Table for one, Madam?

I looked up from my work yesterday and saw something unexpected in the back garden.

A herdwick sheep, munching at the lawn. Enjoying a garden buffet for one.

She was as surprised as I was, to see someone watching her through the window.

So, I put on suitable clothes and headed outside.  My plan was to open the three gates and shoo her back into the wide open park. It’s worked before!

Forty minutes later, I returned indoors.

She’s still here this morning.

Sheep 1, Human 0.

Off to put on my wellies. If at first you don’t succeed…


Herdy Girl

Birthplace of a Poet

The Wordsworth House and Garden, a National Trust property near the centre of Cockermouth, is one of my favourite spots to while away a couple of hours.

The National Trust presents the house as it was in about 1770, when William Wordsworth was born there as the second of five children.

William Wordsworth is best known for I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, a poem often memorized in classrooms across the world:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

I had garden and house almost to myself on Tuesday morning.

It’s an impressive Georgian house that stands aloof from the busy main street, all sash windows, formal garden, and solid portico.

The dining room was designed and decorated to impress. As it does, even now.

Beautiful, especially with sunlight streaming in those large windows.

There’s an approachable elegance to this house.

Jane Austen was a contemporary of Wordsworth. Can you envision her characters in these rooms?

Even as a modern day visitor, the kitchen’s crackling open fire draws you into the heart of the home. The scent is inviting too: warm spices and fresh herbs, woodsmoke and baked goods.

On every visit, there’s a tasty treat to sample. Often you’ll be offered gingerbread, oatcakes, or rum butter. Delicious.

The family’s bedrooms, though less ornamented, still enjoy the good proportions and natural light that fills this house.

Viewed through the windows along the back of the house, the enticing garden promises to be special.

And it delivers.  Such a magical feel on this summer’s day.

This garden is a lesson in restrained abundance, its carefully laid out beds filled with fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.  New plants, like the Verbena bonariensis above (introduced in 1726), began flooding into Europe during this time period. Exciting stuff!

I could totally bore you with photos of this garden, but I will restrain myself.

You do need to see the view toward the house from the terrace above the River Cocker, though.

Today, this stately Georgian house is peopled by knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff and volunteers. In the kitchen, in the garden, at the harpsichord, in the shop and in the café – these folk bring a moment in history back to life and welcome you to enjoy it.

Their sense of humour is also appreciated.

A delightful place to visit.


Herdy Girl

Playing in the Garden

In between the weeding, pruning, planting, and cups of tea in the garden, I take the occasional random photo.

The climates of our homes in South Carolina and this one in the Lake District could not be more different.

It was too hot in SC for us to successfully grow Fuchsia, yet we’ve two shrubby trees of it here. The largest is underplanted with Astilbe, Crocosmia, Heuchera, and Alchemilla .

There were roses here already, but we planted Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ last autumn. Best Beloved and I have had one of these in all but one of our gardens together.

In addition to being a beautiful rose, it is very fragrant.

I also have enjoyed this single rose that was already here. It leans over one of our paths. Simple is good, too.

This spring we planted floral fireworks, better known as Alliums.

I’ve discovered Astrantias. How did I not know about these? Must grow more.

We also enjoy the odd butterfly fluttering by.

One of my favourite spots in the garden is a formal box circle. There was nothing on the centre plinth when we moved in. It was overgrown and a bit sad.

I think we’ve done it proud.

We’re growing more herbs on the sunny southern side of the house. There were a few here, but no where near enough. I’ve a bit of a thing for herbs and have planted a couple of dozen different ones. Most are in pots, but some are planted in the stone wall.

Sweet peas also call this area home. The rabbits ate all the peas, sweet peas and beans that we planted elsewhere. Cheeky bunnies.

Even the shed doesn’t look too bad when the window reflects the evening sky.

Right, well, I’m going to head out into the sunshine.  There’s more work to do in the garden!


Herdy Girl


Rubby Banks Cottage (NGS)

With the generosity of garden owners, the hundreds of volunteers, and the willing participation of those who visit the gardens, the National Garden Scheme (NGS) are able to donate record amounts to nursing and caring charities throughout England and Wales.

Best Beloved and I travelled to the banks of the River Cocker for the final of six gardens on their NGS open day in Cockermouth.

Rubby Banks Cottage didn’t allow vehicle access, so we parked and walked along the narrow, paved track that topped the steep west bank of the river.

At the end of the lane a left turn takes you through an iron gate and down toward the river.

We recognized the effects of flood on this garden, having experienced the same ourselves. It takes time to recover from the loss of soil and the silting of paths. Rubby Bank Cottage is well on its way to recovery.

This half of the garden sits on the site of an old water mill. The owners say it was torn down in the mid-1970’s.  Evidence of the site’s industrial use is most evident in the remains of the rubble-filled mill race canal.

Back at the entrance to the garden, you’ll note the only standing portion of the former mill building. Vine-covered, it now functions as an outbuilding.

Through the gate and, again, to the left lies a more formal garden.

Rubby Bank Cottage’s garden rooms are separated by a series of arches. The owners must spend a lot of time tending to their pruning. Their hard work gives lovely bones to the garden.

Interestingly, two of their metal arches are not clad in vines, but are used as forms for espaliered apple trees.

The area between them is edged with mixed herbaceous borders.

The end of the path led to a small wildflower meadow, currently home to what I think are some common spotted orchids.

The threatening sky finally started to produce some drizzle, so we finished admiring the fruitfulness of the gardeners’ labours at Rubby Bank Cottage.

We are thankful to the NGS, to it’s volunteers, and to the owners of the six lovely Cockermouth Gardens.  Many happy and successful returns.


Herdy Girl




Sunscales House (NGS)

You know those gardens that catch your eye? That offer intriguing glimpses when you’re passing by? The ones you would like to explore, but they belong to someone else – someone you don’t know?

This was one of those gardens for me. I feel such a lucky Herdy Girl!

Thanks to the National Garden Scheme (NGS), these kinds of private gardens are made accessible in order to raise funds for charity.  Of the six Cockermouth Gardens open on 9th July this year, Sunscales House would be the fifth for us. (You can pay your £4.50 pp at any of the gardens, and tour them in any order you please.)

It lies on the road between our home and the Cockermouth shops, and the main road toward West Cumbria.

The front garden is visible from the road, and it looks a Right Proper Gardeners’ Garden.

The NGS notes call this a medium sized garden, and so it is.  A very well-appointed medium sized garden.

It has the feel of two gardens, and I wonder if this is a ‘his and hers’ situation, or if the gardeners’ tastes are changing. It may well have been a simple choice, as the layout and micro-climates lend themselves to their current use.

Entering from the drive, there are plenty of hard surfaces, strong lines, and the ‘vibe’ is Asian with a touch of the Mediterranean on their large patio.

Someone clearly enjoys their bonsai. A lovely collection filled the area between the patio and the green house.

Then you pass a wildlife pond, and step down into their vegetable and fruit growing area.  The strong lines are still there, but the edges of the garden are softening.

Note again, the walls and hedges enclosing and protecting the garden. And we turn down a beautifully placed pergola.

Covered in lovely vines.

At the end of which we meet the path to the front door. This area is packed with bulb, shrubs, perennials, many kept in bounds by ‘step-over’ espaliered apple trees.

A well-struck balance between orderly structure and exuberant plant growth.  Much thought and planning and skill has gone into this garden.

The garden at Sunscales House was a case of thoroughly met (high) expectations.

Clouds were beginning to gather for the forecasted ‘light rain’ and we knew it was time to move along.  The owners kindly told us the best place to park for our sixth and final garden visit of the day.

Onward to Rubby Banks Cottage.


Herdy Girl








At High Moor (NGS)

In the National Garden Scheme’s (NGS) first year, 1927, six hundred private gardens opened to raise charitable funds for district nurses.

In 2017, an astounding 3,800 private gardens are opening their gates to visitors across England and Wales, all to provide financial support to nursing and caring charities.

Not a bad way for the NGS to celebrate its 90th Anniversary, eh?

This past Sunday, Best Beloved and I spent a few relaxed hours touring six Cockermouth Gardens as part of an NGS open day. The fourth garden we visited was High Moor.

The official description notes that High Moor covers around 3/4 acre, which gave it a wide-open feeling.  When you first enter the property, you are greeted with a lawn that beckons you to wear wide-brimmed hats and play croquet.

That’s not to say that High Moor doesn’t offer intimate spaces as well.  It certainly does.  In fact, look how well a potentially forgotten in-between space is utilized as an inviting seating area below.

We enjoyed walking around their well-appointed vegetable and fruit garden.

Who wouldn’t want to dry their clothes in a strawberry patch?  Well done, High Moor owners, well done!

Or pick garden peas supported by recycled agricultural fencing? (I suffered a moment of extreme pea envy here… sigh.)

Although High Moor’s vegetable garden is overlooked, it feels a friendly space and doesn’t suffer from the nearness of others.

What lucky neighbours they have, with such a view out their back windows.

The space is also shared by hives of bees and a flock of chickens. No chicken photos, sadly, as they were penned away for the open garden. We did get to watch, from a distance,  as the bees busily buzzed to and fro from their shelter.

As with the White House garden, plenty of walls and hedges mitigate the effects of Cumbrian winds. High Moor also offered a pergola. It was a heavier affair of brick and timber, along which ran a water feature.

At its end, the owners took advantage of a warm sun-trap by adding a built-in barbeque grill and seating.

Alongside that area, greenhouses sheltered grapevines, figs and more. It was properly reminiscent of times when such luxury was a lot harder to find – no supermarkets when this property was built.

And in a hidden nook around the corner, a sheltered seat to rest weary bones and quietly contemplate.

A gregarious group were enjoying light refreshments alongside the house, but we had two more of the six gardens to visit and decided to keep going.

The next two properties were a bit further away, but closer to our route home.  We hopped in the car and tootled over to the Lorton Road.


Herdy Girl

The White House Garden (NGS)

As we headed up the hill from the garden on Holmewood Avenue, smiling people were walking in both directions.  Every one of the happy walkers was wearing a yellow National Garden Scheme (NGS) sticker. They were chatting about plants, pets, and the weather. All quite civilized.

After all, the NGS has been raising charitable funds for ninety years.  Through the public opening of some of the loveliest private gardens in England and Wales, the NGS is the most significant charitable funder of nursing charities in the country. Civilized indeed.

Crenelated garage en route. Made me quietly giggle.

So, it was with genteel anticipation that we walked up the lane toward the third garden on our Cockermouth Gardens  tour.

The White House stands on a hill. The house and garden are protected from the Cumbrian wind by a series of walls and hedges.

Upon entry to the garden, refreshments beckoned. Tea, coffee, and a fine selection of homemade cakes. Best Beloved chose a slice of Victoria Sponge Cake, and I decided upon a piece of Lemon Drizzle Cake with my tea. We relaxed in an arboured seat for a moment with neither camera nor agenda.

It was a good moment in a good afternoon.

A long, vine-covered pergola crosses the garden.

It separates several garden ‘rooms’ filled with borders and beds, provides visual interest, and gives further protection from the prevailing southwesterly wind.

The Edwardian house itself is set in what were once the Victorian gardens of Holmewood, now a residential care home on the other side of the garden wall. Remnants of that layout can be seen in the terraces, and in some of the hard features.

An adjoining stable block is incorporated into the garden.  The owners have future plans for this area, to take advantage of it’s sunny warmth.

This is the roomiest of the gardens thus far.

En route to the vegetable garden and petite orchard, an ethereal scent drew us toward a lovely old fashioned ‘Blush Noisette’ climbing rose.

My goodness, it is an astoundingly gorgeous thing!

Having finished visiting the third of six gardens, BB and I were half way through our NGS tour.  We’d had refreshments, and were ready to walk to the next property.


Herdy Girl


On Holmewood Avenue (NGS)

Who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to spend time enjoying and ambling about in lush summertime gardens?

Best Beloved and I certainly appreciated visiting the National Garden Scheme (NGS) open day in Cockermouth.  Six private gardens were graciously shared with visitors to raise money for charity.  And all were blessed with perfect weather for garden touring – sunny, but not too hot, with a gentle breeze.

The back of the map (given upon payment of our entry fee) notes that the garden on Holmewood Avenue in Cockermouth is approximately 1/4 acre.

We arrive at this second garden to find that these folks have squeezed A LOT into  1/4 acre plot.

They’ve seating areas, mixed beds and borders, two ponds, raised veggie and fruit gardens, a few fruit trees, a greenhouse, a summerhouse, and a nice composting set up.  And that’s just around back!

The owners seemed to enjoy interacting with their visitors and were friendly and knowledgeable gardeners. Their garden has grown and changed alongside their family, evolving to suit their changing needs and wants.

The Holmewood Avenue garden is productive, packed full of plants, and not adverse to a spot of fancy.

Full of ideas and plants to try in your own patch.

Happy plants abound, like the Erigeron in pots on their front porch, which have self-seeded and escaped to soften the hard surfaces nearby. (The owner said that this particular plant is quite apt to spread itself around, but easily pulled up.)

Visiting other peoples’ gardens makes a person want to rush home and get to work in their own bit of soil.

But we weren’t finished our NGS garden tours.  Two down, but four to go!


Herdy Girl

A Jewel in The Parklands (NGS)

This Scepter’d Isle is known throughout the world for it’s patchwork fields, green landscape and glorious gardens.  Since 1927, the National Garden Scheme (NGS) has leveraged that beauty by inviting owners to open their private gardens to raise money for charities in England and Wales.  According to their website, over £50 Million since the scheme began.

A couple of months ago, I picked up an NGS brochure at the train station in Penrith and noticed, with pleasure, that there were several open gardens within a reasonable distance from our valley home. Yay!

This past weekend, six Cockermouth gardens were open to visitors. For a mere £4.50 per person, visitors were allowed to wander around all  of these beautiful and personal gardens, speak to the owners, and possibly enjoy a cup of tea and a piece of cake.  (Pay at any of the 6 gardens. No charge for children. Refreshments available in two of the gardens.)

We paid, received our stickers and (not-quite-to-scale) map, and cheerfully began exploring.

The map led us into The Parklands housing development and to a modern brick two story house. Immediately, you can tell that this is the home of a serious home gardener- the plants are all well-tended and thoughtfully placed.

A peek down either side of the house tempts you into the piece de resistance, a tightly planted jewel of a garden.

This particular back garden surrounds a lovely conservatory, and takes full advantage of planting vertically on the fence and within the garden itself. It is very much a sheltered, green embrace.

Pulled together by it’s hard structure, this small garden’s paths and raised beds make every inch of space contribute to the whole.

The beds were very closely planted, with obvious thought given to placement within the scheme.

It would be interesting to see how the garden looks in the winter, when the riot of blooms has quieted.  Will it fare well and continue to provide a pleasurable view from the owner’s conservatory?

All of the garden owners were welcoming and a pleasure to meet. So much so that one of the best parts of the NGS is the people you meet and their enthusiasm for plants, gardens, and their community.

Onward and upward, we leave this tidy garden in its modern neighbourhood and head uphill toward the next garden.

See you there!


Herdy Girl