Lapworth Geology Museum – Birmingham – Photos

Lapworth Geology Museum

Lapworth Geology Museum

My visit to the Lapworth Geology Museum was an unexpected treat.  It’s run by the University of Birmingham and was absolutely fascinating.  It’s also free to visit!  The Museum is set within the University and there is a lot of building work going on around it so I had to use Google Maps to get there.  It was well worth it when I arrived, though.

Charles Lapworth

Charles Lapworth

The Museum has one of the oldest collections of fossils and stones together with lots of detailed information and videos which were great fun.

It is named after Charles Lapworth who was a noted geologist of the time, being Professor of Geology at the Mason College which was the forerunner of the present University of Birmingham.

Magnetic influence

Magnetic influence

Interactive displays

This display showed the influence of magnets really clearly.  As you moved the magnet on the left up along the slot the needle on the compass to the right moved to follow it.  I wish I had known about this museum when my children were young.

I

Revolving globe

Revolving globe

I spent ages at this revolving globe.  At the click of a button you could change the display to cover different areas of information.  In this particular photo you could see the lines of human movement but there were many other options.

Wonderful shapes

Wonderful shapes

Rock displays

I have various bits of rock around my house – I just love the colours produced by different layers of stone when they are polished up.  However these displays were something else – this particular one made me think of coral – what amazing and beautiful shapes.

I also learned a lot about precious stones from the displays.  For instance I have always believed that sapphires are blue but in fact they come in a whole range of colours.

Fossils and bones

Fossils and bones

Fossils and bones

These huge bones were a wonderful reminder of just how large dinosaurs were.

What impressed me about the fossil displays was not only how well preserved the fossils were, but also how instructive the notes were – explaining how fossils were formed.  The plant fossils fascinated me – I get that animals become covered in sediment and their shape is imprinted in the rock, but I was staggered to see that the same thing had happened to plants.  I would have expected them just to decay long before their shape was imprinted on the rocks.  Shows how little I know!

All in all my visit to Lapworth Geology Museum was a real treat – well done Birmingham University!

Liverpool – Merseyside – Photos

Liverpool memories

Liverpool memories

Liverpool is a photographer’s dream, but I have chosen this photo because the symbolism moved me so much.  A bombed out church has been left as it must have been at the end of the war and the sculpture in front of it shows a German and an English soldier shaking hands over a football during the Christmas truce.  Wonderful imagery!

I had not visited Liverpool before so it was a real treat for me.  I’m sure that most people (myself included) link Liverpool with the Beatles and the music of the sixties, but there is so much more to it than just that.  I had not realised that it is a Unesco designated World Heritage Maritime Mercantile City.




Gateway to America

Gateway to America

Liverpool as gateway to the Atlantic

I knew that the Founding Fathers left England from Plymouth to travel to America, but apparently far more people left from Liverpool.  In fact the estimate is that nine million emigrated to America through Liverpool.

This Legacy Sculpture was given to Liverpool by the Mormon Church as a tribute to all the families who made that journey.  It shows a family with suitcases and the small child is intended to represent moving forward to a new future.

The Cavern Club

The Cavern Club

The Cavern Club

Even though I knew that Liverpool was way more than the Beatles and the Mersey Beat, I couldn’t resist a pilgrimage to the Cavern Club.  We had intended to have a quick wander around the club and then continue our sightseeing, but ended up staying there for several hours.  They have live music during the day and we happily bellowed out all the old Beatles songs.

Interestingly, they also had an impressive collection of memorabilia – signed guitars and such like.

Liverpool docks

Liverpool docks

The Waterfront

As with so many cities, the docks have been re developed to create a wonderful area of museums, exhibitions and art galleries.  We could have spent several days exploring just that area, but time did not allow.

The Liverpool Museum had lovely interactive sections for the children – but as there weren’t many children around I had a play on several of the sections and ended up with a good rating for being a potential docker!

Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral

Liverpool Cathedrals

There are two cathedrals in Liverpool, not far apart from each other.  The first one that we came across was the Catholic cathedral.  It is a very modern and striking building.  I believe the overall shape has been likened to the pope’s hat.

Inside the cathedral

Inside the cathedral

It certainly dominated the area, but I was quite unprepared for the beauty of the interior.  Clever lighting framed the individual wall hangings which were all very impressive in their own right.  The building is round and they had made use of every inch of space.

We couldn’t descend to the crypt as there was something on that day, but apparently it was designed by Edwin Lutyens and is a masterpiece in its own right.

Cathedral Church of the Risen Christ

Cathedral Church of the Risen Christ

The second cathedral is built to a far more traditional design.  It is no less beautiful and surprisingly was only built at the beginning of the 20th century.

It is the longest cathedral in the world, although my photo only shows one end of it.  In this article you can find far more information about it than I could give you.

Royal Liver Building

Royal Liver Building

The Royal Liver Building

This wonderful building was built for the Royal Liver Assurance Company.  The two Liver Birds that you can see on the tops of the towers watch over the city and the sea.  Legend has it that if they ever flew away then the city of Liverpool would cease to exist.  Let’s hope that never happens to such a wonderful city.

National Memorial Arboretum – Alrewas – Photos

National Memorial Arboretum

National Memorial Arboretum

I visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas earlier this year.  This was officially opened in May 2001 and is a moving tribute to our armed services.  This is the official description of it:

A spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice, and fosters pride in our country.

It is now run by a charity with countless volunteers and I felt that I could have spent far longer than a day there to explore the 150 acres of trees and memorials.

Lifting a fallen comrade

Lifting a fallen comrade

I’ll try to keep my talking to a minimum now and concentrate on the photos.

This tableau is part of the first section that you come to, surrounded by walls inscribed with the names of those who have died in active service since World War II- so many of them.

The surrounding walls are placed so that at 11am on the 11th November the sun shines through two slits in the walls and a shaft of light falls on a wreath in the middle.

So many varied trees

So many varied trees

There are 30,000 trees here with the number growing all the time. What struck me was the wonderful variety of trees – leaves of every colour and shape.

Memorials everywhere

Memorials everywhere

Memorials along every walk way.  This particular one was at the end of a very long walkway.  The simplicity of two hands clasped was moving.

Engraved ball

Engraved ball

This globe had names engraved over the surface of the ball.

Memorial

Memorial

Every aspect of the armed services – support services as well – was remembered somewhere within the arboretum.

Bordered by rivers

Bordered by rivers

The arboretum is bordered by the rivers Trent and Tame and was built on a former gravel pit.  The rivers add to the peace of the area.

Warwick Castle – Photos

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is one of those places that I had always intended to visit but as it’s nearby I hadn’t quite managed a trip there until recently.  After all, it has been there since 1068 so I felt that it was likely to be around for a while yet.  What a lovely castle it is with lots of activities.

The castle lies on the River Avon and you can see at the front of the photo where the moat used to be.  Originally it was built in wood during the time of William the Conqueror but in the twelfth century it was rebuilt in stone.  It is run by Merlin Entertainments, rather than the more usual English Heritage or National Trust.




Inside the great hall

Inside the great hall

Inside the castle

The Great Hall is magnificent.  No floor tile patterns to inspire a quilt, but plenty to see.  This horse was a bit like the Mona Lisa – he seemed to be watching me as I walked around the hall.

Bear and ragged staff

Bear and ragged staff

I had heard of the bear and ragged staff many times before without quite knowing its significance.  The symbol of a bear with ragged staff is closely associated with Warwickshire – the T20 cricket team the Birmingham Bears is part of Warwickshire County Cricket Association..  They play at Edgbaston, just down the road from me.  Somewhere else that I still need to visit.

Apparently one of the Earls of Warwickshire was a Knight of the Round Table in the time of King Arthur.  His name was Arthgal.  The name is thought to have come from the Welsh word for bear.  A different earl a few centuries later fought off a giant using a tree branch from which he had stripped all the twigs and leaves – the ragged staff.  I have to admit that the link seems a bit weak to me, but it makes a nice story!  You can see two bears with ragged staffs in the photo.

Time Tower

Life at the castle

Life at the castle

The Time Tower provided some great stories of the castle through the ages.  There were some very lifelike models showing how people lived at the castle during various stages of its history.  The story of the castle was explained as you walked through a series of rooms – very interesting and well set up.

Wonderful tapestries

Wonderful tapestries

When I visit these historical buildings I am always struck by how well some tapestries seem to survive the years.

There are many lovely tapestries in Warwick Castle.  It’s the fact that the colours are still so good even after hundreds of years that always impresses me.

Outside the castle

I visited the castle out of season so a lot of the usual activities were closed, but I can imagine that in full season there would be lots of activities and demonstrations aimed at keeping the children happy and involved.

Peacocks close by

Peacocks close by

The trebuchet (siege machine) was fascinating.  For safety reasons this huge catapult was situated and fired on the other side of the river.  My photos aren’t clear enough for it to be worth showing them to you, but there are some good photos on the Warwick Castle website.  The trebuchet was used to hurl stones and rocks into whatever castle they were attacking.  Sometimes they also hurled things like dead animals over the defensive walls in the hope of spreading rotten meat throughout the area.  What nice times they lived in!

We sat on a hill on our side of the river to watch.  I was rather amazed at how close the peacocks came to all the spectators.  I had never seen a peacock so close up – what amazing colours they have in their feathers.

All in all, Warwick Castle provides a magnificent day out with a fascinating glimpse of life through the centuries.

 

Budapest – Hungary – Photos

Budapest - Hungary

Budapest – Hungary

Budapest has been on my list for a long time and I am delighted that I have finally managed to visit this beautiful city.  The River Danube runs right through the city, which was once the three cities of Bhuda, Obhuda and Pest (pronounced pesht).  I had always thought that Budapest was created from the two cities of Bhuda and Pest, so that was the first thing that I learned on my arrival.

Most photos of Budapest focus on the unbelievably beautiful buildings so I thought that I would open with a photo of a statue way above the city – it took me a long time and a lot of puffing and panting to climb up there but it was well worth it to see the panorama of the city spread out beneath me.




Budapest's Statue of Liberty

Budapest’s Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty Budapest

The statue above was actually a sidekick to Budapest’s very own Statue of Liberty.  This was perched on the hilltop on the Bhuda side of the river and completely dominated the skyline no matter where you were in the city.  It’s a very impressive area with magnificent views – appreciated all the more because it was such a steep climb to reach it.

It was erected in 1947 and shows Liberty holding a palm leaf aloft.  Actually, I thought it was a feather and have only just realised that it isn’t!

St Gerhard

St Gerhard

I have to confess to a senior moment here – while I was on a Danube cruise I heard the guide talking about the statue of the Archbishop while directing our attention to that side of the river.  So I thought that Liberty was the Archbishop until I climbed up the hill and realised that she couldn’t possibly be a man.

In fact the statue of St Gerhard is half way down the same hill that Liberty stands on.  He was the first bishop of Hungary.  The cruise guide told us that he was flung off the hill for his beliefs and that the waterfall beneath him signifies his death in the Danube, but I can’t find any reference to that anywhere else.

Parliament building

Parliament building

Parliament Building

The Parliament Building is best viewed from the river to get the full impact, but this is the front entrance.  They were obviously expecting someone special on this day – the red carpet was being unrolled while we watched and there was a very heavy army presence.  The following day we were allowed on to the area immediately in front of the palace so that we could see the memorial to those killed in the 1956 uprising.  I felt sad to see how open the area was – compared with our own Palace of Westminster which has to be so heavily barricaded and policed.

St Mathias church

St Mathias church

St Mathias Church

There is an area of Budapest called the Fisherman’s Bastion, built at the end of the 19th century to provide a panoramic view of the city.  This is beautiful but it was the Church of St Mathias just behind it which really caught my attention.  The roof alone dominates the area – such lovely patchwork designs created with the roof tiles.  I knew that the inside must be special and I wasn’t disappointed.

Inside the church

Inside the church

Inside, the church was breathtaking.  Every inch was decorated and the overall effect was eyewateringly beautiful.  Even with all the tourists the church managed to maintain a peaceful and calming atmosphere.

I took loads of photos of the interior – definitely lots of quilt inspiration there!

Shoes on the Danube

Shoes on the Danube

Shoes on the Danube

I had heard of the shoes on the banks of the Danube but it was still very moving to see them.

They are laid out along a stretch of at least 20 yards – sixty pairs of all shapes and sizes made in iron.  The memorial was created to remember the 3,500 people killed by the Arrow Cross militia men during the war.

The people were lined up on the banks of the Danube then ordered to take off their shoes.  When they were shot their bodies fell into the river.  The shoes are made of iron and many people have left flowers or candles in amongst the shoes.

Hungarian embroidery

Hungarian embroidery

Hungarian embroidery

Hungary embroidery is world renowned and it was a real treat to see it everywhere.

I have to admit that some of it looked mass-produced, but there were also ladies sitting in many areas embroidering the most delightful table runners and clothing.

Heroes Square

Heroes Square

Heroes Square

On our last day we visited Heroes Square.  This is a very impressive square where the Pope celebrated mass when he visited Budapest.  the figure at the top of the column is the Archangel Gabriel.

The square was laid out at the end of the 19th century to mark 1000 years of Hungary and there are magnificent museums and art galleries around it.

Museum in City Park Budapest

Museum in City Park Budapest

Behind the square lies City Park – an oasis of calm.  We didn’t go in to this museum but the architecture was a reminder of how these wonderful buildings seem to appear wherever we walked in Budapest.

Polar bears in the zoo

Polar bears in the zoo

We walked among the trees and fountains and then happened upon the zoo.  These polar bears were probably picking fish off each other’s teeth, but it was rather nice to imagine that they were kissing!

We visited so many places within the city that I haven’t been able to show you a fraction of my photos, but Budapest is a beautiful city – well worth a visit if you ever get the chance.

The beauty of Budapest

The beauty of Budapest

We travelled around on trams and buses.  Each journey cost the equivalent of about £1 although if I had been a year older I would have travelled for free.  All EU citizens over 65 travel free on Budapest’s extensive public transport system.  Food and wine are cheap and around every corner you can find a magnificent building to gaze at in awe.

 

Waddesdon Manor – Aylesbury – Photos

Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor is another delightful National Trust property.  It was built in the late nineteenth century for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild.  He wanted somewhere to display his arts and sculptures – and of course to entertain his friends.  Although the property is owned by the National Trust, it is managed by the Rothschild Foundation.

A visit there is a real treat as both the buildings and the gardens are superb.  We had to park quite a distance away, but they have a shuttle bus between the car park and the manor, which helps.




The aviary

The aviary

The Gardens

The first place that we came across in the gardens was the aviary.  We didn’t look as closely as I would have liked at the birds because there were about three school trips that day and the noise from the children was deafening!

As you can see, the buildings are substantial and the birds had plenty of room in their enclosures.  Now I would never think of putting red and purple together in a quilt, but don’t you think that the flower bed on the right makes a lovely display.

What lovely colours

What lovely colours

My mind was still on quilts when I came to the next flower bed – those colours look gorgeous together.  There were statues all over the place and a rose garden that you could smell well before you reached it.

Beautiful topiary

Beautiful topiary

The other eyecatcher on our way to the manor was the topiary.  I’ve seen clever topiary before now, but what stood out here was the way they had used different plants to give a different green for the bird’s breast.  Very clever.

Tapestry fire screen

Tapestry fire screen

Inside Waddesdon Manor

The interior of the manor was breathtaking.  The colours in this tapestry were stunning and they had some really large tapestries hanging on the walls as well.

Zebra in harness

Zebra in harness

I was brought up in Africa and I was always told that zebra could not be tamed so it was delightful to see this photo of zebra pulling a carriage.

This is just an example of how varied the treasures are within the manor.

Twelve Caesars

Twelve Caesars

While we were there – and just about to finish – was an exhibition called the Twelve Caesars.  This consisted of gold or bronze sculptures of each of the first twelve Caesars.  It was fascinating and the amazing thing is that they don’t know who made them or why.

Dining in style

Dining in style

The meals were obviously sumptuous when the Rothschilds lived at Waddesdon Manor.  This table was set for a wonderful feast.  It was the chandelier that was truly beautiful, but I’m afraid my photo hasn’t done it justice.

Waddesdon Manor is an amazing place to visit both inside and outside – well worth it if you’re in the area.

St Tiggywinkles Hospital – Photos

St Tiggywinkles Hospital

St Tiggywinkles Hospital

When I visited St Tiggywinkles Hospital I was utterly enchanted – even if I didn’t see a single live hedgehog!  The sweeties in the photo are actually stuffed toys for sale in their shop.

St Tiggywinkles was opened by Sue and Les Stocker with their son in 1978 when they began treating wild animals on a voluntary basis.  It was the first wildlife treatment centre and soon became (and has remained) world renowned for the work it does.




St Tiggywinkle hospital building

St Tiggywinkle hospital building

History

The hospital is named after Mrs Tiggywinkle in the Beatrix Potter books which were a great favourite with my children.  The hospital had become a registered charity in 1983 – and became swamped with hedgehog casualties in 1984 during a drought.

Tortoise patients

Tortoise patients

The blackboard at the entrance to the visitor centre lists the casualties that they are treating and I was amazed both at the number of different species and the total numbers of animals and birds that they are treating on a regular basis.

The tortoise area had a wide variety of tortoises – I hadn’t realised quite how different they are in shape, size, colour and the patterns on their shells.  I was also amazed at the speed with which they could move when following the young lady who brought their food to them!

Recycled bottle tops

Recycled bottle tops

There is a deer paddock for the recovering deer, but this fellow is a timely reminder of how much recycling we need to do.  He is made entirely from used bottle tops.

The visitor centre boasts a children’s playground, quiet area and a lovely area of pens where you can stroll around seeing the enormous variety of wild life that needs help.

Red kite

Red kite

The red kite is a bird of prey, a protected species which was once near to extinction in Britain.  They are being successfully re introduced to the countryside and any casualties are well looked after at St Tiggywinkles.  We saw this red kite on top of the enclosure but we were assured that he was a former patient rather than an escapee.

I was determined to visit this place based purely on its delightful name, but I am so pleased that I went there.  A very worthwhile charity doing wonderful work and they are very welcoming to the general public.

Bletchley Park – Bucks UK – Photos

Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park

My visit to Bletchley Park was absolutely fascinating – but it also destroyed some of my illusions.  As I’m sure you know, Bletchley Park was the home of our code breaking efforts during the war.  It has now been preserved as a heritage site and is well worth a visit.  The whole site is well set out with plenty of information, loads of stewards to answer questions and some fun activities for children – and me!

This view of the country house set beside a lake with fountains fitted well with my somewhat romantic image of the place.  Inside the mansion you can visit the rooms that were used as offices by the senior codebreakers.




The workshops

The workshops

The Workshops

It was in the other sections of the operation that my illusions were somewhat tarnished.  Obviously there must have been many other buildings to accommodate the offices and workshops of all the people working on breaking codes – thousands of them.  These long low buildings were filled with people – mostly young women – listening in to messages and decoding them before they were passed on for distribution.  Now working at Bletchley had always sounded quite glamorous to me – working on top secret codes and messages to help the war effort.

The reality was somewhat different – these buildings had no heating or cooling so they were too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.  The floors were of unsealed concrete which made the rooms dusty.  The girls sometimes worked 30 to 40 hour shifts if required.  Wow!

Code breakers

Code breakers

The Machinery

Everyone has heard of the Enigma code and the machines that broke this code.  In fact they were surprisingly ordinary looking.  They looked like souped up manual typewriteres, but of course they performed a much more complex operation than simply typing.

Not your ordinary typewriter

Not your ordinary typewriter

The enemy messages were intercepted at various radio listening stations in many places.  They were then delivered by courier to Bletchley Park.  Here they were not just decoded but also interpreted.  They had to be categorised so that they could be linked to other messages and then sent to the sections of government or the armed forces that needed to see them.  This again was done by courier – how different the world was without computers.

The Cottages

The Cottages

Computers

Alan Turing, considered to be the father of computer science, worked at Bletchley Park.  A lot of his work on computers and other groundbreaking ideas took place here in the Cottages.  He developed many techniques to speed up the breaking of codes.  The cottages are used for admin now so aren’t open to the public, but it was fascinating to imagine how they must have felt during the war.

Swans

Swans

The swans

I have always been taught to be wary of swans because they are so strong and can be fiercely territorial.  So it was quite a surprise to see these swans in the picnic area going right up to people at the tables.  It left me with a far more tranquil view of Bletchley that took me back to my romanticised vision of the place.

 

Coffin Works – Birmingham – Photos

 

Coffin Works Birmingham

Coffin Works Birmingham

I have been meaning to visit the Coffin Works in Birmingham for a long time and I finally made the trip recently.  It’s situated in the Jewellery Quarter and is a delightfully quirky place to visit.  They didn’t actually make coffins there – just the handles and plates and such like.

Coffin furniture

Coffin furniture

Coffin Works History

The factory is actually called Newman Brothers and was established in 1882.  At first they made cabinet furniture and then moved on to coffin furniture.  They finally had to call it a day in 1988, facing stiff competition from abroad.  The last owner, Joyce Green, sold the building at a reduced price on condition that it would not be used for houses – she wanted the site to become a museum celebrating the work that had taken place there for the last century.




Silverware for coffins

Silverware for coffins

What they made

As well as the larger items like breastplates shown in the photo above, Newman Brothers also produced any metalwork used on coffins.  The wonder of the museum is that all the original stock of crosses, handles and everything else is still on show in the museum – lying on work tables as if ready to be used any day.

The walls are covered with photos of famous people whose coffins were adorned with Newman Brothers furniture – among them Sir Winston Churchill.

Machinery in the workshop

Machinery in the workshop

How they made it

Much of the machinery in the workshops is still in good working order.  This was one of the smaller presses, but there were some other much larger ones.  Blank silver or brass plates were placed beneath the press and then the arm of the press would be released to stamp a design out.  It must have been an incredibly noisy work environment.

Modified sewing machine

Modified sewing machine

Sewing at the Coffin Works

Obviously I was thrilled to see all the sewing machines and very old fabric and trimmings on the shelves.  There were about a dozen sewing machines which were originally treadle but had been adapted to use electricity.

Newman Brothers would buy the coffins in and then do everything necessary to them – the fabric linings as well as the silverware.  They also made shrouds and there were lots of them there in their packaging as if ready to be sold.

The Coffin Works factory is run by the Birmingham Conservation Trust, largely with friendly and cheerful volunteer helpers.  It really is a step back in time and I found it absolutely fascinating.

Washington DC – America – Photos

Reflecting pool Washington

Reflecting pool Washington

I took the train to Washington DC from Philadelphia.  It’s an amazing city and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.  The grid system for the streets makes it so easy to find your way around.  I didn’t realise until I was just leaving that the numbering system begins at the Capitol so you can always tell where you are.  That’s a real bonus for me as I get lost so easily!

When I booked the trip I hadn’t realised that I would be in Washington on Memorial Day.  That turned out to be a real treat.




Lincoln Memorial

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

I chose to begin at the Lincoln Memorial and walked up the Mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol.  The photo above shows the Washington Momument being reflected in the pool.  It is possible to go to the top of the Monument and the view from there must be extraordinary.  My time was limited so I didn’t take advantage of that.

The Lincoln Memorial itself is really impressive.  I am so pleased that I have had the opportunity to visit it.

European Memorial

European Memorial

Not far away the European Memorial obviously attracted my attention.  Very peaceful.

Bikers parading

Bikers parading

Memorial Day

The central streets are all closed to traffic on Memorial Day.  Bikers from all over the country fill the city.

They parade from the Pentagon to the Capitol and there are so many of them that the parade seems to last forever.  The air is filled with the sound of motor bikes and the atmosphere is amazing.

White House

White House

White House

I had to include a photo of the White House even though it’s probably the most photographed building in the world.  There’s a lovely park in front of it with lots of statues and trees.  As it was a really hot day it was good to be able to sit in the shade for a short while before continuing my exploring.

Sculpture garden - insect

Sculpture garden – insect

My stay in Washington was all too short, but I thought I’d leave you with two images from the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.  These were really striking.

Sculpture garden - tree

Sculpture garden – tree

This silver coloured tree is called ‘Graft’.  I loved it.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Hope to see you again soon.

Rose