Friday, 14 May 2021

The Distancing Diaries - 13th & 14th May, 2021

Thursday started in the usual fashion, a wander around the garden, my Wii Fit workout and a breakfast of fruit & yoghurt. It was the day of our postponed National Trust visit so, Jon made sandwiches, filled the flask as we were travelling in the work's van as opposed to Gilbert, and off we went.


Nestled in an Ice Age valley in the Cotswolds lies the beautiful sandstone 17th Century Upton House, home to Walter Samuel, the second viscount Bearsted, and his wife, Dorothea. Renowned for their philanthropy, when Lord Bearsted acquired the estate in 1927, the midst of the Great Depression, he wrote the local community, where unemployment and deprivation ran high announcing that Any Man who presents himself at 9am on Monday morning shall find work there.

Lord and Lady Bearstead were the heirs of the co-founder of Shell Oil and recognised that great wealth brought great responsibility. They both made sizable donations to charities which included children's societies & hospitals, seamen's missions, cancer charities and Jewish schools. Walter gifted the grounds surrounding his late father's estate to the people of Maidstone in Kent whilst Dorothea supported the Bearstead Maternity Hospitals (founded by the first viscount) and during WW2 personally helped with their supervision and management.


The garden was designed by Kitty Lloyd-Jones, one of the first female gardeners. Born the 9th of ten children to a Welsh doctor, she gained a diploma from the Royal Botanical Society and was the first woman to take a horticulture degree at Reading University in 1924. Before the Bearsteads the garden's main purpose was to provide food for the house with little thought for pleasure and recreation but, with Kitty's fresh ideas and enthusiasm, she set about transforming the garden for leisure and pleasure. 


While the house has its attractions (the stupendous Art Deco bathroom, which I wrote about HERE), the highlight of Upton is the garden. A lawn, with 350-year-old cedar trees, sweeps gently down from the house and below is an extensive terraced garden. The garden features a series of herbaceous borders and a large lake with water lilies in a small valley. The terracing, unseen from the house and on a first visit unsuspected, contains the National Collection of Aster. In use since the 12th century, the gardens include a rare Bog Garden on the site of medieval fish ponds.


A Rheum palmatum went straight to the top of our must-buy list.


Thursday was mirky and damp with bursts of torrential rain but, surrounded by such beauty, both wild and cultivated, that we hardly noticed the weather.


Wandering through the untamed woodland, with huge clumps of bluebells, cow parsely, periwinkle and cuckoo pint we were more inspired than ever with our plans for the wilderness at bottom of our garden.




Trevor Eve had a humdinger of a fistfight in Upton House's glamorous 1930s swimming pool in an episode of Waking the Dead. 

















There were only five other vehicles in the car park when we got back to the van. The miserable weather had obviously put a lot of people off although Upton is rarely busy. The majority of visitors seem to prefer the neighbouring Charlecote Park (a bit too formal for our tastes). After a lunch of Glastonbury cheddar cheese and pickle sandwiches on date and walnut bread we returned to Walsall (an hour's drive away) passing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the way back, who it turned out were visiting Wolverhampton.


The remainder of the afternoon was spent wandering around the garden, drawing up plans and doing research - National Trust gardens never fail to inspire. After tea, we finally finished our epic catch-up of Waking the Dead, all nine years of it!


On Friday morning, after a wander around the garden & booked next week's National trust adventure, I put the kitchen plants in the utility room sink for a soak and mopped the kitchen floor before my final Wii Fit workout of the week. After breakfast, toast as we'd run out of fruit, I wrapped the eBay sales. 


When we'd got back from Upton House yesterday a parcel from my friend Lynn was waiting for me packed full of Craftivism goodies. A flick through the book gave simple instructions for cross stitch so I ordered some fabric and embroidery silk from eBay so I could have a go. Cross-stitching twee things like owls and country cottages have never appealed but sweary banners? Totally up my street! 


Stephen was due at the vet for his blood pressure check so, while the lads were out I got to work on the garden. Today was the turn of the area outside the gates. As you can see, it's an utter disgrace. I'd mentioned sorting it out on a blog post a year ago but we never go round to it. Rather than procrastinate a minute longer I decided to clear the area, dig up the remaining ferns in the rockery next to the wall and radically prune the Hawthorne, after checking for nests first and got stuck in right away. Working outside in the street means that everyone stops and chats and it was lovely to talk to people I normally only wave at. Both an older chap and a woman my age stopped to tell me that they remembered me from the 1980s - one recognised me from seeing me at college and the other from my crazy house-share days, I thought I'd changed a lot in almost 40 years...I obviously haven't! 


Jon came back to drop off Stephen. The vet was very pleased that his blood pressure was down and that he'd put on weight. After he'd done the post office run and supermarket shop we had noodles and then he helped me outside. By mid-afternoon, we'd filled four sacks of waste and the area was finally clear.


In stark contrast to most houses in the neighbourhood, we're hoping to replace the gravel with grass, maybe with clover or wildflowers to make it more attractive to pollinators. We'll also need some kind of barrier to keep the dogs with irresponsible owners off our lawn. With a wet weekend forecast, we can spend time researching the best option. 


I'd managed to dig up another five ferns which we replanted elsewhere in the garden before downing tools and retiring inside for a mug of tea. 


We've got pizza for tea and apparently, BoJo's got a press conference scheduled for 5.15pm. I think I might need a glass of wine. Later it's Gardeners' World, rum and a replacement for Waking the Dead, that's if I can stay awake long enough.

See you soon!

29 comments:

  1. That was simply a glorious blog. I loved every leaf of it. The colours were superb. If I lived in that great house I would want to spend all day wandering the garden. I much prefer the wilder look. What a great job you did on your frontage. There was a time when people here would put an upturned bottle of water in the grass to deter the dogs. Sounds strange but worth a go.cant quite see how it works. So happy Stephen is doing so well. Your food has made me so hungry so now for breakfast. ❤️

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    1. Thanks so much, Sally! Wasn't Kitty's planting lovely? She certainly created a garden you'd want to spend time in, it flowed beautifully.
      I didn't know about that bottle trick. Most dog owners we chat to are lovely but it seems like the posher the owner the more above the law they think they are and think it's perfectly acceptable for their pet to do his business and not clean it up, drives me mad! xxx

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  2. A lovely day out and always a joy to virtually travel with you.
    Happy stitching my friend. I look forward to seeing what blasphemous words you come up with haha.
    I’m thinking our house frontage could do with a bit of tweaking now. Don’t know what the collection of flamingoes in the bush would have to say about that though. Walkers must think there’s some weirdos up that lane,
    Have a good weekend both of you xxx

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    1. I can't wait to have a go at cross stitching, there's no mention of being precise or counting in her instructions so I should be okay - I hope!
      Those flamingoes might like something pink like a Buddelia bush to comliment their finery! xxx

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  3. I love cross stitching whilst I watch TV, I've done it since I was little and have progressed from more twee things then to whatever I fancy now, I even design my own. You should check out Judi Dench's embroidery for something unexpected and sweary!

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    1. Your peacock was a work of art!
      Thanks for mentioning Judi Dench, I had a joyful half an hour killing myself laughing at her designs! xxx

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  4. Ah, I feel as though I've had a wander through those glorious gardens myself! Our rhodos are all in bloom here, so it feels like I live just down the street.

    Have fun with your cross-stitch craftivism, Vix! Can't wait to see what kind of swear-filled creations you come up with!

    Very good news about Stephen, good lad for putting some weight on.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. We're sharing hodos! I wish you did live down the street, what a laugh we'd have!
      I'm excited about trying a new skill, knowing me it'll be a bit wonky around the edges but it'll be fun learning! xxx

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  5. Your garden is going to be awesome when it is done. I hate going to posh places and felling out of place. That property would be right up our street as well.
    Glad Steven is ok . There is nothing worse than a sick pet! A couple of years ago a teacher recognised me when we were visiting and she commented on my bright hair and she said yupp that’s you loud and proud! I didn’t know wether to punch her or hug her as I was the naughty one at school. Keep safe and well love and huggs

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    1. I keep coming up with ideas and driving Jon mad! I can't wait to get the lawn sown and not be embarrased about the front of the house!
      I love how wild Upton is, those perfectly manicure gardens leave me cold.
      I'm always amazed when people remember me from 40 years ago, that;s the trouble with living in the same town your whole life, you can't get away with anything!
      Hope the isolation is going well (and quickly!)! xxx

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  6. Another lovely National Trust property you have visited. I was online this morning booking St Michaels Mount for the first week of June when we are on holiday in Cornwall. Tickets were only released today and when I went on at about 10 tickets for the castle were already sold out! Luckily I only wanted ones for the gardens as we have done the castle a few years ago.
    Your house looks lovely from the side view and that area will look lovely with grass and wildflowers - like you say the only problem will be dogs.

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    1. The National Trust release their tickets at midnight on a Friday so i try to be online at around 5 -6am to book! I'm glad you're booked in, I'm excited to see your photos!
      Jon's got a plan for a fence made from recycled wood from our stash- I think I might need a cheeky craftivism banner to remind people to keep off the grass! xxx

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  7. ^^^ Lucky you @Devon Mum - St Michael's Mount gardens are wonderful. I love how the gardeners have to abseil up & down to maintain them!

    Vix, what a grand job you and Jon have done at the side of the house. The wildflowers sound wonderful. Will you put up a wicker / picket fence to stop the dogs? ... or a moat??? Good old Kitty gardener for forging the way. I love the photo of you in the bluebells, just beautiful! Lulu xXx

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    1. p.s. I've heard Cross Stitch is the new, new rock n' roll ;)

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    2. I'm looking forward to Emma's photos, I've often admired St Michael's Mount online!
      Jon's come up with a cunning plan for a recycled wood fence to keep off the dogs and the schoolkids - maybe you could nick that circu sign for me next time you see it? xxx

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    3. PS Have you seen Judi Dench's cross stitch? Proper sweary! xxx

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  8. upton´s gardens look just wonderful - totally get why you got inspired...... and you´r wearing the perfect outfit for the landscape - again.
    you were very busy too - love your plans for a wildflower meadow on the new cleared land at the gate - you could plant spikey bastards around it :-D
    the ukrainians and belarus do magnificent things with cross stich embroidery! the boldness of the colours and patterns would appeal to you i guess.
    xxxxx

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    1. I like the idea of spiky bastards, Jon's started creating a recycled wood fence, maybe some evil plants beneath it would do the trick?
      I've drooled over some incredible Ukrainian embroidery on ebay, it's gorgeous! xxx

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  9. Upton's gardens are stunning and I'm sure I could have wandered around them for ours, soaking up atmosphere and getting inspired. I love that the garden was designed by one of the first female gardeners. That photo of you in those untamed bluebell woods is utterly magical! You do look quite at home there.
    Loving your plans for the area outside your gates, and I'm definitely seconding Beate's idea of planting spiky bastards around it ...
    I haven't done any cross stitch since I was in primary school. We were supposed to do three projects: cross-stitching, knitting and crocheting. Clumsy me was just finishing her cross-stitch project when the other were half way through their crocheting :-)
    Can't wait to see which Craftivism blasphemies you come up with! xxx

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    1. I much prefer Upton's gardens to the neighboring Charlecote's, they are so welcoming and everything seems to flow better, it must be the feminine influence. I could happily live there or at least copy Kitty's planting schemes (more affordable!)
      We never learnt cross stitch at school. Lynn's book make it look quite straighforward, if I'm doing it I know I'll end up making it up as I go along anyway! xxx

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  10. The gardens at Upton are so pretty and it looks like you did such a good job in your garden, can't wait to see what you do with it! :) So nice you were able to chat with your neighbours outside too. I took the boys out to play in the front yard a few times in lockdown, just so we could have a few words with our neighbours as they passed by for their exercise or dog walking :)

    Hope you are having a good weekend :)

    Away From The Blue

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    1. Lovely to hear from you, Mica! We all craved new faces to chat to during lockdown, didn't we? We got to know so many of our neighbours a lot better! xxx

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  11. What a lovely blog post! I love how your day out has inspired your gardening. Good on you, Vix! X

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  12. Gorgeous photos! Everything is so green - including me - green with envy of your rain and damp. Love the idea of replacing the gravel. Impressive you finished all episodes of WtD. Such good news about Stephen! Lovies to you both and your four leggeds. - Cozy Cottage in California

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    1. Hello, my friend! I'm jealous of your sunshine! Much love to you in sunny California from me and the lads. xxx

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  13. It's nice to hear about wealthy people who used their money to support their community. The gardens and the lawn are beautiful.

    Glad to hear Stephen's blood pressure is good and he's added some weight. Looking forward to seeing your sweary cross-stitching.

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    1. It's lovely to read of philanthopic people who put their money to worthy causes and spent it on creating a beautiful legacy.
      Stephen's doing really well. I wanted Jon to take a photo of the blood pressure monitor the vet uses, apparnetly it's like a human one only doll's house size but he needed to hold Stephen when she was doing the reading! xxx

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  14. I always enjoy your posts on visits to fabulous National Trust, and the gardens look really inspiring!. Love particularly the photos of you in these gardens with all the purple flowers matching your outfit!, and Lord Jon looks really like owning the place!
    And always admiring your gardening, so great job!
    besos

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Lots of love, Vix