People (including me) call it ‘The Stonehenge Exhibition’, but the display at the British Museum is not on Stonehenge, but about the world in which it was created. I visited it with my London friend, Mary, last Friday. (My previous post is on the Jubilee-riddled London I encountered then.)
Mary had visited the very comprehensive exhibition twice before, so went ahead to pay more attention to later exhibits. I learned from this and did not spend ages on each item, flitting somewhat. My eye – and particularly my camera – was disproportionately attracted to shiny objects. As ever, this is just a small selection of photos I took.
I was thrilled to find this. The Sweet Track, named after the person who found it when ditch cleaning in 1970, is buried on the Avalon Marshes, near to my home. It has been dated by dendrochronology to precisely 3807-3806 BC, and is preserved by the peat bogs. I have seen reproductions and imaginary pictures of it, but never a section of the real thing. I could find no suggestion that this was not part of the original …
This exhibit, using a moving light show, showed both the structure and the finished object (see header picture) of the oxen pulling the cart and cart itself. The original, excavated in Germany, was lifted as a single object to preserve the archaeological evidence.
These tiny gold pins, almost invisible to the naked eye, were attached to a dagger pommel, using techniques seen in Brittany and Mycenaean Greece.
A final comment at the end of the exhibition, which is on until 17th July 2022:
(This article explains a little more to the background to her remark. “[A 1967] article surveyed the discussion of Stonehenge as an observatory: she believed that it was not, that its significance was ritualistic and religious, and that attempts to see it as a scientific construct were as much a product of the present time as the ideas of other ages about Stonehenge were of theirs.”)
The purpose of my trip to London was to see the Stonehenge Exhibition at the British Museum, but it would have been impossible not to be aware that a rather significant jubilee was about to be celebrated, that marking 70 years of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Just in time for the festivities, (but five years late) the Elizabeth tube (metro/subway) line had been opened just three days before my trip. The driver of the mainline train bringing me up from the West Country had helpfully said that access was to be found to the side of Platform 1 of Paddington main line station. Just as well, since there was no signage until very near to the entrance.
Movement was among airy, cavernous stations throughout, and what felt like natural daylight everywhere.
The trains are light and airy as well, open end to (very long) end. Like certain sections of the Circle Line.
My goodness did the Elizabeth Line make a difference to my own movements around the capital! Just 3.5 minutes from Paddington main line station to Tottenham Court Road underground station, (which will increase marginally when the the line’s Bond Street platform opens in the autumn. Meanwhile its roundels read alternately, as we whizzed through, ‘Station Closed’ and ‘Opening Soon’).
Once I had arrived at Tottenham Court Road, my saving of time all evaporated. Even though I had the assistance of the sun’s shadows to determine points of the compass, I still managed to set off in the wrong direction, and what should have been a 6-minute walk turned into a 20-minute one. Thank goodness for texts/SMSs. Mary was able to go and have a coffee while she waited for me.
Once I’d made it to the museum
we made use of Mary’s membership of it, and had a coffee in the members’ cafe.
I’ll cover the exhibition itself in my next blog post.
Mary knows London bus routes inside out, and after our visit to the excellent exhibition she confidently had us walking past Bloomsbury Square Gardens,
to the stop we needed for the bus to get to her home in Kentish Town,
where I was invited to join in a Zoom call with Mary and her siblings,
before her eldest, Susan, top left, who lives very near, joined us for a meal.
The following morning, Saturday, was Mary’s regular get-together for tennis in Regent’s Park. It was a little chilly to begin with, but this did not detract from enjoying the wonderful display of roses.
I took many photos of them, of which here are a very few.
At the tennis courts.
Zooming in on the far end of the courts, I could make out a tennis lesson for youngsters.
I had seen a photo of a flag-lined Mall, and had a yen to reproduce it myself. After we had had sociable coffee with the other tennis players, Mary’s unerring knowledge of the routes soon got us to a bus which would take us to Trafalgar Square. Oxford Circus was not very busy (she said).
Regent Street more so. The yellow sign warns of road closures for the following day to enable Ride London to take place.
I hoped to take my photo of the Mall through Admiralty Arch, but this was as near as I could get, as a very polite policeman directed me back round the outside of the Arch. (Ride London also was inconvenienced by the Jubilee preparations as it usually finishes in the Mall, but did so this year at Tower Bridge.)
I post this photo only to show another, very cheery, policeman.
More zooming in, and this was the best I could do for my hoped-for photo. Crowds (and clean-up lorries) prevented me from getting dead centre.
We had alighted on the tail end of a rehearsal, for, as we soon learned, Trooping the Colour, part of next weekend’s Jubilee celebrations. Did the crowd know of the rehearsal, or had they, just like us, stumbled on it by chance? There were absolute hordes there, making photographic opportunity very random.
Two young Grenadier Guards were selling programmes for the ceremony. (I have no idea what is in the mind of the fellow to the right.)
Statues of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother that I’d never seen before.
I was hoping to take a photo of the front of Buckingham Palace, but we were diverted by solid barriers before getting there. We skirted round to the right, and at one point I could see the whole of the roof of the building over the barriers. Two men from a private security firm were standing by, and one of them (the other held back all the time) told me “No photos, security.” “Ridiculous’ I thought, and said, ‘this is the UK!’ I was quite riled, especially as it called to my mind an incident that had occurred to me on my first day in Uganda in 2013, when a corrupt young soldier (again with his companion holding right back) tried to get my camera from me because I had taken a photo of an enormous bird (a Marabou stork if I remember correctly) in a tree next to some kind of military establishment. I was quite sure he was only going to let me have it back on payment of a ransom, so I wasn’t going to let it go. I won. Anyway, I was quite sure that this security man, whether misinformed or just plain bossy, had got it wrong. There were no notices of any sort forbidding photography, nor could there be any possible reason to justify what he said.
In due course I gave up, and a few steps further on was able to take his photo, with, though it does not show up, a corner of Buckingham Palace in the background, and no-one objecting.
And just a few yards further on, I got this corner of the Palace.
where Mary notice the interesting functional ceiling, à la Pompidou Centre,
and we had a very nice meal, chosen from a very wide menu.
Emerging on to Piccadilly, we saw that it had flags too, though not at such frequent intervals as we had seen elsewhere.
Regent Street had lots.
Back in Kentish Town, we called into a cake shop, and bought a celebratory ‘Queen’s Jubilee White Chocolate Chip Cookie’ each, which we had with a cup of coffee, or half a cookie each anyway. It was very sweet and very enormous.
A game of ‘Upwords’, at which Mary, as usual, beat me, and it was time for me to leave. Again the Elizabeth Line helped speed me on my way to Paddington, and this time it was quite crowded. Today the news tells us that in its first five days, a million journeys were made on it. Mine contributed two to that total.
Street village, that is. (It prides itself on being a village, despite being bigger than the town of Glastonbury to its north, on the other side of the River Brue.)
On Saturday (14th May) I was invited by my friend Liz, Somerset County and Mendip District Councillor, who lives in Street, to the unveiling of some murals in the Library Gardens, a small green space on Street’s High Street. (How did Street get its name? “The place-name ‘Street’ is first attested in Anglo-Saxon charters from 725 and 971, where it appears as Stret. It appears as Strete juxta Glastone in a charter from 1330 formerly in the British Museum. The word is the Old Englishstraet meaning ‘Roman road’.”) The Wikipedia article on Street, while needing a bit of an update, has a lot of interesting background information.
The murals were commissioned by Street Parish Council, working in partnership with Mendip District Council (to merge, in a year’s time, along with Somerset’s three other district councils, and with Somerset County Council, to become a new unitary authority called Somerset Council) and Street Library Trust. They were painted by local artist Jonathan Minshull.
When Laura Wolfers, Chair of Street Parish Council, reached out to shake my hand, I realised that this was the first time I had shaken anyone’s hand since February 2020. Whereas in March of that year, I had declined to do so several times, with explanation, it would now have been very awkward to do so, although I am still being very cautious. And I have to admit, it felt good, alongside feelings of worried hesitancy. She didn’t seem to take it amiss when I then took a photograph of her chest, in order to capture Street’s ichthyosaur emblem (since 1894) at the base of her Chairman’s chain. (A parish council does not have a mayor.)
Here she is introducing the artist.
And here are the murals. The captions are as provided in a handout.
“This scene shows summer hay harvesting in the meadows to the south of the Clark’s factory buildings in Street in Victorian times around1860-1880.”
Liz unveiled the fourth:
There were some very short speeches, including by the artist.
While thanking friends and relatives for posing as the figures in the pictures, he said it was as well that one such, who appeared in each mural, was not there, as he was rather naughty. He was referring to his dog, Stanley.
Liz, who had been very much involved in finding the finance, also was invited to speak.
[Later edit: 33-minute background video on the making, hanging and unveiling of the murals here.]
People hung around chatting to each other, as they do on these occasions, enjoying the lovely sunshine. Then five of us went for coffee and cake in the Crispin Centre’s café.
Liz had collected me from my home in Glastonbury, and volunteered to take me back, but I had already decided that I was going to walk, following the River Brue for much of the way. I had to go along the pavement of a main road for about ten minutes.
After a short while, I was able to see my destination, by looking to my right.
Still on the road, and having crossed this rhyne, I had thought possibly to cut diagonally across to the Brue, but an electric fence redirected me.
But in due course I was able to reach the river. What a pleasure to walk among all those buttercups!
I reached the river.
The River Brue was severely canalised, and indeed its channel to the sea redirected, in mediaeval times, and it shows from here on.
This little fella flew on to the branch, and just stayed there while I cautiously moved past him.
Being south of the Brue, I was still in Street, and this was my view southwards, with the lowest range of hills in Somerset, the Poldens, in the distance.
Not the most exciting bridge, Cow Bridge, circa 1930, of reinforced concrete with stone piers. Could one claim that it is art deco?
Anyway, it was time for me to cross and leave the Brue, and continue on to a rather busy main road. But I leant on the parapet contemplating upstream for a bit,
along with my neighbour, Terry, who I had just bumped into here. He was just out to take photos of buttercups.
Together we watched a rather unusual sight go by, after which I set off for the last, and easily the least interesting, leg of my walk.
They and I were rather a nuisance to the quite heavy traffic in each direction… no pavement…
After five minutes more I came to my turning off the main road. Taking the stile would have enabled me to continue on grass for about 100 yards/90 metres or so, but
I took advantage of a recently installed (local elections anyone?) barrier, the forerunner of a cycle lane to be created, in place of an unofficial traveller encampment.
Door to door it had been an hour, which would have been more like 45 minutes had I not stopped for various reasons on the way. A very pleasant walk indeed, in ideal weather, following a happy occasion for Street residents and visitors.
After a pleasant ‘first Friday’ walk with my friend Zoe, starting and finishing in the village of Wrington in North Somerset,
on Sunday I visited Milton Lodge Gardens, just north of England’s smallest city, Wells. It is open to the public three times a week, but this time it was in aid of the National Gardens Scheme.
The weather was lovely, and the outing was popular, so I had to use the overflow car park, from which this was the view, with Glastonbury Tor, whence I had come, a pimple on the horizon.
Right near where I had parked, was this curious depression, explained in a note nearby to be a ‘triple entry pond’, unique to Mendip, and likely to date from the late 1700s. It was constructed to capture naturally draining water from the Mendip Hills, and used to channel water underground to nearly stock fields.
According to Wikipedia, “Milton Lodge was built by Aaron Foster in 1790 and descended in his family until it passed, by marriage, into the ownership of the Tudway family in the mid 19th century. The Tudways had lived nearby at a house, known as The Cedars, which was built in the 1760s by Thomas Paty, and had bought up much of the local land. In 1909 Charles Tudway moved the main family residence to Milton Lodge, with The Cedars being used during World War I as a military hospital and later by Wells Theological College and Wells Cathedral School” [which it still is].
The same source goes on to say that, “The garden was laid out in 1903 by Capt Croker Ives Partridge of the Alfred Parsons garden design company for Charles Tudway. It consists of a series of terraces planted with mixed borders including a collection of roses and climbing plants. The terraces include Yew hedges, ponds and fountains. The traditional English vegetation is supplemented with Mediterranean plants which are able to flourish due to the microclimate of the site. The upper terrace includes four canons from the Napoleonic Wars are on display.”
My Candide app suggested that this, of which there were several examples in the Gardens, might be a Flowering maple, (which is not a maple at all but an abutilon), but I’m not quite convinced, while failing to find a better suggestion…
The Gardens go just beyond the big hedge.
As I had walked from the car park, the way was lined with wild garlic, ransoms. I did not take a photo, but need not have worried about there being no further opportunity.
I was tempted up this tiny path to my right, (the terraces being to my left),
and was rewarded with this.
I returned to the main path, went down a few shallow steps, and found a few more ransoms.
As I said, the Gardens go down to just beyond the big hedge.
At the end of this path was a large area of wildflowers.
On the edge of the wildflower area was this knobbly tree, which I have failed totally to identify,
even given the clue of its leaf shape.
Just by the tree was a bench, one of several in the Gardens. I partook for a minute or two, surveying the lowest terrace
As I stood up, something made my eyes turn skywards, and I was thrilled to see this red kite. It is now some 30+ years since they were reintroduced into the Chiltern Hills. I had seen some in Scotland in 2011 following their reintroduction there, and I knew that they had spread westwards from Oxfordshire into Somerset. But this was the first I had seen here.
I walked through the tea area to explore the middle terrace.
Turning round I spotted a bench hidden on the other side where I thought it would be nice to take a cup of tea.
Tea and cake duly bought, I found ‘my’ bench still unoccupied, with this to my left,
this to my right,
and this ahead.
As I returned to my car, it was all too tempting to take an arty photo of the Cathedral, where I shall be singing at a memorial service in a week’s time.
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.
I was ridiculously excited on Sunday, feeling as if I were going on holiday the following day, not just out for a few hours in a beautiful city. I had clear plans and was slightly worried that I would be disappointed as I drove home, so much I was looking forward to living them. But no, all worked out perfectly. (Except that I took far too many photos and have had great difficulty in cutting down their number.)
Actually, it wasn’t even a full day. I left home at 1 o’clock, after an early lunch, and drove trouble-free to the Odd Down Park and Ride in Bath. In the few minutes I had to wait for a bus, I browsed the map in the shelter.
As we drew near to the turn-round point near Bath Spa station, from my upstairs front seat I snapped the car park I planned to use later. (I thought my evening activity might well end too late for the last bus back to Odd Down.)
Conscious that the evening’s entertainment was to be at a venue nearby, I recce’d as I got off the bus, and there it was, the Forum.
I made my way northwards, and slightly east.
Behind me was Parade Garden of and from which I took the next few photos.
Back up from the garden, a better view of the celebrated Pulteney Bridge over the River Avon.
I used it to cross over the river, and looked back having done so, but you can’t tell that you are actually on a bridge.
I arrived at Laura Place, and could see the length of Great Pulteney Street, with the Holburne Museum, my destination, at the end.
I arrived at the Holburne Museum. Yes, I know. It’s part of one of their exhibitions called ‘Old Ghosts‘ which ‘invites visitors to engage with and challenge the perceived notions of power and authority that sit at the heart of many museum collections’ So now you know.
But it was not that exhibition which I was there to see. I was visiting ‘The Tudors: Passion, Power & Politics’. A small room, with not many pictures – all portraits, I think, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery – and probably all the better for that. The room was fairly dark, and my camera makes these selected photos look brighter than my eyes saw them, but not brighter than they really are.
It had not taken me long to go round the exhibition, which had portraits also of Henry VII, Edward VI, Mary I and Lady Jane Grey, the other wives, and other contemporary politicians, courtiers and explorers. I had a brief look around this room
with exhibits by staff volunteers and visitors to the museum, including
I had not visited the Holburne Museum before. It is centred on the vast collection amassed by Sir William Holburne (1793-1874) and left to the City of Bath on his death. I visited all the other rooms, briefly, and realised I could not do them justice in the time and energy I had available.
On the way, pictures along the stairs caught my eye for various reasons.
In another room I saw more Old Ghosts, but there were interesting things on the walls and in cabinets also.
I was particularly pleased by this ‘Marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne’ by Pierre-Jacques Cazes, (1676-1754). Two days previously I had seen at my local cinema, livestreamed from the Met(ropolitan Opera, New York), Richard Strauss’s ‘Ariadne auf Naxos‘. The libretto ends with the meeting and falling in love of the pair, after Ariadne has been abandoned on the island by her former lover, Theseus. This painting ends the story nicely.
Incidentally, I had been impressed that, as the camera panned round the Met’s audience, every single person was wearing a mask – it is presumably the law still in the USA. Not only that, all members of the orchestra did as well, except those playing wind instruments. I was in a small minority of visitors in the museum wearing one – a trusty FFP3 mask. And at the cinema where I had seen the livestream. No wonder, as I read, cases are going down in the States and rising sharply here.
A volunteer insisted that I look at this ‘gruesome’ dish. As I learned, when I mentioned my interest in the previous picture, that he had heard the same livestream on Radio 3 on the Saturday, I indulged him.
From now on I just wandered without noting what things were. The next room was the most spectacular, and really needs revisiting to do justice to all its contents. These were Holburne’s treasures.
It was time for the coffee and cake I had promised myself, to fill in the time until the museum closed at 5 o’clock. And then a gentle walk back, a longer way round, to the bus stop for the Park and Ride.
As I retuned over Pulteney Bridge, I thought it no wonder that the shop was closing down, if it relied on sales of fly-fishing dogs.
On my longer way back, I saw these in quick succession. Hardly surprising in a city known for its healing waters.
This however was the name of a different kind of watering – or rather eating – place.
I arrived at the Theatre Royal, and was disappointed to find that its street level was marred by works. (Note, not so much the gull in the air and on the edge, but the rather more ferocious birds at the windows on the right.)
My longer way round took me to a less eye-pleasing area, but the old industrial building on the other side of the Avon was interesting – zooming in shows that it is now converted into flats, including a no doubt very prized and pricey penthouse apartment.
On the bus, I again had an upstairs front seat.
A packed meal waited me in my car. Rather than try to be imaginative as to where I could eat it, consuming it in my car in the Park and Ride car park, watching the sun go down through the trees, seemed as practical as any.
I arrived back in the Forum, a converted cinema, in very good time. The concert I was to attend was under the auspices of the Bristol Beacon, the new name of the former Colston Hall, and currently closed for ‘transformation’, except for its foyer which remains open for smaller scale events.
After a quick drink in the rather crowded entrance area, I went into the hall as soon as I could, perused the (free!) programme, and admired all the art deco work. I had selected a seat which I hoped would be fairly well away from the most popular area, and was pleased that it had remained so after later bookings.
Members of the London Symphony Orchestra made their way in gradually. (Like the Met’s orchestra, they were masked except for wind players – and unlike two-thirds of the audience.) I had not heard this orchestra live since I left London in 1975. I wondered if any of them were in the orchestra then. And I realised that most of them hadn’t even been born at that time!
And the maestro came in. Sir Simon Rattle, whom I had never seen in the flesh. The programme gives a fairly conventional biography. But I remember when he hit the musical scene back in the 70s, aged barely 20, a se most attractive young man with a huge talent, and clearly going places!
A most enjoyable concert, which was livestreamed, and can be for a month , to care homes throughout the UK: Hannah Kendall, ‘The Spark Catchers’ (which was sparky but not spiky); Dvorak, ‘American Suite; and Schumann, Symphony No 2, of which I particularly liked the third movement.
It was chilly but bright last Saturday, so I took myself to Hestercombe Gardens, near Taunton. I hadn’t been for several years, and believed the actual house to be the property of Somerset County Council, but see from this history that, having been the headquarters of the Somerset Fire Brigade for over 60 years, it was sold in 2013 to the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, (itself created in 1986), for £1. Here is a 54-second aerial video of the entire estate, courtesy of the Trust.
I started with lunch in the café. I had to ask what an allegedly vegan dish, a seitan steak was, and was told it was made of pulses. I have to say, I nearly called the waitress after the first mouthful, to check I had been given the right meal, so like meat it was in taste, colour and texture. Too much indeed for comfort! Anyway, once home I looked up and found there are several different recipes, so seitan is not a trade name. Here is a whole article on the subject.
The formal gardens were designed by those celebrated collaborators Edwin Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll. On past visits I have started with these, but this time I left them to last, bypassing the Victorian Shrubbery, and wandering through the landscaped areas first.
Beyond this point access was forbidden temporarily, because of damage done by Storm Eunice.
From here I had a choice of turning left and returning the other side of the ponds, parallel to the path I had taken, or turning right and climbing up and a bit away from the water features. I chose the latter, not least because it was the sunny side.
At this point I failed to turn sufficiently rightwards and to take a diagonal path towards the lakes again. I blame a couple with a dog coming up a path worn in the grass, parallel to the fence. I assumed that was the correct way – I had not been up here before.
As the terrain I was on diverged increasingly from what the plan told me, I at last concluded that I was far too far over, so climbed a gate on the right to correct my route, and went past this pile of logs – which may or may not have been a feature of the recent storms. I had seen many sawn-off trunks in my wanderings, both where I should have been and where I shouldn’t.
I had also seen masses of daffodils, and took many, many more photos of them than this one.
Moving towards the orchard and the Garden of Remembrance.
I wondered why someone had left this flowerpot around. Looking more closely, I saw written on it, ‘WOBBLY STONE’.
Also not at its best at this time of year, ‘The Great Plat’ nevertheless was a mass of pink, the parterres filled with Bergenia Cordifolia, more commonly known as Elephant Ears, beginning to go over.
Finally, I walked around the Victorian Terrace.
And I was ambushed in the plant sale on the way out, where I fell in love with this purple Euphorbia, and just had to have it. I’ve no idea where to plant it, but I shall find it a good home.
I left the car park at 4 o’clock, just as ‘Weekend Woman’s Hour’ came on the radio. It started with the very same story, broadcast the day before, of the little boy who wanted Mr Putin to become a good man…
The area, within the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB), is known as Priddy Mineries, for the lead mined from prehistoric times, through the Romans, (believed to have been particularly attracted to the area because of its plumbic riches), and at least to the 18th century. It is also rich in burial barrows. Zoe wanted to show some of them to me during our first-Friday walk a couple of days ago.
We met at the Stockhill Wood car park. Each of us had been listening to Woman’s Hour as we drove up. We shared how we had been moved by the account given by a young Ukrainian woman fleeing to Poland with her six-year-old son. Their apartment had been bombed the very day after they left. The husband had been obliged to say goodbye at the frontier in order to remain in Ukraine to fight. The young boy, on being told of a tradition that when you sleep in a new place for the first time you can make a wish, said that he wished that the war would end, and of Mr Putin that … he would become a nice man.
There is a 1987 67-page thematic account of a 1986-88 archaeological survey of the whole of the AONB. I confess to only having skimmed through it. As far as its barrows are concerned, there are many, many of them, and they are said to be of Bronze age origin, in an area where Neolithic remains have been found. A short Wikipedia account of this particular area’s barrows is here.
The land is known as ‘gruffy’, a Somerset word related to mining, as ‘Botany Karen‘ explains. It is uneven, from the works, and, the mining abandoned, excellent for wildlife. On a chilly March day, there was little in evidence for us, but we were entertained by several skylarks from time to time. I did not have my camera with me, but I took a few photos with my phone.
We came to our first barrow, left, and there was another immediately behind it.
Over to the right in the distance we could see a row of seven.
To our left, some more.
The plan was to go along this path, but a walker with a dog, coming from the other direction, warned us off the flooded lane.
So we sort of retraced our steps, doing a very, very narrow figure-of-eight. In the distance is Pen Hill TV mast.
At this point we were still some way from our cars, but I failed to take any more photos, probably because I was 100% concentrating on not falling over on the very muddy paths making up much of our route!
We planned to have lunch at the Castle of Comfort public house, very near the Priddy Circles as it happened, but when we got there were told there was not a chance of a table without a booking. That was the first time that had happened in some eight years or so of first Friday walks. We abandoned the idea of lunching together. At least it solved my dilemma as to whether I could allow myself to eat out on two consecutive days, and gave me permission to do so at Hestercombe the following day…
Mary’s train from Paddington two days ago drew in to Castle Cary station four minutes early in the morning, and likewise was punctual on the way back in the evening. That is, unlike yesterday and today when the rail system in the south of the UK is in chaos, thanks to Storm Eunice.
To the George Inn, in Croscombe for a coffee, and the first session of putting the world to rights. And congratulating ourselves, yet again, for having, some time back, chosen the only day this week when passing time outdoors was not forecast to be spoilt by rain.
As we got into the car to move on to Wells, the first spots of rain started. Over the eight minutes it took to get to that city (the smallest in England), the downpour got heavier and heavier, such that, at the point we would normally have left the car to walk to our lunch cafe, it would have been a very unpleasant experience indeed. We sat in the car, not yet having paid for our parking, contemplating what to do. Mary consulted her preferred forecaster, Accuweather, which said it would be pouring for the rest of the day. Mine, BBC Weather, almost denied that it was raining, and said that precipitation would be almost non-existant for the rest of the day. We used our eyes, and decided to give up and to go to my home, 20 minutes away, where I would rustle up something for us to eat.
I backed the car out some 10 feet, and suddenly the rain got lighter, light enough to walk under umbrellas to the café. So, OK, we would lunch in Wells, then decide what to do. We paid for the parking – I accidentally did so for much longer than just having a meal would have needed (incomprehensible instructions on the meter). By the time we were sitting down for our excellent meal at The Good Earth, it had stopped raining and there was blue sky. So both weather forecasters were wrong.
The day’s plans had actually been to focus on seeing seeing the snowdrops at the Bishop’s Palace. We took some quiet old residential streets to get there,
and first went via the Penniless Porch . To quote Wikipedia, ‘It was named for the beggars who plied their trade there, however in 2016 a man was prosecuted for begging nearby.‘
and at Vicars’ Close (where still all twelve men of the Vicars Choral live).
I came home with well over a hundred pictures taken during the day, so here is a small selection of those I took in the Bishop’s Palace Gardens. (We had actually visited the Palace itself on a previous occasion, perhaps three or four years ago, not written up because the weather was so appalling that photography was worthless, especially in the gardens.)
The next picture may be of historic interest! It may be the last ever taken of St Thomas’s church spire before its top was blown down by Storm Eunice yesterday morning! It’s there, a little distorted by torsion, at the very left of the picture on the horizon.
The incident has been widely covered in the media, but here is a link to it for the record. Excuse the language if your sound is on… The St Thomas’s link above includes the spire wobbling beforehand as well, and here’s the vicar on the subject.
There was a stiff breeze blowing…
Just because everyone takes this view, there’s no reason I shouldn’t.
From a distance I had wondered whether the near-adult swan by the sculpture was a sculpture itself. But no, as this video shows. The voice heard is that of the bystander seen at the end. I had advised her to back off…
Mary and I sat for a while on a swing seat in a formal garden of parterres,
with this in front of us. (I just love stipa tenuissima.)
Emerging back through the Great Hall’s wall, we enjoyed this view.
We contemplated going to visit the Cathedral, but opted instead for a cup of tea in the café, The Bishops’ Table,
with this for a view,
and me clearly pontificating on something.
Mary spotted this as we made our way back to the car. Burns the Bread is an excellent small local bakery chain.
We had already obeyed their instruction, at The Bishop’s Table.
We didn’t go straight back to the car park as I had left my umbrella at The Good Earth at lunchtime. It was fortunate that the rain had held off.
Having decided not to ‘do’ the Cathedral, we instead visited St Cuthbert’s church on the way. Live music was being practised on the organ.
Just as we got back to the car – it was fortunate that we had inadvertently paid sufficient parking to cover more than just lunchtime – it started to rain.
Never mind, we were on our way to the warmth of my house, another cup of tea, to obey Burns the Bread’s instructions once more, and to spend even more time putting the world to rights. Isn’t it amazing how the human ape can talk, and talk, and talk, and not run out of things to say to each other?