Wensleydale weavers, cheese, beer and ancestors

Over the last couple of days we have been exploring eastern Cumbria and on into the western Yorkshire Dales. Sedbergh nestles below beautiful Howgill Fell, and has a some lovely quirky shops, including a craft workshop run by a local co-operative of crafters. I treated myself to an interesting circular weaving kit from The Threshing Barn and had a wander around the nearby restored mill at Farfield with its collection of artists’ studios, textile exhibitions and weaving looms.



Then we drove on through lovely scenery to Hawes in the heart of Wensleydale. It was market day and tourists and bikers out in force. We did a quick trip round the cheese factory, great selection and plenty of free tasting! But the nearby Gayle had a different kind of attraction for me. Along a narrow lane I found a tiny burial ground and the graves of several generations of my Allen ancestors, including my 4x, 5x, and 6x great grandparents. They were all part of an obscure group of dissenters called Sandemanians in the 18th and 19th century, and so were buried together next to their meeting house. I will write more on my family history blog when I’ve sorted out who they all are! The bridge and river at Gayle feel timeless, and there are some very old cottages nearby, which would have been around when my ancestors lived here.




Back in Hawes we bought some of the local beer from an interestingly named shop. The Allen family is still very much in evidence it seems!


Gentle Lakeland day

After a long drive from the south coast, the twilight on the distant fells yesterday evening was a lovely reward as we ate dinner.

Then this morning we took it easy with a gentle wander around beautiful Sizergh Castle.



Followed by a stroll along Lake Windemere in the sunshine.


June roses

The June garden is full of roses. The photos don’t do justice to the colours, and certainly don’t capture the fragrance! The pink rose on the trellis is a neon pink, called “Morning Jewel”. It  is flowering profusely this year since we moved it into a sunnier position. 129___064

I just had to choose a rose for my stitched flower journal this month. But roses are a challenge to stitch. I decided to try a reverse applique technique I learned on a Susan Brittingham workshop several years ago. Working from a black and white photo, I reduced the rose to three tones of pink, and built the picture piece by piece like a jigsaw, stitching from the back. Then I added surface embroidery, before quilting it onto a piece of hand printed fabric I found lurking in my stash! With hindsight I wish I had chosen a more silky fabric for the rose, with more of a sheen. Perhaps next time…

Guns, hats and “Just Sing”

Another fun weekend at Wimborne Folk Festival! Men (and women) in flowered and feathered hats, musketeers wandering the streets, dancers with bells, sticks and knives, it wouldn’t usually be allowed! But it was lovely to see the town packed with thousands of people enjoying a family day out. Lots of fun for children, of all ages.129___063

And “Just Sing” was performing several times, our second year, with audiences of family and friends and others who seemed to appreciate our efforts! We enjoyed ourselves anyway…

Just Sing - cornmarket  Rachel's photo

Just Sing – cornmarket
Rachel’s photo

Just Sing - Wimborne square

Just Sing – Wimborne square

A few days of French sunshine

We left in gale force winds and stormy rain, but the quick hop across the Channel from Southampton brought us to the warmth of Limoges in south west France where our kind friends Judy and Ray, were waiting for us at the airport. Leaving their modern house in Corfe Mullen three years ago, they had moved with their lovely labrador dogs to a 250 year old cottage with a large and (then) wild garden in a tiny hamlet in the rural landscape of Limousin. This was our first visit to their new home.1-129___06What a treat to eat outside in 30 degree warmth over looking their, now tamed, garden with its fruit trees and vegetables, complete with chickens, and hives of bees. We watched butterflies in the sunshine, and as the sun set each night we watched the stars appear to the accompanying chorus of frogs on nearby lakes. Over the next three days we were taken on a tour of the lovely towns and landscapes of the area, and further afield into the northern Dordogne, Brantome and Perigueux . We visited many ancient buildings with hidden histories of magnificence and tragedy – just a few captured here.


Doors and windows


Beautiful old buildings

Not so beautiful but immensely important are the ruined buildings of Oradur-sur-Glane, the memorial village, preserved in order to keep alive the memory of the 642 men, women and children massacred on 10th June 1944 by a German Waffen SS company. Our visit here was sombre, and made us realise how little  we knew of the experience of the French population during the dark days of World War 2.

1-IMG_2973Our days in France were far from dark, filled with sunshine and the generosity of friends. Thank you Judy and Ray for a lovely few days holiday!

Hard to capture…

The clematis in the garden have been beautiful this month. Some as big as dinner plates, with subtly different shading and furry centres. 1-128___05I decided to make it my stitch journal flower for May, but it was hard to capture the vibrancy and colour of the real thing. But the process of paying attention and observing these opening blooms, and then learning how to select fabrics, threads, techniques and colours to represent them, is what I wanted the stitch journal to be about. So the end result is secondary, and I am enjoying the journey.

Click here to see all my Weavers Garden Flower Journal pieces so far.


This is the time of year when I often sit in our conservatory, with its colourful views of the garden and its good light for reading or sewing. Today there is the added bonus of the sweet fragrance of orange blossom. Our potted orange tree is flowering, releasing its heavy scent, and reminding me of Mediterranean holidays, sitting under shady trees where oranges hang heavy like golden globes against the blue sky. I am amazed at the way those trees seem to be able to blossom and bear fruit at the same time.
Sadly there are no fruit here on our potted tree, but there other refugees from Mediterranean climes. The bougainvillea flowering valiantly in purple against the grey sky, and the undemanding succulent, living quietly on the windowsill all winter, pushing forth its exotic flowers.

Our regular walk at Kingston Lacy this morning revealed more exotic treats. Glorious tree peonies which can hardly hold their heavy flowers upright, delicate orchids in the Victorian glass house, and neon coloured delicately scented deciduous azaleas…

Who needs faraway holidays, with all this on the doorstep…