Friday, July 31, 2009

A Simple Book Tag

I've been tagged by Michela at Little Secrets from my Garden to do a book tag. What I have to do is:-

1. Pick up a book that is nearby

this wasn't hard as there is a box of books right next to the desk at the moment because we have cleared the upstairs bookcase and boxed up all the books whilst we are decorating; all I had to do was lift up a pair of curtains, a bedside lamp and a couple of poster rolls and fish out the first book I came to - it just happened to the this one:-

Colette - Looking Backwards - Recollections
translated by David Le Vay published by The Women's Press 1987

2. The next step is to turn to page 161
3. Count down to the 5th complete sentence
4. Then place the sentence on here:-

'If the petals, fallen at the foot of the trees, form an even carpet, there is a good chance of fruit and the Normandy landowners, when the orchards cease flowering, never fail to go to see if their apple trees have 'snowed' in a good circle round the trunks.'

The book is a collection of Colette's memories of her childhood, her escape from Paris in June 1940 and her recollections of occupied France - as the 'blurb' on the back of the book tells us it is:-

'a moving reflection of war, resistance and courage by one of the great creative writers of the century'

5. Then I have pass it on to 5 other bloggers.

I know quite a few of you who visit me and leave such lovely comments are book lovers so I'm not tagging anyone in particular I'm going to leave this one with you to take away and have a go if you want to.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Morning walk around an Historic Town

It seemed ages since we were last in Nantwich, a lovely town just a few miles away from where we live famous for its many timber framed buildings; so yesterday, as at last the sun was out but the garden still too wet to work in, we decided to have a morning out.

The town itself is full of lovely buildings everywhere you look so I though I'd take my camera along and share some of them with you. The house below is Churches Mansion and it is now just off a roundabout as you enter the town from the east side. I had to wait ages to get a photo without cars whizzing around the roundabout but patience finally paid off.

It was built in 1577 and is one of the town's oldest buildings, having survived the great fire of Nantwich which destroyed many of the town's buildings in December1583. The builder, a rich merchant called Richarde Churche, employed local master carpenter Thomas Cleese to work on his new mansion. Thomas Cleese also worked on nearby Little Moreton Hall. According to the plaque outside the mansion the building used to be moated.

Another building to survive the fire is Sweet Briar Hall which can be found just a little further along Hospital Street this was built at the end of the 15th century and the octagonal bay added in the early 16th century; according to local records the fire claimed the building next to it and stopped before it reached the Hall. During the 18th century it was the home of noted chemist and minister of the local Unitarian church, Joseph Priestley who, with other scientific and industrial luminaries of the age like Matthew Boulton, James Watt, Josiah Wedgwood and Erasmus Darwin was a member of The Lunar Society.

I said in a recent post that I would love to own a bookshop with a cafe attached. Well, how about this one? The Nantwich Bookshop, housed in a building erected after the fire in 1584, is a wonderful place and last time we were there the cafe was up on the first floor but this time it had spread outside onto the pavement. I guess they needed more space as there was always a queue for tables inside. The outside cafe added to the great atmosphere as across the market square was the local farmer's market.

There was some wonderful local produce for sale, fruit and veg, meat, bread and cakes, cheese, pies and herbs and spices. It was a joy to walk through and gaze at all the wonderful goodies on offer but we were soon off to find more buildings.

We walked down past the Crown Hotel built in 1588 just after the fire, and peered into the Crown Mews before heading off across the River to one of my favourite streets in the town.

Welsh Row is across the River Weaver and was, before the by-pass was built, the main road through the town towards Chester. We walked up the Row as far as the viaduct which carries the Shropshire Union Canal across the road.

Here are a few of the lovely houses I photographed along the Row

We reached the top of Welsh Row and climbed up the steps to the canal; below are some of the modern houses built in the last few years at the top of the row near the canal.

We walked back towards the town - it was time for refreshment so we went into Curshaws Hotel (below) and had coffee and toasted tea cakes sitting in their outside courtyard at the back of the building near the mews appartments that make up the modern part of the hotel. This building was until recently called The Cheshire Cat and way before that was known as the Widow's Almshouses converted in 1676 into cottages to house six poor widows of the town.

We headed back into town and visited St Mary's Church. We could still get inside even though the outside was shrouded in scaffolding and tarpaulin. The interior is very impressive and the volunteer guides were very friendly and informative. Then we walked along Pillory Street to the Museum which is housed in the old Free Library building next to the modern Cocoa Yard, built on the site of the Cocoa House started in the 19th century by the Temperence movement.

The Museum is dedicated to the history of the town and its growth from Roman times as a salt manufacturing area. There are some interesting displays including one on the Salt Ship discovered during an excavation on Welsh Row in 2004 on the site of a medieval salt works. It was hollowed out from an oak tree and isn't a sailing vessel but one for storing brine before it was boiled to produce salt. There was a small display about John Gerard the 16th century herbalist who was born in Nantwich and there were, of course, displays on the great fire of 1583 and also of Nantwich's role during the English Civil War- the town stood alone within Cheshire in support of the Parliamentary cause and their army took the town in 1643 and withstood the Royalist sieges until in January 1644, they were rescued by General Sir Thomas Fairfax. This great Parliamentarian victory is celebrated in the town every year on the nearest Saturday to 25th January - called Holly Holy Day because the relieved people of the town wore springs of holly in their hats to celebrate.

Above are some more scenes around the town

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another Lovely Garden

A few weeks ago we visited another lovely garden, open on this particular day for the NGS or 'yellow book days' as we call them. We had travelled over towards Chesterfield to visit my sister and brother-in-law and luckily we were able to visit the garden at Fanshawe Gate Hall which is only about 10 minutes away, by car, from where they live.

The gardens have been created around a Tudor house although some parts are thought to be a lot older like the wonderful Dovecot above which has been restored over the last few years.

This is a side gate to the main drive - the steps beyound lead to the wildlife pond and the old English orchard.

This is the main drive up to the Old Hall, the cottage at the entrance to the gardens was once part of the main building of the hall, here the teas were served close to the Knot Garden.

The Knot Garden

I thought this border of ferns and hostas was particularly striking, my photo doesn't do it justice I'm afraid.

According to our little map these areas are called the hall borders, they are very pretty with cottage garden flowers against the old stone of the hall.

Above is the wildlife pond and beyond the orchard - here I met a very friendly spaniel who wanted to play 'fetch' - and I obliged for a while.

We thought that this was a Medlar tree - I meant to ask when we went for our refreshments but the ladies were so busy at the time and then I forgot to ask at the plant stall.

This is the back of the cottage; here there was a sitting room which visitors were allowed into - we stayed just long enough to sign the visitor's book. There was also an interesting display inside the dovecot.

This is the plant stall at the side of the old tithe barn which we visited on our way back to the car.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunshine on a Rainy Day

The sunflowers bring a little bit of sushine on a day that is more like Autumn than Summer.

The laundry is drying inside, warmer clothes have been fished out of drawers and warming onion soup has been made for lunch; this evening the heating has been switched on. It seems ages, although only a few days, since we were walking on Crosby Beach in the sunshine.
Where has Summer gone?

(Edit 20/7/09 - I've just realised that I made it sound as if our heating had been switched on indefinitely when it was really just for an hour to take off the chill caused by the rain and to dry out wet clothes etc. This morning the sun is shining again with only the wet garden to give any clues as to yesterday's deluge.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

To 'Another Place' and Beyond

We've been up to the Lancashire coast and yesterday we visited Crosby beach where we found this fellow

Just one of the statues which make up the wonderful art installation that is Anthony Gormley's 'Another Place'.

There are 100 figures spread out across the beach some gazing straight out to sea, others gazing across to land in the distance.

We walked and gazed at the statues, the wind turbines and the passing ferries, no doubt bound for Ireland or the Isle of Man. We had the beach pretty much to ourselves at the start of the morning but as we returned from our long walk it was filling with coach loads of visitors all there to find 'Another Place'.

You can only walk up to one or two of the statues nearest the promenade as the sand around the ones further out was wet and quaked underfoot and going any closer would have been dangerous as you can see from the photo below.

In the afternoon we visited one of our favourite beaches - Ainsdale Sands. Here you can take the car onto the beach and drive until you find a suitable parking spot. We sat at the edge of the dunes and ate our lunch, the seagulls were waiting to see if there were any leftovers.

No statues to see here, just people walking dogs, flying kites, metal detecting and windsurfing

Although it was warm there was a strong wind

There were masses of razor shells in clusters all over the sand

and the odd jellyfish or two

This morning I was outside cleaning the mud and sand from Crosby beach off my walking boots when a flock of gulls passed over head - quite unusual for an inland midlands town - their mournful cry, plus the sand sprinkling from my boots, reminded of yesterday's adventure, of the smell of the sea, the salty air and the warm sun on our backs as we strolled across the sand.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Time for Summer Pudding

One of my favourite puddings is Summer Pudding, I try to make one every year. We bought some strawberries and raspberries yesterday so those, plus some cherries we already had and some blackcurrants from our garden have gone into the pudding. Try as I may I can never quite get my puddings to look like the one from my recipe book below but they always taste wonderful.

You need about 11/2 (one and a half) pounds of mixed summer fruit - try to have more red fruit than blue or black as it keeps the lovely berry red colour

Hull the strawberries and raspberries, trim the blackcurrants and stone the cherries and place them in a pan with 4oz caster sugar, the sugar will disolve and the fruit juices run; bring to the boil and keep boiling for about 3 minutes

Meanwhile take about 8 slices of bread and line a 1 1/2 pint pudding basin with the bread pieces

Make sure you overlap and fill in all the gaps. Then, reserving about 4 tablespoons of juice, place the fruit and the rest of the juice in the basin, cover the top with more bread. Place a plate on top so that it fits inside the rim of the basin and weight it down so that the juice soaks into the bread. When cool place in the fridge and leave overnight. If you find some areas of bread haven't soaked through then use the reserved juice to soak into those areas.

Serve with cream, ice cream, creme fraiche or greek yoghurt - Summer on a plate.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Borrowed Tag Questionaire

I've borrowed this tag from Rowan's blog Circle of the Year as it seemed like an interesting one to do, so here goes:-

What is your current obsession?

I don’t have obsessions as such but I can get involved to the exclusion of everything else when I’m on the trail of an ancestor.

What is your weirdest obsession?

How can you define weird? The word has altered meaning in the last few years, now, to some people, things that seem ordinary, acceptable or just different to me are labelled 'weird'. So perhaps some people would find delving into the past (as above) weird to others it might mean following ‘Dr Who’, keeping snakes or bog snorkling - so I can’t really answer this.

What are you wearing today?

Long black denim skirt, cream stripy top and soft cream suede shoes.

What’s for dinner?
Three bean, tuna and black olive salad with crusty French bread

What would you eat for your last meal?

If I knew it was my last meal I probably wouldn’t be able to eat it!

What’s the last thing you bought?

A pretty little bag from a museum craft stall for £1 - I've carried it nearly every day since I bought it!

What are you listening to right now?.
Nothing much everything is silent except for the occasional sound of birdsong through the open window - I heard a cat sneeze earlier!

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?

Near the sea

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?

There are so many places I long to see and many I long to return to but for just an hour I’d like to be walking along a beach somewhere, anywhere!

Where is your favourite holiday destination?


Which language do you want to learn?

It would be nice to be able to read a bit of Latin to transcribe old documents more easily. We did Latin at school for the first two years I was there then it was dropped in favour of Spanish or German - French was compulsory at that time. All I can remember is 'amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant' and the school motto 'Ab honesto virum bonum nihil deterret' - which means something like 'nothing deters an honest man from doing what is right'.

What’s your favourite quote (for now)?

By shallow rivers to whose falls melodious birds sing madrigals

I read this earlier this year on a tin glazed earthenware pot by Lawrence McGowan at the Potteries Museum in Hanley – I liked it so much I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it.

What is your favourite colour?


What is your favourite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe?

An old black jacket I bought in 1996 at a Richards shop in Wilmslow

What is your dream job?.

I’d love to own a bookshop with a small coffee shop attached.

Describe your personal style?
Hmm – hard one – I do like everything to match but not be too formal for example a classic jacket with jeans and boots or a long wool coat with boots - in the summer I live in longish skirts, t shirts and sandals.

What’s your favourite tree?
Horse Chestnut because they look so gorgeous in Spring and early Summer with their spectacular huge flowers and in Autumn they give us shiny brown conkers.

What are you going to do after this?

Start to prepare the dinner – see above

What’s your favourite fruit?

Ripe Victoria plums - straight off the tree

What inspires you?

Wonderful writing and beautiful places!

Your favourite books?

Loads but these ones are always on my list - The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim , A Month in the Country by J L Carr, Mrs Dalloway by Virginnia Woolf, North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell

What are you currently reading?
Grey Souls by Philippe Claudel - a murder mystery with a twist - set in France during WW1 and The Wonderful Weekend Book by Elspeth Thompson - I've gleaned some wonderful ideas from this book including the recipe for tonights meal (see above). I’ve just finished Stratton’s War by Laura Wilson a murder mystery set in London during the second world war. Next on my TBR pile is 'The Unbearable Lightness of Scones' by Alexander McCall Smith.

Go to your bookshelf, take down the first book with a red spine you see, turn to page 26 and type out the first line:

‘Swish, Swish, Swish went her long skirt over the grass verges, but every time they crossed the road she would relinquish Laura’s hand to gather it up from the dust , thus revealing to the child’s delighted gaze a frilly purple petticoat.’

From The Illustrated Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson

What delighted you the most today?

The booking of a holiday in the New Forest later this year we are going with my sister and brother-in-law.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

Sitting in my cot, looking through the bars at my mother running towards me along the landing, the light over the stairs behind her head. This was in our house in Leicester – my first home – demolished years ago to build the hospital car park.

'What is your all time favourite film?

To echo my choice of books – Enchanted April and A Month in the Country but also Amelie – I just love it.

I’m adding – what are you going to do tomorrow?
We are going into town to the building society to pay off our mortgage. We've tried for nearly two years to sell our house and downsize to get rid of it but couldn’t in this financial climate. We’ve really struggled over the last couple of years to pay the bills since Paul gave up his teaching job but now his lump sum from his teacher’s pension has come through, that, plus most of our remaining savings will pay it off – we’ll be broke but more secure – I hope!

The rules:
1. Respond and rework; answer the questions on your blog, replace one question you dislike with a question of your invention, add one more question of your own.
2. Tag eight other people.

I'm supposed to tag eight others but like Rowan am going to leave it up to you if you want to do it, if so feel free to take it with you.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Much Wenlock

As promised I'm taking you back to the 'Morville' visit and to the journey home. So, following on from Journey to Morville (parts 1 and 2) and At Morville (parts 1 and 2) here is The Journey Home.

With the wall painting poem about bell-ringing fines still in our minds we left the church and returned to our car and leaving the gardens and church behind, we set out towards Much Wenlock. It was a warm afternoon and children were wandering home from school along the narrow streets as we parked and walked down the high street. We'd been here before - a few years ago - to visit the Priory. This time we had a good look around the little museum in the old market hall which had been closed the last time we were there. It was an interesting museum of local history and geology with displays dedicted to Dr William Penny Brooks whose life long interest in heath and physical education led him, in 1850, to start the Wenlock Olympian Games and they are still held every year - this year from 10th -13th July.

Here are some photos taken along the High Street and Wilmore Street

Above is Reynalds Mansion - the 17th century frontage was added in 1682 - behind it is a medieval hall - I'd love to see inside.

The 16th century Guildhall was built as a court house in 1540 after the dissolution of the Priory. A council chamber was added above it in 1577

Holy Trinity Church

One of the lovely cottages on the Bull Ring - the lane which leads down to the Priory ruins

A wall with the flower I now know is Valerian growing on it

I've put together a collage of photos we took when we visited the Priory in May 2003 so you can see what the ruins are like; they are maintained by English Heritage.

It was time to think about going home so we headed out of Much Wenlock on the Ironbridge road passing through the village giving us a quick glimpse of one of my favourite sights - the iron bridge - and then towards Telford, Market Drayton and home.

Below is a photo I took of the bridge in July 2007.