Friday, 30 September 2011

Phew Kew

I was in Kew Gardens yesterday, almost enjoying the heat of the Indian Summer that has suddenly arrived. I partook of refreshment (tea, egg and cress sandwiches and a bottle of Fentiman's Ginger Beer) under the rustling leaves of the carefully considered pergolas outside the Pavilion Restaurant. I could have been in a Paris park. Round the corner is Decimus Burton's Temperate House that was once the largest plant house in the world. It's still the biggest surviving Victorian glass structure anywhere. Started in 1859, the government allocated £10,000 but four years later the Treasury got cold feet and brought construction to a halt. It took another 35 years for it to be finally completed. I love glasshouses, and this one needs a helping hand because it's been another 35 years since the last restoration. Find out more here.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Border Country

I can't think why I'd never seen this before. It must be well-known to travellers driving west on the A44 out of Moreton-in-Marsh towards Chipping Norton, positioned at a dog-leg crossroads about a mile and a half from the town. The Four Shires Stone once marked the spot where four counties met: Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. Three still do, but the Worcs. boundary is now further down the road. (The nearby parish of Evenlode was once in an enclave of Worcs., cut off from the main county until 1931.) This was a meeting place for centuries, and there must have been previous stones now removed or sinking into the surrounding ditches. The current marker has a seventeenth century-ish look , but the local history society has it as 1909. (That looks about right judging by the lettering.) Such is the timeless appearance of beautifully weathered Cotswold stone.

A long time ago I'm sure my brother told me that there was once a similar marker in the meadows by the River Welland in Stamford, marking the meeting of Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and possibly the Soke of Peterborough, which I suppose will now be Cambridgeshire. He reckoned he once went swimming in the Welland, and deposited his clothes around the stone. Trousers in Rutland, shirt in Lincolnshire, vest in Northants, etc, etc. A likely story, but not impossible.

Tin Mack

Many apologies for being away from Unmitigated England for so long. Hopefully normal service will be resumed from now on. To be going on with, how about this wonderful tin. I noticed it again at a dear friend's house a couple of weeks ago, and memories came back of often coveting it. "Don't even think about it" came the riposte as I stared at it again, wondering if it would fit in one of the capacious pockets of my poacher's coat. 'Delicious Beyond Description', as it says on the tin.