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countryside

A lot of churches are turning over part of their graveyards to wildlife.

Personally, I think graveyards that are left to grow a little wild are stunning, although I know not everyone thinks the same.

Some prefer the beautifully manicured cemeteries and graveyards. I think there is a place for both.

I went for a walk around the village earlier, and the graveyard at St Peter’s Church in Yateley just reinforced my view that a little wilderness can look amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it looking so lovely.

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Many will know of my Fifty before Fifty challenge and that one of those challenges is to attempt to visit all of the Churches Conservation Trust churches. And, as you can see from the countdown clock on the right, I only have 18 months to go.

Well during my period of blogging absence, I also failed miserably to knock many of my challenges off my list (except perhaps reading) so I really have to get a bit of a gallop on here.

On Monday, Man and I went to Skegness. It’s his birthday this week when he will once again become as old as I am for six months and he wanted to ride a roller coaster (more on that in another post). However, it seemed a wasted opportunity to drive straight past a perfectly good church, so we took a little detour to Haceby, Lincolnshire.

I checked before hand and the church of St Barbara was open all day. 170b

And indeed it was. I love locations like this. It was a couple of miles off the A52 up a single track road and when we arrived it was pretty  much in the middle of nowhere.

Haceby was mentioned in the Doomsday Book and must once have been a thriving village. Now it is a farm and a couple of cottages and this pretty little church on a hill.

Now it was called St Barbara’s but the CTC pamphlet inside the church said St Margaret. That confused me. A little research and I discovered it actually had a double dedication. I find St Barbara more interesting. Turkish, over-protective dad who locked her in a tower to stop her getting sullied by the outside world (Rapunzel origins?), she secretly became Christian. He didn’t like that, tried to kill her, a miracle created a hole in the wall and she escaped. Chase ensued, he caught her, there were a couple more miracles. He chopped her head off and was struck by lightning on the way home – serves him right. On the other hand, another argument is she didn’t exist at all.

So, the church. It dates from the 12th century and was added to over the next 400 years.

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The outside is quite plain, no gargoyles or grotesques, but I did find this tiny little blocked door in the north wall.

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I love these tiny doors, they must have had very miniature clergy. Apparently the arch around the door is called a Caernarfon Arch because it is predominantly found in castles in Wales. Why is it here? We’re a long way from Wales.

St Barbara’s is famous for the remnants of a wall painting.

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This was originally a Doom painting, you can just make out the devil directing a group of big-bellied lost souls towards hell on the right and Christ sits at the top with saved souls and angels.

But is has been overpainted with the Royal Coat of Arms of Queen Anne and you can see the lion on the left and make out the three lions of England and an Irish harp on the shield in the centre.

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The interior is light and airy. You can see the very plain 14th century font in the corner.

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The arch to the bell tower caught my eye. It is seriously wonky. The right hand side appears to bow quite drastically. Really, it isn’t just the camera angle, it is definitely lopsided.

But for me the exciting part of this church was in the porch.

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Graffiti. We all know how I love graffiti – ancient and modern – it appeals to the reprobate in me and, for me, it brings the people using this fine building to life, makes them more real. There are a few dates on here. TE was merrily scrawling away in 1677 for example.

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On the other side, it looks like someone has engraved the sails of a windmill. There are certainly a lot of windmills is this lovely flat part of the world and I can only imagine there were more in times past, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

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Strangely, if I saw modern graffiti on a church, I would probably say it was desecration and not be impressed at all – but I enjoy this old graffiti and I wonder who the local vandals were.

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These I thought were strange. On the seat in the porch there are several outlines that look distinctly like footprints to me.

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I can’t find any information about them except a few mentions that they are there. Well, I know that, I saw them, what I want to know is why people felt the need to etch round their feet.

It’s nice to be on the church trail again, I’ve missed it. According to my list, I have now checked off 50 CTC churches – so, less than 300 to go then.

Before we leave St Barbara’s, Man noticed this.

There’s a cheese string in the churchyard :)

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Well it amused me anyway.

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Attenborough Nature Reserve is one of my favourite places to go for a walk when I’m in Nottingham and it was a beautiful spring day on Saturday, so off Man and I trundled.

We went in search of kingfishers and opted for the 3.7 mile kingfisher trail. Sadly, other than a quick flash of turquoise just to taunt us, we failed miserably to capture the elusive kingfisher.

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I did, however, manage to capture my first long tailed tit. I like him, he’s very cute and fluffy. The following day at another of my favourite places Wollaton Hall, Man and I met a wonderful man who kept the amazing illustrated diaries of his walks and rambles. He did the most beautiful line drawings, sketches and watercolours in his diaries, along with nature notes about what he’d seen on his travels. They were absolutely beautiful and his drawings and paintings were a lot better than my photos! What a talent to have, I was quite envious.

Back to Attenborough and, although I failed to catch a kingfisher, there were lots of other birds to catch my attention.

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This noisy little chaffinch wasn’t remotely bothered by us. He was far too busy singing. Birds make sounds completely disproportionate to the size of their bodies.

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And great crested grebes were in abundance, both on the lakes and on the River Trent.

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We also found a lone grey heron wallowing about in the mudflats.

I love this time of year, everything starts coming back to life but there isn’t so much foliage that I can’t see the birds for the leaves.

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I like the buds and the blossom.

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The butterflies are reappearing again too. This one is a small tortoiseshell.

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There was colour in the people as well.

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And here’s that little long-tailed tit again.

I have a week off work this week and am spending the week at Man’s house. So I’m expecting to get out with my camera a lot more,

It's spring

It’s spring

Hello :) It’s been a long time – more than a long time, it’s been almost six months. I hope everyone’s well.

I spose saying I’ve been busy is a bit of a lame excuse after all this time. To be honest, I have been busy but it’s been more than that. I sort of lost my mojo.

I’m not sure why, a combination of a huge project at work, the rain (and not getting out to take photos), a lack of funds to go on road trips and just getting out of the habit.

So, Happy New Year, I will attempt to catch up on some favourite blogs and also will try and get back into the habit of blogging again.

I woke up this morning and realised I’d missed it.

Maybe it was because the sun was shining and it feels like spring is on its way.

I have actually been out taking some photos this weekend. A few favourite haunts – Fleet Pond, Horseshoe Lake, my garden – but also a new project, mainly for work.

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This one is Horseshoe Lake last night. It’s a bit of an experiment. I was trying to see what a sunset would look like in black and white. The flying ducks were just a bit of a happy accident.

038bAnd this one is Fleet Pond this morning.

I woke up and looked up. There’s a window above my bed and I always keep the blinds open a little bit so the first thing I saw was the sunshine.

Within 15 minutes I was in the car and at Fleet Pond by about 7.15am. The light was lovely and it would have been peaceful but for the din of the workmen creating some huge metal monstrosity on the neighbouring car park of the railway station.

But you can’t hear the noise in a photo, so it does at least look peaceful.

I met a very nice man walking in the opposite direction who asked me what they were doing at the railway station. We got chatting. He is an artist and the pond society has invited him to go and paint at a special weekend in May. I promised him some publicity.

And as for my special project … with the centenary of the First World War coming up, we decided it would be a great idea to try and document all the memorials to fallen soldiers within our circulation area. The problem is, there are more than 900 in Surrey and we haven’t counted the ones in north East Hampshire yet.

We thought we’d get photographs of all of them and then create a database of all the names on them so people looking for information about their relatives will be able to see the memorial where they are immortalised. Although I think we are going to have to crowd source this one and ask members of the public to help us.

St Johns Windlesham memorial bYesterday I visited Thorpe, Laleham, Chertsey, Longcross and Windlesham. This is the War Memorial at St John’s Church in Windlesham. I have transcribed all the names on each of them today.

This morning I photographed Yateley and Fleet. I transcribed the names from the Yateley memorial but I’m not sure which are the names for the First World War and which for the Second World War on the Fleet memorial so I haven’t done those yet.

But I will.

And I’ll be back on the church trail too.

The fifty before fifty challenge has rather taken a back seat recently so I now only have 18 months left to fulfill the challenges I set myself. If it wasn’t a big enough challenge to start with :)

Man has a theory that says things don’t exist properly until he’s seen them, which seems to us like a damn good excuse to go on lots of road trips to see as much as we possibly can.

So, adding now to the list of things that exist are two of the most enormous statues that say ‘Welcome to the North of England’.

497bThis is The Angel of the North.

Just outside Gateshead, this huge masterpiece by Antony Gormley stands the height of four double decker buses and has a wingspan the same size as a jumbo jet. That’s Man examining its ankle.

490bAnd that’s Man too, pretending to be angelic :)

It stands 20 metres high and is made of 200 tonnes of steel. It stands on a mound near the A1 where it can be seen by around 90,000 drivers each day and is also visible from the main train route to Scotland.

The area was a former coal mine, reclaimed as green space in the 1990s after the pits closed and the Angel of the North has been watching over the area since 1998.

I really like it.

227bThe second huge sculpture we came across also has a mining history but this has been recently created using the soil taken from a neighbouring new open cast mine.

This is Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North.

If you’re not quite sure what you are looking at, to the left of the feature is her head – you can see her forehead, nose, lips and chin. The path goes across her neck and to the right of that you have her chest. In the far right of the picture, that’s one hand sitting in the water.

It’s probably easier to see from above.

229bThis is the artists’ impression on the information board.

She is 34 metres high, 400 metres long and is made from 1.5 million tonnes of soil. Began in 2010, she was officially opened by the Princess Royal last August and lies in 47 acres of public park. The orange lines you can see in the photo above show the footpaths that wind their way all over her.

She was designed by the American landscape artist Charles Jencks, can be found near Cramlington in Northumberland and has been nicknamed Slag Alice – slag being the term for the waste material produced from a mine.

It is claimed that this is the world’s largest landmass sculpture of the female form. It really is quite something.

And she will be left to mature naturally, changing with the seasons and over time.

230bBut because I’m not remotely mature and that isn’t likely to change over time, I made Man pick her nose … just for fun :)

959bLindisfarne … the name has always held a hint of mysticism for me. This is a place of saints and sinners, a tidal island only accessible at low tide, where beautiful illustrated gospels were produced and where Vikings began their sacking of England. Holy Island.

957bCastles dot this Northumbrian coastline. This is Bamburgh, seen from Lindisfarne.

972bBamburgh was the seat of the King of Northumberland, Oswald. In pagan Anglo Saxon times, Oswald had been brought up a Christian and wanted to introduce Christianity to his people. He asked the Irish monks of Iona to send him someone, they sent a man called Corman – he was useless and soon went home.

He was replaced by this man. Aidan was an Irish monk who had a way with people. He set up his mission on Lindisfarne, within sight of his benefactor Oswald at Bamburgh, and spent his days walking the towns and villages of Northumberland talking to people about their lives and their needs. As he became well known for his charity and support, people began to embrace Christianity and he built churches, monasteries and schools throughout the county.

A pagan uprising in 651 saw an attack on Bamburgh Castle. From the monastery on Lindisfarne, Aidan saw the plumes of smoke as the castle was besieged. Legend has it he knelt and prayed and the wind changed and blew the flames towards the attacking force. They believed Bamburgh was protected by the Christian spirits and called off the attack.

St Aidan died leaning on the walls of the church he created and was buried beneath the walls of the Abbey.

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Now ruined, it was once a seat of scholarly learning and it was here that the illustrated Lindisfarne Gospels were created.

977bThere is another saint’s statue in the ruins of the Abbey. Saint Cuthbert is said to have become a monk after he had a vision of the death of St Aidan the night he died.

He was made prior of Lindisfarne in 665 but then lived for many years as a hermit on the island of Inner Farne. He was made Bishop of Lindisfarne in 684 but two years later returned to his hermitage as he felt he was about to die.

He was also buried at Lindisfarne but the monks took a decision to let his body decay for 11 years and then they planned to raise his skeletal remains and create a shrine where pilgrims could go and pray. When they raised his remains, however, in 698 they did not find a skeleton but a perfectly preserved body. They believed this must have made him a very great saint indeed.

When the Vikings launched their surprise attack on Lindisfarne in June 793, many were killed, the treasures looted and the Abbey sacked. But the monks took St Cuthbert’s coffin safely to the mainland and walked with it to Chester-le-Street in Durham where it was safely reburied.

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This life-sized sculpture in the Church of St Mary the Virgin behind the abbey ruins commemorates the journey.

Around 160 people now live on the beautiful island of Lindisfarne.

966bAnd thousands of tourists visit each year to tread the footsteps of centuries of pilgrims.

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The castle dominates the skyline. Built around 1550, about the same time as the monastery was dissolved, stones from the abbey were used in its construction.

Although small, it was a strategic fortification in the battle against the Scots.

It was heavily remodeled by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the early 20th century, who roped in his friend and collaborator Gertrude Jekyll to redesign the gardens. Now it is owned by the National Trust and the abbey ruins by English Heritage.

I’m so glad we made it to Lindisfarne when we visited Northumberland. It is absolutely beautiful and I loved the history of this tiny place.

 

 

 

 

 

872bThe Farne Islands are a group of small islands off the coast of Northumberland that number 15 at high tide and more then 20 at low tide. They are home to one of the most important colonies of nesting seabirds in the UK.

In fact, it is thought that the earliest laws protecting birds were issued here by St Cuthbert in the year 676 to protect the eider ducks and other nesting birds.

It is an amazing place and one of the highlights of our recent holiday.

We took the boat out from Seahouses and sailed round islands called things like the East and West Wideopens, the North and South Warmses and Big Harcar before landing on Staple Island where there were puffins galore and plenty of guillemots, black headed terns, shags and razorbills willing to pose for a photo or two.

We sailed through tall rocky outcrops where thousands of sea birds nested in the crags. The noise was impressive, the smell was something else :)

They were sitting targets for us snappers while they were on the nest, but they proved particularly difficult to photograph in flight though, as you can probably see from my pictures. I have hundreds of photographs by the way, it was very hard to resist snapping away like a lunatic.

A total of 290 bird species have been recorded on the Farnes and May to July is breeding season and there are thousands of them. The guide advised you wore a hat!

I fell in love with the puffins. They look so sad with their strange shaped eyes and, when they fly, their wings flap ten to the dozen to keep them airborne. But these quirky birds spend eight months of the year on the wing apparently, so their frantic flapping must work.

We also saw a couple of large colonies of seals. And they seemed just as curious about us as we were about them.

814The islands are now owned by the National Trust. Oh how I would love to be a ranger on one of them.

This part of the UK coastline is amazing and I can’t wait to go back sometime.