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K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge…

At first I thought K’lee’s choice of theme for this week’s edition of K’lee and Dale’s Cosmic Photo Challenge was a case of wishful thinking, when he picked; Signs of Spring’s Return.

But after a quick perusal of our small garden in yesterday’s grey winter light, I concluded that K’lee’s optimism was well founded as there are many new shoots and indications of returning life.

See for yourself…

K’lee has sprung into action and his gorgeous post is now HERE for your viewing pleasure.

Now it’s time for you to show us your green shoots of inspiration…

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To get involved with the challenge, post a photo to your blog on Monday, add a pingback to this post (or to K’lee’s) and don’t forget to tag your post #CosPhoChal.

Alternatively, add a link to your blog in the comments of either mine or K’lee’s post and we’ll come and check out your entry.
Any and all effects, editing, Photoshop, Instagram, morphing, collages or whatever other post production techniques you fancy are permitted, (in fact, they’re actively encouraged!) so get creative and turn your photos into artworks for the Cosmic Photo Challenge.

#CosPhoChal

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Arts, Blogging, Photography

 

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More from The Mound…

I thought I’d share some colour versions of the pictures I used in the Cosmic Photo Challenge yesterday, showing the recent additions to our garden from the weekend. These are shared from my photographic blog, Photo Sans Frontiers, please pop over and visit if you haven’t checked it out yet…

Photo Sans Frontiers

The burst of Summer over the weekend generated a flurry of activity in our rented garden, including adding some colour to The Mound.

I know I’ve posted many photos our one, sloping corner of unpaved loveliness, but it is interesting to watch an island in a sea of patio slowly evolve.

We also got a great deal on some planters on Sunday(because they’re actually cheap galvanised buckets from Homebase) and by the end of the afternoon the garden looked like this…

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Posted by on August 9, 2016 in Arts, Photo Sans Frontiers, Photography

 

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Garden evolution…

The perfect end to a gloriously hot and relaxing long weekend; capturing the changing face of the garden in the sunshine…

Photo Sans Frontiers

It’s good to have a document of how our garden has grown from the unkempt and overgrown blank canvas that we began with, to the oasis of colour, form and texture that we have made for ourselves.

I’ve posted many photos of The Mound, both here and on Diary of an Internet Nobody, but it’s a continually evolving part of the garden which started off like this…

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…a dead tree stump, overgrown with bluebells, wild garlic and long, unidentified green things, along with a few stems of ash and hawthorn (from seeds of the trees which used to overhang the patio).

And in the last week or so, leading up to today and the glorious bank holiday sunshine, the garden now looks this…

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Finally; it might not look exactly like this, but here was Audrey’s fairy garden, beneath the fiery red canopy of the pieris, after a little…

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Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Arts, Personal anecdote, Photography

 

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Picture this. Autumn colours at Arlington Court…

This weekend I’ve once again been playing host to my old friend Ho, who has been taking a well earned break from a frantic work schedule to join me for a spot of relaxation in the beautiful autumnal Devon countryside.
This time we decided to take a stroll around the extensive grounds of Arlington Court, ancestral home of the Chichester family for over 500 years.

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The house itself is an imposing stone built mansion, surrounded by rolling lawns, lakes, and woodlands, criss-crossed with pathways that lead you to various viewpoints overlooking not only the gloriously varied vistas of the estate but also the picturesque church of St James (not owned by the Trust, but adjacent to the house) which just happened to be staging a flower festival at the time of our visit.

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We began our tour on the front lawn of the house, heading down to the ornamental lake, stocked with lazily cruising carp and topped with a proliferation of water lilies, pausing on the way to admire the splendor of an ancient oak tree that has stood on the site since well before the house or grounds existed.
The tree is preserved primarily for the scientifically important and internationally recognised variety of lichen, moss and fungi that festoon its gnarled and twisted trunk.

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The church is just visible through the trees that overlook the lake, providing a focal point for visitors, an invitation to investigate the hidden beauty of the peaceful sanctuary as you make your way round the estate.

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But before we headed into the cool vaulted space of the flower-strewn chapel we made our way down the shady path amongst the trees to discover what the woods had to offer.

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Before too long we came upon a small camp in a clearing, complete with a traditional clay oven beneath the billowing folds of a parachute canopy, along with rustic huts constructed from sticks salvaged from the woodland floor.

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The woods have the quiet atmosphere of a primeval forest, rotting trees left where they fell, allowing the verdant moss to take hold and making perfect burrows for small animals and insects, creating shapes that look for all the world like the backbones of long-dead dinosaurs or mythical dragons.

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Occasionally a gate or stile will allow a view across the cattle grazing fields of the deer park, to the densely wooded slopes of the valley, the trees starting to display the muted tones of autumn foliage.

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We retraced the path back to the lake and made for the tower of the church, immediately seeing signs of the floral attraction within…
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…already catching the scent of the expertly designed bouquets before we even entered the light and airy space of St James’s, the vibrant colours of hundreds of flowers perfectly complimenting the stained glass windows and ornamental carvings on the walls.
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Our final two stops were at the formal and walled kitchen gardens, the latter of which provides fresh produce for the house and its cafe.
There was even an imperious peacock to welcome us to his domain, although he didn’t seem keen on me taking his picture and I required several stealthy attempts to capture him in all his iridescent glory.
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There is even an “insect hotel” high-rise apartment block for bees and other pollinators…
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…and there is always something intriguing around the next corner or through the next inviting door.
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…and of course the Chichester family symbol, a heron grappling with an eel, is in evidence everywhere.
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All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable visit to a place that I’m sure I’ll visit again and again, because there is always something new to discover.

Arlington Court house and gardens are open until the end of October, I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys relaxing amidst spectacular scenery, basking in the more genteel atmosphere of days gone by and leaving the stresses and strains of modern life behind for a few hours.

 

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One gig, one wedding and two injuries…

We had been looking forward to this bank holiday weekend for a while, featuring as it did a friend’s wedding, to be held in a beautiful RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) garden that we’re lucky enough to have nearby, here in North Devon.

But that wasn’t to be until Sunday lunchtime and I hadn’t got anything else planned, other than a spot of payday weekend shopping for a wedding present and a smart pair of black jeans to go with my jacket for the wedding.
And Elaine needed shoes.

As it happened she didn’t find any, but while she was searching for them I retired to the pub to escape the hordes of grockles in the high street and while I was there I bumped into an old friend, one who had starred in a previous post, the one with the samurai sword.

I was sitting on the decking, enjoying the sunshine, when I heard a familiar voice loudly proclaiming that;
– “I don’t go looking for trouble you know”
I couldn’t resist;
– “No, it just comes looking for you doesn’t it Terry”
– “That’s right mate. See?”, he said to his unseen companion “I told you, it’s not my fault”
– “It just better not come looking for you when you’ve got a sword in your hand though, huh?”, I hazarded.
“Oh THAT’S RIGHT, bring THAT up again why don’t you!” he shouted in (I hoped) mock-outrage.

His displeasure vanished as quickly as it’d appeared however, leading him to regale us with another episode of DIY surgery-themed lunacy;
Whilst showing off his authentic, razor sharp, Japanese katana samurai sword to his girlfriend’s young daughter, Terry drew the lethal blade vertically out of its scabbard, holding it in front of him.
Unfortunately for him, he had neglected to check which way round the blade was facing before doing so and, as the weapon came free of its cover, the end of it sliced up the front of Terry’s stomach.

Now, far be it for me to cast aspersions on his character, but I suspect that he may have consumed a few beverages prior to his impromptu disembowelment exercise, rendering him mercifully anesthetized and, as his girlfriend put it when she arrived mid-way through the tale;
– “I said “For fuck’s sake Terry, you’ve cut your stomach open” he just looked at me and said he was fine. I said “look, you’ve cut right through your t-shirt and your stomach” but he was pissed and just told me not to be so bloody stupid”
Terry then returned to the conversational fray;
“Brand new bloody Animal t-shirt it was too. Anyway I went to bed, coz I’d had a few drinks, and when I woke up I couldn’t move. Couldn’t roll over. I’m lying there on my stomach going (shouting) “Kelly! Kelly, I can’t fucking move!””
Kelly interjected again at this point;
“And I said “That’s because you cut your stomach open last night and the blood’s stuck you to the sheets”

Nobody likes an I-told-you-so.

It turned out, when they finally reached the hospital, having peeled him off the bedsheets, that had he gone there the night before, they would probably have stitched him up. As it was, lying face down and unconscious for several hours on the clean cut inflicted by the deadly blade had effectively sealed the wound and he required merely to be taped up and sent on his way with, no doubt, weary shaking of heads and amusement from the hospital staff.

As we were there and she had our attention, Kelly also proceeded to tell us of the time Terry had thought it deeply amusing to push her out of bed in the morning, sending her sprawling naked on the floor.
Waiting until he had nodded off again, Kelly returned to bed and after a suitable period to lull him into a sufficient sense of security, turned side-on and used both feet to propel him bodily out of bed and onto the floor.
At least it would have been the floor, had Terry not left an empty pint glass next to the bed the night before.
As Kelly cheerfully explained;
“He was bent double in the corner of the bedroom for about half an hour going “Oooooph! Oooooph!”, it was hilarious. When we got him up the hospital the doctor said it was lucky it wasn’t a cheap, thin glass, it would have smashed and killed him instantly. But it’s ok, it was a good strong one, it broke three of his ribs instead”

Well, quite.

As if that wasn’t enough entertainment for one day, that same evening, as I was waiting for a takeaway, a rare payday treat, friend, ex- colleague and musician Steve Conway strolled past and asked if I fancied going to see a band in town that night.
So Friday night, I was in the upstairs room of a local Mexican restaurant called Jalapeño Peppers, listening to the angular and energetic indie rock of a band Steve had been a member of last time I’d seen them, CAPTAL.

It was a really good set, the evening having what Steve described as “an historic feel”, so if they suddenly hit the big time tomorrow, we can say we were there at their breakthrough gig.
Anyway, check them out at the link above and here are a few photos I took on the night.

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And so finally to the main event, Jon and Lisa’s wedding.
Sadly the weather let them down, as it veered between overcast and downright wet all day on Sunday, meaning the wedding photographs had to be cut short.
This was especially unfortunate given the setting, RHS Rosemoor, a large and beautifully maintained garden in Torrington.
They had chosen to have the ceremony in the thatched building in the English Cottage Garden and though the rain kept off just long enough for them to tie the knot, immediately afterwards the skies opened and we all made a dash for the extremely enjoyable reception, but not before I’d taken a quick, damp stroll around some of the grounds to take a few snaps.

So here’s a brief taste of Rosemoor in the rain, starting with the picturesque thatched hut where the ceremony took place..

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…which stands in amongst the lush planting of the cottage garden..

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..with its ornamental pond and pergola..

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…and as part of a Tolkien exhibit that is currently on show throughout the grounds, an unexpected guest watched from the roof of a gazebo.

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There are more formal parts of the garden too, bisected by imposing avenues of clipped hedging…

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..leading to distinct “garden rooms” such as the formal rose garden and the vivid and eclectic planting of the sunken garden.

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It was a pity the English bank holiday weekend weather made us cut our visit short, but I will return in the summer when the sun is out to give you a more extended view of Rosemoor. In the meantime, if you want to visit and see for yourself, click on THIS LINK or the one above and discover the other delights this beautiful place has to offer.

{The Tolkien exhibit runs until the end of August}

 

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Picture this. Marwood in Spring…

Given the opportunity to go outside on a spring bank holiday Monday in Devon without needing waterproofs, or a raft, it seemed only right that we should brave the biting cold wind, make the most of the weak April sunshine, and go for an early afternoon walk yesterday.

Elaine suggested that we visit Marwood Hill Gardens, just outside Barnstaple.

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The gardens cover around 20 acres, and were designed and created by Dr Jimmy Smart in the 1950’s. Since his death in 2002, the running of Marwood has been taken over by his nephew.

Obviously, at this time of year the gardens are looking a little bare, but there are already plenty of signs of life, with daffodils flowering amongst the grass and hellebore in full bloom beneath the tress.

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We walked along the zig-zagging path, spotting scatterings of snowdrops and more daffodils as we walked behind Marwood church..

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…and down to the bottom of the sheltered valley in which the gardens nestle.

There is plenty of water here, and at first we come to a shimmering weir, the bottom end of a series of lakes and streams that tie this part of the garden together.

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Making our way around the perimeter of the lower of the three lakes, once again the church is visible, back the way we came..

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There are some sculptures here too. A pair of swans, in perpetual takeoff,

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and on the upper lake, on a small island…

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The gardens are home to important collections of trees and shrubs, from giant Eucalyptus trees

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..to Astilbe, Japanese Iris, and Marwood’s famous Camellia house

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And you may even stumble upon a tropical glade..

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…or meet a surprise stepping out of the shrubbery.

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By now I couldn’t feel my fingers, having stupidly removed my gloves to take photos, so we made our way up to the tearooms near the top of the hill,

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Having fortified ourselves with coffee, and cake for Elaine, restored the circulation to my extremities, and admired the view

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…it was time to make our way home.

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If you want more info, or would like to visit (when it’s a bit warmer, maybe) go here.

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There are more photos from Marwood on the Random photos page.

 

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Picture this. Tapeley Park….

We have been lucky enough to live in the beautiful West Country for the past 15 years, and we’ve always taken advantage of the fact that we have all this stunning countryside on our doorstep.

As we are on the North Devon coast, we have Exmoor national park to one side of us, and only thirty miles down the Atlantic Highway the other way is the Cornish border, with all the spectacular scenery that entails.

I thought I’d share some of the photos I’ve taken over the last few years, whilst visiting various different places on holiday, on days out, and when we’ve just been out for walks with the dog.
And I’ll try and give you some background to the places too.

(Some of you may have already noticed that I use Instagram. This photography app has come in for a lot of stick recently, but I like it)

One place that we have been on numerous occasions – both for a relaxing walk in the grounds and a snack at the tearooms, and to attend one of the many festivals they hold there – is Tapeley Park house and gardens.

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Tapeley Park house, seen from the Italian terrace garden.

The estate has been in the same family since the 1700’s, and is now owned by local anti-corporate campaigner and political activist, Hector Christie, who runs it on a sustainable basis, and he is proud of his Green credentials, supplying the local community – as well as the estate cafe – with organic vegetables, and using recycled materials wherever possible.

The house has it’s own claim to fame – the fact that it has an important collection of William Morris furniture –  ironically preserved over the years, due to the house being unheated and mainly closed up for years, as revealed on a C4 documentary.

But it has always been the grounds – which include a Victorian kitchen garden and experimental permaculture garden – that make us go back time and again.

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The lake is a beautiful place for a picnic.

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Many exotic plants grow in the mild, sheltered climate.

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Neatly trimmed arbours lead you on…

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…to surprises around each corner.

There are animals too. Apart from the wildlife scurrying in the undergrowth, the estate keeps rare breed pigs, sheep, and highland cattle.

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Three little pigs.

The hard landscaping has been lovingly restored, most notably on the steps leading down to the Italian terrace garden…

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…and yet, there are still echoes of the past, lending a eerie calm to quiet, reflective corners.

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There is even a labyrinth, made from the stone shards of an exploded obelisk, victim of a 1931 lightning strike.

A fascinating and, in some indefinable way, enchanted place, it’s somewhere we will return to again and again, always discovering something new.

If you’re ever down this way, why not go and see for yourself, you never know what you might find…

More photos…

 
 

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