It was a bittersweet walk through the snowdrops this afternoon....sweet because of their utter beauty and grace, and bitter because of the cold biting wind, and that The Gardens of Easton Lodge will be closing this year after the snowdrop season (next weekend is their last) because of a lack of funds.
The Gardens are one of my favourite places to visit. You can roam freely around the acres of gardens, wander and feel the restorative powers take hold of your soul. There are plans to apply for a lottery grant, and hopes to open again in a year or two- I really hope they make it.
But back to the sweet stuff. Although it was dry today, for which I am thankful, there was not the sunshine of yesterday. In a way it seemed more fitting to see snowdrops when the air is tinged with cold though! They are so breathtaking, seeing so many of them scattered about. The pin pricks of white seem to almost dance before your eyes. Mostly, the snowdrops were gathered around the roots of trees, or scattered across the Bosquet, and here and there the clouds of white were interrupted by flashes of golden aconites.
When we found a little rocky corner, hidden out of the way, we also discerned the smudgy purple of some crocuses that were keeping the snowdrops company. The Gardens are full of nooks and corners and hidden treasures. You are rewarded at every turn for peeping around a corner, or rounding a hedge...we ran into two regal peacocks, who stood still for a photo until the very moment we pressed the button! There is a low swing hanging from a giant tree, which swoops you across the grass in long lazy arcs; a ruined pavillion that would be such a romantic place to get married, adorned with candles. Ivy seems to creep over everything, especially the sunken Italian pool, which was sadly roped off as it is now too dangerous to walk in. It features a lily pond, and you can just imagine society ladies in the roaring twenties running to splash about in it. Somehow I Capture The Castle, and the Mitford Sisters came to mind!
We took a picnic of sausage rolls, apples, and homemade raspberry oat crumbly bars, along with a flask of coffee. The air is so clean (poor Carl remarked how very different the air is in London, and I felt sorry for him going to work there every day amongst all the smog) that it gives you a real appetite!
When we got back home, I made up a recipe for slow cooked venison, which even now is simmering away in the slow cooker. We have a friend coming for tea tomorrow night, who has never had venison before, so I decided a rich, winey stew with dumplings would be perfect February evening fare!
1) Tie on an apron, and put on The Puppini Sisters Panic, and Heart of Glass
2) Soften two chopped onions in a little oil, then put in the slow cooker.
3) Dust 500g diced venison in a little plain flour, then brown in a little oil, and add to the slow cooker.
4) Cut 3 or 4 medium carrots into thick coins, then add to the slow cooker, along with some green beans, snipped into short pieces.
5) Mix 500ml red wine with 500ml beef stock and stir into the slow cooker.
6) Sprinkle with dried herbs, put on the lid, and leave to cook.
Now I would have thought that 6 hours on high would have done it, but the carrots were still quite al dente when I checked just now (try to refrain from checking too often, as it lowers the temperature and means you have to extend the cooking time!). So I shall leave it a bit longer...it is also quite watery still, and winey, but that is ok, because I plan to reheat it tomorrow night, and let it bubble away for a bit, thus thickening it and evaporating some of the alcohol, before adding the dumplings.
I shall leave you with this snippet from Personifications, by Christina Rossetti who I believe is my favourite femail poet, and wishes to you all for the perfect Sunday evening.
Brother, joy to you!
I've brought some snowdrops; only just a few,
But quite enough to prove the world awake,
Cheerful and hopeful in the frosty dew
And for the pale sun's sake