Archive for the ‘Places to visit’ Category

I first heard of Wisley about six or seven years ago when, while staying with friends, they invited us to go along to what is the Royal Horticultural Society’s show garden. It seemed much larger during that first visit than it has ever done on our occasional return, but it changes throughout the year and hosts a number of events that makes a repeat worthwhile. We’ve been fortunate to see the orchards producing abundant crops, and to go along to such occasions as an autumn harvest and even a couple of sculpture trails. These yearly sculpture exhibitions are hosted by the Surrey Sculpture Society with 2013’s (which ran 24th-August-29th September) promising to be the biggest ever. I believe this quite possible, having taken numerous photographs of the exhibits on display; more, I’m sure than I did when I attended last year.

Although, as always with such displays, there are a selection that make me raise an eyebrow or scratch my head, this year the themes had a great deal to do with nature, and appeared to blend well with the natural environment. Many will no doubt inspire ideas for the garden even if one chokes on the accompanying price tags — the same as art is subjective so were our opinions on the prices asked. Some fair, some not so much. Regardless of the price, many definitely inspired creativity.

Having taken too many photos to make loading them to one blog post viable, I’ve opted to share just three of my favourites — one from 2012 and two from 2013’s exhibitions:







Unfortunately, I cannot recall the name of the sculptures or the artists, but more can be found about the RHS and Wisley, and the SSS on their websites:



Note: I would love to be able to attend this year’s Harvest Festival, if only to get me in the mood for my two haunting October releases. A Not So Hollow Heart, and Seduced by a Legend are both appropriately out in time for Halloween.


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The house is oddly quiet this week and next, since my husband Dave is off doing the famous (or should that be infamous?) Coast to Coast walk.

One coast... (St Bees Head)

One coast… (St Bees Head)

This is a marathon trek of around 190 miles from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire.  On route it takes in some spectacular scenery in not one but three separate national parks – the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.  It also passes through some areas of surprising wilderness – surprising not least because they survive in this hectic twenty-first century.  Most people do the walk from west to east, not least because the most challenging terrain is in the Lake District and it’s better to tackle it while you’re fresh, rather than at the end of a fortnight’s plodding when your legs are reduced to stumps and your feet are on fire!

The other coast... (Robin Hood's Bay)

The other coast… (Robin Hood’s Bay)

The walk was the brainchild of Alfred Wainwright (more on him later) who devised it for one of his series of well-known guide books in 1973.  At that time, the idea of walking between two such little-known places was unheard-of, but in the intervening forty years a thriving business has sprung up catering for the thousands of walkers who tackle the route every year.  Busiest time, not surprisingly, is in late summer/early autumn, when the summer heat has died down a little but the nights are still long enough to make getting lost less of a problem.  Believe me, stumbling around in the pitch-dark on Nine Standards Moor is enough to reduce strong men to tears.

The late, great Alfred Wainwright

The late, great Alfred Wainwright

So, who was this Alfred Wainwright?  Well, originally just an ordinary bloke from an ordinary town in Lancashire, who took a day trip to Windermere in the Lake District and promptly fell in love.  Not with a person, but with some of the most stunning scenery – mountains, lakes, rivers, glaciated valleys – in the country.  Not long after, he sold up, took a poorly paid job in Kendal and moved to the area, and spent the next thirteen years climbing every hill and mountain by every available route (and a few that weren’t) and writing a series of guide books about the process.  The books are special, because not only did he write them in his own unique, drily humorous style, but he also illustrated them with beautiful blackand white sketches and annotated maps.  You can spend hours at a time flicking through the pages, poring over the routes up Helvellyn or Blencathra, and laughing at his occasional talking sheep.

Where it all started...

Where it all started…

We’re lucky enough to live within spitting distance of the railway station where Wainwright fist arrived in the Lake District, and within a 2-hour car journey of the start of the Coast to Coast walk.  It’s been Dave’s ambition to tackle the walk ever since we moved to the area.  He’s currently about a third of the way through, running out of useable feet, but enjoying every minute and every spectacular mile.  And very grateful to Alfred Wainwright for coming up with the idea in the first place.

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Yesterday we braved the typical bank holiday weather (i.e. rain) and visited Roche Abbey, which lies close to Rotherham in South Yorkshire just off the M18. A small site tucked into a sheltered valley, Roche was the first ‘romantic ruin’ to be ‘enhanced’ by Capability Brown in the 18th century.

The inner (great) gatehouse with medieval road beneath


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This month we’re in the beautiful border county of Shropshire. Here’s one of my favourite non-Yorkshire monastic buildings, Wenlock Priory, which belonged to the Cluniac order.


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This month we’re visiting Jervaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire. Jervaulx is one of the few privately-owned Cistercian monasteries in the UK, and it’s one of those places you stumble over on a random Sunday afternoon drive. The abbey ruins are slap-bang in the middle of a field for grazing sheep, and the effect is very picturesque—which was the intention of Jervaulx’s 19th century owners, the Earls of Ailesbury. The first earl imagined the ruins as the setting for a romantic (and indeed Romantic) garden, and the proliferation of undergrowth climbing over the stonework has actually preserved rather than damaged it over the years.

The lay brothers’ night doorway into the church. This is the oldest part of the abbey, dating from the mid-12th century.


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Nestled within Snowdonia National Park Wales is a small little village that thousands are drawn to every year. In a deep valley surrounded by hills and mountains sits Beddgelert.

The literal translation of the name is Gelert’s Grave. Although this may in fact be a mistranslation and the origin of the name is somewhat murky, possibly relating to a seventh century saint known as Gelert or Celert. The most popular belief comes from a 19th century tale, the story of Prince Llewelyn and his faithful hound Gelert.

The tale, which can be read on a large piece of slate, speaks of the day Prince Llewelyn left on a hunting trip leaving behind his beloved son and his favourite hound Gelert, whom for some reason he couldn’t find. When he returned from the hunt he found the door of his house opened and to his horror he discovered the babies crib covered in blood with the swaddling ripped.

From a corner happily bounded Gelert whom was also covered in blood, believing that his favoured hound had killed his son he drew his blade and slew Gelert. As the dog howled his final breath his howls were responded to by cries from the baby.

Investigating the Prince discovered the baby safe and unharmed, a body of a wolf laying near by.

Realising he had jumped to the wrong conclusion he became overwhelmed with grief and buried Gelert in his favourite place.

It may be only a story, but it is one that draws people to the village over and over. However from one village many stories can develop and Beddgelert is also famous for being the home of the creator of the endearing bear Rupert. Many of the paintings used in the cartoons were based on the mountains all around the village and trails can be taken to visit those areas.

More about the area can be found here: http://www.beddgelerttourism.com/gelert/

If you ever get the chance to go to Snowdonia, make sure to stop by!

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This month we’re visiting Croxden Abbey in Staffordshire. It’s not far from Lichfield and played a very minor role in one of the Brother Cadfael books – though for the life of me I can’t remember which one!

Though it’s not the most glamorous of the ruined abbeys, Croxden has a quiet charm. The pictures were taken in what my brother likes to call ‘a slight precipitation’.

[randomly, the pictures show up larger than they actually are on my screen, but if you refresh the page, they go back to their normal size!]


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