I was about to start doing my ironing the other day so I had to decide which DVD to watch whilst doing it as I absolutely must have something to distract me from the task, yes the ironing does suffer and I often end up ironing in even more creases but it keeps me semi-sane! Anyway, I plumped for the Mapp and Lucia series by E.F. Benson which I’ve watched several times before but more than anything I just wanted to re-visit the lovely wee town of Rye in the only way that I can at the moment. Lots of Rye locations were used in the filming of the series and they’re all very recognisable. It occurred to me that I had never shown any of the photos of the garden before, not that they’re all that exciting, I hope it was better when the house was owned by E.F. Benson and before him by the American author Henry James, or the several other authors who seem to have lived there in the past. I can see why people love the place despite it being a bit of a tourist Mecca, it was a well known haunt of smugglers in the past, as well as French invaders and the whole place is very atmospheric – and it has a secondhand bookshop!
We planned to visit the Roman parts of the small village of Aldborough on our way back home to Scotland after visiting Bletchley Park recently, and even although the rain was chucking it down we decided to stop off there anyway for a rest and to stretch our legs a wee bit. We did find the ‘Roman town’ but there was a locked gate across the entrance. Due to Covid the English Heritage site was shut. You can have a look at the Aldborough Roman site here. Fingers crossed we’ll actually be able to visit again in the future.
The visit wasn’t a dead loss though as the village itself is lovely even in the rain, and has some interesting old buildings. Apparently the Roman town originally covered the whole of the ‘modern’ town. You can read about it here. The famous Ninth Legion had a base here, until they disappeared!
It was obviously a very important military settlement and I think if I lived there I would be spending a lot of time in the garden digging as a lot of Roman artefacts have been discovered in this area. We only spent about fifteen minutes looking around, due to the weather but I’m looking forward to going back there one day, when/if things ever get back to normal. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister has asked us not to travel out of our own area in these pandemic times.
I can’t see any mention of the very prominent Maypole anywhere on the internet which is strange as I’m fairly sure there aren’t that many around. I ‘discovered’ this village when reading my copy of the AA Book of British Villages (1980) and it states that the maypole is used in the second week of May every year for maypole dancing. It sounds like the village has a good community spirit anyway. There are some lovely Georgian houses, they always make me think of Jane Austen.
There’s something so English about a village green and obviously it should have an oak tree.
This village green boasts a set of stocks too, I imagine that in May and at summer fetes they will be used with local worthies being put in them while people pay and queue up to throw wet sponges at them!
We squelched around the churchyard, St Andrews Church dates from 1330 and replaced the Norman church which had been destroyed by Scottish raiders (ahem) it’s not all that far from the Scottish Border really. It looks like the church has been extended over the years.
I think the wall which surrounds it dates from Roman times but has obviously also been extended. This is definitely a place that we’ll have to visit again.
Here we are back at Bletchley Park, inside the mansion this time, as you can see from the hallway it’s very Victorian.
There’s a lot of oak panelling in the library below, in fact there’s a lot of oak panelling all over the house.
I have no idea what happened to the original books, possibly they were sold off in the 1930s when the house became government property. The shelves have been filled with book club books and a lot of what I suppose can be called domestic fiction. No doubt it’s very down market compared with what was originally on the shelves but if these books had been for sale, I would have been very happy to give some of them a new home!
I think the room below is the brightest and prettiest room in the house, from what we were able to see anyway. It’s done out as an office but must have been a sitting room or drawing room when the house was a home.
There are quite a few very ornate ceilings in the Victorian style.
Including the lovely glass ceiling below in what must have been a garden room or consevatory.
If I’m remembering correctly the room below was the ballroom with its linenfold panelling, not as large as I expected it to be, I calculated that you might be able to fit in four sets of Scottish country dancers for reels, with six people in each set, but it would be plenty big enough if dancers were just waltzing. Rather worryingly this room smelled of damp, I didn’t notice that anywhere else. I noticed in the news last night that Bletchley Park had been awarded over a million pounds, I know where some of it should be spent!
Bletchley Park was a great day out.
Here we are back at Bletchley Park, the World War 2 codebreaking centre. The photo below is of a sentry box which would have been manned or maybe womanned I suppose (or maybe not) by some one asking you for your papers before you could get past the gate.
Below is a corner of Alan Turing’s office, all of the offices are very dark, I don’t think they had any windows which would make sense when you’re keeping things secret but must have made working there even more claustraphobic.
As ever, click the photos if you want to see them enlarged. I find it so sad that Alan Turing was so badly treated by the powers that be – after the war. He certainly didn’t get any thanks for his efforts at winning the war.
Below is a fairly recently made statute of Alan Turing, it seems to have been constructed using pieces of slate piled on top of each other, it’s quite effective though.
The main codebreakers seem to have lived in estate cottages close to the huts and the mansion house, you can’t see inside them but they look very cute from the outside.
I like the design of the leaded glass windows, presumably this was the bathroom.
At least they didn’t have to travel far after a long shift of calculations and code wrangling.
When we drove down south last week for our first time away from home since Covid appeared our first day was entirely taken up by a visit to Bletchley Park, the World War 2 codebreaking centre, it’s close to the new town of Milton Keynes. There was a lot to see. Below is a stitched photo of the country house the building of which began in 1883, originally owned by a financier and politician, by the time he died in the 1930s nobody in his family wanted the house and it was eventually acquired by the government and so became a centre for secret war work. The location was ideal as it has great transport links for London and there was plenty of space in the sprawling estate to accommodate the 8 or 9,000 people who ended up working there. The workers were mainly farmed out to any local people who had a spare bedroom – whether they wanted a lodger or not. The stars of the show though were given estate cottages to live in. At one point there was a queue of people at the right hand door, waiting to go in for their afternoon tea, sadly that had to be booked so we couldn’t partake. We made do with soup and bread from the cafe.
There are still lovely trees and a lake on the estate although obviously lots of the land was built on.
There are ‘huts’ and buildings all over the place, but there are loads more waiting to be refurbished. That’s not going to be cheap going by the amount of ‘danger asbestos’ signs we saw!
Inside the huts are spartan, I don’t think they would have been very comfortable to work in, I felt quite claustrophobic just walking through them for a short time.
Of course they not only had to break codes but also had to translate them from numerous languages such as Japanese as well as German.
They managed to do that using the enigma machines such as the one below, it’s smaller than an old typewriter, there are lots of machines on display.
We took lots of photos but I’ll keep those for future posts. Almost more amazing than the work that went on in this area is the fact that the Germans never had an inkling of its existence which is incredible when you think of the thousands of people who worked here and all the people who lived nearby. It was all ‘hush hush’ and it stayed that way until someone wrote a book about it in 1974. There must have been no spies at the local electricity plant as the amount of power used here to work all the machinery must have been enormous. I can’t imagine people keeping ‘mum’ in that way nowadays.
Last week I scheduled a couple of blogposts prior to going down to England for four days. It was a delayed trip that we had planned to take way back at Easter but of course we were in strict lockdown then and only allowed to travel to get food. We swithered about leaving our area of Scotland which had had very low Coronavirus rates, journeying south seemed chancy. On the other hand the Peterborough area that we were travelling to also had fairly low infection rates so we decided to go, armed with masks and plenty of sanitiser.
We went to the big (mainly outdoor) antiques fair at Peterborough, but it was a bit of a disappointment as so many of the stallholders weren’t there, actually I was surprised that it hadn’t been cancelled. On the plus side I did manage to get some Christmas/birthday presents for Jack that I couldn’t have got elsewhere. My Christmas shopping is mainly finished!
This time around we made sure that we had plenty of time to visit Peterborough Cathedral. I wanted to visit where Katharine of Aragon was buried and the spot where Mary Queen of Scots had been buried, before her son the Scottish King James VI or James I (England) had her disinterred and reburied at Westminster Abbey in the Lady Chapel.
Peterborough Cathedral is interesting, has some wonderful ceilings and floors and has quite a warm and friendly atmosphere which you can’t say for all of these places. As ever I compared it with my favourite Saint Magnus Cathedral on Orkney – it’s still my favourite.
When Katharine of Aragon died she was at Kimbolton Castle in Cambridgeshire. King Henry VIII had her buried at Peterborough Cathedral because it was closest and presumably the cheapest way of doing it, he was obviously glad to be rid of his first wife and was only interested in marrying Anne Boleyn as fast as possible.
Katharine’s personal emblem was a pomegranate which signified fertility, sadly she didn’t have much luck with her pregnancies, but I’m sure the fault lay with her husband. It’s quite touching that someone has laid a couple of pomegranates on her tomb.
Mary, Queen of Scots was originally buried not far from Katharine but now there is just a stone memorial where she lay.
There’s also a much more modern memorial to the World War 1 nurse Edith Cavell who was executed by the Germans, they claimed she was a spy.
The cathedral has lovely mosaic marble floors.
Below is the stained glass in a side chapel.
The main ceiling is painted wood which is very unusual I think.
The photo below was taken two years ago when we first visited Peterborough, but that time we didn’t manage to see inside the cathedral as it was shut, as you can see though – it was a golden evening.
Prior to going Peterborough we visted Bletchley Park, the WW2 codebreaking establishment which was strictly ‘hush hush’ until the 1970s when someone published a book on it which horrified so many who had worked there during the war as they were sworn to secrecy. But that’ll be another post – soonish.
When we were in Wales, about a year ago now we were drawn to what we thought must be a cathedral, you can see it for miles around, but it turned out to be St Giles’ Parish Church. Apparently it’s known as the ‘Wonder of Wales’ and I’m not surprised at that, we didn’t actually get inside it as there seemed to be something going on which we didn’t want to gatecrash, however you can see some fantastic internal photos of it here.
You can read about St Giles’ history here. The tower dates from the 16th century which by comparison with my nearest church in Fife is actually quite modern as St Drostan’s tower dates from the 12th century, but St Giles is much more impressive although both churches were originally founded by the Celtic church, before Catholicism took over.
I am of course not the least bit religious but I’m interested in the buildings and the locations of old churches which are generally located on what had been places of worship for the Druids previously. I find their worship of nature more appealing, minus any human sacrifices, but that might just have been the Romans maligning a local religion!
The gates to St Giles’ from the town are fairly elaborate.
Although we’re members of the Scottish National Trust we haven’t been able to visit any of their properties this year as they’ve obviously all been closed due to Covid. Some of the bigger castles have opened up again, such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, but last week we decided as it was a beautiful day we’d visit nearby Falkland Palace, just to walk in the garden, the palace wasn’t open. You can just walk in and there’s a box for donations.
Falkland Palace was the hunting lodge of the Stuart kings and queens. Built in the 16th century by King James IV and his son James V and modelled in the French style it was also a favourite with Mary, Queen of Scots as it reminded her of the French chateaux of her childhood.
Much of the palace is a romantic ruin, but in the 19th century the third Marquess of Bute had it partly rebuilt.
We quite often just go for a wander around the gardens, there’s a pleasant orchard, although a lot of the trees have been fairly recently planted. In normal times you can have a nice wee sit down on a bench and admire the views, but I believe they’ve been removed due to Covid 19.
Anyway, here are some of the photos I took while we wandered around.
The gate below is obviously modern, it leads through to the orchard some of which you can just see in the background. The apple crop was not nearly as good as usual due to the weather.
Although Falkland has always been popular with tourists it has become even more so in recent years as the village and palace have been used as a location for Outlander. Click on the photos if you want to see them enlarged.
A lot of the wee houses in Culross are owned by the Scottish National Trust and were delapidated and uninhabited until they took them over and renovated them.
Then they rented them out to people, I’m not sure if the houses that I’ve photographed are some of those ones but I think they are. I wish they had kept one of them as a tourist attraction, it’s lovely to visit palaces and stately homes but it can be even more interesting to see how the ordinary people lived back in the 16th and 17th centuries.
It’s strange but looking back I remembered having a hard time picking my way over the stones and boulders that made up the roads but I now see that some of them were tarmacked. In the photo below you can get an idea of how rough some of the roads are. It looks like a great tower house and must have a lovely view over the River Forth.
It’s a pity about the wheelie bins in the photo below – ugly but necessary for the people who live there. Sometimes tourists forget that these are people’s homes and have a good old look through a window, nose pressed to glass. I know someone who did that thinking the house was a museum and got the shock of their life when she saw the woman of the house staring back – it wisnae me!
The merkat cross below is about halfway up the very steep hill that leads to Culross Abbey, it seems a strange place to hold a market, it can’t have been an easy haul up there for any stall holders or shoppers. Maybe they held the market elsewhere despite the merkat cross being here.
On the way back downhill it’s easiest either to walk down the gutter at the side or along the middle of the road where the boulders are bigger and flatter.
Below is a photo that I took close to the top of the hill that leads up to the abbey, looking over to the Firth of Forth. I inadvertently got a cow’s backside in view too!
The beach isn’t the bonniest but apparently it’s very rich in food for seabirds which is the main thing. Culross is definitely worth a visit if you are in or close to Fife.
Last Friday dawned dry and bright, the only dry day in the week, so we decided to drive to the very historic Fife village of Culross, which is pronounced Cooris. Although we’ve visited Culross Palace at least three times we had never tackled the very steep and stony road which leads to the Culross Abbey. It is now a ruin and a lot of the stones from it have been ‘robbed’ to build the nearby manse.
The tower of the abbey church which is in use today stands in what was the middle of the original abbey. It was founded in 1217 by Malcolm, 3rd Earl of Fife. It was home to Cistercian monks who wore white habits.
The metal stairs are very steep, I went down backwards.
And parts of the original abbey can be seen in the manse garden. What a wonderful feature to have in your garden!
The ‘modern’ Abbey Church is still in use, it’s a shame it was closed when we were there, it looks like it would be very interesting internally. I did have a good old mooch around the graveyard though.
I know it isn’t everyone’s idea of a good afternoon out but it hit the spot for me!
If you don’t mind walking up a very steep hill on at times a painfully uneven surface this is an interesting place to visit, as much for the lovely wee houses on the way up as for the grand but ruined abbey. A lot of the houses in the village are now owned and rented out by the Scottish National Trust, they were ruins before they took them over and refurbished them, but I’ll keep the photos of the houses for another blogpost.
You can see more images of the abbey here.