Monday, September 28, 2009

The Last Section of the Monsal Trail

On Saturday we finally got around to walking the last part of the Monsal Trail. As you know we've been walking it in sections this year and had saved the final bit - Hassop to Bakewell until last. We parked at Hassop Station and went into the bookshop for a mug of coffee before starting the walk.

After coffee - what is it that is so perfect about sipping coffee in a book shop? - we set off along the sunlit, leafy path towards the market town of Bakewell. It didn't seem to take very long, under half an hour, to reach Bakewell Station the designated start of the walk but, seeing many people walking from just under the bridge nearby we decided that there must be a path down into the town which wasn't on a main road with lots of traffic so we decided to explore.

Just before the next bridge was a public footpath up some steps and across a bridge - being drawn that way by sound of barking dogs and loud speaker announcements which we decided must be coming from the showground near the cattle market in the town centre. We went over the bridge and a stile and into a field and there in front of us was Bakewell.

We continued along the footpath and down through the fields towards the show ground where a dog show was underway - calls for dogs to participate in agility trials were being announced. It all looked great fun and there were loads of dogs and their owners buzzing around the immediate area.

It was also the day of the Farmers' Market and there were lots of visitors enjoying the stalls and produce in the warm sunshine.

We decided to head into the town first and call at the farmers' market on the way back. I love crossing the river into the town and am always drawn to photograph the well known bridge.....

... the Bakewell Pudding Shop

and this little row of shops that I love nosing into - not the betting shop I hasten to add. I was disappointed to see that the rather lovely, old fashioned ironmongers shop that use to be on the far end of this row had gone and had been replaced by another camping and walking shop.

After a good look around the town we returned to the Farmers' Market and found this stall. We would have loved to buy some bread-making flour from them but of course we couldn't carry it back with us all the way to Hassop Station.

We got chatting to the people manning the stall and it turned out that the lady not only knew the village I lived in as a child and came from a neighbouring village but also went to the same school as both my cousin and her husband. Isn't it a small world? After a chat we said we would try to visit Heage Windmill before it closes at the end of October and headed back towards the path to Bakewell station. We couldn't resist an ice cream from the Hope Valley Ice Cream stand in the farmers' market- September's flavour is Damson and it was wonderful.

We stopped to take a look at the front of the station and then made our way back towards Hassop Station where our little car was parked. We followed the horses all the way back to the same car park and watched them being settled into their horse boxes for their journey home - then we too, set out towards home.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Visit to Trentham Gardens

Last Saturday we finally got to use our '2 for 1' voucher at Trentham Gardens. We'd had it since June but couldn't use it until September because it wasn't valid during the high season of June, July and August. This was the first time we had visited since the lakeside walk was closed to visitors except those paying to go into the Italian Gardens. We had thought that we would take the Lakeside Walk first but as soon as we entered the garden we were drawn through the River of Grass towards the flower beds.

They had certainly matured since our last visit to the gardens a couple of years ago. It was a warm and sunny day and the late summer/early autumn flowers were still lovely to see.

Lots of soft pinks and blues were in evidence in the well planted beds.

The different textures and shapes of the plants and flowers added to the interest.

It was lovely to see the Echinaceas as we lost the ones in our garden during the wet winter the year before last and I don't like to plant more in case they go the same way.

I loved these pinky/purple grasses too. They rustled and swayed in the gentle breeze.

I feel I should know what these flowers are but can't name them at the moment, maybe they are Asters or Michaelmas Daisies? Anyway, they were such a pretty colour.

I think I preferred the informal beds to the formal garden but I have to say from the new viewing platform it did look stunning with the orange and red flowers and cascades of water from the fountains.

Behind the impressive new cafe where we indulged in coffee and toasted teacakes were some smaller show gardens. These two, the Mediterranean garden and the seaside garden were my favourites.

The Japanese Garden that I liked so much on our last visit had gone but it looked as if another was to be made as work was in progress.

It was time to set out around the Lakeside Walk and I'll tell you about this in another post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Of Poets and Levellers

Whilst staying overnight in the Cotswolds on our way down to the New Forest we took an evening stroll at Lechlade, a pretty Cotswold town on the River Thames.

There is a footpath through the churchyard which runs down to the river and it was an evening stroll along this path, at almost the same time of year, that inspired the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to write 'Stanzas in a Summer Evening Churchyard'.

On the plaque are words from the poem, written in 1815, 'Here could I hope that death did hide from human sight sweet secrets.'

Shelley stayed at The Swan Inn in Lechlade with his friend Mary Godwin, her step-brother Charles Clairmont and the novelist Thomas Love Peacock. Mary Godwin, later Mary Shelly and author of the novel Frankenstein, was the daughter of the radical and feminist writers William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft.

Here's some more from the stanzas - 'And pallid evening twines its beaming hair, in duskier braids about the languid eyes of day.'

We also managed a late afternoon stroll around Burford. We arrived just as shops were closing and cafes were taking in their outside tables and chairs. The town was becoming quiet after a busy day.

We parked near the church and wandered into the churchyard. On previous visits I had sought out a particular memorial and I looked for it again. It commemorates the death of three Levellers who were executed in the churchyard and buried there on 17th May 1649.

The Levellers were a fairly radical group who emerged, along with other political and religious groups, from the turbulent times of the English Civil Wars. They were called Levellers by their opponents who belived that they wished to abolish property rights and spread wealth but really they didn't go that far - the True Levellers or Diggers held these far more radical beliefs which were way ahead of their time.

Social, economic and political unrest was rife in the early months of 1649. Some of the more radical members of Cromwell's New Model Army felt that they had been mislead about the trial and execution of King Charles I in January of that year and also had objections to the intended invasion of Ireland; this caused several mutinies to break out. One of these was brought to a close at Burford in May 1649. Sir Thomas Fairfax, who had his own reservations about the King's trial and execution, was sent into Oxfordshire to deal with the problem and he and his troops cornered the mutineers at Burford Church. Many of the mutineers were kept locked in the church for several days whilst the three ring leaders faced a firing squad. Many others who surrendered were pardoned by Fairfax.

Burford is a peaceful place now and it was so pleasant walking amongst the yellow Cotswold stone buildings made even more golden by the soft rays of the late afternoon sun.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Butterflies and Berries

Just a few of the delights I saw in the garden today whilst we were cutting back some of the shrubs. The last flowers and butterflies of summer as well as the rich red berries and rosehips - a sure sign that autumn is on the way.

Friday, September 18, 2009

At Buckler's Hard

One of our first outings was to the historic village of Buckler's Hard, originally known as Montagu Town and part of the Beaulieu Estate . The cottages stand on either side of the eighty foot wide track down to the River Beaulieu. Originally built for markets and fairs this huge expanse of land was used to store wood in front of the houses when the village became a prosperous ship building area.

The first place to visit is the Maritime Museum which tells the Buckler's Hard Story. This is a fascinating place and well worth a visit before you actually go into the village itself as it describes what life was like in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century for the people who lived there.

In the museum is a huge model which shows the layout of the village at the height of its prosperity when making boats for the Royal Navy. Three of the war ships which took part in the Battle of Trafalgar were built here including Lord Nelson's favourite ship HMS Agamemnon.

Inside the museum are details of the ship builders and models of the ships that were built at Buckler's Hard as well as a reconstruction of the village pub - The New Inn - where you can listen in on the chatter and village gossip taking place as it perhaps would have in 1790. There is also a reconstruction of a poor ship labourer's cottage. This is in great contrast to the shipwright's cottage which you can visit in the village. I tried to take several photos inside but the one below was the only one that was fairly succesfull - I loved the cat in the window!

Next door to the Shipwright's cottage is St Mary's chapel - this was created in the 1880s from the old school house and is still used today for worship.

Down towards the river you can see the ship building launch ways and also the jetty from which scenic cruises leave every so often on a thirty minute sight seeing trip along the river.

We spent quite a while looking around and had a picnic in the woodland area beside the river before moving on to Beaulieu Village. There is a two mile walk between the two villages which takes you along the riverside.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back Home

We set out early on Sunday morning to collect my sister and brother-in-law and then it was off down the Fosse Way to the Cotswolds where we stayed overnight at Burford. The next day we travelled down to the New Forest and our destination of Milford-on-Sea. We had super days of sunshine, occasional cloud and hardly a drop of rain - just a little spurt of wet sea air rather than rain as we explored the historic village of Buckler's Hard. On our way back we stayed overnight at Bourton-on-the-Water. I'll write more about all the places we visited later but for now I have so much to do - the usual holiday washing and ironing, shopping, lawn cutting, snail mail and e-mails to answer as well as visiting you all to see what you have been up to whilst I've been away.

The ten days of our holiday went by so quickly and I have so many happy memories and images in my mind - here, for now, are a few of them.

Boat at Keyhaven

Sunset at Milford-on-Sea

Fallow deer in the forest

Mare and Foal by Priscilla Hann in The Furlong Precinct at Ringwood

The sea at Boscombe

New Forest ponies at Beaulieu

Black-headed gull at Keyhaven

The Rescue Dog display team at Hythe Marina

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Here we go....

I'm off on my travels so I'm leaving you with some scenes from yesterday morning's walk.

'Bye for now! See you in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A September Walk

We returned to Dimmingsdale this time to walk along the former track of the Old Churnet Railway which runs from Oakamoor to Alton.

This time we parked at Oakamoor Picnic site and walked towards where the old station used to be - all that was left to show that there had been quite a large station here were the remains of two of the platforms.

It was a branch line built through the Churnet Valley by the North Staffordshire Railway Company and opened in 1849. It was used mainly by copper workers from the nearby copper mines and also by day trippers up to Rudyard Lake and thence to the seaside towns of Rhyl or Blackpool. The line was finally closed in October 1965.

It was gloriously muddy underfoot and the weather seemed distinctly autumnal. We diverted for a while up to and over the bridge and down towards one of our favourite places.

Well, who can resist a mug of hot coffee at the wonderful Rambler's Retreat! By this time the weather had brightened slightly and as we were sitting outside we found the wasps a bit of a problem. I must admit I'm not keen on wasps!

We returned to the path which was flooded in places and a lot of the ground either side was under water and looked as if it had been that way for some time.

There were several trees fallen across the path too - it looked almost as if there had been a huge winter storm except the trees were still very green.

We reached Alton Station which is now in private hands and walked up the steps at the side of the road bridge to see where we were.

We were on the road just going into the village of Alton with Alton Castle in the background.

It was time to retrace our steps and walk back towards Oakamoor. By this time the sun was out and all the picnic tables were taken so we decided to move on to find somewhere else to eat our lunch.

We drove through Cauldon past all the huge quarries and out onto the Leek to Ashbourne road. We turned off this road at Waterhouses and went towards the small village of Waterfall. We parked near the little church and went to have a closer look.

There is a footpath across the field to the church from the village. It was a most peaceful place with a typical village churchyard.

Amazingly the church was open so we popped in to take a look. I was quite surprised that my camera managed a couple of decent interior shots.

One of the East window and one of the pews in the nave all filled with wonderful embroidered kneelers.

We are busy this week getting ready for our visit to the New Forest so I'll try and get the Gladstone Museum part two post done before we go but if I don't manage it I'll finish it when we get back. I'm hoping the weather will be better than it has been for the last two days; as I sit at the kitchen table typing this post the wind is whistling around the house like it does in November!