Thursday, 28 December 2017

Witley on ice

Thought I would start this post with a few photos of our recent snowfall. Here in Worcestershire we had about a foot. We are quite elevated, there's a long hill at both ends of the village, and plenty of open countryside around us, so any weather is pretty much unhindered.

Woke to this on 8th December, (view from our bedroom window) but it wasn't deep and neither was it that cold, so we ventured out to Hanbury

Two days later, Sunday 10th, and this greeted us, view from the lounge this time, and look at that sky, plenty more up there! It snowed on and off all day.

The woodpecker arrived, and we only really see him in Winter (just above centre of pic and in the middle) 

11th December and a slow melt began, although you can see we have slightly more snow than yesterday morning

12th December and snow again, and a freezing fog moving in!

 For those of you in colder climates thinking "that's not much snow!", it is quite unusual for us to have as much as this and we do not have equipment etc to deal with it.  Some Winters we barely have a light dusting more than a couple of times during the season, which is why everything grinds to a halt and we all go a bit snow crazy when it happens!

Anyway, fast forward a few days to Saturday 16th, and we thought the snow had all melted so popped over to Witley Court, our nearest English Heritage property. We had the place to ourselves. 

The lake was still partly frozen, no ducks to be seen

The fountain too, thankfully it doesn't fire up in the Winter, bet the pipes were frozen solid

OH had some amusement skimming bits of frozen snow across the surface

There was even a decent amount of snow left on the ground

Just us, no-one else to be seen

On our favourite fountain there was a display of paper water lilies sitting on the frozen surface, in readiness for the first ever lantern festival at Witley.

The trees were being decorated with paper lanterns and battery operated fairy lights, you can just see little jam jars along the edge of the path, the only other person around was a man switching on all the little lights in the jars. 

Back at the shop and we treated ourselves to some Worcestershire wobble juice and fudge and ginger biscuits, for less than the cost of a cup of tea and cake.

Hope you have all had a lovely Christmas, Happy New Year to you all and see you in 2018!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Glam Christmas

On the 8th December we intended to have a long day out to the Malverns, the weather decided otherwise, here it was the start of a snowstorm lasting a couple of days.  The temperature was in the minus figures, it was biting cold and the snowflakes were horizontal in the driving wind.

Never mind, we stopped off at Hanbury Hall for a 70's and 80's themed Christmas!  The idea came about because in the 70's and 80's the hall was rented out and the occupants became fairly infamous locally for their wild parties. 

Christmas card perfect on the outside, but like an explosion in a glitter factory inside!

The huge tree in the hallway had been lovingly decorated with different colours of lametta, the front drawing room was playing Morecombe and Wise on a loop on the TV and people were relaxing with babycham and snowballs, next to a silver glitter tree. 

The dining room was stuffed with tupperware holding all manner of 70's and 80's food.  Twiglets and cheese balls, anyone?

The retro bar was taking orders for babycham and snowballs at £2 each (2017 prices!), all drunk straight from the bottle with a straw.  Just look at that pineapple ice bucket! 

In the main drawing room, vintage toys were scattered under the tree

Despite being a child in the 70's, some of these were new to me, never heard of computacar, others, like the Grandstand video game, I had heard of but didn't have myself. We did have Monopoly (much to my dad's annoyance as I always won!) and Frustration (which we still have!)  

Actually, most of these toys never crossed the threshold into our house, I feel quite deprived now!

Upstairs, more cabinets with the now rarer items displayed, all belonging to volunteers I believe

I did have a Sinclair ZX81 which was black and white, but my mother bought it off a second hand man at the rag market. I do wish I still had it as it would probably be worth a decent bit by now, but I kept it in good condition and sold it in the 90's to a young lad who was interested in computing

One bedroom upstairs was dedicated to the morning after the night before, sometime in the 80's, Katharine Hamnett Wham t shirt, denim clothing and Frankie GTH bag scattered about the room, another bedroom had a body in a sleeping bag on the floor!

Across the parterre and in the long gallery were yet more toys, we found a pair of rainbow Christmas trees and played Buckaroo for a while, both losing and both fed up of picking the bits up from where they had been thrown by the mule 

Back outside, and the snow wasn't stopping, we had a quick wander around, the house really does look picture perfect in the snow

The vegetable patch was covered with a gentle layer of Winter frosting and we spoke to the chickens, and the lady feeding them, before continuing our walk 

We found this mistletoe at arms length, I couldn't bring myself to pinch a bit!

Past the parterre, which I have once again managed to capture on a tilt (I can't blame the camera, it is user error!), we continued back to the car and home.

I managed to take this photo while we were driving back home down the lanes, and it really is one of my favourite snow pictures so far this year.

Hope you are all staying safe if you have had icy weather, and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Dovecotes of the rich and pious

Before the snow came and marooned us in our cottage we had been out into Worcestershire, catching up on National Trust properties which are too small to spend much time at individually.

First port of call was the 16th century half timbered dovecote at Hawford. Originally part of a wealthy monastic grange, the dovecote now stands alone, neatly tucked away between handsome detached houses in this peaceful hamlet off the A449.

We walked around the place twice before I discovered the double doors were open and disappeared from OH's view! 

Inside was actually cosy, with brick floor and half timbered walls standing on a small sandstone wall.  Despite an opening for a ladder, there was not one there up to the other levels, and with floorboards missing it would be dangerous for visitors. 

I love these mini buildings, and can imagine them with an inglenook fireplace to one wall and woodburner at full pelt, warming the whole place through. Although they would never have been heated, it makes a nice thought!

As I can't find out much about Hawford monastic grange, I can only imagine it is no longer around because of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monastries. 

There is no parking at Hawford, and the dovecote is a short way up a private road, which you can walk up but not drive. Vehicles are tolerated on the grass verges in the nearby lane.

Our next building was across the river Severn, and a hundred years into the future, the 17th century Wichenford dovecote.

Another half timbered cute property, this time with a picturesque brookside setting, and again just off a private access road.

The surroundings were stunning

We will have to revisit in Summer, this is just too pretty!

Here, the doorway made me feel gigantic, poor OH had to squeeze himself in. The floor was raised too so it was quite a step up.

(had to throw these boots when I wore them in snow the other day as the sole had split, I'd worn them so often, ah well, several years and £20 so not too bad) Spot the £1.95 Kipling bag!

That's quite a step (OH in his Merrell trainers which were too ugly until he tried them on, £8 CS find and comfy as walking on air!)

Inside, all of the 560 little nesting areas were still present, and someone at the National Trust has spent ages making paper doves to fill the spaces

As there was an impressive cupola on top for the birds to enter, this dovecote had more light inside, despite the tiny door.

One last view of the gorgeous half timbered exterior and we were off

We had lunch outside the parish church and drove towards our next property, the largest and possibly oldest tithe barn in England, 14th century Leigh Court Barn, managed by English Heritage.

Leigh Court Barn is huge, a whopping 140 feet long, 33 feet high and 34 feet wide. It was built around 1325 (dated by style of carpentry and radiocarbon dating). There are two pairs of huge doors on both sides of the building

Here, you can just see the walls bowing, the foundations are inadequate to support the building and it has now been underpinned to prevent collapse, although the brick infill would originally have been more lightweight wattle and daub.

Apologies for the blurry shot, my phone is not good at low light photography, however, it makes the woven panels easy to see.  The above doors would be opened on both sides when grain was laid out, and the wind would help sort the wheat from the chaff.  

These huge cathedral like arches of oak are stunning. There are nine pairs of solid oak cruck timbers, in effect the ribs of the building, holding it all together.

 As you enter the building, to the right is an area for cider making, and judging by the size of the equipment, they made a lot here.

The barn was originally part of the Leigh Court grange, or monastic farm, belonging to the monks of Pershore in Worcestershire, and here they stored grain grown on their land.

The steep sided roof is originally thought to have been thatched

The view from the other end of the barn is just as spectacular, and it was a sunny day with the low winter sun helping to create a warm glow through the barn.

These wooden pegs have been in place for 800 years, holding everything together

(Oops! Seems my maths is out on this post and Leigh Court Barn is in fact only coming up to 700 years old Back to school for me!)

Despite being in the care of the National Trust and English Heritage, all of the above properties are free to enter usually during hours of daylight, but as they are not manned there are no facilities at any of them.

I'm quite pleased with the photos as my camera of choice is my new toy, a smart phone, and a cheap one at that. I decided to bite the bullet when I ended up spending my £10 per six month pay as you go top up in one afternoon trying to sort out a problem with the rental. I realised the phone could be offset against my business, and it has been worth it so far, despite the frustrations of initially getting used to it, saves me lugging my camera around and I always have it on me.

Just one pennypinching purchase to share this time, and it is this pretty bracelet in shades of grey, just 50p and from Denmark. The company is called Pilgrim (kind of fits with the monastic theme to this post!).

Of course it goes without saying that my Christmas shopping is all done, and at minimal cost but with maximum thought.

When I discover a quick way to get photos from my phone to my blog I will be back on a regular basis.