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February 27, 2005

Boskenna Cross St Buryan

Boskenna Cross
Our exploration of the megalithic sites of Cornwall was punctuated by lots of stone crosses that are often found in among the hedges at the side of the road. Some of them are even being used by farmers as gate posts or fence posts. It is believed that the crosses are pre-Christian and that many of the carvings on them were done after Christians came to Britian in order to usurp them from the old religion.

The Boskenna Cross is at a road junction near St Buryan. In the right light, it is possible to see a crucified figure on this side of the cross.

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February 26, 2005

Cornish treasures

A little while ago I was talking about our adventures while exporing the megalithic treasure of the western Cornish peninsula. I am not sure about the DH who, because of his mobility difficulties, didn't see too much of what was on offer, but I had the most wonderful couple of days - mud puddles excepted.

Lanyon Quoit

After one or two false starts, our first stop was at Lanyon Quoit, not far from Mousehole. After climbing a small stone stile, the quoit was just a short walk across the field. In this case, a quoit is not a game played by children or cruisers, but a stone table. Originally covered by a mound of soil, it is believed that the quoit was a burial chamber. It was blown down in a storm in 1815. When it was re-erected the legs were shortened.

Merry maidens

At the Merry Maidens the DH was able to stand at the fence to see this stone dance which is on the top of a small hill. From the centre of the dance it is just possible to see a standing stone, which is part of the same structure, in the corner of a field across the road. Not seen are the two Pipers, which are in a field behind hedges in the opposite direction. The legend is that the stones are young women who were turned to stone for dancing on a Sunday. The Pipers are the petrified remains of the pipers who provided the music for their sin.

Standing stone in daffodils

Not far away I noticed the top of a standing stone over a high hedge beside the road. I pulled up where I saw a stile through the hedge and, grabbing my camera, dashed off to get another photograph. I ended up with a treasure of my own. Behind the hedge was a field of daffodils in full bloom, thanks to the unseasonably warm weather.

Carn Brae

The most westerly hill on the English mainland has been used by the locals for thousands of years. It is known as Carn Brae. The walk up from the carpark was exhausting but the view from the top was magnificent. I could see all the way up Mounts Bay to the Lizard and out to the rocks beyond Land's End. The site has been a settlement, a fort, a hermitage and a lookout and is the stuff of legends.

Carn Brae

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February 22, 2005

Cornish mis-adventures

Men-an-Tol - mysteries of Cornwall

When I left Australia in December I had 3 novels with me. I had chosen Penmaric because it was obviously, from its title, set in Cornwall, but the other two books, Charles de Lint's Little Country and Sara Douglas' Hade's Daughter had been chosen because I like the author of the former and the subject of the later. Imagine my surprise when I found that both these books also were closely related to my travels.

Hade's Daughter is a science fantasy novel - the first in a series called The Troy Game - which weaves history and mythology into a battle for London. It begins in the Mediterranean after the fall of Troy. It very quickly moves to a settlement on the edge of the River Teign in southern Devon, near where we stayed.

Little Country was even closer to 'home'. It is set in Mousehole, on the edge of Mounts Bay in Cornwall. Some of the crucial scenes in the novel involve megalithic sites around this area of west Cornwall and specifically Men-an-Tol. Some of these sites had also been written about in Penmaric.

These conjuctions set me on a quest to visit as many of the prehistoric sites as I could fit into two days. This led to some wonderful moments and also some adventure. At the end of the first day I tried to see Chun Castle, which is the remains of an iron age hill fort. It was getting late and it had been raining for some days previously but the day had been beautiful.

I followed a tiny sign down a narrow lane. The lane eventually crossed a farmer's yard and became a dirt track. Our little Ford Focus began to spin it's wheels and lost traction. Unable to go forward or turn around, I was forced to go backwards. Unfortunately I didn't realise that the track had been quite narrow. I dropped off the edge into the mud. I couldn't go back and I couldn't go forward. We were stuck.

I trudged back along the track in the gathering gloom to the farmhouse. My knock was answered by a man who looked like the archetypal Cornish farmer. After listening to my story he said that he was only visiting the farmer, who was in bed with a broken foot and that he was unable to drive the tractor. He disappeared into the house for what seemed like a lifetime. Eventually he came back with a phone number and the suggestion that I use my mobile phone to contact another farmer - thank goodness there was a signal.

The lady at the other end of the line was very sympathetic. She said that if she couldn't get her brother-in-law, she would come herself since her husband was away from home. "Just wait" she said ... we did.

Down the lane came a great big yellow and green tractor with a great big farmer and two boys who had the good graces not to laugh. The great big farmer even backed the car up the lane for me without too much derision.

I never did see Chun Castle.

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February 20, 2005

Porthleven - My resting place

lookout1.jpg lookout2.jpg
If I had the choice of only one place on Earth to be, it would be Porthleven in Cornwall.

I looked forward to being here through all of the previous weeks of our holiday. I looked forward to the cool air on my skin and, the sound and sight of the Atlantic at my doorstep. I looked forward to the freedom of our own place where we did not have to be in the dining room for breakfast at a certain time or be back in the house without disturbing the landlady. I looked forward to not having to hurt feelings by refusing the full English breakfast and eating just muesli and toast. But most of all I looked forward to here.

Our cottage is called The Lookout and is perched on the edge of the cliff overlooking the entrance to Porthleven harbor. It is the last house at the top of the road which runs along the edge of the harbor and up the hill towards the edge of the village.

Hanging on the wall above my desk at work is a black an white photograph of a great storm - waves crashing up against the wall of the Fishermen's Institute at the mouth of the harbor. These storms happen only in October but the one that was raging on the day that we finally arrived was doing a pretty good job of imitation. In the summer, Porthleven is a meca for surf loving tourists but in the winter it is quiet. It is mine. Porthleven.gif

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February 17, 2005

Dartmoor moods

The Yorkshire Dales were beautiful but my heart still lies on Dartmoor.
I wonder if it is because my great grandfather was born in a village on the southern edge of the moors. I never get tired of driving through the Dartmoor National Park. There is always something new to see over each rise and around every corner. I even know now where I am most likely to find a herd of Dartmoor ponies. The weather here can be extremely unpredictable and the fog closes in very quickly. This day was very windy ... wonderful! ponies.jpg
Widecombe.jpg The villages scattered around and on the moors are full of surprises and the narrowest lanes to drive down. There are lots of little art galleries and craft shops to browse through. This is Widecombe-in-the-Moor which the Uncle Tom Cobley song is about. We like to stay in a tiny village on the edge of the moors called Drewsteignton. The pub there is renowned for having had England's oldest and longest serving publican. It used to be a nice place to stay but, since it has been sold recently, it is not what it used to be. This year we stayed in a great guest house in the village called The Old Inn, which is run by a lovely young couple.

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February 16, 2005

Ely revisited

The lantern at Ely
I 'collected' Ely cathedral four years ago on my very first visit to England. In fact, it was the very first one. I had watched Ely on a webcam for months before we left Australia but that didn't prepare me for how beautiful it was. The ceiling of the nave is painted with figures from Christian stories and the crossing, pictured here, is an octagonal lantern, richly decorated with more figures of saints. Every time we have been back to England we visit Ely and find something new to see. This time I even took the time to sit for a while to draw.

Ely-006.jpgThe web site that I was watching before our first visit talked about this new statue of Mary that had been placed in the ancient Lady Chapel of the cathedral. It was very controversial. Detractors said that it reminded them of the glamorous presenter of an English gardening program and complained that the statue appeared not to be wearing a bra. I seriously doubt that Mary would have worn one either.

The Lady Chapel was being renovated during our second visit. Though we were not allowed in, you could look through the glass of the doors and see the tombs that had been exposed by the excurvations. This time I could sit in the chapel for as long as I liked, watching the visitors come and go, listening to the echo of their voices and the silence of them gone.

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February 15, 2005

York Cathedral

This picture shows why I love to visit the cathedrals in England. They have some of the most beautiful architecture and decoration of any building that I have ever seen. Her is the ceiling decoration on the ceiling of the crossing, which is where the nave meets the trancept. It is one of the most individual feature of each cathedral. Some are plain but most are stunningly beautiful, like York.

Yorkcath3.jpgThe chapter house is a large room where the governing body of the cathedral meets. Often this room is a many sided circle, with individual seats around the wall for the members of the chapter. Some a richly decorated with carvings and York is no exception. It is said that many of the carvings in these buildings are portraits if the building workers and their families. They are images of people who have been dead for a thousand years. This carving shows a married couple.
For each of the cathedrals that I 'collect', I stand by the west door and take a photograph looking down the nave. From here it is possible to see the east window, the choir, the crossing and the wonderful light flowing in through the high windows along the nave. It makes the whole building glow, even in a late winter's afternoon.Yorkcath2.jpg

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February 13, 2005

Beck Hole, North Yorkshire

Beck Hole North YorkshireA beck is a stream and this is the one that runs through the valley where we stayed during our time on the Yorkshore Dales. The tiny village of Beck Hole is quite close to Goathland and our accommodation was at a delightful B&B called Brookwood Farm. The breakfasts that we enjoyed here were wonderful, using all local ingrdients. The smoked bacon was especially good.


There is only about half a dozen houses in the village, all arranged around a tiny village green, where sheep could often be seen grazing. Across the single lane stone bridge is an ancient pub, Birch Hall Inn, in which drinkers front up to a small window-like opening in the wall of the front room to place their orders. We learnt about the Beck Hole buttie here, which is a bit like a plowman's lunch already aboard a locally made bread roll. We ate more substantial dinners at the Mallyan Spout Hotel up the hill in Goathland.

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February 10, 2005

Goathland aka Aidensfield


The image that many Australians have of Yorkshire has been gained through the television series called 'Heartbeat' and I suppose that we are really no different. When the DH was deciding where we should stay here, he chose a tiny village just near the village of Goathland where the the exteriors for the series are filmed.

We had great fun walking around Goathland pointing to places that we had seen on television. Even in the depths of winter there were still lots of visitors to the village doing exactly what we were doing. The images in the collage above should be familiar to Heartbeat fans. We also found Greengrass' farm on the dales just outside Goathland. It is really just like it looks in the series and has a sign out the front advertising a camping and caravaning park. This seemed to me to be a vernture that Bernie Scripps would go in for. I forgot to take a photograph.

My favourite view from Goathland

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February 8, 2005

Whitby abbey


Sometimes my quest to collect my cathedrals leads to some adventures.

The signs in the town of Whitby in Yorkshire carried us through the town, over a bridge, up a hill covered in small cottages and then into a very large carpark. We have learnt from past experience to go right to the front of carparks as that is where one finds the disabled carparking spaces so this is what we did here. Again following the signs we set off to look for the abbey.

whitby2.jpgThe path was very rough and worn by little runnels of water that has flowed for most of the winter. It wound along past high walls on one side and glimpses of Whitby below us over the top of allotments. . The DH stuggled along bravely but, by the time we finally found a gate in the wall, he was knackered and stumbling very badly. We found him a spot to rest in the sun as it was really quite chilly in the shade and I went off to look for a way into the abbey. The tearooms were closed but there were lots of people about it looked as if it should have been accessable. No matter where I went, I couldn't get in so I took the photograph up there from the best vantage point that I could find.

Further investigation found a sign on the front gates, which were approached from the complete opposite end of the car park from our chosen spot and along a footpath beside the approach road. The abbey is not open in the winter, dispite all of the people. The road did make it easier for me to drive the car up to the gate so the DH didn't have to walk back.

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February 6, 2005

York and Mary Ward


In our previous visits to England we have never come this far north. The DH was always concerned that we would become snowed in and unable to continue our wanderings. This winter, though, we decided to come to Yorkshire.

In the 17th century a very couragous woman stood by her convictions, defied the monarchy and her church hierarchy to establish a community of like minded Catholic women to educate girls. Because of this woman - Mary Ward - I am able to work in a school whose philosophy on the education of girls is much like mine.

We had come to Yorkshire to pay my respects at Mary Ward's grave site. Unfortunately the church where she is buried was closed while we were there. We tried to visit the museum at the Loreto convent in York but it was also closed for the whole of January. Thanks to Mary Ward, though, we did get to see Yorkshire.

Since I have been back to school, our historian told me a story about how, after Mary's death, the people of York tried to have the convent closed but a vision of St Michael appeared above the building, scaring the folk into leaving the convent alone. All Loreto schools have a statue of St Michael on the campus to commemorate the event.

I suspect that the story actually comes from the fact that the convent stand just a few metres outside the Michelgate in the city wall of old York. So does the pub where we had lunch on the day that we visited.

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February 3, 2005

Moving on

moveon.gifSadly our time in Paris was soon over and we had to move on, leaving behind the galleries and art works that we might never see again.

Our flight to Manchester was via Heathrow. I was amazed to find that you can see both shores of the Channel from the plane high above. This snow on the roof top of the house opposite the hotel in which we stayed over night in Manchester turned out to be the only snow that we would see on the whole trip.

Click here to read the whole travel story, so far. Start from the bottom as the newest entries are at the top.

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February 2, 2005

Christmas in Paris

notradame.gif Let's face it - I collect cathedrals. Since my first experience with Ely 4 years ago, I have collected cathedrals the same way as other people collect stamps or butterflies. Beautiful things are just irresistable.

What better place to spend Christmas Day in a city that is not your own, when you are far from your family, than in a church where everyone is celebrating the same thing that you are. Mass was just about standing room only and said in French, of course, so impossible to follow but it was still Christmas.

Notra Dame is very different from the many English cathedrals that I have photographed. It seemed to be a lot darker, I think. The east end is a somewhat shorter and rounded, which I hadn't seen before. English cathedrals have lots more famous and not so famous people buried and monumented in their aisles and chapels. I suppose that the lack of monuments could be the result of the French Revolution.

After mass we joined the throng of tourists that had continued to circulate around the side aisles throughout the service. In the south aisle I met Joan and in the north aisle, the Madonna and Child.

In the forecourt outside it seemed as though every sparrow in the whole of Paris had come to be fed. As I watched, parents gave their children crumbs to entice the the birds. This little girl made such a cute picture with the tiny birds fluttering around her head.

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