There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Sunday, 7 February 2016

A Late Winter Field Trip

When I was a girl in the 1960's, school was as predictable as the school lunches, but once in awhile our teachers took us on 'field trips'--excursions to museums, plays, concerts, or other schools. The excitement for the upcoming field trip would build for days and the night before we could barely sleep.

My life running the B&B is pretty predictable too and follows a similar routine day to day, so when we first started taking days off and out of Oxford, I immediately started calling them our field trips. I get as excited as a girl going on a field trip to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.(true story).

The village of Bampton, Oxfordshire.

Last week we took a late winter field trip to my happy place, the Burford Garden Company, and to take a Cotswold drive to see how the daffodils are coming along, curious to see how spring was progressing out in the countryside. On field trip days we usually still have to do breakfast and our normal morning routine, so when we're finally in the car and heading out of town, we're as giddy as school kids.

We made our escape from Oxford, but first had to have a quick stop at the Swinford Toll Bridge near Eynsham, where there's been a toll booth since the bridge was opened in 1769. The toll is a whole 5 pence, which luckily I had at the bottom of my purse. We paid the attendant and we were off. 5p seemed like a very small price to pay to hit the open road, we would have happily paid 10p, or more!

"p" stands for pence.

Once we're beyond Eynsham and Carterton, it
doesn't take long for the countryside to open up
and the rolling hills of the Cotswolds to appear.

The Windrush Valley near Burford, and the River Windrush
in the foreground to the right. St. Oswald's,
a Norman Church (13th Century), is up on the hillside.

We normally take the time to walk up to
St. Oswald's but the river is swollen with winter
rain and the valley floor is soggy and flooded
in parts--next time though.

Our first stop was the garden centre at Burford--my Nirvana, my arcadia--and lunch. Sometimes our field trips include afternoon tea, and sometimes lunch. We were in such a hurry to get on the road that neither Stuart or I had much breakfast, so we both voted for a field trip lunch--but not the 1960's school trip variety with a soggy tuna fish sandwich and a Twinkie. The food at the Burford Garden Company is all the modern slogans--fresh, organic, locally sourced--but most of all it's delicious. And even better, we usually sit in our favourite spot, in the middle of the vintage book section, with bookcases of antique and vintage books for sale. We sit at a big trestle table, flanked by old church pews and read while we nosh. Again, Nirvana.

Lunch for Stuart was braised beef stew on a bed
of pureed cauliflower, topped with kale, surrounded
by roasted parsnips and carrots. Lunch for me was
fresh tomato and basil soup with rustic bread.
Dessert was sticky toffee pudding with double the
caramel sauce poured on top (request made by
Stuart). A garden centre lunch--better than most
restaurant lunches I've had back home in the U.S.
(And one of the reasons I love England so--
the food! If people warn you about British food,
don't believe them. It's come a long, long way.)

I found a beautiful little antique book called
'Our Village', published in 1904 and written by
Mary Mitford (not one of the famous
Mitford sisters). It has beautiful illustrations
and sweet stories about life in an English
village. One of the chapters is called
'The Cowslip Ball' which sounds
like something I'd very much like to attend.

My treasured finds on our last field trip....
'An Old Fashioned Girl' and 'Little Women' by
Louisa May Alcott, published in London in 1890.
And a tiny copy of A Christmas Carol complete with
illustrations. This is why I love garden centres
so much-- we come home with treasured books, 
a new rose, garden gloves, dog food, fertilizer, and
an antique teapot. All of life's true necessities. 

After we were duly stuffed, ate the last bit of caramel around the sticky toffee pudding and looked through all the books, it was time be inspired. It's easy to be inspired by English garden centres--they aren't like anything I was used to at home in the U.S. (ahem--Lowe's). Beside plants, there are gifts, clothing, housewares, antiques, books, outdoor furniture, an art gallery, seeds, gardening accessories, tools, toiletries, get the idea..........

The scent of the hyacinths made us giddy--
or was it the caramel sauce?

I didn't even have to ask--Stuart said it first.
This little tool shed is my birthday present
and will tuck in next to the summerhouse perfectly.

Housewares and antiques on display.

Then it was outside to grab a few extra primroses
to fill in empty spots in the window boxes.
The Burford Garden Company has a vast array
of annuals, shrubs, herbs, and perennials
for that perfect herbaceous border.

We loaded up the car and there was still
daylight left for a drive and a daffodil check.
Sure enough, there were a few brave and hearty
soldiers beginning to bloom along the 
sides on the single track roads. 

A few more weeks though, and a bit more warm 
weather, and the rest of the daffodils will begin
to bloom and line every road and lane in the
Cotswolds--and throughout the rest of Britain.

Snowdrops were everywhere.

 It felt like the countryside around
us was about to explode with life. 

We had to end our daffodil search and get back to
Oxford and home, but we promised ourselves we'd
be back in about two weeks to find more daffodils
and check on Spring's progress.....
...another field trip to look forward to.

The village of Swinbrook last spring.


  1. Oh, oh, oh!!! Too bad America lost contact with it's parentage! I must be content. It builds character! But I have to say, my true heart on earth is in the English Countryside!! It is interesting, isn't it, that no matter our routine, even as magical as Oxford, we need that breath of fresh air occasionally. There are a few of those "better" garden centers nearer the large cities -- but nothing like this! And you are right, NOT "ahem, Lowe's!" We do have nice one near us, but it is very seasonal and not as diverse or well stocked, and of course the antiques, books, lunch room included are pure English! Thank you so much for sharing. I'm having one of those "it's Monday, got to get going" days, and this picked up my spirits! Love the tool shed and it will look adorable in your garden! AND. . . I was so excited to see the book you found, Our Village!! I have a copy of that book published in 1987 and illustrated by Shirley Felts, a native Texan living in London, since the 1970's. Have you seen her work? She is an amazingly fine watercolorist, and I bought the book for the illustrations, initially, then was totally captivated by her detailed sketches of English country life in the 1800's. I dug my copy out and have been thumbing through the illustrations again this morning. Another inspiritation for getting my week jumpstarted! So good to hear from you again, Carrie! Jane xo

    1. I'm so glad I was able to help kick-start your Monday. :-) Our Monday has been a very, very quiet one indoors today, because outside it's blowing a gale--80mph gusts and pelting rain thanks to storm Imogen. And what a small world that you have a copy of 'Our Village'! I'll definitely look up Shirley Felts. Hope you have a great week and thanks for stopping by as always. xxCarrieoo