Last Saturday some seriously energetic folk climbed into their boats and spent the day racing in the Fresh Start Charity Dragon Boat Challenge. Dragon boat racing is an ancient Chinese tradition rowing to the rhythm of the drum and has grown into a global sport. On this occasion the racing was all part of a fundraising initiative to collect money for the Fresh Start Charity which provides support for children who have suffered sexual abuse.
Down at the Ipswich Waterfront 18 crews from a variety of local businesses rowed heats of 200 metres during the course of the day. The challenge was finally won by the Ipswich Canoe Club. I guess no shock surprise there!
But, of course, the big winner was the Fresh Start Charity as £10,000 was raised for such a worthwhile cause.
Some of you may remember seeing photos from my old garden of the white Japanese wisteria that I trained over a pergola. I originally bought it as a grafted specimen and it flowered from the first year, but it really got into its stride around about its fifth year. By the time I left that garden to a new custodian the wisteria was 11 years in place and blooming spectacularly every May. It also provided a canopy of green shade for all those long hot days of summer!
I have moved from the outskirts of city living back to urban life proper and no longer have the space for such a rampant plant in my backyard. Well, that’s not entirely true, but I need the sunny area for some fruit as well as flowers.
However, despite my ‘restricted space’ predicament, I am not entirely starved of this beautiful, May blooming flower as from the bedroom window I can see the charming Chinese wisteria decorating my next-door neighbour’s pergola.
Cardinal Wolsey (1470 or 1471-1530) sadly ended his days being hounded by King Henry VIII and died in Leicester en route to London following his recall from York to be tried for treason. It hadn’t always been so as Wolsey had spent much of his life and good fortune entwined with the Tudors despite being born the son of a butcher in Ipswich.
Thomas Wolsey – by Jacques le Boucq (1520-73) circa 1550. This drawing is thought to be a copy of a lost portrait dated 1508 when Wolsey was in his late thirties and a royal chaplain.
Thomas Wolsey – unknown artist 1589-95. This oil on panel painting is a later copy of a lost original work painted about 1520 when Wolsey was at the height of his power. He’s shown in his cardinal’s robes.
Thomas Wolsey was clever and after attending Ipswich School he studied theology at Magdalen College, Oxford. Henry VII had made Wolsey Royal Chaplain, but when Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509, Wolsey’s intelligence, administrative competence and diplomatic skills began to be recognised and rewarded. He rose through the ranks, both ecclesiastical and secular, to become Archbishop of York in 1514, Cardinal in 1515 and Lord Chancellor of England from 1515 to 1529. And, he was passionate about the role of education creating the Cardinal’s College of Mary, Ipswich and Cardinal College, Oxford, although neither of which outlived him in their original form.
Despite all his accomplishments Wolsey ended his days in disgrace and was buried in ignominy in Leicester Abbey without a significant, grand monument to mark his burial. In fact Wolsey had been overseeing arrangements for his eternal resting place including a design for a sarcophagus and accompanying sculptural adornments some six or so years before his death.
By 1524 the sarcophagus had been made and the Florentine Renaissance sculptor, Benedetto da Rovezzano, was commissioned to create four bronze angels to complete the monument.
However, despite these exquisite Renaissance angels being sculpted and cast by 1529 a year before the Cardinal’s death, the full memorial tomb was never assembled and erected in its entirety as . . . . .
unfortunately for the Cardinal he dramatically and cataclysmically fell from the King’s favour following his failure to obtain a divorce from Pope Clement VII permitting Henry to escape his marriage to Katherine of Aragon.
There may not be the grand tomb in Westminster Abbey for Cardinal Wolsey that he had envisaged, but there is an engaging tribute to Wolsey in his home town of Ipswich. It is a commemorative statue by David Annand that I hope Wolsey would have deeply appreciated as it depicts him not only as the Cardinal, but gesticulating, as if in full flow, educating the world (or at least the good folk of Ipswich as they stroll up St Peter’s Street).
Although I have finally moved into my permanent house and I do have a small backyard it will be some time before I can start to think about making a garden. Priorities have been sorting out my work and studio space, the main reason for moving, and trying to create a little order from the overwhelming chaos.
Without a garden visiting the local parks has been very important to my sanity
and they are also a great resource.
Drooping catkins, bursting buds and the early blackthorn flowers are all potential motifs to be worked into a silk scarf design.
It’s not just in the parks there’s plenty of new activity, but down on the Ipswich Waterfront building work on the skeletal ‘Winerack’ has begun after standing unfinished for over a decade.
It will be interesting to watch the framework finally become a fully, functioning building. Perhaps it will be a stunning, remarkable piece of architecture, but however it turns out I suspect the good folk of Ipswich will probably always refer to it as The Winerack.
When I moved to Ipswich last year my father and I went for a walk up to the Old Cemetery. It was summer and it was one of the year’s three hot days.
My goodness what a difference yesterday was to last August. ‘The Beast from the East’ has been blasting Siberian freezing air across the North Sea and mini blizzards have been whipping across the East of England.
During our summer visit, my father reminisced on attending the funeral of his grandfather in the Old Cemetery and as we strolled around he tried to work out in which of the pair of chapels the service had been held.
It looked very dramatic today in the fading light and bitter cold. The snow didn’t ease off and after 45 minutes my hands were so cold I could hardly hold my camera. (I know, I know, I should have some of those fancy Tech gloves, but at about £30 per pair it’s hardly worth it when we’ll probably get only three days of properly cold weather in a single year.) So back home it was, but fortunately that’s only now a few houses down from the cemetery gates.
Although Ipswich, a town of about 134,000 people, is not a large place it has some beautiful parks. Recently I went along to Christchurch Park for the first time. The so-called golden hour for taking photographs may be a great time for capturing a weak wintery sunset and the fabulous rich colours of the last leaves, but it was a bitingly cold afternoon.
Nevertheless, despite my fingers becoming stiff with cold, I managed to take a few interesting photos. As I have already mentioned previously my favourite park in Ipswich is Holywells Park, however probably the most well-known park is Christchurch Park.
Originally, this parkland was the grounds of the Augustinian Priory of the Holy Trinity founded around 1177.
However, the land has changed ownership several times since it was seized by the Crown as part of Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. The park is also the site of the beautiful, late-Tudor mansion, Christchurch Mansion.
The Mansion’s last private owner, Felix Cobbold, gave it to the community in 1895 on the condition that the Ipswich Corporation purchased the rest of the associated property within which the mansion was set. And, as an urban space open to the public, it has belonged to the people of Ipswich since 1895.
The park is slightly bigger than Holywells Park with more open spaces and vistas, and consequently feels less intimate and domestic than Holywells. It is more like a traditional urban park, but still offers a restorative green space within a five minute walk of the town centre.
Last weekend I took my camera with me on a walk round the local park to photograph the seasonal changes.
Surprisingly, autumn has been slow to arrive. I am used to living further inland, but here in Ipswich, on a clear day from the ninth floor, you can see Felixstowe down on the coast 11 miles away.
I have concluded that being closer to the sea has kept temperatures slightly warmer in the local park and hence without a run of adequately cool nights the leaves are still to significantly change colour.
So far the most noticeable change is seen in the horse chestnuts. The leaves have turned crispy and brown, and many have dropped already. Sadly, I suspect the trees are suffering from bleeding canker disease caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv aesculi.
On a more positive note there’s still plenty of colour in the wildflower meadow drifts.
And, self-seeded here and there, the umbels of wild angelica brighten up the shady areas edging the bottom lake.
I wasn’t the only industrious individual stalking the park, the squirrels and jays were busy collecting autumn berries and acorns.
Every two years the Ipswich Waterfront hosts a Maritime Festival. Held over a weekend the event is a nautical celebration featuring boats, international street food and a temporary fun fair.
Visiting boats line up along the quayside and the largest visitor this year was the Earl of Pembroke (1945) all the way from Bristol. Originally a schooner, the Earl of Pembroke was restored between 1985-1994 and commissioned as a three masted eighteenth century barque. You may have spotted her in Tim Burton’s film ‘Alice in Wonderland’ or in the TV series ‘Longitude’.
Another sailing beauty, the slender Essex smack Pioneer CK18 (built 1864), was moored up at the Waterfront joining some of the Old Thames barges (Victor, Thistle and Centaur) recently returned to the quayside for the Festival.
It wasn’t just sailing boats that were flaunting their nautical credentials. One of the last surviving steam inshore craft, Vic 96 (built 1945) was tied up alongside the tugboat Motor Tug Kent (1948).
This year’s theme was the recapture of Ipswich from the Vikings in 917AD and we did eventually spot a small group of folk with their historically accurate helmets and mail vests sitting at the back of the fun fair area. I am not sure authentic Anglo Saxon or Viking food would have been big sellers, but there were wild boar burgers, venison sausages, and a full hog roast available for hungry visitors.
Many of the ships and boats around the marina were decked out with colourful flags, but the best part of the weekend was the closing firework display. My photos were all shot through the rigging of the Earl of Pembroke.
I think the firework finale (below) flashing and banging over the ship gave a hint of what it might have been like in the past in the midst of a naval skirmish.
PS – Newsflash – July 2018 –
As of this year the Ipswich Maritime Festival is to take place annually. Perhaps this August I will get better firework photos!
Think of a traditional civic park in the UK and regularly mown grass criss-crossed with paths and dotted with formal bedding schemes springs to mind. A vision surviving from our community minded forebears, the Victorians.
But in the 21st century planted civic spaces in many towns have moved away from this formal interpretation. Perhaps this is partly due to the labour intensive nature of seasonal bedding schemes and therefore the greater expense.
Torilis japonica – upright hedge-parsley
Chichorium intybus – chicory
Dipsacus fullonum – wild teasel
Nowadays we find hole areas of parks have become very informal with a move to include the introduction of more natural, conservation areas. Plants are being chosen to support the indigenous wildlife and there’s even a hint of re-wilding some areas and a hands off approach to weeding.
Of course, look closely and there is a fine balance between allowing nature to flourish yet not become entirely overrun with the more thuggish weeds. Weed or not, the bees are only too pleased for the odd flowering thistle and the butterflies such as Painted Ladies, Commas, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals all love a healthy patch of nettles. (Sadly, when I was in the park I only spotted a couple of Commas, it doesn’t seem to be a particularly good year for butterflies, possibly due to the recent heavy downpours.)
It isn’t just the annual and biennial wild flowers that are important for bees, as in the autumn, when there are fewer blooms around, ivy flowers provide a very important source of nectar. And, this is where the large, venerable park trees supporting their heavy old cloaks of ivy are so important as only established, mature (arborescent) ivy flowers.
If you have been to see or are going to see the latest Christopher Nolan film ‘Dunkirk’ then you will have seen or be seeing ‘Xylonite’, an old Thames Barge. The film ‘Dunkirk’ is a dramatisation of the evacuation of over 330,00 Allied troops from the sandy beaches of Dunkerque in northern France. These shocking events took place between 27th May and 4th June in the summer of 1940 during World War Two.
Please excuse my ignorance, but I didn’t have any prior knowledge about the role played by any Thames barges during the Dunkirk evacuation, but as I watched the film I spotted a type of boat I thought I recognised. And, yes, I did. It was one of the old Thames barges. Currently (as I write) several very similar sister barges are moored at the Ipswich Waterfront one of which is ‘Thistle’ (top photo) recently arrived joining ‘Victor’ (featured in a previous post), ‘Thalatta’ and ‘Centaur’.
In real life, in 1940, thirty Thames barges took part in the evacuation, but only a handful of these vessels have survived into the 21st century. ‘Greta’, ‘Ena’ and ‘Pudge’ are still sailing and ‘Tollesbury’ is currently being restored whilst ‘Beatrice Maud’ is used as a houseboat.
Last month several other barges visited the Ipswich port and moored at the Neptune Quay amongst the visitors was the beautiful old, Dunkirk survivor ‘Pudge’ .
This historic sailing craft has quite a story to tell and the quote below (taken from her website) relates her WW 2 exploits.
Her working life as a cargo carrier was interrupted in spectacular fashion by the Second World War when she was requisitioned in May 1940 whilst in Tilbury, drafted to Dover and thence to Dunkirk to aid the evacuation. Three barges including Pudge were taken in tow by a tug and crossed the Channel under cover of darkness. As they reached the beaches at Dunkirk an explosion lifted Pudge out of the water and, in the words of her skipper, “she came down the right way up”. She took onboard survivors and set off for England, picking up a tow from a tug on the way, to arrive safely back at Ramsgate. Pudge is one of only four of the Dunkirk Spritsail Barges that survive. Pudge is a member of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships and is entitled to fly the flag of St. George.
And, what of the film star ‘Xylonite’, well, she has recently been put up for sale and is yours for a cool £425,000 fully restored!
Just a thought, but I wondered why none of the original Dunkirk barges ‘Pudge’ , ‘Greta’ or ‘Ena’ were chosen for the film. Perhaps it is because they all have black hulls and it is easier to see and film the khaki uniformed soldiers against the pale bluey grey hull of ‘Xylonite’. And, maybe an aesthetic choice too as naturally the whole film has its own restricted palette of muted blues, greys and sandy colours into which ‘Xylonite’ neatly fits.