Saturday, 14 January 2017

The delights of Leominster

After lunch, in a lovely old pub called the Rose and Crown which was hidden away behind the main street in Ludlow - and which served sandwiches of such monumental proportions we didn't need to eat for a week afterwards! - we dropped back down to Leominster, where there are lots of antique shops.  Voiceover by David Attenborough:  Ah, the antique dealers in their natural habitat . . .

I rather liked the soft dotty green of this dinner service, but it's Susie Coooper so not cheap . . .

This was more of a walk-through room as not a lot there to interest us, but it shows the diversity of what is on offer by various dealers.

Another mixed lot on offer. . .  I was trying to take photos where there weren't people in the same room, so didn't get to photograph some of the more winsome pieces.

BUT, I did get this one - these are absolutely SUPERB.  Not so much the fineness of the potting, but in the subdued movement of both foals playing.  The naughty bay and the chestnut about to retaliate!  Look at the price though . . . that won't even MAKE the same room as my Christmas list for 2017!!

This is a Keith piece - he loves old chests like this, preferably the Armada sort with lots of heavy iron strapping and needs moving with the help of a team of elephants . . .  "Try lifting one end" he invited me.  Well, it doesn't take much imagination to realize I couldn't shift it the minutest bit.

More goodies on offer here.  I loved the inlay on this Court Cupboard.

I have a soft spot for the rush-light holders shown at either end of this display case roof.  The price was a little prohibitive though.

I only realized after taking this photo of the skull (bronze) that the ivory figure beside it, draped in reptiles, looked . . . ahem . . . rather phallic.  Ignore that and concentrate on the skull!

Leominster too has it's narrow alleyways, like Cordwainers Lane, with its Elizabethan? overhang.

Above and below - examples of local craftsmanship.  The owl was particularly attractive.  The price tag reflected the artist's skill.

On the way home we took a loop around Weobley to find some water as we were both thirsty.  I have seen several properties for sale here down the years and wanted to check it out as a possible place to move to.

It is certainly a very attractive village, with a wonderful butchers, local shops, Doctors' surgery etc., and wonderful Magpie architecture.

One final picture through the windscreen of the sun setting over the Brecon Beacons.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

A much-needed Day Out

On Monday, despite the less than desirable weather (it rained all morning!) we had a day out to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  We set off for Ludlow, which is just over a two hour drive from here.  Unfortunately, I'd not done my homework, and hadn't realized that the castle would be shut during the week - it only opens on Winter weekends.  Ah well - I had to settle for taking a couple of photos through the fence, and one of those was distinctly wobbly (the 3rd).

The last time I had been to Ludlow castle was a few years ago when there was a Food Festival here.  That had been very enjoyable and I would love to go again when it is on, but I fear my dearly beloved would NOT enjoy it as he is not a foodie in any sense of the word, and really only eats to keep drawing breath!!

Ludlow is a beautiful and very historical town.  I am going to be a bit short on words tonight as I don't have time to get the research done to tell you about these buildings and do them justice, but hopefully I can find some extra descriptions to add tomorrow.

I love the little narrow Medieval streets, and there are some lovely shops to tempt you to part with some pennies.  I think the only shops we spent money in were charity shops though!  I bought his and hers jumpers (unworn ones, mine still had a label on) and a scarf, and in the Oxfam shop I found a lovely jug which matches the unused casserole dish of a pattern I drooled over in the 1990s - when we were skint and no way could I have afforded the £25 or so it cost in the shops.  I had been looking to replace our currently very elderly gravy boat, and this is it.  Not cheap - £8.99 in Oxfam - but it had my name on it.  I will try and get a photo of both pieces tomorrow.

A view of one end of the market stalls set out in the marketplace.

Now some window-shopping . ..

Grommit, take a bow.  Isn't he fun?!

I don't know how this lovely building got its name, but probably the blardy obvious one that it once sold fish!

The Parish Church of St Lawrence, which is lovely inside - we went in once before and took a pile of photos.  I must try and find them.  It soars above the town, when you see it from afar.  This LINK will give you some idea of its magnificence and history.  It dates from the 11th C and when Ludlow became very wealthy from the wool trade in the Medieval period, several extensions to St Laurence were carried out.

Self explanatory, but the wonderful carvings below were to the left and right of this blue plaque.  I presume they are Sir Henry Sidney and his Mrs.  He was related to just about everyone who it paid to be related to in late Tudor, and Elizabethan England and was, ahem, very well known in Ireland (and hated, I might add). 

Tomorrow - Leominster . . .

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A window on the past - getting sidetracked

I was going to use ALL of January to research and write a talk I have been asked to give about the Dymock Poets (Edward Thomas, Robert Frost, et al) and had made a good start on the timeline.  THEN, as the result of a book I was given for Christmas, about the history of one of the Widdicombe parishes, where the Smerdon family hailed from, and because I have a Smerdon connection in my distant family tree, I had blown the dust off one of my big folders of family history research.  On Friday, idle internet browsing suddenly became all-out research, inspired by what I had found. So many more documents and details have been posted by local history societies and family history societies and - should you wish to pay for membership of any of the genealogy companies such as Ancestry,etc you have access to millions of records.  HOW things have changed since my initial forays into family history and the contents of the IGI!

Anyway, I am going to do some research this morning and then it will be nose to the grindstone again.  It's difficult to change direction of research though, especially when one has the bit firmly between ones' metaphorical teeth!

Meanwhile, if I wake up early (who am I kidding? WHEN I wake up early, every morning!) I go downstairs and read some more of my Phil Rickman novel, which is excellent, as always.  No goriness so far, unlike some of his others!  At bedtime I am reading the third Ann Cleeves novel, Red Bones.

Right, back to the history and good folk of Ashburton, where a relative of mine (Emma Ferris) was once the village Schoolmistress. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

2017 book haul . . .

I have been sleeping very badly recently.  Yesterday I had to go back to bed around 8 a.m. (having been up since around 5 a.m.)  I slept through the phone ringing (our eldest daughter phones most days on her way to work) but was just coming out of a really deep sleep to hear the toot, toot, toot of the Mobile Library.  I threw on clothes and staggered out to it (Keith had got there to tell him I was asleep), and brought this wonderful haul of reading in with me.  The Pamela Hartshorne and Anne Cleeves novels were ones I'd asked for.  A Burnable Book, Plotted in Cornwall and The Serpent Papers I couldn't resist.  The latter book I bought for our middle daughter for Christmas.  Now I won't have to ask to borrow it.  Pamela Hartshorne writes similar books to Barbara Erskine, where the main character seems to move (in their mind) between time periods, so they are always an interesting read.

I have only just discovered Ann Cleeves, though I saw some of the Shetland dramas on tv.  I really enjoy her writing, and treated myself to her first four novels on Amazon (they cost less than £10 the four).  The Jodi Taylor ones (I have all six) have been sent by a friend of mine, and are great escapism.

The latest Phil Rickman was released yesterday, and here is my copy!  NO WAY could I not buy it.  I was awake early again this morning so went downstairs and read it for a couple of hours.   Merrily, her daughter Jane, boyfriend Lol etc are old friends of mine . . .

This was a Christmas present from my husband.  My only problem is I want to read ALL of the books at once!  Here, the tale is about the young Jamie, years before he meets Claire . . .

Finally, I couldn't resist this cookery magazine.  I do have a weakness for such things, but in my defence I choose carefully and normally keep them for years . . .

Right, I had better get some housework done, especially if I want to read later . . .

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Bronllys Castle

Keith and I checked this out when we were in the area recently and this time I had remembered my camera.  It has connections with the Marcher Lord William de Braose (NOT a very nice man).  I will give lots of details later but my head currently feels like it is in lala land so I can't concentrate.  Back later. Meanwhile enjoy the photos.

As you can see, there was originally much more than just the defendable tower which now remains to a height of some 80 feet.  The picture below shows it in one corner of the bailey (which now has some lovely old buildings gracing a right angle of it - see photo beneath the CADW picture of the tower).  It was originally a Norman castle, and dates to the late 12th?early 13th C, with the tower being added in the 13th C, and very similar in design to those at Tretower (15 miles away and a favourite of ours for Tretower Court beside it) and Skenfrith.  These Marcher castles, like White Castle and Grosmont, were held by the Marcher lords, of whom William de Braose was one.  He is infamous for murdering several Welsh leaders and their followers in a Christmas Day massacre at Abergavenny castle.  The Welsh called him the "ogre of Abergavenny" from that point on.  Despite Gerald of Wales sucking up to him and saying how religious and wonderful he was, de Braose continued with his vendetta against the Welsh and hunted down and murdered poor wee 7 year old Cadwaladr. sole surviving son of Seisyll ap Dyfnwal. Even the castle itself seemed to have it in for people as during a fire in 1165, a hapless knight, Mahel, son of the Earl of Hereford, was killed by a piece of falling masonry . . .

Sorry that my photos of the signage are poor.  These links will help fill out the picture of Bronllys' and William de Braoses' history.

This would be the solar, I assume.  I could imagine sitting here on a sunny day like this with my embroidery.

There were several stories in the tower, each with excellent fireplaces to keep the occupants warm.

A plan of the tower - usually it has English one side and the Welsh translation on the other and I can just take a photo of the English side.  I trust you get the gist though.

I wouldn't mind living here . . .

Finally some window pictures, looking in various directions.

My favourite one, which may well end up as a Header photo when I can bear to take down the gorgeous one I am using at the moment.  I always feel a pang of regret taking down my favourite photos to replace with another just as good or better.

A final view of the Black Mountains with a smattering of snow.  This is looking roughly south east of the castle.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Incredibly HAUNTED Ancient Ram Inn, Wotton-under-Edge

Yesterday it was back to work in a sense, as we had to go to the auction at Wotton-under-Edge to pay for and collect a couple of items we had bought (bidding online at their post-Christmas sale). 'Wotton' is pronounced 'Wooten' by the way. We had a cup of tea in the cafe in the High Street we always go to, went to the Post Office (letter coming your way, Sharon) and did a bit of shopping. Wotton is a friendly place, quiet and welcoming.  It has a long history and above the town on the scarp is an Iron Age hillfort, Brackenbury Ditches, although I would think there was a presence there back through the Bronze Age and the Neolithic too.  A good site is always occupied and used in succeeding periods.

The history of the town dates back to 940, and the name probably derives from the Anglo-Saxon words 'wude' for wood (the scarp is still heavily wooded) and 'ton' meaning village. "Wudeton" becomes "Vutune" in the Domesday book and Wotton has strong associations with the manor of Berkeley and indeed the Norman castle still controls the landscape a few miles to the West of the town.

After being granted Borough status in 1253, it became a market town and indeed, a thriving wool town, and fortunately was bypassed somewhat during the industrial revolution when other towns closer to good road links were utilised.  The wool trade was especially prolific in Gloucestershire, as the county was famous for supplying the cheap red woollen cloth from which the uniforms were made for the British army.  

The ancient Ram Inn, however, is in a different class.  It dates from the 13th century and apparently housed workmen who were building the nearby church.  (See below).  This former Inn is still owned by a Mr Humphries, who has lived there for very nearly 50 years, since 1968, when he bought it from the brewery, and made it his life's work to save the structure.  Unfortunately it seems to be looking slightly the worse for wear these days, due no doubt to his increasing age.  However, he is still trying hard and you can have a ghostly experience there on a regular basis at £69 a head.  With MY experiences of things that go bump in the night, I am NOT signing up for that one!  

However, if you want to see a) what it looks like inside, and b) what happened when Derek Acorah and the Most Haunted team went there, follow the link.  The programme is about 40 minutes long, and a load of tosh in my mind - though I am not saying there is nothing paranormal there, only that for the programme, much of it was acting.  A Cotswold friend says it truly is as bad as the stories written about it, truly evil in parts, and some of the locals wouldn't even walk past it in her day.  In my experience, an atmosphere is one thing, and scary happenings another, but the "happenings" are generally not to be summoned up.  "It" comes to you . . . as I discovered that day at Breamore House.

As you can see, it didn't pay to fall out with the Church back in those days . . .

See?  Told ya!

I couldn't get close enough to make this legible, but all sorts of things have been written about it down the years.

Since Derek Acorah was there, things have gone downhill a bit and now the yard is all shut off from unwanted visitors.

There was also a notice in one of the windows about there being an official demand to do work on one of the chimneys.  Please check out this Petition Link and sign and share, to try and raise awareness about this amazing old building.  It gives a lot more of the history of it too, so is well worth checking out.

An interesting sign.  If you have seen the Most Haunted programme, the end shot definitely shows this sign saying '13th cent" NOT 10th, so someone has painted it over and aged it a bit . . .

Anyway, we were very glad that we decided to explore Wotton a bit (something we have meant to do on previous visits) as we would not have discovered the Ram Inn otherwise.