Things I’ve been in love with – Lilacs and Ivor Novello.

Way back in a part of the sixties that wasn’t the Beatles or Flower Power, I fell in love with the Lilacs.

At the time I was living and working in a large country house in the South East of England.

Everything was new and fresh for me – the girl from the West Midlands who was just beginning to explore what might be out there! Of yes we had Lilacs in Walsall. But nothing like these great luxuriant trees.

I can remember standing by an open window in the early evening with a glass of wine in my hand. There had been a shower of rain. The deep scent of the earth and the smell of Lilacs filled the air. Somewhere in the back ground someone was playing an Ivor Novello song on a piano.

I’ve loved Ivor Novello ever since and I’ve always loved Lilacs.

And here is a rather lovely version of that famous song from Alexander Duliba, a classically trained baritone trying to make his mark in the world of Opera.

Beautiful Symbols – the Coventry Crosses

180px-Coventry_Cathedral_burnt_cross 140px-Cross_of_Nails

The wooden cross and the cross of nails were created after the cathedral was bombed during the Coventry Blitz of World War II.  My father was there that night as a fireman and his stories of the experience lived on as sad legends in our family.  My mother could see the fire glowing on the horizon from 30 miles away!  The cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, saw two wooden beams lying in the shape of a cross in the ruins and tied them together. A replica of the wooden cross built in 1964, has replaced the original in the ruins of the old cathedral on an altar of rubble. The original is now kept in St. Michael’s Hall below the new cathedral.

Another cross was made of three nails from the roof truss of the old cathedral by Provost Richard Howard of Coventry Cathedral. It was later transferred to the new cathedral, where it rests on its altar. The cross of nails has become a symbol of peace and reconciliation across the world. There are over 160 Cross of Nails Centres all over the world, all of them bearing a cross made of three nails from the ruins, similar to the original one.

One of the crosses made of nails from the old cathedral was donated to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, which was destroyed by Allied bomb attacks and is also kept as a ruin alongside a newer building. A copy of the Stalingrad Madonna by Kurt Reuber that was drawn in 1942 in Stalingrad (now Volgograd) is shown in the cathedrals of all three cities (Berlin, Coventry and Volgograd) as a sign of the reconciliation of the three countries that were once enemies.

A medieval cross of nails has also been carried on board all British warships to subsequently bear the name HMS Coventry. The cross of nails was on board HMS Coventry when she was sunk by enemy action in the Falklands War. The cross was salvaged by Royal Navy divers, and presented to Coventry Cathedral by the ship’s Captain and colleagues. (One Hundred Days, Admiral Sandy Woodward.)

The cathedral is dedicated to St Michael. as you might guess, and he stands guard on the wall of the cathedral!  You can find out more at the Coventry Cathedral Website


Beautiful Places – Whittington and its Castle


An extract from the National Gazetteer 1868

“WHITTINGTON, a parish in the upper division of Oswestry hundred, county Salop, 2½ miles N.E. of Oswestry, and 5 W. of Ellesmere. It has stations on the Cambrian and on the Shrewsbury and Chester branch of the Great Western railways. There is likewise a branch line from Gobowen, in this parish, to Oswestry. The river Perry and the Ellesmere canal traverse the parish from N. to S.

It has the ruins of an ancient moated border castle, supposed to have been built in the 9th century by a British chieftain, whose descendants held it till the Norman conquest, when it was given to Peverel, the founder of the family of the Peverels of the Peak, but afterwards passed into the hands of Fulk Fitz-Guarine, or Warine, whose family kept it till 1419. The castle, before its demolition, was strongly fortified with five round towers, each 40 feet in diameter and 100 feet in height, and the walls were 12 feet in thickness.

The towers of the gatehouse are still entire, with some portions of the walls and towers of the castle. The parish includes the townships of Berghill, Daywell, Ebnall, Fernhill, Frankton, Henlle, Hindford, Old Marton, and Whittington, with the hamlets of Babies’ Wood and Gobowen, and contains at present a population of about 1,500. The village was once a market town, and now contains about 500 inhabitants. In the parish are Belmont, Ebnall Lodge, Fernhill, and Park Hall, the last of the time of Henry VIII., with a private chapel, said to have been consecrated by Archbishop Parker.

The Hulston estate also lies in the centre of the parish, but is now a separate parish. A portion of the eastern side of the parish was in 1865 formed into a separate district, embracing also a part of Ellesmere parish. The district church is called St. Andrew’s, and the new district Welsh Frankton. Another portion of the township of Daywell, to the N.W. of the parish, has also been severed, having been assigned to the Hengoed district, the church of which was built in, and the chief part of the district taken from, the parish of Selattyn.

The subsoil is principally gravel with traces of coal. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of St. Asaph, value £965, with 50 acres of glebe. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was rebuilt in 1806. The Independents, Wesleyans, and Primitive Methodists have chapels. There are National schools built at a cost of £1,000, which are partly supported by an endowment of £42 per annum. Mrs. Lloyd, of Aston Hall, is lady of the manor.”

Well worth a vist – my mother grew up here and my parents were married in the village church.  The castle is the only one in England to be owned and run by the local community.

Beautiful Places – Arnside and Silverdale, England


The AONB’s intimate green and silver landscape rises from the shores of Morecambe Bay, with wide views over the Kent Estuary to the Lake District. Despite its small scale, the AONB shows a unique interweaving of contrasting countryside.

The area is characterised by small scale limestone hills rising to less than 200m in height, fine deciduous woodlands and valleys which form sheltered agricultural land. The inter-relationship of salt-marsh, limestone cliffs and reclaimed mosses (peat bogs), at or about sea level, contrast markedly with limestone pasture, rock outcrops and limestone pavements at a higher level. The distribution of copses and hedgerows and the pattern of limestone walls create a strong feeling of enclosure, and are important elements in the landscape.

The limestone geology, varied soil types and vegetation, added to a notably mild climate at this northerly latitude, makes this AONB extremely important as a diverse natural habitat. Unimproved pasture and the exposed limestone outcrops are rich in rare butterflies and flowers. Between the limestone hills there are drift deposits and estuarine silts and clays which, close to the estuaries, support nationally important lowland raised mires. Woodlands are a distinctive element in the landscape with significant areas of ancient semi-natural woodland.

Large areas are owned by the National Trust ( Nature ( and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds ( (RSPB) as well as local wildlife trusts and conservation organisations. The reed and willow swamps of RSPB Leighton Moss ( are a major breeding site for marshland birds which include bearded tits, marsh harrier and the rare bittern. The sands and salt-marshes of Morecambe Bay are internationally important for wading birds and wildfowl. Parts of the AONB are of recognised national and international importance for wildlife.

Farming is, in the main, livestock, with sheep being grazed on the higher rough pastures and cattle and sheep farmed on the reclaimed valley soils. Some active quarrying remains and a small portion of the AONB is commercial conifer plantation. Private land ownership is concentrated on two large estates. Arnside, Silverdale and Warton are the main centres of population. The AONB is a popular destination for quiet outdoor recreation, caravanning and day visits.

Visit the Arnside and Silverdale AONB website ( for further information.

Content supplied by the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty