Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Final Night....

I'm not sure how interesting this will be to other people, but I just wanted to record that this will be our last night in this house, our first home together!

We have spent today doing a lot of cleaning, and then at lunch time I popped out, bought some choccy biscuits, and drove out to meet my volunteering team for lunch. I had been hoping that we would be all ready by this morning, and that therefore I  would be able to spend the afternoon working at the nature reserve with the rest of the lovely Wildlife Trust Volunteers. But, sadly, we managed to stretch out the task of getting everything ready to hand over into all of the available time, so my visit to the nature reserve was brief.

While there, one of the volunteers, Colin, who I had become friends with during my short time there gave me something for my husband. It really was so sweet of him - he is a Saracens Rubgy team fan, and had remembered me saying previously that my husband was also a fan, and that he would love to see them play a home game before we leave the country. Next weekend is their final home game of the season, and they won't play again until potentially we have left the country. This lovely chap had a ticket for the game, but will be away with his wife and some friends for the weekend, so he brought me his ticket to give to Adam!! How wonderfully lovely and thoughtful of him :)

In return for this lovely gesture, I gave him my OS map of the area and a book of suggested walks. I have used these a bit while we lived down here, and Colin is a very keen walker so I thought he might be able to make use of them too. I'm sure he already knows everywhere covered by the book of suggestions, but he was very pleased with the map. It is the most recent version, and he said that his own one is mostly holes by now!

Photo taken previously for a post that never got written... Glad I had the picture though!

I felt sad to leave behind my map and my book - I have a huge sentimentally for both maps and books, and it would be lovely when we live abroad to have reminders of here. However, I felt it was happier that these things were being made proper use of, rather than languishing on a shelf somewhere. And besides, I have plenty more maps, and enough books to open a small library!

When I got home, I loaded up my car ready for the journey north tomorrow. My husband took a car load of stuff to the place where he will living during the week as of next Monday (I say "as of next Monday", but in reality he had been living there for a couple of months already. The only real change for him with be where he spends his weekends...). In the morning we will take the last of the rubbish to the tip - our local one has fantastic recycling facilities - and then load up his car. After a final check that everything is clean and in order with the house, it will only remain to wait for the house inspection to be completed, hand back the keys, and hit the road...  From one 'shire to another - Buckinghamshire to Nottinghamshire.

So there we have it, the final day of living in this house. I have enjoyed living 'down south', at least I love the countryside and some of the picturesque villages and market towns we have visited. I think we could have made more of our time here, but time does have a habit of escaping from you, doesn't it?

I'd love to say that the packing is over now, but once the cars are unloaded I will have to pack again, as on Friday I will be Herefordshire-bound for a long weekend Glamping for my sister-in-law-to-be's Hen Weekend!!  I'm also hoping to head from there on to Pembrokeshire to see my own mum, and maybe even to walk some of the coast path...  Hopefully I can squeeze in a lie-in somewhere along the way too... ;)

A few photos from Buckinghamshire:

Photos from the Pembrokeshire Coast Path near St Davids, taken on a short walk last year:

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Birthright

Another long day today, but I just thought I would share this poem. 

I came across it while I was packing, in a folder of papers that had come from the time before I left my home town for University, when I was still working in my first job as a Postwoman for Royal Mail.

I don't remember doing so, but I had written it out by hand on a piece of paper. I often used to do this when I was younger, if I particularly liked a poem or quote. Having no memory of this poem, I got to read it freshly again and experience it as if for the first time. Tastes can change as you grow through life, but I think that if I still carefully wrote out poems I liked, then I would still write this one :)

The Birthright
 We who were born
 In country places,
 Far from cities
 And shifting faces,
 We have a birthright
 No man can sell,
 And a secret joy
 No man can tell.

 For we are kindred
 To lordly things,
 The wild duck's flight
 And the white owl's wings;
 To pike and salmon,
 To bull and horse,
 The curlew's cry
 And the smell of gorse.

 Pride of trees,
 Swiftness of streams,
 Magic of frost
 Have shaped our dreams:
 No baser vision
 Their spirit fills
 Who walk by right
 On the naked hills.
                                                              -- Eiluned Lewis

Gorse, Pembrokeshire 2012 - I do love the smell!

Monday, 28 April 2014

A Sigh of Relief :)

I think we’re allowed a little sigh of relief right now…

The removal lorry came this morning, and took all of our stuff that will be going into storage. It had seemed like a never-ending task to get everything ready for this move – I really do hope that I manage to get better at life stuff and never end up quite so cluttered and disorganised ever again!!

Somehow we have managed it though, and it seems that everything that was intended for the storage unit has been sent off on its way. My mother-in-law will come again tomorrow with her little van to take back more stuff that will be staying with us for the next 6 months, and then we just need to thoroughly clean the house ready to hand back. We already sorted out most of the garden, and we have booked to hire a carpet cleaner to go round and shampoo all the carpets, so I’m hoping all will be well when they do the inspection and we won’t get fined for anything!

A big empty room...(except for plants, which can't really go into a big dark storage unit...)

Right now though, we are too tired to do any more work for the rest of the day. Instead, we popped out to the supermarket to get a few things – some food for later, some DVDs to chill out with as we no longer have a TV here – in fact, we don’t have a sofa either, so we will have to watch the DVDs at the dining room table! (We don’t own a table and chairs, so we rented these and therefore they are still in the house). I also want to make some more circles for the Glastonbury Blanket.

I managed to tear myself away from my Cuddly Hexagons a few days ago, and after sewing in all of the ends on my existing Glastonbury squares, I began again crocheting circles. I would crochet in the evening to unwind, and then during breaks and stolen moments in the daytime I would sew in the ends – trying to get back into good crochet habits! I really got back into this sweet pattern, I think it’s a lovely modern twist on a Granny, especially with nice bright colours. It’s been making me happy in amongst the misery of packing to move house.

The last couple of evenings I have crocheted several more circles. I kind of like the way the appearance of the colours changes when I add the turquoise final rounds, so I decided I would make a pile of circles and then admire them before and after the turquoise goes on… it’s amazing the thoughts that pop into your head when you’re trying to avoid another, more daunting task!

Because the colours for this blanket weren’t planned very well – I simply bought everything purple, plus lots of pinks, and the one green – then there are lots of different tones in the mix. They don’t necessarily all go with each other well, but it think that when mixed up in the circles and with the turquoise in between then they will all be ok… These different tones do mean that vague colour schemes kind of arise as I collect more finished circles (more obvious in real life than in the photos!):

I’m not good at colour, I see so many blogs where people are amazing at colour, and I look at all their pictures and just want to dive in there… I know that some people have said that they have studied colour at art school, while others seem to have a natural ability that they hone with their work. I have neither of these I’m afraid! I know things I like when I see them, but I don’t know how best to achieve these different looks (and if I achieved all of them then I would have the most eclectic and clashing set of things imaginable!! I definitely like too many different things…) Anyway, my point was supposed to be that I really am learning about colour as I go along, making mistakes and questioning why I think things do or don’t work, and why things do or don’t look how I was aiming for… Watching how these colourful circles come into being, how their appearance changes with each new colour round, and then changes again with the final turquoise rounds, it really is quite fascinating for me :)

It’s hard to remember that for so long, whilst really getting the Mumbles Ripple underway, the Glastonbury Blanket used to have only these 5 lonely squares…

Then there were more – 9 more to be precise, making 14 in all...

And now there are 22 finished squares, with all the ends sewn in and everything… 7 new circles with all their ends sewn in, just waiting for a nice turquoise border (as per the last update)… 

PLUS a whopping 17 brand new circles!!! (sadly still with their 102 ends to sew in…) 

You can really start to get an idea of how this lovely blankie will look when it’s finished, and I’m really enjoying working on it. 

I can’t wait till there’s no more moving work to do and I can focus even more :)

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Tyntesfield - Gardens

This is the post I was talking about here when I couldn't upload the photos! 

We’re still packing!! Although the pace has slackened since my mother-in-law left yesterday… and now my husband has also left to work over the weekend, so it is just me here to get everything ready for the moving truck on Monday morning. Not a task I am relishing!

I have decided that I want a break from thinking about packing, plus there really is no point writing another blog post about packing! Then I remembered that I still haven’t written yet about our visit to Tyntesfield a couple of weeks ago, when we went with my Aunt. We had gone to Somerset to visit my brother-in-law for a birthday/house-warming celebration, and so on the way there we stopped with my Aunt and her husband for a couple of days, as they live in Somerset too.

I had told my Aunt that we were now National Trust members, and so she recommended a day out to Tyntesfield house and gardens. There are loads of places around Somerset to visit, but I had never been to this particular place before.

Tyntesfield is a Victorian Gothic Revival house in gardens and parkland, created by one of England's richest commoners, William Gibbs. Gibbs had built his fortune on importing guano, perhaps not the most glamourous way to make a fortune, but seemingly effective!

The estate remained in the Gibbs family over 4 generations, from the 1800s until 2001. The National Trust launched a big campaign to raise money to buy the property when it came onto the market after the death of Richard Gibbs, raising millions of pounds from public donations, private donations, plus £17.4 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The National Trust opened the house to the public almost as soon as they took up the keys. Some of the Estate was also sold off separately as part of this deal, so the Estate as a whole no longer exists. 

My aunt has visited Tyntesfield at various stages of the development of the property, and she was able to point out to us as we walked around various areas where things have been restored to give us an idea of the work that the Trust have done there.

Most of the work taking place to restore and reconstruct has been in the gardens, which is where we began our visit, so I thought that for now I will show you some pictures of the gardens, and then I will show the house later. If I’m honest with you, I’m kind of too tired to write too much right now! (plus I don’t want to bore you too much all in one go… haha)

I loved these yellow flowers on this tree:

There was white blossom too

I loved how these leaves looked with the sun shining through them:

Then we caught sight of the Rose Garden:

We went into the Rose Garden

This arched walkway has been covered with carefully trained roses (gardening trained - they can't do tricks or anything!) which I'm sure will look gorgeous when they bloom, not to mention the fragrance you'd get walking through a tunnel of roses!

At the end of the garden are some flowers, not roses though - but still beautiful:

A view from the top of the rose garden:

Then our walk took us towards the House, down a driveway lined with topiary:

It wasn't time to go inside yet, so we admired the flower beds instead. I've never seen hyacinths this colour before!

We also admired this palm tree, a strange tropical/temperate mix with those daffodils around the base!

There were more flower beds around the corner...

...with brilliant views of the facade of the house

Work was underway to reshape the trees in the Yew Tree Walk after they had grown wild - a sign explained that they seem to have been hacked back quite harshly, but the yew trees will regenerate well from the bare wood once the light gets in. The sign made it seem that only yew trees can do this, but I think lots of trees can send out new shoots from woody parts to carry on growing - think of coppicing and pollarding?

The grounds had some lovely trees, both native and exotic. Collecting exotic trees and plants from around the Empire was popular in Victorian times, amongst those who could afford it.

I used to love monkey puzzle trees when I was small!

I can't remember the name of this type of field divider!! It's really bugging me, but I have spent all the time I can afford on Google already without finding it... If anyone can remind me that would be great!

It's a very clever design, as you can see the land is cut down gradually on one side, before rising again to the normal level - but this time vertically, reinforced with a wall. This vertical wall provides a barrier for livestock to prevent it coming onto the gardens, while the whole structure is not visible from the direction of the house. Therefore you can keep the animals off your beautiful garden, while gazing out of the windows from your country pile without an ugly fence spoiling your view ;)


Walking down the gardens, we come to the kitchen garden with its glass houses.

The flowers are gorgeous, but I have a real fondness for succulents - I haven't seen ones like these before. They look like the low-growing ones like Sempervivums, but these have tall stems. Very cool. I will definitely be having more succulents in Australia!

After this the time has come for us to visit the house - the tickets are timed so that they can control the stream of visitors through the house. This makes things easier for them, better for the house, and - as long as it's not raining and you are happy to enjoy the gardens while you wait - better for visitors as it is less crowded. 

We walk back up the road to get to the house, and I will share some of those pictures in another post :)


Friday, 25 April 2014


I've been trying for an hour now to upload the photos for the post I wrote this evening, but it's just not happening!! 

It's taking about 10 minutes for each individual photo, and I just can't stay up that long - I'm so tired from all this packing!!

Well, Facebook to the rescue! Because my photos uploaded to Facebook are compressed, if I download them from there then they upload here really quickly, so I thought I would show you some photos from there instead...

I recently read this really interesting blog post by Seattle Dredge of Seattle's Travels. It's all about sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica, and at the end she asks:

"Have you had any sea turtle experiences?"

Well I have!! 

I left her a brief comment about my own experiences:

"I've been lucky enough to see some turtle breeding program babies in Sri Lanka, and also to swim with wild turtles in the Galapagos! They are such amazing, graceful creatures, so beautiful. It is heart breaking to know how badly they suffer at the hands of ignorant or greedy people.

I wish there could be more respect for our planet and all of its living things..."

With this as inspiration and Facebook there to help me, here are some photos from these incredible experiences:

This first one is from snorkelling with wild sea turtles off the Galapagos Islands. I had never seen wild sea turtles before - although some species were occasionally spotted off the coast where I grew up, it was always the day before or the day after I was out on the water! 

When I spotted the first turtle in the water, I was so excited I couldn't help letting out a squeal of excitement, and I accidentally scared it off! 

Swimming with the turtles was such an incredible experience, and this was literally one of the very best - if not the best - days of my life. Sadly there are not more photos from when we were swimming with them in clearer water the following day, as those are the ones that got stolen along with the camera when we were back on the mainland :(

And these are the pictures from the Sri Lankan breeding centre. They had all ages there from eggs up to older turtles. I wasn't sure that the tanks were great for the larger turtles, as they didn't seem to have too much space. The plan with the centre is that the babies have somewhere safe to hatch and grow before being released, but there is (or at least was) no data about how effective this is. Of course the babies don't fall to predators in the centre, but who knows what the long-term effects will be from them starting life in captivity - maybe not learning skills they need in survival, plus the random and unpredictable effects that captivity has on animals. I hope that they go on to have great lives though!

Teeny tiny brand new babies

I don't know if it's great to handle the babies, but the people working there would kind of just put the turtles in your hands... They are so cute that it was hard to resist too!

A slightly older one - I can't remember why they still had turtles of this age - I was there nearly 3 years ago so I don't remember all the details.

This turtle was awesome. It swam up to me, so I stroked it. Then it just seemed to really enjoy it, and it adopted that position with head up and flippers back while I stroked it. Every time it drifted away, it made little kicks with its back flippers to get back to where I could stroke it again! The staff were really amused by this, and by the fact they couldn't tell who was enjoying it the most: the turtle or me!

Head up, flippers back, waiting for more attention :)

I think that this adult Olive Ridley turtle was in the centre as it had been injured by a boat. It was very keen to pop up and see who had come to visit.

 I hope you enjoyed these pictures, these really are such beautiful creatures :)