Wednesday, 30 April 2014

"Sense and Sensibility" at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury

The main entrance to the "Watermill theatre" in Newbury.

I had heard about this little theatre on many occasions, but had never manage to get there and see a performance.  I was not disappointed, because the production of this popular Jane Austen story was excellent.   The drive to the theatre was not helped by the torrential rain, which was so heavy, it was almost impossible to see out of the windscreen.   Just outside Hungerford the road was flooded, and we had to wait in line until our turn came to pass through in the middle of the road!  

When we arrived at the theatre, we had to sit in the car for ten minutes or so, until the rain stopped.   The car park was flooded, but we picked our way to the entrance past the ducks, who continued doing what ducks do in the spring time, with one female and two or three males! Female ducks have a hard time every spring!  

The stage in the little theatre.

The theatre is small, perhaps holding an audience of about 150 people.   We sat in the front row, in the middle of the action, and with a good view of the costumes and some fine looking 19th century young men.   The cast of professional actors produced a completely convincing performance, it was wonderful.

The one set was used for all the scenes.  

With canny furniture removals, the one set served to show a smart house, a little cottage, a ballroom, a walk in the garden, watching the stars, and the catching creepy crawlies in a pond! A white screen in front of the windows could be raised and lowered.  

In the above photo,  it is lowered to show a room in a small cottage, in the ball scene it was raised to show the more elaborate window frames of a smart manor house.  All very clever.

The piano sets the scene in a small house.

The theatre is in a converted watermill, and in the entrance, a glass fronted wall allows the audience to see the water rushing past the old waterwheel and out through the sluices.  That evening, with all that rain, it looked in full flood!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

A Field Trip to the Somerset Earth Science Centre and Searching for Fossils.

The eco-friendly Earth Science Centre at Radstock, Somerset.

This low-level building beside a small lake,  has been built as an eco friendly educational centre.  We paid a visit and listened to a morning lecture about the age and formation of our planet, with an afternoon walk along the River Mells to a quarry to look for fossils.

A volcanic bomb.

This piece of rock started life as lava thrown out of a volcano.  The gaseous bubbles are still visible after the lava cooled millions of years ago.  In the background can be seen Juliette, one of the informative lecturers, who talked us through the eras and ages of planet Earth.

Fossil hunting in Tedbury quarry.

These fossil hunters are members of the Devizes U3A Geology group.  Most of us found something of interest, and I was the only one who found a complete bivalve shell.  It is very small, millions of years old, and I have named him "Fred."

Three group members at the "De la Breche Unconformity."

This interesting structure has inclined and weathered limestone rock as the bottom layers, with more recent layers of sandstone deposited on top.   These stratae took millions of years to form.  Limestone and chert for road building was quarried here, which enabled geologists to discover this remarkable rock formation.

Exploring one of the many lime kilns in the area.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race.

Preparing canoes for the world's longest canoe race.

Good Friday seems to come around very quickly each year!   This start was delayed this year, after a body was found in the water under a bridge further along the canal.  The police eventually gave the co ahead for the race to start an hour or so late.

Arriving at the start line at Devizes Wharf

Two canoeists make their way to Westminster and the Houses of Parliament.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Good Friday up on Boundary Ditch with the Bluebells.

A view along  boundary ditch of the old deer park.

In medieval England a "deer park" was an enclosed area containing deer.  It was bounded by a ditch and bank, with a wooden "park pale" on the top of the bank, or sometimes a stone or brick wall.  

The park is to the left in the above photo, with left, the high bank on top of which the wooden pale or fence would have stood.  The ditch is in the middle, and a lower earth bank is to the right.    Some parks had deer "leaps," where there was an external ramp and the inner ditch was constructed on a grander scale.  This allowed the deer to enter the park, but prevented them from leaving.

Bluebells now line the walk along the top of the inner bank.

It is possible to walk a good length of the higher bank, and at this time of year, the bluebells looked and smelled lovely in the warm, sunny weather.

Deer Parks varied in size from a circumference of many miles, to what was no more than a paddock.   The landscape in the park was managed so as to provide a good habitat for the deer, and also to provide space for hunting.   The landscape was intended to be visually attractive as well as functional.

The ditch to the right, is still full of water after the downpours of last winter. 

The path was blocked in places by fallen trees, brought down in the high winds of winter. We had to leave the beaten track in several places to walk around the fallen tree trunks.

The greensand banks in Hartmore Lane on our way home after a walk of around 4 miles.

Friday, 18 April 2014

No 1, Royal Crescent, Bath

Leaflet advertising the museum at No 1, Royal Crescent, Bath.

This is the first house in Bath's world famous Royal Crescent, once home to Henry Sandford  between 1776 and 1796.  The rooms are furnished in the manner of a Georgian gentleman, which include a Parlour, where is breakfasted, his Retreat, that contains his books about science and his many interests, his desk globe, where he plotted the voyages of Captain Cook and his telescope was looking at the moon and stars. 

The dining room table was laid in with many of the popular desserts of the time, all beautifully reproduced to show the splendour of the dinner.  After dinner the ladies went off to the Withdrawing room, where they could chat and drink tea, which was kept in a locked caddy.  Many of the portraits on the walls, are on loan from the National Portrait Gallery in London.  

The Lady's and Gentlemen's bedrooms contained four poster beds, a shaving stand, lady's dressing table and wig scratchers, which gave some relief from the headlice.  Wearing a wig or smart hair style for weeks on end, was not conducive to a good night's sleep, but provided a good home for the wild life.

The Servant's Hall,  complete with a Dog Wheel that drove the spit, the Housekeeper's Room and the Kitchen and Scullery, gave an insight into the world of hard work downstairs!  The large servant's hall is now used as an education room for visiting schoolchildren.

The facade and main entrance to the museum.

The house was purchased in 1967 by the ship owner Bernard Cayzer.  It was restored and turned into an historic house museum, and is managed by the Bath Preservation Trust.  At the time the servant's quarters were separated from the main house, which was know as 1A Royal Crescent, and was opened to the public in June 1970.

In 2006 1A Royal Crescent was bought by the Brownsword Charitable Trust, who restored and reunited it with No. 1 Royal Crescent.  The complete house, with its Georgian rooms and servant's quarters were opened in 2013.  This museum is well worth a visit.

The Crescent, Bath

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Sunshine and an Ice Cream at Caen Hill Locks.

 Looking up the flight of 16 locks at Caen Hill.

What a glorious day to go walking around Caen Hill.  The sun shone, and the crowds were out, both on land, in the cafe, and out in boats negotiating the famous flight of 29 locks in the whole  flight.  The photo above shows the consecutive flight of 16 locks, which makes going up a hard afternoon´s work for all the crews.   I bought an ice cream in the cafe, and then walked down the road on one side of the locks, and then walked back up the towpath and home, a total walk of about 4 miles.  I felt great once the walk was finished.

A black cat passed me by!

Near Town Bridge, where the back gardens of the houses meet the towpath,  a black cat came out to say "Hello."  Well not much of an hello, as she seemed more interested in what was shuffling about in the bushes, be it bird or mouse, than she was with me.     I said "bye bye" and walked on home for a welcome cuppa!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Bacon Butty in the Caen Hill Cafe.

Inside the cafe at the top of "Caen Hill."

This cafe sells the best bacon butties for miles around, so if you fancy one, this is the place to go.  The photos on the wall show scenes of the restoration of the famous flight way back the in the 1960's and 1970's.  The Queen eventually reopened the restored flight of 29 locks in 1990.   
The flight must have been a sorry sight to see after years of neglect.  The gates had rotted, and rubbish filled the lock chambers.  Most of the restoration was performed by volunteers, who at the time could clamber in and out of the locks using ladders, before "Health and Safety" put a stop to their adventures!  The Canal Trust had a youth section at the time, and the children and young people must have had good time messing about in the mud!

The cafe at the top of the hill!

The little building once housed the lock keeper, who kept an eye over the progress of the barges, as they came slowly up the consecutive flight of 16 locks.  I fell into this lock way back in 2005 and almost killed myself!   I have the good fortune to turn the fall into a jump, and managed to a void falling head first onto a steel boat.

to be continued

The Kennet & Avon trip boat "Kenavon Venture" in lock 47 of the "Caen Hill Flight."

The towpath and narrowboat, with lock 48 in the background.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Woodhenge and Durrington Walls to Stonehenge and back in a Misty Landscape.

The entrance to "Woodhenge," and the reconstructed positions of the former posts.

I spent the weekend walking, and walking further than I would normally go in two days!   I met friends in Salisbury, and we drove out together on a misty Saturday morning to Woodhenge, a Neolithic site, where the former post holes have been replaced with concrete stumps.  No one really knows what the site was used for, but it is nice to stand and ponder,  and imagine what our forefathers did here.  Did they worship the gods?  Did the posts hold up a large roof?  Was the site for ceremonial purposes?   Frustratingly, we will never really know.

Durrington Walls

We walked around Durrington Walls, the recently excavated site of a large Neolithic settlement.  It is thought that maybe the people who constructed Stonehenge, just a few miles from here, might have lived on this site.

Durrington Walls in the snow, with Neolithic huts and henges.

This picture was on one of the many excellent information boards.  It gives a good impression of how the site is thought to have looked thousands of years ago.  The standing posts of the henges can be seen in the foreground.

Walking along the Stonehenge Avenue.

Here my friends are walking towards a distant Stonehenge, hardly visible in the  morning mistiness.  It was a pity the sun did not shine on us, and our feet got very wet in the grass during our walk to the stones.

Stonehenge and its visitors.

The new visitor centre is now open about half a mile from here, and visitors reach the site in small jeep drawn buggies.  We could not access the site, but were able to see the stones over a wire fence,  and ponder one of the most visited historic places on planet earth.   We then retraced out steps, got back to the car at Woodhenge, and went home for a welcome cups of tea and biscuits.  An excellent walk I hope to repeat one of these days.