Dumbarton Rock, west Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Last week when we were in Dumbarton, where I grew up and Jack was born, we had a wee walk through the town centre, which like most has seen far better days. Inevitably there were empty shops, but they have tried to jolly things up by covering the shop fronts with these gorgeous photographs of ‘The Rock’. In fact I took the photo on my blog header from the top of this very historic rock which is a volcanic plug. Because of its strategic position at the confluence of two rivers – the Clyde and the Leven – it has been used as a fort and stronghold, and was even used by the army in WW1 and WW2. There’s a tradition (accordng to the author Rosemary Sutcliff) that the Romans had a naval station here and they called it Theodosia, which I believe means given by the gods.

Dumbarton  Rock, west Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Whenever I see this place in the distance I always feel that I’m home. I don’t know who took these photos but they are very good I think, probably the first one was taken by a drone.

Dumbarton  Rock, west Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Peterborough, Cambridgshire, England

It’s over a year since we visited Peterborough in the English county of Cambridgshire. We were on one of our road trips and hadn’t ever been there before, but we had wanted to visit the massive antiques fair that they have in Peterborough for ages. Actually it’s held on a Froday and Saturday unusually, and if we had stuck to our original plan and gone there on the Sunday we would have been very disappointed. As it was we didn’t have much time to look around the city, but we did take some photos of the outside of the large cathedral we were too late to get inside. It was a golden evening in September when we got there. The cathedral has a very interesting history, you can read about it here. Mary, Queen of Scots was originally buried in the cathedral but when her son King James V succeeded to the throne on Queen Elizabeth’s death he had his mother’s body exhumed and re-buried at Westminster Abbey.

Peterborough Cathedral

You can see more images of the cathedral here.

The Norman Arch below is well used as you can see, I believe a car crashed into it a few years ago though.
Norman Arch, Peterborough

But I was fairly amused ot see that the local Pizza Express is housed in a Tudoresque building. I wonder what sorts of businesses these premises have hosted over the centuries. I wouldn’t like to have their insurance bill!

Peterborough Building

I’m hoping to go back to the fair sometime this year and will definitely make sure that we see inside the cathedral then.

Oakham in Rutland

The wee town of Oakham which is the largest in the tiny county of Rutland in England’s East Midlands was in the news a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me that I had never got around to blogging about our visit there last year.

On the news many of the Oakham inhabitants were up in arms about the threat of a McDonalds opening there. Quite understandably really as they didn’t want the quaint old buildings there and the ambience being tainted by the modern plastic golden M that inevitably comes with a branch of McDonalds. It turned out though that the plan was for the outlet to be on the way out of Oakham, so in the end the permission was given. I was thinking to myself that the town has a Wotherspoons in the middle of it, which is hardly upmarket, but not quite as ‘in your face’ as a McDonalds.

Anyway, I dug through the photo files and this is the result. Some of these cottages definitely wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Midsomer Murders.

Oakham , thatched cottage,Rutland

There’s a market twice a week in the town, it’s held near the ancient octagonal pyramidal Buttercross which still has stocks in it as ypou can see below.

Oakham, Buttercross, Rutland

Oakham,thatched cottage, Rutland

I have to say though that the satellite dish attached to a thatched cottage below is almost as incongruous as a McDonalds sign, but people must have their telly choices I suppose.

Thatched House, Oakham, Rutland

The town was ‘en fete’ as you can see from the bunting in the photos below. It’s an undeniably quaint place and I can see why they want to keep it that way in town.

Oakham, Rutland

Oakham, Rutland

On the other hand there’s nowhere for younger people to go to meet friends by the look of it, it might be just a wee bit snooty! Well there is a castle there, but that’s for another blogpost. Meanwhile, those thatched cottages are all very well, but I know for a fact that you have to share them with a lot of small mammals – and some not so small come the cold weather. So my choice would be to live in a converted signal box just like the one below. I love them, it’s a shame this one is still in use as a signal box. Just imagine, you could get the housework over and done with in no time flat!

Oakham , signal box, Rutland

Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline, Fife

On a lovely blue sky day in mid August we were in Dunfermline doing mundane but necessary domestic stuff, but when our wandering took us down to that dip and turn in the High Street which leads to the grand entrance gates of the Pittencrieff Park, we decided it was too nice a day to walk past them. I didn’t have my camera with me so the photo below is from the Wiki page.

Pittencrieff Park gates

So I was only able to take some photos using my phone, which isn’t great but better than nothing. As I recall – it was the day that Fife schools began again after the six weeks summer holidays and as ever Jack was particularly happy that day as he is now retired from teaching! Below is a photo taken from the park of the botanical glasshouses with Dunfermline Abbey and the Palace ruins in the background.

Dunfermline Palace and garden from Pittencreiff Park

The hanging plants looked luscious and I wish I could get mine to look half as good. I think I need to do a lot more plant feeding than I have been doing.

Pittencreiff Park gardens, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

arch Pittencreiff Park, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

Through the archway are some of the formal gardens.

Arch Pittencrieff Park,  Dunfermline

formal gardens, Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline, Fife

apath through Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline

From part of the park you can get a good view of Dunfermline Palace ruins.

Dunfermline Palace and Abbey

There’s a very good website here called The Castles of Scotland and there’s lots of information on the abbey and palace if you’re interested.

If you look carefully at the photo below you will see more or less right in the middle of it the three white looking sort of pyramid shapes which are the cable supports of the new bridge over the River Forth, the Queensferry Crossing.

Queensferry Crossing  Bridge

If you happen to be in Dunfermline it’s definitely worth having a wander around their unusually central Pittencrieff Park. The land for it was gifted to the town by Andrew Carnegie, the town’s most famous son and if there was ever going to be a patron saint of libraries it should be him as he financed so many of them.

St Mary’s Church, Mold, Wales

While we were visiting Gladstone’s Library at Hawarden in North Wales we took a trip to the nearby small town of Mold. It was the morning and seemed like a nice bustling sort of place, full of locals going about their business. On our wanderings around we spotted this old church called St Mary’s which turned out to be quite historic. Sadly we weren’t able to get into it.

St Mary's Church, Mold, Wales

But the information board outside was interesting. The church was built/funded in the 1480s by Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor.
The church was built in thanksgiving for Henry’s victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
St Mary's church info, Mold, Wales

The gravestones seem to have been re-arranged over the years and I doubt if many of them are really marking the actual grave of the person named. Most of them were written in Welsh but it seems to me that Welsh women keep their husband’s name after they die as women do in England too. Of course in Scotland the name on a gravestone is her maiden name, it makes life much easier for people doing family research I think.

St Mary's Church, Mold, Wales, gravestones

St Mary's churchyard . Mold, Wales

It’s a very grand church for such a small town but it’s such a shame that the locals haven’t managed to organise some volunteers to show people around the church – at least during the summer months, and make sure that nobody can vandalise it. Apparently vandalism has been a problem in the past. The old church in the teeny town I live in manages to keep the chuch open with volunteers in the summer, and it’s a focal point for people walking the Fife Pilgrims Way.

St Mary's  stitch

Directly across the road from the church is this Tudor building which has lovely old diamond paned windows. I waited and waited for that car to move, but although the driver was sitting in it he seemed determined just to stay there staring into space. I suspect he moved as soon as we left the area!
Tudor style S (windows)

If you happen to find yourself in the area of Mold it’s worth a visit, but there doesn’t seem to be much else of interest around there, or if there is – we missed it!

Chester

The city of Chester is a lovely place to visit if you want a wee bit of a change from the rural scene in nearby Wales which is where we were staying for a few days when we visited this place. Chester is absolutely choc full of history. We stuck to the townscape but if we had done our homework beforehand we could have visited a Roman amphitheatre and all sorts – next time maybe.

Chester was founded by the Romans in AD 79 and in the photo below you can see that there’s still quite a lot of the original Roman wall that they built around their fort still in existence.

Roman Wall, Chester

Chester Town Hall (maybe)

We didn’t take many photos as there were so many people about, but in the one below you can see the famous Chester Rows – the two tier medieval shops which are still being used as shops today. There are lovely arcades which you can wander around in, keeping dry if it happens to be raining.

Chester Rows

Next time we visit we’ll definitely be aiming for the Roman amphitheatre, which you can see here.

We did visit the Cathedral but that will be in another post.

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

Rye in East Sussex, England

Rye in East Sussex, England, is one of the Cinque Ports and is a lovely place to visit for a few days, I’m not sure what it would be like to live there permanently though as it seems to be one of those places that attracts more than its fair share of tourists – albeit of the more genteel variety. I’ve just googled Rye which I should of course have done before visiting the place because surprise surprise – I didn’t know it all. Anyway the link above is just to the Wiki page as East Sussex also seems to have more than its fair share of bloggers who have written about Rye, I didn’t want to choose between them.

It’s a small medieval town which used to be on the coast but the sea is now two miles away as over the centuries the sea has receded and what used to be the sea is now Romney Marsh. The town still feels coastal though, probably because there are three rivers, the Rother, the Tillingham and the Brede. Rye was a centre for smuggling due to the high taxes on so many goods and one of the smuggling gangs met in The Mermaid Inn. I was amused to see that the house opposite The Mermaid Inn is called The House Opposite. Quirky names seem to be all the rage for houses here, another one was called The One Next Door. I should have written them all down as I’ve forgotten them now.

Unusual shaped windows seem to be a feature of many of the houses.
Timbered house, Rye

triangular window, Rye

Apart from Henry James and E.F. Benson lots of authors were attracted to the place including Rumer Godden, Stephen Crane, H.G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Ford Madox Ford, Monica Edwards, Radclyffe Hall, John Christopher, Malcolm Saville. Joan Aiken was a native of Rye, Sir Paul McCartney and Spike Milligan lived there as did the artist Paul Nash. I wondered why Captain Pugwash featured in the Museum but apparently his creator John Ryan was a resident of Rye although he was born in Edinburgh. Rye is a very popular place to live.

The house below was the artist Paul Nash’s home.

Paul Nash's House, Rye

The house below was used as Mapp and then Lucia’s house in the TV series I’m sure.
Mapp and Lucia's  House, Rye

St Mary’s Church below also featured in Mapp and Lucia.
St Mary's Church, Rye

I’m sure the street below which is just at the church also featured a lot in the TV series with Quaint Irene painting the weatherboarding at one point.

hilly street, Rye

Below is The Mermaid Inn from the back, you can easily imagine it being a favourite meeting place for smugglers.

Mermaid Inn Arch, Rye

I would definitely visit Rye again, if I can brave the horror that is the M25 motorway again. We rarely got above eight miles an hour!

Lamb House in Rye, East Sussex, England

Lamb House, Rye, East Sussex

Since I realised that the Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson were set in Rye in East Sussex I’ve wanted to visit the place, especially as Rye was the location for the TV dramatisations. I certainly wasn’t disappointed as it’s a lovely place albeit one that has more than its fair share of tourists but that’s to be expected I suppose although I was surprised that there were so many German visitors around, I wonder why, is it the Mapp and Lucia aspect? Or maybe it’s Henry James. Both authors lived in Lamb House which used to be the home of the mayor of the town many years ago. It’s difficult to get a good photo of some of the buildings as the streets are so narrow.

The staircase in Lamb House is nice but nothing out of the ordinary really.
Staircase, Lamb House, Rye,

The study below is on the right hand side as you enter the front door. The cabinets are full of Henry James and E.F. Benson books, I had no idea that Benson had written so many.

Lamb House, Rye

Lamb House, Rye

The drawing room below is on the left hand side as you go through the front door and is bigger. There’s a drawing by Beatrix Potter on the wall.

Lamb House, Beatrix Potter

There’s also a framed L.P. of Land of Hope and Glory whose words were written by Arthur Benson, E.F.’s brother.

Lamb House, Rye

Henry James had always admired the house but never thought it would come on the market so when it did he snapped it up and lived there happily for decades. When Henry James died his family agreed to lease the house to E.F. Benson so between the two the house has hosted lots of visits from other writers over the years, but now it belongs to the National Trust and is a popular tourist destination.

The dining room is at the back of the house with doors which lead out to the garden.

Lamb House, dining room, Rye

A lot of entertaining must have gone on in these rooms over the years.
Rye, Lamb House, Henry James,

Only one bedroom is open to the public and it’s quite sparse, but I do love the corner fireplaces in Lamb House.

Lamb House, Rye,

It isn’t a particularly large house and not all of the rooms are open to the public, but I can see why those men both wanted to live in it as it would be a comfortable home and the garden is beautiful, but I’ll leave those photos for another day.

Of course E.F. Benson did end up being Mayor of Rye, for three terms I believe so he must really have thrown himself into the whole community. I don’t think he will ever have had to look far for his characters!

Recent trip – Gladstone’s Library and Rye

Over the last week or so I’ve been gallivanting around parts of the UK, specifically spending three nights at Gladstone’s Library at Hawarden in north Wales. Then on to the south of England – Rye in East Sussex for a couple of nights before going on to Ashby de la Zouch in Staffordshire which is around about the English midlands. Lastly one night in Gateshead in the north of England to visit friends. I enjoyed being away and having a change of scene but it’s lovely to be back home again. Of course, books were bought, but I’ll tell you about those later.

I must admit that I had never even heard of Gladstone’s Library when I was given the mini break as a 60th birthday treat, but since then it seems to be popping up everywhere, even being on TV’s Flog It apparently. Our bedroom decor leaned towards the spartan and the rooms don’t have a TV but they do have a radio if you can’t stand not knowing what’s going on in the news. However as a resident you do get access to the books in the library. I was disappointed when I realised that about 80% of the books are on theology – not a favourite subject for me. However as it turned out there were a few books about the sedition trials of 1794 so I was able to do some interesting research on William Skirving, that distant ancestor of mine who was transported to Australia. As a bookworm it was quite a thrill to be given my own key to the library which is locked at 5 o’clock and when I was in there after hours I was the only one there! Most of the other guests were acquainted with each other and seem to have been church groups or choirs. In the blurb on the place it says that clergymen get a discount. I wonder how much as it’s quite a lot more expensive than places of a similar standard accommodation wise.

I’ve wanted to go to Rye for years as I love E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books and Rye is the setting although in the books it’s called Tilling, named after the River Tillingham which flows through Rye. The town is as quaint as you could wish and it’s easy to imagine the place being awash with smugglers as it was in times past. The American writer Henry James loved the town and eventually managed to buy Lamb House which had been the home of the mayors up until he bought it. He lived there for 25 years and when he died E.F. Benson leased the house from the James family until his death. So the house has been frequented by hordes of writers over the years as they each had friends who also wrote. Lamb House now belongs to the National Trust and the house and garden are definitely worth a visit.

Photos of Gladstone’s Library and Rye will be forthcoming – when I get organised.