Visit the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan – Challenge No 20

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Well hello again everyone.  I have to admit I have missed blogging my escapades so here I am to regale you with the fun, frolics and frustrations that took place on my recent trip.

I love gardening, plants and all things green so it has been a wish for quite some while to visit these two gardens; however they are a very long way away.  Chris, my husband, has been brilliant this year supporting me and accompanying me on many of my challenges but he put his foot down on this one and understandably said you are on your own!!  So how does a now 50+woman who does not drive (well…only back from the pub) get from Kent to Cornwall?  Answer…..on a coach trip!!!!

http://www.newmarketholidays.co.uk/?gclid=CNGZn67tts8CFS0z0wodZ_gBaQ

So, I was the only person on the coach trip who was a single traveller…what a larry!!  But most of the people were completely delightful and in particular I met Betty and Don who made my holiday; how I aspire to be like them…adventurous, full of fun, open and honest…and such globe trotters(despite being nearly 80).  There were however huge drawbacks to this trip which I wont dwell upon and bore you with, except to say…unnecessary hours beyond belief on the coach, plus 4 hours there and back (each day!!) to get to the gardens and not long enough in the gardens, little time to explore Torquay and ‘interesting’ meals and entertainment. But that said I was the youngest by some few years and I guess the holiday was not aimed at me!! So…..on to the fabulous bit…

http://heligan.com/

First day (after an unusually early awakening and a brisk sunrise walk around Torquay beach followed by far too many slices of fried bread) was Heligan.  I can not adequately explain how much I loved this garden.  It was ‘lost’/allowed to become overgrown after WW1 and had been uncovered and restored over the last 25 years (an interesting story in itself).  It is lush, tropical in places yet has retained the feeling of a proper British Large House garden too which is a very clever feat.  There is a rope bridge over what can only be described as ‘beasts’ of gunnera in the tropical garden (and yes I may have foolishly bought one…agghhh) and it is approx. 3 degrees warmer down there too.  There are plenty of walks, a walled garden full of vegetables and fruit, stunning and unusual plants, sculptures…..this girl was in heaven.  And, surprisingly, such a joy to be on my own and be able to please myself where I went and how long I stayed to browse or take photos.  Whilst I am a social creature I have surprised myself this year by just how much I like being solitary and enjoy my own company.  The most moving part of Heligan though is their connection with the former garden staff who went off to WW1, some returned and some did not.  They have photos, descriptions and pay homage to these early creators/custodians of the garden in a wonderful way and it adds tremendously to the visit to the garden.  I think of myself as a transient guardian of my own garden and so I could relate to these men who are remembered and honoured not only for their sacrifice but also for the legacy of the garden they helped create.  I would urge anyone who gets the opportunity to got to this garden.

http://www.edenproject.com/

Day Two and after an early shock of the fire alarm going off whilst I am stood dripping and naked having just stepped out of the shower (don’t even ask where that story goes!!) we were off to Eden, via Bodmin Moor for some random reason. And WOW  what a bold impression it makes when you first view it.  It is so hard to think of the transformation that has taken place on this site.  It took me back to watching Space 1999 as a kid where huge biome pods were on desolate Moonbase Alpha.  I walked around the wild Cornwall path first which was full of planting that you could take back home and utilize.  I then spotted the skywire and felt that in the spirit of my earlier 50@50 challenges I just had to have a go. Its Englands longest and fastest zip wire experience, over 100m above ground (see the photo of sky below and a tiny dot of a person flying through it) What a thrill and what an amazing view of the Eden site….it made my day.  I then ventured into the Rainforest Biome which felt like stepping into another country…the sounds, warmth, plants.  The whole concept is informative and evocative.  Next was the Mediterranean Biome which I found rather underwhelming (yet it does house a great café for future note) so if I were to visit again I would reverse the order I visited them in.  Overall it was an amazing place to visit and such a fantastic weekend of photography potential.  I could not cover all of it …but on reflection it was not as memorable to me as Heligan…which elicits a more personal response and is more engaging.  My biggest regret was not having time to shop….wow Eden and Heligan both have the best garden shops I have EVER seen….plants, gifts, books, toys, fresh produce, food…did I mention plants??!!

I am now back home and having recovered from excessive fried bread (too good for words) and a very numb bottom I am looking afresh at my garden….where to put the gunnera?  Should I dig up all the lawn and make a tropical paradise?  Should I speak nicely to my brothers and ask them to build a giant wall around my whole garden…who would not love a walled garden?  Should I knock down the barn and build a tropical biome?  Should I make my garden a showcase for sculpture?  Should I………..

Off now to purchase a lottery ticket !!!

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Willow Work (Complete a piece of art) – Challenge No 42 ( and No 7)

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There is always such a great pleasure in trying an activity for the time; it combines the fear you might be completely rubbish mingled with the hope you may absolutely love it.  I particularly enjoy creative art and even though my track record is littered with failed attempts….such as the disaster pottery lessons turned into and wishy washy water colours,  I am always excited to have a go at something new and just sometimes you hit the jackpot (in my case calligraphy).  So when Debbie, who is both my niece and friend, picked a day learning willow work as my challenge ( well part of my challenge but more about that later..) I was thrilled.

We were blessed with amazing weather and a group of 8 of us, together with our talented instructor  Carole (her web link is below), sat outside enjoying the breathtaking Derbyshire views from Debbie’s garden over Matlock and across to Stanton Moor….you could not fail to be inspired.

http://www.carolebeavis.co.uk/index.php

The majority of the group plumped for making free form light pods so Carol then guided us through how to make willow circlets, which we joined and built up then moulded holes. (The hilarity of this aspect can’t be recreated so I won’t even try, you can use your imaginations 😉).  As an all female group activity we bonded, relaxed, laughed, teased and the dynamic atmosphere reflected the ebb and flow of conversation and concentration.  I really enjoy male company but there is also something particularly pleasing about solely being in the company of people of your own gender and this day was a perfect example of that. Then, before our eyes strange pods appeared, all starting the same and somehow each taking on their own identity…tightly woven or lose and free, straight, curved and in my case…onion-shaped!!  We stopped for tea and cake ( too scrummy), then later again for a feast of a lunch which collectively was made and shared and fuelled us to continue.

Finally, our creations ( many light pods and one completely adorable puddle duck ) were complete, we had in and outed, woven, tied, secatoured, twisted and often doubted then been delighted and now….they were done.  And, without exception, they looked stunning.

And here I return to what I said at the beginning, as just sometimes you strike lucky and find something you love!! I LOVE willow weaving…it was accessible, so therapeutic, you could not really go wrong as there are so many small or large projects you can do producing functional and/or artistic pieces. It is a tactile, physical and, fortunately for me, Carole had enough willow for me to buy some and bring back to Kent so I can have another go soon.  A perfect day.

This was an inspired challenge by Debbie and I am so grateful she helped me to find another new hobby; however it was only part of her ‘connecting with nature’ challenge to me…..so stay tuned to find out how she then ended the day by completely taking me out of my comfort zone!!!!

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Attend a flower Show – Challenge No 17

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As I approach the ‘two months to go mark’  the challenges will now be coming thick and fast so expect to be overloaded with blogs until completion date.  It’s all so exciting at the moment and my life is quite a whirlwind hence this blog being written a tad after the event.  This 50@50 challenge was a personal one.  Most/some of you will know that I love gardening (probably when I have been boring you about it lol) but I have actually only ever been to one garden/flower show and that was many years ago, before I had the bug, when my father-in-law, Colin, and his wife Tina, took me to Hampton Court which was amazing.  Approximately 15-20 years has passed since then and I have followed Chelsea on the TV and intended to go, but never quite got around to it….until this year!!

I took advice from friends who had been and got there early ( I know, very unlike me!!), so I  was queuing at  7.45 am for doors opening at 8am.  I then headed straight for the 26,000 hand made poppies which were in the front of the Royal Hospital.  It was visually stunning, each individual and personal poppy made a moving tribute; but collectively it had such a strong impact.  I was glad I was able to enjoy it peacefully and reflectively.

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From there I went to the Pavilion which was virtually empty so I strolled around enjoying the variety of exhibits.  Particular highlights were the florists entries ( I surprised myself here) which were carnival themed, but to me looked more like stunning tribal headdresses, such intricate work,  vibrant colours and amazing flower combinations.  I also decided that irises and clematis were the flowers/plants I most wanted to take home and put in my garden and the protea would be my exotic choice.  Below is the link to this year’s RHS plant of the year, and I am afraid I disagreed with the judges verdict…by far the most stunning flower in my opinion was the chrysanthemum ‘ Rossano Charlotte’ ( see photo below) although I would be very happy to have the winning clematis in my garden any day of the week.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/2016/Articles/chelsea-plant-of-the-year-2016

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It was by now mid-morning, the sun was shining and so I stopped for a pick-me-up pimms and did a bit of gardening celebrity spotting before heading to the main show gardens.  I could go on endlessly here and wax lyrical about plants, sculptures etc but will instead condense it to this:- (although I will add that I did no research before I went so each garden was fresh to me which had both positive and negative results)

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  • my favourite garden was the Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital (photo above) which gave me goose bumps when I laid eyes upon it, before I even knew anything about it.  It was tranquil, spiritual and used trellis with patterns and holes to give height and form but without feeling enclosed.  The sculptures were vast but blended gently within the foliage and planting which was not crowded or false and together this achieved a real garden with a sense of serenity; and I am still in awe, I have no idea how it was done….skill and vision beyond words.
  • my other favourite was The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, (photo below) which initially I was not fond of but which drew me back later again and again, each time trying to understand it a bit more. It was not my traditional style but I ended up loving it.
  • my least favourite was ( sadly as I wanted to like it) Diarmuid Gavin’s Harrods Eccentrics British Garden….everything I hate in a garden…novelty, mechanics, all about the build rather than the plants = yuk!!!
  • my favourite planting scheme was purple and white with a hint of orange…I may have to find a corner of the garden to experiment with this.
  • best part of the show other than the gardens – by far and away it was the sculptures…I felt I was at an art gallery.  They were truly amazing and at every corner…how I wish I had the spare £10-100,000 they cost ☹️
  • wish list…. Affordable sculptures, clematis, and seating (which blends rather than stands out and entices me away from the weeding).

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It was an amazing day where I met interesting enthusiasts to chat with ( even though I went on my own), it provided me with enough inspiration for another 5-10 years and had constant surprises like the pimms tents at every corner, the music in the park, the artisan shops, and my favourite batik artist selling her work (Jane Hickman).  I ended the day with a ride on a red double decker bus back to the station and once home I shared my photos (another great thing was that this is a photographers dream to visit) with fellow enthusiasts. The latter has had a rather splendid result ………..I already have tickets booked for RHS Chatsworth 2017 (and lovely company to attend with….thank you Debbie and Nicky) which means I could not be happier.

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