Thursday, 31 December 2009

Snowshill Manor: Look Away Now...

...If You Don't Want To See Another Floaty Summer Garden! 

But if you are tired of the grey skies, snow, sleet and rain outside come, follow me through the door and I'll show you around a deliciously green and lush English Country garden...

Another year is nearly over. I could review it at length, but I won't; 2009 has probably been the worst year of my life so far. There have been many sad and stressful moments and I am not sorry to see it go. I am looking forward to 2010 immensely and planning gardens to visit, plants to grow, worlds to conquer (although I am not particularly looking forward to January which has to be for me the most depressing month of them all). I have been looking though my photographs from garden visits earlier this summer. I spied a forgotten little folder called Snowshill and its contents cheered me and reminded me of a very pleasant May afternoon. I'm sorry to all you realists out there, I am sure my January posts will be full of bare trees, grey skies and slimy looking plants, I'm trying to meet you part of the way -at least the title has something a little wintry about it, even if the pictures do not!

I took a short break in the Cotswolds over the May bank holiday this year and one of the places I happened to visit was Snowshill Manor. The picturesque manor built in traditional yellow Cotswold limestone nestles in the hills above the Vale of Evesham. A brisk walk through orchards and fields leads you the house.

 St George and the Dragon bell.

The manor has a rich history and was the property of Winchcombe Abbey from 821 until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. It then became the property of the Crown and was presented to Katherine Parr, King Henry VIII 's wife as a gift. Its real interest today however is in its role as the final home of Charles Paget Wade's collection of design and craftsmanship. Wade was a very eccentric collector and he purchased Snowshill in 1919 as a property in which to house his extraordinary collection of 22,000 items and 2000 piece costume collection (including 26 suits of Samurai armour). He was an architect, craftsman and poet, and had spent more than 50 years amassing his collection, which he acquired mainly from British antiques dealers and shops.

The gardens at Snowshill are small but an unexpected delight. Charles Wade designed them in collaboration with the Arts and Crafts architect M. H. Baille-Scott in the early 1920's. I went to Snowshill to see Wade's collection, not the gardens. It is without doubt the most interesting collection of items I have ever seen and could happily return again and again to gaze in wonderment at them. The gardens however were really very pretty and a pleasure to slowly meander around. I visited the world famous Hidcote Manor that same weekend; it was unfortunately very crowded and so for me Snowshill was by far the more enjoyable visit (I think I will have to have another go at Hidcote next summer to see if I get more joy).

The boarders were billowing with sweet smelling hesperis, irises, poppies, aquilegias, nepeta, hardy geraniums, peonies, topiaried box and old-fashioned roses. The garden was not filled with complicated planting schemes and there were no particularly unusual plants to get me excited but the simplicity and vibrancy of the plants used suited the small terraces and ponds beautifully. The verdant jumble of growth that I do so love about gardens in May sat at ease in the walls of the manor, but also met comfortably with the rolling hills and countryside beyond.

I hope I have managed to provide a few minutes distraction for those of you suffering with the winter blues; I'm dreaming of spring and lusting after summer already.

I would just like to take a moment to thank everyone who has commented on and visited the blog this year, it has given me a great deal of pleasure to share all my tales and visits with you and receive your feedback. Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year; may all your dreams and wishes come true RO xxx

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Glitter, Dirt and All Things Nice: Out on the Streets in Stamford.

The George Hotel and St Marys Church.

It's Christmas Eve already; I can't believe it! Where has the time gone? I've just one last post to squeeze in before tomorrow, so I better put down my glass of mulled wine and mince pie and get typing I suppose...

I have always been a bit of a mud monkey. I grew up an unkempt and dusty footed child running about semi feral on my parent's self-sufficient smallholding. When I finally flew the nest I chose to become an archaeologist and spent even more time playing in the mud. As a result I am not particularly known for my immaculate and lady like appearance. However, I must now make a confession to you... I love all the girly stuff! Even though more often than not you will find me in a pair of steel toecaps, I really do adore putting on a pair of good boots and a skirt and attempting to be a polite young lady.

I am also a closet lover of colour and glitter despite never having worn anything other than black until I reached my 20's (except for my hair of course which was pink and caused my mother many years of deep embarrassment)! I am know to several of my friends as "The Glitter Fairy" and have been cursed countless times over the years for sending cards with hidden glitter bombs inside (I send repeat bombs to those who complain the most about the mess it makes). Christmas therefore is a time I really adore with its festive lights and sparkly decorations. A riot of colour makes me beam from ear to ear, and lets face it in the bleak British midwinter, an explosion of colour really is a welcome sight.

In a bid to be more refined this years Christmas money has rather unusually all been blown on a designer handbag. A thing I have never owned before and behold in awe. Yesterday I went Christmas shopping in Stamford. It was the first time I had taken my new baggywag out. I thought for some time about all the things I should put in my lovely soft, new girly bag...lipstick, mascara, a pretty compact etc. etc. Then I carefully opened it up and shoved my digital camera in it. Admittedly it was a bit of a struggle, they just don't seem to be designed for large digital SLR's but I managed it in the end and off I trotted. Well VP is having a special sparkly festive edition of "Out on the Streets" so how could I not join in?

The side of The George and view of St Martins Church in distance.

I'm rather fond of Stamford. It is a little glimmer of civilisation in the gritty expanse that is South Lincolnshire. In Medieval times it was a centre for the bustling wool trade in the area and it's wealth was displayed in its 14 churches (11 of which still remain). Much of the town's architecture however springs from the Georgian period. In 1660 improvements to the Great North Road and the towns waterways meant that anyone travelling north had to pass through the town. Prosperous merchants were attracted to the town and the medieval coaching inns such as The George became nationally renowned. The George Hotel still does a roaring trade. It's rather a fun hotel to stay in and if you are looking for a treat I heartily recommend it. I usually start my shopping at this end of town. There is a somewhat eclectic antiques centre at the top of the hill near St Martins Church, which is always worth a quick browse. From there I trot down the hill, past The George and along the streets, which are filled with an array of independent shops and boutiques.

Window boxes at the front of The George.

The George had several Christmas trees both inside and out. On the street it had a row of window boxes filled with ivy, variegated hebe's, cyclamen and winter pansies which were all slightly the worse for wear after the heavy snow we've had, but still providing a splash of green against the Lincolnshire limestone walls. The hotel was richly decorated on the inside. I quickly snuck in and had a peek; it was bustling and full of people in high spirits. Every room was elaborately decorated with festive decorations. Giant baubles hung from the ceiling in the bar, one lounge had holly going all the way up the wall and across the ceiling running into the large iron chandelier hanging from it. I must admit it all felt very jolly and the courtyard where you can usually sit out and dine in the summer looked exceptionally pretty dusted in snow with Christmas trees on either side of it.

One of the downstairs rooms in The George

Entrance of The George.

One of the dining areas in The George.

Christmas tree in The George.

The Courtyard of The George 

Frozen park.

Stamford looked beautiful yesterday. A veritable winter wonderland with its snow covered parks, icy rivers and icicle laden shop fronts. For once it really did feel like I was doing some proper Christmas shopping!

Shops with icicles.

Shop window


I am also rather fond of the Christmas lights in Stamford. They are colourful and jolly and there are none of those dreadful blue and white LED lights that are draped around so many of the towns I have visited this Christmas. I guess I'm a traditional lass at heart, I like the bells and the holly leaves in yellows and reds and greens. All this modern plain blue and white stuff just leaves me feeling sad and cold. If a town is going to the bother of putting up festive lights then I really do believe they should make them bright and cheerful, isn't that the whole essence of Christmas after all?

St Johns Church and Christmas trees.

High Street with St Michael's Church.

High Street view with St Michael's Church.
So there we have it, Stamford at Christmas. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. All that remains now is for me to get back to my mulled wine and wish you all a very merry Christmas from everyone at Tumbledown.


Saturday, 19 December 2009

Snow, snow and more snow at Tumbledown Farm.

Snow has finally arrived at Tumbledown Farm. It is not just a gentle dusting of icing sugar either, but great big drifts of snow smothering everything in sight with its icy white kisses.

The snowy flatlands of South Lincolnshire.

The birds are particularly unimpressed with the weather. I don't think I have ever seen quite so many grumpy black birds sat about the place. There are a few berries left for them to forage and we have put out extra food for them. However they remain unimpressed about having to dust off a thick layer of snow from the branches before they can perch on them.

The tale of the grumpy black bird.
 My first Christmas wreath.

In an attempt to be festive I have started to make a few Christmas decorations. This is something I have never really tried before as I thought it would be far too difficult and time consuming. However after seeing that all the chaps have been busy this year making wreaths and decorations I thought I better have a go myself. I soon discovered that making a Christmas wreath was actually quite fun and I was very pleased that I managed to gather all of the things I needed to make it from around the smallholding. I stuck to a very simple design of fir and ivy. I bent an old coat hanger into a circle and then fixed pieces of fir to it with flexible garden wire. When I had covered the hoop I added a few sprigs of holly for a dash of colour. 

I then tried to make something far more fanciful and girly! I cut several red dogwood stems and attempted to weave them into the shape of a heart. This was perhaps a little adventurous as the stems really did not want to hold the shape, preferring instead to randomly lose shape and smack me on the nose when I was least expecting it. After a long battle I wrapped the stems with ivy, added a few star anise, a sprig of holly and a ribbon and then firmly nailed the damn thing to the wall before it could smack me on the nose again! I should have know it wouldn't be all plain sailing, but I'm glad I persevered as I have some decorations I really like that didn't cost me a penny and a sense of pride that I managed to make them myself.

Snowy Hebe.

Icy jewels in the afternoon sun.

Snow hats.

Leo the snow tiger!

The cats have not been impressed at all with the weather. Silvi has not even ventured from the warmth of house. Leo, our hardcore tiger admirably tried to battle the elements but was tucked up on the sofa warming his toes by lunchtime. Stilton did his best to supervise me in the garden as usual but he was not impressed with the snow. In fact his language as he followed me around the garden was rather blue, but he carried out his supervisory responsibilites to the best of his abilities. I was immensely pleased about this for once as just over a week ago he was laying in the vets hooked up to a drip fighting for his little furry life. So for me the best Christmas present this year is to have him trotting around after me shouting his complaints and shaking his soggy paws at me.

Stilton giving his orders as usual.

Monday, 7 December 2009


This is the week I will be laying a few ghosts to rest. I'm making some major life changes at the moment so I probably won't be posting much. I'll talk about it more over the coming weeks. 2010 is going to be a year of metamorphosis for The Orchid!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Winter Kiss

I am entering this picture "Winter Kiss" in Gardening Gone Wild's Picture This! competition. The theme is "Winter Beauty". This is my favourite winter picture so far this season. It is of a somewhat weather worn viburnum flower against a grey December sky. Even though this little flower has been kissed by Jack Frost it still manages to sing its pretty song in the bleakness of winter, that is why I love it so! :o)