"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

Monday, 17 November 2014

A Stroll Around a Picturesque Warwickshire Village

D and I visited Stoneleigh - a pretty and historic village near Kenilworth on Saturday afternoon to try out the new bridge camera. Well in actual fact I took along my tried and trusted Olympus and let D do the experimenting. Why is it that a twenty something can pick up a new camera and, without even looking at the manual, have an instinctive knowledge of what all the buttons, controls and dials do whereas after studying the manual for half an hour or so I hadn't a clue? Conditions were far from ideal for photography - it was rather dull and gloomy with rain promising to fall at any second and, as we didn't arrive until two thirty, it already seemed to be getting dark.

Stoneleigh, originally called Stanlei, was once situated in the vast forest of Arden - sadly only a few trees from this forest remain in the area in nearby parkland at Stoneleigh Abbey. Around 45 cottages built in the 1500's remain in the village today although many have undergone alterations over the centuries.

The front of Chestnut Cottage shown in the photo above is a seventeenth century framed cottage with much of the original wattle and daub infilling of the walls still to be seen.

There has probably been a smithy on the village green since the sixteenth century - the present building was built in 1851.

The Almshouses were built in 1594.

The Seventeenth Century Bridge Cottage is sometimes called Van Dieman's Cottage - stories tell that brothers who lived there were convicted of poaching and deported to Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania). They survived their sentence (unlike many others) and eventually returned to the village.

The present day bridge was built in the early 1800's replacing an earlier one.

Here is D on the bridge composing a picture (please see the photo of swans below). On Saturday I finally understood why my family are always leaving me behind and moaning about me taking photos (and stopping to identify every butterfly and flower). I strolled round snapping away as quickly as possible (a habit I have got into due to the moans and groans when I am with others) whereas D was taking his time and composing each and every photo. I remember thinking to myself why doesn't he just hurry up and take the shot so we can move on - no wonder they get fed up with me!!!

A lovely example of layered sandstone in the bridge.

I loved the higgledy piggledy arrangement of rocks in this wall in front of one of the houses.

By now the light was absolutely awful - even on ISO 1600 (which I've never used before outdoors) and using F8 I was only getting a shutter speed of about one thirtieth of a second.

Jane Austen once visited this area - her mother's cousin inherited Stoneleigh Abbey in 1806 and a visit to the Abbey provided her with inspiration for novels such as Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Before leaving we had a quick look at the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin - parts of which date back to the first half of the twelfth century. There were extensive alterations in the Fourteenth Century and it was restored during the nineteenth.

I didn't take many photos inside the church as it was very dark and gloomy and, as another couple were also looking around the building, I didn't like to start using the camera flash.

I did manage to get a photo of the late 11th or early 12th century font though. Arcading round the sides contains figures of the Apostles. It is believed the font was brought from Maxstoke Priory where it had lain among the ruins for 250 years.

This modern collage made in 1970 by students at the Birmingham College of Art represents the Dove - the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

This effigy of a woman was brought into the porch from the churchyard and it has been suggested she is holding a child. There is a rather sad story behind the effigy that tells how many centuries ago a knight who lived near the church went to war leaving his pregnant wife behind. On hearing news of his death she is said to have ripped open her belly and killed herself. She was buried on the north side of the churchyard under the effigy of a woman and child.

We had noticed there didn't appear to be any pubs in the village and on reading a booklet on the history of the village and church when I got home I discovered that all 3 village pubs had been closed by the local Lord of the Manor - Lord Leigh - when his daughter who was cycling to the church was laughed at by a number of drunks!

I've included a few photos taken by D with the new camera - on the first photo (you may need to enlarge it) you might be able to make out in the far distance a few 100 yards away a white speck.

And here is the white speck on full zoom - a pair of white swans. I know its not the best of photos but it just show how good the zoom capacity of the camera is.

This is a macro shot of a tiny piece of moss on the bridge - am looking forward to trying the camera with moths and insects when winter is over.

Finally, just to compare a photo very similar to one I took when we first arrived.

We did take the camera for a very brief visit to Winterbourne House Gardens on Sunday when I was family chauffeuring again but I'll put those photos in another post later in the week.

Reference : Booklet entitled "A Walk Round Stoneleigh looking at the Historic Buildings" and a Guide to the Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin leaflet.


Margaret Adamson said...

It certainly a lovely village to visit. Interesting why there are no pubs. What kind is your new bridge camera? Looks like it has a great zoom on it.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks Margaret. The bridge camera is a Canon SX50 HS - I've been keen on a bridge camera for ages as much as I love my Olympus dslr - I find the 70-300mm zoom telephoto quite limited unless birds are big or very close!! Also the beauty of the bridge camera is its so light and you have macro and zoom facilities all in one lens!

Toffeeapple said...

What a beautiful village, even if there were no pubs.

Lovely pictures, thank you for putting them up. I hope you enjoy getting to grips with the new camera.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so much. Its amazing really what can be literally right on your doorstep but you rarely visit!

I think the new camera will take a bit of getting used to but it will be fun :)

Countryside Tales said...

A lovely post full of interesting information. What a beautiful place! I'd like all those houses, please :o) The new camera looks to be performing well.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks very much :) Have same feeling here about the houses - perhaps we could have half each? :)

Pete Duxon said...

nice blog RR is it the same Stoneleigh where the abbey is??

Lou Mary said...

What a gorgeous village! Those Almshouses are very old! My mum works at the almshouses in our area and they were only built in the 1860s. I showed her your photo and she thought they looked lovely. That certainly is an impressive zoom! Which bridge camera is it? Lovely moss macro - very detailed! x

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon - Many thanks Pete. Yes, the village is not far from the Abbey. I've never been to the Abbey - another of those places on the list to visit!

Lou Mary - Thanks so much Lou Mary. Glad your mum liked the Almshouses :) They were founded by a Dame Alice Leigh, wife of the first Sir Thomas Leigh and there are 10 houses. The bridge camera is a Canon SX 50 HS - I'll tell my son you liked the moss macro shot :)

Bovey Belle said...

Stoneleigh is a village I have been near on my way to events in Stoneleigh Park, but never stopped at. What a pretty village it is and thank you for all the historic detail, which makes it come alive.

I have noted down your new camera, for when I am finally able to replace mine. You have made me want a Day Out now! We still have OH's Birthday Bash (delayed because of poor weather the week of his birthday), but that is a planned day down in Pembroke.

Ragged Robin said...

Bovey Belle - Thanks so much - I am so glad you enjoyed. Must go to Stoneleigh Park and Abbey one day! I picked up a useful leaflet in the church which gave lots of details of the history - unfortunately I didn't read it until we got home as the church was the last place we visited. Otherwise there might have been more history!

I do hope you enjoy OH's Birthday Bash :) We never returned to Weobley and Herefordshire black and white villages for a long weekend as planned as the only weekends we could all get together it was raining! Hope to return in the Spring.

Chris Rohrer said...

Are you kidding me??!!! That is an amazing shot of your swans! I cannot wait to see all your bird pics now with that zoom capability!!! I think you'll find the bird photography starts to get fun:)

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks Chris :) Struggling at the minute to get the hang of the camera - so different to my dslr!!! Really am trying to run before I walk - I need to sit down and spend some hours going through the manual and working out what button/dial does what!! But am looking forward to experimenting with it :)