Saturday, 21 September 2019

"Little Switzerland"



The twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth are situated along the heritage coast of Exmoor National Park in North Devon. Lynton sits at the top of a cliff above the village of Lynmouth which itself nestles down at the harbour. There is a very steep high road that links the two villages together. I recall driving up it with my parents as a child, and as we chugged upwards my fathers concern that his car might not make it to the village. It was quite a common feature back then to come across cars abandoned along roads with such a steep incline.
Whilst thinking about those childhood memories I was then rather taken aback to see this little old Austin seven parked in Lynton, which had seemingly, and successfully, recently climbed the hill.

Following a visit in 1799 these two villages acquired the title 'Little Switzerland' from England's Poet Laureate Robert Southey. He said "I am assured by one who is familiar with Switzerland, that they resemble Swiss villages. Having visited Switzerland on numerous occasions myself, this description does rather stretch the imagination!!! However, that does not negate at all from the fact that both are lovely villages to visit.
Arts & Crafts designed Town Hall at Lynton
Although we drove up to Lynton from the harbourside in Lynmouth we had no intention of walking or driving back down. Instead we took a ride there and back on the famous Clifftop railway.
The historic Victorian cliff railway was built in 1888, and rises 500ft on 862ft of steep track with a gradient of 57%. It is the UK's only fully water powered railway and also the highest, steepest, water powered railway in the world!

The two rail cars are connected by hauling cables which operate on a simple balancing principle. 
Water from the West Lyn River fills the 700 gallon tank of the top 'docked' passenger car, and then water from the lower car is discharged until the heavier top car descends and pulls the lower car up the incline.
The speed is controlled by each driver using a Deadman's Handle, a breaking system engineered and first patented for this particular railway. 
It's a quick turn around for us on reaching the bottom of the cliff,
we have a date with with a rather stylish 1930s building further along the Devon coast. 

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Minehead, Somerset.

An Edwardian gentleman's home that is now an hotel arrived by email. It really appealed to us, so although I was unsure as to what Minehead itself would be like, the offer was accepted. I knew that there was a holiday camp in the area which admittedly coloured my imagination with thoughts of fruit machines, candy-floss, hotdogs, and funfairs. However, I was completely wrong. Minehead offers traditional seaside holidays, but it is also on the edge of Exmoor with its beautiful moorlands, spectacular scenery, and freely roaming ponies. 
The principal station for the West Somerset Steam Railway is in Minehead which today still retains the longest steam rail system remaining in this country. In 1925 the Maharaja of Jodhpur visited Minehead following an invitation from the Luttrell family of
Dunster Castle.  Although they hosted several matches for him on their polo lawns, they hadn't realised that he would turn up with his entire 'crack' polo team together with 62 polo ponies. These all arrived on a train that had to be specially adapted in order to accommodate them.

"Hey! What's going on down there"?
Along the main sea front, Old Minehead has lots of charm, with its quaint cottages and harbour.
The South West Coastal Path starts at Minehead harbour, and these pavement shells are there to guide you on your travels. The path is 630 miles long, being the longest National Trail in this country, and if you walk it, you will eventually end up in Poole, Dorset.
The cottages all nestle up against the heavily wooded steep cliffs.
This one amused us, as it appears to need a ladder to gain access to the garden!
There are several little pathways leading up and across the cliffs which have some very large, but interesting Edwardian properties that are scattered amongst the trees.
Before climbing back up the cliffs for our evening meal, the tented complex seen across the bay reveals the holiday camp, which actually appears to be quite an interesting structure.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Ashdown House

is often referred to as "the house built for the love of a woman who never lived to see it." 
Sir William Craven, 1st Earl of Craven, built this Dutch style property during the second half of the 17th century. It sits alone on the Berkshire Downs and gives the appearance of a rather elegant dolls house. However, it wasn't actually built to be a home, but a rather splendid country Hunting Lodge. It was designed by soldier/architect, Captain William Winde, who was born in 1640 to English parents resident in Holland at the time. 
Lord Craven via wiki 
Unauthenticated history speaks of Lord Craven's great admiration for Elizabeth, the Queen of Bohemia, and that he built this remote hunting lodge as a retreat for her. 
Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia via wiki
But who was Elizabeth? ........
She was the daughter of James l of England, and sister of Charles l, who was married to Frederick, the Elector Palatine. They had 13 children, but their reign as King and Queen of Bohemia lasted for just one winter during 1619 - 1620. Frederick was defeated at the battle of White Mountain then he and the family were exiled to the Hague by the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand ll. Henceforth Elizabeth became known as the Winter Queen. 
Her youngest daughter Sophia married the future Elector of Hanover in 1658 and their son became King George l of England.
 
Electress Sophia painted as an American Indian by her sister Louise Hollandine of the Palatinate - a talented portrait painter  wiki
Electress Sophia's son - King George l wiki
Lord Craven first met Elizabeth in the Hague when he was a young soldier. It was then that he fell in love and devoted his service to her. Following the death of Elizabeth's husband, Frederick, of a 'pestilential fever', Craven provided Elizabeth with financial support. He paid her the pension that she was supposed to receive from the English crown.
Following the Restoration in 1660 Elizabeth returned home from the Hague and Craven put his London house in Drury Lane at her disposal.
Lord Craven was very concerned about the plague in London and wanted to build Elizabeth a mini palace in the country away from all of the germs. Knowing her love of hunting, he chose Ashdown, but sadly this is not a happy ever after love story. Just before the hunting lodge was completed in 1662 Elizabeth died of pneumonia. Lord Craven never married, but went on to live for a further 35 years, reaching the grand age of 89. When Elizabeth died she bequeathed Lord Craven all of her papers, hunting trophies and a large collection of remarkable family portraits. All of her collection of portraits originally adorned Lord Craven's seat at Combe Abbey and then his property at Hampstead Marshall.  
Years after the death of Lord Craven, 23 of Elizabeth's portraits were received from the estate in lieu of taxes, and it is these paintings that now hang on the walls of Ashdown House. The property is now in the care of The National Trust, 
but has been tenanted on a long term basis so only the long cantilevered staircase, where all of the portraits hang, is open to the public. 
Princess Elizabeth, Princess Royal and Princess Palatine, Abbess of Hervorden (Hertford)
Of the 23 portraits that once belonged to Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia my favourite is this one, which shows her third child, and first born daughter, whom she also named Elizabeth.
On the landings are carved wooden heads resembling favoured family stags which actually incorporate the real antlers of the particular stag. During the mid 17th century taxidermy was crude and still in its infancy, and had not become established as a practice. 
When the flight of stairs have been climbed there is a steep spiral wooden stairway to negotiate that passes through an attractive glass cupola before heading out on to the rooftop. 
The roof was used like a small grandstand to provide non-hunting guests with a 360° view of all the hunting and racing activities.  
On either side of the lodge at the rear are two identical buildings - the one that can be seen housed the kitchens where all of the food was prepared for the guests, and the other building housed a large stable for the horses.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Quiz Part 2

Thank you to everyone who took part in the quiz. Previously when I have done a quiz maybe five or six people have give the correct answer, but this time there was only one.
The winning entry was given by Jim at Parnassus  whom I congratulate, as this was by no means an easy quiz.
Barbara at Coastal Ripples also deserves a mention even though her idea that it was a public bath house was incorrect. 
Tenbury Wells is a Spa town, and this attractive building was designed to house their Pump Room and Spa.

Following the discovery of saline springs in 1839 at Tenbury Wells this unusual little building, given the curious architectural description of 'Chinese Gothic', was designed and built in 1862 to hold a Pump Room and Spa. The Spa was aimed at attracting the 'Middle to Working Classes' unlike most other Spa towns and cities such as Bath, Royal Leamington Spa, Royal Tunbridge Wells, or Buxton, whose appeal was to Royalty, and the wealthy more fashionable end of the market. 
James Cranston of Birmingham was given a contract to design the new Spa building with a Mr. Smith of Tenbury Wells doing the building. Cranston was already well known in the town as he had previously designed a Round Market, a Corn Exchange and a National School.
He got the idea for the design from some greenhouses that he was designing at Homer, near Hereford. In Tenbury Spa he replaced glass panels with those of sheet steel, which was then erected using a pre-fabricated principle being one of the first in the country. 
This part of the building held one of two large halls with a recess where a handsome mineral water fountain was placed to enable visitors to "imbibe the waters". 

Whereas the hall on the other side of this entrance doorway housed the segregated baths for the men and women. There were consulting rooms to enable rheumatic and arthritic visitors to discuss their ailments with the spa's doctor, and also an attendants cottage.  
The small windows on the right side are high in order to provide privacy to the bathers.

The pump room itself was in this octagonal tower. The well was 58ft from the surface and produced mineral water at the rate of 20 gallons per hour. The smell was said to be pungent and reminiscent of a gun when it is discharged!

Click here and take a walk around the inside of the building, now home to Tenbury Wells Town Council.

There has been a crossing over the River Teme into Tenbury since the 13th century, but this historic bridge is known to have been rebuilt by Thomas Telford following flood damage in 1795. The bridge is now a National Heritage, Grade 1, listed monument. The middle of the River Teme forms a dividing border between two counties - Worcestershire and Shropshire. 


Tenbury Wells itself is a quiet country market town, but in the 16th century it was situated on one of the main highways from London to the North of the country. Stagecoaches would rest at one of several coaching inns in and around Tenbury to facilitate a change of horses or an overnight stop. 

 The town lies in an area renown for its orchards, with it's apple trees being a prime target for the parasitic mistletoe plant. Mistletoe lives off the fruit trees nutrients and water which although it weakens the trees, it does not harm them. 
Due to the amount of mistletoe growing in the area, Tenbury has now become a national institution for its Annual Mistletoe and Holly auction which has been held there for the past 160 years.  

Merchants along with interested people flock to the town to both buy and watch this quaint festive auction taking place at the beginning of December in time for the Christmas season.
Although this delightful small market building appears to look round it is actually oval in shape. This building was also designed by the Spa's architect, James Cranston. 
It was a Sunday when we visited and all was quiet inside this quaint market, but a market is still held here three times a week. 
Queen Victoria referred to Tenbury as "my little town in the orchard".