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Posts tagged ‘Countryside’

An Extraordinary British Summer, Part 2: Provençal luncheon, Sussex setting

Everyone dreams of those typical Provençal scenes – the rustic wooden table, set out under the dappled shade of a bounteous fig tree, chairs collected from all over the house set around the table as a miscellaneous collective of dissonant styles, and upon the table pitchers of wine, large bowls of salads and platters loaded with fruits and meats set down in waiting for a large family gathering…Such was the idyll we created last weekend, but not in Provence. In England, where the country’s best summer in decades continues to bring smiles of sun-inspired joy across all four corners of the Kingdom.

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For me, the heady mix of sunshine and a lush flower-filled English country garden, is one of the very best ways to enjoy the summer. My childhood memories are full of nostalgic reflections on summer picnics on the lawn, the feel of grass between my toes, the smell of lavender wafting in the wind, the sensation of stone paths baked by the sun (I think I must have deleted the memories of the rainfall which inevitably dogged other days – who needs to remember those?). So on those occasions when the English summer bears fruit, I head to my childhood garden where the flowers still grow abundantly, and the family can still gather despite the many years that have gone by.

So all things combined, and with my family now double the size what it was in my childhood, my homage to the English summer was a table laid under an iris tree, freshly cut flowers hung overhead so their perfume imbued the air during a lunch of barbecued meats and elaborate Mediterranean style salads. The wine, of course, was flowing, and as my birthday fast approaches, a first cake and early presents were enjoyed to mark an occasion perfectly fitting for this fine English summer. And as befits a luncheon more Mediterranean than British, our afternoon was spent at the seaside, where the waters of the South Coast are easily as warm as Spain’s.

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Vive the English summer! Long may it continue.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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An Extraordinary British Summer, Part 1: Glyndebourne

I have been to Glyndebourne, the wonderfully bucolic Sussex opera house, many times. Yet I have never, ever enjoyed the kind of idyllic summer weather which is promised by all the archetypal postcard shots. Many a year I have struggled to pin down a picnic blanket in ferocious blustery winds, cowered in marquees to avoid sudden rain showers, or taken refuse in the covered balconies of thered-bricked opera house building. This year couldn’t have been more different. For we are enjoying an exceptional summer in England, with a sustained period of heat the likes of which has not been seen for decades. Just reward, one might say, for a hellish winter that saw snow storms in March and a cancellation of Spring, but another sign that the world’s weather has all gone a bit mad.

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So finally this was the year for the sunny Glyndebourne picnic which I have long been pursuing like a Templar Knight seeking out the Holy Grail. While the concept of donning a dinner jacket in 30 degrees was far from pleasant, we were at least able to benefit from the shade of drooping willows and the light breeze rolling off green Sussex hillsides. In fact the weather was easily good enough to picnic in style, and we went all out – gone was the bobbled blanket in favour of foldable furniture, a Mallorquín tablecloth and fine china tea cups, all setting the scene for a lakeside picnic which beat the very best of Glyndebourne idylls.

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As for the opera – Pelleas et Mélisande by Debussy – it offered a suitably dreamlike fantasy whose imagery could have come straight out of a painting by the Pre-Raphaelites. Known for its highly symbolic qualities, the narrative was not always one which could be easily followed, but Debussy’s score – at times elegantly impressionistic and at others dramatically Wagnerian – was so exquisitely moving that all one had to do was sit back and enjoy the waves of rousing orchestral crescendo wash over you like water crashing over the eager Sussex shoreline.

Best of all was the the moment when the curtain fell, and we wandered out into gardens still lit by a sky tinged pink from a recently departed sunset. The heat of the sun was now dissipated and a fresher yet balmy breeze enticing us to enjoy the Sussex landscape in this most pleasant of summer hours. If only the British summer was always like this.

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Windsor Weekend, Part IV: The Park

The true might and scale of Windsor Castle is best appreciated at a distance. When approaching by train, the station at Windsor and Eton Riverside gives the appearance of a toy town construction as it sits in the shadow of the mighty castle silhouette on the skyline behind it. From the river, the great Castle pervades all watery reflections as a mirror image in the Thames doubles its impact. But best of all is the Castle viewed from the vast grounds which surround it, as the sprawling regal complex stands at the apex of a 2.65 mile perfectly straight road which cuts through Windsor Great Park: a true demonstration of its domination over the land.

Windsor Great Park is great indeed, humongous in fact. Had we wanted to explore each of its 2020 hectares we would have been exhausted indeed. And it would almost certainly take weeks to do it all. For these great hunting grounds of monarchs past are today the site of sprawling forests, vast landscaped gardens and agricultural land, and contain some of the most beautiful unspoilt countryside within the outer reaches of London.

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We restricted ourselves to the closet section of the park to Windsor town centre, namely the Long Walk and the land around it. Stretching from the Castle at one end to a grand imperial sculpture of George III upon a stallion at the other, the path is at the centre of a stunning tree and lawn lined avenue which seems to stretch as far as the eye can see. When setting off, the equine statue appears to be at the end of the world as it appears, tiny like a speck of dust on the far horizon. But as you proceed upon the Long Walk, admiring a progressively more bucolic scene unfold on either side, the true pomp and  enormity of the sculpture becomes clearer as behind, Windsor Castle shrinks in size.

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It was a hard slog, but we eventually reached George III, with the final efforts of our ascent to the base of the statue aptly rewarded by the most dazzling view of Windsor Castle far off in the distance. But turning the other way, we saw an idyllic landscape of rolling hills, woods and fields unfurl into the distance, and unable to resist a little embrace of this less landscaped scene, we delved into the forests and fields, snacking upon beautifully sweet forest berries as we did so. Here, only the unfortunate sound of Heathrow aircraft interrupted us. Otherwise the world was utterly still, and we found ourselves wonderfully at ease in this most heavenly of natural surroundings – the playground of the many Kings and Queens who have enjoyed the very rich landscapes which surround their home at Windsor.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Windsor Weekend, Part II: The Town

The title of this post is perhaps a little misleading. For as any visitor to Windsor by train will know, Windsor is not a town that flies solo. Rather, just across the river is the equally prestigious town of Eton, and together they make up an inseparable twosome with only a narrow stretch of tranquil water flowing between them. So today’s post will look, photographically speaking, not only at Windsor, but Eton too, for each one of them is historically important and aesthetically quaint, and both are surely the very quintessence of the picture-postcard English town.

The little town of Windsor is very much shaped by the castle which sits at its heart. The main high street encircles the vast outer walls, and every shop and business is turned towards the Castle as though they are spectators at a show. Given the size of the Castle, it is perhaps unsurprising that Windsor looks small and cute by comparison – much like Queen Mary’s dolls house which resides famously within the State Rooms of the Castle on the hill. But it is this scale which characterises Windsor as being an idyllic little urbanisation, with history oozing from its shops and houses as much as from the Castle.

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As though playing up to the English stereotype, the town is a hotpot of quaint little English pubs, sweet shops and of course fish ‘n chips – tourists must flip out when they stumble upon this paragon of Britishness. Not quite as entertained by the English ideal, I was instead enamoured by the chocolate-box quality of the place – by the houses which appeared to be leaning and creaking in every direction, as though reminding all visitors that their foundations are historical, a far cry from the modern lines and standard shapes of the 21st Century.

This charming idyll continues across the river to Eton, which is of course famous for its school, educator of Kings and Prime Ministers from across the ages. While Eton’s high street will greet you, long before the school, it is clear that Eton is very much subservient to its principal offering: hence why the shops are in business to take photos of the students, to dress them in their Sunday and uniformed best, and to boast, through souvenirs, the great educational treasure which the town holds within its midsts.

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Not far up the high street, that great bastion of refined education and privilege looms from beyond the buildings like a Tudor palace. It wasn’t possible to gain entrance, but peeks inside from the grounds betrayed a college which, like the Castle over the river, plays to the global mythology of a Harry Potter-like college oozing with age and historical significance. This is an expensive school, and the ravishing historical lines of its red-bricked building, its gardens abound with flowers, and its grounds running straight down to the river betray an establishment where students will benefit from the very best education and exposure to England at its verdant, bucolic best.

There was no hiding our pleasure at walking these grounds, smelling the fresh air and sitting back to enjoy the somniferous trickle of the calm river Thames. And even though a hint of envy might have entered our afternoon tranquility, when our own schools compared, somewhat less favourably, with this, it was largely with a sense of pride that we traversed the grounds of Eton. For as English stereotypes go, this is a ravishingly beautiful one, and something which the lucky few should enjoy to the full, never taking for granted the unspoilt beauty and prestige with which they will formerly enter the world of adulthood.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Hampton Court Palace, Part 3: The Wild and the Wonderful

My blog is reading like something of a paid marketing campaign for Hampton Court Palace at the moment, which I promise is not the case. Such was the visual pleasure of my visit to Hampton Court that my photo stream ran on for miles. In seeking to share the best from that day, while losing nothing of the splendour of the aesthetic pleasures which a visit to the Palace entails, I have sought to split up my Daily Norm narrative into more bitesize pieces. First I told you about the Palace’s incredibly manicured gardens, followed shortly afterwards by a tour of the hybrid interior. Today I’m back out into the gardens, but this time to the Great Fountain Garden, and the Wilderness, a stunning grassy landscape which is ostensibly less controlled by gardeners and designers, although I suspect that in reality, this appearance of under-management is as meticulously choreographed as the rest.

The Great Fountain Garden and Home Park beyond

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There can be no doubt that Christopher Wren’s Baroque facade of Hampton Court Palace is best viewed from its mighty gardens, whose tree tree-lined avenues radiate outwards in a crow’s foot pattern towards a water-bounded semi-circular parterre. Those avenues, whose trees are perfectly clipped to create cloud like green forms, provide a theatrical foreground beyond which the Palace can play a leading role as it glows, mighty and red, in perfect contrast with its green surroundings. If William and Mary of Orange had intended to compete with Versailles, it is clear that they gave good game, not least with the extensive Long Water canal which extends into Home Park beyond, magnifying both the scale of the grounds, but also reflecting the Palace in its mirrored surface. For us, a walk in these gardens proved to be unforgettable. We were enamoured not only by the dramatic landscape, where we felt like strolling into a Sunday evening period drama, but also by the peace and tranquillity which could be found there, away from the shrieks of children lost in the famous maze and closer to the stags and deer who could be seen grazing so majestically nearby.

But what the Great Fountain Garden gave in drama, the Wilderness oozed in bucolic tranquillity. Appearing almost wild, this semi-woodland full to the brim with long grasses and beds entirely given over to daffodils was one of my absolute highlights of the visit. As the sun started to dip behind the yellow petals in the late afternoon, a heavenly light seemed to fall over the place, fragmented as it was in an easy peppering of dappled sunlight, as low lying trees burst forth new pale green leaves. The effect was so transformative that I expected a lady in a long flowing dress and a gentleman in a top hat to wander into the scene at any moment. This was surely an impressionist moment worthy of Monet’s brush?

The untamed beauty of the Wilderness

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This day’s final acquaintance with the grounds of Hampton Court served as yet further illustration of the diversity of the gardens which make this Palace much more than its interiors. With their riverside location and semi-rural sensation, it was hard to imagine that we were a mere 30 minutes from the hectic heart of London. Thus we were transformed, not just by history, but by the green and verdant landscape which immersed us in an earthly paradise one very happy Sunday afternoon.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Mallorca My highlights – Part One: The First Year

A big move is in progress. The Daily Norm has one gelatinous leg in its new London home, and the other floating somewhere in transit as we await the delivery of all the possessions – and post importantly the computer – which makes writing of The Daily Norm a regular possibility. So excuses are sought from all readers for the temporary scarcity of posts. But at the same time, as any self respected blogger, I don’t want to lose this moment to reflect upon the magnitude of this change, nor to miss the opportunity to look back on my time in Mallorca. For two short years it may only have been, but those 27ish months provided a lifetime of unforgettable experiences for which I am so grateful.

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So in the next two posts, I plan to reflect back upon those two years, doing so by way of the medium of my photos which is surely the best way of reliving the memories. For the mere process of selecting these photos for part one of these posts – the first year of my Mallorca experience – demonstrated with such potency what an incredible time we had. The colours alone speak of a thousand moments, of all those sunsets and sunny days and spring flowers and autumn leaves. The incredible mountains and the craggy coast, the windmills and the sheep and the little shops of Palma’s Casco Antiguo. All goes in the mix as I reflect on my first of two years in Mallorca – two years which can be very easily labelled the best in my life. So far.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacybrown.com

Sheepish Easter Greetings from Mallorca

I feel rather sheepish as I creep quietly back into the editing space of The Daily Norm. For such has been the period of grievous separation between myself and my blog that I feel that we are almost like strangers. It may only have been something like two weeks, but for a regular blogger, that period has left me vacant, like a person devoid of a sixth sense. The cause was the run up to the tourist high season, which out here in Mallorca leaves few people with time to breathe the fresh air of Spring, thus leaving me with few opportunities to write, nor indeed anything of interest to share. But now mercifully the Easter is upon us – a time of rest, and of Spring-like hope.

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In that vein I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all readers of The Daily Norm a very happy Easter period with a selection of photos I took the other day deep in the midsts of the Mallorca countryside. They are ostensibly simple photos of local sheep, grazing in the grassy pastures close to the Cala Sant Vicenç. But what makes these shots more remarkable to me is the complex layering of the backdrop. In just one photo, you can gaze at blue skies, a stark greyish lilac mountain strata punctuated by dots of planting, a field of golden yellow and a further strata of green before it. Intermingled with everything are dainty white and mauve flowers, and of course the pearly white sheep who are the protagonists of the piece.

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For me these photos express a bucolic ideal and are the perfect way with which to wish you a Happy Easter. I hope you all enjoy the season, and indeed the very welcome entrance of Spring!

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Like snow in summertime

You’d have been forgiven for thinking that the photos below, taken the other day, showed freak climatic conditions – of snow freshly laid on olive trees ripe with fruit, freshly laid in the middle of the summer. But on closer sight, another thing becomes noticeable: the startling contrast between icy white and vivid summertime greens, not to mention the rich rusty coloured ground which had largely escaped a white covering, nor the cerulean blue sky glimmering brightly under an intense sunshine.

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Rather than snow in summer, these photos show one of the most interesting sights which can currently be discovered on the road from Valldemossa to Deia in Mallorca: olive trees densely sprayed in a covering of chalky white, their fruit still intact beneath it. Why this winter coat has been applied I have no idea: I can only guess that it is some kind of insecticide applied at the crucial time when the olives are almost ripe. Whatever the reason, the colour contrast presented is undoubtedly striking, and as ripe an inspiration for my camera as the juicy round olives steadily growing on those white branches.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Discovering Mallorca: The sleepy wonders of little Biniaraix

They say that the best things in life come in small packages, and this adage could not be better evidenced than in the form of the tiny village of Biniaraix in Mallorca. Nestled amongst the ripples and folds of the Tramuntana mountains, a few kilometres North East of the magnificent town of Soller, Biniaraix is urban living on a miniature scale dominated by the gigantic mountain landscape and extensive citrus groves that surround it.

With only some 150 residents, and roads between the town and Soller which make it difficult for even one car to squeeze through, let alone two side by side, Biniaraix maintains a feel of a village constructed for the horse and cart age. With one main street and various beautiful off-shoots, a single white-peaked church at its centre and a token cluster of cafes and shops straight out of another era, the village is the epitome of cosy.

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But Biniaraix also marks the start of the Barranc de Biniaraix, one of the most emblematic dry-stone walks climbing through the Tramuntana mountain range right to the Monastery in Lluc, a walk which is probably one of the most beautiful in all the world, but which we were only able to do the first 10 minutes of before giving up and heading to the Port of Soller for dinner. Still, we were able to get great photos of the village from afar, and even more colour-filled wonders when back in the village.

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All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.