Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Historic Capital of Mercia

After our walk at Staunton Harold we drove through several villages all associated with ancestors on my father's side of the family.  Villages like Ingleby and Foremark where the Edwards family can be found in the parish registers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and only the earliest census returns before they moved to the larger towns of Swadlincote, Church Gresley and Newhall to work in the coal and pottery industries.  Our goal was the village of Repton which was one of the most important centres for the rulers of the ancient Kingdom of Mercia.

High Street, Repton
The village dates back to Anglo Saxon times and it was here in c.653 that Christianity was first preached in the midlands when four monks were sent from The Kingdom of Northumbria to convert the royal family of Mercia.
Tudor Houses on the High Street
Soon after an Abbey was founded in Repton, known as a double abbey because it accepted both men and women to follow their Christian beliefs - interestingly it was ruled by an abbess not an abbott.

Ancient cross in the middle of High Street
Members of the Mercian royal family are buried in the Saxon crypt in the church notably Kings  Ethelbald and Wiglaf.  Wiglaf's grandson Wystan  was murdered c. 850 by his uncle.  Soon after miracles were attributed to Wystan and pilgrims came from all over to see his remains.  He was later accepted as a saint and the church was dedicated to him.

The Priory - now Repton School
In the Domesday Survey of 1086 Repton is known as Rapendune but by the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538 it is known as Repingdon.  Many of the priory buildings were demolished at this time but the priory guest house was left standing - this was bought by Sir John Port of Etwall who left money to set up a free school for boys there.  It is now a private school for both boys and girls.

Cottages on Willington Road
We had a lovely time walking around the village and around the churchyard  but it was time to move on and find some afternoon tea before travelling home.

St Wystan's Church

View of the school across the churchyard
I was intrigued by the stone below so took a photo of it to try and find out who C. B Fry was - we guessed he might be an 'old boy' of the school.

Memorial to Charles Burgess Fry

I soon found reference to him - he was a Polymath, sportsman, politician, diplomat, writer and teacher amongst other things.  He is best known as a cricketer and the commentator John Arlott described him as 'probably the most variously gifted Englishman of any age'  - here is a link to his Wikipedia page.  I was intrigued by the story that he could still, at the age of 70, perform his 'party piece' which was 'jumping backwards onto a mantelpiece from a standing position'

We drove towards Willington and stopped for afternoon tea and cake at the Mercia Marina - we first found this place  early in the summer when I'd being doing some family history research at Aston-on-Trent  (see my family history blog)  -  the tea room was very busy so we sat outside on the veranda and watched the boats bobbing up and down on the water - it was a very colourful sight.  For some reason - probably because I was enjoying my lemon slice and hot tea I didn't take any photos!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In the National Forest

Even though the day started with a ground frost so cold that I had to pour warm water over the wheelie bins so that I could open them and the frozen water in the bird bath had to be broken, by the time we reached our destination the sun was warm and casting so many shadows that even the reflections had reflections.

We packed a picnic of a flask of warm, homemade butternut squash soup and sun-dried tomato rolls and set out to visit Staunton Harold which is now in an area designated as The National Forest.  I love this view of the lovely cedar tree by the water in front of the Hall and church.  It is private now but I remember going in there years ago when it was a Sue Ryder home.

I love these two statues on the entrance gates (known as the Golden Gates) - a hound and a stag - they are the supporters of the Shirley family coat of arms.  .

The church belongs to the National Trust and is open for viewing in the afternoons.  I remember being shown around many years ago by an elderly lady dressed all in black - she was full of fascinating information.  The church was built in 1653 by Sir Robert Shirley in open defiance of Oliver Cromwell's puritan regime.  It is one of a very few churches built after the execution of Charles I in 1649 and before the restoration of Charles II in 1660.

The present house dates from the 1760s and 1770s and was built by the 5th Lord Ferrers.  It was the family home of the Shirley family for over 500 years.  During the second World War it was used to hold prisoners of war.  Sold in 1954 it became a Leonard Cheshire home and later a Sue Ryder hospice.  It is now in private hands.

The Stable Block  now houses the Ferrars Centre for Arts and Crafts and there are some lovely shops in the courtyard.

A lovely Deli - this wasn't there the last time we visited.

The Green Man Gallery

We went back to our car for lunch then set out on a walk into Bignalls Wood.

The light was so intense in the low winter sun I was struggling to take photos as I have great difficulty seeing anything at all in the strong sunshine.  

There were many different saplings and young trees in the plantation including these spruce trees.

The sky was so blue with lots of lovely cloud formations; crows cawed in the trees, kestrels hovered over open ground before swooping for prey and Ryanair planes passed quietly overhead on their way to and from East Midlands airport - leaving trails in the sky.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

At Tittesworth Reservoir

Sunday was a lovely day so we decided to head out towards Leek and then on to Tittesworth Reservoir which is run by the Severn Trent Water Authority.

We followed the path down to the waterside

Looking across the water towards the village of Meerbrook - you may remember I wrote a post a couple of years ago about the Meerbrook Scarecrow Festival; it's a lovely village.

The water was sparkling in the sun as we strolled by.  We returned to the main path and over the boardwalk to the other side of the country park.  From here you can see the Roaches glinting in the sun.  I know I've written about walking up there a couple of times before but recently they  have been in the news.

The Roaches are for sale!  The Peak District National Park authority are seeking partners to administer the estate they bought in 1980. The Staffordshire Moorlands District Council are against the sale and the Rambler's Association have urged the authority to put the public first as the Roaches are a very popular walking and climbing destination.  Possible candidates for partnership are The National Trust, the RSPB, the Wildlife Trust and the British Mountaineering Council.  The latest news from BBC Midlands Today is that several offers have been received.  I wonder who will buy into a partnership and how it will affect public access to the Roaches?  I rather hope things will stay as they are! 

Saturday, October 16, 2010


The weather this week has been wonderful;  warm enough to dry laundry outside and to give the lawns a much needed cut, with just the odd day like yesterday when the air was damp and the sky was grey.

Things Autumnal
I've also been looking after my neighbours' cat whilst they have been in Wales closing their caravan down for the winter.  They gave me a lovely bouquet of flowers to say thank you.

Pretty Flowers
We are off to the New Vic this weekend to see Northern Broadsides again,  this time the play is called 'The Game'.  It has had good reviews both locally and nationally so I'm really looking forward to it.  It is set in a Northern town in 1913, written by Harold Brighouse the author of the play Hobson's Choice and is about a family caught up in the  financial crisis at a local football club.  Sounds quite topical!

Usually there's not a lot to watch on TV on Saturday evenings other than the repeat of QI  but tonight there is a new historical drama on Chanel 4 which I 'm thinking about recording. The reason I'm only thinking about it is that I'm actually reading the book it is based on at the moment and I'm torn because if I start to watch the programme before I've finished the book I'll start to 'see' the characters in the book with the faces of the actors who are playing the parts on TV and I've already got pictures in my head of what the characters look like.  Does this bother you?  If you've read a book before seeing a film are you disappointed with the way it has been dramatised or with the actors playing your favourite characters?  Or if you read a book after seeing a film or TV drama do you  then see the actors as the characters in the book or can you separate the two?    I was so disappointed with a recent adaptation of one of Peter Robinson's books 'Aftermath'  - characters not as I'd imagined them,  their 'back histories' altered and so much cut out or changed. I probably shouldn't have watched it!

Programmes I am enjoying at the moment are Michael Wood's 'A History of England' on BBC 4  on Wednesdays and 'Downton Abbey' on ITV on Sundays. Also Autumn Watch is back but I'm missing Simon King!  What are your favourites at the moment?

Whilst walking around Trentham this morning we came across this fellow in the woods - there were some others but this one I thought was topical after the wonderful news of the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners.  What brave men they were;  as were their rescuers - how awful must it  have been to be the last one to come up in the capsule? 
Next week  I'm off on the train to Shrewsbury  to meet a friend for lunch and perhaps some shopping - I'll take my camera with me!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Sunday morning walk - with cats!

This morning we walked in the Manifold Valley - I know I've blogged about this place many times before but it never fails to delight me.

We parked near Wetton Mill and took the pathway towards Thor's Cave.
The little tortoiseshell cat that belongs to the farm and cafe was sunning itself on one of the picnic tables.

The sun was peeping through the mist over the top of the trees

The air was really warm more like an early September day than an early October one!

The warm breeze was rippling through the trees and blowing leaves in gentle spirals down to the ground

Most of the cow parsley was looking like this but I found some more

still looking fresh and new

By the time we turned around to walk back to the Mill the sun was high in the sky

We walked back over the old bridge towards the river

where another of the Mill cats was waiting to greet us.

We drove back towards Froghall and decided to have some lunch at the station.  A train was waiting on the platform.  It had Shrewsbury as a destination on one end and Scarborough at the other - I thought it would be nice to go to either places on a day like today.  

We had coffee and sandwiches in the cafe 

There are Halloween and Santa Special trains from here - booking now.

Yet another cat out to say hello - this time the station cat - taking advantage of this super warm weather!

Friday, October 08, 2010

At Stratford

It was quite early on a Saturday morning in Stratford so there weren't many people around when I took these photos. A couple of hours later and the place was heaving with shoppers, visitors  and parties of tourists with their guides. We parked up and walked into the town looking for breakfast - stopping to take a few photos of the riverside and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

The theatre has been closed for almost four years now whilst building work to update and modernise it has been taking place.

There is a new 'look-out' which we had seen on our local TV news (Stratford, like us is in the West Midlands region) being lowered by crane on top of the tower; it is 118 feet high.

The theatre is due to open later this year with a few preview events;  the main programme of plays is due to start in February next year and the theatre will be formally re-opened in April.

There is still a lot of work to be done as you can see from the photo below

The road layout in front of the theatre was being changed too

The entrance to what used to be the gift shop and Swan Theatre

We walked past the 'Dirty Duck' to the Courtyard Theatre where the RSC have been based whilst the main theatre is being refurbished.

We then walked towards the town centre passing Halls Croft

The home of William Shakespeare's daughter Susanna and her husband Dr John Hall

Round the corner and past the Almshouses -  at the end near the church the grammar school which Shakespeare is said to have attended.

On the corner is New Place the house Shakespeare owned in later life - it is thought that this is where he died.  There was a 'Dig for Shakespeare' archaeological excavation going on in the garden.

Shakespeare's birthplace museum and visitor centre.  

Opposite it was The Christmas shop - selling all things for the festive season. 

Next door to the birthplace was the inevitable souvenir shop which from the back has lovely views across the birthplace's garden.  We could see and hear an actor reading out a sonnet to a group of  entranced  tourists.

All aboard for a Shakespearean tour - hold very tight please, ding! ding!