Thursday, 31 May 2018

Bank Holiday Chatsworth

I normally avoid stately homes and their gardens, or indeed anywhere popular that might attract visitors, on Bank Holidays, preferring to be the cool kid who goes out the weekend before or after, but there's always space to get away from the crowds in Chatsworth gardens so we decided to risk a visit over last weekend. It was a hot day, and the area around the Cascade was busy with families picnicking and paddling, but elsewhere there was peace and quiet to be found.

One of the things I love about having an annual pass to Chatsworth or, say, National Trust membership, is the ability to go back time and again and watch a garden change through the seasons, almost as if it's your own (but without the work and costs of maintenance). We've already visited Chatsworth twice this year - at the end of March then a few weeks later, and, of course, the gardens change with every visit.

At the moment Chatsworth's stunners are the golden bright, honeysuckle-scented azaleas massed in the aptly named Azalea Dell.

Wander past them, and there are rhododendrons in a variety of colours - from purest white to deep magenta - to be discovered in the wilder areas of the garden.

Heading back downhill to the Maze, I found these wonderful lupins. I, and probably most gardeners, grow them as 'spot' plants; one here and there in a mixed border. At Chatsworth though, they're massed together with a multitude of shades echoing those of the rhododendrons.

where else would you find a van selling champagne?

The same colours appeared again in the small sensory garden. Here plants are chosen to appeal to all the senses - some are scented, others rustle as the breeze blows through them, or have velvety leaves - but these late tulips and the peony below were definitely planted to catch the eye!

In a month or so, I'll head back; I wonder what there'll be to see then?

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

My Biggest Weekend (nothing to do with the BBC)

Radio One may have been off in Wales having the Biggest Weekend, but I've had one of my own here at home, with my living-away-from-home daughter back in town.

It started on Thursday with a JT Soar gig, and daughter (Ayres) opening for Mountain Schmountain and Scarecrow Boat.

Scarecrow Boat frontman, Dom


Over the next couple of days we visited family, went to our favourite local places - Chatsworth, and Shipley - did some supermarket stocking up, called in at IKEA (what Bank Holiday would be complete without a trip there?) - and ate fish and chips from allegedly the best chippie ever (our local)

azaleas at

Shipley Country Park

Late Sunday afternoon while our daughter was playing in Nottingham at Dot to Dot festival, hubby and I went urban exploring around the city, through tunnels and wandering round its oldest park, the Arboretum.

Nottingham Arboretum

Monday night found us all back at JT Soar, with daughter supporting Bristol-based band, Vinegar. Timings and dog-walking meant I missed Alex Hale's opening act, and only caught the last few songs of Make A Halo's set (but they're both local so hopefully I can catch them elsewhere soon).

Tuesday came round too soon, and the car was loaded up for the trip up to daughter's Manchester home. I still feel sad when she leaves so luckily had something to occupy me that evening - Sean McGowan back out on tour, supported by Irish singer Anna's Anchor, and local guy George Gadd.

Now it's time to put my feet up, and ignore the Fitbit's promptings, for a while.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Manchester - getting out of town

I've already written about the time we spent in Manchester last weekend, but just the 'city' part of our stay. As the weather was so lovely we couldn't resist getting out of town and checking out a couple of nearby National Trust properties.

 Our first stop was the Dunham Massey estate situated vaguely south-west of the city. It shouldn't have taken long to get there but we had trouble with the satnav and ended up exploring the winding roads of the surrounding countryside (the same thing happened when we left, so in future I'll take a good old-fashioned map, and save some time!)

Some weekends it's possible to take dogs into the garden, but this wasn't one of them. Even so, we had a pleasant walk, round the moat surrounding the house and old stables, and heading out to explore the deer park. We even saw some deer, who didn't seem at all surprised to see people and dogs.

Miles to roam in the deer park

On Sunday we headed out of town again, this time to Quarry Bank Mill and Styal country park.

Fabulous rhododendrons near the tea room

The apprentice house with vegetable garden

We started our visit with tea and cake, which didn't leave a lot of time to explore - so we headed to Styal village and chapel woods.

It seems an almost idyllic place today, but I'm not sure the mill's workers and apprentices would have thought so, back in its heyday

Workers' housing in Styal village

Although we've been to Quarry Bank before it was so long ago (over 20 years!) that we didn't really recognise any of it. At both places, I think we only saw a small amount of what was there, so sometime in the future we'll be back.

Friday, 25 May 2018

A dog's weekend, and our first AirBnB

A room with a view

We haven't taken Dylan the dog away on many holidays with us. In fact he's barely been away on any. For a long while, he stayed with my parents while we went away, then once their health deteriorated we didn't want to be away from home, so his only previous holidays have been trips to Curious Arts Festival where we've stayed in a tent.

Watching the runners

To visit our daughter in Manchester, another strategy was needed. We wanted to be close to the centre, preferably able to walk to the half-marathon course, which could push the price up. We were only visiting overnight, so self-catering didn't really seem worth-while, as most properties want to let for at two, possibly three, nights. It might have been possible to find a dog-friendly BnB but without recommendations that seemed such a mine-field to search through, plus the same 'two day minimum stay' often applies at weekend.

Wildflowers in Hulme Park

Our daughter, though, is a great fan of AirBnB, having stayed in various properties at home and abroad, and suggested we check out what was on offer. A little searching found something that sounded ideal - an en-suite double room in a house next to a park, through which we could walk to the half-marathon route
I'd tried AirBnB with my daughter in Edinburgh last year, but that was more like renting a self-catering flat; what we were trying here was the let-out-your-spare-room idea. Now some folk might be a bit cautious about staying in a room in someone else's house but I've had plenty of strangers come and stay in my house, and I figure it's not really much different to staying in a normal BnB.

Can I have some too?

We didn't actually spend much time IN over the weekend - but the room was clean, spacious, and well-provided with toiletries.

Dylan seemed to settle really well. He briefly said 'hello' to the owner, then settled down in the room on his blanket. We weren't there long before heading out again - to explore the park outside, to Dunham Massey, a National Trust property just outside the city, and later to dinner at a dog-friendly restaurant (where Dyl just flopped on the floor beside the table)

Next morning we were up and out early for an off-lead romp through the park before watching the half-marathon. Breakfast wasn't included in our stay, so after we'd watched the runners pass in one direction we picked up tea and croissants from a local shop and went back to watch them go past again.

We did our best to find quiet grassy places for him to sit out of the sun. I'd worried Dylan might not take well to the crowds around the half-marathon and 10k finishing line but even in the hustle and bustle he stayed calm.

A brief visit later in the day to another NT property, Quarry Bank Mill, gave him somewhere quieter to wander.

We'd crammed such a lot into the weekend that by the time we were heading home, Dylan was tired out. According to my Fitbit, I walked over 38,000 steps in two days, and I'm not sure I could have kept the pace up, let alone Dyl!
As a dog-friendly city-break, I think things worked well. We obviously didn't spend time in shops or museums, but still got a feel for the place our daughter now lives. I'd definitely use this AirBnB again, and, as we're limited to odd nights away, I'll be looking at others for future short breaks.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

A Weekend in Manchester

Last weekend we headed up to Manchester to see our living-away-from-home youngest daughter. She's not particularly keen on us visiting too often, as I think this disturbs her settling into a new life (in the way it's not advised to keep nipping home each weekend from uni), but at the weekend she was running in the half-marathon so it was a good excuse to see her. We've been before for the day, but not seen anything of the city, so this time I organised an AirBnB, we took Dylan the dog along, and we had chance to explore Manchester and nearby National Trust properties - and considering we were there for less than 48 hours we saw a lot! Here's just some of it ...

I wasn't sure I was going to like Manchester. I'm not a city person - more of a country bumpkin - but I found it to be a fascinating place. I particularly liked the way old and new sit comfortably side by side  - contrasting of  sturdy yet ornate buildings and bridges with towering, glass-fronted tower blocks.

Doves of Peace by
Michael Lyons

We wandered through the Spiningfields area, and ended up by the Bridgwater canal where we had dinner at The Wharf, a lovely canal-side dog-friendly pub/restaurant. I love going out to eat with my daughter as we end up somewhere unusual and more interesting than our regular places.

Almost everywhere you look there are cranes, and more buildings going up,

but there were plenty of green spaces - we stayed within a reasonable walking distance of the city centre but next to a lovely park which was ideal for last/first thing dog-walks.

It turned out to have a link to our home-town of Derby, in that this was the site of the first Rolls Royce factory - now marked by this memorial.

wildflowers in Hulme

The highlight of the weekend though was watching my daughter run in the half-marathon, and despite the hot weather, finishing with a new personal best.

Heading towards the finish line

More on taking Dylan the dog to an AirBnB here 
and our visits to out of town, National Trust properties here