Friday, November 29, 2013

A short time in a favourite city

On Wednesday we drove over to Nottingham to visit friends for lunch and to spend time together catching up on what we'd all being doing since we last met earlier this year.  We managed for once to get up early so we had time to have a walk around the city centre looking at some of my favourite places.  Places we used to visit when I was a child and also places I used to go when I lived and worked in the city.

We wandered up Exchange Walk to the Old Market Square or Slab Square  where there was a continental style Christmas market. The clock on the Council House was chiming the hour of ten - it was a sound that brought back so many memories because I used to work not far away on Wheeler Gate and could hear it every hour of the working day. I had to take a photo of one of the lions as these are one of my earliest memories of being in Nottingham with my Mum, Aunt and cousins.  I still remember a dream I had as a child where one of the lions got up and chased me!  The trams weren't there then but I do remember being on a trolley bus with my cousins on our way to lunch at Woolworth - those were the days!

We walked up Smithy Row and into the Exchange which is now a rather high class shopping arcade it is always beautifully decorated at Christmas time

and into one of my favourite shopping streets Bridlesmith Gate.  There are some lovely shops along here but my favourite is The Tokenhouse and I can't ever pass by I just have to have a good look around.

 Just around the corner on Low Pavement is a new Jamie Oliver restaurant 

 and next door to that is the lovely Georgian building, known as Willougby House, formerly a solicitor's office but now the shop of local designer Paul Smith.

We then walked back down to Wheelergate  I noticed that the building I used to work in is now a Sainsbury's Local.  We turned into Friar Lane passing by a building that I'm convinced used to be a small department store called Toby's - I'm sure I remember going inside and seeing a huge selection of toby jugs.    We crossed Maid Marion Way and walked up to the castle entrance.

No time to go inside or into the Brewhouse Yard Museum which is just around the corner.  We wandered along the old walls of the castle.

The mid 14th century Severns building below used to house a shop and display about the history of Nottingham Lace.  It is closed now.  I wonder what will happen to the building?  It has been dismantled and moved once before in 1970 during the building of the Broad Marsh Shopping Centre.

 'Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem' below is a well known landmark and said to be one of the oldest inns in the country as the building dates from the late 12th century.  It is said to have been built in 1189 during the first year of the reign of Richard I, the Lionheart. 

Behind the 'trip' is the Museum of Nottinghamshire Life in Brewhouse Yard
It is years since I visited this Museum and would like to visit again soon.
You can just see the castle on its mound behind the museum building.

It was time to return to the car which we did by walking along Castle Boulevard passing the old Labour Exchange, now a christian life church, on the way.

I loved the reflection of the buildings on Castle Boulevard in the glass of the Evening Post building below.

Monday, November 25, 2013

52 Weeks of Happy - Week 47

I can't believe a week has gone by since my last post.  I had intended to write a post in between the '52 weeks of happy' ones but the photos I took for the blog post I'd planned didn't turn out so well and the features of the building I'd intended to write about were distorted by the bright sunlight and heavy shadows.  I will go back and take photos again in the not too distant future as it isn't very far away.  So, here are four of the things that have made me smile this week............

1. Snowfall - we woke up to snow on Tuesday morning.  I don't mind snow if I'm staying in but the happiness I felt about this downfall was really that it didn't last;  by late afternoon it had all gone.  It was one of the first signs of winter though and the temperature has got noticeably cooler over the last few days.  Fortunately that has brought about my second happy!

2. Garden Birds - the colder weather has brought them back to the garden to feed.  I counted twelve goldfinch in one visit to the feeders.  The thrush has returned as have the tits and chaffinches.  It's lovely to see them back.

3.  Blue skies and sunshine - the sun glints on the 'Burslem Angel' a weather vane which sits on top of the town hall in the centre of the town. Although always referred to as the Angel it is in fact, Nike, the goddess of victory, placed there when the Town Hall was built in the 1850s to represent Civic Victory. Some people think that this is where Robbie Williams got his inspiration for his song Angels, others say 'not so'.  He did grow up just down the road from the statue though and it would have been a familiar sight.

The parish church of St James the Less in Longton looking good in the sunshine when we walked by last week.

4. Cats - happy, cosy cats.  Two of them ours one of them I think would like to be.  I keep finding Casper on the table in the conservatory.  He makes me smile as he is such a sweet cat but he does have a lovely home to go to so I'm afraid he gets put outside again!

Linking up with  Little Birdie  where  '52 weeks of Happy' started. Each week you find just four things that have made you happy to share.

Monday, November 18, 2013

52 Weeks of Happy - Week 46

It's 'happies' time again, week forty six already!  How the weeks fly!  Here goes with my four happy things for the last week.  The following four plus a new series of Borgen on TV are some of the things that have made me smile recently.

1.  Cake and Pudding  - for that seasonal event coming shortly!! The cake was made a couple of weeks ago and this is its second 'feed' of brandy. It smells so rich and spicy.  The pudding too has been stirred, steamed and stored.

 2. Lapwing - on the edge of Carsington Water.  it wandered around for ages whilst we took photos.  I love its colours and the tufts on its head. Lapwings or peewits as we used to call them as children in the small Derbyshire village I grew up in have been designated 'red status' by the RSPB as their populations are declining.  We saw a small group of them from the Wildlife Centre at Carsington.  Apparently a group of Lapwings is known as a deceit.  This possibly derives from the fact that at nesting time the lapwings, whilst guarding their vulnerable young, will feign injury themselves to divert the hunter or predator into taking them instead of their young.   It could also be from the words of Geoffrey Chaucer who wrote 'false lapwynge full of treacherye'  in his poem The Assembly of Fowls.

3.  Stag - hiding in the long grass across the River Trent from the lakeside at Trentham, he looked quite ethereal in the pale grass and morning mist.  Seeing him made me smile as I remembered years ago, when I lived in lodgings at Wollaton in Nottingham, I was with some friends walking back in thick fog from an evening out, we heard a snort and looked up to see antlers and flaring nostrils - we thought we'd come face to face with the devil himself - but it was a stag from the herd at Wollaton Hall staring at us through the railings, he ran off - just as startled by our presence as we were by his.

4. Reading - two really good books from the library to read in the evenings when there's nothing much to watch on television and two lovely magazines to flick through with my morning coffee.  I don't usually read two books at the same time as my elderly brain can confuse the stories but as one is fiction and one non-fiction I really can't conflate the two.   

 Linking up with  Little Birdie  where  '52 weeks of Happy' started. Each week you find just four things that have made you happy to share.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Croxden Abbey in the Afternoon

On the way back from our visit to Sudbury last Saturday we diverted from the road home to visit Croxden Abbey.  It is a few years since we last visited, and I wrote a post at the time, but it was nice to visit again and to take advantage of the afternoon sunshine, although it did make for some difficulties in taking photos as the sun, low in the sky, cast long shadows across the ruins.

The abbey was founded around 1179 by Bertam de Verdun, Lord of Alton for the Cistercian order of 'white monks' who came from Normandy in France. Quite a lot of it still stands including the imposing remains of the 13th century church, infirmary and abbot's lodgings.

The Monks who lived here observed the strict rule of St Benedict. They also bred sheep and made a good income from wool production.  They tried also to be self-sufficient and there would have been a mill and fish ponds in the grounds of the abbey.

The monks lived in peace with their surroundings for 350 years until the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII.

When the Abbey was in it's infancy the community of monks were French but the first Abbot, Thomas of Woodstock, was an English man

The Abbey flourished in the 13th century and supported as many as seventy monks but during the 14th century this community suffered and was depleted by successive crop failures, cattle disease and the plague.

 When the Abbey was finally closed in September 1538 there were still 12 monks and an Abbot living there, probably the same number of residents as in it's first years.

Bertam de Verdun founded the Abbey for the purpose of the salvation of the souls of himself, his wife, his mother and other family members. The plan for the Abbey was based on that of the 'mother-house' at Aunay-sur-Odon. Many of the 13th Century additions were instigated by Abbot Walter of London.

The stone coffins that can be seen near the remains of the high altar are the tombs of the founding family and other benefactors.

The road through the small hamlet of Croxden passes through the middle of the ruins which are on private farm land but administered by English Heritage.

Monday, November 11, 2013

52 Weeks of Happy - Week 45

Time for those 'happies' again, how the weeks are flying by now! Here are four things that have made me smile during the last week

1.  A Walk from Baslow  - On Wednesday we went over to Chesterfield to visit my sister. We decided to have a walk on the Chatsworth Estate at nearby Baslow.  The weather was damp and drizzly but the autumn colours in the trees were wonderful.

2.  The Yards - The yards is an area of narrow passageways and individual shops and cafes in the centre of the town of Chesterfield.  Up high along the walls are sculptures of gloved hands holding a variety of different objects relating to the businesses nearby.  The reason for the gloved hand is because of one of the former trades of glove making which took place in the Yards during the 18th and 19th centuries when it was full of cottages,workshops and outhouses.

3.  A visit to Sudbury -  Saturday was such a lovely morning that we decide to go to Sudbury and walk in the grounds of the Hall.  We didn't go in the Hall this time as we'd  visited last December for the Regency Christmas (post here) so this time we went into the Museum of Childhood which has changed quite a lot since our last visit. 

4.  Wall Art - I was fascinated with the paintings and decoration on some of the walls in the Museum of Childhood.  I particularly liked the mouse pictures - I think they were depicting five differing ages of life, unfortunately a couple of them were behind a display case so I couldn't photograph them all.

Linking up with  Little Birdie  where  '52 weeks of Happy' started. Each week you find just four things that have made you happy to share.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

From Westport through Longport to Middleport (and back!)

What to do on a lovely sunny morning when you don't want to travel too far but don't want to stay indoors either was the question on our lips this morning - the answer was a visit to and a walk around the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's reserve at Westport Lake.

After a stroll around the lake accompanied on occasion by noisy swans, honking geese and loads of plump coots - has anyone noticed that there seems to be lots of coots around this season?  We've seen far more than usual and they are less timid too coming right up, along with the mallards to ask for food.

Lots of plump squirrels too, living off the bird food placed around the lakeside for the smaller birds.  The ones in our garden are particularly well fed at the moment!

After coffee in the visitor centre and the purchase of some Christmas cards we walked along the canal towpath towards Longport.

Familiar sights in this area and throughout the city - bottle ovens (kilns), canals and narrow boats all harking back to the early days of the pottery industry when the kilns were fired each week and the pots distributed on the canal network.

We passed Longport Wharf

Then we passed the modern Steelite factory where pottery is manufactured mostly for the catering and hotel trade.  I would say that if you look at the bottom of a cup or saucer in a cafe or restaurant (as people from Stoke-on-Trent do) more often than not you will see the names Steelite or Dudson who along with Portmeirion and Bridgewater are the most successful potteries in this area at the moment.

We were headed though for a much older factory just a little further along the canal at Middleport. I've taken you here before but I'm sure you won't mind returning for a short while.

As you can see the sun was low in the sky making the taking of photos quite difficult so I apologise for the sometimes hazy quality of them.  Middleport Pottery is undergoing a huge regeneration programme at the moment and much restoration is taking place both inside and outside of this magnificent Victorian factory.

The factory shop is still open and I just love it inside here.

 Dressers and tables groaning with the most beautiful wares
and chintz patterns.

I think the blue Burleigh Pottery is the most famous 

 They do it in pink as well but I've always admired the blue.  Below are jugs in the iconic Blue Calico pattern.

We did make a few small purchases from the bargain baskets (who could resist?) but I won't say what they are as they will probably end up being presents.

Not only is the factory undergoing a regeneration with the help of The Prince's Regeneration Trust - the row of old factory workers' houses opposite the factory on Port Street also looked as if they had been refurbished and were looking very smart.  A new visitor and education centre is due to open at the factory next year. 

It was time to walk back along the towpath to Westport Lake just under a mile in distance and such a lot to see along the way.