Calke Abbey – The Chinese Bed

State bed info, Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

The State Bed at Calke Abbey was only discovered in the early 1980s, it was packed away in wooden chests which is just as well as otherwise the Chinese silk would not have been in the pristine condition that we see today.

It’s really difficult to get a good photo of the bed as it’s shut away behind glass within the bedroom, to keep it as safe as possible from damage.
Chinese silk state bed hangings, Calke Abbey

The photos don’t do it justice at all, as it’s absolutely sumptuous in reality.

Chinese silk  hangings, Calke Abbey

There’s a display case in the same room which has some smaller panels of silk in it so you can get a closer look.

Chinese silk, Calke Abbey

It’s thought that the bed hangings were probably a gift from royalty in 1734 when Lady Caroline Manners married Sir Henry Harpur. But they were never used possibly because the rooms in the family’s apartments didn’t have high enough ceilings.

Chinese silk, Calke Abbey

When the National Trust took over Calke Abbey in 1984 they discovered the silk hangings in the chests in the photo below, they are in a room just behind the bedroom. Can you imagine what it must have been like opening up these very ordinary looking chest or kists as we call them in Scotland, and finding all that silk?!

Chinese silk store chest

Balbirnie Park Autumnal Walk

Will you join me on a walk through Balbirnie Park in Fife on a lovely autumnal morning? It was November the 8th.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

There is a reason for the walk, apart from needing the exercise, the destination is the shop where we buy the Guardian.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumn trees

It used to be about a seven minute walk for the paper – there and back, but it takes about 50 minutes now that we’ve moved. Well it keeps us fit – allegedly.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal  trees

The maples are always the best I think, whether they’re bog standard field maples or the more genteel looking Japanese ones.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal trees

Although the Balbirnie estate is a very old one some of the trees which give the best autumn colour have been planted fairly recently.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal trees

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal trees

We’ve had quite a lot of rain recently although luckily a lot of it has been overnight. As you can see below, there’s a mini loch flooding part of the park, but nothing to complain about when compared with the inundations that some poor souls in England have had to put up with recently.

Balbirnie Park , Fife, Scotland

We’re now walking past the golf course, not my favourite use for land but I must admit that they’ve planted it well with lovely trees.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland, golf course

It’s not all manicured though, below is part of the rough and we often end up trying to help golfers find their wayward balls – while thinking to ourselves – how on earth did they manage to hit it in this direction?! I’d give up if I was that bad, but apparently golf is quite addictive. I’m so glad I don’t have an addictive nature, apart from the good chocolate of course, but wheesht – that one’s a secret!

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

We’re on the home stretch now, almost time to get the kettle on and sit down with the paper to read about the crazy things that are going on in this world.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

It might just be this walk that is keeping me/us semi sane!

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

I hope you enjoyed it.

They Grow Not Old – Remembrance Sunday

On Friday we were guests at Perth Academy Remembrance Service which was only attended by a fraction of the school roll because it’s a big school and the hall wouldn’t accommodate them all, but what a lovely lot of youngsters they were.

World War 1 Memorial, Perth Academy, Scotland

As you can see, a lot of ‘old boys’ didn’t return from World War 1. Every year the history department chooses two names from the roll of honour and they research into their background, so that they become real people, not just names. Often some relatives are still living in the area and they are very happy to provide information on what they know of their ancestor. One was a talented footballer, another was an organist, and one modern day pupil once discovered that her family home had at one time been the family home of one of the fallen, so when it came to visiting the battlefields as part of the history course, his grave was sought out and some earth from his old garden was put onto it.

The war memorial is on the wall at the back of the assembly hall so they’re at the centre of things, not tucked away somewhere where they wouldn’t be seen often.

Flowers of the Forest, Perth Academy, Scotland, World War 1

Modern perspex silhouettes of soldiers have been placed in front of the memorial in recent years, sitting at an old double desk just like the ones they would have sat at in school.

World War 1 Memorial, Perth Academy, Scotland

The whole service was impressive, with lovely music from the school orchestra, singing and of course readings.

World War 1 Memorial, Perth Academy, Scotland

I/we went to an old school but I don’t recall anything being done to commemorate Remembrance Day, apart from a minute’s silence at 11 o’clock on the 11th of the 11th. I’m fairly sure that more is now made of Remembrance Day than used to be.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Robert Laurence Binyon apparently wrote the word contemn at the end of the second line, but everyone seems to have changed it to condemn now, which is quite a different meaning as contemn means to scorn, despise or treat with contempt.

Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire

Ashby Castle, Leicestershire,

On our trip down south last month we stayed for one night only at Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire, just because I’ve always been intrigued by the French name of the town. However the road signs pointing to it only say Ashby well let’s face it, it’s a lot easier and cheaper, but it turns out that the town was originally called Ashby – right up until 1086 and the de la Zouch was added on after the Norman conquest when the town became a possession of the La Zouch family, during the reign of Henry III.

Ashby Castle

I had no idea that there was a castle there, it dates from the 12th century, is a short walk from Market Street and although it’s a ruin it’s still well worth a visit. Sir Walter Scott mentions it in Ivanhoe – which might be what g0t me interested in Ashby. In Regency times the town was a popular spa destination. Can you believe that when we drove into the town we couldn’t get down the main street which is Market Street because there was a fair in full swing? It was strung all along the street. I thought it was only St Andrews in Fife that had a fair like that. It made it difficult to see the buildings and not that easy to get into the shops, I doubt if the heavier footfall does anything for the local economy.

As you can see, it was a beautiful blue sky day, and really hot and the local church bells were ringing, probably practising. This seems to be something that happens in England a lot.

Castle + Church bells, Ashby de la Zouch

Ashby Castle, Leicestershire

Ashby Castle Board

The edges of the grounds are a bit wild but beyond this fankle of greenery below is (I think) what was the jousting ground as mentioned in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.
Ashby Castle Jousting Grounds (ivanhoe)

The photo below is a stitch of the castle so looks a wee bit wonky. If you happen to be near Ashby de la Zouch it’s definitely worth a visit, or even if you aren’t near as we travelled quite along way and weren’t disappointed. The town looks like a nice wee place – from what we managed to see of it through fair rides!
Ashby Castle stitch

We climbed up the 96 steps of the castle tower and took a video of the view from the top – where it was quite windy.

Panorama From Tower Ashby de la Zouch

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.