24 September 2013

Lindisfarne and Alnwick

Dear Coco
This will be my last letter as we are coming home tonight. It seems ages since I last saw you and the Lad and I hope that he hasn't grown too big yet.
 This is what my room here looks like - case all packed, Vincent on the computer, Jethro on the bed,
and Marie-Anne and the Krazy Kitten having fun.
 We had a really fun weekend - starting with a trip to Lindisfarne in Nortumberland. There is a castle and a ruined cathedral and you can only drive there at low tide.
The castle was made into a really comfy summer holiday home in the early 1900s by Edwin Lutyens. This is Marie-Anne and Vincent getting into the part of turn-of-the-century children.
 We then walked across the sheep-poop lawns to the utterly delightful little walled garden with lovely views across to the castle.
 The garden was designed by Gertrude Jekyll
 and was full of wonderful colours and interesting paths and nooks and crannies
 including a plaque to the designer herself.
 A beautiful butterfly in the garden - contrasting with the rather windswept terrain on the other side of the walls.
We went in search of food in the funny little village - watched rather disapprovingly by this creepy little dog-man.
 A quick dip into the ruined priory there, and a look at this lovely statue of St Aiden,
 before we settled down to tea and scones.
 On the way back to the car we saw lots of signs to dog-owners to please PICK UP THEIR DOG POOP!
 We made it back over the causeway to the mainland by the skin of our teeth.
 Then, our next destination was Alnwick Garden where Beth steered us to the roses while the kids played in the many fountains all hidden in mazes. Very impressive. This is the Alnwick rose by David Austin.
 and this one is called "The Lark Ascending" and is also a David Austen rose.
 The formal garden was full of blue delphiniums and agapanthus,
 beautiful Autumn Crocuses (Colchicum autumnale),
 and these echinacea daisies.
 While Marie-Anne and Vincent played on the grass, we had some tea and watched a wedding party arrive.
 Then we went home to play with Neo - who was playing "now I am small as a mouse"
and now tall as a house. Such a cute kitten - Coco - I am sure you would rather like to chase her all over the house.
Well Coco, we are off to the airport soon, so I will show you the last few photos when I get back. See you really really soon - and hopefully we can have a walk on the beach when we take Mom home.
love to Simon, the Alf and the Lad
from the FL xx

Shopping and sightseeing in Sunderland

Dear Coco
We are coming to the end of our holiday - tomorrow we leave Jethro and his family and start the long haul home again.
It seems just yesterday that we left the Derbyshire Farmhouse and spent a few happy hours exploring the truly amazing Tudor house of Little Moreton Hall.
This is a dog kennel in the main courtyard of this house - just a hole in the wall (but a comfy space inside neverthelesss) and a water trough made of stone outside.
As we were leaving the postman arrived with the mail.
We arrived in Whitburn, Sunderland, where we were able to meet the latest addition to the family - the cutest little kitten called Neo. Here he is with Marie-Anne. It was so lovely to see all the Schroeders again.
Marie-Anne and Neo on my bed
which was a very comfy fold-out sleeper couch used by Vincent, Marie-Anne, Neo
and Jethro the big and beautiful.
 On Thursday it was raining so, after Beth dropped Marie-Anne and Vincent at school, we had a relaxed morning in Beth and Norbert's lovely house on the sea cliffs, and then went shopping at Sainsburys.
 And lunched at Sainsburys.
 Then we fetched Marie-Anne from school ...
 and went to TK Max for some more retail therapy. It was lots of fun and we bought a few gifts and I bought a skirt.
Back in my room, with Neo for company. (The bird is a paper cut-out, not real.)
On Friday, after showing me all the dragons that he has accumulated in his Dragon Quest game, Vincent and Marie-Anne went off to school
 and Jethro went for his walk (here he is waiting patiently for his walking lady to pick him up),
and Mom, Beth and I set out for Belsay Hall, Gardens and Castle in Northumberland. At the entrance we met this distinguished dog - an elkhound-greyhound cross. 
Belsay Hall is a Greek Revival mansion built in the early 1800s and now owned by English Heritage.
The gardens are really romantic and unusual. One section had a long walk with lots of different northern hemisphere ericas and heaths, including this Erica tetralix which seems to occur in the UK.
But the most exciting and truly amazing garden was the Quarry Garden - a lovely garden inside the quarry where the stones for Belsay Hall were quarried.
Before the hall was built, the family lived in this castle, which they just abandoned when they moved into tthe hall in 1817. It was lovely to explore it - with memories of I capture the castle by Dodie Smith and the Lorna Hill stories that I just loved as a child. The castles in those books could have easily been this 14th century defensive 'peel tower' which was built as a refuge at a time of Anglo-Scottish warfare.
On the way home we went to the Barbour factory shop where Mom bought a hat for herself and Anna, and so did I - for Sophie and Marie-Anne.
Time just runs on and it is time to sign off. 
See you soon Coco!
love The Food Lady 

23 September 2013

Cheerful in Chester

Dear Coco
We were welcomed to Chester by this cheerful Roman that looked like he had stepped out from an Asterix book, and hoards of little kids marching behind a Roman legionary all shouting and chanting up and down the streets. 
The streets were rather pretty - with lots of old timbered houses and this clock archway that we walked across to get to the cathedral
which we were keen to visit.
and which welcomed us in many different languages including Afrikaans before a very persuasive lady came up to us and managed to get a "voluntary" donation out of us very easily, if reluctantly on our part.
But it was lovely inside and we had a happy time looking for dragons and green men in the quire stall carvings 
and on the misericords.
There are wonderful stained glass windows all around the cloisters like this one is of Aidan, one of Mom's favourite saints, and who your friend Aidan is named after. He is reputed to have been kind to animals, and is usually depicted with a stag which he apparently made invisible to save it from the hounds.
and the inevitable dragon or two.
In the cloister is a modern sculpture entitled The water of life which is at odds with all the antiquity about.
We had tea and scones in the Cathedral Refetory tea room which is by far and away the largest  tea room I have had tea in.
Each table had fresh roses on it.
Back in Chester, we came across this little elephant who used to live in the Chester Zoo,
and we did a bit of window shopping in the elegant - if rather tatty - shops of Chester.
I really wanted these Radley scotty bags
and this purse, but they would have cost me half my holiday budget to buy so we said goodbye to Chester,
and struck out for our next - and last - B&B in the Derbyshire Dales, arriving just in time for tea and cake in the farmhouse lounge overlooking the beautiful - if rather wet and rainy - Derbyshire landscape around Earl Sterndale.
 The next morning we went to the Royal Crown Derby factory and museum and spent the entire morning browsing around the displays like this one on the Downton Abbey TV series
 that used their china for the series.
 There were lots of plates and objects with dogs on them,
 including a very fine Scottish Terrier paperweight.
We had tea and scones in their tearoom on some fine bone china too - although the rather harassed lady at the counter was far from fine!
 We then went to Haddon Hall, although the Sat Nav led us to a road closed and we nearly missed the cut off time of 4 pm last entry while we weaved around the narrow little roads of Derbyshire.
 Haddon Hall was beautiful - and Mom was happy to see it again after visiting it when she was 18 - just after the Second World War when she visited it with a relative who had actually been to a few balls held in this long hall.
 The gardens were lovely - in the misty rainy weather,
and there were interesting displays about the working dogs, like these turnspike dogs where they think the phrase "its a dog's life" came from.
 And these ancient spooky skeletons on the walls of the chapel ...
 There is also a wonderful Elizabethan knot garden - very difficult to tear ourselves away, but eventually we were kicked out,
and made our way home to our Braemar Farmhouse B&B where we had cup a soups and watched "Have I got more news for?" you on tv before collapsing into our comfy beds.
So Coco, I will continue with our travels later as just now as I have to go and say goodbye to Marie-Anne and Vincent who are off to school on this bright and sunny Monday morning.
We are nearly at the end of the holiday now - one more night here and one more on the plane and I will be home.
love to you all
from the Food Lady