The Eccentric Aristocrat: Sir Tatton Sykes, 4th Baronet.

As you travel on the B1252 to Driffield in East Yorkshire, you may notice ahead of you a strange spire thrusting skywards. Is it a steeple? No, too slender. Is it some piece of machinery, agricultural or otherwise? No, that’s just … wrong.

The Sledmere Monument, a first glance.

Then suddenly, you’re upon it – it’s there, at the side of the road, a needle-sharp column rising some 120 feet towards the heavens. You get out. You read the story. And then you come home and find out more about the extraordinary man whose life is commemorated in this memorial.

The Sledmere Monument: a second glance.

Sir Tatton Sykes was born in 1772: and he chose to wear 18th century dress all his life. He lived on the 34,000 acres of the family seat of Sledmere House, the largest estate in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The Sykes family was one that thought little of building an entire village – Sledmere – to support it, or of hiring the most noted landscape designer of the age, Capability Brown, to transform its parkland. They employed the foremost designers, plasterers and architects of the period to fashion the house itself. They were rich, energetic, resourceful … and eccentric. You can read all about it here.

Sledmere House (geograph.co.uk)

Sir Tatton grew up to be an informed and intelligent sheep breeder, but his first love was horse racing. Apparently he even sold a copy of the Gutenberg Bible to support his stables and foxhounds. In the unlikely event that a copy of this book came onto the market today, it would probably sell for between $25 million and $35 million.

He’d travel miles on horseback – or even on foot – to see a horse race. He’d even be found riding the winning horse himself. He bred horses – some 200 at a time, and held quality stock, paying 3000 guineas for one particularly fine animal.

 

So far, so fairly normal for an upper class English eccentric. But here is a man who was also a bare-knuckle fighter; a man who’d roll up his shirtsleeves and work alongside his labourers, earning their admiration and respect. He noticed the grass growing more lushly where his foxhounds buried their bones, put two and two together, and invented … bonemeal.He didn’t marry till he was fifty, but then he went on to have eight children, seven of whom lived, before he finally died aged ninety.

Some 3000 people, rich and poor came to his funeral. And it was some of these people who came up with the idea for this monument. It comes complete with keeper’s cottage (Job? Keep the place in order, and conduct visitors up the presumably horribly narrow stairs to the viewing room at the top).

Sir Tatton Sykes, as shown on his monument.

‘To tenants he was a liberal landlord, to the poor a kind and considerate friend’, it says on the information board by the monument. Not a bad epitaph.

Ragtag Saturday: Rus in urbe in Andalucia

Rus in urbe.  Signs of the countryside in town.  We spent a lot of our time in Andalucia, particularly in Córdoba and Málaga, hanging over river bridges staring at bird life, or gawping into trees to see what we could see.  Here’s a bit of a rogues’ gallery….

Cormorants on the river Guadalquivir…

Egrets, ditto.

Herons – or perhaps always just the same heron?  Fishing, always fishing.

A poor swallow (Was it a swallow?  Help me, someone) trapped in the synagogue in Córdoba, endlessly flying impotently towards the light, the incontestably glazed windows.

Then it was parakeets.  We’ve moved to Málaga now.  We could hear them all the time, squawking in the palm trees.  But this pair had time to bill, coo and preen.

La Concepción Botanical Gardens were at the edge of town.  But still definitively Málaga.  I offer you turtles…..

…. toads…

and – not from the Botanical Gardens – the inevitable herring gull.

 

And if it’s red squirrels you’re after, you’ll just have to read my last post.

As usual, click on any photo to view full size.  This is my entry for today’s Ragtag Challenge: rus in urbe.

Thursday Doors visits Córdoba

Here’s my contribution to Thursday Doors. Follow the link to see pictures of humble doors, magnificent doors, old doors, new doors, village doors, town doors … all sorts of doors from around the world.

As usual, click on any image to view it full size.

Squirreling a snack

We’re back in England now, back to temperatures of under six degrees when we’d got used to nearer twenty in Spain.  Back to rain and wind instead of sunny breeze.  Still, I can sit and sort my photos out.

The view up – looking towards the Alcazaba: the adjoining castle to Gibralfro.

Here are some from the day we slogged up the 240′ to Castillo Gibralfro in Málaga. Part way up, we came upon this enchanting scene.

I know the arguments about the potential dangers to both humans and wildlife from too-close contact.  But these two Spanish children are not likely to forget, or be unaffected by this chance encounter with this little squirrel: or to resent the fact that he charmed the greater part of their mid-morning snack from them.

 

And here’s the view coming down.

Click on any image to view full size.

The Mandolin Players of Málaga

We’d been for a good meal with good wine in a cheerful local tapas bar. Now we were mooching contentedly round town, remarking on the fact that here we were, without coats, scarves and gloves, watching people enjoying themselves at outdoor tables in early March.

Music? Is that music? Oh yes, over there at that bar.

We were in one of the biggest open spaces in town, Plaza de la Constitución, and there at Café Central, seated at several pushed-together tables were about fifteen men with fifteen mandolins (or similar. We’re not experts), a double bass and a bit of percussion, making music.

They strummed. They sang. They joked and laughed. They were there to enjoy making music together. As an appreciative crowd gathered, they sometimes got us to join in too. Thank goodness for Guantanamera. Everyone knows that one.

Someone in the crowd bought them a round of drinks. We all cheered and clapped. Fifteen men of a certain age had made a pleasant evening special.

I bet they’ll be there next week. Same time, same place.

Botany and a bus ride

It seemed to be a long time before we found the right bus going at the right time to a terminus in the right place – beyond Málaga’s city limits. But we got there. La Concepción Historical-Botanical Gardens.

We quite enjoyed hiking round its Mediterranean landscapes, and visiting a desert-scape of giant and vicious looking cacti. We took a long forest walk with spacious mountain views one way, and a panorama of Málaga the other … and sadly, the motorway grumbling and roaring only just below. We agreed the place was lovely, worth exploring… but just a little under-loved and under-resourced.

We had lunch outside in the sunshine, and thought we might go home.

Thank goodness we didn’t. We had circled the outer edges of the gardens and failed to explore its heart. Here were subtropical glades, bamboo forest, tumbling jungle waterfalls. Shady, mysterious, quiet and only disturbed by birdsong.

Two Country Mice had a very enjoyable day.

A Spanish candidate for Jo’s Monday Walk. It’s Thursday but never mind.

Jo’s Monday walk