s_DSC0803

Today’s Treasures Wollerton Old Hall Garden

Today’s Treasures

Wollerton Old Hall Garden

s_DSC0803

I was invited to visit this intriguing garden by Jane Bebbington of Dearnford (now Alderford) Lake.  We were talking about gardens and she said:  “What?  You’ve never been to Wollerton Old Hall?  Then I’ll take you.”  It was a beautiful sunny afternoon in late Spring and I was absolutely stunned by the sheer artistry of the garden.  Every step you take there is a different vista of flowers, rainbows of colours, framed by oak gateways and wrought iron arches, sculptured trees and manicured hedges – it feels like walking through a living art gallery.

s_DSC0741

John, my husband, is an artist and I longed to show him the garden – we finally visited this summer and he, like me, was enchanted.  From the moment you step inside the garden you feel like Alice in Wonderland – you can almost imagine a Cheshire Cat smiling down at you from an oak tree – then vanishing into thin air.

The variety of flowers is amazing – and changes with every twist and turn – lavenders and roses, heliotropes and hostas interspersed with foxgloves and hollyhocks; beds of lilies, immaculate lawns border phlox and salvias dotted with verbena and mulleins; white and blue agapanthus have a whole border to themselves.

Sundials stand immobile as the sun shadows the hours, and time stands still as you pause in wonder at the rainbows of colours, the honey scent of stocks fading to the delicate perfume of roses as another wrought iron gate opens a new page, a whole new landscape of colours and shapes.

Clematis and roses scramble over archways, pergolas and ancient brick walls, with shady benches to relax, close your eyes for a moment, and immerse yourself in the sheer tranquillity of growing things.

When your senses are totally saturated with nature’s palette of colours and scents, you can relax in the café and enjoy home-made cakes and proper afternoon tea in real china cups.

s_DSC0801

Although Wollerton Hall is a 16th Century House, the garden has been recently designed and developed by Lesley and John Jenkins who bought the hall and its 4 acres in 1983. For more information visit www.wollertonoldhallgarden.com

Or better still see the real thing

Wollerton Old Hall Garden, Wollerton, Market Drayton TF9 3NA

s_DSC0807s_DSC0802s_DSC0769s_DSC0756

s_DSC0752s_DSC0743

s_DSC0748s_DSC0742

s_DSC0738s_DSC0734

s_DSC0735

This article was published in the August edition of the Whitchurch Gossip and the Drayton Gossip

as_DSC0591s

Was it a polecat? A fox? Or an Owl?

Last week was very sad.

as_DSC0582s

When you go out in the morning, you never know what you are going to find.  Sadly, these few bits of white fur are all that is left of Holly rabbit and her six babies – just one week old.  Something had got into her pen overnight and taken all Holly’s babies AND Holly rabbit!  I am guessing it was a polecat as it had ripped a hole in the wire at the bottom of the pen.  It might have been a fox but a fox would easily have jumped into the pen, not made a hole in the wire.  We also heard an owl in the night which is quite unusual as we live so near a main road.  Whatever, Holly has gone and so have her tiny babies.

Happily Eny rabbit and her kits are all OK – Eny is a more aggressive and protective rabbit – she gets really cross if the cats go anywhere near her and she runs at them.  So Eny has to be shut in her hutch at night now which she doesn’t like at all – and tries to hide under the hutch – I keep telling her that won’t protect her and her babies from whatever got Holly but she’s not impressed.

It was so sad, Holly was my favourite rabbit and loved being cuddled.  But there’s always something to cheer you up.  Wandering around the field looking for clues as to what happened I came across these poppies growing in the ashes of last year’s bonfire night.

as_DSC0591s

_DSC0607s

Healing Thyme offer a range of alternative therapies

Natural plant based remedies and alternative therapies in Shropshire

024-ht-front

Thérèse Hickland’s dream of bringing holistic healing and safe expertise and advice to local people and the surrounding communities became reality in 2007 when Healing Thyme opened in Whitchurch.  The shop looks and feels like a traditional apothecary shop and offers traditional quality advice and personal service.

Based in Whitchurch High Street, with beautifully decorated, peaceful consulting rooms, Healing Thyme offers a range of alternative therapies including aromatherapy, acupuncture, reflexology, osteopathy and a range of natural remedies.

Thérèse says:  “As a trained Medical Herbalist I understand and work with natural plant based remedies. I wanted to create an environment where people’s health and happiness mattered more than anything else. “

The herbal dispensary stocks over 250 dried herbs and tinctures where two qualified Medical Herbalists make up creams, drops, ointments and tea blends. The shop stocks a range of health foods, most of which are organic and/or suitable for special diets including gluten-free. There is also a range of organic and chemical-free toiletries, including soaps, shampoos and toothpaste.

Simple remedies may only need a brief, free consultation but where longer consultations are necessary, private consulting rooms are available and Healing Thyme offers a complete range of practitioners to cover every aspect of complementary medicine.  A full list of therapies and practitioners – along with consultation fees – and opening times can be found on the new look website at: www.healing-thyme.co.uk – a bespoke website created by www.Rainford-IT.co.uk

Healing thyme support the local community in many ways.  They provide the use of their beautiful, calm and tranquil consultation rooms for local therapists (all self-employed).  They are a strong supporter of Fairtrade; they always support Blackberry Fair (initially sponsoring The Giant) – and this year they sponsored the new Whitchurch 10k run which attracted over 600 runners, raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Thérèse says:  “At Healing Thyme people matter to us; we are all passionate about sharing our knowledge and expertise in natural forms of healing and health. Our environment and people are critical to ensuring that you feel welcome and able to bring your health concerns to us.”

Healing Thyme are always looking for new therapists to join their team.  A medical therapist is available in the shop every day.  They have disabled facilities, with Blue Badge parking spaces right outside.  Breastfeeding mums are welcome to use the facilities.  For more information visit:

www.healing-thyme.co.uk
29 High Street, Whitchurch, SY13 1AZ
Telephone:  01948 665565
Email:
[email protected]

Published in the June 2017 edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

s_DSC0605

Often you don’t have to go very far to find Today’s treasures

Often you don’t have to go very far to find Today’s treasures

June is a delicious month, a time of strawberries, new potatoes flavoured with apple mint, and the first broad beans melting with butter.  And the gardens are alive with colours – yellow flag irises decorate ponds, azaleas brighten up patios, rhododendrons mist the hillsides with a purple haze and poppies startle you with their brilliant red blooms.

s_DSC0608 s_DSC0605 s_DSC0616 s_DSC0618

Butterflies and damselflies flex their wings and the heady scents of honeysuckle and wild roses fill the hedgerows.  Bees are busy investigating every single foxglove flower and the buttercups dance their golden heads in the summer breeze.

The bird table is alive with hatchlings, families of blue tits and great tits vie for space on the feeders – and the swallows return from far off places, wheeling and diving across our skies.  Alas, gone are the times when the cuckoo called across our fields and the skylarks sang high above our heads – we need to go further into the wilds of Wales to hear these birds now, but we get more visitors to our bird table – goldfinches, nuthatches and great spotted woodpeckers love peanuts and sunflower seeds.

June is also the time to make elderflower champagne (not really champagne – and in fact not alcoholic at all if you drink it soon enough – but it tastes delicious).  Iced elderflower cordial is the perfect complement for summer lunches – these traditional recipes were handed down to me by two elderly aunts – handwritten on yellowing paper, now immortalised on my website:  visit www.barbararainford.co.uk/recipes

So quite often, you don’t have to go very far for Today’s Treasures, you can always find something new in your own back yard – a blackbird’s liquid notes heralding the dawn, daisies opening up their petals to the sun’s rays, a glimpse of the first wild rose, the sweetness of strawberries, or honeysuckle’s saturating scent – stimulating all our senses.  As our very own Shropshire A.E. Housman said:  “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?”  Take a moment to enjoy Today’s Treasures.

s_DSC0627 s_DSC0626 s_DSC0623

Published in the June edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

_DSC0582elderflower

Elderflower Champagne

Midsummer – time to make Elderflower Champagne – which is not champagne – or alcoholic – at all – but, according to my family, is every bit as good as champagne:

_DSC0582elderflower

Elderflower Champagne

4 large elderflower heads
2 lemons – rind and juice
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 lb 8 oz of granulated sugar
7 pints cold water

You will need 2 large clean buckets – one to make the champagne in and another to strain the champagne into.
Remove flower petals from elderflower heads (just rub the flowers off the stalks – it’s not critical if some stalks get in as well) and put in a bucket with rind and juice of 2 lemons.
Add water and vinegar and stir well.
Leave for 2 days, stirring night and morning.
Strain through a stocking held over a sieve or colander into the second bucket.

Add sugar and stir well.
Leave 24 hours then bottle in screw top bottles.  (Plastic pop bottles will do fine.)

It should be ready to drink after about a week.

If not drinking straight away you will need to release the tops of the bottles regularly so they don’t explode – or you can use old port bottles with corks.

_DSC0005s

Today’s Treasures – Snowdrops – Tiny Pearls of Springtime

Today’s Treasures – Snowdrops – Tiny Pearls of Springtime

_DSC0005s

The days are getting longer and the first flowers of the year are peeping through Autumn’s fallen leaves – snowdrops – tiny pearls of springtime, creeping towards the light; frosts may wither them but their fragile stems soon revive in the sunshine, they shake their petals free of winter and their tiny white bells tremble in the spring breeze.

Snowdrop Walks mark the start of the season for many of our historic houses and there are lots of early spring walks through snowdrop-dappled woodland.  Rode Hall, just over the North Shropshire border, has a wonderful display of snowdrops set in enchanting woodland.

_DSC0002s

The snowdrop trail begins alongside neatly manicured lawns overlooked by a picturesque combination of unusual mature trees, through formal rose gardens, heavenly scented in summer but now lying dormant waiting for the first rays of the summer sun.

Through the gap in the hedge, a whole new vista opens out and you enter a wild woodland star spangled with snowdrops roaming unchecked, under the trees, along the brook, scrambling around the shrubs and bushes that decorate the landscape, and you can find a bench, or perch on a  stone bridge, and merge with the magic of the trees, serenaded by robins and blackbirds and soothed by the sound of the stream bubbling over stones, watched by myriads of tiny snowdrop faces, studying their reflections in the water.

_DSC0004s

Rode Hall is open from Saturday, 4th February to Sunday 5th March (except Mondays) for snowdrop escapades for all the family (including dogs – on leads).  The tearoom is open serving light lunches and you can warm up by the logburner with a welcome pot of tea and homemade cakes.  The art exhibition in the barn is well worth a visit, showcasing creations by local artists – and not all of the paintings feature snowdrops!  www.rodehall.co.uk

In the Druid calendar Snowdrops heralded Spring and first appear at Imbolc – celebrated on 31st January and 2nd February (Candlemas Day).

There are snowdrops walks all over Shropshire, including Combermere Abbey, Attingham Park, and Dudmaston Hall.

The Snowdrop Fairy

Deep sleeps the Winter
Cold, wet, and grey;
Surely all the world is dead;
Spring is far away.
Wait! the world shall waken;
It is not dead, for lo,
The Fair Maids of February
Stand in the snow!

Cicely Mary Barker

s_DSC0118

 

s_dsc0255

Glorious Autumn

Glorious Autumn

What a surprise!  One damp and dreary early Autumn morning I stumbled out to feed the chickens and was suddenly stunned wide awake by this beautiful bright blue flower positively glowing – Morning Glory!  It’s supposed to be really easy to grow but I nurtured tiny seedlings that struggled to survive and, when I finally planted them out they just sat there and refused to climb up the bamboo wigwam – until I got bored waiting and forgot all about them – until this morning!  Every morning since there have been new flowers – they love the early mornings and close up later in the day – hence the name.  It’s a type of convolvulus – our native white version can be a troublesome weed as it chokes other plants – hence its common name – bindweed.  All of the plant is poisonous as it contains tropane alkaloids – especially the seeds – but this flower certainly brightened up my morning.

s sunflowers

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

s sunflowers

I always grow some sunflowers as the birds love the seeds.  I tried to get some ordinary size sunflower seeds but must have ended up with giant ones – either that or the rabbit manure has worked wonders as these sunflowers are over a foot across – and one of the plants is over 12 feet tall!  It’s a wonder it’s still standing – my time spent staking the plants in the spring has paid off.

I used to spend ages collecting the sunflower seeds but it takes ages scraping them all out and the earwigs seem to like hiding in them too – so now I just dry the whole heads in the barn then put them out for the birds in the winter – they don’t mind the earwigs!

s_DSC0752snowdrops

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

s_DSC0752snowdrops

The very first flowers of Spring.  Our very first visit to the cottage each year was to pick some snowdrops and I remember those journeys looking out of the car window searching the fields wanting to be the first to see the new lambs.  That feeling of looking forward to Spring returns with the snowdrops.  Mum used to say:  “If you have good health, you can change everything else in your life.”  As I am getting older, I have good days and bad days and I really make an effort to make the most of the good days – those days when you get up in the morning and feel like changing the world.  But however you feel, whatever your health, you can always enjoy the little things in life, using your senses to the full, listening to a robin sing, watching blue tits on the bird table – and the scent of flowers – did you know that snowdrops have a very delicate, fresh, green smell?

s_DSC0669

The Nasturtium Fairy

The Song of The Nasturtium Fairy

s_DSC0669

Nasturtium the jolly,
O ho, O ho!
He holds up his brolly
Just so, just so!
(A shelter from showers,
A shade from the sun;)
‘Mid flame-coloured flowers
He grins at the fun.
Up fences he scrambles,
Sing hey, sing hey!
All summer he rambles
So gay, so gay –
Till the night-frost strikes chilly,
And Autumn leaves fall,
And he’s gone, willy-nilly,
Umbrella and all.

From ‘A Flower Fairy alphabet’ by Cicely Mary Barker