With lovely weather forecast for tomorrow, Mothering Sunday coincides with Hartland Abbey opening its gates for the season. Ironically the daffodils are far better now than they were when we opened for Daffodil Day a couple of weeks ago and the gardens really are looking beautiful.
The primroses are better than ever, confirmed by Monty Don last night on Gardeners World! Delicious smells have been wafting up from the Tea Room kitchen where Jo and Kath have been cooking up some delicious treats for Sunday. Their food has been so good and they received plenty of accolades in their first season last year! So many people and dogs came to Daffodil Day; thank you to everyone for coming even though it clouded over after a beautiful start to the day. It had been a nightmare getting the walks tidied up and safe after the storms but we all pulled together and with lots of bonfires we just managed to be reasonably tidy.
Nigel has filled the house with some stunning flowers and Carol has the house looking lovely. Thankfully she has been on a very well earned holiday for the last week but will be back in action with the hoover on Monday! She is also the shopkeeper, a job she shares with Liz Hodges. They have to wear many extra layers of clothes to keep warm in the basement but they are always smiling! We are so lucky with our wonderful room stewards and our ‘chaps’ in the Payhut who are so helpful to the visitors. It is always lovely to see them back in one piece after the winter; we so enjoy their company and care that all is well. Behind the scenes Peter and Karen Senior have been cataloguing the Library. It is immensely kind of them both. Karen was a librarian so we could not be in better hands; we are hugely grateful. Our thanks to Stephen Hobbs too who beavers away keeping the website going, though sadly he is retiring at the end of the season. Many visitors have been guided by him, his knowledge of local history is huge. He is also our voluntary archivist and very good at putting records onto modern technology! We are a bit behind with the filmshow as so much time was spent clearing trees and not making the space, but all will be well soon. We might have use the nursery temporarily provided no one minds the grandchildrens’ mess! Also we are making some new display cases to house the diaries and travel journals of Sir H’s ancestors and my great uncle’s letters from WWI.
Our thoughts are now turning to Easter and for the first year we are having an Easter Egg Hunt in the Bluebells on Easter Sunday and Monday for our visiting children. Theresa, our wonderful, creative, Administrator (normal seen running about from coach to coach) has been thinking up some ingenious clues, all rhyming, and we just hope for good weather. I am trying to decide how many Easter eggs to buy as we don’t want any disappointed children, equally we cannot possibly eat hundreds of left over eggs! I am locking them in the larder so no grandchildren can get them first! Theresa is also busily making some lovely old fashioned games and I have seen her knitting needles and brown wool all ready to make some surprises! The bluebells should be looking beautiful as Easter is so late. As well, we will then have our Bluebell Sunday on the 27th April when we will have the reduced entry as we do on all our spring flower days. The foxgloves should be coming out then and April is such a good time for the gardens here.
The walls round the Vegetable Garden are looking so smart thanks to a grant from the Higher Level Scheme. The coping on the top of the walls has been restored; it had fallen off in great chunks and a large buddleia population had established itself and basically the walls were not going to last much longer without emergency help. They do look a bit barer than usual but with the Hartland climate, normality will soon be restored! About two weeks to go before the builders disappear along with a hideous blue container that doubles as a shelter (with electricity) and a store. It does not really enhance the 18thC gardens! Nigel looks rather envious as they get inside for their coffee; poor old chap only has rather a dark shed with intermittent electricity but a lovely woodburner to warm up by.
We have had a great
sadness; Alice my adored terrier and best friend for the past 15 years was staying with our daughter near Tiverton while we were away for the weekend. She decided she wanted to come home to the farm and just set off to travel 15 miles. Sadly, she never made it; she had not worked out how to cross the horrid North Devon Link Road. It was devastating, firstly for us all not knowing where she was and then finding out thanks to a kind man who had seen her lying by the road. She was on the direct line between us and our daughter’s house and would have made it save for the invention of the car. She was the most incredible character and I miss her dreadfully. She is buried in our garden which she spent most of her life digging up! Our visitors to the Abbey will probably have mixed emotions as many have seen her, always next to me while gardening, on a lead, as her teeth had a bit of a reputation! Other dogs were always greeted with the most awful growls but it was only Alice being fiercely protective. Life will never be the same without her.
We managed to fit in a week’s holiday in March on a lovely island, La Gomera, in the Canary Islands. No people(or canaries) but lots of wonderful walks and wildflowers. A lovely rest. We also had a day at Cheltenham races and were thrilled to see our son in law finish third on The Giant Bolster in the Gold Cup. He had a wonderful week with three Festival winners on Dynaste, Western Warhorse and Ballynagour, all for his boss, David Pipe and the supportive owners.
We have some incredible theatre to look forward to this summer. Richard Wolfenden-Brown, the-more-than-dynamic Director of the Plough Arts Centre in Torrington, has confirmed seven productions ranging from ‘The Tempest’ (lets hope the weather doesn’t match the description) to ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ for the children. We have also been given ‘Candleford’, ‘The Pirates of Penzance’, ‘Robin Hood’, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’. We are even having a matinee and an evening performance of Candleford. There is literally something for everyone. We will again be having the delicious barbecue and plenty of liquid refreshment! We are really looking forward to an entertaining summer on the front lawn. All the details are on the Hartland Abbey website under ‘Events’.
Finally May 4th is when all the supremely fit of North Devon and further afield amass at Hartland Abbey for the second ‘Hartland Hartbreaker’ cross country run. Starting at the Abbey with a stampede, hundreds of men and women attack the steep hills of the North Devon Coastal Footpath for twenty something miles of agony in order to raise money for The Children’s Hospice South West. It is a fantastic cause and we admire all these people raising money for the CHSW. Anyone who would like to donate to this wonderful charity can go to their website.
The donkeys and black sheep with all their lambs will be back in the park next week. We can’t put the donkeys onto all the spring grass before the sheep come back otherwise they will get laminitis which is agonising; however the sheep can’t come back until the lambs are a tiny bit older otherwise they are just feed for the foxes and badgers which is very distressing.