25 Nov 2013

Swyncombe, Oxfordshire

Thankfully it's been another quiet week, but I'm very conscious that we're coming to the end of November and December days will be rather busy with seasonal events and social occasions before the Christmas holiday period.

Today I'm looking back to when we went down to Berkshire a few months ago. 
When we drive down to my home town we usually take a break in one of the Oxfordshire villages on the border with Berkshire where the winding road takes us through the beech woods and the Chiltern Hills. At the hamlet of Cookley Green on this last trip we turned down a narrow track lined with lime trees which gave us access to Swyncombe Church.
The name Swyncombe means 'the valley or hollow in the flank of the hill' (cumb) and 'wild boar' (swin). There was a Saxon settlement and the pre-Roman Ridgeway track, part of the Icknield Way, runs past the church.

                                                                       Cookley Green

                                                         The Ridgeway track and Icknield Way

The church is early Norman with some Saxon parts and is dedicated to St. Botolph who lived in the 7th century AD. He was an Anglo-Saxon monk of the Benedictine order who made missionary journeys around East Anglia, Kent and Sussex, travelling on horseback or on foot and he was constantly exposed to danger from robbers who hid in the woods and forests.

It is thought that the church of flint and stone was built by Saxon builders under the direction of the Normans to a traditional design with one long nave terminating in an apse. The porch was added in the 19th century when the church was restored. The windows are Early English in style and only one in the  south side of the apse is original. Outside on the south side of the church can be seen a blocked Norman doorway and on the north side is another. Many of the grave headstones have inscriptions dating from the 18th century.

The stained glass of the lancet window depicts the three saints associated with the church, St. Botolph, St. Martin and St. Thomas Becket and the other shows the armorial bearings of the families who owned the estate of Swyncombe and the nearby Ewelme, including Thomas Chaucer, the son of the poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, and William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, who married Alice, the daughter of Thomas and Matilda Chaucer.  
Later on these estates were given to Charles Brandon, married to Mary Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII, who became the appointed Duke of Suffolk. Then a cousin of Queen Elizabeth I owned them and the manor was an important one with hundreds of acres of land.  

The farm buildings next to the church looked as if they were derelict, but there were sheep in the pastures and the surrounding land was being farmed.
Although the settlement is tucked away in a secluded valley there are views across the Downs towards Oxford and one can imagine the travellers through the ages who would have used the ancient track of the Icknield Way which passes Swyncombe.

21 Nov 2013

Another interesting walk

I featured this wood sculpture a while ago when out for a walk on a dull day.  It also looks good against a blue sky.
This particular neighbourhood had other street art installed a year or two ago all made of recycled wood, including practical items such as the community notice boards with metal deer antler motifs.
One day recently I walked along one of the roads in the area for the first time after taking a different tram route from town. (The two local tram routes stop at the bottom of a hill and sometimes I have to continue my journey by bus or walk home).

My walk took me up hill as usual and I stopped by this bench not to sit down and rest, but to take a second look at the quirky design.  There was another on the opposite side of the road.

Then not far from the benches I passed a car that made me smile and the longer walk than usual was brightened up by these different sights.

19 Nov 2013

Furniture makeover: the dresser

It's a cold, but bright day today with sunshine and blue skies. DH is outside in the garden taking advantage of the dry weather.  We finished moving the furniture around yesterday and the dresser got a coating of wax after the second coat of paint had completely dried out last week. The Annie Sloan paint that we chose when we went to the interior design shop is Paris Grey. The colour is blue/grey with a matt finish.  The above photo was taken with flash on so there's a slight shine on drawers.

This photo without the flash shows the true colour.  I decided to move the dresser out of the alcove by a fireplace and put it in a better position in the front study and sitting room.  The back sitting room has the fireplace and a dining room extension (which was built on by former owners of the house) and will be used more often over this season when we shall have extra visitors. The television is also in that room, whereas before it was where the bookcase now stands.  My husband would like to paint the bookcase to match the dresser, but I like the teak wood which matches some coffee tables.  All our furniture is an eclectic mix of woods and the dresser was the only one that I felt should have a makeover.

I've left the original sticky back plastic that lines the shelves in the cupboard!

I've put back the fruit plates.  They belonged to my great aunts, Emily and Edith. The large saucers with the lemons were hand painted in Italy and also quite old, but the cups have long gone.  The two ladies had many friends who went abroad so I have quite a few of these items that must have been gifts and lots of pottery, china and embroidered pieces from that Edwardian era.  The glass fruit bowl was probably a wedding gift to my parents and the 1960s liqueur glasses come from a set that we bought when we were on holiday in Tuscany and there are gifts from our Italian relatives.  I think the plain matt paint shows off these treasured items well and I shall change them from time-to-time as each one brings back memories of our English and Italian family.

18 Nov 2013

A misty morning

As we drove out yesterday morning it seemed as if Winter had arrived.  It was misty and damp and the trees were noticeably leafless on the land exposed to the wind and the rain on the heights overlooking Loxley and Bradfield Dale. The top road from the village of Worral to High Bradfield runs through farmland and moors with one or two farmsteads and an isolated convent building, chapel and cottage guest house, the home of an enclosed community of Carmelite nuns.  

                                   Down in the sheltered valley the trees still retain their leaves.

                                                      "Come in Number 4" !

It was just as misty and murky by Damflask Reservoir and no sailing boats on the water.

Last week I spent most of the time moving furniture around which involved emptying cabinets and then rearranging china and glassware.  The dresser was given two coats of Annie Sloan paint in Paris Grey, but now needs waxing to preserve the finish.  When I'm able to put the plates back on the shelves I'll post a photo.


14 Nov 2013

Steel City Cascade

Do you remember the mobile in the Winter Garden in Sheffield city made of stainless steel wire and sheet and recycled material that I featured recently?
As with any piece of art, especially something so detailed, the more you look the more you see.  I've been drawn to this piece several times when I've been passing through the Winter Garden, which is a space frequently used to exhibit public art. I found more information in a leaflet that had been left for visitors. 
It's called Steel City Cascade and is the result of an art project for the Sheffield Children's Festival 2013 as part of the celebrations to mark the 100 years of the city's stainless steel production. Hundreds of young people across the city made the individual pieces to produce the finished work of art.  

The young designers wanted to show Sheffield as an urban space which also has connections to nature, particularly water, both in past and present times. They based the main frame on the river network since the waterways were a key feature in the establishment of metalworking in the city where there were many waterwheels that powered the grindstones before the invention of stainless steel.   There are five rivers in the area the Don, the Sheaf, the Rivelin, the Loxley and the Porter and their names stand out in blue. Historical buildings that were involved in the cutlery industry feature as well as vocabulary used in the metalworking industry.  A set of figures representing the people of the city were designed and laser cut in stainless steel and other portraits were made in wire and stainless steel strip.

The young people took part in different practical workshops exploring the qualities of stainless steel wire and sheet metal, looking at the designs and patterns that had been used in the creation of original items of cutlery and then worked on their own designs and pieces to make up the whole of the mobile.

I've seen the work on days when there were grey skies and blue and when the sun has lit up one
individual piece or another and you really need to see it in person to appreciate all the detail. It's an interesting and meaningful piece of art when you realise the educational and creative work that went into the project to produce it. I was also fascinated by the way it was hung from such a height in order to display it. You can just see the wires in the above photo.  I would have liked to have been there when that was done!

The Winter Garden is a great space to display artwork and as a venue for different events as well as a place to sit for a while and the exotic plants are rather special too.