Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK

gray day at East BeachThe day began gray, with rain a good probability. It was about time really; I’d only had one day of rain the whole time I’d been in England. But it would be nice if it held off. This day, my daughter and I would be out on East Beach hunting fossils, our last adventure together before taking her to university.

In March when we came, we had six people on the Lyme Regis Museum Fossil Walk, so only Paddy Howe, the museum’s geologist, joined us.

explaining-what-we-are-looking-forBut today we were expecting 50, so Chris Andrew, the museum’s biologist, and a third helper were also along. Chris was the funny guy to Paddy’s straight man, often poking fun at ‘geologists.’ It was wonderful to see the warm camaraderie between these guys who work together probably every day.

We listened to them explain about the kinds of fossils we might expect to find, using their toy props and fossil samples: ammonites, belemnites, spine bones from ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs, gryphaea (devil’s toenails), sea lilies and their stems, sea urchins and coprolites (poop). Chris said it’s one of the highlights of his job that he gets to use toys.

metal-pin-with-sword-and-anchorAnd then we swarmed onto the beach. I knew I’d be fighting the urge to pick up sea glass and pottery shards, so I had to make a rule for myself – only patterned shards, nothing else. That worked fine until I found a little metal pin, a badge, with a sword and anchor on it. Well, I had to have that.

I’ve been beachcombing for about two years, and have worked hard to train my brain to see squares, spheres, triangles, trapezoids, shiny objects, and colors. But here, on this beach, I was supposed to be searching for brown, gray, and black items in circle, cog, and stubby pencil shapes. I’d take a few steps, get excited about seeing some beautiful colored sea glass, and then have to reprimand myself to “focus – focus on the gray.”

sept-fossil-hunt-ammonitesPaddy and Chris both warned us that this was not good fossil hunting weather or season. While the East Beach gets covered every day up to the cliffs by the tide, there hadn’t been a good storm to churn up the rocks and fossils for a couple months. On top of that, this was the end of the summer season, with many more visitors to Lyme Regis than any other time of year. Fossil hunting is the perfect summer holiday, especially for families, so the beach had been picked clean for weeks. Yes, every outing resulted in some finds. But it wouldn’t be as rich as our wintry visit in March. Even my eagle-eyed daughter was having trouble finding stuff, though she handed me two ammonites that weren’t quite up to her standards.

3.5 beads found on East BeachMeanwhile, I found my first ever bead, then my second, my third, and part of a fourth, all spaced hundreds of feet apart. Unable to contain my excitement, I made an exception for these as well, but chastised myself each time to get back to gray and black organic shapes.

belemnites-and-marbleEven in the usually rich belemnite field, I came up empty handed, though Chris found a few that no one else wanted. So I took them. Then, practically under my foot, I spotted a small green sphere. Could it be a marble? It was no longer a perfect sphere and smaller than a regular marble, so either old or very well tumbled. Of course, it might be a perfect fused green glass specimen. Regardless, I kept this additional gift from the sea. But, back to gray…

first-buttonVery soon after, near a rock that I thought was dinosaur poop, I found my first-ever button. I was astonished. My first-ever button, beads, old marble, and metal badge. And I wasn’t even looking for them. This must be some lesson for life. Perhaps: Prepare your mind for success, but redefine success when it suits you. Regardless, I sent a quick prayer, “Thank you God, for these abundant gifts.”

concretion containing ammonite and fossil woodAt the end of the walk, they gathered the group together to split a pile of concretions, hoping to find ammonites within. Indeed, Paddy uncovered quite a few, enough for all the kids on the walk to get one each, and for those who came from a long distance away (Hawai‘i!). I chose a sample with a small ammonite that also contained a piece of fossilized wood. I was thrilled.

pady-cleans-up-my-fossilPaddy welcomed everyone to bring their ammonite to his Fossil Workshop, so he could clean it. I went the next day. Realizing that if I wanted a devil’s toenail, I would have to buy it, I broke my rule (find treasure, don’t buy) and got three. One was a double.

soaked by the rain on the Fossil WalkMeanwhile, the rain had held off until the last hour of the walk. But then it came down quite steadily. My daughter sprinted the 45 minutes to our flat, while I trudged back slowly and carefully, though I didn’t stop for anything. By the time I got back, my shoes, trousers, rain jacket, and even the shirt underneath were soaked. My child had warmed up some soup and made us hot chocolate. We looked over our beach finds, treasuring this last bit of time together before returning to London, and parting in a new way at university.

mother-and-daughterPerhaps all these gifts from the sea were the Universe’s small way of softening the loss of the best treasures of my life, my daughter, and three years earlier, her sister. The lesson is that like gold cast into waves, they both will return to me, the mother beach, again and again, but changed in the process. Maybe that’s what they mean by Life’s a Beach.

 

For other essays from this trip to what-remains-of-worm-holesEngland see:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

chris-andrew-biologist-at-lyme-regis-museum-and-large-ammonites-on-the-beachMust-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

Living like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

Punting on the River Stour in Canterbury, UK

I have a confession. Learning history in Canterbury, UK

 

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in beachcombing, college, daughters, gratitude, Mother-daughter bonding, Travel, travel as a transformation tool, Travel make me learn | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Can a beachcomber ever be satiated? Collecting at Lyme Regis, UK

kayaks-surfing-sand-castlesMy daughter has finally arrived in England, and we’re back in Lyme Regis. We both love this seaside town with its link to England’s Jurassic past. It’s all about the sea: kids make giant sand castles, young people surf even in grim weather (an interesting mix of paddle boarding and wave surfing), families stroll the Parade, fishing traps and kayaks stand in large stacks at the end of the day, boats rest in the harbor at low tide. You can rent beach huts by the week, versus owning them (£15,000) in Brighton.

church-peas-cod-liver-oil-colorful-housesAnd it’s so English (apologies to my Brit friends). The church where Mary Anning is buried  is open (obviously it’s a safe place), houses are colorful, the tiny pharmacy carries 11 types of cod liver oil (I found only one back home), the Co-op sells not only garden peas and mushy peas, but marrow processed (?) peas. Our landlady provided digestives.

cornish-bakeryThe baker of “Voted World’s Best Cornish Pasty” fame rings a bell every day between 4 and 5 announcing, “Pasties; half off,” and locals come running to get them.

best cod everPeople are so nice. When we found ourselves without wallets to buy fish and chips at a stand along the Parade, we asked how much for just a piece of cod. “Only £4.” We were still 60 p short. The lady said she’d cover the difference out of her own pocket. We protested – how about you sell us one of the half pieces? She gave us both halves, some of the best cod I’ve had on this trip, and threw in two shrimp.

narrow-streets-with-vehicular-traffic-in-lyme-regisThe streets here are every bit as narrow as Canterbury, but with traffic! Buses regularly come within a few inches of my hinder; one misstep and I’m toast. But seriously, everything about this town is endearing.

devils-toenails-and-fossil-workshopThe first day we visited Paddy Howe’s Fossil Workshop just downstairs from Alice’s Bear Shop and Hospital for Poorly Bears and Dolls. We renewed our acquaintance from our trip in March. Paddy is the geologist who takes us novices on the Fossil Walks. I noticed he had many Devil’s Toenails for sale. This is the object of my desires this trip. (I gave up my obsession with dinosaur poop from the last visit.) I resolved to buy from him if I could not find one, even though this is against my beachcombing principles (find treasure, don’t buy).

my best French Lieutenants Woman poseThat evening as the sun set, my daughter and I walked out to the beach and then onto the Cobb. I did my best Meryl Streep French Lieutenant’s Woman pose, but clearly I need her figure, the cape and wretched weather.

We planned to take the Lyme Regis Museum’s Fossil Walk, the next day. But somehow I wrenched my back and spent the day in bed. My daughter wisely rescheduled it for two days hence. (Hence? Maybe I’ve spent too much time in England.)

But the next day, my desire to get out to the East Beach overcame my back twinges, so off we went, well lubricated with Aleve. I remembered from last time, that I was so distracted by the abundance of sea glass and pottery shards that I could not concentrate on dinosaur fossils. So today I would focus on these pretties, allowing me to be single-minded for the Fossil Walk.

methodical-paceMy daughter finds my pace aggravatingly slow. She has eagle eyes, a definite advantage over my old floater-impaired, and astigmatic eyes. We felt it best to part and she dashed off. Luckily I had a sturdy bag, because I could barely take two steps without seeing something worth picking up.

red-sea-glassOnly 30 minutes later she was back, grinning. “I found something that you’re not going to like.” Really? “Yes. I know you too well. Do you want to see it now or later?”

“Okay, now,” I sighed. She pulled a quarter-size chunk of tumbled red sea glass out of her bag. She was right. I was envious. I’ve never found a piece of red glass, much less one that size.

The wind was picking up and the sky turned gray, so she headed back to the flat, while I continued for another two hours.

sea glass found at Lyme Regis, UKI didn’t find any rare red glass, but did harvest the finest tumbled glass I’ve ever found. The clear, now white glass was the best – thick (which can mean old), well-worn and pitted. The receding tide also exposed a fair amount of worn thicker green and seafoam colored glass. As in March, the town’s old dump spill also provided fused glass globs (upper right).

cobalt-sea-glass-and-glass-containing-markings-and-wireNone of the cobalt blue was thick, and very little of it was well-worn. But I like it, so I picked up as much as I saw. Some of the glass I found had bottle lip lines, markings, or contained wire mesh, a safety feature invented in 1892.

potery shards collected at Lyme Regis, UKI also collected lots of pottery shards, of every imaginable type and color. Some had markings, many had patterns. As I told someone, this collection will provide hours of amusement, much like my grandmother’s button collection; I never tired of looking at them either.

cullings; will take back to beachWell, I’m satisfied that I collected enough glass and pottery that I can now concentrate on fossils and be fully present for the Fossil Walk. In fact, I’m satiated and I already have a box of glass and shards that I’ll return to the beach tomorrow. Wish me luck on finding a Devil’s Toenail.

 

fused glass burned at the town dump then spilled into the oceanFor other Lyme Regis essays, see:

I found a fossil! Nope, not yet at Lyme Regis, England

Fossils, sea glass and shards; an abundant beach at Lyme Regis

Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK

For other essays from this trip to England see:

Everyday London

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

evening-fishing-off-the-cobbThe “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

Mermaid Sign at Lyme Regis, UKLiving like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

Punting on the River Stour in Canterbury, UK

I have a confession. Learning history in Canterbury, UK

Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK

 

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in beachcombing, daughters, enjoying other cultures | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I have a confession. Learning history in Canterbury, UK

graveyard in St. Martin's ChurchI have a confession. I never took World History. Not in high school, not in 14 years of college (slow learner). But it’s never too late to learn. So I’m taking this travel opportunity to fix my ignorance, at least about England. I can travel from BCE through WWII right here in Canterbury, at so many historical venues. One of the biggest surprises has been the cost of this education. Living in Hawai‘i, I’m used to thinking of tourist venues as expensive. But Canterbury offers most sites for very little, some even free.

Roman street levelLet’s start with the Romans. (Visit the Canterbury Roman Museum for £8 or £12 in combination with the Canterbury Heritage Museum.)

Just coming in the door, you find out how deep they have to excavate to find Roman ruins. German bombing during WWII exposed some including a roman villa showing tiled floors and the under-floor heating system for the bath. (I loved the play area where you can dress up in togas and soldier helmets.)

The big guy, Julius Caesar, invaded England in 55 BCE (unsuccessfully) and 54 BCE (successfully, fording the Stour River and then the Thames) but he didn’t stay. Eleven years later, Claudius ordered another invasion and began the long Roman rule of England that lasted until about 400 CE, when the Roman Empire dissolved at the hands of the Germanic tribes that invaded it. Meanwhile, the Romans had a big presence in Canterbury.

Artist's representation of Roman CantrburyI more or less remembered all that from Latin Class. Ms. Iris Gallez taught us Roman history and mythology along with “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” They were great road builders, and one of their roads came through Canterbury from Dover on the way to Londonium.

Roman theatre-and-bathsIn every large city they built public baths, temples, forum (is it fora when plural?), and markets. The large theatre is now buried beneath The Three Tuns, a 15th century pub, and the public baths are under Waterstone’s Bookstore and on view in the basement.

roman-use-of-glassWhat I didn’t recall was how proficient the Romans were in making bricks, and in using, if not making, glass.

silver-horde-and-marketplace

The Roman Museum has great exhibits, including a silver horde buried about the time the Romans left Britain and mock-ups of a market, a home dining room and a kitchen.

St. Augustine's AbbeyWhile the Romans brought Christianity with them to Britain, it mostly died out when they left. Pope Gregory sent Augustine to Britain in 597 to convert the Anglo-Saxons. (Visit St. Augustine’s Abbey for £5.80; includes audio tour.) Luckily for Augustine, King Ethelbert had married a Frankish Christian Princess, making his job much easier. The King had allowed Bertha to continue to practice her religion in a Christian Church restored from Roman times, St. Martin. Under his wife’s influence, the King converted, and, of course, so did masses of his people.

St. Augustine's AbbeyHe gave Augustine land to build a church inside the city (the Cathedral) and a Benedictine monastery outside the city walls, which became St. Augustine’s Abbey. The form of this abbey has changed over the years; the early wooden church gave way to two stone and one brick church (reused roman bricks).

original vs Norman Churches at St. Augustine's AbbeyAfter the Normans arrived in 1066, the Norman bishops tore down all three of the old churches and built a grand Norman style church many times bigger than the old churches, in fact, about the size of the present Canterbury Cathedral. In addition, other buildings were added or remodeled such as a library, refectory, dorms, infirmary, and everything else you’d need to take care of a community of monks.

Destruction of St Augustine's AbbeyWhen Henry VIII’s Reformation came along, the monks were kicked out, the library and its 2000 manuscripts were destroyed, buildings including the grand Norman church were pulled down and the materials sold, and others were remodeled for the crown’s use, including an apartment for Catherine of Cleves, one of Henry’s wives. It wasn’t until 1844 that a rich landowner saw the deplorable state of the abbey, bought it, and saved it from further ruin.

norman-castle-in-canterbury-ukThe Canterbury Castle is also a Norman invasion story, covered in Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK. It’s free and unsupervised. I still say it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

canterbury-cathedral including ornate pulpitThe Canterbury Cathedral dominates the city. Ordinarily the entrance fee is £12. But if you plan to attend a church service, it’s free; just be sure to make a donation. My favorite service is Evensong, where I can hear a first-rate choir. organ pipesThis cathedral is the home of the head archbishop of the Anglican Church. Originally a Catholic Cathedral, it was a pilgrimage site for centuries after four of King Charles’s men accidentally murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket in 1170. Well, the murder was on purpose, but they thought they were doing the King’s bidding. Oops. The pilgrimages mostly stopped after the Reformation, when it changed to Anglican.

External view of Canterbury CathedralThe Cathedral’s history is intertwined with all of the other stories of the city. St. Augustine built the first structure in 597. After the Norman invasion, the Norman bishops tore it down and build a grand Gothic structure, which was enlarged to accept the huge number of pilgrims coming to St. Thomas’ shrine. When the French-speaking Walloons and Huguenots arrived in 15 and 1600s they were allowed to use the crypt of the Cathedral for French services, a practice that continues to this day.

pilgrim-hospitalEastbridge Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr (£2). But while the pilgrims still flowed here every day, they needed a place to stay. Rich people usually had horses and could stay in the many inns along the road. As they got close to Canterbury, they’d urge their horse on in order to arrive before West Gate was closed for the night. That “Canterbury gallop” contracted to our modern word canter.

chapel-and-undercroft of Eastbridge HospitalBut the poor couldn’t afford an inn. So they turned to East- bridge Hospital (meaning hospitality). It could accommodate 12 pilgrims a night. They slept in the undercroft, ate a meal on the floor above, and went to chapel above that, overlooking the High Street. They were allowed one night’s stay for free (later 4 pence), but if they got sick, the monks nursed them back to health for however long it took.

The Canterbury Tales posterThe pilgrimage from London to Canterbury was four days walk, and pilgrims often traveled in groups for protection during the arduous journey. Perhaps they would tell each other stories to keep the group amused and occupied along the way. This is the essence of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Now here’s my second confession. I never read this milestone work, until now. But it seemed sacrilegious to me to spend weeks in Canterbury without having read Chaucer, and me being a writer. He was the father of English literature, doing the radical thing of writing in English!

The Canterbury Tales venueI suggest you read at least the tales of the knight, the miller, the wife of Bath, the pardoner and the nun’s priest, if you intent to go to the venue Canterbury Tales (£9.75 with audio and guide). Otherwise you won’t appreciate the work they did to present these five stories.

Canterbury Heritage MuseumFinally, there’s the Canterbury Heritage Museum (£8 or £12 with the Roman Museum.) The building was originally a residence for poor, sick and old priests, built in 1200. It has exhibits covering the 15th through the 20th centuries. Two things stood out. I especially appreciated learning about Canterbury’s gifted Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright and a contemporary of Shakespeare. He was murdered at 29.

adult-weekly-food-rationThe other exhibit that affected me deeply was about the Canterbury home front during WWII. It helped me put myself in the shoes of the courageous citizens of that time. I saw a typical week’s rations for an adult, a paltry amount that many today could eat in one sitting. No wonder the Victory Garden was so important.

home-front-battle-in-wwiiVolunteer fire wardens, many of whom were women, watched neighborhoods from roof tops to locate where night bombs had started fires. They communicated the location to fire trucks to put out the blazes, but would also attempt to put the fire out before it could become a large blaze. Apparently, from these roof locations, they could grab unexploded bombs and dropped them off the sides of the buildings before they could start roof fires. This was a tedious, all night job.

indoor-morrison-shelter during WWIIFor people with yards, their Anderson shelter became their refuge during air raid strikes; the British government distributed 3.6 million of them. At 6 ft high x 4.5 ft wide x 6.5 ft long, they were designed hold six people. Buried to a depth of 4 ft, then covered with at least 15 inches of dirt, they saved many lives during the war. But they were cold and damp in the winter, and may people did not have a yard. The solution was a Morrison shelter installed in your flat. It had a table top and legs, and, underneath, a steel structure with a wire surround to prevent occupants from falling debris. People often put a mattress inside and slept there.

Edward Rutherfurd's book, LondonSo there you have it, bits of English history from Roman times to WWII, learned in Canterbury. But I also read Edward Rutherford’s London. It’s a novel that follows several fictitious London families through British history from Julius Caesar to WWII. Each family represents a different culture: Celt, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Dane/Viking, Huguenot, Flemish, and Welsh. This book finally helped me connect the flow of history through time. It’s an extremely entertaining read. So you don’t need to come to Canterbury, just go to a used book store and get hooked on this novel! It’s armchair time-travel at its best.

Whew, I feel better for learning a bit of English history, and no exam! Now, what other culture do I need to go study?

 

stained-glass window in Canterbury CathedralFor other essays on this trip to England see:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

Anne of Cleves arriving at her apartments at the former St. Augustine's AbbeyLiving like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

Punting on the River Stour in Canterbury, UK

Can a beachcomber ever be satiated? Collecting at Lyme Regis, UK

Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK

 

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in learnng new things, Travel, travel as a transformation tool, Travel make me learn | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Punting on the River Stour in Canterbury, UK

entrance to Canterbury Punting Company's startng pointI finally took the historic punting tour on the River Stour, close to my last day in Canterbury. I don’t know why I procrastinated so long. Maybe I wanted the anticipation to linger. I’ve been seeing the Canterbury Punting Company’s boats on the river every day for two weeks. It looked like so much fun.

While waiting, one of the company’s people answered my questions about the fish in the river (chub, perch, brown trout, sea trout, pike and eel), the river’s depth (one foot here gradually increasing to 6 feet at the Abbot’s Mill), and this river site (because of its shallowness it was a fording spot for the Watling Roman road).

our punter, VilmaAll of the punters I’d seen were males. So, as I and my traveling group waited on the bridge, I was pleasantly surprised to see our punter, Vilma, coming up the river with a single passenger, another employee.

settling onto the puntDescending the concrete stairs to river level, we carefully stepped over one punt and across to ours. I was relieved to sit down on the blanket with a supportive pillow behind my back. My balance is not that good.

After giving us the safety talk and taking a picture for liability (required to prove who was on each trip; said they hadn’t lost anyone yet), we were off.

Stour River plantsVilma started with the basics. The River Stour breaks into two streams, creating an island (which includes Greyfriars Gardens) in the city centre. It further divides with a channel that the Romans built to control the water, and across which the Greyfriars Chapel now sits. Stour means angry, hardly a word you’d use to describe it today. It is one of the five cleanest rivers in England, though they don’t recommend drinking it. Vilma was very knowledgeable; the only time she couldn’t answer a question was about the water plants in the river.

Blackfriar buildings in CanterburyI loved seeing this river from the punt, enjoying sites I’d come to love in the city from an entirely different perspective, and peeking around buildings to view things I hadn’t yet seen. This included the refectory (right, now the art gallery for Kings School) and guesthouse (left) of the Blackfriars, so called because they could afford the most expensively dyed robes of black, versus the poor Greyfriars, who wore the cheapest grey cloth. The Blackfriars (Dominicans of Inquisition fame) came here from Spain in 1221, three years before the Greyfriars.

medieval dunking platformJust downstream from the High Street bridge, was a medieval ducking stool replica, a punishment for minor crimes and nagging wives. Yes, a man could pay to have his wife ducked in the river – not a pleasant experience, as most industries with their effluent sat along the river and the city sewage floated there, too. Unlike today, where properties with river frontage are upscale, the river of old was nasty.

skilled punterVilma was a skilled punter, stooping to avoid hitting the bridges and buildings we went under, and taking defensive moves to prevent bumping with boats from another cruising company who rowed instead of punted and therefore faced backwards.

Going under High StreetShe snaked us under the low Eastbridge Hospital building on High Street, and on the other side, the King’s Mill. King Stephen leased it to the Abbot of St. Augustine Abbey in 1144. It continued grinding corn until 1796 when the owner, Alderman James Simmons, who also owned Abbots Mill, turned it into his residence. (Presumably the river was cleaner by this time.) Immediately behind the mill, Simmons built a warehouse with floor hatches over the river. They’re still here. He used them to lower cargo onto river barges, and then floated the goods to their destination.

Abbotts Mill_Kentish RegisterAt the Abbots Mill we had to turn around, because historic sluice gates prevented further travel downriver. I was here on my first day in Canterbury. A grain mill had been on this spot for centuries, taking its name the first owner, the Abbot of St. Augustine’s Abbey. It was purchased by another Abbot during the reign of King Stephen and became Crown property at the time of King Henry VIII’s reformation. In 1792, Mr. Simmons built a magnificently large mill on the site complete with an observatory on top, the second tallest building in the city after the Cathedral.

Both sides of the mill waterwayFrom the river, it was easy to see the two arches with water running under them. These were the mill races leading to the water wheels. Each wheel had a 16 ft diameter; and the water hit them halfway up the wheel (breastshot). The wheels drove eight pairs of millstones in the six story mill, which could grind corn into 500 quarters of flour each week. A “quarter “ weighed between 480 and 504 pounds in 1815 when the Corn Laws went into effect. The mill burned down in 1933. Vilma also pointed out the Miller’s Pub across the street, built in 1826 to serve local mill workers. The life of workers at that time was fairly insular; people lived and ate near their work. (For a fascinating peek into the life of an Abbot Mill worker, see these writings of a worker from 1930-1933.)

twelve sluice gates at Abbots Mill GardenThen she showed us the twelve black sluice gates built in 1829 that still dampen the flow of the river. City personnel can raise and lower these twelve upper, and six lower gates, individually for flood control.

Abbots Mill Garden on the rightAs we slipped past the Abbots Mill Garden on the right during the ride back up river, Vilma told us that this orchard was originally owned by the Blackfriars. They used the fruit to brew ciders and wines. Today the garden still contains fruit trees that are free for the picking when ripe, apparently popular with local students.

Vilma continued to bring history alive for us. One building, currently housing a pizza restaurant, was a brothel. To protect the reputations of the gentlemen visitors, two doorways led directly from the river, where they could enter discreetly by boat.

Historic Weavers HouseThe historic Weavers House goes back to the days when French-speaking Belgian Walloon, and later French Huguenots, fled persecution on the continent. As protestants, King Charles II offered them refuge (1681) and they settled in Canterbury and other places. They were worsted weavers, and, in the second wave of refugees, some of the finest silk weavers in England. This helped the city which had seen a decline in the pilgrim tourist trade after Henry VIII shut down the churches, unsainted Thomas Beckett, tore down his shrine within the Cathedral, and burned his bones. The silk trade boosted the Canterbury economy once more. This house was built in the 14th century, despite the sign that proclaims 1500AD. The weavers took possession in the 1600s, installing their looms.

punting near Greyfriars GardensOn the last stretch of the cruise, Vilma’s punt was narrow enough to go a short distance down the canal that the Romans built alongside what is now, Greyfriars Gardens. Here we paused, and I listened to her description of the Greyfriars. I knew it well, having crossed the footbridge often at the spot where she lingered, catching pieces of the stories with which the punters and rowers entertained their charges.

I had come to think of these people as familiar parts of my secret garden, watching the delight of their passengers enjoying the trip’s serenity and calming pace, while learning history.

I was sorry the trip had to end.

 

Greyfriars ChapelFor other essays from this trip to England see:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

mill race at Abbots Mill GardenBack when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

Living like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

I have a confession. Learning history in Canterbury, UK

Can a beachcomber ever be satiated ? Collecting at Lyme Regis, UK

Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK

 

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in Travel, Travel make me learn | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Living like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

I’ve been in Canterbury almost two weeks and I can definitely see myself coming back. I love this historic city of pilgrims. The days are mostly sunny and the temperatures are perfect. We had a tremendous thunder storm last night, but still no rain during the day.

making supperI’ve adopted the European shopping habit of going to the market every day to pick up what I need for supper and the two lesser meals for the next day. (I love that I can buy one beer at the store. That gives me a chance to sample many kinds.) I figured out the oven (after one false start) and roasted a lamb shoulder. I pan-fried fresh salmon with seasoned rice, and tonight I’m making stir fry. These larger cooking fests make enough to last two days. And I finally figured out the washing machine.

crooked bookstore in CanterburyI already have a favorite thrift store where I bought a shirt and dropped off some items that I wasn’t wearing. (There’s only so much room in the suitcase.) And I love the quirky Catching Lives Used Bookstore where I can leave books that I brought along but have finished reading. It’s a charity for homeless people. I’m getting used to people calling me “Deary” “Love” and even “My love” – I like it. But I don’t say it back; that would be too cheeky. Yes, life is good in Canterbury.

street musiciansBut good food, favorite shops, and weather aside, what I really love about this place is its lively vibe. People stream into the city centre from all over. I hear so many languages spoken, so many people wandering High Street. Musicians play on several corners (a surprisingly large number of accordions!), just far enough away from each other not to interfere. Most are good enough to make me want to pause and listen.

High Street n Canterbury, UK

Sidewalk cafes do a lively business, and the delicious smells coming from the restaurants entice the nose. Most streets in the city centre are restricted to pedestrians only and the odd delivery truck. Good thing, because they are packed, especially on the weekends.  And yet, there’s a reserve about the crowds, as if they’re modern-day pilgrims, here to recognize the special significance of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The City Centre is inside the walls. Outside is traffic and the larger Canterbury. But few private gardens inside.

The City Centre exists inside the walls. Outside is traffic and the larger Canterbury. But few private gardens inside.

I love the history all around me, the Roman walls, the medieval city, the historic houses sitting right on the street. But it is this same architecture that sometimes leaves me feeling unsettled. There’s no nature. Unlike other English cities with their houses that have small front gardens, there was no planning for this back in the middle ages. People do what they can: many shops and houses set out large hanging baskets of flowers. But in general, what one sees is houses directly fronting sidewalk and sometimes the street.

inconspicuous entrance to Greyfriars GardenI must have stumbled upon most of the green spaces in the city centre on my initial walk. They aren‘t particularly close or on the way to High Street, so I’m not getting to them regularly. I was feeling a lack of nature. I should have consulted a map, because I’ve been walking right past the inconspicuous entrance to a bit of heaven for almost two weeks, and only a block from my flat!

view from footbridge into Greyfriars GardensWhen I saw a family coming out, I stopped to read the sign, then went in. (This is one of the advantages of traveling solo: I can change my plans instantly.) Walking along a footpath past a couple of cottages, and then over a foot-bridge, I immediately fell in love with Greyfriars Gardens.

plants in Greyfriars GardensInside, I found paths with woods, a natural meadow, the Stour River, formal gardens, foot- bridges, pear trees, several kinds of apple trees, roses, and the Greyfriars Chapel, originally the Greyfriars guesthouse, which straddles the river. It appears that the visitors are mainly local folk: moms with young children in strollers, young people enjoying a picnic on a blanket, dads pointing out the fish and ducks in the river to their kids, people reading or playing their guitar softly. And it’s all free, though if you visit the Chapel, you can give a donation. The two lovely volunteers there talked so earnestly that I feel compelled to share a bit here.

Greyfriars Gardens chapel St. Francis of Assisi started the Greyfriars order in Italy in 1210. Before he died in 1226, he sent nine Greyfriars to England in 1224. Five of them settled in Canterbury, setting up huts on the current meadow. A wealthy citizen donated the land to them.

Greyfriar Chapel, arch and flowersThey built quite a community in the following 300 years, but in the Reformation of Henry VIII, all of the buildings, except the guesthouse, were destroyed. It was saved because it had been given to the people of Canterbury and had no religious purpose. In fact, it was likely a mill. The building has been owned by many different people/groups since then. It even served as an overflow prison at one time. Today the Eastbridge Hospital owns it and has put a chapel in the upper floor where services are held on Wednesdays. It’s lovely.

formal garden, punter, pearsSo now, I pop into Greyfriars Gardens about once a day on my way to or from High Street. When it’s cool and I need sun, I go to the formal garden or the meadow. When it’s warm, I stand in the shade of the pear tree and smell the ripe fruit that has fallen on the ground.

fish in the Stour RiverI watch fish dart up and down the river in schools and listen to them splash as they grab a morsel. I study the bees visiting the flowers and almost need to shade my eyes with the brightness of the colors. And I enjoy seeing people on the river cruise. There’s almost always a punt coming through on the river with a guide talking about this, my secret garden.

It’s a serene bit of nature, a peaceful retreat. A chance to get lost in the now. I am so blessed to have found it.

 

garden compressor and flowersFor other essays from this trip to England see:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in youth playing guitar in peaceful GreyFriar's GardensCanterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

Punting on the River Stour in Canterbury, UK

I have a confession. Learning history in Canterbury, UK

Can a beachcomber ever be satiated? Collecting at Lyme Regis UK

Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK

 

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

Posted in enjoying other cultures, learnng new things, self care, thifting - thrift stores, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue, at Margate, UK

Margate Beach, UKI’d been in Canterbury for a week, and hadn’t noticed how much I missed the sea. Canterbury, in the county of Kent, is inland about 6 miles from the closest beach. By train, the closest is Margate, the site of the Shell Grotto that I wanted to visit anyway. I got the 9:09 am train out of Canterbury and was on the beach before 10. The tide was clearly out. A huge beach, the size of several football fields greeted my eyes. Sand! I was so excited. The beaches of Isle of Wight and Brighton had been all pebbles and rock mounds, called shingle beaches.

Margate Beach, Margate, UKBut Margate’s beach is sand – vast expanses of sand! I reined in my giddiness when I saw that the portion of the beach closest to the road had been raked by a big machine. They were preparing it for the beach-goers. But farther out, I saw it still held a thin layer of water, so I marched out there.

kelp using rocks as anchors and worm poopAlong the way, I did not see much: seaweed, the occasional rock and even a bivalve shell engulfed by kelp-like roots, a couple of limpets, and lots of tiny piles of sand shaped like intestines. I asked a fellow beach-walker what they were. “Oh, that’s worm poop. The worms dig their way down into the beach by eating and extruding the sand. I see fishermen down here all the time digging them out for bait.”

ripples in the sandI’d already wandered around for about 20 minutes and learned a lot, but didn’t see anything of interest to me as a beachcomber. It was just too immense an area. I’m used to combing linear beaches. This was totally different.

“Think Diane, think. What have your beachcombing gurus taught you?” I mentally reviewed my “finding-stuff” tools.

  1. high tide markCheck the high tide line. Things get deposited there. In this case, the high tide line was behind me toward the dry beach, so I went back. It was a mass of seaweed, just beginning to get stinky. The seaweed was drying in clumps, so I couldn’t see anything else without pawing through it. I abandoned this tool pretty quickly.
  1. Blue shells that look like pottery shardsGo to where you see objects of the size you are interested in collecting, because the tide will deposit similar sized and weight objects together. I found a section of the beach where much less seaweed was interspersed with other stuff, mostly rocks and shells. A blue-black muscle shell kept fooling me into thinking it was a piece of pottery. Nope. I did collect some of them and other shells too.
  1. finds from the streamFind a stream; interesting objects can be washed into it. In the middle of this vast expanse of wet beach, I saw a stream, so I walked it, inspecting it closely. Sure enough, within five minutes I found several shards, tile (?), and glass. Except for the clear glass with raised dots, the sea-glass was not the best quality; I saved them anyway as examples of using my tools. The glazed white piece is curved with masonry on the back. But wouldn’t a tile be flat?
  1. beached boatsBe alert for transitions. I started walking towards the beached boats when I found myself in a new mass of seaweed. This time, the seaweed had caught a large number of whelk shells, maybe 20 within a 3×3 yd2 I chose three, making sure the animal was not alive.

Margate Beach, Margate, UKAlso in this area, I spotted what I thought might be a pipe fragment. Alas, it was not. I’m still trying to figure it out. A large amount of what looked like black ink came out of it when I scrubbed it back at the flat.

I also found a number of flat items. The pinkish one had been embedded in a matrix at one point. The large piece appears to be worked stone, like slate. The center one, which looks gold when wet, is probably plastic. Oh, this reminds me of another rule.

  1. IMG_8081Scan the ground and water for shiny objects, squares, trapezoids and triangles. Shine might mean metal. Pottery and glass often break into these regular shapes. Train your eye to see them.

6. Search near piers, groynes, fallen trees, and other stationary objects. Sometimes things get caught behind and against them. I walked over to the seawall, but found only a pile of soft sand, seaweed and litter. But the stairs nearby proved more fruitful. I walked along the sand where it met the lowest step and began to find a great bounty of shards, including hard paste, soft paste, and terracotta.

shard with patternI continued to find more shards here, but hadn’t yet found a shard with a pattern on it. And then, there it was against the step. After spending a little over an hour canvassing the beach, I felt I could finally leave.

tide came back in; boats now floatingIt was time to go to the Shell Grotto anyway. Awe- inspiring, but not as fun or deeply calming as the beach. After lunch, I walked back to the seafront and found the boats afloat. I’m so glad I did my beachcombing first. That’s tool 7: Know the tides. I just lucked out on that one. Obviously, I still have so much to learn. Now I’m trying to figure out if I have enough time on this trip to come back to Margate Main Sands, to practice again.

All of the finds from Margate BeachI have one other beachcombing guideline, more a rule than a tool that I continually relearn: Wipe your hands on your pants, not your coat. The pants are easier to wash.

 

Many thanks to my beachcombing teachers, Deacon, Barbara, Leslie, Sherri, Christine, and Lynn, without whose prior guidance, I would never have been able to canvass such a large beach with so much success.

 

beach-goers at Margate beachFor other essays on this trip to England see:

Everyday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

beach goers at Margate BeachExploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

Fighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

Living like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

light poles in Margate UKPunting on the River Stour in Canterbury, UK

I have a confession. Learning history in Canterbury, UK

Can a beachcomber ever be satiated ? Collecting at Lyme Regis, UK

Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK

 

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

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Back when street names meant something. Canterbury, UK

IMG_7547I am fortunate to be staying in the Canterbury City Centre, mostly defined by the original Roman city walls, built between 270-280 AD, and rebuilt in the 14th century. I love wandering. Come explore with me; the city centre is very walkable. (While my photos imply a lot of greenery, most of the city centre looks more like Hospital Lane and High Street – no sweet little front gardens, just cobblestone or blacktop. Where do they go with all the rain when it comes down?)

Water LaneBecause it’s a very old city, the street names are simple and often mean what they say. For example, Water Lane is right off the Stour River. This is the spot where you pick up the Canterbury Punting Company’s river tour. A group was just leaving as I arrived. No worries, they set off every 20 minutes. I’ll catch another later.

Hospital Lane is narrowLanes are smaller than streets, and from the examples I see, they’re only a block long. My flat’s doorway, on Hospital Lane, steps right out onto a small sidewalk with the narrow driving lane just beyond.

Hospital LaneThere’s only room for vehicles to pass if one of them gets onto the sidewalk. The double yellow lines mean no parking, but that’s self-evident; if you park there, no one else is going to get through.

Yes, there was a hospital on this lane at one time. The building is still there. But I found out that hospital does not mean the same thing as we think of in this capacity. Here the meaning of hospital is hospitality. There are a alms houses in Canterbury where people still live. Hospital Lane is just two blocks off High Street, the main street through the city centre.

Norman Castle in Canterbury UKOn the south side of the city centre on Castle and Gas Streets, sits the Norman Castle. When William the Conqueror came through after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the people of Canterbury sensibly did not put up a fight. Soon after, King William put up defensive castles in several key cities, including Canterbury, first wooden, then stone. Its ruins remain, and you can even go into it and up a couple flights of stairs. This is free, and by the way, all unsupervised. In the US it would be a lawsuit waiting to happen. And what about the cross street, Gas Street? In 1825, the gas company purchased the castle to use as a storage center for gas. It now belongs to the city.

Church Lane

St Mildred's Church graveyardNear the castle, on Church Street, is St. Mildred’s, the only pre-Norman Church in the city; i.e., it existed when King William got here. It was an Anglo-Saxon church dating from the 11th century, substantially restored in 1861. I found the mummy-shaped monuments in the church yard unusual. There’s a practical boot scraper at two of the church entrances. I wonder why we don’t see these more often; probably deemed a safety hazard.

Butchery LaneNorth of High Street we find Butchery Lane, but you won’t find any butcher shops there now. The closest thing to a butchery is a restaurant that shows different cuts of beef on a tile wall, the cow head on a building in the lane, and another restaurant that claims to provide fine and proper hamburgers, whatever they are. Presumably, a butcher would know.

Beer Cart LaneAnd on Beer Cart Lane . . . a letdown. There’s no brewery anymore though at one time there was a “Rigden and Delmar’s Superior Canterbury Ales & Beer with a Porter equal to any sent out of London, and at a much less price.” But there is a great used bookstore (The Chaucer Bookshop). I went in to purchase a book by Jane Austin. The owner apologized that he had no first editions or signed copies, then apologized again when he discovered all he had were paperbacks. That’s okay. He had three copies of the book I wanted, Persuasion, so I had my choice of font sizes and price.

Mill LaneI ended my walking tour on the north end of the city centre, on Mill Lane, where there was once a grain mill. The city has turned the picturesque area with the sluices and some of the mill’s remains into a park. There’s a project afoot to restore the mill.

End of river tour at Mill LaneMeanwhile, this is the turn-around point for the Canterbury Punting Company’s river tour. Hey, that’s the same group I saw starting their tour on Water Lane! What are the chances of that? I didn’t even know I was headed here.

IMG_7534Interestingly, there are no roads called Cathedral Street. Presumably one either knew where it was or could see it towering over every other building in town.

 

For other essays on this trip to England see:

map of City Centre, Canterbury, UKEveryday London

“This better be so worth it” – Perseverance on the Isle of Wight

The two Cowes – Isle of Wight

The “Gum Incident” – Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Exploring Brighton, UK

Must-See Sights, Brighton, UK

butter-marketFighting with the washer in Canterbury, UK

Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue at Margate, UK

Living like a local in Canterbury, UK (and finding Greyfriars Gardens)

Punting on the River Stour in Canterbury, UK

mercery-streetI have a confession. Learning history in Canterbury, UK

Can a beachcomber ever be satiated ? Collecting at Lyme Regis, UK

Gifts and lessons from the sea at Lyme Regis, UK

 

If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.

 

 

Posted in enjoying other cultures, learnng new things, Travel, Travel make me learn | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments