Friday, 30 September 2016


When I was District Governor of the Lions of MD105BS in 1993/94, North Wales was part of my patch and I got to visit many of the towns and villages quite often, though never with the leisure of exploration, except on odd occasions.

Ruthin is in Denbighshire, about central to the county so the landscape is the attraction rather than the coast. Denbigh always struck me as being a gentle place with its town centre hosting Georgian or black and white Tudor style shops and hotels. There was also a gaol, which is now a museum.

One of the venues, especially for Charter Nights, was the old Ruthin Castle, at LU5 2NU. This is now an hotel and spa, hosting weddings and conferences whilst offering a taste of the past, especially through the occasional Medieval Feast night.

The whole area of North Wales is attractive with many lively seaside towns, but the beautiful countryside and the promise of Snowdonia not too far away.


Ruthin Castle

Diary - Thursday 29th September 2016

You don't realise how many times a day you look at your wrist watch until it isn't there. My strap broke early yesterday morning and there's no chance of doing anything personal whilst it is Talking News time, so about a hundred times I checked my empty wrist to see how I was doing against the clock.

I was so wrapped in doing the Stevenage Talking News that I didn't notice it was missing from my desk until Pauline came back with a new strap in place. A nice black leather strap. She said she resisted the temptation to put a bright red or even a Desperate Dan strap on it, knowing I would be facing grandchildren this weekend.

The Stevenage recording went well. The main difference between today and any other Thursday was that there was no Live at Home Scheme, so I had time to take rubbish to the tip.

Tonight was Jan's team for the Lichfield TN and that includes Pauline Mitchell. She has been with us for 34 of the 35 years the Talking News has existed, and this week she reached 90 years of age. I hope I'm still motoring like she does in 15 years time.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Thirlstane Castle

Thirlstane castle is situated at TD2 6RU at Lauder on the Scottish Borders. There is a hill that had been named Castle Hill and it was there that a fort was built. The area was fraught with misadventure and many connected with the fort met with violent deaths.


Several followers of James III were dragged to Lauder Church, condemned and were subsequently hanged from the nearby bridge. The fort passed to Robert Lauder. He died and it passed to Alison and George Wedderhede who, along with their young son, were murdered. It then passed to Alison Cranstoun, who promptly died.


The area was then gifted to the Maitland family, who held on until 1984. Sir John Maitland was having nothing to do with the fort and built himself a castle on the foundations.


This served well enough until 1660 when major changes were wrought. Over the next six years there were two towers built at the front of the castle and a major staircase added. There were further extensions added in 1840, after which the castle gradually fell into disrepair.


In 1984 a charitable trust was formed and finances obtained to enable the castle to be rescued. This was achieved and today the castle boasts a fairy tale aura. The grounds are beautiful and inside are displays of ancient toys, porcelain, paintings and furniture. The house is open to the public from Tuesday to Thursday and every Sunday from 3rd May till 2nd October.

The interior decorations are lighter than in many stately homes and castles and it has become a popular wedding venue.

Thirlstane Castle

Diary - Wednesday 28th September 2016

Robert stayed with us for most of the morning. Then he went off to meet an old friend for lunch before starting his course at St George's, which is the English football training complex at Burton on Trent.

I picked up five sacks from the Sorting Office and Pauline and I sifted those for a few hours, finding two cheques together worth £75. That was nice.

Robert had asked Ramsac IT Support to sort out my computer, which they did, but it took them two hours, which made me think that I wasn't being a wimp in not sorting it for myself. Once the computer was working properly I was able to get some of the backlog cleared. Then Peter O'Brien sent a text to say he had a parents/teachers meeting tonight, so I said I would cover for him.

There were only two of us reading, but we got it all done and I was home and ready for bed by 10pm.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016


There's quite a bit to see at this little town in Somerset, at TA10 0DQ, but if you want to see it all you should plan your visit because access to the Priest's House is limited.

The first abbey was built in the 7th century but suffered damage from Saxon raids. The Saxons built a church instead. However, some 300 years later the abbey was rebuilt by Benedictine monks and lasted until the Dissolution of the Monasteries when it was pulled down in 1538. The stones from the abbey were used to build other constructions and contributed most of the brickwork for the Abbots House, which is still standing. The ruins are run by English Heritage.

The Priest's House was built in 1308. It was built for the priest from the abbey and operated as a home until the abbey was torn down. It then became derelict and was used first as a store room and then for agricultural storage when leased to a nearby farmer. It fell into further disrepair and was earmarked for demolition in 1896. Local support for the building was powerful and the money was raised to restore the house. The National Trust took over in 1911 and the house was rebuilt. Around twenty years ago it was rethatched and the NT found a tenant to live in the property, which is why access is limited.

The church of St Peter & St Paul was originally Saxon but was rebuilt around 1468 when the tower was added. The ceiling is quite unusual, depicting bare breasted angels - which apparently was intended to be a symbol of innocence.

Priest's House

Abbots House

St Peter & St Paul

Diary - Tuesday 27th September 2016

I cracked one of my computer problems through a round-about way. That gave me access to all my files in the sky and I was able to get some real work done. I kept that up all morning and packed some media players for despatch to the new listeners coming in.

This afternoon I spent quite a bit of time downloading Welsh and Scottish news because I wanted to make time for Robert tomorrow morning. He arrived mid afternoon and so everything stopped because we don't meet often enough. He told us all about driving sheep over London Bridge last Sunday to confirm his right as a Freeman of the City of London. (There was him and 655 others with the same right -0 but only 9 sheep at a time).

We brought Rita round to have dinner and also share some time with Robert, then we went to bed before Aston Villa had thrown away another opportunity to win a game.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Beaumanor Hall

Beaumanor Hall was built by the Herrick family at Woodhouse in Leicestershire (at LE12 8TX). Situated in 34 lovely acres of countryside and taking a full 40 years to complete, building started in 1842 and the family retained ownership until 1940.

Fans of Bletchley Park may be surprised to know that the operations down there were not the only covert and clandestine stately homes. The War Office commandeered quite a few, and Beaumanor was one of them.

The attraction of taking over a stately home or manor was that they were isolated and away from the public gaze. The main building afforded accommodation for the boffins and such who spent their war years listening to the enemy, and the grounds gave space for all manner of laboratories and listening posts.

Beaumanor operated as a feeder station for Bletchley. Anytime they felt suspicious of any wire traffic that they picked up, they would pass it on to Bletchley for decryption.

After the war the family had moved on and no longer wanted Beaumanor. It languished for a while and then Leicester City Council took over around 1970 and today the house has been restored and is a popular venue for weddings and all manner of outdoor activities. Guided tours of the house can be arranged, at a cost of £8 per person, and the tour takes two and a half hours.

For more information, contact

Beaumanor Hall

Diary - Monday 26th September 2016

With a lot to do the last thing you want is disruptions to your IT service, but that's what I've got and it's making life difficult, especially with a full weekend coming up. But I did the best I could and got some things working again, though I've lost my on-line diary and contacts list (for the moment!!)

After lunch, Pauline needed to get out for a break so we went over to Ventura for an hour. Pauline drove the Auris, to get used to it. She said that Rita has been in our new car more than she has.

I went to Fradley to pick up Nick Lamb, then to the George to meet Mandy Rollins and help her get set up for a presentation to Lichfield Lions. Mandy is an old friend of the Club from her role with Young Carers, but now she is working with a charity called Disability Solutions, and came to tell us all about it.

Mandy is very passionate about everything she does and delivered a fully descriptive presentation. With a hint of a Black Country accent, you don't expect the level of content that she throws at you, and you feel breathless (but full of admiration) when she finishes.

I took Nick back home, negotiated the crazy traffic arrangements and was still in bed by 10.30pm.

Mandy Rollins

Monday, 26 September 2016

Rhuddlan Castle

The small town of Rhuddlan is just south of Rhyl on the North Wales coast. Today's population is around the 4,000 mark. It's history dates back to Saxon times. When the Normans began to spread across England and Wales following their invasion it was decided to build a castle at Ruddlan. That was in 1086, twenty years after the invasion. The castle was not a great success and relics of its ruins can still be seen.

The Principality of Wales was established in 1216 and ran until 1536. Following some turbulent times from the outset, King Edward I took an army into North Wales and began building castles, especially at Flint and Ruddlan.

Work on the Ruddlan castle began in 1277. It is different from all other castles in that the gatehouses were positioned so as to form a diamond shape. The castle was completed in 1282 and two years later the Statute of Rhuddlan was signed that reinforced the Principality.

Over the next 350 years or so there were several attempts to take the castle, or raze it, and all were unsuccessful. Then, in 1646 the Parliamentarian Army did manage to take possession of the castle. They held it for a couple of years and then decided it was too good at its job of defending the area, so they dismantled much of it.

However, they left enough to make it worth a visit, especially given the surrounding countryside.

Rhuddlan Castle
LL18 5AD

Diary - Sunday 25th September 2016

The company that hosts my e-mail service has been bought by another company, who decided to 'improve' the service over the weekend. So I've had no e-mails for 24 hours and rising. Neither can I access any of the files I keep in the cloud.

So I helped Pauline where I could to get ready to receive our guests. I went and brought Rita back for the day and Graham and Sandra arrived at 1pm. We all enjoyed a bottle of bubbles, chatted and caught up for half and hour, tucked in to a great Sunday roast, did some more talking, and then everyone faded away, leaving us to tidy up and watch the debacle that is X Factor in the early stages.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Caerlaverock Castle

No castle, anywhere, has been destroyed and rebuilt more often than Caerlaverock. It started with a whimper, rose to glory, then fell, rose, fell, rose.............................

The remains of the castle are even today worth a visit. Situated a few miles south of Dumfries, the castle was in the line of any marauders heading north or south. The Romans saw the logic of placing a defence structure in that area, as did the English in 950, but the first attempts at a true castle did not begin until the land was gifted to Sir John Maxwell in 1220.

A square based castle was under construction when Sir John felt there was a better location, just a few hundred yards away. There was a rocky outcrop and the main gatehouse was built on that. A huge moat was then dug out and that provided many of the stones that made up the new castle, which was built in a triangular shape.

In 1330 King Edward I encouraged a large army to rampage north and when they came across Caerlaverock they laid siege. For quite some time the castle drove off all efforts to storm it, but in the end the garrison yielded - all 60 of them!

King Edward II had less luck when he made his attempt to take the castle. It stood firm. Probably the only time it did. Realising the attraction of such a powerful defence structure to the English, when Edward II moved on the owner of the castle had it dismantled.

In 1337 it was rebuilt. In 1355 it was dismantled. In 1373 it was rebuilt (it must have been an early forerunner of Lego). In 1593 it was being repaired when an unsavoury dispute resulted in the deaths of all of those leading the project, so it was not until 1619 that it was not only rebuilt, it was also extended.

In 1640 it was demolished, and someone thought that enough was enough. So it was left as ruins, but even so there is enough there to give the sense of everything that happened, and to fill the mind with pictures of how it would have been in its heyday.

Caerlaverock Castle DG1 4RU

Diary - Saturday 24th September 2016

As ordinary a day as I could hope for.

The sun shone, the wind blew and the rain rained, but each at the right time. We did our weekly food shop. I filled the car for the first time and it cost me £20 less than the old car, and yet I did more miles to the tankful, so that was very pleasing.

Pauline did some gardening, I finished cleaning the car as though I was a valet, I did a few odd jobs, cooked a risotto because Pauline went to church tonight, and that was it.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Glenfinnan Viaduct

One of the more enigmatic scenes in the Harry Potter films is that of the Hogwarts Express steaming over the great viaduct on the journey north. That viaduct exists and draws thousands of visitors every year.

Pulling the Jacobite steam train from Fort William to Mallaig in the west Highlands of Scotland (at PH37 4LT), the viaduct consists of 21 spans of a concrete structure that was built in 1896/97, but was not used to carry passengers until 1901.

Some people travel that far north just to ride the train. Many others visit the area to see the spectacular scenery. Ride the Hogwarts Express and you kill two birds with one stone.

The Glenfinnan Viaduct

Diary - Friday 23rd September 2016

Pauline went off for a long session of arranging flowers at St Peter & St Paul. I took the recordings to the Sorting Office and then tackled the e-mails. We went up to Curborough to have our annual flu jab, Pauline having picked Rita up for the pleasure of the event, and then came back for a quick snack before going back to church.

I was diverted for an hour, first by a long chat with Helen and then a catch up with John from next door. Then I cleaned my car for the first time. The bodywork didn't look as though it needed it, but the wheels certainly did. I'd had the interior and exterior protected when I bought the car and so far any dirt has just sloughed off, so I simply blasted the car with the hose pipe. Later I found that didn't work, so that's another task for tomorrow.

Tonight was a rare treat. We went to the Red Carpet cinema at Barton Marina. There are two screens and a restaurant. Each cinema only holds 100 people, seated in plush armchairs with big holders for your pint or tipple of choice. There are 4 screenings a day of the two options on offer. We were there to see Briget Jones' Baby. As we started to enter I thought I'd made a mistake. I seemed to be the only male there, but as every seat was gradually taken I noticed at least three more.

I hope they all enjoyed the film as much as I did. It was the first film in a very long time to make me laugh out loud so often, and for so long. Brilliant.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Ramsey Abbey Gategouse

The Ramsey Abbey Gatehouse is situated near Huntingdon in Cambridge. It was on a route that we were taking on a drive and so I stopped - and learned very little.

Some 1400 years ago the land that the abbey was built on was surrounded on three sides by the Cambridgeshire fens. These were very marshy and afforded quite a degree of protection on three sides. The first religious dwelling on the site was built sometime in the mid 7th century, but it was in 969 that the Bishop of Worcester gifted the area to monks for the establishment of a full blown abbey.

This prospered until 1143 when the monks were expelled by Geoffr5ey de Mandeville, who turned the building into a fortress for a while. It then returned to its religious cause until the Dissolution of the Monasteries,  and in 1539 it was pulled down and the bricks used elsewhere on several different buildings. The gateway was partially removed by the Cromwell family and rebuilt at Hinchinbrook House.

Sometime after the abbey was demolished the land was used for another great house - Ramsey Abbey House - and that is still there and is now used as a school. What is left of the gatehouse is there for the public to see - anytime they want from the outside but only on specific days on the inside.

Ramsey Abbey Gatehouse

Ramsey Abbey House

Diary - Thursday 22nd September 2016

Well, that's it. The dark days are coming. Let's hope it's only the weather.

I made a determined start. First duty was to record the Stevenage Talking News. There was a bit more news than normal and I included it all, so it was close to noon when I finished and had the masters in my pocket.

We sat together and had some lunch and then it was each to their own direction again. Pauline went off to see Janet and I did the Live at Home Scheme. The one lady I've been collecting lately has dementia and its coming at her like a train. She was second on my list and I got there at 1pm. "I thought you were coming at 2pm. Marie wrote it in my diary. Pick up at 2pm, drop off at 4pm."

I was as gentle as I could be, reassured her that it was 1pm and 3.30pm, and I would have a word with Marie. When I saw Marie she said she hadn't written anything in her diary, and anyway those directions were for tomorrow. It's sad to see people losing their lives whilst they are still very much alive.

I went to the studio at 1,30pm to run off Stevenage, plus finish and run off Wales and Scotland. Father Michael was in the office working hard on copying text from a massive missal. I suggested he find it on-line and then cut and paste. We found it on-line but in PDF, so I took it home and converted it to a Word file. That's 1510 pages he can now play with.

There was no Peter tonight because a holiday in Spain was deemed to be more attractive, but there were also no Lichfield Mercury newspapers in the shops, so we had to cope with downloads from the internet, which made this an earlier evening than ever. I was home by 9pm.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Diary - Wednesday 21st September 2016

As Wednesdays go, this was big. My first task was to write the minutes from yesterday's SNA meeting. This normally takes about half an hour because I have it half written before we start, but this week there was so much discussion that had to be included that it was 10.15am before I'd finished.

I went straight to the Sorting Office to collect the returns, which take three and a half hours, on average, to process. This week was different because there were also 8 new media players to pack and despatch and it was 4pm before I finished.

That gave me time to clean the filter in the pool and remove half the growth that had started to overwhelm the fish just before the rain came. I then took everything to the studio and waited until I was sure that Peter had help with the reading and recording, and then it was home for an early night and ten hours sleep.

Maybe it's the sudden change in seasons and the sharp drop in temperature, but I don't normally get this tired until a Friday.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Holy Cross, Crediton

For a couple of years we produced a Talking Newspaper for the Devon town of Crediton. The local newspaper was always positive and upbeat and made it sound like a great place to live. So we made several trips down until we finally found willing local volunteers to take the TN off our hands.

One of the sights that always pleased as we drove into the town was the large parish church of Holy Cross. It became compulsory that we would stop and look a little bit deeper.

Crediton has been occupied for more than 1300 years. The decision to base a monastery at Crediton was made in 739. As the monastery grew and the area too it was decided that a cathedral would be in order. The fabled St Boniface was born very close to the site in 680 and he is remembered to this day.

However, a new bishop was not happy living in what he saw as a backwater, so he persuaded the king that the cathedral should be moved to Exeter, which it was.

A church was built by the Normans around 1130. This was originally called the church of St Mary, but when it was extended in 1230 it was renamed Holy Cross. It was further expanded during 1258 and 1280, and there have been other alterations along the way, but this lovely, imposing church is well patronised and is the centre of much that happens in the community.

Holy Cross Church, Crediton
EX17 2AQ

Diary - Tuesday 20th September 2016

This was a busy day.

I did as much paperwork as I could this morning. I'm downloading the news for Scotland and Wales every day to make Wednesday a little easier. Then the post came with news that the Lichfield Conduit Lands Trust is donating £2000 to the Talking News. All we need now is another £4000 and we're good for the next three months.

This afternoon it was the monthly meeting of the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance, and this was a lively affair.Having lost Steve Searle due to ill health we were in need of a new Vice-Chair, and we got one. There were lots of discussions about the way forward, and I ended up with a couple more jobs, but they should be easy enough to accommodate, if I structure my own life a bit differently.

Tonight we had a Meet the Lions meeting at Barton under Needwood. This followed the leaflet drop last week. Four interested people turned up, plus one curious one. As I said, four is a lot more than zero. Dave Pomroy made a cheque presentation to the junior rugby team, two people said they would come to the next meeting, and the other two said they will help our projects until they know a bit more about us.

Another satisfied customer

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Polzeath & St Enedoc Church

Polzeath is a popular village and beach on the north coast of Cornwall. It often benefits from the rollers coming in, to the delight of wind surfers and body-boarders. The area is a nature reserve and the discerning will see puffins and all manner of sea birds, plus dolphins often frolic within view. The cliffs and meadows around abound with wild flowers.


The cliffs offer good walking. Move along the estuary of the River Camel towards Rock, with its views of Padstow over the other side, and you will see the occasional fox as you enjoy the rugged coastline.


Keep going towards Daymer Bay and you will see the spire of St Enedoc Church jutting above the dunes. This quaint little church was constructed of rock rubble and slate sometime in the 12th century. Over time the prevailing wind created high sand dunes and for three hundred years the church lay half buried by sand, until it was cleared away about 150 years ago.


The Betjeman family were well acquainted with the church. There is a memorial inside the church to Ernest Edward Betjemen and his more famous son, the Poet Lauriette Sir John Betjement, is laid to rest in the small graveyard.

St Enedoc Church

Diary - Monday 19th September 2016

Well, I got that wrong. I thought the little bits that I'd left to finish the three funding application forms would only take minutes. First we had Lisa here to work her wonders on the various hair styles. She made me look presentable, Gill arrived, I fetched Rita round, and then spent the rest of the morning finishing off the applications.

It's a tough job begging for funds.

Pauline took Rita to the Knitting Club and I walked into town. First to buy stamps and post one of the applications. Next to the bank and then Anson's to deliver another of the forms and to leave a media player for a listener, next to Support Staffordshire to leave the third form, and then I bought gluten free flour on the way home so that I could make bread, which I promptly forgot to do.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Hopwas Woods

There was a time that Hopwas Wood was part of Cannock Chase. Now the shortest distance between the two magical woodlands is 16 miles - as the crows fly. It is also just four miles from the centre of Lichfield.


Hopwas Wood is bigger than it first appears because it sits back further than the roadside width. It is also largely unknown to many who have visited over the years because a large part was fenced off and entry was barred to all but the soldiers of the nearby Whittington Barracks. Now that the barracks have been converted to become the Medical Defence Centre, a mock village that could be stormed by armed forces is no longer required.


The woods were recognisable (though much, much bigger) back in the time of the Domesday Book. It has also been subject to wild rumours and unusual behaviour, by both man and beast. Back in 1984, eighteen stark naked Satanists were arrested in the woods.


In 1999, seven Limousin cattle escaped from a farm in the nearby hamlet of Hints. They drove deep into the wood and the army was called in. When news broke that four of the cattle had been shot there was uproar. The number of soldiers was increased and the survivors were rounded up.


Hopwas Woods is a lovely place for a quiet walk and a commune with nature. The western edge lies alongside Packington Porkers. Hundreds of free range pigs snort and scruffle up the fields. Thousands of birds have cottoned on and you will always see hundreds of rooks, starlings and gulls, plus at certain times of the year swarms of swallows swoop to grab the fleeing insects, or sit on telephone wires like notes in a major composition.

Hopwas Woods, Staffordshire

Diary - Sunday 18th September 2016

The forecasters said that rain was on the way. They never get it right, unless the forecast is gloomy, so the lawns were beckoning. Before that, however, was the urgent task of applying for funds.

Every request seems to take at least an hour. Some forms are lengthy and complex and you can set aside half a day. The three I tackled today took all morning, with just a few bits and bobs to add tomorrow.

Rita came for the day and Sue Whale dropped in for a late morning coffee. The poor woman is steeling herself to face a week in Edinburgh, 2 weeks in Bermuda and another week in Edinburgh. How trying!

I did do the lawns this afternoon and they were in fulsome need of a good trim. I did, however, completely forget that the pool needs attention, so that will have to wait for gaps in the showers.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Doctor Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson is arguably Lichfield's most famous son, though I consider Erasmus Darwin competes for the title most famous inhabitant.

If you only considered the tough circumstances of Johnson's life, you would conclude that it was unhappy and fraught. But that was not the case, despite many trials and tribulations, that started with his birth.

Johnson was born on the 18th September 1709 (Happy 307th birthday!) and was sickly from the start. His parents lived above their bookshop in Breadmarket Street (still there and open to visits). Although coming from fairly wealthy families, the Johnsons were poor at managing their finances, a trait that followed through Johnson for most of his life.

He contracted scrofula when very small and it affected him for the rest of his life. It left him scarred, afflicted, deaf in one ear and blind in one eye. He was a sickly child and spent much of his time sat on his mothers knee as she read to him from the Common Prayer Book. All of this tutoring and the heavy words sank in and Johnson started school at the age of four.

His mannerisms scared many people. He had tics (it is now believed he suffered from Tourette's Syndrome) but showed such early promise that he went to grammar school aged just seven. He excelled at Latin and this resulted in him going to the upper school at just nine.

The family continued to languish financially. Johnson was moved around the family and country trying to maintain his education, but he was forced back home and existed by stitching books in his father's shop. But he also devoured the books and his mind was full of thoughts and words.

At the age of 19 the family inherited enough money to send Johnson to Pembroke College, Oxford, but for only just over a year. Forced to leave Oxford because of mounting debts, the lack of a degree haunted him for the next twenty years or more. He was eventually granted an honorary degree, but not until 1755.

In 1735, at the age of 25, he married the widow of his close friend. 'Tetty' was 45 and had three children, and supported him until her own wealth ran out. The lack of a degree meant he was unable to gain occupation as a teacher and eventually he opened his own school - Edial Hall School - but it had only three pupils and closed after just one year.

One of the pupils was a young David Garrick, soon to become the most famous actor of his day. He persuaded Johnson to walk with him to London where relatives of Garrick offered them accommodation. Garrick continued his rise to stardom and Johnson began his literary career.

Despite his oddities (or maybe because of them) Johnson was an ever present at the dining tables of the rich and famous. His wit became legendary and the breadth of his knowledge was astounding. Tetty was able to join him in London, but they lived an insecure life. She sadly became ill, returned home and died in 1752.

Johnson was frequently in debt, but kept trying. He eventually completed his famed dictionary, but it was not until 1762 when he met the young King George III, who promptly provided him with a £300 a year pension, that he finally climbed out from under financial pressure.

In 1763 he met the 22 year old James Boswell in a bookshop. The two began a friendship that lasted thirty years, and Boswell's writings and accounts of their travels and convivialities is what has provided the world with most of what we know about Johnson.

Johnson often returned to Lichfield and loved the peace of the Market Place, despite the fact that so many people died at the stake within yards of his home. His statue depicts him sitting facing the house. Behind him (but facing away) is James Boswell. He often spoke of the humanity and the friendliness of the people of Lichfield (again forgetting those executions).

Samuel Johnson died on the 13th December 1784, in London.

Dr Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson birthplace

Diary - Saturday 17th September 2016

The temperature dropped ten degrees over night, but at least there was no rain. I got to my computer and found 46 e-mails that needed to be actioned. So that was my morning gone, but by lunchtime there were only three still to do.

This afternoon we walked into Lichfield and it was livelier than I've seen outside of the Christmas season. There is a Georgian Festival and the 300th anniversary of Doctor Johnson's birth (although it is 307 years since he arrived in Lichfield!). We went into his birthplace (I'll go back in the near future, when the crowds are lighter) and we listened to a brass band playing in the market square, and the Town Crier trying to teach others to be as loud as he is, all without success.

All in all this was a pleasant, laid back day. This coming week should give me the chance to clear everything that is wanting of attention.

Doctor Johnson's birthplace

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Most people who visit Woodstock don't see it. They are looking for Blenheim Palace so either take the east entrance from the Oxford Road or the north entrance down Park Street. But it is worth parking up for a few minutes and wandering around this village of 3,100 people.

Woodstock existed well before the Domesday Book, and got itself a mention. Although never a metropolis, Woodstock gained a Royal Charter from King Henry II and have held their market ever since.

Woodstock is divided by the River Glyme, which also cuts through the Blenheim estate. Those choosing the north gate of Blenheim will pass by the eye-catching Bear Hotel, which has been hosting visitors ever since the 13th century.

The Town Hall was built in 1766 and the Oxfordshire Museum is sometimes overlooked because it is opposite the Bear, but that only provides two more reasons to wander around and soak up the atmosphere of history and the Cotswolds.

The Bear Hotel

The Oxfordshire Museum

Woodstock Town Hall

Diary - Friday 16th September 2016

It must be an age thing because I feel quite lethargic on a Friday. We started early enough and I did shift some paperwork that had built up over the last two days, but there was no drive there.

We took the sacks to the Sorting Office and then went round to Rita to deliver her food and wine for the next week, then we did our own food shop for the next seven days, and that was the morning gone.

I went round to see a listener who said she was having problems with the media player. I've known this lady for about twenty years and she has always been bright and bubbly, even after she fell and damaged her spine. She moved into a bungalow to be safer and was really thrilled when I set her up with the Talking News.

We sat and chatted for quite a time and she was very sharp. But then I realised she was making an effort, outing on a show. The longer we sat the more words she forgot. She kept referring to a list of words that she had written down because they are the ones that elude her the most. I asked her if she wanted me to write all the instructions down for the TN, but she looked sad and said "I'd forget where I put them."

So we've put her on hold, but just in case she is underfeeding herself, I introduced her to Wiltshire Farm Foods. She's going to give that a try. A daily, affordable, wholesome meal might give her a bit of a boost.

Tonight was the Cannock Lions Charter Night at the Roman Way Hotel. This was a jolly, pleasant affair and we had good company on our table, except two people didn't turn up, and that meant Pauline had no one on her right. Still, I thought the banter around the table was lively and the meal that I had was very tasty, especially the Eton Mess.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Henley in Arden

Henley in Arden in Warwickshire is only seven miles north of Stratford upon Avon, so it was quite a jaunt to get there by horse and cart from Coleshill, but I quite remember going there in the late 1940s. 'Mister' always did his cattle buying at Lichfield market, and there was a cattle truck operator who would give us a lift the 15 miles north, but there was no-one who would take us south, and so the pony and trap came out, and off we trotted.

I don't remember too much about the market. I do know we didn't buy anything.

Henley in Arden doesn't have the warmth of the Cotswolds, but it has different attractions that make it a very popular town to visit. The main street is always busy and bustling and you would be forgiven for estimating the population to be many times the 3,000 that it actually is.

The main street is a mile long and contains more than 150 buildings that have been classified as being of Special Architectural Interest. The origins of the town can certainly be traced back as far as 730 when 2000 acres were gifted to Earl Aethelric, a Saxon noble. The next noted owner was Hughes II of Montfort who fought alongside William the Conqueror, and Henley (or more specifically Beaudesert) was his reward.

To the young the main attraction of Henley in Arden is its famous ice cream, but wherever you look you can find something of interest or intrigue.

Henley in Arden

The Guild Hall

Thomas Hardy House

The market cross

Diary - Thursday 15th September 2016

Lately my Wednesday has become harder than a Thursday, but not this week.

I started as soon as I could and recorded the Stevenage Talking News, with the masters in my pocket before lunchtime. Then I took three ladies to the Live at Home Scheme. One of them is badly afflicted with dementia and I have to watch her every step, otherwise she goes walk about. Sadly (and gladly) she still knows that she is getting things wrong and has the ability to make a joke about it.

I went to the studio this afternoon and did the Welsh, Scottish and Stevenage duplications. I knew we were a couple of readers down tonight, but we coped on that score, but Ben didn't turn up. When I know he isn't coming I can make life easier by handling the Lichfield returns on a Wednesday. I'd promised the church that I would fold 800 inserts to the hymn books by the end of tonight, so Ben not being there meant the pressure was on for the whole day.

So I wasn't late in going to bed.

Poor Daisy got stung by a wasp at 5am this morning. Sheri says she has been very brave, made no fuss and just wants to go to school. Good girl!


Thursday, 15 September 2016

Long Compton

Our journey down to Blenheim via the A3400 took us through Henley in Arden and Woodstock, but the place that caught my eye was Long Compton. Although I was a frequent visitor to Oxford, Banbury and the Cotswolds, I always tended to use the A429, so had never passed through this chocolate box village.

There was a settlement on the site at least 1600 years ago and there is a record of the 5th century church, but the current church of St Peter & St Paul was built in the 13th century, with extensions and alterations every hundred years or so.

Further evidence of even older habitants can be found just one mile away in the form of the Rollright Stones, which have been dated as being at least 2000 years old.

Although still in Warwickshire (just) the village is clearly part of the Cotswolds. There is a belt of limestone that stretches from South Gloucestershire right up through Northamptonshire and finishing in north Cambridgeshire. All along that route there are beautiful limestone house and cottages, but in the Cotswolds the limestone is more honey coloured, and this adds joy to a sunny day because then even the most run down hovel looks mouth watering.

St Peter & St Paul and lych gate

Long Compton

Rollright Stones