Travels

Main Street, Haworth

 

Since the weather forecast was reasonably good, we took the bus to Haworth this morning, grabbing the chance while the weather was cooperating. It’s been a few years since I’d last visited the Brontes’ stamping grounds, and it was good to go back.

 

This photo does not do justice to the steepness of the hill!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brontes' Parsonage, Haworth

 

 

I tried to take some photos of the wonderfully gothic churchyard of St Michael and All Angels, but the contrast between bright sunlight and deep shadows was too much for my Ricoh to cope with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

off Haworth Main Street

 

This is either a snicket or a ginnel, aka an alley, off the Main Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haworth courtyard

 

 

The village is built along the sides of a steep dale, so garden space is in short supply. But that means there are some neat little courtyards just right for sunning cats.

Who would believe it? Buffalo – okay, bison – and wapiti grazing in the depths of darkest Wiltshire. And it isn’t a zoo.

 

Some friends came to visit a little while ago, and one of the places they wanted to see was the Bush Bison Farm. Nick and Marilyn are members of the American Civil War Society, though mainly retired, and Nick has a longtime fascination with the Native American Plains tribes. Especially the Souix. As well as the animals, the Farm has a small museum of Lakota Souix artfefacts, including some beautiful beadwork. They also hold a Pow Wow every summer, featuring Native American crafts, music and dances.

 

So we drove through narrow country lanes that were sandwiched between high banks with hedges on top – typical rural England for those who don’t know – through chocolate-box-picture pretty villages, and found Bush Farm. It’s a working farm, and sells the bison meat at local Farmers’ Markets and online, but they also have a camping ground and a trail to walk around the various fields and woodland.

The weather was warm and sunny, though showers were forecast, and it was a real pleasure to walk around the fields and woods, even without the picturesque beasts. And believe me, the beasts are amazing. The bison herd had half a dozen calves, though most of the youngsters were flat out in the sun. Dad was being coy behind a curve in the hedge, but eventually he came out and posed for us. He was magnificent. In great condition, as well. His ladies, though, looked like threadbare carpets, what with having nursing young and still shedding their winter coats.

 

Then we moved onto the field with the wapiti herd. They are beautiful animals, elegant and graceful. They, too, posed for us, though one of the harem seemed determined to stay between my camera and her guy. When she finally moved, I got a lovely picture of him just lounging around in the sun *g*.

 

There were other critters there – guanacos [relatives to the llama family]; rheas; a rare breed of pig, the Oxford Sandy & Black; prairie dogs [unbelieveably cute]; turkeys; a very friendly Shetland pony straight out of a Thelwell cartoon; pygmy goats; and racoons, who were nowhere in sight.

 

The museum, though very small, was fascinating and the beadwork on the few items of clothing was lovely.

 

All the animals looked to be in excellent condition and their fields/enclosures were huge, with trees and ponds for shade and wallowing.

 

Next year my friends are coming back for the Summer Pow Wow, and I’ll be joining them.

 

The Bush Bison Farm website is here.

Stokesay Castle from the south

There are places that just demand a story. When RJ Scott tossed the premise of what would become the Fitzwarren Inheritance Trilogy to me, Stokesay Castle sprang immediately to mind, and it became Westford Castle, the erstwhile home of the Fitzwarren family. With a few alterations necessary to the story. Westford has a porch to the door of the Great Hall, and second tower where Stokesay has later rooms built onto the north end of the range. Strictly speaking, Stokesay isn’t a castle, but an early medieval fortifed manor house. The huge windown in the Great Hall make it virtually undefendable.

 

Stokesay Castle from beyond the boundary

The Fitzwarrens live in the 17th century gatehouse to the castle, and theirs is larger that Stokesay’s, but probably just as ramshackle. On my latest visit to Stokesay this May, the Gatehouse was closed under the Health and Safety Act, and even though I begged, they wouldn’t let me in to explore *g*. The photos on this page are my own – for more, official, photos click on the link http://www.castlewales.com/stokesay.html.

 

I borrowed some of Stokesay’s history as well as its appearance. and I’m quoting Wikipedia in full because not only does the entry agree with the English Heritage Guidebook, the surviving structures are minor miracles in themselves, given the turbulent history that beset the whole area.

 

The Gatehouse, Stokesay Castle

… “From the Norman Conquest until 1241, the area was held by the Lacy family, a powerful dynasty with lands in the Welsh Marches. On the death of the last male heir, Walter de Lacy, it was left to the husbands of his two granddaughters to divide the family estates. The manor of Stokesay went to John de Verdon. He went on crusade, leaving his property in the hands of a tenant. This tenant sold the manor in 1281 to Laurence of Ludlow. The main construction of Stokesay Castle was undertaken by Laurence of Ludlow, based in Shrewsbury, the richest local wool

merchant of his generation.

 

Door to the Great Hall

Extensive tree-ring dating of structural timbers shows that virtually all of the present structure was completed before 1291, the date of Edward I’s license to fortify the place, which stands in the Welsh Marches, the western borderland of the Norman domain at that time. The oldest parts of the building are the lower two storeys of the north tower, begun about 1240. The great slate-roofed hall, thirty-four feet high, with four cross-gables, was added in the 1280s and is a very rare survival, having been virtually untouched since; there is no fireplace, just the central open octagonal hearth. The roof’s double collar-beams and curved collar braces rest on masonry corbels in the walling, an early example of innovation in roofing larger buildings. The original wooden staircase round two sides of the walls, giving access to the north tower, also remains to this day. The solar, an upper living room in the cross-wing, which gave a more private space in which to withdraw from the company in the hall, is accessible from an exterior timber stair sheltered by its own roof and contains Elizabethan oak panelling and a sumptuous fireplace. The South Tower has no direct access from any other structure: its use was purely defensive. The castle’s most unusual feature is a timber-framed residence built onto the outside of the walls. The Elizabethan gatehouse, added in the 16th century, is also half-timbered and is decorated with carvings.

 

During King Charles I reign it came into the ownership of the Craven family and was used as a supply base for the King’s forces in the area, based in strength at nearby Ludlow Castle in the early stages of the English Civil War.

 

A skirmish took place at the castle during the English Civil War, in which Stokesay was handed over to the Parliamentarians after a short siege without a pitched battle (in which it surely would have been severely damaged).

 

Stokesay was lived in as a farmhouse and barn until the early 19th century. In 1869 it was purchased by John Derby Allcroft, a Worcester glove manufacturer and Member of Parliament, who recognising the value of the building’s history and architectural features set about restoring and maintaining it while he also had Stokesay Court built nearby. Since 1992 the monument has been in the care of English Heritage.”

 

 

Finally, meet Tink. He doesn’t live at Stokesay, but is a frequent attendee and when he isn’t seducing picnickers, or snoozing,  has been known to escort visitors around the castle.

This is a wonderful site to visit – it has a small tearoom, a gift shop, and civilized toilets *g*. If you are ever in that part of Shropshire, UK, take the chance to go there. You won’t be disappointed.

PS. I did ask the staff there, but no one knows of any ghostly happenings at Stokesay — unlike Westford Castle!

 

Starfall - Chris QuintonI’ve just learned that STARFALL will be released as a print book on June 4th, the same day that THE PSYCHIC’S TALE goes live at Silver!

 

I am very pleased, to put it mildly. Being published in e-book format is great, but to actually hold a Real Paper Book in my sticky paws is the ultimate high.

 

In other news, I’m back home after a couple of weeks in the Welsh Marches, South and North Wales. I’ve got lots of hotos to sort through, and a blog to write on Stokesay Castle, the inspiration for Westford Castle in The Psychic’s Tale.

Back in 2007 I stayed with friends in Barre, Vermont, and this young man took my eye. The countryside around Barre and Montpelier is just stunningly beautiful – majestic – and need I say the maple syrup is especially delicious?

The spectacular scenery inspired me to set Starfall in Vermont. Amassol – an Abenaki name for canoe – is entirely fictitious, and so are the two lakes; Lake Verde and Mirror Lake. They are all set not so very far from Barre, and about an hour’s drive from Burlington. Creating my own places within an existing landscape, especially in a foreign land, is a very useful exercise as well as a fun thing to do.

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About five years ago I came into a small windfall, and after paying off my mortgage I had enough cash left to visit a few of the places on my Travel Wish List. So I thought I’d post a selection of them over the next few weeks or so. I still travel, but only in the UK. I say ‘but’, yet there equally beautiful places here, so I’ll add some of those as well.

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