Friday, August 31, 2012

Swans, Swans and More Swans!!

OK, OK so it's not a swan!!  But isn't this the absolute cutest dog you have seen
excepting your own sweet pup?  So many people have dogs here in England and they all come out for walks in the afternoon.  Tea time for dogs too I would imagine.                      

The first swans we encountered were a cygnet (baby swan) and its mother.  The babies are grey and fuzzy in color and texture.  Since these cygnets were about 4 months old at the swannery,  they were losing their fuzzy feathers and starting to get their long, strong white feathers.  The older swans were also molting. 

It's hard to show you how many swans were actually in this bay at the swannery.  This is just a small little bit of the area that we were able to photograph.  It was absolutely beautiful!  Most of the swans live here indefinitely here at the swanery where they are fed and well cared for medically.  Many research studies are carried out on the population during the years that they are present.  Each swan is individually tagged and known well by the volunteers working with the staff.  

I was completely intrigued by the take off and landings of the swans.  One would decide to fly for a bit and then re-settle in another area of the fingerlet bay, maybe 25 yards away...  6-10 would immediately follow.  The sound of their feet slapping the water as they appeared to run on the surface prior to take off was incredible.  I watched for an hour!

Look at these feet!  It appears that the swan has swim flippers on!  Hard to run with but great for swimming! They are huge things too, probably 8-10 inches across.  The fully spread version is what causes the duck, geese and swans to waddle when they walk and to make the slapping sound on the water when they take flight.  It was wonderful!

After a wonderful day with the swans, we left and had a cream tea in the little village nearby.  Then for the long drive back to out hotel by the castle ruins.  Tomorrow we head for Dover and an overnight stay before we board the ferry to France.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Adventures at the Silver Smith

My friends plotting their moves at the silver smith shop.  We actually found the shop on the first attempt, very unusual for us even if the directions are given in English!  We did find the rickity old stairs that our Lucy on the farm warned us about.  No fear was found and we bravely marched up the stairs to fun and treasures to be found!

This is Caroline, the new phenome farm girl who has discovered that she loves to create beautiful silver jewelry.  She shares the large silver smithery next door with the renowned smithy, David.

The shop is dark and dusty, crammed with tools and I was in heaven!  Most of the tools had been passed down from craftsman to craftsman, over 200 years.  David had found a man in the town who was throwing away junk that he had found in his basement, yes, silversmith tools centuries old.    David was pleased as punch to obtain them for his collection.  The use of the tools never changes.

We noticed these collections of papers hanging from the rafters and asked what they were.  "Why, the invoices for orders from the last 100 years of course" replied David.  Of course.  Eileen, a new filing system! The change in the paper over the years was very interesting.

David of course!  Master silversmith to the royal family and anyone else who can afford his beautiful workmanship.  He was working on a pair of gorgeous silver vases when we visited selling for 3,000 pounds each.  He has no need to advertise nor sell in shops as he has orders to finish this year and next.  Absolutely incredible craftsmanship.

Different sized hammers to work the silver and also to give the hammered look.  Sizes depend on the size of "dent" you need.

This huge collection of keys was hanging from the rafters.  No idea how old they are as they all came with the shop when David moved in.  Thousands of wonderful keys! 

More tools on a hundreds of years old table.

This is similar to the flux tools used in stained glass.  Caroline was using this for finishing a bracelet.

Caroline finishing the sizing for Sue's bracelet.  We each bought one that will meet us when we return home.  Such a sweet and talented artist. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

From City to Farm

We know that there are many of you seeing our posts.  Please leave us a note!  We are homesick for any correspondence from home and would love to hear from you if only to hear how you weather is, or how your gardens are growing or what you are making.  We are finding very little in the way of crafts and have finally seen the sun today after several days of rain.  We are trying to keep up on posts but are finding that we are all so tired at night... I am going to bed earlier and sleeping later than ever before.   The stress of driving on the wrong side of the road and on skinny little roads will end soon.  I will be so glad!

From City to Farm...Only the Best!!

We have driven from our cottage in the city of Bath out to our farm stay in the midlands near Chipping Campden.  Our 2 rooms were upstairs in the 200 year old farm house, the best beds we have had during the entire trip so far.  Great shower and we are looking forward to an incredible breakfast with our hostess,

The view from our bedroom window!  We hear the bleating of the sheep well after dark and just after the sun rises.  So peaceful and the best night's sleep ever!  Our hosts raise and breed sheep, 1,500 of them at the moment.  And they love each one to pieces!

These beautiful white cattle are also part of the farm.  Just a few hundred head, but it still makes for a full life for Paul, Lucy and their two boys.  The farm is self sustaining, all of the cattle, sheep and chicken feed is grown on the farm.  In turn, the meat is butchered and cured to feed the family and sell for other needed products.  We enjoyed learning about this family's life and occupations.  Very interesting and comforting to see the farm life at work and the happiness and fufillment that it brings.

The symbol of the Farm Stay program that so farm families are joining.  The hospitality of our host family couldn't have been finer.  We appreciate their gracious provision and kind advice on places to visit and great inns for dinner.  There will never be a finer breakfast than Lucy's with the fresh eggs, sausage and incredible toast.  Yummy!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Day 2 Fun in Bath

 This morning dawned overcast and a bit showery.  It was still warm though.  We decided to spend our day wandering the streets of Bath, looking for trouble.  Actually we found this young couple in the town square singing and playing his guitar, tambourine strapped to his foot.  Crowds were gathered, sitting and standing  around the square.

 Across the street was this little guy sitting in front of the ice cream store, plopped on whipped cream atop 2 scoops of ice cream all on a standing cone.  Really cute!

 On the opposite side of the square stood the majestic Abbey of Bath.  Not quite a cathedral, but one heck of an abbey!  The stone sculptures, ironwork and windows were beautiful.  How did the artisans of old complete and assemble these incredible works?

Five hundred feet from the Abbey are the Roman Baths.  When the Romans came to conquer, they found the area full of hot mineral springs, perfect for healing sore and damaged bodies from clashes in battle.  Much hard work and planning was put into building the bath houses and other buildings that used the hot water from the springs.  Elaborate systems were built to pump and move the healing waters throughout the city and it quickly became the most sought after health spa in the civilized world.  Complete with beautiful sculptures and artwork.

Water is still in the pools today, but is only cleaned every few months.  Not enough to keep it clean enough for human use.

Tonight on our way home we saw 4 hot air balloons lifting into the sky from the city and floating down the valley past our "home".  A beautiful sight.   

This is the beautiful view from our little cottage townhouse.  Actually it looks much like the valley that we live in in Oregon.  Very green because of all the rain!  We have enjoyed another wonderful day.  Making our dinner at home tonight, pasta and a salad, and going to bed.  Sweet dreams and on to another day tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

And We're Off!

The bags are finally packed after many shuffles and un-doings/re-doings.  We 3 wil be gone for 5 weeks but are allowing ourselves only one carry on suitcase and a back pack.  Along the way as we buy, mostly souvenirs for the grandkids, we fill smaller carry on bags.

After the long flight with 2 undisciplined children behind us, yes, you can imagine the wonderful 7.5 hours without sleep, we landed and picked up our rental car without incident at 7:00 AM  Now, all of you mentalpausers can understand the absolute delight in trying to retrain a half functioning brain to drive on the wrong side of the road.  It is pure chaos!  So, between the 3 of us, we possibly have one complete brain, I control the steering wheel, Sue navigates beautifully and repeats the mantra "Stay left, stay left" and Suze's job is to watch for incoming missles such as bikers, walkers, runners or very small cars.  Our first stop was a small farmers' market in Newbury on our way to Bath.  Don't you love this company's sign "The Complete Pig"?

Next door we found some wonderful fresh baked bread and these super cute little hedgehog rolls with raisin eyes.  Love their little spikey fur.

The vendor told us that the only place open for breakfast was the local pub,  We were starved after eating just a bit of our airplane food.  This was our traditional English breakfast that all 3 of us ordered.  Usually don't have this much to eat, nor do any of us have baked beans straight from the can for breakfast, but we ate it all!!

After breakfast, we attempted to find our cottage/townhouse.  Lots of traffic going into and coming out of Bath.  "Keep left, keep left", but don't hit the parked cars and trucks on the left.  It's a challenge.  We made a few wrong turns, but are still so very thankful for Brenda, our handy GPS system brought from home.  Sometimes we end up in strange places, but she is usually right on.  We finally found our little, narrow street and this was the door across the street.  Isn't it sweet?

This is our front door!  We did take over 5 minutes to get in, the keys were a major problem.  Very old.  Upon entry, we decided on rooms and then planned on a quick nap for 90 minutes or so and then time for exploration in Bath.  Well, it did turn out to be a short 5 hour nap for 2 of us, up at 6:00 pm, just in time for another meal.  Until tomorrow!!