Jo’s Monday walk : Elvaston Castle Country Park

In between visiting Poland and the Algarve, I managed to slip in 4 days with my daughter, in Nottingham.  Knowing that I like to get out and about, one day she suggested a visit to Elvaston Castle Country Park.  We had no real idea what to expect, but the Gothic revival masterpiece, staring at us across a mound of topiary, was a promising start.  Part of a 321 acre estate, Elvaston Castle was designed by James Wyatt in the early 1800s, around a house dating from 1633.  For 400 years it was home to the Stanhope family, later to become the Earls of Harrington.

Today’s walk is extremely green.  I know that many of you have singed, brown grass right now, and might regard this as a refreshing change.  The country park had a slightly neglected air, but many families were happily picnicking in the grounds, and I was glad to read that a renovation plan is underway.  In 1970, when the estate was opened, it was one of the first country parks in England.  Both buildings and gardens are Grade 2 listed.  Behind the house are a church and graveyard.

Circling the house, we noted tea rooms, and eyes lit up at the prospect of cake.  Looking in the windows, Lisa remembered that she’d been here once, long ago, for a wedding.  I don’t know if it was the topiary, but there was a distinctly Alice in Wonderland feel to the gardens.

On to the lakeside, where the rockwork captured our imagination.  Tufa, gritstone and gypsum were used to create arches and grottoes, framing a view and lending an air of enchantment.  My very own woodland elf was right at home….

Paths meander all around the lake, and beneath the trees. My squirrel friend scampered away up a tree, but then thought better of it and returned to finish his lunch, defiantly keeping an eye on me.

Set deep within the woods, a Moorish Temple stands tall and hauntingly silent.  Built as a summer house around 1846, it has fallen into disrepair.  Apparently it featured in Ken Russell’s 1969 film, ‘Women in Love’, with Glenda Jackson in a balcony scene.

Time to inspect the tearooms, and step back in time.  The age of the building was apparent but sympathetic restoration could easily bring it to life.

If you’re interested in garden history I found a fascinating document within the Derbyshire council website.  If not, simply sit back and enjoy the faded grandeur of the Old English walled garden.  Once it provided fruit and vegetables for the family, many of them grown within glasshouses.  William Barron, Head Gardener in 1830, transformed the original walled garden with innovative drainage and heating systems, allowing six varieties of grape to flourish.  Traces of it linger still.

I hope you enjoyed ambling with me.  Many more details, including directions, are to be found on the Derbyshire website.

More wonderful walks to share this week.  Pop that kettle on and settle in for a read.  The world will wait!  Many thanks to all of you.

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I always like to start off with a beauty, and Debbie never disappoints :

Hilly walk in Korea’s Machu Picchu

Did you meet Mel last week?  Let her take you shopping in style.  I do like an arcade!

Looking up in Melbourne

I’m not much of a shopper, nor much of a cook, but Jackie is well capable in both departments :

Novel meals

Lady Lee cooks too, and is content and happy with her bounty :

Ten things of thankful

Home sweet home with Drake, in Denmark :

Idyllic village

Rupali works just down the road from some glorious scenery!

My Monday walk: Nothing so special

Pure contentment in South Carolina, with Alice and family :

Morning beach walk

Or a double explosion of fun and colour with Pauline and Jack, Down Under :

Queensland Garden Expo…

What the little bird whispered in Jack’s ear

Cathy’s in training for the Camino in September.  This one doesn’t look an easy hike, but much shorter!

The Delicate Arch hike at Arches National Park

Much closer to home, Eunice rounds us off this week :

A summer afternoon in Southport

That’s it for another week.  Sounds like it’s going to be a hot one, so take care!  Join me next time on Jo’s Monday walk.

Six word Saturday

Kynren – an epic tale of England!

From one local extravaganza to another!  Last week, the Tall Ships.  This week, I give you Kynren.  Performed by a cast of locals and volunteers, in the grounds of Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland, I was enormously impressed.  A history of England, the action was fast-paced.  I apologise that many of my shots are blurred.  Please follow the captions.

A dramatic sunset heralds the performance

For an hour and a half the action unfolded before our eyes, building to a crescendo of lazer beams and fireworks.  It was beautifully done.

2,000 years of history, myth and legend, performances run until 15th September.  Meanwhile, Debbie has some exciting news to share in her Six Words this Saturday.  Why not join her?  Have a happy weekend!

On Journey : Inflight blues

‘Excuse me… why are you polishing the window?’  The young man was tall and pale, squashed into his seat beside me on our Ryanair flight from Faro to Leeds.  That was how our conversation began.  I’ve had many on board exchanges over time, but this young man and his troubles really touched me.  I was at the back of the aircraft and my husband far away at the front, because we are too mean to pay the extra to sit together.  We can cope with separation for a couple of hours, and on this occasion I had the compensation of a window seat.  Which is how I came to be polishing my smeary window.

Glancing at him, I replied ‘Because I like to take photos’.  Fair haired and blue-eyed, he nodded.  ‘That makes sense’.  He seemed eager to chat and we exchanged a few details till he sat back, with a sigh.  I thought maybe he was an anxious flier.  We hadn’t yet taken off when he reached beneath the seat and pulled out a full sized wine bottle.  Glugging at it greedily, the flight crew still about to start the safety demonstration.  Time for some friendly advice!  ‘You’re not allowed to drink your own alcohol on board’, I said, feeling a bit hypocritical because, for the first time ever, I had purchased a small rosé in the Duty Free, intending to drink it with my sandwich.  He looked at me.  ‘I need it!’  In a polite, conversational way he explained to me that he has an addictive personality, currently using alcohol, and that he has an appointment with the family doctor in Leeds tomorrow to check him into rehab.

A moment later he was on his phone, to a friend.  I assumed it was a friend.  In close proximity it’s impossible not to overhear someone’s conversation.  I looked out of the window as we began to taxi along the runaway.  He was talking urgently to Tom.  ‘You are going to meet me?  You promised!  My Dad will give you a lift to the airport’.  Almost pleading.  He was near to tears when he switched off the phone.  Out poured the story.  He was gay, and it was hard to trust anybody.  His boyfriend was supposed to bring drugs to the airport to help him till he could see his GP, but he hadn’t got them.  He was desperate to give up alcohol because it was ruining his life.  He had been terrified they wouldn’t let him on the plane home if he was drunk, but his friends had helped him board.  He had spoiled their holiday because he had no self control.

The plane was now in the air, so all he had to do was appear sober a little while longer.  He was waiting anxiously for trolley service to begin, and we talked.  I felt so sorry for him.  25 years old!  I wondered how I could bear it if my own son was in his situation.  He said that he had a good family, and that they would help, if only he could get home.  The middle child, his siblings were successful.  He had managed to work sometimes, but had spent most of his life addicted to drugs, whatever he could get his hands on.  He’d tried to ‘give up’ numerous times.  This time it had to work because his life was completely out of control.

The lakes beside the River Guadiana

He’d been to the Algarve several times before and liked the place and the people.  He was interested in the landscape unfolding below us, and was amazed at the vast area of lakes along the border.  When the trolley pulled alongside he ordered 2 beers and a wine.  I asked if he should have something to eat but he said it was better this way.  He had to drink himself into oblivion and he would sleep.  He downed one can in seconds and slumped back.  Beads of sweat had broken out on his face.  ‘Are you alright, sir?’ asked the air hostess.  He struggled to answer, and she gently informed him that she wouldn’t be able to sell him any more alcohol.  I smiled, despite myself.  After a while he drank the small bottle of wine, and soon his eyes had rolled.  Unless it’s cloudy I’m usually glued to my window throughout a flight, but I couldn’t settle.  I kept watch as he slept, hoping he could make it through the flight.

He jerked half awake, and groped for the remaining can, spilling much of it in his haste.  A male crew member went past and gave him a disgusted look.  I felt defensive for him and wanted to explain that he couldn’t help it.  The stupor overtook him again, mercifully.  With 20 minutes to go, he woke.  The captain had just announced our descent and, with relief, he reached beneath the seat for the last of his wine.  The crew man was just passing back through the cabin, reached over and took it from his hands.  ‘I must have it!’, he protested, to no avail.

We talked some more.  I asked if he would need assistance to get off the plane and he agreed.  He gave me the name of one of his party, a girl, sitting much further down the plane and said he thought she would help.  When we landed, I climbed past him and went to seek the help of the crew man.  Though sceptical, he noted the details.  I went back to say my goodbyes, to wish him luck and to hope that he could get his life back in order   ‘You’re a really nice lady’, he said.  I so hope that his family have been able to help him.  He seemed a really nice boy.

I would probably have kept this sad story to myself if it hadn’t been for Cathy.  I thought it might work for her On Journey invitation, over at Wander.essence.  She has the makings of a novel over there, and much else besides.

Jo’s Monday walk : A Tall Ships Treat

A visit from the Tall Ships is always a special occasion, but when it coincides with a significant birthday there is an opportunity to make it very special indeed.  When Thursday dawned cool and grey, I thought I might’ve made a mistake with my husband’s birthday surprise.  But, the tickets were bought, and I’d even purchased train tickets to Sunderland.  He could drink without driving, and not worry over parking.  The pattern of the week had been overcast skies till about 3pm, when magically the clouds rolled back.  Here’s hoping!

To host the start of a Tall Ships Race is a great coup, and Sunderland has made the most of the opportunity.  Leaving the station it’s only about 10 minutes walk to the riverside, and from there you have a choice whether or not to cross over the River Wear.  The ships were berthed on both sides of the river and are nothing short of majestic.  As ticket holders we stayed on the near shore and followed the trickle of people heading down to the quay.  The East End of Sunderland is still undergoing changes to bring this historic area into the 21st century.

The Tall Ships will race over a thousand nautical miles in 3 weeks.  The first leg races from Sunderland to Esbjerg in Denmark, then to Stavanger in Norway, and finally to Harlingen in the Netherlands.  You can see the full line up of over 50 ships on the Tall Ships website.

Despite grey skies they were an awesome sight as we made our way along the quayside.  Various entertainments were on offer, and we paused for a few minutes to observe Martin Lewis of the ‘Money Show’, taking questions from the audience.  On the far shore, next to the National Glass Centre, a full scale fairground was in progress, and some of the ships had entertainment on board.

No time to linger at this stage.  We had a destination.  Unbeknownst to my husband I had booked a 2 hour sail on a Tall Ship.  Until we checked in I did not know which.  Enjoying a drink at the bar, we waited for our number to be called.  Half an hour later we were boarding the beautiful  Wylde Swan from the Netherlands.  The largest two-mast topsail schooner in the world, she was built for speed.  The story of our voyage was the subject of this week’s Six Word Saturday so I’ll simply say that it was magnificent.  The crew demonstrated their proficiency, hauling on ropes and tying sails, yet still finding time to engage with their passengers.  The camaraderie as they worked together was a joy to see.  As we returned to port the sun, which had been hovering behind the clouds, finally broke free and we were bathed in golden sunlight.

It was a long walk down the quayside and I had spotted a pub with a bird’s eye view of the festivities.  Naturally this involved a number of steps, but the sun terrace of the Boar’s Head was worth it.  Built in 1724, beside Youlls Passage where press gangs were reputed to work, the pub was later frequented by Laurel and Hardy.  Peggy Potts, a local brandy smuggler, lived just 50 metres away, and her family are said still to be patrons. We basked in warm sunshine and friendly chatter with the locals.

More strolling was required after our lunch, and there was plenty still to see.  Entertainers were either resting or setting up for a performance, and many of the crews were at ease.  Further along the quay the ships grow smaller, the industry of the port an interesting backdrop.

Our feet were tiring by this stage and there was still the walk back to the station.  A convenient icecream van was just what we needed.  The event was rounded off with fireworks each evening, and on Saturday a Parade of Sail, as the ships left harbour to begin the race.  If they didn’t manage to find a Cooling breeze or two, I don’t know who would! (do join Leya for this week’s brilliant Lens-Artists Photo Challenge).  And how could I forget Cathy?  I love what she’s doing over at Wander.essence!

The walks I share are all so very different in style and content.  Please find time to visit as many as you can, especially if it’s a blogger you don’t know.  Many thanks to all of you for sharing and for your wonderful company.  Kettle on?  We’re good to go, here at Jo’s Monday walk!

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Self-realisation is a wonderful thing, especially if you can share it with Elaine :

A quiet walk

When I said to Drake that I always wanted to visit Annecy, he came up with the goods!

Pure idyllic transitions

South Carolina!  There’s another dream for you!  Salt marsh, I’m familiar with from the Algarve :

A walk on the wildlife side

I can’t resist Meg, and her close scrutiny :

Sunday bushwalk

Lichens, fungi, grass, tree bark and herbal cures… you’ll find them all at Meg’s :

Weekend strolls

I’m not a great cook, but Lady Lee could tempt me with her chicken and cashews :

Food, glorious food!

But if all else fails, Jackie has a good idea :

Picnic

Who doesn’t sing along when the Bee Gees are on?  And maybe strut your stuff?  With Carol, of course!

Born to Sing

Or you could try a bit of gold digging?

Gold Fever

Meet Melanie and say hello to Captain Cook, while we’re Down Under :

Melbourne- It’s a Walk in the Park

This sounds a bit like a radio programme, but take a turn with Anabel.  You’ll love it!

Ambles from Ambleside

I don’t know anyone who writes better garden posts.  Another beauty from Jude!

Garden View: Bonython Manor Gardens

Seeing the title I thought Amanda might have a ship or two.  Far from it, but this is a wonderfully lyrical post :

Walking Around in Whitby

And finally, Cathy surprises me with a lovely swathe of bluebells :

Riverbend to Great Falls : the Bluebell Path

That’s it for another sweltering week.  Hope it’s fine where you are, but if you need a drop of rain then I hope it lands.  Take care till next time!

Six word Saturday

Riding the North Sea in style!

Click on the gallery to read the story of our adventure on the high seas.  A very special person had a significant birthday and we celebrated in style.  Our Tall Ship, ‘Wylde Swan’ from the Netherlands, was a beauty and the crew worked hard to give us a wonderful experience.  Even the weather cooperated, after a very grey start.  All was smooth sailing.

Is anybody counting?  Debbie keeps tally over at Six Word Saturday.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Reminiscences from Poland, 2

If you read Reminiscenses from Poland, you know that I reached Bełchatów, almost without mishap.  Immediately I was enveloped in a warm Zawady welcome, in the place that Dad once called home.  His only remaining sister, Aunt Lusia, lives there still, daughters and grandchildren close at hand.  A long summer evening was spent in her garden, rabbits proliferating, and a cardboard box sheltering the tiniest kittens you ever saw.  I could feel my ankles being bitten, the pond and the sultry air an open invitation.  All in a good cause.  Her arm tucked through mine, we took a gentle turn beneath the apple trees.  Not long since she was in hospital, with family fearful that she would not recover.

As darkness fell and eyes began to droop, I was returned to cousin Jadzia’s house.  Halfway through my Polish adventure.  I had scoured timetables, and lost sleep over how I would get from Bełchatów to Kraków.  In the event, the problem was solved for me.  Jadzia’s daughter Ania and family were driving to the Tatry Mountains, south of Kraków, for a few days holiday.  If I didn’t mind being a bit squashed, they would take me with them and break the journey at Adam’s house.  I’ve never been one to mind a squeeze.  And so it was that me and 2 little girls, with 2 sunhats and a furry green frog, shared the back seat on a 4 hour journey.

We took the scenic route to avoid roadworks, but it was market day in Radomsko, and the car crawled beside the brimming stalls.  Once out in gently rolling countryside, Hubert slipped a CD in and we sang along to Polish nursery rhymes.  Two year old Nadia’s eyes sparkled as she sang, but all of a sudden they were filled with distress and she was being sick.  Swerving off the road into a field, operation clean up began.  “She’s never done that before” Hubert ruefully observed.  “She’s normally a good traveler”.  Five minutes later, in fresh clothes, she was beaming again, and munching a bag of crisps.

At Adam’s house all was suspiciously quiet.  No sign of the two little boys who lived there, but the playroom overflowed with toys.  A lovely respite for two little girls, who didn’t stop till every shelf and cupboard was empty and there was no space to play.  Out into the garden for a quick burn off energy then, fuelled with coffee and cake, Mum and Dad round them up.  Time to say goodbye….

I had a luxurious hour to myself before the onslaught.  Toys swiftly back on shelves, a peep at TV (Rafa was playing in the French Open) and I was sitting on the balcony, waiting.  Hot and mildly harrassed, Weronika and Marta shepherded two small boys through the gate.  Bedlam!  But in such a good way.  My turn to play with Marti, 18 months old and a happy soul, and his rather more cautious brother, Bartek, aged three.  Gradually the household filled as first Adam returned from work, then Wojtek, Weronika’s husband, and finally my lovely neice, Ula.  One member was missing.   Łukasz now lives with his girlfriend and I was promoted to his bedroom.  The buzz of chatter, and patter of slippered feet on the tiled floors, filled the evening as we ate and drank.  And finally, collapsed gratefully into bed.

Fluffy clouds greeted me through the skylight next morning.  Sniadanie (breakfast), and an outing to the park, followed by wolny czas (free time).  When I returned from the city, preparations were in full swing, the house full of bustle.  Adam’s pride and joy is his barbecue room, a design wonder of wood and folding glass panels.  The end wall is solid brick to enclose the grill and a smoker.  Marta’s pride and joy is her garden and the delicious meals she provides for her family.  Between them they conjure up many a feast.

That evening there was a guest of honour.  A gentleman to whom I will always be in debt.  Tomasz, Adam’s business partner, a warm and generous man and an impeccable English speaker, made the phone call to Dad that reunited him with his Polish family. (A night I will never forget, my tearful Dad hardly daring to believe his luck).  Taste is of supreme importance to Tomasz, and is one of the foundations of the bakery business.  Fond of wine and good company, with many tales to tell, you can imagine how our evening progressed.  Adam provided salmon and garlic bread from the barbecue and smoked sea bass to compliment Marta’s salads.  Wine flowed, and then Łukasz arrived, affectionate as ever.  He had spent the afternoon sleeping after an early shift.  The children played.  Sandpit, bubbles and swing, until it was time to haul them off to bed….

Last day…ostatni dzien… and one last trip into the city.  A tram ride home, stopping to collect a deep red rose bush for Marta, and a bag of cherries.  A whirl of emotions.  Adam, watering the garden after another hot one.  Marta, pottering beside him, relaxed after feeding everybody again.  The children at a birthday party in the neighbours’ garden next door, laughter and occasional tears drifting our way.  The evening settling around us.  Time for more goodbyes… we don’t know till when.  In halting Polish on the way to the airport, I try to tell Adam how very grateful I am.  His eyes twinkle as hugs me….

You must have met Cathy over at Wander.essence?  I’m adding this to her Prose challenge.  It’s the last of my Polish adventures… for now.

Jo’s Monday walk : That bridge, and beyond

Last week I guess I cheated a little on my walk in Kraków. There was a bit too much sitting about at the riverside, but it was a very warm day so I make no apologies.  I knew I’d be making up for it.  ‘Obiad’ was rather special, with a big family gathering for my last night, and all was peaceful in the house next morning.  Time to slip away, and savour my last few hours in the city.

I was warned that ‘Saturday service’ on transport would be different, but I was lucky and bus 178 sped me into town.  Rattling over Most Jozefa Pilsudskiego, I spotted my bridge with the intriguing sculptures in the distance and hopped off.  Walking back on ul. Krakowska, I noticed a plaque commemorating Jan Pawel Drugie, Pope John Paul II.  I hesitated there on the pavement, thoughts of Dad suddenly filling my head.  Pushing open the heavy wooden door, I slipped inside the church to light a candle.  Without him, I never would have been here in Kraków.

Out again, into warm and hazy sunshine, it was on with my quest.  Pausing to look at the map on the bridge Jozefa Pilsudskiego, I was more taken with details of how the city once looked than in absorbing my whereabouts.  A common fault of mine.  I have a hopeless track record on following maps.  Fortunately I’m much better at finding beautiful bridges.

This one, ‘Between the water and the sky’, had called to me since first I saw it.  I was mesmerised.  You do, however, have to beware of cyclists.

I got ‘honked’ at as I daydreamed beneath the sculptures.  Apparently it’s supposed to have a ‘cyclists only’ path.  I’m not the only one to have been captivated.  The ubiquitous love locks have made an assault on the bridge, but nothing can detract from it.  Kładka Ojca Bernatka, or the Father Bernatek Footbridge, was opened in September, 2010, on the site of a former road bridge dismantled in 1925.  The 130 metre structure, designed by Andrzej Getter, has no supports and is suspended upon an arch.  The wonderful acrobatic sculptures are the work of Jerzy Kędziora.  The districts of Kazimierz and Podgórze are linked once more, which will benefit the latter.

Tearing my attention from the bridge, it was time to investigate the corten steel clad building, which turned out to be the former power station in Podgórze.  Now an exhibition space and cafe, as it was 10.45am and opening time not till 11.00, I decided to push on and explore the area.

It’s a bit ramshackle in places, but turning onto Rynek Podgórskie I looked across a huge space at a striking church.  Sw. Jozefa w Krakowie Podgórzu had a delightful surprise awaiting me.  But first, a peep inside.  Dressed all in finery, as befits a wedding.  I dared not linger.

But outside, behind the church, an invitation to a wonderful garden.  Mounting the steps I looked down upon a grotto and out across the rooftops.  A young couple, similarly entranced, were taking detailed photos, so I bided my time.  As I descended a sprinkler played across the flowerbeds, a mist of water catching me out.  You can see the droplets, if you look closely.

A smile still on my face, it was time to retrace my steps across the bridge.  Naturally I couldn’t resist a few more shots.  I needed a coffee, but the big old wooden barge ‘Barka’ was closed, and smart ‘Augusta’ was busy with a conference.  That left me one other option.  A smaller boat with a comfy seat on deck, and a view.  Two guys in a blow-up dinghy drifted by and waved.  I smiled and waved back.

Wondering about cake?  I was good on this occasion, but with a venue for later in mind.  First I had a walk along the riverbank.  Music was drifting across the river from the big stage at Termy Krakowskie, a nicely relaxed vibe, as my son would say.  He’d love it.

Boat hire was quiet, but Wawel Castle looked Saturday busy.  Any ideas where I’m heading?  Hotel Pod Wawelem has a roof top restaurant, as the name indicates, directly below the castle.  No doubt about it- cake with a view!

Fully satisfied, the trip wouldn’t be complete without paying my respects to Wawel.  Even on a busy Saturday, the place is sublime.

‘Home’ one last time.  Just one more Reminiscences from Poland to come and that will be my trip complete.  Already it feels distant.

I hope you enjoyed sharing Kraków with me.  Time to put that kettle on for this week’s walks.  Many thanks, everyone!  Join me here at any time on Jo’s Monday walk.  You’ll always be welcome.

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One of Debbie’s loves is street art.  She was richly rewarded in Madrid :

This is a Square

Drake has been captivating me with a series of photos of the island of Gozo :

When bath rocks

An enigmatic title from Jackie this week :

Snakes and Lattes

Lady Lee sets the world on fire, but don’t worry- it’s quite safe!

Summer solstice bonfire

Gunta shares more of the beautiful, natural world on her doorstep :

A stroll through the meadow

Share some ‘lolling kangaroos’ with Pauline.  She’ll be delighted if you do :

Australia’s iconic creatures

Or hoof it from snow to ‘shy rays of brightness’ with Susan :

Walking a rainforest trail in Olympic National Park

A heart stopping moment, just looking at one of Cathy’s photos.  Don’t miss it!

Ottos’s Trail & The Devils Kitchen Trail at Colorado National Monument

And if you have time to spare you could join Indra on Prince Edward Island :

PIE (PEI) in the Ocean

That’s it for another week.  Can you believe, we have a drop of rain here in the north east?  I’d forgotten what it’s like.  Have a good one!