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Friday 3 December 2021

Roaming the Roaches.

 On the Sunday of our weekend at Ingestre Pavilion we had decide to go for a walk. There are numerous routes nearby but I had thought it would be nice to drive to the Roaches. This is a line of ridges north east of Leek, and about an hours drive away, but hopefully would be a great walk on a cold and windy, but dry day.

As it was a weekend, and despite the weather, I thought that it may be busy, but once you passed the nearest places to the Leek/Buxton road it was fine and we found a nice spot to park up about half way along the length of the ridge. This is looking down Roach Road to the south and Tittesworth Reservoir.

We walked up the road to the col between The Roaches and the Back Forest ridge and then headed off north along the ridge taking us towards Allgreave. This is a good view of the northern end of the ridge. The geological feature is made of sandstone that was laid down in a river delta about 320 million years ago in the middle of the Carboniferous era. These sandstones, called Roaches Grit, dip down to the east giving the ridge where it has been eroded around it.

Halfway along this path we dropped down to the east into the Back Forest. The view takes in the valleys of the Black Brook and then the River Dane, with the village of Gradbach in the dip. In the distance is Axe Edge Moor which is the source of the River Dane. The Cat and Fiddle is a pub on the moor that is often heard on traffic reports, especially at this time of year, as it is the second highest pub in England and the road is frequently closed by snow and ice.

We threaded our way through the wood and came out at the top of Lud's Church. Rather than a church it is a geological feature. Some call it a cave, but really it is a cleft, or several clefts. It was created following the last glaciation when slight mud/shale insertions in the series of sandstone grit, along with small faults, allowed a mass of the Roaches Gritstone on the north east side to slip down the slope towards the River Dane. This left a gap an d the steep sides, sometimes 18 metres depth, are festooned with a flora all of their own. Lud's Church is also linked with a Medieval poem 'Sir Garwain and the Green Knight. Experts have concluded that the dialect it is written in is from the North West Midlands. Much research has been put in to find out where the the actual place of the Green Chapel was. The green walls of the cleft adds to the claim that Lud's Church fits the bill.

Having said it wasn't a church it has been used as such in the past. Meetings of the Lollard movement were held secretly here in the mid 1400's. The Lollard's were an early protestant movement that wanted reforms of the Catholic Church in England. The name came to mean uneducated people, at least only educated in English rather than Latin, and followed John Wycliffe the leader of the movement at the beginning. The actual word is said to come from the Dutch for mutterer or mumbler. The name Lud's Church is said to be after a Walter de Ludank who was captured at one of these services.

We followed the path around to the north towards Hanging Stone and the High Forest that once again brought us out at the place we dropped down to the Lud's Church footpath. We took it again but turned south instead of north. This took us through a wood of sessile oaks that really looked Tolkien'esq.

As we got back up to the road by the Bearstone Rock we were met with the sight of an ice cream van. There was a little bit of a lull so we had a good chat with the proprietor. He had been doing this job for five years and had given up his other job to do this. Initially it was with a friend, but unfortunately he killed himself. The bench near to the site of the van is in his memory. I rarely have Mr. Whippy style ice cream but this was excellent and made a nice break. I think he is only there at weekends in winter.

We walked up the hill to the top of the ridge, which looked far steep that it actually was in the end. The route is so popular that to prevent erosion much of the route has been 'paved' with native rock. There was much evidence of builders bags of stone and gravel being brought in by helicopter for volunteers to do this. They laid a very good surface. In some places in the Lake District this has also been done and they become real ankle breakers as it is so badly made. On the top outcrops of rocks revealed the bedding planes of the sand brought down into a delta with lines of mudstone between. The mudstone must have been laid down when there were drier times so only silt, rather than sand was brought down. 

Tittesworth Reservoir seems like a silk scarf spread out on the lawn from up on the ridge. It was opened in 1858 and drained around 7000 acres. It was hoped that it would allow the Staffordshire Potteries Waterworks Co to replace water to water mills in the areas rivers to allow more extraction. However it was found that with increasedc emand there was still insufficient water so it was proposed to raise the height of thee dam by 4.5 feet to increase the capacity by 500,000 gallons a day and this was completed in 1863. The reservoir is now part of Severn Trent and offers fishing and water sports.

About two thirds the stegasurus's spine of the Roaches is the Doxey Pool. It is a mere 49' x 33'. This is another place of myth and legend. The pool lies on the top of the ridge but is always there, never evaporates. It is said to be bottomless, or connected by underground passages to Blake Mere about 3 miles away. In fact it is about 2 ft deep and at around 1600 feet above sea level. The myth is that it is home to a malicious mermaid, or blue nymph called Jenny Greenteeth, and in fact a Miss Florence Pettit saw a weird creature emerge from the pool just before she was to take a swim in 1949. It does a bleak location that could easily get the imagination doing overtime. The name doxey refers to a woman of ill repute and is still used in africa apparently. I am imputing nothing by the presence of these two ladies in the photo!

As we start to descend there are good views once again and the boulders near the steep edge again start to look like a Si-Fi movie. It is beautiful really and would be stunning on a nice sunny day, and without the biting wind we had.

We dropped down from the ridge via some stone steps to just below the rocks and crags of the scarp face are home to climbers most weekends and in fact was the first areas in England where mountaineering took place after WWI and the area was used for training for many big expeditions. This chap was going over an overhang and into a narrow gully. Soon after this picture he fell off as when he pulled himself over the overhand is top caught on a rock and he was pulled off. I didn't take a picture of the fall in case some thing bad happened bu his belays held and he was also held by a young woman on his rope below.

As we decsended the hill we got could vies of Hen Cloud that is another crag  to the south of the Roaches ridge. It is all part of the same system of rocks, but an east/west fault means the southern end was separated to form Hen Cloud. Just the other side of the hill is Roaches Hall where there was a private zoo before WWII. At the time of the war it was the home of Henry Courtney Brocklehurst. He had joined Ernest Shacklton on his ill fated expedition to the Antarctic in 1914 and was the survyor/mapmaker. He returned to help with the war which he survived. He went out to Africa and became a game warden in Sudan, and founded Kartoum Zoo. When he got divorced he came home to start a secong zoo, here at Roaches Hall. All types of animals escaped. Llamas and yaks seemed to have survived for several years, until the early 1950's, but five wallabies, Bennets or red necked depending what you read lasted through until at least 2009. The re are often reports of sightings today but is said the last two, a mother and daughter were lost in the terrible snows of 2010.

Just below this commemorative carved 'plaque' in a rock is a carved seat out of a boulder. There are also holes drilled in other boulders where the refreshment tent for the gathering were anchored as well as for the anchoring of a small canon to give a salute. The royal couple were invited by Brocklehurst's father. The Princess was a grand daughter of George III, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge. She was unmarried at 30. Queen Victoria is said to have matched her up with an impoverished Austrian Count. He could not inherit as his parents had married for love, but were not of equal class so the children could not inherit. (Oh, the good old days eh!). Their first daughter was Victoria Mary (May) who later married and became consort to George V., but only after becoming engaged to his younger brother who promptly died six weeks later and then hooking up with George. The Hecks lived in England and loved to party. In fact they had to flee the country in 1883 to avoid debts. When they returned they devoted their life to charity.

This photo is from the Graphic Magazine and shows the royal party on the Roaches. The flag is the Royal Standard and the carved plaque is on the hump to the left of it.

At the foot of the face is this atmospheric building. Originally there was just a cave made by a fall of boulders. A hermit women lived here with two rooms. Her daughter lived with her for a while too. By the early 1800's she had died. It was 1862 that this building was erected by the Swythamley Estate for a gamekeeper to be on site. One is said to have brought up 12 children here. The estate was sold off in the 1970's and this place was bought by Doug and Annie Moller who wanted to get away from modern life. Doug was a 'bit of a character', and he later became known as the Lord, and later King of the Roaches. There were clashes with walkers and climbers and unpleasantness on both sides before accommodation was reached. The Moller's remained there until 1990 when the Peak Forest Park managed to find anew house for them that was equally isolated but had mod cons for them in the older age. A partnership was then entered into between the Park and the British Mountaineering Council and it was 'done up' as a climbing hut hostel for the Council. It was opened in 1993 and named the Don Whillan Hut after the famous climber. After his death a fund had been started to purchase a place in Chamonix in France, but this proved impossible so they plumbed for this. It seemed appropriate as it was here, along with his friend and climbing partner Joe Brown where they first started out together, and where Don met his wife Audrey too. It was opened in 1993. In the garden is a large boulder with steps cut into it. Doug Moller always said this was a preaching stone for a religious sect. In the top was a hole for a pole of flag that the preacher could hold on to.

We drove back to Ingestre Pavilion and had a lovely meal in front of the fire and finished the jigsaw we had brought as there was no radio or television. The next day, on the way home we stopped off at the Alrewas Arboretum as Amy hadn't been before.

Sorry for the long post but there wwre too many nice photos and too many little stories too.

Friday 26 November 2021

Maybe we weren't alone!

 We had no rain at all over our stay, but we also had very little sun to brighten it up. However the colours of the beech trees were still something I couldn't stop taking pictures of.

Looking to the south from by the Pavilion along the access road.

Looking from the north towards the Pavilion that is on the right behind the trees in the distance.

Once we got home, and in a rare idle minute I Googled Ingestre Pavilion and checked other sources to see what I could find. If only those that had set up the ghost trail/treasure hunt in the house had known this story maybe they may not have started it!

In the 1840's Ingestre Estate was at its height and part of the estate was the work of maintaining a shoot and deterring poachers, and to do this several gamekeepers were employed. One of these was Walter Morrey. He had been born in Staffordshire in 1816. He married Ann Wright in 1836 at St. Mary's Church in Stafford.  Ann was five years older than Walter. Soon after he must have started in the employ of Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 2nd Earl Talbot of Ingestre as a game keeper. In the 1841 census he is living in Blackheath Cottage. They had seven children 3 girls and four boys, the first being born in 1837 and the last in 1849. By 1840 he was being given a game licence for assured servants by Earl Talbot at the grand cost of £1 7s 6d! It seems that in 1844 he was transferred to the employ of the 3rd Earl as the licence was from Rt. Hon. Earl Talbot and Charles was never an MP, but his son Henry was. Henry inherited in 1849 so again dropped the Rt. Hon. as he went to the Lords.

The Doric arches are original and give the Pavilion its classical splendour, and provide shelter for the doorways. There are three doors at the front, but this one to the right is the front door now.

Walter was joined as a gamekeeper on the estate about 1948 by William Spencer Yarker, who seemed to known as Spencer. He was a couple of years older than Walter and had been born in Westmorland in 1818. He married SusannahThwayte the daughter of a farmer from Reagill Grange, which was a few miles away from Crosby Ravensworth in Cumbria, where they tied the knot in 1843. Two years later they had William Thwaytes Yarker, and then two years after Robert Yarker came along. Both were born over in Westmorland, but the 3rd. son Richard Spencer Yarker was born in Ingestre so it seems that Spencer moved to the Ingestre Estate about 1848. In 1850 living with Spencer and Susannah was Isabella Goule who was Spencer's youngest sister. Spencer and Susannah also had other help in the form of Hannah Rock a 25 year old local girl who was their servant, working in the house. They all lived at Keepers Lodge by the Deer Park and in Waterhen Coppice about 300 yds from any other building and half a mile from the Hall. Earl Talbot thought a lot of Yarker and boosted that since he had arrived the number of deer on the estate had increased as had the health of the herd.

The ceiling of the portico is pretty splendid, and certainly makes the whole experience of staying here quite a bit special.

At the end of February Spencer had a bad turn and it was put down to delirium tremens by Cornelius Waddell the surgeon attached to the Stafford Infirmary, but actually appeared to be a nervous disorder rather than drink related, as everybody agreed he was not addicted to drink. The Doctor told the household to kjeep all dangerous items locked a way and watch him carefully. Over a period of weeks he got back to his normal self and all was well. a couple of months later he was once again struck down and with the same diagnosis, with Dr. Waddell again relating that dangerous items should be kept clear.

Cornelius Waddell was born in Birmingham in 1813. His father William was a victular, wine and spirits business and had owned the Hen and Chickens Hotel on New Street since the early 1800's. This developed in to a major coaching house with around 30 coaches a day passing through in 1819, and a couple of decades later this had increased to 60 a day! He let the pub in 1835 but retained the running of the yard and coaching business that now also had a rental side and a funeral business. He died the next year and the business was bought by his youngest son George. The next eldest son was Cornelius who had married a Maria Churchill Amos from Evesham, whose father was a grocer and hop dealer. They married in 1835 just before Cornelius passed his Apothacarry exams in 1836 in Colchester. They moved straight away and ended up in Stafford where he practiced as a surgeon. He soon became surgeon to the Stafford Victoria Women's Friendly Society and later became surgeon to the Stafford Infirmary.

The window in the last photo is where this one was taken from and symetricaly opposite window can be seen in this one. That one is now in the bathroom. The door below now leads into the downstairs bathroom/shower room. Obviously kept locked. Where this picture was taken from is now a landing at the stop of the stairs that leads to a double and twin bedroom.

Isabella, Spencer's sister, started to look after him, and the next day Walter Morrey another gamekeeper came to help out. The two of them got on very well and Spencer often became edgy if Walter was not there so he never left his side for two weeks, even sleeping in the same room. Isabella was still worried about him at one time and traveled into Stafford to Dr. Waddell. He refused to go and see him but once again advised her to keep everything away from the patient that may harm him. She had been removing all knives and scissors anyway. 

Isabella Yarker had been born in Westmorland in 1807 and somehow ended up married to Louis Orlando Goule in Birmingham in May 1829. He was practicing as a surgeon there. His father was Louis Etienne Goule and as the name may suggest the family came from Rouen in France. He died in 1847 having been a surgeon for forty years around Ombersley, north of Worcester. In a previous life he had been in the 17th Light Dragoons, but what a Frenchman was doing fighting for the British is a mystery. Sadly Isabella's husband died in Solihull in 1847 and left her a widow with four children. However she was just visiting to look after her brother at this time.

The central door in this picture leads outside but is kept locked. This is the central sitting room, and the arch to the left leads to the front door/stairwell and another twin room. To the right is the kitchen and the shower room. Of course there is the gallery that connects the two halves of the building on the first floor, making this central room double height for maximum grandeur.

On the fateful day Spencer had woken up and seemed to be in a much brighter mood than of late and suggested that they should go for a walk. This was agreed to as a few days earlier the two had been out shooting rabbits with no ill effects. The double barreled gun, along with the shot and powder had been removed to a cupboard but was not locked. The plan was them to go to the Pavilion which was a ruin at the time, and shoot jackdaws as they roosted in the ruins. To do this in the past Walter Morrey had climbed the staircase to scare the birds and Spencer would shoot them.

About ten minutes later he entered his home through the backdoor directly into the back kitchen. In the room was Hannah Rock, their servant with his youngest child, 17 month old Richard Spencer Yarker on her knee, sat with her back to the door and drinking a cup of tea. Across them room kneading dough on the table by the fire was Isabella. Hannah Rock was a local girl aged 25 and the family still lived in the vicinity of Ingestre Estate. Hannah was in service at an early age and was servant to a family of tailors in Stafford at age 15. Immediately he entered the room he lifted the gun and shot Hannah in the left side of the head. She slumped forward without a noise and died instantly. As the child was falling from her grasp Isabella leapt forward to catch him and this saved her life as Spencer discharged the second barrel at this time and so missed her. She was slightly injured by pellets from either the first or second shot that had ricocheted from the fireplace. After this second shot Spencer turned and ran out of the house into the woods. His wife and two older children were not in the house at the time but Susannah ran up just as he left the backdoor and chased after him. She was heard to shout his name a couple of times and then shriek. At the inquest it was thought that she had come up to him and they had fought but on being overpowered Susannah had passed out. Spencer then reloaded his gun and shot his wife in the chest. He then turned the gun on himself and the second barrel caused terrible damage to the top of his head. He fell forward over his gun.

Looking down from the gallery there is the dining table behind the sofa, french doors lead out to a small sheltered patio and lawn behind the Pavilion and chairs either side of the fireplace. I took some logs along and so had logs fires every night to add to the great charm. We have fires at home and it is always nice for a good atmosphere. Visitors over the years have created a a ghost trail around the house with clues leading you around the room, and the central thing is that the painting above the fire is pretty ghostly as it follows you around the room. You may get the drift. I was not at all interested in the trail, but it was interesting after I got home!!?

After the initial attack in the kitchen Isabella scooped up the child and ran to hide in the poultry shed. The remoteness of the house meant that it was Spencer and Susannah's eldest son, William Thwaytes Yarker, five years old came across his dead mother and father a few minutes later. He continued to the house and found Hannah Rock before running to the Park Lodge to raise the alarm. It was several hours later that Walter Morrey was found a few steps up from the bottom of the stair way with a gunshot wound to his chest. There was no evidence of a struggle. All the bodies were taken to the blood spatted back kitchen. It was two days later when the room had all evidence of the tragedy removed.

At the inquest held the day following the shootings Elizabeth Perkins, wife of Joseph Perkins, the estate woodman who lived at Park Lodge, gave evidence of finding the bodies. She was followed by PC Edward Swindell who found the body of Morrey at the Pavilion. Next came Isabella the eye witness to the killing of Hannah Rock and lastly Cornelius Waddell who gave evidence of Yarker's medical condition. The jury didn't take long to decide that William Spencer Yarker had taken the lives of the three victims whilst labouring under a fit of temporary insanity, and then killed himeslf under the same circumstances. Only three days after the shooting the four bodies were buried at Ingestre Church with over two hundred people in attendance. Walter Morrey's wife was in great distress.

When the Pavilion was built it was erected along the boundary wall of the park at that time, and was placed to look down this ride to lower ground.

I like to conclude a story with a 'what happened then?' section so here goes.
Dr. Cornelius Waddell  and his wife Maria Churchill had five children. We appeared in several other high profile Staffordshire court cases as the surgeon of the Infirmary. They died months apart from each other in 1861, in Boulogne. Their estates were not concluded until several years later and they had less than £50 each and they left this to a niece!

Isabella, Spencer Yarker's sister, and survivor of the kitchen shootings, went on to re-marry in 1853, one Philip Dale who was a Master Brazier from Stafford who employed a man and two boys. However he he died in the 1860's In 1871 she is living in Kings Norton with an unmarried daughter. Her son went on to train as a solicitor. By 1881 she is living in Toxteth, Liverpool with another daughter and her husband, along with an unmarried daughter. She dies in Birkenhead in 1885.

Ann, Walter Morrey's widow was left with seven children (Mary, George, James, John, Margaret Emma and Isaac) and no income. We read in the papers that a subscription was started for her. Contributions were made by the Duke of Devonshire, Earl of Harrowby, Earl Dartmouth and George Hudson MP, who became the Railway King. Other monies came from all over the country and well over £30 was collected.In 1851 she was living near Ingestre at a home in Peterson's Cottage with James, Margaret, Emma and Isaac. James age 11 was working on a farm, Margaret was at school and the other two at home. Ann was a game keepers widow with a pension. She got married to William Perkin, a local man, in 1858. He was a widow about 8 years younger than her. He was a labourer. James was living them in 1871 and as a joiner. They had a 12 year old grandson staying with them too. James Cartwright, the grandson is still with hem in 1881 as an unemployed joiner and William at 62 is also unemployed. In 1891 they are still in Hopton village living next door to William's son from the previous marriage but he is now a shopkeeper. Ann dies in 1892. 
Mary became a servant at 11 but married John Cartwright, a labourer,  nearby in 1858 and went on to have a large family. 
George marries in 1881 and became a game keeper for Earl Shrewsbury and lived at Colwich.
James also becomes a game keeper.
John lived with his mother at first and then went as a house servant in 1861 and married Martha in 1865. He worked as a labourer and later a game keeper. On the death of Martha he remarried Ellen.
Margaret was a house servant to a farming family in 1861 and [possibly married one George Wright.
Emma moved in with her mum and William Perkins when they married, and I can find nothing else.
The youngest Isaac also moved in with William and Ann and was still there in 1871 but with the trade of a joiner. Also staying in the house was Jam,es Cartwright William's grandson from his previous marriage. I assume that Isaac took him as an apprentice as ten years later James was also a joiner.

Spencer and Susannah Yarkers children were also horribly left with out a mother or father.
William Thwayte Yarker, born in 1845 had found the bodies and raised the alarm. He was whisked away to Westmorland to live with his aunt Cecilia By 1861 he was a 16 year old student at Green Row Academy a school near Holme Row in the north Lakes that had opened in 1780. It closed in 1871 but at this time there were 26 students between 12 and 20.I can find nothing more of him, but he may have married an Annie Baldwin in Portsmouth. Did he join the Royal Navy?
The middle son Robert Yarker was sent to live at his mother's family home at Reagill Grange with his grandmother and father, along with his younger brother. In 1861 he was a scholar still there, but the farm was now been run by his aunt Ann Thwayte. He must have been a good student as he entered Pembroke College, Cambridge. After this he became an assistant school master at Egypt house at Cowes on the Isle of Wight in 1871. The school was run by Rev. Arthur Watson. He married Edith furlong, a Vicar's daughter in 1874 at Brighton. In 1881 he ia lodging with his wife at OakField Row in Penge, Surrey and as a school master. I can find no death or divorce of Edith, but Robert remarries in 1894 to a lady called Harriette Maria Martin Siequien born in Kingsbridge, Devon. Th service took place in Bath and that is hwhere he seems to remain as in 1901 he is there, still as a school Master and dies there in 1910.
After the youngest, Robert Spencer Yarker, narrowly been killed by his father in the arms of Hannah Rock he was sent with his brother to loive with his grandparents at Reagill Grange, and he was still there in 1861 with his aunt Ann running the place. By 1871 Ann and the household had moved to Hill Top, near Shap. Ann seems to have a pension and living with a niece and two nephews. The niece Margaret Thwayte 26 is down as a domestic servant but Richard at 22 is recorded as an annuitant! The other nephew, Robert Salkeld 18 is a scholar. He sadly died in 1876 at Hill Top for hepatitis and dropsy. The death was witnessed by his cousin Margaret Thwayte.

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Stay near Stafford.

 Oh for the simple life on the boat. I have no idea where the time has gone since we came home, but I haven't stopped! We did get a break away at the start of November though, as we rented a Landmark Trust cottage, that was for a full family weekend away, but my son got called back to sea so there were only three of us. 

There is no canal in this blog, but I have added it as it is all close to the canal at Tixall and Great Haywood areas so may be of interest to some. We drove over but as we weren't able to get into the place until 16:00 we stopped off and spent a couple of hours at the Wedgewood Museum near Barlaston. We had booked on a tour of the factory and spent a good while in the museum and of course the shop. Helen came away with a couple of mugs, no not me and our daughter, and other items. The Ingestre Pavillion is up a long drive from the main road, not in as bad condition as we were led to believe. The property was in the middle of a beech wood that was just about displaying its best colours.

Our place was the Pavillion marked in red on this 6" OS map from 1880/81. We couldn't see the main house, or any house from where we were. You can see that we aren't that far from the Trent and Mersey running beside the River Trent at the top right hand corner., between Hoo Mill and Weston Lock

Ingestre Pavilion was built in 1752 for the Viscount John Chetwynd who was 'doing the estate up'. It seems that they were later connected by marriage to the Clifford Constables of Burton Constable Hall near where we live. I think they moved from Ingestre to Burton Constable and let the house. I think they late also had the Tixall estate next door to Ingestre. There were rooms behind the facade but there were no signs of chimneys or fireplaces so it must have been like a summer house. By 1802 the rooms had gone with just the frontage left standing. In 1960 the estate was sold off, and by 1988 the owner of the woodland that was home to the pavilion was very worried about its state so gifted it to the Landmark Trust. This charity is all about building preservation and the rescue of historic buildings, tastefully and sensitively restoring them, but in a fashion that also allows them to be rented out.

We had an early start the next day as we were off to Cannock Chase to take part in the Park Run at The old site of RAF Hednesford. The site opened in 1939 as the school of Technical training for the RAF and Fleet Air Arm on airframes and engines. By the height of WWII there were 4000 trainees living in about 200 Nissan huts and 800 staff. Funnily enough there was never an airstrip there but at least three aircraft flew in landing on the playing fields to be used as instructional items. The last intake was in 1947 following which it was used as a demob and transit camp, and later as as a camp for preparation for overseas postings. By 1950 it was a basic training camp for the RAF National Service men. They spent 8, later 6 weeks basic training here 'square bashing', before moving to their next postings. In 1956 the RAF moved out and were immediately replaced by between 800 and 1200 refugees following the Hungarian uprising. In 1959 everything on the site was sold off and the rest left to be vandalised and decay. In 1962 the forces cleaned up the site, just leaving the officers mess to be used by the Territorial and Cadet forces for training camps. A year later it was sold to Staffordshire Council who did some work to make the site safe and then just left it to regenerate. In 1983 a visitor centre was opened and the site became part of the Cannock Chase AONB. Today the old roadways and paths can still be traced, and it was along these that the Park Run went on. No.1 daughter did well considering she normally runs in a park in Hull that many Park Runs from far and wide attend to get personal bests as it is so very flat!

After heading back to the house for a shower we headed into Stafford as none of us had been there before. Here are a few highlights of our trip around.. Above is Crabbery Street. The pale building was the frontage to the St. John's Indoor Market. It moved here in 1912 and was open on Tuesdays only for farm produce. It was extended over the years and became a general market. In WWII it was requisitioned as a food buffer store and warehouse for the RAF. It returned to its former use in 1946. The Market moved to new premises near the Guild Hall in 1989 and the market here was demolished in 1991, but this frontage retained. Next door, to the right of the picture is the former Noah's Ark Pub. At its heart is a building built in 1575 as a pub. It is said the Queen Elizabeth I stopped here for wine on her way through the town. In the late 1800's the front was altered and the ashlar cladding was added when the road was widened in front. In 1967 it became offices for the market and has since been empty and pubs, cafes etc.

On Greengate Street is the Ancient High House that is the largest timber framed building in England and was erected in 1595. The local oak trees were cut and carved on the ground as frames and then assembled and then infilled. It was for the Dorridge family. In 1643 Charles I arrived in Stafford just after raising his standard in Nottingham and stayed here with his son Prince Rupert and his dog 'Boy'. However the Parlimentary forces later took the town and the house was used to house the better off prisoners.

The various rooms are set out for different periods of the house. In the stairwell there is the remains of wallpaper that was put up in around 1760.

One of the rooms is set out as a shop as the ground floor was converted to several shops in the 1800's. The top floor is set over to the museum of the Staffordshire Yeomanry and is well worth a visit. The whole house is looked after the Council after a threat to demolish as the alterations to it had weakened the structure and would be too expensive to fix. It was fought by members of the public and is now free to enter.

Off Greengate Street is the Market Square and this is the Grade II listed old National Westminster Bank that was erected around 1900 in the Neo Classical Revival style in Portland Stone.

The Picture House was built for the local company Goodall Pictures and opened its doors in February 1914. The mock Tudor and stucco frontage is quite striking as is the full length wrought iron and glass canopy that adds elegance. The original box office at the front is still in front. There was another for the front stalls round the corner bu this has gone. In 1917 an organ was installed to accompany the film, and in April 1930 the equipment to show the new 'talkies' was fitted. Later that year the theatre was sold to the Everson family and continued in their ownership until the last picture was shown in 1995. It was bought by J.D. Weatherspoons and following planning etc it was opened in 1997. It retains many of the original features and may provide a further excuse to pop in and have a look.

Victoria Park is land between the Town centre and the railway station. In the 1880's the Corporation put in the Izaak Walton walk alongside the River Sow. They put in railings and benches, and later planted trees. In 1903 the Corporation bough the rest of the land towards the Railway Station and raised the height of the boggy land by 3ft and created Victoria Park. The bandstand was moved to the park from the Market Square and the park opened to the public in 1908. Along the Izaak Walton Walk this bronze statue of the man himself, by Peter Walker was installed in 2000. Izaak Walton is best know for his book 'The Compleat Angler'. He was born in Stafford in 1593 but moved to London in his teens where we was a linen draper under the Company of Ironmongers. In 1644 he retired to a farm he had bought at Shallowford near a river and north of Stafford. By 1650 he was back in London on the restoration of the Monarchy, and it was revealed he was a rue Royalist and had played a risky part in securing part of the Crown Jewels following the defeat at the Battle of Worcester. He spent the last forty years of his life visiting clerics and others who enjoyed fishing.

In the corner of the park is Victoria Square and there are two war memorials there. This one is the Stafford Borough War Memorial and was erected in 1920. It was sculpted by Joseph Whitehead in bronze with Portland stone and ashlar with bronze detail. The figure is standing on a pile of debris but looks to be celebrating victory, or peace with his helmet raised. It had to be moved in 1991 with the building of the Courts and other alteration in the streets around, but not very far.

This was just a quick sample of the buildings and sights of Stafford. It is just a short bus ride from Baswich on the Staffs. and Worcester Canal, and we will be back I'm sure.

Saturday 23 October 2021

Getting some sun and steps in!

 The sun didn't rise until about 0800 and we were off by about 30 mins later. We had an appointment to keep.

I have always loved autumn and I'm sure it is something about the light that just makes things so beautiful, almost soft focus. I took several pictures just to capture the light on the scenery, but I'm not a good photographer. Mind you I have it in my minds eye and I can remember walks and trips at this time of year when despite the cold, the sun on your back is really warming.

Helen was m not quite at maximum levels of tog and layers but she was taking no risks!

The wind picked up a little and another layer came out. Look at the sun on that tree!

The light reminds me of an African twilight and manages to make a canal and a few hedges look romantic.

Great Hayward Junction was the point that we started to meet more boats but nothing too bad at all. Wouldn't it look much better if the structure was painted white?

There were four boats waiting at the bottom of Colwich Lock, our last of the trip. Obviously Helen's computer thing had been talking to her as she decided to go off for a walk along the tow path to get her 'steps in'.

She walked to Wolsey Bridge and just through the bridge and along side the big house the River Trent was easy to spot now that the scrub has died back a bit and the leaves have fallen a little.

As  the canal approaches the Taft the trees hold sway until the disappear and the horizon open up to the railway and the hills of Cannock Chase.

And here she is with a cup of tea and my birthday cake, Victoria Sponge, as requested, made by her own fair hand. When we were in Morrison's in Stone they had a Victoria Sponge with real cream, and twice the diameter for £4!! That is ridiculous, and Helen's was absolutely superb too. It is a good job it is not your birthday every day whilst Helen's computer would be working over time telling her to get her 'steps in'.

This old wooden cruiser at the bottom of a garden on the outskirts of Rugeley is pulled up almost out of the water. The graveyard of the church is next door. Some who appropriate.

She is off again! You can see right to the end of the tunnel travelling in this direction, but coming the other way there is a bend before you get to the tunnel. That watch is at it again and she was off to get the 'steps in'.

I wanted to get back to Kings Bromley in good time to ensure I could fill up with fuel. As it turns out we had few delays and there were less boats moored than normal. Pearson's says it takes four hours from Great Hayward, but our experience is it is closer to five. As it was there were two other boats waiting for fuel so it was 1500 by the time we were back on our moorings. I decided that I would then wash the boat before it got dark as it was such a good afternoon. That is another property of low level sun light, it shows all the much on the boat up. It certainly looked loads better for doing. We then hopped into the car to Alrewas to meet our favourite Lock keeper and his Mum for a meal at the George and Dragon. It was lovely catching up and seeing his Mum so well too. I got birthday presents too!! Did you know that the volunteer lock keepers finish for the winter soon. He had been on at Fradley in the morning and only had two boats come through. He went home at 11am. All in all a very satisfactory birthday, and another years boating done I suspect.

Friday 22 October 2021

Sunshine and Showers from Stone.

 It rained in the night but was a nice if blustery day when we got up. We went for a walk into Stone to go to the local 'stack it high sell em cheap' shop. We had called as we passed the evening before but it was closed. And it was closed again. They had big packets of Garibaldi biscuits and it is something our son likes so we were going to get him some to take away to sea with him when he goes away again next month. We will have to think of something else now.

As we lowered down Limekiln Lock, I think it was, the bridge had a roller like this on each corner of the bridge. They are in disrepair and it wont be too long before they drop to pieces. Do you think the C&RT would replace this sort of thing? If it isn't Listed, and it no longer serves a useful purpose to keep the waterways running why would then. However I think that this sort of thing is important to preserve as it is entirely in context and once gone will never be the same. I love to see the rope scars on the rock of the bridges and on the iron protectors too. I suppose there is the argument that if they replace the stone work they wouldn't be expected to put false rope cuts in the new stone. Mind you plenty of people pay good money to have false rivets on their modern boats! I have never understood that myself.

I have always assumed that weed in the water is a sign of good water quality. I'm not sure if that is true but some of the Stone Locks have plenty of it. I wonder if a survey has been undertaken to see what the habitat of a lock includes. It must be fairly specialised as it is alternatively submerged and then dry. Like the inter tidal zone. I took the photo really to show that the sun had been shining, just in case it was the last we saw of it. It wasn't. I also noticed that the statue of Cristina Collins at the bottom of Yard lock is falling to bits. As it was wood it is hardly surprising really. The death of Cristina Collins was exceedingly big news in 1839 when she was raped and murdered by the crew of a fly boat on the way to London. She told the lock keeper here in Stone that she was cared of what may happen to her, but she was told to report the crew when she got to the other end. Her body was found by the Trent viaduct just before Rugeley. I wonder if the statue will be replaced?

As we approached Aston the storm clouds in the distance contrasted nicely with sun shining on the bridge and the trees.

The nice white cottage just before Aston Lock was part of a Flint Mill in 1880. There was another building at right angles to the blank walled on closer to the camera and leading away from the canal. It was disused by 1900.

Helen was doing the locks again, despite them bring 'down hill' as her Fitbit wrist thingy was telling her she needed to do more steps. I have caught her pacing up and down the boat just trying to satisfy this inanimate object she can do another 70 steps in the hour! It is weird how addictive it seems these things can become. It helps me to understand how some get radicalised as terrorists, as repeating the message often enough seems to cause you do some thing that you wouldn't normally do. Not quite a perfect analogy as Helen would normally do exercise, but maybe no be bothered about exactly how many steps. Why is 10,000 steps that much better than 9,999? Yes, I know you can change the targets. The photo was taken as Helen was having to do high hurdles as well as walk as when the gets at Aston Lock are open they are pretty high and the handrails stop you walking round the beams. There is no option to haul yourself over them, or close the gate again.

There were lots of groups of Canada Geese along the canal today. It seems that in each big group of these geese resided one or two other species. In this group it was a lone grey lag goose, in another it was a lone Aylesbury type duck etc. Does this mean that the Canada geese are very inclusive and tolerant of outsiders, or that the loner has perpetrated some heinous crime in their own community and is seeking protection from their own kind among these thugs? I also wonder what proportion of the Canada geese now reside in the UK and how many still commute to foreign climes.

The old station at Sandon is a private home, but still has the large covered area at the front, or porte cochere where the folk from the big house could drive their carriage under and alight in the dry. I noticed the diamond patterns in the brick and thought they look a little random and not really adding to the whole. It seems this type of brickwork is called 'diapering'! It comes from the Greek dia for cross or diamond

We are a week or two early to get the best out of the trees, but along this stretch by the railway and Sandon Park the trees are very varied and provide a good mix of clours already. They also give a mix of textures too. I suppose this will be down to the mix of trees planted for the family of native and foreign trees.

Just another photo showing off the the dark clouds ahead against the sunlight on the trees and boat. I only had to put my coat ion once and as I could see it coming I had plenty of time to don it. It didn't last long either.

By the time |I had got to the end of the moorings of the last photo the black clouds had blown away and we were back to the sun once again. I think the Union Flag should be flown more, but I suppose when we lose Scotland and possibly Wales we will have to design a new flag. Any ideas?

We moored up at Weston on Trent, not the one towards Shardlow, that would have been a good days run. As soon as we slowed down these cygnets were begging. These are obviously the offspring of the pair that can be seen opposite the moorings taking food from the low hung bird feeders holding fat balls. I wonder why Mum and Dad haven't taught them that skill yet? Maybe they are still a little short of neck just at the moment. When does a cygnet become a swan? It takes them 4 to 10 months to learn to fly well enough to leave their parents. They start out grey and slowly turn brown over the next few months by the time they are one year old they are white but still have the grey/pink beak. They go off and live with other swans until they reach maturity at about 4 years old and then find a mate.

We went for a meal at the Saracens Head which is just by the moorings. I hadn't been for a few years and the last time it was a bit of a run down pub that sold larger and fizzy beer, and not a place to linger. It has changed, a lot! It was steak night so Helen had a gammon and I a sirloin that was lovely, arrived quickly etc etc. We really enjoyed the night, and the food and wandered back to the boat to watch a bit of tele, well contented.