Category Archives: United Kingdom

Arthur’s Stone

Hidden away in the Herefordshire countryside is Arthur’s Stone, a magnificent ancient burial chamber. I cannot better the information provided by the sign within its enclosure by English Heritage so here it is:

You can get up to the Stone by car from the village of Dorstone but we did it the hard way. Starting from the bridge at Bredwardine we crossed the road, with the Red Lion pub on our left. The narrow lane quickly becomes a steep hill. We passed some local houses whose gardens contained some attractive (and ferocious!) residents

Got any liquorice allsorts?

These aren’t actually that uncommon now around these parts

After wending our way up through some undeniably stunning countryside, we turned left down a smaller track which eventually comes out at a couple of houses and a stile into a field which is impossible steep!



Onward and upward ! We crossed another few fields and negotiated stiles and gates, saying hello to a lone horse and myriad sheep – to eventually reach our goal

Arthur’s Stone

There is something undeniably pleasing about the placement of the stones. Apparently this burial chamber has never been excavated so the many legends that surround it are pure conjecture. Whatever you may believe it is worth a visit – but take my advice – go by car!!

Oh! There’s King Arthur!

Holmer & Bodicote Winter Outing 2019 to Cheltenham

As a relative newbie to the bewildering world of bell ringing I was asked to write something about our winter outing to 4 churches in the Cheltenham area – all in urban settings and, for me, each one a challenge! Our itinerary listed the weights of the bells in each tower – just one more thing to get to grips with – but even I thought the second lot of weights looked odd – (0 – 2 – 7). But no, it was right.

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning. First stop – Cheltenham Minster Church of St. Mary in the middle of town with 12 bells. The technique it seems would involve holding your bell up, pausing and then pulling on that rope to keep in time with the rest – in other words, ring slower. I’ve got the theory – I just can’t put it into practice at will – yet! Hearing those who can is a great experience – there were a lot of ringers present – 30 or thereabouts, some from Holmer, Hereford, and some from Bodicote, Banbury, all at different stages of their development – so all levels of ability.

Of course it makes a lot more sense to video bell ringing as someone here is doing

Good to see the guard around the ladder leading up to the bell chamber – and those ear defenders – eh? what?

So on to Stop 2 – St. Christopher’s at Warden Hill, a little church masquerading as a house, built in the 1960s in the middle of a 1950s housing estate. So, as I mention above, our itinerary told us that the weight of these bells is (0-2-7) – in layman’s terms zero hundredweight, 2 quarters (that’s 56 lbs or 4 stone) and 7 lbs. The metric system is so much easier!! Anyway, given that the weights for the third tower were (16-1-2), you can see that this second ring of 6 bells were going to be tiny – and so they proved! The look of bemusement, bewilderment and general puzzlement is evident on the faces of the ringers in the next couple of photos.

To ring these bells successfully meant using only one hand on each stroke to avoid using too much force and break the stays – the action of the ringers, with alternate arms swinging rhythmically to gingerly grab the rope, reminded me of sailors climbing the rigging of a ship.

I decided I would be better off going downstairs to admire the stained glass. There were 10 triptych panels altogether along both sides of the nave, created by artist Tom Denny, who is also responsible for the beautiful Traherne window in Hereford Cathedral. Here at Warden Hill, the panels depict Jesus’s parables from the Bible with a reference to the book and chapter they are taken from.

Plain glass panel next to entrance

We stopped for lunch, which was a welcome break, and then resumed our ringing at St.Mark’s. Unfortunately, the church itself was closed. The set up in this tower was more like Withington, where the Holmer ringers regularly ring: so 8 bells with a longer draught – the rope is (and feels!) a lot longer. What they had here, which Withington doesn’t have, is a metal frame to guide the ropes. It was a bit of a squeeze with so many people but Dave and Karen made sure that everyone had a ring and personally I think I rang better in the afternoon than the morning – although both towers had 8 bells, 2 more than I have been used to, that is still closer to 6 than 12, so I felt on more familiar ground.

The fourth and last church (I was flagging by now!) at Charlton Kings was open and whilst we waited to be let into the tower we were treated to a brief impromptu concert – a male singer plus pianist were rehearsing for a performance. And this church boasted all the traditional features I like to see – wall hangings, statues, stained glass and the like.

The bell tower was also traditional – through the little hobbit door and up the winding stone spiral staircase till you’re dizzy!

But do you know what? There was another welcome sight – a pub directly opposite the church !!

Edinburgh – city of castles, kilts and whisky.

Just back from an action packed few days in the Scottish capital. This tourist malarkey is exhausting!
Now, I know a lot of people are a bit funny about getting on ‘the tourist bus’ but, as far as I’m concerned, there is no better way to get your bearings in a city you don’t know. A couple of circuits round the main streets and some helpful commentary from the guide and you can make a much more sensible decision about where to alight for a more leisurely gander at the ‘places of interest’ you are actually interested in.
Of course,  nobody visits Edinburgh without going to the castle, perched atop the Mound, just beyond one of the main thoroughfares, Princes Street.
armour2 bars
beams
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And the other attraction, if that’s the right word for it, which is ‘de rigeur’ is the Royal Mile, The taxi driver who took us from the airport to our accommodation in Newhaven Harbour advised us to do the ‘Royal Mile’ from top to bottom, i.e. walk from Edinburgh Castle downhill to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The lady we rented our excellent accommodation from said the same thing and when you see it you quickly realise why!  It is very steep and as the name indicates – it’s a mile long – exhausting! even if you have had your porridge!
By far the most obviously touristy place was the area around the castle  where you find ‘The Scotch Whisky Experience’ and the ‘Tartan Weaving Mill’ and also magnificently turned out pipers playing those haunting laments on the bagpipes. There are myriad tartan shops sellingall sorts of garments, mostly in the familiar red plaid  (it put me in mind of the old joke – you can have any colour as long as it’s red! )  and lastly, black double deckers which will take you on a Ghost Tour. The icing on the cake was a sighting of Braveheart! He was having some fun with some young lads and I thought he hadn’t spotted me but … I was wrong!

 

 
       
The Royal Mile is full of shops, bars, cafés and beautiful traditional buildings. At the bottom end is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where I believe the Queen is in residence for a week or so every year, performing official duties. Behind the Palace is Holyrood Park – again, if you’re feeling energetic you can walk up to Arthur’s Seat, an old volcano where – I’m told! – you get some great views across the city.
HolyroodPark1   ParkPan1
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You can take tea at the Palace Café and, suitably refreshed, wander round Queen’s Gallery or marvel at the interesting Scottish Parliament Building. Designed by catalán architect, Enric Miralles in 1999 and opened by the Queen in 2004, it caused some controversy when it was built. Personally, I loved the design but it differed radically from the traditional buildings around it so I can understand why opinion was split.


       

The weather in Edinburgh wasn’t brilliant – quite cold and damp, so we decided to spend a couple of hours on the wettest day at the National Museum. As it turned out, it was quite interesting because the Scots were an enterprising bunch of engineers and industrialists – it’s not every museum that boasts a full size locomotive or a whisky still!
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The other iconic structure that is definitely worth going to see is the Forth Bridge – as emblematic of Scotland as the kilt or the bagpipes. We took the short train ride  to see this familiar sight close up – everyone has seen it in photos or on television, even if they have never been to Scotland – it is legendary as the bridge that never stopped having to be painted! Of course, then someone invented a special striking red coloured coating that didn’t have to be continually replaced – so that was a relief! The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is the same colour so they must use the same stuff!


We discovered that there are in fact three Forth Bridges –  a road bridge (suspension design) and a rail bridge (cantilever design) and now a third – a new road bridge, still under construction, which will be a cable stayed design (don’t ask me, I don’t know the difference!)
The bridges span the Forth estuary and are indeed an impressive sight. The little town of South Queensferry lies between them, with its toy boats and life boat station – reminiscent of small Welsh seaside towns on a drizzly, damp weekend.

   


I enjoyed my trip to Edinburgh and will go back some day to see more of Scotland. By sheer coincidence another iconic piece of engineering was passing through our local railway station on the day I travelled north –  the Flying Scotsman!!