Sunday, July 29, 2012

Light and Shade

We've had some beautiful weather over the last few days but after all the unseasonal weather of the previous few weeks it has been hard to adjust to the sudden intensity of the heat.  On Friday we decided to take one of our usual walks at Consall Country Park.  It was lovely and cool under the trees with the dappled sunlight filtering through and the stream splashing and gurgling in the valley bottom.

We decided to walk the long route up towards the top of the ridge and back down towards the river and the canal on the opposite side of the park.The only people we passed on the walk were some very purposeful looking folk with wooden staves or sticks  I think they may have been 'balsam bashers'.

There is still a lot of  Himalayan Balsam  growing along the canal side especially between the water and the rails of the Churnet Valley Railway.  Although very pretty, this plant, like Japanese Knotweed, can be quite insidious and a threat to our native plants.  Hence the groups of  volunteer 'balsam bashers' who go out and break the plant down before it can seed and spread.

I know I've taken you on this route quite often so I tried to focus on different things this time and became quite fascinated with the wild flowers that were to be seen on the way round.

I think this is the Common Hogweed a member of the same family as Cow Parsley, Wild Carrot, Wild Angelica, Sweet Cecily and Hemlock.  Please do correct me if I am wrong, I'm not an expert on wild flowers but willing to learn.  There was such a lot of the Hogweed around. Not quite as much as the Himalayan Balsam though and of course it is, unlike the Balsam, a native plant, although the Giant Hogweed which is non-native, can be quite toxic.

Here is one with a flower just emerging into the light of the day.

 Does anyone know what the plant above is?  It looks like a nettle with purple flowers but I don't think it is a nettle.  Is is Wild Clary or Hedge Woundwort? I think the latter but I'd love to know for definite.

 I think the plant above is Bittersweet or Woody Nightshade.a member of the deadly nightshade family.

This one is Burdock used with dandelions to make a drink that reminds me of my childhood.  I wrote a post about this exactly four years ago,  here is the -  link.

The view from the top  of the ridge.  It was time to walk down the other side towards the canal.

This narrow boat was just pulling away from the mooring near the Consall Forge Pottery.  I wonder if they made a purchase?

There were some interesting pieces to chose from!

On the way back we had a walk around the pond and saw lots of Damselflies.  I didn't think I would be able to take a photo  but this one stayed still long enough for me to try.

Not the greatest photo but I loved the little glittering water droplets as well as the damselfly.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Rescue and Restoration

Yesterday we spent a few hours wandering around the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings which is situated just on the outskirts of Bromsgrove in Worcestershire.  There are nearly thirty buildings that, since the museum opened in 1967, have been rescued from various locations and rebuilt on the site.

One of my favourites was the Merchant's House from Bromsgrove which was the first  exhibit at the museum and one of  the reasons that it was founded.  After an unsuccessful attempt to stop the merchant's house being demolished the timbers were rescued and stored and eventually reconstructed on the 15 acre site provided by the Fircroft Trust.

The Merchant's House was built in 1558 by the Lylley family.  The entrance leads through the screens passage and into the central hall there are steps up to a second story or solar wing.  Below are a few photos taken around the house.

In complete contrast to the Merchant's House one of my other favourites was the mid 1940s Prefab rescued from Yardley in Birmingham dismantled and moved to the museum in 1980 complete with its period furnishings.

Let's have a look inside!   Everything I saw in here seemed familiar from my childhood in the 1950s.   The sitting room reminded me of many homes I visited as a child as did the kitchen.  My Mum had a green dressing table set similar to the one on display for many years, I remember they were always sitting on crocheted mats and I still have a complete set of the blue encyclopedias and dictionaries that you can see on the bookcase.  My father bought them one by one and my Mum kept them for years and eventually I had them.  They are in a box and I just can't bear to throw them away or give them to a second hand book shop but I'd love them to go into a period room at a museum just like the ones here.  

I loved this little house below.  It is a toll-house built in 1822 by the Upton-on-Severn Turnpike Trust and brought to the museum in 1985.

Once again I've made a collage of some of the features of the building otherwise there would be far too many photos in this post.

There were many wonderful buildings at the Museum, here are just a few......

The corrugated iron clad Mission Church from Bringsty Common in Herefordshire

The 16th century cruck-frame barn from  Cholstrey court Farm near Leominster, Herefordshire

The Victorian windmill from Danzey Green in Warwickshire

The chain making workshop from Cradley Heath in the Black Country and the small Georgian building below.........

Now what could be in here?   You've probably guessed!

It's a three-seater earth closet from Townsed House, Leominster, Herefordshire.

Last but not least here are two Tudor merchant's houses which became and inn called the 'String of Horses' in 1786.  In 1912 the lower floor became the retail premises of the Shrewsbury Co-operative Society.  Inside we spotted the Mad Hatter - he disappeared whilst we ordered tea and cake.  We didn't see him again or Alice or any white rabbits and there certainly wasn't a dormouse in the teapot!  I thought I may have been dreaming but a visit to the Museum's website explains all.

Well a Museum visit of this nature wouldn't be complete with tea and cake would it?
Very tasty it was too! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On a Rare Sunny Day - Part two

Thanks so much for all your lovely comments on my last post I'm glad you enjoyed it. In the post I promised to show you more of the Island Arboretum, Servants' Quarters and Farm at Shugborough so this is more or less a continuation of our visit.  We walked up towards the Mansion House and Gardens and then down the Lady Walk towards the pretty, flower covered boathouse which featured in my last post and over the blue bridge to the Arboretum.  

It was very quiet and peaceful on the walk and shaded under the trees many of which are oaks grown from acorns collected by Lord Lichfield from all over Europe, North America and Asia.  Damsel flies were flitting around the grasses and rushes by the water's edge their blue bodies shining in the sunlight.  We saw lots of butterflies too.  

The oak tree above, according to the label,  is Qercus Dentata 'Cal Ferris Miller' collected in Asia in 2000.

The cones on this fir tree looked quite unreal in their pale green state, just as if they had been painted by hand.  There were lovely views of the mansion house across the water and some more sculptures which were part of the sculpture trail but if we are to visit the servants' quarters and farm we must move on.  We left the island by the red bridge which is part of the Chinese section of the gardens.

After we'd taken refreshment in the Lady Walk tea room we set off to view the servants' quarters.We had to dodge around the school parties who were being taught how food was cooked and clothes were washed and how hard servants worked, how much they were paid and how little free time they had.  Their little faces were rapt in attention as they listened to the costumed characters of the cook, laundry maid, footman and brewer.  Here are some photos of the rooms we saw, some were closed off for the visits.

 Above and below are parts of the main kitchen

Below the servants' dining room and the laundry

 The laundry floor was still wet from the demonstration so we couldn't walk on it.

There was so much to see in the museum which is upstairs over the kitchens and laundry that it was a while before we caught the little train down to the farm.

 I loved the farm house with its inviting entrance hall,

 front parlour

 and warm kitchen

In the kitchen the cook was making bread and scones with flour ground at  the farm  mill.  Down the passage in the photos above is  a dairy where the dairymaid had been demonstrating the making of cheese.  Here is a link to Paul's Bread pages where he has added a page on the mill at Shugborough farm.  I've made a collage of some of the animals at the farm as this post is getting a bit photo heavy.

After we'd said hello to all the animals it was time to go back to the car park and make our way home with a bag of flour to test later.  It was so lovely to have a day out without any rain.  I've still to tell you about the week before when we had a day out in Birmingham most of my memories of which were of being wet through to the bone and steaming dry in the museum cafe, of sheltering from the torrential rain under the council house portico near the 'floozie in the jacuzzi' whilst watching Wimbledon on the big screen, of finding travelling on the train with lightening flashing by the windows quite scary.   I'll be back with that!  Meanwhile here is a photo of an even wetter than normal 'floozie'.....

'bye for now.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

On a Rare Sunny Day

On Thursday, having watched both local and national weather forecasts, we decided that we would have a day out.  We set off with the intention of perhaps going to Lichfield calling at the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust's headquarters at the Wolseley Centre on the way.  It was the most beautiful morning and we wandered around the nature reserve and called into in the Visitor Centre for a cup of coffee. It was then we realised that we weren't far from the Shugborough Estate and that we had intended to make a return visit to see the island arboretum, the servant's quarters and the farm.  You may remember my posts from last year about the visit we made to the Essex Bridge at Great Haywood and later in the year to the newly opened Lord Lichfield's apartments in the Mansion House. So off we went to Shughborough.   As usual I took far too many photos and I think the farm and servants quarters deserve a post of their own so here, for now,  are just a few photos I took at both Wolseley and Shugborough of flowers, cats and rugs.

 Dark red poppy and .......

pale blue Scabious in the bee garden at Wolseley

 Clematis on the boat house at Shugborough.  I'm normally a bit nervous of boathouses.  It must be something to do with the low roofs and still, enclosed water but this one was so pretty......

 covered in roses and clematis

The dairymaid at the farm introduced us to a new recruit

Chip, one of the farm cats and below is

 Spud, the other farm cat.

In the Farmhouse and in the servant's dining room up at the Mansion House there were quite a few rag rugs on display.
There were also plenty of posters around offering courses in rag-rug making - I'd love to have a go!

I remember seeing these kind of rugs rugs at my grandma's house when I was a child.

I also remember grandma and granddad sitting at the huge kitchen table in front of the fire making them, each starting at opposite ends and meeting in the middle.  I think they had always done it and still made them even then. 

The rug above has the Stafford Knot on it.  The Knot is the traditional symbol of the County of Staffordshire and its county town of Stafford and is sometimes incorrectly called the Staffordshire Knot. 

The weather was perfect and we had a wonderful day just wandering around, seeing lovely things and talking to some friendly and interesting people including the staff in costume in the different rooms as they were waiting for the next school party to come around.  In all the rain on Friday it was hard to believe we had experienced such a perfect day just a day earlier.  I'll be back with photos of kitchens, trees and farm animals in my next post.