Forde Abbey – fountain, flowers and tapestries

Had a great visit to Forde Abbey in Chard, Dorset yesterday. A former Cistercian Monastery, Forde is home to the Mortlake Tapestries (which I especially admired) and had a display of embroidery pieces featuring samplers, petit point and the smallest bead work I have ever seen (no pictures allowed). Outside the beautiful floral borders featured chrysanthemums of various hues and a fountain which is reported to be the second highest in the UK.

A smaller version of the Festival of Quilts

It wasn’t a patch (pardon the pun) on the usual Festival of Quilts held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, UK every summer.  First of all, there were no international visitors, vendors or competition quilts (bar a few who were most likely mailed in for exhibition).  One organiser told me that they had 400 quilts in the judged competition a far cry from their usual 1,000+ entries.  UK attendees were also down and the show seemed sparse because the displays were spread out further than usual because of social distancing.  But credit should be given to the show organisers who put on the first show at the NEC since lockdown and, while the revenues may not have been worth it, the fact that the Festival of Quilts was limping back undeterred was really exciting!  Have a look at some of the entries – there were still some wonderful creations in the various quilting categories.

Ceilings at Knightshayes

Inspiration is everywhere but in this case you have to look up!  Unbeknownst to the National Trust when they took over the Knightshayes property in Devon, were the exquisite decorated wooden ceilings that had been covered over by the owners because the dark ostentatious designs weren’t to their taste.  I’m not sure I’d want such heavy ceilings in my home but don’t you just think of future quilt designs when you see these beauties!

Springtime in the Southwest

During lockdown, which feels interminable this time, my husband and I have explored more of the Great Western Canal as well as getting to know some areas closer to our new house.

11 miles of walking heaven

My husband and I have discovered the Grand Western Canal, running a few miles from our home, starting from Tiverton, Devon. The canal was proposed as early as 1796 to link the Bristol Channel to the English Channel to bypass Lands End.  However, the proposed canal was never completed because the railway removed the need for its existence.

The eleven-mile section in Devon that had been finished remains open, despite many threats over the years, and is now a designated country park and local nature reserve.  We have chosen to walk sections of the canal, from car park to car park, with the idea to eventually walk the entire thing if we feel fit enough one day.  The park is very well maintained and the majority of the paths are hard packed and not muddy which is a benefit for walking around here!

Here’s a few of the magnificent views that can be seen along the first five miles of the canal from Tiverton to Sampford Peverell in Devon.

Christmas in Warwick

We were very lucky in 2020 that we were able to get together with family on December 25th despite lockdown restrictions in other parts of the UK. Our daughter and son-in-law live in Warwick and we had a great walking tour of the town during our short stay.

Early days in Somerset & Devon

We’ve been in our new house in Wellington, Somerset for just over a month now, but already we have explored a lot of the outlying countryside – a good outdoor break for the lockdown blues!

First we found Wellington Park in our new hometown and it is a real gem dating back to the coronation of King Edward VII around 1901.

Next we took a walk along the Taunton and Bridgwater (yes, the ‘e’ is missing in the town name) Canal. We discovered a wonderful tea room where we can take visitors in the future plus we loved the Dr Seuss-like trees created by the balls of mistletoe in the branches. The narrow boats are much shorter than in Henley-on-Thames because the locks are much shorter.

The National Trust came up trumps for our next visit when we discovered the gorgeous property of Knightshayes Court. The Impey Trail has a lung busting hill but it is a great place to walk for building up stamina and steps.

Of course, we had to head to the coast at some point and a bitterly cold walk on Saunton Sands blew away all the “cobwebs” and gave us a new appreciation for the power of nature. Man, it was cold!

Our latest expedition took us to the Valley of Rocks in Exmoor National Park. The nearby town of Lynton has a steep chair railway that takes visitors from the town down to the beach level and brings them back up at the end of the day. It’s been used since Victorian times. There’s a narrow cliff path leading from the town to the Valley of Rocks. Nimble goats graze on the gorse bushes down the side of the rocks – how do they do that without falling over the side?

I love our new house and I think the surrounding area provides lots of scope for new adventures for a person who loves to be outdoors amidst the majesty of the natural world. I’ll keep you posted.

Franklin the turtle

Last week, I went for a walk along the Taunton and Bridgwater (yes the ‘e’ is supposed to be missing) Canal. Along the way I met a couple who had two Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers with them. I asked if the dogs were keen to jump in the canal because being a Toller they were bred to retrieve ducks for hunters.”They both hate the water,” was the reply.

It reminded me of that Paulette Bourgeois storybook when the kids were little. Franklin the Turtle was afraid to go into his shell and eventually had to get a nightlight for comfort. There was a lion who was afraid of loud noises and had to get headphones for when he roared. There was a duck that needed water wings…well you get the idea.

Fresh air therapy

It was a strange day on Sunday, November 8th with low hanging cloud and continuous drizzle. We went to Avebury to see the largest Neolithic stone circle in Europe and the grey sky provided an eerie background for the stones. Then we hiked up a very large hill to get a glimpse of the Landsdowne Monument and the Cherhill Downs chalk horse – both were visible only close up and we missed out on what should have been a spectacular view from the top.  Yes, we’re in our second lockdown but getting out into the outdoors like this, no matter how wet you are, makes it palatable.

My home town

I am one of those people who doesn’t, because of frequent moves, feel a deep connection to any particular place. However, if I had to name a home town Stamford, Lincolnshire would have to be it. I was born there as my Dad was in the RAF working at nearby RAF Base Wittering.

Just before our second UK lockdown, due to Covid-19, my husband and I got to spend a couple of days in Stamford with our daughter Claire and her husband Nathan. It was Claire’s 30th birthday and we got to have a wee party (thanks for the cake Laura) and actually went shopping in some wonderful shops. We also walked around the grounds of Burghley House which is a magnificent building. A brief respite but one that was much enjoyed!