Whoops a daisy!

4 10 2011

As part of our master plan to make the most of joint retirement Chris and I have decided to spend one day a week seeking out places of interest, in and around ‘the Shire’, that we’ve never previously got around  to visiting or that have completely slipped beneath our radar.   

To be even-handed, we decided to take turns in choosing a weekly destination. And being a gent of the old school I let Chris have first pick.

You can imagine my delight when she came up with Picton Garden and Old Court Nurseries, home to the National Collection of Autumn Flowering Asters. That’s Michaelmas Daisies to a horticultural ignoramus like me!

‘Take your camera,’ Chris enthused, appealing to my interest in photography, ‘there are over 400 varieties… and I’ll drive!’  

The sun was out, the sky was blue and there wasn’t a cloud to spoil the view, as we took off on the thirty minute drive across the Malvern Hills. It was a day for the open road and an open-topped Morgan but we gave the Peugeot 101 – ‘roller-skate’ – an outing instead!

Picton was a picture. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at the spectacular array of Asters. I’m told they’re only out for a brief couple of weeks in the early autumn so it would have been a great pity to have missed such a colourful display.

I’m not great with colours (or so the kids tell me!) and there were countless pigmental variations. Michaelmas Daisies in more traditional darker shades of purple and mauve, with central golden discs, jostling with a brighter spectrum of blues, pinks, whites and yellows.

It’s surprising how quickly one can become an expert on these hardy perennials which thrive in well-drained sunny locations adding a late season splash of colour to the herbaceous border. I’ll be dispensing green-fingered advice, to ‘Gardener’s Question Time’ listeners, before you know it!

In need of lunchtime sustenance, rather than heading home, we sought out ‘The Kettle Sings’ . It’s a place we’d heard of but never tried, billed as a ‘licensed restaurant and tea room in a beautiful hillside location’.

A tea room with a view indeed! Tucked into the west-facing slope of the Malverns, it has a raised terrace overlooking a magnificent panorama of rolling Herefordshire countryside stretching towards the distant Black Mountains and the land where there be dragons!   

Chris made short work of a healthy looking prawn sandwich while I succumbed to a slice of iced lemon drizzle cake, both of us transfixed by a timeless vista unchanged since one Miss Millie Stephens first placed her kettle on the hob, back in 1928.      

Apparently (and here comes the history bit!) ‘The Kettle Sings’ was born out of a small workman’s cottage, built 1908, later extended, branded (with a name that still remains) and marketed by Millie as a fashionable English tea room for walkers on the hills. It soon proved a big hit with tourists and locals alike and remains so to this day, judging by the number of people jostling for Monday lunchtime tables.    

It is widely believed that cycling enthusiast Sir Edward Elgar, would occasionally stop off here for an afternoon cup of tea and a slice of Victoria sponge, while drawing musical inspiration from its spectacular setting – an archetypal pastoral scene from England’s green and pleasant land.  

I’d like to think the great man’s cycle, rather like Harry Potter’s broomstick, was a ‘Nimrod’, and that Millie welcomed him at ‘the Kettle Sings’ without any pomp and circumstance, serving up her  hot buttered crumpets and home-baked scones with an enigmatic smile – or some such variation on a theme!    

What we do know, from ‘Elgar the Cyclist’, is that the composer purchased his first machine, a ‘Royal Sunbeam’ (a fixed wheel model with a polished black enamel finish), in August 1900, a month after his 43rd birthday, for the rather pricey sum of twenty one pounds ten shillings – no doubt cash in hand, but some time before the advent of a £20 banknote with his picture on the back!

Following a course of his and her lessons, the composer became hopelesly hooked on the bike whereas his wife, Alice, who never quite mastered the art of cycling, was rather less enamoured by the thought of pedalling miles along the muddy lanes and bumpy by-roads around ‘the Shire’.

However, Alice did keep a diary in which she records his first ride of the 1901 season, on March 14th, as being via Hanley to Upton on Severn!

So Chris has set the bar high and I’m already feeling the pressure to match her glorious array of Autumnal Asters and a historic tea room with a view that  spoke to England’s greatest composer.     

Watch this space for more travellers’ tales from in and around ‘the Shire’…

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2 responses

4 10 2011
Another Phil

Always liked Michaelmas Daisies and they seem to delay the onset of the cooler weather……worked this year at least – guess they took your mind off the departure of the wally with the brolly. A marriage made in hell – can’t see him getting another job in English football, but neither can I see Forest attracting a quality manager

Admire your masterplan of visits

4 10 2011
outofafrica2010

Hi Phil
Good to hear from you again – hope things are going well.
I hoped but always doubted that the brollyman was the way forward. I’ll be posting my thoughts on the whole NFFC fiasco shortly – just holding fire to see if an appointment is made within the next few days!

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