We have an Allotment! and a Trip Down Memory Lane

IMG_1411

 

 

 

 

Back in January we applied to the local council for an allotment and received the exciting news at the beginning of the last week that one had become available. After making an appointment with the site manager to go and see the plot last Wednesday we came away brimming with excitement and full of ideas.

We are planning to keep it pretty old school by planting fairly traditional crops directly into the earth rather than making raised beds -which look very pretty but offer us no advantage. The crops we have discussed thus far includes kale, carrots, potatoes, broccoli and a mix of culinary and medicinal herbs etc, crops that my maternal Granddad would have easily recognised.

My Grandad was a gentle man and a gentleman, who was also a keen veg grower. Occupying a corner spot, my Grandparents house had a generous garden in which to grow things. The garden to the front was full of pretty flowers and shrubs, while in the larger side garden cabbages and kale stood in precision rows like a troops on parade. It was here, in this garden that my Grandad thought it would be a wheeze for my sister, Deb and me to take photos of cabbage patch dolls amid the cabbages (Sadly I couldn’t find those photos). At the rear, beans and peas covered cane supports, which to our youthful imaginations were teepees in which we would sit and play.

IMG_0854

I digressed somewhat there didn’t I! Our hoped planting for the allotment isn’t born simply out a romanticised nostalgia for (my) childhood but more practically, it’s a reflection of the vegetables that we eat in quantity. Although our allotment is a half plot – approximately 5 metres wide by 26 metres long- there is still plenty of scope for growing and we hope that by next year that between the greenhouse at home and the allotment we will be growing a good proportion of our food. Until then of course we have our veg box from Riverford Organics, with whom we a really impressed.

Stella x

High Days, Holidays, Simple and Slow Days

‘Tottie! You don’t know how beautiful Silverdale is and a tower of our own! Think of that! its a sort of country you never saw before. I’ll answer for it.’
(Elizabeth Gaskell in a letter to Eliza Fox, May 1852)

IMG_0775

In her letter, Elizabeth Gaskell was writing of Lindeth Tower in Silverdale, and a more beautiful and dreamy spot you will struggle to spy. On our many walks in the area we have often passed the tower and admired it, little thinking that one day we might stay there. But, stay there we did.

Built in 1842 by the Fleetwood family – a shipping family, who gave their name to the Port of Fleetwood- as a summer house and folly, the stone tower sits in a beautiful walled garden with panoramic views over the coast; presumably a means by which the family could keep a close and careful eye on their ships while on summer retreat. Silverdale became a favourite holiday destination for Elizabeth Gaskell and her family (her daughters Meta & Julia are described as ‘enthusiasts for Silverdale’ whereas her daughter Marianne  less so). There are numerous mentions of Lindeth Tower and Silverdale in Gaskell’s letters, some describe the activities the family undertake (farming and country pursuits), some include descriptions concerning the quirks of their accommodation; i.e having to walk across a courtyard in all weathers when transferring a leg of mutton from the larder to the kitchen, and then others including this one; in which she describes the tower thus:

‘In the garden, half flower half kitchen is an old square tower, or ‘Peel’ – a remnant of the Border towers.’

That Gaskell thought the tower to be so old, speaks of its dreamy, fairy-tale quality. Especially when one considers, that when she wrote those lines to Charles Eliot Norton in 1858, the tower was in fact only 16 years old. It seems that the romance of the place captured her imagination and so she transported it to another place and time. I completely understand how she felt, the tower wove a spell over me too. There is something folkloric about it, one could easily imagine border skirmishes or daring deeds having occurred there or indeed it featuring in one of Sir Walter Scott’s ballads. It feels like a place outside reality, a liminal space in which a great change can occur. That change of course being one in the heart, mind and soul.

IMG_0668

As a place to stay the tower is simply stunning. Each morning we breakfasted on the roof terrace, and in the evenings we curled up in the cosy sitting room with a book, a roaring fire and a glass of wine. By day we walked. Silverdale is beautiful and is a designated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’; the landscape always strikes me as magical and otherworldly as it shifts smoothly from twee country lanes to woodlands and then just as seamlessly to rugged coast. It’s a wonderful place to slow down and be present, to enjoy the simple things like walking and soaking up the wonderful scenery. It’s a place to press pause and breathe.

Silverdale village is relatively small but does have a lovely hostelry, The Silverdale Hotel, where of course food and a libation can be purchased. In nearby Arnside; a slightly larger destination, there are more places to eat and drink, some little shops selling pretty gifts etc and a small art gallery. There is of course Arnside Tower to see and of course, no visit is complete without a walk on the Knott.

IMG_0710

Next time we hope to stay longer. My beloved and I both noted that as lovely as it was to walk extensively, it would have been just as lovely to spend the day reading and relaxing in the tower and gardens. We had also planned a visit to Cartmel Priory but ran out of time, so plan to do this during our next stay.

IMG_0738
To close -as I began- I cite Elizabeth Gaskell once more, who can say in a few words what I could not in a thousand:
‘…..we all go to our dear old Silverdale on the borders of Morecambe Bay, to run wild there…’

Days of Clover: Planning, Building and Growing

Over the last month we have been busy, busy, bu-sy with garden projects. New fence posts have been concreted in and new fence panels erected after high winds blew the old fence down. A new deck has been built outside the garden studio, which i’m very excited about as it will be my new meditation and yoga spot – when the weather permits, of course! Some very exciting house improvements are starting to come to fruition too, but I’ll save those for another post.

We were really lucky; not long before the fence was blown down we decided to move our greenhouse away from it. Had the greenhouse remained where it was we would have been facing a lot of broken glass in addition to the splintery wooden mass that was unceremoniously deposited in a great heap. Because there is always a silver lining; replacing the fence made us look at the space in a new light and we plan to use the area for growing food. Although not the biggest of areas, we do think we can make it work for us and are quite excited to get going with the growing. However, Our next job, is to order some replacement glass panels for the greenhouse. We did decide (rather stupidly) to glaze the greenhouse on a very windy day: a very Terry and June debacle ensued, resulting in numerous broken panes. We also ran out of glazing clips to hold the glass in so couldn’t finish installing the glass we had. Extras have now arrived, so work can recommence.

IMG_0219

 

 

 

 

 

There is already in place a large brick raised bed that forms part of the retaining wall that separates the upper garden from the lower garden and lawns. This raised bed is already brimming with culinary herbs for cooking and making teas. I did try to grow spinach in there too this year and although the seedlings came up, they were very quickly crowded out by the well established herbs.

IMG_0141

The rear elevation of the garage provides us with a handy spot to espalier the greengage tree that my beloved gave me for my birthday this year. I also plan to re-pot a lovely gooseberry bush I already have and I’m mulling adding a raspberry bush too, to create a soft fruit area. I’ll probably move the potatoes from their current location on the patio – where they sit admidst pots of alliums and lilies and look a little out of place- to the new ‘market garden’. We grow potatoes in those growing sacks that you can pick up in Poundland. We’ve been growing them this for years and always get a decent yield.

At the moment there is a large, very dilapidated and ugly coal bunker alongside the boundary fence between us and our lovely neighbour. The previous owner of the house filled it with compost and used it as a planter. We had thought to re-purpose it to grow salad and vegetables in, but given its poor state and that it previously was a working coal bunker, we didn’t think it prudent to risk contaminants leeching out of the concrete and back into the soil. We will replace the coal bunker with some wooden raised beds instead, which will mean we can also move them if we need to.

IMG_0221

 

Not so pretty coal bunker and mess!

 

 

 

If anyone has any fruit and veg recommendations or growing tips please leave them in the comments.

Love and light

Stella

Giving the winter blues a great big hygge

Winter is a difficult season for me. Although there is much I love about it; cool crisp air, woolly jumpers and the majesty of bare branches, to name but a few; what’s not so much fun is the winter blues. In September their arrival merely hinted at, are in full occupation by October in all their teary, anxiety making, energy sapping glory. Over the years I’ve developed various strategies for dealing with them; a daylight lamp and regular exercise being the chief methods for keeping them at bay, or at least partly at bay. Hygge does the rest.

Hygge is the Danish attitude to life that doesn’t have a direct translation in English, but has been loosely defined as cosiness, or as the blogger Anna Lea West more descriptively terms it as ‘cosiness of the soul’. Hygge is a feeling, arising out of nights shared in the company of good friends and good food, or by curling up with a beloved besides a warm fire drinking hot chocolate and eating homemade spiced cake. In addition to all of these, hygge for me is the long forest walks I take with my beloved, both of us wrapped up in cosy woollens and armed with a flask of coffee; or the homey evenings we spend in front of the wood burning stove in our garden hideaway. It is also afternoons writing at my kitchen table while a scented candle flickers away giving everything a warm yellowy aura.

Hygge has transformed my winters into a time to be cherished rather than feared, and while I can’t claim to be wholly depression free, I’m certainly not the amorphous mass wrapped in a duvet refusing to move from the sofa that I once was either. I can count on one hand the ‘bad’ days I’ve had so far this winter and that is definitely something to celebrate, perhaps, with a little cake, hot chocolate and a candle or two.