Wildflowers in our lanes……


20180220_172606.jpgWe have been trying to note what varieties of wildflower we see on our walks in the local lanes…..and the year started off with snowdrops and primroses. In Cornwall as in some of Devon, including the South Hams, the lanes are awash with these delightful precursors of Spring. We are lucky.20180215_155440.jpgNext comes a mass of bluebells and ramsom, or wild garlic. We see mainly the native broad-leafed garlic but also the non-native narrow-leafed variety from the Southern Mediterranean.20180517_1515141.jpgAs this starts to go over the banks are full of herb robert..20180519_180324.jpgand red campion..20180517_1517262.jpgas well as common mouse ear..20180514_160517.jpgand,of course, buttercups galore…20180519_180202.jpgToday we also saw Foxgloves which stand individual and proud, Hart’s Tongue Fern, Male Fern, Cow Parsley, Cleavers or Sticky Grass and Herb Bennet. Others in the lanes are Dove’s-foot Cranesbill, Nipplewort, Ribwort Plantain, Broad-leaved Dock, Chickweeds, and Pennywort.

As we are not botanists – far from it! – we find it very difficult to identify lots of things and if you take for instance the tall white umbellifers well…. we think we know Cow Parsley, but something else we saw today we thought was the deadly Hemlock. Research on the internet and in my books of wildflowers made us unsure. We washed our hands thoroughly, however, just in case! Again do see the Cornish Hedges site...it’s terrific.

Secret Gardens in Fowey…May Festival

20180518_143919.jpgAs part of Fowey Festival some local owners open their gardens to the public on a couple of days. This year there were a lot less gardens but different ones from last, so off we went. Luckily for us we managed to park in the street for free. On our way into town where we usually park they had been re-surfacing the road for quite a long stretch, with plenty of ‘No Parking’ signs. However one idiot had left his car in the middle of all this so that the car and its surrounds were ‘unmade’. Ah well. Wherever you park it’s a steep descent on foot into town.20180518_122640.jpg20180518_122559.jpgOur first destination was The Royal Fowey Yacht Club. We aren’t members but during the Festival the Waterstones Bookshop and Booking Office are there and you are made welcome. We had fish and chips and a nice glass of Pinot Grigio. A great facility and it must be nice to be a member. Patron the Duke of Edinburgh.20180518_135629.jpg20180518_123737_001.jpgThis is their yard…nice and tidy.20180518_135624.jpgAfter lunch we decided to do our usual stroll through town before visiting any gardens, always a nice experience and interesting to see what’s going on. A posh restaurant with rooms closed (so difficult to last), and a restaurant that we thought was doing well, still not re-opened.20180518_141558.jpgWe liked the hawk kite attached to one roof to scare off the seagulls…20180518_141422.jpg20180518_141744.jpg20180518_141954.jpg20180518_142323.jpgThe Old Grammar School Gardens (which very few seem to visit) was as delightful as usual20180518_143027.jpgand we spent some time sitting there enjoying the view, and marvelling at the friendliness of the robin..20180518_144311.jpg20180518_143155.jpg20180518_144559_011.jpgTwo of the gardens were near each other on a street we hadn’t really visited before, probably because it is a dead end – St Fimbarrus Road. It really was a lovely terrace of Victorian buildings. Wrought iron balconies on a lot, with just a few ‘modernised’ apparently without authorisation, according to one of the owners. image-0-1024x1024.jpgAgain fantastic views, and it was great to relax after climbing the steep path, and talk to one pair of owners on their top terrace.20180518_145517.jpg20180518_145117.jpg20180518_151020.jpgAt the other house on St Finbarrus Road we were encouraged to go inside (love the rack of hats), and view the art of the daughter of the family Jane Cooper of Bristol. She spends half of her life in the mountains all over the world. She was even the first ascender of one mountain and got to name it after her mother – quite a feat!20180518_151709_001.jpgI just absolutely loved this oil of Snowdonia…..outside our reach unfortunately at £800+ and apparently I am told we have no wall space….lightboximage_2113.jpg20180518_153103.jpgOn leaving Fowey on our way to The Duchy Garden Centre, the lanes were a glorious green, or else absolutely saturated with the white pink and blue of wildflowers…20180518_155114.jpg

Time for…….bluebells… a walk in the woods in the middle of May

20180514_163608_001.jpgThe bluebell has many names: English bluebell, wild hyacinth, wood bell, bell bottle, Cuckoo’s Boots, Wood Hyacinth, Lady’s Nightcap and Witches’ Thimbles, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, according to the NT and amazingly (to me) almost half the world’s bluebells are found in the UK, they’re relatively rare in the rest of the world. So, we look forward to seeing them. We’ve noticed them gradually replacing the primroses in our lanes, so we  thought high time to visit our local bluebell wood.

We set off on our walk in Treworgey which is a charming but strange village, seemingly owned by one holiday company, one family in fact, with lovely riding stables, animal compounds, a rural play park and pretty cottages and houses. It doesn’t appear there is a single dwelling that isn’t a holiday cottage, and yet it still feels like a traditional untouched village.

Anyway, a beautiful spot, beautiful day (hotter than Ibiza apparently), and……. 20180514_160234.jpgwe were soon climbing out of the valley up a lane full of wild flowers20180514_161401.jpg20180514_160347.jpg20180514_160517.jpgand with a super high hedge….20180514_160436.jpggood views back towards the sea….20180514_160722.jpgand reaching Tredinnick a very pretty hamlet indeed.20180514_161422.jpg20180514_161705.jpgacross a couple of fields then hugely busy with ploughing tractors, we entered the woods, to be greeted by sweeping vistas as far as the eye could see of wild garlic and bluebells….20180514_163521.jpg20180514_163608_001.jpg20180514_163659.jpg20180514_163738.jpg20180514_163820.jpg20180514_163828_001.jpg20180514_164406.jpg20180514_165205.jpg20180514_164330.jpgA new camera, well mobile Samsung S7, which I haven’t quite got the hang of, so with huge contrasts of light and shade in the woods I wasn’t able to get the pics which the walk deserved. On emerging into the daylight on our way back to Treworgey we had distant views of the River Looe and the deep blue sea (not quite ‘wine-dark’, but still an impressive colour.20180514_170018.jpgSeeing a rather beautiful horse chestnut F was reminded of a verse which she composed as an eight year old…..20180514_170210.jpgThe chestnut tree has fingers five,                                                                                                 and near these hands some candles thrive,                                                                                    the candle flames are pink or white,                                                                                                    and dance so prettily in the light

Well I thought it was Keats anyhow….Treworgey had rather a spectacular rhododendron as we re-entered…20180514_170634.jpgA lovely spur-of-the- moment walk late on a May afternoon…very worthwhile.

Our garden is becoming more colourful by the day too…..20180513_133315.jpg20180513_133331.jpg20180513_133359.jpg20180513_110513.jpg20180513_133423.jpg20180513_133414.jpg

Home-made fish pie for tea…white wine obligatory!20180513_135443.jpg


Visiting Powderham Castle at last….11/05


We were really looking forward to visiting Powderham Castle on the banks of the lovely River Exe. This trip didn’t for once live up to our expectations. First of all we visited the cafe, not a great experience. I overheard the next table saying their coffees were virtually cold. The waitress didn’t offer a good explanation, just that they could have asked for the setting on the machine to be turned up. How are you supposed to know whether you need a higher setting?! Sure enough our coffees were tepid, virtually undrinkable. I then heard another table complain about the bread with the soup, the waitress gave them a baguette instead. I had unfortunately already struggled with mine…it was tough and virtually uneatable. I did mention this when paying. The soup itself was the smallest portion you could imagine. No aristocratic generosity here. F’s baked potato with tuna was ‘underwhelming’, potato not crisp on the outside and inside fluffy, tuna not seasoned, really just a mush.

We then went on the tour of the ‘grand rooms’ as opposed to the ‘upstairs/downstairs’ tour. The guide unfortunately was, what can I say, not well-trained. I don’t blame her, it is a difficult job. But anyway she didn’t have much knowledge or authority. So, whilst some of the rooms, particularly the Library and the Music Room, were impressive, the tour itself was an enormous disappointment. As usual with it being a private house, no photos….from the net, here’s the beautiful sequence of rooms forming the library.

153972-Powderham-Castle.jpg1000_1000_scaled_1796346_powderham-ca-20170801084217629.jpgand the splendid Music RoomPowderham_Castle_Music_Room_01.jpgThe formal dining room, a Victorian addition, was very much High Victorian…0fc14dcfcb623163c9a53f4243689a4f.jpgWe wandered outside to the chapel and there some pretty impressive wisteria adorning the outside of the buildings.20180511_131011.jpg20180511_131256.jpg20180511_131352.jpgand the views down to the river were nice enough…although by no stretch of the imagination would you call the gardens impressive.20180511_130919.jpgLooking for something else to do we wandered up quite a way to the walled garden and Victorian glasshouse where we immediately had to shelter from a heavy downpour. Again a great disappointment. There were two fig trees inside plus some very scruffy tables and chairs. The huge walled garden was entirely given over to petting areas with ponies, birds etc and a children’s play area. All very well but I think some token acknowledgement of what the garden was originally used for would have been nice.20180511_151829.jpgThe dash through the rain to our car virtually summed up the whole experience unfortunately. What a disappointment for what should be one of the premier houses and experiences in Devon.

However, we were cheered up by a diversion over to the opposite side of the river to visit Topsham, a lovely village with a character all of its own. The houses and shops all quirky,  Dutch gables reflecting its maritime heritage, the riverside very interesting and the pubs and cafes all looking good. We had a quick coffee in The Globe an excellent establishment with a fascinating history. We would certainly go again. And as for Topsham itself, we will be back. The_Strand,_Topsham.jpg118304832.jpgTrouts-Boat-Yard-Dec-2010.jpg

Enjoying our garden…..and some others Sunday 6th May

20180506_134642.jpgWhen you have lunch in such a colourful setting, it’s hard to leave…20180506_145725.jpgBut we had decided to visit two local gardens in Liskeard which were open in the NGS scheme  We’d passed them many many times but it was interesting to see what was behind the garden gates..20180507_142103.jpgThe views from the gardens were beautiful too here looking towards a Brunel viaduct…20180507_142409.jpg  another pic for my ‘Signs’ folder…20180507_142703.jpgand in one garden the armillary sphere reminded us of our empty plinth…20180507_143148.jpgand outside the garden is one of our local milestones. There is a site that records milestones I must make sure our local ones are on it….20180507_143405.jpg

Enjoying Lerryn….Saturday 5th May


Great news that the village shop is now open again, and seems just as good. We were here to do the walk to St Winnow and back as it was such a nice day. First you pass one of the lime kilns round about. There are three others (one now converted into a house). It is quite astonishing how many lime kilns were needed in rural localities. Basically the limestone was brought up from Fowey by sailing barge, and transformed to quicklime in the kilns…

‘The Romans developed the burning of limestone to make lime for use in building as a mortar, although there is little evidence of their kilns in the country. During the Middle Ages, with the increase in building, the demand for lime again increased. However until the middle of the eighteenth century most lime kilns were temporary structures near to the site where the lime was required. These were either left to collapse after use or dismantled. In some places the limestone was simply burnt in clamps or pye kilns, in which coal slack and limestone were burned in an enclosed heap.

It was the agrarian revolution of the eighteenth century, when vast areas  were enclosed for farm land, that created an enormous demand for lime which would reduce the acidity of the soil and make it more fertile. Vast numbers of lime kilns were built and many farmers had their own. Elsewhere large blocks of kilns were built and run commercially so that farmers could buy their lime.’

20180505_113934.jpgNice cloudless sky crossing over the bridge…20180505_114717.jpgDon’t often see ‘Impracticable’ signs or ‘Mpracticable’ in this case!20180505_114845.jpgWe used the bridge…F. not good with stepping stones having failed to negotiate one in the Lake District! 20180505_115101.jpg

There are some really pretty cottages in Lerryn with lovely gardens, behind built into the steep slope or on the other side of this lane sloping right down to the river…20180505_115325.jpg20180505_115216.jpgOn the opposite side of the river I believe this is the boathouse used by the Prince of Wales (not the present one) for secret assignations…20180505_115447.jpgThe first two thirds of the walk is entirely tree-shaded right by the side of the river – nice. It is the River Lerryn at first and then this runs into the main River Fowey.20180505_115747.jpgWhat could be nicer?20180505_120914.jpg20180505_121138.jpgOnly the occasional obstacle…20180505_122135.jpg20180505_123058.jpgand some really great places to take a break….20180505_122744.jpg20180505_122232(0).jpg20180505_123343.jpg20180505_124525.jpgFrom here you can just see Golant, down river and on the opposite bank, with its plentiful moorings, another village we like very much.20180505_125254.jpgBluebells and wild garlic were the main plants today…20180505_130325.jpgand the views are pleasant looking occasionally away from the river….20180505_131330.jpgI have thought many times that I would like to write a booklet in the terrific Shire series (which covers every subject under the sun) on the huge variety of gates and stiles you encounter in the English countryside…here’s a new one on me. Ah yes, the Shire series we used to sell….amazing. From ‘Roodscreens’ to ‘British Microcars 1947 – 2002’, from ‘Bells and Bellringing’ to ‘Victorian Fashion’. You couldn’t make it up.20180505_131851.jpgNearing St Winnows church just visible in the trees…20180505_132007.jpg20180505_132129.jpg20180505_132543.jpg20180505_132551.jpgThis boat has got a bit close!20180505_132709.jpgand now our real objective, just by the side of the church…and why not? In fact we both agreed this salted caramel cone was the nicest ice cream we have ever tasted – apart perhaps from Brymor’s ‘Top Gold’ which we used to sell in our sweetie shop in York, now I see with sadness no longer available. That was just too good.20180505_133329.jpgIf you stop and look at the verge often enough you are certainly rewarded…20180505_135403.jpgThe steepish climb out of the settlement gives a real flavour of the superb setting of St Winnows.20180505_135419.jpgNot far to go now, over a few fields with happy cows, through the fringes of a wood, and we are back to the River Lerryn. A truly delightful walk.20180505_151021.jpg

Lunch in Tavistock….


Tavistock is one of the nicest market towns in the West Country, and five minutes from Dartmoor countryside. The centre is heavily influenced by the works of the philanthropic Duke of Bedford in the Victorian era, massive solid buildings such as the town hall as well as the many, many Bedford cottages built for miners. It sits on the lovely River Tavy where trout and salmon glide or sometimes fight their way up river past Tavistock, and is full of independent shops such as you wish were in your town. It is also the home of our favourite pub at the moment The Cornish Arms. We called here with Katherine and Aiisha the other day just for a drink. This time we were intent on its food.

We therefore got the express bus from Liskeard to Plymouth and then a pristine double-decker from there to Tavistock…surprisingly they run every fifteen minutes or thereabouts. Once we had left Plymouth, calling at the hospital etc etc, we were on our journey proper, soon into wooded roads, Dartmoor ponies, sweeping views of the moorland all round, a really enjoyable journey. After disgorging at the bus station, we made our way to the river where we had a leisurely stroll between the old abbey walls and the river itself, looking for fish along the way, and stopping to examine the more impressive bits surviving of the abbey precinct….for a very impressive write-up of what remains of the Abbey do see Johnie’s Meanderings20180501_120713.jpg20180501_120721.jpgthe so-called ‘still tower’  is perhaps where the monks used to distill their herbs into medicines, but almost certainly part of their infirmary..sketched by Turner incidentally….20180501_120809.jpgwe walked onto Vigo bridge (the name worthy of more research)…20180501_121201.jpgtook in a delightful little brasserie on the side of the river…20180501_121600.jpgand then made our slow way up the main shopping street20180501_123101.jpgto our destination which didn’t disappoint…..a beautifully cooked 3-course meal and glass of Pinot Grigio for F. and a more prosaic haddock and chips for me (and a couple of pints…how nice to be on the bus)…20180501_133912.jpgjust time for a couple more pics of Tavistock’s characterful buildings (these the upper floors of shops)……20180501_151402.jpg20180501_151707.jpgthen time for the buses home – this time via the Tamar Valley, lots of villages and a change of bus in Callington. Another interesting day out – with fine food.

Reading and gardening…

20180430_103641.jpgOur garden is probably at its most colourful just now, I nearly said at its best, but the weather has been too wet to mow the lawn, so this detracts.20180430_103703.jpg20180430_103611.jpg20180430_103627.jpg20180430_103725.jpg20180430_103634.jpg20180430_103404.jpg20180430_103359.jpg20180430_092823.jpgand the lanes continue to change, a lot of ransom now mixed with primroses and bluebells…and weeds… fine as long as they are not in your garden!….20180426_114834.jpg20180426_115005.jpg20180426_121733.jpg20180426_121209.jpg20180426_122032.jpg20180426_121045.jpg…..talking of weeds, this is why Wordsworth’s favourite flower, about which he wrote three poems is, not the daffodil, but the lowly celandine…..20180426_122826.jpg

There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, ’tis out again!

1001004010900170.jpgFor some reason, gardening inspires reading. The two go together nicely. But even if I can only look through the window at our garden through April downpours it still somehow makes me want to read. A couple of books I have devoured recently are to do with Caravaggio. Andrew Graham Dixon’s ‘Caravaggio : A Life Sacred and Profane’ is terrific. We have always enjoyed him on television, particularly the splendid series ‘Italy Unpacked’ on BBC with Giorgio Locatelli where he finds the art and Giorgio the food (another two things that go seamlessly together), but I don’t recall reading any of his books. The amount of knowledge and research that has gone into Caravaggio is stupendous, and much of it original. But who would have thought that I would enjoy a book about a painter of high Counter-Reformatiom religious pieces. The point about Caravaggio however is that he totally altered the way of religious representation from formal classicism to a realism based very much on the underworld in which so much of his life was to pan out. He was really the first person to show biblical stories in a dark, modern setting. He used the prostitutes he knew as models, as well as people picked off the streets of Rome who had ingrained dirt in their skin and filthy nails and feet. But more than that he was a master of dark and light, his paintings being hugely dramatic. Two thirds of some are black, black, black. Caravaggio threw himself and his world into the paintings sometimes literally as he often figured in the background.caravaggio_fp_gb_3d_44812_1505261950_id_970227.png

But as much about the way Caravaggio changed painting for ever, this book is about the world in which he lived, the world of pimps and prostitutes, of honour woundings and killings, of extreme wealth and poverty. We learn how the things Caravaggio did, including his infamous killing of a man with whom he had quarrelled, made his life take turns which were indeed on the one hand sacred, and on the other profane. It is an exciting story riven with gory detail which engages you to the last. marvellous. In conjunction with this biography I picked through ‘Caravaggio : The Complete Works’ one of the marvellous Taschen Art books published in Germany at insanely cheap prices. The complete works, and analysis, for £7.99, a-ma-zing!