Rye, East Sussex – again

The Landgate, Rye dates from around 1339 when the powers that were in Rye decided that they need a gate and walls to protect Rye from the sporadic invasions from the French, who managed to burn the whole place down, with only a few stone buildings remaining. We were there early before the shops opened to get this photo sans traffic.

Rye Gates, East Sussex

But as you can see there were still plenty of cars about. Rye seems to have been captured by the French and settled by them several times. We’re all a bunch of mongrels on these British Isles between the Viking invasions and the Norman, Saxon and Angles too, there’s really no such thing as a ‘foreigner’. Not that you would believe that if you witnessed how many times we had to repeat ourselves whilst in England, despite not having strong accents – which is more than could be said for many of the people questioning us! It reminded us of why we only stuck it out in the south of England for a couple of years. I must say that I’ve never NOT been able to understand any accent if the person is speaking English – even if they originate on the other side of the world, so it puzzles me how anyone can be so insular.

The Landgate, Rye, East Sussex

From there it’s a fairly short walk, albeit uphill to Ypres Tower which is nothing to do with the battle in France in WW1. This was used as a prison until the middle of the 1800s for both men and women. Only in comparatively recent times were the sexes separated. The mind boggles at that!

Ypres Tower, Rye, East Sussex

The view in the photo below is the side which would have been nearest the sea.

Ypres Tower, Rye, East Sussex

People who didn’t ‘deserve’ to be imprisoned might just be stuck in the stocks for a length of time where they might be targeted by people who weren’t so unlucky. They wouldn’t have been throwing tomatoes at them I’m sure.

Ypres Tower , (stocks), Rye, East Sussex

From the top of Ypres Tower you can see one of the local rivers which will lead to the sea, eventually. The sea has receded about two miles since Roman times I believe.

view from Ypres Tower, Rye, East Sussex

I think that the presence of three rivers in Rye probably goes some way to explaining how popular the town is as so many people love messing about in wee boats on rivers.

view from Ypres Tower , Rye, East Sussex

The tower in the photo below is what was the women’s prison when they were eventually separated from the men. It’s not very big so I hope there weren’t that many of them.

view from Ypres Tower (Women's prison), Rye, East Sussex

A narrow lane from the castle/tower takes you to The Castle Inn which no doubt supplied plenty of beer to the prisoners over the years. Smugglers who were due to be hanged were taken there for their last two flagons of beer.

Ypres Castle Inn, Rye, East Sussex

A Woodland Walk

A couple of weeks ago we headed out for a woodland walk in Balbirnie, taking a route less well travelled by us as it can get a wee bit boring stravaiging along the same paths all the time. Dust down your virtual walking shoes and accompany me!

Balbirnie path

It was a hot day but setting off through the woodland it wasn’t long before the dappled shade and greenery brought some respite from the humidity.

Balbirnie woodland, Markinch, Fife

Back into strong sunlight, it looks like these trees are dead but the tops are nice and green looking.

Balbirnie Woodland, Markinch, Fife

You’re never far from a golf course in Fife and the Balbirnie course can be seen through the trees below. Someone told me that there are 53 18-hole golf courses in Fife and nobody has ever bothered to count the 9-hole courses – I can believe it!
Balbirnie golf course, Markinch, Fife

I always stop to scrutinise the burn when I reach it, living in hope of seeing some fish, but I’ve only seen a couple over the five years I’ve been that I’ve been looking.
Balbirnie burn, Markinch, Fife

Apparently it’s something to do with the lack of gravel on the bottom that means there’s nowhere for fish to lay their eggs. The environmental people are hoping to sort that out eventually.
Balbirnie burn side, Markinch, Fife

However I did spot this frog, so dark and completely unlike any others I’ve seen before. I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye and thought it was a piece of bark falling off the tree but it turned out to be this frog who realised he had been spotted and was in a tough spot, so I quickly snapped this photo and left him or her in peace.

Balbirnie frog, Markinch, Fife

A rural road skirts the woodland, leading to the for me anyway romantically named village of Star of Markinch.

Fife road , (Star Road)

I hopped across the road to get a better view of the fields. It looks like the harvest has been quite a good one.

Fife Field  stitch

Back over the road again and into the woodland.

Stobcross road , Fife

I had only seen one redwood tree before but coming from a different direction I saw it was actually two planted very closely together, it seems strange.
redwoods, Balbirnie Woodland, Fife

Some doctors here have taken to prescribing patients suffering from anxiety and stress a woodland walk, instead of medication. ‘Bathing’ in forests is becoming quite trendy – and it works I think. I hope you’ve enjoyed this relaxing woodland walk. We did anyway!
Balbirnie woodland, Markinch, Fife

Strathmiglo, Fife , Scotland

I’m not complaining, but on a sweltering hot day when we were on our way north to Perthshire we stopped of at Strathmiglo, instead of just driving past it. We had to get out of that hot car! Below is a photo of the tolbooth which was built in 1734.

Strathmiglo Tolbooth, Fife, Scotland

The kirk/church below would have been a perfect example of Presbyterian austerity if someone hadn’t tacked that completely different coloured stone porch onto it back in 1925. The Monkey Puzzle tree – or Araucaria if you’re a plantsperson or Guardian crossword person – is a beauty though, don’t you think?
Monkey puzzle and Strathmiglo  Kirk

I admit that the photo below isn’t the most scenic, but I do love it when you can stand in a street and see the hills not far away, in this case – the East Lomond.
View of Street, East Lomond

Jack and I are really well matched as we both enjoy mooching around old graveyards and burial grounds (what’s the difference I wonder). He’s normally looking for Commonwealth War Graves, usually of those poor souls who got home from their battleground only to die of their wounds later. I’m seeking out much older stones as you can see from the one below. The date on it is 1713 and at the time skulls were seen as a suitable decoration, a reminder of mortality to anyone looking at it. Sadly half of this stone has sunk down into the grave (I hope it missed the body!) so it isn’t possible to read who’s actually buried here.

old gravestone, Strathmiglo, Fife, Scotland

The one below has sunk even more, but I was amazed by how well it has survived the weather and years, I’m sure this one dates from the 1600s, I believe there was a date on the back of it. I’m impressed by the designs on it. Whoever’s grave it is must have been a gardener or something similar. There are two crossed spades in the middle of the design and the flowers on either side seem to have his initials incorporated into the design – J C being at the end of the stems, with the C looking like a scythe. The flowers have a very modern look somehow – there’s nothing new under the sun!

old gravestone , Strathmiglo, Fife, Scotland

Strathmiglo is definitely worth a look around if you’re passing by that way. There are some rather grand looking houses in the high street too, but it’s a very sleepy wee place nowadays.

I meant to mention before that the road which goes around the side of the church leads to a road called Cash Feus – named because the land belonged to the ancestral family of the Country and Western singer Johnny Cash. Obviously his branch of the family must have been the poor cousins as they took the decison to leave for the New World at some point. However he did come back to visit when he had researched his family tree, but it was the nearby village of Falkland that he went to most as he played some concerts there. I think one of his daughters still visits. Well, there are lots of links between Scots traditional music and country music.

Fife’s Pilgrim Way, Official Opening

Last week I attended the official launch of Fife’s Pilgrim Way. Jack and I were drafted in at the last minute to represent the local Community Council.

Stained Glass, Dunfermline Abbey nave, Fife

I had been under the impression that it was taking place in Dunfermline Abbey but it turned out that it was in the oldest part of it, the nave which was apparently originally the priory which was founded by Queen Margaret of Scotland (King Malcolm’s wife) – or Saint Margaret as she’s sometimes called.

They had an actress speaking as Queen Margaret and some musicians playing appropriate music on old style instruments. It looks rather empty but it did fill up, some people had walked the eight mile stretch of the Pilgrim Way from North Queensferry to the Abbey, they definitely deserved a seat, we stood though, not realising we would be there for over an hour.
Dunfermline Abbey nave,columns 1

The ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown was a Fife MP and lives close to the Pilgrim Way at North Quensferry so he was one of the speakers, the photo of him below is very grainy, zoomed in too close I think.
Gordon Brown, Dunfermline Abbey,

It was really the stone columns that impressed me though, the ones with chevrons are similar to those at Durham Cathedral but have more details, very elegant.
Dunfermline Abbey, nave, Fife

The nave isn’t huge but it is impressive. We didn’t go into the actual abbey where a short religious service was to take place. It is where Robert the Bruce is buried and if you’re interested you can see a previous blogpost of mine about the abbey here.

Dunfermline Abbey nave, upper storeys

Dunfermline Abbey nave, Stained Glass 1

Fife’s Pilgrim Way is 64 miles long and I intend to walk it all – but in various stages. I think I can manage eight miles or so at a time, if I get the bus back home!

Bowhouse, near Crail, Fife

On December the 8th we went to the Bowhouse Market which is held in barns on a farm between Crail and St Monans. I think Bowhouse (Bauhaus) is a pun on the owner’s name which is I think Bowie. For some reason there were alpacas there, I don’t think they’re particularly festive but they were very cute.

alpacas

I got the distinct impression that the alpacas thought we were very strange beings – don’t look at them those two said as they turned their backs on us.
alpacas

After buying some lovely food and drink at the market we drove home admiring a gorgeous sunset which of course the camera didn’t do justice.

sunset  over the Forth

sunset , Fife

It’s obviously a rural part of the county and the road back home is quite a narrow one.
winter sunset , Fife

These houses will have a great view over the Firth of Forth, a sea view seems to be very popular with so many people, and I’m sure it adds lots of value to a house, but I must say I prefer the soft green of hills and field. It probably depends on what you grew up looking at as a youngster. What about you – are you a sea view sort of a person, a hills and meadows fan or do you prefer the bustle of a city and all the culture and conveniences that that brings with it?
winter sunset , Fife

The Favourite – a film

Yesterday afternoon we did something a bit different from usual – we went to the local flicks. There’s rarely anything on that we want to watch because most of the films nowadays seem to be of no interest to us at all, I suppose they’re ‘action’ films – or shoot-emups. Just watching the trailers for them is like a punishment to me as the sound is so loud, the sound effect guys really let rip!

Anyway, I saw an advert on TV for The Favourite, I’m fairly sure it was billed as a comedy but there isn’t really much in the way of comedy in it – a few sarcastic quips which at a stretch (and if they’re not aimed at you) could be deemed to be funny I suppose.

It’s about time that Queen Anne had some attention to her, it makes a nice change from Victoria anyway, she had such a sad life though and The Favourite is set towards the end of her life when she was beset by ill health. Just about the only thing that most of us know about Queen Anne is that she ‘lost’ seventeen children, either from miscarriage, still birth or disease. When you think about that then it’s amazing that she survived as long as she did – and wasn’t completely off her head. I lost one child through miscarriage and that was bad enough I can tell you.

Anyway – back to the film: Sarah Churchill, The Duchess of Marlborough is Queen Anne’s closest friend/secret lover, but Sarah is really ruling the roost as Queen Anne isn’t up to the job, she’s too ill. It’s Sarah who plots with politicians to take the country into war, a war which is being waged by Sarah’s husband, it was the making of him financially.

Sarah’s pretty young cousin Abigail turns up at the palace looking for work and protection, Abigail’s abusive father had gambled her away when she was just fifteen, life has been more than tough for her but Sarah sets her to work as a scullery maid. But Abigail knows about herbs and manages to soothe the sores on the queen’s legs, and so begins the rivalry between the two cousins for the Queen’s affection.

Money is needed for the war and it’s proposed that land tax will be doubled, Anne doesn’t want to be at war with France, she’s only really happy when she’s with her seventeen rabbits, one for every child she lost, named after each dead child. I found it to be terribly sad, but as ever Olivia Colman, who plays Queen Anne was great in the role, she really is very versatile in so many different parts.

Although I mainly enjoyed the film there were a few things that annoyed me – as often happens nowadays the diction of the actors just isn’t clear enough, there were quite a few instances when I hadn’t a clue what was being said. At one point , just after Queen Anne slapped Sarah Churchill I’m sure that Sarah said “It’s okay” If she did say that it is completely wrong. I think there were quite a few speech incongruities like that. When you think of all the money and care put into getting the settings, costumes and make-up correct, modern dialogue should be a simple thing to avoid. For me the ending was too abrupt.

Jack noticed that this film was made by Film 4 – if we had waited six months or so we would have been able to see it on that TV channel – oh well, you see it all in far better detail on the big screen.

If you are interested in her history you can read more about Queen Anne here. She was the last of the Stuart monarchs.

We will remember them

Hooge crater cemetery, Ypres, Belgium,
Hooge Crater Cemetery Panorama of Graves

Langemark German war cemetery, near the village of Langemark, part of the municipality of Langemark-Poelkapelle, Belgium.

German War Graves, Langemark, Belgium

Tyne Cot war cemetery, near Zonnebeke, Belgium

Graves and Memorial Cross, Tyne Cot Cemetery

Aquhorthies Stone Circle

When we were up in Aberdeenshire a few weeks ago we perused the map and I noticed that there were standing stones marked on it, very close to where we were based. I can’t resist standing stones or stone circles – so off we went to find the Aquhorthies Stone Circle.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle info board

Aquhorthies Stone Circle isn’t right by the roadside as many are, but there’s a small car park close by and from there we walked the 400 metres or so to the field with the stones. They’re quite impressive, not on the same scale as the ones in Orkney but still very good.
Aquhorthies Stone Circle

It’s thought that these stones were an aid to farming, with the moon being a guide to the ancient farmers, telling them when it was a good time to plant their seeds. However, I think that’s just one of many theories over the years. I’m fairly sure that the Victorians would have looked at that massive recumbent stone and said – aha, that’s obviously a sacrificial altar stone.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

As you can see from the tractor in thhe background this region is still a farming area.
Aquhorthies Stone Circle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, neolithic monument

Whenever I visit standing stones I can’t resist patting them, but as yet I’ve never had anythig close to an Outlander moment, although some of them definitely do seem to hum and buzz, and they’re all incredibly atmospheric.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle, standing stones, Aberdeenshire, neolithic monumnent, Scotland

And – no I haven’t a clue how Aquhorthies should be pronounced!

Balgonie Castle in Fife

Balgonie Castle

Way back in June we visited Balgonie Castle for the first time. The local history group was having its last talk of the season before breaking up for the summer, and that talk is always at the castle apparently.
Balgonie Castle
It’s a wee bit touristy for my liking but as you can see by one of the signs on this door it has been used as a film location for Outlander – as has just about everywhere that we’ve visited recently! Balgonie Castle is over 700 years old.
Balgonie Castle
The owners do live in the castle and it’s a popular venue for weddings, but quite a lot of it is a ruin.
Balgonie Castle
It all adds to the atmosphere I suppose.
Balgonie Castle

Balgonie Castle

I have to say that I’m quite glad I don’t live in a castle, it was freezing inside although it was a lovely mild June evening.

The history talk was about William Wallace, quite interesting but when you get right down to it – there’s very little known about him.

Apparently Balgonie Castle was used as MacRannoch’s home, where Dougal and the MacKenzies rest ahead of attacking Wentworth Prison. I’m sure I’ve seen that bit but I can’t say I recognised it.

You can read more about the castle here and see more photos, particularly of the inside of the chapel which we didn’t take any photos of.

Backhouse Rossie Estate Gardens, Fife, Scotland part 2

Although the address of the Backhouse Rossie Estate is given as Collessie it’s actually on the road to Auchtermuchty. In the past the estate was famous for daffodils, something to remember in the spring as I’m sure they’ll have a good show of them.
Information Board, Backhouse Rossie Estate
I have to say that I was most impressed with the design and planting at Backhouse Rossie. I love walled gardens, they always feel so comfortable and safe and although I adore historical places I was pleased to see that there are some beautiful modern and thoughtful designs incorporated in the gardens.

The display of plants in pots is a similar idea to the Auricula ‘theatres’ that were popular in the past, especially with the French Huguenots who came to Britain in the 16th century to escape persecution from the French Catholics.

Wall and pots

The ‘DNA’ path below leads to a modern sculpture.
DNA Path

DNA Sculpture

DNA Sculpture info board
The DNA Path from the side, as you can see climbing roses have been trained over the path, but we were just too late to catch them in bloom. This year the roses have come and gone very quickly due to the unusual hot weather. I live in hope of another flush of blooms soon though.
DNA path

Below is an old gateway leading out of the walled garden.
gate to walled garden

It was such a sunny, hot day that I really needed a bit of a sit down, but all of the benches were in bright sunshine, so after looking around all of the garden areas we decided to have a walk in the surrounding woodland.
We walked there via the orchard and the apples have a decent crop on them this year.

apple tree

Somewhere in woodland there was an old tomb to visit, and I can rarely resist a ruin. So we followed the path to the tomb.

Covenanter's Tomb

As you can see there’s not much left of it now. You can read about the Covenanters here.

Covenanter's Tomb

Covenanter's Tomb

The estate is surrounded by farmland and these young bullocks were interested to see us emerging from the woodland. Actually they were very placid, which is not my usual experience of bullocks, so perhaps these ones have been ‘done’.
bullocks

There’s a wee putting green which is nicely situated with a good view of the East Lomond hill in the distance.
lawn and East Lomond

That’s more or less the view that the owners must have from their house below, but that isn’t open to the public.
Backhouse Rossie House

If you’re interested in gardening, or just having lovely walks and a change of scenery then this is a lovely place to visit. You can read more about it here.