Posts Tagged ‘stone walls’

Redhouse Castle, walls and daffodils, and honeywort

April 11, 2017

Sometimes you get to places by accident. Recently, we were visiting the Carol Barrett exhibition and there was a huge queue of traffic going into Aberlady (good photos), we headed west, through Longniddry  and ended up at Redhouse Castle (good photos). There is a new garden centre next to the ruin of the castle, which is a late 16th century building originally standing 4 storeys high. The first photo shows the ruin from the edge of the garden centre. It is perhaps not one of the most attractive castles which have survived but, given the technology available in the late 16th century, it is an impressive site.

IMG_1360

Redhouse Castle., East Lothian (Click to enlarge)

The 2nd photo shows the arched entrance into what would once have been an impressive courtyard of the Douglas family who built the original castle. It was acquired by the Laings (good photos) in 1607.

IMG_1365

Entrance to Redhouse Castle, East Lothian

The final photo is a close up of the doorway into the castle. Above the wooden door, on the pediment, can be seen the Laing family coat of arms and the initials MIL for Master John (Ioannes) Laing and RD for his wife Rebecca Dennistoun or Deenistoun. The motto on the lintel is Nisi Dominus Frustra – one translation being without the Lord, all is in vain, although like many Latin mottos, other translations exist. The stonework around the doorways is smooth, unlike the rougher – but more attractive, sandstone of the building itself.

IMG_1363

Doorway into Redhouse Castle, with the Laing family arms

On to stonework which is on a much lesser scale but, as I built most of it myself, remains attractive and has been enhanced by the array of daffodils now in flower above the walls. The first photo is of the first wall which I built with much advice and help from former stonemason Ian Sammels. This remains – unsurprisingly – the most impressive wall.

IMG_1386

The Sammels/Herring all and Spring flowers

The 2nd photo is of the latest – and final(?) stonewall, which I built myself. The mixture of daffodil types – white or yellow petalled – with the different shades of red sandstone, plus the shadows of the bushes behind, make this – I think – a well composed photos.

IMG_1390

The Herring wall with a variety of daffodils

A new plant in my garden is honeywort, given to me by my lifelong friend and fellow blogger Tam Bruce and his wife Sandra. Tam gave me two cuttings from their impressive garden in Edinburgh. This plant, shown below, has the wonderful name of Cerinthe major “Purpurascens”. It is a long established plant which attracts bees – thus its name – and one source quotes Virgil as ” using this plant as an offering to swarming bees in order to entice them into a new hive”.  As the photo shows, the plant has very colourful  tubular bell flowers, and at the moment, the leaves are starting to change colour and will develop into brilliant blue leaves or, more precisely, bracts which are defined as “leaf like structures”. So there is more to come from this plant, which seeds itself vigorously and has to be controlled. Tam and I had some fun in email exchanges, suggesting a modern update of the Beatles’ song Honey Pie, with a new line of “Honeywort, you are driving me crazy..”. I like the shadow of the plant against the stone and its intriguing shapes.

IMG_1391

Honeywort in my garden

 

Advertisements

New wall, digging find and autumn flowers

October 10, 2015

I’ve just finished building a new stone wall. There’s quite a lot of tension involved in an amateur like me attempting to produce a finished wall that looks as if it might have been built by an expert i.e. to the untrained eye. Are there enough stones that are large enough to catch the eye. Are the different colours in the sandstone well distributed across the wall? Is there a good contrast between the rougher and the smoother stones? Is the pointing done well enough? From a personal point of view, the builder himself/herself has to be pleased with the outcome, according to my expert tutor and former qualified stonemason Ian and, while I can see faults in the wall, I’m pretty pleased with it. Robert Frost wrote “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, / That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,/ And spills the upper boulders in the sun,/ And makes gaps even two can pass abreast” in Mending Wall. The poem’s narrator and neighbour set about mending the wall and he sees his neighbour “Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top / In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed”. The stone for my wall came from a local house where, possibly 100 years ago, a man from Dunbar built the wall. Now another man from Dunbar has built a new wall from the same stone.

New stone wall

New stone wall

Behind the new stone wall – on the right of the picture above – I’m digging a new patch to extend my vegetable garden. Digging this part was at times easy – as the spade cut through the soil which was newly wettened by the previous day’s downpour. At other times, I hit solid clay and occasionally my spade hit a largish stone and sent a shivering pain through my arm. One of my favourite Seamus Heaney poems is called Digging and in the poem, Heaney recalls his father digging potatoes 20 years ago ” The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft/ Against the inside knee was levered firmly./ He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep/ To scatter new potatoes that we picked,/ Loving their cool hardness in our hands”. This fairly simple task is enhanced by Heaney’s words – “coarse boot” “bright deep edge” and “cool hardness”. I’m going to plant potatoes in this patch next year and will recall Heaney’s words when I dig them up. Near the end of the digging, I unearthed a coin and it turned out to be an old penny, indeed a penny from 1916. In the photos below (a clearer picture here) you see the inscription GEORGIVUS V DEI GRA BRETT OMN REX FID DEF IND EMP. In the full Latin, this is “Georgius V Dei gratia Britanniarum omnium rex, fidei defensor, India imperator” which translates as ” George the Fifth by the grace of God King of all the British, defender of faith and emperor of India” – so a modest chap was our George. On the reverse is Britannia – a female figure representing the Roman name for the area no known as the British Isles. This military looking figure suggests clearly that the British Empire is strong.

1916 penny

1916 penny

1916 penny

1916 penny

It’s clearly autumn now, with the leaves on the trees giving a final show of golden opulence before careering down to the ground. It’s also dark by 7pm. In my garden, there is decadence in the bushy lobelia and the sword lilies’ heads have shrunk. Some of the geraniums have kept their vibrant colours while other have rotted. There is still much to see as in the photos below. The sedum is at its flowering peak, the fuchsia are still producing delicate and intricate heads and the Indian summer has produced new roses. New in the garden are the cyclamen which will last over the winter and well into spring.

Sedum at its peak

Sedum at its peak

Autumnal fuchsia head

Autumnal fuchsia head

October rose

October rose

Newly planted cyclamen

Newly planted cyclamen

Stones and flowers; stones and flowers

April 24, 2015

In January, I found 2 boxes of daffodil bulbs on a garage shelf – I’d forgotten that they were there but I planted them even at this late stage. They have flowered very well and I noticed the other day that they showed off the stone wall (built with the excellent tuition and proper stonemason tools of Ian Sammels) to very good effect. That it was a warm and sunny spring day helped to enhance this photo.

Stone walls and daffodils

Stone walls and daffodils

There was more sandstone on view, this time in a natural setting, on our walk from Tyninghame Links to Ravensheugh Sands (good photo) which is often referred to as Tyninghame Beach by locals. The nearby hamlet of Tyninghame (pr Tinning him) has an excellent coffee shop. There was a strongish NE wind, so we set off into the wind to the small stretch of beach at the end of the woods. I’ve written about this here before, not least Chris Rose’s wonderful painting of dunlin. The painting’s depiction of the rocks in the sun is stunning and the photo below shows some of the other sandstone rocks near the exposed roots of a tree. The 2nd photo shows stratified rock and I liked the combination of the swirling curves of the rock, the seaweed’s greens and the sea’s sun generated blue.

Sandstone rocks at Tyninghame Beach

Sandstone rocks at Tyninghame Beach

Stratified rock at Tyninghame Beach

Stratified rock at Tyninghame Beach

At the end of the walk, there was a pleasant surprise as we came across a large bed of wild primroses, with not just the normal yellow flowers but also some with delicate purple flowers (see photos below). The poet Wordsworth wrote “Primroses, the Spring may love them; Summer knows but little of them” but come the summer, this patch of forest will be a very plain green again.

Purple primroses in Tyninghame Woods

Purple primroses in Tyninghame Woods

Yellow primroses in Tyninghame Woods

Yellow primroses in Tyninghame Woods

Edmundbyers, stone walls and Barter’s Books

March 30, 2015

A bit late with this blog post as we have family here from Dubai. Two weeks ago, we went to the north of England to catch up with a couple we  first met in Wagga Wagga, as they both went to Wagga Wagga Road Runners. They had a cottage in the County Durham village of Edmundbyers. The village is set in beautiful countryside and the Derwent Water is nearby. It’s a great place for running, walking and cycling and we had an enjoyable walk up Muggleswick Common, from which you get a grand view across the rolling hills, down to the village and across to the Derwent Water. One of the fabulous features of this part of the country is the dry stone walls, which were built to separate land and to keep sheep enclosed. Many visitors to the north of England are amazed by the length, width and depth of these walls, and today there does not seem a particular reason for having such extensive walls, which would cost a fortune to build today. One of the answers to this is that, when the walls were constructed by the stonemasons, probably in the 18th and 19th centuries, both the materials for the walls – slate stone around here – and labour were cheap and plentiful. If you look closely at the walls, you can see how intricately built they are, with two outside layers of smooth stone and rougher stone in the middle. Building these walls is an art as well as a craft. The photos below show the village of Edmundbyers, some of the stone walls and fishermen sheltering from a very cold wind on our walk at the Derwent Water.

Edmundbyers, County Durham

Edmundbyers, County Durham

Dry stone wall

Dry stone wall

Derwent Water

Derwent Water

Within the village of Edmundbyers, we visited the 12th century church and, passing one of the houses, I noticed a plaque on the walls which read Cross Peels (photo below). I looked this up and peels, which look like oars on this plaque, are tools used by bakers to put bread into and take bread out of an oven.

Cross Peels

Cross Peels

On our way back to Dunbar, we stopped in the historic town of Alnwick, very well known for its castle and extensive gardens (good photos). We have visited these sites before and if you are in the area, they are certainly worth going to. On this visit to Alnwick, we went to Barter’s Bookshop (interesting video on this site), which is housed in the old railway station. There is a café next to the bookshop and it serves meals, coffees, teas and cakes in the old waiting rooms, including a ladies’ waiting room and first, second and third class waiting rooms. It’s likely that those who used the first class waiting room would be appalled that the hoi polloi can now use the same room. The bookshop has a wide range of second-hand books, some of which are valuable and at the entrance, there is a model railway which winds it way along the tracks above the customers’ heads. The photos show the main bookshop and the railway.

Barter's Books, Alnwick

Barter’s Books, Alnwick

Model railway in Barter's Books

Model railway in Barter’s Books

Atocha Station, visit to Toledo and walk up Lammer Law

October 23, 2014

Two different countries and two different experiences this week. When my pal Roger and I were in Madrid, we took the advice given to us by many people to catch the train to Toledo. We travelled from the architecturally striking Atocha Station. This is not your ordinary railway station, as the exterior (photo below) is made of steel and glass, and the curved roof is also of glass. As you walk into the station, you pass the extensive botanic garden, which gives a freshness to the environment. At the end of the a garden is a pond, where we saw goldfish in the water and lots of small turtles wither swimming or lying on the rocks.

Atocha Station, Madrid

Atocha Station, Madrid

The train was full – a good piece of advice is, if going to Toledo, always to book the day before via the ticket machine – and very comfortable. On reaching Toledo, you have the option of a 6 Euro taxi ride or a 1.50 Euro bus ride or a mile/1.62k steep walk. It says a mile walk at the station but it seemed longer on the bus. We headed for the famous Toledo Cathedral (many good photos on this site) and bought tickets, which included an audio tour. The cathedral, both externally and internally is a stunning building. The audio tour was excellent as it told you the history of the building e.g. it was built on the site of a mosque, and took 267 years to complete, and pointed out the different architectural and design features in the cathedral. It also indicated the religious significance of parts of the cathedral. Humanist or theist, you cannot help but be impressed by the grandeur of the internal pillars, the painted ceilings, the frescos, the impressive metallurgy on the many altars, and the world famous paintings by El Greco. We were only in Toledo for 5 hours and that is not enough. The streets are thronged with tourists and full of little alleyways. We happened upon an exhibition about Leonardo the Inventor which was a fascinating display of wooden models of some of Leonardo’s inventions relating to lifting weights and – the most interesting – flight. While he did not actually invent a flying machine that could actually fly, Leonardo da Vinci designed machines with all the elements of modern aeroplanes. You could easily spend a couple of days in Toledo, seeing its many other attractions, for example  the very attractive Toledo Station (good photos on this site) – see photo below.

Toledo Station

Toledo Station

Last week, my wife and I went for a longish walk to the top of Lammer Law (good photos on this site). We parked at woods near Longyester Farm and there it was a steady climb up the Law (Scots word for hill). As you climb, the views get more panoramic. Interesting sights on the way up (and down) were extensive stone walls (1st photo below), autumnal grasses (2nd photo), glimpse of the Hopes Reservoir (previously featured on this blog here) (3rd photo),  a stunning view of the 3 volcanic edifices, from left to right  – North Berwick Law, the Bass Rock, Traprain Law and  (4th photo), and a determined looking bullock (5th photo).

Stone wall near Lammer Law

Stone wall near Lammer Law

Autumnal grasses on Lammer Law

Autumnal grasses on Lammer Law

Hopes Reservoir from Lammer Law

Hopes Reservoir from Lammer Law

Panoramic view across East Lothian from Lammer Law

Panoramic view across East Lothian from Lammer Law

Staring bullock at Longyester Farm

Staring bullock at Longyester Farm