Saturday, 31 December 2011

new year, new year's eve, thanks


















Happy New Year!!! readers, friends and family who've already started 2012!!!

Enjoy tonight's New Year's Eve celebrations, everyone else!!!

Thanks for reading jtns in 2011!!!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

sunny, better, badbury, great barn, plough, downton, shilton





Unexpectedly sunny day. Cold much better.

After a late breakfast, we headed to Iron Age Badbury Hill beyond Faringdon, from where we walked to Coleshill (church shown above) and then to Great Coxwell, with its amazing old barn. (The Badbury Hill in my photo, by the way, doesn't look half as dramatic as it is in reality.)

The only new thing on the horizon was the wind farm below Coleshill--I'd glimpsed this from the road before now but not seen it clearly (it's way bigger than it looks in the pic).

On our way home we stopped off at the Plough at Kelmscott.

More Downton Abbey Series Two during lunch--hadn't realised that some filming had also been done at Shilton, a favourite nearby village (the charabanc drives through the ford, ostensibly at Kirkbymoorside, and stops by the pub where Mr Bates is working).

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

willow leaves, cold, chimney meadows, duxford, pints, downton


















Well, Christmas has come and gone--the day, that is. Fortunately the holiday continues and will do till next Monday. Back to work on the Tuesday but I'm not thinking about that.

Did the walk we last did in August today--Tadpole Bridge, Chimney Meadows, Shifford Lock, Duxford and Buckland Marsh. We also did the first half of this walk last year when the land was covered with snow. Such a contrast this winter--twelve degrees centigrade, a willow in leaf (second photo from top) and another in bud (third from top).

I had the proverbial 'stinking cold' and the walk was intended to help get the heart and lungs going in order to get rid of it. Not sure if it's worked but hopefully tomorrow the full effects will be felt.

Chimney Meadows are a rare group of ancient grassland fields which escaped modern agricultural methods and have a long and fascinating history--see both the BBOWT and Natural England websites (the Chimney Meadows--A Historical Perspective PDF on the former is especially fascinating). There are also a number of WWII pillboxes on the wetter parts of the meadows, which are more like marsh than grassland. A couple of stoutly built wooden bridges lead off the meadows over the Thames--the lower one for pedestrians, the upper one for farm vehicles (shown above).

Duxford is mostly made up of a handful of tall thatched-roofed cottages. Thatch used to be much more used round here than it is now. Our row of late-Victorian terraces replaced old tenements that had low walls (to about five feet) steep thatched roofs and earth floors.

Coming back through Buckland Marsh, we followed one of the deep ditches that used to be the chief means of draining the land in the Bampton area for farming during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A visitor during the latter century described the area as the Bampton polderlands. Most of the ditches have been filled in now, although some, together with a few of the sluice gates that controlled the flow of water, still remain.

After the walk we headed for a local pub, where we drank Bath cider (Jess) and Dartmoor ale (me) and opened the last of our Xmas cards.

Returned home for a late lunch and another instalment of Downton Abbey Series Two, which was partly filmed here in the spring (13th, 20th and 24th April).

Thursday, 22 December 2011

wood, twinges, xmas shopping
















I thought the 21st December was the shortest day but according to Radio 4 it's the 22nd this time (I hadn't realised the date changed from year to year). Yesterday certainly felt like it was the shortest--dark, murky, cold and miserable. It was nice to be home (now on holiday), although catching up on my final work-related chores was draining. I wanted to get them done but also just wanted to stop. The last straw was my tax return and the mad scrabbling for receipts and payslips this entails. By the end of the day I was sickening for a cold, felt exhausted and was suffering aches, pains and twinges from the bike accident at the weekend.

But today is a different story--the sun's out, spring is in the air (with a bit of imagination) and I'm about to go Christmas shopping. Cold hasn't come to much either.

One nice thing yesterday was the Christmas log delivery. I love trundling the barrows of logs up the path and building the stack in the woodshed (an old privy). Meanwhile the leaflessness of the garden throws emphasis onto the textures of brick and timber and rusted metal. Photos taken today, of course--the camera wouldn't have worked yesterday it was so dark.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

bampton square, moon x 2, ice, speedway
















Cold start this morning. The first time the frog pond has frozen over this year, I think.

Stopped by the village square, just after setting off on my bike ride, to take pictures of the Xmas tree. As I was doing so, the bus I usually catch during the week arrived. I was pleased not to be heading to Oxford today. (You might notice the two moons in the photo of the bus--I've always said Bampton was special. Actually, I don't think either of them is the moon--don't know what they are. Spooky.)

Cycling was OK on the main roads but I have to confess to taking a tumble at the junction of the Broadwell to Langford road and Calcroft lane (aka the gated road). The bike skittered on down the carriageway like machines do in speedway crashes, with me following behind. Amazingly, I was lucky and fell pretty well. There wasn't much damage, apart from a bit of bruising, the chain slipping off the bike and the headlamp not working (though this came back to life when I got home). I was surprised the headlamp survived because it exploded into two halves, the bulb unit and the batteries. I was fortunate that I was about half-way round the ride when the accident happened, so was able to regain my confidence. I started down the gated road very cautiously but it wasn't as bad as I expected and once it began to rain the ice melted. Funnily enough it was the pavements in the village that stayed icy--nearly came a cropper when I parked up the bike and headed to the newsagent.

It's been a hectic week at work on occasions and I'm looking forward to time off at Xmas and the New Year.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

hay, llanthony, black mountains, freddie



















Well, as I said we had a great time walking near Hay-on-Wye.

A good place to forget the sadder bits of the year and think of the future.

Generally the weather was terrific, especially yesterday when we headed for Llanthony and the walking we used to enjoy when we stayed at the Priory years ago. The pub is built into these fantastic ruins in the bottom of this valley in the middle of the Black Mountains. The only surprise was when we went to the pub for a half of cider after our walk--only to to discover that dogs were banned.

Meanwhile, some lovely times spent in Hay at Kilvert's, where Freddie and Tufty got on very well. Feel really relaxed after the break.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

kilverts, llanthony, scary guy, man in the high castle, in proportion
















Staying at Kilverts in Hay-on-Wye. Great to get away for a few days. Amazing walk above Llanthony Priory earlier--I'll post some pics over the next day or two.

Met the Scary Guy in the bar last night, Interesting conversation.

Love the new Hay Xmas decs and the fairy-land look they give the old buildings.

Restrained book buying--just one, apart from presents: A Berkley Medallion edition of The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick (1974).

The term was SO busy and this is the first time I've had to catch up with myself for ages. Work over the last few months has taken my mind off the family business but this did start entering my head when we first arrived here. I'm pleased that I've managed to keep it all in proportion. I guess that although the last year or so has been horrific, it wasn't that unexpected and I got over the worst experiences about fifteen years ago. I'm OK.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

dawn tree, busy, busy, end of term
















Photographed this scene back in late July, when the tree was surrounded by ripening corn. Took another pic a month later after the field had been harvested and cultivated. Today it looked stark against the breaking dawn. This is actually a relatively high point in our flat landscape and the land in the background falls and you can see all the way to the escarpment beyond the Thames Valley.

Enjoyed cycling this morning--much warmer today and it was good to exercise the busy week out of my head...In preparation for a busy weekend continuing to mark assignments.

On Thursday, I did both my last tutorial of the term and the final seminar in my undergraduate diploma long fiction series. Loved doing these--I was working with great people--but I'm still pleased to be heading towards next Thursday, when I can take things a bit easier. Everyone at the University seems to have working harder than ever this autumn.

Friday, 2 December 2011

wispy bits of mist, americano to go, xmas lights, mad dash


Frosty start to the day. Seasonal. With atmospheric wispy bits of mist above the canal. Not as visible in the photo as they seemed to be in real life, sadly.

Meanwhile, St Giles' was blocked off by the time I was heading to collect my regular Americano to go from Green's. Preparations were underway for an Xmas fair coinciding with turning on the lights. Throughout the day the sound system got tested--lots of muffled noises of the 'one-two, one-two' kind reached my office, interspersed with sudden irruptions of music that shattered the peace before stopping dead.

It was only when I was saying to a colleague at 5 pm that I had to catch my bus that it occurred to me that my bus was not going to be travelling through St Giles'. A speedwalk up Woodstock Road left me collapsing but at least I'm now on my bus.