Friday, 10 March 2017

Walford Break March 2017: Post the first

To Herefordshire for a few days with friends. Time to do a little exploring.
Berrington Hall, dating from the late eighteenth century, was the last landscaping project of Capability Brown. Built of a rather dour red sandstone in the Neo-Classical style, it's more interesting on the inside than the exterior might suggest.
Just a patch of daffodils but they appealed to me.
As did this autumn flowering crocus. In March?
The iron brackets along the back wall of the walled garden were a puzzle until we twigged that they originally held a glass frame to protect the fruit espalliers (peach, apricot, nectarine) growing up the wall. The modern plastic tent does the same job, albeit with much less style.
I do like a bit of Box topiary and this is about my level of ability.
Undoubtedly the highlight of our visit to Berrington Hall, was the artwork by the ceramic artist, Bouke de Vries. Entitled War and Pieces, it's six metres in length and filled the table in the Dining Room. It comprises of many porcelain figures engaged in a deadly struggle under the shadow of a central mushroom cloud. The theme echoes the tradition of generals dining the night before a battle and then breaking all of the china as an act of symbolism.
The mushroom cloud. The whole piece was very effective and affecting.
A tale of two staircases. This is the one the lords and ladies used...
....and these are the back stairs for the servants.
The Priory Church in Leominster. Very big on the inside but rather too austere for my tastes.
It's not often that I come across someone who was a POW in WW1 so my curiosity was piqued. Although the plaque says one thing, the CWGC site lists George on the Thiepval Memorial amongst the unlocated killed. Perhaps George (32) was missing, presumed dead, in the first instance and his real fate became apparent later on?
John Scarlett Davies - reknowned artist? Not by me, he wasn't. Never heard of him and that is my loss. Mr Google says that he was a landscape, portrait and architectural painter. Unfortunately he died of TB when he was only 41.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

On this day in 1917, Sergeant Nathaniel Lobb died.

Sergeant 5818
Nathaniel Lobb MM
Special Section, Special Brigade,
Royal Engineers
Died age 38
10th March 1917

Nathaniel Lobb was born in Tavistock in 1879, the son of Nathaniel and Annie Lobb, both of whom had long connections with Stoke Climsland and Downgate. Nathaniel Junior was a career soldier, joining up in 1900 and ending his career in France in 1917. The following obituary written just after his death gives a good summary of his military service.

 We regret to report that Mrs Lobb of Downgate, Stoke Climsland, has received the sad news of the death of her son, Sergeant Nathaniel Lobb RE in France. Sergeant Lobb, who joined that Royal Engineers on June 13th 1900, went through the South African War (Second Boer War) and went to France at the commencement of the present war.
He was reported wounded three times, the first time receiving wounds in the shoulder, knee, leg, hand and foot. Recovering from these he met the enemy and was wounded in the foot and, in a third effort, was wounded in the hand. He was at the Battle of the Somme and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery. So recently as January, he was home on a well earned ten days’ leave but, on returning to the Front, he developed bronchial pneumonia brought on by exposure and died in a French Hospital (10th Stationary Hospital, St Omer) on March 10th 1917.
Sympathetic letters from Sergeant Lobb’s fellow officers and comrades have been received by his widowed mother testifying to his ‘fearlessness and gallantry in action’ and his being ‘a remarkably cool and collected leader’. The Reverend Alfred Coutts, Chaplain to the Forces, in a touching and highly appreciative letter received on March 20th says Sergeant Lobb ‘was one of the finest men I have ever met’. Much sympathy is felt for the relatives in their bereavement of one of such sterling qualities both as a man and a soldier.

Sergeant Lobb’s time in the Second Boer War entitled him to wear the Queen’s South Africa medal, with clasps for service in 1901 and 1902 and for the Transvaal, Orange Free State and Cape Colony campaigns. His medal, shown above, features prominently in a display at the Museum of the Royal Engineers at Gillingham in Kent.

Although we do not know the nature of his work in South Africa, his assignment to the Special Section of the Special Brigade of the Royal Engineers is very interesting. This indicates he was one of the engineers drafted in from other units, initially as volunteers, to develop and deliver poisonous gas. These moves were in retaliation to the Germans’ deployment of similar materials earlier on in the war. The British efforts started in 1915 and the British army employed poison gas for the first time in the opening barrage for the Battle of Loos, principally to overcome a shortage of artillery.
Sergeant Lobb’s final resting place is in the Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery, near St Omer. He is mentioned on his parents' headstone in the graveyard of Stoke Climsland church.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

On this day in 1917, Private Frank Jasper was killed.

Private 36436
1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment
Died age 24
4th March 1917
 Frank Jasper was born in Lezant, the son of William and Jane (nee Mayne) Jasper. In 1911, he was living and working on the farm of Thomas Trewin at Tolcarne in North Hill. Frank enlisted in the army at Launceston and entered the Worcestershire regiment, initially into the 10th Battalion but subsequently he was transferred to the 1st and travelled to France.

He was killed in action during an attack on German lines east of Bouchavesnes to the north of Peronne and the River Somme. This attack was part of many actions in the Ancre Valley prior to the withdrawal of the German forces to the Hindenburg Line. These attacks were strategically diversionary and were intended to keep German attention focussed on the Somme area while preparations continued for the Arras battle further north. The attack was carried out under a creeping artillery barrage and the German positions were soon won. Casualties suffered by the battalion during the day were 5 officers and 44 other ranks killed, 4 officers and 158 other ranks wounded and 1 officer and 11 other ranks missing. Those fallen who have no known place of rest, Frank amongst them, are commemorated on the Thiepval Monument (Panel Reference: Pier and Face 5 A and 6 C). His mother, Jane, was the sole legatee of Frank's will and she received £5 7s 3d from the War Office on 28th October 1919.

As well as featuring on the Stoke Climsland War Memorial, possibly because his mother came from Venterdon, his name also appears on the Lewannick War Memorial.

Lewannick War Memorial

Register of Frank Jasper's effects.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Just a tiny bit of the Coastal Footpath walked

We continued our run of walks in new places with one from the coastal village of Seaton (Seaton Cornwall, that is, not Seaton, Devon). The weather was kind despite an ambiguous weather forecast.
Our route started and ended in Seaton. Because of a map reading error (not mine!) what we ended up doing was not quite what was planned but it certainly didn't suffer for that. At 4.5 miles, it was a little shorter than anticipated but a long, steady climb more than made up for the shorter distance. Briefly, we walked up the Seaton Valley in the woods for a mile or so, then climbed out of the woods, dropped down to the next village along the coast (Downderry) and then walked back along the beach to our starting point.
The River Seaton is around 18 miles long and arises on Bodmin Moor - near the Cheesewring Hotel in Minions. For its first few miles it runs through the mining area of the Gonomena Valley and picks up mineral contaminants, mainly copper. The copper concentration is high enough to depress the invertebrate population which, in turn, leads to very few fish in the river.
An allegory for our times?
An early flowering Malus of some sort, helped along by its sheltered position in the Seaton Valley. The one in our garden is way behind and its flower buds are barely discernible.
A bee getting a snack from a snowdrop, which are getting past their best now.
Lunch in dappled woodland amongst the skeletons of trees.
A Black Oil Beetle. About 2 cms long and our commonest Oil Beetle, but not that common in other parts of the UK. The kinked antennae help with the identification. It has a fascinating life cycle for those who care to look it up.
Some would say that I'm sitting in exactly the right place (the clue is in the plaque).
I wonder how many people not 'of a certain age' will reccognise this as an old mangle. I can remember my grandmother using one but I can't remember when it disappeared as she moved onto using more modern (at least what was modern in the 1950s).
The beach at Downderry and typical for this part of the coast. Flat rocks, interspersed with dark sandy shingle. No good for building sand castles but plenty of space. And a good place to exercise dogs, of which there were many (too many) running around.
Our group taking lunch in the sun on the seawall at Downderry.
Looking west to Seaton, with Looe just visible to the left. I think the next time we'll be down here, we'll be walking the coastal footpath from Seaton to Looe. 
And on the beach, there was this solitary tyre.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Just a little Gaugin

The weather outside may be lousy but I can escape to warmer climes through the paintings of Paul Gaugin. I'd never put him at the top of my list of favourite artists but he's well up there. There's a lot more to him that topless ladies in the South Seas. And the music is rather tasty as well.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

A walk from Werrington Church

More new territory covered in this walk, with us venturing a few miles north of Launceston. A dry with sunny periods sort of day but, as we were in the aftermath of Storm Doris, the wind was quite strong in unsheltered parts.
Our starting point was Werrington Church and our just-under-five mile route took in fields and lanes in two river valleys, those of the Tamar and one of its tributaries, Tala Water.
Werrington church, dedicated to St Martin of Tours, originally stood within Werrington Park next to the Manor. When the manor was owned by Sir William Morice, much to the anger of the parishioners, he had the church pulled down in 1743 so that he could extend his bowling green! Sir William Morice's act of demolishing the Medieval church and the careless way he transferred the churchyard remains considerably outraged the parishioners. According to local tradition, a curse was placed on the Morice family, Sir William died childless and within 30 years the estate has passed from the family.
A tiled panel on the wall of the lodge to Werrington Park. I don't think it signifies anything other than being attractively decorative.
A plaque that piqued our interest. Keynotes Education? Turns out that it was, quite simply, the business address of an educational supplies firm. But what a nice place to work.
Another old chapel by the wayside. This one was the Bridgetown, Werrington Bible Christian Chapel. It's been closed for a while but it didn't look as if it's been converted into a dwelling (yet). A few more years and the contribution that chapels like this made to their local communities will be lost.
Druxton Bridge over the Tamar. Mediaeval with some later additions. Apparently it was sketched, but not painted, by Turner. I don't think that the tree is going to get under that arch without a struggle.
Wild daffodils on the river bank. There were lots of these coming into bloom at various places throughout our walk. These, combined with the snowdrops, make walking t this time of year very pleasant. What's next to look forward to? Bluebells at the end of April.
A Silver Birch growing out of a dead Hazel stump. It's interesting what the drive for survival produces.
I just can't walk past an old oak tree without wanting to tie a yellow ribbon around it.
Across the way from a trudge across a waterlogged field was Polapit Tamar House. A Grade II Listed Building, now converted into high-end apartments, it was built in 1866 for the Coode family who owned lots of the land hereabouts. The original structure (right side, in the picture) dates from 1866 and the remainder (left side) from 1903. It is said that Mr R C Coode commissioned the extension for his daughter's twenty-first birthday; its principal room is an oak-panelled ballroom with ornately carved chimney-pieces. Try as I might, I can't find out the origin of the name Polapit, although centuries ago it was known as Poolapit.
Tala Water - Bude Canal aqueduct - stonework detail
After a little scrambling from the road, I managed to get this shot of part of the Bude Canal as it was taken over Tala Water in an aquaduct. The canal was built in the 1820s to carry sea sand and lime inland for use as fertiliser and the original canal system spanned 35 miles reaching just outside of Launceston. The canal closed in 1901 when competition from the railway, bringing cheap manufactured fertilisers, made it uneconomical. Today, roughly 2 miles of canal remain filled with water and make a very nice waterside walk from the centre of Bude. At this part of its route, it is reduced to a barely discernible indentation.
A pleasant and relatively benign landscape looking south east towards Dartmoor. Jump back two centuries and the scene would have been much more animated. In the foreground the Bude Canal would be busy with traffic and, in the distance, the mines of Dartmoor would be producing a pall of steam and smoke. And let's not forget that, at that time, farming was very labour intensive so there would be many people, and animals, working in the fields.
St Martin of Tours taking a tour around the outside of the church?
A lofty but rather bare interior. There are, however, some very interesting stained glass windows but the photographs I took didn't come out well.
A fairly typical but rather featureless Victorian barrel ceiling. Nice carpentry but a few carvings would make it more interesting.

Monday, 20 February 2017

The Goodameavy Trek

A rather longer than expected walk with our monthly group this week. The promised "around 6 miles" turned out to be 9 1/2 and 9 1/2 tough ones at that. Lots of ups and downs, with the emphasis very much on the ups. But, with good weather and some new parts on the western edge of Dartmoor to discover, what was there to complain about? Apart from the ups, that is.
Our figure of eight route started and ended at Lower Goodameavy Bridge. We headed south along the Meavy to Dewerstone Bridge and then followed the Plym down to Bickleigh Bridge. From there we headed back north along the Plym Valley path to Clearbrook and completed a loop via Hoo Meavy, Wigford Down and Goodameavy.
This looks like an embankment but is actually the bed of an abandoned mineral railway. Abandoned because the landowners of the next stretch refused permission for it to go any further. That was a lot of wasted effort back in the 1800s but not uncommon with speculative railway building.
River Plym looking relatively benign. There hadn't been that much heavy rain in the preceding few days.
I liked these tree roots wrapped around a large boulder. I think it was originally from an old hedge.
Across the valley is the parish church of St Edward, King and Martyr, Shaugh Prior. Rather shamefully, this is one that we have never visited even though we've been in the area many, many times. It dates from the 11th century although what you see is from a 15th century rebuild. Famous sons of Shaugh Prior? Not that many by all accounts but there is one of interest: Joseph Palmer (1716–88), an American general during the American Revolutionary War, was born here. Google him and you'll be surprised at what someone from such a sleepy place got up to.
Spring flower 1: Lesser Celandine. Not that many around but a good sign that the season is changing.
Spring flower 2: Snowdrops. A sight to gladden every galanthophile's heart. Lots and lots of these around.
Scarlet Elf Cap. Not rare but not common and can be difficult to spot as they like places where they get covered in fallen leaves. Starts off as a cup which flattens with maturity. One reference source says that these are quite edible and hold their shape when cooked. One recipe suggests eating them raw whilst using them as an edible receptacle for other savouries. As they are fairly small (this one was about 1 cm across), it would take a lot of effort to get more than a decent mouthful. It takes all sorts, I guess.
Just one of the viaducts on what is now the Plym Valley Trail. It runs along the bed of the old railway from Plymouth to Yelverton (for Princetown) and Tavistock (for London) which opened in 1859 and closed in 1962. The original viaducts were made of wood on brick piers and the piers are still visible if you lean over the parapets in the middle of the viaduct.
A frisson of excitement when we walked through the Leighbeer Tunnel. It's about 1/2 mile and is reasonably well lit. Work on building the railway and the tunnel began during August 1856. Mr Brampton, the original engineer, died suddenly in 1857 and was replaced by one Isambard Kingdom Brunel. I wonder where I've heard that name before?
Here's something interesting to bear in mind if you are ever in the tunnel. If you look at all the railway refuges down the sides you will notice they are all covered in bars to prevent people hiding in them (spoilsports!). But one of them is actually a fair sized tunnel that you wouldn't spot it without a torch or knowing that it was there. The tunnel was an exploratory one dug into the hillside when they came across copper while digging the main Leighbeer tunnel. It, the Bickleigh Vale Phoenix Mine, opened at the same time as the railway line which must have proved tricky! It was only operated for around 3 years as not as much copper as expected was found. You can clearly see the copper as the bluey green on the tunnel walls.
Leighbeer Tunnel - a moment captured when cyclists weren't flying through. Question: why don't they use bells to warn walkers to get out of their way? Or do they prefer to knock people over?
Oh look, we said, these look like miners' cottages. And indeed they were. Their age attesting to the long history of mining in this area.
Yes, that is the sea in the distance. We are looking due west out of Plymouth Sound. Those with keen eyes will be able to make out the Eddystone Lighthouse on the horizon to the left of the plume of smoke. I'd estimate that's about 25 miles from where I was standing when I took this shot. Rame Head in Cornwall is the ridge to the right.
The wayside Urgles Cross on the edge of Wigford Down. I couldn't find a reliable estimate of its age but, from what I can gather, what is there now is an early 20th Century reproduction of the long lost original waymark.
Joy of joys. We came back to a car with a flat battery. Not a disaster as it was sorted out by the RAC within an hour. That's not the RAC man poking under the bonnet. That's Kim, affecting a level of mechanical knowledge he admits he does not possess.