Monday, 27 May 2013

Howick Hall again!

  2 weekends ago we were up in North Northumberland at a Scottish wedding; the bride looked radiant, the kilts swung to the bagpipes skirling and the downpour washed Alnwick unnoticed by us.

We've been back to Hawick Hall to see the magnolia Campbelli?

Already the rhododendrons are bursting into flower.

Their borders are dotted with all sorts....

what are these 'red buttons'? Obviously some kind of primula but what name should I ask for at the market garden or in catalogues?

Yes I know pom-pom primulas.... I have those in my borders

and dicentra (Love lies bleeding)

The tulip lawn was emerging when we were there- can you see them? click on the photo and it will enlarge.
We went on the hunt for frogspawn, of which there was none; there was an elegant/ fearsome swan but where have all the herons gone?

Already the bluebells are hanging their heads on the banks

Lord and Lady Grey have developed an arboretum, divided into areas of trees reflecting continents. There are odd shrubs like wintery mahonia still in flower

and azalea

or are those above rhododendrons of some type?

Earl Grey's tomb is at Howick while the column is in the centre of Newcastle. One hundred years on, mariners' great grand children and locals have remembered sailors drowned on a French vessel wrecked off the Howick shore.

Forget-me-nots drift all over the rough grass and Howick's narcisssi deserve a blog of their own.
Why am I sitting indoors at a computer when I have plants outside to get in before the rain forecast for tonight comes?- they could be watered in.......

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Thoughts in a car

Cherry blossom in the month of May
The low rays of peach, evening sunlight shaft from behind us into the car. Once again we are heading south for a few hours to see some of our favourite people. 2 storey high, big-bellied lorries thunder their way past and into the night. Electric blue, emergency lights flash north; someone's life may be ending... or beginning... and all we can do is sing along to 60's music and listen to the news regurgitating every fifteen minutes.

Unknown shrub- looks like a type of weigela
In the twilight of travel, rape fields glow luminous while windfarms loom like eerie ghosts; dandelion-spattered, velvet verges shout to passersby  "Spring has arrived". Eyes of cars twinkle at the steeples spearing the heavens. Lines of tall poplars are silhouetted against the dusky sky, reminding me of all those autoroute journeys through France. Happy days! Remember the little English girl who used to sit at a French gate, giving gobbledygook orders to a French baker - who always obliged with the right things.......pain a raisin, chocolatines....?

Primroses and violets carpet Howick Hall gardens
I never had much time for Angelina Jolie before today but I confess to admiration at her guts. An awful decision to make and courageously announce- but she suddenly became closer to the family of women who are special.

Prickly berberis in flower

I haven't yet changed the Spring duvets for a summer, lightweight bedspread- but since we walked home tonight full of pizza- with an umbrella before us to protect us from hailstones, we agreed on our decision - keep the 9.5 togs on the beds!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Blagdon Hall

In recent years our Bank Holidays seem to have been cloaked in miserable weather- or was it just 2012?

However last weekend (May's Early Spring Bank Holiday when we no longer dance around May Day's maypole) revelled in sunny warmth. Hurrah! and boy! Did we make some electricity to pump back into the Grid!!

After visiting St. Aidan's Flower Festival we went to Blagdon Hall. On our way to Howick Hall on the Saturday, we spotted a roadside notice advising that Blagdon Hall was open over the weekend.

We have lots of Halls dotted around Northumberland.... after all if you are a Victorian entrepreneur, as well as your urban residence- possibly in Gosforth so you can see your factory across the Town Moor- you would probably have a country house too.

Blagdon is located on the northern edge of the urban sprawl of the Tyneside conurbation and is owned by the Ridleys- there's a good Northern family (Reiver) name.

Anyway- their gardens are only opened to the public a couple of times a year ( last weekend for North Northumberland Hospice Care  and sometimes as a Red Cross Garden)

Blagdon visitors looking for frog spawn
 Oh- just remembered something I omitted from my last blog- Donations at St Aidan's Flower Festival were for two of my favourite and local charities- Brian Burnie's ' Daft as a Brush' (which I have seen in action at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, ferrying folk to and from chemotherapy) and the Great North Air Ambulance which I have also seen- or rather heard the helicopter -flying a headinjured student from a Northumberland rugby pitch quickly down to the Royal Victoria Infirmary.

To get back on track......

H1, D3 and I spent a relaxed afternoon swanning around Blagdon's extensive grounds amid drifts of daffodils, narcissi and so many follys (or should it be follies?)

We really must go soon to see Matt Ridley's (Is he now Lord Ridley?) Northumberlandia; she has been constructed, methinks, from earth replaced after opencast mining on the Blagdon estate.

We must get abreast of the times and climb all over the lady. I bet the best (oops! Almost a Freudian slip of the pen) view is as planes come into Newcastle airport as she seems to lie below the flight path.

Now I must do some Bookcrossing to register then release some books into the wild.... but where to leave them to be discovered and read.......

I have just finished 'The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn' by Robin Maxwell. Then I had a dilemna- H1 would have a dilemma- still a problem for him so he asked friends J&J how they spelt it- and was left with egg on his face as they both spelt out DILEMNA!!

See the face looking at you?
 My perplexity was that I was spoilt for choice- what to read next from my pile of literature? 'The Return by Victoria Hislop (I so enjoyed her 'The Island') or Wolf Hall? I have temporarily diverted from Tudor times but will return to Cranmer? soon.

Now I must get some breakfast; I am peckish and Northumberland awaits me!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

St. Aidan's Flower Festival

I used to do it years ago and even did a nightclass in Ikebana for a year! I have always fancied having another go at flower arranging so I am a sucker for flower festivals;

thus when I read St Aidan's Church were celebrating their 50th anniversary with a Flower Festival I had the opening hours all jotted down on the calendar.

We had a lazy lunch and rather than tending my own garden I went to have a gander at other peoples' efforts.

Past the prefab hut built to look like the original 'church' .........and through a door framed by balls of cream roses into a porch with a golden pedestal

and a gaily coloured wreath hanging on the door.

A Christmas wreath recollecting an early celebration at Northern Rugby Club
 What a welcome we were given!

Furnished with explanatory leaflets distributed below hymn shelves topped by orange roses we examined each display.
Bread and wine were symbolised

Marriage was represented                                 
Music played

Baptismal waters flowed over the font

While words from every book in the bible were delivered from the lectern

Saint Aidan stood as though on Lindisfarne

and even the clergy were represented

It seems the community who play together eventually may pray together- they had so many  activities from creche, Brownies, craft and art groups going on for the locals.

There were dozens of people who had sponsored the flowers eg all the blooms which decorated every window sill representing the Psalms

I really liked the Bishop's chair. Do you?

Alliums were definitely the order of the day. They have become popular in the last couple of years in gardens and on stationery; I am quite amazed that I have managed to grow some in my borders but I'd better wait till the heads open before I crow- Pride comes before a fall.....
A welcome cuppa and meetings with lots of old friends completed a delightful visit.
Now where in the Bank Holiday sunshine?