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Out and About

Magnolia blossom in Paignton Zoo today

I think if anything heralds ‘spring’ in South Devon almost as much as snowdrops or daffodils, it’s  magnolias in bloom.  And this one is actually going over … if we hadn’t gone out today we’d have missed this lovely tree.

So where have we been?

Well, yesterday, while it certainly wasn’t sunny – indeed, it was dull but fine enough for us to go out – we decided to go to two of our favourite garden centres.  In the gales of the winter an old archway which had been in our garden for many years blew down, bringing with it a pretty clematis montana.

Photo taken in 2012 (sine when the bench in the background has been painted pale blue)

Since this photo was taken we have removed some shrubs and now the tiny back garden needs a serious overhaul. Nonetheless, we were sorry to see the arch collapse. And so we went to Fermoy’s Garden Centre and bought a replacement.  We think instead of a clematis we might grow a climbing rose instead, but we need to erect the arch first, and prepare the soil for a new rose.

We like Fermoy’s which is far more than just a place to buy plants.  Well, most garden centres are these days – they need to be able to remain open all the year round and so cater for the Christmas trade with Christmas trees and decorations, and also the gift market, so you will find all kinds of pretty things you didn’t know you wanted until you saw them.  And as well as plants – obviously, they sell zillions of those – they sell garden tools and we bought a new broom with which to sweep the paths.

Fresh produce in Fermoy’

The children’s toys and books area – love the ‘tree’ filled with ‘apples’

And many more lovely things,  and I’ve not even photographed the kitchenalia!

We gave the café a miss.  It’s not a bad café, but we weren’t terribly impressed with it on our previous visit and also we weren’t particularly hungry.  So we decided to motor on to another garden centre, Jack’s Patch, one owned by the Wyevale group of garden centres.  There we queued up for cups of hot chocolate …

but we got behind the world’s biggest faffer.  He (and I presume his wife and child, i.e. the others with him) wanted this,  wanted that, didn’t want this,  didn’t want that, then changed his mind … well, we’ve all been behind them at some stage, haven’t we?  Never mind, we weren’t in any particular hurry but faffers seem to be a growing specie.

By now we were quite tired, and so after I bought some primroses for our hearth, we made our way home, along the coast road which is always a lovely journey, even on a dull day.

Once I got the flowers home (above) I thought to myself I really should have bought three of the same colour, these don’t really ‘go’ together.  But they are fresh and  pretty.

Today, we awakened to sunshine and although there’s been a chilly wind, we decided that we’d go to the Zoo.  It’s only a mile away, we have a season ticket and it seems a shame not to make use of it.

Flamingos on their island

We love Paignton Zoo, it really is a very nice place to visit, even for just a walk in the early spring sunshine. Well, winter sunshine, really. It won’t be officially spring for another month.

We stopped at the restaurant and bought pasties and a pot of tea which we enjoyed on the veranda. Well, I say “enjoyed” … we went outside because there were so many people in the very large restaurant and 50% were children. It’s lovely to see children being taken to the zoo (all tinies because older ones are in school, half term having ended) but my goodness, the noise!  And so we opted to go outside and there was just one table left and that was next to a family group and boy, were they noisy, too!  It’s lovely to hear children laughing and enjoying themselves, but screaming and shouting and running around when really, they could be told to sit down and eat their lunch quietly wouldn’t go amiss sometimes.  Running around the school playground is acceptable, they need to ‘let off steam’, but making a din in a public place, well that’s a different matter.  But, sadly, many of the parents (although not all those we saw) were making almost as much noise, speaking in very loud voices, or yattering into their mobile phones.  Is it really necessary to hold a running commentary with someone on the other end of a mobile while in the Zoo?  One woman, just ahead of us in the queue, was on her mobile while ordering her lunch, barely acknowledging the woman serving her.  Manners are fast disappearing.

At last the noisy family left and the quietness was palpable.

Peacocks frequent the veranda hoping to pick up crumbs …

they really do have the most gorgeous, iridescent plumage.

We then had to decide which route to take as the Zoo is too large for us to take in more than a relatively small area per visit, so today we went first into the Reptile House.  I love seeing the reptiles (although not the snakes – I find those quite repulsive) and I managed to take some photos.  Please don’t ask me what they are, I only made a note of one of them.

I rather like this chap but he looked so bored. Well, wouldn’t you be, being stared at all day long while you just wanted to enjoy a peaceful nap?  He kept rolling his eyes as if to say, “Oh, for goodness sake, haven’t you got anything better to do …”  Seriously, they have plenty of space and lots of things on which to climb or hide under, and they are very well looked after and well fed.

Mangrove Monitor Lizard (looking particularly well-fed!)

Sumatran Tiger

The lake

We then decided that was sufficient for one day (particularly as it was quite a climb back to the car park, good exercise for our winter-stiff legs.)

And finally, what I think might be daffodils’ last hurrah … unless I can find some in the supermarket on our next visit.  These were in the ‘pencil’ stage on Friday, and now look at them.  Oh, they have been so lovely, but sadly, I wasn’t able to find any white ones this year, which are my favourites.

Late afternoon sunshine coming from the west and shining on the hall table

I hope wherever you are you are enjoying lovely, fine weather, neither unbearably hot or cold.

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. How nice to see your Devon sunshine.and particularly the pink Magnolia. Here in the south east we are still enjoying peak snowdrop time and I haven’t even picked any daffodils yet. Yesterday I brought in from the garden a terracotta bowl which I’d planted with violet-blue iris bulbs. After just one day in the warmth all the flowers are open and it is wonderful to see them close up and inspect their markings which look as if they’ve been drawn on with a fine gold pen. I thought of you on Sunday Margaret because we visited Scotney Castle, the former home of Christopher Hussey, the architectural historian for the National Trust and a contributor to Country Life and author of many books. The house which was built from the local stone in the 1830s was very English Country House in style. We had a lovely visit and enjoyed the house very much as it had been lived in by Betty Hussey until she died in 2006. The gardens were still sleeping, but there were beautiful views in every direction. I wonder which rose you’ll choose for your new arbour? I have R. New Dawn growing up my pergola and she flowers from June until Christmas. In the summer months she is smothered in beautifully shaped shell-pink rroses which have a lovely scent. As a companion to her I grow Clematis Betty Corning, who romps away with masses of scented pale violet bell-shaped flowers and Clematis Etoile Violette, a beautiful dark violet clematis. Both these clematis are the type you cut down to about 18 inches from the ground anytime from late autumn to early spring so very easy to look after.

    • Margaret Powling

      No, Sarah, we’ve not picked any daffodils yet, but we have few daffs in the garden that for picking … they are on a grassy bank at the front of the house and that is where they stay. It’s just the ones in the supermarkets that seem to have come to the end now. I didn’t plant any iris this year but a couple of years ago we had those lovely small iris and they were so pretty.
      We visited Scotney Castle over a dozen years ago (and also Leonardslee gardens which I think wasn’t too far away) and I loved it there.
      I love the rose New Dawn, such a delicate pink so might be the one! Thank you for suggesting companion clematis, I shall write those down now so that when we go to the garden centre I shall know what to ask for! I’m not a good gardener (nor is husband), we’re very hit or miss, but at least we try!

  2. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Garden centres are a great place to spend time and money! Like you, I am apt to discover things for sale that I didn’t k is I needed! Haha. We have some very good ones within a few miles and they are perfect when one just needs to get out for a bit. One of them has a nice playground and I find that for the price of an ice cream it’s a great way to entertain the grandchildren for an hour or so. My daughter takes me to Dobbies in Shrewsbury when I visit her. It’s ok but not the best garden centre but the cafe is very good indeed. They sell the most amazing cherry scones!
    Thinking of our ‘conversation’ the other day, the peacock perfectly demonstrates why blue and green SHOULD be seen! The most fabulous colour combination ever!
    I’m absolutely with you on the interesting reptiles but not (never, ever) snakes. I’ve always had an intense dislike of them, as did my mother, as does my daughter.
    Good to hear that you are still making use of those zoo passes. I love the flamingo picture though I always think of them as fingaloos…..the name coined by my son when he was a toddler!

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, garden centres are fun, and although a lot of people can be sniffy about them, calling them plant supermarkets as opposed to real nurseries, we have found that the plants in the garden centres are very healthy and clean and disease-free, which is more than can be said from some we’ve bought from nurseries.
      Yes, a peacock is blue and green, is it not? Of course, the colours should be seen, preferably iridescent, ha ha!
      Oh, I love the name our son gave the flamingos, fingaloos!

  3. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Oh those fingers when combined with predictive text! Dratted iPad! …..’didn’t know I needed’.

    • Margaret Powling

      Fret ye not, I realized what you meant. Predictive text can come out with some funny things, can’t it!

      • Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

        Many years ago, not long after we had computers at work, I worked with a woman called Mo Insley. (Short for Maireen) Insley. We didn’t have predictive text in those days but the automatic spell checker insisted that she should be called Moo Insanely !!

        • Margaret Powling

          Oh, that’s so funny, Eloise! Mind you, I’m not above making the occasional typo and as anyone who types regularly will know, some words always trip one up. When I worked in Education (I wasn’t a teacher, but a secretary – today that would be a PA – in a teachers’ centre) I was in the habit of typing “education” as “edcuation.” Even more recently a friend whose husband is called Roger read him as being called Rover in one of my emails, since when this soubriquet has stuck, so he’s now Rover.

  4. I find big stores overwhelming, but that is just me, any store. But what a lovely way to do things – do the task at whatever big place, then have a snack or lunch.

    • Margaret Powling

      We don’t like very large stores, either, Ratnamurti, and this is why we like ‘our’ branch of Waitrose, just five aisles, just right for us. The garden centres are large but not what I’d call huge and they are in designated sections so you easily know which area is which – all the plants are, of course, outside, either in the open air or under awnings, while inside the food is separate from the gift area and the florist’s shop. I don’t think either of these garden centres would overwhelm you in the same way a vast supermarket would.

  5. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Hello Margaret, the Magnolia looks so pretty, I have always fancied a Magnolia tree, I will one day if we have the room I’m sure. Shame about your clematis, it was very windy here yesterday, which was good for me drying the washing. I love a trip to the garden centre, if you have gifts to buy there is plenty to choose from at garden centres these days, they have everything don’t they. What a lovely day at the zoo, we have been to Paignton several times over the years and always enjoyed it.
    I am with you about noisy children Margaret, there is a time and place for everything, but when you are out in a restaurant screaming/messing around is a no no, and the parents these days don’t seem that bothered do they. We only have one son, but he was never spoilt and always polite and well behaved when we went out. (Still is)

    • Margaret Powling

      You could always grow a magnolia in a large pot, Marlene, and use ericaceous compost for it, it being an acid-soil plant. We have a camellia in a pot, no reason not to have a magnolia in a pot, eh? They are rather lovely with their large waxy blooms.
      I do think only children – and I speak from experience as I’m an only child – learn how to behave properly from an early age as they are with adults (their parents) all the time, apart from when they are at school or with friends. They are usually better behaved than those who have had to fight for supremacy within a group of siblings.
      It’s been another lovely day here in Torbay, but I will post about that perhaps later today or even tomorrow.

  6. Oh I’m going to agree wholeheartedly with your comment about only children tending to be well behaved and comfortable in adult surroundings – as I am also an only child. My best friend has two young children and when they get noisy or whatever when in the car or in a cafe or shop, she reminds them to use their ‘indoors voices’ so as to quieter them down. Often parents bring colouring pencils, colouring books and small toys to entertain kids in cafes which is such a good idea. Sitting in a cafe listening to adults gabble on whilst having nothing to play with must be very boring for kids. I will usually try not to sit near large groups or kids when eating out. I am quite sensitive to noise.

    Those flamingoes look amazing. I did a double take to ensure they weren’t just the plastic ornamental flamingoes once popular – and enjoyed a kitschy resurgence in Australia about five years ago – in the 60s (?). We have large monitor lizards not far from where we live. They can sometimes be seen coming out of the bush and into picnic and barbecue areas, looking for scraps. Further north (ie tropical climates) they grow even larger, up to a couple of metres in length.

    The peacock is stunning. He looks like he is well aware of it, too.

    The photos of the first garden centre are very interesting. I’m sure I could get well lost and spend a lot of money in such a place.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, I am also sensitive to noise, too, Lara. The older I get the louder things seem to be. And why do people on television always SHOUT, especially when giving sports’ results and talking about sport, as if shouting makes it all the more exciting? Some of our worst speakers are the weather presenters (sadly, I’m speaking of the women) who I think without exception have high pitched voices which are made even worse by the amount of information they have to impart in the shortest possible time. As they are on about every 20 minutes to half an hour, on the rolling news channel (BBC News) it seems ludicrous that they can’t give some aspect of the weather each time rather than rattling the same information over and over again at break-neck speed. A result of this is poor diction, all the lesser words rolled into one, so we have phrases such as “it’s going to be,” coming out as “‘sgon’a’be”. I’m afraid I shout at the screen, saying, “No, you don’t say …” and parrot what the woman has said!
      But society is becoming louder, they raise their voices in restaurants and cafes to be heard above the noise of the cutlery against the plates (if you are lucky – so many things are now used for food, including slates, you’d think we’d not progressed beyond the Dark Ages!), the scraping of heavy chairs against the tiled floor, the echo from the high ceiling, the whooshing of the coffee machine, the clatter of cups and saucers … it seems impossible to get away from noise these days. And there is always musak playing, even in our doctor’s surgery there is a radio on tuned to a local (dire) radio station. To go somewhere that is quiet is, indeed, unusual these days. Sorry, had my little rant!
      Yes, Mr Peacock knew how gorgeous he was!

  7. That garden centre looks just wonderful – so many inviting things there. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment on screaming, ruckus making children. I think part of the problem (besides the children not being properly taught and disciplined by their parents) is that many parents seem to think they should be able to take their children anywhere, anytime. They have no sense of what is appropriate for the children nor how they are affecting those around them. I’m also with you on the noise everywhere. I like to hear soothing music (instrumental only please) in a store or restaurant, but that’s often not what is playing. And don’t get me started on televisions everywhere. Makes me crazy. I very much dislike going into a restaurant with TVs posted in various spots, particularly with my husband who is like a moth to a flame when there is a TV going somewhere.

    • Margaret Powling

      Yes, that’s about it, Jeannine – parents think they should be able to take their children anywhere and then allow them to behave as they please regardless of anyone else. Zoos are excellent for children (I mean to visit, not to inhabit, ha ha!) and I have to admit that the restaurant at our Zoo has a high, vaulted ceiling and noise echoes in there, but all the more reason to stop the children from screaming. I also think that modern music in places like doctors’ surgeries is more stress-inducing and I’d like to have, if any music at all is played, instrumental classical music. I don’t know any restaurants with TVs in them, but perhaps we’ve simply not been to any of them. We tend to like English pubs, hotels or there is a chain here in the UK called Le Bistro Pierre and their restaurant locally often has soft, French music playing in the background which is rather pleasant.

      • I think children screaming is always out of the question! We have 6 year old twins living next door to us. When they were a little younger they were screaming – often. Happy, sad, mad, upset – there was always some drama and they were screaming. Their mom did nothing about it. I used to be a teacher’s aide at an elementary school. Even at recess we told kids not to scream – “Please don’t scream. When you scream, we think someone is hurt or something is terribly wrong. Make all the noise you want, but no screaming.” I agree totally on the instrumental classical music – that’s the only thing I want to hear in places like stores, medical offices, restaurants. The bistro you mention sounds wonderful.

        • Margaret Powling

          Yes, screaming is a sing of something being wrong. To teach children this should make them stop and think if nothing else. The needs to make a noise but in appropriate places, such as the school play ground, not in restaurants and other public places.
          Yes, Le Bistrot Pierre is very nice and inexpensive, too. OK, it’s a chain, but their menu is excellent for the prices and changes according to the season.

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