Thursday, 27 February 2014

Platform in the forest

Viewing platform in the Bass Millennium Wood, on Battlestead Hill

Thnak God, Spring has sprung at last.  There is green on the shrubs and the birds are singing & calling in a great racket.  It's very welcome, as usual.

I found this rather odd perch (viewing platform?) in the Bass Millennium Wood, on Battlestead Hill at Tatenhill.  I climbed it and sat in it, but for the life of me could not see what whoever built it might be wanting to survey.  It just looked down the dip. 
Maybe they wear a hood and watch birds.  Who knows?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Warm games in the winter damp

A mother and child draw shapes in the condensation on a window.

At last, the constant rain is starting to ease off - though it comes back in dribs and drabs.

This photo shows what is, to me, a definitive photo of urban England in winter.    In a warm cafe, safe from the cold and damp outside, a mother and child play by drawing shapes in the condensation on the window.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Broken once-palatial gates

Gate pillar on Patshull Hall estate

The ancient iron gates that guard the perimeter of Patshull Hall on the extremes of the estate have, a lot of them anyway, fallen pretty much into disrepair, and are leaning over, crumbling, or overgrown.

However, underneath the decay, one can see the splendour that once was there.
This photo shows the top of one gate pillar (next to the estate church), with worn heraldic signs and what could be the broken sculpture of a small bird, but actually could be anything.
I suppose the decoration must be something to do with the Legge family, who owned the estate as the Earls of Dartmouth in the nineteenth century.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Grim pub sign

Black Friar Pub's pub sign

The Black Friar Pub in Newcastle-under-Lyme has a strange & curious sign - as you see.

Yes, a black friar; yes, you see a pint in his hand... but what does the scythe imply?  Surely that makes for a rather uncomfortable resemblance between this figure and the Grim Reaper himself - Death!

Not sure I'd want to go into a pub which has that figure for its 'guardian' - but actually, they do a pretty good pint...

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Spring's green man

Green Man figure on the archway into Blithfield Hall

This Green Man figure is to be found on the archway into Blithfield Hall.  He is a symbol of the natural world, and of Spring.

It is curious how popular the green-man is - and how often it appears in statuary.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Robbie Williams lived here...

Robbie Williams plaque in Tunstall

The city of Stoke on Trent has recently been celebrating the fortieth birthday of the pop singer Robbie Williams.  Robbie was born in Stoke.

For a while he and his family lived on Victoria Park Road in Tunstall, opposite the park - and now a blue plaque on the park's gate-posts marks the fact.

I always thought that the best local tribute to Robbie came from the BBC Staffordshire website, which depicted his life in a series of photos - in which a doll stood in for the pop-hero!  You may agree (or not) - click here to see the life-story.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

(Unexpected) working class hero

Statue of Sir Robert Peel, in Tamworth

Sir Robert Peel, the early nineteenth-century politician, was MP for Tamworth - and his statue stands proudly before the Town Hall in the centre of Tamworth to this day.

What is hard to believe is that he was a working-class hero (well - a hero to the working class, in fact). It was he who, when he was Prime Minister, brought crashing down the iniquitous Corn Laws, which protected landowners by ensuring a price for their grain - at the expense of the poor.
Peel split his own party on the issue.  Historians may well dispute about his motives, but I still think it was a brave, principled act.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Weather is nuts

Copse at at Wrottesley Old Park

The current weather patterns are slightly nuts.  Yesterday was blistering rain, bits of hail, and stormy winds - all culminating in a three-hour electricity power-cut.

Today was all sweetness and light, with a gentle sunshine soothing its way across the landscape.  The daffodils are shooting. Etc Etc.
Inded, this view across the fields at Wrottesley Old Park near Pattingham was balm for the soul.

But ...tomorrow is due to be nasty again.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

I remember Warmth...

Arriva bus in Malta

It snowed today - albeit briefly.  What did manage to stick then fled before some sudden bright sunshine.

Nevertheless, it is still cold; and I remembered fondly my trip to warm Malta last year.

Strangely enough, even when in Malta, I was reminded of Staffordshire - when an Arriva bus came flashing past me.  Arriva, which runs many of the bus-routes in Staffordshire, recently won the contract for Malta's bus services too.
Small world.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Flood blocks path

Flooded path across the Doxey Marshes

The constant rain of the past few weeks has not caused the same level of problems in Staffordshire as it has in the south of the country - but this photo shows how water-logged the ground has become even here.

This is my usual path across the Doxey Marshes - but, as you can see, it's flooded.  It's a foot deep at the worst; I'd have needed wading boots to get along it and still have had dry feet...

Friday, 7 February 2014

Cuts cut potters

The Gladstone Pottery Museum

The Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton really is an outstanding experience. Sited in an authentic old 'pot-bank' factory, there are lots of different sections, and sights and sounds - including real potters making real pottery - so it's a proper family day-out, but one that historians can savour too.  My favourite section is the one on the history of indoor sanitation - but, maybe that's just me.

Because it is council-funded, the latest round of local government cuts have hit it badly; and it looks like it will be open on fewer days in future, according to the BBC's report.
Oh well. Oh well.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A day for monsters

Doxey Pool, on the Roaches

Doxey Pool, which is this little patch of water on the Roaches ridge on the moorlands near Leek, is a bleak place in winter.  Especially on a winter's day that is grey and totally wetly-muddy after all the rain we've been having.
On such a day you can quite believe the Doxey Pool legend: that the 'river-hag' Jenny Greenteeth, who inhabits it, grabs at passers-by and drags them to their death. (Though she is not be confused with the equally murderous, nearby Blake Mere Mermaid who is apparently quite pretty, by contrast)..

Monday, 3 February 2014

Golden roof

Green and gold tiles line the roof of Alton Castle, a nineteenth-century Gothic-style building (designed by the architect Pugin) in Alton village.
The colours give it a sort of romantic grandeur I think.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Pure-water village

Newborough village monument

If there's one place that likes water, it's Newborough.  It has three well-dressings, which is rather a lot, even for a town so near to Derbyshire, where they really do love well-dressings.

You'll find this monument, which celebrates the long history of Newborough, right in its centre.  In the old days, an old trough which ran into a spring nearby carried these words on its side: "Aqua Pura Nequa Dura, Omnibus Satis Atque Gratis" (Pure water, not hard, enough for all and free) - and you can see this monument has copied those sentiments.