Wooden Sett from Valley Gardens

Perhaps its a mistake to admit this, but I stole a pitch-impregnated wooden sett from a pile of them that appeared just south of St Peter’s Church during the beginnings of 24 months of remodelling the Valley Gardens.  I doubt there are any plans to make use of them in the redesigned gardens.  I certainly would not walk on a roadway made of them – the pitch is still tacky and stinks of camphor.  But in their day they made for a quieter road when steel-rimmed wheels and horses’ iron shoes passed over either stone or wooden setts.  I saw some others, still set in place in East Street a few years ago, during some ‘dig up the road to congest traffic scheme’ (I owe that phrase to Spike Milligan).

wood sett

I’m not sure what to do with it now I’ve got it.  I have two other setts, both igneous stone.  One is grey, perhaps a diorite, the other a more quartz-heavy coarse grained rock with pink feldspar.  That’s pretty-much used up all my knowledge about them.  Except to say they were easier to use – they now form part of a garden retaining wall just outside the dining room (aka. Number One Shed).




Posted in Brighton | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Walking through Henfield

This was a few weeks ago but such interesting pics demand I do it even though late.

Got a little lost in the twittens that permeate the town, but it was worth it to encounter this great bit of topiary:

Henfield topiary Aug18

I was on my way to Partridge Green for beer and lunch (yet again).  On the Downs Link trail I spotted a reddish blur in a wild rose.  Its not uncommon, but a pleasing gall none the less.  A tiny wasp lays its eggs in a rose bud provoking this vegetative response which protects the growing insect.

rose gall Downslink Aug18

Finally, the sloes are here.  No bag with me so will have to return to find out if any are left.  Down to our last half bottle of sloe gin.

sloes downslink aug18

Posted in my travels, wildlife | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

August jottings

Its pouring down outside and a little cool.  When the rain was just starting I nipped down the garden to empty the compost bin and feel the rain on my skin, thinking , ‘Autumn is coming’.  Then I saw some that confirmed that thought.

29aug18 autumn hornbeam

Some of the hornbeam leaves are falling.  The colours offer some consolation.

Foxes are a small problem this year, or at least they leave me with small management issues.  Removing their crap.  They favour leaving it in places we walk, but at least they leave it obviously.  I remove and bury turds as soon as I spot them, except for this one (below).  Its on the kitchen roof.  Accessible if you are agile – the squirrels do it all the time, but I have not seen a fox up there.

fox scat on kitchen roof Au 18

Last week we visited the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne.  I went for ‘At Altitude’ as I’m a fan of aerial stuff and mapping, but I was a little disappointed, so I won’t bore you with it.  It turns out I’m not a big fan of the man described in the leaflet as ‘A Master of Colour and Atmosphere’.  Edward Stott (for it is he) is actually very competent in the dull, gloomy and soft focus.  BUT I did enjoy a few pieces in the Sussex Open 2018 exhibition.

Louise Bristow exhibited 5 or 6 pieces, each being her painting of a miniature set she makes on a tabletop.  Cut out photographs and pictures arranged to form a scene, rendered in paint and displayed.  Curious and delightful:

by Louise Bristow 1

by Louis Bristow 2

Equally atmospheric, though perhaps less adventurous is a small painting by Terrence Brett called Somewhere Nowhere  4:

somewhere Nowhere 4 Terrence Brett 2018

There is also a fine short film by a guy who sometimes works with Ian Sinclair, and was at the Towner in conversation with him a few months ago.  He is Andrew Kotting (with an umlaut). It is surprisingly engaging, disturbing and hypnotic.  I cannot tell you exactly what its about, but I’m sure drones were used in the filming – to very good effect.

Lunched in the gallery’s Urban Ground cafe – delicious pastrami and things in warm flatbread with white wine.

Afterwards we went to Camilla’s (secondhand) Bookshop – run by Camilla, who once had a bookshop  in Brighton.  We reminisced about friends in common, and I bought three books.  Then discovered Bottle Grove across the road – a new and very pleasing craft beer shop and bar.  Greg (who was once at the Craft Beer pub in Brighton) runs it, and was very welcoming.  Had a few halves and bought three cans for later.  These two businesses are in Grove Road in an area being marketed as Little Chelsea.

A great day out.

Posted in Art, my travels, Real Ale, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Touring the Isle of Wight – July 2018

Graham and I set out from Horsham on teh 25th to board the Portsmouth ferry at noon.  Plenty of time for a McDonalds breakfast (!) and a slow trip round the south of Chichester and the opportunity to drive over the long bridge onto  Hayling Island.  On the way back to the mainland called into a pub beside the quay for a beer.

4. south end causeway and crab fishers

Hayling Island is in the distance above, the causeway which becomes a bridge is on the right and crab fishers on the left.  Beer in pub behind camera.

The ferry took us to Fishbourne where we slowly made our way west to a lovely pub a few hundred yards from the headwaters of the river Yar near Freshwater, for a sandwich lunch.  Then on to the Needles and Alum Bay to walk out to the old battery and view the Needles.

6. Needles

two big gun batteries were built here, starting in the nineteenth century, and never a shot fired in anger from either of them, as far as I could tell.  But some good National Trust interpretation, and the story of British space rocket development.  Actually based on captured German V2s, and hardly advanced beyond helping the Americans develop their own kit.

Then a fine drive along the SW coast road to Ventnor and the Royal Hotel for 5pm.  After checking in we visited the hotel bar for a beer and whisky before heading to the bright lights of Ventnor.  To the Volunteer for another beer (Marstons 61 I think) and some advice on where to eat.  The pub general opinion was we should try the new place on the front – The Smoking Lobster – so we went there, and booked for the following night.  Very popular and busy.

10. Crab salad dinner 1

We went a little further to old favourite The Spyglass, and ordered two crab salads and two bottles of white wine.

All that good food and drink did not prepare us for the near vertical walk up to the Royal where we retreated to our air conditioned room to sip cheap scotch bought in Ventnor Co-op earlier with Isle of Wight bottled sparkling spring water and provided for hotel guests.

The spring water comes from Knighton Spring in the hardly-a-village-at-all village of Knighton, which is only a few miles from the larger village of Niton.  A website told me that locals pronounce Knighton as ‘kay-nighton’, or perhaps ‘kay-knighton’, or even ‘kay-niton’ to avoid confusion with Niton.  So I hope that is cleared up.

Next morning, after smoked haddock and poached eggs for breakfast, we drove east through Ventnor and the prettier adjoining village of Bonchurch before climbing up to the sweeping-curves A-road for Shanklin and beyond.  Joined the coast road north of Sandown and then turned west to drive along the delightful high chalk ridge before heading north for the steam railway.  From the train we saw evidence of lineside fires, something generally not seen since the change away from coal powered trains over most of the network.

16. Burnt bank and field

Thought I’d better include a train, so here is one behind my glass of IoW beer:

17. Beer at the station

A sausage roll with that beer constituted lunch, after which we wandered train-related exhibitions.  This included a great bit of theatre – a chap applying the third of a planned seven coats of varnish to the outside of a being-restored carriage, all the while waving his free arm about and cursing flies which threatened to land on his work.

A gentle cruise south to Niton (not kay-nighton) for a beer, and then back to the hotel to take a beer out onto the high hotel garden overlooking Ventnor Bay.

18. Ventnor from Royal Hotel garden

Early evening I went for another explore of the town (Crab and Lobster and Volunteer) before joining Graham at a bar on the Esplanade for a pre-dinner drink.  Sardine starter, halibut and vegetables for main, G&T and red wine for the thirst.  Back at the hotel met 2 couples we had seen in the restaurant so we chatted over more drinks.

Full English in the morning before checking out to visit the Botanic Gardens at least in part for the welcome shade of the tree collection.  Was telling Graham about the local green lizard when we began to see them, most notably sunning themselves in the desert garden.

Drove on to Newport for strolling and lunch before heading to the ferry for a 4pm sailing.  Then the rain started, but we were forced to raise the hood whilst queuing for the ferry at Fishbourne – at least it provided cheap entertainment for the other drivers.

25. Rain at Fishbourne Ferry terminal

Raindrops on Fatima’s bodywork!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chichester and a watercolour course

Last Wednesday we went to Chichester, had lunch at Pallant House and did the exhibitions.  Big one was paintings (all by women) selected because they had links to the writings of Virginia Woolf.  Some links quite clear – two women who illustrated her writings.  Others less direct – but as they included a Prunella Clough I was pleased enough – I like Clough.

Disused Land Prunella Clough 1999 really

This one is called Disused Land, and the label dates it at 1999, but I don’t believe that – she died that year and this is much more like her 60s stuff.

Sea Composition Prunella Clough 1940

This is called Sea Composition.  The odd angle was the only way I could avoid reflections.  Then on a bus for West Dean College and a watercolour painting course set over three days.  Working in the recently restored Orangery – glass south wall, glass roof and hot sunny days!!  Thankfully some blinds on the south windows and several fans whirring away.  Place a sheet of paper on the table, see it sail away!

Great food, a lovely bar in the evening, lots of tone and shade pencil work, then colour mixing and different ways of applying paint – not all traditional techniques.  Still life work and a final ‘tree against colour wash’ thing.  We pinned these up at the end of day 3.

Christine Forbes demos the frame

That’s the tutor, Christine Forbes.  She will have work exhibited at Lewes Artwave in August.  I know you want to know.  Mine’s the second in from the left in the bottom row, and the tree outline was taken from (just the top of) one of the big cedars in the gardens.


Posted in Art, my travels | Tagged , | Leave a comment

More Scillies

On our return to Agnes from St Martins we ate on the campsite, cooking a ratatouille, new potatoes and some cannellini beans.  There may have been drinking at the Turks Head afterwards – who can say?

On the next day we went to St Marys and walked about a lot.  Visited the grand Bronze Age chambered tomb on Porth Hellick Down, followed the Nature Trail up to Holy Vale and on to the Strudel Haus before returning to Hugh Town for beer and dinner on the harbour – a new and seriously overpriced spot.  Late boat back to Agnes and tents.

I think Wednesday was on St Agnes and fairly leisurely.  Once again we ate in camp, Jerry and I augmenting the vegetarian meal with a burger or two from the campsite shop – Troytown Farm beef in the burgers.  Later learnt that Mary Wilson died on this day – she had been living on the edge of Hugh Town since Harold died – I think.

Thursday was our last day.  When we packed our tents the thrushes were waiting.  As soon as one was rolled up the birds hit the pale grass, stuffing their beaks with small slugs which appeared to thrive under the groundsheets, in the dark and damp.

34. 6th June Thrushes on Campsite

They were just as keen to get inside our tents – in case we’d left anything edible out.  As pests go there are acceptable.  Spent the morning exploring Wingletang Down (the south end of Agnes – a low level granite moorland with pleasing rock outcrops.

36. 7th June Granite snowman Lower Town St Agnes (600 x 450)

Not all of them natural!  And in the case of this snowman, not even on Wingletang Down.

44. 7th June Armadillo in background SSP Rock nearby

The big rock supporting another rock is called Punchbowl on the map, but I think of it as Penis Rock.  And on the far left is a big outcrop which may have a name, or not, but it will always be Armadillo Rock to me.  You might spot its snout, mouth and left eye at the left-hand end.

48. 7th June Great granite and timber bench at west end of Gugh Bar

After a few hours I headed back to the Turks Head and jetty for final beer here and departure.  On the way I saw this delightful granite and timber seat at the west end of Gugh Bar.  Sat there for a while until the thought of beer drove me on.  The 4pm sailing to Penzance, a fine fish pie in the Admiral Benbow and back to Stacey and the Honeydew Guest House for a real bed.

After a fine cooked breakfast we set of for Honiton for coffee, where I said goodbye to Jerry and Tony and my big rucksack, and hello to Paul .  And we headed to his place in Sidmouth, then out for lunch at the ever delightful Swan (a Young’s house).  After a little rest and some music we took a stroll around Sidmouth – Paul is following his doctor’s advice and walking for an hour every day.  In the evening his sister-in-law, Shirley, joined us and we walked to a delightful fish restaurant (Neil’s) for dinner.  Grilled sardines as starter and Baked hake for main, they had puddings, I had another glass of red.

Next day Paul had fully planned out.  We went to Dart Farm Shop to buy some beers.  They have a huge selection, with the biggest range being from Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.

50. 9th June Dart Farm Store part of beer selection, near Topsham (600 x 450)

Just a quarter of the shelves here.  Bought a Proper Job to celebrate Cornwall and the holiday, plus a couple of others:

55. 9th June Three beers from Dart Farm (600 x 450)

Here are the empties at the end of the day.  The Wheat Beer from Sam Smith’s was not as good as the Maisels from the Pump House in Brighton, but bigger bottle and half the price made up some of the taste shortfall.  Arbor’s Citra was just stunning, as ever.

After beer shopping and a coffee and wander around Topsham we motored to Exmouth to follow a 5 mile circular walk Paul had extracted from a local newspaper.  Went to the beginning of the Jurassic Coast, marked with a fine pyramid of Jurassic rocks.  We also passed a fine high terrace of houses which included homes belonging to the wives of Byron and Nelson.  The wives lived here after their husbands had gone off with other women.  Byron Court is here:

53. 9th June Byron Court, Exmouth



Posted in Art, my travels, Real Ale, wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To the Scillies and, well – just the Scillies.

I really must finish this tale before I forget what we did.  It only seems like weeks ago because it was.  We got breakfast, cash and a long term parking spot in Penzance before Jerry tried to find a decent coffee and I sought Proper Job in a St Austell brewery pub beside the harbour.  We both failed, but my alternative was better than his.

19. 2nd June IoS sighted from Scillonian (600 x 450)

The crossing was lovely, I found a seat in the forward lounge-bar, my companions settled in airline seats towards the stern.  My seat came with table and bar, and new beers on board, from Ales of Scilly.  I drank Association (and IPA) and Schiller (a golden ale), both named after ships wrecked on the isles.

After transfer from the Scillonian to the St Agnes catamaran – the Spirit of St Agnes – we soon found ourselves seeking ideal tent sites for the next 5 days.

20. Troytown Farm campsite

One evening, after 8pm, I was at that table reading.  I looked up to a drystone wall and saw a wren land, before returning to the book.  A few moments later a movement on the surface of the wall caught my attention.  I thought it was a mouse darting across a wall stone and disappearing into a crevice, only to reappear nearby and repeat the process.  But it was the wren, with its tail pressed down in line with its back, scuttling  in a most unbirdlike manner.

On other camping trips I have become used to moths flying into my face in the growing gloom, but here it is sparrows.  So keen to find crumbs they aim at your mouth in an attempt to free some extra.  And if you deny them they stand on the end of the table and give you a miffed look from alternate beady eyes.

On visits 10 and more years ago we would hear and see cuckoos.  They were so common they competed for territory with lots of song.  This trip I heard them twice.  Maybe the rock pipits are happier having fewer cuckoos to raise.

On Monday we took a boat to St Martin’s and bought pasties before setting out to explore.  They went on the usual circumnavigation, I went in search of a row of burial chambers not seen last year.

25. 4th June Jerry and Tony on a short and winding road, St Martin's (600 x 450)

I’m on a hilltop burial mound, Jerry and Tony are on teh sandy track heading east.

29. 4th June looking along the tomb sites from first (600 x 450)

Can you see 2 flat stones on edge at right-angles?  That’s a Bronze age burial chamber and there are three more in the background hidden amongst the heather, bracken and gorse.

Over coffee I spotted a Norfolk Island pine in the garden.  I went in search of confirmation and was introduced to the man who planted it, but he was much keener to show me his Wollemi pine.  They had been thought extinct until one was found in the national park bearing its name just outside Sydney in 1993.  My guide proudly told me he had his before Tresco got theirs – and his was cheaper.  But the Norfolk Island pine looks more impressive, and reminded me of the first I met, on a red rocky ridge on El Hierro in the Canary Islands, where I sang ‘Walking on the Moon’, because that’s what the landscape looked like.

30. Norfolk Island Pine at our earlier coffee stop

Its that architectural masterpiece looming over the hedge.  And the coffee was good.

I tried to intercept my companions on the north coast but failed.  Whilst I waited to see if they might come I did a little coloured sketch of the hills, shore and sea before seeking a path discovered last year with Jackie.  A neat little short-cut that ran from the hill top direct to the beer garden of the Seven Stones pub.  Inside they were playing Frank Zappa’s ‘Broadway the hard way’ and I drank a light and hoppy ‘Liquid Sunshine’ from St Austell’s Brewery.

32. 4th June My kind of Captain's chair (450 x 600)

Then had a little dry cider in this delightful chair – too damned hot outside. The others arrived and soon we strolled down to meet our homeward bound boat at 4pm.



Posted in my travels, Real Ale, wildlife | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment