Shrewsbury Abbey

We managed to visit quite a few towns during our fairly recent trip to Oswestry, and one of them was Shrewsbury. We had no idea that the town was going to be quite as congested as it is, but thankfully we had already decided to use the very handy and cheap Park and Ride there. The traffic was incredibly heavy and slow moving, it would have been a nightmare driving through it and searching for a parking place. Otherwise we were really impressed with Shrewsbury which has a very high proportion of independent shops, so it’s quite a unique shopping experience – if you’re that way inclined.

But we visited Shrewsbury Abbey which is in the photo below. The abbey was founded in 1083 but a lot of the building was destroyed in the 16th century apparently

Shrewsbury Abbey

It’s not magnificent looking from the outside, but it’s better internally as you can see from the photo below.

Shrewsbury Abbey

Shrewsbury Abbey

I’m sure that one of the stained glass windows is a recent one which was commissioned in memory of the author Ellis Peters/Edith Pargeter, who lived locally. She set her books around the abbey where her character Brother Cadfael was a Benedictine monk.

Shrewsbury Abbey

The window below is very high up and much more ancient.

Shrewsbury Abbey

In the past the abbey has been inundated as you can see from the photo below of a boat in the aisle. The River Severn runs through the town and obviously gets too close for comfort sometimes.

Shrewsbury Abbey

It seems to have been terribly dark when we were in the abbey, but you can see much better images here.

Penrith, Cumbria, England

Last month we made a quick visit to Penrith in Cumbria, the North of England. We were on our way to Oswestry. Despite the fact that we’ve spent years going up and down between Scotland and England for some reason we had never got around to stopping off at this popular market town which is situated close to the Lake District. Actually we ticked two destinations off that day because we also visited Tebay services, a place that I had heard people raving about as the best motorway services in the UK – and they could be right. I was tempted by quite a few things but ended up just buying some lovely things to eat.

Old Style  shop

I’m so glad that the owners of this shop haven’t felt the need to modernise. Drapers, Costumiers and Milliners. Perfect.

Old Style  shop front

Anyway – Penrith is an old-fashioned place, we only gave ourselves an hour to see the sights which wasn’t really long enough, especially as we found a good secondhand bookshop there. We only found the bookshop because we were looking at the old church which is close to the centre of the town. You can see lots of images of St Andrew’s Church here.

Giant's Tombstone

But I was interested in the ‘Giants Grave‘ in the churchyard. It’s supposedly the grave of Owen Caesarius, king of Cumbria between 900 and 937 AD. The hogback stones seem to have been used over large parts of Britain, it’s thought they are Viking grave markers. I’m sure there are some in Fife.

Giant's Grave Stones

Giant's Tombstone

Penrith also has Roman remains nearby, but we didn’t have time to stop off to visit them – another time we will I hope.

On the way out of the churchyard I was amazed to see this old gravestone which is situated very close to the entrance. Mary Noble apparently reached the ripe old age of 107 and died way back in 1828 (I think). It’s amazing to think she was born in 1721, she must have seen quite a few changes over the years.

Aged 107

Much Wenlock, Shropshire, England

I had vaguely heard of Much Wenlock and there’s a bookshop there (it’s on a list) so we decided to visit it when we were staying in Oswestry for a few days. Sadly when we got there the bookshop was closed, but the town is so quaint we were happy just to have a look around it. Much Wenlock is the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games apparently.

The only shop that was open was a terrifying antiques shop. It’s the most jam packed shop I’ve ever been in with towers of ‘stuff’ everywhere, almost all of it very breakable too as the stock seems to consist of 99% china/pottery! We carefully negotiated the piles but were too terrified to pick anything up to look at it, we would probably have had to move six other pieces to get to anything interesting anyway. So breathing carefully, we squeezed out again – heaving a sigh of relief – no damage done.

Wenlock  Priory Board

Back out on the pavement we spotted a sign pointing to the priory and made our way there. There’s actually still quite a lot to see and some of the stonework is very ornate. What is left dates from the 13th century. Luckily English Heritage look after it, so as we’re in Historic Scotland at the moment we didn’t have to pay to get in.

Wenlock Priory Buildings  + Topiary

Wenlock Priory

Wenlock Priory
The priory must have looked fabulous in its day but over the years most of the stones have been recycled for use in local buildings as usually happens with these places.
Wenlock priory
Wenlock Priory
Walking back to the car I took a few photos of some not quite so ancient buildings. The one below is brick built.

Much Wenlock buildings
I particularly like the building below as I can just imagine people hanging over the balcony to chat to people in the street 500 years ago.

Much Wenlock

Much Wenlock Buildings
The building below is the Guildhall and is still in use.

Much Wenlock Buildings
There’s quite a variety of styles around though.
Buildings in Much Wenlock

The village has been used in a few film locations, including the John Cleese film Clockwise.
Much Wenlock Buildings

It would be nice to visit Much Wenlock when it’s actually open, so if we’re ever in that area again we’ll definitely go back.
Much Wenlock Buildings

It has quite an interesting history which you can read about here.

A Winter Walk

A couple of weeks ago we attended a meeting at the local church (no I haven’t got religion!) where there was a local history talk about the Pilgrim Way in Fife. You can see Markinch’s St Drostan’s Church tower in the middle distance.

St Drostan's in the snow

The snow was still lying quite thickly in places, it has been a snowy winter this year and more is forecast for later this week.

Trees

But at least the days are getting longer already. These photos were taken at 4.45 pm, just a couple of weeks previously it would have been pitch black. I suppose the brightness of the snow helped.

There were apparently three paths traversed by pilgrims on their way to St Andrews Cathedral, but this path through woodland leads straight to the church which would have been a resting stage for the pilgrims.

Trees
I think that going on a pilgrimage was a bit like going to a gig nowadays. Something for people to look forward to, a bit of excitement, a chance to meet new people and particularly members of the opposite sex.

Remembrance Sunday

Today’s post is a guest one from A Son of the Rock (Jack).

Poelcapelle War Cemetery, Flanders, Belgium

Poelcapelle is today spelled Poelkapelle. The village is a few miles north-east of Ypres (Ieper.) The British War Cemetery (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) is by the N313 road from Bruges (Brugge) to Ypres.

Poelcapelle War Cemetery,  Belgium

I’ve been to Tyne Cot but nevertheless still gasped when I entered Poelcapelle Cemetery. There are nearly 7,500 burials here, the vast majority, 6,230, of which are “Known unto God”.

View of interior from entrance:-

Interior of Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Graves:-

Graves, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Some of the unidentified soldiers of the Great War:-

War Graves, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Lines of graves:-

Lines of Graves, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance:-

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Memorial to some of those whose earlier graves were destroyed in later battles:-

Memorial Stone, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

As usual the graves are beautifully kept. A Soldier of the Great War, Known unto God and Private F J Patten, Hampshire Regiment, 4/10/17, aged 21:-

Planting, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Two Soldiers of the Great War:-

More Planting, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

There is one World War 2 grave at Poelcapelle. Private R E Mills, Royal Berkshire Regiment, 30/5/1940, aged 19:

WW 2 Grave, Poelcapelle War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance:-

Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance Closer View

Enduring Eye – Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition Exhibition

Enduring Eye – is an exhibition at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. It’s about Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance Expedition and has been on since June but closes in a couple of weeks, we just got around to visiting it a couple of days ago. If you’re near Edinburgh and you’re interested in explorers and the Antarctic then you might find it interesting.

The photographs are amazingly clear and there’s even some film footage of Endurance breaking up as she was crushed by the ice. The expedition was from 1914 to 1917 and of course when they did get back from being marooned on Elephant Island for months the men had a lot of news to catch up with, World War 1 had barely started when they left Blighty.

You can see a lot of Frank Hurley‘s Endurance photographs here. He was an Australian and he went on to become a war photographer and took many of the iconic images of World War 1.

There are some artifacts on display too, but it’s really the photographs that are most interesting. You can see more photos here, mainly of the inside of the ship, showing what it was like for the men.

Bergen (Gateway to the fjords) Norway

I had visited Bergen before when I was eleven years old, on an educational school cruise, sailing on the SS Uganda. I had hardly any memories of the actual town, apart from the fish market that was on the quayside way back then. I think it was probably the horror of that that stuck in my mind. The Bergen housewives chose their fish from small sinks full of writhing live fish. I suppose it meant they were super fresh, I’ve never been keen on fish dead or alive, but I was even less keen on seeing them getting the chop, literally. Anyway the fish market has changed quite a bit, I only saw some crustaceans alive in tanks and the plastic awnings weren’t an improvement.

Street View in Bergen

I had no memories of the old wooden buildings in Bergen, probably because we were taken by bus to the composer Edvard Grieg’s home (he was of Scottish descent) and I have a lot of memories of that. Jack didn’t want to visit there though, so we walked around the town, going a bit further than most people probably. Jack is always on the lookout for art deco style buildings to photograph, and he did find a few but I’ll leave those for him to blog about.

Bryggen, Bergen

Bergen is a very old city, it was probably founded around 1070. In the 13th century it was the capital of Norway and eventually became a city of the Hanseatic League which was a sort of medieval European marketing union. This square was bit more modern though.

A Street in Bergen

After doing a wee bit of shopping we took the funicular railway up a very steep hill to get a good view of the city from above, but I’ll leave that post for another time.

You can see more images of Bergen here.

Earl’s Palace, Birsay, Orkney, Scotland

Earl's Palace , Birsay, Orkney

I’m casting my mind back to early June when we had a week’s holiday in Orkney, it was the first time either of us had been there. The Earl’s Palace at Birsay was one of the places on our list of places to visit.

Earl's Palace  Birsay

It’s a ruin, as you can see but that’s no surprise as it was built between 1569 and 1579. Earl Robert Stewart built it, he was an illegitimate son of King James V – so a half-brother to Mary, Queen of Scots and he obviously had high ambitions for himself. He was a bit of a swine by all accounts – but weren’t they all?!

Earl's Palace  at Birsay, Orkney

His son seems to have been even worse though. I always remind myself when I visit any stately homes or castles that the people who built them only managed to do so because they were the most violent bullies in an age when that was what was needed to get to the top of society. Thinking about it though – I’m not at all sure that things have changed much over the years!

Info Board

Birsay is a very small settlement, but I enjoyed a walk around the graveyard there, that was when I realised that the surnames on Orkney are so different from those in other parts of Scotland. They’re mostly of Viking descent, so no Macs or Mcs here – well very few if any.

The Kitchener Memorial and Marwick Head, Orkney

We were just driving along a very skinny road when we noticed a signpost saying Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head, Orkney. Obviously we knew that Kitchener had drowned not long after the beginning of World War 1 when the ship he was on, HMS Hampshire, hit a German mine, but we had no idea it happened just off Marwick Head. This massive tower was built in his memory.

Kitchener Memorial from path

A view of the Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head, Orkney.

Kitchener Memorial at Marwick Head on Orkney

Marwick Head is absolutely awash with rabbits as you can see, they aren’t at all bothered by humans it seems.

Rabbits

It’s a long way down and it was windy so I wasn’t going to go too close to the edge, some people are thrill seekers though.

More Cliff at Marwick Head, Orkney

It’s a beautiful area and there’s a lovely cliff path if you fancy a long walk. If you click on the photos you can zoom in to enlarge them.

Marwick Head, Orkney

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport

Caught in the Revolution cover

Caught in the Revolution – Petrograd 1917 by Helen Rappaport was published in 2016, is non-fiction accounts of what people witnessed in Petrograd in the run up to the Russian Revolution. This is a subject that I’ve been interested in since ‘doing’ it in second year at Secondary School, so I knew all about the political details but this book focuses on what was happening out in the streets, how events were affecting ordinary people.

It seems that Petrograd was full of foreigners so there were plenty of people writing of their experiences in a chaotic environment. At the beginning the Tsar is still in power and the people (particularly the women) are having to spend hours every day in queues just to get some basic foodstuffs – if they are lucky.

There seemed to be an awful lot of foreigners in Petrograd, including Arthur Ransome of Swallows and Amazons fame although this is before he wrote those books, he was a reporter for the Daily News and Observer. The writer Hugh Walpole was reporting on events for the British Foreign Office, there were lots of people writing diaries, so I found this book to be a really interesting read.

There were plenty of British and American manufacturers there such as a Singer sewing machine factory, Thorntons woollen mill and Coats of Paisley threads company. The revolutionaries encouraged the workers to demand exorbitant wages for a much shorter working week. Basically everybody gave up working and everywhere was filthy.

Sadly of course after the Bolsheviks took over things got even worse for the ordinary people and food was even more scarce than before. Although I’ve read a lot about this period I don’t think I had realised before what an evil swine Lenin was – but he was a clever one.

The Tsar doesn’t really feature much in the book, but as ever I just wanted to grab him and talk some sense into him, but better people than me tried, such as the British Ambassador Sir George Buchanan. I find it bizarre that considering Tsar Nicholas was so close to the British royal family, and his cousin King George V in particular – he just couldn’t contemplate changing the Russian Imperial system to something similar to the British.

Other well known people who were eye witnesses were Somerset Maugham and Emmeline Pankhurst. Maugham’s experiences formed the basis for his Ashenden collection of short stories which were published in 1928.

There were quite a lot of newspaper photographers in Petrograd at this time but there are frustratingly few photos surviving. There are some in this book but nothing of great interest, the book is a great read otherwise.