Monday, 12 August 2013

Sock, Trollop and Reeley Road Trip Part II

You will be wondering about the dynamics of the Sock, Trollop and Reeley 'Ladies who Launch' team.  I decide the itinerary and book everything, LazyTrollop drives (very well), listens (pretends to listen, very well) and utters occasional soothing noises (fairly well).  Helen takes care of the hour to hour organisation of the trip, thus absolving everyone else from any further decision-making - except maybe what to eat (and even then you have to be pretty quick to decide before Helen gives the waiter our order). Helen is the kind of person you really needed along in those days of yore when eating out in big groups, trying to split the bill fairly between twelve people arguing about who had what - Helen just tells you what to pay and that is that - sorted.

At the end of part one you found us tired and happy after our day with Harriet at Whichford Pottery retiring to a very nice Inn where Helen napped in her room whilst the Sock and Trollop knocked back a bottle of Prosecco in theirs before meeting up for dinner. 

After a good night's kip and a fine breakfast (during which we agree that baked beans should never form part of a Full English) we are off on our travels again.  We are visiting the charming and gorgeous Petra Hoyer-Millar and her husband Luke at their country pile. It's a fabulous hot, sunny, day with just enough breeze to make it comfortable as the LazyTrollop drives us (very well) through the Oxfordshire countryside.  We are laughing at an extremely silly joke Helen is going to play, laughing so much that we are crying and I nearly have an asthma attack but still the LazyTrollop keeps us on the road with her calm driving.  Helen has been organising us with her map-reading skills but when we reach Petra's village the local directions are left to me.  It is therefore unsurprising that we end up driving around one of her unsuspecting neighbour's gardens before I realise that we should have used the gates 'WITHOUT' the pineapples on top!

 When we finally find ourselves in the right place Petra greets us with cool drinks and a lovely table set-up on the shaded terrace.

We feel like royalty - which is only right of course, as us 'Ladies who Launch' are indeed twitter royalty.  Our tour starts with the walled garden, Helen walking ahead and giving Luke the third degree on what they grow, why and future plans, whilst Petra, LazyTrollop and I wander behind, absorbing the warmth, the buzz of the bees and the gentle fluttering of hundreds of white butterflies wafting over the lavender.  Blissful.

I am most envious of the fabulous Japanese Wineberry growing around a gateway - I have been meaning to buy one for years and after tasting these have finally done so.

Petra and Luke grow various varieties of raspberries, loganberries, boysenberries and we try one of each. So interesting, some tart and bursting with flavour, some softer and sweeter, such a luxury to have fruit straight from the bush. A walled garden must be high on every gardener's dreamlist.. this one combines flowers, veg and even flowering veg, with the added ambience of ancient apple trees covered in lichen.

We complete our tour of the garden taking in the country vistas and the ha ha - they are only people I know who have their very own ha ha!.

Ha ha!

Then lunch - the best sort of lunch.. Petra hopes we all like lots of basil! Fresh basil is my favourite although I have little success growing it myself.  And then a dessert to die for with more fresh raspberries on top!

After my two glasses of white wine I would quite like to have curled up on one of the loungers for my siesta but at this point Helen says we mustn't outstay the incredibly generous welcome our hosts have given us and we set off  for our next stop - Rousham.

All I know about Rousham is that it is one of James Alexander Sinclair's favourite gardens, it has a big rill, and that Anne Wareham doesn't like it - although the latter goes without saying I suppose.
It's bloody hot and Rousham doesn't have a tea-room or cake - you would have thought this would have given it a mark or two on the Wareham Scale.  It's rather delightful really - just a ticket machine, some chickens running around the lawn, and a sign saying no children which is quite marvellous!

It's a rather handsome old country house (with a rather handsome LazyTrollop outside of it).

Another walled garden.. this with gates ready to be opened and reveal their secrets..

and archways to beautiful borders, long soft hedges...

Ah.. yes.. the long, soft, hedges.  I was just thinking what a lovely, long, soft, hedge divided one of the walled gardens and how nice it would be to just lean into it a little and feel it curve gently into my spine... When the bloody hedge opened up and swallowed me, leaving only a Sock-shaped hole, and me on my back with my feet sticking out! I had to shout for Helen and LazyTrollop to haul me out! Luckily, they were too busy laughing at me to take a photo.  We managed to cover up most of the damage to the hedge but I was picking small leaves and twigs out of my hair, bra and knickers for the next day  One of the gardeners approached to find out what the fracas was about but we told him we were bezzie mates with JAS so everything was OK.

Hot, sticky, thirsty and covered in hedge we made our way out through the shady woods to a pool and cooled our tired feet. 

The rill was nearly as good as one of those foot massage baths that used to be popular in the 80s.

Helen 'Rilley' - ha ha!
It was rather a good rill really.

As we left we noticed they had made a small change to the sign..

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Sock,Trollop and Reeley - Road Trip 2013

Flower filled pots at Whichford Pottery

 After the resounding success of last years road trip the Sock, LazyTrollop and Helen Reeley (who together comprise 'The Ladies who Launch' ) were inundated with requests for them to visit in 2013. All that was needed was to put together the right blend of fun people to visit with a few interesting gardens thrown in for good measure.

Most of what follows is a true account of this year's adventure.

It's been a tough year so we were much in need of japes and jollification.  Tossing our overnight bags into the boot of LazyTrollop's car (mine somewhat weighed down with a bottle of 'emergency' Prosecco and Helen's weighed down with a year's supply of emergency lip gloss) we set off for first stop - Whichford Pottery.  [Actually when I say Whichford Pottery, what I means is a pub nearby for a chatty lunch with twitter friend Harriet Rycroft who is showing us around there on her day off.]

Such is Harriet's loyalty to, and pride in, Whichford Pots that when I first 'met' her on twitter I assumed she was the owner! As it is, Harriet combines being Whichford's Head Gardener with blogging and tweeting about the Pottery in an interesting and personal way which few of those who appear on twitter promoting themselves/businesses manage. She must be worth her weight in gold! I haven't posted many pictures of the fabulous, flower-filled pots here as Harriet's photos on the blog will give you a much, much better idea.

Harriet at Whichford pots

I have always loved Whichford pots from when I first started seriously gardening.  No birthday complete without the present of a pot!  The one below is my first from about 20 years ago and has acquired the patina of age and wear beautifully.

After a slightly 'loud' lunch in what was previously a peaceful country pub we make our way to the pottery.  Obviously, before we can be seen again in public, Helen has to apply a new layer of lippy from her overflowing vanity bag.

Helen's overnight bags!

Sadly the battery ran out on Helen's rather marvellous compact with built in light (right) and the mirror has been discarded.

After we have spent five minutes advising Helen on the removal of excess lip gloss from her cheek, teeth, and tongue, we are ready and eager for our tour.

The pottery is quite fascinating and wonderfully 'hand's on' - a proper craftperson's place.
It never occurred to me that the clay was actually er... soil.

The raw ingredient!

Three different sorts are bought in and stored apparently the soil being better if left to age for years in a nearby field*  Then it is mixed into mud, cut into sheets

and 'spun' into shape

after which various moulds and inscriptions are made on them..

 These tools look just like pastry cutters!

We were hard pushed to decide which were our favourite designs

although these black pots with a salamander on the rim were pretty damn smart..

So many pots, so difficult to choose one but I went for one with tulip frieze in contrasting greyish green  colour, very chic.

 We somehow spent several hours perusing the pottery and were too exhausted to take Harriet up on her invitation for a cup-of-tea and nose around her personal garden (which I expect she was quite relieved by!).  Next time.  We drove off to our overnight accommodation at a rather nice Inn where Helen napped and re-did her lip gloss in time for supper, whilst Lazy Trollop and I made short work of the Prosecco.

Coming soon.. Sock, Trollop & Reeley Roadtrip Part II where we visit a posh village house and behave like elegant and cultured ladies, and a refined country garden where I fall in a hedge.


* LazyTrollop told me this so it might not be right.