through our local park and through Holly Grove shrubbery. Spring has really sprung. Maybe a little early if the forecast is to be believed but the flowers were out in abundance. Our local council maintains the park and the shrubbery and I have to say does a great job.

Busy busy.

The train was um. Empty. Two people in the whole carriage. Three including me. The 10.11 to London Victoria. Yes. Not rush hour but still empty. I had two choices. Victoria or London Bridge. As it was dry and sunny I chose the former. That way I could walk to Wimpole Street using a different route to last week.

It was bizarre again. The station was quiet. Not empty but quiet. I headed up past Lower Grosvenor park and skirted the garden walls of Buckingham Palace heading up to Hyde Park.

The Shell Hut

I’ve never really stopped at this little park but to be honest I don’t usually walk this way. Yes. There’s a joke in there but I’ll move on. It was the shell huts that I saw which made me want to know more. After nearly 40 years in the city I can still be an excited tourist.

The Goring Hotel

I did a little detour down a side street and past The Goring Hotel. It’s on my list for afternoon tea when we can go out and about again. Featured heavily when there was a royal wedding.

The Goring bug Hotel

Because you can take your time just looking around and not dodging other pedestrians you see more. No elbows. No one walking at you on their mobile and bumping into you and snarling. Like it’s all your fault.

I once read that you should look up at the buildings. You get to see so much detail. But also to look around you. This great bug hotel ‘ The Goring’ on the wall opposite the main hotel would have normally been missed.

Buckingham Palace

The perimeter of the gardens of Buckingham Palace stretch for an age. High security. Cameras ~ I did a little wave as I walked past. Not sure if anyone was in.

Buckingham palace occupies 42 acres and the gardens are Grade II* listed. I have been in the gardens once. Not over the wall I might add but had the excitement of being invited to a garden party. To be honest what I saw of the gardens didn’t excite me. But maybe I didn’t see it all. Maybe I was looking at the net curtains.

Your never far from a statue or two in London. What essentially is a roundabout at the top of Constitution Hill is the Wellington Arch. A grade 1 listed monument and is across the road from Hyde Park.

Hyde Park

Through the arches and past Rotten Row which as well as being empty of people was empty of horses. This wasn’t the crack of dawn it was 10.45am. A time when usually traffic would be buzzing and the pavements full. I had barely passed half a dozen people on the walk past Buckingham palace walls to this point. It was the same through Hyde Park. Yes. There were people out walking. But not that many.

Hello Achilles

I’m beginning to think statues are like buses. You don’t see one for ages and then all of a sudden three come along. Straight into the park and there he was.

The 18ft statue of Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War, commemorates the soldier and politician, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). It was installed by order of King George III and unveiled on 18 June 1822. Looking a bit cold and grey there Achilles.

I would have killed for a cuppa. But I suspect the toilets were closed and to be honest I can’t have one without the other. Not these days. And the cold weather.

Animals in War

As I headed out of the park I remembered the war animals monument on Park Lane and headed to have a look. I am usually on the No 36 bus or before the congestion charge and ULEZ driving along Park Lane. As I was walking and not in a hurry I had the time to stop and look.

It was inspired by Animals in War, a book by Jilly Cooper and a national appeal raised the £2 million cost of the memorial.

Something I didn’t expect to find in Mayfair. The Mayfair Chippy. I’ll remember for another day. A take away to eat in the park. I wonder if they do mushy peas.

Selfridges

An empty Selfridges. Usually this entrance is busy. People going in. Coming out with yellow bags. Today nobody was going anywhere.

St Christopher’s Place

The usually busy St Christopher’s Place. Restaurants closed. Shops closed. Galleries closed.

So onto the dentist. A 2 hour appointment. The second in just over a week. But I needed the rest after the walk from the station. Time to plan my return walk, to think of a different route. Typical. I arrived in bright sunshine but as I left the dentist the heavens opened and it was raining cats and dogs. That’s a stupid saying isn’t it?

I headed down through Soho into Covent Garden.

Floral Street

Floral street. The child in me always thinks of Terry Wogan when I see Floral Street. Why? Because he sang the floral dance. Not that I was a fan. Of the song I actually liked him when he did his interview show. But guess what. Floral Street was quite. Very.

Past the side street of the Royal Opera House with the twisted bridge over the road. If memory serves me right this is where the stage door is. Decades ago I was taken to the opera ‘Salome’ by a friend who knew Dame Gwyneth Jones. The first and only time I went backstage at Covent Garden to meet her in her dressing Room. I’d forgotten that. How??

Covent Garden and the piazza

When I first arrived in London I was fascinated with Covent Garden. I’d meet people at The Punch and Judy. Friends and relatives visiting would meet here too. Watching the street entertainers. The crowds of people. The piazza would be full. Not today. Not even the pigeons were around.

Florals Covent Garden

There are some great displays as usual to brighten up the market area.

The Lady magazine.

Past The Lady which has moved out of its london offices. I knew it had been around for ages. The magazine was founded by Thomas Gibson Bowles the maternal grandfather of the  Mitford sisters. Bowles also founded Vanity Fair. The magazine has been produced since 1885. I haven’t had a continuous subscription.

Disco

Down to the Strand and to Charing Cross. My destination to catch the train. But I had time to kill and wandered down Villiers street. These arches and the rainbow doors may not mean much to you. But to a young man from Cardiff in the early eighties they meant one of the largest nightclubs I had ever seen.

Your never far from a green space in London and just next to Embankment Station are Embankment gardens which are kept beautifully. The beds a bit municipal for me but you can’t beat the colours.

Embankment gardens

The feeling had come back to my face. I’d stopped dribbling so it was time to head back home. Nothing less attractive than sitting in the train looking like this. But there again. Who is looking. There’s no one around.

It will be busier for sure on my next visit into central London as it’s not scheduled for a month. By then we will have passed 12 April and things will be slowly opening.

Well unless I can justify another walk. Maybe on the other side of the river. Maybe.

Escape into the City

Today was a day when I was going to escape. To escape from the routine of the last three months. Something different. So why was I excited. I hate the dentist. Not the dentist but THE dentist. Any of them. Ever since I was a child when the dentist thought it a good idea to spin me around on the chair. ( remember them?) and move it up and down. I admit it. I was sick all over the surgery.

That and the needles. But today I was putting on decent clothes. Realised I had to comb my hair and brush the cat hairs off my jumper. I was going out on my own. Just me. Headphones in. Old mans train pass. Even if it was only into central London. To the dentist knowing everything would be closed.

But. It was out.

Oh. The excitement. A train ride. All 15 mins of it. Masked up. In a carriage that was virtually empty and social distancing not an issue. Well it’s easy when you are in a carriage on your own. Train 2 was the same.

Old London Town is eerie. There’s no getting away from it. The streets are quiet. There is little traffic. The offices are closed. There are a few shops open but it’s so sad. Will things ever be the same?

Leaving Charing Cross I need to head up to Wigmore Street. First past Trafalgar Square. In February just gone I celebrated 39 years of living in London. I remember my first day. 1 Feb 1982. I hated it.

I was homesick. I missed my family. I wasn’t going to stay. But I did and in those early years I walked and walked around London. Looking at the sights. The shops. Everything.

But in all that time I’ve never seen London as quiet. Trafalgar Square is usually full of tourists. And pigeons. But today it was virtually empty. Save Nelson looking down wondering where everyone was and when they would be back. Me too Nelson. Me too.

Heading away from Trafalgar Square I headed up Haymarket. I didn’t have to dodge the traffic either. Sad to see the empty theatres. The empty shops.

The Phantom must be so bored hiding in the basement of the Haymarket theatre with no one to entertain. These magnificent buildings empty desperate to return to business. To become alive again.

I often hop on the No 12 bus in Haymarket ~ destination the Plough though I get off in Camberwell. But the road is quite. The buses nearly empty.

A hopeful sign in a shop window. Things will get better. Return to normal but it will be a new normal. Patience is a virtue. Not one of my better attributes sadly.

One more time round Piccadilly Circus. Driver follow that bus. Another place that people usually congregate. You know. I’ll meet you at Eros. Outside Lillywhites. Today. You wouldn’t be missed in the crowd today. You’d stand out.

Heading up an empty Regent Street. Usually full of tourists. Of people shopping in the fashion stores. Window shopping. Me dodging the people who head straight at you like you are the pins on a bowling alley and they are the bowls. Me invisible to their elbows or umbrella. Not today. The only thing I’m dodging is the rain.

Hamleys. Usually crowded inside and out. Excited children. Parents holding onto their wallets ready for the onslaught of I want in the store. Today like all the other stores. Closed for the duration. Imagining lockdown Toy Story within those walls.

Up through Oxford street. Through Cavendish Square to Wimpole Street.

A 2.5 hr sit in the dentist chair. Im not a fan of dentists as I’ve said. After treatment I decided to walk back to Victoria Station to head home. To see how long it took for my face to regain its shape. For me to stop drooling. A significantly unattractive post dental issue.

Along Oxford street and down Bond Street or bling street as I used to call it. Full of fashion shops. Chanel. Gucci. Dolce and Gabbana. Hermes. Ralph. Bling jewellery. Tiffany. Cartier. An Auction house. But like everywhere else closed. Some forever. A lone girl skateboarding easily along the street not having to dodge pedestrians or large parked SUV’s.

The Burlington Arcade. A stunning arcade.

From the Burlington arcade website

Burlington Arcade opened in 1819 ‘for the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand, for the gratification of the public.’ It had 51 independent boutiques across 72 units, selling luxuries like hats, gloves and jewellery – it was notably the place to go for a bonnet. At 196 yards long, the beautiful covered shopping arcade was – and remains – one of the longest in Britain’

It is indeed very beautiful. Very fashionable. Quiet to walk through as everything is closed. Waiting to reopen when the route out of lockdown allows.

Across the road and past The Ritz. I’ve never been in the Ritz. I love the Savoy especially the Savoy Grill which is high on my list for my first return to a restaurant post lockdown. A haunt of ours for the pre theatre menu. Where we had lunch just the two of us after our civil partnership. Where 5 of us went for my 60th. Low key.

The Ritz Hotel and restaurants and ballroom are closed but the planters are full of joy. Of daffodils. Of hope of a return to doors opening.

Past the planters and into Green Park.

Green Park is a royal park and from the Royal Parks website

‘Rumour has it, back in the seventeenth century King Charles II’s wife demanded all the flowers be removed from The Green Park after she caught him picking flowers there for another woman. The park still has no formal flowerbeds but is riot of yellow in spring, when around one million daffodil bulbs are in bloom.

The Green Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks and covers an area of just over 40 acres’

It’s a lovely walk from Piccadilly through to Buckingham palace. It felt spring like as I walked past swathes of spring bulbs. The Royal parks website says 1 million bulbs. I didn’t have time to count them. I had a train to catch.

I have often wondered why there were no flower beds like in St James Park. Now I know the rumour why!

A great view from the end of the park of the Queen Victoria memorial. Usually surrounded by people. Today just a handful. Taking selfie’s. Sitting down.

I didn’t knock at the palace I guessed they have had enough problems without me turning up for a cuppa tea and a digestive biscuit. The clouds were dark enough over the flag pole. They didn’t need me to add to their woes. So I didn’t. And headed off to Victoria.

Distant views of the wheel. Standing still. Unlike me who had to keep walking unless I seized up. I knew If I sat down I’d never get back up.

Victoria Station. A 15 min train journey to Peckham Rye. Past the building site of Battersea Power station. And home.

Lockdown London garden

I can’t remember the last time we have spent so much time in one place. Certainly not in London. When I was working we would escape to Somerset most weekends. When I dropped to four days a week it was long weekends. We would travel. Visit family in Wales. In Scotland. Then came a new adventure. Spain.

Then all travel at first became restrictive. Then it stopped. I’m not complaining. It was necessary. It was our choice to stay in London. My main thought was if I should become unwell we were only 10 minutes from a major hospital. We could walk to the local shops. We are I know very lucky to have a choice.

The upside is that we have spent time sorting out things in the garden. No major projects but a bit of work here. A tidy there. Numerous trips to the local recycling centre. For those who have seen pictures of the garden in London you know it is small. I think it’s tiny and it is.

View from top floor

Recent view from kitchen windo

The top pic is the square ( ish ) patio area taken a few years ago. Add a side return and that’s it’s measure. Small. But full of pots.

The day we moved in

We have had a major tidy up of the side return. The gravel was tired. Compost had been spilt so it was time for a clear up. It’s amazing what such a small job does to brighten up what can be a dark pathway. A small change but so Wirth the effort. But let’s be honest. There’s no much else to do. I’m so over cooking three meals a day. Making bread. Making cake. Marmalade.

Three trips to the builders merchants. Suitably social distanced to pick up bags of gravel. I’m not sure the builders merchants is as busy as usual. On day three Ian went to pay as the gravel was loaded into the car. One of the guys said hello. I see your back again. ‘ yes says Ian we bought 8 bags and need 4 more. Really said the guy. You’ve got enough then. You’ve bought 12 this week. He was right. Remember though. Ian is the person who when asked how long we had been together said ‘ oh. About 8 years. It was 20. Don’t ask him now as he will say with lockdown too long. Oh. And it’s 30 years.

Side return

Things then get moved around ~ the plan to replace the small plastic covered store with a new one. Which instead meant an addition. Moved to give the path a better sight line. Bearing in mind the only people to see the garden in a year has been us and the cats it wasn’t something I was that bothered about. But Ian?

Don’t look at the window sills. I know they need paining. It’s on my list. Made by Ian but we need some warm dry weather. And for the tulips to be over.

Another delivery of Dalesford compost and a bin to empty the open bag into. That way it just may stop me getting compost all over the gravel which then compacts and you don’t get the crunch when you walk on it.

The window boxes are planted with tulips. Don’t ask me which ones as I don’t know. I had some ‘leftovers’ from the main plantings here and in Somerset. But who doesn’t like a tulip surprise?

There’s been time to move pots around. To top dress the pots. A bit of a feed. There’s always a use for old chimney pots. The agapanthus are poking through. Some canna are showing that they have survived the winter. I’m hoping that the cold freezing weather has passed but after yesterday’s hail who knows.

Agapanthus shoots

The plants are just coming through and it’s nearly time to poo my plants. I’ve had a delivery of alpaca poo feed from Lou Archer and will start on my feeding Fridays soon. I do feeding Fridays as it serves as a reminder for me. I then remember hopefully when I’ve done it. Trust me though. As each day has merged into one and we have lurched from meal to meal to day to week. It may just be a struggle.

This agapanthus is ‘ agapanthus don’t know’ as are many of them in the garden. I’ve said it before I’m a shocking labeller. But ‘don’t know ‘ seems to be a popular name.

Canna

Not a great pic but if you put on your specs or get a magnifying glass you will see a green shoot of canna starting to romp away. The great thing about these chimney pots is that they give height. Downside is that the pots need regular feeing and that they can’t spread.

Useful chimney pots

Another chimney pot plant. This time an almond. Planted probably 15 years ago. Occasionally looks a bit sad if it needs a bit of water but at this time of year it’s about to open its blossom. Which no doubt will end up as confetti in the wind.

Almond

It’s such a pretty pink blossom and nothing like the ones on the bank in Spain which are larger. White with a pink hue.

Citrus

The citrus tree has been moved around a fair bit. But it’s flowered in Winter. Survived the frosts and bitterly cold winds. Now it’s setting fruit. Don’t get too excited as they are the tiniest little citrus I did ever see. But. They are setting in a cold london garden. Don’t hold your breath for a delivery. So small I’d post them in a matchbox.

Digitalis seeded and Creepng red thyme

Another chimney another plant. I lost an aeonium over winter. Of course it was my fault as I didn’t cover or bring it in. But then I haven’t done that in years. But when one plant dies another has taken over. A self seeded digitalis I think. I don’t know when I last had any in the garden. But it’s growing well and I have a few more growing around self seeded into other pots.

The red trailing thyme is going great gums and I shall be getting more from Pepperpot Herbs for the summer.

Tree fern love

I’ve removed the fleece from the tree ferns. And put them back on again. And removed them again. I’m hoping for the last time as I can’t see any frost forecast.

If it was up to Ian the garden would have so many that we wouldn’t be able to move. It’s the one plant he never says ‘ don’t you have enough’.

Jasmine

Jasmine officinale planted in a teeney weeney pot compared with its growth. But we are only in March and it’s full of buds halfway up the drainpipe and Ian is convinced Cyril has his drey in the foliage. Yes. There is a funnel stuck in the pot. Why? I find it easier in these small pots to water through the funnel especially if it’s dry and for putting in liquid feed.

The scent from this jasmine will fill the house with the first floor bedroom window open. I love the smell some people don’t but for me scent is a driver in such a small garden. I’m about to plant freesia into pots for both the front and back garden.

Another jasmine is full of buds this year. Probably because it heard me say that this was its last chance. It’s jasmine clotted cream and I had high hopes for it. Maybe as high as the one at the other end of the side return. But no. It’s been a poor performer until this year where it’s full of bud.

Clematis

The clematis has started to spring into growth. I hate trying to train them with their brittle stems. How many times have I broken what I thought was a dead stem to find a mile of growth chopped off. It’s growing through a large container of salvia hot lips. I never mind cutting that back as you get the scent of the leaves as you do.

Some people don’t like hot lips but it’s a great filler and flowers for months right up to the first frosts. In this garden that’s late. Very late.

Salvia hot lips

I’ve hacked the salvia back hard as I have the Amistad. I’m not convinced Amistad has survived though which is disappointing as it was still flowering in December.

The front garden is small. I’d love to have a long front garden like my parents garden at the house where I was born and grew up. At first the borders were full of roses. Mostly bought in the garden department at Woolworths who in their day had a great selection. The names of which I can still remember. Superstar. Iceberg just two.

Then they got old ~ the roses ~ my parents later. They dug up the roses and planted spring bulbs to be followed by annuals which they grew themselves. Hours and hours spent in the greenhouse that they had bought for me and never wanted. I’m like them. They loved to have a lovely front garden. Loved people commenting on it as they passed by. In competition with Den & Blem next door. The garden was certainly colourful but the endless pricking out. Patience. Smoothing I didn’t inherit from my parents.

Parents front garden 1970’s

I digress. Back to lockdown london. The front garden is also pots. Lockdown meant I had bulbs destined for Somerset. They may have been destined to travel. We weren’t. Not in time to plant them anyway. The tulips were planted in haste in between the release from one lockdown to the start of what we hope will be the final one. They are up and romping away. Apparently. As I planted them in November. Nearly 4 months later we haven’t seen them.

But not the daffodils and narcissus. I’d planted a few around the greenhouse. That’s as far as I got and brought them back to london. So I had to find some pots. Some I had. Some I’d bought for the first lockdown.

Pots were hard to get hold of in lockdown 1 but the local ironmonger had buckets. So I bought buckets. Quite a few. They now have tulips in some. Alliums in another. I know. Alliums in aluminium buckets. But needs must.

There are tete a tete in another. When the bulbs finish I will replant them with annuals for the front. Well that’s my plan. Best laid plans and all that. Strange mentioning plans aQs we haven’t had any for 12 months.

Front garden pots

The tulip pots at the front are doing really well. Three large pots of Hocus Pocus. A tall bonkers tulip from Peter Nyssen. I loved them last year and unusually for me have planted them again in the same points. I like to change things around every year.

Tulips

The window boxes are also coming through well. I had a plan. A colour plan but it went a bit by the wayside. I planted more at the cottage than expected as I’d bought more pots. So my colour combinations may be a bit a bit different this year. But what I do know is that if they all flower it will be colourful.

Tulip hocus pocus

I love this tulip. Planted both here and in Somerset it just makes me smile.

The large evergreen agapanthus have survived the cold and wet winter. They will be fed in the next few weeks. The canna have been potted into larger pots. Canna Annei was superb last year and I will buy a new red to go out there too.

For now it’s green. Very green with a splash of yellow. Hopefully by April it will be awash with the colours of tulips to be followed with a summer splash. Now that’s soothing to look forward to.

Throwback to summer