Friday, May 19, 2017

Five on Friday - Five from Conwy

I missed joining in with last week's Five on Friday as we were away from home for a few days visiting North Wales (see my last post).  It had been some time since we had visited the little walled town of Conwy so we popped in for a day from where we were staying near Porthmadog to rediscover its charms and its wonderful historic buildings.

1.  Conwy Castle - the 13th century castle was built by Master James of St George for King Edward I (1239 - 1307) as one of his fortifications in Wales at a cost of £15,000.  The castle dominates the town which is enclosed by walls of the same period as the castle.  Climbing to the top of its towers will reward you wonderful views of both mountains and sea.

2. Aberconwy House - is a 14th Century Merchant's House which is the only one of its kind in Conwy to survive past the turbulent years of of the Civil Wars in the 17th century.  The room attendant we spoke to told us that the first known and recorded owner of the house was called Evan David.  Apparently he  was sympathetic to the Parliamentary cause even though the castle was in the hands of the Royalists at the time.  In the early 19th century the house was lived in by a Captain Samuel Williams who dealt in slate, copper and lead.  By the mid 19th century the house was a Temperance Hotel and joined to the building next door, both buildings are in the hands of the National Trust. We were told that the rents from the building next door helped with the upkeep of the older property.  

3. Plas Mawr - is an absolute gem.  It has been described as 'the finest Elizabeth townhouse in the Britain' and I wouldn't disagree.  It was built c. 1570 by local landowner Robert Wynn.  On one of the main streets of Conwy its frontage at street level is a gatehouse, behind that is a courtyard and then there are steps up to the main house which as you see from the photo above leads into two other sections of house at different levels,  the building at the back is now an art gallery. There is also a courtyard garden between two parts of the house and a tower room with views over the town rooftops to the castle and the quayside.  I will take you inside in another post as there is so much to see.

4.  Suspension Bridge - is a Grade 1 listed structure and is one of the first road suspension bridges in the world.  Opened in 1826 its architect was ThomasTelford and the engineers Robert Stephenson, William Fairbairn and Eaton Hodgkinson.  You can walk across to the toll house on the other side and see how the toll keeper and his wife lived and worked in a very small space just over 100 years ago.  We were met at the door by the room attendant who had spoken to us much earlier in the day at Aberconwy House as the Toll House and Bridge are cared for by the National Trust.  He was extremely knowledgeable about both places.

5. The Smallest House - can be found on the quayside built against the town walls.  It is 6ft wide and just over 10ft high. Built in the 16th century it was occupied until May 1900.  The last person to live there was fisherman Robert Jones who was 6ft 3ins in height.  Inside is a settle next to a fireplace and up a short ladder is a single bed and beside table.  The house is apparently still owned by the descendants of Robert Jones.

Joining in Five on Friday organised by Tricky and Carly at the FAST blog.  Do click on the link below and visit all the other bloggers who are taking part this week.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

By the Sea

Looking out of the window at today's pouring rain it's hard to remember the warm sunshine we delighted in last week.  We spent a few days away on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales always a favourite area to visit and we were so lucky with the weather. 

 It was our first sighting of the sea this year and it felt good to walk along the local beaches in the warm sunshine.

 Early evening in Criccieth and a walk before an evening meal

Early morning at Borth-y-Gest and the tide is in

so we took a walk along the coastal path

 and then walked back along the beach as the tide was receding.

A drive up towards Capel Curig on our way to spend a day in Conwy (of which more in later posts)

We popped along to visit the Glaslyn Osprey Project at Pont Croesor which is only about five minutes by car from where we always stay.

 There are two nests to see this time as one of last year's offspring has returned  here.  I saw one of the birds called Blue5F on the Pont Creosor nest through the telescope.  This new nest is closer that the original nest where Ospreys called Mrs G and Arran nest each year.  Here is a - link - to the project's website so you can find out more.

The bird on the feeder is a Redpoll, in the water under the bridge is a Grey Heron.  The steam trains which stop at the station nearby are on the Welsh Highland Railway which runs between Porthmadog and Caernarvon.

By Thursday afternoon the weather was changing as you can see from the mist over the mountains.  

 By the time we reached Beddgelert raincoats were needed.

It looks from the dryness of the riverbed that rain is needed here too.

I'll be back with more on Friday.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Early May in the Garden

The saying 'a watched kettle never boils' is very apt for a garden in Spring.  Weeks and days of waiting for plants to appear and flowers to open so, of course, whilst we've been away for a few days the garden has exploded into life and colour. 

All the fruits and flowers that were 'pending' have opened and ripened.  The first strawberries from the one plant in the greenhouse - all the others are in the garden.  They were so delicious after a day on the kitchen windowsill, the first strawberries always have that tart sweetness.

Aquilegias all over the garden

In a variety of colours

 Peony on the front garden, we thought we'd lost the peony on the back garden after the winter;  green leaves have appeared now but it is way behind this one.

 Ceanothus - on the front garden.

 Wallflowers seeded against the house, they seem to like it there rather than in the little garden on the front of the house.

Perennial Cornflowers (centaurea montana) we thought these were all lost after last year's flooding but a couple of clumps have appeared.  I love to see this flower in the garden so I'm glad it is still around.
 Azelea - this was rescued from the garden and placed in a pot after the flood we had last year left its roots standing in water.  It looked to be a lost cause even up to a couple of weeks ago but look at it now.

 Valerian from soft floaty seeds collected from the roadside in Abersoch on the Llyn Peninsula a few years ago.

 Lady's Mantle or Alchemilla mollis always looks its best early in the season and just after a rain shower.

 Wild Garlic grows under the trees near the shed at the top of the garden.  Every year we say we will make soup or pesto with some of it but somehow have never got round to it.

 Clematis Montana we had to cut this back a couple of years ago as it was strangling the tree next to it.  It's been given a frame to climb on and has bounced back quite nicely.

Rhododendron - Dreamland bought a few years ago from the Dunge Valley Gardens in the Goyt Valley in Derbyshire.  It's still not very tall but it looks healthy and has many flowers still to open.

I'll be back with a post about our few days away as soon as I've sorted out the photos.

Monday, May 08, 2017

A Blissful Afternoon

It was such a lovely day yesterday.  We  noticed that Consall Hall Landscape Gardens were open  for the day so, as we hadn't been for quite a while, we decided to visit.  

The gardens are next door to Consall Nature Park, where we often walk, and cover about seventy acres most of which are accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs. Buggy tours with commentaries are also available for an extra charge and many people were taking these as there are four miles of paths around the garden.

 There is much to see including lakes, woodlands, wildlife areas, ornamental pools, follies, terraces, steps and paved areas.

 Azaleas and rhododendrons were in bloom

The Thatched Cottage where you can sit and draw or paint the vista of the Laund Pool seen through the window.

The gardens have been developed over the last fifty years by the Podmore Family, especially Mr W Podmore who still lives at the Hall.

A wonderful quote from the back wall of the pool terrace

 The pool was full of goldfish
One of the statues on the top terrace.
Above and below a few more photos taken around the garden
Here is a  link to the garden website where you can find out more about the history of the garden and open days for this year.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Third Time Lucky

On Easter Saturday we wandered into Hem Heath Woods to see if the bluebells were in flower.  The woods on the old colliery site to the south of the city are owned and maintained by the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and are famous for their bluebells at this time of year.

When we arrived it was quite chilly and Paul realised had forgotten to put his big coat in the car and had only a quilted body warmer with him. We wandered into the woods a little way.  There were a only few bluebells in flower and we thought it would take another week or so before they were visible in the blue carpets we have seen there before. We decided to cut our walk short as it was quite chilly and also looked as if it might rain.

Early this week we decided to go back and see if we could spot more bluebells but this time it was me who forgot to put some old boots in the car for walking through the woods and as we'd had some rain it was quite muddy and I didn't want to mess up the shoes I had on as we were going on somewhere else.  So this time we didn't go into the woods at all.

On Saturday morning just two weeks after our first visit we went back again.  Would there be lots of bluebells to see?

 Oh, yes - there were!

Loads of beautiful blue flowers stretching onwards and outwards between the trees.

The warmth of the sun made them glow and their scent was heavenly.

It is so hard to capture their bright, intense colour with a camera.

Nothing compares to just seeing blue stretching into the distance, being under the sun dappled trees with the flowers and listening to the sounds of the birds overhead.

After a short while I gave up trying to take photos and just enjoyed being part of it all.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Five on Friday

I was looking at some of the the books on our bookshelves wondering which books, if any, I could bear to part with.  Obviously some books are taken off the shelves  more often than others  so I got diverted into thinking about  which books were used most often.

Of course, it happens to be reference books and cookery books which are most often used so I've decided to share Five of the ones that are taken off the shelves most frequently.

They aren't a very inspiring selection of books, their covers, quite plain, old fashioned and possibly quite boring to look at but inside them is a wealth of information.   

1.  The Cranks Recipe Book -  I wish I'd had this book when I first stopped eating meat in the early 1970s but I didn't and struggled half-heartedly to give up meat entirely throughout that decade.  I remember eating at both Cranks and Oodles restaurants in London during the 70s and being inspired by their food, as I was by Sarah Brown's Terrace Project in Scarborough, but it was in the early eighties when Paul had been made redundant that we decided to manage without meat as we couldn't afford to buy it very often so it seemed a good idea not to buy it at all.  Our first Vegetarian recipe books were those by Rose Elliott and Sarah Brown and then we bought the Cranks book.  You can see how well thumbed it is, the pages are loose, yellowed and spattered with remnants of cooking but it is a well used and well loved book. Over the last few years we have gradually re-introduced some types of fish back into our diet,  Paul eats it more than I do and shares it with the cat.  I think the recipes we use most from this book are the nut roast recipe, Crecy plate pie which is an onion and carrot pie, Homity pie and Devon Apple cake.

2.  We love the bird visitors to our garden and feed them all year round.  We also love spotting and photographing different birds on our walks and also on holidays by the sea.  We have several books about birds but this one is the book that is most often pulled off the shelves for a quick identification of anything unusual that appears in the garden.  It is dated 1974, so again a fairly old, well used and well loved book.

3.  I have several of these King's England books by Arthur Mee picked up over the years in second hand book shops. On the book shelves are copies relating to the Midlands counties of Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire as well as the Derbyshire one above.  It is the Derbyshire one I use the most and often consult it when I'm looking for background information on perhaps a village, church or stately home in the county usually when I am writing a blog post.  Of course, nowadays, I use the Internet quite a bit too to find things out, but it is interesting to see what these books of the 1930s say about some of the places we visit and about some of the buildings that no longer exist.

4. Another useful book which is often consulted when we've spotted an unusual butterfly or moth in the garden.  We used to have quite a few more of these creatures visit the garden when we first came here but we don't see so many now.  I remember years ago when we were both studying for degrees with the Open University.  I was studying the Arts and Paul was doing Sciences.  One of his projects included a study of moths and he was issued with a moth trap as part of the course materials.  Whilst he was trapping and recording moths I was studying 'England in the 17th Century.'  My favourite book from that time was Christopher Hill's 'The World Turned upside Down' - feels a bit like that at the moment.

5.  Another fairly old book which seems to have been on our bookshelves for ages.  We've used it often to identify plants we've spotted whilst out walking and in the garden.  For the last two years we've been inundated with Wood Avens in the garden and we were able to identify it from this book.  We've cleared much of it from the flower beds as it was growing in with the hardy geraniums and with the buttercups which also threaten to overwhelm the beds sometimes.  Self Heal or Woundwort was another plant we identified, this grows in the grass and some of the flower beds too, as do dog violets and forget-me-not, all self seeding, every year.

Joining in this week with Tricky and Carly at the FAST blog.  Click on the link below to find others who are participating in Five on Friday this week.

Today is our 38th wedding anniversary so we are going out for the day.  I'll catch up with you all later today or over the weekend.