Saturday, 31 January 2015

The GWR Carriage Works, Water Tower and UTC

There couldn't really be a greater contrast between the Swindon Designer Outlet, a shopping complex built within the disused Swindon railway engine works and the former Carriage and Wagon works. Built in 1868,  and on the opposite side of Station Road to the railway village, the Carriage Works are still waiting for new life to be breathed into them, by finding a role in the twenty first century.
The metal grills have been removed from the windows and they are being reglazed and painted, giving a smarter appearance from the road, but internally maybe not much altered apart from the station end of the building where a breize block wall can be seen, erected in recent times when there was a club there.
The outside of the building:
 This gives some idea of the length of the carriage works:
 The part being painted is covered in orange net.
 From there, we walked behind the carriage works and into an area which is now a car park where there was an amazing view of the Mechanics' Institute over the wall with the Murray John tower just visible behind it:
Next, we walked down the road to have a look at the UTC, University Technical College, a £10million state of the art campus in the Old School Building of the GWR works.
 There's a glorious new front:
 Despite the cold day, the courtyard area is a sun trap, and the metal panels were  hot according to Jane
The rest of the courtyard has been carefully restored:

And beside it is the iconic water tower, also restored:
This is what the UTC website says:
'As part of the original Great Western Rail works, the UTC Swindon site creates a link between the historic engineering and the engineering future of the local area, with the Old School Building and the iconic Water Tower featuring prominently. Both structures, which are Grade II listed, were treated sympathetically, with the Water Tower being restored and brought back into educational use'.
Maybe the Carriage Works will be restored and find new life before too long. 

Friday, 30 January 2015

Cardiff Castle's Gothic Revival- a Dream Realised

The castle stands at the lowest crossing point of the Taff, and it's this strategic position that has made the land on which the castle stands a popular place to live since the Romans invaded in 43AD. It has changed quite a bit over the years, but it's the outstanding work of the architect William Burges that make the castle so extraordinary, and such a special place to visit.
I knew nothing of the work of William Burges before the visit, I'd seen the extraordinary Animal Wall, but obviously wasn't listening in previous times when my friends commented on the wall. Although it was Burges' idea, the wall wasn't completed until 1881, some years after his death. Here's the information beside the wall:
 And a couple of examples:

From the wall, we went inside and bought tickets for the castle and a guided tour of the castle, on the way to the tour, Kathy had a look at a hen harrier and chatted to its handler:
 Below the outside of the castle:

 And the clock tower with figures not clearly visible

 And below the 12 sided moated keep, the finest example in Wales:
 And so onto the house tour where we can see the brilliance outcomes arising from the introduction of the 18 year old fabulously rich Lord Bute and the architect William Burges in 1865. They were both fascinated by the World in the Middle Ages, and traveled widely in Europe in the Near East for inspiration. Our tour began in the Winter Smoking Room:
It's hard to know what to photograph, there's so much to see, and there are something like 70 paintings of birds in the room:
This is part of an ornate piece above the fireplace:
And this part of the door into the room:
From there we went into the day nursery, described as a child's paradise, there are wall tiles painted with heroes and heroines from children's literature painted by H.W.Lonsdale to Burges' designs and made by Maw &Co:

From there onto the Batchelor Bedroom! It had an amazing array of marbles in the en suite bathroom:
Here's another view of the bathroom with its different sorts of marble:
 From there we went up to the top of the castle to the Roof Garden, decorated tiles this time by Frederick Smallfield:
 The lovely bowl below was on a sideboard somewhere:
 Exquisitely carved marquetry bird on a piece of mistletoe on a door:
 This amazing pair are beside a doorway, maybe in the magnificent Banqueting hall, recently experienced by President Obama on a recent trip over here for a Nato summit. It's possible to hire the castle for weddings and other events.
 Below, it's hard to convey the exoticism of the Arab Room:
 And having missed out lots of parts of the castle, you need to visit it and see it for yourself, we went up the tower of the keep where there was a great photo to be had of the castle:
So where did the Bute's money come from? Mostly from Welsh industry. His Father built a dock at Cardiff that eventually exported coal they mined to the rest of the world.
It's a fabulous day, and Cardiff is a short train ride away, do go and have a look at this extraordinary and beautiful result of a collaboration between William Burges and Lord Bute and their talented craftspeople.
The book 'The essential Cardiff Castle' by Matthew Williams is an invaluable guide to your visit, and helped a great deal when making sense of some of my photos.



Thursday, 29 January 2015

Why is Everyone Wassailing?

Well of course not everyone is wassailing, but there have been three consecutive weekends of wassailing here, firstly at Avebury, then TWIGS and one I managed to get to at the Secret Garden in Queens Park.

It was a beautiful day for it, about 70 of us gathered together, drums were beaten as we marched around the edge of the garden, we then gathered around a tree and sang a song, shouted loudly to scare away evil spirits and then sang songs to bless a chosen apple tree, poured some apple juice around the base of the tree, and hung pom poms on it. The aim was to ensure a fruitful harvest, but also ensured that people volunteered to help work in the garden.
My photos didn't turn out well because I photographed into the sun. Below here's one of the people with an ivy and berry crown
 And the pom pom making:
 General chatting
 All sorts of tasty wholesome free range food for free range people including burgers and apple cake
 The photo below was taken while the ceremony was taking place
 And here are the fab drummers - Bang 2 Rights
Carole Bent also took fab photos which she said I could use; they appear below:

 Above Kathryn Kay of Incredible Edible with a lovely pom pom, and below relaxing with mulled cider

 There's almost a tradition that members of the local residents' association appear in sunglasses, so here's a funny one of them:
And here's a copy of the poster which gives an idea of what it was about:
Elmar Rubio also took some fab photos which can be seen on Facebook.

And Swindon Viewpoint was there as well with more explanations than I have managed:
http://www.swindonviewpoint.com/video/secret-garden-wassail

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Making Marmalade without Lots of Peel Chopping

Until I discovered the key to chopping peel, making marmalade was a bit of a chore, I'm offering this simple method which you may know and might be able to improve upon.
I have a battered copy of Mary Norwak's Book of Jams, Marmalades and Sweet Preserves which I look at but don't really follow because it has so many marmalade recipes, and it's difficult to decide which one to use.
I put 3lbs of marmalade oranges in a pan with 3 pints of water and a lemon and boiled them together over about 6 hours gently, on my wood burning stove, and then left them for about 36 hours:
After being boiled for so long, the skins are very soft, and easy to cut in half; put the contents of each orange into a pillow case and the peel is then very easy to slice into very small pieces, much better than previous marmalade which I made which used to have great chunks of peel because it was so hard to cut.
Below here's the pillow case containing the pith which is simmered with the chopped peel for a couple of hours.
Next remove the pillowcase, add 3lbs of sugar, dissolve the sugar in the mixture and boiled hard for 20 minutes until the marmalade starts spitting at which time it should have set, put it into hot jars and cover:
Lovely!

A Milk and Honey Walk with White Horses!

I hadn't thought of this at the time, but going for a walk on Milk Hill, reputedly the highest ground in Wiltshire, with a beautiful white horse on it, visible from the Barge Inn at Honey Street is indulging in milk and honey in more ways than one!!
To make the most of the day, we left Swindon at 9am, and were very pleased  to be going on a sunny day, once near Milk Hill though, it became colder and a heavy mist came down, it wasn't possible to see anywhere from Milk Hill, hence no photos of there.
We intended to have lunch at the Barge Inn at Honey Street, one of my favourite places, however their kitchen ceiling had fallen in, so they weren't cooking food. I did take several photographs of the Milk Hill  white horse:


 and some delightful teasles:
 And loved this view of the first bridge along the canal in the direction of Devizes from the Barge Inn
 And looking back from that spot towards the pub:
 We ate at the lovely canal side pub at Horton and I tried to take photos of white horses from the car on the way home:
 Here's the one at Cherhill
 And the Uffington one
 Coincidentally I heard from Theatre Des Bicyclettes today, they performed a a multi media show entitled The Nine White Horses, a travelling show based on the history of the 9 white horses of Wiltshire and Oxfordshire which they'll perform for you. I saw them in the Beehive a wrote a piece about them last year, I thought they were excellent. Please ring 01973 725206 if interested in booking them.