Saturday 30 August 2014

Bordering on Perfection

For years I've been meaning to get to Arley Hall to see the legendary long borders in all their glory. When we decided to visit today I did think that maybe we might have missed them past their best. I needn't have worried.
They are truly magnificent; deep, double borders of sumptuous planting that weave tapestries of perennials into a splendid display.

The atmosphere on this grey, late summer's afternoon was languid and precious. Swallows swooped all around us, low to the ground, while giant blue and green dragonflies chased about. 

There's still much more colour to come in the long borders, plenty of asters coming into bloom which I completely love so I might just have to pop back again soon.

Late summer colour can be a real challenge in the garden but at Arley Hall they know keep the colour going right through the year. It's a style of planting I really love, late summer might just be my favourite time for flowers, and there was so much to inspire today. 

Do you love a late summer garden?

And finally a huge thank you for all the lovely comments lately. I hugely appreciate them and Archie was chuffed to bits with all the kind birthday wishes. I'm trying to reply as often as I can via the comments form so if you click "notify" I think that means you get my reply by email. Hope so. Its great catching up on and discovering some beautiful blogs too. xxx

(*iphone pics today as my camera battery died. It was very breezy too so apologies for some blurriness! You can see more pics on my Instagram feed. Click the camera icon above my profile pic.)

p..s I'm finding that viewing my blog on ipad in mobile mode makes the pictures do very strange things! If that's happening to you, try viewing in web version and that seems to fix it?

Monday 25 August 2014

Climbing High

We made it then. Dodging the showers and donning the old waterproofs, the birthday boy achieved his wish and "climbed up a really big hill". Ten minutes out of town the gritstone edge that marks the beginnings of the Peak District, rears darkly, and a little forebodingly, skywards from the mossy fields.

From The Roaches, on a clear day, you can see right across the Cheshire Plain and catch the twinkle of the sea at Liverpool, miles and miles away from landlocked Staffordshire. In another direction the curious hill of The Wrekin marks a path to the Black Mountains beyond but in looking a different way, the heather clad Morridge (the moor ridge) fills your view to the horizon.
Our busy boy was in his element, leading the way up the epic crags, gasping with amazement at just how far he could see, peering into the peaty depths of the ridge top pool and wondering if the legendary mermaid might appear to lure him and his brother into the gloom. (Luckily she was otherwise engaged today so we ate our picnic in a sheltered spot and took in the view.

Mum and dad joined us for what turned out to be one of the best family outings ever. Not a cent spent, aside from birthday ice creams from the doting grandparents, and plenty of time to watch, chat, wonder and exclaim at this beautiful place we've known all our lives and still find awe-inspiring.
I don't think we will ever forget this special, simple birthday. Being eight was the "best birthday ever" apparently. Brilliant. xx

Sunday 24 August 2014

Magical & Marvellous - Just So

I think we must have fallen down a rabbit-hole when we arrived at the Just So Festival in Cheshire last weekend. We entered a magical wonderland, full of fun, taking us to some terrific places where you could easily forget the real world existed for a while.

From the thrill of the circus to the enchantment of the woodland, a vast area of the Rode Hall Estate near Congleton, so not far from home at all, was transformed into an outdoor playground for young families looking for a festival experience that definitely puts children right at the heart of the adventure. 
And what a brilliant job they did! With so much choice the real challenge is not to miss anything out at Just So. From battling pirates on the High Seas, listening to magical tales and creating wonderful natural creations in the Spellbound Wood, grooving and moving at the Jitterbug, watching creative tales on stage at the Woodland Theatre, chilling in the Games tent, enjoying something a little gentler at Lazy Days, to joining in the partying at Footlights stage - Just So is crammed full of entertainment and adventure for all the family. The decoration and creativity across the site is completely marvellous and there's something spectacular to see at every turn.

Our boys were, at ten and seven, were a little older than the core festival audience which is obviously a massive hit with the toddler and infant school gang, but they absolutely loved every minute of their magical camping-festival weekend just the same. They may have sped through some of the activities a little quicker than smaller people, but they were just as utterly transfixed by the spell-binding atmosphere that abounds. 

Particular highlights were the very well-mannered and "bumbling" Bathing Jugglers with their fiery tricks, boogeying to the brilliant Lazlo Baby on the Living Room Stage and Saturday night's fantastic entertainment at Footlights. Our two are woodland boys through and through and the chance to build tunnels, create clay faces to adorn the trees and enjoy the campfire tales was a proper treat.
From a practical, parental point of view, Just So made everything so brilliantly do-able. Busy but not packed so there's camping space for eveyone, mercifully short queues for showers, loos, coffee etc and there's a wonderful array of really enjoyable and delicious food based mainly at the Social Area where there's an airy barn with high chairs, microwaves for warming food and bottles etc, which all makes the canvas life that bit more enjoyable (there's even a baby tent for baths and massage before bedtime).

We feasted on paella, fish and chips and wood-fired pizza before bedding down beneath the trees. Night-time was a quiet, peaceful event and, despite a heavy thunderstorm at dawn, we woke up refreshed and ready for another day of adventure and exploration.
If you're looking for a festival to let down your hair, let the whole family's imagination run wild and lose yourself to the power of magic and fairyland for a while, get along to Just So and prepare for wonderment! 

*** We were asked to review the Just So Festival for This Is Your Kingdom and were kindly given a complimentary family ticket.***

Monday 18 August 2014

Hill and Dale

On a warm summer's afternoon there can't be many more lovelier places in England than Dovedale to wander a while, dip your toes in the water and breathe. Coming here is all about the stepping stones, crossing the Dove, forwards and back, if they're not underwater.

It does mean it can be a pretty busy place to be, something I always forget. But you can see why. It must be a favourite place for so many people for miles around. We all share it, this magical dale. 
Our smallest boy is fast becoming an adventurer. There he is, scrabbling halfway up the hillside with his dad. "On my birthday can I climb a really, big hill?" he asked. Living here almost everything is uphill so at the weekend we'll be celebrating our exploring eight year old''s special day, somewhere up high, having fun. x

Saturday 9 August 2014

On the Turn

It's that moment in the garden now when you can sense everything tipping over from high summer into late.

I love the languid feel of August when hot colours fill the pots, everything has reached for the skies and our view is seen now through a swaying, elegant trellis swamped by butterflies and bees.

I don't use any pesticides in my garden so what gets lost to slugs and snails, is made up for by the whole range of wildlife visitors from our little ecosystem. 

There are insects galore, frogs and toads, a snuffling hedgehog, Mr Mole, house martins nesting above the bedroom window, all sorts of bird life, bats that flit around the birch tree at dusk, a buzzard family soar high overhead and a glorious, menacing sparrowhawk swoops low on occasion.

It's a precious space to us and I'm enjoying watching the changes day by day as we slide into summer's end and wait for Autum's glory to come x

Tuesday 5 August 2014

A tangle of memories

Sometimes you come across a treasure hidden in a junk shop, at a flea market or on a charity stall that really speaks to you.

I popped into town at lunchtime today, dodging the showers to catch some fresh air, not really intending to shop when I came across such a thing.

Hanging on a tangled stand in a charity shop was this beauty. Weighty, gloriously tactile with a carved wooden hook (although it looks like bone it isn't) to fasten it and the colour of deepest coral I knew this lovely necklace would be mine as soon as I saw it.
Just £3 and it is a wonderful thing. The type of jewellery that as a young girl I thought I might wear when I got to *almost* forty. 

It's what I'd call "art teacher" jewellery, worn by the type of creative, inspiring teachers I had at school. The sort of woman confident wearing prints, with a colourful home full of trailing plants, great art and interesting conversation. I wonder if a woman like that really did wear it once? (Maybe she hated it though and that's why it's in a charity shop!)
I'm no art teacher and I'm not wholly sure why I identified with people like that rather than the fashionistas etc, but i did and I love my new/old necklace. Wearing it reminds me of the aspirations I had as a teenager, reminds me to try and be happy in my own skin and despite the daily grind, to enjoy being creative whenever I can x