Tag Archives: Ashridge

Christmas Snapshots

I always enjoy the idea of winter. I like cuddling up by the fire, wrapping up in woolly jumpers, stuffing my face with mince pies, and being able to work from home in my pyjamas because of icy train tracks. (Especially that last one.) But on rare days where the sun shines through the bleak midwinter, I light up like a Christmas tree suffering from seasonal affective disorder. A brief cloud burst is all it takes to make me realise that when the world is grey, I feel grey. I like sunshine, and blue skies, and warmth on my face. When that isn’t an option, I use Christmas as a nicotine patch for summer.

Gem's tree 2014
Gem's Christmas Cake 2014
Christmas with a control freak can’t be an easy affair, and after countless tinsel based tantrums the rest of my family can’t so much as spy a misplaced bauble without shooting me a panicked sidelong glance and rushing to fix it before I explode like some kind of meticulous monster. I told my extremely dubious looking little sister that I didn’t mind what colour scheme we did this year, and managed to last about two whole minutes before admitting defeat and also admitting that we would be having a “natural, rustic theme with red and gold highlights”. I am not proud of myself. But you can’t deny it looks nice. (Well, you could deny it, but you would need to be confident you could take me in a fight.)

After the decorations are hung and the cake is iced (and the bowls are licked) getting outside into the cold is my idea of heaven. Ashridge is my favourite place for autumn colours, wintery walks, and a café full of home cooked snacks. Ted enjoyed getting his paws filthy, but didn’t very much like watching me and Rhys eat mince pies and hot chocolate. I’ve missed them both a lot, so an afternoon catching up with one and letting the other lick my face (I’ll leave that to your imagination to decipher) was seriously lovely.

Ted in the woods

Ashridge mince pie

Ted and Gem

After that there’s nothing much left to report other than wintery sunsets, evenings in front of the fire, cuddles with my cat, snoozing in my Christmas bed set, and chain smoking my White Company ‘Winter’ scented most-delicious-smelling-candle-in-all-the-land.

Sunset from Gem's bedroom

Bird decoration

My Cat

White Company Candle

Boat decoration

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!



Woodland Wonderland

I love this time of year. The trees are all dressed up with nowhere to go, decked out in their finest freshly unfurled leaves and heavy garlands of blossom. The birds are singing as fervently as if they’re all in the shower and nobody’s home. And everything smells so fantastic that I want to roll in it, doggy-fashion. Spring has unquestionably sprung in all her glory.

And, thanks to nature’s most luxurious carpet, nowhere is more magical than woodland in May time. If you go down to the woods in May you’re in for a blue surprise.

I am of course talking about bluebells. I’ve spent the last few weeks enjoying the show. Home in Hertfordshire isn’t too shabby…

Bluebells Hertfordshire 2014

Bluebells Hertfordshire 2014

I’ve actually been visiting Ashridge to pay homage to these mystical flowers for a very long time. My whole life time in fact. Let me take you back to 1995…

Gem & Chloe in bluebells, 1996

When I was growing up, it was a family tradition to pack up a picnic breakfast early one morning at the start of May, and eat it perched on a log amongst the bluebells. We have photos documenting my sister and I growing up, set against a backdrop of blue, munching buttered toast or hot cross buns.

At some point I started borrowing my Dad’s camera and became more interested in the bluebells than in the breakfast. (Blasphemy?!)

2011 was a sunnier affair than this year…

Bluebells Hertfordshire 2011

Bluebells Hertfordshire 2011

I’ve been struggling to capture the symphony of green and purple for the last decade. I took this one in 2005…

Bluebells Hertfordshire 2005

Anyway, this year I was lucky enough to give my bluebell addiction a double dose. My family headed off on a bit of a last minute Cornish adventure, and were met with the most glorious display of bluebells, wild garlic, and red campion.

Woodland wild flowers in Cornwall 2014

The smell was heavenly. This is in a little copse on the cliff overlooking Polridmouth Beach, and the trees are all twisted and gnarled from a life exposed to the elements. I felt like I was in The Wind and the Willows. 

Bark and Moss

Wild wood, Cornwall 2014

Bluebells and wild garlic seemed to be everywhere. In the woods, in the fields, lining the roads…

Prickly Post Lane

Even the track down to our cottage was banked in splendour (and the over-hanging azaleas didn’t hurt either).

Azalea and wild garlic

Woodland flowers

Wild garlic
But, like all good magicians, the woods saved their best for last. On our final day in Cornwall we visited the Luxulyan valley to find our favourite woodland haunt.

Luxulyan Aqueduct

Not far from the shadow of the aqueduct, there runs a stream. And if you follow it down the valley, you will find this place.

Luxulyan Valley
Giant rocks are strewn around as a long-gone glacier’s calling card, trees have spent centuries getting comfortable and stretching their roots out, leaf litter covers the ground, moss clings to every surface it can, and – apart from the musical noise of the stream – there’s an almost holy quiet that settles over everything.

Moss on tree roots in Luxulyan

Luxulyan Valley

A magical place made more magical by the presence of my favourite little bells of blue.