Sunday, August 31, 2008

The End of August

I don't know why but a great wistfulness always overwhelmes me at the end of August; it seems like the end of something important, something special. Maybe these feelings are influenced by the fact that I've just become a year older, if not wiser and also because I chide myself for not fully appreciating and utilising all that summer has to offer. This year, as last, we haven't really had a proper summer, those long remembered summers of childhood and youth, of day after day of warm sumshine, of late light nights and warm early mornings are now just a distant memory; but surely I could have done more with the one we had? I wandered around the garden this morning and already it is completely autumnal; the air is misty and heavy with damp, little droplets of moisture soaking me through, but it wasn't rain, it was too gentle for rain. The unmown grass was wet, soaking into my shoes making my toes feel cold and damp and leaving tide marks on the soft leather. The delicate cobwebs glistened in the bushes drifting across the paths and I had to be on constant spider alert. For the last two days we have had a pair of buzzards circling overhead, thermaling in the hot air and calling to each other with their eery, mewling cry. Today they have moved on. I always know when the sedum flowers start to turn pink that it really is the end of summer and I drift unconsciously into a few days of listlessness and dissatisfied longing. Then, like the buzzards, I move on, hoping for dry autumn days, when trees are full of colour, hedgerows are full of plenty and all is safely gathered in. Then, and only then, can I fully appreciate the last, lingering beauty of it all.

In the meantime, on a more practical and cheerful note, I do have help with the laundry.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Birthday at The Follies.....

...or, the 'two-for-one' voucher strikes again. The answer to 'what do you want to do on your birthday?' was 'what, if anything, can we afford to do?' which doesn't give many options but remembering our voucher book, used earlier in the year at the Dorothy Clive Garden, I delved in to see what there was and found a 'two- for- one' voucher for the Hawkstone Park and Follies. So this morning, after opening cards and presents, answering phone calls and logging-on to read birthday e-mails we set off with Paul's specially prepared picnic, towards our destination. We'd visitied before at least ten years ago and knew that we should wear sturdy footwear and that the route was quite arduous in places and little had changed on that score. So here we are at the entrance. When we first visited there was a sign saying something along the lines of if you found it difficult to walk up to the entrance you may not be able to walk around the site. That had gone but it does still apply although there are easy routes added in some areas.

Created in the 18th century by the Hill family, the park is now recognised, according to the leaflet, as 'a masterpeice of the School of Naturalistic Landscape' and is Grade I listed by English Heritage.

It embodies all the eccentricities of both the Gothic and Romantic ideals of the age; and even though it is very strenuous it is great fun. When Samuel Johnson visited Hawkstone in 1774 he described the follies as having 'striking scenes and terrifick grandeur'.

Above, along Reynard's walk, you can see the recess in the red sandstone rock called Reynard's Banqueting House. There were steep pathways and steps and hidden nooks.....

places to hide, amongst branches.....

.....and roots
in the Dragon Wood whose paths led to

the Monument, which Paul climbed but this time, I declined and sat amongst the trees whilst he surveyed the landscape. The monument was erected in 1785 by Sir Richard Hill to comemorate his ancestor Sir Rowland Hill, first protestant Lord Mayor of London. It is 100ft high and from the top there is a panoramic view of all the surrounding counties.

We clambered over the Swiss bridge, trying not to look down........

then under the Swiss bridge, were we really up there? ...

and into the grotto. You need a torch! We didn't have a torch! If you go, take one, you won't regret it.

In the grotto you will meet, Arthur King of the Britions and read the tale of the silver chalice found in the 1920s. Grotto Hill was thought to be a 5th century copper mine which was turned into a place of wonder by Sir Richard Hill with shell decoration and false stalactites.

Once you are in the grotto there are windows to light your way

to the outside where you will find the Raven's Shelf up above

the awful precipice, but the most spectacular feature for me was on the way up to the grotto.

The Cleft runs under the Swiss bridge and is a deep chasm between two rocks which is the stuff of both dreams and nightmares. Damp, mossy green and lichen coated walls and slippery steps.

It was like a living illustration from the fairy tale books I read as a child, or the ideal venue for the start of an adventure for The Famous Five or The Secret Seven.

Did I have a good birthday? Yes, it was magical, but now it is back to reality and work next week - oh, and my knee didn't start to hurt until the very last bit of the walk.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Vist to Nottingham

On Saturday we went to visit friends in Nottingham. We followed our usual route along the A50 until we turned off on the road to Long Eaton. The first town you get to on this road is Sawley which eventually seems to merge with Long Eaton. The first brown sign on the road is for Sawley Marina. The second, a little further into the town, is for Trent Locks and this is where we usually have a break on our journey.

Normally at the time we visit is is quite peaceful but on Saturday it was bustling with activity as there were boats of all kinds coming and going and people rushing around setting up bunting, signs, portaloos and extra rubish bins to cope with crowds expected the following day for the Erewash Canal Festival. We had a stroll along by the River Trent where there were hoards of youngsters in kayacks and Canadian canoes being shouted instructions from both banks of the river. On the opposite side was a huge campsite full of green canvas tents where, presumably, they were all spending the weekend.

There were many canal boats coming in to moor along the Erewash canal and people were sitting outside their floating canal side homes enjoying the sun. The pub was also a hive of activity with a truck stage set up and live bands rehearsing ready for the festivities.

After a stroll around we continued our journey through Long Eaton and Beeston and past the University Campus to Nottingham and our friends' home. After a super, tasty lunch we all set off for a walk which took us around Martin's Pond, Harrison's plantation and down a path which had been an old tramway to the newly recovered remains of an old canal basin, once part of the Nottingham Canal.

It was, for once, a warm dry day with a little sunshine and during the walk we saw, herons resting at the side of the water, a screeching, cantankerous squirrel along the old tramway and huge dragonflies flitting over the pond, one of which settled on our friend's shirt but flew away at the first sign of a camera.

On the way back we walked by Nottingham University's Jubilee Campus where we saw for the first time the new installation entitled Aspire. This sculpture, labelled by many the 'cornetto' was designed by Ken Shuttleworth and at 60m in height is the UKs tallest piece of freestanding public art. It has been compared with Nelson's Column and The Angel of the North, what do you think?

Near the sculpture is a water feature which is still to be completed but you can see how it is going to look from the photo below. It should be spectacular except for one small problem which may be hard to combat - goose droppings- deposited by the numerous geese wandering around the campus which normally inhabit the nearby lake. We walked past the lake and along a path which used to be another section of the Nottingham canal.

At the end of the path, just before you reach Derby road, is this lovely building which is a former gatehouse of the Wollaton estate.

The impressive front of the gatehouse stands just off the main road. A short walk from here took us back once more to our friends' home where we had tea and cake and lots more conversation before we finally set off for home returning along the same route we had used that morning.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kind thoughts

How kind people are! Both the Dutchess and Gillian.l have been kind enough to give me this award. The Dutchess for my Family Matters blog and Gillian for this one. As I have very few comments over on Family Matters I'm going to pass the award on to fellow bloggers who visit and comment here. The rules are as follows:-
I must nominate 5 other bloggers 4 of whom are regular visitors and 1 of whom is a fairly new visitor. I also have to link back to the giver of the award. I think I can do that. One or two fellow bloggers whom I could have chosen are taking a 'blogging break' or are on holiday so here goes with my choice:-

Sal at Sal's Snippets
Fern at Fern's Lakeland
Simone at Linden Grove
Rosie at Wuddled Murds
Pamela Terry at The House of Edward

Hope you all enjoy your awards, but please don't feel under any pressure to accept or pass them on if you don't want to, I will understand.

Friday, August 22, 2008

22nd August 1485

Well, it's that day again, the day when Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Last year I wrote a commemorative post so I thought that this year I would do something a little different. It seems such a long time since I first became interested in the life and times of Richard III. I'd seen Shakespeare's play at Nottingham Playhouse with Leonard Rossiter as Richard and somehow, although he was very villainous, just as he'd been in a Jean Plaidy novel I'd read as a teenager, it was played so 'tongue in cheek' and with a gentle. mocking humour that I just knew there was so much more to be learned about his role in British history. One of my working colleagues was an avid Richard supporter and was a member of the Richard III Society. She introduced me to a couple of books, the biography of Richard III by Paul Murray Kendal and a novel The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. I read them both and was hooked.

As you can see from the above photo I now have a whole shelf full of books on Richard III and other related issues. I joined the society in 1974 and only gave up the membership last year when finances became an issue and all memberships and subscriptions had to go.

If you want a light, easy and exciting introduction to Richard then read The Daughter of Time. The basis of the story is of a detective, hospitalised for a few weeks wanting to solve an unsolved crime - this one being did Richard commit all the crimes he's been accused of over the years. With the help of a young, gangly American student to do all the leg work, he weighs up the pros and cons and comes to his conclusions.

Other novels that depict Richard in a more favourable light are We Speak no Treason by Rosemary Hawley Jarman and The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman. You can tell from the book covers how old these are and it is such a long time since I read them but I can't bear to part with them.

Many books have been written about Richard III he is, after all, one of the most enigmatic and interesting characters in our history and certainly a man of mystery. He was also a man of his time, a time in which it was harder to survive than now with different values and morals to ours. I don't believe he was 100 percent innocent, he was born into a time of war and bloodshed and he had to fight for survival; but neither do I think he was as bad as he has been painted.

I don't think he was guilty of many of the crimes that have been foisted on him by Tudor propagandists - including one of my other heros - William Shakespeare, who, after all was a man of his own time and would sometimes have had to write to please his Tudor patrons.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Late Summer Harvest

I love fruit at this time of year. Soft, luscious plums straight from the tree in our garden and crisp, new English apples bought from the local shop. It seems to have taken ages for the plums to ripen but now that they have I just know a jam making session is forthcoming.

As well as the heavily laden plum tree we have brambles intertwined with the holly hedge at the top of the garden and they have given us our first blackberries of this year.

Now, do we eat all the crisp apples or do we keep a couple back to make an apple and blackberry pie. Decisions, decisions!

I am also eagerly anticipating the ripening of the crab apples so that we can make some crab apple jelly. Another week or two and they should be perfect.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Honeysuckle Cat & garden notes

I couldn't resist taking this picture of Chloe as she posed on the fence amongst the honeysuckle. She looks calm and collected here but a few minutes before there was such a screeching and wailing as she was chased across the garden and up onto the fence by her mischevious brother Max.

The sweet peas have finally started to come into flower, I'd almost given up on them, at present they are just the one dark pink colour. We had to rescue them several times in the high winds of yesterday as they kept toppling over.

The pink japanese anenomes are in flower but the white ones we have in a different area of the garden are still firmly in bud. Just behind the anenomes the blue flowers of the agapanthus are begining to open.

Every time I cut the lawn it seems to encourge these toadstools to grow. They appear mysteriously overnight; the green newly cut lawn we left the night before is covered in them. It must be the very damp weather. The tomatoes in the green house are not doing very well but, as if in compensation, we have a glut of courgettes.

Right, I'm off to look for some new recipes for courgettes, but before I go I'd just like to say Happy birthday to my sister. Have a great day!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Hen Cloud

Yesterday we thought that after a long week at work and all the hassle of the home computer breaking down, or 'frying' as Paul calls it, we needed to get out into the countryside for fresh air and exercise. We decided to walk up to the top of Hen Cloud.

Last time - link - we walked up here we walked in the opposite direction and found that quite strenuous; as I looked at Hen Cloud from here I didn't know whether I would make it or not. I did wonder if it might be a step too far. Even the sheep looked a bit dubious at my ablilities but then gave their approval by carrying on munching their breakfast.

Still a long way to go but the weather is wonderful, not too hot, a bit breezy, the birds singing and the distant noise of shouts of excitement and encouragement from a group of rock climbers scaling the rock formations a little way away.

Nearly there, I can't believe it, although my knee is startling to ache a bit. I hurt it a few weeks ago getting out of the car quickly to move the wheelie bin from the middle of the drive, where the bin man had left it, so that we could run the car up onto it. I turned my ankle on my shoe heel but it was the knee that suffered. It has bothered me ever since when I go up and down stairs.

Well, I can't believe this, me and my 'cronky' knee have made it to the top. Wow, the view is tremendous.

Time for that well earned rest and our flask of coffee I think!

More about the 'Old House'

As so many of you were interested in the last post I've been trying to find out more about Dovleys Manor and especially about the people who lived there. As you know from my Family Matters blog I've been 'doing' Family History for a very long time - since before the internet provided so much information, in fact in some cases even before parish registers had been put on microfiche. In those days you looked at the actual registers sitting at a desk with the manuscript on a book-rest or cushion and in some cases wearing white cotton gloves. In the last few years it has become quite easy to find lots of information from your home PC or laptop instead of making appointments and travelling miles to record offices. So it has been quite a simple task to find out a bit more of the Heywood family of Doveleys using the on-line resources I use when researching my own family history.

When I wrote the last post I'd looked up the family on the 1871 census and found what a big household it was. For those who were interested in the friend of the family her name was Maria Roberts, age 29 and her birthplace was given as Landau, Germany; her occupation was governess. I think this is really interesting! Was she a friend staying with them who was a governess? Or was she a governess to the children of the family and considered as a friend rather than an employee?

I moved on to 1881 and the household is even grander - obviously in it's heyday. There is now a french lady's maid in the house called Irina Landreux, age 30, her birthplace, Paris. There are more servants including a maid called Sarah Tortoishell who was born locally in Rocester - what a lovely name! The girls are Isabella, Etheldred, Hilda and Mary, aged 29, 24, 22 and 18 respectively- the boys, Bertam and Gerald were not at home on census day - probably at boarding school or university. In fact I found a Bertam Heywood a boarder and scholar in Winchester so perhaps the boys went to the famous boarding school there. Thomas Heywood is recorded as being a Baronet, Magistrate and Farmer of 100 acres of his own land. Of course, only the household servants lived in the house, many of the farm labourers and estate workers would live locally possibly in estate property or tied cottages.

By 1891 the household had decreased in size and only Etheldred is at home on census day with some of the servants. Thomas, Margaret, Isabella and Mary are at their London home, 39 Lourdes Square, Chelsea, Hilda isn't at Doveleys or in Chelsea and Bertam and Gerald were probably at University or living elsewhere.

I hope you have enjoyed this 'snapshot' of a wealthy family in the late 19th century.