Saturday Snapshots

It’s been a busy time here recently, as these photos of some of the places we’ve visited show:

We’ve been away visiting family. We stayed at Marlow in Buckinghamshire. The photo below shows the Marlow Bridge – a road and footbridge across the River Thames. The original crossing probably dates back to 1309. The current suspension bridge was built 1829 and 1832 and was restored in 1956-7.

Marlow Bridge P1090134

There were the usual boats, ducks and swans but we were surprised to see this driving up the Thames:

Amphibious car Marlow P1090141We had a flying visit to Eton and Windsor, not far from Marlow. We had lunch at the 300 year old George Inn at Eton on one side of the Thames:

George Inn Eton P1090082and then we crossed the bridge into Windsor for a quick look at Windsor Castle:

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 Other trips out were to Silverstone in Northamptonshire where our nephew has a hospitality suite and we watched the practice for the British MotoGP. His suite, located right over the pit lane, has fantastic views over the start/finish straight.

Silverstone P1090230And then we were off to Coventry to see our other nephew’s show The Prodigals (he’s the musical supervisor/director). Before  the show we managed to go to Coventry Cathedral, but only to see the outside as it was near to closing time for the Cathedral and opening time for the show. The photo below shows the entrance to the Cathedral through the huge Screen of Saints and Angels, with a reflection of the ruins of the old Cathedral:

Coventry Cathedral P1090236and finally the next photo shows the enormous bronze statues, designed by Sir Jacob Epstein, of St Michael defeating the Devil:

Coventry Cathedral P1090238

I’ve got more photos – plenty for several Saturday Snapshot posts!

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Agatha Christie at Home by Hilary Macaskill

One of the things that struck me when I was reading Agatha Christie’s An Autobiography was her love of houses. It stemmed from her childhood dolls’ house. She enjoyed buying all the things to put in it – not just furniture, but all the household implements such as brushes and dustpans, and food, cutlery and glasses. She also liked playing at moving house, using a cardboard box as a furniture van.

Writing about her life with her husband, Max Mallowan she wrote:

We were always choosing sites for houses. This was mainly owing to me, houses having always been my passion – there was indeed a moment in my life, not long before the outbreak of the second war, when I was the proud owner of eight houses. (page 440 of An Autobiography)

Agatha Christie at Home Macaskill

So when I saw that Hilary Macaskill had written this book – Agatha Christie at Home – I knew immediately that I wanted to read it. It’s a beautiful book, with many photographs – more than 100 colour photos – illustrating Agatha’s life and homes. I took my time reading it, first of all looking at the photos, before reading the text.

There is a Foreword by Mathew Prichard, her grandson, explaining the love his grandmother had for Devon, in particular for Torquay, where she was born and Greenway, the house that had a special place in her heart.  He expressed his hope that this book will ‘transmit some of the magic that my whole family felt when they were there.’  And this book does indeed do that!

There is an overview of Agatha Christie’s life followed by descriptions of the houses and countryside she loved – from Ashfield in Torquay her first home, where she was born and brought up to Greenway, a Georgian mansion above the River Dart, now owned by the National Trust.

There are no spoilers in this book but Hilary Macaskill has identified the settings Agatha Christie used in her books and how some of the place names have been altered, but are still recognizable from her descriptions. I hadn’t realised that the names of some of her characters are taken from the names of streets or villages, such as Luscombe Road in Paignton which she adopted for Colonel Luscombe in At Bertram’s Hotel.

It’s a useful book too if you want to find out more about visiting Devon with tourist information and website addresses. The final chapter is about Agatha Christie’s legacy and her continuing popularity both nationally and internationally. As well as being able to visit Greenway, which has been restored to the way it was when Agatha lived there, there are events to celebrate her life and works, such as the annual Agatha Christie week that takes place in Torquay each September around her birthday.

I haven’t been to Greenway, although I have stayed in Torquay, but that was before Greenway was open to the public. It is enormously popular – on the first day it was opened over 400 visitors came to see the house. But Agatha Christie was a very private person and I can’t imagine what she would have thought about that. After all she had refused permission for an ‘authorized life’ to be written, stating:

‘I write books to be sold and I hope people will enjoy them but I think people should be interested in books and not their authors.’ (page 129)

Knowing that I think I’d feel I was invading her privacy if I did go to Greenway!

Berwick's Elizabethan Ramparts

Following on from last Saturday’s Saturday Snapshots here are a few more photos of Berwick-upon-Tweed, which is the northernmost town in England. It’s a Border town that changed hands between England and Scotland 14 times until it finally became part of England in 1482. It’s a walled town; the original medieval walls were built in the 13th century and the Elizabethan Ramparts, dating from 1558 are virtually intact.

Berwick Elizabethan Ramparts

The fortifications replaced the medieval wall on the North and East sides of the town. The photo above shows part of the Elizabethan wall that is now the boundary wall of a car park.

Below are two photos of sections of the walls:

Berwick Ramparts 1

Berwick walls & bridges

The photo below shows a Russian cannon, captured in the Crimea. Before the Second World War this part of part of the walls was once bristling with artillery. All that remains now is this cannon which was brought back as one of the trophies at the end of the Crimean War (1854-56). The top of the barrel of the gun is embossed with the double-headed eagle emblem of the Russian Tzar.

Berwick Ramparts Canon

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshots: Alnwick Treehouse

I’ve posted photos of our visit to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland before. Adjacent to the Castle is Alnwick Garden, a formal garden with a cascading fountain. Also in the Garden there is a fantastic Treehouse and a Poison Garden, safely secured behind locked gates. When we were there there a very long queue to go into the Poison Garden, so we left that for another day and went to Treehouse.

Treehouse Alnwick
Treehouse Alnwick

It’s an enormous structure made from sustainably sourced cedar, redwood and pine, extending high up into the trees.

Treehouse Alnwick
Treehouse Alnwick

There are wobbly walkways:

Wobbly Walkway
Wobbly Walkway
treehouse Alnwick P1050990
Wobbly Walkway

and a restaurant:

Treehouse restaurant
Treehouse restaurant

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshots – on Sunday

A few years ago we had a holiday in Gloucestershire – in Painswick. I’ve posted some photos in the past but not these of a walk in Frith Wood, which is on a ridge between Slad and Painswick. It’s a beautiful, magical wood of magnificent beech trees, with a mix of oak, ash and sycamore and it’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Frith Wood

Frith Wood DSC_0106

Frith Wood DSC_0100 Frith Wood DSC_0109For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot

I still haven’t sorted out my photos of Glencoe and Glen Nevis from our holiday there the other week. So, in the meantime here are a few photos I took the day we didn’t go to Lyme Regis.

We were staying with my sister on New Year’s Eve nearly five years ago. We had wanted to go to Lyme Regis – to see the Cobb and so on, but when we got there it was so full of people and cars that there was nowhere to park and so we carried on along the coast to Seaton, a small traditional seaside town at the mouth of the River Axe. In contrast to Lyme Regis there were just a few people strolling along the promenade and beach.

Its coastline is part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site. The whole Site is 95 miles long and covers a complete record through the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods of geological time. The White Cliff at Seaton is composed of white chalk about 90 to 110 million years old.

At the other side of the bay the cliffs are red, which the interpretation board told me are from the Triassic period and the red colour (caused by iron oxide) indicates the climate was hot and dry for much of the year just like present day deserts in the Middle East!

I suppose the lure of fossils, combined with the literary association of Lyme Regis – the Cobb in Jane Austen’s Persuasion and John Fowles’s setting for The French Lieutenant’s Woman mean that more people are attracted to visit Lyme Regis but still Seaton is an interesting place to see – I don’t imagine there are many places you can see a 185 million-year ‘˜geological walk through time’. And I had walked along the Cobb the last time we went to Lyme Regis.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot: Horncliffe Bridge

The Union Chain Bridge links England and Scotland over the River Tweed at Horncliffe, just a few miles from where we live. Below is a view of the bridge seen from a footpath on the banks of the river. This was the first suspension bridge in Europe to carry road traffic. It still carries vehicular traffic.

Scotland is on the left as you look at the photo and England on the right.

Designed by Captain Samuel Brown, the bridge was opened in 1820, when it was the longest wrought iron suspension bridge in the world, with a span of 137 metres (449 ft). It is a Grade I listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument.

I took the photo below standing on the bridge looking towards Scotland:

And a closer view of the bridge on the English side of the border:

Just up the road from the bridge is the Chain Bridge Honey Farm, a fascinating place where you can see a live colony of bees, behind glass, making honey, and where you can buy honey and other products such as candles made from beeswax. I’ll maybe write more about that in another Saturday Snapshot post.

The Visitor Centre at the Honey Farm also has a beautiful mural painted by local artist,Tony Johnson. My photo below shows a section of the map – my blue arrow points to the Chain Bridge. Also shown in this photo is Smailholm Tower (on the left of the photo as you look at it) which I featured in an earlier Saturday Snapshot post.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home with Books.

Saturday Snapshot: Duddo Stone Circle

Stone circles fascinate me. They have done ever since I was a young teenager and went to Stonehenge. It was dawn as we were travelling to the New Forest for our annual Girl Guide camp there. The coach driver stopped so we could get out and see the sun rising over the stones. This was in the days when the stones were open and we ran across so we could be in the circle when the sun came up – it was magical. These days Stonehenge is fenced off and going there is just not the same experience.

There is a small stone circle not very far from where we live and we went to see it last Saturday. Duddo Stone Circle is a group of five Neolithic/Bronze Age stones – radiocarbon dating indicates they were erected around 2000BC. Originally there were seven stones. Excavations in the 1890s revealed the socket holes of the missing stones and also the cremated human remains in the central pit.

This is the view of the stone circle standing proud on a low hill next to the small Northumberland village of Duddo as you approach the stones along a permissive path:

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Farmers used to plough across the inside of the circle.These days they don’t, but farm all around the circle:

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It’s fantastic up inside the stone circle. Unlike Stonehenge (which is of course much bigger) you can walk right up to the stones and go inside the circle. The stones are sandstone, varying in height from 1.3 metres to 2.3 metres. The site is listed on the Schedule of Ancient Monuments – No. 1006622.

It was very windy last Saturday and I found it hard to keep my camera steady, but I did manage to get some close ups of the stones. Stones that have been sculpted by the wind into weird shapes.

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We had the stones to ourselves and it was easy to imagine what it must have been like up there on the hill all those years ago, with views all round to the Cheviots and the Eildon Hills in Scotland and to wonder just why the stones were there and what they had meant to the people who erected them. The Defra information board below the stones indicated that the fragments of human bones found in the central pit dated from 1740 – 1660 BC suggesting that the use of the site for burial was a later event. Its original purpose remains a mystery – I like that.

Also in Duddo are the remains of a medieval tower house. We didn’t have time to look at it last Saturday, but we’ll go there another day.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot: Marlow

D took this photo of Marlow Bridge in Buckinghamshire several years ago. Marlow Bridge crosses the River Thames between Marlow and Bisham in Berkshire. There has been a bridge here since the 14th century, but this suspension bridge was erected in 1829 -1832.

We used to live in Buckinghamshire and often visited Marlow. I took the photo shown below when the grandchildren were younger, playing in Higginson Park.

Marlow is also the home of Sir Steve Redgrave, the Olympic Rowing Champion who won gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games from 1984 to 2000. His statue stands in Higginson Park – in the background of my photo. For a better photo of his statue see Wikipedia – I was taking a photo of the grandchildren, not Sir Steve’s statue. 🙂

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.