Sunday, 30 September 2012

Coming around....

... to grasses. I've never been very taken with them before, think I saw too much pampas grass growing up in the 70s. I'm sure I remember it dried in the house? But going to Trentham's Italian Gardens on a crisp autumn afternoon I think has changed my mind.
The borders were glorious in a sort of faded grandeur way; mounds of sedums, clouds of asters and fronds of stipa gigantica that seemed to be on fire in the low afternoon sun.
I've only got a tiny garden but maybe a little stipa in the front border might just be the thing for a bit of autumn glory.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A Totally Locally Birthday

Last Sunday we went to one of the loveliest and most unusual birthday parties around. Totally Locally Leek, the project working really bloomin' hard to encourage more people to support their town and shop closer to home, was one year old and there was plenty to celebrate.
Everyone got together at The Foxlowe, another really great project establishing a brilliant community arts centre run by local people for everyone.
There was tons to do too; crafty things, arty things, tasty things and lots of catching up with everyone.
The Foxlowe is a truly beautiful building (an 18th century merchant's house I think) that's having so much life breathed back into it now. The cafe is outstanding and a smashing place to relax with friends on Friday nights and hear some great music too.
Its also where we moved our comedy night too recently and the support from volunteers and local audiences has been fantastic
Outside there's a lovely walled garden with space for activities and tables if the sun ever appears.
Woody did a turn as compere drawing the raffle and presenting the Totally Locally Awards for everything from best savoury pie to best busker. Well done to everyone who was nominated or won and orgainised it too. We're really, really lucky to have you in our town.
This brilliant Totally Locally Leek Film, was shown at the event and I have to be honest and say, it made me cry! Hope you enjoy it and if you're in the area, please visit and support the people behind the best little market town in Britain.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Ahhh, September

At the beginning of September it feels like I let out a big sigh. I struggle with summer if I'm honest; the endless disappointing weather, hopes dashed, plans washed away in the floods. But September never disappoints and even surprises with balmy afternoons of golden light that floods the garden and burns away the morning's damp and chill.
Autumn is my natural season I think. There's almost nothing I like to do more than snuggle in at home with my boys around me, the fire lit, something tasty bubbling away on the hob and time for quiet, gentle pursuits.
Then there are the wild days of autumn to come that thrill me too. Days full of wind where the trees bend double, their leaves whipping across the garden, twirling and dancing as they fall. I love that mildly menacing air of winter knocking at the door. Sunday afternoon walks across the fields and into the wood are days for adventure, never knowing what autumn treasure you might bring home.
I blame Brambly Hedge and all those books I read when I was younger of woodland animals busily preparing to tuck themsleves away for the winter. I'd make a good woodmouse I think.
My garden feels like a bonus at this time of year. While the trees and fields are turning, my dahlias and asters and all types of daisies blaze away as the rest of the garden fades and they brighten up the table and the mantlepiece too.
When I leave the office at the end of the afternoon I can tell the light is fading earlier each day, I love it. I like to see the lights come on in houses on my journey home; cosy sitting rooms, families at the table, people drawing the curtains and settling into their nests for the evening.

At the weekend I love to turn on the lamps in the house when dusk falls and the football scores are coming in on the radio. On Saturdays we snuggle up together for tea by the fire with a favourite film and a tasty treat.
A new cookery book is on the kitchen shelf (Nigel Slater's latest - and it looks great!), favourite woolly jumpers, knitted tights, cabled hats and scarves have been turfed out from cupboards and replacement boots and wellies are by the door again. The freezer is bursting with pounds of stashed away blackberries and my fingers are crossed for crab apples too.

We've booked ourselves in for day trips to lovely Ludlow as ever, to Oxford and up to Richmond too. Some of our favourite places, perfect for pottering on a crisp autumn day and we've never had a wet trip yet.
Christmas is already on the horizon, plans and ideas are forming and I have this special treat on my birthday to look forward to with a very lovely friend...definitely the very best time of the year!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Allez, allez!

Today was really the end of the summer. After the astounding Olympics, yesterday's amazing closing ceremony of the Paralympics and Anna Watkin's parade - today our biggest heroes of the summer came to the lanes around where we live. The Tour of Britain arrived!
The race has passed right through our village on previous years but today it kept to the high roads around our way and on Thursday it comes back and skirts the city before hoiking up the killer climb of the whole race, Gun Hill, just outside our little market town.

Today was a cheeky treat. Woody and me both took a couple of hours off work and because the boys were in school we schooched up to the tops on our own, scouting out the perfect little farm gateway to watch the riders whizz by. And we found it at Warslow on a long drag so we could hopefully see a bit more than a blur.
A strong, gusty wind whipped across the tops and the weekend's blazing sunshine was blown far, far away. Low moody cloud scudded across a grey blanket sky but standing above a water-logged ditch with Thor's Cave and the twin spires of the churches at Butterton and Grindon in the distance, waiting for the Tour to arrive, was the perfect place to be.

The build up is so exciting, you can hear the sirens of the outriders from miles away and when the first marshalls in their orange jackets started to filter through the village and with the helicopter hovering overhead, we knew they were close. First a breakaway of six riders and then a few minutes later, there they were - the Sky boys!
Look - there's Wiggo on the front with Bernard Eisel and Cav, in his white jersey, peeping out behind. Only 40 miles or so in so it was pretty steady here while the climbers battled it out ahead for the King of the Mountains points.
They're gone pretty quickly so we jumped back in the car and nipped up a moorland side road to make it, with a minute to spare, for the summit on Morridge. The atmosphere up there was great, loads of really hardy types, some on bikes and even a Citreon van to lend a continental feel to things.
(look they're coming - so cold and windy now so very blurry pictures...)
This time the pace had picked up a bit and with Sky up front I was ridiculously thrilled and we gave them all a great cheer as they came by. To be so close next to your sporting heroes is what makes cycling so fantastic if you ask me. Cav, Wiggo, young Lowe in the leader's gold jeresy, Bernard Eisel, Christian Kness and Jeremy Hunt.
Wow, the guys we watch each summer haul themselves around Italy, then France, onto Spain not to mention the classics and true tests like Paris-Nice etc - up around our neck of the woods! Can't quite get my head around it really - this is where Woody pops out to for a quick spin on his bike?!
 And then they were gone and we were bouncing to be honest. Shame Cav didn't quite make it in the sprint finish at Knowsley but chuffed to bits to have had such a great view and shout our appreciation for a stunning summer. Allez boys!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Local Heroes

We're feeling as proud as punch in the Moorlands at the moment. Yesterday our golden Olympic hero Anna Watkins came home for her special parade after winning gold in the women's double sculls with Katherine Grainger at the Games.
It was a fantastic event. It felt like the whole district was there to pat her on the back and let her know how much she's inspired us and how chuffed for her we are.
There were banners, people hanging out of windows, flags, lots of cheering and the bunting was out again in force around the town.The sun shone all day and her golden post box was dazzling.
Anna is truly a local girl; swimming lessons at the leisure centre, athletics at the running track, brownies in the town etc. She grew up in the next village to ours and went to B's school and it was amazing for them to see her and her magnificent medal, right back here where it all began.Who knows which child from Leek might be the next gold medallist?
But we're doubly proud around these parts because Lee Pearson, perhaps one of our most famous Paralympians has now got his own golden post box too, (thanks to a team medal gold in the dressage), in the village where I grew up. He lived around the corner from us until recently but now lives in my mum and dad's village.

Lee's bringing back three medals from London, one of each and incredibly he's not quite had the Games he was hoping for. There can't be many places to boast gold medal heroes from both London Games in this fantastic summer of sport.

Really makes you proud to be a Brit. The Times summed it up brilliantly yesterday - a summer so many thought would never emerge but, exactly because of the British attitude to all things, we have been amazed by how taken with the whole wonderful spirit of summer 2012 we have been and, despite all the weather, its become one we truly will treasure and never forget.

Well done Anna and Lee. Inspiriational doesn't come close. You're champions and we love you!