05 September 2016

In the pink!

I haven’t blogged about my knitting projects before but there has to be a first time for everything, right? And I’m celebrating because ... finally ... FINALLY ... F.I.N.A.L.L.Y! ... I’ve finished a project that’s been on the go since January 2015.

I have actually completed three other projects in the meantime – a bulky jumper with cables, a simple scarf using up the rest of the bulky jumper wool, and another Fair Isle project, a sleeveless vest (which was my own design and one I’m rather proud of) – but this other just seemed to linger somehow.

It’s a jumper / sweater / jersey – whichever you prefer – and it’s one of my own Fair Isle designs (or, more correctly, I should say that it’s my own combination of traditional Fair Isle motifs knitted to my own colour choice). 

I started the project during the six months I lived in Cheshire in 2014-15 and even took the part-finished jumper and all the wool back to New Zealand in April 2015, thinking I would get it finished during the few months I was back there. It was the New Zealand winter after all.

But no! I was too busy selling my apartment, selling off my goods and chattels, and arranging to move my life to Britain to knit a single stitch. And then, when I left New Zealand, I went travelling for a few weeks and didn’t have the space to carry the part-jumper with me, so it had to go into the boxes with all my other belongings, to be seafreighted to Wales.

My worldly goods finally got delivered in mid-October 2015 and I recall enthusiastically extolling the virtues of knitting and including a photo of the part-jumper in a blog I wrote then, entitled ‘Ten things I love about autumn’ – one thing being that the autumn weather meant it was cool enough to knit comfortably.

Still, it lingered.... I was busy getting my new life here in Cardiff under way, walking and exploring a lot. I joined the Glamorgan Fungi Club and the Glamorgan Bird Club and the Ramblers so was out and about with them as well. And, at the beginning of the year, I started a new daily nature blog that took / takes quite a lot of time to produce. And then I started doing voluntary work two full days a week....

Excuses, excuses, excuses! Finally, in the middle of summer, I got my knitting mojo back. 

First, I knitted the sleeveless vest mentioned and shown above, and then I finally got back to my lovely Pinky jumper. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to start anything new until it was finished and I set a date of 31 August to get it done. And I did! 

So here it is. I absolutely love it and can’t wait for the colder weather so I can wear it. 

And, in the meantime, another sleeveless vest is underway. My knitting mojo is well and truly back!

03 September 2016

It’s a sign: East Sussex

You know I just can’t resist a well-designed / interesting / lovely / intriguing / memorable / fascinating sign when I see one so, of course, I photographed a few during my recent short break in East Sussex. Here they are:

The Kings Head, Battle
The Kings Head is reputed to be the oldest pub in Battle but I don’t know if that’s actually true. The English Heritage website says it’s a Grade II-listed timber-framed building, dating from the 17th century or earlier, though it has at some point been modernised and had a new front attached. When researching this piece, I found a fascinating reference to documents, pertaining to the building, that are held at the East Sussex Record Office

The will of William Easton of Battle gent., dated 1783, proved PCC 1789, among other property devises a freehold messuage in Battle to John Longley the elder of Battle bricklayer and then to his son John ... In a mortgage of Nov 1810, the property is called Delveday ...

In Nov 1833, Ann Longley conveyed this property to her mother Mary ... who in Oct 1837 sold it to Thomas Wickham of Battle, miller for £650 ... The property passed to his daughter Elizabeth, wife of William Austin of Battle, victualler ... In June 1845, they sold the property, now known as the Kings Head Inn, for £735 to William Miskin of Broad Street, Horselydown, Surrey and others ... [and there is more]

The pub obviously has a long and interesting history. It also does reasonable food, as we discovered when we stopped off here for an early dinner on our way home from Rye Harbour.

The Cuckmere Inn, Cuckmere Haven
This was our lunch stop on the day we spent at the Seven Sisters Country Park, and a very pleasant one it was too. Conveniently situated at Exceat, on the road between Seaford and Eastbourne, and overlooking the Cuckmere River, the outdoor terraces proved a very pleasant place to eat and sparrow watch – a rather large flock has discovered the joys of human leftovers.

Though I haven’t been able to date the Inn, I imagine it is quite old. It is perfectly sited as a transfer point when the nearby beach at Cuckmere Haven was used by smugglers in the Middle Ages. The top part of the sign includes part of the coat of Arms of the nearby port of Seaford: the ‘lion-hulks’ (half lion half ship) appear in the heraldry of many of the Cinque Ports towns, and the eagle comes from the coat of arms of the d'Aquila family, former landowners in medieval times. The lower part of the sign shows the meandering Cuckmere River, and the motto ‘E ventis vires’ means ‘From the wind, strength’, a reference to the days of sailing ships.

The Cuckmere Inn used to be called the Golden Galleon, an allusion to Drake’s galleon the Golden Hind perhaps or to the Famous Five book? Who knows. I do know lunch was delicious!

Unstable ground
This sign appears at the start of the Seven Sisters cliff-top walk and other similar warning signs have been hammered into the ground all along the cliff tops. Unfortunately, the warnings are frequently ignored by walkers, who range perilously close to the cliff edges, as you can see from my photo. They’re mad! The chalk is crumbly and, with constant encouragement from wind and rain, large slices of cliff fall off on a regular basis.

The Ram, Firle
Another day, another scrumptious pub lunch. The Ram is in the tiny historic village of Firle and is part of the 500-year-old Firle Estate, owned by the Gage family. The inn is a Grade II-listed, brick and flint building that used to be a regular rest stop for the Lewes to Alfriston coach – that’s horse and coach, not motorised bus! The building was also once used as the village court room where the rents for tenant farmers were set and collected. Nowadays, it’s a popular lunch stop and also has boutique accommodation if you fancy a weekend away in a delightful setting.

Metal detecting prohibited
After our lunch at the Ram in Firle, we drove to the top of the hills above and walked a few miles of the South Downs Way. This sign hung on a gate into farmland at the beginning of our walk. In case you can’t quite make it out the sign reads: ‘Firle Estate. METAL DETECTING ON THIS LAND IS A CRIMINAL OFFENCE. To Report an incident Please Call the Estate Office on xxx or Sussex Police on xxx.’ It’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this but, as the hilltops are dotted with ancient Bronze Age barrows and Neolithic earthworks, I can certainly understand the prohibition on amateur metal detecting.

21 August 2016

East Sussex: Priory Park, Lewes

Mention ‘ruins’ and, in the blink of an eye, my camera bag is packed, and I’m in the car, ready to go! So, when Jill suggested we visit the site of an old priory, I said yes immediately (and, even better, it’s in a public park, so no entrance fee).

This from the signboard at the entrance:

The Priory of St Pancras, founded about 1078, was one of the largest and most powerful monasteries in England. It was of international importance as the first Priory in England linked to the influential Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy, France. What you see today are the ruins of this once magnificent establishment. After nearly 500 years most of it was deliberately destroyed in 1538 during the Reformation on the orders of Henry VIII.

As the sign goes on to say, it’s difficult now to imagine how grand and imposing the whole site must have been in its heyday – there were approximately 100 monks living and worshipping here in the 12th and 13th centuries, though there were only 24 at the time of its demise – but the frequent signboards around the site do a good job of helping the visitor imagine how the huge buildings once dominated this landscape (like the image below).

As  well as the enormous Priory church and its cloister, and the lodgings, a huge kitchen and the refectory for the monks, there was also a guesthouse, an infirmary and accompanying physic garden (and there’s still a small herb garden to give you an idea of what the monks used for their herbal remedies) and, of course, a reredorter (I love this fancy word for the toilet block), as well as a water mill and brewhouse, granary and bakery, forge and stables.

Though it is certainly difficult to imagine the grandeur, archaeological evidence shows that the church walls were decorated with frescoes, the floors were clad with fine glazed tiles, and the ceiling soared to grand heights under enormous curved stone arches.

Also on the site is a monument, unveiled on the occasion of the 700th anniversary, to commemorate the Battle of Lewes, fought on 14 May 1264. The English barons, led by Simon de Montfort, were fed up with the extravagance and bad governance of King Henry III, and fought to have England ruled by a council rather than the king – very forward-thinking of them! The barons won the battle and forced the king to sign the Mise of Lewes, a treaty restricting his authority, but, as history shows, royal power was later restored.

Designed by Enzo Plazzotta and perfectly sited to view the Lewes Castle tower through the facial slits, the helmet sculpture is a very impressive and very appropriate artwork, and there is something rather haunting about its empty shell. When engineers were building a new railway line through Lewes in 1845 (sadly, right through the northern part of the site!), they uncovered the burials of hundreds who died in the Battle of Lewes, so it’s fitting that those early pioneers of democracy be remembered here for their courage.

There is a mound near the entrance to the park, which, when climbed, provides wonderful views over the Priory ruins, some of Lewes township and across the surrounding countryside. Though we didn’t have time to explore on this occasion, Lewes itself looked old and interesting so that’s on my list for a future visit to East Sussex.