Monday, 16 July 2012

Shugborough Estate & Stanage Edge

Welcome Back Kotters,
I took last week off from the blog mainly because we stayed home and didn't do much.  On Saturday Karl went to Alton Towers with some of his John Port classmates so Kal and I hung around town and ran errands.  We had tea (Brit speak for dinner) with a bunch of ex-pats which was great but I didn't take any pictures although I have to thank Dave for the awesome Bacon Bomb. 

Thanks to Karl and his History class I need to make a correction on England's flags.  In a previous post I said England had two flags, the red cross on white background St. George's Cross and the red, white and blue famous Union Jack.  Actually the St. George's Cross is England's flag, the Union Jack is Great Britain's flag.  The GB flag is comprised of England's St. George's Cross, Scotland's St. Andrew's Cross, and Ireland's St. Patrick's Cross.  You can check out the flags and their history at this Wiki link.  Note that Wales' Red Dragon flag is not incorporated into the Union Jack because Wales was a province of England at the time of the flag's composition.  Thanks for the lesson Karl.  Mea Culpa.

I'm happy to report that our Better Halves Club is growing again.  We lost two members last month and gained two this week.  We met at Le Bistrot Pierre again, this time we were seven and two halves strong.  Unfortunately we will be losing two members this summer so hopefully we will be able to recruit some more.  I'm not sure where our next meeting will be next, possibly at a park since school will be out so we will all have our kids with us.  Keep your fingers crossed for nice weather.

Speaking of nice weather we haven't seen much of it the last few months.  Temperatures have been in the 60's F mainly (that's 15-21 C for the curious) which has been fine except for the rain.  April and June were the wettest months on record here and I believe July will be also.  Last week we had more rain in one day (about 1.75 inches) than our area historically gets in all of July which led to many pictures of wide spread (mid and north England, most of Scotland and Northern Ireland) flooding due to the saturated ground and all day rain.  We are not in a flood plain but some rural valley villages had a couple feet of rain plunder its way through their streets.  And it is raining again as I sit here and type.      

A quick Carol Seppanen book entry update.  I am still reading The Jewish War by Josephus, 511 pages, but have not made much progress.  I am about a third of the way through but have stopped reading while I plan our Cornwall/Devon, Scotland, Ireland, and Paris vacations.  Busy summer but it'll be great checking out more of the UK and Paris.  Everyone talks about how great Paris is so I'm really excited to see it myself.  As for the book it is just like reading the Bible.  Full of fighting, behind the scenes deceit, power struggles, jealousy, paranoid rulers, inter-family marriages and enough bloodshed to fill the Dead Sea.  Herod the Great in particular sounds like quite the gem - he kills his own sons when he thinks they are plotting to take the throne from him.  He also was the Jewish King during Jesus' birth - the wise men asked him where Jesus was so Herod killed all of the infant boys, Joseph and Mary fled, etc. etc.  But back to the book, Josephus was a Jewish military leader named Joseph who turned into a historian for the Romans to save his own life instead of dying in battle with his Jewish brothers.  From our Jerusalem tour guide he is viewed as a divisive figure in Jewish history.  One one hand he has chronicled the Jewish struggle for freedom from Romans and other rulers which they are thankful for while on the other hand he abandoned the Jewish struggle for freedom to save his own life and eventually became a well to do Roman with property and status.  

One more item before we get to this weekend's activities, the July Facial Hair of the Month!  This month was an easy decision - the Uncle Sam.  Celebrating our countries independence in England with the Uncle Sam chin whiskers just felt right, plus I had a head start with last month's Skunk Stripe facial hair. 

The patriotic Uncle Sam wants you... to send him a cake!  Not really but I am still mad about my cakeless birthday.  Maybe I'll get a belated Costco cake when the boss returns.  There's always hope... right?

Since we took last weekend off I was feeling a little cooped up so after a last minute search I settled on exploring Shugborough Estate (link).  It was about an hour away (in Staffordshire for the geography buffs), the day looked sunny, and it had a manor house and garden with monuments to walk so I figured why not?  Admittedly we are getting a little tired of touring manor houses but the other touring options I wanted to save until Lori returned.  This site was a little different than others we have explored since the house and grounds were National Trust sites while the Georgian (early 1700's) working farms were city council sites which means the farms did not accept our NT membership for admission.  Not that I am cheap (okay I am kind of cheap) but I opted not to tour the working farms since the house and gardens would take half a day already plus the kids weren't excited about the farms anyway.  Of course they changed their mind about the farms as we were leaving the site but too late.  Overall it was a good day - the weather was nice, the house had some neat rooms, and the garden monuments were interesting. 

For those not reading the history link above here's my summary:  The Bishop of Lichfield owned the land and in 1624 William Anson bought the manor house and some land from the Bishop.  In 1693 the owner built a new manor house and between 1745 and 1748 the house was renovated to today's version by the architect Thomas Wright.  Fast forward to Patrick Lichfield who was an accomplished photographer whose son was the last heir to live in the house, I believe he moved out in 2010.  Interesting house but I am kicking myself for not asking two questions of the NT workers who serve as guides inside the house.  Why is it call Shugborough and what is the rumoured Holy Grail link?  Mea culpa numerus duo.  Now onto the pictures.   

Estate map for the map lovers like me.

Steve Frey pic unus - cows on the 900 acre estate. 

Steve Frey pic duo - Parade for the loser sheep.  Obviously if these were the winners they would have ticket tape at their parade.

Thomas Wright's Georgian period columns and facade.

Off to the side were the servants quarters, pretty nice day eh?  One interesting note on the servants was the owners only ever allowed single servants to work here, no families.  At the peak the servants numbered around 100.  I have learned that these tours are much more interesting when you remember to ask the guides questions. 

Check out the etched glass mirror.

I loved the Chinese Mirror Painting, some of the finest in Europe according to the house literature.

Dining Room sculptured ceiling - I have to admit that I can't hardly get enough (out whips Aunt Joanie's red pen, my mom sighs in defeat - sorry but my English ain't the bestest) of the ceilings in these houses. 

Some houses have bay windows, this house has a little bay window room off of the Dining Room.

Dining Room table and fire place.

This was brilliant!  I liked the Chinese vase on the right but loved the potpourri stool on the left under the table.  See the holes in the stool?  Back in the day this "stool" would be full of potpourri and the ladies would sit on them so they would smell better.  Once again it pays to talk to the guides. 

I think this was the Withdrawing Room where the ladies would sit and gossip after dinner.  Check out the 105 piece chandelier and ceiling.

The Saloon which would have been used for dancing and parties.  It is part of the newest addition to the house, newest in this case is 1806 btw.

The State Sitting Room, used to entertain prestigious guest like Princess Victoria who stayed here three days in 1832.  See the courting sofa in the back?  The chaperone would sit in the middle and the courting couple would sit on each side of the sofa.  Bor-ing!

The bedroom Princess Victoria slept in during her stay.  There wasn't an "on suite" attached to this room so the occupants had to use the chamber pots on the floor behind the kids to do their business.  Kind of gross but educational I thought.

Now we are onto Patrick Lichfield time in the late 1900's.  Obviously this was connected family since royalty and celebrities stayed here.  Mick Jagger on the left, Princess Ann on the right.

Loo trivia, not sure if it true or not.

Check out the curved door on the loo.

Typical in all manor houses is the glass case menagerie.

I loved this painting.  I forget its name but it is showing the military recruiting for young men in the countryside.  Such outstanding detail - the block work on the pub, the white dog staring down the non-confrontational looking grey dog, the new recruit with the ribbons on his hat trying to talk to his upset intended on the right, the recruitment officer with the shilling in his hand trying to entice the man in the centre, the man's anguished mother begging the officer to leave her son alone, that man's intended pleading with him not to join while he tries to comfort her, the man's trouser creases that give his legs a three dimensional look, the other recruitment officer sweet talking the barmaid as he holds her hand.. then you have the trees and countryside in the distance.  Superb painting.    

The Breakfast Room - the posh don't eat their breakfast in the Dining Room you know.

Then you have the modern day kitchen that was used up until 2010.  Kind of odd walking through the 1700's era house then walking into a modern kitchen.

Picture of the Royal Family.  Uncredited but I assume it was taken by Patrick Lichfield.

Patrick's self portrait.

The kids didn't know what a dumb waiter was - they do now.

The Boudoir - original wallpaper from 1794.

The two roomed Library - check out the ceiling in the arched walkway between the rooms. 

200 piece dinner service given as a gift.  You know someone is rich when they receive a 200 piece dinner service and then put it in a display cabinet.

The H.M.S. Centurion (link) was a warship captained by an Anson. 

What happened to the rest of the figurehead you ask?

Kevin Coleman pic - another typical at these manor houses is they all have their own brewery.  One of the signs on the property said 8 pints of beer a day and 21 pounds a year was considered a good wage in the early 1800's.  Also typical was the taste bud numbing bitter flavor.

Onto the garden and monuments.  This is playful Kalle and disinterested Karl at the Doric Temple.

Jim Seppanen pic - the kids next to the twisting barked tree trunk.

The Chinese House Monument.

Garden and rear of house pic

The Ruin Monument.

Behind the house was their own river. 

Steve Frey pic tres - this cow was giving us the evil eye.

On Sunday we went on a hike with the Freys in the Peak District.  You can read about the walk on Steve's blog as well.  I'm sure he has all of the walking stats and some excellent pictures on his blog, he recently received a hiking GPS that tracks a bunch of data so he is having fun mastering his new toy.  The weather was warm with constant sun (we came back red faced which is rare here) and an occasional breeze.  Beautiful day to walk to Stanage Edge which was our destination.  Thanks to Steve for planning our route, he did an excellent job and we all had a great time enjoying the rare gorgeous hiking weather.  Even the foot drenching marsh didn't dampen our spirits although the girls whined about it for a while.

The kids climbed the first huge rock we saw.

The Toad's Mouth.

The group trekking up our first hill which was a fort at one point.

On Higger Tor looking back at the old fort.

On the way to Stanage Edge, what a great day to go on a hike.  And what a view!

On Stanage Edge.  Apparently this is a popular rock climbing spot as they were climbers every ten feet along the face.

Another rock and scenery pic.

In contrast to the lush green landscape leading up to Stanage Edge was this brown scrub brush landscape on top of the plateau.

The group on their way to Robin Hood's Cave.  I'm still not sure what part of this ledge was the cave.

On the way back to the car.  I think this is the first time I have seen ferns over here.

Steve Frey pic quattuor - some of the sheep let us get pretty close to them.

Upper Burbage Bridge - check out the "Coca-Cola" stream.

Another "Coca-Cola" stream - not sure what made the water so dark brown but it sure looked brilliant.  Karl gave me a hard time for saying "awesome" in public because no one says "awesome" here so I guess I need to start acclimating into the culture.

More of my favourite info boards - I am such a hiking "newb" (another cool Karl word) that I didn't know that we were in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District.  Actually I didn't even know that there was a Dark Peak area until Steve mentioned it during our walk.  I'm such a newb.

Steve Frey pic quinque - at one point we shared the trail with the sheep.

Steve Frey pic sex - okay this may not actually qualify as a Steve Frey pic but I thought the rib cage and wool coat roadkill decoration were pretty cool.  I am also looking up the Latin masculine numbers by now, my Latin is poor at best so I need all the help I can get. 

I'm not sure what this rock ledge is called but you can see the size of it by looking at the people outlined against the sky.  And I liked the colour contrast with the sun blazing down on us.

Another rare scenic sight on our walk - this evergreen forest in the valley. The old fort is on the left and Higger Tor is on the right.

After hiking we decided to test our patience by eating out on a Sunday afternoon which leads to this week's "Dan Stine extreme self restraint in the face of surmounting adversity moment of the week" which was the glacially slow service.  Service is poor here but waiting an hour to get our food is not brilliant.  C'mon Brits, you can do better.

After eating we doubled back (we actually doubled back twice thanks to Karl's map reading but he is learning) to Stanage Edge to snap a picture of the face.  I'm not sure how big Stanage Edge is but this is not the entire ledge.  And how big is this part exactly?  If you look closely you can see the four people standing near the edge.  One is in the middle, two are in the middle left, and one is on the left.  Pretty impressive I thought. 

Thanks for listening,


  1. Great post Jay. Nice pics on the walk. Glad you could join us.

    The Union Jack is the UK flag, not Great Britain (newb).

    Glad to know that you are hitting up all the docents while Lori is gone. At least they are twice your age; not half.

  2. The walk was great but now our expectations might be to high. The few other walks we have been on were not as scenic and the weather has never been that nice.

    10 months and still mixing up GB and UK, I am a newb!

    Docents - impressive usage. I had to look it up.