There is only one time of the year that I willingly embrace red...
Even so, last week I was at the flower stand picking out my weekly blooms and for some reason I impulse bought red tulips. I must have been feeling especially festive because I don't do red in my decor (not counting our vintage cherry leather chesterfield of course). I think the last time I had red flowers at home was when I was training to be a florist!
I have plonked them in a make shift vase (all our possessions shipped over from Australia are still in storage) on the kitchen bench. As gorgeous as they are, the red still has me conflicted. I love them and their deep, rich colour. But I'm not sure I love them in my decor...
We visited Stonor when it was opened to the public to celebrate the festive season. Think grand old home filled with priceless art and antiques all jazzed up with a truckload of Christmas greenery. My kind of decor!
I think red touches will continue to be a theme for the next couple of weeks at least.
November, autumn is surrendering to winter. The frosts have started, the leaves are in full colour, and Guy Fawkes Night is approaching. Autumn has been so full of treats though: warm days, golden colours, and new perspectives.
Before experiencing autumn in England I had only ever seen cyclamen in pots at florists and supermarkets, very uninspiring. Very Great Aunt Mabel. Here they carpet the undergrowth, unfazed by deep shade and cold nights. They contrast so brilliantly against their surroundings, like fairy foot prints in the lawn.
Autumn is in full colour, the clocks have gone back, the mornings are thick and foggy. I don't mind, the seasonal shift is comforting in its own unique way. As the weather gets colder, we get closer to finding and moving to a more permanent home here in England. And that is something I am truly looking forward to.
It is a cliche tourist thing to do, so we did it. In all honesty though, punting is a great way to see a lot of the iconic parts of Cambridge in a short amount of time whilst learning some fascinating history/statistics as you go. We booked a private tour which lasted about 45-50 minutes and took in all the bridges along the river Cam that are associated with the university colleges, all the big name colleges, as well as the Wren Library and the King's College Chapel.
The Bridge of Sighs connects the accommodation of St John's College (left) with the lecture/exam rooms (right), hence the 'sighs'.
This Virginia Creeper has totally taken over one entire side of this accommodation wing.
In the accommodation quadrangle of St John's.
St John's College's main rival is Trinity College, next door. Trinity is the largest, wealthiest and most awarded of the colleges. Amongst it's alumni it boasts:
32 Nobel prize winners,
6 British Prime Ministers,
4 Oscar winners,
just to list a few.
It's wealth is estimated at somewhere around 700-800 million pounds plus!
I have very few photos of Trinity College, we didn't tour inside it apart from going into the Wren Library which is every bit as amazing as you would imagine a Christopher Wren designed building to be. Unfortunately, but understandably, photographs inside the library aren't permitted. Inside we saw the 1926 hand written manuscript for Winnie the Pooh and a first edition Shakespeare.
King's College is perhaps one of the most iconic of the colleges, and it's chapel one of the most recognisable buildings in Cambridge.
The ceiling is breathtaking at 24 metres high, taking only three years to construct the fan vaults.
Come Christmas it will be all the more special to tune into the King's College Choir carols having been there this year.
As lovely and historic as Cambridge is though, I was very glad to escape the swarm of tourists and students for the peace and quiet of nearby Grantchester in the afternoon. We wandered the meadows along the Cam, poked about the vicarage, then had dinner at The Green Man.
One thing Capability got right was parklands. I mean everything he did was spot on, but the parklands he envisaged have established so beautifully and sympathetically- they seem so effortless in their execution, like they formed naturally and not from the vision of one man. Such was his genius. To see those parklands in mid autumn is spectacular. To walk them in atmospheric drizzle, as the leaves softly fall around you and your shoes get muddy is even better.
The front aspect.
From here, the house looks out over a 2 and a half mile grand avenue of uninterrupted countryside, adding to it's bold and assertive presence and unmistakable grandeur.
The house was begun in 1640, and the estate consists of 3000 acres of parklands and a still working farm.
The rear boasts perfectly geometrical garden beds in a formal jardin a la francaise style. A lovely contrast to the pockets of woodland in the North Park.
Looking out from a first floor window across the North Park. The focal point in the distance is a Gothic folly.
In addition to Earls and Viscounts, the house has had other notable owners, including Elsie Bambridge, daughter of Rudyard Kipling, who bequeathed the estate to the National Trust upon her death. One of Mr Kipling's luggage trunks is still in the Stewards quarters at the bottom of the house.
Inside is just as grand as you would expect from an estate of this calibre.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Wimpole Hall in 1843:
Lamps had been placed all the way along the drive and the front of the Hall was illuminated as the Queen was greeted at the steps, covered in crimson cloth, by the Earl and Countess at twenty-five minutes to six. The Queen and Prince were given two rooms on the first floor facing south to use as drawing rooms, and a breakfast room on the north front. For a dressing room Lady Hardwicke's boudoir, looking out over the elm avenue, was used; next was the royal bedroom and further along the Prince's dressing room; other rooms on the same floor were allotted to her entourage, and they used the private staircase. All these rooms had been specially redecorated for the occasion, and the great State Bed had the initials of Queen and Prince (V&A) worked somehow to each of the four supporters. A white lace coverlet was lined with green silk, and the hangings, according to a correspondent, were 'of elegant chintz with a white ground.'
The walled gardens are, like the rest of the estate, vast. Inside the walls are flower gardens, an orchard, vegetable and herb plots, as well as a winter garden. Much of the produce grown here supplies the cafes and farm shop restaurant on the estate. Wimpole is still a working farm with rare breed livestock and wheat the main focus.
Gardening gloves hanging out to dry, one of many indications that Wimpole Hall is still a living, functioning farm.
I loved it, muddy boots and all,
but I was very grateful to have my new raincoat.
Here's to Capability on the 300th anniversary of his birth. He has left a beautiful legacy.
I went to Bath for the Royal Crescent, to see the unique architecture, and imagine my own Anne Elliot & Captain Wentworth moment. But like most longed for experiences, it is the things you didn't expect that leave the biggest impression on you.
My Bath Spa highlights were Prior Park and the Bath Abbey Tower tour.
Overlooking Bath and the Avon Valley in Prior Park. I arrived at 10am, and had the miles of woodland and sweeping vistas to myself. Such a special morning walking empty paths, silent but for the rustle of trees, birdsong and a few squirrels. I sat by the Palladian bridge for a long time soaking in the peace. This 18th century landscaped parkland had me swooning. It combines the absolute best of nature with spectacular views over Bath and the Avon Valley. The romance of these estates gets me. Every time. God bless the National Trust for keeping them safe.
The Bath Abbey Tower tour, perhaps the best £6 I've spent so far in England. I climbed the 212 winding, narrow, worn, steep steps to the Abbey roof. The views over Bath weren't even the best part. It was hearing the fascinating and lengthy history of the tower, the bells, the cathedral roof... It is easy to forget these architectural masterpieces were, and are, a living, functioning part of every day society. They absorb and reflect the ever evolving history of a city. What a fascinating way to spend an hour! One highlight was standing next to the bells as the 'Westminster chime' sounded. The history of the bells is in equal measure lovely and humorous.
The Bath Assembly rooms were very pretty, and a beautiful example of something central to the Georgian social scene. Jane Austen herself danced here.
This letter, written by Emma Thompson, displayed at the Jane Austen centre made me chuckle and nod in absolute agreement...
All in all a beautiful city. I will look forward to returning again, next time with Alex. I'll definitely do the tower tour again with him. I also purposely left the Roman Baths for when we are in Bath together.
I really am. October has a special place in my heart. But now I get to experience a bit of what L.M Montgomery meant when she wrote those words. She was speaking seasons. Or a seasonal shift that was special and unique to Octobers.
For the first time, I am getting to transition with autumn exactly as it unfolds in the northern hemisphere, with all the nuances that brings.
Friday, the eve of October, was a near perfect sunny day. I spent the afternoon sat next to the Thames with an old friend, drinking pimms and prosecco, soaking in the sunshine and company. We chatted for hours, watched swans drift by, and noted the barges on the river carrying peat and firewood for the coming cooler months.
On Saturday morning Alex and I took the car out for a drive along the country lanes around Oxfordshire. It was misty, damp and very much a contrast to the previous afternoon. We started at the Chilterns and promptly let ourselves get lost somewhere between Henley and Reading. To be here on the cusp of autumn is such a treat. The harvest is done, the fields are empty of the summer crops, but the roadside still boasts cow parsley (Queen Anne's lace to all those back home), and the hedgerows are filled with blackberries. The hydrangeas are mottled and fading, tiny cyclamen carpet the undergrowth, unfazed by the deep shade and dim light cast by trees.
The trees are just on the turn. What a show is still to come.
"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."
Can you guess where I'm off to next week? Yes, i'm a giddy school-girl-like ball of excitement. I'll be the one hanging out on the royal crescent hoping to bump into Captain Wentworth.
Almost a week in and jet lag free (long may that continue), we are settling in and tackling administrative chores. I haven't really given my camera much of a work out yet, but with a trip to Bath, and perhaps Cambridgeshire in the very near future, that will change soon and i'll be over-sharing.
These scenes from the weekend seem like a million miles from my reality this week.
I am wrestling (and I do mean wrestling) with an assignment from hell. I have 2 more assignments to write before we depart for our new life in England. Which basically means I have 14 days to pull 4000 words from the deepest of depths.
The timing hasn't been wonderful, 2 assignments due 48 hours after our plane takes off. Some people would calculate the time/hemisphere/date differences and submit just in the nick of time. Me? I am struggling with compound complex sentences, relating verbs and non-finite clauses without having to do that sort of maths too. My plan is to cruise along and push submit on both before I hand over my passport at the airport.