Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On to the Cotswolds

We've been tramping around the Cotswolds for the past couple of days.  Here are some highlights.
Rolling Right Stones 
These stones pre-date Stonehenge (about 3000BC)!
Country side in the Cotswolds.
Thatched cottage in Chipping Campden.
Hidcote Gardens.
the 'swimming pool' at Hidcote. It's very pretty but I don't think it was really used as a swimming pool, it's pretty mucky.

The 'red' garden at Hidcote

'Heart of England Way' foot path near Mickleton.
The countryside here is really beautiful and the people are really friendly and helpful where ever we go!  I feel really fortunate to have this opportunity to visit this part of the world.
Happy Tues!
cheers, CW

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Grotesques and Gargoyles

My husband is participating in a workshop in Oxford this week (the main reason we are visiting the UK)  and I am free to wonder around and entertain myself!  I love antique architecture so wondering around Oxford is a dream come true!
Today I took a walking tour of the central part of the city and I learned the difference between a "Grotesques" and a "Gargoyles".  I always thought that any grotesque figure ornamenting a building was a Gargoyle but the guide said "not so".  Only ornaments that function to channel water away from a building are technically gargoyles and all other grotesque figures are just "grotesques"!  The buildings of Oxford have no shortage of either variety here's a small sampling!
Some of the Grotesques don't really seam very Grotesque, like this lovely lady.
This cute fellow with the book adorns a window outside Balliol College Library.  
This stern Sister is just keeping an eye on things!
And this fellow is just popping out for a bit of Ale?!
Merton College was Tolkein's college and the exterior is heavily decorated with gargoyles and grotesques.  You can see some of where he took his inspiration from?!  
It's a good thing I have a digital camera, I couldn't stop taking pictures of these wonderful sculptures!
cheers, CW

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Birth Place of Winston Churchill

Blenheim Palace is a most Formidable estate!  Built on a scale that rivals Buckingham Palace and makes Downton Abbey look like a country cousin (no disrespect,  it is a beautiful building but it was not built on the same scale as Blenheim.)
Viewed from the South towards the main entrance.
The grounds and building were a gift from Queen Anne to the 1st Duke of Marlborough for being the Brains behind the battle of Blenheim (Germany) which kicked the butt of Louie XIV back to France and prevented him from trying to annex most of Europe!  (about 1705) A big gift for a big Hero!
                Off in the distance (looking south from the gates of the front entrance) you can see the                 commemorative column to the Battle of Blenheim and the great expanse of the woodland park that takes up most of the land of the Estate.
Here you can see my husband trudging up the hill past the column.  It's a bit out of scale 'cause I used the zoom.  But it's actually about a mile from Palace to column!  The 4 sides of the base of the column are inscribed with a lengthy account of the Battle and the Queen's grateful endowment of the lands to the Duke.
 The naturalistic Woodland and lake were designed and executed by Capability Brown the foremost landscape architect around the time of the 4th or 5th Duke.
Close to the Palace are some more formal Italianate gardens with lots of wonderful sculptures, fountains and more formal planting.

This is one of 2 sphinx (the other is directly across from this one)  The head is not the standard sphinx but a likeness of Consuelo Vanderbilt the 9th Duke's first wife.  Consuelo was one of many wealthy American heiresses who married poor English landed gentry around the turn of the last century.  The Rich Americans were enamoured with the European aristocracy and they considered it a fair trade; their fortunes to prop-up financially impoverished estates in exchange for Titles and social standing! Winston Churchill's mother was also an American heiress.   I think the sphinx were installed by the Duke after his divorce with Consuelo!  
The interior is built on a very grand scale as you would expect from the exterior.
The decorations and art work are also very elegant.  A great deal of the art work is based around portraits of all the dukes and their family members who have lived in the Palace over the past 300 years.  There are also a series of priceless Tapestries that were made under the direction of the 1st duke illustrating the Battle of Blenheim. 
I always thought I lived in a pretty big house (3000sq. ft. +/-)  You could probably fit 2 or 3 of my house in this one room (just to give you an idea of HOW big these spaces are!  It's not just sq. footage but also volume. This room is 3 stories high, by todays standards!
And what country estate is complete without it's own chapel! 
 A lot of Famous people have come and gone around Blenheim over the past 300 years but none more notable than Winston Churchill.  He was born here and spent much of his childhood here but being the son of a second son he was not likely to inherit the estate.
Since Winston was not in the direct line to inherit he was buried here in the village churchyard, a short distance from the Palace.
A humble resting place for such an extraordinary man!
I think I might have retained more of my school history lessons if I'd been able to learn this way!  It was an amazing and fun visiting Blenheim Palace!
Cheers, CW