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I hope you will enjoy my place and my photos, I am looking forward to visits from friends, old and new.

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Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Shell Grotto, Margate, Kent.


This is a modern copy of a panel in the Altar room, it took the lady who made it 5 months to do, which makes you realize the amount of work involved in making the whole grotto!!





Looking back to the entrance tunnel

The Shell Grotto in Margate was discovered in 1838, supposedly by some workmen, but there is also a tale that 2 children discovered the site. Either way the hole at the top of the dome was uncovered, and to the discoverers the shells inside must have looked like an Aladdin’s cave. It was an amazing discovery, with the walls and ceilings totally covered with shells. No one knows who or why the grotto was made, but there are over 4 million shells in an area of 2000 sq.ft.



A face?



The Serpentine path


The entrance to the Altar room


The entrance to the grotto is through a shop and small cafe, and is situated well off the usual tourist routes in Margate. We walked down a few steps from the shop into a small display area, then down a sloping passage and entered the grotto in the area known as the Rotunda, a circular chamber with a very large centre post. We chose the left hand path and followed it round until we came to the Dome. It is an awesome sight to see so many shells, although sadly the shells are all of a uniform colour. Originally the shells would have been beautifully coloured, but the Victorians used gas lamps to illuminate the grotto and the shells have been dulled by the soot from the lamps.




The Dome is amazing, and it has been noted that starting at the Spring equinox the sun moves down a line of double shells to the bottom of the dome chamber week by week until it hits the bottom of the line of shells at Midsummer before making its way back up to the top of the chamber for the Autumn equinox.



The panel that was copied, see the top photo.


The Altar alcove

There are many patterns and designs shown on the walls and it struck me straight away that this site is of pagan origin, with no Christian symbols anywhere. There are a lot of flowers and hearts, a panel which looks like a face in one, a skeleton, a phallic symbol and a womb complete with umbilical cord, and numerous suns and stars. The whole site had been described as a life journey with the Rotunda representing birth, the Serpentine Passage representing our journey through life, and rebirth being represented by the Altar chamber. The Altar chamber is incomplete, due to bomb damage sustained during WW2. Whatever the explanation is, the Shell Grotto is a fascinating place to visit, I hope one day someone will find all the answers!



Entering the Rotunda from the Altar room


The phallic symbol


The womb and the umbilical cord


A snake panel in the centre of the photo, the panel on the left shows bare slate which the shells are attached to, these bare spots probably had flowers on them originally.



The base of the Dome, showing the entrances to the Rotunda.



I am just about to start reading a novel about the Shell Grotto, ‘The Realm of Shells’, written by a local author Sonia Overall, I think it will be a very interesting read, I will let you know when I have finished reading it.


And finally, an example of what happens when you have the camera on the wrong setting!!! It looks quite nice gold don’t you think??

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Penshurst Place, the gardens and grounds.


The pond and statue in the formal garden



As promised in my last blog, here is another visit to Penshurst Place, this time concentrating on the magnificent gardens.


Diana’s Bath




After our rather long tea and cake break, Sheila and I headed off into the gardens. It was getting quite late by this time, and we had the gardens more or less to ourselves. The gardens are in a series of ‘rooms’ each one enclosed with yew hedges, each one just as beautiful as the last.



The Porcupine, the Sidney family Crest.



In front or the House is the Italian Garden, a beautiful formal garden with a large central pond and statue. The best views of the house are from this garden, and from here we wandered through the maze of smaller gardens, enjoying the herbaceous borders, the orchard, the Union Flag Garden and Diana’s Bath, a beautiful fountain.





Sadly we did manage to miss some of the gardens, but the ones we saw were wonderful. We were also too late to go round the Maize Maze, which was laid out in the shape of a crown, but in spite of this we had a really lovely time, and we will just have to visit Penshurst again soon won’t we? I hope you have enjoyed the photos, and if you ever get the chance do try to visit this wonderful place, you will not be disappointed.


The Union Flag Garden, with Lavender for the blue colour, and red and white roses for the red and white of the flag Smile




Saturday, 8 September 2012

Penshurst Place


For a very long time I have wanted to visit Penshurst Place, the ancestral home of the Sidney family, and finally last month I managed to get there, along with my photo buddy Sheila, who did a grand job of driving us there, with a little bit of help from her sat. nav!




We arrived at Penshurst about 1pm on a beautiful August day, and chose to look round the house first. Penshurst Place is the family home of the De Lisle family, and the oldest part of the building is the Barons Hall which is Medieval, and is the first room you enter in the house. The Hall is magnificent with a wonderful Medieval beamed ceiling and an amazing octagonal central fire hearth, where a fire is still lit at times. I have never seen a central hearth anywhere before, it is easy to imagine the smoke rising from the fire and escaping through a vent in the ceiling. The vent is no longer there, but all round the walls at the base of the ceiling are a number of carved wooden figures, life size, but all having had their legs cut off below the knees at some time. The guide told us that the legs may have been cut off  with maybe the intention of making a lower ceiling, which fortunately never happened!




We continued with our tour of the house, all the rooms are just amazing, from the Solar (or State Dining Room) with its squint hole, where people down in the Baron’s Hall can be viewed in secret, through to the Long Gallery, with its bleached oak panelled walls. There are many wonderful paintings, tapestries and furniture in the house, and we spent some time looking through each room.


The Barons Hall is the building with the orange roof.



After leaving the house we headed towards the formal gardens at the front of the building, which is where most of the photos were taken, as you can see the whole building is just really beautiful. By this time we were in need of a cup of tea, so we made our way to the Restaurant and enjoyed our cup of tea and piece of cake under the shade of a large tree. It was so lovely there that we sat there for rather a long time, just putting the world to rights!


Tea time, a lovely place to enjoy a cuppa Smile

No photography was allowed in the house, but there are photos to be found on the internet if you would like to see some interior views of the house.




As usual I have taken too many photos, so I will do a second blog sharing some photos of the gardens and grounds. The photos are all ready so I will try to get the next blog up over the next couple of days.