Sunday 16 December 2018

Poldark Country

We have just been away escaping the Christmas hustle and bustle. We always enjoy spending a few days at Carbis Bay in Cornwall which is the next beach along from St. Ives. We learnt that the hotel where we stay is also the one used by several of the Poldark caste whilst on location. Apparently they were down earlier in May making the latest series but the skies were too blue, and the seas too gentle, so they abandoned the task and left. The film makers like the skies and the weather to be dramatic and moody for Poldark. They try to capture that special unique quality of light found in the area in much the same way as the St. Ives and Newlyn colonies of painters did at the dawn of the c20th century. 

There is nothing we enjoy more than a December morning walk along the cliff top footpath that leads from our hotel to the small town of St. Ives. On arrival we tend to have the town almost to ourselves, unlike the summer months when it is thronged with tourists; like the artists and film makers we too enjoy the special light which highlights the landscape in rather unique ways constantly changing throughout the day.

We always enjoy the particular moment when we round a corner on the cliff top and St. Ives suddenly pops into view. The first reason is because the views are rather special, and secondly we have successfully managed to negotiate the sometimes tricky pathway. 
'Epidaurous' by Barbara Hepworth
Barbara Hepworth lived for exactly half of her life in St. Ives. When she arrived just before the outbreak of war in 1939, she was a rather unwilling visitor. However, she found it impossible to leave, and when she acquired Trewyn Studio ten years later, Hepworth had an ideal environment in which to work. 
We bought ourselves the obligatory cornish pastie, just one between us, not wanting to spoil the prospect of our evening meal. 
He is pretending to look out to sea but has his eye on our pastie!

As the sun starts to sink, and for the first time ever, we decided to catch the little scenic railway back to the hotel. It must be one of the loveliest and cheapest railway rides in the country - just £1 each for a single ticket to ride back. 
The video below shows the whole train journey from St. Ives to St. Erth, in total only four stops, but we alighted at Carbis Bay which is just 50 seconds into this video. 

Saturday 8 December 2018

The Lady is Unpredictable

Paphiopedilum insigne
I was immediately attracted to this Lady's Slipper Orchid when I spotted her at Funchal's exotic Christmas fruit and flower market on the beautiful island of Madeira. It was over 20 years ago that I carried her home on the plane with great care just before Christmas.
Years past by and no more flowers appeared. Periodically I would peer into her foliage, and wonder whether she should be kept or discarded. Her 8th year without flowering was on the horizon when suddenly I noticed a small bud poking out through the leaves. It was late summer, but as the weeks rolled by I came to realise just how long it takes for her to develop and reach her full flowering glory. She tends to be at her best in time for Christmas.
Is she beautiful? I am not sure that she is! Her appearance, if I am honest, is rather anatomical, but she fascinates and intrigues.
This is a special moment for me as she has only flowered four times in all of those years, but happily this time she has deigned to bring a friend along too. 

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Winter Wayzgoose at Hay on Wye

Hay on Wye sits right on the border between England and Wales. It is an attractive old town nestling in the foothills of the Brecon Beacon mountain range. Its many book shops have helped make it the biggest secondhand book centre in the world - a dream destination for the bibliophile. 
Every book you could possibly want can be bought -  the unusual, the rare, and the collectable. Books of maps both new and antique, and exquisitely illustrated children's books. This small town boasts no fewer than 36 different bookshops.  

There are even cafes tucked away in several of the bookshops serving delicious homemade food.

 There are specialised food stores, 
and eclectic shops selling artefacts unique to Hay. 
 the story of books
"The Story of Books" is a fairly recent initiative opened to create a dynamic working museum that celebrates the ongoing tale of books in Hay on Wye. Through collaboration with experts and enthusiasts in the world of books, they make experiences where stories are told and books are made.
Last Saturday they hosted a Wayzgoose Printers Fair where private presses showed how they make their hand printed and hand bound books. 
Wayzgoose was traditionally an entertainment by a master printer for his workmen each year on St. Batholomew Day. It marked the traditional end of summer and the start of the season of working by candlelight. Later, the word came to refer to an annual outing and dinner for the staff of a printing works or the printers on a newspaper. Although traditionally held in August it has no fixed date these days.
In the late afternoon a launch was held of our youngest son's latest book showing his linocut prints at The Story of Books. This was done by the private press that printed it on handmade paper using a traditional press. 

Afterwards we were invited to join a candlelit Wayzgoose Supper held in the upper storey of the building where we were treated to a delicious variety of vegetable curries and glasses of wine. 

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Post for Lorrie

Lorrie lives on Vancouver Island, Canada, and whilst staying in the Cotswolds one summer she visited Frith Wood which sits on a high ridge between two of our local valleys. On my previous Autumn post showing a different woodland, Lorrie commented 
'seeing the path through the woods makes me think of Frith Wood where we walked several years ago, and I imagine it looks very similar to your photos now'.
Last Sunday it was H's birthday so before having a special family lunch we headed out early to walk the pathway that Lorrie too must have trod during her visit.

Frith Wood is an ancient woodland that spans the ridge between Painswick, known as 'Queen of the Cotswolds', and Laurie Lee's Slad Valley. Until 1801 this ridgeway path through the wood was the main route from Cheltenham heading south. It was an old drovers road where livestock such as cattle, sheep and even geese were driven along to market.
The soaring 70ft beech trees were brought over as seed from Belgian at the same time as the Napoleonic Wars drew to a close. These central European trees grow tall and straight in comparison to our more gnarled native beeches.
They would have been a familiar sight to writer, Laurie Lee, who wandered this self-same pathway as man and boy.
"If ever I saw blessing in the air
I see it now in this still early day
Where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips
Wet sunlight on the powder of my eye" 
    Laurie Lee   
Spring catkins and buds are showing already,

but the fluffy remains of Rosebay Willowherb linger,
a forest floor sparkling with tiny jewels,
along with a potent splash of orange from the Iris foetidissima berries 

In his book, Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee immortalised these beech woods, deep valleys, flower strewn summer meadows, and the village characters who dwelt in Slad - now they are forever a part of our English literary landscape.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Late Autumn

Now Autumn's fires burn slowly o'er hills and dales.

Day by day leaves change colour.

Bright skies beckon, 

come quick, come see,
as the leaves drift earthwards, 
in glittering flurries of gold;

They're covering the sleeping flowers,
in a warm embrace,

and spreading leafy carpets,

throughout our woods.

And as we walk through them,

they chatter and crunch beneath our feet.

Saturday 10 November 2018

'Amazing Grace'

Sunday 11th November is the 100th anniversary commemorating the end of WWl when we remember all of those who were injured or lost their lives in 1918.

 Grace, however, is no war hero, in fact, she despises war and hopes that it will never darken our lives again, but she is keeper of unique memories.
She aptly 'favours' her name being dignified, fair of face, and eloquent.
She was born in Liverpool, but has spent most of her life living here in the Cotswolds. She was brought up by her father as her mother died when she was four years old. She had an elder brother, whom she recalls was a handsome boy with a fine shock of fair hair. When she was 7 years old he left home to live in Australia but she never saw him again. He joined the Anzacs and was killed in action at Gallipoli along with over 8,000 Australian soldiers.
She can remember the day war ended 100 years ago when everyone came out onto the streets singing and dancing. She said that you could do that then as there were very few vehicles driving along the roads.
However, 4 years earlier, an 8 year old Grace learnt that the war had started whilst she was attending school, and vividly recalls wives and mothers crying as they bid farewell to their husbands and sons.
'Amazing Grace', as she is known to her friends is 112 years old, and is the oldest person living in this country. She has experienced the reign of five monarchs and 21 prime ministers. She has seen the outbreak and resolution of two world wars, and lived through the time of the Russian Revolution, the sinking of the Titanic, and all three London Olympics.
When she was born, Grace could have been expected to live until the age of 54. Men had a lower life expectancy of 48. 
In 1906 the most common cause of death was due to infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia until the discovery of antibiotics in 1929.
Grace still takes a keen interest in how she looks and what she wears and has her hair done every week. 
Grace conveys an aura of calmness and serenity.
The above photo of Grace was taken last September on her 112th birthday