Archive for July, 2014

The beauty of Hampstead Heath

On Monday, I had a day off and, rather than lounging on the sofa all day (which I really wanted to), I decided to get out and visit a place I’d consider one of my favourites in London, Hampstead Heath.

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As I was walking onto the Heath, I remembered that 2 Willow Road, Erno Goldfinger’s house, was nearby so diverted off to see it. Goldfinger was a Hungarian architect who ‘redesigned’ three townhouses in Willow Road in his signature concrete-block style, so typical of the era. This annoyed one of his neighbours so much, a certain Mr Fleming, that his name was given to one of the baddies in James Bond.

Now, does anyone remember what often happens when I try and go places and see things? Yep, well done. They’re often closed. I really have to start looking online before I visit. Anyway, Goldfinger’s house was closed so off I went, back to the Heath.

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I followed a guided walk that took me up past tranquil ponds…

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… past quaint little cottages…

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…through fields of wild flowers…

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…and past trees blown over in the storm of ’87.

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I also diverted off to another little heath called Sandy Heath, which was totally wild and full of huge imposing trees and suddenly understood why people would worship nature. This tree has been standing there for 300 years…

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…. just about the only thing to be protected from the constant digging out of the sand for various purposes over time. The most recent purpose was to fill sandbags during WWII. The digging has been so insistent, in fact, that while the Heath was once on the same level as the road, it is now far far below road level. The descent from road to Heath is now easily the height of a house.

After re-entering Hampstead Heath, skirting round the Vale of Health and heading off towards the top end of the Heath, I came across directions to Kenwood House and knew I had to divert off to make a visit.

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And it was magnificent. Typical Robert Adams design. Huge columns, big square courtyard area, all blues and greens inside.
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It’s one of those places that makes you gasp when you turn the corner into a new room. Coming out into the back area of the house, with its huge windows and views across the Heath was one such moment.
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It looks so ordinary in a photo but it really stops you in your tracks in real life.

Another room that made me gasp was the room containing the Van Dycks and the Rembrandt self-portrait.
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Mind blowing.

After leaving Kenwood House, I decided to head down by the bathing ponds then across the Heath in a straight line until I got to the road, then down to the station. Can anybody tell me then, how, as I thought I was getting to the road at the bottom of the Heath, I found myself back at Kenwood House, at the top of it?!

I did eventually find my way back to the station but it took about an hour to work it out!

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Holidays -Part 3

Day 3 saw me on a walk in the local area. I’d decided to go and visit Old Harry, his wife and the pig. Now in case you’re thinking of an old man and his wife living in a tumbledown cottage and keeping a pig somewhere on the nearby downs, you’d be mistaken; all will be made clear later. I set off from the road straight along a footpath which led up a hill where I came to this sign:

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I hope you can see the writing – sorry the light was bad and it didn’t come out very well.

A little further on I came to this obelisk. At a distance, I was imagining probably a war memorial of some kind but I was wrong. In fact it is there to commemorate the coming of clean water to Swanage:

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It was erected in 1892 by local businessman George Burt.

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There is some confusion over the date because, as you can see on this stone right next to the obelisk, it has the year 1883. I thought I’d try and find out a bit more. Tourist Information directed me to the local museum and I ended up sending an email to them as I thought they might know the answer. After sending my query almost on closing time on the Friday I was pleasantly surprised when, on Monday morning, I got a reply from the (hon) curator David Haysom. Well done Swanage Museum! The answer folks is that the 1883 refers to when the Act of Parliament was passed saying to Swanage Council that they could go ahead with their plans; the 1892 date is when the town actually got connected to that new water supply and George Burt put up the monument.

Incidentally if you’re not familiar with the building trade Burt was a nephew to John Mowlem (founder of the company Mowlem, Burt & Freeman which eventually became just Mowlem – now you may have seen the Mowlem name around the country at various building sites) and Freeman was Burt’s brother-in-law. Talk about keeping things in the family!

The interesting thing about the monument is that the stone for it didn’t come from the local quarries: in fact the whole obelisk was dismantled from outside a church in London – St Mary Woolnoth at the junction of Lombard St & King William St – and was rebuilt on the present site by George Burt.

The path carried on round the top of the cliffs and bearing left at Ballard Point I passed through an area called Old Nick’s Ground: the name being an obvious allusion to the Devil.

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Now remember Old Harry & his wife well here’s a pic.

These cliffs at one time stretched as far as the Isle of Wight where today we find what are called The Needles, a row of chalk cliffs stretching out into the sea similar to Old Harry. (You can see the Isle of Wight from these cliffs so it’s not hard to imagine a time when they would have been joined.) In The Needles one of the pillars, which collapsed in 1764, was called Lot’s Wife: obviously referring to the Biblical story of the woman who was turned into a pillar of salt.

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The second patch of green in the distance is a separate stack but you can’t tell from the angle unfortunately. The main part of the chalk cliffs is a kind of L-shape. The “wife” apparently collapsed some years ago and only a stump is left so it’s not visible in this pic. However another smaller stack has been called Old Harry’s (latest) wife and presumably if that collapses they might have to look for another one or maybe he’ll just be a widower then.

Here’s a better pic than mine as it shows a side on view.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/34/Oldharryandwife.jpg/220px-Oldharryandwife.jpg

There is a path which goes out on to the top of those rocks but as you will see from the pic, with no side or end protection, it would be unwise to venture too far along it as there is a sheer drop on both sides and at the end!

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Further on round again and I came to a village called Studland and on the coastal path was this.

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Any ideas? Looks like a concrete slab doesn’t it?

Well here’s the view inside

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This is Fort Henry: the place where, in 1944, Winston Churchill along with George VI, Eisenhower and Montgomery came to watch a rehearsal for the D-Day landings. It has been given a Grade II listing by English Heritage. Well after having walked along the platform where Queen Victoria & King George V had walked (last year, see post 28.8.2013) now I had been in the same bunker as King George VI & President Eisenhower! (Maybe LLM’s latest trip walking down the actual corridor where HenryVIII walked – in Hampton Court Palace – might just beat my own delusions of grandeur!)

Then I came to this sign.

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Can you see the 3rd sign down pointing right? Yep it says that’s way to the pig and a little bit further on I came to this
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That’s right The Pig is a hotel & restaurant. There was a wedding function on so I couldn’t go in and look. So now you know what OldHarry, His Wife & The Pig are. And from there it was a short car ride back to the flat and as per the typical LLM end of a great day out scenario – “a nice cup of tea”.

Henry, George and the horses

Yesterday, I decided it was finally time, after years of meaning to do it, to visit Hampton Court Palace. I’ve been ice skating there at Christmas numerous times. I’ve had lunch in their cafe when passing by. I’ve even wandered through the gardens when staying in a nearby hotel. But I’ve never actually been in the Palace.

Yesterday was the day to remedy this. I took my favourite Thames walking book and got off the train at Hampton Wick so I could walk from Kingston Bridge to Hampton Court in the lovely weather.

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As an aside, I witnessed my first live fishing experience. This man was dragging an actual live bream out of the river that he had caught and it sat there in the net with its little mouth opening and closing. And it was quite wierd to see a fish in a net just flopping about.

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He put it back but then a little bit later, I saw a dead fish floating about in the river and it was all a bit strange.

Anyway, moving on from fish! A paddle boat went past just as I got to Thames Ditton island to envy the beautiful houses on the river.

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Then, on my right, this appeared.

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(That ominous looking cloud finally did its worst later and forced me shelter under the thick trees for twenty minutes.)

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Can I just say that if you, like me, have been dragging your feet on visiting Hampton Court Palace, you really must make a visit there soon. It’s entire purpose is to give you a good day out. The amazingness just piles up as the day goes on.

For example, I went into the Clock Courtyard to see the clock that has been there for hundreds of years. It was put up to tell the time of the tide rising at London Bridge so that they would know when to expect the ebb at Hampton Court Palace as so know when to travel.

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I’m just looking at the clock going, “Oo! That’s nice,” when there’s a commotion behind me and King Henry VIII and Thomas Seymour are just standing there! 

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Amazing!

The Palace suddenly felt all the more Palacey and I wondered if I should kneel.

I then wandered into Henry VIII’s private apartments and walked up and down the actual corridors where the actual Henry the actual VIII walked and was generally overwhelmed and my mind was blown.

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Ignore the plebians getting in the way of my mind-blowingness. This is the corridor that Henry walked to go to the chapel, where I wasn’t allowed to take photos but you’ll have to trust me that it was pretty amazing. Lots of blue and gold and statues.

While walking down the corridor, I found a little room where visitors were invited to sit down and listen in on a discussion between Henry’s top political advisors about religion and whether poor people should be able to read the bible.

As I left the room and wandered back along the corridor, Anne Boleyn passed by. You know, totes normal.

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After wandering through this impressive dining hall….

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….and past this courtyard….

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…I spotted some Georgians having a chat, Lord Paget and the Prince of Wales, to be exact.

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I edged closer to listen in and was swept up into an entire conversation about how the Prince could resolve a disagreement with his father, George I. I applauded when the Prince came up with a solution, agreed when he asked if he should go to see his father now and trotted along obediently when a little hidden door was opened and I was invited to come along. It was VERY EXCITING.

George I and the Prince made friends again and Lord Paget advised us to invest in the South Seas and I pottered off outside, where two horses were waiting so I climbed aboard and off we trotted, around the gardens.

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I also stopped into the royal tennis courts, where the Earl of Essex still plays.

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That’s William II’s royal seal on the wall there. What a place to play temnis!

By this point, the excitement of the day had almost overwhelmed me but I had a bit of energy left to make a stop in the Queen’s privy kitchen to see this pewter plate from the 1400s…

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….before heading over the bridge and going home for a cup of tea.

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Holidays – Part 2

It’s the second part of Rambler5319’s holiday adventures! Enjoy.

From Lacock Abbey I drove to my overnight stop in Melksham.

Here is the front door of the place.
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Certainly got a country-like feel, eh? My room was, across the small car park, in a converted block and the little name plate on my door said Fagin’s Den – hmmm. (I was wondering if at the evening meal I might meet Charley Bates, Bill Sikes or even Nancy.)
My room was the blue door on the left in the next pic; the other one was a separate bedroom.
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Dinner was a delight – really well cooked and presented. I spent the rest of the evening just relaxing and doing a bit of reading. Saturday morning dawned and it was time to get breakfast (full English, very nice), pack bags & set off back to Lacock to see the rest of the village as there were a number of interesting things which I hadn’t got round to yesterday. First stop was the Fox Talbot Museum – another National Trust place. (I was given a year’s membership as a birthday present this year and I certainly got my money’s worth out of it on this holiday alone as you will as things progress.)
Originally the museum building was used as stables for the Abbey back in the 16th century but it was converted in the 18th century to a stone barn; the museum opened in 1975. And probably like me you’ll be saying Fox who? Yep, I admit I’d never heard of him before but he was a very influential character in the early development of photography. His full name was William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-77). He was one of those guys who was very rich but used some of his money for research rather than simply buying loads of “stuff”. He invented a process (called calotype) which used paper with silver chloride on which then went dark according to how much light it was exposed to. And it took a long time for this process to produce an image – in fact about an hour or sometimes longer. Lots of story boards give the history and background to his innovative and groundbreaking work. There was also the inevitable dress up and take a picture (with your own camera) section with a selection of old clothes and some hats – so, after waiting for the previous folks to finish, I did that. Well, I put a hat on actually.
I was also surprised to learn that he, along with Sir Henry Rawlinson (sometimes called the “Father of Assyriology”), were the first people to translate Assyrian Cuneiform writing. Rawlinson has four volumes on cuneiform writing to his credit. Here’s an example of what the script, on a clay tablet, looked like.
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Next was the rest of the village. First stop – the tithe barn in East St.
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It dates from the 14th century and its roof was restored in 2007. For UK readers it was used in the BBC series called Cranford where a village dance took place. More recently in 2010 it was used as an ice house in the film The Wolfman (an American re-make of the 1941 werewolf horror film of the same name starring Lon Cheney & Béla Lugosi). In the film, set in the 1890s, there are characters with the following names: Ben Talbot (played by Simon Merrells), Lawrence Talbot the Wolfman (Benicio del Toro) & Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins). So I’m wondering: they’re in a building right next door to the Fox Talbot Museum and the film has three characters with the name Talbot….. Now I think it’s time to cue the spooky X-Files music don’t you? And who was the male lead in that? Er… wasn’t it FOX Mulder? Too many co-incidences don’t you think?
At the bottom of East St is the village bakery and of course the delivery boy’s bike outside. I wonder when they last had someone who used the delivery bike to take orders to customers’ houses?
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A bit further on was King John’s Hunting Lodge advertising teas & accommodation. Now just in case you’re thinking perhaps King John visited the village it’s worth bearing in mind that there are King John’s Hunting Lodges all over England. Google has apparently 95,900 references to the name. Even though they won’t all be different that’s still an awful lot of King John’s Hunting Lodges isn’t it?
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And would you believe – another bike!
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Then I came to St. Cyriac’s parish church and had a look round.
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Cyriac was tortured & then beheaded during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian in 303AD: the reason being probably that, after Cyriac had exorcised a demon from Diocletian’s daughter, she and her mother Serena converted to Christianity. (Towards the end of his reign as emperor, Diocletian became ill and voluntarily abdicated. He retired to his palace situated on the Dalmatian coast (Croatia) which later became the foundation for the present day city of Split.) St Cyriac’s day is celebrated on 8th August and in 1899 when a hurricane hit Puerto Rico on that very day it was named Hurricane San Ciriaco after him.
The church was originally built in the 11th century by Edward of Salisbury & William of Eu. (Remember last week’s post where we learnt about the woman who was countess of Salisbury – Ela. The church had probably been there for about 100 years when she was born in 1187.) Over the years of course there have been a number of alterations and even re-buildings of various parts and in 1902 the chancel was remodelled as a memorial to Fox Talbot.
I saw this inscription on the wall of the south aisle
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The text reads: “Heare lyeth in this allye neere unto this place the bodie of Robert Hellier late one of His Majesties criers to the courts of the common pleas in Westminster who lived 63 yeares and deceased ye 9th of April Ano 1630.”
The etymology of the name “hellier” is interesting because it comes originally from the occupation of a slater or tiler of roofs but this guy is working in a completely different field. (Of course this is not unusual: how many people called Baker do you know who are actually working as bakers? Or called Butcher who are real butchers? Etc).
What is interesting is that the place where he worked – The Court of Common Pleas – actually came into being through the Magna Carta (1215, King John at Runnymede). This is the document imposed on King John by the barons who had rebelled against him. They wanted his powers to be limited & have their rights protected. It is the point in our history when the idea of “The Law of the Land” rather than of the king came into being. The king’s opinion could change depending on his mood and so his judgements might not have consistency we expect today from statutes enshrined in “The Law”. The court sat in a fixed location (Westminster Hall). This now became the place where actions between subjects of the realm could have their cases heard: in other words cases not involving the king were tried there. It lasted, in that form, for over 600 years until 1880 when it was merged with another body and became the High Court of Justice. Given the fact that this court was limited to just one location -Westminster Hall – I’m guessing Robert Hellier’s job was quite exclusive. Whether it was well paid or not I don’t know but, in 1660, Justices in this court got the same as Judges in the Court of the King’s Bench – £1,000/year. Now using one of those calculators for money it tells me that in 1630 when RH died that £1,000 would be worth close to £100,000 ($170,000) today. Wow that’s some salary! (I reckon I could scrape by on that for a year but it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to put it to the test!) I’m wondering how RH came to be buried at Lacock as it’s just over 100 miles from Westminster. Had he retired there or maybe was he was born there and taken back when he died?
Just across from the church is the pottery. I took a few pics but actually there is a YouTube clip of someone walking around this area of the village which shows it quite well; there’s some nice background music too. It starts off going past the church and shows the stonework of the buildings. It goes inside the pottery for a quick peek at some of the stuff on sale. After that it goes past King John’s Hunting Lodge (at 4:18) on the left and a bit further on past the bakery on the right (at 4:59) but unlike my photo no bike outside this time. It carries on down the street and you see some more of those really old buildings. (Btw if you ever visit the pottery ask the owner about his intriguing connection to a previous British prime minister. I won’t spoil the story by telling you who he is but it is a fascinating bit of genealogy.)

If you want to see a bit more of the village there is a Part 2 & Part 3 both on YouTube & done by the same person (pptaku).
A wander round a couple more streets and I came across the village primary school. On the wall facing on to the High St is a stone shield/crest. Underneath are the words: “Erected by W.H.F. Talbot Esq, 1824”.
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Btw the name Talbot comes from the German name Talabert meaning “bright valley”. The motto – which is not included in the stonework – but appears above the coat of arms for the family name of Talbot reads: Prest d’Accomplir. This means quite simply: “ready to accomplish” – and given all that Fox Talbot did I reckon he was spot on in being faithful to the family motto.
Time was moving on and I grabbed a quick cup of tea in the Red Lion and sat at an outside table enjoying the sun. Now like many buildings around Lacock this pub has its own “claims to fame”: the front of it was transformed into a shop for the BBC Cranford series and some of the pub’s own employees were used as extras in Emma & Pride and Prejudice. Then it was back to the car to drive the last 70 miles to Swanage, on the Dorset coast, and pick up the keys to the flat.