Aspiring Garden Designer | current healthcare admin | ex-teacher

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Not enough hours in the day

Not enough hours in the day

How can we add more hours to the day? A question I keep posing to myself regularly at the moment – the answer, of course, impossible. The reason for this pondering: I’ve found a new lease on life and there’s just so much out there […]

An eternal outlook

An eternal outlook

How often do you find yourself retracing steps from an earlier part of your life, sometimes without even realising it? Last weekend I met Matt out in Tideswell where we’d had our very first date. This Saturday I ended up taking Troy for a walk […]

Taking it easy around Tideswell

Taking it easy around Tideswell

Do you find that every now and then you just need a totally chilled weekend?

That’s what I was in need of this time, and that is what I got. Not boring or empty, but relaxed and satisfying. I’ve been chock full of cold since Tuesday evening, and I’m still today experiencing the occasional snuffle, sneeze or cough. I needed a less strenuous couple of days.

It was the first weekend in a while where I haven’t driven over to Matt’s straight from my work experience with Bestall & Co., something I normally don’t mind doing, but which would have taken it out of me this weekend. I don’t know if you ever suffer with this when having a cold, but I always end up feeling slightly tipsy; my head feels light and disorientated when I move it while suffering a cold. So driving is fun!

So what has this past weekend involved?

On Friday evening I visited my sister at her place to discuss life, drop off a rather belated birthday present for her, and have a look over a couple of areas of her back garden which she’d like my input with – something I’ll move onto doing after typing this up (it’s Sunday morning as I write).

Afterwards I hurried home to get changed and grab a taxi over to my friend Chris’ surprise 30th birthday party, brilliantly organised by my school friend Rach. Shame that Chris slipped out of the pub earlier than the deadline for guests to all arrive, so the SURPRISE! part was a little unsurprising. He seemed to enjoy himself nonetheless, as did I. It was fantastic catching up with old friends and meeting some new people too, despite me having to leave quite early to avoid making myself more ill again.

Following a relatively early night in bed for a Friday, I was up and about Saturday tidying and then driving over to meet Matt in Tideswell, town home to the “Cathedral of the Peak”, the parish church of St John the Baptist.

I was ridiculously early (a trait of mine), but it worked out fine as I went for a little stroll alone around the town centre, passing up some side streets I’ve never bothered with before. I loved the following rows of houses with their floral fiesta (the photo sadly doesn’t do it justice):

The bench in the bottom left of the above photo is in more detail below, with its curious little notice which I imagine relates to the fact it’s not the sturdiest looking of benches!

I walked past this old chapel, now converted into what I assume is holiday cottage-type lodgings, but the sign left me wondering if it was a rentable function space instead/as well:

At the end of the same street you came face to face with the following little white gate, and I wonder what the house and garden behind the high hedging are like. Sadly as you went along, you couldn’t tell, as the sides of the garden were as overgrown as the front boundary…

Matt’s arrival was precluded by the racket of a car driving along the main road of Tideswell. People stopped and looked for the cause of the noise, and upon hearing it, most waved their arms frantically at the driver, who bizarrely carried on in blissful ignorance. He had two bikes attached to the back of the car, and one had dropped down, for its handlebars to be dragging along the road surface. I hope he pulled over eventually, as he’d have no handlebars left once he hit the 50mph zones!

Nevertheless, Matt’s arrival was the main event. You see, Tideswell has special significance for us. We both love the outdoors and country walks, and after talking online, we eventually met at the sort-of midway point between our homes, in Tideswell. It was a freezing cold January morning, snow was forecast, but we thought “what the heck, let’s do this!” We made it around halfway around the designated walk (I had a map) before the snowflakes started to descend, and quite rapidly it became a blizzard, blocking out the view all around us. Too late – we were too far to turn back.

It was great fun, even if my mobile did run out of battery, leading me to worry that my mum would be worrying as to my whereabouts and wellbeing. I got back to my car, said a hasty goodbye, and left a confused and then pessimistic Matthew behind to make his own journey over to Lymm. Not even the chance of a coffee or cake. Whoops.

Well I obviously made it clear I did actually want to see him a second time, as we were on date number two by the Saturday (two days later!).

But here we are, in a less freezing photo, from a carved stone bench at the midway point of the walk we re-enacted for the most part this weekend:

The route we followed this time takes you down out of Tideswell and along Brook Head into Miller’s Dale (on the banks of the River Wye). You go from passing cheerful local dog walkers to encountering hikers and razor-keen rock climbers, tackling the sheer faces of the cliffs.

You go through the post-industrial houses and apartments of Litton Mill…

…and on until you reach Cressbrook.

Here we deviated from our winter route and kept to the country lanes, heading high up through Cressbrook and past it’s Hall (whose gardens are usually open, £2.50 for adults, but typically not on a Saturday – bad luck!). The sun shone and the grey stone cottages looked characterful and magical. Even the most simple and pragmatic of old properties around the area appealed to me, and Matt too.

Our end goal (besides our cars in Tideswell, of course!) was the little village of Litton and its pub for a spot of late lunch. It’s called The Red Lion and if you want to visit a small country pub retaining its separate rooms and so its original personality, go there! The bar lady (I’m not sure if she was also the landlady, actually) was friendly and enthusiastic, and the food was delicious (and that was just cheddar and tomato chutney sandwiches and fat chips in our case). I wouldn’t mind it being my local.

We followed up our lunch with coffee and cake across the village green and road at the little store. The proprietors here were friendly too. In fact, I can’t think of coming across any bad sorts while out there. The range of cakes on offer was fantastic too: Matt had carrot cake, I had a raspberry and pistachio frangipane tart, but there was coffee cake, chocolate cake, brownies…. The list goes on. Carrot cake is only available one day a week though – be warned!

We polished off the day by visiting three of the pubs down in Tideswell, although we were both sadly disappointed by the George Inn and The Star Inn. They seemed popular with residents, but they had been “modernised” (read: painted neutrals, greens and magentas) and had lost any sort of character.

The last pub, The Horse & Jockey, kept its dark beams and nooks and crannies, and was much the better for it. I wish we’d sampled their food too, but we were both quite full still from our lunch and cakes. Or at least Matt was. I got home that night and devoured an Indian takeaway…

And so it brings me to Sunday, and to typing this, before getting on with some garden designing and some pottering around. I hope you’ve had a fulfilling weekend, whether it’s been quiet or action-packed.

Always remember to make a bit of downtime for yourself though; we don’t have limitless power packs that don’t need recharging now and again.

Gardening addictions

Gardening addictions

How does your garden grow? Full of spontaneous plant purchases? Despite not having my own garden at the moment, I’m still dabbling with plants and produce in my poor parents’ outdoor space. They’re inundated with plant pots, and I’ve only gone and picked up even […]

Surprise surprise

Surprise surprise

Are you a fan of surprises? Do you feel comfortable completely relinquishing control? I’ve never been a huge fan of surprises myself. I think a lot of it was a safety mechanism – being in charge of what I do and when and where was […]

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2017

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2017

Picture the scene: rolling hills in various shades of green, embracing a soft valley as its river gently meanders through. Trees stand here and there as sentinels at their various posts. Their charge? A magnificent golden edifice hundreds of years old.

The location? Chatsworth House, Derbyshire. It’s a place I always slightly took for granted when younger, not growing up all that far from it. I could never quite understand the reverence shown around the rest of the nation.

Strolling into its grounds on June 7th 2017, I now comprehended. At the building’s feet lay the bubbling spring of attendees to the inaugural RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, and boy was I overjoyed to finally have another RHS show happening “up north”. I took Matt along with me to experience the spectacle.

The idea behind the show was pioneers in design, reflected in the modern day interpretation of Joseph Paxton’s long-gone Great Conservatory (the centrepiece of the show, if Chatsworth House didn’t completely steal the limelight) and embedded in the naturalistic landscape crafted by Capability Brown. Along from the show’s entrance gates were the extraordinary and somewhat extravagant free form gardens. I have to confess myself not au fait with these; I like my designs more traditional and down to earth, like my architecture. I rarely like to analyse a garden, preferring simply to soak in its beauty. The studded dinosaur skull I really did not get. More a failing on my part, I suppose.

The show gardens, though few in number and for the most part smaller in dimension than Chelsea, were much more up my street. The IQ Quarry Garden, designed by Paul Harvey-Brooke’s, won Best Show Garden and a Gold medal, although it was not my favourite. I loved the more planted up end of the space, but am no great fan of metal objets d’art or walls. Sorry.

I liked the whimsy and wildness of the Belmont Enchanted Gardens, but did not echo the judges’ sentiment of it warranting a Gold medal, and the wooden spiral staircase in its centre was a design piece too far for me. Pointless and rather distracting, and I overheard quite a few others say the same.

I didn’t much love the Moveable Feast garden either, yet have to admit that I felt the concept was inspiring and important. It was the grey plastic planters that just didn’t float my boat. Sadly, I found the inflatable Great Conservatory a letdown as well. It all appeared a bit giant-kids’-party-setup to me… Maybe the central “paddling pool” didn’t help…

My top three gardens on display were right next to one another. The Cruse Bereavement Care ‘A Time for Everything garden’ had an eye catching range of foliage colours and forms, flowing around the central stone wall and water seating area. Next up was ‘Just Add Water’ by Jackie Sutton (or is it Knight? I’m a little confused). Rockeries aren’t my cup of tea, but the addition of water to enliven the sandstone and naturalistic perennials to soften the construction really won me over. Thirdly was the ‘Experience Peak District & Derbyshire’ garden designed by Lee Bestall: a brilliant amalgam of the region surrounding Chatsworth, comprising its cattle, trees and wildflowers, haa-haas and neoclassical elements of Derbyshire stately homes’ cultivated corners. It also played with perspective subtly yet cleverly – you had to see from both ends to really appreciate the design.

We passed Adam Frost and Joe Swift on a couple of occasions outside, and we then headed on over the blossom-bedecked temporary bridge to seek out the floral marquees and perhaps Carol Klein.

Well we found the marquees – and they did not disappoint – although sadly Carol was nowhere to be seen. No time to dwell on this anyway, as there was simply so much to take in undercover and time was swiftly slipping away. I was determined to leave with something, and my plant of choice was the Dahlia ‘Karma Irene’, whose magnificent, flamboyant colour on the display stand just drew me in immediately. No flowers as yet in my specimens, however!

I could easily have spent a second day dawdling around the event, but it was not to be. I can say without a word of a lie that the show seemed a roaring success, and I’d urge you to get your tickets to 2018 if you get the chance (on sale from early August). Hopefully I’ll make it again!

Hare, there and everywhere

Hare, there and everywhere

I read on the Pentreath & Hall Inspiration blog earlier this year how the author, Ben Pentreath, was aiming to do one new thing every weekend. Unintentionally I have been doing much the same thing.This weekend just passed was a much more sedate affair, but […]

Lymm Open Gardens 2017

Lymm Open Gardens 2017

Do you ever yearn to know what is going on behind closed gates? Maybe you’re an avid gardener like me, and wonder what others do with their own outdoor spaces? I have the perfect remedy… An open garden event. Each year since the 1920s, British gardeners […]

Tea please – visiting Boston

Tea please – visiting Boston

Way back in May I had the pleasure of staying in Boston USA for three nights with my boyfriend. As a teenager I read some Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels (The Gatekeeper Trilogy) which had been set there mostly, and I could picture the streets and houses. From that moment it became one of the only two American cities I was really bothered about visiting.

We stayed in the Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor hotel – a fortuitous change. We were originally meant to be staying in the Marriot in the downtown. Better for shops, but certainly not better for views and experience. Every day involved overlooking the ever-changing harbour as we went up and down in the lifts, and we travelled over to the city centre several times by the water taxi (easily ordered through the reception). The inside of the hotel was nicely decorated too, and while we never ate or drank in there, it was certainly appealing, overlooking the waters outside.

We ate our first evening meal in an Italian restaurant which I was informed Lady Gaga had even eaten at: Italian Express Pizzeria. Insanely, Matt and myself were ravenous and ended up ordering a pizza each, much to the owner's surprise. We soon found out why. Each pizza was huge, and we barely fit them onto our table!

Day two was wet, windy and chilly. We headed into the city by subway, and started out our day with a Duck tour. I'm not entirely convinced the tour guide gave us all that much insight into the place, but he was a laugh (at him as much as with him), and it was a fantastic way to see the city. It even involved a splash down into the Charles River and half-an-hour bobbing along in the re-purposed amphibious vehicle.

We also indulged in tickets for a baseball game with the Red Sox. I had no idea what was going on – and am not sporty in the slightest – but it was strangely mesmerising, and the atmosphere positive in comparison with many British sporting events. There was the slight issue of us buying cheaper tickets at the last minute from a guy in the street, and it turned out (after we purchased beers) that we were sat in the family no-drinking zone, and had to leave our seats to keep possession of our alcohol. Buyer beware! Sometimes during the trip (my first to the USA) I found them rather rigorous with rules; moreso than us Brits, which I was not expecting in the least.

Despite the intrigue of the game, the freezing weather got to us, and we retreated from the stadium after just over an hour to the warmth of a Cheesecake Factory nearby for some hearty food and a cocktail or two.


We broke up the days in Boston with a car rental (wow, Americans are crazy drivers! I think they give the Italians a run for their money) and a drive out to Salem. Matt was eager for a palm reading, which never happened, but we indulged in a witch museum. Very clichéd! And to be honest, tacky and disappointing, with a tour guide who, bless her, had learnt the script parrot-fashion and dim moving mannequin displays that led me to anticipate being murdered and encased in wax at any second…

On the other hand, Salem also has a less well known maritime history to read about at the visitors' centre, as well as the wonderful House of Seven Gables where an extremely enthusiastic lady walked us through its rooms and its past. It turns out it was the inspiration for a Victorian novel which was the equivalent to the Harry Potter series in its day. Much more worthwhile than the occult side of the town, as was our next call before taking back the rented vehicle…

…which was the sleepy little seaside town of Marblehead. We both agreed we wished we'd known more about it and spent more of the day there. When we arrived all shops and cafés were closed and there was barely a soul around, apart from a kerb-crawling realtor (i.e. estate agent) who was eager to give us his card and urge us to consider a home there. Perhaps one day…

The last couple of days involved walks along the Freedom Trail around Boston, in the glorious heat and sunshine that appeared. Guided tours are available, with Bostonians in historical costume, but we opted for a trusty guidebook and enjoyed the route nonetheless for it. We found we had to break the walk down into two days due to the length and the warmth, and the fact we wanted to actually get something to eat on the first leg of it. That said, it would be doable in one day, as we set out later after a thoroughly enjoyable (for those of us who don't suffer seasickness!) whalewatching trip out towards Provincetown. We saw no whales, but my tan got topped up and I enjoyed a Guinness on the top deck with the glint of the waves below. I bet seeing whales is spectacular, but if you don't have such luck (like we didn't), the company offers a free ticket to return within the next 10 years to try again!

Our last activities of the holiday were to climb the 200+ steps of the Bunker Hill Monument (definitely to be avoided for those with breathing and cardiac problems…) to see the fantastic views, and to look around the museum of the USS Constitution. Sadly we were too early for going onboard the docked USS Constitution itself, docked alongside, but hey, we managed to lie in a hammock and hoist a bleating goat (don't worry – not real!).

One last note on visiting Boston: save plenty of dollars and head to the Italian North End for a magnificent meal and atmosphere in the evening (be warned – condos nearby go for $2 million or more, so these restaurants can afford to hike their prices).

Have you visited Boston? Did I miss anywhere essential from my trip that is worth a visit?