Saturday, September 20, 2014

Here and there

Hasn't it been wonderful weather for the last few days?  A golden September and an extra bonus to still feel the warmth of late summer during the day.  We've been gardening like mad during the last week.  Creating paths and laying gravel, planting spring bulbs and clearing areas of the garden we'd let get dreadfully out of hand.  

 We also managed a day out earlier in the week and visited two National Trust properties, not too far away from us, just over the county border in Cheshire.

Our first visit was to Dunham Massey a house we've visited a couple of times before and I'm sure I've written a post or two about it - especially about the winter garden. This time though was different because for the centenary of the start of WWI parts of the house have been transported back to the time when, from April 1917 until February 1919, it became the Stamford Military Hospital.

 The exhibition itself is called 'Sancturary from the Trenches' and with its peaceful gardens, sumptuous rooms and extensive grounds Dunham Massey must indeed have seemed like a haven from the relentless horror of life on the battlefields and in the trenches.

We looked around the new visitor centre and shop where we booked a timed ticket for the hospital.

We had just over an hour so we walked towards the gardens taking in the wartime propaganda posters dotted around - there were some very interesting ones to discover.

The gardens were looking wonderful with their late summer flowers and I was struck by the contrast between the joy of the peaceful and colourful garden and the horrors the soldiers in the hospital must have endured.  I thought of their bravery and also that of the nurses and doctors who worked day and night to cope with so many dreadful injuries.

Below is a sculpture in the gardens which consists of 282 individually cast concrete cubes one for each soldier who was admitted to the hospital, each cube carved with the admission number of the solider it represents.

Even more moving for me was to be found on the mound against the lake.

It was a sculpture of words, each poem written by soldiers who had been treated at the hospital in the autograph books belonging to Lady Stamford, who in 1917 offered the hall to the British Red Cross for use as a hospital, and her daughter Lady Jane Grey who was just 15 when war broke out.  Lady Stamford administered the hospital from her summer parlour and Lady Jane Grey trained as a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse and worked at the hospital.

Below a poem written by Private G A Bownes of the 2/4 York and Lancaster Regiment.

We spent ages reading the poems marvelling at the positive, peaceful and thoughtful words and sitting and taking in the tranquillity of the place we found them in.

It was time to make our way to the front door of the hall where we were greeted and told what to expect.  We may be lucky and see some of the characters as we moved through the house.  The actors would perhaps enact a scenario for us but they would not communicate with us or even make eye contact as they kept in character all day.  The first display boards dealt with the kind of injuries and diseases that the soldiers suffered with in the trenches things like trench foot and trench fever.  Also shrapnel wounds and shell shock.

We then entered the corridor leading to the hospital ward. I won't show you inside the rest of the house as this post is already getting too long but we may return later to look at the grandeur of it all.  

The ward is bright and cheerful but in some cases the men are very sick with injuries both physical and mental.  The whole atmosphere is very moving with quotes from the men who had been treated there and also from the  doctors and nurses dotted around for us to read.  

On pillows

and on walls.
So simply displayed and yet so powerful too.

The nurse was trying to pacify the young soldier who had somehow got himself into his day clothes with the intention of leaving the hospital and returning to the trenches because he felt that by being in the hospital he was letting down  his comrades who were still at the front.  

He eventually calmed down and fell asleep as the nurse sang 'Keep the home fires burning' in a soft, gentle voice.

There was of course, lots more to see in the house including the state rooms and kitchens.  I'll write about those another time.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Season of Colour

This week I've been noticing colours, mostly seasonal colours as this time of year produces such rich, glossy colours, here are just some of the things I've recorded as I've been on my walks this week.

but first I want to share this photo I took a couple of weeks ago of a squirrel in our garden with a shiny, copper brown conker that it had just stripped of its outer layer.  It was fascinating watching the little creature with its prize - it ran off with the conker no doubt to cache it away for darker, colder winter weather.

 Lovely orange colours above and below in the gardens at Haddon Hall last Sunday where we went to listen to a performance by Piva in the great hall.

On Thursday we walked at Tittesworth, near Leek.  The reservoir was very low after all the exceptionally dry weather we've been experiencing over the last few weeks.

I can't remember what the plant above is called but it was very colourful with its dark red leaves and black berries.

The soft, gossamer seeds of the Willow herbs were lining the paths and drifting around in the slight breeze.

 This morning we walked around Trentham Gardens and lakeside.  Above - a Dahlia in The Secret Garden - one of the small show gardens in the grounds.

 Along the path we saw huge glossy red rose hips

 More conkers on a Horse Chestnut tree

 Sweet, juicy blackberries

and leaves changing colour

on some of the trees

Not quite so colourful but very seasonal and interesting were the different fungi we found on the forest floor.
A final burst of seasonal colour on the kitchen table - a bunch of cheerful red asters from the supermarket.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Reasons to Smile

Four things, all strangely beginning with the letter F, that have made me smile over the last few days........

Mushrooms bought from the Farmer's Market at Bakewell in Derbyshire last Saturday - Food!

Duck and Chicken

An impromptu puppet show given by two of our happy band of four on a visit to Pickford's House Museum on Wednesday.

 We met friends from Nottingham in Derby, had a wonderful lunch at Bennett's Department Store then walked down to Pickford's House to have a look around - Friends!

We then went into the Museum and Art Gallery to look at the archaeology exhibits and the wonderful paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby, where once again the inner child took over in the tea rooms where there was a table for the little ones.  We also enjoyed a slice of Joseph Wright's 280th Birthday cake in very pleasant surroundings.

Yesterday we were visited by my brother-in-law and his family and we had lunch at Trentham Gardens and a walk around.  The weather was very warm and these yellow flowers from the cut flower garden caught my eye - Family!

and Flowers!

So in a week where I'm avoiding the news as it is so depressing and grim
there were lots of lovely things to make me smile, just for a while, this week.  Happy moments of which memories are made to treasure on the darker days.
Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A visit to Leicester

Last Thursday as a treat, it being my birthday,  we had booked tickets for a one o'clock visit to the new Richard III Visitor Centre which is opposite the cathedral in Leicester.  We drove out towards Burton-on-Trent, Ashby de la Zouche and Coalville and made our way to the nearest park and ride bus service into the city centre which dropped us off very close to where we wanted to be. 

 We started with a visit to the Cathedral  where inside work was underway with the preparations for the re-internment of Richard III next March.

There is an exhibition at the back of the nave showing what the completed tomb will look like and a small model too.

The road between the Visitor Centre and the Cathedral was being pedestrianised, the statue of Richard III, which was previously in Castle Gardens had been placed opposite the centre.

I didn't know what to expect inside the centre as I hadn't seen the exhibition at the nearby Guildhall about the discovery of Richard III's skeleton at the Grey friar's excavation only the Chanel 4 documentaries and a visit to the site of the dig in 2012 (see my post - here)

 The exhibitions within the visitor centre are advertised as Richard III Dynasty Death and Discovery.  On the ground floor the displays are high tech, with audio visual displays which build up the historical context of Richard's life as characters and events drift across the screen behind the throne.  Showing when I took this photo is Cecily Neville and her young son Richard as she takes him to live in the household of his cousin the Earl of Warwick.

I loved the way the information boards were in the guise of large illustrated books and manuscripts.

The gloom inside was lit by the magnificent illustrations and films

Apologies that some of the photos aren't that great but the lighting was changing constantly and it was also hard to take the photos around other visitors but I hope they give you some idea of the colour and action in all the ground floor displays.

 Details from the above illustration

The mystery of the disappearance of the Princes casting a shadow over Richard's reign and reputation.

The White Boar public house in the city where it is recorded the Richard sometimes stayed was hastily renamed The Blue Boar after the Battle of Bosworth.  

 The pendulum of Lord Stanley's sword swings between Richard and Henry Tudor during the battle whose side will be chose to fight on?  He held the balance of power and the outcome of the battle in his hands.

 The second part of the exhibition is white, bright and clinical in a scientific way, as this is the 'Discovery' part of the centre.

The displays start with the story of dig itself, the finding of Richard's body and then the hard technical work of testing the remains to identify them.  The display takes you through the processes of scanning the bones for analysis, radio carbon dating of the bones and genealogy and DNA profiles also the creating of the likeness from the skull.

Again apologies for the quality of some of the photos - the one above was taken through glass.

 Above is the much discussed 'white' suit of armour

A reconstruction of Richard's spine showing the effects of Scoliosis.

There is also a display about Shakespeare's interpretation of the life and times of Richard III plus dates of some of the most noted actors who have played the role.  One or two I've seen most memorable being Ian McKellen's 1930s Fascist Dictator Richard at the National Theatre in the 1990s. 

The last part of the display is the most poignant as you walk out over the actual burial site near the altar of the church in Grey friar's priory.  The building itself is cool, calming and suitably contemplative and reverential with it's pale stone walls and pale gold ceiling and doors.  

 Under the glass you can see how the remains lay, hunched up into the quickly created grave, the yellow pegs of the dig still in place.
After a second visit to the upstairs gallery - there is so much to take in - we sat in the courtyard with refreshments.  You can see from the spire how close the Cathedral, where Richard's remains will be re-interred,  is to his first resting place.