Historical York, England

York, situated in northeast England, can keep you delightfully occupied – a history buff needs more than a couple of days (which alas was all we had). It is home to the largest medieval church in northern Europe, the Minster, as well as the longest circuit of medieval city walls.
We’ve seen a lot of churches (really… another one?) but this may well be the most beautiful and certainly the grandest. We were able to attend an evening song and a kind resident invited us to sit in his box with him: “best seats in the house.” The gentleman said, “Just kneel when I kneel and stand when I do and you’ll be fine.” The Gothic cathedral was built in the 13th century and boosts impressive stained glass windows. An exquisite Rose Window commemorated the union of the royal houses of Lancaster and York, through the marriage (1486) of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, which ended the Wars of the Roses and began the Tudor dynasty.

The Wars of the Roses were a series of battles fought from 1455 to 1485 between the Lancasters and the Yorks…both belonged to the House of Plantagenets (albeit different branches) and both laid claim to the throne. The wars ended with the defeat of Richard III of York, by Henry Tudor (father of Henry VIII) who united the Yorks and Lancasters by marrying Elizabeth of York (who Phillipa Gregory made even more famous in her book “The White Princess”).

We stayed near Bootham Bar (gatehouses are called “bars” here – as in “bar the way”), one of 4 or 5 ancient bars one must pass through to enter the medieval web of narrow streets composing Old Town York.

Bootham Bar – an entrance to Old Town and stairs to the city walls.

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York is a warren of medieval streets like this with narrow alleys called “Snickelways” to explore.

You can climb up the stairs of a bar to get on the 13th-century city walls. …. A magnificent circuit  nearly three miles long with marvelous views of the city. York walls_pse5642

After walking the wall we descended at Micklegate Bar near the estate called Gray’s Court, built (on Roman ruins) by the first Norman Archbishop of York in 1060.  It has been continuously occupied and renovated in the centuries since. They were booked well in advance so we could not stay here, but we treated ourselves to afternoon tea.

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Grey’s Court as seen from the city walls with the Minster looming behind it.

Afternoon tea is served on three tiers of plates with small sandwiches, scones and sweets in this lovely setting. Enough for a light and lovely lunch (especially if you’ve had a British breakfast earlier!).  We did this in the Lake Country and will be having it again!

If we had more time we would have boated along the River Ouse. But it was a lovely few days as is. Have you been here? Next week: Bath and the charming Cotswolds – the train leaves for Bath in the morning! (And then maybe I’ll get back to the themes of “writing, expats, and nature” or even Colombia… I am a bit eclectic I guess.)

 

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ENGLAND’S LAKE DISTRICT

My husband and I are visiting northern Britain – we are in the Lake Country for the next few days. The countryside dotted with sheep so reminds us of New Zealand – with the addition of picturesque stone walls and barns.

“Dry” wall constructed without mortar by interlocking the stones.  Occasional,  larger “tie” rocks span both sides to give the wall strength,  as do the perpendicular capstones.

These guys (below) were so cute peering at us end-to end as we drove by that I had to stop and photograph them.  The one on the right however studiously ignored me until I crept closer and then they were both up and off.

We based our selves in the small town of Keswick – pronounced Kes-ik. You drop the “w” on all the towns that end in “wick.” Likewise Leicester is Lester,  Gloucester is Glouster i.e. drop the “Ces.” We stayed at a special B&B, Howe Keld, impeccably run by a gracious English-Swiss couple; it was comfortable and well appointed, right down to the selection of artwork.

Typical Victorian homes, often converted to B&Bs.

People come to walk the lovely countryside.  One popular outing is a launch that travels around Derwentwater Lake. You can hop off at any of many stops, hike to the next one and jump back on the next boat.

 

A not uncommon sight is where walkers push coins into cracks in logs; if it is over 50p they are well hammered in to foil the village boys.

 

Waterfalls and babbling brooks are everywhere.

 

One of the unexpected sights ( to us Outlanders) was Castlerigg Stone Circle erected almost 5000 years ago – as old as Stonehenge, but you’ll see more sheep than people. It is more in keeping with the mystical experience to have it (almost) to yourself. Samuel Coleridge, who visited with Wmm. Wordsworth, waxed poetic about the setting, itself encircled by mountains.

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I wandered lonely as a cloud… alas not the time of year to spot the daffodils.

There are more prehistoric circles in northern England than anywhere else; most date to the early Bronze Age (800-2000 ya). It is thought they were not only sacred sites, but also places where tribes gathered to swap goods and stories.

You will notice that it is cloudy in most of these pictures: I read somewhere that only 23%of the days are sunny so we were just happy that the rain was mild.

The Britons and other Europeans travel with their happy dogs and I couldn’t resist this bit of humor.

Wildlife at Horicon Marsh

I haven’t written a Nature post for awhile and couldn’t top Jet Eliot’s on the this marsh in Wisconsin, USA.

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Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin

One of the largest freshwater marshes in the United States, Horicon Marsh offers a plethora of wildlife. Located in the southeastern quadrant of Wisconsin, U.S.A., and covering 32,000 acres (12,949 ha), the marsh is a critical rest stop for migrating birds.

Wikipedia Horicon Marsh. 

I love the solitude and beauty of this marsh, have written posts outlining how it was shaped: first by the glaciers, then by humans. But today I’m focusing just on the wildlife, because this is what I find so enchanting.

Previously written post: Horicon Marsh

Common Yellowthroat, Horicon Marsh

Painted Turtle, Horicon Marsh

Black Tern, Horicon Marsh

One of the most elegant terns on earth, the black tern migrates to North America from South America, and breeds at the Horicon Marsh, as well as other sites in northern U.S. and Canada.

Forster’s terns also breed at the Horicon Marsh.

Forster’s Tern, Horicon Marsh

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More WILDFLOWERS

Most of these flowers are from Table Mountain, an old volcanic “neck,” near Chico in northern California. The landscape is stunning in the spring (4 slides below).

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My companions, husband and golden retriever. (Geologists will recognize the basaltic rocks.)

 

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(4 slides above/5 below)

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…wait for the close up!

 

White meadow foam (Limnanthes douglasii) was abundant next to the streams (click to enlarge).

 

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Butterflies were having a field day (5 slides).  These are Pipevine butterflies, but the pipevines flowers were not out yet, so they pollinated brodiaeas. (Maybe the pipevines are just where they lay their eggs – I have seen the plants full of black and red caterpillars.)

Wildflower season is almost over now – unless I head for the mountains, but after growing up in the tropics I can appreciate what the seasons bring.  Have you walked in a field of wildflowers in spring?  If not put it on your bucket list!

 

There’s Gold in them Hills: Wildflower Season

It’s wildflower season again and after years of drought the blooms are making up for lost time.  I choose the Gold Country (California foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mts.) this year as a hot spot.  We started near Yosemite and made our way north on HW 49 – and various floriferous side roads. 

California poppies (Eschscholzia californica)  and gold fields (Lasthenia californica)

The discovery of gold in 1848 sparked the largest mass migration in U.S. history.  Prospectors moved from one strike to the next along rivers and streams .  Today there are remnants of diggings, rusting machinery, stamp mills and old camps. There are historic towns and wonderful plant diversity.  The California golden poppy has replaced the “gold in dem der hills.”

Gold fields a common sight in spring.

The small flowers above,aptly named “gold fields,”  are in the daisy family.

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Shooting stars- Dodecatheon hendersonii

I found a field of shooting stars too.

Numerous creeks flow out of the foothills of the Sierras and into rivers that eventually join the San Joaquin River, one of California’s largest. 

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Below is the Stanislaus River.Stanislaus_pse1230

Old bridge over the Stanislaus. A sign says it was covered to make it last longer.  In the foreground are the remains of an old stamp mill, which crushed rock for extraction of gold ore.covrd bridge Stanislaus_pse1232

Many wildflowers have evolved to root in serpentine soil and gravels – which are toxic to most other plant life.  This is Bitter root – Lewisia rediviva (named after explorer M. Lewis of Lewis and Clarke fame).Lewisia r_pse1185

I was hunting for one particular wildflower I’d never seen: a fawn lily,  Erythronium tuolumnensii – and was excited to find it….  The thrill of the chase.

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Fawn lily –  Erythronium tuolumnensii

 

Below: wait for it – it’s a brief  slide show ( or click if feeling impatient 😉 )

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Lupins and goldfields in front of snickering horse.

Is that horse sticking his tongue out at me?

    

horse grin_pse1224Yeah pretty funny trying to ruin my shot. (I did not photo-shop this horse – he really was mocking me.  So disrespectful!)

The one(s) that got away 😉 :  I had some fabulous photos of a place famous (with botanists anyway) for wildflowers near Yosemite Park.  That night I downloaded over one hundred photos to my laptop and was going through them, deleting those that were out of focus etc. and taking pleasure in the ones that were sharp.  Long story short, my laptop died and I’d deleted the photos in the camera card to make room for the next day’s findings.  I paid a computer guy to retrieve them and he found everything else – that I had already backed up, except those photos I had driven many hours to take.  Ah well another year, and excuse for another trip!

Thursday Doors…and Arches

Perusing Dan Antion’s blog No Facilities reminded me of Norm Frampton‘s photo “challenge” to share your favorite door photos from around the world. As it happens I have a number of photos of doors and archways, so here are few from the Melk Abbey in Austria.

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The very Baroque Melk Abbey overlooks the Danube River.

The doors on the left are from the tea room … OK the one on the right is an archway more than a door, but similar passage.

Indulge me further because I want to add the fabulous spiral staircase that leads to the library (yep that’s a faux paint job)…

and further still because I had to photoshop the colours just for fun.  Thanks!