France – Monet’s Garden

It seems a long time ago since my old friend Rosie suggested that I accompany her on a voyage of discovery around the British Isles. A chance to see new places and to re-discover my penchant for travel. We were to embark on an eight night cruise starting from Tilbury in Essex (London International Cruise Terminal)


Leaving Tilbury

travelling in an anti-clockwise direction around the British Isles and stopping in Northern Scotland, the Isle of Lewis, the Isle of Mull, Ireland, the Scilly Isles and across the English Channel to Honfleur in France. The circle would be complete on our return to Tilbury. It was to be my first holiday for a long time and my very first cruise.

You need a ship to cruise and I was very pleased to find that this one met my perception of a traditional cruise ship. Small by modern standards but perfectly formed. This view was taken from the tender on our return from a day trip to the Scilly Isles.



From there, we crossed the Channel overnight to France  and docked, on the last day of April, in the small port of Honfleur which is on the southern bank of the River Seine in Normandy. The large commercial port of Le Havre is across the estuary on the north bank of the river.



We boarded a coach at the dockside for our journey to Monet’s Garden but the route did not take us past the old picturesque 16th- to 18th-century townhouses which feature in some artists work, including Monet, so the above was the best view I could get.

It is about 85 miles, and took less than 2 hours to get to Giverny, where Claude Monet and his family settled in 1883. He set about creating a walled garden in front of his house which would be full of perspectives, symmetries and colours and became Clos Normand. He became a bit of a botanist, spending a lot of money collecting plants and after 10 years set about acquiring more land adjacent to his, but across a road and railway and which, importantly,  contained a brook. He used this to create a pond and water garden full of asymmetries and curves. It is inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew from the prints he collected avidly. So, that’s the background and now my attempt to show you what there is to see.

From the coach park we entered through the water garden following the brook meandearing through bamboo and clumps of pastel hued plants.

You are required to keep to the paths and as you make your way through the aspect opens up and you get first sight of the placid, still, pool.


Finding reflections

The biggest problem with trying to get some of these photos is the number of visitors in the garden (getting in the way 😉 ) and deciding how much time you can spend in any spot as there is so much to see and at this point you don’t really know the extent of the gardens.

Then you just know that you have come across the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias, which you cannot see as it is too early in the year.


That bridge


Reflection of the Japanese bridge

I did my best to capture the view but have not really done it justice.

From here you have to cross road and rail to get to the walled garden using an underpass. Emerging out into the open you get your first glimpse. The house can just be seen at the top of the photos.

We are now in the original garden which is laid out more formally than the water garden and has a number of avenues enclosing beds with clumps of flowers with co-ordinating colours. Fruit trees and climbing plants add height and structure.


A riot of colour – tulips and wallflowers

It was spring time so flowering bulbs were everywhere.

I was very impressed to see these Crown Imperials standing high above the tulips and wallflowers and will have a go at growing some for next spring.

The main alley below, closed to public access, is covered by arches for climbing roses and provides a perspective to and from the main house.


Avenue de la Maison

I made up that title by the way, but would love to see it when the roses are in flower.


Tulips and tulips

A view across the garden, which I hope shows the extent of planting. I haven’t really shown any of the flowering trees, but this one caught my eye also while looking  across


View through fruit tree blossom

Moving rapidly on we went into the house to have a look around and see how the master painter turned gardener lived, in some style.


Monet’s house

The house and garden fell into disrepair after the Second World War and it was only about 1970 that work began on restoration.

“Almost ten years were necessary to restore the garden and the house to their former magnificence. Not much was left. The greenhouse panes and the windows in the house were reduced to shards after the bombings. Floors and ceiling beams had rotted away,  a staircase had collapsed. Three trees were even growing in the big studio.

The pond had to be dug again. In the Clos normand soil was removed to find the original ground level. Then the same flower species as those discovered by Monet in his time were planted.

Thanks to generous donors, mostly from the USA ,the house was given a facelift. The ancient furniture and the Japanese prints were restored. Then the visitor areas were fitted out.

The property has been open to the public since September 1980.”  – courtesy of 


Interior of Monet’s House

The view from upstairs.


A wider perspective

and the view down the central alley from the house


Reverse Avenue de la Maison

I will finish with my personal favourite, a view through the window across the flower bed


View from inside

which I think, looks great full screen.

I hope there were not too many photos for one post, that i have given you an idea of the marvel of Monet’s vision and that you have enjoyed your visit almost as much as the half a million visitors who pass through the garden each year.

Thanks for your time.



Feeling guilty

Robin sheltering 13022016

Master Robin

My stats tell me that it is 9 months since I last posted and I feel guilty that I have links to this blog on other sites and if anyone looks, there is no apparent action. Time just seems to pass so quickly. There is plenty of spare time in the day but there always seems to be something else to do, or I am just plain lazy more like!

So, what I would like to do now, is to post a few photos that show Boro Garden as I see it at the moment, but how I am going to pick from the hundreds I have taken is another reason why I should post more often.

One of the highlights recently was spotting first one bullfinch in the garden :-

Bullfinch 10042016

Then a few days later she re-appeared with a mate –

I don’t see these very often and am hoping for a repeat visit.

The feeders have been busy all winter but since spring? (supposedly) started, the birds seem to have become much more territorial and I see a constant flurry of wings as each species chases off anything smaller. The blackbirds are the funniest constantly playing tag through and over the flower beds up onto the fence and back through the trees. I need a video of that. The female looks so placid –

Blackbird female 31012016

I get a decent variety of birds as some go and others re-appear –

Coal tit, long tailed tit (a favourite) goldfinch and nuthatch.

Outside the garden recently, on a walk up to NT Ormesby Hall I spotted a well camouflaged tree creeper –

Back in the garden this slow Spring, which has been wet and cold has meant that some of the daffodils that I planted in the autumn are still flowering –

The temperature has hardly risen above 10 C since January. The constant showers have battered these primroses and primulas which were recently purchased from a garden centre, and looked very pretty when planted –

The basket of winter pansies seems less bothered by the rain and has also developed over the last week or so –

Ok, that’s enough for now, although the blackbird has been learning some new tricks –

Blackbird new tricks

That pine cone is a good two feet off the ground and she gets a mouthful of suet each time. I hope this shows how tiny the long tailed tits are –

Long tailed tit

Before closing, I have to add that a pair of blue tits have built a nest in the camera box and the female is sleeping there each night. We await further developments with anticipation. You can always check in on the birds  at Boro Garden which broadcasts most days.

Thanks for looking in, I have missed you all and hope you have enjoyed this little catch-up.

I am Charlie

Let’s get one thing straight. It is not about freedom of speech, it’s about terrorism. It’s about the right of the individual to live without the fear of armed people bursting in on their lives and blowing their brains out all over the wall. Sorry, it’s a fact that death by automatic rifle fire is not a pretty sight.

The people of France, will this afternoon, along with the support of a number of world leaders show their solidarity against a world ruled by the gun.

The finer points relating to freedom of speech and religious tolerance are not relevant in a situation ruled by violence. These terrorists are using unauthorized violence in the pursuit of their political aims. They are using religion as a reason for their brutal acts, they are trying to bring the lawlessness of states ruled by fear to the civilized western world and impose their ideas on all who uphold the right of everyone to live without fear.

The people who committed these atrocities in Paris are not part of an organized army. They are not covert operatives acting upon orders from a disciplined organized group. They were a few individuals who have been indoctrinated by the views of radical extremists to the point that they sever all association with normal behaviour and set about the violent destruction of any one who dares to suggest or voice an opinion that differs from their own.

On BBC television this morning, the programme ‘The Big Question’ was full of pundits – religious pundits, journalistic pundits. theological pundits, esteemed leaders of the institution, all debating the various and finer points of freedom of speech and religious tolerance. They all missed the point that these terrorists don’t give a damn for their views, they were intent only on taking individual lives in a mistaken attempt to persuade everyone else to conform to their way of thinking. Terrorists don’t actually care about freedom of speech, they aim to persuade by violence.

The people of France are this afternoon showing their solidarity for the rule of law. There is no place in this world today for extreme violence of this nature. The leaders of the civilised world have to get together to prevent the spread of indoctrination by violence. Freedom of speech is all very well but unless this sort of violence can be eradicated none of us can live in peace, let alone express any views we might hold.

That is why the people of France are today standing together peacefully and in numbers to show these radical terrorists that they will not succeed.

I am Charlie.

Scotland Decides the Fate of the UK

UK as flag

This is the last day before the Scottish referendum and I feel compelled to make one last personal statement.

There are 4.2 million voters registered to take part in the referendum on Scottish independence. There are approximately 42 million voters in the remaining areas of the United Kingdom.
If the people living in Scotland vote Yes they will have effectively brought about the end of the United Kingdom. Never mind what happens to Scotland, a Yes vote will affect 10 times as many people outside Scotland. There is something very wrong in that. Judging by the panic and despair in David Cameron’s voice over the last few days, he has finally realised the damage he has done to the United Kingdom by signing the Edinburgh Agreement. If the vote is Yes he will be forever known as the Prime Minister who allowed the breakdown of the United Kingdom and would have to resign in shame. No wonder he is worried.

A Yes vote will affect the rest of the UK, most obviously, the physical size of the country itself.  Without Scottish MPs the size and political make-up of Parliament will change. Sterling is up and down with the changing forecasts. How will our standing within the UN, NATO and the EU be affected? Will we be regarded as the Dis-United Kingdom?

Time to Decide

Time to Decide

I cant blame the Scots if they did vote Yes, after all Alex Salmond is promising a stellar future free of interference from Westminster. He may have overlooked to tell you that Brussels has an even greater reputation for interference as he glibly assumes that Scotland will be welcomed into the embrace of the European Union. He has given the vote to young school children in Scotland and appears to dismiss the possibility that they may leave Scotland as the reality of independence takes hold.  There is no point in listing the possible disasters facing an independent Scotland because those supporting the No vote have been there and done that and those supporting the Yes vote have chosen to extol Utopia. Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon appear to gloss over any difficulties put to them by the media.

Politicians? Bah humbug!

The only saving grace is that the decision is still too close to call and that there appears to be a considerable proportion of voters who are considering the long term advantages of Union instead of the idealistic fervour of the Nationalists. Lets hope common sense prevails and we stand united.

That’s my opinion anyway. Your comments are welcome.


Helmsley Walled Garden – a return visit

Helmsley Walled Garden – a return visit

The improvement in the weather is stirring the need to get out and about, so last week, I paid another visit to the Helmsley Walled Garden  to see what changes have occurred since my previous visit at Easter.

The garden, built in 1759, sits beneath the impassive gaze of the ruins of Helmsley Castle, at the southern edge of the North York Moors. It’s five acres are small enough to get round, but large enough to lose that plant you wanted to go back and see again.

The laburnum is in flower and the plants draped across a pergola, appear to be dripping with bright yellow drops and now frame a view to the castle

Laburnum framing a view to the castle

Laburnum framing a view to the castle

Lush Laburnum

Lush Laburnum

It is the pergola that looked lush, not the occupant!

The other common colour in evidence was shades of purple and the upstanding spheres of allium were all around.

Double border

Double border

Some more purple; Irises this time, with big bold flowers and some a really dark purple.

There was a big patch of cornflowers and hidden around them these big showy flowers, which I think are specialised cornflowers, but I couldn’t find a name, so if anyone can help?

This poppy looked quite decadent and reminded me of Victorian draperies –

Large poppy

Large poppy

Pink poppy

Pink poppy

I have an idea that this overgrown giant is some form of gunnera and would not want to pick a fight with it!

Unknown plant

Unknown plant

And now we move onto the white gallery

Hidden behind the Physic garden was this wonderful stone water feature

Water stone and moss

Water stone and moss

I started this post with the castle and thought this view would be a fitting finale.

New life, old walls

New life, old walls

I am sorry the narrative is a bit sketchy. I am getting behind with recounting my life beyond the bird table. I find it is easy taking the photographs but much harder going through them afterwards and deciding whether you have anything worth sharing. I have a couple more excursions already stacked up on the memory card and must press on.

I hope you find these images of interest.




The housemate is on holiday this week and wanted to see an exhibition at a local museum, although I think his real motive was a lunch out so we set off on a dull but dry day and soon arrived at Kirkleatham Museum near Redcar.

Kirkleatham Museum

Kirkleatham Museum from car park

Kirkleatham Museum

Kirkleatham Museum rather grander front







Fountain at the entrance

Fountain at the entrance

I was surprised to find that entrance to the museum was free and after a short description by the receptionist of what we could see we were soon on our way round. The first exhibition was the most interesting as it had been set up last year to showcase life 50 years ago. So the highlight year was 1963 – I would have been 15. It was fascinating to see which items were familiar and which were not.

1963 memories

1963 memories




My elder brothers had a Meccano set but much of it was missing by the time my younger brother and I got our hands on it.




Dr Who was aired on television for the first time and Dr No was the forerunner of the James Bond films.

Dr Who arrives

Dr Who arrives.

My mother used to read Woman’s Weekly and at that time I remember the cover was that awful pink colour! The Beatles were becoming popular and President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. The next cabinet contained some real gems –

Some real gems

Private Eye was passed round at school and was in great demand as a symbol of the new rebellion against authority. The soda siphon was sold with a hefty deposit on the bottle and it was a great bonus to ‘find’ one that could be returned to the off-licence again! The cold war was still on and below is a detail .

Nuclear Attack was a possibility

Nuclear Attack was a possibility

My father belonged to an organisation called the Civil Defence Corps which was a civilian volunteer organisation established in Great Britain in 1949 to take control in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. It was still going strong in 1963 and my father attended regular training exercises near to my Essex home, at Danbury Park, where a number of ruined buildings had been constructed. I have vivid memories of being dressed as a casualty complete with fake blood and being rescued on one of the evacuation exercises.

Of course, this was all before decimalisation of our currency. Who remembers the old pound and ten bob notes?

Old money

Old money

I still have a ten shilling note somewhere, probably hidden away so I cannot find it! However, I do not still have an example of the following toy

For budding architects

For budding architects

This really stirred the memory and I can remember spending hours with my brother building various houses from this ingenious toy. It came with drawings and it was only the shape of the roof which was fixed. You built the design using a base board and a form of scaffolding into which slotted the bricks and windows and doors. Of course we always wanted a bigger set than my parents could afford.

I’m sorry some of the photographs aren’t really clear but click on them to see full size and I have only shown some of the exhibition but hope they are of interest. They certainly stirred my memories. Oh, and we had a very nice lunch at the onsite cafe which was much busier than the museum!



Boxing Day – A Lull between Storms

The period leading up to Christmas always seems to me to be a stormy time, both in terms of mental stress and certainly this year weather wise. I seemed to spend hours looking for suitable presents, the right gift, the right size, colour texture and oh will they like it? You have to decide which day to do the supermarket shop, in order to as far as possible, avoid the worst crowds and longest queues at the checkouts. You end up spending a small fortune for at most two days meals and this year the shops are open again on Boxing Day. Thank goodness for Sunday shopping, I can remember the extra pressure it placed on everyone’s timetable when you could not shop on a Sunday and stores did not open all night. At least this year, the queues were not stretching from every till to the middle of the shop.

The weather this year has also been particularly stormy and I lost my television service when the rooftop aerial succumbed to the south westerly gale on Wednesday last week. I thought I had booked an aerial company to come and sort the problem, but following repeated failures to meet appointments and many phone calls to several different companies, I gave up on external help and resorted to the old maxim – if you want something doing, do it yourself. Luckily, I live in a bungalow and have a flat roof on the dormer extension so it is possible to access the chimney and the aerial mount fairly easily. A new mast was all that was needed and after re-attaching the aerials to the new mast it proved to be a fairly simple operation to re-fit to the chimney bracket which was still intact. Job done, service restored, disaster averted and money saved.

Christmas Day was calm and bright and today dawned very frosty but sunny and you could not hear the wind. Peace reigned. The garden birds had been fed, breakfast eaten and the house restored to some semblance of order; the traditional Boxing Day walk was calling. After a short discussion, the housemate and I plumped for Saltburn-on-Sea and a walk on the sand. It is only a twenty minute ride in the car and we managed to park with no problem on the clifftop road.



From Saltburn cliff top


Once out of the car and across the promenade to look down on the beach, one could see that Boxing Day is indeed the traditional day for a brisk walk following the, in my case anyway, excessive consumption on Christmas Day.


There were more people on the beach than on most days during the summer. This appeared to be the dedicated dogwalker section, with almost as many dogs as people. (I’m afraid my photography skills do not stretch to the length of the beach.)

Families were very much in evidence and even a game of beach cricket in action –


Saltburn beach


Please note the sunshine in the background, the sun just on its last legs peeping through the gap in the hills, even though it was only about 3pm. Unfortunately, Saltburn faces north and only really catches the sun in the middle of the day.

The pier had re-opened following the damaging storms and tidal surge of early December.


Damage to the promenade close to the pier.


  The pier was full of promenaders most of whom like me, were busy practising with their new cameras or camera phones.

Indeed I managed to snap this little bird having a rest on one of the pier supports and thinking, what are you looking at?


I managed to climb the steps back up to the cliff top and got this, one of the most photographed sites in Saltburn on the way back to the car


Opened about 1884 and still working


The water balanced cliff lift was opened about 1884 and is probably the oldest of it’s type still in operation; unfortunately, only in the summer months, so the cars are parked midway.

So that was the lull between storms. As I write this I can hear the noise of the wind increasing as it blows through the surrounding trees with the onset of the next storm which is due to blow hard for the next 12 hours or so. I always find strong winds very disturbing as you wonder what may blow down next in their unpredictable gusts.