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Archive for May, 2012

So, my last stop on my trip back from Hay-on-Wye. I was heading for my parents’ house, north of Manchester, and decided that it would be much out of my way to go via Llandrindod Wells and Welshpool instead of going straight up the A49.

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It’s a very pleasant drive up the A483, with frequent views like this one. I stopped briefly in Welshpool for lunchtime, but my real destination was at the other end of the Welshpool and and Llanfair Railway – the Colinette shop!

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I’ve been once before, so I was prepared, but even so the riot of colour inside was amazing! They’re only open on occasional Saturdays, but luckily this was one of them, and I had the place to myself apart from the very pleasant chap working there. Who endeared himself to me by offering me a cup of tea the minute I walked in – that was very welcome!

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I wandered round for ages – I could have bought lots, but I didn’t have any real projects in mind. I love their yarns, but I’m wary of using them for garments these days, having had several bad experiences with colours changing between skeins and pooling, even when striping two skeins as recommended.

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I was very tempted to buy the yarn for another Ab Fab throw (the wavy one on the left) but I couldn’t decide which colourway to go for, so I’m going to have a look at finished ones on Ravelry before I make a final decision.

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The trouble with somewhere like this is that you really need to be able to just pop in when you’ve got a project in mind – the website is okay, but no real substitute, and even Bobbins in Whitby doesn’t have nearly the full range of colours. I’m very jealous of Katie, of HilltopCloud, who lives just up the road. And very kindly invited me to drop in for a cuppa when I tweeted that I was on my way to Colinette, but sadly I didn’t have time as I had to be at my parents’ in time for tea (it was my Dad’s birthday). Next time I’m down that way I’ll take you up on the offer if it still stands, Katie!

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So, what did I buy?

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I’ve had my eye on one of these squiggly scarves for a while, but the kits they sell online are mohair and cotton, and I wanted to splash out on mohair and silk. I’m glad I waited, as it’s much easier to choose colours if they’re all in front of you. I ummed and ahhed for ages, before deciding on these colours.

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But the pattern as written needs two skeins of mohair and three of silk, and whilst there were three silk skeins out, there was only one mohair. The helpful chap spent ages going and getting more and trying to match it, but all the others in that colourway had bits of green in them (and were all different from each other!) So in the end I decided to just buy the one mohair skein and two silk ones, and make a narrower scarf. That made it cheaper too!

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The only other thing I bought was a skein of Jitterbug in an experimental colourway, from the bargain room for £4. Unfortunately my camera’s no good at photographing teal greeny-blues or purples, so both of the yarn photos are a bit off colour.

The door to the room where they dye the yarn was ajar, so I stuck my head round and had a quick peak. I’d love to see it all working!

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And a last burst of colour.

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Right, that’s me about caught up I think, stand by for posts either from or about Anglesey (depending on internet connections there).

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I’ve been in a bit of a lull, craft-wise, for the last few weeks – I became strangely addicted to making crochet throws and couldn’t summon up the energy to do anything more challenging than go round and round the outside of a square.

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But my second one is now finished, and I’m not starting any more for a while!

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This one’s in RYC Luxury Cotton dk (long discontinued, unfortunately). I had two balls of blue left over from a cardigan, and the other ten balls came from Kemps in their great Rowan bargain bags a couple of years ago. Whoever put them together chose the colours well, and they’ve made a lovely throw. There were five balls of the pink, and two of each of the others apart from the dark blue, and I thought I’d worked out a stripe sequence to use them evenly, but I failed miserably and had two and a half balls of pink left at the end. So I used them to do a border – four rows of triples with one chain between, then a row of doubles round the edge to finish it off. I’m pleased with it, and it’s used some yarn up. It’s a bit of a drop in the ocean, but I suppose it’s a start!

My next project is a very old WIP – I started this Coraline cardigan nearly two years ago, I know I knitted the body up to the armholes during Wimbledon that year. Then it was abandoned until last April, when I did the sleeves, and the yoke up to the start of the smocking, when it languished again. This time I’m going to finish it!

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But the smocking was nearly the project’s downfall – the pattern says to slip the first knit stitch onto a cable needle and hold at the front, slip the next four purl stitches onto the right needle, slip the next knit stitch onto the cable needle, slip the purl stitches back to the left needle, wrap the two knit stitches on the cable needle with the working yarn, knit the first one, purl the four purl stitches, then knit the other knit stitch from the cable needle. Which makes sense if it is rather long winded, but I hate cable needles at the best of times, and having one dangling at the front of my work with one stitch on it was just horrible. I did about six wraps, then turned to Ravelry for an alternative. Thankfully it didn’t let me down, and I found Interknitty’s very helpful notes, which basically say to wrap the first knit stitch before working it, purl the next four, pick up the wrap, knit the next stitch, then slip the wrap over it. Which is tricky in the multi-stranded Bamboo Soft yarn I’m using, but much easier than messing about with a cable needle!

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The wraps round the smocked stitches are stretching out a bit more than some others I’ve seen, but I think it’s because the bamboo yarn is very slippy and isn’t gripping the stitches. It’ll do! I just want it finished now, and I’m not too far off. I’m doing another repeat (six rows) of the smocking pattern as my row gauge is off, but I’m nearly there, thank goodness.

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And now for something completely different! I bought two cones of Habu merino/stainless steel yarn (in lilac) and one of the merino (in grey) at the Knitting and Stitching Show a year or two ago, and seeing a reference to stainless steel yarns on Ravelry prompted me to get it out and have a go at using it. I’m sort of following the Kusha Kusha scarf pattern, but I’m not going to change to a single yarn for the second half, I’ll just keep going in the two held together and see how long it turns out.

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It’s looking quite wiry and open at the moment, but you hand felt the finished scarf, and apparently it makes it more fabric-like. I really should have done a swatch first to see how it works, but I’m living dangerously on this one!

So those are the projects I’m taking to Anglesey with me this week, with maybe a sock as well (there’s a couple of half-finished ones lurking in my WIP box). I’ll let you know how I got on when I get home!

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And some more photos! Sorry if I’m boring anyone, this is the last lot from this trip, honest. There is another yarn shop if you scroll down far enough ;)

On the Thursday the sky was almost blue in places (which it hadn’t been all week), so I looked at a map, spotted Abergavenny, and pointed the car in that direction. En route I spotted an interesting looking tower, so I stopped to investigate and found that it belonged to Tretower Castle and Court.

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It’s owned by CADW, the Welsh version of English Heritage, and is only semi-furnished – just the kitchens and great hall have been set up to give an idea how they would have looked. There’s also a copy of their licence to host weddings, which may be why they’ve concentrated on those rooms!

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After that the rooms are empty, which is interesting in itself, as you can see all the construction details. There was no one about apart from the girl in the entrance hut, so I could wander completely at my leisure without being disturbed. P1020988

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This would have been divided into four rooms originally, probably bed chambers and suites. Some of the windows (which look out onto the covered walkway) still have sliding shutters to close them – there’s no glass though, it must have been chilly on winter nights. It was cold enough on an early May afternoon!

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It’s a pity the weather wasn’t better, I’m sure that sitting on that bench in the enclosed courtyard in the sun would have been idyllic.

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Next to the Court is the original home of the family, the castle. I walked across a very wet field in very unsuitable shoes to get there – I’d paid to get in and I was going to see it all! But there’s not a lot left, just a central tower with bits of curtain wall – it seems to have been hacked about quite a lot over the years as the needs of the family changed, before they abandoned it altogether for the house next door.

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The water in the field gives an idea of just how wet it was!

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The back of the court. The different styles of windows show that this was improved over the years too.

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In the grounds was a tree with huge bunches of mistletoe growing in it, I hadn’t quite realised that it does actually grow on the tree – it wasn’t rooted in the ground at all, just growing into the branches. I did sort of know, but I’d never been close enough to see it for myself before.

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Anyway, I finally made it to Abergavenny, slightly muddy but I ploughed on anyway, on the grounds that I was unlikely to meet anyone I knew! The main street reminded me very much of Bangor in North Wales, but the people in the shops were generally much friendlier – it’s a long time since I’ve been to a town where I’ve consciously noticed how friendly everyone was. They all kept telling me how much better the town looks when it’s not raining (as it was by that point) and I believe them – one day I’ll go back and have another look at it.

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I did manage to find a lovely little yarn shop, called The Wool Croft. I’d definitely recommend a visit if you’re in the area – it’s not been open long, but it’s well stocked, with the usual suspects as well as some more unusual things. There were two ladies sitting and knitting and chatting, and a customer was getting lots of help choosing colours for a fair isle jumper. I mooched about for a while, but again had to resist the yarns.

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What I couldn’t resist was a kit to make a wicker basket – I saw Kirstie Allsopp making a willow tray on her last series and I’ve been fancying having a go ever since, I’m sure that if she can do it I can! So I was fascinated to see kits to make four or five different sorts of baskets, and chose an apple basket one, partly because it has different colours of willow, and partly because it looks like a good shape to keep knitting projects in…

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It was raining properly by this time, so I went back to the car via the second hand bookshop, which was also owned by a lovely lady. I drove there and back through the Brecon Beacons, but sadly this was typical of my view for much of the journey.

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Next day I stayed in Hay again, but wandered round the edges instead of looking at bookshops. Just behind where I was staying, in Cusop, is St Mary’s Church.

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A typical little country church,

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with a completely unexpected (and stunning) stained glass window behind the altar.

I had a poke around the graveyard as usual, and was pleased to find this Polish airman in the midst of the Lloyds and Morgans and Joneses.

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I spent some time trying to work out how the people in the graves could be connected – there were a lot of family groups. I was also intrigued by this headstone with holes in it.

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Next I went into town, to have a look at the main church in Hay-on-Wye.

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Again it’s a very typical church outside, although the semi-circular apse isn’t quite so common, but inside was a surprise.

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More like a chapel than a church, although I have seen some London churches in a similar style. Sadly they were getting ready for a funeral, so I couldn’t stay, and I wandered round outside instead.

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The churchyard at the front of the church is fairly typical, but round the back is a different story – it’s completely overgrown, and slopes down to the river. It’s not that old either, the graves date to the mid 1800s.

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I don’t seem to have taken a photo of the most overgrown bits, but there are some impressive tombs round there.

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And some interesting gravestones.

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You can walk down to the river from the church, past this cute bench being held up by bears.

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This is the little stream which flows past the church, just before it joins the River Wye.

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That afternoon I drove out to have another look at something I remembered from my first trip to Hay, an old railway bridge on the road that leads to the toll bridge. There’s a track through a field under the bridge, the water under the bridge is just a large rain puddle.

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The old railway line seems to be used as a track, but presumably the bridge isn’t strong enough to bear a car, as it veers down into the dip and up again – it’s just that there’s a small lake in the way at the moment!

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Apparently you can walk along the old railway line, one day when it’s not so soggy I’d like to do that. There are some sunnier photos and more information on this page.

Next day, with sod’s law working well, I woke up to the first real sunshine I’d seen all week, and it was the day I left!

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But this the view from my window – the field was usually full of sheep and lambs, who were very entertaining. If a little rowdy at times!

I drove back via the scenic route, to make a special stop, but more of that in another post. Well done if you’ve stuck with me this long!

I’ll leave you with this sign, outside the Cinema bookshop, which amused and worried me (the small writing at the top says ‘please enquire at reception – just pop up the stairs and in the door then…).

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One of my work colleagues is a keen knitter who is trying to get to grips with lace knitting. She’s done a Forest Canopy shawl, and has been trying to branch out by doing an Annis shawl, but she’s been struggling, and I’ve been trying to help and advise her (mostly by telling her to use stitch markers between every repeat and count a lot…) So I’ve been looking at the pattern a lot, and last Saturday I, being in need of a restful couple of days, sat myself down in the conservatory in the sunshine and cast on 363 stitches.

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The shawl’s knitted from the bottom up, you do the 18 rows of the lace pattern, decreasing on rows 15 and 17, then start the short row stocking stitch section – so you go from very long rows, to slightly shorter ones, to very short ones, then they get longer again, which is a novel way of knitting a shawl, but it makes a lovely crescent shape!

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By Sunday night I was a fair way through the stocking stitch section, and a session in front of the TV on Monday evening finished it off, leaving me with this messy looking object. But the magic of blocking worked again.

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I didn’t pin the top edge at all, I just let it settle into a curve as I blocked out the points. It’s not easy blocking a crescent, and it’s not completely even, but you can’t tell when it’s on!

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And the finished result! It’s very ethereal – the yarn is KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud laceweight, which is 100% baby alpaca, and I only used about 30g of the 50g skein, or about 240m, using 5mm needles. It didn’t block as wide as the pattern said, but it’s big enough.

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The nupps in the lace were something of a challenge – I though about replacing them with beads, but I’ve done nupps before, on my seasilk Swallowtail, and they were fine then, so I stuck with them. But they were harder in the alpaca! I did them as loose as I could on the knit row, but the p7tog wasn’t exactly fun. I tried slipping the first six loops, purling the last one and passing the other six over, but it looked a bit messy, so I struggled on. I may have to investigate the crochet method next time.

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This gives a better idea of the colour, it’s a petroly blue shade.

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Modelled at Knit Night by my lovely friend Nadine.

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Well, that holiday took some recovering from! I had a couple of days at my parents’ on my way home, then a day of sorting out and I was back at work, and by last weekend I just needed a few days’ peace and quiet to get my head back together. But I managed it, and I’ve survived another week at work, and now I’m all set for another week off – I’m off to Wales again, but this time to North Wales, to my parents’ caravan on Anglesey. In the meantime I’ll try and catch up on here with some scheduled posts with the rest of my last holiday in them, plus – shock horror! – a couple of finished projects and some crafty goings-on.

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But back to Hay-on-Wye. In one of my other lives I collect and sell books, mainly old girls’ school stories, so holidaying in a town full of bookshops is never a bad thing. Well, almost never – sadly I found that the shops selling the sort of thing I collect were selling them for prices I could only dream of getting on ebay, and I didn’t buy much at all. But I did spend a couple of days wandering round the bookshops and just enjoying being there. And taking lots of photos, natch.

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Slightly bizarrely, since my last visit three years ago, Addyman’s have bought the interior of an Eastern European church and used it to furnish part of their bookshop. As you do.

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Across the road is Murder and Mayhem.

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With appropriate interior design.

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Some more random photos –

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This is the 24 hour honesty bookshop – money goes in a slot in the wall.

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Lots and lots of Ladybird books. This was a slightly odd shop, in that I went in and found it deserted. I did find a book I wanted to buy, but despite waiting a while and randomly calling in case there was a hidden alcove the owner might be standing in, I had to go away defeated and call back later for the book. The lady just said that she’d popped out, they’re obviously a trusting lot round there! Another shop was closed for five minutes, and when the owner came back he pulled out the book which was wedging the door shut and opened it…

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Hay is very obliging to book collecting knitters, in that it also has two yarn shops. The first is Wool and Willow, with a selection of hand-dyed yarn and knitted garments. Sadly the lady behind the counter didn’t see fit to look up from her newspaper the whole time I was in there, so I didn’t feel inclined to buy anything.

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The other shop is Bedecked, which has moved from the back street it used to be on, to the main street, so it must be doing well. This was much more tempting, but given my extravagances at Wonderwool, and the amount of yarn in my stash, I managed to resist buying anything.

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There is a very nice selection of buttons and beads, but they’re not cheap, sadly.

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Downstairs there’s a nice selection of fabrics.

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And some more completely random photos of Hay.

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This is the castle – partly derelict, partly used as, predictably enough, a bookshop.

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In a butcher’s window.

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To remind you that Hay is actually just over the Welsh border.

 

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And of course, the general theme of the holiday was water, either coming down from the sky or already on the ground, and the river Wye in Hay was no exception.

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Well, I’ve moved into the apartment I was supposed to be in all week, until she made a mix up with the bookings. I’m very glad to be out of the B&B (far too much need to be sociable before breakfast) but the main reason I booked this place was that it had wifi. Which it does, but only in the kitchen, the bathroom, and at one end of the dining table if it’s not raining. They don’t seem to see a problem with this, and I’m too much of a wimp to argue. I’m a bit uncomfortable all round – this was supposed to be a self contained unit, but it’s accessed via a door that leads into their part of the house, and I can’t lock the door to my bit. I’m finding myself sneaking around trying not to bump into anyone. Bah.

But anyway, on Monday I went out for the day – I needed to stock up on food, so I planned to end up in Hereford, but otherwise I just pointed the car and looked for interesting things, some of which I managed to photograph. On reflection, they’re mostly churches, which wasn’t actually intentional. But do stick with me, there are crafty interludes!

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This church with a very odd tower was the first thing to catch my eye, in a small village called Kinnersley.

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It was a fairly typical English church inside,

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but with interesting painted plaster on the walls. I can’t remember seeing anything like that before.

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Outside the graveyard was rather overgrown.

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And just behind the church was a fascinating looking old house. Sadly there didn’t seem to be any access to it.

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I saw a sign to Leominster (pronounced, with typical English logic, Lemster) and found that I’d parked just next to the Priory Church. I gather it’s all that remains of a priory which fell victim to Henry VIII, and it’s a bit of a hotch-potch inside.

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There are essentially three aisles, at one side divided by slender Victorian columns,

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and at the other side, by chunky Norman arches.

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There were a couple of interesting crafty things in the church, firstly this quilted ‘stained glass window’, showing local scenes.

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And next this ‘tapestry’, as they described it, with 100 roundels on a background of Ryeland fleece (Ryelands are the local sheep, sometimes called the Lemster Ore, according to information in the church).

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There’s also, somewhat bizarrely, an old ducking stool, which was apparently dumped in the church many years ago after its last use and never moved.

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Looking out of the doorway of the church.

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Leominster itself is a attractive small town, with a mixed bag of buildings.

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I stumbled across the folk museum, and wandered in. These smocks caught my eye,

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There was no information about them, so I asked the couple who were in charge (presumably volunteers) what sort of date they were, and soon regretted it, as he insisted on not only searching out two books about smocks, but then making me look through them both at length. I did impress them by mentioning Sussex round smocks though, which is pretty much the only thing I know about smocks, and that’s only from reading Elsie Oxenham books.

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Other gems of the collection were an original cider press.

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And a display of corn dollies.

I was heading back to the car, thinking I’d exhausted the possibilities of Leominster, when I spotted this.

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The Sheep Shed, a shop selling locally produced hand spun yarn and hand knitted garments. Actually the website in the link doesn’t actually mention the shop at all, but that’s what’s on the leaflet she gave me! The shop’s at 5 High Street, closed Wednesdays.

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All in natural colours.

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Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

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I finally made it back to the car and headed down the A49 to Hereford, passing many flooded fields en route.

Hereford annoyed me by directing me to a car park which when I got there turned out to only be open to the public at weekends, and then not telling me how to get to a different one. I drove around for a while, but ended up parking on the street in a two hour space, so I had to rush around, and forgot to take any photos until I got to the Cathedral.

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This is a radiator! There are four, but apparently they don’t actually do a lot in terms of heating the huge space.

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This is a tiny side chapel with an amazing ceiling.

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And outside this chap is forever contemplating the cathedral. I don’t know why or who he is – if there was an explanation I missed it.

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And then back to the apartment, where I found that the hitherto empty field outside my window had suddenly become home to a huge flock of sheep and lambs, who are very entertaining if a little noisy first thing in the morning!

Right, now to see if I can persuade this lot to upload on the very dodgy internet connection!

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