Poppies at Hereford Cathedral

Sunday 18th March 2018, the UK winter was having its last hurrah with the “Mini Beast from the East” bringing biting Siberian winds and even more snow. As you know I can never resist a little stroll in a blizzard; this time I visited Hereford Cathedral.Photo of Hereford Cathedral in the snow

I thought the art installation currently there, “Weeping Window” would look good and even more poignant in the snow.Photo of poppy display Hereford Cathedral

This work was created by artist Paul Cummins and designed by Tom Piper. Along with “Wave” it formed the basis of “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” at the Tower of London at the start of the WWI Centenary in 2014.Photo of poppy display Hereford Cathedral

It can be seen at Hereford Cathedral until 29th April 2018 after which it will go on tour. You can find more details on their website or search #PoppiesTour on Twitter.Photo of poppy display Hereford Cathedral

The cascade comprises several thousand hand made ceramic poppies, representing the lives lost during World War I.Photo of poppy display Hereford Cathedral

The Cathedral in Hereford will be hosting other events focusing on the home front during WWI. Not only did Herefordshire provide recruits for military action, most notably Suvla Bay in Gallipoli, but also workers for the local munitions factory and of course the vital farm work providing food. More information can be found on their website.Photo of poppy display Hereford Cathedral

St Nicholas’ Day

This comes a little late as the feast day of Saint Nicholas is on 6th December. However, I have just received some chocolates in the shape of St Nicholas and Zwarte Piet, from a friend in Belgium.Photo of chocolate St Nicholas and Zwarte Piet

St Nicholas was the bishop of Myra (in modern day Turkey) during the 4th century. There are various stories of him performing miracles during his lifetime, including saving a ship during a storm. He was renowned for his charitable works and secret gift giving and is the patron saint of sailors and children.  Saint Nikolaos was known as Sinterklaas in Dutch, which is just a hop, skip and a jump to Santa Claus.

Painting of Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas by Francesco Guardi [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It is traditional to give gifts on St Nicholas’ Day in many countries and a lot of folklore has been built up around this event. St Nick is represented as an elderly gentleman with flowing beard and bishop’s robes, riding a white horse and carrying a book with lists of who has been good and who has not.

Illustration of Saint Nicholas

By Clara Bruins (Groot St. Nicolaasboek) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He is accompanied by Zwart Piet, a controversial figure. The pair were thought to represent night and day/light and dark/good and evil. Some suggest that the dark skinned Zwart Piet represented Spanish Moors, others that he was a chimney sweep. He is dressed in 16th century clothing and his role seems to be to beat naughty children while Sinterklaas hands out sweeties to good children.

Illustration of Santa Claus

Saint Nicholas as Santa Claus – By unknown, publisher is Fisher & Brother of Baltimore [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Protestant reformists abolished such frivolities as Saints’ feast days and gift giving, but the festivals remain in parts of Europe where Catholicism prevailed. St Nicholas is also highly revered by Eastern Orthodox Christians. However, he has clearly made a revival in many of the Christmas traditions we know today. Interestingly some people think that the St Nicholas traditions themselves can trace their origins to Pagan times. Similarities exist with the Pagan god Wodan/Odin who rode through the air on a white horse checking on whether people were behaving themselves or not.

Illustration of Odin riding Sleipnir

Odin – Lorenz Frølich [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One ceremony performed on the Feast of St Nicholas was the ordaining of a Boy Bishop. The chosen boy would perform all of the ceremonies of the Bishop from 6th December until 28th December, Holy Innocents Day. In England this ceremony was abolished by Henry VIII in 1542. However, it was revived in my home town of Hereford in 1973 where Hereford Cathedral selects a Boy Bishop annually.Photo of Hereford Cathedral

Oddly enough, this whole train of research was started by my purchasing this cute ratty Christmas decoration from my friend in Belgium via her website, and her kind gift of some chocolate! Some of the proceeds of the sales of her adorable figurines go towards her rat rescue.Photo of rat decoration

View from the Bridge

I have previously shown you the view from under Greyfriars Bridge, the “new” bridge that crosses the River Wye in Hereford.Photo of the underside of Greyfriars Bridge

Perhaps the view from the top of the bridge is more interesting, especially as the sun is setting over the River Wye and the steps of the rowing club.Photo of sunset over River Wye

If we zoom in we can just make out, in the dimming light and grain, the Hunderton Railway Bridge. This is an iron bridge built originally in 1854, then rebuilt in 1912. It was part of the line between Hereford, Abergavenny and Newport. Closed during the Beeching railway cuts in the 1960s, it is now a cycle and foot path.Photo of Hunderton Railway Bridge

Let’s have another look at the sunset, after all who doesn’t love a sunset?Photo of sunset

Looking over the other side of the bridge, Hereford Cathedral is beautifully burnished by the setting sun.Photo of Hereford Cathedral at sunset

Funny looking tree though.Photo of bendy tree and Hereford Cathedral

Bimble on a Hot Afternoon

Tuesday 23rd August 2016 was a rare day in the UK. It was very hot and sunny. A walk to the River Wye was called for. Regular readers will be familiar with these bimbles from such classics as; Urban Bimble Part Three where we learned all about the duck pond, andPhoto of duck pond

the Castle Green, Photo of Castle Greenwith its squirrels, andPhoto of squirrel

Nelson’s Column, and

The clouds looked rather interesting so I thought I’d go black and white for a parting shot before we reached,Photo of Castle Green with Nelson's Column

The Victoria footbridge.Photo of the Victoria footbridge

I wonder what the gentleman is watching? Aha, swans.Photo of swans on river

I wonder if they will get a little closer.Photo of swans on river

Someone’s spaniel, doing what spaniels do.Photo of spaniel playing in river

Looking up from the other side of the bridge, Hereford Cathedral is peeking up above the greenery.Photo of Hereford Cathedral by river

A lonesome duck swims by some flowers.Photo of duck on river

Let’s check out the other ducks back on the other side of the duck pond. They look a bit hot and tired.Photo of ducks on duck pond

I think it is time for a rest under the cool shade of the weeping willow tree. I suspect this will be summer’s last hurrah before autumn sets in.Photo of weeping willow

View from the Bridge

Now that summer has arrived and the sun has made an appearance, I thought we should take another stroll down to the River Wye and admire the view from the Old Bridge. Don’t lean over too far!Photo of River Wye and arch of Old Bridge

The river banks are looking very green and bushy.Photo of River Wye in Hereford

On the left you can see Hereford Cathedral.Photo of Hereford Cathedral

Walking back into town there is an enticing little continental cafe with a rather natty advertising sign.Photo of bicycle decorated with flowers advertising a cafe

This is apparently also the site of Nell Gwynne’s old home. Hereford claims her as its own, but there seems to be no actual evidence for this. Nell was famously one of Charles II’s mistresses and bore him two sons. Photo of Nell Gwynne plaque

She seems to have started out rather unpromisingly as the daughter of a drunken “madame”. She managed to get herself into the orange selling trade at the London theatres before becoming an actress. It was quite a new fangled thing to have actresses in the seventeenth century; previously men had played all roles. This was where she caught the eye of the merry monarch, and they began an affair in 1668. Apparently the King’s dying wish was, “Let not poor Nelly starve,”. His brother, James II did indeed pay off Nell’s debts.

Portrait of Nell Gwynne

Portrait of Nell Gwynne – Peter Lely [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

She died three years after Charles, probably of syphilis, in 1687. She was renowned for her quick wit, Samuel Pepys referred to her as “pretty, witty Nell”. She is also credited with persuading the King to found the Chelsea Hospital for poor military veterans, now famous for the Chelsea Pensioners.

Photo of Chelsea Pensioners

Chelsea Pensioners – By Chelseapensioners (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Winter Wye

This is a return to our previous urban bimbles and Wye walks series. I thought we should see how our old haunts are faring during winter.Photo of cathedral and clouds

Starting at Hereford Cathedral, I set off just before sunset, this ensures that my photographs are blurry and indistinct! However, I’m sure that you are imaginative enough to grasp the sense of drama of an underlit cloud framing the dark majesty of the architecture.

Photo of Hereford Cathedral showing damage to pinnacleThe day after I strolled past the imposing presence of the Cathedral tower, the area had to be cordoned off. It seems that the strong winds that have been plaguing us recently have damaged one of the pinnacles on the tower. Upon checking my photos I found that indeed this is the case. The masonry work required to repair it will cost around £10,000.  I should think the Cathedral has kept stonemasons gainfully employed since it was built in 1079. Just think though, Rambling Ratz could have exited the Blogosphere rather like Father Brennan in “The Omen”, struck down by divine architecture!

Photo of Castle Green trees at sunsetStriding purposefully on to the Castle Green; the trees that wore such a stunning canopy of autumn leaves when last we visited, are now stark and bare. Squirrel dreys, or crow’s nests are exposed, silhouetted against the sunlit clouds. With any patch of green in the UK there are people kicking a ball around, whatever the weather.

Photo of Victoria footbridgeThe Victoria footbridge has a fair torrent of water swirling around its base. December 2015 was the wettest on record in the UK. The Wye regularly floods, there is so much rainfall in the Welsh mountains that funnels down into the Wye. Fortunately Hereford did not get the damaging and devastating floods that were endured by the North of England this winter.

As you can see from the debris the water did rise up to the flood sign and the footbridge was closed for a while. Whilst the Wye is pretty full, most of it is contained within its banks.

Photo of Hereford Cathedral by the River WyeThe sun sets on another bimble as the Cathedral keeps a watchful eye on the flow of the Wye.


Urban Bimble Part Two

Tada! Here it is; the long awaited Part Two that you have been eagerly awaiting since Part One. We had just left the Old House and High Town behind us, so let us see what is next.photo of war memorial

We pause for a moment of reflection at the War Memorial. It was erected in 1922, four years after the end of World War I. Such was the devastating loss of life during this conflict that just about every village has its own memorial. Sadly additions are still being engraved onto it, up to and including the most recent conflict in Afghanistan.

The design is based upon the Eleanor Crosses. These were twelve monuments that Edward I had erected along the route taken by the body of his beloved wife, Elanor of Castile. She died in 1290 in Lincoln and it took twelve days to transport her body to Westminster Abbey in London. Wooden crosses were initially erected where her body rested for the night, later these were replaced by octagonal stone monuments, lavishly decorated. Only three of the original stone monuments exist. The design was much replicated, as is the case with the War Memorial in St Peter’s Square, Hereford.

For the geologists out there, the steps of the War Memorial are made from Jurassic Pea Grit limestone brought up from the Cotswolds and they contain tiny fossilized crinoids. These are marine animals of the class Echinoderm, which also includes starfish.

photo of Hereford CathedralA little side street leads from St Peter’s Square to the cathedral. It is not particularly photogenic at the moment, being clad in scaffolding, but it has the most magnificent carvings which are currently being restored. It was originally built in 1079 and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St Ethelbert. King Ethelbert was beheaded by King Offa of Mercia in 792. Ethelbert’s tomb was situated where the cathedral was later built. Miracles were said to occur at his tomb and so he became a saint and a church was built on the site. This was later ransacked by the Welsh prince Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. The Norman bishops then took the place in hand and set about patching it up in 1079. They spent about 500 years getting it how they liked it. The decor includes misericords; mythical beasts and grotesque creatures carved in the choir stalls. I am sorry that I have no photos of the interior, but I was not inclined to make a “donation” to go inside.

Mappa Mundi at Hereford Cathedral - image courtesy Wikimedia

Mappa Mundi at Hereford Cathedral – image courtesy Wikimedia

It became a little knocked about during the English Civil War, but remained largely intact. However, on Easter Monday 1786 the west tower collapsed. It wasn’t until 1841 that they got around to restoring it. The cathedral is in possession of the famous Mappa Mundi, a 14th century map of the World. It is a religious rather than a geographical representation of the World, with Jerusalem at its centre. The cathedral also contains a rare example of a chained library. They did not trust monks to return their books on time!

photo of sculpture of Edward Elgar“Oi, no loitering!” Only joking, it is the esteemed composer Edward Elgar leaning on his bike admiring the cathedral. He seems a bit of a stiff chap, but then he did die in 1934. However, before departing he did write some bits of music for us all to enjoy; The Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance probably being his most famous works. His bicycle by the way is called Mr Phoebus. He was born in Worcestershire, but lived for a while in Herefordshire. He is strongly associated with the Three Choirs Festival, held at Hereford Cathedral, which is not doubt why there is a sculpture of him, by Jemma Pearson, in its grounds.

Oh dear, I am droning on so and I haven’t finished our walk yet. I fear the delights of Lord Nelson, some trees and a river view will have to wait until Part Three. Oh go on then, to whet your appetite, or even to wet your appetite, here is a picture of the Duck Pond. Its proper title is the Castle Pool; yes Hereford used to have a castle and this used to be the moat. To find out what happened to it you will have to tune in for the next thrilling instalment.photo of duck pond