Monday, 7 June 2010

Country Cottage Update

Hello my friends. Good weekend, one and all? Pretty glorious, wasn't it? We headed West on Thursday to our little slice of the country and the cottage was looking mighty fine indeed in all that lovely sunshine. It was a lovely sight, to be greeted by my Gertrude Jekyll in full flower as I walked up the path towards the cottage. It's so lovely to be able to arrive in daylight, too. I only planted Gertie a couple of years ago in a tiny bit of available earth at the edge of the path so she has done brilliantly well. This rose is renowned for having a beautiful fragrance.

Some visitors were already in situ and enjoying the scent!

It was very good of my Dad to wear a shirt which went with the colours of the rose! There he is, doing what he does best, the Telegraph crossword and whiskey (not forgetting the DIY - that's to come)!

My mum has worked so hard in the garden for us (can't imagine my parents will be rushing back for a repeat visit anytime soon!), it was pretty overgrown when we arrived as we currently need to find another gardener. I wish I had taken a "before" photo on Thursday because by Sunday, it was looking quite pretty and much tidier.

Mademoiselle Fifi, the friendly but rather zany cat from next door, was happy making herself at home in my "six hills giant" cat mint!

What captivated us all the most in the garden, though, was the family of blue tits in the nesting box. Throughout Sunday, one of the babies was ready to fledge and kept poking his little head out of the hole! So sad that we have now had to come home and can't keep an eye on their progress anymore. Good luck, little birds.

Master Munchkin, having read Enid Blyton's "Mr Galliano's Circus", was lured outside with drawing and colouring materials, whereupon he proceeded to draw his own big top. What a poseur this boy is!

It all proved far too tiring for some of the more senior members...

Meanwhile, Mum, the Munchkin and I went on a little trip to the cider farm which turned into what the Munchkin excitingly termed "an adventure" (too much Famous Five, that one) as there was a diversion which sent us around about 10 miles of admittedly stunning South Somerset countryside!

A sign at the side of the road alerted us to the fact that there was a fresh crop at the local farm...

Yummy, English asparagus, freshly picked. Just cannot be beaten.

Here is one of the asparagus fields. Having tried (and failed) to grow asparagus ourselves, I know what a hard job it is: back-breaking weeding and harvesting which all has to be done by hand.

Here is the very small plant (oh ha ha) where a dedicated team wash and grade the asparagus spears. You can then buy 1kg of perfect fine grade asparagus for just £5. Yes please!

I have posted before that the farmer has a particular fondness for peonies. Sadly, the harsh Winter has not been kind to them and there are few varieties available this year.

On our little detour, we also stumble across the smokery at Hambridge. We have been told about this many times but never visited. We took away some fabulous smoked fish and cheeses which went down a treat for lunch with the hot buttered asparagus. They also have a lovely cafe and quaint courtyard so do visit if you are ever in the area. I know we will be back!

On Saturday, we had adventures of another kind but that needs a whole post of its own on another day.

Back at the homestead, I was sitting on the bench in the front garden, cutting out hexagons from vintage material (I have a little bit of that, you know!) and I chatted to my neighbour passing by who is a lovely and very stylish lady with some great tales of a very full life to tell. She brought out her hexagon skirt to show me which she had made back in the 1950's.

It is so beautiful, such gorgeous fabrics and Jane was able to point to individual ones and tell me they were made by Horrockses or Jacqmar and so on, all from cut-up clothing (eek, don't tell anon!) (See the comments on my last post if you want to understand all about " anon gate"!)


Jane then invited me in to see a quilt she and her great aunt had made during the war (Second World War). I took a snap of Jane's lovely front garden complete with her newly erected flag post. A great addition!

This photo really doesn't do the quilt justice, It is handmade from thousands of perfectly pieced tiny hexagons... the most beautiful fabrics...

Jane's cottage is full of the most beautiful things she has collected and indeed made over the years and I loved seeing the most stunning photos of her in beautiful frocks back in the '40's. I also loved this footstool which Jane designed and embroidered herself showing her four cats.

Next door, might I show you my latest addition to our cottage?

I spotted this simple shelfy thing (what does one call it?!) in the little antiques/collectables/ junk shop round the corner from our house in London. On Thursday morning, the Munchkin and I did the deal and trooped back along the pavement with it to load it into the car, ready to head to Somerset.

As you can see, our little dining room at the cottage is narrow and so it has taken me time to find something small enough to go on the (very wonky) wall. My Dad was very kind to put it up for me just about as soon as we arrived on Thursday (impatience must be a family trait?!)

Time for tea?

The best bit? Getting up on Saturday morning, unpacking all my squirrelled-away goodies and arranging the shelves!

Things I have been hoarding awhile have found a new home.

My little violets section. The small vase in the front right of the photo was bought at Sunday's car boot sale for 50p (well spotted, Mum).

The little old card on the left of this photo (below) is so so pretty and has a pop-up design of a country cottage in its garden. They don't make cards like these anymore...

This very pretty green saucer also came home with us from Sunday's car boot sale (another 50p).

Ah, what a lovely and relaxing weekend. Roll on the next...


  1. Hi Hen, what a lovely weekend you have had. And you have been to our neck of the woods too, you should have dropped in for a glass of wine on the way back, may be next time? I am off to the USA on Wednesday on a buying trip, can't wait! Love, Kathyx

  2. Wow - what a full weekend. Your garden looks lovely (well done Mum!) and your shelves are perfect - that purchase was obviously meant to be! Sounds like you all had the most wonderful weekend - and your neighbour sounds like a real character! x

  3. What a pretty cottage and garden. We have the Gertrude Jehlly rose its beautiful isn't it? I love your shelf in the cottage. I read Enid Blyton's "Mr Galliano's Circus" as a child - one of the books I read over and over again! That pretty skirt that lady made, I think I remember mentioning once I made The 'Dresden Plate' design into a skirt once. I love admiring at other peoples work especially when it is old and the owner can tell the history of it. It seems to bring it all to life

  4. Hi Hen, I am also busy with hexagons at the moment, blue and white trying to make a cloth to cover a small round table, I love the stillness of hand sewing. Your weekend sounded wonderful and that rose, just beautiful. Have read Anon comments and your brilliant reply, why don't some people just keep their opinions to themselves. Happy stitching. Pippa.

  5. Beautiful post Helen.. the garden is looking fab.... and the new shelf is a real success (love the things you have put on it).. and well, that skirt.. what a wonderful item! If only I had the time & patience to make one like it. I certainly have enough pieces of fabric for the project.. smile. Have a lovely week. Lizzie xxx

  6. fabulous- but the PATCHWORK SKIRT- just divine!

  7. great post with super pictures

  8. Hi Hen
    What a lovely weekend, I really love the sun lounger, how clever to have a shade attached, I have never seen one like it.



  10. what a beautiful post - lovely words and gorgeous pictures! Thankyou!!
    ps. My 3 year old loves Enid Blyton as I did as a child, and has to have a Milly Molly Mandy story every night :)

  11. As someone who usually "lurks" outside your blog, I can't help but comment re the cutting up of embroideries. I don't think my children will appreciate my embroidery when I have shuffled off this mortal coil, so were someone to love it enough to repurpose it, I would be thrilled .........

    Drooling over the pretty china in your previous post!

  12. Lovely post, beautiful photos - looks like you had a wonderful weekend. Thanks for sharing x

  13. Shelves look terrific filled with such pretty things. Mr Galliano's Circus took me back - I remembered reading it and then I remembered my daughter reading it(and the sequel -or could be more than one?) Elderly lady I knew had a quilt containing hexagons of fabric going back to her grandmother's dresses - don't think Anon would approve.

  14. I have cottage envy! Love the shelfy thing with all your nic-nacs on,just perfect in the dining room.Your neighbour is very talented.What beautiful work!

    Bellaboo :0)

  15. Stunning! Your place is absolutely beautiful! And your find of the shelf, it looks like it was made just for that spot in your home, you have the most wonderful taste! And what a cute neighbor...the quilt was beautiful. What a wonderful way to start off the day with your wonderful review of your weekend...

  16. Isabelle (from France)7 June 2010 at 15:24

    Hello Helen!
    What gorgeous, gorgeous pictures of the cottage and of your treasures! This is just making me long to be back in England!
    Isabelle xx

  17. I have cottage envy too! And asparagus farm envy!! The plate wall shelf thingamy is perfect and looks great with all your bits and bobs. And your neighbours quilt- just beautiful. I can't wait for cottage days.

  18. That was an astonishingly pleasing post, Hen. Not to imply that your posts are in any way unpleasing normally (Anongate got me thinking!) but that was just so satisfying and left me full of contentment. What a great neighbour and a lovely family you have! I really feel we've benefitted a lot from your lovely weekend - thanks.

  19. It all looks beautiful: the garden and the shelves.

    I can see quite a few peieces that I would like to have on my shelves!

  20. how lovely it all looks! I dont know how you leave it I would be tempted to stay there :-)
    hope your all well - not been in blogland much lately so catching up!

  21. It sounds like an idyllic weekend. Your shelves look so pretty with all your treasures on them, it must have been so satisfying arranging everything. I love Gertrude Jeckyll too, it really does smell wonderful.
    Ann x

  22. That was a fun post! I almost forgot the whole purpose of my coming on the computer! I love your new shelf, and all the goodies you've placed on it! Your dad is adorable! :)

  23. Hen, What a wonderful weekend. Your cottage garden looks lovely, well done to your Mum!! The rose looks so pretty, very English!!
    The shelves are perfect for your kitchen, and the china is beautiful, you always find such wonderful treasures.
    A great post, thanks for sharing
    Linda O xxx

  24. I can feel the jolly green giant of envy arriving on my doorstep.WHat an eyewatering,lovely post.Love the shelves,gorgeouschina,roses,garden,Cath sun loungerpatchwork skirt, embroidery.What a fab weekend.Thanks for sharing.Much love Anne x

  25. Hi Hen

    A scrumptious post! You really have had a lovely weekend. I like the new shelf and vintage pretties on it.

    How lovely of Jane to show you her patchwork. It must also have been very nice for her to know that her work was appreciated and admired.
    Mademoiselle Fifi has a very pretty little face, plenty of aawwhh from Miss P.
    You captured that little bird peeping through the hole really well.

    Take care
    Isabelle x

  26. Oh Wow, lovely cottage. Jealous, much?!!!!

  27. Hi Hen

    What a super weekend. If you got to Hambridge did you come that bit further to Langport and Kelways to see the paeonies? It's only about 10 minutes on from the Smokery.

    Shelfy things like yours usually labelled as plate racks at Dairy House.

    Your neighbour couldn't be more perfect, could she? Hexagons, tapestries, beautiful garden. Spot on!!

    Sue x

  28. Looks like you had a lovely holiday at the cottage! And your new shelfy is wonderful! I wish it was in my kitchen!

  29. So many lovely things to comment on....Your garden is beautiful, thank goodness for parents! I love Jane's garden complete with flag poll...excellent :)

  30. Hi Hen!

    50p for that gorgeous saucer!! What sort of car boots do you go to!!?

    I want to visit Jane's house! Looks amazing!! As does your cottage! Very jealous!!

    Tamzin X

  31. what a wonderful uplifting blogging (both reading and writing) time is limited these days..what a pleasure to come to the henhouse, I feel very uplifted :)
    I have only seen 'anongate' today too...fantastic response. As you say you only chop into those beyond do the rest of us in the main...what use is a teacloth with holes and stains???
    keep on keeping on as they say!!!
    the worlds a better place for repurposed vintage!!!

  32. Sounds like such a lovely weekend.
    What a beautiful cottage you have. :)

  33. Great post Hen! I also enjoy "adventures" - can I join Munchkin's gang?

    The shelfy thing is perfect in your dining room & I really enjoyed seeing your neighbour's quilts made from recycled materials ....exactly my point in response to "anon gate"?


  34. Oh I adore your lovely Somerset retreat, what a wonderful place to escape to. And the shelves are just the thing to add to that room, don't your treasures look fabulous displayed there.

    Glad you had such a happy, family weekend. But go on, be honest - have you mugged Jane for that skirt? I don't think I could have let her go home with it, beautiful!!

    love Stephx

  35. How fabulous of your neighbour to show you her treasures.

    I love your shelf and it looks fab with all your pretties.

    Victoria xx

  36. Hello! I'm a regular reader, though I don't often comment. If you're anywhere near South Petherton or Ilminster, we use a super gardener. He works like a trojan, is fast and very honest and doesn't cost a fortune... what more could one want?! You can find him at

    Don't worry I'm not trying to advertise on your blog, he lives in our village and all you pictures make me think your cottage must be close by us in Shepton Beauchamp! If the link is no use to you, do feel free to delete this comment.

    Best wishes, Sarah

  37. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks ever so much for the message , funnily enough I dropped off two clocks to the repairman in Shepton Beauchamp just last week! Will definitely look up the gardener - sounds great. Hope the sun is shining in the West...
    Hen x

  38. It must have been SO exciting to see your neighbour's handmade treasures, the patchwork, the footstool! Heaven! Deserves to be in an exhibition don't you think. And I bet there are so many other creatives out there of her age with similar goodies to inspire us younger generations. Love Vanessa xxx

  39. Love all your photos - when you are next in the West Country you should, if you have time, drive to St. Stephens which is just about a mile outside Launceston off the Bude Road, and visit Cowslip Workshops - you won't regret it. It is the most inspirational patchwork and quilting shop and the cafe there does fabulous food, including cream teas. Well worth visiting. Enjoy!


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