Friday, October 26, 2012

Do you see what I see?

Yesterday was a grey day, a day for seeking out warmth in both clothes and food and most certainly a day for seeking out some cheering Autumnal colour.  

A walk around the lake at Trentham seemed like a good idea so, yesterday afternoon,  we ventured out for a brisk walk.  We could feel the slight chill in the air, a precursor of the colder weather predicted for the end of this week.

The leaves were blowing around in the gentle breeze scattering off the trees in short, sharp showers, whilst up above them buzzards were whirling around their kitten mewling cries echoing across the lake.

Gulls were swirling and swooping low over the water, grebes and cormorants dipping for food, tails up in the air then just a whirl on the surface to show where they had been.  Long tailed tits were flitting and tweeting in the bushes daring us to spot them and jays were flying from tree to tree looking for those elusive acorns, but something else was stirring.................

.........did you see that?

there's another!

 Fairies! Yes, fairies around the lake.  All fairy life was here!

 There were flirty fairies

Friendly fairies

Languid fairies

Sinister ones too!

Come and find us, they cried!  

Did I tell you we found some Autumnal colours too?

You can find out more about the fairies - here  and here

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Eden's Garden

I've just finished reading a wonderful book by Juliet Greenwood called 'Eden's Garden'.  I saw it first in the gift shop of Llynnon Mill when we spent a day on Anglesey on our last visit to Wales in September.  I remembered the details and wrote them down in my notebook so that when we returned home I could reserve the book from our local library.   I had read the blurb on the back and just knew it was a book I would enjoy.  Written in two eras the present and the late 19th century it is about two families from a small village in the Snowdonia region of Wales, one family from the big house 'Plas Eden' and the other family from its local village 'Pont-ar-Eden'.  It is about family commitments, duties and loyalties, gardens and garden design, art, sculpture and the search for ancestors.  It is about  people in both eras who are just meant to be together.  The stories of  both families intertwine right to the end as the present day characters seek out their ancestry and this journey of discovery takes them from Wales to London and a hidden garden in Cornwall.

I was even more intrigued when I read the author's  acknowledgements at the end of the book because the house and garden that had inspired her was so very close to an area we have been visiting, for many years now, staying at our neighbours' holiday home on a holiday park up in the woodlands in the village of Prenteg which is on the road between Tremadog and Beddgelert.  In the nearby village of Garreg,  approaching from Prenteg you pass over the Welsh Highland Railway near the RSPB Osprey viewing site, are the wonderful gardens of Plas Brodanw.   The gardens have always been open on an ad-hoc basis to locals and those in the know with an honesty box at the gatehouse but this year they had opened on a more permanent basis with brown signs on the road and a lovely new tea shop.  The house was the home of architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis who is responsible, among many other things, for the village of Portmeirion which is not far away, just through the next village of Penrhyndeudraeth, on the Porthmadog road.  Below are   a few of the many photos I took of the gardens on our visit earlier this year. 

The modern wooden sculptures you can see were part of an Art Trail that was taking place across the district.

It was a magical place, with little hidden areas and spectacular views and the coffee and toffee fudge scones we had for afternoon tea were quite delightful too!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tamworth Castle

Part two of our outing last Saturday was a visit to Tamworth Castle.  After our lunch at Middleton Lakes (see my last post)  it was nearly 2.30pm. and we weren't at all sure if the castle would be open but we decided to park up and walk through the pleasure grounds towards the castle.  Hurrah - it was open until 3.45p.m. so we had just over an hour to look around.  In we went not sure what to expect.  We weren't disappointed!

There is quite a bit of renovation and building work being carried out at the moment so some of the outside areas and the Norman displays were inaccessible.  We made our way through the huge doors into the reception area.  The first part of the building to see is the Medieval great hall.

It was very impressive but somehow the impact of it was lost as it was split into two by ropes as you go round the castle one way and come out on the opposite side of the ropes back into the great hall. 

Upstairs next to the Tudor dining room.  

The withdrawing chamber on the far side had been set out as a kitchen area.

Then we went up onto the next floor where there were Museum displays about the history of Tamworth from pre-historic times to the present day. It was nice to see that there were some pieces from the Staffordshire Hoard on display with some replicas of objects to show how the pieces would have been used as decoration.  There is a wonderful exhibition on a much larger scale here in the Potteries Museum in the city centre at the moment and another similar one at Birmingham Museum which we saw earlier this year. 

From this history displays we were able to go outside onto one of the walkways overlooking the chimneys of some of the roof structures.

Then it was up onto the roof of the tower where there were some wonderful views of the town 

and a view of the walkway we had just walked over.

The castle was lived in as a family home for several centuries and much internal alteration has taken place to reflect the tastes of the time.  A lot of these were done by Lord Humphrey Ferrers whose family owned the castle right through from the 15th to the 17th century.  The bedroom above is a reflection of those times.  This family left the castle in 1642 at the outbreak of the Civil War  and it was garrisoned by a Royalist force where continual 'harrying' raids were carried out against the nearby Parliamentarian town of Lichfield. In 1643 the castle was under siege and was eventually captured by Parliamentarian forces and held by them for the rest of the war.

The Townshend family lived at the hall from 1714 until 1837 and the next rooms reflect these rather elegant times.  It was difficult to take distance photos of the rooms as the sun was streaming through the windows so I've just honed in on a couple of things that caught my eye.  I loved the blue of the glasses above against the pretty blue and white wallpaper.

As well as the detail in the bonnet above.  There is an area near this display where you can try on various hats and wigs and a huge mirror to admire yourself in.

Above and below are Victorian rooms, above the nursery and below the rather grand panelled room which was used by the Cook family who were tenants of the Townshend family until they sold the castle in 1897 to the Tamworth Borough council for the sum of £3,000.  A museum was opened there two years later.

We were surprised at how much there was to see inside the castle.  The door you can see at the far end of the room leads down a staircase and back into the hall where we first entered.

At the end of the tour is a good little gift shop and an area with tables and chairs where you can have coffee/tea and biscuits. Not the table below, of course, set for afternoon tea with its central samovar.

An hour passed so quickly and it was soon time to leave and wander back to the car park through the pleasure gardens and by the river.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Wetland Walk

On Saturday we decided to visit Middleton Lakes a fairly new RSPB nature reserve near Tamworth.  I'd been told about it in the summer when we stopped to chat to a young lady who was manning an RSPB stand in the farmyard at Shugborough.  Then, just a few weeks ago, I saw photos of the reserve on Susy's blog Rustic Vintage Country.  The reserve has been constructed in the 400 acres around an old gravel quarry in between the River Tame and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.  There is a large car park at the site but first we stopped just a little way up the drive at Middleton Hall to have a look around and take a few photos.

The Hall looked wonderful and the grounds, walled garden and lake are open to the public on certain days between Easter and September. The Hall, run by a charitable trust, seems to be open to group visits only at the moment.  A reason to return again in the Spring to take another look as I love walled gardens.

 Opposite the hall were the former stables which were being refurbished.

 Behind the building above was a courtyard of small craft shops and a cafe where we would return later for lunch.

 We set off down to Middleton Lakes where on our walk up to the reserve we crossed the boardwalk at Heron Corner.

After the boardwalk the paths were very muddy so it was a good job we had put our wellies on.

 We crossed over the canal at Fisher's Mill bridge and headed towards the Wetland Trail.

 It was so quiet and peaceful just ourselves and the waterbirds.

The trail is about 3km long, that means nothing to me but I expect it is around a couple of miles if you add the approach to it from the car park.

There were many swans on the lakes. Especially on the small islands at the top end.  We also saw and heard them flying in with the gentle 'thrum,thrum' of their wings so different to the loud, aggressive honking of geese.

We also saw coots, grebes and cormorants. 

It was difficult to take many clear photos in the bright sunlight which was there even though it looks quite overcast in some of these photos.

On the opposite side of the trail the water of the River Tame was moving very quickly and it seemed high along the banks.

The paths close by were very wet as if at some point the water had flooded over.

We thoroughly enjoyed our walk and intend to go back again, perhaps in spring and do the other walks on offer.  The meadow trail and the woodland trail which, on Saturday, was closed off for maintenance.

We followed the path back over the canal to the car park and made our way back to the courtyard at Middleton Hall for a lovely lunch of hot soup served with the largest roll I've ever seen!  I couldn't eat all mine.  Then it was back toward Tamworth and our next destination, the castle, of which more in my next post.