An Indian summer in Devon

I apologise that this week has been pretty sparse on the post front. It has been so beautiful here in our little corner of Devon that we have spent every moment on the beach, on the bike or pottering in the garden. I know the last vestiges of summer will soon be gone – padding about with grass between my toes, line-dried laundry, cloudless skies, sleeping with the windows flung wide open, breakfasts on the beach – of course with it Autumn brings its own joys – leaf kicking, open fires, knitwear, DOWNTON – but for now I want to feel the sun on my skin just a little longer…

My son, the smuggler.

I’ve already switched the flip flops for Uggs.

Our morning commute to the beach with bananas, windfall compote and yoghurts safely stowed.

I’ve been collecting lavender from the garden, ready to dry and make into pressies – including shortbread and microwaveable wheat bags that are so cosy come winter.

We’ve just finished the last of our Williams pears.

And we’ve just started eating our first crop of grapes from the vine we inherited. We had no idea what grapes it would produce but we’ve won out with a seedless, sweet variety.

Have a great weekend.


Jobs for the weekend: a busy Autumn ‘to-do list’

Blimey, I’ve got my work cut out for me this weekend:

Outside, I will be:

Planting daffs and bulbs various – as well as tidying up the beds, ditching the annuals and dividing and re-homing some of the herbacious perennials.

Planting up various bowls and planters with hyacinths and paper-white daffs ready to bring in for the festive season to decorate the house.

Scooping up windfall apples and pears from my mum’s garden to stew, bake and crumble-ify (it’s a word).

Hunt down some elderberries (see below).

Inside, I’m planning on:

Bottling up my sloe and blackberry and apple gins. All the fruit is in the freezer, ready to go and I’ve just bought some stoppered glass bottles – they’ll make great Christmas presents for foodies.

Making up some elderberry cordial to bottle for winter (it’s packed with vitamin c and a great soothing warm drink during cold season).

Feeding my cake! My first Christmas cake baked perfectly and is now carefully stowed, ready for the festive season. I plan to feed it once a month between now and Christmas with a slosh of brandy. I will be scouring Pinterest for decorating ideas…

Finally deciding on and ordering the new curtain fabric for our open-plan living/dining space – which do you think?

Then there is just the small task of starting to potty train Country Bebe… but that is a WHOLE other post…

Hope you have a good weekend!

CF x





CF Grows: A saunter around an English cottage garden in Devon

As the baby slumbered last week, I decided to take 5 minutes away from my desk for a quiet walk around our garden, albeit in the drizzle, to drink in the green lushness of our cottage garden in full bloom.

It made me stop and realise just how far this little 1/2 acre plot has come since we moved in 2 years ago, so I thought I’d (proudly) share a few snaps.

After 30 years of neglect we had to lose 6 mature trees and take most of the landscape back to bare soil (not to mention rebuild the 80ft boundary wall when it blew down). In fact, this time last year we were down to one rather straggly buddleia and a stump of Japanese anenome.

Now look at it:

We build some wigwams out of old canes we found in the shed and scattered some sweet pea seeds around the base. They grow like weeds and best of all, I get a fragrant posy for my bedside table three times a week.

The aforementioned Japanese anenome is such a beauty and the once bedraggled buddleia is now acting as a fully booked butterfly hotel.

The hollyhocks have been a huge success. I like a bit of height and drama in the garden. They’re over 8ft now:

The biggest success has been the combo of fennel and verbena. Two more giants, I love the delicate yellow and wispy fronds of the fennel against the structural vibrant verbena. Great for the back of our 5ft deep bed.

We have disguised a long stretch of trellis with a succession of blousy David Austin roses in romantic pastel shades. The flowering is over now but this is the on we planted in memory of my Daddy back in May:

On the edible front we’ve had a reasonable crop of cherries from the new Morello tree and a good punnet or so of blueberries from the trio of bushes we brought down from London.

The cherry tomatoes are just ripening and the Williams pear and Cox Orange Pippin apples are bending the boughs with fruit:

Gardening in general has been such a tonic these past few months, it’s distracting, physically exhausting, rewarding and mind-calming. I can’t wait to get the chickens in and the veg plot landscaped with raised beds and a fruit cage next spring. Stay tuned…

CF x

A small change…

So, after my last post on New Year’s Resolutions (namely the fact that I’m not making ‘I must stop doing this’ self-flagellating decrees this year), this week I have made a new resolve: to spend a little time outside each day.

I’m not being any more specific than that.

It might be a leisurely morning coffee on a bench in the garden, watching to see the first bulbs peeking through the earth, a river-side bike ride, or a bracing walk along the beach, baby in tow. It’s all too easy to throw on the cashmere tracksuit, crank up the heating and hibernate at this time of year and that, as we’re all told time and time again, does nobody’s Vitamin D levels any good.

For the last three days I’ve spent two hours each lunchtime, while Country Bebe slumbers, in the garden; raking, weeding, pruning and generally getting it back into a shipshape order for spring and the next tranche of sowing and planting.

Yes, partly it’s out of necessity (funnily enough there is no budget for a gardener at casa Mansi) but a huge bonus for the enforced green fingers is the mood-boosting kick that having winter sun on your face and soil under your nails brings you.

Yesterday, in half an hour, I overhauled the herb garden that we planted last summer.

Today was the greenhouse – out went the mouldy, dead tomato plants and a rather happy hour was spent on a therapeutic tidy up of the seeds and pots, while the tools all got cleaned, disinfected and oiled.

If you have trouble sleeping, or stress is an issue, I hugely recommend immersing yourself in such a physically tiring and mind-occupying activity. Perhaps a metaphor for my state of mind at the moment, it was great to have a clear-out and restore a sense of order.

Next up: the veg patch, the chickens arrive in April and we are waist high in brambles and nettles for the final 18ft of the garden at the moment. Watch this (overgrown) space…



A post from the greenhouse

Warning: smug post alert. I couldn’t help sticking up this photo of my FIRST EVER POTATO. Well, not my very first, as a kid in France my sister and I would be in charge of digging up wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of spuds, but my first as a grown woman.

Yes, alright, it’s a tiddler – we’ll be waiting another couple of weeks to dig up the rest but we couldn’t resist.

We’ve been harvesting the salad leaves, spinach and rocket for a couple of weeks and the broad, French and runner beans are all planted out in the newly dug veg patch. We planted six different types of heritage tomato this year (yellow, striped, purple…) and the greenhouse is full of the heady scent of tomato flowers in bloom.

Right, I’m off to water the burgeoning crops.

CF x

National Garden Scheme open day: Sidbury Manor

In search of some inspiration for our new seaside garden we decide to aim high and take the rare chance to glimpse the 2,200 acres of the local ‘Big House’, Sidbury Manor. The opportunity to snoop amongst the azaleas was thanks to the National Garden Scheme, opening the private residence’s parkland and formal gardens for just six hours a year, all in the name of chari-dee.

We wound our way in the drizzle up the long drive, dodging skipping lambs and rattling across cattle grids, parking up by the rather grand stable block.

The photos don’t really do the handsome red brick pile justice. Nor the view.

We wound around the side of the house, watching posturing pheasants on the lawn and being deafened by a rather vocal Guinea Fowl. I managed to grab a fleeting snap of him before he hopped over the wall into the kitchen garden.

Next up were the formal Italianate Gardens. Set over five levels, starting with a tennis court and croquet lawn, rising to this beautiful level that is currently undergoing some TLC.I love the decaying glamour of it all, from the rambling vines to the grand balustrade stairs leading to a pair of palms. A touch of the Amalfi Coast in a Devon Valley.

Next we followed a path, cut through the last of the daffs and bluebells, under ancient Redwoods till we reached the house again.

Country Bebe was not looking that amused (can you tell?!).

So, before heading home with our brains buzzing and a shortlist to take to the garden centre, we stopped off in the fern-filled conservatory for a homemade slice of cake and a glass of squash next to the ornate fish pond.

Sigh. If only we had a gardener.

Uncovering garden treasure

So, a couple of posts ago I wrote about my lustings for a hammock for my tree-less garden. Well, that’s not strictly true. We did have to get a tree surgeon in to remove all six mature trees in various states of rot, decay and downright danger. I am always loathed to cut a tree down but the surgeon assured me that none could be saved so as soon as he’d finished we set about planting a mini orchard in their place.

Here’s the cherry which has just sprung into life, there is a Williams pear, a Victoria plum, a cox’s pippin apple plus a fig, white peach and an elderflower bush that I’m hoping to make cordial from.

We inherited a greenhouse so overgrown with bluebells and brambles they had pushed all the panes of glass out the roof. It’s finally back in working order and these little fellas popped up over the weekend:


Perhaps the best find so far from our 55 bags (and counting) of rubbish we’ve removed from the various garden outbuildings is this vintage Singer sewing machine sign found, fully intact, on the top shelf in the shed.

There isn’t a scratch on it and the colours are incredibly well saturated. I love the typography – I wonder if it would have been a shop sign?

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