Oxford Botanic Garden – Part 2: The Walled Garden and Lower Garden

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Part 1 of this post, with pictures from the Glasshouses, is here.

Once I have my fill of exotic climates and strange plants in the glasshouses, I like to wander around the various botanical family beds. I find that there is always something of interest blooming, no matter the time of year. This is where ‘Tolkien’s tree’, that great and beloved black pine stood for 200 years. The Walled Garden also has the 17th century section which hosts the same varieties that were found in the Botanic Garden when it first was founded.

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Dotted around the garden are many wooden benches, perfect for a little rest. I can’t think of many more idyllic spots to sit and read a good book.

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The Herbaceous Border (top picture) is pretty much the ultimate cottage garden inspiration. Don’t you just love how rambling and romantic it is?  On my visit last week, the Japanese anemones really stood out to me as they basked in the sunshine.

I try to look up every now and then because the garden offers some classic Oxford views. Magdalen Tower can be seen from among the Botanical Family Beds, while the Merton College Chapel tower makes the perfect backdrop for the Lower Garden. I think that colourful plants and beautiful medieval buildings make a perfect combination!

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The Walled and Lower gardens offer so much to delight, fascinate and inspire. I made many mental notes for my future/dream garden, just like every other time I’ve visited the Botanic Garden. It was also a great treat to spend some time reading in this peaceful place.

Part 3, with pictures of the Merton Borders (possibly my favourite part of the garden), will be coming next week. I hope you are enjoying this series!

Oxford Botanic Garden – Part 1: The glasshouses

Soft light at the Palm house Oxford Botanic Garden.

The Oxford Botanic Garden is a very special place in the heart of the city. At almost 400 years old, the garden is a lovely, peaceful spot, and it’s filled with beauty and wonder. I love going to the gardens, for a quick lunchtime stroll or for a longer, more leisurely visit. Last week, I planned a “me-day” and filled it with only good things. So I took a book (Making it Up as I Go Along by Marian Keyes) and my camera (along with my new Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens) and spent a blissful few hours there.

I tend to visit the glasshouses first. (On a winter’s day, it’s nice to warm up a little bit and feel the blood return to my fingers and toes.) They are such a brilliant portal to other lands. I start at the Conservatory which reminds me of my grandma’s garden, I head to the tropics in the Palm House, and finally I visit the desert in the Arid House. I can travel the world in the space of a few minutes!

The Conservatory at the Oxford Botanic Garden.
The Conservatory at the Oxford Botanic Garden.


“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.”

— Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden


Plump Seville oranges at the Oxford Botanic Garden.

There were so many highlights on this visit… Looking up and seeing plump Seville oranges hanging above my head. Oh I could almost taste the delicious, sticky marmalade they would make! Checking for fairies among the giant lily pads in the Lily House because you just never know. Getting up close and personal with the spiky residents of the Arid House.

Checking for fairies among the lily pads at the Oxford Botanic Garden.
Spiky residents of the Arid House at the Oxford Botanic Garden.

Come back on Friday for Part 2 of my visit to the Oxford Botanic Garden, with lots of pictures from the flower beds.

Sidenote: What do you think of these pictures? This was my first proper outing with my new lens and it was quite challenging. I found it forced me to change the way I look at the world and how I take pictures. It was frustrating and fun!

The north Norfolk coast

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Last month my boyfriend and I spent a few days on the north Norfolk coast. It was very much “our kind of holiday”. We stayed at a charming B&B in a small coastal village, in an area with many footpaths along the seaside cliffs and further inland too. We walked 10 miles a day on average and we had delicious fresh crab (and of course, ice cream) every day.

During our stay we wandered around tiny villages, nestled between the hills and the sea cliffs and also visited charming Victorian seaside resorts. The grand facades along the shore, the wholesome entertainment on the piers, the candy-coloured beach huts, the stands selling freshly-caught sea food… Everything had an air of old-fashioned, innocent fun.

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My favourite part of the holiday were the early morning walks along the beach. Every day the sunshine crept in our room through our east-facing window and I found it easy to get up, grab my camera and get out early. The beach was peaceful and quiet, apart from the odd puppy enjoying their walk with their human, I had it all to myself.

I walked along the shore, breathing in the sea air, listening to the waves and soaking up the warm sunshine. The falling tide left the sand behind it looking like a mirror, reflecting the blue sky and the fluffy white clouds. The cliffs reflected the sunlight which gave everything a warm glow. It was a perfect spot for treasure-hunting too; I found sea shells of all shapes and sizes to fill my pockets. On the horizon I could see the faint outline of the pier at the next town along. It felt like a kind of walking meditation and it was definitely soul-restoring. Oh, if only I could start my every day this way!

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Norfolk left us feeling charmed; it’s not a hip or particularly modern place, but it was the perfect quiet holiday for us.

A weekend in the New Forest

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A few weeks ago we discovered a magical land.

A picture perfect cottage surrounded by fields, pastures, and woods. There were chickens in the garden, cats snoozing on armchairs, and a dog who demanded belly rubs every day. We woke up every morning to the rooster’s crow, and from the window I could see the horse in the stable across the garden impatiently waiting for his breakfast.

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Autumn in the New Forest

We walked miles and miles in foggy woodland. The autumnal colours and the fog made the forest feel enchanted. A stag crossed our path. We stood still; there was something very regal about his posture as he inspected us from a distance. As if we could ever get close to him. He only stopped for a few seconds, a minute at most, and then just like that he leaped and disappeared through the ferns.

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New Forest pony

Then we saw the ponies. I had heard that they were freely roaming the New Forest but I don’t think I really believed it. Truly, wild horses were wandering this beautiful countryside. They were so serene and completely disinterested in us; we just stared and marvelled at their grace and beauty. It felt like a very special privilege to see these creatures.

Meeting some New Forest donkeys.

The New Forest donkeys, with their long eyelashes and big ears, captured my heart. I made friends with one of them. She let me stroke her soft-like-velvet ears for a while.

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We returned home dazed, completely charmed, and already dreaming of our return to this fairyland.

Have you been to the New Forest?
I also made a short little film of our time there, have a look here if you’d like to see.

What a summer!

What a summer it was! It had highs, it had lows, it had travel and adventure, and it was packed full of new experiences. This summer I’ve found myself in lavender fields, tents, and wildflower meadows, on mountain peaks, boats, climbing walls, and planes. As the weather turns cooler and the nights draw in I thought I’d look back at the last few months and make a note of this summer’s biggest moments.

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Summer began cautiously, with a blast of lukewarm sunshine here and there. I was training for my first ever 10K race and I didn’t let weather stop me. I relished my very early morning runs in the countryside, just me and the ducks, the rabbits, and the cows. Since the race, my dedication to running has diminished slightly, and I miss that sense of achievement I got from every mile I logged. Now that I’m settling into my autumn routine I’m hoping to get back into running a few times a week.

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At the end of June things took a very bad turn. I wrote down some thoughts on the sadness, uncertainty and xenophobia after the EU referendum a couple of months ago. I still end up yelling at the tv often when I watch the news as this awfulness unfolds but I trying to focus on the positive and the hopeful.

In what was possibly the best way to mend our broken hearts and cheer ourselves up, my boyfriend and I spent a fantastic week in northern Italy.  We split our time there between the Italian Alps, where we walked and walked and walked in countryside straight out of The Sound of Music, and the magnificent lake Garda, where we explored the prettiest and most colourful little towns and villages, and ate our weight in gelato. It was a truly wonderful holiday!

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After getting back from Italy, I gave myself a little project to help with the post-holiday blues. I would make this summer one for fearlessness, for adventure, for new things. This turned out to be a most excellent idea. Because of this new resolution I finally tried rock climbing which I loved and I am still obsessed with. Armed with this new mindset I dipped my toe in Youtube film making and I’ve really been enjoying it. Have you seen my Capsule Wardrobe videos?

I also tried being more spontaneous and said “Yes!” to a very last minute weekend getaway to “the other place”. Exploring Cambridge was great, and even though I was determined to find it lacking compared to Oxford, I came back completely charmed by it.

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At the end of August, we went to The Big Feastival, a magical food and music festival on Alex James’ farm in the Cotswolds, for the third year in a row, except this time we camped there instead of coming home every night. Another first for me! I was a tad worried about this. After all, I’m relatively easy going but I do enjoy a spotless bathroom, hot showers, and fluffy pillows. In this case, I knew that the Feastival is always a super-fun weekend and suspected that camping in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside for three nights would make it even better. So I embraced my inner hippie – who knew I even had one? -and I loved it! That last weekend of August was definitely one of the highlights of my year.

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What a summer - Feastival 1

Not ready to let go of sunshine and warmth, I planned a late-summer visit back home. It was perfect! My boyfriend and I visited with friends and family and enjoyed everything my tiny Mediterranean homeland has to offer. We walked in tiny medieval alleyways, explored quaint shops and found respite from the heat in traditional cafes with fresh lemonade and pastries. We hiked trails in the pine forest and took in magnificent views from the highest peaks. We swam in turquoise waters and found shells in white sand beaches. It was a very fitting end to an amazing summer.

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