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, June 18, 2008

The Dreaming Spires Part 2

I'm finally back to do the second post about my day in Oxford. The last ten days or so has been rather hectic, my husband has finally had his surgery and we are told that it has been successful which is a relief. We also are celebrating the arrival of another little grandson who was born in the early hours of Saturday morning. Gabriel now has a little brother called Elisha George and I shall be going down to Suffolk to see them on Thursday. I'm staying a few days so that I can do some exploring, I love Suffolk and it is full of beautiful villages and quiet country lanes. However back to Oxford - the view above is taken through the entrance gates of Corpus Christi College, it shows the stone flagged Front Quad and the tall column is a sundial.

I wish I could have got closer to photograph this amazing sundial properly but the College was closed. It dates back to 1581 and the main column has the principal south facing sundial on it (not visible in this photo) and a perpetual calendar which shows the University terms. The pelican on the top, which is pecking blood from its breast to feed its young, represents 'Corpus Christi' (the Body of Christ). Apart from the main sundial on the column there are at least eight more, four below the coats of arms and then four more on the next level up. Click to enlarge the photo and you will see it better.

This wonderful carved stone panel was crafted around 1420 and stands over the gatehouse of Merton College. The images depict St John the Baptist in the wilderness with various animals including a lovely unicorn. I was able to go in and look round here, Merton was founded in 1264 and claims to be the oldest college in Oxford. J.R.Tolkien was Professor of English here between 1945 and 1959 when he was writing his 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy.

Front Quad with the old Warden's Lodgings on the far left.

Mob Quad is the earliest quadrangle in Oxford and it houses the library of Merton College which dates from 1373 and is the oldest continuously used library for academics in the world.

The archway that leads into Fellows Quad has the twelve signs of the zodiac carved into the roof bosses. It was built by Warden Fitzjames as part of his new lodgings in 1497 and he actually had a horoscope cast for his new house.

A close-up of my particular sign - Virgo.

This is probably my favourite of the Colleges I visited - these are the gardens of New College which are enclosed by the old city walls of Oxford.

One of the bastions which allows a better defensive position than a straight wall does. Oxford was the headquarters of Charles I during the English Civil War and it was along these walls that the Royalists made their final stand before the city surrendered to the Roundheads in June 1646. Hiss, boo at this point - I have always been a staunch Royalist!

The cloisters of New College which are beautifully quiet and peaceful and they enclose a small garden.

Looking into the garden through one of the cloister windows.

The name New College is rather misleading, it is actually one of the oldest colleges in Oxford being founded in 1379 by William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester.
This stone staircase leads up into the dining hall where there is a portrait of William Wykeham and also of Canon William Spooner who was given to transposing the beginnings of words and whose name gave rise to 'spoonerisms'. Among them is one that really makes me laugh - 'The Lord is a shoving leopard'. I'm sure you can all work out what he actually intended to say!

On New College Lane stands this white house where the astronomer Edmund Halley lived and had his observatory. He discovered that comets move in an orbit round the sun and Halley's Comet was named after him.

The plaque on the wall of the house. You will need to cick on it to read what it says.

The Sheldonian Theatre was one of the earliest architectural designs by Sir Christopher Wren who is most famous for his design for St Paul's Cathedral in London.
When he designed the Sheldonian he was a Professor of Astronomy at New College, Oxford and still plain Christopher Wren - the knighthood came later.

Radcliffe Camera was originally built in the mid 18th century to house the Radcliffe Science Library, it is now a part of the famous Bodleian Library and is used as a reading room for students. There was so much more to see in Oxford and I shall definitely go again to see all that I didn't have time for on this visit.

Finally the lovely old 16th century farmhouse where I stayed for the two nights I was in Oxfordshire.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Dreaming Spires Part 1

Last weekend I went to Oxfordshire for a few days. The real object of the journey was to join a private tour of a couple of houses and I could have got there and back in one day with an early start and a late finish but I decided to stay over for a couple of nights and take the opportunity to visit Oxford - the City of Dreaming Spires. As ever clicking on the photos will make the details clearer.

This is Christ Church College which was founded by King Henry VIII in 1546, it is built on the site of the Priory of St Frideswide and the priory church became both the College chapel and one of England's smallest cathedrals. In the 19th Century the maths tutor at Christ Church was called Charles Dodgson, he is better known now as Lewis Carroll the author of 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass'. The Alice of the stories was one of the children of Henry Liddell the Dean of Christ Church.

This lovely 12th century cloister is also part of the original Priory.

All Harry Potter fans will be familiar with this scene, the Great Hall of Christ Church College was the model for Hogwarts Hall in the films and this is where the Sorting Hat decided which House the new first year pupils would be assigned to. The photograph is taken looking down the Great Hall towards the entrance. During the English Civil War (1642-1651) King Charles I lived in Oxford and held his Parliament in the Great Hall of Christ Church.

This is High Table where the Fellows of Christ Church College dine. The large portrait in the centre is of Henry VIII the College's founder.

The steps leading up to the Great Hall - Professor McGonnagall stood at the top of here to welcome all the new First Year pupils to Hogwarts.

This exquisite fan vaulted ceiling is above the staircase and dates from 1640.

The interior of the chapel which dates back to the 12th century, the wonderful vaulted ceiling was added around 1500.

The Saint Catherine window is one of five stained glass windows designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite artist, for Christ Church chapel. The face of Saint Catherine, the central figure, is modelled on that of Edith Liddell, the sister of Alice Liddell.

More of Edward Burne Jones' work, this is the Vyner Memorial window.

This is the shrine of St Frideswide, patron saint of the city of Oxford. She came to Oxford in the 7th century fleeing from King Algar of Mercia who wanted to marry her. The king was blinded but Frideswide saved his sight on condition that he would no longer pursue her. She founded a religious house and died there in 735AD. Her bones were eventually brought to the priory church of St Frideswide in 1180. On the right you can just see the watching chamber which has a stone base and a wooden upper section and dates from about 1500, from here the monks could keep an eye on the shrine and(possibly more importantly!) all the rich treasures which surrrounded it.

This brilliantly coloured and intricate window is behind the shrine, it is by Edward Burne Jones and tells the story of St Frideswide in pictures. Do enlarge it and look on the right at the very back of the bottom righthand panel. You will see the very incongruous sight of a pink toilet!! Heaven only knows why Burne Jones included this!

A detail from the window showing St Frideswide being carried to heaven on a 'ship of souls'.

The Becket window is the oldest stained glass window in the chapel and it dates from 1320. It portrays the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. You will definitely need to click on this to see it.

Detail from the Becket window.

The Great Quadrangle with Sir Christopher Wren's Tom Tower over the gatehouse which is the main entrance to Christ Church. Great Tom is the 7 ton bell which hangs in the tower. Every night Great Tom strikes 101 times at 9.05pm - one strike for each of the original 101 students of the college.

Lewis Carroll must have been familiar with this sundial, it is close to the Library where he worked and often looked out of the window and saw Alice Liddell's cat Dinah sitting in a chestnut tree - Dinah became The Cheshire Cat. Like me Lewis Carroll was born in the county of Cheshire.

More of Oxford in the next post - anyone who has got this far must be all historied out by now!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Comfrey Ointment for Granny K

One or two people have expressed interest in the quantities for the comfrey ointment. It takes 1 pint of sweet almond oil packed with as many torn comfrey leaves as you can get in there, 4 hours in the oven on the lowest possible heat - you are warming it to extract the goodness from the leaves not cooking it:) Melt 2oz of beeswax in a bowl over a pan of hot water then stir it thoroughly into the strained still warm oil. Pot it into little amber glass pots as fast as you can as it starts to set incredibly quickly. This amount will fill about 8 60ml pots. I get mine from Baldwins. Their service is fast and reliable.

Elderflower ointment is made in exactly the same way using the same quantities of oil and beeswax but using elderflower heads with the thick stalks removed. The elderflowers must be in perfect condition and picked late morning on a dry,sunny day.

It's possible to make smaller quantities if you keep the proportion of 1 pint of oil to 2oz of beeswax eg 1/2 pint of oil and 1oz of beeswax etc.

These receipts came from a book called Herb Sufficient by Christina Stapeley. She is the lady who taught most of the herb courses that I've done and is incredibly knowledgeable.