25 May 2013

Time to take a break

It's the half term school holiday this coming week
and, as usual, we shall be spending time with
our two daughters and their children.
I shall be taking a break from posting,
but look forward to visiting you
and reading all your news.

22 May 2013

May Celebrations

This week I've celebrated being another year older!

Although I'm interested in genealogy and have done research
 on my own family history, I'm not the sort of person
 who looks back continuously at my own life except when thinking about
 how life has changed for me and for society in general.
However, I decided to link my birthday with reflections
 on a May custom which was part of my childhood primary school tradition
and is not so common these days except to recreate
 the nostalgia of times past at ye Olde English May Fayres. 

My school in a village near Sonning-on-Thames celebrated
its centenary in 1998
and, of course, still plays an important role in the community.
 It's a church school with the church in the grounds
 and what was once the manor house opposite.
Years later I taught there for a while.

Between 1910 and 1958 the May Day celebration was the highlight
of the year.  Preparations for the Day appeared well in advance
- the May Pole was decorated, country dances were practised
and flowers were gathered to make posies and garlands.
The May Queen and her attendants were elected - maids of honour,
a train bearer, a crown bearer, a herald and a guard of honour.

 When I was 7 years old I was chosen to carry a bouquet of flowers
to be presented to the vicar's wife.  Perhaps I was included because
it was also my birthday month?  I was told to hold the bunch of flowers up high
 and so the photograph shows me peeping from behind them!

However, the second photo at the bottom was taken after
 the crowning of the May Queen so there I am,
 my shy, rather solemn expression captured forever, as I glance for a moment
 at the photographer.
However, this photo is special because behind me, looking on,
 stands by smiling and proud maternal grandmother.

The top photo was taken the following year, 1953,
which was just as memorable because of the
Coronation of Elizabeth II celebration theme
and that year I took part in the country dancing.

What else do I remember about those May Day
events?  The preparations at the Manor House
and the Tudor-style interior and gallery, the head dresses of fresh flowers
and the procession in the gardens through pergola tunnels of fragrant
May blossom, especially wistaria.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about times gone by
and an occasion that has a special place in my memory.

19 May 2013

A green space in the city

Tucked away in a corner of a main shopping area
 next to the City Hall, a concert venue,
and some towering office blocks
is a small garden and play area.
It's a tranquil space in a busy city square
with fountains that are lit up at night.
Now called Barker's Pool, the area was
 once known as Balm Green.

Across the way you might hear
a tune or two ....

as you sit for a while in the midst of the greenery
and the flowers.

In an adjoining area is a space 
specially created for the children.

16 May 2013

The Cathedral Quarter, Sheffield

When I go into Sheffield city centre I usually get off at the tram stop by Sheffield Anglican Cathedral. In recent months there have been noticeable changes around the front entrance and also inside due to a re-ordering of the main building.

The former churchyard used to have iron railings around it.  In recent years the tram route was constructed through the area and it must have been quite an undertaking and upheaval at the time to put this transport system in place.

On a snowy day earlier this year there was a church service to dedicate to God the re-ordering project which will give better access to all including an entrance that will be easier for the disabled and with more facilities for welcoming visitors.

There is boarding around the Cathedral frontage where the workmen are working on the entrance, have been putting up the scaffolding etc.
The pews in the main body of the cathedral were taken out in preparation for the work in the nave.  Two of the adjoining chapels, including the Shrewsbury Chapel, were closed off to protect them from the building work and the nave was boarded up from other chapels that are now being used for services, St. George's Chapel or the Holy Spirit Chapel.

                                                               The Holy Spirit Chapel

There are still places in the Cathedral to spend some quiet time and  people are welcomed and come in and out all the time. You can view the work being done by the workmen in the nave and west end entrance through viewing panels.  There's access through a side door and the work of serving the city continues in many other ways in a place where there has been a Christian worshipping presence for nearly a thousand years.


14 May 2013

One day at a time....

Grandson no 3 went to the Isle of Wight recently and brought back some garlic plants and other interesting products from the garlic farm there!  The garlic grown there is supposed to be very good and our daughter gave us one of the plants as well as some bulbs which are much bigger than the normal varieties.

We didn't try the garlic fudge!  The relish was quite tasty. We enjoyed it as an accompaniment to the food we had for a lunch in our daughter's garden when we went down to Berkshire.

Our daughter enjoys gardening and visiting plant and food festivals and she's always looking for something unusual to give us as a present.  The plastic tube is a garlic skinner.  You roll a clove of garlic in the tube to get the skin off and then you can crush it on the rigged saucer and use the brush to pick up the mashed pieces.  It's good fun, but I have a garlic press that I brought back from Italy because I liked the design and I normally use that.

I took this photo of a corner of the allotment,  (a plot of land rented out from the city council in order to grow fruit and vegetables), a week or two ago.  The broad beans and garlic were the first vegetable plants to go in and now there are rows more beans, onions etc.

We have been wondering if the blossom on the pear tree in the garden will survive through the
cold, windy weather of the last week.  The blossom on the huge, wild cherry tree in our neighbour's garden has looked stunning.  It always looks its best in blossom time and in the Autumn.

13 May 2013


As well as other blossom in pinks and mauve, the lilac adds a sweet perfume to the neighbourhood where I live and particularly the ones leaning over the stone walls in the little road that winds around in a crescent next to our home.
The poem that includes the line 'Come down to Kew in lilac -time, (it isn't far from London)!' would normally refer to the earlier month of April.  However, the beautiful lilac is a welcome addition to May flowers.
I didn't have to go far to take these photos during a sunny hour last week.  Since then we are back to cold winds and rain.

Yesterday I spent an interesting afternoon with a group, mainly Friends of Derby Museums and Art Gallery, taking a walk with a writer and historian guide to see where John Whitehurst, the famous clockmaker, instrument maker and geologist lived as part of the tercentenary celebrations of Whitehurst's birth. The heavy rain and wind did not deter us, but my photographs captured some  bleak scenes, especially as many of the buildings associated with this fascinating man and his associate, the landscape and portrait painter, Joseph Wright, are in need of some TLC and promotion such as the Friends of the Museums are trying to do.  I didn't manage to go into the Joseph Wright Gallery to see his paintings as I was in need of a cup of tea with our relatives before heading back home.  That's something to look forward to another time!

Plaque in the pavement near John Whitehurst's house.

John Whitehurst's premises in Irongate is covered in scaffolding and plastic tarpaulin.
The alleyway leads to his first clock making workshop at the back of the house.

The narrow building of the clock making workshop.
Many fine clocks were made by
members of his clock making family
 and those that were apprenticed to them such as
the Smiths of Derby.

                                                  The clock tower of Derby Cathedral

11 May 2013

Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire (3)

Seeing the late-flowering daffodils in the lime avenue of Renishaw Hall gardens was a delightful surprise and I could have lingered there on the top lawn where there are many beautiful trees in blossom, the Waterloo oak planted in 1815 to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo, as well as the Gothic Temple and the 'Bothy' wall which is part of two old work men's cottages.

Apparently the Victorian statue, 'The Angel of Fame', was gilded by Lady Sitwell during a time in 2002 when she was doing a gilding course, which included items in the house.

The Gothic Temple was built in 1808 as a conservatory by Sir Sitwell Sitwell, later used as an aviary and is now a dog cemetery.  A favoured breed is the daschund, which features on many an item in the house.  However, it was a beautiful black Labrador dog that came and joined our party of visitors.  (There's a relaxed atmosphere as one wanders around and all the staff are very helpful and informative, although it's not possible to take photos in the house).

A view from the Bothy

The South Front of the house with flower borders full of seasonal plants and the lawned areas of the formal gardens are of interest as well as a place to sit and relax.  However, my aim was to see the woodlands and the bluebells so I headed for the Woodside, the new Woodland Garden and the Wilderness.

The gardens at Renishaw Hall were designed and created by Sir George Reresby Sitwell over the fifty years between 1886 and 1936 and further work was undertaken by the present owner's parents.  
Sir George's garden was once bounded by a chestnut fence on the eastern side of the grounds with a wooden gate which was the entrance to the woodlands.  (A painting by John Piper, one of many that can be seen in the house, shows the original gateway and statues of Warrior and Amazon that 
still stand in place today)

Another entrance to the woods, where there is a beautiful camellia avenue, is situated on the Bottom Terrace. (camellia 'Donation' and camellia 'Lavinia Maggi)

There are many mature trees, more magnolias, a laburnum tunnel and classical features in the
Wilderness and Woodside with walks down to the lakes.

                                                                  Magnolia 'Vulcan'

                                                                 Magnolia 'Milky Way'

Down below me was the Gothic arch which was another subject that captured the imagination of the painter, John Piper, who called his painting 'Arch in the Ravine'.  It was once the gatehouse to the entrance when the drive led straight over the River Rother.  It was created by Sir Sitwell Sitwell, but was no longer needed when the bridge over the river collapsed and another driveway to the house was used.
The gardeners were busy at work - always plenty to do at any time of the year!

                                                         Another beautiful camellia

I didn't go down to the lake, but enjoyed the view from the Bottom Terrace. 
I think the popular Rother Valley Country Park must be located somewhere in the area on the distant horizon with its man-made lakes created from the former quarries of the industrial era.
The Sitwells' monetary assets came from local ore and coal extraction on their land. Renishaw must have been an oasis in the middle of this major industrial scene and it's good that today this family home, the gardens and some of the grounds are open to the public for most of the year.