Tag Archives | excursions

Chaumont Garden Festival

When we went to France in the summer, because we were in the Loire Valley we visited a lot of chateaux.  Unsurprisingly, after a few days of this the kids (and I) began to get chateauitis.  So we started to find ways that DH could indulge his passion for looking round them while entertaining the kids in other ways.

At Chaumont there was a brilliant garden festival in the grounds.  The kids were a bit dubious as to the entertainment value, but they soon decided it was worth it.   The grounds were divided into several different sections, like small rooms and each had been made into an original garden by a sponsor.   The Garden Festival website has a link to each garden with an English version.

The entrance to the festival interested me especially.  It had sculptures made from rusty poles.

rust sculpture

rusty sculpture

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will not be surprised to hear that I wanted to enhance it with some fabric!

They especially liked the one sponsored by the French railway company, SNCF, called Just Move It.  It had tubs and sections on bits of railway line which you could push and pull about to rearrange it to suit the way you wanted it.

garden planters on railway tracks

Another noteworthy garden had lots of planters up in the air suspended by wires:

planters up in the air on wires

And yet another made the garden look bigger using mirrors:

garden with mirrors

They also had an interesting garden where you could move various ‘screens’ to frame the flowers planted behind.  This made me think of the use of aperture cards to find interesting portions of a design which we learnt about at City & Guilds.

garden with 'frames' in front

I also liked this garden where they had painted tree trunks blue to make a very sculptural, and rather eery set of figures…

blue tree trunk figures

They marched off across this lake as well:

sculptural blue figures across lake

They had a graffiti garden, too!

fence with graffiti

A few images from France

A sweet shop in Tours.  Unfortunately for the kids, it was closed!

sweet shop window all shuttered up

I liked this pyramid shaped ‘roof’ sprouting up from the ground.  It seemed to have a staircase leading to somewhere mysterious down in the depths…

glass pyramid

These ropes were carved into the wall of a house in Tours:

ropes carved in stone

A boat on the river Loire…

boat on river Loire

I was amused by this one – it reminded me of Noah’s Ark!

Boat like Noah's ark

Our gite

I suppose I ought to put all of these snippets into context and show you where we stayed. We were north of Tours, in the region known as the Gatine near Beaumont la Ronce. We stayed in a gite –

cottage in France

Here it is – it was a converted farm building joined to a barn, part of a working farm. It was so peaceful there.

harvested wheatfield

This was the field up the lane from the gite.


I love these poppies growing wild by the sides of the fields. They were rich with wild flowers. I saw St Johns Wort and origano.

field of sunflowers

As well, of course, as the ubiquitous field of sunflowers. Ubiquitous in that region, anyway.

field of sunflowers taken on the move

I took this one from the car – I love the impressionist effect.

Some looms

I didn’t find much of textile interest while on holiday (except in terms of inspiration like the manhole covers). There was a silk factory which had a museum attached but I was told by the tourist office in Tours that it was closed all July and August. 🙁

However, I did find a few things, unexpectedly. We went to see a strange motley collection of … basically anything with moving parts, the Musee Maurice Dufresne. I think that M Dufresne couldn’t bear to leave any machines he found rusting in fields or anywhere; he had to rescue them and add them to his collection. Something had been found at the bottom of a lake. It was a huge combine harvester or something like that. Goodness knows how it got to the bottom of the lake or how he knew it was there and managed to get it out again. It was that sort of a collection.

Anyway, in amongst all this stuff were a few looms.


I don’t know much about looms or what type they are but it was lovely to see all that pile of yarn in the midst of machinery! If anyone can enlighten me, I will add the information.



I think this one made braid, or ribbon.

machine for winding bobbins?

Is this a machine for winding shuttles? or warping or something? (can’t you tell I don’t know ANYTHING about weaving?! Still, I do find these kinds of things interesting and I would love to learn, so please enlighten me!)

All these looms were a drop in the ocean in the huge barn-like buildings in which they were stored. I found some sewing machines high up on a shelf later on and I felt so sorry that they were stuck up there so unappreciated.  I wanted to take them all home with me!
old sewing machine

In amongst all these were cars, farm machinery, a London bus(!) and even a guillotine which had travelled around during the French Revolution – it was mounted on a cart. Bikes, printing machines, you name it, it was there. Amazing.

Ashton Court Balloon Fiesta

Yesterday, we took DS1 and 2 to their ‘camp’ (actually in a boarding school) where they will be doing their favourite activity, messing around with computers, for the next week.  On the way back, we went to Bristol Balloon Fiesta.  This is an annual balloon festival which has about 100 balloons all going up one after another. 

colourful hot air balloons

Here are some waiting to go up.

lots of hot air balloons up in the sky

Lots of them (spot the IKEA one!).  There were only a few novelty shaped balloons this year.

monster balloon

Here’s one of them.

bird balloon

Is this a kiwi?

Scotsman balloon

They played bagpipe music over the loudspeakers when this one went up.

All in all, a fun evening – and it is SO quiet at home!  DS3 goes tomorrow and then I’m off to the Festival of Quilts on Monday so this may be the last entry for a week or so.  Then there MIGHT even be some quilts on this blog – don’t faint!!

Manhole covers and garlic!

We stayed near Tours while we were on holiday and while DH looked at the old houses I spotted some manhole covers.

manhole cover

manhole cover

manhole cover

I like this wavy design.

But the best by far was this one which we saw in the old town in Le Mans.

manhole cover in Le Mans

Truly a king among manhole covers.

My kids thought I was mad.  Taking photographs of manhole covers and garlic! 

On the Thursday there was a garlic and basil fair/market.  I had never seen so much garlic and basil in one place!

market stall with strings of garlic

garlic, garlic and more garlic!

There was white garlic, purple garlic and pink garlic.  With some onions and shallots thrown in for good measure.

pots of basil

These are all pots of basil.

green and purple basil

Not just green, but purple as well.

I like French markets.

another garlic stall

Visit to Stoke

We went up to see my parents in Stoke-on-Trent just after Christmas.  We arrived a bit early, so we went to the Gladstone Pottery Museum.  Well, we tried to, but it was closed. 

Here are its old potbanks – these used to be all over Stoke but now most of them have been demolished now that most pottery is made overseas. 

potbanks of Gladstone Pottery Museum

We went to the canal instead.

canal with barge moored alongside bank

There are lots of interesting canal signpost/sculptures along here.

signpost by canal

signpost by canal

There was an old railway line crossing the canal here, which is now a footpath.

I love these trees and the shapes they make, especially the negative shapes between the branches.

trees with bare winter branches

The ducks were enjoying themselves.

ducks swimming on canal

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