A glorious day out at Ruckley Estate


It's no secret that I consider myself to be very blessed to work at QVC. It's also no secret that a big part of that are the wonderful people I meet. Julie Bates, founder of Peony Flowers, is one of the loveliest individuals you could hope to meet. The same is true of my fellow presenter, Craig Rowe. We always love spending time together when we can, so we were utterly delighted when Julie invited us to visit the home of Peony Flowers in Ruckley, Shropshire.

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Craig and I were like excited children on a school outing! We met up at London Euston and shared a good old natter on our train journey. As we got closer the scenery got greener and greener and the sun was shining, causing our excitement to build further.

Julie and her best friend, Sue, who always accompanies Julie to the QVC shows and shares Julie's Peony passion, met us at the station and we began the drive to the 'factory'.

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Well, forget what you've ever thought a factory ought to look like! Beautiful old farm outbuildings have been kitted out to accommodate this wonderful, warm, family-run business. The staff were so relaxed and friendly, and the fresh air flowed through the huge open doors along with sunshine and idyllic views over acres and acres of unspoilt beauty.


We watched as the flowers were cut to the correct lengths and arranged carefully in the special 'water' which sets in a special drying room with lots of gentle heat. It's such a lovely environment and everyone seems like a member of the Peony family.

Popsiecat&PeonyWe visited the on site shop and wanted to buy everything. You should see the size of some of the creations! One day I would love to invest in some of the larger pieces. When I finally move into a forever home I will, for sure. In my rented home I have displayed the Today's Special Value for Friday and, as you can see, Popsiecat is having a good nose, too!

There was so much to see but it was time for lunch so Julie whisked us off to the beautiful Ruckley family home. A stunningly, elegant, welcoming house of grand proportions set in acre upon acre of natural beauty. It looked like something right out of a period drama! Craig and I were utterly gobsmacked.


Julie's charming parents, husband and some of the other members of the Peony team had lunch with us on the terrace. We were met with quails egg canapés and chilled bubbly! We felt so spoilt. Lunch was wonderful, the sun shone gloriously and conversation flowed so easily with everyone. Craig always jokes about moving into the Ruckley House when he's on air with Julie and now I think he's more serious than ever! I'm sure there's room for me, too. I can't express enough the warmth and generosity of this lovely family.

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I recall the last Breast Cancer Care gala evening I attended last year. Peony had kindly provided the beautiful table decorations and then donated them to be auctioned off on the night to raise a considerable amount of money for the charity. I feel rather proud that this is a wonderful home grown, great British brand, and I happily support their family-owned business regularly – I have quite a few Peony pieces decorating my home.

We walked around the gardens, which are the pride and joy of Julie's very elegant mother. She seemed to know every flower and every plant as though she had a unique relationship with each and every one! We really felt we got to know Julie and her family that much better for our visit. We even met Julie's beloved little dog, Twiglet, who is completely besotted with Julie!



The time ran away with us and finally we left the tranquillity of Ruckley to head back to the big smoke with full tummies and slightly tipsy smiles. Craig and I again had the chance for a really good natter and reflect on the journey home.

Peony12I don't know about Craig but I slept like a very contented baby that night! I hope you can join us on Friday when Julie brings us one of the best Today's Special Value prices ever with a stunningly realistic set of three roses including the elegant vases they come in which can be used independently too.

Hopefully you feel as though you've had a vicarious visit to the Estate through my blog. I'd love to hear from you so please feel free to leave a comment below.

See you soon, much love as always,

Catherine xxx


  1. Beth Morton May 21, 2014 at 10:56 pm -  Reply

    Hi Catherine,
    I really enjoyed your detailed description of your wonderful day out. Good to have had a buddy like Craig with you – it doesn’t surprise me that he’s a lovely person. Julia (Roberts) knew what she was doing when she helped appoint him those 7 or so years ago! I’ve liked him from the word go. You too, you come across as such a lovely person too and I remember when Cara left a few years ago she told Dale that you were the same on and off screen. I have a good memory, at times anyway. Ask me to describe a book’s story though or a film plot and I am dreadful!!
    I loved the photos and I’ve decided that if Twiglet ever decides he needs a new owner, can I be the first in the queue?!! Saying that, Popsiecat looks adorable too!
    All the very best,
    Beth XX.

  2. Diane gilbank May 24, 2014 at 8:33 am -  Reply

    Hi catherine, what a beautiful piece you have written, I am sure julie and her family will be delighted to read of your joy and wonder at being with Julie and her family for the day. You took me on a virtual tour with your words. The whole day sounded like a special one for you and Craig! He is such a great guy and you sound as if he was your perfect partner for the day. The flowers always look amazing and I have pieces myself. I’ve also bought them as gifts and if had a larger house, like you would buy some of the bigger arrangements.
    Great photos too.
    It’s been lovely seeing you on screen this week, you always look so polished and the dresses you wear are gorgeous. No guessing which is your fav brand either??
    Really enjoyed diamonique day but missed you presenting any shows as I know your passion for diamonique is genuine.
    Keep happy and thanks for a great blog, much love diane xxx

  3. Morag Winchester May 28, 2014 at 6:07 pm -  Reply

    Agree with previous commemts and the words and pictures. Keep doing what you do, its great ! x. Love Morag

  4. Jean Pugh May 29, 2014 at 12:23 pm -  Reply

    Hi Catherine,
    It sounds as if you had a fabulous day at the Ruckley Estate with Craig. It must have been really interesting to see it all going on. It sounds as if you were really well looked after and had a lovely lunch. I have lots of the Peony arrangements and they are all beautiful. Julie has such a passion for her work which is great.
    I did purchase the TSV and looking forward to receiving it, your gorgeous cat is admiring it or thinking now what has she got better check this out. My cats are the same got to check everything out.
    I must say you always look great when you are presenting.
    Take care.
    Love Jean XX

  5. Catherine Huntley July 2, 2014 at 2:05 pm -  Reply

    Thank you for all of your lovely comments! I’ve only just seen them, must check back more often.
    Here’s to you all enjoying lots of sunshine and happiness this summer.
    Love Catherine x

  6. joyce ashwin December 22, 2014 at 9:36 pm -  Reply

    hi Catherine, on a trip to Cirencester with my hubby I came across the peony shop, oh what a delight, every flower imaginable, bluebells and other spring flowers, roses to die for…. I spent twenty minutes or so in a wonderful garden , that’s what it felt like and the assistant was so lovely to us, you could see she loved her job. sadly the shop isn’t there any more ,but what a lovely surprise to find peony on qvc. …. I havnt bought any yet from qvc but will do as im saving up for a larger arrangement. Julie seems so lovely as you are and love craig too. thankyou qvc you are the best….x

  7. Catherine Huntley December 29, 2014 at 3:46 pm -  Reply

    Hello Joyce,

    Thanks for writing in, it warmed my heart to read your words. Sounds like you share my love of Peony. They’re so lovingly created and the family really do care about their customers and what they do.

    I have a beautiful Christmas poinsettia Peony arrangement and it always brings me joy to bring it out year after year. So realistic and also unkillable!

    I hope you and yours had a lovely Christmas and look forward to a wonderful year ahead.

    Love Catherine xx

  8. ELIZABETH PETTIT TESSMANN April 19, 2015 at 4:32 am -  Reply



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