Just as you catch yourself thinking that it is far too warm for bonfire night, the autumn hits with a vengeance. We haven't been able to get to the allotment for a fortnight now - the sunny days of late are a distant memory as snow, wind, rain and frost takes hold.
What do gardeners do in winter? What can you do once the long dark evenings put a stop to weekday gardening? Well, in some ways, a rest period is welcome. The grass and weeds slow down, the frosts kill back tender plants. Only the hardiest and most self sufficient plants survive the winter, and they can all seem to look after themselves. Most of your annual beds are cleared and ready for next year (or a green manure?), and thoughts turn to seed catalogues and inspirations for next year.
So we went to the Cotswolds for a weekend to visit Westonbirt Arboretum on a 'garden lover's break'. A weekend of autumn leaves, good food and log fires with a bit of ancient English history thrown in for good measure. We stayed at the Old Bell Inn in Malmesbury, in the shadow of Malmesbury Abbey, where King Athelstan was buried and the location of one of the infamous 'Crosses' of 'Banbury Cross' fame (When Eleanor of Aquitaine died, every place that her body was placed en route to London was marked with a cross).
The maple avenue at Westonbirt
The hotel was superb, with at least four separate lounges with log fires, and incredibly helpful staff.
The food was brilliant, and most definitely inspired us to do a bit of winter cooking. We came back brimming with ideas, including my usual 'open a garden centre with a cafe' dream. Maybe one day....
The pumpkin, incidentally, got a Halloween makeover, and is now the proud wearer of lip gloss and eyeliner - a mummy pumpkin, obviously.
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