Saturday 28 August 2021

A Lockdown Treasure

This tiny enamel pot, thought to be a very small teapot by the owner, had been boxed up in his garage ready to be taken to a local charity. It had belonged to the owners grandfather and assumed to have been acquired whilst he was stationed in the Far East during the Second World War. During lockdown the owner was sorting through the box and decided that may be it looked a bit too special for a charity shop, so he took it to be checked out by a local auctioneer before parting with it. The auctioneer noticed straightaway that it appeared to be 18th century Chinese and could possibly be worth £10,000 or even more. However, whilst researching the pot further the auctioneer realised that it was almost identical to two wine ewers that had been used in the palace of Emperor Qianlong, both of which are now housed in museums. 

Emperor Qianlong

Each of the three wine ewers have identical Qianlong reign marks on the bottom 

One of the ewers is held in the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, and the other is in the Palace Museum in Beijing, China.

At this stage the price of the ewer was rapidly revised upwards - maybe it could even fetch £100,000 to £200,000.  

Emperor Qianlong is considered to be one of the greatest Chinese emperors ; did it grace his palace, or could he have even handled it!

A British valet who accompanied his diplomatic master to the Qing court in 1793 described the emperor thus:

The Emperor is about five feet ten inches in height, and of a slender but elegant form ; his complexion is comparatively fair, though his eyes are dark ; his nose is rather aquiline, and the whole of his countenance presents a perfect regularity of feature, which by no means, announce the great age he is said to have attained ; his person is attracting, and his deportment accompanied by an affability, which, without lessening the dignity of the prince, evinces the amiable character of the man. His dress consisted of a loose robe of yellow silk, a cap of black velvet with a red ball on the top, and adorned with a peacock's feather, which is the peculiar distinction of mandarines of the first class. He wore silk boots embroidered with gold, and a sash of blue girded his waist.

Emperor Qianlong in ceremonial armour on horseback
The price of the small wine ewer turned out to be drastically under estimated, in the end it went for £390,000. It is most likely that it has now returned back home to China.

images of the Emperor and his description courtesy wiki.

Friday 20 August 2021

Tettigonia viridissima

Our youngest son and his wife are coming to stay for a couple of days next week. Last year they kindly gifted me a lovely blue glazed pot for the garden which they had planted up with a late flowering Echinacea 'Leilani' - bright yellow Coneflower. 

I went out to the patio to see whether the flower buds were opening yet in the hopes that they will be blooming in time for their visit, but to my surprise discovered a very large prehistoric looking creature sunning itself on the plant. 

Here's looking at you kid!

It is a Great Green Bush Cricket - Tettigonia viridissima, the largest of all British crickets. In fact it is one of our largest British insects, particularly the adult female, which this one happened to be, measuring roughly 7cms long. I have never come across one before ; apparently they are only found in southern parts of the country.

Looking at her closely it is possible to see many interesting little details. Tiny little spikes running down the legs and the wings appear to closely resemble a leaf, creating good camouflage, as it mainly lives an arboreal life in small trees and scrub.

On this photo you can recognise that it is a female from her ovipositor positioned at the back of the body from which she lays her eggs.
Apart from their large size the
Tettigonia viridissima is disquinishable from other crickets and grasshoppers by their long antennae which can be upto three times their body length. The antennae move up and down and from side to side completely independantly of one another.
She looks as if she is about to head off now.  Fortunately she hasn't dined out on our plant as she is carnivorous preferring to eat flies, caterpillars, and larvae. Although not agressive, they are notorious for giving handlers a painful nip: best to leave them well alone!

Saturday 14 August 2021

Broughton Castle......... a fortified medieval manor house in the northern Cotswolds which romantically sits in the middle of a moated island.  The original manor house, much of which still remains today, was built in 13oo. It is the family home of the 21st Lord and Lady Saye & Sele whose family name is Fiennes. Members of their extended family being Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the explorer, and Ralph & Joseph Fiennes, the actors. 

The fact that the same family have lived in the house for over 700 years is clearly reflected in the atmosphere when you enter. With its great chambers, parlours, attics and knot garden, the house is very welcoming and comfortable. 

The owners are not 'precious' about their belongings. If Lady Saye & Sele, who incidentally is 90years old, is around, she will help small children try on the small leather body armour seen hanging along this corridor. 

I suspect that these fresh water clam shells may have been found in their moat. Moats were not only for protection, but were also a very important source of fresh food hundreds of years ago.

Queen Anne of Denmark, wife of James 1, and mother of Charles 1, stayed at Broughton in 1608 with the King and their 14 year old son Prince Henry.

The bedroom she used still retains its original 14th c mullioned windows along with the original box pattern glass.

The view from the bedroom window shows a timeless pastoral English landscape.
The King's Chamber has a bold modern bed designed in a contemporary oriental style. The walls are decorated with Chinese handpainted paper which is in wonderful condition even though it has sat on these walls for well over 300+ years. May be there is a lesson for us all here regarding sustainability!!!

Every feature painted onto the paper is totally unique, nothing is repeated.

We climbed the winding stone stairway to the very top of the house and clambered out onto the rooftop. This gave a great overview of the surrounding area, and the walled knot garden clipped in an attractive fleur-de-lys design.

I loved this hanging oriel window, and the pretty juliet balcony. It was in this area that we met and spoke to Lady Saye & Sele, she was busily deadheading the roses. She is a delightful, friendly lady, who chatted to us for some time. She then bid us farewell and hastened quickly across the lawns to check on her husband. He was sitting beneath one of the very large trees sheltering from the bright sunlight. He will be 101 years old next month. They are a remarkable couple.

We had our visiting family with us which made it an even more extra special day out for us all.

Saturday 7 August 2021

Dyffryn Garden

Dyffryn Gardens.........
..........lie just a few miles away from our visit to St. Cadoc's church in the Vale of Glamorgan, too close for us not to pay it a visit. For some reason we were not expecting anything particularly special, but happily we were wrong

Marginal water plant - Pontederia cordata - Pickerel weed

Certainly this large garden has suffered as a result of the pandemic. A combination of the staff having to be placed on furlough, loss of income and reduced resources has meant that nature is thriving in the gardens i.e. unwanted weeds and growth that normally requires regular trimming and attention, but there were many really unusual plants in the garden which were a pleasure to see.

The gardeners had sown lots of wild flower seeds in several of the main borders during the Spring months which are now filling the garden with joyous colours that sparkle in the sunshine along with this glorious show of chamomile daisies.  

Many areas of the garden have large ponds, water channels and rills that are filled with beautiful water plants. I particularly loved these Sarracenia - Trumpet Pitcher plants which were growing along the edge of one of the ponds in a multitude of different colours. 
We enjoyed an ice cream sitting outside on the loggia to the property before returning home, tired, but happy with our day out.

This week we have had our eldest son, DiL, and one of our granddaughters staying. I have now just about re-surfaced, having completely forgotten what it is like to have several guests in the house for a few days.