Sunday, July 26, 2015

Holiday 2015: crafty stuff

The last of the holiday posts! I had a few ideas in mind for things I wanted to buy on holiday, as I'm trying to avoid buying just random stuff to stop the stash building up again. There were a couple of nice fabric shops in Worcester, and I found this elephant fabric in Rags Fabrics (I couldn't find a website for them) to make a little dress for my impending-niece.

In Hereford we happened to come across a fabric and yarn shop in an alley leading to the cathedral, Doughty's does have a website. I managed to find both a ball of Sirdar Crofter DK in the same colourway as the one I got in the knitting group's secret santa in December, but also a book of Crofter DK patterns at half price. With two balls I have enough to make a pair of snuggly bedsocks (how old am I?!).

And in Worcester we found possibly the smallest but most packed wool shop I have ever seen, Hopmarket Wools, where I bought a ball of sparkly pink baby wool to make a frivolous cardigan for the impending niece (my brother and SIL aren't ones for gender-stereotyping, so they're going to love a sparkly pink cardi!). King Cole Baby glitz isn't the type of things I'd usually choose... But the balls are 100g, so you only need one to make a baby cardigan.

I am really behind with my stash running totals. In June I bought 458m of yarn, but didn't finish any projects, so that gives a running total for the year so far of 616m more yarn used than purchased. July should look better, as I haven't bought any yarn (yet), and finished a couple of projects, which I'll blog about soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Holiday 2015: outside Worcester

As well as all the time we spent in Worcester itself, we did several days out into the surrounding area. One day we went to Hereford on the train. We had also intended to stop off at Great Malvern on the way back as the surroundings are gorgeous, but it was raining hard so we changed our minds!

Hereford Cathedral was, of course, an obligatory visit for us. Another beautiful cathedral, this one very quiet and not overly-touristy. I had visited last year for a conference so had a sneak preview. We also went in the Magna Carta exhibition, saw Mappa Mundi and the chained library. Hereford is quite small, but we enjoyed a cup of tea in a church café in the centre, and I also found a small yarn and fabric shop! I'm going to talk about holiday purchases in another post...

One day out was to a National Trust property, the Brockhampton estate. This includes a medieval (late 14th century) manor house, now with plenty of rooms open to see, plus acres of traditionally farmed land and woodland. The house itself is surrounded by a moat and beautiful gardens, and only survived because it is at the bottom of the hill, and the owners that wanted a bigger, more modern, house, decided to build it at the top!

Great Hall with huge fireplace. It was very quiet when we went round (the advantage of holidaying a week after half term), so we almost had the place to ourselves.

The rooms were dressed to represent different periods in the house's history. This was in the living room, and I liked the sewing machine and associated equipment around it.

In the grounds there is a ruined chapel, once used as the chapel for the house until a church was built.

Another day we went to a (very) different National Trust property, Croome, which was the first landscape garden designed by Capability Brown, and also a secret Second World War airbase. It was really interesting seeing what the NT had done there - the visitor centre by the car park, and café are housed in what was the hospital wing of the airbase, and there is an RAF Museum there too. A short walk up a track takes you into the Capability Brown landscape, now being restored. There are beautiful walks across the parkland, although it was almost too hot on the day we were there to do them.

The church (just visible in the distance) is now looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust.

The house itself is being restored, but you're allowed to wander around various bits of it, and see the work that is underway. You can also climb to the top of the scaffolding to the "Sky Café", but we decided against that as I'm not really into heights...

The borders are just being planted up, it's going to look fabulous in a year or two. This view of the church was on our walk back to the car park.

And, finally, we popped into Pershore to see what it was like. Pershore Abbey is quite fun. About two thirds of it was demolished at the Reformation (the building used to end where the iron gates are in the picture below), so all that is left is the quire, bought by the townspeople to be their church. They had to add some buttresses to it to stop it falling down after the nave was demolished.

It's still rather large and impressive looking inside!

Think that's all for now. I'll leave my update on craft purchases to another post!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Holiday 2015: Worcester

At the beginning of June we ventured off on a week's holiday to Worcester, a place I've changed trains in before, but never actually visited properly. It was definitely worth a visit, with loads to do to fill up a whole week, and beautiful scenery.

We stayed in this rather nice looking flat. Although it looks nice, it was actually rather impractical. It turns out that having the kitchen in a row down the side of the living room area like that looks lovely, but means you use up quite a lot of energy walking up and down just doing something like getting breakfast, let alone cooking a meal. It would also be fun if one person is watching TV and the other one is cooking/washing up/running the dishwasher/doing a load of washing.

 It was right next to Diglis Lock, where the Worcester & Birmingham Canal joins the River Severn. We enjoyed watching the barges going through the lock.

Going into Worcester was a pleasant 10 minute stroll along the river banks into the centre of the city.

Worcester has suffered from a lot of floods, and these stones set in the wall by the river show how high it has reached some years.

We did a lot of exploring in the city itself, visiting most of the obvious historical things as well as mooching round the shops. A visit to the Commandery had been recommended to us, but we were disappointed with it. Despite being an incredible building with a lengthy and varied (medieval hospital, military headquarters, family home, factory and college) history, it was really hard to get a grasp of any of that, as all that is on display is a load of empty rooms, accompanied by

one of the worst audio guides I have ever encountered. OK, so I hate audio guides with a passion, generally because they involve silly music and trying to "set the scene", tend to assume that all users are aged about ten and cause visitors to clump around exhibits. And I'm really not an auditory learner, I prefer reading things. This one was complicated by having six different "layers" you could listen to in each room, doing all of one layer took an hour, so you kind of had to stick to one. Except some of them didn't really work as the room we were in at the time didn't exist at the earlier periods of history. 

 Would have been nice to find out more about these wall paintings...

In some rooms there were things to try out, so I took full advantage.

After the disappointment of the Commandery, we were very surprised by our visit to Tudor House Museum, which hadn't been recommended to us, but which proved to be great fun and really interesting. It's in a 500 year old building, with displays about the building's past use, for things such as spinning, weaving, brewing, coffee shop, school clinic. It's crammed full of stuff, with lovely volunteers to answer questions and lots to see and touch.

Just down the road from Tudor House is Greyfriars, a very tiny National Trust property built in 1480 and rescued from demolition after the Second World War. Inside is a delightful mixture of things collected by the couple who rescued it. It also has a brilliant tea room, and you can sit on the patio and admire the beautiful garden over tea and cake!

And, finally, Worcester Cathedral, which we ended up leaving until the last day as we were out and about on other days, or other venues were only open on certain days. Photography inside required a permit, which I didn't buy, so my only photo is of the outside! Inside is glorious, with plenty to look at, including the tomb of King John (of Magna Carta fame) and also Arthur, Prince of Wales (older brother of Henry VIII, whose death really did change the course of history).

More still to come!

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Garden at the beginning of the month July 2015

I am really behind with blogging. For various reasons, June was a rather frantically busy month. I am also really behind on reading blogs and commenting, so apologies if I usually comment on your blog and haven't done in about six weeks!

Part of the delay was me putting off posting because it takes sooooooo long to upload photos. Our internet connection isn't the best because of the joys of copper wires (no fibre optic down our road), and I used to use a free photo editing program to batch reduce the size of photos before posting, which made it much quicker. Since I got a new laptop that nice program has disappeared from my computer though. I was selecting photos for the blog, and then having to leave the computer for 90 minutes whilst they uploaded, which isn't ideal. Anyway, I have found a way to reduce the size of photos on the new laptop, which isn't quite batch doing it, but is quicker, so hopefully that will help. Anyone else got any tips?!

As you can see from this picture, it's been hot. And there hasn't been much rain. The lawn is beginning to look rather brown.

We've got loads of fruit ripening, both of the apple trees are covered in apples, which I thinned in June in the hope it will allow some of them to ripen to a decent size. The apples on the standard tree are already turning red, which I think is all the sun they've had.

The Autumn fruiting raspberry canes have been covered in berries, and I've already eaten several bowls. Looks like we're going to be eating raspberries non-stop for months at this rate!

The espalier apples are smaller as they tend to ripen later than the other tree. I really had to thin this one out as it was so covered in apples the branches were drooping!

Sedum flowering
Can't remember what this one is called, it was part of a mega-buy plug plant pack about four years ago

The lavender seems to be enjoying the heatwave.

The rose has been covered with flowers

My favourite fuchsia! Although it's a bit of a pain keeping the containers watered in this weather.

Another fuchsia, this one was in the garden when we bought the house (not that we knew it then, as it was snowing!). Remember snow? Remember cold? Yep, seems like a distant memory.

This is Escallonia 'Pink elle', which grew really tall since last year and has loads of flowers developing. It's flowered about a month later than our other Escallonia.

This is the first of the hydrangeas to start flowering.

Some more of my fuchsias! The middle one I grew from a cutting, and the one on the right is a new one I bought on holiday at Croome.

Are you in the middle of a heatwave too?