Sunday 25 March 2018

Mosaic Monday # 78 - a visit to Worcester Cathedral

Whenever we go back "home" to England we like to include spending some time in an area or county that we've not been to before. Renting a vacation cottage enables us to "self cater" and come and go as we please. We chose the Perry Shed because of its rural location set in a small hamlet ideally situated in the "Heart of England", close to Droitwich Spa and the City of Worcester.
A visit to Worcester Cathedral was on our "must see" list and in order to learn more of its history we booked a tour with one of the Cathedrals volunteer docents.
Volunteer docent Andrew recounting the History of King Johns Tomb in the Quire
Andrew, 86 years of age, has been leading tours of the Cathedral for 15 years, his knowledge of the subject is boundless.
We joined two other couples for an hour long tour, but it wasn't until almost  two hours later that we said a reluctant goodbye to Andrew and the group before heading to the Cathedral cafĂ© for lunch.
Benedictine Cloisters
Here are seven things I learned about Worcester Cathedral that I didn't know before.
If you'd like to learn more about the 7 things I didn't know there'll be links to follow at the bottom of this post.
A Church was founded in Worcester in 680 and Bosel was consecrated as Bishop.
In 983 Oswald founded a Benedictine Monastery within the Cathedral.
Wulfstan was Bishop of the Cathedral when the Normans invaded in 1066 and was allowed to remain. He decided to demolish most of Oswalds church and to build a Cathedral on the site, beginning with the crypt. Wulfstan was Canonised as a Saint in 1203.
The Crypt
King John, the younger brother of Richard the Lionheart, began his reign in 1199 and is mostly remembered as the Monarch who agreed to the signing of the Magna Carta.
The tomb of King John
Before he died in 1216 he requested that he be buried in Worcester Cathedral, his tomb made of dark Purbeck marble is situated in the Quire.
The Quire
Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, the eldest son of King Henry VII and older brother of Henry (who later became Henry VIII), was formally betrothed to Catherine of Aragon when he was 3 years old.
The marriage took place in 1501, he died 6 months later and is buried in the Chantry Chapel of the Cathedral.
Chantry Chapel, Arthur Tudors final resting place.
The following year, 1502, Catherine of Aragon became the first wife of Henry VIII.
During the English Civil War the City of Worcester was loyal to King Charles and paid a high price for it. After defeating the Royalists in battle the Parliamentarian troops occupied the Cathedral which they looted and vandalised, riding their horses up and down the nave and destroying anything that they, as Puritans, considered represented Popery within the Cathedral.
Restoration of the Cathedral has been ongoing throughout the ages, the Victorians being responsible for a lot of the exterior stonework which isn't very attractive.

Inside many of the original furnishings have long disappeared, the stained glass windows, ceilings and floors are Victorian.

Sunday 18 March 2018

Mosaic Monday # 77 - Harvington Hall, an Elizabethan Manor House.

Here I am warmly ensconced in the sitting room of a small cottage in Worcestershire looking out of the large window at the snow laying gently on the garden. There's a wonderful log fire burning brightly in the super modern high tech stove across the room. The Senior Partner is in the kitchen preparing a typical English Sunday lunch of roast beef, Yorkshire puddings & gravy, roast potatoes with a medley of vegetables and it certainly does feel like home!
But more about our home from home later, first I want to tell you about a wonderful place which we visited yesterday afternoon.

Harvington Hall is a restored Tudor Manor House surrounded by a beautiful moat and gardens.

It's origins date back to the 1580's when it was built for Humphrey Pakington and his family.

They were devout Catholics during the reign of Protestant Queen Elizabeth I and therefore Humphrey had many hidden Priest hides included throughout the building.

Click here to find out more about the largest surviving collection of Priest hides in England @ Harvington.

They really are fascinating to see and the tales of the lengths the priests and the host family went to in order to avoid detection, or in some cases didn't avoid, are incredible.

Harvington Hall is simply steeped in History with a capital H and the very informative and chatty docent, dressed as an Elizabethan female servant, brought it all to life for us.
I couldn't possibly cover five centuries of history in a single blog post but if you're keen to know more then do visit their website, you'll be in for a real treat if you do.
Before we left the 16th century behind we stopped at the Moat Side Tea Room for a pot of tea, toasted teacake and cream tea, well it would have been rude not to.

(The cream tea debate of Devon versus Cornwall has raged for decades in the UK. Do you put cream or jam on your scone first? Well, it would seem that HRH Queen Elizabeth II has finally settled things once and for all. She (like me) prefers the Cornish method of jam first with cream on top not jam followed by cream as they do in Devon).

As we left the tea room we saw that during our tour of Harvington snow had begun to fall but by the time we arrived back at The Perry Shed it had blown over.
During the night it blew back again and this how things looked this morning.

Thursday 15 March 2018

A quintessential English B & B.

After a 4 hour drive through Normandy to Calais, a 30 minute train ride under the English Channel aboard the Eurostar Shuttle, a quick trip to Ashford for an appointment with my optician we finally arrived at Stone Green Farm our favourite B & B, the ideal place to stop and unwind after a long day of travelling and shopping.
Caroline and Geoffrey are the perfect B & B hosts and every time we stay with them it's like staying in a friend's home.
B & B resident Teasel came running out to greet us when we arrived.

After a quick freshen up (we're sleeping in the Boy's Room tonight) we came downstairs to the guests sitting room to enjoy a welcome cup of tea and some home baking.
Caroline's Victoria sponges are legendary. The china is Colclough Ivy Leaf.
This evening we'll be heading to the local pub in Mersham, The Farriers Arms, for even more quintessential English food - beer battered fish and chips and a pint of best bitter (beer) for the Senior Partner his reward for getting us safely back to England once again!
Bon Nuit.

Sunday 11 March 2018

Mosaic Monday # 76 - come dine with me

During the recent cold spell brought about by the Siberian blizzard "Beast from the East" I spent a lot of time feeding the wild birds who co-habit with us at the Presbytere.
I doubled up the fat balls which I hang daily from the branches of the ornamental quince bush at the front of the house and also put out huge amounts of Nature Mix (wheat; red sorghum; sunflower; millet and oatmeal) plus extra black sunflower seeds.
These images represent my first attempt at bird photography, something I never honestly thought I would have the patience to try.
Most were taken with my Panasonic DMC-ZS3 pressed up against the glass of various windows and others with my iPhone whilst leaning against the car for support!
Afterwards I played around with them in PicMonkey using a variety of effects and creating the bird mosaic.
a hungry blue tit 
(the most common of all the visitors to my garden)
enjoying a snack

In the back ground a wood warbler
and in front a male chaffinch?
I think this is a collared dove, a recent newcomer to the garden
a starling came visiting last week too

I'm an absolute beginner at identifying birds relying on Mr Google and a vintage edition of Collins Gem Guide - Birds" but it isn't easy.

is this a wren?
If I've mistakenly identified any of the above please do let me know, I appreciate any and all advice given.
Update: Valerie has commented and helped to identify two of the birds. What I thought was a wood warbler is in fact a female greenfinch and the wren is a dunnock! So helpful, thank you.

Next week's Mosaic Monday will be coming to you from the very Heart of England, as the Senior Partner and I enjoy a short break in the County of Worcestershire. I'm thinking visits to National Trust properties; Stately Homes; Cathedrals and Markets and as many Afternoon Teas as we can possibly fit in.
Want to come along? Watch this space........................

Sunday Beach walk.

On our beach walk today there was almost no plastic garbage to collect, yay!
Just a couple of broken pieces from an old flower pot and a container that might once have held engine oil or something similar.

The sun was shining, the sky was a vivid blue and the breeze was gentle and warm.

A perfect spring day in Normandy.

M'selle Fleur socialised with other furry friends and the SP strode along at speed clocking up those Fitbit steps whilst I meandered and paused to capture some of the stranger things that the outgoing tide had revealed this morning.

Sunday 4 March 2018

Mosaic Monday - # 75 - Hugging Daffodils.

In the week that marked the meteorological first day of spring, March 1st, as in other parts of Europe (Spain; Italy and the UK) some regions of France have been experiencing extreme weather caused by a fierce blizzard blowing in from Siberia.
a.k.a. "The Beast from the East"  the Siberian blizzard has caused avalanches in the French Alps leading to four deaths and many accidents throughout the country.

Here in Normandy we got away very lightly with just a slight dusting of snow, the  temperature did drop to -4c on Wednesday but felt like -10c because of the bitterly cold wind.
My daffodils did not like that at all.
The stems and flowers froze as they lay drooping on the ground, too afraid to move them for fear of breaking the stems I had to leave them to fend for themselves.
ice crystals on daffodils
A friend passed on some advice from UK gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh, apparently daffodils go into hibernation mode during such extreme conditions but I was convinced that they were done for.
What do I know!
Friday it rained but it wasn't as cold so between showers I rushed out and hugged my daffodils, that's right I became a daffodil hugger.
Lifting the stems and flowers, heavy with rain, from the ground and shaking gently helped them to shed the raindrops and stand a little straighter.
I repeated the treatment again on Saturday and what a difference it made.

Some that I couldn't revive had broken stems so I brought them inside to add a bright ray of sunshine to the mantelpiece.

“She turned to the sunlight
    And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
    "Winter is dead.”
A.A. Milne,
When We Were Very Young.