Friday, March 28, 2014

Days out: Clandon Park daffodils

We were getting into the whole daffodils thing, so decided to go and visit Clandon Park, down near Guildford, which has a field of daffodils in front of the house. A few years ago we visited and the daffodils were just over, and we'd always said we'd go back and see them properly another year.

So we did. Except when we got there we discovered that the house and grounds are closed on Saturdays (and Fridays), as they hire them out for weddings (hmm, there is a picture of a bride in a swanky dress in front of all the daffodils on their wedding hire website). Should have checked the website...

We had to admire the daffodils from a distance.

However, we then went on to the wonderful Clandon Park Garden Centre, an independent one, and had a cup of tea in their cafe, before buying lots of plants!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Days out: Valley Gardens daffodils

Last year we heard about the daffodils at Valley Gardens and went to have a look. They are absolutely amazing, and cover a huge area. We went back again this year for another look and a walk along the edge of Virginia Water lake.

Half these pictures were taken with my camera, and half with my iPhone, so apologies if they appear different!

These are the first daffodils you come to. And you think that this is it, until...

a bit further along, there are even more!

And more.

Stream heading down through the daffodils to Virginia Water lake

The shore of the lake

You can tell this side of the river has very different geology - the camellias are HUGE!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Books read 2014#1

I'm going to attempt to keep track of all the books I read this year... although not sure how long I'll manage to keep it up for! I generally track what I've read using LibraryThing, which you can see in the blog sidebar. I'm definitely not reading as much as I did when I was a London commuter, with a three hour commute every day - I was getting through 1.5 books a week then, as well as a daily paper and a weekly one! Now I seem to have managed 6 books in 12 weeks, not so good...

#1 City of the mind by Penelope Lively
This was slow to get started, but I was eventually absorbed by it. It's about an architect in London in the 1980s, who has just got divorced. It's all about how he makes a future for himself, but is much more than that as there are echoes of London through the ages in the places he goes to. As London is a place where I've lived, worked and studied I enjoyed reading about places I know, many of which I now have a different perspective on.

#2 Square metre gardening by Mel Bartholomew
This is an introduction to square metre gardening, and covers everything from why you'd want to do it, constructing raised beds and accessories to planting them. I thought it would be a very useful book, but it's written in a really patronising style, and the author makes it sound like he knows everything (perhaps he does, but it didn't come across very well). He also uses peat, which I don't agree with. Although it is written for a British audience (courgettes and aubergines!), it does read like the author is used to vast spaces for gardens - I thought this was a method for saving space, and it is, but there doesn't seem to be much content for the gardener who can only fit one or two of these raised beds in. Presumably it's based on his square foot gardening books, written for an American audience?  It does have very clear illustrations however, and if you want to construct raised beds from scratch this would be a good place to start.

#3 Faithless by Karin Slaughter
I read a review of this by Greensideknits, then happened to see a copy at the library so picked it up. It's a fast paced thriller, about a  police chief sort of married to a doctor/coroner who happen to find the body of a young girl buried in a box in the forest, and who appears to have been buried alive. I haven't read anything else featuring the same characters, so did have a few problems keeping up with who was who in the plot, but it's an interesting read.

#4 The Lady of the Rivers by Phillipa Gregory
This is the story of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, and so fills in a lot of the background to The White Queen. It's an interesting historical novel, and not a period of history I'm that familiar with, but I kind of wish I could have read it before doing A Level History as it helped me untangle what was going on before the Wars of the Roses (my A Level syllabus started with the Tudors). As usual Gregory focuses on what is happening to the women, so there isn't as much boring stuff about battles which you get in some historical writing. I thought she portrays the uncertainties of the time very well, and the pulls on the loyalty of the people. 

#5 The Rosie project by Graeme Simsion
Don is a genetics professor working in an Australian university. He also probably has Asperger's Syndrome. The Rosie project is the hilarious story of  how he attempts to find the perfect partner, and how he meets Rosie, who really doesn't appear to be compatible with him at all. I really enjoyed reading this. Serious subject matter, but dealt with very well, and with a great deal of humour.

#6 Planting plans for your kitchen garden: how to create a vegetable, herb and fruit garden in easy stages by Holly Farrell
A very clearly laid out, methodical book, that provides plans for a variety of modular vegetable, fruit and herb growing layouts. There are plans for all kinds of gardeners, from the serious grower, with plenty of time and space, to those just wanting to make the most of the amount of space they have. It also takes into account soil type, what sort of produce you might want to grow, and growing to encourage wildlife and pollinators. I found this incredibly helpful (it's much better than the Bartholomew book I reviewed above), and easily adapted to your own gardening circumstances. 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Days out: Reading

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of our first date (I know, aren't we soppy?!) the OH took a day off work and we headed off on the train to explore Reading. It's somewhere I've been to many times before, but mainly to change trains or meet up with someone, so I'd never really explored the centre before. 

First stop was John Lewis, to fill up on my free cup of tea and a cake (sign up for a free My John Lewis card and you get vouchers for a free hot drink and a cake each month).

Then we were off to explore. We spent the rest of the morning in the museum, which was quite full of school parties, but fairly well done and interesting. We didn't actually see most of it before we felt hungry and went in search of lunch!

We found Forbury Gardens not far from the museum. The lion commemorates the loss of soldiers from the Royal Berkshire Regiment in Afghanistan in, er, 1880 (some things never change).

The gardens lead to the ruins of the 12th century Abbey. The Abbey Gateway in the picture later became a school attended by Jane Austen.

Later we had a wander round the town centre. This impressive looking church wasn't open, so we didn't find out much more about it. It turned out that it was Reading Minster.

The newish shopping centre (amusing named "The Oracle", which was earlier the name of Reading's Workhouse...) is on both sides of the river, which was looking rather high when we visited.

At some point we'll go back. We've got the rest of the museum to see, and obviously more cake vouchers to use in John Lewis...

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Ravellenic Games - the medals

I was called to the podium, so here are my medals!

Couldn't resist putting them in the sidebar as well. I really enjoyed being part of the Ravellenic Games - I met some great people online via Team GB and on the main game forum, even if I did have trouble keeping up with all the projects people were making. I now have even more projects added to my queue as well.

After the floods

It's only four weeks since the second lot of flooding, but today was a really bright sunny day so I thought I'd go out and take some "after" photographs.

River Thames looking towards Staines Bridge today

 And in January.

The jetty is still a bit under water today

but in February even the steps were under water.

And the bottom of the bandstand is very muddy and the water still above its usual level,

but a lot lower than it was in February!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Garden at the beginning of March 2014

Finally, a day of sunshine, and on the 1st of the month too! Although temperatures have been dropping at night (it was 1°C when the OH first went outside yesterday morning), it has been relatively warm and sunny in the last few days, with temperatures averaging about 10°C during the day.

The garden is beginning to look a lot more interesting as flowers come into bloom.

Lots of crocuses are now around:

There are loads of flowers on the hellebore.

Plenty of daffodils now flowering.

Including some rather sweet little Tête-à-tête ones, which I planted in the Autumn.

And the Camellia is flowering, with plenty more buds still to open. I'm rather amused by the advice for Camellia growing on the RHS website. Apparently it should be in a shady spot in ericaceous compost, neither of which is true in our garden!

Spring is definitely here!