Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Kennet & Avon Floating Market Summer 2017 (and wonderful wonderful Bradford-on-Avon ♪ ♫)

Having visited Bradford-on-Avon on Thursday night for Words and Ears (a splendid night of poetry), we were back again on Saturday morning for the Kennet & Avon Floating Market. 

We arrived timelily, the plan being to pick up some copies of Dru Marland's wonderful new book of illustrated poetry, Drawn Chorusand some of our friends Chris and Jinny's wonderful leatherwork. (I had my hopes set on a leather-covered notebook to write poems in.)

Dru was doing a brisk trade in books and cards and prints. 

As for Chris and Jinny - well, I couldn't see them for punters, some of whom had been queuing for an hour; in fact, a couple of customers had come over specially from Germany.  

All I could see was the garden of their narrowboat. 

I couldn't face joining the scrum for something so precious, though Cathy, my companion, was lucky and secured a beautiful pair of earrings once the feeding frenzy had died down a little. 

I decided it was probably better to commission a cover. (I'm good at biding my time as long as there is time to bide.) 

NB Eve flying the European flag

Cathy isn't all that familiar with Bradford-on-Avon, so after we'd had lunch in the pub, and caught up with our friends, the singer-songwriter Lou Bell and potter Jan Lane, we went for a wander around town. 

First stop, the massive plane tree by the River Avon ...
... and then the excellent bookshop Ex Libris, whose poetry section is in a shed at the end of the garden. 

I decided we should probably visit some of the more conventional tourist spots, so we headed for the wonderful Saxon Church of St Laurence. On the way, we diverted into the parish church of Holy Trinity. 

For some reason I hadn't been in there before - I think at least a couple of times it had been closed. 

There were a few details I was taken with ... 

... this pre-Reformation reredos in the north wall which has somehow survived ... 

... this cheery little chap on a 17th century tomb ...

... this fragment of a mediaeval wall painting showing the Virgin Mary being taught by her mother, Anne ... 

... this Flemish roundel in a stained glass window showing Christ breaking bread with two apostles and a dog with a human face, a common depiction then but still a bit disquieting.

I was also impressed, in a horrified sort of way, to see that the church had no less than five priests in the plague years of 1348-49. 

But there were other things I really disliked, notably the Victorian pillars wound round with ribbons, the fact there wasn't a guide book, and the dispiritingly corporate feel the place has acquired. 

Much more to my taste is the 'lost' Saxon Church of St Laurence, one of the most atmospheric churches I've ever been in, even after repeated visits. I love it. 

It is at least 1100 and possibly 1300 years old, and is one of the few buildings I know, the worn step of which isn't painted brilliant yellow. Hooray!

Oh and the play of light and shadow is just beautiful. 

It was good to catch up with the angels. 

New since my previous visit was the addition of two pieces of stone above the altar, which is made up of pieces of Saxon stonework found near by, and the fragment of a cross: namely, a ring of stone carved in 2012 by John Maine, which has been set above a piece of 150 million year old fossilised tree.  

The effect is stunning.

Coffin at Church of St Laurence

Coffin at Bradford-on-Avon Tithe Barn

Time for one more place - it had to be the Tithe Barn, didn't it? No apologies for yet more photos of a building I visit regularly

Marks of apotropaios on the stonework around the doors

Up on the tow path, the same band of troubadours was performing who played at Chris and Jinny's wedding last September, but it was time for us to be making tracks home. The Floating Market will be back, however - in Newbury from 26th to 28th August, and again in Bradford-on-Avon in time for all your Christmas Shopping needs. 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

A Dog Day on Leckhampton Hill

It was the final day of hall and stairs floor stripping, and it was hot. Ted and I decided to head somewhere for a bit of air. 

How about Leckhampton Hill, just south of Cheltenham? 

Don't mind if I do, said Ted. 

We chose a car park that was already at the top of the approach to the hill, so that there wasn't so far to climb, and before long we were enjoying a bit of a breeze ... 

... not to mention the gorgeous views, over Cheltenham and across to the Cotswolds.   

This rock pinnacle is the Devil's Chimney. My walking book is adamant that it's not a natural feature, having been quarried by 18th century workmen, although differential erosion could be another explanation.

In any event, legends have grown up around it, concerning Old Nick and his propensity to chuck stones about. One piece of information that might be true is that the maximum number of people who've stood on its cap at the same time is thirteen. Which made me feel quite queasy.

Up on top of the hill, there were now views over to Gloucester Cathedral with the Severn flood plain and Wales beyond ... 

... the misty Malvern Hills up ahead ... 

... and Bredon Hill and the Cotswolds rather closer at hand.

It was just the most perfect day.

A short climb took us to that ubiquitous feature, the remains of an iron-age hill fort

Neither Ted (on a lead) or the cows could be bothered with each other in the heat. 

By now we were on Hartley Hill, overlooking Charlton Kings Common.  

Some kind landowner had incorporated fox/badger flaps into their new drystone wall. 

And yet the popping of black gorse pods all around us was echoed in the valley by almost constant gun fire. All those small deaths.  

I found a fossil on the path, and then almost immediately afterwards a better one which I was unable to prise from its muddy bed without a trowel. 

Oh and the limestone-loving flowers were glorious. Giant thistles ...

... vetch and poppies on the edge of a barley field ... 

... and on the verges of the quiet road leading back to the start of our walk, chicory ... 

... and sheep's bit, alongside oilseed rape. 

And it was still too hot for the sheep to be bothered by Ted, or he by them. 

Cranesbill, lady's mantle and ragwort in the quarry car park.