Friday 25 August 2017

Where Five Valleys Meet is Running Out of Steam!

This blogger has been making 'man size' mugs of tea, and has a weary right arm from cleaning the floors with the Dyson cleaner over the last few days. I'm a very reluctant participant of 21st century gadgets, but sometimes it is a case of needs must. There's a new shower in the main bathroom, and the kitchen has been revamped. I now have worktops using nanotechnology so no bacteria, bugs, or other nasties are welcome here. I need to get to grips with my 'all singing all dancing' brushed steel oven along with the other new gear - a very necessary learning curve as a house full of guests arrive within days.
My first foray into testing the cooker was to make a tart with figs from our garden using a recipe idea from Lorrie here. 

I half baked a sheet of puff pastry blind for 15 mins in preparation for the topping. Whilst baking I cooked some red onions in rapeseed oil until softened and add balsamic vinegar and sugar which I continued cooking until caramalised. I topped the partially cooked pastry with the onions, sliced the figs in half, crumbled on a mature Stilton blue cheese, scattered some fresh thyme and sage leaves and sprinkled over a little oil, then cooked for a further 20/25mins in a hot oven.
 Using a good strong blue cheese, such as Stilton, means that no other seasoning is necessary

Quick, easy, and very tasty - thank you Lorrie - the oven works a treat too!

Saturday 19 August 2017

Chichester Cathedral

Shortly after their conquest in AD43 the Romans built a Fort here and named it 'Noviomagus Reginorum'. It was in the 5th century that Anglo Saxons then renamed it Chichester. An important Roman road called Stane Street ran all the way from Chichester to London Bridge, and much of the route still exists today. Needless to say there are still several Roman remains within the area including Fishbourne Palace, the largest Roman domestic building in Britain. 

 Our visit to the Cathedral took us passed The Deanery

  and down St. Richard's Walk - a pathway leading directly into the Cathedral.
Today we have our sights set on seeing the Cathedral's treasures.

Chichester Cathedral's architecture combines both Norman and Gothic styles. Nikolaus Pevsner, the architectural historian, called it "the most typical English Cathedral". Building began in 1076 and took 32 years to complete. The spire rising above its green copper roof can be seen for many miles across the West Sussex meadows. It is a landmark for sailors - the only English medieval cathedral visible from the sea
These figures represent Richard Fitzalan 3rd Earl of Arundel 1307-1376 and his second wife Eleanor, who by his will of 1375 were to be buried together 'without pomp'.
The knight's attitude is typical of the period but the lady's crossed legs where she appears to be turning towards her husband is rare.
 The joined hands, his hand unusually not gloved, was thought to have been the result of 'restoration' but recent research has shown this feature to be original. The monument is one of the earliest known that appears to be showing a knights affection for his wife. 
Philip Larkin was inspired to write his poem 'An Arundel Tomb' following his visit to the cathedral in 1956
Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd -
The little dogs under their feet.

Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

the rest of the poem can be read here 
This 14th century window is filled with wonderful stained glass designed by Charles Parish in the late 19th century using glass from Lorraine, France. 

Detail showing Christ in Glory
There are two rare, expressive, and important Romanesque sculptures in the Cathedral dating from the first quarter of the 12th century depicting the raising of Lazarus.
In the first panel Lazarus has been dead for four days, and his sisters, Mary and Martha, are shown at the town gate of Bethany greeting Jesus and praying that he can be saved. 
In the second panel Jesus raises Lazarus from the grave still wrapped in his shroud strap bindings. I could not understand Mary and Martha's expressions, but having now read the relevant bible passage I understand that their expressions are suggestive of the anticipated odour from the grave. At the bottom of the panel are two little grave diggers struggling to maintain the elevation of the tomb stone.
These sculptures are thought to have originally been part of a chancel screen in the Cathedral, and were discovered hidden away behind some choir stalls in 1827. The panels would originally have been painted and had jewels or semi precious stones in their eyes. 
 The High Altar tapestry was designed by John Piper in 1966, and woven in Aubusson, France.

At the site of the shrine of St. Richard
(Bishop of Chichester 1245-53 canonised in 1262) is an Anglo-German tapestry, designed in 1985 by Ursula Benker-Schirmer which shows religious symbols, some of which have a particular association with St. Richard. The central panel was woven in Germany and the two side panels were woven at West Dean College which is in the countryside just outside Chichester.
A painting by Graham Sutherland entitled Noli me tangere (do not hold me) depicting Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene on the first Easter morning
A vibrant red window designed by Marc Chagall in 1978 based on the psalm 'O praise God in his holiness...let everything that hath breath praise the Lord' 
In the Baptistry a painting of The Baptism of Christ by Hans Feibusch (1951)
and a Font made from polyphant green stone which came from Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. The Font was made and designed in 1983 by John Skelton, a nephew of Eric Gill.
You cannot come so near to the coast without paying the sea a visit, so we clambered up the sand dunes
and took a brisk walk along the beach  

Saturday 12 August 2017

Hinton Ampner Gardens

The gardens at Hinton Ampner, Hampshire, were the creation of one man, Ralph Dutton, 8th Lord Sherborne. They are widely acknowldged as being a masterpiece of 20th century garden design with mixed formal and informal planting and fine vistas throughout.

In the Walled Garden

The flowers were showing off their August colours

and there was a bountiful display of fruit and vegetables too

'All Saints' - the parish church, shares a common boundary with the garden. It was built from flint with stone corners in the C13th but on the foundations of an earlier Saxon church. 
The pretty timber bell chamber is typical of small churches in this area of the country.
Lily pond
'One man and his dog'
Crinum powellii - giant swamp lily

Ralph Dutton inherited the house in 1935 and rebuilt it in 1960 following a devastating fire. He seamlessly blended the grandeur of this Georgian classical house with the elegant gardens and parkland which frame it.
The Sunken Garden

  Agapanthus africanus

Friday 4 August 2017

Croome Court and Grounds

via Nation Trust
In 1751, following the unexpected death of his elder brother, George William Coventry, 6th Earl of Coventry, inherited Croome Court and grounds. He was a handsome 28 year old 18th century trend-setter, with a grand vision to transform Croome, and to this end he set about employing the most contemporary architects, designers, and craftspeople of the day.
via wiki
Croome Court and grounds became the very first commission for Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. Not only did he redesign the whole landscape but he also remodelled Croome Court during which time he became firm friends with the Earl.
via wiki
Robert Adam, known as 'Bob the Roman', the renown Neo-classical architect, and furniture designer, created his first complete room design at Croome Court, and he too became a close friend of the Earl.
It was one of those bucolic pastoral mid-summer days with fluffy white clouds scudding across an idyllic blue sky.

The natural looking landscape at Croome is completely man-made to 'Capability' Brown's design. This, the first of Brown's landscapes, pioneered the move from formal gardens to more natural looking landscapes. Before Brown worked here, the land was a boggy marsh called 'Seggy Mere'.
With Brown's engineering and drainage skills he created a lake miles long which in parts narrows to resemble a river winding through the parkland. It took hundreds of men over 10 years to dig it out by hand.

Walking around the lake and grounds gives endless views and vistas to enjoy
Interrupted from time to time by the inevitable folly, ha ha, or hermits grotto.
Beyond the trees, distant hills - "The Malverns" - partially flank the grounds, this is where Edward Elgar lived. He composed his music whilst walking in these hills during the day, and writing it down on his return home in the evening - The Enigma Variations, Nimrod, Land of Hope and Glory. 

St Mary Magdalene
The Coventry family church was designed by  'Capability' Brown with an interior by Robert Adam. Unexpectedly, a sudden glorious peel of bells rang out over the landscape. The bells had just been returned to the church following a major restoration and a group of local bellringers were giving them an airing. Peels of church bells have been a part of life here ever since medieval times.

The Chinese bridge, where Brown's lake effectively resembles a river
 Built out of Bath stone in the neo-Palladian style, Croome Court is now bereft of its treasures, but the interior and long gallery by Robert Adam remain intact.

A fine cantilevered stairway
For 130 years a set of beautiful French tapestries lined these walls. Their dominant colour was raspberry pink, they were the pride of Croome, until they had to be sold in difficult circumstances.
Now they can be seen in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The Croome Estate Trust still owns a very large collection of the best furniture, paintings, and porcelain that once graced Croome Court - all of which are of great national importance. In time, as the house is fully restored, and under an agreement with the National Trust, these wonderful pieces will be returned to the house for which they were made.
 Using Brown's original plans, the National Trust have so far spent a sum of 8 million pounds restoring his landscape at Croome.