Sunday 15 June 2014

Lovesome things

Gardens. It was mostly about gardens today - and, truly, there is no more glorious a thing than an English garden in June. But first off, we were inside, at the Saturday market n Tynemouth, held under the iron and glass roof of the railway station. Brilliant. Vintage clothes and handbags, books, cupcakes, militaria, crafts, junk... Exactly the sort of place to snap up something to gloat over later on 'Antiques Roadshow'.

Then we took Northumberland's Coastal Route through pretty fishing villages with piles of smelly lobster pots, kids fishing with hand lines, red and blue boats bobbing at their moorings, and ducks with large broods of babies frantically paddling after them across the harbour.
There were also lots of castles picturesquely perched on strategic hills and cliffs - centuries of problems with invaders up here, mostly from Scotland. Alnwick was glorious: big, well-preserved, full of treasures in the fabulous state rooms - where as well as priceless furnishings there were also bean bags and a football table, since the Percy family is still in residence, after 700 years.

Outside in the grounds there were wedding parties in kilts and fascinators, and a bunch of little kids with striped scarves having a broomstick race, supervised by a stern man in a grey cloak. (The castle featured in the Harry Potter movies.)

But mostly it was the gardens that dominated today: huge and impressive, like Alnwick with its Grand Cascade, immaculate walled garden and fun fountains - like a child-friendly Versailles without the 'pelouse interdite' signs - a celebration of the art of espalier. And Howick Hall, blowsier and more natural, a beautiful blaze of colour, the herbaceous borders busy with bees, surrounded by an arboretum of the world's trees.

But it's not just the grand places - rows of fishing cottages, farmhouses, terraced houses in little towns - they all have lush, bright gardens full of colour, neat but natural. God wot.

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