BeenThere-DoneThat Blog

A blog about life and travel in Great Britain

We had been waiting for a sunny day and were beginning to think that it would never happen and then, suddenly, today it was sunny. Time for a trip methinks.

We set off for Ironbridge which is just over an hour by car from us going via St. Milburga's Well in the village of Stoke St Milborough. The well is actually a spring which was first mentioned in 1321 and is said to be unfailing and good for sore eyes. Our eyes weren't sore so we are unable to verify that. cool Villagers would rinse their clothes in the well and beat them on a flat stone nearby. It has been going for over 700 years and it hasn't stopped yet.

You can see from the picture that the flow of water is very strong.

Onward to Ironbridge.

Ironbridge has nine museums not counting the Iron Bridge itself and we drove to Blists Hill first which is set up as a Victorian town. This is a typical Victorian street.

There was a Fish & Chip Shop in this street where we bought a single portion of fish and chips, wrapped in paper, to share as our lunch and there was more than enough for the two of us. I can also tell you that it was very tasty indeed having been cooked in the Victorian way i.e fried in beef dripping (fat). The chips were crisp on the outside and soft inside – perfect.

There are a lot of Victorian buildings here including industrial, commercial and domestic together with lots of machines. The view below shows an old mining area with headgear above the shaft and the small brick building on the right houses the steam winding engine which hauls the cage up the shaft. The second picture below shows the actual steam winding engine which was running when we were there.

Nearby was the replica of Trevithick's Locomotive which is in steam often on a Saturday (check before you go). This was the world's first steam locomotive to run on rails.

We walked alongside the canal to the far end where we saw the Inclined Plane. This is a VERY steep hill with railway tracks on it which would be far too steep for a locomotive to be used so there was a steam winding engine at the top which was used to raise and lower barges from the canal at the bottom to the canal at the top and vice versa. That must have been a sight when it was working.

We then walked down by the side of the tracks to the lower level but if you are not capable of that you could walk back along the canal to the Funicular Railway or Inclined Lift which connects the upper and lower levels. This is completely automatic so just press the button to call the lift and then ride up or down to the other level.

There is a LOT to see here and you could easily spend a day in this museum alone.

Our next port of call was the Jackfield Tile Museum a short drive away. One point worth mentioning is that parking is chargeable but the ticket will allow you to park in any of the other museum car parks at no extra cost.

You don't drive through this entrance arch, the car park is off to the right, but you do walk through and the museum entrance is along on the left and is fairly obvious.

This was on Amanda's 'must see' list but I did wonder if I'd find it a bit boring. I needn't have worried; it is amazing.

There were some rooms, like this one, which display various, mostly individual, tiles but there are also many tile exhibits like this one.

Many of the exhibits and the individual tiles are astonishing.

After looking around the tile museum we moved on to the Coalport China Museum. There are two brick kilns here and the photographs below are taken from the same spot looking in both directions.

Parts of the internal structure of the kiln in the top photograph have been removed to give an idea of what goes on inside during firing.

There are also workshops where one can watch pottery being made and hand painted.

Which, of course, brings us to the Saggar Maker. This is him in his workshop and in the past he would have had two assistants including a Bottom Knocker. The Bottom Knocker would have been a young, unskilled lad who would have sat in a corner producing clay pads, using a shaped iron band, which would be combined,by the skilled Saggar Maker, with the sides to make the final Saggar. 

A Saggar is a large container made of fireclay which would hold pottery during firing to protect it and the next picture shows the cut-away view into a kiln with Saggars piled high.

There are also a number of display rooms where individual items can be seen.

As the pottery museum is only a short walk along the canal from the Tar Tunnel we went to have a brief look. I say a brief look because, at one time, visitors were able to walk along the tunnel but now one can look into the tunnel from the entrance but not walk along it. I'm hoping that sometime in the future it will, once again, be possible to walk along it but that may be months or even years.

The tunnel is about 1100 yards in length and it was originally designed to be an underground canal connecting some of the mine shafts to the Shropshire Canal. However whilst it was being dug the workmen hit a source of black, sticky tar which was discovered to be natural bitumen. The bitumen originally flowed in prodigous amounts at about 1000 gallons a week although it reduced some years later.

That was the end of our little trip so we went home. There are more museums that we haven't seen so we'll probably be back.

For more information on these museums see the Ironbridge pages on the main web site.

Spring? Who’s kidding who?

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If you are a meteorologist then you will regard today as the first day of Spring. Last night was the coldest it's been here this winter at 19F,  the temperature is forecast to stay lower than freezing point today, it's snowing here and it's supposed to be worse tomorrow. Spring? Ha!

I don't know when we'll make our next trip but perhaps we should consider buying some reindeer and a sleigh. cheeky

3rd March 2018 update:

We now have about a foot of snow here and the temperature has been below freezing for the last 3 days. Spring? Not a chance! crying

Galanthus Galore

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There were two firsts for us today; it was the first trip of the year and it was the first time that I had used my new camera. It wasn't warm but considering that it was February it wasn't anywhere near as cold as it could have been and the weather forecast was for sunny intervals which from my point of view was ideal. I didn't know whether what I wanted to photograph would look best in sunny or cloudy conditions so it looks as though I'd have the choice. Perfect!

We drove for an uneventful hour and ten minutes to the National Trust's Attingham Park just a few miles south-east of Shrewsbury. It was unfortunate that it was also half-term for the local schools so there were a LOT of parents with children. The National Trust staff told us that Attingham Park was the second in the list of most visited sites which we found surprising.

None of it, however, would affect why we were here.

The gardeners among you may recognise Galanthus as being the latin for Snowdrop, which they have here, and for those people who don't recognise the word 'Galore' it means 'in abundance'. They flower in February and this is what we came to photograph.

However not just those but THESE:

That's what I call a Snowdrop display.

After walking round the woods with the snowdrops we made our way over to the Walled Garden to see what that was like although we did not expect to see much at this time of year. Just before we entered the Walled Garden we saw this:

This is the Regency Bee House; a rather luxurious home for bee hives and one of only two such houses in the country. We went onward into the Walled Garden.

Very large but, as we suspected, there is virtually nothing in the way of plants yet; those pots on the left are covering Rhubarb plants in order to 'force' them i.e. make them grow taller than they otherwise would. There was also a separate walled area through an arch which was where the greenhouses were but again very little planting. We shall have to return in the summer.

We made our way out of the Walled Garden and decided it was time for lunch. The restaurant is in the Stables Courtyard area which still has some of the old stables which one can visit. You don't have to eat here unless, of course, you happen to be a horse.

There is also a shop and bookshop together with the inevitable toilets. We went into the Carriage House Cafe and liked the meals on offer and found ourselves a table. It has to be said that it was very busy with parents and children moving past nearly all of the time so if you want peace and quiet you'll be out of luck.

I chose a Fish Pie and Amanda had Sausage and Mash and they both turned out to be very tasty and of good quality. We would eat here again but perhaps we'd bring ear mufflers next time. laugh

After lunch we moved on to the house.

The Attingham Estate includes this mansion together with about 4000 acres of parkland including a Deer Park. We didn't visit the Deer Park this time but we did visit the house going in via the Entrance Hall.

The spaces between the pillars were originally open with the Grand Staircase beyond but John Nash, the architect, changed all that which explains why I thought it not as large or impressive as I'd imagined but I have to admit it's a bit better than ours. We don't for example have any trompe l'oeil panels in our hall but these are very good. The doorway off to the right takes us in to the Drawing Room.

The Drawing Room does have a rather impressive ceiling.

This next room is known as the Boudoir. It is circular with 7 doors (we counted them) and it also has an impressive ceiling. It was created for the 1st Lady Berwick as her own intimate space.

Then into the Inner Library with its Regency bookcases. The walls of the Inner Library are painted red; a popular Regency colour choice associated with strength and masculinity.

Around 1805-1807 John Nash, the English architect, included this rather grand staircase in his redevelopment scheme at Attingham as having removed the main staircase he needed a replacment.

One certainly couldn't miss it.

We now went down to the semi-basement which was the domain of the servants. The next picture showns the Servants Hall where they had their meals.

The rules that servants had to observe, which came from Lord Berwick, included:

"No servant is to absent themselves from the house at anytime or from meals on any pretence whotsoever without especial permission of the Steward, Housekeeper, Lady Berwick or myself."

So they are not allowed to skip a meal without permission which brings us to the Kitchen. Quite a large room with a lovely fire which was very welcome at this time of year.

Finally the Bell Room. I thought this to be quite extraordinary when there are so many bells, to demand attention from the servants, that they needed a room to themselves. These bells went around the four sides of the room and were divided into sections of which this was the Ground Floor.

That brought us to the end of our little trip, so early in the year, and back home we went to wait for the next one.

An earth-shattering experience.

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We felt an earthquake here yesterday afternoon surprise but, luckily, the earth-shattering bit was 50 miles south of us and about 5 miles down. I was sitting at my desk in my study creating some new pages for the web site when I heard a quiet, low rumble and I could feel the house vibrating. I wouldn't go so far as to say the house shook, it lasted for about 15 seconds and measured 4.4 on the Richter Scale. Rather minor really.

Living as we do in a quiet Welsh market town one doesn't expect earthquakes although they do occur very, very occasionally. I suppose if I had been Elvis Presley I might have said "I'm all shook up". angry

A nice little surprise!

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I have noticed just recently that there are a good number of Crocuses around us that are beginning to bloom so surely Spring cannot be far away. We could easily get a lot of snow between now and Spring but it's lovely to see some flowers appearing already.

More, more smilies

 

UPDATE:  5th Feb. Not such a nice little surprise – the temperature last night went down to 29F.

 

Happy Christmas

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Happy Christmas to all our visitors. Hope to see you again next year – if you can bear it.

 

Walls of water

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On Tuesday the weather forecast for Wednesday was that it would been mostly sunny until around 3:00 pm and on Wednesday morning, yesterday, it was the same; mostly sunny. So we set off for the Elan Valley to see if it was worth returning in the, hopefully, better and warmer weather next year.

It was about an hours drive from home and was sunny for most of that until we got near our destination when cloud miraculously appeared and left us with very little intermittent sun. What a surprise. Well not really as this area is known to be one of the wettest in Wales otherwise it wouldn't be what it is.

So what is it? Here's a clue:

It's a series of five reservoirs, known as Claerwen, Craig-goch, Pen-y-garreg, Garreg-ddu, and Caban-coch, which were built between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The one above, Caban-coch,  is the first dam to be reached when approaching from the nearest town – Rhayader (pronounced 'Raider') which is just 3.5 miles away.

The next picture shows the same dam, the reservoir beyond, and the rather threatening looking weather.

This link shows a map of the area which will give you an idea of where we went.

http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=290040&Y=265910&A=Y&Z=126

We started from the little white square near the 'Elan Village' label and went back along the white road to the B4518 where we turned left and followed that road until we reached the Y shaped junction where we turned left. Although the map appears to show that the road goes under the reservoir it doesn't – it goes across a long stone bridge with numerous arches. We just followed that road to its termination at the Claerwen Reservoir dam.

This dam was opened by the Queen in 1952.

The road continues across the dam and stops at the other side where we get some different views.

The picture above was taken from the top of the dam looking south back the way we came.

We set off back along the road we came on, as there is simply no other choice, until we came to that Y junction. where we turned left towards the Penygarreg Reservoir. 

We made a brief stop to photograph this little series of waterfalls

and continued on to the dam at Craig Goch reservoir.

You may notice that by this time, around 1:00 pm, the cloud cover is increasing making the foreground pretty gloomy. We could have driven along this reservoir until we joined the road that we had used on a previous trip through the Cambrian Mountains to Devil's Bridge and then turned right back to Rhayader but it was near lunch time so we returned the way we came to the Visitor Centre.

They had a restaurant there and we had had a brief look at the menu when we started and wanted to try some of the appetising items on offer. We parked in their car park for which we had to pay £2:00, that covers a day, but we get a discount of 10% on whatever we spend in the restaurant. 

The restaurant seems typical of this sort of establishment except that the food turned out to be anything but typical. The food was really very good and is produced on site. We both had their home made curry, chicken for me and beef for Amanda, and thoroughly enjoyed every morsel. Excellent! We would have like to have tried the cakes but we were just too full. Next time perhaps.

The photograph below was taken from where I was sitting and you may notice that through the window you should be able to see that wall of water flowing over the dam. We hoped the wall would hold out until we had finished our meal.

This trip was enough to convince us that was a lot here to see including lots of dramatic scenery and we intend to return next year in warmer weather to do a lot more exploring. It is only an hour's drive away after all.

The next day when we were back home it started to snow. Admittedly it was rather sparse and none of it settled but it was our first snow of the winter and in November. Brrrrr!

A Grave Incident

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Today was forecast to have sunny intervals. I'm hoping that at least one of those intervals will be longer than 5 seconds as we have decided to re-visit Shrewsbury using our little train.

We came out of Shrewsbury Station and up some steps on to a high level walkway which took us over the railway and down to The Dana. The Dana is an old prison dating from medieval times although the medieval building is long gone.

There has been a prison on the site since 1793, the original building being constructed by Thomas Telford, although the present prison was constructed in 1877. The name 'Dana' is still often used for the prison, as well as being the name of the road to one side of the prison and the pedestrian route that runs from near the front of the prison into the town centre via a footbridge over the station which is the route we used but in reverse.

There are prison tours available but we didn't avail ourselves of that option but opted to walk onward. We made our way down to the River Severn and walked along the riverside path away from the town centre. There was supposed to be some sort of weir further down river so we though we'd have a look at it.

As we walked along we could hear a background noise which we decided might be the weir. Perhaps bigger than we though then! As we progressed the noise became louder and when we reached the weir we could see why. It was bigger than we thought.

I wouldn't like to go over that in a small boat.

We turned round and walked back towards the town. When we reached the footbridge shown in the next picture we went up onto it and looked down river. We could just see the change in texture of the water surface which indicated where the weir was. You can probably see it more easily in the larger version of the second picture.

We walked along the riverside until we reached the next road bridge over the river. One thing I noticed immediately was that there were trees growing out of the water like the one on the left. Amanda tells me that it is a Willow and that it is not unusual for a piece of willow to float down stream and get stuck in the mud where it promptly takes root. So now you can see the result.

I also took this next photograph of the same bridge because I rather like the effect the low sun was procucing as it shone through the arches. I imagine it's being reflected off the water.

We continued walking and eventually reached the lower edge of the large park known as The Quarry which we visited on our previous trip. The riverside walk looked really nice in the sunlight.

At the top edge of the park is St. Chads Church which I also mentioned in the blog post of our previous trip ( Sun, Signals and Sabrina ) when I wrote:

"I was hoping to get a photograph of Ebeneezer Scrooge's gravestone in the churchyard but we couldn't find it. Yes we know that Scrooge was a fictional character but the churchyard was used in the making of the film and the gravestone was left when filming was finished. It is still there somewhere."

So we walked up to St. Chads and into the graveyard and this time I found it.

On the way back into town we saw Rowley's House which was built in the late 16th century by the wool merchant Roger Rowley. It is believed to be the earliest building in Shrewsbury to use bricks as part of its construction.

That was the end of another interesting, at least to us, walk. So back home on the train for us.

If at first you don’t succeed …

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Tuesday 12th September 2017

This is another late report from an outing we did about 5 weeks ago. Unlike the previous blog post this is not accidentally late. I just haven't got around to writing it until now. In fact going on to the Blog to write this was when I spotted that my previous report hadn't been posted.

One of the local things we had on our 'to do' list was Holloway Rocks. The map in the link will give you an idea of the situation.

http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=330695&Y=273615&A=Y&Z=120

It is a short way from Knighton, where we now live, and short enough that we could walk from home but didn't. The roads around Stowe are only one car's width so one has to park off-road. We drove to Stowe Church, shown on the map, where we were able to park our car. It's a lovely little chuch in the middle of nowhere (Stowe has a population of 140).

We had tried this walk before, about a week ago, having set off from Stowe Church. We started off up the wrong path and having realised that we went back down again and then realised why we hadn't taken the right path. There was a van parked on the beginning of the path and although there was room to walk past it the van had blocked it from our view. We set off again on the right path. In the past year my health has deteriorated such that, sometimes, I can't walk far uphill without stopping to catch my breath which was what I was having to do here. I did push myself too hard and eventually had to sit down. After a while I began to feel faint and had to lie down. I did eventually recover but we decided to abandon that attempt.

… try, try again.

This time we started up the right path, which is fairly steep, with frequent stops for me to recover my breath and I didn't push too hard this time. I managed to get through the wooded section but by the time we reached the open I had to stop for a breather especially as the path gets steeper here.

Looking back, in the next picture, the wooded part is visible and you can see that we have gained quite a lot of height; most of it previously in the car.

On that bank to the right were a lot of Hawkbit flowers.

Inexorably upward, stop, puff, repeat and we eventually arrived at an expected junction with another path together with a pond. The path we want continues upward on the other side of the pond curving off to the right.

Having reached the high point in the photograph above we look back in the next picture to see this view. The footpath we turned out of is on the left of this path just before this path splits into two and you can see the pond on the right. The town of Knighton is visible just above the very dark triangle on the left probably better seen In the larger picture.

We have now gained more height but we are by no means near the top yet but we do have a lovely view and the sky has cleared a little which makes it even better.

We are still climbing but we are now not too far from the top.

You can see the path levelling off now and you should also be able to see the path plunging downward as it curves to the left. We have just come up that bit and the town in the distance is, of course, Knighton.

Finally, after crossing two large fields (fairly flat), we reach the top with its Ordnance Survey trigonometry point with Amanda trying to stop it from falling over. The next picture gives an idea of the view with sheep in the foreground and those black blobs on the left are actually cows.

So where do the rocks in Holloway Rocks come in? There isn't really much in the way of visible rocks although we passed an old quarry on the way up. Perhaps that's where the name comes from. The hill we climbed is, unsurprisingly, Stowe Hill.

Well I managed to get there even though it took me about three times a long as it would have done a year ago. Measured over the ground it was probably less than a mile but pretty steep for most of the way. I don't think that I would like to try walking it from home. That would be about 2 miles each way and although I'm fairly sure I could get there I couldn't be certain that I could get back again which would be a little embarrassing.

So did I get back from this trip? Well, I'll leave you to work that out.

Castle to Canal

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Who's a silly boy then? We did this trip at the end of July and I duly wrote it up and I thought that I had posted it on the Blog – but no, I had forgotten that important bit. As you can see I have rectified that mistake and here it is in all its glory! (Well it's only 3 months late).

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Monday 24th July 2017

The weather was borderline and unsettled but we decided to risk it. Approximately 25 miles from home is the town of Montgomery which, although the county town of Mongomeryshire, is really quite small but thoroughly delightful.

This is the town centre; virtually all of it. The view is from the churchyard and where the building on the left stops is the main road. On the other side of the main road is Broad Street, where the cars are parked, and the brick building at the back is the Town Hall

The church is quite imposing and sitting on a knoll makes it more so.

Up near the top of Broad Street is the Dragon Hotel a rather striking 17th century former coaching inn. 

There are some interesting ancient buildings in Arthur Street which runs north from the top of Broad Street.

There is a little lane running steeply uphill from near the Dragon Hotel and when you have puffed your way to the top end you will arrive at Montgomery Castle or, at least, what's left of it. There is not a lot left but what there is remaining is impressive.

The views from the castle are also impressive and it shows what a good defensive position it was.

We left Montgomery and headed further north to Welshpool. We have been here before, once for Powis Castle and another visit to ride on the little Welshpool narrow gauge railway but we hadn't actually looked round the town itself. However, before we do that, we had to have another quick look at the railway and discovered a locomotive that we hadn't seen before waitng in the station. This locomotive looked slightly smaller than the one we'd seen here previously.

We then went on to the Montgomery Canal on the otherside of Welshpool. If you look at the following link it will show a map of Welshpool that gives an idea of where these various places are. Powis Castle in the bottom left corner, Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway middle left and the Montgomery Canal roughly in the middle. Don't confuse it with the river further right which is very wiggley; the canal runs further left.

http://www.streetmap.co.uk/map.srf?X=322510&Y=307508&A=Y&Z=120

We walked across the bridge and came down to the canal at this point.

There was a further bridge or two before we arrived at the lock outside the Powysland Museum (second picture).

We went across the canal to the Powysland Museum. Next to the canal you may be able to make out the two metal sculptures of Herons on the bank with a close-up in the second picture.

I took the picture above from on the bridge shown in the picture below.

Inside the museum are a variety of interesting artifacts ranging from a stash of ancient roman coins to old kitchen equipment.

A final view of the Town Hall in High Street and we decided to call it a day.