The Retirees go Abroad Trent and Erewash Canals

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People over here and at home often ask why we chose Long Eaton as our base. Well I think I can safely say Long Eaton chose us. Business brought us here but the diversity, centrality and hidden history of the area have kept us here. The history may not be momentous but it involves ordinary people and the development of life as we know it today.

Take the canal that runs behind our flat. Today it is a recreational waterway and walk connecting with the River Trent and the canal network that criss-crosses the UK. This canal has been my subject earlier so I won’t repeat the history. But once you get to the River Trent, the story just goes on – to Liverpool, Hull just about anywhere.

Here is a series of photographs of our recent walk and a bit of the story around the canals and the people who lived and worked on the canal. On this day we set out along the canal and stopped at the Steamboat for refreshment.

For us our walk of discovery started at the Steamboat now a pub but once serving the canal people.

 

Beside the Steamboat is the Teahouse. Built in 1783 it still operates today providing tasty food and beverages. Its history includes a lockup. Underneath the shop was a cell used to hold people arrested on the canal. The cell is no longer there but the lock and key from the cell can be seen on the wall in the shop. This shop is crammed with memorabilia from the great days of canal industry.

Across the Trent is the boat club and rowing club and in the background the steaming pots of the power station may be seen. We follow the river toward Nottingham. It is possible to walk all the way but not today. After 40minutes we get to Cranfleet Lock; one of the many locks along the Trent and the River Soar. As we sit in the sun a narrow boat arrives to pass through the lock. It is a young family holidaying on the canal and we look and help as they enter the lock, release the water and sink down for the next leg of their journey.

Job done we turn around and walk home – a trip of 90 minutes.

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The Retirees go Abroad – Living in Tudor Times

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If you have been following my blogs then you may well be sick of manor houses and gardens. But before you turn off, this is a tale of a manor house built in wood that has been in the same family ownership since 1500 and was last added to or changed in 1610. When you see the photographs you may agree with me – how is it still standing?

Little Moreton Hall at Congleton Cheshire is a National trust property. It is moated. It is built of wood and daub plaster. It is the ancestral home of a family of yeoman farmers named the Moretons. The earliest parts of the house were built for William Moreton in about 1504–08, and the remainder was constructed in stages by successive generations of the family until about 1610. The building is highly irregular, with three asymmetrical ranges forming a small, rectangular courtyard. The house’s top-heavy appearance, is due to the Long Gallery that runs the length of the south range’s upper floor which was built in about 1560–62 for William Moreton II’s son John It includes the Gatehouse and a third storey containing a 68-foot (21 m) Long Gallery, roofed with heavy grit stone slabs, the weight of which has caused the supporting floors below to bow and buckle. I could not remember all this so I have extracted what I thought would explain to you the uniqueness of this house from Wikipedia. If you wish to read more go to http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/little-moreton-hall/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Moreton_Hall.

Wikipedia has this comment which I thought was important for your understanding: “Architectural historians Peter de Figueiredo and Julian Treuherz describe it as “a gloriously long and crooked space (the Long Gallery), the wide floorboards rising up and down like waves and the walls leaning outwards at different angles.” The crossbeams between the arch-braced roof trusses were probably added in the 17th century to prevent the structure from “bursting apart” under the load.”

A small kitchen and Brew-house block was added to the south wing in about 1610, the last major extension to the house. The fortunes of the Moreton family declined during the English Civil War. As supporters of the Royalist cause, they found themselves isolated in a community of Parliamentarians. Little Moreton Hall was requisitioned by the Parliamentarians and used to billet Parliamentary soldiers. The family survived the Civil War with their ownership of Little Moreton Hall intact, but financially they were crippled. The family’s fortunes never fully recovered, and by the late 1670s they no longer lived in Little Moreton Hall, renting it out instead to a series of tenant farmers.

Elizabeth Moreton, an Anglican nun, inherited the almost derelict house following the death of her sister Annabella in 1892. She restored and refurnished the Chapel, and may have been responsible for the insertion of steel rods to stabilise the structure of the Long Gallery. In 1912 she bequeathed the house to a cousin, Charles Abraham, Bishop of Derby, stipulating that it must never be sold. Abraham opened up Little Moreton Hall to visitors, charging an entrance fee of 6d (equivalent to about £8 as of 2010) collected by the Dales who had taken over the tenancy in 1841, who conducted guided tours of the house in return. Abraham carried on the preservation effort begun by Elizabeth Moreton until he and his son transferred ownership to the National Trust in 1938. The Dale family continued to farm the estate until 1945, and acted as caretakers for the National Trust until 1955.

Tours of the house are available and they are really worth it. In the course of the tour our guide told us the house originally had a dirt floor and as the chooks and other animals would also be running through they threw a grass like product called “thresh” onto the floor and to keep the thresh in the house they erected a bar at the foot of each door called a “hold”. Hence our word “threshold” There is a chair in the main hall and we were told this was probably the only chair as everyone bar the elder of the house (the chairman) had stools or benches.

The house still contains a little furniture from the end of the 16th century. Apart from the chair there is the table top. We were told that in the 16th century this was called the “board” and it was not affixed to legs like today but rather sat on trestles. When the servants cleaned the room and everyone retired the board would be turned over because many servants received “board and lodging” instead of pay. There would have been other boards at the side of the room for other eating utensils – “side boards” and “cup boards”. If minstrels were visiting they would receive food in exchange for entertainment. So the boards would be taken into the courtyard and placed on the cobbles for the minstrels and troubadours to perform or “tread the boards”. Amazing where our vocabulary comes form.

Our tour included a visit to a room where we saw 16th century wall paper. In maintaining the house the National Trust has uncovered original “wallpaper” form that same time. The fashion was to draw patterns on the walls and colour them in but between the top of the wall and the ceiling is a fresco of biblical scenes drawn on paper affixed to the wall.

The Chapel is a sight to behold. It must have been constructed out of square to be so obviously crooked. The tour ends in the Chapel (which is still consecrated and used for short services). Walking around the remaining rooms there are picture boards with information on various aspects of the house. The “garderobes” are simple benches with holes and a drop into – you guessed it – the moat. Even so some poor sod had the job of cleaning out the mess and spreading it on the fields.

There is a good little café here with reasonable prices a warm fire and tasty food. We both recommend a visit to live in Tudor times.

The Retirees go Abroad – Surprise at Cheshire Cottage

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As autumn unfolds and winter prepares to settle upon us, we await the arrival of our visitors from Australia. The days get shorter but because of the rain and cloudy skies it remains grey and some mornings the mist does not leave us. We are taking it easy as when they arrive we have a full itinerary –  London for a day then Scotland as far as Inverness then down Loch Ness and visit the distilleries of Islay before coming home (Long Eaton) for a few days before having Xmas in France and New Year in Paris.

Still, taking it easy doesn’t mean sitting still. So on a not so overcast day, we took out the National Trust guide book and decided we would visit Biddulph Grange National Trust Garden in Staffordshire and Little Moreton Hall Tudor house in Cheshire.

We arrived at the Garden shortly before the Garden opened, just enough time for a cup of coffee. So out came the flask and the home cooked oat biscuits and we sat in the mist enjoying the morning. We watched various cars arrive indicating the Garden had opened so we strolled over to the gate produced our passes and when asked where we came from the receptionist was surprised to hear we were from Nottingham. It’s a trick I love to play as the Notts/midland accent is just so different to a Queenslander. This always starts a conversation. As these sites are manned by volunteers it is often interesting to hear what secrets they can tell you about each place.

These gardens were billed as amazing and imaginative. This description undersells the Garden. They are truly innovative for the time of their creation. James Bateman designed the garden 150 years ago. The garden is a framework of hedges rocks, banks tunnels and discrete areas with their own distinct style and planting. There is feeling of exploration and surprise as you walk through various gardens some of which are designed to portray particular places in particular China, the Pyramids and the Glen.

The garden starts with the house. Unlike other great gardens, the house is just an entrance, tea room and gift shop. The remainder of the grand house has been converted into 9 private apartments. After walking from the house we were met by one of the volunteers and he gave us a few tips to make our exploration more enjoyable and showed us how to read the map of the garden.

We walked down a series of stairs to the Araucaria Parterre, a type of patio overlooking a lake full of fish and then circle around the Pinetum where we encountered our first tunnel. We walked through into an area of pine trees of every kind. The path was leading us to a cottage. As we approached the cottage a young couple with their children caught up to us and we walked together chatting. On reaching the cottage we see it is named Cheshire Cottage. We open the door and it is dark. Once your eyes adjust, you realise that there are no rooms but four further entrances. The fourth entrance houses a squatted figure whilst the other entrances remain a mystery. We choose to follow the young family and enter a tunnel with a point of light at the end.

We come out into the pale sunlight onto Wellingtonia Avenue; an avenue of pine trees running up a low hill. Walking up the hill we notice a bush walk off to the left so we take that path and wind through what appears natural bush land then we encounter that young family again as this walk returns onto Wellingtonia Avenue.

From the top of the avenue we get a grand view of the house, its valley and hills behind. We return along the avenue taking in the jigsaw of colours – greens, yellows reds and browns. At the end of the avenue we have a choice: the Cherry Orchard or re-enter Cheshire Cottage. There is not much happening in the orchard as the trees have dropped their leaves and await spring so we select the cottage and a different tunnel. We pop out in Egypt. Back into the tunnel and we pop out in the Watch Tower over looking Dahlia Walk (no dahlias til spring) and viewing the apartments.

Back to the tunnel and we arrive at the Stumpery, an area where old tree stumps have been used to create an eerie landscape of moss covered stump walls leading to China and the Temple. We travel through China and surprise another tunnel leading us to the Glen. It is autumn so the Rhododendrons are not in bloom. The glen leads us back to our first tunnel and the lake. The tour has finished but a most relaxing and surprising hour and a half. We must do this in spring. The garden will have change entirely with new growth, birds, animals, and insects.

 

So we leave the garden reinvigorated and feeling at peace.

The Retirees go Abroad – In the Shadow of the Templars

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The story of the Knights Templars has always fascinated me. Briefly told these are the highlights:

Around 1119, a French nobleman from the Champagne region founded the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, which was eventually shortened to “Knights Templars”. Jacques de Molay, the last of the Order’s Grand Masters, took office around 1292.

King Philip IV (the Fair) of France mistrusted the Templars, as the organization had declared its desire to form its own state in the Languedoc of south eastern France, similar to how the Teutonic Knights had founded Prussia. Philip had inherited an impoverished kingdom from his father and was already deeply in debt to the Templars.

At dawn on Friday, October 13, 1307, scores of French Templars were simultaneously arrested by agents of King Philip, later to be tortured in locations such as the tower at Chinon (the profile on my blog has a picture of the Tower at Chinon in which Jacques de Molay was tortured), into admitting heresy and other sacrilegious offenses in the Order. Then they were put to death. The Templars reached out to the Pope for assistance, and Pope Clement did write letters to King Philip questioning the arrests, but took no further action. Most monarchs simply didn’t believe the charges, though proceedings were started in England, many Knights were arrested and tried, but not found guilty.

In 1312, under extreme pressure from King Philip IV, Pope Clement V issued an edict officially dissolving the Order. In September 2001, a copy of the Chinon Parchment dated 17–20 August 1308 in the Vatican Secret Archives, a document that indicated that Pope Clement V absolved the leaders of the Order in 1308 was found.

So to visit the Temple Church in London was extremely interesting. The Church was built by the Templars and consecrated in 1185 until the order was dissolved in 1312 and their property confiscated. In 1608 James I granted the whole of the area known as the Temple to two societies of lawyers, Inner Temple and Middle Temple to preserve the Church and be held ever more for the profession of the Law.

 

After visiting the church, we tried to visit some of the things we saw on the Tour of the Hidden Pubs. We found the clock and tower in Fleet St, and the statue of Elizabeth I moved to Fleet St but the rest was too hard to find and we had to get over to West End for the theatre.

 

At West End we ended up in Covent Garden, Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant, and preparations for Christmas (but its only November!).

 

After the theatre, we decided to walk to the Tube Station through Covent Garden and encountered the London Film Museum and its exhibition of original James bond vehicles. We immediately decided this was the mission for tomorrow.

The Retirees go Abroad – On Her Majesty’s Service

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We went to the theatre and saw “The Play That Went Wrong”. It went very wrong and I would not recommend it. Our plans for the following day were to do another walk but we passed by an exhibit in the London Film Museum. We were offered a mission and should we choose to accept it we would visit “Bond in Motion (the largest official collection of original James Bond vehicles)”. Of course we accepted.

The display included:

Gold Finger his majestic gold Rolls Royce Phantom III.

 

The archetypical Aston Martin DB5,

 

The submersible Lotus Esprit S1,

 

The Citroen 2CV,

 

And a variety of other craft.

 

There was also a display of examples of the creative process – story boards and concept art.

 

We spent over and hour and a half touring the display and found it necessary to refresh in the coffee shop. After ordering two coffees and snacks, I spied the reason we had been called in on this difficult job – I spotted a mouse in the kitchen. I reported the sighting to the Barista (unfortunately named “Q”) and I was informed that “007 was on the job”. As we were leaving we both spotted the villain scampering under James’ BMW. We left wondering if 007 ever got his man.

The Retirees go Abroad – the Hidden Pubs of Ole London Town

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We met Andy at Temple Tube Station along with 6 other hardy souls as it was still drizzling with rain and the moon was hidden by rain cloud. Andy is a young actor waiting for the big break and doing these guided tours to make some cash whilst studying.

We headed off east toward Middle Temple and our first stop was outside 2 Temple Street the former house of William Astor the American millionaire. The building was built by John Loughborough Pearson for William Waldorf Astor, in 1895. It is now some sort of reception house and is maintained by, managed and preserved by Bulldog Trust, a charitable organization, and is hired out for functions. It opened to the public as a gallery in October 2011. An image of the bulldog appears outside the Temple St. frontage.

Oh there are famous sights, but to get to them we have to walk through a maze of lanes of the Inner and Middle Temple. In fact we retraced our steps from that afternoon visiting Temple Church, Middle Temple the Great Hall and the Square before landing in our first pub; the Deveraux. The Devereux is located in the back alleys near Fleet Street. We sampled a pint; my choice being Hobgoblen to match the haunted atmosphere said to exist at the hotel. The weather was becoming more and more miserable so we were disappointed when Andy said we must press on.

Andy took us to Gough Square and the former house of Dr. Johnson, claimed to be the author of the first English Dictionary and other literary works. Johnson had a cat called “Hodge” and the only real trace of Johnson today is the statue of his cat outside his house at 17 Gough Square London. By this time we were both huddling under an umbrella and the last thing I was concerned with was taking anymore photos promising that we would come back tomorrow in the sunshine.

We set our course for the most famous London inn of all – Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Grade II listed public house at 145 Fleet Street, on Wine Office Court, City of London. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of a number of pubs in London to have been rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666. According to Andy, there has been a pub at this location since 1538.

The vaulted cellars in the basement are thought to belong to a 13th-century Carmelite monastery which once occupied the site. The entrance to this pub is situated in a narrow alleyway and is very unassuming, yet once inside you soon realise that the pub occupies a lot of floor space and has numerous bars and gloomy rooms. In fact you find yourself getting lost in the maze.

For around 40 years, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was associated with an African Grey parrot named Polly. The fame of the parrot was its ability to swear and imitate corks popping and it was world famous such that on its death in 1926 around 200 newspapers across the world wrote an obituary, and a copy of these are posted on the walls along with the stuffed parrot. They have new parrot but he is a bit shy and doesn’t say a word.

From the Cheese we journeyed back along Fleet Street until we dived into a small alley through another alley and before we knew it we had popped out down near Blackfriars and a pub called St Brides Tavern beside the church of the same name. Just across from this landmark (down another alley) is the London Distillery a modern remake of a London gin distillery and around the corner is our last pub Punch Tavern.

Well that was it. Andy shot through and we had to make our way to Blackfriars Tube Station and home. Andy had promised to show us cheek-by-jowl, higgledy-piggledy, brooding back-alleys, secluded courtyards and tortuous zigzag passages; quintessential London. Well we saw plenty back alleys and had no chance of finding our way around again. Apart from the dismal weather we enjoyed our search for the hidden pubs of London.

The Retirees go Abroad – Shakespeare and Dickens in London

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We started the day with a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral. The Cathedral is massive and has the traditional dome. We were told later by our guide Corrina on our walking tour that Wren the Architect fought with the Bishop about the rebuild of the church after the Great Fire of London (1666)

Wren wanted a dome like catholic cathedrals but of course this was an anathema to the Bishop of the time. The Bishop wanted an English spire not a dome but Wren outlasted the Bishop hence we have a large dome and two spires on the cathedral today.

It is costly to visit the cathedral but we found the crypt which was free to enter. Here is the coffee shop and gift shop amongst the columns and vaulted ceilings together with statues and monuments all accessible at no cost. After coffee we returned to the St Paul’s Tube Station entrance to meet Corinna. Corinna is an actress also but in the twilight of her career and she does these tours for interest and to keep her active. The weather was a little kinder today. The sun was shining most of the time but the wind had picked up and it was chilly.

Corinna started the tour by taking us across the street to the remains of a church destroyed in WW2. This church had been rebuilt by Wren after the Great Fire but devastated in WW2 and turned into a memorial garden. The bell tower has recently been converted into a residence (sold to the current occupier for 4 million pounds). She sat us down and said “London was to Shakespeare and Dickens what Paris was to Balzac. It held them in its thrall, was both their canvas and their inspiration, their workshop and their raw material. They in turn made it their own, imaginatively colonising it. And, like “special correspondents for posterity”, bequeathed it to us. Today, despite the ravages of time, riot, bombing, and especially fire, traces of their London – shipwrecks from the past – still abound in the City. Everything from superb half-timbered Elizabethan dwellings to the magnificent early 16th-century gatehouse where Shakespeare went with his plays to the offices of the Elizabethan Master of the Revels. And from London’s grandest Tudor manor house to crooked little alleys which fed the fires of Dickens’s “hallucinating genius”.” (an extract from the advertising on the web site)

We admired the gardens and looked at various pictures which Corinna handed round. Then off she went; she may have been in her senior years but she was not slowed by them. We chased to follow her to the Candle Makers Guild building, then to the Mayoral carriage on show near another guild hall, then down some alleys to a small garden where a statue of Shakespeare stood. In fact it is a memorial to John Hemminge and Henry Cordell who are credited with compiling and publishing the First Folio in 1623 being the first collection of Shakespeare’ s works. It is located near the Pewterers’ Hall another guild hall this time for makers of pewter.

After a short stop she charged off again passed a remnant of the wall of London but no time to stop just a quick photo. Onto a memorial to people who had died rescuing others. After that we entered Little Britain St and walked passed St Barts Hospital and through the gates to St Bartholomew Great Church where we paused to hear another anecdote on Dickens as around this area Dickens set a number of his stories. Quite frankly I cannot recall exactly what the anecdote had to do with but everything we were seeing was new and fascinating.

As we left the church yard Corinna pointed out the seamstresses and embroiderer’s guild and then the Hand and Shears Hotel – this had been the sewing and cloth district in the times of Dickens.

We ended up near Farringdon Tube Station. But before she let us go Corinna had to do a little song and dance to finish her tour so here on the footpath in public view Corinna starts singing and dancing – no doubt the residents are used to this performance but I was taken by surprise and delighted. After giving directions to the tube station and the local hotels she vanished.

We elected to go to the oldest looking establishment we could find – the Jerusalem Tavern.

Jerusalem Tavern

Jerusalem Tavern

It was tiny and inside it was busy with workers from nearby, the floors were worn and the layout was higgledy piggledy but we were able to order lunch and a drink and rest our feet as we sat at the table in the bay window of the pub. After answering natures call I bumped into one of the other tourists on our tour and suggested he join us – tables were in short supply. Andrew did join us and he turned out to be an Aussie from Sydney an actor by profession and visiting his girlfriend in London, We chatted away out of the wind in the warm atmosphere of the pub and after finishing lunch bid Andrew adieu and headed for the Tube station and home.