In Bruges – Part Two

Running easterly from the Markt square is a typical Bruges cobbled street, wider than many, it quickly expands to open into the Burg. This much smaller square is surrounded by interesting buildings and was one of the earliest parts of Bruges inhabited. The eye is immediately drawn to the Stadhuuis (Hotel de Ville or Town/City Hall) that is one of, if not the, most impressive examples in Belgium. Built in 1376 the the city to govern the city there are many historically significant documents are on display.

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This building also is home to the extravagant Gothic Hall, with its 19th Century murals and polychrome vault.

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Across the square from the Stradhuuis stood Bruges Cathedral which was torn down during the French Revolution. Next to it, in the corner remains the Basilica of the Holy Blood.

The Eastern flank of the square is occupied by the Bruges Vrijie. The impressive building was once a courthouse and now houses the city’s archive. A passage way back to a bridge over Groneriei canal to the colonnaded Vismarkt  (fish market) is known as the Alley of the Blind Donkey.

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I’ll leave you with another shot I took on my first visit to the Burg. Thanks for stoping by, hope you enjoyed.

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In Bruges – Part One

I haven’t uploaded a blog post for a while; a change in job has kept me busy as I join the ranks of London commuters. I took my first break last week and took the Eurostar to the Belgium city of Bruges.

Bruges is one of the most perfectly preserved medieval cities in Europe. At one point it was a thriving commercial centre and many of the principles of commodity exchange were established here. Goods were shipped in via the Zwinn Channel (‘Golden Inlet’). Around 1500 this began to silt up, restricting trade. It is to this that we owe Bruges’ largely unchanged architecture.

I stayed around 5 minutes to the South East of the ‘Burg’ and the ‘Markt’. On my first day I explored the Markt.

I walked past the empty Vismarkt (19th century colonnaded fish market) and reached the confluence of two canals, the Groenerei and the Dijver. The Belfort in view in the background.

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I walked over the bridge and travelled North the short journey to reach the Markt. The cobbled streets with lined with chocolatiers and cafes selling waffles, all housed in curious medieval shops. In the Markt, preparations for the following weeks Christmas Market, now Bruges’ largest tourist draw, were in full swing. I took this shot of the Belfort over the huts.

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The Belfort Van Brugge (Dutch for Belfry of Bruges). towers over the Markt and was built in three phases between 1240 and 1822. Once knowing this it becomes immediately apparent where each of the three additions start.

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The Eastern side of the square was once flanked by the Waterhall. This massive warehouse covered the canal and allowed goods to be brought in and stored away from the elements with direct access to the square. This was brought down in 1787 and has since between replaced by the Provincial Court (and home to an interactive museum of Bruges). The canal still flows under this building somewhere.

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I’ve included some more views I took of the Markt on my first day. Thanks for stopping by – hope you enjoyed as much as I did.

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Mottisfont Abbey

In balmy early July I took a trip to Mottisfont Abbey, situated in the pretty area of Romsey, North of Southampton. Originally built as an Augustine Priory in 1201 it was turned into a family residence during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Its current appearance dates back to the 18th Century when much alteration work was carried out. In the 1930’s the estate became an artistic retreat under the patronage of Maude and Gilbert Russell.

The house is now run by the National Trust and encompasses elements which reflect its long and rich heritage; from the beautiful, formal walled gardens, to the original rooms on display and the hidden artistic gems. below are a few of my pictures from the day.

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Polo on Smiths Lawn

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In Windsor Great Park, behind Obelix Pond, with its magnificent reflections, lies Smith’s Lawn. Believed to have been named after a gamekeeper during the Restoration period of the 17th century. The 130 acre expanse has been used for many purposes since then including an airfield set up in the 1920’s by King Edward VIII whilst he was Prince of Wales. It was from this site that Duke of Edinburgh commenced his first solo flight. Since 1955 it has been home to The Guards Polo Club and currently boasts 10 pitches.

In June I was lucky enough to be walking in the area when a meet was in progress and took the opportunity to use my telephoto lens to capture some action shots – two techniques that I need to practise. I also took the opportunity to select some suitable images to black and white. I have selected a few below – I hope you enjoy! Thanks for stopping by.

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On the Farm

I am self confessed (and proud) southern, townie. Despite this you only have to scratch the surface of my family tree to discover a rich, North Yorkshire farming heritage. This weekend my family gathered at the farm first bought by my great-grandfather after the First World War. This property has been passed down through the generations and is currently run by two of his grandsons who put on a fabulous day our for us all.

The farm holds a near mythical status in my heart as I have been regaled over the years with tales from both my grandmother and mother who spent happy childhoods playing in the buildings and the surrounding fields. The day started at lunch and we browsed many of the old album photos over our meal.

After lunch the weather cleared and we were treated to a working demonstration of a threshing machine, a predecessor to the modern combine harvester, which separated the wheat from the chaff.  The machine itself is a replica, however, the tractor powering it is ‘Old Lady’ the first tractor owned on the farm. This is the first time I’ve seen her in the flesh, although I vividly remember my Gran proudly telling me about its purchase second hand from King George on the Sandringham Estate. As an added treat my 87 year old great uncle was present who, as a younger relation, could recount threshing and his role minding the tractor.

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Although a big step forward for the agricultural industry the job was still labour intensive. Long pitchforks were used to feed the machine at the top where a ‘bander’ stood and then 16 stone sacks of grain were filled from the thresher at the bottom right (unseen on this shot). These were then hoisted with a sack barrow to a height where they could be carried up the steps to the grain store.

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We were then taken to the nearest field where a collection of contemporary machines were present.

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Throughout the day the agricultural equipment was interspersed with ‘toys’ often in various stages of the restoration process (although there wasn’t necessarily a clear distinction between these two categories, especially with the older ones). This was one of two original shape minis that I spotted during the day.

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As I admired this I heard a different sound as was excited to see another old tractor, this time a little red Massey Ferguson been driven into the field. the driver nimbly parked it next to one of his modern models. The juxtaposition was stark. I.m old enough to now have the context to understand that within a couple of generations we have moved from horses, to machines like those on the right to the contemporary behemouths.

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After this we toured the buildings, old and new, and found a treasure trove of tractors, cars, vans and farming implements. The highlight was this, at one side of a workshop full of classic tractors. My mother described it as ‘similar to her father’s one’ she was thrilled to discover that it was in fact the same one. This was the vehicle that she learnt to drive on which was my grandfather’s first tractor on his nearby farm.

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I feel incredibly privileged that all this was laid on for us and hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my pictures a fraction as much as I enjoyed my day. I’ll finish with a few other pictures from the day.

 

 

Chiddingstone Village and Bluebells at Chartwell

This weekend I journeyed down to ‘The Garden of England’, Kent. My first stop was Chiddingstone village. Named after the nearby stone, which was used for judgement (i.e. chiding) it is thought to be “the most perfect surviving example of a Tudor village in the county”.

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The neighbouring castle is still privately owned, however, all the buildings on the single street are owned by the National Trust.

The other side of the street homes the local church. An impressive structure it seems too big for the tiny village.

Just a short drive away is Chartwell, also a National Trust owned house. It is what I envision a Country residence to be with its sweeping views over the Weald of Kent, its traditionally landscaped grounds and beautifully kept formal gardens.

I didn’t jon the tour of the house. An outbuilding (covered in ivy above) has been repurposed to house much of the artwork of Chartwell’s most famous resident, Winston Churchill. It was originally his studio.

The hills facing the house encompass a woodland walk. I have been chasing bluebells all spring and was pleased to take this walk and discovered a beautiful carpet of blue (albeit passed their best).

I finished my list with a walk round the formal gardens, these were beautifully painted and I imagine an incredibly peaceful setting for Churchill to spend his retirement.

Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed!

Imperial War Museum

In previous posts I have stated my aim to visit as many of London sights as possible and I took advantage of the mayday weekend to pay a trip to the Imperial War Museum. I have visited here before, however, it was in the midst of an extensive restoration project and only a few of the exhibits where on display; the impressive atrium was out of bounds.

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During the day I learnt the providence of the impressive building. It was not purpose built as I would’ve assumed, however, is one of the iterations of Bethlem Asylum, commonly know as Bedlam.

To signify its repurposing a pair of naval guns are on proud display outside the entrance.

The Museum itself is a treasure trove of artefacts and exhibitions – I have deliberately omitted pictures of inside so you can explore yourself. The various rooms are arranged around a central atrium in which aircraft and missiles are suspended above other military hardware.

The ground floor holds a stunning journey through the First World War. Mixing various media, well presented sets and artefacts it is set out in a way that allows both a detailed excursion or a cursory walk through. WW1 has been part of the common conscious throughout my lifetime and the horror surrounding the advent of mechanised warfare is something I will never comprehend. I struggled throughout my tour to envisage what it must have been like to face these alien (to them) contraptions whilst enduring such hardship and terror; there is one section where you enter a trench with a tank suspended above it, about to breach the walls. This sent a chill down my spine – I’m sure, however good  the recreation, my imaginings feel short of reality.

As you ascend through the building, the further floors have exhibits about the World War 2, framed round the life of one London family. This was available on my last trip and it interested me how much the recreations of these domestic rooms resonate with my experiences that I can remember of my grandparents – the pace of change has massively accelerated during my lifetime. Further floors have exhibits pertaining to more recent conflicts. Another interesting area is devoted to the rise of espionage and secret services through the last century.

The penultimate two floors are dedicated to the Holocaust. The exhibition is again incredible. As with previous floors despite the amazing work the curators have done they are trying to explain something I will never properly comprehend. The first part is dedicated to the rise of Hitler. The parallels that can be drawn with contemporary times are alarming.

The very top floor is Lord Ashcroft’s exhibit which is dedicated to Heroes, displaying the largest collection of Victoria and George Crosses and the stories of those who were awarded them.

I will share one shot I have from the inside, this stunning space was too good to resist.

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I thoroughly recommend the IWM to any one – its thought provoking exhibits are a must.

On my way back to Waterloo I took a detour to look at the world famous ‘Old Vic’ and got a quick snap of it complete with a red double decker.

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Thanks for stopping by – I hope you enjoyed!

Trip To London: St Pauls, Smithfields Market, the Barbican and the Museum of London

I’ve recently read an article detailing the 24 ‘best’ free museums in London. More than half of them I’ve not been to. My goal is to rectify this during 2017. These trips will also help me explore bits of London I’ve not visited yet. Yesterday, the last of a four day weekend proved too much of an opportunity to not start this endeavour. I took the tube to St Paul’s, a station which i have rarely used before and was immediately captured by some of the local buildings.

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My eye was next drawn to the tower, and remains of the bombed out Christchurch Greyfriars that have been converted into a garden; a tranquil oasis among the hustle and bustle.

As I was walking about I caught glimpses of St Pauls’ from an aspect I am unfamiliar with. I followed the midday peel of bells and ended up in the Paternoster Square viewing the Dome of St Paul’s as well as the Flaming Orb Monument.

From here I walked northbound and, as always, was transfixed by the interesting buildings I stumbled across including St Barts Hospital.

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I arrived at Smithfields world famous meat market and was entranced by the tiny Ambulance station I arrived at. I then took a few shots of the surrounding area.

I ambled slowly on towards my final stop. the Barbican and Museum of London taking in the sites as I went including Charterhouse School and Barley Mow Passage.

I spent a long time exploring the Barbican, initially inside the arts centre, but once I’d found my way outside around the gardens and other amenities. The Bank Holiday had left it deserted and I felt a little like I was the star of a post-apocolytipic film.

Built on the site of the original site of Roman Londinium (hence the co-location with the Museum of London) the area was badly damaged during the blitz and rebuilt in the 1960’s and 70’s. The architecture conforms with the brutalist ideals and whilst not the most aesthetically pleasing, provides an interesting space with lots of sharp angles and raised walkways. It was not dissimilar to the ‘newer’ buildings at the school I attended.

One thing that was evident was the clear plan that allows greenery and water has resulted in greater variety of wildlife than is found in the rest of London – my abiding memory will be of birdsong.

Below are some of my favourite shots.

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I finished my day in The Museum of London which charts the city’s rich history through its various inhabitants. It was a brilliant journey, albeit maybe aimed at a slightly younger audience than me.

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Thanks for stopping by – hope you enjoyed my pictures as much as I enjoyed my day.

Bletchley Park

It’s difficult to believe that it’s less than two month’s since my trip to Bletchley with my friend. Snow was falling and the bitter cold limited my willingness to compose pictures. I did take a few and plan to share them now.

Many will be familiar with the work done at Bletchley during the war, which has been dramatised several times, most recently in The Imitation Game.

The museum promises an interactive look at the code breaking, so it didn’t bode well when the door at the entrance outfoxed me!

The day starts in one of the larger huts which provides historical context to Bletchley’s involvement in the war, an overview of Germany’s Enigma machine an introduction to cipher and code cracking and the growth of Bletchley during the war. I was shocked to discover that at its peak almost 10,000 lived and worked at this estate.

From this first section portable video tours are given and you are set free to wander the grounds. One of the first attraction that you stumble across is the lake outside the manor house. A picture shows the codebreakers iceskating on this – I can’t imagine how cold they were!

Inside the house you get the feel of what it was like for the first few members of the codebreakers. The library is set up as it would’ve been and the ballroom, which was dedicated to recreational activities retains its splendour.

There is also a room dedicated to the history of Bletchley Park and its inhabitants before the war. A further room gives high level detail of Gordon Welchan’s life and contribution during both World War 2 and then latterly for the Americans in the Cold War. I’d never really heard anything about Welchman before; by the finish of the day I felt the recognition that Alan Turing (rightly) receives has in some way overshadowed Welchman’s achievements. Its a shame as there should be room for both. Welchman’s invention of traffic analysis and subsequent application was fascinating and his contribution is so long reaching that much of his work cannot be discussed due to contemporary use.

The grounds did not feel overly artificial and after the manor house there was plenty to explore in further huts and their surroundings. A stroll to the garages resulted in the discovery of a number of vehicles in use during the war.

My final stop of the day was in the room dedicated to ‘the Bombe’ and Turing’s life and work. It was exciting to see the passionate volunteers demonstrating the reconstruction – I cannot believe the amount of noise just one made – I’m sure working in huts holding up to ten was a deafening experience. The room also housed a intricately made sculpture of Turing made out of sheets of slate stacked.

I loved my day at Bletchley there was more to see than i could cover in a day and the site is also home to the National Computing Museum. The entrance pass is valid for a full year so I hope to return – hopefully when the weather is more favourable.

Thanks for stopping by – hope you enjoyed.

Bourton-On-The-Water & Stow-On-The-Wold

I was lucky enough to attend a friends wedding in the Cotswolds, just last weekend. We were fortunate with the weather as we experienced the first proper dose of spring in 2017; although the wind could be chilly, the sun was out and the skies were blue. The day after the ceremony we visited the picturesque neighbouring villages of Bourton On The Water and Stow On The Wold.

Here are a selection of my favourite shots.

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Thanks for stopping by – hope you enjoyed my pictures!