Heritage Open Day in Liskeard….September

 

20190914_105822.jpegWe only discovered the Heritage Open Day was happening in Liskeard for two days by chance on the internet. We missed the first day. After parking the car on our walk into town we came to the first of the buildings we visited – a private house called Tregantle. What an eye opener this was. We had passed it many times, without a thought really, other than that it was quite a nice frontage. Stepping inside the owner had taken the trouble to do a tremendous amount of research about its history and its design by the famous Liskeard architect Henry Rice.                                                                                                                        Henry Rice started out as a land surveyor and architect who went on to transform Liskeard. He had a strong social conscience and made frequent sanitary inspections of the densely populated and poverty-stricken courts where the poor lived. His findings were recorded in his ‘Nuisance’ notebooks, which make fascinating, if sometimes gruesome, reading. As a result the corporation made him Inspector of Nuisances. He also brought piped water and sewers to the town.
Born in Kenwyn parish, Rice was a farmer’s son and staunch Methodist who lived the whole of his adult life in Liskeard. Over 100 of his buildings, mostly in the Classical style, survive, including a large number of terraces built along the roads into the town.

20190914_103748.jpgThis is the front room as is. The owner had bought the house  with all the ‘improvements’ you would expect from the early 70’s – artex ceilings, ripped out fireplaces, everywhere painted magnolia etc etc. Over a period of time, and particularly when she had retired from teaching, she gradually transformed the house reinstalling original Victorian fireplaces and reinstating appropriate colour schemes and trying to preserve every detail from the original designs. A true labour of love. I didn’t like to take photos as we were really guests in her house…..20190914_103844.jpgbut this is one of the two staircases….20190914_104543.jpgand this picture shows industrial use right outside the rear of the property. And this is still in use as a glass making premises……The Glassworks address is actually Pavlova Mill. The mill dates back to the 19th century where it was used as a tannery making gloves. There is very little history on Pavlova Mill but it is said to have been named after the Russian Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, one of the finest classical ballet dancers in history! The tannery is said to have made gloves exclusively for the dancer, whether or not this is true, the mill has taken her name. Interesting!20190914_104254.jpgNext stop was the Weslyan Methodist Church which we had often admired from outside. The original chapel burnt down and was financed and rebuilt largely as now within a two year period. They didn’t mess about did they the Victorians? Inside a volunteer showed us around and pointed out the original and rough wooden stool used by John Wesley when he preached in Cornwall.Methodist-Church.jpg The building was designed for 300 worshippers….20190914_110316.jpgand the plaster ceiling is impressive. Henry Rice designed an extension a little later.20190914_110430.jpgAnd the church became a very prominent organisation within Liskeard. Upstairs to one side this enormous hall was used for teaching. Indeed in the Second World War teaching still took place in the church’s cellars! Average congregation these days is about 30.20190914_111335.jpgOn our way past Stuart House a late medieval house where King Charles stayed in the Civil War. F. showed me the garden which I hadn’t’t seen before, but which is very inviting for tea and cake.20190914_113426.jpgThe Mayor’s Parlour  and Civic Chamber were supposed to be open, but weren’t…….20190914_114023.jpgSo off we went to St Martin’s Church unvisited before. It includes some Norman fragments, but is mostly 15th century. The South Chapel dates from 1428, the south chancel aisle from 1430, and additions to the north side from 1477. The tower was repaired in 1675, but was largely rebuilt between 1898 and 1902 at a cost of £6,400 (equivalent to £682,500 in 2018) by John Sampson of Liskeard. And the main point in coming today was to climb the tower.20190914_115430.jpgFirst we both had a go at bell ringing – unsuccessfully. It is much harder to get the knack than I thought.20190914_115458.jpegThen whilst F. had a coffee I climbed the tower. First we went to the bell ringers’ domain where they entertained us to a number of peals. Very interesting.20190914_121354.jpgThen, having been issued with ear plugs, we went up to the bell chamber, whilst the performance continued. Hands over ears were necessary as well as plugs!20190914_122827.jpgPartially deaf now, we ascended more steps to the top where we had the great privilege of seeing Liskeard and its surrounds from a viewpoint normally out of bounds……the day was fine and picture taking conditions good….20190914_123106.jpg20190914_123111.jpg20190914_123134.jpegIt was good to see the uniform nature of the roofs nearly all with Delabole slates. This common pattern of roofing does add immeasurably to the character of any historic town. 20190914_123147.jpg20190914_123248.jpeg20190914_123317.jpeg20190914_123402.jpgTime for one more photo out of one of the niche windows on the way down….20190914_123945.jpegWalking around the outside of the church we saw it from angles unfamiliar to us…..20190914_124715.jpg20190914_124951.jpg………and descended into town past some very nice rows of cottages. A very instructive two or three hours which made us much more appreciative of the buildings and community of Liskeard.20190914_125213.jpg

 

A trip to the opera in Verona – Part 4

20190905_152555.jpg……. all of a sudden here was ‘the bridge with no parapet’. Worth seeing, but a minute later there were about ten people on there having their photos taken…….20190905_152519.jpgLooking at our map we saw we were fairly near the Rialto Bridge and so we headed there with the thought of using our vaporetto tickets some more. 20190905_153824.jpgAfter a quick think we caught a vaporetto going to Murano island, famous of course for its glass…..20190905_154738.jpgWe went under the Rialto….20190905_154551.jpgand were soon on our way up the Grand Canal again….20190905_155444.jpg20190905_155618.jpg20190905_155746.jpg20190905_160401.jpga lovely relaxing ride over the lagoon, and we were there.20190905_164237.jpg20190905_164406.jpgWhat a contrast to Venice. No hoards of people. No clicking cameras. Just a smattering of ordinary people who actually live here. Yes there were a number of glass shops and I am sure Murano does get busy. But not when we were there, thank goodness.20190905_164815.jpg20190905_165650.jpg20190905_165654.jpegThe church’s plain facade and stark isolated bell tower belied the face it presented to the canal…..20190905_170008.jpgand there were some lovely features inside, including the floors…20190905_165110.jpg…and naturally some glass work……20190905_165506.jpgthere were even ordinary shops…..20190905_170706.jpgand rows of ‘ordinary’ houses….20190905_170756.jpgFeeling thirsty just before we were to catch our return boat, and unable to find a local bar or cafe, we popped into a boutique hotel which had just recently opened…. we were on our own.20190905_172614.jpeg20190905_172653.jpgIt was really very pleasant, and the view………20190905_175229.jpgWe returned a slightly different way across the lagoon and this took us past the cemetery on San Michele island… in fact the whole island is only occupied by churches and by long ranks of tombs. Fascinating.20190905_182114.jpg20190905_184647.jpg20190905_184925.jpgWe disembarked at the station where we were a little early, but the evening light was fantastic….20190905_190451.jpg20190905_191150.jpgand rather than join the policeman and his girlfriend at the station bar, we took our drinks outside with a bag of crisps and sat on the steps…..20190905_194203.jpeguntil the turning on of the lights notified us of our train….20190905_194947.jpegBack in Verona, the evening mood walking through the streets for home was delightful….20190906_195353.jpgand in Verona as in Milan we were always seeing stylish new shops……here a quirky display from an optician. For some reason F. told me Verona is famous for its opticians and eye-testing……..20190906_200655.jpgThe next day, our last, we were due to catch a bus to Lake Garda a short distance away, but we were awakened to an enormous storm (lots and lots of thunder and lightning). It lasted all day and led to us staying in and playing a new and enjoyable game, given to us by our daughter, lots and lots of times (Bananagrams). The weather abated for the evening and we had a last stroll around Verona, calling at a locals bar for a last drink or two….20190906_201504.jpg20190906_203211.jpgOn the day of our leaving we popped around the corner to the cake shop we had only just discovered for breakfast, again with lots of locals who nearly always stand….20190907_093227.jpg20190907_093956.jpgand after a last shop at the grocers for a bottle of Limoncello and some olive oil..we made our way to the bus stop by the river, passing a very busy artists school…20190907_111000.jpg20190907_111115.jpgto arrive eventually in plenty of time at the airport – this time Bergamo – which as you can see is quite scenic itself. What a magnificent trip.20190907_150327.jpg

A trip to the opera in Verona – Part 3

20190905_092307 copy.jpegAfter a quick cup of coffee next morning we caught the bus to the station and then the Italo train to Venice (all booked at home on Trainline). I still can’t get over the amazing sight that greets you on coming out of the station concourse. You are immediately in the heart of Venice and its canals. Right there. At the start of the Grand Canal. It’s like stepping onto a film set. Incredible.20190905_110519 copy.jpegWe knew that the water taxis – the famous vaporetti – would be nearby. They were right outside.20190905_112445 copy.jpegWe grabbed a day ticket each (12 Euros) and what a bargain that proved to be. It was worth it for the trip into the centre alone. The boat went more or less the whole length of the Grand Canal stopping along the way. What a journey. Click after click went my mobile.20190905_114010 copy.jpeg20190905_114103 copy.jpegAnd what I couldn’t get over was how busy the waterways were. Particularly with goods traffic. Everything from dredgers with their miasmatic loads to DHL boats (imagine) to fruit and veg boats. I really hadn’t appreciated that this was how it would be.20190905_114402 copy.jpg20190905_114509 copy.jpgI understand that gondoliers get around £95,000 a year……..but they still can’t afford to live in Venice itself…….20190905_114723.jpeg

20190905_115715.jpgBut the architecture was something else. We all know the problems of Venice – the stupidly large cruise ships, the conversion of old buildings to hotels, flats, Airbnb, the loss of residents to tourism. According to Bloomberg ‘The city’s population basically peaked in the 1500s, and though it rallied again to near 16th century levels in the 1970s, today there are just one third as many Venetians as 50 years ago.’ Less than 50,000 residents compared to over 20 million visitors each year, of which over half are day trippers (just like us). It’s all a disaster. Basically the place is a museum. But what a museum! 20190905_120128.jpg20190905_120307.jpgAll too soon our journey was over and we disembarked at the Piazza San Marco. 20190905_121030.jpeg20190905_121510.jpgBecause we were here for such a short time we had no intention of actually going inside places (just as in Milan). That would have been pointless to try. Instead we wanted to ‘feel’ Venice. So, we enjoyed the sheer size and splendour of the Doge’s Palace…..20190905_121606.jpgthe Piazza itself (Napoleon called it the drawing room of Europe)……20190905_121825.jpgand of course the Basilica….20190905_122010.jpg20190905_121811.jpgas well as the Renaissance-style clock tower20190905_121920.jpgHowever fairly quickly and decisively we headed off down the nearest street in order to escape the tourists….(sorry, I should say the other tourists)….20190905_122200.jpegThat escape never came. We walked 30,000 steps that day, (according to my app about 12 miles, but say 8 or 9 miles), and we never got rid of other tourists. They were literally everywhere. And not only tourists, but tourists’ shops. Like Blackpool in the 50’s. Well not quite.20190905_123442.jpgBut you could have 200 million visitors a year let alone 20 million, and you still wouldn’t take away the beauty, the specialness of the city…..around every corner, and I do mean every corner, a wonderful view……20190905_123623.jpg20190905_125320.jpgWe were heading for the district of Castello to visit a special bookshop. But we just headed in a general direction, not concerned whether we got lost…..which we did frequently…20190905_125532.jpeg20190905_125536.jpg20190905_130023.jpgand eventually we were there……the Libreria Acqua Alta. In this unique shop, which has been called one of the most beautiful in the world, and is certainly one if not the quirkiest, books are stored and on display in gondolas, canoes, and bathtubs. Books are even turned into furniture and architecture themselves! Books that got ruined by high water, or acqua alta have not been thrown away, but have been used instead to become decorative features, walls or even the steps of a book staircase that gives wonderful views over the canal. It is unbelievable. Especially to a couple of people like ourselves who owned two very nice bookshops. The guy who owns this has turned a problem into an opportunity in a very big way indeed.20190905_131205.jpg20190905_131221.jpgWe sat fascinated by the loop of film which shows the shop actually under water……20190905_131358.jpg20190905_131409_003.jpeg20190905_131747.jpgand as for the full-size gondola in the middle of the shop……Incroyable!ve-lib.jpg20190905_132437.jpgUnless we had seen it we wouldn’t have believed it, but lunch called…..and we resumed our magical footsteps20190905_133120.jpg20190905_150500.jpgand we were so lucky to find what on this day was probably the quietest piazza in the whole of Venice…….we had yet another ‘special’ birthday lunch here at Osteria Boccadero (I was doing so well with this birthday….). 20190905_140630.jpg20190905_140636.jpegIt was really really nice. And my squid ink seafood linguini was delicious…….20190905_141505.jpgSuitably rested and refreshed we only had one more ‘objective’ (good to have objectives) on this day, and that was to see the ‘bridge with no parapet’. This involved a walk along the lagoon side of Venice along a lovely promenade, then cutting back towards the Grand Canal…..20190905_150950.jpg

A trip to the opera in Verona – Part 1

20190901_154650 copy.jpegFor my 70th Birthday I was treated to a trip to Verona to see the opera in the Roman arena ( a lifetime’s ambition). The flight from Bristol was great with unusually clear views over England and France and Italy. Landing at Milan Malpensa airport, we then caught the train to Milan. The station at Milan was incredibly large, imposing and typical of Fascist Brutalist architecture. I have since found out it is in fact the largest station  in Europe.20190902_102834 copy.jpegIt’s always nice to get your first cup of coffee and pastry when in Italy…here in one of the many station cafes…20190902_101952 copy.jpgGetting to our hotel/apartment Residenza delle Città we found it to be immediately full of Italian style….20190901_204250 copy.jpgRDC_Social_Lobby_04.f8f13c6ddc1a9cbab724bb6abd5ef197.jpgand the apartment itself was terrific.tzoo.hd.85800.3586.450427.ResidenzaDelleCitta.jpgI had done a lot of research on where to eat. However, around the corner we ignored all that research and found a lovely pizza place that looked like a regular neighbourhood hang-out rather than any chain pizza restaurant. And so it proved. Not a single tourist in there, English or otherwise. It was just what we wanted. One of the two brothers who own it looked after us and a good time was had by all. The pizzas were fantastic.20190901_221226 copy.jpeg20190901_213340 copy.jpgNext day we went first of course to the Duomo famously the largest church in Italy. Knowing we had only a few hours in Milan we made no attempt to go inside, but we looked at it from every angle, and enjoyed the sumptuous carving….20190902_114026 copy.jpeg20190902_112040 copy.jpegin stone……20190902_113415 copy.jpegand bronze….interestingly the doors are nineteenth and twentieth century not the work of medieval craftsmen as I first thought.20190902_113633 copy.jpegThere was much to admire.20190902_113554 copy.jpgAfter a quick walk around Piazza del Duomo…20190902_111919-copy.jpg20190902_110910 copy.jpegwe passed up one of the streets full of stylish shops….20190902_123656.jpg……..here a bookshop ( which we can never resist of course)….20190902_111715 copy.jpgto come quickly to la Galleria Vittorio Emanuele  which was second on our list of must-sees, and an absolutely stunning example of a posh shopping arcade, full of Versace, Prada and other famous Italian and international designers.20190902_111513 copy.jpeg111247580-milan-italy-april-13-inside-shopping-mall-galleria-vittorio-emanueke-ii-on-april-13-2-018-in-milan.jpg20190902_103429 copy.jpgBut all the shops in downtown Milan are sensational, not just in the arcade. How about this for an alternative to the Aga?20190902_105524 copy.jpgOur stroll through the city revealed a superb range of classy buildings….20190902_104957.jpeg and even gateways to splendid private houses…20190902_100455-copy.jpegWe lunched in the Piazza Del Duomo….20190902_125005.jpghaving passed on the stairwell what looked like a very old olive tree but was in fact a bronze sculpture……..a- ma-zing….20190902_124313.jpgWe then wound our way slowly down cobbled streets with a mix of old and new trams (very reminiscent of Lisbon)…..20190902_110215 copy.jpgto a favourite Milanese public garden – the Parco Sempione – a large placid green area, nice after the bustle of town,  running from the Castello Sforzesco to Arco della Pace. After our peaceful interlude in the park…..20190902_121107.jpgwe had a good look around the castle, the core of it dating back to 1358-1368  during the Visconti’s period who used the Castle as his residence while he stayed in Milan, but mostly used it as a military base. Later, it was mainly Francesco Sforza who, as ruler of Milan in 1450, gave particular impetus to the reconstruction of the building  which had been seriously damaged between 1447 and 1450. He quickly rebuilt the castle, this time with a 230 ft tall central tower – the Torre del Filarete (now a symbol of Milan itself), flanked with large round towers. His successors further improved and embellished the castle. 20190902_120611.jpg20190902_120307.jpg20190902_120138.jpg20190902_115811.jpgThe inside of the castle is now home to several museums which we noted as worth our attention on a longer visit (let’s hope it’s soon!). 20190902_120324.jpegWe had covered a lot of ground and after another quick coffee made our way to our train, and here a word about the Italo trains. We went on two during our time in Italy, and I think we were in ‘Smart’ class both times, the lowest of four classes. To us it smacked of style and comfort with leather seats, foot rests, individual waste containers etc etc. If only Italo would take over our national railways!stazione-termini-italo-2.jpg20190902_170129.jpgThe area between Milan and Verona is famous for a number of significant wines including Prosecco, Valpolicello and more….so, vineyard after vineyard was glimpsed from the train windows…..20190902_174628.jpgalso the odd lake, and always the mountains in the background – the Apennines, the backbone of Italy, 870 miles long and surging up to 9000 feet at their highest…20190902_173743.jpegThe railway infrastructure was quite impressive too…here a signal box…what was most impressive however was the smoothness and speed of the journey – at one point we were doing 247k an hour (153mph). Fantastic.20190902_163829.jpegOur flat in Verona was booked through Airbnb and was very pleasant. But its big plus was that it was outside the tourist centre and in a residential district. So the people we bumped into were Italian. Whilst this meant a reasonable walk to get into the centre, it was absolutely fine. We were in no hurry anyway.20190902_191915 copy.jpeg20190902_191942 copy.jpegOn our first night we wandered over the Porta Nuovo into town, and relaxed with an outdoor meal at one of the hundreds of cafes and restaurants…20190902_203108 copy.jpegF. had the most boring salad ever, my spicy aubergine bake was very tasty. The bottle of local wine went down a treat..20190902_205649 copy.jpgAlong the street of our restaurant were some excavations revealing what? I never did find out!20190902_215756 copy.jpgThe atmosphere at night in Verona is great….it’s a pleasure to walk around.20190902_215838 copy.jpgand lively……20190902_220420 copy.jpg20190902_220426 copy.jpg20190902_220717 copy.jpegThe next morning – our first – we ambled along our narrow little street to the river…20190903_100358 copy.jpgThis is the river Adige, second longest in Italy, rising in Switzerland…..and there are beautiful walks and promenades along it….20190903_113506.jpeg20190903_113523 copy.jpgAs this is Italy there are quite a lot of bikes…..20190903_114354 copy.jpgafter walking into town we reached what is regarded as the centre of Verona – Piazza Bra, huge and full of restaurants, cafes, bars, shops……..20190903_115318-copy.jpegand of course the Roman amphitheatre  built in the first century, and where we were due to go to the Opera the next day. In fact it is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances given there and is one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind. In ancient times, the arena’s capacity was nearly 30,000 people. The stage for concerts and opera performances decreases the available places to a maximum nowadays of 15,000. It will be used as the closing ceremony for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. (Must watch if we’re still around!). 20190903_115112 copy.jpgLuckily, as the weather was hot, there is a beautiful little garden in the midst of Piazza Bra which we availed ourselves of to consult our map.20190903_120408 copy.jpegHaving bought a Verona card which was 25 Euros each for two days ( a bargain as it turned out ), and which allows entry to all sorts of places as well as bus travel etc, we then made our way through one of the ancient arches, this one fifteenth century……20190903_123127 copy.jpegand along some nice arcades……20190903_123252_004 copy.jpegto the Castelvecchio fortress which took the name “Castelvecchio” (meaning “old castle” of course in Italian) just after the construction of the Castel San Pietro in 1393, which is located nearby.
The castle, an imposing complex marked by seven brick towers, was completed in 1356 as a defensive structure aimed to control the access to the city from the river Adige and it was converted into a museum or in fact a series of museums in the 1920s.
From 1958 to 1964, the museum was completely renovated and updated after a design by famous Italian architect Carlo Scarpa. Scarpa’s project, which harmoniously combined contemporary building materials, such as bare concrete and steel, with the castle’s medieval architecture, is still widely considered among the best examples of the conversion of a historic building into a modern museum.20190903_125242 copy.jpg20190903_125454 copy.jpegThe building is a large square compound made mainly out of red bricks and is an impressive example of Gothic architecture. One of the most noteworthy features of the castle is its imposing M-shaped merlons which run along the walls of the bridge and the castle itself. There are seven towers in the castle along with a maschio or a super elevated keep. Inside are four main buildings. Castelvecchio is surrounded by a ditch that is now dry. When the castle was first built, the moat was filled with water from the nearby Adige. 20190903_125647 copy.jpg“It is believed that the castle was built on the location of an earlier Roman fortress. The castle and nearby bridge were built by Lord Cangrande II della Scala, who in 1350 married Elizabeth, the daughter of Louis IV of Bavaria and the Countess of Hainualt, Margaret II. The castle was constructed as a deterrent to attack by powerful neighbors like the Sforzas and Gonzagas and the city state of Venice.                                                        The construction of the castle started in 1354 and Cangrande died in 1359, before it was completed. The fortified bridge over the Adige was designed to let the castle’s inhabitants escape north to Tyrol in case of a rebellion or a coup d’etat.                                                 During the time of Venetian rule in the area slits were added to the structure to allow defence by cannons. The fortress was badly damaged during the Napoleonic Wars and Napoleon himself stayed in the castle many times when he visited Verona. Under the later rule of the Austrians the castle was used as barracks and was later restored in 1923.”20190903_131029-copy.jpgThe art galleries and museums were full of surprises and well worth an extended visit…20190903_130423 copy.jpgOne thing that particularly caught our eye on the walls were these artists’ preparatory drawings and underpainting – absolutely fascinating – and fourteenth century.20190903_131552 copy.jpg20190903_131556 copy.jpgand this – almost like a cartoon book – thirty Bible stories painted on wood, again fourteenth century.20190903_131754 copy.jpegThese pics give some idea of the sumptuousness of medieval wall decoration….pretty spectacular you have to agree.20190903_131945_007 copy.jpeg20190903_133153 copy.jpg20190903_133340 copy.jpegAnd here a view of the Skaliger or Castelvecchio Bridge – a fortified bridge that was built over the River Adige. The bridge featured segmental arches and when it was originally constructed it had the world’s largest span at 48.7 meters.The bridge was built as we noted around 1354 by Lord Cangrande II in order to facilitate escape from his fortress. A reflection of the times! The construction was solid and the bridge remained intact until the end of the 18th century when French troops destroyed the left bank tower. In 1945, during World War II, the bridge along with Ponte Pietra was totally destroyed by the Germans. Reconstruction began in 1949 and was completed two years later on all but the left tower. The bridge was built using red bricks for the upper part, quite common with the landmarks in the city during the Scaliger era. The lower portion of the bridge was fashioned out of white marble. Legend has it that the designer of the bridge, Guglielmo Bevilacqua arrived at the inauguration ceremony riding a horse, ready to flee in case it came crumbling down. When the bridge was seen to be a success Bevilacqua was reportedly presented with a sword belonging to Saint Martin by Cangrande.20190903_133710 copy.jpgOne of the highlights of our visit was the walk around the walls and battlements…..20190903_133832 copy.jpg20190903_133914 copy.jpgand I thought a very unusual and perhaps typically Italian stylish touch was to find a little garden perched on the battlements themselves. Terrific.20190903_134304 copy.jpg20190903_134315 copy.jpgAt the end of the high-level walk we came across a statue of Cangrande II Della Scala himself, immortalised in stone like the archetypal cavalier. Scarpa the architect decided to place this particular sculpture on a concrete plinth seven metres high, creating an  niche that allowed the work to be seen from multiple angles…….20190903_133951-copy.jpgOur little tour finished, just beside our bus stop was The Arco dei Gavi  an ancient structure built by the gens Gavia, a noble Roman family who had their hometown in Verona, at the beginning of the Via Postumia, the Roman road leading into the city. During the Middle Ages it was used as a gate in the walls.20190903_135524_001 copy.jpegOur free bus was very pleasant and free of tourists….20190903_141618 copy.jpgWe got off in an area where we quickly disposed of a double ice cream each and headed past a group of rather nice buildings….20190903_142117 copy.jpg20190903_142212 copy.jpgand along a promenade…..20190903_142217 copy.jpg20190903_142658 copy.jpgto the funicular which we took up to the viewpoint…910A4130_1-1030x687.jpgwhere we stayed a while enjoying the amazing vistas……20190903_145141 copy.jpeg20190903_145500 copy.jpeg20190903_145721 copy.jpegIt had all been thirsty work, so we stopped off at a hilltop cafe again with the incredible views and sank a large beer and orange juice…..20190903_154824 copy.jpg

House-hunting in Cheshire……Part 2

we 20190617_122118 copy.jpgWe were off for another week’s house-hunting in Cheshire, having narrowed our search down to Sandbach and district and, rather than belt up the Motorway, we decided to use the ‘old’ route up through the border country. What a terrific decision. So pleasant driving through the rural and idyllic counties of  Monmouth, Hereford and Shropshire then into Cheshire. And always an impressive start to a journey to cross into Wales via either of the Severn bridges….20190617_122222 copy.jpgWe broke the journey for lunch at All Saints in Hereford. It was a wonderful find. The cafe is incorporated in the fabric of the church in such a way that it greatly adds to the atmosphere and the every day use of the church itself. It is so well done and the food is unusually delicious. More city centre churches should do this as well as this one does, and reap the benefits.20190617_134500 copy.jpgSuitably refreshed, we took the opportunity to look round the church itself (another bonus to the church of having the cafe) and it was fascinating. Basically it is      Fourteenth Century.               20190617_140504 copy.jpg                   There are some wonderful misericords….20190617_141127 copy.jpegbreathtaking Minton tiles…20190617_141204 copy.jpegand a famous, indeed infamous, rude carving in the roof…..d49df3f3892cec2874e7d2cbd2aa24c4.jpg        ….apparently the current vicar wanted to make some money out of this by publishing postcards etc but he was stopped by the PCC who ruled it out as too inappropriate! 20190617_141929-copy.jpg                   Our little tour of the church over, we wandered around the town itself to admire many wonderful buildings…..20190617_141631 copy.jpeg.20190617_142420-copy.jpg                 …we noted how bucolic the city really was….not many city centres after all have offices for a cattle society….

20190617_142221 copy.jpeg                        we said hello to Elgar on the cathedral green….. 20190617_142505 copy.jpg20190617_142540-copy.jpegand marvelled at the exterior of one of our great cathedrals…..20190617_142513 copy.jpg20190617_143525 copy.jpegResuming, we eventually reached our destination – Holly Cottage near Holmes Chapel, and settled in to farmyard life! 20190618_172231 copy.jpgThe cottage was everything you would want and we had our own little garden..20190619_114429 copy.jpgand the owner’s farmhouse was just typical of Black and White Cheshire…20190619_114403 copy.jpgAfter some serious hard work house-hunting the next two days, for F’s birthday on the 19th we went in the evening to ‘The Lost and Found’ in Knutsford. We travelled by train from Holmes Chapel calling at many little stations on the way – every small village in this part of Cheshire seems to have its own station. Remarkable.20190619_172121 copy.jpgThe restaurant was full of character and we really enjoyed ourselves.20190619_183927 copy.jpeg20190619_184637 copy.jpgOn a ‘day off’ we again used the train to go to Liverpool  – somewhere I haven’t been for a long time. As soon as you come out of Lime Street station you are confronted with the most marvellous array of public buildings among them St George’s Hall, the Walker Art Gallery, various museums and the Central Library, all worthy of a capital city. Indeed we both had the feeling that we were in somewhere much akin to Barcelona or Lisbon.  Who knew that Liverpool was as impressive as this? We were taken aback.20190620_112127 copy.jpeg20190620_112139 copy.jpgOpposite was the Empire Theatre where I once, with my first girlfriend,  saw Ken Dodd perform. The show started at 7.30 pm, and by midnight Ken was informing us that the doors were locked and we wouldn’t get out until he had finished! The Empire has the largest two-tier auditorium in Britain and can seat 2,348 people.20190620_112452 copy.jpegA lovely park set off all the buildings around here. 20190620_112958 copy.jpgAs we progressed through the city towards the sea the buildings remained impressive.20190620_113722 copy.jpg20190620_114532 copy.jpg20190620_114619 copy.jpeg20190620_114809 copy.jpeg20190620_114920 copy.jpg                       It’s always nice to see the Liver birds…on the Royal Liver Building……20190620_115113 copy.jpeg20190620_120354 copy.jpg20190620_120718 copy.jpgAnd the front of the city facing the sea was busy and stylish…..full of museums which unfortunately we had no time to see….20190620_120859 copy.jpg20190620_121114 copy.jpg20190620_121127 copy.jpg20190620_121427 copy.jpgWe walked from the pierhead towards the Albert Dock and along the way noted the last sailing ship to operate commercially out of the port, astonishingly working the Irish route until the 1950’s.20190620_121609 copy.jpg20190620_121635 copy.jpeg20190620_121834 copy.jpg20190620_122133 copy.jpgThe Albert Dock itself was lovely, a great conversion, full of people. The flats looked stylish but the shops and restaurants were leaning a wee bit towards tat and greasy food unfortunately. But that didn’t take away from the splendour of the buildings and setting.20190620_122251 copy.jpg20190620_122153 copy.jpg20190620_122651 copy.jpeg20190620_123309 copy.jpgWe moved into town to seek somewhere to eat…20190620_124225 copy.jpegand because we couldn’t find my carefully researched rooftop cafe with a view, we ended up in the shopping centre and a rather conventional lunch at John Lewis’s….not to be sniffed at with a glass of wine. The shopping centre was great too…… very clean, modern and sleek and there was a nice ‘grassed’ area for lunch and watching buskers…all in all a memorable visit to a city that has recovered all its old vim and vigour and self-esteem. I almost like it better than the greatest city of them all (Manchester).20190620_152600 copy.jpg20190620_143035 copy.jpgAnother of our trips out was to Tatton Park…..National Trust, although even as members we had to pay a £7 parking charge which seems a bit steep. Still all money goes to a good cause I suppose. 20190621_164104 copy.jpgJust as when last time we had visited Lymm Hall it was really notable how friendly, helpful and knowledgeable all the guides were. It makes a visit so much more rewarding. But then, as we all know, everybody is friendly in the north west! the entrance hall is rather splendid…..20190621_151722-copy-1.jpegand the spectacular painting ‘The Cheshire Hunt 1839’ almost dominating the hall shows three generations of the Egertons who owned Tatton.20190621_152005-copy.jpg20190621_151647 copy.jpegThe music and drawing room is the most ostentatious room in the house; Tatton’s collection of Gillow furniture is unrivalled. Wilbraham Egerton’s ownership (1777–1853) saw the commission of many pieces especially for the house. 4817085997_f6c7d05976_b.jpgViews from many of the rooms were of the 50 acres of gardens and series of lakes for which Tatton is well-known. they descend all the way down to Knutsford town centre. Lewis William Wyatt and Joseph Paxton, architect of Crystal Palace, designed various elements. 20190621_160243 copy.jpgThe Library is a perfectly symmetrical room, in keeping with the formality of the neo-classical style. It houses one of the largest and most important library collections owned by the National Trust with over 8,000 books in this room alone, many still in their original covers and in mint condition. We had a fascinating conversation with the guide in this room who is very knowledgeable about the books and gives one of their 10 minute talks on the library. We will be sure to go. 20190621_152927 copy.jpgNo-one can resist a portrait of any of the Tudors…..20190621_155640 copy.jpegAll in all time very well spent. We then were able to drive through the grounds past the lakes into Knutsford where we had another wander around this delightful town.20190621_174159 copy.jpg20190621_174437 copy.jpg20190621_170550 copy.jpgParts of Knutsford seem very Italianate….you could almost be on the side of Lake Garda. They are nearly all the work of Richard Harding Watt (1842-1913) who was a local philanthropist, traveller and idealist with a passion for building, who made his fortune from glove making in Manchester. He worked with four professional architects to transform the townscape of Knutsford with a series of eccentric buildings.20190621_172740 copy.jpg20190621_172958 copy.jpg20190621_173101 copy.jpgElizabeth Gaskell of course used Knutsford as Cranford and there is a suitable monument to her in the town……20190621_174750 copy.jpgWe also strolled along the side of Knutsford’s own lake…how pleasant!20190621_173613 copy.jpgOur little garden waited for us in the sun at the end of the day…20190621_191529 copy.jpgOne day we looked again at Tarporley a wonderful small village/town. nice to live here but a bit too expensive for us…..20190622_113023 copy.jpg20190622_125938 copy.jpg20190622_131126 copy.jpgSunday lunch was at the Bells of Lower Peover. yet another fantastic Cheshire pub….there are many.20190623_140435 copy.jpgWhilst there we had a good look at St Oswalds and a little stroll around the lanes….20190623_122901-copy.jpg20190623_122624 copy.jpg20190623_122712 copy.jpg20190623_123509 copy.jpgDriving on to Rostherene we were greeted by the vicar in the church and had a very interesting half hour conversation with him. Amusingly on the way out we bumped into presumably his wife who asked ‘Well, did you learn a lot?!’ with eyebrow raised!20190623_143053 copy.jpgAmazing how sentimental the Victorians were..there’s nothing like the Victorians!20190623_144454 copy.jpgThe view from the back of the churchyard to where the vicar directed us was lovely…..the deepest and largest mere in Cheshire. We had a great 10 minutes admiring the scene.20190623_151230 copy.jpg 20190623_151825 copy.jpgUnusual to see a gravestone we would more expect to see where we live near the sea…..20190623_152158 copy.jpg A good week both for house-hunting and enjoying Cheshire. We decided to return home the ‘old’ way again.  On our way a delightful village green…20190623_160113 copy.jpgand I couldn’t resist stopping to take a pic of the roadside verge. How much better it is when less cutting of verges takes place….20190624_112311 copy.jpgThis time before exiting Cheshire we called in to one of the prettiest villages in Cheshire in the deep south of the county – Malpas.20190624_114049 copy.jpgIn its centre and at its highest point stood the magnificent church of St Oswalds.20190624_114517 copy.jpgVery imposing gateways to the churchyard were set off by some imposing buildings…20190624_114153 copy.jpg20190624_114631.jpgInside there are many treasures. This oak chest dates from the second half of the 13th century.20190624_114728 copy.jpg20190624_114746 copy.jpgThe roof is quite exceptional being a fine late C15 camber-beam affair with ornate bosses and angels (restored but none the worse for that) on the corbels. 20190624_115307 copy.jpeg20190624_114751 copy.jpgIn the Brereton chapel the tomb is that of Sir Randal Brereton and his wife, and is dated 1522. The monument in the Cholmondeley chapel was erected in 1605 and represents Sir Hugh Cholmondeley and his second wife, Mary.20190624_115109 copy.jpegThe usual little children and followers carved around the tomb itself are cute….20190624_115153 copy.jpeg20190624_115418 copy.jpeg20190624_120102 copy.jpgLunch stop this time was in Church Stretton which I hadn’t visited since a sixth-form History trip in the sixties. Spreading over its hillside site it made a good last stop.20190624_133031 copy.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