Our Violet

Violet came to Mulberry Cottage in May 2014 with her flock sisters, Agnes, Winne and Ella, rehomed via the wonderful British Hen Welfare Trust. A very threadbare hen, she was, nevertheless, a confident girl and quickly asserted herself, going up against the formidable Peggy …

First day of freedom

Attacking

The same thing happened when we brought a new flock home last autumn. Violet soon put the new girls in their place, and wasn’t beyond giving our spaniel puppy, Hattie, a little peck on the nose too!

Autum 2015

Now, I have to say that Violet wasn’t the sort of hen who enjoyed a cuddle, but she had heaps of character and grew into a really beautiful girl with rich chestnut feathers and a really pleasing plumpness about her.

IMG_6129Goodnight dear Violet. We hope you loved every minute of your 20 months of retirement with us.

 

Beautiful Bateman’s

I love the quiet period between Christmas and New Year. It’s a time for reading, watching old films and catching up with friends and family. Oh, and lots of muddy dog walks!

P1000024But, having recently finished the second book in my Book Lovers series, I knew it wouldn’t be long until I found my way back to the keyboard, eager to make a start on the next novel and, when inspiration struck, we found ourselves heading down to the beautiful Sussex Weald to a very special house …

IMG_5893Bateman’s is the Jacobean manor house sitting in the heart of the Dudwell Valley. It belongs to the National Trust and was once the home of author Rudyard Kipling and it was glorious to see it all decked out for Christmas.

IMG_5901I knew at once that this would be the setting of my next novel and there must have been something very special in the Sussex air because I’ve already written 10,000 words!

IMG_5959It’s a novel about love, loss, family and renewal. And gardening! Because there is a fabulous walled garden at Bateman’s that I simply can’t ignore.

Goodbye 2015

Well, it’s been quite a year! We had to say goodbye to three beloved hens: Mariette, Winnie and Ella, but got to say hello to our Springer spaniel puppy Hattie.

The Rose Girls made it into Amazon’s Top 100 in both the UK and the US and was picked as one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2015, and I launched the first book in my new series, The Book Lovers.

Our garden at Mulberry Cottage continued to do us proud with the addition of an enclosed area for raised beds in which we grew beans, peas, sunflowers, potatoes and squashes. One of my Turks Turban squashes even went on to win me second prize at our village show!

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And I managed to publish five new books – one down on last year. You can blame the arrival of Hattie for that – she is a very big distraction!

I hope this year has been full of fun and adventures for you too, and that you’ve also managed to find time for yourself – to just sit and think – because that’s so important in our busy world! Happy New Year, everyone!

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Merry Christmas!

I’d like to wish all my friends and readers a very Merry Christmas from all of us here at Mulberry Cottage. I’d like to thank everyone who’s taken the time to read my books this year, who’s been kind enough to leave a review or to message me with their thoughts.

Christmas 2015 I’ve been overwhelmed with the response to The Rose Girls this year and I’m delighted to tell you that it’s been chosen as one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2015. A lovely way to end the year!

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Tis the season …

Christmas is fast approaching and that meant a trip into London last week to meet some of my lovely writer friends. First, I met up with Ruth Saberton in Fortnum and Mason’s for a spot of Christmas shopping and we simply couldn’t resist their beautiful biscuit tins!

Victoria and Ruth at Fortnums 2

Then it was on to Daphne’s in Chelsea for a Christmas lunch with some of my Notting Hill Press pals (L-R: Ruth, Michele Gorman, Talli Roland, Me and Chris Manby). We spend so much time chatting to each other online that it’s really special to get us all in the same room and have a really good catch-up.

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Back at home and we introduced Hattie to the weird and wonderful tradition of bringing a tree into the house.

Christmas tree Roy and Hattie

With a nine-month-old puppy romping around, we won’t be bringing out my favourite glass baubles this year!

Christmas countdown!

I can hardly believe it’s less than a month until Christmas! We’ll soon be rummaging around the loft looking for all of our pretty decorations and maybe treating ourselves to a few new one too – preferably ones which are puppy-proof!

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Our Ella

Now, all our rescue hens are precious, but some touch your heart in a special way and Ella was one of those girls. Losing Ella was particularly hard as it came just two weeks after losing her sister, Winnie.

First day freedomOne of our Thrush Green flock – named after characters from Miss Read’s wonderful novels – Ella came to Mulberry Cottage to begin her retirement in May 2014 and she was in a bit of a state with bald patches all over her body. But she made her presence known with her very loud bawping. You could always tell when Ella was around – she was the most vocal hen I’ve ever met!

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10896918_10155128395560517_103275456392567649_nLuckily, Ella grew most of her feathers back in time for her first winter!

10801807_10155023507380517_1748292371153591078_nBut I made sure she had plenty of warm cuddles just to be on the safe side!

11056893_10155949459320517_5398696429395672343_nAlways curious, always adventurous, Ella discovered that you could reach the elderberries if you jumped onto one of the nest boxes!

11535789_10155669339005517_7113838060061047799_nBut life wasn’t always fun. There were a few health problems including trouble with egg laying and a horrible sinus infection which blew up the left-hand side of her face. So in she came for extra care and attention.

IMG_5516As this summer came to an end, our Ella began to slow down, taking little naps during the day and fluffing up her feathers so that she resembled a splendid golden football. I knew her time was approaching but it didn’t make the goodbye any easier.

Goodnight darling Ella. You were so special to us and were so much a part of life at Mulberry Cottage. We’ll miss you forever.

Remembering Winnie

We lost our darling Winnie earlier this week. She’d been slowly slipping away from us for some time.

Winnie arrival 1Winnie – one of our ‘Thrush Green’ girls named after characters from the novels by Miss Read – came home with us in May 2014 with her ‘sisters’ Agnes, Ella and Violet.

Winnie arrivalShe was a bright, sparky girl who immediately embraced her new free-ranging life.

Winnie ventures outAnd it didn’t take her long to regrow all her feathers and turn a beautiful pale gold.

Winnie JulyWinnie had a strong personality and was particularly bossy when we introduced our new flock in August, putting the new girls firmly in their place.

Winnie portraitBut she was slowing down dramatically, taking little naps in the day and needing a helping hand to get into the coop each evening.

Winnie IMG_5407We’re going to miss you, darling Winnie. You made us smile and laugh and we’ll love you forever!

The Nancy Blackett

My husband did something rather wonderful last week – he chartered a boat for a day’s sailing. Now, I’ve always wanted to go sailing and any boat in the world would have made me happy, but he hadn’t booked just any old boat – he’d booked the Nancy Blackett!

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The Nancy Blackett is a beautiful 1930’s cutter which belonged to the author Arthur Ransome. He called it his ‘best little ship’ and named it after his much-loved character from the Swallows and Amazon books.

02bAnd the Nancy Blackett was the boat that featured as ‘Goblin’ in my favourite Ransome novel, We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea, so it was a really special experience to be part of the crew along with our skipper and mate.

IMG_5149One of the most wonderful things about sailing is that you get to see things you wouldn’t normally see – like little glimpses of churches and beautiful homes by the water’s edge, as well as seals, cormorants and the occasional Thames barge. You are truly in a different element when you’re out on the water.

11When it came time for me to take the tiller and steer the boat, I was filled with both excitement and nerves. I’m not sure I did a very good job, but I had enormous fun.

P1250030Sailing down the River Orwell to where it meets the River Stour, we moored and had lunch in the cockpit, the September sun streaming down on us as the water lapped the sides of the boat. Then Roy took the tiller for the journey back, skillfully tacking upriver, passing Pin Mill and spotting Alma Cottage where the Walker children in Ransome’s book were staying before their big adventure out at sea.

P1250115As we arrived back at Wolverstone Marina where Nancy is moored, I couldn’t help thinking of the line from We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea: ‘Grab a chance and you won’t be sorry for a might-have-been.’ Yes, we certainly managed to do that, I think!