flowers

Bray to Greystones cliff walk is a scenic and historic delight

Bray cliff walk - View of Dalkey island and Howth Head.jpg

Sometimes over the years I’ve missed out on trying something that is right on my doorstep. I used to work in Bray a few decades ago and I never thought back then of walking the famous 5.5 km cliff trail from Bray Head to Greystones. Better late than never though, so I gave it a go last week.

Directions were straightforward. An assistant in a local pharmacy told a friend and me to go to the beach, turn right and keep going. We had arrived on the DART (the urban electric train) from Dublin city centre and the beach promenade was right beside the station so finding it was no problem. The town of Bray was originally developed as a popular resort in Victorian times and features a long promenade. The bandstand dates back to the 1890s.

The railway was finished in 1856 and full marks go to the adventurous Victorian engineers for their tunnels through the rocky cliff face.

The railway was finished in 1856 and full marks go to the adventurous Victorian engineers for their tunnels through the rocky cliff face.

A beautiful coastLINE with wild flowers and sea birds

A variety of wild flowers scramble along the path and down to the rocks below.

A variety of wild flowers scramble along the path and down to the rocks below.

Some people think the east coast of Ireland tame compared to Connemara or West Cork but the views inspired me. The walk is what I would call moderately difficult. This has a rough stony surface in places and is also sometimes steep. Wicklow County Council has kindly added steps at the toughest parts.

Perhaps what I found most interesting was the way the railway line meanders along the edge of the sea. You can see how close the train goes to the water in one of the photos below. The cliff walk came into being to help men and materials reach the railway construction site.

The story goes that in the mid-nineteenth century the Earl of Meath refused to allow the railway to cut through the land of his Kilruddery estate but he handed over the cliff area for free. The line was completed in 1856 with adventurous Victorian engineers designing tunnels through rocks at the edge of the ocean. It was a costly and sometimes dangerous enterprise, with rocks falling and erosion by the sea. In the photo below you’ll see a second tunnel, now abandoned, on the outside of the one in current use. A dramatic crash took place here in August 1867 when a bridge collapsed and a train with passengers plummeted 30 feet. I’ve put the link below where you can read the history of Bray as a resort and the extension of the railroad, if you’d like to see some illustrations.



On the right is a second tunnel that was abandoned after a bridge collapsed in 1867.

On the right is a second tunnel that was abandoned after a bridge collapsed in 1867.

Greystones is a colourful Victorian village with a strong harbour wall

The town of Greystones features briefly in my novel The Neglected Garden as it is where Gilly goes with her sister when the secrets at Glanesfort and its walled garden are threatening to envelop her. In 2010 it still had a Victorian village feel to it, teetering on the edge of modernisation, with old colourful houses facing a grey stony beach. A new harbour wall had recently been constructed, which people could walk along.

The DART electric train runs along the sea at the bottom of the cliffs.

The DART electric train runs along the sea at the bottom of the cliffs.

I noticed as we rounded the bend and Greystones came into view that the new development is now almost finished. Honey-hued houses with balconies face towards Dalkey Island and Howth Head and their view must be breathtaking. The old village is still there and hasn’t changed much although we had to walk right through the housing estate to get to it. The marina and slipway has also had a face lift since 2010.


An interesting array of cafés and restaurants in Greystones

Greystones has interesting cafés and restaurants. We finished our walk with a bright plate of salad and dahl in The Happy Pear and then took the train back to Dublin. The good news for less active types is that you don’t even have to force yourself to walk 5.5 kilometres: the DART train goes all the way. If you ever find yourself on the train out of Dublin to Greystones, keep an eye out for Killiney Bay. The view is wonderful, especially if the sun decides to shine.

More information ON BRAY, GREYSTONES AND WICKLOW

Spring is here and it's competition time

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Competition to win a paperback of ‘The Neglected Garden’

Spring is here today and I ran out with my mobile and took this photo of wild cherry blossom flowering in our garden against a clear blue sky. To celebrate its arrival, I’m holding a competition for a paperback edition of my novel The Neglected Garden. To enter all you have to do is go to the competition page and pick the answer to the question. If you’ve already read the book, you’ll know the correct answer and, if you haven’t, just take a guess. You’ve got a 50% chance of being right.

Thank you to readers and reviewers

The Neglected Garden has been published for almost six weeks now. I’d like to thank everyone who bought it and I’m especially grateful to all of you who posted reviews on Amazon. It makes such a difference to authors these days. If you have read the book and enjoyed it, I would really appreciate it if you could leave a short, honest review if you have a few moments to spare.

The garden plan for the walled garden

I thought you might like to have a look at Gilly’s garden plan for the old walled garden at Glanesfort in The Neglected Garden. I asked garden designer Arthur Shackleton to design the layout of the fictional garden and this is what he came up with. It was inspired by the walled garden my grandparents used to own years ago, although it never looked like this because they used it mainly for vegetables and fruit. We used to love playing as children among the rows of peas and eating strawberries straight from the plants. My grandmother had a long cutting border, as she called it, and she grew flowers there that she used in arrangements. She loved roses too, like me, and I remember she had a bowl in her hallway with rose heads floating like lilies in water.

If you’d prefer to see a larger version of the garden plan, you’ll find it here.

Garden plan for Glanesfort - sq.jpg

Invitations to literary events

I have been invited to several literary events since the novel came out. One is to talk to a book club, another is to a literature appreciation group and the third is a book reading in a library in my home county in Ireland. This last one takes place during an arts week in May.

I’ll let you know how I get on another time.

Enjoy the good weather, if it has arrived with you.

All the best,

Suzanne x





The Neglected Garden opens today

The-Neglected-Garden-with-snowdrops

Happy Valentine’s Day to us all.

Today is the official launch of ‘The Neglected Garden’ and the novel is available to purchase worldwide as a paperback and e-book.

I took the photo of the book with the snowdrops in my own neglected garden, which is beginning to come back to life now that winter is nearly over. We have miniature daffodils flowering at the moment.

It’s been a long but enjoyable path to this day and, if you read the book, I hope you will enjoy it. I would love to hear from you so please send me an email by the contact button below or join me on Facebook and Instagram.

Enjoy the rest of the day!

Suzanne x

The path leading to 'The Neglected Garden'

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It has been a long path often strewn with obstacles but we’re nearly there now. The walk to the red door with the peeling paint is almost over. ‘The Neglected Garden’ will be published next week and I would like to thank all who have accompanied me on this adventure, especially my friends who encouraged me, the editors who pruned my overgrown words into shape and all the kind people who have joined my Facebook and Instagram pages. I’m really grateful to you all.

‘The Neglected Garden’ is a mystery with romance, suspense and a sprinkling of light humour. The story takes place in Ireland and London. I’ll let you know more about the launch in a few days’ time but first I’d like to share some of the photographs that inspired the walled garden setting when I was writing this book.

This old red door inspired the one in ‘The Neglected Garden’. The photo was taken at Duckett’s Grove in Co. Carlow in Ireland where two interconnecting walled gardens have been restored and are open to the public.

This old red door inspired the one in ‘The Neglected Garden’. The photo was taken at Duckett’s Grove in Co. Carlow in Ireland where two interconnecting walled gardens have been restored and are open to the public.

I loved this arch in the Colclough walled garden on the Hook Head peninsula in Co Wexford. The garden is attached to Tintern Abbey and has been beautifully restored. Another historic garden open to the public.

I loved this arch in the Colclough walled garden on the Hook Head peninsula in Co Wexford. The garden is attached to Tintern Abbey and has been beautifully restored. Another historic garden open to the public.

One of the herbaceous borders at the Colclough walled garden in Co Wexford. I took this photograph in August 2018. I like to imagine that when Gilly Townsend has finished planting up the garden at Glanesfort in the novel, it is might look something like this.

One of the herbaceous borders at the Colclough walled garden in Co Wexford. I took this photograph in August 2018. I like to imagine that when Gilly Townsend has finished planting up the garden at Glanesfort in the novel, it is might look something like this.

A lily pond with fountain. This photo was taken in Spain by my friend Anne.

A lily pond with fountain. This photo was taken in Spain by my friend Anne.

Detail of water lilies in a pond.

Detail of water lilies in a pond.

May spring growth be with you

Gilly has been working on her design for the walled garden at Glanesfort (THE NEGLECTED GARDEN - due to be published in 2018)

Gilly has been working on her design for the walled garden at Glanesfort (THE NEGLECTED GARDEN - due to be published in 2018)

As I look out on my May garden, it's hard to imagine what it was like only two months ago but all I have to do is glance back at the photos in my March post to see several feet of snow. Unlike my hero in THE NEGLECTED GARDEN, nature never dwells on the past and, although spring plants are late arriving this year, they are just as beautiful and even more welcome than ever. I'm going to celebrate spring with plenty of photographs.

 

Gilly's design plan for the walled garden at Glanesfort

Leo our cat likes to think he has been helping my heroine to dream up some garden design ideas

Leo our cat likes to think he has been helping my heroine to dream up some garden design ideas

I mentioned earlier in the year that I would post my heroine's garden design plan for the walled garden in my novel THE NEGLECTED GARDEN. Here it is (see top). She's been working hard on it but has had a little bit of help. The garden has been divided into four sections or rooms. I'll go into more detail about these another month with a list of suitable plants.

 

Living in another world

THE NEGLECTED GARDEN manuscript is now back with the editor as I dream about how Gilly's plants will turn out. That's one of the best things about being a writer. I live in another world a lot of the time. Since last November, I have spent many hours at Glanesfort in Co. Kildare, the Georgian house bought by a London property developer. I have worked with Gilly in the walled garden and helped her choose suitable plants. I walked with her down to the lake and watched her employer's four-year-old boy feed his two favourite swans. I've worried with her about Marc's mysterious past that entangles her more each day and wondered what family secret he is trying to hide. 

Hopefully it won't be long before you too get a chance to meet these characters. I'll keep you posted so please come back soon or join my mailing list for updates and special offers.

 

Garden rooms add privacy and surprise

You don't have to have a walled garden to design garden rooms - use hedging instead

You don't have to have a walled garden to design garden rooms - use hedging instead

You can put garden rooms into any garden of a reasonable size. It's a great design idea for a large country garden or if you're starting from scratch with an open field around a new house. Garden rooms add privacy and surprise. We created them in our own garden but used beech hedging to separate the rooms as we had no walls. So, even if you don't have a walled garden, you can still create an interesting and unique space that flows from one section to another. 

 

Spring narcissus and tulips

Back to my own garden which is often an inspiration for my writing. April was cold and wet so spring flowers arrived late. Daffodils took a battering from the snow in March but bounced back to prove how tough they are. Narcissus poeticus "Old Pheasant's Eye" (a favourite of my grandfather's) is the last to flower with us and what a finale it provides! It has beautiful single white flowers with a round pheasant's eye in the centre. Its wonderful scent makes it a fine cut flower, if you can bear to pick it. If the weather is bad, it lasts longer indoors and gives you a chance to admire it close-up.

Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the white tulips (top right) but they open like stars to catch the sun and close again when the light fades. Like all white flowers, they add a touch of magic to a garden in the evening. The pink and white tulip Angelique (bottom two photos above) is a recent favourite. This peony-type opens like a rose and is one to plant in bulk so that you have some to pick as it is a charming and long-lasting cut flower. 

 

Spring wildflowers

Our garden cowslips have invited their family and friends to stay

Our garden cowslips have invited their family and friends to stay

Cowslips are enthusiastic self-seeders in gravel - or anywhere else where they feel at home

Cowslips are enthusiastic self-seeders in gravel - or anywhere else where they feel at home

An oxlip is a hybrid of a primrose and a cowslip and it is quite rare where we live

An oxlip is a hybrid of a primrose and a cowslip and it is quite rare where we live

And lastly the wildflowers. They've been fantastic this spring. Perhaps it's just because I really appreciate them after our unusually long winter here in Ireland. Clumps of violets and primroses peep at me from the hedgerows as I walk the dogs. Wild garlic along the avenue has burst into a mass of creamy flowers.

Yellow cowslips in the garden invited all their family and friends to stay and self-seeded in the gravel. Our one and only oxlip - a hybrid of a primrose and a cowslip and quite rare here in the Midlands - has grown in size since last year. 

I love to hear about other people's gardens and their plants, so please do get in touch and send photographs. You can reach me by email using the contact button at the end of every page or join me by signing up for my newsletter. I'm also on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. 

Take care and happy gardening until next time.

 

Rambling Albertine - fragrant and vigorous

Albertine flowers once in the summer

Albertine flowers once in the summer

I mentioned the vigorous rambler rose Albertine in my last post and here it is in the summer of 2017. One of my grandfather's favourites, Albertine is salmon-pink with a scent. It climbed the walls of his walled garden for many years. What I love is the way the buds are a darker, almost coppery-pink and they open and fade to a lighter shade. The rose dates from 1921 and comes from France.

 

Albertine growing tips

My rose in the photos was planted in my vegetable garden because I had nowhere else for it to go. It is vigorous and will grow to sixteen feet (five metres) and is ideal for planting against a wire fence because it appreciates air circulation. The rose will sometimes get mildew if planted against a wall but it's worth a try. A tip is to plant it where it will get the early morning sun to dry off dew and make sure you plant it in well drained soil. It doesn't like soggy roots.

Albertine flowers once in late spring or early summer but last year I had a bonus. The rose flowered again in the autumn. This is the first time I remember this happening. 

Copper buds open to salmon-pink and fade to lighter pink

Copper buds open to salmon-pink and fade to lighter pink