Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday 30 September - London

It was an easy journey into London. Arriva Wales trains took us to Birmingham New Street on time. We had a 20 minute connection and the Virgin Pendolino was already in the platform so we boarded straight away - better than waiting in the first class lounge. The riding of this  train at speed (125 mph) was very lively. I don't know if it was a track or a truck problem but it was safer to be sitting down. We arrived in Euston on time. Fortified by a Virgin toasted back bacon sandwich we caught a 205 bus to Paddington only to find that the bus was diverted to Sussex Gardens rather than Praed Street but the distance to the hotel was about the same. We were greeted like old friends by Peter, the manager.
This afternoon we took the Underground to Covent Garden. The new trains on the Circle Line are excellent. Bright interior and wide corridor connections. Platform levels are good.
The London Transport Museum is excellent. It does a lot in a restricted space. There are three floors and the locomotives and underground cars are on the second floor. The double decker trams are impressive and I also enjoyed the trolley bus and the RT double decker bus which I rode many times to and from school.

The ubiquitous RT buses were on both the 61 and 161 routes which I rode daily to and from school.
The museum does a great job in the limited space available but can only scratch the surface.
Click here to see all pictures taken at the London Transport Museum
Click below to see these pictures in slide show format
Mary and I had a drink at Covent Garden, I had a pint of a St. Austell beer - Nicholson's pale, a good well rounded pale ale, medium color.
We came back on the Piccadilly line and changed to the Bakerloo line for Paddington. As we were leaving the station there were announcements that all trains were stopped on the Bakerloo line between Elephant and Castle and Queens Park.  Seems like we got out just in time.
We fancied fish and chips but the local chippy looked pretty grotty so we settled for the Mad Bishop and Bear in Paddington Station which has good beers as well as good pub food. The fish and chips were excellent, the chips being nice and crispy. I had a pint of Fullers London Pride, still one of my favorites.
The pub was busy and we were lucky to snag a table. The office workers called in here on their way home. Being on the concourse of Paddington station they were able to watch the train departure board and go out when their train was about to leave.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday 29 September - Shrewsbury

Our last day in Shrewsbury.  There are so many interesting buildings here that it is difficult to record them all. There are a few on the road down to the Welsh Bridge that are exceptional.

Although it is on a slope this building has a definite list.
We liked the upside down "dragon".

The Kings Head is leaning out over the street.
With a sunny day in the forecast we decided to do some walking along the river. The upstream meadows are pleasant with just a few people mostly taking their dogs and kids for a walk. There was an equestrian event taking place across the water.


Our forward progress was thwarted by a cowfrontation. They looked pretty docile, but some of them had horns.

The trees are changing color now and there are lots of berries.  We saw chestnuts and sloes while the wild roses were pretty extensive in places.  Back in town we climbed the footpath past Shrewsbury school from where there are extensive views of the town across the river.
From left - St. Chads; Market; St. Mary's; St. Alkmunds.  On this side of the river is one of the two boathouses.
We took the Greyfriars bridge back into town for a drink at the Three Fishes. Red MacGregor is a dark beer from Orkney, northern Scotland. Very good, good flavor and quite strong.
Lunch was at an Italian place followed by an ice cream cone at the Quarry. It turned out to be a cloudless blue sky and the Dingle was beautiful.
This evening we went to the Three Fishes for a farewell drink and fell into conversation with a couple who moved to Shrewsbury from Congleton several years ago.  He was still working part time at Morris Lubricants prior to retirement.  We had a long discussion, particularly about the tender lubrication problems of King George V which he solved.  He also reminisced about the Sentinal Steam Wagon Company which was located in Shrewsbury. We were drinking Thornbridge Lumford pale ale, another new beer in Three Fishes.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday 28 September - Shrewsbury - Morris Dancing

More fun than you can shake a stick at.
Shrewsbury hosted the Morris Federation's Annual Day of Dance. 35 Morris Dancing teams were present. Shrewsbury is busy on Saturday and the crowds were increased by people in gaily decorated costumes with tinkling of their bells on their pants and shoes.
The market square was the start off point where the proceedings were opened by the mayor who participated in the first dance.

Click below to see video
The dancing was good although there were a couple of miscues. There was dancing with sticks and bows and one dance use trowels.
French Canadian tap dancing.
Several venues were used. There were three or four locations on the Quarry, one in town, one at St. Mary's and the Castle. Of these, the Castle was probably the most spectacular with the building and flowers as a background. The market square came a close second with the timber framed and stone buildings. At the Quarry a man with a kid in a push chair/buggy and a large brown dog wandered up.  The dog took one look at the group that was getting ready with their sticks and started to growl.  When they started to dance about and hit their sticks the dog barked loudly, pretty much to the rhythmn.  We were laughing but the man was embarrassed and took his charges away. 
The Quarry
The Quarry
St. Mary's church entrance forecourt.

The Castle
The Castle
The teams came from all over England and there were demonstrations of American and French Canadian tap dancing.
One group of women used what appeared to be swords with a handle on each end. The six of them wove an intricate pattern so the whole thing could be held up by one person. They then danced together and unwove them. The leader of the group is on the right hand side
The costumes where very bright and varied. Several groups had blacked their faces. Many groups had jackets of tatters - a jacket with long strips of cloth. Partridge and peacock feathers adorned many hats.
Some groups were mixed but many were one sex. In some cases the costumes were similar and the men played while the women danced and vice versa.
Much of the music was familiar - folk tunes and songs I sang at school. One girl sang unaccompanied and held the rhythmn for the dancers. "Over the hills and far away."

    Jockey was a Piper's Son,
    And fell in love when he was young;
    But all the Tunes that he could play,
    Was, o'er the Hills, and far away.
Tis o'er the hills and far away
Tis o'er the hills and far away
Tis o'er the hills and far away
The wind has blown my plaid away
Many in the crowd, me included, joined in singing the chorus. That must have been the first time for me since primary school - over 60 years

I have just realized that I haven't posted a picture of our favorite pub The Three Fishes.

As expected, the Three Fishes was crowded at lunchtime and one end had been taken over by several groups of dancers. There were three or so accordions playing (the same tune) and sticks beating tune. It was a lot of fun.
This group, seen here at the market square earlier in the day, performed the last dance at the Quarry.  Before starting the dance they stood in two lines, told the children to get their parents to cover their ears, and recited the poem below:
"My friend Billy had a ten foot willy
"And he showed it to the girl next door
"She thought it was a snake
"So she cut it with a rake
"And now it's only five foot four"

Click below to see Monty Python's take on Morris Dancing.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday 27 September - Craven Ams and Stokesay Castle

We have traveled through Craven Arms several times and the description of the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre was quite enticing. It is essentially an environmental conservation center set on a large tract of land bounded by the river Onny and the main road. There are many footpaths, some of which are quite rough. The river is slow flowing at the moment and a few ducks were in evidence. A growth of withy was presumably used for basket weaving demonstrations. Much of the area was reverting to the wild with extensive growths of nettles and thistle. There is a large pool that has large growths of rushes and reeds. One area of water was completely covered with weeds and we watched a moorhen run over it with its feet an inch or so above the surface of the water.
Withy Beds

There were several types of thistle
This shows how high the thistles were growing
It was a short walk across the road to Stokesay Castle. This is a manor house built in 1319 in the style of a castle. The Great Hall is impressive and there are good views along the valley from the tower. Stokesay was built after the danger of war was over so the windows are large. There was never a battle here although it once surrendered rather than be destroyed.

Entry to the castle is close to the parish church which was worth a visit. Two ladies were putting out flowers for a wedding tomorrow. The church has enclosed pews and at the front are a couple of pews with a roof as well as sides.

We had a drink and lunch at the Stokesay Arms. The Wye Valley pale ale was good and went down well.

Click here to see all pictures taken at Craven Arms and Stokesay
Click below to see thise pictures in slide show format
Back in Shrewsbury the Fun Fair was beginning to get under way.

But the big news is that tomorrow there will be 35 teams of Morris Dancers in town.  There was one group of them at the Three Fishes this evening where I sampled a pale ale from East Sussex.  It was very good but the flavor was almost overpowering.
Supper was a pork pie with mustard and a pint