motorway for bicycles

Monsal TrailAbout time for a spring cycling adventure, don’t you think?

BicyclesOn Good Friday the sun shone. We buttled ourselves out to the peak district for a bike ride on the Monsal Trail, an old railway line which is now a cycling and walking route. Of course, the peak district is one of the most visited national parks in the country, and being both sunny and a bank holiday, about five million people had the same idea as us.  At times it was a little like a motorway for bicycles, and while cycling along in a big line wasn’t exactly a wildnerness experience, it was Very Cheerful Indeed to see so many bicycles, and so many people with smiles on their faces.

CuttingThe trail dips in and out of tunnels and cuttings, which makes for quite a dramatic ride at times (look how tiny those people are!).

At one point we could hear a brass band drifting through the hills.

Spot the brass band!Can you see them?

There's the brass band!Look closer! Up on the top of that rocky outcrop, instruments glinting in the sunshine.

This being the peak district, tea was never too far away.

Good to know Can’t have a bike ride without tea.

TeaI’d forgotten just how much I love riding my bike, especially on a flat, off road trail in the sunshine. At least that’s something good that’s come out of all this triathlon training!

Perhaps I’ll get up a bit earlier next time and beat the crowds…

tea from the garden

It’s been ever such a lovely day today, and I finally got chance to have a little potter in the garden this afternoon. I was in seed-planting mode, well aware I’d missed the official planting dates for some things (not something I generally worry about, but I’m trying to be a bit more diligent this year).

The first job was to clear some space in greenhouse 1 – partly by removing pots from things that had died (oops), and partly by harvesting a few radishes which I planted in October and which had soldiered on bravely throughout the winter.

RadishFive whole radishes! (Well, I suppose you could describe that as ‘four whole radishes and a tiny bit of vaguely pinkish wood’, but that would be rude, so I won’t).

Next up was a little bit of lettuce that had bolted in the hanging basket (including the flowers), and some tiny leaves and flowers from some rocket that clearly got a bit too warm in the greenhouse.

I’m keeping track of how much I harvest, and how much I would have spent had I bought in the shops, on this page. Apparently those radishes saved me two whole pence!

I was a bit unfocused this afternoon, and instead of tackling my list of jobs one at a time, I wandered vaguely through the garden, picking up sticks, doing a little weeding, moving things from one place to another. I started pulling the weeds from under the kitchen window, and remembered I’d had a vague feeling they were actually land cress, so came inside to look them up.

Hairy bittercress 1After a few false starts on wildflower identification websites I found what I was looking for here - this is hairy bittercress, a strange name for an apparently tasty plant, with a firey punch a little like rocket. Scrolling down the list of ‘weeds’ I spotted another that grows abundantly in my garden.

herb robertI always feel I should pull it out, since it grows everywhere, but I quite like the little pink and white flowers. This is apparently herb robert – which has an odd smell but which is also edible (apparently you can also use it in an enema, although rest assured I won’t be…).

Enthused by the idea of boosting my salad profits and getting myself a tasty tea into the bargain, I grabbed a bowl and started picking.

Hairy bittercress 2The resulting salad was fresh and vibrant, colourful and tasty, and felt like a proper treat.

Home grown saladI’ve struggled to decide how to cost what I harvest from the garden. I think I’m going to look at what I’ve grown, and cost the closest thing I can find from the shop I’m likely to have bought it from. I wouldn’t have bought an organic speciality gourmet herb salad from a posh shop (although that’s what I’ve ended up with), so I’ve costed this based on a bag of ‘nice’ salad leaves with rocket from a supermarket.

Which means this little salad saved me a grand total of 46p.

Obviously it’s more complicated than that – if I’d have gone to the shops it’s unlikely I would have only bought 46p worth of salad. But this is a topic I’m planning to return to throughout the year as I harvest more, so we can work on the complications later…

staring at the sea

IMG_3160We sneaked off for a fortnight by the sea.  IMG_3196 IMG_3173 IMG_3170IMG_3276Hmm, there seems to have been quite a bit of tea involved too…  IMG_3507 IMG_3485 IMG_3353IMG_3698 IMG_3778IMG_3156I barely moved from my armchair the whole time. But really, with a view like that, why would I?  IMG_3777 IMG_3719 IMG_3702IMG_3783 IMG_3825 IMG_3798IMG_3870I’m not really an ‘activity holiday’ type of person, but even I can’t remember a time when I’ve done such a whole load of nothing. I feel refreshed.

Home now. Time to buttle on.

IMG_3192

cafe love

Nicolls BuildingIf you’ve been popping in here a while, you’ll know of my fondness for cafes.

Stripey cakeI’m not even sure I could pick a favourite any more, although I lean towards cheap and cheerful, with tea in mugs and plenty of egg butties. But I also love flowery china and teapots, home made cakes, table cloths, books, window seats and plants.

Strip the willowI love to sit in cafes on my own and work, or read, or just stare out of the window. And I love to sit for an hour or two with a friend, drinking tea and putting the world to rights.

Strip the willow 2There’s something calming about being in a cafe, don’t you think?

Looking back at the photographs I’ve taken in the last couple of weeks, they mostly seem to involve cafes.

Beetroot Soup at Strip the WillowOld favourites and new finds, I’m always pleased with a day that involves a cafe.

Of course, not every day can involve a cafe, and sometimes we like to recreate the cafe experience in our very own ‘Cafe at Home’.

Pancakes and marmaladeWe make a nice cup of tea, and some kind of treat or tasty lunch, and pretend we’re in a cafe, and work out how much money we’ve saved by being at home.

Daffs in the kitchenIt’s not quite the same as being in a real cafe, but it does make me stop and appreciate the cheerful things about our home, rather than only noticing the things-to-be-done.

Hyacinths in the atticDo you have a favourite cafe? What’s it like? Do you ever have Cafe at Home?

Beeley Woods 1

woodland wanderings

Moss Valley 1I’ve been taking advantage of the recent sunshine to go on a couple of local adventures. The first was to Moss Valley woodlands, one of the local Wildlife Trust reserves. You might remember that I’m trying to work my way around all twelve, and this is now the fifth that I’ve visited.

We left it rather late in the day, and the sun was setting.

Moss Valley 2I hadn’t realised this woodland was in a valley (although thinking about it, the clue was in the name…), so we missed the best of the light, which was just catching the tops of the trees.

This is a small woodland, near a busy dual carriageway, although you wouldn’t know it once you got in there.

Moss Valley 3The ground was carpeted with bluebells, and I can’t wait to visit again in a few weeks when they’re flowering. What a sight that will be!

Moss Valley 5We didn’t stay long – it was cool out of the sun and the woods felt a little gloomy in the fading light. I can see from the map that the valley extends far beyond where we got to. But I’m always glad of a new local adventure, and I’m pleased to have ticked another nature reserve off my list.

Moss Valley 4Moss Valley 6

The second new place I visited was Beeley Woods. I was on a group cycle ride, with 24 women (don’t worry, we stuck to off road cycle paths and tiny quiet side streets, and were very considerate!).

Beeley Woods 1It was a leisurely ride – it took us just under four hours to cover 12 miles, what with waiting for people and hanging around in tea shops.

Beeley Woods 2The woods were quiet, and we bimbled along, chatting and watching a couple of dippers following us along the river.

Beeley Woods 3Beeley Woods 4We were only in the woods a short time, and only really skirted the edge, but the sunlight was pretty and the river burbled along and all was right with the world. I’ll go back to explore more one day.

Have you visited anywhere new in your area lately?

where i go when i’m not here

It’s Friday morning and I’m sitting on the sofa in the sunshine with the door to the garden open, revelling in the warmth and fresh air. I don’t work on a Friday, so the day is my own, and I have no plans. I ache from last night’s jive dancing, but I have tea and a purple dressing gown, and right now I can hear nothing but birds singing.

I love this time of day. Not particularly early, but before the day’s really started. When I’m the only one awake, and nobody wants me to do anything. Often I run, but today I’m letting my legs rest, so I’m wandering around the internet instead.

I’m peeking into other lives, taking inspiration and cheerfulness from pictures of kitchens and days out and gardens, and it’s occurred to me that I’ve never really shared where I go. It’s not a secret, and it changes often, but there are some places I visit over and over, and I thought you might like to see them too. These aren’t friends’ blogs (I might do a separate post about those) – these are places I go to for colour and light and calmness, and to make me think about what I want my own life to look like.

I peek into Rhonda’s garden at Down to Earth, in an attempt to grow enthusiasm for cleaning and simplicity. Sometimes I make bread, and soap, with varying success. I wrote to Rhonda when I first started my own blog, and she took the time to reply with kindness. Her support carried me a long way on that journey, and I like to see what she’s up to. Her life is so very different to mine.

I love the colours at Attic24. Such a crochet rainbow!  Lucy has inspired me to having fresh flowers in the house, something I used to think was wasteful and which I now struggle to be without.

I go through phases with Cold Antler Farm. I so much admire Jenna’s grit and determination, leaping into the unknown with faith and willing to have a go at whatever comes her way. I don’t think I’m cut out for livestock beyond chickens (if that).

I’m not entirely sure why I read Soulemama. Amanda homeschools her five children, sews in a way I could only dream of, but the glimpses of her home, family meals and knitting by the fire, food from the garden, are so enticing that I can’t resist. It feels like a gentle world to look in to.

Beauty that Moves is similar, in a way. A soothing place to be, a world so different to my own. I’ve done a couple of Heather’s courses about wholefoods and found her such a supportive presence. Her home seems very peaceful.

I love Madelyn Mulvaney. I took a couple of her online courses a while back, one called The art of living cheerfully, and she is so wonderfully uplifting. I sometimes feel mundane in comparison to her poeticness, but she makes me want to jump into life with both feet, to experience the delightful pleasure of teal-coloured fingernails and a nice cup of tea.

Mean Queen is different. I don’t think you’d catch Ilona with teal-coloured fingernails. She used to be a lorry driver, and now spends quite a bit of time with cats. She stretches her pension as far as it will go, buying reduced food, making things herself, and managing without things she doesn’t need. Then she pulls on her walking boots and rambles off around the country, taking photographs. I love her no-nonsense attitude.

I do amble around other places, other lives, of course, but these are the ones I come back to again and again. A motley crew, seemingly little in common, but with them all gathered together like this I can see a group of strong women, knowing their own minds, writing about finding beauty and purpose in their everyday lives. Photographs of meals and gardens and tea, stories of ordinary days and extraordinary lives. Every one an inspiration without even trying to be.

Now I’ve peeked into their lives, it’s time to turn back to my own. The sun has gone behind a cloud and I’ve closed the door now to encourage four large bees to seek shelter elsewhere. I think this might be a pottering day, a tidying-up-then-lunch-in-a-cafe kind of a day – my favourite.

What about you? Where do you go for inspiration and cheerfulness?

spring sunshine

Sunshine in the living roomWe’ve had some glorious sunshine this week. Today I sneaked outside and ate my lunch in the garden for the first time since September. I felt like a cat, stretched out and snoozing in the sunshine. How I dragged myself back inside to carry on working I’ll never know.

Things are starting to happen in the garden now. There was a bit of tidying to do after the winter.

Gardening at the start of springI spent a couple of hours pottering at the weekend, digging home made compost into the beds, watering everything in the greenhouses, and generally sprucing the place up.

Autumn veg growingI was surprised at how many seedlings have made it through the winter – usually I can barely keep things alive for a week or two but these have been going for nearly five months! It’s been a mild winter, and the slugs haven’t been active, but I’m hoping this is the start of good things to come.

Flowers growingOf course, nothing is perfect, and there have been some casualties.

garden failClearly there’s a leak in the greenhouse somewhere…

But on the whole things are looking good out there.

Spring sunshineI harvested some cabbage and kale today – the first of this year. It’s put on a bit of a growth spurt these last few weeks, and is just about big enough for me to be happy ripping bits off. It made some very tasty fried rice, and I’ve added the total to my garden tally page.

RadishHow’s your garden looking? Are you having an early spring growth surge too?