Friday 31 December 2010

Equatorial Crafts

Yet another passageway into Ashbourne's lower market place, begins here, by the Millennium clock which was erected to celebrate the turn of the millennium (wow, is that REALLY eleven years ago?) and officially opened by the Mayor of Ashbourne on 17th March 2000.

Turn round the corner by Pet's Pad and follow the narrow, cobbled jitty down towards Victoria Square.

In Victoria Square, you can find Equatorial Crafts; one of many establishments which contribute to Ashbourne's status as a Fairtrade town. Set out over two floors, this shop is packed with crafts from Latin America; all sourced by the owner who makes frequent journeys out to trade with local suppliers. Here, you can buy clothes, bags, jewellery, embroidery and a range of other knick knacks; mostly brightly coloured, mostly well made and all very distinct in their ethnicity. If you're in the area, it's well worth a visit!

Thursday 30 December 2010

Market Place

The market town of Ashbourne is in the Derbyshire Dales, very close to the border with Staffordshire. It was first granted a royal charter to hold markets in 1257 and held regular livestock markets, plus horse fairs three times a year and cheese fairs four times a year. Current market days are Thursdays and Saturdays, but livestock are no longer involved here. On market days, stall-holders set up in the early morning and sell throughout the day; food and drink, clothing, electrical and media, jewellery etc etc. During the rest of the week, this upper section of the market place serves as a car park.

At the top of the Market Place, is the Wright Memorial, erected in 1874 in memory of Francis Wright, a local industrialist who owned the ironworks at Butterley and lived in nearby Osmaston Manor. Although a benefactor to the town, Wright was not universally popular, due to his attempts to ban the annual Shrovetide football match, which survived him and is still the BIG event of the town's calendar!
Just in front of the Wright Memorial was the Bull Ring, which was used to tether the poor victim for the popular medieval sport of bull baiting. It was close to this spot that Bonnie Prince Charlie proclaimed his father, James, 'King of England' during the first Stuart rebellion of 1745. Unfortunately for the Bonnie Prince, his march on London was halted a mere 20 miles further south at Swarkestone and James never did claim the English throne. Ashbourne remains, however, the only place in England where a 'Pretender' to the throne has been proclaimed.

There has been a Christmas tree at the top of Ashbourne market place for as long as I can remember. As a child, travelling back through the town from my nanna's house, this was the part of the journey where I used to perk up and peer out of the car window, searching for the first glimpse of the brightly coloured lights. They were firmly switched off this afternoon though, waiting for darkness to descend.

Ye Old Vaults pub splits the market place into its two sections. This pub began life in around 1620 as a small timber framed building with the rather incongruous name of The Anatomical Horse and a skeleton of a horse as its sign. It was modernised in the late 19th Century, at which time it was given its present name. Maybe they figured that few people would want to drink in a pub which looked like it wanted to be a place for scientific experimentation.

From here, you can choose to go down the passage to the left (towards yet another pub - and mind the Peak Waste bins!)...

...or down the passage to the right (anyone for an ice cream?) access the lower market place. This part of the market was The Shambles, where the animals were butchered and it was, for many years, known as Butcher's Row. Nowadays it goes by the much more regal name of Victoria Square and contains mainly 'independent' shops, an art gallery, the 'gas' lamp and a seating area.

The gas lamp dates back to the 1830s when a group of businessmen met to discuss the setting up of a gas company. Originally, the lamp was at the very bottom of the market place, but it was recently restored and moved to its current location. Now, it is powered by electricity. 

Stand here on a busy summer day, and there will be buskers entertaining the passers by, drinkers sitting outside the pub and people stopping for a natter. Today, at a grey -4.5 degrees C, everyone was much more interested in hurrying on towards warmth!

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Christmas robin

Star of many a Christmas card, showing off his lovely red breast, the robin is actually quite the little bully.

Robin Redbreast stares
Full bird feeder! Standing guard!
"Don't even think it!"

This was taken in my aunt and uncle's garden. In mine, the Blue Tits have a system, taking it in turns to be chased while the others nip in for a beakful.

With all that chasing, you'd think he'd be a little less round. Maybe he's just fluffed up his thermal underwear.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Mercaston snow

Until today, the world was still all white.

Although it hasn't actually snowed for a few days, the freezing temperatures have been making the white stuff hang around, gradually beoming more and more patchy; treacherous in places where it has compacted to pure ice. Today, however, we had the first signs of a true melt, with grey, miserable, but warmer temperatures (by which I mean climbing just about above freezing point), accompanied by drizzle.

The snow was beautiful, but very inconvenient with near impassable minor roads and streets.

If you're getting heartily tired of all this snow, click here for the same location on a green day, but I have a few more snowy pictures to share yet I'm afraid :)

Monday 27 December 2010

Out of the darkness

Remember this? That vague shadow which scuttled off into the darkness before I could focus! I said I'd get her sooner or later, and I did!

Well, nearly...

Nice tail...

Stupid animal! Turn THIS way!!!


Ooooh! Much better!

They spend quite a lot of time doing this.


And it's so annoying that their favourite place to hang out is about half way down the garden, just where the line post gets in the way from every bedroom window x-(

But, eventually, one of them scurried up a bit closer.

In the summer, when I won't freeze to death hiding behind a bush or up a tree, I hope to get some better pictures from reasonably close up! If I do, I'll post them.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Peace on Earth

This is the backdrop to the nativity scene in my local church window. When I walked round to look, the sun was shining quite strongly and creating these reflections on the glass. It seemed a very approprite; Peace on Earth reflected into my local community.

Saturday 25 December 2010

Happy Christmas

And all the angels sang for him,
The bells of heaven rang for him,
For a boy was born;
King of all the world!
A Starry Night. Joy Webb

A very
Happy Christmas
to all!

(And thank you for a great first year of blogging!)

Friday 24 December 2010

Not a creature was stirring

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse...
(Clement C Moore 1822)

Well, no, actually, let's rewind a bit, because that's not quite true. In fact, it's not true at all.

For starters, two teens were well and truly stirring; wide awake and active in that annoying way that teens have of being topsy turvey with their body clocks.

For second, Conker, our pet hamster, was grinding down her teeth on the bars of the cage; only pausing long enough to stuff a small piece of apple into her pouch.

And for third, the mouse was most definitely up and about.

Yes, really, I did say mouse; as in small rodent, big ears, likes cheese, multiplies extremely quickly...

Perhaps I should explain.

It all began on Tuesday at around 6.30am. I was lying in bed, all warm and snug and cosy and peaceful, rejoicing in the fact that I didn't have to get up and go to work, when I heard a rustling. It wasn't a very big rustling, but it was definitely a rustling; a sort of scratchy rustling; a sort of persistent scratchy rustling!

After quite a long time of trying to ignore said rustling, I reluctantly dragged myself out of the delicious warmth and snugness, into the freezing cold air of the bedroom and began to glue my ear against various bits of wall, floor, furniture, cupboard... definitely cupboard.

I opened the door and the rustling stopped.

OK, I know! It stopped because the thing making the rustling was now wondering what was letting in all the light and should it be afraid, but you have to understand that I was cold and the bed was still just about warm and snug and cosy, so I managed to persuade myself that the rustling was just the adjoining neighbour rooting in one of her cupboards at half past six in the morning and now she'd stopped and all was OK and I could go back to bed, immediately! So I did!

All was well until Wednesday morning, when I lay in bed all warm and snu... You get the picture!

Except this time, I couldn't persuade myself that Mrs K would be rootling in her cupboards at the crack of dawn AGAIN. Instead, I reluctantly decided that I had to empty MY cupboard. This is a pain! That particular cupboard is where the hot water tank used to live, so it is big and deep and it happens to be stuffed to the brim with books and papers, files and folders, photo albums and teaching resources, maps and music. Disgruntled, I unloaded it all onto the bedroom floor, the piles growing bigger and more unstable around me, until I pulled out a shoebox full of tourism leaflets and finally uncovered this...

It's a hole!; a hole which disappears into the cavity wall between my house and my neighbour.

And I didn't have to wait long before the source of the noise appeared. A small brown nose with long brown whiskers, small beady eyes and large round ears, poked out from the depths of the hole and studied me carefully. Then, with a whisk of his tail, he was gone.

The hole was easy to photograph. It took rather longer to capture the mouse, but...

I got him in the end.

Today, the hole gets sealed, and I start being able to walk around my bedroom again without falling over piles of stuff. Mr Mouse will have to find somewhere else to rustle and scratch.

Meanwhile, maybe we can get on with the poem. Now, what did I do with those stockings?

Thursday 23 December 2010

Christmas night

After a day of grey skies, heavy cloud and almost continuous snow, we have a night of clear skies with a full moon. The result, of course, is a significant drop in a temperature which has already not risen much above freezing all day, turning our ungritted side streets into rivers of ice.

Moonlight streaming down,
Peeps through trees with frosted fronds.
Cold, clear Winter night.

Fortunately, I don't think I need to use the car at all tomorrow :)

I wonder if the moon was shining that first Christmas night, when a young girl and her betrothed sank gratefully into the shelter of a stable, after a long and arduous journey.

Full moon, hanging, still
Shadowed patches, quiet eyes
Silent watcher waits.

And what a wonderful end to the waiting!

I'm linking this post to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday with many thanks for the privilege of being part of such a brilliant meme and 'meeting' with such a great bunch of people. Happy Christmas to one and all and a special "Thank you!" to Jenny for being such a fantastic host.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Longstone Edge

This is Longstone Edge (before the snow), a limestone ridge immediately north of the village of Great Longstone, near Bakewell in Derbyshire. Rising to a height of about 1300 feet and running east-west for around 6km, it offers wonderful views over the Peak District.

The edge is quarried for galena, fluorspar and barytes, which is fine, but also for limestone, which is much more controversial because of the sheer scale of the operation. There has been a long running dispute between the Peak Park Authority and Bleaklow Industries Ltd about the rights to quarrying. The last decision, in March 2009, ruled in favour of the Peak Park Authority, but the legal battles continue.

The objection to large scale quarrying at this particular site is that is is a recognised beauty spot and, as such, should be protected. In this case, I have to agree. The line has to be drawn somewhere!

I love the colours in these photos, picked out by the somewhat selective sunshine.
And this is from the same spot, but in the other direction...

...looking very atmospheric with the light breaking through the storm clouds.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Into the light

Sometimes, places can look quite dramatic in Winter light.

I love the way that this country lane appears to be heading straight into the light. It makes me want to hurry to where the road disappears, to see what's over the top!

Monday 20 December 2010


It's gradually beginning to feel like Christmas is approaching. I'm typing this on Sunday afternoon and this evening will be our annual Carol Service, while this morning, we had our family Christingle.

My newly constructed Christingle has been added to the decorations in my living room and I will be burning the candle regularly, to get the benefit before the orange begins to decay.

The word Christingle is thought to originate from the German Christkindl meaning ‘Christ-child', although some sources translate it rather as 'Christ's fire'.

The practice of the Christingle service originated in the Moravian church in Germany in 1747, when Bishop Johannes de Watteville wrapped candles in red ribbon and gave them to the children of the church as a way of symbolising the love of Christ for them. Since then, Christingles have developed a little and the celebration has become more widespread. It was first introduced to the Anglican church in 1968 as a service to support The Children's Society, and quickly became part of the Christmas tradition in many churches, usually on this 4th Sunday in Advent. It isn't confined to churches though. It's not unusual for Christingles to be made in schools or community groups and I've just been told of a cafe where they are being made in a craft session as I type.

The heart of the Christingle is an orange, which represents the world. Wrapped around the world is a red ribbon, symbolising the blood of Jesus and making clear the link between Christmas and Easter; birth and death. Around the orange are four cocktail sticks, onto which are skewered either sweets or dried fruit. These symbolise the fruits of the world and the provision of God in all aspects of life. The four sticks can also represent the four seasons which cycle through the year in our temperate climate.

Finally is the candle which represents Jesus, the light of the world:

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
John ch 1 v 9

All that is left is the silver foil which is interpreted variously; possibly just to catch the drips or possibly representing humankind.

It's a really good fun service for all ages and it was lovely to see all of the lit Christingles in church as we passed around the light, though I suspect our minister was slightly on edge at the thought of all those naked flames! Glad I wasn't in charge :)

Sunday 19 December 2010

Coming home

Yesterday, Mark came home for Christmas. He came by train; a journey which should have taken around three and a half hours, with three changes. But, of course, there has been snow. There isn't too much here and he says there isn't too much up there, but higher up and inbetween...

The problems began before he had left Penrith; a two hour delay on train number one! From there, it was to Preston for the first change, then into Manchester. In Manchester, he had to transfer between Victoria and Piccadilly stations by Metro (though I think he quite enjoyed that; very nostalgic!). From Manchester, it was across the south Pennines to Sheffield; a beautiful journey if only it had still been daylight. Finally, the last leg of the journey was a fast inter-city service bound for London, St Pancras.

He texted me (for the umpteenth time) from Chesterfield and I set out to Derby station to pick him up - four hours later than expected.

This was his platform, but not his train. I was willing it out of the way to make room.

Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away!

Nice reflections though.

Oh, ok, maybe it didn't have to make room after all! I suppose it's only like parking a car, but watching many tons of high speed inter-city train gliding towards many more tons of high speed inter-city train, was a tad disconcerting! Mark's is the one with the snow.

Finally, the wanderer returns!

I told him to look disgruntled (and after that, he wouldn't smile!).

Nice to have him home for Christmas :)

Saturday 18 December 2010

Regular visitors

Coal tits visit my feeders on a fairly regular basis, but my old camera could never zoom in close enough to take a reasonable photo.

This particular feeder is very popular. They guzzle their way through it in no time at all.

But my tatty old, cobbled together bird table still sees a lot of action too.

He even invited his cousin along.