Chirk Castle

Another weekend and another new place to visit, the weather had been rainy most of the week but the forecast for the Saturday was looking ok. Originally we were going to Llandudno for the day but a late start meant a change of plan. I had promised a trip to Wales so that’s where we headed, I had a quick look at the National trust book and Google maps, and decided to give Chirk castle a try as it was only an hour away. We may have arrived a little sooner if I hadn’t followed the sat-nav, which took us along lots of very narrow, twisty country lanes.

Oscar didn’t want to do any of the guided tours so we had a little wander around the gardens, which were very muddy, and then walked up to the castle for a self guided tour. Every National Trust place we’ve visited has had something for the children to look for, teddies dotted around the building to be counted, but this one was different. They had cards for each room with 3 or 4 questions on, things to find and count, what do you think an item was used for etc. It was really good as it kept us both entertained working them out and who could spot things first. Some of the answers were surprising too.

As usual the staff/volunteers were very friendly and knowledgeable, with lots of interesting little facts. The place was fairly busy so we made our way back outside and I took advantage of a babysitting device to get a few minutes quiet time …..

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After the main house we went into the dungeons, the stairs were terrifying, a spiral staircase with very worn, different sized steps, which led into a dimly lit circular room. It had a very creepy feel and we didn’t stay long. The climb back out was almost as bad as the one down.

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Then into the keep, time to become a knight in shining armour, well for a few minutes. It was very heavy and uncomfortable to wear.

After being indoors for a while it was time to explore outside, however a few things happened. First we had a shoe disaster, when the front of one of his trainers popped open and his toe was sticking out (thankfully they were old ones) then the rain started, just a drizzle. So we decided to head back and get a warm drink. We spotted some cattle in a field, not sure what type but they had big horns. We went to have a closer look but saw a dead sheep so left quickly to go and report it.

We did get a hot chocolate though and the ever faithful Victoria sponge for Oscar, his favourite.

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We decide to call it a day, new shoes were needed and some clean dry socks too. On the walk back to the car we found this…

So we did as asked, photograph, posted it and re-hid the rock (but not too hidden) A lovely little find. If you are round and about anywhere in the Shropshire area keep a look out for these apparently they’re hidden in plain sight everywhere.

A quick stop on the way home for new shoes, socks and some fish and chips. A great day

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Erddig

A lovely sunny Saturday and a need to be outdoors meant a good time to give the new camera an outing.

I decided to try a new (to me) National Trust property, just over the Welsh border in Wrexham is Erddig Hall and gardens. After driving along some narrow country lanes I arrived at the entrance gates and drove up to the car park and some farm type buildings. However I was in for a surprise.

I was a little early and the main house didn’t open for another hour so I made the most of the sunshine and had a walk around the gardens, this was when I saw the house itself. It is beautiful, as are the gardens.

Inside the house was even more surprising, the family was very unusual in that they really cared about and for the servants.

Not only did they have portraits and photographs of the servants, with individual poems written by the family, most worked for the family for many years and when retired had a pension paid to them, some are even buried in the family cemetery.

They were also vegetarian and tee-total although did provide meat and beer for guests and were well known for hosting parties. I had a very informative tour of the ‘below stairs’ servants life followed by a self-guided tour of the rest of the house, although other tours were available.

Back out into the sunshine for another wander around the grounds and the stables to see the donkey’s then it was time to head home.

It was a lovely day and I will return again for see more of the grounds and learn more about the house and family.

Audio-books

I’ve never been much of a music fan, I listen to the radio but more for the chat between songs than the music itself. However, there are times when music helps soothe the nerves or calm the soul.

Where I’m working they have the radio on all day, the problem is that different people have different radio stations on, although neither is loud it can be ‘just noise’.

So I invested  in some noise cancelling headphones and downloaded some pod casts, they were great but most are very short and working an eight hour day you need a bit more. Then I came across Overdrive, an app which allows you to link your library card and download E-books and audio-books directly from your local library.

I noticed a few Jo Nesbo books that I’d been wanting to read for a while and these were my first. I really enjoyed them. I could dip in and out of them as required plus they were longer stories so lasted a couple of days. Then I noticed the Harry Potter books, again longer stories but books I had read some time ago. Once again, well produced and lovely to listen too.

I recently heard Stephen Fry talking about audio-books as he also has started listening to them whilst walking/exercising but something he said made me think. He said ‘I’m listening to books I should have read, the classics and such’ and I this is what I’m going to do. All those books I’ve been putting off because they looked ‘heavy’ or ‘difficult’.

So I’ve been through and bookmarked a fair few and downloaded the first ready for Monday morning, and I’m starting with The Hobbit, because I’ve never read any of the books or seen the films (for the same reason) because they look like hard work, but someone else can do the hard part, I’ll just listen.

So what do you think ? Cheating or clever ? Have you listened to any ? What books/series do you recommend ?

Bye-Bye knitting needles

Earlier this year I found myself quite stressed with all the job and routine changes happening, so I went back to knitting as a way of ‘relaxing’ but found I couldn’t keep track of a pattern and was getting more and more stressed.

Whilst I was working part-time I had found a local craft group, who were very supportive and most crafted for charity.

I had a sort out of my craft material, which was slightly terrifying, and I donated 3 bin liners full and lots of books to these lovely people, safe in the knowledge that the babies in special care will have tiny hats and cardigans and some local hospices will have blankets, shawls and monetary donations from all the goodies I gave them, so lets think positive, less stress and a good deed done.

I have kept a few balls of wool and the appropriate knitting needles just in case, at some point, I’m tempted to make something but for the time being I’m going to limit my creativity to photography and I’ve still got a huge cross stitch project to finish.

 

 

Reading Challenge Dilemma

I’v almost finished the Reading challenge 2017 – update, however the one category that has been given my the most problems.

An epic romance – this isn’t an area I normally read and at first glance it was all classic novels, pride and prejudice, Jane Eyre etc but I read these in school and found them a little dull to be honest.

So I took to the internet and Instagram for inspiration and ideas of what other people read for this category and this is where my dilemma started. I noticed that both the twilight and Harry Potter series have been put into the this category by a few people so I started thinking along these lines and had an idea.

During last years The Reading Challenge I had to read a book from the year I was born – I selected interview with the vampire written by Anne Rice and I think it could also fit into the epic romance category, but I didn’t want to re-read it, so I’m currently reading the second book in the series – the vampire Lestat and think this would also suit the category. The other book I have read recently that I think also works is Bram Stokers Dracula (the vampire thing was coincidence)

So what do you think ? Have you rad these, allowable or dubious ? Any other suggestions, preferably not on the school reading curriculum.

 

New hobby – my new camera

After months of being solitary I decided to do something that will get me out and about more and make better use of my National Trust membership.

I bought a camera. I wanted something a little more than my phone camera but maybe not as advanced as a full DSLR, so after a little research and chatting to people who know about these things I bought a Panasonic Lumix FZ200 bridge camera.

The timing was perfect as I had a couple of weeks before our London trip (you’ll have seen that by now) to practise and learn a few of the settings beforehand.

So one sunny Saturday, with a fully charged camera, I set off to my nearest National Trust property and a well known and loved place, Speke Hall.

Here are a few photo’s of the memorable day …

Not bad for a first attempt and felt much easier than I expected. So it didn’t feel too bad using it whilst in London. Here’s a few (unseen) from that week away.

I’ll keep you updated with how it’s going and what new places I discover.

The London photo challenge

Sometimes cities can seem a little ‘educational’ for children with all the museum and galleries, especially as they focus on learning and don’t always make it fun. So I decided to give Oscar a fun focus and a reason for us both to use our cameras.

This was the list …..

  1. Buckingham Palace
  2. Tower guard
  3. A duck on the street
  4. A street performer
  5. An underground sign
  6. A view from the sky
  7. A view from the water
  8. A shoe in the wall
  9. Street art
  10. The smallest police box
  11. A London Met police officer
  12. A Tardis
  13. Paddington bear
  14. Harry Potter
  15. Queen Victoria
  16. With a superhero
  17. Big Ben
  18. Nelsons column
  19. Tower Bridge
  20. The London Eye
  21. China town
  22. Wembley way
  23. Bobby Moore
  24. A shop or sign with your name.

And here are the results …

We had a good time and made some happy memories. Still plenty to see and do so tie to plan another visit.