Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An African Adventure

I've been back from South Africa for a week and a half now but have been both too busy and too tired to post - the journey back involved a long wait between flights at Johannesburg so, since neither J nor I can sleep on planes, it meant that we were awake for well over 36 hours and it took me a while to recover. Above is the view from the plane as we flew from Johannesburg to Kruger. It's a small (very small!) plane so you are always flying at a low enough height to see the scenery below.

These Vervet monkeys were at the side of the road as Steve drove us from the airport to our hotel in White River, they are all over the place including the verandah of Steve's bungalow on occasion!

Impala are also very common but I always enjoy seeing them as they are such attractive animals. This too was at the side of the road between the airport and White River - in spite of being called Kruger International it's actually a very small and rural airport and all the buildings have thatched roofs, it's easily the most attractive airport I've ever seen. Of course I never thought to take a photo of it!

On our first full day Steve drove us up to Blyde River Canyon which is the third largest canyon in the world. This is the Pinnacle, a 30 metre high pillar of quartzite rising out of the wooded canyon floor with spectacular views from the viewing platform.

Next stop was Bourke's Luck Potholes where we had some lunch accompanied by more Vervet monkeys. One jumped onto our table and snatched half of Kaitlyn's toasted sandwich, I'm afraid I burst out laughing and a furious little voice informed me that 'It's not funny Granny!' Actually she's quite right, these monkeys can become very aggressive where food is concerned so you don't argue if one wants to share your lunch - her face was an absolute picture though as the monkey disappeared up a tree with her sandwich:)  Steve told me that a bite from a Vervet would mean an immediate rabies shot - not a pleasant prospect.

The girls loved it here as they were able to paddle in small shallow rock pools while further along bigger people could sit and cool their feet in the fast flowing Treur River.
In 1843 a group of Voortrekkers led by Andries Potgieter reached the edge of the Great Drakensburg Escarpment as they searched for a route to Delagoa Bay in Mozambique. There appeared to be no possible way down for 50 km in any direction. Leaving the women, children and a few men outspanned on the banks of a river just below the top of the escarpment (near what is now the town of Graskop) Potgeiter and the rest of the men set off on horseback to try to find a way down to the Lowveld. The group who stayed behind were given strict instructions to turn back if the scouting party hadn't returned in 2 months time. They remained a fortnight beyond the two months and then sadly they started the long journey back - the river they had camped by during those long anxious weeks they named Treurrivier - the River of Sorrow. This is the river where Kaitlyn and Lucy were so happily playing.
NB Outspanning means unharnessing the animals that are pulling the wagons and making camp.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of this beautiful damselfly - there were several of them around looking like flying jewels.

This is where the Treur River begins its spectacular descent to join the Blyde River. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Bourke's Luck Potholes where the Treur River cascades into the Blyde River. Over millions of years the meeting of the swirling waters of these two fast flowing rivers has eroded the bedrock to form these fantastic potholes. It's an amazing sight.

The Blyde River - as our Voortrekkers slowly continued their sad journey home they had to ford another river. As they were crossing what must have seemed like a miracle occurred. They were overtaken by the men they had believed to be dead and this happy reunion was marked by naming the river Blyderivier - River of Joy. So we have a happy ending after all:) The scouting party had eventually found a route down the Escarpment by following an animal track and had successfully reached Delagoa Bay and signed a trade agreement with the Portuguese.

I'm afraid I couldn't resist ending this post with another monkey photo - they are so very cute:)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Pepys Connection

On my final morning in London I walked to the City again but this time I had two definite objectives in mind. The photo above shows Lovat Lane which runs from Eastcheap down to Lower Thames St and gives a real feel of the historic City. It is still cobbled and down the centre where there are two lines of cobblestones would once have run an open sewer. All the photos will enlarge if you click on them.

My first objective was the church of St Olave, Hart St. My reason for visiting it was that the sister of one of my husband's ancestors was baptized here in 1794. Once inside I discovered that it had much more important connections than 4xGt Aunt Matilda!

St Olave's was the church that Samuel Pepys attended when he lived and worked at the Navy Office on Seething Lane which runs along the back of St Olave's. The photograph shows the Pepys Memorial which marks the site of the Navy Office pew, this was in a gallery above the main church. At the end of May each year there is a Commemoration service (Pepys died on May 26th 1703) and a laurel wreath is placed on the Memorial.

This is the memorial that Pepys commissioned after the death of his wife Elizabeth in 1669 at the age of 29. She is looking directly across to the Navy Office pew where her husband would have sat each Sunday. Samuel and Elizabeth are buried together at the East end of the church 'under the Communion table' according to the burial register.

This lovely monument is to Dame Anne Radcliffe who died in 1585.

A rather splendid memorial to Sir James Deane with his three wives. He was a merchant adventurer who made a fortune in India,China and the Spice Islands. He was a very generous benefactor to the poor of all the parishes he had lived in. He died in 1608 and was survived by his third wife .

A detail of the pulpit which is believed to have been carved by the renowned sculptor and wood carver Grinling Gibbons

The rear of the church is a pleasant little refuge from the City streets. Look at the photo closely and notice that there are steps leading down to the South door - this is because the level of the churchyard has risen due to the thousands of burials that have taken place here! There is a plague pit here too, during the Great Plague of London (1665-1666) people were dying at such a rate that there was no time for individual burials and bodies were simply thrown into a pit. A nicer story though is an entry in the burial register in 1586 for a lady known as 'Mother Goose'. She used to knit little boots for her geese so that their feet wouldn't get sore as they were herded to market. Isn't that a lovely story?

The somewhat forbidding entrance into the churchyard from Seething Lane. Built in 1658 these became the gates of 'St Ghastly Grim' in Charles Dickens' book The Uncommercial Traveller. It was fine on a hot, sunny day but I don't think I'd fancy going through there on a dark, wet winter's night!

Directly across the road from the skull ornamented gate is the little garden that marks the site of the Navy Office where Samuel Pepys worked and lived. The stone with the blue plaque on is virtually hidden by the shrubs so I thought I'd better do a close up of it.

St Botolph Bishopsgate was the second of my objectives, my husbands ancestors were being baptized and buried here for over 100 years, the earliest baptism is in 1715 and the latest burial in 1846. The burial ground was turned into a garden in 1863 so there are no graves to find unfortunately.

This is the interior which survived both the Great Fire and the Blitz but was badly damaged by an IRA bomb in 1993 which opened up the roof and destroyed all the doors and windows.

This lovely window was commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Bowyers to mark the restoration of the church.

The eighteenth century font where so many of my husband's ancestors were baptized. The poet John Keats was baptized here as well in 1795.

St Stephen Walbrook is tucked away on a little side street and though it was closed when I passed by on Sunday I was able to go inside on Monday morning. This is another of Wren's churches and he actually lived next door to this one.

The interior is spacious and full of light, the altar in the centre of the church is by Henry Moore and is a rather controversial addition. I really like it which is rather odd as I'm not usually an admirer of modern art. It's utter simplicity seems to fit beautifully into this particular interior though. The marble for the altar came from the quarry near Rome that was used by Michelangelo.

The lovely dome was the first of its kind in any English church and was a sort of trial run for Wren's masterpiece - the dome of St Paul's Cathedral.

Just around the corner from St Stephen's Walbrook is the Temple of Mithras. It was only discovered in 1954 and was actually on Walbrook originally but it was moved to Queen Victoria St as the original site was destined to become office blocks.

By this time I needed to be heading back to my hotel to pick up my suitcase ready for the journey home. On the way though I wanted to try and find Ely Place which is technically still part of Cambridgeshire as it was originally the site of the London Palace of the Bishops of Ely. The entrance to Ely Place is gated and a beadle oversees the comings and goings of people and traffic. As you walk down there is a tiny alley on the left and if you go down the alley you will find this tiny pub. The Mitre was originally built for the servants from the Bishop's Palace but the present building dates from the 1700s in spite of the date on the lantern.

Tucked away at the end of Ely Place is the 13th century church of St Etheldreda once the private chapel of the Bishop's Palace. It is the oldest Roman Catholic church in England.

Around the walls of the church are the statues of eight martyrs who died for their faith during the Reformation. This is St Anne Line, a seamstress executed at Tyburn in 1601 for sheltering a priest.

Here we have John Roche, a Thames waterman executed at Tyburn in 1588 for helping a priest to escape.

The Crypt is thought to date back to the 6th century, there are massive wooden beams and the walls are eight feet thick. It is still in use as a chapel and the font is down here.I think that the two statues in the window embrasures are St Francis and Our Lady.  It was very dark down there so the other photos I took  are too murky to post.
You'll be glad to know that this is the final London post:) It's rather long but as I said in my previous post I use my blog as a record of the places I've visited.

This will be my last post for 3 weeks or so as on Saturday I'm off to visit my elder son and his family in South Africa. If you look for White River on the map that's where my daughter and I will be staying. DH gets to stay home with B Baggins:)

We're hoping to see plenty of these....

.....and lots of spectacular places like this - Mac Mac Falls near Sabie. I'll be back towards the end of March and hopefully will have some interesting photos to share with you.