Please excuse the long silence - I have been enjoying a lovely week away in the Peak District with friends!
I must confess I find the Peaks a little underwhelming when compared to certain other spots in Britain, but I can't complain; it's great to get away, and there's nothing like a good dose of countryside.
The weather was rather grey all week, and as a result my photos are rather grey too, but I will give you a rundown of some of the highlights anyway - the most relevant of which is our visit to Chatsworth House and Gardens.
Visting gardens has never previously been 'my thing', and I wouldn't have gone if the rest of the group hadn't suggested it - they mainly wanted to see the house. Eddie and I bought a gardens-only ticket, however, and there was still plenty to fill the day!
The highlights of the gardens for me were the hundreds of statues and carvings at every turn, such as here in the rose garden...
...and the numerous water features, from this simple but picturesque 'trough waterfall' hidden away in the woods...
...to the cleverly engineered 'willow tree fountain', which at first glance looks like a real tree but is really made entirely of metal pipes...
...to the 'cascade'; a man-made waterfall of sorts, where water flows endlessly down a series of differently-shaped and -sized steps...
...and finally this incredible gravity-fed fountain. No pumps here; just the pressure of a water source far above on the hilltop. The fountain plays here at only about a third of its maximum height! Now that's impressive!
Of course, I did enjoy the planting too. I particularly liked this purple-themed bed (sorry; the colours didn't come out too well in the photos).
And does anyone know what these yellow flowers are? I loved them - they stand 3-5ft high, and are just the right mix of rustic and sculptural.
They were everywhere, and particularly set off the rocky areas. And the bees loved them too!
Of course the real point of interest for us was the kitchen garden, on a rather steeply sloping site right at the top of the estate. Everything looked fantastic, and I kept wanting to reach out and pick things!
Most crops are planted in a sort of wagon wheel pattern, with rows emanating from a single point in the middle of each bed, and different types of crops planted side by side seemingly at random; lettuces next to courgettes next to carrots next to peas next to herbs next to onions next to potatoes next to brassicas next to peppers and so on and on and on!
There are a few more traditional rows too; see beetroots on the left below and parsnips on the right(ish), with all kinds of brassicas caged beyond. And what's that in the middle?
I studied them for a while and I swear, they look exactly like some kind of gigantic dandelions! What on earth are they?!
I was pleased to see plenty of companion flowers about as well; nasturtiums everywhere and whole beds of borage - like here next to the runner beans.
Also on display were the rather grand old greenhouses, full of ripening tomatoes and melons supported in nets.
And more cold frames than you could shake a spade at!
And how's this for an industrial-sized bird scarer? It rotates slowly in the middle of the garden, casting bright reflections in all directions. And to think the rest of us have to make do with CDs on strings...