Endings and Beginnings

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The time between Christmas and New Year has always felt a bit odd to me; the main event has passed and now I feel I’m in limbo-land, waiting for everything to get back to normal again after New Year. I sometimes feel a little low as I reflect on another year passed and what I have yet to achieve in life, whilst at the same time feeling eager for the following year to begin so I can hopefully bring some more dreams to fruition.  2016 is certainly a year which many will be glad to see the back of, and for a number of reasons, both personal and global.  As mentioned in my previous post, 2017 is the first of the next nine-year cycle, and therefore it is vital that you get off to a good start.

Over the last few months, as 2016 has come to close, many feelings and situations in my life have also changed or ended. Maybe the same has happened for you.  I’ve already made plans for goals I wish to achieve next year, and am really looking forward to putting them into action.  Have you taken the time to reflect on what dreams you would like to see realised in 2017?  Try to get out and about in nature, especially if it is sunny, and use that as inspiration for your reflections.  I went to a lovely National Trust property today; Mottisfont in Hampshire, for a very cold but enjoyable walk around its house and grounds.  Having felt a little tired and down-hearted when I woke up this morning, I left feeling 100% better after strolling around, camera in hand, marvelling at the trees and winter light casting long shadows across the frost covered grass.  Seeing gardens in winter often makes you appreciate them all the more when you see them again in full summer colours.

It clearly had the desired effect as I’ve come home inspired to write a blog post, something I haven’t done in a while. I’m sure many of you who are reading this may be looking back on this past year with a mixture of emotions, so I suggest a dose of Mother Nature to ease any sadness or melancholy.  It has certainly helped me.

A word on Mottisfont; it became busy quite quickly, so I recommend getting there for when it opens. There are two cafes but they too filled up fast, so you may want to take your own lunch, although I can highly recommend the scones!  The grounds are lovely, even at this time of year.  However, the person who recommended Mottisfont to me said June is the best time to visit because the roses are in full bloom and smell wonderful; so a return trip is a must!  At this time of year, the house is only open on the ground floor but it had been beautifully decorated.  I look forward to seeing more of it on my next visit.

For more details, follow the link below. I visited Mottisfont at my own expense.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont

Photographs©VCUzzell2016

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Stunning Stourhead

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A misty day with drizzle in the air might not inspire a trip to a country house and garden, but that did not deter me and my family as we set off for Stourhead House and Garden this morning. In fact, the weather being a bit ‘iffy’ worked in our favour, as it wasn’t too busy when we arrived and the rain brought the lush greens, browns and reds of the trees to life.  Not only that, but the smell of the dew covered grass and the damp earth was breathed in deeply as we made our way through the tree lined paths, constantly amazed by the view around each corner.

Green is often said to be a healing colour; being immersed in it today I received a good dose of its health giving properties as I strolled along, camera in hand, trying to do justice to the scenery but feeling like I couldn’t quite capture its beauty. Every few minutes my brother and I would stop and go ‘oh wow!’ before experimenting with different angles, framing and trying not to get in the way of one another’s photo.

The house is both interesting and beautiful; the tasteful furniture and numerous paintings are particularly impressive, with each room immaculately arranged and knowledgeable staff on-hand to tell you more about every element of a room. We weren’t able to see everything today, which is brilliant as a return visit in the autumn will be a must!  Having seen Stourhead’s landscape in all its green glory, I can’t wait to see it covered in reds, oranges and yellows.

For more information, follow the link below:

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stourhead

Photographs©VCUzzell2016

I visited Stourhead House and Garden at my own expense.

The Alternative Bucket List

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Don’t you just love those ‘bucket lists’ and ‘things to do before you’re insert age of choice here’ articles? No, me neither.  Who thought that was a good idea?  Did someone think ‘Oh I know, let’s make people feel more inadequate by telling them they should have snorkelled off some far-flung beach, sky-dived and got hideously drunk in a famous club, and all before they’re 20’?

How about putting this on your bucket list? Go for a walk among nature on a sunny day with your loved ones.  Sit outside and enjoy the peace and quiet of your surroundings while eating a rather delicious scone, then go for a leisurely stroll, admire the view, take a few photographs and breathe in the fresh air; simple and achievable, with no need for specialist equipment other than a bottle of water and sun protection.

That’s on my list, and it’s a goal I’ve been able to achieve time and time again. I wonder if all these ‘must do’ lists only add to our anxiety about ageing and do little to make us feel we’ve actually lived well and to the full.  What consists of a fully-lived life is very personal to you and what you take pleasure from; that might be bungee-jumping in New Zealand, or spending the day walking round a stately home and gardens, or it might not.

In a bid to appear to be living our lives to the full (and putting it on social media) have we lost sight of (apologies for the cliché) the simple things; just being with those we love and admiring the world around us.

So what would be on your alternative bucket list? Think of the little things; a meal with your family in your favourite local restaurant, going to the cinema with your brother/sister, having coffee and a laugh with friends; life isn’t all about the big moments, it’s about the small ones too.  Don’t take them for granted, for they too will pass.

This post was inspired by a walk around the RSPB’s Arne Reserve in Dorset. It has a lovely café, where they serve delicious scones, and you can choose from several walks around the reserve.  The views over Poole Bay are wonderful and the walks take you through beautiful oak woodland, past purple heather and of course there’s plenty for bird watchers all year round.  Despite being a native of Dorset, this was my first visit to Arne, but I hope to make it a regular haunt in order to see the reserve in all seasons.

For more information, follow the link below:

http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/reserves/guide/a/arne/

Photographs©VCUzzell2016

 

Relaxation and Minions at Kingston Lacy

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I never tire of Kingston Lacy; in all seasons it has something for the visitor. Rich colours in the autumn, exposed structures of bare trees in the winter, flowers beginning to emerge in spring and the glorious greens of summer.  It was the last of those which I experienced yesterday, as myself and a friend strolled along the paths and through the gardens, welcoming the scent of rhododendrons and freshly cut grass as we waited for the sunlight to filter through the canopy above, to be (hopefully) caught in the lens of our cameras.  Many of the flowers had started to go over, but in the case of alliums, what remained was a beautiful exposed structure where the petals had been.

It was my companion’s first visit to Kingston Lacy and I had the honour of showing her around a place which has become quite familiar to me, and a welcome space to relax and recharge my batteries. The last time I had been there was the weekend after Christmas on a somewhat grey day with plenty of mud to squelch through, so the dry paths and array of colour yesterday was a welcome sight.  We stopped for a delicious slice of lemon drizzle cake in the kitchen garden, and admired the imaginative scarecrows protecting the precious produce growing in the allotments.

Despite having spent four hours strolling and snapping, we still hadn’t covered the whole estate, nor looked round the house. So a return visit is guaranteed!

Photographs©VCUzzell2016

For more information on Kingston Lacy, follow the link below:

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy

I visited Kingston Lacy at my own expense.

‘The days were just endless’

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When I was a child I used to spend many hours gazing out of my bedroom window at the small woodland behind my house. I made up stories and became so involved in my world that it often wasn’t until my mum called me for tea that I would realise my room had gone dark and a whole afternoon had just evaporated in my imaginary ramblings among the dense trees and foliage that began at the end of the garden.

From my current home I can also see trees, many of which are evergreen but even those who lose their leaves in autumn still maintain a start beauty in their bare state. Yet rarely, if ever, do I allow myself to once again gaze out for hours on end and just dream.  Life of course has more responsibilities now that I’m quite a bit older than the child who day dreamed to her heart’s content.  There’s also that sense of keeping busy and making sure I’m using my time productively as the clock ticks by and I’m increasingly aware that I need to make the most of each day I have on this earth.  How lucky my younger self was; to have the time to dwell in her imagination.

The child I was used trees to fuel her imagined adventures, I now see them as a constant, reassuring presence, which also reflects the seasons, the passage of time and their steadfastness in the face of change all around them. They are seemingly oblivious to our short existence, our brief visit to this earth, as they stand for generations, watching people come and go.  I wonder if the trees I admired as a child still remain, or has the demand for ‘progress’ seen them cut down?  The UK has lost so much of its woodland over the last century, and more seems to be disappearing year-on-year as the demand for housing and land for food production grows.  There needs to be more effort made to protect our ancient woodland and all the green spaces in our towns and cities, so that hopefully children in the future will still be able to gaze out of their window for hours and let their imagination flow through the branches of trees.

(Title inspired by Calvin and Hobbes, created by Bill Watterson)

Photograph©VCUzzell2016