BeenThere-DoneThat Blog

Life and Travel in Great Britain

Dally in the Valley

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This is a companion post (sequel) to March through the Arch which was our first visit to Croft Castle and this visit being our second. In case anyone doesn't know what 'Dally' means it means to walk slowly.

This time, although we revisited the Walled Garden, our prime objective was to walk through Fishpool Valley. Before we walked to Fishpool Valley the Walled Garden called.

The garden looked as delightful as ever.

There were plenty of flowers about with some visitors goggling at the view. cool

We couldn't have missed seeing this Dogwood in full bloom if we'd tried. What a sight!

It was now time for Fishpool Valley.

So – what is Fishpool Valley? It is described thus "Fishpool Valley was landscaped in the late eighteenth-century in the ‘Picturesque’ style. This was the movement to create a more natural landscape, using the principles of intricacy, roughness, variety and surprise. It features a chain of dams and pools, as well as architectural features such as an icehouse, grotto, pumphouse and limekiln. The careful planting of Oak, Ash, Willow, Poplar and evergreen species suggested the ‘bold roughness of nature’. Carriage rides and other walks were designed to follow the contours of the landscape, providing dramatic views across a wild, but beautiful, contrived scene."

However, because of lack of maintenance, the whole place is in a sorry state but the National Trust is starting a project to restore it to its original state.

 We started our walk from one end of Fishpool Valley and the first point of interest was a pond.

It did look a little unkempt and in need of some TLC but somebody liked it. There were literally clouds of damsel flies over the water; some brilliant blue and some red. For those of you that don't know damsel flies are part of the dragonfly family. They were obviously very happy here. We walked on.

We soon reached another pond and, if you look carefully, you should see a little stone building near the centre of the picture. That is the Pumphouse.

We peeked through the metal grill to see inside and were surprised to see some old machinery in the form of a waterwheel and some gearing.

These pools are fed by springs and the water is very clear. The Pumphouse was used to pump some of this water up to the house.

Walking ever onward we came across this stretch of path with some nice, very tall, trees which we thought were probably Douglas Firs.

Finally we reached the farthest point of our walk – the Lime Kiln. It is now in a ruinous state with the eastern tunnel in a reasonable condition but the opposite western tunnel has collapsed. The central chargehole is brick-lined but cannot be seen at present. I can see why they would have sited a kiln here as there is a small limestone cliff just behind it to provide the material to heat in the kiln and the resultant lime would have been used on the fields as a fertiliser.

We discovered after returning to the castle that there were the remains of a grotto further on which we missed. Oh well, next time then.

On the walk back from Fishpool Valley, which was a different route from our outward journey, we walked through some wood pasture featuring some impressive trees. When we saw the tree in the picture below Amanda said 'Ooh that's a lovely old Oak. I must go and have a look'. When she got nearer she suddenly stopped and said 'Oh it isn't an Oak it's a Chestnut. It is certainly a massive tree.

A little further on we saw this very large Purple Beech which is the same species as a Copper Beech but a different variety where the leaves are purple coloured rather than copper. Another very fine tree.

Well, once again, we come to the end of another little trip. We will probably go back.

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.