Wednesday 25 February 2015

British treasures No 4

Eyam is located in the Derbyshire High Peaks 800 feet above sea level, and is known as the Plague village. Here stands an ancient cross, considered to be one of the finest in the country, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, Grade 1 listed - a British treasure. I wonder how many people have passed this Saxon cross in St. Lawrence's churchyard without realising it's status. There is a small notice board stating that the cross is 8th century Celtic; it is carved with both Pagan and Christian imagery. The cross dates from the period in British history when Pagan beliefs still abounded and Christianity was a minority faith. This cross pre-dates the 13th century church in Eyam by 500 hundred years. There are several other Saxon crosses in Derbyshire but the one in Eyam churchyard is the most outstanding being almost intact. It is notable for the survival of the head, but sadly the top two feet of the shaft are missing. It was placed in the churchyard many years ago after it was removed from a nearby cart track. At one time it is thought to have been used as a wayside preaching cross years before the establishment of the church in Eyam. It has also been suggested that this cross may originally have lain on a piece of remote moorland just outside Eyam village, where there are several Neolithic remains including a Stone Circle, and a Long Barrow to be found. 
British Treasure No. 3 

Thursday 19 February 2015

Paradise Lost

The fungus Cylindrocladium buxicola, or Volutella buxi, may be both, has settled in our garden over the last few months - commonly known as Box blight. It is believed to have arrived in the UK during 1994 from Central America  
Along with lawns, Buxus sempervirens is the green structure in our garden, it forms cuffs around the trees, edges pathways, we have balls and cones large and small everywhere. 
It is the green element that graces our garden all year round and holds the design together. 

We are devastated but slowly coming to terms with the fact that the only answer is to destroy and burn the lot.
This fungus blight is not picky it has also devastated Prince Charles's garden. As the crow flies his Highgrove garden is just a short distance from us.

There is another garden that shares our hilltop eerie, whose owners are equally passionate about box and  topiary.
She happens to be a leading light in The European Boxwood & Topiary Society. Do we tell them? or let them continue to live happily in ignorant bliss? May be the wretched fungus will pass their garden by!  

To finish on a positive note, lets just check out what is flowering in the garden at the moment

Saturday 14 February 2015

Valentine's Day

Alphonse Karr
Amaryllis - apple blossom 
Cyclamen - miniature 

Snowdrops gathered in the garden

Sunday 8 February 2015

The Rev. Wilbert Awdry 1911-1997

Thomas the Tank Engine and all the other anthropomorphic train books written by the Rev. Awdry have graced bookshelves around the world. 
Thomas, painted blue and red, and displaying the number one was first and foremost the favourite engine, closely followed by Thomas's best friends Percy and Toby.
The stories origins lie in tales told by the Rev. Awdry to his son Christopher. They featured a small blue wooden train, made by Wilbert, but bearing no resemblance to the book and film illustrations seen today. 

Wilbert Awdry was born near Romsey, Hampshire, in 1911, and his love of trains came from his father, who was also a vicar. Wilbert spent several years living in Palestine and it was there that he met his wife Margaret. 
He was a priest for 60 years, but in 1965 his ministry took him to the parish church of Rodborough in the Cotswolds where he lived for 30 years until his death in 1997.
In 1996 work began on a stained glass window in Rodborough church dedicated to Awdry's 60 years of ministry.
The window was commissioned from stained glass artist and designer, Alfred Fisher, but Rev. Awdry collaborated with Fisher on ideas for the window.
Wilbert, however, sadly died just before the window was installed. The chosen themes were: The spiritual significance of everyday objects; Children; The four elements; Caring for others; "Thomas & Friends"
The inscription "God be in my eyes" unites the two halves of the window 
The Christian values and morals that Wilbert always spoke of can be seen in the helping hand given to the child at the foot of the tree
The four elements weave their way through each scene linking the windows message
Our eyes linger on the rather wistful faces of 'Thomas' and his friend 
but then we notice the particularly memorable, but poignant image of Wilbert, closing the train shed door for the final time 
Wilbert with Margaret reading to Christopher
Once asked how he would like to be remembered. Wilbert puffed on one of his beloved old pipes and replied: "I should like my epitaph to say, 'He helped people to see God in the ordinary things of life, and he made children laugh.' "
I was reminded of this local Cotswold window when Mike from 'bit about Britain' mentioned the Rev Awdry in a recent post

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Tarr Steps, Exmoor

Late January, and nodding snowdrops greet us in Dulverton, Somerset. We were fortunate, at this time of year the flowers could have been hidden under a layer of snow.  
Dulverton lies on the southern edge of Exmoor's National Park - Europe's first International Dark Skies Reserve. Tucked in at the entrance to a deeply wooded valley Dulverton is known for its close location to a pre-historic clapper bridge called Tarr Steps 

Many are the folk tales surrounding this ancient river crossing some of which talk of the Devil himself
Canoeing is allowed downstream of Tarr Steps only between mid October and the end of March when water levels are high. Upstream it is not allowed at any time to prevent disturbing developing fish eggs. Curiously, as can be observed from these photos, downstream of Tarr Steps the River Barle is rough and fast, whereas upstream it is shallow and calm. 
A sure-foot is required when crossing this ancient scheduled monument, understood to date back as far as 1000 BC
The water eddies around the supporting stones then gurgles merrily on its journey beneath the clapper bridge 

Close by the steps are burial mounds of Bronze Age men - did they use this same crossing point in the river?

The surrounding woodland is mainly Oak, Beech, Ash, Sycamore, and Hazel which was once coppiced to provide charcoal for the local iron smelting industry. It is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest abounding in wildlife - Red Deer, Dormice, the rare Barbastelle Bat along with Otters that feed along this unpolluted fast flowing river
Atlantic salmon that hatch in the River Barle, may journey as far away as Greenland before returning years later to spawn. For rivers to be suitable for salmon they need unpolluted, cool, well oxygenated water along with clean gravel on the riverbed for spawning, these are exactly the conditions that are found in this river.
The steeply banked very narrow country lanes in this area were all impressively maintained. The grassy banks were trimmed and the hedgerows atop were neatly cut ready to greet the forthcoming spring.

Sunday 1 February 2015

"Oh! I Do Like to be Besides the Seaside!"

What a happy chance encounter our 'deal' at "The Café Porlock Weir" turned out to be. Owned by a couple who had previously worked in various high end establishments across the country before opening a restaurant with rooms in this sleepy fisherman's creek. The seafood we ate was fabulous, worthy of any fine dining establishment, delicious flavours with a memorable presentation.
There is another, decidedly quirky establishment in Porlock Weir, Millers at the Anchor. We could have stayed there on a 'deal' too. The Anchor has been opened by Martin Miller who publishes The Miller's Companion to Antiques & Collectables. Miller and his daughter Tanya have created a hunting lodge by the sea! It is filled with Martin's own antiques, some of them decidedly idiosyncratic, help yourself bowls of fruit, and sweets, all of which can be washed down with Martin's own award winning Gin!
Sitting over the entrance door into Miller's!!!
The remains of a partially collapsed World War ll pillbox with five machine gun openings overlooks the bay. 
Watching Thatchers at work, it was surprising to see the quick progress that they made. They were about to commence on the roof ridge - being a Gamekeeper's cottage it might be 'topped' with a woven pheasant  
Does anyone recognise this flower growing wild and in profusion along the bottom of the walls and hedgerows? It looks very similar to Ransoms - wild garlic minus the smell, but that doesn't flower until April-May. The plants leaves have the appearance of clumps of Muscari, as per those around the telephone box below