Friday, 4 February 2022

Ghost train

While February got off to a flying start, with Storm Corrie's glacial winds followed by the usual succession of grey and rainy days, my blog is still catching up with what I've been doing in January.

Picking up where I left off in my previous post, we've made it to the 22nd of that month, and yes, you've guessed it, the weather gods were still stubbornly refusing to send some well-needed and long overdue sunshine our way. 

The bleakness of the day, which was accompanied by a measly 6°C, wasn't inviting us to engage in any outdoor activities. In order to make staying inside worth our while, though, I'd scribbled down a to-do list, fully intending to check off as much as I could.

However, before I tackle the first item on my list, which involves a stint of sewing, let me show what I was wearing. 

If you're wondering why it took me so long to wear my bargain of the century Diane Von Furstenberg cardigan, it's because I was looking for its perfect companion. I'd tried out and rejected a couple of likely candidates until I caught sight of this skirt, which was hanging at the side of my wardrobe awaiting its turn.  Putting the two together made for an eye-catching mix of patterns, the browns in the cardigan and the skirt instantly hitting it off. The skirt with its brown, black, grey and white chevron pattern was a Think Twice find back in October 2020. 

I wore the cardigan as a jumper, layering a black t-shirt underneath, and accented my waist with a tan leather belt. My necklace came from Accessorize who, back in the mists of time, used to have a shop near my office. With its mix of brown, black and white beads, it echoes the colours of the skirt.

As a courtesy to the white stripes I added more white in the form of a heart-shaped ceramic brooch - picked up in a crafts shop in Cardigan - and a white plastic ring.

My tan mock croc boots, which I was seduced into buying from a local shoe shop a couple of months ago, have fast become firm favourites. Apart from their obvious attraction, they are super comfortable and go with everything, so they are hardly off my feet. Here, I only wore them for the photos, as we didn't leave the confines of Dove Cottage all day.

Ok, let's crack on with that sewing project, shall we? No, wait, I think I'll procrastinate some more by joining Bess in watching the boisterous blue tits who flock to the feeder just outside our back door ...

I'd fallen in love with the swirly blue, white and purple pattern of this vintage dress during Friday's charity shop trawl but, as is often the case, I didn't like its buttons.  This, of course, was easily remedied by a rummage through my stash of vintage buttons, which yielded the perfect blue ones. They've even got a swirl of their own!

Here's the dress in question, modelled by Angelica. She was also eager to try on the second dress I found in the same shop. It's originally from a high street shop called LolaLiza, where I've been known to buy things brand new once in a blue moon. Case in point is the dress I bought in the sales the other week.

Photographing Friday's finds was next on my list. 

Apart from the two dresses, these included a green and turquoise wooden beaded necklace, a vintage seed-beaded brooch, a vintage Trevira scarf in a funky pattern and a moss green frilly woollen scarf.

And yes, I did find yet another faux fur gilet, this one in a a delightful blush pink. The peasant style blouse with its psychedelic pattern was Friday's final find.

The rest of that Saturday was filled with a string of mundane household chores which included doing a load of washing, changing the bed linen and sweeping the upstairs rooms. These were followed by the much more pleasurable pastimes of catching up with blogland and writing a blog post.

Oh, and I did some reading too. I'd just started The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton, a rediscovered American classic originally published in 1962, a family saga set in rural Missouri in the early 1900s. Although I haven't reached the end yet as I write, this is one that's going to end up on our shelves rather than being redonated.

It was the same dismal weather we woke up to on Sunday, but this time we were determined to go for a walk no matter what.

In order to get me in the mood, I wore all the colours! 

The multi-coloured cowl neck jumper is by posh Belgian label Caroline Biss and was a charity shop find this time last year. I combined it with a pinkish-red polyester and mohair blend skirt from Think Twice, which has the added benefit of being lined for extra warmth. 

Apart from the belt and ring, which were both retail buys, and the brooch, which came all the way from an antiques centre in Shrewsbury, all other components of my outfit were charity shopped.

After a morning of pottering and procrastination, we were more than ready for a breath of fresh air.

Casting around for a suitable place for a short walk, we suddenly remembered passing what looked like the entrance of a nature reserve when we returned from a charity shopping trip the other week. 

Although we'd noticed there was plenty of space for parking, this turned out to be quite a different story on a Sunday, so that we had to drive around a bit before settling for a space in the parking lot of a local youth club.

Here, I exchanged my lovely green boots for my pair of old brown ones reserved for walking, still caked with the muddy evidence of our last walk. Then we grabbed our walking sticks and went off.

The eternal rain had turned the woodland paths muddy but that didn't deter us. At least the mud wasn't of the icky sticky clay variety trying to suck you in and root you to the spot!

At first the wooded area which is called Hessepoelbos (bos is Flemish for wood) seemed rather small and not all that exciting, but then we came across a wooden gate-like structure giving access to a track weaving its way between a row of pollarded willows and the remains of a maize field. Mixed in with the dry stubble of the field we spotted early signs of Spring in the form of some clumps of pink dead nettle impatient to get things going.

A glance between the willows was rewarded with a view of the village of Waarloos and its church tower. The village borders ours and the two villages were officially merged in 1977. 

The path veered off and narrowed, until we came across a sign announcing a second nature reserve, called De Oude Spoorwegberm, which translates as the Old Railway Embankment.

Now, this one we had heard of before but, once again, we'd never visited. It has been established on a section of the former 25A railway line, which used to connect the towns of Mechelen and Wilrijk. It was opened in 1905 and carried travellers until 1959 and goods until 1970, after which the deep-lying track was filled in. 

Although we had no idea where it would lead us, we decided to investigate and follow the track. Here things only just managed not to go pear-shaped, as the mud increased in volume and intensity, and part of the track was flooded as a result of the swollen brook running next to it.

The reserve is a long, green nature corridor for many plants and animals. With its length of 5 kilometer and a width of only 20 to 50 meters, the Old Railway Embankment is one of the longest nature reserves in Flanders.

Between the thicket on our left, we kept spotting the church spire in the distance, so we knew that whenever the opportunity of a left turn arose, we would be able to take a shortcut back to where we'd left our car. 

We would do so eventually, but not before we came across some creepy moss-encrusted glasshouses which suddenly appeared right next to the track. 

After crossing a rickety wooden bridge, its slats wonky and out of shape, a dense thicket of conifers loomed, looking for all the world like they were hiding Sleeping Beauty's castle.

At last, the track crossed a tarmacked lane, which we took into the direction of the village, passing some atmospheric ivy-clad farmhouse buildings, which appeared to have several stork's nests built upon their roofs. We'll have to go back there in Spring and see if we can spot any actual storks!

Plans are already afoot for a return visit and further investigation of this enchanting reserve.

All that exertion and fresh air, however, had made us light-headed and sleepy, so once we got home we joined our furry creature for a nap. I promised Sheila another Bess photo, so here it is!

I'll be back with more walks, and - miracle of miracles - a bit of sunshine in my next post and hope you'll join me again then.


  1. I love watching blue tits too, almost as much as Bess and Lotte probably do, but for very different reasons! Your Diane von Furstenberg cardi looks fabulous and that cowl neck colourful outfit is a stonker! Funny to think that your little brooch came from Shrewsbury. There are some great antique shops in that town. I'm imagining you have a pretty extensive collection of brooches - where do you keep them all? Love the dark, fairytale walk through the nature reserve and Bess's relaxation pose. I'm off to Google The Moonflower Vine. xxx

    1. Thank you Claire! I do love Shrewsbury, and can't wait to have another browse in that antique centre. Fingers crossed I'll be able to do so in June! xxx

  2. LOL at Bess's "sexy kitty" pose! What a character she is! Thank you for the smile, dear Ann!

    I love your DVF cardi outfit - what a wonderful mix of pattern and colour! You did that cardi well! I also caught up on some sewing yesterday, but just boring hems/rips, not something as transformative as new buttons. What a difference they make, eh?

    I know the brand Caroline Biss - they sell off the samples at Dots here! I have never bought any of that line, though. I adore your mohair-blend skirt!

    Lovely pics of your walk through the muddy nature preserve! I have never seen a stork so I hope you spot some when you go back in drier weather! My mom and I are also hampered with our walks due to rain/mud lately.

    Have a wonderful weekend, with lots of reading, relaxing (maybe a little charity shopping?) and snuggles with Bess.

    1. Thank you Sheila! I'm not sure there'll actually be storks in those nests, but we did see some in Damme near Bruges when we visited about three years ago. Quite impressive they were! xxx

  3. Send some of that sun this way! We are always bleak this time of year in the Pacific NW. The sweet birds seem to take no mind in the grey cold. I think I'll come back as a bird next time!

    1. Thank you Joni! I'm afraid we haven't had much sun to spare, though. Coming back as a bird sounds tempting, but I think I'll come back as a cat! xxx

  4. To see so much pattern and colour in your clothing is such a joy Ann. I tire of the bland clothes people throw on. Why ???? I’m always asking myself. A friend had paid a fortune for a black puffa coat and it was awful. She may as well have bought a cheap one. I don’t get it. Oh well rant over.
    It’s lovely to see Bess so relaxed. Id love to see her watching the birds and to know what she’s thinking heehee.
    Have a good weekend both of you xxx
    Ps. Do you think you’ll make it to the UK this year? Xx

    1. Thank you Lynn! I have a colleague who always wears the blandest of clothes, and she has one of those ugly puffa coats too :-) xxx

  5. You got so many great finds! I really like that long beaded necklace - I love picking up necklaces in opshops they rarely show wear and they are always much cheaper than buying new! I love your Sunday outfit too - cosy but still cheerful and colourful for a grey day! :)

    Hope that you are having a lovely weekend! We had a playdate yesterday and today is the last day of the summer school holidays :)

    Away From The Blue

    1. Thank you Mica! I think the majority of my necklaces were thrifted. There's lots of choice at mini prices! xxx

  6. Combining hearts and chevrons was perfect. There's pattern mixing, and then there's art. Yours qualifies as the latter.
    It will be interesting to see the reserve in less muddy circumstances-I'm curious about those glass houses.
    Bess sure does know how to relax.

    1. Aww, thank you Goody, but surely that's too much praise! xxx

  7. Bess is soo cute! 💜 your colored clothes are so beautiful.
    It's good to see. You're perfect for Valentine's Day with the DvF Heart Cardigan.😁
    The path was really very swampy, I'm always afraid. I'll fall in.😜
    With a very huge hug Tina

    1. Thank you Tina! I hadn't thought to wear the DVF cardigan for Valentine's Day. Silly me! xxx

  8. Look at Bess, was there ever a sexier cat?! There's a young lady very happy with her lot.
    I love both your outfits, the zingy colours in the second and the pattern matching in the first. The blue tit having lunch would have me mesmerised for ages, too - and frequently does! We've got a wren (named Ben) who has me squealing with joy when he hops along the rockery munching on the mealworms I've left him!
    Fab finds especially the print on the funky scarf!
    Thank you for sharing your lovely walk, I'm learning to appreciate the Winter landscape. I'd love to be able to pronouce the place names - could you explain how we can say them so I can show off to Jon? xxx

    1. Bess is definitely very happy with her lot. She's lying next to me while I type, have to be careful what I say now :-) xxx

  9. Isn't Bess adorable in that pose? You treated us not just with a fab photo of Bess but with gorgeous outfits as well. That first one is so chic. I can understand why you wanted a perfect companion for that heart shaped Diane Von Furstenberg cardigan, it's a stunning statement item. I love how you styled it with that patterned skirt. I do love a good mix of patterns...and the warm colours in the skirt match your tan boots and brown cardi perfectly. Very pretty boots, no wonder they are becoming your favourite pair. I have a pair of caramel boots I wear often too.
    Your multi colourful outfit is amazing. It brings a smile to my face to see all those bright colours. The striped colourful jumper is so pretty and I like how you matched it with a pinkish-red skirt. A winning combo!<3
    The photographs from the walk are so lovely.
    Have a nice week ahead!

    1. Thank you Ivana! In spite of having lots of boots, these are the ones I seem to reach for the most. They're ridiculously comfortable too! xxx

  10. Looking forward to see how you wear the pink gilet. Abs isn't that cardigan such a beauty. Almost to good to wear!

    1. Thank you Nancy! Not sure if I'll be wearing the pink gilet this Winter now that things seem to be warming up! xxx

  11. It's so good to discover a new walking route. The old railway track walk looks very intriguing and I'm very envious about the stork's nest. Please do report back. We have an 8 mile old railway track walk not too far from Bedford which a friend took me on one day a few years ago; it was a brilliant walk and I'd love to rediscover it...

    Now to the fabulous outfits. The DVF cardigan was the perfect match for the skirt and you looked lovely in the outfit. I also loved your new swirly print print dress and the matching buttons from your stash were spot on. You have found some wonderful things on your charity shop visit; I particularly liked the green and turquoise necklace and the green and turquoise (?) dress modelled by Angelica.

    As for Bess what a beautifully languid pose that is!

    Hope you have a good week,

    1. It's indeed a treat to discover a new walking route. We'll have to go back and explore it some more in Spring. I'll be sure to report back on the storks, if there are any! xxx

  12. Phwoar, look at that tabby tummy!!!
    What a cutie!!!
    Love your DVF styling- that's gorgeous as is the new swirly dress!
    Love the nature reserve! A nature walk is a great antidote to gloom!
    So I'm coming to Belgium at the weekend. My husband booked Eurostar tickets to Brussels over night as I slept and we are there was 5 days. If you have any recommendations, I'd love to know! Hoping for not too heinous weather!

    1. I had to smile when I read your comment again ... Wasn't it fun to meet up? And I still cannot get over how lucky you were with the weather! xxx

  13. The hearts cardigan is beautiful, and I love how you styled it. Bess is adorable!

  14. Glad to see the hearts cardigan in such a delightful company!. Love the mixed patterns and the fab caramel and tan colour details wich tie everything together.
    Obviously, I love your colourful outfit, the amazing colour combo!, and particularly the jumper is so fabulous!.
    Always lovely to join you in your walks and have a look at those landscapes and paths.
    Bess photos are a fabulous extra!

    1. Thank you Monica! I really struggled with that DVF cardigan until I caught sight of the skirt. I'm glad you appreciated my efforts! xxx

  15. My always stylishly attired friend, I adore how no matter the bleakness of the weather or the scarcity of light during winter's long, icy months, your resplendent outfits never fail to deliver a welcome and much needed jolt of colour our way.

    Thank you for taking us along on another of your beautiful nature walks. For those of us who are still knee (if not waist!) deep in snow, it is downright refreshing to see temps above zero and pathways that can safely be traversed sans literal snowshoes.

    Wishing you both a wonderful Valentine's season,

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

    1. Aww thank you so much Autumn! You are too kind! I'm sorry to hear you are still knee-deep in snow, but you are welcome to join me on my walks any time! xxx

  16. Aww hello Bess!
    Your blue swirly buttons are much nicer