Sunday, 22 April 2018

Making the most of the sun - Belton House

The sunshine lured us out again on Friday - this time a little further afield to Belton Hall just outside Grantham.

It was too nice to waste time indoors, plus we had our grandson along in his buggy, so we didn't go in the House itself but wandered round the formal gardens, had a play in the maze, saw the moondial and checked out the adventure playground for future reference (also it was cooler under the trees there)

And, of course, we found time for lunch and cake.

I've become a rather lazy, ambling outdoors person recently but, although "just a short stroll' is what I tend to think when visiting gardens,  I'd soon clocked up enough steps to make my Fitbit happy (in fact by the end of the day, I'd done more than double my target!)

With a buggy to push you notice different things - gravel is very noisy, grassed areas that look flat actually have hidden humps and hollows, certain areas of the garden were out of reach because of steps, and our daughter felt the baby changing area she used was functional but could have been improved. All things you stop noticing as your children grow, but now as a granny I need to consider them again.

We used to stop at Belton frequently on our way to and from Norfolk, but it's a while since we've visited and even longer since we've been in the play area. It's now bigger and although some old favourites have gone, there's lots of fab things to explore when Grandson is older. Meanwhile I couldn't resist 'testing' some of the new things - a hand pump which delivered water into wooden troughs and turned metal cups, a hanging xylophone and some musical stepping-stones. I just wish I were still small enough to explore this 'castle' :)

Friday, 20 April 2018

Evening walk at Locko Park

It seems like only a week or so ago that we had snow, but in the last couple of days summer seems to have suddenly arrived here. It's proved a bit of a shocking change, and, although I wanted to get out and enjoy the sunshine (because, face it, who knows how long it will last?) it's seemed too hot to do much during the day - so an evening stroll seemed a better option.

I was looking for somewhere quiet, preferably with water, and without hills (!) and I'd been thinking of going to one of our regular 'on the doorstep' walks when I remembered an even closer spot that fitted the bill exactly. Locko Park is just on the edge of Derby, and if I were feeling energetic I could walk there, but I wasn't, and it was still hot, so we took the car and parked at the entrance.

Locko Hall glimpsed across the lake

It isn't really a place that's open to the public, but there's a right of way which follows the main drive, skirting a lake with distant views of the hall.

We then followed a footpath up to a small wood with bluebells, where we caught the sun setting like a ball of flame before retracing our steps to the car.

  It's a lovely peaceful spot, surrounded by low hills that somehow cut off the outside world, and I don't know how we dropped out of the habit of walking there. What brought it to mind today was an upcoming food and music festival, BlokOut, which I mentioned recently. The place won't be as quiet that weekend, but it's a wonderful location for such an event.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Going it alone - Ben Marwood (and more) at JT Soar

JT Soar is a strange, secretive venue. Once a wholesale greengrocers, it still keeps its old frontage but, a bit like a speakeasy dive from America's prohibition years, hides something very different behind that exterior. There's no hard liquor on sale, though; it's strictly bring-your-own. The space is bare, there are few chairs but after all you've come to listen to musicians so does that matter? Not really, or at least not till I get cramp in the middle of the night!

Ben Marwood
I've been there quite a lot in this last year - to see Sean McGowan just before he got signed to a recording label, for my daughter's EP launch, and numerous other occasions  - so when I found out George Gadd (yep, seen him there too) was promoting a gig with three singer/songwriters, ALL of whom I wanted to see live, I got OH to give up his running and go out on a Friday night instead. 

She Makes War

The music aspect of the evening was great - George himself first to warm up the crowd, followed by Helen Chambers, She Makes War, and Ben Marwood. I loved all of them, and would go see any of them again but, sorry Ben and Helen, She Makes War (aka Laura Kidd) was the 'find' of the night. I've been following her on social media for a while, hearing new songs via her newsletter, but it was somehow only live that I thought I MUST hear more of her, so I bought a CD. 
Disarm - She Makes War

George Gadd immortalised on stickers

Something I hadn't expected from the evening, though, was to be taken aback by my daughter's absence. We've been to to gigs without her before, when she was away at uni, busy with something else, or on holiday. Lots in little pub venues, As December Falls at Rescue Rooms, Frank Turner at Rock City ... but I only realised on the night that every time I'd been to JT Soar my daughter had been performing there, and frequently promoting the event (meaning I'd spend part of my time taking money on the door!). Now of course she's off living her own life and us old parents have either got to stay home or  pretend we're really hip and know all about the contemporary folk scene, and bluff it out. Well, I'm not staying home!
 It definitely made things a little sad and weird to be there without her, and it really felt like I was stepping outside my comfort zone. It wasn't something I intended adding to my #60NewThings list, but turns out it is - going it alone with no daughter-shaped safety net. Thank you, George, for not thinking we'd strayed into the wrong place, and were really looking for some cheap fruit and veg :)

Monday, 9 April 2018

Birthday week

We all like birthdays, don't we? Cake and presents, and cake, and possibly more cake. But I never quite think a single day of celebration is enough, especially when it's a huge round-number birthday as mine is this year. So I've managed (yet again) again to drag things out over a week or so.

To start, we packed the car with adults and baby grandson, and headed north to youngest daughter's flat for the first of my birthday lunches.  There's an odd mix of beverages on offer when everyone's gathered together but the cake looked more traditional - and tasted delicious.
On my actual birthday the rain came down, so elder daughter came round (with baby) and prepared 'high tea' for lunch - three sorts of delicate, crust-free finger sandwiches (including smoked salmon), with scones and cake to follow.  The only thing we lacked was a fancy cake stand to serve things on, and maybe some pretty china tea-cups would have looked better than mugs, but neither would have improved the taste :0

Next day, to prove its total disregard for the calendar, the sun came out. Although we had 'chores' to do, I managed to sneak a few hours outside at Allestree park on the edge of Derby. It's mainly laid to golf course but the walk around the lake is attractive, especially with blue sky reflecting in the water.

Still not finished with this birthday ... Friday evening saw us at Nottingham's JT Soar listening to George Gadd, Helen Chamber, She Makes War, and Ben Marwood.

Then at the weekend, my youngest daughter came home, and we had another day out - this time to Chatsworth.

It's been a lovely week, and I think I've done quite well with my celebrating, but maybe now it's time to get back to normal ...

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Looking for signs of Spring

I mentioned a while ago that I'd been out and about, trying to grab some down-time after the hassle of March with walks at Shipley Country Park and Lea Gardens, but I realise I never posted my photos.
So here they are - or at least a small number of them, as I took a LOT as always.

First Shipley Country Park, where the snowdrops were giving way to drifts of daffodils.

The trees may be bare, but at their feet stretches a carpet of yellow. They're absolutely stunning when in full flower, and even a few weeks too early they're lovely.

 Then, a few days later we went to Lea Gardens to see the earliest of the huge rhododendron collection. There's not many flowering yet, but the hillside garden is still worth a walk round, especially if, like us, you buy a season ticket with the intent of going back to see the garden change over the year.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Making plans for Summer - local festivals

As I've mentioned before, this year I'll again be holidaying from home, so I'm determined to make the most of it and discover what there is to do right here on my doorstep - and something I've been looking at is the number and range of festivals going on within an easy day's travel. Couple this with my attempt to try 60 new things for my 60 years, and I'm determined to visit some of them at least!

Now there are a couple of big festivals local to me - Download and Y Not - but I'm not sure they're quite my cup of tea; they're HUGE, so I think best left to the youngsters. I'll try something more bijou, and perhaps a little quirkier, thank you.

So, in no particular order, this is what I've found (I've probably missed LOTS because once you start looking, there seems to be a festival almost every weekend). From here on, the links will take you to festival web-sites where you can find more information, and perhaps one that you'd like to catch.

Timber 6/7/8 July   taking place in the National Forest just south of here, is a weekend of arts, music and activities hinged around forests; to quote the programme "music, art, philosophy and sustainability weave together into an unforgettable, exhilarating weekend" - it sounds like just my sort of thing - there's music and theatre to entertain, night-time light installations and a torch-lit procession, talks and discussions about the importance of the environment, and our interaction with forests and wildlife to make me think, and art to inspire me.

What brought Timber to my attention in the first place was spotting something on social media about a  spoken word/theatre piece based on the Robert Macfarlane/Jackie Morris book, The Lost Words, and premiering at Timber. Since then I've explored the Timber site and found so many things that I feel I must see!  It sounds like brilliant weekend. I can't go along and camp out in the woods as the dog will have to stay at home, but fortunately it's near enough to drop in for several hours on one or more days :) You'll definitely be hearing more from me about this one!

If you fancy something similar but smaller, there's  Woodside Festival held on 16th June at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's farm in the Erewash valley, near Ilkeston ( almost on my doorstep).
It's a day of entertainment, art and wild activities, supporting local wildlife and encouraging us to get closer to nature. There's willowweaving, den building, and storytelling for children; yoga, dance and drumming sessions for older folk. Sounds like fun!

Blok Out -  Taking place on the 13/14/15 July, in the grounds of Locko Park, on the outskirts of Derby, this is perhaps the nearest of my picks to a 'music festival'.  I don't remember quite how I heard about it, but my first thought was "I could walk there" - so no worries about cars and mud! Described as a family food and music festival, it has a great music line-up with Feeder and  The Hoosiers headlining on the Saturday night, with support from local artists and others from further afield, a vintage funfair for children, lots of interesting options of food and drink, and glamping on offer for those who want to avoid tent-pitching hassle. It seems like a shame to miss something exciting taking place close by.

Eroica is now in its fifth year, and when I first heard about it I expected it to be only of interest to enthusiastic cyclists, but I saw photos of the event last summer and realised that there's a lot of interest to a more casual festival goer, and someone like myself who's heard a lot about cycling through family but who isn't 'involved' either as participant or viewer.
 Yes, it revolves around the guided cycle rides (up to 100 miles!) taking place across the Derbyshire countryside, but you could just go along, maybe join in the free cycle rides (there's an evening one to the pub which sounds very easy), check out the vintage bikes with cyclists some dressed in appropriate costumes, browse the stalls, listen to discussions, debates and tales of adventures on bikes (good for sort of once-removed enthusiasts like myself, maybe) or catch the music from brass bands, jazz and soul, to pop or folk. Taking place 15-17th June in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside at Friden Grange.

Out in the countryside again, this time just north of Matlock for Exile Music Festival  This caught my eye as I'd been tracking 3 Daft Monkeys (they're a band btw) on social media, hoping they'd be performing locally sometime, and here they are headlining. It's a smaller event than some of the others (500 cap),  but there are 15/20 bands lined up to play, and there's a showcase stage for young local performers on the Sunday. It's family friendly with children's play area, and dogs are allowed along, though not in the performance venues. It runs 22nd- 24th June.

In the way that I find people like to spread the word about something new, the organiser of Exile, suggested I also check out Mid-Folk Festival - a new event, taking place at Middleton-by-Wirksworth village hall 13th to 15th July. The emphasis is on folk music, with performances from local musicians and well-established favourites, and opportunities to take part in musical workshops, or even perform.

Add to these Derby Book Festival, Little Ed Fringe Festival, Derby Folk Festival, and art festivals at Wirksworth and Melbourne, and I could be busy...

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