Monday, July 27, 2020

The First Annual Garden Fete

Our Summer Garden Fete last weekend was a huge success. Lady Caroline, Mary Thomas and Lady Elizabeth worked tirelessly to ensure it was a day filled with fun for all. Rain early in the morning had everyone worried for a time but the sun prevailed and the day emerged beautiful and fresh for that bit of morning rain.

There were smiles all around as the villagers walked to the Comely Estate where the Fete was being held. Children could hardly wait to get there tugging their parents along when they stopped to say hello to their neighbours. There were friends from other villages come to share in the fun which made for a lovely community public day.

On entering the tent where the villagers showcased their prize fruits and vegetables along with their finest sewn items, paintings and all manner of things, one was presented with table upon table of offerings for the judges to consider. It seems most of the village had an item or two on show. The flowers were the most popular category with everyone stopping to smell the scents of the flowers and ask the name of this flower or that fern. The Judging Tent was of interest to all for there were so many delightful things to pause and admire.

Outside in the sunshine the stalls were many and varied with happy vendors calling everyone to inspect their wares. The merchant selling lady’s fans was popular on such a warm day; the confections stall was a magical display of sugar creations to tempt anyone. The representation of Comely Manor made of carefully moulded sugar garnered much attention. Wide-eyed children looked at the sweets and it was only the beginning of the games which tore them away from such sublime contemplation.

The men could be found gathered around the livestock making their own choices for best in show. Moss Turner’s sheep were much admired for their pristine fleeces while Old Mary stood proudly by her Daisy, pleased that so many thought her new donkey a handsome creature. There were many proud pet owners confident their pet was well-favoured by all. Children and adults alike stood smiling with their pets waiting for the judges to arrive.  There were rabbits, dogs, cats and even a ferret or two.

The games had everyone cheering and laughing. What fun it was to see all taking part in such joyous events. Many rosettes were awarded amid cheering. The egg and spoon race had the most participants causing the judge to keep up with the entrants in order to see who crossed over the finish line first. The lady’s were all smiles as they rushed to a table and threaded a needle before rushing back to their line to tag the next on their team. That was a very close race indeed as you know the ladies of Amberleigh are proficient stitchers.

When the sun became too hot the refreshment tent was the best place to recover. Alice Powell and her cousin Hetty Thorne were making cups of tea and coffee with haste. The cakes were admired and cut for eagerly awaiting patrons and the atmosphere inside was one of mirth for all were watching the two serving the tea to see who would take the most orders. There was much banter and at one point when the judges came in they were encouraged to time the cousins. Such fun and laughter ensued at that. Lady Caroline, Mary Thomas and Lady Elizabeth sat among the tea drinkers pleased their efforts had created such a happy day for the villagers.

Later in the afternoon the music and dancing began and to hear the sound of the fiddle picking out a merry tune was a treat for all. Dances were called and partners took their places bowing to one another. Reels had them keeping time with the fiddle while others tapped their feet along with the music as they watched the dancers. Alice Powell got the shock of her life when her brother William came up behind her and asked for the next dance. Thrilled to see her brother she hugged him tight chattering away to him and missing the dance entirely.

Our garden fete was surely a day to be remembered. Have a look at some of the entries that were on display in the judging tent.

Best Loaf of Bread Category

Marianne Sedgeway's Challah Bread 

Matilda Cooper's Rustic Loaf

Best Cake Category

Marianne Sedgeway's Strawberry Cheesecake Torte

Innes O'Cullein's Vodka and Ginger Fruit Cake

Best Pie Category

Miss Lavinia Rose Westcott's Rustic Pecan Tart

Phebe Knowles' Apple Cranberry Pie

Mrs Pym's Cherry Pie

Tallest Sunflower Category

Phebe Knowles' Sunflowers

Matilda Cooper's Sunflower

180 cm tall

Cleverest Paper Creation Category

Maria Medcalf's Garden Happiness Card


Matilda Copper's Marbled Paper Creation 

Prettiest Pet Category

Miss Lavinia Rose Westcott's Maltese Dog Baxter

Hester Hardisty's Cat Willie

Best Painted or Drawn image Category

Maria Medcalf's Summer Wildflowers painting

Hester Hardisty's watercolours

Phebe Knowles' Pen and Ink Drawings

Matilda Cooper's watercolour

Best sewn or embroidered item Category

Leandrea Wallis' ribbon embroidery

Patience Pembroke's Lap Quilt

Lady Caroline Farnswoth's Doll

Marianne Sedgeway's Dress

Lady Elizabeth's Work Bag

Old Mary's Sweet Dream Pillow

Matilda Cooper's Sewn Cutlery Bags

Prettiest Hat or Bonnet Category

Jenny Wren's Bonnet

Freyda Gildermann's Bonnet

Best Poetry about Summer Category

Maria Medcalf's Poem

Title: Golden Days

Dawn awakens with early rays
Shorter nights blanket skies with twinkling stars
Warm gold days

Garden seeds planted early May mornings
Berried to jam in mid July
Warm golden days

Front porch lemonades
Country air freedom
Warm golden days

Children's kites to chase
Sun skin-kissed cuddles
Warm golden days

Sunsets, lullabies, the Lord to praise
Fireflies waltz the evening breeze
Warm golden days

Memories of gathering baskets of bouquets
Blissful delight
Warm golden days


Old Mary's Poem

Title: Summer's Bonnie Face

The verdant field that greets me thus
Birds whose chatter fill the trees
Roses bursting forth their buds
Summer sings her songs to me.

Wistful breezes caress the flowers
The butterfly's poetic dance delights
Enchanting the air with its power,
to make one's imagination take flight.

Cottony clouds soften the sky
Elder flowers, delicate as lace
Summer, sweet summer, is surely nigh
Captivating me with her bonnie face. 


Becket Blackburn's Poem


A lofty Angel whispered in my ear
a secret message meant for you and me
that spoke a truth so perfect and so clear
about emotion that no eye can see
Not meaningless, nor rude, it did not sting
devoid of selfish motive, calm and kind
believing, yielding hoping everything
without this truth no meaning here we'll find
Enduring precious all else falls away
if only we can suffer to release
our childish thoughts and grow more every day
then here will be our pack and road to peace
That whispered message offered from above
was just a single word, the word was love

Friday, July 17, 2020

A Closer Look into our Resident's Lives, Part 2

In part one of A Closer Look into our Resident’s Lives we saw what Lady Elizabeth Marlowe and Jenny Wrey aka Jenny Wren were facing. This week our dear Alice Powell seems to be caught in the middle of other people’s ambitions. Read on to find out just what is going on at No. 7 Butcher’s Row.

Old Mary, who considers the residents of Amberleigh her family, has noticed a change in Alice Powell, our most loquacious villager, who is lately as quiet as a mouse and not so eager to engage in a friendly chat which she was wont to do, opening her window and calling a hello to passers by. Her Aunt Dorcas, whom she lived with, recently decided to go and live with her son to be nearer her family, most especially her grandchildren which left Alice at odds as to who would reside at No. 7 Butcher’s Row with her, for she is merely one and twenty and propriety expects a companion of sorts to maintain her good name. Luckily her cousin Henrietta, Hetty to friends and family, eagerly accepted the invitation put to her by Aunt Dorcas and Alice’s brother William to fill that role for Alice. At first rejoicing at someone closer in age to have as a chaperone, Alice soon found life had become quite different sharing a home with her cousin. Hetty is a most prim sort of woman and has curtailed much of Alice’s enthusiasm for conversation reminding her such forwardness is unseemly. Hetty would make Alice into a demure, modest young lady that any young man in search of a wife may find appealing yet Alice does not fit this mould which is quite in opposition to her own good nature. Further, Hetty believes Mr. Clutterback the new curate, is a perfect candidate for Alice to marry, something which has frustrated and distressed Alice.

Hetty, a lovely woman of five and twenty is much too young to be a woman of five and fifty, one could safely presume. She wears caps (and has suggested Alice do the same) professing to be “on the shelf.” What should cause one so young to adopt such puritan values is what has been on Old Mary’s mind. After several thwarted attempts, Old Mary is not daunted and will discover the answer to this conundrum and with luck, in time to stop Hetty's matchmaking.

The new curate in the village, one Mr. Neville Clutterback, practices economy as an art form. He was delighted with this offer to assist Mr. Thomas at Amberleigh and Constance. Now that he has a curacy, it is only a matter of time before he shall be gifted a parish to serve and upon doing so he shall have chosen a bride so that he may set up his house immediately upon accepting his first living, wherever it may be. Having met the congregation his thoughts rest upon Miss Powell whose cousin has allowed him to see the thriftiness and demure qualities of this most charming young woman he hopes to make Mrs. Clutterback in time.

How can Alice escape the notice of Mr. Clutterback when Hetty puts him in her path at every opportunity? What possess Hetty to want to marry Alice off? Will Old Mary discover what motivates Hetty to behave in such a prudish manner? Who can tell what will happen next in this complex little triangle in the parish.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Dear Neighbours,

This day has been full of sunshine and warm breezes which had Hetty and I in the garden happily weeding the vegetable patch and also cutting the lavender to make sachets. As you know Lavender is the best deterrent for moths. With that in mind Hetty and I cut the lavender and weave it into little sachets to put in with our linens to keep them safe from the moths and smelling like a summer day. This is such an easy craft we would like to share it with you. On a day like today, it is pleasant to pass the time chatting and weaving these pretty little lavender cones.

To make a single sachet, cut an odd number of lavender flowers with at least 6 inches of stem. It is best to do this just before the flowers bloom. Hetty and I have used 7 stems to make our sachets and this works well, the more you use, the larger the “bulb” of the flowers will be and it is sometimes harder to contain the flowers behind the ribbon.

Once you have cut your flowers and taken off the excess leaves so that the stem is bare, take a length of ribbon, not too wide, which measures at least 36 inches. Tie the ribbon just under the flowers on the stem leaving at least 6 inches of ribbon on one side, this is for finishing the cone.

Now that the ribbon is tied, gently fold the stems down over the ribbon creating a cage around the flowers.

When you have folded the stems down, take the longer of the two ribbons and begin weaving in and out of the stems.

Continue to do this until the flowers are completely covered and only a short bit of the stems are showing. When you get to this point. Wrap the longer ribbon around the stems once or twice and then with the short 6 inch ribbon you have left which should be coming out of the enclosed flowers, tie a pretty bow and snip the ends of the ribbon so they are of equal length.

The only thing that remains now is for you to snip the edges of the stems so only half an inch is visible beyond the bow. Your sachet is now complete ready to put into your linen closet.

Hetty and I hope you will enjoy making these little lavender Sachets as much as we do. Do have a lovely day.

With kind regards,

Alice Powell and Hetty Thorne

Friday, July 3, 2020

A Few of Our Residents' Stories, part 1

The story of Amberleigh these past six months has been an interesting one with a colourfully woven tapestry of its residents’ lives. From a distance it would seem no different from any other village and yet upon closer examination there have been moments of delight, a look into the past, heartbreak, expectation as well as loss and yet life goes on. To live in a village is to know everyone and their business and yet it would seem that is not always the case. Over the next few weeks we shall take a peek into the lives of some of Amberleigh’s residents’ beginning with Lady Elizabeth Marlowe and Jenny Wrey.

Shortly after Old Mary returned from London she suspected Lady Elizabeth Marlowe was with child. A happy occasion to be sure, but the birth of Elizabeth’s daughter Sophia nearly cost her her own life and so this was also a time to be greatly concerned. Old Mary did not know if she could safely deliver Sophia and also keep Elizabeth from dying eight years ago. It was a very intense evening, one she did not think she would be repeating. Old Mary is as worried as Elizabeth for the birth of the babe. Elizabeth puts on a brave face for all to see but privately she and her husband Charles are very concerned. To date, illness of a morning has been the only complaint but in time when Elizabeth’s confinement arrives, that will be a very anxious time indeed.

Having Mary Thomas pregnant at the same time has been a comfort to Elizabeth and they have become close friends sharing this experience. Their babes are due within weeks of one another and both mothers-to-be hope their children will grow up as dear friends.

Jenny Wrey, who is affectionately called Jenny Wren by nearly everyone in the village is worried for Elizabeth. They have been friends since they were children, Jenny’s mother being the housekeeper at Elizabeth’s childhood home in Bexford. The two were ever together. Elizabeth even taught Jenny to read and write so they may send letters to one another when Elizabeth was visiting with friends and family. It was also Elizabeth who begged her father to send Jenny to the Burlington School so that Jenny may stay with her when she eventually married and ran her own household. Elizabeth is the one who bestowed the name Jenny Wren upon her friend as everyone in the village knows, however they do not know it was because Jenny was wont to call Elizabeth “Magpie” for she liked to collect things wherever she would go. Pretty shells, shiny pebbles, interesting leaves; there was always something that took her fancy.

Our dear Jenny Wren has had her own share of upset these last months. Her sweetheart Calvin Spafford is in His Majesty’s Army. Calvin, not able to read or write had someone write his letters to Jenny for him. Then one day a letter came apologizing for having to give Jenny the unpleasant news that Calvin had met and married someone else recently. Jenny was devastated feeling her future was now lost to her and she would be a spinster forever. Captain Venning came to see her when the regiment set up camp outside Cheltenham to tell her how sorry he was to have to be the bearer of such news, apologising it must come by letter. He felt he must tell her before the regiment reached Cheltenham in case she might see Calvin and his bride together. Captain Venning was concerned for her welfare but Jenny did not want his pity; she felt angry when others thought Captain Venning would make a nice replacement for Calvin. Old Mary was kind to Jenny and knew how to comfort her for which she was ever so grateful. Captain Venning, however, seems to believe it is his duty since he wrote Calvin’s letters, to look after Jenny until she has recovered from this great shock.

Where will the stories twist and turn from here? We pray Elizabeth shall deliver safely of a sister or brother for Sophia and William in the new year. Will Jenny Wren meet Calvin again after his ill use of her? Now that his regiment is nearby, it is certainly a possibility.

Foraging with Old Mary

  Hello, My Dears, As you know, I like nothing better than to meander around the Ackley Wood, foraging for herbs and wild flowers to use i...