Easter Sunday, and I was spending it at my aunt’s in Berkshire. In the afternoon we went to West Green House Garden, over the county border in Hampshire, near Hartley Wintney. It is a National Trust garden (and non-visitable house), run on a day to day basis by their lessee. Among other things, opera performances take place there, by the lake.
There was an Easter Bunny hunt that day, which led me in advance to worry slightly about potential crowds, but in the event they were far from overwhelming. Needless to say, we did not join in, nor even visit the children’s petting zoo.
Join us on a roughly clockwise tour.
I don’t know enough about fish to say, but I was wondering whether this one (about 2 ft/60 cm long) was gulping the air because the water did not contain enough oxygen.
And we came to a wonderful tulip garden. I just couldn’t stop taking photos, of which these are a few.
Beyond the tulip garden.
Barbara agreed to pose by one of the many follies.
Above her was this plaque.
I looked this up later. It comes from a poem by Alexander Pope (1688-1744), written in 1711, ‘An Essay on Criticism’. More here on the Pierian Spring and Pope’s poem, and the writings of others, (not to mention magpies) but in brief the Spring is ‘the metaphorical source of knowledge of art and science’.
After a refreshing cup of tea, we completed our exploration.
Several months ago, I had seen publicity for a Klimt ‘Immersive Experience’ – whatever that might be, but it looked interesting – to take place at a yet to be declared venue in London. I toyed with the idea, but with no idea of where in London it might be, and therefore how long it would take me to get from my arrival in the capital by train or bus, I decided against. However, when I saw, a few weeks later, that there was to be a Van Gogh ‘Immersive Experience’, also at an unknown venue, but somewhere in Bristol, that seemed more doable, so I booked for last Thursday. When the venue became known I was very pleased, as it turned out to be near to Bristol Temple Meads railway station, so not only doable, but doable direct by one bus from near my home.
Not that near though. I should have allowed 20 minutes to walk to my bus stop. As it was, I left 3 minutes later than I meant, but I would still have got to the stop on time. The bus overtook me when I was still three minutes’ walk from the bus stop. I ran, and ran, and ran, very cross that it seemed to have arrived early. I made it, even having to wait for a couple of minutes while people in front of me paid their fares. The bus left exactly on time, so I couldn’t really complain. (It took seven minutes for my breathing to return to normal, so unfit am I.)
Still, I then had 80 minutes to just sit and enjoy the countryside going by. I got off at Temple Meads, and went into the station to buy a sandwich, passing this statue as I went.
It was rather less controversial than another statue in Bristol, now in its more rightful place in a Bristol museum. (That one was mentioned by Neil McGregor in a lunchtime slot on BBC Radio 4 a few days ago, and also came up in questions at a talk by David Olusoga that I went to in Street recently. He pointed out that statues – of whoever – were rarely put up because the subject was widely admired at the time. They were erected by a few of his (sic) rich friends. And the historian Mary Beard had told him that the Romans regularly just changed the head on statues to reflect changing interest.)
The venue, called the Propyard, was located about half a mile, 0.6 km, away, in what was clearly a former industrial part of the city. To get to it I had firstly to walk along Cattle Market Street alongside the station, which led into Feeder Street. I noted a rather clever traffic/illegal parking management scheme there, of particular interest because Bristol have been advising my local authority on a somewhat similar scheme to be installed in Glastonbury.
I also noticed (interesting) graffiti all the way along. The Propyard’s Facebook page calles it an art trail.
Here, to my left, three waterways converge. To my left, the River Avon (New Cut). Ahead of me, from where a pleasure boat is emerging, the Floating Harbour (the original course of the Avon until 1809 as this article explains), and to my right, a cut opened at the same time, called The Feeder.
I walked along Feeder Road, The Feeder canal to my left, and was pleased to see after not too long a big ‘PY’ on the side of a building which turned out not to be the Propyard, but immediately beyond it.
This is the Propyard, a former warehouse, once used by the MoD for testing torpedoes! It opened as ‘a space for contemporary arts, music, food, and culture’ in July last year.
To be honest, for the first half hour, I could not see what all the fuss about this ‘experience’ was. Panels of straightforward facts about, and analysis of, Van Gogh’s life and work, obviously no originals, with just more modern touches, like the ability to download the panels onto one’s phone via an app. I felt a bit sorry for the young children around. And the constant noisy music was annoying me.
This short film was interesting. It was about Van Gogh’s liking for and use of bright colours. It concluded with the theory that he was colour blind, and needed bright colours to be able to distinguish between one tone and another. I have looked into this since, and found a number of articles dating from 2012, about a Japanese artist-philosopher, Kasunori Asada, who has applied his Chromatic Vision Simulator to Van Gogh’s work and reached the startling clour-blindness conclusion.
A fair chunk of the exhibition was devoted to discussion on VG’s many versions of sunflowers in a vase.
There were a couple of dioramas of his works. The child in this one is real, and her brother joined her a few seconds later, when they proceeded to romp on the bed. Something for children at last!
At last the Experience began to kick in. After the fairly conventional exhibition, one walked through this small room…
I recalled the publicity, which has people standing around in a large space surrounded by Van Gogh themes on huge walls, phones in their hands. I took dozens of still and moving pictures; here is a tiny selection. I also just sat and watched for long periods. The whole show, which seemed to go through the various phases of his life, lasted perhaps 25 minutes.
I looked immediately to my right to see this, but it was also diametrically opposite.
I left when the show reached where I had come in, and in the next room decided not to accept the invitation to create my own masterpiece by crayoning in between the lines.
Nor to buy anything in the very well-stocked (and to my mind expensive) gift shop. But I did recognise the right-hand painting as being on a jigsaw I had given at Christmas.
The way out was through the bar. Ah, I hadn’t needed to buy a sandwich at the station – but then I wouldn’t have seen Brunel’s statue.
When I had been researching how to get to the venue, Bing Maps had told me that I could get off my bus a stop early, and walk alongside a waterway to get to Feeder Road, so that seemed like a good idea for my return journey. This was how it began.
Having gone under this bridge I looked back. The River Avon is low, the tide being out (or the waterway being managed – I have no idea).
Spoiler alert, I should have crossed this bridge to get back to the main Wells Road and my bus stop, but it didn’t even occur to me, it came so soon.
I was enjoying my rural urban walk.
I thought that this moorhen was pulling up some weed, but closer inspection reveals that it is scratching itself with its green leg.
‘This must be my bridge’, thought I, ‘I hope there are some steps up to it.’
There were, but I came out not on the main road as I expected, but a short side one, leading on to it. ‘Nice new flats’ I thought, ‘Don’t remember seeing those from the bus, but then I was sitting on the other side and looking out the other way.’
I looked for a bus stop, and when I got there, I didn’t see my number bus listed. Fortunately I had brought my book of Bristol street maps with me. And found that I had clearly come out not on the Wells road, but that for Bath. The two had diverged some way back. I hoped there was a short cut through for pedestrians.
Followed by this.
Followed by this.
And the climb hadn’t finished yet.
Nearly back at the Wells road, I looked down a side street. The first bridge I had passed under as I went along the river can just be seen in the very middle of the picture – if your screen is big enough.
A minute or so later, at 15.47 precisely, having tottered up all that way, I was at the bus stop at Totterdown. The timetable said the bus I wanted was due at 15.47. I saw no bus disappearing into the distance and very much hoped that it was just late, otherwise there would be a 30-minute wait. It was, and five minutes later I was able to rest my weary legs for another 80 minutes.
An interesting day! I wonder if some of those graffiti artists are colour-blind?!
When planning my trip to the village, I had read that there was a rather interesting church there. As I finished my cup of tea after my visit to the Ivy House Garden (NGS) I asked Bridget, the owner, where it was. I could have walked there, but decided to go in my car as it would have added 30 minutes’ delay to the cats’ teatime!
On my way back to my car, I saw this.
The Piddle Inn appears to be a hotel only now, not a hostelry. But on my drive to the church, I passed two pubs, so it would appear that Piddletrenthide is well served for ale, and eating out opportunities.
Once parked, I found the River Piddle in a more natural state than I had seen it previously, strictly channelled parallel to the main street. The River Piddle is very little:
It can be/has been spelt rather differently:
This so attractive garden was right by the church. I hope the owners don’t mind my including the picture I took of it here.
I entered the churchyard,
and almost the first thing I saw was this:
Some wording can just be made out over the west door. To quote the Wikipedia entry, “Over the west door of the church-tower is the Latin inscription: “Est pydeltrenth villa in dorsedie comitatu Nascitur in illa quam rexit Vicariatu 1487“. The inscription translates as: “It is in Piddletrenthide, a town in Dorset [where] he was born [and] is Vicar, 1487.” As the vicar in that year was Nicholas Locke, presumably the tower was dedicated to him. This is an early use of Arabic numerals in England at a time when the use of Roman numerals continued for another century elsewhere in England.”
The reference to Arabic numerals set me on their trail, since these are the figures saying 1487.
Not entirely recognisable to me. But this article explains all. That’s how Roger Bacon (c1220-1292) would have written those digits.
I was delighted to find the church was open to visitors.
Bridget had told me that the church had a lovely acoustic. I was on my own there, and, inspired by this window, I sang a verse from ‘The Holly and The Ivy’, the one with the words, ‘As white as the lily flower’. Yes, the church’s acoustic was neither too resonant nor too dry.
I could get no nearer to this monument, no doubt relating to someone very important in the history of Piddletrenthide.
The last pictures (but not text, far from it!) are of a few of the many hassocks which were grouped together in the lady chapel’s pews. A notice explained that the church in the nearby village of Plush had been declared redundant in 1988, and that these had been worked by ‘some of the ladies of Plush’ between 1978 and 1980.
I took many more hassock photos than this, but, fortunately for the length of this post, I forgot to steady my hand sufficiently to ensure little blurring in the fairly dim light. (I couldn’t resist, even so, including the image of the cyclists.)
The expedition ended with a lovely drive back over the Dorset hills, and a welcome from clamouring cats.
On Sunday morning I woke up with a jolt. I had left my walking pole, in its collapsed state, by the table I had sat at in the garden. While I recalled throwing my coat on the back seat of my car, I had no recollection whatever of picking my pole up at Ivy House, and putting it in my boot.
Oh! Already, I had felt guilty about driving quite a distance to get to Piddletrenthide, and now I was faced with another such journey. I researched the cost, and to the best of my ability the environmental cost, of buying a new walking pole, but found that they only came in pairs, and they were pretty expensive.
I decided that I should go back for it, but combine it with visiting some other attraction in the area. I was due to I have my 4th jab this (Tuesday) morning, so thought I would go on to Cerne Abbas, to see the Giant carved into the chalk hillside, have a meal at one of the two pubs in Piddletrenthide, perhaps the Poachers Inn since, “At the northern end of the village, reached by a footpath from the Poachers Inn, is Morning Well (or Mourning Well), where several springs feed into the River Piddle. In his book Portrait of DorsetRalph Wightman described it as where “springs bubble out of the base of a steep wooded hill into a shady pool….It is an enchanted place, raising memories of holy wells and pagan groves.”, (Wikipedia again.) Then I would hope to pick my walking pole up after lunch.
So first thing this morning, I rang Bridget to check that it would be convenient to call at Ivy House then, and she told me that, despite extensive searches, they had not found my walking pole.
While we were still connected by phone, I went to my car, checked the boot, and saw that the walking pole was there. Oh! I was absolutely mortified, and made my profound apologies to Bridget for having troubled her. Which I do so again publicly in this post.
At least you are spared your blushes about the Cerne Abbas Giant, that is, unless you click this link.
A village in Dorset, on the River Piddle, recorded in the Doomsday Book as having thirty hides.
It was ages since I had visited a garden in the National Gardens Scheme. There weren’t many gardens near me planned to open yesterday, so I went a little further than usual, into Dorset, to visit Ivy House Garden in Piddletrenthide, described as, ‘A steep and challenging ½ acre garden with fine views, set on south facing site in the beautiful Piddle valley. Wildlife friendly garden with mixed borders, ponds, propagating area, large vegetable garden, fruit cage, greenhouses and polytunnel, chickens and bees, plus a nearby allotment. Daffodils, tulips and hellebores in quantity for spring openings. Run on organic lines with plants to attract birds, bees and other insects. Come prepared for steep terrain and a warm welcome!’
The garden was opposite the village stores in the main street, where the abundance of parked cars told me that the attraction was popular. I took a walking pole from the car, given the warning about the steep terrain, not so much for going up, but for coming down again.
This was the view that greeted me as I entered. The picture does not convey just how steep the garden is.
The garden did not lend itself – with dramatic exceptions – to photos of vistas, being suited rather to cameo appearances. I made my way slowly and steadily upwards.
These ladies look as if they’re singing, don’t they?
These ladies, and one gentleman, were, in close harmony. I was amazed to see that they were using just words as aide memoire. I could never have managed without my part’s music. Their repertoire was extensive.
The gate led to a lane, which I did not take. But I did take advantage of a nearby seat for a while.
I took a different way down for some of the way.
The singers are still there – and this time one, at least, seems to be using a musical score.
About half way down (I had been using my walking pole because I had gone ‘off piste’ and there was no handrail there) I met Bridget and her husband, owners of the property for the last 36 years. Bridget told me that they had bought the place for its garden, which in 1986 had absolutely nothing in it. She also told me that Alfie, the dog, had ‘made’ a video for the NGS: https://ngs.org.uk/a-trot-around-ivy-house-garden/
This was my favourite spot. And one of the garden’s many seats was strategically placed there.
A coffee and cake down in the courtyard completed my visit to the lovely garden, but not to Piddletrenthide. I went on elsewhere, but, as I have to return in the coming days, my next post will be on that and the rest of this visit. (I often say at the end of my posts that I must return some day, but for reasons that will become apparent next time, I really have to!)
Last Friday was the first of the month, so was the day for Zoe and I to meet for a walk and pub lunch. My time to organise, and I had long had this one in mind, but had put off for a bit as it was said to be extremely muddy.
I was a little late to our rendezvous. My satnav took me on neither of the routes I had thought likely, but across the Somerset moors on single track roads and droves. I had been following a slow lorry for ages, unable to overtake it, when it just stopped. A brief toot on my car horn to tell them I was there produced an irascible reaction and the ‘loud assertion’ that they had the legal right to stop for 20 minutes, though they would only take a few minutes, but if I weren’t careful they’d take longer.
I texted Zoe to say I would be late and why, and when I looked up I saw this through my windscreen.
As they finished the particularly rude man came over and apologised. I think his companions must have had a word. We went on to have quite a civilised brief chat.
I was further delayed by; an old man whose delightful King Charles spaniel just would not obey him and move over; a kamikaze pheasant; and then a flock of swans. By this last I was on a normal road, but just had to stop for a photo.
A woman leaning on a fence watching them said that there had been as many as 50 swans there, and that this was just a few of them. I would have loved to have stayed longer just gazing – especially as we were on a bridge over a waterway – but I didn’t want to keep Zoe waiting any longer.
We met at Aller Church, which is, according to the notes, ‘the historic site where Alfred the Great and Guthrun the Dane signed a treaty to end the Viking rule in Wessex in AD 878’. (Oh yes, I’d been further delayed by the fact that the church is out in the countryside, well away from the village centre, which threw me.)
The walk turned out not to be at all muddy, was very flat, and in plan roughly a triangle. The day was sunny and cold, with at times a brisk wind. The first leg followed the Middlemoor Rhyne, down to the Sowy River.
Zoe is the arbiter of whether to walk by cows is safe, and she deemed this lot to be fine.
All waterways on the Somerset Levels and Moors are heavily managed.
It so happened that just a day or so later I saw on local social media a reference to, and an explanation of, tilting weirs. It comes at about 43 minutes into this BBC ‘Countryfile‘ programme.
We arrived at the River Sowy and crossed over.
Research since implies that this structure is named a throttle because it is indeed designed to meet this Wikipedia definition of the word. ‘A throttle is the mechanism by which fluid flow is managed by constriction or obstruction.’
(Why do people feel the need to vandalise such signs?
In fact the River Sowy is totally artificial. And recent. It’s a 7.5 mile (12.1 km) flood relief channel to take overflow. From the Somerset Rivers website: ‘Construction of the river commenced in the mid 1960’s with completion in 1972 and was designed to relieve the flooding of the River Parrett at Langport and Aller Moor. A pilot scheme to test the feasibility of passing water from the Parrett to the Kings Sedgemoor Drain was undertaken in 1951 with the construction of the Langacre Rhyne. This followed the lines of a similar relief channel recommended in 1853. After the floods of 1960 a new scheme was proposed but rejected as being too costly. However a revised scheme, the existing Sowy River, was approved in 1963.1
“References: 1. The Draining of the Somerset Levels – Michael Williams” I have this book. It’s fascinating.
This is the Sowy, looking west, our intended direction.
The River Parrett was just yards/metres further on from the Sowy, and we walked along its embankment. Sadly, it was impossible to get the two parallel rivers in one photo. The Sowy is just over to the right, and somewhat lower.
The Parrett meanders. Oath Hill to the right.
The notes said to cross back over the Sowy by a footbridge. We wondered, nattering as we had been, whether we had missed it, but a rather unexpected style of bridge hove into view in due course. As we went up the steps we reckoned it was the steepest part of the walk thitherto.
At the other side was a rather exaggerated waymark.
But we were pleased to be able to see the next one, even without arrow, as the route was far from clear. And, while the terrain here was not muddy, it was definitely boggy.
The ‘bridge’ over the rhyne there was decidedly dicey.
Behind the village is Aller Hill.
No wonder we had not been able to see the church for which we were meant to head.
Lunch at The Pound Inn in the village rounded off a pleasant morning, enhanced by those pretty puffy clouds which never seemed to put us in the shade.