Thursday, 24 August 2017

Summertime...

Well, when you haven't posted for months it gets hard to start again. Thank you so much to those who have kindly continued to stay in touch by email, and, in the case of John, a delightful and welcome postcard.  I've spent the summer mostly in London, with a few trips out to Surrey, East Anglia and the West Midlands, and did more than I can really write about.    

Still, if I'm to start blogging again, I'd better make a start - so here goes!

During June's fine spell we took our bikes for a few days into the Surrey Hills. Stayed in Holmbury St Mary youth hostel, a nice old fashioned hostel of the kind that hardly exists anymore. I was intrigued by the unusual 1930s mural around the common room wall.  This bit shows the hostel (looking larger than it really is) and some hostellers. I love the young woman cyclist's fashionably baggy trousers, don't you?  She must have found cycling hard, specially  being on the back of the tandem.  Other sections of the mural show farm workers, farm animals, the squire and local rural characters. 


The hostel was purpose built in the 1930s. It's architecture is plain but it's great, with a friendly atmosphere, acres of lawn and trees where kids can explore and play games, you can eat meals or camp. It's set in the deepest and most beautiful woodland, and it is cheap, because it hasn't been renovated.  Looking to the picture below, I'd say the little fairy is not in the ideal hiking or cycling gear, but she was having such a good time.  


During our stay we visited Winkworth Arboretum,  but I can't find anything online that gives any idea of what this fine place is like. It's a huge tree collection on a magnificent site, and it's owned by the National Trust.  You can walk for miles through meadows, wetlands, valleys, over hills, past lakes and through woodland, and will find something special at any time. This is a corner of a steep hillside covered in lupins.



A little further downhill was this wooden throne. As I sat on it a fox passed by and stared at me for a long time. Perhaps it was wishing it had a camera...  


A few weeks later, on a cycle trip near Henley, Oxon, we spotted a barn - and a few other buildings - faced with old printers blocks. Apparently the place used to be a hand-printing works for fabrics and wallpapers. 


Up in Staffordshire a few weeks ago, we visited the eye popping Pugin church of St. Giles in Cheadle.  The great architect was given unlimited funds by Lord Shrewsbury and told to build the best church in the country, and naturally, he did not restrain himself. Just about every inch of the place is gilded, decorated, enamelled or otherwise ornamented in brilliant colours. Imagine the effect if these small details pictured below were multiplied by 100, and you'll get a vague idea of the overall look of the place. If you love High Victoriana this place is definitely worth making a special trip to see. 



The reason for visiting Staffordshire was to stay with some old friends from when we were first married and living near Stoke-on-Trent.  So much has changed in North Staffs since then. For instance, we found our friends now have a steam railway near their house! In part it runs directly along the lush and beautiful Caldon Canal. They eventually plan to reach the town of Leek.  Next time we go, we'll try and take one of their dinner trips, but our visit didn't coincide with one. The train happened to pass as we were walking along the canal. 



Before Staffordshire we'd spent a while with the teenage lads in Ironbridge, in Shropshire. Watch out, cafes! Boys of that age can certainly eat a lot!   In the intervals between consuming meals and stopping for snacks, we looked at the bridge itself.  It was the world's first bridge made of iron, and because nobody had ever built one before, it was, quite naturally,  constructed like a wooden bridge that just happened to be made of metal. Take a closer look at the construction and you'll see what I mean....


We visited several of this little town's museums. Since Ironbridge was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, all kinds of factories sprang up in the early nineteenth century, later to be abandoned when the area failed to develop into the gigantic city its developers had hoped for. 

 Rescued from dereliction, some of these factories have become terrific museums, and local people have an unrivalled chance to volunteer and spend their spare time dressing up and carrying out traditional local jobs of a hundred years ago.  Some look after horses, some forge iron, some serve cakes in the teashop or run the haberdasher's, but here is a volunteer saggar maker from the Pottery Museum. Saggars are fireclay boxes which hold a factory's "real" pottery while it is being fired.   It's a dirty old job but this lady seemed to like it. She said they sell the saggars that they make to visitors, who use them as plant holders. 


The biggest museum in Ironbridge is Blists Hill, which is a large recreated village. It reminded the lads of a "giant version of Bekonscot" which is a quaint model village they like. So it's like a giant version of a tiny model village.  Blists's Hill has a funfair and an old fashioned funicular, a bakery that sells real buns (good idea, that).   It also has an "inclined plane."    Inclined planes are very rare. They were an ingenious way of hauling canal loads up steep hills, rather than building flights of locks that canalboats would take all day going through.

This is how it worked. A track was built from the bottom of a hill to the top.  The goods, stored in containers, were floated down the bottom canal, put onto the tracks, and pulled to the top. Then they were loaded onto boats to continue their canal trip towards the outside world.

So here's the bottom of the plane, where the china factory's wares were taken off the canal and set on the track. 


It is a long track.... here it is continuing up the hill - the rails are very wonky now, if you look closely....


And here is the top of the track, where the winding engine was sited.  And, of course, there is also the continuation of the canal, although you can't see it in my picture.    (Read more detail about this inclined plane here if you are interested.)  


Perhaps it's as well Ironbridge didn't turn into an industrial centre, because its surroundings are very attractive.  We took a walk one evening in nearby Jackfield and saw from a notice that this pub regularly floods right up to the top of the front door. If the pub hadn't been having an Irish folksong evening I'd have asked the landlord how they dealt with the place being underwater so often.



During the summer T and I decided to explore all the nature reserves in the Suffolk Coastal area. We made a start with Sizewell Belts, Thorington Church Farm and Minsmere.  As I tramped around these atmospheric bits of countryside, I saw lots and lots of decorative cinnabar moth caterpillars on the ragwort.


I have so many pictures of these lovely reserves that I can't choose just a couple, and in fact you really do have to be there to experience the feeling of having nature doing its work all around you, so if you are anywhere near a Wildlife Trust reserve, do check it out.

Much of the summer we have been in London, quite happy and seeing all the new things the capital always has to offer.  I didn't envy these two guys painting the famous clipper the "Cutty Sark" as we passed them in Greenwich one morning. It looked like they were in for a long, hot day.


Another walk was around nearby Woolwich, while our older daughter told us some sensational tales of old London, with the weather obliging with a particularly memorable Thames sunset.  


One sunny afternoon we took a look round Stoke Newington churchyard and encountered a group of angels who looked charming in the sunny undergrowth ...  but I resolved to return and visit them on some foggy evening in winter too, when I suspect they will seem quite different! 


We went to a concert that one of our neighbours gave in memory of his mother. We'd visited his family home several times and love how he plays, but hadn't attended a concert by him before. This is the end of the first movement of Bach's Partita No. 6. Since the concert was for his mum, he also played a harpsichord version of "Stormy Weather" which had been her party piece! 



At the end of June I helped organise a Great Get Together picnic to remember Jo Cox MP, who was murdered just before the EU referendum, and who cared passionately about tolerance, diversity and people cooperating.  It was a hot sunny day and very pleasant to find people in our multi cultural area coming together and meeting each other, sometimes for the first time,  and sharing food as jazz played quietly in the background. 


Also in July we visited friends in Dorset and went to Kimmeridge Bay on the Jurassic Coast. Dominated by a huge tower folly, the beach area is a marine nature reserve and in the little museum by the seashore we were amused by this hermit crab which spent its days lumbering round carrying a sea anemone, and getting very annoyed at its reflection in the mirrored side of its cage. 


While we were in Dorset I paid a trip to Wimborne's Priests House museum. I love the painted walls of this room, done in the 17th century. The museum is run by volunteers who take great care of it, run the cafe and a little bookstore, and cultivate the large garden. Well worth the small entrance fee on a nice summer day - you can take a book and spend the day there in the shade of the fruit trees!
  

Well, that was my summer. I've enabled comments again so hope to hear from you if you have time. 
Apart from this, like many people, I'm bothered about our country's future, and the international situation too (if I could bring myself to read about it.)  I don't want to bring politics into this blog, but I was pleased to spot this bench in the churchyard at Gomshall, Surrey, and I took care to sit on it.


71 comments:

  1. Oh how I have missed you!! This post is most satisfying and lovely and I thank you!Will be reading this one over and over many times!

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  2. Thank you for sharing your interesting summer. The HOPE bench melts my heart. Applause for the Bach video!
    I read and feel as if all of England is like being in a vacation land, so much to do, to see, places to stop, enjoy and just be.

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    1. Thanks, Maywyn. It's a really varied country, and I always feel glad to have the opportunity of enjoying it.

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  3. Now you're back, I'll have to visit and read several times to take it all in!

    I haven't seen any cinnabar moth caterpillars this year...just too much ragwort.

    One point..the person on the front of a tandem is called the pilot; the one on the back is the stoker...who does the main work!

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    1. Thankyou for the tactful correction. Of course you're right. It's not even as if I have not been on a tandem.....!!! I have mixed feeling about ragwort. The wildlife trust was mowing it with the blades set very high, so they chopped off the heads before they could seed, without destroying the plant (and cinnabar moth habitat) which would come up the following year. A good solution I thought. There were absolutely loads of the moths and they were a most fascinating sight,actually, so very decorative in large numbers.

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  4. Lovely post, as always.
    That HOPE bench, I really love that. I don't blame you, I would have sat there too.

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    1. We all need hope, and it was lovely to see such a welcoming sight.

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  5. OMG!! I have missed you! As usual I feel like you took me with you on many adventures and I loved every minute of it. Thanks so much. Welcome back!! :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Rita! You're welcome to come on my adventures!

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  6. The entire pottery railroad/canal setup might have been the inspiration for The Hobbit; Bilbo springing the dwarfs from fairy prison.

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    1. I do like that way of thinking about it! In fact, it did have quite an atmosphere when we first saw the lower part of the track. It was twilight and so peaceful, and quiet, and well, pretty much a Middle Earth sort of feel!

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  7. No matter how much you see, there's always more. If i ever do get to England again, i won't know where to start! Thanks for coming back to your blog and sharing some of your summer adventures.

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    1. Yes - and it is also fun to return and see how things have changed. So I guess there is no end to it. I hope you come to England again!

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  8. What a wonderful summer you've had. Loved all the photos. iron bridge has long been on my list of places I want to visit in England.
    I have HOPE, I hope our president gets bored and resigns.

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    1. Yes, I think we feel quite a bond with our cousins across the Atlantic, wondering what has been going wrong that we voted for this kind of craziness, and nasty and unpleasant craziness too. But it has been a nice summer, though if I am to be picky I'd say I would have liked a bit more sunshine! :)

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  9. Welcome back to the World of Blog, Jenny. You have been missed.

    Wow! Wonderful photos, one and all. I do love that carved wooden throne! How unique it is.

    The lazy, hazy days of summer...and it appears you have enjoyed them to the hilt! :)

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    1. Certainly did! And the throne is something else.

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  10. Great pictures. I've been wondering what had happened to you.

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    1. Yes - it is good to be back. Thanks!

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  11. Oops, no sooner wishes for than granted! So lovely to see your Summer post Jenny. I loved everything you have shown us, from the wonderful 1930s mural to the fantasy wooden throne. Pugin was so prolific, I have seen lots of his work and there is always another. There is even a Pugin chapel here in Brisbane. The St Giles mosaic decoration is absolutely glorious. While I am contemplating if I can remember a 'real' bun, I'm trying to decide if the angels are spooky or beautiful, and why there would be a Priest's house museum - which has the nicest painted walls I have seen in a long time. Thank you for all the fun :)

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    1. A Pugin chapel in Brisbane, that is something I never knew. And as for a "real" bun, I meant that the place is a museum and they often tend to have plaster or plastic buns and cakes on sale. One of the nice thing about Blists' Hill is that they do keep some real crafts going, obviously not as much as in Victorian days but the smell of those buns was really delicious, and I almost felt like asking them for the recipe. You simply don't get anything like them in artisan bakers that I have visited!

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  12. You've been to a lot of fascinating places over the summer! I love the wooden throne and the fabulously decorated church. I didn't know anything about inclined planes - a more practical alternative to a stack of locks. I know Stoke Newington Cemetery well. I once lived nearby and used to walk round it a lot. It still looks charmingly ramshackle!

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    1. Yes, it is quite overgrown in parts, but a lot of work seems to be needed to keep it in just the right stage of decreptitude! It's a great place to walk around.

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  13. Ah - there you are, Jenny! I meant to drop a polite enquiry through the ether... It seems you've been to some wonderful places, including a few of of ABAB's favourites. Wonderful photos - the ones of the caterpillar and Stoke Newington's churchyard are particularly good, I thought. And I'm so glad you got to your St. Giles in Cheadle at last. Wonderful thing to be involved in that picnic. On a note of hope (great bench), I'm not sure the world has more problems now than at other times - we certainly have a few - but I do know that history will look back and mark this time as just a chapter in our story.

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    1. Thanks, Mike, and I am glad you like the photos!

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  14. I'm so glad that you're blogging again. I was admittedly a little worried about your extended absence - it's a relief to know everything is okay.
    All of these photos are wonderful. I really love that church door (which to me looks Moroccan)and also the atmospheric Stoke Newington churchyard. The caterpillar reminds me of something out of Alice in Wonderland.

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    1. Yes, the caterpillar looks quite smug and dozy, I think! :)

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  15. I'm glad you are back, Jenny. Your excellent and enlightening posts were greatly missed. You visited some interesting places, Staffordshire being one of them. Staffs is not too far from me but I am ashamed to say I never visited all of its museums.

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    1. It's strange how one often doesn't visit nearby places. I haven't been back to Staffs for many years and was pleased to see how many interesting things there are - I'll have to go back.

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  16. Well I for one am very glad to see you back.
    The standard of blog has deteriorated badly this year and your absence was all the more notable.
    The trips look great and the photos are superb as always.
    I think I may have been in the Wimborne Priests house years ago, I was in an old house museum there once. Lovely museum.
    Glad you have been out and about, much better that being trapped on Twitter!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words! Yes, I think there is only one museum in Wimborne and if you went there, then that's it. I get the impression that in recent years a lot has been done by volunteers that perhaps wasn't done before. And as for Twitter....grrr! It has a horrible fascination at present, as we see more and more problems and humiliations for this country. I keep hoping to read something encouraging!

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  17. Dear Jenny, I am very glad to see you back in blogland! This post was so enjoyable I don't know where to begin. The throne where you saw the Fox from: I would have loved that! The mural, museums, nature reserve, sunset, the angels... that photo makes me want to go there in autumn, when a softly rustling layer of brown leaves covers the ground at their feet.

    I have been (and still am) very busy with work these days; not stressed, just working a bit more than usual, and hardly ever home on weekends. That has of course limited my blogging time, too, but I am still very much around, and look Forward to reading more from you again.

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    1. Thank you Meike, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Your posts suggest that even if you are busier than usual, you are still wisely making time to walk, be with people you care about and enjoy the passing of the seasons.

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  18. Just wanted to say THANK YOU you to everyone who has commented! It's really wonderful to hear from all my old bloggie friends and be back again! And now I'll now enable the comments that have come in so far....

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  19. Your summer sounds wonderful, and it's nice to see all your lovely photos again. I've missed your posts coming up on my blogroll! The museums you visited sound fascinating, although I'm sorry that so many of them depend on volunteers. (Realistically, why WOULD you pay someone to do something when so many people are willing to do it for free?) The painted walls in the priest's house are stunning, and I love the carved wooden throne in the woodland. Lucky you to see a fox!

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    1. Thanks, Becca. I feel that volunteers add a lot to small museums, although I take your point about saving money. I always like visiting museums of local places with volunteers because I like to feel that people who live there are interested in their city, town or even village, and proud of it. A way of keeping community spirit alive. It was interesting to see the fox, but a bit strange that it was so bold, I had my picnic lunch on me and got the impression that the picnic interested him more than I did ! :)

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  20. What an interesting and varied Summer, We have just been to UK and also visited Staffordshire. I never knew Lichfield had so much history. Put it on your list for next time!

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    1. Yes, I would have liked to go to Lichfield. When we lived in Newcastle under Lyme I only ever visited it once, and then had a young child so feel that I haven't really had the chance to ever get to know it.

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  21. You've had a busy summer! Glad you are back blogging again...I always enjoy your photos and your posts.

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  22. Good to see you again, Jenny. I know it's hard to get back when you've stopped blogging, and I'm so glad you've managed it. I wish that fox had remembered his camera.

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    1. Yes, he could have snapped me staring at him! :)

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  23. It's good to see you back in Blogland and showing us places to which many of will never have been but it was also good to see a place with which I am familiar: Shropshire. Not that we ever had one in 'my' pottery but you also reminded me of the old radio programme 'What's My Line' and the introduction to the world (rather than just the Stoke-on-Trent's pottery industry) of a 'saggar maker's bottom knocker'.

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    1. I must admit the words "bottom knocker" came to mind when I visited the saggar makers' workshop. I do rather wonder what exactly a bottom knocker ever did, though. Apart from knock bottoms of course.
      :)

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  24. Hi, Jenny! I enjoyed reading about your summer in England. You shared so many interesting things. I especially enjoyed seeing the Cutty Sark; the Nova Scotian in me has a love for these magnificent sailing vessels. I remember when Jo Cox was murdered ~ so sad. Like you, I try to avoid politics on my blog, but I do worry about the future in my country and internationally. Enjoy your weekend!

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  25. So glad to see you back and with such a wonderful post with gorgeous pictures. I really love that throne!

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    1. Thank you! If I had space I might see if I knew anyone who could make me a replica, but since I don't ..... !!!

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  26. Good for you on the Jo Cox front!

    Staffordshire is my old stamping ground. Used to live in Lichfield (I was sent to the cathedral school there) and later, in my teens, Wolverhampton. Spent many happy weekend afternoons visiting Shropshire (including Ironbridge).

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    1. I've never been to Wolverhampton, and feel I should go. I used to have to drive through what I think must have been one of the grungiest bits on the M6 on the way to Newcastle under Lyme, and that particular bit was so grim it put me off the whole place, which will have been very unfair. I want to return and explore more of that area as I found it so interesting going this time.

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  27. What a holidays you had Jenny! You've seen a lot of interesting places and things. I especially liked this barn made of blocks for a hand-printing works for fabrics and wallpapers. It's stunning!
    Your photo of sunset is so beautiful, seems it was a nice day. As well I'd love to visit an "inclined plane".

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    1. Thanks. I was astounded at the blocks, and really wished I could have tried printing from them. Of course they were in a bad state, otherwise they wouldn't have been used to face the farm buildings but it was so interesting trying to make out the different patterns.

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  28. I'm wild about everything in this post. Of course you knew I'd go batty over the remarkable painted walls! I loved both videos -- I'd love to ride that steam engine! And to visit Ironbridge. The way they figured how to maneuver the goods is fascinating!

    The angels take my breath away and good on you with the memorial picnic for Jo Cox. A sad thing indeed. I remember that.

    Of course, each and every one of your England posts helps me reaffirm my goal to get there -- preferably sooner than later. It's good to have you back!

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    1. Thank you so much Jeanie! I am delighted to think you're planning to visit England and hope we will be able to meet up perhaps!

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  29. Well it looks like you've kept very busy this summer. I hope you are enjoying the hot weather now? I'm interested to know, when you stay in a hostel, do you sleep with other people or have your own room?

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    1. No, my tolerance for sleeping with a load of other people (which was never very high) has sunk to rock bottom. All hostels run by YHA now have quite a lot of smaller rooms with 2 or 4 beds (ie one or two bunk beds). Many also have en suite shower rooms. They're fairly comfortable but actually they're not very much cheaper than a reasonable b&b and the YHA has sadly become rather corporate these days so I am not sure I will stay in them much more. It used to be fun when the hostels were more individualistic and the one at HOlmbury St Mary was a rare survival. it hasn't been modernised and I think when it is the quirkiness will go.

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  30. We should not forget or neglect a small chair in our minds on which we can think about hope, peace and happiness. Better days to us!

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    1. It's a good idea to have that chair in our minds. Then we can sit on it and feel its message. I'll try that.

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  31. What an interesting and fun post. Sounds like you've had a great summer. I especially liked that Wooden bridge, the video of the train, your train track photos and that caterpillar.

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    1. Glad you liked the train video. I was afraid that it wouldn't show up since we were just a little way below the track, so I'm glad it came out oK.

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  32. I've so enjoyed this post, Jenny! That inclined plane intrigued me (as you might have guessed). Over here, inclined planes were used to haul the whole barge up the hill in huge basins of water (if you're interested, look up Ronquières and Arzviller). There's also Elblag in Poland, but there, it's just the barge that goes up on rails not in basins of water. I've never seen Blist's Hill's inclined plane before and now want to visit it! I would also like to visit Wimborne's Priest's House Museum! And that bench is so symbolic, it's a must! Lovely to see you again, and I'm glad you've had such a rich summer!

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    1. Thanks, Val. I had heard of the Ronquieres and Arzviller inclined planes. But not of Elblag. I'd like to see them all. The technology never got a chance to standardise, did it because the railways came along and people stopped building canals and expensive things like inclined planes! I think the one in Ironbridge was only used for a couple of decades.

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  33. Wonderful to find a blog post from you again. You've certainly given us lots to look at in this one. I'd like to visit each and every spot. Most of all though, I'd like to own a few of those printers blocks on the outside of that building.

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    1. Thanks Darla. I was really fascinated by them, kept trying to figure out what the designs must have looked like when printed!

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  34. Wonderful account. That church is gorgeous. So is your sunset pic. I would sure like to take a ride on that train.

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    1. Thank you, Jerry. There certainly is something attractive about steam trains.

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  35. So glad to have stumbled upon your blog. I enjoyed reading about your summer and love the beautiful pictures.

    I'm with you about blogging; I too find it hard to get back after not posting for a while. We do have some things in common. I'm a fan of Island magazine, and have probably read your articles there. My husband share your chosen birthday, and he spent several weeks in Bournemouth learning English years ago. Your stories on the area inspire us to visit.

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  36. Hi, Eileen, I am so glad you found my blog! Hope you get over here, though I guess not by boat ? :)

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  37. Hi,Jenny,
    I am so glad that you are fine and back logging again. You had a great summer. I love that wonky old rail track!
    I think that is beautifully nostalgic. Such a great technique of Bach Partita.
    Enjoy your summer.

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  38. What a beautiful and interesting place. You may have been gone for a while, but you came back with a bang!

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  39. Hello Jenny, lovely that you're back to blogging and this is a jam-packed delightful post! I love the Aboretum's wooden throne and those Lupins, to go wandering through those gardens would be lovely.
    I could conjure up the sight of all that gorgeous colours in St Giles church from your photos and descriptive words. A marked contrast to the sombreness of some.
    Your video of the steam train took me straight back to childhood. We would go visit my grandparents from Melbourne to Geelong - we'd (held tightly by Mum) lean out of the window and get lots of soot on us, fun!! and we'd make a 'tooting' signal with our arms at a passing train and the driver would oblige :D)
    Totally enjoyed reading all about the Ironbridge Museum too. Too many to mention individually but thank you for your post and photos Jenny. A lovely experience.
    I too don't wish to bring certain thoughts to my blog and so I really appreciated how you dealt with it all in your last photo - it's a touching one. Hugs xx

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