Making Hay while the sun shines.

Well hello again.

How’s it been? We’re still waiting for the November weather to turn cold. It’s confusing, when I look outside, the light tells me it’s winter, so I find my thick fleece, woolly hat and gloves. Then, suitably togged up, I set off to walk the boy and what do you know? Within minutes I’m melting in the heat. I’m not really complaining, it makes a change to get this far into November and not to be scraping the windscreen in the morning, I’m just finding it a bit weird.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, we went off to Hay on Wye to stock up on essentials – books, of course. It was our first visit in eighteen months and I was so happy to be back in my spiritual home.

It felt so good to be slowly scanning the shelves for that book you just had to have. In the end, having given it my best go, I came back with three books. One about the Domesday Book – something that I’ve been becoming more interested in over recent months – more of that perhaps another day. Another about the history of the countryside by Oliver Rackham – it was a punt, but I’m really enjoying it so far. And the third is a book about Celtic and ancient places in the United Kingdom  – which I bought mainly because of the absolutely wonderful black and white photographs by Anthony Gascoigne. 

Now, here’s a request. I’ve scoured Mr. Google for any information about Anthony Gascoigne and I can’t find anything, zilch, nada. Does anyone out there know who he is? I’d just love to see more of his work. I chose the book because I’ve visited most of the sites covered, and I know just how challenging it is to take good photos at those locations. I love standing stones, but they are mightily difficult to capture on film/digitally – they have a personality, and it’s really hard to capture that, and yet somehow, he does it. He creates mood. So, chaps, if anyone can tell me more, I’d be really grateful – he’s a pro!

We pushed the boat out on our trip and stayed overnight in Hereford, which meant that we had a day out in Leominster too. I love this town, it’s got just the right mix of old town charm, and a Wetherspoons. What more could you need? Well, actually it’s much better than that too. We went ringing at the Priory and then went back the next day so that the N1D could be shown the Romanesque carvings in the daylight. ( Our poor children, what have we done to them? They’re so psychologically scarred that they’ve both independently bought themselves membership of the National Trust and English Heritage – and they’re only in their early twenties!)

Leominster Priory is a total mishmash, but nonetheless fascinating for that. It shows you the story of English history in stone. I rather like it there.

All the pictures in this post were taken at Leominster Priory in November 2021. The carvings are over 800 years old. Doesn’t that make you tingle with excitement? Oh…x

In other news…

I’ve been slowly stitching in hessian again, but I haven’t taken any photos yet, so maybe that’s for another day too.

Best wishes, keep smiling.

Anny x

A churchy day out in York…

Warning: this post contains gratuitous references to bell-ringing. Anyone with allergies to bells should stop reading now.

York is one of my favourite cities in the UK, and I was delighted to be able to spend the day there last Saturday.

Now of course there’s more than enough to keep you happy and occupied in York for days on end, but we were there for a bell-ringing event, so inevitably the day was dominated by visiting churches.

York Minster is one of the granddaddies of gothic architecture and an absolute ‘must-see’ at least once in a life-time, but we started our visit to York with a very special tour of the two towers of York Minster that house the incredible Minster bells. For bell-ringers, the best bit was the fact that a peal was being rung during our visit, so we could see, hear (and feel) the sound of the bells in action.

The NW tower houses Great Peter, a huge bell, one of the biggest in the UK (10 tons), which sounds the hours, and the quarter bells.

If you want some idea of how Great Peter sounds try this YouTube clip here (but imagine it so loud your teeth rattle).

The SW tower holds the ringing bells. As they were being rung, I didn’t take pictures, (I was too scared I’d drop the camera into a swinging bell). We went up onto the roof of the SW tower to get one of the most amazing views of the city. The weather was so good we could see for miles. (Actually the sky was that amazing deep blue, but I’ve had to adjust the pictures to show the details). I just adore the gargoyles on the pinnacles.

Click on the pictures for a better view.

After enjoying our very noisy tour, we strolled along to St Olave’s Church in Marygate.

This was a wonderfully gentle antidote to the size and magnificence of the MInster. Of all the churches we visited on Saturday, this was my favourite. You know that feeling in some churches of serenity, calm, peacefulness – well that’s St Olave’s.

The font cover soars into the air – click the picture to see it better.

By contrast, St Wilfrid’s church, built close to the Minster is all about sturdy Victorian values. As an example of its type, it is pretty amazing, but my own response was to feel over-powered.

Some of the family went in search of other bells, but I went in search of refreshment (lager shandy – not my normal lunchtime habit, but it was soooo hot!).

Later we headed off to St Lawrence’s Church, just outside the city walls. The girls were competing in a striking competition there, so mother mode took over and I didn’t take photos – in fact I sought shade and a place to sit where I wouldn’t be in the way. St Lawrence’s is another Victorian church, built on the ground of an earlier church. All that now remains of the original church is the tower – a slightly forlorn relict. But the most poignant element for me was this derelict tomb – so sad and with a rambling white rose growing wild across it.


After the excitement of the competition, we took a very slow walk back to St Helen Stonegate, which was acting as the hub for all the ringing events. They had a little mini-ring set up and the girls enjoyed having a go – it’s quite different to the normal ringing we do. The lovely people at St Helen’s laid on lashings of tea and cake – they understand their audience very well indeed!

I’m afraid I gave up taking ‘proper pictures after that. We went on to St Michael Le Belfry (the church where Guy Fawkes was christened), where the competition results were given. Suffice to say it was extremely exciting and quite out of the blue, our team won. I’m not going to embarrass any of them with ‘proud mother type’ pictures – but it was fantastic and I am incredibly proud of all the young ringers who took part.

During the afternoon, I’d re-visited some old-haunts in the city. I was disappointed to find that Taylors of Stonegate had been renamed Betty’s – I know it’s all the same firm, but Taylors had a certain something special. I nodded at the Judges Lodgings – which used to be my favourite place to stay in York, I’ve spent some happy times there. And of course, no visit would be complete without saying hello to this little chap…


Apologies for a rather indulgent post – it was a beautiful day I will always remember.

Now, get out into the garden and soak up some rays!

The Romance of Tomb Effigies

I’ve just realised something – I’m an effigy junkie. I’ve been visiting churches for as long as I can remember, fascinated by the architecture and the history, but it only dawned on me at the weekend, how much I’m drawn to the effigies.

It was really brought home to me, when I visited Paulerspury (Northamptonshire, just off the A5) church on Saturday. There, in the church dedicated to St James the Great, tucked in to one side of the altar, is a rare wooden tomb effigy of a knight and his wife, dating to around 1329. The description said that it is Laurence de Paveley and his wife.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get a photo of the whole effigy – I’d have needed a step-ladder – but never mind – it was the lady’s face that had me entranced.

Just look at that expression. She’s quite a beauty, don’t you think? And her eyes are open aren’t they?

What do you think she’s supposed to be looking at?

And would you say that her husband’s eyes are open or closed? I’m not sure.

I’m guessing that these were originally painted, although there’s nothing left of that to see now.

If you’re at all interested in the history of costume (as I am), then this is the sort of reference that I’d imagine is invaluable. You can make out quite clearly what they’re wearing.

Well, I’m just fascinated by these people. It makes my mind go off in all directions, thinking about what they were like in life. How did the carpenter decide what to carve. How well did he know them in life – if at all? Were they meant to be life-like?

So many questions, and no answers other than what your mind can invent.

The biggest question I have about this particular tomb is, why does the lady have such an incredibly long neck?

Can’t really have been that long do you think?


So, there they are – lying side by side for nearly seven hundred years, through plague, civil wars, industrialisation, immense social change – unchanged.

I hope they were happy together in life. And I really wish I could decide what she’s thinking about.

For me, there’s something enormously romantic about these images. I think I might go on an effigy quest at some stage and see how many others I can find to feed my imagination.



A Visit To Canon’s Ashby & A Picnic.

Canon’s Ashby House in very rural Northamptonshire, is one of those half forgotten manor houses that pepper England, and when you find them, you feel as if you’ve been let into a precious secret. I probably shouldn’t even write about Canon’s Ashby in case it gets big headed and loses it’s charm; but I will, because I’m sure if it’s the sort of place that appeals to you, then you should be let into the secret too.

On Sunday, we took ourselves off there for a visit. It had been a couple of years since the last time we went, but in that time it has only got better.  Plus, it was a gorgeously hot summers day, perfect for strolling around a quintessential English garden and sitting under the shade of some trees, eating a picnic.

It's much better than my poor pictures suggest.

The house was built in the 1550’s by the Dryden family (yes, that Dryden family). It’s on land which had previously belonged to the Augustinian Priory, a small portion of which survives today as the Parish Church of St Mary. The Black Canons (from the colour of their habit) at Canon’s Ashby, were amongst the earliest to lose their land when Henry VIII began the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 – one wonders what they’d been up to, to receive that treatment…

Anyway, you can still see what’s left of the Priory. It’s worth popping inside to see the collection of funeral hatchments (what an odd tradition this now seems).

The remains of Canon's Ashby Priory, now the parish church.

We started our visit by going into the church, because we got there just a little too early for the house opening (1.00pm). It was also so hot by that time, that we decided we’d better have our picnic first, because since the cold box blew it’s fuse, we can’t keep our butties cold for very long. As it was, the box of chocolate mini-rolls I’d packed for daughter two to eat, decided to morph into a sticky chocolate heap.

At last we were on the visit proper.

Do you ever go to one of these historic houses and fall in love with the smell? I know I do. There’s something about beeswax polish and a faint lavender scent, that has me drooling. That’s what I always think about at Canon’s Ashby. It’s one of those very old houses that smells lovely. I could just stand in the Hall and inhale.

The house wears it’s history very lightly. You can quite easily work out the stages in which it was built – the last of which was in 1710, since when it has remained largely unchanged. I like this, it’s so easy to step back in time.

isn't he gorgeous.

The kitchen is one of the few very old kitchens that I think I could be happy using today. It has a very high ceiling, but excellent light. The range might guzzle too much fuel, and you’d have to be catering to the five thousand to make it worthwhile firing it up, but with a little adaption, I could see myself knocking up a pretty decent sponge cake in that kitchen.

I suppose in grand historic house terms, Canon’s Ashby might not have many breath-taking features, although it can boast Elizabethan wall-paintings and some amazing Jacobean plasterwork, but in a way, that’s the point. This house is simply charming, it doesn’t need architectural bling, it has atmosphere instead.


My favourite room is a bedroom decorated in tapestries and with superb needlepoint covered chairs dating to 1716. I could probably be happy looking at the work in those chairs for days on end. I mentioned to the lovely lady who was stewarding in that room how gorgeous it was, I think she felt it too – perhaps a kindred spirit.

Wouldn't you just love those gate piers?
Wouldn't you just love those gate piers?

Outside, the National Trust who now run Canon’s Ashby, are doing a splendid job of reinstating the garden. Again, it’s being done in a sympathetic way. I read one commentator who lamented that the Trust should spend more to give the garden more plants, but as someone who still believes that a garden needs time to develop and grow it’s character, I’m not offended by a few bare patches. It won’t be long before it’s lush. It’s already lovely.

The pears are coming along nicely

Don’t miss the Green Court garden. It’s got impressive yews, and a fabulous collection of old pear varieties growing against the walls, and a lead statue by Van Nost – OK, I admit it, I am a touch jealous of that garden.

It’s also reassuring to see that this is another National Trust property, where they are encouraging games to be played on the lawns. Brush up on the rules of croquet before you go and you can have a lovely hour smashing your opponents balls out of the way!

So now you know. Canon’s Ashby – one of England’s little gems, just don’t tell everyone.







These are not just strawberries, these are M&S strawberries…

Just back from a superb girlie weekend in Norfolk. We abandoned our long-suffering partners so they could do some father daughter bonding – well it was Fathers’ Day on Sunday wasn’t it – and headed off to stay with our old friend, who now lives in an idyllic farmhouse in the darkest depths of Norfolk.

As the weather put a long country walk off the agenda (typical as this time we had remembered to take our boots with us), we decided instead to hit Norwich and indulge in a touch of girlie shopping – the sort where you totally forget that you have husbands and children, and indeed forget that you are the wrong side of forty – and instead hunt out the bargains on the sale rails and spray yourself liberally with lots of expensive perfumes until you smell like the proverbial tart’s boudoir.

It was enormous fun, especially as we had to plan our route from one shop to the next according to the showers and huge black clouds.

As we are all ‘mature’ women, we decided to include  some culture in our day, so we spent an  hour or so in Norwich Cathedral. It was a perfect antidote to shopping. From the moment we entered the Cathedral Close, it was like stepping into a parallel universe where everything was calm and peaceful. If you haven’t been, it’s one of those places that’s well worth a diversion to see. There is an amazing modern extension over ancient ruins, which sits so well together. This weekend it was housing an exhibition on the development of the Bible, including some pages being printed. There was a Tyndale Bible, tiny and well used, but so evocative of a time when to read the Bible in English was forbidden.

Storm clouds over Norwich Cathedral

The stained glass in the Cathedral was remarkable. I’m always drawn to it, partly I think because the use of pattern in the glass often reminds me of the ways that we use wools in needlepoint – sorry, that’s a creative digression – anyway, that was what I liked most. I’ve found this amazing website which has photographs and information about the windows, have a look, some of them are just incredibly beautiful.

We had tea and cake in the Refectory/Restaurant – highly recommended. Apparently you can hire it for functions and I must say, if I lived nearer to Norwich, it would definitely be on my list of ‘possibles’.

We walked back to the Park and Ride bus stop via M&S’s Food Hall – to pick up a couple of things for dinner. What a sight – an entire aisle given over to strawberries and cream (well there were some token raspberries there too). I suppose it is the start of Wimbledon fortnight, you can tell because as we left, the heavens opened – again.

These are not just strawberries, they're M&S strawberries!

Ringing the Raunds…

At the weekend we went on a ringing outing with friends (have I mentioned that I’m a bell-ringer?) – don’t let it put you off, we’re mostly nice people. Anyway, we went off to Northamptonshire and explored a few of that county’s lovely village churches. The last tower in the day, was Raunds. Ever since the tower list came out (the itinerary for the day), I’d had a feeling that we must have been to Raunds before, because the name seemed familiar, but I couldn’t remember when.

Anyway, as we walked in through the door, it suddenly became obvious why I’d recognised the name – I hadn’t been there before, but I’d certainly read about it, because this is a church which retains some magnificent, and very large, medieval wall paintings. They really are quite amazing, and give you a fantastic feeling for what pre-Reformation churches would have looked like. There must have been so much colour in these buildings, it’s hard to imagine unless you see the scale of something like the wall paintings at Raunds.

Anyway, if you’re interested, and would like to see more, click here – it’s a fabulous website with excellent photographs of the wall paintings and the rest of the church – what a labour of love!