Coming Up Roses - Wood Anemones

Bloomin’ Update To bring You Up To Date

I haven’t posted a bloomin’ update for a while now, mainly because our garden has become a bit of a jungle. The reason? I’m on strike.

Beany in the garden

Beany explores the jungle that is the back border.

This year we plan to remodel our garden and so I saw little point in trying to restrain the rampaging raspberries, harness the hydrangea or grab hold  the dreaded goose grass, it was all going to come out later in the year. The rainfall we had in June coupled with the sunny July has meant the weeds have loved it.

This weekend the party was over! As I type my husband is outside digging the footings for some sleepers that will be arriving later today.

The plan is to build up the garden nearest the house and level out the lawn. We also want to create a small seating area and a veg patch for Beany and I to potter in. We have a very small garden but this is possible. Here’s what our garden looks like at the moment.

Coming Up Roses - before 1

Coming Up Roses- before 2

These photos were taken before the growth spurt brought on by June and July. The photo with Beany in it was taken last week and that’s what the border at the end of the garden now looks like.  You may be able to see that a lot of the shrubs are far too big for a little cottage garden. The euronymous, mallow, hibiscus and an unidentified red berried jobby (at least that’s what I call it) are all for the chop. There are of course several plants I want to keep.

The roses, I lifted in May – not quite the right time – but they have survived in pots and, since I took these photos, they are have been blooming.

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Blooming Summer Song

Later I need to rescue the hydrangea, an acer buried under the budlea, the wood anemones – also under there somewhere – hellebores and crocuses. There may be other things we find along the way, too.

Coming Up Roses - Scimia

Scimia

I want to keep the scimia, which the bees love but it needs cutting right back. The apple tree will be staying where it is and the veg patch dug around it.

Coming Up Roses - Apple Tree

Whilst we want a lower maintenance garden that allows family living, with a level lawn for games a seat to enjoy the sun and a small veg patch for Beany to learn about growing plants, it’s also important to us that nature still visits our garden. Where I can’t save plants I’ll be replanting areas with insect friendly plants and trying to find creative ways to make nature friendly areas.

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be completing phase one. Building the front of the lawn up with sleepers ready to level it out in September when we can re-turf. This is going to be a long slog as we are doing all the work ourselves It won’t be like one of those instant garden makeover shows. We want to enjoy it as we go too.

I’ll be back later to show you how we got on with phase one but for now I better get out there and help!


Have you completed a garden makeover? We’d love to know if you have so don’t forget to let us know. If you’d like to keep up with the work on the garden then I’ll be posting photos on Instagram. Why not join us there.

 

 

Box hedges and roses beside the old hall.

Another Day, Another Manor

Agatha Christie loved a good manor house mystery and so do we. When we visited the National Trust’s, Seaton Delaval during our holiday in Durham, it did not disappoint. There is something to discover around every corner and with extensive grounds were are lots of places for Beany to explore too.

Considered to be one of the best example of English Baroque architecture, to survive, the imposing facade looms over you from the road.

Seaton Delaval - grand hall from the courtyard

The main part of the house was gutted when there was a large fire but stepping inside you get an impression of what it may have been like. There are six muses one for each of the humanities, which unfortunately were badly damaged in the fire, but you get the idea that this was a place to entertain. If you were invited to Delevals or the Astleys, you were in for a good night.

Seaton Delaval - looking up at the grand hall

The hall is 300 years old and has a basement to investigate with a rooms where the servants would have lived.

After the fire the family moved into the west wing and arched walkways lead you round the courtyard to the entrance. Lord and Lady Hastings lived here until 2007.

Inside, upstairs in the long gallery the portraits follow you with their eyes and the guides will tell you amusing stories about the family that lived there. For example, Sarah Hussey Delaval was consider to be somewhat of a loose woman and that is where the phrase hussey is thought to have come from.

Seaton Delaval - Courtyard cloisters

You can stop for lunch in the cafe, next door to the beautiful stone stables, for a tasty sandwich and a luxurious slice of cake will refuel you ready to explore the grounds.

Seaton Delaval - stable block

A beautiful saxon church, hidden ornamental garden, topiaried box  hedges, and a woodland walk all mean there is plenty to see and explore outside.

Seaton Delaval - in the box hedge

We had a wonderful day at Seaton Deleval. It’s the perfect family day out with something for everyone. Its gets five out of five  from us!

5-5


Have you visited Seaton Deleval? I’d love to hear what you thought. What’s your favourite National Trust place? Don’t forget to let me know below.

Beamish - Pitt Cottages

A Step Back In Time

A wooden ball, delivering change to the man serving at the Co-Op counter, rattles down the shoot. A tram rumbles by outside ringing the bell for more passengers, and a lady in a cheese-cloth cap waves to passers-by. In the village a pit worker’s wife finishes a rag mat she’s been working on and stops to tell us about the hard work her husband does. Up the road the little school echoes with the voices of children playing in the yard with hoop and ring.

Beamish - School house hoops
These are the memories I have of Beamish Open Air Museum in County Durham. Is it any wonder that on our holiday to Durham, Beamish was on my list?
I was keen to go back and see how this historical open-air museum had evolved and to learn new things about our past. Most of all I wanted to show Beany the place I had visited on so many school trips.

Beamish - 1900s Town Street
Arriving early, we took a seat on one of the buses that transports visitors around the site. Everything at Beamish is either an original from its era, carefully restored or a painstakingly produced replica. A step into Beamish is a step back in time.
We got off at the first stop, which was the Georgian Manor House. The gardens and landscape are designed in the style of  ‘Capability’ Brown and the manor itself has been restored to represent a house in the early 1800s.

The school children visiting are kept busy by sweeping leaves into a pile at the top of the step, and do so in complete silence as instructed by a male servant of the house. Later a female servant will come out and tell them they are piling them in the wrong place. The kids are amused by this and get a taste of what it may have been like for the younger servants in the household.

The smell of freshly backed scones greets you and you can ask the servants about the sort of work they would have done at the time.
Beamish - manor house


A short walk from the Manor House is a small Georgian station with engine sheds and a wonderful replica of a Stevenson engine. You can even take a ride on it if you’re there at the right time of the day.

Beamish - replica Stevenson engine

Next was the pit village with the little cottages each with gardens bigger than the houses and all growing their own fruit and vegetables. Make do and mend repairs on the greenhouses create a patchwork that reflects the raggy mats and quilts inside the house. There is a pit behind the village that shows some of the machinery used in coal mining in it’s hey day. Carts and coal scatter the yard as you make your way around.

Beamish - Pitt Cottages

Back in the village you can visit the school where the school teacher  will set you a lesson. This used to be an early 1900s school and was in use until the 1980s. Sunshine streams in the doors and floods the classrooms. This is a happy place despite the stern look on the school masters face.

In the village you can get fish and chips fried in beef dripping, cooked with the use of a coal burner  as it would have been in the early 1900s, and if you walk a little further up you’ll find the old farm.

Beamish - 1940s ration cafe

A fascinating place full of the tools of farming used in the 1940s and the challenges farmers faced during the war. There’s an excellent café there where you can get yourself a ‘black market’ bacon stottie. For those of you not in the know a stottie is a style of bread found in the north-east of England. It is the leftovers of any dough, squashed into a ball and then ‘stotted’ (thrown) at the bottom of the oven to cook. They look like this:Beamish - Black Market bacon stottie

Fed and refreshed, next stop is the 1900s town and you can get the tram if you’d like but we chose to walk as Beany cannot get enough of walking at the moment. Over the field and past the old coal run fun fair, you enter another world entirely. Far away from the peaceful farm and the rural pit village, here is the heart of the museum.

Beamish - Tram
As you enter the village you will pass the homes of the gentry. Then on the main street an old Co-Op store full of 1900s items and a friendly member of staff to tell you all about them. He even attempted to sell me a wooden high chair. The engineering was superb. If it had been for sale, I would have bought it!

Beamish - 1900s Town Houses


Walk on and you’ll find the old printers and a traditional sweet shop amongst the hustle and bustle of the street.

Beamish - 1900s Printing Shop
The end of a long day we still hadn’t seen everything Beamish had to offer; a wonderful trip down memory lane.

Beamish - Beany investigates the colliery

There are no information signs at Beamish instead you can ask one of the many volunteers and people employed in the museum who will gladly tell you about the place and the treasure within it. If you like your information signs, this may annoy you though as when it’s very busy it’s difficult to ask the staff questions.
There are areas where  it’s not that advisable to let toddlers roam free – this could be said of many places – and a pushchair, although perfectly OK to use on the footpaths may meet some uneven terrain in some places and will not fit in the houses. Beany did enjoy a toddle in the more open areas and wore herself ou by the end of the day. It’s a huge site!  We will definitely be returning to Beamish when Beany’s older, it’s such a wonderful way to learn.

Beamish gets 4/5 from us:

4-5


Have you been to Beamish? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts so don’t forget to let me know below.

Every Day’s A Mystery

For me blogging is not only a way of sharing interests and learning about the world, it’s about evolving as individual writers. What we choose to share on our blogs changes over time and moves with us, in many cases, reflecting our lives.

I started blogging six years ago now, with a gardening blog. I wanted to learn more about horticulture and to start putting my stamp on our own garden. We had just bought our house. The blog soon moved on to documenting my journey to become a self-published writer. It stayed that way for a good few years until, in 2014, it became a parenting blog, when little Bean came along.  Somewhere during this time I lost the time for exploring the joys of reading and writing and became a mummy.

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Sunny Sundays in the garden with Bean

This isn’t a bad thing. It’s good to focus on the amazing new challenge that is before you, even if it doesn’t feel that way all the time and  I think this happens to many women when they first become mother’s. There’s a fine balance between embracing motherhood and not leaving your old self behind.

Recently, some of you may have noticed, the blog has moved on again. It still includes glimpses of our family life and Bean’s adventures – the day-to-day activities that often influence my writing – but now it also includes my own writing, craft projects and book reviews. It’s become a happy marriage of family time, work and me time.

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The first draft of ‘A Deadly Orientation’ is finished.

About four months ago I changed the name of the blog to ‘Rough Around The Edges.‘ I liked it but it didn’t feel quite right. It proved to be a good interim and helped me to move the blog forward. Now with my old URL and domain name coming up for renewal I decided to find a new name that encompassed all aspects of the blog.

We are about to remodel the whole garden and in some ways this is representative of the changes on the blog. The old gardening blog, inspired by the old garden, is now a blog that encompasses family life, as will our newly modelled garden. I can’t wait to share it with you later in the year when it’s finished!

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‘Every Day’s A Mystery’, will have everything it had before and more. It will allow me to indulge my love of murder mystery and to promote my writing. Something we all have to do as self-published writers. With it will come the joy and adventure of family holidays, trips out and learning about the world.

I am permanently changing the name and I promise this will not be changed again. The new URL is https://everydaysamystery.wordpress.com if you’d like to change it in your reader. I hope you all think the new name is apt. I look forward to you joining me for more adventure and mystery every day.

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Dark Dark Wood

Book Review: In A Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware

Year Published (UK) – 2015

First Line – ‘It hurts.’

Denouement – The Glasshouse

A Review:

This book starts at a sprint and continues throughout. Fast paced novels aren’t usually for me. I get to the end of them and wonder what on earth just happened. However, In A Dark, Dark, Wood’,  is intelligently written with every scene serving a purpose and revealing a little more the mystery. The reader is compelled to travel onwards in order to discover the truth in a whodunnit with a style that is more Patricia Highsmith than Agatha Christie.

The story is told from the point of view of Leonora Shaw, a crime writer who finds herself waking up in a hospital knowing that something very bad has just happened but she doesn’t know what. The answer lies in her past – doesn’t it always – and Nora is forced to confront the skeletons in her closet.

Pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle from the memories Leonora shares with the reader, this is an excellent book and worthy of the praise it has been given in the press. If dark, thriller type whodunnits are up your street, then let Ware take you on a run through a dark, dark wood.


Have you read any of Ruth Ware’s work? What did you think, I’d love to hear. Don’t forget to leave you comments below.

You can read more of my reviews via Goodreads here.

Vindolanda - Across the site

A Mile In Roman Shoes

You cannot possibly visit the North East of England without stumbling over a bit of Hadrian’s Wall. It’s true magnificence long since dwindled this memory of our Roman forefathers stands proud, in places, defiant in its endurance of time. Living in Durham for over ten years means I have visited a lot of the sites along the wall, however I had not visited Vindolanda. What a treat was in store for us.

The courtyard that acts as an entrance to the site is beautiful in itself with a fountain and gently flowing water to relax the weary traveller.

Walk through the courtyard and you can see the site laid out before you in the distance.

Vindolanda - the walk down to the site

Vindolanda wasn’t abandoned until the 9th century and was thought to be occupied by the Roman army  for about 400 years. It was built before the wall by the army themselves and encompasses a village. The tavern in the centre of the site is the size of almost three house showing it isn’t just modern-day England that loves a good pint.

The village houses

The village houses

Owned by an independent charitable trust the most wonderful thing about Vindolanda is that it’s constantly evolving. New finds are recovered ever week as fresh excavations begin. The peat heavy soil in the area means many of the finds are well-preserved and

In the museum you will find some of the artefacts from the digs that have taken place on the site. There is the most fascinating array of Roman shoes showing the diversity of the community that lived at Vindolanda as well as a headdress for a horse, which has allowed the museum to create a wonderful replica. In addition you will find what is referred to as Gladiator Glass which is a beautifully painted piece of glass thought to have been imported from the Rhineland.

Roman shoes found on the site

Roman shoes found on the site

The most famous finds are the Vindolanda tablets. Small, thin pieces of perfectly preserved wood that show hold the letters of those who lived in Vindolanda. Some are bills, others of legal import and some are letters to loved ones. They are truly fascinating. The low lighting means the photo is not the best quality but you can see just how small these precious artefacts are.

Vindolanda - tablets

Beany had great fun exploring the ruins although there’s lots uneven ground so we had to keep a fairly close eye on her. The cafe has delicious food and the staff are very pleasant and friendly. Vindolanda is a fascinating place to visit and full of links to our past. There are plenty of other sites close by too if you’d like to see more of the wall and we stopped at Steel Rigg on the way back to show Beany the ancient remains.

Hadrians Wall - Beany

Hadrians Wall - Steel Rigg

There’s a phrase that’s quoted in our family when someone’s complaining about the past – ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ It comes for a Monty Python film and the irony is clear. This is never more evident than in Vindolanda. We need only walk in the shoes of a Roman for mile to see where some of our, what we consider to be modern, traditions and beliefs come from.

Vindolanda - exploring

Vindolanda gets 5/5 from us:

5-5


Have you visited Hadrian’s Wall or the ruins along it? We’d love to know if you have so don’t forget to let us know below.

A Woodland Tale

XWHI46_September_Woodland_Event_A4.indd

On the 24th of September  I’ll be telling ‘The Case Of The Missing Orchard Apples’ at an event in Bordon, Hampshire, UK.

Taking place in the Hogmoor Enclosure near the  Bordon Enterprise Park, this event is organised by Whitehall & Bordon Regeneration, is completely FREE and fun for all the family.

You can find more information here, or call now for your ticket: 01420 489 060. Numbers are limited so don’t miss out!

Gibside - Title

Switzer, Brown And The Gardens At Gibside

Many have heard of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and know of his magnificent landscape gardens but it was Stephen Switzer that first experimented with the link between farmland and woodland in landscape gardening. Switzer preferred natural gardening schemes that emulated, in particular, that of farmland and he disliked too much formality. He had this in mind when he designed Gibside in County Durham .

As you wander the grounds of Gibside, you will notice the more formal elements of the garden such as the walled kitchen garden, the magnificent orangery, the chapel, the lake and the banqueting hall as well as the ruins of the old hall, all necessary to the aristocrats of the time, are pulled together with sloping meadows, copses and tree-lined walks  that give the estate a rural and informal feel. It is clear to see Switzer’s influence.

Gibside - the hall

With woodland, meadows and formal gardens to visit there is plenty to keep you busy at Gibside.

The orangery is still wonderful despite its disrepair and you can look out through the arches at the views that would have made this building a treasure.

In the chapel the vaulted ceilings and semicircular pews do not disappoint and there’s a real sense of grandure here.

The banqueting house, far away on the hill across a lake, invites you to dinner and if you listen hard enough you can hear the revelry of past guests, on the breeze.

Gibside - Banqueting house

 

Gibside - Banqueting House across the lake

As always there is more than just the house and gardens. In the kitchen garden, during July, there is a of washing line displaying fibre art in honour of Capability Brown. Brown is thought to have built on Switzer’s ideas to become one of the most renowned landscape gardeners in history.

In the chapel you will find a replica wedding dress thought to be like the one The Countess of Strathmore, Mary Eleanor Bowes, a distant relative of the late Queen Mother, would have worn. At eleven years old, her father died and she inherited, what would these days be, 80 million pounds. At the time she was the richest heiress in England.

Gibside - Chapel - Countesses wedding dress

There are more than adequate facilities at Gibside with activities for the children, a large restaurant offering hot and cold meals and some independent shops selling local produce. We indulged in some local sausages made about a mile away from Gibside. They were delicious.

Gibside sausages

The wonderful Emily Faulkner also works out of Gibside. Her shop is situated in the stable block and you really should check out her beautiful photography. We took home one of her transfers on wood, a dappled sunlit day in woodland, and displayed on our landing  it now serves as a memory of our holiday.

Gibside is a fantastic family day out. Beany loved being able to roam freely around the grounds practicing her walking. I think she wanted to stay there all day.

Gibside - Bean

Gibside gets 4/5 from us:

4-5


Have you been to Gibside? Do you have a favourite National Trust place? We’d love to hear what you think so don’t forget to let us know below.

seven dials banner

The Seven Dials Mystery

Year Published (UK) – 1928

Detective – Inspector Battle

Murder weapons – Poison & shooting

First Line – ‘That amiable youth, Jimmy Thesiger, came racing down the big staircase at Chimneys two steps at a time.’

Denouement – Headquarters of The Seven Dials

A Review:

A jolly jape turns into a nightmare, when friends conspire to wake a tardy guest at Chimneys only to discover he has died.

The Seven Dials Mystery is complete with dashing gentlemen, spies, secret cults and bullheaded women.  A case where the culprit is in plain sight with a healthy dose of Christiesque misdirection, has the reader guessing until the very end. I would go so far to say that in some ways it’s a little like ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ in its conclusion.

The character of Jimmy Thesiger makes  two references to one of my favourite quotes – ‘Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’ – and with good reasonThe quote is from Alice in Wonderland but a reference to it can also be found in ‘Murder Is Easy.’ It’s interesting to glimpse at Agatha Christie’s mind encompassed in this very transparent reference to believing in the impossible, something which is at the heart of many her mysteries.

It is thought that Christie was heavily influenced by P G Woodhouse when writing this book and you can see some of the humour is similar, a stately home, the upper class rushing around the countryside misunderstanding and finding the lower classes slightly inadequate, but this is definitely Christie’s humour, the same that can be found in The Secret Adversary.

This is the second outing for Chimneys and Inspector Battle and I think I preferred the first, although this is definitely one of Christie’s more light hearted novels displaying her sense of humour in all its glory. If something a little more tongue in cheek is your thing then The Seven Dials Mystery is for you.

 


To follow my  Agatha Christie Challenge and read reviews of previous books, please click here.

Trip To Durham

A Break In The Dales

County Durham and the city of Durham have a special place in my heart. My family moved up there when I was nine and and I did not move back south until I was in my twenties. I still have family there and this year it was time to introduce Beany to the delights of the dales.

Car packed up, we headed off early for what would be at least a six-hour journey, one of the main reasons we don’t visit that regularly. Considering it was her first long car journey, Beany was very tolerant and we arrived, that evening, at Jasmine Cottage, Pondfield Villa Farm, Rowley, our home for the week.

Beany and the slope

Cottage - View from the cottage

Jasmine Cottage is owned and run by Kevin and Margaret Steel, a very welcoming and hard-working couple who run the farm on which they keep horses. The cottage is beautifully situated on the dales and was more than sufficient for our little family. With two bedrooms and two bathrooms we had more that adequate accommodation, quite a luxury.

Durham is about twenty minutes away and is known for its cathedral and castle, and as a university town there is never a dull moment. During our holiday we took a trip into Durham to visit the cathedral and take a walk along the river.

Durham - Cathedral and graveyard

Established by monks on a pilgrimage with the body of St Cuthbert, Durham Cathedral is magnificent and as with many old buildings in need of constant repair.

Durham - Cathedral Tower

The sanctuary knocker on the cathedral door  is of particular import. The story goes that people could request sanctuary for 37 days in order to make good with their enemies or plan their escape.  I wonder what tales it could tell and how many have used this knocker to gain refuge from their enemies or law enforcers?

Durham - Cathedral Sanctuary Knocker

The river Wear frequently buzzes with the sound of rowers; professional, university and tourists. The day we visited it was a little quieter due to the rain and sheltered under the trees we were able to enjoy the quiet contemplation of a river walk.

I would recommend a trip to County Durham to all and there is plenty to do and see for all the family. Over the next couple of weeks I will be posting about our trips to Beamish Open Air Museum, Hadrian’s Wall, Vindolanda and National Trust properties Gibside and Seaton Delval. I hope you will join me and enjoy the posts. I’ll see you there.

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Have you visited County Durham or Durham City. I’d love to hear what you think, so don’t forget to let us know below.