New-to-me book purchases

I was really getting bookshop withdrawal symptoms as I hadn’t been to a second-hand bookshop for ages, so on Monday we drove to St Andrews, a place that we used to visit almost on a weekly basis but hadn’t been to for months – for no good reason at all. Anyway, it wasn’t long before I found some books that I just had to take home with me.

More Books New to Me

I found a Beverley Nichols book that I didn’t even realise existed.
Men Do Not Weep seems to be a book about World War 2 and was published in 1941, I think it’ll be an interesting read. You never know what you’ll get with Beverley Nichols though – his writing was so diverse, from cats to gardening and home hunting, novels and his thoughts on the USA.

Still on the subject of war is another book that I hadn’t heard of. It was the fact that I noticed Antony Beevor’s name on the cover that made me have a look at it as the author is anonymous. A Woman in Berlin is a diary which was written from 20th April 1945 to 22 June 1945. Not very long at all but a grim time in Berlin I’m sure. However on the back there’s a comment from the author Nina Bawden who says – ‘It could have been an unbearable story if it had not been for the courage and, astonishingly, the humour with which it is often told.’ It sounds like a must read to me. It was published by Virago.

Then I spotted a copy of a Geoff Hamilton book called Cottage Gardens, my favourite kind of garden and by my absolutely all time favourite garden writer and Gardeners’ World presenter, still lamented by me anyway 20 odd years after his far too early death.

On Tuesday we set off for Edinburgh, well we had seen the weather forecast and knew that we should grab every good day as it looks like the rain is coming in again on Thursday and Friday. After lunch at The Secret Herb Garden (more about that in a post still to come) we drove to Stockbridge, my favourite part of Edinburgh.

My first purchase was Curtain Up by Noel Streatfeild. I wasn’t sure about this one but the inside blurb says: ‘Plucked from their old home in Guernsey and sent all the way to wartime London to stay with their dead mother’s family ….’ This sounds right up my street – even if it was aimed at children.

The next was another Virago – Good Daughters by Mary Hocking. I haven’t read anything by the author but I know she’s fairly popular. This seems to be the first of a trilogy – the story of a family during the Second World War. Do you see a pattern forming here?! Apparently Mary Hocking brings good humour and sympathy to her depiction of the Fairley sisters growing up in their close-knit West London neighbourhood before, during and after the war.

Lastly I was really pleased to find a copy of ‘In the beginning’ said Great-Aunt Jane by Helen Bradley. I love her naive style of painting which she used to illustrate her own childhood memories for her grandchildren.

Have you read any of these ones?

More Barnsdale


Here we are back at Barnsdale and I hope you can see the butterflies enjoying the flowers. I must admit though that I’m not ever going to plant any buddleias in the future, no matter how much they’re enjoyed by butterflies, as they’re such a menace to buildings with their habit of germinating in stonework.


I think the flowers below are perovskia and agapanthus as well as some sort of huge thistle. For some reason my agapanthus didn’t flower at all, fingers crossed for next summer.


Acanthus is the main flower below, or you might know it by its common name – Bear’s breeches. These spiky leaves were often used in designs in Victorian times, in fact the cornicing on the ceiling in our old house was acanthus leaves. They also feature on the top of some Victorian pillar/post boxes which I didn’t realise until Valerie in NZ mentioned it in a comment.


As you can see below, some of the box hedges have been scarred by box blight, but it looks like they’ll recover. I love the rambling rose but have no idea what it’s called.


As the trees in my neighbourhood are beginning to change colour it’s good to be able to look back at what was the height of summer when these photos were taken.

Barnsdale and Geoff Hamilton

One of the main reasons for going down to England recently was to visit the late Geoff Hamilton‘s plant nursery and garden at Barnsdale, which for years was where the BBC’s Gardeners’ World programme was filmed. In my opinion those were the glory days of the programme, it has been nowhere near as good in recent years. We stumbled across the place when we were driving to Holland last year but as we were dashing to catch a ferry we only had time to visit the shop that day. Since then Barnsdale has been on my bucket list.

Barnsdale  bust

The photo below is of the same memorial bust shown from a different direction and I’m pretty sure that the tree in the middle is the one which he wanted to have planted on top of him when he died, presumably his ashes are there.


Barnsdale has been split up into lots of different small gardens, 39 in total over an 8 acre site, most of which were planned to show viewers how to carry out such projects and give people ideas for their own outdoor spaces.


It’s almost 20 years since he died and he was one of the first people to promote organic gardening, to help protect bugs and beasties from chemicals, he was a bit of an organic trailblazer.


His sons have taken over the running of the place and it looks like they’re managing to keep a healthy balance, no slugs taking over completely anyway.


The Japanese garden below was the only bit which I was disappointed with, there wasn’t enough colour in it and I think that I and in fact most people interested in gardening could have designed something better.


At this time of the year I’m always wondering why such a thing as wasps exist (and ants) and people always say that they do a good job of cleaning up around the garden, as the ones below are doing with this apple. I suspect that they damaged the apple in the first place, so I’m still not a fan of wasps.


The birdbath below seems to have been made with roof tiles piled on top of each other at an angle, an effective design.


I took loads of photos so no doubt I’ll be doing a Barnsdale part 2 at some point.

Back Home

We went on another British road trip last week and I managed to be organised enough to schedule some posts to be published while I was away, just in case I didn’t have access to the internet. It turned out that I didn’t feel much like being online anyway, I was too tired as usual, what with running around during the day.

We visited mainly places which we hadn’t visited before. It’s sad but true that I enjoy visiting places in the UK which I’ve heard about, mainly on the TV or radio – often just on road traffic reports, and I wonder what they’re like if I’ve not visited them.

So now I can envisage Wigan, Haydock, Biddulph Gardens, Buxton, Alcester, Blenheim Palace (Woodstock and Bladon) Geddington, Market Harborough, Geoff Hamilton’s Garden at Barnsdale (Rutland), Uppingham, Oakham, Wetherby, Northallerton, Mount Grace Priory, Sedgefield, Washington Village, Morpeth, Rothbury, Cragside and Wooler. The only places we had visited before were Alcester, Blenheim/Woodstock, Morpeth, Cragside and Wooler.

This time we started off driving down south via Moffat in the Scottish Borders. The bookshop was open and I bought two books –
1. Murder Among Friends by Elizabeth Ferrars
2. Crazy Pavements by Beverley Nichols

It was a bookish beginning to our break, we were heading for Wigan, an unlikely place to visit but as I had just read George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier I was intrigued to find out what it was like now. It has a newish shopping mall but you can tell from the older buildings that Wigan was indeed down at heel in the 1930s. Unlike many places, mainly down south, there was virtually nothing in the way of art deco/1930s buildings. From which I assume that nobody was doing any building at that time, it was a very depressed area. It’s not exactly vibrant at the moment but it’s still an awful lot better than Kirkcaldy, my nearest large town, which seems to have yet another empty shop each time I visit it.

We stopped off at Buxton, mainly because it was a Georgian spa town and has associations with Jane Austen.

Sedgefield was chosen as an overnight visit mainly because it was Tony Blair’s constituency when he was an MP and I wanted to compare it with Kirkcaldy. In the end I didn’t even take any photos there as it was such a wee place with just a few shops, a village really. I feel quite unreasonably aggrieved with the inhabitants of Sedgefield for voting in Tony Blair as their MP and allowing Blair to set off on his egomaniacal merry power binge which has put us in the horrendous position we are in now.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to over the last week or so and I plan to show you some photos of the various places which I hope you might be quite interested to see.

What did I buy when I was away? Not a lot really, apart from some more books, but that’s another blogpost.

Gardeners’ World on BBC 2

For me having Gardeners’ World back on TV is one of the first signs of spring. Well I’ve never heard a real cuckoo calling which is the usual sign beloved of correspondents to The Times letters page.

I had actually given up watching Gardeners World last year because I just couldn’t take to the new presenters, Toby and Alys. I gave them a really good try but it just wasn’t happening for me. So I was chuffed when I heard that Monty Don is back at the helm again, and it should be even better than before because the action is all happening at Monty’s real garden, Long Meadow in Herefordshire.

Having just viewed the first programme I think it’s going to be a big improvement on Greenacres. Long Meadow is my kind of garden, I’ve been taking cuttings from box plants for years, with the intention of designing my own Celtic knot garden sometime in the future so it was nice to see that Monty has been doing the same thing.

Mind you, I still miss poor old Geoff Hamilton and Barnsdale, he was my absolute favourite – a knowledgeable gardener with a great sense of humour. He died far too young, but at least he left us a fair amount of books about gardening to look back on.

But if you want to see a wee bit of his last programme you can see it here.