Thursday, 31 May 2012

Hovis raffles off cottage

Could 'Hovis Cottage' (on the busy A34 dual carriageway, of all places, in Newcastle-under-Lyme) be anything to do with the Hovis bread company?

I thought it was probably unlikely, but one Google search later I found the excellent website, which specialises in researching the history of the North Staffordshire conurbation.
According to it, the cottage was built by the Hovis company many years ago as a charity raffle prize.

The story seems bizarre and unlikely – but strange enough to be true!

See: Hovis Cottage – on Newcastle Canal on

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Fame for Bagot Goat

Abbots Bromley is famous for lots of things – including the Bagot Goat. This breed of goat is one of the oldest in England, being first recorded in the 14th century.
It ran wild for centuries round here, but, no longer sadly. It’s now only to be found in rare-breed centres.
I don't know why, but British regiments often choose this type of goat to be their mascots.

I guess it is a type of fame to be represented in a pub-name.

The Bagot Arms is in Abbots Bromley. I suppose it might be argued that the pub is named after the local Bagot family (which maintained, and gave its name to, the goat for all those years), but I prefer to think the pub is named in honour of the goat itself.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Jubilee tawdriness

The Jubilee celebrations have been a tawdry affair so far, with a lot of shops and town centres taking advantage of the situation to sell some pretty kitsch, cheap stuff under the name of ‘loyalty’. Hmm.

Let’s hope the actual day is celebrated with a little less emphasis on making a buck.

Monday, 28 May 2012

K6 on the way out

The iconic red telephone box – so much a symbol of Britain really – is on the way out.
After all, nearly everyone has a mobile now, and British Telecom has developed more efficient (and less smelly!) kiosks since the red 'K6' box first appeared.
It first came out in the 1930s.

BT is now selling off some of the ones it has dismantled.

Any one still in place – like this one at Hilderstone – is safe for now. But its long-term future must be uncertain...

Link: BT sells off K6 Phone Boxes

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Fool has a beer

Having a beer in church, dressed in red and gold. Only a fool could get away with that, you think?

Well, strangely enough, you are half-right. Stafford recently had its Green Man Festival, where the town’s morris-men troupe is always the star of the show.

At a talk in St Chad’s Church, the organisers respected the spirit of the festival and allowed beer sales in the church – and Jack Brown, whom you can see in the photo, took advantage of the offer.
Jack takes the character of The Fool in Stafford Morris Dancers group - as you can tell from his outfit.

Jack is pretty legendary himself actually!

Link: Stafford Morris Men

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Italians come to market

Outdoor markets on various themes (‘Farmers’, ‘Continental’ etc) are very popular now.

Getting in the mood, Leek town centre had an Italian Market today… and we had some Italian sunshine to go with it.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Peak District temptation

When the weather is as pleasant as it has been today, I can’t help thinking that I’m tempted to be up on the hills.

And, as Oscar Wilde said, the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. So I went up to the Peak District.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Tropical trees

I never expected to see palm trees in Staffordshire – even though it was another hot day today...

I came across this clump of these trees on the woodland ridge which looks down on ‘Festival Park’, the huge shopping site near Hanley.
I think they must be the remnants of the garden festival held on this site (before it was handed over to, and 'developed', by all the superstores) in the 1980s.

But who would have expected them to last so long?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Sheep sleep in heat

It was hot today (well, hot for England!) - 28 degrees here in mid-Staffordshire.
What strangely unpredictable weather we have nowadays; I was lighting fires just to keep warm last week.

But the heat is welcome. No wonder these sheep sought shade.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Night of The Dog postponed

The ‘Night of The Dog’ rock festival will not happen this year as the organisers are having a break. It’s a shame though. This terrific little one day festival, which takes place in the small village of Tean, is as friendly as you like.

I took this photo at last year’s event. The wording on this t-shirt made me laugh, as it’s a spoof of the ‘world tour dates’ type t-shirts.
The fact is that Tean probably isn’t more than a mile from one end to the other, so a ‘tour’ by all these bands would not have taken long!

Link: Night of The Dog

Monday, 21 May 2012

Cow sleeping like a bird

This cow, sleeping with its head tucked into its shoulder, seems to be attracting curious stares from its two neighbours. I can see why. I don’t think I’ve seen a cow sleeping in this position before. It's curled itself into itself like a bird would, almost.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Regeneration rubble

Yes, this is how 'regeneration' looks.
Middleport, a run down area of northern Stoke-on-Trent, has been partly reduced to rubble as homes are demolished to make way for The Future.

Oh, I'm being a grouch I suppose - but The Future looks a lot like The Past, in this photo at least.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Stones of Stockton Brook

Why do people like large standing stones? This house in Stockton Brook has a garden full of them.

Somebody once said to me that they are special because they are usually so old - large boulders can be the remains of debris swept over long distances by glaciers in the Ice Age. I suppose that makes them quite glamorous.

But a lot of stones - which can be placed in gardens, on roundabouts, in village squares, at supermarket entrances even (!) - are just, erm, big, ugly and heavy. However, they seem to mean something.
It must be something atavistic in our natures.

But a female friend of mine says (rather dismissively) that's it's a phallic thing.  Well, it's a thought.

Friday, 18 May 2012

A windmill home

The old windmill at Croxton no longer turns out ground cereals, but has been converted to what must be a rather special private home. It must be fun to live there.

High on a hill, it was used during the Second World War as a look-out site for enemy planes. It’s kinda amusing to think that if planning rules had existed all those years ago, this windmill might never have been allowed...

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Alton tree-sign

You have to admire the Staffordshire County’s footpaths officers – they don’t put up unnecessary signposts…

This huge fallen tree had collapsed over the top of a footpath through Alton woods; and the officers (I should guess), realising that the tree was unlikely to be going anywhere, just stuck their footpath badge right on to it!
And that seems fine to me.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Charles Darwin at Maer

This large sign commemorating Charles Darwin stands proudly at the entrance to the village of Maer.

At first, its presence is a mystery. Darwin was born in Shropshire, and spent his working years in Kent. What’s the Staffordshire connection?

Cherchez la femme, as they say. Look for the love interest!
Yes, Darwin fell in love with his cousin – who lived at Maer Hall. He spent many days here, and eventually married in the village's small church.
The strange thing is that he is depicted as an old man in the sign, whereas when he stayed here, he was a young man. But then - who would recognise Darwin without his white beard?!!

The village are very proud of the connection, and had a whole series of Darwin events in 2009, the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth.

Link: Darwin in Staffordshire

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Spotting birds

The bird-hide at Aqualate Mere is not much visited I’m told, though there is one spectacular bird event in early winter that attracts a few 'twitchers'.
The hide overlooks the mere, which is a huge natural lake that doubles as a major nature reserve for birds. Kingfisher and buzzards are regulars.

The big event is the starling roost - when up to 100,000 starlings swarm in huge black swirling clouds at dusk.  Quite a sight.

Link: Aqualate Starling Roost

Monday, 14 May 2012

The lady in red

This lady is Mary Magdalene; yes, the wife of Jesus (according to the theory behind the Da Vinci Code book anyway). She is seen her in glass at Alrewas Church.
Identifying people in church stained glass windows is often just a matter of knowing the, er, code – or symbols anyway. St Peter always carries a key for example.
And the reason that we know that this lady is Mary Magdalen is the red hair. Mary was (by another legend) a reformed prostitute, and as red is a symbol of sensuality… Mary got red hair.

I hesitate to think what the real Mary Magdalen would have thought of all these stories about her.

Link: Magdalene (wikipedia)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Little road

'Little Road' is in the hamlet of Boundary.    Boundary is small enough, having only a few houses and just two roads - one of which turns into what is basically a dirt track!. (There is even a sign warning drivers not to believe their sat-navs if the device tells them to go this way.)

In this smallest of settlements, you also have ‘Little Road’, which is basically the slimmest of gulleys, as you can see.
I wonder if a sat-nav ever tries to get you down this road too?

Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Cupid of Burslem

This little Cupid stands high over Burslem, facing another statue in the town that sits high on a perch, the so-called Angel of Burslem. In fact he even looks like he's about to take aim at the Angel.

At least the two high-fliers should feel secure – they both have wings.

Link: Visit Burslem

Friday, 11 May 2012

Audley's butcher Bouchiers

The Butchers Arms in Audley sports this pub-sign, which (at first) appears to have little to do with butchers.
The guy I spoke to at the bar said though it is a corruption of the word Bouchier, which was the name of the important land-owners hereabouts.  All over this historic pub are crests and symbols of the Bouchiers.

His theory sounds like it must be correct; but I couldn’t find any evidence for it after a quick Google-search.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Cat on wall

Cats are not mentioned in the Bible (so I read). Apparently this caused some Christian thinkers to conclude that they must be associated with evil (and, so, witches of course).

I could almost believe it, after getting a long baleful stare from the cat on this wall.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The green of Fenton Tip

‘Fenton Tip’ does not refer to a rubbish dump. The word ‘tip’ in Stoke-on-Trent is more likely to mean a coal tip, i.e. where all the spoil from coal-mining extraction would be piled. Some of these coal-tips go as high as hundreds of feet.

Nowadays, with all the mines closed, the tips are almost all greened over – returned to nature - though some still smoulder even now. Youngsters think they are strange, sudden hills, not knowing their real origin.

Fenton Tip is where the old Glebe Colliery stood, and this mining tub marks the spot.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Human sacrifice on hill

The Druids, so the local legend has it, used this little hill-mound by the River Sow (at the village of Fairoak, near Eccleshall) for human sacrifice thousands of years ago.
The legend might have some truth, as there are clearly archaeological signs of some human activity up there in the shape of a sandstone ‘wall ring’. But only some careful excavations will get to the full truth of it.

The locals keep away from it though.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Piano music Star

The Star Inn at Copmere is one of the few pubs in Staffordshire I know that has a piano – and visitors are welcome to play it.

This young lady was having a drink with friends when she sat down to play; and I was expecting the usual stumbling rendition of Fur Elise. But, blimey, she turned out some beautiful Philip Glass.
It was a very special few minutes.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

'Man creche'

This made me laugh right out loud in the middle of the street. Nicely tongue-in-cheek, the managers of The Royal Oak in Eccleshall suggest you drop your man off at their place, and they’ll take care of him while you attend to other, proper, important business.

Sounds like a good plan.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Stoke City - a salute

Stoke City Football Club are hardly the purists’ favourites. The team are big, tough and hot on defence. Neutrals don’t much like Stoke.

But the loud & proud following at the Britannia stadium don’t care; they maybe even like it that way. It feeds a sense of ‘us against the world’. The Stoke crowd is rated one of the most passionate in the country.
They have great humour too. Recently, the crowd even did a wonderful mass mickey-take of the Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, as he was protesting against a referee decision. Even Wenger saw the funny side (eventually).

And, against the odds, the club continue to do pretty well in the Premier League. Last year, they even reached the FA Cup Final, and this year has been pretty comfortable.

Link: Fans take mickey out of Wenger

Friday, 4 May 2012

Murder most foul

Nothing sells like murder. Aint that the truth? What the fascination is that people have with death in its most gruesome form, I shudder to think.

But the new exhibition at the Ancient High House in Stafford (see photo) is all about just that – murder.
In it one can see and read about famous murderers in Staffordshire, including William Palmer (the Rugeley Poisoner), and famous victims like poor Christina Collins, who was murdered while travelling on the canal.
You can even see the black cap worn by the hanging judges at Stafford, and grisly artefacts like stuff the condemned prisoners were allowed.
It runs until mid-July.

I’m sure it will be a huge success!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Mini Eiffel Tower

I’ve featured 'Les Oakes Place' before on this blog.
It’s a huge old site, in the countryside near Oakamoor, and is home to thousands of bits & pieces that came as the result of years of Les's work in reclamation and house clearance and sifting on demolition sites. Lots of the reclaimed stuff is now for sale on the site - from old garden statuary to ancient broken barn doors. It’s like Steptoe & Sons on a big scale…

But Les (who’s now died, sadly) liked to save a few of the quirkier, odder pieces for himself. This mini-Eiffel Tower stands proudly, fixed, in one of his fields. So I guess it’s NOT for sale.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Pets... in Heaven

Your pet can have a full funeral in Staffordshire – with chapel of rest, casket, and garden of remembrance. Well, why not?  There’s a lot worse ways to spend money (though I do have some personal reservations).
Holmes In Heaven, which opened its centre in Sugnall last year, will provide it all.

I like how a dog-collar has been substituted for a halo on the sign; it gives the light touch.

(If you are wondering why the ‘holmes’ spelling, it’s because the owner’s name is Matthew Holmes. It gets a little complex if you think about it too hard though.).

Link: Holmes In Heaven  

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A true speciality bakery

Fradswell Community Bakehouse is not like any other bakery. Its total stock when it opens is usually about, er, ten loaves (though it’s considerably fewer when the doors close).
And it’s only open two hours a week… and it’s sited in a village hall!

The fact is that this is just one part of a community initiative in this tiny village to bring the local residents together. The village has no pub or shop – and the church is well outside the settlement – so the village hall is about the one place where everybody can meet each other.
But one has to have a reason to get together; and Barry (on the right in this photo) dreamt up this wheeze. The sales from the speciality breads not only support a simultaneous coffee morning but make a tidy profit for the fund-raising too.
And, yes, the villagers do turn up.

Oh – the bread? It’s incredible. Home-baked, and delicious. I bought three loaves: they taste better than cake.
They have pasties too. To die for.

Link:  Fradswell Community Bakehouse 

This photo is related to the 'Theme Day' on the International City Daily Portal. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants