summer

West Dean Gardens through my macro lens

I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful West Dean Gardens (near Chichester, West Sussex) with my family last weekend. Luckily for me, we are all keen photographers, so dawdling along at a snails pace to allow hundreds of photos to be taken was permitted without (much) complaining! The site is huge (90 acres) - there is so much to see and explore. I'm already planning my return visit!

I was particularly enthralled by the cutting garden and the 13 victorian glasshouses, which have been beautifully restored. I fell in love with a new (to me) flower - Larkspur - and am already hatching plans to plant a swathe of these in our garden. Larkspur is essentially an annual Delphinium and comes in blue/purple, pink and white (the ones pictured are Larkspur Sublime I think). Apparently it is easy to grow as it self seeds - finger's crossed!

The Larkspur had been planted next to some Cosmos, another firm favourite of mine. All that frothy foliage provides the perfect backdrop.

There was colour across the spectrum in the cutting garden, but I always gravitate to purples/pinks and whites (sorry to the yellow lovers amongst you!). There were butterflies and bees everywhere, including clouds of Cabbage Whites - so pretty to watch!

I absolutely loved the wild meadow bed at the end of the garden, tucked away behind the glasshouses - I much prefer my gardens wild and rambling. Must try and introduce some poppies next year!

The beautiful victorian glass houses offered incredible variety, from temperate to tropical, ferns to flowers, fruit to vegetables.

I was fascinated by these climbing ferns...

And I loved the potting shed, filled with vintage gardening paraphernalia... 

And then we have the chillies - 250 varieties of them! I had no idea there were so many... All the different shapes and sizes were laid out and labelled for visitors to look at and there were several glasshouses full of them, along with other vegetables. Very inspiring to see what is possible. 

I loved being able to see the lifecycle of vegetables growing and discovering new varieties - I might even have to have a go myself next year! And a beautiful glass house is of course now on my wish list ;)

The fruit was amazing too. The walled fruit garden housed many, many apple and pear trees, shaped in different ways. And the glass houses were filled with figs and melons and grapes - the vines were quite incredible. It was hard to believe we were in the UK!

And flowers mixed with fruit, is always a good thing. There were beds bursting with flowers throughout the walled fruit garden (with a surprisingly lovely purple and yellow colour theme) and even in the entrance.

And now onto the kitchen gardens. A mighty fine display of vegetables in prime condition. I love my greens and was very tempted to take some of these home with me!

Red Chard West Dean Gardens.jpg
Yellow_Chard_West_Dean_Gardens.jpg

The grounds at West Dean are very extensive and perfect for a picnic lunch. We found an empty table and chairs on the picturesque picnic lawn and ate our lunch under a giant willow tree overlooking parkland with grazing sheep (no decent pictures I'm afraid as I was too busy eating at this point!). They also have a lovely restaurant with seasonal dishes.

After spending most of our time in the cutting, fruit & vegetable gardens and the glasshouses, we thought we should explore a little of the rest of the grounds....

We were serenaded in the sunken garden by a couple of talented musicians, before wandering through a rather spectacular 300 foot long pergola, wrapped in the loveliest selection of climbing plants.

Pergola_West_Dean_Gardens.jpg

It made a lovely backdrop for some portraits. Thanks to my brother-in-law, I even managed to get a rare photo of my husband and I without camera rucksacks or cameras dangling from our necks!

After the pergola, we had a lovely walk through the spring garden, but rather ran out of time and energy to explore the rest of the grounds. I'll have to see the Arboretum on my next visit... Dogs are welcomed on short leads, so when we finally manage to get our furry friend, this would be a perfect place to come.

I'll leave you with a few shots of the Echinaceas from what I think was the spring garden.

Echinacea_West_Dean_Gardens.jpg

Apologies for a rather picture heavy post - but believe me, I barely even scratched the surface of the gardens! I can highly recommend a visit if you're anywhere near West Sussex - find out more on the West Dean Gardens website.


I've add a few of my favourite floral images to my Red Bubble Shop in case you are interested - they make rather lovely greeting cards and postcards. Also available as fine art prints, phone cases, bags, pouches, notebooks and more :)


A fabulous week in East Sussex

Back in August, we enjoyed a wonderful, restorative week by the sea, exploring the East Sussex coast. I'm also extremely excited to say that we are planning to move here (to Seaford), so sea fixes will be more than an occasional treat! Hurrah! Lots of hoops to jump through, yet, though - the house buying and selling process seems to be achingly slow....wish us luck! I still can't quite believe that all this stunning scenery will be on our doorstep!

We stayed in a fabulous cabin in the South Downs, not far from Alfriston, through Airbnb. Such a peaceful spot. I challenge you not to unwind when this is your view! The cabin was full of beautiful, original artwork by its owner and had so much character. Everything was so tactile. Even though it was August, we lit the log burning stove - just because :) I can highly recommend it if you are looking for a get away from it all spot (and it's really well located for visiting lots of places too).

There's just to much to see. We had a fun day exploring Alfriston, with its picture postcard perfect church, and Lewes. I have a feeling we only scratched the surface of Lewes - I am looking forward to going back! I did manage to find a lovely fabric shop, though, and we stumbled across some really pretty public gardens. There were antique shops aplenty, but I was very restrained (feeling rather overwhelmed by "stuff" at the moment, as we sort and declutter!).

We also headed out to Seaford at the end of the day - I was desperate for my first sea fix! It was a blustery day, so the waves were rather energetic. I'm SO looking forward to this being our local view! I hope you won't get bored of these beach huts ;)

I think the highlight of our trip was the stunningly beautiful Cuckmere Haven. You can approach it from a couple of ways. One day we came across the cliff path from Seaford Head via the picturesque coastguard cottages (really epic, classic views). Another day we walked from the Seven Sisters Country Park alongside the Cuckmere and ended up on the other side of the beach. The 360 degree panoramic views really took my breath away. I think I might have overused the word "Wow" those days :) And taken far too many photographs ;)

Another beautiful spot not far from Cuckmere Haven is the Birling Gap. There is a viewing platform that affords great views of the Seven Sisters. It was another blustery day, so holding the camera still was quite a challenge! We were lucky enough to encounter some surfers, who provided a very nice point of interest and scale for the photos :) A short stroll along the cliff path and you enjoy a lovely view of Beachy Head. The cliffs drop away very steeply, so probably not good for those with a fear of heights!

One day we headed inland for a change, to Friston Forest, for a green fix. We did the "white horse view" walk then free reigned for a while. Can you spot the white horse in my photo below?

And of course we had a day in Brighton. I love this vibrant city by the sea, full of all the quirky, cool, creative, crafty, geeky, healthy stuff we could (and will!) need. Very happy that this will be close-by.

And last, but not least, we headed West to Worthing. Another beautiful beach. It was rather a grey day, though, so I busied myself taking some Blythe photos :)

Believe it or not, these are just the photo highlights! So if you would like to see more, head over to my East Sussex set on Flickr. I've also updated my Red Bubble Shop with some Blythe seaside pics and recent floral delights from Cambridge. Enjoy :)

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

Beer & Lyme: the perfect summer combo

No, not Mexico, but our very own Devon and Dorset. And yes, there really is a place called Beer!

A couple of weeks ago, I fell head over heels in love with a beautiful little place called Beer in East Devon. I hadn't seen many photos beforehand, or heard much about it, so I came with no expectations. I just wanted to enjoy the sea and sunshine on a beautiful summer's day.

Oh my goodness, this place really couldn't be any more perfect for me! Beautiful smooth pebbles? Check! Clear sparkling sea and blue skies? Check! Pretty wooden beach huts? Check! Stripey deckchairs? Check! Stunning white cliffs? Check! Flowers on the beach? Check! Pretty thatched cottages? Check! An absolute photographer's paradise :)

It was just magical, sitting on the pebbles listening to the waves lapping, with the sun on my face and an ice cream in hand. What summers are made for! I would have loved to have spent the day in a deck chair with my kindle....but we had another place to visit, so I'll look forward to that another time!

A short trip in the car and we arrived at the very beautiful Lyme Regis. My last visit had been in the pouring rain, so a very grumpy Zoë hadn't thought very much of it - I didn't even get to see the seafront! I'm pleased to report this visit was entirely different, helped, I\m sure, by the glorious sunshine.

Lyme is another absolutely stunning place and is also part of the Jurassic Coast. The beach and cliffs are rather spectacular and the town is just so well cared for - we saw beautiful flowers everywhere.

I loved the ammonite shaped lamp posts. And the pretty pastel beach huts - every beach should have them! I even managed to get a sneaky peek inside one :)

There are some lovely shops to potter around too. I enjoyed a good rummage around an antiques store on the seafront and am delighted I finally got to visit the lovely Ruby Rockcake's shop. I will definitely be back!

More of our Devon adventures coming soon.....

Summer lovin'

I took a very welcome break from all the DIY in late May and headed to my favourite little sanctuary in Oxford, the University Botanic Garden, for my summer floral fix. It's such a peaceful space, as oasis of calm, tucked away right in the City centre. And right now it's just bursting with colour. I spent a happy hour wandering and snapping with my camera before meeting a lovely friend for lunch.

There was just so much to see, from the country garden borders above to beds of beautiful Irises of many varieties to the wild summer meadow to big blousy peonies....

All that colour really is tonic for the soul, especially when coupled with birdsong :)

I spent a long time in the large bed of Poppies, watching them dancing gracefully in the breeze. Such a beautiful, elegant flower....

I love the little details my macro lens brings out - nature really is pretty amazing.

A thoroughly lovely and restorative visit - I will be back soon! I hope you are all enjoying some summer colour, wherever you are. xxx

Oh I do love to be beside the seaside.....

Warning! This post contains gratuitous shots of beach huts... :)

Beach hut bonanza

So, although we were staycationing for our August holiday, we snuck out on a sunny day to get our sea fix. I used to live in Jersey, C.I and desperately miss the sea, so we try to go at every opportunity. This time we opted for the very lovely Christchurch as it's not too far from Oxford, and it's full of pretty pastel beach huts - double bonus as far as I am concerned!

Beach hut bonanza
Beach hut bonanza
Beach hut bonanza

We parked up at Hengistbury Head and picnicked on the beach and then wandered leisurely across the beach to Mudeford Sandbank where all the pretty pastel beach huts are. There are soooo many and each one is different!

Hengistbury Head
Sea grasses
Beach hut bonanza
Beach hut bonanza
Beachy

It was so lovely to see everyone in full holiday mode - lots of families were staying in the beach huts and it looked like so much fun! There were delicious smelling bbqs, tables set-up for al-fresco eating with pretty tablecloths, people lazing in sunchairs reading, kids making sand castles and generally having a lovely old time..... I'd love to stay in a beach hut one day - imagine waking up ON THE BEACH with the waves right in front of you - heaven!

Beach hut bonanza
Beach hut bonanza
Beach hut bonanza
Beach hut bonanza

We had a lovely old time soaking in the atmosphere (and the smells!), eating ice cream (obligatory on the beach!), watching the waves and having a snooze in the sun :)

Beach hut bonanza
Summer by the seaside
Let's go fly a kite
Follow the path
Help is at hand
Beach hut bonanza

In the unlikely event you haven't seen enough beach huts, you can find more in my Christchurch set on Flickr. Now sing with me: Oh I do love to be beside the seaside.... Tara for now, Zoe xx :)

Oh flutterby!

We had a lovely wander around Waterperry Gardens last week on our staycation - so much colour everywhere - and so many butterflies! There were clouds of Cabbage Whites on the Buddleia.....

Oh flutterby
Oh flutterby
Oh flutterby

...and Peacock butterflies all over the Echinacea...and lots of other butterflies I didn't recognise. Anyone know what the orange and brown one below is?

Peacock butterfly
Butterfly mecca
Summer visitor

I couldn't help myself snapping away to capture some of that gorgeous colour - I know it won't be long before it all disappears - not ready for that to happen yet! I especially love Cosmos - such a happy flower :)

Cosmos loveliness
Cosmos loveliness
Cosmos
Pinks
Summer pastels

There's just so much variety on display in August - a real feast for the eyes. Isn't that Dahlia just perfect? I love the symmetry.

Perfect Dahlia
Yellow haze

So it's back to work on Monday - hope these flowers help to brighten your Sunday afternoon and lead you into a cheery week. Z x

Buddha
Oh flutterby
A cloud of white

Summer staycationing

Staycationing is new to me - why on earth have I not done this before?! I've had a blissful, restful week pottering around at home, working on projects I've been meaning to do for ages - and going out for lovely day trips. And all the while sleeping in my lovely comfy bed and not having to pack or unpack!! I highly recommend it :)

Outfit post: summer pastels

I'll save the day trips to Waterperry Gardens and the seaside for other posts. So in this episode, we spent a lovely day wandering around Woodstock, picnicking in Blenheim Palace grounds and finishing off the day with a trip around Yarnton Antiques Centre (which is utterly fabulous by the way - again, why have I not been before?!).

Window shopping
Woodstock
Woodstock

I also had a much needed hair cut (was it really January the last time? Oh dear...) and went out to take my new hair for a spin in a (relatively) new summer pastel outfit. Thanks to my lovely husband alpower for taking the pics of me :)

Outfit post: summer pastels
Outfit post: summer pastels
Outfit post: summer pastels
Woodstock
Outfit post: summer pastels
Outfit post: summer pastels
Woodstock
Woodstock
Outfit post: summer pastels
Outfit post: summer pastels

What I'm wearing:

Top: Boden | Capri pants & cardigan: Joules | Shoes: Clarks | Bag: Orla Kiely SS13

Friday Favourites ~ Summer dreams

Happy Friday one and all! Something a little different today as I fancied a change. I've recently discovered some amazing new photographers on Flickr and wanted to share them. So I've pulled together some of my favourite beautiful, floaty, summery, dreamy images for you (some new, some old - all fabulous). Do go and check out the photostreams of these amazing photographers - but make yourself a cup of tea and get comfy first as you may get lost for sometime - I did.

Lazy hazy summer days

Flowers from the garden

It's so wonderful to finally be having a summer in the UK! It's been a bit of a non-event the last few years, so it feels extra special to have had a few weeks of non-stop sunshine and blue skies. I hear that some thundery showers lie ahead as I write this - am sure the garden will welcome some rain!

Summer days
Summer reading

So, we've got to enjoy our garden this year. I've dressed the table to make it look pretty and sat out drinking sparkling elderflower in the shade with a stack of fabulous books to feast my eyes upon...And all inspired by the beautiful images in Homespun Style (my favourite interiors book ever I think) I spent the day rushing upstairs and downstairs to bring down vintage pillowcases and Blythe dolls to photograph on the lawn in this gorgeous light...

Pillowcase love
Blythe camouflage
Blythe camouflage
Lazy summer days...
Vintage fabric love
Three shades of green
Lazing in the garden
My iPhone case

We've also been joined most days by our beautiful next door neighbours - here are Mum Poppy and daughter Martha - aren't they beautiful?

Poppy
Martha

And of course summer means flowers in abundance. I couldn't resist bringing these beautiful Hydrangeas indoors to pop in my owl vase - even though I will suffer - unfortunately I am allergic to flowers :( But as long as I get to photograph them first, I don't mind too much!

Owl vase love <3