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Willows garden 1

Willows garden on Pilley Hill is situated on a steep but manageable incline. The house is perched in the middle of the plot with the effect that the rear beds are on the highest level and the land descends to the lily pond at the bottom.

We visited this colourful exuberance yesterday afternoon. In 2003, the current owners, Elizabeth and Martin Walker, bought a small bungalow with a natural ditch where the

Lily pond 2Lily pond 1Willows garden 4

pond is now situated. The current house was built in 2005.

Willows garden 3Hydrangea

Unusual varieties of hydrangea are one feature.

Herbaceous border 1Herbaceous border 2

The herbaceous borders, on a grand scale,

Bees on dahlias

attract bees

Visitors admiring herbaceous border 1Visitor admiring herbaceous border

and visitors alike.

Dahlias 1Dahlias 2

Some of the dahlias are really quite strident.

Thistle

There are huge thistles

Ferns

and swirling ferns.

Willows garden 5

Plentiful seating was arranged. You could even sit under a parasol and employ your mobile devices;

Willows garden 7

you could sit side by side across the pond and watch the other visitors,

Couple crossing bridge

perhaps walking over one of the bridges,

Heron sculptures

passing a pair of hidden herons;

Jackie and Labrador

or you could sit quietly enjoying your cream teas, provided you were able to ignore the silent pleading of the resident Labrador.

The women washing up and giving out refreshments were not permitted to handle money, so you had to move across the room to pay the keeper of the coffers. This prompted me to recount the story of ‘A Retirement Project’.

Bamboo

Some of the plants would have graced a much hotter environment. A clump of bamboo soared to the skies,

Banana tree

and a banana tree,

Light through banana leaves 1Light through banana leaves 2Light through banana leaves 4Light through banana leaves 5

as we departed, proffered the light a leafy playground.

Balloon in oak tree

The final surprise was the balloon tree.

This evening we dined at Lal Quilla where my main course was king prawn naga and Jackie’s was chicken hariali. We shared special fried rice, a paratha, and an onion bahji; both drank Kingfisher.

 

More Of North Wales

This morning we prepared the rooms upstairs in readiness for the Christmas hoards. The first task was replacing the towel rail and cabinet and cleaning the bathroom that Aaron has redecorated. Our friend, who is A.P. Maintenance, would have come back to carry this out, but we encouraged him to stick to his well earned holiday. The three spare bedrooms were then cleaned and their beds all made up. After this came the hoovering. My role could best be described as supporting and carried out somewhat tardily.

After lunch YouView stopped working on the TV. I grappled with it for a while, then calmed myself by scanning sixteen more colour negatives on Agfa film from the 1983 holiday in North Wales. Fortunately, the equipment required for this functioned satisfactorily, and whilst I was working on this, Jackie informed me that the BT service had returned to normality.

We stayed in a farmhouse near the home of our friends Ann and Don whilst their own property was being renovated.

Hillside

Hills like this were all around us.

Houses in valley

Here is a broader view of the houses lying beneath the heaps from the discarded slate mine featured in ‘Aberfan’. As always, clicking on the images gives more detail, such as that of the children’s playground indicating the family nature of this fairly remote community near Cerrigydrudion in Corwen.

Village in the valley

A second picture shows rugby and soccer pitches alongside each other. I wondered which was the more popular game here.

Landscape

This view looks across the further side of the valley,

Jessica and Matthew approaching cattleJessica with cattle in farm field

above which nestles the farm at which we stayed. In the first of these two pictures Becky and Matthew approach the cattle. Jessica replaces them in the second,

Footpath to farm

The farm was approached from this rough track.

Louisa and cow

Louisa made the acquaintance of the inquisitive local fauna,

Louisa working train

and tried her hand at bringing life back to the train in the disused mine.

Barbed wire on post 1

Barbed wire attached to a weathered wooden post in front of a large boulder exemplified the rugged nature of the landscape,

Thistle

to which plentiful spiky thistles spoke,

Foxgloves

and in which foxgloves managed to survive.

This evening Jackie cooked a chicken jalfrezi for the eighteen people she will be feeding on Boxing Day. Eyes streaming until she created a through draft by opening the kitchen doors to the 40+ m.p.h. prevailing winds, I peeled and chopped the onions.

Hordle Chinese Take Away provided our own dinner with which I finished the malbec and Jackie drank Hoegaarden

Yarnton’s Cardoon

Derrick's linen jacket

After an application of Vanish, two cold washes in the machine, and a dedicated press, Jackie has achieved a renovation of the linen jacket, which was beyond the dry cleaners. And it still fits.

I began the day with a walk through Roger’s footpath, where I again met Pete, who, on this far more overcast day, I did not recognise without his sunglasses and hat.

Hoverfly on bramble leaf

Bluebottle on bramble leaf

Hoverflies and bluebottles needed their head- and tail-lights among the gloomy brambles of the hedgerows.

Slurry

Can you smell the leaking slurry. I certainly could.

Astilbe

Encouraged by the success of the arancus, Jackie planted an astilbe in similar conditions.

Rose garden paving stage 5

While Aaron completed stage five of the rose garden paving,

Area cleared for shed

Jackie and I completed the clearance of her work area in readiness for the garden shed.

The structure in the background is the central heating fuel tank, necessary because we don’t have mains gas. Until we have had a visit to the communal dump, it is probably not politic to display the various places where we have decanted the items the new structure will replace.

Thistle

Common thistles grow along the footpath visited earlier,

Thistle and geranium palmatums

and we now know that our giant is not a cardoon, but a cotton thistle.

This is a shame, because we had the former in Newark. Never mind, I can still talk about Yarnton’s cardoon.

Yarnton Mills was an elderly family friend of Jessica’s late parents. His wife kept sheep. She farmed her flock somewhere in Europe, where, in order to improve the quality of their milk, she fed them on cardoon. The location may have been in Spain or Portugal where ewe’s milk is used in the production of cheese. I always wondered how the animals, not being donkeys, managed to eat these thistle-like plants. I therefore amused myself with a little internet research. FIBRA explains that the crop is reduced to silage for feed. The benefits are described by Fernández-Salguero, J., Tejada, L. & Gómez, R. (2002), who tell us: CYN01_03‘The use of plant proteinases from flowers of cardoon Cynara cardunculus as milk coagulants is of particular interest because they are natural enzymes whose strong proteolytic action eventually leads to the extensive breakdown of caseins, thereby giving rise to cheeses with a soft buttery texture, a genuine aroma and a slightly piquant and creamy flavour. These cheeses are highly valued for their taste and quality and can be targeted at the lacto-vegetarian and organic markets. This type of plant coagulant can also be certified Kosher and Halal.’

Yarnton presented Jessica with a seed which we planted in the kitchen garden, and enjoyed for the story and for the towering plant’s sculptural qualities

This evening Jackie and I dined on gammon steaks topped with fried eggs; fresh crisp chips; and an interesting melange of recycled pasta and meatballs, green and baked beans, and the odd limp chip. Very tasty it all was, too.  This was followed by mixed fruit crumble and custard. Jackie  drank Hoegaarden, and I finished the bordeaux.

A Fatal Error

Whilst Jackie drove the well used route to Shelly and Ron’s this morning, I, like Wordsworth’s Lucy ‘dwelt among the untrodden ways’. Well, untrodden for a very long time. And, apart from lunch, I trod them all day. Cleared areaCamelliaYesterday’s clearances had revealed the presence of another hidden gravel path, which I determined to open up and refurbish. The camellia mentioned yesterday is now fully visible through the cleared area.

I began by planting the two forgotten items from yesterday – a lilac and a fern. The lilac was to be placed alongside this path, and required the usual clearance of weeds, brambles, and ivy. Sneaking up behind and to the right beneath Allium and galliumthe allium in this next photograph can be seen the tentacles of the ubiquitous grasping gallium aperine.

Poppy orangePoppy yellow and aquilegiaPoppies of various hues are cropping up all over the place.

I have not featured the deutzia before because I could not identify it, but, happily, Jackie has done so:Deutzia

RoseAlthough its leaves bear the dreaded black spot, that curse of pirates and rose-growers, the pink climbing rose at the front of the house is beautiful and abundant.

Well, that’s enough of wandering around the garden. I’ve done the planting and had a look at the flowers. Now I must get down to business.

A few yards into the rediscovered path, some quarry tiles had been laid as a point of interest. A few were broken. A little further on, and to the right of these, is a smaller, linking, and also overgrown stretch of lined gravel. This has a similar feature of four tiles. I therefore diverted from my main objective, cleared that route, and took up the tiles and used them to repair the other set on the longer, meandering pathway.Path revealed In this photograph of the first opened thoroughfare the rake at the far end lies on this arrangement. I have left a few little violets in situ.

Jackie had not, of course, been idle on her return. She continued with curtains, and has now made and hung curtains for the whole house, often fixing the rails as well.

After lunch, I allowed myself a little diversion to pull out two thistles like those of yesterday, and to plant a little round tree/bush in place of one of them. Jackie had unsuccessfully tried to persuade me to take it easy this afternoon. Whilst I was engaged in removing the second of the thistles she came out and asked, in that mock accusative tone that indicates that the speaker thinks you are overdoing it: ‘What are you doing now?’. When she saw what I was engaged in, she gasped, and her expression turned to horror. ‘You’ve pulled up the acanthus!’ she exclaimed.

The head gardener was very forgiving, and most encouraging. She estimated that what was left of it would reach maturity in about seven years. The fatality, in this case, was therefore not the plant, but the tool that I had broken in trying to uproot the very stubborn sections of the acanthus. The plant should revive. Not so the fork handle. I wonder if Ronnie Corbett has any in stock? (Anyone who doesn’t know this reference is highly recommended to look up the Fork Handles sketch on Youtube. It is The Two Ronnies at their very best).

To return to the main path. I will need a heavy duty axe to remove a holly stump from the far end of it. Holly stumpSomeone has cut it down in the past, and it had bushed up. I trimmed off the shoots but otherwise cannot shift it, even with the aforementioned fork when it was still intact.

Path to decking 2Path to decking 1Two photographs will not suffice for the finished article, so here are two:

We are promised rain this evening, to continue into tomorrow. This will be a welcome relief because I will be forced to take a break.

I do ache a bit.

Two of the delights of Indian food are the aromas and the colours. Roast pork & red cabbageJackie adheres to these in her presentation, which is why she produced a special variety of red cabbage as a suitable compliment to her succulent roast pork, crackling, and vegetable rice (recipe).

For cabbage with a suitable gentle piquancy for this meat:

Take 1/2 small red cabbage, 1 large red onion, 1/2 a cooking apple (this one was Bramley`) cored, but not peeled.

Thinly slice all ingredients. Stir fry with big nob of butter and splash of olive oil. When part cooked add a splash of white vinegar and a good glug of red wine.

Stir it all up, turn the heat down, whack the lid on and let it cook a little while longer until soft but not soggy.

Try it. It was perfect.

With it I drank Dino shiraz Terre Siciliane 2012 and Jackie didn’t. I would have given her some but she doesn’t like red wine, except in cooking.