Saturday, 4 July 2015

Hastings Battleaxe gets botanical - wild flowers are difficult

It has been so hot..... last week we went for a cool walk along the Royal Military Canal, stopping for a shady picnic by the water.  During our walk, I was struck by the different varieties of wild flowers beside the path. 
     I'm not good at flowers. I can learn a name one day, and have forgotten it the next. And so many look the same, particularly little yellow vaguely dandelion-ish things - they are the equivalent of little brown birds.
     My sister is much better than me - I can remember admiring her carefully-compiled and labelled pressed flower albums. Not surprisingly, she grew into a very skilled and knowledgeable gardener.
     Philosopher and I often reflect that modern kids don't seem to have hobbies in the same way that we did. Both of us collected stamps when we were children, involving much agreeable palaver around soaking the stamps off envelopes, tweezing, licking stamp hinges (which came in little tins), arranging them in albums, comparing contents of swap books with friends etc. This article in the Telegraph is among many speculating about why that particular hobby has declined.
Stamp hinges
     But back to the flowers. Being a modern sort of person I photographed them all then tried to identify the names when I got home, not always correctly, I fear.  Why are decent pictures in flower books so rare?  This may look like a boring list but there are thirty-seven different flowers here, just on one short walk. Also, the numerous umbellifers (cow parsley family to you) are now largely over. If we had gone to the sea-shore we would have found many more different flowers, like sea-kale and yellow horned poppies.
     
Navelwort                                                            Willowherb
Speedwell                                                             Self-heal                                                            
Scarlet Pimpernel                                                 Dead-nettle                                             
Yellow flag                                                           Woundwort
Buttercup                                                              Foxglove
Hawkweed                                                            Marsh Thistle
Daisy                                                                    White water lily
Ox-eye daisy                                                        Corn chamomile
Hedge Mustard                                                     Shepherd's Purse
Rape                                                                     Angelica
Bird's Foot Trefoil                                                Hedge Bindweed
Wild carrot                                                            Plantain
Ragwort                                                                Honeysuckle
Sow thistle                                                            Dog rose
Field poppy                                                           Black medick
Opium poppy                                                        Red and white clover
Tufted Vetch                                                         Herb Robert
Cut leaved Cranesbill                                           Mallow

The reeds were full of electric blue damselflies. Here are a few pictures from our walk.
Honeysuckle

Navelwort on old wall

White waterlilies



Bird's foot trefoil plus bee


Philosopher, plus poppies, field chamomile and yellow rape


Tufted vetch
Blue damselfly
     To change the subject completely: you remember I mentioned in a previous post about having our staircase 'retrofitted' to its 1970's appearance. Well, it is done now, and Philosopher has just finished painting it.  Here is before and after. The new look is much lighter, and far more in keeping with the house. We are very pleased.
      That's it now.  Downstairs to watch Wimbledon with a cold glass of fizzy wine.
    
                                                                        
Before
  
After


Saturday, 27 June 2015

Stamford, York, Robin Hood's Bay. Hastings Battleaxe ventures Oop North.

'Oop North' as against 'Dahn Sarth'. I tell you one thing, it's much warmer and sunnier dahn 'ere.... We had an action-packed week, seeing so many new places and things. We are very lucky to live in this country - the interest and variety is incredible.
    We set off last Thursday - over a week ago, firstly, for Stamford. I could write about trying to register for a Dart Charge account, huddled in the Hades-like Thurrock services.  Suffice it to say I managed it, then had to repeat the whole process to make a one-off payment for the crossing we had just made, and now have just had an email from the fiendish thing to say that as the account balance has dropped below the required £10.00, I have to go through the whole faff yet again to make yet another payment. Never mind that we won't be using the Dartford crossing again for ages.....
     Neither Philosopher or I had visited Stamford before. It features as the back-drop for many period dramas, e.g the TV Middlemarch, and the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film.
     It's a lovely old town, but ruined by traffic. Friends expected us to stay at the famous George Hotel, but I had read that road noise is a problem, and that it is overpriced. Chose the William Cecil instead. Another really lovely old hotel, but the first room they showed us was on the ground floor, right by the noisy road, you couldn't open the window, it was boiling hot, and there was no air-con. We didn't want that one. They had one other room left - a 'luxury' room but over the kitchen extractor fan! The kitchen fan seemed the lesser of the two evils, and indeed it was a beautiful room, but I think if you had paid full price for it you would have been a bit annoyed.
     We explored the town - all built in the same pale stone, with many fine churches, most of which still seemed to be in use.
Stamford - traffic queuing down the hill past the George Hotel

Our hotel - The William Cecil

Our lovely room - shame about the kitchen fan....

Stamford

Stamford - a quieter corner

The old Stamford Assembly Rooms - now a shopping centre
     Next day we drove to York, where we were staying with Philosopher's old friends, Pete and Penny. Again, I won't go into the torrid details of our detours to find a branch of Dunelm Mill to find a pillow like mine at home, which I had forgotten.... Grantham? Bad. Retail parks on outskirts of York? Worse.
     Philosopher used to live and work in York with his first wife, I have visited years ago with my sister, who used to live near Selby, and we have both stayed with Pete and Penny before.
     Apparently the city is now over-run by stag and hen parties - seems a strange choice of destination to me. We walked into town, and Philosopher and I peeled off for a quick gallop round the Cathedral. So, we visited Canterbury one week (see previous post) and York the next. Philosopher says: 'fancy us visiting the two Sees within a week'. I'm thinking: 'What is he on about? Canterbury begins with 'C' but York begins with 'Y'. Was the man developing Alzheimers?'
     It is a grand cathedral but I prefer Canterbury's soaring columns.
York Minster

York Minster



York Minster - the Crossing

I liked this clock in York
     We had a drink in a pub - Guy Fawkes' birthplace, and then buzzed around the rest of town, Shambles etc. Too touristy and crowded. Why can't all these people stay at home?
     Next day we drove across the moors to Robin Hood's Bay, where our friend Anne from Birmingham has a house. We were also meeting our old friends Sue and Alex there. For the next few days, Anne did a brilliant job of showing us all sorts of places we would never have found for ourselves.
     Turns out Anne's house is at the top of the steep hill down to the bay, in an adjoining village called Fylingthorpe.  Just as well, because the climb up from the sea is punitive, and there is no parking down there. We walked down on the first evening - the village is a tumbling cramped tangle of old cottages clinging to the hillside. There was a big wedding party at the bottom, it was dark, misty and damp, and the tide was up, so although we managed to have a drink at the Bay Hotel, we didn't get the maximum flavour of the place. I've included photos from the internet to give a better idea.
On the way down to Robin Hood's Bay

Dark, damp and misty - tide up!

As it should look - from the internet

What a steep hill - from the internet
Bottom of the village - when we went, all the space was covered in wedding revellers....

Little dog in a cottage window

      Next day Anne took us to Sandsend, beyond Whitby, which is a  lovely, old-fashioned little place. In the afternoon we walked to Staithes, another village sloping sharply down to the sea, and home to the C19 artists colony, the Staithes Group. Once again, the weather was damp and misty, so I have included a painting of Staithes. We found a nice tea shop in the village.
      On the subject of tea shops, Anne took us to many lovely examples. Battleaxe is on a low-fat diet, and I had to watch, drooling quietly, while the others compared the merits of different Bakewell tarts.... I do think tea shops are taking over from pubs as the places to go.
      In general, I hope my photos bring out the colour of the Yorkshire greens, which are different from our Southern colours - darker, more intense. The light is very different too. Someone asked me if I got fed up of being by the sea the whole time, and I said not at all - every bit of coast is totally different. In Sandsend, I added a good few photos of ancient groynes (no, Missus, the men kept their pants on) to my collection of weathered wood pictures.

    
Sandsend

Sandsend

Sandsend Beach

Very weathered groyne

Like the little seaweed wigs

Walking to Staithes
Staithes, by Wilfred Ball
     Next day was wettish, so we spent the day in Whitby. The town is famous for Dracula, goths, jet, Captain Cook, whaling and fish and chips. We only had fish and chips once - too fatty for me, so I had lobster instead!
     We had a walk round the town, followed by crab sandwiches for lunch in a harbourside pub, then spent ages in the town museum, which is a mercifully unrefurbished Victorian paradise. Things are crammed into old wood and glass cases, with musty yellowed labels. They had ships in light bulbs, never mind bottles, whaling stuff, lots of Whitby jet, loads of excellent fossilised dinosaurs, and wonderfully grisly old things like a hangman's locket containing a bit of used rope, and a 'Hand of Glory' - a shrivelled, severed hand used by burglars. I wish more museums were still like that, not 'child friendly' pseudo-educational push the button places.
     I quite fancied a real Victorian jet brooch, but not when I saw the prices of them - between two and three hundred pounds....
Whitby Abbey viewed through whale jawbones

You can go for trips on this replica of Captain Cook's Endeavour

Whitby Harbour

Kipper smokery

Ships in light bulbs

Whitby jet

Stuffed birds

    The fossils inspired our friend Sue to search for real ones, and of course, I love them too (see previous post), so next day we went to Runswick Bay, which is a well-known fossil collecting place. Oh, before that we had an exceptionally chilly walk at Ravenscar, culminating in coffee at the cliff-edge Raven's Hotel, which has a romantic gothic garden. Then we went to Falling Foss.  This is a fairy-tale old house (called Midge Hall) with a tea-garden, isolated in a forest by a waterfall. We walked through the woods to an old Hermit's cave, and ate our packed lunch.
Windswept lupins at the Ravens Hotel

View from the garden at the Raven Hotel

Midge Hall, Falling Foss

The waterfall

Pretty stream

The Hermitage
      Runswick Bay is a beautiful sandy beach, but the fossils would have to be split out of the slate and shale strata using a hammer and chisel. I picked up lots of pretty stones and Philosopher found a little weathered ammonite.
The village at Runswick Bay

Runswick Bay
     On Wednesday we said goodbye to our friends and set off again, heading for Scarborough, which I had never visited. It's a grand, old-fashioned resort with a castle, a working harbour, smoothly raked golden sands, and of course, the Grand Hotel, which dominates the town. We went up to the hotel on the funicular lift. The lift-man told us it was the oldest lift in England. We thought that was just Yorkshire-is-the-best hype, and said poo-poo we have two in Hastings, so there, and they are probably older, but turns out the man was right. Theirs is 1881 while ours are 1891 and 1903. Our East Hill lift is the steepest in Britain though, and the West Hill lift the only one left that runs in a tunnel. Durr, nerdy bit done.
Scarborough, the harbour

Crab pots
Beautifully raked golden sand

The funicular

The Grand Hotel

Kittiwakes below the terrace

View from the terrace

The Palm Court ballroom

     The Grand Hotel is huge and splendid, but has sadly, seen many better days. When it was completed in 1867 it was one of the largest hotels in the world. The building is designed around the theme of time: four towers to represent the seasons, 12 floors for the months of the year, 52 chimneys symbolise the weeks, and originally there were 365 bedrooms, one for each day of the year.
     Today, it was crowded with seedy-looking persons that looked as if they were on extremely cheap coach trips, and despite my love of crumbly old grand hotels, I would not fancy staying there. As it was so crowded, we could wander about inside without hindrance, and went out on the terrace, which has the most wonderful views of Scarborough.
     There was a line of gull's nests on the ledge below the terrace. Must be a high-class, desirable billet. Looking them up I see the birds are kittiwakes. Apparently Scarborough is well-known for its unusual urban kittiwake population. 
      We stopped for coffee and then headed off. To make a change, we drove down through the emptiness of Yorkshire to the Humber Bridge,  and then on down through the even more empty expanses of Lincolnshire. We were reflecting that people who live in such places, and of course, Yorkshire, must feel so utterly remote from London, and Government must be so cut off from them. Eventually, we reached where my sister lives, in a village called Harrold, between Northampton and Bedford. When we opened the car door the heat hit us - not even the south yet, but getting much warmer.
      We finally got home yesterday afternoon. Tired.
Driving across the Humber Bridge