Wordsworth’s Cottage and a Monster Storm

Dove Cottage

We had planned for our last day in Ambleside, to visit Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum, Ruskin’s house at Coniston and generally enjoy driving around the picturesque countryside.




Mary Mary Quite Contrary (our name for the GPS system that came with the hired car) behaved quite well; only one little detour and we were parking beside the cafe attached to William Wordsworth’s former home.

With tickets in hand we soon joined the merry group of Wordsworth admirers for the tour of Dove Cottage where he lived with his sister Dorothy (who seems to have done much of the work around the place while His Nibs swanned about, creating his poems.)


We began in a small room on the ground floor where Wordsworth received his guests. Coleridge was a regular and, from what I’ve read of Dorothy’s diary, he stayed with them often.

Our guide was extremely informative, but she did need to stick to her lines and was distracted by any noise like cameras clicking, so we had to be quiet and listen intently as if we might be examined later. I kept getting left behind as the rest of them obediently followed her to the next room (while I stayed behind furiously flashing away to catch a few photos.) Not actually flashing – no flash allowed, despite many of the rooms being so dark I couldn’t even see what I was trying to photograph. I have to admit to ignoring that rule a couple of times.

note the coal in the corner

The kitchen was next – a former bar – so small one wonders how they could fit in enough customers to make a living. The pile of coal in the corner provided the right atmosphere to give me sympathy for Dorothy.


I don’t think the great poet wrote about ‘burning the candle at both ends’ but we were shown how to burn a candle with three lights at once. In the days when everything from

Burning the candle at three points

windows to candles were taxed, the locals made their own candles from fat left in the pan after roasting the meat. A bit smelly, but apparently effective, although the walls were brown with grease before Dorothy arrived to clean and whitewash them regularly. A thin taper was pushed through the middle of the candle and could be lit at both ends – hence the saying, although I doubt if it has anything to do with the modern interpretation.




Wordsworth wrote in here







Upstairs we visited ‘the sitting room’ which William used as his writing room when not out in the garden or strolling around the countryside. His chair and a sort of chaise, as well as a grandfather clock and a cabinet displaying their china, were dealt with in detail by our guide, who did at that point tell us we could return to take photos provided the next group weren’t in the room.


A happy me, in Wordsworth’s writing space.


I, of course, took advantage of this and had Susanne take my photo in that inspirational room. Sadly I didn’t manage to create a poem or two on the spot.




From there, we looked down onto the houses and the road, much as William and Dorothy would have seen them.




This door leads to the garden.


From the upper level we went out the back and wandered through the pretty cottage garden.





Note the doves on the chimney top








It slopes up very steeply towards a lookout from where the poet enjoyed views of rooftops and mountains in the distance.






After the house and garden we visited the Wordsworth museum. Manuscripts and notebooks are displayed in glass cases and I was heartened to see crossing out, writing down the sides of pages, and the occasional use of spaces between lines of another’s writing. (I think it was something by his friend, Coleridge.) Questions put in there presumably for children – ‘Why would Wordsworth do this? Had he run out of paper? Was it the first thing to hand? Did inspiration catch him unprepared? Etc. Well, of course, having done the same sort of thing I knew the answer was ‘Yes’ to all the questions. I was pleased and amused to discover that even such a famous poet was sometimes caught off guard by his Muse.

Returning to the exit via the shop, I bought a copy of Dorothy’s journals, from which much of the information about the life of the Wordsworths and the other ‘lakeland poets’ is taken.

Next stop was supposed to be Ruskin’s house, Brantwood at Coniston, where we planned to enjoy our lunch while taking in the spectacular views across Coniston Water. BUT. Two minutes down the road, the heavens opened.


The heavens opened.

Susanne could hardly see







Another minute of driving and my sister decided that we’d forget further site seeing (to which I heartily agreed) and we headed back to our B&B. On the narrow, winding road beside the lake, with rain so heavy she could hardly see, and a big truck up our backside, I took

crazy truck driver behind us

photos through the windows while we both prayed and she did an amazing job of getting us back safely.







My last photo, taken through the side window, shows the water coming up almost to window height. When we turned into our driveway my darling sister burst into tears.

Looking through the car window.








We sat in the car for about ten minutes, waiting for the deluge to cease. It didn’t, so we got out and ran in through the rain, to find water in the entry. Sue helped the owners and several lads from across the road came to help.







We retreated upstairs to view the flooded roadway and cars banked up as far as we could see in both directions. Locals had come out to guide the traffic through in single file around a BMW that had been swept aside by a passing truck and flooded with the wake. The tow truck eventually arrived nearly three hours later.

Rather an adventurous day. Thank God we didn’t try to do any more than Wordsworth’s place.

Busy Bee and Evocative

I receive heart-warming responses from some of you for my poetry, so here are a couple more. I may have posted ‘Evocative’ before; please forgive me if that’s so. It’s one of my favourite poems and one that I hope you will all enjoy. Please let me know if my images stir your memory.

If you’re not a ‘Busy Bee’ yourself (I’m certainly not one these days) I’m sure you will recognise a friend who is, in this poem. Please pass it on to them with love and appreciation; where would we be without them?


She buzzes about

ever so busy

my busy bee

darting from daisies

to dahlias and dianthus

dusting them all

with pernicketiness.

Collecting pollen

and flicking it in flowers,

where would my garden be

without her?



Sweaty armpits, old gym shoes,

potatoes rotting in a cupboard,

dirty nappies, pig manure,

a drunk, lolling in his vomit.

Burning tyres, gutted homes,

flames roaring through the bush.


Fried onions, vanilla beans,

bacon and toast and percolating coffee.

Leather seats in a new car,

rain on parched earth,

a baby, fresh from the bath.


Eucalypt leaves on a wet day in London.

Yardley perfume that granny used,

sweet peas, picked from a garden.

Old spice after-shave,

the coat you always wore.





Holehird Gardens: Lake District UK

When Susanne and I received our tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show we were also given a year’s membership of the Royal Horticultural Society which included information about, and free or reduced entry into, amazing gardens all over the UK.

Discovering that Holehird Gardens was nearby, we had to take a look and as you will see from our photos, it was well worth the visit.

Stone walls surround the first, enclosed section of the garden which is managed by a group of enthusiastic volunteers. The day was warm but with rain forecast, we included umbrellas in our back packs.  I love the way they have used the stone as a feature in the plantings.









Colours and textures are combined in a way that makes me want to paint these images, but as I’m not an artist, these photos have to satisfy that desire.













Come in to paradise

Walking outside the gate at the end of this section of the garden we found a piece of paradise. Looking through these photos again today, so long after our visit, I gasped with surprise and delight at some of these images. I can’t help thinking that the landscaper here was an artist. I say ‘was’ because the trees are such an important element in the structure, but they must have been planted many years ago and the lovely vignettes we see today, are possible because this garden has beautiful ‘bones.’

Branches made for climbing








Delicate flowers grow in the shade









The trees also create shade to sit and relax; amongst the low growing flowers I could imagine myself as a child, searching for fairy creatures.

A fairy garden?






Another piece of paradise










The view from the top of the hill, down over Lake Windermere and on to the hills on the other side, was misty. It was at this point that our umbrellas came in handy.




Clouds were rolling in over our heads as we neared the end of the garden. We didn’t want to leave without getting every last photo that beckoned, but eventually the rain was too heavy, Susanne’s camera was getting wet, so we returned to the car and drove back to the cottage.


Friends from Australia were staying in Ambleside the same week as us so we had arranged to meet them for dinner that night. The two men were walking across England from west to east, along a well travelled trail which included lots of hill climbing. We didn’t know then, how stormy the weather could turn, but the sky that evening should have been a warning.








Friends In My Garden: Banished Rhus, A Pair of Doves

Today I intended to write about our cruise around Lake Windermere. Unfortunately I’m using a different computer and the photos won’t show up as I want them to. Instead I will share more of my poems from my book, ‘Friends In My Garden’ and hope that you like them .

I wrote these poems for friends and family, depicting each one as something found in a garden. ‘Banished Rhus’, as the name implies, was one person who I thought was my friend but, while staying at her home for a few days I realised that she was actually not a friend at all. If you have been badly hurt by someone who you believed to be your friend, I’m sure you will relate to this poem. You might even want to pass it on to her or him, although I never did.  Banishing her from my garden of friends seemed the best tactic.

The second poem was written for a couple who visited Australia each year from their home in England. Sadly, he has since passed away, but for all of you who are in happy relationships, or who have benefited from a loving marriage or partnership in your life, I hope you enjoy this. You might even want to share it with your loved one.

As always, I’d love to read your comments which you can write in the ‘comment’ box at the bottom of the page.

Banished Rhus

I had a rhus tree

with leaves that were brilliant



admired from a distance.

I stepped too close

she attacked

spewing poison from her leaves

and dripping fiery sap.


was my reaction.

Even now the pain recurs

the rash appears

on tissue scar

when I recall

the venom of her wrath.

She’s gone of course

rooted out

and if ever I see her again

I’ll take care

to keep my distance

from false vindictive rhus.


A Pair Of Doves

Two white doves

return every year.

I love to hear their cooing

a gentle sound that soothes the soul.

While he’s out during the day

she tidies and titivates the nest

chats with other birds

gathers garden goodies for tea

then fluffs out her feathers to look her best

when he returns.

They share a meal

and snuggle down for the night.

Ripples of kindness float across the darkness

encompassing me.







Friends in my Garden: Daisy, Coriander and Free Spirit

This past week I’ve been thinking about friends and family. How some people stay with us all our lives, but others, no matter how much we care about them, move on and we loose contact with them.

When I wrote and published Friends in my Garden, the people in these poems were some of the friends I saw often enough that we could easily slot back into that relationship where the months and years don’t matter. Sadly, I have lost touch completely with Coriander and Free Spirit. Daisy is still around, somewhere, but I haven’t seen her for too long.

If you know where they are, I’d love to receive a message, perhaps a comment at the end of this posting.

When any of my poems apply to a friend or family member of yours, please feel free to pass them on. Friends in my Garden is meant for all of you who read my words and the poems are for you to share with your garden of friends.


She is my daisy

with face always smiling

and petals of pink or yellow or blue

popping up

wherever I need

a splash of colour

and warmth and fun,

I know she’ll be there

to cheer my heart

and nurture my soul.



Coriander reigns in my herb patch.

He’s quiet and a trifle contrary

tends to disappear when confronted.

Dreaming up dishes

tempting and delicious

his feathery appearance

adds a touch of artistry.

Friends regard him as

a culinary wonder.



Chirping, laughing

smile bubbles bursting

in she flies

a flurry of welcome

her visit a sparkling surprise,

tales of the past are recounted

and fantasy flights foretold.

Autumn leaves tumble

She’ll soon fly away

conquering oceans

and capturing hearts

for her spirit is joyous and free.



Harlow Carr Gardens near Harrogate UK

A very happy me at Harlow Carr Gardens, one of my favourites.

Leaving York on the 4th of June, we were excited to be on our way to the beautiful Lakes District, with a stop at Harlow Carr Gardens. Our hire car from Hertz was a very comfortable Mercedes. Susanne did most of the driving while I navigated. When making the booking, back in Australia in March, I had requested a navigation system with the car, but for some inexplicable reason, none was available from the York depot. Google served the purpose, as we only needed to take a small diversion from the main route, from York to Ambleside, in order to visit one of my favourite gardens in the world.










Harlow Carr Gardens is one of the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens in the UK, situated near Harrogate in Yorkshire. This was my third visit and, as on each occasion, a breath taking delight. Having my sister, Susanne, an equally keen gardener, with me, made it even more enjoyable as we dashed from one spectacular panorama to the next, with about a thousand stops on the way to capture a vista or the details of a single flower on camera.

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York England 2016: Day Two

Our travel editor for the West Australian newspaper, Stephen Scourfield, wrote about touring around England in last Saturday’s travel lift-out. I feel that I could qualify for having similar tales published, particularly with all that we saw and did in York last year.

Stephen even mentioned the squirrels – see the little fellow that we met, along with pigeons (or are they doves? I never know the difference.

One of the things I love about England is the abundance of parks and the fact that they are well cared for, with  well-placed trees and clusters of shrubs and flowers, especially when you arrive in spring, as we did.






The Museum Gardens are situated about two minutes walk from our accommodation and are the most direct route to the centre of town, so, whenever possible (the gates are closed every night) we walked through it, coming out at Museum St on the other side.









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Spring in the Hills

Spring is here again, and my camera has been busy, so today, instead of York in England, I have to write about my garden in Glen Forrest.



The view from my bedroom, into a private courtyard which is now finished, is already a delight and in a few weeks, when everything blossoms, it will be heavenly. From my study, where I write these blog posts as well as my short stories, poems  and the latest novel (about halfway there), I am inspired by nature, which often includes a friendly goanna and lots of birds.

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Friends In My Garden: Hyacinth and Peony

Life has been hectic for the last few weeks, hence my lack of postings on this site. I am keen to return to the travel tales from England but for today, I hope to please those of you who enjoy my poems, especially those from my first book, ‘Friends In My Garden.’

Hyacinth was written for a friend who lost her daughter in tragic circumstances. It was the kind of situation from which a mother would never totally recover but this lady was/is always graceful and composed. Whenever I read this poem I think of her with love and admiration.

If you know someone who bravely bares a tragic loss, you might like to share this poem with them.


Hyacinth is a fragile flower

sometimes seeming aloof

in her need for seclusion.

The colours of her petals change

from purple on the sad days

to whitely unobtrusive

when she’s hiding from the world

or palest blue

in times of her remembering.

For the memory and the loss

will always remain

despite her efforts to hide the pain.

The image she presents

of calmness and restraint

is it a facade?

I think I hear her crying

in the emptiness of night

when she’s alone with her sorrow.

She’s determined to not falter

but I should remember

to tend more often

and with more care

my saddened, delicate hyacinth.


Peony was written for another brave lady. Sadly she didn’t manage to overcome cancer, but she always looked elegant and despite her condition, she was determined to live life to the full. I only really had one meeting with her but was so impressed that I sat down as soon as she left and composed this poem in her honour.

‘Friends In My Garden’ was published in 1995. Sadly, my Peony died about a year later, but I still think of her. It’s a sad poem, but I wanted to express my admiration for her determination and for the joy she radiated, despite the suffering she must have endured. I hope that my words give comfort and encouragement to others who are facing serious illness.


This morning there appeared

a flower I’ve not seen before,

a peony.

The climate here is harsh

for so delicate a plant

but to see her blooming

you’d not be aware

of her struggle for survival.


blossoms in profusion,

the image she presents.

I know she lost her petals

felt her trunk grow weak

but sun gave her warmth

rain fell softly on her leaves

the one who cares

for flowers and trees

nourished her with love

and hence


she came to grace my garden.




UK: Chelsea Flower Show People

Every year they wear these coats , bought many years ago.


Fancy dress for the occasion.











Co-ordinated in stripes.

As promised, I have some interesting characters to show you this week. I think gardeners must be a particular breed, often rather eccentric, especially the English variety and we found several of them at the Chelsea Flower Show last year. I have Susanne to thank for most of these photos.

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