Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Getting the blues in Leek

Pete Latham

The annual Leek Blues Festival took place over the weekend, and very fine it was too, with dozens of acts appearing in local pubs and venues, the vast majority of them free to get in.
The weather held fine too - and Pete Latham, no mean blues slide-guitar man himself - took over busking duties on the Sunday morning... as you can see.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Garden golf course

Garden putting green

There is something very practical about this householder's use of a small front garden.  He or she has installed a putting green!
Very practical.  No need to drive to the golf course; fresh-air and exercise on tap (albeit, ummm, limited amount of walking); and minimal maintenance (artificial grass, you see).
I'm strangely impressed by the thinking...

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Goddess in Hednesford

Hednesford Technical Institute pediment sculpture

You come across this pediment sculpture, high up on a block of flats, if you walk along Anglesey Street in Hednesford. There is no real indication what the scene is meant to depict (and no plaque) so it's a bit of mystery.
However, Nozlopy's guide to Sculpture in Staffordshire says she is probably the Goddess of Science trying to teach what she knows to two poor boys (you know they are poor because they are barefoot).
It turns out that this building was once the Hednesford Technical Institute (built 1912).

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Crystal no longer shines bright

Crystal Ballroom in Newcastle under Lyme, year 2015

How the mighty are fallen.  This sad-looking, decaying pile is the once honey-pot of North Staffordshire, the Crystal Ballroom (aka Tiffany's aka Zanzibar etc etc).  It was the big dance and disco venue between the 1970s and 2000s for this region.
It was never 'cool' - one went to the small clubs for any real atmosphere -, but it was incredibly popular.  Saturday night queues were so long they are the stuff of legend - sometimes stretching down into Newcastle town itself.
Now it's just an empty hulk.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Ivy fits tree like glove

Ivy growth on tree

It looks like a giant glove has been placed on this beech, but in fact it's a dense growth of ivy - which was probably strangling the tree.  
However, it appears that someone has now neatly sheared off all the lower stems of the ivy, and now - in theory - the ivy should just wither, thus letting the tree recover.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Grotesquely frightening

'Grotesque' pillar-stop in Bradeley Church.

This is one of the 'grotesques' that you will find acting as a pillar-stop in the Lady Chapel at Bradeley Church.
Its job is to scare off evil spirits.  It sure frightens me.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Lobby in Croatia

Sign for Lobby in Croatia

In Croatia, I was oddly fascinated to see this sign, which (apparently) pointed the way to a restaurant where I could get a bowl of lobby.  Staffordshire Lobby is a left-overs stew, a little like the Liverpudlian scouse dish.  I wondered if an ex-pat was pushing the idea.

Of course, no lobby was forthcoming. 
The owner of the restaurant explained that 'Lobby' was just the restaurant's name.  However - this is the puzzling bit - he could not remember why this name (a meaningless and very odd one for Croatia) had been chosen...

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

St Bertram's healing well

St Bertram's Well, Ilam

On the Ilam Estate, which, because it's owned by The National Trust, is open to the public for free, one finds this ancient stone well, not far from the estate church.
This 'well' is more of a large bath than the sort of place one might simply draw water.

St Bertram (aka Bertelin) is the local saint, and his tomb is in the church, so the water in this well has supposed healing qualities, and pilgrims would dip themselves in the freezing pool therein.  If it didn't kill, it might have cured...
Nowadays, there is a small iron fence to act as a deterrent to bathers, but I daresay some do climb in.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Goat-style helmet

Helmet in Blithfield Church

Following on from my last post, about the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, I thought I'd publish this photo.

All around Abbots Bromley you'll see the figure of a goat.  This is because the local lords of the manor, the Bagot Family, has overseen the development of a special breed of goat (now called the Bagot Goat) for over 600 years (true!).  
The family, which lives at nearby Blithfeld Hall, adopted the symbol of the goat as part of their coat-of-arms and crest in medieval times.

Apparently, the helmet in this photo (taken in Blithfield Church) actually belonged to the 14th century holder of the estate.  Well, maybe. 
It looks rather sinister to me - but perhaps that's the point...

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Horns in waiting

Horns used in the Abotts Bromley Horn Dance

The mysterious and ancient Abbots Bromley Horn Dance takes place this year (2015) on Monday 7 September.  I have been a little disenchanted in the past with the sight (of men skipping about in costume wearing antlers on their heads) - but the village does take the whole thing very seriously.

So does the local church, where the antlers & hobby-heads are kept in pride of place permanently waiting for their annual outing. They look rather slyly grim to me.