2016: the year of spaciousness

Because there's more to life than work

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Wild flower bonanza

As the heatwave is forecast to be followed by some rather sharp showers next few days, we thought we’d take advantage of the slightly cooler conditions to have a walk down to the dunes – last weekend it was just too hot to do anything but sit in the shade. It was amazing to see the changes in just the last few weeks since we were there. IMG_1678The hot weather’s really brought the flowers out in their thousands, and I’ve never seen so many butterflies – the air was thick with them.

IMG_1681You can understand why when you see the variety of flowers, it must be like visiting a gourmet restaurant for them. The whole place is just teeming with wildlife:

IMG_1676All the ragwort plants were covered in cinnabar moth caterpillars. We saw lots of cinnabar moths last time we were down here, but not as many today although there clearly isn’t going to be any future shortage! There were also quite a few of these beautiful striped snails:

IMG_1685But the real stars of the day were again the wild orchids. I was delighted to see more of the pyramidal orchids which were just starting to go over…

IMG_1683…unlike the Marsh Helleborine Orchids which were flowering profusely. I’d never seen these before and had to check their identity when I got home, but am pretty sure that’s what they are.


IMG_1689I was excited enough at seeing these, but then on the last stretch back to the car, spotted just one of these growing in what had been a small tarn earlier in the year:

IMG_1694Again, have never seen one of these before and think it’s a Green-flowered Helleborine Orchid rather than a marsh one – quite tall, nearly a foot in size.

IMG_1696Such a treat to see these beautiful, rare plants so near to home. We walked about four miles altogether and hardly saw a soul. A few hundred yards away the beach was crowded with day trippers, cars, ice cream vans and all the noise of a weekend seaside town, but we could have been a million miles away. Just flowers, butterflies, swooping martins and the sea in the distance. Perfect Sunday afternoon.


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What I’ve gained from blogging

I’ve just realised that I’ve been writing this blog for a little over three months. I started it up when I went full time self-employed at the start of April, so that I’d have another focus besides my developing business. So three months on, has it worked? Absolutely. The blog has helped me to be mindful, noticing the beautiful, quirky and fun things that make up my life, in a way that other things I’ve tried (like gratitude journals) haven’t. It’s helped me get into new things – like photography, and rediscover old passions – like gardening. And it’s introduced me to fellow bloggers the world over: I honestly had no idea of the size of the bloggiverse (or indeed if that’s even a word!) and have been constantly delighted and given new inspiration by the many, many creative people out there. Thanks so much, everyone!

Today has been a really lovely day, starting with baking a rhubarb and custard cake. This is a really easy recipe though it looks different each time I make it – think it must depend on the juiciness of the rhubarb. Mine was very wet today after roasting it which made it sink a little.

Once it was out and cooling, we set off for a walk as justification for pigging ourselves later. We went to a bit of the coast about 3 miles from where we live that I’ve not been to in years, although my other half goes running round there a fair bit and has been telling me for ages how much it’s improved. I was staggered – what used to be a fairly grotty bit of beach has been left to regenerate and develop its natural dune system, and it’s absolutely stunning – full of flowers, insects, streams and lakes. I had no idea.

IMG_1601I’d never seen this plant before which was about the same height as me, but there were loads of clumps of it about. A bit of delving on Google images when I got home makes me think it’s garden angelica (Angelica archangelica) but if you know differently please let me know!

Also loads of seed pods of jack-go-to-bed-at-noon (that has got to be one of the best plant names ever: so called because the flowers shut at noon) which are so beautiful – very different to a dandelion clock when you look closely as the little umbrellas are all inside out.

IMG_1606And orchids again – masses and masses of deep red ones, which I also think are marsh orchids but very different from the ones we saw the other day. They do seem to be a really variable plant.

IMG_1592Loved this furry caterpillar too!

IMG_1597We ended up walking far further than we intended as it was so peaceful, realised we were absolutely starving and headed back to hit the cake 🙂 But we’ll definitely be going back again as it’s a huge area and there’s loads more to explore.


Beauty on the doorstep followed by cake and good coffee – I can’t think of a better way to spend a morning. Hope your weekend was good too!


Wild orchids

I can’t honestly remember a better year for seeing orchids than this one is turning out to be so far. We went for a walk today in a local nature reserve that used to just be a disused quarry when we were kids. Nature has now crept back in with a vengeance and it was beautiful wandering round today in the sunshine, seeing the tall birches, butterflies and flowers and hearing nothing but birds. We often go up there for the view – in the pancake flat area we live in, at only a couple of hundred feet up you get a panoramic view across the coastal plain.

IMG_1574The best view today however was inland – orchids. Hundreds of them, again in just one small patch, like yesterday.

IMG_1580These were a different sort to yesterday though, and were growing in what was clearly quite a marshy bit of ground. So we reckon these are marsh orchids, and were amazed at how tall they were – some must have been nearly a foot high.

IMG_1582The flowers are just amazing, and look so exotic all gathered together in one place. Orchids do seem to like old quarry sites – I remember years ago seeing huge patches of them on old spoil heaps from coal mines near the side of a motorway. But they’re almost impossible to grow yourself – though orchids produce thousands of seeds, apparently most are infertile and even the fertile ones sometimes have to co-exist with the right sort of fungi before they will grow and thrive. Which makes sights like this especially rare and beautiful, and I always worry that people may not appreciate them properly by picking them, or worse, digging them up, and not realise what a scarce and wonderful plant they are damaging. But today, they were magnificent in their abundance.

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The joys of skiving off

Well, it wasn’t really skiving…I worked all weekend, so firmly closed the laptop at 12 and headed off out to get some air. Bitterly cold wind so we planned a walk behind some big dunes, hoping for a bit of shelter. We didn’t find shelter, but we did find…orchids!

IMG_1558I’ve never seen orchids in this particular bit of the dunes before, and all of them were growing on just one small dune. According to my book I think this is a pyramidal orchid – there were about 20 of them. But then I was beyond excited as we saw something I’ve never seen before – a bee orchid.

IMG_1562Apologies for the blurriness – the wind was so strong they kept moving! But was so excited to see one that I wanted to share it with you. We spotted four altogether. Really great day for wild flowers, loads of sea holly too:

IMG_1557Windswept and happy, we followed the walk up with a picnic of cheese and onion pies in the car, had a browse round a bookshop and the library, and headed home for a bask in the garden. Total cost of afternoon: under £2.00. Satisfaction levels – priceless.

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Patio living

Love being able to eat tea on the patio – we started out tonight with olive bread, tomato salsa with fresh mint, chives and basil from the garden and olive oil for dipping, and finished with briam. This is one of our favourite veggie dishes and this is the first time we’ve had it this year as we only make it when all the ingredients are really ripe and fresh.

IMG_1538It’s a layered veg bake of potatoes, masses of garlic, courgettes, red and green peppers, aubergines, red onions, tomatoes, passata, olive oil and lots of oregano. You just slice everything and layer it all up in that order in a big baking tin, cover with foil and cook for 1.5 hours at Gas Mark 5. It bakes down quite a lot – the tin in the picture was full when I covered it with the foil.  Serve sprinkled with feta cheese. It’s from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes which is an absolutely mouth-watering book. You can tell we’ve made this recipe lots as the page is completely splattered with many meals gone by! So lovely to sit in the sun and pretend we’re somewhere more exotic.


Before tea we went for a walk down to the dunes and saw the first orchids of the year – still very small, but great they’re still there. We can never make our minds up what sort they are – think either pyramidal or marsh (they are growing in a wet area), but if you know for definite then please let us know!

IMG_1530The first wild roses were also out…



…and as the perfect finale to the weekend, my other half is washing up while I’m typing this. Hope your weekend was good!