The Japanese Garden at Cowden

I haven’t managed to sort through the Lake District photos yet so I thought I would do a post on the Japanese Garden that we visited a couple of weeks ago. It’s at Cowden Castle, between the small village of Dunning and Yetts o’ Muckhart. Yes that is a place, ‘yett’ just means gate.

The garden isn’t finished yet, it has undergone a lot of refurbishment as it has lain neglected for many years and has only recently been opened to the public again after being closed for years. It was originally created in 1908 but was closed to the public in 1955. It has taken three years of work to get it to this stage but there’s still some work to do on it.

Acer at Japanese Garden, Cowden

In 1925 this garden was described by Profesor Jijo Suzuki as the most important Japanese garden in the western world.

pond and bridge

There’s a Zen garden, not my favourite kind but still intersting. Obviously there are a lot of cherry trees that have been newly planted so I’ll have to go back there around next May to see what they look like.

dry garden /Zen garden

Stepping stones are a big feature of the gardens and you can even walk across the pond/loch using them – if you have good balance!


apond and bridge

We visited the gardens the day after Storm Ali which caused mayhem in some places with lots of trees keeling over as they were still in full leaf, but these gardens are set in a sort of wee glen so they’re quite sheltered, only one tree seemed to have been blown over.
looking back to pond

Pond and Bridge

There’s twenty acres of woodland to walk in if you have the time and energy. Before going here we had a look online to see what people said about the place. Some comments were less than complimentary, but we had a lovely time, the staff were welcoming and the soup in the cafe was very tasty – what more can you ask?!

Book purchases

One of the best things about travelling around the UK is having the chance to visit different secondhand bookshops, not that there are that many of them left nowadays mind you. However, I did manage to buy eleven books on our recent trip to the Lake District, Derbyshire and Peterborough.

Books Again

My first purchase was in Penrith:
The Star Spangled Manner by Beverley Nichols – first published in 1928 but my copy is from 1937. It’s obviously his thoughts on America, a place he travelled in extensively. It’s a very nice and clean copy in fact I think it might never have been read.

At the same place I found:
The Sea for Breakfast and The Loud Halo – both by Lilian Beckwith. I’ve never read anything by her, but her books were very popular when I worked in libraries yonks ago. Again the books are in great condition, I love the covers.

Two Persephones were my next purchases – from the great bookshop in Buxton. I could spend all day in there but the old books are a bit pricey. These reprints were very reasonable though:

Gardener’s Nightcap by Muriel Stuart
Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple

Somewhere, I can’t remember where, I bought Voices in the Wind by Evelyn Anthony. I used to read her books back in the 1970s but this one was published in 1985.

I bought a few books aimed at children: Pigeon Post by Arthur Ransom, Flight of the Grey Goose by Victor Canning and The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks.

Over the Mountains by Pamela Frankau turns out to be the last in a trilogy, so I’ll have to track down the first two.

The last two are non-fiction:

The Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt by Mary Russell which is about women travellers and their world.

Lastly I bought a nice old copy of In Search of England by H.V. Morton This book has been reprinted a lot since it was first published in 1927 but my copy is from 1943 – complete with dust jacket.

Not a bad haul I think. Have you read any of these books?

I’m back

It was good to get away from home for a wee while, just five days, but I’m so glad to be back home and to be sleeping in my own bed again. I enjoy seeing new places but I do so wish I could snap my fingers at the end of the day and be wheeched back to my own bedroom.

On our travels we visited Grasmere and Coniston in the Lake District. At Grasmere we had an interesting look around Dove Cottage, the tiny house that William Wordsworth lived in with his large and extended family. There will be a blogpost about that soon.

Coniston is a beautiful location and John Ruskin’s house is perfectly positioned high above the lake, I took lots of photos so that’ll be another blogpost. After spending one night at Grasemere we drove on to Buxton, mainly to visit the secondhand bookshop there. I bought three books – more about those later. I think I did better the last time we visited the shop, but I could stay in that place the entire day although for older books, the ones that I’m mainly interested it in, it is pricey.

Our next stopover was in Peterborough, a place we had never been before, but we had a notion to visit the big antiques fair that was going on. It turned pout to be absolutely enormous, over 2,000 stalls and we think we managed to get around them all, but it took us from 9.30 am to 4 pm – and by then we were exhausted, but we enjoyed having a good rake around and we bought some more ‘stuff’ that we definitely don’t need, actually a few Christmas presents were bought. Sorry about that mention of the ‘C’ word!

Anyway, I ended up coming home with eleven new to me books. Jack bought eight – I always seem to snap up more than he does, even when I’m picky. Tomorrow I’ll let you know exactly what I bought.

The Homicidal Colonel by Robert Player

The  Homicidal Colonel cover

The Homicidal Colonel by Robert Player was first published in 1970 and my copy is a first edition Gollancz, I have no idea if it has been re-printed. It’s the first book I’ve read by the author and after I bought it I did question why I had bought a book – the title of which gives the murderer away, but it does work as crime fiction.

This one begins in 1956 but it isn’t long before the story goes back to 1912 and the 21st birthday party of the eldest daughter of the Pangbourne family. They’re a dysfunctional bunch, used to the best things in life as there’s a lot of money in the family. One of them doesn’t see why he should have to share the money with his siblings in the future when their parents are dead. He aims to eliminate the others, but along the way he gets a real taste for murder and branches out.

So although the reader always knows who the murderer is it’s interesting to discover how he’s tracked down and what made him tick. I quite enjoyed it.

Cove, Scottish Borders

Cove harbour

One day last month we went to visit Eric and his family and that always means a lovely walk to the wee harbour at nearby Cove. The water was so tranquil, but there were no scuba divers around.

cottages at Cove

The cottages are still standing despite no doubt being pounded by storms at times, these are the only ones left of what was once quite a large fishing community.

harbour and headland

harbour and headland

This wee harbour is almost like a secret, you really need to know someone who knows the place as you have to walk through a dark tunnel which was created by digging through a hillside. It’s still quite easy to imagine how it must have been when it was home to lots of families though. If you’re interested you can read more about the history of Cove here.


I’m going off on a bit of a roadtrip for the rest of this week, but I’m scheduling a few blogposts, I just might not be able to reply to comments quickly as I have no idea what the internet access will be like.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

 An Unwanted Guest cover

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena was published this year – 2018. It’s a murder mystery and I thought that I should leave my comfort zone of vintage crime, I sort of wish I hadn’t bothered as this is really just a re-write of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and various others of that ilk. By now it has become a real cliche.

The setting is winter in the Catskill Mountains where several people are making their way to a luxury hotel. They all manage to get there in one piece although one of the cars is involved in a small accident. They’re an eclectic bunch and as many of the staff haven’t been able to get through the snow it’s left to the proprietor and his son to look after everyone.

The weather worsens and when the electricity and telephone lines come down they’re completely cut off. There has never been a signal for mobile phones – so when the murders begin they can’t get help. Who will be next?

There was a slightly different twist right at the end of this book but it wasn’t enough to elevate it to four stars on Goodreads. I can imagine that if you haven’t read a lot of crime fiction, or vintage crime then you would enjoy this one a lot more than I did. I just felt a bit miffed that it’s such a hackneyed tale.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore

 Exposure cover

Exposure by Helen Dunmore was published in 2016. It’s a great read despite the fact that it has an uncomfortable atmosphere, and not just because she was writing about a character who had terminal cancer – as she had too.

The setting is 1960 Cold War London where Paul Callington has a ‘hush-hush’ job at the Admiralty. He’s married with three children and he’s happy with his life. His wife Lily is a part-time teacher and is able to help out with paying for luxuries and despite the fact that he has come to realise that his career has just about come to a standstill he’s not really bothered by it. Paul lacks ambition and in all honesty is a bit dim and lacking in common sense, despite having a decent degree from Cambridge – or possibly because of that!

When his older work colleague and old friend Giles has an accident and ends up in hospital he asks Paul to go to his flat and secretly take a file back to the office – a file that Giles should never have had at home. Loyalty to Giles makes Paul hesitate, he knows he should hand the file to his superiors and he also knows it’ll be hard to replace the file clandestinely.

One stupid decision leads to Paul being arrested as a suspected spy and his wife and family are ostracised and have to leave their schools and home.

Exposure is very like an updated version of The Railway Children in many ways with the three children – two girls and a middle boy and with a capable mother having to move to a rural location, and an innocent father in prison. But the atmosphere is more menacing with the family being in danger from the real spy.

St Monans Windmill and coast in Fife, Scotland

Pittenweem from St Monans Windmill 1

One lovely Sunday in August we went to a local craft/food fair along the coast at St Monans and then took a walk along part of the Fife coastal walk. I took the photo of the village of Pittenweem above from the old windmill at St Monans, which is below. It has been fairly recently refurbished but you don’t seem to be able to get into it.
The tide was just about as high as it gets, but there weren’t many boats around, just one yacht and a small fishing boat laying creels/lobster pots.
Rocks  + Yacht

We sat for a while on these beautifully sea worn rocks, watching the patterns of the ripples and waves.
Rocks and Sea
From the windmill you can look down on the remains of the salt pans below. It was quite a complicated and time consuming business. No wonder people were described as being ‘worth their salt’.
Salt Pans

Salt Pans at St Monans

Salt Pan Information Board

Salt Pan Information Board

Below is a photo of the windmill with the old fishing village of St Monans in the background. It’s famous for having a ‘squinty’ harbour wall. You can see images of the village here.
Windmill and St Monans

The Green Gauntlet by R.F. Delderfield

The Green Gauntlet cover

The Green Gauntlet by R.F. Delderfield is the last book in The Horseman Riding By trilogy and was published in 1968.

When this book begins World War 2 is still ongoing and although there have been sorrows it hasn’t been nearly as bad for the inhabitants of the Shallowfield valley as World War 1. Many are making a mint from the black market in food and the few valley inhabitants who went off to the war aren’t doing nearly as badly as the previous generation did in the trenches. However stray bombs have ended up landing in some of Paul Craddock’s fields, the civilians are having a worse time than the combatants are.

Paul is now in his 60s but he has always looked after himself and he and his wife Claire are young at heart, in fact Claire at the age of 50 had unexpectedly presented him with her sixth and last child, a son. I found that a bit unlikely as I’ve read that 48 is about the oldest that you can give birth to a healthy child. Another character manages to give birth at the age of 52. If any of you know of any natural births in such old mothers I’d be interested to hear about them.

Anyway back to the book. It’s a great read but with the end of the war comes change and not for the better as Paul discovers too late that many of his children can’t be trusted with the land that he has poured his life into, and post-war development is spreading ever nearer his property. Shady land deals and dodgy local councillors as well as a need for new housing are changing the whole area.

There’s a bit of a disaster but it’s not all doom and gloom and in the end there’s a lot to be optimistic about. I really loved this trilogy.