Around the World in Christmas Gifts

Every gift received this Christmas has a special association for me: be it reading, travelling, visiting libraries, drinking tea or communicating via traditional pen and ink or modern internet methods.

ipad mini

I am now the rather nervous owner of an iPad Mini. I’m sure I will get used it and love using it but currently it sits pristine on its box whilst I still tap away at my laptop and snap away with my camera or iPod Touch.


I’ll be checking dates and tempted to book Landmark Trust stays every time I look at my Landmark Trust Calendar for 2014. There is Astley Castle on the front (and also on the back) cover.


Whilst at the Landmark St Mary’s Lane in Tewkesbury earlier this year I came across “Cotswold Follies and Fancies”. It’s a guide to the curious, whimsical and romantic buildings around the area. I’m happy to have a copy of my own to take with me next time I visit the Cotswolds.


In 2014 I have travel plans for another ATG walking holiday this time in Italy. We will be staying just one night in Rome but will be sure to hunt out at least one of its “Quiet Corners”. In 2015 I’m hoping to spend a bit longer in and around The Eternal City.

Fodors Maine

No plans yet to return to New England next year but if we do I have just the up-to-date guide to make planning easy in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Tea and spoons

Paris is one of my favourite destinations and this (academic) year one of my Swiss friends is working there in her Gap Year. She sent me lovely Mariage Freres loose tea in a tin and two pearl spoons from the shop where she’s working : Sabre. It would be lovely to visit her whilst she is there.

“The fragrance of adventure and poetry endlessly pervades each cup of tea” – Henri Mariage [Founder]


On a visit to Paris in 2010 a Parisian friend and I visited The House of Victor Hugo in a quiet corner of the Place Des Vosges. We’re still hoping to make a rendez-vous together at his other former home (owned by the City of Paris) Hauteville House on Guernsey. In the meantime I have this ‘writer’s’ candle whose scent of bergamot-iris-hyacinth is reminiscent of Le Jardin D’Hugo.


My friend, fellow blogger and fellow online book group  moderator Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book read and recommended “Phantoms on the Bookshelves” this year. About it he says “Jacques Bonnet is more like the friendly face at your book group who will enthuse about managing to squeeze another bookcase into the corner of the living room.” I’m looking forward to reading Mr Bonnet’s book, translated from the French, very soon.

The Library

I understand that M. Bonnet writes about other libraries beside his own and some may be included in this coffee table book “The Library : a world history” which will find pride of place on Miladys table. I’ll be dipping into it all year and beyond.


Since joining The Leeds Library I have been a regular reader of The New Yorker so it was with great delight that I unwrapped a box of 100 cards taken from the covers of that magazine over ten decades. When I need to send a card I should find a date or subject suitable for almost every recipient. If I don’t find one in that box then I can turn to a gift box of 20 cards of designs by Frank Lloyd Wright for the American Liberty Magazine.

Lavendar bath

And at the end of the day I can relax in a Lavender Foaming Bath: “A new definition of calm.”

Many thanks to everyone who gave these gifts … and I hope you were at least half as pleased with what I gave you!


The Broadway Tower

After our Hailes Abbey walk followed by lunch in the Abbey grounds last Sunday we had enough time to drive towards Broadway and to visit The Broadway Tower.

Broadway Tower

Situated on the second highest point along the Cotswold Escarpment Broadway Tower is a unique folly the brainchild of the great 18th Century landscape designer, Capability Brown. His vision was carried out for George William 6th Earl of Coventry with the help of renowned architect James Wyatt and completed in 1798. So it had connections with the Earl of Coventry’s Croome Park which I visited on the previous Thursday.

View from Tower

View from the top of the Tower

The Tower has  had a fascinating history and this is illustrated through the current exhibitions on each floor.

Throughout the centuries, Broadway Tower has always inspired and with this inspiration came a large number of uses, such as home to the printing press of Sir Thomas Phillips, perhaps the greatest collector of manuscripts and books in history.

Members of the Arts and Crafts movement used Broadway Tower as a holiday retreat. Pre-Raphaelite artists William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones were frequent visitors. Indeed, it was Broadway and the Tower that sparked Morris’ campaign for the preservation of historic monuments.

Morris curtain

Morris Larkspur Curtain at the Tower Window

The Royal Observer Corps used the unique vantage point to track enemy planes over England during the world wars of the 20th Century and later constructed a nuclear bunker to report nuclear attacks during the “Cold War“.” From the Tower’s website.

ROC window

View from the Royal Observer Corps Exhibition Floor

Hailes Abbey Walk

HA Route map

Our Route : The Pink Diamonds indicate The Cotswold Way

Tewkesbury is only a few miles from The Cotswolds so on Sunday my sister and I chose the five mile walk “Thomas Cromwell and Hailes Abbey: how an important abbey was destroyed by a King’s Commissioner”. We drove the few miles to Hailes Abbey and parked up by the church. We decided to have our picnic lunch in the Abbey grounds after the hike.

Hailes Church

Hailes Church (undedicated)

After a short distance back-tracking down the lane we headed off the road along grassy field paths to the village of Didbrook. We were surprised that this village had a primary school besides the honey-coloured stone church and houses. The school does serve a largish catchment area though, not just the village.


Acorn Smithy in Didbrook

Didbrook Church

St George, Didbrook

After Wood Stanway, which we approached along quiet country lanes, we joined the Cotswold Way which is a National Trail and indicates to us a well-marked route with its acorn-topped wooden marker posts. After quite a climb we were pleased to see a wooden bench and enjoy the view towards the Malvern Hills and possibly the Welsh Mountains too.

The Cotswold Way

After passing the ramparts of an Iron Age fort (Beckbury Camp) we came across a bizarre little stone pillar with a niche carved out of it. According to local lore it was from here that Thomas Cromwell (Wolf Hall) watched the destruction of Hailes Abbey in 1539.

Thomas Cromwell's niche

A half-mile deviation from the Cotswold Way lead us to the hamlet of Farmcote with its tiny chapel and herb and chilli peppers farm.

Farmcote Chapel

St Faith’s Church, Farmcote

“The body of this beautiful little chapel is Saxon and fairly early Norman, though the round Saxon apse was destroyed in the early nineteenth century. It has massive windbraces and huge cross-beams, still bearing the axe marks of pillagers. It is thought that the Saxon builders of the Chapel made have made use of an earlier, possibly even Roman building. The Chapel has a Norman rectangular nave and a tiny chancel linked to it by a narrow Saxon arch. the chancel houses a Jacobean canopied oak pulpit and arcaded reading desk, oak benches of 1597, fine altar rails of the Seventeenth Century and an altar itself of the Fifteenth Century with the original Mensa slab scratched with the five crosses, symbolizing the five wounds of Christ.” BBC Domesday

St Faith's interior

St Faith’s Farmcote : Interior

From Farmcote we descended steadily down the track (Cotswold Way) to the road and Hailes Abbey where we flashed our National Trust cards and settled at a picnic table for our well-earned tasty lunch! After lunch we walked around the Abbey grounds studying the information boards and the museum artefacts and discovering just how important this lonely ruin off the beaten track had once been.


Welcome to the Cistercian Abbey of Hailes


Hailes Abbey Museum

As it was

Hailes as it was


Ruined Cloister Walls, Hailes Abbey


The Drainage Culverts Established by the Monks – Still in Use Today

Abbey through tree

Goodbye Hailes Abbey