A Beautiful Oasis of Peace and Tranquility in the Heart of Durham City : Crook Hall and Gardens

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral from Crook Hall Tea Room

Writing this on a warm sunny Easter Monday it’s hard to believe that last Tuesday in Durham I managed to avoid snow showers whilst meeting a friend from my online book group for a day out at Crook Hall and Gardens in Durham.

Crook Hall

This fascinating house and garden deserve another visit in the summer time when there will be more colour and a less forbidding sky. However, we did manage to visit each garden and delighted in what we saw.

The Hall

 

Beams

The Hall is 13th century and provides a spectacular backdrop to the stunning gardens. It’s a short walk from the bustling city centre to this oasis of peace. There’s a tea room in the Georgian wing served by the house kitchen and you can visit many of the rooms in the house including the medieval hall with exposed beams.

The Orchard

The Orchard

Shakespeare garden

The Shakespeare Garden inspired by a book on plants in Shakespeare’s plays

Shakespeare in his garden

Shakespeare in his garden

Moat

The Moat Pool

Cathedral garden

The Cathedral Garden : the beds echo stained glass windows

Monks in garden

Durham Cathedral from the Cathedral Garden: the Topiary Box represent the Monks

Be entertained by Clare Balding as she takes a walk with the owners of Crook Hall and finds out about the history of Crook Hall and Gardens :

Crook Hall on Ramblings

Constable Country : Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

We’d planned to make one excursion from Colchester and that was to nearby Constable Country to Dedham in Essex and Flatford in Suffolk. On our first visit to the Tourist Information Office we picked up a lovely little brochure “A Visitor’s Guide to Constable Country in the Dedham Vale”. Across the centre fold is a sketch map of the area showing footpaths and locations where John Constable (1776-1837) painted scenes.

Brochure

That evening we noticed this at the bottom of the page :

“Take the Train…
Did you know it only takes 40 minutes to walk from Manningtree Station to Flatford, and around
40 more from Flatford to Dedham? Avoid the traffic and enjoy a relaxing day out by train.”

Manningtree

The perfect way to go, we thought. The next day we travelled to Manningtree and the walk began well along a country lane until we reached the first actual footpath. Horror! It was a mud bath. We managed to manoeuvre ourselves along the overgrown edge but it soon became impossible. In addition, all the footpath signs after leaving the station were broken off. A sad state of affairs. In the end we took a raised path, still very muddy in places, alongside the River Stour to the A137. Luckily there’s a pavement along the road back to the railway station.

River Stour 1

River Stour 2

River Stour

Our second attempt was more successful. We decided to take a short detour from our route up to Norwich.

Dedham main st

First stop was the pretty, large village of Dedham, still in Essex. The main street is lined with Georgian buildings. We did a little shopping and had lunch in the Arts and Craft Centre which occupies a former historic church on the edge of the village.

Dedham church

Dedham Parish Church – Dedicated to St Mary the Virgin in 1492

The main parish church is well worth a visit. An excellent colour guide indicates the main points of interest. The modern pew ends are a particular feature of the church. They have distinctive carvings and inscriptions and dedications. They were made by Mabbitts of Colchester over more than a decade.

Dedham pews

Musical

moon pew

These insets commemorate the first Moon Landing

Sherman window

At the top of the window are fragments of 17th century glass.

Dedham window

In the apex of the window above the Webbe Tomb are some fragments of old glass showing the initials E.S. commemorating Edmund Sherman who, at his death in December 1600, left his house opposite the church to the Governors of the Free Grammar School of Queen Elizabeth for a school to teach boys to ‘read, write and cast accounts’, that is to become local tradesmen rather than aspire to enter university or a profession.

Edmund Sherman, with his elder brother Henry and their father – also Henry, were named as Governors of the Grammar School when it was endowed in 1571 and were also nominated in the Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth four years later.

At least eleven descendants of old Henry and these two sons, Henry and Edmund are known to have emigrated to New England between 1633 and 1640. They and their descendants included a co-founder of Rhode Island; a signer of the Declaration of Independence and framer of the Constitution of the United States; the famous General W.T. Sherman of Civil War fame and his brother, Secretary to the US Treasury; a Vice-President of the USA 1908 to 1912; and two famous Admirals in the Second World War, one of whom later became Chief of Naval Operations for the USA.” [source]

Dedham Constable

The church displays a Constable painting “The Ascension” originally commissioned for Manningtree church and currently on loan from the Constable Trust.

The church tower is particularly fine and very high – over 40m: perhaps the largest medieval flint tower ever built. It appears in many of Constable’s paintings including his ‘Dedham Mill Lock’. It was completed in 1519 and is unusual because it has an archway underneath it. This is sometimes called a ‘Galilee’ to remind worshippers of how Christ led his disciples into Galilee after His resurrection. If it had been a summer weekend we’d have climbed the 132 steps to the recently completed viewing platform.

Dedham church twr

Dedham arch

The ‘Galilee’ with Tudor heraldic symbols on the ceiling

Before leaving Dedham for Flatford we walked to Dedham Mill the scene of one his paintings.

dedham-lock-and-mill-1820

Constable’s Dedham Mill (1820) – and there is the church, too [source]

Here is the much-expanded and changed Mill today :

Dedham Mill 1

Dedham Mill 2

Dedham Mill Today – now prestigious flats

Dedham Lock today

Dedham Lock today

Flatford, just in Suffolk, is now owned and managed by the National Trust. It wasn’t ‘open’ on the day of our visit but there were a lot of staff and volunteers around probably preparing for the new ‘season’ which was to begin the following week (i.e. this week).

There’s a path/lane from the car park to Willy Lott’s House and the site of Constable’s famous painting ‘The Hay Wain’. I could vaguely recognise it as it is much less changed than Dedham Mill.

The Hay Wain

The Hay Wain, by John Constable

Hay Wain scene

The Hay Wain scene last week

Flatford Willy Lotts

The house on the left hand side of the painting and photo is Willy Lott’s House.

Boat Building at Flatford

Another Flatford scene Constable painted in the open air was ‘Boat Building at Flatford‘. Many Constables also owned Flatford Mill. There’s an article on the NT website about the Mill ownership and the Constable family here.

K at F Mil

Flatford Mill

Before leaving we walked over the bridge to join the footpath we should have arrived by on the Wednesday. We definitely made the right decision!

A Further Selection of Colchester Landmarks

There is, of course, more to Colchester than just recycled Roman bricks. Peake’s House is in the Dutch Quarter which was named after the Flemish weavers who settled here during the 16th century.

Heritage route

 Heritage Trail Route

St Helen’s (just a few steps from East Stockwell Street) was first recorded in 1097 but its history goes back to the 3rd century AD. It was founded by Empress Helena (St Helena is Colchester’s patron saint). She was the daughter of King Coel (of Old King Cole nursery rhyme fame) and mother of Emperor Constantine the Great who was born in Colchester.

St helen's Chapel

Since 2000 AD the chapel has been a Greek Orthodox parish church of the Patriarchate of Antioch. Inside the tiny church the walls are hung with icons to the various saints including Saint Helena and Saint Barbara.

Saint Barbara

Next to the chapel on one side is a former Quaker burial ground and on the other a line of black bricks leads slightly uphill to a window through which you can see some of the remains of a vast Roman theatre that had been capable of seating 3,500 people. A mural on the wall shows an artist’s impression of the theatre when it was in use.

Theatre and reflection

The Roman Theatre Foundations – a Reflections of the Street

Roman theatre

Plan of the Roman Theatre superimposed onto a modern street map

Nearby, on West Stockwell Street, is the former home of Jane and Ann Taylor who were famous for writing verse. Jane Taylor wrote the nursery rhyme ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ in 1806.

Twinkle house

Home of Jane and Ann Taylor

about taylors

We read about the Taylors in Colchester Museum

Twinkle twinkle

Colchester Town Hall on the High Street has an impressive tower designed by John Belcher and opened in 1902. It rises 50m above the street and is surmounted by a statue of St Helena and other historical figures connected with Colchester including Queen Boudicea of the Iceni. She led a rebellion against the Romans in 60 AD.

Town Hall

Colchester Town Hall

We sought out Tymperleys the former home of Dr William Gilberd a scientist and physician to Queen Elizabeth I. It’s now a tea room and until very recently had housed a large collection of Colchester-made clocks. Bernard Mason who had collected the clocks and lived at Tymperleys left the entire collection and the house to the borough. Now only a very small selection may be seen in the Colchester Museum.

Tymperleys

Tymperleys

You can’t miss Jumbo! It’s a huge brick water tower built in 1882 and named for a famous elephant at London Zoo. The Rev John Irvine who lived in his rectory on the site of the present Mercury Theatre was not happy about the giant structure erected at the bottom of his garden and described the monstrosity as a Jumbo. The name stuck and the builders added a brass elephant to the weathervane as a reminder to the unhappy clergyman.

Jumbo and theatre Balkerne

Jumbo and the Mercury Theatre seen through Balkerne Gate

In addition to the Heritage Trail we also followed the Town to Sea Trail : Colchester and its historic port, the Hythe. “A unique art trail, designed for walkers and cyclists, follows the tidal River Colne through some lesser known areas of Colchester”.  We followed the whole of the 2 mile trail from its start at firstsite, an arts centre near the castle, to the end at the Hythe, a mixture of deserted or renovated quayside warehouses and modern out of town flats and shopping centre. We had a coffee in B&Q at Colne Causeway.

Firstsight

firstsite

oyster shells

oysters

Information Board : Colchester Oysters are the best!

R Colne in its heyday

The River Colne in its Heyday

The Hythe

The Hythe today

Tidal river colne today

The Tidal River Colne Today

The highlight of the walk, but on a slight detour, was the Church of St Leonard at the Hythe; preserved by the Churches Conservation Trust its opening hours are limited but we were lucky again.

St leonard

St Leonard-at-the-Hythe

Interior

Interior : Early 20th Century Wall Paintings above the Arch once covered the whole Church

Windows St leon.

Early 20th Century Stained Glass : Sts Osyth, Helena and Ethelburga

Door musket holes

The Medieval door of this old port church still bears the holes made by troops to put muskets through during the English Civil War.

“Perhaps it is little known that Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star actually consists of 5 verses, with the fifth verse rarely sung. Here’s the complete 5 verses, taken from the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd edition, 1997), with the repetition of the first two lines added to fit the melody.” [source]

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
****
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
****
Then the traveller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
****
In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
****
As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveller in the dark,—
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

Birmingham Architectural, Historical and Modern Gems, 2

As I said already, the jewels and gems of Birmingham don’t stop in the Jewellery Quarter …

There is also the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which houses one of the best collections of fine and decorative art, historical artefacts and archaeological treasures in Britain today; all displayed in an elegant Grade II* listed building. The collection is particularly strong in Pre-Raphaelite art. There is also a permanent display of items from the Staffordshire Hoard. [Adapted from Art Fund Guide]

Egg-travelling

Travelling Companions by Augustus Egg (1862) one of my favourite Victorian paintings is in the care of BMAG

On Sunday afternoon we were on the trail of the gold and gems of the Staffordshire Hoard. No photography allowed.

Discovered in 2009 and acquired jointly with the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent with assistance from the Art Fund, this treasure trove of 7th century Anglo-Saxon art features 4,000 pieces of gold and silver displaying intricate filigree and cloisonné work. Since October 2014 a new permanent gallery interprets the story of the hoard and its context within Anglo-Saxon history. Beyond the richness of the materials and the exquisite decoration, the hoard is significant because of its strictly masculine nature. These are exclusively military items created for Mercia’s best  fighters.” [Art Quarterly, winter 2014, p.31]

St Chad's and roads

St Chad’s Cathedral or Traffic Circle

Birmingham has two cathedrals both gems of their type. The Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad is a little out of the immediate city centre but we could easily walk there. How many times did we remark to each – “Car is King in Birmingham”? Pedestrians must wait at lights, use underpasses and walkways and over-road links. The RC Cathedral appeared to be sited in the middle of the road. Access is not easy. However, we made it safely through its doors on Monday morning and into another world. A world of peace and calm and of glorious art. No photography was allowed but I had already taken this one before I saw the sign.

St Chad's

The Nave, St Chad’s Cathedral

A significant stopping-off point on Birmingham’s Pugin Trail the Cathedral was the first Roman Catholic Cathedral to built in the UK since the Reformation. The superb original internal decorations and fittings were made by skilled craftsmen re-introducing skills of the Medieval era.  John Hardman plate and windows; Herbert Minton tiles; William Warrington chancel window. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin also supplied original Medieval furnishings from his own collection including the stalls and pulpit. His rood screen was removed in 1967.

Only after dropping in to St Philip’s Cathedral on Sunday afternoon and deciding to stay for Evensong – more members of the choir than members of the congregation and followed by a brief organ recital – did I read this suggestion in my LV City Guide 2012 Birmingham, London, Dublin :

Birmingham Cathedral

St Philip’s Cathedral [source]

Sunday in Birmingham : Attend a service in 18th century Birmingham Cathedral which has a number of stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones. Colmore Row.”

Looking_down_on_bar_3536

Old Joint Stock Bar [source]

Opposite the Cathedral is the famous Birmingham pub The Old Joint Stock Pub and Theatre. Just a few paces from the Cathedral we decided to pay a visit. Unfortunately the theatre wasn’t open that evening but the island bar was impressive. Also from my LV Guide :

Old_Joint_Stock_External2_3539

Julius Alfred Chatwin was primarily a designer of Birmingham churches … But there were exceptions to his church work and the opulent interiors of the Old Joint Stock, opposite St Philip’s Cathedral (in which he had a hand), showed that he could be moved to great things in the temporal sphere as well. Completed in 1864, the building first belonged to the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank. It was converted into a pub in 1997. Under a glass domed ceiling, beside an island bar and with sumptuous interiors, this is one of the grandest pubs in the city. Upstairs is an 80-seat theatre, minimalist in decor, but the sort of facility few pubs can shout about.

ET ad

ET Mural

Tea Room Mural

On Monday we returned to The Art Gallery to the highly recommended Edwardian Tea Room for a light lunch before heading to our raison de visite The Library of Birmingham.

Few other tea rooms in the world can boast a stellar gathering as was here under the ornate ceiling and glass canopy in May 1998. The G8 Summit was being held in the city and for a short time a group that included Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair (and their interpreters) sat around a table commissioned from David Linley for the occasion, surrounded by a pick of the museum’s Pre-Raphaelite paintings hung here especially for the event. Even without the table and the paintings, The Edwardian Tea Room is still a grand setting for tea, coffee, snacks and lunches.” [LV Guide]

Wedding Cake

The Library Building Decorated on the Exterior to Represent Rings and Birmingham’s Jewellery Heritage

The Giant Wedding Cake, as the library is affectionately known, offers pre-bookable guided  tours to the building and its contents on Mondays at 2.15.  The building was officially opened by Malala Yousafzai in September 2013.

We took the glass lift up to the 9th floor from where we had long-reaching views of the city  and beyond from the Skyline Viewpoint. Also on the ninth floor is the Shakespeare Memorial Room.

Shakespeare

Shakespeare in his Memorial Room

“This original feature from the city’s Victorian library was designed by John Henry Chamberlain in 1882. Since then
it has changed home twice, moving to Central Library when it was built in the early 1970s, and to the Library of Birmingham almost forty years later. It originally housed the Birmingham Shakespeare Library, which is still available at the Library of Birmingham. The Room is wood panelled with glass printed shelves inspired by the Elizabethan age with carvings, marquetry and metalwork representing birds, flowers and foliage. The woodwork is by noted woodcarver Mr Barfield, and the brass and metal work is most likely crafted by Hardmans. The Shakespeare Memorial Room has been painstakingly reconstructed by local craftsmen A. Edmonds & Co. Ltd and the Victorian Cornice Company whorestored the elaborate ceiling. The books and memorabilia you see on the shelves are interesting items from the Library’s general collections (the Shakespeare collection outgrew the room as early as 1906).” [source]

70s library

The old Central Library seen through the rings

We then descended floor by floor visiting two gardens on our way down including the Secret Garden and The Discovery Terrace.

secret garden

The Secret Garden on the Seventh Floor

Lift and escalators

Looking down into the Library and the Book Rotunda

Book Rotunda

The Book Rotunda – Shades of The British Museum and Waterstones Book Shops

Children's Library

The Book Browse Fiction Library

Here is a Library buzzing with enthusiasm and offering its readers so much more than books (although I’d be happy with just the books). The What’s On programme that I picked up lists Exhibitions (we visited The Voices of War during our tour), Films, Music, Activities, Performances, Dance, Poetry and Workshops. Lucky Birmingham to have this facility in the heart of the city I hope the citizens make good use of it and what it offers.

Despite a packed two days and two half days we  are sure that there are many more Birmingham gems still to be visited!

A Castle, A Church and A Cowslip with Dovegreyreader

My friend Lynne, alias Dovegreyreader, lives not a stone’s throw from Endsleigh and it was my pleasure to spend a day with her during my stay at Pond Cottage.

The Wednesday dawned grey and misty but not deterred we met at the hotel car park and swanned off in her car to Launceston in nearby Cornwall. “We be in Cornwall now” declared Lynne in authentic Cornish accent as we crossed the Tamar bridge that separates it from Devon. During the short journey Lynne pointed out landmarks such as the church at Milton Abbot and other Endsleigh cottages lived in by Horace Adams.

Launceston : ‘a real Cornish town’ says the tourist leaflet picked up at the TIC our first stop in the town. Interestingly, and isn’t always the same when you live somewhere? Lynne had thought she had never been to the Castle; at least not in the last few decades, maybe when the children were very small.

Welcome to L Castle

Welcome to Launceston Castle

“The town is notable for its impressive castle built by Brian de Bretagne, the first Norman Earl of Cornwall. It has never been besieged or captured.” Well, I’m not surprised it’s a short, steep climb up the mound to the keep and the the walls are several feet thick. In fact the steps up to the battlements are built within the thickness of the walls.

The castle is now in the care of English Heritage who have created a small exhibition with displays and information boards that set the scene.

Launceston Castle

 The Approach to Launceston Castle – on a dull day

As with all climbs, it was worth the effort for the views from the top. On a good day they would have been exceptional but on this day we could really only study the town in the foreground.

Launceston from battlements

The View NW from the Battlements – in the foreground on the right is Castle Street. Sir John Betjeman called it “the most perfect collection of 18th century townhouses in Cornwall” the tourist leaflet declares. In the middle in the distance is the location of the Cowslip Workshops which we visited later.

Misty Cornwall from LC

Looking west from the castle to a very misty Cornwall: the Earl’s hunting park stretched towards Bodmin Moor

LC Church from castle

East of the castle is the Church of St Mary Magdalene

In fact the Church was our next port-of-call.

P1150025

A striking brass with inscription commemorating an unidentified 16th century lady

Disturbing memorial

A rather disturbing memorial

Altar tryptich

The Altar Triptych : The Nativity of Our Lord; The Adoration of the Magi; The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple (sorry photo doesn’t do it justice)

The poet Charles Causley was born in Launceston in 1917 and spent most of his life there. I discovered the Causley Society website which includes his biography and a Causley trail around the town. He wrote a poem about St Mary Magdalene which is available on a little leaflet from the church.

C Causley poem

Mary Magdalene Poem :

Mary, Mary Magdalene
Lying on the wall
I throw a pebble on your back
Will it lie or fall?

A relief of Mary Magdalene is to be found on the east wall of St Mary Magdalene church. It is said that a stone lodged on her back will bring good luck.

Mary Magdalen stained glass

The Mary Magdalene Stained Glass Window

By this time we were ready for something to eat and Lynne drove us out of town to the Cowslip Workshops.

Misty Launceston from Cowslip

View of Launceston from the Cowslip Workshops

Anyone, even the least artistic person, would find something to interest here. The Workshops are based at a very working farm, there’s a café, where we had soup for lunch, sewing classes, a fabric shop which also sells pottery by Nicholas Mossse, a gallery, and a farmhouse/kitchen garden. On a good day there will also be distant views!

Cowslip allotment

The Farmhouse Garden

IMG_0827

Inside the Fabric Shop

Much as we were tempted by the cakes and pastries in the cafe we knew that very soon we would be back at Pond Cottage and tucking in to Bettys Yorkshire treats as Lynne came back with me for tea and to meet my friends. Thanks again, for showing me your local area, Lynne. What a lovely part of the country you live in!

A Sussex Tea Garden, a Long Man and a Landmark Priory : Litlington and Wilmington

Last year Simon over at Stuck-in-a-Book lent me his copy of  ‘Tea is so Intoxicating’ by Mary Essex which is one of several pen names of romantic novelist (and my brother-in-law’s Godmother!) Ursula Bloom.

One thing I especially loved about the book was the choice of chapter headings. Shall I quote them all here?

1. Tea for Two,and Two for Tea

2. I do like a Nice Cup of Tea

3. For all the Tea in China

4. The Cups that Cheer but not Inebriate

5. Everything Stops for Tea

6. Cold Tea may be Endured, but not Cold Looks (Japanese Proverb)

7. Tea and Scandal

Written in 1950 it is basically the story of a London couple who set up a Tea Garden in the South of England but the marriage is not a success.

P1130717

Anyway, when Fran told me that Tea Gardens were a particular feature of the East Sussex countryside around Laughton I knew, should the weather remain sympathetic, that I would have to take my Swiss friends to one of these minor Sussex institutions. So, after the walk on Sunday at Firle Beacon and the visit to Firle village we headed for Litlington Tea Garden.

Litlington tea garden

In the Tea Garden – there are a few sheltered places should the weather turn inclement

We were in luck – the day remained warm and dry. We ordered cucumber sandwiches to be followed by scones and jam and accompanied by plenty of tea.

cucumber sandwiches

From Litlington it was just a short drive to Wilmington. Here is the famous Long Man carved into the chalk hillside many centuries ago. Here also is Wilmington Priory another Landmark Trust property.

The Long Man Info

Wilmington Long Man

After tea and scones and jam we were ready for a little exercise so parked up in the small car park on the edge of Wilmington and walked about the half mile or so to the bottom of the hillside upon which he is marked out. The nearer you get to him the less of him there is to see. Still, it was a nice walk.

Approaching the Long Man

Approaching the Long Man

Close up

We Reach The Long Man

The enigmatic Long Man of Wilmington attracts many theories but provides little evidence to back them up. Now outlined in stone, he was formerly carved in the chalk of the hill. His first definite mention was as late as 1710, but the monument was old then. A picture drawn by bored monks, commemoration of the Saxon conquest of Pevensey, a Roman soldier or Neolithic god opening the gates of dawn. The ‘Long Man asking the traveller – like the Sphinx – to solve the dark mystery of its own origins’.” [Wealden Walks]

Wilmington Priory

Wilmington Priory

“The remains of a once highly regarded Benedictine Priory Wilmington Priory was a cell of the Benedictine Abbey at Grestain in Normandy. It was never a conventional priory with cloister and chapter, the monks prayed in the adjoining parish church where the thousand-year-old yews are testimony to the age of the site. The Priory has been added to and altered in every age and some of it has been lost to ruin and decay, but what is left shows how highly it was once regarded.” [Landmark Trust website]

Rear of Wilmington Priory

Rear of Wilmington Priory

Ruined Priory

The Ruined Priory

WP garden

Wilmington Priory Gardens

1000 year old yew

The 1,000 Year Old Yew Tree in the Churchyard

Walking in East Sussex

The main aim of my stay in Sussex was to meet up with two Swiss friends. Last year when I was staying with Barbara in Bern for the weekend the idea of visiting Charleston and all those ‘Bloomsbury’ related places in Sussex was suggested. I said I’d also wanted to visit them and showed Barbara the Landmark Trust website. When she saw Laughton Place tower she would not be budged to look elsewhere for accommodation. So we ended up last weekend in the tower and visiting as many Bloomsbury locations as we could manage.

Alfriston Church

Alfriston Church and Village Sign

Badgers

Badgers Alfriston (Note the Boot Bags – it’s on the route of the South Downs Way)

Barbara and Kathryn first wanted to have a few days in London so I spent the first two nights at Laughton Place on my own. But for the most part I wasn’t alone thanks to Fran being able to spend Tuesday afternoon and all day Wednesday with me.

Seven Sisters Info

Knowing my love of hiking she had planned a walking expedition for us but the weather was not kind on the Wednesday morning so we took lunch in Alfriston and drove later in the afternoon to the Seven Sisters Country Park car park, donned our boots and set off on a shorter walk following the River Cuckmere to where it joins the English Channel. At the sea’s edge you have a wonderful view of The Seven Sisters cliffs over which we might have walked part of the South Downs Way had the morning’s weather been different.

Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters (looking east)

Looking west at 7 sisters

Looking west

Sign and River

River Cuckmere behind the Footpath Signpost

River Cuckmere

River Cuckmere with Ox Bow Lakes, Meanders and the English Channel

Meanders and Buttercups

Meanders and Buttercups

Thank you, Fran, for your good company and for being the most informative guide possible!

Firle

The Village of Firle nestled below the South Downs

On Sunday Barbara, Kathryn and I drove to the car park above the village of Firle and walked a mile or so each way to Firle Beacon and back. At the Beacon (an Ordnance Survey Triangulation Point) we could see the Channel and a cross-channel ferry arriving at Newhaven in one direction and the flat levels and meadows that surround Laughton Place in the other. There right in front of us but a little distant was our Tower itself.

On South Downs

Sunday Morning on the South Downs

After our walk we headed down into Firle village. Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant (see future posts about ‘Bloomsbury-on-Sea) are buried in the churchyard; Virginia and Leonard Woolf had a house in Firle before they moved to Monk’s House and we had a drink in the warm sunshine at The Ram Inn.

Firle churchyard

Firle Churchyard : Graves of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell

LT Firle

Little Talland

Little Talland House, Firle

I also managed to fit in a short walk directly from the Tower towards Laughton village but I never quite made it. I was anxious to see the village but had the time constraint of meeting the London train too so after a mile or so I turned back and drove to Laughton (the village of the buckle).

Bridge Stile

Complicated Bridge/Stile near Laughton Place

LP from footpath

Laughton Place in its Landscape

Tea and Books in Oxford

When I meet with my online book group chums there is not much chance of sightseeing. Rather we seem to stagger from book shop to tea shop with our bags getting heavier and our purses lighter (although every purchase is always a bargain) and tummies fuller.

Saturday was no exception. Back in December Simon, over at Stuck-in-a-book, had invited us to join him for a day in Oxford. Although it is possible to get there and back in a day from Leeds for easier travel I opted to go via two nights in London. This meant a not so early start from Paddington in the company of another group member on Saturday morning.

St John's Oxford

St John’s College, Oxford, on St Giles

The Jam Factory is just across the road (more or less) from Oxford Railway Station. (I should just add that from the station there is no indication that one is in the city of dreaming spires and all that; but we did eventually pass hurriedly by one or two colleges and churches so the joys of Oxford await me on a future visit.) The JF is a lovely light and airy venue and the food looked excellent although I only shared a pot of Oxford Blend Tea before we set off on our books and teas trail. Whilst we all assembled at this venue Simon told us more about the new project that he’s a founder member of Shiny New Books an online book review magazine. I urge you to pop over now and have a look.

In Beatnik Books

At Albion Beatnik Books

From the Jam Factory we headed to The Albion Beatnik Bookstore at 34 Walton Street. “Opened in 2009, this bookworm’s paradise is the coolest and most maverick of Oxford’s many bookstores. It offers an eclectic selection of new and secondhand books with a particular focus on jazz and blues … , American pulp fiction, graphic novels, beatnik poetry, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group and neglected 20th century novels.”  Says my 2011 LV City Guide to Edinburgh, London and Oxford. On the table were flowers made of printed paper and our purchases were wrapped in more printed paper with a quotation sticker to seal.

Beatnik books

 

Beatnik book

Our next stop was the Oxfam Bookshop on St Giles but I also spotted the pub The Eagle and Child which has associations with the Inklings writers’ group which included J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

Eagle and Child

 

“A fascinating past :
The Eagle and Child lays claim to a number of interesting literary connections. J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and fellow writers met here and dubbed themselves ‘The Inklings’. They nicknamed the pub ‘The Bird and Baby’. A public house since 1650, our hostelry takes its name from the crest of the Earls of Derby. During the Civil War, our building was used as the playhouse for Royalist soldiers.” [From the pub website]

St Michael's St

St Michael’s Street

Time for lunch and the recommended venue was The Nosebag on St Michael’s St. I immediately recognised the address and building of The Oxford Union for it is the location of a Landmark Trust apartment : The Steward’s House. Even though it was after 2pm The Nosebag was packed so rather than miss out we had to split into two groups of 3 and 4. After the meal we dragged together enough chairs round one table in order to discuss the next steps in the campaign.

Oxford Union from The Nosebag

The Steward’s House and Oxfrod Union (red brick building) from the Nosebag

Pretty Arcadia is next door. It’s doesn’t just sell books but has a few displays and boxes outside and lots of vintage cards and accessories inside.

Before the end of our day we reached The Last Bookshop. This is also known as the £2 bookshop. It’s a great source of, presumably remaindered, new paper and hard back books. All priced (as it says on the tin) at £2. If I wasn’t such a devoted library user I would have bought loads here.

Last Bookshop

Actually, not The Last Book Shop for us

Our final two shops were – sellers of brushes not books – Objects of Use on Market Street – and a further Oxfam Bookshop on Turl Street. At least I thought OoU was more or less a kitchen wares shop as my companion and I only hovered near the entrance at a table full of brushes for different uses but I see from the website that it sells so much more. Apart from at The Home at Salts Mill this is the only other place that I have seen my Book Brush!

Book Brush

The very handy Book Brush

Book Brush Label

Instructions for Use

With trains and buses to catch around 5.30 time was pressing so we had a final tea and cake at ‘news’ and discussed plans for a Tenth Birthday Celebration in the autumn. All too soon it was time to hurry to station and rest our weary legs and heavy bags on the journey back to London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Museum

Some exhibitions, especially those national museum ‘blockbusters’, are just too unwieldy but the bijou exhibition Fashion and the Garden occupied just over half an hour of my visit the the Garden Museum on Thursday. Just a short walk along the Albert Embankment (opposite The Houses of Parliament) from Westminster Tube Station, the Garden Museum is right next door to Lambeth Palace, the official London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury. GM exterior Formerly known as the Museum of Garden History, The Garden Museum is based in the deconsecrated parish church of St Mary-at-Lambeth. I’d met up with my friend Rosanna (the mosaics maker) with whom I had recently been to see The Isabella Blow Show at Somerset House. Garden Museum Church

Inside the Garden Museum with Rebecca Louise Law Installation

After morning coffee in the Museum Cafe (we couldn’t resist a tiny home-cooked apple tart as well – all the food served looked very acceptable!) we headed under Rebecca Louise Law’s installation ‘The Flower Garden Display’d’ for the Fashion and the Garden exhibit that I had read about recently in the press. Booklet

The Accompanying Booklet

Put together by Nicola Shulman, sister of British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman, the displays cover fashion and garden connections between the 17th and 21st centuries.

TV Introduction

unknow artist-796785

This portrait of Lettice Newdigate (1608) by an unknown artist is the first known example of a Knot Garden in art.

Influences of gardens on fashion extend over time from knot gardens reproduced through embroidery on clothing to Philip Treacy hats such as the Orchid.

Philip_Treacy__Orchid

Philip Treacy Orchid Hat

I noted that an interest in flowers is a very English characteristic. They have featured in English clothing designs throughout the centuries where they are absent, for example, in France. There were exquisitely embroidered gloves and pockets; flowers feature in the silk designs of Anna Maria Garthwaite and other 18th century Spitalfields silk weavers; phaeton carriages were built very high so that owners and their families and guests could drive around their landscape parks and show off; and then there are the clothes that we wear when visiting gardens or even when gardening.

It’s a small show but perfectly formed.

We had time to visit the permanent collection – gnomes; gardening tools from trowels to lawnmowers; rare books; paintings such the recently acquired ‘Portrait of a Black Gardener‘ by Harold Gilman; posters, ephemera and garden seed packet displays.

Yates Seeds

Yates Seeds. No longer sold in the UK but still available in Australia and New Zealand.

The Museum’s garden was created in 1980. At its heart is a knot garden designed by the Museum’s President, The Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury (who was then also re-making the gardens at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire). The reason for the seventeenth-century spirit of the design is that our garden also houses the tomb of the great plant-hunters, gardeners and collectors, John Tradescant the Elder (c.1570-1638) and Younger (1608-1662), the rediscovery of which originally inspired the creation of a museum of garden history in the deconsecrated, and then derelict, church of St Mary-at-Lambeth.” From the Garden Museum website.

Tradescant Tomb

The Tradescant Tomb

In addition to the tomb and monument to the Tradescants is the tomb of Captain William Bligh of ‘The Bounty’.

Tomb of Bligh

Captain Bligh Tomb

I’m Invited! – A Shopping Evening at The London Review Book Shop

You’re invited!

At the London Review Bookshop, we have some upcoming events that are too good to keep to ourselves. Tickets are limited, so book early to avoid disappointment :

April Customer Evening

Wednesday 2 April, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Browse our shelves with a glass of wine and an Eccles cake from the London Review Cake Shop, and get 10% off any books, DVDs, cards and stationery purchased on the evening. We are also offering a FREE gift wrapping service on the night.

Tonight’s menu: According to The Bloomsbury Cookbook, Virginia and Leonard Woolf considered Eccles cakes suitable sustenance for type-setting and printing at the Hogarth Press. We think they make suitable sustenance for book browsing too! We’re pairing them with nutty Lancashire cheese and plenty of Russian tea.

Caravan tea

Eccles Cake pieces, Lancashire cheese crumbs and slurps of Russian Caravan Tea

As well as the usual treats – wine and nibbles and 10% off books – you’ll have the chance to win a copy of the beautiful Bloomsbury Cookbook, courtesy of Thames & Hudson. Just print a copy of your confirmation email and hand it in to one of our booksellers at the Customer Evening for the chance to win.

Good luck!

Bloomsbury cook book

The Bloomsbury Cookbook Window Display

This message arrived in my email Inbox a few weeks ago and I worked out that my next visit to London would coincide with this customer evening. The London Review Bookshop is another of my favourite London shops. On many occasions I have visited the Cake Shop with friends, family and to meet members of the online book group. It’s one of our favourite venues.

Shopping evening

Shopping Evening at London Review Bookshop

However, on many visits, time in the Cake Shop takes priority and I find I have little time to browse the bookshelves. So I was looking forward to spending time in the actual bookshop for a change.

The Bloomsbury Cookbook looked very tempting … but I was expecting to win a copy! I haven’t received the ‘winners email’ yet though 😦 . I think I will reserve a copy from the Library as it may be useful to contribute to creating the atmosphere when I visit Sussex and the Bloomsbury connections later next month.

Charleston breakfast

 Breakfast at Charleston

I spotted some other books to add to my list for the future :

History of Armchair travel

A History of Armchair Travel : I do a bit of this. What’s not to like?

Quiet New York

Quiet New York : I have no plans to visit but I do have companion Quiet volumes – London and Paris

(I could be tempted to buy this just to read, anyway)

Sebald

I’m a big fan of the late W.G.Sebald – new books keep being published!

I found the staff were very patient and helpful. They found each of the titles I wanted to buy, recommended a further title and hunted high and low for a book which should have been in stock but being a very slim volume had probably been mis-shelved.

Books bought

The four books I bought last evening

LRB Window

The Cake Shop Window Display – I’m Looking Forward to My Next Visit!