Home school learning about Japan

BOOKS AND ACTIVITIES CELEBRATING JAPAN

My daughter had been fascinated with Japan since she read Rumer Godden’s books about Japanese dolls, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower and Little Plum, so when we started home-schooling we chose Japan as one of our first topics. It’s been really interesting and a lot of fun learning about Japan and I thought I would share our ideas and activities.

  • Read! Books are a great way to introduce children to a new country and lifestyle. There are quite a few lists on Pinterest listing books for younger readers, particularly picture books (like this one from Happy Brown House, for example), but I needed some for older readers. Here are some of the books we tried:

The Rumer Godden books, above. // My Awesome Japan Adventure by Rebecca Otowa, a fantastic scrap-book-style books full of little snippets of information but with the over-arching narrative of an American kid’s visit to Japan// Similar but for older readers is Diary of a Tokyo Teen: A Japanese-American Girl Draws Her Way Across the Land of Trendy Fashion, Hi-Tech Toilets and Maid Cafes by Christine Mari Inzer//  Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata about a girl of Japanese heritage living in the American Deep South. // Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi about two Japanese cousins who meet and become friends when one family moves to the US from Japan, sharing the art of rokkaku (kite-flying). // Japanese Art and Culture by Kamini Khanduri // Japan (Nations of the World) by Jen Green // Alice-Miranda in Japan by Jacqueline Harvey is a fun read // Jingu: the Hidden Princess by Ralph E. Ray, a short historical novel about a young 4th-century princess, the Japanese heroine Jingu.

  • Try some Japanese food. Sushi is readily available now in supermarkets making it a very easy way to have a taste of Japan; there are even vegetable sushi options for vegetarian children or those squeamish about fish, raw or otherwise. We tried sushi from a variety of shops and outlets and also made our own, which is very straightforward; we used this recipe and tutorial from Eats Amazing. You might be lucky enough to have a proper sushi restaurant near you so you can try a more authentic experience. We also tried mochi, a squidgy Japanese cake, which I liked but my daughter didn’t! We also tried noodles and other Japanese foods including this simple teriyaki chicken recipe from Taming Twins which my daughter could make herself. She kept a Japanese food diary to record all the things she had tried and what she thought of them.2016-up-to-september-075
  • Learn about Japanese arts and crafts. A very obvious one is origami. The internet is full of tutorials showing how to make different animals, birds and flowers of varying difficulty. Origami paper can sometimes be very expensive but you might be lucky to find some in a value craft shop. The British Museum has an exhibition of the iconic Hokusai (best known for his ‘wave’ painting) at the moment if you are able to travel to visit it but, if not, then there are are several radio and television programmes about him and his work available online. The BBC has just finished showing a Japan season so we have had the chance to watch programmes on all sorts of things on iPlayer – from pottery to kimono-making,and wildlife to nightlife. Children can have a go at trying some of these arts and crafts for themselves; my daughter painted her own ‘wave’ painting, inspired by Houksai. Another idea is to make a mon from clay or Fimo. These were heraldic symbols worn by clans or members of specific groups to announce loyalty and membership. Children can design their own symbols or pictures and then form them from clay on a circular base or boss. Children might also like to try brush painting: look up how to write their name in Japanese and then use black paint and a brush to write them out. We have also been meaning to get around to making some Japanese fans.
  • Dress-up. If you get the opportunity to dress up in kimono then it is great fun to do. My daughters had a go when we went to a Children’s Day Festival hosted at the V&A by the Japanese Society and it was probably their favourite event of the day. If a kimono isn’t possible then try some geisha make-up with facepaint!
  • Listen to some Japanese music/watch some dance or theatre. Like kimono-wearing, this is something you don’t often get a chance to do, but if you have a local Japanese Society they may well put on shows once or twice a year. When we went to the V&A day we got the chance to listen to Japanese music and try out some traditional Japanese instruments. We had the privilege of watching some Japanese dance, theatre and puppetry, including an ancient form of Japanese puppets which had never before been performed in the UK before.
  • Celebrate a Japanese festival. I have posted before about celebrating Hinamatsuri, the Japanese Doll Festival: find out a little about it and then celebrate with a tea party. This can be as simple as inviting a few friends and their favourite dolls or  you can challenge yourselves to have a go at making your own court of Japanese royal dolls. Serve your own favourite tea-time treats or try some Japanese mochi, sushi and other traditional food. 2016-up-to-september-071The Japanese Children’s Festival or Kodomo no Hi is another great one to explore with children, for obvious reasons. Make paper koinobori carp fish banners (template here, or use cardboard tubes) and tie them to a garden cane; you need one fish for each family member with the adult fishes being the largest and the children smaller. The Japanese also love the Cherry Blossom (sakura) Festival; hanami is the tradition of viewing these beautiful blossoms and is often celebrated with picnics or evening parties. The shops sell everything sakura-themed so have a go at painting your own blossoms, create some from tissue paper or try making sakura sweets from marzipan, peppermint creams or coconut ice. Tanabata, usually celebrated on 7th July, is the Star Festival and is celebrated today by writing wishes (sometimes as poems) on small pieces of paper (tanzaku) and tying them to bamboo. Have fun making up wishes and poems and there is also a Tanabata song which children might like to write out and illustrate.
  • Learn about haiku. Haiku is traditional seventeen-syllable poetry. Read some classical haiku (Matsuo Basho is one master of haiku and is widely available) and then have children write their own.
  • Write your own guide-book to Japan or Tokyo. This is great process learning and has a finished product they can be proud of. The child can choose what they feel is important to include or you can guide them to a lesser or greater extent. It’s a good opportunity to learn more about Japan’s geography, draw some maps, find out about transport systems, local culture, shopping and eating out, as well as useful phrases and information about all sorts of things like how child-friendly it is, are pets welcome, how do you contact the police force, and so on.
  • Learn about Buddhism and ShintoWe used the Dorling Kindersley book on Buddhism.IMAG2440
  • Visit a Japanese garden and/or make your own Japanese flat garden.IMAG2514
  • Do some research about Japanese wildlife. We watched Wild Japan on Netflix and discovered some really beautiful animals and birds.

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We really enjoyed our Japan topic and hope you do, too!

Austen Land (aka Winchester)

HASTENING TOGETHER TO PERFECT FELICITY

Disclaimer: I apologise for the lack of photographs in this post; the camera on my mobile has broken and I really need to sort out a new one!

On Sunday I realised that the very next day was the last day of the Mysterious Miss Austen Exhibition in Winchester. This exhibition had brought together all the known and suspected portraits of Jane Austen together for the first time, offering a very rare and exciting opportunity to see them, particularly as one is in a private collection. The exhibition also had Austen’s hand-written alternative ending to Persuasion and other articles including letters to her sister Casandra, her pelisse and a tiny purse she worked herself. So far my daughter’s interest in Austen has taken us to all sorts of places including Austen’s house in Chawton, Bath and a very accessible lecture at the National Archives on the bicentenary of Austen’s death. Winchester was on our list but it seemed such a waste to delay our visit until later in the summer holidays and thereby miss the exhibition so we got up early and headed off…

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We were so glad we did! The exhibition was held in the Winchester Discovery Centre which also houses the city library. There was a suggested donation of £3 which was a wonderful contrast to the huge amount we were charged at the Jane Austen Centre, Bath for the opportunity to look at six copies of the portraits. It was a privilege to be able to see the real portraits and the rest of the exhibition and the understated and calm setting was perfect. Downstairs on the ground floor there was another exhibition about medicine and apothecary in the time of Austen, ‘Malady and Medicine’, focusing particularly on Austen and the city of Winchester. Jane had lived for many years in Chawton, a village a little way from Winchester but towards the end of her life she was moved to Winchester to take advantage of the more specialised medical care available there. It had some interesting exhibits including a sedan chair and apothecary drawers.

 

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We had a quick picnic lunch sitting on a Jane Austen bench in the grounds of Winchester Cathedral and then intended to go inside; partly to see Jane Austen’s grave and the various memorials to her but also because we always love a cathedral! We timed our visit just as a private memorial service was about to begin (not for Austen, I might add) and so one of the volunteers suggested we came back a little later. We went for a wander, hoping to find Austen’s last home in Winchester in College Street, but actually went in the opposite direction and serendipitiously found ourselves at the City Museum. It was £3 entry per person (again, this was the suggested contribution) and well worth it! The museum is divided into three floors, each with a different historical focus. We worked backwards, as it were, starting with Victorian Winchester, moving up through the Medieval and ending with the Roman and Anglo-Saxon. Not only was there a wealth of treasures, sometimes rivaling those on display at the Ashmolean, but there were children’s activities scattered around and, best of all in my children’s opinion, a dressing-up station on every level! Moreover, the costumes were of good quality and kept nicely. We saw an almost complete Roman mosaic discovered at Sparsholt, along with some beautifully preserved paintings; Medieval children’s toys (including a ball, toy sword and a whopping top) and whistles fashioned from goose bones; a Roman burial; a collection of Medieval ‘face jars’, vessels made with humorous faces; Anglo-Saxon jewellery; and all sorts of other things. The Museum also houses Austen memorabilia including a purse owned by her (the one she made and was on show at the Discovery Centre is also usually displayed at the museum), a monogrammed ivory spool-case with a bobbin for winding silk and a handwritten poem circa 1811.

Eventually we returned to the Cathedral where under-16s are free with an adult (£8 entry fee) and had a wonderful walk around it. My younger daughter did the children’s trail which was informative and fun without being too exhaustive. We were visiting on the bicentenary of Austen’s funeral in the Cathedral itself and we saw her grave and the memorial plaque. The Cathedral hosted a Book of Memories which is intended to be a lasting record of the impressions and reflections of visitors as well as Inspired by the Word, a collection of pieces of art by contemporary artists inspired by Austen, her work and her faith. Perhaps the most memorable of these is a portrait by Joy Pitts made entirely of name-tapes, such as you might have made to sew into school-clothes; 71 words from the opening paragraph of Pride and Prejudice form Austen’s face while 16 names of the main characters make up the backgrounds.

There is a great deal more to see in the Cathedral: the 12th-century Winchester Bible is on display there along with a very useful computer programme which allows you to explore the illustrations in greater depth; there are wonderful mortuary chests containing the bones of ancient Kings and Queens including King Cnut and his Queen, Emma; a beautiful painted ceiling in the Quire; the Lady Chapel with a reredos dedicated to the memory of the novelist Charlotte M. Yonge; and a memorial to the deep-sea diver, William Walker, who worked tirelessly six hours a day for six years in the dark underwater wearing a diving suit and helmet to help repair part of the Cathedrals’s sinking foundations!

We stopped in the Cathedral Refectory for a quick snack (the flapjacks are delicious) before going in search, again, of No. 8 College Street. En route we discovered the most fabulous book shed, more accurately known at the Deanery Bookstall, an amazing treasure-trove of second-hand books run by volunteers to raise money for the choral music and choristers of the Cathedral. Sadly for us we got there at the end of their day and the end of ours, so there wasn’t much time to rifle through their stock but my elder daughter and I could have spent hours there! We chose a couple of books but didn’t have enough change on us; the exceptionally lovely lady running the shed said it was all about being kind and let us give her what we had! I did make a run to a cashpoint and paid her back because I heard her telling someone that they need to raise £50,000 a year, and it is for charity after all, but it was indeed very kind of her! We will definitely be heading back there on our next visit!

Finally, we found Austen’s house just as a beautiful little butterfly was fluttering along its wall. Opposite is a little grassy area with plants and a bench where visitors can sit and rest for a while. We headed back to find our Park and Ride bus, admiring the enormous statue of King Alfred the Great, unveiled in 1901, as we went. We had a fantastic day out and will go back to see what else Winchester has to offer.

‘…we are all hastening together to perfect felicity.’ Northanger Abbey.

 

Family Fiction

OUR FAVOURITE BOOKS ABOUT FAMILIES

Family mealtimes are one of those essential family experiences that we always seems to fail with. My husband works late and is never home in time for a family meal around the table. Sunday lunch has become complicated by church rotas and Saturdays by life generally. Instead, I always read to the children while they are eating their dinner (unless Blue Peter is on…); by bedtime things tend to be rushed and everyone is tired and I’m trying to cook for my husband and myself so a dinner-time story works well for us, instead. And my younger daughter’s favourite genre is the family saga, so I suppose we are still (sort of?) having a family dinner… Anyway, here are some of our favourite books about families:

  • The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. Although these stories are partly about the close and enduring friendship between Betsy and Tacy, two little girls growing up in Minnesota at the turn of the twentieth century, they are primarily books about family. Betsy’s experiences as she grows up and goes to school and then high school and moves into the wide world are so positive because she is grounded in a loving family. Betsy shares her highs and lows with her parents and sisters and as the books progress we follow the family as they have a new baby, move house, go on vacation and live life together.
  • The Casson Family books by Hilary McKay. Beginning with Saffy’s Angel this Product Detailsseries of books tells the story of an unconventional but happy family as they deal with the idiosyncrasies of their family, make friends, cope with bullying and difficult teachers and fall in love. The eponymous Saffy learns that she was adopted by her aunt and uncle after her mother’s death and goes on a journey to understand how she fits into the family. These books are touching and very funny!
  • The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories by Joan Aitken. Written over many years, these short stories fit together to form a chunky volume about the slightly magic Armitage family to whom unusual things often happen on Mondays. They live in a semi-enchanted village where they might have a witch for a neighbour or teacher or a unicorn for a pet. As the stories progress the setting becomes more modern and the two children, Mark and Harriet, become teenagers. Some of the stories are silly and carefree while a few touch on more serious topics.
  • What Katy Did and What Katy Did At School by Susan Coolidge. There are others in the Carr Family series but these are the most suitable for younger children. Although Katy is the heroine of these books her many siblings are a vital part of her life and the texture of the stories. We see how the family dynamic of Katy as rather heartless leader of the group has to shift to accommodate her fall and severe injury which results in her being bedridden for several years. As she comes to term with her disabilities she comes to newly appreciate her brothers, sisters, father and aunt while they in turn grow and blossom into confident individuals. When Katy recovers, she and her sister, Clover, are sent to boarding school but her family reach out to the exiled girls through letters and a wonderful Christmas box.
  • The Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Starting with Little House in the Big Woods these stories follow a pioneer family as they leave the Little House and move West across the nineteenth century United States. Ma and Pa work hard to provide Laura and her sisters with a comfortable, safe home in a time of upheaval and, sometimes, real danger. The stories have the big woods and wide prairies as a backdrop but are full of vignettes of domestic life: making maple candy, celebrating Christmas, going to the store, falling asleep listening to pa’s fiddle.
  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton. These books are about a family of tiny people who must cope with their size and subsequent vulnerability in a world where social change has removed the protective bubble in which they existed until now. Ultimately this is a family saga in which the family happens to be measurable in inches. The relationship between Pod, Homily and their daughter, Arietty, underpins each story and is the abiding constant that holds them together in the face of homelessness and danger.
  • The Iggy and Me books by Jenny Valentine. These funny books are in some ways a reworking of Dorothy Edwards’ My Naughty Little Sister books for the twenty-first century. One day, Flo’s little sister decides she isn’t called Sam any more: she is Iggy. Iggy gets up to all sorts of mischief and adventures but, again, the domestic setting roots the stories in the security of family.
  • The Milly-Molly-Mandy stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley. These are wonderful examples of safe, reassuring stories of domestic life. Milly-Molly-Mandy is an only child but lives with her parents, grandparents and uncle and aunt. Her day-day-to-day life is shored up by their love and support. When Milly-Molly-Mandy goes to a party, each member of her family help in some little way to get her ready for the special occasion. Everyone adds their own touch to her new surprise bedroom in the attic. Milly-Molly-Mandy’s adventures are all close to home – having friends to tea, blackberry picking, carol-singing, going to a wedding, getting a pen pal – and that’s the joy of them.
  • The Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright. These stories about four siblings begin (The Saturdays) with a pact to pool their pocket money and give it all to each sibling in turn to afford every child a truly memorable Saturday.
  • The Penderwicks books by Jeanne Birdsall. Already ‘modern classics’, these are absolute favourites with all of us! The Penderwicks might have been a family blighted by the loss of their mother but instead their love for each other and the security provided by their father has established a close, confident and happy family. Apparently it is to be a five-book-series and in our house we are on tenterhooks for the publication of the fifth and final installment.
  • The Pea’s Book of… books by Susie Day. Starting with Pea’s Book of Best Friends these books tell the story of the Llewellyn family. Pea’s Mum finds overnight success as a famous author and she and her sisters move to a new life, and new friends, in London. The books follow Pea, Tinkerbell and Clover as they settle into a new home, make friends, plan for the future and enjoy family life. I am very excited to see (especially as my daughter has a birthday coming up!) that a fourth book in the series has been out for a while but flew beneath our radar…
  • The Treasure Seekers and The Wouldbegoods by E. Nesbit. The classic stories of the Bastable children and their attempts to have fun and be good at the same time remain an enjoyable read. In the first books the children work together to try to restore their family’s lost fortune while in the second they form a society to try their best to be ‘good’. The scrapes they get into are something to marvel at for children of today who are never allowed out on their own and are rarely left to entertain themselves. Also, the children are sometimes very naughty…
  • Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott. We haven’t read all of these together but my elder daughter adores Little Women. We did start Good Wives but when someone told her what happens to Beth she was somewhat put off and, for now, prefers to enjoy the March family together. Little Women is full of real love and support, both within the family and as the family reaches out to friends and neighbours, but it doesn’t shy away from the squabbles, resentment and hardships that are part of most family life.

 

I have focused on family stories series here but, of course, there are many other books about families to enjoy. Other family-centred books we love are: The Bell Family, Ballet Shoes and A Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfeild;  The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett; and The Railway Children by E. Nesbit. My daughter also loves the All-of-A-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor about a Jewish family living in New York at the start of the twentieth-century but she hasn’t has a chance to read the rest of the series yet and a book I want to get for her over the summer is The Family with Two Front Doors by Anna Ciddor which is based on the author’s own Jewish family in 1920 Poland. Another series my daughter has started and is keen to read more of is The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh about a family of life-sized dolls living together in an ordinary house; a slightly different, yet fascinating, take on family life. And of course, both Enid Blyton and Jacqueline Wilson write extensively about families: try Blyton’s The Family series and the Children of Cherry-Tree Farm series and also Wilson’s The Illustrated Mum, Diamond Girls , Little Darlings, Clean Break, and Lily Alone.

Tudors, towers, turrets and dragons

FUN WAYS TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE TUDORS

Earlier this year my daughters’ school topics overlapped with the elder studying the Tudors and the younger learning about castles and fairytales. As we love an historical topic in this house we got involved at home, too. Here are some of the ways we have enjoyed learning more and some other suggestions, too:

  1. Visit some Tudor sites or castles. We are spoiled for choice here in South London, just a relatively short distance from all sorts of interesting Tudor places to visit. Both girls went on school trips to the Tower of London which were excellent although my elder daughter did not enjoy the torture and punishment tour! I am sure a fair few of her classmates did, though! The equally epic Hampton Court Palace is also nearby and we had an excellent boat-ride there along the Thames from Richmond a few years back. Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Bolyen is a fantastic day out, incorporating the historical castle with beautiful gardens, amazing play areas and a boating lake. Close to us we also have Carew Manor and Whitehall in Cheam which are much cheaper options for a Tudor-themed outing (in fact, the former is now a school and not open to the general public but can be viewed from the road). Of course, if history had turned out a little differently we might also have still had the once fabulous Nonsuch Palace on our doorstep, too! There is a very useful book called A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England by Suzannah Lipscombe which lists significant Tudor sites to visit all around England so you can be sure to find somewhere to go and see. A word of warning: it’s not a children’s book and some of the descriptions of the fates that befell certain unfortunate Tudor residents are very graphic and upsetting and so not for younger reads (beware the section on Chartwell in particular!). I have listed suggestions of castles to visit in my previous post on Medieval times but there will obviously be different options open to you depending on where you live. Lots of palaces, castles, houses and other sites often have family- and children’s-events going on at weekends and holidays so it is sometimes worth planning ahead to coincide your visit with one of those.
  2. Make a castle cake. Okay, this is one we haven’t done (yet) but it was one of the homework options for my daughter’s castle topic-work and lots of children (and their mums!) made some fantastic castle cakes and biscuits. It’s up to you and your child how much accurate castle information you work into your iced creations but even if you end up with something more suitable for Barbie or Mike the Knight to live in than Henry VIII it will still be fun and inspirational. You could always look at together at some of the wealth of castle books around before you start to feel like you have done some historical research.
  3. Watch TV! A quick scan of iPlayer’s history programmes usually reveal some good Tudor- and castle-related options although parental guidance is always recommended as these programmes are made for adult viewers unless they are Horrible Histories. My daughters recently enjoyed Lucy Worsley’s Six Wives on the BBC.
  4. Make Tudor jewellery or crowns. My previous post on the jewellery my daughter made tudors-009for her school project would be difficult for a much younger child but a quick glance at the internet for inspiration will give you lots of ideas for simpler pieces. Even cardboard and gem stickers should produce a beautiful crown, pendant or brooch. Time Traveller Kids has a how-to-make Tudor pomanders which gives opportunities for learning about tudors-007plague, hygiene and medicine in Tudor times.
  5. Dress up. A princess dress can fairly easily be adapted into a Tudor costume with a lot of imagination and suspension of disbelief especially if you wear some home-made Tudor jewellery. A quick search of the net shows you how to make a cardboard tabard, shield, etc. for a knight. Obviously if you are prepared to spend out a bit of money you might be able to find a slightly more authentic outfit at a party shop, historic site gift shop (these are usually really dear!) or somewhere like TX Max. You might even be able to find a second-hand one left over from some else school dressing-up day if you look on eBay or charity shops. Alternatively, many historical places to visit now have opportunities for children to dress up. My daughter was able to dress up in authentic Elizabethan costume at The National Archives and at Buckland Abbey near Plymouth, home of Sir Francis Drake, our whole family were inveigled into dressing up in Tudor costume by the National Trust Costume Group who operate from there and make Elizabethan costume with traditional methods and materials. There are also opportunities for children to dress up in the house itself and to try Elizabethan games and find out a lot more about life in that era.early-2017-066
  6. Take photos! Once you have dressed up a really fun idea is to make a photo story with your children (and maybe you?) as the stars or to write a story and use photos as the illustrations. My younger daughter chose making a book as her homework for her castles and fairytale topic. She wrote a story about a princess, a dragon, a witch and a fairy and the whole family were persuaded to join in, taking the different roles. Guess who got to be the witch?! My daughters really loved doing this project because it involved dressing-up, acting and story-telling all rolled into one. They also got to see their daddy dress up as a fire-breathing dragon and their mummy being a witch. What more could they ask for?
  7. Throw a Tudor banquet. At school my daughter’s teacher brought in vegetable soup (‘pottage’), apple juice (‘cider’) and fruit cake. You can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. Bread was a staple so an artisan loaf from a local bakers or even a supermarket might help set the scene, along with meat (unless it’s a Friday!), cooked vegetables and some sweet items. Time Traveller Kids has a tutorial on how to make Tudor marchpane sweets which looks very easy with an impressive-looking finished product and we might well have a go at half-term.
  8. Make a cardboard castle or Tudor house. Enough boxes, loo rolls and paint can produce a very satisfying castle which can then be used for playing knights and other games if you make some little paper dolls or buy some plastic toys. At school my younger daughter made Tudor houses from boxes painted white with black wooden beams.
  9. Watch a play by Shakespeare, visit The Globe Theatre and learn more about The Bard. The Globe runs a Shakespeare’s Telling Tales event every summer especially for children. We went to a fantastic A Midsummer Night’s Dream workshop last summer with Marcia Williams where the children were shown how to create comic strips to tell their own versions of the play. Marcia Williams is enthusiastic and approachable and we all enjoyed it so much. We then spent time hanging out in the Bottom’s Book Market where the were authors reading stories (we heard Polly Faber reading from her Mango and Bam-Bam books and then we ended up buying two of them…), a The Tempest story-telling tent, opportunities to colour your own characters, pop-up performances and a stall run by Tales on Moon Lane.
  10. Read! Some of our favourite books about the Tudors:
  • Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley. My daughter loves this book about a maid of honour at the court of Henry VIII and her cousin, Henry’s current, doomed wife, Katherine Howard.
  • The Lady Grace Mysteries by Grace Cavendish. These are a series of mysteries set at the Elizabethan Court and starring Elizabeth I’s favourite maid of honour. My daughter has read all of these and while they are historical fiction rather than factual books they give a flavour of the era and what it was like living in those times and circumstances.
  • Usborne Dolly Dressing Tudor Fashion and Tudors Sticker Book by Emily Bone. These are always a fun option for wet days, journeys, waiting rooms and so on.
  • I am also keen to try this Tudor Fashion to Colour by Emily Bone and Rosie Hore.
  • Usborne Tudors and Stuarts by Fiona Patchett. The Usborne history books are always informative and easy to read. My daughter has read this innumerable times.
  • The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes and Ferrets by Marcia Williams. Marcia Williams’ comic strip books are very popular in this house and my daughters have both really enjoyed this new one.
  • 50 Things You Should Know About The Tudors by Rupert Matthews. The information in this book is split into fifty short sections about significant events and issues. Text is displayed in small boxes and there are lots of pictures so it’s easy to read and get an overview of the period.
  • If your child is a little older and a good reader they will soon have gleaned all the information available in children’s books. I found The Tudors: The Kings and Queens of the Golden Age by Jane Bingham in the adult history section of the library; it is readable but takes the information and knowledge on a little further.
  • There are several My Story historical fiction books about the period, inspired by real people and events. My daughter loves Elizabeth (My Royal Story) by Kathryn Laskey and there are more to choose from including Lady Jane Grey by Sue Reid; Bloody Tower by Valerie Wilding; Mary Queen of Scots by Kathryn Laskey; Katherine of Aragon by Alison Prince; Henry VIII’s Wives also by Prince; Anne Boleyn and Me by Alison Prince again; and To Kill a Queen by Valerie Wilding.
  • My younger daughter is now learning about pirates and exploration so we got her A 16th Century Galleon by Richard Humble and Mark Bergin. The illustrations are fascinating and the information given is sophisticated. She took it into class to show the other children and they really enjoyed looking at it.
  • DK Eyewitness Shakespeare: The fascinating life and times of history’s greatest playwright is a good introduction to, and overview of Shakespeare. It also comes with a free wallchart which is good quality and very large! My daughter also loves Where’s Will?: Find Shakespeare Hidden in His Plays by ‘Tilly’ and Anna Claybourne.
  • Time Travel Guide: The Renaissance by Anna Claybourne. This has lots of illustrations and good, solid information that opens up the era rather than just focusing on events in England. It provides a wider context with information about art, religion, politics and new ideas.

 

Dipping into Bath

A HALF-TERM VISIT TO BATH

It’s been over two years since our last, brilliant, visit to Bath. The girls and I stayed in a Premier Inn, having travelled down on a Friday afternoon in February, and then spent the Saturday visiting the Roman Baths, the Pump Rooms, Bath Abbey, and the Assembly Rooms. They loved the novelty of staying in the ‘hotel’ and enjoying the unlimited breakfast in the neighbouring family restaurant. We caught the Park and Ride bus into the city and arrived fairly early so there was no queue for the Baths. They were fascinating and we spent ages looking at everything before it got too crowded. The Abbey had a fantastic children’s trail and the staff were welcoming. We were too late to visit the Fashion Museum by then but we went into the Assembly Rooms and had a quick look around. We had such a lovely day-and-a-bit and were keen to return.

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Last week was half-term here and my elder daughter has been very interested in the Georgian era and Jane Austen so it seemed a great time to visit again. Time and money meant that staying over near Bath wasn’t an option this time so we girded our loins and decided to do it all in one day. We live in a London Borough south of the city which means that Bath is a long drive away and, in fact, having done the trip I don’t think we’d be in a hurry to attempt to do such a long journey again in a day.

Two hours and forty-five minutes after we set off we reached Lansdown Park and Ride, the one nearest the M4, having stopped briefly for the loo at Reading Services. The Park and Ride is easy and reasonable; you just pay your return bus fare to the city and the car park is free. Children under 16 are free, too. The drive into the city is interesting, taking you down Lansdown Hill and passing Beckford’s Tower, a neo-classical folly built for the rich novelist William Beckford, a museum that exhibits furniture intended for the Tower and an historic cemetery.

Central Bath was quite a surprise. The last time we had visited it was a chilly winter Saturday. This time it was a hot, sunny day in the summer half-term holiday and, of course, peak tourist season. It was so much busier! We were glad we hadn’t been hoping to visit the Roman Baths that day because the queue was something else! We had a brief peep in at the Pump Rooms; no-one tried to seat us in the restaurant so I suspect they guessed we weren’t prospective diners!

Our first stop was the Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street, a street that was one of Jane’s several homes when she and her family lodged in Bath following her father’s retirement as a vicar. That house is further up the hill from the Jane Austen Centre, a bit closer to the Circus. Lucy Worsley’s enjoyable recent BBC documentary ‘Jane Austen: Behind Closed Doors’ gives the viewer a fascinating tour around the Austens’ Bath residencies, which became meaner and less fashionable with each move until they found themselves in the dreaded Trim Street, a grim haunt of prostitutes and low-lifes. My daughter had high hopes of the Jane Austen Centre because it has a fascinating website which has many recipes, crafts ideas, fashion tips and so on. Unfortunately, it was rather an expensive disappointment.

We qualified for the ‘small family’ ticket which was around £20. The very pleasant, and beautifully costumed, lady selling tickets and serving in the gift shop sent us upstairs and after about a minute we were invited (having shown our tickets) into a small lecture room for an introductory talk by another member of staff who was also wearing a smart Regency outfit and who was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. If you were a beginner in the world of Austen then you would have come away with a good grounding in her life and works but, having just watched Lucy Worsley’s documentary and having visited the Jane Austen House Museum at Chawton, my daughter and I had already heard just about all of it. We were then asked to go back downstairs where we grouped in a corridor with the other members of our group and were given a short talk about the copies of different portraits, or possible portraits, of Austen. Again, the guide was a good speaker and she knew her stuff but I felt a bit silly; a quick Google would have turned up these images and I could have looked at them for free at home…

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A Hare, part of the Cirencester March Hare Festival, designed to look like the famous greeter at the Centre, Martin Salter.

 

We were then allowed to ‘explore the rest of the Centre’ which doesn’t take long! Most of the information is displayed in little plaques around the house but there really isn’t much to see. There are some examples of fashion of the era, a window display of a milliner’s shop of the time, some copies of books, some examples of scents that people wore at the time… When we got to the dressing-up rail (my daughters were really looking forward to this bit!) we were hit with the most disgusting stench of drains. They had a big fan running to try and keep the air moving but it wasn’t very effective and the whole area was very unpleasant. My children had a bit of a try of the clothes and a play with the fans, sending each other signals by displaying the fans in different positions (there was a booklet explaining all this), but there was only one child-sized dress and the smell was so off-putting. My younger daughter had already been feeling a bit wobbly due to car-sickness and this really wasn’t helping; she asked to go the the ladies and we had a few minutes respite. On our way back to my other daughter we had to squeeze through another group of portrait-viewers. The lady who was giving them the talk asked, rather abruptly, to see our tickets, although we hadn’t left the museum at all and it really didn’t seem the sort of place to attract vast numbers of gate-crashers (especially a seven-year-old and her mother!), but perhaps I am naive.

We spun out our visit with the having a go at writing with a quill pen and then exited via the gift shop, as per usual! The entrance tickets entitle you to 10% off in the gift shop which isn’t to be sniffed at. It is only a small shop and there wasn’t a great deal to appeal to children of their age, fortunately, so we came away with a copy of the humorous history pamphlet Austen wrote and a pack of Jane Austen Top Trumps which were designed by the Centre and is definitely one of their better ideas.

The problem wasn’t that my children were too young for the Jane Austen Centre; I certainly did not get much out of the visit myself. It was just that it was too amateur and too small to be able to successfully charge such high entrance fees. It just didn’t have enough to show for itself. We were there under an hour and I really tried to make the visit last as long as I could.

After we left the Centre we had a little wander around the city centre, past the Abbey, Baths and Pump Room but it was so hot and crowded that we didn’t take very long. We headed to Pizza Express to use our precious Tesco vouchers but despite advance booking a table online we had to wait to be seated and the service was so slow that it took two hours which took a large bite out of our available time.

On our way to the Fashion Museum we visited the Royal Crescent and the Circus, just for a look. I was a little frustrated to realise that if we had been earlier we could have bought a saver ticket to the Fashion Museum and No. 1 Royal Crescent, a house that has been decorated just as it might have been in Georgian times and operates as a charity. I think we would have got a lot more fun out of this than the Jane Austen Centre and I have only myself to kick for not doing better research!

The Fashion Museum,  which is housed in the magnificent Assembly Rooms, is very good. It is also expensive (hence why the saver museum ticket would have been great) but the girls enjoyed it a lot. The clothing is fabulous and there is a fair bit to look at. The clothes are arranged historically so that you can see how fashions developed over time and how social and cultral change has been reflected in fashion. Younger children or children who are not very patient might find it a bit trying as it is mostly very much a ‘just looking’ museum but it does have a couple of hands-on areas where you have the opportunity to draw your own costumes and then to try on reproduction vintage outfits. We were visiting at the same time as two groups of French school children who raced past the historic clothes (as in, they didn’t actually stop to look at any of them) and went straight to these areas of the museum. As these areas were so busy we had to wait a bit before we could have a turn but it was worth waiting for and the girls enjoyed themselves a lot, especially with the wigs and bonnets.

Unfortunately the Ball Room was being used for a private function so we couldn’t go in there again but we had a little peek into the Great Octogon and the shop before heading back to the bus stop. We left the car park at about 5:15 and took forty-five minutes to get back to the main road that leads to the M4 because the entire route was one big uphill traffic jam. At the end of the winding country road is a right-hand turn onto a busy main road meaning that it took ages for each car reaching the head of the queue to be able to safely join the stream of traffic, resulting in a vast rush-hour tail-back. So we got home at about 8:40 pm. It was a fun day out but full of travelling. Next time we go to Bath we will be staying nearby!

 

 

Making a miniature Japanese flat garden

KIDS ACTIVITY – LEARNING ABOUT JAPANESE GARDENS

My daughter is very into all things Japanese at the moment. Having read a lot about Japanese gardens, one of the things she was keen to try was making a miniature Japanese flat garden. Full-sized Japanese gardens are themselves miniaturised; they are a microcosm of the macrocosm whereby rocks can represent mountains, ponds can be seas in order to create a controlled image of a perfected version of the natural world so creating a miniature version of this is merely another step in this process.

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Japanese gardens are deceptively simple; they appear sparse but are full of symbolism and the working together of the different elements in the garden. We have visited the Japanese Garden at Gatton Park and are planning to return to the wonderful example at Kew Gardens, but there are others fairly nearby which we would love to see including the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park.

We used a semi-opaque plastic tray for the base of the garden because it was only £1 and because we wanted a neutral shade that wouldn’t detract from the garden itself. We weighed up using sand or gravel for the white sand traditionally used in Japanese gardens to suggest purity and the movement of water. Sand is more traditional but much messier; we wanted it to stay put, rather than encroach all over the house, and we wanted it to stay clean. We found white aquarium gravel at the garden centre (we bought Hugo Kamishi) and the 2kg bag was just enough to cover our tray.

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My daughter really wanted to add a proper bonsai tree so we also bought one of these at the garden centre. It was £15, so not cheap (last time we looked they were only £12, which was annoying).

 

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For the rocks we used pebbles we had saved from various trips to the beach and which we found particularly smooth and calming. We also used a lump of weirdly iridescent green glass we found embedded in the ground at the park. Japanese gardens traditionally have waterfalls, streams or irregular ponds but for now my daughter used the lid of a cake sprinkle jar for a small pond.

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Then she used a chopstick to rake into the gravel the swirling meditative patterns typical of a Karesansui, or dry rock, garden.

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There are other possibilities that she might include in the future, such as a basin of water, blossoms, a miniature tea house or a bridge. She is keen to have a bridge but so far we have not found one that we liked and could justify spending more money on so we are keeping a look-out for something suitable.

 

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Clay Cameo Pendant for Kids

MAKE GEORGIAN-STYLE CAMEO JEWELLERY

Making her own version of period jewellery has become one of my daughter’s favourite history activities but sometimes it can take a lot of time, effort and materials. We thought we would try just a quick and easy project for a bit of mid-week fun. Older children and/or those with more time and the proper tools could probably produce something with a more professional finish. We were a bit sloppy, to be honest, but it gives you an idea of what you can produce.

Cameo jewellery has been popular for thousands of years but we wanted to go for a Georgian-look. Traditionally, cameos are carvings on an object which usually produce a relief image against a negative image. They have come to be generalised into the idea of a piece in contrasting colours, often featuring a head within an oval frame.

As we have a lot of air-drying clay left over from other projects we decided to use that as the medium for our pendant.  My daughter traced the silhouette image of Jane Austen from the cover of Lucy Worsley’s new book Jane Austen at Home: A Biography for the head on the pendant. She then cut out the image and laid it on some rolled-out air drying clay and, as carefully as possible, cut around the paper. This is quite fiddly work for a nine-year-old with a kitchen knife and tracing paper; using better tools would probably produce a better result…

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We had planned to use a spare oval pendant backing left over from our Eye Jewellery for the actual pendant but it was just too small. Rather than head out to the craft shop five miles away for a larger one we decided to just make the base entirely out of air-drying clay. We then had trouble finding a stencil of the right size oval and were running out of time when we found an oval pencil sharpener and made do with that. It turned out a little uneven but, again, this is a kid’s craft, just for fun rather than an adult-made piece of fine jewellery. Using the end of a fine paint brush she bored a hole through the clay for the necklace.

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My daughter left the clay to dry for a day or so and then painted the head white and mixed white and blue paint to get the shade of blue she wanted for the background. It needed a couple of coats.

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When it was dry she used a hot glue gun to stick the head onto the background. We considered using a finding to put through the hole in the pendant but the ones we had already were just that bit too small so she just used a darning needle to thread some ribbon through. And there it is – a quick, easy cameo pendant.

 

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Dollshouse Festival

VISITING THE KENSINGTON DOLLSHOUSE FESTIVAL

Twice a year Kensington Town Hall hosts the amazing Kensington Dollshouse Festival. If you or your children have any interest in dollshouses then it is a fascinating outing. This Saturday was only our second visit because the date used to clash with a school event and life is always too busy to get to the Christmas festival, although it would be amazing with its intricately decorated tiny Christmas trees! Saturday was also the first time I had taken both my daughters; the younger one was a little dubious and for some reason had pictured it all taking place in a series of tents in a field…

Anyway, the actual festival takes place over two days when around 170 exhibitors are gathered together in the town hall to showcase and sell their work. There is just about every aspect of dollshouses represented: the model buildings themselves; the dolls; pets; furniture; food; utensils; clothing (including hats, shoes and handbags); lighting; tiling and fabrics; glassware; toys for the dolls… It cost £17.50 for the three of us to get in (£20 for a family ticket of two adults and two children) and you could go and just marvel at all the wonderful displays and not spend a penny. Many of the items are very, very expensive; dogs for over £400; miniature cakes for £80; beds for £500; dolls for £300, and so on. Most of these are worth their very high prices because of the time, attention to detail and adherence to the correct scales (ratios of 1:12, 1:24 or 1:48). Some are just breathtaking. One stand in particular (My Little House Miniatures, a Spanish company with, sadly, no website) sold cakes of such exquisite detail it was easier to imagine fairies baking and icing them than figuring out how a lumbering great human could achieve such perfection.

A few items are, to be honest, rather over-priced, especially the ones where you can easily see how they could be made at home with a bit of Fimo or paper, but I find that fairly inspiring! It reminds me of what we could make and achieve if we give it a go. A lot IMAG2480_1of the tiny paper boxes of soap powder, chocolate, sugar and so on can also be made at home with a colour printer but as we don’t have one we didn’t mind paying £1 for a miniature Bunty paper. Despite the many high end prices there is a lot there that is very affordable, even for children, and the exhibitors and organisers do a lot to encourage the younger generation in their enthusiasm for dollshouses. The year before last, towards the end of the show, my daughter was given a couple of items free by a lady who said they needed to encourage younger children to carry on the dollshouse traditions. At the tube station we met another girl who had been given some free dollshouse food for the same reason. Everywhere we went my children were exclaiming and wondering at the items they saw. One exhibitor said she thought she ought to hire the two of them to advertise her stand, they were so effusive!

The KDF organisers run a ‘find the mouse’ trail around the festival where children have to spot the little wooden mice hidden on different stalls and note them IMAG2484_1down to be entered into a prize draw to win a handmade lIMAG2482_1ittle mouse figure. To be honest, my children spotted three out of twelve because there was so much else to spot! They were still allowed to enter the draw and were rewarded with pink sugar mice. There is a children’s craft activity room on the Saturday of the two-day festival. Known as ‘The Gingerbread Craft Club’ it offers a different miniature craft each year. The first time we visited my daughter made a framed portrait for her dolls house and this year children could make miniature gardens in a box; a little tricky to get home on tube, tram and bus but great fun to make!

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In 2015 we didn’t yet have a full-sized dollshouse at home so we were buying in readiness for that. My daughter bought a Victorian little girl dolls from Woodside Dolls; a IMAG2478_1an old-fashioned Brownie Guide doll for the doll (if that makes sense!) from Sally Reader Miniatures; some food including a very realistic crumble, a cream tea and a jar of liquorice Allsorts from Country Contrast; a paper dolls kit and and folding paper IMAG2481_1dollshouse, both as toys for a dollshouse nursery from Aidan Campbell Miniatures; and a tiny ceramic cat moneybox for her sister from Janice Crawley. The girls got the dollshouse as their joint birthday present that year and have been gradually building up their collection with more dolls (parents, a younger sister, a baby, a dog and a maid) and some furniture but they are not purists. Sylvanian Family furniture and food sit alongside the scale models and Sylvanian animals often come to call. There are also some anachronisms, like the Bunty comic in what should strictly be a Victorian household.

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This year my younger daughter bought a teeny kitten in a teeny basket from Kate Pinsent Dolls and, elsewhere, a mummy cat for only £1. She was quite keen to buy a Bible but we have put IMAG2477_1that on the back burner for another year. My elder daughter bought a keepsake box of miniature mementos, a blank notebook and a kit for making a paper theatre from Aidan Campbell Miniatures and the Bunty comic and a cricket game box from Shepherd Miniatures. I bought them a very intricate 18th-century doll’s doll (like IMAG2486_1this but with a turquoise dress) for the nursery from Sally Reader Miniatures to commemorate our Georgian studies this term. I also liked the little Japanese doll which was out of our price range at £20 and the fabulous Elizabeth I and Henry VIII and his six wives. They also had a very tiny pedlar doll, again way beyond what I could afford, but wonderful to look at. I did love the My Little House Miniatures cakes and also the stall selling miniature bento boxes and other Japanese food and, best of all, a dolls’ house sized Japanese dollshouse by Kimmy Okumura!

 

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Dollshouse books

Reading about dollshouses is an inspiring way to get ideas or just to enjoy the topic! Here are some of our favourite dollshouse books:

  • The Enchanted Doll’s House and The Enchanted Doll’s House Wedding by Robyn Johnson. These are very visual books which are more about the aesthetics of each dollshouse or shop portrayed rather than a strong story. There are lots of pop-out parts, flaps, and tiny detail.
  • The Doll’s House Fairy by Jane Ray. This is about a fairy who comes to live in a little girl’s dollshouse. It is so beautifully illustrated and offes a slightly different way of looking at traditional fairies and traditional dollshouses! My younger daughter was a big fan and dressed up as the fairy for Book Week at school.
  • The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter. Probably my favourite Beatrix Potter book, this is the story of two naughty little mice who raid a dollshouse.
  • Usborne Slot-Together Doll’s House. This isn’t, strictly speaking, a book but my daughter loved putting it together and playing with it.
  • The Fairy Doll and Other Tales from the Dolls’ House by Rumer Godden. This beautiful edition includes The Dolls’ House which deals with the micropolitics of a family of dolls when they move into a new dollshouse and have to live with a cruel, proud new doll. It also includes Godden’s books about Japanese dolls (Miss Happiness and Miss Flower and Little Plum) in which the little girls’ tiny handmade Japanese dollshouse and its tiny contents are described in full, inspirational detail.
  • Queen Mary’s Doll’s House by Mary Stewart Wilson. This is on our wishlist because we love reading about the amazing dolls’house that was created in jaw-dropping detail for Queen Mary and presented to her in 1924. If money was no object then this is what one could achieve…
  • The Dolls’ House Colouring Book by Emily Sutton. This is a companion to the V&A Museum of Childhood’s Dollshouse collection and is a really high quality colouring book.
  • Dolls’ Houses from the V&A Museum of Childhood by Halina Pasierbska. Another on our wishlist, this is a guide to the Museum’s dollshouses which we loved visiting.
  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton. Not strictly about a dollshouse but the resourceful Borrowers take great pleasure in the dollshouse furniture given to them by a human boy. Moreover, the Borrowers’ home was probably more inspiring to me than any book about actual dollshouses; it prompted me to make my own Borrower home in the bottom of a cupboard which gave me hours of fun.
  • The Doll People series by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin. The first books tells the story of the fragile Annabel and her new friend, the adventurous plastic doll. My elder daughter enjoyed it but hasn’t asked for the next book in the series.
  • This is My Dollhouse by Giselle Potter. We haven’t read this one as it is a fairly new picture book and currently quite expensive as well as probably being a little young my my girls now. It looks lovely, however, telling the story of a girl who makes and loves her own dollshouse. She is shaken to find that her friend has a perfect shop-bought dollshouse that seems to leave her own in the shade until through play and imagination they discover that the home-made house is much the most fun!
  • The Tale of the Castle Mice by Michael Bond, illustrated by Emily Sutton. This is the story of some mice who live in a dollshouse. Again, it’s one we haven’t read yet but a combination of Michael Bond and Emily Sutton promises a rewarding read!
  • The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Child, illustrated by Polly Borland. This is fascinating book illustrated by photographs set inside a dollshouse.
  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Child, Borland and Emily Jenkins has a similar aesthetic.

 

Gatton Park & Gardens

EXPLORING GATTON AS THE SUN CAME OUT

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Gatton Park and Gardens are wonderful parklands and woodlands which feels like it is deep in the middle of the countryside but is only minutes from the M25. It is also home to a private co-educational boarding school which was originally two schools for orphans, boys and girls living and learning separately from 1760 when the boys’ school opened, the girls’ school following a couple of years afterwards. The Gatton Trust oversees the conservation of the parks and gardens and opens them to the public on a few days each year. There are often events running during school holidays but the grounds are also open on the afternoon of the first Sunday of the month, February to October. It is only £5 entry for an adult and children are free so it is a really good value afternoon out! Moreover, dogs are welcome on leads.

The Park is famous for the work that Capability Brown carried out there between 1762 and 1766 when the stunning lake was extended, smaller lakes added, formal landscaping replaced with more naturalistic design and the parterre created to afford sweeping views of the lake and grounds. Today much of this work remains alongside woodland and later additions to the garden including the Edwardian Japanese Garden, added at the request of Sir Jeremiah Coleman (of Coleman’s mustard fame and fortune) when there was a fashion for the influence of the Orient.

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When we arrived it was overcast and chilly. We headed straight down to the bottom of the estate, enjoying the wildflowers as we went – bluebells and cowslips amongst them – and being surprised by a glimpse of a residential road as we rounded the curve of the lake. There is a bird hide at the far side of the lake where a very helpful volunteer was manning the quite impressive selection of binoculars. He helped us to spot the enormous gangly ‘baby’ herons looming out of their nests in Surrey’s only heronry. There are twenty to thirty nests here each year although you can’t see them all from the hide. There was also a swan, several mallards, coots, moorhens and a Great Crested Grebe carrying her chicks on her back!

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We really enjoyed exploring the rest of the gardens. The Japanese Garden has a wooden tea house that is available for private hire for morning or afternoon tea during the May half-term which would be lovely. The peonies were stunning. My younger daughter had a great time following a spring flower trail around the rock garden, having found a little friend to run about with. We called into the refreshments room for a drink because we were fairly hot and thirsty by this time. Run by volunteers it is a far-cry from an expensive and well-stocked National Trust tearoom but you can get tea or coffee, squash and a homemade cake or flapjack and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

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Gatton Park has all sorts of events coming up in the next few weeks including a Fairytale Treasure Hunt, Junk Modelling and the Gatton Fair so it’s definitely worth a visit.

Making Georgian Jewellery

EYE-CATCHING JEWELLERY

As part of her studies of the Georgian period my daughter was keen to make some jewellery, having really enjoyed researching and making Tudor jewellery earlier this year. On Pinterest we discovered many examples of sentimental ‘eye jewellery‘ which apparently became fashionable after the future King George VI, then the Prince of Wales, wanted to express his love for his mistress and ‘wife’ (the marriage was invalidated by the Royal Marriages Act as George III disapproved and would not permit the marriage) Maria Fitzherbert. A piece of jewellery showing merely the eye of a beloved, rather than the whole portrait as in a usual miniature, preserved the anonymity of the subject. George wore ‘Maria’s eye’ under his lapel, close to his heart but hidden from other, prying and more hostile eyes… Eye jewellery was commissioned by other couples and also by parents who wanted to remember a lost child. Having such a piece, worn as a pendant, ring or brooch was like wearing a locket with a piece of a loved one’s hair or a tiny picture of them inside.

IMAG2421_1.jpgWe started off by practicing drawing eyes. There are lots of tutorials on the web showing you how to draw realistic eyes and my daughter had a lot of fun experimenting. This one was the tutorial she started off trying.

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  • We bought a pendant base from Hobbycraft, along with a pack of clear oval domes, IMAG2426_1a packet of bronze-effect jump rings (rather like this but in the appropriate colour) and a length of ribbon.
  • We drew around one of the domes as a guide and within the shape my daughter drew and coloured an eye.
  • She stuck this to the pendent base with some Bostik glue
  • and then stuck the dome on top.
  • When the pendant had dried she fixed the jump ring onto the pendant and threaded through the ribbon.

 

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