Pencarrow House at yet a different time…

20190418_144927 copy.jpgWe’ve visited Pencarrow at slightly different times of the year, and it always pays as you see the grounds clad in different clothes as it were. This time it was mid April. Smart Classical house, still lived in by the family. No pics allowed inside.20190418_132718 copy.jpg20190418_144410 copy.jpgAfter our guided tour, with a knowledgeable guide, we decided to once more walk the whole perimeter of the grounds. This used to be a formal Italian garden, but now blends in with the rest of the park.20190418_144451 copy.jpgJust past these trees was the grotto which we hadn’t visited before….20190418_144959 copy.jpgFrances descending to the underworld….20190418_145026 copy.jpgNice views of the house itself on our walk…20190418_145107 copy.jpgMagnificent colours at this time of year….20190418_145231 copy.jpeg20190418_145247 copy.jpegI like the so-called Colonel’s garden with its water feature…20190418_145615 copy.jpgAfter the climb uphill we reach the prehistoric fort with its impressive remains and outline clearly visible…20190418_152102 copy.jpeg20190418_152345 copy.jpgYou then go down the ‘Cathedral’ walk which is particularly magnificent when the trees are leafless….20190418_152904 copy.jpg20190418_152910 copy.jpgThen through the glory of Pencarrow the almost mile-long avenue of Rhododendrons and Azaleas…they really are enormous and laden with flowers..20190418_153522 copy.jpeg20190418_153720 copy.jpegI like to examine individual booms as well……20190418_154124 copy.jpgYou don’t see notices like this in many places….20190418_154600 copy.jpgPencarrow is quite near to us and well-worth the visit. Still, at this time of year it is almost as nice, perhaps better, to be in our own garden which has now come into its own…20190421_102621 copy.jpg20190423_153320 copy.jpeg20190423_153326 copy.jpg20190423_153404 copy.jpg20190423_153430 copy.jpg20190423_153450 copy.jpg20190423_153504 copy.jpg20190423_153523 copy.jpgAnd when we have enjoyed that our local lanes are full of botanical interest. At the moment crammed with bluebells….20190430_172338 copy.jpg20190430_172433 copy.jpeg20190430_172604 copy.jpg20190424_165305 copy.jpgand wild garlic……20190430_173547-copy.jpg20190430_172846 copy.jpg20190430_172604 copy.jpg20190430_172851 copy.jpg20190430_175209 copy.jpgAmongst all the common roadside plants this single orchid stood out…..20190430_175344 copy.jpgand in parts there are still clumps of late primroses…..20190430_175519 copy.jpgAt  the village end of our walk we came across some white bluebells (!)….. 20190430_180133 copy.jpgand some p20190430_180405 copy.jpg

Reading matters…….

a-taste-for-death.jpgI was looking forward very much to reading ‘A Taste For Death’ the novel which P D James herself said she liked best. It’s about number 7 in the extensive Dalgliesh series…….. ‘In the dingy vestry of St. Matthew’s Church, Paddington, two bodies have been found with their throats slashed. One is an alcoholic tramp, whereas the other is Sir Paul Berowne, a baronet and recently resigned Minister of the Crown. Commander Adam Dalgliesh investigates’. The novel has indeed received high praise from many different sources…..”Rings of authenticity … compelling……literary grace of a high order……splendidly suspenseful….etc”. I have to admit I found it none of these things. There was little plot, the pace was absolutely pedestrian. I found it unconvincing and not writtthe height of literary expertise. Of the other Dalgliesh novels I have read, one was terrific, and now two have been very disappointing. The question is shall I try any more ?

The full title of this book is ‘The Secret Barrister : Stories of the Law and How It’s 819XFFNxV6L copy.jpgBroken’. A little confusing, but meaning how the legal system we have is broken, not how to break the Law! It all started with a Junior Barrister’s anonymous blog where he discusses how difficult it is to do his job any more, and how much we need to do to remedy our legal system which he demonstrates time and time again is not ‘fit for purpose’. In the book he does this by examining every aspect of the Law, par as he comes across it, illustrating with often real-life cases. To keep things entertaining he sometimes resorts to fictional cases which nevertheless are utterly believable. Basically he demonstrates convincingly (backed up with wonderful research and statistics) that the continual cuts on funding for maintaining our Justice system have not only broken it but got to the stage where ‘Justice’ as we all understand it cannot be guaranteed any more. Believe me this is a frightening thesis. Any of us can come face to face with the Law through no fault of our own and, if we did, we would sure want someone like ‘the secret barrister’ on our side, working his or her guts out for less than the living wage and all because he really and truly believes in ‘Justice’. What is revealed in the book is nothing less than scandalous, and we should all be determined to do something about it.

31kuygda4BL._SR600,315_PIWhiteStrip,BottomLeft,0,35_PIAmznPrime,BottomLeft,0,-5_PIStarRatingFOUR,BottomLeft,360,-6_SR600,315_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpeg‘A History of Sandbach and District Etc’ is one of the reprints from its digitised collection of historical books and documents. As such it is not amazing quality, but nevertheless serves a purpose. Tomlinson the author of this 1899 work was obviously a keen amateur historian and lover of Sandbach where he lived. Its slim 50 pages or so gives am impression of Sandbach 100 years before this, and a summary of the history before that of the main buildings. One of the most interesting bits of his research concerns the two Saxon crosses in the Market Square, how they were purloined by a local landowner in Georgian times (as so much was purloined from the Grand Tours….), and subsequently broken into pieces and used as foundation for a house, garden ornament and goodness knows what. It is thanks to the Victorian efforts of someone appointed by the town to research where the crosses were and to the skill of the Architect of Manchester that nearly all the pieces were recovered and reassembled. Quite amazing in many ways.

“The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total 9781405919463.jpgtransformation. Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages. Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other.                                                                                                      Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined. For behind the retreat’s glamorous facade lies a dark agenda. These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them…” A fair summary. If you can suspend your disbelief just a little (I don’t usually, but for this I did), then this is a thriller with a twist. Characterisation – good. Setting – you could be there. Plot – exciting. The Australian author Liane Moriarty really gets under her characters skin and writes an entertaining thriller which amuses at the same time. Quite an accomplishment.

41HLuI8i9fL._SX290_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg‘The Buildings of England : Cheshire’  was a book I had to have if we are to up and move to Cheshire. As I have said the new series of Pevsner guides is superior to the originals and much more up-to-date, as well as being willing to throw in the odd bit of humour and irreverence. I don’t think Pevsner for instance would have written of Thornton-Le-Moors “Seen always against the vast Stanley oil refinery, with it serried rows of tanks, silver pipework and flaming chimneys. Decibel level and stink quotient are high”!   If you are at all interested in your built environment and the history of where you live, these books are absolutely indispensable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading matters……

Unknown.jpeg‘Friends At Court’ was the book that inspired me to take up the Law……I never did. But the fascination remains. A judge has said ‘No-one has ever caught more precisely or wittily the atmosphere of litigation’, and this certainly comes through. Although very witty at times, at other times you feel you are in the hands of a barrister ( I nearly wrote barista) who is talking about real cases in which he is himself involved. I am sure that much is taken from real life. As this was published in 1956 you might think that it would be very old-fashioned. It isn’t. The law changes slowly. having read this I was looking forward to the other ‘Brothers In Law’ Penguin we have on our shelves, but my wife cautioned it started off well but got very silly indeed. I don’t know whether to read or not. problems, problems.Having liked the P D James Dalgleish novels that I have read I thought I wouldgetimage-18-651x1024-copy.jpeg start at the beginning and read the first couple in a long, long series. However my plans went awry when the first arrived. It was half in French and half in English. I just couldn’t read it. I therefore had to start with the second in the series ‘Cover Her Face’. I have to say that although quite well written, it was a little turgid, and I soon spotted the perpetrator of the murder which in a ‘Who Dunnit’ is not really a good sign. It reads like a second novel. having enjoyed the depth and the literary excellence of later novels it perhaps was a mistake to return to the beginning!                                                                                                                                             8533d57736153adf6bcf90a50851c681.jpgI try not to buy books for the sake of it, particularly now that we are retired, but some of the Folio books on our shelves have been sitting for a long time just looking good. I am working my way through them and it is a pleasure to read such well-formed books with often top-quality illustrations. In fact I am sure Folio could do good business selling the illustrations as prints. The covers are good too….this is ‘Dracula’. Now we all think we know the story, but how many of us have truly read this novel? I steer away from anything vaguely relating to Fantasy. I personally regard it as somewhat childish. I did enjoy Fantasy at school, but surely I am past that now. Well this is the book that put paid to that argument. It is Fantasy but it is exceedingly well-written on the whole and, although long, it is gripping. I wanted to get  to bed each night to read more. I have to say I really, really enjoyed it. The limited cast of characters are very well-drawn and the atmosphere unsettling. The fact that a lot of the story is told through various people’s journals also adds to the pot. If you haven’t read it now’s the time.         1709151 copy.JPG                                  Another beautiful Folio, this time ‘Brideshead Revisited’ .Now everyone must have read this or seen the film or seen it on TV but it amply pays a re-read. If you can get yourself this Folio edition it is certainly worth the investment. Background…..Charles Ryder’s cousin warned him against taking rooms on the ground floor of his Oxford college, so when the young Lord Sebastian Flyte is sick through his window, it seems he should have heeded the advice. However, no one is immune to Sebastian’s inimitable charm and soon a relationship develops that will change Charles’s life for ever. Chosen as one of Time magazine’s 100 greatest novels of all time, this is Waugh’s most popular book, combining aching sympathy for the passing of privilege with the best of his razor-sharp wit. You feel the time and place you really do………….22cd54af39caaed636c664a6f77434b41716b42.jpg

 

A week in the heart of rural England…..part 5

20190326_135201 copy.jpgOn our last full day we drove south to Hednesford to meet F’s long-lost cousin Philip. Well a cousin she knew nothing about at all til recently. He had been in touch because of a clue thrown up in researching the family history. F’s grandfather was a miners leader and Mayor of Tamworth, and his brothers were all miners. Philip’s grandfather was one of the brothers. Thus it was that we met him for a nice chat and for him to show us where he had got to, and then he took us to the nearby Museum of Cannock Chase a lot of whose exhibits are to do with mining which proliferated around here. The museum site was once home to the Valley Colliery, the training pit for thousands of young men beginning their working lives in the local coal industry.20190326_133852 copy.jpgHednesford as with any ex mining community has seen better days and lost its soul along with the industry. What was impressive in terms of its buildings was, of all things, the Wetherspoons which was a summer retreat for the brother of Prime Minister Peel. A fine building indeed.20190326_140352 copy.jpegWe also liked the mining sculpture……20190326_140543 copy.jpgand the hundreds and hundreds of memorial bricks set around it and filling the square…20190326_140253.jpegAn interesting interlude which I hope will lead to further findings.20190326_141022 copy.jpgSo far, the following entry in Wikipedia gives some hope…..

George Henry Jones (1884 – December 1958) was a British trade unionist and politician.

Born in Hednesford, Jones began working as a pit-boy at an early age.[1] He became active in the Cannock Chase Miners’ Association, and was elected as its president in 1912. In 1914, he became the full-time general secretary and agent for the North Warwickshire Miners’ Association, and then in 1919 became general secretary and agent for the larger Warwickshire Miners’ Association.[1]

Jones was also active in the Labour Party, serving on Tamworth Town Council, and he stood in the Tamworth by-election, 1922, taking a distant second place, with 31.2% of the vote.[1][2] Eventually, he served as Mayor of Tamworth.[3] At the 1931 and 1935 UK general elections, he stood unsuccessfully in Lichfield.[4][5]

In about 1930, Jones was elected as secretary of the Midland Miners’ Federation, to which all his previous unions were affiliated; he remained leader of the Warwickshire Miners. He served on the executive of the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain (MFGB). He remained in post as the MFGB became the National Union of Mineworkers, but left his trade union posts in 1947, to become Labour Director of the West Midlands Coal Board, then in 1950 became its vice-chair.[3] He retired in 1952, although he continued to serve as a part-time member of the board until his death, four years later.[6]

  1. ^  a b c The Labour Who’s Who. London: The Labour Publishing Company. 1924. p. 94.
  2. ^ Debrett’s House of Commons & Judicial Bench, 1922
  3. ^ a b “Obituary: George Henry Jones”. Report of the 58th Annual Conference of the Labour Party: 52. 1957.
  4. ^ Kimber, Richard. “UK General Election results October 1931”. Political Science Resources. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  5. ^ Kimber, Richard. “UK General Election results November 1935”. Political Science Resources. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  6. ^ “National Coal Board: Changes at West Midlands and South Western Headquarters”. Information Bulletin. National Union of Mineworkers. 1952.

Our next port of call as it was near was a place I had always wanted to visit. The church and vicarage which were at the centre of the novel by Julian Barnes ‘Arthur and George’. This was based on a true story about a solicitor George Edalji whose mother and father’s home this was. Unusually his father the vicar was a convert from a Bombay Parsi family. Anyhow George was accused of maiming animals at night in and around the village, a series of events that came to be known as the Great Wyrley Outrages. In a case of gross injustice he was found guilty and sentenced to 3 years in prison. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took an interest and ensured that the matter of George’s conviction became a national issue. After a long campaign Doyle’s efforts led to a Court of Inquiry and a pardon. Some good came out of the whole affair as Edalji’s case and the associated campaign were factors in the creation of England’s Court of Criminal Appeal in 1907.        I have to say that our visit here was a great disappointment to me. There was absolutely no mention anywhere whatsoever of all of this case. I know the church’s business is religion and worship. But the vicarage and the church and Edalji’s father’s position were integral to the whole affair. Surely it might help draw people to this now anonymous suburb of Walsall to at least outline the story? Would that not be a good thing? Anyhow I am glad I came.

20190326_144956 copy.jpg20190326_145332-copy.jpg20190326_145050 copy.jpg20190326_145201.jpegOn the way back to our cottage we called one more time at Sandbach to have a further look around and shop at Waitrose for our evening meal (I said this town had everything!). It didn’t disappoint and we found even more lovely lovely areas….20190326_165719 copy.jpg20190326_165813 copy.jpg20190326_165851 copy.jpg20190326_170030 copy.jpeg20190326_170441 copy.jpgThe next day we set out reasonably early as we were undertaking the journey back to Cornwall not the way we had come by Motorway nearly all the way but on the ‘old’ route down the border country of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Gwent. It was a good decision. Marvellous weather, fantastic countryside and the bonus of stopping for lunch in Ludlow one of my favourite places…..20190327_135803 copy.jpeg20190327_140005 copy.jpgAs it happened, the Charlton Arms Hotel had just stopped serving so we made do with a drink and a bag of crisps, but with this view who cares?20190327_141112 copy.jpg

A week in the heart of rural England…..part 4

20190324_113352 copy.jpegOur cottage was near Holmes Chapel, but we hadn’t had a look there yet. So this morning  we parked up and explored. Not much to see except a perfectly pleasant town with everything you would want, well-kept, with a station (as have most towns around here), and a charming area around the church. A nice place to live, but too expensive for us (as are most ‘nice places’!).20190324_113443 copy.jpg20190324_113532 copy.jpegIt must have a good community spirit as you see from the herb bins..20190324_113658 copy.jpegOur prime destination today a Sunday was Capesthorne Hall which we could visit free with our HHA cards. A very imposing building, the red brick hall was built in the Jacobean style between 1719 and 1732, the turrets and pinnacles being added a hundred years later. Much remodeling was carried out by the architect Anthony Salvin following a disastrous fire at the hall in 1861.20190324_121510 copy.jpeg20190324_121548 copy.jpgWe were early, so we had chance of a bite to eat in the cafe and we walked around the gardens to visit the chapel 20190324_121745 copy.jpg20190324_125858 copy.jpeg20190324_125909 copy.jpg20190324_130102 copy.jpeg20190324_130244 copy.jpegAfterwards we built up our daily steps with a walk around the nearest lake. I say the nearest because there are several……20190324_130558 copy.jpeg20190324_130638 copy.jpg20190324_131011 copy.jpgOn our return to the Hall I took this pic of the front ‘veranda’ where every alcove held a glass case complete with stuffed bird, an unusual feature to say the least.20190324_132908 copy.jpeg                           As is normal with ‘private’ houses, no photography allowed inside, so a couple of shots from on-line. The staff were very friendly which is great and as I was asking after one or two of the paintings, a kind lady member of staff lent me her guide for the duration of our visit. Terrific.Capesthorne-Hall-interior copy.jpgholdenby.jpgWe wanted to see Northwich having visited the other two wiches, but didn’t linger very long as it is both industrial (salt and chemicals) and run down. Obviously there will be parts of interest but we didn’t want to waste any time looking for them! Instead we headed off into the countryside North and stopped at the extremely pretty Great Budworth. Could any village be pleasanter? Should you be able to afford living here, you might want to think about the cons of living on a film-set with thousands and thousands of  visitors………20190324_154658 copy.jpeg20190324_154457 copy.jpeg20190324_154630 copy.jpg20190324_155504 copy.jpg20190324_154709 copy.jpg20190324_154819 copy.jpg20190324_155635 copy.jpg20190324_154849.jpg20190324_154901 copy.jpg20190324_155106 copy.jpg20190324_155150 copy.jpg                  …..and then as Great Budworth sits atop a hill you have a fine view, admittedly in the far distance, of the nearby chemical works!20190324_163454 copy.jpgTo cap our day off Martin had recommended we visit Mow Cop a folly high up with a 360 degree view of the Cheshire plain and chunks of Staffordshire. It was well worth the effort in finding it (not simple).  20190325_180723 copy.jpeg20190325_181330 copy.jpeg20190325_181334 copy.jpg

A week in the heart of rural England…….part 3

20190323_110725 copy.jpeg A return visit to a pub I know well , Bells of Peover, but how its gardens have been transformed. They are absolutely beautiful. 20190323_110656 copy.jpg20190323_110747 copy.jpgThe church is rather good too in Lower Peover’s tranquil setting…20190323_110951 copy.jpeg20190323_111147 copy.jpg20190323_111032 copy.jpegand we loved the alert owl outside the local Primary School. As a matter of fact we saw many wooden owls during our week – must be someone who likes to carve them!20190323_112020 copy.jpgNext to Knutsford. This restaurant in the old town hall looked good.20190323_115755 copy.jpegBut we ate elsewhere….seemingly dozens of choices of eating places.20190323_121447 copy.jpegKnutsford was bustling, but it is the sort of place where peace and quiet is just round the corner….20190323_123418 copy.jpg20190323_123711 copy.jpg20190323_123927 copy.jpegand there are some lovely buildings…20190323_124105 copy.jpeg20190323_124239 copy.jpg20190323_124455 copy.jpgTatton Mere stretches from the town all the way up to the eighteenth century mansion Tatton Park  a beautiful long walk…20190323_124733 copy.jpgApart from the traffic, which however no doubt helps all the shops, a super play to live. Probably outside our price range unfortunately.20190323_125159 copy.jpgFrom there via super slick Wilmslow (champagne capital of Britain) to the magnificent viewpoint (and shopping centre) of Alderley Edge. 20190323_134654 copy.jpg20190323_135018 copy.jpgManchester is on the horizon.20190323_140300 copy.jpgOnwards then to Marton  a small hamlet with a Black and White church St James and St Paul…20190323_143003 copy.jpeg20190323_143207 copy.jpegIt was brilliant to see the survival of medieval wall paintings…..20190323_143343 copy.jpg20190323_143956 copy.jpgWe then chanced upon the picture-perfect little village of Astbury ………20190323_145747 copy.jpgUnfortunately the church was locked but it was enormous, a sight to behold in such a small place. I learned afterwards that its nave is forty feet wide, wider even than Chester Cathedral.20190323_145945 copy.jpeg20190323_150026 copy.jpg

A week in the heart of rural England……Part 2

We couldn’t visit this part of England without going to Chester of course. I have been a good few times but forgot how charming it is. Beautiful streetscapes….20190322_113357 copy.jpgWonderful cathedral….20190322_113413 copy.jpgand the impressive walls….we started our walk of the two and a half mile circuit at the cathedral itself….20190322_113437 copy.jpegand were soon enjoying unparalleled views…20190322_113627 copy.jpgI suspect this was the Deanery with its beautiful gardens. It is now desirable but expensive apartments. What I wouldn’t give to live in a place like that!20190322_113923 copy.jpgAt times the walls soared on high. In this section you got a good idea of how formidable they would have been….20190322_114028 copy.jpgAnd sometimes just occasionally it is nice to look at the backs of houses. Have you ever see a prettier back view than this?20190322_114454 copy.jpegEverywhere we went was full of interest. Here, near Telford’s wharf is a sculpture of Captain Morgan’s cannon – he waste of the Royalist defenders of Chester during the Civil War.20190322_114650 copy.jpgWhen walking West we had excellent views in the  distance of The North Welsh mountains…20190322_115029 copy.jpegIn comparison with even York, Exeter or Berwick these walls are momentous…20190322_115352 copy.jpgand what you see from them is soul-lifting in this day and age….20190322_115644 copy.jpegPlenty of handsome Georgian houses….20190322_120135 copy.jpegand even the Victorian terraces were special…20190322_123053-copy.jpg….as indeed most of the modern buildings we saw….20190322_121048-copy.jpegThe walk passes very close to the race course…who would pay to get in with views like these?20190322_120544 copy.jpgand daffodils everywhere as at York..20190322_121517 copy.jpegHere the castle…….rebuilt in stone in the twelfth century…20190322_121537 copy.jpgand later used as the county hall and for courts, as at Lincoln….20190322_121724 copy.jpgThe River Dee made its presence felt for a good part of the way….20190322_122310 copy.jpeg20190322_122602 copy.jpgand whilst we didn’t manage to see much of the Roman remains on this visit we did glimpse the Roman Gardens from the walls…..20190322_123315 copy.jpgIt wouldn’t be possible that this was the perfect small city would it? Not when we saw two monstrous concrete car parks agreed by the Planners in, what, the Sixties or Seventies….I could see at the time what disastrous results they were inflicting on our heritage. Honestly, I would line all these so-called planners up standing on one leg in the blazing sun to gaze for ever at their works…20190322_123402 copy.jpeg20190322_123700 copy.jpegWe finished our walk at the famous Eastgate clock, it being lunch time. It really is rather special.20190322_123852 copy.jpeg20190322_143522 copy.jpegAnd whilst scouting out where to eat we had a good look at the famous Rows (sadly with one or two empty or run-down premises as is almost inevitable with first floor shopping20190322_124625 copy.jpegBut on the whole we certainly got the feeling that Chester was bucking the trend for city centres and was prospering. Good to see.20190322_123917 copy.jpg20190322_123930 copy.jpeg20190322_124315 copy.jpeg20190322_124501 copy.jpgWe made our way then to Tarporley, a small town which we enjoyed very much and which would be second equal in our list of places to live. Again thriving, busy, beautiful buildings and shops you want to go to.20190322_161612 copy.jpeg20190322_161953 copy.jpgWe couldn’t resist going into the sixteenth century Swan Hotel for a quick cup of tea, splendid both inside and out.20190322_170605 copy.jpgThen into deepest Cheshire where we saw the famous two castles the medieval  Beeston and Peckforton gazing at each other from their eminences…..Peckforton was a Victorian country house now turned into a hotel.two_castles_1000x666-2 copy.jpgon the way back we stopped at this very picturesque village with its lovely houses and pond complete with rare black swans..20190322_175115 copy.jpeg20190322_175112 copy.jpgWe were also held up for a long while by cows on their way to milking……but no bother!20190322_175650 copy.jpegHome at last….20190323_104744 copy.jpg

A week in the heart of rural England……..Part 1

20190320_183454 copy.jpgLooking to the future, we decided to go house hunting in Cheshire. I would like to be within striking distance of Manchester where I come from, with its magnificent facilities, and Cheshire adjoins it and is the epitome of rural England. I have looked at thousands of houses on-line and know we can find one somewhere in Cheshire which will allow us to free up a bit of capital and give us a bit of leeway in our plans (mainly travel and going out – theatres, concerts etc). We weren’t scouting particular houses but looking broadly across the whole county to assess where we would like to live.                                                         I booked a converted barn for a week which looked great in Sawdays which is usually very reliable, and so it proved. We were greeted by Martin, who farms the land, and one of his lovely dogs Beth. Martin was a great host for the whole week and gave us lots of good tips on where to go.20190320_172020 copy.jpgWe settled in very quickly and were soon enjoying the March sunshine….20190320_172207 copy.jpgand on our first evening we drove to the local pub…the Swettenham Arms…just what the doctor ordered – a nice gastropub with good ales.20190320_183816 copy.jpg20190320_184601 copy.jpg20190320_185128 copy.jpgOutside, across the car park, was the church of St Peter’s which is very unusual and interesting with its stone build, but with a brick tower….unfortunately we never got around to visiting it. Another time.20190320_184524 copy.jpgOn our first full day we set out from our cottage in the grounds of Kermincham Hall past the pond and down its long drive which gave us a feeling of grandeur every time we used it, and…..20190321_102820 copy.jpegfirst of all explored Middlewich a historic town with its name suggesting a salt town and being the middle salt town in fact between Northwich and Nantwich. The Romans first mined salt here, and it was mined and processed til fairly recently. In reality the town itself apart from an attractive area by one of the three canals….20190321_110835 copy.jpgand by the green surrounding the church…was a bit of a dump – very poor High Street with downmarket shops and giving a depressing, run down feeling. Reminiscent in fact of many towns today.20190321_111151 copy.jpgOur mood lightened considerably however when we went next  to Sandbach, a peach of a town. The first great thing about it was free parking. To the two of us who have run shops in several places it is a no-brainer. But councils everywhere seek to bleed town centres dry with heavy rates and support for out-of-town developments and the results are as obvious as they were in Middlewich. We hit upon a lovely hotel for lunch – a gastropub and boutique establishment, The Wheatsheaf. We ordered something light and settled down to read our newspaper and do the crossword between us. Forty minutes later, having completed the crossword but without food, I caught the eye of  a member of staff and explained we were waiting. She could not have been more apologetic and efficient. Our open sandwiches and thrice-cooked chips appeared in no time. She explained that our order had been lost in a staff handover. Inexcusable of course, but I was gobsmacked when she again apologised and said we would not have to pay anything. Now that is, in the end, good customer service par excellence769b8318_z copy.jpg20190321_115629 copy.jpg20190321_115638 copy.jpegSatisfied and satiated, we strolled through town and discovered it was market day with lots of good food stalls….but we were more taken with the buildings….. 20190321_122158 copy.jpegmany of which were traditional Cheshire Black and White…20190321_122516 copy.jpegThe church and its grounds were exceptionally lovely…surrounded by Black and White houses on all sides…20190321_122541 copy.jpgand the pub opposite the church Old Hall where we called in for a quick half was amazing, believed to date from 1656 and once the residence of the Lords of the Manor of Sandbach. It is absolutely magnificent.20190321_122636 copy.jpegThe centre of the town is picturesque with its cobbles, more Black and White houses, good pubs on all sides (!)…..20190321_123234 copy.jpg20190321_124515 copy.jpgand a lovely Deli (amongst many other fantastic Independent shops in town)…..20190321_123400 copy.jpegand there were two impressive and massive Saxon stone crosses dominating the square. 20190321_123540 copy.jpeg They are elaborately carved with animals and Biblical scenes including the Nativity of Christ and the Crucifixion, and probably date from the 9th century. They were originally painted as well as carved, and they are among the finest surviving examples of Anglo-Saxon high crosses. Later we found several towns and villages that we liked very much, but none of them matched Sandbach, our likely destination?                                         Anyhow, next stop was Nantwich. We had been before to have a chat to the local bookshop owner. It was as pleasant as we remembered. Again a great church and a pretty close surrounding it….20190321_145001 copy.jpg20190321_145115 copy.jpegThe streets were full of atmosphere and with a wonderful range of Independent shops again…and everywhere seemingly unspoilt and well cared for…. 20190321_145137 copy.jpg20190321_145429 copy.jpgEven the multiples were well hidden.20190321_150012 copy.jpg20190321_150219 copy.jpegAnd the range and quality of the buildings and streetscape was exceptional …20190321_145840 copy.jpeg20190321_150123 copy.jpegOne thing that wowed us was this boulder. 20190321_150717 copy.jpegThe inscription reads that it was  found during the building of the by-pass, is 400 million years old, and is probably from of all places Dumfries in Scotland, having been carried here by glacial action. Incredible.                                                                                              Having decided to look at a range of new houses here, we had a delightful walk along the river….20190321_150725 copy.jpg20190321_150944 copy.jpg20190321_151137 copy.jpgIt was a long walk so we were glad of a suitable place of refreshment back in town..A terrific medium-sized town but not quite as lovable as Sandbach was our conclusion.20190321_161238 copy.jpgThat evening we walked to the Swettenham Arms across three fields, by the nascent River Dane, 20190321_175322 copy.jpegsliding across the occasional fence to avoid the mud, 20190321_175332 copy.jpgand getting back just before sunset….20190321_184340 copy.jpg

Reading Matters……

61e4zqgxqkl._sx324_bo1204203200_.jpgIn 1346, at the age of sixteen, he won his spurs at Crecy; nine years later he conducted a brutal raid across Languedoc; in 1356 he captured the king of France at Poitiers; as lord of Aquitaine he ruled a vast swathe of southwestern France. He was Edward of Woodstock, eldest son of Edward III, but better known to posterity as ‘the Black Prince.The Prince learned the graft of warfare the hard way. At the famous English victory at Crécy in 1346, the 16-year-old Edward was placed in notional command of the vanguard. When he became severely pressed by a French onslaught (the English were outnumbered by almost two to one), his father is reported to have delayed sending his son any reinforcements, saying: ‘Let the boy win his spurs.’ And so the boy did, with a characteristic display of the courage and steadfastness that so impressed his contemporaries. Here and throughout, Jones captures the drama and press of a medieval battle. I normally shy away from the second tier of historians and go only for top league authors. So I was a bit reluctant to buy what I regarded as a ‘chancer’. I’m glad I did.  Not only does Michael Jones tell an exciting tale of a chivalrous knight’s life, but he brings to the table his detailed research and telling use of original sources including the letters of the man himself and his friends, as also using contemporary chronicles both French and English ( and others). You get a very rounded picture of a man who was extolled as the greatest warrior of his day but also a man who was extremely religious in this very religious age. Michael Jones doesn’t shy away from discussing his alleged ruthlessness and misdeeds either. It’s a great pity that Edward and his father Edward III had such differences and misunderstandings which led to the eventual loss of all that the Black Prince had gained in France. A pity too that he died so young. Nevertheless his name and aura live on and you can do much worse than enjoy this book as much as I did.

Another great history book ‘Bosworth’ by a well-known historian (and politician) tells in detail the71lmt42eeyl-copy-1.jpg story of how a Queen’s love match with a Welsh servant led eventually to the birth in a following generation of Henry Tudor and the successful if rather surprising overthrow of the Yorkist dynasty. Skidmore is an excellent guide to how all this led to its culmination in the Battle of Bosworth. He describes the background in terrific detail as well as giving us a blow by blow understanding of the battle itself. Well researched and told in a lively manner, the only criticism I would have is the lack of clarity at times as to who we are reading about. I can’t count the number of times I had to peruse the genealogical chart to see which Margaret or which Edward he was talking about. I can only assume all those reviewers who praised its clarity didn’t read it in as much detail and with as much care as I did! Still buying two history books which I didn’t want to put down is a good result……..9781509856251_1.jpg

This hardback book ‘Bomber Command’ was purchased as a £5 remainder at WHS. I have tried for some time now to research my father’s experience as a Bomb-aimer. No luck in getting his personal details so far and very frustrating considering I have his Forces ID number. However reading the book has given me an excellent idea of how lucky he was to survive, how brave he and the others were, how professional, and I also can appreciate why he didn’t say very much about his experiences and why he had a lifelong antipathy to war and armed struggles of all kinds. The only time we had a short chat he told me how sometimes when a plane returned they would literally have to hose out the remains of the Rear Gunner. I felt I couldn’t really take it any further, but as historian myself I really really should have done! ‘Bomber Command’ is terrific for the details but also covers the overall strategy and the controversies that have arisen since. Max Hastings is willing to be more critical of the key personnel involved than some other historians, but I found the research and output very balanced indeed. £5? A great buy!

 

 

 

Gardening in February…..

No two ways about it gardening can be hard work and because of the weather we have started early this year. My son helped dismantle the rotten pergola but then there was still a lot of clearing up to do. A new one should be in place in the next month or two…20190221_152657 copy.jpg20190221_152304 copy.jpgApart from that, the garden is lovelier than this time last year. I really enjoy the benefits of global warning (if that is what they are).20190220_144243 copy.jpg20190224_115017 copy.jpg20190224_115116 copy.jpgAnd it’s the same in our lanes…primroses and daffodils out, and wonderful days for walking (when its not raining that is)….20190224_120401 copy.jpg20190224_121637 copy.jpgLet’s hear more about the benefits and really make them work for us……..20190224_123426 copy.jpg20190224_123736 copy.jpg