Monday, 25 August 2014

Climbing High

We made it then. Dodging the showers and donning the old waterproofs, the birthday boy achieved his wish and "climbed up a really big hill". Ten minutes out of town the gritstone edge that marks the beginnings of the Peak District, rears darkly, and a little forebodingly, skywards from the mossy fields.

From The Roaches, on a clear day, you can see right across the Cheshire Plain and catch the twinkle of the sea at Liverpool, miles and miles away from landlocked Staffordshire. In another direction the curious hill of The Wrekin marks a path to the Black Mountains beyond but in looking a different way, the heather clad Morridge (the moor ridge) fills your view to the horizon.
Our busy boy was in his element, leading the way up the epic crags, gasping with amazement at just how far he could see, peering into the peaty depths of the ridge top pool and wondering if the legendary mermaid might appear to lure him and his brother into the gloom. (Luckily she was otherwise engaged today so we ate our picnic in a sheltered spot and took in the view.

Mum and dad joined us for what turned out to be one of the best family outings ever. Not a cent spent, aside from birthday ice creams from the doting grandparents, and plenty of time to watch, chat, wonder and exclaim at this beautiful place we've known all our lives and still find awe-inspiring.
I don't think we will ever forget this special, simple birthday. Being eight was the "best birthday ever" apparently. Brilliant. xx

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Magical & Marvellous - Just So

I think we must have fallen down a rabbit-hole when we arrived at the Just So Festival in Cheshire last weekend. We entered a magical wonderland, full of fun, taking us to some terrific places where you could easily forget the real world existed for a while.

From the thrill of the circus to the enchantment of the woodland, a vast area of the Rode Hall Estate near Congleton, so not far from home at all, was transformed into an outdoor playground for young families looking for a festival experience that definitely puts children right at the heart of the adventure. 
And what a brilliant job they did! With so much choice the real challenge is not to miss anything out at Just So. From battling pirates on the High Seas, listening to magical tales and creating wonderful natural creations in the Spellbound Wood, grooving and moving at the Jitterbug, watching creative tales on stage at the Woodland Theatre, chilling in the Games tent, enjoying something a little gentler at Lazy Days, to joining in the partying at Footlights stage - Just So is crammed full of entertainment and adventure for all the family. The decoration and creativity across the site is completely marvellous and there's something spectacular to see at every turn.

Our boys were, at ten and seven, were a little older than the core festival audience which is obviously a massive hit with the toddler and infant school gang, but they absolutely loved every minute of their magical camping-festival weekend just the same. They may have sped through some of the activities a little quicker than smaller people, but they were just as utterly transfixed by the spell-binding atmosphere that abounds. 

Particular highlights were the very well-mannered and "bumbling" Bathing Jugglers with their fiery tricks, boogeying to the brilliant Lazlo Baby on the Living Room Stage and Saturday night's fantastic entertainment at Footlights. Our two are woodland boys through and through and the chance to build tunnels, create clay faces to adorn the trees and enjoy the campfire tales was a proper treat.
From a practical, parental point of view, Just So made everything so brilliantly do-able. Busy but not packed so there's camping space for eveyone, mercifully short queues for showers, loos, coffee etc and there's a wonderful array of really enjoyable and delicious food based mainly at the Social Area where there's an airy barn with high chairs, microwaves for warming food and bottles etc, which all makes the canvas life that bit more enjoyable (there's even a baby tent for baths and massage before bedtime).

We feasted on paella, fish and chips and wood-fired pizza before bedding down beneath the trees. Night-time was a quiet, peaceful event and, despite a heavy thunderstorm at dawn, we woke up refreshed and ready for another day of adventure and exploration.
  
If you're looking for a festival to let down your hair, let the whole family's imagination run wild and lose yourself to the power of magic and fairyland for a while, get along to Just So and prepare for wonderment! 

*** We were asked to review the Just So Festival for This Is Your Kingdom and were kindly given a complimentary family ticket.***

Monday, 18 August 2014

Hill and Dale

On a warm summer's afternoon there can't be many more lovelier places in England than Dovedale to wander a while, dip your toes in the water and breathe. Coming here is all about the stepping stones, crossing the Dove, forwards and back, if they're not underwater.

It does mean it can be a pretty busy place to be, something I always forget. But you can see why. It must be a favourite place for so many people for miles around. We all share it, this magical dale. 
Our smallest boy is fast becoming an adventurer. There he is, scrabbling halfway up the hillside with his dad. "On my birthday can I climb a really, big hill?" he asked. Living here almost everything is uphill so at the weekend we'll be celebrating our exploring eight year old''s special day, somewhere up high, having fun. x

Saturday, 9 August 2014

On the Turn

It's that moment in the garden now when you can sense everything tipping over from high summer into late.

I love the languid feel of August when hot colours fill the pots, everything has reached for the skies and our view is seen now through a swaying, elegant trellis swamped by butterflies and bees.

I don't use any pesticides in my garden so what gets lost to slugs and snails, is made up for by the whole range of wildlife visitors from our little ecosystem. 

There are insects galore, frogs and toads, a snuffling hedgehog, Mr Mole, house martins nesting above the bedroom window, all sorts of bird life, bats that flit around the birch tree at dusk, a buzzard family soar high overhead and a glorious, menacing sparrowhawk swoops low on occasion.

It's a precious space to us and I'm enjoying watching the changes day by day as we slide into summer's end and wait for Autum's glory to come x

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A tangle of memories

Sometimes you come across a treasure hidden in a junk shop, at a flea market or on a charity stall that really speaks to you.

I popped into town at lunchtime today, dodging the showers to catch some fresh air, not really intending to shop when I came across such a thing.

Hanging on a tangled stand in a charity shop was this beauty. Weighty, gloriously tactile with a carved wooden hook (although it looks like bone it isn't) to fasten it and the colour of deepest coral I knew this lovely necklace would be mine as soon as I saw it.
Just £3 and it is a wonderful thing. The type of jewellery that as a young girl I thought I might wear when I got to *almost* forty. 

It's what I'd call "art teacher" jewellery, worn by the type of creative, inspiring teachers I had at school. The sort of woman confident wearing prints, with a colourful home full of trailing plants, great art and interesting conversation. I wonder if a woman like that really did wear it once? (Maybe she hated it though and that's why it's in a charity shop!)
I'm no art teacher and I'm not wholly sure why I identified with people like that rather than the fashionistas etc, but i did and I love my new/old necklace. Wearing it reminds me of the aspirations I had as a teenager, reminds me to try and be happy in my own skin and despite the daily grind, to enjoy being creative whenever I can x

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Back Home

I love holidays. July, the midway point of the year and all the end of term madness leaves me strung out and desperate for a break, a rest for a while. But coming home is great. I love a little wander around the house, saying hello to all our things, enjoying the prints, paintings and pottery I've collected and the patterns and colour are always such a surprise after the plain walls of a holiday apartment. 
Before the bags are unpacked I'm out in the garden, dead heading and picking a posy for the house to welcome us home. Just one honeysuckle bloom in this little jug has filled the whole sitting room with the scent of summer.

I needed to do a food shop dash to stock us up with essentials after my first day back in the office and couldn't resist these rusty gladioli for less than £2. I haven't seen this shade before and I'm really enjoying the statuesque glamour they bring to the mantle piece. Like most homes our mantle piece is a place to display some special treasures. There's a photo of Woody and me at my sister's royal wedding street party a couple of years ago and a tiny, knitted cottage brooch I love too much to wear. I adore it but have forgotten where I ordered it from so if anyone recognises it please let me know!

The clock is nothing special and replaced a lovely old 1930s dark wooden one that I need to get repaired because it loses time so much. It perches on colourful copies of Tom Brown's School Days and The New Weekend Book I bought in a charity shop for their fantastic covers. The green candlesticks are Royal Doulton, picked up for pennies from the Collector's Market and always have red candles in at Christmas.
Woody is a fan of agate and we have polished stones in different shapes and colours, even some bookends and I really like this smooth, marbled ball. The jug on the right is Polish pottery and was a birthday present from my lovely sister and is one of my very favourite things. 

I grew up with a shelf of Observer books and loved to unwrap them and see their hidden colourful covers. My few of my favourites sit on the shelf here and remind me of my mum and dad and everything they've taught me about wildlife, the sea and the countryside. And there are always cards too, special ones I can't bear to take down that slowly rotate through the year.

And you can't quite see it behind the jug but there's a nursery portrait of our boys when they were tiny wearing fair isle tank tops they'll hate me for one day but their mummy will always love. xx

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

La Dolce Vita

I've never been the best traveller. Too nervous, too worried about doing the wrong thing. Far too English. But this year I was brave and stuck with Woody's idea to go somewhere new. How glad I am.

In darkest January we stumbled across a feature in the paper about cheaper places in Europe for family holidays and saw an amazing picture of these cliff top townhouses and the most amazing beach at Tropea, Calabria in the most southern tip of Italy.
We stayed in a cosy attic apartment just out of town with wonderful views of the sea, the harbour and town itself, and spent our days swimming in crystal waters and our evenings wandering  magical, fairytale streets of hidden squares and alleyway restaurants.

Our money was exceptionally tight so we bought beautiful vegetables, delicious cheeses and fresh fish (squid one day) from the morning markets and had a feast every evening as the sun went down before walking back into town for an ice cream treat.

We met some lovely, lovely people and everywhere, so many friendly faces despite our terrible Italian.
We made precious memories this week the four of us together, laughing, relaxing (some squabbling inevitably!) that will last forever. One day I'm sure we will be back xx