With the Garden party for Christina’s 60th in view we had had a good incentive to cultivate and stock up the garden. On the one hand we have decided to let this year’s growing season progress and the previous owners’ plantings unfold. But on the other hand there are plenty of gaps to fill.
With the coming of spring it was clear that there had been no bulbs lurking beneath. I emptied a few pots of Tete-a-Tete daffodils into the border and allowed other bulbs, including hyacinths, to flower in the pots they had overwintered in. All those hyacinths will find their way into the walled garden round the garage.
We came back from Scotland at the end of April to find that new garden finished and filled with soil. A first task was to lift the shrubs we had removed and heeled in temporarily, and replace them at the front. I also lifted one or two wrongly sited shrubs from the back garden to plant there, and added shade-lovers brought from 88, as well as the potted Wisteria which has been waiting in the wings and the Helleborus niger plants I kept in pots in the winter. The only plant which showed signs of stress was the Photinia but frequent watering seemed to arrest the rate of leaf drop.
My sowings of Tom Thumb tomatoes and Morning Glory germinated and were duly potted on. The Morning Glory went into large pots with a bushy white daisy and possibly went outdoors too soon, but they seem to be holding their own. The tomatoes went out in mid-May in assorted containers with French marigolds. A sowing of mixed salad leaves has provided several pickings and dwarf peas and dwarf beans have been planted out.
Our neighbour gave us a couple of pickings from her asparagus bed. This seems a sensible, low-maintenance crop for us to add to our small potagerie so we ordered some crowns from Suttons which went in, possibly a bit late, but they will be ready to harvest in 2013; you should not harvest in the first year.
I tidied round the small pond, yanking out grass clumps and filling the pond margin ground with suitable plants – sedge, Iris, Water avens, Water mint. In the two weeks leading up to our departure for St Vaast the weather in Dorset was very dry, prompting some watering of new plantings.
When we arrived at 104 we found our overgrown garden awaiting attention. And the identity of the mystery plants we found growing in our lawn in March was finally revealed……
At the beginning of May Nick and I led the Winterborne Walkers along our chosen route and were not surprised to find that the lush bluebell beds of Bonsley Common were past their best. On the other hand the Wild Garlic and Yellow Archangel were in full swing and the Oilseed Rape was chest-high. The walk took us across the Iron Age Hill Fort site at Ringmoor and, as it happened, at the end of the week I drove to Cornwall for the Trevelgue Head Monograph launch. I earned my invitation by way of a short chapter on the marine shells which were excavated at this Iron Age Hill Fort site. Driving this far southwest I was bound to include a day at Shang-ri La.
There I found Stella and Rose in good form, and during the statutory tour of the garden succeeded in raiding a number of desirables: a Vinca with a dark purple twizzly flower, a pink violet, Iris sibirica, Water avens………… Staying with Pam and Andrew I gained an aquatic Iris – I think it might be the Louisiana Iris ‘Little Rock Skies’ – and a fabulous bunch of Alstroemeria which lasted two weeks.
A birthday party for my sister gave us the excuse to rehang the crepe paper garlands we made for the Fete de la Mer in St Vaast La Hougue last July. Nick put these up with help from Ted, Lola and Ruby who had come to stay a couple of days beforehand. He looped the flower chains around the gazebo and hung them in the hall and around the gallery indoors. It was a fine day, and a noisy one with thirteen small children. A magician entertained them under the gazebo then performed ‘strolling magic’ for the adult guests whilst the BBQ and food preparation were underway.
Barns and his crowd stayed over till Sunday, and together with Lola and Ruby we all went to Durdle Door for walk before lunch. It was extremely windy when we spilled out of the cars on the cliff top, prompting moans from various quarters, but once down on the beach at the eastern side of the Durdle promontory it was sunny and sheltered. A tin’s worth of flapjack was demolished and then we climbed the path to the carpark and drove home.
The smell of roasting lamb as we entered the house was high on comfort factor and luckily we were joined by ‘Uncle Albert’ to help us tackle the 9lb joint!
Lis and Charles Martin came to stay, en route to Cornwall. The Martins and the Lights go back to our earliest days in Godalming. We belonged to the same babysitting circle, whose currency was plain postcards worth an hour each. We met regularly at supper parties and our children played together. Charles and I share the same birthday, same year. Dan and Caroline were a happy pre-school duo, immortalised on the front steps of 88 when I photographed them one day wearing hats. Dan’s was a black cowboy version, Caroline’s was shocking pink felt.
Lis and Charles stayed for a couple of nights and we spent one day out and about, taking in Lulworth and the Fleet. In the evening we ate at The Bull near Sturminster Newton, venue for the forthcoming Winterborne Walkers’ lunch. Their visit was a happy interlude. The years have, it seems to us, changed us rather little, but one phenomenon rooted us firmly in the present. Lis and Charles came with their laptops and, like Nick and I, periodically opened up to check their emails. I learnt that Lis watches items on Ebay and trades from time to time, Charles follows American Baseball results. Meanwhile Nick played Solitaire and I formatted photos. He introduced them to Spotify……… Lis is now a fan. We all found it amusing when we returned from our supper on Thursday evening, walked into the house and, to a ‘man’ turned on our laptops. Glancing down from the balcony Nick observed that it looked like a typing pool!
As the vehicles disappear down the drive, we go back into the house and then take ourselves off for a walk.
Maddy and Andrew have yet to see the farthest reaches of the estate. Reaching the point where a kink in the Spey widens the river, and causes small eddies to form, we pass through the gate and follow the river bank along. We pass through a tract of conifer forest, the floor of which is uncharacteristically soft and lushly green with long grasses and mossy mounds. Passing a small cluster of houses we turn east and regain the road and walk back to Inshriach. At the point where the house becomes visible through the trees we cut into the grounds and seek out the knoll and rounded ‘bowl’ which forms the core of The Insider festival which takes place in June.
Back at the house we take some time out in our rooms. Surfacing from a light sleep, I hear voices outside and later Andrew tells us he heard children’s voices in the house. After a simple supper cooked by Maddy, we watch a film then retire.
All packed up and ready to roll, Nick seeks out Lucy and Walter. Goodbyes are lengthy and we eventually drag ourselves away. Such a happy week, full of fun and good memories.
After a week of intermittent fun, frolic, filming and feasting it is time to break the Inshriach fellowship for another year. Most of us will be dispersing on Sunday so we plan the Easter Egg Hunt for Saturday. By happy coincidence, to complement the Lindt chocolate bunnies that I have bought for the children, Maddy and Andrew have gifted a large Thorntons rabbit. We concoct a hunt which involves the children finding the named children bunnies which the mother rabbit has lost. As it is raining the lost bunnies are hidden around the house, together with some small foil-wrapped eggs. Once all are found we ceremoniously break the large mother rabbit and a chocolate fest ensues.
After a sustaining brunch before the young leave on their departure day, there is another ceremony: ‘Balloon-Bursting’. These balloons have seen good service as Zombie heads, characters in Dan’s cast for his movie short ‘The Rise of the Dead’. Once Charlie and Ruby see what is afoot they are having none of it. Their balloons are hastily taken back into the house for later despatch.
With much hugging and kisses our children and grandchildren say goodbye to each other, to us and to Lucy and Walter. And then there were four. Maddy, Andrew, Nick and I take ourselves out for a walk………
Our trips to Inshriach involve several set pieces. One involves a dinner cooked for us by Allan Heaney at the house, and to which the two eldest grandchildren are invited. It will probably be a year or two before the next in line are old enough to join us. Sam and Joel enter into the spirit of the evening, wheeling out their best manners on all fronts. Sam gamely tried not just one, but two of Dan’s oyster chasers.
The previous evening we fetched Fish and Chips from Aviemore and were able to eat it outside, on the upper slopes beside the small lake in the grounds at Inshriach. After, we lit a fire in the hearth and burnt our waste paper and cardboard. A lovely interlude and no washing up 🙂
Once a year Walter puts on a festival at Inshriach known as The Insider. Perhaps it was during one of these events that a rather high swing came into being. It is simple enough, consisting of a long rope with a loop at the end for the foot and some knots at hand height to grasp. It is two-stranded and is suspended from branches on two very tall Silver Birch trees. There is a launch-pad at the top of the steep slope from which you swing out into the blue, to the margin of your comfort zone, or possibly beyond!
Nick and Andrew gave it the strength test……… but not together! During the course of the week, the children all had several goes. Indeed there were requests daily to be taken to the swing, which activity was closely supervised. It must have been an exhilarating feeling as you swung out with the ground falling steeply below. One of our number took to it like a bird to flight, and looked just as graceful as she soared away, appearing, in one of my photos, to skip along hilltops.
Will it be there next year??
The children are bursting with energy. There is no need for cabin fever when there are such wonderful choices close to home. We spend plenty of time in the open air. The River Spey flows below Inshriach and provides shallows to wade; small, pebbly pocket beaches; tiny pools to jump in. It is also a location for the short Zombie ‘movie’ that Dan is shooting.
A short drive away we can walk around Loch An Eilean, which is more than a stroll for young legs, but Uncle ‘Albert’, Aunty Maddy and I shepherd Joel, Lola, Amelie and Charlie round the lake with plentiful ‘piggies’ to help them along. Ruby stays at the house with Emsie to cook. Barney, Lukie, Nick and Sam have higher mountains climb – such as Cairn Gorm which looms close by.