Burton Constable? Or Constable Burton?

Now let’s see.  Did we go to Burton Constable or Constable Burton the other day?

Oh, do keep up.  Burton Constable is a stately home in Yorkshire, whereas Constable Burton is  … a stately home in Yorkshire.  And they have nothing whatever to do with one another.

Let’s start again.  Constable Burton Hall is a fine country house not far from us in North Yorkshire.  It’s not open to the public, though its wonderful gardens are.

This is Burton Constable
This is Burton Constable

Burton Constable Hall is a fine country house hidden away not far from the city of Hull in East Yorkshire.  This is a town whose dismal reputation may be salvaged next year when it becomes the UK City of Culture.

‘From Hull Hell and Halifax may the good Lord deliver us’.  In mediaeval times, this was the Yorkshire thieves’ litany.  Nobody wanted hell; nor Halifax with its unique gibbet, a savage early guillotine; nor Hull, with its notorious gaol.  People unfairly use the prayer to this day, even if they don’t expect to suffer or die there, though neither city deserves it.  We’re bound to make a trip or two to Hull next year, so I’ll tell you all about it, then.

And this is its facade.
And this is its facade.

Meanwhile.  Burton Constable.  It has a long and complicated history dating far further back than the Elizabethan exterior which you first see suggests.  The oldest part of the house dates back to the 12th century, when a pele tower was built to protect the inhabitants of the village of Constable Burton during the lawless reign of King Stephen.  Remodelled in Elizabethan times, it had several further makeovers, and its interior has a lovely 16th and 17th century Long Gallery – for strolling through. Then in the 18th century the interior was largely brought up to date with the latest designs and plasterwork from the likes of top-flight names such as Robert Adam and Giuseppe Cortese.  Capability Brown – who else? – landscaped the grounds.

It’s fallen on hard times though.  Imagine the expense of keeping such a property in good order.  The whole estate and grounds are now managed by a charitable trust while the family lives in an apartment in one of the wings.  Repairs and restoration are slow and on-going.

Behind the scenes. Imitation woodwork in need of restoration.
Behind the scenes. Imitation woodwork in need of restoration.

I’ll just give you a taste of some of the charms of the place:

A Cabinet of Curiosities, with imperfectly stuffed creatures such armadillos; scientific instruments; fossils and other curios.

A 19th century Chinese room, inspired by the Brighton Pavilion.  Here be dragons.

The Long Gallery with its specially designed bookcases.

And oddly, in the Great Barn, the  skeleton of a whale washed up in nearby Holderness, which inspired Herman Melville to write ‘Moby Dick’.

The back end of Moby Dick.
The back end of Moby Dick.

With a succession of fine rooms – from the Blue Drawing Room to the Gold bedroom, and tantalising glimpses of life below stairs, this is a place to spend the entire day.  The staff love an interested visitor, and repay your interest with history and gossip from the glory-days of the house.

The Gold Bedroom.
The Gold Bedroom.

We’ll be back in the summer, to join one of the tours to explore the hidden secrets of this place.

Snapshot Sunday: Relaxing on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

A moment of relaxation on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.
A moment of relaxation on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.

It’s said that if you walk every inch of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, all 186 miles of it, you’ll have climbed the equivalent of Mount Everest.  I can believe it.  No sooner have you climbed one limestone cliff than you’re plunging down towards a bay; up again to a volcanic headland; down again to an estuary, or to a beach frequented only by seals and seabirds.

We didn’t do all 186 miles when we were there two summers ago.  But we did enough to know that after a hard climb in bright sunshine with the wind behind us, we’d truly relax when we threw ourselves onto the springy turf to catch our breath and enjoy the seascape spread before us.

This week’s challenge is to respond to the word ‘relax’.  Look here to see more posts.

A troop of horses and a herd or two of sheep.

Horses in Middleham
Horses in Middleham

Have you ever had a flutter on who might win the Grand National or The Derby?  If you have, there’s a very good chance that the horse you fancied might have trained at Middleham.

Middleham’s a small town in Wensleydale of 800 or so inhabitants. You’ll notice its fine castle (Richard III stayed here) even before you get there.

Middleham Castle

And when you arrive, you’re as likely to see – no, you’re likelier to see – horses rather than pedestrians.  The principal industry of this little place, since about 1730, is training horses.  There are some 15 training establishments in town, and each of them may have up to 150 horses or more, aiming to be among the next generation of racehorses.

Every day clusters of riders take their charges up onto The Gallops to exercise and train them.  We citizens who come to the area to walk and take in the views have to play second fiddle, at least during morning exercises.

the-gallopsWho cares? On Thursday, we were happy to share the views and skyscapes with such magnificent beasts as we strode across the moorland.

Later on, we walked through Coverdale, past Tupgill, upwards through the tiny hamlet of Caldbergh along wild and little-frequented tracks.  Then it was sheep who were obliged to share their pastureland with us.  They were sure we’d have mangel-wurzels to offer them and hurried towards us. We hadn’t.  They were unimpressed.


We left them to it. We had a walk to finish, preferably before lunchtime. And we rather hoped for something more appetising to eat than mangel-wurzels.



In Praise of My Tits.

No words from me. Just this, from my daughter.

Fanny the Champion of the World

I’m quietly proud of this photograph. It was taken on holiday when our boys were about four months old, and I’d asked my husband to get a picture for posterity. It’s never been in the family album, but not because I care if people are offended by a photo of my tits doing the job they were designed for (hell, I’d tandem feed anywhere – once, I even propped up the children against my nipples on the window ledge of an overhead walkway at a service station on the M6, having fed them earlier that day during church communion.) I didn’t give a shit as long as the boys were nourished, but I simply couldn’t bear for anyone to look at the photo and think I’d chosen the hideous fabric on that sofa.

I’ve blurred out my face – not because I’m embarrassed, but because the two little generic-looking blond…

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Snapshot Sunday: It’s not this time of year without ….. a bit of weather.

Photo challenge: ‘It’s not this time of year without…..’.  It’s holidays and celebrations that WordPress seems to have in mind in setting this challenge, but this is November, and we don’t do Thanksgiving in England.  We do dark nights that begin at four o’clock.  We do gusting rain that snatches the remaining leaves from the trees.  We do fog that rises from the river.  Nothing much to celebrate at all.  Except …. except that it can turn out differently.

Read on.

Sunshine after rain at Studley Royal
Sunshine after rain at Studley Royal

I was in a bad mood when I got up.  My shoulder hurt – a lot.  The sky was steel-grey, the temperature steel-cold, and I was supposed to be leading a walk.  This was going to be No Fun At All, because although no rain was forecast, we’d had two days of full-on deluge.  I just knew that virtually the entire circuit would be a mud-bath.

I trudged off to our rendez-vous with ill grace.  Once there though, I started to cheer up. The prospect of good company for the day is always a positive start.  We set off.  The ground was unexpectedly firm, the clouds started to lift and the sun to shine.  Soon we were making a coffee-stop outside 14th century Markenfield Hall.

Coffee stop in front of Markenfield Hall.
Coffee stop in front of Markenfield Hall.

Then it was through woods and across open fields (still no mud) to find a lunch spot overlooking Fountains Abbey, still framed with russet Autumn leaves.

Sandwiches, sunshine and Fountains Abbey.
Sandwiches, sunshine and Fountains Abbey.

After lunch, a muddy farm, where we attracted the interest of the locals.

Calves closely inspected us as we squelched past. Yes, this farmyard was muddy.
Calves closely inspected us as we squelched past. Yes, this farmyard was very muddy indeed.

And an uplifting final couple of miles, with grazing red deer, light-reflecting ponds and surrounded by a final burst of Autumn colour.

Here is the parkland of Studley Royal. Can you see the red deer in the distance?
Here is the parkland of Studley Royal. Can you see the red deer in the distance?

Am I glad I went?  You bet.

Home straits. Crossing the weir at Studley Royal.
Home straits. Crossing the weir at Studley Royal.

Small boy in the kitchen

playfood-008William has Christmas sorted.  He doesn’t know it, but he’s going to become a home-maker and possibly a shopkeeper.

By December 25th, William, my grandson, will be almost 18 months old. Time to learn how to keep house, then.  His parents are planning to give him his very own kitchen.  Here it is:

Play kitchen (IKEA Duktig)
Play kitchen (IKEA Duktig)

It’s very different from the affair my son and his sisters had when they were small.  Their appliances were fashioned from sturdy boxes and painted to look rather like the simplest of student kitchens.

His other grandparents are planning to stock this ultra-smart 2016 kitchen with pots and pans, teacups and plates.  And my son, William’s dad, remembered that when he was small, I supplied him with home made play-food.  He’s asked me to make a larder full for William.

So here we are.  For the past week or so, I’ve been kneading salt dough, and fashioning food of all kinds to bake in the oven, paint and then varnish.

If you call to see William in January, he may offer you a meal of fish and chips, sausage egg and chips (no fine dining here, I’m afraid) with oranges, lemons, apples or pears to follow.

Hmm. Pears proved tricky. But they look - slightly - better away from the glare of the camera.
Hmm. Pears proved tricky. But they look – slightly – better away from the glare of the camera.

If you want to cook instead, there are just potatoes, onions, leeks, mushrooms, tomatoes – cabbages are too unwieldy, peas too accident-prone.


I’ve had fun.  Let’s hope William enjoys his kitchen, and turns out to be as good and creative a cook as his dad – and mum – are.

Snapshot Sunday: Magic at Igidae

The view from the Igidae Trail to Busan and Haeundae

Life’s complicated just now.  I don’t need any more challenges.  But here I am, taking on one which is entirely self-imposed. It’ll help me reflect on the good moments in life, or at least on interesting times.

The challenge is one provoked weekly by WordPress, my blogging platform.  Once a week, they provide a word.  Just one. To respond, I and fellow bloggers choose one of our own photos to interpret the theme.  Just one.

This week’s challenge is ‘Magic’.  Other bloggers have published photos of sunsets; a cube magically suspended from a buildinga fairy-tale castle in Schwerinscacciaguai, or benign demons; a butterfly; pebbles; flowers; scenes from distant lands – all magic in their own way.

My own magic moment is from South Korea.

Imagine Busan, the city where Emily’s living just now.  Imagine busy streets, crowded markets, streaming traffic, a high-rise metropolis of three and a half million people.

But it’s a coastal city too, and one day we took the path at Igidae. Here were views across the bay to those high-rise towers at Haeundae, to Gwangan Suspension Bridge, and to a jagged, rocky coastline.

As we walked away from Haeundae, we replaced city bustle with solitude, with crashing foaming waves, salty spray crusting our hair and faces, rugged paths leading us first up craggy cliffs then down again. The busy city was never more than minutes away, but we were at the edge of a primitive, savage untamed world, unchanging since time began.  That was a kind of magic.

The sea crashes to the cliffs of the Igidae Trail
The sea crashes to the cliffs of the Igidae Trail

My challenge posts will appear on Sundays.  Hence ‘Snapshot Sunday.’