Two great places to discover!

This month I will be discussing another couple of interesting, cultural places in Portugal: the town of Miranda do Corvo and Juromenha Castle.

Miranda do Corvo

Miranda do Corvo, or Miranda for short is a historic town located in central Portugal. The town has some modern developments, yet it still keeps much of its history. The town hall and square have a distinctly old Portuguese colonial style, which really reminded me of old buildings in south america which have taken their style from Portugal and Spain. One of the highlights of the town was seeing a statue of Jesus that had a likeness to the Cristo Redento (Christ the Redeemer) statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil which is famous the world over. The statue seems to be scaled down from the Brazilian one, yet it still can be seen overlooking the town and shows the influences which art deco style has had on both sides of the Atlantic. Walking up to the statue is interesting as there are many tiles in the wall that tell the story of Jesus, showing the biblical story as you walk up. The statue itself is located near a church and cemetery which still is in use to this day, highlighting the importance of these traditions to the people of Miranda. Another highlight is the yearly carnival that takes place in which the people celebrate the history of the town. I was lucky enough to be there when it was on and is quite a spectacle to see!

Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Jesus Statue, Miranda do Corvo
Jesus Statue, Miranda do Corvo, Portugal

Jourmenha Castle

Jourmenha Castle is situated next to the Guadiana River, which borders Spain. The site has a very rich history that spans almost two thousand years. The original walls are Roman in origin, showing how the Romans influenced this area. The castle was of key strategic importance as it overlooks Spain and the town of Jourmenha itself. The town was for a long time inhabited by the moors, these being the muslim settlers who came originally from north Africa. This was then taken over by the Portuguese in 1167 then in 1191 the moors took the town back until Portugal re took the town in 1242 with who it has remained with ever since. The castle was rebuilt with the latest defensive design in the 17th Century. By the 20th Century the castle was considered of historical significance and had great restoration work between 1950 and 1996. The site is a great place to visit and is especially interesting to see where different cultures influenced the site so is well worth a look if you are nearby!

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Approach to Jourmenha Castle

‘Gardens’ as a Voyage into Nature

Sometimes the natural world can give gardening a run for it’s money. From lakes to woods and even fields of wild flowers all can be man made and yet all can be found in nature.

An unusual but very special place that springs to mind are the fields over the Guadiana River across from Juromenha Castle.

Juromenha Castle

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The Entrance to Juromenha

Juromenha Castle in Juromenha (South Eastern Portugal) is an old abandoned castle that overlooks the Guadiana River and the border with Spain. The castle itself is impressive with large imposing walls and an iconic bell tower. However it’s the views across the river that steals the show.

Over the river the farm fields of Spain make for a breath taking sight with golden fields and rolling hills. It is perhaps a fine example of the imitation of nature albeit accidental that for centuries gardeners and garden designers have fervently pursued.

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View across the Guadiana River

The location is rather quiet and considered part of the rural tourism of Portugal. As the site is rich in history and has stunning views it is well worth a visit if you are travelling in and around the area.

Discovering Tatton Park

RHS Tatton Park Flower Show 2016

Verbena display

This was our first visit to an RHS flower show after many years of watching the BBC coverage so we were excited to go! Tatton Park is the current last large scale flower show in the RHS flower show season. The preponderance of late flowering perennials confirmed this as they were evident not just in the various show gardens but also for sale in the floral marquee.

The atmosphere at the show was very friendly and it was easy to start a conversation not just with knowledgeable plant stall holders or showground staff (who were always helpful and wiling to assist) but also fellow show visitors who we talked to about the sell-off and asked questions about what not to miss. It was a humid day the day of our visit though nowhere near as warm as the first days of the sale were. We visited on the last day of the sale which we planned deliberately to try and get some sell off bargains but once we got there we ended up buying a few plants but mostly bulbs and leaving a bit earlier as the queues were really long at the end (also we don’t have much space for new plants anyhow!).

We spent a lot of time at the show just browsing and taking it all in. We took lots of photos and were in awe of the creativity on display. The vegetable and fruit competition had displays of produce that looked like works of art! Not to mention some of the stalls which were also highly decorative and it must have taken a lot of work into getting these ready for the show. Because of the heat, some of the produce on display had withered slightly by the last day of the show, though some still looked as fresh as the day it was picked. The baskets of fresh produce that schools produced reminded us of harvest festivals! This was a great idea to get kids involved with gardening at schools too.

Agapanthus display

The show gardens too were impressive, a naturalistic planting theme was dominant throughout, so no doubt this trend will continue to run and run. What we took from the show gardens that we were most impressed with was the effectiveness of keeping to a restricted colour palette which makes the planting look seamless. We also noted the importance of using a rich and varied texture in planting schemes. Grasses were key to achieving this texture but they were also juxtaposed with shots of colour from the gorgeous burgundy of plants such as Scabious ‘Chile Black’ and the spikiness of Eryngium. We were keen to purchase some of the Scabious ‘Chile Black’ but sadly was too late as it had sold out by the time we visited. We also had our eye on a blue Catanache, and a black sage that ditto had gone by the time we reached the stall! Another plant that we spotted but missed was Lychnis Cornonaria ‘Gardeners World.’ We have Lychnis Coronaria in our garden but loved the deeper colour of this variety. Luckily we made a note of all the plants we missed out on and have found using the RHS Plant Finder that there are nurseries that stock these beauties in the UK! So when we have room we can think about ordering these!

The floral marquee and nursery plant stalls outside the marquee were impressive in the planted up displays that they used to advertise their plants. Agapanthus were evident in many displays and created some beautiful planting schemes when used with plants that were complementary to their beautiful shades of blue. We ended up buying some Kale plants as ours have been decimated by caterpillars, some Miscanthus grass and a peppermint scented leaf Pelargonium. We also got some allium bulbs for next year which we plan to plant in pots.

Flower shed

The Garden Hideaways exhibits were also impressive! We had three favourite hideaways in this category, with the Outside-In, The Garden Library and The Story of a British Flower Wedding hideaways being our favourites. The Outside-In hideaway won the Gardeners World trophy for best shed and was a very innovative idea that was executed beautifully, with a tree growing from the interior reaching for the sky! The Garden Library hideaway was a favourite because of the book association but also emphasised the importance of continued learning being so important for gardeners. The Story of a British Flower Wedding hideaway captured our attention with it’s beautiful use of colour and made for some impressive photos!

Overall, we had a great day out and would like to visit another RHS show again but we decided that the next show we visit will be on the first members’ day when it is a little quieter, so we could see all the plants and exhibits when they are fresh and then we would also be less likely to miss out on some choice plants. If you like plants and gardens or want to learn more about them and are thinking about going to an RHS flower show we would definitely recommend that you do

Discovery Island!

Journey to the Isle of Wight

Grace IOW beach photo 1

As our current theme is ‘Journeys and Discoveries’ I thought I’d talk about my school residential trip to the Isle of Wight. We spent five days here and packed a lot in! By the time we had finished we had walked the equivalent of a half marathon over the entire week!

Firstly I’d like to talk about what we did that I enjoyed the most. I particularly enjoyed when we went to Dinosaur Isle and discovered new fossils! I also loved it when we went to the museum and learnt about all the different dinosaurs and how their bones are identified.

Grace IOW dinosaur skull

We were lucky enough to also make a lot of visits to the beach. I enjoyed all the beach visits as the weather was always lovely. We even learnt how to surf and body-board!

We also went to the theatre to do a theatre workshop and to watch a production called ‘Fangtastic.’

As well as completing all of the activities above we also managed to pack in a visit to Shanklin Chine, Robin Hill Country Park and HMS Victory in Portsmouth.

My whole trip was amazing and I learnt a lot of new things that I didn’t know before. I would like to go back there one day.

Summer Televisual Discoveries

After a brief sojourn travelling to Devon and Dorset, I have been feeling a tired and rundown so during my hiatus of rest I have discovered some great TV shows and want to share them with you!

The Disappearance

The Disappearance [DVD] is a French Belgian production about a missing girl called Lea and the effect her disappearance has on those close to her. It is set in the beautiful city of Lyon, where I haven’t been but would love to visit. I watched the first episode of this before the EU referendum happened and was saddened to think we may be denied this high quality standard of TV in the future. I actually have not watched the entire season yet but am impressed with what I have seen so far, the acting and directing is great and the writing (by two female screenwriters is intriguing and well paced).


Another TV show that I have been watching is UnREAL – Season 1: Trailer Season 1 and 2 are now available on Amazon Prime. This show is a drama / parody of reality TV shows like The Bachelor and Bachelorette (the creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro actually worked as a Producer on The Bachelor in real life). It is a great show with moments of darkness. Focusing on the character of Rachel an indentured producer who is often stressed, drinks too much and has a complicated personal life who works behind the scenes manipulating contestants to create great television. The show moves seamlessly between the on and off-set characters so that they are often at times blurred. Quinn is the dysfunctional Executive Producer who blackmails Rachel to get what she wants. The series asks questions such as what is true love and does it have anything to do with money and power? Sometimes the incidents of manipulation are pushed to such extremes just for the sake on entertainment that they inevitably have an effect on the moral consciences of the producers.

Outlander Season 2

I have already waxed lyrical about Outlander Season 1 before so will just continue this to tell you that Season 2 on Amazon Prime is also great. You can pre-order both seasons in this DVD box set Outlander – Season 1 & 2 Box Set [DVD] [2016] Season 1 was a little bit stronger in my opinion but there are still some great moments in Season 2 as we follow Claire and Jamie’s story from France to Scotland culminating in the tragic battle of Culloden. Apparently the final episode is ninety minutes long and I know that it will be very emotional for me as I have recently discovered that my ancestors were in the front line of the battle of Culloden! Season 2 has been interesting as it has diverged from the source material of the novel Dragonfly In Amber: (Outlander 2) more drastically than Season 1 did from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander I personally think that the changes do not matter so much as the production behind the series is so high quality and the acting and directing so strong that the changes seem seamless and do make sense. Outlander has since been renewed for another two seasons and I look forward to seeing in which direction the show is taken and how much it will deviate from the books.

Jessica Jones

Netflix is now showing Season 1 of Marvel Comics’ Jessica Jones, watch the trailer here. I have read good things about this show and decided to try it out. I have only watched a few of the early episodes but what I have seen is encouraging. The characters of Jessica Jones is a Private Investigator (quite like fictional detective V.I Warchawski) except she has superpowers! Set in a largely nocturnal wintry New York the tone of the production is largely neo-Noir and the shots are Taxi Driver influenced. Jessica (played by Krysten Ritter) is a hard boiled character who drinks too much and has superhuman strength. She suffers from anxiety and PTSD due to a terrible experience she had with a man called Kilgrave. She now finds it difficult to connect emotionally to anyone but finds herself attracted to a man called Luke Cage a bartender who may have secret abilities of his own. She finds herself being drawn into more and more dangerous situations that bring her closer to her former nemesis Kilgrave. I look forward to watching more of the series and seeing how it develops.

In addition to these choices, there are a number of upcoming TV shows that set to be great with new series of Poldark, Strictly Come Dancing, a great Proms Season this year with Quincy Jones, Brazilian music, Gershwin and more. Further ahead I’m also looking forward to the new series of Inspector Montalbano which may be the last one possibly?

These are my recent and future choices but do you agree, get in touch with us to let us know.