Thursday, 30 June 2016

Stratford upon Avon round up - Wednesday 29th June 2016

Almost the last day of June and still no sunshine. However, this is Wimbledon time, so rain was a plenty. Pauline went round to see Rita and I went to the Sorting Office. Fewer returns this week than has been the recent norm. Couldn't do them outside so I processed them in the garage.

I downloaded all the news for Scotland and Wales, took it all to the studio for Peter and Oliver, came home, was just getting ready for an early night when John and Jill from next door came round with flowers and a card for Pauline. They stayed and we pleasantly chatted until close to 11pm. It made for a nice change.

Stratford upon Avon

Stratford obviously floats high because of William Shakespeare and the town is rich because of him. What has been reviewed so far has all been part of the Shakespeare story, and there is more. Hall's Croft was owned by Shakespeare's eldest daughter, Susannah, and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre dominates the lower part of the town, alongside the Avon, which is an interesting river by the time it reaches Stratford.

Many towns can be explored in a day but the discerning visitor could fill half a week in the area. The open top bus rides will not only let you see everything of note in Stratford itself, they also visit the nearby villages with any kind of Shakespeare involvement, but also stray into the nearby Cotswolds, which is always a visit worth making.

Harvard's House was built in 1596. Strangely, it was once known as the Ancient House. It seems to me the naming was back to front. The Bancroft Gardens are welcoming when the sun shines and throbbing with visitors, especially along the river side. Boating is very popular and the boats come in all shapes and sizes. There is also the Butterfly Farm, which gets better with every visit. With 6 grandchildren, visits are fairly often.

It doesn't matter how often you go to Stratford, the weather will never matter thqat much.

inhabitants of the Butterfly Farm

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Shakespeare's birthplace - Tuesday 28th June 2016

Today Pauline went off to Birmingham with Kath, Rita, Janet and Marylyn. This was the last leg of her extended birthday celebrations. Although only twenty miles away, the ladies opted to travel by train, and it seems we will do the same at some time in the near future. Having been born and raised in Harborne, Pauline knows Birmingham very well, but we have hardly visited these last ten years or so. She came back very enthusiastic. She said the place is unrecognisable and very, very much improved.

The shops around New Street Station are all newly opened. The library is now supposedly a masterpiece with a garden on one of the higher levels. Pauline says we must re-explore Birmingham, and so we will.

Shakespeare's birthplace

Stratford upon Avon is very much centred around William Shakespeare, although not everything that has an attraction is linked, as will be shown.

John Shakespeare was rich enough to buy the biggest house in Henley Street. Along with his wife Mary (nee Arden), they had 8 children, William being Number Three. Two of his siblings died quite young and when his father (who was an Alderman and became Mayor of Stratford) died in 1601, William inherited the house.

William married Anne Hathaway when he was eighteen. They lived in the family home for five years, but something happened to drive William away. It is known he stayed with relatives for a while before eventually ending up in London where his work as an actor led on to him becoming the World's most famous playwright  and poet.

When William inherited the house he let part of it out as an inn or public house. His work in London kept him away from Stratford, but it is surmised that the outbreak of bubonic plague in 1609 drove him back home, where he remained until his death in 1616.

Shakespeare's birthplace has become a totally different experience since I first visited. Back before interactive displays had even been considered it was just a question of walking in and browsing through whatever had been put out on display. Today you are treated to performances and explanations and a proper experience that is worth the entrance fee.

For more information about Shakespeare and his involvement with Stratford upon Avon, visit

Shakespeare's birthplace

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Mary Arden's Farm - Monday 27th June 2016

Today was all about returning to normal after what had been a brilliant weekend. I po9ked at the 200 e-mails that had piled up, Pauline went and checked on Rita, I went to a poorly attended Lion's meeting (it's that time of year), and we sat in disbelief as England lost to Iceland, a country with a population the size of Leicester!

Mary Arden’s Farm
For a very long time there was a misconception about which was the house where Mary Arden lived. Mary was born in 1537 and the house bears her maiden name. Although the youngest of eight daughters, it was Mary who inherited the family farmhouse at the age of 19 when her father died in 1556.

Mary married John Shakespeare, a farmer from nearby Snitterfield, when she was only 20. Together they raised eight children (two of whom died very young), the third of whom was William.

The house that was thought to be the farm of Mary Arden was bought by the Shakespeare Trust in 1930. That was subsequently discovered to be a farm owned by a different family and was renamed Palmer’s Farm. Mary’s actual home was identified as one that had been bought by the Trust in 1968, and they were able to restore it to very much what it would have been in the days of the young Shakespeare.

Mary Arden's Farm is just 3 miles west of Stratford. More can be found by visiting

Mary Arden's Farm

Monday, 27 June 2016

Anne Hathaway's Cottage - Sunday 26th June 2016

The family gathering was prolonged as long as possible. There was the house to put back together and we had decided the fifteen of us (Rita stayed the night) would go for lunch before setting off in our various directions. We had been told there was a pub just up the road. The house we rented is in Shottery Road so whilst everyone was packing cars, I drove up to the pub. This is the posh side of Stratford with some lovely houses. The pub would have been fine, but didn’t welcome dogs, seen or unseen.

However, It was only round the corner from Anne Hathaway’s cottage. See below.

We found a more friendly pub towards the town centre. We took our car because Rita would have struggled with a mile to walk, but the others ambled there. We had a room to ourselves and the staff were very courteous and kept coming back with the likes of plate sized Yorkshire Puddings and lashing of roast potatoes.

However, the meal finished, we said our goodbyes and everyone had a good trip home. We ourselves went the pretty route, back through Henley in Arden. It is only 40 miles to Stratford and the journey took just under an hour.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

This is anything but a cottage. The ground it occupies was once part of a large area of farmland. The first part of the house was built in 1463 and so might well have been a cottage, but two hundred years later the upstairs part was built, the house expanded to twelve rooms, and very few cottages have more than one chimney.

Anne Hathaway was born here in 1556. The house was the centre of sheep farming operations. Anne’s father died in 1581 and the house passed to his brother. It stayed in family ownership until around 1840. It was sold but the remaining family were allowed to stay on as tenants. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust saw the potential of anything connected to Shakespeare being of great historical importance and so they took ownership is 1892.

A visit to the house when the sun is shining is a delight. The gardens are as important these days as the house itself, but in the days of the Hathaway farming the yard would have been full of animals rather than flowers.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Stratford on Avon 2 - Saturday 25th June 2016

Today was all about Pauline's birthday. Plus, I was now officially off duty.

Everyone was fed and watered as they surfaced, and it took a while for the most tardy to manage that. Breakfast was huge and included everything you could class as a breakfast ingredient. Then is was time to open the presents, and they very much represented the feelings that everyone has for our special lady.

Helen was on duty for the rest of the day and wanted us all missing. She kept Dave back for the manual work but the remaining twelve of us were banished into town.

Your view on Stratford depends a lot on your outlook in general. Of course there are areas of the town that reflect industry and every day activities, but there are also great swathes that make you feel that little has changed in 500 years, except for the cars!

The first part of our walk was very pleasant. So many Tudor and Elizabethan buildings still in every day use. We wandered around for an hour or so, eventually splitting into three groups, and not just because the women kept seeing sales that shouted 'SALE' in every dress shop we passed.

We even ran into Malcolm and Cheryl from a few hundred yards away from us in Lichfield, and then the ice cream parlour was spotted. We sat next to a family of four from Pennsylvania and chatted pleasantly to them whilst the skied emptied onto the street outside. Then Helen rang to say Gill and Paul had arrived, and weren't thinking of stopping long. We set off through the rain, Pauline and Megan under one brolly and Jessica and me under another (mostly to no avail). We got back and talked our friends into stopping.

Just after 6.30 John and Lesley brought Rita. A little later Gerard & Margaret came with Emma and Amy, and the party was complete. There were more presents, and even more food. It was a lovely, lovely night.

Over the next two to three days we will look at Shakespeare and the more famous sights in Stratford and the environs.

Helen, Robert, Pauline and Rita

Sheri took lots of photos and is ten times the cameraman that I am so I will wait for her to release the Stratford portfolio.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Stratford on Avon - Friday 24th June 2016

I was on a mission this morning. First down to the Sorting Office with the sacks, then into Lichfield. First to the bank to make deposits and then the butcher. I had ordered two lamb longboats, plus other meats and accompaniments, but they decided to make me one very long one from a saddle of lamb. They told me to cook it long and slow, for 4 hours or more.

From there I went and bought enough vegetables for 14 people for tonight, plus fruits of the forest, clotted cream and a special jam. Then I went to Shenstone and introduced a new listener to our talking news. She was so excited and kept hugging her grand daughter.

We had lunch and then set off south. Pauline didn't know where we were going. I asked her a couple of weeks ago if there was anywhere she would like to go and she said Stratford. That was lucky. I told her that wherever we ended up, I would let her see Stratford.

The journey was good for us, but a nightmare for people coming from the opposite direction. We drove into Stratford, which we know quite well, having been coming for a good 50 years, but I'd never been to Trinity Church, mainly because it's on the opposite side of the river to most of the attractions.

I drove around a little, through the town centre, and then I could see the distinctive church steeple. We stopped and followed hoards of tourists into this pretty little church and duly found the grave of William Shakespeare, lying next to his wife Ann Hathaway.
There has been a church on the site where Holy Trinity stands since 713. The original building was a Saxon monastery. There is some evidence that a wooden church replaced the monastery and that the Normans built a brick church in its place, but the present building came into being in 1210. The original building consisted of the tower, transcepts and nave pillars. The church was expanded some one hundred years later and expanded further after another century.
More details about the church can be found at
We got back in the car, I set the satnav, and Pauline looked bemused when just half a mile later it said "You have reached your destination."

The house we have rented has eight bedrooms and we were first there, so got first choice. Robert, Sheri, Daisy and Harper arrived at 4.30 and Helen, Dave, Jessica and Megan were half an hour behind. I cooked the meal and we ate at 8pm, but Dan, Gary, Reece, Roan and Jackson the dog didn't get to us until 9pm.

And the party was underway. The meat was gorgeous.

Holy Trinity Stratford on Avon

Coleshill - Friday 24th June 2016

The only difference between this and any other Thursday was that I had to do a double run for the Live at Home Scheme, due to many drivers being away this week. I had my hair cut, fetched Rita, recorded the Stevenage Talking News, had lunch, ran off all the duplications for Wales, Scotland and Stevenage, and was back at the studio for 6.30pm.Oh, and I voted to stay part of the European Union, but turned out to be in the minority.


 I’m going to look at Warwickshire for a while, for reasons which will become obvious (as early as tomorrow). Coleshill is as good a place to start, because I was born there.

 For a very long time, Coleshill was an important staging point on the north/south route through the Midlands. Walk down Coleshill High Street and count how many of the older houses that still remain carry signs of having been an inn, or even housing stables. Coleshill is mentioned in the Doomsday Book, but failed to grow into anything more than a market town because the railway (when it came) was too far from the town centre.

 I was born in 1941, when the town was very short of men, except for those that were coming in to work at the then important Hams Hall power stations (three major units serving Birmingham and Coventry and everywhere in between.

 Coleshill had been just the main road – High Street which morphed into the Coventry Road. When the town started to attract a doubling in population, the Irish tended to move to the top end of town (the south), where the catholic church dominated, plus there was a hospital and Father Hudson’s Homes (filled with war orphans, but rich in young Irish nurses and such, many of whom became permanent fixtures, but only after the local swain had converted).

 At the north end of Coleshill ran the River Cole (from which the town got its name), from west to east. This came to us via Birmingham and was so toxic by the time it reached us that you wouldn’t want to paddle there if you valued your skin. To the east was the River Blythe, and this was different altogether. The Blythe attracted hundreds of day trippers every weekend to bathe in the deep holes that populated the river along the field we called Cuttle Meadow, These holes had appeared courtesy of German bombers who were searching for either Coventry, Birmingham or the power station in the dark. They navigated by moonlight reflecting off the rivers. If the anti-aircraft fire was heavy, those who valued their skins would drop their bombs where they were before going home. Hence the beautiful Cuttle.

 Coleshill grew like a dumbbell. The Scots and Geordies down the bottom end and the Irish at the top. The Saxon Church at the top of the hill, eventually named St Peter & St Paul, was rebuilt by the Normans and then rebuilt again after a lightning strike brought down the steeple, which was replaced with something still impressive, but 30 feet shorter than the original. I joined the choir until my voice broke and then became a bell ringer (the money was better – half a crown for a wedding instead of sixpence). One of the ringers was a local historian and he explained why the church has only three clocks.

 The church is visible to almost everybody living north, south and even west of the village stocks, but the only people living east were the town,s 'owners' at Blythe Hall. It had started with the De Montfords in Norman times, moved on to the Clintons after a couple of hundred years, and ended with the Digby family, who might still be there for all I know. The whole town had to raise the funds for the proposed clocks, and the Digby family declined, so they didn’t get a clock.

 To the east of Coleshill, you walk through the churchyard, down to the Blythe, cross the river and you are in the back yard of Maxstoke Castle, so small it was never found by marauding armies, and so is one of the very few undefeated castles in Britain.

St Peter & St Paul

Maxstoke Castle

Eat Chinese food to ensure a bright future. Do you know anyone that ever got bad news from a fortune cookie?

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Abbey Park Leicester - Wednesday 22nd June 2016

It was another busy Wednesday. First up was a Support Staffordshire meeting at Wade Street Church. I think this will prove very useful in time, partyly because of the networking I was able to do and also because of the ammunition I was provided with for when I appeal for funding.

From the meeting I went to the studio and collected a work table, then the Sorting Office for six sacks, then home for lunch. Pauline helped me with the returns and we were finished by 4.30pm. I downloaded all the news for Scotland and Wales, had dinner and then went to the studio, hoping desperately that Peter had a team of readers. He had, but he also had a governors’ meeting at school, so I stayed and got everything I could ready for tomorrow whilst Jane, Terry and Oliver did the readings.


Abbey Park Leicester


Leicester is as green a city as any in Britain with at least a dozen parks and open green spaces, but the one that struck with me was Abbey Park. The City Elders laid down plans for the park back in 1879 and the official opening took place three years later. The River Soar passes through the park and back then had created a marshy area that was good for little. By widening the river and then making it deeper the flooding problem was overcome and the park began to mature. Add a man-made lake and plant 33,000 trees and you are on your way.


There is history to the park. Its 57 acres contains the remains of the 12th century Leicester Abbey as well as the ruins of the Cavendish House, in its prime in the 17th century. It might still be there, except King Charles I was an unwelcome guest, so the soldiers of the day burnt it to the ground.

Abbey Park Leicester

From the South Wales Argus: a lady wearing a burka got on a Newport bus and started gabbling to her son. The man in front turned angrily and said "When you are in England, speak English!" A lady sitting opposite leaned over and said "She's not in England, she's in Wales, and she's speaking Welsh!"

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Loughborough Carillon - Tuesday 21st June 2016

I spent the morning working on a project, details of which will emerge in a few days. Pauline took herself off to Tamworth, trying to appreciate an unaccustomed dry period. It may not be raining now but our hanging baskets are soaked and unlikely to survive.


This afternoon it was the monthly meeting of the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance. I went early for the Board Meeting, to find it had been cancelled, but they forgot to tell me. Nonetheless, it gave me some time for quiet and reflection.


I enjoyed the meeting and feel that progress is being made, but there is still quite a battle ahead before neurology is on the table with health authorities. As a lay man, I’ve formed the opinion that the problem is that there are so many neurological conditions that are suffered by only a handful of people that no one is able to specialise or take responsibility. So those sufferers just have to get on with it until they are not a problem any more.


Loughborough Carillon


Following the First World War, it was decided to build a carillon in Loughborough to honour those who lost their lives. Work began in 1919 and the 47 bell carillon was completed in 1923. At the time it was the largest carillon in Britain standing 152 feet high. The adoption of the metric system in Britain changed that to 46 metres. It sounds more impressive in feet and inches. The tower was designed by Sir Walter Tapper and the bells were cast in Loughborough by William Moss & Sons.

Loughborough Carillon

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Ashby de la Zouch - Monday 20th June 2016

About four times a year we meet our friends Brian and Jackie in Ashby. It is conveniently placed between our home in Staffordshire and their home in Leicestershire. Over the years we have tried three eating holes. Today's was the worst experience.

Ashby has got a few things going for it. The main street is wide a lined with shops that actually sell things, rather than recycle them through charity shops, There is a busy town hall which doubles up as a bustling little market place, and there are several old fashioned spit and sawdust pubs.

Now, from these places you don't expect haut cuisine, especially at £7.99 for two meals, but you do expect good, standard pub food. The journey over was pleasant. The rain held off until later in the day and the sun almost shone.

We arrived at the Bulls Head to find our friends studying the menu. It seemed reasonable. We made our choices and I went to the bar. Pauline wanted old fashioned fish & chips. "Sorry, we've got no fish - Oh, or lasagne. Apart from that, have what you want." We made our order, including Cumberland sausage & mash for Brian. The waitress returned and said that there was no mash.

Our brains hurt, How can you have potatoes for chips but not for mash? Oh, they come in ready prepared. We sat nursing our drinks and heard more bad news for other potential diners. "Sorry, we're out of chicken, and the steak & ale pie."

Brian could have hammered nails with his sausage. I could have soled shoes with my gammon. Jackie left half of her meal, but Pauline struck lucky and actually enjoyed it. Two tables behind us refused to pay for their food.  You could say they were having a bad time at the Bull.

Parish church of St Helen

Ashby Castle

You slog all your life to become upper crust, and end up a crust on your uppers.

Monday, 20 June 2016

More of the same - Sunday 19th June 2016

Today I was back at Barton under Needwood. It did rain today (heavily at times) but at least it waited until the street parties were just about over.

Today I was on car park duty, mostly with John Whitehouse. We had two large patches of hard core play areas to use and we filled them both, which would have been good news for the fundraisers. Mostly it was a steady stream of arrivals, and strangely the cars seemed to arrive in pairs, but at one stage some seven cars came all at once.

It was clear from the way that everyone disembarked that they knew each other, and when they all started to change shoes to boots or trainers I put two and two together. The people were from all around the Derby and Burton upon Trent areas and had met each other through dance classes. These had proved to be lively and convivial and some solid friendships had been forged. Now, in addition to dancing, they go off for weekend explorations of the English countryside. It was by coincidence they chose Barton under Needwood on the Gardens Festival weekend. In another two weeks the entire group is going off to explore Cornwall for a week.

They will need more than a week.

When the time came that more people were leaving than arriving, we called it a day. I walked over to the church to retrieve everything I had left over night, especially Message in a Bottle. The atmosphere was magic. There were six different queues, all with about a dozen children, clutching their teddies, hanging on to Mom and Dad whilst they waited for the turn of their teddy to be launched from the church, fly in a jet plane, do a balancing act on a high wire, or be propelled across the churchyard by a miniature trebuchet.

I got home, eventually, noting that the beer festival had been stationed as far away from my car park as possible. Rita was with us for the remainder of the afternoon and a lovely Sunday roast, but once I was sat, there was no getting up again. I'll be normal again by Wednesday!

Half full

still counting angels

local artwork

Someone is selling an ancient Roman coin on e-bay. It's stamped 52BC. Looks like a bargain to me.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Barton under Needwood - Saturday 18th June 2016

Barton under Needwood is only 10 minutes away up the A38 towards Derby. It is a lovely village with the drawback that negotiating the main street running south to north can be a nightmare. I was there today to help Barton under Needwood Lions to 1: man the car park, 2: spread information about Lions, 3: distribute Message in a Bottle.

When I got there Lions from Tamworth and Cannock had also come to help, so I was positioned inside the homely St James Church with an information desk. I did sign up three interested parties, and I listened to bell ringing, the Golden Oldies choir, an organ recital, and saw dozens of children counting how many angels there are on view inside the church. As I counted 8 in one stained glass window alone, I should think there are a great many.

The event is called the Barton Gardens Festival. There were twelve gardens open to visitors, with a complimentary mini-bus service from the car park. There was a scarecrow display, mostly stuffed but the occasional human in there somewhere, and there were the teddy bear events. Children lined up to get their teddy bear passports and then put their pats through six ordeals, culminating with being rocketed up the side of the church and parachuting back down.

If any child turned up without a teddy, the Lions had a goodly supply.

Tonight was the St Giles Hospice Summer Solstice Ramble, with over 800 ladies dressed in pink walking either 4.5 or 9 miles. We had volunteered the Lions to be marshals and so I went up to the Friary at 7.30pm, expecting to be there until 3am. The atmosphere was wonderful and the massive car park at the Friary was almost full already. There was a marquee that would take 1000 people easily. It was throbbing with music and laughter, and was getting ready for a big supper before the event started at 10pm.

I went to register as a marshal and Mike Knight told me I was off the hook because they were expecting 4 from the club and that many were there already. As I was decidedly tired, I took that opportunity and rushed back home for an early night. More to do at Barton tomorrow.

one of the gardens

St James, Barton under Needwood

passport control

Well, can't go on the Great British Bake Off until my rock cakes are less like rocks, and my raspberry fool has more raspberries and I'm less of a fool. Don't get me started on my spotted dick.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Mercia Marina - Friday 17th June 2016

Friday. Our day off.

We waited for the Wiltshire Farm Food delivery and took it round to Rita. Then to the Sorting Office with the Talking News, and then onwards to Mercia Marina.


We have heard a few people talk about the marina in the past week or so and thought we should go and have a look. It is 18 miles away, east up the A38 and then swing off right and up through Willington. When we left the A38 there were two signs for the marina. We followed them until we came to a round about in the village. The choice was left, straight or right, and I didn’t see a sign, so we went right and that took us to Repton.


It was only a couple of miles out of our way, but before we’d had time to turn round I’d already decided to go back and explore, because there was a definite aura about the place. You see the church steeple, rising like a needle, well before you get to the town. St Wystan’s looked interesting and different. Also, Repton is a boarding school for Sixth Form pupils and there were ranks of earnest young women clutching their schoolbooks and talking animatedly.


We went back, found the sign to the marina and were there in just three minutes. There is always a good atmosphere around marinas and harbours, and so it was today. There were a lot of boats and many of the long boat berths were vacant, this being the beginning of the peak period for canal barges. There are a number of shops along the waterfront, but fewer than at Barton Marina, and some quite expensive.


We stopped for a very nice cup of latte and a lovely slice of carrot cake, and indulged in people watching. There are nature trails around the marina and they offer some rare sights. There are gatekeeper butterflies (recently spotted by me at Wolseley) and oyster catchers, which is a surprise. There are also brown hares displaying at various times of the year, and also regular visits by waxwing, which is a bird that I had in my garden (in numbers) about ten years ago, and haven’t seen since.


The trip out was pleasant and the Staffordshire/Derbyshire countryside is lovely, but I was heartened to feel that Barton has more to offer, because it is only half the distance.

St Wystan's Church Repton
Repton School

Mercia Marina

Barton Marina

If you write music you are composing. So, when you die you are decomposing.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Leicester – Thursday 16th June 2016

So this was a Thursday, which meant it didn’t matter about the rain. I started by running off brochures for the weekend, and then I got on with recording the Stevenage Talking News. That was the morning gone. We had lunch and I went off to do the Live at Home run whilst Pauline did a food shop.

I went to the studio after dropping my three passengers off and I completed the Scottish and Welsh masters and then ran off all three TNs, leaving the packing for later. I was told by the local newsagent that the Lichfield Mercury wouldn’t be available until tomorrow. I went home and downloaded as much Lichfield news as I could find on the internet, and then they delivered the paper!

No Wilf, of course, tonight but Peter came in early, as did Keith. Ben was there tonight so we got everything done that needed doing and, because we now have a new 20 slot duplicator, I was home before 9.30pm.


I’m not a fan of cities as a rule, but accept that there is always something of interest to me if I look hard enough. You don’t have to look too far in Leicester (pronounced Lester). There’s certainly enough to fill a weekend, and you can get to most places on foot.

Leicester Cathedral

As cathedrals go in Britain, this is very new. The Cathedral Church of St Martin only became a cathedral in 1927. The most historical thing about the cathedral is that the bones of King Richard III are buried there, after being found under a nearby car park. He was actually killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, but his body was dragged around a bit afterwards and ended up in Leicester. Once everyone was sure he was dead thay buried him, and then used him as a car park. Although the cathedral is less than 100 years in being as such, there has been a church on the site for at least 1000 years. It was noted in the Domesday Book.

Not far from the cathedral (100 steps to be precise) you will now find a dedicated King Richard III Visitor Centre. This is quite an impressive display and it is actually on the site of the abbey where the Grey Friars interred the king’s body.

The Leicester Guildhall is also close to the cathedral and is one of those comforting half timber buildings. It is grey and white, rather than black, and this somehow makes it seem older than its 600 years. The earliest parts of the hall were built around 1390 but over the next fifty years it grew and developed into the form we see today. Over the long years of existence  it has been a library, police station and the seat of local government.

The Jewry Wall is all that is left of a Roman building, but has endured 2000 years of English summers and winters (which can sometimes seem one and the same thing). It stands close to St Nicholas’ Church, which itself is worth a visit.

Other points of interest that we found in Leicester were the New Walk Museum, the Newarks Houses Museum and Gardens, Belgrave Hall, and the newly designed gardens around the cathedral itself.

Leicester Cathedral

Leicester Guildhall

Jewry Wall

I've just realised it's all my fault. It hasn't stopped raining since I went into short sleeved shirts. I'll go and change.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Market Bosworth - Wednesday 15th June 2016

We are taking part in the Barton under Needwood Open Gardens weekend on Saturday and Sunday. This is a lovely event with something for everyone. There are 12 open gardens (and a bus service to take you round) plus a large number of family attractions, but most important are the six events involving teddy bears. Last year it was noticed that some children turned up not knowing about the teddy bear events, and hadn’t brought competitors. So I ordered 24 teddies that would fill the gap – and they were due today, so we couldn’t leave the house empty.
In the end they didn’t turn up, which was frustrating a little because life would have been less fraught if they were nestled in my garage.
Pauline met Janet at 10am, just for a coffee, and she then went and picked up Rita and brought her back home for the day. Now that she is getting Wiltshire Farm Foods delivered there is a marked improvement.

I then went to a funding event in Lichfield. It was raining again (every day since I started wearing short sleeved shirts) and I spent an hour with three different possible funding sources. I came away feeling a little positive about two of them, though any funds won’t come for several months, so they won’t meet my immediate needs.

On the way back I collected the reurns. Only six sacks this week. That took three and a half hours to process. I downloaded the news for Wales and Scotland, hoping fervently I wouldn’t have to do the reading this week. My prayers were answered because Peter O’Brien was at the studio when I got there and Ingrid also arrived, so I got out of there fast.

Market Bosworth

Market Bosworth is a small town in Leicestershire that we have visited often over the past 30 years or so. When we stayed over for Christmas with Ged and Margaret we would often go to Bosworth for the Boxing Day Hunt. It was more ceremonial and an excuse for an early swig of the stirrup cup than it was about chasing foxes, and so it is a colourful and well attended event. It gathers in the market place, which can be quite atmospheric at any time.

We also did a couple of car launches from Bosworth Hall, which gave us the chance to see parts of the area we might have otherwise missed. We took the cars we were driving, abandoned them at Shackerstone Station and rode the Bosworth Light Railway instead, often being given the chance to stoke the fires and pretend you were driving the think. No hand brake turns on those babies.

There are a number of good walks in and around Market Bosworth, especially through areas of natural interest, and you can always walk to the Bosworth Battlefield. The town’s website will tell you that Richard III stayed the night at the White Boar Inn in Market Bosworth, preceding the Battle of Bosworth, and hid £300 in a false bottom of his bed. As he was killed in battle the next day no one returned to collect it, so it remained undiscovered until the reign of Elizabeth l.

The visitor centre puts on a good display and is well worth a visit. Anyone who knows no different will be well entertained. However, at my last place of employment we had a worker who everyone called Digger. I got to know him well and his name came from his penchant to tour the Midlands with a metal detector and dig up forgotten treasures (he was quite successful from time to time). He told me his group had invaded the Bosworth Battlefield and found almost nothing. When they surveyed another field no too far away, they found lots of evidence of a major battle (some now on display at the centre).

When they pointed this out to the powers that be they were told, yes, that conclusion had been reached locally, but no one was going to move the exhibition now it was so well established.


It is worth a visit, whether in the wrong place or no. More information from

Bosworth Heritage Centre

 Bosworth Hall
Bosworth Hunt

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Stoneywell - Tuesday 14th June 2016

First was the monthly meeting at the hospital in Stoke on Trent between the UHNM and the SNA. I left enough time to cope with the early morning traffic, as there was only half as much as usual. The journey took exactly an hour, and the car park was half empty. Never known that before.

We met with Hayley and Lisa, both very pleasant and capable young ladies. Hayley has a week to go before going on maternity leave, so we will miss her for 9 months. Under her leadership, the reception that the SNA has been getting at the hospital has been very encouraging.


I was back home for 11.45am. We sat and chatted, had some lunch and then went off to the garden centre at Bromley Hayes. I hadn’t been before. We’ll go again, there’s a lot of diversity there. We also ran into Graham and Sandra who were there with the Elford Luncheon Club.


Back home there was just time to get all the plants that we had bought into the gardens (front and back) and then the rain came, and stayed with us.




I came across Stoneywell when I was looking up the name Ulverscroft. I found that Stoneywell is nearby, by the Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire and it is now owned by the National Trust, who opened it to the public in February 2015.


A man called Ernest Gimson had the house built (between 1897 and 1899) for his brother Sydney. The house is very unusual in that it was built (of stones found locally) to fit into the landscape. Part of the roof is almost at ground level, and the front door is definitely at the back.


It was always intended that the gardens should have a wild aspect, and this (so far) has been maintained. It was built as a thatched roof cottage, but a bad fire meant that it was rebuilt using Swithland slates. I once lived in a house where you had to step up or down to pass from one room to another, but it was nowhere near as dramatic as at Stoneywell. The ground floor fits the surrounding landscape and is consequently on three levels.


Because Stoneywell is so small, you have to pre-book your visit, which can be done at


I wasn't sure where I was and then the young lady said "Ow at Duck? Set thee sen darn un av a brew withers." And I remembered, Stoke on Trent. For the befuddled she meant. "hello, sit yourself down and we'll have tea." You can't beat English as she's supposed to be spoken.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Foxton Locks - Monday 13th June 2016

I had a new lady to go and see. I waited until the world was properly awake and then went to the top end of Lichfield to visit her. I’ve been doing the Talking News for 34 years and thought I’d been in every road in Lichfield at some time or other, but this was a new one to me. The lady was lovely. She was 77, had suffered a stroke and was losing her eyesight. She lives alone and her only company is the carer that comes from time to time. When she heard the talking news (17 hours on it this week) I thought she was going to cry.

There was a Lions meeting tonight, with Chris Pritchard in the chair instead of me. I thought it was a good meeting. Chris has given a lot of thought as to how his year should go, and all we can do is back him 100%. I was dreading that I would be asked to take the minutes, because the next free day I can see in my diary is July 1st.

Foxton Locks

When we first went to Calne in Wiltshire we were introduced to the impressive Caen Locks flight (which will feature on a different day) and I found it very conducive to playing with my camera and going on a good long walk. I had no idea at the time that there was a similar flight of canal locks closer to home, at Market Harborough in Leicestershire.

We used to do quite a few car launches in Leicestershire, aimed at Midland based auto journalists, and on one trip with my usual co-driver Brian he asked if I’d ever seen the locks. I hadn’t and we made a slight detour.

The nice thing about canals is that anyone can access them because they are mostly on the flat, and they become havens for wildlife, even when there is a town the other side of the hedge. Foxton Locks is on the Grand Union canal and is to be found where the canal goes different ways – to Leicester if you go west and to Market Harborough in the other direction.

At Calne there are seventeen locks that lift a canal boat from the bottom level to the top. That made a boat thief the most inept criminal in Britain because two hours after he stole a barge he had still not cleared the locks, and was caught red handed (as well as red faced). At Foxton he would have needed 45 minutes to clear the ten locks.

Foxton Locks

Monday, 13 June 2016

Whittington & Elford - Sunday 12th June 2016

This being Sunday it was all about rest and recuperation. This being a rainy day (viciously so later in the afternoon) it was again a day to miss the gardening. I started by ordering 24 teddy bears for Barton under Needwood and then I designed a brochure to hand out over the weekend to hopefully encourage new members.

Pauline took Rita to church and she seemed much more chipper when she came back. We then went over to Sandra and Graham at Elford for our quarterly meet up and another superb Sunday lunch. Graham pulls out all the stops when he cooks, and we reaped the rewards.


Our journey to Elford is only six miles, but you pass through mostly flatish countryside. From Lichfield you go to Whittington, then through the hamlet of Fisherwick and finally the village of Elford.

Whittington is one of my walks. I cut across the park and into Cappers Lane, rise to crest the hill that overlooks Whittington and the welcoming St Giles Church, passed fields of oilseed rape, then I take the single track road back that leads through Huddlesford, until I can close the circle. On half of that walk you see almost no people, but acres of farmland.

There are two main roads that bisect Whittington. Both are narrow and busy, so progress through the village can be slow enough to take things in. Enter the village from Lichfield and the first thing to greet you is the church and the associated meeting hall. Both are very busy and it’s rare to pass without seeing many cars in the car park.

Turn left at the main cross roads and the other main road takes you north through the village, and if you keep going you come to the impressive Fisherwick Hall. However, if instead you carry on in an easterly direction you first pass St Giles Hospice – at once a happy/sad place. You know that people staying there are counting their days, but the care and attention they receive ensures they leave this Earth wrapped in comfort and love.

Follow that road and you come to the hamlet of Fisherwick. This is all farmland. Many years ago I noticed air vents in one of the fields. I became a District Councillor for Lichfield and in one of the smaller committee meetings I learned that the nuclear bunker was in need of repair. I asked why it was felt necessary for Lichfield to protect itself from nuclear bombs. I was told that army trains loaded with ammunition passed through the city in the middle of most nights. One councillor said “Of course, we’ve got Europe’s biggest arms dump at Fisherwick.”

Since Whittington Barracks became the centre of medical services for the British Armed Forces, I believe the arms dump has been moved elsewhere, At least, I can’t see the air vents anymore.
At Fisherwick you can’t see Fisherwick Hall, but you can see some of the biggest fields in Staffordshire. One, aptly called half mile wall, has a brick wall that covers two sides of it. About twenty years ago the field attracted a flight of Whooper Swans that had strayed too far south. Whatever, they liked it and have been regular winter visitors ever since.

Elford is a lovely village, protected by the A513 that skirts the eastern side and keeps traffic flowing away from the village centre. We lived there for quite some time and it was my happiest period. I’m very much a country bumpkin and Elford was just where I needed to be. We had seventeen different birds that would enter our garden every day, plus bats and all manner of wildlife.

My favourite story of Elford came from a village meeting and a local farmer addressed the crowd. He told of how the Roundheads had camped on the family’s fields the night before the Battle of Bosworth Field. He said a hillock had been created manually beneath a great oak to facilitate easy mounting of horses, especially when dressed in full armour. He told of how the oak had lived for 1000 years, until tragically felled by a lightning strike.

He said his father wanted the oak to be remembered forever and so, instead of cutting it up, he created a huge ‘grave’ in the field and dragged the oak into it and covered it up for eternity. But before it finally was swallowed by the soil, our farmer took a branch and whittled it into a crucifix, which he presented to the love of his life before they married.

He showed the self same crucifix to the audience. When I turned to Graham and asked why I’d never met the lady, he said it was because she left him after six months of marriage.
Love dies but the mighty oak still lives on, in the shape of a crucifix.

St Giles Church

Whittington Main Street

Great food

the heart of Elford