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On June 1st we had officially started Summer and the weather turned really cold, struggling to reach double figures in the South while Scotland basked in temperatures of 20 degrees C in the North. Germany and France suffered violent thunderstorms and in Paris the River Seine broke its banks! The bridges we had often sailed under with Harmonie were impassable and all river traffic ceased.
Here in Britain we are faced with a referendum on 23rd June to decide if we should leave the European Union (Brexit) or stay in. We are both in favour of leaving.
Here is a lady to be reckoned with. She lives next door, has recently returned from living in Australia after 30 years and believes passionately that Britain should get back control of its own destiny by leaving the European Union.
As we are like minded she has commandeered us to assist her, the latest has been blowing up balloons with helium that she hands out to children in Cheltenham.
Every day she goes out with her shopping trolly full of Vote Leave and UKIP leaflets plus her little dog in all weathers to try and convince Cheltenham voters to vote leave in the referendum on the 23rd June. If she had been alive before women got the vote she would have been a suffragette.
She tells us she meets many people who are undecided and feels she might have convinced a few of them to vote leave.
She has also been verbally abused by many men who have called her names and ridicule her. This seems to be an unfortunate trait of some on the remain side who seem unable to debate the pros and cons of leaving the EU without resorting to personal insults.
With almost the whole of the Establishment lined up against Brexit (Britains' exit from the EU), it is remarkable that opinion polls are still unable to predict a clear winner in this referendum. Perhaps Brexit will lose in the end because most people dislike change but it looks like being a close run thing.
It is the largest Arts and Crafts garden in Britain and it did not seem overcrowded, partly because of the nature of the garden which is really a series of different ones. The Peonies were just past their best but I managed to get a few nice photographs.
We were fortunate to arrive as a volunteer was giving a talk about the garden and its creator who was obviously an horticulturist and dedicated to this particular garden from the way he spoke.
Lawrence Johnson was born in 1871 in Paris of wealthy American stockbroker parents from Baltimore. He eventually obtained a place at Trinity College Cambridge in 1893 and became very attached to England and the British way of life such that, when he applied for a British passport in January 1900, he put as his reason for applying; "to fight in the British Army."
And fight he did after he was given his passport within two weeks, not long after his graduation from Cambridge. He joined the Imperial Yeomanry who were sent off to fight in the Boer War in February 1990. On his return from South Africa in 1992 he joined the Northumberland Hussars with whom he would fight in the 1st World War and obtain the rank of Major.
His wealthy mother, meanwhile, had divorced from his father and married a Mr Winthrop She was prevailed upon in 1907 to buy Hidcote Manor, an estate of some 300 acres consisting of several fields, some woodland and a dozen or so cottages. It cost the princely sum of £7,500 so she obtained somewhat of a bargain. Lawrence then set about creating his garden in the surrounding fields.
Our lecturer explained how Lawrence began his garden and in 1914 went off to fight again in Belgium where he was twice wounded. On the first occasion he was brought into the dressing station with a bullet through his lung and pronounced dead. One of his comrades was in charge of the burial party and asked to see his body to pay his last respects. He noticed that Lawrence was actually breathing so rather than burying him he suggested he be moved to a hospital! Apparently there may have been many such incidents where soldiers were buried alive, such were the pressure that surgeons were under at the time.
Lawrence's mother died in 1926 and was buried in Mickleton churchyard near Hidcote.
She bequeathed him Hidcote estate which he continued to extend but spent more and more time in France as his health deteriorated, eventually giving Hidcote to the National Trust in 1948.
Lawrence died in 1958 and is buried beside his mother in Mickleton churchyard. The present gardeners are determined to keep the garden as Lawrence would have wanted it to be kept but will still introduce new plants if they think that it suits the position and that he would have approved.
The garden is divided up by hedges of different plants but the Hornbeam is used extensively.
In the stilt garden the Hornbeams are clipped in a box shape. The use of these trees in a series of walks reminded us of a place we discovered in Belgium once near Spa. This was a delightful covered walk of Hornbeam trees called a Charmille.
This particular one was the longest in Europe being 530 metres long and composed of 4,500 trees pruned and trained into the shape of an arch. It was originally planted in 1885 by one, Michel Nys, a gentleman who bought an adjoining manor house and laid out the park.
It may have been a place that inspired Lawrence Johnston to feature these trees.
We were informed that there are about 1.5 miles of clipped hedging in the garden and the gardeners breathe a sigh of relief every year when they are finished.
Hidcote garden is very interesting and well worth a visit during the summer months as each separate garden comes into its own. We certainly intend to return later in the year.
In mid June, with our friends the Harpers, we visited Gloucestershire Motor Show held in the grounds of Highnam Court held in aid of the Pied Piper Appeal. A charity that helps Gloucestershire children.
Unfortunately the weather was a little damp for the occasion but the event was still well attended.
In addition to the cars it consisted of lots of different local businesses promoting and selling their wares and the fashion tent proved of particular interest to the ladies.
For the Gentlemen there were lots of motor cars, ancient and modern. Among the ancient ones, my car of the show was a maroon XK120 Jaguar sports similar to the one pictured here.
Roger Head OBE, who was the High Sheriff of Gloucester from 2015 to 2016 and the owner of Highnam Court, is a local boy made good. He served an apprenticeship with the local Jaguar agents, played local rugby and has a judo black belt which would come in handy in the Kingsholm shed!
He is the Chairman of the Trustees of the Pied Piper Appeal and quite obviously a thoroughly good bloke!
After tea on the terrace we were entertained by a troupe of belly dancers who, as you can see from the photo below, were well endowed in the belly department!
Roger has restored the garden which we visited in the springtime and we took this opportunity to wander around the garden again on this occasion.
Sue had decided she wanted to end up at Winchcombe but Les was determined to foil her plan and headed in the opposite direction when it was his turn to chose!
In the Evening parts of Cheltenham were flooded with torrential rain and thunderstorms but we escaped the flooding.
The weather continued wet for the whole week but we managed to wade through the floods to the Town Hall for a concert by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the young Japanese conductor Kazuki Yamada. He is the principal conductor of the Japan Philharmonic.
Fellow Japanese pianist Hisako Kawamura was the soloist in a performance of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3. She has lived in Germany since the age of 5 however where she now teaches.
The concert concluded with the Sibelius 2nd Symphony. This is a piece which begins with an interesting melody, loses its way somewhat in the middle in my opinion, but makes up for it with a rousing and beautiful melody at the end. It was the usual accomplished performance from the CBSO, especially at the end of the last movement of the Rach 3 when the piano and the strings reach a hair raising crescendo.
Regular readers will have experienced my occasional rant about the EU and my dislike of it so will have been surprised that during this EU referendum campaign I have refrained from comment.
I was frankly astonished at the way it all began. First we had the government spending £9 million of taxpayers money on a leaflet explaining about the EU referendum. The leaflet was distributed to every house in the kingdom purporting to give us a balanced view of leaving or remaining in the EU. It turned out to be unbalanced propaganda against leaving.
Having experienced the previous referendum in 1975, I did expect loads of untruths from our politicians but then, Harold Wilson our Prime Minister, stood aloof from the campaign and let the people make up their minds which was overwhelmingly in favour of staying in the EEC.
This time Prime Minister Cameron, who henceforth shall be known as "Call me Dave (CmD), led the campaign. Having told us only six weeks earlier that Britain, the fifth biggest world economy, would manage fine if we left the EU, he now told us that our economy would collapse and it might start World War Three if we left! This was in addition to his chancellor telling us that every household in Britain would be £4,300 a year worse off.
CmD then wheels out President Obama to threaten we would be at the back of the "queue" in any future USA trade deal, the use of "queue" rather than "line" giving us all a clue that this was not language an American would use. Then we had the Governor of the Bank of England warning us of gloom and doom after Brexit, pedaling the government argument and meddling in politics well outside his remit. He was quickly followed by the OECD and IMF, the CBI and big business, the Churches and virtually all the Establishment. Nobody but nobody had a good word to say for Brexit apart from UKIP and a few government ministers on the Vote leave campaign.
Finally the chancellor George Osborne threatened us with a "punishment budget" if we voted out, yet after six weeks of campaigning and all this negative propaganda, half the country was still unconvinced. It had clearly become a vote for or against the Establishment, almost a peaceful revolution.
I wrote this two days before the vote: "A few days ago the MP Jo Cox was tragically murdered by one of her constituents. I had hoped that the politicians would view this for what it was, an isolated act of madness by a loner with a history of mental illness and not seek to make political capital out of it. Unfortunately this has not been the case and it has been labelled by many as a political act linked to the referendum and in particular right wing "populist" politics.
Whatever the result on Friday it is liable to be very close and if that is the case will not resolve the divisions in our country on how we wish to be governed.
Although I am in favour of leaving the EU, an almost equally divided result either way may have the effect of bringing the Eurocrats to their senses and bring some genuine reform. I do hope so for Europes' sake."
Well it didn't happen as I had feared. The British people despite having had Uncle Tom Cobley and all the Establishment bombarding us with propaganda, waved two fingers and voted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48%.
CmD resigned much to everyones surprise, leaving the ship of state rudderless having caused the problem in the first place and promising to stay whatever the result had no plan B. George Osborne has surely buggered his chances of ever being PM thank goodness, the country is confused and worried and the Labour opposition is in disarray trying to remove their leader. Interesting times.
It is estimated that only 38% (the national turnout being 72%) of those under 25 bothered to vote and 75% of those voted to remain. That means about 66% of those eligible to vote actually didn't vote or voted to leave.
Well we last had a referendum in 1975 when 75% of old people voted to stay in the then EEC and I was then young and voted to leave. Those old people subjected me to 40 years of the EEC/EU and now it is the present younger generations turn to suffer the votes of the old!
Democracy means you have to vote kids.
The Scots voted by a good majority to remain so they now want to leave the UK but the EU don't want them. Oh dear.
The loosing Poms (Australian for English) are whinging of course folks, a national trait I am ashamed to say, but us proud England Rugby supporters are rejoicing at our England team having whupped the Wobblies on their home turf, winning the test series three nil and becoming the 2nd best side in the world in the rankings. Look out for your crown you Kiwis!
The Weather in June has been largely wet but we did make it out on one fine day to Witley Court, over the border in Worcestershire.
It was once one of Englands great country houses but was gutted by fire in 1937 and only the shell now remains. It began life as a medieval manor house until it was expanded in the 1720's by Baron Foley when it became a Regency building, reaching it's peak in the 1850's as an Italianate building remodeled by the Earl of Dudley.
Lord Foley had immense wealth generated first in the early 17th century by his forefathers who were forgemasters and nail makers in the West Midlands now known as the Black Country. The family firm did well out of the English Civil War supplying cannons and ballistics. Thomas Foley married Anne Browne, the daughter of the then greatest gunsmith in the country and in 1642 inherited half of his father-in-laws business. His annual income then was £5,000 per annum, about £500,000 in todays money, with which he purchased Witley Estate.
In 1833 the last of the Foleys sold the estate for £900,000, about £48 million in todays money, to the trustees of William Ward who was the 11th Baron Ward of Birmingham and still a minor. He was one of the richest men in England and owned more than 200 mines in the Black Country from which he extracted coal, iron ore, limestone and fireclay with which to feed his iron smelters, chemical factories and railway construction business which together generated for him an income of £5 million in todays money.
William had inherited these assets from the first earl of Dudley, John William Ward, who died insane in 1833, conversing with himself in two voices, one falsetto and one bass. The new earl of Dudley (second creation) did not come into his inheritance until he was 28 when he set about remodeling Witley Court from a classical Regency building, which was then out of fashion, to an Italianate one.
The house became the location of grand house parties attended by royalty and reached a zenith in the 1890's, when the second earls friend, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) became a regular visitor. Lord Dudley became the governor-general of Australia between 1908 and 1911 but his wealth was on the wane as a result of foreign competition and in 1920 the estate was sold to a Kidderminster Carpetmaker Sir Hubert Smith. Nicknamed "Piggy" he did not look after the place and lived in one corner, letting the rest go to rack and ruin, including the hydrant system. After the fire it was sold in 1938 and passed through various hands until it came into the care of English Heritage in 1984 who began to preserve what was left.
A feature of the grounds is the Perseus and Andromeda fountain which almost ended up as a traffic island opposite Worcester Cathedral. Today the fountain is fired up for about 10 minutes every hour on the hour.
The church which is adjacent but separate from the court itself survived the fire intact and is also Witley Parish Church. After the fire it was rarely used when damp and decay set in but in recent years, thanks to the efforts of the parishioners, the building has been restored to its former glory and glorious it is.
The church was built by Lady Foley and consecrated in 1735. In 1747 the second Lord Foley transformed the interior. No expense was spared and the ceiling paintings are by the Italian artist Antonia Bellucci.
The ten stained glass windows are by Joshua Price between 1719 and 1721 and are the finest examples of early 18th century windows of this type. They have been restored and are now is perfect condition.
The Witley Organ was purchased by the second Lord Foley in 1747 from the chapel at Cannons, Middlesex which was the stately home of the Duke of Chandos. It is the instrument on which G.F.Handel composed and played who was the organist to the Duke and for whom he composed his Chandos Anthems.
There is a monument to the Foleys which was designed and carved by the Flemish sculptor Jan Michiel Rijsbrack (1694 – 1770) who was also responsible for the monuments of the Duke of Marlborough in Blenheim Palace and of Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey.
The church can be visited from the village if you are not an English Heritage member or wish to avoid the extortionate entry charge to Witley Court.
Walking back down from the church we came across this piebald pony who quite obviously knew how handsome he was and was quite happy to pose for pictures!.
The weather seemed to get colder and wetter in July so our days out were somewhat curtailed. One fine day early in the month we drove up to Croome Park in Worcestershire.
George William inherited Croome in 1751 and became the 6th Earl of Coventry. George employed the best designers and architects of his time to shape his new home including 'Capability' Brown and Robert Adam. It was Browns first commission who went on to become Britain's foremost landscape designer responsible for the design of many of the big estates we admire today.
In 1941 the local airfield became RAF Defford and was first a bomber base but quickly became a research establishment involved in the development of radar. Some of the old wartime buildings have been turned into a visitor centre and RAF museum. We did not visit these facilities on this occasion as the estate provided more than enough for one day.
The grounds of the estate originally contained a large area of marshland which Brown drained by constructing a number of underground culverts, draining into a river and lake. He built a church and numerous classical buildings and follies at high points. A full exploration of the park can take several hours.
In 1948 the house and all its contents were sold when the Coventry family fell on hard times. It first became a school for disadvantaged boys and the park itself was neglected. In 1979 it became a home to Hare Krishna devotees and in 1984 a succession of property developers buy and sell Croome as its decline continued. Finally in 1996 the National Trust acquired Croome Park and commenced its restoration which is still ongoing but largely complete.
The house itself was acquired by Croome Heritage Trust in 2007 who leases it to the National Trust. They opened it to the public in 2009 but it is just a bare shell used for various exhibitions and events.
We were invited to lunch by Mike Thurston and Sally in Ilminster so spent the weekend with the Hockey's at their South Petherton residence whereupon they left us in charge of watering their garden and jetted off to Sicily for the week! We did manage to sink a few pints of Otter together before they left and were entertained right royally by the Cliffords who are two of my loyal readers.
The weather improved for a day on our return so we drove up to Hollybush at the southern end of the Malverns and walked up onto Midsummer Hill, another one of those iron age forts. Here is the start of the Shire Ditch which runs along the spine of the Malvern Hills and marks the boundary between Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Its origins date from the Bronze Age but in the 13th century a dispute between the Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert de Clare, and Bishop Cantilupe from Herefordshire Cathedral over hunting rights resulted in the Earl fortifying the ditch in 1287.
There is a great view from here across the Herefordshire countryside to Eastnor Castle. We continued down the hill through the woodland to the disused and flooded quarry at The Gullet then, having lost all the altitude commenced the climb up along the Eastern side of Swinyard Hill to the top before joining Three Choirs Way which led us back to the car. A welcome pint of Otter was enjoyed in the Duke of York at Rye Street after all that exertion!
That day we enjoyed an evening of wine and song with Oz Clarke. It was part of the Cheltenham Music Festival and held in Cheltenham Ladies College Princess Hall which is very lovely as are all the college grounds and buildings. In addition to the wine we were entertained by a string quartet with harpsichord accompanying a soprano and counter tenor singing music from the 11th to 18th century by a variety of composers who were loosely associated with alcohol.
Once, Twice, Thrice,
I Julia tried.
The scornful puss
As oft' denied.
And since, and since,
I can no better, better thrive,
To ne'er a bitch alive
So kiss my arse, so kiss my arse,
So kiss my arse, so kiss my arse,
Good claret, good claret
Is my mistress now.
Interspersed between the music was the merriment with Oz Clarke providing the connection between the wine and the composers. For example he related how Gluck was told by his doctor that if he drank any more it would kill him so he did and he died! Oz's efforts to replicate Glucks' accent necessitated the counter tenor explaining that Gluck was German! The evening ended with a Chilean Cabernet and a piece by Juan Garcia de Zèspedes called Convidando está la noche where the maracas were produced with Oz on tambourine that demanded an encore.
Three Choirs Way is a circular long distance footpath which links the cities of Worcester, Hereford and Gloucester. It is about 100 miles long and was devised with the dual themes of poetry and music, linking it with the Three Choirs Festival held alternately in each of those cities' Cathedrals each July/August which has been celebrated for over 300 years. In 2016 it is being held in nearby Gloucester.
Starting from Gloucester the path heads West and by-passes Highnam to arrive at Lassington where only the church tower remains. Dating from the 10th century, the Victorians restored it in 1875 financed by the artist Thomas Gambier Parry of Highnam Court when it was described by the poet John Betjeman as 'the most complete Victorian Church in the Country'.
Thomas Parry's son, Hubert Parry, was the composer who set William Blake's poem 'Jerusalem' to music.
Lassington Parish eventually joined with nearby Highnam and the church became unused, eventually falling into disrepair. Apart from the tower, which is still maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust, it was demolished in 1975.
The path continues West to Mutch Marcle then through Haugh Wood to join the River's Lugg and Wye into Hereford. It then heads North East and crosses the River Teme at Knightwick before turning West into Worcester. It continues South from that city following the Severn Way before climbing up onto the Malvern Hills which it follows along the spine to its most Southerly point at Chase End Hill before heading South West through Staunton back into Gloucester.
We have already traversed much of its route over the Malvern Hills and will be exploring its lower reaches in the future.
Buscot Park in Oxfordshire is just over 30 miles south of us between Lechlade in Gloucestershire on the River Thames and Farringdon in Oxfordshire.The mansion and park were built for Edward Lovedon between 1780 and 1783 for just over £20,000 (£780,000 in todays money) who had already inherited the land from his family. He was married three times to wealthy women, increasing his wealth with each marriage. His claim to fame was to preside over a parliamentary committee in 1793 tasked with improving the Thames navigation from Staines (remember Seaman Staines of Captain Pugwash fame) to Lechlade where he earned his nickname 'Old Father Thames'!
The Estate was purchased in 1859 by one Robert Tertius Campbell who had made his money from gold mining in Australia. He made major improvements to the estate and built a distillery to make alcohol from sugar beet which was not a success and on his death the estate was heavily in debt.
The new owner was Alexander Henderson, later the 1st Lord Faringdon, who was a successful London financier. He was succeed by his son Gavin, a Socialist and pacifist who supported the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. He and his father were both keen collectors and the so called Faringdon Collection is now displayed in the house at Buscot.
In 1937 during the Spanish Civil War some 4,000 Basque children were evacuated from around Guernica which the German Condor Legion had almost obliterated by aerial bombardment. Some of these children were billeted at Buscot Park where The 2nd Lord Faringdon employed a Spanish emigre called Luis Portillo as their schoolmaster. He was the father of that well known ex-politician turned TV commentator and railway enthusiast, Michael Portillo.
The present Lord Faringdon inherited the estate from his Uncle Gavin in 1977. In the 1940's Gavin gave Buscot to the National Trust with a leaseback to the family of the house and grounds. The family still live in the house in the winter but a new summerhouse has been built in the grounds for the family when the estate is open to visitors during the summer months.
The collection contains some valuable works by Gainsborough, Rembrandt, Rosetti and Reynolds. A famous series called The Legend of the Briar Rose is displayed in the Saloon by Sir Edward Burne-Jones which depict the legend of Sleeping Beauty. The family trust continues to add to the collection and to improve the gardens
At the end of July we visited Farnborough Hall in Warwickshire. It was purchased by the Holbech family in 1683 and rebuilt in 1692 and here the descendents still live.
William Holbech succeeded his father in 1717 and, after a failed love affair, spent many years in Italy collecting furniture, paintings and sculpture to adorn his house at Farnborough.
William wanted the house to resemble the houses he saw in Italy and the rich ochre colour of the locally quarried Hornton stone provided this and contrasts nicely with the local grey stone enrichments.
There were several Canalettos in the saloon but there are now only replicas, furthermore the replicas are rather dark as they were painted before the originals were cleaned and restored after they were sold to pay death duties. The house was also sold to the government for the same reasons and the government then passed it on to the National Trust who lease it back to the Holbech family.
There are many Roman sculptures dating from the 2nd century displayed in wall alcoves in the hall and above the staircase where there is a beautiful mid-eighteenth century glass dome with delicate plasterwork.
Grannys Walk in the opposite direction from the house leads to the Rose Garden and the photograph below is taken from here looking across typical English countryside.
We are members of English Heritage and every so often we get an email suggesting things we might do that incorporate visits to English Heritage sites of interest. The latest suggested we take a six mile circular walk from Bradford on Avon to visit Farleigh Hungerford Castle and as the weather forecast was good we decided to investigate.
We now joined the Macmillan Way. This is a series of interlinked coast to coast paths with the objective of encouraging individuals and groups to organise fund raising walks for the Macmillan Cancer Support Charity. The main path begins in Boston in Lincolnshire and follows the line of limestone hills crossing the Cotswolds down to Abbotsbury in Dorset. The section we were on was a branch ending in Bath.
The path followed the River Frome Valley through meadows to the little village of Iford. Here is a bridge across the river and a manor house which has terraced Italianate gardens which are open to the public. Note the bronze statue of Britannia on the bridge, placed there by the garden designer Harold Peto. But it was of course much too hot, according to Sue, to wander around gardens so we left it to another day. Sue has become so Pommie that she even whinges like us!
Another visit to Hidcote Gardens in August was a bit of a disappointment as we found it less colourful than our previous visit in June. On the drive back we decided to investigate the Cotswold Way between Winchcombe and Broadway and began with a visit to Hailes Abbey.
In 1246, Cistercian monks, having just completed an abby at Beaulieu commenced the building of Hailes Abbey which was completed in 1251 at an estimated cost of 10,000 marks. I calculate that is over £10 million in todays money and Richard gave them another million for further buildings or land.
In 1270, Edmund, 2nd son of Richard, presented the abbot with a phial of holy blood he had purchased from the Count of Flanders with a guarantee from the Patriarch of Jerusalem that it was the blood of Christ. Hailes then became a place of pilgrimage and of great importance until the Reformation in 1538 when the holy blood was declared to be clarified honey coloured with saffron. From 1542 onwards most of the abbey was demolished except for the cloisters, the ruins of which still survive.
We rewarded ourselves with a pot of tea and lemon cakes at the nearby Hailes Fruit Farm before returning to Cheltenham.
We then turned right along a new long distance path called the Wyche Way which links the Cotswold Way with the Offas Dyke Path, a distance of 80 miles. It is so new that it is not yet on the OS map. Here is a junction of several paths and we were unsure Wyche way to take (did you see what I did there?) but a fellow walker told us it was the way back to Stanton.
Just downstream of Gloucester on the opposite bank of the tidal River Severn is Westbury where you will find the unique Dutch water garden of Westbury Court.
The garden is one of the last surviving of its type in the UK and has been completely restored since it was acquired in a poor state in 1967 with the canals full of sludge and the gardens overgrown. It is now in pristine condition, lovingly tended by local volunteers.
It was completed in 1705 by Maynard Colchester who planted thousands of yew trees and holly bushes to create an elaborate pattern of hedges and topiary. The canals were stocked with fish for the house, a rabbit warren provided meat, fruit trees were espaliered around the walls and an extensive selection of vegetables were grown in addition to tulips, irises, crocuses and hyacinths so the garden was functional as well as attractive.
It remains the same today. The fruit trees are mainly French traditional varieties and the vegetables likewise. They are all labelled with their known dates of origin and where possible modern cultivars are excluded.
In the late 18th century this type of garden went out of fashion and more natural landscape gardens as promoted by 'Capability' Brown began to be created at the expense of formal gardens like Westbury which thankfully escaped the fashion.
Goodrich Castle was our next destination which overlooks the Wye valley just over the county border in Herefordshire.
There was a castle here before the Norman invasion but by the end of the 11th century it was a wooden and earth construction known at Godric's Castle after Godric of Mappestone who is mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086.
It was eventually inherited by Gilbert de Clare, the Earl of Pembroke and then his son Richard known as 'Strongbow' (after the well known cider) and between them they probably built the first Norman Keep which is in a different stone to the rest of the castle.
There is a chapel which is intact and has a modern stained glass window commemorating British servicemen who died between 1936–76 in radar development. One of the Halifax bombers based at Croome crashed nearby killing all the crew.
Towards the end of the English Civil War the castle became one of the few remaining Royalist strongholds. It was besieged by parliamentary troops in 1646 who used a large mortar they called 'Roaring Meg', able to fire gunpowder filled shells of up to 90kg in weight. The mortar can be seen in the castle courtyard.
Goodrich became a romantic ruin which inspired poets like Wordsworth and others. It is today considered to be one of the best examples of English military architecture in the country.
Towards the end of August my daughter and family moved from Fareham in Hampshire to Stogursey in Somerset. For those who are unfamiliar with Stogursey you have not missed anything very special as it is very much out in the sticks lying close to the coast not far from Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station where our current government is unable to decide if a new one should be built.
This project will cost in excess of £18 billion with a French reactor that has yet to demonstrate it will work as two other similar projects are years late and billions over budget. It is being financed with French and Chinese money but we have agreed to pay twice the current price for its electricity if and when it eventually generates any!
After getting the house shipshape we spent a few days walking on the Quantocks, an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). As you can see from the various photographs here, the gorse and heather were in full bloom and the weather was glorious.
The photo on the left is taken from Longstone Hill just above Holford. The little copse at the edge of the hill was planted after world war two to commemorate the soldiers from the villages of Holford and Kilve who died in that conflict. I assume there is a tree for every soldier.
Performing our grand-parental duties meant a fortnight cat sitting in the new Stogursey house when daughter and family went off on holiday to Bulgaria, leaving us surrounded by unpacked boxes with nowhere to stow the contents.
Our first mistake was to try and erect their Ikea wardrobe without an instruction manual and with no room to do it unless we dismantled the bed which was too heavy for us. The wardrobe was short several fixings and in trying to lift it partly constructed sideways in the restricted space the whole thing collapsed like a deck of cards ripping out the fixings and rendering it useless.
I spend most of my childhood in this area and lived a few miles away near Nether Stowey. The nearest town is Bridgwater where I went to school which seems to have expanded into an even more soulless place in recent years. Thankfully Stowey seems to have preserved its character and is relatively unchanged since Coleridge and Wordsworth occupied a cottage here, the bus shelter was the village lock-up and Judge Jeffries conducted his hanging courts in the pub opposite.
The start of September is officially the start of Autumn and so the start of a further page.
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