2015 turned out to be a great year for new experiences - venturing into the New Forest for a short stay at The Pig in Brockenhurst; walking across the harbour floor at St Ives; exploring a Landmark Trust house in Spitalfields; while closer to home finding the perfect picnic spot in Bramber, winter walks on the seafront and a summer garden filled with lilac.
Here are my favourite moments from 2015
We had organised a treat for mum, a short break in the New Forest at The Pig with a spa day at Lime Wood House. The weather was marvellous and the grounds of The Pig included a little humped back bridge over a pond to a treatment room in a potting shed. You could wander through the kitchen gardens and at the front they had a huge swing and everywhere were enormous old trees.
Whether it was when I was the only one swimming in a pool surrounded by natural light and soothed by music, relaxing during my massage or sitting in a whirlpool enjoying the sunshine, the experience was thoroughly and utterly blissful. Oh my goodness take me back! Go, go I urge you.
In July we decided to take a tour of the most southerly part of England and headed for the county of Cornwall. We stayed in a chalet in the grounds of Tregenna Castle high above St Ives and on our first night we ventured down through the private grounds along a path that led to the beach below. The sea was out and so we walked to the end of the bay and straight into the harbour. Boats balanced in the sand as the sea lay far beyond the harbour wall, it was a great way to enter St Ives for the first time.
Having been a huge fan of Landmark Trust for years it was a delight to visit one of their buildings when they had an open day in the summer. The rooms are sympathetically decorated to complement the history of the house and for this building it was with the Huguenots in mind that the rooms had been restored. In particular I loved the chalky blue colour on the wall, the ornate gilt framed mirror and the ancient tiles in the fireplace that adorned the front room.
Exploring a little closer to home we decided to check out Bramber. At the end of the village up a steep hill we found the peaceful little church of St Nicholas that dated back to Norman times. The view across the South Downs was superb, we climbed the hill a little farther and we found a solitary wall, the remains of Bramber Castle and beyond that a wide open space covered in grass, surrounded by mature trees with a little hill in the middle. The perfect spot for a picnic.
This is a walk I've done many a time and it's such a great way to spend a few hours when in Brighton that I had to share it. In the summer even though I live a ten-minute walk away, it feels like I've gone on holiday. The chalk cliffs gleam in the sunlight, the sound of the sea is magnified and there is often a strong smell of seaweed. In the winter months the sea looks even more dramatic and the Undercliff Walk is just as good in the winter and that's what I discovered in January last year.
In May I made it to a park at the other end of Brighton that I had been meaning to visit at this time of year since 2008 when I first heard about a lilac garden. I love the smell of lilac and to see them en masse in bloom sounded fabulous and it was, truly. I loved it.
For my Birthday, my Welsh One took me somewhere he had had recommended to him while still in Wales. It took us a while to get there, about two and a half hours. I think you can do it in two but anyway it was a long old journey. Steeped in history the old town has beautiful architecture everywhere. I was in my element, imagining what had happened in these streets and admiring the ancient buildings. I went a bit snap happy taking photos of every street we explored and we ate a fabulous munch of lobster and steak at The George. Definitely worth a visit.
Slightly closer to Brighton is another historical / building gem of a day out at The Weald and Downland Museum. The day we went spring had begun to show itself and it was fascinating walking in and out of buildings, finding out where they had come from and who would have lived there. Inside were crackling fires, gloom and authentic pieces of furniture lit by nothing but natural light. Outside men were building a live hawthorn fence, hens were pecking and cottage gardens were beginning to shake off the winter.
Another visit to London that I loved was for the opening of a new exhibition at the Wallace Museum. Inside the rooms have all the glamour and excess of eighteenth century style, the opulence of the period is dazzling. The exhibition I had come for was in celebration of Joshua Reynolds, a painter who was huge in his own time. Although this exhibition has ended twelve of the paintings are still on display as they are part of the Wallace Museum's permanent collection.
In January last year we went to Iceland for a few days, the view from our hotel room looked out on a playground and in the distance the Lutheran cathedral of Hallgrimskirkja. When we visited the cathedral one of the organists sat down to practice and the interior filled with music, it was incredibly moving. The thermal bathing we tried was pretty fabulous too.
At Made Brighton I discovered a local leather designer and fell in love with a bag. Big enough to fit an iPad in, but not too big that it would become too heavy to carry with all the random stuff I'd put in a bag if I had the chance. When I met the designer Wolfram Lohr at the Made Brighton craft and design fair he told me he had a studio in Hove and would be having a pre-Christmas sale. I decided I had to go and check out the bag again. The bag is now mine and is being put to good use.
Each November a huge well organised, traditionally anti-establishment event takes place in Lewes, just outside Brighton. I'd been a few times before and it's definitely worth going to. This time I took my Welsh One and with a little careful planning we parked in a good spot, had a lovely dinner and enjoyed watching the various processions and effigies as they marched through the ancient streets of Lewes with flaming torches galore.
Petworth was another on my local bucket list and another great day out. Close enough to Brighton to make it there and back easily in a day, we spent the majority of the time inside marvelling at their vast collection of art. Next time I want to spend the same length of time outside, walking around the grounds, marvelling at the work undertaken by the famous eighteenth century Capability Brown.
My final entry has to be one of the most special of all. A sunny day at the end of summer with one of my dearest friends and her little 'un Theo. While staying in Toronto I had the best guide you could have, the Lovely Caroline, who showed me all that her city could offer. For me that was a lot, but my absolute favourite was a trip to the idyllic Toronto island where cars are banned and healthful food at the Toronto cafe is eaten in the sunshine.
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