New home snapshots

Farrow and Ball downpipe on walls

Goodness, hello my poor old deserted blog! How’s everything going over here? If anyone’s still out there, hi! *waves* Hope you’re all well.

I’ve noticed I’m not the only one whose blog has been receiving far less attention than usual. Are we all about to jump ship completely to somewhere like instagram? Is this the death knell of blogging? Who can say. Speaking for myself, at least, the intention to write posts over here still arises fairly frequently, but the notes section on my phone has become littered with half thought out ideas and three-sentence-first-paragraphs, abandoned as something always seems to pop up half way through any attempts to write a post.

Still, the baby is napping now, the other two are dropped off at school and nursery, so I thought it was high time to pop by and say hello and share a few quick snaps of our new houses. Because, drum roll please, we finally moved in two weeks ago.

It’s not completely 100 per cent finished (of course!) and the builders still have a bit of painting to do, a leaking basin to fix and a few other bits and pieces to sort out. But we’re in and it’s really rather wonderful!

Most of these photos were taken just before we moved all our stuff in, so it’s more a tour of paint colours by room than anything else, but I promise to share some more pics once we’re properly unpacked and there aren’t boxes in every corner…

So, here we go:

We’ve knocked through the wall that separated the front two reception rooms and now have one big sitting room / playroom. At the far end (the playroom half), the most gorgeous original door opens up onto a plant room and then to the garden.

VIctorian house

The colour on the walls is Down Pipe by Farrow and Ball. A lovely rich, deep grey. I was a bit worried before it went up that it might make the rooms look too dark, but I am really delighted with the final result.

Farrow and Ball Down Pipe walls

Out the back, the plant room is still filled with paint and various things for the builders. I can’t wait to get it cleared and put up more shelves for plants. But for now, I have a few hanging down in the light.

Plant room

The main kitchen is untouched since we bought the house. I thought I could live with the old tiles, 1950s cupboards and MDF work surfaces for a few years until we do an extension, but it turns out I can’t. We’ll be saving up to put in new work surfaces and cupboard units and (of course!) my favourite open shelves made from scaffold planks. The kitchen is tiny, but joins on to a big dining room, complete with the most beautiful built in shelves.

Kitchen shelves

This room gets loads of sun in the morning, which is glorious. It’s painted in Farrow and Ball Cromarty and, at the risk of sounding like a Farrow and Ball rep, I absolutely love this colour as well.

Upstairs, we’ve got three bedrooms. The nursery is packed floor to rafters with boxes at the moment and for some reason I’ve not taken any snaps of the boys’ room, but here is our room in the evening sunlight just before we moved in:

Bedroom

It’s a total mess in here now (our room always being the last to get sorted after we move anywhere) with all sorts of bits and pieces (photos / pictures / mirrors) lying around and waiting to be put on the walls. I snapped a reflection of me and the littlest for instagram the other day:

SaOh, and the walls here: F&B Card Room Green.

Finally, my favourite room in the house, our glorious bathroom. We’ve pushed the boat out here, grabbing some space from the back bedroom so we can have both a walk-in shower and large freestanding bath.

bathroom

If you remember my post from a while ago, featuring inspiration for this space, I feel like it’s come out pretty well. As with all the rooms, it’s not completely finished — we need a shower screen to be fitted and the vanity unit to be put up for the basin, but then it’s just a case of adding plants! Will share more photos once it’s done.

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A new garden and some new plans

With great excitement, we handed in our notice on our rental house recently.

Our definitely-completed-in-six-months building project is now at the start of month eight and, finally, builders have started on the final phase. The project has been drastically scaled back (the attic conversion is now going to have to wait for another time) but I am insanely excited at the prospect of finally moving in in mid June.

Most excited of all, possibly, at the thought of our new garden.

The view of the garden from the upstairs window

When we bought the new house, the one (and only) concern for me was that the garden was a bit smaller than our old one. In our last house, the garden was extremely long and extremely narrow (5mx20m) and though our new garden is almost a metre wider (believe me, in London, these kinds of small additions count for a lot!) it’s about two metres shorter.

But, after eight months in our rental house with just a tiny shaded courtyard out the back, the space is looking pretty palatial right now.

Since we moved in, while all the building work has been going on, I’ve been taking photos of the garden. Both to give myself some proper “before” shots to look back on, once the “after” is resplendent (hem hem) and also so I can remember what will flower where and what everything looks like at its best season of interest.

Garden

So this view, above, is looking from the patio down to the end of the garden in early Spring (with a little ornamental cherry in bloom in the middle of the grass).

Pyracantha blossom

And this is how it looks right now, with the old spiky, but rather attractive pyracantha in full blossom.

London garden

And this, above, is the view back to the house, from the end of the garden.

As you can see, it’s all pretty overgrown, but there is lots to work with. The shrubs and trees are mature but now too large for their spaces, so my plan with these is just to do a bit of a constructive edit. I’ll prune some right back and remove others, to leave a smaller number to shine. There is an acer, in particular, that is going to be delightful.

Arch

The patio is separated from the garden with some rickety trellis, that is looking pretty unstable now. I think it will have to come down fairly soon (or fall down on its own) but I love the idea of a separation here and am thinking I might try and put a huge corten steel circle in, as a modern take on a moon gate. Watch this space!

Fence

The equally rickety fence at the back conceals three lime trees and a small strip of council-owned land. Both neighbours have taken the fence down to reclaim the land and absorb it into their garden. After a mere 20 years, apparently, it will be your own… And the wooden bear was left by the previous owners. The boys already love it.

Pond

There is a small and rather sweet pond, backed with overgrown dogwood. I am planning to coppice the dogwood asap, so that next year it will just be a small collection of bright red newly grown stems, reflecting in the water.

The lawn is curved at the sides and covered in moss, but a great space for the boys to play. I’m not too bothered by the moss actually, but I do plan to straighten out the edges, so that it’s a regulation rectangle, surrounded by similar-sized beds.

Camellia

There are quite a few flowering shrubs jostling for space, but little herbaceous interest in the beds. A camellia in the front garden is looking nice. A pieris could have a chance to shine with some judicious pruning around it. All in all, lots of tidying and shaping to be done, and then some herbaceous perennials planted in the newly created gaps.

Scrappy side return

At the side, a really quite large patio with a pergola that we’ve had to remove (it was dripping damp into the house). Here, I am planning on festooning the fence and walls with green and making a shady little evergreen nook to sit in on really hot days.

And, what’s this here? An extremely ugly add on to the house, you say? A no, no, no! This is actually the room in the house I am most excited about because, for the next few years until we can afford to build a side return, this is going to be my plant room. My urban jungle. My green retreat. My wannabe-orangery. It’s a bit hard to imagine, looking at it like this, but I have high hopes of making something very beautiful in here!

So, lots to do, lots to decide and lots of promise for the hot summer months. May mid June roll on as quickly as possible!

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Currently reading: The other side of the bridge

Reading The Other Side of the Bridge

I’m recently returned from Dorset. A ten day break over the Easter hols, staying in a glorious cottage done up in impeccable taste. (Ahem, for which read, done up in my exact taste…)

I have a no-TV-on-holidays rule that I tend to adhere to. In our normal life, we watch an insane amount of television. Rare is the evening that I don’t collapse, exhausted, in front of a Netflix boxset with a big glass of wine, desperate for a bit of a break from the relentlessness of raising three small people.

But there must be something slightly puritanical in my upbringing for I always feel that somehow I shouldn’t watch much TV in the evenings and that it is certainly not a suitable activity for a holiday.

Instead, I read.

I catch up on magazines subscriptions, read the weekend papers cover to cover and, of course, enjoy some books.

I had put aside a rather large pile of gardening magazines, a book on child-rearing (you know the kind: how not to turn out little shitheads by improving your terrible parenting skills) and a couple of books from the library. I was really looking forward to devouring them all. Only to arrive on holiday and realise the whole pile had been left behind.

But (and since this is a ‘currently reading’ post, there had to be a but…) luckily enough there was a small selection of rather excellent books at the cottage. Given that we were staying a stone’s throw from Lyme Regis, I was pleased to see The French Lieutenant’s Woman on the bookshelf. There was also an Alan Hollinghurst (The Stranger’s Child, which I have already read (and reviewed briefly here)). So I felt the collection had been left by someone with good taste (ahem, again, by which I mean similar taste to me) and I happily delved into a book I found that I’d neither read nor heard of before.

The other side of the bridge is written by Mary Lawson and (I’ve just discovered) was Booker longlisted in 2006. I found it to be a stunningly beautiful book; sparsely written, with deft, light descriptions and a wonderful evocation of place. It’s the kind of book that makes me want to book a plane ticket to go and experience a way of life hugely removed from mine.

It’s set in a small town the Canadian north, a land of hard cold winters, where everybody knows everybody’s business. The story emerges of Arthur Dunn, a local farmer, and the doctor’s son, Ian, who rebels against the expectation that he, too, must join the family doctor line and instead helps out Arthur in the fields. There book contains loss, heartache, jealousy, teenage angst and existential questions about the choices we make that decide who we become.

As you can probably already tell, I heartily recommend it.

And as for my Dorset holiday – expect a long picture-packed post coming in the next few days! (Followers on Instagram may have noticed how incredibly taken I was with the whole area…)

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An Eltham Palace jaunt

Eltham Palace window

1930s interiors, beautifully planted gardens and a pet lemur: surely an irresistible combination for a Saturday afternoon. On a recent drizzling weekend, we bundled the kids into the car and set off for a return visit to Eltham Palace and Gardens. (Disclaimer: the pet lemur is no longer there in any living form, sadly, though there is a huge number of pet lemur toys for sale in the shop.)

We last visited at the height of summer and spent most of the day in the gardens, with a quick detour inside. This time round, a mizzling rain was falling and the much-anticipated playground was closed for re-turfing, so we took the time to explore the house more fully.

Learning from our last visit*, we slipped past the persuasive English Heritage membership advocate on the door and managed to resist his attempts to sign us up for a year’s membership.

Eltham Palace cafe

After the rather disappointing discovery of the closed playground, we went straight for the cafe for a restorative cuppa and lunch, despite it only being 11.45am. The cafe tables are located in a greenhouse, surrounded by potted plants and views to flower beds. I think I would be happy if every meal for the rest of my life was eaten inside a greenhouse, but a slight word of warning to anyone else planning on eating at Eltham Palace: the food is good, the surroundings are lovely but the service is really incredibly slow. Start to queue up and order long before the pangs of hunger begin to nip.

Sated and quenched, and having answered the question, “Mum, what’s the name of that flower” about a hundred times, we set off to jaunt round the house.

Eltham Palace bedroom

If you’re visiting with kids, there is a good trail you can follow round the rooms with obligatory stamps and sticker prize at the end. This meant we could linger long in any room with an animal motif to search out for the trail, but rooms not included were rushed past, while I gazed in longingly. The rooms epitomise all that is desirable from the 1930s as far as I am concerned, and I took endless photos with the vague intention of making every single room in my house look the same. There is a brilliant austerity to some rooms, combined with extravagant luxury in others that greatly pleases me.

Eltham Palace Great Hall
The Great Hall

After a trot round the house, the rain had just about let up, so we explored the gardens. A lot of the planting here is herbaceous, so there wasn’t a huge amount to see at this time of year (nothing compared to our last visit, when the borders were heaving with blooms) but blossom was just starting to show on the trees and carpets of daffodils, crocuses and scillas brought colour to the grassy areas. The moat, rockeries and huge walls look just as splendid at any time of year.

Eltham Palace moat and bridgeSpring at Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace moat
Looking at the fish

All in all, it was so lovely that I’m really looking forward to visiting again in a few months to see how the garden is growing. Drat, I wish we’d bought that annual pass now…

*I’m sorry to say that, despite our best intentions, we actually never visited a single other English Heritage property in the year we held membership.

Mo’ babies, mo’ knits

Hand knit baby cardigan

The impending pitter patter of baby feet inevitably sends me straight for my knitting needles.

True to form, in late pregnancy, I started on a baby blanket for the littlest. But, in rather typical third baby syndrome, I haven’t actually managed to finish that yet. (Ahem, she is nearly four months old now, so I really need to get cracking.)

When I was a week or so overdue, I became convinced that she wasn’t coming out because she was indignant at my inability to have completed a knit for her, so I put the blanket aside for a bit, and knit a quick grey cardie, that she could wear home from the hospital.

baby cardigan

I followed a pattern I’d not tried out before, the bug warmer, by Tagia Hillard designs. It was a great knit, raglan style, and the end result was a perfect fit for a newborn and super easy to put on for a little winter baby.

I used a light grey Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, which is super soft, lovely to knit, but also machine washable (an absolute essential, as far as I’m concerned, for baby clothes. It’s not just me who always has vomiting babies, right?!) All details, as ever, on Ravelry here: baby bug warmer.

I was so pleased with the result that I knit a second one for my sister-in-law’s new baby, who arrived a month later, in the same type of yarn but this time in dark grey.

I fully intended to pick up the blanket again and finish it, but, erm, that’s still to happen, and instead I moved onto another cardie once the grey one was outgrown. I’d spotted a lovely mustard yellow garter stitch cardigan in John Lewis and was convinced I could knit my own version, but then I struggled to find a decent pattern. In the end, I went for the Iceling cardigan by Carol Feller. It’s not garter stitch throughout, but has a huge garter front and turn ups at the sleeves.

Hand knit baby jumper

Hand knit baby cardigan

My usual sewing-on-a-button-inertia struck once I’d finished the knit, so it sat about for nearly a month while I dithered over button selection, yarn selection (for a button. Yes, I know) and threw in some bog standard procrastination.

Eventually, though, I bit the bullet and sewed the little blighters on, and she has been wearing the cardie non-stop ever since. (That would be a better endorsement, of course, if she was actually old enough to choose her own clothes, ha ha.)

Once again, I went for the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, this time in a glorious mustard yellow. I love the slightly vintage look to the colour, matched with more modern big white chunky buttons.

I went for the six month size, which is a pretty good fit on her at nearly four months, but should have enough stretch in it to keep going for a while. Full details of the knit over on Ravelry: Iceling cardigan.

Hand knit baby cardiganHand knit baby cardigan

And finally, yes, isn’t this is a ridiculous amount of photos to show you one tiny little cardie, but, oh she’s too cute, I couldn’t resist – just look at those squidgy legs! Long-term readers might remember that I never usually share pictures of the kids here, but I’ve realised that they grow out of the baby stage so ridiculously quickly that she’ll probably be completely unrecognisable from these photos in a month or so…

And now, back to the blanket! I am determined to get it finished before winter is officially over…

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Home inspiration: relaxing bathrooms

Eclectic bathroomI am, once again, deep in the throes of a house renovation.

It’s been six months since we bought our new house and moved into rented accommodation while we did the building work. We originally thought that it was a four month build (ha ha ha, *head falls off from laughing so hard at the naivety*) and we’re now at the point where we’re about to start the attic conversion and bathroom redesign. Still, on the bright side, the house is no longer subsiding, after lots of underpinning and so on, so that’s always a good start for any potential home…

Taking up my brain space almost all the time, right now, is the planning of the two new bathrooms. I am writing endless lists, visiting lots of bath shops (there has been much fully-clothed entering of baths in showrooms) and, above all, pinning endless images to Pinterest for inspiration.

My aesthetic is along the lines of contemporary rustic, pared-back, simple and relaxing. Does that make sense?!

Top of the list is a roll-top bath, floral tiles on the floor, white-painted tongue-and-groove walls and taps for the basin coming straight out of the wall. It will be bliss if we pull it off!

And these are some of my favourite pics that I’ve saved up while planning, found on Pinterest, but linking to original sources.

Claw foot bath…

Clawfoot bath
From Design Sponge

I love pretty much everything about the image above (c/o Design Sponge and do click on the photo to see the full house tour, which is all similarly amazing…) But it’s the black-painted claw foot bath that I’m planning to use. I’ve wanted a claw foot bath pretty much forever, but have never had a bathroom with enough space for one before. In the new house, the claw foot tub will sit in front of the sash window, and I’m dreaming of a Farrow and Ball dark blue / black colour on the exterior. A proper statement bath, a perfect place in which to lie back and read.

…with bath caddy

Wooden bath shelf caddy
From Rightmove

And over the top of my luxurious tub, I’m planning on having one of those amazing wood hold-alls to put a book, or maybe a glass of wine, to enjoy while I stretch out.

The picture above, incidentally, is from a glorious house I saw on RightMove, for sale in Clapton, Hackney, with the most fabulous interiors I have ever seen. If you’ve got a spare £1.3 million and are in the market for a new house, take a look at the rest of it.

Wall taps

Concealed shower
From Concepts and Colourways

A recent obsession of mine: concealed plumbing. Taps and showers that come straight out of the wall, without any pipes. Amazing! I am completely hooked on this idea, and pretty much every place where I can manage it, the taps or shower head are going to come straight out of the wall, rather than from the basin or pipes.

Floral floor tiles

Geometric floor tilesAs in the bathroom floor in our old house, I would like once again to have some geometric / floral floor tiles. The top image are some favourites of mine from Fired Earth, but I am going to try and search out a cheaper option. (I was blithely going ahead imagining we would get these exact ones, until the hubby pointed out that to buy enough for our relatively small bathroom was going to cost us upwards of £1,000. Yikes.)

I adore the bottom image, courtesy of Elle Deco in Sweden, because it is both clean and pared back at the same time as busy and intriguing. A brilliant combination…

Tongue and groove panelling

Tongue and groove bathroom panelling
From Beach Studios

Oh, yes another long-term obsession, tongue and groove panelling just classes up any space, doesn’t it? I love the grey paint in the bathroom above, but the plan for ours is to have it going half way up the wall, painted white, and with another (pale) paint colour on the walls above it. Mind you, now I am sitting looking at this photo, I’m wondering if I should change my mind on that decision and reach it all the way to the ceiling…

These photos, and even more, on my Pinterest family bathroom board if you fancy a look.

Tell me, what is your dream bathroom?

Life, the universe and everything

Collage Hello friends! To paraphrase one of my favourite Robert Lowell poems*, I’m back, after three months away.

So, why the long pause?

Well, I am tempted to give the usual excuses. You know, I was heavily pregnant, I had a baby, life was a bit more tiring with three kids, Christmas came along etc etc. All perfectly true, to a certain extent. But, of course, if you really want to do something, you manage to find the time to do it, no matter what else is going on.

And, I think the real reason for the extended absence, was that last year I rather got sucked into an amateur pro bloggers vortex, if you know what I mean.

I don’t have any desires to make any money from this blog. (A brief foray into paid links, of which eagle eyed readers might have spotted two in the past two years, convinced me that it was a pretty tiring way to make money. For me at least.) But I did want my blog to rank alongside professional blogs. To be just as worth reading as those by bloggers who do use it as a way of making a living. So I was often reading lots of other blogs and seeing all the other articles out there similar to mine and, of course, almost every article ever has already been written, so I wondered what was the point of adding mine to the mix. I started to feel like yet another person photographing the wreath on their front door for Instagram at Christmas time…

I got a serious case of blogging fatigue. And Instagram fatigue as well, for that matter. It all just started to seem a little bit… …pointless.

So what’s changed? Why am I back again?

Last week, we went to buy fireplaces for our new house. We were wandering round the shop, which is full of antique and reproduction fireplaces . And we wanted one that was exactly the same as the one in our old house. We’d assumed we’d easily spot it out on the display, but there wasn’t a similar one out. Then I remembered that I’d photographed out mantelpiece for this blog a few times in 2015 and that there was likely a photograph of the whole fireplace in there somewhere. Lo and behold, there was! (This one.)

I was delighted to have the photo to show the shop manager, but also, more importantly, for posterity of the house that we renovated and no longer lived in. Of the display on the mantelpiece that marked that point in time in our lives. And which I would have never ever photographed were it not for the blog.

So I remembered that crucial thing that had been missing for me last year: this blog is, primarily, for me.

To record moments in our lives, things I’ve made, recipes I love. A place I can look back to find the details that get forgotten over time.

And if anyone else wants to read it too. Well, really, that’s just a bonus!

So, this year I will, I hope, be back for a bit more of the same. If you’re reading along, hello! Thank you! And I hope I won’t disappear for so long again.

And for now, a very brief catch up.

I had the baby! Woo-hoo. She was 10 days late, which I hadn’t anticipated, and arrived in the middle of November. She is very adorable and – though life is inevitably a little more stressful with three children rather than two – she makes our little family better in every way.

The boys are besotted with her and love to do nothing better than plant never-ending kisses on her cheeks and tell her how much they love her. When she smiles at them, they are delighted. Then they go off and beat the crap out of each other, ha ha.

When she was ten days old, she got bronchiolitis and was in the paediatric ICU for ten days, unable to breathe on her own with a collapsed lung. It was a terrifying time and brought back a lot of memories from when my first son died. It also made me think a lot about grief and children and life and expectations and, really, all sorts of things. I have been mulling over a blog post about some of that for a while, which may or may not come later. But, the most important thing, she made a full recovery and, apart from a weak chest for a few years, should be perfectly fine.

I handed in my very final garden design assignments last week. I really loved doing the course, but boy was it a lot of work. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how it is possible to make any money being a garden designer, unless you’re totally at the top of your game. Though I was pleased with what I managed to produce, I’m not convinced that it’s a career for me. I think I love learning about and working with all the plants a lot more than I enjoy wondering how you would construct a retaining wall. So the latest plan… …take another course! Ha ha, I do hope my Mum isn’t reading this as she would despair of my incessant course-taking. But there is a diploma 3 level horticulture course that is just crying out to me that I could take later in the year. And then I’ve found a really rather awesome looking masters in plant diversity. Does any of this earn money, erm, no, and therein lies the rub. We shall see.

What else? The hubby is still on shared parental leave, which is great. Our new house is still undergoing building work and will be for the next three months minimum, which is really not great. And, other than that, life continues as before.

Thank you to all loyal readers who’ve made it to the end of this page! High five for your persistence. And apologies that this is illustrated only with photos from Instagram. I haven’t got my big camera out at all in the past few months.

So, what have I missed with all of you? Hope life has been good…

* Home after three months away which you can read here if you’re so inclined.

Autumn days at Sissinghurst

SissinghurstHello, poor neglected blog! I’ve thought of you a lot over these past few months and yet never found the time / energy to pop in and say hi…

Late pregnancy this time round has been a total crusher of energy. Partly, I suppose, because I’m older, partly because I have two other little people to look after and partly because I seem to have been ill with one thing or another at least once a week. (Though the last of those is down to the first two, I am pretty sure…)

Anyway, here we are with ten days to go before the baby is due, and I’m finally managing to drop in and share some pictures of our trip to Sissinghurst from a few weekends ago.

Sissinghurst

Sissinghurst

It was one of those glorious Autumnal days, the sky blue, the sun shining, the leaves just starting to turn and the fruit trees dripping in bounty.

The kids ran around, I slowly wandered about admiring the planting and ruminating on the how the garden design fit the architecture and surrounding environment (I was compiling a sketchbook on said topic for one of my garden design assignments) and we all ate heartily at the (rather expensive) cafe.

Sissinghrust tower

Sissinghurst oasthousesI don’t need to say much about Sissinghurst, I’m sure, as it must be one of the most famous gardens in the country. But, despite the glamour and renown of the garden rooms, I have to confess that I find some of the outlying parts a little more appealing. The kitchen garden, surrounded by views of the fields, was fat with pumpkins. The orchard was full of apples, crabapples and pears. The lakes, towards the very perimeter of the “gardened” land were looking beautiful with huge stately oak trees shaking their branches over the top. And perhaps my favourite parts are where you can catch glimpses out to the Kentish farmland beyond, the gentle chug of a tractor in the distance, a few faraway figures walking the dogs through the yellow fields… I do love the domestic romance of the English countryside.

Country view

Sissinghurst lakes

crabapples

I noticed, for the first time, that there is a B&B on the grounds of the estate. (Website here: sissinghurstcastlefarmhouse.com) One to add to the list for a child-free weekend away at some unspecified point in the future!

Anyway, I hope you’re all well. I suspect I won’t have time to drop in again now until after the baby arrives, until when I am busy trying to finish my last assignment for the course (designing a show garden for Chelsea / Hampton Court!) and finishing off the blanket that I have only just started knitting. (You can see it on my IG account here: baby blanket) Oh dear, little baby, I am sorry that before you are even born I have had less time to spend on you than I did on your siblings!

The big move: an update

Blue glass windowHello, hello! I write to you from the other side of endless box packing and unpacking and moving out of one house and (sort of) into two others…

I was going to give you a blow-by-blow account of the hellish ins and outs of the two moves from last week and the week before, but perhaps it’s best to draw a veil over it all and just focus on what’s ahead.

Sitting room Bay window

Suffice to say, we did manage to get all our stuff out of our old house in the end (a day late, thanks to our removal men, so it was a big relief we had decided to move out a week before completion!)

And now most of our shiz is in our rental house, and almost completely unpacked, hoorah. And a few other bits of our shiz (fridge, washing machine, kitchen table – the things that are already here in the rental) are sitting in our new house just where they are supposed to be. And, even more excitingly, we’re meeting the builder there tomorrow morning to run through all the structural stuff that he’s going to start working on on Monday.

So, fingers crossed, within a month or so, it will be a house that is no longer subsiding!

Kitchen Bedroom

Meanwhile, we also have architects working on designs for planning permission for the attic extension, and I have my brain running through all the plans for the other gazillion things we’ll need to do before we move in.

Anyway, I wandered around the new place on completion day, snapping some pics with evidence of how it is currently. I think the term is “potential” right?!

But the ceilings are high, the windows are huge, and there are some lovely original features dotted about. Actually, I just can’t wait to move in.

Hallway Window Door arch

I am writing this in a terrible hurry, as I’ve just dropped the sproglet off for his first day of school. I am proud to report, I remain dry-eyed! I say a day, but, actually, it’s just two hours this morning, of playing, so I am hoping he will be okay. He seemed pretty cheery as I left him. I suspect the reality of a full week next week might be a little different…

So, a month of huge changes! Happy Friday to all, hope you have a wonderful day and a great weekend.

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A featherdown week: camping in the Cotswolds

Hidcote BartrimIn something of a head-in-the-sand moment, we had a short break last week in the Cotswolds. A bit of time to unwind on a glorious glampsite (that’s a word, now, right?), admire the sunsets, wander round beautiful gardens and deal with the kids’ whinging as a parenting duo have a bit of quality family time together.

{We should have really been busy organising, for tomorrow we move house, along with all the weariness that brings, but enough of all that til another time…}

Featherdown tent

We stayed on a Featherdown Farms campsite, having really enjoyed our hol with them two years back in Dorset. It’s camping in name only: you live in a huge safari tent, with proper beds, mattresses and duvets, and a flushing loo. This year, not wanting to haul my gigantic seven-month pregnant body half-naked across a field to the shower block, I also insisted that we pay the £100 odd extra to stay in one their “frills” tents, which means the bathroom even has a hot shower (on mains water) that was actually better than our one at home. Yeah, it’s pretty blissful. The only downside is that the prices are, quite frankly, extortionate. We paid about £650, which is a lot for four nights in a field, no matter how nice the tent.

Still, this was the view of the field our tent was in at sunrise:

Sheep field, Cotswolds, UKand this was the view from the car park:

Cotswolds fieldswheat field

So, you know, it was probably worth it, in the end.

The other huge plus point, for me, if not the rest of the family, was that our campsite was part of the Hidcote estate, and in a field just behind Hidcote Manor, to which we had free access for our stay. I’ll write a whole separate post on the gloriousness of the gardens there, but I took every opportunity I could to wander in and look around.

Hidcote Manor

It was my first time visiting such prime Cotswold territory (we were just between Chipping Camden and Broadway which is, I think, pretty much peak Cotswold) and my god, it’s glorious there! I now see why everyone bangs on about it being so nice all the time. We were there in the middle of August, and there were certainly quite a few coachloads of tourists popping up everywhere, but I never felt completely overwhelmed by them (as I do in the centre of London sometimes…)

You can see the impact on prices, though. The Chipping Camden Co-op was noticeably more expensive than our local one in East Dulwich. It’s not often that I go on holiday and find the prices higher than London.

Burford
Burford

Burford

All the towns seem to sit on top of hills with the most magnificent views of glorious English countryside. I was particularly taken by Burford (above) as the main road that runs straight through the middle of town was a major thoroughfare and pulsed with traffic including lorries, tractors and huge combine harvesters as well as the cars and coaches. For some reason, that tickles me a lot more than a sleepy little village with only the occasional bicycle passing through.

As well as wander round honey-coloured Cotswold towns, we also took a day trip to Cotswold Wildlife Park.

Last time we went, I was bowled over by the planting and the kids’ playground. This time, perhaps because my expectations had been higher, I thought the planting was a little bit meh, for the most part, and the playground seemed to have simultaneously shrunk and become more over-run with bigger children. But I guess that’s all in the mind…

The walled garden was still spectacular though. I particularly liked the tropical section.

Tropical garden, Cotswold Wildlife Park

And it was interesting to compare the difference between the late summer annual planting with the spring display we saw on our last visit.

Walled garden, Cotswold Wildlife Park

Oh and the animals enchanted us all as much as before. I’m not entirely sure it’s great to keep either giraffes or penguins in the UK climate, but I have to admit I was pretty pleased to spend time close up to them.

PenguinsGiraffe

Of course, the only trouble is, I’m now slightly regretting our decision to move to another London abode and rather wishing we had decided to leg it out to the country after all. But peak Cotswold has definitely made it to the top of the list for the “possible places to move in 2018″…

Further info:

  • Featherdown farms have sites throughout the country (and Europe). More info on their website: www.featherdown.co.uk.
  • We visited the towns of Burford, Broadway, Chipping Camden and stayed in Hidcote Bartrim. It’s pretty flipping lovely all round the area, but if you have children then Broadway has a most excellent new playground (that took up an entire field), which might just tip the balance in its favour. It was also less noticeably touristed than Chipping Camden or Burford when we visited.
  • If the animals or gardens of Cotswold Wildlife Park tempt you, there is more on their website: www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk.

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