Sunday, May 21, 2006

Apathy Rules OK!! Well Not any More

Since getting back off hols been a bit apathetic. Combination of post hols blues, re-organisation at work (yet again!) and the weather this last week and this weekend has been apalling. Rain, rain and more rain and gales but guess we shouldn't be complaining given the potential for drought down in the south and at least we haven't had floods.

This is part of the short border that runs along the back of our back garden. Struggled with this for ages, the hedge at the back of the pic is approx 9' high therefore it's very dry and shaded for the best part of the day. However it does look at it's best this time of the year and I love the contrast of the acid yellow of the Euphorbia, purple of the Geranium, bluebells and orange of the poppies.
This was taken just over a week ago and the whole border has been awash with these but they're now looking a bit bedraggled due to the wind and rain. We lost several of our longstanding plants this winter, probably due to a combination of dryness and frost but picked up some replacement plants from a small local nursery a fortnight ago. Due to the combination of lots and lots of rain and warmth they're all doing really well and this border is looking positively lush.

It was the Welsh Smallholder and Garden Festival and Builth Wells this weekend and not normally the kind of thing we'd go to but found out that they were having a Wonderwool Wales and Greener Homes and Building section which did appeal. Given the appalling forecast for the weekend almost didn't go but decided early yesterday morning what the hell, but do feel really sorry for the exhibitors and participants who are there today - it can't be much fun at all.

The Greener Homes and Buildings was a dissappointment - not in terms of the exhibits. It was exciting, enlightening and inspiring but it's so sad that most of the ideas are only really practical if you're building a new house or extension etc. Given the fact that water is in short supply in the south, we are having to seriously consider the nuclear option for providing power and more homes need to be built, I don't understand why via the new building regs it isn't compulsory for every new building to have the full range of measure installed and substantial grants made available for every existing home to upgrade by using them. Guess since the utitility companies were privatised there's no incentive as it would mean less demand therefore profits would be produced. Enough of my views for today.

I've been buzzing since coming back as it really was inspiring and especially the Woolly Wales bit. We spent ages just pottering around looking at the animals. Yes I grew up in the country and spent huge chunks of my childhood on local farms but never realised there were so many breeds of sheep out there, how different they look and the colour and quality of the wool they produce is staggering. M spent his late teens in Scotland and they kept goats and he thoroughly enjoyed looking after them and was saddened when they had to be sold off. So seeing all the different goats was a bittersweet memory for him. This one was such a character and obviously wanted to know and be fully involved in what was going on all around.
This one was just incredibly friendly and made sure it was petted by all who passed. I was very taken by the pygmy goats to the extent that I forgot to take any pics.
These were my other favourites - the angora goats and who can resist. I've never been that keen on goats but M has always tried to persuade me otherwise and I now realise why. They do have such individual character but seem happier in flocks. Also got to see llamas and alpacas and given a chance would have come home with some alpacas. Due to their size and impressive looking teeth, llamas intimidate me but was very impressed by the alpacas. Unfortunately they were crammed into a small pavilion and the organisers had totally underestimated how popular they were so hopefully they'll have more space next year and more families will be able to see them.
The main purpose of the day was to go to Wonderwool Wales but wasn't quite sure what to expect but had such a good time, lots of spinning/weaving demos and excellent stalls. Found lots of the things on display such an inspiration and wish I could afford to give up work now so that I'd have time to spin, dye, weave as well as knit. Could have spent a fortune and was very restrained - will post up a photo or two in the next couple of days. Have decided that I'm going to do a three day course in Sept that will give me a chance to do some dyeing, spinning, weaving and felting. Also met a lovely lady who lives relatively close and has alpacas as well as weaving the most amazing scarves and intend to get along to her studio on one of my Fridays off. M was blown away by the felting and in particular we loved some landscapes, the most amazing clothing including an amazing diaphonous dress and evening type jacket, and cushions, little baby jacket etc made from felted silk that was then machine embroidered.
This is a pic of prize winning hat that I think may have been made by one of the Knitty community - if so Congrats. A minor gripe - there were some really good talks and demonstrations being held but no details posted up on the webpage beforehand and no details given as you entered the pavilion so it was pure chance that you got to find out about them.

Other highlight of the day was finding a spinner who had a Lendrum wheel - seriously considering buying a spinning wheel for the winter. Due to lack of space need something small and portable and had more or less decided on a Baynes. Then saw a pic of a new Lendrum on a blog and was struck by the quality and this is what screamed out at me when I saw one for real. It's so perfectly balanced and easy to use too. Another lady was using an Ashford Joy and whilst even more portable than the Lendrum, is a bit too small for me and anticipate that I'd get a bad back. I'll just have to start saving my pennies now. Lots of the folk I met were all incredibly enthusiastic and looking forward to Woolfest and I'm so pleased I've decided to go and already booked my camping spot. Roll on end of June.

Debating whether to bid on a loom on e-bay it's amazing and only £25 but rather large!! Other news of note is that the amazing SP gourdesses got our SP7 matches out early and it should be a very interesting round.

Monday, May 08, 2006

SP6 goodness

Received a message from my SP saying a package was on its way and there it was sitting on the back doorstep when I arrived home today.

As you can see the packaging was co-ordinated to go with the tin and lemony yellow package. Then to the fun of investigating things further:-

The tin is an attractive object in its own right but when I opened it, was assailed by the most wonderful smell - apparently it's a Raspberry Black mix. I drink tea until it's virtually coming out of my ears but now the summer prefer fruity mixes so this couldn't have come at a better time and will also look forward to trying it iced.

She'd promised me a "special little scented surprise something that I can only get at my not so local LYS" and this is Lemongrass Simpatico Soap. I love fresh natural smells and this couldn't have been a better choice - keep picking it up to smell!!!!

And then there was the yarn............. well what can I say! The bluey yarn at the back is hand spun and kettle dyed Rio De La Plata in colourway Faded Lyons Blue - very different to anything I've ever used before. Hoping there'll be enough to do a shortened version of a My So Called Scarf or if not I'll use the stitch pattern in combination with something else.

There is also Mountain Colours Mountain Goat in Juniper - this has been a revelation. I didn't realise you could get mohair that was this soft. Already got plans for this too. The card was a perfect choice for a self confessed lover of plants and flowers a revealed that my SP has been Silver Nerd. After the disappointment of the Holiday SP round thanks for restoring my faith in SP rounds.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Jolly Hols! 2

Besides the walking also got to visit various places. Revisited the well and the ancient chapel at Madron.

This well and the chapel which also contains an early holy well have a very ancient and special atmosphere about them. We first visited about 9 years ago and around Xmas time and the trees were festooned with ribbons, decorations, tinsel, all sorts much of which was recent and probably related to the winter solstice. It was interesting visiting again to find that the trees are still adorned with ribbons, messages, all sorts of bits and pieces. I'd been suffering from a virus which really affected my balance badly when we first visited, looked up and next thing I knew was flat on my back. It's really, really weird but on this visit, again experienced problems with balance - for the first time for years. Thankfully didn't find myself flat on my back though.

It's not particularly clear but there's a bunch of wild flowers carefully placed on the altar. When we'd visited previously there'd been a bunch of ivy, holly, etc as it was the middle of winter. It's nice to know that there are some places which are recognised as being special in some way or other for such a long time and people still visit and care about them.

When I'm on holiday like to read novels that are set in the area where I'm staying. I must add that when on hols it's not unknown for me to get through a novel a day. This time read

A modern Miss Marple ie amateur sleuth is an accurate description and really enjoyed the way she develops Rose Trevelyan's character over the course of the novels. Most enjoyable holiday reading and would thoroughly recommend it for anyone holidaying down in the far SW of Cornwall. This is very different - totally gripping but quite dark and very gritty and although the ending is not unexpected is still shocking. Despite being dark there are also touches of humour and amazing self awareness by the characters. If this is anything to go by can now fully understand why Joolz Denby was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and it's certainly made me want to go and buy her other books. Bought these at Books Plus in Penzance - it's a small independent bookseller and like everyone else I tend to buy lots of books from Amazon but also try to support the independents. This little book shop was great, packed from floor to ceiling and the owners extremely helpful. Asked for books set in the area and provided me with a good selection. They were also helpful in being able to tell me exactly where Knit Wits was - more to follow in next entry.

And finally Portherras Cove which was so close we could visit most evenings. This was the highlight of the dog's holiday as she loves the sea and beaches and for us since we usually had it to ourselves. .

Monday, May 01, 2006

Jolly Hols!

Back from Cornwall and a jolly good time was had by all - M, me and dog. We're both a lot fitter and look fairly tanned though from the wind rather than the sun. Had a good mix of walking, relaxing, reading, knitting, more walking, sampling the local pasties etc.

Stayed down on the Pendeen headland which because of the number of shipwrecks had a lighthouse built on it in 1900. Until then, there was just a watchtower and a row of coastguard cottages further up the cliff top. Before the lighthouse was built not quite sure what happened when a ship was in difficulties and whether they lit a beacon or shone a light which wasn't always visible. Anyway the row of old coastguard cottages was bought from Trinity House (who run the coastguard system) by the manager of Geevor mine and gradually seem to have been sold off over the years. This is the row of old coastguard cottages and where we stayed - the lighthouse is just down the road from the cottages. It was interesting that there are loads of original features in the cottages such as fireplaces with the Trinity House anchor emblem, floor to ceiling pine dressers which were built into the living room, boot scrapers built into the outside wall. We meant to get photos and annoyed that we forgot. This is taken from the South West coastal footpath.

One of the joys of the holiday was that we were able to do really good long walks from the house and didn't have to drive or use the car. On the Sat we walked from the cottage down to Cape Cornwall taking in the old Levant workings which are large scale for this country with a wealth of features such as buddles, settlement pits, wooden sluices etc. We've been so near these workings in the past but never actually got to explore them.

Just up and over the brow of the hill is the Levant engine house which is one of the very few remaining steam powered pumping engines left in the country. As its owned by the National Trust they still operate it over Bank Holiday and summer weekends - we have yet to see it in action!
These are the engine houses at Botallack, they're perched right on the edge of the cliffs and with a bit of care and effort can get down to them. Unfortunately Tess (our border collie) has no sense of spatial awareness whatsoever so on this visit decided to give them a miss.

Then along over Roscommon and down into the Kenidjack valley where we explored yet more industrial remains before making our selves comfy on the cliffs and just basking in the sun and watching the waves.

Don't know that I've seen M look so happy and perfectly relaxed for a while but he's had loads of remains to explore and just enjoyed hot apple juice and some yummy cakes from the local bakery.

On the Mon did a 30km circular walk whereby we went up through the village of Pendeen, along much of what used to be part of the Tinners Way. Apparently this is a route based on ancient pathways which was originally used for transporting tin and copper from some of the mines down ships waiting at St Ives

Took in some of the Scheduled Ancient Monuments such as Men-an-tol (shown below), the Nine Maidens stone circle and Men Scryfa Inscribed Stone.

Cut down past Carn Galver which is a rocky outcrop that isn't particularly mountainous but impressive in it's setting and probably where much of the stone for these monuments, boundaries etc came from. Much of this walk was pleasantly familiar but there's been lots of scrub clearance around the monuments which means they're a lot more visible but in some ways don't know that something hasn't been lost. Perhaps it's that they stand out in the landscape rather than were fully intergrated into it previously. Lots of the landscape on this walk does have a very ancient feel about it and especially in the field patterns down near the coast. It's always fun reading the map for this area as well when you have wonderful place names such as Woon Gumpas Common and Eureka Farm - it conjures up all kinds of images. Eventually past Rosemergy cut down to the coastal path and back to the cottage.

On Wed drove down to Cape Cornwall and walked from there down to Lands End and back again - a 20km walk. When the sun was out it was hot and thankfully there was a good stiff breeze or it would have been quite hard going. Thankfully managed to miss the theme park at Lands End though did have to call into the gift shop on the headland and treat ourselves to Roskilly icecream. M had mint choc chip and I had wild cherry which was the best I've had for a long time. Reminded me of Italian ice cream which is hardly surprising since apparently they use the best Italian equipment and cream from their own Jersey cows. Walking back through Sennen fortunately found a hotel which was just about still serving up food and managed to get crab sandwiches. There's nothing to beat sandwiches made with locally caught crab and eaten outdoors at the seaside!!