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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Keeping a journal

I'm keeping an illustrated journal for a few months. I've tried this before and it's never really worked out, but this time, I seem to be getting into the habit. I got the idea from an arts organisation in Peterborough. They're encouraging 100 people in the city to keep a diary for 4 months. They are hoping to enlist people whose voices are not often heard, so for example those who are marginalised for some reason. At the end of the allotted time, the journals will be shown in an exhibition in the city museum. I think it's a lovely idea. Now, nobody could say that I don't have a voice, what with a blog, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and regular articles, but it has encouraged me to give it a go and one of the people who is running the scheme was kind enough to give me a journal (I think she could see the look of labrador-like enthusiasm on my face when she was telling me about the plan as I interviewed her for the local magazine). 

I'm hoping to use drawing, painting, writing and collage in the journal. I try not to agonise over it, just sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Recently, my oldest friend found a stash of letters that I'd written to her between the ages of 10 and 21. She moved away from my village when we were at junior school but we remained very close,  and so I've photocopied some of those letters and included them in the diary as they have been on my mind. I have since found her letters to me, so we now have the complete correspondence. It's hilarious, touching, and also a bit strange, to see them. 

Although nothing much happens in these letters, they do capture a moment in time, growing up in the 1970s pre-mobile phones, email, Facebook, Snapchat, selfies and screens. Not necessarily better, but certainly different and I think they show that there was less pressure to grow up quickly, but also just less pressure generally. 
Keeping the journal is also a great way of drawing more often, and making time to sit down and write it. I like the ritual of it. It's not perfect, just scribbles and sketches, thoughts, and observations.

Haven't written about quilts yet, but I'm looking forward to writing and drawing that one. 

I know there are some other bloggers who are keeping journals, and I've seen some beautiful ones on Pinterest and I have a few books about them too. Has anyone else had a go at this? I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Hampton Court Flower Show

I've never been to an RHS Flower Show before. It's one of those things that I've always wanted to do, but just never quite got around to. Then a Peterborough artist and garden designer called Jeni Cairns told me that she'd been sponsored by an arts organisation to build an urban community garden which would go to the show, and then come home to the city centre for everyone to enjoy. So I've been following her progress and writing about her story for the local magazine. It seemed only right that I should go and visit the garden at the show and see Jeni and her co-designer Sophie with their wonderful achievement. I was able to go on press day, which meant no crowds or queues, and what a lovely time I had. There was just so much to see in every kind of style, and in such a gorgeous setting by the River Thames.

As well as the amazing show gardens, there are stalls selling garden furniture, accessories and plants, of course. I took so many pictures and I don't want to bore everyone, so am just selecting a few to show you. Here are some of the show gardens, starting off with Jeni and Sophie's gold medal winning A Space to Connect and Grow, which Monty Don, no less, declared his favourite in the whole event!

Everything in this garden is recycled: old scaffold boards make the planters and pavilion sides, oil drums are cut in half to be seats and to create a decorative wall. The orange and green water feature is constructed from parts of an old combine harvester.The plants include vegetables and herbs. The space in the middle is a stage, where artists performed all week.

I just love these oil drum panels, with old grilles, bicycle wheels and plasma cut shapes inside. The large metal heart that I wrote about in a previous post was made by Jeni. I do love the way she combines delicate designs with the industrial metal.
Elsewhere in the show, I saw minimalist Zen gardens, cottage gardens, vegetable gardens and I loved the naturalistic planting in the Jordans Cereal garden and the Macmillan garden.

Jordans Cereal garden

Gorgeous planting in the Macmillan garden.

Precision veggie planting

The view from the John Lewis tree house!

Demonstrations (and live music through the arch!). 
The floristry tent had a theme of circus. This gypsy caravan was vibrant!

And the nurseries who were selling plants had pulled out all the stops with their displays.

Thanks for stopping by, and to everyone who has followed me on Instagram. I am really enjoying it over there, where I post regularly @fionacumberpatch.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

A nest

I was clearing space at the end of the garden today where it's totally overgrown with nettles, sticky grass, dried cow parsley and weeds. As I was pulling some ivy from a tree, I spotted this nest tucked inside a fork in the branches. I checked thoroughly to make sure it was old, and it had quite a lot of debris inside, so I was  satisfied that it was probably a last year's nest. I slid it out of the tree and photographed it in the late evening sun. I love the shadow of the nest, showing all its intricate threads. I've made it my header photo now. Such a beautiful thing, a nest.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


I've just joined Instagram. I often post photos of flowers, vintage, crafts etc on my Facebook page, but not all friends are interested, so I thought it would be nice to have (yet another) outlet. My Instagram name is Fiona Cumberpatch (not very imaginative but I knew there wouldn't be another one!). I'll be catching up with some of you over there and meanwhile, look out for me! 
I am sure I will be Instagramming like a good 'un next week as I am very excited that I have a ticket to the Hampton Court Palace flower show. I have followed a local garden designer's progress to the show for a feature in the local magazine, and I just can't wait to see Jeni Cairns and her finished project.

Jeni is an artist as well as a garden designer. She uses lots of upcycled materials and repurposed items in her designs. She's been plasma cutting old oil drums to make features for the show garden, and a few weeks ago, I bought one of her lovely recycled metal hearts. This is really big - half a metre wide - and looks so good hanging on my shed in my wild garden.

I just think it's beautiful!

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Village days - part 2

Just one final open gardens/village tour. This is Apethorpe, a tiny village which has a huge country house hidden away behind the main street. Apethorpe Hall is owned by English Heritage and is being restored, so it's rarely open to the public. Last weekend, the gardens, still a work in progress, were accessible, along with  eight or nine village gardens. Again, it was perfect weather. 

This cute cottage had a bric a brac stall in the garden. The owner was selling crystal wine glasses for 10p each. I am not a fan of crystal, so I didn't buy, but afterwards I wondered if I should have done!

Fantastic idea for a library....and here is Apethorpe Hall.

It is a Jacobean house, a favourite with royalty of the time. It has been an approved school (in the 1980s) and was then owned by a Sheikh who never visited. Finally, English Heritage bought it under a compulsory purchase order a few years ago. A massive restoration programme has been underway ever since. Work is ongoing inside and out but it's all taking shape. There are stonemasons workshops and stacks of stone work everywhere....

Scaffolding on the walled garden.

This is a listed lily pond.

Ancient trees.

And meadow walks.

A graceful stable block:

The Hall is now for sale. Rumours were swirling that a French Count has already bought it, but over the years, there have been many reports of rock stars, actors and royalty who are interested. The cream tea tent was full of gossip as to who the secret purchaser could be. "Just so long as it's not an oligarch," said one lady. "Just think of all those gold taps!"

I still think I'd prefer a cottage like this one. And maybe a car like this?

Hope you enjoyed the tour. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Village days part 1

Sweet peas on the allotments

Open gardens, open village days, it was all happening around here over the weekend. As the events were both within a three mile journey of home, I could not resist going along to take part. It was glorious weather, which meant that I took plenty of photos. So once again, I am going to take you on a tour. First of all, we are going to Woodnewton, Northamptonshire. And tomorrow I will post about Apethorpe, also in Northamptonshire. 

How inviting does this look? As if it could get any more idyllic, just beyond the trees is a river.

A clever garden, owned by a garden designer.

And a beautiful woodland walk in a wilder plot. 

A brilliant log store. And a flower pot wreath...

I noticed that lots of gardens have box parterres - small low box hedges - in their design. This one was pretty, with the tiny red flowers rising above it.

This last garden is in a fairly small plot, but the owner had packed so much into it. She was really happy to chat about her garden and told me that she spends hours on it every week. "I don't sleep well, so you'll often find me out here at 5.30am," she said. "It's my passion."

More gardens tomorrow, including a stunning Jacobean country house, and the sweetest country cottage I've ever seen!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

A garden trail

Today I went on an open garden trail in my own village. It is amazing that you can live in a place for so long and not realise what is hidden behind the Northamptonshire stone walls. Houses that may look ordinary conceal lovingly tended plots full of character and riots of colour. Want to have a look?

This little detail comes from my favourite garden of the day. It belongs to a garden designer, so I knew it would be lovely, but actually it was breathtaking. A series of 'rooms,' on one side flanked by old stone walls, which then open out and lead down to the river bank. There were formal areas near to the house.... 

Quirkier spaces...

 And a wilder area, with a retired pony (39 years old) and chickens....

Before a walk down to the river's edge.

Peering through the hedge to the house next door, I was intrigued to spot this old building through the trees. 

 What a wonderful hideaway that would be. 

This gorgeous delphinium was in Pat and Ken's garden. It reminds me of those vintage tablecloths with cottage garden embroidery. Pat's delphiniums were ridiculously strong and healthy but she insisted that she doesn't feed them or give them any special treatment. Jealous!!

I loved the stone floor in this part of Jackie's beautiful garden. The pile of stone for sale was being snapped up as I arrived. We have a lot of limestone in the area where we live, it has a wonderfully mellow tone.

I toured the village  allotments and enjoyed being talked through one plot by a retired man who spends 18 hours a week working on his. The rain had just started to fall as I reached him, so I didn't take any photos, although I did snap these extremely happy looking and healthy hens as I arrived.

A very sociable way to spend the afternoon. I went on my own as Perry and youngest son have gone away for the week to celebrate the end of GCSEs. Eldest is just home from uni and he is catching up on sleep and watching quite a lot of football matches before he starts his holiday job next week. 

I hope you enjoyed your Sunday, wherever you may be. 

About Me

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I'm a freelance journalist living in a village in East Northamptonshire with my husband and youngest son. I love visiting car boot sales, auctions and markets and writing about my inexpensive finds, and also some small craft projects and my attempts at watercolour painting and patchworking. I'm the editor of a local magazine, so I find out about loads of interesting things that are happening in my community, some of which I share here, too.