Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Taking a break

I have hurt my wrist - it is painful, and using the computer is not easy.

and take care.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020


Where the coast and the moors meet.
We've travelled up from Porlock Weir onto Exmoor

our only company being the wild Exmoor ponies. 
Extract from The Salt Path by Raynor Winn 
"The South West Coast Path is said to have been established by the coastguards who needed to view into each and everyone of the endless coves and bays as they patrolled for smugglers. But the many sites of ancient history described in every guidebook or tourist pamphlet suggest that the path has been trodden by man for as long as he has walked over the land".

Gazing out across the Bristol Channel we can just make out the Welsh coast on the horizon, but the wind is starting to gather around us, so we decide that it is time to collect the car and travel to somewhere more sheltered. 

We find a road that heads down from the top of the moors, but it soon becomes extremely narrow, and steep. There are trees, ferns and mossy boulders to our offside, and a rather frightening vertiginous drop down into the valley on our nearside. 

We hope we wont meet another vehicle travelling up the road, all of which keeps us on tender hooks, that is, until we finally arrive in the valley safe and sound.

Doone Valley, is a valley immortalised by R D Blackmore's book, Lorna Doone, published in 1869. Lorna Doone is the tale of a young boy, John Ridd, whose father is killed by Scottish outlaws - the Doones. The Doones were exiled from Scotland in 1616 to this remote corner of Exmoor where they robbed travellers and local farmers. Living amongst them is Lorna, whom the Doone family had kidnapped as a young child. John wants revenge for the death of his father, but falls in love with Lorna. It is a story of romance, intrigue, and mystery. Facts are mixed up with fiction, legends using names that have links to local families having been used, but is the story true or is it fiction? It is a story that leaves the reader to decide for themselves.
At Malmsmead a humpbacked packhorse bridge crosses Badgworthy Water, and rather like the road taken earlier, this too, was not built for cars. It is extremely narrow but can be crossed with care.

 However, it is far easier just to drive through Badgworthy Water to get to the  other side.

 Fortunately we discovered a much better road to take us out of the valley which followed the twists and turns in the river, and arrive back at our hotel in time for a freshly brewed cup of tea.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

The Pandemic in the UK

The latest Sunday Times showed a graphic illustration of the Covid-19 situation in the UK. Unfortunately it was spread across two large pages making it impossible to photograph. I have cut it up and made it into my own amateur visualisation, but, I do believe it gives the current UK situation more perspective. 

One dot represents 10,000 People

People under household restrictions

Confirmed Cases

Admitted to hospital

Covid deaths (white background used - black dots don't show clearly on my brown background)

Rest of the population who are free of the virus

Total UK population 66.8m

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Holiday Postcards

We have been away, staying close to the W.Somerset/N.Devon borders. Just as we left home, our lovely warm 'Indian Summer' slipped away, replaced by more typically late September weather. Following a hearty breakfast at the hotel, sufficient to sustain us throughout the whole day, we set off in search of the tiny village of Selworthy. Sitting snuggled within a deeply wooded hillside, in a timeless rural landscape of thatched cottages, a medieval church, and enjoying sweeping views across the Vale of Porlock to Exmoor. 

You could be forgiven for thinking that the village of Selworthy appears to have a faux appearance, and it is true that the thatched cottages are certainly far younger than the medieval church, but they are still 200 years old. They were built in the 1820s by Sir Richard Acland in order to house both the aged and infirm who had worked for him on his Holnicote Estate. During the early reign of Queen Victoria, many wealthy employers looked after their staff really well.

The cottages nestle together around a small village green halfway up the steep hillside. They are all painted in a shade of ochre, one is now a small cafe, another has a gallery, one of the cottages can be rented for holidays, and the rest are privately owned. The surrounding woods have lots of walks meandering through them revealing interesting places to explore, including the ancient earthworks of Bury Castle, a memorial hut erected in 1878 to Sir Thomas Dyke Acland by his youngest son, and by walking to the top of the escarpment it is possible to find yourself on the 630 mile long S.W. coastal Path, now internationally familiar to the many who have read Raynor Winn's book, The Salt Path. 

If you have not been inside an English thatched cottage then there is a tendency to imagine that they are probably extremely dark, small, and gloomy inside.
This is Ivy's Cottage - you can peep inside here.  It is rented out by the National Trust. I am not advocating the cottage, this is simply so that you can see what a small thatched cottage can look like inside.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Along the Towpath

Making the most of this late September warmth we have continued to explore various walks along the canal towpaths,
and are now more aware that autumns colours are slowly appearing.

Shall we go under, over, or around?

The Grey Heron and a Moorhen completely ignore us.

Clematis vitalba - Old Man's Beard
It is very peaceful, it feels good,


but is it? This wretched virus is on the rise again in several European countries.

This year there is a very strong recommendation from WHO and our own NHS that we should all have a winter Flu vaccination. Have you booked yours? My husband has already had his, and mine is due next week.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

The Days Grow Shorter...

.... but summer seems reluctant to bid farewell.
Ipomoea - Morning Glory 'Heavenly Blue'
It was late into the season before I planted these seeds, but better late never.
Phygelius - Cape Fuchsia
The deer that visit the garden love these small Begonias. They eat just the flowers, but then the plants fight back and grow new ones - we keep our fingers crossed that the deer will forget that they are here.
We drove down into one of our local valleys seeking shade - our hilltop was hot.
Then walked past this old stone mill, one of many that still occupy the valley. As one of the earliest cloth making areas, these mills helped to bring great wealth to the district - a legacy that can be traced right back to the 14th century. Italian merchants, in particular, clamoured to buy wool from the Cotswolds. It was said: "half the wealth of England rides on the back of a sheep."
The walk takes you between a local river to one side and a canal built in 1779 on the other. The valley, known as the Golden Valley, is what Queen Victoria called it when she viewed it from a train window on a visit here - so Golden it has remained. 
This small valley church was built in 1724 - the chief glory of this church lies in its Arts and Crafts Movement furnishing done by several of the early 19th century distinguished Cotswold craftsmen. 
Scattered up and down the hillside and along the valley are the many little cottages that were once lived in by the cloth weavers, and those who worked in the mills.
Most have now been extended and gentrified.
Time for home, a cup of tea,
and a good book.
George Szirtes is a prize winning poet and translator, but this is his first foray into writing prose. Last month The Photographer at Sixteen won him the prestigious James Tait Black Prize, and it has just been announced that in 2021 he will be one of the International Booker Prize judges.
As a family we have known George for many years - he taught our youngest son English at school, and offered helpful guidance to our eldest son with his poetry writing. 
Born in Budapest, George, his parents, and younger brother fled Hungary and came to England in 1956 during the uprising. He was eight years old, and vividly recalls their desperate escape.
As a young girl his mother's ambition was to be a photographer and eventually she became a photo journalist in Budapest. She struggled with displacement, battled poor health, and took her life when she was 51 years old. In his quest to try and unravel the enigmas surrounding his mother's life, George travels back through his own personal memory and into an unknown darker family history to discover his mother's secret past. During the war she was interned and survived two concentration camps, and lived with the awful memory of not knowing the fate of her family, who had all disappeared from their home in Transylvania. This previous life was an unknown revelation to George, he hadn't even perceived that his mother was Jewish, a fact that she had kept hidden, even within their family. 
Critic, Patrick McGuinness writes "it is those closest to us who remain the most mysterious."

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

A Short Break

St Mary's Church, Hitchin
We have just spent a few days in Hertfordshire, an area that we moved away from more than 20 years ago. The visit was specifically to see our sons and hopefully some of our grandchildren - we have missed them all so much. We decided that perhaps it would be best if we stayed in a local hotel, and chose one that in a former life had been a Carmelite Priory.
Very little of the original Priory founded in 1317 remains, but brief glimpses of its former self can still be seen. The Priory was built from flint, rubble and clunch and in appearance its walls would have looked very similar to those of the local parish church above.
Example of flint and stone clunch used in a typical checkerboard pattern.
The Radcliffe family took up residence upon the dissolution and establishment of the Church of England in Henry Vlll's reign. The family bought the Priory Estate in 1548, remaining there until 1965, during which time they played an important part in the social and cultural development of the town. Most of the buildings that replaced the priory were built by the Radcliffe's during the Georgian period.
One of the particular delights of this property is the way that the local River Hiz meanders in and around the property. At the front of the property it forms an area similar to a duck pond having arrived at this spot through a series of pretty Georgian brick built bridges courtesy a chalk fed spring whose source is in the nearby village of Charlton. Where the ducks are swimming is the last complete view seen of the river before it disappears beneath the town. It then flows through an underground canal, built in the 1920s, but emerges briefly from time to time especially as it flows along the back of the churchyard. The canal continues the rivers journey to the northern side of the town where it finally departs to eventually meets up with the River Ivel.

Lovely old Georgian brickwork together with some of the remains of the original flint and rubble walls from the old priory.
I love these old bricks with their interesting colouring and shapes, but why don't we see lovely brickwork like this used today?

The Georgian home built by the Delmé Ratcliffe family.