Friday, 30 June 2017

Flower Power!

Today we did something a little different.  We took a stroll through a field of delphiniums in Worcestershire. 

The field is part of a farm where natural confetti is grown and harvested by the Real Flower Confetti Company. The flowers reach their peak in late June/early July and the field is open to the public for ten days. We visited on the first open day and were surprised at how many people were there. Several photographers and their subjects were lurking in the flowers too!

Thankfully it was a dull and overcast kind of day, as we were able to appreciate the beautiful  and vibrant colours.

There is an entry fee to walk around the field, £2.50 per adult, but children are free. You can buy confetti, cut flowers and a confetti cafe has been set up where drinks and cakes can be purchased at a reasonable price.

 I have to say it was almost a surreal experience being surrounded by colour as we walked through the thickly planted bands of flowers

I love delphiniums, and used to grow them in my garden in Birmingham, until they decided they no longer liked the soil and stopped growing!

I was in heaven strolling around the field, and the raised platform provided an interesting angle over the field, unfortunately not high enough to view the Union Jack flag planted at one end.

Half a Union flag

The other half!

Beautiful colours as far as the eye can see!

The field is located in Wick near Pershore in Worcestershire, and is open from 30th June until 9th July from 10am till 5pm. Parking is on a field and free, entry is £2.50 per person, children are free.

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.