Monday, June 30, 2008

And on to Peterborough

This is really a continuation of the Cambridge posts because, as I said in part one of those our next destination was Peterborough in order to visit a friend in hospital there. We spent two hours with her at the evening visiting time and then went to find the Travel Lodge where we had booked an overnight stay. Next morning we drove back into the city centre and had a nostalgic walk around our old haunts. When we lived just north of Peterborough we would shop here quite often. Also I would go along with friends from work to the Key Theatre and also to late night shopping, we used to have such fun. So there were lots of memories flooding back as we wandered around. We wanted to revisit the Museum and the Cathedral, which I think is a very beautiful one, in fact, one of my favourites.

Before venturing inside we had a walk around the exterior of the building. It was built in its present form during the 12th and early 13th centuries and replaced an earlier establishment founded in 655 by King Peada. This was destroyed by the Danes in 870 and rebuilt as a Benedictine Abbey towards the end of the 10th century, it was re-consecrated in 972. This building was burnt down by an accidental fire in the early 12th century - hence it being rebuilt again.

Its full title is the Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew. As you enter by the 800 year old west door this is the sight that greats you. It certainly lifts the spirits. Paul took these photos as his camera is a lot better than mine for this kind of thing.

The wall painting near the west door is of gravedigger Robert Scarlett known as 'Old Scarlet' the man who buried two Queens - Katherine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Below is the inscription underneath the painting. Old Scarlet was the sexton and gravedigger at the church of St John the Baptist and died in 1594. He is buried in the cathedral with a simple stone marked R.S.

As we made our way around the Cathedral there was a bustle of activity as ladies were constructing elaborate flower displays, the organist was practicing high above us and two people were laying microphone cables in the performance area.

We found the tomb of Queen Katherine in the north aisle near the high altar; it had been decorated with offerings and notes. I think the pomegranate was part of her insignia. There was also a very good exhibition of her life in the aisle close to the tomb.

Behind the apse is what is known as the 'new building'. I sat for ages just looking up at this wonderful fan vaulting which was added at the beginning of the 16th century.

Mary, Queen of Scots was buried in the Cathedral in 1587 and below you can see where she was buried. I say was, as her body was moved to Westminster in 1612 by her son, James VI of Scotland who became James I of England in 1603.

Before we left the building we went into the cloisters. It was so quiet and peaceful out there.

Then it was back in through the bishop's door for one last glance upwards and then it was time to set of for our journey home.

There was one last stop on the way home, which has a connection with my visit to Trinity College but I'll come back to that in the next post.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A vist to Cambridge - second part

This is a continuation of my last post in which I described my day in Cambridge minus the college visits. I managed two which happened to be next door to each other and one considerably smaller than the other - well at least the parts where visitors were allowed. First up Gonville and Caius, usually known as Caius (pronounced keys).

This is one of the oldest colleges. It was originally founded in 1348 as Gonville Hall by Edmund Gonville, Rector of Terrington in Norfolk. It was re-founded in 1557 By Sir John Caius, an eminent physician who served the children of Henry VIII - Edward VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. The photo above shows one of the corners of Tree Court which is entered from Trinity Street through the Gate of Humility.

Through the avenue of trees in Trees Court you can see, in the photo above, the window of the chapel. Near the chapel the Gate of Virtue leads into Caius court - seen in the photo below.

This gateway in Caius Court is called the Gate of Honour and at one time students passed through this gate to receive their degree. The building behind to the right is the Cockerell Building Library to the left I think, is the back of the famous Senate House.

My next visit was to Trinity College. It was founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII whose statue is on the face of the great gate as you enter the college from Trinity street. Access through the old wooden doors brings you straight into the Great Court. The photo below shows the fountain with the hall behind. Unfortunately the Hall wasn't open at the time I was there.

Off this great court are rooms occupied by such people as Sir Isaac Newton who lived on the first floor in the small stretch of buildings you can see below between the Great Gate and the Chapel. Another occupant was the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, who lived on the ground floor
of the same building

From the Great Court I went through the screened passageway by the Hall into Neville's Court. At the end of this court is the Wren Library, designed, of course, by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1695.

The poet Lord Byron had rooms in this court but according to the guide leaflet the bear he brought with him to Cambridge was housed elsewhere. During the first world war the cloisters of this court were screened off to use as a hospital.

I couldn't enter the Hall but visitors could visit the chapel. and I sat, completely alone in here. I could almost reach out and touch the silence as I sat amongst the white statues of such famous people as Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Francis Bacon and Alfred Lord Tennyson. I didn't feel in the least overwhelmed by my illustrious companions.

You may remember the famous race against the clock around the Great Court between Harold Abrahams and Lord Burghley in the film 'Chariots of Fire'. The 'race' between the two never happened but Lord Burghley did accomplish the run round the court in the time it took the clock to strike twelve in 1927.

A visit to Cambridge - first part

We had to be in there for 9.30a.m. - the start of Paul's examination marking meeting. We made it, via the M6 and A14 by 9.15a.m. and as Paul, briefcase in hand, headed into the Gonville Hotel I set off down Regent Street to begin my day out in Cambridge. I'd only got as far as Mandela House, the Cambridge Council Offices, and was thinking that was apt as I'd just heard on the car radio that it was his 90th birthday, when I was stopped and asked the way to Prince George Street. It is a standing joke with family and friends that no matter where we go, I am always the one people seem to stop and ask for directions, anyway, as we were on Regent Street I suspect it couldn't have been far away but I'm afraid I couldn't help. We had visited Cambridge quite a few times when we lived on that side of the country but I only had in my head the layout of the centre around the shops and colleges. I was there as a visitor, a tourist perhaps so I wanted to see the famous bicycles.....

These ones were chained to the railings of St Mary the Great church, I popped back in here later in the day to sit in the cool, calm and rest my tired feet. I also wanted to see punts on the river Cam.....

and students in their gowns. The little group below were marching along to have their photos taken outside Kings College.

I wanted to see bridges like the mathematical bridge at Queen's College....

and to walk along the backs and photograph King's College Chapel.

The early newness of the day was fast disappearing; people were now out and about and the place was beginning to buzz so I found my self wandering up quiet back streets always aware of cycles hurtling around corners to my next destination.

The combination of books and coffee has too strong a draw and I'm afraid I couldn't resist, it was time for a break, a coffee, croissant and newspaper were calling. A reflective sit down where I could plan the next part of my day.

I wanted to re-visit the Fitzwilliam Museum but first I wanted to visit one of the colleges. Many of them were closed to visitors but I did manage to find two, Gonville and Caius and Trinity, that I could wander around but I think I'll put those in another post because there is so much to say about them.

My last visit was to the Fitzwilliam Museum. I went straight to look at the porcelain and china displays and then up to the top floor to see the wonderful paintings. Since my last visit a new courtyard with cafe and shop has been added. I sat a while gazing at the works of art and resting my tired legs before setting off back to the Gonville Hotel; I was nearly at my destination when - you've guessed - a young man stopped me to ask where the bus station was - this time I could help. We set off for our next destination of Peterborough to visit a friend in hospital but again that is another story for another post.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Superb Combination

I always think that gooseberries and elderflowers make a great team; at this time of year they are readily available from gardens and hedgerows. The gooseberries are the first few from our bushes and I've noticed that we don't have as many as last year. The elderflowers were picked from several bushes along the towpath on the Cauldon canal in Hanley Park.

Here is a great recipe for gooseberry and elderflower fool.

1lb gooseberries
4 tbsp water
10 heads elderflower
4 tbsp granulated sugar
½ pint crème fraîche
sprigs of lemon balm, mint or elderflower to decorate

Top and tail the gooseberries and place in a large pan with the water and heat gently, add the sugar and simmer gently until the gooseberries begin to soften and release their juices.
Wrap the elderflower heads in some muslin, tie and put in with the gooseberries. Simmer gently for about 15 minutes.
Remove the elderflower infusion from the gooseberries and squeeze all the juices back into the fruit then discard the muslin bag.
Mash the gooseberry mixture with a fork, tip into a bowl and leave to cool.
Spoon a quarter of the gooseberry pureé into a small bowl and leave to one side.
Add the crème fraîche to the remaining gooseberry pureé and gently fold it in.
Spoon the reserved gooseberry pureé between the serving glasses. Layer the fool mixture on top of it and place the glasses in the fridge to chill until they are needed.

I actually made half the recipe just for the two of us and decorated the fools with sprigs of spearmint from the herb garden and added Paul's homemade biscuits. This one is a Grantham Gingerbread Biscuit (recipe from the trusty Be-Ro book.)

I have tried a little spoonful of the puree and it is very tasty so I'm looking forward to our evening meal now. I was just thinking that this kind of pudding would be lovely on a warm summer's afternoon or evening and that perhaps I should have made something more warming as it is blowing a gale outside, the trees are bending in true autumn fashion and we have just had to rescue all the plants that are in pots and put them in the greenhouse and collect the garden chairs from various corners of the garden - who said it was midsummer?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Colour in the Garden

The colours in the garden have changed again. From the fresh greens and yellows of early spring through the delicate pinks and lilacs of late spring into the rich colours of early summer.

I love these blue hardy geraniums which encircle the top lawn; they look stunning in the late evening light.

There is a story behind these fuscias. Many years ago my Uncle Wilf used to grow them; it was his great passion along with his union, council and labour party work. He gave my mother many plants and she gave me one which over the years grew into quite a sturdy tree like plant with a very woody stem. It moved several times with us and we took cuttings. The original plant died and the plant above is actually a cutting from one of those first cuttings. Somehow we seem to keep the memory of the original plant and my uncle in his potting shed going.

I rather foolishly put this Dahlia plant outside after its first flowering earlier this year. I looked at it a day later and it was covered in snails. Why didn't I know that snails adore dahlias? I brought it back in the house and it is now growing fresh leaves and has begun to flower again, thank goodness.

The clematis and honeysuckle are in flower. These plants have been moved about three times in the eleven years we have lived here but they still seem to keep soldiering on.

Whilst pottering in the garden I've been thinking of three people I know who are in hospital at the moment. My brother-in-law's partner C after falling downstairs at home and breaking vertabrae in her spine, my friend P undergoing a routine but fairly serious operation and my friend M who fell at her music club meeting and ended up in hospital and now has a steel plate holding her hip bone together. I'm wishing you all well.

We bought the birdbath as a present to ourselves for our 25th wedding anniversary four years ago. We saw it one day, at the garden centre at Chatsworth, greatly reduced and brought it home in triumph. It replaced one that was in situ when we bought the house which had, unfortunately, cracked and broken in the frost the previous winter. I think it will have to move with us if ever we sell the house.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Queen's Park, Longton

It has been quite a while since we visited this park. Our nearest park is Fenton which is just about 15 minutes walk away, this one is our second nearest about 40 minutes walk away. The entrance below is at the Trentham Road side of the park which is the oldest of the parks in Stoke-on-Trent; next oldest is Hanley Park which is also the largest, followed by Burslem, Tunstall and then Fenton.

The park was called Queen's Park, although it is always referred to locally as Longton Park, because it was originally laid out to commemorate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee. The first turf was turned in March 1887 by the Lord Mayor at the time Mr John Aynsley owner of the Portland Bone China Works on Sutherland Road, Longton and it was officially opened on July 25th 1888 by one George William Sutherland Levison-Gower, otherwise known as the 3rd Duke of Sutherland.

The area covered by the park is about 41 acres and for me it is the best of the city parks. The trees are amazing with huge sweeping vistas and lush lawns; it is a quiet and peaceful retreat from the busy road near the entrance.

This is a bowling green and pavilion. There are other pitches for ball games and a small skate boarding park, as well as a bandstand and plenty of seating where you can sit and rest awhile.

The natives are very friendly - hello - where did you come from? Pleased to meet you!

The squirrels will come very close looking for food as quite a few visitors to the park feed them with peanuts. Okay, I get the message. Note to self - next time bring some peanuts for the squirrels.

The avenue of trees belowis close to the entrance at the other end of the park at the junction of the Queen's Park and Cocknage roads.

We had now walked from one end of the park to the other; with diversions in between like finding a set of keys and handing them to one of the gardeners who were planting bedding plants in the formal areas, chatting to a lovely couple (with a huge bag of peanuts) about the wildlife in the park, and having a joke about photographing 'his best side' with a man on a mobility scooter (who also had a bag of peanuts.)

Above is one of the two lodge houses. It is totally different to the lodge at the entrance off the Trentham road.

This is the clock tower built in 1988 to commemorate the centenary of the park.

Down to the lake to meet the geese and goslings and also the little ducklings.

Perhaps mum is trying to tell me how proud she is of her little ones; or more likely, she is telling me in duck language to go away.

Well it is time to go home, off we go then - our carriage awaits.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

On Rudyard Lake

The lake at Rudyard was built as a reservoir in 1797 to supply water for the local canal system and it still supplies water for the canal which runs into Leek nearby the River Churnet. Later in the 19th century, the North Staffordshire Railway Company ran a track beside the lake which joined up to the line between Manchester and Uttoxeter. This opened up the lake to tourists and people used to flock in droves, on weekends and public holidays, from the industrial cities of Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent. Two of the visiting tourists were the parents of the poet and writer Rudyard Kipling, who named their son after the lake where they had met and fallen in love. Today the lake is used for leisure pursuits like, sailing, canoeing and fishing as well as cycling and walking along the pathways which run close by.

The best place to park is near the Rudyard Lake Steam Railway which runs at weekends and during school holidays and from here it is a short walk to the dam head which you can cross to gain access to the Visitor Centre, Activity Centre and cafe.

The path which goes up behind the activity centre leads to two footpaths; the Staffordshire Way and the Staffordshire Moorlands Way.

We followed both for a while and then cut off onto the Staffordshire Moorlands Way which took us behind some of the large, secluded houses which stand on the edge of the lake.

It was a glorious afternoon, with dappled sunlight underneath the trees and plenty of wildlife to watch and photograph. It was so quiet and still except for the birds flying between the trees and calling to each other; we saw plenty of blackbirds, a thrush, a tree-creeper and, of course, a squirrel or two. The air up on the pathways must be very clean as the walls alongside were covered in moss and lichens.

I love these old stone walls and I'm convinced that I can see a face in the one below. Or is it just my vivid imagination?

I found my first foxglove of the season, too, just coming into flower.

After a while we set off back along the way we had come and joined the walk to the picnic site which takes you as far as the boat house. Some days the lake is busy with people sailing or canoeing and also with the pleasure boat Honey taking people along the lake.

During our visit there were just a few people wandering around and a group of ramblers taking refreshments at the cafe. We paused at the cafe for ice-cream before setting off back towards the station to pick up our car and drive home.