Garden project – Phase Two

During the week i’d asked dad if when he returns from Scotland he could clear some space in the shed so that we could empty the greenhouse of non greenhouse items. Well, as you may know dad loves a project and as the sun was shining he began the massive task. Well it should be a massive task however for now he just shoved everything in his workshop so it cleared the space.

Whilst he was busy pottering, hoovering spiders and moving boxes, I decided to lay the slabs properly that we had placed on the grass earlier in Autumn to stop Suzy churning all the mud. It was bright sunshine and quite warm so I got to work. A while later, the slabs are set down in the grass and it looks much better.

Before
After

It will look more settled once the lawn is mowed better around them.

Part B of this plan was to place pots all along the edge of the patio to stop Suzy doing a mad dash along the same route down the garden to try and give the grass a bit of time to recuperate. Here’s hopeing it works.

Sunday’s plan changed last minute. But so as not to miss out on a day I decided to plant up the begonias and Lilly bulbs that Rich bought me for Valentine’s Day.

Lily’s in large pots on the floor.

The greenhouse is a hive of activity at the moment. Even Rich has green fingers and is nursing some seeds of his own. We have shelves of mini propagators and various pots. Sweet peas are sprouting in toilet rolls, cherry tomatoes and aubergines are springing into life and even the cosmos are started to poke through the soil.

Sweet peas
Tomatoes and Aubergines.
Cosmos

Each morning and night we take a trip to the greenhouse to open and close the vents and we are amazed at how these little seeds are coming into life. The cucumber plants on the kitchen window sill are doing exceptional well being that bit warmer.

Cucumbers.

Gardening is my favourite form of therapy especially at this time of year. Even today In the strong gusty wind it was warm and relaxing.

Spring is waking up all around us.

Giant Crocus
Clematis waking.
New shoots
Hellebore’s smiling
Rhododendrons in bud.


The camilla I thought I’d lost now in the ground and thriving once more.
Raspberry new shoots
Rebecca the clematis looking good
Rhubarb
My little garden helper.

Rich had purchased a Venus fly trip when we went to the gardeners world show last year. He is over the moon that not only does it go from strength to strength but it has two flower stems which today sees the buds starting to open

During the afternoon the rain set in and the wind increased. So the best thing to do is relax, cook and enjoy a roast dinner with home made Yorkshire’s which we are pleased to say were all nice and even in our second new oven ( don’t ask, long story😂)

Happy Sunday everyone. 🥰

Garden project, Phase one

A while back we discovered that our raised bed at the end of the garden had wrotten through. We looked at many ways to rebuild it, slabs, brick raised blocks but in the end we decided to replace the sleepers with new sleepers.

Partly due it being less complicated and partly it being less work as we are all struggling with aches and pains so it seems the easiest solution.

Once I told dad he was like a man on a mission. The sleepers were researched and ordered online and delivered Thursday morning. A very kind neighbour helped lift them through to the garden as they are very heavy.

That afternoon we cracked on. Well actually the old sleepers cracked as easy as anything. So they were out in no time at all.

Earwig eggs

Now I thought it would be quite straight forward. Oh how wrong 😂The old sleepers had been leaning forward for a few years so the Earth was not far behind. This meant that we had to scrap quite a layer away to realign the new sleepers into an upright position.

We battled away and finally got one sleeper in position. Boy they are heavy. After this we called it a night as tummy’s have started to rumble and quite frankly we were pooped.

Friday morning greeted us with a hard frost but bright blue skies. We wrapped ourselves up and got to work. The second sleeper was to be a little more trying. However after a lesson in how to use a power saw we had the next lined up and spotted into position. A metal post was also cut up and hammered into place behind the sleepers and screwed into place to hold them steady.

Next was to be shown how to work out how to cut an angle. Oh and a new blade on the saw made easier going. I’m sure dad was wishing he had a boy at this point but he didn’t lose his temper so I must have been a good student.

My little helper
Suzy, the sun worshiper

After some fixings and tidying oh and not forgetting using the power saw again to cut up the old sleepers it was time to call it a day. Bones aching but lots of lessons learnt. It’s looking good already. We have another stage to go and the new sleepers need to be painted but with bad weather due over the weekend that can wait till next time.

The cleaners are in, yes hoovering the grass😂
Looking good

The return to England.

Sadly was the day we have to return home. We have really enjoyed our stay in France and have been so fortunate with the weather. I stood for a while watching the fast flowing river race over the weir and it was mild enough not to need a jumper.

It was decided that we would not take the toll roads on the first part of our journey home. We wanted to see some of the villages rather than just motorway. It didn’t disappoint. Oh and a rather delicious patisserie to stock up on route.

Our lunch stop was a pretty little picnic area about 2.5 hours into our journey where enjoyed a fresh baguette from the baguette machine in Sacé this morning. ( that was a funny experience. You put €1.10 in and out pops the baguette)

Desert was Rum Baba for Rich, a traditional French cake with a small pip-pet sticking in it. Of which when he squeezed it, it soaked the cake in rum. Mine was an almond Galette. Now I though it odd that it came with a paper golden crown. But I now know it is also referred to as a king cake and traditionally eaten on the first day of Epiphany. Fortunately I had cut a piece with the surprise in as I can’t imagine hitting into it. A trip to the dentist May have been required. It has a small china object inside which resembles a cat.

If I’m right in thinking whoever was to have that piece would then wear the crown.

Time to head of for the next leg of our journey. Here we used a few toll roads to catch up some time but all the roads today were so empty. This saved us an hour so it only took us another 3 hours to reach the eurotunnel.

Once we arrived we brewed up a quick cup of tea before being loaded on to the train then enjoyed the tea with some yummy French biscuits.

Until next time.

Gardening at the Chateau

A while back my wonderful, thoughtful husband surprised me by booking us a day out. It was to be no ordinary day out! Rich didn’t mind a little gardening but this was to be a whole day of gardening with 50 other like minded folk. I was over the moon to receive this gift and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

So with our tickets booked and our accommodation found we spent a few days nearby to this stunning Chateau. In fact we were only 10 minutes away. We didn’t tell you but the previous day we swung by to have a sneak peek and it stoked our excitement even more. How can anyone not fall in love with Chateau De La Motte Husson. Home for the last five years to Dick Strawbridge, Angel Adoree, Arthur and Dorothy.

As we pulled up the drive we had huge smiles. To the left the gorgeous orangery, to our right some very chatty geese and ahead of us the 45 meter high towering Chateau. Completed in 1874 this Neo- renaissance chateau is located in the Loire valley and was previously owned by the Baglion de la Dufferie family, and purchased by Dick and Angel In 2015. They have managed to renovate a huge majority of the Chateau which can be seen on ITV’s Escape to the Chateau.

Now it may seem odd paying to go and work in someone else’s garden for the day but this was no ordinary day.

Miss Lexy at the Chateau

We were greeted as soon as we arrived by a team of 10 full time staff that now work for Dick and Angel.

Walking into this gorgeous Chateau we were greeted by Dick and Angel and invited to enjoy cups of tea out of vintage fine china and the freshest French pastries. There was no rushing so we spent some time taking in the dining room and lounge area. You really need days here to be able to take everything in.

Whilst we explored we could here a familiar booming young voice. It was Arthur and we had the great honour of being shown his toy room with his sister Dorothy. That is the room for the best games and fantasy play. There was helter skelter, huge empty boxes made in to a fort and so many toys. Not a pc insight. How refreshing. This two children are so polite and fun to be with.

It was Arthur’s 7th birthday this week and he showed great delight in showing us his new tool kit which he assured us was real.

Nearly time for our briefing on how the day was to go but not until we had our photo taken with a warm welcoming Angel.

Modelling my new tool belt embossed with the Chateau logo

The briefing took place in front of the Chateau on the newly laid patio. It was a fun briefing and we were split into teams to head to the walled garden.

Our job was to work in the quirky greenhouse and plant some seeds. We started with the sweet peas of which their was hundreds of seeds. This was a great place to work as the sun was shining and being behind glass was lovely and warm.

Two Dicks

Time fly by and after potting up and labelling many seeds and having a short break with tea and more French pastries in the boot room it was time for lunch in the Orangery.

Van De Vin

This is a room that Angel didn’t want to do to much to when the moved in as it has lots of its own charm. Plants are planted around the walls in raised beds and hundreds of fairy lights and decorations hang from the ceiling.

The long dining tables were decorated beautifully with floral display and fine china dinner plates. Also on the tables was a selection of French breads, homemade flavoured butters and smoked mackerel pate. Cider was served in cups and saucers.

The next course to arrive was home made beet soup which again was served in vintage tea cups. It was delicious, warming a little spicy and so full of fresh flavours.

Thinking that the main course was to be next we were treated to baked local Camembert with toasted pine nuts and sun flower seeds. All of the ingredients used in the meal are from local farms and suppliers. You could taste the difference.

Next to arrive was platters full of roast duck drizzled in sweet plum sauce, buttered French Charlotte potatoes and a selection of vegetables.

Feeling very full it was time to continue our work in the garden. Well we say work, it’s time spent with some very lovely people from all over the world in the sunniest walled garden, full of soft fruit trees, and new beds. Thoughtout the day more beds were constructed and dug over, ivy chopped down that has been climbing over the huge walls. Our next task was to plant up tiger nuts and then plant out the first batch of peas. the garden received a huge transformation. Dick was regularly popping round to check everyone was ok and that everything was running to task.

The day was coming to its close but before it did we changed out of our muddy boots and enjoyed a tour of the chateau with the delightful Angel. She really is the loveliest warmest lady and takes time for everyone. She showed us in so many of the rooms we had seen on escape to the chateau and recognised many of the projects they have been working on. Some things look so different when they are close up. Take the lift. It looks quite big on the tv but really you can only just about squeeze two slim people in. It really does remind you of the lift in Charlie and The Chocolate factory and sounds just like you have something stuck in the hose of the vacuum cleaner when it moves up and down the pepper pot turret.

You could spend many hours looking at all the history in the rooms. The photos don’t do them justice but the attention to detail is exquisite.

The handwashing sink in the toilets.
Now that’s what you call a shower head.
Angels collections in her craft room

After our tour it was time to unwind and relax some more and enjoy our well earned dessert.

Vintage cake stands were full of pretty little light desserts. We were encouraged to keep eating cake! Who’s going to say no to that??

Then as it was Arthur’s and his Grandads birthday this week we all joined in and sang them happy birthday with a very large chocolate cake covered in bright orange icing and cartoon characters. This made Arthur’s day.

After chatting at some length with Angels dad it was time to leave.

We have had the best day. Totally spoilt by the most attentive hosts that have an amazing eye for detail.

Thank you also Rich for the best day out. Love you lots. 🥰🥰

Chateau De La Motte Husson

France: Day two

There was complete silence. No traffic noises, no bird sounds, no gushing river. We opened our eyes. Or had we? It was pitch black. Ahhhh that’s right. Last night we had closed the shutters on our little house to keep the heat in. They work so well they even keep out all the sounds of nature.

It was 6am and it was still pitch black. I opened the front door and the water was still pouring over the weir with loud force.

The day is ahead of us so we enjoyed our breakfast and whilst Rich was getting ready I went for a morning wander along the river bank to find some geocaches. The bird song was so loud. It’s a warm morning, to warm to have my coat done up. I plodded along finding the caches and enjoying the sounds of the water when all of a sudden something caught my eye. Something moved on the river bank. It was the size of a cat and looking right at me. I froze not wanting to disturb the little chap but it had spotted me. We spent some time looking at each other before it gracefully glided into the water and swam with the fast flowing current. This was my first spotting of an otter in the wild. I’ve seen them in zoos but I’ve always wanted to see them in their natural environment. We even spent weeks touring Scotland trying to spot them to no avail.

I rushed back to the house as I couldn’t wait to share my news with Rich and when I did my emotions just took over. Tears started rolling down my cheeks. But not with sadness but pure joy. If it wasn’t for geocaching I wouldn’t have made such good friends, travelled to many different countries and I wouldn’t have met Rich. Now it’s bought us to France to see nature as it’s best.

Our home for the next few days.

Once id pulled myself together we packed up and set out for the day. We can’t let you know where our first stop of the morning was, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that. After this we drove into Laval and parked up. So much easier to park here than in Barcelona. The town was pretty much deserted, but still had some quirky things to see.

One of our first stops was a French patisserie. Who can resist? Whilst we were waiting in the que we heard an English couple chatting behind us. We stuck up a conversation and it only turns out they have the same day out booked as us for Saturday. What are the chances 😆 we chose our pastries and bid farewell. Laval has quite A medieval feel and the small streets reflected this as well as the old castle. In amongst the wonky buildings was pieces of quirky art and sculptures. After all this is the birth place of Henri Rousseau.

Our stomachs were starting to grumble so we headed into the local creperie for a spot of lunch. After perusing the menu we decided to try some savoury galettes with ham and mushrooms followed by a flaming apple crepe for Rich and a flaming pear crepe for myself. Delicious. 😋

Hot stuff.

After finding a few more geocaches near some weird and wonderful sculptures we headed back to the van to plan the next stop.

A cache was needed in the next region the the west so if we sped towards Bretagne. Soon found and signed. Phew. Next holiday looks like it needs to be the eastern side of France.

Time was passing by so back in the direction of our house via a couple of puzzle caches we had solved. It was still light so whilst Rich headed indoors to enjoy some well earned relaxation time I headed of in the opposite direction along the river than this mornings adventure in search of more geocaches.

The only sounds was the gushing river speeding along and the birds song high up in the trees. The only people i passed were a runner and cyclist. I walked as far as the next lock house and weir before decided to head back as the light was fading. This lock house was built identically to the house we are renting but seems to have fallen into disrepair. It looked ever so sad.

As I turned the last bend in the river I saw our little house waiting to greet me. Light shining from it open shutters. It looks ever so cosy.

Dinner tonight was to be some local cheese we had picked up in town after visiting a little cheese shop. I explained to the lady that I could only eat goats and sheep’s cheese and she presented us with a huge selection of each. Variety’s of soft, squidgy or hard cheese. Honestly I thought I’d died and gone to heaven I was so spoilt for choice. We picked a few different ones and some Spanish cured meat for out supper which we enjoyed with crackers and of course a good old mug of English tea.

Local cheeses

A trip to France: Day One

A few months back Rich surprised me with a ticket for us to have a day out. This was no ordinary ticket. For me I can imagine it was how Charlie felt when he won the golden ticket to visit Willie Wonker and the chocolate factory, but for me this was better ( plus I can’t eat chocolate so what good would that do me 😄)

We started planning. Ben agreed to look after Suzy, dad is improving so would be ok with out me for a few days and the van, well that’s always ready for an adventure.

Tickets booked for the Eurotunnel and bags packed. It was decided we would find an air bnb to stay in as it could be very cold this time of year, plus all the campsites in this region are shut for the winter.

It was a bit of a shock getting up at 5am but we were eager to get going to meet our early train. After a good run to Folkestone we discovered that our train had been cancelled so had to wait for an hour for the next.

The train did arrive in good time and off we go on the wrong side of the road. The roads in France are so easy to drive on. People seem to know how to use all the lanes and respect the other drivers. They don’t even have hold ups when they are doing road works.

Our first stop was just past Rouen. Just past as last time we drove through Rouen it was so confusing so best this time to get past it before having a cuppa and relaxing.

The stop seemed familiar to us. When two cats popped their heads out we knew we had been here on our honeymoon travels. What are the chances of stopping at the same services in the whole of France. We remembered the cats as last time they were kittens and now they are more grown up.

Lunch eaten and time for the next stage.

Driving through rain and mist we reached Alençon. A town in the Centre-de-la-Loire. This was a region on our geocaching map that we hadn’t found a cache yet. We drove to a small country lane and in the arco we discovered a soggy cache. Oh well it’s a region covered. Onwards towards our destination.

A small supermarket was in one of the next towns so after a quick stop and checking out local caches we moved on but not until I had purchased not one but two goats cheese Camembert and a fresh French stick.

We didn’t need to navigate to the next cache as you couldn’t really miss it. I’m quite a fan of art and some graffiti and this was not to be missed. The town welcomed two Columbian local artists to carry out the mural. I think you’ll agree it’s spectacular. Region number two now discovered on our trip.

After a short drive we arrived at our destination. The house was the lock keepers cottage and is now used for passing cyclists as lodgings. In the winter it’s an Air BNB.

Basic inside, but warm and clean. Perched right next to the river bank with its fast flowing water. It would do us perfectly for the next few a days as we intend to be out exploring, grabbing a few caches, visiting some local shops and of course our day out.

Dinner had been prepared before we left home but we did bake one of our Camembert to enjoy with the local bread.

Tomorrow’s plan is the exploring and for me as I’m often awake at silly o’clock a stroll by the river hunting for Tupperware, which by sheer chance is a whole series on our doorstep. 😁

Andorra and beyond, quick smart!

Monday morning and it was time to pack up our beautiful pitch by the sea. We had done most of the van chores the previous night but still left with the toilet and jet wash the van as it was covered in salt. ( we shall never moan about flush toilets again. It’s so nice that we can just go to the toilet in our homes, flush and walk away. Here we have to walk it up to the toilet block twice a day, clean it out, bring it back blah blah blah) Eventually we left the campsite at 09.30, not bad for us.

Our last morning’s view.

The route to Andorra was very pretty indeed. Especially travelling past Montblanc. Higher and higher we drove, the temperature falling as we ascended. The roads were mainly single file and very twisty and long drops each side. Huge birds of prey circled above. It was like a scene from little house on the prairie. A couple of times we pulled over for a cup of tea and a spot of lunch. The scenery is quiet something.

View from our lunch shop, just past MontBlanc

The border of Andorra was now before us. We wondered if we would be stopped and searched as we heard some motorhomes had been but fortunately we were waved through. There was now one road in and one road out. Buildings seem to perch dangerously on the edge of the mountains. The buildings also changed in colour. In Spain the had been bright terracotta’s but here the were dark and grey. What with the rain and low clouds it was quite depressing. The campsite was eventually found. So we parked up and went to check in. The receptionist was miserable and didn’t seem to like my French. But we got our token and tried to find the pitch, electric and water. All the while whilst it was raining very hard. We had to turn off our data roaming on reaching Andorra as it’s not included in the European packages and we found ourselves with no phone signal, data or WiFi. Because of the situation with dad at home I wasn’t keen on not having any signal and when we found out the restaurant didn’t start serving until 8pm and very expensive food at that we decided to make a break for the border. France and the border was a 45 minute drive away. We just needed a new campsite. The only thing we liked about Andorra was its quirky roundabouts ( trust us, there is a lot of them) Each one had a different sculpture on.

A large golden cockerel.
Big bottomed cyclist being pulled of a bike by another big bottomed person.

Just before we reached the French border we had to pay a toll of 11 euros to go through a tunnel. It was an extremely long tunnel through the mountains and when we came out the other side the road junction just had written in white paint with a line, Andorra and France. Thank goodness. Now to get the data switched back on and find a campsite.

The first was an aire and it was full, the second was closed in September and the third, well once we eventually found it after Miss Lexy had taken some wrong turns through the tiniest village with walls just wide enough to get through. But, the campsite office was deserted, no one would answer the phone. There was a van and a caravan on site as well as a few lodges. So we parked up kitted up with full wet weather clothing and got about sorting the water , electric and toilet out. Maybe someone will be around in the morning to take payment from us.

By this time we were very hungry and with no restaurant we managed to knock up some melon and Spanish ham, chips and omelette. Well one omelette between two. The first two eggs whisked up nicely. The second two from a new box were hard boiled. Mmmm it seems our translation in the Spanish supermarket hadn’t gone to plan and we had purchased half a dozen hard boiled eggs. All this whilst defrosting our fridge as it had been working so hard in the heat it had blocked up.

So there you have it. In a nutshell we have driven further than planned today, the weather is pants but then we are high up in the Pyrenees in a village called Merens-Les-Vals. At least tomorrow we now have an hour less to drive. Time now for our strawberry tarts and cup of tea before bed. Night all

Our last day in Spain

So the last full day on the campsite in Spain. We decided to make the most of our glorious pitch and remain here for the day. The weather was due to be overcast, but by mid morning the sun was beaming and it was 24°. The previous day we had to return to the supermarket as Scoot had stopped working. A replacement was found and bought back and charged so this morning it was time for its maiden voyage. Introducing Scoot-too.

The funny man in the cape is not batman, but Rich, my new husband

Scoot-too is slightly faster than Scoot so we have to be a little careful and keep our eyes on the road. Children on bikes and scooters here appear out of nowhere.

After the successful trail run and van chores done it was time to sit down and do not a lot. It’s very pleasant doing not a lot in this weather.

We also have new friends today that must be related to Suzy. Every time we get something to eat there they are. Quite a peculiar pair. We have named them Maud and Mildred.

Lunch was a bowl of pasta soup with chicken and prawns. Their seafood here is so nice.

After lunch it was time to do, you guessed it. Not a lot 😂just sit and read, watch and listen to the waves crashing. It’s. A challenging life pitched on the beach. Although I think the big challenge will be in a few days when we need to wash all the salt of the van and the awning.

Just before we headed to dinner we checked out where we would be driving to over the next few days and ensure we had some campsites in mind. Monday’s target will be Andorra. Quite looking forward to some mountain views.

But alas the evening has arrived and we enjoy our last evening in the restaurant. Sitting outside it was still so warm and still. I enjoyed monkfish with rice and Rich a rather splendid looking pizza with local ham.

Whilst we are travelling you may ask what have we done with Suzy? Well she herself is at doggy holiday club and tonight we got a couple of photos of her chilling out with the gang. No need to worry about her 😂

Sleepy Suzy

We shall leave you with another video of our newest member Scoot-too and a few from our wander round the campsite. Have fun

Children’s play pool at the campsite.

Another busy day of….. not a lot 🏖

Friday, we decided to stay at camp today as we are now on this amazing beach front pitch. On awaking it was fairly overcast but warm so I popped out the sofa chair, dressing gown on and tea in hand and sat over looking the sea. Mr Hurks likes the comfort of the van chair in the morning as he is not as brave or stupid with the weather like me. The sun was trying to come out and there was an orange glow with a millpond sea. A stand up paddle boarder paddled his way across in front of me. It looked idiclic.

Breakfast on the beach.

The morning was spent drinking tea and doing the usual motorhome chores, until lunch time. We needed to cook up our fish today so I set the Cobb up and prepared the potatoes. Wrapped them in foil with oil and salt and placed them in the bottom. The fish was placed with plenty of butter, lemon and lime and chopped fresh parsley and placed in a roasting bag. Thank goodness we have now used the parsley. Our fridge was taken over by it.

Time to sit back and let the cooking, well cook.

After 45 minutes dinner was ready. There is something very therapeutic about cooking on the beach with the waves crashing in the background.

Just squint, and you can see past the black bits on the potatoes.

After dinner was done Rich relaxed whilst I went for a dip. Turns out I’m quite scared of the sea when I’m going in on my own but I kept saying to myself it’s ok, you can swim just keep your mouth shut, let’s face it sea water tastes disgusting. I had a good swim even if my feet did keep trying to float higher than my head as I kept my crocs on as it was quite stony.

Rich had arranged a geocache meet for this evening and it was just along the beach at the next restaurant.

We met with 4 other cachers, one of which was from the Netherlands originally and the other 3 from Spain. Fortunately the lady spoke fluent English so we managed to find out a few things rather than just smile at each other. Although it always makes me chuckle when even if they can speak English, Rich develops his own translation. Have you done that? Speak in a different accent, slower and louder and think they will understand you better! It’s hilarious and he does not realise he is doing it.

Dinner was not bad but we have had better and I was too full for desert, of course Rich managed to squeeze in a sorbet.

The evening finished with a short walk along the sand to our pitch and again the usually maintenance before a nice cup of pre-bed tea.

A gentle day of local exploring.

We did it! We were up and out before lunch time. Yes, showered, dressed, fed, toilet emptied blah blah blah. 🙂 we had information from our neighbour about a fishing port mentioned in his guide book that may be worth a visit. So off we trotted to L’Ametlla de Mar.

Well nearly. Only after we stopped at reception and booked us in for a few extra nights and to move pitch to a sea front pitch as quite a few campers had left this morning.

It was only a 20 minute drive and we arrived and parked up in the harbour outside a very nice looking restaurant. The menu wasn’t available in English or French but the kind waiter gave us a rough translation. I ordered the sea food Paella and Rich had some kind of local catch of the day fish. Which we both thought was very nice. Even if it did have funny looking teeth.

😉do not fear, the onion was removed.

As it was so nice Rich also had a dessert of a Catalan Apple desert.

We hadn’t been successful with finding any geocaches the previous day so we checked the map and one showed 60meters from the restaurant. After a nice quick find we headed off to our next stop. We had spotted a castle on the map a little further down the coast with a geocache. The roads here were quite good and full of local Spanish built houses. Very pleasant.

As we neared Castell de Sant Jordi d’Alfama motorhomes were dotted around in between the bushes. It appears that this is a good place to wild camp as you have access to the beach and stunning views.

Yes, agreed it was a fantastic spot to park up. Views of a castle and endless coastline, clear blue seas, clean and tidy.

With geocache found it was now time to explore the car park. You May ask why we needed to explore the car park? Well the previous day and whilst on our shopping trip Rich spotted something he was rather keen on. Yes, we are about to reveal the purchase 😂

Rich is not the speediest at walking at the moment so he fancied something to give him a boost.

Are you ready?

Meet……..

Scoot

Scoot is Miss Lexy’s new co pilot an shall accompany her on her travels. Just think bat mobile and bat scooter.

Rich had spent the previous evening putting scoot together and painstakingly translating the instruction manual into English. Then once he was fully charged this morning, Scoot had his maiden voyage. A quick ride along the road in the campsite. But his major outing was the car park at the castle.

The first outing

It was hilarious. You should have seen Rich’s face. Like a kid Christmas morning.

Check out the eye brows at the end 😂

It was now my turn and never ridden a scooter I wasn’t quite so sure I would survive.

Such fun

After our crazy antics we enjoyed a cup of tea with these amazing views and planned our route back to camp.

Now we had been a bit fed up with motorways so we thought we would set google to local roads. Well hmm, not sure about those. Either local pirates would jump out of the bushes, or the mad donkey riding cowboys would race us along the unmade roads. Yes unmade road, google? What were you thinking? At one point Miss lexy bounced into the air over an invisible bump that was disguised as a flat pot holed road. The sugar jumped out of the cupboard. Thank fully the lid stayed on. Ok reroute, back to the bigger road.

The remainder of the journey was smooth but we arrived back late again. Spanish time really goes quick. Must be their clocks.

So we cheated for dinner and went to the restaurant where we enjoyed the dinner especially as no washing up required. Desert is always the best bit and tonight’s was lush. Creme caramel for me and Rich had some local chocolate something which he assured me was delicious.

A quick retreat after as we had a new pitch to get to. Right on the sea front. Guess where we shall be drinking our cuppa in the morning. Right before Scoot takes hubby to the shower.

Night all.

A busy day of doing not a lot

Where does the time go? We were up early today and even first in the queue for the bakers to grab some fresh rolls for our picnic lunch and croissants. May have accidentally slipped a couple of strawberry tarts in too. Anyway we sat outside with our table and chairs and enjoyed a very leisurely breakfast of eggs, bread, croissants and jam, washed down with quite a few cups of tea. It was quite warm but cloudy.

Now the thing with camper van life is you think it’s easy to pack up and get out on your travels quickly. Well let us tell you a little secret, we never seem to get out quickly. By the time we, turn the seats into their driving position, wash up, unplug the electric, empty the loo, then empty the grey water it’s gone lunch time. Oh well never mind we are on holiday after all.

On our way out we head to a supermarket. Despite the supermarket on our campsite being very well stocked and even having a butchers and grocers, they don’t sell goats milk. So we find a large carrefour enroute to Tarragona. This supermarket was huge. All the fresh produce looks amazing and the fish counters are so inviting. I wouldn’t know how to cook half of it. But we did purchase some fresh white fish to Cobb the following night with fresh parsley, ( which is a huge bunch) you should see the fridge it looks like it has half a jungle and we also bought jacket potatoes. Goats milk was found and an additional purchase by hubby. More to come on that one. By the time we had paid it was 3.30pm. See where has the day gone. Time to find somewhere nice to park up and have our picnic lunch.

A lovely spot was found right on the beach front. Blue skies and clear blue sea. Perfect. So perfect in fact I had to go in for a swim whilst Rich was researching stuff. It was cold on your feet at first but then it felt so warm. I ended up swimming and chuckling to myself as the waves crashed into me sending my off balance.

Time to head back to the campsite just before dark, where we would once again turn the seats, fill the water tank, plug the electric in, put the roof up, think about what we’ll have for dinner and at some point put our feet up and write a blog. May even read a book 😉

The most relaxing day

Monday, Rich had booked us a spa treatment at the world famous Aire de Barcelona. We had come across it on another travellers blog a few months ago so he booked us in. The only downside was that we needed to drive into Barcelona again. Parked up in what we think is the only secure car park we fit in, we hailed a taxi across town to the spa. Alas we were early and Rich wanted a haircut so we walked round the corner to oddly an Englishman barbers. Very quirky and they had space for him later in the day. On route to the barbers there were lots of winding old fashioned tiny narrow streets with odd shops. Something worth exploring. But for now, the Spa.

We headed off and we’re greeted by a very friendly receptionist who gave us coloured bracelets so we would know which treatment we were having. Into the changing rooms which were separate male and female. A maid was on hand to point me int he direction to change and to give me a locker. We were both given soft light weigh robes and cute little neoprene slippers to wear.

Next we went into the spa area. It was dark but lit my many soft candles and gentle music played. We were given an explanation of the different areas.

There was a tepid water pool, a fridge pool, a sauna, a jacuzzi, a salt water pool, rain water showers amongst others.

We started with the tepid pool pure relaxation. Warm but not to hot water to just sit and relax. It did have a sign saying silence, but we ignored this and chatted quietly.

A lady then came and whispered to us that they were ready for us for our couples massage. Everyone whispers here which makes it quite a challenge to work out what they are saying with a strong Spanish accent.

The massage rooms were fairly dark with relaxing music. We were asked to lay in the benches with our faces through the hole. Now can anyone tell me off you should lay with your forehead stick to the hole or your chin? I haven’t yet worked this end and think we both came out like a scene from friends with a polo face. Well as massages go that was pretty spectacular and very sensual. Even the way they take off your little neoprene shoes and uncover and recover you with the soft towels. The massage itself was quite firm and certainly it worked the knots out from my very creaky back. Rich could even move his legs better after the firm massage. Sadly the half hour was over way to soon and we got up feeling sooo relaxed and slightly dazed.

The jacuzzi had different sections you could sit in. One part with normal seat, one so you could stand and have your whole body pummelled and a ridge so that you could lay down and have the bubbles run under your back and legs, heaven.

We made our way back to the pools and worked our way through them. The sauna was fresh and minty. It had a plunge pool which Rich dared me to go into. Of course I took up the challenge. Now that’s what you call refreshing. Absolutely freezing when you get in, but you soon warm up in the steamy room. Next came the salt bath.

Now if you haven’t tried one of these we would strongly recommend that you do. (But don’t shave your legs the same morning as it stings quite a bit when you first get in;-) we walked in and out our heads on the side, our legs lifted for us and we just floated. It was so buoyant you didn’t need to keep your head on the side. You could just float like a starfish in the pool. No effort required and did I mention lovely and warm?

The next hour was spent going from one pool to another. A totally relaxing experience. If you get the chance, GO!

Even the changing rooms and shower were pure indulgence. Posh shampoos and shower gels, all toiletries provided and even hairdryers, straightening devices and hairbrushes. Ahhh time to leave.

On via taxi back to the van and a 1.5 hour drive to just south of Tarragona. The road took us through many tunnels which went under the mountains.

The campsite itself is huge and right by the sea. Our pitch is a few rows up from the beach. As it was late we decided on treating our selves to a meal in the restaurant.

I’m in a stage of my life where I like to try new things so tonight we chose tapas of olives, big prawns cooked in garlic butter, and what I thought was a sausage casserole. We have no idea what it was but it was lovely. Looked more like baby octopus to me

Rich ordered a dish of Hake in parsley pesto with clams and prawns. We shared all the dishes and they were absolutely delicious.

Of course cocktails.

Another lovely day and a mere 25°.

Tomorrow relaxing and exploring the large campsite and paddle in the sea.

Just a little edit as I forgot to mention the critters today.

On our pitch this morning was this bright chap. No idea what it is but looked impressive.

Then this caught my eye amongst the lavender whilst we walked back from the showers. Must be some kind of bee nest. Again very impressive. A work of art.

Barcelona part two

We thought we would head out early today as it is a Sunday, but it wasn’t to be. Time just seems to fly by when your in a motorhome.

Finally we headed out but had to find a supermarket first. It was only a few kilometres away but so busy. It was like everyone had to go shopping Sunday morning. Now we had a list and we had some places we wanted to visit today so we had to keep focused. Which I must say we did, sort of. Only ended up with a few extra treats in our basket. One of which we have just enjoyed, fresh fruit danish pastry’s. Yum.

So shopping done, packed lunch made off we drive into Barcelona. Our target today was to jump on the hop on and of bus to tour the city. First hurdle, the car park we had booked was to low for Miss Lexy. Ok so we would head back to where we had parked the previous day. Second hurdle, recent booked car park closed on Sundays. But a message suddenly popped up form one of the staff telling us where to find the remote control for the garage door.

Well the next half hour was rather stressful shall we say! But we finally got it and thought sod it, let’s eat our packed lunch before we set off. It was now 1.30pm.

On route to the bus stop there was a business owner and police office looking into what seemed like a very recent break in. Someone had thrown a scooter through the window and got in. Such a shame as it could be such a lovely place.

Anyway bus reached, still with our wallets intact and off we set on top deck to explore. We spotted some rather interesting sites on route but boy was it windy. We jumped of to admire a building with very interesting architecture took a few photos, found a geocache or two then hopped on the next route bus.

The next stop was to be La Sagrada Familia.

One of the most inspiring and iconic buildings in Spain; An unfinished church, unique in its architecture and conception, the work of the great Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí.

What’s not to love about the architecture of this stunning building, and they are still building it. Now that’s a project that has overrun 😂

A few pictures from inside the crypt.

Again time had run away with us as it was now 7pm. Time to head back to the campsite for a very late dinner.

Over all a good day but not a city I would return to. So full of graffiti and warnings of pickpocketing and vehicle break ins. You can’t fully relax and take in the history.

Tonight is our last night here and upon reflection whilst we listen to the crashing waves, it has been a very nice campsite. Everything you could need, clean, tidy and not to noisy. Well all sort from the odd plane flying overhead, every few minutes 😂

Tomorrow we head towards Tarragon. I wonder what adventures we will have there.

Mercado de La Boqueria

Saturday 5th October 2019

Today’s adventure we into Barcelona itself to visit the Mercado de La Boqueria.

The first mention of the Boqueria market in Barcelona dates from 1217, when tables were installed near the old city gate to sell meat. It then went on to be a pig market then a straw market. The current name is believed to derive from the Catalanboc, meaning “goat”, therefore a boqueria would be a place where goat meat is sold. The new market building which is now currently here opened in 1840 with its current metal roof installed in 1914.

As we left the van in secure parking a 25 minute walk away. It’s always interesting to discover some of the non tourist parts of a city but we were warned to keep our eyes on our personal belongings today. The streets were filled with little cafes and residents apartments on the floors above. Many with small balconies with their washing hanging or plants cascading over the iron works. As the streets narrowed they became busier and soon we discovered why. We had reached the market.

Our first view of the market.

Where to start, well one end and work your Way up and down. You should have seen all the different food people were walking along eating, chatting in many different languages. It was certainly vibrant.

Rich was like a kid in a sweet shop, wanting to try this and that and for me to try. But stupidly we had grabbed some lunch on route and I didn’t have any room to start.

I think the photos give you the best description of everything on offer here.

Eventually I managed to make some space and we treated ourselves to some of the fine local produce. Tapas, prawns, Oysters (Rich has the oysters, not my cup of tea) strawberries covered in chocolate, again Rich😉 and to take home for desert some locally made Baklava. To be enjoyed with our cup of tea after dinner.

Our lovey day was concluded with a meal in the campsite restaurant. Paella with chicken and seafood for myself and another fish soup for hubby. All washed down with a cocktail.

Cheers

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.

Friday morning we woke to bright sunshine and clear skies. We were going to head into Barcelona this morning but after a few days driving we decided to enjoy the campsite and it’s surroundings.

We enjoyed long leisurely breakfast, sat outside of Miss Lexy listening to the waves crashing and watching the world go by.

The only trouble with living in a small Motorhome is that you still have to do housework, especially when parked next to the beach, so we set about cleaning up and tidying round this morning. Whilst doing this we thought we should have an ice lolly just to cool us down but the shop was shut. We knew the Spanish had a siesta but the shop was shut from 11.30 until 17.30! Oh well best hit the bar again where we enjoyed a delicious light lunch and cool drinks. We are on honeymoon after all 😉

Aubergine gratin bolognaise
Fish soup

Back to the van and Rich needed a little siesta so I changed and headed of to the beach where I enjoyed a Relaxed stroll on the edge of the sea. As I acclimatised to the temperature of the water I had to give in and go for not just a paddle but a full dip. Bev, you would have been proud. It was like being in the sea in Cyprus. Lovely and warm and crystal clear. Lots of tiny delicate seas shells on the shore line to admire to.

Time to head back to the van, go to the now open shop and head back for a dinner of local melon and Parma type ham and good old chicken and chips. We found some little creme caramel deserts in the little shop to, not bad at all.

The campsite is full of lovely flowers. I’ve no idea what some of them are but here are some pictures for you to enjoy.

Hibiscus with flowers as large as a plate

After dinner we had planning to do. We wanted to go to Barcelona the next day but the bus ride wasn’t suitable for us as it was just over an hour each way and 25 stops. Rich managed to find a secure car park for Miss Lexy and we plan to visit the food market from there.

Watch out for the next blog with our adventures at the food market.

Good morning from The Honeymooners.

Good morning. I hope you’re all waking up to bright sunshine and blue skies.

We have had a long but nice few days travelling as far down to a campsite not to far from Barcelona.

Our journey started Sunday morning, not to early and getting a lunch time train through the channel tunnel. Although we were hoping for better weather than the uk was having we drove through high winds and rain to the point we nearly had to pull over as we couldn’t see the road.

But after a while the skies became to clear and the rain stopped as we headed further south. The wind was still a little tricky in our van but we survived.

Our first nights stop was in a little campsite just south of Paris in a village called Olivet. It was the last night of the season for the campsite which I still think is odd that they fully close down. We had a woodland pitch and when we woke in the morning realised was surrounded on two sides by fields.

Arriving hungry we were very happy to discover that there was a pizza van parked up on site and still open. So we parked up, ordered and whilst the pizza was cooking organised the van. It was the best French pizza, cooked to perfection. You can’t beat a good pizza oven.

Desert was a piece of vanilla sponge wedding cake and a cup of tea. We really are now officially a married couple 😂

The next morning we felt refreshed and continued our journey. I was quite excited as today’s stop was to be at the Chateau De La Lande.

For any of you that don’t know we are fans of Escape to the Chateau with Dick and Angel. Chateau De La Lande appeared on Escape to the Chateau DIY which is the follow up programme.

Each week Stephanie who owns the chateau produces a Vlog on youtube called the chateau diaries. It often features some of her family, mum Isobelle and husband Percy, Gerry her Scottish brother and some others from the Chateau. Today we met all of them plus David and a volunteer Ian.

Our first view of the Chateau
Peacocks on guard

We parked the van in the court yard and met the Peacocks. They were quite happy sitting on the roof of a car and watching our every move.

We then headed in and came into the kitchen. What an impressive room. She has two huge old fashioned ovens, one original from the chateau. She has a huge dresser with beautiful blue and white china displayed on it.

Just as Stephanie, David and Ian made us a cup of tea Rich told Stephanie how I loved the programme and was so excited to be here. How it is Jo’s moment of relaxation each week and time out from what is happening at home. Although I have to say my husband seemed positively star struck. He was so excited. A new huge fan who will be watching each week.

Stephanie

Stephanie asked what we would like to eat and set off to pick tomatoes to make tomato soup whilst we got to tour the Chateau.

What an amazing place. Every room was filled with treasures and something else to catch your eye.

Our room was almost the size of the upstairs of our house with a bathroom you could dance in, it was so big.

Our bathroom

We explored all the the time outside meeting the sheep and taking in the breathtaking views.

Jerry came to find us and let us know it was time for dinner. We sat down to a very prettily laid out table and warm bread with Stephanie’s home made tomato soup. Now I’m not a fan of tomato soup but boy this was delicious. Thank fully Stephanie has now shared the recipe with us.

Next was to be Steak with the nicest roast potatoes, roast carrots and broccoli. For desert David bought out his home made watermelon sorbet with a honey crumble on the side. David, you make the best sorbet.

Rich asked if he could have an Irish coffee to follow which had to be the entertaining highlight of the evening. Stephanie and her family had never made an Irish coffee but gave it a go. We could here the laughter from the kitchen and a short while later Stephanie and Jerry appeared with the coffee. Irish coffee number two! Then just as Rich was about to sample it Isabelle also came out to witness the tasting. It was a tense moment, but sure enough it was a hit. Well done guys.

If any of you would like to see the coffee in the making please have a watch of the Chateau Diaries episode 84. https://youtu.be/xI7R7RmDFFw

We are chuffed to bits that we were mentioned in the vlog. It made our evening watching it. I should mention that Stephanie and her family also treated us to the dinner as we were newlyweds.which was very kind of them and very thoughtful.

Breakfast at the Chateau.

The next morning after chatting with our new friends we departed to head towards an abandoned French village. However the weather had followed us from Blighty and we were in the midst of horrendous rain and thunder. So our plans altered and we headed south. A few hours later and in the dry with 22° we arrived in a small campsite just outside of Toulouse. We are discovering that all the campsites we have stopped at in Europe have much better facilities than at home and spotlessly clean and tidy. Although outside the campsite for this seemed a little rough so after a good nights sleep and an easy supper of chicken noodle soup, we headed yet further south to Perpignan.

So the south coast of France is windy today, lots of kite surfers out in the sea. We went to have a swim in the indoor pool, but I dipped my toe and had second thoughts. Rich just jumped in🥶apparently it was a little chilly and soon regretted it, but if you can’t swim, best go have a cocktail.

Or two lol

The restaurant seemed to have a good menu so we chose pork wrapped in Chorizo for myself and steak for Rich. A good move as no one feels like cooking and especially washing up after lots of driving. Again another top notch meal. I don’t eat pork at home but in France it’s normally very tender and this was no exception.

When the high winds had died down the following morning I headed out to the path that followed the beach to grab a few geocaches. It was a beautiful morning. Extremely bright and sunny and warm if you are sheltered from the wind.

Sunrise near Papignan

Thursdays drive was to get us down to a campsite just outside of Barcelona. A very scenic drive with mountains and olive groves. It was going so well until I managed to miss a turn off the motorway and ended up with lots of Spanish traffic round the city itself. Oh well another to add to experience.

When we eventually reached the campsite we discovered we had a pitch facing the sea, just a few motorhomes though had pitched in front of us, although today they have either left or gone out for the day so we have a perfect view of the sea.

The campsite itself has so many different types of pitches varying from motorhomes to little cabins to prepitched tents. They even have dish washers in the communal, something I think English campsites should introduce.

When we arrived we again treated ourselves to dinner in the restaurant and a cocktail. What a lovely way to relax at the end of the day.

The perfect wedding

Saturday 28th September 2019

The wedding day is finally here. I wasn’t sure we would get to this day as the last two months have been extremely challenging one way or another. We woke at 5am, wide awake so we sat in bed chatting with a cup of tea ensuring that we had thought of everything we needed to do.

The hall way was full of flowers, butterflies and other pretty things to decorate the reception and two fridges full of deserts and sweet treats.

Sam and I had planned to be in bluewater by 9.30 and Rich and Mark a similar time. Some new caches were published earlier in the morning so we went of to find a couple as none of us could stand around, to excited.

The bridal party had our make up done and the boys treated themselves to a posh shave and pamper. It was then rush home to have our hair done whilst the boys went of to get ready at a near by hotel.

Whilst we were being pampered Bev, Dean and Yvonne were busy bees taking all the decorations and food to the reception venue. I think those of you there will agree they did a sterling job as it looked so pretty, again perfect.

After a few hours the bridal party was ready to leave. Many people had asked me running up to this if I was nervous or excited, but it wasn’t until now that my stomach had butterflies. We pulled up at Danson house and after waiting a few minutes we were able to make our way in. Who could not be spellbound by this gorgeous venue.

Danson House

I walked in to everyone waiting and my fabulous man standing waiting for me. He looked so handsome. It was also wonderful having Ben walk me down the isle. He also looked so handsome dressed in his suit with matching tie. He made me a very proud mum.

After the vows we could relax and travel back in style to Stone Pavillion where the reception was to be held. We felt like royalty being driven in Dean and Yvonne’s car which was all dressed in Ivory Ribbon.

Everyone could sit where they liked and enjoy their meal of fish and chips which I have to add was superb. The fish and chip shop did a top notch job with delivering and ensuring the food was hot. Deserts followed which was a range of mini pastries and bite size deserts all served on vintage style plates.

We would have to say at this point we really realised how many great friends we have. So many people pitched in to help with serving and clearing up. Thank you.

A while back Rich had suggested we had a hand fasting at the reception. We found out the information and asked our good friends Matt and Adam if they would perform it as we wanted it to be relaxed and something our guests could join in with. I personally loved this part as I was so much more relaxed than at the registry office, I could take it all in.

The attention to detail was incredible, Matt had asked us which colour Ribbons we wanted and had even put some round the cuffs of his shirt to match in. Adam and Matt also had butterfly themed clothing so that they coordinated. Brilliant. The words Adam chose again perfect for us. Thank you both.

We had fun choosing the flavours of the wedding cake. I originally wanted to make it myself but thought that may be a little stressful so we went for the option of buying a plain cake that I could decorate. We were pleased as punch with it, and displayed on the logs Rob had cut for us it looked pretty good, even if I do say so myself 😉

We thought it was now time to party but our friends Jules and Jono had a surprise for us. We were asked to cover our hands in hand-cream them hold hands and dip them in a bucket full of pink goo. Mmm we weren’t sure about this but we gave it a go. We stood holding hands for a few minutes until the goo turned grey, then tried to remove our hands. Easier said than done. We both needed help pulling our hands out but once the suction was released they came out easily.

We won’t show you a picture of the hands yet as they have still to be completed but here is one of us all in action 😂

We had such a fun day and evening, we managed to have a good dance with our friends and of course each other.

The DJ did a great singing set before our first dance, Perfect by Ed Sheeran.

Thank you everyone involved in our day, love Mr and Mrs Hurcombe x x

Behind the scenes

Hello from warm rural France.

We have made a start into our honeymoon and so far it has been fantastic. But more about that later.

My husband and I wanted to now share some of our wedding planning photos with you before we share more of the wedding and our travels.

When we decided to get married we visited quite a few locations. Some were stunning, some shocking and some way to small. But at least it helped fix our ideas on what we really wanted and that would fit into our limited budget. We were determined we could all have a fabulous day with our family and friends without spending silly money on things that just were not us.

One Sunday we visited Danson house whilst they had an open day. We were blown away with its history and architecture. It was bright and colourful, the staff made us feel extremely welcome. So we booked it and I hope those of you that came along loved our choice of room as much as we did.

Next was to find a venue for the reception, not to far from home but with a bar and somewhere we could treat our guests to something nice to eat. Ben used to go to Stone Pavilion as a cub and they had recently redecorated it.

Now the fun could begin, the dress and suits were chosen along with our colour theme. I never wanted a proper wedding dress and was going to just buy a pretty. Summer dress. However an event popped up on my Facebook page for a sample sale so I went along. You have never seen so many wedding dresses in one room. Must of been hundreds. I slipped into dress after dress until I came to my chosen dress. It needed some alteration but it was the one and a bargain at a quarter of its original price.

I wanted to make my own Bouquet so we found some very realistic artificial flowers and I managed with the help the help of you tube to put it all together. This made Sam’s bouquet fairly straight forward to.

Brides bouquet.

The bridesmaid bouquet.

Next was to think about the cake. We had great fun sampling different variations, fruit, sponge, chocolate and lemon. In the end we chose to have a fruit base with a vanilla sponge top layer and a chocolate gluten free cake.

During the year we have been trying to attract more butterflies into our garden and so as we have a huge love of the outdoors, butterflies were chosen to match in with out colour theme.

Everyone had instructions to let me concentrate for the day whilst I made endless amounts of butterflies and then stick them to a polystyrene cake. Once we were happy I next made 147 butterflies for the final cake and left them to dry for a few weeks.

Now the logs were interesting. If you were to purchase slices of log you can pay a pretty penny for them, so after passing a tree surgeon one day we acquired ourselves a couple of stumps. Just now need to get them cut. Our friend, Rob offered to cut them and made a marvellous job of it. We just had to store them and treat them in cooking oil until the dried out. These gave the cake and some other decorations a real lift on the day.

As if doing all that wasn’t enough. I decided to spray up and old hula hoop and cover it with lace and flowers. Again recycling what I had in the house, I used the ivy from our fireplace and artificial flowers. With a few butterflies added in to keep it to the theme and a Mr & Mrs sign picked up as part of a bargain accessory bundle. I’m very happy with it, now where to put it.

Then we needed table decorations. We had been given some wine bottles with lights in them and some round mirrors so to add to the display I prettied up some glass jars and Sam and I filled them with flowers. We had a lovely afternoon sitting in the sunshine in the garden two days before the wedding.

For the favours we had decided upon personalised love hearts. We ordered 200 packets of sweets but when they came we had to stick all 200 labels on the sheets as they had come separately.

Only another 199 to go!

For the music for the evening we wanted originally to have a live band, but the cost was out of our reach. So a friend recommended us a young man called Matthew Crane.

https://www.matthewcrane.co.uk/#

This is his website so you can read all about him.

He sang during the reception and his voice was captivating. Even my dad said how good he was ( for those of you who know my dad, that doesn’t happen very often 😂)

After he sang, he played an assortment of tunes for us to dance the night away.

So if your thinking of getting married and you do not want to spend a fortune, remember you can do things on a budget and make your day special. We certainly did x

A day in the garden.

Mid September and the sun is shining and good weather predicted.

I decided to tackle the new garden project today. Bev has kindly offered to split her ornamental grasses with us so the area for them needed preparation. It’s been covered in pebbles and grass for years but we thought it would be ideal to soften the edge of the pond.

Me and my bright ideas. It was easy to lift the stones and weeds but digging the grass area was back breaking. So my genius hubby to be produced a very large drill from the shed and suggested drilling through the soil to loosen it. Brilliant, worked a charm. We recycled some bricks that were stored by the greenhouse and I under dad’s guidance learnt how to bed them in to make a border.

We have to admit it’s starting to look so much better than before. Friday we shall plant up the grasses and some Allium bulbs ready for spring.

Our new plants that we put in last autumn have been colourful and enticed many more pollinators into the garden this year as well as adding so much more colour.

This is our Heleanthus, Lemon Queen. Stunning yellow fresh flowers and covered in bees this morning in the dazzling sunshine.

Our very own Elephant hawk moth caterpillars.

Thursday was a glorious sunny day, so we managed to get dad a seat by the pond for some much needed sun and a change of scenery. Whilst sat there I fed the fish and did some pruning to the water lilies.

Suzy had great fun sticking her head toward the pond with me, whilst I did this and she was fascinated by the fish swimming past her. I’m sure they were playing with her.

I was about to chop down a plant that has grown itself in amongst our pond lilies when I spotted something new.

Two huge brown caterpillars and three green caterpillars. We had never seen anything like it. So with some photos taken I added them to a gardening Facebook page for identification.

I was soon told that they are the caterpillars of the elephant hawk moth. The green are about 9-12 days old and will turn into these brown, fast moving caterpillars.

Well we can’t cut the plant down now. We purposely re landscaped our garden last year with the purpose of bringing more butterflies and bees into the garden. It’s paying off as we have seen so many more butterflies and bees this year.

We will keep watch on these fascinating creatures, intact when I looked on Saturday, one of the green caterpillars had already grown and turned brown.

I’ve posted some information below for you to read about these giant creatures.

The Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor)- is one of the most common hawk-moths in the British Isles, widely distributed throughout much of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland.

It is found in a wide range of habitats including open countryside, on the edge of woodlands and in urban gardens.

It flies mainly in a single generation between June and September but with an occasional small second generation recorded in the south.

It is one of the most frequently attracted Hawk-moths to light.

Identification of the Elephant Hawk-moth

Identification of Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) and Small Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila porcellus) seen side by side © Steve Ogden

The Elephant Hawk-moth is one of the most colourful and instantly recognisable moths in the British Isles.

It has a forewing length of about 30mm.

Only the smaller Small Elephant Hawk-moth shares the eye catching shades of pink, green and browns – although there are distinct differences in the shape and order of colour banding.

Both Elephant species are shown together with the larger Elephant Hawk-moth below the smaller Small Elephant Hawk-moth.

When not seen side by side another useful identifying feature is the broken pink stripe extending down the middle of the Elephant Hawk-moth’s abdomen, a feature lacking in the Small Elephant Hawk-moth.

The two species are not so frequently seen together in garden light traps due to the Small Elephant Hawk-moths preference for more open countryside.

Other common Hawkmoths are The Privet Hawkmoth,

The Eyed HawkmothThe Poplar Hawkmoth and The Lime Hawkmoth.

Migrant Hawkmoths include The Death’s-head HawkmothThe Convolvulus HawkmothThe Striped Hawkmoth and The Oleander Hawkmoth

,

Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar identification

1991 Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) caterpillar -  brown form basking in the sun  © Steve Ogden
Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar head (Deilephila elpenor) © 2013 Steve Ogden

The Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar grows to 85mm in length and is one of the largest and most distinctive caterpillars to be found in the British Isles.

It is also the most frequently seen hawk-moth caterpillar, often found feeding and wandering in search for somewhere to pupate in gardens.

The species is named after the caterpillars resemblance to an elephants trunk.

When retracted the caterpillars head recoils giving the impression of a much larger head. The two large ‘eye-like’ markings behind the head also suggest a much larger animal, appearing startling to predators.

Life-cycle of the Elephant Hawk-moth

The nocturnal adult moth flies mostly in a single generation at night between May and July when it is attracted to light.

Occasional small second generations have been recorded in the southern counties of the UK.

Elephant Hawk-moth eggs

1991 Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) egg laid on Hedge Bedstraw © Steve Ogden

The females lay eggs singly on the leaves of the caterpillars food plants of rosebay willowherb and bedstraws.

In gardens they are frequently recorded on garden fuchsias but have also been found feeding on other garden plants such as dahlias and lavender.

The eggs hatch within 7-10 days depending on temperature.

Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillars

Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar (Deilephila elpenor) - 1 day old © 2014 Steve Ogden
1991 Elephant Hawk-moth  (Deilephila elpenor) 15mm caterpillar © Steve Ogden
Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) 18mm caterpillar © Steve Ogden

The day old caterpillars are 4mm long and pale green with a noticeable black tail-spike.

The young caterpillars are difficult to spot amongst the leaves and when larger feed at night, remaining low down near the base of plants during the day.

When about 9 days old and 15mm long the first signs of two pairs of ‘eye-like’ markings are visible on the dorsal area close to the head.

The images shown are of a brood in different instars reared from eggs found on hedge bedstraw in a Cornish garden.

On the same bedstraw there happened to also be two smaller eggs laid by the migrant Hummingbird Hawk-moth which were also reared through to confirm identity.

Other Hawk-moth caterpillars can be seen in the British moth caterpillar gallery.

Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) 30mm caterpillar having molted out of green instar © Steve Ogden

After 12-14 days and at 25-30mm in length many moult from green into a dark form, appearing almost black when fresh, with distinctive ‘eye-like’ markings .

The caterpillars are fully grown in about 30 days reaching 85mm in length.

The most common form shown above is a mix of various shades of brown and grey but green forms are common and occasional almost black caterpillars occur.

The image of the scarcer black form shown was sent in as part of an identification enquiry received from R.Bard and the green form by K.Holmes.

1991 Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) - very dark form of caterpillar © R Bard
1991 Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) - green form of caterpillar © K Holmes

Elephant Hawk-moth cocoon

1991 Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) pupa uncovered from soil © Steve Ogden

When feeding up in preparation for pupating the fully grown caterpillars are often found high up in the food plants during the day.

Once feeding has ceased they may sometimes be found basking in the sun on grass, paths, patios and lawns.

They have also been recorded being picked up and played with by cats which may explain why they are occasionally found inside houses.

When fully grown the caterpillars pupate just beneath the surface of soil or leaf litter where they overwinter.

Sightseeing in London

With dad still in hospital we decided to combine visiting today with being tourists.

London is such a colourful, vibrant place to be especially on a warm sunny day like today.

We started our morning with a geocaching event at Bluewater, held by a Spanish chap who had just returned from Australia. Bluewater has been designed with nature in its thoughts, and behind the busy shops you will find a large lake area, full of wildlife. I spotted a cormorant out of the corner of my eye and plenty of Swans and Geese.

There were a few other cachers there, two we knew one was someone we hadn’t met before but very pleasant. Some time was spent chatting about geocaching events and travelling, before we bid our goodbyes to go and catch the train.

After we exchanged our stories Rich and I made our way to the station and enjoyed a picnic on the train like a couple of retired folk with their sandwiches.

The train pulled into a fairly quiet Charing Cross. From here we made the short walk to Trafalger square where we wanted to find a few caches. One of which was what is called an earth cache. This is a cache based on geology, and where you have to study the rock or such like and answer a few questions. This one was based on Nelson himself and his Granite plinth. We learnt after some research the the granite plinth cracked years back in 1918, this was due to people celebrating the war and burning recruitment posters and the like at the base of the column. Extra wood was put on the fires, but the wooden paving blocks that were used from nearby road roads had tar on them, causing a furnace type fire, so hot it cracked the granite!

The next cache was still in Trafalgar Square, a Virtual. Again you may have to answer a question about what you find at the coordinates and this was no different along with submitting a photo of ourselves at the base of the forth plinth. Currently topped with some kind of Chinese dragon.

Onwards, past some very pretty floral pubs of which their are a lot on route from Trafalgar Square and along Whitehall.

We admired the very well behaved horses on parade at horse guards parade and plodded along to Downing Street.

Official cars went past us here and we think it may have been Boris, but they were to quick for us to have a good look.

Our next target was three lab caches by Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey. If you haven’t taken the time to inspect the old buildings here, do! There is history tucked in every corner, and the architecture, well, those designers of years gone were very talented and in our opinion far better designers than of the new modern buildings.

Time was passing, so we headed towards Westminster bridge and St Thomas’s hospital. Had to do the tourist pictures as we crossed the bridge.

St Thomas’s itself has some history, a training school was once set up here by Florence Nightingale and the outside and corridors are full of sculptures and monuments. Here are just a few.

Dad was in good spirits and looking forward to coming home. Caught up with his aftercare plan and we chatted for a while before it was time to leave. A few more statues on route to Waterloo before the train home.

Bright colours and sunny days

Some days are really stressful and yesterday was definitely one of them, and whilst we wait to see how the next few weeks pan out I needed a mini escape to the garden.

It is already 27° this morning at 10.30 so the umbrellas and sunshades are up, doggie paddling pool is out and a little shaded corner cleared of clutter ready to sit and enjoy a cup of tea.

Last year Rich and I spent many hours replanting the garden. We wanted colour in summer as although the garden previously looking stunning in the spring it was shades of green only in the summer months. We also wanted to encourage more bees and butterflies into the garden and Rich wanted to have plants with heavenly scents.

Our hard work is paying off. At 7 o’clock this morning the bees were busy collecting pollen and bright butterflies were gently making their way around. I was even joined by a very friendly little brown bird which I’ve now identified as a juvenile Robin.

The hanging baskets that I sprayed bright pink a month or so ago are now in full bloom and looking gorgeous in front of the greenhouse.

The wild sweet pea are providing us with colour there whilst we wait for the second blooms or our new roses.

The bright orange of this flower (can’t remember its name)stands out amongst the greens at the bottom of the garden.

We are also patiently waiting for the Hibiscus to flower. At my old house I had one of these and it would be full of flowers every summer. Here it’s been more difficult to grow, maybe to dry. So I’ve made an effort to ensure it’s been watered and fed more this year. It’s nearly there. There are small buds starting to show some colour. Fingers crossed it will present us with lots of flowers soon.

I’ve tried to grow Echinacea on a few occasions and last year we bought two. They looked dead but I was promised they would burst into life again. Well one has the other must have been dead. I’m loving its wide flat flower head making it a perfect landing platform for the bees and butterflies.

I’ll leave you with some other photos to brighten your day, and just remember to put down your mobile phone, switch of the pc and take at least 5 minutes to enjoy your special place.

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