Shrewsbury – some buildings

As I said in a previous blogpost Shrewsbury is a very busy town, but it’s also quaint and very historic with lots of Tudor timbered buildings. Definitely use the park and ride if you visit the town though as the traffic was a nightmare. On the plus side the policemen were very friendly and helpful.

Shrewsbury Buildings

Shrewsbury buildings

Higgledy-piggledy, holding each other up.

Shrewsbury buildings

The restaurant below will probably look great in the summer when they have their hanging baskets properly planted up.

Shrewsbury Tudor building

But the one below is probably the grandest that we saw. I wonder what it was originally, as you can see it houses a pharmacy nowadays, on the ground floor anyway.

Shrewsbury Building

This and that

Today it was actually quite mild and sunny – at times anyway and I spent most of the day in the garden , still ‘redding up’ (tidying up) weeding and cutting back the dead bits. In fact after the brutal cold weather and snow we had a fortnight ago there are now quite a few fatalities. My rosemary bushes had gone all through the winter fairly happily, but the Easter weather was just too much for them and they’ve had to be chopped right back, I hope they re-grow. It was only today that I realised that my lovely ceanothus (Californian lilac) now has brown leaves instead of the lovely glossy dark green leaves it has had all through the winter. More chopping back required, I find it painful. A few roses have succumbed to the cold weather, but I’m hopeful that they might survive – eventually. Strangely the lavender bushes are all very happy looking, so much for them being tender Mediterranean plants, but my Alpine edelweiss plant looks like it has had it. I’ll leave it in though just in case there’s life in the roots yet.

Over the weekend we were up north in Inverness on a football related jaunt. Friday was freezing and grey, a disappointment as the weather forecast said it would be nice up there. But the sun arrived on Saturday – and there was warmth with it, amazing! When I say warmth it was probably just in double figures celsius, but not long ago it was -5 so I was happy. Can you believe I actually had to put the car window down? Inverness was heaving with people, there were so many tourists, and it being a Friday night we couldn’t get into any of the restaurants that we tried as we hadn’t booked. There was one restaurant that had only four people in it, not a good sign considering how jam packed everywhere else was, but we had no alternative so we gave it a go. It was a Mediterranean eatery (allegedly). It was expensive and it was possibly the worst meal I’ve ever had in a restaurant – AND I came out feeling hungrier than I had been when I went in! Why oh why didn’t I check out the Tripadvisor reviews first?!

The book pile has grown by seven books, I bought some in the Pitlochry bookshops on the way up to Inverness. Then some more in a Dingwall bookshop. Dingwall actually has two secondhand bookshops, amazing. I think maybe the long dark winters in the Scottish Highlands lead to a lot of people picking up books to take themselves to pastures new, for a wee while anyway.

One of the books that I bought was by Rose Tremain. I’ve never read anything by her, but I enjoyed reading this Guardian article last week. Have you read any of her books?

I didn’t take any photos of Inverness itself, but you can see some images here.

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

Dunkeld in Perthshire

It was a sparkling afternoon in October I think when we visted Dunkeld again, just for a walk around the place. Perthshire is well known for having lovely trees.

sheep

Walking around the edge of the cathedral brought us to these sheep that are in the normal sheep stance – head down and chomping away.

Dunkeld sheep

The banks of the River Tay are very close to the remains of the cathedral, so the grass there is manicured compared to the rest of the riverside. It’s a nice place to sit and is just a hop and a skip from the wee town.

River Tay at Dunkeld

The Tay is really a thing of beauty, swift, clean and somehow honest looking, certainly when I compare it with my recent visit to the River Severn. Don’t fall in though! One of our ‘boys’ once kicked our football into it when he was a youngster, I think he thought we would be able to get it back – no chance.

River Tay

Sometimes they have the salmon season opening ceremony at Dunkeld, they pour some whisky into a quaich which is a two handled Scottish drinking vessel and throw it into the river as a blessing. Nowadays if you catch a salmon you have to put it back in the river, after taking photos of it of course. Conservation is important.

One year I remember they had to crack the ice to get a boat onto the river, but I can’t find any videos of that freezing year. I did find one of the 2018 ceremony at Kenmore though, another wee place I’m fond of and I’ve added it to an old Kenmore blogpost of mine. So if you enjoy listening to a pipeband and you’re interested in seeing a River Tay fishing season opening ceremony have a look here.

Fortingall, Perthshire

Way back in August last year we visited the Highland Perthshire village of Fortingall. The village is well known foor its ancient churchyard yew tree which is thought to be over 5,000 years old, apparently the oldest living thing in Europe. Over the years the yew tree has died in the middle, leaving a cave like space in the middle, so sadly there’s no massive tree trunk to hug! Tourists over the years cut bits off the tree as souvenirs so a wall and railings were built around it for protection.

Fortingall Yew

There has been a church there for centuries, the original one dating from the 8th century, but the church there now dates from 1901.

Fortingall Kirk
The surrounding landscape is typical hills covered with what looks like a Forestry Commission plantation. I hope that fewer of these are going to be planted in the future as they don’t look great en masse and when they do cut them down the place is always a scene of devastation.

Fortingall Hills
I believe that it was the local MP who had these gorgeous Arts and Crafts design houses built for the locals, lucky locals I say!
Fortingall Arts and Crafts

Fortingall Arts and Crafts

But the more traditional Scotish houses such as the one below are lovely too, this one had a lovely garden.

A Fortingall house

It looks like an idyllic village, but as always – I wonder what it’s like for young people to live there. I suspect they would just be stuck in the village unless they have parents willing to provide a regular taxi service for them.

Fortingall Arts and Crafts
However there’s a lovely burn for kids to play in in the summer, that’s something that we all did as kids but I have a nasty feeling that parents don’t allow their children to have fun messing about in burns nowadays.

Fortingall Burn

Fortingall is a very small village but like lots of far-flung places it seems to have a great community spirit, when we were there they were having an art festival and quite a few well known artists were exhibiting.

You can see more images of Fortingall here.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace at Stratford-on-Avon

When we visited Oswestry so Jack could go to a football match last month we decided to stay a couple of nights near Stratford too. We had visited Stratford-on-Avon a few times before but hadn’t visited Shakespeare’s birthplace before. This time around we had free entry via Art passes we had been given at Christmas so we thought it would be daft not to visit. The photo below is from the back, there were some actors putting on a bit of one of his plays just to the side of the house.

Shakespeare's House

Below is the house from the front, there’s a wide pedestrianised road between it and the houses opposite which look about the same age.

Shakespeare's House

Below is a photo of the room that Shakespeare was born in although it isn’t the actual bed. The wee oval wooden baby’s crib is of the correct period though, and seeing it I realised for the first time why they were called basinettes in those days as it looks just like a basin.

The small truckle bed was for the boys to sleep in after they outgrew the crib. The ropes look nice and tight for a good night’s sleep. Apparently the girls in those days didn’t have anything so luxurious,they just had to sleep on the ground – typical!

Shakespeare's House

As the boys grew older they moved into the room below, their parents’ bedroom is through the doorway to the left.
Shakespeare's House

A different bedroom is below, they seem to be fond of red and green bed hangings. I wonder if that was the colour of his famous second best bed that he left to Ann Hathaway.
Shakespeare's House

Shakespeare’s father was a glover and below is his small workroom which is on the ground floor of the house.

Shakespeare's House

Although the crib on the left hand side looks very old I gather from the guide that it isn’t original, it’s very cute though. I love the dark carved chest too.

Shakespeare's House

I’ve always had a hankering to have a split door like this one – well maybe not so craggy. I’m not sure what you call them, I think I thought they were called farm doors but I’ve recently heard them described as being Dutch doors. My brother in Holland certainly has one for his front door.

Shakespeare's House

Below is another view of the house from the back. We were quite lucky that it wasn’t too busy when we went around the house. We did try to visit Ann Hathaway’s house earlier but just as we parked the car a tour bus turned up so we decided to give it a miss as it would have been very crowded. If you’re interested in my previous post on Stratford have a look here. Amazingly it was way back in 2012 when I did that one – how time flies.

Shakespeare's House

There’s a lovely old window in the house and over the years lots of famous visitors have scratched their names into the glass, but sadly they didn’t show up in the photo.

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.

RRS Discovery at Dundee

I love ships and there’s something special about lovely old wooden sailing ships and all that rigging, but I can’t imagine ever being brave enough to actually set sail in one – on a long journey anyway. Those chaps who sailed off to explore the Antarctic were incredible. The Royal Research Ship Discovery was launched in 1901.

Mast & lifeboat

Going aboard Discovery the first thing that you notice is the mushroom vents which are fitted on the decks, they’re the equivalent of skylights in a house roof and bring daylight and fresh air below decks, but they’re chunky (well they had to be) and they’re terrible obstacles for anyone getting about on deck, in fact they were nick-named ankle grinders by the crew. There are no portholes in the ship’s hull as they would have weakened the structure.

Mushroom vents

Going down into the hold I was surprised at how small it feels, considering they had to take so much with them in the way of stores.

Store room on RRS Discovery

Below Deck

Equipment Room

The actual living accommodation is quite stylish in an Edwardian sort of a way, with lovely wooden panelling, a bit gentlemen’s club-ish. It was a time when people knew their place in society though so although the officers had really comfortable looking cabins, complete with hanging bookshelves and a dining room the accommodation for the ‘men’ was basic. They just had hammocks slung up in the mess room, eating, sleeping and relaxing (if they ever could) in the same place.
Mess Room
The officers’ wardroom is in the middle of the ship with the officers’ cabins situated just off the room as you can see in the photo below.

Wardroom

I was quite taken with the officers cute wee rooms until I was told that they were the coldest part of the ship and the mattresses regularly froze up as they slept in them.
Officer's Quarters
Captain Scott’s cabin is very comfortable looking.
Scott's Quarters

Shackleton’s cabin below isn’t quite so plush.
Shackleton's Quarters

They had a gramophone player and a harmonium for entertainment, the harmonium is in the exhibition centre and is behind glass, presumably so that people can’t have a go of it. I was amused to see that the cast iron pedals say ‘mouse proof’ on them. It’s impossible to see that with all the reflections though. I suppose that harmonium bellows were made from leather which was apt to be gnawed by rodents.

Harmonium
They also wrote their own newspaper articles – for The South Polar Times – to keep their spirits up, some of them drew cartoons, it was all very light-hearted in a black humorous sort of way. When they got back home they were printed and bound with a very small amount of copies being published. They put on plays and shows with the men inevitably getting togged out in women’s clothing.
South Polar Times

Discovery cost £51,000 to build which is the equivalent of £4.1 million in modern currency. She did have a coal-fired steam engine but relied mainly on sail as they didn’t have enough storage space for the amount of coal required for a long voyage.

The Antarctic expeditions weren’t only about staking a claim on the territory for Britain, they also conducted important science experiments and made great discoveries.
Science Space

RRS Discovery at Dundee

One day last week we decided to make our first ever visit to
RRS Discovery which is permanently berthed at Dundee. It’s the ship that took Scott and Shackleton on their first expedition to Antarctica.

We only live about 15 miles from Dundee and have often driven past Discovery but as both boys went on school trips to visit it seemed silly to take them again, so this was our first visit. The city of Dundee advertises itself as Dundee – City of Discovery which is quite smart as not only is it linked with the ship but it’s also known for the high standard of research that goes on at the Universities and Ninewells Hospital.

RRS Discovery bow part

I love ships in general but getting to go on board Discovery was a real treat. It seems amazing that she is so small but travelled all the way to the Antarctic braving all that ice. She was built in Dundee and that’s why she is berthed there now. The Dundee shipyard was chosen to build her because they were experienced at building whaling ships (it was different times) so they knew how to build incredibly strong ships. Below is a photo of the way Discovery was put together for maximum strength.

Structure of wooden sailing ships

We took loads of photos especially of the cramped space below decks, but I’ll leave that post for another day. In the photo below you can see the newly completed building which is the Scottish outpost of the V&A which is yet to open, I can hardly wait!

Discovery and V&A 2