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What a carry on!

What a carry on!

We had to go to Ludlow recently and Amanda wanted to see what Christmas Cards were available in the parish church. We have been to this church before and it is featured on the web site in the Ludlow pages. However on our last visit I posted only one picture of the Misericords in the Quire so I thought that I would improve upon that this time.

The Church of St. Laurence in Ludlow is the largest parish church in Shropshire and the photograph below gives an idea of its size looking along the Nave, through the crossing and Quire to the East Window. It is, basically, huge! Walking around this church is like walking around a cathedral.

The Crossing looks very impressive as one passes under it to reach the Quire and the tower is 157 feet high and was rebuilt between 1433 and 1471.

After passing through the Crossing we reach the Quire entrance which, itself, is pretty impressive.

The Quire has stalls along each side which is where one will find the Misericords.

Misericords, as you will know, are small folding seats, just a simple flap of wood that folds down, and there are 28 of them of which there is a good sample below. Each one has carving on the underside and they are 26 inches long, 12 inches deep and 6 inches thick. 16 of the misericords are older than the rest dating from around 1425. Eight have an unusual carvers mark in the form of an uprooted plant and a distinctive profile to the moulding running round the edge of the corbel. The remainder were carved around 1447.

Finally we get to the title of this piece. There used to be a phrase ‘What a carry on’, used in the vernacular, which was used to describe a commotion or loud noise and this is where the gadget below becomes relevant. It is a Carillon which is a device for automatically ringing the church bells and, as it is french, the pronunciation is very similar to ‘Carry On’ which is what the ordinary people thought it was. The carillon consists of a huge wrought iron cylinder which is turned by the church clock mechanism and the projecting pins cause hammers to strike the church bells rather like a giant music box. It has been used in this church since 1683.

Well, that was an interesting visit and Amanda did get her Christmas Cards.

Surprise, surprise!

Surprise, surprise!

Not far from us is a little village called Shobdon and it is known locally for its ‘International Airport’. By ‘International Airport’ I don’t mean anything like London Heathrow. Oh no. It is a small local airport from which one can charter a light aircraft to fly one to Europe. There is not a lot of traffic and very little noise.

People, including us, generally dismiss it with ‘Oh the international airport’ and nothing more. However, just recently, we discovered ‘Shobdon Arches’ and had a surprise – well two surprises actually.

Shobdon church was rebuilt around 1750, replacing the original 14th century church, and it looks a nice little church although fairly ordinary; that is until one goes inside.

The interior is a surprise and anything but ordinary.

It has been described as “a complete masterpiece of English Rococo” and “the finest 18th century church in Herefordshire”. The style is known as ‘Gothic Revival’ and is clearly influenced by Wallace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham, London. The amazingly intact interior and matching furniture are the sole example of this Walpolean Gothick style of Georgian church architecture and furnishing.

Having been thoroughly amazed and enchanted by this church’s interior we left to look for the ‘Shobdon Arches’ and started along this rather nice avenue of trees.

Nearing the top of the hill we could see the arches at the top.

Arriving at the top of the hill we find our second surprise; these amazing arches. When the original 14th century church was demolished the chancel arches we removed to this location as a ‘folly’.


In the last picture it can be seen that these carvings have weathered disasterously which isn’t surprising as they were originally from the interior.

These carvings are the work of the Herefordshire School of Romanesque sculpture which was a group of master masons working in Herefordshire and Worcestershire during the 12th century. They were heavily influenced by carving seen in churches and monasteries in south western France. Their distinctive ‘Romanesque’ sandstone and limestone carvings are to be found in several parish churches in the area, notably Kilpeck, but also Eardisley, Leominster and Castle Frome.

Well worth the short trip.

Ross and Moss – Day 3

Ross and Moss – Day 3

Today we go home. Originally today was forecast to be dry but cloudy instead we have another bright sunny day.

On the way back we intend to visit two churches. Both are exceptional and each one is quite different from the other.

The first church is in a tiny hamlet called Michaelchurch. The church is small and rather primitive. so what’s exceptional about this church? Well we need to go inside for that.

I’m sure that you will have heard the expression “The writing’s on the wall” well that expression applies to this church – literally!

The church is a listed building and was founded in 1056 with alterations being made in the 13th and 17th centuries. However the real interest are the 13th century wall paintings together with some writing from the 16th and 17th centuries.

This is some of the later writing which includes the ten commandments.

The earlier 13th century painting is red and white and must have originally covered the whole interior including the interior of the window alcoves.

That church was astonishing. We have never seen so many 13th century wall paintings in any one building before. Certainly worth a visit and only 5 miles north west of Ross-on-Wye.

We are now going to venture another two and a half miles slightly east of north to the village of Hoarwithy, itself only three and a half miles from Ross-on-Wye.

The grade 1 listed church here couldn’t be more of a contrast with Michaelchurch. This is a Victorian Church built around 1878 in the Italian Romanesque style which was described by Pevsner as “the most impressive Victorian church in the county”.

The church has an imposing campanile of four storeys, with an open arcaded ground floor both of which are visible in the photograph. The church is of sandstone and a north porch, on the left, is linked to the arcades of the campanile by a loggia.

The carvings along the arcade are impressive but, because they are carved from soft sandstone, some of them are weathering badly.

This next carving shows the greek characters Alpha and Omega and you can see that the part of the carving near the camera is more weathered than the part furthest from the camera.

This Logia is particularly nice partly because of its construction, including the tiled floor, and partly because of the view beyond.

Unfortunately the church was closed because of Covid-19 so we couldn’t go inside this time. Hopefully we will be able to re-visit another time.

Well that was a nice 3-day trip and it was very welcome. I have said it before and I’ll say it again – Ross-on-Wye was a lovely little town and we’d hope to go back one day and the Forest of Dean is big and there are lots of places we haven’t yet seen so we’ll want to return for another multi-day visit. Until then ….

Ross and Moss – Day 1

Ross and Moss – Day 1

Our travelling this year has been severely curtailed because of Covid-19 so no surprises there. When Covid-19 first appeared and the country went into lockdown we were able to only walk locally. Then restrictions on driving eased a little, although we weren’t able to travel far, but eventually those restrictions were also eased to the point that we considered going away for a few days. So when a few days of sunny weather were forecast we decided to bite the bullet and off we went.

We booked accommodation in the Forest of Dean and set off in the sunshine.

Our first port of call was Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire just a short way from our final destination. I had been to Ross-on-Wye about 65 years ago and could remember nothing at all about it so it was like a first visit.

This next picture shows a general view of the town taken from the banks of the River Wye with the famous church spire showing well above the rest of the buildings. There is, of course, a riverside walk here.

When we arrived we parked in a car park in Edde Cross Street then walked back to the junction with High Street . A short distance along High Street brought us to the Old Market Hall at the top of Broad Street. This was built around 1650, and replaced what was probably an earlier wooden building, and markets are still held in it today. It does look rather impressive.

Having had a good look around the Market Place we walked the short distance to the church and, at 205 feet, that is what I call a spire! Although the spire was rebuilt in 1721 the church itself was built in 1316 and is one of the largest churches in Herefordshire.

The attractive interior is certainly spacious and features a number of monuments.

Outside in the churchyard is the Plague Cross which was erected to mark the graves where the three hundred or more townsfolk were buried by night and without coffins during an outbreak of the plague in 1637.

To one side of the church is a small, but beautiful, public park called ‘The Prospect’ which includes some fine trees and also provides an impressive view looking down over the River Wye and the surrounding countryside.

After looking around the church we wanted some lunch so, going back to the Market Square to look round, we found a nice little cafe at the top of Broad Street quite close to the Old Market Hall.

There is a small outside sitting area, seen in the picture below, but we ate inside. We had a small but satisfying, and very tasty, lunch.

After lunch we spotted a few more items of interest on our way back to the car. A rather quaint alley, some old almshouses and a very ancient timber-framed building now used as an antiques shop.

After leaving Ross-on-Wye we drove the 8 miles to our hotel which was not in any town or village but in the middle of the Forest of Dean.

Having registered we moved in to our room, unpacked and went outside to explore the forest .

I took this photograph of the Speech House Hotel before we started walking.

There was a path nearby called Spruce Ride so we started with that and noticed on the map that it went past a lake and decided to walk as far as the lake and back. The forest off to the side of the track looked very pleasant.

We spotted a little stream where the water was very brown. This area, surprisingly, had a lot of mines in the past, some of which were for iron, so it’s not surprising to find water coloured by the iron ore in the ground.

It didn’t take very long to reach the lake which looked very picturesque in the sunshine and it was lovely and quiet.

We were on the lookout for things other than trees and lakes and eventually came across a number of interesting fungi.

On our way back we saw this tree which was covered in moss. Not something one sees every day. A ‘Moss Tree’ perhaps.

The marker on the map below shows our path to the lake and the light area by the junction is the Speech House Hotel. You can zoom in and out using the plus and minus icons.

After returning to the hotel it was time to freshen up and go down to dinner. We had a choice of restaurant and this evening we chose the more formal dining room which, I have to say, was rather nice.

We started off, before ordering our meal, with cocktails. Amanda had an Espresso Martini which was coffee flavoured, which she rather liked, and mine was a Passion Fruit Cocktail. If Amanda’s head looks a little odd it’s the ultra wide angle lens I used to take this photograph.

Our meal turned out to be very nice and afterwards we retired for the night.

Ross -on-Wye was a lovely little town and we do like the Forest of Dean. So there endeth our first day. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

On the road to nowhere

On the road to nowhere

In April 2017 we traversed the Cambrian Mountains, on our way to Devil’s Bridge, on one of only two roads which go over the Cambrian Mountains. This is the blog that covers that trip. https://www.beenthere-donethat.org.uk/deoprrssw/?p=2428

We now decided that it was time to explore that second road. We weren’t going to a particular destination but purely to see what that road was like (Have you ever had a premonition that you are about to make a mistake?).

We headed off, on a warm sunny day, towards Beulah. Yes, I know, you’ve never heard of it. Well it’s a small village about 8 miles south-west of Newbridge-on-Wye in Powys. This is where the mountain road starts and having turned on to it, and before we’d left Beulah, we spotted a nice little church which we had to explore. The original path into the churchyard went over this cute little bridge but the current path bypasses the bridge.

And this is the little church. It is not very old, having been built in 1867, but it is very attractive.

Having had a quick look round ( what else can you do with a church that small?) we set off again along the road. This road is just one car’s width and does have passing places but you can bet that you won’t be near one when you meet a car coming the other way.

The first part of this road is mainly wooded but eventually after a gentle climb of some miles we came out into the open. We continue to head upwards through that valley round to the left.

We carried on to the village of Abergwesyn where we’d heard there was a ruined church. We couldn’t find the ruined church, if it still exists, but we did find the old churchyard with a mega Yew tree.

We carried on and soon went into another wooded section of the road with an unprotected steep slope on one side. No barrier to stop you driving off the edge and you do have to drive relatively near the edge because the road is so narrow.

I was quite pleased when that was over. Next we reached the Devil’s Staircase – a steep bit of read with some hairpin bends. The name is more worrying than the actual road and we successfully negotiated that section without problems. We reached another open area and we are still climbing but the views were getting better.

The road was beginning to get interesting now. It was bending in three dimensions and they tended to be sharp bends. When the bend was in the vertical plane the road beyond the top of the hill couldn’t be seen until the car was beginning to tip down the other side so one couldn’t see which way the road was going to go and there was always the possibility of a car coming the other way. Travelling was slow and if there was a short stretch where one could attain 20 MPH then that would be considered very fortunate. The same applied to bends in the horizontal plane – it meant driving really quite slowly. Don’t pick an argument with a rock – you won’t win.

Having reached the top we took a 7 mile detour to have a look at a reservoir we had heard about, Llyn Brianne, and it turned out to be a worthwhile detour. But it certainly increased our bend count.

Our road was now going downhill again but the bends didn’t get any better.

We finally reached the end of the road in a small town called Tregaron which was a relief from the bends – but not for long. We now had to return home which meant travelling the same route in the opposite direction. I was really looking forward to doing all those bends again. :(

I can tell you that by the time we reached Beulah again I was rather tired and we still had an hour to go to reach home. However we did reach home without incident and I don’t intend doing that journey again in a hurry!

Our trip finally comes to pass!

Our trip finally comes to pass!

Here is a “moan about weather forecasting apps” warning. I usually use two apps for weather information and, of course, they tend to contradict each other. This morning the Met Office weather app forecasts sunny intervals this morning and mostly cloudy this afternoon. The BBC weather app, however, forecasts sunny intervals all day. I think I’ll go with the BBC forecast as it’s better.

As it happened the BBC forecast was right and we had plenty of sun. We set off from home to Dore Abbey in the village of Abbeydore.

The above picture shows the parish church of Abbeydore but if you look at the picture you will see that the tower height looks about average for a parish church but if you compare it with the rest of the building you will see that the main body of the church is much higher than normal. That is because this church used to be part of Dore Abbey and is the only part of the abbey still in existance. The tower was built in 1633 but the rest of the building was built in the late 12th century.

There are some small exterior bits of the abbey remaining which are attached to the church such as the structure shown below but very little else.

Inside, because of its height, the church does look spectacular.

There are a few areas of colourful heraldic ceramic tiles like this.

There are also a few surviving wall paintings of which this is one.

We have seen all that we wanted to here so we moved on to the next location just five miles away – Grosmont Castle.

There is Amanda sneaking in without me after crossing the bridge whilst I was taking this photograph. Still she does give an idea of scale.

There isn’t a lot left in this ruin but what does exist is quite impressive. You may notice Amanda up on top of the wall near the centre of the picture. The way up is through that large dark doorway at the base of the tower.

This is the stairway one has to negotiate to get up onto the wall. It may induce a little vertigo in those of you who are that way inclined. Inside the tower isn’t so bad but once you emerge the sides are open with just that handrail to stop you falling off.

The views when you get up there are rather nice though.

It was, once again, time to move on and this time to Llanthony Priory; one of the very many abbey/priory ruins scattered about this region but pretty impressive don’t you think?.

One of the impressive things about this ruin is the landscape round about which is truly magnificent.

One of the unusual things is that there is a small hotel attached to the ruins. We weren’t staying there but we did have lunch there. When we found the Cellar Bar entrance we found ourselves at the top of some steps leading below ground and, in the bright sunlight, it looked almost too dark to see. When we got down there we found ourselves in what appeared to be a small, but bright, cellar with about 6 tables scattered about.

They had a reasonable selection of meals which turned out to be perfectly acceptable. I had Chilli Con Carne with rice and Amanda had just a bowl of chips and she said that there were plenty of chips.

After lunch it was, once again, time to move on. Finally we are now headed home via the Gospel Pass, which is the highest road pass in Wales, and I’ll give you a bit of advice. If you just want to see the Gospel Pass then go up from the Hay-on-Wye side not the Llanthony side. The road from Hay-on-Wye is narrow with passing places but not as narrow or as tricky as the road from Llantony. The Llantony road runs between banks, hedges and walls and doesn’t open out until you cross the cattle grid. The picture below was taken not long after we crossed the cattle grid and is looking back towards Llanthony.

The views from up here are really spectacular.

We came down into Hay-on-Wye and, after a quick stop for coffee, we went home.

That trip was a circular route of around 90 miles which we thought, afterward, was a bit too long for a day trip but we arrived home unscathed but tired.

On the road to ruin.

On the road to ruin.

Travelling around the country, as we do, we expect to see both the usual and the unusual – but not together on the same site. This place is only an hours drive from home.

The earliest building on this site was a Jacobean brick built house. After the civil war it was sold and the new owner erected two towers on the north side of the house and his grandson added the wings which enclose the entrance courtyard. Later a new private chapel was added to the west of this courtyard.

Around 1805 the owners employed John Nash, a well known English architect, to carry out a major reconstruction of the house which included the addition of huge ionic porticoes to the north and south fronts.

In 1837 serious debt forced the sale of the estate to the 11th Baron Ward, later 1st Earl of Dudley, who had inherited a great fortune from the coal and iron industries in the Black Country.

In the 1850s, Baron Ward engaged the architect Samuel Daukes, who had already altered his London house to remodel the house in Italianate style using ashlar stone cladding over the existing red brickwork and this is the result – Witley Court near the village of Great Witley in Worcestershire..

What a very grand house it is with the very impressive fountain behind it.

However you may not have noticed something odd about the house in the first photograph. There is no glass in any of the windows and the sky is visible through some of the windows as seen in the picture below.

In 1920 Witley Court was sold to Sir Herbert Smith who maintained only a skeleton staff to manage the house whilst he and his family were away, and many areas were left unused. A major accidental fire broke out in September 1937 whilst Sir Herbert was at another of his houses and although it did not destroy the whole house the estate was sold as separate lots with the house being bought by scrap dealers who stripped what they could from the house leaving it an empty shell. So we have what appears to be the usual stately home but is, unusually, just a shell. A rather sad ending for such a grand house.

The ruin is currently managed by English Heritage.

The picture below is the main reception hall with the main staircase through the arch in the far wall.

The picture below is in the main stairwell and the angled plaster follows the line of the original staircase.

There are numerous decorative carvings around the building of which this doorway is an example.

This picture shows the main entrance to what was the Conservatory and the picture below it is the Conservatory interior.

The church is still attached to the main house but is not maintained by English Heritage as it is now the parish church.

But what a parish church. It was built in the mid 18th century and, at that time, the interior was rather plain. Just 10 years later stained glass windows and the oil on canvas paintings on a new curved ceiling were added together with  moulds for the wall and ceiling decorations and the organ.

What an astonishing result! If you are ever in this area don’t miss seeing the church interior.