Saturday, 31 August 2013

Botanical Inspiration

Last week-end we visited the flagship garden of the Royal Horticultural Society, RHS Wisley

A must see place for gardeners and plant lovers but also, like all gardens, jam packed full of inspiration for artists and designers.

I took quite a few photographs, but here are some of my favourites.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Gladstone Pottery Museum - part two

Continuing on our tour of the Gladstone Pottery Museum (part one as posted last week), it was the perfect opportunity to see the production processes from days gone by (and, in some case, continued today) of the pottery industry.

There were opportunities to see experts at work, and also to have a go yourself.

Sometimes, some of the visitors looked so confident in their work, they could be mistaken for staff 

We finished off in the Tiles and Toilets area and I was particularly enthralled by this tiled collage/mosaic at the entrance to the Tile Gallery 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Hunter-Gatherer Cat

Mr P follows his cat instincts on a regular (too regular for my liking) basis and brings back creatures from the animal kingdom - sometimes dead, sometimes alive.  We have taken steps to try and reduce this, but we don't always win.

However, Mr P has this thing about bringing presents home, and if it is not a specimen from the animal kingdom, he brings whatever he can find.  Most frequently, he will bring dry sticks (useful for putting on the garden fire), fir cones, windfall apples and figs (we get lots of these - sometimes up to 5 a day), the dog's toys from next door and he once even brought back a piece of hosepipe.

Figs are a popular "find" - never edible but useful for putting on the compost

At Christmas, a couple of years ago (and so with perfect timing), he brought back a gold star which was particularly impressive.

Mr P, very proud of his gold star treasure

I thought the gold star would be difficult to beat, but last night he surpassed himself.  Maybe he was looking for something special because he wanted to make it up to me because earlier in the evening he'd knocked my drink over and broken the glass, or maybe just because he knows I like chickens....but his latest treasure, brought back this morning is his best so far ....

a plastic chicken!

Thank you so much, Mr P!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Gladstone Pottery Museum - part one

On our recent trip to North Staffordshire, we also visited The Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke on Trent, described as the story of the Potteries all wrapped up in one unique museum.  It has been preserved as the last complete Victorian pottery museum in the country.  In years gone by, bottle ovens dominated the Stoke on Trent skyline (it is said that at one point, there were up to 4,000 of them) but now only very few remain, and the Gladstone has 4 of these in its grounds.

A very atmospheric place to be, it has been used as a popular location for various tv and drama recordings - the Dr Who serial The Ultimate Foe being one of them.

Shortly after we arrived at the museum, it started to rain, and this just added to the whole atmosphere of the place.

The self-guided tour took us into the depths of the bottle ovens, where spooky shadows could be cast against the walls.

We pitied the kiln men though whose work involved filling and emptying the ovens - long hours of climbing up and down ladders carrying heavy weights in the heat and hardly any light to work by would have been a tough job indeed.

As we made our way around the museum, we learnt a lot about the way of life of the pottery workers and of the processes involved in pottery production.

Because of my love of colour, I really liked it in the Colour Gallery, with its huge display of slip colour samples and its rows of interesting looking jars.

However, this room is said to be active with paranormal activity and the Most Haunted tv team have conducted a night time vigil there. The room was previously a storage area for glazes and it is said that when the storage jars have been rearranged, it has upset a particular spirit so much that he has been known to hurl objects around the room.  One theory is that the area was once run by a man who was very particular in the way the materials were stored (which is understandable, as it would have been very inefficient not to have a system for correct storage of glazes) and to this day, his spirit gets annoyed if anyone should attempt to re-arrange his carefully devised system.

Here's a link to the You Tube recording of the Most Haunted episode from the Gladstone Pottery Museum, if you're interested in knowing more of its spooky history....  You Tube - Most Haunted at the Gladstone Pottery Museum

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Uneaten Leeks Never Go To Waste

We recently visited a friend who has a very large and beautiful garden, an area of which, she has dedicated to growing fruit and vegetables.  Last season, she had a surplus of leeks and rather than pull them out of the ground, she decided to leave them as they were.

As they are part of the allium family, they continued to grow and eventually transformed themselves from vegetables to flowers. 

On a hot summer day, the shades of greens, purples, pinks and lilacs looked spectacular with this display of 3 foot tall, architectural flowers.

And apart from attracting all types of bees, it was also a haven for many different types of butterflies - such as this gorgeous Peacock Butterfly ...

Have you noticed how many butterflies there have been this summer?  There must have been record numbers from about mid-July to the first few days of August.  I haven't seen any official figures yet, but feel very optimistic, and it'll be interesting to see what the Big Butterfly Count makes of this, once all the figures are in and have been analysed

Friday, 16 August 2013

Sunflower Success

When I return home from a trip away, I always look forward to seeing what surprises the garden holds, as a lot can change from week to week with some plants dying back and new ones taking their place.

This week, I was delighted to see the sunflowers were in full bloom. Sunflowers are the ultimate "feel good flower", symbolising happiness, strength and faith.  They reflect the look of the sun and its energy and, like the sun, provide nourishment and vibrance.

This is the first year I have successfully managed to grow sunflowers because the slugs always get to them first - but this year I discovered the secret.  I have been growing them in a large pot by the back door - and the pot has a band of copper tape which the slugs or snails don't dare to cross (because even with their tiny brains, they soon learn that if they try to cross it, they will receive an instant "electric shock" and so they have now learnt to leave the sunflowers alone).

However, I was more than happy to see the bees feasting on the flower heads

The type of sunflower I decided to grow is called Earthwalker.  This is partly because I loved the name, but also because it tends to produce several blooms on one stem and last (but certainly not least) because of the rich, range of colours the flowers grow into.  They can be anything from bronze,yellow, orange, rust, red, chocolate and each flower can be one or a combination of shades - they are a constant surprise.

So, we have our Earthwalkers sitting right outside our backdoor where we can gaze at them from the lounge.  And come the Autumn, once the petals have fallen and the seed heads dried up, the chickens will a have a lovely supply of seeds to enjoy - one of their all time favourite treats.  What is there not to like about sunflowers?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Rock Climbing and Wallabies

A short distance from Tittesworth Water are the Staffordshire Roaches, set on the edge of the Peak District.

Famous for its buzzards and Wallabies. Apparently a group of wallabies were released in the area in the 1930's from a private zoo. Their number has slowly declined over the years and the last photographic evidence was taken 4 years ago. However, the odd wallaby has been spotted since then by walkers and also further into the Peak District such as in the vicinity of Kinder Scout - perhaps their numbers are not in decline, but they have just decided to relocate to somewhere more suited to their needs...

The scenery of the Roaches is fantastic, which makes it popular with walkers. When conditions are clear, it is possible to see Cheshire and Lancashire to the north, more of the Peak District to the east and even as far as Snowden, looking westwards to Wales.

Although there is some woodland terrain here, most of it is quite rocky - in fact, The Roaches gets its name from the French "les roches ", meaning the rocks.  And this is why it is such a popular place for climbing enthusiasts.