Rohana Darlington

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Well Dressings Bakewell

DECEMBER 2013

The last month of 2013 and still we haven’t moved house. We’ve sold our house and had our offer for another one accepted and are gradually working our way through all the legal complications as we progress along the housing chain.

Meanwhile I feel in a liminal state on the borderlines of an old way of life before the new phase can begin. A lot of my art equipment is already packed so I’m limiting myself to painting, experimenting with pastels and have recently begun some preparatory drawings for a series of landscape-inspired wall-hangings. I’ll create these in handmade textiles using a variety of embroidery, dyeing and appliqué techniques and so far the collection is steadily developing, my own therapeutic response to the present unresolved situation.

I’m also using this time preparing for the move to sort out, review and pack up my art work which dates back many years to my school days. Wading through bulging portfolios I’m finding this a very worthwhile retrospective process, getting rid of a lot of old material but also valuing and getting mounted and framed some work I’d completely forgotten I’d done. It’s become a metaphor for how I feel about the changes to come. Below is the painting I did after a recent autumn walk in the Peak district in which I tried to convey the feeling of airy spaciousness of this beautiful countryside.

Meanwhile, regarding the Remedy section of my October 2013 healthy lifestyle suggestions where I featured some of the benefits of cider vinegar I’d like to offer a word of warning. Always keen to try new health products I decided to follow the advice of Dr Jarvis in his book Folk Medicine and drank two teaspoons of cider vinegar in a little warm water with a teaspoon of honey for several days.  Like many people no longer in the first flush of youth I thought this might help my early morning stiffness that has recently begun to appear. It seems I’m constitutionally unsuited to this remedy, as after only six days I began to develop painful arthritic symptoms. Luckily, after discontinuing it and increasing my gentle yoga and ballet inspired stretching exercises I’m now back to normal. Although many people have benefited by taking cider vinegar as advised by this doctor it seems I’m not one of them, so do take care if you try this remedy!

Well Dressings Bakewell

NOVEMBER 2013 BLOG

A lot’s been happening this month. I launched a paperback version of my history mystery novel LADY OF THE ASCENDANT on Lulu and include a picture to the left of the cover spread. Many thanks to my brilliant technical adviser Hani Armstrong who helped me through this challenging process...

There have been other changes in my life too, the main one being we’re moving house! As we’ve lived in our present house for over forty years this is a really big change but the move is necessary family reasons. Because of all the comings and goings with estate agents, prospective buyers and sellers and as much of my equipment is already packed up for the move I simply have not had time to offer my usual recipes, remedies and crafts this month. However, do scroll back to my previous material over the past year which covers projects featuring topical and seasonal ideas. I hope when everything settles down again I can continue with more of these but for the time being everything here is uncertain as to when we’ll be able to move as at present we’re in the middle of a chain.

Meanwhile I’m concentrating on my landscape painting and renewing my life-long interest in pastels. When these works are complete I’ll post them onto the Gallery page of my website. I can recommend an excellent book on working in pastels by Mark Leach. I find his book RAW COLOUR WITH PASTELS by Batsford really inspirational.  

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

OCTOBER 2013

Autumn’s really here now. The change of season sent me up to Windgather Rocks and to the Longshore estate in Derbyshire once again to experience the wild beauty of the Peaks where the wind tangled my hair and the purple heather was still flowering beside emerald mosses, late bilberries and the pale sun-bleached grasses. Of course I took my camera and I show some of the photos I took below. But I also took my sketch book and am currently working on a large painting to remind me of that magical day. When it’s finished I’ll display the picture in the Gallery section of my website.

In this landscape I noticed lots of tiny butterflies I’d never seen before: small brown creatures fluttering around the heather. And in my own garden the other day I noticed a Clouded Yellow butterfly which has never been here before, although this year we’ve had many more butterflies than usual – too many Cabbage Whites which decimated my nasturtiums as well as some beautiful Peacock butterflies which loved basking in the sun on our patio.

Other autumnal activities have included gathering blackberries from the hedgerows and preparing them for my recipe of Blackberry and Apple Strudel featured in my November recipe page. And of course I’m busy with all the apples in my little orchard in the garden. Apples are so health-giving I feature the virtues of cider vinegar in my Remedy page this month.

For my craft-of-the-month I present Cup Cake - a little felt purse made in the shape of a cup cake that was made from odds and ends of fabric from my work box. This design is taken from my book Beautiful Bags from Bits & Bobs which I hope to publish soon. You can see the cover on the book page of my website which features the Cup Cake design. Meanwhile the paperback version of my history murder-mystery novel Lady of the Ascendant set in 17th Chester is now available from Lulu as well as the ebook versions from Amazon and Smashwords. Why not visit these websites for ideas for Christmas presents?

August Craft Sunflower August Craft Sunflower August Craft Sunflower

 

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

SEPTEMBER 2013

One of the most fascinating buildings in the Peak District is Hardwick Hall, famous for its huge expanses of window glass that inspired the rhyme: ‘Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall.’  Designed by Robert Smythson for the Countess of Shrewsbury, better known as Bess of Hardwick, it was architecturally extraordinarily innovative for its time.

Bess was loyal to Queen Elizabeth I and when the queen ordered Bess’s fourth and last husband George, the Sixth Earl of Shrewsbury to take custody of Mary, Queen of Scots who was plotting to seize the English throne there was no avoiding the dangerous and expensive assignment. Mary’s treasonous scheming to try to replace the Protestant Elizabeth as queen by declaring her illegitimate and restoring her own Catholicism as the state religion was the cause of great tension between Bess and George. The cost of maintaining Mary’s large entourage nearly ruined them financially and eventually destroyed their marriage as George became increasingly entranced by the aristocratic Mary. Mary was kept under house arrest in several of the Peak District’s famous houses, including Chatsworth and the Lodge at Buxton until her death.

Although their marriage collapsed and they lived separate lives, when George died Bess inherited her widow’s jointure and became one the wealthiest women in the country. She poured all her energies into building Hardwick Hall where she lived until her old age, developing the estate until her own death at the age of 71.

Today Hardwick Hall is filled with beautiful furniture, paintings and textiles and the gardens are still delightful even in September. Well worth a visit to Derbyshire!

August Craft Sunflower August Craft Sunflower

 

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

AUGUST 2013 BLOG

At last after such a dismal first half of the year the garden is looking wonderful and the sunny weather amazing. Now it’s the hottest summer for seven years!

Roses in the garden are blooming, the Rosa Mundi striped rose intermingling with a maroon-leaved Berberis hedge looks particularly fine. Annuals such as the first sweet peas of the season have appeared; they smell wonderful even though the flowers are purple instead of the pale blue on the packet. This month I include silk painting of a blue poppy in my craft page as I was so inspired by the Meconopsis featured in my July blog.

In the fruit and vegetable garden I’ve begun harvesting blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries. Everything’s very late this year, but there are quite good crops. Because of the dry weather the strawberries have come out looking like alpine strawberries but smell really fragrant and taste deliciously sweet. See how I use them in my August recipe.

Courgettes are in flower now and tiny pods are forming on my Petit Pois plants. I’ve been cutting and freezing parsley and mint for the winter. How all these flowers and fruit contrast from the Date Palms and Aloe Vera in the gardens of Sicily where we went this July to escape the dreadful British weather.  Visit my remedy page for my solution to dry skin caused by too much swimming under a Sicilian sun...

While in Sicily I was fascinated to see lizards darting about among the cacti and climbing up the olive tree that overhung our balcony!  What a change from the local visitors to my own little Cheshire garden: neighbour’s cats, tits, pigeons, blackbirds and even a raven last week.

August Craft Sunflower August Craft Sunflower August Craft Sunflower

 

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

JULY 2013

At last we’ve been having some proper summer weather, so we decided on a trip to nearby Lyme Park. (Lyme Park, House and Garden, Disley, Stockport, Cheshire, SK12 2NR). This lovely building, featured as Pemberly in the TV series of Pride and Prejudice, surrounded by wonderful grounds, lakes and sweeping moorland is always a delight to visit. Due to the delayed spring the herbaceous borders were not yet really looking their best, but the views of some of the formal gardens seen from above were stunning.

As we drove up the hill towards the house we spotted a herd of the famous deer sheltering under the leafy branches of an enormous beech tree. I wanted to get out and photograph them but knew from past experience this would disturb them and make them immediately disappear from view. Instead, while walking through one of the wooded areas where flocks of sheep were grazing I managed to get some pictures of the pastoral scene.

At home in our own garden I saw a beautiful brown and burnt orange Comma butterfly feasting on nettles last week, unusual for this time of year. There have been plenty of Cabbage Whites and a pair of Speckled Wood butterflies dancing crazily together in the sunshine. Birds have been plentiful, with a new pair of Collared Doves making an appearance in the orchard area taking advantage of our feeders. Tits of all kinds – yellow, coal and blue tits – and larger birds such as wood Pigeons, magpies, and what looked like a rook or raven are attracted to the feeders as well as more beautiful birds such as goldfinches.

The roses are looking beautiful and the peonies overwhelming in their raised beds. Next to their extravagant blooms the Allium seed heads are exploding; my granddaughter calls them firework plants and I use the dried seed heads as indoor floral decoration. They look lovely sprayed gold.

This year the heavenly blue Meconopsis poppy did indeed look heavenly next to the contrasting mauve blue of the Diana‘s Delight clematis. Both have to be grown in pots due to our unforgiving clay soil. Other poppies we grow are Oriental reds, Californian poppies in mixed colours and some wild red flowers that look as if they’ve escaped from a cornfield. Again, all are grown in terracotta pots on our terrace otherwise they would never survive.

Do visit this month’s craft, remedy and recipe sections for seasonal activities.

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

 

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

 

JUNE 13

This month should be filled with the scent of roses but because of the unusually late spring (five weeks behind schedule) with intermittent sunshine, hail and cold rainy spells all the plants are suddenly blooming together although so far no roses have come out. Bluebells are flowering in my garden and in the woods while daffodils are still in bloom under the fruit trees and azaleas, iris and clematis flowers have started to appear when the apple and pear blossom are still being visited by the bees.

Nevertheless , as the month progresses and the Summer Solstice on 21 June this year brings us the longest day with all that wonderful light let’s hope things improve. Already on milder days I’ve spotted a few butterflies – cabbage white and brown speckled woodland heath – and soon it will be time to listen for the cuckoo up in the High Peaks.

One wonderful garden to visit at this time of the year is Hare Hill in Over Alderley, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK10 4PY which offers a hare sculpture trail.  The National Trust, who manage it describe it in this way:

‘This woodland garden provides the ideal habitat for a wide variety of native wildlife while also boasting of ornamental ponds, impressive collections of rhododendrons, azaleas, and other fine specimen shrubs and waterside plantings. At its heart is a delightful walled garden – a tranquil place to reflect and relax.’ My photographs on this page show actual reflections of the rhododendrons in the water at Hare Hill.

In the hope that the roses will finally blossom later in the month I’ve made some rose-inspired hair bobbles in my craft page this time. And at least all the rain has brought on the wonderfully fresh spring greens which prompted my latest recipe Derby Cheese and Sage Summer Pasties using locally produced Derby cheese with sage, baby spinach, watercress and rocket leaves served with minty new potatoes. And for those of us who long for some sunshine and have booked holidays abroad but are now getting anxiety symptoms about flying I offer a remedy of calming Chamomile tea which is also very good for insomnia.

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

MAY 2013

This month the weather has been so variable we succumbed to a nasty chest-based virus infection and spent a lot of time recovering indoors. See my remedy and recipe sections this month for reviving broths and soups we survived on.

When at last we felt well enough to get some fresh air I was amazed how fast the new green leaves on the willows had unfurled during the time we were laid low. We didn’t feel up to our usual long country hikes in the Peaks yet so decided to visit a local nearby beauty spot instead: Poynton Pool. This mini-lake is a refuge for birds of all kinds and in the summer sheep graze there although dog-walkers have to keep their animals on leads. Overhead we noticed flocks of gulls and Canada geese on the wing and below on the water swans, cygnets, Mallards and ducklings paddled and dived.

Despite the frosts and bitter east winds it was surprising how many beautiful wild flowers had managed to thrive. Large patches of Celandines were golden in the spring sunshine, and clumps of brilliant yellow water-loving Marsh Marigolds bloomed by the edge of the pool. In my own garden scarlet Tulips are out at last and the red spikes of our Peonies are just beginning to open, showing green and maroon in the raised beds where they are companion planted with purple Allium, white Saxifriga and mauve Aubretia. The blossom on our plum tree has just opened and been visited by a fat bumble bee, so we hope some pollination will take place despite the risk of frosts. Last year we had no plums at all due to the unseasonable weather but we hope for a bumper crop this year, as plums are notorious for biennial bearing.

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

 

APRIL 2013

After such bleak and snowy weather at last the sun came out at Easter and a trip to the countryside beckoned. This time we decided to visit Little Moreton Hall, the iconic black and white beamed Tudor Hall in Cheshire. The impressive quirky wooden gallery upstairs with creaking uneven floors always gives me the feeling of being in an old galleon. Surrounded by a moat the hall also has a beautiful knot garden and a small orchard filled with rare species of apple and pear trees. I always recommend it to visiting family and friends, who enjoy the new indoor tea room there as well as tea outside in the garden in warmer months. The day we visited a cold east wind was blowing but this didn’t deter the many children who had come to hunt for Easter Eggs hidden around the house and garden.

At home in our own garden I’ve been busy pruning all the dead wood from our shrubs and gathering in armfuls of red-lacquered stems of dogwood which make such a beautiful indoor display when its contrasting fresh green leaves open. White crocus are blooming underneath our fourteen foot high black bamboo now and the tiny blue spears of scilla and bright yellow miniature Tete a Tete daffodils are just starting to appear. Best of all, we discovered a family of wrens have decided to set up home in our cotoneaster!

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

MARCH 2103

At last Spring is here! Even though here in Cheshire the weather has been five degrees colder than usual the first signs of the spidery golden catkins of Hamamelis Mollis, the delicately patterned blue and yellow flowers of the early iris reticulata Katherine Hodgkin and even a few early Camellia buds bring their promise of more floral delights to come. Soon it will be the Vernal Equinox – on 20 March this year – and then the hours of daylight will be longer than those of night.

I’ve been busy in my garden preparing the soil for planting. My veg bed now has a fine tilth thanks to my trusty hoe and the frosts breaking down the lumps of clay; I’m enjoying leafing through the catalogues mulling over what to plant. The birds are getting into full nesting kilter and so far in  my garden this Spring I’ve seen a variety of tits: blue tits, coal tits, long-tailed tits, as well as thrushes, robins, wood pigeons, sparrows, blackbirds and magpies with their long iridescent green tails all engaged in procreation.

If the weather does turn nasty again I recommend a visit to Lyme Park in Cheshire to cheer you up. These beautiful gardens looked after by the National Trust have a splendid orangery where you can shelter from the wild March winds and see their two hundred year old pink Camellia about to bloom. Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk  to read about what more Lyme Park has to offer.

In my recipe section this month I’m featuring a warming dish my youngest daughter asked me for as she remembers it as one of her favourites from her childhood days at home. Now she’s about to get married and has her own recipe blog. Do visit to read more about it at http://irmanisfavouriterecipes.blogspot.co.uk  as it has some really lovely suggestions to try. My maternal  grandfather whose family in Austria had Viennese coffee houses came to London to train in the Savoy Hotel and never left after marrying my English grandmother. Love of cooking seems to be in our family genes.

With Easter just around the corner, see the how to make a sparkly bird in my Craft section and for suggestions of how to ward off hay fever with preventative medicines before the pollen season lies you low, see my Remedy section and start now!

 

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

 

FEBRUARY 2013

For bleak midwinter beauty, this is the perfect month to visit Dunham Massey in Altrincham, Cheshire, WA14 4SJ. (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dunhammassey).  Containing the largest Winter Garden in Europe, it features a wonderful collection of plants, trees and shrubs that look at their best at this time of the year. Although the cold weather has delayed flowering in many species this year, when we visited at the beginning of February golden aconites, snowdrops, purple-berried Callicarpa Profusion, spidery Hamamelis Pallida, scarlet-stemmed dogwood and elephant-eared Bergenia all looked amazing. The groves of Himalayan silver birch under-planted with snowdrops and cerise-coloured cyclamen were really spectacular now they are becoming more established in this the fourth year of the Winter Garden.

Gardens of this quality are so inspiring on my return I walked round my own little plot to see what was beginning to emerge. Hellebore, winter jasmine and the first red stalks of rhubarb are just starting to appear, and a few snowdrops, but all that can be seen so far of the many narcissi under my apple trees are the spiky leaf spears thrusting up.

If you feel too stiff for gardening, look at the Remedy section this month which features various suggestions to help with this symptom. And as this is the month of Valentine’s Day, why not try my Chocolate Valentine Hearts recipe in the Recipe section or consider making a Valentine card for someone special –see the Craft section.

 

Well Dressings Bakewell

Well Dressings Bakewell

JANUARY 2013

Happy New Year! This month, January, was named after the god Janus, who looks backwards and forwards at the same time. It’s a time for reflecting on the past and for making plans for the future and that’s why I enjoyed my winter visit to the Tittesworth Reservoir at Meerbrook, near Leek in Staffordshire so much. The still water of the reservoir, fed by the River Churnet, is a wonderful aid to quiet reflection, and an antidote to the busy Christmas period now behind us.

The weather at the moment may be damp, but the reservoir is still beautiful with the bare branches of the trees and bleached reeds that edge it reflected in the wide stretches of its water.  The reservoir is also home to many species of birds which can be seen from hides, and a variety of wooded trails to discover the resident wildlife. Nearby, the looming hills of The Roaches make an inviting backdrop; they always suggest the outline of a sleeping dinosaur or dragon to me, but this is not the month for climbing, I think. Better to have lunch at the Tittesworth Visitor centre managed by Severn Trent Water and enjoy a traditional Staffordshire warmed cheese and onion filled oat cake.

Later this month there may be the first signs of snowdrops. Although they mostly flower in February you may just be able to see some and they are so heartening at this time of the year. For a more slimming yet still filling recipe, have a look at my Recipe page to see how to make warming Oriental Crab & Noodle soup. And try my Ginger Tea remedy, a brilliant immune system booster, invaluable at this time of winter colds. And for something new to explore in the new year, visit my craft page where you can learn a new skill: decorating with traditional Narrow Boat painting designs.