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

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

 

May Day Visit to Kingston Maurward

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As a Dorset native, I like to think I have visited most places of interest in the lovely county I am fortunate enough to live in, but I had never visited Kingston Maurward House and Gardens until yesterday. Despite it being May Day, spring wasn’t much in evidence as the sky remained cloudy and grey throughout most of the couple of hours my family and I spent there.  However, it was still a pleasant stroll around the 35 acre gardens, which form part of the 750 acre estate and also contain a land-based college, working farm and dairy, equestrian centre and animal park.

As we walked beside the lake and through the many different types of garden; including Japanese, secret, terraced and Elizabethan walled gardens among many others, the sound which could be heard above all others was that of birdsong and running water from the stream. As it was quite a dull day, I don’t think we saw the gardens at their best, so a return journey is definitely on the cards.  We didn’t walk round the animal park but many people, families especially, were doing so.  There’s a shop and café at the entrance, but they are very small, so I recommend taking a packed lunch.  There is a second café, which looked bigger, but is closed at the weekends.

If you’re in Dorset on a sunny day, pack a sandwich and go!

There’s a rich history to the estate, which you can read more of below:

http://www.kmc.ac.uk/gardens/

Photographs©VCUzzell2016

 

Kingston Lacy – a winter walk

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Summer is probably one of the most popular seasons to visit the countryside, but its opposite on the wheel of the year can also be just as rewarding. Winter reveals the structural beauty of woods, with patterns; shapes and forms of the trees come to the fore.  They are also less busy, and you can almost have a place like Kingston Lacy, which is just outside Wimborne in Dorset, all to yourself.

It certainly felt that way as myself and my family arrived there this morning in light drizzle, wondering if we’d done the right thing in venturing out, but decided we might as well make the most of it, and we were glad we had because the grounds were much quieter than in the height of tourist season; and although the house itself was only open on the ground floor due to the time of year, it was the woodland around it which most interested us, so we didn’t mind.

If you’re going to visit during the winter months, or even after plenty of rain, beware as the paths through the woods can be very muddy in places, making accessibility for some difficult. However, the walk around the grounds, which include the woods, Japanese garden and Kitchen garden, is generally level and easy going.  It took us about an hour and a half, but we didn’t rush and took photos along the way.

There’s a good café and toilets at the start, in addition to a kiosk and more facilities for a comfort break near the Kitchen garden and allotments. There’s also a National Trust shop and a few further buildings to explore, which have changing displays according to the season.  The house itself is lovely, and well worth taking your time over.  As it was low season, it had been shuttered-up, and the statues which surround it were also covered.  So if you want to appreciate the building at its best, then wait for the spring.

Being among the various browns and deep greens this morning, with leaves mulching under foot; the damp smell of the earth filling the air, was just what I needed to continue re-charging my batteries ahead of the coming year.

For more information follow the link below:

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

Photographs©VCUzzell2015

 

Early Autumn Inspiration

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With Autumn Equinox just a day away I woke up feeling inspired this morning to get out and enjoy the late summer-early autumn sunshine. It’s that time of year when you need layers for the chilly mornings and late afternoon, which can be removed during the day when the temperature warms up. I love the colours that start to emerge; the greens giving way to orange, yellow and red towards the later stages of the season.

Lucky as I am to live by the sea, I went out for a stroll with my camera to experiment with a new prop I found the other day. I’m quite pleased with the results.

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I hope the Equinox tomorrow will inspire some creative actions in you too.

Photograph©VCUzzell2015