Vikings!

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From the fury of the Northmen O Lord deliver us!

Elinor and I went to an exhibition at the Castle Museum in Norwich during May this year.  The subject of the exhibition was ‘The Vikings’ and the items displayed were objects discovered mainly in Britain.  There were treasures on loan from the British Museum in London and from The Yorkshire Museum in York as well as things found here in East Anglia.  East Anglia was part of the Danelaw in the 9th Century.

The first exhibits we looked at were items found from when the Vikings first invaded Britain; things they had brought with them on their journey across the North Sea.  We saw some of the weapons used by them and also by the Anglo Saxons in their battles for land and supremacy.  We then saw artefacts made and used by the Viking settlers once they had made their home here.  They were wonderful traders, with routes across the Irish Sea to Ireland, up to the Arctic Circle, across the Atlantic to America and all over Europe and into Asia, Russia, Turkey and India.  They brought some of the goods they found abroad, home to Britain.  The exhibition also showed how the Vikings assimilated some of the fashions and crafting techniques they found here in Britain and eventually became British themselves. If you wish to read further details of the Viking invasion of Britain this is a fairly good account.

I know I have included too many photos here!  I am sorry for the poor quality of several of them – I had a lot of trouble with reflections off the glass cases.

The Gilling Sword – made from iron and silver with an ornate silver gilt handle.  Probably owned by a powerful Saxon earl in the service of Northumbrian King Oswiu.

The York Helmet – made from iron and brass by Anglo-Saxon craftsmen.  It has a beautifully decorated nosepiece and there is a Latin inscription across the top which dedicates the helmet to God.

An Iron Axehead with arm and neck rings. The rings were symbols of Viking status, power and wealth. These would often be given as gifts to reward followers and faithful retainers.

A double-edged Sword, which would have been used by one of the wealthiest Vikings. Also, rivets from a clinker-built ship, an iron axe head, an iron spear head, an iron shield boss and a gold arm ring.

This is a re-used Christian cross showing a warrior with a female hostage.

There were a number of information boards in the exhibition and a large area was taken up as an activity room for children.  A recording of a man and a woman talking quietly together in Old Norse with the sound of wind blowing and seagulls crying in the background was playing all the time we were there.  I found this extremely atmospheric and not at all irritating.

The Ormside Bowl – made in AD 750, the outer skin produced AD 850-900. It is decorated with religious scenes, the work of monks in a Northumbrian monastery. It was discovered in the grave of a Viking man and it had been transformed into a drinking cup.

A bone plaque made by a Viking in the image of a Viking.

This is a rare find, there not being many likenesses of Vikings especially ones done by themselves.  The only written accounts of them are made by others.

The object on the left is an iron rangel or rattle which may have been used during ceremonies. On the right are two Islamic coins (probably traded for fur and slaves), four silver pennies and some ‘hacksilver’; part of some beautiful silver jewellery. The Vikings traded with bullion and goods and didn’t use coins at first. They would cut up (hack) any treasure or jewellery they had and use it as payment for goods.

Leather shoe with a toggle found in York – This is of turnshoe construction. The leather is cut to shape, moulded and stitched together and then turned inside-out so the seams are on the inside. A method used in Scandinavia and Britain.

A silver neckring from Russia. These became very popular with well-to-do Viking ladies and sources record that men would have had to collect and melt down 10,000 silver coins to obtain enough silver to have one of these made!

A carved walrus-tooth gaming piece owned by a merchant who travelled along the trade routes from Norway to Ireland. This piece (a knight) is part of a complete chess set probably made in Norway and found in the Western Isles of Scotland.

When this set was made the Western Isles were part of the Kingdom of Norway.  The set includes kings, queens, bishops, knights and warriors.  The warriors are carved as berserkers, fierce men described in sagas as biting their shields in frenzy before battle.  Scary!

Here is Elinor in the model of a viking boat.

At the time of our visit, Elinor was doing research for her final project in her Level Three Art and Design course at college.  She produced a graphic story book and her character’s clothes and belongings were loosely based on Celtic, Saxon and Viking designs.

A seal made from walrus ivory depicts a man called Sharrus who worked as a tax and toll collector in York during the 12th century. Sharrus (the name can be seen on the perimeter of the seal) is the Latin form of his name, Snaresnorri, meaning ‘shrewd’.

A balance and sets of weights. This is a portable balance and would have been the property of a Viking trader dealing in bullion. This method had long been replaced in England by the use of coins. There were still other areas where commodities were traded directly without the use of silver.

This image of two men carved on a gritstone cross comes from York. One man carries a sword and the other a horn and they are grasping hands in greeting. Another very rare image of Viking people, this cross would have been commissioned and financed by them as a public demonstration of their status and Christian piety.

These two discs are fairly small and the detailed work on them is extremely fine. They are both pendants and would have been worn by a wealthy pagan woman.

A comb case

Deer antler blank (unused antler) and roughouts (pieces of horn used to try out designs before including them in the finished article) with a finished comb and cases.

A phyllite whetstone and a gold finger ring. These belonged to a wealthy woman called Egwen who lived in Scotland. The ring is dedicated to St Peter and that saint may also be the image shown on the whetstone.

Torc from the Bedale Hoard

A tiny gold socketed terminal made from gold sheet and decorated with filigree wire depicting an animal’s head. It is probably the terminal of a pointer or aestel.

This object is a similar shape, though much smaller, to the Alfred Jewel which is believed to be an aestel.

Socketed object made of gilded copper alloy in the 8th/9th century. Probably another aestel.

Two silver pennies of King Aethelred of East Anglia. These are immensely important as only seven coins of this obscure king have been found. They show that after Edmund was killed he was succeeded by another East Anglian ruler not recorded in any historical documents.

A collection of strap ends (decorated metal ornament added to the end of straps) made from silver and niello, a copper alloy tulip mount and a silver (gilt?) disc brooch

Three coins, part of the Bishopshill hoard l. to r. Silver of Aethelred II; Silver of Cnut; Silver of Harthacnut.

A whalebone handle

The following are photographs of several hoards that have been discovered all over Britain.

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I hope you enjoyed seeing some of these wonderful things.

I am very grateful to the curators of the Norwich Castle Museum for this exhibition and for all the information they imparted.

May Flowers

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Let me take you back in time…again….

A selection of photos of plants and flowers seen in May, this year.  Please click on any of these images to enlarge them.

A flowerbed on the south side of the house

The temperatures began to improve during May and the leaves on the fig tree (on the right of the photo) began to come out.  The perennial plants also put on a lot of growth and flowers appeared.

Iris

Astrantia

Astrantia have interesting flowers

Thrift

Scabious

The Montana clematis continued to produce plenty of highly scented flowers from where it grows on the trellis next to the garden shed.

‘Canary Bird’ rose

Such a lovely yellow rose!

When we had the garden room built last year I had to move many of my plants out of the way. They ended up here on the edge of one of the vegetable beds.

These are wonderful pale lilac iris. I failed to get a decent photo of them.

Another attempt to catch the beauty of this iridescent flower.

A couple of days later more iris had appeared in the bed near the house.

I might move this iris away from the purple and blue ones in the autumn. It is an interesting colour but is a little overwhelmed by its neighbours.

It was a good year for iris.

Euphorbia. This is a small perennial sub-shrub with interesting colours in its leaves and bracts.

All around our garden are hybrids, like this one, between the wild cowslip and garden polyanthas and primulas.  This plant decided to grow in a gravelly area next to a drain and one of the water butts.

Richard has a Californian Lilac in his shrubbery. It was glorious this year!  The bees loved it and I think there are a few in this photo.

Gooseberry. If you look carefully you will see many tiny gooseberries. Unfortunately we didn’t protect the bush from the birds and we got no berries at all. One day they were all there and the next they weren’t. We have never needed to cover the bush before.

The welsh onion in the herb garden went crazy this year!

As well as the plants I have in flower and vegetable beds, there are the wild ones that I love to find.

Thyme-leaved Speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia )

This is a minute-flowered speedwell I find in the lawn and in the grass path round the pond.  It forms patches of flowers as the stems lie flat along the ground and send out roots from nodes.  The flower stems are upright.

Country people think it very bad luck to bring hawthorn blossom indoors and woe betide you if you destroy a hawthorn!

Goat Willow ( Salix caprea) with its fluffy seeds.

The wood of the Goat Willow is very soft and used to be made into clothes pegs, rake teeth and hatchet handles.

Horse Chestnut ( Aesculus hippocastanum) blossom

Horse Chestnuts were introduced to Britain from the Balkans in the 16th century.  ‘Conkers’ weren’t played with the fruit of the tree until the 18th century. Before that, the game was played with cobnuts from Hazel trees or with snail shells.  The name ‘conkers’ derives from ‘conqueror’.

Sedge

I am not very good at identifying sedges, reeds, rushes and grasses but I think this might be Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca).

Ribwort Plantain ( Plantago lanceolata)

I wonder if children still play the old games with Ribwort.  In one of the games, the stalk is held between the thumb and forefinger and the bottom of the stalk is wrapped round the flower-head in a loop.  When the loop is tugged sharply the flower-head is ‘fired’ and often travels a long way.  I read that a form of ‘conkers’ can be played with Ribwort by keeping the flowerhead on its long stem and using it to attempt to knock a rival’s flower-head off.  A couple of local names for Ribwort are ‘fighting cocks’ and ‘kemps’ from the Anglo-Saxon ‘cempa‘ meaning ‘a warrior’.

Spindle (Euonymous europaeus )

The wood of spindle is very hard and dense and pale coloured and from ancient times was used for making spindles.  The wood is also known as skewerwood and pegwood and also makes high quality charcoal.  The tree has an unpleasant smell if bruised and the fruit is an emetic.  In olden days, the leaves and seeds were powdered and this powder was dusted onto the skin of children and animals to drive away lice.

With apologies for the length of this post.

Dunwich Beach and Dingle Marshes

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On May Bank Holiday, the first Monday after May Day, Rumburgh village always holds a fair and Rumburgh church always has the cake stall – a money-earner, though not as good as the tea tent.  This year, I had made a honey and ginger cake which Richard and I delivered to the stall along with a quantity of our rhubarb, which usually sells well.  We didn’t stay long as we had a few chores to do at home and we had planned to go to the seaside in the afternoon.

The day was cool and breezy and rain was forecast for late in the afternoon so Elinor, Richard and I set off as soon as we had had our lunch.

We found ‘Thelma’ hauled far up on the shingle.

We looked inside her and what did we find?

A dried-up dogfish tail.

The wind was cold and strong on the beach and the spray from the waves was being blown about.

Looking north up the beach….

…and southwards.

Inland, behind the shingle bank, is Dingle Marshes Nature Reserve, looked after by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and The Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

Richard contemplating the view. It was good to be out of the wind!

Plenty of Sea Campion (Silene uniflora) were in flower.

A Little Egret ( Egretta garzetta) was wading through the marsh

Here it is again, marching purposefully on!

Another view of the marshes with a bright yellow ribbon of Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Scurvygrass (Cochlearia officinalis)

A plant of saltmarshes and increasingly, along the sides of roads that have been salted during the winter.  (Danish Scurvygrass (Cochlearia danica) however, is seen more regularly than Common Scurvygrass on roadsides).  Common Scurveygrass has almost circular fleshy leaves with a few blunt teeth along the edges.  The seedpods are spherical and a few can be seen on a flower-cluster close to the centre-right edge of this photo.  In that same cluster of flowers and seedpods is a tiny yellow-beige 16 spot ladybird which fees on pollen, fungi and nectar.

In the past, scurvy was a very common disease, often fatal, in those who spent much of their time at sea.  Their diet was restricted to salt pork and dried biscuit and they had no fresh fruit or vegetables.  Many on land also had restricted diets so it was a happy day when herbalists discovered that scurvygrass, with its high vitamin C content, was one of the foods that prevented the disease. It became the fashion in 17th century England to take a glass of scurvygrass water every morning. The leaves were made into a beer called scurvygrass ale.

The gorse was so bright and cheerful.

Gorse is also known as furze or whin and grows on the acidic soil of heathland and close to the sea.  It is an excellent fuel and burns quickly and fiercely in dry weather causing heath fires to spread.  It was grown near houses so that washing could be lain out to dry on it and the prickles would prevent the clothes from blowing away.

There was plenty of Sheep’s Sorrel (Rumex acetosella ) with its red flower-spikes.

Sheep’s Sorrel is more sprawling than Common Sorrel and is usually found on very poor sandy soil.  The leaves contain the chemical calcium oxalate which tastes acid; the name ‘sorrel’ comes from the old French word for ‘sour’ (‘surele’).

Lovely rosettes of the leaves of Buck’s-horn Plantain ( Plantago coronopus)

The seeds of this plantain exude a large amount of mucilage when they get wet.  This gummy stuff was used in France to stiffen muslins and other woven fabrics.

There were paths through the reeds.

And an approaching rain shower.

A small wader

Here it is again. Apologies for the poor quality of my picture.

This is the same bird in both photos but I am unable, through ignorance, to identify it.  It may be a sandpiper of some sort.  I am sure someone will be able to suggest a name.  It moved about very quickly.

An information board.

Please click on any of my photos to enlarge them.

Another information board.

We soon left for home before the rain arrived and had a warming cup of tea.

 

April’s End

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I began writing this post immediately after publishing my last one and got well over half way through writing it and then had to stop.  No time for much self-indulgence, reading and writing for some weeks and now that I have a little time, this post seems somewhat irrelevant.  However, I don’t want to waste it by deleting it so I’ll finish it as best I can.

A pastoral scene at St Michael South Elmham church

Holy Week and then Easter week were very busy, so I didn’t manage to take many photos.  This was one of a very few and was taken on Good Friday as I was leaving church after a service of quiet prayer.

The churchyard of the church of St. Michael and St. Felix at Rumburgh

This and the next two photos were taken on Easter Day in the early afternoon.  As you can see, the churchyard was full of yellow Cowslips ( Primula veris).  I had taken Mum to her church at Eye in the morning and Richard had been to a service at St. Margaret South Elmham in our benefice.  After having some lunch we visited Rumburgh church to make sure all was well and to change the colours on the altar and to put flowers in the church.  We returned home and I began preparing the dinner to which Mum had been invited.

One of the many cowslips in the churchyard

Rumburgh church

During April we had work done on the church porch at Rumburgh.  It is now less likely to fall down.

A striking sunset seen from the back of our house.

Richard and I managed to find time for a short walk round the lanes during Easter week.

Crown Imperial

Someone must have either discarded a Crown Imperial fritillary at the side of our lane or planted it there on purpose.  We have seen it here for a few springs now and it is getting larger and larger.  It is about 3.5 feet tall, well over a metre in height.  I was unable to stop and photograph it when it was in full and glorious flower but even with its shrivelled petals you can easily see what it is and how well it is doing.

The Beck – the stream that flows through much of The Saints.

There was very little water in the Beck at the end of April and by the middle of the following month it had dried up completely.

Some of the undergrowth and scrub had been cleared away from this area next to the lane and an ancient boundary ditch was revealed

The first Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea ) flowers of the year

A bright and beautiful Dandelion (Taraxacum agg. )

The Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna ) was just beginning to blossom

I noticed some Forget-me-nots at the back of the grass verge but didn’t look to see what kind they were.  Probably Field Forget-me-not (Myosotis arvensis).

I also saw my first Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum) of the season. I love all the different shades of green in this photo!

A couple of days later I had to go to the doctor’s surgery for my regular blood-test and noticed that there were many flowers blooming in the patches of grass alongside the driveway.  These grassy areas haven’t been tended as they used to be, due to financial cuts and other problems so these ‘weeds’ have flourished.

Dove’s-foot Cranesbill (Geranium molle) with Daisy (Bellis perennis) and Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)

I noticed a profusion of yet more small pink flowers….

…and discovered they were Common Storksbill (Erodium cicutarium), a plant that I usually see nearer to the sea as it likes growing in sand and gravel. My camera doesn’t show how very pink this flower is.

And that is all I managed to record in April this year.  Rather an abrupt end, for which I apologise.

Spring Odds and Ends – April

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Blackthorn ( Prunus spinosa) in flower

This was the view from our front door on the 1st of April.  The rather untidy Blackthorn trees growing on the verge on the other side of our hedge looked like they were snow-covered; the blossom was so plentiful.

A mining bee nest-tunnel

Just over a week after I took the photo of the Blackthorn I was finding bee nests all over the garden.  Some were plain ones like the photo above….

Mining bee Nest -burrows

…and these ones.

Mining bee nest-burrow

But this one (the burrow is in the shadow of one of the seed-pods) has been decorated with twigs, bits of wood, stone and seed-pods! I wonder if this is just by chance or if not, were these to make it easier to find or, is the bee just more of an individual, more artistic than most other bees?  I have found other nest-burrows seemingly marked with twigs and stones.

Wild Cherry ( Prunus avium)

This is one of our wild cherry trees just coming into blossom in the middle of April.  The house on the left of the photo is that of our next-door neighbours and this long thin strip of land, in-between their garden and our leylandii hedge on the right, belongs to us and is where the former owners of our house used to park their combine harvester, so we are told.  We have planted a few trees on this strip of land; you can see a couple of hollies and another cherry has decided to grow here too.

Wild cherry blossom from one of our other cherry trees.

The first Pasque Flower

The same plant a week or so later

The flowerbed on the south side of the house. As you can see, it is very stony.

Amelanchier in flower

Marsh Marigold or King-cup ( Caltha palustris) next to the pond

The same plant a week later

I have posted photos of this lichen-covered tree-trunk before

A closer look at the different lichens

Abandoned goose nest on the island

For the first time since we have lived here we had no nesting geese on the island on our pond.  They built a nest and I am sure they began laying an egg each day prior to incubation but something happened and the nest was abandoned.  The water level in the pond was very low and it would have been easy for a fox to cross the water and get to the nest.  There has always been danger from mink and otters but up til now the geese have coped with them.  A fox is different and much bigger.  This is only a guess – there may have been other reasons; I don’t know.

Cuckooflower/Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis ) next to the pond

New Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum ) leaves and flower buds

We have a couple of spindly Damson or Bullace (Prunus domestica ssp. insititia ) trees growing in the scrubby area near our pond. This is a photo of the blossom and new leaves.

Pear blossom. We recently pruned and topped our pear tree as it was getting enormous. We should still get quite a lot of fruit this year, if all goes well.

Lesser Celandine ( Ficaria verna) and Ground-ivy ( Glechoma hederacea)

The Montana clematis flowered at the end of the month

A drake Mallard swimming on the pond.

I have a few more April photos I would like to share but I will save them for a separate post.

Day of Dance, Saturday 30th March 2019

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Those of you who have kindly followed my intermittent ramblings for a few years might remember that Richard and I have attended the Day of Dance a couple of times before.  One of the local Molly dance sides (teams) wished to celebrate an important anniversary in 2015 so invited other Morris and Molly dance sides to join them in Halesworth for the day, as a one-off.  This was so successful that the Day of Dance has taken place each year since then and it has grown!  Not only Morris Dancers, Border Morris dancers and Molly Dancers take part but also steam punk sides have joined in, belly dancers, buskers and mummers!  Please follow the links if you are interested in finding out about Mollys and Mummers!

Below is a slideshow of some photos I took on the day.  The Morris side wearing blue and white is Rumburgh Morris, our local team who were featured in Episode 4 of Alice Robert’s series ‘Britain’s Most Historic Towns’.

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Here is a very short video I took of one of the sides.  I have no idea of their name or where they came from but I thought they were fun.

Here follows a video I found on Youtube of the procession round the town at the start of the day.  Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog!

 

Spring Odds and Ends – March

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Not having posted anything for over two months I have a number of photographs of things I’ve seen on my travels or in the garden.  This post will be a selection of these photos.

View from my kitchen window

This photo was taken with my phone early one March morning.  You can see the maple leaf sticker on the glass which works well at preventing birds from crashing into the window and injuring themselves.  Just outside the window is my witch-hazel which is planted in a large pot and also a Japanese flowering-cherry tree tied to canes, in a different pot.  We keep both trees up close to the front of the house to protect them from wind damage.  On the other side of our drive you can see the first of the daffodils in flower along the edge of the ditch.  What really excited me was the sight of a leveret, a young hare ( lepus europaeus), crouched in the grass.  Richard had had a sight of this young animal in the garden a couple of days before this and I was so pleased to see it for myself.

Leveret

I took this picture with my smaller camera from the utility room window and you can see how damp with dew everything was, including the leveret.  It stayed with us for a few days, hardly ever moving from its ‘form’, the nest in the grass it had made for itself.

The leveret’s form

Cherry-plum tree (Prunus cerasifera )covered in blossom

When this tree first grew I assumed it was an early-flowering blackthorn tree as they can look very similar.  However, a few years ago I happened to see some of its fruit before the birds ate it all and realised my mistake.

Silver-laced Primula

A year and a half ago I was trying to get rid of Common Nettle and Black Bryony in a flowerbed full of primulas and hellebores.  The only way to deal with them was to remove the plants I wanted before tackling the ones I didn’t.  I planted some of the primulas at the edge of a bed Richard grows dahlias in.  This March I was pleased to see that my treasured silver-laced primula had survived the move and two winters.  I still haven’t finished working on that weedy bed!  The Primula has a pretty silver edge to its petals.

Early Dog-violet ( Viola reichenbachiana )

We have these early violets growing in the grass round our pond.

Our large pond in March.  The water-level is very low due to insufficient rainfall for a year.

The front hedge and ditch

A week or two on from when the photo of the leveret was taken and the daffodils are all coming out.

I love these little Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’!

Grape Hyacinth (Muscari ), Bugle (Ajuga reptans ), Variegated Lesser Periwinkle(Vinca minor ) and Spindle (Euonymous ) ‘Emerald n Gold’.

This is a very narrow bed alongside the rear of the garage next to the back door.  All the flowers are blue and two of the plants have variegated yellow and green leaves.  However, just to prove that nothing goes exactly to plan, the bed also contains a red-berried Firethorn ( Pyracantha) which has creamy white flowers; this plant was here when we moved here and the birds and bees love it.

St. Mary’s church at Homersfield

We attended church here in March and I thought it looked lovely in the sunshine.

Primroses (Primula vulgaris )

That same day I walked round the garden and then out onto the verge next to the lane  beyond our hedge and found these primroses in flower.  Garden primulas are able to flower at any time of the year as long as it isn’t too hot or too cold.  Wild primroses, however, have their season and late March is the best time to see them round here.

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa )

There is a tangle of Blackthorn on the verge and it was just coming into flower.  You can see our garden over the other side of the hedge.

Here is the Blackthorn on the verge.

It is a very untidy tree with suckers but it has blossom like snow and the fruit (sloes) in the autumn are used for flavouring gin, among other things.

Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis )

We have this rather insignificant plant growing under all our hedges and in amongst the trees near the large pond.  It is often a sign of old woodland and won’t tolerate being disturbed; it fades away.  The male and female flowers are on separate plants.

The daffodils at the end of March

Daisy (Bellis perennis )

Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna )

Here is this sunshiny little flower peeping out from inbetween Common Nettles and Ground Elder in the ditch.

These were the highlights of March this year.  I hope to begin an April post as soon as I have published this one.  Whether I’ll be able to finish it and publish it in the next day or so only time will tell!

Anglesey Abbey

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Elinor had an interview at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge one Saturday at the beginning of February.  Both Richard and I accompanied her there and waited in the Ruskin Gallery while she went on a tour of the art facilities and then had her interview.  I admired the light fittings which, as with many functional buildings and their fittings designed pre WW2, were beautiful in their own right.

I am not referring to the modern lights but to the wrought iron that attaches the bar ( from which oil lamps were hung, I assume ) to the ceiling.

After Elinor had finished at the University we took the bus back to the park-and-ride car park and drove to nearby Anglesey Abbey.  We had hoped for some lunch in the café and a quiet walk round the grounds in the sunshine.  We hadn’t realised that the whole of Cambridgeshire would also have the same idea as us and the place was packed!  We managed to buy some sandwiches and a drink each and fought our way to a table.  After eating we escaped outside and walked about in the sunshine.

Anglesey Abbey is famous for its spring bulbs, especially its snowdrops, and I had wanted to visit for some years.

Snowdrops and winter aconites under the trees.

Wide lawns with under-planted trees.

Masses of snowdrops

Snowdrops and winter aconites.

Snowdrops and winter aconites.

Note the long shadows just after midday in February.

We were getting cold in the strong breeze so decided to look at the house.

The former priory was converted into a dwelling in about the year 1600.

We toured the house but I didn’t manage to get any photographs of the interior.  It was so crowded it was difficult to see many of the rooms which were stuffed with objets d’arts, paintings and furniture as well as people.  The library was wonderful as it not only contained the typical sets of required books that most large libraries have but also many books that were obviously bought to be read and had been read by the family.  We were pleased to see all Lord Fairhaven’s boyhood adventure books on a top shelf.

The library . A photograph I found by searching Yahoo! images.

The dining room; also courtesy of Yahoo! images.

The long gallery was being re-decorated and all the furniture and ornaments from there had been redistributed about the house.  I must admit that most of the furniture and ornaments were not to my taste.

I had wished to see the garden with the silver birches but by the time we left the house we were running out of energy.

The winter garden courtesy of Yahoo! images.

One of the many gardens in the grounds.

A beautiful oriel window.

An espalier pear tree against the wall of the Abbey.

The front of the abbey.

A beautifully prepared garden. I wonder what it will contain later this year!

An attractive bench….

……with Richard sitting on it.

We left the garden without having seen all of it but with any luck we will return and finish our tour one day.

A Walk at Iken

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Three days after the walk we took round the lanes on New Year’s Day, mentioned in a previous post, Richard and I took ourselves off for another walk.  Elinor joined us.  We set off quite early as we needed to complete the walk before lunchtime; Richard had an optician’s appointment in the early afternoon in Halesworth and we had decided we would have lunch in a pub together before the appointment.

Iken is about twenty-four miles to the south of us and is a tiny village near the estuary of the River Alde and near the coast.  We have walked here a few times before but not for some time and never in the depths of winter.  The day was cloudy and raw, the temperature didn’t rise above 1 degree Centigrade all day ; a day when it would have been pleasant to have stayed at home and read a book.

The view of the Alde estuary through the trees at the edge of the car park.

There is a narrow pathway from the car park down to the estuary.

Despite the cold weather the Gorse (Ulex europaeus) was still in bloom. ‘Gorse is out of bloom, kissing’s out of fashion’.

I noticed this branch covered in fungus.  It was almost luminous.

I looked closer……

I don’t know what this fungus is.  It was much too cold to stand still for more than a couple of minutes so I had to leave it.

The Alde estuary.  You can just see the tower of Iken church sticking out above the dark trees on the horizon on the right.

There are many geese, ducks and wading birds on the estuary.  I don’t know what type of geese these are.

Some, if not all of these waders are probably Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica). They appear to have slightly up-turned bills with pink-orange bases.

Here is Iken church near the edge of the estuary.

The shore was very muddy and difficult to walk on.

Ducks…..

I couldn’t definitely identify these ducks either!

……. and yet more ducks. All floating about far out on the water in the gloom.

We left the estuary and walked along another narrow pathway adjacent to a few gardens until we got to the road in the village.  At a junction on the edge of the village we turned left towards the church which is situated right at the end of a promontory jutting out into the estuary.

I saw this Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) in flower by the side of the lane, What a hardy plant!

Richard disappearing into the distance along the lane towards the church.

Sheep in a field by the side of the lane. So many molehills in this field!

Iken church, dedicated to Saint Botolph.

This church is mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle.  “Here in 654……Botwulf (Botulph) began to build the minster at Icanho”.  There are a couple of other places that have been considered as the possible site of Botulph’s first church (Boston in Lincolnshire and Hadstock in Essex) but this promontory, or hoo is now considered to be the most likely site.Here is a short passage quoted from the church guide written by Roy Tricker.

‘A Saxon minster was a nucleus of Christian worship, witness and learning for a wide area.  It was staffed either by a community of monks or a group of priests and from it missionaries travelled to spread the Faith and to establish satellite churches.  Botolph remained at Icanho as its abbot until his death in c.680.  It is recorded that he was buried by his disciples on June 17th and this has remained his annual feast day.  Abbot Coelfrith of Wearmouth and Jarrow, who nurtured the young (though later to become the Venerable) Bede, paid a visit to Icanho in 670 to observe the type of monastic life in operation here, and it is recorded that he was greatly impressed.

From Icanho the monks made missionary journeys into East Anglia and beyond and it may be that the 75 or so English churches which bear (or have once borne) St. Botolph’s name may give some clue to the extent of their work.  They include 16 in Norfolk, 4 in Essex and 6 in Suffolk, of which the church at Burgh (near Woodbridge) appears to have enshrined the Saint’s remains for a time.  King Cnut authorised the removal of some of Botolph’s bones to the abbey at Bury St. Edmunds, which he had founded in 1020.  These precious relics had clearly at some time been transferred from Icanho to the relative safety of Burgh, which was also a fort and a defensive site”.

The invading Danes destroyed the monastery in 870 and some time later the site was marked with a stone memorial cross.  The church was rebuilt, again in timber in 900 and re-dedicated to Saint Botolph.  The Normans rebuilt the church in flint-rubble between 1070 and 1110 and from then on parts were rebuilt or improved upon over the centuries.  By the early 19th century only the western end of the church was in use, the rest being in ruins.  The church was repaired and a new chancel built in the mid 19th century.  The village was evacuated in 1942 and the church closed so that the area could be used as a centre for battle training.  The church, which had been slightly damaged  by a fallen tree in a gale and then by the blast from a land mine, reopened in 1947 and the parishioners spent the next ten years or so improving and decorating the church.  During tree-felling in the churchyard in 1968 some sparks from a pile of burning logs set fire to the thatched roof of the nave and destroyed it.  Fortunately, the chancel was undamaged and was blocked off and made fairly watertight. The Parochial Church Council and the tiny congregation have worked hard for many years to raise money for the church’s restoration.  The tower was restored first from 1984 onwards then the nave walls and buttresses conserved and the nave got its new roof in 1987-9.  Between 1990-94 the nave floor was laid and repairs done to the porch and chancel roofs, benches and altar rails, the stonework and glass of the windows and the font.  The work continues still.

A plaque donated by the 81st Fighter Wing USAF who were stationed near Iken from 1951 – 1993.

Information plaque.

Noticeboard with what I believe to be a bell-clapper.

The War Memorial to ten local men who lost their lives in the Great War 1914-18.

The door from the porch into the church.

The beautiful 15th Century font with it’s typically East Anglian decoration of four lions round the stem and angels with outstretched wings under the bowl. The bowl is decorated with the emblems of the four Evangelists and four angels.

I apologise for the murky picture.  It was a very gloomy day and the church had no lights available to us.

The opening to the rood loft staircase.

You can just see the stairs going up to the rood loft. The rood loft has long gone so the stairs go nowhere.

A recess. See the angel with spread wings underneath!

A prettily carved corbel in the roof.

A piscina, so that water used by the priest to wash his hands could be disposed of.

The lower half of the 9th Century Saxon cross probably dedicated to St Botolph found embedded in the tower wall during restoration work in the 1970’s.

The cross is very weather-beaten as one might suppose, but typical inter-lacing Saxon patterns decorate it and there is also what could be a dragon carved on it, but I was unable to photograph it due to the gloom.We left the church and retraced our steps back to the car-park.

I saw this tiny rose in flower!

The entrance to the car-park.

A replica Saxon cross stands in the car-park.

The view across the estuary.

Another bleak view!

We were glad to return to the car and I drove us to Halesworth where we enjoyed a tasty lunch and a drink.

Southwold Again

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Last November, Alice had two weeks holiday after leaving her old job and before starting her new one and came to see us for five days.  We loved having her with us for so long.  She spent those few days sorting out some of her belongings as well as visiting an old friend and cycling to Rumburgh to look round the village where we used to live.  We took her out for a meal one evening and on the one bright and dry day of the week we had lunch in Southwold and walked along the front.

Seagulls perched on the top of the breakwater.

The tide was in and the wind was very strong and cold.

A recent storm had caused this set of steps to be covered in sand and stones.

Even as the tide receded, the waves were still very large and powerful.

Southwold Pier

There was spume all over the beach.

Another view of the pier.

Richard, Alice and Elinor sitting on the steps by the café.

We didn’t sit for too long as it really was extremely cold in the wind.  We turned and made our way back to the car and instead of walking back along the front we crossed the road and walked through the town.

A last view of the sea.

I will end this post by including a rather blurry photograph of a bird seen from our spare room window.

A pure white pheasant.

I last saw this bird just after Christmas.  Friends of ours had two white pheasants visiting their garden.  I am surprised the birds lasted as long as they did as they don’t exactly blend in with their surroundings, do they?