A festive Sunset

I love a bit of drama in the sky

I love a bit of drama in the sky

Walking home after a lovely lunchtime with a good friend, I was full of Christmas cheer. The sky was a blaze of fire but the chill was nipping at my toes.  As the Christmas lights came on in our town centre, I just had to stand a little while and admire.

It only needed a few minutes

It only needed a few minutes


For the colours to fade

Paula has chosen a spectacular way to say ‘farewell’ to the Thursday Special until the New Year. If you like a bit of drama too, that’s the place to be.



Jo’s Monday walk : A Stokesley Circular

Looking towards Roseberry Topping on the Yorkshire Moors

Looking towards Roseberry Topping

Stokesley is an attractive market town, situated on the River Leven, on the northern edge of the Yorkshire Moors.  It also has the advantage of being surrounded by a flat bit of terrain, so it was greeted with delight as our last walk of the year by my walking group.  The fact that we were ending at a garden centre, with coffee and cake, influenced nobody. (honestly!)

Life can’t be total perfection so we were advised to anticipate a little mud.  And we found some! But not too much. Come along and see.

The fields are just a little bit muddy

The fields are just a little bit muddy

We parked at Strikes Garden Centre, a mile or so from Stokesley.  Walking towards the town, we took the first ‘public footpath’ sign on the left, and crossed the field towards the farmhouse above.  The path swings off to the right and follows a little stream all the way in to Stokesley.

It might be a nice place to live, with that lovely backdrop

It might be a nice place to live, with that lovely backdrop

But, of course, you'd have to like farming!

But, of course, you’d have to like farming

I'm much better at walking!

And I much prefer walking!

Stokesley was granted a charter to hold fairs by Henry III, as far back as 1223.  To this day a weekly market takes place on The Plain, the main square, every Friday, and on the first Saturday of each month there’s a Farmer’s Market too.  Tying in with the Agricultural Show, a four day fair takes place each September, and spans the full length of the High St.

The stream leads us towards Stokesley

The stream will lead you towards Stokesley

At this point we duck down underneath a road bridge.  Careful- it’s a bit slippery!  There was a hard frost the night before and there’s still a little evidence on some of the leaves.

The path curves to the right and in a little while you’re passing between cottages and out onto Levenside.  There is always a flurry of ducks hereabouts on the River Leven.  Sorry guys- no bread today!  We’re eating cake.

Follow the river around to your left and you come to the Pack Horse Bridge, which dates back to the 17th century.

The Pack Horse Bridge and a couple of walkers

The Pack Horse Bridge and a couple of walkers

There are several bridges close together at this point.  Any one of them will take you across the Leven and into the High St., where gracious Georgian buildings are part of a pleasing blend of architecture.  The oldest building in town, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, has a medieval tower and chancel.  It contains some woodwork carved by the locally famed Mouseman of Kilburn.  His Visitor Centre at Kilburn is not too far away.

Meanwhile, Christmas has come to Stokesley.  But I didn’t see a tree in the main square!

Our steps begin to quicken as we realise that we’re now on the home straight.  Taking the right hand option at the junction, in no time Strikes Garden Centre is back in sight.  I’ll leave the walkers to queue in the cafe while I show you a few of the Christmas sights.  Lots of trees in here!

But you can almost certainly guess who my favourite is

Bet you can guess who my favourite is?

Just one more Monday walk and it’ll be Christmas!  I’ve no idea where we might wander next week, but I hope you’ll keep me company?  If you’re too busy, I’ll understand.  As the sign says, ‘Tis the season to be jolly!’

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I also hope you’ll make time to visit these wonderful walks this week.  Get that kettle on and we’ll take a stroll together, without leaving our armchairs.  If you’d like to join in, details are on my Jo’s Monday walks page, or click on the logo above.  Very many thanks to all my contributors.

Drake’s getting festive in lovely Strasbourg this week  :

Cool impression through cold walk

And Amy has a message, beautifully shared  :

Egret on the lake

When Jude mentioned Clovelly I thought we were in Devon.  So wrong!  :

Clovelly Beach to Bondi

Sue’s taken me to a city I’ve always wanted to see.  Brownie points to Sue, but I’ll skip breakfast!

Spain- Bilbao, the Basque Country, with eels and sherry for breakfast

Meg, meanwhile, has given me a glimpse of a Newcastle in Australia.  No sign at all of ‘fog on the Tyne’.

Visiting an old friend

Thanks a lot for sharing, everybody.  I so enjoy it!  Have a happy, healthy, walking week!

Six word Saturday


If you wanted to see Alice?

If you saw my posts about Castle Howard at Christmas this week, you’ll know I’m quite fond of Chatsworth House in Derbyshire too.  I noticed that they’ve extended their opening hours into the New Year.  Here’s a peek at their video if you think you might be tempted?

It looks fun, don’t you think?

This was my second shot at Six word Saturday this week.  I was Nordic walking on the beach on Thursday, playing with my phone camera (the others were not amused- it was way too cold to linger!)  A big black cloud swept in, showering us with hail and sleet, and the camera point blank refused to work.  Remember my ‘let it snow’ post last week?

Be careful what you wish for!

Still, I quite liked the photos the camera took.  Here’s just a sample (with WordPress snow!) :

Here comes that cloud!

Beware  that cloud!

However you plan to spend the run up to Christmas, I hope you won’t get too stressed.  Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to visit Cate at Show My Face to share your six words.


A return to Castle Howard

Looking down on the Great Hall

Looking down on the Great Hall

What finer place to start today than where I left off my tour of Castle Howard at Christmas, in the Great Hall?  The fire was roaring in the grate, and it needed to be, to heat this vast space.   I had completely forgotten the chill outdoors, in the sumptuousness of my surroundings.  Looking up at the dome, I could only marvel at the skill and resourcefulness that had repaired the enormous damage done by the 1940 fire.

The story of the fire and the Brideshead connection are the subjects of the exhibition in High Saloon, where my tour takes us next.  These rooms were completely destroyed in the fire, including painted frescoes by Pellegrini from 1709. New joists and flooring were installed in the 1970s, but the interiors were still burnt-out shells in 2007.  It was maybe a stroke of genius to turn these rooms into a film set for the filming of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited.  In 1981 and again in 2008, Castle Howard became Brideshead, with a cast of stars.

Castle Howard has been used for a number of film productions, the most recent of which was Death comes to Pemberley in 2014.  Is it really any wonder?

Look what I've spotted?

Just look what I’ve spotted! Haven’t owls always been popular?

The Crimson Dining Room

Such an opulent dining room

What a setting!

And what a table setting!

A room recently opened for viewing by the public is the New Library, formerly the Canaletto Room, which also was destroyed by the fire.  Books have been collected on every conceivable subject relating to the estate, creating a warm and welcoming space.

Everything for the good Victorian child appears to be the theme of the next room.  See any old favourites?  Ooh, that rocking horse, please!

Nor have the adults been knowingly neglected.

And how hard is it to pick your favourite tree?

And how hard is it to pick your favourite tree?

I think we’re not too far from the end.  The Long Gallery comes next, 160 feet long, with an Octagon lined with books as its centrepiece.  Today a cellist is playing Christmas tunes.

Just a little venture into the Chapel, then I think we can go home.  Originally intended to be a dining room (another one!), in the 1870s the floor was lowered, a new entrance created and the now chapel was redecorated in the pre-Raphaelite style.  The Howard family were patrons of William Morris, and one of his works was a stained glass window for a nearby Reformatory. This has long since closed and the window is currently on loan to Castle Howard.

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I expect your eyes are tired of looking now.  Mine are, just a little, but I’ve so enjoyed putting together my experience of Castle Howard at Christmas.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.  The website is full of details and photographs and I’ve included a few links, in case you’re interested.

Last year I went to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire at Christmas time, and the two stately homes have much in common.  Both have hosted film crews for Brideshead and other period dramas. Where Chatsworth enthrals with its grand themes, Castle Howard seduces with a very traditional Christmas.  I have to say that I like both.  How about you?

Castle Howard at Christmas


From the moment I walked into Castle Howard, I knew that I was in for something very special. Lozenges of light filtered down the Grand Staircase, from the 74-paned skylight overhead.  It was almost like walking on hallowed ground.  Yet I knew that the Howard family were a very real presence, in this home that brims with history.

On Monday I took you for a walk in the magnificent grounds, and I promised you a little more colour than my grey skies.  Do you recognise the Mausoleum in this painting?

IMG_4599The passages and hallways are full of exquisite works of art.  Rarely have I seen so much wealth and beauty accumulated under one roof.  Furniture and porcelain collections are lavishly distributed throughout the house, and there are guides on hand, more than happy to engage with you and share the tales that surround each piece.

Around all this is woven the magic of a classical Christmas.  I will take you through the house in the order that it was revealed, with great pride, to me.

With the most magnificent of peacocks!

With the most magnificent of peacocks!

The Howards have lived almost continuously in this house ever since it was built by Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle, at the beginning of the 18th century.  The current residents are the Hon. Simon Howard and his wife Rebecca, with their twins.

You couldn’t accuse the house of being understated.  It’s very much a case of ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’, but with beautiful elegance.

How about this for a mirror?

How about this for a mirrored fireplace?

Or this beautifully mosaiced one?

Or this beautifully marbled one?

No expense was spared

Adornments are everywhere

Impressive it may be, but all this is but a prelude to the main feature.  The Great Hall is likely to provoke at least an intake of breath!  Astonishing to think that the lovely dome which crowns it crashed to the floor during the great fire of 1940.  The details of the ongoing restoration are contained in the ‘Brideshead Restored’ exhibition in High South.

The 70ft high restored dome

The 70ft high restored dome in the Great Hall

The High South stairs offer dramatic glimpses of the Great Hall through the arches.

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I am only halfway through my tour of this magnificent house and, as I don’t want eyes to glaze over, I propose to stop here.  I hope you’ll return with me.  There is still much opulence to be enjoyed, including the Chapel, with stained glass by William Morris.

If you’d like to see Castle Howard in all its Christmas finery, you have until 21st December.  Just time, isn’t there?  Full details are on the website.

Six word Saturday


Let it snow!  Let it snow!

Especially on a Christmas chalet!

Especially on a Christmas chalet!

And on the trendy Christmas tree

Or a trendy Christmas tree

The tree ornaments would like some too

The tree ornaments would like some too

And Santa, naturally!

And Santa, naturally!

Not to mention the Gingerbread Men

Not to mention the Gingerbread Men

Aren't these modern ornaments smart?

Aren’t these modern ornaments smart?

Nice for the modern home!

Nice for the trendier home!

But this is the one that won my heart

But this is the one that won my heart

Is there any more to say?

Is there any more to say?

I’ve resisted turning on the WordPress snow till now, but why resist any longer?  I think it’s definitely coming!  I’d better start shopping.

Have a merry weekend, then wrap up warm for my walk on Monday.  I wonder if Cate’s done all her shopping yet? Visit her on Six word Saturday to find out.


Young at heart


I’m fa-a–ll-ing!

One of the highlights of my December is always a visit to the windows of Fenwick’s department store in Newcastle-on-Tyne.  Doesn’t it just bring out the child?  This year’s theme is Alice.

It’s not always easy to get your nose pressed up against the windows, but I did what I could. After all, you’ve got to leave space for the children!

You're a very fine looking caterpillar!

You’re a very fine looking caterpillar!

Who’s your favourite character?  I was always a little in love with the White Rabbit.  The husband says it’s because I’m always late!  Well, maybe just a little…

Croquet, your Majesty? I don't believe I do.

Croquet, your Majesty? I don’t believe I do.

Oh, not off with his head!

Oh, not ‘off with his head!’

He IS such a handsome rabbit!

He IS such a handsome rabbit!

But thank goodness, it was all a dream!

But thank goodness, it was all a dream!

All’s well that ends well for another year, and many children, both young and old, will be royally entertained.  You won’t be surprised to know that this is my Christmas entry for Dawn’s Lingering Look at Windows.

When Paula announced that her theme for this week was Young- well, what’s a youngster going to do?  You will join me in visiting them both, won’t you?  We can stay young together.



Jo’s Monday walk : Ray Wood and Polar Bear walk

Cherub fountain in the Rose Garden, Castle Howard

Cherub fountain in the Rose Garden, Castle Howard

Some of you may remember that around this time last year I met my daughter for a Grand Day Out, at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire?  The house was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and I would have loved to do the same this year.  Instead I had to settle for a visit to another of England’s beautiful historic homes, Castle Howard in Yorkshire. It’s every bit as fine as Chatsworth, but I had to substitute a husband for a daughter.  Fortunately, he doesn’t mind a walk in beautiful gardens.

The more observant among you will have noticed a reference to a Polar Bear Walk.  Now don’t get too excited- I didn’t find any!  Which was a source of disappointment as it was certainly cold enough for them.  Set within 1,000 acres of beautiful landscape in the Howardian Hills, the house is described by Lonely Planet as ‘one of the world’s top ten greatest mansions’.  That’s quite a claim!   Come with me and see what you think.

The rose garden was looking sadly bare

The rose garden was looking sadly bare

So it was time to go hunting for polar bears

So it was time to go hunting for polar bears

The zigzag of trees climbing the slope was referred to on the map as Polar Bear Walk.  It didn’t seem too much to expect, but I could see neither hide nor hair of one.  Nor could I find an explanation of the name.  Oh, well!

But there was a nice view across the lake.

There was a nice view across the lake.

The sky was an unrelenting shade of gloom but, undaunted, and in the interests of getting warmed up, a scramble up Polar Bear Walk was called for.  It leads to the Reservoir in Ray Wood. A reservoir of sorts has existed in these woods since the 18th century.  Filled from a nearby stream, it supplies the two main fountains in the grounds below, using the force of gravity to drive the fountain jets.

The Reservoir

The Reservoir

With 25 acres of woodland, many of the trees and shrubs in Ray Wood are original species, brought from around the world by the great plant hunters of the 19th and 20th centuries.  The acidic soil supports a variety of thriving rhododendrons- one of my favourite plants.


But look what I managed to spot- in December!

But look what I managed to spot- in December!

And the occasional statue

And a statue or two

I loitered for quite a while, watching some grey squirrels frolic.  They kept a playful eye on me, and easily managed to stay out of camera shot.  I always have that kind of relationship with squirrels!  Consulting the map I’d picked up at reception, it was time to leave the woods and press on to the Temple of the Four Winds.  Would this be as draughty as it sounds?

It was certainly a little bleak on this grey old day

It was certainly a little bleak on this grey old day

Originally known as the Temple of Diana, it was designed by Vanbrugh, but remained unfinished at the time of his death in 1726.  Ten years later the interiors were finally decorated by the stuccoist Franceso Vassalli.  The temple was used as a place for reading and refreshment, and beneath it is a cellar where servants prepared food for the family. The temple can be entered on one of the free guided tours, which take place between March and October.

It's quite a vantage point, isn't it?

It’s quite a vantage point, isn’t it?

Even set against such grey skies!

Even set against such grey skies!

There are a number of monuments within the estate, and heading down to the gently curving New River Bridge, the Mausoleum becomes visible on the horizon.  Designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, it stands 90 feet tall and is supported by a colonnade of 20 pillars.

The Mausoleum, on the horizon

The Mausoleum, on the horizon

And in a little more detail

And in a little more detail

The bulrushes don't seem to mind the mist

The bulrushes don’t seem to mind the mist

Statuary dot the grounds and it’s a shame that the sky is not brighter because they really don’t look their best.  The forecast was for a little blueness between 2 and 3 o’clock.  ‘A little’ was all I saw.  The following day dawned bright and blue, but I was elsewhere.

Visible from the house and by far the grandest sculpture in the grounds, the Atlas Fountain is beautiful.  The 3rd Earl of Carlisle, now interred within the Mausoleum, started the creation of the waterways which give the estate its character.  There are lakes on both sides of the house, and in Summer you might even go boating on the Great Lake.

The Atlas Fountain, with its patina of age

The Atlas Fountain, with its patina of age

I hope you enjoyed the walk, despite the dreary skies.  I did, but I’m pretty sure that I will be back to join a guided walk in the Spring, when the rhododendrons are in full bloom.

The Castle Howard website is full of information, including details of how to get there.  The photos show it at its glorious best.  Later in the week I’ll be taking you inside the house and I can promise you a lot more colour.

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You might need the kettle on for a ‘warm up’, then sit back and enjoy the walks I have to share. Details of how to join in are on my Jo’s Monday walks page.  Many thanks to all my contributors, far and wide.  It wouldn’t be the same without you.

Shall we start in paradise, with Jude?

Home and Away

Here’s a different, but still lovely, shoreline with Drake  :

Walk the line, the coastline

Next stop, Toronto, for a ‘mum’ show!  :

The sport of Mums

Then a hop ‘down the way’, to Dallas, to enjoy Amy’s beautiful photography  :

The Dallas Arboretum

It’s snowing on Gilly’s blog, but not in her world!  :

It may be December, but…

In Switzerland you have a good chance of snow!  And idyllic scenery- thanks Rosemay!

Weggis by the Lake

Did you ever think you’d get chance to visit Mount Krakatoa?  No- me neither!  Amazing, Noe!

Mount Krakatoa

And, just to put you all to shame, here’s my lovely mate, Cathy, in China.  Don’t miss it!

5 hour trip to the Longji Rice Terraces

Hope to see you all later in the week.  Have a good one!

Jo’s Monday walk : the marina

Shadows lengthen in Hartlepool marina

Shadows lengthen in Hartlepool marina

I’ve been scrolling back through my Monday walks, trying to decide where to take you next.  I still have a few, unshared, Algarve memories, but I think today we’ll just have a peaceful stroll around our marina.  I’m continuing my hassle free mood.  The Christmas rush will arrive soon enough.

Though the last few days here have been damp and dreary, last weekend the sunsets were liquid and beautiful.   Perfect for a stroll!  Dusk comes early at this time of year and, with the sun so low in the sky, the light and shade has a magic all its own.

The view from Jackson's Landing

The view from Jackson’s Landing

Looking down towards the marina

Looking down towards the marina

The colours reflect so well in the still water

The colours reflect so well in the calm water

The sun bounces from the flats to the water

The sun bounces off the apartments

And then fades!

And then fades!

You’ve probably noticed, I can always loiter by boats.  And with the sun descending into a liquid pool, the temptation is even greater.  I succumb every time!

The sun, lending highlights to the boats

The sun paints highlights on the boats

Caressing the red  lovingly

Lovingly caressing the red

And lighting up the water

Then sinking gently towards the water

Isn't it magical?

Magical, isn’t it?

I linger till the light's almost gone

I struggle to tear myself away!

Light is a deceptive thing because, as I look back, the boats appear still well lit.  I look towards the sea, and wonder if I might make it to the sea wall in the time remaining before sunset.

Looking back across the marina

Looking back across the marina

Beyond the lock gates, two overgrown, ramshackle piers reach out to meet their mate across the water.  There is a poignancy to them, with their neglected grassy tufts.  The new sea defense walls make them look very shabby, but it’s atmospheric out there, with the evening shadows.

Can you see the fishermen, huddled against the rocks?

Can you see the fishermen, huddled against the rocks?

The sun has almost set

A last dazzle of sunlight

A cycle path leads around the back of the apartment blocks, and back to Jackson’s landing, where we started out.  A smokey haze rests on the water as the final clouds drift up and away.

The clouds drift up and away

Dying light!

I hope you enjoyed my very local stroll this week.  No place like home?  I’ve had the saddest weekend and would like to extend huge thanks to my blogging friends.  They’re always there when I need them.  Spending time on this post helped a little to distract me from the sudden and tragic death of a dear friend and neighbour in the Algarve.

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If you’d like to join me on a walk, short or long, you’d be more than welcome.  The logo above will take you to my Jo’s Monday walks page.  Meanwhile, many thanks for all these great contributions.  Time to put the kettle on, and enjoy.

Jude’s having a great time in Australia!  Check this out  :

Dee Why Lagoon

Colline’s walk couldn’t be more different!  Brrrh!  :)

A Walk through the Park

Drake’s a little early with his Christmas walk, but he’s off travelling soon  :

Early Christmas walk

Texan beauty is what we’ve come to expect from Amy.  You won’t be disappointed!

Enchanted Rock

Always nice to welcome someone new, especially on a waterfall walk  :

Handstands and Hiking

And loiter in some mysterious woods in Germany.  Thanks, Tobias!

Home Range II

Or you could go admiring clocks with Elena  :

Where is Solothurn?

You know Yvette’s always fun!  How about a train ride this week?

Triple Crossing Train Tracks

While Jill’s taking us where the trees are green  :

Eastwoodhill- a tree lover’s sanctuary

Have a great week of walking!  I hope your weather’s good.

Six word Saturday


 Burning the candle at both ends?

But such a pretty one!

But such a pretty one!

My Christmas season has started already, with a dinner party and a zumba one!  Barely just got the energy to post Six word Saturday, so here are a few restful images from the Algarve.

A few quiet images are called for

Peace and quiet at the Carmo Church

Stranded on the beach

Gently stranded on the shore

Admiring the glint

Admiring that last glint

As the sun goes down

As the sun goes down

Maybe a stroll in the Praca

Maybe a stroll in the Praca

The first hints at an Algarve Christmas

The first hints of an Algarve Christmas

A beautiful house sign

A beautiful house sign

And a wise owl

And a wise old owl, for Gemma

I haven’t posted in the week because I’ve been having conversations with Margaret-Rose Stringer about the best way to load an image to WordPress.  I’m still not sure that I have it right, but you can read M-R’s thoughts here.

Now, where shall I take you walking on Monday?  That’s my next decision.  Meantime, have a great weekend and don’t forget to pop in on Cate at Show My Face.