Archives

Abundance

Kevtoberfest #16 Blue Mountains

In late September the Blue Mountains were in full bloom, with flowering natives and exotic blossoms competing for our attention at every stop.

At Jenolan Caves, spring flowers and magnolias filled every available space.

On the Federal Pass track to Scenic World, tiny native blossoms glowed in jewel-like colours.

In Leura, cherry trees laden with delicate blossoms attracted photographers and bees alike.

Waratahs grew wild beside the road to Anvil Rock

and at the Botanic Gardens alongside rhododendrons, proteas and camellias.

Clusters of golden flowers glowed beside blackened seed pods on banksias at Gordon Falls Reserve.

Springtime in the Blue Mountains is blooming beautiful!

Advertisements

Roaming in Roma

Close to home #14 Roma

It’s always lovely to go on a long holiday to a far flung destination. There are times, however, when it’s not convenient or cost effective and a staycation closer to home is the way to go. The destinations in this series of posts are all just a few hours’ drive from our home. They’re easy to get to, there’s plenty to see and do and at the end of the holiday we’re home again in no time.

The western Queensland town of Roma is located more than 500 kilometres from the ocean and the landscape is often parched from lack of rain. But at Bungil Creek and the Railway Dams there are gentle walkways with water views and, after good spring rainfall, the area is beautifully green. In both locations, it’s all about the trees.

A huge bottle tree marks the start of the Adungadoo Pathway, which follows the course of Bungil Creek. Said to be the largest in the district, the tree measures more than nine metres around the trunk and is thought to be at least 100 years old.

Even older are the river red gums on the creek bank. Some have been dated to 400 years and, along with tall coolabah trees, provide shade for walkers and cyclists. In spring, birds are attracted to the golden flowers of the silky oaks.

There are places to rest along the pathway, but there’s also the chance to be more active.  The frisbee course, similar to a golf course, has baskets instead of holes and a par for each round. A gym circuit has exercise equipment suitable for all abilities.

In the past, there was also a lot of activity at the Railway Dams. Originally built in the 19th century to supply water for passing steam trains, the dams are now surrounded by the Roma Bush Gardens. Eleven distinct areas are planted with native trees and flowering plants found in the surrounding Maranoa region.

A circular walkway passes through all the gardens, past more river red gums and coolabah, brigalow and belah trees. Bottlebrush shrubs laden with red blossoms grow at the water’s edge.

Walkers aren’t the only ones attracted to Bungil Creek and the Bush Garden. Rainbow lorikeets and kookaburras perch high in the river red gums and blue-faced honeyeaters dart around the flowering bushes. Pacific black ducks and swamp hens forage at water level.

 Even on the hottest and driest of days in Roma, the walking paths beside Bungil Creek and the Railway Dams are cool and shaded.
Join Jo for more Monday Walks

The Last Afternoon

Exploring England #45

The last day of a holiday often seems a little flat. All the planning, the sense of anticipation and the days of nothing but enjoyment are over and the only thing left before arriving home is a very long flight.

Not for us! Our last day was as exciting as the first day. After spending a thrilling morning with Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour we had one last lovely afternoon. My friend Elaine, author of I Used to be Indecisive, took us for a walk around the park which so often features in her beautiful photos.

Cassiobury Park is a peaceful green space encompassing 77 hectares of woods and public amenities. We entered through Langley Way, one of many entrances with enticing glimpses of the woodlands beyond. In early October, the first touches of Autumn were already beginning to transform the trees.

We wandered along the wide path beside the Grand Junction canal, a branch of the larger Grand Union canal, stopping to admire Iron Bridge lock and the narrow boats moored by the bank.

There was no sign of inhabitants on the boats or at the lock keeper’s cottage, and the only wildlife we saw were curious moorhens who came up close, perhaps hoping for a few crumbs of bread.

A notice jokingly warned of the presence of other wildlife, more familiar to us than to Elaine!

Outside the cottage I spied some pretty hanging baskets, and I was inspired yet again to create some of my own at home.

As we turned back we spotted another path leading up into Whippendell Wood, where Elaine often sees drifts of bluebells in spring.

It was tempting to discover what was round the bend, but there was no time to explore further – we had a plane to catch. Like all good things, our explorations in England had come to an end.

Join Jo for Monday Walks

Out the Window

Exploring England #40

Even with careful research and diligent attention to the details on booking websites, there’s no guarantee that what you see is what you will get when it comes to accommodation. On our journey around England, we stayed in eight different places and fortunately all were exactly what we expected. What we usually didn’t expect was the wonderful view we had out the windows of our vacation homes.

Our first night in England was spent in a small family-run guest house in Cranford, a few kilometres from Heathrow. The building was surrounded by a pretty cottage garden, filled with late summer flowers and apple trees laden with ripening fruit.

The only hotel we stayed in was in Portsmouth. As its name implies, the Royal Beach Hotel is located on the seafront. From the top of the shingle beach we could see across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.

Our Airbnb studio near Bridport was the top floor of a converted barn, on farmland owned by the same family for more than a century. The walk up Colmer’s Hill was tempting, but we couldn’t fit it in this time.

We knew from the photos on the website this Airbnb apartment in Falmouth had wonderful views. That was partly why we chose it and we weren’t disappointed. Looking out over the waters of Carrick Roads to the village of Flushing, we were intrigued by the constantly changing colours before us. We weren’t the only ones enjoying the view one morning!

We knew our Airbnb apartment in Manchester would have neither rural nor ocean views, but we weren’t expecting to see a worksite. From our living room we looked into the backyards of the Victorian terraces in the next street. We were fascinated by the renovations over the fence and wondered what the final outcome would be.

Every morning we watched the antics of this hungry little fellow, who helped himself to breakfast from a bird feeder in a tree.

Our next Airbnb home was in Holme Mills, just outside the Lake District. Once again we had beautiful rural views, this time accompanied by the rich rural aroma only cows can provide. The millpond lay behind our cottage and, at the top of the hill, was Lancaster Canal.

On the outskirts of York, our Airbnb cottage was a one in a modern complex located in the grounds of a plant nursery, so it wasn’t a surprise to find a beautifully landscaped formal garden on our doorstep.

While we admired the carefully tended garden beds, it was the local birds who kept us entertained every morning.

In London, we were back in familiar territory. From our studio in Cartwright Gardens, we could see the top of BT Tower above the neighbouring apartment block and, if we looked down, the tiny patch of lawn behind our building.

It would have been tempting to stay home all day in every place we stayed, but after travelling more than 15,000 km to get there we had more to do than look out the window!

00&h=450]

Hidden Treasures

Exploring England #37

London is full of historic sites commemorating people and events from the past. Many are famous and teeming with visitors, while some are almost unknown. On our way to the Museum of London, we discovered a small green square containing two hidden treasures.

The dilapidated ruins of a medieval gate, built on top of the original Roman city wall, fill the front of the square.  Even when dwarfed by  the surrounding modern buildings, the 13th century bastion is imposing. The Roman wall, constructed in the 2nd century AD, was fortified with 21 bastions added in medieval times.

Behind the bastion are more remnants of the city wall and, tucked into a space between the wall and the Barber-Surgeons’ Hall, is the Barbers’ Physic Garden. Created in 1978, the plants are representative of those used for medicinal purposes from medieval times to the present; they were all listed in a botanical book published in 1597 by John Gerard, Master Barber-Surgeon.

Each plant is accompanied by an explanation of its medicinal benefits. Some have been in use for centuries but, with modern research methods,  others have been found to have unhealthy side effects.

Many of the plants are familiar to us. They grow just as happily in Australian gardens as in this hidden garden in the centre of London.

 

Visiting Brideshead

Exploring England #33

In the 1981 television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Brideshead Castle is home to the fictional and fabulously wealthy Flyte family. In reality, the magnificent building which stars in the series is Yorkshire’s Castle Howard, one of the largest country houses in England. Belonging to the Howard family since the 18th century, Castle Howard is not really a castle, but a stately home built where a military castle once stood. Filled with statuary, paintings and a wealth of precious objects, the house is one of the ten Treasure Houses of England.

Ticketed entry to the house allows us to wander at our own pace from one elegant room to the next, where friendly household staff tell us stories about this beautiful home. In the Antique Passage, we see treasures collected by generations of the Howard family while on their grand tours of Europe. We marvel at the workmanship in the Chapel, the collection of family portraits in the Turquoise Drawing Room and the dome of the Great Hall, restored after a devastating fire in 1940.

Castle Howard is surrounded by 1, 000 acres of lush parkland, ornamental lakes and fountains, gardens and woodlands. Gilded gates lead into the 18th century walled garden where roses, fuchsias and an abundance of annuals grow alongside beds filled with edible plants destined for the family kitchen.

Beyond the garden we stroll along the shaded Lime Walk to the Atlas Fountain, where gods of the sea serenade Atlas as he holds up the sky.

At South Lake, the Prince of Wales Fountain plays elegantly over the water while the Shepherd Boy keeps watch.

At the end of Temple Terrace stands the elegant Temple of the Four Winds, while in the distance New River Bridge leads to the private family mausoleum.

In Ray Wood, sunlight shining through the trees dapples the wide path. Birds sing but remain unseen as they stay hidden in the leaves.

At the Boathouse Café, we enjoy a delicious lunch on the shores of Great Lake.

All the time we’ve been at Castle Howard I’ve almost expected to meet the family; not the Howards but the Flytes – Julia, elegantly lounging by the fountain, Cordelia sitting quietly in a window seat or Sebastian, with his teddy bear, Aloysius. They’re nowhere to be seen, but I’m sure I feel their presence.

Looking For Beatrix

Exploring England #26

Beatrix Potter’s beloved home, Hill Top, is one of the most visited sites in the Lake District and I’d heard about long queues and timed tickets, which often sell out early in the day. But on an cool and overcast Sunday afternoon, there were just a few visitors in the pretty village of Sawrey and I almost had the house and its beautiful garden to myself.

Hill Top was purchased by Beatrix Potter in 1905 with the proceeds of  her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. It was the first of many properties she bought in the Lake District and was the place which inspired many of her stories and paintings. As I wandered along the garden path, it was easy to see where her inspiration came from. Late summer blooms perfumed the air and the lush greenery of the vegetable garden spilled over into the fields beyond.

The house, with its thick overcoat of vines, was a vision in green and the garden even came indoors; every room was decorated with simple floral arrangements.

It was easy to see why Beatrix loved this place, with its tranquil setting and beautiful country views. From an upstairs window I gazed out upon the surrounding farmland, and imagined her standing in this same place whenever she stayed here.

I felt her presence in the garden too, and expected to find her around the next corner, paintbrush in hand. I thought this robin was posing for me, but perhaps he was looking for Beatrix.