Welcome to family, friends and visitors. Here you will find interesting (hopefully) pictures of my part of the world, news of our household and probably, long ramblings about anything that catches my interest.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Bye-Bye Trees.

I've been struggling with those leylandii trees so Peter asked Paul to help out with his digger. I had chopped most of the roots with an axe but I didn't know if they had a main tap root going straight down (which they didn't). I had been sweating buckets for days working on those trees but before I could walk back from the house with the camera Paul had already pulled out the first tree. The second one came out nearly as easily and Paul placed them by the hedge for us to deal with later. He then used the bucket to break up the ground for me which was a real help. Paul came in for a cuppa and although he wouldn't accept any payment for his help we were able to give him some of Peter's home made sausages and some eggs as a thank you. Contrary to the forecast we had dry weather all day but it was windy and thundery late in the afternoon. One of the thunderclouds briefly dropped some heavy rain which forced me back indoors. I worked outside until dark and have been able to remove nearly all the weeds from the new veg patch which is much easier while the soil is dry. I have sown lots of rather old veg seeds (french beans, runner beans, broccoli, courgettes, squash, mixed lettuce, tomatoes and white radish), in trays hoping that some at least will germinate to be planted out in the new veg patch. Along with the tomato plants I have growing in the conservatory, that should do for this year though I am tempted to buy some mange tout just because they are so nice. And now for some more pictures from the Eden Project.
One of the messages being put across is the importance of insect pollinators in the production of food crops.

As well as many displays of food and medicinal crops there are some ornamental gardens some divided into intimate seating areas. The message carved into the wooden fence where we sat for a while was all about the benefit of gardens for relaxation and calming the spirit.

There were ornamental plantings of vegetables which were in pristine condition without the use of chemicals (everything is organic there). I doubt my vegetable garden will be looking like this at any point, I will be happy if something grows and survives the slugs.

At every turn there was something interesting to see. These pleached trees are London Plane trees which were able to survive the sooty Victorian era because they regularly shed their bark.

More pictures tomorrow.

PS If anyone is wondering why I wasn't celebrating the royal wedding yesterday it's not because I have anything against marriage, just I have no interest in royalty. Also I feel the whole event has been hyped by the government in order to take our minds of the current recession. For the past week the TV has been full of the wedding yet I heard nothing apart from the briefest of mentions on the radio of the tragedy of so many people killed in the tornadoes and storms in the States. Strange values.

Friday, 29 April 2011

A Tropical Trip.

We decided that today would be a good time to make out first trip to the Eden Project. It has been open for 10 years but we have never made the 2 hour drive into Cornwall to visit this amazing project which is not only the world's largest biodome but a research and educational facility which supports many world-wide projects helping people to live sustainably and to preserve the world's resources. For more info visit www.edenproject.com .

Lots of fantastic planting and a well laid out site with many aesthetically pleasing design features. Our only complaint was the 'pop' muzac blaring from the children's play tent which did spoil the atmosphere.

Our favourite place had to be the tropical biosphere which had areas showing the wild and crop plants from many different tropical areas of the world. Dotted around were homes/shacks from these areas built with the appropriate materials. Expecting a warm day I had come suitably dressed for the tropical dome but I was a bit chilly in the outside areas. My hand is behind my back because I was holding an empty cup that had contained a smoothie made from the fruit of the baobab tree which was really nice.

Although Peter is now fit enough to march around the cliffs his ankle did not do well with several hours of ambling along stopping frequently to look at more interesting plants or to take photos. Here he has had a rest on a rock on a sandy beach while I went for a second walk around the whole dome.

The biodomes are built against the walls of the giant crater that was once a china clay quarry. Inside a stream pours down adding to the forest feel.

Everywhere I looked there were more fantastic plants.

It's a good thing I overcame my fear of heights on Lundy last year as today I had no problems walking up these hanging stairs to the look-out platform. It was a little disconcerting the way they swayed as they are only held up by steel hawsers from the roof.

Once you get to the platform there is an amazing view of the whole biodome. I did ask and the lower path is nearly 200ft below. The white circle in the corner is the top of a 1-man balloon that they use when they need to reach the higher plants.

After the spectacle of the tropical biodome the Mediterranean biodome was not so exciting but there were superb gardens outside and a very well presented educational area.

Our tickets give us free access for a year so we will be making another visit, maybe in the autumn when the summer holiday makers have left the area.

Will post more photos tomorrow.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Wedding Celebrations.

After an initial chilly start we had a lovely hot sunny day which was perfect for our 'wedding celebration'. The morning was taken up with rehearsing and making lots of tissue paper flowers to decorate the tables and the wedding arch. The children all wore party clothes in red, white & blue (mostly) and looked very festive out in the sunshine. In the afternoon excitement was high as parents gathered to watch the 'wedding' , share a celebration tea and watch some dances. There were so many parents and families present that it wasn't possible for my team of gymnasts to show their performance which is something they had put together at playtimes so I've promised them that they can do a special performance for the whole school as soon as possible. Here the bride and groom, accompanied by the vicar (in black), are signing the register under the watchful eye of the registrar. Children from my class were the parents of the bride and the 'mother-of-the-bride' cried theatrically as instructed and the 'father-of-the-bride' stood on a chair to give a speech after the wedding tea.
The aftermath of the tea. Most of the children were playing in the field or had gone home exhausted. Hopefully it will be a day that they will remember. Now we all get a day off tomorrow in honour of the official wedding.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

More Flowers.

The day started cold but eventually warmed up to a hot afternoon. At school we painted plates, more plates and then more plates and I think we did some other stuff as well. I returned home to a pleasant evening and lots of flowers out in the garden. The aquillegias seed themselves all over the place but even though I buy one or two of the more striking colour combinations they all seem to revert back to shades of smokey pink. This evening the air was filled with the drifting fluffy white seeds from the willow tree by the chickens' run.

The yellow scented azaleas have started to bloom and give off their wonderful scent.

The dry weather has kept the slugs at bay and given the wisteria flowers a chance to open before being munched by hungry gastropods.

And today I spotted the first climbing roses high up on the wall. (Mme Alfred Carrier).

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Back To Work.

The world has turned green in the space of a week. Everywhere the bright green beech leaves have brought life to the countryside. The hedgerows are now a riot of cow parsley sparkling against the new green growth with the blue haze of bluebells beginning to appear. It makes my daily commute a total pleasure.

This week at school we are in 'wedding mode' and the children spent their day making flags, painting commemorative plates, rehearsing their dances for Thursday and writing invitations asking the parents to come and join us in our celebrations. Despite the relaxed day I felt quite tired by the end of the day. I still managed an hour's weeding at home while Peter barbecued some lamb for our al fresco supper.

Finally more photos from yesterday's walk.

A new path to explore.

Heading out across the fields.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Lee Bay.

It's the end of what has been a wonderful holiday. Beautiful weather for 2 weeks has meant that I could spend most of my time outside, pottering around in the garden, reading and going for walks, perfect! It has been very quiet without any of our usual visitors but on the other hand I haven't had to rush to get all the rooms ready and organise lots of cooking. Lots of things have been done in the garden and although the vegetable patch is still a work in progress the front yard has had a good tidy with the stones cleaned and hanging baskets organised. If the weather stays fine a little work each evening should keep the garden in good condition. It has been a very relaxed time and I'm finding it hard to think about getting back into the swing of work. We explored a new route for our walk today, going down into the coombe and then swinging inland and walking back across the countryside to Lee. (Blogger has gone slow so I can't post more pictures today.)
Looking down at Bennet's Mouth and the scene of yesterday's cliff rescue.
There were quite a few people when we got nearer to Lee so we swung round to the coast path and headed back to Bennet's Mouth to eat our lunch on the beach. It was so peaceful with the sound of the stream rushing over the stones and the waves swirling over the rocks. We stayed on the cliff path to Bull Point and then walked back along the track to where we had parked the car in a 'free' parking spot.
Back home I finished weeding the very last part of the path around the circular pond and then had some reading time in the evening sun. Now to organise for tomorrow morning and get my mind back into work mode.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Greetings.

Happy Easter.

Today we celebrate new beginnings and new life for all.I recommend the 2- part series, The Life of Jesus, available on BBC iplayer. Filmed entirely on location it is a documentary which combines the views of biblical scholars and biblical archaeologists with dramatised scenes and bible readings. It was very interesting, while giving faith views it did not attempt to make judgements and I particularily liked the way the Scriptures were put in the context of how they would have appeared to 1st centuary readers.

Today the warm dry weather continued so of course we had to go out for a walk. This nearly didn't happen because when we got to Morthoe the car park and the overflow car parks were totally full up. On the off chance we drove up the road that leads to Bull Point because there is space for a few cars just before the end of the road and the parking restrictions do not start until 14th May. Luckily we found a space so we didn't even have to pay today. As there were so many people around we walked down into the coombe and enjoyed the sun, peace and flowers.

As we entered the meadow I spotted a slow worm in the grass. This is a legless lizard and perfectly harmless. When I was a child we used to catch and play with them but today I was content just to capture its image.
As we were parking we had been passed by a coast guard vehicle, sirens sounding, rushing up to the coast. When we came to Bennet's Mouth we could see them up on the cliff winching something up. Not knowing what had happened I didn't want to be intrusive and take any more pictures. It turned out that an off lead dog had run over the cliff. Dogs unlike people bounce rather than break and this one survived with only a few scratches and bumps. We found out all this when one of the coast guards who is a gig rower from Ilfracombe spotted Peter's gig club sweatshirt and greeted him like a long lost friend. (Remember this is the UK where people keep to themselves.) It turns out that he had been one of the gig crews that had rowed to Lundy when we were there last year so we were all in the pub at the same time. It's nice being one of the locals.

The dog was returned to its grateful owners (the rescue will be paid for by tax payers), the gear was packed away and the coast guards drove away.

We carried on along the coast path and found ourselves a quiet meadow above the cliffs where we stopped to have our picnic lunch. This was the view looking inland,

while looking out to sea to the north we could see the Welsh coast line,

and looking to the west we could see Lundy on the horizon. There was a sea mist around the base of Lundy but using binoculars we could see the old lighthouse and the church, happy memories.
Back home I did a little gardening but am getting nowhere fast digging up those trees so I have suggested to Peter that he talks to Paul and see what they can do with the digger or the tractor.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

A Garden Day.

Another almost perfect day. Not quite as hot as recent days but 20C is fine by me. Yesterday had been very peaceful and quiet here in the valley which felt right for Good Friday but today there were the usual cars going to and from the stables next door and everything felt busier. Peter went off to row with the gig club which he loves doing and I spent my time out in the garden. I daren't try rowing until my back is sorted and although it has been offered I don't fancy just sitting in the cox's position. On his return Peter cooked up another barbecue, home-made sausages (Fred's not Peter's) which were very garlicky (good thing I'm not back to work for a few days) but tasty. Fred is our builder who also has an interest in cooking. His partner works at the same place as Peter so she car shares with him which is 'greener' and helps with his petrol costs and there is another lady who travels with them 3 times a week. The company encourages car sharing, it probably ticks some government environmental requirement. Before we had children we rode bikes in London avoiding the horrendous overcrowding on public transport or the high cost of running and parking a car. Here in Devon though the very hilly terrain and the frequently wet weather do not make going to work on a bike very appealing even though it is only 6 miles to work which was the same as my bike journey in London. It is a shame because when you think about it bikes are fantastic, minimal running costs and you keep yourself fit at the same time. Perhaps I'll get my bike sorted out for the summer ......... maybe.

Friday, 22 April 2011


This is the chest of drawers that I painted yesterday. It was only today that I remembered its history. We've had this chest of drawers all our married life. In our rented flat it lived in our wardrobe alcove behind a white curtain. Then we bought a house and started a family. The chest was painted white and put in the baby's room as it was the perfect size for a changing unit. The top is exactly the same size as a baby changing mat, it was nice and steady and the drawers were very useful. Funny to think that all 3 of my big strapping lads have lain there waving their little legs in the air! When we moved here 18 years ago the drawers went back into another wardrobe alcove this time behind a cream curtain. That is until I decided to keep my clothes in large clear plastic boxes with lids. Then it was time to send the drawers to the spare room and this good weather gave me the chance to spruce them up with a lick of paint. The chest of drawers would have originally come from a London junk shop (second-hand furniture and household items often from house clearances).

In this house, apart from the beds, none of the furniture has ever been bought new. In London my mother had a route that she often walked that took in at least half a dozen junk shops. She greatly enjoyed looking for furniture that could be restored and for antiques hidden amongst the dross. This is where the 'antique shop' dealers would come and look for treasure too. Many specialised in buying old pine furniture which they stripped and waxed and resold. Some of my mother's better pieces of furniture, which we now have, came from these shops. When we moved here we would go to farm auctions and the local weekly auction in town for furniture that we needed and then of course came the Internet and eBay. The only other furniture we bought new was a set of chrome and glass coffee tables which have long since fallen apart and been thrown out.

Today I finally came to the end of stone scrubbing, well almost. This is a 'before' view of the raised bed under the sitting room window.......

...and this is the 'after' view. There are still some big stones left to clean and really the brick wall could do with a going over by a pressure washer. In this damp climate the stones get covered not only with green algae but with black and grey algae/lichen ? that makes them look very dirty and unattractive. It was worth all the hard work to see the stones in their natural colours once more.

And then even when it is wet I will have this view to look at through the kitchen window.

PS We didn't get any rain but the sun did not appear until the afternoon where it dodged in and out of the clouds so that one moment it was roasting and the next quite cool.

WARNING Anyone with an i-phone that uses Apple software is being tracked 24 hours a day. Apple are storing this data and refusing to say exactly what they are doing with it - selling it seems the likeliest option. Thank goodness I only have the cheapest most basic pay-as-you-go phone.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Washing Day.

According to the weather man the highest ever recorded April temperature in the UK was 29.5C. Well this was the temperature here at midday! The day started warm, at 9.30 it was 14C in the sitting room and 25C in the garden. My morning was spent washing things, I put washing in the machine, hand washed a feather duvet, scrubbed yet more stones and washed down a chest of drawers before giving it 3 coats of white paint. I got on with so many things because the weather man also mentioned the possibility of RAIN tomorrow. I was also determined not to miss out on a long walk so by 3.00 I jumped in the car and headed off to Morthoe. This time I went the long way towards Bull Point and then dropped down this steep path into the coombe that runs to Bennet's Mouth.
It was like entering an enchanted wood. It was deliciously warm, butterflies all over the place and everywhere flowers shining like little jewels in the lush green of the grass. The deep purple of the violets and the vibrant blue of the bluebells were lit up by the white stars of wild garlic. In the sun the celandines glowed like burnished gold and the softer yellow of the primroses was like rich clotted cream. There were other flowers sprinkled across the grass and every now and then I was showered with confetti like petals from trees above me as I walked beside the crystal clear stream.

In another week or so the whole undergrowth will be a wonderful carpet of flowers and whatever the weather I will be there to enjoy the spectacle.

Emerging from the wood the valley floor opens up to a meadow, again with the promise of a carpet of flowers. I'm so glad I decided to go that way today.

Having reached Bennet's Mouth I took the coast path, exercising both my legs and my lungs. It was as I was climbing up a slope that I heard explosive cracking sounds around me. I eventually realised that it was coming from the gorse bushes beside the path. Gorse flowers all year round and most of the bushes were covered in bright yellow flowers which in the heat give out the smell of coconuts but the bushes near me had finished flowering and were covered in brown seed pods instead. The noise must have been the pods bursting open in the heat.

I carried on round the coast and came to the high but damp valley that leads to Rockham Bay. Here I had to walk through a reed bed and the breeze was causing the dry old growth to whisper and rustle mysteriously.

Having only bought a 2 hour car park ticket I did not have enough time to go all the way round Morte Point but I stopped for coffee at a bench high up on the cliff and was rewarded with a cooling breeze and the sight of a fat seal swimming about and occasionally diving down to catch a fish.
The sheep and lambs are back out on the Point. Most of them were too hot to bother moving as I walked by and this group of lambs were cooling off in some shade.

Another lovely walk !

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Perfect Weather.

Kingcup on the pond.

Another wonderfully balmy day with the temp reaching 25C. I started the day scrubbing yet more stones outside, 2 bucketfuls to go and the job will be done. Jack came to visit and we sat by the pond watching the tadpoles and newts and saw the first damselfly of the season. It is very relaxing just watching all the wildlife around the pond. After some window cleaning I gave in to the hot weather and relaxed with a book up at the scree garden. I finished the day with some more weeding of the path around the pond and clearing away some dead growth from the hillside, (a change is as good as a rest). What a wonderful way to spend my holiday.
Bluebells in a shady corner of the garden.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Another beautiful day today. This morning it was 24C (76F) as I basked in the unexpected heat and attempted to scrub stones with a rapidly thinning wire brush. If only we had days like this in the summer! and it was still a balmy 14C this evening when I ended my day with a little more gardening. During the afternoon I met up with a friend at Mortehoe and we had an enjoyable walk and natter around the Point with the usual stop for coffee and some chocolate chunk cake that I had baked in the morning. No seals or adders today but we did stop and watch a small brown bird with a mechanical sounding song singing amazingly loudly from a nearby bush. Looking at my blurry photos I have been able to identify it as a Grasshopper Warbler, one of our summer visitors.

Turning out of our drive this afternoon I was surprised to be able to see this wind turbine. This morning the local news was full of the new wind turbine farm which is being built in North Devon. There used to be a single turbine outside of Ilfracombe but then it was dismantled. I'm not sure exactly why. This new farm at Fullabrook is going to stretch for 10 miles across the countryside because we have the strongest winds in the south-west. They will certainly make an impact on the landscape, I hope the power they generate is worth it. Luckily we can't see or hear them down in our valley. Each turbine is enormous, the one above is several miles away , with each of the blades being 45m long.