An evening stroll along Carding Mill Valley

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Late morning on the Tuesday the rain started to come in, so we spent the afternoon taking it easy in our comfortable apartment, reading and listening to some music. By about 6 o’clock it had stopped raining so we decided to go for a short walk along Carding Mill Valley and take a look at the reservoir up New Pool Hollow. The small reservoir was constructed in 1902 to supply water to the Carding Mill. It didn’t have to fulfil it’s intended purpose for long; the old mill was demolished in 1912 and the factory turned into an hotel and café. Today the reservoir is an attractive feature at the end of a short steep sided valley and is frequented by “wild swimmers”.

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It was only a short walk up Carding MIll Valley and it’s short side shoot, New Pool Hollow (named after the new reservoir – what was it called before 1902?). We stopped for a short while to take in the view.

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The sun was starting to break through the cloud and it looked like it might develop into a pleasant evening, so we extended the walk by taking the high level path back along the valley before walking further up the main valley.

This is the view of the reservoir’s dam, looking back from the high level path.

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and looking down towards Church Stretton from further along the path.

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Rejoining the main valley

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One of the locals taking a look at us!

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A little before the intersection with Lightspout Hollow we turned round and headed back – it was getting close to tea time.

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Passing the old factory building which has been converted into flats,

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and then the National Trust shop and café in the Swiss Chalet.

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After a short while we arrived back at Arden House

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We chose the right time to go out – an hour after we got back it was raining heavily again.

St Laurence’s church, Church Stretton

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On the Tuesday of our holiday the weather forecast was for rain during late morning. As we’d already done a couple of decent walks on the previous two days we decided to take it a little easy and have a mooch around Church Stretton.

There are a lot of old buildings in the town, and St Laurence’s church, a Grade I Listed Building, is the oldest with a nave built in the 12th century. The chancel and the upper stage of the tower were built in the 15th century while the south vestry and west aisles were added during the 19th century. This is the church that put the “Church” in Church Stretton!

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The oldest part of the church, the nave is Romanesque (Norman). This unused door in the north wall is very typical of the style with its simple rounded arch.

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Above the door, to the left, is a sheila-na-gig.

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This website provides a good explanation of these pre-Christian symbols found on churches, castles, and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Great Britain

Sheela Na Gigs are quasi-erotic stone carvings of a female figure usually found on Norman or to be more precise Romanesque churches. They consist of an old woman squatting and pulling apart her vulva, a fairly strange thing to find on a church. The carvings are old and often do not seem to be part of the church but have been taken from a previous older, usually Romanesque, building.

The rest of the church is Gothic –  Early English, although the top stage of the tower, which is Perpendicular.

A Gothic door with a pointed arch in the South wall

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We had a look inside

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The timber roofs in the nave

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and the south transept

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go back to the 13th Century and are in remarkably good condition.

I liked this metal sculpture in the roof in the tower crossing – dating from about 1970 it depicts St Laurence and his attribute, a gridiron.

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There was some attractive stained glass

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Church Stretton

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In recent years we’ve moved from having a long summer holiday to taking several, shorter breaks. So a week to the day of getting back from our holiday in Whitby, we set off to spend some time in the Shropshire Hills.

We’d booked a few days in an apartment in Arden House, an Arts and Crafts style house in the small Shropshire town of Church Stretton, nesting at the bottom of Carding Mill Valley. The house had been built in 1903 by William Blower a local business man who was also Mayor of Shrewsbury. The building had been very tastefully converted with 3 apartments available to rent on the upper floors with the owners, Ian and Julie, living in the rest of the house. They had maintained the character and original features of the house while the apartments were modern and comfortable. We stayed in the Mackintosh suite which had original windows, three of them with stone window frames and some of them had original stained glass.

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A very relaxing and comfortable stay.

Church Stretton is 12 miles south of Shrewsbury, the capital of Shropshire, on the A49. People have lived here for a long time. There were Iron Age hill forts on nearby hills and the Roman road, Watling Street, ran through the town – although there wasn’t a Roman settlement here. The town grew up in Saxon and Medieval times along with the nearby settlements of Little Stretton, and All Stretton.  It became popular as a spa resort in the 19th Century and with the coming of the railway became a popular holiday destination during the late Victorian and Edwardian period, adopting the nickname of “Little Switzerland” as the landscape was said to resemble the said Alpine country.

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There used to be some wool textile production based around Carding Mill Valley, but being too far away for the main industrial areas in the North, this died out in the 19th Century.

Today it’s a small market town with some industry but with tourism probably it’s main source of income.  Despite it’s size it has all the basic facilities and shops. Other than the mid-size Co-op supermarket it was notable that all the other shops were independent. No chains. All the coffee shops were independent too – not a Starbucks to be seen!

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Most of the buildings in the town centre were quite old – some medieval

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and, particularly moving out of the centre, some for the Victorian and Edwardian periods.

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Robin Hood’s Bay

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Robin Hood’s Bay is a small picturesque fishing village just a few miles south along the coast from Whitby. In the past it would have been very isolated and was known as a haven for smugglers. Today it’s a popular spot for tourists with wide sandy beaches under the cliffs and flat rocky outcrops , known as scars, with plenty of opportunities for fossiling and exploring rock pools It’s also the end (or start!) of the popular Coast to Coast long distance walking route.

Barbara Hepworth used to holiday here with her family as a girl and there’s a watercolour of the village that she painted.

Another Yorkshire artist, Albert Wainwright (no relation to Alfred!) also painted scenes of the village. The Hepworth Gallery own some of his works and we saw an exhibition of them there a few years ago.

The old village nestles on a hill leading up from the beach with a steep, narrow, “main road” leading down to the slipway known as the Coble Landing.

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We arrived as the tide was going out.

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But it was a grey day and a bit chilly for messing about on the beach, although that wasn’t deterring plenty of families.

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After a brew and a bite to eat we decided to explore the village.

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Lots of old houses on steep, narrow streets and alley ways only accessible on foot.

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Some smart Georgian properties

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The rain came in during the afternoon, but we’d had a good look round – it didn’t take long as it’s only a small village. So we headed back to Whitby and spent the afternoon relaxing.

Fossiling in Whitby

One of the highlights during our holidays in Lyme Regis was participating in the Fossil hunt organised by the local museum. Like Lyme, Whitby is flanked by cliffs of shale, clay and mudstones which are full of fossils from the Jurassic period. As the cliffs crumble and large sections of them fall down onto the beach as landslips, fossils of creatures that died when Britain was part of a massive land mass and located nearer to the equator many millions of years ago start to be revealed and can be picked up on the beach – providing you know where to look and what to look for. So during our recent holiday we decided to sign up for a fossil walk run by Byron Blessed, a local palaeontologist who is also the owner of the Natural Wonders fossil shop in Grape Lane.

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Although most of the participants were families with children, adults can still enjoy the trip and we were looking finding some specimens!

Byron doesn’t run his fossil hunts every day, but times them to give the maximum time on the beach between the tides. So you go out just after high tide so the water is receding, taking care to make sure the fossil hunters are safely off the beach before it comes back in. Fossil hunting can be dangerous and one of the main risks is being cut off on the beach by the tide.

We met outside Byron’s shop fairly early on Tuesday morning and set off up the 199 steps, past the Parish Church and the Abbey and along the cliffs until we reached the steps that took us down into Saltwick Bay, a small, sandy cove a mile east of Whitby.

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We stopped at the edge of the beach while Byron gave us a safety briefing and then talked to us about fossiling and what to look for, including the ubiquitous ammonites, belemnites, “devil’s toenails” (a type of mollusc), other bivalves, fossilised bone etc.

Having inspected the beach, Byron told us that he wasn’t optimistic as the sea hadn’t washed in many pebbles, where we would be likely to find what we were looking for. So he decided to take us further round the coast, passing a ship wreck on the way.

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We spent more than half an hour there, scrabbling around in the rocks and, as he promised, we started to pick up examples of ammonites and belemnites and other types of fossil. Our finds were mainly fragments, but we were surprised at how many we actually managed to pick up.

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Afterwards we walked back along the beach, and stopped in a couple of places where Byron showed us fossilised dinosaur footprints! We wouldn’t have noticed then as we passed but they were quite clear when he pointed them out, explaining how they would have been formed and what type of creatures made them.

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Unfortunately, although they were quite clear “in the flesh” they haven’t shown up on the photographs I took – there’s not enough contrast to see them on a flat image.

We carried on along the beach past another ship wreck and then stopped while Byron told us about Whitby Jet – a type f fossilised wood which is used to make jewellery and was very fashionable in Victorian times when the Queen herself favoured the jet black jewellery after the death of her husband. There are quite a few shops selling jewellery made from it today in Whitby. We spent a little time searching among the rotting sea weed but weren’t successful – although I think that other members of our party may have found something.

Then we walked along the beach back to Whitby and up the slipway by the east pier.

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And this was the result of our labours

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Not too bad a haul!

Whitby Abbey

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Perched high on the top of the East Cliff, standing next to the old Parish Church, dominates the view as you approach Whitby. There’s been an Abbey here since Anglo Saxon times, indeed the presence of the religious community is the reason why the town exists.

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The first monastery was founded in 657 AD by the Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria, Oswy who had converted to Christianity. The original name of the settlement was Streoneshalh, becoming known as Whitby only after the area was occupied by the Danes in the 12th Century – Whitby being derived from “white settlement” in Old Norse.

Ruled by an abbess, Hilde, the Anglo-Saxon monastery was one of a few known examples from the Anglian period of a ‘double house’ for both men and women and was an important religious centre in the Kingdom of Northumbria. In 664 it was the location of the Synod of Whitby, which established the dominance of the Roman Church over the Celtic tradition. Nothing remains of that building today as it was destroyed following the Viking raids in the 9th Century. The site was deserted for a couple of hundred years until after the Norman invasion when a new Benedictine Abbey was founded in 1078. This was a Romanesque (Norman) building; it was replaced by the current Gothic structure constructed over a protracted period between the 13th and 15th Centuries.

The Abbey was closed by Henry VIII in 1540 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and it gradually fell into ruin.  Today it is preserved under the stewardship of English Heritage.

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We decided to climb the 199 steps from the bottom of the East Cliff on the Sunday, the first full day of our holiday. However on reaching the top we were greeted by this

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The Abbey was shrouded in mist which had blown in from the sea and was soon covering much of the town. It looked very eerie and it was easy to understand why it featured in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

We felt there was little point looking around when our view was obscured by the mist, so we decided to leave the visit until later in the week.

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Entry is cheap, £8.40 with a Gift Aid donation, £7.60 without, but although there are decent views from outside the walls, we stumped up to get a closer look.

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The majority of the structure is in the Early English style of Gothic architecture with distinctive, tall, narrow, pointed lancet windows

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richly moulded arches and distinctive ‘clustered’ columns

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The west end was built during the latter part of the prolonged period of construction and so reflects the Decorated Gothic style,

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as illustrated by these large windows with the remains of elaborate tracery.

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There’s a visitor centre which has a display of archaeological material excavated at the site. I found it a little disappointing. But that’s a minor quibble as getting close up to the ruins made the visit more than worthwhile.

Whitby houses

Until the 19th Century, Whitby it was a small fishing port with few houses. But as shipbuilding and other industries as well as tourism took hold the town began to develop. Not surprisingly, then, many of the buildings in the older parts of town are from the Georgian period. These are a few examples of Georgian style houses we spotted around the town.

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Some of them rather grand

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including Whitehall, next door to our holiday home

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The grandest buildings, such as the Bay Royal Hotel and Royal Crescent, are up on the top of the West Cliff. It’s the only historic area we didn’t really explore during our visit so no photos!

There were some examples of earlier buildings scattered around the town

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The Tudor ‘Manor House’ of Bagdale Hall on the west side of the river is one of the oldest buildings in the town. It’s been restored and converted to a hotel and restaurant.

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We spotted this interesting house on Church Street on the East side of the river. A little piece of Amsterdam in East Yorkshire!

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We speculated as to whether the original owner was from the Netherlands or had spent some time there.