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.







Monday, 3 October 2011

Fossils and Wine in A Courtyard

An unlikely combination brought about by a very hot day, a search for some Olympic history and a close encounter of the paleontological kind.

We went to hunt for The Raven Hotel in Much Wenlock, the scene of meetings between William Penny Brookes who started the Much Wenlock Olympian Games in 1850 and Baron Pierre de Coubertain who is often credited with the modern revival of the Olympic Games.

It was hot, we were thirsty and the rather smart hotel didn’t really take in passing trade for drinks.  The Manager (owner?) kindly offered to serve us in the courtyard and out we went into the shade.


A couple walked through, obviously going to their room and my eye was caught by a large piece of rock in the man’s hand.  Well, you know me!  I’ll talk to anyone – after all, the worst they can do is ignore me.  So I called out “that looks like an interesting piece of rock.”

It certainly was and the three of us spent some time in discussions of ‘fossils we have known’.  Our new friend’s wife disappeared very quickly so I assume she was not so interested!

Brachiopod in mudstone

The rock was mudstone and absolutely filled with brachiopods from 400 million years ago when a warm sea covered the area around Wenlock Edge. A geology hammer were wielded and we were presented with a section of the rock.

The Manager looked on mystified at the antics but then became enthused when he discovered why we were visiting. He had a lot of information on the history of the Much Wenlock Games and we spent a fascinating half hour looking at pictures and mementoes.

Wenlock, one of the two mascots, is named after the village because of the history.  If you think Wenlock and Mandeville are a little weird, you are not alone.  Have a look at this site and be sure to scroll down to previous mascots.  Perhaps ours aren’t so way out after all.

By the way, the wine was excellent.

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