Monday, 31 October 2011

"Roses and Castles" painted Canalware.

Buckby Can from "Blue Haze."
There is a great tradition on the English  waterways of painting narrowboats and barges and their homewares with   brightly coloured roses, castles, lakes, ponds and complex diamond and square shaped patterns.  The photos here show mostly roses, and the highly decorated "Buckby Can" is from my narrowboat, "Blue Haze."  The earliest written record of the tradition dates from 1875, but nobody really knows the true origin and reason behind  this artform.   From the late 1700s until the 1930s,  whole families lived on the working boats, with parents and several children all cramped into one small cabin, where every last corner was used for storage.   Maybe these people missed living on land in a cottage, so they painted their barge and utility ware with ideas of their ideal home, a castle and lake, with roses in the  garden.  Cetainly everything on board was decorated, cupboards, drawers, pot and pans, chairs, stools, mops and brooms, you name it, and it was decorated with very brightly coloured flowers. 

The photos below show ware painted by Robert Wright, who decorates gifts sold in the Devizes Kennet & Avon Canal Trust wharfside canal shop.  More information about the artform can be read on:

Sugar jars and a tea caddy.

Large Vase.

Painted wooden spoons and a tea caddy.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Fame at Last

 Last January I entered a writing competition, and after dashing off a few hundred words without much care, (I didn't even keep a copy) I found myself being congratulated for writing such an interesting piece of travel information.  My story was entered into the final of the competition, and low and behold, it won me some money and a place in a Bradt Travel Guidebook.  This week I received my free complimentary copy and my story reads really well, I am very chuffed!  The book retails for £15.99, but can be bought through the U3A for £10.   I like the book's cover, and below are the opening lines of my article, I hope you can read some of it.  I described a journey on the Trans Wilts Express 49 bus, from the Market Place in Devizes to Avebury. The journey passes through the rolling landscape of iron age Wiltshire, with its Bell barrows, ancient tracks and  Silbury Hill, and onwards to the ancient Stone Circle at Avebury.

Wiltshire is unique in having two large iron age stone circles,  one in Avebury and the other, the well known "Stonehenge."   The man made Silbury Hill remains an enigma, and West Kennet Long Barrow, up on top of its hill,  is an interesting place to visit.      

Friday, 28 October 2011

The "Lion Monument" back to "Wetherspoons" in the Market Place.

The "Lion Monument" at Etchilhampton Hill.
Braunschweig has many lions, but Devizes has only one, and he stands on a plinth near Etchilhampton Hill.  He commemorates Mr James Long of Urchfont, who in 1768, promoted a new road to Lydeway with a gentle gradient up the hill, for the road replaced a steep track.  When the clock of St James's Church in Devizes strikes midnight, the lion is supposed to climb down and walk to a local farmer's pond, where he drinks water and then walks back again to his plinth.  If you happen to pass by you can see this feat, but you need to have drunk a lot of beer in the local pubs to witness this event.   We walked past the monument and then onto the "Wessex Ridgeway," part of a long distance walk that traverses Wiltshire.  It was a beautiful day, and after a very foggy start, the rolling landscape of the Marlborough Downs and the Vale of Pewsey unfolded before our eyes.  The stone heap below is spoil from a workshop that produces kitchen tops from granite and marble.  It was fascinating to search through and find all sorts of interesting pieces of polished stone.  We found a piece of sandstone with a pebble lodged inside, both probably millions of years old.

The lowest photo shows Bob and Joyce walking the Wessex Ridgeway and looking towards a distant, mist covered Morgen's Hill, the site of the "Battle of Roundway Down" on  July 13th 1643 during the English Civil War.  The Royalist won.

Walking the Wessex Ridgeway towards a misty Marlborough Downs.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Potterne Handbell Ringers.

Bells A, A# Bb and B.
I suppose eveyone in life has a mental list of all the things they would like to try before they visit the big somewhere in  heaven or go down  below to the bonfires!  I've had handbell ringing on my "Things to do"  list for most of my life, and last night I finally got the chance to have a go.   I have a friend who is a ringer, and she mentioned that the Potterne group were short of a player, so here was my golden opportunity.  

I played three bells which ring the lower notes, and with the help of specially annotated music, I was able to keep up with the other players.  The music below shows the markings,  a green spot for bell A, a purple spot for bell A# or Bb and a red spot for bell B.  Things go well until you have to turn over a page, and then it is not so easy to work out what hand to use.  It will be good fun and at Christmas we are playing in Potterne Church's carol service.  will give you a brief history of the art of handbell ringing.  It is interesting to read that the first handbells were made in Aldbourne in Wiltshire, a small village not far from Devizes.   A set of bells is very expensive and ours were founded at the "Whitechapel Bell Foundry" where they are sent regularly to be retuned.
The music marked for each bell.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The "Corn Exchange" Devizes, down Caen Hill to the "The three Magpies" at Sells Green.

The Corn Exchange.
The sun shone of our little group of four walkers, who strode out from the "Corn Exchange" in Devizes to walk to a nice little pub called "The Three Magpies" at Sells Green.  We walked along the muddy towpath of the Kennet & Avon canal, passing moored boats, the old lock keeper's cottage, which is now a tea room and then down the magnificent flight of 16 consecutive locks that make up part of this, in total, flight of 29 locks.   This flight is one of the wonders of the British waterways, but is not the longest flight.  That claim to fame goes to the Tardebigge flight of 31 locks on the Worcester & Birmingham canal.  The photos show canal scenes as we walked towards Sells Green and the last photo shows the pub sign outside the "The Magpies."  The pub was busy but we found a cosy seat in the bay window and enjoyed a drink and light lunch.  

After lunch we decided to walk back to Devizes,  so walked, in total,  just under 8 miles.  Tonight I went handbell ringing for the first time. I will write tomorrow about my evening with the "Potterne Handbell Ringers."   It will be great fun when I get the hang of it.

Moored Boat at Martinslade Bridge.

The Old Lock Keeper's Cottage.

Looking up the 16 Caen Hill Locks.

Boats in Lock 44

"The Three Magpies" at Sells Green.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Wadworth, the Devizes Home of 6X Beer.

Wadworth's Northgate Brewery has been run by the same family since 1875, and the imposing Victorian building stands  on, what is affectionately known as, "Brewery Corner."  It is possible to tour the brewery, and see the gravity fed brewing process (the equipment is made in Germany,) visit the sign writing and painting  studio and stroke the Shirehorses that deliver the beer barrels by wagon and dray to the Devizes pubs.   The sign here shows the beers that are brewed daily, and at Christmas or for other special occasions, a special beer is brewed.  The Kennet & Avon Canal was officially opened on the 28th December 1810,  and Wadworth brewed a special beer to mark the 200 year anniversary.   This beer was transported  by barge to the "Bridge Inn" at Horton to mark the celebration.  Their most famous beer is "6X" not my favourite I might add, I much prefer "Bishop's Tipple."  A full history of the brewery can be read at:  click History, Shires and Visitor Centre for an interesting read.

This year a beer was produced from an original recipe to celebrate 125 years of brewing in Devizes.   Long may it last!   (I like drinking beer, either English or German goes down well!)

"Brewery Corner" in Devizes.
In the Sign Painting Studio.

Visitors to the Brewery from left: Anne, Margaret, Elaine, Vicki and Carol.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The "Kenavon Venture," the Devizes based K&A Tripboat.

The "Kenavon Venture" approaches London Road Bridge.

From Devizes Wharf it is possible to take a gentle 1.5 hour cruise along the canal on the K&A Trust's tripboat the "Kenavon Venture."  The cruise enables you to see the canal at duck level, and to enjoy the many colourful moored boats, pretty gardens with plants and wildlife  that line or live  near  the towpath.  The tripboat runs every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, leaving the Wharf at 14.30 and returning at 16.00.   We also run "Special Occasion" cruises, family outings for Mother's Day, charters for Wedding Days, cruises to see the famous "Caen Hill" flight of locks,  and at Christmas, the popular "Santa Cruises" for young children.  The boat travels and picks up Santa along the way, and when he boards the boat, he gives all the children presents.  These trips are very popular, especially with the adults who enjoy a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie.

 The weather here is glorious at the moment, not a sign of the hard winter that is predicted for this year.  The photos below show the "Kenavon Venture" turning the tight bend at London Road Bridge and a dog walker, out enjoying the dappled autumn light.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Devizes and the "Kennet & Avon" Canal.

Devizes stands beside the Kennet & Avon canal, an artificial cut that was dug to link the River Avon in Bath to the River Kennet in Newbury.  Work commenced  in 1794 and the canal provided a waterway trade link between Bristol to London and was opened in 1810,  much to the delight of the businessmen of Devizes, who had campaigned for its construction and route through the town, as  John Rennie, the canal engineer had originally planned a  canal that bypassed Devizes.   Its opening increased trade between neighbouring towns, especially with Bath and its rich source of building materials.  Many Devizes buildings of "Bath Stone" date from the opening of the canal.  Devizes is famous for its "Caen Hill" flight, 29 locks that bring the canal 237ft uphill into the town.  

Sixteen of these locks are consecutive, and are one of the wonders of the British Waterways network.  The canal thrived until 1841, when the opening of Brunel's "Great Western Railway," a fast rail link between London and Bristol, reduced the waterway's traffic almost overnight.  The canal fell into a slow decline until it was abandoned after the last war.   Attempts were made to close it completely, but in 1955 a group of enthusiasts formed the K&A Trust and with volunteer help managed to restore the canal until it was opened by the Queen in 1990. 

A full history can be read on: History and Museum, the Kennet & Avon's informative website.  These photographs show the canal gift shop at Devizes Wharf, which is housed in the old wharfside buildings.  It is a local tourist attraction and visitors from around the world come to see the museum, read about the history and take a ride on the "Kenavon Venture" the Trust's tripboat that operates cruises on the canal throughout the year. 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

A Gigantic Spider has Arrived in Devizes for Halloween.

The Black Swan's giganitc spider!

This gigantic, hairy spider is about to be mounted on the wall outside the "Black Swan Hotel" as part of the approaching night of "Halloween" on the last night of October.    I was not impressed, I am not a lover of spiders, even the tiny little specimens induce terror in me.  Today was market day and I did my usual wander around the many multicoloured stalls selling everything from potatoes and beetroot to thick winter socks and cotton nightdresses.  The photo below shows plants for sale in the market.  Thursdays in Devizes is always very busy, everyone comes out to buy cheap fruit and vegtables in the market and to enjoy a natter with friends and neighbours.  It's always a hive of activity.

Celia and "Pippin" her delightful poodle are pictured out enjoying a long walk  this afternoon.   Celia takes him to dog training classes and today we practiced "sit and stay" which he found difficult with all the distractions around.   He is a real character in his woolly coat with his stocky legs and jaunty walk.  He looks very dapper and is much admired by passers by.  I bought him a dog toy back from Braunschweig, a plastic "Wurst" on a piece of rope.  He loves to get his teeth into it and it has become his favourite non squeaking toy. 
Plants for sale in Devizes Market.

Celia and Pippin the Poodle.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A Tale of Two Choirs in "Sheep Street."

"Sheep Street" Baptist Church.

 The photo left shows the Baptist Church in "Sheep Street" Devizes.  (Devizes has some interesting street names, my favourite being "Monday Market Street")  "Devizes Chamber Choir" meets on a Tuesday evening in the large hall behind the church, where we practise for our concerts.  Last evening we sang in the church itself, as we combined with  "Swindon Chorale"  to rehearse for a concert we shall give in Swindon in November.  The choir consisted of about 60 singers and we sounded magnificent!  We are singing a mixed programme, including Vivaldi's "Gloria," the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah, some carols and a piece entitled "The Three Minute Messiah," a comical piece based on Handel's work, but over and done with in three minutes flat!  I think Mr Handel will turn in his grave. 

The photo below shows the sopranos sorting their music and waiting for the rehearsal to begin.  My friend Sally, looking at the camera, looks very serious!   Unfortunately she makes me laugh, so sometimes we get the school girl giggles during a practise!  Our choir has new conductor, Pamela, a Canadian, who is really enthusiastic and a good leader.  She gets the best out of us and is a pleasure to sing for.  I missed six practises whilst in BS, so I have a lot of music to learn.  Thank goodness I can read music and catch up quickly.   You can read about the choir on: 
               The sopranos are sorting their music.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Haydn's "Nelson Mass" Part I Kyrie

    On Sunday evening we started the first of only five rehearsals of Haydn's "Nelson Mass" before our performance of the work in St Mary's Church on November 4th.  Here is a clip of the Kyrie.  Once again the choir is short of tenors and basses, although there are plenty of sopranos and altos.  Why do so few men sing in choirs?  Every choir seems to be  short of men!  This website:  will give you information about the Devizes based company.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Churches of St John, St James and St Mary, Devizes

St John's Church, Devizes

The small market town of Devizes is unusual in having three large medieval churches.  They are  pictured here,  and every year the Devizes Chamber Choir sings its Christmas Concert in St John's.   On Sunday evening I started rehearsing Haydn's "Nelson Mass"  which we singers from the "White Horse Opera Company" will be performing in November in St Mary's, the church that stands conveniently beside my home in New Park Street.  I photographed the snow clad church at the beginning of 2011, at a time when we were rehearsing Mozart's "Mass in C Minor."  The church is no longer used for services, but it is hoped that it can be used as an arts and music centre for the many groups in Devizes.  More information about Haydn and the Mass can be gleaned on:  Mass for Troubled Times. How very appropriate, has there ever been a time that was not troubled?

St James's Church stands beside the "Crammer Pond" notable for its association with the story of the "Moonrakers,"  the name given to all those who are born in Wiltshire.  (I am not a Moonraker, I hail from Surrey.)  I will tell you the story of the "Moonrakers" in a later blog.

St James's Church standing beside the "Crammer" Pond.

A Snow-clad St Mary's Church in Devizes.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The Sunday Morning Collectors Fair in the Cheese Market.

The "Rules" of the Cheese Market.
In the old Cheese Market every Sunday morning  you will find a Collectors fair, where you can buy "objet d'art" not so old, old, really old and fairly ancient!  The photo left shows the rules of the Market, dated 1862, by the Mayor of Devizes and Town Council, the purpose of which was to ensure fair trading amongst the sellers.   I hope you can enlarge the photo to enable yourselves to read the script. The photo below shows traders packing up their wares at lunchtime.  The man in the foreground sells secondhand books and further along is a secondhand CD and video seller.  This hall is used throughout the week for various markets and  particularly on Thursdays, which is market day inthe town.   The roof has recently been renewed, the windows replaced, and the clock tower above the front entrance now boasts a timepiece which, at long last, tells the people of Devizes the correct time.  This building was used in the filming of "Far from the Madding Crowd" with Julie Christie and Alan Bates.  Many local people became extras during the filming.

Just a short write up today, I've developed sinusitis, so I retreated to my bed this afternoon to recuperate with tea and two paracetomol.  Tonight is the first rehearsal of Haydn's "Nelson Mass."  I must haul myself to St Joseph's School just up the road and croak my way through the music from 7pm until 9pm.

A view of the Cheese Market looking towards the Market Place.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Late Autumn Sunshine at Devizes Wharf.

The "Kenavon Venture" tripboat leaves Devizes Wharf.
Photos from today's lovely late  autumn day at Devizes Wharf on the Kennet & Avon Canal showing the tripboat  leaving  the wharfside.  The canal is an artificial cut which links the River Kennet at  Newbury with the River Avon at Bath, and provides a waterway link between Bristol and London, via the River Thames at Reading.  It was opened in 1810, with Caen Hill, the famous flight of 29 locks, being the last section to be completed.  More  information and photos are on the K&A Trust's website:  Warm sunshine bathed the visitors and their boats, and the crew of the K&A Trust's tripboat "KenavonVenture"  had a gentle cruise along the canal with their passengers. 

I sat near the "Wharfside Theatre" and watched life unfold, couples walked their dogs, cyclists crossed over the bridge to the towpath, boaters chatted and a noisy children's birthday party was taking place in the Wharf room.  The photos below show some of the items on sale in the canal shop.  The ducks need a good home!
Painted miniature canalware.

            Ducks waiting for a home in the canal gift shop.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Devizes to the "Cross Keys" at Rowde, via Fields of Cows, Horses and Newly Sown Seeds.

Dropping down towards Whistley Lane near Potterne.
The sun shone on the 49 doubledecker bus as we stepped aboard for the short ride the Mayenne Place, (Devizes is twinned with Mayenne in France,) and the start of our walk.  It was wonderful, sunshine on a rolling Wiltshire landscape and five good walking friends.  We walked 4.4 miles to the "Cross Keys" at Rowde where we sat in the restaurant and enjoyed a few pints and a "meal deal," two meals for £10, not bad!  I returned home at 2.30pm, cast off my boots and thick walking socks into a corner of the lounge and "flaked out" on my bed with a cuppa.  A great walk, good beer, nice meal, wonderful company and warm sunshine. 

Tonight I must swot up on Haydn's "Nelson Mass."   Rehearsals start this Sunday evening with the  "White Horse Opera Company" for a performance of the work in St Mary's Church on Friday 4th November.  I last sang the music in 1979, oh dear, that's thirtytwo years ago!
Standing, looking and chewing the cud.

"The pub is somewhere around here," thought Leader Bob.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

I have to start somewhere, so why not on Market Day in Devizes.

Here's the first sentence of my new blog about my life in Devizes, a small, traditional market town in the middle  of the county of Wiltshire.  Wiltshire is famous for its sites of very ancient history, medieval man made his home here thousands of years ago, and left round burial barrrows, bell barrows, long barrows, Silbury Hill, Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle.  I am very lucky to live in such an interesting part of England.  Devizes is only 18 miles from Bath, the city twinned with Braunschweig and 2O miles from the cathedral city of Salisbury.  We are in chalk downland country and giant white horses have been carved into the chalk hills over the centuries, I'm not sure if anyone knows why.  I live in the town centre, within easy reach of the shops, the theatre, cinema, library, church  halls for singing and dancing, the museum and a multitude of services, all useful for the onward march of creeping old age.  The "Boys in Blue" at the fire station are just around the corner.

Bountiful Carrots.

I will add some website addresses, where you will be able to read more about my beautiful home town in a rolling, Wiltshire downland landscape.   

Gloves, socks, hats and assorted winter wear.