Saturday, 28 January 2017

Hanbury Hall - what a difference a week makes

We visit Hanbury Hall a lot. 

Since New Year I think we have been 3 times.  It is our nearest National Trust property and our go-to when we need a stroll around and haven't much time.

One foggy Sunday a couple of weeks ago, we decided to stay local.  Picnic bag packed, we drove off into the fog for a Worcestershire walk.

Hanbury is usually extremely busy, however, the fog appeared to be putting people off, Good!  We enjoy wandering around as if we own the place!

Yep, lord and lady of the manor, if you please.

Hanbury Hall was built in the early 18th century by wealthy lawyer Thomas Vernon, the Vernon family were already a prominent and well established Worcestershire family.  Thomas inherited the land and previous house, Spernall Hall, from his childless uncle.

 Hanbury is built in the Queen Anne style and is grade 1 listed. It has been in the care of the National Trust since the 1960's.

As Hanbury is so close, we've never really delved into the history of the place, we often go to wander around the grounds and not the house.

Mistletoe growing on a host tree

In Summer this is a lovely place to sit, shaded by trees

The money tree, for some reason this one tree has hundreds of coins hammered into the bark and splits in the wood, we have added a coin ourselves

The orchard looks quite haunting in the fog 

The huge orangery, home to many citrus trees

 Peeking through the steamed up windows, I spotted the potted orange and lemon trees, sheltering from the Winter

A video playing on a loop in the long gallery provided this image of the orangery in Summer, with all the trees out enjoying the weather
The parterre, as viewed from the long gallery steps, dramatic in Winter and very colourful in Summer

The whole parterre can be seen on this aerial shot, again from the video playing in the long gallery (visible here at top left)

Robin sitting atop the ashpans (outside loos)

One of my favourite gateways, returning the following week we were surprised to see it had been taken, or fallen, down.

Onwards to Hanbury church, a short drive or long walk away.

On a clear day there is a fabulous view from the graveyard, today it was just atmospheric

The church has some beautiful ironwork on the doors, as well as lovely architectural details

 The following week I took just a couple of photos at Hanbury, the weather was rather different

Back to real life, and we still have lots to do on the cottage, new light fittings upstairs, several new radiators, a bathroom refit, new extractor fan, oh, and ten new windows, we are currently drowning in condensation in some rooms!

The rental is pootling along and the tenants are sensible adults, they have relative free reign to live in the house as they see fit, they can redecorate if they wish, too. We all had a nasty shock when, not long after they moved in last Autumn, the sewers proved incapable of taking the waste from a bigger household than one person.  Thankfully I had taken out proper landlord insurance, and the insurers have just completed works to line and replace the sewers to the back of the house, with minimal disruption to the tenants.

I've had a couple of charity shop buys this week, I seem to be obsessed with toiletries at the mo, so swooped on this Grace and Cole shower gel for 50p.  I understand it is quite expensive (that's more than a pound to me) and sold in House of Fraser stores.

Finally, I thought this was a great find, until I got it home.  An Aquascutum skirt, found lurking at the back of a new local charity shop for just £1.95

The label had been removed and I only noticed the hanging loops which identified the brand, excitement got the better of me and I paid and dashed home with my booty.  I soon found some stains and several moth holes around the hem, not surprising as the fabric is approx 75% wool and 25% silk, according to the care label which is still attached, hidden between the skirt and lining.  

So, I have cut off the bottom 4 inches or so and will be altering the skirt length and back split soon.  Spot cleaning showed that the fabric can take soapy water so I might just try a hand wash as well.

Every cloud and all that !!

Have you had any charity shop disasters recently?

Saturday, 21 January 2017

January sales charity shop style

Who needs retail when you can have a ball in the charity shops and still come home with change from a £20 note?

Following on from my birthday, when there was a complete lack of anything remotely interesting in the charity shops for me to treat myself to, I went a bit beserk the other day and really splashed out.

I'm not a great one for make up, but I do try and paint my toenails throughout the Summer, and I like to treat myself to a couple of new nail varnishes a year.  When I saw this Nails inc nail varnish (colour is Holland Park Avenue) in the local PDSA, complete with free lapel pin and just a pound, I had to have it!  Along with the Baylis and Harding shower gel, just 25p, and a new tube of Avon hand cream, my favourite, for 20p 

Footwear next, couldn't believe my eyes when I saw these Morlands sheepskin booties for £2.95, my size and hardly worn, so a must buy.  I think there was a strap across the back that a previous owner has removed, but they stay on fine and are so warm and comfy.  As someone who has permanently cold hands and feet, these should make things a bit more bearable in the cold dry days of Winter.

More footwear, I had spied these Josef Siebel leather casual shoes a few weeks before Christmas, they had a beige pair as well, but I'm a fan of green and really like the cut out design.  Both pairs were my size so obviously the green pair came home with me, for £3.99.

I have been looking for some sort of headwear to go with my new favourite black quilted John Partridge jacket, and stumbled across this black quilted hat in a bin full of hats, scarves and gloves, I always rummage in those bins!  The hat is unbranded and cost 95p.

Something I've taken a chance on now, following on from the poncho purchase a couple of weeks ago, which I confess I haven't yet worn, I found this huge soft wrap thing on a pound rail, and as I liked the colours, I bought it.

You will need to use your imagination here, I didn't have anywhere to display it, it's one of those huge things like a big blanket with a slit down it that you drape over your shoulders and then throw the two front bits back over your shoulders.  I'm not overkeen, as it really is large, so it may just turn into a poncho, at the moment I'm still wondering what to do with it, but hey, it was a pound!

A couple of tops now, both a bit Breton in style. Jack Wills size 8 top, which was 50p, bit of a fail as when I put it on it is a little small and has a hole near the hem and seam, I may stitch it and give it a go.

Last up of my mega haul, this really soft Peacocks top, 50p, and a size 14 I think, in navy and terracotta, a great colour combination I think.  

Finally, in true pennypincher style, I have a reward credit card which gets used whenever I need to buy anything and can do so without penalty (as some companies charge for using a credit card as payment, don't they) I sent off for a high street voucher from my card, as I had amassed quite a few points, I received this voucher the other day, and am almost able to send for another of the same value, yay!

Here's a tip though, I have tried to pay for holidays before with my credit card but can't because they want to charge an extra fee.  I have a paypal account and it uses my credit card if the balance on my paypal account is low, so, when booking a holiday last year I transferred my paypal balance to my bank account and then paid for my holiday through paypal.  The amount was added to my credit card bill and I had successfully paid for my holiday with my credit card, getting points towards rewards!

A few more bills paid and I shall have £100 to go mad with in M&S, woohoo! 

Finally, I had a bit of a haircut the other night, I've been growing layers out of my hair for a few months and decided to put them all back in again, and cut about three inches off the length at the same time!  It actually doesn't look much different but feels so much better and lighter.

We don't go to the hairdresser, OH found these crea clips on Amazon and we use them to cut our hair.  As my hair is poker straight and very shiny, the only problem I have is the clip slipping off, but I always double check the cut with OH afterwards and tidy the ends up if necessary, it means I can cut my own hair completely and not just the fringe.  I do layers by pulling my hair into a ponytail on my forehead and snipping the whole pony tail off at about 5 inches from my head.

You'll have to wait for the next trip out to see if you can spot the difference with my new haircut.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Another trip round the sun


Tuesday the third was my birthday.  Where does the time go?  How did I ever become "over 50" when I feel 20?  Last year was bad enough but now, I'm 51 !!!

Oh well, better than the alternative, as they say.  

This was my day, my choice of venue, so we went charity shopping in Stourport on Severn, then popped in to the absolutely gorgeous Queens Head in Wolverley for lunch and on to Kinver for a bit more retail therapy.

I was hoping to find a bargain in Stourport as I had a voucher to spend, and found out I could use it in The Original Factory Shop, which I quite like.

No, on this occasion, there was nothing, not one item that attracted my attention enough for me to buy it.  Never mind, rumbling tummies took us to the Queens Head in Wolverley.

Unusual houses opposite the pub

I had looked on the website before we set out to check the menu and prices.  I assumed they had not updated the website as the prices were ridiculously low, so we winged it and hoped it was reasonable!

It was.

OH, who was paying for my birthday meal, got a bargain as the lunch menu is just £4.25

I had cajun chicken with chunky chips and salad, the OH, who was already halfway through his by the time I got the camera out, had gammon, egg and chips.

Desserts were £4.50, so we treated ourselves, I had white chocolate cheesecake with raspberries and cream, OH had spicy apple crumble and custard.

It was all absolutely gorgeous!

We were stuffed to the gills and had time to sit and admire our lovely surroundings (although I think most of it is not original, it still looks nice)

Wearing my new favourite jumper, £5.50, Cotton traders jeans £1, both charity shopped, and Fat Face grey leather boots from ebay.

Outside, the large car park is bordered by sandstone cliffs, which contain caves similar to those found in the nearby Kinver area.  Who knows what these were used for but I know what's at the top of the cliff...

St John the Baptist church and graveyard!  I didn't peer too carefully into the gloom in the caves.

We drove onwards to Kinver for more retail therapy at the charity shops there.  I found nothing suitable to buy so was slightly disappointed, I really wanted a birthday treat.

Never mind, charity shopping always throws a curveball when you least expect it, there's always next time.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Cotswolds part 3: Blenheim, freezing fog and old stones

Are you sitting comfortably?  Good, this is a long post!

December 28th arrived with freezing fog

This was our sunrise

The garden view wasn't much better, in fact it was worse

A morning visitor was looking for pickings in the haze

We had decided on a visit to Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire at some point during our holiday, ever since we discovered it wasn't too far away and we could get in for free.

One of our better buys of 2016 was membership of the Historic Houses Association for just £32 each for the year.  They have over 300 private houses signed up to allow members in for free so we thought it would be good value for money.

Blenheim is part of the HHA so we were able to visit with our membership cards.  Considering the entrance fee to Blenheim is £24.90 each
(although you can convert your day ticket to an annual pass for no extra charge) I think we had a good deal.

The drive there was simple enough, although one of the main roads was blocked by police cars.  We discovered on our way home that there had been a 20 vehicle pile up in the ice and fog and one person had been fatally injured.  They were still removing smashed up cars when we drove past on the opposite carriageway around 6 hours later.

Foggy Blenheim!

As we arrived at Blenheim, we noticed patches of blue sky peeping through and hoped that going into the house first would give the sky a chance to clear a little.

Blenheim was hosting some modern art supplied by Michaelangelo Pistoletto, founder of the poor art movement.  I really don't 'do' much modern art and found it off putting in such a setting so tried to exclude it as much as I could from my photos, hence lots of ceiling shots and parts of rooms.

Entrance hall ceiling

Entrance hall, complete with twin Christmas trees.  

I have a thing for keys, and Blenheim has the poshest front door key I have ever seen on display in the hallway, and I was so distracted by the guide talking to us I forgot to take a photo, it is gilt and is topped off with a crown.

Blenheim was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, although he was not directly in line for the title (his father being the third son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough), his grandfather was and he was born there whilst his parents were on a family visit. One of his all-in-one lounge suits was on display (he wore these as an adult).  He referred to these suits as his romper suits

Romper suit in what looks like burgundy velour, with matching slippers

Ground floor bedroom where Churchill was born 

Only the ground floor state rooms are open to the public, they are ridiculously grand and stuffed with antiques and fine art.  I was rather taken with the other hallway on the opposite side of the house to where we entered.

Hall ceiling

Why have just one grand marble fireplace? Note the height of the internal doors, which look to be about 12 feet high

Thought I would wear my new to me Betty Barclay wool skirt £2.49, and my charity shopped leather jacket too, £15

Acres of marble

Shhh, don't tell anyone but OH is wearing second hand from head to foot too, his jacket was £7 and retails at £189, charity shopped Levi's and Ebay leather trainers

Looking back through the door you get the sense of height

Other state rooms were of a similar ilk. As we walked through them the story of the house and family unfolded, and what we see today is mainly due to a good marriage between a titled heir and an American railroad heiress by the name of Consuelo Vanderbilt.

Consuelo Vanderbilt brought money and height to the Spencer-Churchill family

Fine art

Massive tapestries

 Antique writing paraphernalia and personal items

Huge library

Stunning library ceiling, everything at Blenheim is supersized!

 Blenheim was built in the early 1700's, after the 1st Duke of Marlborough was given land and £240,000 by a grateful Queen Anne for his successful leadership at the battle of Blenheim in Germany.

Favourite of many aristocratic families, Lancelot Capability Brown was commissioned to landscape the gardens in 1764, it took 10 years

 I absolutely loved the gardens, nearer the house were water gardens and terraces, all frozen and enveloped in the thinning fog

 As much of the house as I could get in without walking a long way!

Couldn't resist a little Blenheim timer selfie  

In the chapel we found the only bit of Michaelangelo Pistoletto's work that made any sense to me, Venus of the rags

 Although this Venus looked rather different to the other one I found on the link above, it reminded me of all the cast off clothing I used to wade through in my charity shop sorting days 

Ha! I think Pistoletto would get a kick out of the fact that two visitors came to such a grand setting to view his Venus, dressed head to foot in other people's cast offs

A walk around the large shop at Blenheim and I spotted these umbrellas 

They made me smile (not enough to buy one though!)

December 29th, our last day, started pretty much the same as the previous one. The fog was lower, colder and where we were, we could see above it

Puffed up pheasant waiting for sunrise

As we soon discovered, the road conditions were treacherous, ice was visible all over the place and we are obviously spoiled in Worcestershire as our main roads are gritted, here they appeared to be left.  We saw several overturned vehicles and even at silly low speeds of 15mph still felt the lack of grip.

We therefore had a short journey out to the Rollright Stones, a collection of Neolithic stone monuments not too far away.

 The Kings men, a stone circle of carefully placed stones measuring 104 feet in diameter

The whispering Knights, a group of three tall stones, thought to have been the entrance to a long barrow, or burial mound

Across the road, and in a different county, the solitary King stone

A quick look across Warwickshire from the border, then back to the car for a coffee

The sun was low, the road extremely icy, lunch was calling, so we decided to go back to the cottage and have lunch, followed by an afternoon on foot around the village

Driving back through Chipping Norton, I noticed the nativity scene, Baby Jesus appeared to have good taste in sunglasses

The sun had finally burnt off the fog at the cottage

Our walk was cold and refreshing, because of the low sun we walked mostly in frozen shadows.

OH found a new friend (spot the charity shopped weirdfish jacket)

That new to me Lilith jumper is keeping me warm, but

we struggled with the stone stiles!

I loved this old building, probably a mill, built over the river

Back at the cottage my new little friend, this pied wagtail, finally tucked in to the bit of crushed shortbread I put out for him

Our last sunset in Oxfordshire

 We were sorry to leave this lovely place, but the new year was almost upon us and it was time to get back to work.