Bargains and Beauty

Tuesday 11th October was a stunningly beautiful, clear, warm autumn day in London. A friend and I met at 6.30am at my house and drove to the Sunbury Antiques Market for a spot of bargain hunting.  It's once a fortnight at the Kempton Racecourse and has been running for 35 years. There are over 700 stallholders inside and outside and there is a huge range of antique goods on offer from furniture, gold & silverware, jewellery, ceramics, vintage items and fashion, garden ephemera, paintings and much more. We arrived around 7.15am to the most glorious sunrise over the racecourse. All that was missing were some horses with steaming breaths and their jockeys galloping around the track in practice, to complete the idyllic scene.

The market was a hive of activity but I don't consider it somewhere to find a real bargain (car boot sales are where you will more likely to find a bargain) but you can often find one or two really nice pieces of art or furniture.  It was a cloudless sky and the sun was warm on our backs as we meandered through the market stalls. The main racecourse grandstand looked beautiful against the blue sky.  Heathrow airport isn't far away and we seemed to be on the flight path for planes taking off.

After an hour we were but there's not much of a choice of food to buy. The best is the stall that sells toasties but their coffee is undrinkable!!

Neither of us bought anything despite two hours there. It all seemed rather "samey" and prices were geared to the punters with money of which there were many.  Carr boot sale or charity shops are definitely the places to find a real bargain.

We left Kempton around noon and headed down the A3 to Wisley which is a huge garden owned by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in Surrey. It is one of four gardens run by the Society, the others being Harlow Carr, Hyde Hall and Rosemoor. Wisley is the second most visited paid entry garden in the UK after Kew Gardens. It was founded by a Victorian business and RHS member, George Ferguson Wilson who bought the 60 acre site in 1878.  It is now a large garden covering 240 acres with formal and informal gardens, several very large glasshoues, an extensive arboretum and trial fields. If you would like to read more about the history of Wisley click here

I have only once been to Wisley but only to the plant nursery with friends. I'd never visited the extensive gardens before and this was the perfect day for it; we were even able to eat lunch outside in the warm sunshine.  When you enter the gardens and walk onto the terrace you are greeted by a stunning long narrow water feature overseen by a bronze sculpture called the King and Queen by Henry Moore (1953).  Either side of the water feature are paths bordered by flowers and shrubs and wooden benches where you can sit and enjoy the beautiful setting. The banks of salvia were quite spectacular!

We meandered along paths, passing ponds and streams and through wooded glades. Spot the heron!

We took a walk around the huge glasshouses full of tropical plants, ferns and a large cacti garden.  

Wisley has large areas planted in mixed grasses which are stunning with their mix of textures and subtle colours.

The variety of trees in the garden is vast. The Indian Bean tree was huge!!

But the real highlight for me was the orchard - rows and rows of apple trees laden with fruit. We walked through the rows of apple trees picking fruit and sampling the different varieites. Lord Lambourne was our favourite - bright red, crisp and juicy.  I'm not sure you are supposed to pick the apples but it was so tempting!

The most fascinating were the medlars - a member of the rose family. I've never seen a medlar tree let alone the fruit and I've never tasted medlar jam or jelly. I'm told the fruit has the most exquisite, delicate flavour. It's a fascinating fleshy fruit - terribly ugly and the French call it 'cul de chien' (the rear end of a dog!!). However the tree itself is rather beautiful especially its leaves. The fruit cannot be eaten until it has started to soften inside which you may think is rotting but in fact it goes through "bletting" which is a softening process that turns the medlar's tartness to sugars. The flesh becomes a creamy brown puree which gives you processed fruit straight from the tree!

There were still a few roses in bloom and I spied one of my favourites, Munstead Wood. It has the most exquisite scent and depth of colour.

On the way back to the exit we passed water features, slopes of crocuses and walled gardens but didn't have time to stop and enjoy these so a return visit is a must.

After a much needed cup of tea and slice of cake, we headed for the nursery as my friend wanted to buy some plants and a medlar tree. An hour later it was nearly closing time. I could have stayed there much longer but you need a full day to appreciate the gardens. We headed back to London content with our long day's outing on what was one of the loveliest days we've had this autumn. 

Have you been to Wisley? I'd love to hear what you love most about it so do drop me a line.

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