Friday, October 20, 2017

New things to see at Quarry Bank Mill

It must be a couple of years since we last visited Quarry Bank Mill in Styal in Cheshire.  I knew that there had been lots of changes since our last visit so we decided to drive up there to take a look.  Road closures and road works made getting there quite difficult but we eventually arrived to find more building work going on in the car park and entrance area.

There was a brand new reception building too.

 It was all very muddy and water was standing in puddles on the new paths.

Our first call was to the Styal Village Hub where we were advised to go first in order to book a tour of the newly opened No 13 Oak Cottages, one of the houses in the village built  by the Gregg family for their workers at the nearby mill.

 We booked on a tour for 12 noon and wandered back along the path towards the garden as we had over an hour to waitIt's not far to walk, less than 10 minutes, from the reception to the village.

 The village is a 'living village' and people have their homes in all the cottages except No 13 which has been opened for viewing by visitors after essential maintenance work.

We passed The Apprentice House along the way back but didn't go in this time. Instead we headed towards the gardens to see the new displays and rebuilt glass house and back sheds there.

Above some aspects of the new displays at the top of the garden in the back sheds of  the glass house.

The original glass house was built in the 1820s  to impress guests and visitors of the family's wealth.  It was built in cast iron and had thousands of panes of glass. 

The back houses were originally used by the gardeners to organise planting, cleaning tools, take deliveries and take care of the heating for the exotic plants in the glass house.  Now there are displays on the history of the gardens and a also shop in there. Here is a link to a short film about the restoring of the glass house.

It was time to go back towards the village for our tour of the workers cottage.  There was a wonderful display and film in the hub and we spent time looking at this before our guide arrived.

After our tour we walked in the now pouring rain back towards the mill for a light lunch of scones and coffee. After a wander around the shop we ventured up to the third new building which had opened  since our last visit.

 Quarry Bank House, built c1798 next to the mill, was the home of its owners the Gregg Family.  It had only opened to the public the day before so it was a treat to be able to see inside.

I'll take you inside this house and No 13 Oak Cottages in my next post.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Autumn in the Garden

The Tulip Tree (Liriodendron) at the top of the garden is looking wonderful at the moment.

It's changed from bright green to soft yellow in a matter of days.

I thought I woud take some photos of it today before the leaves get blown away in the gales that are forecast for early next week.

It was quite breezy today and as I took the photos the branches were swaying in the wind and the leaves were dancing along to the blustery music.

Leaves have started to fall and soon it will be time to go out and collect them up.  Falling leaves and woodsmoke in the air are two of the things I love about this time of year.

Leaves had drifted onto the cleared vegetable beds.

Into the pond, across the lawn
And into the bird bath

The Hydrangeas are still clinging on to some colour, they were such a deep, bright pink earlier this year.

The flowers on the Hydrangeas above were bright blue turning to soft mauve in the late summer.

The Heucheras we planted are still looking colourful.

We don't see the foxes now the nights are getting darker.  They usually visit the garden anytime from eight o'clock onwards.  Although a couple of lunchtimes over the last few days we've been visited by this year's female cub.   She trots onto the lawn and stares at us through the kitchen window then she runs off. Mum and Dad have moved on now and left their three cubs to fend for themselves which they seem to do very well.
It is certainly squirrel time in the garden.  They run, they chase, they play.  They tease the local cats and pinch the bird food.  They are also still pinching stones from our paths and burying them in the lawn.

Meanwhile in the conservatory Max looks on over his garden from his favourite chair, never wanting to go out now, content to stay where it is warm and cosy.

Watching Autumn spread across the garden as he has done for 21 years now.
All we can do is keep him warm and safe.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

British Ceramics Biennial 2017

The British Ceramics Biennial is in town again, well in the town of Stoke anyway, which is one of the six towns that make up the City of Stoke on Trent.  Stoke is where Stoke Minster and the Civic Offices are and also nearby is a huge site which used to be the home of Spode China works.  There has been a factory on this site since 1771. The factory ceased to manufacture ceramics a few years after we first came to live in the area but I do remember visiting the factory, the Museum and the Blue China Restaurant.   Now the huge open and empty factory unit, known as the China Halls, is used for many community events and projects and every other year for the Ceramics Biennial.

I remember when we visited in 2015 we entered from the back of the complex this time we entered from doors on the front which are approached through the Spode Rose Garden.

This year too there are more venues than just the China Hall at Spode.  Last week we visited displays at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery and the Bethesda Chapel both in Hanley.  There are also displays at the nearby AirSpace Gallery and Emma Bridgewater Factory and also at Middleport Pottery, The World of Wedgwood and The Gladstone Pottery Museum.

Inside the China Halls is an amazing space and there were so many things to see and to participate in.

There were so many wonderful displays to look at including work from ten of the best ceramic artists from across the country and also some of the best of new UK based graduate artists.

There were too many individual works, installations and displays to write about here so I've decided to concentrate on just three things that caught my attention.

 Below is a work by Juree Kim who has, with Neil Brownsword, been artist in residence at the V&A Museum for the last year, exploring the issues surrounding architectural heritage and urban regeneration.  She has visited several regional sites of historic ceramic production that remain 'invisible' due to disuse and decay. 

Juree Kim has made scale reproductions of these buildings in raw clay which were 'activated' in a performance on the opening evening of the Biennial.  In the ceremony water was added to the base of the structure which started the gradual decay and collapse of the building and highlights the issues surrounding the value of built heritage and its preservation and the decline of the pottery industry as a whole.

 The clay structure above is of the Falcon Works, Old Town Road, Hanley.  One of the volunteers we spoke to said that each time she came in to start her duties she went to check how the structure had changed and how much it disintegrated every day.

Knowledge is Power: Six Towns is an installation by leading ceramic artist Keith Harrison who has worked with the Stoke-on-Trent Libraries and Archives, schools and community groups to make a complete set of replica clay books which have been inspired by local history books

The books are fired each day, triggered by an interactive switching mechanism.   One of the volunteers in this area told us that the day before we visited some of ceramic books had exploded - which is why they safe are behind the bars.

I also found Ian McIntyre's 'Brown Betty: The Everyday Archetype' quite fascinating. The Brown Betty teapot has been around for over 300 years and has been re-engineered for the 21st century.

 The combination of Rockingham glaze and Staffordshire's Etruria red clay are fundamental to the success of the Brown Betty Teapot.  In 1693 brothers John and David Elers refined the use of the clay and based their teapots on those imported from China by the Dutch East India Company.

Artist Ian McIntyre has re-imagined the making of the teapots
and exclusive limited edition pots are on sale as part of the exhibition.

More highlights from the festival including works by Lena Peters, Holly Johns and Hannah Tounend

 Refreshments by B-Arts, Bread in Common.

 Entertainment from The Claybody Theatre

We are hoping to go back and take another look at the exhibitions before the festival closes on 5th November.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

A Lakeside Walk and Homemade Soup

This morning even though it was quite windy we headed out for our usual walk around the lake at Trentham Gardens.  We hadn't been for a walk around the lakeside for a couple of weeks and were quite surprised at the changes and additions we found along the way.

 We were looking for signs of autumn and certainly found them.  The leaves on the Tulip Trees along the paths near the lake were far more advanced into their autumn colours than ours at home which is still quite green with just a few slightly yellow leaves.

We thought we might find some fungi but didn't expect to find these Fly Agaric toadstools.  There were loads of them across the grass, some opened others just appearing from the ground.  

As we walked around we noticed quite a few new sculptures had been installed.

 I think these are supposed to be Brown Trout which are found nearby in the River Trent.

Deer.  We don't see the wild deer herd dashing thought the undergrowth anymore, although I think can still be spotted up in the woods.


Two horses' heads on plinths

 Below another owl

 I bet he or she stands out in the dark.


 Hare - this one had just been placed ready for installing - it was sitting on a black plastic bag and fenced in by red and white tape.

Frog, a lady standing nearby called him Jeremy Fisher which made me smile.

We saw lots of other seasonal fungi, leaves and plants along the way.   

There were lots of water birds on the lake.  Cormorant, Grebe,
Heron and Swans both black and white, lots of Canada geese, Coots, Mallards and Moorhens too.

After a wonderful breezy walk in both bright sunshine and the occasional bout of drizzle we returned home to warm up some homemade soup.  Leek and potato with homemade bread.  I love these bright, autumnal October mornings.  I'm also glad we went out this morning because as I type this the wind has really picked up and the rain is battering the windows.  Such a day of contrasts.