Monday, 10 July 2017

Kent weekend Part 1

Wow, what a busy weekend I have had.  My eldest son lives in Kent and so I made a long weekend of it and as the weather has been so sunny and as I am a member of the National Trust I decided to use my membership to go visiting a place I have long wanted to visit - Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill.

What a wonderful place it was and so interesting.  I wandered up to the gardens surrounding the house
Lady Churchill's rose garden
The East wing
The rose garden
Black swans on the lake
and joined a group to go round the house.  All entries are timed, but I did spend quite a long time in there, but unfortunately no photography allowed.  The views from the house of the Kent High Weald were stunning and far reaching and have hardly changed since Churchill's time.  I spent sometime in Churchill's studio because he painted well over 500 pictures which now fetch huge sums of money.

In the afternoon  a volunteer showed us round the garden which was extremely informative.  He took us  to the wall round the vegetable garden that Churchill built himself at 100 bricks per hour -
He was an expert bricklayer

Unfortunately he was not so good at the foundations and the walls have had to be buttressed or they would fall down!!   However he did build this all by himself and roofed it -
The 'Marycot'

a small house with an adult size door for his little daughter, Mary.

In the vegetable garden I spotted these with lots of fruit on it - a Physalis that I didn't know we could grow in this country.
A view of the Kent Weald from the garden

The front of the house
Our tour finished at the front of the house and the flag flying was Churchill's as he was a Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and this can be flown by his family in perpetuity.  However one very interesting plaque was pointed out to us -

Churchill was very short of money and in debt in 1947, but a group of his wealthy friends and admirers clubbed together and bought Chartwell from him with the proviso that his family could live there until his death and then it was to be presented to the National Trust.  The great man spent his very final years sitting beside his pond feeding his Golden Orfe and his chair is still there though you can't walk over the bridge now.

The following day was another trip to a National Trust property - Batemans at Burwash.  I loved this house which was bought by Rudyard Kipling after he and his wife returned from the USA in 1902.  I was brought up on his books which my mother used to read to us.

This was a much more intimate house and garden and I knew I would like it when I saw the kitchen garden as I walked in,  full of vegetables growing well.
The kitchen garden

 The house

 that you could wander around at your leisure and there were copies of letters to his children and extracts from the life of the domestic staff dictated after his death and photography was allowed indoors!!  I spent ages inside.
Kipling's study

Then outside into the gardens that were lovely at this time of the year with roses etc.

The rose garden and pond where Kipling kept a small craft like a pedalo for his guests entertainment.

Finally I walked through the woods to the Mill and came on this plaque below.  I hadn't realised that Rudyard Kipling wrote the famous words as part of a poem, which makes them seem particularly poignant following the death of his son John in 1915.
'Lest We Forget' by Rudyard Kipling
Two homes owned by completely different people but I found both so moving to visit.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Swans and other birds ..

At the end of my last post a week ago I left you with a sneaky peek of my June Mini Mania where we had to use a minimum of 4 strips in a block.  I had decided on my colours but what to make and then, as usual, I got my best idea lying in bed first thing in the morning - Invisible Machine Applique.  After consulting this book  the rest is history as they say.
A 10" finished block

What will our July challenge be I wonder and will I be able to complete it as I have a very full diary!!

My friends and I are watching the new development on the edge of town with some excitement so this week our Nordic walk took us round the lake itself to see what is happening.  It is due to open at the end of July and the roadworks round that part of town are horrendous at the moment.  We approached the site through lovely meadows and suddenly came on these fellows -
Not sure who was more surprised, them or us!!
We visited the lock just as two narrow boats were going through
and saw four swans -
The pedalo's at Canoe2

 and I got arty!
Cloud reflection

I was still feeling a little arty when I got home and made these

The Wednesday evening Higham Piecemakers ladies had a workshop led by Beverley and this is my result.

Finally I was so pleased to see my Callistemon or Bottle Brush bush has come back from the dead and is looking magnificent. 
Complete with a bee

I originally planted this bush about 15 years ago and it flowered fairly regularly until it appeared to die.  I couldn't dig the main root up as it was too big, but suddenly last year it sprouted and this year it is a mass of the bottle flowers.  Most of the gardening books say it should be in a pot and brought in every year as it is originally Australian and doesn't like the cold. Well my front garden faces North West and gets very cold in winter and it is surviving.  Long may it do so.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

How time flies

It is three weeks since I last posted here and only because I didn't think that I was doing anything very interesting and I do not want to bore you!

The weather over the last week or so has been hot, hot, hot which I love, so last weekend's activity with the 50+ Adventure Club took place in the sun.  During our canal boat trip in 2016 I had seen some hydrobikes disappearing in to the distance and I decided that this would be an excellent activity for us and so it proved to be
Off go two of the girls

Just pedal and steer in a gentle curve as the handlebars act as the rudder.  Back peddle to stop or go backwards and that is all there is to it.  They also had tandems (two bikes side by side on three floats) and this tricycle.

I loved the look of this so two of us went out sitting on a very comfortable seat and having a gentle pedal down the River Soar.  It reminded me of a very large pedalo but the steering was quite hard.

A grand day out.

There has been a great deal of bird activity in my garden and I have a flock of sparrows that have had lots of babies and completely emptied my bird feeder in about 8 hours!!  However I have been cultivating this pair of goldfinches
 so imagine my delight when I saw them with this young one fluttering it's wings and asking to be fed.  However this baby had a sibling who spent a long time feeding shortly after the parents and brother/sister flew off.

As you can see it doesn't have the red head like the parents.  That was two weeks ago and Mum or Dad are now back singly so maybe there is another batch of eggs waiting to hatch.

We went out Nordic walking on Monday morning at Stanwick Lakes, with clear blue skies and the temperature rising.  I got very hot and bothered and when it was suggested that we went on a loop, I declined and said I would meet them at the end of the loop.  Whilst waiting I took this photo of the island in the middle of the lake.  There were seagulls everywhere and this fellow -

a panting cormorant, dwarfing the seagulls.

As the weather has cooled slightly towards the end of the week, I decided to go to Land Conservation at Chester Farm.  The men in the group were replacing fence posts but this was too strenuous for me so clearing nettles seemed a gentle pastime.....
mmmm  ...it was hot, sticky and back breaking but I went down the hill and round the corner

and wonderful little orange butterflies (possibly the Comma butterfly) were flying up as I hacked away.  I only kept going thinking that this exercise must be good for me!!!  I spent the afternoon litter picking; a much more relaxed activity.

This spring I bought two Alliums in pots and though my other Alliums are now over and in seed these two have flowered this week and look fantastic.
One bee!  I thought there might be more.

I love them.

I have been keeping up with various projects.  I have made hospital gowns for Pyjama Fairies

had a smocking class and have nearly completed a smocked Christmas bauble
Final row of stitching
and I want to try smocking on adult clothing, having made lots of little dresses for my granddaughters.

Finally our Mini Mania for June is using strips; a minimum of 4 in 4 blocks using 1½" or 2" strips.  Here is a crafty peek
Where are the strips?

Saturday, 3 June 2017

A bit of this and a bit of that!

Towards the end of May the 50+ Adventure Club had an outing to Sywell Aviation Museum as we do take part in some cultural visits!  What a lovely evening it was and though it is only about 10 miles from home I have never visited the site, though I have passed it many times in the car.  The Aviator Hotel, where we met was built in the 1930s in the Art Deco style which is one of my favourites.

We went through the hotel to reach the Museum which is housed in a series of Nissen Huts and I got the impression that they just add more (if they can find them) as the museum expands.
The Hawker Hunter

After looking round the museum we were particularly thirsty as it was a very hot evening and so we sat outside the hotel having a drink and watching various small planes landing and taking off.  We saw this powered parachute take off and flyaway and then it flew back, turned off the engine and floated down with a text book landing.
It reminded me of my own, but tandem, parachute jump that I did in January 2006 on an intensely cold and frosty morning.
Head first out of the plane

Sky diving
Parachute open - phew!!
Gently down

Note that my legs are longer than his and this was the result -
a heap on the ground
But I was soon up and getting a hug from him
Left to right - my friend arriving and the other parachutist who took the photos

My friend (who had already done her jump) and I raised a huge amount of money for charity.

Once again another day of 'Potwashing' for the Chester Farm project and because it was a lovely sunny day we were able to put the cleaned items outside to dry.  You will notice that we use egg trays because this helps with draining the wet items.
Could these be a 'Jawbone of an Ass'?!!

This tray is interesting because it shows the bag it came in underneath and this has a code on it that will correspond to a location on the site map.  The tray has oyster shells that may have been both seawater and freshwater and there is also a piece of charcoal.

Here is another interesting 'find'.  Top left (the very dark bone) is a piece of bone that is blackened round the edges indicating that it had been cooked over a fire and then it may have been gnawed.  The middles part is still quite wet from washing hence the darker colour in the middle.

A Roman 'pie dish' but turn it over and there was this lovely pie crust edging underneath

clearly blackened from cooking.  Finally a piece of glazed Medieval pot that had a beautiful lustre to it.

In July I am leading a 'box making' project for Higham Piecemakers so yesterday friend L and I set out early for Hertford to look at what Pinflair had to offer.  We went via the A1M and I had just mentioned that this was a good road with little traffic and few hold ups when we stopped in a traffic jam.  After consulting our phones we could see there was a accident and after a short wait we carried on.  At this point I was talking so much that I missed my turn off and suddenly we stopped again.  This time it was engines off, windows and doors open and drivers wandering around.  It was about 10.30am and our phones said the accident would clear by 3.00pm!!!  I have to say that L was a steadying influence because on my own I would have been very impatient and angry as I hate queues of traffic.  Luckily after about an hour we started off very slowly past an accident on our side of the road and another fatality on the other side of the dual carriageway.  So sad for the family of the motor cyclist who had been killed.

We reached Hertford and did our business at Pinflair and walked a short distance into the town centre where we had lunch and afterwards admired this town house
The Old Verger's House built in 1450

Thank goodness for Blue Plaques!

While we were having lunch in the café garden a huge iridescent insect flew by and settled in the box hedging and I managed to grab a picture of it.
Head down I think

It was much more iridescent than this shows and I have no idea what species of bug it is.  Any answers will be considered!!

Well our Mini Manias for May were revealed.  I showed a sneaky peek in the last blog but here is the finished article.
Tumbling blocks

The blocks were pieced over papers but once finished I used Invisible Machine Applique learnt at a Dawn Cameron Dick workshop and a technique that I love working with.

This months theme is strips, either 1 ½" or 2", with a minimum of 4 in a block.  I am getting some ideas just must find time to put them into practice.