Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Visit to Shugborough - part 1

On Thursday I made my first trip away from home (apart from food shopping which I don't count) for a couple of weeks and as it was our wedding anniversary we decided to visit a local National Trust property and have lunch out too.  I've been wanting to visit the Earl of Lichfield's appartments at Shugborough since they opened for the first time to the public earlier this year and I also wanted to photograph the Essex Bridge from the estate side - you'll remember that I posted about it - here - a few weeks ago.

The first thing we discovered was that things had changed so much since we last visited!  Visitors used to drive quite close to the house to park,  now you have to park quite a distance away beyond the park farm and enter through a proper reception area.  This takes you straight into the walled garden where gardeners were working on the vegetable beds, scarecrows danced in the slight breeze and the blacksmith's shop was working.

Below is the head gardener's house at the top of the walled garden.  It looks as if it used to have a green house or some such fixture on the front at one time.  It was built for his head gardener by Thomas Anson who, according to the information panel, hoped that 'he will move into this house before we enter the year 1806.  It is  much grander than most of my servant's lodgings, and thus shows his importance to the estate.'

From here the signs take you through the workshops were old rural crafts like hurdle making, candle making,  leather working and wood turning are practiced.  There were several groups of people learning how to make hurdles and willow baskets as we passed by.

The next place on the trail is the Park Farm;  we hadn't bought tickets to go inside as we had been before and wanted this visit to see the Mansion House and grounds.  From outside the farm you can catch the train up to the old car park near the house and gardens  but we decided to walk up there across the parkland and catch the train back.

By this time we were ready for lunch so went into the Lady Walk tea room for a tasty meal of Broccoli, Mushroom and Red Pepper Bake in very pleasant surroundings.  We didn't have a pudding as we thought we would have an ice cream later after we'd visited the house and gardens.

Our next stop was the interior of the house.  We thought that we wouldn't be able to take photos inside but we found that photography was allowed without flash.  As my camera isn't able to take decent interior photos without flash I let Paul take all the photographs inside and I'll borrow some from him for part two of this visit.

The gardens were lovely and we followed the sculpture trail by the river at the back of the house.  Across the river was the newly opened island arboretum but we didn't get that far on this visit and intend to return later this year when the rest of the sculptures are in place.  Below are some of the features to be found around the riverside gardens.

 A deer sculpture under the trees - for a moment in the sunshine it looked real!

The Chinese house, completed in 1747, and red bridge which leads to the Cat's monument

There are two theories about the monument, built c.1749.  One is that it commemorates the life of the cat which travelled around the world on board the 'Centurion' with Admiral George Anson.  The other is that it was a memorial to Kouli-Khan a Persian cat kept by the Admiral's older brother, Thomas Anson.

A little way along the river from the red bridge we caught our first sight of the Essex Bridge.  Before we left the gardens we walked along the Lady Walk amongst the blue bells and looked at some of the other sculptures - as this post is getting quite long I'll include those photos with the ones of the interior of the Mansion House in my next post.

We passed the Tower of the Winds on the little train as we headed back to the Park Farm.  It was built c. 1765.  The downstairs was used as a dairy and at some point the upper floor was used as a gambling den.

Just one word of caution here - we decided that we would have a cup of afternoon tea in the Granary tea rooms at the Park Farm but because we didn't have tickets to the farm we couldn't go in and we'd caught the train back there especially not realising, as there was nothing on the advertising banner or notice board outside to say that it was within the farm complex.  We decided that it was a step too far to catch the train back up to the Lady Walk tea room so we wandered back to the car park and stopped for refreshment on the way home.   I'll be back with more of the visit soon.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Photo Scavenger Hunt - April 2011

Here are my photos for the April Scavenger Hunt.  In no particular order ...

April Showers
Taken in our garden very early in April - I don't think we have had any rain since then!

A late elevenses breakfast of flapjack and coffee at Bridgemere Garden World

Your camera
My camera taken through a mirror in The Wool Emporium  at The Thomas Shop, Penybont, Powys

A bunch of keys
In the hallway at home

An interesting shop name
'Jack in the Green' florists shop in Llandrindod Wells, Powys.

A Cross
Three crosses on a hill at Park Hall Country Park, Stoke-on-Trent.  Placed there every year by the local church for the Good Friday Service.

A Church
The parish church of St Luke at Hodnet, Shropshire

 Easter eggs, both edible and decorative, on the kitchen table

Something Yellow
A clump of celandines and dandelions

A Sculpture
In the Temple Gardens, Llandrindod Wells, Powys

Something to do with Shakespeare
I struggled to get the last few as I couldn't get out of the house for a few days - so for 'Something to do with Shakespeare' - books from our book shelves about the man himself, his theatres and Shakespeare country!

Something to do with St George's Day

The only thing I could think of was the quote from Henry V - no not the one on my fridge magnet!  You know the one that starts - 'Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more' and ends with - 'The game's afoot: and upon this charge, cry God for Harry, England and St George!'

Thanks once again to Kathy at Postcards from the PP for hosting the Scavenger Hunt - here is a - link - to Kathy's blog where you will find a link to other blogs taking part.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thank you

Just a quick post to say thank you for all your lovely comments and e-mails after my last post and also welcome to several new followers.  Things are getting easier now and I've actually been  for a short walk today.  Whilst we were out I saw this beautiful Wisteria on an abandoned building in Trentham Gardens.  I just thought I'd share it with you.  Isn't it wonderful?

I love Wisteria

 and this one was particularly stunning!

I'll be back at the weekend with my photos for April's photo scavenger hunt.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Apologies for my Absence

Sorry I haven't been around for a while either blogging or commenting on all your recent posts which I have been reading when I've been able to.  I had a fall in the garden last Sunday and exacerbated an old injury to my ribs and sternum.  It has been very painful and I've done lots of lying around feeling sorry for myself.

I can't lift or carry anything or sit upright for very long.  I have been able to sit in the garden on a sun lounger over the last few days so I have been enjoying all the lovely weather we've been experiencing whilst reading and watching the birds visiting the bird feeders.  I hope I'll be back soon and that everyone is having a restful Easter weekend.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

All White in the Garden

At the moment there seems to be a profusion of gorgeous white flowers in the garden

there's some late Victoria Plum Blossom

an Amelanchier or Snowy Mespilus

and a Spiraea Arguta - Bridal Wreath.

All looking wonderful, especially in the fading evening light, but all too soon the show will be over and they will disappear until next year.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Here be Dragons

Llandrindod Wells is a lovely little town and everyone seemed so friendly.  In the coffee shop, in the tourist centre and in the museum.  The Radnorshire Museum was small but very interesting having many displays on the old county of Radnorshire, now Powys.  There was a huge collection of fossils and ancient artifacts plus the history of 'Llandod' and its time as Wales's premier spa town and of the12th century priory at Abbey-Cwm-Hir now the site of a Victorian house open to the public. 

Upstairs the staff were putting together an exhibition about the Rev. Francis Kilvert and his friends.  The curator came to talk to us as he knew our friend as a former curator and friend of the Museum as well as a member of the Kilvert Society.  My other friend, with whom I'd travelled from Shrewsbury, was interested in the harmonium on display, as she plays piano and church organ, and the curator opened it up for her.

You will remember from my previous post that we were staying at the Thomas shop in Penybont.  Above is a sign in the Museum  taken from the first department store in Llandrindod which was opened by the same Thomas family- link to history here.  The Museum is close to the Metropole Hotel where we went for lunch.  We sat in the glass covered front of the hotel eating tasty sandwiches.  It was very warm and gazing out over the Temple gardens and at the hotels surrounding them it almost felt as if the sea and beach could be just around the corner.

After lunch we crossed over to the temple gardens to have a look at a fairly new statue to one of the region's famous sons the artist Thomas Jones (1742 - 1803).  Here is a - link - to a Wiki page for further details of his life and times.  We were all enchanted by one of his landscape paintings  in the town's  museum.

Just on the outskirts of the town is the Lake and in the lake you will find the Fabulous Water Beast.  This is a dragon sculpture and at over 40 metres long is one of the largest fountains in Britain.  He wasn't spouting water when I took this photo early last Thursday morning but he still looked magnificent.

The dragon is made out of copper and was created by a local artist Richard Taylor. It was a community project by Arcady and over 2,000 people were involved in making the scales which cover it and all the scales are inscribed with messages.

Across the road amongst the trees you can see some standing stones and the re-sited foundation stones of the ancient Capel Maelog.  Apparently every March on this road, volunteer members of the Radnorshire wildlife society organise a - 'toad patrol' -  to help the hundreds of toads and great crested newts cross the road to their mating grounds.  Apparently the local authority now have to close the road in the evening during the height of the toad crossings siting the safety of motorists as the reason! 

The modern stones commemorate the finding of the site of the early medieval chapel and have inscriptions in both Welsh and English. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

At the Thomas Shop

I met my friend in Shrewsbury and we caught the Swansea train from the station which took us through the most wonderful countryside via Church Stretton, past the Long Mynd, through Craven Arms and Knighton into Wales.  We travelled over the viaduct at Knucklas and through Dolau and Penybont (our final destination) to Llandrindod Wells.  We decided not to request a stop at Penybont as it is about a mile and a half from the station to the village and our friend, who lives in the village, has given up driving her car so she couldn't collect us.  We arrived in Llandod on time and had half an hour to wait (we found a nice coffee shop near the station)  for the bus to Hereford which would take us through the village.

The bus stopped not far from our friend's little cottage so we went there first before walking down over the river to our B&B at the Thomas Shop - named after the family that owned it and ran it as a local shop.  We have stayed here before on our visits and I always sleep in the little room whose window is next to the T on the shop front.  The bed is so comfy and covered with a beautiful homemade quilt and there was a lovely terracotta pot of cowslips in each of our rooms.

As well as offering B&B Derek and Liz, the owners of the Thomas shop,  also have the shop museum, craft workshops which occasionally offer courses on crafts like rag rugging and quilting.  Upstairs is the Wool Emporium with various fleeces and yarns as well as colourful handmade items like jumpers, bags and scarves.  There is also a coffee shop with wonderful homemade cakes.

Liz was busy with a new project making handmade dolls to be launched at the -Wonderwool Wales Festival - at Builth Wells (held last Saturday).  During our stay we were invited in to see these wonderful dolls (sorry no photos) each county in its own variation of the national costume and each made from Welsh linen and wool with locally made porcelain heads.  We particularly liked the one from Flintshire.  Not all of them had the Lady Llanover red cloak and tall black hat.

Later my two friends and I walked up to the Craven Arms Hotel for a meal and a catching up session on what we had all been doing for the last year.

The next morning we caught the bus in to Llandod where we visited the museum and had lunch in the Metropole hotel - more of this visit in my next post.

Here are some photos of the inside of the Thomas shop museum.  The flower trimmed hat was so pretty!

The shop is filled from top to bottom with wonderful items donated by local people and these mingled with handmade produce like jam, chutney and fudge.

It was fascinating just peering at all the shelves and counter displays.  There were many more things to see since my last visit.

Lovely big jars of scented soaps. 

Pears and Fairy soap next to a shelf of Reckitt's or dolly blue and Sylvan flakes!

 Upstairs is the Wool Emporium

 There was so much to see here.  There were skeins of wool and wool kits as well as finished articles for sale.

It was warm enough on Wednesday afternoon to sit outside near the river which runs at the back of the Thomas shop before walking back to our friend's cottage for a lovely supper of fish pie follwed by fruit salad.  I'll tell you more in my next post.