Up In The Sky

Flying Machine

Renaissance Flying Machine Duxford Museum – copyright Padre’s Ramblings

Maria’s Antonia’s #2020picoftheweek challenge includes a prompt for “up in the sky.”  This photo taken at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford gets visitors to look up as they enter.  It’s fitting for the theme to have something unusual “up in the sky.”

It’s not a bird.  It’s not a plane. 

Nor Superman, or anything plain

It’s wood and canvas

And some Italian wild thought

Leonardo’s futuristic vision

But it came to naught





The Museum

Factory, Warehouse, Box, Warehouse

Image by 淑媛 孙 from Pixabay

“Is there anything to do in this town?” Tammy, the big city girl, asked her cousin.

“Well, there is the museum.  I always discover something interesting there,” Alex said.

“I’ve seen museums before, there are lots of them in the capital. One with dinosaurs, and others with history stuff, and three different art ones – classical, portrait, and modern,” Tammy retorted.

“I am sure that none of them is quite like this one,” the country cousin replied.

The pair made their way down Main Street and crossed the railroad tracks.  There along railway was a large corrugated steel structure with a sign reading “Museum” on it.

They paid their $2 admission free and entered.

“What is this place?  It looks like a warehouse,” Tammy asked.

“Well, I find it fascinating,” Alex replied.

“But its row on row of boxes.”

“It is the Cardboard Museum, after all,” Alex countered.



Weekend Writing Prompt #122 – Museum



A Visit To King’s Lynn

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Lynn Minster

King’s Lynn in North Norfolk is one of the principle settlements on The Wash.  It offers maritime history, historic churches, and some interesting museums.  We have visited on several occasions, and each time we find something new to check out.

The main place of worship in this once important Medieval town is the Minster.  Lynn Minster was established as The Minster and Priory Church of St Margaret, St Mary Magdalene and all the Virgin Saints,  in 1101.  It was originally a Benedictine house and its construction was authorised by Herbert de Losinga, the first Bishop of Norwich.   It remained a monastic house until the dissolution of the monasteries.  It then became the parish church of St Margaret’s.

The present church is a wonderful collection of 12th, 13th and 18th Century features with Victorian touches. The central nave is later than the chancel or entry as it was rebuilt after the spire collapsed in a 18th Century storm.  It has is really beautiful screen and the altar area is very nice as a whole.

We found the priest welcoming, very informative and the entire visit was inspirational.

Sea Henge Reconstruction


The Lynn Museum is small, but it does serve as the home to Sea Henge.   The Henge was constructed of oak timbers in the early Bronze age for ritual purposes.  The original was constructed fifty-five small split oak trunks forming a near-circular ring (7 by 6 metres).  The museum has the original timbers of this ancient monument as well as a modern material mock up. There are scale models of the life of the builders, and loads of interpretive data on hand, as well.

The museum has the original timbers of this ancient monument as well as a modern material mock up. There are scale models of the life of the builders, and loads of interpretive data on hand.

The collection also has collections documenting Lynn’s development from its monastic origins, to its importance as a medieval port, to its modern position today. I did particularly like the miniature carousel.

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The museum is fronted by the King’s Lynn bus station, so easy to access by public transport, though parking (nearby) is a little more difficult.

Our main meal in the town was at the Market Bistro.  We had heard good things about it in the past, so gave it a try.    It was wonderful experience!

We arrived just as they were opening the doors, but we were given a warm welcome and given a choice of seats. The decoration is casual with some features that are “shabby chic” and others showing off the venue’s 17th Century charms. The walls are a deep gray, but the paintings and other features keep it from having a dull feel. The overall impression is pleasantly cordial.

The service was very attentive and professional, and the carafe of iced water and serving of sourdough bread on arrival was an excellent touch.

The menu was posted on A4 clipboards, and specials on the chalkboard. We ordered the bistro burger,  a fish pie and a side of hand cut chips.  In addition, I enjoyed some really superior olives while we waited for the mains.

The main courses came in a timely manner, and were really wonderful.  Her burger was well presented, well cooked, and juicy.   The side of chips were some of the best that I have tasted, especially served, as they were, with homemade mayonnaise.  The wholegrain mustard mash topping the fish pie was excellent as well, and the salmon was some of the best I have ever tasted. The meals were full of flavour, really good in portion size, and satisfying to the extreme.

It was a pleasure to eat there.






Manchester Jewish Museum and a Couple of Places to Stay

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The Manchester Jewish Museum is housed in the Victorian era former Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, which is the oldest surviving synagogue building in Manchester. It has beautiful stained glass windows, and elaborate fittings. The bimah is large, and and the upper galleries are equally impressive.

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Jewish Museum

The collections of the museum give a really good portrait of the life of the Jewish immigrants and traders that made Manchester their home.  There are also several Torah scrolls housed here from The Memorial Scrolls Trust.


There are exhibits that relate to the Holocaust, and to the resettlement of Jewish refugees from that sad era.

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Anne Frank Rose

This is an interesting and moving place to visit.

I stayed at the Townhouse Hotel for three nights while attending a conference. I found it clean, comfortable and very professional. The staff were welcoming, and helpful. The breakfast servers were particularly so. The room was of a good size and the decoration tasteful, but maybe a bit dated. The bed was very soft, but a bit high. The quality of sleep was very good. The shower had good pressure and plenty of hot water. The laptop safe provided was easy to use. The breakfast was good, with buffet continental items and hot items cooked to order. It was a very pleasant place to stay.


Another conference related stay was at the Crowne Plaza Manchester City Centre. This is a good business hotel, and very convenient to the conference centre and the city centre. The room was comfortable, and the staff attentive.  The Glasshouse, as far as hotel restaurants go, was otherwise average. The general atmosphere was pleasant, but had that “business” feeling with the tables a bit too close together. The vegetarian selections were rather constrained, and the risotto was overly runny, and for the price not a great value. I was really not impressed with it as a place for an evening meal, so only ate dinner there once. To be fair to the establishment and the Crowne Plaza more generally, the breakfast buffet for the three mornings I was there was abundant and well prepared, though once again the “veggy” offerings were limited.


Museum Link


In the Footsteps of William

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Bayeux Panel from http://www.medievalists.net

Autumn 1066 just a few miles north of Hastings, Harold Godwinson formed his shield wall on a rise between the coast and London. His English army was battle weary and foot sore, but with them rested the future of the island kingdom. What happened next is much studied, and in some aspects controversial.  Did William of Normandy win the day, or did Harold lose it?

My wife and I have made several trips over the years following the footsteps of William and the Hastings story.  These journeys have taken us to Normandy, Yorkshire, and the south coast of England.  It has been a great learning experience and one which has enriched my understanding of Medieval history.

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Château de Falaise

Our journey began at William’s castle, Château de Falaise in Normandy.  This was the centre of his power and authority as Duke of Normandy. This “Cliff Castle” is impressive, though what is now seen is not William’s motte and bailey structure, but a later stone fortification completed by his heirs.

The village of Falaise has a lot of William touristy venues, but there is a really striking scupture of William in the square which is really worth seeing.

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Most of what many people know about the 1066 invasion comes from the pictorial account commissioned by William’s half brother, Bishop Odo. Now known as the Bayeux Tapestry this massive “comic strip” of the events of the invasion is housed in The Museum La Tapisserie de Bayeux in Normandy.  It is over 70 metres long, and records the events leading to the conquest up through William’s coronation as King of England. The tapestry is enclosed in glass in subdued light, and a headset is issued which explains each panel as you work your way through the account.  There is also a reproduction of a Norman ship (boat) outside the museum.

While not technically in the footsteps of William, Stanford Bridge in Yorkshire was our next destination.  This battle between the English and Danish claimants to the throne was pivotal in William’s fortunes.  The English army under Harold had been waiting for William’s arrival on the south coast of England when news arrived that the Vikings had invaded in the north.  The English marched the length of the country to attack the Danes in Yorkshire on the 25th of September. This was an English victory, but at the cost of good men, and the exhaustion of the army, which then had to make the return trip to meet William’s army.

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A rainy Stamford Bridge

The Battle of Hasting itself  was fought a few miles north of Hastings on the south coast. Battle Abbey is administered by English Heritage and is the site of the famous battle. The Englsih controlled the high ground and had a formidable shield wall.  The Normans and their allies made several attempts to break this defensive line, and failed in each.  But the untrained English allowed the wall to break in order to chase fleeing Bretons, weakening the position.  William capitalised on this, and made it a battle strategy to runaway, then turn on the pursuers. By the end of the day, Harold was dead, and William was on his way to London.

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Battle Abbey

The present abbey grounds are well kept, and again their are several themed souvenir shops and cafes in the area.  We did find parking a little tricky, but with some effort spaces can be found.

Our journey then went full circle, and we visited the final venue back in Normandy in the town of Caen and the final resting place of William.  He had returned on several occasions to his lands in Normandy, and when he died was buried in the monastery of  Abbaye aux Hommes.  This is a really splendid building, and there are some nice gardens adjoining it. We were able to finish our journey with a pleasant park visit in a gentle breeze.

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Visiting the Iron Bridge

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Ironbridge and the surrounding Gorge area on the Severn Valley is one of the significant locations in the history of Britain’s Industrial Revolution. While Arkwright and others all contributed to the rapid industrialisation of England, as opposed to the cottage industry which preceded it, it is Abraham Darby’s contribution to the low cost smelting of iron, which gives this area its “claim to fame.”

Darby’s grandson, also Abraham, had the world’s first great fabricated cast iron bridge built to span the gorge. The bridge was erected between 1779 and 1781, opening on New Year’s Day.

The bridge was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1934 is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

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Visitors can view the scenic valley, the bridge, and also a local museum which houses a large diorama of the area.  We didn’t make a day of it, but it was a great way point and offered some really nice photo opportunities.  It really is worth seeing for anyone interested in the history of the Industrial Revolution, or in 18th and 19th Century history more generally.

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Bridge and War Memorial


Museum Link

The Firs: Elgar’s House

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It was a couple of seasons ago that we visited Elgar’s house, and its accompanying museum and archive. At the time it was administered by the Elgar Foundation, and it has since entered into the joint care of the Foundation and the National Trust.

The National Trust’s site notes that the contract gives the Firs “a new lease of life,” and this is to be appreciated by anyone who values heritage, and musical history.  The cottage is the birthplace of the composer, and his home through much of his life. The gardens are quaint, and in them you can find the burial place of his beloved dogs.

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The grounds also have a modern museum, performance area, and archive.  On our visit we (and especially my wife who is a musician) found the information and atmosphere inspiring.  Since the National Trust has taken on operation there has been a new tea room established, and walks around the grounds have been enhanced.

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I have to admit that I was late in coming to an appreciation of Elgar.  My first “knowing” experience of his work came with the Pomp and Circumstances march at my undergraduate graduation.  Since them I have come to admire the Enigma Variations (one of the things to check out at the museum), with its fourteen variations each representing musically one of his friends or loved ones.

While we have not been back since the National Trust began its involvement, I look forward to doing so soon (as a Trust member) and as an enthusiast for Elgar’s music.

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This is a worthwhile destination for anyone travelling in the west of England, and especially for those who love music.



Link to National Trust Pages




Visiting Captain Mainwaring: Dad’s Army Museum, Thetford

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Statue of Captain Mainwaring near Bridge House

At the end of the summer, I made my second visit to the Dad’s Army Museum in Thetford. It has come a long way since 2012. On the surface it is about the popular 1970s BBC sitcom, but it also marks the history of the real British Home Guard of World War Two.

The museum’s displays contain stills from the 80 episodes of the programme, as well as memorabilia and props from the same. It also has an area dedicated to the Thetford Home Guard detachment.


The museum has some really dedicated volunteers, and they are very helpful. While photography is officially banned, allowances are made as long as pictures of the actors, or of BBC copyright materials are not taken. This is a relaxing of the rules I found in place on my first visit.

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Mainwaring’s Office

The museum also houses the Marigold Tea Rooms, and a small gift shop.

Related to the museum, there is a statue of Captain Mainwaring sitting on a bench along the riverside nearby. It is positioned so that the Bridge House (the actual headquarters for the Thetford Home Guard) provides a backdrop.

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Bunker along rail line in the Thetford area

 ” . . . we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender . . . .” Winston Churchill
“Dad’s Army,” or officially “The Home Guard” was made up of one and a half million men, who were otherwise exempt from service because of such factors as reserved occupations or age.  They were to act as a delaying force in the case of invasion, with the mission to harass and delay the enemy until the regular forces could be organised.  They also operated as coastal watchers, and as guards at airfields, railways, and other strategic locations.
The museum is closed for the season now, but will reopen on its regular schedule in March, and the J. Jones Butcher van will be on display from April. (The Mainwaring statue is always available to visit.)

Gainsborough Museum

Gainsborough House

Gainsborough House

We have visited Sudbury on several occasions, but one of the more interesting was when we took in the Gainsborough House Museum.  This was the home of the great artist, and it now serves as a museum to his life, a gallery for his works, and a research hub for other artists.

Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) was portrait and landscape painter, and print-maker. He was also a founding member of the Royal Academy.

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The museum has several gallery spaces, a library, an archive of his prints, and a nice little shop.  On the day of our visit there was an additional exhibit of the works of other period artists as well.

Painting by Joshua Reynolds

Work by his rival, Joshua Reynolds

I really enjoyed Gainsborough’s work, some of which had photographic qualities.  These are really masterful portraits.

The museum also has really lovely gardens, and as we were visiting in the early summer, tulips were in bloom.  This added to the beauty of the visit.  In the middle of the garden is a 17th Century mulberry tree.  This is a great reminder of Sudbury’s legacy as a centre for silk weaving, the source of much of the town’s wealth.

After our visit we went to David’s Deli/Cafe a favoured retreat of ours.  The restaurant offers fresh locally raised produce, and regional meats, but also a wide and very high quality assortment of continental cheeses.  David’s is unique in the area as it has an adults only policy owing to its seating capacity and the desire to provide a more relaxed, chilled environment for its customers. David himself makes no apologies and a few jokes about his policy including the assertion that “child catchers” are always welcome.

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Child Catcher Chitty Chitty Bang Bang


David’s link


A Tiny Taste of IWM Duxford

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Lancaster and “friends”

I attended a meeting hosted by IWM Duxford and had the opportunity to has a tiny taster of what the aviation museum has to offer.  Let me first of all say that the complex is huge with hangers, museum spaces, and an operating airstrip.  There are dedicated areas to commemorate WWI, and a section for the USAAF of World War Two.  The larger facility also incorporates the British WW2 barracks, and mess facilities, and it provides a wide range of exhibits for aviation and military history enthusiasts. The Museum also has conference and educational facilities and hosts regular air shows as well.

There is a very good museum shop which provides not just the usual stuff to mark a visit, but a wide range of books as well including ones on the specs and histories of various aircraft types.

Duxford Shop 2


The range of exhibits takes the visitor through the entire range of human air flight.  There is a full sized model of Da Vinci’s flying machine, as well as an actual Concorde airliner.  Military displays include the canvas machines of the First World War through the missiles of the modern age.

Flying Machine

First Attempts

This is a great venue to explore, and there is much more to see than my brief excursion allowed for.  Whether you interests are in aircraft, or history more generally, the IWM has a lot to discover.