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!

Bookshop dates

I truly believe in finding and appreciating the small things that make every day just that little bit more beautiful or happier. This can be the smell of something delicious baking in the oven, a few peaceful moments to enjoy a cup of tea in the morning, or spending some time in a bookshop packed full with more books than I could ever read. My boyfriend and I often arrange to meet in town after work, for a bookshop date. Nothing works better to cheer up an ordinary day and add a bit of magic to everyday routine.

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We are very lucky to have many delightful bookshops in Oxford, but Blackwell’s is my favourite for our bookshop dates. It first opened in 1879 and it hosts more than 125,000 books spread over four floors. Doesn’t that sound dreamy? There is really something for everyone here. I usually navigate to the modern fiction section (I love to read the little cards with staff recommendations to discover new gems), while my boyfriend tries to find a worthy follow-up to Edmund Crispin’s novels in the crime section (does anyone have any suggestions?), which is starting to seem like an impossible task. We find each other again at the poetry corner or, unsurprisingly for anyone who knows us, by the P.G. Wodehouse shelves.

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Then, we head downstairs to the Norrington room which boasts 3 miles of books! Because we are nerds, we tend to spend quite a bit of time in the maths, physics and computing section. I really like their selection of popular science books (great gifts for friends who ask me “so, what did you do your PhD in?”). No visit is complete without a browse of the travel shelves. This feeds our wanderlust and has often inspired our travels.

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I am usually not able to resist the lovely and quirky stationery bits and bobs. Inevitably, Alice in Wonderland notecards or a new notebook with a floral cover will find their way into my purchases. I love the feeling I get when I leave the bookshop with my new books. I think it’s the potential that they’ll introduce me to new worlds, new ideas, and new favourite people (fictional or otherwise) that does it. Buying books is up there with buying new shoes on the happiness scale, I reckon.


‘When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.’
— Desiderius Erasmus


These bookshop dates really do put a smile on my face and they are such a lovely activity. There’s always a book that will spark a memory or an idea and lead to real conversation that veers away from work and little daily struggles. We end up returning home feeling optimistic (because if all else fails, at least we will be well-read) and refreshed. On a dull Tuesday this is all I can really ask for.

Summer moments

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August is here and there is an almost imperceptible change in the air. Blushing apples in the orchard, blackberries ripening on the hedgerows, busy squirrels in the garden,  a chill in the early mornings. Autumn is discreetly placing its calling cards all around us. There will still be warm and sunny days (I hope!), but autumn is waiting backstage for summer to finish its dance.

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This makes me want to hold on to summer, squeeze in all my favourite summer activities, and cherish those special summer moments.

  1. Incredibly green canopies and dappled warm light in the forest. These are moments filled with gratitude. Seeing the sunlight dance with the leaves always makes me feel that everything is as it should be.
  2. Rotund bumble bees on lavender plants. We owe the bees so much and we must do our best to save them, so it fills me with joy to see them visit our garden.
  3. Wearing my favourite summer dresses that come out year after year. And on a related note, dresses with pockets! Like revisiting old friends.
  4. Cats napping in the shady parts of the garden. I love observing the habits and rhythms of the neighbourhood cats. On hot and stuffy days it seemed snoozing and stretching were the most important things. I think I’d really like that too!
  5. Warm evening walks around the neighbourhood. No need to take a jumper! There’s always something pretty growing in a neighbour’s garden, a wandering cat to be stroked, a sparrow singing from a tree branch.
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  7. Everything about elderflower. Foraging, making cordial, and then enjoying a refreshing drink. I picked some elderflower in June and made a few bottles of cordial. It’s such a refreshing drink, to me it’s the essence of summer.
  8. Long, yellow grass moving in the breeze. I always think nothing can compare to the spring wildflowers but I must admit that there is magic in the air when the meadows put on their golden summer robes.
  9. Thunderstorms. We were out for a short walk the other day when, as if out of nowhere, dark clouds gathered and it was like someone turned off the light. Running for cover when those first, fat drops started to fall, thunder roaring up ahead, I could help but laugh. I felt very alive in that moment and I guess, happy too.

I’d love it if you’d share some of your favourite summer moments and activities with me.

Raindrops on roses etc

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Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…

When July turns grey and wet, the best thing to do is wait for a break in the rain and then run out in the garden in your pyjamas to take pictures. Right?

I snapped these pictures in about 5 minutes and then had to run back inside when the rain started again. Maria Von Trapp may have sang about raindrops on roses but I think raindrops on delicate, colourful petals of any kind are a very special thing indeed.

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raindrops on roses

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.