Friday, 16 February 2018

Trifles And Tidbits

Grade One

The Village College is an institution which, as far as I know, is only found in Cambridgeshire. It was the brainchild of Henry Morris who was Chief Education Officer in the county for over 30 years. The idea was to build schools for 11 to 16 year-olds in their home rural areas and also to provide classes for adults in the evenings. Their links to the local community have always been very important. 

Impington, in 1939, was the fourth to be built and, it may surprise you to learn, is a Grade I listed building. The reason for this high designation is that it's the only building in the UK to be designed by the pioneering architect and founder of the Bauhaus school, Walter Gropius. He had fled Nazi Germany and  formed an architectural partnership with Englishman Maxwell Fry. Gropius soon moved on to the USA, but not before designing the Village College at Impington.

Grade Two

Believe it or not this late nineteenth century water pump is a listed building too, though only a common old Grade II. As you can see it's very smartly painted and bears the words Bamford's Frost Protected Lift Pump. Bamford's of Uttoxeter was founded in 1845 as an ironmonger's shop, but grew to be a large manufacturer of farm equipment, not ceasing production till 2008. Henry Bamford's grandson Joseph Cyril Bamford founded a rival company which still exists. It's known by Bamford's initials - JCB.

What's The Time?

A rather crude sundial high on the wall of Oakington Church. "God always cares" it says, but not enough to get the time right in this corner of the world it seems. This was taken at 11 o'clock but the shadow seems to indicate about a quarter to twelve. The metal part has got bent no doubt. Incidentally that metal bit that casts the shadow is called the "gnomon". Now that's a word that's bound to come in handy someday.


Weather vanes are a feature of many buildings and I often think I'll collect photos of them but rarely remember to take a snap. I rather liked this fox relentlessly pursuing its prey while a (real) starling perches cheekily on his tail.

Places To Live

You can end up at some dodgy addresses in England. Who'd want to live at either of these...

Meanwhile these two, unusual as they are, might appeal to certain enthusiasts....

And here's a special address that I should have really posted on Valentine's Day....

Take care.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

It's All About The Orchids

The University Botanic Garden in Cambridge is holding its Orchid Festival and once again there's a wonderful display of these exotic flowers in the greenhouses. It's on till March 11th if you happen to be in the area.

And if you're not in the vicinity then I hope that you've enjoyed these few photos.

Take care.

Monday, 12 February 2018

A Garden In February

A gloriously sunny winter's day to wander around the Cambridge University Botanic Garden...

There was the usual February display of snowdrops. Many other gardens make a big thing of their snowdrops and advertise special "Snowdrop Days". Despite the lack of fanfare the gardens here are no less impressive.

OK, now lets wander round and see if anything else is flowering...

Hellebores of many colours are at their best just now. For those of you who ask from time to time, my camera is fitted with a neat, hinged display screen so I didn't have to lay down on the cold wet ground. And I can still get up OK, so no need to worry about me!

A white version of the Hellebore or Lenten Rose as it's sometimes known.

I think that's a Viburnum, though I didn't check the little label (it's not, it's a Daphne as Rosie has pointed out in a comment below). It has an almost overpowering fragrance which is always a surprise to encounter in mid-winter. The red stems of the dogwood form a colourful, unfocused background.

The main avenue looks good at any time of year and I don't think I've shown you it before on this blog. In a normal formal garden the trees are planted so that everything is symmetrical and balanced. This garden however was designed by Charles Darwin's teacher, John Stevens Henslow, to instruct his students in botany. He has taken the opportunity to illustrate the different growth habits of similar trees, so a tall upright version is often contrasted with a low, spreading variety of the same type of tree. It looks a bit strange but draws the attention to his point.

At the end of the avenue is a fountain which is popular with children (and ducks) later in the year. There's still some ice on it this morning.

Here's this month's interesting bit of greenery.

The picture above looks as though it could be somewhere tropical, but I'm afraid we're still in a rather chilly Cambridge. So lets have a peep inside the greenhouses...

And it's also the time of year when they have the Orchid Festival which we'll investigate fully in the next post.

Take care.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Snowdrops And Other Small Friends

Just one month ago there were two small clumps of snowdrops in the village wood. As in other years they were just the warm-up act for the show that was to follow. All around the village there are tiny specks of optimism springing from the wet, cold ground.


Take care.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Scattered Gold

Just a few little nuggets of history waiting to be discovered by those who care to investigate England's village churches. Some of these buildings are grand and justly famous while others are more modest and consequently unappreciated by many.

While I was struggling through the undergrowth to find the hidden holy well next to the vanished church, St Helen's Oratory, recently, I started thinking whether I knew of any existing churches which stand near to holy wells. I could only think of two near to my home. One of them was easy as it's in the village of Holywell - bit of a giveaway that - while the other is St Michael's church in Longstanton.

St Michael's is a rather quaint old building with a thatched roof but is no longer used for services as there is a much larger church just down the road (more of that later). I would have liked to have peeped inside but unfortunately the key-holder had just gone out so that will have to wait for another day. But the well is of course outside...

And here it is. It stands just inside the churchyard and used to be used for baptisms apparently. 

There's a neat little cross-shaped window and lots of ferns growing though I couldn't see any actual water. Lets move on.... the rather grander All Saints church, standing in the winter sunshine, just a short walk along the village street. One of the highlights here is the memorial to Sir Thomas Hatton, who died in 1658, and his wife Lady Mary. Sir Thomas was an MP and for a time the Ambassador to France.

The whole thing is beautifully carved and it's a surprise to learn, from a small plaque at the base of the tomb, that it was discovered damaged and neglected by descendants of the family who paid to have it restored.

The clothes are very ornate and particularly well detailed and defined. Not only Sir Thomas and Lady Mary are depicted; at their feet lie their favourite dogs and around the base are their six children.

There's also an impressive stained-glass window commemorating the RAF Seventh Squadron, Bomber Command, who operated out of nearby Oakington airfield during WWII.

And it's at Oakington church that we find our next curiosity...

It's a fine church to find in such a small village with picturesque cottages standing opposite.

But the really fascinating feature is not in the church or even in the churchyard. Through two little gates and along a narrow zigzag path you find three historic graves.

Here, side by side, lie three non-conformist Congregationalist vicars from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The seventeenth century was a time when many different ideas about how to worship were being discussed and practised. Cambridgeshire became a hotbed of non-conformism and this was countered by forcing the ministers to swear an oath of allegiance to the church. Those who didn't were thrown out of their livings and had to preach secretly in the woods. Many were also put in prison but, as the gaolers were often dissenters too, they were sometimes let out of gaol so they could preach. When they died they were buried in unconsecrated ground.

The three interred here, Rev Francis Holcroft, Rev James Oddy and Rev Henry Osland, were active throughout the county and founded thirty new churches despite the persecution that they suffered. Rev Oddy began his career in my home village of Meldreth.

Take care.