21 February 2020

20 February 2020


Some of you out there seemed intrigued by Sheffield Manor and so here we go again...

In the past, ancient sites and ruins were not venerated by local people. There was no National Trust nor English Heritage running around protecting old castles, monasteries, abbeys or city walls.

When old stone structures fell into disuse, the ordinary populace saw these historical sites as fair game. Many viewed them like stone quarries - places you could go to collect building materials. It seems almost unbelievable now but that is how it was. It is why the huge medieval castle here in Sheffield disappeared almost entirely and it is why Victorians had the unenviable job of trying to rebuild Hadrian's Wall near England's border with Scotland.

I once observed  the same phenomenon in Kos, Greece. There the ancient Greek medical school, the Asclepeion, was vandalised in the fourteenth century by medieval knights in order to construct a fortress at the entrance to Kos Town's harbour. Even today you can still see writing carved into some of the stones by ancient Greeks a thousand years before the fortress was built.

All of the above is mere preamble before going back to the subject of Sheffield Manor. As soon as this impressive stone settlement on a hill fell into disuse a hundred years after Mary Queen of Scots's sojourn, local homeowners, farmers and builders pillaged the site on a regular basis until a lot of the original stonework simply disappeared. 
The Turret House - shown from a different viewpoint yesterday - is the
only complete building on the site of Sheffield Manor
If each lost stone had a DNA signature you could easily track them down and find them in a wide array of newer structures in the vicinity of the old manor complex. Once that complex was embedded in countryside with swathes of green forest and heathland where stags, wild boar and game birds flourished. 

Now what remains of Sheffield Manor finds itself stranded in the heart of an urban landscape - not leafy suburbia where middle class committees and volunteers would no doubt cradle it - but in a part of the city where there is industry and street after grim street of low-cost social housing - where survival understandably matters more than heritage.
20h century gates with Sheffield's coat of arms

19 February 2020


A view of The Turret House (1574), Sheffield Manor
On Tuesday, I parked on Skye Edge - sometimes spelt Sky Edge. It's a grassy wasteland east of the city centre and it sits on high ground. The southern section of Skye Edge was once the location of some of Sheffield's poorest housing -  leading to the vast  Manor Estate.

Going back much further in time and close to Skye Edge are the ruins of Sheffield Manor. Once this stone campus was at the centre of  vast hunting grounds known as Sheffield Park. In the late sixteenth century this land and The Manor itself were owned by the Talbot family. They were fabulously rich and headed by George Talbot, the Sixth Earl of Shrewsbury. 

In 1570, Queen Elizabeth I  asked or told Talbot to detain Mary Queen of Scots and to keep her under house arrest. She was brought to Sheffield Manor and pretty much kept there for fourteen years though there were occasional costly processions to some of Talbot's other properties.

In 1587, Talbot witnessed Mary's execution at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire. Her story was one of political intrigue, religious prejudice and power brokerage. Far too complicated for me to explain here.
Social housing on Skye Edge
As she looked out from her wooded Sheffield hilltop, it is unlikely that she would have imagined for one moment - dog walkers on Skye Edge, lads on motorbikes or skateboards and squat social housing with all the streets named after British birds - like the kestrel, the plover and the starling. Of course, she belonged to a very different time. For one thing, the population of England and Wales in 1570 was around 3.7 million compared with an estimated 58 million today.
Skateboarders shelter on Skye Edge
Anyway, I enjoyed my walk on Skye Edge and along to the ruins of The Manor. It was only when I returned to Clint and began to read my next book that the BBC weatherman's  promised rain began to fall upon Clint's windows.

"Can't we go now?" he snapped. "It's bloody windy up here!"

I finished the promising introduction to "Map Addict" by Mike Parker before heading home.

"About time too!" grumbled Clint, quickly moving through the gears to sixth and galloping down the hill like one of George Talbot's prized steeds.
Sheffield city centre from Skye Edge

18 February 2020


Cat Stevens in 1971
From mid-August !972 I lived on a faraway island called Rotuma. There was no electricity, no running water and no sewers.  I lived with my late American friend Richard in the village of Motusa. Richard had brought  a radio-cassette player to the island from his home in Minneapolis along with a dozen cassettes. One of them was "Teaser and the Firecat" by Cat Stevens.

We played those cassettes over and over again on dark South Pacific nights as our hurricane lamp flickered and waves rumbled in the darkness on the edge of the coral reef. Cat Stevens was a brilliant songsmith and in my extraordinarily humble opinion it is a crying shame that he later  turned to Islam. He had a precious knack and it is certain that many more great songs would have emerged from him had he not opted for medieval religious belief and all that that entailed.

Tonight, as I came home from  the quiz at "The Hammer and Pincers", I found myself singing quietly and the song was "How Can I Tell You" from the album mentioned above. Some would refer to it as an "ear worm". A simple, heartfelt song. I am sure that some of you out there in the blogospherw will remember it.  Here it is:-

17 February 2020


In Mytholmroyd
God said to Noah, “I am going to destroy all flesh because the world is full of violence. Build an ark of gopherwood, with rooms inside, three decks, and a door. Cover it inside and out with pitch.” And Noah did exactly as God commanded him (Genesis 6:13–22).

Personally, I think it was wise of Noah to comply with God's request. He could have stood up against God on behalf of his fellow human beings. After all, they can't all have been totally bad can they? They must have had some redeeming features. But if Noah had challenged God's decision he would have also been swept away in the wrathful flood. God didn't believe in democratic debate.  By the way, I wonder where Noah got the gopherwood from?

The above biblical diversion simply foreshadows the main purpose of this blogpost - to reflect upon recent flooding in The People's Republic of Yorkshire. 

Lots of rain has fallen these past two weeks - associated with two Atlantic storms - Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis. The moors and hills have been drenched and drenched again. And when rain falls on saturated ground where has it got to go? It runs down gullies into brooks and streams and they in turn run into rivers so that the rivers become surging torrents that aim for the open sea, sometimes spreading out on flood plains, breaking through the banks and levees created by Noah's descendants. It's only natural - a geographical tale of yore.

We live on one of Sheffield's hills above the valley of The River Porter. We can never be flooded up here. Even if all the ice on the planet melted we would still be okay though admittedly food supply chains would be severely disrupted.

It is hard to imagine what it would be like to have one's home flooded. Some Yorkshire homeowners have witnessed dirty river water gushing into their houses and rising one, two, three or more feet up their walls.

Life can be challenging enough in ordinary circumstances but imagine having to throw out all your carpets and ground floor furniture, all your kitchen appliances and some of your most treasured possessions. Then when the water subsides you have to deal with mean-spirited insurance companies and have plaster stripped from your walls - back to the bare brick. The place will need drying out and you need to find somewhere else to live. 

And in the midst of this trouble you have family and work responsibilities to juggle. It almost doesn't bear thinking about. At times the worry and the stress may become intolerable and perhaps in the middle of it all you will also wonder - Could the flooding return? How will we ever sell this house?

Though I feel for any flood victims, I am rather happy that the closest we will ever get to a flood is a big puddle on the lawn after a particularly heavy rainstorm.
In Tadcaster

16 February 2020


1) Yesterday we drove to the town of Selby - an hour north of Sheffield. We were there to support Shirley's sister Carolyn who is planning to buy a small house or bungalow in the town. We went to see three properties with her. She placed an offer on one of them.

On the way home, after we had crossed the swollen River Aire and  had driven beyond Chapel Haddlesey on the A19, it was as if we were crossing an inland sea. Excess flood waters had been directed to a swathe of flat farmland called Chapel Haddlesey Ings. Fortunately the road itself is raised above the level of the surrounding land. Above you can see a view over the ings to Eggborough Power Station.
 2) I have a pile of books to read. Lord knows when I will get through them all. I hope that no more books are added to the pile. Today, with some relief,  I finished "A Week in December" by Sebastian Faulks. I have read three other novels by Faulks - "Birdsong", "Human Traces" and "Engleby". They were all great reads.However, even though "A Week in December" is also well-written I found the subject matter somewhat tiresome. This novel focuses upon different human beings in London and how the characters' lives occasionally intersect. But I didn't like any of these people - simply could not warm to them or care about them. The novel ends just as the financial crash of 2008 is about to happen. Let's hope that the next book I read is more to my liking.
3) As we were sitting eating lunch at our dining room table today, Shirley looked out into the damp February afternoon and spotted a bird sheltering on an old apple tree bough. She took some binoculars from a drawer and reported that it was a bird of prey. I went to get my camera and zoomed in on the bird through the glass of our French windows. I must have been 25 metres away from the creature so that explains the relatively poor quality of the picture. Even so, I am quite happy with it. I hope the sparrowhawk returns on a nice, sunny day.

15 February 2020


The author of this humble Yorkshire blog does not exist solely on Yorkshire puddings. It may surprise you to learn that he does eat other things too.

One food item I have never liked is oven chips. I guess that Americans call them oven fries. You tend to find them in supermarket freezer aisles. They are generally packed in bulky  plastic bags with images of golden chips/fries on the front. You spread them on  a baking tray and whack them in a hot oven for ten or fifteen minutes and then shazzam! your chips/fries are done.

The trouble is, as I said before, I don't like them. We also never do any deep frying inside our house because of the resulting odours so hence we never have chips/fries at home unless we buy them from the local fish and chip shop.
A few weeks ago, I had an idea. What if I tried to make my own oven chips/fries? I peeled a large potato and then cut it into similarly sized chunky fingers. Next I brushed rapeseed oil on a non-stick oven tray. I put the potato chunks on the tray and then brushed them carelessly with more oil. A little seasoning and then I put the tray into the hot oven.

After five minutes I flipped the chips/fries over and then turned them over again after fifteen minutes. And after twenty minutes in total they were done - golden and ready to eat. The taste was great - just like proper homemade chips but with less oil involved in the cooking.

It's all very simple and I don't know why I had not thought of this process before. You can do the same with sweet potatoes and if you prefer you can make scallops instead of potato fingers. Visitors to Yorkshire Pudding are permitted to mimic this cooking technique completely free of charge!

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