Saturday, 9 June 2018

The roses are here

I have been watching hopefully,
 and counting buds eagerly,
 and excitedly anticipating
 the roses blooming in my garden this year.

And now they are here!

These are the first snippings for this season. It is a DA rose named The Ancient Mariner. 

And it smells as exquisite as it looks.

Kate  x

Monday, 28 May 2018

The month of May

In the British countryside, the month of May is best summed up as abundant.
The verges and laneways are cloaked with dandelions that reach for the sky and lacy cow parsley that grows at a rate of knots. The hedgerows are filled with blossom, bluebells and a dozen more things I still can't name. Woodland undergrowth is a sea of wild garlic flowers and wild anemones. Agricultural crops are inching up, higher and higher each day. The perimeters of the fields are dotted with clouds of hawthorn in mid-blossom. 

After months of dormancy, everything unfurls, climbs and blooms all at once. 

After a long, bleak winter, you easily forget that England could be this green and fertile! 
The sun has drenched the West Country all month long, sending crops and weeds alike hurtling ever skyward. The daylight and the birds softly begin around 4am, our thin linen drapes no match for their early morning enthusiasm. I really don't mind though. I relish the languid nature of this time of the year as British summertime stretches the days to their pinnacle; 17+ hours long. Going for post-supper walks in the warmth of the sinking sun is such a treat. 

I regularly pull on my wellies and squelch up my favourite local bridleway before wandering along a long forgotten cobbled Roman road running alongside lush, sheep dotted farmland. The Fosseway is close by and Roman history is well documented in this rural pocket at the junction of Wiltshire, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. My route takes me across a Roman footbridge, though I usually eschew it for the opportunity to wade through the crystal clear water of the brook, giving my wellington boots a much-needed wash in the process. I walk home through the village, peering over garden gates to see what will be in flower next.

As May draws to a close, I see roses blooming around cottage windows, foxgloves outstripping dandelions and hot-pink valerian sprouting from the crevices in stone walls. 
Which means only one thing, 
summer is nigh.

Kate  x

Monday, 7 May 2018

Country pursuits

The warm weather has graced us at long last! Summer may have actually leap frogged spring and arrived early this year. Not that anyone minds. The whole country seems collectively drunk on sunshine and long languid days outdoors sipping Pimms.

We feel especially lucky to have been gifted a bank holiday weekend filled to the brim with uninterrupted sun and temperatures above 23 degrees C! The English summer is punctuated by showers and wholly unfair temperature dips even at the best of times, so this weather is throughly welcome and embraced (pink nose and shoulders attest to that). 

We've been outside almost non-stop. Tea drinking in the garden, Pimms at the village pub, and post-supper walks in the woodland; which are carpeted in frothy wild garlic flowers and that very particular blue hue that belongs entirely to English bluebells. 

It feels like heaven on Earth.

We attended the last day of Badminton Horse Trials yesterday where I was overcome with a sudden urge to curate the perfect country lady wardrobe consisting of all things tweed, forthwith adorning every outfit with pheasant & mallard feathered brooches. The deeper I get into life in rural England the less ridiculous I feel about owning a felt fedora or a third pair of wellington boots.
I have found my bliss in the English countryside, and now I need the wardrobe to match! Or perhaps it's the sunstroke fuelling a sartorial quarter-life crisis. 

However you're enjoying these long and light filled days on the cusp of true British summertime, have a Pimms for me.

Kate  x

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

April showers

If April showers do indeed bring May flowers, the west country should resemble a flower farm come next month. So far April has been a soggy wash out, which feels doubly unfair seeing as March was punctuated by unseasonably cold temperatures and multiple snowfalls.

Despite a slow start, my garden is finally blooming with life. The daffodils and narcissus are opening their cheery smiling faces. An overgrown forsythia has burst with bright sunshine yellow blossom. The flowering currant is heavy with flowers as well as raindrops. And my tulips are not far behind.

But the mud!!! The mud is never ending. Oh, what i'd give for a lovely boot room to contain wet coats and muddy wellies in...

Even a porch would suffice. Unfortunately for my floors, we step straight from outdoors into the kitchen in our home. With no where dry or covered to remove shoes and coats other than the kitchen, it has been quite a long winter trying to keep the floors clean. I shouldn't moan. I wouldn't swap countryside living for (almost) anything. I adore being able to pull on wellies and seconds later be stomping through the woodland or splashing up the lane to get eggs at the farm gate. 

Mud is simply a close companion to country life. 
I know this very well. 

But the first time after we moved here and my new friend asked if I wanted to go for a walk, I stupidly pulled on my active wear and laced up my trainers. I really did think she would be similarly attired. Moments before she arrived at my front door I came to my senses and changed into jeans & wellies. Context is everything. I wasn't going for walks around the leafy suburban streets of the lower north shore in Sydney anymore. No! The paths I now walked were made entirely of mud. A couple of minutes later she knocked on my front door wearing Le Cheameau's and I knew I'd come very close to looking like a clueless townie playing at country pursuits.

Jeans + wool jumper + wellies. 
That's my uniform now. Such is living in the English countryside.

Kate  x

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The beast from the east

On Thursday of last week it began to snow. It was bitterly cold (the air temperature felt like -14 according to the weather report) and the snow kept falling. By Thursday night the roads were becoming icy and dangerous. And still the snow kept coming, blown in by a freezing and relentless wind from the east. The fountain outside the manor house froze, and ice clumps began to form on the branches of willow trees as they trailed in the swirling sub-zero water of the brook.

Heaven knows what happened in the darkness of Thursday night, because by Friday morning England was buried in snow drifts and the whole country stopped. 

We have two ways in and out of our village, one was utterly impassable, the snow had gathered between the hedges and buried the lane in snow drifts. The other steep road out was blanketed in snow and ice that only 4x4 cars could manage to get up. And so, we were snowed in for over 24 hours. Snowed in, but happy.

It was magical, even if we were trapped for a period of time, but now our thoughts are firmly on springtime warmth and the coming blossom.

Kate  x

{Images are mine, please do not share without permission}.

Thursday, 1 March 2018


Currently, the village looks like this. 

We're expecting a top day-time temperature of -2 today. And snow. Lots of snow. It seems strange that as the daffodils emerge with their bright yellow trumpet faces, snow will sweep in, bringing a Siberian wind chill with it. 

Much of the UK is being battered by blizzards and freezing temperatures. Poor Scotland has been placed on a 'red weather alert'. Here in the Cotswolds the snow flurries have been coming and going for much of the week, never lasting long, but sending fat flakes swirling through the village just to remind us that it is in fact still winter for a couple of weeks yet.

To counter the frigid temperatures outside, indoors vases are filled with any and all spring flowers I can get my hands on. Now that the snowdrops in the garden have finished flowering and flopped over there is a lull before the next spring bulbs will bloom. Cheap and cheerful supermarket flowers fill the temporary void quite nicely.

How severe this cold snap will be, and how long it will last is anyones guess. I hope it's not too long though, I'm starting to need to ration the firewood.

Stay warm,

Kate  x

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Muddy wellies and lent lilies

My wellies might be the muddiest they've been since first treading on English soil, 
but yesterday I spotted daffodils in the dappled light of School Lane.

The European wild daffodil is also called the lent lily as it blooms concurrently with the lenten season. The smiling yellow faces of daffodils are such a welcome sight each year. Here in our village they cling to the damp banks of the brook, tall and proud, gazing at their reflection in the swirling water below them. I remember when we first moved here I really appreciated the great number of daffodils planted throughout this corner of Wiltshire. In just about every village we drove through, dense clumps of daffodils greeted us along the roadsides. To have the bright canary yellow colour spreading their cheer after a winter devoid of colour was such a joy to see. 

Spring is starting to creep in, tinging the air with warmth and sunshine, unhurried, but growing in strength with each passing week. Even the chickens agree.

More and more often my wanders up the lane to the farm gate are rewarded with fresh speckled eggs. Never uniform, but always eliciting a smile from me.

Kate  x

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Yew trees and snowdrops

Painswick had been on my 'to visit' list for well over a year. I'd been patiently waiting for snowdrop season to come around again before making the trip up into Cotswold heartland. Painswick is a handsome village, beautifully situated in the verdant Cotswold Hills, with renowned walking routes on the doorstep and stunning countryside views. She is the undisputed 'Queen of the Cotswolds'. 

Our main focus on this trip was seeing the famous snowdrop display at Painswick Rococo Garden. An impressive carpet comprised of millions & millions of tiny white blooms cascaded down slopes and spread through the wooded undergrowth of the garden. But unexpectedly, it was the yew trees in the churchyard of St Mary's that emerged as the highlight of our visit.

For a long time, 99 yew trees grew in this churchyard, and according to legend if a hundredth tree was to be planted the devil would destroy it. At the turn of the new millennium every parish in the diocese of Gloucester was presented with a yew tree to plant to mark the occasion. Parish officials faced a dilemma... 
Painswick was chosen to host the blessing of these trees as they were handed out to the various parishes. The 100th tree was planted at the start of the new millennium and, contrary to the often cited legend, is growing well. 

The trees are clipped every September, producing in excess of 2 tonnes of yew clippings. These clippings are actually used in the manufacture of an anti-cancer drug, specialist contractors are employed to process the clippings.

I look forward to a return visit one day, hopefully in late spring when the Cotswold Way is lush and overgrown with wildflowers and the day light stretches late into the evening. 

Kate  x

Friday, 9 February 2018

A secret garden

A garden unfurls its secrets month by month, 
as the seasons blossom, then ebb away.

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed 
and every morning revealed new miracles.” 
 Frances Hodgson Burnett

February is the last unknown month in our little patch of earth- a courtyard garden enclosed by a Cotswold stone wall, nestled deep within the By Brook Valley, and overlooked by soaring beech trees. From March, we'll start to cycle through the seasons again, this time with a year of knowledge behind us.

So, what has appeared this month?

Hundreds and hundreds of snowdrops. 

Defying the freezing nights and harsh frosts, they began to emerge before the new year had even begun. Now, with a touch of weak winter sun on their pure white faces, they sit gently nodding in unison in the frigid breeze. All around them signs of spring are following suit- the tips of bluebells, daffodils, narcissus and tulips are likewise pushing up through frozen ground and decaying leaf litter to greet the sunshine. A few aconites have popped their canary-yellow heads up amongst the bare branches of a fuchsia bush. Buds are appearing on the rose bushes and the snowball viburnum. Leaves are tentatively unfurling, slowly, but they're definitely there.

Next month I know the garden and the countryside will become a riot of bright yellows. Daffodils, forsythia, primrose and gorse will take centre stage, and the agricultural land around us will be awash with sunshine-yellow rapeseed. For now though, the snowdrops sit in their thousands, bobbing in the breeze.

Kate  x


Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Winter snowdrops

After two weeks away from England, 
we've swapped the actual snowflakes of Japan 
for the first snowdrops of the season in our garden.

It is so good to be home.

Of course I had to snip some to bring indoors. 
I admire snowdrops so much. 
Always the first sign of the coming spring 
(even when it is still quite far off), 
they never fail to push up through frosty days and nights. 
So delicate, yet how tough they are to endure gloomy January and frozen February.

Kate  x