Monday, 21 April 2014

Kew Gardens – Spring 2014

We have left Kent now after 3 ½ months house-sitting for friends and are spending Easter in Staines, near Heathrow, London with our son.

Yesterday, on the way through, we had a very enjoyable time with friends at Kew Gardens.
Parking at Brentford Gate by the River Thames, we wandered through the Gardens.
Photos of our friends lovely garden

Looking across the River Thames, up to Brentford Reach to the lock into the Grand Union Canal

Giant wicker mushrooms in Kew Gardens

Our long-standing friend with Chris

The Victorian Palm house, built in 1848, it is considered the finest example of a surviving Victorian wrought iron and glass structure. There was comprehensive overhaul in 1988.

The Palm House Parterre with Spring flowers

Inside the Palm House

Back down by the River Thames, new apartments being built

Contrasted with live-a-boards in Kew Reach, River Thames

Monday, 14 April 2014

Bees a Buzzing! Spring in Kent 2014

With the warmer weather having arrived, the bees in the garden here in Kent are much more active.
The Beekeeper came round to check on them – and I helped!

Firstly the wire fencing and netting was removed – this protected the hives from hungry woodpeckers. Then the mouse guards needed to be taken off the fronts.

Showing the mouse guard
Showing the entrance restricters – put on in the winter to maintain warmth
Lighting the fuel in the smoker
Ready to go!
Lifting the roof
Removing the remnants of the winter sugar and extra pollen feed
This hive is very active and the bees have expanded into the top section 

Looking for the queen bee – in order to mark her for easy subsequent inspection

Out of the five hives, three were doing very well, one seemed down on new brood (the eggs of new bees) and one seemed to have lost it's queen for some reason!

All-in-all very interesting and something which I think I could take to – perhaps?!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Day Trip to London – the Quiz!

We took the Southeastern Train up to London on the occasion of my birthday (63rd) celebration.

Here are some photos – work out where? Answers at the bottom.

1.We came out from the train station to see this?
2.Crossing the Strand, looking in awe of one of England's icon's?
3.A national treasure?
4.Who is this?
5.A famous church?
6.Our destination for the evening?
We went to see Moscow's Novaya Opera perform Borodin's Prince Igor.
It was Russian opera and dance beautifully performed by Russian artists – a real treat and an excellent way to celebrate!


1.Outside of Charing Cross Station – the Victorian (1865) Portland stone replica of the original wooden cross, erected by Edward I in 1294 as a memorial to his wife, Eleanor of Castile.

2.Trafalgar Square, with Nelson's Column – opened in 1844 and finally completed in 1867, the square and column commemorate Britain's victory in the naval Battle of Trafalgar against France and Spain (in 1805), famously led by Vice-Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson. Nelson's column is 170 feet tall with the four bronze lions at each corner. Trafalgar Square is said to be the centre of London and the site of celebrations and political demonstrations.

3.A view across the square, passed one of the fountains to the front of the National Gallery – completed in 1838.

4.A bronze statue of George Washington – this is one of 22 exact bronze replicas of the marble original, 1796 by Houdon (which is in Richmond, Virginia). This replica was given by the State of Virginia in 1921 to the British and supposedly came with a ton of earth upon which is was placed to respect George Washington's vow that he would never set foot on English soil!

George Washington was of British lineage as his great-grandfather John sailed across the Atlantic in 1657 to start a new life in Virginia. It is said that George was well educated and spoke with a 100% British accent.

George is of course a very British name (we now have Prince George as a baby) and George Washington's ancestral home was the Washington Old Hall in Durham.
He was quite a remarkable man.

5.The front of the Church of St. Martin’s in the Field – completed in 1724 and built in the Neoclassical style. Interestingly, it is the Parish Church for the Royal Family, 10 Downing Street and the Admiralty.

6.The top of the London Coliseum, home of the English National Opera – designed and built by Frank Matcham in 1904. It has the biggest auditorium in London with 2,359 seats. Matcham patented building using cantilevered steel to construct the sweeping balconies and so increase capacity and sight lines. His work was popular and he was prolific in his designs which include the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool (1898) and the London Palladium (1910).

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A Spring Day at the National Trust's Scotney Castle

It really feels as Spring has arrived with the warmer weather.
We went with our son and granddaughter down to the National Trust estate at Scotney Castle. It was extremely busy – everybody having the same idea as us!
We had come here last summer as well - see link to blog page 2013.

This house and grounds are steeped in history over many centuries from the original 14th Century moated castle – constructed as a fortified house to resist the feared French raids, to the 1835 building of a 'new' house on top of the hill.

The old castle was apparently lived in by an estate worker until 1905, whilst the eastern range was partially 'architecturally' dismantled in1843 to look like a ruin – seen from the windows of the new house.

Old Elizabethan Castle and part of the living quarters – looking across the moat
It is thought that the original plan would have been for a rectangular fortification with towers on each corner (perhaps similar to Bodiam Castle?) – though it seems only one tower was built?

The later castle was completed in 1843 and built out of sandstone quarried from the hill edge – now a quarry garden! The last owner, Christopher Hussey left the estate to the National Trust in 1970 with the stipulation that is wife may live there. When she died in 2006, the house was opened up a year later – just as Elizabeth Hussey had left it. It was welcoming and homely.

Rear elevation from the garden. Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister, had an apartment here in the 1970's and 80's.
Front entrance
Coat of Arms – carved in stone. The family motto 'Vix ea nostra vocco' is quite apt meaning 'I scarcely call these things our own' – given they were given to the Trust.
Family enjoying the day's visit