A Truly Kentish Afternoon :: Flower Picking in the Sun

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One sunny Friday afternoon, on a day that feels very long ago now, I hopped in the car and headed out to ‘the countryside’ (near Maidstone) for a spot of flower picking with some of my loveliest lady chums.

Blooming Green Flowers is a small, independent flower business sandwiched between some working farms. On a Friday afternoons during the summer, it’s open to the public for flower picking.

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My delightful friend and co-Aussie-expat Nat suggested that we take a peek, and being the kind of person that I am, I was immediately on board. It’s £10 and you can pick anything you like, up to 50 stems, which I thought was incredibly reasonable. On arrival you’re given a tall tin vase and a pair of secateurs, and are encouraged to snip away to your heart’s content.

I’m fascinated by dahlias at the moment, which were abundant in their mathematical glory, so many were picked, as well as some eucalyptus (#Aussiesrepresent) and a few choice stems of echinacea. I love the elegance of echinacea, and picked up a few plants on my later visit to Stone Green Nurseries.

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As a slight aside, I don’t have a proper camera at the moment, and so while I save my ££ up for a DSLR,  I’m having a play with the settings on my iPhone. I know it’s a bit naff, but there is actually quite a lot you can do with an iPhone, and I’ve been particularly enjoying playing  around with the focus and depth of field. The setting provided much inspiration!

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After we’d all picked our fill, we bundled off into one of the nearby studios, which looked to be some kind of old farm stores, where an artist had set up shop with his mum, selling art, teas, coffees and cake. It was a full-on Kent afternoon, make no mistake. Obviously it was one of the best days of my life, as I like to pretend I’ve stepped out of some kind of Nancy Mitford novel. I relish these days.

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Another friend, Deb, is also a keen allotmenteer (when I say keen, I mean she is very experienced and has managed hers for about 15 years I think!) and so we did a little swap of some of our courgettes for her corn, as ours at the time was still ripening.

Although our lovely long summer days are now past, there remains much pleasure to be had in looking back, to how well those all-too-short days were spent, don’t you agree?

Stories from The Odyssey

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Back in the day I was a total charity shop/vintage lover bandit. I adored a good old rummage through the myriad shops in Rochester and had some fantastic vintage hauls indeed. 

My tastes have changed somewhat in the intervening years, and to be perfectly honest I got a little tired of seeing the same-old-same-old. As soon as my purse allowed, I stopped shopping there quite so much, moving much more to online shopping. 

I was recently reminded of the joys of ‘thrifting’, when last week I was compelled to visit our local Oxfam after lunch with Mr H. I stumbled across this lovely version of classic Greek myth The Odyssey. I happen to be teaching it to my class at the moment, but there is also something I’ve found personally quite fascinating about Greek Mythology, so I snapped up this lovely copy, for a mere £2.49. 

It’s now sitting on my bedside table, waiting for me to jump aboard and join in with its adventures. Roll on these Autumn evenings and early nights I say!

Pottering About :: A Visit to Stone Green Nurseries

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Things on the allotment front have now calmed down a little. We’ve harvested all of our main vegetables for the year, and our minds have now turned to preparing for next year. 

 I plan to do an update post showing you the progress we’ve made over the year, which is really quite considerable, considering that we both work full time, and that we have approximately no clues as to what we are doing. Apart from blogging, I’ve never really stuck with something this long before, and so I find myself quite impressed….with myself…..ahem. 

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A couple of weeks ago we made the journey out to Bethersden, to visit Stone Green Nurseries. The nurseries were originally set up to sell to trade, that is, Garden Centres and the like, but now they have about 10 open weekends a year where they sell direct to the public. 

Mr H and I have been looking for a couple of extra plants, particularly another fruit tree for the orchard area of the allotment, and some echinacea for our borders at home. I was also on the hunt for some raspberry canes, again for the allotment, but unfortunately none were to be found. 

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After a good meander, we came away with a 7 foot fig tree, a lovely thyme plant, some echinacea and a currant tree. We got 20% off as part of the open weekend and walked away having spent less than £30. A bargain in anyone’s books!

I actually really enjoyed the drive there – at the moment I am loving driving through deepest darkest Kentish countryside, with wistful dreams of moving further out there one day. A pipe dream for now…..

If you’re looking to add to your plant collection, I really recommend Stone Green Nurseries, and their next open weekend will be 24 – 26 March 2017. Keep an eye out!

Life Lately :: Summer Holiday in Cascais, Portugal

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Long time, no blog. You may have guessed, I’m back at work! Not too long ago, however, I was living it large in the sun. 

I never really expected to be the kind of person that has ‘summer holidays’ where, you know, I actually went on holiday! I tend to be more of a staycation kind of a gal, truth be told.

Mr H and I have had one hell of a hectic first year of marriage, and the only improvement we would have made to our last holiday, our honeymoon in Warsaw, would have been to have been able to have a few days beside a pool. So we booked two weeks in Portugal with that very goal in mind.

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We were delighted to be joined by my fabulous sister T, who managed to wangle 2 weeks leave and joined us from Australia, to celebrate a belated birthday with us. Result!

The first week of our break was spent in Estoril and Cascais, both along the Portuguese coast, about 30 minutes drive from Lisbon. Estoril has a sleepy sort of resort feel about it, and is most famous for the Casino Estoril, said to be the inspiration behind Ian Fleming’s Bond novel Casino Royale! Very glam.

Mr Hello and I were booked into a studio apartment in the Hotel Amazonia Estoril. Having booked our August trip in February, we got an excellent deal, and while I wouldn’t necessarily class it as a luxury hotel, it was spotlessly clean, with helpful staff and had a quiet, boutiquey feel about it. It was exactly what we wanted – nothing too crazy or busy, and there were about 10 or so other groups staying at the same time, who, over the course of our week’s stay, we grew to be on polite head-nodding terms with. The exact amount of getting to know people on holiday I wanted to do! You may not believe it, but I occasionally lean towards the antisocial side of things….

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Cascais is definitely more well known for it’s beach and party scene, and this is where we spent most of our time in our week there. It’s very touristy, being a holiday hotspot for the Portuguese as well as those of us from overseas, but very pleasantly so, in my opinion.

We walked and walked and…..walked over our first week. Mr Hello lived in the area for a few years as a child, and so we spent some time exploring his old haunts. We also drank quite a lot of Super Bock, a rather lethal local beer. It was quite delightful!

If I’m totally honest, the area is not full to the brim with ‘sights’ – and if that’s what you’re looking for I would head closer to Lisbon, but it was absolutely perfect for a relaxing holiday (just what I needed).

There are a few things I would recommend that you do if you do find yourself in either Estoril or Cascais though:

  • From June to September, Estoril is home to a wonderful artisan’s fair – Fiartil Feira de Artisanato do Estoril – which is home to some excellent open air restaurants, local street food vendors, arts and crafts to die for and if you’re lucky, some traditional rancho dancing and fado. A must see.
  • Mercado de Cascais – this is a huge food, fish, flower and general goods market in central Cascais. It feels like a real local market, and can get incredibly busy, but is worth a wander around if you want to feel like a local and marvel at women standing on tables and shouting at the top of their lungs with a baby on their hip.
  • Head to Masala in the centre of Cascais. Living in England, I’m certainly no stranger to a spot of Indian food, but our meals (yes, plural) were incredibly delicious, and I’m pretty sure the term ‘service with a smile’ started off in this restaurant. The team at Masala were fantastic, so good, in fact, that we returned a couple of days later, where they continued to win us over by remembering us! They are always busy, so try and get down there before 9pm, but even if you’re later, the queue moves quickly. I highly recommend the 5 euro gin and tonics, too. They are quite *ahem* large. 

We had a fantastic time in this part of Portugal and I would not hesitate to recommend it. It’s clean, the public transport is cheap, it feels like there are things going on but not too many, and there is also an atmosphere of active relaxation. I highly approve. 

Our Anniversary :: Kynren

That evening we headed over to the Kynren site. The seating area, known as the ‘Tribune’ is about a 10/15 minute walk from the carpark, but it was very clear all the way down and quite a lovely view. We’d been advised to wear comfortable shoes and warm clothing, and so found the walk quite pleasant!

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The volunteers on the site were absolutely amazing. All of them had such lovely welcoming attitudes, actively trying to be helpful, which is definitely not always the case with events like this! They’d obviously been very well trained, and enjoyed being a part of the Kynren process – it definitely added to the experience for us.

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The Tribune was a large wooden grandstand, and outside were a great selection of food and drink vans and bars. The atmosphere was great, everyone seemed to be a little bit buzzy waiting for the show to start, and Mr H and I definitely enjoyed taking a step back and doing some quality people watching! We went through to our seats about 40 minutes before the show started.

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Unfortunately, this is where things started to go a little wrong. I’d paid for swanky cushioned seats, and the view was excellent as we were really central. The seats themselves, however, were all jammed in next to each other, so I was practically cuddling Mr H *and* the random gent on the other side of me. This might have been ok for a short show, but having gotten into our seats early, it was Squishville for over 2  hours, which was uncomfortable to say the least!

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I couldn’t take any images of the show, and I will try and avoid spoilers, although can you spoil a show about the history of Britain, considering it’s already happened? I digress.

I will say a couple of things though. The show was visually stunning, in fact I don’t think I’ve seen anything so impressive in live performance – ever. They made full use of the landscape in which they were set, as well as the lake, and lots of technology.

There were, however, some parts of the show that I was hugely disappointed with. All the audio was pre-recorded. All of it. There was no live audio in the show at all. I can almost understand why they did this, being an outdoor show in England, but it was hugely disappointing and I felt like it almost encouraged the performers to mime more. Their physical performance became a little over-egged to match the audio, rather than them being extensions of one another.

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The show touches on events of historical importance, such as the mass migration of Asian people to the area. This was represented in the show by Bhangra dancers, but it was disappointing to see that these were obviously not trained Bhangra dancers, and in most cases from what I could see, weren’t actually Asian people. I think it’s a sensitive topic but I thought it was odd – sure in the huge area that is the North East there is at least one Bhangra dancing group? It would have been more effective, more impressive and driven the point home more about the diversity of the area if the performers had been more diverse.

The other disappointing element was the Colliery band. They mimed. It was obvious. So instead of following the story I was thinking “Why are they miming?” and cringing. I don’t think I need to say much more than that!

Overall, the show was good fun, and as I’ve said, it was visually spectacular. I’m not sure though, that it was really worth it considering the distance we drove. If it was in Kent, I think I would recommend it, but if you’re not in the North East I think you will be disappointed. They very nearly got it right, but for me as a theatre-lover, the small things they got wrong added up to a night that was just a bit off target.

Our evening went fully pear-shaped after that, as our taxi driver didn’t wait for us and we ended up having to wait for nearly 2 hours to get back to the hotel! Luckily the ladies we ended up sharing with were so hilariously drunk that it took my mind off it!

~

We did have a lovely weekend all in all though, and it was great to see some more of the country. I’d like to spend some more time up North, and even head out to Beamish Museum, which we heard great things about but ran out of time for.

Have you seen Kynren? What did you think?

Our Anniversary :: The Houndgate Townhouse Review

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So about three or four months ago, I booked some tickets for us to go and see the show Kynren in Bishop Auckland. It was billed as 2,000 years of British history, with the involvement of over 1,000 local people. I love a bit of community art interaction, so I thought this sounded like as good an opportunity  as any for our first little road trip! The dates happened to coincide with our first anniversary, so it was perfect!

Now if your British geography is as good as mine (i.e. awful) you will be interested to hear that Bishop Auckland is what we call “Up North”, pretty much as far north as you can get before you hit Scotland. It took us about 5 and a half hours to get there, because we did faff around a little bit when we left, and stopped off for a coffee en route.

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We stayed in the Houndgate Townhouse in Darlington, which is about 30 minutes from Bishop Auckland. The Houndgate is an 8 bedroom boutique hotel, with a bar and restaurant. From the first moment we were utterly impressed with the hotel. The front of house staff were all very courteous and helpful, booking us a taxi for the evening and helping us to find the carpark.

Anniversary Trip 11 - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaUnfortunately this was the only downside of the hotel – because of its central location there is no on-site parking, and so you need to park in the multi-storey which is behind the hotel. This is paid for by the hotel during most hours during your stay, and it is very new and secure, but a tiny bit of a faff, and after the long drive I was feeling particularly brain dead.
Anniversary Trip 2 - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaI had booked a luxury  double room for us to stay in (it’s only your first anniversary once!) and we were not disappointed. The bed was gorgeously comfortable, and the carpet had that reassuring thickness which prevented the am-I-walking-too-heavily angst that I am prone to.

The room was absolutely spotless, and decorated perfectly on what I would call the the tasteful side of Laura Ashley. The staff even wrote us an anniversary card, which was a nice touch!Anniversary Trip 3 - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaSomething to bear in mind was that we could hear the bar below our room playing music and getting ready for their Saturday night trade, which we didn’t actually find disruptive, but it was definitely audible through the floor. If you’re a light sleeper  it may be an issue, although given my experience of the staff, I am sure they would turn the music down at a moment’s notice if you mentioned it!

That evening we went to the show, and ended up getting back quite late (see my review of Kynren here).  I have never been so glad to crawl into bed.Anniversary Trip 12 - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaAnniversary Trip 14 - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaAnniversary Trip 13 - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaIn the morning, we headed downstairs to grab some breakfast. The hotel offers an a la carte menu for breakfast (although it was included in the cost of the room) and so Mr H and I both decided to go for the full English. I neglected to take photos, unfortunately! It was beautifully cooked and presented, with our baked beans coming out in their own little copper pot. It was very cute. 

The coffee was hot, fresh and tasty, and our waitress sounded exactly like Sarah Millican. It was *most* satisfactory.Anniversary Trip 17 - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha Anniversary Trip 16 - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

I would have liked to stay in the hotel a little longer than one night, and to have tried their restaurant, because the menu looked delicious and it had great reviews.

Despite our short day, would recommend the Houndgate Townhouse to anyone in the area because the service was impeccable. It’s a stylish retreat, perfect for couples, and sometimes that can be intimidating. On the other hand, I feel like you can often overlook shabby decor if the service is great. Luckily in this case you don’t have to, and can enjoy great decor and great service, which is the best of both worlds!

1 Year, 12 Month, 365 Days, 525600 Minutes :: A Year in the Life

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I got married one year ago. 

For someone who considers herself to be quite in touch with her emotions, I often find it difficult to express how I feel properly in public. I’m conscious that despite his decision to marry me, the number one sharer of personal information, Mr Hello is a very private person, and over the time we’ve been together I’ve found myself to lean that way more and more. 

Despite this, I’m going to put my thoughts out there, into the universe for all to see, but also for me to look back on in the future. I’ve loved having such an extensive record of my life available to me, many memories that I’d filed away in my mind, and forgotten. I never want to forget my first year of marriage. 

Easy. In a word, this year has been easy in so many ways. The marriage part has been easy, and the strength of our union has made the professional challenges we’ve both faced this year easier

Mr H does not appreciate the brilliance of the Dixie Chicks, but who cares. This song is it.

Happy one year anniversary my love.

 

Life Lately :: My Summer Break Begins

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Well the summer has finally arrived in the Hello household, and I am sooooo pleased to have made it through my first year of primary teaching.

The weather in our part of the world has been really incredible recently, nicely coinciding with the holiday feeling I seem to have been cultivating! I was lucky enough to get a couple of bottles of fizz as thank you presents this year, and so I cracked one open at the earliest opportunity and toasted to my class!

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A funny story, although one that I am almost certain Mr H doesn’t want me to share. The champagne flute in the picture above is part of a Royal Doulton set called ‘Linear’. We got a set of wine glasses and some decanters as a wedding gift,  and I’d been searching for some flutes as well, as I’d heard the range had been discontinued. I stumbled upon a set of flutes in John Lewis, and snapped them up as soon as I saw them. I brought them home to some eye-rolling from Mr H, who for some unknown reason, doesn’t get as excited about glassware as I do. Literally, the next day, as he was putting the glasses away in our cupboard, he dropped one, on to two other glasses, smashing half of my new set!

He was obviously devastated on my behalf, although I was surprisingly accepting of it, trying to make sure he didn’t feel too bad! Things are things, and to be perfectly honest I was a bit surprised  that it wasn’t me that had broken them first!

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We’ve also been spending a lot more time in the allotment – it’s basically harvest time! We’ve eaten all of our lovely potatoes, and my god lovely is truly the right word. I’d never considered potatoes to have a particularly distinct flavour, and I’m Polish, so that’s saying something! But freshly dug potatoes are so creamy, and their texture is just divine. All hail home grown taters!

I bought a couple of courgette and pumpkin seedlings when we went to the Kent Garden Show a few weeks back, and I’m pleased to say they have both gone absolutely mental. We picked Big Bertha the courgette a couple of days ago, and I know she has a couple more friends ready waiting to be picked any day now. No pumpkins yet, but I pruned a couple of the vines back to see if that would make a difference – I want the plant to use its energy to make the pumpkin, rather than a long vine. I do, however, find it rather pleasing to see a huge pumpkin vine cascading over our plot, but still, eyes must remain on the pumpkiny prize. 

I’ve taken this week really easily – a couple of days cleaning up my classroom, some gardening, quite a bit of expensive shopping (more on that to come) and general lazing about. The next few weeks will undoubtedly have more structure in them, as I’m determined to be a super efficient machine-type woman in the lead up to the new school year, but this week I am happy just to take it slow. 

 

 

 

The Northern Seaman :: Rochester

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This Saturday Mr Hello and I decided to go on a DATE. We’d heard rumours of the opening of a new micro pub  down on the Rochester/Chatham High Street, so thought we’d head down to check out the vibe and sample their wares.

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The Northern Seaman 2 - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaThe Northern Seaman describes itself as a new micro pub upholding “traditional pub values in a fresh, innovative manner”. And that, my friends, appears to be exactly what it is! It’s a great little bar – I would go so far to say it’s as much a bar as a pub – with trendy (but not too trendy) decor and an impressive range of beers and wines. YAS, YOU HEARD RIGHT – SOMEWHERE ON THE HIGH STREET SERVING PROPER WINE.
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The state of the wine on offer in Medway has been something of a bone of contention on my part for, hmm…years? Kent does a fine old pub, and in fact my favourite pubs in the world are virtually on my door step, but can this West Australian gal get a decent glass of wine anywhere in the region?

Not until now. The Northern Seaman is not only offering ales from such excellent brewers such as Nelson Brewery, Dartford Wobbler and Caveman, but it is also the only bar in Medway (that I have come across, at least) that serves wines from Biddenden and Chapel Down Vineyards, both of which are located in our lovely county! It’s silly, really, but one of the things I miss most about Perth is being able to just pop in somewhere for a really nice glass of wine and a natter with a pal. I hate to be a snob, but the ol’ Blossom Hill just doesn’t cut it!

Having said that, on this visit the ale proved to tempting to resist and I was expertly guided by the barman Tim towards my very own pint of the Golden Wobbler. At £3 a pint it was very reasonably priced, and served at a lovely drinkable temperature.

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We stayed for a couple of drinks, watched the bar fill up with young hipster types (Yay! Hipsters!) and spent some quality time together, on an actual date, being an actual couple.

The Northern Seaman 3 - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaIn fact, I’d really recommend The Northern Seaman as somewhere for a date – it’s happening but not too busy, and not necessarily in the part of the High Street where you’ll be interrupted every 5 minutes by someone you know, which, for us Medway-ites, is often a occupational hazard! There was a real buzz while we were there, so it’s obviously filling a hole in the market!

The staff were courteous and friendly, more than happy to share their knowledge, and seemed genuinely pleased to see us there. The decor is contemporary with a handmade vintage twist, and you’re not going to be intimidated out of the joint by regulars propping up the bar.The Northern Seaman 5 - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha Although there seem to be a few new venues of this ilk popping up across the Medway towns, I say bring it on – places like The Northern Seaman can only add to our cultural landscape, in my humble, wine-loving opinion.

Go check it out and let me know what you think!

 

P.S. – I have not been reimbursed for this post at all, I am simply spreading the love!

A Walk by the Medway :: Visiting Temple Marsh

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Last weekend I got a major case of cabin fever, and so Mr H proposed a little jaunt out of the house to visit a piece of land that had piqued his interest over the last few weeks.

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Temple Marsh is, funnily enough, an old landfill site, which is now safe to walk on but not yet ready to be built on. It’s directly over the River Medway from Rochester, and often on our walks we’ve noticed it and wondered what in the world it was. Temple Marsh Map - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

It was a bit of a soggy stomp to get there, and we had to be kindly redirected by an interesting chap who lived on one of the houseboats moored nearby.

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It was a really pretty walk, and we even got to meet a very neat little fox, who actually looked rather surprised to see a human in what I expect is their playground! We walked with no real plan in mind, just soaking up the atmosphere and the opportunity to be out in the fresh air before the heavens opened once again.

Anyone who lives in Kent will attest to the fact that the weather recently has been absolutely diabolical!

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I’ve pulled together a short film of the walk. Take a look:

I’m pretty new to vlogging and video editing, and this is the first time I’ve worked up the courage to post something I’ve pulled together. Lots to learn, but let’s not let the fear of looking a fool get in the way….never stopped me before!

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As we began to make our way back we noticed the tiniest apple tree bursting with fruit!

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The route back is not what I’d call particularly peaceful, as Temple Marsh more or less backs on to a somewhat grotty industrial estate, however, this little gem is also nearby:

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Temple Manor is a 12th Century building that was once owned by the Knights Templar. The fact that I have 12th Century buildings virtually blows the mind of this here colonial, so Mr Hello and I simply had to pop in and have a look around.

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While the building is essentially empty now, once upon a time it was an important Manor House on the side of the River, supporting many farming tenants on its land and monitoring the comings and goings of the bridge crossings.

After WWII it fell into terrible disrepair, but was thankfully restored by English Heritage in the 1970s, I believe. It’s a real little treat amongst the fading industry of the area, and relatively under appreciated I think! There’s definitely something lonesome about it, rising up proudly from its now-modest surroundings.

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Another interesting day out for the Hello Family. More to come soon!

A UK Lifestyle Blog By Another Bloody Australian.