Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Calke Abbey - #1 - flower gardens

Lured out by a forecast of sunny weather we headed off to Calke Abbey last weekend for a potter round the gardens. As usual I took masses of photos, so I've split them into three posts - flowers/ornamental gardens(this one) fruit and vegetables, and buildings (to follow).

We weren't up and out very early so decided to stop in the parkland for a picnic lunch - and look at that beautiful sunshine! By the time we'd moved on, parked the car and reached the visitor centre, the rain was pouring down!

We patiently waited it out, assuming that would be the only rain shower that afternoon ...  fortunately I had my umbrella along.

The gardens at Calke are set at a distance from the house, hidden by shrubbery, on the top of a slight rise but angled to catch the warmth of the sun on the south-facing walls.
Following the winding path, we first made our way first to the walled flower garden. It's sheltered enough here for palm trees to grow, encircled at the moment by annual bedding plants.

Japanese Anemones

Around the walls, roses and herbaceous borders were still in flower, and in one corner the auricula theatre is now filled with geraniums of every shade of pink. Lack of autumn colour is one of the gripes I have about my garden, so I was hoping to go home with some ideas to liven it up - maybe some bright yellow heleniums, or tall pink japanese anemones would look good.

Geraniums on the staging of the auricula theatre

Passing through a gateway, we came to another, but much larger, walled area. Now it's mainly grassed over but with fruit trees both in the centre and along the walls, it was presumably an orchard at some point. Along one edge is a wonderful bed of mixed flowers - I spotted cosmos, rudbeckias, and cornflowers among them but couldn't name them all.

As we left this area it was time to get that umbrella out while we wandered round the vegetable garden till even heavier rain forced us to take cover in a greenhouse!

Even this area has its share of flowers with borders of  shorter plants - michaelmas daisies, heleniums, kaffir lilies - backed by sweetpeas and, tallest of all, sunflowers.

Waiting for the
rain to stop

At this point we took a long break in a potting shed while the rain came down again.

Eventually the clouds cleared away and sunshine returned, and our walk continued via this magnificent dahlia border. I can't grow these easily at home - the general 'overgrown' aspect of my garden leads to too many slugs and snails which just destroy dahlias' tender stems - but I was so taken by the variety of shape and colour on show here, that I feel tempted to try.

I was just about to head off through this gateway, assuming I'd found another bit of garden to explore, when I realised we'd now come full circle and were back at the first garden with the palm trees.

Time as well for us to be heading back home.

These two pictures, taken within a minute of each other, sum the day up - heavy showers with sunny intervals. add in the rainbow which appeared on the way back to the car, and you've almost a bit of everything.
It's lucky really that there are so many glasshouses, sheds and store rooms to explore in the gardens at Calke,as without them we would have been totally soaked!

Friday, 15 September 2017

Chatsworth Sculpture in the rain

Thinking it was time for the annual sculpture exhibition at Chatsworth, we headed out there last weekend - but we'd got the dates wrong, and not all pieces were on display. Still, we weren't worried as we have annual 'friends' cards and could easily catch the other sculptures later, so we went in the gardens and started walking round - just as the rain came!

We carried doggedly on though - but taking a shorter route and not sidetracking to see every piece close up

Just a plain concrete box? Not quite. The box is hollow and inside, glimpsed through tiny holes, is a mini-forest!

There were a couple of snags with visiting before the exhibition was properly open - firstly, the maps usually provided on entry weren't ready so we weren't sure where all the installations would be, but we wandered round, guessing where things have been in previous years, and sometimes finding 'art', sometimes not.

McDonald's Golden Arches?
Also, without the guide, how do you know WHAT you're looking at. Obviously it makes no difference to whether you LIKE a piece or not, but occasionally modern art can be weird, so it's nice to know what the artist was thinking while making the piece.

Dancing for joy?

Mayan/Aztec god, or Napoleon?

By this point we were totally soaked, and as it was drawing close to closing time we headed for the exit, probably missing some things in our haste ... but we'll be back on a DRY day.
Definitely know this one
 - spaghetti and meatballs!
But guess what? As we left the gardens, the rain stopped, and a few minutes down the road on our way home, the sky turned cloudless blue!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Busy day at Bodega

Last Saturday proved to be a long, busy and enjoyable day at Bodega. We'd been intending going down to catch Sean McGowan on the Nottingham stop of his 'Graft and Grief" tour - in fact we'd bought tickets the day the gig was announced, so had been looking forward to it for some while. Then, at almost the last minute, youngest daughter (playing as Ayres) was offered a slot at the afternoon Acoustic Sessions held in Bodega's bar, so the evening out morphed into a longer musical extravaganza.

daughter (Ayres) in action

The afternoon session started quite early, just before three, but we didn't make it down town till about half past four, and so managed to catch most of the set from the act before my daughter - Holly Redford Jones - and then the last two acts afterwards - Sarah Walk (all the way from the US!) and local indie band, Vega Bay.

There's always a slight problem for musicians playing in bars in that not everyone is there to listen to the music, so there's an amount of background chatter to cut through. I really enjoyed the afternoon but another time I might be more inclined to grab a seat right at the front, or nearest the speakers!

Vega Bay
  As you can tell from the photos, the performance area was at the front of the bar, with an open window behind the musicians (so they're all in silhouette!) and it was interesting to spot people walking past on the street, stopping to listen for a while and sometimes coming in. I've now spent enough time sitting in pubs listening to folks play to know that the quality was higher than average, so I'll be keeping an eye out for who's playing and hoping to drop back round.

Then after a quick bit to eat, it was off upstairs to the music venue proper.

Sean McGowan
First up were support act Happy Accidents, a group I've heard of and listened to on-line but never seen live before, with their bouncy pop punk sound, and a female drummer! How cool is that?

Then on to Sean McGowan. I saw Sean at JT Soar in Nottingham back in spring, and had the impression then that he had big news that he couldn't quite share at the time. Well, not long after, he announced a record deal with Xtra Mile Recordings, a new album (released last Friday) and this tour, his biggest ever headling tour, to promote it. Exciting times for him!  Now supported by a band, his sound is louder and 'rockier' than before. He played a mixture of songs from his new album and old numbers. Milbrook Road and Patchwork remain my favourites but perhaps only because they're the ones I first heard from him nearly two years ago.
He's back in Nottingham soon, as support for a much more well known artist*, but he wasn't really to be drawn on who (though my daughter has a really good guess, and from the look on Sean's face was right!)

*this has been announced now, so it's ok to share that Sean will be back supporting Billy Bragg at Rock City in November. I've always loved Sean's music since I first heard him and it's wonderful to see him being discovered, and getting the opportunity to play to larger audiences. I wonder where he'll be heading next ...

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Ayres EP Launch

These days I'm out and about pretty frequently to see bands and solo artists performing in local pubs and music venues, but last week saw a very special occasion - my youngest daughter's EP launch!

But before you set your expectations too high, No, it wasn't the glamorous glitzy show biz event you might expect, but much like a normal DIY gig except with my daughter headlining.

Everything actually was a little D I Y - the 'studio' was a converted bedroom, my daughter burned the cds herself, and did all the artwork for the inserts, which we then printed on our dodgy home printer. It doesn't take away any of the thrill of it all though.

She's been playing for a while now as Ayres (it's a reference to the Alice Ayres character in Closer), and obviously I've heard these songs as they've developed and been performed but there's something really special about hearing them on an actual cd. I wasn't allowed to listen to any of the work in progress as vocals and backing tracks were laid down, so hearing the finished product was amazing. I think it's wonderful that with the tech available today and a little help from friends in the DIY music scene, she can put together a professional-sounding ep, share it online through sites like Bandcamp and Spotify, and follow her dreams without having to wait to be 'discovered'. Who knows where it may lead ...
Ayres describes herself as a mix between Frank Turner and Conor Oberst; me, I'd say Sandi Thom. You can hear it and make your own mind up though - it's called Put Me Back, has four tracks, and any or all can be downloaded for free from Bandcamp, or bought on cd, in which case you get one of three 'thank you' stories to the people who helped, encouraged, and supported her on the way.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Staycation part 2 - August (and a little of September) at home

Haddon Hall
Summer has somehow managed to come and go without me really having noticed it and although I'm still hoping for a weekend away with some (hopefully) warm autumnal sun, with our living-at-home daughter off in Italy for what seemed like most of the month (it wasn't really) I decided it was time to fall back on the staycation plan, trying to find things to do and places to visit on my doorstep. After all, plenty of people come to Derbyshire for holidays, to see the countryside, visit the stately homes etc, so as a local I should be able to find even more to do, shouldn't I?

Greenhill, Wirksworth

It turned out, as I might honestly have expected, that the problem wasn't finding places to visit but time to actually get round to it. When you're at home, the day to day routine of housework, laundry, and grocery shopping is much harder to ignore, and then there was a much more dramatic interruption from a stomach bug that laid me low for a week (!). Also there's less inclination to go out and about on a wet day. On holiday, I'd put on a waterproof jacket and go and throw stones at the sea, or hang around a local museum/art gallery/tea room, but at home there's less incentive to risk getting soaked.

Melbourne Hall
Another difference when you're away from home is that you're up and out early in the morning, busy doing something all day, then stay out till the sun sets. Even attempting to do that at home failed. A couple of days we managed to pull in two things but never did the 'stay out for the whole day' thing.

In the end, I'm not sure this really worked as a 'holiday' but it did certainly get us out and about a lot more than otherwise, and particularly had us exploring places which were new to us despite being on the doorstep!

House Style Exhibition at Chatsworth

Anyway over the past month we've been to stately homes and gardens - Haddon Hall (location for the films of The Princess Bride, and Jane Eyre) and Melbourne Hall (home of Queen Victoria's Lord M) - looked at, and played with, an interactive mechanical art exhibition at Haddon, seen the most fantastic clothing at Chatsworth, gone walking at Shipley ParkKedleston and along the Great Northern Greenway, admired the vast collection of rhododendrons at Darley Park, and explored the small market town of Wirksworth

Playing with mechanical sculptures

It's been a busy and enjoyable few weeks, and we've certainly discovered a lot of fascinating places all within an hour of home, but, sadly, it's not really felt like a holiday. I think for that I should have walked away from the household chores completely for a couple of days,been out of the house by 10 as if staying in B+B accommodation, and stayed out in the evening, eating fish and chips somewhere outdoors. Next time my daughter's away for a long weekend I might try just that!

Just some of over 500
 varieties of rhododendron at Darley Park

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Exploring Wirksworth

Our regular route out into the Derbyhsire countryside takes us along the B5023 and through the small market town of Wirksworth. Even on a busy day it only takes a couple of minutes to pass through the town, but I've often been intrigued by the glimpse of small side streets and interesting-looking shops so this weekend we went back for a proper look around.

We started off just wandering casually down backstreets but stumbled across Wirksworth Heritage Museum in its temporary home on Coldwell Street (while renovations are completed to its permanent housing) and picked up a leaflet highlighting the architectural highlights of the town.

St Mary's Church

Old Grammar School

With its map to guide us, we headed round St Mary's Church, past the old Grammar School and almshouses, then headed out of town past the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway, and for a short walk over fields with views to Black Rocks, before looping back and actually seeing one of the trains at a crossing.

When writing Adam Bede, George Eliot used Wirksworth as a model for the town of Snowfield, and she didn't give it a very pleasing description, calling it dreary, bleak and stony. Maybe in the days when quarrying was taking place right on the edge of town it was, but these days it's a quaint place with a higgledy piggledy roofline, a mix-up of buildings from various dates, and plenty to interest the casual visitor or the social historian.

Part of the reason for picking this particular Saturday was to take in the monthly farmers' market and maybe pick up lunch there, but our unexpected detour into the countryside had taken too long, and stall holders were packing up by the time we reached it. It was now past 2 o'clock, a time when cafes sometimes stop serving 'lunch' but fortunately Chaplins restaurant had bacon and brie sandwiches, and the all-important pot of tea, to keep us going.
The Red Lion Hotel

Not that far from home!

Symonds House

The narrow turn into Greenhill
We were by now starting to run out of time - with both our dog left sitting lonely at home, and the fact that we had family plans for later that afternoon - so after a quick look at the buildings around the Market Place decided to pick one more street to explore - Greenhill, and yes, it was the steepest! As we've whizzed through on our way elsewhere, I've often noticed the really tight corner leading to it, and wanted to find out more. Apparently the guy who owned Symonds House on the corner decided he wanted an extension - and just built out into the road!
So up Greenhill we went ... 


and up ...


not to the top, that would have brought us to Stony Wood, a former quarry now turned into a mix of green wildlife haven and open air art installation, but to a point where we had a wonderful view back down over the town.

The footpath we followed back down took us via another Wirksworth feature which has always piqued my curiosity - a footbridge over the main road. Now at last I know where it leads to - a secret walled nursery selling plants and damsons, and yet another narrow picturesque street, Chapel Lane.

Chapel Lane

I definitely didn't get to see all I wanted to - we missed the farmers' market, I didn't get to browse around the shops or visit the galleries - so it's somewhere I'll be re-visiting before long. Definitely another addition to my list of fascinating local places.

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