"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Afternoon tea, Interesting Church Ruins and a Toad in the Hole

Emily was given a gift voucher for her 21st birthday for afternoon tea in an upmarket hotel with a choice of venue.

Guess who was the lucky one picked to accompany her?!

(To be honest it was a relief to get away from the nestbox camera as one of the surviving two chicks had died during the night leaving just one. The nestling is obviously desperate for food but the female keeps brooding it and the male hardly ever brings in food.)

Emily had picked a hotel in South Warwickshire and we had originally planned to make a day of it and possibly visit Anne Hathaway's Cottage on the way but the weather was awful today so we decided to go straight to the hotel. A wise choice as when we arrived at Stratford we experienced a thunderstorm, hail and torrential rain!

Hotel in the rain
(Although a Hotel today, the buildings are leased from the Shirley Family, an old Warwickshire family, who can trace their lineage back over a 1000 years to the Domesday Book of 1066. At this time there was a manor house on the estate and parts of the orginal manor are incorporated in the buildings that stand today.

The present neo-Gothic mansion is the result of a major renovation carried out in the nineteenth century and consists of a variety of local stones - limestone from Gloucestershire, ironstone from Edge Hill, blue lias from Wilmcote and white lias from Warwickshire.

Afternoon tea was served in the Drawing Room and was delicious. A selection of finger sandwiches with four different fillings, homemade scones with clotted cream, strawberry jam, fresh strawberries and at least 7 seven miniature portions of different types of cake, cheesecake and eclairs! I elected to have Earl Grey tea - I haven't tasted this for years not since attempting to make Earl Grey wine (it was a failure!) and finishing off the remannts of the tea pack.

I had no plans to take a photo but a couple came in as we were finishing our tea and immediately got out the camera so I thought, blow it, and here's a photo of the empty tea table!

A few shots of the Drawing Room

View from "our" window

View towards the River Stour which flows through the hotel grounds

And look what I could see from this window - I immediately wanted to explore!

As we were leaving I asked about the age of hotel and "Madam" was given their history package from which I learn it has, in the past, been chosen as "The most haunted hotel in England" and has been the venue of several films.

I asked if we could have a look at the church and immediately a very kind and knowledgeable gentleman appeared, armed with golf umbrellas, who gave us a history tour of the Hotel, Gardens and Church. What Service!!

Gardens - The summer Loggia in the background is seventeenth century.

The original church on the site which was mentioned in the Domesday Book was rebuilt towards the end of the twelfth century with the new Norman church incorporating the remains of the earlier Saxon Church. In the eighteenth century the mill, and village surrounding the manor were demolished with villagers being moved to a village nearby. The Church was also partially destroyed and only the tower, walls of the Nave and South Transept Chapel survived.
It was certainly very atmospheric there with dark, threatening rain clouds on the horizon making everything look very gloomy.

Stained Glass Window in the Chapel

There were some intriguing gargoyles around the building

There is an interesting story attached to the carved toad placed in the wall.

According to the "history package" in 1859 workmen who were taking down an outer wall discovered a live toad in a cavity within the wall. They were unable to find how the toad had got into the wall as there was no access from the outside and they concluded the toad must have got into the cavity during previous building work 119 years earlier in 1740 and been accidentally sealed in! The toad must have lived in a state of hibernation for all this time. It was placed in a glass container but refused to eat and eventually died after 3 months. The stone toad in the photo above commemorates this incident. What a fascinating story!

Its a pity I can't win the Lottery because I could become very accustomed to "Afternoon Tea" and history tours!


hire a web programmer said...

Beautiful pictures. The garden and outdoor structure are perfectly alright. This will be an inspiration to one of my friend who is an architect. I will share this post with him. Thanks for the same.

Pete said...

hang on I still see food to eat on that plate in the first shot!!!

pity about the blueys. think food is difficult this year with the dry weather :(

also you may have novice parents

Ragged Robin said...

Many thanks. The architecture of the hotel was beautiful.

Ragged Robin said...

LOL, Pete! The last few cakes disappeared pretty quick after I had taken the few sneaky photos :D.

I think you are right about the shortage of food for the blueys. The one remaining chick is still holding on. I've only seen one or 2 young birds of several species e.g. house sparrows, goldfinch, dunnock,robin greenfinch, blackbirds (although at least one of the latter was predated) in the garden. Although obviously its impossible to know if other young were skulking in the shrubs or had already been predated or if it is down to shortage of food.

I wondered if they might be first time parents but I checked the average life expectancy of a blue tit and its only 1.5 years so for many birds they will probably have just the one chance to breed and pass on their genes.