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Crafting and cream tea = my perfect weekend

19 Mar

There’s nothing I like more than cosying up indoors on rainy days to craft, especially with a generous wedge of homemade cake to keep me going. So imagine my pleasure on Saturday to find myself driving through a torrential downpour to Northchapel in West Sussex for one of vintage queen Sarah Moore’s new crafting masterclasses. I could hardly contain my excitment!

The schedule for the day was to create a personalised notice board, make fabric corsages and lavender cushions, and giftwrap locally produced soaps in antique maps and papers – a lot, perhaps, to cover in one session, but with a seemingly endless supply of scones, Victoria sponges and tea – served using antique chinaware – it was a challenge I couldn’t wait to tackle.

And Sarah Moore is a fantastic teacher. Inspirational, encouraging and patient, she soon had our small group busily cutting antique wallpapers into hexagon shapes and sticking them in a patchwork over a standard cork noticeboard. The transformation was almost instant and it was amazing to see how, given the same basic materials, every one of us created a design unique and completely different.


We stopped for lunch – a picnic style affair with quiche, figs and potato salads, and apricot crumble (served in vintage teacups) – before continuing with our makes. The velvet lavender strawberries and rose-scented roses smelt heavenly, and ended up looking so wonderful I’m not sure I’m going to be able to give mine away…

Sarah Moore soaps

Sarah Moore soap

It was such a treat to be able to devote a day to crafting – somehow the rain outside made it all the more justifiable – and it was also wonderful to have the opportunity to meet other likeminded makers with a love of all things vintage. When the class came to an end, although I didn’t want to leave, I also couldn’t wait to get home to start sourcing materials for my next project – needle, thread and pinking shears here I come!


When can I move to Stow?

27 Jan

Just back from a lovely visit to see my friend KT in Cheltenham and we had so much fun! It was a real treat to get out of London into the countryside and we headed straight to the idyllic Cotswolds village of Stow-on-the-Wold, somewhere we’ve both always wanted to go to, but never quite managed it. It was so pretty, especially in the snow. We mooched around the shops – fantastic selection of greetings cards at Eklektika, and the most delicious mix of vintage treasures and home furnishings at House Etc – before returning home for a Saturday night in (Take Me Out!!!) with a meze-style supper. Yum!

Carols at Imber

22 Dec

I am just back from the most amazing experience ever and I had to write straight away to tell you all about it. I first read about the carols at Imber in Country Living magazine and knew immediately that I had to go, especially because they take place not far from my mum and dad in the neighbouring county of Wiltshire. Imber is a village on the Salisbury Plains that, during the Second World War, was taken over by the Armed Forces for training purposes. The inhabitants were relocated, but told they would be able to return to their homes once the war had ended. But they weren’t. Today, the public is granted access to Imber on 60 days of the year – so former residents can visit the graves of loved ones buried at St Giles, Imber’s Church, for example. The Christmas Carol Concert is one such day so today me, M and my mum went along. What an experience.

Imber carols Little Miss Married

The organisers put on a vintage London bus from Westbury train station to Imber, which is fun in itself. We all huddled together and willed it forward as we manoeuvred steep hills through the pouring rain. When we arrived there was a rush of umbrellas as everyone quickly weaved their way through the mud to get inside the church. There was mulled wine and a mince pie when we got there – much appreciated – and then we found a seat at the front by the brass band. We’d got there in the nick of time because there was a constant stream of people coming in and before we knew it, it was standing room only – outside! It was packed. But, even if we had been one of those left standing, it would have been worth it. The atmosphere was incredible; such an overwhelming sense of coming together. Everyone sang at the top of their lungs and it felt so special to be part of this seemingly secret community. It was like entering another world. What a way to start Christmas and one I will certainly never forget.

Chiswick House & Gardens

30 Jul

What a glorious weekend of weather we’ve had! For once I had no concrete plans so decided to head out for an amble along the Thames Path to soak up the sun. I was heading back towards Fulham when I saw a sign to Chiswick House and Gardens – somewhere I’ve always meant to visit. I didn’t have my English Heritage card with me (you get free access to the house if you have one) but fortunately entry to the gardens is free – and it was too nice a day to be inside anyway! The gardens aren’t massive but with cascades, ornamental ponds, obelisks, walled gardens and ample wildlife, there’s enough of interest to keep you entertained – but even without they’re just a peaceful place to while away a few hours with a paper or good book. And don’t worry about going hungry – the on-site cafe is well stocked with reasonably-priced and generously-sized cakes (I recommend the crumble cake – see the picture below).

A couple of swans with their EIGHT cygnets!

Just one of many red-eared terrapins basking in the sunshine

The crumble cake – part flapjack, part Bakewell; a wonder of goodness!

Fresh air, fish & chips and fun with friends

15 Jul

The Ramsholt Arms

This weekend I headed out of London for a mini-staycation! I was catching up with N, a lovely friend who I used to work with in Colchester. The plan was for pub lunches and countryside walks but, sadly, the weather wasn’t on our side. However, we weren’t going to let a little of the wet stuff spoil our plans so N and I went for an adventurous drive through Suffolk, exploring off the beaten track and down narrow lanes, instead. On our travels we stumbled across The Ramsholt Arms, an uber-friendly, traditional pub right on the banks of the River Debden. It was a beautiful setting and the rain held off just long enough for us to enjoy fresh whitebait & chips in the open air. After lunch we headed to the nearby Snape Maltings,  a warren of galleries, craft stalls, and antique shops. I picked up a set of vintage, hand-embroidered linen napkins for £1.50 – bargain!

Snape Maltings

Chelsea Physic Garden – worth braving the rain for

25 Jun

I am only just beginning to realise how many wonderful green spaces London really has – you turn a corner from a main tourist thoroughfare and suddenly there’s this expanse of idyllic green land hidden away behind beautiful walls and intricate gates. The city is a treasure hunt of secret gardens.

The Chelsea Physic Garden is a real case in point. Just five minutes off the King’s Road with entry down the tiny Swan Lane, you could easily walk straight past. But what wonders you’d be missing!

Sie Hans Sloane

The garden was founded in 1673 by Sir Hans Sloane and is the oldest botanic garden in the city. It houses the country’s oldest rockery – built on volcanic rocks brought from Iceland in the 1770s – a fernery, a Victorian greenhouse of rare and exotic species, and over 100 types of tree. I went with two friends and we joined a guided tour when we arrived. For an hour our guide – Patricia, a volunteer – was absolutely captivating, taking us down meandering gravel pathways to explore beds and borders of wild meadow flowers, plants used in medicines and herbal remedies, and displays of the most intensely fragrant roses I’ve ever come across. The garden is a never-ending delight. We suffered one torrential downpour partway through the tour but nothing could have deterred us and, if anything, the rain only heightened the colours and aromas around us. Oh Chelsea Physic Garden, how have I not discovered you sooner?

Congratulations to all the Breast Cancer Care Pink Ribbonwalkers!

18 Jun

Saturday marked the last of this year’s Pink Ribbonwalks in aid of Breast Cancer Care – but it also celebrated the first Pink Ribbonwalk to be held in London.

The walks have been taking place for eight years at venues around the UK – Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire; Petworth House, West Sussex; Scone Palace, Perthshire; and Cholmondeley Castle, Cheshire – but this year a new route was set up in London, starting and finishing at Marble Hill Park near Twickenham. Now, despite living just a few miles down the river, this was a part of the city I hadn’t explored – and do I need to come back! Marble Hill Park was beautiful with big open spaces stretching down to the river and Hampton Court Palace – another place I’ve never visited – a stone’s throw away. After taking part in the walks last year, I decided to support the cause as an on-site volunteer, helping with registration and marshalling cheering points on route.

As always it was a great atmosphere with over 700 women – and men – taking part to raise funds and awareness for the outstanding work that Breast Cancer Care does and with people finishing the course in record time (there are 10 mile and 20 mile options), I want to say congratulations to everyone who took part! Next year’s dates will be on the BCC website from November – I can’t recommend them enough and, from the smiles on the participants’ faces when they crossed the finish line, neither can they.

Open Garden Squares Weekend

9 Jun

Rococo Chocolates

Rococo chocolate

This weekend sees over 200 parks, gardens, and usually secret green areas in London open their gates to the general public as part of The London Parks & Gardens Trust’s annual Open Garden Squares event. It’s a rare opportunity to see inside the likes of Cadogan Place Gardens, Chiswick House Walled Gardens and even 10 Downing Street’s garden! I had my name down to volunteer and was lucky enough to be positioned at the delectable Rococo Chocolates at 5 Motcomb Street. As well as having an abundance of delicious handmade confectionary, which you can watch being made, and a never-ending menu of hot chocolates and bespoke coffee blends, there is also a cute Moroccan-styled courtyard garden, which offers great inspiration on how to make the most of the smallest of spaces. The event is running all weekend so there’s still time to explore parts of the city you’ve not seen before. Tickets cost £12 for an unlimited pass or £3 for a single garden, and National Members get all tickets half price. See which gardens are open near you at

London Wetland Centre

27 May

What glorious sunshine! It would be wrong to sit inside. So yesterday, I decided to walk along the river to the London Wetland Centre, somewhere I’ve passed many times but never actually visited.

The centre is situated just outside of Barnes, on the former site of four Victorian reservoirs. When the reservoirs were no longer needed, Peter Scott, the son of the Arctic explorer, had them converted into what is now a network of ponds, lagoons, and marshes, and home to over 200 different species of wildfowl.

I arrived just after lunch, as a guided tour was setting off. Now I know nothing about birds so I figured, to actually gain something from my visit, I’d be best joining the group, and I’m glad I did. For an hour and a half we wandered around the parkland, our tour guide identifying all the different birds and giving background about where they’d normally be found in the wild. I now know the difference between a moorhen and a coot (I told you I knew nothing about birds but did you know a moorhen isn’t a duck but a rail and it doesn’t have webbed feet but instead individually webbed toes?), that male ducks lose many of their feathers after breeding season, a process called an ‘eclipse’, and there’s such a thing as a black AND white swan!

It was pretty hot – a lot of the paths were in direct sun – so the hides provided welcome shade – and a relaxing spot to sit and peacefully watch the birds. At times, it was hard to believe I was still in the middle of London…

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

21 May

As well as Jupiter Artland, when I was up in Edinburgh I also had my first visit to the Royal Botanic Garden. It’s recently had a striking new entrance and cafe built so M’s parents were keen to show it off and treat me to a hearty breakfast at the same time. Unfortunately we were too late for breakfast – they stop serving at 11.30 on the dot – but we had the most enjoyable stroll around the gardens, which are free!

My highlight was the Edible Garden, a stunning allotment where they grow many of the ingredients for the cafe and restaurant. They had every sort of vegetable and herb imaginable growing and I loved the use of pebbles as name tags (the plant descriptions were written on different shaped small stones). They’d also used branches as supports instead of canes – very sustainable!

We then headed outside the gardens to find sustenance for my journey back to London, and stumbled across the newly-opened Earthy, a chain of three health food and organic cafes/delis in the city – their tag line is ‘Forage, nourish, share’; love it! I couldn’t choose from the array of homemade cakes, many of which were gluten-free or vegan (a pleasant surprise), so ended up just having a coffee – but what a coffee! It was honestly one of the best ones I’ve ever had (Matthew Algie). But don’t take my word for it; check it out for yourselves…