Tag Archives: garden centre

The Scone Chronicles XXVI

When I started this series I honestly thought we could do one a week. Even with duplicates it’s been about half that. Still, not everything goes to plan. Next year I will do better.

This morning we went to McDonald’s, did some errands then, as I said, went to the garden centre. The centre in question is Brookfields, our local centre. When we first started going it was a modest gravel car park and some large greenhouses. Now it’s a monster of a place with car parks and overspill car parks and fish and pets and a massive gift section. There are still plants and there’s a small seed and tool section, but it’s mostly a gargantuan gift emporium with lots of glitz and very little soul.

The vastly expanded cafe section is now known as Arthur’s Eatery, because stupid twee names seem to be the in thing, though it’s still recognisably the same old shoddy cafe, just with more seats.

Cheese scone Brookfields Garden Centre

Cheese scone Brookfields Garden Centre

I went to find a table while Julia went for tea and cake. I found one, cleared it myself, as the staff weren’t keeping up, sat down and looked at a dirty, creased and faded label on the table, wondering why any reputable food establishment with pretentions of cleanliness would allow such a thing on the table. Turns out it was a sticker saying the table was reserved for dogs owners, so I moved. I suppose that when you think of the number of germs spread by the average dog, a species known for its indiscriminate licking habits, the dirt on the sticker is insignificant.

The next table needed clearing too, and was covered in crumbs, brown lumps and cup rings. I decided to move to a cleaner table. Cleaner, but not clean. It was sticky, which always makes me think they are being wiped down badly. This, in turn, always makes me wonder what else is being done badly.

 

When Julia found me she had a cheese scone for herself and a plate of mini scones for me. The three mini scones were cheese, which was nice, mince pie flavour, which tasted of Christmas spice, and Chocolate and Orange, which explained the brown sticky lumps on the previous table.

DSC_2052

Three mini-scones Brookfields Garden Centre

It was pleasant enough and at £8 was more reasonably priced than it used to be – price being one of the reasons we stopped using it. However, there was nothing there to justify a return visit any time soon.

I thought the cup of tea provided was a bit small, and didn’t really need the free biscuit.

Cheese scones were full of flavour, the others were less successful, particularly the orange and chocolate one. I don’t honestly see the need for novelty scones.

 

DSC_2054

Three mini-scones Brookfields Garden Centre

Staff and cleanliness could both be improved.

 

Scone Chronicles XII

When I was looking for the cactus photographs I used in the first post of the day (this is the 3rd!) I found some photographs I’d forgotten about.

We went to Springfields while we were off for the week. While we were there we bought turmeric capsules, criticised the bookshop stock and looked in the craft shop (well, one of us did, the other sat and watched the ducks in the water feature).

While Julia was looking at other stuff, I sat in the cafe and waited. Patiently. It’s a skill I have developed over 30 years of marriage. It’s a lot like sleeping with your eyes open. Or sleeping with your eyes open and nodding your head in time with the conversation. All useful skills for a married man.

Anyway, when Julia returned she get us scones and tea from the counter.

They were surprisingly good. We tested the fruit scone and the cheese scone – both had good open texture and good flavour. They were well up with the top scones, though the shape of the fruit scone was ather alarming. That is, partly, what happens when you twist the cutter when you cut the scone out.

This is part of the same group that made me the worst fish and chips ever, so I was surprised.

Unfortunately, there was food trapped under the glass top of the table, so there is still oom for improvement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trapped food – lovely!

Now I remember I was going to do the write-up about Brierlow Bar

The Scone Chronicles – Number 3

On the way to Peterborough we stopped off at the Barn Garden Centre.

I’ve been there with my sister before, and they are famous for the quality of their scones. They aren’t so famous for the quality of their garden centre, but we’ll ignore that for now.

After a cream tea, and a scone with jam, in previous reviews it was a toss up between a cherry scone or a cheese scone this time, and we decided on cheese. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

Good tea, pots that pour properly and nice light scones with good cheese flavour – a bit of a bite but not overpowering. The only thing that could have made it better was for a robin to hop along the floor picking up crumbs…

Robin in the Garden Centre cafe

Robin in the Garden Centre cafe

An Expensive Mistake

This is probably the best example you could have of how out of step I feel with modern life. Apologies is you are becoming tired of my view on this subject, but I have to blog or burst.

On Monday afternoon we went to the new East Bridgford Garden Centre. A perfectly good local garden centre has been taken over, new buildings erected, a massive car park built and a slice of retail Hell has been grafted onto the Nottinghamshire countryside.

I’m sure, from the crowd of people, that it will be popular, and that it fills a need in the lives of many people. This need isn’t necessarily for plants as most people seem to have left without visible purchases. It is also providing a lot of jobs, though they are mainly, it seems, for teenagers. Older people, as in people in their thirties, don’t seem to have much of a place here.

We didn’t see any of the staff who used to work at he old centre and Max the Parrot has gone too. It appears that he went to live elsewhere during the building work and liked it so much that he decided to stay.

A likely story. I think he was handed his P45 as part of the move from Garden Centre to slick corporate retail outlet.

Anyway, back to the fish and chips. They were a familiar and, we thought, safe, choice in a rather confusing cafe.

They gave us a “locator” for the table – a high tech version of a number on a stick. The tea arrived, just ahead of the meal. My thoughts were that the tea could have been a bit quicker and the main meal was available quicker than I was expecting.

The staff were quick, efficient and cheerful and the locator seemed to work well.

And that was as good as it got.

The fish portion was small. The chips were large, though not numerous. The tartare sauce came in a cheap paper cup, the watercress garnish was a bit of an afterthought. And the peas…

For £10.95 you expect a goodly dollop. What we got was a smear. Julia’s photograph exaggerates the size of the portion. I wasn’t sure whether it was the promised pea and mint puree or just a leftover from a poor attempt at washing up.

Fish and Chips East Bridgford

Undoubtedly the worst fish I’ve had for years

The good news was that the sauce was tangy, the caramelised lemon was juicy, the chips were well cooked and the pea and mint puree was delicious, even if it was brief.

Bad news – the fish was the worst I’d had in thirty years.

It was small, thin and had a pasty consistency with only a few discernible flakes. Mainly it was tasteless, and in parts was so bland as to be unpleasant, which probably explained why there was salt on the plate when the meal arrived – an attempt to introduce flavour.

It took me back to market day in Uttoxeter thirty years ago. I had fish and chips in a cafe – the fish was thin, bland and, as I got to the centre, still frozen.

I really don’t know what to say. It wasn’t good value from the quantity point of view, and it was inexcusably poor from the quality point of view.

Surroundings were clean and bright, staff were great but the food is the important bit, and it was dreadful.

It’s very unlikely we’ll be going back.

 

Skies and Disappointments

Last night I took No2 son to work. It was just after 10pm and the sky was a fantastic shade of saffron. As usual, I didn’t have the camera with me, though it wouldn’t have helped much – all the best views were from roadworks and dual carriageways where I couldn’t have stopped anyway.

This morning, at around 4am, on the way to the bathroom, I noticed the sunrise was similarly colourful. This time I did have access to the camera and I didn’t need a parking place. I did, however, manage to ignore these advantages and went back to sleep. That’s why I’m using the pictures fron last Wednesday.

I’m not cut out for the hurly-burly of high-level blogging. I’ll leave that to Derrick Knight and Tootlepedal – they are like blogging machines. Me, I’m more of a dormouse.

After a hard half day sorting parcels and pennies I went for a cream tea with Julia. We’re thinking of blogging about cream teas.

I’ll show you the pictures later.

Have to go now- Julia says it’s time for me to cook.

Derrick and TP don’t have this problem…

Poppies in Autumn

First we went to Aldi, because they had been advertising they would have craft supplies in this week. To Julia craft supplies are like cat nip to cats.

Then we went to the garden centre in search of rooting powder. This was hard because, over the years, the gardening supplies have been forced out by the gift shop and are now hidden like a shameful secret.

The salvage yard has always seemed to stock too many duplicates. If I was a cynic I would be tempted to suggest this is because most of the stuff is modern and made in China – not salvaged or reclaimed. I have nothing against the stuff, or any of the other repro gear, because it adds a touch of elegance to the garden, but it should be made clear.

It often crops up on programmes like Bargain Hunt where the experts don’t seem to recognise it and have to wait for the auctioneer to tell them. I suspect that they are really just being nice to the contestants and stall holders by not mentioning it, because when the Chinese make repro they make lots of it and it gets all over the trade.

They once brought a shipment of repro vases in to the Newark Antique Fair – everyone had them and they were around £15 each. Cheerful, decorative and cheap.

We went to Wales that weekend and there was one in a shop window. It had travelled 250 miles, aged by 100 years and increased in price to £75.

When I win the lottery I want one of those big urns.

Back home two orange poppies were unfurling themselves, a Red Admiral flew off as I tried to focus and the spider still lurks.

The shield bug on the fatsia japonica obliged by posing. Shield bugs are very good like that.

 

Spiders, Shopping and Dead Butterflies

A couple of days ago I noticed something fluttering in the front garden, It turned out to be the remains of a Small Tortoiseshell, enangled in a sider’s web. It was past help, but I thought I’d take a few pictures. If I ever need a picture of a dead butterfly with a spider I now have one in stock.

It was quite a cunning plan on behalf of the spider, stringing a web between the Red Valerian flowers and lying in wait for a passing pollinator. I imagine that it wou;d have preferred a nice juicy bee, but it got a butterfly. There must be plenty of food in a butterfly, but the wings are a bit of a waste.

I  tried to get some close-ups, but must have touched a web, as the spider made a rush for me, defending its lunch. In such a David and Goliath situation we were always going to have a non-traditional outcome. I was never going to fall over after taking a rock between the eyes. Fortunately the spider didn’t push its luck and, after a sneer, it went back to eating.

Moving forward to Bank Holiday Monday,  we went to the garden centre so that Julia could buy more plants. We always seem to be buying new plants. After the first half of the trip I hobbled back to the car, making much use of my walking stick, and allowed her to enjoy the centre without me holding her back. I am so noble.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with me, apart from laziness and the inability to put up with heat. I’m just a very bad husband. However, I was able to sit in a car in the shade and enjoy the breeze instead of sweating round a variety of converted polytunnels masquerading as a shop. I feel a little deception was good for my health.

Whether or not it remains good for my health if Julia reads this, we will have to see.

As I sat in the car I took a few photos. There wasn’t much to photograph, but when in doubt take a picture of things that look like a pattern. That’s why I took the pots and compost bags.  They aren’t good photos, but they look like they could be. The one with the pots would have been better if they’d been stacked on the level. Or if I’d noticed they were sloping when I took the photo.

 

It was nice day, even if it was too hot for me, and even better when we were able to drive round with the air-conditioning on.

At least we weren’t disappointed by this garden centre.

Garden Centres, Disappointment and a Widow

We  went to two garden centres this morning. The first one was disappointing, with a closed cafe and a definite lack of things worth buying. The second was equally poor, despite promises of 50% off. At least the cafe was open, even if they did serve the cheese toasties with salad on a breadboard. Not even a traditional British breadboard either, but a modern pressed bamboo monstrosity.

Both of them seem to be plagued by thieves, judging from the notices stuck up around the centres. Hampson’s in Wakefield have gone as far as to install a security shed and employ two people to write signs telling you that “Your on TV” (sic), or in the case of the second person “You’re on TV”. I’ve never had the opportunity to write (sic) before; blogging is really expanding my horizons.

P8232089.JPG

Security shed ay the Garden Centre

The garden centre at Ackworth takes a different approach, having a sign up to ask customers to report each other if they see them stealing.

So there we were, with hardly an item purchased, nothing of interest seen and not much of a back-up plan. At that point we found the Ackworth memorial to local quarrymen. I’ve driven through the village dozens of times before Number Two son’s enforced retirement from Rugby League and never knew it existed.

It lists 15 men of the area who died between 1878 and 1935.

I had a quick look for John Desborough on the internet – it’s a reasonably uncommon name and it produces several results. Born in Lincolnshire in 1843, spent some time in Holbeach Workhouse with two brothers and a sister. He was an agricultural labourer until 1876, when he married in Ackworth, worked as a quarryman and had five children before being killied in a quarry accident on 17th  May 1889.

His wife Susanah did not remarry, and his three sons all went to work as quarrymen. Susannah died in 1916, and is buried in St Cuthberts churchyard.

Tough times, and an interesting memorial.

 

Memoirs of a Book-Buying Man

I was a bit sluggish this morning, and ended up watching Saturday Kitchen. It featured the most over-the-top recipe I recall seeing. It was presented by John Torode this morning. I’ve no doubt he’s a good chef, but he’s not in my list of top presenters. Looking on the bright side, at least he didn’t have Greg Wallace with him. I still haven’t forgiven Wallace for the vegeburger recipe in this book. The book is a bit of a fraud really – it’s a spin-off from his series and it has his picture on the cover but it’s actually written by someone else.

Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man arrived this morning and I made a start. It’s easy reading and fifty pages soon slid by. It’s about 15 years since I last read it and I’m looking forwards to it. Fortunately Julia was out when it arrived.

After that I took a trip to the garden centre with one of the neighbours to help her pick up eight growbags and a bag of farmyard manure. It was a lovely day, and nice to be out in the open air, though it’s frustrating to see the lack of seeds and tools in what is essentially a massive garden-themed gift shop. It seems to be the way of things these days.

Fortunately I didn’t need any seeds or tools today so I just poked about in the plants and looked some Swedish Fire Logs. I’ve never seen them before though they have been around since Swedish troops used them in the Thirty Years War. That’s about 400 years ago. It seems unlikely they just thought of it then, I suspect that they knew about it way before that, but the image of soldiers camping in the snow with cloaks and plumed hats is probably more commercial than the thought of a smelly woodcutter hunched round a burning log.

After that I struggled round Sainsbury’s shopping for the evening. It didn’t quite go according to plan because there’s a group of House Sparrows in the corner of the car park. It’s very restful watching sparrows dust bathing.

The second unplanned aspect was the slipping of my leg bag as I walked round the shop becoming gradually more and more uncomfortable. Finally I had to make a temporary adjustment in the car park. It provided some relief, and restored my capacity to walk, but it could have led to all sorts of unfortunate consequences if I’d been observed.

That’s about it for now.  Time for more George Sherston.

 

 

Escape to Derbyshire (Part 1)

As I was sorting laundry this morning (another day off – we really are spoiling ourselves) we had a postal delivery for Number Two son.

“Why don’t we nip up to Sheffield and give it to him.” I suggested. (Having already suggested Stoke on Trent, which is usually a winner, and Bakewell as days out, I was becoming desperate at the thought of another day of housework).

It worked, and Julia texted him to arrange it. After waiting for a reply and wondering what would happen if she rang him in the middle of a lecture, she finally rang him. Me? Well, to be honest, at 10.15, I didn’t think there was much chance of catching him in the middle of a lecture.

I was right. What actually happened was that we woke him up.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, we popped up to Sheffield, got caught in traffic,  dropped off the letter, took him to lunch at KFC, lectured him on the importance of eating properly (yes, I know…) and did various parent things.

I also took a photo of one of the gardens in his street. The one with Virginia creeper growing up the telegraph pole was quite impressive but the one with the beans was more interesting.

 

The garden next door to the beans had a fine display of fuchsias, which was a coincidence as we’d been eating fuchsia berries from our garden this morning. I’ve eaten fuchsia berries before and not been impressed but these are supposed to be juicy and delicious. To be fair, it’s been a poor year, and they aren’t in a great position, but they didn’t seem any different to the others I’ve tried. Interesting idea though – plenty of flowers and a claimed 300 berries per plant. It’s the one in the header picture.

After that, having cunningly secreted the postcode of the Riverside Herb Centre in my shirt pocket, I entered the details in the satnav (I’m finally moving into the 21st Century) and set off. It was a visit of mixed results, with virtually no plants available. Fortunately there is a shop selling a variety of products, including oak-smoked rapeseed oil. I’ll cover that in a later post, once I’ve decided what to do with it. I checked on the internet and the main suggestions are to use it for salad dressing. It doesn’t seem very imaginative.

We also bought black onion seed, garam masala, beeswax hand lotion and a packet of ginger creams. They will probably appear in reviews on the other blog.

After that, well that’s going to be Part 2.