Maiglöckchen – Little Bells of May – Lily of the Valley – Muguet des Bois

Throughout Europe (and those who have propagated these little lovelies in the United States, in areas where wet springs prevail, normally), Lily of the Valley is enjoyed as a most marvelous addition to gardens or any rock garden they may cultivate. In France there is a tradition of small bouquets being given to lovers and loved ones on May 1st. These flowers migrate and show up sometimes, unexpectedly, like long lost relatives. A year ago this happened in an area of my property which I normally just clear of weeds and leave alone. The photo shows my entire yield last year when the weather was pretty much like it has been here for the past three days. Nothing is stranger than a sudden monsoon in Denver except for snow in July. I’ve never experienced the latter. I have only heard about it all my life. Summers can be incredibly hot here so it would be almost hilarious for me to experience that here, now. I’ll keep you posted. For now, enjoy this little token of May. – The Castle Lady

May_1_2015This flower has many names throughout the English-speaking world which includes Ladder-to-heaven, Lily Convalle, May Lily and Our-lady’s tears but its Latin technical name is Convallaria Majalis and is a member of the Liliaceae family. It is very popular for wedding bouquets and is often a constituent in perfumes in combination with other flowers or alone. Avon, surprisingly, has an excellent version in their perfume Haiku with this flower as the top note. All parts of these flowers have been used as pharmaceuticals for heart disease and emmenagogue. They travel though creeping underground stems which are rhizomes, very much like an Iris bulb and each sprig will produce two to three oblong, pointed leaves crowned in the middle with white, bell-shaped blooms on a single 4 to 10 inch upright stalks. Some of the plants produce red berries. The scent of the blooms may attract nightingales.

LilyValley_Iris_Crab&EveInterestingly enough, the FDA has classified Lily of the Valley as poisonous but it has been used as far back as the 16th century by herbalists as a tea for easing gout, in wine for promoting memory and even as eye drops ! The tea was referred to as golden water and was stored in gold or silver chalices. It is used, even today, like Foxglove in medications to strengthen the heart beat and the effects are much more subtle. It may be best to use this only with authoritative medical supervision.


Posted in Ecosystem and other earth matters, Health and wellness, History | Leave a comment

The Merry Month of May

800px-Procession_of_Characters_from_Shakespeare%27s_Plays_-_Google_Art_ProjectWith May fast approaching and with Shakespeare’s recent revival in the form of the 400th anniversary of his passing, I thought I’d make one tribute to his verse and will complete my poetry offerings for this month. Just for the record, Shakespeare most likely died on his birthday because he was baptized on April 26th of 1564. In the painting he is about 21 years of age. The following sonnet was written by the Stratford bard and also happens to be one of my favorite poems. – The Castle Lady

william shakespeare image_jpg (5)

As it fell upon a day,
In the merry month of May,
Sitting in a pleasant shade
With a grove of myrtles made,
Beasts did leap, and birds did sing,
Trees did grow, and plants did spring:
Everything did banish moan,
Save the nightingale alone:
She, poor bird, as all forlorn,
Lean’d her breast up-till a thorn,
And there sung the dolefull’st ditty
That to hear it was great pity:
Fie, Fie, Fie, now would she cry,
Teru, Teru, by and by:
That to hear her so complain,
Scarce I could from tears refrain:
For her griefs so lively shown,
Made me think upon mine own.
Ah thought I, thou mourn’st in vain;
None take pity on thy pain:
Senseless trees, they cannot hear thee;
Ruthless bears, they will not cheer thee.
King Pandion, he is dead:
All thy friends are lapp’d in lead:
All thy fellow-birds do sing,
Careless of thy sorrowing.
Even so poor bird, like thee,
None alive will pity me.
Whilst as fickle fortune smil’d
Thou and I were both beguil’d.
Everyone that flatters thee
Is no friend in misery.
Words are easy like the wind;
Faithful friends are hard to find.
Every man will be thy friend,
Whilst thou hast where with to spend;
But if store of crowns be scant
No man will supply thy want.
If that one be prodigal,
Bountiful they will him call:
And with such-like flattering
‘Pity but he were a king.’
If he be addict to vice,
Quickly him they will entice;
If to women he be bent,
They have him at commandement;
But if fortune once do frown,
Then farewell his great renown:
They that fawn’d on him before,
Use his company no more.
He that is thy friend indeed,
He will help thee in thy need:
I thou sorrow, he will weep;
If thou wake, he cannot sleep:
Thus of every grief in heart
He with thee doth bear a part.
These are certain signs to know
Faithful friend from flattering foe.


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In the kitchen…

at Passover

Castle_Kitchen_In_theit’s all about tradition and presentation.


and even a little bit of art…


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Song of the Soldiers’ Wives and Sweethearts

by Thomas Hardy

At last! In sight of home again,
Of home again;
No more to range and roam again
As at that bygone time?

No more to go away from us
And stay from us ?-
Dawn, hold not long the day from us,
But quicken it to prime !

Home_BlessingsNow all the town shall ring to them,
Shall ring to them,
And we who love them cling to them
And clasp them joyfully;
And cry, ‘O much we’ll do for you
Anew for you,
Dear Loves!- aye, draw and hew for you,
Come back from oversea.’

Some told us we should meet no more,
Yea, meet no more!-
Should wait, and wish, but greet no more
Your faces round our fires;
That, in a while uncharily
And drearily
Men gave their lives- even wearily,
Like those whom living tires.

And now you are nearing home again,
Dears, home again;
No more, may be, to roam again
As at that bygone time,
Which took you far away from us
To stay from us;
Dawn, hold not long the day from us,
But quicken it to prime !

Castle_moxie_tnThe Castle Lady

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Bath’s Battlements, Bishops and … Baths

Bath_Smrst_Pano_April_2011Only a mutilated gateway survives from the medieval city wall which surrounded Bath and the Bishop’s Palace there but in the 18th century Bath became a fashionable spa town thanks to the promotions of Richard ‘Beau’ Nash. The Roman Baths got a nod they hadn’t enjoyed since the Romans invaded in AD 43! The King’s House became a palace and St Lawrence’s bridge was fortified during the medieval period. However, Bath is primarily a Georgian architecture town with historic Roman ruins and remains, presently. It is a pleasure to find that there is more to Bath than first meets the eye but you’ll have to do a bit of exploring to find everything that makes this one of England’s most popular tourist attractions and her most unique city to boot! The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so you will have plenty to look at and explore.
ShamCastle_Ralph_Allens_ggrph_PaulBrookerSham_castle_rear_Bath_Adrian PingstoneTo start your exploration you may want to begin in the eastern hills overlooking the city in Prior Park at Bathampton (aka Bath Golf Club) where Ralph Allen had Sham Castle built, in 1762, which is a folly in the truest sense of the word. The name and photo says it all because what you’re looking at from below is considered a screen wall with a central pointed arch entrance flanked by 3-storied semi-circular D turrets and wall extensions with 2-storied square towers flanking the ends of the wall. At least, that’s the front facade. The anterior view reveals that it is only a wall, much more blank and obviously a folly. You can see it in illumination at night from below and it appears doubly impressive- what’s more, it was meant to be. Creamy gold Bath stone, a local Cotswold limestone which was used for construction in the city, was obtained from the Combe Down and Bathampton Down Mines, owned by Ralph Allen. His quest to promote the quality of his quarried stone spurred the commission of John Wood to build a country house on his Prior Park estate between the city and the mines. Allen gained his wealth by improving and expanding the postal service in western England and held the contract for more than forty years. Although politics were not Allen’s cup of tea he became involved in civic affairs and became a member of Bath Corporation eventually being elected mayor for a single term in 1742.
PriorPark_BathAt Prior Park landscaped gardens are seated behind the Sham Castle structure along with a serpentine lake and a beautiful bridge, all mid-18th century. Prior Park mansion was also Allen’s new abode built between 1735 and 1750- a classic villa with a Palladian facade with fifteen bays across the entrance and a huge central portico with six columns. The Sham and landscaped gardens were built after the fact “to improve the prospect”. All of it was originally planned by Somerset’s local architect, John Wood the elder, but he and Allen had a falling out so most of the work was carried out by Richard Jones. Chronicler Nikolas Pevsner described Prior Park mansion, which now embodies a college as ‘the most ambitious and the most complete recreation of Palladio’s villas on English soil’. More landscaping work was carried out much later by the poet Alexander Pope and the ever illustrious Capability Brown producing several lakes, a Gothic temple and a grotto named after Mrs. Allen.

Midford Castle_above BathMagnificent, small and demure Renaissance Midford Castle is not far away. There are also two towers, one beautiful and the other rather dull: Beckford’s Tower and Brown’s Folly are located in the hills above Bath but Midford is located in the village of Midford, parish of Southstoke, which is three miles outside the southern perimeter of Bath on the north side of Midford Road. Seated in a glen amid twelve acres of forest, Midford’s pride and beauty is a charming trefoil design, best seen from an aerial view, formed by three semi-circular tower facings on a triangular base featuring crenellations. Petite turrets guard the charming little gatehouse entrance with an arched doorway adorned with a balconet above.

MidfordCastle_468x333Stylistic even by Victorian Gothic standards, Midford was built on a design plan of John Carter’s by order of Henry Disney Roebuck in 1775. Windows on the turrets are delightful with mullioned lights but topped with straight or beautifully arched cornices above. The porch stem was added later as an anecdote, no doubt, with thin curtain walling all around the perimeter punctuated and mirrored by the exterior decoration of the house. A priory built on the estate about 500 yards northeast of the castle has been used as a summer house and tea room and features coursed squared freestone footings along the canted south end. You’ll see what remains of a Georgian Gothic garden which also had a hermitage and is graced with a bridge over a landscaped ravine with numerous walkways. All of this resides on 35 acres of parkland property. The porch, priory and nearby stables were added by the Conollys in 1810 who had purchased the house even though their primary residence is Castletown House in County Kildare in Ireland. They sold Midford outright in 1901. Michael Briggs and his famous wife Isabel Colegate bought the house in 1961 and renovated it extensively and incorporated the chapel with the garden to appear as a picturesque ruin.
Midford is a great fantasy getaway and may be the reason why our own Nicolas Cage bought this castle back in 2007. He fell in love with the city of Bath and bought a townhouse in town and most likely spotted Midford after the fact. He paid no less than £5 million but had to sell it at a loss by October 2009 along with nearly all the properties and estates he owned because the I.R.S. had placed a tax lien on all the real estate he owned. Currently it is protected by English Heritage and is now a grade I listed building. interactive page on Midford Castle’s_Town_House,_Bath

Bath_JohnSpeed_map_1610When you’re looking out over the city of Bath you’ll soon find that it’s seated in a deep valley. If you want to well orient yourself to the city you’ll want to consult an historical map alongside contemporary orientation. This representation is a Speed map which was made in 1610 and shows that the crenellated city wall and several gates were still very much intact at that time. Throughout the centuries Bath has always made a universal contribution to urban design and no student of architecture should pass over a visit to Bath. As the most cosmopolitan city of England, in the truest sense of the word, it has gained international significance unparalleled by many European cities. Traveling on foot around the sights you get a real sense that you’re literally breathing in ancient history.
Gateway_and_Beckfords_Tower_near_Lansdown_%28geograph_3831784%29Beckford’s Tower is seated on Lansdown road two miles above Bath in the northwest hills and was commissioned by a gentleman who was an antiquarian before his time. Considered England’s wealthiest man, William Thomas Beckford employed Henry Edmund Goodridge to draw up designs for a tower in 1826 with a vision of an Italian torre in mind. This was his second attempt to build a tower in grand style, having tried and failed- ultimately- at his Fonthill estate in Wiltshire. Beckford’s Tower still stands, however and has since the late 19th century. It houses the miraculous Scarlet and Crimson Drawing Rooms, rich and luxurious furnishings, coffered ceilings paneled with oak and colored with scarlet, crimson, purple and gold. Its spiral staircase is 154 carpeted steps to the belvedere at the top- 120 feet high- less than half the height of the failed tower at Fonthill. When he asked that it be made higher it was subsequently crowned with a marvelous octagonal gilded Athenian lantern making the tower look every bit as elegant outside as inside.
Beckford_ReynoldsEngravingIn 1844, after the passing of Beckford, the Tower and Gardens were sold to a Bath pub owner. Beckford’s daughter, the Duchess of Hamilton, was horrified to discover that her fathers retreat was being used as a beer garden and promptly bought it back, passing it to the Rector of the Parish of Walcot in Bath becoming a funeral chapel and the garden into a cemetery. In 1971 the late Leslie and Elizabeth Hilliard purchased the tower and established the Beckford Tower Trust which was specific to maintain buildings, features and objects of historical and architectural interest relating to the life of William Beckford for the general public. Since 1993 the tower has been owned by the Bath Preservation Trust and extensive restoration and repairs have been made through the years. From the belvedere on top you can see all the way to Wales.
Baths_Roman_Abbey_bckgrndBecause of the Roman Baths people will assume that is the reason for the name of the city but the history of the name goes back further with the legend of Bladud who was the father of King Lear. When he returned from a self-imposed exile of 11 years at Athens he was suffering from leprosy and was banished from court. Because of this he ended up being a swineherder at Swainswick, which is about three miles north of Bath, and when he saw pigs wallowing in hot water for relief from scurf and scabs he followed their example and was cured of his leprosy. With his newfound health and relief he became the ninth king of the Britons in 863 B.C. and named Bath Caer Badon which means city of baths. This is prehistoric legend, of course.
Bath_Roman_Baths_tnFor most visitors the Roman Baths are their first sightseeing destination upon arrival. Among the most famous landmarks in Britain, today, it was comprised of the great Roman temple and the bathing complex with the surrounding sacred hot springs- all built in 63 AD- nearly 2,000 years ago ! Remains of the temple are deemed to be buried under Stall Street but you can view the pediment central head, as it was discovered during the building of The Grand Pump Room in 1790 which overlooks the site. This was once the social heart of Bath and you can even enjoy a glass of spa water drawn from the fountain and live to tell it ! This area is a tourist trap, however, so mind your wallets and save your energy to take in everything that Bath has to offer. You can always return to take in the live music and shop in the gift shop later if you wish.
Some parting interesting stats: the springs are the result of rainwater being trapped beneath the Mendips 10,000 years ago about 2700-4300 meters deep. A fault line in the rock strata emerged beneath Bath which allows the heated water to surface and retain a fairly warm temperature which in turn provides about 240,000 gallons of drinkable water every day. The most interesting coincidental stats are that the Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD, there are 43 minerals in the water and -to reiterate one more point- the water is trapped as much as 4300 meters deep ! Did I mention that the average temperature of the water is about 43 Celsius degrees?

BathAbbeyEdgar, the peaceful, was crowned King of England in 959 at Bath Abbey, a Norman church which was built on earlier monastery foundations. Seated right next to the Roman Baths in the heart of the old city between the Orange Grove and Sally Lunn’s House (Bath’s oldest surviving house), an even earlier stone Roman building was its predecessor. However, the present structure dates from early 16th century and shows a grand late Perpendicular style lit by 52 windows and flourished with flying buttresses, pinnacles with decorative crockets and crenellated parapets with brattice holes. Such fortifications and military architecture for ecclesiastical buildings became routinely licensed under Edward I becoming quite common throughout the 13th and into the 14th century. A delightful ornamental feature here is the depiction of stone angels climbing Jacob’s Ladder on the facade. Bath Abbey’s interior is every bit as magnificent as the arches and towers suggest. Choir and transepts have fan vaulting created by Robert and William Vertue and the 19th century nave was given a matching vault. Abbey Church Yard T-01225 477785
Bath_PulteneyBridge_2014-08-12_DiegoDelso_51Nearby18th century Pulteney Bridge was designed for William Johnstone’s wife, Frances née Pulteney by Robert Adam in 1770 in the Palladian style. Constructed to gain access to Bathwick across the River Avon, the entire scene is surreal as something out of an Italian movie. Frances Pulteney became a wealthy landowner in Bathwick through inheritances and it was the custom of the day to change your name for an inheritance so they both adopted the name of Pulteney- or readopted in her case. A wealthy Scots lawyer and member of Parliament, Johnstone planned to build a suburban area at Bathwick but only the bridge itself, Great Pulteney Street, the Sydney Hotel and Pleasure Gardens were completed. Supported by three beautifully proportioned arches the bridge is lined with stores and shops on both sides and links with the magnificent Great Pulteney Street. You’ll want to keep your eye out for the rare Victorian pillar-box on the east bank while you happily shop the only bridge in England still lined with shops! As a matter of fact, there are only three other bridges like it in the world. Twenty years after it was built it had been flooded so many times that the entire bridge had to be rebuilt but very close to the first design. The original drawings are preserved in Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. Alterations and Bath_PulteneyBridge_reconstructions have gone on throughout the years since the end of the 18th century but the view from the south remains quite beautiful with its relatively modern weir. A view from the north side may stun most sightseers, as it looks nothing like the magnificence of the southern view.
HolborneMuseumAs you commence eastward on Great Pulteney Street you’ll find The Holburne Museum of Art which was once the Georgian Sydney Hotel. Seated opposite Jane Austen’s former home at 4 Sydney Place, the treasures collected by Thomas Holburne of Menstrie (1793-1874) are on display with superb English and continental silver, porcelain, majolica, glass and Renaissance bronzes. The Picture Gallery contains works by Turner, Guardi and Stubbs and includes Gainsborough portraits of Bath society. There are special exhibitions here throughout the year which garner national attention. You can call to find out more or go to the web site:
T- 01225 466669
If you wish to use Bath as an anchor town while you go a-castling all over Somerset, I recommend that you stay at Bath City Breaks located on Argyle Street at number 6. They rent out flat 1 as an easy stay to see most of Bath’s sights and as a matter of fact, it overlooks Pulteney Bridge. Most of the well-known sights are less than a five minute walk within the city center.

Bath-Sculptures_C&L_WalkerBack in the center of town the Museum of Costume and Assembly Rooms on Bennett Street (adjacent to The Circus and Royal Crescent) houses one of the finest historic collections of fashionable dress in England. The collection is displayed in a series of rooms which includes a Ball Room, Tea Room and Card Room connected by two fine octagonal rooms. Extensive displays cover the history of fashion from the late 16th century au courant, narrated with free-lent personal audio guides. Open to the public daily, with the exceptions or restrictions of special functions, admission is also free. You can call ahead to find out the schedules for dinners, dances, concerts and conferences. The museum is managed by Bath and North East Somerset Council., which runs a full conference service. An onsite gift shop sells noted publications as well as gifts.
T- 01225 477789
BathRoyalCrescent_aerialNo visit to Bath would be quite complete without checking out Royal Crescent, the 18th century architectural first for Britain. Number 1 is a museum which gives the visitor a good idea of what it is like to live in one of the units of this architectural orchestra taking in views of the green hills that surround the city. Considered the most majestic street in Britain, the uniqueness of the arc design of thirty houses in unison is quite unique. The Georgian architecture is the masterpiece of John Wood the Younger who installed no less than 114 ionic columns to great effect. Royal Crescent looks out upon the esplanade arch of parkland lawn, Royal Victoria Park, the city’s largest fenced-in green space. It is easy to spot when you’re looking down from the surrounding hills despite the current size of the city.
Just across the expanse of Brock Street the enclosed effect of The Circus built by John Wood the Elder (1705-1754) is quite different and not at all in typical Georgian style. Thomas Gainsborough once lived at number 17. To finance their building programs the Woods leased land for speculative building from freeholders then subleased to other builders for work done behind the frontages. Those builders were then financed by tenancy agreements for long leases and in turn, agreements could be borrowed from as security. Such complicated arrangements proved to be sound investments simply on the principal of supply and demand and here, demand always exceeded supply. It also helped that their tenants were quite wealthy and these were often second homes.
From The Circus a walk down Gay Street in a southerly direction will bring you to Queen Square where, at number 13, Jane Austen stayed on one of several visits to Bath when very young. If you keep your eyes open you’ll see many houses which bear plaques citing the famous people who have resided at various locations in Bath. A few more hops and skips from Barton Street, headed east, will bring you to the fashionable shopping area on Milsom and New Bond Streets.
ClavertonManor_RichardWyattblog_20oct06-008-296x168The American Museum in Britain is housed at Claverton Manor, a house designed by Sir Jeffry Wyattville and built in the 1820s. Just two miles southeast of Bath, it is a Grade I listed building founded as the American Museum in 1961, and was a serious attempt to deepen mutual understanding between Britain and America. As the first American museum to be established in Britain, Claverton’s rooms are decorated in many styles, from the first rudimentary dwellings of settlers to opulent 19th century homes. There are special sections on Shaker furniture, quilts and Native American art. In 1981 the entire town was recognized as being of special architectural and historic interest and thereafter, starting in November, it was designated as a conservation area. Of peculiar interest is the sight of Ralph Allen’s tomb which is another folly-in-appearance but this time in the form of a mausoleum. The choice for its site couldn’t be more out of place with a church nearby with a Norman tower which has six bells- three of which date from 1637.
When this Regency mansion was built it was to the orders of John Vivian in a strict classical style with the courtyard in the back and two bow windows facing the frontage on the other side. The exterior has remained very much the same as in its inception with the garden facade in refined Palladian style but the interior was transformed in 1961 by two American enthusiasts, Dallas Pratt and John Judkyn, for cultural relations between our two countries. All of the rooms have been transported from America, yet this fact is often hard to believe, given the stylistic proximity of the two sides of the Atlantic in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Jacobean Keeping Room, the Lee Room, the Deming Parlor and Conkey’s Tavern appear to be from southern England, apparently. Only the portraiture is clearly colonial as are the American rooms- respectfully-the Shaker and Mexican-Indian rooms. Somebody forgot the Alamo ! The New Orleans Bedroom, heavily classical in style, has the suspicious feature of a mosquito net! Surrounding grounds here are wonderful, with a colonial herb garden, ca. 1785, a portion of which was copied from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate outside Washington, D.C. !
Claverton_churchyard_RAllentombOf peculiar interest at Claverton is the sight of Ralph Allen’s tomb (which is another folly-in-appearance but this time in the form of a mausoleum). The choice for its site couldn’t be more out of place in an early medieval churchyard with a Norman tower. The tower has six bells- three of which date from 1637. All are authentic except for Ralph Allen’s architectural intrusion.




Sutton_Court_tower14cFurther afield in N. East Somerset and ten miles west of Bath (but south of Bristol) you’ll find Sutton Court near the villages of Bishop Sutton, Stowey and Chew Magna in the Chew Valley. At one time referred to as Stowey Court it’s essentially a fortified house built around a 14th century castle tower and built of squared and coursed sandstone rubble, freestone with ashlar dressings and eaves featuring Welsh slate gabled roofs. A low curtain wall, obviously revamped, with central arches stretches along the outside of the north side where the central three-storey pele tower is seated. These are the only surviving features of the original castle commissioned by William de Sutton for Elizabeth (Bess) of Hardwick. Eventually she owned quite a bit of property all over England, with Sutton Court as yet another acquisition which she retained for the remainder of her life. A circular stair turret and two-storey ranges flank the building and annex to later mid-16th century additions along with a parlor and chapel, very much like Clevedon Court on the north west Somerset coast. These additions were built circa 1558 including an extensive three-storied servants’ wing and a four bay exterior, added by Hardwick and her third husband Sir William St. Loe. The pele tower was revamped with modern windows during the 15th century and the doorway to the tower dates from 1858-60 when Thomas Henry Wyatt was commissioned to carry out the wishes of Sir Edward Strachey, the 19th century owner.
Sutton_Court_archways_in_wallWithin the past decade, the extended castle has been undergoing restoration even on portions dating back to the time of Edward III. Bess’s portion of the house can be distinguished by looking for the chamfered mullioned windows, two-storied structures and diagonal offset buttresses which look decidedly Tudor. The battlements on the pele tower were added some time during the 18th century, oddly enough, by Wyatt. If the pele tower seems a bit out-of-place in the south of England remember that Hardwick was ‘north of England’, very much like Lady Anne Clifford. Such architecture would only have been expected and quite possibly, preferred. Bishop Hosper and John Locke became frequent guests of John Strachey and may have even taken up secret residence during the times of catholic suppression. In 1987 Sutton Court was converted over to apartments. Fortunately, life at Sutton Court in more recent times, has been described according to John St. Loe Strachey in his autobiographical book The Adventure of Living published in 1922.
Sutton_Court_anteriorOther features of the estate are single storey gate lodge, gate and gate piers most of which were built ca. 1820. The stone of the lodge mirrors the house in matching sandstone and freestone dressings and even slate roofs but the gate is older, perhaps original, to the beginnings of the estate with sandstone piers, all set at an angle to the approach. The porch leading to the drive up is of modern stone.
St. Loe Strachey, John (1922) The Adventure of Living A Subjective Autobiography (1860-1922). ISBN 1-4043-5656-8.

Chew_Court_RodwNot far away, Chew Court Palace,the Bishops of Bath and Wells property from 1062 to 1548 was built by the Chew Episcopi next to St. Andrews Church which was once visited by Henry III in 1250. Gisa was the first Bishop in residence. Presently, the manor is what remains of a much larger edifice including an adjacent well. The earliest portion may be the gatehouse which now is reduced and has modern plain tile roofs. The room over the gatehouse is said to have been used as a court-room, with the turrets used for holding prisoners. The palace was built circa late 12th century and continued to be occupied on a regular basis until its use fell out of favor mid-14th century. Episcopalian clergy took up residence in the latter part of the 15th century and the edifice was rebuilt in 1656 to grander standards. Unfortunately, much of that has been removed but if you can tour the inside you’ll find vestiges from that period in the form of an Elizabethan doorway with Doric pilasters.
Possession of the property was restored to the Duke of Somerset through a land sale and restoration took place during the 17th century, because the windows date from that period.
ChewMagnaBridgeSouth of the village, medieval Tun Bridge dates from late 15th century with a Grade II listing. It features three pointed arches including double arch rings built in two orders and spans sixty feet over the river and is approached along the raised high pavements. This area is also a scheduled ancient monument.
Hunstrete_Exterior_P_LeonardoA possible second choice for staying over is Hunstrete House Hotel which stands in a classical English landscape on the edge of the Mendip Hills, surrounded by lovely gardens, lake and woodlands. The large house is 19th century, although the history of the estate goes back to 963 AD according to the owners. In September of 2007 the Time Team people swooped down on the current house to explore the possibilities of a previous grand mansion which was never finished by Francis Popham, a descendant of Sir John of the same name who started construction of a 17-bay frontage. By Francis death in 1780 construction was abandoned and by 1830 it was demolished leaving behind only the arches and much of that was used in the restoration of Prior Park!
The investigation by the Time Team were excavations with the aim of determining if a previous medieval or Tudor manor house ever existed on the site. A program aired in England on February 17, 2008 revealing only that the 1780 mansion was an addition of a new exterior to a previous structure. What remains is quite fabulous in any case and is a great base for traveling around Somerset if you want peace and quiet when you sleep while you gallivant all over Somerset.
Hunstrete offers a terrace dining room with a cook who serves light, elegant dishes using produce from the extensive garden, including substantial use of organic meat and vegetables. The menu changes on a regular basis and the hotel has an excellent reputation for the quality of its wine list. In a sheltered corner of the walled garden there is a heated swimming pool for guests and riding stables in the village, a short walk away.
From Bath take the A4 toward Bristol and then the A368 toward Wells.

T-01761 490490


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The Bible as Poetry

young_walt_whitmanby Walt Whitman

Translated in all languages, how has it united this diverse world !

No true bard will ever contravene the Bible. If the time ever comes when iconoclasm does its extremest in one direction against the books of the Bible in its present form, the collection must still survive in another and dominate just as much as hitherto, or more than hitherto, through its divine and primal poetic structure.

To me, that is the living and definite element- principle, ( if you will) – of the work, evolving everything else. Then the continuity, the oldest and newest Asiatic utterance and character and all between holding together, like the apparition of the sky and coming to us the same.

Even to our 19th century here are the fountain heads of song!


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The Belfry of Bruges

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Brugges_Canal_unesco_tnIn the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown;
Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o’er the town.
As the summer morn was breaking, on that lofty tower I stood,
And the world threw off the darkness, like the weeds of widowhood.

Thick with towns and hamlets studded, and with streams and vapors gray,
Like a shield embossed with silver, round and vast the landscape lay.
At my feet the city slumbered. From its chimneys, here and there,
Wreaths of snow-white smoke, ascending, vanished, ghost-like, into air.

Not a sound rose from the city at that early morning hour,
But I heard a heart of iron beating in the ancient tower.
From their nests beneath the rafters sang the swallows wild and high;
And the world, beneath me sleeping, seemed more distant than the sky.

Gothic_Belfry_Bruges_40116_IBIDThen most musical and solemn, bringing back the olden times,
With their strange, unearthly changes rang the melancholy chimes,
Like the psalms from some old cloister, when the nuns sing in the choir;
And the great bell tolled among them, like the chanting of a friar.

Visions of the days departed, shadowy phantoms filled my brain;
They who live in history only seemed to walk the earth again;
All the Foresters of Flanders,-mighty Baldwin Bras de Fer,
Lyderick du Bucq and Cressy Philip, Guy de Dampierre.

Gravensteen Castle (Chateau des Comtes), Ghent 1180 Ct Phil of AlsaceI beheld the pageants splendid that adorned those days of old;
Stately dames, like queens attended, knights who bore the Fleece of Gold
Lombard and Venetian merchants with deep-laden argosies;
Ministers from twenty nations; more than royal pomp and ease.

I beheld proud Maximilian, kneeling humbly on the ground;
I beheld the gentle Mary, hunting with her hawk and hound;
And her lighted bridal-chamber, where a duke slept with the queen,
And the armed guard around them, and the sword unsheathed between.

I beheld the Flemish weavers, with Namur and Juliers bold,
Marching homeward from the bloody battle of the Spurs of Gold;
Saw the light at Minnewater, saw the White Hoods moving west,
Saw great Artevelde victorious scale the Golden Dragon’s nest.

And again the whiskered Spaniard all the land with terror smote;
And again the wild alarm sounded from the tocsin’s throat;
Till the bell of Ghent responded o’er lagoon and dike of sand,
“I am Roland! I am Roland! there is victory in the land!”

Brugge_FCG_Shutterstock_BelgiumThen the sound of drums aroused me. The awakened city’s roar
Chased the phantoms I had summoned back into their graves once more.
Hours had passed away like minutes; and, before I was aware,
Lo! the shadow of the belfry crossed the sun-illumined square.


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The Cavalier’s Escape

Natl_Poet_MOby Walter Thornbury

Trample! Trample ! went the roan,
Trap! Trap! went the gray;
But Pad ! Pad ! Pad! like a thing that was mad,
My chestnut broke away.
It was just five miles from Salisbury town,
And but one hour to day

Thud! Thud! came on the heavy roan,
Rap! rap the mettled gray;
But my chestnut mare was of blood so rare,
That she showed them all the way.
Spur on! spur on!- I doffed my hat,
And wished them all good-day.

The splashed through miry rut and pool,-
Splintered through fence and rail,
But chestnut Kate switched over the gate,-
I saw them droop and tail
To Salisbury town-but a miles of down,
Once over this brook and rail.

bluetwohorses142wsTrap! Trap! I heard their echoing hoofs
Past the walls of mossy stone,
The roan flew on at a staggering pace,
But blood is better than bone.
I patted old Kate and gave her the spur,
For I knew it was all my own.

But trample! trample! came their steeds,
And I saw their wolf’s eyes burn,
I felt like a royal hart at bay,
And made me ready to turn.
I looked where highest grew the May,
And deepest arched the fern.

I flew at the first knave’s sallow throat,
One blow, and he was down.
The second rogue fired twice, and missed,
I sliced the villain’s crown,-
Clove through the rest- and flogged brave Kate,
Fast, fast to Salisbury town !

Pad! pad! they came on the level sward,
Thud! thud! upon the sand,-
With a gleam of swords and a burning match,
And a shaking of flag and hand;
But one long bound and I passed the gate,
Safe from the canting band.


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The Door Leading to Mount Zion

I hope you’re having a blessed Easter and enjoying this time in remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus. Today I thought I’d present a small portion of John Bunyan‘s classic tale, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and hope you enjoy either the reminder or will take it as an incentive to read the most epic version of what it means to walk as a true Christian in this world. -The Castle Lady
(Christian has approached the gate leading on to Mount Zion.)
Now, over the gate there was written this promise: “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Therefore he knocked boldly, and that more than just once or twice, saying:


“May I now enter here? Will he within
open to sorry me, though I have been
an undeserving rebel? If so, then shall I
Not fail to sing his lasting praise on High.”
While he awaited the keeper of the gate, he noticed that the door was curiously marred by many scars. He observed further that there were smoke stains on the stone arch over the door. He saw also the broken shafts and charred feathers from many arrows littering the ground. “Hmmm,” said he with furrowed brow. “If I do not miss my guess, I would say that this gate has withstood more than just a simple siege or two.”
Soon there came a grave person to the gate named Goodwill, who asked, “Who knocks there?”
“A poor burdened sinner,” replied Christian, “fleeing unto Mount Zion from the City of Destruction.”
With that, the gate was thrown open and Christian was so quickly snatched within by two powerful hands that he nearly went sprawling headlong upon the ground. Before Christian could even regain his balance, the door had been speedily shut fast and securely barred behind him. Then Christian, a bit dazed by such hasty behavior, said, “Dear, sir, what was the reason for giving me such a violent jerk?”
Then answered Goodwill, wiping a bead of sweat from his brow, “Did you not notice the scars and burns on our little wicket gate?”
“And did you chance to hear all the zinging and thumping sounds as I was shutting the door?”
“Yes. I think I did. What were they?”
“Open the door a little and take a peek out to see what they were.”
So Christian loosed the bars, cautiously opened the door just a tiny crack and there, stuck fast in the wood about the door, were several burning arrows!”
“Oh my! Fiery darts!”
“Aye. Flaming arrows.”
“Stabbed into the door!”
“And for whom were these messengers of death sent?”
“For you, dear traveler,” said Goodwill gravely. “For you.”
“Whence came they?”
Goodwill pointed through the crack at an imposing castle looking large in the shadows of the misty forest, saying, “Look! Across the way!”
So Christian cracked the door just a bit wider and peeked out.
“I see a castle hidden in the trees. It has great iron gates and it flies the black banner. And it seems, sir, that it is not very far off from the wicket gate you keep.
Within a bowshot, I should guess.”
bunyan-pilgrims-progress-grangerWhile these words were still upon his lips a flaming arrow went zinging (ssffssst!) over his head and buried its smoking shaft in the flower bed behind him. Quickly slamming the door, Christian leaned his burden back against it and swallowing hard said, “I say! This pilgrimage business is dreadfully dangerous stuff, isn’t it?”
“Aye,” agreed the gatekeeper. “Life and death stuff.”
“But who would want to kill a simple pilgrim like me?” he asked incredulously. Then Goodwill answered saying,
“Open the door a wee crack and look out again. But not so wide!”
And so Christian obeyed and with the utmost caution peeked him out through a tiny sliver of light. Then said Goodwill, “Can you see the dark castle?”
“Aye,” answered Christian. “To whom does it belong?”
“‘Tis the castle of the enemy, of which Beelzebub himself is the captain.”
“It is ?”
“Aye. And from its walls he and they that be with him, shoot arrows at those that come up to this gate, hoping to kill them before they enter in.”
“But I am new upon this journey,” said Christian. “Why would he want to destroy me? Surely I am no threat to him!”
“Nay, but you are!” declared Goodwill. “The greatest of God’s warriors began just as you have done. And since the evil one has no way of knowing what God’s grace may make of you, he tries to nip you in the bud. Besides, it is a principle of the dark kingdom that none shall leave its service without encountering trials, tribulations and death at every step.”
“Then I have great cause to rejoice and tremble!” said Christian thankfully.
“Aye, indeed you have,” said Goodwill as he bolted the door fast. “But tell me, how is it that you came all alone?”
Then Christian bowed his head in sadness and answered softly, “Because none of my family or neighbors saw their danger, as I saw mine.”
“Did any of them know you were coming?”
“Oh yes! Almost the entire town saw me go.”
“Then I am surprised that no one followed after to persuade you to go back.”
“Oh, some did. Both Obstinate and Pliable came running after me. But when they saw that they could not change my mind, Obstinate went stomping back.”
“As the name, so the man. And Pliable?”
“Well, ” explained Christian with a note of sadness to his voice, “Pliable was happy enough to come along with me, until we carelessly fell into the Slough of Despond.”
“Ah. You must have taken your eyes off the light.”
“Aye. So we did,” admitted Christian.
“What then?”
“Well, for a short time we tried to press forward. But as soon as the muck got past our waists, he became discouraged and refused to venture farther.”
“Ah, alas, poor man! Was not the celestial glory precious enough to brave a few difficulties?”
“Truly, if the truth be known, I am no better than he.”
“Why do you say that? Did not he run back? And did not you come straight on?”
“‘Tis true,” agreed Christian, with his head hung down. “He went on back to Destruction, but I also turned aside back into the way of death.”
“Ah. Up to the town of Morality no doubt.”
“Uh huh,” said Goodwill angrily. “Directed thereto by the carnal arguments of one Mr. Worldly-wiseman, I suppose.”
“Yes, but how did you know?”
“Because this wicked fellow attacks nearly everyone with his fleshly reasoning. And frankly, there are few that escape his snare.”
“Ah, then I have more reason than ever to be thankful to my Lord,” said Christian with a sigh of relief.
“More than you know. And I suppose he was going to have you seek for ease at the hands of Mr. Legality or one of his base-born sons?”
“Aye. Their names were Civility and Psychology.”
“Pah! Nothing but cheats the lot of them!” said he with righteous indignation. “But go on. Did you truly take his vile counsel?”
“Yes,” admitted Christian. “At least as far as I dared. For I was nearly crushed by the overhang of that fearful mountain.”
“That mountain will be the death of all who try to enter in by the works of their own hands,” affirmed Goodwill. “Frankly, I am amazed that you escaped being ground to powder!”
“Yea,” agreed Christian gratefully. “It is amazing! Thanks be to God! But now here I am, more deserving of death on the horns of Sinai than to be here talking with you, my lord. Oh, what a blessed privilege! That one so faithless as I should still be allowed within these wondrous walls!”
“No need for surprise on that account, dear Christian. We have no restrictions against any who would enter this place.”
“Against none?”
Against none! No matter what they may have done before coming here, no one is shut out.”
“Thank God!”
“Yes,” smiled Goodwill. “For everything! But come now, good Christian. Walk with me a little way and I will teach you about the way you must go.”
So he took him to the edge of the compound and pointing to a small, little-trod path said, “Here, look…straight before you. Do you see that little path?”
“That is the way you must go.”
Christian looked up along the way and then turned to Goodwill saying, “‘Tis a bit narrow, don’t you think?”
To this, Goodwill only smiled and said, “This path through the wilderness of this world was carved out by the patriarchs, the prophets, Christ, and His apostles.”
“But it is so narrow.”
“You’re only passing through, dear Christian. And besides, it was wide enough for Christ.”
“Then, I suppose it must be wide enough for me!” said Christian decidedly.
“It is!” answered Goodwill confidently. “Wide enough for anyone! And with room to spare!”
“Has it a name?”
“Aye. It is called by our Lord the ‘Straight Way’ and He laid it out using the survey instruments of heaven itself. This is the way you must go.”
“But is it easy to follow?” asked Christian, fearful of getting off the path again. “Are there any turnings or windings wherein a stranger may lose his way?”
“Nay, none. But, beware, for there are many ways that come down and intersect with with this one.”
“Then might I not become confused?”
“Nay, fear not,” Goodwill continued calmly. “They are easy to detect, for they are all broad and easy of travel.
Only the right way is straight and narrow. You may also detect them because only the right one ascends upwards.”
“Ah,” said Christian, breathing a sigh of relief. “Then ‘the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein!'”
“None need err,” smiled Goodwill. “All who are willing to do His will shall know the right way. Now, ’tis time to be off on your journey.”
“Uh, one thing more, dear Goodwill.”
“Can you cut this burden off my back?” begged Christian. “I cannot do it myself and back home no one else could even see it. Can you see it?”
“Oh, aye. See it I can. Very well indeed. And a very dark and grievous one it is too!”
“Then, can you help me?”
“No, dear Christian. The place of beginnings is not the place of deliverance.
You must be content to bear it until you come to a sacred hill, where it will fall from your back of its own accord.”
“When shall this be?” sighed Christian longingly. “When?”
“Sooner than you think and longer than you wish,” was the wise reply. “Only be content with your Lord’s timing.”


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Pot o’ Gold

st_patricks_dayMay your pockets be heavy

Your heart be light

May good luck find you each morning and night

May you have all the happiness life can hold

May all your rainbows end with a pot of gold.


The Castle Lady

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