Patience is rewarded

Patience … or, Some things are worth waiting for

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In August of this year we took a boat trip across Poole harbour to Brownsea Island.  We were on holiday in Dorset and thought it would make a nice day trip.  In addition, we were hoping to spot red squirrels which are native to the island.  It was definitely a ‘factor 50’ day, clear blue sky, sunshine and only the lightest breeze – perfect!

There was a tour guide in the church who was more than happy to explain all the features of interest as well as recount the history of the island and its former owners / inhabitants.  We were happy to linger in the church and enjoy the coolness of its interior – a very welcome respite from the heat of the day.

I asked the question, do you see many squirrels?

The answer ‘The last squirrel I saw was about two months ago, it came into the church and ran over my foot’.

‘So will we have a chance of spotting some today do you think?’

‘Today?  oh no, its far too hot and there are too many people about, you won’t see squirrels today’ came the reply from the knowledgeable guide.

We stepped outside, my granddaughter feeling a little disappointed as she, like us, had been looking forward to ‘squirrel hunting’.  A walk around the churchyard followed, a beautiful and peaceful area, perfect for a final resting place.  It was while we were exploring around the church that two photographers were spotted, in full camouflage gear, with huge telephoto lenses and tripods.  My curiosity got the better of me and we moved closer to the clearing where they had set up their gear.  All was quiet and still, a handful of people, like us, waited patiently.

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‘What are we waiting for?’whispered little Alice…  ‘I don’t know – but we’ll wait and see’

Sure enough, we were rewarded, a red squirrel came into the clearing and proceeded to scamper about, darting here and there, I struggled to keep up with it and couldn’t see how i’d be able to capture it on camera.  However, it then discovered a store of food and so the scampering stopped and the photos were taken.  What a wonderful 20 minutes, although it was  shaded area, the bright sunlight shone through the canopy of leaves and highlighted the little fellow’s red colouring.

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I managed to take several photos and when the little fellow was joined by another we were overjoyed.

After the ‘show’ was over, we walked away and continued with our exploring of the grounds.

Acres of woodland, grassed areas for picnics, Brownsea Island is truly an oasis situated in Poole Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in the world.  Take advantage of the restaurant and tea room too.  There’s also an interesting exhibition centre which details the history of the island and its occupants as well as an activity table for the youngsters to draw and craft.

As we sat and waited for the boat to take us back to Poole, Alice turned to us and said ‘She was wrong wasn’t she? ‘The lady said we wouldn’t see any squirrels and we saw two, she was wrong wasn’t she Grandma’

Yes Alice, she was wrong.

Patience provided it’s rewards for us that day.  Happy Alice Squirrel Hunter!

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Words and pictures by Lizzy Clark

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Memories

Memories – snapshots of moments stored in the deep recesses of our mind.  When we recall a memory we recapture the feeling / experience even just for an instance.

Having lived for over half a century already, my mind’s recesses are chock full of memories which can be triggered by many different things.  A song … a word, phrase or accent even … a smell … the title of a book … soundtrack to a film … So many triggers.

For me I think smell and music are the main keys to unlocking memories.  For instance, there is a certain chain of hardware / homeware stores which, as soon as I walk in remind me of my Grandparents shop and warehouse.  Its not a single scent, more a mix of bars of soap, firelighters, turps, polish, wooden brooms, and general household stuff… One whiff and I am whisked back in time to the age of about 7-9 years old, walking through the passage which joined the house to the warehouse and shop.  The warehouse had all manner of items stacked on shelves, hanging on hooks – galvanised buckets, mops, watering cans, as well as tinned food stuffs, bags of tea, sugar and flour and the jars of sweets.  The shop itself was a village general store – very reminiscent of the one which features in the TV sitcom “Open All Hours” – same counter, shelves around the shop stocked with groceries of all description, a cold counter with bacon, cooked meats, butter, cheese and milk, and my favourite, the sweet counter – liquorice pipes, strawberry laces, sherbet flying saucers, bonbons and chews.

Memories have lain dormant within my mind for many years – without a thought, until they are triggered into life.  Perhaps its age which triggers memories?

We talk to elderly parents, relatives and realise their time on earth is drawing to a close.  Perhaps its a way of preparing for the bereavement that we reminisce – remember good times, extract the memories and replay them to recapture the moments.  Perhaps its our increasing years.  We reach a stage in life where the days ahead will be fewer than those past, we think back and remember…

The arrival of children, grandchildren, new generations brings with it more than a hint of nostalgia and revives memories of our own childhood and those of our children.

 

Enjoy your memories, treasure the moments, remember the good times by all means – but don’t forget to live in the present, the here and now.  Live – and by doing so create more memories for yourself and those around you.

The memories we leave with others are our legacy – their inheritance, some would argue that treasured memories are possibly more valuable than monetary riches?

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words and pictures by Lizzy Clark

 

Dedication

Dedication

I’ve been looking through some family papers recently.  My father has collated a lot of information about our family history, one branch at least, tracing the family name through several generations.  It has been an interesting exercise sifting through the documents, certificates, notes, photographs and newspaper cuttings that he has meticulously filed and recorded.  One particular piece grabbed my attention as I read.  It was the account of the death of my great great grandfather, miller and corn dealer who lived in a small market town in Lincolnshire.

James Clark was born in Fiskerton on 26 January 1829 and died at the age of 72 on 19 December 1901.  The following is a report of his death which appeared in the Market Rasen Mail:

“Death of an old standard – It is with deep regret we record the death of one of Rasen’s old and respected standards in the person of Mr James Clark, miller and corn dealer, of Caistor Road, who passed away about ten o’clock on Thursday night after a brief illness.  Mr Clark was within a month of being 73 years of age, and up to the 12th instant he was as hale and hearty as one could wish, and looked considerably younger than he really was.  It will be remembered that the weather on that day was of a most fearful description, and that it continued until the Friday.  It appears that during Thursday night and Friday morning the deceased was almost continually at his mill to see that the large volume of water which filled the beck should have as free a passage as possible through his sluices.  It is supposed that he then contracted a chill, taking to his bed on the Monday morning, his demise occurring, as stated above, four days later.  His was a well known figure at the Tuesday’s market, having attended it for upwards of fifty years.  He was one of the most kind hearted and genial of men, and was very much respected by his fellow townsmen.  At one time the deceased and Mr Hill practically regulated the prices of flour in the district, and, be it said to their credit, they never abused the privilege.  Mr Clark came to Rasen in the December of 1849, when he acted as manager of the Church Mill for the late Mr Fryer.  He continued in this capacity until 1864, when he took over the business, since which time the work has been carried on at the Church Mill by him without intermission.  Mr Clark was a habitué of the Tradesmen’s Association’s annual dinner, and at their gathering on Thursday he was greatly missed.  The deceased leaves a widow and grown up family of one son and six daughters to mourn their loss.  His funeral will take place on Sunday at two o’clock.”

He was obviously dedicated to his family and his work and responsibilities.  Such dedication it would seem was the cause of his demise.  It is indeed commendable to note that he was working full time in running the mill and attending market at the age of 72 and had worked at the mill ‘without intermission’ from his arrival in Rasen at the age of 20 until his death some 52 years later.

The funeral report is quoted as it appeared in the Market Rasen Mail – note how the style of local reporters has changed over the years!  The publication of the local weekly newspaper was obviously an event to look forward to in those days:

“The funeral took place on Sunday of Mr James Clark, miller and corn dealer, whose somewhat sudden demise was reported in our columns last week.  The cortege, consisting of a hearse, two mourning coaches and a large number following on foot, left the residence of the deceased on the Caistor Road at two o’clock and proceeded to the Wesleyan Chapel, where a short service was conducted by the superintendent minister, the Rev J Harrop Taylor.  As the mournful procession entered into the sacred edifice, Mr Wilson played on the organ a funereal voluntary.  The hymns, ‘Give me the wings of faith to rise’ and ‘Jerusalem The Golden’ were sung.  At the conclusion of the service, the organist played the ‘Dead March’ in Saul.  At the cemetery the last rites were performed by the Rev J Harrop Taylor.  There was a large attendance both at the chapel and the cemetery…The funeral arrangements were in the hands of Messrs Dixon and Hill, and Mr M Pickering acted as undertaker.  The coffin was of oak with heavy brass mountings.”

We are able to gain a little more insight into the character of the man who was James Clark from an article which appeared in the Market Rasen Mail on 23 February 1929 – I have at this time, no idea what the occasion was for the article, but read it with interested.

“James Clark – Mr James Clark the proprietor of the water mill on the Caistor Road was one of the most kindly men it has been my pleasure to meet.  He was a short man with a goodly well cared for corporation and would have passed easily for an Alderman of one of our ancient cities.  I do not mean that he was red of face and bloated in appearance, (No Alderman is).  On the contrary, he possessed a benevolent face, fair and finely chiselled features, kindly eyes and his mouth seemed as though it was put there in order that at any moment it could pronounce a benediction on those who were ready to receive it.  His speech was rather of the monotone order, pitched in a minor key, but remarkably sympathetic in expression.  He never seemed to be flurried, but spoke slowly, and always had himself under control when he conversed with others.  He has pity for needy ones and a poor but honest man who wanted a stone of flour for his family or some barley meal for his pig ‘on tick’ until say next week, could invariably find a responsive chord in the heart of the generous miller.  Mr Clark presided over Fryer’s Mill with a quiet unruffled dignity, but the charm of the man lay in his good nature and the gracious manner which he dispensed to all who came to him for counsel or sought his help.”

A detailed description of a man’s character and personality which, although brief, paints a picture of a man and his life.  It is worth noting here, that this is a man who is four generations removed from myself, yet through these printed words I can imagine the type of person he was, and how he lived.  There are no other documents which give more information other than official certificates of birth, marriage and death and a couple of portrait photographs. I visit Market Rasen several times a year, organising events at the Festival Hall, on Caistor Road, near to where the mill used to be.  The building still stands, no longer a mill, it has been turned into apartments.  I can imagine it though, as it was, standing proud, larger than its surrounding buildings.  Many of the old cottages remain that would have housed mill workers, hotels and public houses have been updated over the years, but echoes of the past can be seen all around. As I walk around the small town, along the high street, across the cobbled market place, I can’t help but think about James Clark, his family and his dedication and duty – to the end.

Lizzy Clark

 

Heritage – history and engines

Heritage

Heritage is History – historical events or processes that have a  special meaning in memory.

We have national heritage – monuments and buildings; natural heritage – conservation of natural environments specific to a region; cultural heritage – artefacts from specific periods of time or people; industrial heritage – relics from industry and industrial culture.

I’m particularly interested in Industrial Heritage – looking at how things used to be manufactured, transported and used.  I enjoy seeking out places of interest when travelling and here I’ll introduce you to two particular places which I find fascinating.  One in Yorkshire, one in Lancashire.

Elsecar Heritage Railway is found at the Heritage Centre, Barnsley, Yorkshire, UK.  The Heritage centre itself is described as a Living History Centre, as it houses the Newcomen Bean Engine which can be seen working and has been described as the most important piece of industrial heritage in the world.

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The Railway at Elsecar is known as ‘The Coalfield Line’ in recognition of the coal mining heritage of its route and environment. The railway connects the sites of several coal mines, from Elsecar to Cortonwood reflecting a period in time from the creation of Earl Fitzwilliam’s iron and coal empire, through nationalisation of the mining industry, to the demise of local coal mining in the 1980s.

The single-track mineral line Elsecar Branch ran from Elsecar to Elsecar Junction near Wath, via Cortonwood, serving local collieries and ironworks. The line follows the Dearne and Dove Canal from Elsecar Basin to Cortonwood and originally crossed the canal by lifting bridge. In 1864 the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (M,S&LR) took over the South Yorkshire Railway. In 1897, the M,S&LR renamed itself to The Great Central Railway (GCR) which under the Railways Act of 1921 became part of railway grouping of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER).

Earl Fitzwilliam ran private trains from his own covered station at Elsecar (now the Playmania building in the Elsecar Heritage Centre), with the future King Edward VII a regular passenger to Doncaster Races. Earl Fitzwilliam lived at Wentworth Woodhouse in Wentworth village, one mile from Elsecar.  His former home is well worth a visit and I may write of that in a future blog, today is about the railway.  Steam and Deisel engines are run on the line and maintained by a team of dedicated volunteers.  Its a wondrous site to see a railway engine in full steam – the smell, the steam and smoke and the noise evocative of a time not too distant but all but forgotten.  The engine yard is a great place for photographers, with the machinery, signage and even old forgotten engines sitting idle and rusting away.

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My last visit coincided with a steam day and I was welcomed onto the footplate with my camera – if you are so inclined you can even sign up for a one day course to learn how to drive a steam or diesel engine.  I feel a sadness that the great days of steam are now over, and looking at the facts it would seem inevitable that a cleaner, more efficient engine was needed to cope with the demands on the passenger and freight services when the railway was at its peak.  However myself and fellow nostalgia lovers owe a great deal to the volunteers who keep such steam engines and railways alive for our children and grandchildren to see and experience the wonder of steam railway travel.

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A more recent trip to the North West of the country found me looking around Burnley for somewhere to visit and I came upon the Queen Street Mill Textile Museum.

This proved to be a very special find indeed, as the museum is home to the last remaining 19th Century mill steam engine in working order.  If you would like to see it for yourself, you’ll have to hurry – the local area council are planning on closing it citing budget constraints as the reason.  It was due to close on 1 April, but I’m pleased to hear it has a stay of execution until at least September 2016.

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One man alone maintains the steam engine – named ‘Peace’ – the same man has had this role for 28 years and you can tell by the way he speaks of the engine and the work involved that it is a real labour of love.  Until recently he had an apprentice, but when the news of the possible closure reached the ears of those who run the apprenticeship scheme the young lad was withdrawn and moved to another position – and so, if Peace is given a reprieve it can only be for the lifetime of the engineer, he is the only man who knows every nut and bolt, every nuance, who lovingly oils and polishes as he answers visitors questions about the engine.  The engine itself is awarded the highest level of Graded protection which means if the museum closes the engine must always be maintained in working order, secure, the correct environment, one has to ask – who will oversee Peace if not an apprentice?

I was happy to spend a couple of hours at Queen Street Mill, and ponder what life was like for the mill workers, thousands of them, as you drive around the area its not difficult to imagine as the rows and rows of terraced houses and cottages still stand as testament to the industry which provided much of the region with its bread and butter.  An industry which helped build a nation.  A sad thought.

Patterns and Layers – What’s Hidden Beneath?

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Paid a visit to Stawberry Hill recently.  Horace Walpole, son of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, created Strawberry Hill in the 18th Century, between 1748 and 1790.  He built and extended what was known as the ‘old small house’ to create the masterpiece of Gothic splendour that opens its doors to visitors today.  The originally ‘old small house’ was known as ‘Chopp’d Straw Hall and was owned by a Mrs Elizabeth Chevenix, a well-known ‘toy woman’ or seller of trinkets.

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Its a remarkable building and well worth a visit.   Timed slots are booked in advance, in order to keep numbers to a manageable level within the rooms.  Almost all the rooms have guides within who are well informed and tell the history of each room.  Each visitor is also presented with a booklet, based upon Walpole’s original publication ‘Description of Strawberry Hill’ which guides the visitor through the house, room by room.  I won’t go into detail here about each room, better to pay a visit to Strawberry Hill yourself – however something in one room caught my interest which I will share with you now.

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Horace Walpole was very particular with the decor and furnishing of his grand summer villa.  Indeed it was originally designed to hold his vast collections amassed when he was on his Grand Tour.  Mr Walpole’s bedchamber was chosen by him due to the view it afforded over the acres of parkland in which the house was then situated.  After Walpole’s death, the house passed through the family via tenuous links until it became under the possession of a Frances Lady Waldegrave in the mid 19th Century.  She redecorated Walpole’s bedroom in 1856 with a rose patterned paper as was popular at the time – she also had built a closet.  During the restoration some of the rose patterned paper was torn and beneath it was clearly visible a blue and bronze coloured flock wallpaper.   The Lady’s rose bedroom had been achieved by papering over Walpole’s original paper.  Sufficient pattern was visible for the restoration team to have reproduced in order to restore Horace Walpole’s Bed Chamber to its original decor.   Flock wallpaper was a hand-made luxury product.  It was made by applying adhesive to a roll of paper formed of joined sheets, using a carved wooden pattern block and shaking over it finely chopped wool fibres.  The printed rolls were then pressed to imbed the fibres to create a velvet-like pattern.  The flock wallpaper was originally hung in Walpole’s room in 1755-56, just over a hundred years later Frances Lady Waldegrave covered it with rose pattern machine print paper, made in France, and a hundred and fifty years or so after the lady had redecorated, the room was restored to its original pattern and colour.

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Patterns and Layers form the natural world – look at plants, flowers – the symmetry and patterns are truly a wonder to behold.  Crystals too have their patterns.   One particular stone I’ve been looking at recently, Obsidian, displays some fascinating patterns.

Obsidian itself is a volcanic glass (SiO2 plus MgO, Fe3O4) – naturally occurring and produced when ‘felsic’ lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth.  Felsic refers to igneous rocks relatively rich in elements that form feldspar and quartz.   Obsidian, although mineral-like, is not a true mineral because as a glass it is not crystalline.  Obsidian is hard and brittle and fractures with very sharp edges, in the past it was used for cutting and piercing tools and has even been used experimentally as surgical scalpel blades.

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Pure obsidian is usually dark (black) in appearance, colouring varies depending on the presence of impurities.  Sheen obsidian contains patterns of gas bubbles remaining from the lava flow – whereas Rainbow Obsidian is so called due to an iridescent, rainbow-like sheen considered to be caused by inclusions of magnetite nano particles.

The pattern of Sheen Obsidian is fascinating to see and enhanced by polishing and shaping the obsidian pieces.

Take a look around, can you see the patterns in your environment, surroundings, look beneath the layers…  What’s hidden beneath?

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Lizzy Clark