Sunday, 28 September 2014

A New Adventure

My husband, P, and I were presented with an opportunity this weekend which we haven't had in a long time - time to ourselves with nothing planned. With our two oldest now firmly ensconced at University, my youngest headed off on her first bronze Duke of Edinburgh expedition with school, and was away for the night camping. We decided that it was our chance to do something new, so we booked ourselves into a lovely inn in Bradford-on-Avon, a little town not too far away. We had less than 24 hours, so wanted to keep the travelling time to a minimum, and went straight from work. Here's the inn, right next to the busy Kennet & Avon Canal.

The inn is next to a lock which is busy all day with narrow boats and pleasure craft pootling up and down.

As we walked into town after checking in it all felt very exciting to be out and about with the time to ourselves. Bradford is a very pretty little town nestling in the Avon Valley near Bath. It grew up around the woollen industry, and so many of the little cottages which tumble down the hillsides are old weaver's cottages. I always smile when I see this ancient house - it bulges in an unnerving way as if it's about to burst!

As well as the canal, and the railway line, the River Avon runs through Bradford towards Bath and Bristol, and was looking very tranquil.

On the bridge is a curious little building which I later discovered was originally a chapel, and then later the town lock-up. A night in there would make any miscreants rather reflective, I think!

After a delicious evening meal, we slept like logs and woke to an even more delicious breakfast. Needless to say, we didn't need any lunch that day.

Inside the pub it was beautifully decorated, and very cosy, and we could have happily sat and drunk coffee all morning, but it was time to explore again.

Back into town again, we wandered around the little streets and shops. The buildings are built from the local Bath limestone which has a very mellow appeal.

Everywhere winding streets curve up steep hills and disappear intriguingly from sight.

I loved this sweet ironmongers shop with it's goods displayed outside on the pavement, a very traditional reminder of times gone by.

We explored the Shambles, a very pretty little medieval shopping centre, including a greengrocer, a pet shop and a book shop.

I couldn't resist buying some cotton yarn from a sweet wool shop in some rich autumnal hues. Not sure exactly what I'll do with it, as I haven't yet finished J's blanket for Uni, but I succumbed to those colours.

I also bought this card which really grabbed my attention. It's called 'Girl With Greyhounds' by an artist called Dee Nickerson, and I love the girl's hair flying in the wind, top with seedheads and the coastal setting. I might even frame it.

After a while walking around the town we wandered along the canal past pretty narrow boats like this one.

And arrived at Bradford's medieval Tithe Barn, where farmers would take their 'tithes', one tenth of their produce as a tax which supported the church and government. It really is an impressive building, and you can just see P on the left of the picture reading a book he'd just bought whilst I explored.

I loved the amazing wooden structure of the roof.

Gorgeous medieval tiles on the outside. 

And amazing trusses on the inside.

Back along the canal, I was rather taken by this attractive purple-painted barge.

And by the time we got back to the lock, the cafe was open and the canal was bustling with walkers and tourists.

We took one last look at the lovely pub and canal and headed home to meet our tired daughter after her expedition. It was an exciting opportunity for us to do something new and fun, and I'm so glad we were able to enjoy such a treat.  Here's to many more adventures!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

This week

The last week-and-a-half has been very busy indeed as my two oldest children have headed off for university. My oldest, B, has returned for her final year, and my middle one, J, has started his first year. After a busy few days shopping for towels, bedding, kitchenware etc, getting them ready to go and taking them, we are now getting used to a much quieter house here behind the blue door, with our youngest, D, who's started her GCSEs. I am so grateful and happy that my children have the opportunity to study the subjects they love and enjoy all the excitement of being students, but I must confess to having felt rather melancholy for a couple of days. However, I am definitely enjoying the company of D and my husband P, remembering to be 'in the moment' and am relishing having a tidier house, less washing and most of our teaspoons, mugs and plates back from bedrooms to live in the kitchen again! So I have counted the things that are making me happy this week. Here are some of them:

1) Japanese Anenomes. They have been in bloom since mid-July and of all the plants in our garden have the longest flowering season, still going strong in late September.

They grow in front of our living room windows, and in the late afternoon sun they look glorious.

I love how the sunlight makes their petals translucent when looked at from behind.

2) The faded beauty of hydrangea heads from the garden, dried and brought indoors.

3) This is also the time of year that I bring out my artificial thistles and put them on the window-sill. I bought them a few years ago in Edinburgh, and I think that they are very convincing and well-made.

The colours remind me of soft tartans and autumn moorland.

4) I recently bought a greetings card by Mark Hearld which captures my favourite animal, the hare, at harvest time. It wasn't anyone's birthday, but I love its gorgeous rich colours, and the way it folds out across the top of my dresser.

5) Yesterday D and I made some delicious Fruit & Nut Triangles (actually we made squares) which are a recipe from secondary school; the very first thing that all of my children cooked in their Food Technology lessons when they started there. They consist of crushed digestive biscuits, dried fruit and nuts, golden syrup, butter and cocoa powder, and are delicious!

6) Some absolutely gorgeous sunrises in the last couple of weeks, almost daily in fact. I've kept my camera at hand, ready to capture them, since they fade very quickly if I have to search for it.

Well, it's been a big change at our house, but a positive one, and I'm enjoying the process of adapting, and of discovering and recording all the little things which make life so rich.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Fresh Start

One morning last week I opened my front door to find these sycamore seeds on the doorstep, an announcement of the arrival of autumn.

I love September and the indescribable change in the air that it brings In the evenings there's a smoky sort of smell on the breeze and the mornings begin with a crispness that hasn't been there all summer. We've even had a couple of early-morning mists which have added to the autumnal atmosphere. There are harvest moons at night, and on sunny days a mellow golden light pervades everything, casting a warm glow. This lovely picture was taken by my oldest daughter a couple of years ago, and for me it perfectly captures this honeyed light.

September always feels like a new year for me, more so than January: bright new pencils and stationery; the first inky words written on pristine pages in exercise books; cooler, fresher air; a heavier duvet on the bed; nature's colours turning to a much richer palette; warmer, cosier clothes; suddenly spiders' webs all around, covered in dew; a gathering-in of stores, preparing the home for the colder months to come; cooking more substantial, comforting food ... the list goes on. 

I always mourn the end of summer as it approaches and wonder if the autumn will feel as good with its hint of melancholy, but its arrival never fails to delight me, and I embrace it with great affection. I love to go through my autumn rituals, such as buying and planting bulbs for the spring, and cooking my favourite autumn recipes. After taking down my faded hanging baskets, I bought these sweet pansies last week, ready to pot up outside my kitchen door. 

I love their deep amethyst shades and the velvety glow of their petals.

These delicious cob nuts came from Wells market last weekend. A relative of the hazelnut, they are milky and smooth eaten straight from their shells.

I also bought these gorgeous plums which I made into plum and cinnamon muffins ...

... and these rather lovely greengages which I shall cook and puree to eat with yoghurt.

A delicious and beautiful start to my autumnal 'new year'.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

A Burst of Colour

Over the last few weeks a shift has taken place in the floral colour palette towards the hotter colours of the spectrum, and I have noticed this in my own garden and when I'm out and about. These zingy flowers really seem to give me a boost when I look at them, with an uplifting, feel-good effect. Here are some of those eye-scorching hues - I hope you enjoy them! (you might need to put your sunglasses on).






Verbena Bonariensis








Sweet Peas


Chocolate Cosmos

I couldn't resist bringing a little bunch of this fabulous colour into the house. I would never plan to put these colours together, but I love the way they clash and positively glow. I'm sure just looking at them does me good!