Saturday, 14 March 2015

Walking in Avebury with a Cold Wind in Our Ears!

A distant Silbury Hill, the little hill almost centre of the photo, with the sun shining on the River Kennet.

I have felt unwell since January, with the wretched virus and cough that has been doing the rounds.  I ventured out last week, not to walk, but to meet my walking group friends at the "Red Lion" in Avebury, for our weekly communal lunch.  The sun shone, but is was sooo cold, and was not easy to relax without wearing layers of clothing and a warm hat.

The River Kennet here is a winterbourne, meaning it only flows with water during the winter months.   It was good to see it so full, as because of increased water extraction, there have been times when the river bed has been dry for several months at a time.  During a recent drought, it remained dry for a couple of years, much to the consternation of the local residents, who felt that too much water was extracted for the large town of nearby Swindon.

Crocuses line each side of the track approaching the large barn and museum at Avebury.

The thatched roofed "Red Lion" at Avebury, our much loved hostlery.

The pub has recently changed hands, but is serving the same menu as the previous manager, who was an excellent "mine host."   His wife and her family owned a local farm, and when she had her baby, he left the pub for father´s duties and to help run the farm.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Out on the Ramparts of Old Sarum

All that remains of the crypt of the cathedral at Old Sarum

Old Sarum was the original site of the city of present day Salisbury.  It occupied a site of continuous settlement right back into neolithic times.  The Romans were here, there was an Anglo Saxon settlement here, and also after the Norman Conquest, a motte and bailey castle was built on the mound.  

The reasons for the town´s removal to the lower ground of the present city are many and varied, and there is much discussion as to why the town upped sticks and moved!  The cathedral was dismantled, quite a mega task for a time of horse and cart transport.  I wonder what really happened.  A better source of water from the River Avon at the new site might explain much of the inhabitants reasoning.

The information board in what was the nave of the cathedral.

I attended a very good talk last Saturday at Devizes Museum, where Alex Langlands from Winchester University talked about Old Sarum.  He has many interesting theories as to why the town moved, all of which seem plausible.  However we shall never really know the true reason.

Part of the rampart around the site, showing an original entrance.

The original site with its Norman castle is extremely well defended, with some of the deepist rampants I have ever seen.  It would have been almost impossible to an alien army to attack the castle and town and its inhabitants.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Pancake Day in Devizes

Poster for the Pancake Races in Hillworth Park

Children wait to run down the track the their frying pans and pancakes.

Pancakes with a variety of sauces being prepared by some nice friendly ladies.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Up on Oliver's Castle and at Mother Anthony's Well

 Oliver's Castle and neolithic hill fort.

I had a very busy Sunday, and did a walk I would not attempt on my own, as I needed a great deal of encouragement to climb up to Oliver's Castle, a landscape feature that proved quite decisive during the Battle of Roundway Down in 1643.   The above photo shows a view from the nature plantation looking towards the promontory, which is a good, windy site on which to fly kites and model aircraft.

 Oliver's Castle

The view from the bottom, which gives some idea of the climb I had to attempt.  I was completely exhausted when I got to the top, and had my mobile phone with me, just in case I needed to call the air ambulance men to come and resuscitate me!

 Pamela on the phone at the foot of the downs. 

Mother Anthony's Well.

This is the spot where water leeches out from the chalk, and is regarded as a sacred site by some believers.  It is the site of pre-historic settlements throughout the ages, and is also the site of a Roman villa.   It is nice to imagine all the people and animals who have stopped here to drink from the spring.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

In Bristol with Members of the Lawrence Art Society of Devizes.

 Art and sculpture by Tree Artists.

The main gallery had a display of paintings and works by people who like trees.  Not only were the finished works on show, but it was possible to see the artist´s sketch books and drafts for the finished works. It was interesting to see how the final painting evolved over time.

 British Wild Life Photography Awards 2014

This gallery showed some of the most beautiful photographs of animals, fish and plant life I have ever seen.  Beside each photo was a short description of how the photo came to be captured, it seems by accident most of the time.   Digital cameras make life easy for a photographer, although a great deal of patience is needed to be in the right place at the right time to capture the best shot.

The Fossil Gallery in Bristol Museum.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Ice on the Canal at Devizes Wharf.

 Ice on the canal at Devizes Wharf.

It was very cold this morning, but the sun seemed higher in the sky, and out of the wind it felt really warm, almost warm enough to sit on a bench and bask in the warmth.  I had that feeling that spring was around the corner, and walked the towpath with a spring in my steps. I hope it last!   The photo shows the old wharf building, now the "Wharf Theatre" to the left near the narrowboats, one of which is the "Kennet and Avon Canal Trust's trip boat, "The Kenavon Venture."     From my viewpoint on the bridge, I'm looking towards Bath.

 A black crow centre, plods over the ice.

 Dog walkers out and about on the towpath.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Rehearsing Vivaldi and Sibelius with Devizes Chamber Choir

 Attempting to sing Vivaldi's "Gloria" with the Devizes Chamber Choir.

We practised the "Qui tollis peccata mundi" on Tuesday evening, a part of the "Gloria" which is difficult to sing, because the notes move in semitones, and we tend to sing them flat!  Our conductor Liz does a wonderful job, trying to get us to sing in tune, but since half the choir were suffering from colds, it was not easy to sing good notes whilst coughing in four parts, soprano, alto, bass and tenor!   Bass coughing produces a really rich resonance!

Enthusiastic Liz.

We rehearse in the hall behind the "Sheep Street Baptist Church," which was, last night, either too hot or too cold!    At first our layers of clothing stay on, then half way through, off come the cardigans and jumpers!   

Apart from the "Gloria" we are working on two other pieces, the "Be Still My Soul" by Sibelius and "Springtime in Fünen" by Carl Nielsen, a rather jolly piece of music describing the island in Denmark where he was born.  Part of the piece is for a children's choir, and some children from a local church will sing with us at the concert on Saturday March 27th at 7.30pm in St John's Church, Devizes.

Studying the music and attempting to sing!

With the basses and tenors in the back row, with the sopranos and altos to the front, we work very hard at producing some good sounds, and it always sounds ok on the night!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A Dusting of Snow in Devizes

St John's Church in sunshine and snow.

This medieval church, one of three in Devizes, is the venue for all my concerts with the Devizes Chamber Choir.   We sing a carol concert here every Christmas, and again at Easter, when we sing a mass or music with a sping time theme.

The Millenium Cross dusted in snow in the churchyard.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Walking the Trowbridge Town Trail.

The mid 19th century Ashton woollen Mill. 

Woollen cloth industry in Trowbridge
Trowbridge developed as a centre for woollen cloth production from the 14th century, and before the start of the reign of the first Tudor monarch, Henry Vll of England, the towns of south-west Wiltshire stood out from the rest of the county with their increasing wealth and prosperity.
Throughout the 17th century the weaving process became increasingly mechanised, which was strongly resisted by the workers in traditional trades, whose jobs were threatened. There were riots in 1785, 1792, and the town became well known for its lawlessness. The invention of the "Flying Shuttle" which increased the speed of the weaving process, crushed the home weaving industry.  Thomas Helliker, a shearman's apprentice and member of the "Luddites,"  became one of the martyrs of the Industrial Revolution, when he was hanged in 1803  in Fisherton Jail, Salisbury, for wrecking the new looms. 

Weavers cottages, where in rooms with wide top windows to gather all the available light, home weavers produced woollen cloth.

The scale of cloth production in Trowbridge in 1820, led the town to being described as the "Manchester of the West."  It had over 20 mills producing woollen cloth, making it comparable to Northern industrial towns such as Rochdale.  

The woollen cloth industry declined in the late 19th century with the advent of ring-spinning and this decline continued throughout the 20th century. However, Trowbridge's West of England cloth maintained a reputation for excellent quality until the end, with the last Salter's Home Mill, closing in 1982.

Trowbridge Museum, housed in part of Salter´s Mill, portrays the history of woollen cloth production in the town and houses an extremely rare "Spinning Jenny" one of only five remaining worldwide. 

Listening to our esteemed leader Joyce,  giving us some history.
 (out of sight in the black hat third from left behind lady in red.)

The Handle House.

Straddling the nearby River Biss is "The Handle House", formerly used for the drying and storaging of teazles, which were used to raise the nap on woollen cloth. This is one of very few such buildings still known to exist in the United Kingdom.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Singing again with Marlborough College Choral Society

 Setting up the Steinway piano

Oh dear, a new year and the start of another season singing in Marlborough.  How time flies, and of course, I'm another year older!  Above you can see the piano being prepared for our first rehearsal last Friday 9th Jan.   It's a smart, newly renovated instrument, and cost something in the region of £75,000 last year.   The old one was taken in part-exchange, and will be recycled for another choral society or school.  We rehearse in the concert hall/theatre at the college, with the concert taking place in March in the chapel.

 The stage, with Ian our accompanist, and part of the choir.

I took these photos on my mobile phone, and the camera cannot cope with too much contrast with the light, hence the almost white stage!  It is brown and wooden in reality.  The sopranos are sitting in the foreground, with some of the altos in the background, and the gentlemen sit between the two sets of ladies!  

We are singing Verdi's "Requiem" a mighty choral work which demands two separate choruses and soloists.   I've never sung the work before, so became somewhat confused when attempting to follow the proper chorus line!

Ian and Alex, the conductor.

A great round of applause goes up when Ian comes onto the stage.  He has retired from teaching, but comes in to accompany us on the piano.   This is Alex's second season conducting us, and it is always good fun, even though we are singing a requiem!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Carl Nielsen - Springtime In Funen (Fynsk Forår)

Devizes Chamber Choir met for the first time in 2015 on Tuesday evening, and we started rehearsing "Springtime in Funen" by Carl Nielsen, a work non of us had previously performed.   We sang the first couple of pages at sight, and realised we might have an uphill battle on our hands.  The sopano line contains some top A's, and last night our voices were sounding squeaky, and completely out of practise

As with all choirs, we are short of men's voices, and last night we sang with only seven tenors and four basses.  The sopranos are the largest section of the choir with nineteen voices,  and the altos come a close second with twelve strong singers.  Our conductor Liz, has sung the piece before, and I think we will sound wonderful when we have worked out what we should be singing!

Carl Nielsen, 9th June 1865 - 3rd October 1931  was a Danish composer, and is widely recognised as Denmark's greatest composer, conductor and violinist.  He was bought up by poor but musically talented parents on the Island of Funen, and demonstrated his musical talents at an early age.  It took some time for his works to be fully appreciated, even in his own country, but Nielsen's works have entered the international repertoire.

Good music and video, a shame about the adverts in the following video!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Walking the "Devizes Bounds" on New Year's Day 2015.

 Walking on "Park Pale" where once a wooden fence would have stood on the ridge to protect the deer park.  The ditch is to the left of the photo.

We do this walk every year on New Year's Day, a tradition established way back in 2007.  It was a damp and miserable morning, so only 10 walkers turned out to brave the drizzle.  The entire Bounds walk is approx 8 miles long, but today we walked the most interesting half, totalling 4 miles.   The walk took around two hours, and on arrival back in Devizes, we had a well earned drink and meal in a local pub.

 Standing and chatting on the line of the old railway.

Devizes castle, now a Victorian folly, which stands on the site of a castle dating from the 12th century.