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Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Inspiration is everywhere!

One more magic square
Where to begin when the days working in my acre of garden are numbered, as they have been this summer? Either so hot that the soil in the VPFP (‘Vegetable Plot Flower Patch) requires a pickaxe to be able to create one new small bed, and any weeding has to be done at the crack of dawn before I expire from sun-stroke. It’s actually taken me most of the summer to create one more ‘magic square’ in the far corner of the plot. The screens are in place, though it’s far too late to transplant the runner beans that have been languishing on the potting bench. And you would never know I have a greenhouse - totally hidden under brambles that have taken over!

A small corner of the Courtyard Garden
All the rain has actually been a blessed relief. As the pots of herbs and roses increase in the newly created Courtyard Garden, they require constant attention to prevent them from flagging. An area I intend to develop this Autumn, as I can observe it from the kitchen window, and contemplate its future. All parts of the garden and orchard have become ever-more important to me, as I adapt my way of life, and what I can do. I cannot recall how many re-incarnations this beloved place has had since we (husband and I) acquired the house and land in 1969. No longer can I travel the country attending all the events as I did in the past. It’s become the catalyst for my new creative business.

Inspired by Autumn - an event I cannot miss
Becoming a stay-at-home however is not conducive to fresh thought, of one’s immediate surroundings. There are certain places and events that will forever tug at my heart - even if I might now require a walking-stick to ensure I cover as much as possible in a single day! So I will be back in the lee of the beautiful Malvern Hills later this month, at the Three Counties Showground, and the ‘Malvern Autumn Festival’.

My photo collage created from images at the 2014 festival
A celebration of food, the countryside, gardening and nostalgia: as ever, I will be hard-pressed to fit all I want to do into one day. Get there as early as you can - sit over a cup of coffee with the Show Guide and plan what you want to do and the various locations to work out where you want to be, and when. Right now, log onto the Autumn Festival website and check some of the aspects you can look forward to - from ‘Grow it’, ‘Taste it’ and ‘Harvest It’. I discover from the dedicated press section of the website that “There’s a vibrant line up of family-friendly fun on the farm, alongside a feast of food and outdoor activities. Topping the line-up for 2016 is BBC TV Chef and Britain’s best-loved publican Tom Kerridge. BBC Gardeners’ World stalwart Carol Klein and Otter Farm’s Mark Diacono will also be involved”.

Anton du Bec
Years ago I used to dance, both at school and college and then, in the late 1950s and early 60s, with a dancing group. Such excitement in the show ground press information that “whether you are young or old, the Vintage Village will surely attract eager ‘movers and shakers’ who will be donning their dancing shoes, eager to join Anton du Bec - star of BBC Strictly Come Dancing - as he takes to the floor (Saturday only) to show off how to become the ultimate dance flirt of the 40’s and 50’s.” Flirting didn’t come into it when I was young! I'll certainly find my way to the Vintage Village.

Learn new techniques from this remarkable book
What will I turn all these memories into? Recollections of my eco-acre and the Autumn Festival. In the past, it has been stitched booklets or illustrated travel diaries, blogs or e-newsletters. But right now, I am learning new techniques, working my way through a glorious, recently published book. ‘TEXTILE NATURE’ by Anne Kelly will whet your appetite for capturing the outdoors and engaging nature, so do obtain a copy of her new book, recently published by Batsford. The natural world - the basis for creativity, bringing the outside into your indoor workspace. 

Turn your garden memories into stitched textile pieces
As is apparent in Anne’s teaching (I've been on a number of her workshops),  suggested approaches to creating a new textile piece in many formats are paramount, giving the reader freedom to adopt whatever approach best suits their chosen topic. Copious examples are given, not only of Anne’s delicious work, but of many contributors, professional and amateur. More inspirational joys - Grandma is going to be busy! Click this link to purchase a copy

Sunday, 1 May 2016

To the hills again - and a Spring Festival

I'm never without a notebook!
Should you be visiting this blog for the first time - forget 'Grandma' in the title. Not quite sure how she crept into the scene ... though a working grandma who by next year will have been writing professionally for fifty years, is perhaps allowed to indicate her experience in her blog title!

It's Spring ... the hills are again calling ... watching benignly over the Three Counties Showground on the outskirts of Malvern, Worcerstershire, and right on the borders of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. And I cannot wait to be back at a venue that over the last ten years I have come to love, cherishing moments of pure bliss. For me this year's visit comes with new joy and energy (my cancer zapped, though sadly, I will again be without my beloved photographer husband, Ray Quinton, who spent hours with his high-res cameras digitally capturing whatever I asked for).

On the way. It doesn't always rain (truly) - but go equipped with raincoat,
umbrella, and suitable footwear.
Enough. I can see that this year's 'Malvern Spring Festival' will be no exception. The 'RHS Malvern Spring Festival' is the first major RHS event of the year and kicks off the RHS festival season on Thursday 5th May until Sunday 8th May 2016. 

Alan Titchmarch
Mary Berry
I am reliably told that "over 90,000 people are expected to flood to the Three Counties Showground as Godfather of Gardening, Alan Titchmarsh, and National Treasure, Mary Berry, headline the 2016 event."

Each Spring this landmark gardening and food festival brings to the fore the finest from both arenas. Visitors can immerse themselves in stunning show gardens, a floral marquee in full bloom, taste the finest food and drink produce the British isles has to offer, pick up top tips from TV chefs and gardening experts including Valentine Warner, Mark Diacono, BBC Gardeners' World presenters Carol Klein, Christine Walkden, Joe Swift and many more. 

Enjoy a quick cuppa, whilst planning your day.
There is always so much on offer, and there is always the danger that you will amble and miss some of what you actually came for. My recommendation is to head straight for one of the excellent eating places, catalogue and notebook in hand, and work out your personal strategy. I've done this for the last ten years and it really is time well spent.

A previous award winner with experts
James Alexander Sinclair and Joe Swif
Show Gardens: Just listening to the conversations of visitors who make a beeline for the stunning show gardens can be revealing, demonstrating that we all have different tastes in what we consider to be "a garden". There are nine show gardens, and three Festival Gardens located at the heart of the Festival by the Festival Green.

I have to admit that one particular garden has a personal relevance to me, so it will be my first port of call. The 'UCARE Garden' is inspired by Broughton Castle, a fortified manor house near Banbury in Oxfordshire, and home to Lord and Lady Saye and Sele, patrons of the charity. It has been designed to display the beautiful pink UCARE tulip, Tulipa 'Caresse', a symbol of hope in the treatment and care of patients with urological cancers. UCARE is an independent charity, at present based at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford, which I had to visit regularly for radiotherapy treatment in my own fight against breast cancer. 

The UCARE garden, inspired by the 'Ladies Garden'
at Broughton Castle.
The garden is inspired by the castle's magnificent oak panelled drawing room, crenellated walls and elaborate 19th century Ladies Garden. The design reflects the structure and setting o this historic family home. Like the Hornton ironstone from which Broughton Castle is built, the heavy oak benches and robust steel water feature were chosen for their strength and longevity. (And Broughton is also significant for me as I currently have work being exhibited there.)

New for 2016 is the Kitchen Garden Theatre, to be hosted by Mark Diacono
Tasting, before making a purchase
in the Festival Food & Drink Pavilion
Food to the Fore: The lively Festival Food & Drink Pavilion is home to a range of local and international food producers. New for 2016 will be live demonstrations at the Kitchen Garden Theatre hosted by Mark Diacono. of Otter's Farm along with top chef, Valentine Warner.  The Theatre is the perfect setting for dedicated foodies to "get their cooking fix" and a place where great food and conversation comes alive. And this year Mark will be joined by special guests.

'Lifestyle Events': there are excellent opportunities for shopping around the Showground. Whether it's related to plants and gardening equipment, or clothing and household goods, one cannot fail to be impressed by so much on offer in such a convenient location. The 'Country Living Pavilion' has much to intrigue and tempt, from designer clothes to household furnishings.

Never forget the children: An opportunity to be conducted around a school garden by a knowledgeable primary school pupil is a privilege. Participating can bring its own rewards in years to come - so often, what inspires in childhood becomes a lifeline passion - gardeners of the future need our encouragement. There's plenty for families too of course in various sections of the Showground.

Family Fun
In just a few days time, I will be at the Showground sampling all the delights of the 2016 RHS Malvern Spring Festival. And particularly fortunate this year, as I am able to spend two whole days there. I have my shopping list, which grows by the minute, and camera and notebook ready so as to be able to write of my time away post-Festival.

The Malvern Hills at sunset (taken on a previous visit) on a lovely evening after an exhilarating day doing what I love.

(With thanks to the Three Counties Showground Press Office for supplying all the photos, apart from the hills in rain and at sunset. Ann Somerset Miles, author and photo-journalist.)