Saturday 25 January 2014

Skywatch Friday on Dartmoor

Himself was celebrating a birthday this week and my present was an overnight stay in the Dartmoor National Park - not at the prison, please note, but at Bovey Castle. How sneaky of me, it meant that I got to enjoy the treat just as much as the birthday boy!
We were greeted by a concierge dressed in suitable country style. How delightful! Tweed waistcoat and plus-twos, sensible woollen socks and brogues. This is how my father dressed, no wonder that I felt at home! The uniform included Dubarry boots and Barbours for outdoor wear. I loved the attention to detail with a pale lilac tie picking up the colour of the stripe in the green tweed.
The staff were really pleasant, a pleasure to talk with.

The hotel was initially built as a country retreat for the W.H. Smith family, an Edwardian manor house in lavish neo-Elizabethan style. It has been added to over the years and is now a golfing hotel with a spa and pool, decorated as an English country house.
Just look at the weather - we had the choice of getting wet outside or in.
 I chose the latter.
On Thursday, when the rain held off for a while, we  explored the grounds, walking up the herbaceous borders, which promise to be quite a sight during the summer months. (Note to self, must return.)

We took a footpath beside the river to the small hamlet of North Bovey with its charming thatched cottages.
The pathway to the church had a happy combination of very old walling bound together with tree roots.
Then it was back to a bit of serious lounging in front of a log fire. Lounging happily in a comfy chair turned out to be the main activity of our stay, with a choice of equally pleasing rooms to flop in. Here is the banqueting hall with it's carved stone chimney breast and minstrel's gallery.

It's always interesting to see the decorative touches that hotels make for 'English Country Style'. We had mushrooms at both breakfast and dinner but luckily not these specimens!

The Adam room, in contrast, with it's decorative plasterwork, was light and delicate.

Another great place to flop!
I love Chinese hand-painted wallpaper. In an ideal world it would be decorating my living room in a fabulous light, bright yellow, permanent sunshine, with flowers, birds and butterflies. (Only the price and practicality is holding me back!) The dining room paper at the hotel is lovely and I could have gone around photographing every section.

I haven't mentioned the food.
How do you fancy some carrot cake with an orange jus, walnut ice-cream and white chocolate mousse? I did!
We woke on Friday morning to mist.
It drifted and hung about the landscape like smoke and I thought it very beautiful.
Hopefully I'm not too late to join Skywatch Friday for this week.

We drove home in misty, murky weather,
but with a warm glow after such a pleasant break - and a good session in the steam room and sauna!

Wednesday 22 January 2014

What's going on in the garden

We've had a few hours of sunlight each morning before the inevitable downpour of rain. There has been no work done in the garden since the car crash last October and there's a great deal of catch-up needed. I usually lift and divide some of the perennials in the border and try to remove strands of the dreaded bindweed and even more troublesome ground elder every the autumn, but there was no chance of that last year. Yesterday I took a look at the messy beds, took out my new secateurs and cut off all the old plant growth. It started to make things look a bit more promising.
There were plenty of fresh shoots hiding under the old foliage.
But the garden is an unedifying sight at this time of year.
Crops in the vegetable plot are getting thin and looking very rain battered, but we've eaten well from them, so no complaints. Plenty of sprouts and a few red cabbage to go.
The parsnips are starting to re-sprout - should I dig them all up now? And, as you can see, no-one wants to eat the Swiss chard!
The rhubarb looks quite promising. I've put one plant under the forcer.
The 'Meyer' lemon in the greenhouse is a mass of fruit. The citrus trees struggle throughout the winter months, the leaves get covered in sooty mould and scale insects are a problem.
Like me they are unhappy in the cold and damp!
I wrap them up in fleece on cold nights. I would hate anything to happen to the 'Meyer' as it was a present from my father about twenty-five years ago. The other citrus trees I've brought back from holidays abroad.
A major drawback is that the greenhouse attached to the house is in the shadow of our neighbours' trees throughout the winter when the sun is low. The aerial shot below was taken last September and the greenhouse, bottom left, is hidden by the deep shade of the blue cedars.
There's a bit of old carpet on one of the vegetable beds - I wish I had more. It's a great weed suppressant, I can just roll back the carpet when spring comes and the soil will be ready for planting!

Friday 17 January 2014

Another Friday

Another promising Friday skywatch! Loaded the washing machine, ate breakfast, pegged out the washing to blow on the line then put on my wellingtons and walked to the pond to look at the water level.
We've had endless days of rain and the water bailiff advised me to take care near the banking as there had been some slippage.
It was good to be out in the sunshine.

Several of the fishing stands were close to being submerged.
It was sloppy underfoot and by the time I got home it had started to rain - my poor washing!