Catching up on some jolly days out

Well, I’ve had some jolly days out in recent months. However, events have got in the way of me updating this jolly little space on the interwebs.

Worcester – 25 October 2018

Medieval floor tiles at Worcester Cathedral 25 October 2018

Liz and I had a lovely day out to Worcester in chilly weather but with bright sunshine.

Our first stop was to a medical museum based at the hospital in Worcester. Well, we are both retired science teachers! Neither of us took any photos there, but it was an interesting little exhibition with many comments such as ‘They did WHAT with that?’ and ‘How on earth did that fit there?’. Some of the history was very gruesome, and some very sad indeed, particularly around child mortality and so on. The one thing that I think I found the weirdest though were the death masks of prisoners hung at Worcester Gaol.

A long leisurely lunch was had in the Cathedral Cafe, which isn’t in the Cathedral itself but is at 7 Severn Street. The surrounds were lovely and calm and the food was nice too, as were the staff.

Then we just had enough time for a whistle stop look at the Cathedral itself before the parking ticket ran out.

Liz hugging the Romanesque door into the Cathedral

I loved the Cathedral very much. But then I tend to do so with most old ecclesiastical buildings. Lots to look at here, lots of effigies and little side chapels to investigate, and the tomb of a King of England – the infamous King John, Google just told me.

We also crept down to the crypt. Well, not so much crept as made a noisy entrance. I don’t think creeping is something Liz or I do. The crypt is the only part of the Anglo-Saxon cathedral remaining.

It’s definitely a cathedral on my ‘must return to with sketchbook’ list sometime in the future!

I know we drove home via Hereford and then wended our way past the Malverns and on to the Honey Cafe in Bronllys where we stopped for a break. Then, it was back along the lower edge of the Brecon Beacons and we reached this point on our journey just as the sun was turning the grey skies gloriously smoky shades of red. This light was just catching the tops of the mountains and setting them afire. A beautiful autumnal evening journey home.

St Mary’s Kempley – 8 November 2018

Medieval Wall Painting at St Mary’s Kempley

This was a crazy kind of day. First, finding somewhere for my first breakfast and Liz’s second breakfast in the Wye Valley was bonkers. We ended up backtracking to Tintern and having something in the White Monks Tea Room. White Monks because it’s next door to Tintern Abbey and that was a Cistercian abbey until Henry VIII dissolved the abbeys. The Cistercians wore white habits, hence white monks! Once refreshed we decided to head up to Kempley to visit St Mary’s Church.

I’d been there once in gold spring a decade or more before. Kempley is in the Golden Valley and when I first visited the grounds were covered with daffodils, jonquils and narcissi, painting the ground in glorious shades of gold. Not a hint of them in November, however.

We stopped at a curious looking church on our way into Kempley –The Church of St Edward the Confessor. This church was described by Sir John Betjeman as ‘a mini cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement’. It’s pretty, and we both had a good mooch around, but then it was on to St Mary’s.

Medieval wall painting at St Mary’s Kempley

St Mary’s is a Grade 1 listed building and is said to have the most complete set of Romanesque frescoes in N Europe. It is a simple Norman church – Romanesque, which is my favourite kind of church architecture.

It was like visiting an old friend and it brought back fond memories of a couple of peaceful hours sitting and drawing while I was doing my A level art over 10 years ago now.

Liz was suitably impressed with it too.

Another medieval wall painting at St Mary’s Kempley

The inside of the church was colder than outside, so we didn’t linger long and were glad to be back in the car which warmed up quickly.

Our journey again took us back towards Hereford and then the Honey Cafe at Bronllys for a pit stop, before driving back in the dark of late autumn.

Aberglasney Gardens – sometime in December 2018

We chose a very, very wild and rainy day to visit Aberglasney for lunch! We broke our journey in Dunvant for a late morning drink and snack. It was raining fair fierce then, but by the time we got to Aberglasney it was an absolute deluge!

We sheltered in the cafe there and had a lovely long and leisurely lunch while the rain passed over, and then we took a little stroll around the gardens and into the orchid ‘house’ before a good browse around the shop and a drive home through country lanes and lots of different terrain – rolling hills, highland marshes/bogs and the mountains of the Brecon Beacons. We passed through Myddfai, somewhere I wanted to visit since reading the books of the Physicians of Myddfai a long time ago. They were medieval doctors to a King of Wales. Then we headed towards Llanddeusant, Trecastle, Sennybridge and home.

Along the homeward bound journey we saw loads of buzzards and more than a couple of red kites. These birds always fill us with a sense of awe, especially when they choose to glide down low above the car as we pass by.

We were home not long before dusk, not tarrying on the way back.

RSPB Newport Wetlands – 25 January 2019

RSPB Newport Wetlands

Today, I had a little trip out by myself. Yesterday I’d had quite an emotionally draining day after giving an anti-stigma talk as a Champion for Time to Change Wales to a group of police officers from the South Wales Police.

I woke up still headachy and tired and by mid morning I knew I needed some fresh air, a walk and a change of scenery and the one place on my mind was the RSPB Newport Wetlands.

I’ve visited here a number of times before, but not for a couple of years. As it’s familiar to me, I knew I’d have no problem actually getting out and taking a walk there.

It’s been such a mild day, temperature wise. The sun was out and though I was carrying a coat I didn’t even put it on once!

Yes, the sun was out, but the skies were also filled with bands of leaden, dark clouds. When the sun struck the tall, sere marsh grasses they positively glowed against the sky! Very dramatic, even for someone who’s not a photographer, like me.

It was lovely to just walk in the fresh air. There was a constant background low drone with clanks and clangs of industry, but overlaying this were the pleading cries of gulls, the raucous caws of members of the corvid family, and the noisy tweets and whistles of the little songbirds gathered in large numbers in hedges. There was also the rustle of dry leaves in the breeze.

Lots of things caught my eye on my walk and photographs were taken as references for later on. One thing I do want to do this evening, while the colours are fresh in my mind, is to create a color palette, or a series of colour palettes, for the different things I saw, particularly the dramatic colour combinations.

I enjoyed watching mallards and coots bobbing in the water. I think I also saw a heron, though it could’ve been a stork, at the end of the pond you can see from the cafe at the visitor’s centre.

Yes, I had a lovely mug of tea and a nice open sandwich there, writing up my thoughts in my journal and watching the ducks go by!

Looking towards Nash Lighthouse

I didn’t walk towards the lighthouse at Nash this time; there are plenty of little walks for me to explore here, and no doubt I’ll settle on my favourite ones. I expect they’ll change as the seasons change too. I think my next visit there will be a walk to the Lighthouse though, and a look down to the shores of the Severn Estuary. Not far from there is Goldcliff where footprints of prehistoric (mesolithic) humans have been found preserved in the mud.

Fungi festooned log

I like nature in winter – it has an architectural quality. It’s the time of year when I can see the underlying structure of the world without leaves and so on in the way. I get to see things that usually lie hidden, and that includes colours and textures.

Despite it still being very much winter, even though today was a mild 13ºC, there’s still signs of spring ready to wake the world up. There’s still signs of life continuing.

Final words … for now

I don’t think I’ve covered all the little trips out in the past few months, but I have covered the ones of some interest. I do know these won’t be my last, that’s for sure. As the days lengthen and grow warmer then the desire to venture forth tends to grow too. Today was one of those days, bright with the promise of spring and the warmer days to come.

To Hay (on Wye) and back again

Angela Hay on Wye 11 Oct 2018
Market place, Hay on Wye

Today, I took a little jaunt to Hay on Wye.

I wanted to drive through the Brecon Beacons as summer turns to autumn. I needed to visit Bartrum’s, the stationers in Hay on Wye and to have a bit of a walk around.

Typically, after a couple of days of gloriously sunny autumn days, I decide to go on a wander on a day where the skies were leaden and rain was threatening.

However, the sullen grey backdrop of the sky helped the autumnal colours to shine against it, especially on the way home. The colours of nature had changed with the rain. Reds were clearly apparent in the brown reeds at the foot of the mountains. Water darkened the bark on the trees so the glorious colours of autumn seemed more vibrant. Wet foliage always seems brighter in colour.

I cursed myself for not being able to take photos as I drive, and there was nowhere to stop safely so I could take quick snaps of the glories of autumn.

I travelled the A470 between Merthyr and Pontypridd on Tuesday, and the change in colours of the trees and the land was noticeable indeed.

More trees seemed to be crowned with their autumn gold. There are more fiery flashes of trees resplendent in their autumn finery. The brown bracken and reeds on the hills had more red, magenta and purple tinges to it than just a few days before.

I felt quite sad that some trees have already lost their leaves, missing out on joining in the great, colourful celebration of the turning of the seasons and another productive year.

There’s more changes to come and I hope I’ll find the courage to visit Westonbirt Arboretum this year to wander through the woods in their autumn beauty.

I also enjoyed seeing the clouds forming mantles around the heads of the mountains of the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains. There’s something mystical, secretive about it, and a lot of power in the strong winds today and the eddying and swirling in the low clouds was particularly visible today.

One particular highlight of the day was when a red kite swooped in front of my car, turned and returned in the direction it had come from. Seeing them close up always takes my breath away!

When I got to Hay, I popped quickly into Satori to have a look at their pretties (crystals, jewellery) and did pick up a piece of hypersthene to add to my collection.

Angela Porter Lunch Hay on Wye 11 Oct 2018
Oscar’s Bistro, Hay on Wye

My next stop was Bartrum’s for a look around. I do have a bit of a thing for stationery. I did restrain myself from visiting the downstairs area of the shop where they have soooooooooo many beautiful fountain pens. I did have a good look around the upstairs section where there are pens and pencils, notebooks and sketchbooks. They have a huge selection of Moleskine and Leuchturrm notebooks, as well as other brands, along with all kinds of other stationery supplies. They do have a small selection of sketchbooks and I picked up a 25cm x 25cm Blue Acorn sketchbook (I’d forgotten to pack a sketchbook to take with me).

After that, it was time for lunch and I thought I’d revisit Oscar’s Bistro.

Liz and I went there before our trip oop t’Dales and we had a pleasant lunch in nice surroundings.

Today, I had a big pot of tea all to myself and for lunch I ordered a veggie burger with cheese and some chips. I forgot to ask them to leave out the bread bun, which I left anyways (my preference, I’m sometimes not in the mood for bread). The veggie burger was delicious. They make them themselves and I could detect mashed swede, parsnip, leek, onions carrots in my burger. They were beautifully seasoned and not at all bland, unlike so many commercial vegetable burgers.

The chips were lovely; hand-cut, still had the skin on (which I like), and golden and crisp, freshly cooked.

I did say that I would’ve been more than happy with two veggie burgers (no bun) a scattering of chips and some salad.

The time I was there with Liz, I had a vegetable curry and it was delicious too. A little spicy heat but not so much that you couldn’t taste the other spices or the veggies.

It really is a lovely little place!

I sat there and made some notes about my thoughts on my drive there and started drawing my illustration for Inktober 2018 day 12 (the prompt is ‘whale’) in the sketchbook I’d bought in Bartrum’s. Well, I mean, you just gotta try out a new sketchbook!

Once I’d finished my pot of tea (which was also lovely and much needed), I planned on a wander around Hay, but as I took the quick pic of Oscar’s it started to rain, and the heaven’s opened as I took a pic of the market.

On my way back to the car I stumbled upon a little shop called The Thoughtful Gardener and I just had to have a wander.

As well as pretty flower pots and cards and so on, they had a range of soap, scented candles, room fragrances and skin creams made by themselves.

I had a sniff of some of the soaps and creams and ended up with a pot of Wild Mint balm which is deliciously minty and the tiniest bit softens/smooths the skin. I’ve tried it on the touch of very dry skin I have on my forehead to see if it’ll help. I couldn’t resist some soap ‘flavoured’ with patchouli, and delicately done too.

I’ll certainly be visiting The Thoughtful Gardener again!

I had thought to wend my way towards Hereford, maybe visit Kilpeck before returning home, but the dark, dark glowering clouds suggested I should think otherwise. So, I made my way back home, driving through strong winds, heavy rain and the start of the rush hour traffic!

Oh, strong winds – that reminds me, flurries of autumn leaves were fun to drive through! Far nicer than snow as far as I’m concerned.