Tuesday, 27 June 2017

On the trail of King Arthur

When we were planning holidays earlier in the year, I happened to see a television programme about the legendary King Arthur.  I was very surprised to see an interview with an author and historical detective who suggested that King Arthur was never based in Cornwall, but was in fact a Shropshire lad of sorts.

Of course I was intrigued, especially as we had already visited some of the sites suggested on the trail of King Arthur page of the Shropshire tourism website.

New evidence suggests that Arthur or Owain Ddantgwyn aka the Bear, ruled his kingdom from the old Roman town of Wroxeter, near Shrewsbury, his Camelot.

We visited Wroxeter in October 2012, I never imagined that the huge Roman town with walls still standing in places, was actually re-used by a legend several centuries later

 This huge piece of wall, over 20 feet high, has been standing for two millennia 


Nearby, we visited Wenlock Priory. Now identified as the probable hiding place of King Arthur's treasure


The present 12th century ruins stand on the sit of a much earlier 7th century priory, who knows where the treasure is now?

So, whilst staying in the area we were eager to tick off more Arthurian landmarks, especially the ones to the north of Shropshire.

Starting at Oswestry, it turns out that the good lady Guinevere was actually from Oswestry herself, so we visited her family home (old Oswestry hill fort) while we were there. Actually, there's not much left of the wooden buildings after over a thousand years, nothing but a big man made hill and earthworks.



You can't make it out on the photo below, but the hill has massive grooves up to six feet deep cut into it, this enabled people to move around up and down the hillside completely undetected if under attack, very clever!



Timed selfie on the top of old Oswestry hill fort 




Our next stop on holiday was the utterly delightful Whittington Castle, alleged hiding place of the Holy Grail.



Whittington is a small castle, yet perfectly formed, probably the ideal hiding place. The stone castle you see here was built by William the Conqueror's son, he demolished the previous castle from the time of King Arthur, which was built of wood.


The moat was not deep, we could see the bottom in places and inside the castle there were many pieces of armour on display which were found in the moat. We were lucky enough to watch an eel slither around in the water.



If you ever stop by, do try the cream tea. It was a warm day but the cafe was quite cool and the cream tea was tasty, generous and cheap.   

We missed several important sites from the King Arthur trail map, but the one which was the most frustrating was the possible burial site, which is on private land near the village of Baschurch, or possibly under tarmac on the main road, who knows? We drove along the road several times but as there is nowhere to stop, and no clue as to where the burial mound actually is from the road, we abandoned our search. 

If you want to read more here is an interesting piece.

Wenlock Priory and Wroxeter Roman city are under the charge of English Heritage and there is an entry fee, Old Oswestry Hill Fort is English Heritage but free to visit and Whittington Castle is free to wander round and owned by the local community. 

Saturday, 10 June 2017

What's in a label?

Out on Friday for our usual day trip, we stopped off at a couple of charity shops and I took the opportunity to do a bit of sourcing. 

I was really surprised to see this label on an item of clothing, a real blast from the past for me as I remember the shop when I was little, was thrilled to buy a tracksuit from there in the mid 70's with my saved up pocket money, and absolutely bereft when the chain disappeared not long afterwards.


No matter the cost, I had to buy the item of clothing, a semi sheer tie front overblouse with a funky abstract print. 

  
It is a size 14 but probably classed as a 10 these days, and it is staying with me for the time being!

I can't find out much about Van Allan I'm afraid. I do remember a branch in Birmingham but at that time was possibly too young to go shopping by myself. I was allowed to venture inside boutiques on family holidays to Scarborough, and I'm pretty sure that's where I made my tracksuit purchase (lilac with black piping and a V neck, if you're interested!). It seems that Van Allan was either taken over by Richard Shops, as it was called in those days, or closed down and Richard Shops took over the shops. It looks like Van Allan ceased to exist in or around 1981.   

OH bought these shorts for himself, he didn't recognise the label, but I did and couldn't believe it. Saville Row tailor Hardy Amies, dressmaker to the Queen.

Close up of the label


I've bought the shorts off him to sell as they don't fit too well and as they are quite short in the leg they make him look like an overgrown and hairy boy scout!

 I was interested to discover that Hardy Amies the brand was owned by Debenhams from 1973 to 1981, and in 2001 Hardy Amies himself retired at the age of 91, and sold the business to Luxury Brands Group.  He died in 2003 and the brand went bankrupt in 2008 but has been revived by Fung Capital.

In other second hand clothing news, I've recently acquired a vintage skirt, a Charlotte Halton 80's maxi in lime with a large floral pattern


The skirt was for the shop but close inspection revealed a small hole at the base of the zip, it's not enough to bother me but not good enough to sell.  I don't know why but I'm associating this brand with an early Top Shop, if you know anything about Charlotte Halton then let me know. 

A pair of lilac Vans, again bought to sell but in the shop lighting the slightly faded condition of the uppers didn't show.  Oddly, the soles are almost new so they must have been kept in the sun. They are my size and the same style as a pair I bought a few years ago in sparkly denim!  


I have also acquired a pair of Converse, I bought these for myself as they were particularly filthy and priced accordingly at a pound.  I think the dirt which was on them was actually mould as it was black staining down one side of each shoe.  It took a lot of biological liquid and scrubbing with an old toothbrush to remove most of the marks, there is still a faint grey tinge where the worst of the mould was. 

Interestingly, although the shoes are exactly the same size, one is marked as a 4 and the other as a 4 and a half, one shoe has 5 lace holes and the other has six!  Took me a while to realise what was going on as I laced them up, I can tell you!

As we are also fighting a perpetual egg mountain here in the cottage, as the new girls continue to eat ferociously and lay like highly oiled machines, I'm back to baking every week.  Last week's fare was pineapple upside down cake I made after discovering some huge slices of pineapple for 10p each in the reduced bin at ASDA. I also made a plain sponge covered in jam and coconut, a kind of traybake English madeleine.


Pineapple upside down cake, nice with a dollop of whipped cream on


English madeleine traybake

Both cakes were just plain sponge mix, and as the eggs we have are small I just weigh and match their weight in sugar, baking margarine and SR flour, whack it in the oven at around 180 for 25 mins or until it starts to ease away from the sides of the pan, and there you go!  

We've had a pretty dismal week here, temperatures are around average for the time of year but after the end of May heatwave it feels quite cold, and the rain and drizzle that we are suffering makes it feel like April, roll on Summer!

I'm off to find longer laces for those rogue Converse and to catch up with some blog reading, but in the meantime let me know in the comments if there are any clothing labels that stir childhood memories for you.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

If I could make it to the border...

As I mentioned previously, we are just back from a relaxing but busy week based in a little village on the border of England and Wales, just north of Shropshire

It was probably one of our shortest drives to a holiday destination, just under two hours door to door, but we made a day of it and went up via Ludlow. Travelling through Shropshire is always relaxing as there is never much traffic it is so sparsely populated, and the scenery is lovely.

We finally arrived at our cottage around 4.30 with a slashed tyre, after being forced backwards down a very narrow and winding lane by an impatient tractor driver, the steep banking of the lane had hidden rocks and we thought much more damage had been done than just the tyre, which was making a cartoony hissing noise as it rapidly deflated!

Even more annoyingly, after we finally got around the tractor, we discovered he had just passed a wide gateway, it was literally 40 feet behind him.

Thankfully, the cottage had full wifi, so we managed to get details for a couple of local companies, one of whom said he would stay open for us, after we explained what had happened. Half an hour later, we were back at the cottage with four fully functioning tyres, and ready for tea, bed and the thought of what to do on our first full day.   

 Day 1 and we decided on a trip to Chirk Castle, a grade 1 listed 13th century property managed by the National Trust

Chirk was built around 1295 for Roger Mortimer de Chirk, and was part of a collection of castles built around North Wales for King Edward I.

Roger Mortimer served Edward I, then Edward II, who made him Justiciar of all Wales. Unfortunately, ambition got the better of him and he took up arms with his nephew against the king and was thrown into the Tower of London where he died.

Chirk castle appears to be rather cursed for thereafter it was gifted to favoured subjects, and then taken back by the crown when those subjects disgraced themselves. At one point the owner was Richard III, and we all know that didn't end well!  

  Impressive weaponry in the hall


Fab painted ceilings

Gorgeous long gallery, with wooden floor

This suit of armour freaked me a little, I didn't want to take a photo right next to it, so I took this while it wan't looking at me!


Well stocked library


The best place was the tower and dungeons, I loved the bare stone walls and the fact all the rooms were still intact, it really had a feel of how life would have been all those centuries ago


However, on my way down to the dungeons, which are around 30 feet below ground level, I felt a bit cold, I arrived at this dungeon, as you can see there's a window shaft which leads to the main castle yard. I couldn't go any further down the staircase, it was a bit spooky and I do believe I came up those well worn dungeon steps in a world record time!



I've since found out the place is haunted, and I'm so pleased I didn't go down to the bottom of the staircase!

Back to the safety of the great outdoors, and we meandered around the grounds, admiring the English bluebells


The topiary and manicured lawns


and the statues 


We sat and admired the gardens and view of nearby Chirk for a while, then made our way back to the cottage to prepare for day 2.

Castle haha and steam from the nearby Mondelez (Cadbury's to British readers) factory.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Shropshire and Wales, the abridged version

We have just returned from a week in North Shropshire and Wales. I'm trying to get into a rhythm with work, so far so good as this week I have been most productive, thank goodness!

New stock bought and checked over, housework nearly up to date, and holiday washing almost all ironed, phew!

The chickens are all still friends, and are laying lots of little eggs for us, so we have a backlog to get through.

Thought I would share a few photos with you, hence the post title






There you go, a sneaky peek at where we've been. I will be compiling a new post soon. 

I've had a few bargain buys recently that I have forgotten to share

 The toiletries above were all 25p each, I quite like buying these smaller sizes to try out, and it's a token charity donation too

I do like a good cross body bag, and have kind of wanted a Kipling bag for ages, but they are pricy for nylon, I don't recall seeing one in a chazza before, so for around £2 I treated myself! No monkey keyring thing with this bag though. I realised after I bought it that it zips up the correct way round for me, I carry my bag on my right shoulder and I wear most bags back to front.



Today I found this fab Topshop orange cobwebby knit top for a pound so treated myself again. Love the colour and have several vest tops to go underneath, so if Summer is on the cool side it's probably my fault for buying this!  

Right, I have more ironing to do, a whole load of holiday snaps to sort through, and some blogs to catch up with.

Ooh, and this is my 100th post on Blogger!




Friday, 28 April 2017

Thunderstruck

Well, it's all chaos at pennypincher cottage, I've completely lost the plot and all semblance of time and space appear to have left the building!

The OH has a new work pattern and has to finish teaching at his new studio by 9pm.  He is now back at 9.30, having sorted his paperwork and driven the 2 minute journey home. That's kind of wrecked my blogging time, which was generally 9 till 11pm.

I've got a small shop on ebay, fusing my love of a charity shop, or any other bargain with selling on ebay, something I have been doing for years (cleared a loft and shed plus all my vintage toys over the years). It's a proper business, all registered and above board, and I'm finding doing the books at the end of every month quite depressing at present, having very small profits while building the business is a challenge when you are used to receiving a salary once a month, with all those pesky deductions already done for you!  I should be grateful to be turning a profit, albeit small, after just a few months and slapdash input!

I have also obtained a small business premises near OH, on the same estate, and as it is just down the road, it's proving very handy.  

We lost one of the rescued banties, Florence, in March, she was never well so it was a blessing in disguise that she is no longer with us.  This left me with a dilemma. Do I have rescue hens and possibly end up with my beautiful 8 year old bantam being picked on by bigger hens, or do I buy brand new point of lay (POL) banties and let her continue to enjoy life? Of course, Lola the bantie came first and we purchased a Hamburgh and Friesian from the Domestic Fowl Trust in Warwickshire.

Lola took to them quite quickly, thank goodness, and has since taught them all her naughty habits, I can now listen to her 'let me out' screech in three different tones! Hierarchy has been sorted, and Daphne the Hamburgh is the new second in command, with Maureen the Friesian at the bottom of the pecking order.

Here they are, Daphne is black and white, Maureen is gold (Maureen was named by OH after Maureen O'Hara as she is a feisty redhead)

 Daphne laid for us the morning after she arrived, and Maureen a week later.  We now have a dozen little eggs a week, with the occasional one from Lola, proving she ain't past it yet. 


Pure white Lola egg on the left, pearl white Daphne egg on the right, just to add to the confusion Maureen lays a white egg, should've checked the earlobes before I decided on breeds, doh!

I've had to buy myself a new all singing and dancing phone for business use, internet on the go for ebay and unlimited texts and calls for the rental, got a bargain though so not too much damage done.  Thank goodness for tax deductables!

No major visits to report on as we have been relishing our new found wealth (?) and shopping for all those things we were cutting back on for the past few years, clothing, toiletries etc, we have managed on the very basics for far too long!  However, we have a holiday booked soon and will be sharing the trip with you all.

I am seriously hoping all will soon settle with times and organisation and I will be back with regular blogs soon, thanks for hanging on in there while chaos ensued in the background xx

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

I'm late, I'm late!

Darn it, missed my Monday deadline for the next blog post!

Seems I'm playing catch up again, we are so busy. 

 No time for frivolities and lengthy self indulgent stately home visits, no, all our free time has been used up doing work related stuff and shopping for essentials, including gumtree and facebook furniture pick ups for the OH's new studio.

Last week we moved the OH's business, from the suburbs into the countryside.  He will be able to walk to work, which is good. Whether he will be able to work whilst gazing out at fields, rabbits and horses is another matter! 

I'm now making new blackout blinds for him, I made him some 18 months ago when he moved within the same site in the city, just a bigger room, and now am deconstructing those same blinds to fit smaller windows. 

I also made him some new cushion covers for his new waiting area chairs


Bought the fabric as fat quarters off ebay and it was delivered promptly.  I probably could have had a better deal from a well known fabric store in Birmingham, but it was quicker to buy online.  As you can see I ran out of fabric as I was only going to do two cushions, but ended up with one fat quarter and one fat half!

Charity shop wise, I found a gorgeous solid silver necklace a few weeks ago, for 50p. Angel wings in the shape of a heart.  It is quite weighty, but with the price of silver the scrap value is probably around what I paid for it, no matter, I like it. 



I also picked up these fab burnt orange colour opaques, another 50p, they reminded me of my work days and I have noticed Ann, of Polyester Princess, wearing gorgeous opaques with her vintage dresses.



I have an old Jigsaw wool skirt I need to alter and it matches these tights, that outfit will have to wait for next Winter now, I reckon.

I was tempted to part with a pound each for these biographies, think I will need to broaden my mind before reading!


Both books are in excellent condition. 

 I had a serious book addiction a few years ago, bookshelves groaning under the weight of factual and biographical books, most were donated when we moved, but sometimes I just can't help poring over a shelf of books in a second hand store, I'm always drawn to them.

More shower gel, and that expensive Grace and Cole stuff again, this 200ml tube was 75p



Finally, in a moment of weakness in the Cotswolds and Evesham, a bit of retail therapy.

I spotted this jumper in the EWM sale and ummed and ahhed.  The ticket price was £25 reduced from £30, but at the till it rang through at £16.  I had a similar colour jumper (well, the blue bits anyway!) which is on the way out, so it's gone in the rag bag. 



We went for a window shop in the Valley retail park again and in the Fat Face shop I spotted this hoodie.  Fully lined with fleece and just the thing I need for morning walks through the fields and shopping runs.  The tag price was originally £55, it was reduced to £30, still a lot of money for me, but I've been so pleased with the quality of the jumper I treated myself to recently, that I bought it.


  I think I've spent a lot recently in proper shops but looking back at my blog, where I do share all my personal purchases, I can see that I haven't.

Now the only other thing I need is new socks, and I'm off to Asda tomorrow! 

Monday, 27 February 2017

Last Summer pt 3: Porlock Weir

When we booked our Somerset cottage, I began researching places for us to visit.  One place that stood out for me was Porlock Weir.



Porlock Weir is a very small port and tidal harbour, with a long history.  The port has existed for over a thousand years, in 1052 it was plundered by Harold Godwinson, who became King Harold for a few months in 1066, before his defeat at Hastings.

We didn't come to plunder, we came to find a tranquil, picture perfect village-by-the-sea, and we found it. Sheep grazing in fields almost at the shoreline, and seagulls, somewhat laid back compared to their more commercial seaside cousins.

The weather was very overcast, we expected rain at any moment, but is was surprisingly warm, even by the sea.

Today's outfit: Free M&S jeans courtesy of the reward credit card, £1 Jack Purcell Converse, and black 3/4 sleeve t shirt with Chinese dragon, possibly 50p both charity shopped


I was really taken by the colour of the pebbles on the beach, small and very large, in various delicate pastel shades of pink and green.

 These long sticks mark the entrance to the harbour, the deepest entry point for the boats.  As you can see, when we were there the tide was right out. 

When the tide is right in, the grade II listed Gibralter cottages are marooned on their own tiny island, accessible only by a narrow footbridge  

As they are only accessible by foot anyway, I was somewhat puzzled to find a Rover 25 in one of the gardens! (I know the shape of these cars well as I have one of the last ever 25's off the production line)

By the time we had our lunch at the picnic tables almost on the beach, the sky was clouding over and the headland looked quite menacing

We decided to drive back to the holiday cottage via all the interesting places we had spotted on the drive down.

In Porlock itself we found a tiny private museum inside an old pale pink cottage and had a look (no photos allowed inside) 



View from Selworthy Green




Further on up the coastal road we spotted National Trust signs and drove up a very steep hill.  We had found Selworthy Green


A little collection of picture perfect thatched cottages, clinging to the side of a steep yet green hill

 A cup of coffee and cake from the picnic bag in one of the most picturesque places, then back down the hill and onwards.

We noticed yesterday that Dunster had a beach and drove down to park up for a walk.  Surprisingly the beach was mainly sand with a few stones  




Dunster also has a little railway station.

OH was highly amused by this bench, apparently the name of a station in the film Oh, Mr Porter!  I was in blissful ignorance. 


We explored the little station, quietly hoping that a steam train would turn up, whilst admiring the old luggage 


This label for a famous Welsh town, was attached to the curved top case on the left of the trolley

Also known as: Saint Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave



This case has travelled a little further

Finally, after a false start of a diesel train trundling along the track, this little steam train pulled in to Dunster station.

7828 is a fairly new steam engine, it was built in 1950, scrapped in 1965 and ended up at the now famous Woodham Brothers Barry scrapyard in Wales, where the owner found it easier and more lucrative to cut up coal wagons rather than the more awkward engines.  This resulted in 213 of the 297 engines sent there to be scrapped, being rescued and refurbished.  But that is another story!

More Somerset tales soon!