Showing posts with label Gardens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gardens. Show all posts

Friday, 7 August 2015

A Taste of Sweden - Simple Swedish Style

A simple vase of flowers at Grassagarden



There is much to enjoy and explore in Sweden.  On a sunny day, the water sparkles in the strong, clear, clean light, the days are endless, the sunsets memorable.  

But what I also love is the Swedish sense of style which perfectly suits the Swedish climate and the strong light.  So simple but so beautiful.  




We arrived on the small island of Rastaholm on Lake Malaren to find that it was barbecue night at the Rastaholm Inn.  The freshly-caught barbecued sea bream was quite simply one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten, served with a selection of freshly prepared salads, a cold glass of white wine and finished off with a delicious coffee served with a glass of warmed rum and chocolate truffles and fresh berries.  There was live music and later we took to the dance floor...


Table Decorations, Rastaholm Inn, Lake Malaren
The morning after the storm that brought us to the town of Strangnas on the shores of Lake Malaren was my husband's birthday and luckily the day was fine and clear, so we spent the morning exploring the town.  We came across the pretty Cafe Grassagarden which dates from the 17th century and used to be an inn. 





 The interior was just as charming and I loved the windows.  I have a big love affair with Swedish windows.








Another favourite spot on the mainland is the KutterKonfect, a lovely shop and cafe in the town of Trosa not far from Stockholm.  The speciality is chocolate-covered marzipan, the presentation is amazing and the temptation is huge!



Friday, 1 May 2015

The Manor at Hemingford Grey and Lucy Boston


I knew we would go back to Hemingford Grey.  The name itself has snagged on my imagination for so long now, and the associations it has with the wonderfully evocative children's books about the Children of Green Knowe, written by Lucy Boston and set in this lovely ancient Manor House, were always going to call me back.  It's a place that haunts me.  Once called The Poltergeist House and much feared by the locals, it was brought back to life by Lucy Boston and is now lived in and loved by her daughter-in-law Diana, its spirit at peace.

The story goes that, many years ago, Lucy heard there was an old house for sale in one of the Hemingfords in Cambridgeshire and remembering the neglected old Manor House by the River Ouse she had noticed years earlier, was sure it must be that one, so she turned up on the doorstep one Sunday and announced she would like to buy it. The owners were very surprised as they had only that morning decided to put the house on the market and had not yet told anyone.  She did buy the house and never did find out which house it was that was actually for sale.  It is that kind of house and exercises a strong pull on the imagination.




This time, we were more organised and joined a tour of the house which is still lived in as Diana Boston's home and it is very much a time warp.  Built around 1130 it has thick Norman walls and gorgeous quilts in place of curtains in some of the rooms and is full of colourful paintings some of which were painted by Lucy.  She was also a keen quilter and spent the winters writing her books and making a wonderful and varied array of quilts, and the summers creating and working in her garden. The quilts are well worth the visit, as is the bedroom described in the Children of Green Knowe and the 900 year old Music Room where Lucy gave musical evenings for RAF servicemen during the war and which is sometimes used for reading ghost stories in the winter.


But today, the sun was shining and the garden in all its Spring glory drew me out of the house.  I can't wait to go back again to see the old roses when they are in flower.

It is well worth the detour so do try and visit if you are ever in the area and I promise you won't come away empty handed as Diana sells an assortment of colourful cards featuring the house, garden and Lucy's quilts as well as scarves, handmade jewellery and plants from the garden.  She has copies of all the Green Knowe children's books for sale and a fascinating book she wrote herself about Lucy Boston's amazing quilts and she would love you to visit.

But do contact her first if you would like a tour of the house as this is by appointment only.  www.greenknowe.co.uk

 










Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Inspiration, Association and The Manor at Hemingford Grey


It is strange how a chain of thought can trigger events.  Life in Suffolk these last few years has been punctuated by regular trips along the A14 to visit my partner's father in Staffordshire, and we have always meant to stop off one day and visit the Manor House at Hemingford Grey, the setting for Lucy Boston's Green Knowe children's stories and one of the most romantic place names I have ever come across, but time pressures have always intervened.  I recently came across a reference to the Manor and the Green Knowe books when reading Elizabeth's blog post recently about the delights of her wood burning stove and comfort reading at Welsh Hills Again which struck a chord.

So it was that yesterday afternoon, a beautiful, cold, sunny early Spring day this particular wish was granted. Our trips cross-country have ended this week as the family gathered on Monday to say goodbye to John, who celebrated his 98th birthday only three short weeks ago.  A local legend, he was still driving, swimming and taking regular walks until last September and will be much missed. The end of an era for his family.  But after the tears and the laughter, the reunions and reminiscences and so very many cups of tea, we set out once more to our Suffolk home and, this time, we had time and I am so glad we did.  


We parked the car in the pretty village street and walked a short distance along the banks of the River Ouse, opened the gate into the Manor garden and walked down the path between the clipped yew hedges towards this beautiful house, Green Knowe the oldest continuously occupied house in England and every bit as enchanting as I had hoped.  The house is only open by prior arrangement or for special events, but the garden was open and, having been greeted by the owner, we had it all to ourselves and spent a happy hour exploring, admiring the intense vivid blue carpet of chionodoxa intermingled with late snowdrops, winter aconites, primroses and hellebores.  Lovely even at this time of the year, it will be stunning in the summer when the roses are out and we must visit again, many more times I hope.  And what a wonderful place to come and remember John as now this place will always be associated with him in our hearts.  


Rest in Peace.

Friday, 29 August 2014

A Taste of Sweden - Trosa



It was a chance meeting with Arno and Gita, a tricky mooring and a vicious tree attacking my partner as he helped them tie their boat up next to ours on the rocks at Ringson (followed by a compensatory gin and tonic on their boat) which led us to Trosa, a very pretty little town with a strong New England feel.  I think you can really see how Swedish style influenced building in parts of North America.


This gorgeous house reflects its surroundings, the light green of the roof tiles picking up the light green of the larger tree, while the colour of the railings and the small tree in the front garden are picked up by the window frame in the eaves, all sitting tranquilly beside the river.


Our favourite cafe, Kutter Konfect, which serves delicious coffee as well as hand-made marzipan and truffles.  The Swedes love their coffee and the quality is very high - a lovely, mellow flavour and just the right temperature. We never had a bad cup of coffee in Sweden - a real pleasure. 

Monday, 4 August 2014

A Taste of Sweden - Millesgarden, Stockholm

Scandinavian design was the theme of the second day of our city break and we set off across Stockholm to the outskirts of the city and the wonderful house and garden of Carl Milles, sculptor and garden designer, and his artist wife Olga.  So much contemporary design has been influenced by their work, which flourished in the first half of the 20th century, and has some parallels to the English interior and garden design movement inspired by the Bloomsbury Group both at Charleston and Monks House in East Sussex and at Sissinghurst in Kent.




 



Carl and Olga Milles Breakfast Room






Anne's house (in the grounds)



Continuing the design theme, we ended the day back in central Stockholm at the hugely influential and incredibly expensive design store, Svenskt Tenn, and I made the discovery that my own interior design philosophy of mixing old and new, different styles, colours and patterns actually originated here with Estrid Ericson and Josef Frank, who, incidentally, designed the furniture in the rooms above at Anne's house in Millesgarden.

With many thanks for her inspiration and advice to Lucille at usefulorbeautiful.blogspot.co.uk who was in Stockholm shortly before me.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Tulips are so beautiful right now

Today is time out from all this madness of putting our house on the market and at the same time reassessing our lives, where we are now and how we want the future to unfold.  This turns out to be better than therapy and there are plenty of opportunities to contemplate the tulips while we try and make some tough decisions.  My jealously guarded pot of tulips has survived the further depredations of the dog, but she continues to show great interest in them!  Her other particular favourite flower to nibble is carnations

I am having serious second thoughts about the chain of events we have triggered.  Who are these strangers who trail through my home, poking about in my closets and demanding to know exactly how much sun we get in the courtyard, and when (it varies depending on the time of year, how high or low the sun is in the sky), then dismissing us for their own spurious and personal reasons as everyone chases their own particular version of the dream, the rural idyll.


Putting so much time and energy into our home recently has only made us love it more, appreciate all the things that work for us here, despite the things that don't.   Every little change we make, every detail we complete, every vision I have had for the house and garden that we are now realising, bonds us to it more.  It is such a jewel of a house, full of colour and love and it fits us perfectly now after the five years we have spent here.  The thought of starting again in another house with all the adjustments that will have to be made does seem increasingly daunting!  And life moves on.  I know things won't be the same again if we do make a move back but at the same time, I do miss my old friends and companions and would love to spend more time with them.




The memorial service for my friend was held last week in the lovely old village church in Kent where my youngest son was christened and where my mother used to join me for the annual candlelit carol service.  The church was full of old friends and familiar faces and of course everyone wanted to catch up with us and then I was so sure we were doing the right thing.  But my sons have all left home now and my mother is no longer alive so should I really disrupt our lives to chase a dream, a time that has vanished into thin air. Perhaps the answer is to make sure I spend more time there in future and keep up with my old friends but hold onto what we are building here?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Nostalgia

"Footfalls echo in the memory 
Down the passage we did not take 
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose garden
My words echo thus
In your mind"

Burnt Norton - T S Eliot

We drove past my old home the other day, on a brief visit to Kent, and stopped for a moment in the road outside.  A house I once lived in, a home that once was mine, a garden I once loved, an orchard where children played and a life that fitted me like a glove; a door that once was open to me, now closed for ever.


It is a strange thing, to so utterly possess a house, to sweep through the white five bar gate and park my car in the drive outside, put my key in the latch and go inside, to find my life laid out there, my possessions just as I left them, my pets waiting for me, my family coming and going, to wander outside, sit and have a cup of coffee making plans for my day, answer the telephone, put a wash on, go for a walk.  Ordinary, everyday things. And then one day it's finished.  Someone else has the keys.  I am a trespasser now and my life has moved elsewhere.

Drive on by, it's not my home anymore.  It exists only in my mind.






Monday, 2 July 2012

Summer Garden





The roses under my bedroom window are so beautiful this year.  They, at least, are loving the wet, cool weather we have been having this summer.


I dream of having the time to just sit in the garden on a warm afternoon and not constantly to leap up to pull up a weed, or grab a trowel or spade to attack whatever is discordant.



And this is where we do sit on the rare warm evenings we have had this summer, with a glass of cool sauvignon blanc when the day's work is done.



It was so good to have Mum to visit the other day and see her enjoying a bit of late afternoon sunshine in our garden.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Perfect



A walk in a rain-drenched bluebell wood 
the last cool rays of the evening sun 
a wicker chair, a woolly jumper 
and a glass of white wine   

Practising for summer!