Friday 29 November 2013

Breakfast With Celia

Time to baffle Meldreth's station master, David, again this morning by buying a ticket for another destination that he doesn't get asked for every day; Wymondham this time. Though as David probably knows there's much to see in that little Norfolk town.

The train departs Wymondham station
Now the first thing to get straight is that it's not pronounced Why-mund-ham at all but Wind 'em, with "wind" as in the blowy stuff and " 'em" as "them" is rendered in some parts. So it's "Wind'em", got it? 

A neat little station - with a faulty clock!

Many of Britain's rural stations are falling into disrepair as they become un-manned stations where you buy your ticket from a machine. Then the buildings become disused and boarded up. It's a great shame because many are of some architectural merit. But Wymonham station has fared rather better than some and often wins awards for the best-kept small station. It has also been used in the TV comedy "Dad's Army" as Walmington-On-Sea station.

Buckets of flowers

The main station buildings are now in use as the "Station Bistro" and I could do with a cup of tea after my journey so...

G E R - Great Eastern Railway
L N E R - London and North Eastern Railway

Inside it's like stepping back into the 1940s, the walls covered with old photos and the seats are all from old railway coaches. A nice open fire too, very cosy.

Railway seats - and even a luggage rack up above

The Bistro takes as its theme the 1945 film Brief Encounter and one of the stars, Celia Johnson, looks down on you while you wait for the waitress to take your order.

The lady and the train

Everyone else in the establishment seemed to be eating breakfast....

Breakfast for two

Although I have no intention to turn "By Stargoose And Hanglands" into a restaurant guide the smell of freshly cooked bacon was too much to resist, especially as the pot of tea came free with the meal. I'd walk it off, I told myself.

Breakfast for one

Now we really must be off to see what Wymondham has to offer. There's a bit of a clue on the door on the way out.

First Class!

Take care.

Sunday 24 November 2013

A Cambridge Compendium

Cambridge To The Core

Sitting on the corner, opposite St Giles' Church in Cambridge, is this strange obelisk.... 

...Whatever can it be? It seems to have some strange carvings on it...

How very odd! Luckily there's an explanatory sign on the wall nearby. It states that it's a work of art by sculptor, Michael Fairfax, which represents the layers of Cambridge's past. On this site an archaeological dig revealed remnants of a Roman street, a first millennium burial site, Saxon and Medieval buildings, a Medieval coin hoard and a nineteenth-century pub. These are all represented at different levels on the column. The sculpture is like a core taken through the various layers.

Walking On Sunshine

Little brass plaques set into the path in a rather random fashion. That man Michael Fairfax again. He calls them Marguerites, though I don't know if there is any deeper significance than something to brighten up the path.


An old and rather battered looking top hat. The crumpled appearance is partly because it's a collapsible hat that can be squashed flat and can then later be encouraged to return to its original shape with a smart punch to the inside of the crown. Who would wear such a thing? Choirboys. Choirboys at Kings College Choir School who would walk across to the Chapel so dressed and then sit on their hats during a service. One of my school friends had one though we never knew if he'd really stolen it from the head of a choirboy or not.

Look Up!

Goodness me! And that's up above Bown's, a very high-class ladies' dress shop. An ancient carving tucked under the jettied upper storey of this old building. It seems to suggest that some very different ladies once occupied the building.


On a summer's day one of the nicest ways to view the famous College Backs (where the colleges of the University back down on to the river) is by a ride on a chauffeured punt. But on a rainy day in late autumn?

Take care.  

Saturday 23 November 2013

More Woodland Scenes

A few more shots from when I was "lost in the woods".

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” 

"Travel and society polish one, but a rolling stone gathers no moss,
 and a little moss is a good thing on a man."
John Burroughs

"All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act
 without benefit of experience."
Henry Miller

“To dwellers in a wood, almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its features.” 
Thomas Hardy

"Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence."
Yoko Ono

"If only one could tell true love from false love
as one can tell mushrooms from toadstools"
Katherine Mansfield

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower"
Albert Camus

"Not for a moment, beautiful aged Walt Whitman,
have I failed to see your beard full of butterflies"
Federico Garcia Lorca

"Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are."
Bertold Brecht 

“I could dance with you till the cows come home. 
Better still, I'll dance with the cows till you come home."
Groucho Marx.

Take care.

Monday 18 November 2013

Rustic Sports

While idling away my time in the Cambridge Folk Museum recently I came upon an old Poster advertising "Rustic Sports" which were held in Cambridge to celebrate the Coronation of Queen Victoria. I tried photographing it but there's no way that I can make it big enough so that you'll be able to read it. So here it is printed out in all its bygone glory...



Rustic Sports
In Celebration of the CORONATION of her Most Gracious
On THURSDAY the 28th day of JUNE, 1838
The Committee appointed for conducting the RUSTIC SPORTS on the approaching 
Festival announce to the Public that the following Amusements will commence
precisely at Four o'clock in the afternoon,  

Well-soaped scaffold poles, stuck up indifferently out of the perpendicular - will be climed for, by youthful  and unsophisticated Cantabs, for Breeches, Legs of Mutton, &c. &c. If any competitor obtains an elevation two yards higher than the top of the pole - it is no go! 
Jumping in Sacks.
A distance of 50 yards by Six Men. Each man to jump in a 4-bushel sack (to be provided by himself for the occasion.) The winner to receive a New Pair of Boots - Second best, a New Hat warranted to fit. - The Third, a Pair of Shoes.

Twelve Boys to eat a Pennyworth of Biscuits each.  The first shall have a Victoria Waistcoat, Second a
New White Beaver Tile. Third, a regular out-and-out Wide -awake. 

A    J I N G L I N G    M A T C H,
Or,  Blind Buff and the Bellman.
The Match will take place in a 24ft roped ring, between 12 young Men, (not less than 18 years of age) for a New pair of Cord Trowsers. The time allowed for the match is 16 minutes; and the Bellman will not be allowed to silence his bell longer than 30 seconds at one time.

By Ten Men blindfolded. The winner in this match to receive a pair of High Shoes. Second best a pair of
Low Shoes.  Third best. a Melton Mowbray cravat, or Coronation Stock!


By 10 men. The tail to be soaped. The First man who twice catches it by the tail, and fairly suspends it over his shoulder to receive the Pig as a prize.

An Elegant, Pie-bald Short-legged Well-fed Curley-tailed Pig
to be run for and caught in the same manner as the first pig for the same prize. - Also two other Royal Pig Races - on the same terms

G R I N N I N G    M A T C H 
This Match will be contested by Men of all ages, and all complexions - alldescriptions of physiognomy - and every degree of ugliness and beauty - whether short or tall, little or big, green or grey - and must be performed according to the usual customs on these occasions, exhibiting,  in Grimaldian excellence and bold relief, the various Contortions of "the Human Face divine"  by peeping through a Pegasian Cravat -or, as the vulgar would profanely designate it - a Horse's  Collar! The party who shall be declared the winner will be rewarded with a bran new pair of Velveteen trousers and a New Wipe. The other competitors will be rewarded with a gallon of Sam Moore's regular right sort, Head-strong, Out-and-out, Strong-bodied, Ram-jam, Come-it-strong, Lift-me-up, Knock-me-down, How-do-ye-like-it, Gen-u-ine Midsummer Green Stingo! and a New Hat each.


To be run for - a Gigantic RAM, of stature and speed remarkable - Positively descended from the Great Derby Ram


By Boys in a Tub of Meal, for Sixpences.
By Six Boys, with their hands tied behind them, for a New Hat.


Twelve Men, (not less than 14 stone weight) to run 100 yards. All complexions eligible -(no bandy legs.) First, New pair Boots. Second, Pair Cord Trousers. Third, Pair of Velveteen Inexpressibles.


Six lads, whose ages will not exceed 15 next grass, to run 100 yards. The winner to receive a pound of the best Souchongacutamaranchoochorigdumfefafumrumpecoeannuscoronatiomirabilis-flavoured Gunpowder Tea & Pair of Shoes! Second Best, A New hat!- Third best, A Waterloo waistcoat.
Twelve Boys, not exceeding 14 years, to run 100 yards. (Three heats) Winner a New Hat. 2d pair Trousers. 3d pair shoes.


By Six Boys. First prize a New Hat. Second, a Pair of High lows.


By not less than 4 Men, for a New Hat. Second best a Coronation Neckcloth. Rolling in River No Prize!


By Six old men, for a new Copper Tea Kettle. The Second best to have a Tin Kettle and Tobacco. TUNE - "GOD SAVE THE QUEEN"


For a handsome New Bridle and a Splendid Whip.
The several Donkeys entered for this Prize will not be ridden by the Owners, but will be contended for after the manner of the feats adopted by the ancients - each Donkey must be rode by an opposite party, not being the Rider of the same Donkey in the last race, and the last Donkey in to be declared the Winner.  The Winner to receive a New Bridle.


The commencement of each sport will be announced by the ringing of a bell.
No carriages, horses, or donkeys, will be suffered on the Ground, except rode by the Stewards, and no stalls or booths erected, but under the direction of the Committee.
Contributions for the Sports sent to Mr Bridges Auction Mart, addressed to the Committee of Sports, will be thankfully received.


A Grand Display of FIREWORKS
will take place on Parker's Piece at 10 o'clock.


Take care.

Sunday 17 November 2013

A Countryside Ramble.

The Greensand Ridge is a barely noticeable geographical feature in the neighbouring county of Bedfordshire. When the chalks and clays of East Anglia were being laid down in shallow seas there were also deposits of sandstone being formed among them. One of the sandstones was the greensand - it's not really very green, more rusty brown with a greenish tinge. As it's harder than other rocks in the area it stands proud of them in a long, low, broken ridge. Someone had the bright idea of making a walking route along it, mostly along already existing rights of way. Here are some photos along the stretch from Sandy to Gamlingay that I walked today.

Just out of the small town of Sandy and up on to "Caesar's Camp",
a hill with evidence of a Roman Fort for those with time to look.
There are definitely some humps and bumps on it!

Even a bit of road walking can be attractive on a day like today.

Down a farm track called Hasell Hedge,
but it's actually the course of a Roman road too.

A working farm - Waterloo Farm, you can probably guess its era.

A field path leads up onto the ridge - such as it is.

Views opening up behind despite the modest elevation.

The church at Everton is made of locally-quarried greensand.
Some of the stone shows a slight greenish hue.

On past an estate farm. 
Long-time Stargoosers might recognise a dovecot in the corner of the yard.

Through parkland with magnificent trees.

And a fine old hall overlooking its grounds.

The ridge walk ends near the village of Gamlingay.
I walked back by a different route.

A different route but equally lovely Autumn scenery.

Take care.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Lost In The Woods

You can't really get lost in Broxbourne Wood or Wormley Wood; the paths are clear on the ground, the popular routes are generously waymarked and, anyway, it's quite a compact area so if you walk in a straight line you're bound to encounter a road or fence which you can follow. So if you're careless enough to get lost then it's "lost" as in "lost in thought" and "careless" as in "without a worldly care".

Autumn is creeping in strangely this year; some trees have embraced the new season with enthusiasm while others choose to ignore the shortening days and are still rampant in their greenery. Grasses and bracken are filled with the same indecision.

Jays and Magpie swear at each other in the treetops while flocks of tits and finches call slyly in the underbrush. And just through here is a small pond where birds sometimes come to drink. As I push open the gate a Woodcock, that enigmatic shadow-speckled bird and master of camouflage, springs up and makes its urgent but off-kilter flight between the trees.

Sun lances in through the branches and momentarily lights a particular tree, leaving others loitering in the gloom. But the low sun will move on, hurrying across the sky, and the woodland floor will be cast in deep shade long before the sun dips slowly beneath some far horizon 

Footsteps fall softly on the damp leaf-litter, pushing through bowing, dew-laden grasses, then descending carefully down a steep slippery slope between mossy banks.

Here in the valley bottom a tiny stream waltzes over the sparkling gravel to join hands with other waters to journey on towards the sea.

Oak, Hornbeam and Silver Birch are falling under autumn's spell. Yellow leaves drift down like butterflies to settle where they may.

A scattering of yellow jewels settle on a forest pool, denting the fragile, reflecting surface with their tiny weight. 

Up above other leaves look down in all their golden glory, one last hurrah before they take their final bow.

Fallen branches support tiny fungi that will, given time, break down the timber to nutrients for new growth. Another turn of the wheel of life.

Just how many fungi can a child kick over before being struck by their architectural elegance - a fan-vaulted ceiling for ground-dwelling insects.

Meanwhile teenagers are trying the same trick with an old tractor; to break it down and return it to the earth! Coming on it through the wood I almost mistook it for some kind of sculpture.

And now the Hornbeams are twisting and writhing to produce their own kind of sculpture. Is it the agony of slow death or a dance of ecstasy?

Now where the devil has that path gone??!!! 

Take care.