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Friday, 25 July 2014

Lyme Park

This week we went to the Tatton Park Flower Show. It's a two hour drive from home and that's if the traffic is behaving which on the M6 it often doesn't. So we decided to treat ourselves and stay overnight. On the way up to Manchester we decided to take a slight detour and visit Lyme Park, a National Trust Property, on the edge of the Peak District. It is a stunning place.

Before passing to the National Trust in 1946 the house had belonged to the Legh family for nearly 600 years.

The interior was fascinating with some impressive Elizabethan fireplaces, a beautiful library containing a semi-circular window with a built-in seat, (I could just imagine sitting there overlooking the grounds, book in hand), and a dining room with some tiny little lidded porcelain pots on the table which apparently were used for gravy. In previous times gravy was only poured over the vegetables so every diner would have been given one of these pots for extra gravy if so wished. I've been to quite a few historic homes and have never seen these before.

The house is set within beautiful gardens and beyond that a deer park. Some of the exterior scenes for the  BBC television series Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen were filmed here. This is the lake from which Mr. Darcy/Colin Firth emerged sending many hearts a'flutter!

We loved the orangery...

...the soothing sound of water pitter pattering from the moss encrusted fountain...

...following you around past the beautiful plants.

The herbaceous border was full of colour, as well as bees and butterflies...

... the rose garden an oasis of scented calm.

And this year the Italian garden has been planted in honour of those of fought and fell in the First World War.

This must rank as one of my favourite National Trust houses, alongside Greenway which was Agatha Christie's house in Devon and Coleton Fishacre, also in Devon, once belonging to the D'Oyly Carte family. Considering this is the largest house in Cheshire, Lyme has a delightfully informal and friendly feel. Children rolled down the grassy banks in the garden and played with the games provided on the lawn. Inside, the guides were friendly and informative and The Timber Yard was a lovely place to eat on a hot and sunny day. We didn't get the chance to explore the parkland but hopefully one day we will go back.

As always thank-you so much for visiting my blog. Have a good week.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

A Book Launch and Richard III

Isn't it lovely when you have something to celebrate? Especially when it's an occasion to mark the culmination of hard work and the coming together of something really special. On Tuesday evening we attended the book launch for The Children's Book of Richard III, which has been written by my writer friend, Rosalind Adam.

Ros and I have known each other for a long time, through good times and bad. This is a story of tenacity, entrepreneurship and serendipity; all qualities which you need in spades when you are a writer. The full story of this book is Ros's to tell and you can find all of the details on her blog. here.

Briefly, for those of you who missed the excitement, last year the remains of King Richard III were discovered underneath a council car park in Leicester. He had been hurriedly buried, following his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, in the church of the Greyfriars. This last bit of information wasn't certain and Greyfriars was long gone so the chances of finding him were remote, but thanks to many people, found he was.

Lynn Moore, who owns The Reading Shop, an independent children's book shop in Oadby, Leicester, was repeatedly asked for a children's book on Richard. She found there weren't any and, as Ros had already written The Children's History of Leicester, Lynn asked if she would be interested in writing about Richard.

Ros is very modest and she won't tell you just how fantastic her new book about Richard is. So I will!

Firstly, it is beautifully put together, printed by Soar Valley Press in a hardback edition. This is a book which will stand the test of time, which can be handed down from one generation to another which is such a lovely thing to be able to do.

The words are Ros's and the stunning illustrations are the work of Alice Povey. Ros discovered Alice through Twitter and it is so heart-warming to hear of a positive Twitter story.

Richard is a controversial and enigmatic character and his is a complex story. Ros has covered it expertly in a colourful, informative, entertaining and accessible way. This is a gem of a book, one you could read from cover to cover but also to dip into, one to sit down and read with your children or one to let the explore on their own. They will find it fascinating and fun.

It just goes to show that as writers, with a little bit of luck and a lot of dedication, anything is possible. So well done to Ros, Lynn and Alice for being such an inspiration and I am sure this book is going to be a huge success. If you would like to order a copy it is available from The Reading Shop.

Here is the lovely Ros with myself and a couple of other members of our writing group, children's author, Josephine Feeney (second from right) and BBC journalist, Bridget Blair in the gorgeous pink dress.

Thank-you for reading and may you too have something to celebrate this week.

Friday, 11 July 2014


I've missed a couple of posts because we have been on holiday for a week, to Madeira. In my heart I am an adventurer, winging my way across the oceans to far flung places, but in my head I am more cautious. So when my husband suggested Madeira for a holiday I had mixed feelings. I have visited this Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic once before, when I was in my teens. My memories were sketchy but I did remember the airport, which in the past was declared to have one of the world's most dangerous runways, due to its proximity to cliffs as well as protruding out into the sea. Fortunately, since my last visit, the runway has been extended so that was one less thing to worry about. I remembered a particular photograph where I was wearing a cream dress sprinkled with a pink rosebud design and I was hugging my father. I remembered disregarding my mother's advice and spending too much time in the sun. The next day was spent in a darkened hotel room recovering from heatstroke. But mainly I remembered the flowers, clouds of agapanthus and the extraordinary strelitzia reginae or bird of paradise flowers.

I didn't remember the banana trees which seem to grow everywhere, even in the smallest of gardens.

I knew that on my previous visit we had been to Palheiro Gardens, just outside the capital of Funchal and, although I remembered it as a beautiful oasis of calm, this time around I really appreciated the variety of trees and plants. This is called an Angel's Trumpet Tree.

And these roses just looked so romantic.

The cannas demand to be noticed. They are real divas! These were in our garden.

Especially when I travel abroad, I am fascinated by how our landscape shapes us. I felt full of admiration and awe as I watched lorries, buses and cars negotiate the hairpin bend which we could see from our villa. From the speed they were going it didn't look as if they gave this route a second thought but if I had been at the wheel of any of these vehicles I would have been a quivering wreck!

I also marvelled at the terracing where a multitude of vegetables were grown in some pretty inaccessible looking areas. It made me realise how much can be grown in a small space. 

At my core I am a girl from the soft, velvety pastureland of Leicestershire where a hill would seem more like a gentle incline to the people of Madeira. But it is good to be taken out of your comfort zone every once in a while. It makes you look and think and feel with more depth. It helps you to appreciate what you have. It also helps to clear your mind. A week away has helped to resolve the slight question mark which was hovering over plot direction towards the end of the romantic novel I am writing. So we are refreshed and inspired from our short trip away and I shan't be complaining any more about how difficult it is to keep my vegetable plot watered! In the meantime, back in land-locked Leicestershire this stunning sea view from our villa keeps me company wherever I go.

I hope you have had a good couple of weeks and thank-you for dropping by.