Friday, 29 November 2013

A Spring near West Kennet Long Barrow.

Offerings to the "Water Gods" lie on top large stone marking Swallowhead spring near the Barrow.

Imagination is needed to visualize water flowing out of this spring on a wet winter's day.   There is growing concern in the area that too much water is extracted from the river, which means that the bed remains dry for much of the year.  Last year after persistant rain, the area flooded and the spring sprang to life!  The crystal clear water flows towards Reading, where it joins the River Thames.  

The water flows into the Kennet and Avon Canal along its route, providing canal engineer John Rennie with a constant supply of water, for the canal barges to trade along the route from Bristol via Bath, Devizes, Newbury, Reading and London.

The large stepping stones allow people to cross when the stream is in flood.

It has taken me twelve years to find this spot, although it was staring me in the face most of the time.  A short diversion from the track up to the West Kennet Long Barrow, was all that was needed to find the spot where people over the centuries have lived and drank the water.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

St Andrew's School Sings in Bath Abbey.

The whole school sang songs to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir Benjamin Britten.

"Friday Afternoons" is a UK wide initiative devised  Aldeburgh Music to mark the centenary of Benjamin Brittan's birth.  It was launched on November 23rd 2012 and culminated on Britten's birthday on Friday November 23rd 2013.  Tens of thousands of young people across the country sang the set of songs on Friday afternoon.

The set of twelve songs is fairly easy to sing, and is accompanied by a gloriously witty piano accompaniment.  It was composed by Britten between 1933 and 1935, and dedicated to Britten's schoolmaster brother Robert, and the boys of Clive House School, Prestatyn, a school in which choir pratice and singing lessons regularly took place on a Friday afternoon.  The songs exemplify Britten's desire to involve the community and young people in music making.

Shean Bowers, the cathedral's choral director attempts to organise the small children.

"A Living Tree," a new song was composed by the pupils of St Andrew’s School in collaboration with Will Gregory, as a legacy of their love of singing, particularly in their weekly Celebration Assemblies on Thursday afternoons. The first performance in Bath Abbey was accompanied by an orchestra made up of all the wonderful instrumentalists at the school – pupils, staff and parents.

Bath Abbey in autumn sunlight.

Fan vaulted ceiling in the nave.

A fan vault if a form of vault used in the Gothic style, in which the ribs are all of the same curve and spaced equidistantly, in a manner resembling a fan.  The earliest example, dating from about the year 1351 is seen in the cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral.  The largest fan vault in the world can be found in the chapel of King's College, Cambridge.

Fan vaulting is peculiar to England.  The lierne vault in the cathedral of Barbastro in Spain closely resembles a fan vault, but it does not form a conoid, the rounded diamond shape between the fans.   It is thought that Catherine of Aragon was the possible source of English influence in Aragon.
The fan vault is attributed to developments in Gloucester between the years 1351 to 1377, with the earliest example being the east cloister walk of Gloucester Cathedral.   Other examples of early fan vaults exist around Gloucester, suggesting the particular activity of several 14th century master masons in the area, who created the new form of vault, and experimented with the form.   
The ceiling lit up in the bright sunlight on Friday afternoon.  What a lovely space in which to sing.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Walking in Bath

 Walking beside the River Avon

We took the early bus to Bath, and took a sunny short walk along the River Avon past the old warehouses. These buildings will be incorporated in the  future development of large shopping malls and restaurants further along, and facing the river. The warehouses are listed buildings, and note the white, jutting out box-like structures to the left, that once contained pulleys and ropes for hauling wares up from and down to the barges that once carried goods to Bristol and to London along the Kennet and Avon Canal, that connects with the river here.  

 Feeding the ducks in Royal Victoria Park.

This beautiful park was opened in 1830 by the 11 year old Princess Victoria, and was the first park to carry her name.  It includes an obelisk dedicated to her.  It was privately run as part of the Victorian public park movement until 1921, when it was taken over by the Bath Corporation.

The park is overlooked by the Royal Crescent and consists of 57 acres with attractions that include a skateboard ramp, tennis courts, bowling green, a putting green, a boating pond and a 12 and 18 hole golf course.  There is a play area for children and a 9 acre botanical garden.

the botanical gardens were formed in 1887 and contain one of the finest collections of limestone living plants in the West country.  The gardens contain a replica of a Roman Temple, which was used in the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924.  In 1987 the gardens were extended to include the Great Dell, a disused quarry that was formally part of the park, and which contains a large collection of conifers.

 The Royal Crescent.

This beautiful Grade 1 listed crescent is a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a sweeping crescent.  Designed by the architect John Wood the Younger, they were built between 1767 and 1774, and it is one of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture to be found in the United Kingdom.  Although many alterations have been made to the interiors, the facade remains as it was when first built.

Many notable people have either lived or stayed here, and blue commemorative plaques are attached to the relevant buildings.  The Royal Crescent now includes an hotel and a Georgian house museum, and some houses have been converted into flats.  It is a popular location for the makers of films and television programmes, and is a major tourist attraction in its own right.

After our walk we went into Bath Abbey to listen to a concert given by St Andrew's School, on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sir Benjamin Britten.  I will write about the concert in a later blog.  Unfortunately I never managed to drink a pint of beer on Friday.   What a shame!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Out Walking in the Sunshine in Stert.

 The road towards Stert Manor Farm.

We got together on Friday morning for a walk in the sunshine, the first time in a fortnight, that it had been dry enough to walk.  We took the local bus to Stert, a little hamlet 3.5 miles outside Devizes, and alighted ready for our walk to the farm, and its large pond and quacking ducks, and to the little chapel, first mentioned in records in 1232.

 Stert Chapel.

We found the chapel locked, and although we have been inside before, we were sorry not to be able to visit again.

 Looking out over the hills towards Potterne from the Chapel´s burial ground.

From here we walked on towards Potterne on good track and road, as,  because the weather has been so wet, the paths are muddy and impassable in places.

Big puddles on the track down to "Drew´s Pond."

Here's a good example of one of the paths we could not avoid.  Fortunately the sun had done its work, and the mud was beginning to dry up.  From here we dropped down towards Drew's Pond, and then into Devizes and "Wetherspoons," a local hostlery, for a good lunch and drink.  I did not stay for lunch, as the day before I had a mouthful of dental performed on two teeth, and I was in no mood for fish and chips,  nor even a beer!   Things must be bad.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Making Christmas Cards this week.

 My work desk covered in bits and pieces.

I had a creative moment last weekend, and decided to make my own Christmas cards this year.   After a lifetime of making things, I've been somewhat idle over the last few years, and have resorted to sending e-cards, mainly because the cost of postage often exceeds the cost of the card itself!   

I've always liked making my own stamps, and then stamping a design onto a card blank.    I found all my painting stuff, brushes, pencils, sharp knives, glitter, glue and the like, and set about designing some cards.   I bought some ink pads from Amazon, a nice little set of 20, but in very strong colours.  I've manage to find a technique for overprinting, which produces more subdued colours, although I think I will resort to making my own ink pads using gouache paint soaked into white felt, to achieve really gentle colours.   It's trial and error at the moment, but I have made three really nice cards, which need to be more "Christmassyfied."  (German friends, this is not a real English word!)

An almost finished card with a Christmas cactus design.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The "Ha Ha" in Hillworth Park

The Ha Ha, a walled trench, was a feature of many 18th century gardens, and was designed to separate grazing animals from the garden, without spoiling the view from the house.
The first Hillworth House, seen to the right in the background of the photo,  first appeared on a map of Devizes dating from 1737.   It was then located 100 metres to the east of it current location on a road known as Gallows Ditch, and outside the town ditch.  One theory for its change of location, was that it stood in the way of a new railway line being built close by. 
Owners of the house have included many eminent local people, and this present building, built in 1832 is now a Grade ll listed house, divided into four apartments and in private ownership, is no longer part of the public park. 
 Hillworth Park was purchased by the town council after the Second World War, and the Ha-Ha had become buried in the lawn with only the top stones of the walls showing

The old English Oak is surrounded by folk law and a local legend has it that a man hanged himself on the tree, and many people have claimed to see his ghost dangling from a branch.   This branch fell from the tree on Christmas Eve in the mid 1980´s, but some still claim that his ghost still dangles in midair from the missing branch!

Many trees in the park date from the the 1700´s and include four Common Lime trees, Blue Atlas cedars and a Cedar of Lebanon dating from early 1800.  A four hundred year old Sweet Chestnut tree stands near the Queens Road entrance.   

This park was recently renovated with a grant from the National Lottery, and is now used to stage various public attractions throughout the year

Monday, 4 November 2013

Anglo-Saxon Art, Tradition and Transformation

Devizes Museum, seen to the right,  holds a series of Saturday afternoon talks throughout the year, and on Saturday I listened to a talk, with some wonderful illustrations, about Anglo-Saxon art, and it's changes from the time the Romans left Britain in ca 430AD, until the coming of William the Conqueror in 1066.  The speaker was Dr Leslie Webster, the ex Keeper of Medieval Antiquities, curating the Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Celtic and Continental early medieval collections at the British Museum.   The photo shows the entrance to the museum in Long Street, which holds many finds from the local area, including Avebury and Stonehenge stone circles.  The new visitor centre at Stonehenge will soon display some of the gold finds from our museum.  The "Blue Plaque" below  gives the dates of the museum`s foundation and it opening in 1847.

The Blue Plaque at the entrance to the museum.

Dr Webster accompanied her talk with many lovely photographs of finds from the principal Anglo-Saxon hoards at Sutton Hoo and in Staffordshire.  She spoke in detail about the complexity and origins of the designs, the use of animal shapes, and the Anglo-Saxon love of riddles.

The military fitting above, crafted in gold and garnet cloisonne,  is part of the Staffordshire hoard, the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver metalwork ever found anywhere in the world.   It was found in a field near the village of Hammerwich, near Lichfield in Staffordshire, by a man out metal detecting on July 5th 2009, and consists of more than 3,500 items, nearly all  martial or warlike in character.   The finder and the landowner shared the cash reward from the find, which left both men £1.5million richer.

The hoard consists of 5.094 kilos of gold, 1.442 kilos of silver, and there is nothing comparable in terms of content and quantity in the UK or mainland Europe.

Belt buckle crafted in gold and niello, from the Sutton Hoo ship burial.

Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge in Suffolk, is the site of two 6th and early 7th century cemeteries. One contained an undisturbed ship-burial including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts of art historical and archeological significance, now housed in the British Museum in London.

The ship burial probably dating from the early 7th century, was excavated in 1939.  It is thought to contain the body of Raedwald, the ruler of the East Angles, who held power over the English people,  and played an part in the establishment of Christian rulership in England.

A very interesting talk, with some wonderful photos.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Printing Christmas Cards

The assembled ingredients for the printing of cards.

A creative urge came upon me this week, after rediscovering the delights of making your own stamps, and printing instant Christmas cards.   I've spent my life as a potter cum painter, printer, needlewoman, jewellery maker, collage card maker and doll's house potter, and over the last few years have taken a step back from the creative world.  

However times are changing, so I've gathered together most of the necessary bits and pieces for printing, and hope to make a start this week.  I've ordered some sharp lino cutters, as these can be used to cut a design into the blocks of rubber I'm using for printing.  I've cut two little flowerpot shapes, and have tried out the design using the black stamp pad you can see to the left of the photo.  I bought a packet of card blanks, and also some handmade,  decorative Indian papers, with interesting leaves and flowers mixed into the surface.  These I can use as a background for my designs.    

The red, soft pencil draws the design onto the rubber blocks, and the yellow handled cutter is useful for cutting the initial larger shapes.  I now need the fine cutters for the leaves and flowers.  As soon as I produce my first card, I will display it for all to see. Fingers crossed!