Those ancestors got everywhere!

This summer has been one of little trips and days out.  I decided to have a number of outings to interesting places. I like history and gardening so that is easy to do!

Last week I went off on a National Trust coach trip to Dartington Hall in Devon. I used to go to see the gardens in the springtime with my mother many years ago but it must have been well over 30 years since my last visit.

I’d never been inside the Hall before as far as I remember but it looks beautiful from the outside.

So we were met at the Hall by a member of staff for a guided tour and he told us how it was built between 1388 and 1400 by John Holand the half brother of King Richard II.

Well that made my ears prick up as John Holand is my 15x great granddaddy! I hadn’t known about him or my ancestors on previous visits.  Since discovering my medieval ancestors they do seem to pop up all over the place but then there were an awful lot of them! John built his magnificent hall in the grounds of what had been an earlier Saxon manor. The Saxon building was adapted into his gatehouse.

The Great Hall is still in existence and is beautiful. It’s now used as a conference centre and wedding venue.

John Holand was a loyal subject to his brother the King. Richard II’s emblem was the White Hart and if there is a chain around its neck it symbolises loyalty to the emblem. In the porchway there is a ceiling boss showing John’s allegiance to his half-brother.



Always headstrong and known for his temper yet always loyal, John was eventually beheaded after taking part in a conspiracy to oust Henry IV who had usurped the throne.

Nowadays the more modern gardens are lovely. They are especially good in springtime but a delight at any time of the year.


Towards the end of the visit around the grounds we were shown the ancient yew tree which stands in the churchyard. It is around 1600 years old and from its wood bows and arrows were made for my relations and their men to fight at Agincourt.

A great day out which wasn’t too spoiled by very heavy rain in the morning.

My garden news

In between thunder storms today I managed to take some photos of my garden. Yesterday I bought some pretty plants for my newest pond so I thought I’d share those.

I bought some new pond plants to put in my little pond. I discovered that my frog tub water snails have been breeding so I had some baby snails to add to my newer pond.

My vegetables are not wonderful this year as it has been a battle with snails and slugs but I do have runner beans and golden courgettes.





There don’t seem to be many butterflies this year despite planting numerous shrubs and perennials to attract bees and butterflies. I have a special butterfly house but they don’t seem that interested.

My garden is looking pretty good overall. I notice that my voodoo lilies are up again (the leaves that look a bit like a hand in the foreground). I’ve not seen any voodoo lily flowers this year which is probably just as well as they look really rather rude and smell of rotten meat to attract flies! Fortunately each flower only lasts a day and they don’t flower much. Nice tropical looking leaves though!

There I was digging this hole…….

Well the new pond liner I bought a few weeks ago because it was on special offer has been sitting around at the top of the garden and I’ve been putting off digging the hole. Today it was cooler so I decided to have a go.

Not an easy task digging in my garden. There is rock very close to the surface then a layer of clay then another layer of rock.

A big rock lurked right in the bottom of where I wanted the pond so I attacked it with a pick axe (not very successfully!) then spotted a long and heavy crowbar in my shed. Remembering basic physics I used that to lever the rock out. Success!

A piece of carpet underlay laid in the hole and the pond filled with water, I then used the rocks I’d dug out to surround the pond.

Looking forward to seeing wildlife moving in.

and while I was taking photos I thought I’d share my lovely Chusan palm with you. I’ve had this since it was very small and I always wanted a palm tree with a hairy trunk.  Can you spot my sweet metal dragon too?

Happy gardening 🙂

Walking in my ancestors’ footsteps

Those who know me well will also know that researching my family history is one of my passions. I’ve been doing it for many years but only seriously for about 15.
It’s always fun to find new names to add to my multi-branched family tree but the really interesting thing is to go to the places where the people lived and to try to imagine what their lives were really like.

I’ve spent many hours visiting churches or villages and also trying to find the houses where my ancestors once lived. Rich or poor it is always fascinating.

Last weekend I went on a mini voyage of discovery. I persuaded a friend to come along to keep me company and we set off to Lincolnshire to visit two of my grander ancestral homes. It was a long drive but well worth the journey.

Having travelled up on Friday we stayed the night in a B & B then spent Saturday enjoying a Living History event at Tattershall Castle.

Then on Sunday we visited Old Hall Gainsborough…once home of the Hickman family.


My new leaf cutter bees

I’m really pleased today. Last year a number of leaf cutter bees made their clever little nests in the pretty little bee hotel my lovely daughter gave me. It was such fun watching them working and I looked after the baby bees over winter by wrapping their home in protective garden fleece.

It’s been such a wet miserable year until a few days ago that I was worried they were not going to hatch but the warm sunshine has brought them out. Yesterday I could hear munching as they were eating their way out. This morning I even managed to spot one resting before it flew away. Here is my photo of the newly emerged bee.



Then this afternoon I saw an older leaf cutter bee starting the cycle all over again by making a new nest.

It’s great making space for these fascinating little animals. 🙂

An unusual flower

I bought these plants a couple of years ago but this year they are really doing well.

In case you have never seen one before these are bergamot plants. I used my new camera to photograph them and I think they are looking great.

My blue and pink flower bed is also coming along very nicely!

Revisiting a much loved home

Life has its funny little twists and turns!

I was chatting to my sister about a wooden floor I fancy having when we reminded ourselves of the beautiful mohuhu wood block floor our parents put in a home we once had built and lived in.

It’s been half a lifetime since I last saw the house but I did a google and spotted it is up for sale. Having sent the present owners some old photos of how it used to be I was very kindly invited to lunch with them last Friday.

So just days after thinking about Lindens I was once again in the home I used to love and seeing a mature garden where we once planted trees and shrubs in a field.

Isn’t this lovely?


Last week I went on a day trip to Avebury. It’s a lovely place to visit. First of all I went to the manor house which belongs to the National Trust.  This lovely house recently featured in a TV series called “To the Manor Reborn” and it was refurnished and decorated to allow visitors to touch things and try to imagine how it might have been to live in the house in previous eras.

The village of Avebury sits inside prehistoric stone circels and despite the rain it was a beautiful place to explore.


Beautiful flowers

You may have guessed I do love my gardening! Not so keen on weeding but even that’s more fun than housework 🙂

Despite the horrible weather lately the flowers in the garden are coming along nicely. My peony is doing its best and this year I have given it support so its flowers don’t flop around so much.

Then there is the lovely new patio climbing rose which I was given for Mothering Sunday. It’s settled in very nicely and has a lot of scented flowers.



My ferns and the black bamboo in its pot behind them are all growing well. I think the bamboo has grown in the week since I bought it so making note to self that it will always live in a pot!






I’m going to make another pond. I found a great little pond liner last weekend and have worked out where I want to put it. I have placed it on the flower bed for the moment but in the last couple of days it has rained so much it is half full of water already and I haven’t even dug its hole yet. I’m hoping it won’t be too much hard work to dig that but it isn’t a big liner.

I don’t really want fish but more frogs and other wildlife will be lovely.


So watch this space!