The Changing Seasons March 2018 ~ All Wind, Snow And White Horses

This was the sight that greeted us as we drove back into Shropshire from Wales last Saturday – a snow-dusted vision of Titterstone Clee. A windscreen shot too. Here and there along the country roads there was also some astonishing ice art in the hedges. Temperatures were so frigid that when cars drove through verge puddles  the water splashed up on to the bare twigs and froze in cascades of tiny silver icicles. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and certainly not in March: Christmas trees all over again. Anyway, March may be summed up in one word: FREEZING.



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In which Six Go Potty In Pembroke With Cockerpoo Puppy  – holiday snaps #3


The Changing Seasons: March 2018

The Little Church By The Sea

It stands beside the Wales Coast Path looking down on St. Bride’s Haven, a rocky cove with a long, long history. The church is also called St. Bride’s and is dedicated to St. Bridget of Kildare who, it is said, arrived on these shores from Ireland c500 CE.  The original chapel dedicated to her is long gone, though before it went, local fishermen used the place for curing herring, for which act of ecclesiastical disrespect, the herring have ever since steered clear of St. Brides Haven.

It’s a good, if fishy yarn.

The present church was probably  built by at least the 14th century, during which time it would have served the lords of the neighbouring medieval manor house known as The Abbey, and whose ruins may still be seen in the nearby woods. The old church was then thoroughly renovated in 1868, by which time it was very much the family church of the occupants of St. Bride’s Castle, a great baronial pile built by the Allen-Phillips family in 1830, but subsequently the second home of the Barons Kensington between 1880-1920. The latter marked their passing with monumental Celtic Crosses that rise starkly in the windy graveyard.


Between the church and the beach there are the remains of a lime kiln. Lime burning was an important trade in Pembrokeshire from at least the 13th century, the resulting quick lime used to neutralize acidity of farm fields before sowing wheat and barley. It was also an essential material in the building trade – for the mixing of lime mortar and whitewash. For 500 hundred years ships landed on Pembrokeshire’s beaches, coming and going with the tides, and bringing in cargoes of limestone and culm (coal chippings and anthracite dust) to be burned in the kilns. It was a highly skilled process, and a dangerous one.

These days the ships seen off St. Bride’s Haven are oil tankers waiting their turn to put in at the great oil refineries of Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock. Their presence adds to the daily seascape below St. Bride’s Castle.

After the Barons Kensington sold up, the Castle became a sanatorium for sufferers of tuberculosis. Those poor souls who did not recover also have their graves in St. Bride’s graveyard. After World War Two it was a convalescent home. More recently the Castle and grounds have been given over to holiday apartments and cottages, the Castle’s public rooms – great hall, library, and billiard room – restored in English country house style for shared use by all the guests. And here we had our week’s family gathering (including cockerpoo puppy), staying in one of the cottages in the old walled garden. The only sounds were racketing rooks and jackdaws busy building their nests in the woods, and more distantly, the crash of surf on the cliffs at St. Bride’s Haven.



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At the start I mentioned that St. Bride’s Haven has a long, long history. So far, time-wise, I’ve only scratched the surface. Later I discovered that if I’d taken the coast path around the cove and behind the cottages I would have come upon an Iron Age hillfort (c 800 years BCE). And more ancient still, near this site had also been found Mesolithic tools (9,000-6,000 BCE). This Middle Stone Age era of the post Ice Age is distinguished by the making of tiny flint arrowheads called microliths – usually around 1 cm in size. These were then mounted on a wooden shaft to create a hunting harpoon. Mesolithic hunters were also very fond of shell fish, camping out at likely beaches as part of their seasonal food gathering round. They thus left archaeologists with that other very exciting prehistoric find – the shell midden. Some are enormous, and were possibly used for several generations.

So next time we go to St. Bride’s I have promised myself a  microlith ‘n midden hunt. It will make a change from gathering seashells.


In which Six Go Potty In Pembroke With Cockerpoo Puppy  – holiday snaps #2


Jo’s Monday Walk

Please visit Jo for some captivating scenes of Portuguese fisher-folk and a very gentle walk.

March Square #21

And pop over to Becky’s for more March squares and circles in squares.



News From The North ~ First Day Of Spring?


The lesser celandines have been flowering since December, and never mind three lots of snow dumped on them. It’s all very confusing. To me the opening of these sunny little flowers has always signalled the start of spring, so I’m posting this photo to mark its official, if not the actual arrival on our side of the planet. Am also hoping that Siberia will recall her wind-hounds, and double-quick. Enough icy blasts already.


Some slightly wonky circles in a square for Becky’s March Square #20

St David’s Cathedral ~ Thursday’s Special

These ruins of the Bishop’s Palace at St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, South Wales stand on the site of the monastery of Menevia founded in the 6th century by St. David, patron saint of Wales (500-589 CE). The nearby cathedral (coming up below) was consecrated in 1131, but has undergone many phases of re-building, including major remedial work, first after an earthquake c 1247, and then after the devastation wrought under Cromwell’s Commonwealth of the 1650s. Welsh architect John Nash oversaw extensive repairs in 1793, but his work, proving substandard, made it necessary for the whole cathedral to undergo complete restoration by George Gilbert Scott in the late 19th century. A bit of a mash-up then, architecturally speaking – Gothic and Perpendicular not the least of it – but still an imposingly handsome building. It also hosts a very excellent cafeteria.


St. David’s has long been a place of pilgrimage, papal decree stating in 1123 that two pilgrimages to St. David’s was the equivalent of one to Rome. England’s monarchs from William the Conqueror onwards hot-footed here, which probably accounts for the increasing grandeur of the Bishop’s Palace, still apparent today despite its ruinous state. After confession comfortable lodgings and some fine dining would doubtless be the next royal requirements.


The cathedral’s presence confers city status on the community of St. David’s. This may seem a trifle curious for a place scarcely larger than a village. With a population of less than 2,000, it thus has the distinction of being the United Kingdom’s smallest city, and so by default the loveliest – its peninsula siting bounded by scenic coastlines west, north and south and its hinterland composed of rolling Pembrokeshire farmland. A good place to visit then, although perhaps best done out of season.


P.S.  The daffodils on the cusp of opening in the header photo are the national flower of Wales and worn on St. David’s Day on the 1st of March.

Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past

Raynald’s Mansion ~ The Grandest House On Wenlock’s High Street

Raynald’s Mansion has seen several phases of development. It began as a medieval hall. In 1600 it was given a face lift with a new frontage. And in 1680 it was made grander still with the addition of three bays. Its owners certainly knew how to make their presence felt in the town.  Rather amazingly the house was still owned by members of the Raynald family into the late 20th century, and today it remains a private house. Directly across the street is our much treasured book shop, also housed in a very ancient building.


March Square


Skew-Whiff And Time-Slipped In Much Wenlock’s Square

We have three tea rooms and a smoothie bar in Much Wenlock. Also two old pubs and three hotels, a Chinese Take-Away and an Indian restaurant. We’re well served all round.


Here’s more of the Square – on the right is the sixteenth century timbered Guild Hall where Town Council meetings are still held upstairs once a month and Rod and Viv’s vegetable market features downstairs several days a week. The parish church behind dates from the early Middle Ages. The Museum on the left used to be a market, and then it was the town cinema. Now it tells of Wenlock’s glorious past as the origin and the source of the modern Olympic Games.

The Wenlock Olympian Games began in 1852, founded by the town’s physician Doctor William Penny Brookes. He inspired Pierre de Courbetin who visited him here to pick his brains on who to run the games, and then went on to found the International Olympic Committee.  One of the events in Penny Brookes Olympics included races on penny farthing bicycles. This chap (below) turned up at one of our Christmas Fairs a few years ago, and was attempting to mount his vehicle in a high wind. He never quite managed it, at least not while I was watching. But I did appreciate his fine bicycling costume.



All this squares in squares and circles in squares shenanigans is down to Becky. Here’s the place to find out more: March Square


A Bucket Full Of Blue ~ Mad March Square 10


This was a heartening find outside our High Street florists on Wednesday. I love the blue of hyacinths, though their scent can be overpowering indoors. Anyway, it made me think how lucky we are in our very small and ancient town to have so many independent shops. As I may well have mentioned before, our traders’ roll call even includes two book stores. Also extraordinarily, we have a vicars’ outfitters where men of the cloth can have their cloth, well, customized. Who’d’ve thought…

I’m thinking I may feature more of Wenlock in squares over the next few days. I shall have to schedule same as we’re about to go to the dark side. That is to say, changing our internet provider. The last time we did that we were worldwidewebless for nearly a fortnight. So if you don’t hear from me over the next few days, do not be surprised.

March Square Pop over to Becky’s to get square with this squares and circles lark.


It’s Been A Long Winter ~ Thursday’s Special

At least this morning we have bright sunshine, although even before I looked out of the window I could tell from the clarity of light there would be frost too. There is. Indoors, I keep peering at my tomato seedlings and thinking, ‘why did I start you off so soon?’ They say they don’t know either. Ah well, when it comes to gardening, as with much else, all one can do is travel hopefully. Meanwhile, fingers crossed, we’ve seen the back of these wintry scenes. You can click on an image to also see these in carousel format.

Thursday’s Special: Wintry

Round And Round The Circle In Bishops Castle With A Few Squares And A Steam Roller Thrown In

Bishops Castle is another favourite Farrell destination – a sleepy rural town in the Shropshire-Welsh borderland. It is full of quirky and ancient houses, though this one at the top of the town must surely take the prize for being the most smile-inducing. I thought this pared down photo would tick all Becky’s boxes (square ones naturally).

But I was sure you would like to see the full picture too:


And the houses at the bottom of the town, sporting their Michaelmas Fair-Steam Rally banners:


And a taste of the Steam Rally:


You can see more about Bishops Castle at Summer Came Back On Saturday And Took Us To The Fair


March Square 8