Lifestyle

A grand day out

I have been planning to make a visit to Burtown House & Gardens near Athy in County Kildare since it opened last year. Myself and some of my family finally made it there this weekend, in glorious weather.

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I was surprised to note that the gardens, based in the midlands, were a couple of weeks ahead of mine here on the coast. They are so lovely –  informal with a backdrop of stunning views of surrounding countryside.

The tulips were coming to an end but the paeonies were coming out and in the woodland areas the bluebells and cadleabra primulas were in full swing.

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The house sits so beautifully in its setting

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some more pics of the gardens…..

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Burtown House is family home to the Fennells, there are two of the family members whose work I have long admired. Wendy Walsh who is now 99 years old is a renowned botanical painter and her grandson James Fennell is the talented photographer behind the fabulous Vanishing Ireland series of books, his speciality being Interiors photography and portraiture.

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When not travelling around the country capturing the people of our Island in their humble abodes, he can be found behind the counter in the charming courtyard cafe at the side of the house. Copies of his books can be perused while enjoying your cup of coffee and homemade cake.

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We were lucky enough to be able to enjoy our hot chocolates in the sunshine listening to Fats Waller  – fine chillax after our strenuous strolling around the grounds ….. you know how it is.

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Our visit was made complete by nipping in to the adjacent gallery space – at the moment housing a collection of Wendy Walsh’s stunning paintings and sketches,

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.. together with some beautiful enlarged shots from the vanishing Ireland series. James tells me there are plans afoot for an audio visual exhibition where at the push of a button we will be able to hear the recordings made of the people in all his photos telling their stories.

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James’s ongoing project, together with historian Turtle Bunbury is, I feel, such an important gift to us as a Nation. They have literally been travelling the length and breadth of the country recording the musings and memories of our people in their own environment, and even more fascinating for me, James has photographed their homes as they sit, many of them by their fireside or in their place of work, where they are at their most comfortable to spill their lifes stories and observations and lessons learnt. In his photographs we can see a glimpse of their surroundings, mantlepieces with decorated sills and collected mementos on display, often a sacred heart statue on the wall and the all important dresser with pieces handed down and held precious through generations.

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image: ‘George Thomas with the kettle on’ in County Wicklow by James Fennell

for more about the House or the books, see:

http://burtownhouse.ie/home/

http://jamesfennell.com

http://www.turtlebunbury.com

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Cow Parsley

I picked some cow parsley today..the smell in the sitting room takes me right back to collecting flowers for the May alter – a tradition from my childhood.

Floral & Gardens, Interior Style, Nature & the Coast

Cow Parsley

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Antiques & Antiquing, Interior Style, Lifestyle

My London Hoard

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{photo by Alva Mac Gowan – http://lostandfoundimages.blogspot.ie}

I had a great afternoon in Spitalfields with my sister last week, shopping for treasures with a measly budget. So much so, I got in trouble with aer lingus last night with my suitcase being over the weight limit (as usual, I had to lie across it to make it close.  fact).

It began with a ginger beer at the magical Verde & Company. A tiny little coffee shop with a very big atmosphere due to its rich dark interior  – the perfect backdrop for their impressive display of jars of marmalades – cleverly backlit to create a warm light.

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{photo by Alva Mac Gowan – http://lostandfoundimages.blogspot.ie}

We then went to the antique market – which is on every Thursday, I came home with a massive, very very old rug which we think is Afghan, the colours are faded by years in a sunny place but the other side there are vibrant terracottas and teal blues, moss greens and shocking pinks – I love it!

I also came across this beautiful carved little plinth which I haggled for – we were both happy with the final price of £15! This will soon be going on the wall to display something or other from time to time…

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Then at another stand selling brocante, I picked up some really thick large linen tea towels which I may turn into a couple of cushions or keep as table covers – wish I had bought more now as I can’t decide which to do ….

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While in Spitalfields we sheltered from the rain in the ten bells pub watching the world bustle by & enjoying the beautiful tiled wall, with a glass of champagne to celebrate the bargains.

And then a visit to one of my favourite London Shops – Town House on Fournier Street  – a mix of oh so beautiful antiques and curios as well as my kind of paintings and ceramics and tableware, including the fabulous handpainted ceramic tiles by my old friend Paul Bommer – see: http://paulbommer.com for his wonderfully individual style of work.

There is the most amazing little courtyard at the back of this space, the best example you could see of how to make the most of a small enclosed outdoor space. We came away feeling very inspired..

Also on my London trip. I managed to find these GORGEOUS little glasses in a charity shop in East Twickenham for £1 each…. I feel an aperitif coming on!!

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On down to Orleans House Gallery on the Riverside at Twickenham… this has such a great little gallery shop which always has interesting and affordable arts & crafts to buy (including etchings by yours truly). There I picked up this beautiful framed tile by Charlotte Stockley for only £20  – what a beauty!

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And on a visit to the ever marvellous and inspiring Petersham Nurseries I bought a fab glass display dome – something I have had trouble finding in Ireland.

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So I am feeling excited about integrating these wonderful finds into my own interior and inspired by all the beautiful displays I have exposed myself to.

Its nice to be home.

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