Sunday, 24 April 2016

Reverting to the "Alternative Subjects" Agenda - Rufford Abbey, Part One

Hello once again.  Isobel in charge of this week's post, with pictures and description of another family sortie to another nearby Place of Interest - also with a link to the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury of yesteryear (the latter being as well known by the title "Bess of Hardwick").   
Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, looking not unlike her Queen!
Rufford Abbey is now owned and preserved by Nottinghamshire County Council but in its heyday was the property of the same Earl of Shrewsbury, husband of Bess, whose family name was George Talbot. 
The first view a visitor gets as one drives into the park setting
 A fact I didn't include in my two posts about Hardwick Hall (published on 28/03/2016 and 04.04.2016 respectively) is that George Talbot was responsible for the care and custody of  Mary Queen of Scots on behalf of Queen Elizabeth 1 until she was beheaded at the Queen's command. 
A portrait of George Talbot, Earl of Shrrewsbury himself!  There are similar portraits at Hardwick Hall of  the Earl and his wife, but they would not have reproduced half as well as these do.
 (The grand daughter of  Bess was Mary's niece by marriage by virtue of being the wife of Mary's nephew Charles Stuart and therefore a strong contender to be a successor to Queen Elizabeth I - but lost out, as well as her head, when Charles died before the Queen!)  Such was the incestuous relationship of the wealthy in Elizabethan times - really not that much different to that carried on in modern times really!
Daughter Clare and Grandson E walking from the Car Park
Anyway back to Rufford Abbey - which is situated in 150 acres of lovely parkland (Rufford Abbey Country Park), just a few miles north of  Nottingham itself.  The site is among the top 10 Country Parks in England and is open to the public all year round.  One just has to pay for parking and one can walk around at one's own pace.
Approaching Rufford Abbey's Main Entrance
The Abbey was founded as a Cistercian Foundation over 800 years ago.  The Order still exists. and is known as a "Closed Order":  which means the members live in their monastery - spending their lives praying and working to maintain their properties and don't mix with the general populace.  After the Reformation (King Henry VIII's legacy to English History) it was transformed into a grand country estate (as part of North Nottinghamshire's "Dukeries" - Hardwick Hall, Welbeck Abbey (another nearby Stately Home still exists and is somewhere worth a visit! - in other words, watch this space!)
Entrance to the Abbey Remains
On the right hand side of the walkway to the door, one sees the current Rose Garden.  (The buildings in the background house  the Orangery and Apsidal Gallery - which we left for another visit - possibly when the seemingly ever-present rain makes an indoor visit more acceptable!). 

Then, as one walks up the steps, through the door and hallway, one is faced with a space with strong walls, but now without a roof.
The picture above is taken about mid-way in the room, which has a basement - now used as a  -Restaurant and a Library.  There are "interesting looking steps down to ground level from this space.   (We decided not to try the stairway at the other end - not shown - of this space:  particularly as they didn't appear that easy to negotiate:  at least for a Little Person and his Granma!  To be fair to them, Mummy isn't that keen on claustrophobic spaces either - and these certainly gave that impression!)
The walls surrounding the space are in pretty good condition for their age, and have their fair share of windows (without glass - unlike Hardwick Hall's collection!) and an interesting feature are the decorative gargoyles to be seen at the top of many of the openings.

Well, what with all the illustrations, and descriptions to date, think this post is long enough.  So, I'll close for this week, and I can show you just part of the beautiful parkland setting in which Rufford Abbey lies next time around.
Meanwhile, the Baby Rabbit replacement list has been reduced somewhat - as I've been able to sew more easily back home this week.  All the elements required are in the same room!  I'm also embarking on a new range of  Nursery Toys which I hope to be offering shortly.  Yesterday, I purchased the materials I'm thinking of using to make Nursery Mobiles - which seem to be pretty popular toys at the present time, and will be using my current Plush and Fleece Baby Rabbits, as well as three new Cuddlies.  I've re-discovered the patterns I've had all along for Baby Teddy Bears and am going to have a go at Baby Monkeys and Baby Lambs as well.  (I've had the patterns ever since I first began making Cuddly Toys in the 1950's).  Am thinking that perhaps its about time I actually made some!!
See you all next week - God willing!  Meanwhile, have a great one Everyone.
Coldham Cuddlies Clinic

Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Replacement List Grows Longer

Greetings once again, Everyone. Cy Bear back on duty once more.
Isobel has not yet moved back home on a permanent basis, but for a sufficiently long time for her to allow me back here to post this week's bulletin from the Coldham Cuddlies World.  While she's been away, the Shops in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, where some of the Cuddlies have been on display have been busy on our behalf, and been able to find Forever Homes for one or two of us.  
One of the Baby Hedgehogs was sold from The Ark, and Isobel took down a replacement yesterday, together with an example of our Red and Grey Squirrels (the Black one will form the vanguard of the next Cuddlies "invasion"!!). 
That means that ten per cent of this Baby Hedgehog sale, (together with a donation from MsDM - who gave our two Baby Bunnies their Forever Home as we wrote about in our Blog "Baby Bunnies en route to Florida" - 13/03/2016) will be added to the third tranche of funds which will soon be sent to the Two Hedgehog Hospitals we're raising funds for.  (To remind you who they are - Tiggywinkles Hedgehog Trust and West Midlands Hedgehog Rescue).  
 Our Black and White Plush Kittens were also taken down to The Ark
Cuddly Kitten Toys, Furry Black and White Plushies, Cool Kids Toys, Toy for Tots, Cool Tots Toys, Cool Toddler Toy, Special Toy Present.
and the new delivery was completed with Percy the Penguin being sent down to see if someone would like to give him a Forever Home
Percy Penguin Stuffed Toy, Black and White Cuddly, Shower Basket Item, Cool Tots Toy, Toddler Toy, Cool Tots Present, Toddler Special Gift.
 MrsSQ, who is the person Isobel deals with at The Ark says that lots of folk like Penguins, so we're hopeful that Percy will not be on display for long.  Actually when the handover was taking place, a lady having a cup of coffee in the Shop got quite excited by the White Kitten, and almost purchased it there and then.  Don't think she had enough cash on her though, so the sale fell through.  But Isobel feels the lady might well come back ere long!  Here's hoping. 

(The Ark sells teas, coffees and biscuits every weekday and Saturday mornings between 0930 and mid-day. They also offer all sorts of religious books and kids games - the toys being a recent addition. They are being targetted at people who are organising baby showers, christenings and so on.  Toys have only been on offer since the beginning of the year, so the Cuddlies are hoping to "start something")
Stuffed Toy Owl, Barney Barn Owl, Beige Faux Fur Cuddly Toy Cool Toddlers Toy, Collectable Adult Toy, Cool Toy for Tots, Great Unusual Gift
 Isobel also met the lady who bought Barney Barn Owl the day after the first batch of Cuddlies were introduced in January.  (She said she'd bought him because she not only loved Owls - of any kind - but also couldn't resist "his facial expression"!!)  We're not sure which one of these is the lucky Owl, but the other Barney representation is sitting "pretty" on a shelf at the side of one of the Shop's front windows, so hopefully, he will be finding a Forever Home soon too.
At the end of the week before last - the days are going by so fast this year! - Isobel got an email notification that Cuddlies had been sold from The Artful Buttoner, the Kirkby in Ashfield Shop we'd originally had Cuddlies on display.  We still have them there, but because the shop is a bigger one than The Ark, but very many more crafters seek to display their wares there, than there is space for them, Isobel and MsCL, proprietor of The Artful Buttoner have agreed that our Baby Bunnies and Koalas will continue to be sold there, while our Dressed Rabbits, Foxes, Teddy Bears and larger Toys will come home.  We've got some of the Dressed Rabbits in The Ark, and they will be exchanged on a regular basis there, but we're going to rely more on our Shop to find homes for them.   (Having Cuddlies on display in shops undoubtedly helps to raise their profile:  but shops tend to be places where the dust of cars, people and other road users can prevail, and Isobel is not keen on her Cuddlies getting dustier than is absolutely necessary!)
Koala Tree Bear, Stuffed Animal Toy, Grey Fleck and White Plushie, Shower Basket Filler, Cool Tots Toy, Toddlers Toy Present, Adult Keepsake
While Isobel was in Kirkby yesterday, and because The Ark and The Artful Buttoner are not that far from each other (although they are far enough for them not to encroach on each other's customers too often) she called in to find out who had found their new homes - to be told that a Baby Koala was one, and that a deposit had been paid for Big Koala - who is presently sitting in the back of The Artful Buttoner waiting for its Forever Friend to get better from an unexpected ailment.  
Large Koala Bear Keepsake Toy, Soft Cuddly Toy, Grey White Faux Fur, Stuffed Animal Toy, Boy Girl Toddler Gift, Adult Collectable Toy Gift.
Four more Baby Koalas were taken in to "The Artful Buttoner" to replace the one sold, and while she was there, Isobel purchased 12 pairs of eyes for the new Baby Bunnies she's working on.  She likes to ring the changes with the eyes for these guys:  making some of them with double knit yarn, as well as using the plastic safety eyes.  That gives our potential customers a choice when it comes to purchasing our Baby Rabbits.  She's been using her plastic eye stocks of late because she's found making the yarn eyes tricky with her fingers getting stiff and painful.  However, with the onset of warmer weather (hopefully!), she's hoping to be able to make more of them as she continues the Rabbit replacement programme.  (She's been able to use the safety eyes, thanks to help from son-in-law, Alan - who has come to the rescue when even these have proved difficult!  Thanks to Alan!)
Meanwhile, having returned home for most evenings, Isobel is now able to settle down and get on with that replacement sewing for the Baby Rabbits who found homes over Christmas and the New Year.  That replacement list has now been swelled by the need to replace these Cuddlies I've told you about here today. 
The stories about the local Stately Homes and Historic Buildings will be added to in the next couple of bulletins, because Clare, Isobel and GrandsonE went for a long walk during last week - and several photographs were taken of another local landmark.  Folks apparently have been responding well to this change of  topic, and as the Baby Bunnies come along, we'll be telling you about them too.  There are plans for them to used in Nursery Mobiles, too - a new departure for this Shop.  That means more Baby Rabbits than would normally be made at one time, in any one colour.  So, folks, just watch this space - Isobel is going to be very busy!.
Good to be back chatting with you.  See you soon.  
Your Friend, Cy Bear.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Recalling another recent visit to a nearby UK Stately Home

Once more, greetings to one and all.  It's been a beautiful Spring day, with lots of sunshine here in Nottinghamshire today, even though there was a keen breeze to lower the temperature somewhat.  While still living out of two places, I've still not been able to motivate myself to sew Cuddlies - even though there are many to do - but I have been able to visit another nearby Stately Home - and thought you might like to see some pictures of the brief visit - regrettably cut short by a sharp April Shower (or two!).

This time we visited Newstead Abbey, once owned by the famous English poet, Lord Byron - and now in the care of Nottingham City Council.  

South side of the Abbey - looking over the stream linking two lakes
Lord Byron inherited his title when his great uncle died in May 1798 at the age of 10.  He became the 6th Lord Byron of Rochdale, and with the title came Newstead Abbey - which was in a state of disrepair - so much so, that Byron's mother leased it out to various people during her son's adolescence.  Much of the Abbey remains in a ruined state even now - but there's enough land to accommodate several mansion type residences (mostly privately owned) and a magnificent acreage of parkland, around the Abbey. These are open to the public and  one can to go for long walks -accompanied by children and dogs (on leads);  because there are free-roaming peacocks, as well as many ducks, geese, moorhen and other water birds which frequent the area around a couple of lakes, linked by a stream and water fall.  (On this occasion, we heard, but didn't see the pea fowl - but they have to be taken seriously when one comes upon them - apparently).

Some Canada Geese and a lone Moor Hen - beside one of the Lakes
Parts of the Abbey interior can be visited too, but it wasn't on the agenda this time around.  We did visit the Abbey Shop - where I purchased a post card to send to a long time family friend whose late husband used to run a Restaurant in London's Carnaby Street area - called the Lord Byron, where beautiful home made Greek food was to be found.  The card will be on its way to its intended destination on early next week - hopefully to remind our friend of good times had in days past.

The Abbey Shop doorway is located in the corner of this view of the Abbey.
Clare, Grandson E. and myself decided to take advantage of a bright sunny day earlier this week, and drove to the Abbey (which is located a short distance from were both our homes are located) and with the aid of a annual family pass, drove right in to the car park along a road with rhododendron bushes on either side.  They're going to look fabulous in a week or so when they come into bloom and I'm hoping to be able to visit the Abbey grounds again - when they are at their flowering best; and maybe post a picture of two here when that happens.

The Abbey view from the left of the Entrance to the Shop
This is how the Abbey looks on the immediate right of the Abbey Shop entrance.
We didn't see too much more of the gardens - due for the most part to the onset of a sharp April Shower, but also because we had a Little Person with short legs with us - who kept up the pace admirably, but after a 40 minute brisk walk was understandably tiring.  So, on the way back we admired the garden view - in front of this aspect of the Abbey.

A weeping willow shrouding the stream linking the two lakes over-looked by the Abbey view in the first photo

On the left of this picture, you can see a waterfall from the lake the other side of this daffodil decorated slope.

A head-on view of the willow tree, with the stream into which the waterfall goes
 After admiring the budding rhododendron bushes along the long driveway from the main road to the Abbey itself, the view shown below is the one  we got as we drove into the Car Park area.

There's a cricket ground nearby, as well - so one can see why the grounds are so popular for the local visiting public.  It's also great that we can take advantage of the space - and believe me, we certainly will be doing so, provided the capricious English Spring weather allows us so to do.

While I may not have been motivated to sew Cuddlies this week, I have spent some time tidying up the way our Cuddlies Shop is arranged - to take advantage of the overall "New Look" for all our Shops.  I've also taken advantage of an offer to create a website for the Cuddlies.  It's something I've been thinking about for some time - but having purchased the domain name (to be revealed shortly), I'm now not sure how to go about linking it to this blog, and the Shop as well. Assistance has been sought from Team Members and Etsy Support itself - and  I hope to be proficient in this new look Cuddlies era soon.

Until next week, folks - hope this find everyone having a good time and keeping well.

Your friend - Isobel,

Coldham Cuddlies Clinic

Monday, 4 April 2016

Visit to Hardwick Hall - Part 2

Hello there Everyone:

Again, it's Isobel posting this week's blog - Cy Bear is doing his guardian duties sitting on my pillow in the flat, while I continue to stay with Clare, Alan and GrandsonE.  This arrangement has been on going for some time, and although I've done some sewing (replacement Baby Bunnies), I've found it difficult to get stuck in - with notions and fabric often in the "other place", when I do get around to it in the evening.  Hopefully, things will be back to normal soon - but in the meantime, the ColdhamCuddlies have been very fortunate in being highlighted in a huge number of Treasuries - thanks to the wonderful supportive actions of several Team Mates on my Etsy Teams in the past week.  That's also meant less time for making Cuddlies!

However, at the end of last week's unexpected topic, I did say I had further pictures of our visit to Hardwick Hall to show you - so without more ado, here they come!

This is the west facing view of Hardwick Hall (pretend you've come along the side of the south side and turned in to this side of the house - from the left of the picture).  The family group is in the foreground.  You can see the balustrade along the roof continues, and each wing of the house has the E and S indicating it's the residence of "Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury"!  The windows are also well to the fore.

If one was inside and looking out of the southern face of Hardwick Hall, this avenue of Yew Hedges would be what you see - looking towards the stables and other Estate out-buildings I showed in my last week's post.

There is a huge pond just in front of the west-facing side of the Hall, and the afternoon we were there, just one drake could be found swimming in the immense structure.  The whole pond can be seen in the first picture - just to the right of the family group!

If you were looking out of Hall, on the west side, this is the view you would get - looking over the Estate for as far as the eye can see.  Being Springtime, the Estate sheep were grazing and the day we were there, we could see lots of baby lambs - although, because of the very blustery wind, they weren't doing their usual skipping about.

We walked across the grass to the gap between the yew hedge, to see how the sheep were being kept away from the Hall gardens, by means of a big ditch - otherwise known as a "Ha-Ha".  You can see from the previous photo, the ditch is not visible from inside the Hall.
Having arrived early on in the afternoon, we had, had to wait to enter the Hall itself.  So, as the weather wasn't improving, and the front door opening time was imminent, the party moved back to the front entrance and moved out of the bitter cold wind - into the Banqueting Hall, which runs from the front entrance through almost the whole length of the house.
The Banqueting Hall seems to be a dark place, but in fact it is not.  I'd hazard a guess that on a bright, sunny day, the light would flood in and the embroidery and paintings would show off to a much better effect.  However, my snapshots do give you an idea of the height and splendour of the inside of Hardwick Hall.  (This is just the ground floor!)
Here is a better view of the Coat of Arms of the Earl of Shrewsbury, and throughout the inner rooms on the Ground Floor of the Hall visitors can see examples of the exquisite embroidery commissions by Bess of  Hardwick during the 1570's.  One commemorating some of the "Legend of Good Women" by Chaucer - which as a well-educated lady of the time, Bess of Hardwick would have known well. -  is shown below of  Penelope, Lucretia and Cleopatra. 
Photography is allowed inside Hardwick Hall, but flash lights are not.  So, although I did use a flash to take these inside pictures, they are not as clear as they might be had a light been allowed.  Given that all these hangings were made from medieval church vestments and sewn mostly by Bess of Hardwick's household servants, they are in amazing condition.  Professional embroiderers would have been responsible for the designs.  In all, according to a 1601 inventory, there are "fyve peeces of hangings of Cloth of golde velvett and other like stuffe imbrodered with pictures of the vertues.....every piece being twelve foote deep".    Here's another example - 
and yet another - which I think could be part of the collection celebrating the Noble Women of Chaucers tale.
Even to the untrained eye, and allowing for no flash lights, there is real difference in quality of these hangings, and given that they've been hanging since the 1570's, these embroideries are currently being conserved at the National Trust Textile Conservation Studio, the work having been started in 2012.  Each hanging have different types and levels of damage, so will vary in times taken for the conservation work to be carried out. Certain stages do remain the same however. For those who currently enjoy embroidery or other stitching crafts, according to the leaflet describing the work - 

(a) The condition of the hanging is assessed - and conservation needs decided.
(b) Pictures are then taken- because everything a conservator does should be reversible, and they provide a record of the work done on each hanging.
(c) The front is then cleaned - making the fabric colour and threads more visible.  Previous repairs will kept unless they threaten the hanging's overall stability.
(d) Very fragile areas will be covered with protective netting.

As I said in my last week's post, the trip to Hardwick Hall was halted because I had found myself unable to walk much more.  We'd only done the Ground Floor of the Hall, and there are two more floors to explore another time. 

But before I close this blog about Hardwick Hall, before the weather closed in and made outside exploration uncomfortable, I did manage to take one more picture - confirming that Spring is not too far away - with daffodils showing between some of the trees in the Hardwick Hall gardens.
So - here's to the next time:  goodness knows what I'll be posting about then, but I do hope you've enjoyed sharing this visit to one of the picturesque Stately Homes in our local vicinity.  We're blessed with many of them.
Your Friend, Isobel
Coldham Cuddlies Clinic