Monday, 21 July 2014

. . . and Ledbury Photos

Ledbury is a lovely little town, full of "Magpie"half-timbered houses.  This is Church Street and the Church is St Michael and All Angels.  In the 8th C, the Bishop of Hereford deemed it necessary to send some of his clergy to establish a church on the site of a pagan shrine and by the 11th century there was a large and important Minster church on this site, which was rebuilt in the 12th C and altered down the centuries.

On the right is the old Grammar School (now a local history museum).  It has the most enormous inglenook fireplace I have ever seen.  Imagine the last few feet of a room, spanned by a beam and then open to the roof behind it, literally from floor to chimney, the width of the house.  It dates from around 1480.  Inside is a good guide to Ledbury's interesting history and famous people, who include Poet Laureate John Masefield, who was born here, and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, who lived with her family at the curiously-designed (by her father I believe) Hope End.  It had turrets all around it at intervals, extending above the roof of the house, and looking for all the world like Smartie tubes . . .  The Barrett fortunes were tied up in Sugar Plantations in the West Indies, and income declined (around the time of the death of Elizabeth;'s mother in 1828).  By 1832 the house and 500 acre estate had been sold, much to Elizabeth's distress, and the family relocated to Sidmouth in Devon.

Illustration from a book, copied from an internet link, originally on a blog called Tinsmith's Cuttings. Weird Weird house!  Had it been still standing, they would have used it in the Harry Potter films I'm sure!

This lovely building, Butcher Row House, is now a Folk Museum (and free entry too).  Apparently it was removed from the High street, where it originally stood, and rebuilt here, many years ago now.

Next month when we are there again, we will look around it.  My husband thought I was just taking a couple of quick photos, so I couldn't linger too long.

Another lovely building close to the Church.

At the top of Church Street.

I can never resist peeks along alleyways and into back yards . . .

No time for tea and cake today, but what a lovely spot for it.

Malvern Fleamarket and Ledbury photos

We were up at 4 a.m. yesterday morning to get an early start at Malvern Fleamarket.  We had missed the last Antiques Fair there (which has outside stalls too) so were really looking forward to our day out.

It was quite foggy first thing and didn't really start to improve until we got to Llandovery.  Hence the rather arty-farty picture above (LOVE it!) which I think I took just outside Brecon.

We arrived just before 7.30 a.m. (when the gates open for buyers to come in) and were surprised to see a long queue of sellers' cars going in too.  It would seem that the fog had been widespread and held up those buyers from much further afield. Normally everyone is through the gates at a little past 6.30 a.m. and soon setting up and the most desirable items get sold between dealers before the public get a sniff of them.  On this occasion we struck lucky and got our best bargains first thing. 

 I was banned from going near the plant stall ...

The usual general view though if I had had room to take it from head on, this stall was more decorative than most.

This unusual stall claimed to do "sculpted taxidermy" - as per the pictures.  I don't think he realized that Zebras have short manes too.  

This is for my friend Kim over at Oakmoon Studios, who loves Unicorns.  I think her Araby paintings of Unicorns are much prettier than this one though.

This old Victorian picture of Thoroughbred stallion St Simon was one of a couple of dozen, taken from a book, for sale at the Fleamarket.  I looked through them all, and unfortunately they were nearly all marked by damp and mould.  I asked the price - £10 each!  I am afraid I snorted at the price! and then walked way.

This made a great photo!  I'm not sure I would enjoy these "dummies" on a chair in my house though . . .

This lady had turned ordinary pieces of furniture into ones that children would love.  The Wind in the Willows theme here.

Horses - she wasn't quite so strong on her horses . . .

This was my favourite, the Beatrix Potter chest of drawers.

Various views painted on old saws.  I think she had taken "side-saddle" a bit too literally, but I think this was a really good idea - upcycling at its best.

I was chatting with another stall holder, and admiring some of the things she was selling and she got out this very old Paisley shawl, a proper one made in Paisley, Glasgow.  It had seen better days and a previous owner had "mended" a tear with HUGE stitches and a full 6 strands of red embroidery thread, bless her.  Obviously her eyesight was going.  A real piece of history here.

I didn't ask the price on this, but what a wonderful old vintage street vendor's popcorn-maker.

I will have to add the Ledbury photos later, or do a separate post, as I need to get SOME work done today.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014


Capel-y-Ffin - this translates to "chapel of the boundary" and indeed it is right on the border between Wales and England.  The little River Hondu runs along the valley bottom and Offa's Dyke still guards the boundaries between the two countries. It has long been one of my aims to walk a good stretch of it.

Apparently this little hamlet was the last Welsh-speaking community in this area.

The sculptor Eric Gill spent 4 years here, setting up a commune (I bet that upset the locals!) before deciding that the area was too remote - especially from London.  However, it had served its purpose as a rural retreat, and was not totally remote as the Doctor arrived on horseback once a week, and there was a postal delivery.  Other artists, including the poet and painter David Jones.  Perhaps the serenity of the area, and its religious roots back to the 12th century, gave the area an ambiance which drew in sensitive people.  It is not hard to imagine them dining by the light of oil lamps, clad against the cold in Trench Coats.  The Gill women folk wove clothing and the only water supply was the River Hondu itself.  See HERE for the source of these facts.

The curate-writer the Rev. Francis Kilvert also loved this place and regularly walked here from his home in Clyro (9 miles to the West).  He said it reminded him of an owl.  The interior is small - about 26 feet x 13 feet, although it does have stairs and an upper gallery.

I hope you are able to read this piece about Kilvert, though it's looking dodgy this end!!!

I loved this teddy family on top of the organ - obviously a very family-orientated chapel.

This little mouse on the top of the font, was carved - I assume - by Robert "Mouseman" Thompson, a British furniture maker from Yorkshire.  The mouse was his signature on each piece he made. Apparently the first mouse came about following a conversation he had where the expression "as poor as a church mouse" was used, when he was carving a cornice on a screen for a church.  He added a wee mouse, and the rest, as they say, is history.

There are always flowers in the chapel - usually a little bouquet of wild flowers.  The light was against me in this photo but I am sure you get the idea.

And some more, against a better backdrop.

A beautiful East-facing window inscribed with Psalm 121, which I had read at my mother's funeral, inspired by this view and mum's family connections in the Welsh mining valleys.

Date on an old pew right at the back.

A plaque on the wall outside the chapel, in memory of Jane P?? who died February 27th 17(7?)96 aged 84.

A quiet corner of the churchyard.

A simple gravestone for Charlie Stoner, Carpenter, who died in 1935.  I like that he was remembered for his trade and I think he must have been very good at his trade.

I love the flowers and motifs carved on this 18th C headstone.

The remains of an early preaching cross in the churchyard.

Out along the tiny narrow lane (with passing places) under a tunnel of trees and that back out onto the mountainside and beautiful views again.  A lovely lovely day.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The ponies of Hay Bluff

Once upon a time, there were indiginous kosher Welsh Mountain ponies grazing the Welsh mountains.  Not any more.  I think there was a spell when everything looked half-Shetland.  Now, looking at these mares, I can see very scaled-down shires in their ancestry.  Some Welsh blood too, but they are raw boned, with upright shoulders and LOTS of feather and the mare at the back has Blagdon markings, which say heavy horse ancestry.  No pretty heads with pint-pot muzzles either . . .

A close-up of the mini-Shire.

Another mare of the same sort, perhaps related.

One of two gypsy cob stallions running with these mares.  Lots of feather and cart ancestry there.

Here's the other stallion, with a better sort of proper Section A mare, heavily in foal.

He was quite a nice chap really, seemed quite friendly, and better-made than the other piebald stallion. He was a bit over-protective of his mare though, and drove her away from the other little herd, not giving her any peace, poor lass.

He even posed for me, standing in true show-ring stance, to show me what a lovely boy he was!  So many of these sorts are roach-backed with weak hindquarters, so he was an improvement on most.  He was a goodish example of a gypsy cob to my mind, but for driving rather than riding with that upright shoulder.

A Welsh Mountain colt here, 2 year old I think, with a belly full of worms and no back end.

Another piebald mare and her colt-foal.

Another coloured mare who was part of this same herd.  She was a sweetie - a sort of blue-dun skewbald - and her new-born colt-foal looked like it had "Irish eyes" - put in with smutty fingers!

This foal, also a colt, but a bit older than the others, had obviously met people before, and was very friendly, but also very nippy and nipped my thigh at one point.  I began to walk back to our car (where he had already been for a recce, putting his head right inside through the open door to see if any grub was on offer!)

He really liked people and wouldn't back off!

When I got back in the car, he began to chomp the mirror attachment!

Then he tried the rubber round the back window, and it reminded me of a Safari park, when the monkeys come along and climb all over the car, ripping bits off!  Well, this one was a little monkey alright, and we drove away whilst we still had our car intact!

It was lovely to be around ponies again though - I could just hear my dad's voice, saying I was off pony-chasing again . . .