Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Covent Garden


Thanks for calling in. Great to see you.

The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is actually the third opera house on the site, the previous two were sadly destroyed by fire.  It was designed by E.M. Barry and building started in 1857.  We went to visit recently courtesy of a kind Christmas treat from Mr CK, the younger.

The ROH is currently undergoing some work to open up the building and create more of a presence on Covent Garden itself, expanding the foyer and creating a new entrance, whilst retaining the the main stage as it is.  Covent Garden itself is always bustling with street entertainment and the market stalls. This time areas were bedecked in silk flowers.

The ROH Bow Street entrance was the only one open.  The large Floral Hall used to be used as a flower market but is now a meeting place with bars providing interval drinks. It was completely rebuilt in the 1990s and is a beautiful space.

The auditorium itself is striking with it's pale blue and gold ceiling, abundant red lampshades, angels by the lamps and tiers of red velvet seats.

L'elisir d'amore by Donizetti is an enchanting tale of love giving the audience romance, comedy, beautiful music and wonderful sets.  How did they transform the stage from a huge straw bale haystack to an Italian village without a single squeak? Or get a large lorry, tractor and motorbikes on to the stage? There's no need to worry that you won't understand what's going on as there is a small screen above the stage translating the Italian to English .  Excellent performances all round.

Curtain adorned with the wonders achieved by the love potion sold by a rather dodgy character!

Photo from the website.
To top off our treat, dinner at Hawksmoor in Art Deco surroundings courtesy of both the younger Mr CKs was the icing on the cake - perhaps the gravy on the Sunday roast would be more apt!

Thanks you two.


Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Dipley Mill and the NGS


Thanks for popping in.

At the moment, lots of private gardens are opening in aid of the National Garden Scheme which collects funds for Nursing charities.  Last year  £2.7 million was raised.

Just round the corner from our favourite West Green Gardens, Dipley Mill opened its garden to the public with tea and coffee available too.

The Mill itself is listed in the Domesday Book and served as a flour mill on the River Whitewater until it was converted into a country house in 1927.  As a mill, it was very successful so the Miller installed a second wheel which, with both wheels on the go, made the building shake.

Let's have a look.

Water plays a big part here, with streams, ponds and pools round every corner.

Original milestones set in the path

Hornbeam Terrace

Visitors are given a delightful watercoloured map which gives a meandering route to wander along so you don't miss any of the secret areas.  There's Drove Road garden with airy wild planting, the Dew Pond tucked away and Vesta's garden, celebrating the Goddess of the Hearth, at the far end of the estate.

The Rust Garden leads you past a pill box, which is planted on top with a blue spiral staircase to take you up to admire the view, and on to a Grotto Garden.

Looking out from the pill box.
All the while you feel the presence of the River Whitewater and can see the water meadows on the other side of it covered in natural planting. Bridges across the River entice you over but we'll stay this side.

A real treat awaits in the Rose and Perfume Garden where a variety of unusual roses greet the nose.

 There's a great assortment of gunnera around the garden as well as herbs, fruit and vegetables.

The Indian Pool Garden is quite spectacular with its exotic planting and colonial hut.

Pretty table

There's even an Oriental Carpet Garden next to the greenhouse full of cacti and bougainvilleas.

To crown it all the recently shorn alpacas are so cute!

There we are, what a fantastic private garden, so much bigger than I was expecting, so much to see and enjoy including the delicious homemade cakes.

If you live fairly close, have a look at the link above as there are more open days to come this year, all in a good cause.  Don't worry about parking as the field next door was opened as a large car park.


Monday, 26 June 2017

Reading Abbey Restoration


Thanks for calling in.

Reading Abbey is currently undergoing restoration works and is due to reopen to the public next year, 2018.  The Abbey was founded by King Henry I in 1121 and he is believed to be buried in the vicinity. Jane Austen also went to school there when The Abbey School was located in the Abbey Gatehouse in the 18th Century.

Reading Museum's current exhibition -The Abbey Quarter: Then and Now - is linked to the work and even has some video footage of the current building works.  It's so interesting to see the pictures of old Reading and see how it's changed over the centuries.

Nobody really knows what the Abbey looked like in the 1500s but this is an Artist's impression.

Here's the Abbey Gateway in 1759

In 1840 where you can see a train through the gate as the railway had just arrived in Reading.
 The Gateway collapsed in 1861 and had to be rebuilt.

Here it is in 1890.

A view of Market Place in 1790

Here's the Abbey Gateway today, all covered over but with builders working on it behind.

The ruins themselves are all cordoned off, scaffolding up in places, builders working hard.

I've walked past this memorial in Forbury Gardens countless times without realising it was for King Henry I.

The rose garden was at its best, the red rose winning the competition of having the best scent, lots of research done by me!

This is a tulip tree and it's the first time I've noticed the flowers, just like tulips.

Edward VII post box

There are already tours around the ruins to look at the works and talks too.  Not too long to wait until it's all finished.  Sometimes it's been asked why it's all taking so long, but the reply is that it's not long really spread over the 900 years since it was first built!


Friday, 23 June 2017

Five on Friday at the Farm


Thanks for popping in, especially as it's Five on Friday link up time over on Tricky's FAST blog.

Our local pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farm has already been open for a month or so now, ready for the picking season.  I love visiting the farm with all it's space, birds and wildflowers, oh and the produce too!  If you visit regularly you can see the tiniest plant turn into a gigantic cauliflower or a shrivelled up splurge turn into a luscious juicy raspberry.  Each week new things are ready for picking. Let's see what we can find early in the season.

One - Strawberries

Well, of course!  You just can't resist those shiny, red fruits and always pick more than you should.

Two - Fields and Sky

Great coverings of clouds bellowed over the crops planted in stripes  on this visit.

Three - Broad Beans

Lots of broad bean pods stretched out like fingers. Yum! I love eating the beans inside raw, so tasty in a salad.

Four - Currants, Raspberries and all the rest

Dripping like jewels, the currants and the raspberries, have just come on-line - they are perfect for a fruit tart.

Five - Wildflowers

Something for the bees all around the edges.  Such a variety.

What a glorious time of year!  Have a wonderful weekend.