Friday, 22 September 2023

Village Identity

Earlier this month I showed you the village of Mistley and one or two of you commented on its superb sign. Many villages have such signs, usually somewhere near the centre of the settlement. It is however quite a new tradition and I remember seeing some of the first examples. Now they are everywhere. Some are carved and painted wood and others are metal silhouettes. Some show similarities that make me think they are the work of the same person, others are so individual that they must be the work of someone in the village.

Did you spot the other side of the Mistley sign? Now I shall have to begin on the next collection!

Take care.

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Cars, Gravestones And All That Jazz

I'm sometimes asked how the churches which I show you manage to raise enough money to pay for their upkeep. It's always a struggle and many organise money-raising events over the year. But there can't be many that have car shows in their churchyards, like my local church does every year.

Lets have a wander around and see what we can find.

Morgan Plus 4 Flat Nose - 1951

MG owners' corner
in the centre an MG TC from 1949

Inside an MG
I love that dashboard

Rolls Royce 20/25 Sports Saloon - 1935
designed to be driven by the owner rather than a chauffeur

"All that jazz" was provided throughout the afternoon
by these fine musicians

There were a few motorbikes too
like this 1950 Ariel 500 with sidecar
and a Triumph Trident 750cc from 1975

This Blackburne 550cc bike dates from 1924

This 1973 Ford Mustang was found rotting in a field...'s had a lot of work done on it since then!

Strange reflections in a highly polished headlamp.

Jaguar E-type 1966

A glimpse of a 1960 Austin Sprite...

...and inside the Sprite

MG WA 2.6L Saloon
Only 297 of these were ever produced,
this is one of just two still on the road in the UK

An Ultima GTR
its 7 litre V8 engine makes it capable of
0-60 mph in 3 seconds
and 0-100 mph in just 6 seconds

At the other end of the scale
this Austin 7 Special from 1937 has an engine of just 747cc
- about the same as the Triumph motorbike we saw earlier.

I'm no "petrol-head" and the details I've given here are from the programme we were given when we paid for entry. But I love to see the cars I remember from my youth, I enjoy the stylish design of the classic models and I can't help but admire the single-minded enthusiasm of those who dedicate thousands of hours of their lives to restoring these wonderful machines.

Take care.

Sunday, 17 September 2023

River Life

Like these young swans, my brother Les and I spent our youth growing up near a river. Our recent walk along the River Stour to Flatford Mill reminded us both just how much we enjoyed a ramble through grassy meadows alongside gently flowing waters.

This time we started off at Godmanchester Nature Reserve in the valley of the Great Ouse. The nature that I was most interested in were the lovely ripe blackberries growing in the hedgerows; I left these over-ripe ones to the Red Admiral butterflies.

The Great Ouse rises from several springs in Northamptonshire and flows along in a perfectly respectable way, gathering the odd tributary stream here and there, till it reaches Brampton. Then it starts to get unruly, dividing and subdividing into several channels some of which later reunite, only to split off into more channels further downstream. The section pictured above is known as Cook's Stream, but it's all part of the Ouse. By the time they reach St Ives the various streams have settled their differences and flow onwards as one.

We rejoined the main river and could soon look across to Hartford Marina. The lower brick-built gable end is Hartford Mill, which isn't a mill at all, but a pub which serves good value meals. We'd be going there after we'd finished our walk.

But I must put thoughts of steak and ale pies out of my mind and concentrate on the maze of river channels and footpaths leading through this late summer landscape.

The photo above was taken where we rather randomly sat down to enjoy a banana and take a drink from our water-bottles. If you've got very sharp eyes you might be able to make out a Grey Heron on the opposite bank, just left of the centre of the picture.

We'd started off with clear blue skies which clouded over during the morning. This is pretty much the "sweet spot" photographically with a nice distribution of blue and white.

This wide valley was, for a time during the nineteenth century, a favourite haunt of landscape artists as they attempted to capture the fleeting light and seasons. They were particularly attracted to the old tumbledown watermills of which there were many at that time. John Constable's earlier paintings along the Stour must obviously have had an influence on them.

Tastes change however and you seldom see anyone painting along here now. Even photographers mostly prefer the mountains, coasts and woodlands of present-day Britain. But it's still mighty popular with those who like messing about in boats, large and small.

"Pastoral" would still describe much of this landscape.

These rowing boats, which are available for hire, are the first sign that we are very close to Houghton Mill, which these days is a National Trust property open to the public. You have to book in advance, but we can still follow the public right of way which passes straight through the building, by means of an archway.

Some years ago I wrote a blogpost about the oddly named Potto Brown, a former owner of the mill. It gives an insight into the life of a rural entrepreneur and a fascinating character. It was under Potto's management that the mill enjoyed its height of importance, as it was far more efficient than the other more ramshackle mills dotted throughout the valley.

In time Houghton Mill was largely replaced by large steam-powered mills in St Ives and Godmanchester. For a while after that it staggered along making animal feed for local farms, later it was used as a youth hostel. The mill's decline didn't bother our man Potto in the least - he owned the new steam-powered mills as well!

We then turned away from the main river, but still had to cross another loop of the Great Ouse via Black Bridge at Hemingford Abbots.

The riverside villages are very desirable (and expensive) and the road through the village led past many large houses and mansions before taking us out on to Eastside Common.

The old railway that linked Cambridge and Huntingdon once passed through here and you can still follow the course of the old line in places, though to be honest you'd do a lot better to follow the tarmac path!

Take care.

Friday, 15 September 2023

Horse Power

As promised, a few pictures of the heavy horses at the Haddenham Steam Rally. If the weather had been cooler I'd planned to spend longer watching the horses being paraded in their show ring. Most of the horse show takes place in the corner of the showground, away from the hustle, bustle and noise of the main show, though some which are shown regularly also enter the main ring. 

The horses didn't seem to be enjoying the heat any more than the human visitors, but their owners quickly led them into the shade to cool off with plenty of water.

And just a few photos of other things that caught my eye.... the chain-saw sculptor....

....the man with his little street organ....

....and some beer suitable for aging bloggers!

Take care.