Category Archives: day trips

Nunnington Hall: The Carlisle Collection

I’m not often overly enamored of the various trinkets that stately home owners like to put on show to the Great Unwashed – i.e. you and I, Joe Public and the like. I mean, I love the historic settings and there is definitely great value to be imbibed through getting up-close-and-personal with the hoity-toitys’ treasures but sometimes these things can leave one really wondering if there ever were real people who, once upon a time, loved these objet d’arte as much as the historians would have us believe.

The Carlisle Collection, a unique collection of truly outstanding miniature rooms, fully furnished in intricate detail and commissioned by Mrs Kitty Carlisle in the early to mid twentieth century, is housed in the attic rooms of Nunnington Hall, near York in North Yorkshire.

It is enchanting; stepping in to see each display case is a sheer delight.

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop showing scale

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop showing scale

The scale is reportedly on an uncommon 1/8th (1 inch = 8 inches) measurement – uncommon because most other similar artifacts are usually on the smaller 1/12th scale (1 inch = 12 inches). The considerable attention to detail is outstanding and evident in each of the dozen or more displays.

This means that everything is really tiny, but perfectly formed.

… so many possibilities, so little time! I’ll leave whatever comparisons you want to make to your own imaginations 🙂 

The first room to capture my attention was the Antique Shop – apparently this was what she constructed with everything that was left over from furnishing the other rooms. What a creative way to display the gallimaufry of ephemera that had no other place! ‘Something doesn’t fit in any of the other settings? No worries! Let’s create an antique shop so nothing looks out of place!’ It’s a stroke of genius, in my mind at least.

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop interior from above

Carlisle Collection: Antique Shop interior from above

Totally mesmerizing, I was fascinated with the tiny ceramic animals sitting on a display table and an exquisitely etched silver tea service on a silver tray. Looking through the glass in the front door made me feel like an actual giant. Truly. I suddenly completely understood Alice in Wonderland at the deepest level.

Next we spied the tiny greenhouse, complete with potted plants and gardening tools. *Squee!*

Carlisle Collection; Greenhouse

Carlisle Collection; Greenhouse

The painter and decorator’s workshop floored me with the rolls of wallpaper, stacked neatly on a shelf – Mrs Carlisle had taken the trouble to PRINT a variety of different patterns onto the wallpapers in store – one was conveniently opened up for inspection on the work bench.

Carlisle Collection; Painter and Decorators's Workshop

Carlisle Collection; Painter and Decorators’s Workshop

Teeny tools and even the bicycle parked under the stable door made me smile broadly. I was really beginning to enjoy the display!

Now we moved across the hall to another room filled with enclosed display cabinets. These were nothing short of spectacular. I was delighted also to spot that the National Trust provided appropriate portable stepping platforms so that younger visitors might be able to see the marvelous detail for themselves – it’s a nice touch.

The Adam Music Room with its variety of splendid instruments, including a mandolin, a Spanish guitar, cello, viola, violin, clarinet, harp and harpsichord as well as a music stand with sheet music stacked up rather precariously made me wish I had such a room in my own house.

Carlisle Collection; Music Room

Carlisle Collection; Music Room

The Palladian Hall, reputedly the last of the rooms to be commissioned by Mrs. Carlisle is modeled on one at Hatch Court in Somerset.

Carlisle Collection; Entrance Hall

Carlisle Collection; Entrance Hall

The balustrade pattern was hand carved and then each of the 84 balusters were cast in brass whilst the  88 inches of carpet for the stairs was hand embroidered by the dedicated Mrs Carlisle, who also created all of the soft furnishings for each room setting.

The Georgian Bedroom then is even more fascinating (for textile-techies such as me at least) by this fact – take a look at the teeny little patches that Mrs Carlisle used to make the quilt for the bed – each one can be no more than a quarter-inch in size. And they are hexagons.

Carlisle Collection: Georgian Bedroom

Carlisle Collection: Georgian Bedroom

And, remember that back in the times that she made these remarkable bed-coverings, she would have had to have cut each tiny hexagon out by hand, tacked it to a tiny card template and then stitched each with minuscule stitches to the next in order to create the 12 inch long (approximately) counterpane. My mind was simply boggled!

The Queen Anne Drawing Room was actually Kitty Carlisle’s first commission, which she had modeled upon F.J Early’s Queen Mary’s Dolls House.

Carlisle Collection; Queen Anne Drawing Room

Carlisle Collection; Queen Anne Drawing Room

The attention to detail is simply breathtaking – dovetailed joints and even secret compartments in the writing bureau! I was also informed that the china is genuine Limoges Porcelain. Again, our seamstress busied herself with tapestries for the chair covers and footstools as well as the handsome room carpet.

Also (not pictured) there is the Day Nursery, which features a delightful toy Noah’s Ark, complete with a long line of paired animals, patiently waiting their embarkation amongst many other cherished toys; there’s also a Night Nursery, complete with a cot and a crib and other accouterments to childish slumber. It’s just lovely to see.

What a wonderful way to spend an hour or two  – if you ever get a chance to visit, this is definitely a must-see attraction, especially if, like me, you’re interested in miniature worlds.

NB: With regards to copyright; I did ask if it was OK to take photos and was informed that as long as I didn’t use a flash this would be OK and I do hope that I’m not upsetting any copyright rules by publishing my own photos here – if anyone is concerned about this, please can they let me know by contacting me via the contact details on the ‘contact page’ of this website. Thanks.

There’ll be more about our trip to Nunnington Hall last weekend, which we went to in order to see the gorgeous ‘Aspects of Rievaulx Abbey’ Exhibition that was showing my two art teachers’ work, Anne Thornhill and Paul Blackwell – that’s a whole other post though, so keep reading!

 

 

 

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Autumnal whimsy

Last week I posted some pictures of autumnal trees on my other blog and had every intention of writing more about them here. But, life takes over sometimes and I simply had no time. I suddenly realised today that if I don’t get them up soon, it’s going to be Winter – as we all know,  ‘Winter is Coming’! As a huge Game of Thrones fan I simply couldn’t resist that one.

So, in the three and a half minutes I have this morning I decided to at least get these pictures up and then I can write about them later – it seems like a good compromise. Some were taken in Harrogate, Yorkshire, on the magnificent Stray right in the centre of town. Harrogate is definitely a place I’d love to have lived, it has it’s own special charm and grace, unequalled anywhere else I’ve been to. One day, perhaps. Some others were taken in the sleepy village of Sledmere, which is on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, dominated by the grand stately home there, Sledmere House. I would love to spend some time visiting the house and grounds there – one day, perhaps.

My life seems to be about just that right now; Perhaps. One day. There are periods in life that can be difficult to deal with and this is definitely one of them. Still, at least there is hope. Hope is most important. I’m hanging onto that idea whilst I get on with the minutia of life. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Thanks for reading again!

Lindum Colonia, you’re a revelation!

We’ve been gadding about, here and there for the best part of two months, since researching potential university choices on the Internet only tells a truncated version of reality; it turns out that actually visiting the place in person gives a much more rounded view of what is on offer. It’s just a pity that we have to do them all so soon after each other – it’s getting tedious, giving up entire weekends to traipse around yet another set of corridors and having mountains of leaflets and brochures and prospectuses and other junk. On the plus side, I’ve got loads of new pictures to use as collage materials!

Some places are more intriguing than others. I was very pleasantly surprised by our recent visit to Lincoln -prompted largely by my Neanderthol’s interest in the work of one of the university’s lauded alumni, Jack Howard, who has a massive YouTube following and is now inspiring young(er) film-makers to follow in his footsteps. Some years ago, Toby and his friend, Josh, decided to attempt their own interpretation of one of Jack’s funny videos – New Car. I think it’s pretty funny and I’m hoping to persuade him to include it in his portfolio, when applying actually becomes something he gets round to doing. We also noted that the brilliant John Hurt (Mr Ollivander in the Harry Potter movies, for those who are unaware of the massive body of work undertaken by this highly-regarded English actor) was also in the list of the university’s esteemed collegian.

The Humber Bridge - seventh longest single span suspension bridge in the world

The Humber Bridge – seventh longest single span suspension bridge in the world

So we travelled the eighty miles or so, setting off early on a Saturday morning; our journey took us across the Humber Bridge, a magnificent structure that caused all sorts of difficulties during the planning and building stages – taking over twenty-two years to emerge into one of the most striking local landmarks. The Humber Bridge Board have lots of fascinating information for those who wish to know more about it, but I recall the lengthy debate being played out on news and magazine programmes throughout my own childhood and early adulthood too. The main difficulty seemed to be the exorbitant costs that spiralled to a reputed ninety-eight million pounds. At one time, it was the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world, although it is now the seventh longest.

The Humber bridge

The Humber bridge

Regardless of the controversy surrounding the bridge, it is a mighty and magnificent piece of engineering, spanning the banks of the Humber Estuary on England’s East Coast. Getting photos of it proved tricky as we had no time to stop and find a suitable position to get a good, uninterrupted view. I managed to get a couple of interesting angles from the car as we approached – although the threat of impending rain caused some other difficulties.

And then, on to Lincoln. The university seemed everything Toby was hoping for I think and we enjoyed our tour around the campus and chats with various staff members about course choices. Yes, it all seemed extremely worthwhile, as trips go. We had learned an important lesson from one of our less successful visits to another, un-named town that gave rise to the need to explore at least a little of the local area to round out our understanding of what Toby might be committing to, should he choose to spend the next three years in this place.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

This called for a short car journey up the hill, which I am reliably informed lies at almost two hundred and forty feet above sea level. Given the generally flat landscape of the surrounding area, this means there are some spectacular views from certain vantage points around the city, especially up near the Cathedral and castle. The cathedral was the tallest building in the world for over two hundred years, back in Medieval Britain. Of course, those days are long gone, but it seems that parts of Lincoln retain much of the same rustic charm that York does – unsurprisingly really, given that both have Roman heritages and both were later significant during England’s medieval period.

Classic Gothic architecture

Classic Gothic architecture

The classically Gothic structure of the Cathedral is remarkably similar to York Minster, with an assortment of carved gargoyles, saints and sinners depicted, mostly larger than life size to create an atmosphere of awe that would ensure that local worshippers remained faithful and obedient servants of the Church.

Is it just me, or does that gargoyle look like an Egyptian Pharaoh?

Is it just me, or does that gargoyle look like an Egyptian Pharaoh?

I was delighted to find a glorious vintage Austin bedecked with white ribbon – clearly awaiting the emergence of the newly-weds from their nuptials, which I can only assume must have been held in Lincoln Cathedral – how very grand! The car didn’t look out of place.

Vintage Austin - classy wedding car!

Vintage Austin – classy wedding car!

We wandered around the arts-and-crafty market stalls for a little while, noting aptly named streets such as ‘Steep Hill’ and ‘Castle hill’, as well as the infamous ‘Drury Lane’, where I believe that Simple Simon met the Pieman!

Castle Hill Club lies at the top of Drury Lane

Castle Hill Club lies at the top of Drury Lane

Timber framed shops, similar to York's Shambles

Timber framed shops, similar to York’s Shambles

Steep Hill. Clearly!

Steep Hill. Clearly!

We explored some exquisite little shops, again reminiscent of York and The Shambles in particular.  Tudor timber-framed, top-heavy structures abound, giving a quaint, Olde-Worlde charm to the area.

Browns Pie Shop. I feel a need to return...

Browns Pie Shop. I feel a need to return…

Loved the charming olde-world signage

Loved the charming olde-world signage

I desperately wanted to visit the pie shop, Browns, as it had been recommended to us by one of the university lecturers, but we had to make do with pressing our faces up against the mullioned windows, as the tiny shop was full to bursting.

Reflective vase - a feeling of grandeur?

Reflective vase – a feeling of grandeur?

On our return to the car, we looked more closely at the row of cottages that nestle into the Cathedral’s courtyard. In the window of one an elegant vase sat in wistful repose, gazing at the exalted majesty of Lincoln Cathedral. I like the way the reflection of the building is suggested upon the window pane.

In addition, I noticed that the end of the row of terraced houses featured one of these metal fittings.

These hold the houses together when temperatures fluctuate

These hold the houses together when temperatures fluctuate

They were used to help prevent the bulging and consequent collapsing of stone-built dwellings as the stone expands and contracts according to extremes in temperatures. In most cases, the iron feature is visible as a simple cross on the outside wall, but this cross is attached to a kind of axle with a matching cross on the other end that effectively holds the house together, righting the rules of physics that dictate the disintegration of the construction.  In this row though, the ‘x’ is replaced by an elegant ‘s’, but I’m assuming it serves the same purpose.

Number 23: the first houses to have numbers in Britain

Number 23: the first houses to have numbers in Britain

We came across an information board that informed us of the significance of the numbers on this otherwise unremarkable row of houses. Apparently, they were the first houses in Britain to have numbers! Who knew? I, for one, feel cleverer now that I know this interesting little fact. I shall squirrel it away in the corner of my grey matter to be recalled at some general knowledge quiz or another. I felt terribly satisfied!

All in all it seemed perfect and at the end of Saturday, we heaved a great sigh of relief – we’d found the Neanderthol’s Number One choice. Yay! Go us!

It was with reluctance that we rose early again on the Sunday and made our way over to Leeds Beckett’s University – or as it used to be known, Leeds Met – my old stomping ground. Surely, we were going just to check it wouldn’t match up to Lincoln, but at least we’d get a glimpse of the past and have some fun reminiscing. Or would we?

That’s a tale for another day!

Thanks for reading once again.

Imminent arrival at our destination

Thirty-five years is a long time, a lifetime, donkey’s years, or a coon’s age. It’s also a blink of an eye, a jiffy, an instant, a mere moment. It sort of depends upon your yardstick really doesn’t it?

It’s the length of time that has passed since I met my partner in crime, my love, my soul-mate – actually, that and a little bit more in truth. We’re not celebrating an anniversary or anything, it’s just that for most of that time it has been us and our progeny against the world. I note, in passing, that our next anniversary will be our thirty-fifth. Of course, as soon as this thought entered my head, I found myself Googling ‘thirty-fifth wedding anniversary’ and discovered that the traditional gift for that occasion is coral – with ‘blood coral’ (found only near Italy) being the most precious – whilst the modern gift is jade and the precious stone is emerald. I can see a Chinese carved dragon of coral and jade, with glowing emerald eyes looming in my future, which seems to cover all the bases there!

For almost thirty-five years though we have not been alone. Our first child, a beautiful and much-loved daughter came along fairly quickly, followed by her cherished sibling just eighteen months later, so our early years together were as a complete family unit. As our girls grew and our horizons expanded, we ventured further afield and found ourselves in the Far East, Hong Kong before the handover. Our teenagers accepted the challenge of a third child arriving on the scene, doting on their little brother with obvious pride and joy. And then they left to pursue their own lives – which is exactly as life should be. The call of university in far-away England was always going to be strong and for several years, it was a really difficult time for us, as parents, with our girls so very far away. Pride in their achievements, both personally and academically lay hand-in-glove with the heartache of missing them so terribly much.

How grown-up they all seem!

How grown-up they all seem!

Our son became almost an only child; perhaps many perceived him as such if they didn’t know of our older children. He’s only seven years older than our eldest grand-child which seemed almost negligible when he was smaller. It’s been challenging at times to re-experience parenting from such a different perspective. I think, for my own mind at least, it may be easier to raise two children together than doing it with a singleton. Childhood is more fun when there’s a close sibling with which to share everything. An important element that featured in my own childhood, I think Toby has experienced more solitariness than I would have liked. On the other hand, of course, there’s the up-side – he is not afraid of ‘being alone’ and has a level of self-confidence that being an only child often brings. And on top of that, he has sisters, grown adults now of course, with whom he shares a different, more relaxed relationship; they are connected by a strong bond and are finding more to like about each other as each day passes. They look forward to being adult siblings, supporting each other through all that life throws at them.

But now he is ‘The Neanderthol’, a strapping almost-adult with magnificent strength and character, of whom we are very proud. His life lays before him as an open book, waiting to be written. He has ideas, some of them hugely entrancing, that will require a great deal of hard work and commitment to achieve, but I have little doubt that he will succeed. He’s that sort of chap. When he says to people that he wants to be a feature film director, their initial smirk of experience soon yields to a genuine smile of appreciation and often develops into the unmistakable glow of awe as they realise that this is not pie-in-the-sky for him, he just doesn’t yet know exactly how he will achieve this lofty desideratum.

So, we find ourselves this autumn, pondering the next step with him.

Options are multitudinous. The most obvious is university – we’ve travelled this road before, although it’s a little different today, with tuition fees, student loans and all the considerations of future employability weighing heavily in the mix. and so it is that we find ourselves travelling from circus to circus – sorry, that should say ‘Open day to open day’ – at the various institutions that offer courses in film-making, television or alternative media. Many of these are channelled through acting or performance-related options and the purpose of seeing a number of different facilities is to try to make sense of which is the most suitable option for him. It’s a minefield though!

At each event, we cruise through the corridors of power – although I am heartily sick of seeing endless corridors that lead to studios or black-box suites where our offspring COULD be learning how to fade-in camera 4, if only the rooms were unlocked for this inaptly monikered ‘Open Day’, which might be better called ‘Closed Day’ in many cases.  The best experiences are those in which the tour-guide has an engaging and outgoing personality (which is what you might expect from ambassadors for a performance arts programme) coupled with an intimate and authoritative body of knowledge about the courses, the facilities and the general pros-and-cons of this establishment, which should persuade you to enrol immediately. So far, we’ve only really come across this in Salford.

Salford is, for those who don’t know the place, not a salubrious or particularly beautiful part of England. Even the people who live there, known in the Urban Dictionary as ‘Salfordians‘ would probably agree that whilst beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, one would not necessarily be beholding the town at the time. There is definitely a distinctive pride in the town of the significance of their heritage – the dark and gloomy Victorian mills were a mainstay of the growth of Empire, built on the backs of the workers who churned out goods to be shipped far afield, the manufacturing centre of the universe in the nineteenth century. These buildings’ purpose now long redundant, the area has faced the challenge of regeneration as effectively as the Time Lord, ‘Dr Who’, with the creation of the brand-spankingly new Media City at the core.

Gone are the slums, the filthy rows of mean terraced houses of my youth. L.S.Lowry would not recognise the place any more – many of his straightforward representations of the local landmarks look completely alien when compared with the modern landscape of the town. As a youngster, living in nearby Stockport, being a huge football fan I was occasionally treated to a visit to Old Trafford, the most hallowed ground conceivable in my mind at the time. I recall wending my way through row upon row of red-bricked houses, usually with gleaming white-painted, scrubbed-within-an-inch-of-their-lives stone doorsteps and hundreds of dodgily parked cars for what seemed like miles around the ground. None of this is there any more. I snapped a few photos of the new (to me at least) vista with Old Trafford across the river from Media City. It looks serene these days.

Ah, the hallowed turf of Old Trafford beckoned...

Ah, the hallowed turf of Old Trafford beckoned…

We visited a couple of weekends ago, with a degree of trepidation – Yorkshiremen and Mancunians have long held each other with suspicion, harking back to the Wars of the Roses I think, which raged during the fifteenth century. Five hundred years of rivalry, in business, on the sporting field and in pretty much every respect means that each is at least a tad wary when not on home ground. It’s taken me this long for my Yorkshire family to forgive me for being from ‘The Other Side’. It felt oddly comforting to cross the M62 into Lancashire after such a long absence. I’m not sure my FAB Hubby and the Neanderthol felt the same! The view over the ‘Clouded Hills’ (William Blake’s words from ‘Milton’, immortalised in the hymn ‘Jerusalem’) is definitely one to inspire though.

Did the Countenence Divine shine forth upon our clouded hills?

Did the Countenence Divine shine forth upon our clouded hills?

As Toby delved deeper into the increasingly attractive facilities that Salford University has to offer, I found myself looking at the surroundings with a photographer’s eye. (What? You’re surprised? Who knew?)

Media City - a utopian experience?

Media City – a utopian experience?

Media City is where television is made now in England, for the most part, the BBC and ITV moved many of their London-based operations to the new conurbation in the north a couple of years or so ago; it is pretty self-contained, but possess it’s own, modernistic beauty.

The Peel Centre re-interpreted with pampas grass from the gardens

The Peel Centre re-interpreted with pampas grass from the gardens

The buildings are functional, of course, but also less bleak than I’d imagined. There’s a real ‘buzz’ in the air. It *feels* creative. I can’t define that. I can’t put my finger on what makes it so.

Maybe some of these pictures can help define it for me?

 

As it says on the tin... the University of Salford, which lies at the heart of Media City

As it says on the tin… the University of Salford, which lies at the heart of Media City

Glass buildings are wonderfully reflective

Glass buildings are wonderfully reflective

Petra - the first Blue Peter Dog - has a statue in the Blue Peter Garden

Petra – the first Blue Peter Dog – has a statue in the Blue Peter Garden

A Blue Peter Badge is something to treasure!

A Blue Peter Badge is something to treasure!

The Blue Peter Garden, transferred from the roof of Broadcasting House in London, delights children of today so much more because of its accessibility to all in its new location at Media City.

The Rudbeckia is still flowering profusely int he Blue Peter Garden

The Rudbeckia is still flowering profusely in the Blue Peter Garden

The ITV building...

The ITV building…

Delightful opportunities to appreciate perspective...

Delightful opportunities to appreciate perspective…

... and the BBC

… and the BBC

The Lowry Museum intrigued from inside and out…

The Lowry Museum roof is a  testament to simple lines, shapes and textures

The Lowry Museum roof is a testament to simple lines, shapes and textures

The Light Railway tram to Eccles made me think of times long past

The Light Railway tram to Eccles made me think of times long past

… whilst other structures, such as the cable stayed footbridge over the water, are all about the linear qualities.

The bridge over to The Other Side

The bridge over to The Other Side

Now… I wonder if you can recognise the original inspiration for these orbs?

Of course I orbed it!

Of course I orbed it!

Ok... this one is a bit of a give-away!

Ok… this one is a bit of a give-away!

Yet another give-away ...

Yet another give-away …

I cheated with the colours on this one though...

I cheated with the colours on this one though…

This one should be easy!

This one should be easy!

I'm making this too easy, aren't I?

I’m making this too easy, aren’t I?

But there are two different BBC buildings!

But there are two different BBC buildings!

All I can do is hope that, if this is the place where my neanderthol chooses to stride out on his own towards, it’s a place where he might do well. Find success.

Then we will truly have achieved what we wanted in life. And being alone, without the constant presence of at least one scion will seem less like a challenge and more like a new adventure. We’ll be waiting for that chapter to unfold.

Thanks for reading once again!

 

Lest we forget…

Fallen Heroes - the poppies tumble out of the Tower of London

Fallen Heroes – the poppies tumble out of the Tower of London

In 2014 we have been continually reminded that this is the centenary of the start of The Great War. During my school days, which do indeed seem like an entire lifetime ago now, I was remarkably interested in this conflict – for reasons unknown at the time. I think I was probably around twelve or so when I first became aware of the fact that the entire world had been at war with each other on two mighty occasions during the twentieth century. I can recall, as clear as day, my thoughts about this – ‘When WILL Man ever learn to live harmoniously, side by side?’ I think you can probably tell that I was a child of the Sixties, born into a generation that truly believed that Peace on Earth not only was possible but is what we will bring about – Man’s crowning glory of an achievement.

Whilst I cannot profess to being a devoted student of war, my interest in The Great War was piqued by the tales my mother was continually regaling me with, which focussed mainly upon World War 2 – she lived through it as a young adult whose equally young husband had fought in Burma, was captured and held as a Japanese prisoner of war for around three years, only to return to a strange and unreal *normality* and somehow they had both survived. I now know that she possessed an active imagination which resulted in many of her tales being augmented truths rather than reliable historical fact, but none-the-less, she inspired me to consider the consequences of war from a practical perspective – how ordinary people reacted to the fluidity of rapid change and carried on, regardless.

I recall being fascinated by the concept that people truly believed, in 1918, that the terrific horrors they had lived through surely were the worst possible things that man could inflict upon each other; that this Great War had assuredly, unquestionably and inexorably been The War To End All Wars. I learned that the benefit of hindsight when considering the mistakes of the past is an oft-misused idea and that to truly understand something you have to consider a person’s actions at the time, without the luxury of retrospection. It’s an important lesson in life, a transferable nugget of knowledge that guides the wise. If only I were wise enough to recall this at important times.

My mother often talked of her father, my granddad, Tom Sharp. She spoke of his gruffness, his taciturn, dour manner with all folk, except perhaps for a gentle twinkling when he spoke to her and her young son. She had clearly been frustrated with his reticence when dealing with others, perhaps wishing he could be more pleasant and cheerful as she felt she had to be. What little she knew of his story I cannot say, but perhaps as a young adult her own life had been so scarred by the events of World War II that she felt, as many young people often do, that it couldn’t possibly have been any worse for him so he should shake it off, forget about it and move on with his life.

She talked of him because through that return to wartime, when sense and reason had departed, she lived with him in a small terraced house in Crowther Street, Stockport. All during the Manchester Blitz, when the Doodlebugs reigned terror upon ordinary people, they clung to each other and survived. Manchester is only a hop-and-a-skip north of Stockport and as home to much of the manufacturing of the arms and weaponry of war, including the famed Avro Lancaster bombers, the city was a prime target. I’m not sure if it’s one of her fantasies or not, but she used to tell me of her work in the factory at Chadderton, where she worked on the Lancasters; it’s entirely possible as it’s only about eight miles, which was a distance she could have travelled by bus to work each day.

Stories of my mother’s wartime experiences I’ll keep for another time – it is Granddad Tom that I’m thinking of today. Only last week when we visited Salford (again, that’s a whole other story!) we found ourselves in the Lowry Museum for a little while. I love to visit galleries and see paintings, sculptures, Art, up close and in reality. Not printed in a book or photographed and available online. But actually, here: right here, in front of my own eyes, where I can observed the brush techniques the artist chose to employ and consider what they might have been envisaging, imagining, conceptualising. I’d managed to sneak a gallery visit into an altogether different trip and was pleased we had made it. Looking at the ‘Match-stalk men and match-stalk cats and dogs’, as Lowry’s paintings have come to be fondly known, took me back to my youth, when Stockport had looked much like many of the scenes depicted with such child-like simplicity. I swear I knew some of the people represented – and I definitely knew the animals!

L. S. Lowry's depiction of Crowther Street

L. S. Lowry’s depiction of Crowther Street

 

 

Imagine my surprise and delight then when I came upon Lowry’s portrayal of Crowther Street, the very same street where my mother, granddad and brother had lived during that terrible period! They had lived there after the war too, for my brother has occasionally told me about his early memories of the place – sliding down the ‘Brew’ (which I think is an old Lancastrian word for steep hill) on a wooden board, nearly killing himself in the process! Granddad Tom used to stand on the doorstep outside their home at Number Five, watching the world go by, tapping our the contents of his pipe on the side of his tin leg. I was touched by the shared memory of a place and a relative that I never knew.

The tin leg intrigued me though. My brother describes his memories in an entry on his Facebook page: ‘My own grandfather (maternal) lost a leg at Paschendaele . It simply disappeared as a shell landed on his artillery wagon, killing his six horses. He was a horse farrier sergeant major and immediately detailed two gunners to go and look for his leg! He was given a tin leg and I remember that it banged like an oven door every time he knocked his pipe out on it!

In another post from my brother, I’ve discovered that our grandfather served in the Royal Horse Artillery for twenty-seven years prior to being invalided out of the Army after his brush with death at Paschendaele. Now this is a man I find I want to get to know. He is one of many hundreds of thousands of men who sacrificed much in service of their country during that egregious conflict. Thankfully, he was spared his life otherwise I would not be here today.

So when I see the commemorative events that mark the centenary of the First World War, I think of the senseless waste of human life yes, but I also think of my grandfather – how that one event must have soured his enthusiasm for life, yet in spite of it all he survived. He returned home from the madness and resumed his life with his family, fathering at least two more children in the following three years after the Great War. He further survived the death of his beloved wife, from complications in labour with their last child – the little boy survived; my eighteen-month-old mother’s only younger sibling. It’s no wonder really, that he was so out-of-sorts with life after that. Perhaps mum could have cut him a little slack for the hardships he had known in his long and difficult life.

I am overwhelmed with sadness when I see poppies each November – it has always affected me on a deep level. When I heard, earlier this year that an artist had created the magnificent ceramic poppies installation at the Tower of London, I was determined to ensure that I took some time to go and see it in real life. In person. Like viewing the Lowry paintings, the actual reality of the piece means so much more than just looking at them online.

Ceramic Poppies by ceramic artist, Paul Cummins

Ceramic Poppies by ceramic artist, Paul Cummins

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to see them this week. It really was a moving experience – consider the symbolism, the presence of each poppy, crafted with care and compassion and planted with equal benevolence by volunteers and patrons – each poppy representing a fallen hero from the many battles during the Great War. The venue of the Tower of London is an excellent idea, largely because of the additional symbolism of this as a place of power in times past. The hustle and bustle of the modern city is never really transcended – but then I imagine that would have been equally difficult in the squalid, unforgiving trenches on the Western Front and elsewhere.

For King and Country - the Rose wades into the bloody conflict

For King and Country – the Rose wades into the bloody conflict

I took many photos, of course, you would not expect anything less, I’m sure. I found myself looking for contrasts to create some contiguous images that might provoke mixed feelings. As I walked around the perimeter walls of the Tower, I noticed a heavenly perfume and was drawn to these beautiful roses, flowering in the mid-September sunshine and suddenly had exactly the juxtaposition that I was seeking. Roses, representing the beauty of individual souls alive in a sea of cold, ceramic poppies, seems so appropriate to me.

Private George Pearce died at Galipoli in 1915, aged just 22 years

Private George Pearce died at Galipoli in 1915, aged just 22 years

Funnily enough, the family of a fallen hero had a similar idea, I discovered, as they left a small bunch of roses tied to the railing, giving a brief account of their loved ones’ sacrifice. I found it very touching.

I also decided to make a photo-montage of the scene that I encountered. My wide-angled lens is good, but I wanted to create something that gave at least some indication of the grand scale of this installation. I took seventy-two shots from the same spot. Then I’ve pieced them together into this montage. The original file is massive of course – around 1.3GB (gigabytes – that’s a whole bunch of pixels!), so I’ve resized it to make it reasonably accessible on this blog. Also, since I did this on Wednesday, I’ve discovered a much more effective tool to stitch the individual images together – but I’m not re-doing this one yet! I hope you enjoy looking at it too.

Montage of the poppies surrounding the Tower

Montage of the poppies surrounding the Tower

I’ll leave you with your own thoughts about this piece of artwork – and will be remembering my Granddad too.

Thanks for reading this evening – your presence here keeps me going!

 

Exciting times are here…

This is the second time in less than a week that I have been gobsmacked.

It’s becoming a habit.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term ‘gobsmacked’, here’s a quick dictionary definition … according the the Oxford Dictionary, it means ‘Utterly astonished; astounded’. You may recall my earlier astonishment was caused by something a little less than pleasant. Probably, the  less said about that, the better.

But this time I am not only astonished, astounded or ‘gobsmacked’. I am bewildered, confounded, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, overwhelmed, staggered, stupefied and amazed. You could, possibly quite literally right now, knock me down with a feather!

Why?

Did I hear you correctly?

You want to know what has caused this altered state of mine?

‘Cause, y’know, I’m like totally together and with-it, ALL the time, never a moment of not-being-all-there-at-all with me! No, siree!

Well, this came right out of the blue, so it did.

I perhaps should start a little way back, so that you don’t get quite the same BAZINGA! and KAPOW! feeling as I did, because I care about you and don’t want you passing out on me or anything… what’s that? ‘GET ON WITH IT!’ Oh, Ok, keep your shirt on!

So, for a while now I have been ruminating the idea of how to become a proper, bona-fida “Artist” – you know so when I give my passport in when I travel and they open up the page that says ‘Occupation’ and where it always said ‘Teacher’ before, well now I want it to say ‘Writer’ or ‘Artist’ or ‘Something Creative’. It’s a bit of a dream really. Like it is real if it says so on my passport.

I’ve been setting up Facebook pages, Tumblr and Twitter pages, as well as Fine Art America and iSpyart.com accounts which have yet to prove their worth, in terms of much other than some very nice comments about some of my work. I’ve shared my work with friends in Facebook groups, mostly ones connected with the Creative Group At Bedlam Farm, where lots of positive support and generally fantastic constructive criticisms are  offered and gratefully devoured by me – I try to do my share of supporting other too, it’s a win-win thing and unique on the InterWeb (as my FAB always refers to it). So far, I’ve sold a very few pieces of my work.

It’s challenging, to say the least, to work out how to make an actual living wage though. It simply can’t be impossible (my mind dismisses the possibility immediately) in this modern day and age of global telecommunications and with access to world markets at the touch of a button.

BUT HOW?

I have thunked and pondered (‘scuse the minor plagiarism there Lisa Dingle!), I have cogitated and considered all kinds of options and possibilities, but the setting up of an actual business requires not only all of that, but some actual structure too. And probably a whole caboodle of start-up cashy-type spondooliks. That’s cold, hard money to you my friends. Not something in vast supply, I’m afraid.

A friend recommended PRIME to me.

‘What’s that then?’ I asked. Rather like you probably did. Just then. I heard you!

So I looked them up on the Interweb and found that the Prince’s Trust have branched out and not only are they supporting business enterprises for all those B.Y.T’s (Bright Young Things)  who are under 25 years old, but they’ve realised that there’s a big old bunch of 50+ people who also need a little bit of help with ventures they want to pursue, which may well be just as entrepreneurial, or even more so, as their younger counterparts. I found out when their introductory course was and where it was being held and booked myself a place.

You have to start somewhere. I chose here.

So, it was today and early this morning, my FAB hubby and I trundled off to Hartlepool and got cracking with the PRIME trainer, Diane.

The introduction course was great. I’ll not bore you all with too many details because that’s not even the good bit.

Not yet anyway.

So, we chat and discuss and consider and ruminate, but this time it’s with other people. Like, real, live actual humans who have no pre-determined requirement to say nice things to me or even to gasp and say ‘WOW’ when they saw some of my work. So, that bit WAS good.

But that is STILL not the good bit!

The course is winding up, in the last couple of minutes when Diane gets a bit distracted because her phone is buzzing – she’s  trying not to notice but something catches her eye.

It’s the BBC.

Ringing her.

SO, eventually, she gives up all pretence of trying to ignore it and excuses herself for a moment whilst we, her captive trainees hang with bated breath – like that moment before the bell rings and everyone starts clanging and banging desks, scraping chairs and talking loudly as they move on to the next moments of their lives. What DO the BBC want with our esteemed trainer?

She puts the phone down. There’s a glint of something in her eye. Maybe she needs to change her contact lenses? No, Fool!

‘How would one of you like to chat with the people at BBC Tees Radio this afternoon? They want to do a bit of a piece about PRIME and would like to talk to someone who’s doing the course today. Anyone interested?’

OOOOOH!!! PICK ME!!!!! PICK MEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

I am a born Hermione and cannot sit on my hands. Ask a question that I have even an inkling of the answer to and my hand shoots up before I even recognise that the questioner has finished asking the question.

So, long story short, (OK… maybe not so short!) I get to be the person to speak to the nice researcher, Louise.

Cue several missed calls because the reception on my phone can sometimes be very dodgy. A rueful smile at a probable missed opportunity. Oh, well, when twenty minutes passed the allotted time for the call from the radio station, I assumed that the item had been dropped. In favour of discussion about the up-coming deadline (at 11pm tonight) for the football season transfer window.

Then the phone rang. Because of the rush, there was no real time to prepare and I was straight on air.

What did I get out of this morning’s course? What kind of business do I think I might pursue? What are my next steps?

I answered all of these with surprising aplomb I think – it’s not my first time on radio!

Then came the bit that shocked me. Floored me.

Thanks Neil green - my new BF!

Thanks Neil green – my new BF!

The lovely Neil Green, who is probably my new best friend, asked ‘Would it be OK if we were to follow your progress through this project Liz? Y’know, keep up with what you;re doing and so on?’

OK.

So, about NOW is when you can (gently) close my gaping jaw.

And maybe yours too.

I think that’s a bit of a WIN today. The BBC want to follow my progress as I develop this idea into an actual business.

Yep, I think that’s a win.

Thanks Neil!

… you can listen to the podcast of the show here... I was on about five minutes to six I think, so maybe fast-forward to there if you’re interested in what was actually said!

Oh, and just to prove I was in Hartlepool here’s a couple of snaps… you knew there would be of course!

Heugh Headland has a story to tell...

Heugh Headland has a story to tell…

I thought this was a clock that I could orb... but it was just the local college logo. Still...

I thought this was a clock that I could orb… but it was just the local college logo. Still…

 

 

The sky was suitably dramatic over the docks in Hartlepool

The sky was suitably dramatic over the docks in Hartlepool

This gun defended the area from attack during WW1 I found out today.

This gun defended the area from attack during WW1 I found out today.

And when I saw this on the way home… it occurred to me that if pigs might fly, perhaps elephants can too?

And I thought pink elephants couldn't fly...

And I thought pink elephants couldn’t fly…

So… watch this space, as it looks like I am going too HAVE to find a way to be successful now! This was a GOOD gobsmackin’ day!

Thanks for reading, as always!

Where do I go to, my lovely?

I always wanted to write. I’ve got diaries that I wrote over forty years ago when I was an embryo.

OK, OK, so I was *SLIGHTLY* older than that. I KNOW that embryos have a little trouble with holding a pencil, what with the whole ‘being-inside-another-human’ concept and all that… anyway, it’s been a very loooonng time since I started writing is what I was saying.

But the trouble with my writing is that inspiration comes and goes. I know, deep in my bones, at the most visceral level possible, that in order to be a *Writer* I should stick with it, write every day, write what I know and, above ALL ELSE, keep AT it. Even if what I write is no good. But of course, that’s hard to do when you are me. My biggest fault is perfectionism.

The gaping holes in my diaries over the years are sad testament to my inability to persevere with putting pen to paper. Or, since these are largely proverbial pens and paper in our modern world of technological pens and paper – i.e. computers & keyboards – in the date-ordered folders in my ‘personal writing’ directory. Or even, perhaps more pertinently, in the archives of this blog.

My intention is always to write something. Every day.

I have simply loads of ideas that float in and out of my head. ALL. THE. TIME.

It’s true; if you could construct a gadget that could see *inside * my head and show you my *thoughts*, you’d be amazed at the complexity and variety of seemingly unconnected randomness that fills up all the space there. And, believe me, there’s a WHOLE lot of space in there.

What’s that I hear you saying? There IS such a gadget that already exists? REALLY?

Oh. You mean, like, an x-ray machine don’t you? 

NO? 

Oh. I guess you mean one of those massive MRI thingies then instead? 

Well, yes, I suppose it’s possible that you could use one of those to see inside my head, but, you’d get a really strange, sectional version of what’s going on there which is no help really – what you actually need is a full-colour, cinematic, Peter-Jackson-directed, motion picture with panoramic vistas and Wadja-like close-ups, to fully understand what’s going on inside my noggin. Yep. nothing less will do.

So, back here in the real world, my dilemma is causing me some difficulties. Since I don’t actually have access to Peter Jackson, or any underling who might be obliging, to produce movies of my stream of consciousness, I have to find and then string actual words together to describe the chaos that inhabits my grey matter. AND NO… I am NOT talking about my grey hair… thank you! 

I have been remiss of late. It has been fourteen days since my last posting… and that was a repost of someone else’s comments about my book. (I have a vision now of a Catholic Confessional, dark and impenetrable, with clouds of incense creating an unreal, other-worldly atmosphere. Deep silence pervades the set, save for the gentle snores of the priest, which isn’t good for my self-esteem… see, this is how it’s going to have to be now, with me WRITING all the background stuff that’s going on – get use to it!). Flattering though the comments were, it is hardly original content and that IS what I am aiming to produce with each new missive from the Grange.

And it’s not like there’s been nothing going on for me to be inspired to write about – quite the opposite in fact. I suppose it’s the eternal paradox: do I live life to the full, finding something exciting in each and every moment of the day to wax lyrical about or, alternatively, do I devote all my hours to writing about stuff that’s materializing from my mind, which effectively means that I live in a world of fantasy, rather than experiencing my life as it happens?

I know, I know, the secret of a successful writer’s life is getting a perfect balance between the two. Or in other words, as Douglas Adams would have us believe, 42. See… there it was again, yet another tangent to try and map for you… it’s exhausting inside my head! Now, I have peculiarly unnatural aliens traveling in a clinical alabaster space-ship irresponsibly transforming into random shizzle, having accidentally engaged the Improbability Drive. Marvin, the paranoid android, is mumbling mutinously in the background. GET A GRIP woman!

What with brilliant birthday parties – Gregstock 2014 is very likely to return next year, when it will be renamed ‘Gregstock 2015’, unsurprisingly – and wonderful weddings, family Do’s have been in good supply and have a multitude of storylets that are simply aching to be told. But this isn’t the place for them today.

A while ago, I teased you all with a promise to scribble about a local beauty spot, Castle Howard, made famous by all sorts of TV and film projects that have used the stunning pulchritudinous elegance embedded in every stone that harks from the period of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne, as a backdrop for their conniving and a-scheming characters aplenty in such diverse productions as ‘Brideshead Revisited’, ‘Twelfth Night’,’Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties’ and most recently, ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’. I’ll leave you to explore the excellent website for more details on this bastion of English heritage – it’s well worth a browse. Just click on the link above.

So, without further ado, here are those images of part of the Castle Howard grounds – we arrived too late in the day to visit inside the gardens, but even the Garden Centre and picnic areas are so prettily photogenic.

Looking both ways along the drive to Castle Howard

Looking both ways along the drive to Castle Howard

 

At the top of the long driveway stands an obelisk that commemorates estate workers killed in two World Wars

At the top of the long driveway stands an obelisk that commemorates estate workers killed in two World Wars

The coach house marks the entrance to the grounds

The coach house marks the entrance to the grounds

The Coach House gets an orb treatment

The Coach House gets an orb treatment

Ornate ironwork tops the gates

Ornate ironwork tops the gates

These are gates that mean business!

These are gates that mean business!

Garden paths are immaculately laid out

Garden paths are immaculately laid out

 

An estate house nestles into the landscape

An estate house nestles into the landscape

How detailed each stem of barley is!

How detailed each stem of barley is!

Barley grows in the rolling Howardian Hills

Barley grows in the rolling Howardian Hills

 

Exquisite violas, with a touch of an orb...

Exquisite violas, with a touch of an orb…

Rudbeckia embracing the sunshine

Rudbeckia embracing the sunshine

Rose sunbathing, drinking every last drop of sunlight

Rose sunbathing, drinking every last drop of sunlight

Warrior for the light - painted rose

Warrior for the light – painted rose

This chap could get to work in my garden if he likes...

This chap could get to work in my garden if he likes…

Water features abound at Castle Howard

Water features abound at Castle Howard

The fountain's trickling water soothes

The fountain’s trickling water soothes

Daisies galore in the Garden Centre

Daisies galore in the Garden Centre

They are surprisingly well camouflaged!

They are surprisingly well camouflaged!

The peacocks strutted all around us, quite oblivious to our intrusions.

Peacock painting

Peacock painting

Photobombed by a peacock

Photobombed by a peacock

And, finally, Yorkshire folk are generally very direct… this sign adorns the roadside, just down the hill from the obelisk.

We tell it like it is here in Yorkshire, Tha' knows!

We tell it like it is here in Yorkshire, Tha’ knows!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Thornton-Le-Dale’s hidden magic

Aren’t dogs fabulous? Pet-sitting for Dad for a couple of days this week, I’ve been motivated to get out and about for longer walks each day. When Candy, Dad’s seven-year-old Staffie, returned home on Wednesday, we we left without an obvious reason for going out to walk other than the joy of simply doing that. For many years my lower back pain has been worsening, to the point of forcing me to retire from the job I loved so much for so long – teaching. I had practically come to an almost total standstill, finding myself longing for the days when walking was not only a useful method of transport, but actually fun too. I have been just about able to take some very gentle, albeit rather brief strolls until very recently.

Thanks to the pain management clinic at York Hospital, I have learned to better understand my pain and through a variety of strategies I’ve been able to improve my activity levels significantly, to the point of being able to walk for increasingly longer periods, pain-free. Last week I managed to do a complete circuit, down the back lane and around to the front of our house, a distance of about a half-mile or so, with little difficulty; this week I’ve extended that to walk about double that. Twice a day. So really it’s quadrupled the amount of walking I find I am able to manage. Yay, go me!

So, now that we are dog-gone once more, how could we maintain this daily walking schedule? What motivation did we need?

The answer is simple – I just wanted to be out there, walking. BECAUSE I CAN! It’s no great mystery – walking is, for me at least, one of the most enjoyable forms of exercise I can get.

So, the real question was, ‘Where?’. Living as we do, in the Vale of Pickering, where walking is a generally relaxing and fulfilling pastime, surrounded by nature so beautiful and refreshing, choosing which part of the area to go for a walk is the difficult part. There are so many places to go. I’m going to have to draw up a list!

My FAB Hubby, Mark, suggested a short jaunt around the picturesque village of Thornton-le-dale and I didn’t need much persuasion – we frequently drive through the village on our way up to the Moors, which is by far my most favourite place on this Earth. I’ll write a piece about the Hole of Horcum one day, when I find enough adjectives to gush effectively enough about its divine serenity. But that’s another story.

I wonder if the diagonal harvesting is more efficient?

I wonder if the diagonal harvesting is more efficient?

A fairly short drive of about fifteen minutes from here, through the vale to the tiny village of Allerston and on to the infamous A170 which leads along the top edge of the Vale of Pickering to the picture-box-pretty village of Thornton-le-dale. If you keep on the 170 for a few more miles after Pickering, you would come to the magnificent White Horse at Sutton Bank, where the Vale of  York reaches the town of Thirsk stretching out for miles, leading you deep into Herriot Country, also known as The Yorkshire Dales. World famous beauty, right on our doorstep!

At this time of year the farmers create a patchwork of yellow, as the golden crops are safely gathered in with massive machinery. It is quite a sight and I was particularly taken with this intriguing pattern across a field that spans a considerable gradient, away up on the hills. I wondered if the diagonal lines had proven more efficient than the usual method of travelling up and down, parallel to the hedges.

Arriving into Thornton Dale, as the more modern name of this village is being accepted, you can feel the ancient history that permeates the air. It seems that the first settlers here were Neolithic, with evidence of burial grounds just up the hill through Ellerburn Wood onto Pexton Moor dating from 300BC. The Angles are most likely to have given the village its name as the dense forest of Dalby nearby probably held thorny bushes.

Lady Lumley's Almshouses have stood here since the late Seventeenth century

Lady Lumley’s Almshouses have stood here since the late Seventeenth century

The village is simply filled with gorgeousness. Following the sparkling brook by the main road, we found a parking spot immediately, right by the village cross and eagerly embarked to investigate a place that I had only stopped in a couple of times before. The Lady Lumley Almshouses are currently undergoing refurbishment, which was a little disappointing, but I will go back later to photograph them – it’ll give me another reason to return!

Magical water flows swiftly, only a few inches deep, right through the centre of the village.

Magical water flows swiftly, only a few inches deep, right through the centre of the village.

The clearest water, presumably coming down from the Moors, flows through the centre of the village, casting a magical spell over visitors immediately. It feels like a physical embodiment of Chi – the life-force of the village. I made a secret wish and felt a peaceful sense of calm simply watching the fast-flowing water as it danced vivaciously towards the little bridge.

Bridges over the brook are numerous in Thornton Dale

Bridges over the brook are numerous in Thornton Dale

The bridge to Lavender's Tea Shoppe

The bridge to Lavender’s Tea Shoppe

A short stroll shows where the stream  was divided, presumably by the Victorians, to provide power to the houses that face onto the village green. Some of these have been amalgamated into a charming tea-shoppe planted with an abundance of lavender. Each of these houses has a small stone bridge to provide access over the water.

More bridges lead to the homes and businesses from the road – wildflowers complete the picture of serenity.

Aubretia thrives by the brook

Aubretia thrives by the brook

I orbed it, of course!

I orbed it, of course!

The Old Post Office has a sentry on guard

The Old Post Office has a sentry on guard

I was saddened though to find that the village post-office has closed since my last visit. I had been charmed by the Post Master there, an elderly man, who knew everybody in the village personally  and who took great pride in treating this knowledge with honour and respect. It’s a terrible shame that we allow these traditions to die out. All that’s left now is the pillar box as it stands on guard duty at the edge of the stream.

With a sense of adventure, we traversed the first bridge. The scent of woody growth and clear, fresh water pervaded and we were instantly treated to the bucolic scene of a small weir, with ducks happily negotiating their naps or foraging for food within. The light here became even more entrancing than before, as it dappled the water through the tiny gaps in the leaves.

The light dappled over the water mesmerizingly

The light dappled over the water mesmerizingly

And then, the grandest surprise of them all presented itself! I had never suspected that there was a beautiful pond, complete with wildfowl of various kinds and a  well-worn path around as well as benches at strategic points.

The Pond presented itself as a secret revealed

The Pond presented itself as a secret revealed

How could I not have known this was here? As ducks, drakes, coots and moorhens quacked and chuckled, the exquisite surroundings seemed to take on a life of their own – I felt almost as if I were looking through a Pensieve: given a unique, Dumbedorian opportunity to view Paradise.

The white duck swam serenely by...

The white duck swam serenely by…

Ducks and other wildfowl clucking and nattering to each other, to me, to anyone who was listening; young children with their mothers, mid-day joggers, teenagers and older couples dotted around The Pond, all drawing life-affirming sustenance from simply being there.

Picnicking in the sunshine by the pond

Picnicking in the sunshine by the pond

An elderly couple enjoy an ice-cream across the pond

An elderly couple enjoy an ice-cream across the pond

I was utterly bewitched.

The duckling was separated from his mother

The duckling was separated from his mother

A tiny duckling had lost its mother.

The duckling spotted his mother and just went for it...

Splash! In he goes!

Splash! In he goes!

The duckling spotted his mother and just went for it…

He peeped and piped on a lofty note, increasing his alarm as the moments passed – his dive into the water when he spotted his parent was euphoric and a delight to witness.

The Hole in the Wall

The Hole in the Wall

Through the hole in the wall a modern car-park was secreted – I determined that I would have to bring my children and grandchildren here and this convenience made it even more accessible.

Age before Beauty!

Age before Beauty!

Growing against the wall are ancient roses and other flora – I came upon these lovely examples that immediately made e think of the old adage ‘age before beauty’ – so that’s what I called this picture.

The Morning Glory basked in the sunshine

The Morning Glory basked in the sunshine

Whilst the Morning Glory flowers drank in the sunshine, we decided to head back towards the car. I needed longer, but since Time waits for no man, reluctantly I had to draw away.

Tome waits for no man...

Time waits for no man…

So, of course I orbed this too!

So, of course I orbed this too!

Brambles Antiques marketing ploy - an elderly delivery cycle

Brambles Antiques marketing ploy – an elderly delivery cycle

The antique shop on the corner by the crossroad holds a plethora of delights to be explored another day; the bakery’s fine produce provided a delicious lunch and trinkets of sublime synchronicity bade us a fond farewell.

My daughter and her daughter's names called out to us...

My daughter and her daughter’s names called out to us…

We will definitely be back!

As always, thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Goosey Gander – Yorkshire style.

I love living in Yorkshire. Ask any Yorkshireman, or woman for that matter, and they will tell you that it is indeed ‘God’s Own Country’. That quiet pride is absolute – you would never convince them otherwise, regardless of any evidence to the contrary – and is actually remarkably inspiring.

I have a hundred and one, nay, a thousand and one examples of why this belief is held.

I could show you pictures of the bucolic countryside. I’ve done that many times before – just scroll through my archives and you’ll see what I mean.

I have some more fabulous pictures of the exquisite Castle Howard, set among acres of rolling Howardian Hills, a certifiable place of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the road signs say so, it must be true!), which I’ll get round to posting about in the near future. It is a gorgeous place indeed.

I’m on the lookout for pictures of Yorkshire faces, young and old – but that’s a project for the future.

A Yorkshire gaggle of geese...

A Yorkshire gaggle of geese…

Today, I thought I’d treat you to some of t’local wildfowl, who are clearly from Yorkshire as they have that streak  of stubbornness that is de rigeur for any living thing around here. Last week we drove over to Hornsea, to visit Dad for a short while. The journey time is shorter if we snake through the tiny back-roads, up and down the Wolds. Passing through several small villages, the route is always delightful. Chocolate-box village ponds are frequently populated with wildfowl, happily swimming around or nesting on tiny islands tucked away in the middle of the waters.

Sometimes though, they like to spread out a bit.

The Neanderthol was driving last week and had his first experience of having to yield to nature. There’s a tricky right turn at Burton Agnes, with significant volumes of oncoming traffic exiting Bridlington pretty much all day long. Toby was concentrating. I could tell he was because his mouth had stopped moving – he’d been chatting nonchalantly for most of the way up to this point and when he wasn’t chattering, he was singing. So, this deafening silence was a true indication of his heightened concentration level.

The indicator light was ticking away. Click. Click. Click.

Four cars, a bus and a motorbike passed. Click. Click. Click.

A white van was definitely speeding round the corner – sensibly, Toby waited.

A tractor appeared at the corner providing a gap in the traffic flow long enough to ensure he could manoeuver safely out of the junction, which he did, with a heavy sigh of relief. And then, with admirable speed and just a hint of compunction he slammed on the brakes; it seems he’s been well taught when it comes to emergency stops. Thankfully.

The reason for his sudden adjournment of our journey was immediately apparent… a flock of geese had settled themselves across the larger portion of the road, making thoroughfare tricky, if not actually impossible without considerable commotion and probably a flurry of feathers to boot.Geese congress

The pond at the side of the road has a low stone barrier which serves (mostly) to prevent vehicles from accidentally careening into the water; today there were at least two dozen geese and a few ducks draped elegantly over the obstacle, stretching out across the roadway, for all the world attending to important business, in congress about the current warm-weather contingency plans or some other vitally significant topic.

I grabbed my camera and leapt from the car to capture a few portraits.

What do you think Mabel? Shall we let her through?

What do you think Mabel? Shall we let her through?

A couple of geese came to greet me, to investigate my credentials and give me leave to continue with my soul-snapping project.

Hmm... she looks pretty innocuous wouldn't you say, Sally?

Hmm… she looks pretty innocuous wouldn’t you say, Sally?

One or two looked at me rather shiftily. I shrugged off a feeling of disquiet and snapped away, smiling benignly at these creatures.

Eey up lad! Watch where you're puttin' that lens!

Eey up lad! Watch where you’re puttin’ that lens!

Can I help you?

Can I help you?

One inquisitive bird was despatched to check out the vehicle.

She waddled off towards the car placidly, head slightly to one side. She traversed the entire length of the car, taking in every detail as her gaze moved up and down continuously. Once at the back of the car, she hopped down from the curb, investigated the rear intently and then moved to the off-side, again checking all the details as she went.

You are cleared for entry - but be careful!

You are cleared for entry – but be careful!

She finally nodded once, presumably to confirm that she had found no WMD’s on our vehicle and we were finally given leave to pass through the checkpoint, unimpeded.

Just don't go ruffling my feathers, you hear?

Just don’t go ruffling my feathers, you hear?

We heaved a sigh of relief simultaneously and left them to their committee meeting, smiling broadly as we waved goodbye.

Or is that a Parliament of geese (surely, that's 'owls'?)

Or is that a Parliament of geese (surely, that’s ‘owls’?)

 

Thanks for reading – please stop by again, for more stories about life on t’Grange! 🙂

An afternoon audience with Wolds Way Lavender

A couple of days ago, as the planets and stars aligned – by which I mean of course that the sun was shining on a day that I felt like ‘getting out and about’; the two are frequently connected, but not always reliably so – we decided to pay a visit to the local lavender farm which is about five minutes down the road. The sign sits on the side of the road and we pass it every time we have to go westwards at all, since it is the next left turning off the 64.

What a welcoming logo!

What a welcoming logo!

Actually, I say ‘sign’, but this is Yorkshire where we don’t do *ordinary* so it’s not exactly a sign. It’s a white Bedford van with ‘Wolds Way Lavender‘ emblazoned on both sides of the vehicle, parked conspicuously on the grass verge at the corner of the road. You can’t really ignore it. Which, if you think about it is quite clever marketing…

So, I’ve been there before, a couple of times and rarely have I walked away without a considerable hole in my pocket. It’s a glorious place, as long as you like lavender of course. And it’s not that it’s expensive – quite the opposite, considering the artisan nature of the products made there – just that everything is so beautifully presented that the temptation to buy the entire stock is almost completely overwhelming, and I’m really not good with resisting such impulses!

As you embark from your vehicle in the car park the magnificent aroma of lavender makes an immediate impact as it envelopes you, enticing you to venture into the arena, led, almost in a trance, by your olfactory organ. I think it’s possible that I let out a small squeal of delight right there!

The extracted oils are used for a variety of products - all made on site

The extracted oils are used for a variety of products – all made on site

In the cool and well-ordered shop there are a wide range of goods to buy

In the cool and well-ordered shop there are a wide range of goods to buy

The shop-cum-cafe is the heart of the whole operation and greets visitors immediately upon arrival. There’s an air of Zen-like calmness as you push open the door to a welcoming gentle tinkle of the traditional bell. Well-laid out products, thoughtfully organised so that edible items are on one side whilst everything else lies alluringly to the other side by the unobtrusive till, silently beg you to ‘Buy ME! Buy ME!’. A glorious range of delicious ice-creams, sumptuous home-made cakes and the aromas of refreshing teas beckon you further into the centre of the room, where delightful tables and chairs are arranged, so that you have to decide whether to partake now or after you’ve had a look around. Beyond this lies the plant sales area – on my first visit, about eight weeks ago, I headed through here straight away and spent about half an hour selecting a couple of beautiful small lavender plants as well as some herbs and a couple of wild-flower seedlings too.

I never realised that lavender could also be yellow!

I never realised that lavender could also be yellow!

I had never before realised how many different varieties of lavender exist and how diverse the genus actually is. I eventually settled upon  ‘Old English’ and  ‘Grosso’ varieties to start my lavender garden off. Clearly, I’d be back for many more, as long as they grew well. I also purchased two pots of mint – ‘Eau de Cologne’ and ‘Berries and cream’ – and the wild flowers, two cornflower and two forget-me-not seedlings. I have to say that two months later all eight plants are not only thriving, but are doing exceptionally well. What I didn’t get chance to do on my first couple of visits was wander around the lavender fields. Hence the visit earlier this week. The only disappointment (and this was only slight) was that I’d expected vast swathes of blue flowers to fill the horizon – it’s still a little early for that, so I fully intend to return in about a month to capture that glorious sight, which I fully expect to be utterly spectacular! It’s just a matter of timing of course.

Lavender stalks scent the air

Lavender stalks scent the air

Glorious lavender bushes are encountered immediately on the trail

Glorious lavender bushes are encountered immediately on the trail

What I did see was more than exquisite though. The plot is large – not gargantuan, spreading for miles and miles, but definitely large enough to spend a good hour or two simply wandering among the flowers. There’s a very helpful map on the fence as you enter the gardens, which might have been a good idea to peruse a little more carefully before setting off. But, you know me, dear reader, and  are fully aware of the the fact that I am occasionally somewhat tempestuous and impulsive, so you won’t be surprised to find that I made a bee-line for ‘The Wold’s Largest Bee-hive’ to see the precious pollinators busily making our  (Pooh Bear’s and me that is) favourite preserve – honey. I had mis-read the sign as ‘The World’s Biggest Bee-hive’, but my enthusiasm wasn’t dampened by the marginally reduced grandeur of reality – the hive was busy with many hundreds of workers and the queen, contrary to popular belief I think, was getting down to the task of being queen bee very effectively. A family of swallows kept zooming in and out too – their nest was high up in the roof of the hive, an unusual location for sure!

Drying Shed knick-knacks adorn the mantle

Drying Shed knick-knacks adorn the mantle

A Green-Man-like carving watches over the distilling.

A Green-Man-like carving watches over the distilling.

The Drying Shed caught my eye and didn’t disappoint upon investigation. Such beautiful machinery! Charming ‘Olde-worlde’ artefacts, including a magnificent wall-clock and some antique examples of long-forgotten lavender products nestled on a wooden shelf, with (what I think might be) a Green Man carving keeping a watchful eye over all the distilling proceedings.

 

 

 

 

Koi carp or goldfish... I can't tell the difference!

Koi carp or goldfish… I can’t tell the difference!

Water lillies contribute to the Zen-like calm of the surroundings

Water lillies contribute to the Zen-like calm of the surroundings

It's traditional to throw coins into a pond and make a wish

It’s traditional to throw coins into a pond and make a wish

Just outside the Drying Shed sits a glorious pond, with gently trickling water providing a home for some large koi carp (or they could just be big goldfish – I’m not a fish expert at all!). Chinese Feng Shui would dictate that there should be eight of these, but I don’t think I counted as many as that.The pond also hosted some magnificent waterlilies and the ubiquitous puddle of coins that people throw in to ‘make a wish’.

These poppies are growing profusely by the pond

These poppies are growing profusely by the pond

Surrounding the pond gorgeous lavender bushes sit alongside a mound of peerless poppies, resplendent in their roaring redness against the powder blue sky. I began to relax a little, just from the tinkling water as it flowed under the little bridge separating two halves of the pond.

Rows of lavender greets visitors

Rows of lavender greets visitors

Bee in mid-flight

Bee in mid-flight

Next we wandered around the rows of lavender in various stages of growth. In about a month, these will be incandescent with the lilac-blue flowers and the scent then may well be overpowering, although I suspect I’ll still enjoy the experience! Nevertheless, the plants already attract the hard-working bees and beautiful butterflies, giving the whole arena a gentle buzzing as a mellifluous background noise. I relaxed a little more.

There's a delightful train to make the trip around the grounds easier for people

There’s a delightful train to make the trip around the grounds easier for people

After crossing the miniature train lines, we spotted a little bridge, as the paths entwined around the acreage.

Wildflowers line the meandering paths

Wildflowers line the meandering paths

Meandering along these stunningly simple tracks led me to find some really fine examples of wildflowers, growing profusely together, harmoniously creating an oasis of tranquility that I felt I simply must bring my children and grandchildren to see and experience – it’s truly a wonderful trip.

This is the very first time I've spotted a  Common Blue butterfly!

This is the very first time I’ve spotted a Common Blue butterfly!

I spotted a butterfly, bright blue in colour, flitting inconsequentially between the many cornflowers – I managed to snap it, with a tiny little thrill as I did. It turns out that it’s a simple Common Blue butterfly, which is apparently widespread across the British Isles, but I’ve never seen one up close and personally like this before and was simply delighted that the little chap was happy to pose perfectly for my pictures!

Red-reared bees (That is definitely a made-up name!) pollinate the cornflowers

Red-reared bees (That is definitely a made-up name!) pollinate the cornflowers

We found a bee who was clearly on a mission – he only stopped to collect nectar from blue flowers. There were thousands of daisies, buttercups, poppies, thistles and of course lavender florets for him to explore, but he was single-minded in his vocation… cornflowers. Cornflowers and only cornflowers. None of these other flowers would do. He was fascinating to watch!

Is he posing for the camera? (Work it, little bee!)

Is he posing for the camera? (Work it, little bee!)

Fortunately for me, at least, one of his fellow pollinators was less fussy. I watched him settle upon the yellow, pollen-laden stamen of a large Bellis Perrenis (that’s a daisy to you and me!) and took my chance… I think he looked at me briefly as I clicked away, but he was dedicated to his task. I’m sure he wasn’t ‘workin’ the lens’ but I think I can be forgiven for imagining that he was when I looked through my pictures later on the computer screen. Finally, I had a possible shot for the OGBF Photography Competition!

Elegant statues keep a watchful eye on the activities

Elegant statues keep a watchful eye on the activities

Scantily clad water-nymphs clutching life-giving ewers frolic among the wildflowers

Scantily clad water-nymphs clutching life-giving ewers frolic among the wildflowers

Keeping watch all over the proceedings are numerous statues and bird-scarers. They are elegantly artistic edifices in their own right, but placed in these particular situations, they seem comforting and natural, almost blending in with their surroundings. There are classical scantily-clad nymphs, natural sculptures of gigantic deer and ironwork dinosaur skeletons to accompany you on your stroll around the flowers.

A large pond sits in a landscaped dip almost in the centre of the flowers, with a lovely arboreal seat, which I imagine must provide most of the water to irrigate the plants with – like an enormous water-butt!

Bright red geraniums brighten the outdoor cafe area

Bright red geraniums brighten the outdoor cafe area

Sweet-scented honeysuckle grows over the trellis by the pond

Sweet-scented honeysuckle grows over the trellis by the pond

We didn’t have time this time to walk all the way round (real-life pressing in on our Utopian experience), but could also see an area set aside for children (of all ages!) to play with large versions of popular board games – chess, connect four, etc. It’s tantalizingly visible from most of the paths and would definitely encourage my little ones to keep going until they reached them – what a genius idea!

 

With time running short we returned to the entrance, but couldn’t pass the ice-creams without indulging. They were heavenly! I cannot recommend the place highly enough – if you are ever in the area, you simply MUST stop by and spend a little time in the tranquil environment. The restorative properties of lavender and wildflowers so beautifully managed are immeasurable. You won’t regret it I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos – I’ve used a few to manipulate into images with a new perspective, which if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll be familiar with my orbs already. Take a look at this short slideshow of my Wolds Way Lavender Orbs show… and then, thanks for reading!

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