Monday, April 24, 2017

Monday Miscellany

After a short break I thought I'd better ease myself back into writing a blog post so below are just a few things I've enjoyed seeing and doing over the last few days.

Morning Coffee at the Glost House which has newly opened not far away in the courtyard of the old Phoenix Works.

It's quite trendy and industrial inside. From the menu lunches look interesting and tasty although it being around 11a.m. we just had coffee and toasted teacakes.

 There is the added bonus of the Period Property shop and the Portmeirion Factory shop to visit too.

 Last Friday morning we were visited by one of the regular evening foxes a vixen we call 'Miss Limpy' because of her misshapen back leg.  It isn't an injury, I think she has always had it as she has been around for at least three years and always limps and holds her leg up when she stands still.  She is a beautiful fox.

 We think she came out in daylight because she probably has a cub and if she had been with it all night she would have been hungry enough to venture out in the early morning.

 Signs of Spring - orange tulips and matching Crown Imperial flowers in the Italian Garden at Trentham Gardens.

 There were also some lovely purple and pink tulips too

 The pink cherry blossom was out along the side of the River Trent as it passed by the garden centre.

 These trees always look so spectacular at this time of year.  I hope the expected wind and rain doesn't batter them too much.

In the fields lots of lovely little lambs, running, jumping and gambolling together. 

 We've done lots of digging and weeding in the garden in the last few days, the grass has been cut too.  We left it too late to sow Sweet Pea seeds so we bought some little plants.

 A rough and ready wigwam was built with sticks

 and the plants planted and watered in.  They are now in the greenhouse until the warmer weather returns.

Watching and reading

We've re-watched the films '84 Charing Cross Road', 'Housewife 49', and 'Suffragette' and discovered a delightful film called 'My Old Lady.' 

I've also been enjoying one of my favourite television series 'Line of Duty'  I've loved this since it began and it just gets better and better.

Two books read and enjoyed recently have been the latest in the Maisie Dobbs series 'In this Grave Hour' by Jacqueline Winspear and

'The Ashes of London' by Andrew Taylor

All for now, I'll hopefully be back for Five on Friday.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wash day and other Memories

In the laundry room at Shugborough I saw lots of things that reminded me of both Mum's wash days and my Grandma's too.  I'm remembering back to the 1950s but at Grandma's house you would think you'd stepped back even further.

I was born in 1950 and we lived in the middle row of a long terrace of houses just across from The Granby Halls in Leicester.  Neither the street nor the hall exist anymore.  The houses were demolished to create car parking for the nearby hospital.  I remember that our house had a pale wood front door with a gold knob in the centre.  The door opened onto a hallway with doors going off to front room and living room, the staircase was in between and at the bottom of the passage was the kitchen and scullery.  The back door led to the outside WC and a walled back garden.  In the kitchen was a wooden draining board and a square ceramic sink in which I remember being given a bath and being dried sitting on the draining board.  In the scullery was a tin bath hanging on the wall and a copper with a lid which provided warm water.  I can't remember whether there was a washing machine here, but there was a small electric boiler and a tub and what my Mum called a posher.  We left that house when I was six years old and moved to a small village in Derbyshire and I remember the posher came with us.

Grandma's house was like stepping back in time even in the early 50s as she wouldn't have electricity in the house.  She thought it was unsafe and didn't trust it.  One of my memories is of being lifted up to light the small white gauze gas mantles, which hung over the kitchen table,  with a coloured spill from a jar on the mantelpiece.  The mantelpiece was over a black leaded range.  This had a fire at one side and hob and ovens on the other.  The fire was lit all year round to provide both heat and hot water.  Grandma would do all her cooking on the range and all the food was prepared on a large kitchen table which was scrubbed almost white.  Here she would knead bread and put it to rise covered in clean tea towels in front of the range.

I remember too that she would warm flat irons in front of the range, having two warming whilst using a third one.  She would cover half of the kitchen table with an old sheet and blanket on which to do the ironing, holding the hot iron handle with a square of old towel.  At other times the table would be covered with a maroon coloured chenille table cloth with bobbles hanging on the edges.  I used to love these and remember sitting under the table playing with them and also with buttons and ribbons from the drawers of grandma's treadle sewing machine.

Grandma was born in 1884 and was 32 years of age when my Mum was born and my Mum was 34 when I was born so you can see that there could easily have been another generation between us all and understand why grandma's home, thoughts and ideas seemed to come from so far back in time.  Grandma had Parkinson's disease and died in 1962, by that time electricity had been introduced to the house and a proper kitchen had been fitted in the old scullery where she had worked with a copper and mangle on wash days.  Hanging the sheets and towels on the line outside in the back garden where she and grandad kept hens for eggs and grew hollyhocks and gladioli up against the wall.

As I walked around the laundry room at Shugborough all these memories flooded back to me, plus memories of when Grandma nursed me through  Scarlet Fever, I slept on a mattress on the floor of her bedroom often waking hot and wrapped up and entangled in sheets.  She had what seemed to be a huge bed with an iron bed frame in her room, a washstand with flowery bowl and jug, and a pink lustre ware Pierrot figure and bowl on her dressing table which contained a soft powder puff and delicate smelling powder.  I remember the cockerel waking me up each morning.

Wash days in the village we moved to when I was a child were always Mondays.  I remember my Mum used to be amused by the competition amongst all the women around as to who could get their washing out on the line first.  Our next door neighbour and the lady who lived in a house across the bottom of our gardens used to vie with each other, my Mum deliberately waited until later to put her first load of washing out on the line saying that she wasn't going to join in with the competition.

Tuesdays were usually ironing day and Wednesdays cleaning windows and upstairs rooms. How things have changed now.  I remember when we got our first refrigerator.  I'd have been about ten years old. Before that we used to keep butter and cooked meats in a meat safe which stood on a stone shelf in the pantry under the stairs.  Milk was kept in a bucket of cold water.  Money was left in a tobacco tin on the back step every Friday for the milkman with a note as to what milk was needed through the week.  My dad's friend, a grocer in the nearby small town, would bring an order every week on a Wednesday evening and stop for a chat and a cup of tea before he went on his way.

Mum was thrilled when she got her first twin tub washing machine after years of using one with a mangle.  The posser had finally had its day.

 Now we couldn't manage without automatic washing machines.  I wonder what the future will hold as technology changes yet again?  

I'm taking a short break now.  I hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Five on Friday

Friday has come around so quickly this week.  I've been busy pottering about clearing and decluttering.  One bag went out for Age UK yesterday and two boxes of old mugs, glasses, cutlery and dishes are ready to take to the Cats Protection shop soon.

We took an afternoon out of looking after an elderly, twenty one year old cat who needs lots of attention and visited Shugborough Hall (see my previous post).

It has been wonderful to actually get washing completely dry outside and the grass has been cut too.

I also grabbed my camera and went out into the garden where I found lots of new blooms and buds to admire.

Below are five things I spotted.

 1.  Blossom on the Victoria plum tree at the top of the garden

2. Buds on the Peony in the front garden, sadly the peony in the back garden didn't survive the winter and extra damp soil from last summer's floods.

3. Flowers on the Amelanchier (Snowy Mespilus)Tree.  It will soon be a mass of white.  The birds love the berries in autumn.

 4.  Little pale Violet flowers all over, in nooks and crannies, on paths, under hedges, in the pebbles around the greenhouse where we stand the pot plants and in the pots themselves with whatever else is in them.

5.  Flowers on the Bridal Wreath (Spirea Arguta) we have one in the front garden and one in the back garden.

Just a quick post this week.  Click on the link below to find other bloggers joining in.  Thank you to Tricky and Carly at FAST blog for hosting.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Changes at Shugborough

Yesterday we visited Shugborough Hall near Stafford to see what changes had been made over the winter.  Although Shugborough Mansion House, Gardens and estate was mostly in the hands of the National Trust, the Park Farm. County Museum and Car park were administered by the Staffordshire County Council.  Last year the National Trust took over the whole estate and quite a few changes have already been made.  The trust are only five months into their ten year conservation and redevelopment plan so there are many more changes to come.

The car park seems more easily accessible and it is now free, I think it used to cost about £3 to park there, even for NT members.  The original reception is now a plant centre and access to the property is through the Park Farm, Mill and Farmhouse which are now free to wander around for NT members, as are the servants'  quarters which always had an entry charge as they were accessed through the Museum. There are new pathways around the Park Farm and access is now on the opposite side of the mill pond. There are new little buggies to take you up to the Mansion House where the house, gardens, walks and island arboretum are exactly as they were. In the courtyard the original tea room is closed  for refurbishment and it re-opens on 8th April as a restaurant where food is delivered to the table rather than collected from the counter.  The nearby shop has been refurbished.

One of the volunteers was talking in the shop and explained that the County Museum would have new a new home and that they had three years to organised the move.  I have read elsewhere that the museum's collections will eventually become part of a new Staffordshire History Centre which will be based on the site of Staffordshire Record Office which is in Stafford. The volunteer also mentioned the fact that there had been quite a bit more repair and conservation work to be done than had originally been thought necessary.

We didn't go inside the Mansion House this time but wandered around the gardens and went into the Mill and Farmhouse at the Park Farm and around the Servants' Quarters. 

Below are a few more random photos taken of things which caught my eye.

The mill pond through the mill window.

Inside the mill.

The Farmhouse
I loved this cheese dish which I spotted in the farmhouse, you could get a huge piece of cheese in there.

The main hallway in the farmhouse

The dining room in the farmhouse

One of the place settings in the servants' dining room in the servants' quarters.

 In the laundry

 Just one of the many kitchen sinks

A lovely jelly mould on the kitchen table

I must admit I always enjoy mooching around kitchens and other areas which were the hub of the working estate than the grand mansions themselves. Of course I haven't even mentioned the Anson family or Patrick Lichfield whose home this was as I've covered this before in previous posts but here is a - link - to the website to find out more.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Five on Friday - Along the Cromford Canal

A quick 'better late than never' Five on Friday post

It was a beautiful day yesterday and we took a stroll along the Cromford Canal in Derbyshire in the bright afternoon sunshine.

We saw Dab Chicks or Little Grebes, just one pair unfortunately my photos were too blurry in the sunshine but it was lovely to hear their distinct 'whistling chatter' as they called to each other.  We spoke to a couple of people who had also seen a water vole in the exact spot we'd seen them a few years ago.  We weren't lucky enough to see one yesterday.  The first post I ever wrote on this blog, on 14th March 2005, was about Dab Chicks on the Cromford Canal, we saw more then than yesterday.

Here are five things that caught my eye as we went along our way.

1. St Mary's Church
We parked in the main car park opposite the church and wandered through the trees to take a closer look.  The church was originally planned as a chapel for nearby Willersley Castle, home of the mill owner Sir Richard Arkwright.  It was completed five years after his death in 1797 and he and some family members are buried in the crypt under the chancel, whilst other Arkwrights are buried in the small graveyard.  The church was closed but I've added a link to a photo of the inside - here.  The wall paintings look wonderful.

 2.  Cromford Mill - this was the first water powered cotton mill developed by Richard Arkwright in 1771.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered to be the birthplace of the modern factory system.  There is a new exhibition called 'The Arkwright Experience' which we didn't visit this time but we intend to go back soon to take a look.  Here is a - link - to their website.

3.  Wheatcroft's Wharf -  N Wheatcroft & Son Ltd Coal & Coke Merchants used to trade from here.  Part of it is now a lovely cafe and bookshop.

4.  Leawood Pump House - still in full working order.  Inside is a beam engine dating from 1849 and made by Milton Ironworks of Elsecar, South Yorkshire.  It was used to raise water from the nearby River Derwent into the Cromford Canal.
5.  Mallards - plenty of these along the canal, resting near the wharf or flying three or four abreast over the straight stretches of the canal.  If we stopped at any point to take photos or chat to a passer by they would come waddling up to us obviously thinking that humans = the chance of food!
Joining in with Tricky and Carly at FAST blog for this week's Five on Friday.
Click on the link to see others who are joining in this week.