Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Gardeners Question Time


Thanks for visiting.

It's still a bit too chilly and gloomy for a lot of gardening at the moment but there's plenty of time for a spot of virtual gardening courtesy of Radio 4's Gardeners Question Time. A panel of experts travel round the country meeting members of the public with particular problems of a horticultural nature and in a light-hearted way try to point them in the right direction.

Whilst listening to the most recent edition from Hull, an item on monkey puzzle trees caught my imagination.

Archibald Menzies was a botanist, plant collector and surgeon on Captain George Vancouver's 1791-95 circumnavigation of the globe in Captain Cook's ship Discovery. He was served the seeds of the monkey puzzle for dessert by the Governor of Chile and rather than eat them, he planted them. He arrived back in England with five healthy plants, two were planted in Sir Joseph Banks garden and the other three at Kew, one of which lasted until 1892.

Nurseryman James Veitch booked a passage to Brazil on HM Packet Seagull for plant collector William Lobb in 1840 to go and collect more seeds from the monkey puzzle as he thought it would be a popular ornamental plant here.

He set off on a perilous journey round Brazil and Argentina collecting specimens of other plants and then travelled overland to Chile via the Andes to avoid the dangerous seas round Cape Horn. This was a gruelling journey on five-foot of frozen snow where he fell ill with fever. Eventually arriving in the Southern Andes, he collected 3,000 seeds by shooting down the cones from the trees with shotguns. They were shipped back to Exeter and seedlings were offered for sale in 1843 and are seen all over the country to this day.

The good thing now is that, using the collection of seeds stored here, they are being sent back to the wild where they are dying out.

Yet again, there is often more to the everyday, it makes life so interesting to find the hidden stories.


Monday, 30 January 2017

Forest Walk


Thanks for visiting.

We're off on another walk, aren't we healthy!  It's all gloomy and cloudy though, no sun today but the good thing is, it isn't raining.

Off we go!  Watch out for reptiles though, eeek!

We're following the forest paths through Swinley Forest.

Walking along the old Roman road, we have to go under the modern road by passing through the tunnel.

Colourful graffiti is splashed along the walls.  Hopefully it's just a colourful pattern and nothing rude!

Following the trail through the woods, there are so many paths to choose from. 

Even bike trails if you've got a bike.

We've been here before, see this link. It's a bit more wintery and cold though. Frozen puddles everywhere.

 Replacement trees with their plastic collars stretch into the distance.

Great to stretch our legs too.

Home again ready for a coffee.


Sunday, 29 January 2017



Thanks for visiting.

I made a bit of a mistake with the publishing of my Forest Walk post, did you notice? With it being rather cloudy on my walks recently, I had intended on leaving a couple of days between the posts in order to brighten your day with something colourful in between.  However, I rashly published it after scheduling the wrong date. Bother! Still, never mind.

Here's your bit of brightness though - my blanket, not quite finished but there are only three more rounds to go to complete the border.


Saturday, 28 January 2017

A Frozen Canal


Thanks for visiting.

The weather continues to be quite cold with little thaw, nothing like the cold of those places further North though.  Generally it's been bright but today we had some fog which made it seem that bit colder although it wasn't really.  We have to make the most of our winter weather before it gets all hot and sunny as we just don't know what to do when it's like that!

Off to the frozen canal for a walk we went, stopping at the cafe first of course.

I don't think these barges will be going anywhere fast, stuck in the ice as they were.

Look at all the debris sitting on the surface where people have hurled things to try and break the ice.

We came across a miniature railway in a park nearby.

Nobody waiting on the station in this cold, no trains today.

Looking at the surface carefully, you can see layers where the ice has melted and then refrozen - spectacular 3D droplets to be seen in the ice.

The Basingstoke Canal was built in 1787 but was never a well-used canal, it fell into disrepair but over the last 40 years has been lovingly restored for boat trips and other recreational purposes and is a haven for wildlife.

Maybe we might see a kingfisher here!  Must go back.


Friday, 27 January 2017

Five on Friday - More than Meets the Eye in Henley


Thanks for calling in.

We are joining Amy for Five on Friday today.  Finding some places which had more to them than met the eye on my visit to Henley this week, I am going to share them with you now. 

One -  Friar Park

High on the hill overlooking Henley-on-Thames, you come across the entrance to Friar Park a 120-bedroomed mansion, which was built in 1899 for eccentric solicitor Sir Frank Crisp.  You can't see the house itself from the entrance but, according to the Henley Guide, it is an architectural fantasy in red brick, stone and terracotta all extravagantly mixed together.  Throughout the house, friars are used as decorative motifs, some with moveable noses to switch on the lights! Ha!  Within the 62 acre garden is a scale model of the Matterhorn with waterfalls, bridges, gnomes, stepping stones and grottos.  Eventually it became the home of Musician and former Beatle, George Harrison in 1970 and he lived there until his death in 2001. 

Two - Ice age 

Resting in a small garden not far from the gates of Friar Park, this stone formed by the compression of clay and pebbles, is called a  pudding stone and is a relic of the Ice Age.  When commercially quarried and polished, the mottled red 'marble' was used to make kitchen worktops.

Three - Apple

In the same garden is this painted apple.  Henley is twinned with Leichlingen in Germany which is known for growing apples and berries.  The town is also shown on the painted apple so I suppose it marks the twinning of the two towns.

Four - Anne Boleyn Cottage

Halfway along New Street, you come across Anne Boleyn Cottage amidst the pretty half-timbered houses. It may have been named that in Victorian times but could pre-date King Henry VIII's second wife by 100 years.  Interestingly, the door has many filled in holes where locks would have been, as in those times, keys and locks were removed and taken to the new house when the occupant moved.

Five - Brakspears

Many original features of the 300 year old Brakspear Brewery have been retained in the buildings where beer was brewed for their 150 pubs and supplied to hundreds of others, even though it is now a hotel. A 200ft artesian well in the brewery provided 38 million gallons of spring water annually. The malthouse across the road has been converted to apartments but they give a suggestion of what used to be on the site.

I hope you enjoyed these rather unexpected places of interest in Henley.


Thursday, 26 January 2017



Thanks for visiting.

The metal badges in the picture are displayed at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley.    I thought they looked really colourful and I just can't resist a bit of colour.  They contrast so well with the old black and white photos of the Regatta next to them.

Members of the Stewards Enclosure are given a different coloured badge each year to allow them to enter the Enclosure.  There is a long, long waiting list to become a member, however these badges have now become collectors items and come up for sale every now and then.

A 1947 badge sold on ebay for £900 a few years ago.  Recently a collection came up for auction for £120.  You can even buy recent badges from the official Regatta site, maybe an antique of the future!

Of course the old badges wouldn't give you admission to the Enclosure, you need to have the latest one.


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

St Marys Church Henley


Welcome to the blog.

When visiting Henley-on-Thames, the parish church of St. Mary the Virgin dominates the skyline.  It was built during the 13th Century although an earlier one existed since c. 1000. The church has been enlarged and remodelled over the years.

It is rather beautiful inside with lots of stained glass windows.

There is just the one effigy of Sir Francis Bacon's sister Lady Elizabeth Periam who founded a charity school in Henley.

Outside in the churchyard, a large yellow building - The Chantry House - catches your eye.  It is the only Grade I listed building in Henley, built about 1450 possibly as a granary.  From the church it looks a two storey building but from the other side it is three storey's high.

Almshouses surround the churchyard.

I was surprised to find Dusty Springfield's grave in the churchyard.