Tuesday, 20 December 2011

End of Year Round Up - 2011

I can’t believe that it is nearly the end of the year.  They do say that time passes quickly when you’re having fun – so I guess there’s a lot of fun in my life.

Darwin Shopping Centre

We seem to have spent a lot of this year chasing Charles Darwin.  He came from Shrewsbury, where there is a shopping centre named after him – of all things!


And he left on his famous voyage aboard the Beagle from Devonport. Today we think of Plymouth as a famous sea port but Devonport was one of the three towns, East Stonehouse being the third, which were merged in 1914 to form the Borough of Plymouth in 1914.

We stayed with Rosemary and Mike for a weekend towards the end of October and visited the beautiful park at Devonport where this Darwin mention is part of a fountain.



We were so lucky with the weather and even managed a boat trip past the dockyards.  The large building in the above photo is Babcock International where Grandson Dan is now an apprentice.

We made a return trip to Mackenzies Smoke House towards the end of November to stock up and to have lunch to celebrate Alan’s birthday.

The journey up went so smoothly that we arrived much too early and pottered round the lanes for a while, passing the ‘golf balls’ of Menwith Hill.


These geodesic domes house the very latest in communications and intelligence support to the UK and US.  Nearby there used to be one of the more amusing of military eccentricities in the shape of HMS Forest Moor, a navy base on a hill which had to be named as ‘Her Majesty’s Ship’.

The biggest news of the autumn was the birth of Danika, a daughter for Victoria and Jay and sister for Darvik in Kentucky.  Alan travelled over for a few days to meet her.



They stayed most of the time at Old Rice Farm in Victoria and Jay’s cabin.


Last week we travelled to Fountains Abbey which is in North Yorkshire for a dinner followed by a performance of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by The Pantaloons.  We had a lovely evening and then a drive home on a crisp moonlit night.  Perfect.


At home, we have both been busy on various projects. Alan’s website is popular in the Tourism world and among his ex students.  He hopes to have a book coming out some time next year.

Pat has started to put her recipes and cooking knowhow onto a website – A Yorkshire Cook.  It had been suggested by several people but the time involved has never been available till now.  It is proving great fun and, of course, we get to eat the food.

In other family news, Layla is now at university, studying design. Tariq is studying for A levels and is specialising in literature. Kalif is working towards GCSE and doing well. Jon has joined a company which deals with cleaning up after emergencies and disasters.  He is finding it more satisfying than his previous job.  Kerry is enjoying organising music and drama at two secondary schools.

Rosie is still a teaching assistant, happier in her job after a re-organisation and Mike’s company is weathering the recession.  As I mentioned earlier, Dan is an apprentice with Babcock, beating a lot of competition to get the position.

Dave and Tara are still in California and Simon is doing well at school.  Their latest adventures can be seen here, including Simon’s Christmas performance at school – he’s at the back left in the video.

In the wider family, we have had two deaths this year. Orlando, Joy’s grandson, died in a light plane crash in May.  It was a great shock as he had come back safely from Afghanistan when he was in the Marines and was a very fit and active young man. 

Last week, Shirley’s brother in law, Bob, died after a long illness. Even though it was expected and he had beaten the medical predictions by a couple of years, it is still a sad loss.

We’re looking forward to a quiet Christmas.  There will be Dr Who and plenty of relaxation.  If the weather is good we will get out and about but that is not something to plan too rigidly at this time of year.

A Happy Christmas, everyone!

Monday, 7 November 2011

West View Park, Halifax


West View Park does what it says on the tin.  This is the view and it is due west towards Lancashire.  Like so many people, we tend to neglect our local attractions but are trying to get round them.

Certainly, with the lovely Autumn sun and the leaves turning, we will not find anything better farther afield.


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The park is on the west edge of Halifax and was proposed by two local businessmen, Mr H C McCrea and Mr E Robinson, in around 1894. The Parks Committee Minutes do not refer to the design of the park; it is implied that the benefactors, McCrea and Robinson, undertook responsibility for the park's layout. In July 1896 the park was opened. We forget how much we owe our Victorian ancestors for establishing such lovely green spaces in our towns.


Most of its ambitious design is now lost but it is still ‘a nice place to be’ and traces of the original design can be found here and there.


And this brave soldier from the Boer War has looked out towards Lancashire since at least 1905.  Perhaps he anticipates a return of the War of the Roses.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Wainstalls and Luddenden


This morning was so bright and sunny that we just had to get out and take advantage of the weather.  We went past Mount Tabor and down a road which goes nowhere except past the popular Cat-i’th-well Inn.

We parked just before the Luddenden Dene Wesleyan Cemetery and walked along the narrow lane to the Cemetery where some orphans from Liverpool, brought over the hills to work in a local mill are buried.  We visited the grave back in February 2010 and haven’t been back since.


One thing I hadn’t thought of before was the amount of room left on the stone for further burials.


It is a lovely spot with views across the valley.  A shame that these children probably never got to enjoy the view.


At the other end of the Cemetery, where the modern burials take place, we found someone we had never heard of – though I wish we had known him as he sounds quite a character.


‘Sithee lata’ is our local dialect for ‘See you later’.


A Google later and I found that he was just known as Malcolm Lund of Wainstalls and died 31st March 2011.  He left 6 children and a partner but I can’t find out anything else about him.  If anyone knows more, I’d love to hear from you.

We walked on and I’ll just share some of the beauty with you – it doesn’t need words.




The last of the blackberries


A woodpecker lives here.



And home for lunch.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Pensthorpe Wildlife Trust


A lot our readers will recognise some of the pictures on this post from watching Springwatch over the past couple of years.

We were discussing a possible visit to Westonbirt National Arboretum, where Autumnwatch is being filmed at the moment, on our way home from Plymouth next Monday – weather permitting.

That reminded me that I hadn’t mentioned our visit to Pensthorpe in the Summer.  We spent several hours there and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Here are some pictures for your enjoyment.


Looking out from the observation gallery


Looking back to the observation gallery


Humans give way to birds



Part of the Millennium Garden


It’s not all birds

If you are near Fakenham, do visit.  It’s worth it.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Daniels Flour Mill, Bridgnorth Shropshire.


While we were in Shropshire, we visited Daniels Mill, just outside Bridgnorth.

It turned out to be another of those casual visits which became a highlight of the stay.  The current miller gives an interesting and entertaining tour and actually sets the wheel turning and grinds flour while visitors watch.

Alan has written about the technical details here so I’ll leave them out.


To give you an idea of the scale, the wheel is 38 ft (11.6m) and is the largest cast iron waterwheel in England driving a corn mill.

The earliest reference to the mill is in the late 15th century, though it would have been much smaller and the wheel was probably made of wood.  The present wheel was cast in Coalbrookdale in 1854 and installed soon after.  The mill ground all kinds of grain for animal feed but, in common with many other small industrial enterprises, the mill closed when the last miller died in 1957.



Now, thanks to money from Grantscape, the wheel turns again and wheat is being ground for sale in Health food and speciality shops and, of course, it can be bought at the mill.



And very tasty bread it makes, too.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Shrewsbury Farmers Market

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David and Shirley were off home on Friday so we took the Park and Ride bus into Shrewsbury and went to see what the local producers had to offer before they left. The weather has changed for the worse and we had to dodge the odd shower but nothing too bad.  There was a reasonable turn out of customers which gives me hope that the English are beginning to see reason.  I’ve never been able to understand how people rave about the markets on the continent but turn up their noses at the ones here.

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Tasting damson gin before lunch is not something we would usually indulge in but how can you refuse?  It looks so churlish.  I can’t give a link to Chilton Damson Gin because my Vodaphone mobile connection won’t let me link to an alcohol related site.  I keep meaning to phone them and tell them I’m old enough to choose for myself but . . .   Bizarrely, it will let me link to this site which features the demon drink!

The Damson Gin is absolutely wonderful – rich, fruity, smooth and has an afterkick like a mule, understandably as it is 26% proof.  More than the one thimbleful we had to taste might have had us singing round the market.

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Chirk Trout Farm and Smokery had a lovely display. As with MacKenzies, the smoking is natural and not overpowering.  There are no nasty dyes used to give a bright colour and the food looks plump and moist.  We bought smoked trout pasties for supper and the ladies from Chirk put them in their cool box for us till we were ready to go home.

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Having had a sample of these ‘gourmet’ sausage rolls, we couldn’t resist buying a couple with pork, chillies and garlic. 

These are not sausage rolls as we know them, Jim!  For a start, the pastry is not the thick, dry flaky mess with a minimum of sausage inside that made me swear off sausage rolls years ago.  It is thin and melts in the mouth.  The sausage inside is thick and dense. Yes, I can taste the chilli and garlic but it is not overpowering.  We really enjoyed them as a late afternoon snack.


Friday, 7 October 2011

Tong Church – in search of Little Nell


Tong is a little village not far from Wolverhampton.  The only thing we knew about it was that, in its churchyard is the ‘reputed’ grave of Little Nell. As it is on the way to Whitwick Manor, we stopped off expecting to spend ten minutes in the graveyard.

It’s not often that you find a grave for a fictional character but here is one.


The key is in the word ‘reputed’, of course.  Charles Dickens did visit Tong where his Grandmother had been housekeeper at Tong Castle before marrying William Dickens in 1781.  It is believed that he set the scene of the death of Little Nell in Tong.

The Old Curiosity Shop was a big hit in America and tourists started arriving looking for the grave so, in about 1910, a verger and village postmaster, George Bowden forged an entry in the church register of burials and set up the ‘grave’, charging people to see it.

Poor Little Nell!  Her grave plaque has been moved several times to make room for ‘real’ burials.

We thought this was quite fun and were unprepared to be impressed by the church itself – perhaps we should do more research!  Built 600 years ago on the site of an older church, it was founded by Dame Isabel Pembrugge, seen below carved on her monument.


The wreath of roses round her head is placed there on MidSummer’s day.  Before the Reformation, it would have been placed on a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus but a little thing like the reformation can’t keep down a tradition..


Part of our good luck was to be met by a local man who is interested in the Church and tends the churchyard as a volunteer so we got a private tour.



The most exciting thing about these monuments is that they show traces of the paint which once covered most of the interior of our churches.




The book, ‘Discovering Tong’ tells us that 

“The whole Chantry is remarkable with its fan vaulting ceiling, which was originally painted in green, red and gold. The vaulting is very like that in the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey. The size of the Tong Chapel is much smaller, what could be achieved is restricted. It is the only surviving piece of medieval fan vaulting in Shropshire. On the east wall are the remains of a rood painting. Some of the colour is still quite bright.”


Our guide showed us another lovely detail.  The roundels above are repeated many times and a wood carver got bored.


That gave us quite a chuckle and made the workmen of 1406 seem real.







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