Monday, 30 September 2013

Brown's Folly and the Stone Quarries in Bathford

The walking and geology groups on their way to the Bathford stone quarries and "The George Inn" in Bathampton.

Brown's Folly on top of the hill.

Built by Colonel Wade Brown in 1848, to provide employment during the agricultural recession, and is designated Grade ll listed building. 

I gives it name to a 96 acre site of biological and geological "Site of Special Scientific Interest" near the village of Bathford in Bath, and was first notified in 1974.  Also known as Farleigh Down Stone Quarry, it is operated as a nature reserve by the Avon Wildlife Trust.

The Folly is situated on the steep west facing slopes that overlook the River Avon.  The site includes the remains of quarries used for the extraction of Bath Stone, and provide a rich variety of wildlife habitats.  Downland flora has covered the spoilheaps where wild thyme, harebell and nine species of orchid, including the rare Fly Orchid, flourish.  The damp cliff faces support a variety of ferns, fungi and spiders.  Pockets of ancient woodland on the lower slopes are home to woodpeckers and unusual plants such as Bath asparagus.

Quarry entrance with stratified limestone.

The old underground quarries are used by the Greater Horseshoe Bat for roosting, and by five other species.  "Boris" the oldest Greater Horseshoe Bat ever recoreded in Britain, was discovered at Brown's Folly in January 2000. 

The underground workings are of great speleological and historical interest.  They contain many delicate stalacites and examples of gull formation (cave features formed by land slippage.)  These quarry workings provided stone for the facade of Buckingham Palace. 

That's a big rockface!

"The George Inn" the haunted canalside pub in Bathampton.

Some debate exists about exactly when the Inn was built.  Some sections seem to have been built as early as the 12th century, when it was part of a monastery for the Prior of Bath. According to English Heritage however, the present building of coursed rubble with a Cotswold stone slate roof, dates from the mid late 17th century.

The resident ghost of Viscount John Baptiste Du Barre, a foreign noble haunts, the Inn.  He died in a duel on Claverton Down at dawn on the 18th November 1778.   He was mortally wounded, and his body was bought back to the Inn for post-mortem.   This fact in now way affects the taste of the cider, beer and jacket potatoes!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Corsham Court in Wiltshire

 Corsham Court, viewed through the main entrance gate.

Corsham Court, a Royal Manor in the days of the Saxon Kings, and home of the Methuen family, is based on an Elizabethan house dating from 1582.  It was bought in the  mid 18th century to display Sir Paul Methuen's celebrated collection of 16th and 17th century Old Master paintings.  A second collection was added through inheritance in the mid 19th century.  There are works by Van Dyke, Carlo Dolci, Filippo Lippi, Salvator Rosa, Reynolds and Romney, as well as a superb portrait of Queen Elizabeth 1st, painted just after her death, and presumed to be a most realistic portrait of her in later years.

The picture gallery, with its intricate plasterwork,  was designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown and is 72ft in length.  This room and the other 18th century State Rooms, still retain their original damask wall hangings,  as well as furniture designed by Chippendale, Thomas Johnson, John Cobb and the Adam Brothers.

The parkland and lake with one of many peacocks that adorn the park.

Stunning gardens and parkland surround the Court.  The 13 acre lake planned by "Capability" Brown was eventually completed by Humphry Repton.

 Ornamental urn in the shady garden.

The first Lady Methuen was responsible for the basic layout of the flower gardens, which include herbaceous borders and the lily pond garden.  The gardens are particularly admired for their collections of magnolias and spring bulbs. 

The Georgian Bath-House.

Lancelot "Capability" Brown built the Bath-House and planted the avenues with numerous specimen trees, some of which still survive, including an enormous Oriental plane, which now has a circumference of over 240 yards,

The Court viewed from the gardens.

The House has been used as a film location for "The Remains of the Day," starring Sir Anthony Hopkins, and most recently for the BBC's adaptation of  "Tess of the D'Urbervilles."   Bath Spa University has teaching and studio facilities at Corsham Court. 

 Inside the medieval Church of St Batholomew in Corsham.

 The unusual rood screen, carved from stone instead of wood.

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Thursday visit to Kelmscott Manor, the home of the Artist William Morris.

Members of the "Lawrence Society of Art" make their way through the front entrance of Kelmscott Manor,  the summer home of the writer, artist and designer William Morris and his family.  Originally called Lower Farm, the house was built around 1600 for Thomas Turner, a successful yeoman farmer.  Generations of the Turner family lived in the house until 1869, when the manor passed to a cousin, Charles Hobbs, who rented it out two years later.

William Morris took over a joint lease with Dante Gabriel Rossetti in 1871.  Morris described the manor house as  "a heaven on earth," and he and his family used it as a summer retreat for the rest of his life.  He died in London in 1896, and his body was returned to Kelmscott Church for burial.  His wife Jane and his daughters Jenny and May are buried alongside him in the churchyard.

Angela sits in the courtyard of the former outside wash house.  

The outside "loo" at the bottom of the garden, a rather nice little shed in which to sit and ponder the meaning of life!

The interior of the old wash house.  
Unfortunately no photography was allowed in the house itself, so this is the only interior I could "snap."  There are many photos of the interior on the internet, and a detailed history of the house on Wikipedia.

The Morris family's summer house.  
Morris particularly like the basic construction of this place to sit, with rough hewn tree trunks holding up the stone tiled roof. 

The old manor house to the left, with the later wing to the right.

After Morris's death in 1896, his widow Jane Morris continued to be occupy the house until she  was able to purchased it in 1913.  On her death, it passed to her daughter May, who, when she died in 1938, left the house to her father's university at  Oxford, but on condition that it was preserved with its contents for public access.  The university were unwilling to preserve the house as "a museum piece," and passed the manor house and land into the care of the Society of Antiquaries in 1962.   A beautiful and peaceful place to visit.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Cirencester Roman Museum

 The entrance area of the Corinium Museum.  A really excellent museum, with so much information and many exhibits about life in Roman Cirencester.

 A floor mosaic from a Roman house. 

 A Roman cavalryman on his wonderful horse.  Quite how he mounted his horse dressed in heavy chain mail and helmet, I do not know.  He must have needed a ladder and several helpers.  The horse was so realistic, and we all stroked his seemingly soft nose.

 A view down from the second floor, giving an aerial view of the floor mosaic.

 Out in the Roman garden.  The Romans were fond of their formal gardens, which were enclosed in a central courtyard.

A haughty looking butcher chops his hunks of meat.
This is an excellent museum, and well worth a visit if in the area.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Christmas is Coming, the Bellringers are Practising Hard!

Wednesday's weekly practise of the Potterne Handbell Ringers.

Our group consists of nine ringers, although not everybody can make every practise.  On Wednesday Celia brought along her friend from Cape Town, who joined us in playing, and very well she did too.  We practise some pieces we hope to play at Christmas, not all Christmas music, but some old favourites the audiences will like to hear.

 Concentrating on the music.

This is what we look like in full kit, waiting here to play at the 2012 Christmas Carol Service in Potterne Church. 

Out in the Wilds of Littleton Pannell to West Lavington

The approaching rain storm over Potterne.

We had a great walk followed by lunch in the "Churchill Arms" in West Lavington.  After three years of blog writing, I'm taking some time off, as words are beginning to fail me!   My new camera arrives on Monday, so the blog will reappear  with even better photographs. 

The Braunschweig Blog will definitely resume when I write about next year's visit to Timmerlah and Braunschweig from May to July in 2014.   Bye for now!   Vicki

In Littleton Pannell Woods with the lady walkers.

The cows blocked out path.  How do cows always know where the stile is?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A "View the Locks" Special Boat-Trip.

The Kenavon Venture in lock 49.

The Kennet & Avon Trust trip boat occasionally runs special trips down to the top of the famous "Caen Hill" flight of locks.  Last Wednesday afternoon one such special trip made its way down six locks to the top of the flight of 16 consecutive locks.   During the trip a crew member gave a short history of the canal to the 35 passengers, who during the cruise, enjoyed refreshments of tea and coffee, beer, crisps and cream teas.   The weather was rather overcast, but nice and cool for the passengers and those having to operate the locks.

The boat at lock 47 at Prison Bridge.

The boat entered through the top gates when the lock was full of water.   The helpers  wound the paddles up to let the water out, opened the lock gates for the boat to come out, and are now closing the paddles using a windlass.  The huge Wiltshire county prison, now demolished, stood near this bridge, hence its name of "Prison Bridge."

The closed top gates, with the bottom ones open to let the boat out towards the next lock.

The white handrails at the side of the lock are to tops of ladders.  A boater without help from a crew, will have to come into the lock at the bottom, and climb to the top to close the gates and fill the lock with water to raise its level.  The entire flight of locks is basically a huge step ladder of water.

 The boat approaches lock 47 on the return journey.

This bridge has two arches, one for the canal and the other to allow wagons of bricks to be hauled up to lock 50.  During the building of the canal, a brickworks at Foxhangers at the bottom of the flight, produced the thousands of bricks needed the the construction of the 29 locks.  A track ran along the towpath, (right,) which allowed horse drawn wagons bringing bricks up the flight, to pass underneath the road. 

Lock 50, Town Lock.

The is the first lock of the flight in the centre of Devizes.  There are three sections to the flight, the first six to lock keepers cottage at lock 44,  then the 16 consecutive locks down to Foxhangers, the site of the old brickworks at lock 28, and then another seven locks to Lower Foxhangers at lock 21 at the bottom.  A modern electric pump now pumps water to the top of the flight, so that a supply is always ready to fill each lock.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Singing Season has Begun.

The singing season has begun here again, and last night at Dauntsey's choir, we began practising the music for our Christmas concert and service, which takes place in St Mary's Church, Devizes on Wednesday December 11th. 

We are singing songs and carols from "Advent for Choirs," which contains many well know songs, together with some I have never sung before.  We started with Bach's "Sleepers Wake," a piece I have sung so many times before,  followed by "Veiled in Darkness," a recent composition by Glen Rudolph, and a work I had never heard of before.   It is good to sing previously  unknown works from time to time, and not rest on our Christmas well know laurels!

The photo right, shows David Backhouse's statue of Euterpe, one of Apollo's nine Greek Muses, and the Muse of music, song and dance. She plays her flute in all weathers outside the music department at the school.   Born of Zeus and Mnemosyne, she was one of nine sisters.  Her name means  "rejoicing well" or "delight." She is also the Muse of joy, pleasure and of flute playing, and was thought to have invented the double flute.  I think I might be on her wave length.


Saturday, 7 September 2013

Friday in Bath.

 A River Avon trip boat waits for customers at Pulteney Bridge.

There has been so little rain recently, that the River Avon is flowing gracefully underneath Pulteney Bridge and over the weir, as it makes its way towards the Bristol Channel.  I was in Bath for a quiet chat and coffee with a friend, and for a meeting of the Bath/Braunschweig Twinning Association in the "Mayor's Parlour" in the Guildhall.  In spite of a dodgy weather forecast, the day was lovely, with bright sunshine and pleasantly cooler than of late. 

A lone guitarist plays loud music outside the Roman Baths.

 The city was as busy as ever, with many tourists still thronging the usual tourist sites.  We found a quiet cafe near the Theatre Royal for a cuppa, and then walked back and sat outside the Roman Baths, had a bite to eat, and watched the tourists walking past.   A guitarist provided us with some music, that was much too loud for our tastes, but we stayed put and watched the Americans, Chinese, French, Japanese and other members of the human race walk past, eating ice cream and often lead by a flag waving tour guide.  The photo above seems to have missed the sunshine and the crowds.

 An elegant 18th century staircase in the Guildhall.

It was good to see all my friends again on the BBTA committee, and to catch up on all the news.  We talked at length about the Bath Childrens' Choir visit to Braunschweig last June, an event that helped forge an even closer link between the two cities.   I will be giving a talk about my stay in Braunschweig, complete with a slide show, at our next meeting on October 4th.

All the former mayors of Bath have their photographs hanging on a wall near the Mayor's Parlour.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Carnival is Over.

Some bird's eye views of the carnival procession, as it goes through Devizes.
This year's carnival was the best ever, and "well done" to all the town council and voluntary organisations that made it possible.

Devizes Town Band march past Chantry Court.
Bottom right can be seen a tiny boy on held on reins by his mother, who danced to the music as the band went by.

The procession emerges from Sidmouth Street.

Magnificent birds in the middle of Devizes.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Potterne to "The Lamb" in Urchfont.

Out in the thick of Potterne woods.

We got off the bus at  the Porch House in Potterne, and made our way through thick and thin towards the Great Western railway line, where trains pass on their way to to Bristol and the West Country at one end, and Paddington in London at the other.  I wanted an express train to add glamour to the photo, but only a slow goods train chugged past at the appropriate moment, see below. 

Twelve of us enjoyed the 4 mile walk, which finished in "The Lamb" in Urchfont, where we enjoyed baguettes with assorted fillings, and a good drop of English beer and cider. 

 Goods train spotting near Urchfont.

 Up the hill along the tree rooted track.

 An Urchfont English country garden, complete with hollyhocks.

Urchfont's village map with the notable historic houses.