Monday, 12 March 2018


Today was devoted to housekeeping - cleaning, sorting, washing, minor maintenance and so on. we did have the first chance to move the boat this trip - but only the 50 metres or so to the fuel point and back again. We plan to leave the heating on frost protection again so wanted to make sure that the tanks were full, even though there should easily have been enough.

We had a brief shopping trip, newspaper, rolls for the journey tomorrow and a couple of other items to replenish the stock cupboard.

Late afternoon we took  large pile of laundry to the the service block to dry it using the large driers. Other smaller amounts have been done as we go along but they had to be finished using the radiators and stove overnight.

So that is almost the end of this non-moving trip. It has been interesting but wew will be quite glad to get underway properly when we next return.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Doing Very Little

The rest of the blog for this trip is likely to be boring - you have been warned! With the snow and ice as well as Mike's conference call meeting out of the way, there was not a lot of time left! In any case, we had already opted to buy tickets for Saturday night and, if we are to get home on Tuesday, Monday needs to be a day of washing, cleaning and sorting the boat out.

We went to St Peter's church again - see last week for a photo - and this time it was led by the vicar who, alas had to leave right at the end so there was no chance to meet him. However, we did spend time over coffee chatting with a few members of the congregation especially those who know parts of Cornwall. It seems that almost wherever you go there is someone who has spent their childhood, or even adult, holidays frequently in the same place in Cornwall!

After picking up some more milk from Morrisons we returned to the boat and time for lunch. By now rain had arrived and the afternoon was largely wet until almost sunset. The pot roast recipe that Christine had proposed for tonight takes a long time. It really should not have to be supervised most of that time but we are still a little unsure of how to control our oven and hob when trying something new so we kept a fairly close eye on it.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Great Malvern Priory

We did not do very much this morning except to go into town for a few items from Morrisons. In the afternoon, Christine took a short walk up the locks to the junction and then a short way along the towpath towards Birmingham. However, she soon found that the recent rain had helped turn the ground very muddy. Meanwhile, Mike was making a start on a recipe for tomorrow's evening meal which Christine had picked out from a Delia Smith book that she had found in the Boaters' Lounge book exchange.

We had an early evening snack because we had booked tickets for a concert in Great Malvern Priory this evening. In fact it is not too far away, about 40 minutes drive or less if no traffic. As a former priory church it is almost cathedral-like in size and proportion, a splendid and impressive building on one of the higher parts of the town.

The concert was being given by The Elgar Chorale, a choir of about 30 singers, some amateur and some professional musicians. They were conducted by Piers Maxim, amongst other things the musical director for the Priory church. The headline work was Psalmfest by John Rutter and the rest of the programme followed a similar psalm-based theme. The concert began with short anthems by Elgar, Samuel Wesley, Howells, Vaughan William and Lennox Berkeley. The first half concluded with the first performance (a self described world premiere) of a work by the conductor himself, De Profundis which is also based on a number of psalms. The performance was of a good standard and we were pleased to have found something yet again different. There has not been a  lack of things to do whilst holed up in the marina.

Friday, 9 March 2018


Mike had a meeting by conference call this morning so it was not until after lunch that we were able to go out - by then promised rain had set in.

We aimed to visit Jinny Ring, a craft centre in Hanbury village. However, we first called at Hanbury Church, set on top of a small but prominent hill. Parts of the churchyard were covered in a dense carpet of snowdrops, perhaps at their best for this year. Inside there is a splendid West Gallery.

The main claim to fame of this church is that it is said to be the model for the village church in the long-running Archers radio serial. At times it has been used both for sound and film recording to support the programme.

The local church seems to make quite a bit of this connection - no doubt it increases the number of casual visitors. They have a collection of paper cuttings that refer to the connection. It also is said that Hanbury Hall is the model for the hall in the series.

The diocese makes use of the link - in its 2013 advert for a new vicar, Archers is meant to be eye-catching!

One chapel (a part side aisle) is devoted to Vernon family from Hanbury Hall, although the first generation connection, who came here to be Vicar, is commemorated in the chancel. The chapel has numerous huge carved memorials.

Also, the stained glass windows are in memory of one son who was killed in the First World War.

With rain coming down ever heavier we quickly drove the short distance to the craft centre. There are quite a number of workers with studios and workshops on site, ranging from a glass blower to a violins maker, from a jeweller to a chocolate maker. All seemed to be of a reasonable standard and clearly quite enjoy being able to chat amongst the,selves at quiet times as well as to visitors at busier parts of the year.

We had rather too sumptuous tea in the restaurant overlooking the ponds outside. Alas, they have recently had to put up large notices asking the visitors do not feed any birds as they are concerned about the possibility of avian flu spreading to their grounds. They hope that this will only be a temporary measure.

Oh, and the funny little extra bit of cake? When we were making our choices, Christine was disappointed that the option she most fancied had just sold out. Seeing the look on her face, the lady serving then said that she did have a new cake and would Christine like her to cut a slice? Silly question! However, she first shaved off the outer end so give a 'proper' slice - but neither she nor Mike wanted to waste it . . .

Concert at Huntingdon

A few days ago, Christine discovered that there was to be a concert tonight given by Peter Knight and John Spiers. It was to be held in the Huntingdon Hall in the centre of Worcester starting at 7.30. As Christine was still in search of a small scarf - having failed to find anything in Hereford - we opted to take a train early afternoon. Even at this time the train was pretty much full with just enough seats to avoid standing. In any case it is only ten minutes to Foregate Station.

Eventually, after scouring all of the potential scarf sources, with very limited provision along thew way, she found one that might fit the purpose. As it was from M&S, if it subsequently turns out not to match then she can at least seek return it in Truro.

We checked out where the concert venue was (actually very convenient at the side of the Crowngate shopping centre) and then looked for eating places - we had planned that we would eat out given the timings.

There was still a little while before it would be a suitable time to eat so we wandered around the side of the cathedral and along the narrow College Precincts.

One of the houses has plaques that recall that Edward Elgar lived there for a couple of years when he was a small boy, aged 4 -6. He father was a professional standard violinist and also earned money as a piano tuner. He was also the organist at the Catholic church for many years.

Although music figured extensively in Edward's upbringing, he was largely self-taught. His father could not afford to send him to Leipzig Conservatory as Edward had hoped so he initially sought work in a solicitor's office. This way of life did not suit him so he concentrated on music, both as a composer, performer and director.

We continued along the narrow street to the large gateway into the cathedral green. The gateway is currently in need of extensive work, which does seem to have at least begun. The rooms above still form part of the adjoining cathedral school.

Time then to walk back to the shopping area where we went to a splendid oriental restaurant which serves in a buffet style. It proclaims a menu of over 150 dishes and that, whilst part of a national brand, this is its flagship location.

The food was excellent, the service as expected and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. The style of main course dishes ranged from Chinese, Thai, oriental in general through to a small sushi bar. Although we could not possible taste everything - we had a good attempt between us! Unusually, there was an interesting selection of desserts to follow.

Feeling rather replete, we managed to wander back to Huntingdon Hall - alas we failed to take a photo earlier whilst it was still light enough. The building was once one of the chapels established by the Countess of Hungtindon in her once famous Connexion. Constructed in the style adopted by most nonconformist churches especially the Methodist churches with which her denomination became closely associated, it has a large gallery surrounding an substantial and somewhat ornate pulpit.

Whilst it was at one time so well attended that people had to sit in the aisles (no fire regulations then!) during the pot-war period it suffered rapid decline, as did many like it, until it closed in the 1970's. At that point the local council wanted to demolish it to make way for a car park but a local trust was formed to save the building and convert it to a music centre and concert venue. Much of the work is today done by a dedicated group of volunteers. The conversion has retained much of the original features - this means that the seating, apart from a block of chairs in the middle, is still the original pews, including a few boxed pews. These were, of course, designed for a different purpose and for differently sized and proportioned people!

The concert was given by Peter Knight and John Spiers, both excellent folk musicians who teamed up about 18 months ago. Peter was one of the longest serving ,members of Steeleye Span, whom we have seen in concert a small number of times, and is an amazing violin player who also arranged quite a bit of the music for bands in which he has played. John is a melodeon player and who writes music especially for this instrument which he, by chance, picked up whilst an undergraduate at Cambridge.

The concert was almost entirely instrumental - voice only came into one item, Peter's solo. Some pieces were energetic, often starting gently but working up to a more frenetic pace with an original tune developed into numerous different interpretations. Others were quite haunting in their melodic style, clearly benefiting from Peter's original classical training. We were very pleased to have been able to go to this concert and, overall, felt that we had had a really good day out!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Hanbury Hall

After a short shopping trip in town we returned to the boat for a slightly early lunch so that we could set out in good time for an afternoon visit to Hanbury Hall, a National Trust property a couple of miles from the marina.

The house was built by a successful London lawyer as a summer residence where he could entertain wealthy people he wanted to impress. He started work in 1701 on land that was originally bought by his grandfather but it was not until 1710 that it was ready for him to begin using it.

After coming through a new visitor entrance - to cope with anticipated further growth in summer visitor numbers - we walked around to the front drive and could immediately take in the image that Thomas Vernon was trying to create.

At the entrance door we spotted notice advertising guided tours of the gardens - perhaps the estate's most important feature - with the next one at 2pm. This gave us a short while to wander around the outside of the house and to look at the long views from the rear of the building. When we returned to the starting point it turned out that we were the only takers - although another couple did join later for part of the tour. The guide, like others we met in the house later, was well versed in the history of the estate and just who had a hand in creating and later developing it.

The gardens were originally laid out by George London in the style that was fashionable at the time. At the front, now quite plain, was an intricate geometric layout but our guide took us first to the garden to the side. This was a formal vegetable garden. It was not intended to be a significant source of food but rather to impress with more exotic species, set in raised beds as specimens and well spaced out to show them off to their best advantage.

Next came the parterre garden, highly formalised with strict symmetry apart from the detail that the centre specimen topiaries right in the centre of each quadrant were different. In fact, the garden as we see it today is a recent re-creation. Over time the NT is attempting to take the gardens back closer to the original design of George London. However, the third generation to own the house re-modelled by the interior and the gardens, bringing in Capability Brown to fashion it according to the latest ideas.

The Wilderness Garden is far from a home for wild flowers! It too is laid out in geometric patterns but was intended to create spaces where people could enjoy a little more privacy, away from the immediate oversight from the windows of the main house.

Further round we came to the Orangery where citrus trees in pots are kept over winter, brought into the sunshine from May to September.

At the back is the Mushroom House although at the moment it is being used to force rhubard for use in the tea rooms.

Close to the house the trees are mainly for show but the 'real' orchard is further back. Today it is well stocked with many different and rare varieties, all arranged in alphabetical order!

A tunnel from the orchard leads around to where the kitchens once stood, set apart from the main house to minimise fire risks. The purpose of the tunnel seems to have been to reduce the chance of 'upstairs' catching sight of ';downstairs' as they brought produce from the orchard and kitchen garden ready to be cooked.

All around  the house is a ha-ha. Whilst it is a little less distinct than when first created, it is possible to see how it would have kept stock and wildlife away from the carefully tended formal gardens.

We were now nearing the end of pour tour and dampness in the air was accompanied by a rainbow in the distance. Moments later a very heavy shower arrived as we hurried back to look inside the house.

The inside of the house is not outstanding - largely as a result of the fact that one of the descendent owners frittered away much of the inheritance and the furniture was gradually sold. The same generation that changed the gardens also changed most of the ground floor rooms by knocking two into one in three places. Indeed, the first room we came to is now furnished in the style of the 1920's.

The dining room was originally two rooms that Thomas Vernon used as his private rooms whilst the lady's rooms were a suite on the upper floor.

One of the more important featured inside it the painting of the grand staircase by Sir James Thornhill, later to work on St Paul's Cathedral, the Royal Hospital at Greenwich and Chatsworth House. Our garden guide is convinced that without this significance the house might well have been allowed to disappear in ruin as did many others in the middle of the last century.

Once we had completed our tour of the house - sadly none of the servant's quarters or the working parts of the house are available to visit so it is harder to imagine how the life of the household functioned - we adjourned to the tea room in the servant's hall. As always with NT tea rooms, the scones and cakes were a great accompaniment to large cups of tea.

We were slightly surprised to discover that these corner 'stones' are actually pieces of painted wood stuck onto the brickwork!

Closing time was fast approaching as we left and took a final look at the front of the house and returned to the car park.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Day Trip to Hereford

Today we took a train to Hereford, a place that neither of us had visited before. The journey is under an hour - the main downside is that it is (a) popular and (b) served by a very short 2 coach train!

The station is a short distance from the city centre - but we had already ascertained that the walk was around 15 minutes to the cathedral, the far side of the main centre. The first part of our walk was rather disappointing as we passed through areas that have sort-of been re-developed but roads seem to be the main beneficiary.

Even the Venn Arch is noted for its neglect. This memorial to John Venn, a clergyman noted in the late 19C for is support for the poor and disadvantaged, was originally for his sister but on his death it seems that it was re-dedicated to him!

As we started along Commercial Street, one of the principal shopping streets, the first part seemed almost to be completely closed shops.

By the time we arrived at the open central area the shops were much more active - although most are small, local businesses and we saw little 'large stores' (We did later find a new development on the edge of the central area which had half a dozen stores, including Debenhams)

We paused here for a cup of coffee before continuing. We called into All Saints Church which, although still a very active worship place has an extensive cafe installed at the back.

Many of the city centre shops have taken over what were originally town houses for wealthy merchants. The facades have been preserved and the ground floors used as shops but the upper floors often seemed somewhat of an embarrassment. Broad Street is appropriately named - very different from most of the centre which is just the opposite.

The bright yellow building is the Catholic Church and next beyond it is now Pizza Express. It seems as if this was once a large Post Office - its former postboxes and stamp machines have been retained in the facade. The latter must have been decommissioned some time ago as it sells 50p books of stamps - hardly enough for one stamp today!

We checked out the cafe in the cathedral but we were really looking for a sandwich and they did not seem to have anything other than soup, hot dishes and lots of cakes! However we did find very nearby a pleasant small cafe whose toasted sandwiches came with quite substantial salads.

In the afternoon, we decided to walk across the bridge and along the opposite river bank before visiting the cathedral itself. At this stage it was pleasantly mild but we were not confident that it would stay that way! The river was in full spate.

We included this photo, not because we know why it was on the railings beside the river path but because it is different!

After a short pleasant walk we reached the Victorian suspension footbridge and returned to the city centre side of the river.

On the green outside the cathedral we came across the recent statue of Elgar, famously associated with this part of the country. It stands alongside the Cathedral Barn.

Outside main entrance to the cathedral work was underway on erecting a section of the Weeping Window memorial that was first installed at the Tower of London as part of the memorial of the over 800,000 members of the British armed forces that died in the First World War. Hereford is the first host on the last year of this tour.

It seemed a labour intensive task as each piece of metalwork had to be fitted with lots of poppies before it could be hoisted up aloft and fitted to the special scaffolding against the cathedral wall. The poppies are ceramic and the original fund raising concept of Paul Cummins depended on most of them being sold. A small number were bought specially to be kept as this touring display.

The cathedral dates back to Saxon times although the greater part of its present layout is down to the Normans. Changes and additions have taken place at various times in history. A major catastrophe was the collapse of the tower in 1786 led to substantial re-building after a delay of seven decades.

Hereford is one of the cathedrals that is proud to have free admission - along with Truro Cathedral.

The controversial removal of the ornate rood screen a few years ago has opened up the central area for much more inclusive worship and events.

There are several modern stained glass windows. This one is a memorial to the SAS which, of course, is famously based just to the north of the city.

Here are some of the features that caught our imagination - not really possible here to give a comprehensive tour guide:

Once we had made our way around the building we wandered back to the shopping centre. Christine was on the hunt for a scarf but, despite trying almost all of the potential providers, came away empty handed.

Back then to the station for the return trip - it turned out that this was the 'college train' with a substantial crowd of youngsters returning from their day at the sixth form college - compete with copious supplies of KFC (at last where Christine sat - we had to take the last remaining sets in quite different parts of the train)