Saturday, October 14, 2017

Autumn in the Garden

The Tulip Tree (Liriodendron) at the top of the garden is looking wonderful at the moment.

It's changed from bright green to soft yellow in a matter of days.

I thought I woud take some photos of it today before the leaves get blown away in the gales that are forecast for early next week.

It was quite breezy today and as I took the photos the branches were swaying in the wind and the leaves were dancing along to the blustery music.

Leaves have started to fall and soon it will be time to go out and collect them up.  Falling leaves and woodsmoke in the air are two of the things I love about this time of year.

Leaves had drifted onto the cleared vegetable beds.

Into the pond, across the lawn
And into the bird bath

The Hydrangeas are still clinging on to some colour, they were such a deep, bright pink earlier this year.

The flowers on the Hydrangeas above were bright blue turning to soft mauve in the late summer.

The Heucheras we planted are still looking colourful.

We don't see the foxes now the nights are getting darker.  They usually visit the garden anytime from eight o'clock onwards.  Although a couple of lunchtimes over the last few days we've been visited by this year's female cub.   She trots onto the lawn and stares at us through the kitchen window then she runs off. Mum and Dad have moved on now and left their three cubs to fend for themselves which they seem to do very well.
It is certainly squirrel time in the garden.  They run, they chase, they play.  They tease the local cats and pinch the bird food.  They are also still pinching stones from our paths and burying them in the lawn.

Meanwhile in the conservatory Max looks on over his garden from his favourite chair, never wanting to go out now, content to stay where it is warm and cosy.

Watching Autumn spread across the garden as he has done for 21 years now.
All we can do is keep him warm and safe.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

British Ceramics Biennial 2017

The British Ceramics Biennial is in town again, well in the town of Stoke anyway, which is one of the six towns that make up the City of Stoke on Trent.  Stoke is where Stoke Minster and the Civic Offices are and also nearby is a huge site which used to be the home of Spode China works.  There has been a factory on this site since 1771. The factory ceased to manufacture ceramics a few years after we first came to live in the area but I do remember visiting the factory, the Museum and the Blue China Restaurant.   Now the huge open and empty factory unit, known as the China Halls, is used for many community events and projects and every other year for the Ceramics Biennial.

I remember when we visited in 2015 we entered from the back of the complex this time we entered from doors on the front which are approached through the Spode Rose Garden.

This year too there are more venues than just the China Hall at Spode.  Last week we visited displays at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery and the Bethesda Chapel both in Hanley.  There are also displays at the nearby AirSpace Gallery and Emma Bridgewater Factory and also at Middleport Pottery, The World of Wedgwood and The Gladstone Pottery Museum.

Inside the China Halls is an amazing space and there were so many things to see and to participate in.

There were so many wonderful displays to look at including work from ten of the best ceramic artists from across the country and also some of the best of new UK based graduate artists.

There were too many individual works, installations and displays to write about here so I've decided to concentrate on just three things that caught my attention.

 Below is a work by Juree Kim who has, with Neil Brownsword, been artist in residence at the V&A Museum for the last year, exploring the issues surrounding architectural heritage and urban regeneration.  She has visited several regional sites of historic ceramic production that remain 'invisible' due to disuse and decay. 

Juree Kim has made scale reproductions of these buildings in raw clay which were 'activated' in a performance on the opening evening of the Biennial.  In the ceremony water was added to the base of the structure which started the gradual decay and collapse of the building and highlights the issues surrounding the value of built heritage and its preservation and the decline of the pottery industry as a whole.

 The clay structure above is of the Falcon Works, Old Town Road, Hanley.  One of the volunteers we spoke to said that each time she came in to start her duties she went to check how the structure had changed and how much it disintegrated every day.

Knowledge is Power: Six Towns is an installation by leading ceramic artist Keith Harrison who has worked with the Stoke-on-Trent Libraries and Archives, schools and community groups to make a complete set of replica clay books which have been inspired by local history books

The books are fired each day, triggered by an interactive switching mechanism.   One of the volunteers in this area told us that the day before we visited some of ceramic books had exploded - which is why they safe are behind the bars.

I also found Ian McIntyre's 'Brown Betty: The Everyday Archetype' quite fascinating. The Brown Betty teapot has been around for over 300 years and has been re-engineered for the 21st century.

 The combination of Rockingham glaze and Staffordshire's Etruria red clay are fundamental to the success of the Brown Betty Teapot.  In 1693 brothers John and David Elers refined the use of the clay and based their teapots on those imported from China by the Dutch East India Company.

Artist Ian McIntyre has re-imagined the making of the teapots
and exclusive limited edition pots are on sale as part of the exhibition.

More highlights from the festival including works by Lena Peters, Holly Johns and Hannah Tounend

 Refreshments by B-Arts, Bread in Common.

 Entertainment from The Claybody Theatre

We are hoping to go back and take another look at the exhibitions before the festival closes on 5th November.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

A Lakeside Walk and Homemade Soup

This morning even though it was quite windy we headed out for our usual walk around the lake at Trentham Gardens.  We hadn't been for a walk around the lakeside for a couple of weeks and were quite surprised at the changes and additions we found along the way.

 We were looking for signs of autumn and certainly found them.  The leaves on the Tulip Trees along the paths near the lake were far more advanced into their autumn colours than ours at home which is still quite green with just a few slightly yellow leaves.

We thought we might find some fungi but didn't expect to find these Fly Agaric toadstools.  There were loads of them across the grass, some opened others just appearing from the ground.  

As we walked around we noticed quite a few new sculptures had been installed.

 I think these are supposed to be Brown Trout which are found nearby in the River Trent.

Deer.  We don't see the wild deer herd dashing thought the undergrowth anymore, although I think can still be spotted up in the woods.


Two horses' heads on plinths

 Below another owl

 I bet he or she stands out in the dark.


 Hare - this one had just been placed ready for installing - it was sitting on a black plastic bag and fenced in by red and white tape.

Frog, a lady standing nearby called him Jeremy Fisher which made me smile.

We saw lots of other seasonal fungi, leaves and plants along the way.   

There were lots of water birds on the lake.  Cormorant, Grebe,
Heron and Swans both black and white, lots of Canada geese, Coots, Mallards and Moorhens too.

After a wonderful breezy walk in both bright sunshine and the occasional bout of drizzle we returned home to warm up some homemade soup.  Leek and potato with homemade bread.  I love these bright, autumnal October mornings.  I'm also glad we went out this morning because as I type this the wind has really picked up and the rain is battering the windows.  Such a day of contrasts.

Monday, October 02, 2017

A Vist to Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet

It was a warm and sunny afternoon when we visited the Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet  near Dore in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. It felt warm and welcoming and had what looked like a fairly new visitor centre with cafe and reception to call and buy tickets in first.

The buildings themselves blended into the landscape which felt tranquil and fairly rural nestled in between the busy road we'd just left and the river and main line railway on the other side.  Of course back in the days when the mill and forge were being used for the manufacture of steel blades it would have been a hive of industry.  Noisy, dirty, smelly and smokey and even in today's very noisy world I expect we would find the noise of the machinery surprisingly loud.

Abbeydale has been a place where metal has been worked for hundreds of years.  From 1697 until 1933 scythes and other edged tools were made there.  It was once the largest water-powered industrial site along the River Sheaf and all the processes of making blades were carried out on the site. 

The first buildings you enter on the site are three workers' cottages built in 1793.  The first two are used as an exhibition area to interpret the history of the Abbeydale site. There is a short film in there too.

The third cottage has been set out as it would have been when a family lived there in the 1840s.

Next to the cottages is the counting house where the workers would receive their pay.  All the accounting was done here by the foreman and his clerk.  I didn't take any photos in there as there was a very enthusiastic volunteer explaining everything to us and it would have seemed rude to wander off and take photos.  I meant to pop back in at the end of the visit but didn't get around to it.

The next few buildings are where all the hard work of making the scythe blades was done.  

The photo above was taken inside what is known as the Grinding Hull.  This is where the formed scythe blades were sent to the grinders who sharpened the edges on  grinding stones which were powered by the wheels in the water mill.

 Grinding was a very hard job and you need both strength and skill to do it.  Of course this was also a dangerous job as sometimes the grinding stones could shatter causing awful injuries and also 'Grinder's lung' was rife as the dust settled in the lungs.

The water wheels were powered by the River Sheaf, water was diverted from the river into a channel which has since become a rather large dam.

Next to the waterwheel was the Tilt Forge where one of the two types of scythes made at Abbeydale, the Crown Scythe were forge-welded by heating a piece of crucible steel between layers of wrought iron, then hammering them together.  The other type of blade made was the Patent Riveted Scythe which was made by stamping out a steel scythe and then making a separate back and riveting them together.

Above in the blacking shop the completed scythes were painted with blacking to prevent rusting then they were wrapped in straw rope and  stored in the warehouse.

The Manager's House which stands near the stable and coach house is presented as it may have looked in the 1880s although it was built in the 1830s.  It was still used as a family home after the manufacturing stopped at Abbeydale.  Many of the rugs and textiles have been made by the Hamlet Haberdashers Textile Group.

There are often craftspeople on site working in some of the workshops.  One of the Blacksmith's forges was being used whilst we were there.  There are also many community and family activities and events held throughout the year.

The site is closed on Fridays and Saturdays and entrance costs £4/£3 - children under 16 free.  It's well worth a visit if you are in the area.