Monday, 12 March 2018

Walking in family footsteps

Think of the English landscape and images such as those created by the famous English painter John Constable, will probably will come initially to mind. Constable was born in 1776 and died in 1837. Despite this some of the landscapes he captured haven't changed very much in nearly 200 years!
Flatford Mill in 2017

 The Hay Wain painted in 1821 in the same location
The Hay Wain painting used to hang in one of our classrooms at school. I remembering gazing at it often, maybe I wasn't fully concentrating on the lesson! It was a real treat for me to visit this location when we were visiting Suffolk in September.

Boat building near Flatford Mill

The landscape today around Flatford Mill

We passed this magnificent farmhouse, and apart from its appearance, it attracted my interest. My ancestors had also lived in a farmhouse along the Stour Valley which had unfortunately burnt down, and I wondered whether it could have been similar to this one. James Barker was a gentlemen farmer with 500 acres and was one of the founder members of  Essex Agriculture Society. Through old newspaper articles I have been lucky enough to discover his views of free trade, turnips and whether there was any life on the Moon!  As I have researched my family history I have become quite attached to some members of the family. One of these was Sarah Barker who was James's wife and had the same name as me!

 Sarah's Grandfather Charles Cox and her father Anthony Cox were Packet Agents in Harwich. Their duties were to receive all mails and dispatches from His Majesty's Minsters that arrived from Holland and other parts of Northern Europe and forward them to the General Post Office in London.  Part of this time was during the Napoleonic Wars when Harwich was the main port connecting to the Continent. The Cox's were also responsible for recording and receiving payment for anyone leaving the country. Charles Cox also set up a Bank in Harwich, and both men were also Mayors of the town.

The bank is still there, but is now used for different purposes.
Although I have been to Harwich many times it has always been on route to and from Holland and I have never had time to stop and have a look.  In the past it was an important military town and naval port and it has seen better days, but thanks to the Harwich Society the historical buildings have been maintained and stewarded by enthusiastic volunteers.

We came across a strange building which we discovered was a Treadwheel Crane , dating back to 1667.  The crane was operated by men walking inside the wheel. It is believed that the Romans had a crane similar in design to this in 25 B.C. and by the Middle Ages these cranes were common in this country. This is the only example left in this country.

To my delight I  also discovered that there was a tour of the Guildhall. It was amazing to stand in the  Council Chamber in the same room where my ancestors would have carried out their duties for the town over 200 years ago.

The stained glass window showing the town crest

 One of the showcases even displayed the mace used in the 17th century.

Although there were portraits of previous mayors, unfortunately I couldn't find any pictures of my ancestors, but I did manage to find them on a list of all the mayors.

Another surprise was waiting downstairs, we walked into a room and discovered a wooden paneled wall with some amazing carvings.

This room had at one time been used to hold prisoners who were waiting to be tried or sentenced. These prisoners would have been illiterate and drew this pictures to ward off evil spirits. The wall had been plastered over and rediscovered during restorations.

Have you visited where your ancestors came from and discovered anything interesting too?

Thank you for all the comments you left last week, the milk bottles on the doorstep brought back childhood memories for many of you. Luckily this week the weather has returned more to normal and the flowers in the garden have recovered. I even managed to spend a few hours in the garden, the first time for months!

Wishing you a happy week ahead.

Sarah x

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Beast from the East

 Why did I mention Spring was here last week, it didn't last long! The Beast from the East Snowstorm reached here on Thursday afternoon. It was the first time Tavi had experienced snow and he was initially frightened, but with the help of a ball he soon started playing in it and got covered in snow!

It was my husband's 60th birthday on Friday, we had planned a weekend away, but we cancelled it once we heard the weather forecast. Instead we awoke to find freezing rain had covered the snow, the road was impassable and our drive had turned into a skating rink. Despite this, our milkman had walked up the road and still managed to deliver our milk, what service!

We put out extra food and water for the birds and spent most of the morning bird watching from the warmth of our home. There were many birds flying overhead and landing in the fields around us, including flocks of lapwing and golden plover.

 Leaving Tavi at home, we managed to get out of the back entrance, and climbed the hill. The snow covered in a layer of ice, crunched with every step we took. Our familiar golden cliffs looked so different covered in white .The lapwings were almost hidden behind the tufts of grass.

The zoom on the camera allowing us to see them closer up.

 We haven't had any snow since we moved here three years ago, and so we were curious to see this landscape looking so different.


As we stood looking at the view, a freezing wind suddenly blew up  making it very unpleasant to be outside, so we headed for home  just feeling grateful that we had food and a warm home to return too. Unfortunately we have heard that many birds have perished during this cold spell.

Thank goodness that within 48 hours the snow had gone and life has returned to normal.  Did you suffer any consequences from the Beast from the East?

Sarah x

Monday, 26 February 2018

Through the Garden Gate February 2018

  Hurrah! There are signs of Spring emerging again, but not sadly  in our garden with such abundance as this. It is definitely something to strive for, isn't it fantastic?

 Back to reality our spring border under the hazels, isn't quite as colourful, but it is now in it's third year and each year it gets better. It is good to look out from the conservatory windows.

I was hoping to have more flowers to show you this month, and although our solar panels have  surprisingly recorded more sunshine hours in February compared with the past two years, it still feels that there was more plants appearing this time last year. Has anyone noticed this too?

Some of the snowdrops are still in flower.

I bought a pack of six hellebores from Lidl in the Autumn to plant in a pot in the front garden. The variety of the flower colours have been a lovely surprise, and I really love this soft pinky shade. They will be a good addition to the Spring border later in the year.

The rest of the flower borders are full of fresh new green growth and the vegetable and cutting borders are still quite empty.  

So I have an extra Garden Gate to wander through this month.

Camillias framing the view to the Abbey
With the temperatures falling and a cold breeze we decided yesterday, to head inland to Forde Abbey. Unfortunately it was the week between the end of the Snowdrop weekend and the start of the Crocus Weekends, but despite this, there are other highlights to see.

Crocus emerging through the moss bank

A scattering of crocus bulbs under the tree

The snowdrops and the cream hellebore made a lovely combination.

Daffodils and ducks

From the crocus at eye level to the fountain at sky level!

Captured taking a shot!
I was intending to plant some seeds yesterday but with the reports that we will be colder than the Arctic this week, I have decided to put it off. Have you planted any seeds yet?

What is happening in your garden this month? If you would like to join in with Through the garden gate each month please let me know in the comments below and I will add your site. 
Sarah x

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Along the beach

Another week of changeable weather with storms that took away another part of the beach below our famous golden cliffs (sorry picture not taken) and a poor dead dolphin washed up on the sand. On Valentines Day we planned a day out at Lyme Regis. The weather was so awful that we ended up working instead! I'm pleased to say that on our second attempt to visit Lyme Regis the weather was just like a spring day making the views even more spectacular!

Lyme Bay looking towards Charmouth

As it was half term and the first decent day everyone was out enjoying the sunshine and low tide!

The sky was so blue and this display of the colourful dogwood so eye catching!

The colours on Eype beach are more muted.

We are continuing to try and reduce the number of single-use plastic items coming into our house. We now have lots of toilet rolls wrapped in paper rather than plastic and have gone back to using washing powder rather than liquid, all these small changes do make a difference, I was very encouraged this week talking to local retailers this week to hear the efforts they are going to trying to find alternatives.  I took part in another beach clean to gather material for a project a local school is involved in to highlight the plastic debate, although we didn't find as much rubbish as before!

The Nurdle hunters - even a passing dog came to see what was going on!

On Saturday we went to Charmouth Heritage Centre  where we joined Philip Strange to take part in a Nurdle Hunt, as I have mentioned nurdles (sometimes called mermaid tears) are plastic pellets the size of lentils. They are increasing being washed up on the shore and are eaten by fish and sea birds mistaking them for food. The  plastic pellets are melted down and used to make most of the plastic items that we use today from bin bags to phone covers. Spills take place when they are handled or transported.

My husband searching for nurdles

Unfortunately we didn't have to venture very far from the Centre to find them. I gave up counting them after I had picked up 120!  We had never come across so many on mass before although we were told that there were less on this stretch of beach compared with the previous year. It did feel as if our efforts were like a small drop in the ocean! Our hunt did however create lots of interest, as those passing stopped to find out what we were doing. It was good to meet up with another fellow blogger, although there wasn't much time to chat and I forget to photograph the occasion!

Our nurdle collection which we estimated to be around 200.
Wishing you a happy and healthy week, thank you for popping by.
Sarah x

A quick reminder for anyone else who would like to take part that next week's post will be another visit "Through the Garden Gate." I know my post will definitely be more colourful than last month as we welcome and admire the first signs of Spring.


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