Sweetbriar Dreams

So where shall we go on our journey today?

Saturday, 25 March 2017

My London Pride

Due to the terrible events that unfolded on Wednesday at Westminster, I wasn't going to post this week.  Too upset and angry that my home town had become vulnerable in a brief moment, a mindless act of violence taking the lives of innocent people, and a devoted policeman at the first line of defence.


Anyone who knows Westminster Bridge, or indeed has been a tourist there, will know just how frustratingly busy the bridge and the pavements are along here.  Tourists, workers, street entertainers, artists, as well as London traffic both on the bridge and the Thames boats beneath.


Within moments this iconic area of London was dealing with the aftermath, all races, all faiths pulling together to help those who were dying and injured.  My friends who work in the area were in lockdown, kept in their buildings, but safe.


My Grandparents lived through the Blitz, my parents and I lived through the IRA bombings, and now my children are growing up in an era of uncertainty of randomness of terrorist targets.  There is nothing more incredible than the resilience of Londoners.  Yes we get tarnished for being unfriendly, just worried about ourselves as we dash around the City, but that's because we're busy, we have places to get to and try and fight our way through the crowds.  But, when the going gets tough, we pull together, dust ourselves down and just get on with it, helping, talking, taking time to make sure everything that can be done is done.


As I watched events unfold, as well as being in shock, I was proud.  Proud of the strangers who helped each other and the emergency services carrying out their numerous drills of such an eventuality.


I am a proud Londoner, and always will be. No matter how often we try to get beaten down, we just get stronger.


Sunday, 19 March 2017

A Chocolate Box Assortment

As someone who gave up chocolate for my New Year's Resolution, a trip to Cadbury World in Bournville, Birmingham, was not one of my best ideas!  However, off we went and I discovered an alternative chocolate box assortment.  So, dear Readers, grab yourself a bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk, a cup of tea, and let me take you on a blog journey in two halves ("a glass and a half").  The first being my own version of a chocolate box full of different loves of mine, and the second being the real chocolate part!


Cadbury's was formed in 1824 by John and Benjamin Cadbury by selling tea, coffee and drinking chocolate.  With the success of the business, John's sons, Richard and George went in search of a bigger place to produce their newly found product of Cadbury's Dairy Milk.  They found a large piece of land with the river Bourn nearby and a railway.  Once bought the area was called Bournville, Bourn after the river and Ville to make it sound more French!  The sons then set about designing and constructing a model village, but I'll go into that a bit later in this post.  In the meantime, one of buildings in Bournville I was instantly drawn to is called Selly Manor.  This beautiful building built in 1327 originally occupied a space in Bournbrook in Worcestershire!  


The building was in an awful state of disrepair and was going to be destroyed until George Cadbury saved it for the new model village that he was creating in Bournville.  Each part was numbered, dismantled and then rebuilt as a centrepiece to the village in 1914.



Unfortunately, and I mean really unfortunately, the Manor wasn't open due to a book fair, so my own 'box of chocolates' was to look around the grounds.  Not disappointed though!  I have put a link here so that you can see inside.

As some Readers will know, I get very excited about old windows, doors, beams, roofs...  The Manor was everything I love to capture and my camera once again became very busy with recording the beautiful old architecture.  The hand blown glass reflecting its surroundings in fish eye form.


... door furniture, rusty, decayed, exquisite!...


... herringbone brick work against the old blackened timbers and leaded light windows...


...even seed heads looked incredible with the building as a backdrop...


With spring now well and truly singing in the fading light, the Manor provides the most exquisite backdrop.


To think that this historical building could have been raised to the ground and the beams etc used elsewhere made me very grateful to George Cadbury.



New growth surrounds each corner of the Manor, the old and new perfectly mixed, as the Manor did back in 1916 when the rebuilding was completed.



Also in the grounds is another saved building, Minworth Greaves, a medieval hall building, which was saved in 1932.  Again, painstakingly dismantled and rebuilt in the grounds of the Manor at Bournville, this time by Laurence Cadbury.



Inside the hall with it's incredible beams and vaulted ceiling ooze history.



Two incredible buildings, two pioneering members of the Cadbury family who saved these two gems of history.



One part of the garden that I felt I had to show you had to be this hedging.  Henry VIII and his six wives... seven topiary creations, two without heads!!



Bournville was full of beautiful architecture, including these mock tudor row of shops by the Village Green built at the beginning of the last century.



Of course the red telephone box has to make an appearance.



As promised at the beginning of this post, the Cadbury family decided to provide a decent environment for their workers, creating a model village with a hospital, housing, large open spaces for exercise and of course, work at the factory.  A scaled model can be found at the Bournville Experience within Cadbury World.


And so, to Cadbury World, set just next to the factory.


Luckily the smell of chocolate was virtually non existent for this abstainer!  However, freebies are given!!  Along with a little pot of melted chocolate and a choice of treats to go in with this (three teaspoons of oily melted chocolate doesn't count in my book... I didn't EAT any!).


The shop however didn't escape some purchases!!


Photography isn't allowed within this place, so I haven't much to show you but one of my pet hates is to be shut into rooms while on a tour until the next part of the tour is ready...


... I'm afraid this happened along with long queues where we didn't want to go into that part of the tour or the tour itself took you on long walks of empty corridors. 


Personally, if I came here again, I would go to the shop and then spend the rest of my time in the beautiful village along with admiring the distinctive purple lamp posts (be careful of the directional signs in the village though, they get turned by mischievous fingers!).


So I survived my demons!  Before my New Year's Resolution I would have probably bought up the shop and complained about the lack of melted chocolate in the free pot at the end.  I'm proud of myself!


I hope you enjoyed your own chocolate!!

Have a good week.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Tales of Kent (Part 4 - St Margaret's Bay)

It was the 1 March, and the first day of Spring.  Steely grey skies above us, the wind forcing the tide high onto the shore with the salty water  resting on our faces as the waves crashed nearby. St Margaret's Bay in Kent faces France in the distance but today there was no tempting glimpse of its shores, but in a way, I didn't want anything to interrupt my love for this place.


St Margaret's Bay first appeared in the Domesday Book and much later became retreats for Ian Fleming (he of James Bond and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fame), Peter Ustinov (one of my favourite actors) and Noel Coward (the famous, flamboyant playwright) along with many others.  I can perfectly understand their reasoning as the environment was incredibly inspirational.


The white cliffs, even though grey today, the beach, the sound of the crashing waves.  A place to lose yourself, to just walk and think, quiet in human form, noisy in nature.


To walk alongside the beach with the hiss of the water against the pebbles was satisfying beyond imagination.  Re-living the places that I had seen in Kent.  Kent, the place that my Great Grandparents retreated to themselves, my mum and my Uncle spending their summer holidays in the area.  I can understand why they love to reminisce about this beautiful county.


Next time I visit this Bay I hope to capture its beauty in the sunshine, its romance in calmer waters and a tempting view of another country in the distance.  A walk along the cliffs to capture its majestic outline from above.


A truly inspirational place, perfect with friends of similar minds and outlook.  A brief visit, but enough to capture my heart completely.

Kent, I will be back to visit soon, VERY soon!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Tales of Kent (Part 3 - Dover Castle)

There are some places that I visit where I wonder why on earth I have never been before.  Dover Castle is one of them.  If you are ever in Kent you MUST visit this place but make sure you have a whole day spare to go around at your leisure, take advantage of the tours and thoroughly enjoy every step you take!  The weather was grey but I love this as it makes the experience more atmospheric, the company was colourful, intelligent and inspirational, so are you ready to follow in our steps?   Let's start our journey with showing you just how thick a castle's walls should be!  In some places they are 21ft thick (6.5m), a fortress indeed.


This place has it all, centuries of history, with each room a history lover's treasure chest and walking within a fortress that was originally built as a Motte and Bailey Castle.  The Motte was a man made hill which the castle would sit on as the final fighting area.  The Bailey was the area that was occupied by people and animals in peacetime.  Dover's Motte and Bailey castle was built in eight days with around 500 men working on this and a wooden 'castle' built at the top with removable ladders for defence.  From 1180 - 89 Henry II wanted the Castle rebuilt and it was continued to be built during King John's reign and completed during Henry III's reign c. 1217.  From the shot I took below, you will see just one of the many rings of defence that surrounded part of these magnificent buildings.


Looking through Coltons Gateway, a Saxon work first, and the Great Tower beckons you in to explore its walls.  Can you imagine the centuries of people walking under this arch?


Once through the gateway, the Tower stands, foreboding, oozing history and willing you to explore.


King Henry II, who was father to Richard the Lionheart and the tyrant that was King John, would entertain his court here, showing off his wealth and power.  I loved the burst of colour in these rooms which the historians have kept true to the time.



The kitchen, certainly the heart of the Tower, would have been alive with servants constantly running to and fro with chargers full of the food of that time and plenty of mead I daresay!



All running to keep the man who was waiting here, happy!


In one little side room I was intrigued by the simplicity of it and the rope that hung over a step.  Sitting on the step and looking down, I realised that this was a very deep well, one that actually had mist rising from the bottom!  A penny was dropped in and the chinking of it hitting the sides went on and on and on.  It turns out that this well was built by 12th century builders into the chalk and sunk over 122m deep.  It is as deep as Salisbury Cathedral's spire is high and may have been envisaged as being used as a refuge if the Castle fell.


We continued upwards through side rooms, worn stairways that had been trodden down over the centuries (a favourite thing of mine when visiting older properties), and eventually reached the turrets.  Windy, chilly, grey, but still a wonderful view...



As well as high above, you can travel back in time down below too.  One tour we took was to see the tunnels which were originally burrowed and finished in 1803 with around 2000 officers and troops using them as barracks for a Napoleonic invasion.  This never happened but they were used again for Operation Dynamo (unfortunately photos are not allowed here), if you visit the Castle, this is a must see.  This tour took you to the tunnels that were reused to plan Dunkirk and the final leg of the tour takes you to a tunnel where the evacuation of the troops is displayed on the walls, reflected planes flying over you and showing the explosions to the left and right of you.  Very well done and as my Grandpa was one of the fortunate troops who managed to escape this, very humbling to see what he went through.

As well as this tunnel, there are the medieval tunnels which were burrowed under the Castle during the Siege in 1216.  You descend around 26m as you go into the tunnels, and the atmosphere is incredible!





You come out to see Cannon pointing out to defend the castle.  An avenue of them, and you can imagine the energy of those ready to defend the castle.


Once outside, we came across this church and Roman lighthouse.  The lighthouse is the oldest still standing in England.  It was used to guide the Romans to England from France with fires burnt from the top.  Another stood at the other side of the port so that the ships could navigate their way through.  Amazing that after all these centuries it still stands and now has a neighbour in the Anglo Saxon Church of St Mary in Castro.



Inside the lighthouse the only activity now was the chatter and cry of seabirds, but to look up at this incredible history, breathtaking!


The Church has had many makeovers over the years, the last being William Butterfield.  But, I'm sorry to say, the tiles on the wall did feel a bit public toilet, you know the ones that used to be underground?!  




Once again, the stained glass, as in Canterbury Cathedral, was stunning.


And so there you have it, Dover Castle, another one that I will definitely be back on a sunny day to admire more of its beauty.

Have a wonderful weekend and week ahead.

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