Friday, October 31, 2008

The Pumpkin

I thought, seeing as it is Halloween, I would trace the journey of a pumpkin from the farmer's field to its final destination. I've only noticed these fields of pumpkins over the last few years and it seems that more and more pumpkins are grown here in the UK. It's not a sight I'm used to but they do look wonderful.

So let's follow the pumpkin from the field where it is picked and taken to storage perhaps and then to a distribition centre; most of the pumpkins will end up in our supermarkets. Some, like the one below will end up at a farm shop, I'm guessing that these ones came straight from field to shop but I could be wrong.

Well, let's purchase the pumpkin and take it home and see what we can do with it. Last year I made 'Spooky Soup' with the flesh of the pumpkin whilst Paul hollowed out the pumpkin to make a 'scary' face . I expect we will do much the same this year.

So, tea lights in the pumpkin face, warming soup ready and a huge bowl of lollipops for the little trick or treaters.

I think we may be ready. Have a good Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Very Random Things

In a week in which the temperature has plummeted and during which we have had frost, snow, rain, and hail plus a little bit of sunshine - the last of the tomatoes ripened in the greenhouse! How can this be?

The weather, this year, is most unusual and I can't, for the life of me, work it out!

I was angered this week by an incident which happened to my neighbour who suffers from MS and has to walk with a stick. She was out with one of her friends who also walks with a stick. They were enjoying their weekly outing to the supermarket when two well dressed businessmen behind them tutted and said very loudly 'They shouldn't let them out should they?' Absolutely disgraceful! The phrase 'There but for the grace of God' springs to mind.

I've been tagged by Sarah at In the Wee Hours to list six random facts about myself. I always find these things really difficult to do but here goes:-

I've worn glasses since I was 7 years old, the teacher discovered I needed them when she noticed that what I was copying off the board wasn't what was written on it. My mother blamed it on the measles even though my bedroom was kept dark; I do remember the curtains being closed against the glare of the sun.

2. I really dislike spiders, although I can, with great trepidation catch them in a jar and take them into the garden.

3. I adore the theatre, I love watching plays especially those of Shakespeare. I used to go to Stratford quite often but I haven't done that for a few years now. Silly really as I live closer now than I did when I used to visit often. Maybe next year!

4. I have a fear of deep, still water, especially in dark, lakeside boat houses and also of the underside of boats in dry dock.

5. I once, many years ago, discussed Jane Austen's Persuasion with the writer John Fowles, he was also, at that time, Honorary Curator of the Philpot Museum in Lyme Regis where we had gone to photograph some fossils, I didn't know who he was then, I found out later. I was mortified afterwards wondering if I'd made a fool of myself. Paul later got a letter from Mr Fowles thanking him for helping with the identification of one of the museum's fossils - we still have it somewhere.

6. When I was a child as well as playing libraries (with mother's books, slips of paper as library tickets and a hot water bottle top as the date stamp) I also played museums - I would rope off part of my bedroom and label things like my hairbrush and the ornaments on my dressing table and windowsill. I don't think I charged an entrance fee. No wonder then that I eventually ended up doing a degree in history with the OU and spending almost 20 years of my life working in museums.

I hope Sarah doesn't mind but I'm not going to tag anyone else. If after reading this you want to have a go then please feel free to take it with you.

Lastly, just a very random photo of Chloe - because she's worth it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


......just thought I'd let you know

......that we have snow.

I don't think it will linger!

I think that soon it will go.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

At Tissington

At the end of my post about Milldale I promised to write a post about the village of Tissington in Derbyshire so here it is. Tissington has special memories for me as it was always the venue of our junior school Ascension Day outing to see the well dressings. I remember being on the bus full of excited children, sent out in their best clothes that morning by anxious mothers. We would all be clutching brown paper or greaseproof paper bags full of egg or ham sandwiches - oh, how I remember the smell of those egg sandwiches - we must have had drinks too but I can't remember what they were or how we carried them. I remember the cattle grids as you entered the village and having to walk over them as we left the bus. One year my friend's little brother fell on one and banged his nose - there was blood everywhere - no one thought about 'health and safety' in those days. I would think there would be complete uproar, threats to sue and apportionments of blame nowadays, 'tis the way of the world, but then the teachers dealt with the situation and we all got on with our day.

Anyway, back to the present. Tissington is a beautiful estate village clustered around the hall, the church, the village green and the duck pond.
It is, in fact, the typical English village of our childhood dreams and imagination.
Its approach is unusually through a gate from the main Ashbourne to Buxton road, up an avenue of lime trees amongst which guinea fowl run free, in appearance it is much like a drive straight to a country house but it is the road into the village.

In The King's England, Derbyshire - my copy published in 1942, a good 15 years before my school outings, Arthur Mee described the village thus:-

'If ever roads lead to sheer delight they are surely the roads to Tissington, where a splendid lime avenue, half a mile long, brings us to little stone houses in gay gardens, gathered in haphazard array around a spacious road with wayside lawns, a fine old Hall of Elizabeth's day, and a tiny church as old again keeping them company.'

It hasn't changed.

The present hall was built in 1609 for Francis FitzHerbert. It replaced an earlier hall, possibly a moated manor house standing to the north of the church, as Tissington has been the seat of the FitzHerbert family since 1465 and they still live there.

Today the hall is a venue for conferences, weddings and civil ceremonies. Pre-booked group visits are accepted and there is a short period in spring and summer when guided tours are available. The present owner is Richard FitzHerbert and if you follow this link to the hall's website you can watch a little film of him guiding you around the inside of the hall. During his introduction he mentions ghost hunts - now how about that for a Halloween celebration?

Across the road from the hall is one of the wells, known as Hall Well for obvious reasons. There are five others dotted around the village and each year according to custom they are decorated with flowers. Here is a link that will tell you more about the history and origin of the Derbyshire Well Dressings.

The parish church of St Mary stands on a hill opposite the Hall. Built sometime in the 12th century inside is light and airy and on the wall near the chancel is a fine monument to some members of the FitzHerbert family. The people depicted below are Sir Francis FitzHerbert who died in 1619 and his son Sir John who died in 1642 with their wives.

Outside in the churchyard the other village folk lie at peace under the trees overlooking the village green and the duck pond.

Visitors can park in the village on designated verges opposite the hall but there is also parking nearby on the Tissington Trail.

A walk past the duck pond takes you to the Tissington Trail. In this village there is a farm butcher and a candle workshop, called A Wick and a Prayer, as well as Acanthus, a pretty gift shop housed in an old joiners workshop and a small garden centre or nursery where the owners sell rare and unusual plants.

There is a tea room in the old barn next to the hall and this is always very popular. We have been in for refreshment on a couple of occasions but this time we had our picnic with us.

So that is Tissington, or a small part of it anyway, I hope you enjoyed the visit.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Woodland Walk

It is such a lovely day today I thought we would walk in the woods. The early morning mist still lingers in the air. The leaf covered pathways crunch beneath our feet.

As we walk under the trees the quick patter of water droplets make it sound as if it is raining, it isn't; it is just the falling of dew and the remnants of yesterday's downpour cascading gently through the leaves. Drops occasionally spatter us but we don't mind at all.

We carry on into the pine forest, following in the tracks of deer, listening to the birds call and the squirrels scatter. Under the trees it smells earthy and damp; bracket fungus grows on the fallen branches.

Then we are out into the clearing. It is still slightly misty but the sun is burning through. From here we have company, a photographer gazes patiently up into the trees, waiting for the right moment to click the shutter. A couple of walkers meander by, excited dogs on a long lead running ahead in anticipation.

At the edge of the clearing the stands little white house; it is boarded up now. When we first started to walk in these woods people lived here, there were children's swings and slides in the garden, wheel barrows by the back door and woodsmoke curling from the chimney. Now it is empty and forlorn.

The sun is coming out now, glinting through the twisted branches of the trees, as we make our way towards our destination we can feel its warmth spreading on our backs.

At last we reach the lake where the autumnal trees on the island glow and quiver in the sunlight.

The reflections are stunning; the ducks and geese take flight, calling, as if to tell us, of their joy at living here in this magical place.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Whilst we were on our way back from Ashbourne and Tissington earlier today we cut across country and dropped down into Milldale. As soon as we entered the village I felt we had been there before and it wasn't long before we remembered that we had walked, two or three years ago, from Dovedale to Milldale, isn't it funny how sometimes the penny drops, or the last piece of the jigsaw falls into place? We decided to park in the car park provided just outside the village on the Alstonefield road and walk back towards the river.

It wasn't raining but the air was damp and the hills behind the village were touched with mist. It was very quiet at this side of the village. Most of the visitors were walkers and had come by foot from Dovedale, as we drove past they were all sitting by the river eating their lunch and some feeding the ducks.

As soon as I saw Polly's Cottage, the little kiosk shop on this street, I remembered having queued at the window for hot drinks and KitKats when we had walked from Dovedale.

The lovely, square shaped stone cottages cluster around the river and some are almost set into the surrounding hillside. This one is sideways onto the road and is typical of the cottages in the village.

Opposite is the lovely cobbled path which is the start of the walk towards Dovedale; the cobbles were very slippy in the damp weather! Close by is a shelter, seat and public conveniences. There is also an information point for the National Trust, who own and manage most of the land in this area. It is housed in a barn which used to belong to a corn mill; one of three mills which were situated along the river. Milldale village is an important industrial archaeological site and in 1993 was designated a conservation area.

The cobbled pathway leads up and over the old packhorse bridge and down onto the side of the river and the pathway to Dovedale. The bridge is also known as the Viator's bridge the name coming from Izaak Walton's book The Compleat Angler. Apparently, as you cross the bridge you cross over the border from Staffordshire to Derbyshire.

On the left of the photograph is the little Primitive Methodist chapel of 1835 which is built at an angle to compensate for the incline of the road. It no longer has services every Sunday but is still open to visitors and the notice on the wall outside says 'Look around you-come inside-give thanks'. I wish we'd had time to go in but I now have an incentive to go back and open that door. After a little walk at the side of the river it was time to make our way back to the car park and thence towards home.

I'll write about our visit to Tissington in a later post.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day so I thought I would share a poem with you, but which one? I could have chosen a poem remembered from school - like Meg Merrilees(John Keats), Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (Robert Frost), The Listeners (Walter de la Mare) or The Lady of Shalott (Alfred Lord Tennyson). Maybe I could choose something from the Metaphysicals or the Romantics? Or the so called Cavalier poets - like the naughty Earl of Rochester? Something typically British perhaps? The gentle wistfulness of Thomas Hardy or A. E. Houseman? The humour of John Betjeman? Maybe one of the Liverpudlian poets like Roger McGough? Or one of the war poets the tragic Wilfred Owen or Rupert Brooke?

I can be slightly maudlin in my choice of poems; favourites being Farewell (Walter de la Mare); Do not go gentle (DylanThomas) and When I am dead (Christina Rossetti) I love The Parting by Michael Drayton but in the end it had to be Will, if in doubt I always turn to him - he never fails me:-

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempest and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Red and the Grey

Today is the first day of Red Squirrel week here in the UK. Red Squirrel numbers have been depleted over the years as their woodland habitats have disappeared and they have become threatened by disease and the overwelming strength of their rival grey squirrel. The population in the UK is this year estimated to be only around 160,000. Although red squirrels can live in any mixed woodland habitat they tend now to live only where there are extensive conifer or pine forests as these are hard for the grey squirrel to survive in; only the reds eat pine cones. They are also affected by the fact that as forest areas become spread apart they cannot move easily from area to area. Some conservation groups are creating corridors of movement to help the situation. There are still thriving communities of red squirrels in the south of the country on the Isle of Wight and on Brownsea island; others are found in the north on Anglesey, on the Lancashire coast, in the Yorkshire Dales and in Scotland. I remember as a child seeing red squirrels whilst on holiday in Cornwall and the New Forest but I hadn't seen any for ages until we visited the National Trust Reserve at Formby in Lancashire a couple of years ago. The photo below was taken there.

The Formby squirrels are very friendly and are quite used to people wandering around. They are a lovely, glossy, conker brown rather than the rich copper red I remember from the squirrels I saw as a child and in photos I've seen of those in Scotland. Unlike the grey squirrel, the red doesn't hibernate in the winter. Not that the greys seem to do much hibernating nowadays as the winters are so much milder than they used to be. We often see our local grey squirrels dashing around in the depths of winter. The red squirrels are also in danger from squirrelpox a disease deadly to them which is carried and passed on by the non-native greys who were introduced to this country at the beginning of the 20th century. I always find it sad that one lovely species, just because it has been misplaced by man's interference, has the ability to endanger another lovely species. I love the red squirrels but I'm almost equally as fond of the greys but you can see from the photo below, taken in our local park earlier this year, how much stronger the grey squirrel looks than our lovely native red. Thank heavens for all those conservationists who are helping the red squirrel keep a foothold in its native land. Here is a link to find out more about their activities.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Instead of Housework!

I've been playing around on the computer instead of getting on with jobs around the house that ought really to be done. I can sometimes be a great procrastinator; all the years I was studying with the Open University and the Museum's Association I used to clean things that didn't need cleaning before I could settle down to write an essay, now it seems I'll mess around on the computer instead of getting on with the cleaning. The trouble is that I found a super link on Lois's blog for how to make your own magazine cover so I just had to have a go.

I decided to make it seasonal and to base it on the thing I seem to write about most on this blog which is walking, choosing the county we visit most, Derbyshire and using the same places that I've visited in some of my posts. Anyway, here it is, at least it looks suitably Autumnal.

I've used the photo of the tree I used on the Walking in Baslow post, taken in Chatsworth Park. Would it catch your eye on the newsagents shelves? Hmm .... I think it may be back to the drawing board!