Sunday 25 September 2022


........officially arrived last Friday when the earth's orbit entered the Equinox in our northern hemisphere. However, it is still sunny here with lovely blue skies, and long may that continue. The big difference now is that the evening sun sinks earlier and earlier with each passing day.

Recently all of the family celebrated my birthday - a wonderful treat organised by our two sons. When a child I was very aware that my birthday heralded the moment when it was time to return back to school, and that the summer holidays were finally over. It was also the middle of the harvest season, but no longer, now the crops are ripening at least four or more weeks earlier.             

One of my much loved grand-daughters made me this special birthday treat. A vase that she has created out of cardboard and then painted in her own imitable style - I really love and greatly appreciate it very much. 

In our garden the grape vine has produced bountiful bunches of juicy ripe black grapes

The sunflowers stand tall and stately. They bow their heads whilst swaying to and fro from the slightest passing movement through the air.

I am working with the enthusiasm of a man

from Marseilles eating bouillabaisse, which

shouldn't come as a surprise to you because I am busy painting huge sunflowers.

Vincent Van Gogh

Saturday 17 September 2022

A mid-September Walk

The flag stands at half mast and the church bell tolls.

But all around there is a sense of peacefulness and calm.
The village War Memorial was designed by eminent architect Edwin Lutyens, designer of New Delhi, now the seat of the Government of India. Lutyens had a close professional working partnership with the garden guru, Gertrude Jekyll, their joint garden designs helped to define the look of his Arts & Crafts style country houses. 
Lutyens iconic garden bench now a familiar feature seen in gardens around the world.
We, however, are leaving the village behind as we head off down into the valley.
Touches of yellow are sprinkled amongst some of the trees as Autumn slowly makes her golden entrance.
Having had weeks and weeks without any rain there have now been two days of heavy rain, and it is cheering to see just how quickly the grass has managed to 'green up' again.

“In life, there are many hills and valleys to pass and you cannot avoid them! The most important thing you need is to know this: You must pass them!”
Mehmet Murat ildan

Saturday 10 September 2022

Along the Golden Valley in Herefordshire cont'd.........

St Faith's Church in the Herefordshire village of Bacton stands in an elevated position looking down over the River Dore in the Golden Valley.

This ancient church contains two very rare Tudor treasures, one of which is the Blanche Parry Monument, which was commissioned by Blanche for herself 12 years before her death. For 56 years Blanche was the close confidante of Queen Elizabeth 1, Chief Gentlewoman of the Queen's Most Honourable Privy Chamber and Keeper of Her Majesty's Jewels. The monument shows sculptured effigies of both herself and the Queen along with a 28 line inscription. It is dated to before November 1578 and is the earliest known depiction of the queen as Gloriana signalling the propagation of the queen's iconography and cult of virginity beyond the court. The inscription was designed to both demonstrate Blanche's closeness and importance to the queen, and bolster the royal image. The wording concludes with the lines -

So that my time I thus did pass away
A maid in court and never no man's wife
Sworn of Queen Elizabeth head Chamber always
With maiden queen a maid did end my life

Blanche's epitaph appears to prove that Queen Elizabeth did live and die a maid (virgin). Having composed the inscription herself for her own church monument, Blanche would never ever have dared lied to God for fear of harming her chances of entering heaven. 

The other rare Tudor treasure is the Bacton Altar cloth; its true identity was only realised 6 years ago. For centuries this little church had possession of an exquisite Altar Cloth, a cloth which had been treasured by generations of parishioners. In 1909, it was decided that the Cloth should be framed in oak and mounted behind glass on the northern church wall away from any light in order to protect and preserve it.
A replica cloth now hangs in Bacton Church
The Cloth stayed on the wall until 2015, when historian Ruth Elizabeth Richardson, who was writing a biography about Blanche Parry, came to look at it. Whilst studying it, she realised that the cloth was of incredible quality and rarity. She shared her photographs with Eleri Lynn, the Dress Historian Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, who also went to view the cloth. As soon as she saw it she realised that it was something very special. Following Eleri Lynn's close scrutiny and study of the fabric she quickly realised that the fabric had previously been a dress, as evidenced by a distinct pattern cutting of the fabric, and that it was almost cetainly a dress that must have been worn by Queen Elizabeth 1. Dating puts the fabric squarely in the 1590s, due to the style of the embroidered florals. The embroidery shows a striking resemblance to a dress worn by Queen Elizabeth 1 in the Rainbow portrait hanging in Hatfield House.
The garment is made of cream-coloured silk and Italian cloth of silver giving strong clues as to its owner. The elaborately embroidered colourful flowers, the animals and vegetation all done in silk along with the use of silver and gold thread were under Tudor "sumptuary laws" reserved for senior members of the royal family only. Unusually, the embroidery was stitched straight onto the fabric, indicating expert workmanship and therefore an elite owner.
No other piece of fabric of this date and nature exists anywhere else in the world, which makes it significantly important. It has now been valued at well over one million pounds. 
Our time here is rapidly drawing to a close if we are to find and locate our final destination before making tracks for home.
The Sat Nav. takes us down into the valley and back up into the hills seen in the distance. We turn up the final road which appears to be very steep and narrow so we abandon the car and continue to walk up to the top of the hill.

Are we nearly there yet?
This Neolithic chambered tomb is over 5,000 years old. Today only the large stones of the inner chamber remain which would once have been covered by a long earthen mound i.e. "barrow". The chamber is formed by nine upright stones, and topped with an enormous capstone, estimated to weigh more than 25 tonnes. How did those Neolithic people move it or lift it? This tomb has never been excavated, but similar examples in the
region have been found to contain incomplete skeletal remains of several people, together with flint flakes, arowheads and pottery.  During the period of their use chambered tombs would have served as more than just burial places or sites of ritual. It is thought that they may also have been used as a status symbol and a territorial marker. 

Thursday 8 September 2022

The second Elizabethan Age ends

Queen Elizabeth 11 1926 -2022

Queen Elizabeth 11 died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon after a lifetime of service, dedication, and commitment. May she rest in peace.

Friday 2 September 2022

Dore Abbey

It was a dull, grey day, with more than a hint of rain in the air as we set off to spend the day exploring the Golden Valley in Herefordshire. However, the BBC weather forecast assured us that the day would be bright, warm and sunny, and happily they were right.

Our first port of call was Dore Abbey, a place that we were keen to visit having caught a glimpse of it as we drove past years ago. The abbey was founded in 1147 by Cistercian Monks who came over from Morimond Abbey in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. They seeked seclusion, and founded their houses in wild and remote areas. Dore Abbey's position in the Golden Valley reflects their ideology and aspirations. Now, however, due to the building being almost 900 years old, it requires huge sums of investment in order to keep it maintained. Some young stone masons were carrying out various tasks on the tower when we arrived. They appeared to be checking all of the stonework and mortar then dealing with any problems discovered as they swung to and fro all across the tower.   

The battlement tower that they were repairing was raised after the reformation, giving the building "a touch of England" to an otherwise French exterior.
The pink Herefordshire sandstone edifice seen today is a mere fragment of what the abbey would have originally looked like. After the Reformation the nave was demolished and now just the transepts and the chancel remain. Judging from the scale of the transepts, the nave would appear to have been truly magnificent. The building continues to be used as the local parish church.

I particularly like this eliptical window
Surprisingly the walls inside are all a soft grey limestone, and most of the fittings seen today were added during the first half of the 17th century. The building was rescued by John, Viscount Scudamore, who chose a very talented carpenter, John Abel (1577-1664) to make this wonderful screen. It encloses the congregational area, and is a splendid example of 17th century classicism, heavy, richly Baroque, and dated 1633.
Two contrasting faces seen on the screen - one sad and one happy.
These striking stained glass lancet windows form an attractive backing to the altar. Their delicately coloured glass is particularly pleasing. At the very bottom of the window a date reveals that they were made in 1634.
A post Reformation wall painting portraying a winged "Father Time" carrying his scythe and an hour-glass, representing the passage of time.
In the Ambulatory, a covered passageway around the cloisters at the east end of the church, there is a huge collection of statuary and stonework. This all dates back to the original building having been rediscovered across the years by restorers and archaeologists.
An Abbot with the Virgin and child - this boss has been exhibited in London and Paris. The Abbot is thought to have been Richard Straddell, Dore's most famous abbot. 
A boss representing the Green Man,
and this one a medieval lady.
Having found a shady bench beneath a large tree in the churchyard to have our picnic, it is now time for us to move on to our next two destinations, where we hope to find more treasures. One of which is over 400 years old, very rare, with royal connections. The other is even older - 5,000 years old, but these will have to await the next post.