Friday 28 August 2020

A Walk in the Park........

....with thanks to Bob who wrote a comment on my last post about a walk that he had taken in Cirencester Park. The walk in the park is one that happens to be on my doorstep, so I was very happy to be reminded about it.  

As we left the house I took a quick photo of the Anemone hupehensis - Japanese anemone, before they finally go beyond their best. Currently they are a riot of pretty pink, but they do need curbing, otherwise they will take over any areas where they are planted. 

We have now travelled a few miles along the road and arrived in Cirencester - Roman town Corinium. The parish church of St. John the Baptist dominates the centre of the town and overlooks the town's Market Place. A charter market, originally founded during the Roman period, and mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book.
Around the corner we walk past a very high wall shielding a 40ft Yew hedge which in turn hides a stately home. Planted in 1720, the hedge is now exactly 300 years old and reputed to be the tallest Yew hedge in the world. 
It is very unusual to have a stately home in the middle of a town, but as you can see, it is totally hidden from our view. 
However, a birds eye view from the church tower reveals a semi circular Yew hedge screening the house. It also shows the walk (on the right) that we are about to take over the Estate. It is a walk that the 9th Earl and the Countess of Bathurst generously open to the public from 8.00am until 5.00pm on a daily basis.
The road that leads up to the park is called Cecily Hill. It has some fine Cotswold stone properties showing a variety of styles that alternate between local vernacular cottages to imposing villas. The road is named after an ancient chapel that once occupied the site dedicated to St. Cecilia. 

A terrace of ten cottages bears a stone plaque and is a reminder of something called the Tontine Investment Plan, which was used for raising capital. It was devised in the 17th century and was relatively widespread throughout several European countries during the 18th and 19th centuries. The plan was named after Neapolitan banker Lorenzo de Tonti, who is popularly credited with having devised the scheme, a form of life insurance, in 1653. The scheme eventually became illegal as more bonafide insurance schemes were developed. In the Tontine scheme the surviving subscriber to each enterprise eventually ended up owning all of the investments and properties!!! 
This pretty kitten watched us from inside one of the cottages as we made our way to the park.

In 1710 Allen Bathurst, who later became Lord Bathurst, set about creating a landscaped park with a walk known as the Broad Walk or Ride. 
The walk is very popular with all age groups, people with children, dogs, and young girls exercising polo ponies. 
The Polo Club on the estate, the oldest in the country, is frequented by several members of the Royal family. 
Eventually the paved walk turns into a mown grassy pathway, and after 8km you arrive at the outskirts of an attractive hilltop village called Sapperton. It is known for its strong connection to the Cotswold Arts and Crafts Movement during the late 19th and early 20th century. Several distinguished craftsmen set up their studios and homes in the village. 
On our return home I looked at our own Yew with new eyes, a tree that we have cut and shaped it into a large spherical ball. It is highly likely that the yew seed arrived in the garden courtesy a bird, but it had already grown into a minuscule sapling by the time that we found it. Now more than 20 years later it stands well over two metres high and requires a stepladder to trim the top.
Yews are very long lived - the oldest in the world resides in Perthshire, Scotland, and is estimated to be over 2500 years old. I wonder if our yew will still be around into the far distant future? And if so, I am now left pondering just how big it might become!

Friday 21 August 2020

Out and About

We escaped our own four walls to spent a few hours wandering around in glorious bright sunshine. 
The fountain bears a passing resemblance to the famous Trevi fountain in Rome, but this one is just a few miles down the road from us in the Cotswolds at Cheltenham.
Carved out of Portland stone and erected on this spot over 125 years ago, it shows the Roman mythological god of fresh water and the sea, Neptune, his counterpart being the Greek god Poseidon.  It is one of Cheltenham's many iconic street landmarks that are scattered around the town.
Neptune sits on his shell chariot whilst holding his trident, which is drawn by four seahorses, and accompanied by two shell blowing mermen (tritons). 
Cheltenham began as an Anglo-Saxon village over 1200 years ago. In 1226 it became a market town, which was the basis of its economy until the 18th century. Cheltenham's fortunes suddenly changed completely when medicinal waters were discovered in a field to the south of the town. The discovery turned the town into a popular Regency spa tourist destination with its tree-lined promenades, gardens, parks, and wide open green spaces and still seen today. Elegant villas were built along the wide tree-lined boulevards together with classically designed spa buildings. The final seal of approval was set on the town when it was visited in 1788 by George lll, his queen, and his princesses.  
Wide tree-lined shopping boulevards
Large green open spaces
Cheltenham is blessed with several stunning parks, beautiful spaces to sit and watch the world go by, enjoy a picnic, run, walk the dog, play a game of boule, tennis, or even swim in their 1930s open air Lido pool.
The top of the fountain appears to show pelicans which have been used ever since medieval times to represent piety. 
We returned home happy for our escape along with a bag full of tasty goodies for the fridge to enjoy this coming weekend.

Monday 17 August 2020

Garrulus glandarius - Jay

This extremely wary young Jay spent a long time in the garden yesterday - Sunday, entertaining us. We delighted in his slow and deliberate wing flapping as he jerked between the tall climbing plants before flying into our large Hornbeam tree. He would then fly down to the ground where he appeared to find food in and on the ground to satisfy his omnivorous needs. Jays are highly intelligent and the harsh raucous call you often hear is just part of a very wide repertoire. He can raise his crown feathers up into a crest when excited or displaying. I say 'he' but the bird might have been a female - they both look alike. I love the colour of the dusty pink feathers offset by the flashes of baby blue on the wings.
image taken through glass 
The Jay was one of the many species originally described by Carl Linnaeus in his landmark 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae. He recognised its affinity with other corvids, (does that name have a familar ring?) naming it Corvus glandarius. The current scientific name is from Latin; garrulus means noisy or chattering, and glandarius is "of acorns", a favoured food.
Their intelligence is similar to other corvids - jays have been reported to plan for their future needs. Male jays also take into account the desires of their partner when sharing food with her as a courtship ritual, and also when protecting their food items from stealing by other members of the same genus i.e. magpies, rooks, crows, ravens, choughs, and jackdaws.
In order to keep their plumage free of parasites, they lie on top of anthills with spread wings allowing their feathers to be sprayed with formic acid by the ants.

Saturday 8 August 2020

A Rainbow of Colour

For the last few years the 'buzzword' within the farming community has been diversification. Farmers today are busily turning their hands to a large variety of different ventures, including specialty cheese making, delicious tasty yogurts and ice cream. Some use their potato crops to make luxury high-end crisps. Many farmers are now making high-end gins in a variety of different flavours from herbs, berries and plants that grow on their land. 
The farm that we visited has turned diversification into a very successful business, having made over several acres of land into colourful flower fields and then using the petals to make confetti following a drying process.
Not only that, but it has now also become a very popular tourist destination.
 The dried Delphinium petals are now very fashionable with brides from all around the world. They are eco friendly, a sustainable product and importantly, biodegradable. 
However, using natural flower petals is a revival - the Victorian's always used flower petals to throw over a bride and groom on their wedding day.
Flowers symbolise love, so starting married life under a shower of confetti petals is considered to be lucky. 
The tradition of throwing confetti dates back to pagan times when it was thought to keep away evil spirits and bestow fertility upon the marriage. It endures as one of those traditions that are only experienced on a wedding day.
The fields are normally open for 10 days at the beginning of June, but due to lockdown, visiting wasn't permitted. However, knowing how disappointed people would be, the enterprising farmer sowed another crop of seeds hoping that the situation might change.
Sunflowers are a flower that the farmer normally does not grow - their petals are not used for the confetti. However, they are a wonderful resource for all of the bees and insects, and may be their seeds will be filling our garden bird feeders during the coming winter months.

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Thinking of Beirut

My thoughts are with all the ordinary men, women and children of Beirut -  however, will they cope?

A collapsed economy,
A banking crisis,
Corrupt leaders, 
A rampant virus, 
and now this horrendous explosion.
Do they have enough strength, 
and human spirit to continue forward? 
They need help - now - urgently.

Saturday 1 August 2020

A Notable Medieval Manor

Great Chalfield Manor was built in 1465, and described by Pevsner, the architectural historian, as "one of the most perfect examples of a late medieval English manor house".
The tiny parish church of All Saints sits within the manor's grounds. It was built during the same period as the manor to replace a much older one.
The dark coloured stone over the entrance is called a dripstone. They were designed to throw off rainwater to prevent it running down the stone tracery or glass below. This architectural feature has been in use for hundreds of years, particularly in this area. The stone house we live in has carved dripstones above our windows.
There are two oriel windows to the front of the house, the other which is more complex can be seen on the first photo. Medieval oriel windows are most commonly found projecting from an upper floor.
A medieval lancet window, named from its resemblance to a lance - there is no need for a dripstone here as the window is inset within the stonework.
The rooftop at Great Chalfield is covered in all manner of stone figures -  soldiers, griffons, monkeys, and several grotesque gargoyle water spouts.
The garden is laid out in an early 20th century Arts and Crafts style, and as it was a hot day, we were very grateful to be able to pop into several of these yew tree houses seeking shade.
This photo is for my blog friend Gina and she will understand why. It shows the yellow flowered Verbascum thapsus - great mullein weed, which English gardeners tend to keep should it arrive in our gardens. It is a wonderful plant for attracting several bees, particularly solitary bees, and the wool-carder bees who use the hairs from the leaves and stems to line their nests. It is a caterpillar food plant and with its nectar/pollen rich flowers it is loved by many insects.
One of the joys of Great Chalfield is the fact that it retains its medieval moat. Moats were built as a security device against thieves and unwanted intruders. The moats were stocked with fish and wildfowl which then served the house with fresh food throughout the year. The water was also a useful resource in case of fire. 
Have you noticed the dripstones above all of the windows and the doorway?
'Summer Reflections on the Moat' 
It may look abstract but it is real!