stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Autumn at the national arboretum

I had long wanted to vist Westonbirt but it is a bit too far away for a day visit, but my brother and his wife invited us to stay the weekend, so that we could all go together - and they only live a short distance away. My sister-in-law cooked lovely meals, and my brother and I compared notes on computer games and shared family stories from the past!

He had researched the best time to visit for autumn colour and the weekend had arrived. Many many people had the same idea, and there were queues of cars at the gates. But there was also an extra temporary entrance with three booths, and acres and acres of extra parking. Very well organised. It was more like visiting a festival or outdoor event. Everyone was in good spirits, and I didnt even hear one child whining with boredom (and there were plenty of children). It was hard to believe that the thousands of people were there just to look at trees!

We were happy to follow the well signposted Seasonal Trail, which took us in two loops (one before lunch, one afterwards) through the National Collection of Japanese Maples and through well kept woodland and splendid specimens.

I realised that this is the first year in quite a few, that I havent been to Kyoto in the autumn. The cold air on our faces made me quite nostalgic for misty mountainsides and temples surrounded by delicate flame coloured trees, with leaves like tiny stars.......

My husband walking past a particularly delicious Bhutan pine, very Himalayan.

Nothing as beautiful as an acer against pine trees!

The hunter gatherer searches for fallen edible sweet chestnuts!

I have this one as wallpaper right now.

Taking a rest, flanked by my brother and my husband.
Thanks for a great weekend!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Charminster bellringers' day out

The leaves are beginning to turn and the sun has started to lose its heat - it is autumn and time for the Charminster Ringers' annual outing to six towers in Wiltshire! In fact the day stayed dry but we didnt see any sun.

The day began at 8.30am and we all got in the hired minibus and were on our way to Wilton. The parish church (full length photo) is Italianate and looks strange to my eyes, being in a sleepy Georgian town. The stone work was decorative, but not old enough for my liking.

After a very pleasant coffee in the town square (you can tell this trip was organised by a woman!) we were off to Salisbury. There are no bells in the cathedral, but I had often sat in the café opposite St Thomas Church, (off to the left out the photo below) eating cream cakes and wistfully looking at the tower. I never thought I would have the chance to ring there.

Its always a bit nerve wracking, ringing in a town centre, with thousands of shoppers hearing the bells (and any mistakes - of which there were very few) The bells were majestic and sounded deep and sonorous - the tenor weighs 27cwt, luckily we had experienced ringers who could handle that!

We had only one ground floor ring, the rest were up in the towers, but I was able to take the time to put my head around the door and see a choir practice going on and admire the harvest festival flowers.

I wanted to make a recording of the ringing, and my mobile phone could only pick up the hiss of the rope ends as they hit the floor at the end of the hand and back strokes. So I used the camera. Sorry for the bad quality too, shooting into the light of the window. Oh well you get an idea, and can hear people being put right, as they threaten to get out of place

And then, joy of joys (I told you this was organised by a woman!) a long lunch hour in the town centre itself. Coming from a small town, this was a delight! Shops; market; ahhhhhh.

I had brought home made egg and tomato sandwiches for lunch - a childhood favourite and a must for me for days out! And I sat and had my picnic in the cathedral square and enjoyed the beautiful architecture, not only of the cathedral but these wonderful houses. Mompesson House was right behind me, as a National Trust member I can get in for free - and use the nice clean toilets - but I didnt!

After lunch, we drove through small river valleys and open countryside, more open and with bigger fields than Dorset. Broad Chalke, Coombe Bissett and the delightfully named Ebbesbourne Wake were tranquil churches and pretty villages.

The last stop was the church of St Peter ad Vincula ( means in chains, and one of only fourteen churches of that name in England) This was in Tollard Royal on Cranborne Chase, it dates from medieval times - 13th century - and is tucked into a fairly remote hillside.

There is a memorial to a knight inside the church and it should depict a crusader knight (his legs are crossed) called Sir William Payne who died in 1388, but a local lady told us he was cheating and he wasnt a crusader, as his dates are all wrong! I cant remember what his feet resting on a dog rather than a lion means.

This is part of the Rushmore Estate, formerly the home of the 19th-century archaeologist and ethnologist General Pitt-Rivers, and the "royal" part refers to King John's Hunting Lodge which was next to the church and used for hunting on the Chase for many centuries. (Madonna and Guy Ritchie have a mansion nearby on the Ashcombe estate!)

We had a good day out (there is me third from the left) A very enjoyable outing with interesting churches and bells, good company. We had an evening meal at The Inn on the Chase, and I felt very relaxed, full and sleepy as we drove back down to Dorset through the dusk.