Saturday, December 27, 2008

Field Walking

Today we ventured out for a short walk to blow away the cobwebs of Christmas and to breath in some fresh country air. The fields reminded me of the first two lines of one of my favourite Christmas carols*

In the Bleak Mid-Winter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;

I know the next line is: Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow and that this morning it was just a very heavy frost, but it was cold, it was clear and it was incredibly invigorating. It was also very quiet and peaceful just the kind of simple and contemplative day we needed after this week's festivities.

*In the Bleak Mid Winter - words by Christina Rosetti, 1872 music by Gustav Holst, 1906.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Festive Season

Stay healthly, be happy and enjoy yourselves this Christmas.

Here is the most gorgeous book I received from Sal of Sal's Snippets in her 'give-away'.
Thank-you, Sal.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Something New

After work one afternoon last week we ventured to Trentham Gardens to buy various nuts and spices from the Julian Graves shop in the retail village. I'd heard that there had been a new addition to the attractions there but hadn't seen it.

The 60 metre wheel cost 6 million pounds to construct and put in place and it will be there for a year. It will offer panoramic views of the Italian Gardens and surrounding countryside and the owners of the Trentham Estate hope it will give an extra boost to their visitor figures. It certainly wouldn't have given many views at all on the day we visited as it was grey and misty with a constant, dampening, drizzle of rain. The Stoke City football club is its main sponsor and therefore it has been christened The Potters' Wheel.

It has 42 pods and will carry 336 people on the rides which last about 13 minutes. There weren't many takers on such a grey day and most of the pods were empty but it's new and people need to realise it is there. I hope it will be a great success in the spring and summer, but given the economic downturn and the way people are struggling, I wonder.

A Quick Question - help needed!

I've been wondering recently about changing this blog from the template format to the layout format. As I've been blogging here since March 2005 I'm still on the template format but I'm noticing more and more what the layout format has to offer. There are so many pretty blogs around at the moment with lots of lovely additions that I can't put on mine because I'm not on the layout format. I also have some followers whom I can't show on this blog. When I try to add them the instructions are to change to the layout format but it says that in doing so I may lose some changes. I'm struggling to understand what that means and fearful that if I press the key to change I may loose everything. The other alternative is to start a new blog but I don't really want to do that as I want to keep this one all together. Has anyone changed from the template to the layout format and if so - how did it go and what, if anything, did you lose along the way? I'd really like some advice on this.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's beginning to feel like Christmas

It has been another busy week trying to cram everything in around work. A week of making gifts, like little hearts to hang on the tree filled with crushed cinamon to give a seasonal aroma.

Added to these Paul's homemade ginger and almond biscuits bagged and ready to go.

Yesterday a drive towards Chesterfield stopping off at the churchyard at Scarcliffe with a holly wreath for Mum and Dad's grave - we could hear the carols being sung at the Sunday morning service in the church as we walked quietly by.

Then it was time for coffee and warm mince pies at a friend's beautiful home where we sat chatting and catching up on news whilst watching the birds on her feeders and the pheasants on her lawn, visiting from the farmer's fields nearby. It was my first mince pie this year and I forgot to make a wish.

After a lovely lunch with my sister and brother in law, more pleasant chatter and exchange of cards and presents to put under the tree, we drove back via Matlock and Ashbourne where we stopped for a little walk around to look at the lights in the town centre. Just us and a few others feeling the magic of the lights in the bitterly cold night air.

Soon it was time to head for for home where my kind and thoughtful neighbour had been in to feed the cats, draw the curtains and put on the lights to welcome us home. What a perfect day, during which, for a short while, I forgot all the worries about how to keep paying the mortgage whilst the house languishes, still for sale, our savings dwindle and the work dries up after Christmas.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas Shopping

It occured to me last week that I actually ought to do something about preparing for Christmas; I've been avoiding the issue for ages but suddenly, I had the feeling that I should probably start the shopping. With this in mind, one day last week after work, I walked up into the City Centre to see if I could make a start. I struggled around WHSmith but did manage to get what I wanted and also queued for stamps in the Post Office - now in Smiths. I dashed into M&S but couldn't face the rugby scrum at the checkouts so left there empty handed and foolishly entered Woolworth - I took five steps in saw the sea of bodies and turned round, walked out and caught the bus home, with the intention of trying again the next day. Three days later I still hadn't done any more towards present buying so, yesterday, we decided to see what we could find elsewhere. Our first stop was Amerton Farm near Uttoxeter.

It had been ages since we visited and there were many changes but so many lovely, pretty and festive things to look at in both their garden centre and gift shop; some things very expensive but others at a surprisingly modest price. Here we managed to buy small gifts for all my little great nieces and nephews and gained a couple of ideas for the adults too. I began to relax a little knowing that we had made a good start.

This place is interesting at any season with plenty of space for everyone and lots of things for children to do including a play barn and farm animals. There are lots of smaller shops too including a jewellery shop, pottery and bakery.

I couldn't resist taking the photo below of the cake and sweet shop - what great cakes in the window. Surely they can't be real cakes on display? The designs must be achievable though!

There is also a steam train enjoyed just as much by mums and dads as it is by the children.

We then set out towards Rugely stopping at the Wyvern Garden Centre at Wolseley Bridge to see what we could find. As we were wandering around we spotted Father Christmas buying his Christmas cards at the R.N.L.I. charity stall in the entrance hall. He saw a little boy coming towards him so turned and asked him what he wanted for Christmas. In the split second it took the boy to answer my mind, bathed in nostalgia, thought - a teddy bear, a red train, a jig-saw puzzle and a Christmas stocking full of sweets, nuts, chocolate pennies and tangerines - the words X-Box and Nintendo whisked me quickly back to the 21st century - I only hope that those things bring as much magic to the little boy as the less technological presents did to me over 50 years ago. We moved into the centre and managed to find a couple more present here.

Next to the garden centre, which is close to both the River Trent and the Trent and Mersey Canal is Wolseley Gardens, run by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. After a picnic lunch in the warmth of the car we had a walk around. The lakes were frozen and looked beautiful in the sunshine. Water birds were standing and slithering on the ice and ducks were flying overhead looking for somehwere less icy to settle, perhaps unnerved by the souind of the clay pigeon shooting coming from the nearby Shugborough estate.

The river, too look cold and icy. There were plenty of birds flying around and gathering at the feeding stations and bird tables. Including this festive little fellow.

Just before this photo was taken of the antiques barn across the road from the gardens a group of about 30 ramblers, all dressed in red with santa hats or deer antlers on their heads marched by on their way to walk along the canal side.

All of a sudden I felt slightly festive and a lot more positive; perhaps all the preparations for Christmas wouldn't be so stressful after all.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mist Over Mow Cop

As we left the A34 and drove up the steep incline towards the village of Mow Cop the mist deepened, the air was chill and the trees and hedges glistened white on the roadside and in front gardens. It was magical. We approached the 'castle' and entered the car park, just us and a couple of other hardy souls who were already parked and clambering to the top of the imposing mound.

The ruin was shrouded in mist and the whole vista was so atmospheric. We made our way slowly and gingerly over the frozen grass and eventually reached the top. It was on this hilltop in 1588 that a beacon was erected to give warning of possible invasion by the Spanish Armada, linking lights around the country, between the Wrekin in Shropshire and Alderley Edge in Cheshire.

The ruins, now managed by the National Trust, were once a folly or summer house built by Randle Wilbraham of nearby Rode Hall. He had the mock-gothic castle built in 1754 to enhance the eastern view from his grand house at Scholar Green. From this vantage point on a clear day you can see for miles in all directions to the Berwyn Mountains in Wales, the Shropshire hills and the Peaks of Derbyshire. You can also see quite clearly the huge round saucer of Sir Bernard Lovell's Joddrell Bank.

Yesterday, though, all we could see were the sparkling white trees in the valley and the distant tower of the church; also the unusual garden wall structure of one of the houses under the hill. This is certainly a magical and mystical place. It was here on the 31st May 1807 that Hugh Bourne of Stoke and his friend William Clownes of Burslem ventured, with many like minded people wishing to return to a simpler ways of worship, to form the Primitive Methodist movement. This was to be the first of many mass gatherings on the hill.

At the base of the mound is a stone which commemorates this event. The inscription is as follows:-

"To the Glory of God. A camp meeting near this spot on May 31st 1807, began the religious revival led by Hugh Bourne and William Clowes known as Primitive Methodism. Unveiled by the President of the Methodist Conference May 16th 1948"

As we descended the hill the air had become really cold and dank; people were hurrying back to the car park and the warmth of their cars. It was time to head for home.