Another National Gardens Scheme visit a few days ago. Cloudless sky, pleasantly Aprilly warm, no more.
When I arrived, through a gateway with parallel walls either side, creating a sort of reverberating tunnel, I was horrified at the people noise. So many people! Standing and sitting around, drinking tea and eating cake. Neither peaceful, nor, it seemed to me at that point, very Covid-safe, despite the low rate of infection now prevalent in this part of the country. Other than when getting my jabs, I hadn’t been in the presence of so many people for 14 months. So probably I was over-reacting.
I scuttled round to the ‘back garden’. Empty. As was pretty well every other part of the large grounds. Perhaps this place is just seen as a lovely place to go for tea and cake, (which it is – roaring trade, long – and socially distanced – queue) and who cares about the gardens!
I had learned from the greeter/owner that the garden was started in the 1930s by the then residents, and much additional land had been purchased by them. As I explored the back garden, I would have been very happy for that alone to have been mine, let alone the various other ‘rooms’ to be explored.
Via a tiny corner of the lawn into a conifer area.
And then back to the lawn, which was still noisy, but really not very crowded. Perhaps I’m just not used to the noise of many people at once.
Off to another area, a vegetable plot and greenhouse.
And from now on, I saw almost no-one.
This tree was a splendid backdrop to much of the garden, but is in fact ‘borrowed’ from an adjacent property.
I sat for ages on the stone bench like is one opposite, trying to remember what manual adjustment I had to make to my camera to lengthen the exposure – but failed. Must revise.
Back to the main lawn again. And home to my own cake.
On Tuesday evening I had an online bridge session with my club, with a typically low score, but who cares? In the Tuesday session we can actually see and chat with people, as at an in-person (that’s the jargon term these days, isn’t it?) club session. Good to keep up with, and in many cases to get to know better, other members.
The weather on Wednesday was not as warm as it had been the previous two days. Indeed, it was quite a chilly early start for me, as I had to pick up my Click and Collect groceries from Sainsbury’s before three friends, Chris, Jill and Tony, arrived for a four-part sing in my garden. (Thus the new chairs.) We hadn’t met since early November. Although we had arranged to meet on December 22nd, to sing carols outside a local care home, this was cancelled at the last minute as the home had just had its first case of Covid-19, and plans to move residents into others’ bedrooms to be near the windows had to be abandoned. Pre-pandemic I used to go to this home once a month to sing to the residents, old (mainly pre-1960) pop songs, with karaoke-style recorded accompaniment. Whenever it may that that resumes, sadly there will be several missing faces.
Our four-part sing was really very enjoyable, though I was a bit croaky, not having sung for all those months, and after one particularly high piece my throat was rather sore, but it was so good to be in real company again. In the afternoon, a friend, Kathryn, came for a natter, at a late enough hour to justify taking a glass of wine together. Where we had definitely not seen the sun in the morning, at least it accompanied our wine in a wan fashion late afternoon.
Thursday afternoon saw another bridge session, via a different ‘platform’ (is that the word?) which does not include video and live chat, just what they call ‘live chat’ – which is really typed! It therefore requires less bandwidth and enables less well internet-served people, including my regular club partner, Daphne, to join in.
The next morning, Friday, it was out to met a friend, Zoe, for a resumed monthly walk. We had not met since June. She arranged for us to meet in a car park at Dear Leap, in the Mendip Hills, and our walk was along Ebbor Gorge. Sharp intake of breath as I pulled in to park! This met my eyes. I had never been there before. Zoe said the view was even better when there was no mist.
The weather promised to be cold, and so it was, but we walked (scrambled for part of the way) in glorious sunshine for much of the time. I ached in the afternoon, so it was as well that I had nothing planned for then. Here’s a selection of photos I took as we walked and talked.
As we passed these stones, Zoe explained that the area was known as Deer Leap because ‘once upon a time’ a deer had leapt the distance between them – about 10 metres I would say.
Our path went downwards.
It was sunny at the top.
That was a tiring but very satisfying walk, both from the energy aspect and aesthetically.
On Saturday, I joined a Zoom meeting with members of the South West Early Music Forum. As befitted the season, our Chair, Clare, played through all the chorales from J S Bach’s Matthew Passion on her home organ, and everyone else played, sang or just listened along as they wished.
Instruments I could see on the Zoom call were two bass recorders, a violin (viola?), a cello – and a concertina! Perhaps it was as well that we could not hear each other, and I could certainly see the effect of internet ‘latency’ as I watched others singing – they were all either behind or ahead of me, as I sang to what I heard from Clare.
And to round off the week, in the afternoon I visited a National Gardens Scheme garden, just 20 minutes away from where I live. Midney Gardens was a nursery, tea shop and gardens until Covid. Sadly, the business has now had to close for good, but they are still opening ten times a year for the NGS, raising loads of money for various charities.
I was told as I arrived that there were about 140 different varieties of daffodil in the garden, though some had by now gone over.
To say the garden displayed a few quirky objects would be a serious understatement. But of course a garden has beds, doesn’t it? I wonder what will be planted in this one later on in the season.
They’re not called cauliFLOWERs for nothing.
Midney is so near to my home, and will be offering cream teas later in the year as it opens for the NGS – I shall return!
When I got home, I noticed this in my garden. I’d not seen it in previous years – is it a mutant, a variant?
It was a busy week. This looks to be much quieter. Boiler service, two bridge sessions, hopefully a meet-up or two with friends, and some podcasts to catch up on, with some knitting to finish as I listen.
Firstly, a note for non-England* readers. Since early January we have been in lockdown, which has meant we have had to stay at home other than for: work, where it cannot be done from home; essential shopping; local exercise, by household/’bubble’, or with one person from one other household maximum; and medical appointments. From 8th March: the outdoors meet-ups as described could include sitting down for, say, coffee or a picnic; schools have been back (though are now on holiday); and those in care homes can receive one named visitor.
*For non-UK readers: Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all have their own regulations, but some English live in those countries, so I couldn’t write ‘non-English’.
As of last Monday, 29th March we have been able to meet up outdoors in groups of up to six (or more, as long as this only includes two households) and outdoor sport has been allowed. The definition of ‘local’ has now explicitly been left to discretion. I have had a happily rich week as a result of these small relaxations, (though some of the ‘activities’ would have been permissible earlier, including, obviously, those happening on Zoom.)
Much of last weekend was spent assembling four garden dining chairs, in time for Wednesday. Given that the instructions came entirely with illustrations, and no words, they were not too difficult to understand. The quality of the chairs was good, all the parts were there (with four Allen keys because the lot was of four chairs!), but assembly was very fiddly, and it took me a long time and some sore fingers.
Monday evening I attended a Zoom meeting of the local (Mendip) branch of the European Movement. These have been monthly for some while. Not much campaigning is possible at present, but it is good to be in touch.
It had been lovely weather all day, and a friend, Linda, had told me during an afternoon phone call that she and her husband had just been to The Newt In Somerset, and among other things had much enjoyed the Snakes’ head fritillaries (of which there is one stray in my garden!). On an impulse late that night, I ordered myself a picnic lunch from The Newt for the next day, and, once my organic fruit and veg box had arrived in the morning, I made my way there, not having visited since October.
As I start writing this, it is my intention to write one consolidated blog post for the entire week, but I have so many reasonably decent photos that this may not be possible. Anyway, here are some of those I took at The Newt.
I picked up my pre-ordered lunch from the Cyder Bar, and moved to avoid the crowds around and at the tables nearby. I was pleased to see that there was plenty of empty seating in the Parabola, looking bare at present as its hundreds of apple trees are not yet in blossom.
The vegan spring vegetable pasty was divine. Really. I have never had pastry like it, and the copious filling, of which I could just identify the spinach, was delicious. I can really recommend the apple juice as well, a blend of James Grieve apples and another I can’t remember.
I did not linger, but moved on to an area that was inaccessible the last time I was there, next to the Garden Café.
It overlooks the Kitchen Garden. I wonder what is being developed beyond.
Then I went in search of the Snakes’ head fritillaries, which come in mauve,
I then went a bit mad taking photographs of reflections of trees in various watery areas.
I can’t wait for the Museum of Gardening to be allowed to open. I’m told it’s good for a two-hour visit.
I strolled into the Deer Park, but sadly saw no deer, unlike Linda and her husband the day before, who saw both roe and fallow deer.
I had not been able to venture down this slope previously as it had been shut off as too muddy and dangerous. There is now an easy, sandy, gravelled pathway – I’m sure there’s a technical name for the substance.
Plenty of quirky seating.
Oops, another one.
I felt I deserved an ice cream after all that exercise.
I limited myself to one scoop of the lemon curd flavour, enjoying it on the way back to my car.
And on the way home took care to avoid this leaping horse. I’m sure that wasn’t there before the pandemic…
Hmm, I can see this is going to be a bit long. Part 2 will follow…
Having used my car just for trips for Click and Collect and other essential shopping since the beginning of January, I decided yesterday to extend my definition of ‘local’ yesterday, my eyes so in need of some beautiful stimulation. And there is little more formally beautiful than the gardens of Stourhead, run by the National Trust.
I met a friend in the car park to hand over some knitting I had done for her, and we just marvelled at what we were seeing on the strictly socially distanced one-way walk round the grounds. From the, apparently newly presented, message from the Trust’s founder at the beginning, to the coffee in the Spread Eagle courtyard near the end of the walk, (where it felt really weird once more see people, just relaxing and enjoying themselves) I offer only photos and no further commentary.
Unlike most of my friends, I do not feel impelled to get out into the fresh air every day. It needs the promise of a pretty garden or some such, or really nice weather, (or need for essential purchases) to get me further than my garden. Possibly it’s because from my front window I have a big sky, at times with hundreds of starlings streaming past, and the Polden Hills in the middle distance, to feast my eyes on. Possibly.
But last Sunday, the conditions were almost fulfilled. It was chilly but bright. And I told myself I ‘ought’ to get out, at least for a short walk, so I did. A few weeks ago a friend had shown me a footpath near my house, which in principle I knew existed but access to which I had never sought out, and I decided to take it, this time with camera.
At the end of my road. My goodness. Bristol Water are going at it! This is a good half mile from the works I had seen the other day, and in the other direction from my house. They’ve been working around here for months.
I’m always sad walking up this lane. It’s exactly two years since my lovely little cat, Luciole aka Lulu, was found on its verge, the victim no doubt of a speeding motorist.
Permit me a rant. I think I just about understand, though I don’t necessarily sympathise with them, why house owners don’t like cars turning in the wide space aligned with the pavement outside their houses. But one at the entrance to a field?!
I’m now up on a very busy road, which on weekdays is crammed with large speeding lorries and other vehicles. There is a local campaign to get this downgraded from being an approved freight route. Just a few yards behind me they go dangerously near actual house walls. I now have the choice of taking my life in my hands – cars come speeding round that corner, even though it’s a 20 mph zone, crossing the road to a wider pavement, and then having to cross back a couple of hundred yards further on, or staying on this side and getting squashed by a passing lorry. It’s Sunday, so I’ll take my chance and stay on this side.
That choice means I notice this intriguing gateway on the other side. I’ve driven along this stretch of road hundreds of times, but never once walked it.
Hieroglyphs on a telephone post
This is why I considered crossing the road. I think I need to send this photo to the authorities to get it cleaned up. It’s only 18 inches (45 cm) wide at the best of times .
And here is the entrance to the footpath I’ve never tried. In all those hundreds of times driving along this road, I’d never noticed it tucked away.
And once through, this:
Or this, sweeping though 270 degrees:
Aaah. (Baah?) But you ain’t seen nuttin’ yet.
Walking down the hill, it’s easy to avoid the boggy bit, nicely delineated by sedge.
For this oak, it’s very definitely still winter.
From the bottom of the field, looking back…
… and forward. Now there’s meant to be a stile somewhere here…
… and here it is, tucked around the corner.
The next one looks most unwelcoming.
But fortunately there is an alternative.
The next one is almost pristine.
Here’s why. I do like it when stiles have a good upright post to hold on to.
And the next stile is a double one, over a ditch.
The trodden (and very muddy) track ahead matches the right of way marked on the map.
And I come out onto a familiar road. Theoretically I should be home shortly.
But I am delayed.
‘Oh, give it a rest kids!’
After ten minutes I reluctantly move on. I was getting a little chilled. I look back over my left shoulder.
And I look over towards my right.
And shortly pass my local park where I see humanlets gambolling. Back to school the next day after three months, save a false one-day start in January.
Yes, that way round. Yesterday morning I had to take my car to the garage for its MoT. I was not looking forward to the walk back. Only 15 minutes, but at 8.15 it was cold and damp, with that chill that gets into your bones, as they say. So I took my camera with me, which made the walk pass more pleasantly, even though it also made it last 5 minutes longer.
They called me at lunchtime to say the car was ready, and I decided to take my camera with me again as I walked back to the garage, in case I regretted not doing so. I would have done.
The garage has a very small showroom for second-hand cars. This MG reminded me of the Midget I used to drive in the mid-1970s.
I looked up towards St Benedict’s.
But didn’t go that way, turning off right into a cul-de sac. ‘That reminds me – I must put my recycling out when I get home.’ The houses in the distance are on Wearyall Hill.
The panel says ‘Keep out. This area is liable to flood’. The squirrel was unconcerned.
Across Morrisons’ car park next.
From the car park I could see the top of the RC St Mary’s church, and its hall, which I know now has a lift and, it appears, perhaps a new roof as well.
Faced with the first of many inclines where I live. That feature was something I considered hard when deciding whether or not to move here ten years ago.
Many businesses round here use the word ‘Avalon’ or ‘Tor’ in their trade names.
A pretty corner on a very busy and noisy road.
The next incline, and the Globe Inn next to the park on the right.
I haven’t walked alongside the park for a very long time. I’m sure this wasn’t here before. But perhaps the whole tree was.
When I drove to the garage at 8.15, I noticed how little traffic there was. 20 minutes later certainly not the case. A misty Chalice Hill in the background.
At the top of these steps is…
… a small green space.
But I’m walking downhill now.
Fortunately I don’t need to turn left.
Instead I’m going to walk up a path between the houses.
Another reminder that it’s recycling day.
A once-in-two-hours chance to see the little bus which goes along the principal road through the estate.
As I walk through it, I have had various glimpses of the very misty moors, the Polden Hills beyond having totally disappeared.
Chalice Hill can be made out.
But much of Glastonbury Tor, including its tower at the top, cannot.
Because I have my camera in my hand, I take three photos in my garden.
The frog spawn is nicely turning from dots into commas.
And these ridiculous primroses have been flowering, though not this floriferously, since October.
As I set off to collect the car in the early afternoon, I was pleased to find that the chill damp had gone, (though it was still very cold), and that the tower had returned to the top of the Tor.
The Bristol Water people were still hard at work. I should try to join a gang like this to find out why it is that ‘work’ so often consists of just standing around.
What goes up must go down if you’re walking in the opposite direction.
The swings in the park were in use.
And the bird had not budged as I took a closer look. Ah, so it’s made of wood, not metal.
I took a more interesting route for the last part back to the garage, and had glimpses of the Abbey.
Seeing this mural on the side of the Globe Inn …
… and its signature, gave me an idea for a possible future blog or two. I found later that there are 26 murals on the trail.
I believe this water flows from Chalice Hill.
And that it used to be the source for the Pump Room on the other side of the road in its short life as such.
Now I could see the Abbey’s octagonal kitchen.
The citation on this plaque – the lost adult glove gives an idea of its size – says: “PRESENTED TO THE PUBLIC BY J HRY BURGESS ESQ RESIDENT SURGEON IN THIS TOWN 50 YEARS AND DURING HIS SIXTH MAYORALTY 1864…1865” And what is it decorating? Very appropriate for a surgeon – public conveniences, still, in ‘normal’ times, in use.
From a car park, an even better view of part of the Abbey. And another idea for a future blog.
I knew there was a Glastonbury community ‘fridge’ (not limited to chilled foodstuff) but not where it was, next to the Town Hall. (I am going out very, very little these days!)
This time I go past St Benedict’s church and the Mitre Inn.
And, very close by, The King Arthur.
Finally, a pretty row of houses opposite the entrance to the garage.
My car had passed its MoT with flying colours – but then it had only done 2000 miles in the last 12 months, and much of that was done in the two weeks before lockdown, as I drove to and from Gatwick Airport for my trip to Morocco, of blessed memory.
Going out just once a fortnight for my Click and Collect shopping and any other essential bits and pieces, there hasn’t been much to blog about since Christmas. How I long for restrictions to be lifted and to visit a garden or some such!
But I did have an extra outing yesterday, late afternoon Friday. I went for my first Covid-19 vaccination at the local Minor Injury Unit, the West Mendip Hospital, a few minutes’ drive away in north Glastonbury. My doctors’ surgery had called me three days previously and gave me not only this appointment, but that for my second jab, 12 weeks forward – to the very minute. (Then on Thursday I received a letter from the NHS inviting me to book an appointed online, to be ignored if I was already fixed up.)
I thought people might object to my taking photos, but not at all. The atmosphere was great, the many volunteers all very cheerful, and the one professional I met, a nurse from a surgery in Street, likewise.
told me where to park, a task taken up a few yards on by Rob.
Then this lady, whose name I didn’t get, directed my reversing into the very nearest spot to the hospital entrance.
She told me I could go straight in. (Twelve days earlier a neighbour had had to park a long way away and was told to wait in the car until she was collected, and that they were running 15 minutes behind.)
I had arrived early deliberately because I had unrelated business with the normal hospital reception. This lady told me to explain that to the specially set-up desk.
I did so, had my hands sanitised, carried out my task, and returning to that special desk took this photo.
I was given a form and directed along this corridor This cheery gentleman is not blocking but welcoming me!
He made sure I turned right, and that I went along a corridor, where there was a row of about ten socially distanced chairs. My neighbour had had to sit on the nearest, and gradually move up, a chair at a time, each chair being sanitised after each movement. (The organiser in me would have done that bit differently, but in my case only the first (= furthest away) was occupied, and I sat on the second.)
I had just started reading the form,
when Nurse Emma came up to me and invited me into her cubicle.
She went through the form with me, and left the cubicle for a few seconds.
I’m kicking myself for not taking a photo of her actually drawing the vaccine from the vial when she came back, but I was too engrossed in asking her how much liquid she was going to put into me. The answer was 0.3 millilitres. ‘Is that all?’ I said, thinking of Tony Hancock in a reverse situation.
Having done the necessary (another photo-op missed) she gave me a very detailed leaflet, from which I later learned that I had been given COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT 162b2. I left a box of chocolates with her, and she directed me to a waiting area, where I restored my left arm’s clothing, and took this photo. All were (unsurprisingly) intrigued as to why I would want such a thing, but they gave their permission.
15 minutes later I was on my way out.
This lot at the entrance insisted (well, it was the man on the right again) that for completeness’ sake I should record them as I left in both directions,
and that was that.
Today the top of my arm is quite sore but not at all red, and that tells me that the antibodies are getting on with their work nicely. In 11 weeks and 6 days’ time, to the minute, I shall, all being well, be back there again.
Christmas Day 2020, and for the first time in my life I was going to spend the whole day alone. Not a problem – but I did want to do something a bit different.
For months I had been wanting to take photos of and write a blog post on a beautiful complex of buildings a couple of miles east of the lovely cathedral city of Wells, and just 20 minutes from where I live. The sun god gave its blessing in the morning, and I drove to South Horrington, a village centred around a converted 19th century mental hospital. The hospital’s principal architect was the prolific Sir (George) Gilbert Scott, 1811-1878, known mainly for his ecclesiastical work, but who designed many workhouses and asylums in the early stages of his career. Reading Gaol, St Pancras station and the Albert Memorial all appear in his portfolio of more than 800 buildings, designed or altered.
Later known as Mendip Hospital, this complex opened as the Somerset and Bath Pauper Lunatic Asylum on 1st March, 1848. It soon filled beyond its capacity, attics were turned into dormitories, and its principal psychiatric function was transferred in 1897 to the Tone Vale Hospital near Taunton. But it continued to house long-stay elderly and mentally infirm patients, until 1991 when it was closed under the Care in the Community policy. It was then converted into ‘luxury’ flats and houses, which I discovered in 2011 when I was about to return from France and looking for somewhere to live. I did not pursue the idea of living there for a number of practical reasons, but aesthetic distaste was not among them!
I had driven round the grounds on a few occasions since, but this was the first time I had got out of my car. I parked in:
I have not been able to find the significance of the various colours, and indeed I have been able to find very little detail, historic or otherwise, about the buildings as a whole, apart from the links I have indicated. Given that Gilbert Scott designed so many such, perhaps this is not so surprising.
I walked clockwise around the complex.
I should love to know more about the arches below, and hoped to find that there was some society interested in the history of the place. All I have found is the Friends of the Mendip Hospital Cemetery.
The cemetery is a mile or so away towards Wells, and I did look in 2011 at a property, the back garden of which abuts on to it. I was tempted. To have a nature reserve at my back garden would have been wonderful. There was just a lovely low stone wall between the bottom of the sloping garden and the cemetery, and wonderful views beyond the it to distant wooded hills. But the house needed too much work.
Towards the end of my walk, I got chatting with this couple (with dog!). They had lived in South Horrington, at three different addresses, for 20 years. They loved it, and they particularly extolled the walks there were in various directions, including Wells city just 20 minutes away.
Completing the circuit to my car took me along a footpath and past Fire Engine Cottage.
Time for another visit to a National Trust place. When I booked, for last Wednesday, 10th November, the forecast was for a 14% chance of rain. By the time the day came it was more like 50%. But we were lucky. Driving though showers to get there, I feared another rain-sodden visit, as to Park Cottage, but not a drop of rain fell during our wanderings, (unlike the journey home).
Montacute House is the most splendid of houses to visit in the area, (paceBarrington Court, which runs it a close second, and whose gardens I also visited recently) much used as a filming location, including for the recent television version of Wolf Hall. While the house was not open to the public, under current lockdown regulations, the gardens were, and we had them almost to ourselves.
As you drive there, you have a tantalising glimpse from the road of the long drive and the house at the end, but cannot stop. Here it is from the other direction.
I had forgotten to pick up my camera as I left home, but am quite pleased with the service my phone gave me, and by the time Daphne and I met up at this point, I had already taken photos of the displayed map,
of the amazing house front,
and of the crest emblazoned thereon.
We ambled round the gardens together, looking inwards and outwards.
The back of the house is even more impressive than the front.
A gate entices you into the formal, walled garden,
of which I select just one photo.
We were soon on the other side of the wall once more.
Daphne could not stay much longer, with a delivery to receive at home, but found time to have a takeaway coffee bought from the café (I had to improvise a mask, my nearest being in the car). We sat on a bench, which was just long enough to enable us to be socially distanced, with the view at the top of this post ahead of us.
I was not in a hurry, and had never walked round the village before. The car park was not closing for another 30 minutes, so I took the opportunity to rectify that lack.
If the house at the far end of this row looks a little wonky, that’s because
I felt so good after that visit, and all evening. With all the electronic means of communication and entertainment that I have at my disposal, I had not felt at all lonely during this or the previous lockdown, but I had not realised how much good some real face to face conversation with a friend – enhanced by a beautiful setting both during and after – would do me. That was great!