Tag Archives: London

Tales from the Forest

I have to admit to having rather a soft spot for the New Forest.  Rugged heaths, ancient woodland, sea and countryside entwined, grazing cows who amble across the road and wild ponies walking amongst hues of gorse and heather.  Pure untamed romance – the countryside embodiment of Byron.  I’m always trying to persuade Jerry to move there.  So when Rachel from New Forest Escapes asked if I’d like to come and see some wonderfully unique properties she lets for short breaks and holidays, I jumped at the chance to explore.  Some invitations are just too good to turn down, dear Reader.

They say that location is everything and New Forest Escapes certainly know how to open the door to explore some of the New Forest’s best kept secrets. Handpicked and unique, their properties encompass so much from luxury coastal chic to vintage quirkiness – far more than your average rental or Air BnB.  Unusual requests?  Big birthday to organise?  Hen party? Want your dogs to join you for the weekend or fancy bringing your pony?  Honestly, it seems that there is nothing Rachel and her team can’t organise for your stay.  In fact, their properties are so marvellous, I wasn’t entirely keen on sharing them with you, dear Reader…..

With plenty to choose from, New Forest Escapes offer everything from bohemian style, a veritable Swallows and Amazons’ paradise, luxury weekend boltholes by the sea, a smugglers’ inn with its own private beach, countryside elegance to rival The Pig Hotel to a Tithe barn with an interior to die to for, complete with its own private jetty and many more lets for weekend retreats or staycations.  Now can you see why I didn’t want to share….?

Staying at the beautiful Ploughman’s Cottage which is a stone’s throw from the excellent East End Arms pub, owned by John Illsley, bass guitarist of Dire Straits, we lost the girls immediately to the stunning garden.  I very nearly lost Jerry to the pub too, if I’m honest.  I think he was hoping that Dire Straits might want to recruit an additional band member.

The dogs were in their element bombing round the garden and Poppy and Primrose were determined to leave home and move into the gypsy caravan.  Inside was all the comfort of home from home but oh so much better.  Books galore too.  All Jerry and I had to do was to find the corkscrew and decide what to do about supper, dear Reader.

Eventually when we managed to tear our gypsy girls away, we snuck down to have fish and chips on the beach at Pitts Deep (pictured below).  Lymington Pier station was a short hop away and a great place to get the train down from London to – Jerry said that the coastal route was brilliant with the last train stop ending feet away from the sea.

Pitts Deep Cottage offers a dose of pure coastal glamour. Sumptuous interiors, uninterrupted sea views and bags of charm, its past as an inn “Famous for Selling Good Brandy” tells tales of 18th century smugglers.  With Pitts Deep as our backdrop and the sea before us,  it was the most wonderful fish and chips we’ve ever had. We sat on our picnic rug on the sand, watching the waves with a cold glass of rose as the children made dens on the beach.

If magical adventures with your children are what you’re looking for, then I can’t think of a more perfect stay than Eat me Drink me Cottage.

Taking a trip down the rabbit hole in this Alice in Wonderland inspired hideaway, you’ll find a treasure trove of vintage toys in this higgledy piggedly cottage – ideal for free range children and grown ups.  Eat me Drink me Cottage is the ultimate place for a bit of rewilding and is a beautiful reflection of its eclectic owners, Peter, a concert pianist and Victoria who runs vintage children’s clothing delight Elfie London who decamp here with their children when the cottage is free.  The dressing up box had Poppy and Primrose in raptures!  Unsurprisingly, Eat me Drink me won our hearts straight away and its magical location on the Pylewell estate (which hosts Curious Arts Festival in the summer), is just close enough to Tanners Lane Beach to organise expeditions to hunt for pirates or invite a few fairies back for tea in the meadow beyond the garden gate.  A top tip – do read Rachel’s marvellous blog before your stay.  We loved her wonderful ideas, handpicked offers and suggestions for adventures with the children during our stay including going on our very own Unicorn Trail .

Reluctantly leaving our weekend bolthole, we returned home feeling as though we’d completely switched off and recharged our batteries.  No need for phones or telly – time to play, relax and just….well…be.  Now if that’s not a reason to book a stay in one of New Forest Escapes‘ properties, I don’t know how else I could tempt you, dear Reader.  I’m already thinking about the next time I can enjoy this view again!  With a nice long gin and tonic of course.

 

 

 

 

Autumn rolling in

NYC

Never have I felt the juxtaposition of town and country more acutely than a recent weekend dash to New York and back for a dear family member’s wedding.  Saying goodbye to straw bales on the school run and green fields (plus two small girls) to be greeted by cabs honking, neon lights flashing and the whoosh of urban living was a far more epic contrast from our every day life than I could ever have imagined.  Continue reading

A year on

wild flowers
There we have it.  Our first year of living in the countryside.  It’s simply bizarre to think that a year ago we left the Big Smoke and moved to Hampshire to begin a new life in the country.  WHERE has the time gone, dear Reader?  So many wonderful, funny, strange, downright mad things have happened to us in that time.

To name a few, we got some chickens……..we took on some orphans…….Jerry brewed his own beer and I foraged from the hedgerows with a good deal of trepidation – Primrose and Jerry telling me, rather helpfully, that I was destined to poison the whole family with my concoctions.  Continue reading

Embracing it all

snowdrops

The first signs of spring

1st February marked St Brigid’s feast day (patron saint of cattle, chicken farmers and dairy maids to name a few) and the beginnings of early spring.  Time to leave winter behind and embrace the coming of a new season.  Rain gods – hope you are listening up there?  1st February was also a milestone for us: six months of living in the countryside, dear Reader.   Strange to think that it has been six months since we shut the door of our tiny railway worker’s cottage with a SW postcode and left the Big Smoke.  London seems a distant memory these days and it is difficult to imagine that we could live anywhere else now.  Visiting our dear friends Minty and Tree up in Oxfordshire made me realise how much time it can take to settle into the ways of village life.  Sometimes it can be very hard to get used to.  Minty is an out and outright townie and misses the wandering of high streets and the buzz of city life, whereas Tree seems quite at home.  Perhaps it is because the one at home has to work so much harder to fit in to a new way of life and establish new friends?  I almost envied Jerry’s commute in the beginning, so I can sympathise with the serious amount of energy required and having to summon up the effort to join in and find one’s niche in the local community.  Embracing it wholeheartedly is the thing, dear Reader and I can report that village life is never dull here with people always popping in to say hello.  I am still getting used to the fact that a knock at the door is usually followed by the visitor coming in and yelling up the stairs for me if I am not in the kitchen!

With shooting season over, our little corner of Hampshire is beginning to show signs of spring appearing – that St Brigid must definitely have something to do with that.  Pockets of snowdrops have appeared and villagers have insisted on us visiting nearby woodland to see the snowy white flowers appear in a patch planted up in a guerrilla gardening raid by one of the village elders some years ago.  Gardening is well and truly on the agenda for Jerry and I too and we have begun the mammoth task of transforming our own cottage garden.  Trees have been cut down, shrubs removed and now, the garden looks more like a building site than a tranquil plant haven.  Years of jungle growth had left the dear old cottage will little light coming through its windows and a garden that Primrose and Poppy couldn’t run around in.  So continue to dig we must.   I am not sure I have ever seen myself as filthy as when digging in the flowerbeds.   Jerry talked of hiring a rotivator…..but to be honest, dear Reader, can you imagine that machine in the hands of townies like Jerry and I?  Bet the village would turn out to see us getting it all wrong!  As it is, our neighbours have had to replace a dilapidated fence along our boundary because Monty has been hopping over to relieve himself on their lawn.  There can’t be a household in the village that hasn’t giggled at the chaos that has descended on the old cottage in the village in the last six months.

Phase 1 in operation: jungle demolition.

Phase 1 in operation: jungle demolition.

Marking our six months of rural living was a wonderful and long overdue visit from the fabulous Tom and Barbara with our darling godson.  There was wine, wine and more wine followed by talk of their smallholding and new business ventures.  I admire their spirit of adventure!  Tom and Barbara have well and truly embraced all things country with 4 hens, 2 pigs, a new business, 2 dogs, renovating a farmhouse and plans for so much more.  I’m not sure Jerry and I are ready for that much of the good life quite yet but I think that we are a long way from the townies that arrived all those months ago.  Barbara’s description of our village still has me in stitches, thinking of it even now: “It’s like Midsomer, without the murders!”  I suppose it is in some ways but then I always did like a bit of drama.

Despite all our calamities, we continue to welcome in our own version of country living here and have even been invited to join the Parish council!  The vicar triumphantly bellowing something about inviting the young people to give their tuppence worth.  I am not sure that the dear Reverend has any idea what he is letting himself in for….Margot….on the PARISH council….oh dear.  They’ll be asking me to become a church warden next…..now that would never sit with my gin soak reputation, would it dear Reader?!

Embracing it all

I’d say these wellies were pretty at home here.

Almost there…

A day old calf at Acton Scott Farm earlier in the year.

Do support National Countryside Week – we owe so much to the countryside and it needs us too!

This week is National Countryside Week and also our last in the Big Smoke.  Dear Reader, quite frankly both of these things have been horribly upstaged by the birth of a certain little prince!

Despite the distraction of #RoyalBaby or perhaps my personal favourite Twitter hashtag (from the farming community) #Katescalving, Margot and Jerry HQ is finally a hive of industry as there are only 4 days left in our little corner of suburbia. Jerry’s Lanny (Land Rover) purchased, an extortionate amount of money paid for a parking suspension for the removal lorry, 4 bags of clothes, toys and 6 pairs of shoes to the charity shop……it would seem I am on a roll now!  Panicking a little, I phoned the removal company twice just to check that they do actually pack EVERYTHING and to add to the list of jobs done, a new house ration pack has been ordered to arrive on day 2 of the move too.  Well, I have to make sure that there is plenty of gin in the cupboard….however even I am now worried about the level of efficiency I have managed to achieve, dear Reader!

To stop myself from getting too carried away with coloured stickers, labels and a nifty floor plan of the new house courtesy of Jerry, I decided that the only way to mark the last week in the Big Smoke was a glass of champagne at The Ritz…..would you expect anything less from Margot?!  In 1777, when Mr Johnson wrote “No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford“, he was probably supping a small glass of something in a well-known London drinking establishment too!  Jerry and I can’t be sad as we have enjoyed so much of what London has to offer for over a decade and the time is certainly right for pastures new.  So when the boxes arrive on Wednesday and we leave our dear little cottage for middle of nowhere ruralness on Thursday,  I shall be ready for another glass of bubbly.  This time though, our surroundings will be somewhat less grand than The Ritz.  Jerry and  I will be in our new country home and probably drinking our little bottle of fizz from paper cups after the colour coding on boxes will have inevitably gone wrong!  I am sure it will be bliss though, dear Reader so….please Thursday, would you oblige this batty townie and hurry on up?!  I am looking forward to having to negotiate vehicles like this on the school run in the mornings!

Beats sitting behind a row of cars in town!

Beats sitting behind a row of cars in town any day!

Two weeks to go!

flowers

Nothing like a bit of flower picking to escape having to pack!

Can you believe it?!  We only have two weeks left in the Big Smoke.  The countdown is ticking away and I have, so far, lived up to my ‘Last minute Lavinia’ nature or what my dear Mamma lovingly refers to as my ‘ostrich syndrome’.  Nothing packed and very little sorting completed.  Might have to do something about that pretty sharpish as can’t bear the thought of the removal men packing up my knicker drawer!  To my list of achievements (and procrastinations regarding the move) this week I can add the following: talking about sorting through all our clutter (very important to waste time thinking about decluttering before getting on with it) and somehow managing to dye a significant portion of Primrose’s hair green.  A lesson for us all, dear Reader: do NOT use a CD/DVD green indelible marker to name a sunhat in haste.  Apparently not so permanent if the hat gets wet…

You will be pleased to hear though, dear Reader, that I have managed to somehow brave our hellish furnace of an attic and take some offending items to the charity shop.  Unwanted wedding gifts from eight years ago which have moved house twice, a glass chess set from Venice that both Jerry and I have always hated, two Moroccan tea tables…(one can be justified, two is just too much Morocco)!  After much debate about whether or not we should keep a car seat for our grandchildren, I realised that I was surprisingly sad about how quickly time has flown by and perhaps that could explain my fondness for avoiding the inevitable!  Of late it seems that Jerry, the girls and I have been saying so many goodbyes….

Yet more sorting to sort out..

Yet more sorting to sort out..

Sod’s law too, that after 6 years of living in SW London, I discover a rather lovely new friend just as we are about to leave the Big Smoke.  I only wish I had met her years ago but maybe then I might never have decided to leave London at all.  Her website Life After London is such a fount of knowledge for all those moving and she has helped so many in their quest for the good life, it seems only fitting that I should be added to her list of ‘jobs well done’!  I only hope that I do live up to her fabulous remarks about me and manage to fit nicely into the new life waiting for us all.  I do hope that she and her rather delicious children will come and visit us very soon to make sure we are doing it right.  I have promised not to give her any more jam in the meantime!  When Margot met Bee. 

With all these lavish farewells I seem to be bidding, there is nothing like the playful chiding of a dear old friend to bring one back down to earth, with a quip of “You’re only moving to Hampshire.  It isn’t the moon!”  Minty was, of course, entirely correct, dear Reader!!  It seems as if the gods agreed with her too and felt the need to put things back into perspective for me as this morning whilst walking Monty in a slightly bleary eyed state and carrying Poppy in the backpack, I stumbled down a rabbit hole.  No Alice jokes please, dear Reader…..  Thankfully it was fairly early and there were not many dog walkers about to see my comedy fall, watch me hobble to the car with dearest Primrose acting as human crutch as she gave me her ‘expert’ medical opinion of “It will probably go black and fall off”.  Reassuring.  My ankle is now an old lady’s ‘cankle’ and I have taken Primrose’s treatment advice: “I think that you need a good long sit down and a drink, Mummy!”  Gin, deep heat and a seat in the sunshine with my new ‘countryside kitchen’ book, courtesy of some very lovely old school chums – not strictly Dr Primrose’s orders but surely, these things are open to interpretation, dear Reader?!  I shall never get round to doing any of the packing at this rate…..

Can't wait to try some of the recipes out!!

Can’t wait to try some of the recipes out!!

A little wobble

A wibbly wobbly mess.....

A wibbly wobbly mess…..

Making a mad dash from London to Hampshire for a meeting at Primrose’s new school one evening last week, I had one precious hour in the car to contemplate life, the universe and new kitchens.  Having sold our house in the Big Smoke, we are waiting for solicitors to let us know when all is set with the new ‘cottage’.  Moving is tantalisingly close now yet still we are in limbo.  Patience I know, dear Reader, is required….  However, I am ready to get packing and start carving up kitchen cabinets and fitting an Everhot!  Bombing down the M3 with music blaring, I was lost in these very thoughts as I passed field upon field of glorious oil seed rape all sunshine and dayglow yellow in the evening light.

Turning off the motorway, driving through windy lanes and then up the long school driveway, I wondered what Primrose’s new school might have in store for me that evening.  Stepping into a room filled with exceptionally well turned out mummies, I quickly breathed a sigh of relief that I had decided to leave my Barbour in the car.  Thank goodness I had also dusted the cobwebs off my Portobello Market ‘Mulberry‘ handbag.  Where were the ladies in wellies and tweed?  This was, after all, a countryside school.  A sea of double barrelled surnames rather than shotguns….I felt cheated, dear Reader.  Talk turned to our relocation, choice of village and profession and I felt instantly sidelined – a ‘townie’ in their midst.  What was I doing?  I was never going to fit in in the countryside if these über-mums were anything to go by.  Everyone seemed to live within ten minutes of the school and they all knew each other in that rather annoying “Do you remember when little Johnny did such and such at the May day fair?“.  It was like being on the set of Mean Girls.  Where was the industrial sized gin when I needed it?!  Suddenly I could see that our school run of 25mins each way would probably result in no one wanting to come and play with Primrose after school.  Too late to do anything about it now though…..as we were about to exchange on our new house and Jerry was set on living a 15 minute drive away from the best commuter station.  I drove back to London and went straight to bed, convinced that moving to the countryside was all a massive mistake.

'Walking is Man's best medicine' - Hippocrates

‘Walking is Man’s best medicine’ – Hippocrates

To make matters worse, Primrose had her own wobble the following morning and decided that she wasn’t going to move.  Tears and wailing ensued and cries of “You and Daddy are very mean taking me from all my friends…”  Our usual morning chit-chat was replaced with sniffs and blowing of noses as I tried gallantly to save the situation and talk up the advantages of having a bigger garden.  Neither of us were convinced to be honest, dear Reader.  Nursery drop off completed (tears at the door for the first time), I armed myself with strong coffee and the advice of some very sweet friends and headed off to the park with Poppy and the pup.  Woodpeckers, bluebells, a serene herd of deer, giggly toddler and a happy hound…..amazing how a good walk and the sights and sounds of nature at its best can restore a troubled soul.  Just enjoying moments looking, listening and being able to marvel at all the things which somehow the hustle and bustle doesn’t allow time for.  The countryside makes you want to slow down, take stock and enjoy the simpler things in life, like a good walk.  With that mantra firmly in hand, I decided that I was not going to let a little wobble about moving stand in our way, nor the cast of Mean Schoolmums either!  Turned out that Primrose had had a change of heart too as she skipped out of the nursery doors with a drawing of our new house in Hampshire in her hand………and despite our little wobbles, we are both smiling about our new life in the countryside.

A little glimpse of how Primrose sees our future.

Primrose’s little glimpse into our future in the countryside!