Wednesday, 31 July 2013

West Country Adventures

Hello hello!  Here we are, back in the city after a lovely extended stay at our little bolt hole out West.  Well it would be rude not to take advantage of this great weather, wouldn't it?  I hope you've been making the most of it, too.

Goodness, looking back at the snaps I've taken, I realise just how much we fitted in.  Well, there is so much to do, after all, and everything is so much better when the sun is shining, don't you find. You might want to make a cuppa before you read this, it's not for the faint hearted! 

The trip down was accompanied by the usual stream of folk also heading West and the inevitable queues at the dreaded Stonehenge.  Once we got off the A303, the mood lifted and we pootled through the country lanes via the cider farm, on our way to the cottage. We passed some rather fabulous sights, all of a steamy nature!  First it was a steam truck, then it was a few tractors and finally, a full traction engine outside the pub, where its drivers were enjoying a few jars in the sunshine.

It turns out that it was the upcoming steam rally at Langport that weekend and the nearby cider farm had hosted the engines for a stop-off on their way.  It made for some interesting driving, meeting these beasts on tiny winding country lanes.

We also made a stop at the fruit farm to stock up on homegrown cherries and raspberries.  Delicious!  Got to enjoy these seasonal fruits while we can, don't you agree?  (Can't believe it's nearly August already.)

On Saturday, the day dawned bright and clear, oh joy, and my little heart beat a little faster as we arrived at my beloved Bridders for 9am.  I was so glad we did when I saw all the holiday makers circling the car parks an hour or so later.  If you visit, it's worth getting up early to avoid that, not to mention snapping up those bargains on the street market.  Mr HH decided to treat himself to some new togs at the marvellous Smith and Smiths, a traditional outfitters (which has been in business for 130 years) with good old-fashioned service to match. I love its interior.

We mooched along the market which didn't seem to have as many stalls as usual, perhaps some of the stall holders were enjoying the sunshine elsewhere, too.  Down round the old ropemakers' area, I loved these little doggies, though all the best things in this unit always seem to bear "not for sale" stickers.  Set them free!

Sunday, oh Sunday.  What promise you held, a much anticipated event, the Shepton Mallet Flea Market.  Once again, we were up early to join the queue, we've found that's the best way, but not before finding we'd parked next to fellow blogger Daisy Darling out on the field.  It's a small world.  It was a pretty giant affair, as usual and very very hot.  The things I do for thrifting!  This picture is of the main indoor area; outside there are probably four or five times as many stalls.  We don't really get round them all before collapsing.

As usual, we were not disappointed at the flea.  It only takes one good piece to make your day but if there's more...

The next day, it was time for a rest so we packed up the car with essentials and headed for the coast.  Where else but Lyme Regis? The main schools had not yet broken up so it was not too crowded and we had a really blissful day, relaxing and reading, pootling in rock pools for the younger members, enjoying a picnic lunch and a mooch in the nearby flea market.  I know, I know, I can't help myself!

The boys were keen for some steam action so being quite handy for the local railway station, off we set to head a little further West.  I was accompanied by my beloved vintage basket bag, £5 from Shepton Flea.  Love!  

This time, we headed somewhere new.  Having changed mainline trains a couple of times, we finally found ourselves in Paignton on the South Devon coast, a new destination for me.  We headed straight for the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway, handily located just to the side of the mainline railway station, and off we set.  Is there anything finer than skirting the seaside on a steam engine?

This little line is very picturesque and I found it hard to concentrate on my sewing.  I never go anywhere without sewing.  (My on-the-go sewing kit for the week was housed in a little old soap box bought for £1 from the Flea.)

Wheeee, the boys enjoyed hanging out of the windows, a great way to cool down.

Our destination, part way along the line, was this little halt, opened two years ago.  There's a little clue chalked out on the platform there...

What we hadn't realised was that having arrived at this utterly picturesque halt, slap bang in the middle of nowhere, it was still some way to our destination.  Off we set, feeling like The Famous Five, tracking through the woods (at least it was deliciously cool), passing little view spots with tantalising glimpses of the estuary, on and on it went.  

We picked some wild strawberries along the way.

After what I think was probably two miles(!), we found ourselves at our destination.  Maybe we should have caught the bus!

I've wanted to visit here for a good long time, having read about its restoration and re-opening in a magazine.  Greenway was the holiday home of Agatha Christie (the Munchkin is currently gripped by an Hercule Poirot obsession), though Agatha sold it to her daughter, Rosalind, and son-in-law in the 1950's and they, along with Rosalind's son, gifted it to the National Trust (in 2002, I think).  

The best thing about Greenway, I think, was the stunning setting,  up high, completely secluded by woods, and with an amazing view of the Dart estuary down below.  Utter peace.  Inside, you could roam most of the downstairs but only a few rooms upstairs as a large portion has been made into a holiday rental.  I was surprised at how grand the interior was.  (You were not allowed to take photographs of the inside.)  Apparently, Agatha's daughter and son-in-law had said that they didn't want the house to be an "Agatha Christie theme park" and the result of the restoration is to set the house as if it was in the 1950's and the owners had literally walked out of the house for a pootle in the garden.

Personally, I think they could have played up the Agatha Christie connection some more without turning it into that theme park.  At the end of the day, I think the link to her is the reason a lot of people visit.  I loved seeing the bookcase with all her first editions and their beautiful dust jackets.  What a holiday home!

Thursday, we stayed a little closer to our own neck of the woods, and set off to the Summer fayre at Forde Abbey.  We had never been here before, oh my, another glorious setting.  

This was such a lovely, laid back event, all that you expect a country fair to be, I think.  It was also very well organised.  We were greeted with row upon row of lovely classic cars, all with the stunning backdrop of the Abbey gardens, replete with double herbaceous borders, pools and fountains.  The odd poseur was to be found matching her outfit to the car!

Further along, was the entertainment area.  There was a ring in the centre with displays of falconry and our favourite, dog agility.  The Munchkin was still enthralled by the Punch and Judy show and chuckled away gamely.  Fantastically un-PC entertainment with Punch whacking the crocodile and everyone else, a fair few times!

There was also an array of stalls, nothing really vintage, but lots of handcrafts, great locally-produced food and drink and my fave fabulous flower stall (this lady is also at the Bridport farmers' market).

Well, that was a lovely laid back way to spend a day.  It's been a fabulous few weeks for organisers of these events.  What a difference a bit (or a lot) of sunshine makes.

Oh dear, we're coming to the end of the holiday, time to get on the train once more, this time headed back to the South Hams in Devon, such a wonderful area.  The boys headed for the South Devon Steam Railway, I hot footed it up the hill into Totnes town and straight for the market.  Here, I found my pal Amanda of Shabby Chick fame and her outrageously beautiful stall of well-priced vintage loveliness.  

I bumped into Emma, with her pretty little daughter, and her mum.  You may know Emma as the owner of the gorgeous Velvet Ribbon (she has stalls at lovely fairs such as Country Living) and I ogled and lusted after her fabric packs in a little shop further along on the hill.  So lovely to be hundreds of miles from home but find kindred spirits with whom to have a natter.

There's lots to look at for a little place.  There are lots of charity shops in Totnes, a very good craft/yarn shop, the shop at the top of the hill (think it's called Gazebo) that sells oodles of Greengate, Cath K and Rice goodies, and not forgetting the several marvellous tea rooms.  I was at the top of the hill by mid-afternoon so I opted for Greys and, not being a tea drinker, plumped for a milk shake and chocolate orange sponge.  Yummy!

It's an eclectic little place, the walls decorated with old paintings and plates, gleaming wooden tables and chairs, and stacks of vintage china and bits 'n' pieces for sale.

I was not just larking about on these days, you know.  My trusty sewing kit went everywhere and the posies slowly rolled out to accompany a different outfit each day (this one a Darling Buds of May-esque dress for £5 from Bridport market).

The piece de resistance for me?  My original felty finds (along with a 1940's floral print frock).  As the lady in the shop said, as I regaled her with tales of my felty obsession, these things have a way of finding their rightful owner.  I like to think so.

A final Saturday in Bridders yielded a stash of vintage knitting needles.  I just love the packaging.  Do you know, I think I am going to have to start (sock!) knitting this Winter but for now, they have a good home amongst my vintage haberdashery display.

If you've read this far, thank you and well done!  You deserve a sit down in this little thrifty chair and its new-to-me, old flea-market-found embroidered cushion.  Oooh, I am partial to a lupin.

Me?  I've got to sort out all this loot!  It's a tough job and all that...

Until next time... XXX

Monday, 15 July 2013


Goodness me, such a long time has elapsed again.  Let's see what's been going on in the last few weeks?  Well, we no longer have a child attending junior school.  Eeek, as from September, the Munchkin will be a senior school boy.  Times flies, oh yes indeedy.  He was thrilled to see the new garden furniture arrive in a gigantic cardboard box the other day and since, he's been busy building his own den in the garden. I'm so pleased he still wants to spend his time doing this sort of thing and unlike the vast majority of his school mates, is not glued to an iPad/Pod thingy constantly! 

Anyway, crafty business.  Oh yes, a wonderful and very warm Saturday morning was spent at Stag and Bow in the presence of some lovely ladies keen to learn English Paper Piecing.  I gathered together a basket of goodies which I hoped would inspire them; my hexy project and holiday stars quilt, (being works in progress), as well as a completed Liberty cushion, doll quilt and some vintage pieces.  Amazing how much you have once you look.

In the background, the Summer fruits are in abundance so there has been more jamming of the strawberry and elderflower variety.  I do think this is the best jam I've ever made.

Talking of elderflower, Mr HenHouse's efforts in the hedgerows of Somerset did not go unappreciated and the cordial has been bottled and is going down nicely with some fizzy water.  I popped to Lewes on Saturday and my lunch in Bills was accompanied by a glass of "hedgerow fizz" which is sparkling wine (or champagne if you can stretch to it) with a dash of elderflower cordial and a dinky fresh raspberry atop.  That's one I'm going to try at home: delicious.

Back to crafty stuff, after my little lament the other week about finding the balance and getting back to quilting, well I've gone and done it.  Thank you for your kind and inspiring words.  I picked up a project which I had started way back.  I must say, I thought it was in January but having looked at my blog, the only relevant snap I can find is from 4 March.  So I got out my Tana Lawn from Liberty.  Always a delight.

And I found the vintage embroidered cloths which were suitable for salvage, and chopped out the good bits.

I'm not sure quite what I intended exactly when I started this project.  I wanted to combine that beautiful old embroidery with the delicate floweriness of Tana Lawn and some almost utility-type fabrics; spots, stripes, gingham, in free-form blocks.  I was thinking of just making a small throw type thingy, maybe even a table cover.  I recall whiling away my spare hours making blocks like these whilst watching the DVDs of Land Girls until my hands got too cold.

So last week, I got back to it.  I set up my fabric "buffet" on the little steps to the left side of my sewing machine so they'd be easily at hand.

To the left of my machine, I place a cutting mat, rotary cutter and ruler on the table.  To the right, I put my spare little old ironing board, low down, and a travel iron.  The perfect work space!  No need to get up until either nature calls or you want a cuppa.

And my blocks are looking something like this.  Simple and pretty.

Someone else who considers there's seldom a reason to get up, especially when you can sunbathe...

As a little breather, and as it's not possible to go too long without baking, I whipped up a quick sponge with homemade jam, of course, to take to jive class.  So many reasons to bake round here.

In between trying to keep striking that balance, the pile of blocks has grown.  I confess, I am a little addicted.  

Phew, time for five minutes rest.  This patchworking is quite hard work!

Not all my blocks are pink, you know.

It's growing, I now have 42 blocks.  How did that happen?! 

Last but not least, there's been time for a well-earned rest at the end of each day, making use of that garden furniture at last.

What better than a homemade quilt to keep your knees warm.

Until next time... Xxx