Kettle's Yard, Cambridge: pure magic

Kettle's Yard in Cambridge has a very special place in my heart. It was the first (and pretty much only) art gallery (that's not a gallery) I have visited where I really connected, where I felt comfortable, where I adored pretty much everything, and where I felt I understood what art was all about.

Kettle's Yard is very different to other art galleries. Firstly, and very importantly, it's a house, not a gallery (although it does have a modern gallery space attached to it). The house was very carefully designed by Jim and Helen Ede in the 50s, when they transformed four dilapidated cottages into a single homely space, to display their collection of artworks, furniture and natural objects. They felt strongly that art should be enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere, not in neat rows on large walls in austere spaces. They generously donated Kettle's Yard to Cambridge University in the 60s, so it could be enjoyed by all, and so students could understand how to appreciate art.

You ring a large bell to enter and are warmly greeted by the staff who introduce you to the space and give you some background to Jim and Helen Ede. You are encouraged to feel at home and to sit on the chairs - art has been very carefully placed, so you only notice certain things when you are seated. The play of light on the objects is beautiful too, and not coincidental. I was lucky enough to visit on a sunny day and the beautiful light and shadows were a big part of what felt a very personal and magical experience.

I absolutely love the integration of natural objects with artworks on the walls, and sculptures, and the beautiful vases of fresh flowers. Textures are so rich, and each object enhances the others. I was hugely influenced by the beautiful spirals of round pebbles when I visited as a student 20 years ago. To this day, I have always had a spiral of pebbles in all my homes, and various other displays of pebbles and shells - I spend hours hunting down the smoothest roundest pebbles whenever I'm near the sea. I hadn't made the connection, until my return to Kettle's Yard.

It really is a truly magical place, and I can't encourage you strongly enough to visit if you are anywhere near Cambridge. My photos don't do the place justice - you really have to visit. For more information, please go to the Kettle's Yard website.

Revisiting Cambridge: a (rather floral) walk down memory lane

Hot on the heels of my last post about the very beautiful Cambridge University Botanic Garden, I thought I'd share some more photos from my visit to Cambridge last month. I was a student at King's a couple of decades ago (god that makes me sound ancient!) and this was my first visit to Cambridge in a very long time, so it stirred up quite a few memories...

The city was looking as beautiful as I remember it, and in full bloom, with pretty hanging baskets everywhere. And the most bikes I have ever seen - even more than Oxford, if that is possible!

I think I might have seen more in a few days than I did during my entire undergraduate years!! As a student my world was rather small, centred around my College and Faculty/Library and the centre of town... I might have ventured to a few other Colleges, but I had never made it to the train station ;) Life was very different then, before email and mobile phones, let alone social media - I remember queueing for ages to use the pay phone - and finishing a relationship in floods of tears with a line of people listening to my conversation...

It was also a time before digital cameras. I had a film camera then, and developed black & white prints in my Dad's darkroom at home (he was a Professional Photographer). My photos of King's from my student years are buried somewhere in the attic in old photo albums (hopefully along with the negatives), so it was fun to return with my digital SLR.

It was exactly as I remembered it. The grounds are stunning - I remember feeling so privileged (and unworthy!) every day I walked the immaculate paths. It was an intense experience from start to finish, but I wouldn't change anything.

Anyway, back to my photos! Sadly it was rather overcast when I visited King's so I don't have that many photos - the sun decided to pop out just as I was leaving - isn't that always the way?!

I enjoyed a leisurely wander down King's Parade and the backs, watching the punts glide by. I popped into Trinity and St. John's, where I sat for ages taking in the beautiful view and watching the gardeners hard at work, whilst I recovered some strength. Hats off to the gardeners there - I have never seen more beautifully maintained lawns and (vast) grounds anywhere. Seriously impressive.

And I must confess to having a thorough explore of all the shops too - I got lost in the huge John Lewis for several hours! I also paid a visit to the fantastic and very special Kettle's Yard - but that deserves a post of its very own. Coming soon....

A riot of colour in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Well, hellooooo there! Apologies for my absence of late - we've been busy house hunting, so the last month or so has been rather consumed with pouring over Rightmove, maps, travel times etc. and spending far too much time on the M25! The upside, however, of researching where to relocate to, is that we've visited lots of beautiful places and I've got lots of photos to share with you :) I promise my blog will contain something other than travel photos, just as soon as I get a chance to sit down at my sewing machine!

So, next stop on our house hunting tour of the UK, after Devon (see last two posts), was Cambridge - the alternative Oxford ;) I took some time out from house viewings and city wanderings to spend a wonderful couple of hours in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. A beautiful oasis of green and calm in the centre of the city - just a short walk from the train station. I can highly recommend a visit, especially in July, when everything is a riot of colour.

The garden is huge (much larger than the Oxford one that I love to frequent) and essentially a collection of lots of different gardens, so do allow plenty of time for your visit. There is a rather nice Cafe there too, so plenty of opportunity to rest and refuel!

Hard to pick out any favourites, as it's the sum of the very colourful parts that I love. But I may just have to give special mention to the Echinaceas. They do a fantastic job of attracting the butterflies and bees - I stood staring at them for as long as my strength would allow!

In one corner of the garden there was a beautiful meadow area, with a gorgeous medley of poppies and cornflowers and countless others. I always love the wilder areas of any garden. Oh and the alliums were out in force too, and very popular with the bees!

Well I hope you have enjoyed your visit and I haven't bored you with too many echinacea pictures ;) I'll be back soon with more photos from this beautiful city. TTFN. Z x