Friday, 28 August 2015

A Cornish Getaway

Reader, it's been a very long time.  Let's not dwell on the why and just get on with catching up.

I can't believe the very long school Summer holiday is nearly over but it is.  Rewinding back to early July, we found ourselves packing up Delilah Disco and heading across the border, two to be precise, a little deeper into the wondrous West Country.  We were heading for somewhere I'd long since wanted to visit, namely a magical little place called Trevoole in Cornwall.

Trevoole is a little cluster of old stone buildings centred around a traditional farmhouse with a large barn converted into two further dwellings and numerous outbuildings along with pretty sprawling gardens.  Trevoole has previously featured in Country Living magazine and I have drooled over its pages.  Now was our turn.

Both the farmhouse and one portion of the barn are available to rent on a self-catering basis.  The farmhouse was under renovation so we found ourselves in Primrose Cottage for the week but both are equally picture book, comfy and cosy.

It does feel as if you have stepped back in time when you stay at Trevoole.  The owners spent many years renovating the buildings to a superb standard and collecting all manner of fabulous vintage goodies.

The owner's side of the barn...

The farmhouse...

The interiors of the buildings have been furnished with much care and attention to detail.  It is clear it has been created with love and also with flair that money cannot buy.  Yet nothing looks contrived and everything works.  I fell in love with the farmhouse kitchen.  I can't really imagine a more perfect room from its 1930s solid fuel AGA to its fabulous old dresser and those gorgeous Colefax and Fowler Bowood curtains.

Upstairs, the cosy bedrooms are a delight with original wooden floorboards, feather-leaking eiderdowns (just as they should be) and Enid Blyton books waiting to indulge one's flights of fantasy.

Travis, the owner, was kind enough to show us round his own home and we were wowed by the effect in the library which is a circular room, once thought to be a threshing barn now furnished with a nod to hunting prints and the books colour coded with delightful vintage lettered spines.  Everything has been created from scratch, the wood panelling for example is made from cut-down doors.

The pièce de resistance for an old fabrocoholic such as myself?  The little laundry room in the farmhouse.  

There are no words.  Pick that chin up off the floor!

Outside, there is still much to explore at Trevoole.  The garden keeps going and going and we would round a corner and find yet another outbuilding, lovingly repurposed into maybe a potting shed, a little shop, even a café.

There was a gorgeous kitchen garden complete with active beehive.

And a Morris Minor Traveller, of course!

Trevoole is in a little stage of transition at the moment.  Its owners having gone their separate ways, it is now still owned by Travis who has been hands on in its transformation for the past thirteen odd years.  The quaint tearoom and shop is closed at the moment while he finds his feet but here's hoping that one day, it will be back up and running.

I couldn't imagine a more lovely spot and if you find yourself looking for a special place to getaway, I can't recommend Trevoole highly enough.  It's a magical place we have felt privileged to visit.  I'm hoping we will be back.

Thursday, 2 July 2015


Well, June finally came through for us in the end.  After a gloomy start, it has been pretty glorious here in the West Country.  We are surrounded by farming land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and we are lucky to have views to-die-for.  I love watching the view change with the seasons.

June is probably my favourite month of the year.  The English garden is at its peak, the days are long and there is no place better to be.

I have planted some new roses since we moved to The Old Vicarage but I was pleased to find a very pretty pink one flowering away in one of the borders.  I think it is probably a David Austin variety, it is of the type; I cannot find a tag but there are a couple of others nearby which do have David Austin tags on.  I love picking little posies of flowers for the bedside from the garden of a morning.

Recently, I have also been able to pick the first sweet peas.  Their scent is heavenly.  Like roses, no point growing sweet peas unless they are a scented variety.

We've fitted in quite a few trips here and there, too.  The good folks over on Instagram have been enjoying my snaps of all the cute old cottages which are plentiful in the villages around us. 

We went to visit a friend for the first time who lives over the border in Dorset, near Bridport.  She lives in this sweet thatched cottage in a very tucked away spot.  The peace was a joy and the views vying for poll position with our own!  She has worked such magic on her garden and has some gorgeous classic cottage garden borders.  She also has a wonderful chubby ginger cat called Marmalade!

A neighbouring village is getting ready for its annual fete and the bunting is out.  Like our own home (and our cottage), the houses there are built from local ham stone which is mined at nearby Ham Hill.

Talking of cottages, you haven't forgotten good old Lilac Cottage, have you?  Gertie the rose is blooming again on the front wall and looking pretty spectacular.  This rose, Gertrude Jekyll, also has a wonderful quintessential rose fragrance.  More news on Lilac Cottage soon.  Exciting!

Also in June, our thoughts turned to a new project here at home.  We've been enjoying letting the grass in the two acre meadow grow but we also started to think of other ways we might use this space.

Finally, we are going to be able to realise a long-held dream.  

It might have something to do with these ladies...

Something like this maybe?

Perhaps a bit less exotic!

Yes, we are really going to give meaning to the words hen and house as never before and have one of our very own.  

First off, we needed to learn about hens, then.  We are lucky in that there is a breeder in a local village so off we set to meet her hybrid hens (that's the photo of them up there).  Decisions, decisions.  Cuckoo Maran, Bluebell, Colombian Blacktail, Light Sussex. Yes, yes, yes!  We need to know how to look after our girls (although Mr HenHouse also wants a boy) so I turned to some sage advice from chicken expert Suzie Baldwin and her most excellent book.

As it so happened, the weekend of Mr HenHouse's birthday, we found ourselves in Hampshire and what do you know, Suzie happens to live in the very same county.  She runs chicken keeping courses from her home on a Sunday morning.  Yes please!

Hollywater Hens is situated in a pretty and peaceful little backwater.  Susie has a field behind her house with various chicken, duck and goose enclosures.  All her flocks looked so happy, especially the adorable fluffy Buff Orpington and her chicks, and we got lots of great and practical ideas for setting up our own henhouse, looking after the chickens and keeping them happy, healthy and amused.

We also went over to her adjacent paddock to see lots more chickens, right through from little chicks to pullets.  It seems we had some company for our trip; I got the shock of my life when I turned round to find this trio behind us.  They followed us all round the field until we left some time later!

I was very taken with the two beautiful lambs Suzie also had.  Oh my!  They were just the sweetest, I did not realise they could be so friendly.  They came running up to as we entered the paddock and followed us round, happy to be stroked and petted for as long as we liked.  They felt so lovely, too.  Oh, I'm in love!

We weren't there just to ogle all Suzie's feathered and furry friends but to get hands on with the chickens too, and learn how to handle them and care for them.  As I knew he would, the Mr proved a dab hand with the ladies!

Feeling thoroughly inspired and a lot more confident, last week we ventured back into Dorset to collect a very special item (I am not referring to Mr HenHouse's much longed-for trailer, very handy though it is!)  I do, of course, mean the precious cargo.  

Yes, the henhouse is finally home.

It seems I am obsessed with all things chicken, it has even spilled over into my making.

I'm loving Lori Holt's new book Farmgirl Vintage.  I don't seem to have much sewing time at the moment but I'm enjoying fitting the odd block in here and there.  The first just had to be Mama Hen, of course!  So, that is where we are up to with our chickeny story so far.  July will see us finally realise this little dream and of course, I'll be back to introduce you to the flock.

I'll leave you with a few shots of the fabulous sunsets we've been enjoying of late.

Ain't life great. Xxx

Friday, 26 June 2015

An English Rose Garden

Today truly couldn't be much more different from a week ago.  There I was earlier on, happily weeding in the Beehive Garden (well, as happily as you can weed) when along came the rain.  So I was forced indoors into my Den (what a chore) and I thought, let's chase this gloom away by remembering last Friday.

I had been doing a little undercover sneaky organising as last weekend it was Mr HenHouse's birthday so I decided to whisk him away.  I managed to organise outings for each of the three days and on the way to our main destination and bed for the night, we happened to be passing near to somewhere I had long wanted to visit.  Through Hampshire's green and rolling lanes we travelled until we found ourselves at Mottisfont.  

Mottisfont is a village but it's also the way people tend to refer to the infamous house there, now owned by the National Trust, which is renowned the world over for its walled rose garden.  As a die-hard rose lover, I had longed to go there; it being June and almost the longest day, it was the perfect occasion upon which to visit.  We were shocked to see how many cars there were in the car park and I mean the overflow car park. Mottisfont's secret is well and truly out.  We got in quickly though, we are members of the National Trust anyway, and headed straight for the main attraction (for me, at least).  There's something about a walled garden which is inherently romantic I think, so when paired with roses, it's a dreamy combination.  Roses are really set off against old brick and stone walls.

There is a large area for rose sales when you first enter.  I wonder how many people do not go home with a rose.  I know we did, in fact the very first one we saw, which will enhance The Beehive Garden here at home.  There was a large selection of potted David Austin English Roses (of which I am an ardent fan) as well as lots of beautiful older varieties.

It was difficult to know where to look first.  What I wasn't to realise was that the space we first entered was only the beginning and there were further rooms to the walled rose garden.

There were traditional box-edged borders along the edges, with climbing roses trained against the walls underplanted with more shrub roses and pretty herbaceous perennials.  Now was the perfect time to see the peonies and catmint and there was a lot of lavender ready to flower.

There were areas of classic English lawn, green and stripy, and many places to sit and enjoy the views.

As you may imagine, the scent in the air was pretty heavenly.  I couldn't resist a sniff and lots of people were doing the same.  I find it impossible to buy roses for my own garden which don't have a fragrance because on seeing a rose, I think your first instinct is to smell it.  It's always a disappointment when there isn't at least some perfume.

Onwards, there was a whole other large area of the walled rose garden to admire.

The planting combinations were really beautiful with lots of old cottage garden favourites: love-in-a-mist, foxgloves, lupins and so on.  All plants I adore.

We were further rewarded when spotting this little chap; a baby robin who was very vocal, no doubt calling for his mum who was not too far away.

A sweet little garden shed had been filled with ephemera relating to the walled rose garden and a voice recording was playing of Graham Thomas who planned the rose garden back in the 1970s.

We decided it was time for a rest and a spot of lunch.  We had taken a picnic with us so we set it out on the lawn in front of the house.  It was a fine spot and good to use the picnic quilt I made when I first started quilting.  There was a river running to the side of the lawn with a beautiful rose growing over the bridge.  A duck and her family of ducklings were splashing along on the water.  Glorious.

We set off to explore the house which was once a medieval abbey, in fact elements of it remain at the core of what is now largely a Georgian house.  You can look round many of the rooms on the main floor.  The house was bought by a wealthy banker and his wife back in the 1930s and the identity of the house was a mix of all eras inside.  There were still hints of the Georgian grandeur, many of the walls were covered with Victorian marbled paint effects (a bit dark and oppressive for my liking) and the main drawing room was in a decadent '30s art deco style with the original furniture.

I was more interested in the top floor which is where the housemaids' quarters were.  Up a steep and narrow wooden winding staircase a series of small rooms opened out.  There was a little scullery (I do love one of those!) complete with its carpet beater, enamelled pots and carbolic soap.

Several bedrooms were open on display.  They were simply furnished but contained the old metal bed frames, patchwork quilts and ragrugs that I love.

The house shut at 5pm and we just about managed to scamper round in time.  I am glad we managed to see inside even though the rose garden was my real passion.

Ah Mottisfont, I wasn't sure you would be able to live up to the hype but in fact you surpassed it.  Places like this make me really proud to be British.  I shall return.