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Go rambling around England with your little ones, on these 10 buggy friendly walks, selected by Richard Happer from his new book Beautiful Buggy Walks: England

Avebury, Wiltshire

Avebury

Avebury

Strolling through an ancient stone circle is just the start of this adventure. Avebury’s fine historical monument also forms the hub of a cracking day’s countryside wandering. Avebury is the world’s biggest stone circle – so large it has a whole village in its centre – but it doesn’t attract the huge numbers that Stonehenge does. This walk introduces you to the circle via West Kennet Avenue, a ceremonial approach that originally had 100 pairs of stones. It’s half a mile long and still impressive. People can wander freely among the ancient monoliths, unlike Stonehenge. Tourists touch them, kids lean on them and wild-bearded men in rainbow trousers do yoga beneath them. Our tour concludes with a relaxing stretch through the surrounding fields.

OS map: Explorer 157
How far: about 3 miles
Route: Enter the field to the west of the parking area.

• Walk between the stones up West Kennet Avenue.

• When the road to your right joins the main road, cross the smaller road and walk past the trees to the embankment that runs around the ditch.

• Follow the path on top to your right. When you reach a small road, cross it and continue around the circle.

• At the main road follow the path in, towards the centre of the circle, cross the road and take the path out and around the next sector of the circle.

• Detour to your right to visit the café and visitor centre.

• Join the minor road in the village and walk west to east, right through the circle, passing the pub and the point at which you crossed the road earlier.

• You are now walking away from the circle, down a country lane; continue for 1/2 mile, passing Manor Farm, then turn right, down a byway.

• After 1/2 mile, turn right along the edge of a fi eld. Another 1/2 mile will take you back to the start.

Rest and refresh: The Red Lion pub has outdoor space (01672 539266, red-lion-pub-avebury.co.uk). The National Trust visitor centre has a spacious cafe with outside benches. Visitor centre: 01672 539250,nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury

Article Source and more walks:http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/may/06/buggy-walks-family-holidays-england 

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The Marlborough Downs is to be part of a government project to create wildlife havens.

Twelve places out of 76 in England that applied to become Nature Improvement Areas have been chosen.

Defra said establishing dewponds would encourage birds, newts and other amphibians

Defra said establishing dewponds would encourage birds, newts and other amphibians

The project aims to restore habitats and encourage local communities to get involved with nature.

The work will be carried out by partnerships involving community groups, conservation organisations and landowners.

The 12 areas will share £7.5m of government funding.

Defra said establishing dewponds would encourage birds, newts and other amphibians and help re-establish viable grazing.

The Wiltshire project is the only farmer-led scheme in the country to have won government funding.

‘Educating people’

Environment Minister Richard Benyon visited the site on Monday.

He said: “We’re standing beside a classic Wiltshire downs dewpond.

“What’s really exciting about what we’re announcing today is that this is going to be a feature people will see right across the Wiltshire downs.”

Chris Musgrave, estate manager at Temple farm in Rockley, near Marlborough, said: “All 41 farmers said they would be interested in joining together in terms of having wildlife corridors running through their estates, dewponds linking chalk grassland and also involving the community as well.

“I think if you were walking down the Ridgeway, which is a spine going right through this area, you would see dewponds, you would see wildlife corridors.

“It’s educating people, it’s getting people involved.”

Link source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-17176283

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Intense and brooding images of Stonehenge and other prehistoric monuments in a new exhibition are taking visitors deep into the heart of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Wessex’.

Archaeologists debate the purpose of Stonehenge, but for Hardy it was a haunting symbol of isolation and suffering.

The exhibition by three artists at Salisbury Museum mirrors the Dorset author’s emotional response to the archaeological sites he knew and used with such effect in his novels.

His use of landscape was highly symbolic and deeply emotive. Nowhere is that more clear than in his description of Stonehenge, which features in the climactic scene of Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

In the dead of night, Tess stumbles upon the monument, and lies down to rest on an ancient altar, giving the allusion of her character as a sacrificial offering to a society that has cast her out. Hardy describes the isolation of the monument on Salisbury Plain, and once inside, the feeling of enclosure.

Symbolism is central to Hardy’s writing, which may be why so many artists use his work as their inspiration.

Artists Dave Gunning, David Inshaw and Rob Pountney have collaborated to show the dramatic landscapes and archaeology in media ranging from charcoal to steel etching and oil paint.

They share a common interest in how Hardy used landscape to symbolise the emotional and physical experiences of his characters.

He revived the Saxon name ‘Wessex’ as a part-real, part-dream landscape, thinly disguising place names so that Salisbury becomes Melchester and Dorchester becomes Casterbridge. Salisbury Plain is sometimes called the “Great Grey Plain”.

Dave Gunning, who was awarded the Year of the Artist Award in 2000-1 by the British Arts Council, has spent more than 25 years studying the prehistoric landscape in the West Country, particularly the ancient monuments within the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge and Avebury.

David Inshaw is one of Britain’s leading contemporary artists. His work is often inspired by literature that takes landscape and nature as its focus.

Rob Pountney has always been fascinated by Thomas Hardy’s work, and says the use of dramatic contrasts of light and shade in his work captures the striking visual aspects of the geological and archaeological features of the Wessex landscape, and his interpretation of Hardy’s response to them.

Salisbury Museum is the perfect place for the exhibition, which opened on Saturday and runs until April 14.

In Jude the Obscure, Hardy bases the college that Sue Bridehead attends on the training college for schoolmistresses that his sisters attended. This was the King’s House, Salisbury, and is now home to the museum.

Thomas Hardy was born at Higher Bockhampton, a hamlet in the parish of Stinsford to the east of Dorchester.

He became ill with pleurisy in December 1927 and died at Max Gate just after 9pm on January 11, 1928, having dictated his final poem to his wife on his deathbed. The cause of death was cited, on his death certificate, as “cardiac syncope
Link: http://www.dorchesterpeople.co.uk

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If you find yourself gasping, “Wow, that tree’s fatter than anything else like it around here!” the chances are you’ve probably found an ancient tree

The mighty Bowthorpe Oak, near Bourne in Lincolnshire is Europe's greatest girth English Oak at a massive 42 feet Photograph: Alamy

The mighty Bowthorpe Oak, near Bourne in Lincolnshire is Europe's greatest girth English Oak at a massive 42 feet Photograph: Alamy

What is an ancient tree?  The definition varies from species to species, so a silver birch may be ancient at 150 years old, while an oak of the same age is still a baby. But if you find yourself gasping, “Wow, that tree’s fatter than anything else like it around here!” you’ve probably found one. If you’re tempted to hug it, don’t hold back – ancient trees are essential to biodiversity, providing homes to thousands of species. Hugging is also the easiest way to measure a tree’s girth, to get some clue to its age. The “British standard hug”, as defined by the Woodland Trust, is 1.5 metres (5ft) from fingertip to fingertip.

Here are a few notable specimens; you can find 80,000 more, or log your own discoveries, at ancienttreehunt.org.ukAncient Tree Hunt.

Fortingall yew, Perthshire

Estimated to be at least 3,000 years old and possibly 5,000, this is the oldest yew in Britain. In 1769 its girth was recorded as about 17 metres (55ft). Today you can see only remnants of the old plus new growth amounting to no more than two hugs – a shadow of its former glory but still remarkable. 

Bowthorpe oak, Lincolnshire

This 1,000-year-old tree stands in a field at Manthorpe, near Bourne. Its hollow trunk has been used for parties; at one point, it is claimed, three dozen people managed to stand within it.

Llangernyw yew, Conwy

Possibly more than 4,000 years old, the tree in the grounds of St Dygain’s church in Llangernyw is one of the oldest living things in Wales.

Belvoir oak, County Down

This fine oak is thought to be somewhere between 500 and 700 years old, making it probably the oldest tree in Northern Ireland. It is one of many ancient trees in Belvoir Park Forest.

Tolpuddle Martyrs’ tree, Dorset

Under this sycamore in the village of Tolpuddle in 1834, six poverty-stricken agricultural labourers formed the first trade union in Britain.

Spanish chestnuts, Croft Castle, Herefordshire

Among more than 300 veteran trees in the grounds of this castle near Leominster is an avenue of magnificent sweet chestnuts. Some of them are rumoured to have come from nuts from the wrecks of the Spanish Armada in 1592.

Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2011/apr/09/ancient-trees

British Countryside Tour Guide
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Each year, the beautiful area between the stunning Bath Abbey and the internationally renowned visitor attraction, the Roman Baths, is transformed into a Christmas shopper’s haven – the Bath Christmas Market.  We are delighted to announce that the Bath Christmas Market is now running for an additional week – a total of 18 days! Dates for the Bath Christmas Market 2011 are 24th November – 11th December 2011. 
bath-christmas-market

Click here to view the opening times of the Christmas Market.

In the heart of Bath’s main shopping district, 129 traditional wooden chalets adorn the streets; each one offering unique, handmade and unusual gifts, decorations and food items – everything you will need for the perfect Christmas celebration. 

The World Heritage Site of Bath is one of England’s most beautiful places to visit, so why not make your visit to the Bath Christmas Market the focus of a private tour.  A populr itinereary from London is Stonehenge, Lacock Village in the Cotswolds and Bath.  We can also arrange tours from Bath os Salisbury.

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The results of our readers’ vote for Britain’s best building are in. Did your favourite win?

And the winner is...Durham Cathedral is the readers' choice for Britain's best building

And the winner is...Durham Cathedral is the readers' choice for Britain's best building


When we asked which British building you thought deserved to take the final place in our Britain’s best building series, we got a wonderful response and a vast range of suggestions from the very old Stonehenge to the not even finished Shard. But there was one building that was nominated time and time again. Napoleon471 said it is ‘the most beautiful building in the UK’ . gabbyannie commented that it’s “quite wonderful in the daytime, but transformed into a breathtaking sight after dark” and Rosiebriar declared that “the magnificence of its setting high on the peninsula, the grandeur of its architecture dating from 1093, World Heritage status and the endorsement by Dr Bill Bryson all commend this greatest of British buildings.” After three days of voting, the readers’ choice for Britain’s best building is Durham Cathedral. You picked wisely: there are few finer buildings of any period in Europe.

With its commanding setting on a headland high above the River Wear, Durham Cathedral is unmissable, and magnificent. Its architecture is at once powerful and poetic, a monument to the Norman invaders who created it from 1093. But, although clearly designed to dominate the region, the muscular cathedral is most beautiful when you step through its west front and face the length of the incomparable nave. Such beauty and such tragedy, too; here, 1,700 of the 3,000 Scottish soldiers imprisoned by Cromwell within these unbreachable walls died from wounds, disease and starvation; and here, meddling Georgian architects came to mess about with the venerable fabric. And yet, Durham Cathedral has survived and, today, is probably in better shape than it has been in hundreds of years.

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Two children have found “rare” specimens of a fossilised sea creature at the Cotswold Water Park.

Another Rieneckia ammonite was found in the park several years ago

Another Rieneckia ammonite was found in the park several years ago

Emily Baldry, five, from Chippenham, discovered the Rieneckia ammonite during a fossil hunt organised by the Cotswold Water Park Society on Sunday.

Hugo Ashley, from Poulton, and his grandfather also found an ammonite cadoceras, and another Rieneckia ammonite.

A society spokeswoman said Rieneckia ammonites were “extremely rare”.

Ammonites were free-swimming molluscs of the ancient oceans, living around the same time as dinosaurs.

‘Quite phenomenal’

Society spokeswoman Jill Bewley said: “The chances of finding something like this [Rieneckia ammonites] are really, really slim.

“It’s the proverbial needle in a haystack so to hit upon something like this is quite phenomenal.”

After Emily hit upon the fossil with a spade, her father and palaeontologist Dr Neville Hollingworth helped her dig out the block of mudstone the 162.8 million-year-old object, which had spikes to ward off predators, was encased in.

A range of other fossils, including many ammonites, were also found during the hunt, in a sand and gravel quarry within the water park.

Ms Bewley said that once work to expose the Rieneckia ammonite, which measures about 40cm (16in) in diameter is complete, it will go on display at the Gateway Information Centre along with a range of other fossils.

She said Dr Hollingworth found another Rieneckia ammonite in a similar quarry in the park several years ago.

The 42 sq mile site of the Cotswold Water Park, which has 150 lakes, is on the Gloucestershire-Wiltshire border.

During the Jurassic period, 165 million years ago, the area was a warm shallow sea.

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A major excavation is under way to explore the unclear history of Britain’s largest Iron Age hill fort.

The Ham Hill Iron Age hill fort site spreads over 80 hectares making it the largest in Britain

The Ham Hill Iron Age hill fort site spreads over 80 hectares making it the largest in Britain

The purpose of the Ham Hill site in Somerset is not known but researchers are now hoping to gain a deeper insight into life 2,000 years ago.

A joint team from the universities of Cambridge and Cardiff have begun a dig at the 88-hectare site to learn more.

Work is due to continue until September 2013 by which time the team hope to have a clearer map of its interior.

Niall Sharples, from Cardiff University, said: “It’s a bit of an enigma. Ham Hill is so big that no archaeologist has ever really been able to get a handle on it.

“People think of these places as defensive structures, but it is inconceivable that such a place could have been defended.

“Thousands of people would have been required; militarily, it would have been a nightmare.

“Clearly, it was a special place for people in the Iron Age, but when did it become special, why, and how long did it stay that way?”

Researchers believe the site may have been a monument and was somehow meant to create a sense of community, collective identity, or prestige.

‘Communal identity’

Christopher Evans, from the Cambridge archaeological unit, said it was a rare opportunity to tackle the site’s big issues on the scale they deserve.

“We don’t know if the site’s development was prompted by trade, defence or communal identity needs,” he said.

“Equally, should we be thinking of it as a great, centralised settlement place – almost proto-urban in its layout and community size?”

One of the key aims of the current excavation will be to pin down the rough date of the hill fort’s construction.

Smaller scale digs at the site have produced a number of finds, including human remains, the skeleton of a dog, pottery, iron sickles and the remains of a house.

‘There is also a wonderful pearched right on the top of Ham Hill tat serves a mean ‘Ploughmans’ and a great pint’ – Somerset tour guide

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A chance discovery of coins has led to the bigger find of a Roman town, further west than it was previously thought Romans had settled in England.

The town was found under fields a number of miles west of Exeter, Devon.

Roman coins found by two local men led to the discovery of a town

Roman coins found by two local men led to the discovery of a town

Nearly 100 Roman coins were initially uncovered there by two amateur archaeological enthusiasts.

It had been thought that fierce resistance from local tribes to Roman culture stopped the Romans from moving so far into the county.

Sam Moorhead, national finds adviser for Iron Age and Roman coins for the PAS at the British Museum, said it was one of the most significant Roman discoveries in the country for many decades.

“It is the beginning of a process that promises to transform our understanding of the Roman invasion and occupation of Devon,” he explained.

After the coins were unearthed by the local men out using metal detectors, Danielle Wootton, the University of Exeter’s liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), which looks after antiquities found by the public, was tasked with investigating further.

After carrying out a geophysical survey last summer, she said she was astonished to find evidence of a huge landscape, including at least 13 round-houses, quarry pits and track-ways covering at least 13 fields, the first of its kind for the county.

“You just don’t find Roman stuff on this scale in Devon,” said Ms Wootton.

She carried out a trial excavation on the site, and has already uncovered evidence of extensive trade with Europe, a road possibly linking to the major settlement at Exeter, and some intriguing structures, as well as many more coins.

“This was a really exciting discovery,” said Ms Wootton. But she said most exciting of all was that her team had stumbled across two burial plots that seem to be located alongside the settlement’s main road.

“It is early days, but this could be the first signs of a Roman cemetery and the first glimpse of the people that lived in this community,” she explained.

Romans in Devon

Not enough excavation has been done yet to date the main occupation phase of the site, but the coins that were found range from slightly before the start of the Roman invasion up until the last in 378AD.

The Romans reached Exeter during the invasion of Britain in AD 50-55, and a legion commanded by Vespasian built a fortress on a spur overlooking the River Exe. This legion stayed for the next 20 years before moving to Wales.

A few years after the army left, Exeter was converted into a bustling Romano-British civilian settlement known as Isca Dumnoniorum with all the usual Roman public buildings, baths and forum.

It was also the principal town for the Dumnonii tribe, a native British tribe who inhabited Devon and Cornwall. It was thought that their resistance to Roman rule and influence, and any form of ‘Romanisation’ stopped the Roman’s settling far into the south west.

For a very long time, it was thought that Exeter was the limit of Roman settlement in Britain in the south west, with the rest being inhabited by local unfriendly tribes.

Some evidence of Roman military occupation has been found in Cornwall and Dartmoor, thought to be protecting supply routes for resources such as tin.

However on this site, more than just the coins are Roman. Pottery and amphora fragments recovered suggest the town embraced trading opportunities in Europe that came with Roman rule, and a fragment of a Roman roof tile has also been found.

Danielle Wootton received some funding from the British Museum, the Roman Research Trust and Devon County Council in June to carry out the trial excavation but said more money was needed as they still had not reached its outer limits.

“We are just at the beginning really, there’s so much to do and so much that we still don’t know about this site.

“I’m hoping that we can turn this into a community excavation for everyone to be involved in, including the metal detectorists,” she explained.

Sam Moorhead said he believed more Roman settlements may be found in the area in the next few years.

The excavation of this unique site will feature in the forthcoming BBC Two series Digging For Britain.

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Penelope Keith hosts To The Manor Reborn at AveburyA manor house in Wiltshire is to be completely restored for a new BBC One series presented by Penelope Keith.

Avebury Manor House

Avebury Manor House

The four hour-long episodes will see the National Trust property Avebury Manor refurbished by a team of historians, experts, and volunteers.

Keith, who played snobbish aristocrat Audrey fforbes-Hamilton in the sitcom To The Manor Born, will be joined by Flog It! presenter Paul Martin.

To the Manor Reborn will be broadcast later in the year.

The series will follow the refurbishment of the 500-year-old property in Avebury as it is brought back to life.

Teams of craftsmen, furniture makers and interior design experts will restore the interior of the Grade I listed house to reflect its long history.

‘Push the boundaries’

BBC One controller Danny Cohen said: “Our partnership with the National Trust on this ambitious project encapsulates so many of the BBC’s ambitions.

“The channel aims to keep engaging audiences in new ways and this series offers them the chance to follow the story on screen, and to experience it first hand.”

Sarah Staniforth, the museums and collections director for the National Trust, said: “It is not only a unique opportunity to engage viewers in the history of interior design and architecture but is also a way for the trust to push the boundaries in bringing properties to life.”

Among the guests on To The Manor Reborn will be architectural expert Dan Cruickshank and gardener David Howard.

Avebury Manor will be closed for much of the year while the series is being filmed. It will be reopened as an “immersive experience” in the autumn.

Avebury Manor and Garden

An establishment of monastic origins, the present buildings dates from early 16th century with Queen Anne alterations and Edwardian renovations. The gardens are of an Edwardian style and features much topiary.

Link: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-avebury/w-visit-avebury_filming-at-avebury-manor.htm

Wessex Tour Guide – The Best Tours in Ancient Histort
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