Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Amber Glow

 Late autumn colour is still plentiful here, especially from the many large Beech Trees.

Walking through our neighbourhood Beech wood in the bright autumn sunlight is both rewarding and uplifting
The high or the low path?

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Kennet & Avon Canal

Begun in 1724, the Kennet & Avon Canal is 87 miles long, and has a total of 105 locks. It incorporates some fine examples of early engineering skills.

The Caen Hill, Wiltshire stretch of the canal, has the longest continuous flight of locks in England. It was begun in 1794 and took 16 years to complete. There are 29 locks built in three distinct groups which have a rise of 237 feet, and cover a 2 mile stretch of the canal. 
On the first section at the lower level there are 7 locks spread along the canal for ¾ of a mile - the next 16 locks painstakingly climb up Caen Hill in a gradual ladder until reaching the top. These 16 locks are followed by the final 6 locks which then convey the canal through the town of Devizes and beyond. For a canal boat to negotiate all of these locks it takes a minium of 5 - 6 hours.
Moored at the bottom of Caen Hill, and awaiting their accent are two canal boats, but it was late afternoon, the lock keepers gone home, so no more boating activity until morning.

The canals are a haven for waterfowl - a flock of Canada Geese along with a male and female Mallard

and a flight of swans overhead
At the top of the hill

and dusk is rapidly approaching.

The swans fly off into the sunset,
and the boats that climbed Caen Hill during the day, moor up for the night, before proceeding on their journey. 

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Armistice Day

Today two minutes silence are observed at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month to remember when hostilities formally ended following more than four years of battle during World War 1 - poppies are worn as a symbol of respect. 
In Cheltenham Spa Town Hall 9,000 individually handmade poppies - some knitted, others made from fabric - have been draped to form a waterfall in one of the buildings smaller entrance halls.
The Spa Well situated in this small hallway features an octagonal counter complete with Doulton Ware inserts and urns. This originally dispensed Spa Water transported from the splendid Regency Pittville Pump Rooms in Cheltenham. Unfortunately, these health giving waters, which were so sought after by wealthy Regency visitors, are now only available to sample at Pittville. Health waters, which once tasted, will almost certainly ensure that you will not return for more!!!
Unlike most town halls, this building is a public venue and not the seat of the borough council, which is housed in the nearby municipal offices.  
The hall was built at the turn of the c20th to accommodate the many balls and concerts which featured in the town's extensive social calender. Cheltenham Town Hall was quite literally built for celebrations.
Today the Town Hall is used for concerts, banquets, meetings, dances, balls, exhibitions, conferences and is one of the major venues for the many Cheltenham festivals held throughout the year. 
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
  The torch; be yours to hold it high.
  If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

Monday, 6 November 2017

Asian Objet d'arts

Set deep in the countryside are a cluster of old barns that we enjoy visiting especially when searching out interesting gifts.

They are filled with eclectic artifacts that the owners have sourced from several Asian countries - some old, some early to mid 20th century and some reproductions. 
 A painting of the Empress Dowager Cixi - circa 1890
Old teak cow bells from Rajasthan - they make a delightful, mellow, throaty sound
The elegant 1930s Japanese lacquered pot with spout was for pouring sake
Calligraphy brush stands used for jewellery
Silver Miao Tribal necklace from Guizhou in SW China

along with a silver Miao Tribal headdress 
It was an invited Open Day; Visitors were plied with tasty, freshly made Asian snacks that kept magically appearing from the tiny kitchen.

Wooden ghee pots, ladles, and more cow bells hanging from an old peg rack, but do we really need an old ghee pot or a cow bell? interesting to see but I think not.
Chinese rice jar
There were lots of things to tempt us, but we resisted.
We particularly admired these Rajasthani lacquered dhubbi boxes also from the 1930 period.
However, we did successfully fulfill our quest, and returned home with some pretty Indian bangles for all the girls.

 which we hope that they will enjoy finding in their Christmas stockings. 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Common Land

The part of the Cotswolds that I call home is almost completely surrounded by what is known as Common Land.

During the Medieval era of the Middle Ages, the use of land was governed by a manorial system. All land remained in the ownership of the local Lord of the Manor, a term which originated with the emergence of feudalism. The feudal system was established in England by the Normans following their victory at the Battle of Hastings. At that time all land in England was claimed by William the Conqueror which he then distributed amongst his Norman followers as their reward. Food was grown, animals grazed and fuel was gathered, but over time some local people were given rights of use over the poorer areas of land which became known as 'Common Land'. This historic feudal system has thus ensured that these areas of Common Land have remained much as they have always been down the centuries. The land has never been ploughed or fertilised only grazed naturally by free roaming cows, sheep and horses. The present day consquences for the Commons are that they are a haven for animals, trees, shrubs and flowers.

As I walked over the Common this past week I came across the dead body of a lovely fox
Judging by his fine bushy tail and small size he appeared to be a juvenile.
Sadly this handsome fox must have been hit by a passing vehicle not long before I stumbled across him. 

These Commons are some of the few remaining areas of the country that are registered common land and which still remain unenclosed. Many people enjoy walking, cycling, horse riding, having a picnic or relaxing and just enjoying the views. The Commons are within the Coswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and parts are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Area of Conservation and an Ancient Monument. 
There are many rare and diverse species of butterfly to be found such as the Adonis Blue, which favours these limestone grasslands. There are 13 species of wild orchids thriving on the Commons along with the rare Pasque Flower which can be spotted growing on the Common around Easter. There are small Juniper trees, a slow-growing native conifer whose berries are used in gin, and which can live for up to 200 years. 
Grazing animals are an intrinsic part of this ancient grassland management. Without grazing, the Commons would soon become dense, scrubby woodland and the rich limstone grasslands would not exist, the consquence of which would be a loss of views and wildlife habitats. 
The people who are able to exercise the rights of grazing their cattle today are known as 'commoners'. These rights are afforded to them because they own property within the historic Manor. The rights are recorded in the deeds of their residential properties, and in the Commons Register held by the local County Council. 
  There is significant archaeology on the Commons, the most prominent being a defensive earth works running for over a mile across the Common, and forming the remains of a possible Iron Age settlement of the Belgic Dobunni tribe. There is a neothlithic long barrow, and indeed our own home sits on what was once a Roman Military Camp.