Sunday, 28 August 2016

Meandering along the Mawddach

It was a lovely morning and the forecast was hot and sunny, just right for paddling in the sea so off we went.

After a stop for coffee in Dolgellau we parked near the beach in Fairbourne and decided we’d walk along the Mawddach trail first.

8 miles long the trail follows the river Mawddach from Dolgellau to Morfa Mawddach, the path also links to the railway toll bridge across the estuary to Barmouth. 

The Mawddach Trail is a hiking/cycling/multi-use trail that follows the path of the Old Great Western Railway and was one of the casualties of Dr Beeching when his report caused thousands of railway lines to be axed in 1964. 

Looking across to the river and the mountains of Snowdonia.

The railway was built in 1864 and carried Victorian visitors from North West England to the fashionable seaside resort of Barmouth.

For a short time the railway also carried slate from a quarry at nearby Arthog. 

This was our view as we walked onto the bridge across the river.

Partway across the bridge.   It was very windy and as we reached the middle I had to hold onto my hat to stop it blowing away.

Beautiful views of Snowdonia as we looked back upriver.

Our plan had been to have coffee in Barmouth, well that was the plan, but on a hot sunny day in August, the little town was absolutely packed.

As there seemed to be very little chance of us finding a seat anywhere we took the ferry back to the much quieter Fairbourne side of the river.

The railway toll bridge and mountains from the ferry

The ferry runs until early evening and costs £2.00 each per trip, we followed the signs as its location moves with the height of the tide.

Back on the Fairbourne side, we watched a train trundle across the bridge on its way along the coast.

The Fairbourne Narrow Gauge Steam Railway  as it left the Ferry terminus.

Viewed from the train, you can, possibly, just about see the trail we followed from Fairbourne to meet the Mawddach Trail.

Back at the station we finally got our much delayed, and by now much needed, coffee and watched as passengers filled the train as it once again set off for the ferry terminal.
 After coffee it was time for the beach and after scrambling over the pebble ridge, we paddled along in the sea, ah bliss!

It’s a wide sandy blue flag beach, and even on this gorgeous sunny day there was plenty of room, the crowds were all in Barmouth.

We also discovered a car park with much easier beach access, so that’s the one we’ll use next time.

On the way home, we sat on the terrace at The Grouse in Carrog and enjoyed the view while having dinner and a pint.

We probably only walked a few miles, before paddling along the beach, but it was an absolutely perfect day for meandering. 

Have fun, we are!

Following another brown sign

On another lovely day I took myself off to explore the remains of Haughmond Abbey, which was founded in 1135.

It’s not far from Shrewsbury and I followed another brown sign.    Unfortunately due to an overhanging tree, I didn’t see the entrance until I’d driven past and ended up in Abby Wood oops!
After a quick turn-around I found the car park and was actually the first visitor that morning.

In the Abbots hall and private withdrawing room, there are some beautiful carvings.

These are on the inside of the windows in the Abbots withdrawing room.

 Medieval floor tiles.

The powerful FitzAlan family, Lords of Oswestry and Clun, were the Abbey patrons and over the next few centuries their growing influence and royal connections meant the Abbey received generous gifts and endowments.

The remains of the Abbey kitchens with their two huge fireplaces, I could easily stand in them, even as ruins it was a long way up!

 The Chapter House.

Inside the Chapter House, the canons met here daily to discuss Abbey business.

 Carved representations of St Augustine, St Thomas Beckett, St Catherine, St John the Evangelist, St John the Baptist, St Margaret of Antioch and St Winifred are depicted around the arches of the Chapter House.

I’m not sure which saints are in the photograph below.

Only the foundations remain of the Abbey church.

A cresset stone is a type of light; hollows in the stone were filled with either oil or tallow and contained a wick.   As they were very difficult to overturn they could be safely be left burning when the canons attended night services in the church.

In 1593 after the Dissolution, the Abbots Lodging became a fine residence.   After a fire in the 1640’s the buildings were rented out as a farm.

By the middle of the 18th century the abbey was incorporated into the Sundorne Estate and the ruins became the centrepiece of a romantic landscaped park.

English Heritage took over the care of the Abbey in 1984.

Have fun, we are!

A castle and a ghost

On our travels we’ve often driven past a brown sign pointing to Moreton Corbet Castle and always said, one of these days we’ll visit.   Well, we finally made it.

Following the sign a short drive down a couple of country lanes we soon arrived at the castle, it’s a beautiful spot on a hot sunny afternoon.

A small fortified house was built by the Torets, a family of Saxon descent, not long after the Norman conquest in 1066 in what was then known as Moreton Toret.

By 1239 the site had passed to the Corbet family through marriage and a stone castle was built along the traditional lines of other fortified residences in what were then the lawless Welsh Marches.

Sir Robert Corbet inherited the castle in 1578 and after his extensive travels abroad, immediately started alterations.   The new addition consisted of huge grid windows, lots of classical details and tall gables partially concealing a high pitched slate roof.

A great chamber and long gallery overlooked a garden with formal walks, a central sundial and a nearby orchard.   Parts of the garden are still faintly visible in a nearby field, but we couldn’t see them.

This bed, (photograph from an onsite informational board) currently in Shrewsbury museum, was made for the Corbet family in the 1590’s.   After extensive research a project supported by 200 volunteers helped to recreate the silk velvet curtains and bed covers.   I wonder just how comfortable it is?

After Sir Robert died of the plague in 1583 he was succeeded by Sir Vincent Corbet who continued the alterations.

 During the Civil War Sir Vincent, who was a Royalist supporting Charles I, fortified the house, garrisoning it with a force of 110 men.  Despite this 10 Parliamentarians tricked the garrison into surrendering during in minor skirmish in the middle of the night.

When the Parliamentarians left they burned the castle down and it has been uninhabited ever since.   Well that’s the official version, but…….

according to legend the castle is haunted.

The story goes that despite being a Royalist, Sir Vincent had a softer side and took in Paul Holmyard a Puritan neighbour.   Holmyard became more and more fanatical, in the end as Holmyard was endangering everyone with his ranting and raving, Sir Vincent asked him to leave.

After surviving by scavenging in the woods for a while, Holmyard returned to the castle and cursed the Corbets, saying that the house would never be completed and never be lived in.

Sir Vincent and his son Andrew were so afraid of the curse that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy as they never lived there.

So, according to legend, on clear moonlit nights the bedraggled figure of Paul Holmyard can be seen stalking the shadows, surveying the empty walls and rooms of the castle making sure that nothing is being built.

If you want to go and check it out one dark and lonely moonlit night, feel free to do so, but remember, if you bump into something or someone, it definitely won’t be me!

Right by the castle is the lovely church of St Bartholmew used by the Corbet family.

A tomb in the churchyard shows the elephant and castle which is the emblem of the Corbet family.

Below is the chest tomb of Sir Richard Corbet, who died in 1566, and his wife Margaret.  Although I’m pretty sure that the tomb didn’t have a central heating pipe round the bottom when it was built.

One of several beautiful stained glass windows in the church.

The cenotaph and castle.

Today the Corbet family still own the castle, but the site is administered by English Heritage.

We really enjoyed our visit to Moreton Corbet Castle and are so glad we finally followed that brown sign.

Have fun, we are!

A National Trust Day Out

Attingham Park is a National Trust property not far from Shrewsbury and was once home to the Hill family who became the Lords Berwick.

The family made their money through politics, land, money-lending and mining; unfortunately although they made plenty of money they weren’t very good at hanging on to it.

It was already quite busy when I arrived so I decided I’d forgo coffee in the stable yard and look around the house while it was quiet.  I made a good decision.

As I walked towards the house a re-enactor playing Thomas, the 2nd Lord Berwick welcomed me to his home and proceeded to tell me something about the house and family.
Including how in 1812, at the age of 41, against all the advice of family and friends, he fell in love with and married a 17 year old courtesan called Sophia, a sister of the notorious Regency courtesan, Harriette Wilson.

Extravagantly showering Sophia with jewels, carriages, gowns and goodness know what else, meant that by 1827 Lord Berwick was almost broke.   In order to satisfy his creditors he had to sell most of the contents of the houses creditors and was forced to live on the continent.   He played the part of the 2nd Lord Berwick very well.

Near the rivers Tern and Severn, the manor of Attingham or Atcham which is mentioned in the Domesday Book, (Saxon in origin the name means ‘dwelling of the people of St. Eata’) was bought by Richard Hill in 1700.   The original house, the outline of which can still be seen in the courtyard, was called Tern Hall.

 The Salon

At the time of the building the present house, 1785, Noel who was created Baron Berwick in 1784, removed the medieval village of Berwick Maviston.

The Sultana Room

After taking the European Tour, his son Thomas, the 2nd Lord Berwick built a picture gallery to house paintings bought on his ‘Grand Tour’ and also brought in John Nash who provided architectural details and Humphrey Repton to improve the park. 

I thought the grounds looked like a ‘Capability Brown’ style park, but, according to my re-enactor friend, Repton could make 300 acres look like 3,000 acres whereas Brown actually required you to have 3,000 acres.

This lovely sofa in the picture gallery is in need of restoration, which I’m almost certain that the room guide said  would cost in the region of £60,000.00.

The Dining room was laid out for an ambassadorial dinner, very Jane Austen, I almost expected Mr Darcy to walk in at any moment.

The room was very dark, but the room guide explained that this is how it would’ve been lit at the time and would’ve been classed as an extremely well lit room.

Something I’d never thought about before, although as a small child growing up on a farm we had oil lamps which probably gave a little more light than candles, but I’d obviously forgotten just how dark rooms were before electric lighting. 

The servants hall.

 At each chair a plate gave details the name of the servant, their responsibilities and how much they earned, which in the case of the Butler was £52.10s (£52.50p) a year.  

It’s a lovely house, but of course by this time I was in desperate need of a coffee, so adjourned to the gorgeous Lady Berwick’s Drawing room.   Despite being a beautiful room, there is no lighting and no heating, so no wonder, even in the summer it closes in the early afternoon.  

 Afterwards I strolled down to the Deer Park, luckily for me the fallow deer were close to the entrance

On the way to the walled gardens I had a lovely view of the house, and luckily despite the stormy skies it never did rain.

The produce from the walled gardens is either used in the restaurants/cafes or sold. 

Originally inside the walled gardens, one of only two known Regency bee houses left in existence the country is now just outside the walls.   The designer of the house isn’t known, but it could’ve been John Nash or Humphrey Repton. 

Flowers and vegetables filled the walled gardens. 

The glasshouses, these reminded me of a much smaller version some Uncles of mine had when I was a small child.

Despite all its problems the house remained in the family until 1947 when after the death of the 8th Lord Berwick the house was bequeathed to the National Trust. 

It’s a lovely place, one of the room guides told me it’s beautifully decorated at Christmas, so I might just go back and have a look. 

Have fun, we are!