Sunday 21 August 2016

Four Delights

sipping from a purple glass

tulips aflame

the dance of summer rains


Take care.

Friday 19 August 2016

On The Prowl In Wolferton

We recently had a look at Dersingham Bog Nature Reserve and popped in to the Royal Railway Station at Wolferton, which is just next door to the Bog. The next post was going to be Wolferton itself but somehow I digressed to other things and the photos of the village remained unpublished.

I didn't take that many pictures, because Wolferton is not a very big place. The first house you see as you enter the village is of rather spooky Gothic design and the sign depicts someone being attacked by a wolf which is the size of an average horse! I expect there's a local legend explaining how the place got its name, but probably the story post-dates the actual name by several centuries.

The houses are all very neat, tidy and well-maintained, for this is an estate village, serving the royal estate at Sandringham. It has a social club but no pub, shop or school. It does however have a horse-racing stud farm and that rarest of all survivals - a working telephone kiosk! And one with planters for flowers too.

We are situated on the outcrop of that distinctive rock known as carrstone, a type of iron-rich sandstone with all the appearance of gingerbread. It's not great as a building stone but it's nevertheless much-used wherever it occurs, in a belt running southwards fro Hunstanton cliffs; local builders everywhere used whatever materials were close to hand.

In order to make decent corners red brick was often utilised; the "almost-but-not-quite-matching" tones of the two building materials causing outrage to the aesthetic sensibilities of some folks, including the landscape writer Jacquetta Hawkes. Personally I wouldn't have found anything jarring in the juxta-position if I hadn't had it pointed out to me.

The Prince Of Wales's feathers are featured on the wall of this house, so presumably he had it built for his estate workers. The AEA stands for Albert Edward (he became King Edward VII on the death of his mother, Queen Victoria) and his wife, Alexandra of Denmark.

The road to Wolferton leads nowhere else, it just loops around and comes back on itself. At the furthest extremity of the loop are views out towards The Wash which would excite any members of the Flat Earth Society!

Looping around past hedgerows thick with roses...

....we come to the old level-crossing house where the Kings Lynn to Hunstanton branch line crossed the road just prior to arriving at the Royal Station.

Tucked away down this corner of the village is the parish church which, though by no means huge, is bigger than might be expected in what is no more than a straggle of houses on a road to nowhere.

A man was tending the graveyard when I arrived and I sat on a wall watching incredulously as he managed to balance all his tools, including a power strimmer, on his bicycle before pedalling off down the lane.

Inside, the church seems to have been little influenced by the royal connection, but harks back to an earlier time, before Queen Victoria purchased Sandringham for her dashing son. Though perhaps this Germanic-looking light-fitting in the porch has a whiff of the Saxe Coburgs about it.

It's a nice enough church inside and there's what looks at first glance to be a medieval "doom" painting on the chancel arch. It may well once have been, but it rather looks as though some well-meaning soul has had a go at re-painting it, not done a very good job, and walked off without finishing it.

We always like a touch of the ghoulish and here are displayed some Early English stone coffins, perhaps from the 12th or 13th century.

Out once more into the sunshine and flowers: life continuing in this isolated corner of Norfolk.

Take care.

Sunday 14 August 2016

On The Bottle?

It's Sunday, so lets visit a church. In this case St Botolph's Church in Cambridge. Saint who? St Botolph - though if you talk to some Cambridge folk you might hear St Bottle's. And the little lane next to it is sometimes called Bottle Lane, rather than Botolph Lane.

And in that little lane stand some interesting old buildings, including No 12, which in the nineteenth century was The Bell, a pub run by Mr Samuel Bowtell in the 1830s, a well-known cricketer in the town.

I can't help wondering if Mr Bowtell's unusual surname is derived from ancestors who lived by St Botolph's. Even if not, then Mr Bottle would be an excellent name for a pub landlord!

But never mind old Samuel, who was St Botolph? 

Botwulf, Botulph, Botulf or Botolph of Thorney was an English abbot and saint who lived sometime around the year 600 AD - and not much more is known about him! He was the patron saint of travellers. 

London had four churches dedicated to St Botolph, standing at Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Aldgate and Billingsgate, the last of these burned down during the Great Fire and was never rebuilt but the others survive. You'll notice that all four places contain the element "gate" indicating the old gates of the city. They were churches for travellers to give thanks for a safe arrival or to pray for a safe journey on leaving the city. Cambridge's St Botoph's also stood at the town's edge, on the road to London.

Stepping inside nowadays one might feel moved to give thanks from being safely delivered from the teeming throng of tourists on the Cambridge streets and into the cool, quiet interior of the church. There is some wonderful Victorian church restoration here by the ever-industrious George Bodley, whose work turns up in lots of Cambridge churches and colleges. I can remember a time when all Victorian work was despised by the self-elected guardians of good taste, nowadays its back in fashion once more.

This rather fine font cover is usually described as Laudian, after the troublesome seventeenth century Archbishop William Laud. Laud was nominally a Protestant but favoured elaborate decoration and ceremony which some thought was dangerously close to Catholic ideas. He was autocratic, pompous and outspoken - an explosive mix to have in seventeenth century England. At the height of his success he became Archbishop of Canterbury, but inevitably, perhaps, it ended with him being beheaded on Tower Hill in 1645.

Something more functional and workaday is the old parish chest where important records and papers were kept. The two locks are an insurance against documents getting lost; two keyholders would have to be present to remove or deposit items.

Our ancestors didn't muck about when it came to death. None of your "passed from this life", "went to sleep" or "resting in peace" for them. "Here Lyeth the Body of JOHN BREWER who died on the 21st of November 1706..." and to make things perfectly clear there's a skull an cross-bones as well.

"Nigh to this place (in hopes of a joyfull Resurrection) lyeth ye body of Hannah ye wife of Robt Roberts by whom she had three children, Robert, Ann, and Hannah, and was a Loving wife & an indulgent Mother she departed this life ye 17th day of August in ye year of our Lord 1711"

A little more sentimental with weeping cherubs but still plenty of skulls around.

This seems to be an elaborate arrangement to allow one person to ring the four church bells. The only such set up I've ever seen. Apparently it's called an Ellercombe chiming apparatus and you can see it in operation here. (Amazing what you can find on YouTube if you take the time to look).

Take care.

Friday 12 August 2016

Scenes From A Summer Saunter

I was planning on going a little further afield, but it was a lovely morning and the temptation to "get out there and get going" was too great to resist. So I opened the back gate and just started walking....

.....past the roses in a cottage garden....past the village primary school standing so quietly and emptily through the summer holidays....past a hopeful "missing cat" notice (do lost cats ever read these things and return home?)

....alongside the little River Mel, sliding along under the green trees....Ducks, Blackbirds and a busy litle Grey Wagtail....

....over a meadow of grazing cattle, staring dully out from their beefy heads full of beefy brains....

now here's a curious thing: a field of wheat, but not like the wheat we grew when I was working on a farm. I remember reading somewhere that the earliest forms of wheat had this "bearded" sort of look. I think the proper name for these bristles is awns, though we always called the ones which grew on barley barley ails.

....beside a hedgerow thick with the beautiful berries of the Guelder Rose....we used to call these "cranberries", though they're not..... overgrown footpath.....yes, it goes straight through there! Luckily there were no nettles and very few brambles....

Harvest Skies - wispy cirrus clouds that would have old Bert confidently predicting "Rain on the way", especially towards the end of harvest when we all wanted an evening off work....

....a patch of cranesbill, backlit by the blazing sunshine.....

....another unfamiliar crop to me. How things move on in the seemingly unchanging English countryside! I think this may be grown for birdseed and might be called "canary grass", though I've never seen a field of it before.....

......beside the River Shep, another of the tiny chalk streams which thread their way through our local patch.....

.....possibly the best sight in farming - a cleared field at harvest time.....

....not everyone was out for a walk; this fine old vintage car passed me in the village of Foxton.

Walker's Log:
    Start: My back door, Meldreth 06.50
    End: Foxton 11.25
    Distance walked:  10.5 miles (17 Km)
    Notable birds: Grey Wagtail, Yellowhammmer, Swallow, House Martin, Swift, Buzzard, Kestrel, Green Woodpecker 
    Mammals: Rabbits, rabbits, rabbits
    Wild flowers: lots of common ones, nothing unusual  
    Churches: Meldreth, Shepreth, Fowlmere, Foxton
    People with dogs: 1
    People enjoying a walk: 2 adults, 2 children
    Cyclists: 2, both under ten years of age.
    Horse riders: 0

Monday 8 August 2016

Corpus Christi

I know, lets go and poke around in another of Cambridge's colleges...

Corpus Christi stands on the same road as Peterhouse, Pembroke, St Catherine's, King's, Gonville & Caius, Trinity and St John's, in other words right in the middle of the touristy bit of the city. Most people see it, lets be honest you can hardly miss such a huge gateway, everybody stands and looks at its bizarre new clock, but few seem to venture inside.

In fact a lot of folks stop at the gate and gawp in at the courtyard but then balk at paying the trivial sum charged for a peek at the rest of the building. Which is a shame as it has at least one feature that you'll not see replicated elsewhere.

Corpus Christi is one of the older colleges, founded in 1352, and is unique among the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge in that it was not founded by royalty or other wealthy backers from outside, but by the townspeople themselves in the shape of the city guilds. Presumably by this time the town, or at least some of its residents, were beginning to see the value of education.

For many years the college lacked a chapel and used the adjacent St Bene't's church, the oldest church in Cambridge, dating back to Saxon times. It's curious to think that when the first college buildings were being planned the tower had already been looking down on the site for over 300 years!

The present chapel dates from 1827 and was designed by William Wilkins along with the rest of New Court - yes all the buildings you've seen so far (apart from the ancient church, of course) are designated as "New", by which is meant nearly 200 years old and it was all designed by Wilkins. If you've been to England you'll almost certainly have seen some of Wilkins' work since he designed the National Gallery and had a large say in the development of Trafalgar Square. 

But we can be fairly sure that he liked his work at Corpus Christi best as he chose to be buried in the chapel.

On the way out I noticed a pair of unusual and elaborate doorstops. The bird represented is a pelican, who, according to legend, stabs her own breast in order to draw blood to nourish her brood. 

The unique feature I promised you is Old Court, parts of which at least date from the founding of the college and give a fairly good impression of what other college courts must have been like. 

There's quite a large plaque to commemorate the fact that the playwrights Christopher Marlowe and John Fletcher both studied at the college. Marlowe was a contemporary of Shakespeare but died at the age of 29. During renovation work on Old Court a painting was uncovered which is believed to be of Marlowe.

Fletcher followed Shakespeare as the writer for the Kingsmen and in his day was highly regarded.

Some of the windows in Old Court are supposed to be the original ones, which were originally designed to hold oiled canvas before the widespread use of glass. I don't know if this is one of those windows but it looks pretty ancient to me.

There is a Master's Garden, which you can't visit, and a Bursar's Garden which you should, if only to see the ancient mulberry tree, the leaves and branches of which overhang the picture above. The tree was allegedly given to the college by King James I as part of his attempt to encourage silk production. I must go back one day and get a better picture of the tree.

Take care.