Iford Manor: wonderful wisteria and battery recharging

It has been a tough week. The evening before my 50th birthday our cat, Rio, was breathing rapidly and we rushed him to the vet hospital. He spent the night there on oxygen and we booked him in for a heart scan on the Monday, meaning we had to cancel our week in Cornwall we had planned to celebrate my big five oh. It turns out he has restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM), as well as severe inflammatory bowel disease. He cannot be stressed so we had to cancel my post-birthday afternoon tea party and postpone the extension building work to create a big kitchen/diner opening on to the garden with a separate sewing area (and downstairs loo). It will still happen in due course, but loses its appeal knowing we can only have the new kitchen when Rio has died. My old cat, Brian, died from RCM so I know what lies ahead. He is very well in himself now, but I know in due course he will lose weight and energy and he will need medication several times a day.

Anyway, I have friends going through far worse and have been trying not to be miserable – honestly, Mark, I have! – and yesterday finally managed to feel calm and optimistic and at one with the world. As ever, this remarkable transformation was created by a garden. The Peto garden at Iford Manor, to be precise. Seriously, this place should be prescribed on the NHS. There is no better food for the soul than this beautiful garden – and at the moment the wisteria is out, draped over buildings and pergolas and free-range, creating characterful, twisting trees.

We went round once – with my wide-angle lens – then stopped for tea and cake before walking around again – with my zoom lens.

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Like all the best gardens, at Iford you wander between garden ‘rooms’, each with each own character. We spent quite some time soaking up the serenity of the Japanese style pool.

The gardens were alive with scent…and with the buzzing of bees.

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There is something so calming about cloisters. When I came here in the Autumn, my friend Trish and I found ourselves alone in the cloisters and Trish couldn’t help but do a little yoga in the dappled sunshine, while I sang Alma de Core…it’s just that sort of place. Really want to go to one of the concerts there.

Mark felt the need to hold up the pillars to show off his manliness…not entirely necessary, I suspect.

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I found a very strange woman down the well!

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A quick goodbye to a rather lovely cat, and then just time to wander down to the river before heading home. We saw an egret, but I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo.

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The address for Iford Manor says it is Bradford-on-Avon, but I think it should actually be Bradford-on-Heaven!


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The Courts at Holt

As we couldn’t go to Cornwall as planned, we have decided to make the most of our ‘staycation’, beginning with lunch at The Field Kitchen at Holt and a stroll around The Courts, National Trust Gardens.

The blossom was stunning…

…and the bees were everywhere!

…as were the birds.

And there were lots of kids, all fascinated by the tadpoles.

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And Mark patiently carried my camera bag and lenses and waited for me to catch up.

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Spring update

Last April Mark and I spent a week at Lyme Regis and I was inspired by the huge number of tulips we saw, so last Autumn I planted…lots. Really pleased with our garden this Spring.

The Kelsons had an expedition to the bottom of the garden to admire the tulips planted around the rhubarb.

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We have had lots of (expensive) cat dramas – with numerous (out of hours) trips to the vet hospital, a biopsy, Rio’s diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease, Max’s stomach bug and Rio is still having tests on his heart to see why he is breathing so fast. Fortunately, both cats are really well in themselves and certainly don’t appear ill.

The garden is still full of birds…despite the presence of the cats!

Popped over to Chepstow to see my mum and was very impressed with her beautiful garden!

Easter was highly floral, with lovely gifts from Rita next door and Easter decor at Demuths.

As my time at Demuths came to an end…well not really and end, as I will still be doing some small amounts of work with Rachel and the team…I got to spend time with friends; breakfast at Comptoir Libanais with Jo (out of shot) and a whole day with Jess – including both breakfast at Bill’s and tea at the Holborn.

My very lovely boss arranged for a leaving lunch…more of a feast actually…with all the team at Castle Farm Cafe. The sun shone, the food was amazing and the company was the best…and I even managed not to cry!

As if lunch was not enough, I was presented with leaving and 50th birthday gifts…including a beautiful glass sun-catcher made by Jo from Demuths and even a jar of hedgerow jelly from Jo at Castle Farm Cafe!

My other birthday present (in addition to money from my mum and my aunt) was a new zoom lens from Mark and his parents…it had to be tried out in our garden! We had hoped to go to Cornwall on my birthday and stay for a week, but changed our plans to run Rio back and forth to the vet hospital for tests.

Love the way you can catch people unaware with a zoom lens, but I don’t think Mark’s mum will thank me for this one of her chatting to our neighbour…I’ll make it nice and small…

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Properly middle aged at last

Karen and I have been friends since we started secondary school and this year we are both 50. In our twenties we regularly would spend weekends exploring cathedral cities. We haven’t done this in years and decided this year is the year to start it up again. Oxford is perfectly placed a short train journey for each of us, so we booked a hotel (rather than the ultra cheap B&Bs we used to stay in) and headed off for a weekend in March – a month after Karen’s 50th birthday and a month before mine.

In our first year at secondary school, we had a school trip to London Zoo for all the girls in the year and, despite being a rather posh all girls’ grammar school, many of the year were misbehaving…all but swinging from the trees! Our form tutor grew concerned when she couldn’t find Karen and me in the fray and she finally tracked us down…sharing a pot of tea in the tea rooms…at age 11! My mum says I was born middle aged, and now I actually am middle aged – and Karen and I can still be found in a tea room.

After a cup of tea and a catch up we found a park to stroll around…and to chat some more.

And a long stroll back to the hotel before dinner at Jamie’s Italian.

We spent virtually all of Saturday at the Ashmolean – including breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner!

Mixing culture and food with a trip to the Oxford Botanical Gardens.

Sunday breakfast preceded a visit to the Natural History Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum. I was blown away by the buildings and amazing assortment of displays!

Just time to wander around Trinity College open gardens before catching the train home.

Oh and a cream tea in the refectory of course!

We absolutely must have more weekend catch ups!

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Purple haze at Lacock Abbey

Took our cat Rio to the vet this morning for a scan and we had time to fill before we could go and collect him, so we popped in to Lacock Abbey to soak up the sunshine.

Food for the soul strolling through swathes of Spring bulbs.

The crocus are always particularly spectacular at Lacock Abbey.

The daffs aren’t bad either!

I even spotted a frog in the pond.

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The walled garden and glass house are also favourites…any time of year.

It wouldn’t be a day trip without coffee and cake (a very nice apple cake in the Lacock bakery)

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Thought this stall looked wonderful and was proud we resisted the temptation to buy anything!

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Then back home to appreciate our own Spring flowers…and to wait for the vet to call for us to collect Rio.






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Stourhead; five days in February

Our friends and family split in to two camps – one lot completely ‘got’ why we would want to stay somewhere that is only a 40 minute drive from home and the other lot…didn’t at all.

Our plan was to have a short drive so that no matter what weather February threw at us, we could easily get there. We wanted to go somewhere we could park the car and spend the week on foot and thoroughly explore somewhere you just can’t manage in a day trip, with plenty of time to unwind.


It was disappointing that the National Trust shop was closed throughout our visit, so we didn’t get to use our 20% off and treat ourselves to jams and biscuits and books and treats, but we coped…with the help of the lovely farm shop at the top of the hill. We had also planned to eat at the Spread Eagle Inn but were disappointed by the lack of choice – and badly burning and still serving a teacake didn’t fill us with confidence in their dinners. Again the farm shop came to the rescue and a big pot of organic veg and lentil stew, vegetable samosas and cheese and onion pasties saw us through!



This was our home for four nights and five days.

Once again, our holiday started with a rainy afternoon – always good to get the rain out of the way and settle in while the gardens are almost empty.

Tuesday morning I woke early, left Mark snoozing and headed off for my first out of hours walk around the gardens…so wonderful to be able to share the gardens with only the wildlife.

So lovely to see birds and wildlife.

As I walked the sun popped over the hills and painted everything with gold.

The gardens were dotted with snowdrops and early azaleas and even rhododendrons…the daffodils were showing flashes of yellow, almost ready to burst in to flower.

Back to the cottage for tea and toast with Mark before setting out again…