Friday, August 31, 2007

Two for One

Earlier this year I picked up a small brochure about local gardens. Inside there were several vouchers offering two entries for the price of one on several of the featured gardens, so, because we are watching the pennies at present and because I can't resist a decent 'bogof' we decided to take advantage of their very kind offer.

Last week we visited one of our favourite gardens at Wollerton Old Hall and I took this picture of the apple tree at the entrance. As well as their lovely 'garden rooms' they had trees full of apples, damsons, cherries and mullberries.

This week, for my birthday we visited Weston Park. I'd always wanted to visit and I wasn't disappointed. We spent about four hours wandering around and had lunch and afternoon tea there as a special treat. The photo above shows one of the wonderful hydrangea plants in the garden. It was very quiet with just a few visitors around first thing, there were marquees around and large lorries clearing aways loads of chairs. Maybe they were still clearing away the remains of the 'V' festival or it could have been the bank holiday weekend's offering of 'Noddy on Tour' - I'll let you decide.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Farewell Summer

As soon as I see the bindweed flowers engulfing the roadside hedgerows I know that summer is almost over.

The flowers are so pretty and delicate and somehow have an ethereal quality that makes me dwell on the passage of time and the changing of seasons.

Perhaps it is also because my birthday falls at this time of year - it was, in fact, yesterday - and with each passing year I'm conscious that I've already lived - if I'm lucky enough to reach the three score years and ten - just over two thirds of my life and I've no idea where most of it has gone. I always find the end of summer extremely sad almost like saying goodbye to someone dear to me and this year it seems worse as we really have had little in the way of summer to cheer us and to warm and strengthen us to face the winter months. The mornings now have that vaguely autumnal nip in the air and I'm aware that things around me are changing. Change of seasons this year means a change of lifestyle for Paul and I as our plans for selling up, downsizing and ridding ourselves of the mortgage are put into action it may take a while but it will happen and I know it will take time to get used to the idea and to let go of the many things I have found here. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy the last vestiges of summer and try to be positive about whatever the future may hold.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Up on the Downs

This morning we took a long walk on Barlaston Downs. We hadn't been there for a while and soon discovered that quite a few things had changed. The Downs Banks site is owned and maintained by the National Trust and as we made our way around the waymarked routes we came across groups of conservation volunteers putting up fences and clearing paths whilst at the same time having great fun.

All the gates, stiles and route posts have been renewed and a new innovation allows cattle to graze on the downs to keep the vegetation under control.

It was cool and dry; perfect weather for walking and just the right light for taking photos.

After our walk we returned home for lunch which was a delicious bowl of homemade courgette soup accompanied by Paul's tasty tomato bread.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Good Morning, Mr. Blackbird!

Every morning Mr Blackbird waits for his breakfast on the fence near the bird table. He watches whilst we put out the crumbs of bread from our breakfast table.

Usually he and his other bird friends have Paul's homemade bread to eat but this morning he had something new to tempt his appetite.

On Monday we had forgotten to take some bread out of the freezer to defrost in time for lunch so on our walk back from Longton we called at the Polish Delicatessen for a pack of their wheat and rye bread - and very nice it was too. This morning Mr. Blackbird had the remains of this to himself.

Mr. Blackbird, our name for him, has been calling for his breakfast for the last couple of years. He is very distinctive as he always looks a bit ruffled round the edges and has two grey patches on his back. I've no idea how long blackbirds live but I hope he makes it through another winter.

Loyalty Binds Me

On 22nd August 1485 Richard III, much maligned King of England, lost his life and the battle for the English throne to Henry Tudor, Duke of Richmond at the Battle of Bosworth.

Loyaulté me Lie

Sunday, August 19, 2007

If it's Tuesday it must be....

The last few days have been quite hectic and I'm not sure what they have added to our carbon footprints as we have driven at least twice through seven different counties. I don't worry too much about it though, as we are quite thoughtful in other areas like recycling, saving water and energy, using environmentally friendly products and walking quite a lot. Also we have one small car and never use air transport. Anyway, I digress - back to the last few days.

We set out on Tuesday to drive over to Spalding, where we used to live, to collect a friend and bring her over to Stoke to stay with us for a few days. Our normal route is along the A50 from Stoke to Kegworth and through Zouch, Rempstone and Wymeswold. We normally stop for a break in Melton but on this journey we made a detour up to Long Clawson and Hose to do some 'family historying' and I've written about this on Family Matters.

Parish Church, Hose

After we'd had a look around and taken some photos we rejoined our normal route through Melton towards Colsterworth, Bourne and Spalding. We collected our friend from her home and then joined by another friend we had a superb lunch in the White Hart at Spalding before setting off back to Stoke.

The River Welland, Spalding

The next day we set out on the second leg of our journey travelling through Leek, across the Roaches to Buxton, Chapel-en-le-Frith and Glossop and then up towards Holmfirth. From here we were on unknown territory as we set off across Saddleworth Moor towards our destination, the village of Shaw, near Oldham. We left our friend at her friend's house, knowing that she would be brought back to us the following day, and drove back over the moor now bathed in the most glorious sunshine; the light effects on the hills were stunning. We were intrigued by a place called Uppermill so we stopped and had a look around, parking in the square in front of the Museum near the Saddleworth canal.

The Museum, Uppermill

On Saturday we made the return journey to Spalding this time stopping for lunch at the cafe at Wymondham Windmill.

The windmill at Wymondham

We made good time back to Spalding where, after dropping our friend at her home, we delivered some of my books to the Tourist Information Centre at Fenscape, before popping to Ayscoughfee Hall to see my friend who was on duty in the Museum. I worked at this Museum for over ten years and love to go back to see what has been changed.

Ayscoughfee Hall, Spalding

We finally got home about 7 o'clock on Saturday evening exhausted but happy. I think we may have a restful few days next week.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Busy Week Ahead

I just love the delicate colour of these roses in our garden; they have a lovely fragrance too. I thought I would just take an hour out of today to have a look around the garden to see what is happening. The plum tree is laden with fruit but unfortunately the apricot tree that we planted at the top of the garden has turned brown and looks very unhealthy. I think it has been affected by the heavy rains of the last few weeks and I fear its roots may have got too wet. It is a shame because the tree has moved twice with us and was grown from the stone of an apricot that came from a tree in the garden next door to us when we lived in Spalding. We took it with us in a pot when we moved to near Market Drayton where it lived on a balcony until we moved here. The tree the original fruit came from was planted by our then neighbour on her little boy's first birthday; when we left there over ten years ago he was twenty one. I was pleased to see that the Japanese Anemones and the Agapanthus are flowering and hadn't been affected by the weather.
This week is going to be very busy as we are driving over to Spalding to collect a friend to stay with us for a few days and then we are taking her to Oldham to stay overnight with a friend who lives there. So whilst I am busy cleaning, washing and planning meals Paul is busy cleaning the car, tidying the garden and plotting routes. I may not get back here for a few days - hence the hour of peace in which to smell the roses.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Nice Surprise

What a lovely surprise to find out this morning that I had been chosen to receive this Nice Matters award by Tea at Tea & Margaritas in My Garden.
I've never had anything like this before so am not sure of what I have to do but I think perhaps I'm supposed to nominate someone else to receive one in which case I will choose Robert over at Park Views-Lenton Recreation Ground because of his enthusiasm for his subject - the Park and Recreation Ground opposite his home. I've also chosen him because of his dedication to both the park and his local community and because the words and photos he uses to convey his great affection for the area in which he lives are inspirational.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


On a recent visit to Chesterfield we decided to pay a visit to Revolution House. It stands just off the roadside in Old Whittington which is on the north-east side of Chesterfield about three miles from the centre of the town.

The little cottage is called Revolution House because of it's part in what is now known as the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688, when the unpopular King James II was overthrown and William of Orange was invited to take the throne jointly with his wife Mary, daughter of the unfortunate James. At the time of the uprising the building, previously a small farm stead, had become an ale house called 'The Cock and Pynot' and was considered the ideal place for three local noblemen, the 4th Earl of Devonshire (later the first Duke), the Earl of Danby and Mr. John D'Arcy to meet to plot the downfall of their King. Under the guise of being a hunting party they met in the small parlour to discuss their plans.

Open everyday, except Tuesday, Revolution House makes for a very interesting visit. We watched a ten minute film in the little parlour where the plotters were said to have met. The larger parlour is furnished with period furniture and the upstairs houses changing exhibitions, the one for this year being a fascinating history of the Chesterfield Canal.

Just in case you were wondering, pynot, is a local word for a magpie. Just the one? Oh, no. 'Good Day, my lord.' - tugs forelock, crosses fingers and touches wood! Not that I'm superstitious, of course.

Friday, August 10, 2007


This morning, as I was walking back from the local shop, milk and newspaper in hand, I passed a young boy of about eight or nine years old. He was with his little sister, who was probably about three or four years old. Like most little girls today she was dressed from head to toe in differing shades of pink but what struck me most was that she was attached to her brother by a silky pink cord which lead from her wrist to his. The boy had obviously been commissioned with the guarding of his sister as he was holding on tight and watching where she was going and making sure that they crossed the road properly. I passed them near the Limo man's house. Since I first blogged about him last year he has acquired not only the Barbie pink limo but a gold one too. The gold one was parked outside his house this morning and as they passed it the little girl said to her brother 'Look at that car' and her brother replied in the manner of a child who has learned his lines well for the school play, 'Oh, I do wish we could ride in it.' It reminded me of the advert about Disneyland where the children are over excited about their visit and one of them says in wide eyed wonderment 'mmmMum, says it's mmmMagic'. I had to smile.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

My Favourite Photo

I don't think words are needed for this one.

Thoughts on a Journey

I think the greatest impression I have of the journey along the Manchester Ship Canal is that of the contrast of the old and the new, the commerce and leisure and the urban and rural landscapes along its 35 miles. The journey itself took almost 6 hours during which time we passed from the glossy, modern buildings at the start of the journey to the impressive older buildings at the end. The first bridge lifted to let us pass from the quay into the canal and we moved sedately by the Lowry. the Imperial War Museum, the Hovis grain silo and the huge building site which is to be the new BBC studios and on to our first lock. There were five locks in all, three in fairly quick succession at the beginning of the journey. The last took us from the canal into the tidal River Mersey and we had to wait here a while for the tide to be at the exact level to make that move.

Although I had my camera with me, and I took the photograph of the ferry in the last post, once on board I decided to let Paul take the photos as the boat was very busy and seats were at a premium so he dotted about whilst I remained seated using my trusty binoculars to take in some of the views. We cruised steadily past scrap metal heaps and new canal side apartments with little balconies where people waved from open windows. I think most of all I remember the open countryside, the place where the River Mersey joined and then left the canal, the soaring railway and road bridges, especially the beautiful road bridge at Runcorn and the cantilever bridge near Warrington, the wildlife - a heron flying alongside the ferry, a buzzard on a post giving us a lugubrious stare, plovers, geese and kingfishers.

Here are just some of the sights we captured along the way:-

I have one special photograph which I am going to put in a separate post because I think it is outstanding enough to warrant it and it was one of my favourite sights on the whole journey.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Voyage on The Snowdrop

I was already awake when the alarm went off at 5 o'clock this morning, we were up, dressed, lunch packed and ready to leave the house by 6 o'clock to drive up to Crewe Station where we had a light breakfast before boarding the 7a.m. train to Manchester. The train was nearly empty as it went through Homes Chapel and Goostrey (where we passed by Jodrell Bank). A few people joined us at Alderley Edge and Wilmslow and quite a few more at Stockport. We arrived at Manchester just before 8a.m. and followed the signs to the Metro Link where, on the platform, we had fun with the ticket machine - it kept spitting out our 50 pence pieces. We got there in the end and then stood on a packed platform waiting for the link to Eccles. When it arrived everyone crammed tightly into the carriages and as we sped through the city towards Salford Quays more and more people seemed to be getting on at the stops but not many were getting off. By 9a.m. we had managed to fight our way off the metro and were walking down towards the Lowry and along the avenue of trees to find what we were looking for. There was already a queue waiting to board so we tagged on the end, pleased with ourselves that we had got there in time to take our cruise on the Mersey Ferry along the Manchester Ship Canal.

I will write more of the actual voyage later but suffice to say that we had a wonderful time, the weather was excellent, we saw some wonderful things and really enjoyed the commentary by the Blue Badge guide. The ferry arrived in Liverpool just before 4p.m. and we found the St James Station for the underground link to Lime Street; here we had tea and cake before catching the train back to Crewe to pick up our car from the station car park. We arrived home at 6p.m., exactly twelve hours after we had left the house that morning.