Monday 30 July 2007

Corners of my home

I've really enjoyed looking at other people's houses on their blogs (nosey old biddy that I am!) so thought I'd share a few of mine. They're not perfect (ignore all the woodchip paper, we just couldn't contemplate stripping it all off when we moved in, what with having a 3 year old running about and another on the way, so it all got a coat of matt emulsion to try and disguise it a bit!). The pics aren't brill because I don't think I've worked out how to do close-ups properly on my camera yet - sorry! So, here's just a few little things about the house which I like and make me feel cosy.

My precious dresser which is going to get whitewashed or scrubbed or something when we move. It was the first piece of furniture I ever bought for myself about 10 years ago but that varnished pine has got to go!

My corner of France on the kitchen windowsill - I love this French enamelware sign, my bargain cream/milk jugs and the enamel bucket (not quite so stylish - its where the compost scraps go!)

Zoob glorious Zoob! I love Caroline Zoob pottery and was lucky to get two presents for Christmas last year from Woody (dh) and my sis. My Emma Bridgewater mugs are a prized possession and as I live close to her factory shop - a bargain too!

I'm a bit obsessed with dried hydrangeas and bought a huge bunch last summer and have them in jugs and baskets in the living room, there's even some silk ones on my dresser. This year I've managed to grow my own delicious pink ones in pots from some not very promising looking plants in the Woolworth's sale. I can't believe it but they're actually in flower and look gorgeous - must take a photo of them soon. They're so pretty but I'm itching to snip them off and dry them!

Another obsession I've written about before but forgot to add photos of - wicker. I really can't stop buying the stuff and have everything from the baskets to window boxes, lobster pots (in Derbyshire ?!), cases and am even getting an antique mannequin made from it. I need help! I've seen some really pretty bedrooms and this is as much of ours as I could get in the shot. The faded red extends from our kitchen into the bedroom, its such a cosy colour, especially up here in the Peak District hills where we're in fog for most of the year. The pillowcases are from an Ikea set I adore and mix with the checks. Two other pillowcases were transformed into cushion covers for the dining room and a little chair in the laundry which the cats and all their stray hairs have now adopted - nice!

Friday 27 July 2007

Little green book

I've wanted one of these beautiful little books for ages and finally managed to get my hands on one at lunchtime in the treaure-trove Oxfam shop close to the office. Such pretty pictures and I love that it uses all the common garden names for flowers that I remember Mum using when I was little but they hardly ever do on Gardeners World! Wonderful names like slipperwort, snapdragon (so much nicer than antirrhinum), crowfoot (rannuculus), red valerian (centranthus), red hot poker (kniphofia), mallow (lavatera), cinquefoil (potentilla) - the flower on the book cover from the vase on my desk - vervain (verbena), columbine (aquilegia) etc.

So, I know a lot more plant names than I thought I did - just turns out I'm stuck in the 1950s!

Would you like a pressie?

Well I've been making up a few things lately with the idea of doing a craft fair but as we're on the move I don't think I'll actually get around to doing it (more like a car boot sale to get rid of half of the stuff we thought we might need one day - or is that just me?!). So, the "Pay it Forward" idea, explained on Kimberley and Jessica's lovely blogs, seems like a brilliant way to pass them on. Can't promise that my handmade items will be quite as gorgeous as their's but the first three people who are brave enough to leave comments on my blog will receive a 'Heart of the Moorlands', a scented hanging heart filled with heather rather than lavender.
Thanks to the rain the heather is out really early here and smells heavenly. In the hot summers the colour and scent never seems quite as strong (at the moment I can even smell it driving to work with the all the windows shut). So, if you happen to have a spare door handle, hook or little corner, just waiting for a reminder of the Staffordshire Moorlands to land in it, post away... Looking forward to hearing from you.

Thursday 26 July 2007

Fingers crossed...on the move again!

I can hardly believe it. Just five days after the buyers who wanted our house pulled out, another couple have made an offer! Hurrah! I'm trying really hard not to get my hopes up again, there's still a lot that could go wrong but hopefully...

...I'll soon be packing this...

Sunday 22 July 2007

Simple pleasures

Wish I could move in here!
Today was one of those weekend days which start out not very promisingly but in the end turn out to be pretty much perfect after all. We'd set out to make the most of the half decent forecast and while away a few hours at the Bakewell car boot fair, in search of pretty, vintage, interesting things. But by the time we made it there almost everyone had packed up and left, the wind was blowing and what I thought'd been a summery choice of linen skirt and pumps was looking a bit foolish as the rain came down and the showground turned to mud. However....

The Old Smithy Farm Shop/Cafe, Beeley, delphiniums around the anvil.
For once we made a quick decision and took cover at the lovely little farm shop and cafe in Beeley nr Chatsworth - genius! We had a delicious lunch, there was a free highchair, the staff were lovely and then the sun came out enough to enjoy gorgeous homemade ice creams in the garden. Isn't it great when things turn up like that!

Monyash cottages
We worked it off pootling around Monyash, one of my favourite villages not far from home. It's the perfect place to explore with the boys, lots of hidden footpaths, great playground, pub and cafe to boot. A couple of hours wandering around the duck pond, enjoying the pretty gardens and eating even more ice-cream made a smashing afternoon out of what had threatened to be a real pig's ear. Phew!

Friday 20 July 2007

Something to make me smile

Isn't this a beautiful card. Found it for 99p in the Mind shop near to work. So, donation to a good cause and a lovely picture to cheer me up - things are getting better. Must put pink peonies (Sandra Bernhardt?) on my "Garden to Be List". My sis Eechie had them in her wedding bouquet and for our bridesmaid posies last year. The very image of prettiness.

Boo, hiss, sob.

The people who made an offer on our house have pulled out. I'm so disappointed. Why make an offer on a property if you're not really serious about buying it? It's beyond me. I should have known better, oh well. I've had a good old sob, bought some chocolate and Period Ideas magazine so I feel a bit brighter now. Could have been worse, our friends were packed, removal van ready and their buyer pulled out on moving day, apparently £10,000 short and he'd known all along.

So, back to the rigmarole of tidying up, hoping for viewings etc. Boo-hoo. At least it's Friday and we have our weekly treat of home-made curry and rice, indian snacks then go mad and have After Dinner Mints and Bottlegreen's elderflower sorbet for dessert. Bliss! Curling up with a magazine and lovely gardening programmes on TV is such a treat. Can't wait, I need it today.

Thursday 19 July 2007

How does my garden grow?

Alf the Balf snuggling up in my ironing basket and enjoying the catmint.
Well sort of horizontally at the moment. All my lovely flowers have been pumelled by the rain and look a bit beyond rescuing because I never got around to staking things when I should have. So the garden is being brought inside and I'm filling up the house with catmint, feverfew, red valerian and some odd pink fluffy shrub - no idea what it is but it looks rather nice!

Oatcakes - a proper North Staffs tea

From start to finish - cheesey oatcakes served on pink trefoil plates made by my grandma at the Masons Ironstone Pottery in Stoke.
The North Staffordshire equivalent of the Cornish pasty - only a bit flatter. Oatcakes, a sort of oatmeal pancake, are yummy and I lived on them as a kid. They were cooked traditionally in the Potteries (Stoke-on-Trent) in front-room kitchens and sold to the pot-bank workers and their families. Definitely best served with melted cheese, bacon and the usual fried trimmings. They should NEVER be eaten with jam or sweet fillings but my friends and relations from other parts of the country seem to prefer them like this - wierd.

Growing up they were a staple on Saturday lunchtimes and occasionally, on very late night out, we might catch the shop in our village cooking up their batter in the early hours ready for the next day and they'd cook us a special batch. A million times tastier than a takeaway.

For me plain cheese with a good dollop of tomato suace is perfect. We don't get them over in Buxton very much so it was a lovely treat when J picked some up on a visit to his mum today. Mmmmm...

Oh what a beautiful morning!

Two pleasant mornings in a row? I could get used to this. It was so lovely I just had to stop on the way to work and take a pic of these glorious foxgloves for the Joys of July post below. While I was out of the car a lapwing called to me, circling overhead. Probably worried I was a bit too close to its nest, but it was lovely to hear and see this rare, endangered bird on the wing. They're doing well again in the Staffordshire Moorlands and the first chicks to hatch at the Roaches have been reported which is great news.

Wednesday 18 July 2007

We're off!

Well things are literally moving at last. There I was, happily wandering aound the Tatton Park Flower Show today when my phone went and at last we've had a firm offer for our house! If it hadn't been so muddy I'd have jumped for joy. Our offer on the Cheddleton house has been accepted too so we need to get onto the solicitors and get things going. I daren't get excited though, it feels like such a long way off yet.

Tatton was wonderful. I've been twice before, the last time 3 years ago and its improved a lot since then. Lovely gardens and marquees. John was interviewing exhibitors at the show for a new magazine so we made a family day out of it - which was even better as we got free tickets. The sun eventually came through and we had a lovely day. I didn't get to see many Show Gardens, thanks to all the mud and I didn't want to drag B& A around them in the crowds, so instead we had lots of fun fountain-spotting in the Back-to-Back Gardens and trade stands.

I got to have a good old mooch around the lovely Country Living pavillion and picked up a couple of bargains, two beautiful, white distressed photograph frames and a small etched bottle from Live Laugh Love and "Celebrations", a Country Living book about special occassions throughout the year. And also a gorgeous, wine coloured wrap top by Gabrielle Knight. I loved her other outfits but could only realy afford her sale bin so was thrilled to discover this - perfect for the autumn/winter with a comfy skirt and boots.

Blimey - we might actually be moving! Time to tackle to loft and cellar so we can actually fill the removal van with things we really need/like/use. Wonder what I'll find...

Monday 16 July 2007

The perfect rose

I'd adore this in my garden. Spotted on Sue's beautiful blog Caroline Testout. Firmly on my "Garden to Be List".

A smidgen of summer

Finally some sunshine! Saturday and today are just lovely (let's not mention Sunday). It's amazing what a blue sky, scudding white clouds and a balmy afternoon can do for the spirits.

So we made the most of it and we three (dh working) headed over to Cheddleton for a nosy around the Open Gardens Weekend. What a great way to spend an afternoon and we managed to fit four in.

There were some beauties and I got a very kind offer of free cuttings when we move over there from a lovely lady. The last two were gorgeous, one quite small but full of the plants I love, achillea, oriental poppies, roses, foxgloves, lavender and herbs and the owners were serving delicious cream teas.The final garden was outstanding, ponds and streams, secret pathways and a lovely relaxed, hidden from the world air.

What a beautiful church too. Couldn't manage to get up the tower because with A in the backpack we'd have got wedged in the staircase. Shame though, the views must be fantastic from up there across the Churnet Valley. Beautiful stained glass too (some by William Morris and his contemporaries). I can just imagine us going to the carol service there at Christmas - (oh its bad to be thinking of Christmas things already but I can't help it, what with the Laura Ashley autumn/winter catalogue arriving today!)

St Edward's Church and Angels with Red Wings window by Burne Jones

We met some really lovely, kind people, hope we get over there soon. Had such fun with the boys, a perfect summer afternoon.

Friday 13 July 2007

Moving to the Moorlands?

(The River Churnet, the Boat Inn, Cheddleton - lovely pictures from

Well hopefully pretty soon. We've been in Buxton for nearly six years now and whilst it is a lovely town we'd really like to live somewhere a bit more rural. I grew up able to build dens in the woods, go blackberrying, build dams in the stream, all within a stone's throw of home and it was brilliant. My sisters, friends and I rode bikes with skipping ropes attached to the handlebars, trying to recreate the Jill's pony adventures and were forever flogging our parents veggie patch produce to make extra pocket money (whether they were aware of it or not!). This was the '80s (not actually the 1950s as I've made it sound!) but it felt safe yet full of adventure too. I'd love the boys to have the same opportunities and to look out on fields everyday would be wonderful.

Buxton isn't exactly an urban metropolis but we just can't afford a house here nearer to the fields and lanes so we're stuck in suburbansville, not far from the nigtmare A6 which gridlocks the entire town if someone just pulls onto the kerb.

(The restored 1940s waiting room at Cheddleton Station)
So the plan is to move over to Cheddleton, much closer to the folks and dh's office and tons more affordable. It feels as if I'd be going home.The village is now quite expanded from the historic core, with several 60s/70s estates which are the areas we can afford. They offer bigger houses with better gardens and whilst I'd love a period property, this type of house would make us a lovely home until we can afford to move up the ladder in years to come. Its a better lifestyle we'd be buying and I think we'd get that here.
We think we've found the perfect house, the views are amazing, secluded garden and good sized rooms (oh and a conservatory) but with ours not even under offer yet it's all a bit nerve-wracking. The housing market seems to have slowed to a snail's pace although we have a second viewing (a rare thing) today so you never know.

(Moorings on the Cauldon Canal)
With the added attractions of a good school, idyllic country Steam Railway (like stepping back into the 1940s), water powered flint mill, the River Churnet and the Cauldon Canal its a lovely spot just out of Leek. The countryside of the Churnet Valley is beautiful, rolling hills, native woodlands and astounding views. I don't think it'll happen this side of Christmas but we'll get there - eventually!

I must go down to the sea again...

the lonely sea and sky
and all I ask is a tall ship
and a star to steer her by.

These are a few lines from John Masefield's beautiful poem which I first saw decorating the wall of a bathroom in an interiors magaizne. I don't usually have much time for poetry but this is so serene and evocative and it came to me in Port Isaac on holiday last week. Its such a quaint place but thankfully not completely overrun by tourist, unlike neighbouring Padstow. I guess the locals must see things rather differently.

The scenery was astounding and is the setting for the Doc Martin series. They were filming while we were there and we saw Martin Clunes striding in and out of a pretend pharmacy at the bottom of the road we were staying on, looking very stern in rather a nice suit. Can't wait to see it on the TV.

On our final afternoon B and I spent a last hour on the beach gathering sea treasures, the usual stuff, a few seashells and stones and my favourite - sea glass. I love the subtle, sea-tumbled, especially the aquamarine and torquoise bits - although I admit to tossing back the bits that have obviously come from Newcastle brown ale bottles. We've half filled a glass jar with them and its sitting in the bathroom as a reminder of our lovely stay in Cornwall.

Thursday 12 July 2007

Joys of July

Its wet, dreary and feels more like the back-end of April than high summer so I thought I'd cheer myself up with some of my favourite things about July, even if the sun's not shining

Bunting - its everywhere at the moment heralding village fetes, well-dressings and carnivals. This is Hathersage on my way home from work and its carnival on Saturday.

Soft fruit - we're eating strawbs or rasps everyday. The fruit & veg stall at Leek market is selling some delicious varieties. Mmmmm...

Twilight - the late evenings when the rain relents is beautiful.

The Virtual Sales - I've picked up some lovely items from my favourite on-line stores at a fraction of the full cost. Great for my tight budget and no shopping rage - complete bargain.

Summer rain - well not quite this much but there's something special about the sort of vertical, hammering showers that you only get in summer. Everything looks so beautifully green and vibrant.

Hedgerows - around the Moorlands (thanks to the damp weather) hedgerows lining the lanes are full of wildflowers that have lasted for ages. Foxgloves, meadow sweet and elderflower are some of my favourite still blooming their hearts out.

Holidays - we got away early this year as Barney starts school in September. Had a fabulous week in Port Isaac, North Cornwall. Fell in love with this charming little fishing village. I can't wait to take the boys back when they're a little bigger and can enjoy the surf.

I've got a thing about...

My husband really thinks my addiction has gone too far. At the last count there were at least 25 wicker baskets around the house. Is this bad? My defence is that I use them all and they were all bargains but he thinks I should see someone at the Priory!

My favourites are the vintage shopping baskets picked up at Leek Collectors Market for just a couple of pounds. I love the red handled version which is home to my little one's toys at the moment but eventually I'll use it to store my red and cream kitchen linens.

This little window box is really sweet and is perfect for displaying pot plants and herbs in the laundry which is very sunny and warm (if it stops raining long enough). Another special one is the Fortnum & Mason hamper I found in the Aladdin's cave that is the Oxfam shop on Fulwood Road in Sheffield.

Leek 800

Ok, now I'm getting the hang of this I ought to actually write about something. Well, on Saturday I'm off to Leek (Queen of the Moorlands) to take down my exhibition which has been up for six weeks in the Nicholson Institue. Exploring more than eight centuries of life in Leek the exhibition was part of the recent Leek 800 celebrations.

The main festivities took place on 16 & 17 July and despite a couple of downpours it was an excellent event with a lovely atmosphere. The market place and town centre thronged with medieval peasants, merchants, lords and ladies whilst Brough Park witnessed thrilling displays of 13thC tournament skills, weapon displays and played host to a lively, living history encampment bustling with authentic sights, sounds and smells.

From a germ of an idea back in 2005 I never imageined we'd be able to put on such a fantastic event. Thanks so much to the hard work and sustained efforts of the wonderful committe and our enthusiastic volunteers. Here's to many more such events in Leek. Link to the local paper's report on the day and I'm going to try and post some more pictures soon


Welcome to Curlew Country - a blog inspired by my glorious surroundings in the Staffordshire Moorlands. I've read some truly gorgeous blogs lately and thought I'd have a go creating my own to record special things about this lovely area, beautiful things I see and nice places I've been to.

This wonderful shot picture taken by Chris Rushton is of the so-called Princess of Teck's Chair, looking towards Hen Cloud on the Roaches and was entered in the 2007 Friends of the Peak District photographic competition (the organisation which I work for in Sheffield). Sadly it didn't win but is such a glorious image of the Staffordshire Moorlands that I thought I'd showcase it here to illustrate why I find this place so inspiring. Hope Chris won't mind.

Thanks for reading.