Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.



Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Ironbridge Part One


On Saturday morning we started our day at the Museum of the Gorge which has a wonderful 40ft long scale model of the Ironbridge Gorge as it was in 1796. It is worth going in for this alone. The detail is incredible and I could have spent much longer looking at it. Impossible to photograph though so the photo above is of the gorge in real life with the River Severn flowing down towards the Bristol Channel. At 220 miles the Severn is the longest river in the UK.


After looking round the Museum of the Gorge we had a little walk round the town of Ironbridge. I crossed the bridge and was standing on the south side of the river to take this photo, on the left is the old Toll House and on the other side you can see St Luke's church.


This is the table of tolls that people had to pay to cross the bridge, it's very faded at the bottom but if you enlarge it you'll be able to read the charge for foot passengers which is a halfpenny. Any workman who lived on the south side of the river would have to pay this charge every day just to get to work and 3d a week out of the pittance they earned would have maybe made a difference to whether or not the family could buy food at the end of the week.


On a quick walk along the towpath I spotted what appears to be a pirate ship sailing under the bridge!


The rest of the day was spent at Blists Hill. This is a reconstructed Victorian Town but also has industrial exhibits - some of the buildings are original as it was built on a former industrial site which had a brick and tile works, blast furnaces and coal, iron and fire clay mines. Above is the grocers shop which was fascinating inside and contained a great many things that I remember well even though I don't quite go back to the Victorian era:)


I love the old scales and the ceramic jars filled with dried fruits and nuts. They had the old blue bags that sugar used to be weighed out and packed in too.


This is the chemists shop which was used in the television series 'The Victorian Pharmacy'.




The inside was just amazing - the pharmacist would prepare many of his own medicines as well as selling patent medicines. He catered for animals as well as people and was often the local dentist as well!  As today various beauty creams and lotions would be available too. Both these photos are worth enlarging to see the detail.






The drapers shop sold both ready made clothes and all kinds of haberdashery. I love the purple parasol!


This is part of the Shropshire Canal with some of the original industrial buildings on the far bank - I think that this may be the brick and tile works, if I'm right then this is where the last itinerant master brickmaker works and the bricks are still handmade.


More of the industrial heritage, here we have the pithead of a coal mine with the winding gear at the back.


One of the beautiful Shire horses who work at Blists Hill.


Naturally we had to go in the lift that goes from the canal level to the lower part of the town:)


The Squatters Cottage - my favourite thing at Blists Hill! It dates from the 1840s and is a tiny two room cottage originally lived in by a collier, his wife and seven children! It was rescued from Burrough's Bank near Telford and re-erected at Blists Hill. It wasn't illegal or built within 24 hours but was built by the cottager of local stone and tree trunks on the property of the landowner. This saved the landowner from having to provide accommodation for his workers. The occupants paid an annual 'fine' or rent and if they carried on paying for three generations the cottage became theirs. This one was lived in until the 1970s.


The old tin bath hanging on the wall outside. The cottage had a garden for growing herbs and vegetables and there was a pigsty too. Almost certainly they would have had a few hens as well as the pig.



The bedroom had a bed for the parents and one that would have held a couple of children head to tail. Heaven knows where the others slept! On straw pallets on the floor at a guess. There were no wardrobes or chests of drawers, storage was in boxes,baskets and nails on the wall. Not that they would have had very much to store. 
My gran brought up nine children in a two up two down terrace house though the age range meant that they were never all living there at once. I know that there was a curtain hung down the middle of the room with boys on one side and girls on the other and they definitely slept head to tail in the beds.


The cottage smelt wonderful when we went in, the lady who did the living history had cooked a joint of beef on the range - not something that will have happened very often in reality I suspect.


This is the old range - it was a cosy little room and efforts had been made to make it look nice, a few flowers in an old jug, newspaper cut into paper frills to edge the shelves and I like to think that in winter there would have been a rag rug on those tiles. My gran certainly had one in front of her range when I was a little girl.

There was so much more to see as well, definitely enough for a full day out and for all ages - there was a Victorian fairground for the children as well as a schoolroom, an old fashioned sweet shop where you could actually buy sweets - and I did! I shall try and do another short post about what we saw on Sunday but as my daughter and I are off to Madrid on Saturday I may not have time. We shall see!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Catching Up


It's a good while since I last posted but I thought I'd make a start again now that the nights are drawing in. It's not been one of my better summers this year as I had a few days in hospital in July though happily all is well now. For Bilbo Baggins it has been even more traumatic as he has had to have one of his hind legs amputated due to an aggressive bone cancer. He's currently at the vets as he has had a bad reaction to his first session of chemotherapy but hopefully they will pull him through and then we must decide whether or not to carry on or just let things take their natural course. He was doing really well until the chemo and I think we'd rather he had a shorter life feeling good than a longer one feeling grim.


On a happier note I was down in Suffolk at the end of July for Jude's 1st birthday celebration.


Jude and his family have moved house during the summer and this is part of their new garden. They are literally surrounded by fields but only 10 minutes walk from the village. It's a wonderful setting.


In early September I spent a weekend in Shropshire with Time Travellers our local archaeology group. On Friday we visited the Roman town of Wroxeter once the fourth largest town in Roman Britain. The remains of the bath house is all that is visible now though.


Just down the lane is the church of St Andrew which was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. Some parts of the present church date back to the 12th century. The photo above is of the font which is made from part of a Roman column.


The 14th century parish chest where the parish registers and other valuable documents would have been kept.


In the chancel are three very good table tombs still with most of their original colour on. The nearest one belongs to Sir Thomas Bromley who died in 1555. Sir Thomas was an executor of Henry VIII's Will so an important man in his time.


After checking in at the Buckatree Hall Hotel half a dozen of us decided to climb The Wrekin which was close by.The Wrekin is a famous Shropshire landmark, it's 1335 feet high and from the top on a clear day you can see fifteen English and Welsh counties. My husband has climbed it many times in his youth as a geography and geology student and says it's always been either raining or foggy when he's done it. There's a saying that 'if you can see The Wrekin it's going to rain and if you can't see it it's already raining':) At the top of The Wrekin is an Iron Age hillfort although only earthworks are visible now.


This is Heaven Gate - if you enlarge the previous photo and look at the drawing you will be able to pick out the two mounds which were the entrance to the hillfort. This was the main power base of the Celtic tribe the Cornovii whose territory covered Shropshire, Cheshire, north Staffordshire, north Herefordshire and eastern parts of the Welsh counties of Flintshire, Powys and Wrexham. Since my roots in Cheshire go back to at least the 1600s I'd guess that some Cornovii blood flows in my veins:)


My husband was absolutely right about the chances of having a clear day, as you can see there was low cloud obscuring the view even though it was a warm, dry day.


Here we are at the top! As you can see from my hair it was pretty windy up here!


Saturday and Sunday were spent visiting Ironbridge with its famous bridge over the River Severn. It was the world's first cast iron bridge and was opened in 1781. It looks idyllic doesn't it - but this is where the Industrial Revolution began. The Ironbridge Gorge and its Museums deserve a post to themselves so I'll leave that until later this week.

Monday, May 05, 2014

A Moorland Walk


This morning B Baggins and I tried a different walk though we were still on Blackamoor. A winding upward path eventually brought us to this cairn, I'm not sure exactly where we were but it might have been the top of Bole Hill - on the other hand it might not! Either way there was a wonderful view. I added another stone to the cairn and then carried on down the other side of the hill.



Eventually we came down onto the track that you can see in the photo and turned right walking up onto the moorland proper, it was obviously very boggy at the sides of the track and I wouldn't have cared to step off it! B Baggins was on a lead along here as there are a lot of ground nesting birds on the moors at this time of the year.



The track ahead...



...and to the left...



..to the right...



...and looking back the way we've come. This is Totley Moor, a bleak place in winter or bad weather and dangerous too. In times past before the turnpike roads you needed a guide to cross these moors and many people met their deaths in snowstorms or by wandering off the tracks in mist and fog. This track carries on to Stony Ridge which was farther than I wanted to go so eventually we turned round and retraced our steps. There are lots of skylarks up here and I watched and listened as one rose so high in the sky that finally all I could see was a small black dot.



We reached a place where we turned off the main track and followed this little path round the side of the hill and into a friendlier looking scene where B Baggins was able to run free again for a while.



Once through the gate at the end of the track he had to go back on the lead as there were lots of sheep and lambs around.Even more exciting was this herd of red deer coming down off the high pasture. They were quite a distance off and this photo was taken with a 20x zoom.



We turned right and followed the drystone wall to another gate where we turned right again and followed the rough, stony track down to familiar territory where I heard a cuckoo calling. This is Lenny Hill where we walk most days, the little group of trees are special friends - a hawthorn, a young horse chestnut and a wild rose. What the horse chestnut is doing up here I have no idea, I think it must only have managed to survive because of the protection given to it by the hawthorn.


We turned right again and walked down Strawberry Lee Lane, halfway down B Baggins stopped at Lee Syke for a welcome drink and paddle, this little stream joins Blacka Dyke further down the hill and they in turn join Oldhay Brook which eventually joins with the Totley Brook to form the River Sheaf, one of Sheffield's five main rivers. Then it was home for breakfast at the end of a lovely walk that I shall definitely be doing again.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Beltane - Bringing In The May



Today is Beltane, the first day of the Celtic summer and the celebration of the longer,warmer days and the fertility of the earth which is visible all around us. Beltane/May Day has been celebrated in English villages for centuries by the 'Bringing in of the May' which meant not only the month of May but also the beautiful white hawthorn or May blossom. This was gathered on May Eve and used to decorate the doors of all the houses in the village. The lovely blossoms were also made into garlands - this is the origin of the old nursery rhyme 'Here we go gathering Nuts in May'. The 'nuts' were knots of hawthorn blossom. There were boisterous games, feasts, bonfires and Maypole dancing and a great many other rather more private celebrations in the local woods which frequently resulted in an increase in the village population nine months later! All this frivolity came to a grinding halt in 1644 when Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan government - never ones for allowing people to have a good time if they could prevent it - banned maypoles and all the other May Day celebrations. Some of us in England may be thinking that there wouldn't be much May blossom to gather this morning but that is because in 1754 we lost 11 days when the Gregorian calendar was introduced and September 2nd was immediately followed by September 12th. May Day would originally have fallen on what is now May 12th when the May blossom would be in full bloom.



Beltane is one of the major fire festivals of the year and the ancient Celtic people released their cattle from winter confinement on this day and drove them between two great fires to purify them and they were then taken to their summer pastures.



As at Samhain the veil between the worlds is thin but rather than the spirits of the dead it is the fairy people who conduct their revels on May Eve. If you sit beneath a hawthorn tree on this night, you may hear the sound of bells as the Queen of the Faeries rides by on her snow white horse searching for mortals to lure away. Take care to hide your face for if she sees you then it may be you that she steals away and carries back to Tir Nan Og....




This is a beautiful and very ancient Gaelic poem dating back to at least the 10th century. The poet's name is lost in the mists of time but legend has it that it was the great Gaelic warrior king Finn McCuill who wrote it.

May, clad in cloth of gold,
Cometh this way;
The fluting of the blackbirds
Heralds the day.

The dust coloured cuckoo
Cries welcome O Queen!
For winter has vanished,
The thickets are green.

Soon the trampling of cattle
where river runs low!
The long hair of the heather,
The canna like snow.

Wild waters are sleeping,
Foam of blossom is here;
Peace, save the panic
In the heart of the deer.















The wild bee is busy,
The ant honey spills,
The wandering kine
Are abroad on the hills.

The harp of the forest
Sounds low, sounds sweet;
Soft bloom on the heights;
On the loch, haze of heat.

The waterfall dreams;
Snipe, corncrakes, drum
By the pool where the talk
Of the rushes is come.

The swallow is swooping;
Song swings from each brae;
Rich harvest of mast falls;
The swamp shimmers gay.

Happy the heart of man,
Eager each maid;
Lovely the forest,
The wild plane, the green glade.















Truly winter is gone,
Come the time of delight,
The summer truce joyous,
May, blossom-white.

In the heart of the meadows
The lapwings are quiet;
A winding stream
Makes drowsy riot.

Race horses, sail, run,
Rejoice and be bold!
See, the shaft of the sun
Makes the water-flag gold.

Loud, clear, the blackcap;
The lark trills his voice
Hail May of delicate colours
tis May-Day - rejoice!

I originally posted this in 2009 so decided to give it another outing today as I don't have time to research a new post for Beltane. It's pouring with rain so not exactly the perfect May Day morning but hopefully things will be better on May 12th - Old May Day:)