Stockton on Tees ~ July 2018~ The Butterfly House

A little break from history and people. Stockton -on- Tees, not a name to conjure up images of steamy jungles or cocktails on the river boat. But Sophie and I know Stockton has an amazing huge glass building full of exotic blooms, plants and butterflies we just don’t see over here in the outside world. The chap who started it collected them from all over the world, and now they just perpetuate in Stockton, their ancestry is diverse, but these are many generations on so have British passports. 😀 😀

No funny captions, just some pretties to look at, so have a cuppa tea, (wine/whisky/etc) de-stress (Pete, Gary 😀 )and join me in tropical Stockton.












there, don’t you feel all lovely now? I always feel uplifted just looking at and thinking about the beauty of nature so I hope you did too. All are embiggenable with a little click.

stay tooned for a few more later on in the week.



Cheeseburn Sculpture Gardens~June 2018

Sophie and I decided to take photographs at Cheeseburn Grange, where they have open weekends a few times a year and the public can come along and wander the beautiful grounds and see the sculptures therein.  I told Clare over at The Mermaids Purse I was going and she asked me to write a report for her blog, “of course!” I blithely replied and she published it a little while ago. I’m rehashing it a bit for my own blog and posting it in the chronological order in the time-space continuum herein. 🙂

I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to sculpture and I told Sophie that I was going to write this review for Clare so had to try and work out what the artist is thinking or telling us. “It doesn’t matter what the artist feels,” she said, “it’s what we feel when we see it that matters”, Sophie is a Professor of Psychology so I’m going with that!

Firstly, if I WAS an artist/sculptor, Cheeseburn Grange would be where I’d want my pieces to be plonked. Owned by the Riddle family since 1752, back in the 1200’s it was a farm belonging to an Augustinian priory and has been remodeled several times to date.

That has a big electric bill I bet.

Secondly, the reason we went in the first place, was to see an exhibition by Chinese artist Qi Yafeng, who, according to the website was installing big shiny sculptures, and that’s like a red rag to a bull for Sophie and me, a historic house AND photography reflections!!  So, we were not expecting the diversity and scope of the sculptures that were on site. 34 artists and 59 sculptures in all.

Before we set off around the grounds, we visited the chapel of St. Francis Xavier, designed by John Dobson and built in 1820. Here we saw an old piece of art, The Descent of Our Saviour from the Cross”, painted in 1824 by the Flemish artist J.S. Verillin.  It is a copy of the central panel of Rubens’ triptych which lies in Antwerp Cathedral.  Old school I know, but I do so love oil paintings, especially the old Masters, and seeing how the artist works the light and shade into the colours.

Opposite was our first ‘new’ ish art, a piece called Earl Grey by Simon Watkinson 

Made in 2004 with 3D scanning and CNC cutting and in response to when Earl Grey’s head was knocked off his statue by lightning in 1942. (Sorry Earl, I laughed :/ )The heads seek to remind people of the face of the man stood at the top of the monument in Newcastle City Centre.

Heads Up.. or down.

After the chapel, we set off on our walk around the grounds. It was an achingly beautiful day, with a cloudless azure sky and it felt like we were on a treasure hunt as we followed the map we’d been given on arrival, discovering beauty, interesting objects, thought-provoking sculpts and bonkers pieces.

Andrew Burtons  ‘Vessels’ series, maybe because my second hobby is mosaic~ing, and these reminded me of that, but these did sing to me! I loved his little bits of colour amongst the terracotta, and the blue & black glass ‘Light Vessel” was a beacon of gorgeousness in the sunshine. I don’t know if they’re supposed to have deep meaning, I just felt happy looking at them and touching them. I’m a simple soul really.


Joseph Hillier has won lots of awards and lives locally, so I’ve seen some of his work around Newcastle and the North East without knowing who they were by. He seems to mostly work with the human form, and the ones in this exhibition are solid, whereas his past stuff has holes in it.   These are titled ‘Lure’,’Origin’ & ‘Untitled’ Unfortunately we didn’t spot the second figure hiding in the woods until we were on the way back, so had not really understood that the steel mesh sculpture was the lure to that figure. Photo’s on his website show that much better.  It wasn’t easy to understand Origin until you got around the back of the figure and saw the hexamagonathing from his bottom’s point of view.

The Lure
The Lured. (Though I think if he keeps going there’s going to be a problem with those nettles!)


The origin. (make of that what you will dear reader.)


I really liked ‘Sea Cups’ by Siobahn Igoe, the colours, and textures and how she had used the shells was beautiful.


Peter Hanmer    Is the 2017 winner of the N.E Young Sculptor of the year. This artwork was held in the potting shed, where he’d used loads of the plant pots and made lots of figures to portray ‘The Allegory of the Cave” from Plato’s ‘The Republic’.  It was quite mind~boggling, and surreal, he used the lighting  (and lack of it) really well, but not the easiest thing to photograph.


Dan Gough had a wowzer of a sculpture further on in the grounds and one for which he won the Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculpture award in 2016, called ‘Scurry’ which consists of 2000 squirrels showing the red v grey population. It’s done its job now though and you can buy the squirrels in 1,3 or 7 pairs.


That’s a start anyway, more lovely artwork to come so stay tooned.


Botanical Gardens ~ May 2018 ~ Bluebell edition

The Botanical Gardens are surrounded by native woodlands, (as opposed to tourist woodlands? ) and when we were there the woods were absolutely carpeted with millions, or at least very many, bluebells. After doing the garden, and having lunch we went to photograph them.  Might have gone a bit OTT.  🙂 So here I’m going to have a bluebell~fest if you get bored just move along 🙂






Well you get the idea:). After that, we went back to the car. Now, regular readers who read  Part 1  will know we had to hand our registration number in to the desk at the Gardens, so they could let the car park people know, and thereby prevent a nasty parking fine.  When we got back to the car guess what? A nasty parking fine stuck to my window. I was enraged dear reader!  Sophie went and found the carpark man who put the ticket on the car (I didn’t dare approach him as I had violent urges) and when she came back she told me – “He says it often happens that the Garden people don’t send the information through quickly enough.”  We would have understood that IF he hadn’t then gone on to say “I saw youse park up and head off without paying at the machine which is why I ticketed the car”!!!  So basically he hadn’t bothered to wait for information from the Gardens and ticketed us before we had a chance to get in there! I was pretty apoplectic by now.  We had to walk back to the gardens, get hold of one of the 3 staff there who were trying to deal with a long queue of people’s lunches and entry fees, get them to ring the carpark head office, and have the ticket nullified. This all took for bloody ever of course so not the best ending to our trip there.

So be warned if you are intending to visit, the Gardens own car park is very small, maybe 20 cars at a push, so the public one on the other side of the garden is where to park.  Put a BIG note on the dashboard saying you’ve gone into the gardens, so the nitwit cockwomble jobsworth leaves you alone.




Durham Botanical Gardens ~ May 2018 ~ part 2

Part 1 HERE

After we exited the hot glass house we toddled off around the grounds,


So many different blossoms and blooms everywhere



Friends…maybe not








Sculpted Birdy things


As the Gardens are part of the University Campus, on sunny days the students come here to study, or chat, or be romantic 🙂


You at the bottom there..get a room!








So that’s all for today folks, stay tooned for the Bluebell Woods just across from the Gardens.

Durham University Botanical Gardens~ May 2018

At the beginning of May, Sophie and I went off to the Botanical Gardens at Durham University.  I can’t say Durham is my favourite place to drive through (which you have to do to get to the gardens) as it’s olde worlde charm rapidly disappears when you have to navigate traffic bottlenecks on tiny roads on busy days. But we got to the gardens without too much stress and we were lucky enough to have a sunny day.  There’s a large carpark near to the back entrance and a notice in it telling visitors to the gardens that the car park is free if they give their registration number to the garden’s pay desk, which I did. It cost £4 to get into the gardens.

The gardens are set in 10 hectares (which is 25 acres, not sure about feet/meters etc 🙂 ) of mature woodlands, and was opened by Dame Margot Fonteyn for reasons unbeknownst to me in 1970. I would have gone for Alan Titchmarsh meself 😀

After we paid our entrance fee we started out surrounded by magnificent tulips, they looked glorious in the sunshine.


loved the serrated edges on these next ones


and the blobs of purple  on these


the first bit we visited was a big greenhouse thingy (called a glasshouse I believe) where they had exotic plants, cactii or cactuses (whatever) and the place was hot and humid. There was a button you could press that made a fine mist cover everything and everyone, which I pressed a couple of times soaking the family who was ahead of us while I hid behind a cheeseplant 😀  (note to self- grow up!).

prickle plants







There was also a  pond in the glass house which was full of fish.



Nice with chips 🙂


There was another pond with a huge lily pad on it, but sadly no lilies were out yet


It did have a crocodile head in it though so that was the consolation prize.

See you later…

There were some lovely orchids in the glasshouse too



Other alien


This little chap was in a glasshouse all on his own



but he had plenty to eat…

Sunday Lunch 😀

That’ll do for today, but stay tooned for when we visit the grounds and have a wander about.

all pictures can be embiggened by the flick of click 🙂


Alnwick Gardens ~ part 3 ~ flowers

Part 1 HERE.    Part 2 HERE

Of course, a garden isn’t really a garden without flowers.  At the top of the central water cascade is where they’re all at, in a walled-off courtyard.  Plenty of tulips in bloom in April of course, all gloriously coloured, such happy flowers to see after a long grey winter.


a lovely magnolia was in bloom too,


always glad to get the macro lens out.

Stay tooned folks, more to come. 🙂



Castle Eden Dene~ April 2018 ~ Part 2

Part 1 HERE

After crossing the bridge we walked steadily down towards the burn (stream) and along the way I turned my lens on the little things along the way

Alien Landscape
Alien Eggs
Alien Forest
ancient bracket fungus

But also took some of the obviously very old trees

self-propping tree

On the way we came near to a road and could see this lovely building from it

Crennelated Castle

Rowland Burdon III, a merchant banker, purchased the manor of Castle Eden in 1758, and in about 1765, with the assistance of architect William Newton, built the house which came to be known as The Castle. The house has three storeys and a seven-bay entrance front. The central three bays are canted and the whole carries a castellated parapet.  Last October it was put up for sale for £3 million, some pictures of the interior are at THIS LINK, if anyone’s interested it’s still up for grabs! 🙂

The whole of the dene was covered in wild garlic plants, I bet it smells great when they all bloom!

Garlic accompaniment

That’s the end of the tour, though there’s a full album, which can be found HERE

All photo’s can be clicked on to embiggen so you can marvel at their wondrousness 🤣

Stay tooned for our next outing, back to Beamish Museum to see WW1 themed vehicles and horses.


Fraggle Report- Castle Eden Dene- April 2018- Part 1

Last weekend Sophie and I  managed a day out at Castle Eden Dene, it stayed dry and it wasn’t too cold which was enough for us to get out and about.  Spring hadn’t quite arrived, but some flowers were popping up, and there were plenty of mosses and lichens for my new lens to have a look at.

The Dene itself is the largest, and biologically the richest, of a series of deep ravines that have been incised by streams flowing into the North Sea through the Magnesian Limestone and overlying boulder clay of coastal Durham. It is the largest area of semi-natural woodland in north-east England and, because the steep valley sides are mostly inaccessible, it has suffered relatively little from human interference. Over 450 species of plants have been recorded in the wood, many of which are typical of ancient woodlands that date back to pre-medieval times.

It didn’t really look very inviting as we set off along the path

but I put my new macro lens to good use, discovering the little things you don’t normally see when just walking on by

loving lichen

Catkins are a sure sign Spring is on the way..

Hazel Tree catkins

Goat Willow catkins have separate male and female trees. Male catkins are clad in golden stamens; female catkins are spiky and green. Both secrete nectar – key energy for bees and butterflies in early spring.

Goat willow – Salix caprea

We walked up a main pathway to start with, and to the right of us people’s gardens were on the opposite side of a big fence, but bits and bobs poked through it here and there..

variegated ivy
a plant 🙂

we turned off the main path onto a track that led through the woodlands and found our way to Gunners Pool bridge. The bridge is one of sixteen that cross the Castle Eden Burn. It was fabricated in Hartlepool in the late 19th century for the Rev. John Burdon, whose family owned Castle Eden Dene, and is thought to have been erected in June 1877.

Gunners Pool Bridge
Looking down from the bridge

It was quite vertiginious and I was glad to get to the other side

the far side of the bridge

More to come so stay tooned!




Rising Sun Country Park ~ November 2017 ~ part 1

Although Autumn was just about over, and the temperature wasn’t that great, Sophie and I decided to wrap up warm and go for a walk around the Rising Sun Country park. There’s 162 hectares of nature reserve with ponds, woodlands and extensive grasslands; a farm and Countryside Centre, so we figured there’d be enough to point our cameras at.  No history lessons today, just a gentle walk to see what Mother Nature leaves for us when summer is over.

setting off down the leafy path


our first wildlife encounter


on the blue trail




landing gear engaged


got all my ducks in a row


Autumn Falling


Donkey Duo


Red Berry Parade


Horses at Home


Until we meet again


Back to the future part III


half way round and there we’ll stop and have a rest, before continuing further afield, stay tooned 🙂




Pow Hill Nature Reserve ~ Sept 2017~ part 2

Part 1 HERE

We had to walk back the same way we came, so I decided to put the macro lens on and see what I could find,


but soon changed back to the telephoto, the water was too enticing, and other stuff was going on,

Caught in The Act 

the sheep were off to get a drink

The Great Escape


Red & Ginger


When we got back we trogged up the hill to the newly opened cafe

delicious home made soup for lunch

and a lovely view over Derwent Water

The little cabin is for hire, the people who run the cafe also run a Glamping site which has got great reviews on their facebook page, hot tubs, clear ceilings for star watching etc. Their website is HERE and you can see the different cabins and book a stay if you so desire.

after lunch Sophie and I decided to explore the woodlands behind the cafe

time to revisit the macro lens

Mellow Yellow


Liking the Lichen


Not mushroom left


and admire the views of the heather covered meadows

before making our way back to the car.

Extra lusciousness can be seen in the full album HERE

Stay tooned for our next outing, to Jarrow Hall, the Bede Museum and Medieval Village



The Swiss Gardens ~ part 3

Part 1                   Part 2

More from the garden,

my pal Helen, getting the shot

and that was

which was the ceiling to this

an Indian pagoda apparently, many in Switzerland I’m sure 🙂

Helen wanted to take me up to the lily pond, so under a little bridge

to find a ‘no entry to the public’ sign, which Helen promptly climbed over and I followed on, we didn’t get caught and it was worth the risk

That’s it for this part, stay tooned, still more bits and bobs to show.


Jordan’s Mill~ July 2017 ~Part 3

Some more photo’s of the garden at Jordans Mill, they did have some gorgeous flowers,


and also grew fruit

Not sure if these are wheat, rye or corn

black tomatoes are a thing too

after the gardens we took a walk along the banks of the River Ivel, will do that next so stay tooned!