Friday, October 14

A postcard from Walmer, Kent

Five days on the Kentish coast suited us very well, especially staying in the Greenhouse Apartment at Walmer Castle.

Rather pricey, but worth saving up for a bit of a treat - of particular note is the fact that you get to enjoy the extensive gardens out of hours. We felt hugely priviledged to do so, as if we lived in the castle itself!

The sunny and warm weather made for glorious walks at Sandwich and St Margaret's, as well as along the coast to Deal and the other way to Kingsdown. I even dipped in the sea one evening, quite a surprise to find myself doing that in October (and warmer than it was in Devon last month!).

Friday, October 7

A postcard from Folkestone

Taken a few weeks ago when I spent two nights there with my friend Gareth, enjoying the Folkestone Triennial arts festival. We had hot, sunny weather and these fountains, which played away day and night, were hugely popular with all the kids. As for myself, I preferred the chilli and garlic scallops that were freshly cooked up by Chummy's seafood stall (in the background).

Folkestone has a lot more to it than most people give it credit for, and the triennial gives it an added buzz. The cliffs to the west and the east offer great views of the town, and one of my favourite parts is the Lower Leas Coastal Park, which has been very cleverly landscaped to make it feel like a massive area when in fact it is just a thin strip of land along the seafront.

Thursday, October 6

A postcard from Little Bourton

I have been enjoying Colleen's postcard series so thought I would copy it, with imitation being the sincerest form of flattery of course :-)

Last weekend for my spoon carving course I stayed at a lovely bed & breakfast in Little Bourton, and on the Saturday evening after a scorching day, took a walk down to the canal at the end of the farm's land.

I was desperate to swim but wasn't sure about the practicalities of getting out again, not to mention the nasties that could be lurking in the muddy bottom of the canal (whether heavy metals or leeches!) so I contented myself with dipping my feet in. I did not see a soul; the evening sun was pleasant but not too hot, and it made a very restful and peaceful end to the day. My only disappointment was that I didn't see a kingfisher...

Wednesday, October 5

Stories of bridges and spoons

I don't seem to have time to post much these days - I'm very tied up with local issues including a campaign to try and get a massive local development redesigned - but I'm still here and I'm still busy doing new and exciting things.

The craft side of my life has not been neglected even though my knitting is rather in the doldrums - I spent last weekend learning the ancient craft of spoon carving and I have to say I did not expect it to be so physically demanding! I had a romantic vision of some gentle whittling with a small knife on some nice soft wood. In fact much of the shaping and initial creation of the spoon is done using an axe - in my case a rather small axe since the full-sized one quickly tired my arm out. It takes a lot of concentration (firstly to hit the wood in the right place) and effort (repetitive movements can be very tiring) and when it's using muscles that don't normally get much of a workout, it's even more exhausting.

Just six of us were on the course in Great Bourton village hall, taught by local woodworker Martin Damen. In fact there were only five of us most of the time, after one of our number got over-excited in the first few minutes and gave himself a nasty cut on the hand from the very sharp knife we were working with.

Starting off with logs of alder and beech we sawed off a chunk which we then cleaved into two pieces using the axe and a mallet.
Martin taught us safe techniques for use of the axe, the straight knife and the bowl knife (a hooked knife used for shaping the spoon bowl) and then led us through the process of making a butter knife (this only uses the axe and the straight knife) and then a spoon the following day.

I was very proud of how my spoon and knife turned out, and am looking forward to using them. We came away with a straight knife each so if I decide to take it up as a hobby, that's one less thing I'll have to buy. But I am not sure where I would be able to get wood from to carve, and the need to have an axe and chopping block would also make it fairly difficult to take up as a sporadic hobby.

This week I was very privileged to get the opportunity to visit the Forth Railway Bridge, including the very top of one of the main trusses. It was a thrilling experience - not least the opportunity to examine this beautiful structure up close. It was a long and cold walk out along the access gantry to the middle of the bridge, and a rather shaky trip in the rack and pinion lift to the top of the tower, but it was all worth it when I got there.

Added later: another pic of the bridge since you can't really get the full glory in the picture above!