Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finished Objects

First, my husband's latest production: this unusual mirror for our living-room.  Many years ago we saw a mirror in a Keswick gallery with small squares of Lakeland slate inset into the frame.  Such a simple idea; we loved it.  Our slate was purchased at the Honister slate quarry, on a day when a howling gale was blowing.  My husband had already bought the mirror and worked up the frame, with its distinctive peg joints in the Art and Crafts style.  It certainly changes the look of the room.

Secondly, the craftsman himself, wearing the brown Shetland jumper which I have finished at last.  It is a very dark brown silvered all over with lighter fibres.  So plain and understated that it looks like an old favourite already and fits like a glove.  It is 4-ply weight, so should be more wearable than some of the heavier jumpers I have made for him in the past.

This last week we took the little train from Bures to Sudbury in order to tackle the first stretch of the Stour Valley walk.  Here, the fascinating litle church at Great Henny.  Like other wooden-steepled Essex churches, it is plagued by woodpeckers which are causing expensive damage.

  At Lamarsh, we were surprised to see that even attempting to open the church door would trigger an alarm, so had to content ouselves by taking photographs of the exterior.

Next, we loaded our bikes into the car and parked at Bures again.  This time we were cycling to Nayland and Stoke by Nayland.  Both of these villages have superb wool churches and a fascinating collection of ancient buildings, many of them called things like"The Old Bakery."  There was little evidence of actual functioning food shops in either. We were struck once more by the convenience of our own village, which has three foodstores, as well as a proper butchers, Post Office and newsagent.

But the churches: Nayland, interior.

A set of panels from an early rood-screen.

Stoke by Nayland, from across the fields.

The fantastic Jesse tree on the door of Stoke by Nayland.

The exterior of the church, showing what an impressive building this is, and also how dark and chill the weather had turned by this point.  We counted ourselves lucky to finish our ride without being soaked.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Under Milk Wood

On our way down to the cottage in Pembrokeshire, we chanced to stop off at Laugharne, a serendipidous visit.  First, a spectacular ruined castle stands over the estuary.  We were amazed to see a heron in residence mid-stream.

A short walk along a promenade brings you to the boathouse, once home to Dylan Thomas, and his wife Caitlin.  Here, the shed used as a study.  The view acoss the estuary must have been endlessly beguiling.

Round at the cottage itself, we enjoyed both Welsh cakes and bara brith, and proper tea in proper cups.  This set the standard for other teas on this holiday, many of which fell sadly short.

I find myself tempted by the idea of another cabled throw, knitted in strips.  The one made for Kate Davies on  Needled is the inspiration.  I have started with the central motif cable from Alice Starmore's St Brigid, which is nowhere near as complex as it looks.  The yarn is a heavy Aran, and I just wonder whether itis producing too rigid a fabric. We'll see.

Monday, August 22, 2011


The coastal path kept drawing us back, but we did spend some time visiting towns.  First, a trip to St Davids, where the cathedral and, more especially, the ruined bishop's palace, lived up to expectations. The fantastic variety of colours in the stonework still endures.
St David's Cathedral

I know no one in this part of Wales so I was disconcerted when a woman came hurrying purposefully towards me.  I have had this experience before, in the Pass of Glencoe - the very north of Scotanld  - where a pupil and her family were holidaying.  Here, it turned out to be a former colleague who had moved to Wales with her family some years ago .  It was still quite a shock, as I would never have recognised her in a passing crowd.

Another day saw us in Pembroke, where the castle is very impressive.  The main sections were built by William Marshall, a man who, according to my husband, knew all the kings of England reigning from 1135 to 1272: Stephen, Henry 11, Richard 1, John, and Henry111.  This is the sort of thing my husband just knows.  Apparently, as a child, Marshall  played "knights" with King Stephen, while he was a hostage for his own father's good behaviour.  In his old age he lived to be Regent for the infant King Henry 111.  Generally regarded as one of the "flowers of chivalry", whatever that might mean, he is buried in the Temple church in London. 

Pembroke Castle

From there, we moved on to Tenby, a seside town which has certainly seen better days.  We were hoping for a trip around Caldey Island, but the blustery weather drove the hundreds of visitors into the centre of town and the trip was cancelled.  Instead we visited  the National Trust's merchants' house and admired the many Georgian buildings.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sea Air

A week in Pembrokeshire, and we are blessed with fine weather.  It is our first visit, so everything - the single-track lanes, the yachties, the oil refineries - is all new to us.  Rosemoor is a small country estate where the stable block has been converted into self-catering cottages.  Very nicely converted with every convenience to hand.  There is even a private nature reserve on site, with its own lake.

We had four glorious days walking the coastal path, which runs for 186 miles.  First we walked from Broad Haven to Druidston and back across the fields.  Then we caught the bus from Little Haven to St Brides and walked back along the path. Then we walked all the way round St Ann's Head, and finally along the headland to Martin's Haven.

The path runs along the cliff edge, often dizzyingly close to dramatic drops.  Sometimes only a determined focus on the landward side of the path will do.

For long stretches, though, the path is edged on both sides by blackthorn and gorse, thus creating a sheltered haven for a wonderful variety of wild flowers and more butterflies than we have ever seen:

Burnet moths

Common blue

Small copper

wall butterfly, meadow brown, hedge brown, common blue, small copper, peacock, comma, red admiral and grayling - this last distinguished by the mottling of its underwing.  My husband even saw burnet moths, iridescent green with scarlet spots.

The real joy of this path is its linear nature: no need to consult the map or choose between confusing options: the path just keeps unrolling before you.   On a balmy summer day, with a light sea breeze, it is just heavenly.

Knitting wise, I am pressing on with the dark Shetland jumper for my husband.  I can knit it in my sleep, or certainly with my eyes closed, the only downside being odd stray stitches which are not discernible until it is too late.