Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Day Out in London

Yesterday I went to London.  I was going to the theatre but I'd also discovered it was Open House London, which is part of Open City, where buildings not normally open to the public open their doors to visitors.  The first one I tried to visit was 201 Bishopsgate.

It's 2 towers, joined by some amazing diagonal stainless steel work with a roof garden.  Sadly there were about 100 people in front of me and they were only letting 20 people in every 1/2 hour and I didn't have that much time (see the people abseiling on the left tower?).

So I went to 10 New Burlington Street instead; a new build behind the facade of both Regent Street and New Burlington Street.  I was lucky enough to join a tour of 10 people led by one of the architects.  No photography was allowed so I've used the images from this website (which also explains more of the detail if you're interested).

Behind the facades (which were either kept in place and propped up during the build, or taken down brick by brick, stored and rebuilt to level the floors up)

is this - 

not what you'd expect to be there at all!

Inside they'd used limited materials - the ceilings are polished plaster and the walls white oak.

There is a large central atrium to bring in light and the handmade porcelain tiles were the only colour.

We went into the listed vaults underneath, which were originally wine cellars and had been sensitively restored with lime mortar and now store bike racks for the people who work there.

It is an absolutely stunning building,  and from Regents Street the only thing you see is this gate - designed to represent the clockmakers who used to be on the site in the past.

After leaving here, a spot of lunch, and a sense of direction failure that had me walking the wrong way up Charing Cross Road for quite a while, I went here.

Kenneth Branagh was fantastic, as were all of the cast.  His daughter was played by Sophie McShera who is known to many of us as Daisy from Downton Abbey.

It's on for another few weeks and it's worth a visit if you're in London.


Monday, September 12, 2016

A flea, some blocking and a battle!

This is a combined/random type of blog post as I've failed totally to manage to post them separately over the last few weeks.

First of all I've discovered a rather lovely, and very cheap, flea market near where my parents live.  We went to it a few weeks ago and I bought all of this:

There are 3 lovely 1950s Midwinter Cassandra dinner plates (I paid £8.00 for the three and they retail at about £20 each online).   The jug is holkham pottery and the Mrs Tiggly Winkle dish is wedgwood.
The bottle says King's Lynn Soda Water on it

All together I paid £30 for all the goodies in the photo (apart from the cat, she was just being nosey!).

Next, several people have asked my about why I block knitting.  Blocking turns a crumpled piece of finished knitting like this

into a defined, uncrumpled item.  I soak mine in water, roll it in a towel to dry it and them use wires and pins to pull it to the shape and size detailed in the pattern.

When it's dry it holds its shape and, it this case, retains the detail of the lace pattern.

This Henslowe shawl has turned out well, its a wool and silk mix yarn from Skein Queen.

Finally I went with Celia to a battle.  A reconstruction of the Battle of Assandun, between the Anglo Saxons led by Edmund Ironside and the Vikings led by Canute.

There was lots of charging about and a commentary telling the story (which was hard to hear), but it was fun and we had tea and cake too.

I'm off to London this weekend to see Kenneth Branagh in The Entertainer - can't wait!


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Exciting, Challenging and Relaxing - Three Very Different Days.

I've just had 2 weeks off work - I didn't go away but I did do lots of things.

The most exciting thing I did was a 20m tree climb.  Using ropes, knots and karabiners I climbed right into the tree canopy.

The tree was a 30m high, 200yr old sycamore in Marks Hall Arboretum

I'm the circled one, about to go through the canopy!

Once we'd got to the top (there were 6 adults and 2 children in my group, including the curator of Marks Hall), we did a free-fall abseil back down to earth.  This is where you don't put your feet on anything but control the descent through the ropes (picture the SAS climbing down a rope from a helicopter) - it was amazing.

The most challenging thing I did was to make a new deck for in front of my shed.  The old one was made of pallets and was rotting.

The reason I need a deck here is because underneath it is a big hole.  A old brick lined drainage chamber (old cess pit) which dates from when the houses were first built and before they were connected to the main sewer.

It's about 15ft deep and is not what you want to fall into (although it was very useful for chucking the old rotting wood into!).

It was challenging as the normal way of constructing a deck wouldn't work as there wasn't enough solid ground to lay the joists on, but I persevered and adapted as I went along and this is the finished result - it's very solid and looks good too (though I say it myself!).

The most relaxing thing I did was visit Wicken Fen - I'd not been for many years and it was just as lovely as I remembered it.  I took a boat trip along Wicken Lode where we watched dragonflies darting all around.

It was a glorious day and I went for a long walk - ending up at the mere before returning back to the visitor centre.

I also visited Fen Cottage, which is one of the last remaining buildings of the hamlet that once existed by the reserve.

It's constructed of local materials including peat, wood, sedge. reed and clay, all of which would have been harvested from the fen.

It was occupied until 1972 and has been restored pretty much to how it was when the last people lived in it.

The cottage gardens are gorgeous!

It was a lovely, relaxing way to end my fortnight off.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

One Historic Tower

Yesterday afternoon, after dropping Mum and Dad off for a history talk in King's Lynn, I set off along the quayside to the antiques warehouse.  As I turned down the lane leading to it I saw this sign.

How could I resist? I love history, I love towers and I suspected it was part of a house I'd longed to see inside for ages.

My suspicions were correct - it was part of Clifton House.  It was just coming up to the end of their opening time, but this worked in my favour.

Each floor of the tower has one room and some of them were set out as they might have been during the tower's history. This room was set out for a merchants' diner - the painted walls are partly restored and are beautiful.

The view from the top was amazing.  

Over the historic town centre to the church of St Margarets with its twin towers

and also over the river to where the merchant ships would originally have docked.

When I came down I was the only visitor still there and I was offered a guided tour of the house by its now owner, Simon Thurley - how could I resist?  A free, personal, tour by an eminent historian who lives in the house? Yes please!

He showed me the restoration work that they'd been doing and work they still needed to do - I didn't take many photos as I was too busy listening.  But I did take pictures of the delicately restored plasterwork on the stairs,

and in the 14th century vaulted undercroft which was originally used to store the wine that was imported by the merchants.

It was a lovely afternoon - if you ever get a chance to visit it's well worth it.  

I did get to the antiques warehouse too - so a pretty perfect afternoon really!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

An Unexpectedly Long Walk!

My plan for this afternoon was to do a circular walk from home, past Cornard Mere, through the field to Henny, where I'd been tipped off about a kingfisher family.  A walk of about 4 miles in total - see route below.

It started very well.  I set off with a packed lunch and walked through the fields

where I was joined by loads of damsel flies and sky larks singing high above me.

I walked past Cornard Mere, where I could hear water rail squealing (I've still never seen one).

under the railway bridge, across a field to the River Stour at Henny where I sat on the bridge and waited for the kingfishers (they didn't turn up).

When I was ready to go home I realised that my route back across the field was blocked - by a very large and angry sounding bull.  

He was mooing loudly and pawing the ground and I didn't think it would have been a wise move to have tried to have got past him - a detour would be required!

The biggest problem was that I was now stranded on the Essex side of the river, a river with very few bridges, and I needed a route that would let me cross the river to get back into Suffolk. I had 2 options, to walk on the road from Henny to Sudbury, which is narrow with very steep banks in places, and quite busy with cars going to the Henny Swan pub, or to find another route.  

After consulting the OS map app on my phone I started walking into Essex.  It was beautiful, and I could see, right in the distance, the spire of the church at the end of my road.

After a while though the footpaths deteriorated

and at one point I was having to fight my way through nettles and deeply regretting the fact I was wearing shorts!

Eventually, and I mean eventually, I crossed the river and the railway again and found myself on a small road heading back to towards home.

When I finally got home (4 hours after first setting off) I tracked my detour.  The blue route below is my intended walk, the red one is what I ended up doing, (the spike off the right near the end was me visiting the co-op for an ice-cream!).

Instead of 4.1 miles I ended up walking 7.8, I just hope the stings on my legs stop stinging soon! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

In No Particular Order

A sort of random post today.

When I go up to my parents in North Norfolk I tend to go on the back roads to avoid the tourists (a coast road in summer can be a very slow moving, frustrating journey) and I've often seen this little church through the trees.

For years it had scaffolding etc around it but recently I noticed that it had gone so last weekend I decided to drive up the track and have a closer look.

It has a beautiful round tower and amazing arches.

It was the church for the village of Appleton, a village that has long since gone although apparently you can see outlines of it when the fields are lightly dusted with snow.

I haven't found out why the village disappeared but I hope that one day someone might do some excavations, although I suspect that might be unlikely as it is all on the Sandringham Estate land.

Still - the arches are pretty, I don't know why I'm so fascinated with arches, especially ruined ones!

A few days before I went to my parents I finished my fairisle cardigan.  I ended up having to do a last minute re knitting of one sleeve when I discovered that I'd made a colour mistake on one of them - fortunately very near the top so I only had to unravel about 20 rows.

I'm really pleased with it.

Finally, yesterday I took the afternoon off work and my friend and I drove to the other side of Suffolk, about 1.5 hrs away to Minsmere.

First stop was the Bittern Hide where a bittern was on the edge of the reed bed opposite for about 20 minutes preening, and fishing.  Then he crouched down, puffed himself up and boomed.  I've never heard a bittern boom before let alone watched one do it.  The warden in the hide was beside himself with excitement too as he's never seen it in 20 years of bird watching (red arrow indicates the bittern, looks a long way away but the view through binoculars was stunning).

click to enlarge and nearly see the bittern!

Then we walked to the Island Mere Hide.  It rained whilst we were in here but it didn't stop the bearded tits from flying around and one perched for quite some time on a reed and we got a really good view.

When it stopped raining we walked to the scrape where amongst other things we saw a marsh harrier swoop down and take a black-headed gull chick (gruesome but kind of retribution for the fact that they've taken all of the avocet chicks so far this year!).

After a cup of tea overlooking the sand martins we made our way to the Discovery Centre and then upward through the woods to the Springwatch studio to be in the audience for the live transmission of Springwatch Unsprung.

me, far left

It was just as good as last year!

Minsmere is a wonderful place to visit - during our three hours on the reserve we saw/heard at 11 species, most of which are rare or threatened.  If you're into wildlife and in the area I can highly recommend it.