Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Another tick on the 'Bucket List'!!

Last Sunday saw me on my way to Leicester with the 50+ Adventure Club for another outing on a lovely sunny day.  We were going to have a guided tour of the old parts of the city and though Leicester is close to me in mileage I know very little about it historically AND I always get lost when I have to drive through it and usually go a long way round to get out!

I knew that there had been a Roman settlement there and that was our first stop, to see the Roman walls

and remains of the baths

Then onto the castle area and the church of St Mary de Castro (St Mary of the Castle) whose origins show that it was built within the enclosure of the castle.

Richard 111 would probably have worshipped here before the Battle of Bosworth as he could have stayed in the castle and it is believed that Geoffrey Chaucer married his second wife here.
Castle Yard

The 'Motte' of the castle is still there but overgrown with vegetation so not easy to photograph and our guide said that the Victorians had chopped the top off to make a bowling green - what vandals they were!!

We exited the Castle Yard through one of the old town gates.

We were now into the slightly more modern part of the city and passed -
The Chantry House

built by William Wigston in 1511, a wealthy wool merchant, to house two priests to say prayers and masses for the souls of the Royal family and his own family.  In about 1600 it became a grand domestic residence.
The Magazine Gateway -

was originally one of the entrances to the religious precinct of Leicester but as I always find when I take a photo was under maintenance!!

Something a little more modern, a mural which seems to promote Leicester City football club, who were actually going to be playing against Chelsea FC when we were there.

We were shown 
Wygston's House
which is a beautiful example of a late 15th century timber framed wool merchant's house.  It is now a restaurant with music blasting out of it!!

Next stop was the Guildhall

and we spent sometime looking round here
The Hall is still used for public meetings and concerts.

However the most exciting part was to come when we went into the Cathedral.  On the tour we had passed this car park
once again having work done to it - just my luck, because this is where the skeleton of King Richard 111 was found.  It is behind the stone wall that you can see in the corner.

Though one of the newest and smallest cathedrals in the country Leicester is now famous for this tomb
 I have been wanting to visit this ever since it was discovered and I found it a very moving experience.
'Loyalty binds me'
The tomb is made of fossilised Swaledale stone quarried in North Yorkshire (he was the last member of the House of York).  His coat of arms and the boar are incised on the tomb.

At the other end of the cathedral is the pall of Richard 111

Quite magnificent and the embroiders amongst the group spent a long time trying to work out how it was made!!

Finally here is 'the King under the car park' found within the first 2 hours of digging

and if the digger had gone in a foot further either way he would never have been found!

Tuesday, 23 April 2019


I was reading this blog the other day and there was word that I decided suited me to a tee.  I am a procrastinator but not in a negative way: I have been busy lately but there is nothing that would be worth a blog post on its own.

Since becoming a volunteer with Nenescape I have had the chance to do a variety of different projects and at the end of March I went to a conference organised by the Nene Valley Archaeological Trust  at Castor near Peterborough.  It was an excellent conference and so interesting and afterwards I had a look round their parish church dedicated to St Kyneburgha.

What I found interesting was that the graveyard had been fenced and there was a small flock of sheep and lambs in there keeping the grass down - what a good idea, but no good if you wanted to put flowers on a grave!

Inside I tried to take a photo of the ceiling and this is the best as I was almost lying on my back!
What wonderful angels!

If you read my blog (and I know some do as they ask me when it is going to be written!) you will remember that I recently did a 'litter pick' down the Greenway and we also planted new shrubs and there were some bigger trees planted.  Well the vandals did uproot some of the bigger trees and they were replanted, but cycling down there yesterday I was amazed to see these -

three different seats, that we were told were going to be installed but quite unusual in design.  There is carving on the back -

Click to get a better photo

and the third one -
 but the trees round it are in blossom, so the vandals have been vanquished for the moment.

This cycle ride yesterday was part of my participation in a scheme called 'Beat the Street' that I got into by chance.  If you use Facebook, does something flash up and then you can't find it again.  Well that happened to me and annoyingly, I couldn't find it again but I did remember something about a cycle ride so I went on the off-chance and it was part of Beat the Street and I was hooked.  It is a Lottery funded scheme supported by the local council, to get people out and about, whether walking, running, cycling or scooting, but exercising.  A clever scheme because schools are participating and the more points they get, so they get prizes and if the children are out so will be the parents, grandparents etc.  I have a credit card and a map showing the 'Beat boxes'

fixed to lamp posts and if you can't find it ask any child you see nearby!  The first time I went out I met a 'lycra clad' young man (well he was about 30!) in a local village and we teamed up to find the other boxes.  As he had only lived in the area for three years I showed him a quick way home and in the course of conversation discovered he had a son at a local school so they are getting all my points - all 660 of them.  Over Easter I have covered 30 miles looking for boxes and still have my local ones to tap.  I am feeling very 'exercised' at the moment and decided to rest today AND write the blog!!!

Apart from  exercising I have been gardening both at home and at my 'Cambridge' allotment.

When my late husband and I first moved into this house I brought with me a Bay Tree that I had in my last house.  It was about 12" (30cms) tall and, like Topsy, it grew and foolishly I did nothing about it

It was too tall and too dense and was making my garden dark, with too much shade and so I had it cut down 
and what a difference it has made. I am still deciding what to do with the space and have just sprinkled a wildflower seed mix for the time being.

However, in Cambridge my son and I have been busy finishing 'Muntjac proofing' our raised beds

Wire netting around each bed, with a very smart gate to get in AND it appears to be working.  The only problem is pigeons and black netting is all that is required for them and so we have a much more productive vegetable garden from 2 of the beds and third is going to be soft fruit.

This little fellow was helping us
Mr 'Bailey'!

who will be coming to stay with me soon when the family go on holiday. I am currently growing seeds in my greenhouse
for planting out in the raised beds.  Yes, those are lavatory roll holders and have runner and French bean seeds in them!

I have a pair of socks on the go and another sewing project but I will save them for another day, as the sun is out and I must cut the grass!  Oh and I am so excited as I have a place on a workshop at the British Museum with my train fare paid!!  Watch this space.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

All things 'Feathers'

With the lovely sunny weather the daffodils and other spring bulbs are out and the hedgerows are greening up, so we are into Spring.  

It seems a long time ago that we were set our Christmas Challenge 2018 at Higham Piecemakers and this week has been the 'Grand Reveal'.  Check here to see what we had to do and I found this pattern online.  I love Roosters and I immediately knew I wanted to make these even though there was some minor carpentry needed!!

I did struggle to find the 'Floral Styrofoam disc' but suddenly had a brainwave and cut up a polystyrene ball, of which I have a great number for various projects.  My concern was that the glue would not hold but it seems to be alright and he stands magnificent and proud on

his wooden dowel legs, drilled in to a block of wood, by me!!  His companion is a little dowdy but the dark fabric for the tummy and wings (used in both) was what I was given.

BUT something was missing for such a beautiful pair, so I swiftly worked a smocked egg to complete the tableau!! 

Apart from dark fabric, the Rooster's body is made of silk fabrics to give him a sheen and the head cover is the last remains of a fabulous shiny fabric I bought years ago.  I bought the feathers on the internet for £2 so little money was spent on this project, but a great deal of planning went into it.

I loved making this Challenge.

My monthly Sock Club have set us the challenge of using up sock wool and we must use at least three colours.  I am an avid follower of Winwick Mum and found one of her patterns that sounded just up my street and for a novice like me is quite testing.  But I will persevere.

In this blog I mentioned the 'awful' wool my son had bought me for Christmas - well here they are finished

and I love them.  I used my signature pink cuff, heel and toes and even managed to match the stripes and have been wearing them.  Currently they are on the washing line!!

The third Monday in the month is our 'all day' at Higham Piecemakers and as a change a group of us met at a local Church Hall for a special workshop with Kathleen Laurel Sage.

We were going to make a 'Pixie House' and boy, did we work hard.  Kathleen told us at the beginning that we were to use all the fancy stitches on our machines, different coloured threads and enjoy yourselves!
Initial briefing

Pixie houses made by KLS.  Hope ours are as creative
 Well heads down after the initial briefing and we started embellishing our felt.
Machine in the bricks, windows and the door before using fancy stitching
One instruction was to highlight the windows and door so we didn't sew anything over them as many have done and which I nearly did but stopped myself just in time.  We had to do the same for the roof.  By the end of the day mine was coming along
and so it didn't take long to finish when I got home and was able to add flowers, buttons and beads and finally the smoke from the chimney.
I loved this workshop and learnt a lot; so much so that I am going to make some more!!

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Socks and other things

As you will know if you read my infrequent posts, I belong to a sock club and am very much a newbie at this.  In December Jacqui, who owns Purlwise where we meet, wanted us to make a pair of socks for someone else.  In other words, a 'Secret Santa' to be completed by our March meeting.

So we met up last weekend and all the socks were on display.  Like a fool I had forgotten to photo mine before I packed them up so had to wait until 'Lorna' wasn't looking and then take a picture.

What an assortment of colours and designs.  The pair I received are rusty coloured ones on the seat at the front and have a percentage of Yak wool in them!!!  Really comfortable and warm.

These are Lorna's; grey with pink heels and toes.  She said she has a new coat that is grey with pink and so these would suit her perfectly.  I hope that they fit!!

We have three months to make a pair using up at least three odds and ends of sock wool.  Interesting.

I haven't been on any 50+ Adventure Club activities since January, but I put that right by doing Indoor Archery.  What fun and though I was really awful at the beginning, by the end I had hit three bullseyes!  Success.
All set up to start

I was so excited to get the first one I had to take a photo!

I haven't been able to volunteer at Chester Farm lately due to the near bankruptcy of our County Council, and everything has gone quiet there.  In the meantime I am volunteering at Nenescape and went to my first meeting of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS).  The items we were looking at have all been found by members of the public through a variety of methods - metal detecting, digging the garden etc.  All the items belong to the finder but should be entered onto the national database for future research by others.  

On this occasion we were looking at buckles all of which were post medieval up to 1720.  I find this quite fascinating as some were definitely shoe buckles and makes me wonder about the person who made the shoe or who wore it and why was it in the ground.  Had it fallen off and been lost?  Unfortunately PAS meet on a Monday which is already a busy day for me so I can't get to every meeting.

Yesterday I volunteered for Out of Water, into History litter picking and planting trees along the Greenway in Rushden which has been built on an old railway line and which I use frequently either cycling or walking.

This was a small amount of the rubbish we picked up -

and another skip had been requested.  Very well organised with portaloos (thank goodness!), all the tools required, soft drinks provided by Morrisons (who have a distribution centre nearby) and pizza at lunchtime and very welcome it was.  In the morning I picked up rubbish but after lunch I helped to plant hedgerow shrubs working with someone to make the holes and I put in the bare-root plant, heeled it in and then checked with a gentle tug that it was secure.  Being an old railway line the edges were extremely difficult to dig due to stone and clinker, but we managed to clear our bag of bushes.  Meanwhile men had planted large fruit trees with the children planting bulbs and potted shrubs.  In total about 50 people turned up to help.  Let us hope that the vandals leave it alone as the Greenway should look good in the future.

Me, I went home absolutely exhausted and flopped down with a large cup of tea!!!

Friday, 1 March 2019

Thank you to the Lottery!!!

No I haven't won the Lottery but another prize.  Let me explain -

Back last November I received the Stanwick Lakes (SL) Newsletter in my email and they were running a competition.  Apparently the Lottery had asked for something to be given back to those who support it and as Stanwick Lakes must get a grant from them they (SL) wanted anyone buying a Lottery ticket that week to photograph it and send it to them to go in a draw for one of their 'Trading Places' workshops.  Well I did as I was told and I won a place on the course to make a basket.

So on Tuesday I arrived and we were told all about the technical terms for the willow:
- rods are the lengths of willow
- butt is the fat end of the rod
- whips are the thin end of the rod
etc (in other words I have forgotten the other techy names!)

We started with 6 thick rods and after cutting slits in the middle of three of them we could start

and at that moment disaster for me.  One of my main rods broke, but luckily Maggie our teacher gave me her sample piece so the picture above was not my work but the rest is!

Then we started weaving the base
Note that not all the rods had been separated at this point 

As you will see from these photos it was very sunny and hot so we had to spend a great deal of time damping down the willow so it didn't dry out, either with a spray or making sure it was covered with very wet matting.
The pile of bits on the right are all the ends from the rods used in the weaving
The base is complete and it was now lunchtime.

After lunch -

We then pushed 24 rods on either side of our base rods and pulled them up and they were tied with string, a circle was placed on the rods, the string was removed and a heavy stone on the base as we were now weaving from the side.

e started weaving the sides with 24 individual rods and concentrating hard because each rod went "over 2 and under one" and onto the next rod, working right and whoa betide us if we got it wrong because the pattern would be distorted!!
Onto the next pattern "over one under one" and onto the next rod and then the sides started to rise
Finally another round of over two and under one and the basket was looking good.

Now to finish off and the upright rods were woven along the top, the final three being cut and forced down and the basket was finished.
10" (26cm) across x 4" (10cm) in depth 
Nearly all my own work and it hasn't fallen apart yet!!

That was just one day in a very busy February which included looking after my son's puppy for half term, preparing for a 'De-stash Sale', working on the Christmas Challenge which has to be finished by 25 March, having a tree cut down in my garden, Nordic walking when time permitted, fitting in another bike ride to make it 4 since 1 January and thus getting a prize (not known at this time), a family get together + all the usual jobs one has to do.  

I need a lie down in a darkened room!!!!!!