Friday, March 10, 2017

Scotney Castle ~ Kent ~ England

Time spent in England would just not be right without a visit to country estates or castles that have survived the test of time over several centuries.  Many of these have been donated and are now owned by National Trust as the families were not able to maintain the upkeep and maintenance required.  

Old Scotney Castle
The word castle derives from a Latin word and describes a type of fortified structure built by nobility.  It is usually considered to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble.  Our visit today was to Scotney Castle, which was surrounded by a moat.  The main building still stands strong but as you can see, there has been some destruction to other sections of it.

Picturesque tower
This Scotney Castle was built in 1378-80 by Roger Ashburnham, although there are records of the estate being owned by Lambert de Scoteni in 1137, which I would guess determined the name.  It is believed the castle was built as a defence again the French forces who had attacked nearby towns in 1377 during the Hundred Years War.

"romantic folly" garden
There were several architectural changes made during construction over the years.  The eastern range was partly dismantled on the completion of a new house in 1843, to allow the ruin to be a “romantic folly” garden feature.

Hiding door
The Darrel family owned the estate for 350 years, during which time they hid Catholic priests, as Catholicism was illegal in England at that time.  This door is a cupboard size, which leads to the hiding place the priest would go to when visitors arrived at the house during the years 1591-1598.  Jesuit Father Richard Blount, S.J. fled over a wall into the moat and escaped during the second raid when authorities came to arrest him.

View of Old Castle and Quarry Garden
 It was 1778 when Edward Hussey bought the Scotney Castle.   His grandson, also Edward built the ‘new’ castle from sandstone that was quarried from the estate.  The quarry later became the Quarry Garden. The new castle sits on a hill overlooking the picturesque spot down in the valley where the ‘old’ Scotney Castle sits, with the garden filling the space between.

Old Castle moat
The Hussey family used the old Scotney Castle mainly as a country home for 58 years.  There was nothing fancy about the inside of this old castle, it was very plain but the main purpose when built had been for defence so it wasn’t surprising to learn that with the wealth from the iron industry in the family, Edward Hussey lll decided to build a new castle.

New Scotney Castle
The Scotney Castle had been lived in by someone of the Hussey family from 1778 until 2006 when the last family member, Elizabeth (Betty) Maude Hussey passed away at the age of 99 years.  It became the property of National Trust in 1970 but was kept as a family home for Betty until she passed away.  The National Trust opened it to the public in 2007 and has maintained it to look like it was still the Hussey family’s country home.

Rooms of the Scotney Castle
We had a walk around inside the new Scotney Castle that was filled with lots of carved walls and ceilings, books shelves filled with their old books, large portraits lined the walls in the staircase, beautiful fireplaces with carved words, the quality of the work has well survived these many years.  It was totally luxurious compared to the Old Castle.

Gardens in September
There have been several apartments on the estate that were rented out by the Trust.  In the 1970’s and 80’s it served as a country retreat for then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  It is easy to understand why someone would choose this beautiful place to relax.  In spite of the many other visitors that were there during our visit, it was quiet and serene with the magic of the past showing us around.

Spend some time with us at Knole House, just click here..

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Knole House ~ Kent ~ England

Knole House is an historic house built over 600 years ago.  There have been archbishops, kings and others who owned this home over the centuries.  Now owned by the National Trust, it is being refurbished and restored with a budget of over 19 million pounds. 

Knole House 
The original house was an Archbishop’s house, it was eventually purchased by Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bourchier in 1456 and was used as a country retreat for the Archbishops.  It was later surrendered by Archbishop Thomas Cramer in 1538 to Henry VIII.

Knole Park 
During the years that the Archbishop of Canterbury lived there, he created a deer park which is now Kent’s last medieval deer park. He fenced the acreage and it became home to a wild deer herd.  The 1000 acres of today are home to over 350 deer.  There are two different kinds, one is the Fallow and the other is the Sika deer.

Fallow deer family
The fallow deer have a smooth spotted coat which darkens in the winter.  The males have a flattened antler which falls off annually.  This visit was in September so perhaps the colors were changing for the winter.  The Sika deer have a darker brown coat and spikier looking antlers.  It seemed that we were seeing the fallow deer on our visit.   My thoughts were perhaps the two herds have mingled and are showing the combination on their offspring.

curious fallow deer
These deer are free to wander the grounds so were within just a few feet from the tourists.  They are not approached by the visitors who are also not to feed them, but they show no fear.  There are staff members that look after these well cared for animals.

Sackville Family symbol
In 1603, Thomas Sackville, cousin to Queen Elizabeth l, bought Knole House and it has been in the Sackville name ever since.  The family symbol, the leopard can be seen inside and outside, as well.  His descendent, Charles gave the Knole House to National Trust but the family retained ownership of the Gatehouse Tower.
View from Gatehouse tower
Restoration was being done while we were there so many of the furnishings and priceless antiques were displayed behind glass containers.  We were not able to take photos inside this very large house, with a roof that is a total of 6.7 acres, but were seeing many rooms, halls and galleries that were full of hundreds of portraits from the history of England.  Incredible sights to be seen.

Gatehouse Tower
Edward Sackville-West, usually called Eddy, lived in the Gatehouse Tower from 1926-1940 and his apartment was opened to the public in June 2016 so we were able to climb the steep and very narrow spiral staircase and visit some of those rooms.  He was a very colorful gentleman with many colorful friends who spent time with him here.  There were many stories chronicled including the visits by Virginia Woolf who wrote the book “Orlando” in 1928 with Eddy’s cousin Vita Sackville that was set in Knole.

Plumbing of ye olde days
While visiting the private apartment that still belongs to the Sackville family, I took photos of the ‘modern’ looking bathroom; the water tank is suspended above the bathtub.  It was then I learned that photos could not be taken in there, either.  Some places are very lenient, others are very strict about taking photos, often due to the damage that flash can do to antiques.  Note the message below the mirror.

Entrance to Knole House
The history of the Knole House is fascinating in many ways.  The Sackville family, Virginia Woolf connection and many more colorful stories are interesting but also the antiques and art collection collected and showcased was very impressive.  Seventeenth century letters were found in the restoration, what a great find that was!

We enjoyed a lunch in their cafeteria before heading back home.  Another day of enjoying the history of England.  If you wish to learn more about Knole House or National Trust, click here.
To share our visit to Scotney Castle, click here.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Cheetah ~ Living Desert ~ Palm Desert, CA

The Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA is celebrating “The Year of the Cheetah” and great efforts are being made to prevent this endangered animal from becoming extinct.  One hundred years ago there were about 100,000 cheetahs and now there are only 10,000 in the world.

Beautiful cheetah sisters
These three beautiful cheetah sisters now make their home at the Living Desert and can be seen on your visit.  They live in their large compound safely behind a fence that allows us to see them without having to look thru a chain link fence.

"Are they looking at me?"
Most cheetahs do live alone but some live within a small group, like this sisterhood.  The cheetahs were found in India, the Middle East and many Asian countries in years past but are now only found in the eastern, central and southern Africa.

"A crowd is gathering"
The cheetah is considered the fastest animal on earth and can run as fast as 110 kilometres per hour (68-75 mph) in short sprints.  They cover more than 7 m (23’) between strides.  These girls do not have to run that quickly and with limited spaces only get to about 30 mph on their runs, but they enjoy their rest time between.

Big yawn and stretch
The markings of the cheetah include the “tear streaks” that run from their eyes to their mouth.  Their spots allow them camouflage in the wild so they can hunt for food.  This cheetah realizes it will soon be feed time and is watching for their feeder.

"I might as well wander over there"
The cheetah’s stance looks intimidating but as she watches movement in the crowd that is here to enjoy watching her run for feeding, she is just stretching and keeping her eye out for the one who will bring the food.

"call us when the feeder comes"
I believe they spend most of their time lounging in the sunshine on the hill overlooking the visitor’s path.  They sleep about twelve hours a day so what better way to enjoy the sun.  The cheetah moves so gracefully and are beautiful to watch.

"lazy sisters"
The first sister is patiently sitting waiting for lunchtime.  They really pay no attention to the crowds with all those cameras snapping but the pose looks like she enjoys the attention.  The cheetah is very slim, their tail is as long as half their body, which helps them when they run, and their claws do not fully retract so they give a grip.

"I'm first to the food, not you"
Cheetahs will try to trip their prey from behind when hunting but we watched one sister try to trip the other when they were running for their food.  There is a person with some food for them at each end of the run and when they hear the whistle, they run.

"me, me, me"
They were each given treats through the fence by a handler but the competition showed during those few moments.   Two sisters were scrapping over their treats fighting for the others food.  They were too quick to be caught on camera doing that.  Feeding time is on the schedule which makes this a great time to plan your visit.

"I'll race you, there is more food over on this other side"
They prefer to do their hunting in the daytime but do have competition at times.  They lose the prey to the lion or hyenas often as they are not too aggressive. They tire quickly and give up the hunt within a few 100 metres (328 ft) if they have not caught it.  When they do catch it, they rest for half an hour before eating.

These cheetah sisters may stay here indefinitely but if required for breeding elsewhere, they will move.  They are well looked after and seem very happy in these surroundings and will one day breed to help build the cheetah population of the world.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Living Desert ~Zoo ~ Gardens ~ California

The Living Desert Museum was opened in 1970 in Palm Desert, CA of the Coachella Valley and has since evolved into the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.  The desert environment which includes botanical gardens and over 450 wild animals of Africa and North America are on the 1200 protected acres.  There are many dedicated employees and even more volunteers always willing to share information about their Living Desert.

A Giraffe welcome
A big draw to the Living Desert are the giraffes.  There are several giraffe in this family which includes a young one who was the first in line for his food while we were there.  Their long purple tongue will grow to 18”.  The most amazing fact I learned was that they only sleep about half an hour a day!

Feeding the Giraffe
Our visit was timed to be there during the feeding of the giraffes.  This is done twice daily plus a ‘giraffe chat’ in the afternoon following the afternoon feeding.  A contribution of $5.00 will give you carrots to feed the giraffes yourself.  They are very gentle but don’t like to be touched so you pop the carrot onto their tongue.

"are you looking at me?"
They only have 7 vertebrae in their neck, the same as humans which sounds amazing when you consider how long that neck is!  The giraffe is the tallest four legged animal and grows to 19’ weighing 1.5 tons.  They walk with such grace and almost appear to be moving in slow motion in their pacing walk but can run up to 35 mph.

The giraffe family at Living Desert
The male and female stand differently when they eat, which allows one to know which sex they are when seen from a great distance.  She arches her neck and body to eat lower shrubs and trees and he reaches to the tree tops of the acacia trees, their favorite.  They are able to get most of the water they need as well as almost all nutrition from the acacia tree leaves.  

the Greater Kudu
The Greater Kudu are compatible with the giraffe so are sharing the same acreage with them.  This incredible male has beautiful spiral horns that differentiate him from the female.  They all have 6-10 thin pale stripes on their sides and are considered the most attractive of the different breeds of antelope family, of which they are from.  The male can weigh 256 kilograms (565 lbs) but will jump heights over 2.5 metres (8.25 feet) when startled.

Naptime for many
Everyone knows the zebra but there are several animals that are not familiar to many of us.  Many I was not able to photograph as they were behind caged areas but some of those I was able to see properly included the African bat-eared fox, (top left) who is no relation to other foxes and the fennec fox, (top right) the smallest of the fox family at 3.5 pounds. The Curvier’s gazelles (bottom center) who are extremely rare in their homeland, are part of breeding programs.  The large bird is the Abyssinian ground hornbills which has a wingspan of 6 feet.  This is one of only two hornbills out of 53 varieties that are ground dwellers.

Living Desert Camel
Camels are considered the Noble Beast of Burden.  The most common is the one-humped camel called a dromedary camel.  They are found in North Africa, the Sahara Desert and the Middle East and have been domesticated for centuries.  Their hump consists of fat, which allows them to go a long time without food and although they are able to drink up to 30 gallons at a time, they can also survive for 10 months without water.  That would never happen here but it may have been necessary in their early days in the Sahara Desert and the like.

Such a handsome camel face
The camel has a very interesting face.  Their longer eyelashes and bushy eyebrows protect them against sandstorms, as well as they have sealing nostrils and fur lined ears to do that job, as well.  They have a lifespan of about 45 years.

"wanna play?"
The camel was the transportation for many in centuries past and can still be considered a good ride today.  There are camel rides available at the Living Desert now, too.  These two camels were in a corral waiting for their turn at giving rides, I think, and seem to be playfully chomping on each other out of boredom!

Miniature train display
I cannot show photos of the Living Desert without including some of the mini train display.  This is amazing and has many working trains to watch cross trestles over canyons and rivers.  The volunteers who have been involved in building this over the years have done an amazing job.  Be sure to stop by and check this out should you be visiting the Living Desert.

I couldn’t possibly cover all the animals, birds, butterflies, reptiles……… and everything else in the Living Desert on this page.  I have more photos to share of my favorite visit of this day, though.  The cheetahs were magnificent so watch for that to be on here soon.  

If you wish to learn more about the Living Desert, click here and see what else they have in this incredible place.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hever Castle ~ Hever Gardens ~ England

Hever Castle has a history of over 700 years but this will not be a history lesson.  I shall toss in a few tidbits of information about some of the residents’ history but more about the building of the castle and grounds to be what it is today.

Hever Castle
The entrance shows some of the great expanse of the 125 acres of the Hever Castle.  The list of sights to visit given on the program suggest about 8 hours to see everything on the grounds including the castle  This was more time than we spent so although we did not see everything, we did see much of it.
We were there!
The Hever Castle has a double moat and we are standing on the outside of the second one.  Hever Castle was little more than a farmstead when it was purchased by William Waldorf Astor 1903.  His passion for art and sculpture is prominently seen in the gardens today. We had a great time wandering the grounds with my sister and her husband who are quite familiar with the area.

Historical room
The was the first room we saw after receiving a greeting as we entered the Hever Castle.  I had not understood the heavy accent that apparently told us there were to be no photos taken.  I was quickly re-told but at least I had taken one before knowing what that accent had said.  lol

KSY Military Museum
This museum was a wealth of information with stories and artifacts from 1794 to today.  The Kent and Sharpshooters Yeomanry bring it to life with combat noises and voices overhead.  They are so realistic I almost hit the ground with a quick thought of "find me a foxhole!"

Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday
This garden monument was designed for Queen Elizbath II's 90th birthday in 2016.  Her actual birthday is April 21 but the official one was held June 11, 2016.  The tradition of holding royal birthdays in June began many years ago and was done due to the weather being unreliable during some other months.

Gardens galore
Over 1,000 men worked on the gardens between 1904-1908.  The former gardens had all but disappeared.  There was a temporary railway used to help with the features.  In those four years, classical gardens and natural landscape filled the 125 acres of what was once marshland and meadows.  

Hever Loggia
This is the Loggia, a beautiful setting where weddings and other celebrations can be held.  The original structure of the castle was preserved and any updates that had been done to it were replaced with materials used similarly to the sixteenth century and using tools from that time, as well.  This project employed 748 craftsmen.

Sights and sounds of Hever Gardens
Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII and mother to Queen Elizabeth I, spend her childhood years here and so there is a lot of history in this castle.  The interior was amazing to see as it shared the history; it had photos of the royalty of the time as well as a journal of Anne Boleyn’s.  As tempting as it was to take a picture of Henry VIII's room, I did not take any more interior photos.

Hever Lake
An additional 800 men were employed to build the Hever Lake, also a major undertaking which took over two years.  There is a lakeside walkway all around the lake to enjoy the view, the resident swans as well as many other birds and residents of the lake. This is adjacent to the loggia which overlooks the 38 acre lake.

Our visit was done in the Fall but the gardens were still very enjoyable, Springtime would be amazing when the 35,000 annual plantings are done in this worldly recognized garden.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Snowcapped Mountains ~ Skyview

Christmas spent at home with the family is the best place to be.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to do that and to those who cannot, we know you’ll be missed.  Family and friends are what makes this occasion so special, but soon we depart.  

Sunset in Kamloops, BC
The sun is setting on this January winter day and we see the glow on the mountains in the far distance.  We are not sure exactly which peaks we are seeing but the highest peak in the Cariboo Mountains in that area rises to 2946 m (9665’) and is unofficially called Mount Lyons.

Deicing the airplane
An early morning flight from Kamloops required some deicing due to a light overnight snowfall then this deicing was done in Calgary on the larger plane we were on to head south.  The color used here is green and the procedure was quite interesting to watch.  There are different colors used for different circumstances.

Snowcapped mountains
The route followed by this flight was directly south from Calgary, AB.  We were above the clouds for a distance but once we got past the heavy cloud we had so many opportunities to see the mountain tops.

Rocky Mountains
We follow the Rocky Mountains for many miles and are able to enjoy the many snow covered mountains from a viewpoint that many people could not.  We travel at 37,000 feet yet these mountain tops do not look too far away.  The distance is deceiving.

Mountains of western states
The Rocky Mountains extend from Alberta down into Idaho but looking at a map of that state we also see the Blue Mountains, Bitterroot Ranges with Salmon River Mountains as well as the Monitor Range. So not to leave any out, I would expect we may have seen mountains from each of these locations.

Snow covered ranges
The flight was a two and one half hour flight and we had these mountains to see out the window for almost two hours.  The small and not-so-clear windows definitely limit the views but still offer plenty to see and enjoy.

Desert of southern California
We followed the southern Nevada border to fly into Southern California. The last half hour we had sightings of the desert with some scattering of clouds.  The changes in topography were interesting, mountain tops with a different look.

The Coachella Valley
The snow covered mountains are beautiful to see but this was the sight we were looking forward to.  Blue sky with warm days of sunshine and no snow to shovel!  The Coachella Valley often has some signs of smog that arrives with the airflow from the big cities in the coastal areas but continues on.  Once we get on the ground, it won’t be noticed.  All we shall be seeing is the warmer side of winter.

Wherever you may be, enjoy your winter and the wonders of nature that surround us all.

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