Saturday, 30 June 2012


Yesterday Mr N decided that we should go out for lunch. I wondered which of the dozen or so coffee shops, taverns, chop houses and trattorias that our small village manages to support these days he might have chosen for this treat, but no, this was to be a walk and a picnic sort of lunch. He had a yen to revisit some secret places he remembered from a boyhood adventure he went on when aged about ten (yes, 50 years ago!) It was to be along part of the Nidd Gorge, carved out of soft, honey-coloured sandstone by the river during the last Ice Age and only a few miles down the road from us. The walk started well with a look at the picturesque ruins of a Georgian mill near Goldsborough.

Then on downriver to discover more mysteries.

These steps lead to a hermit's cave...

...Saint Robert was the medieval Holy man who reputedly lived here. The cave was visited by pilgrims, in search of healing, for many years after his death in 1218. We ventured to guess that in those days the English weather was less inclement, as it is now quite deeply flooded.

The sandstone gorge is spectacular and peppered with caves and hollows - Mr N's 6ft. tall frame is dwarfed by its height.

Here is the unique House in the Rock aka Fort Montague, now rather too clean and tidy. I visited it in the mid-1980s when it was unrestored, unmodernised and the enthusiastic lady who lived there, a descendant of the original creator of the building, gave guided tours which included the minute bedroom where her long-suffering, aged mother lay quietly tucked up in bed. Please click on the link for interesting description of the history of the house by its former owner.

Just below the house is a tiny 15th century chapel, hewn into the sandstone and guarded by a carved knight in armour, drawing his sword.

You might not believe that all along this beautiful trail we were, at various points, half a minute from a dual carriage-way, a few yards from a retail outlet (Next, Argos, BHS, McDonalds...), a hop, skip and jump from a caravan park - but we were. Take time to look around more intensely, wherever you find yourself - you may be surprised at what you see.


Saturday, 23 June 2012


The Monsoon Season, formerly known as Summer, hit the Newark International Antiques Fair this week, so I spent most of my time hunting for treasures in the cattle sheds, which were transformed from their usual down to earth use by many  interesting and elegant stands.

Our chic friend John insisted on showing me his new tattoos, completely destroying my concentration...

...Oh please John, put them away!


Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Yes, that's our name - we wander around, buying and selling, here and there. It's French for pedlar or hawker, but marchands ambulants sounds much more respectable and, as usual, we did a lot of "ambulanting" around junk and antique shops on our recent trip. I pinched the name from Priscilla Carluccio, sister of Terence Conran and an icon to ladies of a certain age. (She is 76 - if she's still in the loop there's no excuse for we spring chickens not to be.) Priscilla has a blog herself, from which I learned that she too was once a "pedlar", in France. She also mentions Alastair Hendy's retro-style shop, the coolest shop in Hastings, almost too cool for us to dare to enter.

Click on this link to see more.

Here are some more of the shops we found in Hastings and Rye.

Here are a few of the things I found...

...a tiny Victorian cross-stitch sampler, just 1 by 2.5 inches in size.

A little dress shirt for a gentleman with an 8 inch chest

An antique miniature dresser made from slate mined at Blaenau Ffestiniog in about 1850.

A model Arts & Crafts chair, finely crafted in oak...

...a prospective new owner already trying it for size.


Monday, 18 June 2012


Everyone agrees; the South East corner of the British Isles, Margate to Bexhill-on-Sea, is a funny old place. Mysterious, beautiful, sinister, ugly, inspiring, quaint, cosy, threatening, seedy - decidedly odd. Everybody thinks so. Some say that people wash up here when they don't fit in anywhere else. We've just been back, we can't keep away for long.

On this break from the usual routine I had time to bury myself in the broadsheets - what did I read? An interview by author William Boyd (fascinated by the South East) with the (South Eastern) rock band Keane about their new album Strangeland (inspired by the South East). Click on the link to see the video. As William Boyd remarks, many writers and artists have been inspired by this place, from Chaucer to Nicola Barker, J.M.W. Turner to Tracey Emin.


At the Dickens Festival Queen Victoria buys MORE Victoriana



The Turner Contemporary Gallery

Local people were invited to send in photos of themselves to make into this clever mosaic of the Queen. They came in their thousands to search for their own portraits. Result!

She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea - Tracey Emin's latest show...

...must try harder Trace, they're all looking out of the window.