Lifestyle: Saying Goodbye to Summer at Castle Ashby Gardens

Whilst the weather is still rather scorching, the sun is still shining, and it’s the Bank Holiday weekend, I’m slowly coming to the realisation that my summer is coming to an end. In just over a week I’ll be trading lie-ins for tube journeys, lazy days with office days, PJs with suits, bare feet with heels.

 photo Castle Ashby Gardens 16_zps0kuqj756.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 18_zpshrcd954v.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 19_zpsxk3imgkl.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 21_zpskifczuqu.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 20_zpsvrrsx5yj.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 26_zpsk1mnd7ed.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 24_zpstaqobzew.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 27_zps5jjhqmfi.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 12_zps2cfwoynh.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 22_zpsquvhfvpy.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 10_zpshhsjgk4t.jpgI mean, I’m excited to start work. If I’m honest waking up knowing I have nothing to do fills me with dread, and I’ve begun to feel like my brain is melting through lack of activity. I’ll be glad to get some kind of daily routine going, I’ll be challenging myself, learning new things and keeping busy. But it will be hard to let go of the laziness. I’ve had longer off this summer than I have since the summer of 2009. I’ve always, always worked through summers, and this one has been the exception.

To make the most of the gorgeous sunshine Northamptonshire has been basking in lately, and to make the most of the countryside whilst we still can, we headed out to Castle Ashby a few weeks ago. A teeny-tiny village, it features a rural shopping yard of galleries and delicatessens, gorgeous houses, and a stately-home with it’s gardens open to the public. The gardens were the reason for our visit, despite costing £5.50 to enter they really are an oasis of calm. Plenty of dappled shade on a hot day, lots of lawn to lay a picnic blanket down and laze about, plenty of flowers to practice setting up my camera manually.

 photo Castle Ashby Gardens 1_zpsvmyd57d1.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 5_zps4ck8jq7o.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 3_zpsw9aa5dqz.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 2_zps0aawyabo.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 4_zpso84oiqxh.jpgAnd the best bit? The meerkats! If I’m completely honest they were my main reason for suggesting a visit to Castle Ashby. I love them! So comical and mischievous, I could (and did) watch them for hours. Our visit was even more special as, wandering around the sides of their enclosure, we noticed a mummy-meerkat bring her babies out of the den for what was apparently the first time. If there’s anything cuter than a meerkat, it’s a meerkat baby!

We found a shaded bench to sit and chat, down by a small lily-pond with a view of their gorgeous terracotta bridge to our right. We watched as fish jumped out of the pond to catch flies, as swallows dived in for a drink. It was the perfect spot for a bit of peace and quiet ahead of our busy week moving our bits and bobs to London.

 photo Castle Ashby Gardens 6_zpspy7b5bnm.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 7_zpskfbiys6p.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 11_zps74ggug2h.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 14_zpsp282azp3.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 15_zpsxnzianew.jpgI tried using the opportunity of the gorgeous backgrounds to take a couple of outfit photos. This failed on several accounts. Firstly, the sun was so bright that looking towards the camera without squinting was difficult – especially in front of the very fashion-blogger-esque distressed brick walls. Secondly, I realised I was wearing a rather old dress. And by old, I mean I bought it five years ago. So some very nice photos of me, wearing a Dorothy Perkins dress you’d be lucky to find anywhere. Oops…

Fashion blogger failure aside, it was lovely to wander through the gardens, stroll through the greenhouses (including one filled with chillis – I was more apprehensive about the tomato filled one!) and learn more about the estate. I loved how well maintained the gardens were, without seeing teams of gardeners around every corner, and agree the funds raised from entry charges was clearly being well used. If only we’d had time to stop in the tea rooms!

Thank you summer’16 – it’s been glorious, but I’m glad it’s coming to an end. Until next year, though I’d welcome the warmth and sunshine for a little longer.

How has your summer been? 

Lifestyle: Day Trip to Cambridge

 photo 2014-04-26162705_zps2b58c16b.jpgSometimes me and my boyfriend want to get away from our local town. Setting an hour’s drive limit means that he doesn’t have to drive too far, and we’ve managed to explore lots of lovely semi-local places. A few Saturdays ago we decided to visit Cambridge. I have family over there, but haven’t actually been into the city since 2001, and my boyfriend’s most recent visits (still over two years ago…time flies!) were overshadowed by the fact that he was attending a university interview.  photo 2014-04-26162642_zpsd2ec05b5.jpgWe ended up having a really lovely day, and it wasn’t as expensive as we were expecting – £3 each park-and-ride ticket, and our lunch (which I didn’t photograph) was a relative bargain at £9-£10 for huge portions. We took advantage of knowing a current university student so had a lovely wander round his college gardens – such a different university life from ours! I’m just going to post all of the pictures taken on our day, with a few captions – so yes it’s a little more picture-heavy than normal, but they do say a picture speaks a thousand words…  photo 2014-04-26162535_zps980492e7.jpg  photo 2014-04-26162303_zpsbe6d747c.jpg  photo 2014-04-26162708_zps9dea639f.jpgWaiting to catch up!  photo 2014-04-26123410_zps3e17fa22.jpgCheeky selfie – we were interrupted/surprised by our friend Matt turning up, and I managed to catch Will’s reaction here! If you’re interested, the makeup I’m wearing is – Bodyshop’s Mineral Powder (lightest shade), Naked 3 eye shadows, Natural Collection mascara (the best, and cheapest, I’ve tried!) and MUA Power Pout in the brown shade – sorry I’m not being too descriptive! photo 2014-04-26164022_zps7d1fb6bb.jpgWe didn’t go punting, but will definitely give it a go next time – we’re planning to go back after my exams.  photo 2014-04-26162219_zps940d6a61.jpg  photo 2014-04-26162159_zpse77a9b69.jpg  photo 2014-04-26142259_zps6504b095.jpg I managed to drag both of the boys into the Inglot shop, and spent a while in there dreaming up my perfect palette. I’m not too sure how I felt about the eyeshadows to be honest – maybe my Naked palette has spoilt me?! I found that the shimmery colours were mainly lovely, but all of the mattes were horribly chalky with awful colour payoff. I have a lovely matte eyeshadow from Sainsbury’s (own makeup brand) which is far better, and my Sleek palettes have matte shades which are also far better! I calculated that it would cost £18.50 for my ‘dream’ palette (3 colours), and I’m undecided as to whether I’ll shell out or continue saving for Naked 2. Any thoughts?  photo 2014-04-26192904_zps4835fd4f.jpgWe finished the day off with a takeaway pizza – I found one without tomatoes! Its the first takeaway pizza I have had for a long, long time, and it was perfect. A garlicky, herby pesto sauce, with lots of stringy cheese – yum! Best of all was the price, it was a ‘large’ and at only £5.50 it made both a filling dinner and tasty lunch the next day. All in all we had a lovely day, it was nice to wander aimlessly without having to ‘do’ anything! Nice to spend some time not worrying about exams too…

Have you been to Cambridge? Do you have any recommendations of things to do on our return visit?