Our Town : From Peterborough, New Hampshire to London, England

OUR TOWN prog

The weekend after we arrived home from New England at the end of September I spotted a small listing in the newspaper for the play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. At first I thought the play was due to tour and was actually coming to Leeds but an online search proved fruitless so I checked the dates again and saw that it was showing at The Almeida Theatre in London during dates I was going to be  in town.

The notice had particularly caught my eye because the week before in Vermont we had made an excursion into New Hampshire from Brattleboro which is literally on the border between the two states. They are separated only by the Connecticut River.

Connecticut River

The Connecticut River

Bridge linking VT and NH

The Brattleboro Road Bridge Linking VT and NH

Our intention had been to visit a mountain we had seen on the previous day from another trip to Wilmington VT and the viewpoint at Hog Back Mountain.

Monandnock from hog back

 View from Hog Back Mountain – 100 Mile View

But when we arrived at Mount Monadnock the State Park Warden told us that, although it is the most visited mountain peak in the USA [A magnet for hikers, Monadnock is said to be the world’s third most climbed mountain, following Japan’s Mount Fuji and China’s Mount Tai.], we might find ourselves limited by time (it’s really a full day hike) and advised us to drive a few miles further to Miller State Park where it is possible to drive right to the top and take a shorter trail from the peak car park.

View from Miller

View from Miller State Park

Trail to hawk watch

Miller State Park is located on the 2,290-foot summit and flank of Pack Monadnock in Peterborough and is the oldest state park in New Hampshire. A winding 1.3-mile paved road leading to the scenic summit is open for visitors to drive in summer and on spring and fall weekends. Three main hiking trails ascend Pack Monadnock to the summit. The best known is the Wapack Trail, which is a 21-mile footpath that extends from Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham, Massachusetts to North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield. It is believed Native Americans named the area’s mountains, and that “pack” means little. On clear days views reach to Mount Washington, the skyscrapers of Boston, and the Vermont hills.”

Boston skyline

Boston Skyline just visible (slightly right)

Yes, indeed, it was amazing to see the skyscrapers of Boston on the horizon from a distance of 55 miles away!

This could be Mt Washington

Could this be Mount Washington?

We were fascinated by the Audubon Hawk Watch set up in a clearing. It reminded me of the Malhamdale Hills and Hawks Walk in July. Just like the RSPB The Audubon Society had set up an area with information boards, information table, binoculars and telescopes on tripods and staff and volunteers ready to answer questions and tell about the project. We felt very under-equipped!

Birds seen

Birds Spotted

Serious twitchers

A Serious Twitcher

owl to attract

Owl Decoy

As we left the park and drove back towards Brattleboro I suggested we stop at the town of Peterborough. A good friend and reader of posts here, Sarah, had told me some time ago about the pretty town which served as the inspiration for Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town”.

Views of Peterborough

main st peterboro

Peterboro 1

Peterboro 2

Peterboro 3

Peterboro 4

Sarah's Hat Boxes

“We all grow up, we fall in love, we have families and we all die. That is our story”

And that is the story of “Our Town”.

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Birdy Thursday at Norwich Castle and Hickling Broad

Norwich Castle

Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery

The Wonder of Birds exhibition is currently showing at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. I’ve written about a gallery visit here before. One Thursday a couple of weeks ago when I was in Norwich for a few days visiting family I thought I’d see what all the fuss about birds was all about. Well, it was about quite a lot of amazing stuff, actually.

Wonder of birds

When I first heard that The Wonder of Birds was to be next up I wasn’t too keen. Then I read this article in the Guardian and saw the accompanying pictures and changed my mind. Many of the artefacts and pictures came from the Museum’s own collections.

The Wonder of Birds’ explores the cultural impact of birds upon mankind. Eliciting a wide range of emotions from awe to fear, from pleasure to cruelty – birds have intrigued humanity since the earliest of times. The exhibition will span the centuries, informed by local and national collections, to include the arts, natural history, archaeology, fashion and social history. Works by major artists and illustrators, historical and contemporary, will be included and the exhibition will examine local, national and international issues.

Metal bird

Spring Cuckoo by Harriet Mead, 2009

‘The Wonder of Birds’ comprises six sections, each highlighting a different aspect of birds, their meanings and our relationships with them. It begins by introducing the visitor to the breadth of this fascinating subject: what is a bird; what do they mean to us; how have we studied, portrayed, preserved, endangered and used them?

Parrot

Adult Male Paradise Parrot : Frederick Strange, taxidermist, 1851

Section 2, ‘Predators and Prey’ … Section 3, ‘Birds & Landscape’, primarily examines birds in East Anglia, …  Section 4, ‘Migrants and Ocean Travellers’, will examine the seasonal behaviour which may take migrating birds from Norfolk to the Arctic, Africa or South America …Section 5 is titled ‘Introducing the Exotic’. Exotic birds have always been coveted for their brilliant plumage, combined with their sheer rarity value, both as high status pets and for their feathers.

Feather hat

Exotic feathered hat from the 1960s

‘The Realms of the Spirit’, the final section, will illustrate how songbirds and their relatives have symbolised the immortal soul, been seen as heralds of the seasons, messengers from heaven, or magical beings moving between the worlds.” [Museum website]

Cards

Bird related postcards in the Museum Shop

I discovered that birds may not need humans but humans certainly do need birds. They appear in our decorative arts, religion, symbolism, folklore, heraldry, fashion, literature and language.

The 147 million year old Archaeopteryx fossil cast is the earliest known bird. The Natural History Museum cares for the first skeleton specimen ever found and this spectacular fossil helped prove that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs. It was the first example providing support for Darwin’s theory of evolution. It is the most valuable fossil in the NHM’s collection.

archaeopteryx-banner_112755_1

Archaeopteryx fossil [source]

I saw an exquisite hollie point (English needle lace) baby’s Christening cap featuring a dove – a visual reminder of the Holy Spirit …

archive2

Here is a similar example [source]

… and a pincushion made by Sylvia Pankhurst whilst she was incarcerated in Holloway Prison and a copy of the Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner’s Bestiary ‘Historiae animalium’ which must have been seen by Mary, Queen of Scots. A group of her embroideries The Oxburgh Hangings feature animals and birds from this book.

Oxburgh hanging

Bird detail from the Oxburgh Hangings [Source – V&A]

Hambling heronMaggi Hambling’s Heron

The section on birds in the landscape featured Maggi Hambling’s Heron in the shallows of the Thames bearing its environmental message. The bird has a mouthful of sewage.

Then in the afternoon I saw birds in their true East Anglian landscape. I drove out to the Norfolk Broads to meet up with an old schoolfriend and we walked around Hickling Broad stopping to look at a variety of birds including a goldfinch, a plump of geese * and many different species from a hide along our path.

* The collective noun for a group of geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump. [source]

Goldfinch

A Goldfinch

Hickling from hide

Hickling Broad from the Hide

geese

The Plump of Geese from the Hide

red sails

Typical Broads View

Ladybird birds

I must have been interested in birds once upon a time – my well-loved book!