Friday 31 August 2012

In Passing

Another collection of oddities encountered while walking or cycling through this pleasant and constantly surprising land.

The Village Blacksmith

In the days before the invention of the car, and perhaps more importantly the tractor, every village had its Smithy, like this one at Thriplow (no longer in use of course) where horses were shod, metal rims made for cartwheels and many farm implements repaired. The pub name The Three Horseshoes often indicates that a blacksmith once operated nearby and that you could get a pint while he went about his business.

Lucky Horseshoes

Everyone knows that horseshoes are lucky but nobody is sure why! One tale says that a blacksmith once put a horseshoe on the hoof of the devil and that since the devil had a cloven hoof it was very painful for him. The devil kicked the shoe off but he's never forgotten the pain and is reluctant to enter where he sees a horseshoe above the door. Or it may be that people feared the powers of the man who could bend iron; the word blacksmith contains the same element as black magic or black arts. Maybe folk who didn't understand the process thought that horseshoes contained some kind of mystical power. Whatever the reason the person who put up all these horseshoes was taking no chances!

In Disguise

The area around Foster's Mill in Cambridge is being redeveloped. Work on the mill itself was delayed by a major fire. But suddenly, overnight, it seems to be finished! But look closely; the blackened building has been hidden by specially painted sheets hung over the walls. What will they think of next?

Dead Ringers II & III

I recently mourned the loss of our rural phone boxes. But new and exciting uses have been found for the now-redundant kiosks. Like the Olympic display cabinet done by Barrington primary school (above) or the mini-library at Wimpole (below). 


When I travelled through the villages of Hatley St George and East Hatley recently I was, unbeknown to me at the time, on the road trod by my ancestors. My learned cousin, who knows about such things, informs me that in 1770 my great-great-great-great-grandparents, William and Susannah, were married in St George's Church, Hatley.

Here Be Dragons!

Meanwhile in Whaddon I stopped to photograph this village sign. It shows a sheaf of grain and a sheep signifying the importance of agriculture to the settlement. It shows the village pump, which you can still see today. It shows an oak bough, which you will understand if you read this post. And it shows a dinosaur! This is a reference to remains that were found nearby. There aren't any around today. Or are there?

Take care, especially if you're in Whaddon!

Wednesday 29 August 2012

The Fenland Country Show At Quy

The Fenland Show took place at Quy over the weekend. Because so many similar shows this year have been cancelled or curtailed because of the wet weather the show was extended to three days this year. The format was much the same as previous years - why change a winning formula? - so I tried to get around to seeing some of the things I missed last year. I've done a couple of posts which included vintage vehicles recently so here are some photos of this year's show concentrating on people and animals.

Country people, country dogs


Traditional woodcraft

Goshawk, I think

A little jazz in the beer tent

Clay pigeon shooting


More wood craft

Man's best friend

Pictures from last year's event can be viewed here and here.

Take care.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

The Narrow Way

"Encouraging scenes and cheerful blooms along a poorly-surfaced byway" or "Why can't a grown-up, well-educated man find his way unerringly along life's main roads without veering off into the weeds and wilderness?"

Take care.

Monday 27 August 2012

The Gardens Of Anglesey Abbey

The dahlias which I showed you yesterday were but a brief, beautiful but wholly inadequate introduction to the gardens of Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire.

The gardens are surely one of the most successful blends of formal and informal design to be seen anywhere in England and, even more surprisingly, were created within the last eighty years out of a flat acreage of fenland. They were the work of one Urban Huttleston Rogers Broughton, 1st Baron Fairhaven of Lode in the County of Cambridgeshire. 

Lord Fairhaven bought Anglesey Abbey in 1930 and set about his dream of living the traditional life of an English aristocrat and gentleman. This was a strange ambition perhaps for a man who was born an American!

His father's family had become wealthy through engineering and his mother's even richer from oil. They sent their son to Harrow School where presumably his dreams of becoming more English than the English were first born. And more importantly perhaps he had the funds to fulfil his wish.

At a time, the 1930s, when because of the Depression many of the owners of large houses and estates were financially embarrassed, Lord Fairhaven was able to acquire many statues at knock-down prices. There are over 100 pieces of sculpture within the gardens and their presence, in both the formal and informal parts of the garden, holds the whole concept together.

Around the house he made several small formal gardens - the dahlia beds, a semi-circular lawn with a wide border of flowers around the curved edge (and, of course, a statue) is just one. Right next to the house is an attractive rose garden.

The statues in these formal beds are always placed symmetrically with often a central piece adding to the strict design. The effect is not however immune to informal and unexpected interventions.....

I really wish that I could tell you more about the individual statues but as yet my enquiries have only unearthed such statements as "most of the statues have a Biblical or mythological theme".

So for now I'll just have to enjoy their beauty without knowing their origin or name - same as I do with many of the plants in the garden!

Away from the flower-beds there are more statues alongside broad grassy tree-lined avenues and acres of grass for children to run, which makes it a popular destination with families.

Woodland paths, a wildlife discovery area, a riverside path, the winter garden which we looked at when we searched for snowdrops back in February and of course the watermill which we also explored in another post.

And there are plenty of places to stop for your picnic too....

....before going in to explore the house itself to see what Huttleston Broughton made of that!

Take care.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Anglesey Abbey - The Dahlias


Earlier in the year I photographed the wonderful show of snowdrops at Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge. I was back there recently to admire the dahlias. Miserable grey weather was forecast but fortunately they couldn't have been more wrong!

There's a lot more to see besides dahlias of course and more posts will follow.....

Take care.