Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Crossing Borders

Gosh, it seems ages since my last post!  Over the last week or so I've seen so many lovely places on my travels, spent time with old friends, eaten lovely food and generally had a wonderful time.  I also had a lovely day out yesterday for my birthday, even though I felt I'd had all my treats the week before, very aptly a visit to the city where I was born, too many years ago now to mention and last but not least I've been given a blog award by Ruth at Dian's Timpanalley.  Thank you Ruth, I will get around to answering the questions but I seem to be behind on most things at the moment.  I'll also write a post on my birthday visit but for now I'll show you some photos of where we visited last week as we criss-crossed the borders between Wales, Herefordshire and Shropshire.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will perhaps remember that every year I meet up with a couple of friends and we stay at the Thomas Shop in Pennybont, near Llandrindod Wells and this year was no exception just a little later in the year than usual and for the first time Paul accompanied me  so we had the car to take us all out and about.

Just a short journey north took us to the town of Rhayader and then up into the Elan Valley.  The rain was waiting for us that morning but by the end of the day it was warm, dry and sunny.  We saw red kites flying around here their mewling cry is quite distinctive.

We had lunch at the Elan Valley visitor centre where there are displays and exhibitions about the building of the reservoirs and dams by the then Birmingham Corporation and the lost village and valley of Nantgwyllt.

Afterwards we visited Rhyader museum which was an interesting mix of modern, interative displays and local and social history displays.  The staff here were very friendly and helpful  Above you can see my friends P & S watching one of the video displays in the main art gallery.

I loved the way the designers of this fairly new museum had set old photos in the glass squares going up the staircase to the top floor.

We also visited the picture post card village of Pembridge with is long street of timber framed buildings and church with a separate bell tower.

This was a village we intend to return to to explore some more as there were some wonderful old buildings and a grade 2 listed 16th century open market hall just down from the church.

 We had stopped at the village looking for an evening meal.  It was about 5.45pm. and just at that time when cafes and tea shops have closed and the pubs and restaurants don't start serving food until 7p.m. so we moved on to Leominster where we found a wonderful Italian pizzeria and enjoyed freshly made pizza and salad.

We also paid a visit to Hereford where we saw the Mappa Mundi and the old chained library as well as the interior of the cathedral.   We couldn't take photos in the exhibition area and could only take photos for personal use, for a fee, inside the cathedral so I didn't take any photos inside.

We also visited the old house museum in the centre of the city.  Again no photos of the inside but I found it quite fascinating.  Built in 1621 it started life as a butcher's shop and just before it was turned into a Museum in 1929 it was a Lloyds bank.  In front you can see a life sized bronze statue of a Hereford bull.

 No photos again inside the main Museum which is above the library in the centre of the city in this wonderful 'Venetian Gothic' style Victorian building designed in the 1870s by local architect Frederick  Robertson  Kempson.  There were some wonderful displays in here and we spent ages looking around.

 On the way back we called into Ludlow and also went to look at the Ludlow Food Centre just on the outskirts of the town.  There was some wonderful produce but it was very expensive.  I could imagine buying biscuits or jars of preserves or bottles of fruit juices as presents though.

We had afternoon tea at the Carding Mill valley tea shop and had a little wander to stretch our legs but we didn't have time for a proper walk as we were headed for Shrewsbury and then towards home.  This is another place we want to return to at a later date to do one the several walks in the area.

 I thought it was beautiful with its views of both the Shropshire and Welsh hills, including parts of the famous Long Mynd.

The tea shop and gift shop was very busy with both walkers and families out enjoying themselves and taking advantage of the warm weather.   We were only away from home for four days but it seemed far more as we came back as refreshed as if we had been away for much longer.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's Back!

Of course, I mean the rain, it came down in bucket loads yesterday afternoon.  Swirling around outside as we, and the cats, sat watching inside.

We knew it was coming so I rushed out and gathered as many roses as I could off the bush.  I couldn't bear to think of all the lovely scented blooms being dashed by the wind and rain.

I now have them in jugs around the house.  I know they won't last much more in here but we will enjoy them for a while longer than we might otherwise have done.

Meanwhile there is activity at last in the greenhouse!  We have waited so long this year to see a ripe tomato.  The sunshine and warmer weather over the last few days have done the trick and we have a few tomatoes off the vines and ripening on the kitchen window sill.

There are many more tomatoes in the greenhouse getting a little less green every day.

Alongside them are aubergines

with their pretty mauve flowers

and courgettes with their edible yellow ones.

Tomatoes, courgettes and aubergines all that is needed now is a red pepper and an onion and we can make ratatouille.  This dish always reminds me of France and french holidays where we would visit the local market early in the morning to buy produce for the day's meals.  The other day I bought a punnet of french apricots because nothing reminds me more of France than the warm blush of the skin of the apricots, as I look at them I can feel the heat of the sun on my back, evoke the smells and sounds of the busy market and feel the cool of the narrow back streets of the town under the eaves of the ancient buildings.

The rest of the day would be spent back at the house we were staying in, shutters closed until early evening when we would go for a walk and then eat outside under the fruit trees with little bats flitting overhead, trying not to tread on the huge slip-slithery snails that gathered around the front door  each evening as we carried trays of food outside.  Sitting, food and wine consumed, blissfully watching as darkness fell over the maize fields and the heat of the day gradually disappeared.

I'm off to Wales next week so I won't be around for a while!
Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, August 13, 2012

To the Lighthouse

Saturday found us driving towards Lincolnshire to pick up a dear friend and take her to a place she had always wanted to visit.  It was somewhere we wanted to visit too.  The A50 took us through Derbyshire into Nottinghamshire where from Kegworth we travelled into Leicestershire through Melton Mowbray and out towards Spalding.  After we had collected our friend we travelled into the village of Gedney, where we had lunch at the Chestnuts farm shop and then out towards the Wash, through Long Sutton and over the bridge at Sutton Bridge.

We turned left and followed the narrow road down the east side of the River Nene until we came to the place we were aiming for, we came to the lighthouse!

Not just any lighthouse for this one is special as it was the home of the famous artist and naturalist Sir Peter Scott.

The lighthouse is now owned by Doug and Sue Hilton of the Snowgoose Wildlife Trust.  They  bought the property about two years ago and open it up to visitors at weekends in August.  This is the second year of the openings and this time visitors are allowed to go up to the lantern room at the top.

At this point I'll admit that the photos above and below aren't mine as I didn't dare scale the narrow ladders to get up there.  

The view from the top was amazing as you can see from the photo below which shows the first stretch of the Sir Peter Scott Walk and which I'll mention again later.

Paul ventured up to the top whilst I stayed downstairs with Marcia.  The owners came to talk to her as they were fascinated to hear her memories of the area and the fact that her elder brother had, many years ago, done some work at the lighthouse during Sir Peter Scott's time there.  We had e-mailed in advance of our visit as our friend is now 87 and quite frail and needs help walking.  We were allowed to drive right up to the building and we were welcomed in such a friendly, attentive way.

Later on whilst we were inside the lighthouse we were privileged to be invited to go through the barrier into the studio with its huge windows overlooking the river on one side and the pools on the other where many geese and other wildfowl were gathered.  This is where Peter Scott used to work.   The downstairs rooms consisted of studio, a dining room, small private kitchen and a bedroom.  On the next floor is the original living room before the studio was built.  Up above that was the original bedroom and right at the top is the lantern room.

I took the photo above from the studio window.  It shows two people on the Sir Peter Scott Walk which starts at the car park near the lighthouse and goes along the sea banks all the way to the River Great Ouse ferry which you can use to cross the river to the town of Kings Lynn.  There is, we were told, by one of the other visitors to the lighthouse, a halfway point at Ongar Hill but you have to be wary of the tides.  Here is a - link - to the walk details.

Down in the basement is where 'Samphire Charlie' lived with his little dog.  He was there when Peter Scott first came to the lighthouse in 1933 and he made his living gathering the samphire which grows on the shores of the wash from June to September.  Later the basement was used by Mackenzie Thorpe, a notorious wildfowler, whose paintings can be seen on the mantle piece in the photo above.  Whilst we were visiting at least two lots of people had come to talk to the owners about their memories of the rogue 'Kenzie' also known as the 'wild goose man.'

Above is the bell on the outside of the basement door.  Was it used to summon 'Samphire Charlie' or Kenzie Thorpe, I wonder?  On the opposite west bank of the Nene is an almost, but not quite, mirror image of the east bank lighthouse.  This one is in private hands.

The owners and the Trust are gradually restoring the lighthouse and the area around it and hope to build a visitor centre and museum nearby.  Here is a - link - to an article from the local newspaper which explains all about their mission.  They want to interpret the area and the life and work of  wildfowler turned conservationist Sir Peter Scott which will also include sections on the people of influence in his life including his famous father, Robert Falcon Scott the antarctic explorer and his mother the sculptor Kathleen Bruce  .  His friend Paul Gallico who wrote the novel 'The Snow Goose'  his first wife novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard and his second wife Phillipa Talbot-Ponsonby and, of course, Kenzie the  'Wild Goose Man'.

We had a lovely afternoon at the lighthouse, the weather was, again, perfect and the smile that lit up our friend's face made the long journey there and back worthwhile.

Friday, August 10, 2012


This morning was one of those perfect mornings!  I was up quite early when there was still a slight haziness in the air and the grass was damp with dew.  Doors and windows were flung open and the first cuppa of the day consumed whilst sitting watching the birds fluttering on the feeders and the squirrels prancing around on the grass and the occasional neighbourhood cat passing by following the fox run under the hedges and across the gardens.  Some stopping a while to peer at the strange woman in a dressing gown, sitting on the seat and sipping from a mug.

As we were early birds we decided to walk around the lake at Trentham before it got too hot and too busy.  I was taken by some of the reflections to be seen across the lake and under the trees.  Here are a few of the images I captured on my small camera - I didn't take my larger one with me - but I always have the small one in my bag.

 The lake was so still

 The lighting was just right

 There wasn't even the smallest breeze

 To disrupt the shapes of the reflections

 We walked around the lake

 and around the edge of the formal gardens before it was time to leave.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

In the Pink.....I think!

On the first day of August I thought I would have a walk around the garden, camera in hand to see what I could find. 

There is always a squirrel about pinching the bird food.  There are bees about too,  but I've hardly seen any butterflies this year.  I seem to remember saying that this time last year so that is quite worrying.

I was glad to see the sweetpeas flowering at last of all the seeds we potted up only six little plants survived and those were planted around a support which we had to tie to the outside tap so the fragile plants that came out wouldn't blow over in the wind.  I'd given up hope of them flowering but in last week's sunshine out they came.  They were supposed to be a mixed variety but only the pink ones grown have flowered

At the moment  the garden is in  what I call its 'pink' season as most of the flowers and plants are variations of that colour.

Japanese Anemones

I don't know what variety this rose is, it was in the garden when we came here  fifteen years ago.
New hydrangeas for the front garden

Poppies - self-seeded!  Poppy is an apt name as they pop up anywhere and everywhere in the garden.

Spiraea Billiardii - the pink fluffy plant.  We put this shrub in the garden about 10 years ago and it has grown and overtaken a large area of garden.  It is going to get a serious pruning this year.

The news of the arrival of - Legionnaires Disease - in our area of the city has been quite worrying this last couple of weeks.  We waited quite a while to see if the source of the infection could be found.  It was reported just a couple of days ago that it was probably from a hot tub at the Fenton branch of  JTF Warehouse.   The report also said that the tub was closed down and taken out of the store on Tuesday 24th July which was the very day we went in there to buy some gardening gloves!  We hadn't been in there since before Christmas but decided on a whim to just pop in to have a look.  What I would like to know is at what time on the 24th of July was the tub switched off ?  Was it before or after noon which was about the time we went in there?  I would also like to know how long the bacteria stays in the atmosphere after the source has been disinfected/removed?  I must admit that I didn't see a hot tub as we went straight to the gardening section, then the pet section and then to the checkout so it probably had already been taken away.  The lady in the report I've linked to actually sat near it and it sounds as if she was very ill indeed.  I do hope all those affected by this dreadful disease get well soon.