A beautiful corner in which to shelter from the rain.
I found this spot next to the orangery at Standen, a quiet place to sit and read or to look out over the gardens. Have a lovely Thursday, everyone.
How's this for a quiet corner? I love to imagine sitting quietly here over a book or a meal. I love Tudor and Jacobean furniture and interiors, so this was a lovely and serendipitous find. I hope you're all having quiet and restful weeks so far.
Snowdrops at Wakehurst.
Nothing says January like snowdrops. Yesterday we visited Wakehurst Place in Sussex; a National Trust house and garden which is leased to Kew Gardens. The Tudor mansion is surrounded on all sides by walled gardens, a lake, water gardens, a vast woodland, and it even contains the millennium seed bank. It was lovely to see the snowdrops just starting to emerge, with drifts of pink and purple cyclamen behind; although I was a bit alarmed to see the primroses starting to come out already!
We had a wonderful afternoon visiting the house and garden, it was incredibly peaceful, and a real tonic after a busy week in London. I hope you all had good weekends, and have nice weeks ahead.
It's Sunday, hurrah! We're off back out to our beloved Sussex for a long walk, before heading home for roast lamb.
This picture is from our recent visit to Standen; the building here actually forms part of the original farm which stood at Standen before the new house was built in 1891, and which was then incorporated in to the wider estate buildings.
I love the style of buildings you see in this part of Sussex, tiled and in some parts of the county, studded with flint or weatherboard. We can but dream!
What do you have planned for today?
I love the ritual of afternoon tea, even if I'm just at home by myself with a cup and saucer for one, I find it such a lovely way to spend a quiet half hour, especially if good cake and a book are involved. I wanted to bake today, but we've still got half the Christmas cake left which I'm feeling guilty about, so I tucked in to a slice of that instead. A nice cheering moment on a grey January day.
I highly recommend this book to you, by the way. It's perfect for book lovers, and chronicles a year in the life of author Susan Hill, as she dusts off old favourites and revisits stories, rather than buying new books, rediscovering them anew throughout the year. She ends with a classic: 'Howards End' - a novel of which I'm a huge fan.
I hope you're all having enjoyable, peaceful weekends so far: I'm off to visit a good friend and her new baby now, and I can't wait. Happy Saturday!
Which way to go?
It's Friday, yippee! I hope you all have lovely weekends planned. I'm pondering where we'll go for our walk tomorrow. It's obviously weather dependent but the Kent and Sussex Weald is looking like a likely candidate this morning.
I love this stone sign; I came across it, overgrown and barely visible in the hedgerow, on the wonderfully named Priest's Way in Dorset recently. The Priest’s Way follows an ancient track taken by a local priest as he travelled back and forth between the churches in his care at Swanage and Worth Matravers; the path still leads to these two towns today. I love imagining the many journeys that have taken place along it down the centuries. The path forms part of a beautiful walk, taking in some of the most stunning parts of Purbeck. I can't wait to get back there soon.
Happy Friday, everyone.
I love this stone bridge at Ightham Mote; there are two much grander entrances on other sides of the house, but I like to think of the thousands of journeys that would have been taken across the bridge over hundreds of years, perhaps by servants and tradesmen crossing the moat. All those lives and stories...
Forcing jars in the walled garden.
I love forcing jars, and as you may know, I LOVE walled gardens. Forcing jars have been used since Victorian times, and even earlier, to bring on crops that would otherwise come to maturity later in the year. Forcing jars usually contain rhubarb (my favourite) but you can force other vegetables too, including chicory and the lesser known sea kale. Sea kale isn't much eaten today, and I don't believe stores all that well, so we're unlikely to see it return to the shops. It looks a bit like rhubarb, and has long, thin white stalks, lending it the nickname 'white ivory'. It would be lightly boiled then served with bechamel or gravy. A forcing jar is usually placed over a rhubarb crown directly on the ground, and packed inside with straw to insulate the crown, before the lid is placed on top. The plant has to grow in the dark, so grows quickly as it reaches for light, but the lack of light keeps the stems beautifully pink, young and tender.
Forcing is still big business today; forcing jars are rather expensive, and in the 'rhubarb triangle' near Wakefield huge forcing sheds can still be seen. Lit by candle light, thousands of rhubarb crowns grow in the dark; it is said by the growers that if you stand still in the sheds you can hear them growing. I'd love to visit.
We grew rhubarb here for the first time last summer; to strengthen the crowns however you're not meant to pick the rhubarb in its first year, so we left it to die back and should get our first homegrown stalks this year, I can't wait. In the meantime, I'll be looking out in the greengrocers for some of the earliest forced rhubarb. Delicious.
January - March is Seville orange season, and its when I make my annual batch of marmalade.
A preserving pan full of Seville oranges simmering away fills the house will the most wonderful citrus smell, and the beautiful orange colour is exactly what you need to lift you on grey January days. The Seville orange season is short, so if you'd like to make marmalade I recommend getting hold of some of these oranges soon. It's pretty easy to make your own, and is another nice seasonal tradition to mark a certain point in the year.
Hints and tips, as well as the marmalade recipe I follow, can be found on my blog; link in bio. Happy marmalade making!
Did you know that historically in Britain, the first Monday after Epiphany was known as Plough Monday?
The day marked the start of the new agricultural year, when farm workers would head back to the fields and resume their work after the Twelve Days of Christmas. Many farmers would even take their ploughs to the door of the local parish church to be blessed, and to pray for a good harvest to come.
Sadly, I don't have a farm to return to or a plough to have blessed, so I'm heading back to work as usual today; I fear nowadays Plough Monday may only live on in the history books.
I hope you're having a good Monday so far. Here's a picture of one of my all time favourite gardens, Hidcote, in Gloucestershire.
A healthy brunch of Turkish eggs and avocado is called for after all the indulgence over Christmas. I hope you have a lovely day in store; we're off for a late lunch at the new home of a very good friend later today, and I'm doing my annual marmalade making this morning; one of my favourite activities of the year. Happy Sunday, all.
In the Western churches, the Epiphany (‘manifestation’) became an occasion to celebrate one element in the story of Christ’s birth, the visit of the far-travelled magi, understood as the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. Matthew’s account speaks simply of ‘wise men from the east’; later tradition fixed their number at three, made them kings and recalled their resonant names – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The feast of the Conversion of St Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, appropriately falls in the Epiphany season, as does the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In the Eastern churches, the Epiphany is, rather, the celebration of Christ’s baptism at the hands of John. The season of joyful celebration that begins at Christmas now continues through the successive Sundays of Epiphany, and the festal cycle ends only with the Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas). Well, that was a wonderful Christmas. The first spent alone, just the two of us, with far less rushing around. After six years of spending Christmas with both our families and flying on Boxing Day it came as something of a revelation. We still travelled and saw everybody, having a fantastic time with loved ones in the process, but it was much more spread out and manageable. A winning formula we think; much to be thankful for.
I hope you all have lovely weekends in store; I'm catching up with a dear friend this afternoon, before we head off to the engagement party of other good friends this evening. Whatever you're doing, I hope it's a lovely one, and that you had a brilliant Christmas.
My husband and I are enjoying a few more festive hours before we take down the decorations in readiness for Epiphany. Our decorations went up on Christmas Eve, and we always keep everything up and ensure we celebrate throughout the Twelve Days. I've been doing a lot of reading about British Christmas traditions, and discovered that Twelfth Night used to be a far bigger occasion in its own right than it seems to be today. I like the idea of another big celebration, and I am always up for a feast and a party, so I'm aiming to try and bring back a bit of the Twelfth Night spirit in to our lives in the years ahead. One of these days I'll make it to Sussex for the annual wassailing on Twelfth Night in the orchards!
One tradition which has slowly disappeared is that of the Twelfth Night Cake - a sugar work confection, not dissimilar to the iced fruit cakes so many of us now enjoy on Christmas Night. The Twelfth Cake was very popular in the Georgian period, and earlier, but consumption of it moved to become our more modern Christmas cake in the Victorian era. I suspect it might have had something to do with people going back to work and travelling home earlier than in the past - not unlike today!
The earliest printed recipe for an English Twelfth Cake appears in a book by John Mollard, ‘The Art of Cooking’, published in 1803. The cake would be covered in sugar paste, often it would be coloured pink using cochineal and decorated with sugar crowns. A bean and a pea would be baked in to the spiced fruit cake; whoever found the bean and the pea would be crowned King of the Revels, and Queen of the night's festivities, which would last until midnight. Twelfth Night was an even bigger celebration in Mediaeval and Tudor days, and I can only but imagine the scale of the feasts members of the court would have enjoyed then, when a Lord of Misrule was appointed to ensure sufficient mayhem took place! And today many people have adopted the French custom of baking a galette de rois to mark the occasion.
Next year I might bake a Twelfth Cake. I think it'd be great if we could bring back Twelfth Night as a big celebration, what do you think?
I've woken up inexplicably early, with millions of things racing around my head. Don't you hate it when that happens? It looks like another miserable day here too; I'd rather be indoors, pottering in my kitchen.
Sadly, the one pictured is not mine. I've rather a passion for Victorian kitchens; I'm forever telling my husband about the kind of kitchen I would really like to have - and it looks very much like this. I'm a big fan of a traditional, farmhouse style, all copper pans, stone flagged floors, and a real range...too much time spent watching 'The Victorian Kitchen' in my formative years I think. I love cooking and baking, and am never happiest than when I've got a marmalade making day ahead of me, or making Christmas puds on Stir Up Sunday.
Oh well, I'll just have to console myself with pictures until the day I can afford my own... what does your fantasy kitchen look like? Or perhaps you're lucky enough to have your dream one already?
Ugh, it's grey, damp and rainy here today, the worst kind of weather. I'd rather be indoors poking around a beautiful house, or sitting reading at a window while watching it rain outside.
Sadly, I can't play the piano, but if I could, this is where id want to be sat playing it today! I hope you're all having a good week thus far.
I've got serious house envy today. I'm looking back at the pictures of our visit to @standennt on New Year's Day, and I'm longing to go back.
The house was built in the Arts & Crafts style between 1891-1894 as the country retreat of the Beale family, the architect was Philip Webb, a friend of William Morris, and the entire house is decorated with Morris fabrics and wallpaper (my dream home, right there...) The house felt incredibly liveable, and it was clear it had been a very happy home for the large family who lived there for two generations. As well as beautiful interiors, there are marvellous views looking towards the Downs, and glorious estate walks in the grounds.
What I especially enjoyed was the chance to glimpse in to the newly reopened servants quarters. My Great Grandmother was a parlour maid in Sussex at the turn of the last century, and I always feel closer to those who would have worked in the grand houses of England, compared to their owners!
We'll definitely be back, I highly recommend a visit.
And it's back to work we go... I hope you're all enjoying 2018 so far, and that you had a lovely New Year's Day. We enjoyed a day out to Standen in Sussex, a beautiful arts and crafts house, which at the moment is also home to a wonderful 'Christmas through the ages' exhibition. I'll be sharing some pictures from our visit over the coming days to distract myself from dreary, grey January... In the meantime, here's a picture from our recent visit to Purbeck. Just what the Doctor ordered on a day like this, and a perfect reminder of the chance for fresh starts which New Year brings. Happy Tuesday, one and all!