Doddington Hall – Picnic and Gardens

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Many moons ago, we toured Doddington Hall with my Mum and Dad. It’s not too far from where they live. On the second day of our trip to Lincolnshire this summer, TBH and I were eager to go again. For some reason, Dad wasn’t so keen, and kept turning up alternatives which he thought might appeal to the kids. He balked however, at the idea of accompanying them on a treetop trek, so in the end Doddington Hall won out.

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There was a wedding in the hall that day, so we were restricted to the gardens, but that kept us well occupied beyond the advertised closing time, so it wasn’t really a problem.

Be warned, if you’re planning a visit: there are signs near the entrance forbidding picnics in the gardens. There’s a lot of green space at the back of the carpark though, which was a halfway decent alternative, but a bit rough on my Mum and Dad who prefer not to sit on the ground these days (or prefer not to have to get up again, anyway).

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There is a cafe in one of the many estate buildings, which looked to be doing a roaring trade. I’m told that the cakes that some of the party sampled there later in the day were very good. The wasps certainly liked them.

Just by where we picnicked, there was a small pond…

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And so some potential for flora and fauna…

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Common Darter (I think).

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Tachina Fera on Mayweed – both very tentative identifications.

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Tachina Fera again.

This photo shows the strong black stripe on an orange abdomen which makes me think that this fly is Tachina Fera. The larvae of this fly parasitise caterpillars.

The plant is Gipsywort…

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“Rogues masquerading as itinerant fortune-tellers and magicians used in past centuries to daub their bodies with a strong black dye produced from gipsywort, in order to pass themselves off as Egyptians and Africans. Swarthy looks were supposed to lend greater credibility to these vagabonds when they told fortunes; it was this use that gave the plant its names of gipsywort and Egyptian’s herb.”

Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain

Moving into the gardens…

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Little S was particularly impressed with the huge…

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…squashes, pumpkins? I’m not sure which.

He won’t really remember our last visit, since he was barely a year old at the time.

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Small Tortoiseshell.

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Large White.

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Moorhen.

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Another Tortoiseshell.

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This bee was absolutely coated in golden pollen, having just emerged…

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…from a courgette flower.

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Something that really stuck in my memory from our previous visit were these gnarly old Sweet Chestnut Trees.

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They predate the hall, making them very, very old indeed.

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One more Tortoiseshell.

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The gatehouse.

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Unicorn topiary.

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The Hall is Elizabethan and was built, between 1595 and 1600, by Robert Smythson, who was the master stonemason when Longleat was built and who also designed the highly impressive Hardwick Hall, among others. Apparently, it has never been sold, which must be highly unusual. These days it seems to be the centre of a thriving industry, with several shops in the grounds, as well as the cafe and weddings. Not to mention the biennial sculpture exhibition in the gardens….of which, more to follow…

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Doddington Hall – Picnic and Gardens

Terracotta Warriors.

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A few less photos in this post compared to the last (mammoth) one. Not that there wasn’t just as much of interest to see at the World Museum in Liverpool, in particular in their Terracotta Warriors exhibition, but it was quite dark in the exhibition, and extremely busy, so I didn’t take many photos and of those I took most are quite blurred.

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The exhibition, which covered a substantial period of Chinese history and several generations of royal tomb burials, was absolutely fascinating. I was particularly struck by this huge bronze bowl, which weighs 212kg and was buried on top of a pit filled with terracotta strongmen and acrobats – apparently the bowl would have been lifted by strongmen as part of a performance.

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We’ve been to the World Museum before, in fact this was Little S’s fourth visit, since we recommended the Egyptology section of the museum to the local primary school. On this occasion, we were joined by family fried X-Ray who’d expressed an interest in seeing the exhibition way back at the start of the year when we booked the tickets. The World Museum is always a great place to visit and we did the full tour again, including a planetarium show. We were hoping to have time to visit Liverpool’s Central Library again too, and/or the Walker Art Museum, but didn’t, partly due to the all too familiar incompetence of Northern Rail (I’ll spare you the details).

 

Terracotta Warriors.

Chateau de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle

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With the chateau dominating the view from the campsite, it was almost inevitable that we would want to look around it during our stay, especially since many of the party are big fans of castles. Also, we had to settle an argument between TJS and his Dad about whether or not they had ever toured the chateau before. (They had. TJS had already been backtracking on his original vehement denials of that fact.)

We walked from the campsite and then up the hill, avoiding the route signposted as steep and unsuitable for pushchairs – not that we had any pushchairs, but it was extremely hot and so we wanted to take the easiest possible route.

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The castle was superb, with the added bonus of fantastic views of the Dordogne valley.

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And also of the Céou valley where we were camped…

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Much as we enjoyed our outing, we sought every opportunity to find some shade and take a rest. C, as you can tell, was very absorbed in her book….

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Inside. I told TJS I would take a photograph of him and the armoured rider. He obliged by looking away from the camera…

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…several times!

The castle had winding staircases, battlements, and quite a display of armour and armaments…

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I loved this sort of thing when I was a kid, and, well, in honesty, I still do.

TBH, J and I watched a sort of animated tableau telling the story of the siege of Castelnaud. We watched three times in fact, the first two with a commentary in french. It was clear that ‘les Anglaise’ were the villains of the piece and I assumed that they were the besiegers, but in fact, the third repeat and it’s english translation of the tale revealed that the castle at that time, 1442, was held by forces loyal to England. The castle was substantially rebuilt in 1214 by Simon de Montfort, who I associate with Leicester where I grew up, but, whilst he was Earl of Leicester, he also held lands in France and seems to have lived in France (it was his son, the VIth Simon de Montfort who had a greater role in English history).

We also watched a film about siege engines and there were a number of trebuchet on display on the ramparts.

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The chateau along the Dordogne here…

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…is Beynac, which will have to wait for or next visit before we look around it…

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It certainly looks promising.

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Dordogne panorama.

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I always like to find images of St. George. This carved example would have originally held a lance in those upraised arms, but now that his spear has gone missing it looks like George has thrown his hands up in surrender, or that he’s trying to lead the dragon in some sort of dance – YMCA perhaps?

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B was happy. C still wrapped up in her reading!

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J and TBH, in the stocks?

When we’ finished our tour of the castle we still had a wander back down through the village of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle to enjoy.

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We popped into the church…

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Well, most of us did…

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C was more intent on finishing her obviously very gripping book.

And, as ever, I was interested in the stained-glass windows. This…

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…is St. Denis, patron saint of France, apparently. How did I not know that until now? A third century martyr and Bishop of Paris. So he was actually French, unlike George, our own patron saint, the Village People fan, who was Greek.

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There seem to have been two St. Henry’s: one Holy Roman Emperor and latterly King of Germany and the other an english clergyman who became a bishop in Sweden. Perhaps the crown here is a clue and this is the first of them?

One final view…

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…this is the ridge of Les Jardins de Marqueyssac, where TBH and I had spent the previous day.

Another fabulous day in the Dordogne region, but it was almost time to move on…

Chateau de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle

Lancaster: Lune, Freeman’s Pools, St. George’s Quay.

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Comma.

A Friday evening and we’re saying farewell to colleagues who are moving on to pastures new. The plan is to go straight from work: pub, pizzeria, pub. Since I’ve been avoiding both alcohol and pizza this year, this presents something of a challenge. We have to preorder our meal, which significantly reduces temptation, so I decide to skip the ale and just go for a tomato salad and small Quattro Stagioni. So, whilst my friends are collecting in a convivial hostelry, I squeeze in a short walk around Lancaster.

I park down on St. Georges Quay which is reasonably convenient for the restaurant and for a walk along the Lune and has some of the only unrestricted street-parking in the centre of town to boot. I set-off along the banks of the river. The bank here has a substantial area of waste ground, now given over to Buddleia, on which I’m disappointed not to spot a single butterfly. On the far side of the road a former factory site has been built upon; I haven’t been this way for quite some time and I’m surprised by the number of new houses which have appeared.

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Lune.

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Tall (or Golden) Melilot. I think, apparently very difficult to distinguish from Ribbed Melilot. Especially since both are equally tall, golden and ribbed.

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Evening Primrose. Another species, like the Melilot, which is both introduced and confusing: there are four species of Evening Primrose found in Britain, but they are hard to distinguish and hybridise anyway.

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Marsh Woundwort.

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Freeman’s Pools.

Although I know for a fact that I have been along this path before, more than once, I don’t remember the Wildlife Trust Reserve Freeman’s Pools. It’s one of several reserves near to the mouth of the Lune which I intend to explore at some point. I’d originally planned to continue along the river here, but time is tight, so I turn inland on the path which runs through the thin strip of trees which is Freeman’s Wood. In the wood I’m quite surprised to encounter a Jay.

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One of the many Loosestrifes. We have something similar in our garden, but the flowers are distributed up the entire length of the stem – I think ours might be Dotted Loosestrife. These look most like straightforward Yellow Loosestrife, except for the orange centre to the flowers, which is characteristic of other Loosestrifes. Ho-hum.

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The Comma again.

Back in town, I walk though Abraham Heights on Westbourne Road, before turning past the railway station to the castle and…

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Lancaster Priory.

Ordinarily, I would pop inside to have a gander, but our booking is fairly soon (and I’ve been in many, many times before). I also don’t divert to take in the foundations of a Roman Bathhouse, but do pause to photograph…

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…the view from by The Priory, across the Bay towards the lake District. The hills of Cumbria look a bit indistinct and unimpressive in my photo, but this view is actually excellent and during the winter I often came here at lunchtimes to take it in.

I head downhill, back to the quay.

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Maritime Museum.

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Richard Gillow was the son of Robert Gillow the founder of a Lancaster furniture company, thought to be the first to import mahogany to Britain. As well as importing exotic timber and exporting Gillows’ furniture, his ships also traded in sugar and rum from the Caribbean, wine from the Canary Islands, and were probably involved in the slave trade.

The old warehouses along the quay have been converted into homes and offices.

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Former Warehouses.

The pub with all of the hanging baskets outside is the Waggon and Horses where I’ve been a member of the Quiz team for many years.

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Lune and St. George’s Quay.

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Lancaster: Lune, Freeman’s Pools, St. George’s Quay.

Falling for Foulshaw Figwort

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A juvenile Great Tit and a Blue Tit share a moment.

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Male Scorpion Fly – rubbish picture, but you can see the appendage which earns its name.

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Lots of these at Foulshaw at the moment, under the trees at the edge of the reserve.

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Meadow Vetchling, perhaps?

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Reading John Wright has made me think about the ways in which insects and fungi are often adapted to exploit particular plants. I saw wasps feeding on Figwort a few times on this visit. A Figwort flower and the head of a wasp seem to be a perfect fit.

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The dark wings here make me think that this could be a Cuckoo Bumblebee, on a thistle obviously, Marsh Thistle probably.

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Male Reed Bunting – seems almost obligatory now.

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After the diverse, but elusive, moths and butterflies of my last visit, this time these small pale moths were to be seen all around the boardwalks in the more open, heathland areas. It’s a ‘wave’. But there are lots of those to choose from: Common Wave, White Wave, Small White Wave, Cream Wave, Small Cream Wave, Silky Wave, Grass Wave – and that’s just the ones which are pale with brownish stripes. Some of these species live in woodland, some have marginal black dots on their wings, or more prominent dark spots in the centre of their hind-wings, or on both wings, none seemed to fit the bill perfectly, but I’m going to tentatively plump for Common Wave, as it’s the best fit as far as I can tell.

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An Alderfly. Perhaps.

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Another Cuckoo Bumblebee? On Cross-leaved Heath.

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I spoke to somebody, who told me they had spoken to somebody else earlier, who had photographed six Adders that day at the reserve, one of them basking on a boardwalk. I didn’t see any snakes at all, but I did spot this Common Lizard.

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The ‘cotton’ from the Bog Cotton has completely coated some areas.

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Bog Asphodel.

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Bog Myrtle catkins.

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Green Lacewing. There are 18 British species and this is one of those, I’m fairly sure.

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Foxglove seed-heads. Handsome aren’t they.

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It’s been interesting to visit three weeks running and see how things have progressed. The Meadowsweet is flowering now. Here’s some with Tufted Vetch…

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I’m sure that I’ve read somewhere that blue and white flowers in a garden together traditionally signify The Virgin Mary, but I can’t remember where I read that, so I may be wrong. It is, however, the kind of useless detail which I tend to remember, unlike, for instance, important things like people’s names.

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Soft Rush.

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See: wasp, Figwort – made for each other. Britain has nine species of Social Wasp, but I’m going to tentatively identify this as a Tree Wasp – Dolichovespula sylvestris.

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I’m quite chuffed with this photo, even though it’s clearly rubbish. I’ve been seeing these birds at Foulshaw and listening to their chatter, and thinking that they were Linnets, but not being sure. I’ve taken lots of photos, but only ever getting silhouettes, which looked right, but hardly proved conclusive. This one is only a slight improvement, but does show a bit of red and confirms that they are Linnets after all.

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A Saint John’s-wort. There are several different Saint John’s-worts. If I’d taken clear photos of the leaves and the stem, then maybe, just maybe, I would know which this was. But I didn’t; so I don’t.

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Blue Tit.

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Common Valerian.

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Meadowsweet. A powerful analgesic apparently.

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Figwort and Bindweed.

Figwort grows at Lambert’s Meadow and also in Middlebarrow Wood and probably in lots of other places locally, but it’s not a very inspiring plant where I’ve seen it. At Foulshaw, however, it really seems to thrive – it’s always tall, but here it has huge thick stems and masses of flowers and is generally more impressive and imposing than it is elsewhere that I’ve seen it.

Having been impressed, I decided to look Figwort up in ‘Hatfield’s Herbal’. Apparently Figwort, like Meadowsweet, had a widespread reputation as a painkiller. Mothers used it to quiet teething children. It was renowned as a treatment for piles, once known as ‘figs’ and hence the name. And it was also known as a treatment for Scrofula, now called Glandular Tuberculosis, but once called The King’s Evil, because the touch of a monarch was supposed to cure the disease. Figwort was apparently regarded as the next best thing.

Now this put me in mind of John Graunt and his ground-breaking 1663 book Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality, which I like to use when I’m teaching Statistics. Graunt carried out an analysis of the causes of death recorded in London Parishes over several years.

I don’t particularly enjoy teaching Statistics, but lists like the one above never fail to get students engaged. Both the figures and the causes of death are eye-opening. Simply being a child (a Chrisome is a child less than one month old) is the most common cause of death. ‘Kild by feveral accidents’, “Bit with a mad dogge’ and ‘Suddenly’ usually illicit comment, as does the fact that 454 people have died by ‘Teeth’, 28 by “Wormes’, 114 by ‘Surfet’ (which, yes, is eating too much) and 6 by ‘Murtherd’. Another similar page has ‘Wolfe’ as a cause of death. What are we to make of ‘Rising of the Lights’ or ‘Plannet’ or indeed ‘King’s Evil’? You can find suggestions on this fascinating website. Timpany, disappointingly, is not death by Kettle Drum.

Falling for Foulshaw Figwort

Historia Normannis at Lancaster Castle

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Historia Normannis, the twelfth century reenactment group, came to Lancaster Castle for the easter Weekend and we decided to go and have a look see.

We arrived just in time for a potted history of Henry II and his sons. It was necessarily brief, with no mention, for example, of Thomas Becket or of John’s treatment of his nephew Arthur. Still, it gave an entertaining picture of the infighting and back-stabbing ways of the Plantagenet Kings and their Barons. (And of Philip II of France come to that).

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After that little history lesson, we strolled the short distance into the city centre…

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…where the usual Saturday market was in full swing.

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Including musical entertainment…

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There were plenty of stalls serving food, and after making various choices, we plonked ourselves on the steps of the former Town Hall (built 1781-1783), now the City Museum (free and well worth a look).

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Back to the castle then for an exposition on how to dress a twelfth century knight in his armour.

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…which seems to be quite a long-winded affair!

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And which ended with a demonstration of combat in which, it seemed at least, not much quarter was given.

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The stalls on period food, and leather-working…

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…herbs and medicines…

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Were fascinating, but for some reason the boys seemed particularly drawn to the area where the replica weapons, shields and armour were on display…

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The next display was a tournament…

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…in which it once again seemed to me that the combatants were giving each other pretty hefty whacks.

Time to head home, but not before making one more stop at our favourite stall…

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B and his friend E. Captions anyone?

Historia Normannis at Lancaster Castle

Barrow Dock Museum

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We’ve been intending to check out the Dock Museum in Barrow for quite some time and, last week, finally got around to it.

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It’s a small museum, but it has model boats, which are pretty irresistible,

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…and The Furness Hoard, found locally in 2011 and including Viking, Saxon and Arab coins plus fragments of arm-rings and bracelets, not dissimilar in fact from The Silverdale Hoard.

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Having examined the area’s Viking treasures, you may want to dress the part…

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There are also axe-heads and arrowheads of Langdale stone which were apparently brought to the Barrow area for finishing and polishing.

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A big surprise for me, and a great discovery, was this furniture by the late Tim Stead.

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I’ve not been aware of his work before, but shall be looking out for it in the future. He was one of the artists who built the Millennium Clock, now housed by the National Museum of Scotland, and definitely added to my ‘too see’ list.

Whilst the boys hared around the playground in the museum grounds, I took a quick look at the docks themselves.

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Our trip to the museum was intended to be a precursor to a trip to the Wildlife Trust reserve at the southern end of Walney Island, somewhere I’ve long wanted to visit, much like Foulney Island in fact. But, having had my sutures removed early that morning, I now discovered that everything was not quite going to plan, and we spent the next three hours, or thereabouts, sitting around in A&E at Barrow Infirmary waiting to see what was to be done. Not much, it eventually transpired. Patience is the order of the day apparently. Ho-hum.

Barrow Dock Museum