Friday, April 21, 2017

Sorting out the issues

Pixl1167 (975x1300)There have been fewer blog posts of late because of numerous technical problems with too little time available to sort them.  Open Live Writer has only been able to publish intermittently because of an Error 500 associated with posting pictures.  Blogger stores photos in dedicated albums in Google Photos, and the interface is, at best, inconsistent. 

The project team at Github has suggested workarounds, but I’ve had mixed success in getting them running.  Test posts have, therefore, been popping up occasionally while I run potential fixes: I’m sorry for the spam and will hopefully get things to settle down shortly.

Pixl1135The camera also needed to go into the shop for another lens.  This is the third time that the camera has stopped recognising its own E-mount glass, its never in the body, but always in the lens recognition system.  I have replacement insurance with John Lewis, fortunately, but it leaves me without good photo support until the system comes back.  Hopefully it will be resolved next week.

Pixl1173 (1300x975)Finally, I updated the blog theme last week, slightly: Blogger has been changing its templates and a consultant suggested that uploads might start working if my migrated off of my 5-year-old standard.  The blog and photos migrated fine, but I’ll likely make more aesthetic adjustments in the coming month.

However, I’m still around and doing fine.  There’s lots to share once things get sorted, and as the workload eases up in the Netherlands and UK.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Braving the Dovedale Trail

Pixl0407 (1300x975)Morning dawned misty and cool along the Amber Valley, a former mining district just southeast of the Peak District.  Evening at the Farm Hotel had passed with comfortable ease, from drinks with the owner of a pub Saturday night to a decent buffet breakfast to start our Sunday.

 

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Flicking though the local outdoor guides, the nearby Dovedale Walk looked appealing: One of the most beautiful limestone dales in Britain, a variety of scenery with the ever-changing River Dove, the steep limestone cliffs and spires, the rare woodlands species and its many caves.  The trailhead was in the nearby village of Ilam, near a rolling park, a stately home, and a looping bend of the Manifold River.

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Given that it was a nice spring weekend, though, families were out in force by 10 am and the narrow roads into the village clogged with traffic.  We dropped anchor near the trailhead and walked the rest of the way in, along the tidy homes and past the stone church to Ilam Hall, a once-fashionable mansion converted to youth-hostel by the National Trust.  ‘tea and a beer, then off into the hills.

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It’s lambing time in the northern meadows, sheep all across the trail the wound up above the roads and traffic.  There was a steady line of walkers, some with dogs and sticks, others lifting children over the stiles, all sloshing along the muddy slopes.  It made (my) balance tricky, but  the rocky upslope alternate path was longer and steeper, so we stayed to the pastures and took things easy.

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The Dovedale Valley is about a mile onward, a frothing  river flowing through steep-sided limestone canyons.  The first attraction is the Stepping Stones, a sequence of flat rocks providing a well-known river crossing.  There’s a bit of a queue to wait, but the rocks themselves, flat-topped and each about a foot apart, don’t seem to be much of an obstacle.

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Or so I thought.  Crossing the first three, they were a bit more rough, muddy, slippery, and tipped than I’d realised.  My ankle is similarly rough, wobbly, and tipped, and there was no easy way to go forward or back.

Stuck, I beckoned my w.wezen back for an assist (who thought I only wanted to take a picture). With a steady hand to hold, the crossing was done, eliciting  embarrassing applause from the group queued on the other bank.  Age and hesitation, but falling into the water would have been worse.

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Onwards, up the valley through rock formations, weirs, and little named settings (Lovers Leap).  The whole three miles up to Milldale was more than we had time for, but it was nice to get back up into the hills and alongside the streams. 

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The further ridges and peaks were drawing venturesome teens and booted hikers, and it would be fun to scale for the views some other time.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Chatsworth Gardens

Pixl0321 (1300x975)The great English landscape gardener, Capability Brown, transformed the working farmland and small formal gardens around Chatsworth House to rolling gardens in 1760.  Joseph Paxton added the kitchen gardens and glasshouses a hundred years later during his period as head gardener.
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Today the trails above the house meander through mature woodlands, flower beds, and sculpture displays between the working gardens.  Turns in the path open to dramatic views of water and sky, framed by natural and architectural accents, the whole estate extending across 405 hectares.
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Lancelot (Capability) Brown’s style was style founded on two principles.  First, the practical: that the finished gardens should meet their ‘capability’, providing for every need of the great house.  The second was elegance: the features of the garden must cohere to a grammar of features.  The result was was a pleasing (for me, anyway) alternative to the geometric and boxed French gardens, lots of grassy planes with open views, scattered trees and hedges, and winding waterworks and lakes.
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It didn’t come cheap: the Chatsworth gardens took 25,000 man and horse days to create, and cost over £40,000 (nearly £6 million in today’s currency).  Still, on a sunny warm spring day, their real value is evident.
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Friday, March 31, 2017

House Style at Chatsworth

Pixl0168 (975x1300)With meetings finished for the week, we decided to head north, rather than south, for the weekend.  Trees and flowers are blooming later in Derbyshire than in Dorset, but there was a hint of spring warmth and likely only light numbers of visitors to the Peak District.

Chatsworth House, towards the southeast corner of the Park, is one of the enormous stately homes beloved by the British.  It was established by the Cavendish family in the 1500s, located in the Derwent River valley half way between Bakewell (of the  Frosted Tart) and Chesterfield (of the Pixl0130 (1300x947)Twisted Steeple).

The home is an enormous beige Tudor block, set in lovely green rolling gardens: the current Duke and Duchess host tours and rotating exhibitions.  Currently, ‘500 Years of Fashion’ are on view, a well-composed collection that rambles through two floors of the House.

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The Cavendish family has been prominent in British politics, culture, and diplomacy for eleven generations, and  the assembled photographs and ballgowns reflect their evolution and influence across the centuries.

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Exhibits range from banal embroidered t-shirts to wispy wedding and christening gowns, from peacock –feathered costume parties to formal corseted state affairs.  ‘Fashion’ is almost exclusively women’s clothes throughout: men favour jackets and trousers with only the ties tracking the trends.

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The interiors are occupied and composed, with none of the feel of an attic on display that some Homes have.  Here, rooms reflect everyday life: Writing desks are laid with diaries and letters, the formal dining room is ready for a dinner like I have never attended.

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The size of the table would only allow for conversation with nearest neighbors sitting alongside: did people mingle or rotate between courses? 

Similarly, how would daily life flow through so many rooms: there had to be many fewer social and family interactions in the House than would be the case in a Home today. 

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Every room seems to be a stage, decorated and lit to impress, even those unlikely to ever have seen a visitor. 

I suppose it was a reminder to them, as it would be today, of their heritage, position, responsibility, and wealth.  In a time of Brexit, it is a preservation of how British exceptionalism was defined for centuries.

At the same time, in our populist age,  the Chatsworth is both egalitarian and voyeuristic.  The parade of ordinary people gaping at their stately rooms and taking selfies with poised dresses is leveling and polarising: they are so like us, but really not like us.