Gullfoss Waterfall with a Shake (Subtitle: I Really Need a Tripod!)

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I intended to show the video (below) on the post I wrote in early October about some of the sites we’d visited during our holiday in Iceland. (A glimpse of Iceland). Well… I can come up with several excuses for not doing so, but the main ones are simply that I hadn’t got around to getting it onto YouTube – and then, when I did, it looked far too jumpy and shaky to use.

The moral of the story is that for good, ‘steady’ videos we need a tripod. It’s impossible not to be jostled around at popular tourist spots and holding a camera perfectly level whilst moving it along to show different aspects of the feature is a big no-no (for me anyway).

Gullfoss (Golden Falls) is the most spectacular and well known of the Icelandic waterfalls, and we visited it as part of the popular Golden Circle Tour. The roaring noise is fascinating! Anyway, here’s the shaky video:

The second half of this video has somehow been lopped off – which is probably just as well, as it was far worse than the first half!

Here’s a little bit of additional information about these falls, mostly from tourist information boards at the site:

The Gullfoss Falls are on the River Hvitá where it descends from the highlands into the Hvítårgljúfor Canyon.  The waterfall cascades in two tiers into the canyon and is about 31m high. The upper waterfall faces south and is 11 m high, the lower one faces west and is 20 m high. The two tiers can be seen in this photo:

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For many years attempts were made to buy or rent the waterfall and harness its power, and disputes continued throughout the 20th century.  A woman named Sigridur Tómasdóttir (1871-1957), a farmer’s daughter and later owner of the nearby farm, Brattholt, became ‘standard bearer’ in the fight to protect the Gullfoss, and devoted most of her long life to preventing its destruction.

Happily, Gullfoss and its environs were designated a nature reserve in 1979.

There are a couple of theories as to why these falls became known as the ‘Golden Falls’. The first is because of the golden evening hue which often colours its glacial waters. The second is that the name was inspired by the rainbow that often appears when the sunshine hits the water spray. But I prefer this story, which tallies with all the other fanciful tales abounding in Iceland. It was found in the travel journal of Sveinn Pálsson:

A farmer named Gýgur lived at Gýgurjarhóll. He had plenty of gold and could not bear the thought of anyone else having it after he’d died. (What a meanie!) So he placed the gold in a coffer and threw it in the waterfall – which has been called Gullfoss ever since.

Well that’s the last post I’ll be doing on Iceland – for a while, anyway 🙂

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Burnby Hall and Gardens

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With 2016 racing towards its end I thought I ought to write up about some of the many places we’ve visited around the UK this year. I’ve already posted some of them, as well as a couple of posts about our holiday in Iceland, but I’ve still loads left to do! So I thought I’d start with somewhere we’ve visited twice this year. The first time was in April when trees were only just coming into leaf, and the second in July, when summer flowers were blooming and water lilies patterned and coloured the lakes.

Burnby Hall Gardens wasn’t somewhere we’d set out to visit on our first short break in Yorkshire in April, but we saw leaflets about it in the hotel and thought we’d have a look. And it came as a pleasant surprise. It’s located in the market town of Pocklington in the East Riding of the county.

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Map of the East Riding of Yorkshire. Source: Ordnance Survey OpenData. Author: Nilfanion. Creative Commons

The Gardens have been described as ‘the jewel in Yorkshire’s crown’ and consist of upper and lower lakes set in nine acres of woodland. There are pathways around the lakes, an ornamental bridge, an aviary, a Victorian garden, a rockery and more recently a stumpery has been added – which I’ll explain about later in the post.

The two lakes are home to a national collection of over a hundred varieties of hardy water lilies which flower between June and August – the reason we visited for a second time in July. The lakes are home to lots of carp and roach which people happily feed with cartons of fish pellets purchased from the shop. The carps’ gaping mouths are very amusing.

When we visited in early April most trees were still bare or just coming into leaf, and blossoms and spring flowers adorned the site. Before I say anything about how the Gardens came into existence, here are a few springtime photos we took:

The site of Burnby Gardens was originally the estate of Major Percy Marlborough Stewart (1871 – 1962) who was descended from the earls of Galloway and the Spencer-Churchills and was the godson of the Duke of Marlborough. The gardens were created when Major Stewart returned to settle at home after eight trips around the world, during which he visited every continent except Antarctica. On some of the trips he was accompanied by his wife, Katharine. He is described in the Burnby Hall and Gardens website as ‘an adventurer, traveller, scholar, philanthropist, collector and environmentalist’. His travelling days apparently started after a remark he made to Katharine:

‘We’re terribly dull people, let’s travel round the world and then we shall have something to talk about.’

Many of the cultural and religious artefacts Major Percy collected can be seen in the museum which is housed in the estate’s house.  Many of these have been recognised by UNESCO as being of national and international importance. (I won’t write about the museum here or this post will become far too long!).

On his death in 1962, having no children and his wife having predeceased him, Major Stewart willed that the Gardens and Collection should be left in trust for the benefit of the people of Pocklington.

Here are some of our summertime photos when the water lilies, in particular, were really beautiful – and the reason we decided to go back to Burnby in July:

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To finish with, a little about the stumpery (taken from an information board at the Burnby Stumpery).

A stumpery is a garden feature constructed mainly from the upturned roots of large trees. The roots are artistically shaped and once in place, plants are used to break up the strong lines and soften the angles. Stumperies have been described as ‘Victorian oddities’ and were popular during the 19th century. The stumpery at Burnby was inspired by the one at Highgrove, the main residence of HRH the Prince of Wales. His stumpery has over 95 sweet chestnut trees and covers 9000 square feet. When his father, Prince Philip, first saw it, he is reputed to have said, ‘When are you going to set fire to this lot?’

Work on Burnby’s stumpery started in 2011 with the removal of 40 dead wych elms (dead as a result of Dutch elm disease) and general clearance of the site. Soil bunds were added to give the stumpery some height. A large quantity of oak stumps were provided by a local Wilberfoss timber agent and the Hobbits’ house in the centre was added for interest.

Environmentally, the stumpery provides for many different species of flora and fauna. Amongst many others, the flora includes many ferns and spring bulbs. Amongst the fauna are grey squirrels, shrews, hedgehogs and occasional rabbits and foxes. Many insects, spiders and snails also make their homes here and the log-like cabins provide excellent ‘bug hotels’ and habitats for hibernating fauna.

This a plan of the stumpery (from the same information board.)

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… and some photos which are a mixture of ones taken in both April and July. There were quite a few little Green Men around, too.

Well, perhaps it’s time to say, ‘That’s all for now folks.’

It’s Just a Game – FFfAW

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a piece of fiction from the given photo prompt in around 75-150 words – give or take 25 words. If you’d like to join in with the challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Iain Kelly:

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And this is my story:

It’s Just a Game

Twelve-year-old Aelric made his first move and glared across the hnefatafl board at his burly opponent: the brute whose marauding band had seized his father’s village.

A yellow-toothed grin creased Halvar’s face. “Don’t look so glum, boy. It’s just a game.’

Aelric stayed mute, contemplating how best to move his knights to capture his cocksure opponent’s white king and claim the victory. For Halvar had vowed to Aelric’s father: ‘We’ll leave your village, Wulfgar, when one of your people can beat me at hnefatafl.’

Many games had been played and lost, and now all hope rested with Aelric…

‘It’s just a game, Halvar,’ he said as he finally took the white king. Halvar’s outraged face turned puce, but he kept his word and his thieving band left the village that day.

Wulfgar hoisted Aelric onto a table and raised his ale mug. ‘To the hnefatafl champion of Wessex!’ he yelled and grinned at his son. ‘Good thing we didn’t tell Halvar you haven’t been beaten by anyone in the kingdom since you were eight.’

Word Count: 175

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If you’d like to read other stories, or add one yourself, click on the little blue frog:

A Word about Hnefatafl…

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Hnefatafl. Author Andreas Zautner. Public Domain

Hnefatafl – also known as ‘King’s Table’ – was a common board game for two people played by the Vikings. It soon spread to all the lands where the Vikings travelled, however, including Britain, Ireland and Lapland. In Old Norse, the word tafl means ‘table’ or ‘board’. The game is not the same as chess, although it is played on a chequered board. Henefatafl involves two unequal sides: the smaller ‘kings’ side of 12, initially positioned in the centre of the board, and the opposing 24 knights set out against the four sides.

The object of the game is for the king to escape. If he reaches one of the four corners he wins the game. If the attackers manage to capture him – by the strategic movement of players – the attackers win.

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This is the first time I’ve been on my blog for almost four weeks. We’ve had a lot of family issues to deal with, including serious ill health of a family member. Consequently my blogging, and writing in general, has been ‘on hold’. I hope to back again soon