Returning home yesterday afternoon from the far north eastern corner of the Dengie Peninsular in Essex, I saw this sign at the side of the road near Bradwell-on-Sea. Obviously amused, I carried on driving and then, after a mile or so decided I really should've photographed it. So I turned back, and very intrigued I carefully opened the makeshift box that had painted on it 'Bulls Eggs In Here'. Of course it contained boxes of hen's eggs, but I now know that the owners of the chickens are David and Ruth Bull. How do I know? Well, after buying half-a-dozen eggs I drove back home to Leicestershire, and a hundred miles or so later I came to a halt on the A14 at Cambridge due to an accident. As I sat there waiting I thought I'd check my shots. Of course I would've done if I'd had my camera. I hadn't, because it was still sitting on top of the egg cupboard in Essex. But after a very long haul back and a spell of furious googling by my girlfriend, I eventually arrived back at the egg box. No camera. But a man carrying buckets of eggs across a field (the gate had 'Beware Of The Bull' on it) stopped and stared at me. "Are you Mr.Bull?" I called out, "I'm Peter". He put the buckets down and shouted back "Then I'm just about to reunite you with your camera". Thankyou so much Mr & Mrs.Bull, thankyou Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Full acknowledgement will be rendered elsewhere. Right, where's my egg timer. Phew.
How romantic, a castle on a hill in winter sunlight. But where is it? One clue might be that a big BBC Sunday night serial was filmed here in the early eighties. And that it's neighbour could not be more different in character. Extra toast for the name of the programme. With Tiptree's Orange & Tangerine Marmalade.
Two enthusiams in one. Here is the donations box for the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway, a preserved line that runs from Toddington, where the box is, through Winchcombe to Cheltenham Race Course. I'm not quite sure where Warwickshire comes into it, but I believe the 'The Honeybourne Line' as they now call it once ran up to Stratford-upon-Avon in the neighbouring county. This beautiful Victorian pillar box has now been repainted in the Great Western Railway's original light and dark stone colours, as is the footbridge behind it. Which, if you're ever in this delightful neck of the Cotswolds woods, you'll see couldn't be more complementary to the landscape. I've yet to travel on this line, but intend to do so this year as the GWR celebrates it's 175th anniversary. Toot toot!
Ludlow, Shropshire, Sunday morning. What could be better. The sound of Housman's bells cascading down over the rooftops, little old ladies with prayerbooks hurrying back to cottages up shaded alleys, early spring sun lighting up brass letterboxes on gloss painted front doors. And then look what catches my eye in the market place. I was going to self indulgently show you the Dinky Toy 3 ton army lorry I got for eight quid, but thought this was far more edifying. I thought we could scan the shelf and see how many we'd read. I just have, and am ashamed to admit it's only one. But which? I'll think of a prize for the first one there. Probably a dog-eared Penguin. That'd be novel.
In line with Commentator Diplo's request for a monochrome photograph of an Up-to-Date Puzzle Location, I give you....? The only help this week is that it's a location within the borders of my most recent travelling (qv). I didn't stay at this inn, but the place it's in does give rise to many thoughts about the current nature of the contemporary English village. Of which, of course, more later.
Just a quick one, as I'm off now to the Welsh Borders (well, the English side that is: Herefordshire and Shropshire) and will be out of range of the Blogosphere radar. But I thought you'd like this, a very uncompromising shed on the hard at Tollesbury. And yes, the side view shows it's got a corrugated iron roof. The only sound is the constant tap-tap of wire against aluminium masts and the voices of blokes in overalls tarring boats shouting nautical / weather notes at each other. One of my very favourite places, south of Tiptree which means you can call in for tea and scones at the jam factory served with a jar of Wilkin's 'Little Scarlet' strawberry preserve. Right, off to Offa's.
I thought I'd try something different for this week's puzzle picture. Instead of rummaging through dusty books for old photographs, I thought for this 20th in the series (please tell me if you're fed up with it and I'll think of something else) I'd get you guessing where I was yesterday afternoon. Clue: unless I'd got a handy rowing boat, I was sixteen miles away from a pint in the Rose & Crown.
Yesterday was a good day to be on the North Norfolk coast, what with summer-like weather and the first signs of the greening-up of the landscape. More time was spent than was good for us in Burnham Market, there being much to do in the coastal villages. More of that at another time, but I obviously couldn't resist these signs. Nothing more need be said about the fishy business at the top, and although the Hall's Distemper decorators with their plank have often been discussed in Unmitigated England, no image has thus far been forthcoming. We have talked about them as big wooden cut-outs next to railway lines, but this is the first time I'd seen them (or, tantalisingly one of them) in vitreous enamel. What a treat, an Unmitigated Tradesman and an Unmitigated House in glorious hot glass colour. I imagine the full size was too big for one sign, so a pair was made. I wonder where its companion and the other end of the plank is. I will think about it over a fishcake or four.
Between the village of Clare and the town of Sudbury in Suffolk runs one of our many River Stours. Meandering in its shallow valley it also forms the county boundary with Essex, and tucked up in the furthest north east of this county are a series of villages with the prefix 'Belchamp'. Which according to Norman Scarfe's Shell Guide to Essex is apparently a Norman reconfiguration of the Anglo Saxon 'Belc-ham' which means 'homestead' with a roof of 'timber beams'. I would think every Norman homestead had a timber-beamed roof by default, but most certainly there is a superb example of Essex / Suffolk vernacular domestic building at almost every turn of the sharply right-angled lanes that twist from Belchamp to Belchamp. Yesterday I found myself wandering around these lanes looking for Belchamp Walter, which I found bowered in trees down by a tributary of the Stour. I was searching for a ruined tower in a field (of cabbages as it turned out) as you do, but on the way I was helped by this signpost at Belchamp Otten. What amused me was the thought that B-Walter had obviously been omitted from the original, and had to have an appendix added, probably after a Belchamp deputation had descended on the council offices in Halstead with burning brands and sharpened pitch forks. Maybe.
Not a very Easter Sunday kind of picture, but at least there's some daffodils in it. A little piece of 'pleasing decay' found at Stembridge out on the Somerset Levels. A landscape of cold water courses running through a landscape dotted with black willow trees cowed against the wind, and those simply extraordinary Somerset church towers with their pageants of pinnacles. All with the backdrop of the Quantocks and Polden Hills. Happy Easter everybody.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)
"Open this book with reverence. It is a hymn to England". Clive Aslet
"Enchanting...delightful". The Bookseller "Cheekily named" We Love This Book
The Cigarette Papers
"Unexpectedly pleasing and engrossing...beautifully illustrated". The Bookseller
"Until the happy advent of Peter Ashley's Cross Country it has, ironically, been foreigners who have been best at celebrating Englishness". Christina Hardyment / The Independent
More from Unmitigated England
"Give this book to someone you know- if not everyone you know." Simon Heffer, Country Life. "When it comes to spotting the small but telling details of Englishness, Peter Ashley has no equal." Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph