Thursday 29 May 2014

In the Garden - May

Whilst the later part of May has been very, very wet, we did get some really nice warm, sunny days earlier in the month.

Whilst the weather was good I managed to spend a long afternoon in the garden with mum while Martin was at work.  We focused on giving the front a really good tidy, clearing away all the remains of the Spring bloom.

We cut down all the snowdrops, bluebells and daffodils to make it look tidy, in readiness for the foxgloves, campanula and roses., which have already started to make a good show.

We also tied in the roses to their supports and got out the Black and Decker and gave the privet hedge it's Spring trim.

The bays and box balls are sprouting like crazy and I will need to pluck up the courage to trim the boxes very soon. 

Other than that, the front should look after itself now for the Summer.

The back's a different story all together .............

May always gives us a really good show in the back garden.  We see the last of the trees to flower with the laburnum, the lilac having gone over and needing a good deadheading.

Martin's yellow azaleas finished flowering and I spent a back breaking hour taking off all the dead blooms and giving them a good tidy up.  These are soon replaced by two pots of pink azaleas that we planted a couple of years ago. 

These are accompanied by a pot of pink Celosia Caracas, I'd never heard of it either, which I had as a gift from a good friend earlier in the month.

The 'Nellie Moser' clematis has also been amazing.  I never got round to pruning it back at the end of last year and I think that might be my strategy going forward.

I have over 30 beautiful flowers on mime - mum's only got one on hers.  The curse of the hard prune!!

We were disappointed to miss Mollie the Witch at her best, as she flowered whilst we were on holiday.  I'd like to say that the picture is of our Mollie, but it's one we took at Bodnant, but it is what she would have looked like!!  We have seen lots of activity on our other peonies though, with red in full bloom now and white just about to come.

Both the white and the purple allium are currently in full bloom.  The purple ones we bought at Gardeners World live a few years ago.  They are supposed to be a massive allium, called Globemaster, but something strange has happened.  We planted five bulbs and the first year they flowered we had five huge purple blooms.  Ever since then though, we have had far more than five smaller blooms, so not sure what's happened there.  They still look good though, and they're purple, so they're always going to have a home in my garden.

We've also got the first of the orange roses that flower above the shed. 
From a 'job' point of view May has been pretty busy in the back, but mainly on the veg plot.  There has been a lot of deadheading, which can be a bit of a painstaking job with things like rhododendrons and azaleas, but is always well worth it.

We've tied in the sweet peas which have taken really well in their pot and I have given the patio a really good tidy up and planted out some margarita daisies in my small empty pots, which should give us colour all through the Summer.

I've also planted up a couple of hanging baskets, which are currently sitting in buckets, waiting for the weather to pick up before actually hanging up.  I spread my plants over two baskets and I've now bought a tray of lobelia, which I will use to fill the gaps.

Martin has also made a start on a job that's needed doing for a while.  He's putting some metal edging strips on the corners of the raised beds.  At the moment the wooden corner posts are getting chewed up by the strimmer when my grass cutting man comes!!
I've been really pleased with how we've got on in the garden in May.  The colour scheme seems to have changed completely, from the yellow and white of early Spring, to a more summery pink and purple.

Hopefully the work we've put in so far will mean that we can relax in the garden through the Summer and just enjoy it, though I'm sure we will still find plenty that we'd like to do.

The Hanging Baskets

I've planted up two hanging baskets this year.  It's the first year we've had them for a while and the first time I've done them on my own - I normally draft in mum to help me.

There is a massive selection of small plants available for using in hanging baskets in nurseries and garden centres.  It's definitely worth shopping around as prices vary considerably.  I got a real bargain with my plants this year.  I bought 10 for £5 on the local market.  Originally I was only going to do one basket, but 10 plants seemed a few too many, so I bought a couple more odd plants to make it up to 12 and decided to split the lot between two baskets.

As I bought the plants as, just a bit bigger than, plugs, I re-potted them into small pots as soon as I got them home and kept them in the greenhouse until I was ready to make up my baskets.

I decided to opt for a mixture of purple and pinks in my baskets and the plants I have included are:
  • Fuschia, Trailing, Royal Mosaic
  • Fuschia, Bush, Gillian
  • Fuschia, Upright, General Monk
  • Verbena, Trailing, Midnight Purple
  • Verbena, Trailing, Lanai
  • Bacopa, Scopia, Trailing, Pink
  • Bacopa, Baja, Trailing, White
  • Petunia, Trailing, Plush
  • Petunia, Trailing, Picobella
  • Isotomar, Trailing, Tristar Rose

I started off by gathering all my bits and pieces together - the basket, the plants, the compost and the moisture retaining gel.

I filled each basket about half full with a multi-purpose compost for baskets and pots.  Then I sprinkled in a handful of moisture retaining gel, and topped up to about two thirds of the way up the basket with more compost.
I planted an upright fushia in the centre of the basket and planted a selection of 5 other plants, evenly spaced, around the edge of the basket.  I pretty much laid the outside plants horizontally in the basket, to encourage them to grow over the side.
 I then topped off the basket with compost, firmed all of the plants in, and gave a good watering.

When I'd finished, I decided that there was still a little too much space in my baskets.  The earth needs to be pretty much fully covered in plants.  I have now bought a tray of mixed trailing lobelia, which I will use to fill the gaps.

I will keep the baskets on the ground in buckets until the wind and rain have eased up and then I will hang them in their final positions.  It's important that they are kept well watered and fed right through the summer, to ensure the best show.

I am looking forward to sharing my pictures of them in full bloom later in the summer.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Eglwysbach - North Wales - Back to Betwsy, Colwyn Bay and Home

Day 6 - Wednesday
Today is our fifth wedding anniversary.  We always tend to be away for our anniversary, though we don't normally do anything particularly special on the day.  This year I had put together a photo book of our most memorable moments since our wedding day, but I'm rubbish at keeping secrets so I had already given this to Martin a month or so ago. Seriously, I am completely rubbish.

We woke up to the first real rain we've seen this week and decided that we would head back into Betwsy and have a wonder round the shops, pick up a few caches we missed yesterday, with our detour off the A5, and have a meal out as it was our anniversary.

We had a really nice wonder around in and out of the rain.  I had only said yesterday that we hadn't worn our waterproofs, well they earned their place in the car today.

We picked up a couple of caches, one by an old miners bridge which was really strange as it was really steep going from a lower bank on one side of the river to a higher one on the other side.  It was so steep that there were footholds to help you climb it.  It was well worth a look and, yet again, something we would never have seen if it weren't for geocaching, it's just not somewhere you would stumble across.
We did the obligatory visit to Swallow Falls, both squeezing through the turnstiles.  I remember visiting here years ago and two of us squeezing through in one go so we only had to pay once.  Not much chance of that now.

The falls were as impressive as ever, even in the wind and the rain, and we took lots of photos that I am sure we have already go back home from years ago, not taken of us on our fifth wedding anniversary though.

After we'd finished at the falls we headed into the Swallow Hotel over the road to dry off and have a late lunch, before heading back to Buzzards View for a nice relaxing evening just chilling out.

Day 7 - Thursday
We woke up to more rain and decided to have a drive along the Colwyn Bay Coast.  Martin said it wasn't anything exciting but I'd never been.  Martin was right.  Whilst there is a lovely long sandy beach, which I'm sure gets packed on hot summer days, for a wet and windy day in May it was a bit disappointing.

There is currently lots of engineering work going on and the beach is pretty much off limits whilst big diggers are doing their stuff with sea defences and big pipes.

We drove along the coast to Llandudno, doing our usual, picking up caches on the way.  We both agreed we'd never seen so much litter and decided that we'd pack up and head into the fish and chip restaurant in Conwy, where we'd had great chips on the quay earlier in the week, for fish and chips, to save cooking tea.

Haddock and chips more than lived up to expectations and brightened up our day, before heading back for our last evening at Buzzards View before heading home.

Eglwysbach - North Wales - Betws-y-Coed to Llanberis

Day 5 - Tuesday
We decided we wanted to rest our legs a bit today, though it didn't really end up like that in the end, so we planned ourselves a scenic circular driving route, picking up some caches along the way.

As we had got up to kind of brightish sunshine and some blue sky we decided we'd do something which was a little bonkers but we'd been talking about since we got here.  Now, Mum and dad always reckon that we find the narrowest, scariest lanes to drive up and down when we go on holiday and we have been known, when they have visited us at a cottage, to get them to park at the top and we've picked them up and driven them the last part of the journey, as it's just been too hairy for them to drive all the way.

We knew they would have thought the lane up to Buzzards View surpassed anywhere we'd taken them so far and, as they weren't visiting us this time, we didn't want them to miss seeing it, so we thought we might try and film it.

Well, we've got a video camera and the old lady does have a sun roof!  I drew the short straw and was on filming duty.  Martin said that made sense as he knew the road. Whatever!!  Anyway, there was I, knelt on the front seat, head out of the sun roof, filming our descent.  I know, crazy.  If Martin had  braked hard I would either have had my head chopped off or cracked my jaw and lost most of my front teeth.

Fortunately, Martin is a very safe driver and I knew I was in good hands, though I did get a bit worried when he sped up a bit for effect.  It got a bit embarrassing as we approached the farmyard towards the bottom, which we had to go straight through. The farmer was just getting out of his car and, as one of his many cats was sitting in our path, he headed straight for us to shoo the cat out of the way, like we would ever have hit it, we love cats.  We would have sat there all day, rather than done it any harm.

Anyway, I felt the need to explain why I was hanging out of the sunroof and fortunately he was a very friendly and jovial farmer so I didn't feel too bad.

You can watch our film here.

So, that out of the way, we headed on for Betws-y-Coed.  Our plan was to stop there for a few caches, head though the mountains to Llanberis, up to Caernarvon, through Bangor and back along the coast to Conwy and back to Buzzards view.  It was a long old drive.

Things didn't quite go to plan, we made it to Llanberis, having gone just over 30 miles, and it was already 3.00pm.  By the time we were ready to leave there it was 4.30pm, so we ended up just turning round and coming back the way we came.  Amazingly, though it had taken us about four and a half hours to get to Llanberis, it took us just an hour to get back, amazing how caching can distract you with interesting places that you wouldn't normally stop at.

Our first stop of the day went as planned and we picked up a cache at a church in Betws-y-Coed. 

I then decided that, rather than stick on the A5 we would cross the river and take a single lane track through the forest up to a viewpoint where there was another cache.

We picked this one up and linked back up with the A5 by the Ugly House.  Well, there was a cache nearby so we stopped to pick this up and, the Ugly House, which is not ugly at all, was a tea room, well, we hadn't had any cake yet this holiday, so we had to pay it a visit.  We also both needed a toilet stop, which meant that we both experienced a first.  Have you ever used a composting toilet?  We hadn't either.  Interesting experience that was.

Anyway refreshed by cake and ready for more adventures we continued with our drive, stopping every few miles to pick up a cache hidden at a scenic viewpoint, taking lots of photos along the way.

Our next stop of note was to complete a cache at Dolbadarn Castle.  This had been set by someone who used to visit the castle as a child on family days out.  They really were the best weren't they?  No theme parks or retail parks, just something interesting to look at in the countryside with a picnic in the boot.  Just reading the cache description made me remember similar days out with my own family when we'd go somewhere, take a picnic, probably swim in a lake or a river and generally wear ourselves out.  I don't think people do this kind of thing now and it's a real shame.
We loved the castle, the views in every direction were amazing, even though by now, it was fairly overcast.  And to think, without Geocaching it's somewhere we would probably never have seen.

From here we carried on to Llanberis and parked up just in time to see the 3.00pm train heading up Snowdon.  Based on forecasts for visibility it didn't look like we would be making this trip this holiday.  After all, I don't just want to see clouds.

We had a good wonder round Llanberis, including another unexpected walk back to the castle from the opposite direction, which I will never live down, picked up a few more caches before deciding we ought to head back.

As we headed back Martin and I both agreed that we'd forgotten how beautiful North Wales is.  Whilst we've both visited lots of times, neither of us has been for a good number of years.

On the way back Martin also decided that it would be a good idea to film the journey back up the hill to the cottage as it would be more dramatic.  Well, he was right.  Firstly it was raining so it was pretty hairy hanging out of the sun roof.  Secondly we came across a sheep with its lamb in the middle of the road on the way up.  We kept stopping to see if they would either come back down the road or find a way back into the field.  They didn't, we ended up following them all the way up the hill.  There was an awful moment when they both decided they could cross the cattle grid at the top of the hill but fortunately they both made it safely.

As soon as we got back up to the top we turned round and went straight back down to the farm to let the farmer know that he'd got some escapees.  We went back up to find them happily grazing away.

What a day.  And Martin still has a curry to knock up.

Buzzards View to Eglwysbach on Film

You'll know from my previous post how much Martin and I loved the last few miles drive to Buzzards View.  You'll also know that I said I'd hung out of the sun roof of the old lady and filmed the journey both ways.

I've now had chance to have a play with the film and here it is. This is our journey from Buzzards View down to Eglwysbach village on the loveliest day of our week's holiday.  I'm afraid it's a bit bumpy, but it was ........... a bit bumpy!

I hope you like it.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Eglwysbach - North Wales - Bodnant Gardens

Day 4 - Monday
Today, we spent the afternoon at Bodnant Gardens.  A National Trust property literally just down the road from where we were staying.
From the minute we entered the garden we were enthralled with the place.  It was beautiful and we could see that it would still be beautiful, but completely different, in another month or so too.  It's one of those gardens where something always looks fabulous but you can see that there is still lots to come.

It was pretty hilly and steep in places but we managed to have a really good three or four hours wondering around the different parts of the garden, though the map did leave a bit to be desired.  At one point we found out we were completely at the opposite end of the garden to where we thought.  We felt a bit better when another couple heard us talking and said they'd done exactly the same thing.
At this time of year the rhododendrons are spectacular, a whole array of bright colours, which take your breath away.   

We were a little too early to see the laburnum arch in its full splendour but we could see how impressive it will look in a few weeks time.

Bodnant is one of those gardens where there is always something interesting to catch your eye and we both took stacks of photos and not just of flowers.  The layout of the garden leads you to surprises round every corner, with interesting planting and features, such as the Old Pin Mill and the waterfall. 

The garden is a great mixture of formal and natural planting, with the bluebell wood being one of my favourite bits.  Martin really liked the garden down by the stream.

This year Bodnant is having a photography competition and we will be having a really good look through what we've taken to see if there anything that looks like it will pass muster.  The theme of the competition is about why you love Bodnant, so we will really will need to give that some thought.

By the time we made it back to the car we were both creaking at the joints and I was really looking forward to a nice soak in the huge bath overlooking the open countryside once we got back to Buzzards View, followed by another nice and easy picky tea.

Monday 19 May 2014

Eglwysbach - North Wales - Arrival, Llandudno & Conwy

Early May always sees us going away for our Wedding Anniversary.  This year was our 5th Anniversary and we spent it on our second cottage holiday of the year.  We stayed in Buzzards View, a fairly remote cottage near Eglwysbach in North Wales, not far from Llandudno, Conwy and the Snowdonia National Park.

Day 1 - Friday
As Martin was at work Friday morning, we didn't get to set off until early afternoon and decided not to take the route suggested by the sat nav.  This wanted to take us up the M6 and then cut across west to the A55.  We decided to take the A5 to Betws-y-Coed and then head North on the A470. I'm glad we did.  It has been such a long time since we have done a long journey that has not been on a motorway.  It was so much more interesting, loads to look at along the way and we missed any Bank Holiday weekend, Friday afternoon, M6 traffic chaos, so we arrived nice and relaxed.

We unpacked the car, met the owner, who sorted us out with some nice big fluffy bath sheets that met our exacting requirements, settled in and put the chilli on that I had made earlier in the week to bring away with us.  The joys of not having to work!  It just makes such a difference.

When I was working I would probably get back home on Thursday night, having been away from home for a couple of nights, having done no holiday prep, all of which would have to be done on the Friday morning.  By the time we set out I would be stressed out and shouting at Martin for nothing in particular, the poor love.  This time, I'd done most of the packing, made a chilli to take for Friday night tea and done most of the housework in advance - you need to leave it nice to come back to.  Come on, admit it, I bet you all do it.

Day 2 - Saturday
Saturday was a very lazy start.  By the time we were up, showered, breakfasted and ready to head out it was gone 12.00pm.  We decided we would head for Llandudno for the afternoon, followed by a holiday grocery shop at Tesco on the way back.

Llandudno was a great call.  It's a really nice Victorian seaside town anyway, but today, and for the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend, the town was taken over by the annual Victorian Extravaganza.

We managed to park up on the front and decided to head to the pier to start us off.  However, on the way we saw that loads of people were gathering along the roadside so we thought there must be something happening that would be worth watching.  We weren't wrong and spent the next hour watching a procession which included lots of people dressed in Victorian costume, marching bands and lots of steam engines.  As you can imagine we managed to find a front row spot to watch
from so we could take loads of photos.

The procession over, we headed to the pier, which was jam packed with people.  The whole town was really busy.  Normally we would prefer it to be really quiet, but today, with the procession and people all over the place dressed in costume it just added to the atmosphere.  We stopped for a drink and a snack at the café on the end of the pier and emerged just in time to catch a fly past by a WW2 Super Marine Spitfire.

We then wondered back into town, which had been completely taken over by a funfair consisting of all manner of rides, some of which looked pretty hairy.  The steam engines had all parked up too so we had chance to have a really good look round.

We finally headed back to the car and off to Tesco where we stopped off to stock up for the rest of the week, before heading back to Buzzards View for a picky tea, our fave, a log fire and a good film, if we could stay awake long enough to watch it.

Day 3 - Sunday
We managed to get up and out before mid day, big achievement!  We decided to head into Conwy today. We had a day of sightseeing and a few caches on the agenda.

We started off with a really nice walk round the town walls, which was a lovely way to see great views of the castle, the town and the quay, as it's so high up.

We ended up on the quay, by the smallest house in Wales.  We followed our walk with a bag of chips, and excellent chips they were too, sitting watching the world go by, before having a wonder round the town, taking in a visit to Aberconwy House, the oldest house in Wales, which is owned by the National Trust.  It is only a small property but worth a visit if you are passing.

As time was getting on, and we were flagging a bit, we decided to save a visit to the castle for another day.

We made our way round the outside of the castle back to the car, picking up ice creams on the way.  Ameretto and blueberry for me and Ameretto and Turkish delight for Martin. Lush!!

Having seen the castle from a distance from every possible angle on our walk, it was amazing how huge it was close up.  We definitely wanted to come back for a visit to do it justice.

Back to Eglwysbach and up the narrow, steep but very beautiful lane to the seclusion of Buzzards view for Abruzzi Lamb, which Martin had set off in the slow cooker this morning, while I was still fast asleep.  He really is a cracker! 

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Will Sidney's War - Aug 1914-Jul 1915 - Waiting to go to France

Whilst Will's personal diaries don't begin until 1917, we have found a page at the back of his 1917 diary that details his specific whereabouts for the earlier parts of the war.  For the later parts Will just lets us know whether he was in England or in France.

Though it is quite difficult to read, I have scanned the original version as it's a lot more poignant than just reading a type written list.  In case there are bits that you can't read, I have added a transcription below.

  • Embodied at Doni - Aug 4th, 14
  • Went to York - Aug 8th, 14
  • Left there for Driffield - Aug 10th, 14
  • Left there for Londisboro Park - Aug 24th, 14
  • Left there for Goodmanham - Sept 26th, 14
  • Left there for Hornsea - Nov 16th, 15
  • Christmas @ Hornsea - Dec 25th, 14
  • Left there for Grantham - Jan 16th, 15
  • Left there for Mappleton - Jan 28th, 15
  • Left there for Bridlington - Feb 5th, 15
  • Left there for Scarboro - Feb 25th, 15
  • Left there for Salisbury P - June 28th, 15
  • Left there for France - July 9th, 15
  • Christmas @ Paradise - Dec 25th, 15
  • Left there for England - June 5th, 16
  • Left there for France - Dec 25th, 16
  • Left there for Blighty - Mar 5th, 17
  • Left there for France - June 9th, 17
  • Left there for England
As you will know from my previous post, from looking at the dates and locations mentioned in Will's diary, we have come to the conclusion that, at the beginning of the war, Will served with 'C' Squadron of the Queens own Yorkshire Dragoons and, as such, set out on his first of three visits to France in July 1915.

In August 1914, prior to leaving for France for the first time, the Yorkshire Mounted Brigade, including the Queen's own Yorkshire Dragoons, was dispatched to patrol the Yorkshire coast, with the Dragoons responsible for patrolling between Filey and Withernsea.  Will moved a number of times, with 'C' Squadron, around the East coast, before finally ending up at Bulford Camp near Salisbury Plain, which is where, on 19 July 1915, the Company started out on their journey to Havre in France.

From using Will's notes of his whereabouts we have now been able to apply dates to some of the collection of postcards and photographs we found in Peggy's belongings.  Peggy was Will's only daughter and Martin's mum.

I think now is a good time to introduce you to Ethel Walshaw.  Ethel was Will's sweetheart and, whilst we have not been able to find out exactly when they met, we have now managed to confirm that they must have been together before the War began.

When war broke out in August 1914, Will would have been just 19 years old.  Ethel was 18.

This postcard was sent from Will to Ethel on 28 August 1914, from Driffield, which is one of the first places that Will was based at following the outbreak of war.  It is the first of many cards that Will sent to Ethel and we know, from reading his diaries, that they corresponded profusely throughout the course of Will's time in active service.

Sadly, other than the mention in Will's diaries as to when he heard from Ethel, we have no evidence of any letters or cards that she may have sent to him.

As you'll recall, when Will joined the army he was a blacksmith and The Yorkshire Dragoons was a mounted brigade.  Whilst the brigade was not involved in any mounted activity during the war, this photo shows Will on his horse.

Will has written on the reverse of the photo that it was taken at Weighton. We assume this was Market Weighton, which is close to Goodmanham, one of the places that Will was based at before leaving for his first visit to France in July 1915.

Will's last base in England was Salisbury Plain. The two cards you can see below were sent from Will to Ethel on 10 July 1915, 9 days before the Squadron departed.

In what must have been his last correspondence with Ethel, before leaving for France, Will sent this photo on 19 July 1915, the day the Squadron left for France.  Will is 3rd from the left on the back row in the photo.  

We have no idea as to the identity of any of Will's colleagues shown in the photo, and we can only begin to imagine how they were feeling about what lay ahead.

My next post will cover 'C' Squadron's first visit to France, which lasted from 19 July 1915 until 5 June 1916.