You can now find me at my new blog here.
It's been a while and I would love you to come over and say hello.
Monday, 24 December 2012
Thank you to all the followers, faithful readers and friends who have visited Cottage Garden throughout 2012. I have thoroughly enjoyed my three and a half years at the helm of this little space in the Blogosphere, but feel it is now time to hang up my 'blogging boots' and bid you a fond farewell.
Wherever you are in the world may I wish you a Joyous Christmas and a Happy, Peaceful and Wonderful New Year!
Friday, 16 November 2012
..... at Cottage Garden.
The delectable Mademoiselle Bloom - full name Mademoiselle Bloom Where You Are Planted - arrived from France some weeks ago now (I am so behind with my blog posts) and has settled in very nicely. However the inclement weather has kept her indoors and she spends many a day looking wistfully out of the window at the late autumn garden. She will be a very happy hare once spring arrives and she can sit outside and enjoy the delights of Cottage Garden, her flopsy ears and pretty face undoubtedly tilted to the sun.
In the meantime she is peeping out at garden views from various windows in the house, more of that in a later post perhaps. She has proved very popular with everyone who visits and indeed Bobbi in particular is very taken with her, athough I am careful not to leave them alone - Bobbi can be quite boisterous:-)
Mademoiselle Bloom's outfit is beautifully detailed with antique lace on her linen pantaloons topped by a charming tunic with lace neckline. Stephanie has embroidered delicate and exquisite stitching on an ear and on one pretty turn of an ankle; her expressive face is a joy!
Many of you will already be familiar with Stephanie's wonderful collection of hares but if you have yet to discover her blog or Etsy shop you can find them here and here. Enjoy!
Have a great weekend.
Thursday, 25 October 2012
Each morning on holiday we would find this cute puss, languid upon the terracotta tile canopy to the front door of our village house and clearly taking advantage of a sunny spot before moving on to seek shade from the midday heat.
She was a lovely girl, extremely friendly and mum to three very sweet kittens who all sported the most adorable combinations of colours, patterns and splodges! How I managed not to smuggle them home is a mystery!
Saturday, 13 October 2012
Blue sky and colourful blooms in St Chinian - September 2012
Thank you for your thoughtful comments and emails to my last post, the support and kindness of fellow bloggers never ceases to amaze me. As many of you have wisely suggested I am taking each day as it comes. A blue sky or just a glimpse of brightness has the effect of immediately lifting my spirits creating a much needed vibe of positivity.
A friend texted me last night just to say she was thinking of me (most of my friends know how much I struggle with this time of year). She knows I would rather be alone with my thoughts and that when I am ready I will contact her. After reading about Pomona's walk here and Lesley's walk here it had occurred to me that I was in dire need of some exercise. As we all know exercise and walking and just being in the fresh air is a great antidote to stress and depression. It may be a dull and misty day but nonetheless it is still daylight and our retinas have the capacity to soak up this much needed light releasing those wonderful endorphins and giving us a sense of wellbeing. I texted my friend back saying that I really wanted to go for a walk. "Fantastic!" she said "I will pick you up at 9.00." So off we set for Ickworth Park this morning. We walked for a couple of hours, sometimes sharing gentle chatter but mostly in companionable silence. It was just the tonic I needed. Thank you dear friend.
I've been looking through my French holiday photos over the past few days and realised that I'm really not done with sharing them with you! So, not wishing to keep them to myself, here are some images from a walk we took through the beautiful village of St Chinian.
First of all we stopped at the market to buy some further provisions for our picnic. This stand offered the most amazing and colourful array of dried fruit, nuts and olives ...
We just had to re-visit the house we stayed at on our very first visit to the south of France, which just happened to be in St Chinian itself - too many years ago to mention!
We went in search of the allotments (jardins familiaux or jardins ouvriers) that I recalled from our previous visit. I find these plots so inspiring and they are beautifully maintained by the tenants who work them. Even the smallest parcel of land is utilised. Homes in rural French villages tend not have gardens of any great size; courtyards and roof gardens being the norm, so these plots would have been very precious in years gone by, serving as the villagers' main source of fresh food. They would have been worked on tirelessly, as much out of necessity as of a love of gardening. Nowadays they provide a far more leisurely pursuit as we witnessed an elderly man, in the blazing heat, wheeling his barrow amongst the well-tended beds.
The jardins ouvriers below are particularly beautiful, enclosed as they are by ancient stone walls ...
Click on the images for a closer look.
It was a balmy day .... time to seek out some dappled shade for our picnic. We found this lovely spot on the bank of a small brook. We spread our blanket on the ground and took out the plates and cutlery from the picnic basket provided for our use and found in the house (the most well equipped we have ever stayed in I have to say!) Our supplies from the market were laid out and together with the crusty baguettes from the local boulangerie we rustled up a wonderful picnic. Why is is that the simplest ingredients that go to make up the best picnics can be more satisfying than a three course lunch in a restaurant!
Do you have memories of a particularly wonderful picnic - I would love to hear about them.
Have a great weekend.
Monday, 8 October 2012
'A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day' ~ Emily Dickinson
Peeling paintwork on an 18th century house in Gruissan, France -
permanent yet always changing
It doesn't last long and is not with me every day but I am conscious of it. I do my best to embrace this season of harvest and its offer of bountiful gifts; to take comfort in the rich russet and golden colours of nature and allow myself to sigh with relief at the general winding down of the gardening season. Mostly though, I feel the shifting nature of time. The dark mornings and soon to be even darker evenings. The shortening of the days and the lack of sunlight. A feeling of loss.
In Loving Memory of my father William
21 June 1921
8 October 2004
Friday, 5 October 2012
"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know."
~ John Keats ~
How very astute of Mr Keats in his observations!
The grapes in the above photos are of the Syrah variety and together with Mourvedre they form the principal varieties of the red wine of the Minervois. Grenache, Carignan and Cinsaut also make their contribution to these rich ancient wines - and such beautiful names! And there are more - Bourboulenc, Vermentino, Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenach Blanc, these evocative sounding grapes go towards making up the Region's white wine. In addition to dry red and white wines, the area has a historical sweet-wine-making tradition. Minervois Noble, as it is known, does not have a current appellation. It is a golden sweet wine made from the same white grapes as its dry counterparts. The grapes are picked when they have reached a high level of sweetness – either as a result of noble rot or by being dried out manually after picking. Muscat de St-Jean-de-Minervois, a delicate vin doux naturel, is produced in the north of the Minervois.
Home from home during our French sojourn was a small peaceful village nestled among acres of vineyards with the local cave just a gentle stroll away! We had chosen well. The wine we purchased at the cave had provenance, of course, was of superior quality and excellent value. We also bought some delicious lavender honey which we enjoyed with our freshly baked croissants each morning. I am now on a diet ....
Here in the photo below, in a tiny winding street in the city of Minerve we came across a farmer offloading his latest harvest at a small family-run distillery. Keeping vineyards and producing wine is the essence of Midi life, informing the landcape; the terroir, and this essence seems to me to be in the very DNA of its people.
But what of the 'rescue' you may wonder?
Well, the rescue I allude to in the title to this post regards a vineyard much closer to home. In fact its a vineyard set up and run by my friend Jillian and her husband on a beautiful south-facing slope in the grounds of Ickworth House, a National Trust property here in Suffolk. In the 18th century the site had formed part of the estate's walled kichen garden and had a team of over a dozen gardeners tending the 2.5 acre plot, growing exotic fruit such as melons and pineapples in its three large greenhouses. Jillian and her husband took on the plot in 1995 when it was given over to the cultivation of vines and they have had considerable success in producing some very fine English wine. Sadly for the vineyard, the National Trust are planning a major restoration of the Walled Garden at Ickworth, and the vineyard has to go. Jillian is now working tirelessly to rehome the vines, so if you think you can help and have the space and conditions for a vine or two to flourish, then please get in touch with Jillian at her blog here or website here.
Until next time ...
Happy weekend dear readers. Cheers!
Thursday, 27 September 2012
Having only just returned from a lovely holiday in France it feels a bit odd to be posting pictures of Whitstable, and from a month ago too. So much for the immediacy of blogging!
Anyway, better late than never so here they are, looking all blue and seasidey, lovely Whitstable ...
Tuesday, 11 September 2012
I must mention at the outset of this post that it was thanks to my dear friend Gaye that we actually found ourselves week-ending in Margate. An offer to stay at her spacious and homely holiday flat was snapped up, and booked on this site. Gaye's flat is in the world-famous (or at least it should be!) - Arlington House and despite its rather drab and imposing facade this 1960s high-rise block offers fantastic views over the town, with every room in the flat boasting a sea view ...
and gorgeous sunsets!
Margate has long been a pioneer of British seaside culture and Arlington House is set slap bang next to the site of the iconic Dreamland Fairground, immensely popular from the 1950s and throughout the next three decades until its sad decline in recent years. As part of a major arts regeneration programme there are plans for the site to be developed into a heritage theme park. So happily, Arlington House will indeed benefit from the renaissance already transforming the town. You can find details of Gaye's flat here.
We adore all things vintage and retro these days and with 1950s fashion being the look of the season, Margate is the coolest place to be seen. It is SO very retro. However its origins as a resort go back even farther, to the 18th century when seabathing became very fashionable. Beautiful Georgian architecture stands proud in streets such as Hawley Square where once stood the famous Bettison's Library which housed one of the largest collections of the finest journals of the era. The building is now a very chic B&B appropriately known as The Reading Rooms.
It is widely believed that whilst convalescing in Margate from a mental breakdown TS Eliot wrote his famous poem The Waste Land in the shelter at Nayland Rock - details here, and the fantastic Sinema Amnesia overlooking the sea close to the Turner Contemporary is inspired by the great poem.
I was keen to see She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea by 'local girl' Tracey Emin which is as thought-provoking as only her work can be! Emin's work is always intensely personal and here she draws from her own life experiences and emotional states with pieces including embroidery, drawing, monoprints, painting, neon, tapestry and sculpture. The artist spent her formative years in Margate and it seems fitting that her exhibition should be showcased at TC. The Gallery's namesake, artist JMW Turner lived for a time on this very site, finding inspiration in the sparkling light and shimmering sunsets that are such a feature of the North Kent coast. Yes, sunglasses are most definitely required!
Just alongside the Turner Contemporary is The Harbour Arm, bathed in sunlight of course and totally windswept on this particular day, it's a charming community of artists' studios, restaurant and bar. I thoroughly recommend BeBeached for a tasty snack.
Margate Sands, as the name suggests, is a lovely sandy beach. With Dreamland close by, my visit brought to mind happy memories of childhood seaside holidays with our parents ... my sister and I with our buckets and spades ... mum and dad in their deckchairs soaking up the sun .... picnics on the beach. Bliss! Just along the coast at Broadstairs, picture below, is Botany Bay - beautiful sand, rock pools and cliffs. Quite simply a treasure.
Margate Old Town is a warren of charming streets and central square, housing a distinctively eclectic mix of artists' studios, galleries, offbeat retro shops, bars and restaurants, all rubbing along happily with traditional seaside pubs. Bohemian and fun, there is something for everyone in marvelous Margate.
Shops I loved:
Turner Contemporary Shop
The Secret Wardrobe
Betty B's (sorry - no website)
Places to eat and drink:
The Lifeboat Pub
The Greedy Cow
Turner Contemporary Cafe
THE place to stay!
Well done for getting to the end of this very long post! Next time - a pictoral post on Whitstable.
In the meantime we are off on a short holiday to France tomorrow. See you in a week or two.
Have a great week and enjoy these wonderful early Autumn days!