Wednesday 31 May 2023

The Moor You See

The cowslips have almost gone now. It was just over a month ago when I was kneeling and rolling in the dewy grass on the "moor" trying to find precisely the right angle to show their poise and beauty. But as the cowslips leave, the buttercups spring up to replace them and I return to repeat my gymnastics on their behalf.


It's not really a moor of course, just some badly drained rough summer pastureland, but that's the local name for such places. At first sight it doesn't look very interesting.

But, like most things in life, the "moor" you look, the "moor" you see!

I make my way, slowly and thoughtlessly, in haphazard fashion, stooping here and there to examine whatever catches my eye. And I seem to be becoming addicted to clamping the long lens on the camera and throwing foregrounds and backgrounds into hazy confusion.

My one and only reader from Japan* (as far as I know) left a comment on a recent blog about the word "bokeh", which photographers use to describe this dreamy out-of-focus effect. Apparently when it's things close to the lens that are blurred it should be referred to as "mae-bokeh" ("front bokeh"). She also adds that it's derived from "bokeru", meaning blurred or senile!

My blurred and senile eye failed to notice the miniscule scrap of life clinging on to the grass stem. It's amazing how often that happens, even when I concentrate hard on what I'm doing.

Backlit buttercups against some colouful "senility"!

In the dark waters of a ditch petals of May blossom sparkle among the fallen leaves.

Aha, the sheep are back! The rather raggle-taggle flock of sheep has once again been put out to graze the eastern part of the moor, beyond the little arch that leads beneath the railway line. I'd better be careful where I kneel in this part of the meadow now. These are Manx Loghtan sheep from the Isle of Man.

And what sort of sheep is this? A very woolly one.

But the above (no woolly answers here) is the flower of a White Campion. The field which last year was full of colourful wild flowers has this year been ploughed up, but a generous border has been left untilled and a walking path mown around the edge.

 Ox-eye Daisies are doing well again this year.

And another portrait of White Campion, with Red Campion forming the fuzzy counterpoint to its crisp purity.

I found some attractive fungi on a fallen tree which detained me for a while.

Architecture for small insects to shelter beneath perhaps.

Cow Parsley along the field edge, like foam brought by the incoming tide. A dandelion "clock" set me to wondering what the time was. Oh dear, I seem to have spent over three hours in some kind of suspended reality - though I'm sure it's done me nothing but good. If it were not for the protests of a hungry stomach I'd gladly tarry longer.

So I'll conclude my dreamtime perambulations here.  I hope that, like me, you were able to....

Take care.

* "my one and only reader from Japan" is better known as Yoko or "stardust" and has a quite wonderful blog which you can follow by clicking on the link to "Stardust Talk". One of the more beautiful places in blogland.

Sunday 28 May 2023

The Beauty Of Water

Back in 1970 retired farmer Billy Knights, then in his 70th year, looked out despairingly on his flooded meadow, which had become too wet for cows to graze. His son jokingly suggested he should make it into a water garden. The older man took a piece of old wallpaper and began drawing up plans.

Within a few years he had a garden good enough to open to the public and he continued to care for his garden till he died aged 93. In 2002 his daughter Coral began restoring the garden as a tribute to her parents. She's still doing the gardening today; we had a pleasant chat with her while we were walking around. It's not a huge garden, but we kept finding new scenes and secrets. Come and have a look....

Gooderstone Water Gardens is what you need to look out for if you're ever nearby - it's just along the narrow road from Oxburgh Hall. Such a peaceful, tranquil place to visit. 

Take care.

Friday 26 May 2023

A Family Home

I suppose I can refer to Oxburgh Hall in north-west Norfolk as a family home. The Bedingfelds have been worrying about the heating bills here for over 500 years and still occupy part of the building today, even though the house and grounds are now in the care of the National Trust and are open to the public.

We would have come here last year, but I learned online that it was undergoing extensive renovations and was covered in scaffolding. The parterre, or French garden, in the foreground above, is on the list of projects for the future. This summer a dig will take place to establish the size and design of the original garden with a view to re-creating it in the coming years.

The house was built in 1482 for Sir Edmund Bedingfeld. Despite being built during the Wars of the Roses, and notwithstanding its moat and crenellations, it was never seriously intended as a defensive fortification, but more as a statement of wealth and power. 

A path leads all the way around the moated building allowing us to absorb the grandeur from all sides. Care for a stroll?

The thing looking like a flag on top of the far tower is actually made of metal and bears the family crest. It also cunningly serves as a lightning conductor.

It must make you feel very grand to have a moat just outside the window.

Swans also enjoy the waterside situation without the expense and responsibilities. They don't even have to pay for admission! 

The Hall itself is not open till 11:00 so we've got time for a walk.

We'll set off passing by the family chapel. The Bedingfelds were Catholics and while that was not a problem when the chapel was built in the 1830s, in earlier times they were severely persecuted for their beliefs. Their refusal to leave the Catholic church cost them very dearly over the centuries.

Such things were far from the mind of this young bull, surrounded by his ladyfolk. I'll let you guess what was occupying his thoughts!

Much of the land around the Hall was sold off long ago, but the National Trust are slowly buying back some of it and restoring it.

This huge rotting tree-stump was what caught my attention.

After a walk of two or three miles the Hall should now be open and with any luck we'll get there before the number of visitors swells during the afternoon.

We need to cross the bridge and pass beneath the Gatehouse.

We looked back at the Gatehouse from the courtyard before entering the house itself. Only a few rooms were open for us to see but it was enough to give us a good idea of what the interior must have been like in its heyday.

Like all stately homes the walls are covered with art, mostly portraits. For the record clockwise from the top we have: King George I (1660-1727), Queen Caroline (1683-1737) as Princess of Wales, Lady Mary Bellings-Arundell (1716-1769) and King George II (1683-1760) as Prince of Wales. Finding Protestant monarchs in a Catholic household shows, I think, the fine line that the family had to constantly tread. The light is kept subdued to preserve the colour in the artworks and furnishings and you may not use a flash for the same reasons. I was surprised how well my camera coped with the lighting (or lack of it!). 

Such light as there was was very posh light, having filtered through this sparkling chandelier!

What always fascinates me, more than the formal portraits, is the craftsmanship on show in the furniture and decor, like this seventeenth-century cabinet made in Antwerp.  I once asked one of the National Trust guides about the number of man-hours involved in making a highly decorated table and was rewarded by an ecstatic elucidation of the process involved - it was as though this elderly gentleman had been waiting years for someone to ask just that question.

The technique he was rhapsodising about was marquetry; the creation of ornate patterns and pictures by inlaying different coloured fragments of wood. Exactly the same method as was used on the chest shown above, every different shape having been precisely cut and then pieced together.

I sincerely hope that the library was less cluttered and better lit in its day.

Mary Geraldine Bedingfeld 1840-1867) keeps an eye on some of the books.

A carving in oak. Just about every surface is decorated in some way, even the corridors and obscure corners.

Sir Henry Bedingfeld (1505-1583) looks sternly down on the tourists and sight-seers. He was Privy Councillor to King Edward VI and Queen Mary I, Lieutenant of the Tower of London, Vice-Chamberlain of the Household and Captain of the Guards - an important man then. And a harsh and wicked one too by some accounts.

This lady was famous enough in her time to have had her portrait painted in such fine clothes, but now no one who climbs the stairs remembers who she was. "Unknown lady painted in the Spanish style" is all the National Trust records.

This large piece of embroidery was worked by Mary, Queen of Scots, during her time in captivity under the watch of the Earl of Shrewsbury.

This is a close-up of just one of the embroidered panels. It shows a knife pruning a vine with a Latin motto which translates as "Virtue flourishes with a wound". It has been interpreted to mean that if the barren vine (Elizabeth) is cut down, then the fruitful one (Mary) will flourish. Who knew that embroidery could be so spiteful?

What I initially took to be wallpaper turns out to be embossed and painted leather! These wall coverings were brought from elsewhere and were already 100 years old when the Bedingfelds had them installed here. Looking back to a glorious past was quite the thing in Victorian times; even if, because of their adherence to Catholicism, the past hadn't always treated them kindly. 

A large and not-very-comfy-looking bed from the nineteenth century, also echoing earlier styles.

And with that we'll make it back down the stairs and outside once more, stopping to take just a few more photos in the garden.

This was the walled garden which would have supplied some of the fresh vegetables for the Hall.

And the floral border which grew cut-flowers to decorate the house, as well as being a pleasant place to wander.

And that concludes our visit. A rather longer post than I usually like to publish, but I couldn't see any way to break it down into shorter chunks without diluting the overwhelming grandeur of Oxburgh Hall Estate.

Take care.