Sunday, 23 February 2014

Easton Walled Gardens, Lincs

Snowdrops at Easton Hall
Snowdrop Week at Easton Walled Gardens sounded a lovely and suitably middle-aged outing, so Dear Middle Aged Friend (DMAF) and I set out on a road trip into Lincolnshire.  Misguidedly,  in Sat-Nav I trusted and the jaunt did not start well with the bossy secretarial tones of sat-nav ordering me to take constant u-turns across the path of thundering juggernauts on the A1. 
Like a miracle, a sign appeared telling us Easton Walled Gardens was next left and yellow jacketed men directed us to a parking spot as the place was heaving. 
We were desperate for lunch and a sit-down and as many of the crowds seemed to be in a snowdrop talk (more later), we thought we’d be clever and get in for lunch immediately.
The queues snaked back into the garden from the too-tiny café and I suggested we went to the pub, but DMAF was made of stronger stuff and pointed out by the time we got to the pub, we’d be in and out of the Café.  The queue was all very British, people passing comments down the line about waiting times, nobody, but nobody, bagging a table (which had been my first instinct) and a stoical spirit of we’ll get there in the end.

Not much on the menu, but what was there was freshly prepared and all looked lovely.  Cold from queuing, we both decided to go for the tomato soup, which was hot and delicious with a beautiful sun-dried tomato roll on the side.  A bit of lemon cake afterwards made our mood so much better and we set forth in search of snowdrops.
And snowdrops there were, huge drifts of them prettily sloping down towards a stream and soon we had that glad to be alive feeling, strolling around the lovely grounds under big blue skies and walking under a spooky stretch of yew trees, which once would have led to the now demolished Easton Hall, pulled down in the 1950s like so many of the country's stately homes.  The house had been in the same family for 14 generations and there is a happy ending in that Ursula Cholmeley, a direct descendant of the original owner Sir Henry Cholmeley, is the person who has so beautifully restored the gardens.
Tool Tower!
We walked around the grounds, by ‘The Tool Tower’ giggling at the name with it’s Fifty Shades connotations and then had a look around the shops and decided that in for a penny, in for a pound, and checking it only lasted 10-15 minutes – which fits well with our attention span we went into the Coach House for a talk on snowdrops.
The talk was really interesting, the lady speaking to us a self-confessed galanthophile, (must remember that for the pub quiz) giving us a bit of history, a bit of anecdote and some practical snow-drop care advice.   If you've read Deborah Moggach's Tulip Fever, there's another book here waiting to be written as apparently a recently discovered snowdrop called Wendy’s Gold fetched £150 for a single bulb at auction.
Of course, snowdrops were on sale afterwards, so I purchased a Turkish Snowdrop which flowers in December and DMAF went for the traditional variety and on leaving the Hall, we placed them close together in the car boot hoping they’d morph into a snowdrop that would be worth £150  a bulb.

The Good: The grounds and the snowdrop talk.
The not so good: The queue for lunch.  Snowdrop Week must happen every year so surely the crowds could have been better catered for?  There were plenty of outbuildings that could have been used or perhaps just got an extra tea-urn and cakes outside for people who were after a quick snack rather than lunch.
Go again: Definitely, but if it was a specific week like the snowdrop week,  I'd go after lunch when it wasn’t so busy.  Sweetpea week (June 29th - 6th July) sounds great and the pictures of the grounds in summer look fab.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Silver Arcade, Leicester

In 70s uncool Leicester, Silver Arcade with its arty/studenty clothes shops made me feel a bit more 'happening' and it was en route to the other shop that appealed to my young sensibilities, The Very Bazaar on Silver Street.
Silver Arcade

After years of closure and becoming very tatty looking, Silver Arcade has been transformed and re-opened, so it was time to pay a visit.

Accompanied by Dear Middle Aged Friend (DMAF) we were suitably impressed by the re-furb, which looked great.  DMAF, though, was apoplectic over the boards downstairs which explained the history of the arcade.  The grammar was appalling and the lack of apostrophes in particular, hit DMAF hard, so before she had the chance to get her marker pen out, I quickly whisked her off for lunch at Deli Flavour Delicatessen.

Deli Flavour

Safely in the Deli, we relaxed.  A lovely open, wooden floored space with views of other Leicester buildings that you hardly notice from the ground, I ordered a houmous, falafel, chilli jam, rocket and tomato wrap and, of course a cappuccino, which came to around £7.00 and was very good. 

We were joined by Pensioner Friend (PF) who we were jealous to learn, could now access her pension despite only being in her 50s and looking great, but we had a lovely time catching up with her, enjoying lunch and thinking we must come back and have a look around the artisan chocolate shop Cocoa Amore and the other independent gift/underwear/boutique shops.

The good:  Silver Arcade is a lovely environment and Deli Flavour was a lovely place for lunch with lots of space and great views over surrounding buildings.

The not so good:  Shame there weren't more shops filled and why on earth didn't they open before Christmas?

Go again: Definitely.  I want to have a proper look in the shops.