We made a flying visit to Godalming. Ted has turned 8 and we had a pottery wheel with accessories to deliver. He and his mother tried it out over the weekend.
Nick and I were invited to supper with William and Diana and another couple, all these people being very long-standing friends. We sat in their delightful garden……….. ‘just like old times ;)’……….. and whereas we used to talk about kids and schooling, we now talk about old age, aging parents, retirement homes. But also books, and fellow friends and grandchildren so it is not all Richard Wilson. The following day I visited the local garden centre and bought some plants and met Diana again, briefly, for coffee.
Ted recently had his Bear Grylls birthday party in the woods behind 88 Pep. He proudly showed the remains of a shelter they had constructed and I took my camera up to photograph the foxgloves which have multiplied over the years thanks to the unofficial woodland management that is carried out by fellow occupants of the Pep Road houses. The 8 semis are such a distinctive feature of the Charterhouse Hill settlement. There is also a tepee that was started donkeys years ago and is now growing beautifully into its setting. The tepee and the foxglove swathes are evidence that, notwithstanding you can create these features, Chelsea Garden Style, by clever planting and rustic-effect construction with felled in-situ timber, it takes decades of working with nature to create, in this case, a guileless but subtly managed hillscape beyond a garden picket fence.
On Saturday Nick drove back to Winterborne K to join the village walkers and Charlotte, Ted and I went swimming in the morning, then created a bottom-of-the-fridge soup for lunch. Afterwards we delivered Ted to his ‘Battlefield Live’ birthday party then Charlotte and I spent a very happy couple of hours hitting the Haslemere boutiques and buying lovely clothes followed by a reviving cup of coffee with lemon drizzle cake. This was my highlight 🙂
Our week in St Vaast evaporates before our eyes. Time is taken up by garden endeavour. On Sunday evening we receive Kate and Peter Brice for an overnighter. They have been further south for a twinning weekend in Mortain. By happy coincidence our annual bulk delivery of Muscadet takes place to coincide with their stopover and since they have ordered 30 litres they are able to take this back to Winterborne Kingston to bottle. We are treated to a Debarcadere evening meal by them and on Monday, before they leave for their ferry, we eat lunch on the terrace. Sorrel and red lentil soup, green Thai fishcakes, rice and salad, cheese……
On our last evening we drive to chez Bri et Georgy, with the Poulets, and spend such a pleasant evening starting with apero under their tonnelle, repairing indoors to eat cote de boeuf cooked (shown the coals) on their BBQ.
We arrive in St Vaast and before unloading we step outside the back door to survey the garden. It is no worse than we imagined and, in fact, given the length of our absence from France, rather less overgrown than we had envisaged. Once the lawn is mowed we will be able to prioritise the general tidying work that is required.
Before we set to I make sure I take some ‘before’ photographs. I don’t always do this but I should, for the record. So what do we find? Well, some of the bee orchids now have flower spikes, and the delphiniums and iris in the round bed are flourishing. I am glad to see that the Melianthus that Paul gave us is established and the single stem is looking more robust and we will hope for new shoots from the base. The Hellebore bed near the BBQ is in need of weeding – Fumitory and Buttercups have set up residence. The new Eucomis bulbs in pots are shooting and the bed with the Alstroemeria is dense along with Centaurea, Sweet Cicely and the resident shrubs. Some cutting back will be required there.
Inevitably the gravels both before and aft are in need of attention. The blue tarpaulin we placed over the gravels by the back gate has had no impact on the plants which were beneath. My first task is to pull the long grasses by the front gate for immediate impact. Note to self, some colour is needed at the entrance.
All the priority tasks I take in will happen, and hopefully a few more besides. Upon arrival we received both Daniel and Francois early on Friday evening. Francois brought an invitation to supper chez Poulet. What could be nicer? I pop over on Friday evening to see Anne and give her birthday gifts including the willow dragonfly I bought at Felicity’s Farmshop. She loves it. On Saturday in the middle of the day I visit Manu for a coiffure and he gives me a recipe for an apero. I make it and some Thai green fishcakes for muches muches and we eat with the Poulets chez eux, ‘une jolie cote de boeuf’, cooked on their kitchen bbq and it is simply delicious. This is our France.
Lola and Ruby spent half term with us. It was a time of green fields, flower meadows, wild orchids and arty crafty stuff at the DWT Kingcombe Field Centre. The kids have been there before; the last occasion was Halloween when they enjoyed an evening of activities centred around pumpkins, toffee apples and creepy crawly displays and activities. This time our outing centred around an Arts and Crafts weekend at the Centre where various artists were demonstrating their crafts and displaying their work. A Weymouth man, David Metcalf, makes chicken wire wildlife sculptures. A mouse and a hare, each perched atop a vintage garden fork have now taken up residence in our garden. Along with a willow butterfly which I picked up recently at the Morcombelake farm shop, on my way back from a flying visit to Cornwall to see Stella who is in hospital, and seeing Hilary B and the Paynes on the round trip.
The girls commented on the ‘green’ everywhere as we drove around. It must have made an impact. We had both girls on Saturday for the Kingcombe day and on Sunday their parents joined us at Winterborne K, en route from Wales after a wedding, for a Greyhound lunch at which my mother joined us. Ruby left in the evening with her parents as she has a few days in the Lake District with a friend.
Lola stayed on. She and I went to the cinema twice. We had our own Bake Off competition for which Lola made chocolate cupcakes and I made savoury muffins. She raided my wardrobe for a bit of dressing up, and Nick and I dusted off some evening garb for a roast chicken dinner one evening. Lola made a shell picture and she read a lot. How lovely to see her curled up in my sanctuary chair with her nose in a book.
After her few days of independence as a guest she was ready to rejoin her sister and parents. I think it was her first stay away from home on her own, so it was a milestone. We drove her back to Hackney on Thursday, then N and I dropped down to Godalming for a meeting, then home to WK for an early departure from Poole the following morning.
So we found ourselves with yet another set of guests except the guys don’t really count as such. The happy choice of location that Nick and I made when we moved to Dorset has opened up a great amenity for those who climb. On Saturday the lads climbed at The Cuttings but on Sunday they broke new ground and climbed on the west coast of Portland, a platform known as The Veranda down Battleship. I think this must be near Mutton Cove. Nick and I parked at Southwell and scrambled down the cliff to join the climbing party. Whilst there we were lucky enough to see a Peregrine fly overhead. We spent a happy couple of hours there before clambering up and repairing to the Cove Inn at Chiswell for the traditional jar after a good day’s climbing. The weekend was all the more pleasant for the opportunity to dine at the Greyhound, with a recent new menu. What could have been more convivial?
Barney’s children are a delight to have in residence. They entertain each other, and us and we do our best to do the good grandparently thing. We offered them possible outings and in the end they chose the Tank Museum as the weather could not promise to stay dry. They haven’t been for a while and there are new displays and a larger café has been opened.
Barney arrived on Sunday morning. We were all due to drive up to Hardy’s Monument for a family picnic at John’s Stones. As we were nearing the hill summit we picked up a phone call from Elisabeth D who told us that, in view of the misty and unpromising weather, the picnic would take place at The Old Schoolhouse after which we would adjourn to The Manor House pub/hotel for the cream tea which Lis treats us all to. And so we all gathered in the big schoolroom at the Dukes and ate our various picnics then drove down to West Bexington for our tea. As happened last year all the young children chased around the lawn and the Cholseys were driven down to that part of the Chesil beach below the hotel, there to frolic at the water’s edge and get thoroughly wet, especially Amelie and Joel. Back at the Old Workshop I made them sausage wraps before Barney drove them home ready for their school week.