Three Essex Villages, England

[ Photo Blog #47 ]

Just a few of my photographs taken in three beautiful villages in Essex in South East England – to the north and East of London.

Greensted Church, in the small village of Greensted-juxta-Ongar, near Chipping Ongar, is the oldest wooden church in the world, and probably the oldest wooden building in Europe still standing, albeit only in part, since few sections of its original wooden structure remain. The oak walls are often classified as remnants of a palisade church or a kind of early stave church, dated either to the mid-9th or mid-11th century.

Ingatestone is a village in Essex, England, with a population of about 4,500.

Ingatestone Hall is a Grade I listed 16th-century manor house in Essex, some 5 miles (8 km) south west of Chelmsford. It was built by Sir William Petre, and his descendants live in the house to this day.  William Petre bought Ingatestone manor soon after the Dissolution of the Monasteries for some £850 and commissioned the building of the house. Queen Elizabeth I of England spent several nights there on her royal progress of 1561.

The hall represented the exterior of Bleak House in the 2005 television adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel and also appeared in an episode of the TV series Lovejoy. Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s novel Lady Audley’s Secret is set at Ingatestone Hall and was inspired by a stay there.

Orsett is a village and ecclesiastical parish located within Thurrock unitary district in Essex

( Information based on entries in Wikipedia )

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A timbered and thatched cottage in Orsett

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Greensted Church

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Greensted Church –  Wooden South Entrance

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Ingatestone Hall

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Ingatestone Hall – Clock Tower & Weather Vane

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Ingatestone Hall

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Ingatestone Hall – Roadside slogan – ‘Never Underestimate A Minority’

A Lifetime Away

A Lifetime Away

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Photo … Priory East Window – © WHB

 

Three hundred miles
and a lifetime away
from the place where I was born 
the memories are vivid
burned into my soul
heightened by distance
by time past

Ghosts of my past
inhabit my dreams
chances gone begging
opportunities missed
loving and leaving
a heritage of hope
bringing certitude
where doubt once held sway.

I loved and love
those dark purple hills
outcrops and the Nab
towering over the town
Cass Rock
where Sisyphus finally capitulated

Beyond these,
just rolling
heather clad moor
soft dales 
grey-green heathland,
burnt golden yellow gorse
and swaying bracken

And on the scarp slope
the detritus of iron mines
defunct air shafts
ancient workings
the ruins of hard labour
and alongside these
pyramids of shale and slag
creating their own foothills
bracken spores now binding
their surfaces
reconstructing life
nature reclaiming its own

And the view which nurtured me
from my school room
of graveyard and priory
its arched east window
tracery shattered
configuring my sky

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‘Priory and Applegarth . . . Pen & Wash – WHB

The ancient stone dovecote
now sheltering jackdaws
ravens, blackbirds.
the Norman arched gateway
still standing adrift
isolated from the remnants
of its dismantled
castellated walls
whose dispersed masonry
now furnishes
so many of the town’s dwellings

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Norman Arch &Dovecote … Photo ©WHB

The mill pond stocked still
by the descendants of those
pre-dissolution carp
the Augustinians first introduced
fed and nurtured

The monk’s walk
cloistered
by beech and birch
sheltering silent contemplation
which
even now
as I tread in their footsteps
I replicate
in awe and reverence

And in the Apple Garth
where now the wheat
is harvested
still a silent windswept
arbour
now lovers
not penitents
linger
embrace
exchange kisses
and vows.

Thus am I now
beholden to the past
nurturer of my present
promise of my future

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Hills on the north scarp of the North Yorkshire Moors

 

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Dartmouth, Devon

[ Photo Blog #46 ]

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Map of South Devon, England, showing the River Dart and Dartmouth

Dartmouth is a historic South Devonshire town situated where the beautiful River Dart meets the sea.  It has become a famous tourist destination, but it has a long history, mainly associated with its position as a deep-water port for sailing vessels, giving them easy access to the English Channel.  As far back as the Twelfth Century the port was used as the sailing point for the Crusades of 1147 and 1190.  Since the reign of  Edward II, Dartmouth has been the home of the Royal Navy.  The town was twice surprised and sacked in the 14th and 15th centuries during the Hundred Years’ War.  Following this, the narrow mouth of the estuary was closed every night with a great chain.  To protect the town, Dartmouth Castle and Kingswear Castle were built on opposite banks of the river entrance.  The Britannia Royal Naval College is located on the hill overlooking the town and has been training Officers of the Royal Navy since 1863.

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The River Dart – Looking eastwards from the town

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Dartmouth – The Quay

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The Royal Naval College overlooks the town

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The River Dart Passenger Ferry crossing between Dartmouth and Kingswear on the opposite bank

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Dartmouth Castle at the mouth of the river on the west bank

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The car ferry crossing close to the river mouth

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View towards the river mouth and the English Channel

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Cruise ship anchored in the deep water of the River Dart

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View of Kingswear across the river from Dartmouth, with the ruins of  Bayards Castle in the foreground

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View from the South Embankment towards the mouth of the River Dart

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Cardiff

[ Photo Blog #45 ]

Cardiff Waterfront

CARDIFF is the capital city of WALES.  It has a very long and fascinating history.  Today I just want to give a brief mention to its waterfront, an area which in recent years has been developed into an attractive and intriguing area with many new buildings, shops, galleries, sculptures and visitor attractions.

The harbour at Cardiff Bay is situated on the Southern coast of Wales, UK.  It has one of the greatest tidal ranges in the world (up to 14m).  This meant that at low tide it was inaccessible for up to 14 hours a day.  However, the Cardiff Bay Barrage was completed in 1999, enabling the creation of a a vast freshwater lake (500 acres) and the development of what is now known as Cardiff Waterfront.  Here can be found the Welsh Assembly Government buildings, the Norwegian Church Arts Centre, the Pierhead Building, Techniquest Centre, the Senedd or Welsh Assembly Building, Butetown History and Arts Centre, the 2000 Lightship, the iconic Wales Millennium Centre, al-fresco cafes, restaurants, and public works of art, giving a truly cosmopolitan feel to the City.

It was here, in the Norwegian seamen’s church, that Roald Dahl and his brothers and sisters, of Norwegian descent but  born in Cardiff, were all christened.  This central area of the Cardiff Waterfront is now named Roald Dahl Plass and is the site of many of the city’s greatest events.

The links between Cardiff and Norwegian seamen date back to the coal boom when Scandinavian ships brought timber for pit props and returned home laden with coal. Churches like this with its attractive white clapboard cladding and pointy spire were built to serve the Norwegian sailors who docked here. Today the restored church features an interesting gallery and a friendly café.

The photographs are by me, taken on a visit to the city several years ago . . .

 

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Model of Cardiff Waterfront

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The Norwegian Church

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Commerative photograph of a portrait of Roald Dahl in the Interior of the Norwegian Church

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Commemorative plaque on the naming of Roald Dahl Plass

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The Pierhead Building

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The Wales Millennium Centre

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A bronze of an immigrant couple symbolising the arrival of many to Tiger Bay seeking a better life in Britain.

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Female Beastie Bench – Cardiff Bay, Sculpted bench in brick  ‘My Beautiful City of Cardiff’

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The 2000 Lightship, a Christian centre funded by Associated British Ports and Cardiff council – now re-sited

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Stained glass Portholes on the Lightship

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SIDMOUTH and John Betjeman

[ Photo Blog #43 ]

SIDMOUTH and John Betjeman

 I supplement my photographic gallery post of Sidmouth a week ago with a further collection of photographs of this’ jewel of England’s Jurassic Coast’.  The town was beloved of our 20th Century poet laureate (1972-84), John Betjeman.  He wrote a poem as the sound track to a 1962 television film on the town.  In the poem, called ‘Still Sidmouth’, he says of the town :

‘Gothic or Classic, terrace or hotel,
Here does the backbone of old England dwell.’

On my own recent visit there I made a point of looking for what Betjeman describes in his poem as the ‘bright and outsize Devon  flowers’ in Sidmouth’s Connaught Gardens.

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The Betjeman Plaque in Connaught Gardens, Sidmouth

‘Pause on Peak Hill, look eastward to the town,
Then to the Connaught Gardens wander down
And in the shelter of its tropic bowers,
I see its bright and outsize Devon flowers.’

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As befits the Jungle theme of just one part of these gardens, most plants here originate from the Far East.  There is a fascinating bamboo collection, but what, in particular, caught my eye was this exotic plant which reached up tall into the sky and leant at an angle over the pathway.  So far I have been unable to pin down it’s name.  There is a lot of information about these gardens on the internet and on the plants it contains, but nothing I can find which matches the description of this tall, broad-stemmed creature. It has a myriad of small blue and mauve periwinkle-like flowers encircling the massive central stems, which, at the time I photographed them, were covered in honey bees.

The following four photographs give a better idea of its exotic character . . .

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Below I include 4 more of my photographs of Sidmouth flowers, wild ones this time, which John Betjeman would have seen and loved . . .

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Seashore Foxglove

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River Sid Daisies

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False News – Three Haiku

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Three Haiku on the subject of False News


 

Speak to me the truth

Fake News is wholly evil

It hurts both our souls.


 “Post-truth” gives the lie

To honesty and fair play

Spurring false witness


Exaggeration

Heralds uttering falsehoods

Hold fast to the truth.


 

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The Leper Stone

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In a cleft in the scarp slope of the Cleveland Hills, surrounded on three sides by steep tree-clad hills, now part of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, lie a small number of houses. Now highly desirable properties, two miles from the nearby market town where I grew up. It is said that this secluded spot was, in medieval times, inhabited by a small community of lepers. In past times leprosy was thought to be both highly infectious and incurable. Lepers were required to remain within the confines of their village and never to come into direct contact with other human beings. Well meaning townsfolk would, from time to time, leave food beside a stone set up to mark the limit beyond which all lepers were never to venture. Such a ‘Leper Stone’ still stands at this spot as do several similar stones in other parts of the British Isles.  Whilst there is some dispute over the truth of this story, there does appear to have been a leper colony here in medieval times and certainly such places and such stones can be found in other parts of the country.  My verse below attempts to convey something of the desolate, bleak, despairing nature of existence for those who in past times were afflicted with this dreaded wasting disease. 


The LEPER STONE

I live
a lazar
isolated
shut off from life
from the world’s reality
in that ancient Chernobyl
as a hermit monk
an eremite

my path
not of my choosing
but chosen for me
by disease
by circumstance
life’s throw of the dice
or perhaps it was death’s
for my existence is
a living death
my isolation
whilst I wither
unknown
untouchable
confined
in this cleft in the hills
one carucate of land
one oxgang
to roam
to till
to survive

let no one in
lest I corrupt all
contamination’s child
my daily burden
to see what morsels
of discarded waste
have been left for me
on the leper stone
pig swill yesterday
nothing today
tomorrow
I may not be here tomorrow

my family
similarly afflicted
now passed on
released from
their sentence
myself
inheriting
their misfortune
their bleak history
their misbegotten future


Two further photographs – as the stone was approximately  60 and 40 years ago
(Courtesy of British Historical records websites)

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St Petersburg

1Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage Museum from Palace Square

St. Petersburg is a Russian port city on the Baltic Sea. It was the imperial capital for 2 centuries, having been founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, subject of the city’s iconic “Bronze Horseman” statue. It remains Russia’s cultural centre, with venues like the ultramodern Mariinsky Theatre hosting opera and ballet, and the State Russian Museum showcasing Russian art, from Orthodox icon paintings to Kandinsky works.

Below is a gallery of some of my photographs of St. Petersburg taken during a brief visit in 2004

2St Petersburg

Sea approach to St Petersburg from the Gulf of Finland

3St Isaacs cathedral

St. Isaac’s Cathedral

4Canal

One of the city’s many Canals

5Catherine Palace Facade2

Front façade of Catherine’s Palace

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Front façade of Catherine’s Palace – closer view

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Interior of Catherine’s Palace

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Grand Staircase – Interior of Catherine’s Palace

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Saint Petersburg Conservatory – Music School and ballet venue

11Conservatory-Tchaikovsky

Saint Petersburg Conservatory – Music School and ballet venue; Statue of Tchaikovsky

12Moscow Truimphal Gate

The Moscow Triumphal Gate

13Monument To The Heroic Defenders of Leningrad

Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad

14The Bronze Horseman-Eternal Defender of St.P

The Bronze Horseman – Eternal Defender of St. Petersburg

15Sunset over St Petersburg

Sunset Over St. Petersburg

 

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Greenland – Nanortalik #3

For my third and last collection of photographs of this fascinating small coastal town in Greenland, I have eleven miscellaneous photographs from the town and nearby.   The first two are of icebergs and a glacier high up in the mountains viewed on the approach to the town from the sea.  The remaining photographs show views of the town, its harbour, its backdrop of saw-tooth mountains, its proud displaying of the national flag, and of a reconstructed turf house, showing the original homes in which the townsfolk lived . . .

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No Blue Plaque

NO BLUE PLAQUE

No blue plaque here
but
in that house
in that room
I was conceived.
In the same house
in the same room
then I was born.

First child
Only child
Undistinguished house

undistinguished room
undistinguished birth.
But blessed with
the Conquering
Blood and Fire
General’s name.

It had to be that way.
Aren’t all births
distinguished only by their
unglamorous spectacle?
Not something I asked for
nor desired.

No regrets,
but there were
Consequences.
Oh, yes.
Eighty years
of consequences.
My history
My responsibility
My river’s ride
through childhood rapids
to maturity’s turmoil
and turbulence.
Becalmed now
in dispiriting dotage
its stillnesses
its infirmity and nostalgia.

What follows
eventually
as I merge
with the looming ocean

waiting
to receive me?
Memories fade for me
yet I know
some continuity remains
where these same images
 have been handed on

to those loved ones
who will remember.

But now
in moments of tranquility
my responsibility
for my past
presses hard,
until those times when
 my love surges
to outweigh my guilt,
and again
for good or ill
my scarred soul

returns to its past
and wonders.

… and time treads on
as I stare at the window,
blinds shielding its secrets
Now
just as they did then
So long ago.

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All 3 photographs … WHB – Yorkshire (2016) and Sussex (2009), UK

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