16 May 2017

Floral Bliss #21

Walking around our neighbourhood, park and woods all these photos were taken
in the last two weeks.

I've been reading about how intrepid plant collectors brought back specimens and seeds from far off places to grace the gardens of wealthy patrons and how these beautiful shrubs and trees have become familiar features of our present landscape as they grow in public parks, green spaces and our own smaller plots of land.  I shall, for example, look at the horse chestnut with its Springtime beautiful candle-like flowers and the seeds that we see on the ground in autumn in a different light. 



horse chestnut tree


 a mauve aquilegia (columbine) growing between other border plants

I shall continue to give thanks that our ancient woodlands are still there and left unspoilt so that we can see wild flowers such as the bluebell as the flowering season comes around each year.

Joining in Floral Bliss.
Thank you Riitta for the linkup

12 May 2017

Five on Friday

The weather has been warmer in the last few days and it was a good opportunity yesterday to take a walk in Ecclesall Wood.  This ancient woodland near where we live covers many acres of mature trees. It's managed by the city council for the benefit of wildlife and as there are public footpaths running through the woods it's a popular place to walk.  It's also well known for the native English bluebells that bloom there in early May and fortunately they're looking at their best right now.

Thank you for your kind comments left on my last few blogs. My husband and I are feeling a lot better after being under-the-weather for a week or two. It was very cold when we walked around Buxton and possibly my husband caught a chill and then passed his cold and cough on to me as often happens. I'm also doing quite well after last year's major health issue. An experience like that has made me appreciate life even more. In the hope that Mr. P and I continue to stay well we're planning a trip to Italy during the Summer. Our daughters and two grandchildren will be joining us for some of the time.  We haven't been to Italy with them for quite a few years and we're looking forward to the Summer holiday.  I hope all is going well with you and if not I hope that things get better in the near future.
Wishing you a good day,
Linda :)

I'm joining the Weekly Meetup for Five on Friday
hosted by Tricky and Carly.  Thank you both
for arranging the linkup.

10 May 2017

Floral Bliss #20

Beyond our back garden hedge in the neighbour's garden
 the trees and shrubs are in full flower.
 I only have to walk down the narrow lane by our house
 to see the lilac overhanging our shared wall
 and look up at the golden tassels of laburnum flowers.

I'm linking up with Ritta and Floral Bliss
 to celebrate the beauty of flowers around the world.

5 May 2017

Five on Friday

Morris dancing has been associated with May festivals for hundreds of years and can be seen at folklore and heritage events particularly on May Day.  This year I wasn't able to get to any event to see a local team, or a side as it's called, perform traditional dances accompanied by the band of musicians, but I took some photos when at a local event during the national Heritage Day which takes place each year in September and share them here. The Sheffield City Morris Men provided some entertainment on the forecourt outside the Cathedral with the handkerchief, stick dance and others in their repertoire.

Who were these ladies strolling across the forecourt?

In fact they were members of one of the heritage groups dressed in period
 costume.  There was a lot to see - traditional craft displays and visitors
 could get involved in activities including a tour up into the bell tower
to see how the bell ringers perform the service of bell ringing.

More entertainment followed when the huge figures standing in the forecourt suddenly started moving and then began to perform a slow dance again accompanied by another band of musicians. The figures are called War and Peace and are examples of processional dancing figures built in the Catalan style by a Catalan craft maker. These types of figures were used in religious and civic processions, but the practice died out and was only revived in England in the 1970s when one or two were made. The craft of making such figures for special events is more common in France, Spain, The Netherlands and Canada.  When not being used for performances at festivals in England and abroad the figures can be seen in Kelham Island Industrial Museum in Sheffield. 

Here are 5 facts about these huge dancing figures :-

* Each figure called a giant is 4.4. metres tall (14 feet).
* Each figure is carried on the head and shoulders by one person called a porter and catchers stand by to provide safety for the ones performing and for the audience.
* Each figure weighs about 9 stones (58 kg).
* Dressing and assembling takes 30-40 minutes.
* The porters are changed after each dance to give them a much-needed rest!

I'm joining in the Five on Friday Meetup.

As always wishing you a good day and a peaceful weekend!
Linda :)

4 May 2017

On the road: Nettlebed, Oxfordshire

During February and at the end of March our journey to and from my home town of Reading in Berkshire took us through the woods near Nettlebed as this is our preferred route through some beautiful countryside in south Oxfordshire. In February there were patches of snowdrops growing in the woodlands and on the grassy banks of country lanes whilst in March the leaves on the trees were creating green canopies along the way.  If we went to our local woods we would now see a haze of blue under the trees as it's the season for bluebells and I'm sure that would also be the scene in the beech woods of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

Back during our time in Berkshire and Oxfordshire we stopped in the village of Nettlebed as every time we pass that way I've wanted to take a photo of the pot kiln on the outskirts of the village. It stands out, but now looks rather strange surrounded by modern dwellings. There were several interesting things to photograph and learn from the display boards that gave an insight into the history and geology of the village.

This mosaic in the bus shelter depicts the woodland, the local brick making industry and the red kite. By the end of the 19th century the red kite disappeared in England, but a few pairs survived in Wales and were reintroduced into England and Scotland in the late 1980s with chicks from Spain and Sweden being released at specially protected sites in the hope that they would breed. Now they can be seen in greater numbers in the area, in other areas such as mid Wales, Scotland, East Midlands and Yorkshire and are a protected species.
I've yet to get a close-up shot as we drive through the winding lanes in the area.  I watch them as they fly high using the forked tail to steer, twisting it like a rudder. Suddenly one swoops downwards. It skims the air above the car before disappearing into the treetops. The best I can do is point the camera at a far away bird and capture its distinctive shape against the grey sky.

the pot kiln in Kiln Close

closeup of the size and different colour of individual bricks

Across the road on the corner of Kiln Close is a house that 
looks like the one in the old photo on the display board.

Tiles and bricks have been made in Nettlebed since the Middle Ages and were used locally mainly for roofing and flooring during this period. The bricks were renowned for their strength. Many fine buildings in the region were later built using them. Raw materials were obtained locally as the chalk escarpment is capped with clay and flints and at Nettlebed with Reading and London clay beds. The woodland provided fuel for the kilns. By the mid 19th century the sites were taken up with clay pits, water pools, drying sheds, brick yards as well as the kilns.

The bottle shaped pot kiln (above) was  in use from the 18th century until 1938 and is the only one left of those that were located in Nettlebed.  (The earliest known site of a kiln is of one near the village church where three generations of a family were making bricks). They would have taken up a lot of land, encroached on common land where the clay was dug out, but would have been an important enterprise employing many people from Nettlebed and other nearby villages. The main products were large water pans, seed pans, chimney pots, vases, jugs, platters, ornamental flowerpots and other similar items.  The greenish white sandy clay was advertised as the finest clay for stoneware in the south of England.  When thrown the pots were cut from the wheel with a wire and when leather hard trimmed with a knife. Glazing the interior and sometimes the exterior was necessary if the vessels were to hold liquids.  A mixture of red lead and linseed  oil was used. The use of this mixture was a hazard to health and lead poisoning of at least one worker is recorded. The kiln was converted to produce quicklime in 1927 as by then the local clay had run out. It was restored with the support of local people and Oxfordshire County Council.  

We turned off the Henley-Oxford road to travel on through Watlington.  It's necessary to drive slowly through the narrow high street where we stopped at the road crossing. The traffic lights were on red and so I was able to photograph Watlington Town and Market Hall which was built using Nettlebed bricks.

I hope many of you enjoyed the long weekend which included the May Bank Holiday on Monday. My husband and I have been at home with a head cold and an irritating cough although we seem to be getting better now. My husband has plenty to occupy him with nurturing this year's plants in the covered yard and I've been doing some novel reading and sorting out photos - putting old ones into new albums and sorting those I've downloaded onto the laptop and then storing them on my external hard drive. As usual I'm behind with reading blogs and I wish you a good day as I take one day at a time.