Thursday, 31 August 2017

Royal Shakespeare Theatre




The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon was first opened (next to the site of an earlier Victorian theatre that burnt down) in 1932, designed by Elisabeth Scott (and thus the first important building in Britain to have been designed by a woman). It retains many of its original art deco features, although it was extensively renovated, extended and transformed in 2010, to improve both the visitor experience and the conditions for actors and crew.

It is not, in my opinion, a particularly beautiful building. From some angles it looks like a utilitarian community hall and is rather rambling inside. It's a Grade II* listed building. It must be difficult to work with such an iconic 'national treasure'. The theatre is privately owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, dedicated to performing the works of William Shakespeare and his contemporaries, as well as producing new work by living authors and touring extensively, both here and abroad.

The public areas have many photos of current and past productions and some costumes and props on display. I spotted a huge poster of David Tennant as King Lear. I'd love to have seen that!



Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Shakespeare's birthplace


I last visited Stratford upon Avon on a school trip - so that's a long time ago. I was delighted, therefore, to have chance to revisit during my holiday. Memory plays tricks but it seems a lot has changed. At one time you could enter Shakespeare's birthplace via the front door for a modest fee. Nowadays there is an entire 'Shakespeare experience' awaiting you, with costumed guides - for a goodly sum, of course. We didn't pay the sum, so I can't tell you about that.

The house on Henley Street, now in the middle of a pedestrianised shopping zone, is where it is believed that the famous playwright William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and spent his childhood years, one of eight children. It is a restored 16th century house, made of wattle and daub on a timber frame, relatively simple but nevertheless substantial. William's father, John, was a glove maker and wool merchant and it is thought the house was once divided to allow him to carry out his business from there. He became Mayor of Stratford and that status enabled William to attend the local grammar school to begin his education.

In common with most places that have any relationship with a famous person, Stratford trades heavily upon its Shakespeare connection. Even on a dull, drizzly day the town centre was full of (mostly foreign) tourists. It was interesting but wasn't quite as charming a place as I remember. I suppose the weather didn't help that. It remains a fascinating town, with some very old buildings, many half-timbered, that have thankfully been preserved.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Harvest home



The harvest was in full swing whilst I was exploring Warwickshire. Not a common sight in West Yorkshire where I now live, this is a scene I remember from my childhood in the Midlands. The huge high-tech machines they use nowadays are a sight to behold, though I never saw a combine harvester near enough to take a photo. I daresay the combines could do it all by themselves, like the robotic lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners you now see advertised; they appear to need little human input. I love fields and big skies so I was refreshed by that wonderful sense of space.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Middle England


There are numerous walks around the Baddesley Clinton estate in Warwickshire. We followed a path around the perimeter of the grounds, through lush meadows and arable fields, dotted with magnificent trees. The sunlight and storm clouds made for an amazing sky, though we didn't get wet. Nearer the house there were several logs carved into animals, to delight children and perhaps entice them to run a bit further.




Sunday, 27 August 2017

Wild things


Most National Trust properties have beautiful gardens, looked after by armies of staff and volunteers. Baddesley Clinton was no exception. It was the wildlife that gave us most delight though: the ducks scooting around in the moat; the swallows feeding their young in their mud and straw nests under the entrance archway and the butterflies in the garden, nourished by the wildflower meadows which the National Trust encourages.


There were at least five babies in the swallows' nest and both parents appeared to be flying in and out with grubs for their hungry brood. It was high up and very dark, so my photo isn't great but we enjoyed watching them. They were completely unfazed by all the visitors walking in and out of the gatehouse, many of whom were oblivious to the life going on overhead. 

The butterfly below, enjoying the warm sunshine, is (I think) a comma. 





Saturday, 26 August 2017

Inside Baddesley Clinton


The interior at Baddesley Clinton is arranged to give visitors a good sense of how it would have been used, although like most of our great houses, it has been changed and rearranged many times over its history. The great fireplace (above) was at one time upstairs. The estate was in decline from the 1600s until 1860 when it became the home of Marmion Ferrers. Together with his wife Rebecca and friends Edward Dering and Lady Georgiana, the Quartet (as they were known) devoted their time to painting, writing and restoring the house. 


The bed in the room below has an interesting story: it is said that one of the sons of the family, coming home from war with Spain, was crushed when the heavy bedhead fell on him as he slept. Luckily he managed to scramble out from underneath with only minor injuries!


Friday, 25 August 2017

Baddesley Clinton


Not far from Packwood House in Warwickshire (see here) is another National Trust property, Baddesley Clinton. A medieval moated manor house over 500 years old, it was passed down within the Ferrers family for 12 generations until 1940, when it was bought by a distant cousin, restored and eventually sold to the National Trust in the 1980s. 

It is arranged around an inner courtyard, with different wings of the house being built and rebuilt at different times. The family were always staunch Roman Catholics. In the late 1500s, when Britain broke from the church in Rome, Catholic priests were persecuted. Several hidden 'priest holes' were installed in the house to give sanctuary and it appears they were used and worked, as the priests were not discovered in 1591 when the 'priest-hunters' called.  


Thursday, 24 August 2017

Knowle's finer points


My friends jokingly suggested that I wouldn't find much to photograph in Knowle. I think perhaps familiarity breeds contempt... The West Midlands and Warwickshire could not be more different from the area of Yorkshire that I live in, and even some of the 'ordinary' buildings are very old indeed. Up here, medieval buildings (aside from churches and some grander houses) are only really to be found in cities like York and Chester. I found it all quite delightful: pretty settlements, historic buildings, all set in pleasantly green and rolling countryside. These are some of the details that took my eye in Knowle.





Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Knowle





We went for a gentle stroll one evening around the village of Knowle, which retains an olde worlde charm, despite being a busy and functional residential hub in close proximity to the West Midlands conurbations of Solihull and Birmingham. The area around the historic and beautiful parish church is especially interesting. The church itself dates back to 1403. There are some fine Tudor timber-framed buildings on the high street, including one that now houses the library.
I learned a new word on my holiday: jettying. It refers to the way that in many medieval timber houses the upper floor projects over the ground floor. The jetty had the advantage of increasing the space without obstructing the street, and meant they could use shorter timbers. I love learning new things!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Kitchen gardens at Packwood


The walled kitchen gardens at Packwood House are a riot of colour, with lots of flowers romping exuberantly through the vegetable beds.  The well at the garden's centre has been ingeniously adapted as a children's play area, so they can draw water in little cans to water the flowers. There is also a 'Pottering Shed' to play in, which my grandchildren would have loved. 



Monday, 21 August 2017

Packwood House gardens


The National Trust property, Packwood House in Warwickshire, is fascinating inside and also has extensive and beautiful gardens (see here).


It is famous for its huge plantation of topiary yew trees, some over 350 years old, said to represent the Sermon on the Mount. Unfortunately, the trees are now very fragile and suffer from waterlogging in the heavy clay soil so they are being carefully protected.


There are recesses known as bee boles in the old walls, where skeps - coiled straw beehives - would have been placed.


Sunday, 20 August 2017

Packwood House interiors


The interior of Packwood House is left almost as it was when Graham Baron Ash lived there. It was his expressed wish that the furniture should be left intact, with no new additions, and that fresh flowers should always be placed in the rooms. He was, however, a meticulous and very 'proper' man, so, although it looks like an immaculate museum rather than a well-worn country house, that is in fact how it would have been during his lifetime. Tables are laid for meals and the rooms look as though he may have just popped out for a few minutes and may appear at any time. It's all quite delightful, with so much to see and enjoy. 



Saturday, 19 August 2017

Packwood House


Packwood House is a National Trust property in Warwickshire, which began life as a timber-framed farmhouse in the late 1500s.  Built by William Fetherston, it was passed through his family of yeomen farmers for more than 300 years, being adapted and extended as time went on. In 1904 it was bought at auction by Alfred Ash, an industrialist. His son, Graham Baron Ash, a bachelor with a perfectionist streak, meticulously restored, decorated and furnished it as a Tudor mansion, where he delighted in holding lavish and legendary house parties. In 1927, Queen Mary visited for tea. He sounds a fascinating character - you can read more about him on the National Trust website. He eventually gave the house to the National Trust in 1941 but continued to live there until 1947. At his request, the house is preserved almost exactly as it was when he lived there.  





Friday, 18 August 2017

Love birds


I've had a few days away, staying with some wonderful and generous friends and then catching up with my dear sister. It's been really lovely. Now I need to spend some time processing all my photos! I love living in Saltaire, in Yorkshire, but it's also very good to explore other parts of our beautiful country - and a constant delight to have the time now to do that.

Here's a starter... little love birds, spotted in the garden at the National Trust property of Packwood House. More to come...

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Ilkley Tarn


Craig Tarn, above Ilkley, was developed by the Victorians in 1874 from a moorland pond and bog into the small lake we see today. A gentle walk up from the town, the tarn has a central island that used to have a fountain, and a wide and level perimeter path, around which you can well imagine Victorian ladies promenading. Apparently it was at one time a popular spot for ice-skating in winter. See here for a photo taken in the 1920s.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Famous rocks


I didn't find the standing stones known as the Twelve Apostles during my walk on Ilkley Moor, but I did find the huge piece of gritstone (above) known as the Pancake Stone for the way it lies flat and balanced on the edge of a ridge.


A little further along the moor edge lies one of the area's most famous and enduring attractions: the rock formation of Hangingstone Rocks, more commonly known as the Cow and Calf Rocks. They get their name from the small lower stone (the calf) close to its 'mother' (the cow).  Sitting on the edge of the moor just above the town of Ilkley, they have been enticing day-trippers since the glory days of Ilkley as a Victorian spa town. Nowadays the spot is popular with dog-walkers, families having picnics, bikers who come to the café and climbers on the gritstone rock face, which apparently offers a wide variety of climbs including some challenging routes. 



Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The inglorious Twelfth


The moorland heather is in full bloom, perfect for a ramble, provided one avoids the grouse-shooting areas. The shooting season officially started on August 12th, 'the glorious Twelfth'. It seems that Ilkley Moor is now the only remaining public land on which grouse shooting is licensed. Everywhere else, the shoots take place on private land. I hear there was a protest march on the moor this year, as well as a large wildlife protection march in London. Video has emerged, to widespread condemnation, of marsh harriers, a relatively rare species, being killed on a Yorkshire grouse moor. Bradford Council are under pressure not to renew the licences next year.

That aside, the moors are beautiful and I enjoyed my walk, although the huge network of paths means that I never seem to find the same route twice! I set off to look for the Twelve Apostle Stones (see here) but I didn't find them this time.



Monday, 14 August 2017

Fired


This is all that is left of Saltaire's fire station. See here for what it did look like, though I never thought to take a proper record shot of it. When you pass something every day, you take it for granted really. Well, it is here no more... Life will perhaps be quieter without all the sirens of the fire engines and paramedics constantly going up and down the road, though the comfort of having them doors away has also gone. If there's a fire now, we will have to wait for the appliance to make its way up through the traffic from Canal Road, where a new Shipley station has been built, amalgamating the Saltaire and Idle crews. The cleared site on Saltaire Road will be used for new family homes to be built by Bradford's social housing landlord, Incommunities.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Hops


'Hops... good for what ales you.'

I seem to have been to several places lately that have been liberally decorated with bines of dried hops. They look very attractive. I thought these made a pretty still life, especially when I added a texture layer. Hops are the flowers of Humulus lupulus and are, of course, the traditional flavouring for beer, as well as being used in herbal medicine and as a sleep aid.

My own recollections are a bit less benign... Years ago, at primary school, we used to be marched in a 'crocodile' down to the Victorian swimming baths. The walk took us under the darkly dripping arches of a railway viaduct and past the brewery, where there was an acrid stench of hops. I hated swimming lessons, I hated the walk and I hated the smell! I've never quite got over it - and I still can't swim very well!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Heather in the rain



The weather, now that the school holidays have started, has turned changeable and unpredictable. (Wouldn't you know!) I make arrangements in advance to meet with friends to go walking and sometimes we have to have a Plan B because of the weather. One day this week, the forecast was for a fine start followed by light cloud or drizzle, so we decided to stick with Plan A and set off, hoping for the best. We hadn't gone very far when the drizzle started and then turned to proper rain. We ploughed on regardless and walked nearly 11 miles. I was pretty soaked and muddy when I got home, but satisfied, having walked further than I normally would and in such testing conditions too. I actually enjoyed it.

Part of the walk crossed a little patch of heather moorland, reminding me that the heather is in peak bloom right now. I must make time for a trip to Ilkley or Haworth, where the moors are stunningly beautiful at this time of year. The scene above is typical of the moors around here, with stone flagged paths that were at one time well-used by travellers and even packhorses going from one settlement to another.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Danger money


There is currently some development work happening at Salts Mill. I believe it's in order to create some more retail and visitor space, though I may be wrong. Whatever they're doing involves some work on the inner wing that runs north to south. There is lots of scaffolding and it appears they are overhauling the roof, among other things. On the canal side, scaffolding on the top storey overhangs the water. I happened to be walking that way yesterday and saw these workmen installing (perhaps replacing) a drainpipe down the side of the building from the roof. Two of them were abseiling down as they added pieces and a third was rowing to and fro across the canal in an inflatable dinghy, passing marked lengths of plastic pipe up to them via a pulley system. I reckon they should get danger money for that!