Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire

Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire
Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire

Part of my writing this blog is to venture to new local places and so with my fellow intrepid  DMAF we went over the border into Northamptonshire the self-proclaimed  ‘Rose of the Shires’, and to Kelmarsh Hall.
Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire
Beautiful Borders

Pulling up on the car park my spirits sank slightly at the sight of a coach full of late-late middle-aged people, but on the advice of the lady selling tickets we went straight for the gardens while they stampeded to the tea-room to scoff cake.
Just the sort of gardens I love.  Not boring sweeps of green but lots of different areas and best of all old, old walls with borders deep as my whole garden, spilling out their flowers.  A little one-up-manship began with DMAF in naming flowers.  Agapanthus, Euphorbia,  Crocosmia, Echinacea….., we recited like middle-aged Hermiones from Harry Potter.
Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire

There’s something so evocative about a walled gardens – memories of reading The Secret Garden, Tom’s Midnight Garden, and so on and DMAF and I pondered the idea of my painting my garage wall with yoghurt to get a similar ancient effect but decided it was more likely to encourage unwelcome rodents rather than an aged patina and decided NO.

We’d escaped the coach party and decided tea and cake was now in order, but smelling something deliciously savoury and it being around lunchtime our plans changed and we decided on the home-made broad-bean, pea and courgette soup.

We waited and waited and still no soup.  After chasing up twice and with apologies and offer of a free drink the soup finally arrived.  The offer of free cappuccino  mollified our middle-aged irritation  and the  soup had us swooning with delight at how lovely it was with DMAF and I agreeing that soup was about the only thing that when well-made was both healthy and delicious and made even better as it came with lovely chunky bread and plenty of butter.

The good: Kelmarsh Gardens are beautiful with something for everyone – a woodland walk, fab borders with towering, dramatic plants, a lovely walled vegetable garden and lovely for lunch. 
The not so good: The wait for the soup, but what with the free coffee and the deliciousness of the soup, it was all good.

Go again – Definitely.  It’s worth looking at the events page of their website too as there are quite a few interesting talks, cookery demos, etc and my DMAF, hoping to find her inner artist, has signed up to an hours session of painting in the garden.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Bradgate Park

Bradgate Park, Birthplace of Lady Jane Grey
Bradgate Park, Birthplace of Lady Jane Grey
Today, I’m at Bradgate Park with my friend from uni (FFU) who is a regular to the park and knows exactly where to park a car for free and to walk away from the main path which in the summer holidays is heaving  with prams, kids on trikes and excited dogs. 

Climbing uphill along a bridalway bordered with swathes of triffid like bracken, FFU's black lab sets a fast pace and soon we’re looking back down over the park.  In the distance are the ruins of Lady Jane Grey’s manor house, where local legend has it that the ghost of this Queen of England for nine short days appears on Christmas Eve.

Old John, Bradgate Park
Bradgate’s highest point ,‘Old John’, an ancient stone tower and significant landmark on the local skyline is still above us and a steepish climb is rewarded with sweeping views over four counties.  I've no idea where the name ‘Old John’ actually comes from, but as a child I remember we scared each other with the story of an old man called John who had lived in the tower and whose ghost would ‘get you and keep you there forever.'

Lunch is calling and we walk back down towards the ruins of the house where a tea-shop is also situated and then we spot deer that the park is famous for. 

Deer at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire
Deer at Bradgate Park
It’s lovely to catch up with FFU and as usual we chat about work (or my lack of it at the moment); books we’ve read and films we’ve seen but her creeping towards middle-age has brought out a whole new dimension to her personality and she tells me three filthy jokes!   The fact she’s even remembered them  is deeply impressive.

Still giggling we put black lab on the lead and go for lunch at Jade Tearooms, bagging a table outside.  Jades is good whether you want coffee or lunch with lots of variety at a reasonable price and is much better for food than the tea-room in the park.  I choose a toasted sandwich filled with goats cheese and red pepper at a very reasonable £4.50.

The good: Walks through the rugged Charnwood Forest, having lunch at Jades, the jokes.
The not so good: Blister on my foot through wearing unsuitable footwear.
Go again :  Definitely.  It’s a park for all seasons, spectacular in the snow with a bowl of soup at Jades afterwards and lovely in the summer, big enough to avoid the crowds once you’re off the beaten track.
See http://www.bradgatepark.org/index.php?ID=1
Jade Tea Rooms, Newtown Linford, Leicestershire
Jade's Tea Rooms