Rubies in the Rain
As a boy growing up in rural Somerset, we had a family tradition of visiting Stourhead Gardens near Warminster. This was the scene of many picnics, tramps through mud and snow, and glorious summer days spent with my mum and dad and 4 brothers climbing trees, spotting birds and going wild. My parents have now been married for 40 years- their Ruby Wedding Anniversary was yesterday, and after racking their brains for something special to mark the occasion, they decided that what they really wanted more than anything else, was to gather their boys (and assorted grandchildren and wives) and meet once more at Stourhead. We came from far and wide- Matthew from Chester, Josh and his new wife Selim freshly back from an extended trip to her homeland of Ghana, David, Laura and Jacob from Bristol, Mum, Dad and Chris from Falmouth and St Ives in Cornwall and Sarah, Arthur, Sophia and I from Witney. Laura asserts, and I agree with her, that the collective noun for us should be a 'Congress of Tudgeys'. Let the Congress commence!
David and his family had taken this beautiful cottage for the night- right at the entrance to the main gardens and opposite the exquisite medieval Church of St Peter.
The weather, for now, was beautiful so we decided to picnic outside the church. The views of the temple and lake were glorious, and there was plenty of room for the dogs and children (and us boys) to run around.
Mum had been to buy provisions at the Stourhead Farm Shop so we feasted on very good sausage pie, olives, pate, olive bread, cheeses and salad washed down with a giant flask of tea.
I had brought my home-made white chocolate and pistachio topped ginger flapjacks, which are popular at Coffeesmith- they went down a storm. No occasion of any description is complete without cake in my book, so I had brought a version of my famous gluten free Raspberry & Elderflower cake which is our best seller at the shop. This version was topped with Elderflower icing and bejewelled with fresh, fat ruby red raspberries- just coming into their own at this time of year. We might not have been able to get our hands on precious stones for this most ruby of occasions, but our version went down pretty well.
After lunch we ventured into the main gardens. With over 6000 acres of grounds to explore, you can spend days in here- we took the well trodden lake path. It wasn't long before we found an old familiar highlight of our childhood trips- the 'tree slide'.
The weather was closing in on us though- the air was heavy and still and the grey storm clouds were ominously settling over this lush green valley. We took refuge in Watch Cottage, a folly in the cottage style over looking the lake. The children soon discovered that the best game was shutting themselves in a small cupboard- so much so that when the caretaker came to lock up, we overheard some other children saying 'Can we just have a go in the cupboard before we leave?'!
We pushed on through the rain until we could go no further without being soaked to the skin and we stopped off at the Temple. We managed to amuse ourselves here though and watch the magnificent show of force being put on by the weather.
On we went though through the rain and then for a very welcome cuppa back at the cottage. It was fantastic to share these memories with my parents and brothers and make new memories for us all with our wives and children. I loved seeing Arthur slide down that tree as we used to as boys. A reminder that life continues, no matter what she throws at you.
Have a good week,