Thursday, 16 May 2019

Knocking through walls and creating a new doorway for our bedroom

The changing home plans in our quirky house has driven my poor husband mad. He’s had the house for ten years and has done lots of work on it which I am slowly unravelling. This year one of our main objectives in the house is to create a new bedroom for me and Sweep and this has required rearranging the rooms. The front part of the house was once a cottage and the rear was a church hall with meeting rooms on an upper floor. At one time the meeting room had been converted to be a self-contained flat with its own kitchen and bathroom but these plans were changed and it became an upstairs living room. However, a few months down the line and we (or rather I) changed our minds and decided that the room would make an amazing bedroom with an ensuite and another room off here for my son’s bedroom. To link the room with the cottage side we had to knock a door through into the landing of the cottage….Sweep was not thrilled at this as he had blocked up a door between the two sides years before…ooops. In my defence, life changes and the doorway we knocked through was yet another door that had been blocked up long ago, so Sweep found the lintel and easily knocked the bricks out to create a new doorway. I should add here that he has building experience and knows what he is doing, it's a supporting wall and you can't just start knocking doors through anywhere.
Knocking a doorway through

The next step was to shop around for internal doors and find one to suit the period style of the property. C&W Berry have a large range of doors from oak to walnut and glazed or unglazed. We needed a wide door of 2ft 9 and wanted a four panelled Victorian style. C&W Berry have a range of period styles on offer, 1930’s, Victorian, Edwardian and contemporary to suit your taste and also different sizes so something for all homes. Alas we did not know of them at the time and most of their doors are available for national delivery. We searched for ages until we eventually found one locally through reclamation that needed a lot of work – stripping the paint, sanding and shaping to fit the doorway. The door is now hung and needs to be painted, I’ve chosen grey, the house is slowly turning grey but it is such a great versatile colour. From the hallway side this will blend in from a dark grey walls up the stairs to a lighter grey on the landing, medium grey door and architrave, whilst the other doors will be white with grey architrave – we thought this would be a interesting visual way of differentiating the original other side of the house.
Interior door examples
Images from C&W Berry 

The door looks like a front door with a doorstep to another home to me, so I am going to add some playful accessories with a bumblebee door knocker, a door mat, a sign like a house name and a pot of plants on either side.
Vintage doorway
The new doorway, just the grey undercoat so far on the architrave

Bee door knocker from The British Ironwork Centre

As for the bedroom, we have picked the paint colours so far, a dark blue and a dusky pink on contrasting walls. Sweep is going to build a wall of shelving, a bit of industrial style but we shall see. We have been getting inspiration from coffee shops with scaffold board shelves, metal brackets and lighting made from Kilner jars. 

The staircase up to the room on the other side needs blocking, this was where all the Brownie, Scouts and Sunday School children would walk up the room. We had a plumber round recently and he recalls the room from his childhood Scout group. The stairs will then have a floor built over them to take advantage of the full size of the room.  Hopefully this will be done before his chimney sweeping busy period starts again mid August….eeek! Currently we are waiting for the next rainy period to start work on this again, it's too hot for indoor projects at the moment! I'll keep you updated on how this room development goes and show you the finished room of my dreams.

*Collaborative post

Friday, 3 May 2019

Ways to improve the future chances of selling of your home

Currently we are not thinking about moving house but always at the back of my mind I think well you never know, maybe one day we will downsize when the house gets to be too much to maintain. This year we are having quite a lot of work done to the property and fortunately my husband has building and carpentry skills and so is able to do most of the work himself to save money. We are altering the layout of the house to make it more functional and this would most definitely make the house more saleable in the future. The house was previously the church hall and meeting rooms so the space is unusual and vast – the front of the house is more traditional and so the aim is to make these two halves gel more together.

I have been thinking about ways in general to add to that saleability, elements that will make your home more attractive and appealing to future buyers.

Curb appeal
This is a must to and probably the easiest solution and the one I get most fun from. Our house was originally a murky pebble dash brown colour and my husband painted it white with a black border around the base – it instantly improved the look of the property. When I moved in years later, I wanted to paint the gate and doors in a soft grey colour for a classy look. Added to this are plants and flowers to soften the edges. Make sure fences are not broken and looking shabby, fix boundaries, add a new coat of wood preserver and generally do a walk around of the property removing broken pots and rubbish. Now is the time to take a trip to the tip to get rid of all those things that accumulate at the side and back of the house too. A lady I know is looking to move house and top of her list is to check out the garden, a little care and attention to the borders and beds can give people that warm glow and place your property to the top of their shortlist.
Old house
our house previously

white house
House now

The door to your home deserves to be a showstopper and where better for entrance doors that Pirnar, a company whose range of innovative doors will give the wow factor and improve the saleabiity of your home in the future. Their high quality artisan doors have been built to a high specification with features such as LED lighting on the door handles and smart lighting as you approach the door – enchanting and also with safety in mind. A door from Pirnar will delight guests and of course those future buyers, a great first impression showing your excellent choice in materials and a key indicator of what the rest of your home is like and the care you have placed in it.
Pirnar entrance door
Pirnar doors

Cosy sitting room
What could conjure up an image of cosiness better than a wood burning/multi fuel stove in a sitting room. With a hearth dressed with bundles of kindling alongside piles of logs and a mantel adorned with candles. Having a lovely fireplace will be attractive to potential buyers, it’s a focal point for a room and with the popularity of woodburners for cost saving, this will make your property stand out. My chimney sweep husband says if you’re selling, get your chimney swept and obtain a certificate of sweeping so your buyers can be assured it is safe.

The kitchen as the hub of the home
The kitchen is a room that will have the capacity to sell your home. The current trend is for sociable spaces and any steps you can take to alter and update the kitchen along these lines will pay off. Repainting the cupboards and changing the door handles is a quick update, I love white chalk paint and find it a cheap solution to perk up kitchen cupboards. The kitchen here is reasonably big but was initially very unsociable with no spaces to stop and chat, the room felt too transient. My husband built a central island that is a focal point and a space to perch and have a coffee. I have since also added a kitchen table and chairs, also new stools at the breakfast bar helped to change the room to one that felt very family orientated.  Think about how people feel in a space and if you anticipate moving one day, keep this in mind when making alterations. 

As mentioned, our home is unusual in that the rear has an adjoining village hall not in use anymore but now part of our home. We are having to think very carefully about how we develop this space and I think a family room will be the best option. A space for all, to eat, to play and to relax.

Kitchen space

*Collaborative post

Monday, 29 April 2019

Ways to create a summer entrance to your home

The blossoms are now falling from the trees giving way to lush green leaves unfurling and the swallows have returned to blue skies, summer is on its way. I have started spending more time in the garden and this is when I like the outdoors to transition into my home with doors wide open and fragrant scents of lavender and herbs in the air, breezing into the hallway or the kitchen. I like that feeling of the summer vibe being really apparent as soon as you approach the front of the house and of the garden carrying on into the home. It makes me happy to add little touches to transform the house entrance into a fresh new summer look and also consider long term improvements for a lighter summery style.
I love a home that feels both inviting and interesting to look at and have put together what I consider key aspects to create a summer entrance to your home:
Entrance Doors
The very first feature to bring visual impact to any home are entrance doors that are eye catching and bring light into the home, think of early morning rays beaming in through glazed door windows and the warm tones cast all day. Doors such as those from Pirnar, a family company started in 1968 who specialise in luxury innovative doors, create instant appeal and sophistication. Pirnar’s many options that can be chosen to suit your own tastes are door with windows set within them, or windows above and beside the door for optimum light, add to this illuminated door handles or surrounding LED illumination for balmy summer evening ambience. The choice of door finishes like aluminium or wood make their doors a very personalised feature for your home, the finishes can be chosen too, high gloss or matt, painted wood or perhaps the aluminium in different shades.
Entrance doors

Colour is something that can easily change the whole look of the house, a coat of paint over a weekend and instant new appeal – be daring with a summery colour; punchy pink or coral, a fresh green, sky blues or a cheerful sunflower yellow. There is a town nearby here that has many colourful doors, similar to a coastal village where the style is much more daring and it pays off, you can’t help but smile at their colourful charm. If a colourful front door is too dramatic for you then perhaps some colour to accessorise the entrance instead.
yellow front door

Blue Front Door
Accessories such as door mats give a seasonal perk-up to the house front. There are so many fun designs to choose from and they are inexpensive. I love how you can really choose something that reflects your personality such as your love for cats or sausage dogs or playfulness with fun statements. The 'hello' decal sticker shown below is my must have and for a keen instagrammer like me, it fits in well for those front door photo shots. And I still love lanterns, tall ones with candles in, either side of the door look lovely and welcoming as the evening comes.cheerful door accessories
Pots and plants are a must have to spell out summer - hanging baskets, troughs and urns filled with flowers such as geraniums, roses and petunias. Create your own planters in colour coordinated pots by using a spray paint for your own unique look, a colour to accent against your front door perhaps. Galvanised buckets look very summery filled with daisies and will last all season. Splashes of colour created by flowers can be done on a budget and if you remember to water, feed and deadhead regularly, they will flourish into the autumn. 
summer planting around a door
I adore climbing or rambling roses the most and for me they create the perfect summer entrance - there is a rose colour and type for every taste and a scented one will intoxicate both your guests and the bees. Recently I've bought a peachy one to adorn some grey painted trellis (to match the front door) and this will grow alongside a clematis - another climber where you can find almost any colour.
roses around a cottage door

An idea I spotted that looks great if you have a front garden or yard space is a little bench or a bistro table and chairs because if the evening sun is at the front, well then why not......? Sat there with a glass of wine/ mug of tea and being sociable to the neighbours or watching the evening passers-by sounds great to me. Garden furniture at the front of the house is very welcoming. It shouts of summer and sharing, I think that's what the key thing is about creating a summer entrance - it's a cheery hello of a space, not closed off and hiding like winter, of welcoming in rays of sunshine through doorways, of shiny materials and gloss or pretty seaside colours and fun accessories, of being seen and breathing in scent, of feeling relaxed and sociable. These extra elements to the front of any property will give the summer feeling and make you smile everytime you walk into the house.
pretty front of period property terrace

*Collaborative post

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Visiting Liverpool this spring #DinosaursUnleashed

It's nearly the school Easter holidays and I am thinking of places to take Little Bird to so he has a varied two weeks, one where he is occupied and has new and exiting experiences. A favourite city trip is top of the list and where better than the place I went to university.....Liverpool. 

Ever year we go to this fab city and find something to explore, we find Liverpool so vibrant and always offering new events so it's always interesting. This year, Liverpool ONE have a fantastic augmented reality event called Dinosaurs Unleashed which incorporates technology and dinosaurs for a super prehistoric adventure with the family. There is an app that you download and when you visit the shopping area Liverpool ONE there are dino activities for you to take part in - collecting points when you find giant dinosaur eggs to hatch, then go to feed them at 'Chavassic Park', then once fed they are ready for the Battle Arena. The event has been put together with National Museums Liverpool to provide an informative event that is fun whilst learning fascinating facts about dinosaurs. Little Bird would love this and the benefit is that I can do some shopping and we can go for a bite (!!) to eat too.  I think he will especially love petting the dinosaurs that we find and having pictures taken with them. Special park rangers will be on hand to assist with the app, offer dino facts and to help you have a great time. 
Liverpool ONE Dinosaurs Unleashed

After this I think a trip to the World Museum would complement our shopping and dino experience. I used to help out at this museum when I was a student so this is a particular favourite place of mine and I love to take Little Bird there. The dinosaur gallery is excellent with life size casts of dino skeletons and footprints. The rest of the museum is equally brilliant, especially the bug house and the aquarium. My area was in the natural world galleries, helping with the bird specimens and learning museum curation techniques. There is so much to see here and I recommend combining the museum with some retail therapy so the dinosaur themed day will work very well for us and keep everyone happy. And if the weather is hopefully sunny like the lovely spell we have been having, then a skip through the Liverpool ONE fountains will be fun.

Every time we visit Liverpool we like to have a walk around Albert Docks with its maritime history and cultural feel. The duck boat always makes Little Bird laugh and it's pleasant to sit and both people and boat watch. If you're feeling arty then the Tate is a must and is free entry (as are most of Liverpool's galleries and museums). Over Easter there is a colourful bunny trail at the Docks, collect stickers for the trail booklet to keep your children entertained. Also there will be an Easter themed selfie station and crafting activities.
Albert Dock

Liverpool always puts on such a good show and is a city to be relied upon for events on school holidays to entertain as a bonus to its attractions. We could spend a few days there so our one day will be absolutely jam packed full. Finally I will take us to the cathedral preferably when I know the bells will be ringing as I've been lucky enough to see them being rung up in the tower. Some time to gaze at the gothic architecture is always a favourite of mine and luckily Little Bird also likes to explore and do the mouse trail around the building. 
Anglican Cathedral Liverpool

Have you visited Liverpool and what did you like to do? Have you any family recommendations?  We can't wait to see the dinosaurs and see if we can remember their names.

*Collaborative post

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Road tripping Shropshire #StoppingDistance

Now the spring is here there is nothing that we love more than getting out onto the road and exploring. A whole new county to look around and discover the history of, from the start of the Industrial Revolution at Ironbridge to the cairns and Iron Age hill forts atop some of the majestic hill ranges in Shropshire. At any available opportunity, we love to go on road trips, sometimes with nowhere in particular to go to, we head out in a direction and just come across interesting places.

Wenlock vintage road sign

It is however clear to me that driving around Shropshire is a lot harder than it was back in Cheshire and this is for several reasons, mostly the hills and narrow lanes. Therefore, it is very important that our car is safe on the roads by having regular services and checks. The main aspect of living here in Shropshire is the high terrain, my village is the gateway to the Shropshire Hills so many times we are off over a hill or down into a valley and with the UK weather being so changeable the road surfaces can quickly change and affect driving.

Kwik Fit have been running a Stopping Distance campaign to raise awareness of altering your stopping distances in different weather conditions; twice as long to stop in wet weather and a whopping ten times as long to stop in icy and snowy weather. Certainly, driving around my new area which is incredibly rural and remote has had its difficulties over the winter, some of my routes being up in the hills had a decent amount of snow and some areas receive a lot of rainfall and run off from the top.
Above Church Stetton

So for example crossing the Long Mynd and its very steep drops, which we drove over at the weekend is very nerve wracking at times and close attention needs to be paid to the weather and road conditions, also ensuring that the car isn’t going to break down!! Making sure the car is roadworthy is something that can be checked with an MOT test at Kwik Fit and they are able to provide checks to brakes, batteries and of course tyres.  

Were you aware of the recommended stopping distances? Take a look at this video.

Added to the rainfall making the roads wet is the land drain run off from fields and the streams so even in the summer, most of the narrow lanes seem to have trickles of water running to torrents after a downpour. Stopping distances on the narrow single lanes need to be adhered to as you never know when you will meet a car coming from the opposite direction and the brakes need to be swiftly applied. There are a lot of tractors thundering around the countryside and it’s common to find yourself reversing back down a single track lane to a passing point when finding yourself face to face with a large tractor or milk tanker (I dread this!). With the hedges being high in places, you really have to gingerly drive down some lanes in case other road users are not as careful as you.
Driving in Shropshire

Then add lots of animals into the mix, cows crossing the road, lone sheep on a hill road, horse riders.

Mud on the roads from farm traffic is another to be careful of for making the road slippy .....did I mention pot holes too!! 
Cows going to be milked

PotholesRural driving, especially in Shropshire has encouraged me to take better care of my car for if I'm driving around with Little Bird I want us to be very safe and definitely not break down or come back to my car and the battery is flat. Also to drive much slower on these narrow roads, taking greater care and regularly looking at the tyres. I didn't do this and learnt the hard way with a flat tyre on a busy road near Shrewsbury.

Collaborative post

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Adding curb appeal to your home

As I walk down any street, I'm always looking at houses and their gardens for ideas, looking in admiration of their curb appeal or sometimes thinking to myself, what would I do to make it look better. How a property looks from the front is of course incredibly important when selling up but also for that feeling of pride that we all have for our homes. With all the houses I have lived in, how it looks to passers-by has been very much an area I have put much thought into. I think the Scandinavian concept of hygge has had a great influence on me and I very much want my home to look cosy and inviting. Having people comment on the home makes me very happy and seeing people looking as they walk down the road.
A pretty home I walk past

In my last house I tried to add greenery to the front although there was just a small drive, in my attempt to make it more cottagey. I planted up pots of flowers, sprinkled wild flower seeds into the gravel and added hanging baskets and window boxes of seasonal interest. Lovely exterior doors are key and this was on my list of things to change, something striking to bring out the best to the house frontage and improve the overall look of my property.

Now I’m in another house and I’m starting the same thought process all over again, plenty of flowers and a new door are required. This house is very different in that the front is away from the road and actually the whole side of the house faces the road and there is no pavement. But I have an area that I want to make pretty to give that welcome feel as people pass on their way to the church or the village shop.

So, how can you improve curb appeal?

A striking front door that creates a fab first impression.

House front doors

I think the first thing I notice are house front doors and how they set a property off. It’s the central point or where the eye is drawn initially and everything else just frames it. From old wooden country cottage to modern town and city living, investing in a classy front door will create that key first impression. The world of doors have moved on with innovative doors offered by Pirnar, a family grown business with a whole host of technology for the sophisticated home. Theatrica is a super modern door as it is an entrance that is contactless with no door handle, it slides away, pretty neat hey! But how does it do this……well it opens by touch or face recognition and for this the company has received several awards. Pirnar also offer a large range of doors that will suit any property with a number of designs and finishes – classic looks with stained glass and contemporary sleekness. The options of wood, glass or aluminium mean that you can find a door to suit your property and with the designs being so unique it will be an exciting addition to your home. Door designs such as the Premium with rectangular window lights cast interesting light effects into the hallway and LED illumination to the door brings night time security and a glamorous feel. Fingertip recognition sounds amazing, no more scrabbling around for keys - this always happens to me. Certainly a lot of thought and craftsmanship has gone into these doors. 
Increase home value with front doors
Image from Pirnar

For me, a coat of grey paint on our wooden door will be in order to freshen it up (the dogs have scratched it so much) to tie in with the grey garden gate which is the imposing factor of our ‘front’ yard or as I’m calling it, our 'yarden'. I usually add a seasonal floral door wreath to keep things up to date and have allowed some self seed hollyhocks to stay by the gate post.

Greenery to soften the edges

My house needs double curb appeal as the outside gate presents to the road and then the main door to the home is for those invited further and those that don’t mind doggy paws jumping up at them. Outside by the self seeded hollyhocks, Sweep has created a brick raised bed where I add perennials and spring bulbs. Inside the yard by the door, I have framed it with scented climbing roses and pots filled with colour in the spring and summer. Over winter we move two standard holly trees here for evergreen fairy light hung loveliness.
Front yard curb appeal

It's good to think of the journey that is taken by a visitor to get to the front door. Planting lavender perhaps either side of a path gives a pleasant scent and adds a frothiness to the look. Box balls and standard trees such as bay gives structure and a combination of these provides impact and rhythm within a design. I do love curb appeal that shows the character of those that live there and an element of quirkyness shown by the door furniture, perhaps a fox door knocker (I want a bumble bee one) or a house number sign that reflects the interior style of the house. Being in the country, my style is very different to those houses I see in our nearest town of Shrewsbury, where a more contemporary and classic look of sleek sophistication works better - simple topiary balls and cones, evergreen shrubs and balanced planting....less is more. 

Sometimes the easiest thing to do for quick and easy curb appeal is simply tidying up and repairing any elements; boundary fences a fresh coat of preservative, mending broken panels, clearing away broken pots or removing dead hanging basket contents. I get really mad (inside in my head) when I see dead plants. Or the worse one is broken toys and garden furniture in front gardens. 
Flowers in pots by the front door

Whatever your budget, a weekend spent beautifying the front of the house is well spent - with bedding plants from the plant nursery, new pots, tidying up, mowing grass and repainting. The front door will always be the best element to provide picture perfect curb appeal but if like me, on a real shoestring budget at the moment, paint brushes and faux door wreaths are your friend.

This summer I shall be rearranging the pots in the front yard for a more pleasing look and adding some trellis for a gorgeous passion flower to climb up. I'm looking out for an outside door mat with some foxes on as there is a bit of a fox theme throughout the house.  We are also adding to the country village look with more cottage annuals at the front and an honesty stall at some point for our home grown plants. We purchased an old milk churn at an auction in the village hall last year and I shall be filling this with gorgeous flowers this summer. 

What curb appeal tips do you have? I'd love to hear how you add that wow factor to the front of your home. 
Old church hall

*Collaborative post

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Surprising ways to combat loneliness

Many of us experience periods of loneliness in our lives, these times can be caused by life changes such as relationship breakdown, bereavement, changing or losing jobs, moving areas or during times we generally feel disconnected from other people. During my nearly 41 years I have gone through times where I have felt stuck in a rut of loneliness, one of them being when I was in a job that I hated, I was living in an area away from my family and was living on my own after a relationship ended. I felt no desire to do anything and when I got home on a Friday evening after a horrendous working week in an office (where I was surrounded by people!), I would turn the key in the door and not step foot out until Monday morning. Overall feeling terribly lonely but locked in a cycle where I wasn’t really helping my own plight.
Lonely girl

Age can affect loneliness, I have less friends the older I get, drifting away from people I grew up with as the years go on and experiencing changes within family structure that mean I have fewer people to talk to and rely on. The elderly in particular can have their health impacted by chronic loneliness and an excellent article by mobility bathing experts Premier Care in Bathing, considers ways in which we can help the elderly fight loneliness from encouraging exercise to promoting self care. They are the UK market leader for walk-in showers and baths that are perfect for the elderly to bathe safely and easily, and as a result feel better about themselves and much more likely to want to go out and meet up with people. Feeling confident is key to being social and enabling interaction with others on a daily basis.

I have touched on feeling lonely although being surrounded by people, such as I was in the corporate environment I was working in,busy and hundreds of people yet feeling so lonely and without friends. We can also feel lonely within a relationship and I have experienced this too. Loneliness to me can often be a state of mind and I have drawn together some surprising ways to combat feeling this way. I hope that they may be helpful if these feelings resonate with you.

Find what you’re interested in

Find the joy that is brought by a subject that interests you. Look to discover a hobby or interest that gives you a buzz and take small steps to find like minded people. If you love watching history programmes or reading about a certain time period, find some local history talks and take it from there. Or maybe you love wildlife, discover local activities from guided walks and events to helping out on a nature reserve. At a low point I had watched a programme on medieval history and decided completely on a whim to find a local group and go to some talks. I met a great group of people from all sorts of backgrounds and life was not the same after that, my social life expanded quickly and my self esteem soared. It’s hard to go out when you feel lonely, the first step is to just turn up, even if you go and don’t talk to anybody at first. 

Expand your knowledge through online courses such as free ones from FutureLearn as they really give you a boost and help you feel like you have something to belong to. Online forums on subjects are a platform to start talking with people on subjects that you are enthusiastic about which leads me to my next point......
Church visit
A church history group visit, one of the subjects that helped me out of loneliness

Online socialising is a useful first step to get out of loneliness

Social media can be a useful first step to fight loneliness and is super if like me you are an introvert. There are elements of each platform that are useful for those baby steps out of feeling lonely. Granted too much can be a bad thing but if online chats progress to the confidence for talking to people face to face then I totally recommend it. Blogging has opened up my life and the opportunities for making friends, as has Twitter where I have a great network of acquaintances that love to look around churches like me. Being involved in Twitter hashtags for weekly discussions led to me making friends and joining real life groups. I met my fiancé through Twitter too. My local area of Shrewsbury has tweet ups that are organised events, very safe as obviously that is a concern so make sure meets are official and in a public place. Likewise with Instagram, opportunities for creative and informative exchanges lead to lifestyle changes. I found that the desire to join in and share pretty pictures on Instagram got me out of the house each day and led to me feeling better about myself and more confident to engage in real life social events.

 Ultimately to break the loneliness,just find one thing that you like and try to find something in you local area that will put you with like minded people whether that is baking cakes, reading books, yoga or knitting.  Find happiness from within yourself, being alone is not the same as being lonely.

 Ideas for breaking the lonely spells:

Pets are amazing to help with feeling lonely. A constant companion on good and bad days. A dog encourages you to get out of the house and people always chat to you as you're out walking. Lots of dog breeds have clubs such as the fun organised sausage dog walks and maybe a doggy training class would create opportunities to make friends. 
dog walk
My dog Boo is a loyal friend

Gardening is a hobby that is good for the mind and has openings for meeting new people. I watched a progamme recently where a man who was feeling alone had rented an allotment and this had brought him out of his shell. I have had an allotment and people there are mostly very chatty and helpful, there are social events such as barbeques, annual shows and it is generally just a place to go, be in the outdoors, enjoy growing your own food and a natter over a cuppa and a packet of seeds with plot neighbours.
Allotment sunflowers and shed
A cup of tea at the plot is a perfect antidote to feeling lonely, always somebody to have a chat with over the brassicas!

Volunteering opens up chances to get out of the house and meet new people. There are hundreds of things to be involved in whether it's a certain area of interest such as with animals or something to just see new folk like working in a charity shop. Look at a volunteer database and be inspired to try something new whilst helping others. I have found a gardening opportunity in my village for a retirement living community that would be just my thing. 

Get out every day and see people, even if it's the local shop or the library. Familiar places will bring familiar people and a little interaction will help a lot. When you feel lonely, just a simple hello and a smile from a passer by helps so much. It's great to go walking and see new things and not stay cooped up at home. When I was feeling lonely a while back,getting out into the countryside helped the oppressive feeling of solitude go away and instead I felt happy with myself and at ease. Of course the ultimate aim I wanted was to make new friends but my inner happiness was the first rung. 

I hope some of these ideas may help you if you are not sure what to do, I speak from a very personal place when I say that the loneliness will not be forever and you are the best person to help yourself through but also do not be afraid to ask for help.
English countryside walks

*Collaborative post

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

A walk around Bury Ditches - an Iron Age Hill Fort in Shropshire

The sun shone hazily and the clouds drifted by the hand gliders on the distant crag of a Shropshire hill and the wings of patrolling buzzards were tickled by the thermals. Time to get out again with Little Bird, Sweep and the dogs. Time to explore this new home of mine in rural Shropshire in our first spring here.

A sign I had seen on winter journeys across the county was for Bury Ditches, tucked away between Bishop's Castle and Clun in south Shropshire. Sweep despite living nearby had never been so it was good to tread new territory together in his homelands. The Ditches are an Iron Age hill fort dating back to 500BC and a superb example of a multivallate fort which is one with two or more ramparts as defence.
South Shropshire landscape

The fort was once all pine plantation until a great storm in the 1970's blew down many trees revealing the details of the ditches and ramparts and so the Forestry Commission now manage as a historic site.
carved boy tree trunk

We walked down a woodland path past carved tree folk and information to guide us as to how the fort would have looked. The dogs pulled eagerly and Little Bird tromped through heather lined paths to the summit of Sunnyhill where the oval lines of the fort can clearly be seen and walked along. Views all around were amazing, across to the Long Mynd, the Clee Hills and across to the Stiperstones back home.
Yellow gorse Shropshire

walking on heather ramparts
The place has an ethereal feel to it, treading on a landscape shaped so long ago, what lies beneath these folds in the land. Folklore says that gold is buried here by fairies and  the lucky finder will discover one day as there is gold wire attached to the bounty.

But for us the treasure will be found here in late summer, plentiful purple winberries for gorgeous pies and the reward of fantastic views each season.
Bury Ditches Shropshire

Bury Ditches Shropshire

Bury Ditches Map
Forestry Commision Bury Ditches

Joining in with Country Kids to share my tales from a new life in rural Shropshire.

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Friday, 8 March 2019

Country courtyard garden - March update

Daffodils at the gate

Sat here after the first week of March wondering where the pleasant weather has disappeared too. From the daffodils at the front gate beaming with spring sunshine to damp and miserable flower tears this week, a swipe at my gardening joy. Nevertheless I have ventured out in a bid to get started and transform the front courtyard garden into the paintbox of colour it was last year.
summer courtyard garden

There are lots of plants just stirring in their pots and in our larger planters, in fact some never went away as the winter has been so mild. My geraniums are still showing some bright pink petals, ready to burst out fully in a couple of months and lots of the perennials are well above the soil, not afraid of chancing some late snow and a zap by the frost. The herb bed is coming to life although I hope they don't get too comfy as they will be being moved due to my Boo dog thinking this area makes a great toilet!
stone slab planter

bright pink geranium in winterherb bed in old sink We have been around the garden and cleared away leaves and debris, moved the pots together in order to sort out what has made the winter and discover what things actually are - must make a note this year and do some labelling! With the courtyard being all pots, many of them were just slotted into gaps last summer in their shop bought plastic tubs since I was after instant oomph and I had spent a lot of money on glazed, terracotta pots and other containers. This year I'll buy more pots so that the garden looks more cohesive.
plant nursery Shropshire

Despite the cold and drizzle, we visited the local plant nursery and antique centre where I purchased a galvanised tub £15 and some plants; garlic chives for £1.40, Arum italicum £4.20 for a shaded area out of reach as it's poisonous (had just seen it funnily enough in a garden whilst on Sweep's rounds that morning) and some lamb's ears for £2
Arum italicum Tresahor beauty

Add to them a selection of bare rooted roses from Tesco £2 each, a lilac and a forsythia for the same price - bargains! So I have lots to do without even looking at the seeds I purchased at the end of last season. However I have sown some chard and other salad leaves into a standing trough and hopefully if the Boo dog stops jumping in here to dig (!) they will be ok.
salad seedlings

At the moment I don't have a greenhouse and will be using a table in the living room for all my seeds and probably all the window ledges too. I'd like the garden to look more cottagey which is hard with it all being in pots so we shall see how it all knits together. This will be my first full year here after gradually moving last summer and wanting to create a quick fix garden, now I will have more time to plan and study, discover the joys of container gardening a bit more and give a bit more thought to planting combinations rather than haphazard schemes.

Hello garden