Archive | December 2015

Wet, wild and windy walk


After yesterday’s storms, today dawned bright and clear. I did a bit of gardening while the family had a lie in, and then we all headed for Croyde beach for a walk before lunch.



A few brave souls were surfing…much as I love surfing, it looked a bit wild for me!



We didn’t stay out long as the weather was changing, with thunderous clouds headed our way, but it was good to get some (very) fresh air!





A wintry beach is also a great place for quiet reflection.



Gushing rivers, rock scrambling, and cider in the sun

In other words, a walk down the Heddon Valley, in the Exmoor National Park. It is a lovely steep-sided, wooded valley, which runs from the Hunter’s Inn northwards to the North Devon coast.



On such a sunny day, we weren’t the only people enjoying the walk, but it wasn’t unbearably busy.




The river was very full as we have had rather a lot of rain, and it was mesmerising to watch.




The valley stays narrow right up to the coastline, where the river tumbles down the rounded boulders on the beach.




The tide was low, so there was a fair expanse of rocky beach, and we explored our side, clambering around the rocks to the newly exposed bits as the tide dropped. In the summer, you can happily hop across the shallow stream to the far side of the beach, but the water was flowing fast and deep today.




We then returned via a bridge over the river, and took the path up the far side of the valley




The Hunters Inn is perfectly placed for post-walk refreshments, and we even ate outside in the weak December sun. What a super winter walk!



Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas to you all! Our first in our new home, and I just have a few winter flowers for you, plus a few close-ups around the house. I wish you all a Joyous Holiday x











Getting to know the neighbours…

Our human neighbours are all lovely, but of much more interest to me is the wildlife that lives in and around the garden. Apparently pheasants are reared locally for shooting, but every day more and more of them are finding that our garden is not only a gun-free zone, but comes with free food!



I keep finding small holes and tunnels in our slate garden walls, which I am assuming make safe, dry homes for small mammals of some sort.




It is very obvious that we get large numbers of red deer in the garden. There are tracks everywhere, as well as nibbled shoots. Precious new plants will have to be protected! This hydrangea has been stripped.




We have caught glimpses of them, but are yet to get a good view of them. These tracks below are just made by deer!


deertracks small


Last but by no means least, this chubby chap is a regular visitor, and remarkably undisturbed by my presence!







Sunday morning river walk

The forecast was good for this morning, so we set off at first light, which is of course not very early this time of year. A mere ten minute drive brought us to Velator Quay, on the small but navigable River Caen, just south of Braunton. The sun was trying to beak through, the breeze was not cold, if a bit strong, and we had a bracing 5 or 6 mile walk down the river until it joins the Taw, and then out to Crow Point. From there are fine views across the estuary to the cute riverfront towns of Appledore and Instow. We saw plenty of waders, a few duck, an egret, and a lovely view of a kingfisher as we walked back through the country lanes. I will let the photos say the rest.










Before and After

I haven’t had much time in the garden yet, but have tackled a few of the most pressing issues. The layout is all wrong, with all the planting blocking the views of the wider garden, so there is major restructuring to be done. More importantly, some of the windows have really obstructed views. Time to get the secateurs out!

There was a massive mess of climbers  screening the oil tank from the patio, but partially blocking the view from the kitchen window:


trellis before and after

Unfortunately the trellis underneath is falling apart, but at least I have gained back some space. The passion flower and the summer jasmine have only had a severe haircut, so will grow back quickly once the trellis is replaced.

And the view from the kitchen window is much improved!


kitchen window

This afternoon the rain briefly abated, and I attacked the steps which lead from the lane into the garden about halfway down. They were disappearing under several years worth of slippery leaf mould, and were positively dangerous!


steps before and after

I am pleased with the results of my labours, but there is so much still to do!

Pottering in the garden

The weather continues to be a bit damp and dull, albeit very mild, so we haven’t yet taken much time out from getting straight to go out and explore the countryside. We have been sorting out, and trying to get ready for Christmas, and doing a bit in the garden when the weather allows.

The garden is a absolute delight. Let me show you where we are.


You can just see the cream end wall of our house to the right. The red line shows the approximate area of the garden. We do have neighbours, but they are to the right of the house. The rest of our surroundings is just countryside, and we love it! The garden is full of birds, and they are loving our feeders. We will need to buy a lot of birdseed at the rate they are eating it. I must get some better photos of the frenzy!  There are only 4 goldfinches in this photo Рwe have had up to ten!



I bought some winter bedding the other day, and had a potting up session. Our inherited summerhouse is now my potting shed, as the shed by the house is too small.



I have used the flowers to brighten up the sunken garden. Sounds grand, doesn’t it? It’s not! The house is built into the slope of the garden, so outside the bedroom and bathroom windows (downstairs, remember?) is a narrow walkway, with the view being of the fern-covered dry stone wall behind. I think it is lovely, but I did think some pots would add interest.


sunken garden

Eventually I will plant all sorts of little alpines into the cracks in the wall. Another project for the very long list!

The Toad and the Christmas tree

Once upon a time…


No, this is not a new fairytale, just two unconnected photos for you.


We pottered in the garden a bit today, cutting a couple of shrubs to improve the views from the windows, and starting the huge task of cutting down the perennials. As I lifted a mat of dead crocosmia leaves, I found this little chap underneath:



He is a common toad, and a new species for the garden. I am very excited by him!

This afternoon we went to the local garden centre to buy some winter bedding plants to brighten up the garden, and quite a large variety of garden sundries. The place was heaving with people buying Christmas trees, decorations, and gifts, and getting in the way of all the serious gardeners. It is very inconvenient for Christmas to be happening when we are so busy doing house moving stuff. Can’t it wait???

Apparently not, so I decided to get into a Christmassy mood, and put up The Tree.

Big living room + high ceilings = a great excuse to buy a big bushy tree! He’s a beauty – not actually that tall, but definitely a nice broad shape. Normally I choose a subset of our tree ornaments, based on a theme, and stop hanging when I run out of hooks. Not this year – I bought extra hooks, and it all went on!




Learning ferns

This morning, despite still walking like a cowboy as a result of my last riding lesson, I had another one.  I had a vague idea that it might help me stretch out the muscles, but all it did was hurt! We did some good work, but after 45 minutes I begged to stop. Enough! I now have three whole days to recover before the next one.

This afternoon we screwed up coat hooks, and finally unpacked all the coats. I seem to have quite a few…I may have a little coat problem…I may have to sort them into seasons, and hide away the summer ones!

It has been another damp day, but we did have a bit of a stroll around the garden, and tried to identify the ferns which grow on the dry stone walls. With ferns, it’s all about how many times the fronds are divided:


Harts tongue fern small

This one above is easy, as we had it in a pot in our last garden. It is hart’s tongue fern, and the fronds aren’t divided at all, each one is just like a leaf.


Polypody small

This one above is common polypody, and the fronds are just divided once into a row of lobes called pinna.


Male fern small

This seems to be the most common fern we have, and the pinna are divided again into pinnules, so it is twice divided. This is the ‘male fern’.


Lady fern small

We only found one plant of this one so far. It is twice divided, like the male fern, but much more delicate. We think this is the lady fern.


Buckler fern small

Now this one is divided again, so it is three times divided: Each pinnule is itself divided – see the close up below.


Buckler fern pinnules

We think this is a buckler fern, but there are several, and we haven’t worked out which yet. Last but not least, my favourite:


Maidenhair fern small

This is not a brilliant photo, but this delicate little beauty is the maidenhair fern. Just delightful!

Apologies if you found that boring – I love ferns, and really hope we discover some more species as we explore. I will also be planting some garden varieties as well. The more the better!




Sunset Stroll

We have been here over a week now, and today was the first day it didn’t rain! There is a reason Devon has green fields and lovely gushing rivers! This morning was taken up with that most important of tasks, purchasing the Christmas Tree. Then I had my first riding lesson in Devon. I have ridden for about ten years, and have owned my own horse in the past, but not at the moment. I hadn’t ridden for 6 months, so it was quite hard work, and I am sure I will be very stiff and sore tomorrow.

This afternoon, as the light faded, we popped down to the beach for a stroll.


waveybeach small


The tide was in, and there were plenty of foaming white waves.




Apart from one very happy greyhound and his owner, we had the whole beach to ourselves.




It was just beautiful! On the short drive home, I had to stop and jump out of the car to capture the stunning sunset.




Then it was home for a hot drink and a good long rest!


nighttime house small