Monday, 24 August 2009

How Goes the Work ??

Progress Report :

Well , it is a bit slow with my Hugglets bears .... but at least I've got most of their little faces on , so that their bodies are not too far behind , having already been stuffed . I have got a lot more to do on the hamsters , and I may have to cross my fingers that I get them finished at all ! Pesky little rodents ...

Of course , not having a holiday would've helped (sewing-wise at least) but then I wouldn't have had the pleasure of criss-crossing the country - Peak District to Somerset - taking in such delights as Chatsworth House , Clifton Suspension Bridge , the S.S.Great Britain , Roman Baths (again this year - whoopee !) on our tour of Bath , with ultra-civilised lunch at The Pump Room , and Longleat safari park and house .... not to mention the fantabulous production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Iolanthe" which the 3 of us so enjoyed at Buxton Opera House ...... pheeeewwwww !!! There's a lot to be said for compressing summer in to a week - and quite a bit more on the subject of all those hotel breakfasts ;when inclusive stuff yourself like you habitually eat that much in the mornings ! Hmmmm , about half a stone more to be said probably - LOL !

Anyway , time is flying on and after so much gadding about I must get back to my needles .
Just time to say a big , heartfelt "Thank you" to Elanor over at Shantock Bears for passing me the Uber Amazing Blog Award - I am so delighted to receive this from such a lovely lady and her beautiful bears and friends :0)

"Uber (synonym to Super) Amazing Blog Award is a blog award given to sites who :
* inspire you
* make you smile and laugh
* or maybe gives amazing information
* a great read
* has an amazing design
* and any other reasons you can think of that make them Uber Amazing !

The rules of this award are :
* put the logo on your blog or post
*nominate at least 5 blogs (can be more) that for you are Uber Amazing !
*let them know that they have received this Uber Amazing award by commenting on their blog.
*share the love and link to the post and person who you received the award from ."

Many thanks Elanor , I'll be passing the award on ASAP .

Ta Ta For Now , Ruth xx

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Ship of the Fens

Before I explain the title can I just advise this is a very long post photo wise so you may wish to get a cup of tea :0) Also , don't forget to click the pics for a larger view .

When I was staying at my parents' house Ashley and I decided to visit Ely Cathedral - the family had stayed away since the admission fee was introduced some years ago , but with time on our hands, and a hankering for architecture, the time felt right . I was also intrigued to read in the paper that there is a stained glass museum on site ..... I didn't know at that point that I would be getting really close to some of the windows themselves ; high , high up near the ceiling !! (what after that post about vertigo ??)

Apparently it costs the diocese of Ely 1 million pounds a year to keep this breath-taking place of worship open - so I have no problem at all with them quite rightly asking casual visitors to contribute to its upkeep . In the past I have felt slightly uncomfortable in these devotional "spaces" but I would urge anyone - no matter their creed or background to enter here without worry , and soak in all there is to see whilst the tranquil peace , built up over centuries , soothes and calms you .

Of course you will need to look upward in here - crane your neck right back in fact to see the most awe-inspiring art and embellishment . The central body of the cathedral dates back to the 14 Hundreds , and was added to through the ages . It is easy to see why it is often referred to as "The Ship of The Fens" ; it was believed that the cathedral held its congregation much like a ship - sailing to salvation - whilst the word "nave" comes from a latin navigational word . The Fens are a vast , flat expanse of land (which had to be drained and dyked to farm it ) and Ely was known as the "isle of Ely" , even having its own docks .Imagine seeing the magnificent white and shimmering cathedral from many miles away , rising out of that landscape ! Upon entering this stone edifice those same on-lookers must have been struck dumb by the towering Norman arches (rounded ones are the oldest) , and enormous pillars .

These beautiful biblical characters were painted on to the wooden ceiling in Victorian times .

Somehow , Ashley assured me I would be fine to take the next tour of the Octagon Tower (the upper most decorated vaulting in the photo above) and before I could demur we had tickets ! I think there were 250 steps ; up to 3 different levels of the cathedral's roof . When you are standing apprehensively on the floor below the ceiling appears to be an awfully long way up in the distance !

Pinnacle of the Octagon Tower

This was the view from the first level of the roof . We wound our way up a tight , narrow staircase , after admiring some of the "second floor" windows on the inside of the building (pictures further on) . There was plenty of space either side under the arches which , way in the past , was fully used during services and I was horrified to learn from the guide that monks would continually cross the void during their prayers along planks of oak! These would have been permanently placed - also one of the first things to be smashed up during the Reformation .

I kept well to the back of the railed walk way whilst we were outside on this level . My knees did feel shaky , and my mouth was very dry ! Soon we went inside again and toiled up the ever ascending stone steps to the Angel vaulting , where the guide opened up all the panels . It made me feel peculiar when Ashley was leaning out to photograph the windows above , and the floor below . We all admired the huge , blackened oak beams which have held up the Octagon tower for more than 450 years .

The Angels were painted in the Victorian period , on huge opening panels

The very centre of the vaulting

Second outer level - view across Ely

I didn't feel nearly as affected by the (dizzying) height here , as the tower top is enclosed in a high wall . By now I was getting used to the "ants" on the ground below ! Ashley pointed out how decorative the pinnacles were - considering only a handful of people could ever have been close enough to marvel at their intricacy.

The amazingly tiny , narrow door we came through on to the leaded roof ! Opposite was the West Tower ;a tour for another day maybe ? 300+ steps up that one I believe ...

The very top of the Octagon Tower

Although we descended down those same shoulder grazing , winding steps it didn't feel as claustrophobic going down in to the dimming light for some reason . Whilst I was truly glad I hadn't wimped out on the experience - as I would have missed the spectacular sights - I was relieved to feel the floor again .
We went to the stained glass museum (set along one of the upper aisles on one side) and marvelled at the beautiful colours ; all achieved by adding different chemicals to the glass mix. The oldest on show date back , unbelievably , to 1260 . By the time we had followed the date progression of the exhibits we finished back at these oldest pieces , and we both agreed that not only were the colours equally as vibrant as later panels , but their form looked positively modernistic ; with wide , bold leading and largely geometrically cut shapes - presumably because at the time only simple shapes could be trimmed out of the glass . Unfortunately no photography was allowed in here , or I would show you the 2 windows Ashley and I felt stood out like shining , inspiring beacons of enlightenment ! Needless to say each was an androgenous angel designed by Edward Burne-Jones , of (my) beloved Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood . The colours were simply stunning ; ditto the drape of their clothing - and I would go again just to sigh in front of them ! (I hope that everyone will ignore that horrid PRB travesty on BBC at the moment .... it has absolutely nothing to do with Art !!!)

I hope that you enjoy the photos ; I had such a wonderful time looking through them all . It's time for me to close now though , so ..

T.T.F.N Ruth XX

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Quiet Reflection

We visited Little Moreton Hall on the Friday and by Sunday I was back in another National Trust property ! This time it was Anglesey Abbey , which is situated in the next village on from where my parents live in Cambridgeshire .

OK , it wasn't the best sunniest weather , and this isn't the finest example of a former Abbey converted to a home - although the interior is interesting in that it has survived as though just left for a few moments by the late owner Lord Fairhaven , and every wall seems to be liberally hung with art works including some by Claude Lorraine and Edward Landseer . What this place does have is a certain contemplative beauty around every corner ; it's slightly indefinable .... like a shy appreciation of nature at its best , it feels like somebody's garden - all be it a spectacularly huge one .

The three of us happily drifted around exploring the Winter Walk with its pretty paper-curling barked trees , the long avenues ( sadly littered with dead Horse-Chestnut leaves as if emulating Autumn ) Dahlia Garden , and restored Lode Flour Mill on the river . Sometimes opening your eyes is all you need for soothing, quiet reflection.

Were the trees watching us too ?

Here's to the calm persuasion of Mother Nature , aided by her gardeners . Enjoy !

T.T.F.N Ruth XX

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Magnificent Moreton Hall

Hi All - I've not been long back from my short break ( 2 weeks to the next one in Bath ; Yipee !) but I thought I'd post up these pictures of fascinating Little Moreton Hall , which I visited the day before going away .

This beautiful National Trust building is not many miles from where I live and it was high time we re-visited . The de Moreton family , who have been traced back as land owners on this site as far as 1216 , were responsible for this slightly haphazard architecture gracing the landscape . The oldest part of the building is a Great Hall built in the 14 hundreds , which was added to and expanded as fashions came and went , and the family fortunes reached their peak in Elizabethan times . Having recently visited Hardwick Hall , and finished a brilliant biography of Bess of Hardwick I was longing to stand in the sort of building which would have been absolutely familiar to any of her contemporaries . The Moretons would have been a wealthy and high standing provincial family rather than perhaps aristocrats - but that only makes the Hall all the more rare for having survived so intact to this day .

(Inner courtyard)

Not everybody knows that the Elizabethans would be surprised to see "Tudor" buildings painted in the "typical" black and white - in fact oak framework was left to fade to that much nicer silver grey , natural colour , and the in-filling wattle and daub was never white ; but stained a light ochre shade . Inside the Hall is a wonderful ground floor room which had been panelled over in Georgian times concealing intricate wall and beam paintings , with a top frieze depicting a moral tale (Suzanne and her Elders ) I just find it staggering that such amazing pieces of "by hand" craft are co-existing with us in our whizzy , high speed world - how lucky we are to take a peep down the telescope of time !

A Long Gallery was added in 1570 - 1580 ; probably as an after thought as they were becoming quite the fashionable place to take an evening stroll rather than the "leads" on the roof .

The roof was tiled with Millstone Grit slabs which shortly began to sink the building and slide off ! Quite a few generations of Moretons continued to wrestle with the sagging structure , until the National Trust finally bought the property and made millions of pounds worth of renovations . Apparently visitors interested in the Long Gallery used to shuffle their way around the extreme edge of the room for fear it might cave in . Now you can walk around safely at will ; the floors slope in unexpected places and many lintels and fireplaces appear to be lurching side ways . One of the guest bedrooms had a horrific camber to it ; sloping away down toward the window , and was in full use in that state for hundreds of years ! I think you would need to build the bed legs up on one side otherwise you'd have recurring nightmares of being on a sinking ship ! Definitely not for the faint hearted house guest !

(Knot Garden re-created in the 1980s)

During the English Civil War the Moreton family began to lose their fortune ; not helped by being Royalists and having to billet 80 of Cromwell's soldiers for months at their own expense . Maybe some buildings have their own angel watching over them though ; preserving them for us all to enjoy ; it was incredible that the hall was not torched and razed to the ground when the soldiers left .

We took a tour with a really excellent guide during which I gleaned these interesting snippets ;

*The straw/grass which was deeply strewn over the floors in the 15th and 16th century was referred to as "thresh" - a plank was needed at the door to hold it all in , which gave rise to the expression stepping over "the threshold".

* Tudor dining halls were laid out with 3 very long tables in a "U" shape where the whole household ate , taking positions at the tables in ranked seniority right down to pot boys and skivvies . An original trestle table can be seen at Little Moreton Hall , constructed from 3 long oak boards joined side by side . This is where we get the expression to "tread the boards" - from when the "boards" were grouped together along one wall to make a stage for travelling performers . Also the words "cupboard" and "sideboard". After meals were finished the boards were turned over to the clean side so that any number of games could be played : "boardgames". I wonder if we refer to working for "bed and board" as it originally implied bed and then meals with the household at the "boards" ??

Well , I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of the past - there'll be more to come soon I promise .

T.T.F.N ,
Ruth xx