A recent visit to Chastleton House

charleston House

Whilst in the Cotswolds we visited Chastleton House a beautiful Jacobean country house and garden built between 1607 and 1612 by the son of a prosperous wool merchant. It was owned by the same increasingly impoverished family until 1991 and it has remained essentially unchanged for over 400 years.

Charleston Hall

The house is quite beautiful in its calm and comfortable acquaintance with the landscape, not ostentatious or grandiose, but settled as if intending to stay until the ravages of time return the stone to the earth. Unlike so many National Trust properties, Chastleton is authentic, leaving you with a sense of reality of the lives of the characters who lived there. Everything seems normal here, everyday people from the past who had just slipped out leaving their clutter and dust behind them.

chair & lamp

chinese cabinet

I’m glad the Trust decided to leave the house intact, they just sorted out any structural damage but thought better of shipping in fancy artifacts. Everything here is collected by the previous owners over 400 years and what wasn’t sold in times of poverty has stayed, junk and all.

cage

There are items I would love, like this amazing bird-cage surrounded in an array of plants!

scooter

Or this red scooter resting on the peeling paint in the hallway next to a collection of rope and bric-a-brac.

rusty door

If you love peeling paint this is the place for you!

kitchen Charsleton

The kitchen is basic, not grand like many of our historic houses, but functional.

sink

Even the sink has been left as it was found when the Trust took over. It’s easy to imagine people living here and how hard life must have been, no frills, just hard toil to keep the place going. It’s amazing it survived with such neglect, all items of value gone, just the ragged remains of your ancestors to comfort you through the cold winter nights. This place could so easily have been the house of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, be it in the wrong county!

window shadows

What really struck me was the quality of the light, the gently mellow shadows cast upon the Cotswold stone. Worn and aged, but somehow all the better for it.

cards& roses

A card game, although set-up looked in keeping with the room.

bottles

So many gems to capture your imagination, like a film set.

brolly & hall

Everything in this house has the simplicity of the everyday.

seats

The courtyard.

celler door

Entering the storerooms below the house just off the courtyard.

window:door

Cold and dark with an earth floor, the air damp, what went on in here I wonder? Time to leave this wonderful house. We stayed for some time soaking in the atmosphere, somehow you don’t want to leave. Although plain in its interior this house held more fascination than many of the great estates I have visited before, I could live here, with its charm, cobwebs and dust, just like a modern day Miss Haversham!

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The honey tones of the Cotswolds and an eccentric Museum

wren house2After being distracted because unpredictable things happen in life, and some you can’t avoid, we decided a break was in order. So we decided to take a trip to the Cotswolds for a rest and to escape the demands of everyday life. The beauty of living in Britain is the ease with which we can easily slip from one style of architecture and landscape to another in a relatively short distance. The colour of buildings very much dictates the county one is in and the whether hills or dale each one has its identity. We were looking for softness and a gentile escape and as a visitor we found it.

wren house 2

I’m sure if you have ever trolled the internet for a Bed & Breakfast you will have found it a nightmare! Each possibility is considered with trepidation and fear of getting it wrong! Afterall this is not a cheap option in the UK, therefore it has to be right. But we got it right, or should I say Alistair Sawday, the oracle of wonderful places to stay did! This is our second venture into Alistairs world of exquisite place to lay your head and we were not disappointed. Wren House is in Donnington just outside of Stow-on-the-Wold and is a little piece of tranquil heaven. As soon as you arrive a calm falls upon you and it’s time to relax. There was nothing to complain about here, everything was perfect, the house, the decor, the wonderful bed and gardens to die for, and the breakfast…..I could go on! Kiloran, our lovely hostess, has just the right amount of helpfulness, but respects your privacy, but is also interesting to chat to, and if you love dogs there are two beautiful friendly labradors, Gigha and Ailsa to welcome you.

box hedge

After breakfast on our first morning we decided to go to Oxford to visit the Pitt Rivers museum. Oxford is known mainly for its architecture, and rightly so, for this City has an essence like no other I have visited in Britain. Perhaps it’s because it is dominated by the abundance of academic buildings – Colleges, all intermingled with the business of everyday life. Black gowns flowing from the students walking or cycling through the streets, all eager to get to where they need to be. It’s easy to see how one could be captivated by such a place in all its gentle grandeur. We have been to Oxford before to see the magnificent display of snakes head frittilarys (flowers) at Magdalin College but this time we wanted to see the Pitt Rivers Museum. It has interested me for some time because it is like no other Museum I have been to. Sometimes Museums can be a bit boring but this one is a gem crammed full of curiosities.

pitt R skeleton

First of all you are struck by the design and structure of the building, the vast pillars of steel and wood offering the visitor different levels to view the oddities contained within. On the second level the skeletons of prehistoric beasts hang as if in flight from the roof of the building. The sheer size of some of these mammals is breath-taking and there are so many I have never seen or heard of before!  If all museums had this much imagination they would always be full!

pitt rivers

We spent sometime looking around the area you can see above, the earth sciences section, un-aware that there was so much more a few steps down at the back of this picture. Upon entering the semi darkness which is in contrast to the bright space above, the enormity of the lower part of the building came as a complete surprise. It is crammed with fascinating anthropological curiosities on three levels, the second two looking down to ground level. By now we were tired and did not spend as much time as we would have liked exploring each cabinet. My camera struggled with the light and its not advisable to use flash in such places, but my phone coped well, so pictures from this part of the museum are on my Instagram pages.

I could never do the Pitt Rivers Museum justice, but if you ever have the opportunity to go I would recommend it, it is truly an experience not to be missed. After our long day in the City we headed of towards the park and ride bus but were taken by a restaurant called Nosebag, recommended by a lovely lady stood close by as we were looking at the menu. The meal was excellent, vegetarian lasagne and aubergine tagine, both with lots of interesting salad. Full and tired we set off home for a good nights sleep ready for another day of adventures.

Our next day we decided on a more leisurely day and headed for the Village of Chippen Camden and took a walk around the church there. The gates were the most interesting and very grand, although the church also was large for a small town, though I suspect it has always been wealthy.

gates church

It was a pleasant walk, although the wind was keeping the warmth of the sun in check but we still walked around the grave yard and found a gravestone which I loved. The simplicity of design is beautiful and although old, seems so contemporary with the owl carved at the top on an off centre curve.

grave stone

We drove through the countryside and saw fields full of poppies and rapeseed and as the sun came down the light was enchanting, like a scene from The Darling Buds of May!

pansy field

So many beautiful scenes around every corner!

field

The evening was drawing in and it was time to go for a meal at one of the Inns Kiloran had recommended but not before Andy caught me windswept amongst the nettles whilst trying to catch the evening light, please forgive the hair!

me field

There’s so much to tell you, but for now it’s time for a cup of tea and a cuddle with Alfred……oh yes, and the man in my life!

http://www.wrenhouse.net

http://www.sawdays.co.uk

http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/

A pleasant day, coffee and Cake!

leighton mossI’m so lucky to live just down the road from RSPB Leighton Moss, it is a place of constant pleasure and surprises. But this morning was a special visit because both our daughters came with us for coffee and cake! You guessed it, Mothers Day! So at 9.30am of we went, hoping to miss the crowds! It was a pleasant walk with signs of spring around every corner. When we arrived, surprise, surprise, it was quiet! Just a few men eating bacon sandwiches and an absence of women? It was early and the scones were just going in the oven, the atmosphere was jolly and expectant. So we ordered from the wonderful selection of cakes, gluten-free brownie and ginger and date crumble with coffees all round, oh, and a toasted tea cake – delicious!  It wasn’t long before people were arriving with the smell of scones in the air and being greeted by the welcoming staff. We got the seat by the window where an array of birds land on the feeder outside, blue tits, chaffinch, bull finches, robins, great tits, coal tits and nut hatches. There is a constant feeding frenzy, and sometimes a woodpecker arrives! So after much chatter we went on our way back home across the fields passing the lambs. Nature doing it’s best to break through the cold winters earth to give us the beauty of spring. It’s still early, but everything is there waiting to burst into flower. The buds on the trees and bushes, the delicate blooms hiding in the undergrowth waiting for the slightest warmth from the sun to push their heads up and shine in all their glory!

crocus

The crocus is one of my favourite spring flowers, such brilliant centres of orange or yellow. The day was fairly dull and not ideal for photography, so here’s one I took earlier in the week.

the row pond

Even dull days can make a picture more interesting sometimes. We walked past Bank Well, a local pond, and checked for frog spawn but couldn’t see any around the edges. It always seems a little dark and grim in the dip where the pond is even when there is sunshine, but none the less beautiful for being so. Some places have an eerie atmosphere or even feel a little uncomfortable, as if you’re intruding on the wildlife that inhabits it. Perhaps one should whisper and tread lightly through such places, after all, we’re just visiting the home of the creatures who live there……

tree shadows

Later in the day we took our dogs for a walk and caught a glimpse of sunshine, you had to be quick! But hey, daffodils and lovely tree shadows. How wonderful a plain road can look with the addition of a few shadows. We all wait for spring in anticipation of the summer to come and when it arrives it lifts the spirit and lightens one’s step. It’s easy to sound ‘corny’ about the arrival of spring but why not? It is something you shouldn’t ignore because it shows us nature is doing what it’s supposed to and gives us hope. So enjoy.

rabbit field2

This is our regular dog route, just a half hour from the front door, through the woods and across this lumpy bit of land which intrigues me because of the numerous meadow ant hills. There are often cattle or sheep grazing here, only ever a handful which makes it feel very old-fashioned, like being in a Thomas Hardy novel. The changing of the seasons in just this tiny bit of land is so varied and witnessing all it has to offer is fascinating. Soon there will be orchids, cowslips, wild garlic and dog violets littering the hillocks and paths.

sorrel2

Sorrel, catching the last of the evening sunshine. The seed heads are amazing even when shriveled and dry.

daffodils

Back home to enjoy my Mothers Day flowers, some beautiful narcissus from the Scilly Isle. The scent is so strong it has filled the house!

book:alf

The evening is cold now and it’s time to light the fire and maybe sketch those pesky sleepy dogs, but it seems Alfred has decided to take a sneaky peek at some ‘high brow’ literature instead of enjoying some warmth by the fire!

LIVING IN A BEAUTIFUL PLACE

I am fortunate enough to live in a beautiful place and there is not a day goes by when I don’t thank my lucky stars for ending up in such a wonderful environment. It was purely by chance I came to visit a cottage by the sea some 25 years ago and fell in love with Silverdale, even the name sounds delightful! I don’t live in the same house anymore, but the sea is just a short walk away. The stroll down the hill to the shore is a joy, even when the wind gets you on your journey. When I first came to live here, the shore, as it’s called locally, was mostly salt marsh, a wonderful place to walk and peer into the pools teeming with aquatic life. The marsh has almost gone now, the tides have eroded it away giving the sea free reign to cast its spell in a new and interesting way.

the shore

RSPB Leighton Moss is a short walk from my house, and according to Chris Packham serves the best lemon drizzle cake ever! I agree with him, it’s wonderful and gluten-free, which is a bonus for all you non-wheaties. I have to say, I do spend quite a bit of time there, any excuse for coffee and cake – after a walk of course! Leighton Moss offers some wonderful photography opportunities, even if you’re not interested in birds, wonderful light and landscape whatever the time of year.

leighton moss reeds2 leighton moss reeds

One of the most amazing happenings at Leighton Moss each year, is the gathering of starlings, or murmurations as they are called. This spectacular display attracts thousands of visitors each year and is truly a sight to behold. They do fly low in huge numbers, so you have to watch your head – and wear a hat, or you could go home with more than you came with!

starlings

The light starts to fade, the colours turn golden, and a fiery red glistens across the water. A stillness pervades the air before it is filled with the sound of starlings in flight. There is just a hint of rain casting circles in the water, followed by thousands of droplets as they fly overhead.

starlings 2

The darkness descends, as the clouds encroach, and the sky becomes thickened with tiny specks before they drop into the reeds in a noisy frenzy to settle for the night.