The neighbourhood

It finally happened! On April 1st he took possession of the keys to a house, and we were hot foot to see what he’d bought. Of course, we’d seen photographs and had a few expectations, but nothing compares with the pride and joy of owning your first home. A place you can put your stamp on. I remember it well from my own first venture, long years ago.

The property, in Chapel Allerton, had belonged to an elderly gentleman and had been adapted to make life easier for him, but looking at the steep curve of the stairs it was hard to see how he could have managed. It’s a house for a much younger person, with a family. There’s plenty of work to be done, but the rewards are visible in the handiwork of some of the neighbours. First job was to lift the living room carpet to inspect the floorboards. In good condition, it was decided to sand and varnish them. So easily said, but a lot of effort and choking dust. While much of this went on I took the youngster to explore the neighbourhood.

Naturally we spotted a few colourful electricity boxes. By my standards it was extremely cold, but the youngster skipped ahead, eager to share his findings. Spring was undoubtedly in the air, pink and white magnolia illuminating the skies. A swing dangled from one sturdy specimen, evidence of the young companions we hoped to find. On the High Street, planters dazzled, jewel bright, and a book shop promised hours of pleasure. At the supermarket we selected chocolate eggs, for that all important first Easter egg hunt in the new house, and returned to help with the work. Further down our street we spotted a ‘Peace’ tree, hung with small coloured eggs, and a gardening neighbour pronounced us ‘welcome to the street!’ A new beginning, full of hope. And a ladybird on a bedroom window.

A postscript : returning home, myself and husband have tested positive for Covid. It had to happen one day and I wouldn’t have missed the above for the world. We are fine and hope to be able to resume normal life at the weekend.

Temple Newsam : I love it when a plan comes together

It so very nearly didn’t! I wanted so much to weave some magic on Christmas Eve. I love a light show, and when I saw this one advertised, on the outskirts of Leeds… well, it was worth a try! We had been to Temple Newsam a time or two. Broad, open spaces… good trees for climbing… a lake, and a petting farm. A good place for kids!

We had to run the gamut of testing, and be pronounced fit to enter the UK. Not a problem! Staying fit enough to return to Portugal, from Leeds City Centre, was more of an issue. But there was no doubt in my mind that it was worth the risk, to see our son and family this Christmas. If the effectiveness of the vaccine was to be tested, so be it! And so we arrived on 23rd December, took the PCR test, and checked into our hotel. We already had a negative lateral flow test, taken in the Algarve on 22nd. Come the evening, a phone call from our son. “Someone in the youngster’s school class has tested positive. Quarantine until the result of his PCR comes through, hopefully within 72 hours, but it’s Christmas so who knows? He’s coughing a bit, but he’s mildly asthmatic so that’s normal at this time of year. He’s tested negative on 2 lateral flows and we’ll test him again in the morning.”

Waiting with baited breath, we also had our own issues. It seemed that yet another test was needed, to enable our return to Portugal. Though valid for the 72 hours of our stay, the PCR was purely for the UK government’s statistics, and didn’t provide a certificate as evidence of the negative test, required by the Portuguese government. More money in the coffers to be misspent, it seems. But the youngster’s health was of far greater concern to us. We took a further test Christmas Eve morning, also negative, but were still waiting to hear how he was. The verdict? “A third negative test, no temperature or coughing, but no PCR result yet.” Should we risk the light show? Of one thing I was sure. I was going to see the family, whether or no I courted Covid. Call me irresponsible, if you like! And so we bundled up warm, and set out into the drizzly night, with one super-excited youngster.

I said drizzly night, but in fact it didn’t feel very wet. Perhaps it was that Christmas magic I was looking for, because if you looked up at the lights you could see the fine droplets of water dancing in the air, but our clothes didn’t appear to be getting very wet. The shimmer of the damp snowflake on the path ahead made us all smile.

Of course, we were a little anxious. The car park had been almost full and we worried about the volume of people, but we were outdoors and masked and took care to maintain space. The youngster’s obvious enjoyment, and our own, soon made any misgivings fade. We passed swiftly through the arch of lights at the entrance. I hung behind to take just one shot.

Maybe we were a little reckless, but it was so nice to be a part of Christmas celebrations. The atmosphere was warm, despite the rain!

The field of balls glowed from red into violet and shades of blue, then faded to soft pastels as we watched.

Beyond the field, shadows made ghostly patterns on the trees. Turning a corner the air was pierced by laser beams, sparkling green through a fine mist. On the path, a Celtic knot glowed. At just this moment an email arrived. His PCR test was negative.

I won’t pretend that we weren’t greatly relieved. With light hearts we carried on, around the lake with its beautifully illuminated boats. Happiness was complete when we came upon a stall selling marshmallows, for toasting over a charcoal fire.

I hope you managed to find a little Christmas magic, and that the year to come will be kind to all of us.

Wishing you all good health and happiness as we sail forward into a new year.

Street art suburbia, Leeds

What are the odds? For some time my son has been trying to find an affordable property to buy in Chapel Allerton, Leeds. The search has proven fruitless so far but, determined to remain upbeat, he took us for a look round the neighbourhood. And what should I find but those self same electricity boxes I was smitten with in parts of the Algarve. We have tried to dissuade him. There are cheaper, less desirable places, but you can’t blame a lad for trying, can you? And I have to say, I liked it too!

Now, does anyone have a house to sell in the area? It’s worth a try, don’t you think? Happy weekend, all!

Jo’s Monday walk : Cow and Calf, Ilkley

One thing I was desperate to do in England this summer- aside from hugging people – was to feast my eyes on heather in full bloom. For me there is no more glorious sight than rolling moorland, crowned in shades of lilac and pink. I didn’t really mind where I found this phenomenon, but when my son suggested that he fancied a look around Ilkley I knew at once that we’d be able to climb the Cow and Calf. I had only ever seen it at a distance so this was tremendous excitement for me.

Our starting point was the car park at Darwin Gardens and Millennium Green, south of this small, pretty town.

Towering over us, the boulders that form the Cow and Calf brace themselves against the skyline, as well they might. Over millenia the millstone grit of which they are formed has been eroded, leaving chunks of rock scattered down the hillside. There’s always a colourful legend to explain nature, and it’s said that the Calf was split from the Cow when the giant Rombald was fleeing an enemy and stamped on the rock as he leaped across the valley.

On Ilkley Moor baht tat, without a hat, could be a bleak place to be, but I was enjoying a rare moment in this wild and beautiful place in the company of my son, and my smile was wide.

A fine moist drizzle was sweeping towards us and the moors are no place to be when the weather sets in. Reluctantly I turned away, but a cheery welcome in the hotel of the same name put a sparkle back in my eyes. Truth be told, it could have bounced with hailstones and I would have been happy that day. An exhilarating landscape with my son by my side was more than enough for me.

The rain did not persist and we had sufficient time for a look around the town. Enough to convince me that I’d come back. There are a number of trails around the Cow and Calf and ancient sites to be inspected. It’s become a favourite place for James too- a great day out with a picnic after a clamber to the very top.

Who’d be a sheep? Baa-aa! Still collecting walks if you’ve time for a stroll?

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Another vibrant and beautiful city seen through the eyes of Teresa :

Bordeaux

Sarah is obviously smitten with Paris, and it’s very easy to see why :

A sunny Sunday walk in Belleville

Water, water everywhere could well be the title of I.J.’s offering :

Rite/rite of Passage

Denzil takes a lot of trouble to put his posts together. This one is beautiful :

Leuven Street Art Walk

I’ve shared Lynn’s posts before. This is another lovely one :

Further Afield: Into the Mountains

Hard to resist a beautifully photographed garden walk :

Walk around in Strasbourg: Botanical Garden

While Terri welcomes Autumn with a flurry of activity :

Sunday Stiils: Sports and Hobbies

This will probably be my last English episode for a while. Time to return to real life here in the Algarve, though my daughter will be joining me next week, so not quite real life. Have a great week and I’ll catch up with you soon.

Jo’s Monday walk : Valley Gardens to Harlow Carr

Most of my time in England was spent in the city of Leeds, but I did manage a few side trips to see friends. Harrogate was an easy 45 minute bus ride away, and the RHS gardens at Harlow Carr an old favourite, so when my lovely friend Ann suggested that we could walk there from the town centre I was delighted. She and husband Bill drove down from the north east. First stop, coffee and a catch up, and a cheese scone for me. I had always been curious about the Royal Baths in Harrogate, and this proved the perfect opportunity to visit the Royal Pump Room Museum, while the very British weather made up its mind.

Situated on the corner of Valley Gardens, the museum offers an insight into local life in Victorian times, if you were of a certain social standing. The agenda included ‘afternoon tea in the gardens, listening to the band’. Our weather was as good as it was going to get, so it was time to stride out into Valley Gardens, where the RHS show used to be held. It became too popular for this lovely place, and expanded to a less charismatic showground elsewhere.

The flowerbeds were a blaze of carefully tended glory, coleus and begonia vying for attention. Dahlias and chrysanths, pom-poms and spikes, a swathe of colour so breathtaking that I no longer noticed the drab skies. These Grade II listed gardens were originally a footpath beside a stream, from the Royal Pump Room to Bogs Field with its 36 different mineral wells. The gardens were opened in 1887 and the Magnesia Well Pump Room served mineral water from the adjacent well. Passing the Cherub Fountain we continued through Pinewoods, along the footpath to Harlow Carr.

First, to the Alpine House and a little warmth, we then set to, following our noses and the paths at will. No better way to explore a garden. When we lived in the north east my husband was a member of the RHS and we were semi-regular visitors to Harlow Carr. The Spring Show was a highlight of the year but for us the Summer Show became too big, selling lots of things we neither wanted nor could afford. But the flowers were always stunning. A wander in these gardens in Autumn could satisfy all the senses.

There was a four seasons theme running through the garden, with cleverly constructed characters representing each of the seasons. Probably best not to meet them on a dark night.

By this stage of things the legs were tiring and there was still the walk back to the town centre. Being advised that there was an hour’s wait for Betty’s restaurant, the only sit down option in the gardens, we decided to leave. A good choice because we found a beautiful country house, The Pinemarten, just round the corner. If you look closely you’ll find me in the mirror behind Ann’s lovely smile.

Details for Harlow Carr, including a virtual tour, can be found on the website.

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First to link up with me, Sarah indulges a love of Paris in a favourite area of mine :

Gallery: a walk around Montmartre

Kelly caught my eye with this interesting walk :

Tablelands- a walk on the earth’s mantle

Rosemay and I go back a long way, and it’s always a pleasure to share :

Mokare Heritage Trail Denmark

Mel loves to intrepidly go where many of us can’t :

Be careful how you say it… Walking to Shot Hole Canyon in Cape Range National Park, Western Australia

And, just this morning, Aggie sent me this very moving piece. Thanks, hon!

All the beds I have slept in

Many thanks to all of you. I’m not sure if I’m reaching everybody I want to, or if this is the best way to do it. Life accelerates here in the Algarve and I have visitors coming. Already I have things happening here that I want to write about and still a pocketful of UK memories. But the evenings grow shorter and I’ll try to keep up. Take good care of yourselves meanwhile.

Harewood House, West Yorkshire

Like all such national treasures, and there are many, Harewood House in West Yorkshire has to earn its keep. The list of events and things to see and do has multiplied since I was there last. Craftmaking workshops and demonstrations are now part of the experience. You can practise calligraphy, learn to weave willow, or make wreaths with dried flowers., Rounded off nicely with afternoon tea, but none of this compulsory. You can still have a great day with just the basics. I wish I’d paused to visit the exhibition Harewood on Film because the house and extensive grounds have taken a starring role in many a drama. My chief purpose in being there, however, was to entertain an 8 year old. You can imagine that the adventure playground and petting zoo had prior claims on our attention.

Nevertheless, it was hard not to admire the beautiful gardens, though some of the statuary caused rolled eyes. The times were very different. The finest craftsmen of the day were employed when Edwin Lascelles started building his new home in 1759. Locally born architect John Carr, popular interior designer Robert Adam, renowned furniture maker Thomas Chippendale, and landscape gardener extraordinaire, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, all combined their expertise to magnificent effect in creating Harewood.

After scrambling and tumbling in the playground, we set off to explore the grounds, following the edge of the lake to the Himalayan Garden. The plants were waist high and above. Huge gunnera rippled in waves down to the stream, which you could cross by means of stepping stones. The garden must be stunning in May-June, when the rhododendrons are in bloom. Stopping to pay homage to the Stupa, we climbed back to the top of the gorge, and spent a happy 10 minutes sending leaves plummeting down the cascades to join the stream, far below. Simple pleasures.

Some of the trees were amazing in girth. One or two were home to fairies. And another, potentially good for climbing. We arrived at the Walled Garden ready for a hot drink. Not the warmest of days and we were consigned to outdoor picnic tables, but the cheese and ham panini hit the spot for the youngster and my cherry bakewell slice was divine. There wasn’t even a crumb left to photograph! Healthy looking plants marched across the lawns in an orderly fashion while the borders harboured some beautiful specimens. We were a bit disappointed to find that the promised boat ride across the lake wasn’t operating, but he’s young and fit and we were back round the lake in no time.

Flamingos stood to attention on one leg, while the aviary showcased birds of every size and description. The penguin pool wasn’t so easy to capture on camera, but I did manage a kookaburra and a snowy owl. And a shaggy goat story! The house was open by this time, and I was anxious for a bit of warmth. And we certainly received a warm reception. The staff were knowledgeable and happy to chat, and I couldn’t help but be impressed by the opulence and sheer wealth on display. Ill gotten gains, and definitely over the top by today’s standards, but beautiful.

Back in the fresh air a glimmer of sunshine persuaded us to take the North Park walk to All Saints Church. An exhibition of stained glassware by Chris Day referenced the slave trade, which contributed to Lascelles enormous wealth.

Exiting through a secret tunnel brought us to a maze filled with willow creatures in a woodland play area, and the adventure was over. A good day’s entertainment, I thought, and only a bus ride from Leeds City Centre.

I haven’t yet finalised my Christmas plans, but I could be tempted by Upon a Christmas Wish. I might even wish for a little snow to enhance the experience. But not yet awhile!

Jo’s Monday walk – the canal beat

Probably the area of Leeds with which I’m most familiar, the Leeds-Liverpool canal dawdles through the city centre in a timeless meander. The growl of background traffic, and hammering from new buildings, creeping skyward, hasn’t succeeded in destroying this peaceful haven though, to hapless walkers, bicycles and skateboards are an ever present threat. Still, it’s the area of Leeds that I’m most at home with. Whenever I’ve an hour or two to idle, waiting for my son and partner to finish work, or keeping the youngster entertained, I gravitate here. To absorb the changes since my last visit.

Just behind the railway station lies a beautiful canal basin, with locks where you can watch the narrowboats test their navigation skills. Trains constantly rumble by. The canals were once the transport hub, and the means by which coal and cargo from the woollen mills was carried through the city, on the 127 mile journey to Liverpool. These days the narrowboats are mostly for leisure. A family of swans have made their home in this exact same spot for the last several years, and I’m not the only one who’s happy to see them.

The lily pads too are thriving. Canal people must be amongst the friendliest in the world, always happy to return a wave as they drift past. A couple sit chatting by the waterside, a retriever blissfully stretched out between them. ‘Is the kettle on?’ I ask. They nod and smile, waving me to a stool if I want to join them.

Apartments reach for the sky, echoing the mill chimneys but without their style and grace. Graffiti finds a natural home in the tunnels and under bridges. From the city centre out to Kirkstall Abbey is about 4 miles along the towpath, and can be broken around the halfway mark with a visit to Leeds Industrial Museum.

Peep through the ornate railings at the River Aire, flowing smoothly alongside the canal to join it in the city centre. You have to weave in and out behind the buildings, butting up against canal history, modern architecture and fast trains.

Free entertainment is on hand at the Royal Armouries. A Samurai demonstration, wild west gunfighters and a display of mounted tournament skills are among the events on offer as we pass by. Or you can hop on a river taxi to observe life at water level.

In the opposite direction the footpath passes an eco housing development, beyond which lies an industrial estate. Old mills with their shabby walls provide ample opportunity for more grafitti. I tease small boy, who has never heard of ET! A gap in his education perhaps, or a sign of age in me.

Something rather wonderful happens to us along this stretch of the river. The bikes and boarders still hustle past but, in a quiet moment, a young woman tells us ‘Look over there! There’s something for you on that fence’. Bemused, the youngster looks, and finds a small see-through bag, looped around a fence post. Inside it, a blue crochet worm with a winsome expression. A small piece of paper tells us that this is Winifred, the Worry Worm, donated by Random Acts of Crochet Kindness. We look back and the lady waves, and continues on her way. Wreathed in smiles, so do we.

I hope you enjoyed wandering the canal banks with me. I’m back home in the Algarve now, but these next several weeks will be full of memories from my summer visit to Leeds. I enjoyed every second because it’s 2 years since I was last there. I am reinstating Jo’s Monday walk on my new blog, but there’s no compunction to join in. I simply enjoy showing you my world.

Have a good week, and see you next time!

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