Category Archives: Places

Cardington R101 Memorial

The last time I walked through Cardington was in November, and I was surprised to see, near the two big hangers, one of the prototype airships outside. Development of the prototype Airlander 10 continues inside the hangers.

The village sign has an airship, and inside the church is a memorial, and a stall with airship memorabilia and newspaper cuttings about the R101 disaster, and back numbers of The Dirigible – a magazine for airship enthusiasts.

In the village cemetery is the mass grave and memorial to those who died when His Majesty’s Airship R101 came down in bad weather in France on 5th october 1930, during a maiden flight. It caught fire on a hillside. Of the 48 crew and 6 passengers, there were 6 survivors. The airship had been built in Cardington.

St Andrews – Headington – at Epiphany

In Old Headington, a village within the city of Oxford, you will find St Andrew’s Church. It flies the Saltire or Saint Andrew’s Cross, the Scottish flag in the heart of England.

The church was open, and warm and welcoming.

One chapel was decorated with white cyclamen with the three Magi kneeling,  bringing their gifts after a long pilgrimage: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

On the other side of the entrance was a window, the lead-work forming tree branches, and the glass delicately painted with leaves.

The church had a new organ. Next to the organ were music books. One older book had a marker at Epiphany.

“OH WORSHIP the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
With gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
Kneel and adore him the Lord is his name!”

(Post dedicated to John Clapp whose stone I saw in the memorial garden behind the church. He had been the organist in this church from 1993 – 2009.)

Annie’s Tea Rooms – Walk – Thrupp

On Christmas Eve in 1874 there was a railway disaster near Thrupp.

Heavy snow lay on the ground, and a Great Western Train from London Paddington had added an extra coach at Oxford and left at 11:40 AM. The carriage was needed to deal with the crowds of people wanting to get to the Midlands for Christmas.

Passing Thrupp a wheel tyre on the additional coach broke and the carriage left the rails. The rest of the train plunged down an embankment beside the Oxford Canal. 31 passengers died in the crash. 60 were seriously injured.

We parked the car at Thrupp near Annie’s Tea Room.

We crossed the Oxford Canal and then went under the railway. The line was busy with both freight and passenger trains.

The path went through a plantation for a mile or so until emerging beside the meandering River Cherwell. The slim spire of the church in Kidlington could be seen across the fields and was visible for most of the walk. We crossed open meadows with horses, and after the village of Hampton Poyle, saw sheep and cows.

The route then took us to what remained of Hampton Gay. The 16th Century Manor House had burned down in 1887. There is still a farm with a number of cottages nearby.

By mistake, we went off the designated footpath at this point and ended up going under the railway through water and coming to a field with a notice saying  ‘Bull in this Field.’

So we turned back and found the way we should have gone. The path took us under the railway, alongside the River Cherwell.

The last part of the walk was along the canal towpath ending back at Annie’s Tea Room  where we enjoyed Sweet Potato Soup with bread and butter.

There were no boards or memorial to the 1874 railway disaster anywhere we could see.

Elstow – John Bunyan’s birthplace

I am working in Bedford and visited John Bunyan’s birthplace, a village called Elstow – not far from Bedford.

The village has a green where there used to be monthly fairs with all kinds of entertainment from jousting to maypole dancing. The green was the inspiration for Vanity Fair in Pilgrim’s Progress … “at this fair there are at all times to be seen jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind…. Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood-red colour”

The stump of a Market Cross remains, and the fine Moot House from the 15th Century.

Nearby is the Abbey Church of St Mary and St Helena. It was once the 7th richest Abbey in the Kingdom with a very extensive building.

A smaller church still remains, and some ruined walls.

Inside the church is the ‘original’ Wicket gate that John Bunyan immortalised in Pilgrim’s Progress. A Wicket Gate is a pedestrian door or gate, particularly one built into a larger door.

In the church is a window showing scenes from Pilgrim’s Progress, and another window, shown above, showing scenes from John Bunyan’s third book, ‘The Holy War – The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Man-soul.‘ It shows the evil forces to the left, in green, and the good forces to the right, both trying to take the town of a man’s mind – the evil forces by force, and the good forces by invitation.

Pilgrims come in coaches and cars to visit the church and other places linked to John Bunyan. There are more from China and Japan than England. His allegorical book, Pilgrim’s Progress, and his being jailed for what he believed, are greatly admired in those countries.

Over the church door is a seal from the time the Abbey was handed over to King Henry VIII’s forces. It shows Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Saint Helena, who discovered the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.

Elstow itself also has a fine row of houses, some dating back before John Bunyan. The village is cut across by the very busy A421 Bedford Bypass, but you would hardly know it as the bridge over the road has such high walls.

Penny Lane

In Penny Lane there is a sign with autographs
Of recent people who’s had the pleasure to have been
And somebody even left a picture of them self
it wasn’t all a dream…

Down some steps to the Cavern in Matthew Street
tourists go and visit, and drink a beer
watch a live band play, an old one filmed
love the atmosphere …

On the Town Hall balcony Sergeant Pepper’s Band
with photo holes for  people to play their part.
There are children and the old men too, who take a turn
in the pouring rain, not at all now strange …

Whose house is this?

We found this house after driving along a very narrow lane. We needed a ticket from a National Trust hut which allowed us to enter at 2:25pm, and get in out of the rain.

Inside was a blazing fire in a stove that has been pictured in some books by the person who lived here.

Most of the house was kept fairly dark to help preserve the fabric and pictures. There were a lot of pictures, many by this person’s brother and father, and even a hat and some clothes belonging to the person who lived here.

In the kitchen was a basket of vegetables picked from the garden that is also shown in books by the person who lived here.

That person wrote and illustrated this letter to a young friend. It was the start of what this person is most famous for. But they also kept prize winning sheep, and helped set up the early National Trust.

Quarry Bank

We arrived early at Quarry Bank and looked round before anything was open. This old cotton mill was run by the Greg family in the Bollin valley in Cheshire – just one their mills. The River Bollin turned the huge water wheel that drove the first machines on this site before they converted to steam. That wheel is still working.

At 11am we got our tickets and crossed a bridge into the factory. The first floor was fairly empty – undergoing a revamp. Part of it was being prepared for the children’s activities.

We could hear the thump of the machines down below. First we saw examples of carding, and spinning machines. Then a lady showed us the same process on earlier wooden machines: from carding through spinning to weaving – first with a hand moved shuttle, then a faster flying shuttle.

After that we came into the largest machine room (showed above) where a volunteer had four weaving machines going together.

There was then a lot of history displays, but we had to dash to get to the apprentice’s house for a booked tour at 12:15 to learn how these children lived.

Children worked 12 hour days in the mill, 13 as punishment if they were a minute late. They had an hours schooling from 8-9pm. Mr Greg’s wife was a Unitarian and made sure the girls also learned to read and write, and not just the boys.

The government were gradually tightening up on the hours of child labour, and eventually the apprentice house was closed down. The guide gave a very interesting, animated talk – accentuating some of the horrible history for the children in our audience. The children’s lives in those days was very hard. They were picked for being fit and given a medical before starting. Many came from the workhouse. After a trial period, to make sure they were good workers, they could sign up for anything from 2 to 10 years. In return for work they got the board and lodging.

There are also some beautiful gardens at Quarry Bank, with recently restored glass houses, and waterside walks, and some houses to view in the workers village .

The National Trust were also restoring the Greg family home, to be re-opened in September, and building a new visitor centre.

Dunham Massey

We passed a 500 year old Oak Tree on the path from the Carpark to the grounds and Manor House of Dunham Massey in Cheshire. That tree had seen a lot of changes.

Inside we were given a tour and shown some of the former owners of houses on this site. The earliest picture was of old Sir George Booth who rebuilt the house in the late 16th century, and then his grandson, young George Booth (above), who fought first on the side of Oliver Cromwell, and then deciding the new regime had got things wrong, on the royalist side. He got sent to the Tower of London until the restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II.

The present house was mostly built in 1770s, and then abandoned by the 7th Earl of Stamford in Victorian times, and that was the story the national Trust are telling this season – as a family attraction.

The Earl took for his second wife a circus performer called Catherine. The Cheshire set were against this marriage, as was Queen Victoria. Feeling rejected, the Earl and Catherine abandoned their house in Cheshire, taking some treasures with them, to their other 2 houses.

The 9th Earl of Stamford moved the family back to Dunham Massey and set about trying to create a grand house with a new elaborate front entrance. He was not altogether pleased with the result and fired the architect. Perhaps he wanted it grander.

On his death in 1910 the house was given to his son Roger, the 10th Earl of Stamford, who tried to recover some of the former possessions of the house, including a Grinling Gibbons wood carved crucifixion seen in the library. He left it all to the National Trust.

Their volunteers helped to bring back the old times. In the downstairs servants area, there was a cook, milk maid, and wash maid all showing what work they might have done.

Little Moreton Hall

We walked round Little Moreton Hall, a tudor timbered building, for the first hour, and then joined in one of the guided tours.

The building, situated in Cheshire, just south of Congleton, was clearly amazing, and the guide added to that with his enthusiasm and knowledge, taking us from the first building of the great hall in tudor times by Thomas Moreton, and how it got enlarged by his son and grandson, great entrepreneurs in the area. The family were royalists and lost a lot of their land during the  English Civil war, and the hall was rented out to tenant farmers until Victorian times,  when Sister Elizabeth Moreton took possession and set about restoring it.

There are recent discoveries such as the wall painting showing the story of Susanna and the Elders from the apocrypha.This is a unique collection of pictures like a medieval comic strip with the top missing.


Warwick Castle is not that far from us. We wished we had visited years ago when our children were young. Most of the visitors were young families, but it still has a lot for us oldies. Climbing the ramparts was exciting and gave some wonderful views.

The eagles flying display was the best falconry display I had ever seen. The falconer gave a great commentary. It brought tears to my eyes to see some of the birds fly – very moving.

We queued up with others to watch the War of the Roses between Yorkists, and Lancastrians. Some great riding and theatricality and a chance to relearn some history. Added to the drama was the team rivalry – half the crowd cheered for the whites and half for the reds.

The River running beneath the castle is a vision …

as are parts of the town beyond the castle.