Monday, 5 July 2021

Dorchester

Late Friday afternoon saw us popping off to Dorset for a micro-break. Micro, because we were only there for 1 night, returning late on Saturday. Short though it was, we had a lovely time and I only wish that it could have been longer.

We stayed at the 'Little Court Hotel' in Charminster on the outskirts of Dorchester. It was a lot posher than our usual holiday accommodation and I was worried about lowering the tone. We tend towards the sartorially casual and travelling in Bridget adds a certain windswept air into the mix! I needn't have been anxious, however, the welcome couldn't have been warmer and the house and gardens were beautiful. We weren't there long enough to take advantage of the pool and tennis court, but the stunning views and quiet location made me want to sell our house in a little market town and head for the countryside.

We had visited Dorchester once before when the girls were small. Its fictional equivalent is Thomas Hardy's Casterbridge:

 It's a fantastic place for a short break with museums galore and some lovely places to eat. Friday night saw us tucking into Thai food at one of the local restaurants. We didn't feel the need to do the museums again, so contented ourselves with a little wander round the centre before heading back to the hotel to enjoy the gardens some more.

Breakfast on Saturday morning was the vegan equivalent of the 'full English'. They even managed to cook the mushrooms properly - on many an occasion in the past, we have been faced with a portion of unseasoned, pallid, poached in their own juices shrooms. As Julia Child was wont to say: 'Don't crowd the mushrooms'!

We checked out and headed to Maiden Castle, an Iron Age fort first laid out in 600BC.

Bridget at Maiden Castle in the early morning mist.

I was very glad of my walking boots as it was all a little damp first thing in the morning.
Next on the list was Abbotsbury Swannery. This is the world's only managed colony of nesting mute swans, set on the site of an 11th century monastery. Again, we had visited here before, but it was well worth a second visit. There was a one way system in place to comply with Covid regulations but the cygnets and chick pea bhaji pasty at the cafe made the visit memorable!

Nearby is Chesil Beach where Barnes Wallis' prototype bouncing bomb was tested.

After lunch, we headed to the nearby subtropical gardens - buying tickets to both this and the swannery allows you a 25% discount. We hadn't been here before and were delighted by the variety of plants and the statues dotted around the place. 
We popped back into Dorchester briefly to visit an antiques market there. I bought a small oak stool as a souvenir. We have a lot of house plants and I'm always on the lookout for things to lift them above Hamish's reach!

Last on the list before heading home was a trip to Cerne Abbas, a quaint village best known for its .........

Hill Filth!


At this point Bridget let us down badly. Her clutch started playing up, making changing gears a bit of an event. R was very stressed and wanted to get home as quickly as possible via the route with the fewest roundabouts/traffic lights. The A303 (nice view of Stonehenge)  and the A34 were the best, if not the most scenic roads. The football match between England and the Ukraine ensured little traffic, so we eventually arrived home intact and very relieved. Bridget is now in the garage with her engine removed (only way to access the relevant bit), having a little think!

Other happies this month:
Finishing my Granny Chic dress. Actually, I finished it a while ago, but it is now warm enough to wear it. I'm not the best seamstress, but it will do for in the garden.

Winding up yarn for a pair of Kate Selene's 'Spiral Socks' . They have no heel, so I'm curious as to how they will turn out:
Finishing my Lockdown Scrappy Boxy Sweater:


An outdoor production of Noel Coward's 'Blithe Spirit'. Made more amusing when a male cyclist came into the park and stopped behind the stage to see what was going on, just as we were expecting Madam Arcati to cycle up. We weren't sure if it was going to be a gender fluid performance! He then got a taste for the attention and made various appearances throughout the play, despite furious looks from the organisers!
 
Finally, a trip with my friend, S, to Bristol Zoo. We hadn't seen each other for ages owing to the pandemic, so it was lovely to catch up. I nipped in to see E on my way home.





Well, that's it for this month. If you haven't been, I can thoroughly recommend a trip to Dorchester. A word of advice though: try and make the journey in a car with a fully functioning clutch!

Toodle pip for now. x

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Bury St. Edmunds

A couple of months ago we watched 'The Dig' on Netflix. Have you seen it? If not, I can recommend it. It tells the story of Sutton Hoo, the site of 2 early mediaeval cemeteries dating from the 6th to 7th century, near Woodbridge in Suffolk. 1 of the cemeteries contained an undisturbed ship's burial and a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts. The film stars Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown, the amateur archaeologist hired by landowner Edith Pretty (played by Carey Mulligan) to excavate the site. It's beautifully shot (although, apparently not at Sutton Hoo!) and the 'Suffolkated' script is a treat for the ear! We saw the artefacts when we visited the British Museum and decided to visit the actual site when we wanted to get away for a few days. I've never been to Suffolk before, so it seemed like as good a place as any to escape to.

We stayed in a small hotel in Bury St. Edmunds; very cute, with a private car park for Bridget and a nice vegan breakfast. We obviously looked relatively young and spritely as the landlord took one look at us and switched our room; putting us on the 3rd floor up a narrow winding staircase, saving the more easily accessible room for any later guest that might need it more. Unfortunately, what he didn't realise was that I had sprained my ankle a few days before departure and, after spending the days doing far more walking than I should, the climb up that staircase was more of a hobble!

A restorative snack after our journey was pate aux cepes and a sneaky lager. :O)

 I have to say that Bury is a bit of a gem. You know, when you visit a place and think 'Yes, I could live here'. Greene King brewery and Silver Spoon sugar factory aside, the Abbey ruins and gardens are a joy and the cathedral a must see. St. Edmundsbury Cathedral was actually St. James' parish church, which was extended in the 1960s. The Gothic revival tower was built between 2000 -2005, making it the most recently completed Anglican cathedral in the UK. 6 masons used original fabrication techniques and the result is amazing. I wouldn't have known that it wasn't all original. I was pleasantly surprised as I normally look at old buildings and think that there's no way that we could build anything like that today.

The Abbey ruins and gardens:

St Edmund was King of East Anglia from 855 to his death. When the Danes invaded, he apparently refused their demands to renounce Christ. They beat him, tied him to a tree and shot him with arrows before beheading him. Legend has it that they threw the head into a forest and searchers found it after following the cries of a wolf calling 'Hic, hic, hic' (Here, here, here). They put the head against the body where it supposedly reattached.

This tower is all part of the new extension:

The Susanna Window is from the 15th century and depicts the Old Testament story of Susanna, found bathing in the garden.

Dinner that night was Thai food from The Giggling Squid and it was delicious!

Our visit to Sutton Hoo was a tad disappointing, owing to Covid restrictions. We were allowed to look around Edith Pretty's house which was lovely, but the burial site access was badly thought out. The King's burial mound was best seen from a viewing tower. The fact that this was closed for social distancing reasons was, I suppose, understandable. Rather than just closing off the tower, however, they had closed off that part of the circular path around the field. Consequently, rather than a sensible 1 way system that allowed visitors to view the mound closely, we all ended up crowded at the blocked part of the path, straining to see the markers revealing the ship's position, before returning the way we had come, passing other visitors coming along the path. As I said, poorly organised! If you would like to find out more about Sutton Hoo and its treasures, more information can be found here.

Sculpture of the boat:

Mrs. Pretty's house:

If you look closely slightly below and to the right of the tree, you can see one of the markers denoting the end of the ship!

Copies of some of the artefacts. The originals are in the British Museum after Edith Pretty donated them to the nation:

Following on from our visit to Sutton Hoo, we carried on to the coastal town of Aldeburgh to call in at The Red House. This was the home to the composer Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears. All of their belongings were still in place and I loved looking around their beautiful home. It was stuffed to the gunwales with artwork, books, musical instruments and the general detritus of everyday life .... it was wonderful; so homely that I wanted to move in! 

We were given a tour round the main bit of the house and I'm kicking myself for not taking any photos of the living room and hall. I felt a bit embarrassed as it was just us and the tour guide! Here though are a few other shots from when we were exploring on our own:

The Steinway in the library. I was delighted to see that the top was protected with crocheted blankets!

Another Steinway in the composition room. I was thrilled to discover that we have the same style of metronome as BB!

The beautiful gardens:

We popped into Aldeburgh itself for the obligatory chippies on the beach:

A well camouflaged seagull chick:

Cloud watching:

The Moot Hall, home to Aldeburgh Town Hall:

Our final day was spent at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford. By happy chance, they were having a flying day and we were able to see planes taking off and landing at regular intervals. My favourites were the Spitfires:

The Lancaster, used in the Dambusters raid:

One of the bouncing bombs:

A Doodlebug from WWII. As a child, my mother used to listen to the droning of the engines as they flew overhead. When the droning stopped, the bomb dropped!

To be honest, I suggested that we visit Duxford because I knew that R would love it. I didn't realise that I would enjoy the day so much too. The only thing that I was sad about was that the 'Historic Duxford' shed was closed. It would have shown the living quarters of the workers but was too cramped for these times of Covid.

We drove home after Duxford, stopping in Aylesbury for an Indian meal. We were only away for 3 days but it felt longer - a much needed break after all the time spent at home recently. I have a few souvenirs from our holiday - a ball of yarn from Royston, where we stopped for lunch on the outward journey, and a couple of charity shop books.

When we arrived home, my prayer plant had a little surprise for me. I didn't even know that they produced flowers!


Well, that's all for the moment. Apologies for a rather photo heavy post! I hope you are all well and making the most of the glorious weather we're having. Anything fun going on at your end?

Toodle pip for now. x