Paint Me Green!

Paint Me Green!

Sidney waited for the groundsman to put him down and stared at the figure ahead of him. ‘Glud…’ he croaked, confused and a little scared. ‘Where are we? ’

Glud turned and Sidney hooted. ‘Oh boy, you should see the size of your eyes! They never looked like that before they painted you.’

The green man bristled. ‘Well you should see the size of your teeth! And weren’t you listening to those blokes who painted us? They were making us look interesting so someone would buy us for their garden.’

‘Why would they do that?’

‘We’re garden ornaments, Sidney. Don’t you Earthlings know anything?  I’m green with big eyes ’cos I’m an alien, and they’re always popular. I think you’re a squirrel.’

‘Oh no! That means I’ll have to eat nuts. Yuk!’

‘We’ll soon find out. Smile nicely and these folks approaching might buy us.’

‘Don’t leave me!’ Sidney squeaked as Glud was carried away by a nice-looking family. ‘Paint me green and I’d look like an alien, too. Aliens can have big teeth…’


Word Count: 175

This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. I thought I’d have a bit of fun with this great prompt, which was kindly provided by anymark66

FFfAW is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:


A Visit to Beamish Museum: Part 2

There is so much to see at Beamish Museum in County Durham that I’ve had to split my post about it into two parts. Part 1 was an introduction to the museum in general and a look at the first of the four main areas on the site: the 1900s Town.

In this post I’ll show the three other main areas of the site: the 1900s Pit Village, the 1940’s Home Farm and finally the 1820s Pockerley Hall. Between them, the four sites give visitors a good overview of the life and work of people in the North East of England over the centuries.

The Pit Village naturally sits alongside the Colliery. It is opposite the town and is the closest of the sites to the entrance on the above map. As most villages, it catered for the immediate needs of the people who would, perhaps, take trips into the Town for goods that couldn’t be bought in the village, or go to the bank, or to visit professionals such as the dentist or solicitor. For a special treat they may well head to the Town Park on a Sunday to listen to the brass band play.

These are a few photos of the Pit Village, the biggest attractions there being the old school, the Wesleyan Chapel (in which Sunday School was held) and the Village Hall. One group of visiting primary school children were dressed up in period costume for their lesson with a rather strict schoolmistress.

And these are a few views of the colliery:

We didn’t go into the drift mine on this occasion, or into the winding engine house and adjoining heapstead building where the coal was weighed and the large lumps separated from the  fragments and dust. Time was ticking on and we’d been in these places a couple of times on previous visits.

Next we moved on to Home Farm, which represents farm life in the area during the 1940s. and, of course, WW2. In the photos below, the bedroom shown had two single beds to accommodate two land girls. In one of the outside barns was a cafe for visitors to buy tea, coffee and small snacks, decorated as cafes had looked during wartime.

We then hopped on another tram and headed to Pockerley Hall, which represents the house of a well-to-do tenant farmer in the 1820s. The lands around the hall that he would have farmed can be seen on the plan above. A house has stood on this slight hilltop since 1183, and its defensive location suggests there could have been an Iron Age hill fort there long before that. I won’t go into the history of the families who have lived in this hall, except to say that it was linked to the de Pockerleys in the 13th century, as well as several other families over the years. A tenant farmer lived in the hall until 1990 when it became part of Beamish Museun. After restoration work, the hall opened to visitors in 1995.

The following picture shows how Pockerley New Hall (red-brown roof) was built to adjoin Pockerley Old House (right hand side of photo).

These are a few more photos of  the 1820s hall and gardens:

The adjoining Old House is a medieval strong house, dating back to the 1440s. It would have been a place of refuge during conflict and raids (border reivers) and boasts very thick walls and small windows. It was very dark in most of the rooms inside so I’m afraid some photos aren’t very clear.

And finally we headed over to the 1820s Pockerley Waggonway. It represents the year 1825, when the Stockton and Datlington Railway opened.

The first waggonways opened in Britain around 1600 and by the 1800 they were common in industrial areas. The North East was Britain’s biggest coal producing area and coal was taken to rivers like the Tyne and the Wear by waggonway. After 1800, iron rails and steam engines started to replace horse or gravity powered ones: the modern railway had arrived.

We saw replicas of three different early engines there, including the famous Puffing Billy. The engine in use for pulling the little train on the day we visited was the Steam Elephant.

The Fiery Breath of Dragons – FFfAW

The Fiery Breath of Dragons

They came before the land had wakened, as Groshan had known they would. Three mighty dragons, their fiery breaths patterning the pre-dawn sky with a brilliance as great as the Sun-god’s rise.

From the entrance to his cave-world, deep in the mountain, the overlord seethed as the dragons swooped over his city below, their terrible flames reducing it to smouldering ash. If not for his vision, the townsfolk would have shared that fate.

Having no other choice, Groshan had led his people to a place in the mountain’s veiled depths, with its black and bottomless pool: the source of his wisdom and power. His age-old enemy would not win this time, despite his dragons.

‘Come back to the caves, Husband. This will soon end and Styras will think he’s destroyed us. We’ll leave by night and build a new city far away.’

Groshan turned to Ailis. ‘Our son will guide you all to the lands across the sea. I will follow, once Styras lies dead at my feet and my powers are no longer needed.’


Word Count: 175


This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a little late this week and hastily written.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by Footy and Foodie.

FFfAW is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:


A Visit to Beamish Museum: Part 1

‘Tiny Tim’ the steam hammer at the entrance to Beamish Museum. A very autumnal photo from Wikipedia. Public Domain

Last week we were up in Yorkshire again for a short break. Needless to say, we visited some great sites to add to my ever growing list of posts to be written up. The site I’ve decided to write about first is one we’ve already visited three times in past years, and it wasn’t exactly one ‘just around the corner’ from our hotel. Nor was it in Yorkshire. But it’s a great place, with so much of interest to people of all ages., and well worth the 77 mile drive from our hotel near York.

So where am I talking about…? Why, BEAMISH of course!

Set in 300 acres of beautiful countryside in the county of Durham in North-East England…

….Beamish is described as a living, working museum. It includes a number of distinct areas, each very interesting in its own right. The four main areas are: the 1900s Town, the 1900s Pit Village, a 1940s Farm, and Pockerley Old Hall, dating from 1820. This photo of a map on one of the information boards at the site shows the location of these. Unfortunately, it isn’t too clear:

The buildings used to create the various areas of the Museum have been collected from across the north-eastern region, the primary aim being to present visitors with a realistic experience of the region’s past.

The various areas are spaced out around the site, so a number of trams and omnibuses are available for transporting visitors from one place to another. Most people choose to ride in the old vehicles, some for the experience of it; for others who would find the walking too difficult or just too much, the vehicles are a necessity.

Children find them great fun. In fact, on the day we were there, there were several groups of primary children enjoying a day out as the SATs exams had just finished. There were also a couple of groups of older students – all armed with questionnaires – probably studying the Industrial Revolution,or some topic related to one or more of the four sites.

At each of the sites, costumed staff and volunteers work hard to bring their roles to life. We can simply watch them carrying out their everyday tasks, or become involved in conversation and learn about the work they do and the goods or produce they are handling. They are impressively knowledgeable as well as helpful.

So, onto the 1900s town which was our first port of call after hopping onto a tram close to the Entrance:Beamish Town is somewhere we could have spent so much longer looking round. There are lots of interesting buildings and areas of the town that deserve more than a fleeting glance. This very long gallery shows some of them:

On walking along the town’s main street, you can’t fail to notice the Town Park with it’s welcomed greenery. In the 1900s, parks were important places in which townspeople could unwind and enjoy some exercise and fresh air after work in summer and at weekends all year. Sundays would see the many of the community coming together to hear a brass band entertaining them from the band stand.

Before we made our way along the road to the railway station on the edge of town we had a quick look at the livery stables across the road from the park:

We continued walking along the road heading towards Rowley Railway Station on the edge of town. The station was moved to Beamish from the village of Rowley, near Consett, County Durham. The guide book tells us that the North East led the way in the development of the railways. and by 1880, the North East Railway had a network of lines across Northumberland, Durham and North Yorkshire. Rowley Station was built in 1867 and it represents the Edwardian period at Beamish.

And to finish Part 1 of my Beamish post, here are a few photos of the Funfair on a field across the road from the station. To be honest, it was by no means the busiest area of the museum. Most people were far more interested in soaking up the history of the place.

Say ‘Hello’ to Henry VIII at Gainsborough Old Hall

On Sunday we decided to take a short drive up to Gainsborough Old Hall. We’d noticed some events advertised for this weekend and despite having lived only 15 miles from Gainsborough for many years, we’d never visited this lovely old manor. So we thought it was time to change things. But before I delve into the exhibition we enjoyed this weekend, I’ll say a few words about the town of Gainsborough and the Old Hall in general.

The town of Gainsborough is situated in the West Lindsey region of the county of Lincolnshire and is 18 miles north-west of the city of Lincoln. At one time Gainsborough was an important port with trade downstream to Hull on the Humber estuary and, at 55 miles from the sea, was the most important inland port in England.

Gainsborough Old Hall was built by the Burgh family around 1460 and is one of the best preserved timber-framed late-medieval manor houses in the UK. It has a wonderful great hall, a strong brick tower, and the original medieval kitchen. Not to mention a ghost corridor. Both Richard III and Henry VIII stayed at the Old Hall. It was sold to the Hickman family in 1596. Today the Hall holds a variety of events and exhibitions and an award-winning schools’ education programme. On the day we visited there were two distinct attractions to enjoy, in addition to being able to look round this wonderful old building.

The site of this Hall is a little different to many other manors and stately homes we’ve visited, in that it’s in the middle of the town and therefore surrounded by streets and buildings. It also means that there is little in the way of grounds – although that would have been different centuries ago. So we headed into the grounds at the back of the Hall and stopped to glance at the information board:

 As we had twenty minutes to spare before opening time, we strolled around the outside taking a few photos here and there…

By the time we’d got round to the front, the hall doors were opening and out came Henry VIII to greet his guests. Oh yes, Henry knew how to turn on the charm!

Then in we went, to be greeted by this cheery display:

Gainborough Old Hall is managed by both English Heritage and Lincolnshire County Council and as we’re members of English Heritage, we had nothing to pay. So we duly followed Henry to hear his first audience of the day.

In the following gallery, I’ve included photos of the Great Hall, where the audience took place, and a couple of photos of Henry still going strong at performances later on. He did six during the day, and I can only say he was brilliant! Not only did he look the part, but his booming voice resonated round the hall, rising and falling perfectly in order to place emphasis where it was needed. Despite his fearsome presence he knew where to add a touch of humour. There was nothing he didn’t know about Henry’s life and he answered questions at the end of sessions brilliantly. He performs this role at venues all over the country, including Windsor Castle. He was attended by a serving woman who added humour to the act as she popped in and out and insisted we all bowed or curtsied and addressed Henry correctly when we spoke to him. ‘Yes, your majesty…’

Following this excellent entertainment we wandered around the house just having a general look round. The original medieval kitchens with two huge hearths, bread ovens, storage areas and a servery was certainly interesting and gave real insight into cooking and meals of that time:

These photos are just some of the different areas of the Hall we photographed as we looked round. In 1541, Henry VIII really did visit Gainsborough Hall, with his fourth wife Catherine Howard, who naturally, still had her head in the right place at that time. (Henry’s tirade about her and several other wives during his audience was superb.)

The ghost, known as the Grey Lady, is thought to be the daughter of the Lord of the Manor who fell in love with a penniless soldier and planned to elope with him. On discovering the plan, her father locked her in the tower where she died of a broken heart. Legend holds that the girl’s spirit still wanders the tower waiting for her lover to come.

Unfortunately, the lady did not come out to say hello to us.

Eventually we arrived in the Upper Great Chamber to see the display of costumes from the TV drama, Wolf Hall, from the novel written by Hilary Mantel. I won’t go into detail regarding actors or their characters here as it would take too long! The exhibition runs from 29th April to 28th August. Many of the photos aren’t too good due to the glare through the large windows but the display itself was excellent.

After a quick bite to eat in the Coffee Shop, we finished our visit with a look at the  Medieval Gardens. Although these cover quite a small area, they are interesting because the species of plants and flowers are mostly those that would have been grown in medieval times. A wall poster in the hall gave a list, which I photographed but it isn’t very clear unfortunately. If you click on it a couple of times it enlarges the flower and herb names across the bottom enough to be read:

Thankfully, the photos from outside are quite clear:

This is a rather long post (although most of it is photos) so I’ll finish off by saying that we had a fascinating trip back in time on Sunday. Now it’s back to 21st century reality.

The Pathway Home – FFfAW

The Pathway Home

It had been a sacred place for as long as anyone could remember. The stones pulsed with an awesome, deep-rooted power. Some said the gods had blessed them; others believed the stones were cursed. Only Grainne knew the truth.

She knelt on the large flat stone, her heartbeat in unison with its rhythmic throb. Around her the forest trees shivered, anticipating something extraordinary…something their boughs would remember for generations to come.

‘Arawn,’ she whispered, pressing her brow to the cool, grey stone. ‘I’ve endured two hundred years in the world of humankind. Let me return…’

The stones rumbled but Grainne did not move. ‘I won’t go till you let me through! I never meant to hurt you. I still love you!’

The rocks groaned and shifted, creating a fissure in the earth below. Grainne dropped from the stone and into the widening gap.

‘Return to me, beloved,’ the god of the otherworld murmured. ‘You’ve paid the price for turning your back on our ways. Our people want their queen back…

And so do I.’


Word Count: 175

Note: After reading a couple of comments that made me smile, I’ve decided to fish out my judge’s wig and reconsider Grainne’s case…

On this occasion, I’ve decided to show lenience and reduce her sentence to 200 years. Even an immortal would probably go bonkers living with the dreaded humans for 2,000 years! 😀

This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by Pamela S. Canepa

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:


A Look at Cornwall (6): Saint Michael’s Mount Part 2: The Terrace Gardens

The Terrace Gardens at St Michael’s Mount adorn the steep granite slopes on the south-eastern side of the island. Today the gardens attract 65 thousand visitors a year from April to September – the number of days they’re open being restricted to safeguard them from too much erosion. The gardens are carefully and lovingly tended by the head gardener, Lottie Allen and her team of three.

To many visitors, it may seem strange that these beautiful gardens exist at all in such a location. The steep granite cliffs, with the sea thrashing against the shore beneath and the brisk, salty winds and harsher gales – make it an unlikely place for any type of garden. Yet that is far from the truth. Gardens cover 12 of the island’s 21 acres.

The waters of the Gulf Stream moderate the climate so that frosts are rare and the granite rocks of the cliffs act like a great radiator, absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night:

Bare granite cliffs of the isle

This creates a micro climate in which a variety of plants flourish. Abundant blooms and exotic plants have thrived here since 1780: aloes, agapanthus, puya, agave, rosemary, cornilla and lavender – amongst a whole host of others – fill the gardens with texture, shape and colour. Winding paths and stone steps lead visitors on a wonderful journey of exploration along which cameras continuously click. As did ours.

So how did these unusual gardens come about?

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this post yesterday, the castle has been owned by the St Aubyn family since 1659. It is thought that, in 1780, the four Misses St Aubyn of that time initiated the building of the Walled Garden, a delightful and relatively sheltered space for the family to enjoy. Today it is positioned between the East and West Terraces, which were created during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The gardens as we see them today were designed in 1987 by Michael Paul Harvey along with Lord St Levan, who died in 2013. (Lord Levan was grandfather to the current castle resident, James St Aubyn.) The development of the gardens are still under the guidance of Michael Paul Harvey.

These are a few more of the dozens of photos we took that day.

Naturally, all visitors are advised regarding the safety aspects of visiting the gardens. As it says on the leaflet, ‘A guide to the Gardens‘:

There are steep drops from the lawns down to the rocks below as well as significant drops within the garden. The paths and steps are steep, rocky and uneven and in some places there are no handrails…. Sensible footwear is essential…. Please see that children are supervised at all times… Please do not handle the plants or pick the flowers as some may be hazardous to health… Dogs are not allowed in the garden… People with limited mobility or significant health problems will find the terrain challenging…

Much of that information may seem like common sense to most people, but I think the warnings are excellent and an important reminder to those about to embark on a walk round these wonderful gardens.

There is so much more I could have said about Saint Michael’s Mount, as even two posts haven’t really done it justice. All I can say is that we enjoyed our visit immensely and learned a lot about this lovely isle.

A Look at Cornwall (6): Saint Michael’s Mount Part 1

On the third day of our week in Cornwall in June 2o16 we decided to visit Saint Michael’s Mount, which has been described as ‘the most famous of Cornwall’s landmarks’ (National Trust). I have to admit it’s a great place to visit. It’s a lovely walk up to the castle and there’s plenty to see inside it once you get there, with fabulous views out across Mount’s Bay from the roof terraces. The Church of St Michael and All Angels, built in 1135, also stands on the North Terrace. For visitors more interested in gardens, the terrace gardens that adorn the steep island slopes are a delight and full of colourful and exotic blooms.

From Newlyn (near Penzance) where we were staying we had a relatively short drive, compared to our drive up to Tintagel the previous day. That meant we could get there nice and early.

Wikipedia tells us that the Cornish name for St Michael’s Mount is Karrek Loos yn Koos, which means hoar rock in woodland, or literally the grey rock in a wood – an appropriate description for a granite crag that rises 221 feet above sea level (not including the buildings at the summit).Wikipedia also tells us that St Michael’s Mount is one of 43, unbridged, tidal islands that people can walk to around mainland Britain.

Located in Mount’s Bay, the isle is just 500 metres from the mainland and linked to the town of Marazion by a causeway which is passable between mid-tide and low-water. It is managed by the National Trust and the castle and chapel have been the home of the St Aubyn family since around 1650. The island also had a population of 35 in 2011. Part of the island was designated a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) in 1995 because of its geology.

We left the car at the car park in Marazion and headed along the beach path towards the causeway:

We had planned to walk across to the island, but if the tide had been in we’d have taken the boat. As it was, the tide was on the ebb, so we just had a short wait on the causeway until it went out. As to be expected, some people couldn’t resist paddling as the water became shallower but, not wanting to spend the rest of the morning in soggy jeans, we waited.

People wading across the Causeway before the tide was completely out.

Eventually, the tide ebbed and we approached the island.

The granite cobblestones/setts of the causeway continue along the pathway onto the island and up to the castle:

To greet visitors on the island are a number of buildings, including the Island Café…

… a couple of shops and of course, the loos. There is also a picnic area. This is a plan of the island, which can be enlarged by clicking on it: The black line from Point 9 (Ticket Office) is the pathway leading up to the castle:

There’s a lot of history to find out about on the island – from Neolithic and Bronze age times to the more recent medieval period, the Civil War in the mid 17th century and through Victorian times to the present day. It is possible that the isle may have been the site of a monastery in the 8th century, but we know that by the time of the Norman Conquest of 1066 it was in the possession of the monks of its sister isle in Normandy, Mont Saint Michel: another tidal island with a conical shape, similar, though smaller, to Mount Saint Michael:

Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. Public Domain

The church and priory at St Michael’s Mount were built in the 12th century but the priory was destroyed by an earthquake of 1275 and rebuilt in the late 14th century. The priory’s association with the abbey at Mont St Michel ended in the 15th century during the war in France in the reign of Henry V. The priory was later given to the Abbess and Convent of Syon in Middlesex and the building still forms the heart of the castle today.

There is also some fascinating folklore and legend connected to the island, including that of an 18 foot giant called Cormoran who lived in a cave at the top of the rock with his ill-gotten treasures and terrorised the people.

The Giant Cormoran circa 1820, Source: Victorian chapbook. Author unknown. Public Domain

The first building we came to after leaving the ticket office at the start of our trek uphill was the Victorian Dairy:

The next few photos were taken at various points on our way up to the top:

Inside the house there are several rooms to view, all with lots of history behind them. The Wars of the Roses and the Civil War feature strongly but there are pieces of furniture and a whole host of artefacts from various periods. I can’t possibly do justice to the many interesting pieces or the different rooms here so I’ll just share a few of the photos. The coat of arms is in the Entrance Hall.

I’ll finish this part of the post with a few photos taken on the North Terrace as we came out of the castle…

… and these from inside the Church of St Michael and All Angels:

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I’ll share some photos of the exotic terrace gardens in another post later on.

The Lincoln Knights’ Trail 2017

On Sunday we headed into Lincoln to finish photographing the 37 models of mounted knights displayed around central areas of the city for people to find. The activity is primarily aimed at children and is basically the same idea as that of the Barons’ Trail of 2015. Participants collect an entry form and location map from the Information Centre near the castle. On locating each knight they must examine it to find the hidden green shield and identify the word written on it from the key given with the map. Completed entry forms are returned to the Information Centre in exchange for a prize. With the Barons’ Trail, the prize was a bag of chocolate ‘coins’. On this occasion the prize is a badge and a voucher to buy a copy of the specially commissioned book about the Battle of Lincoln for £1.50 instead of £3.50.

Well, needless to say, we didn’t bother looking for hidden shields but we saw lots of children enjoying the task:

The Knight’s Trail  is part of the celebrations of the 800th anniversaries of two events that took place in 1217: the Battle of Lincoln Fair and the Sealing of the Charter of the Forest by the nine-year-old king, Henry III (or more likely, his regent William Marshal). This hugely important charter is currently on display with the Magna Carta at the castle.

The Trail is a Wild in Art event and has been organised by Lincoln BIG (Business Improvement Group) in support of the Nomad Trust, a charity that “provides welfare services in the city of Lincoln for those who are homeless or otherwise in need”. The event is sponsored by different businesses and concerns and many of the knights are designed by local artists. Later this year the knights will be sold at auction to raise money for the Nomad Trust.

The knights are placed in both uphill and downhill locations, which – if the task is to be completed in one go – requires a nice, invigorating walk up Steep Hill. In fact, a few of  the knights are along Steep Hill. This hill may not look too steep in photos, but it is a fairly lengthy hill and I’ve seen lots of people stopping, out of breath and in need of a rest.

Lincoln is a city in two distinct parts: uphill and downhill. My first photo of this post shows a view from downhill Lincoln towards the cathedral uphill. The following photo is of the Brayford Pool, which is downhill (around which a few knights were lurking) with some of the university buildings in the background. So these knights were not exactly all in a cluster:

The following gallery shows the 35 knights just waiting to be found:

The missing two are numbers 10 – the Lincoln City Knight (referring to Lincoln City Football Club) –  and 37 (the Poet Laureate Knight, which is a miniature belonging to the University of Lincoln and is housed in the Uni’s Minerva Building). These two extras are simply classed as Bonus Knights.

As with the Barons’ Trail, miniature knights can be purchased for people to decorate themselves. We noticed a few already painted and displayed in shop windows.

It should be an interesting and busy summer around Lincoln. There are likely to be a lot more visitors than usual, especially during the time that the Charter of the Forest is displayed at the castle. I don’t think local businesses will complain a great deal…