Posted by: marymarthatours | September 28, 2014

Malvern Spring Festival 2014

One of the events that I most looked forward to on our Spring Gardens of Cornwall and Devon Tour in May 2014 was our visit to the Malvern Spring Garden Festival at the Three Counties Showground near Great Malvern in western England.  I was not disappointed.

We included this event on our itinerary because it has some of the feel of the Chelsea Garden Show without the crush of crowds.  Both shows have display gardens, floral displays, exhibits of nursery stock, perennials & vegetables, and sales areas.  But at the Malvern Show it’s all more low-key and relaxed.  I loved that.


Our day at the Show was cloudy with off and on rain.  Raincoats and umbrella got us through the wet spells and helped us welcome the sunny spells even more.  I got delayed at the ticket booth because of a complication with our booking, so ended up touring the grounds on my own.  That was wonderful, as I could explore the vast grounds and spend as much or as little time as I wanted everywhere.

I started by visiting the professional and horticultural/design student display gardens, stopping to chat with the designers when possible.  Here are some of my favorites:

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I then moved on to the area where nurseries and growers had their booths and displays.  What a challenge NOT TO BUY anything.  But it was fun to see what was on offer and to compare prices with similar plants at my local garden center.  After checking out the garden sheds, I wandered off the to the far end of the fairgrounds to take a look at the School Gardens. 

DSCN6914This was absolutely my favorite part of the show.  Young people from 20 different schools in Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and Herefordshire participated in this gardening challenge.  The students must design their garden, grow at least some of the plants used, construct the garden at the Show, and be on hand to talk about the garden with visitors.  This year’s theme for the School Gardens was “a moment in history”.

The young men from the Tewksbury School took great pride in telling me about their garden celebrating the Battle of Tewksbury in 1471.  They pointed out the props that they had created (the cannon) and those loaned by collectors (the authentic arrows). 

DSCN6913Another of the School Gardens that moved me very much was one honoring the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI.  I found the simple design of sandbags, red flowers and grave markers to be very profound.  And as I stood silently reflecting at this display, I heard other people, especially those my age, talking about how they too were moved.  I stopped to chat with one of the young students who had worked on this project.  I asked her how their school had done in the judging.  She looked a little downcast and said, “Not very well.  They (the judges) said that our grass was turning brown”.  “Don’t pay any attention to what the judges said,” I urged her.  “Listen to the comments of all the people passing by who think this is a wonderful garden”.  “And besides,” I added, “dying grass is actually perfect for this topic – either that or MUD”.

Oh, my goodness, where had the time gone.  It was almost time to be back at the coach and I had missed so much that I still wanted to see.  A quick stop at several food stalls for a delicious assortment of treats for lunch (and truly, the best fudge ever from Ruby’s Kitchen) and a pass through the craft stalls, and suddenly it was the end of our day.  Not nearly enough time, yet again.


(by Mary)

photo credits:  All photos copyright by Mary Wallace, May 2014.



Posted by: marymarthatours | September 19, 2014

Scotland remains in the United Kingdom

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A potential WIN-WIN-WIN for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England as well

By a 55-45% majority, the people of Scotland (about 85% of registered voters) have chosen to remain a part of the United Kingdom.  How much the last-minute promises of increased powers for Scotland influenced voters to put their check marks on “NO” isn’t known.  But what is known, is that the makers of those promises, from the British Prime Minister on down, will be held to account to produce new tax and welfare powers for Scotland and produce it rapidly.

In this, the voters of Scotland, both those for and opposed to Independence, can claim a victory for the Scottish people.  And the victory of more local authority and control has not been won for Scotland alone, as even Prime Minister Cameron now admits.  Because any reforms set in place for Scotland will also be expected in Wales and Northern Ireland.  And, as several commentators on Scottish television said last night, those reforms will also have an impact on what one reporter called “the elephant in the room”, England itself.  Tired of being governed in great extent by the central government in London, areas of England, notably Cornwall, are also calling for more local authority.

I’ll leave the question of whether to rush into plans for further devolution or to proceed more slowly with a complete overhaul of the centralized government into a more federal model to the British people.  I personally don’t hold out much hope for British politicians being any more willing to move on issues effecting their power than American ones.  But it was thrilling to see in the Scottish Independence Referendum what a motivated population of people can accomplish.

The Wallace and Liska households will be lifting a wee dram this evening to the people of Scotland and to Scottish people everywhere.

(by Mary)

Posted by: marymarthatours | September 18, 2014

Scottish Independence – Today is voting day



“Should Scotland be an independent country?”

That is the only question on the ballot today, as the people of Scotland vote on whether or not to end the 307 year union with England.  Four million Scots, age 16 and older, are eligible to vote.  The referendum needs only a simple majority to pass.

The most recent polls suggest that the result is “too close to call”.  Originally the “No” side, those wishing to remain a part of the United Kingdom, had a substantial lead, but as the voting day got closer, the “Yes” side, those wanting independence, has pulled up to even.  I wouldn’t want to bet on which side will prevail.  We’ll know in a few days.

For non-Scottish and English readers, I will attempt to summarize the main pros and cons that have been put forward in the attempt to inform and convince voters.

For Indepence (vote “Yes”) talking points:

  • Scotland would control its political destiny.  While the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh has control over some areas of Scottish life, most decisions, including the use of Scottish resources, are made by the UK Parliament in London.
  • Scotland has a different political identity.  Scotland is considerably more liberal in its politics than England.  Only 15 of 129 members of the Scottish Parliament are Conservative, and only 1 of the 59 Scottish Members of the House of Commons in London is Conservative.  So the Scots are effectively governed by a majority Conservative government in London.
  • Scotland would be able to utilize its oil reserves.  Approximately 90% of the UK’s North Sea oil fields are located in Scottish territorial waters.  Scottish politicians argue that London has used Scottish oil reserves for its own benefit, and that Scotland could use oil wealth to build its economic independence.
  • No more nuclear weapons in Scotland.  The UK’s supply of nuclear weapons is stored in Scotland, and the Scottish National Party is resolutely anti-nuke. 
  • Scotland would be a more democratic nation than England.  The Scottish Parliament is more democratic than the UK Parliament because it uses a proportional electoral system and does not reserve places for bishops purely because they are members of the Church of England as is done in the House of Lords.

Against Indepence (vote “No”) talking points:

  • Unity is strength.  Together Scotland and the UK are a very powerful, rich and influential state.  Becoming independent would lessen Scotland’s global presence and influence.
  • Scotland would have to rejoin the European Union.  The status of Scotland as an independent member of the EU is unclear.  It might have to attempt to rejoin and agree to the use of the Euro as its currency.
  • The currency issue.  Scottish politicians want to continue to use the Pound Sterling as their currency, but London is not in favor of that.  No one is clear on whether the new Scottish currency would be the Pound, the Euro, or a new Scottish monetary unit.
  • Businesses may leave Scotland.  Already several large banks have announced that they will relocate their headquarters to England if the referendum passes, and other businesses may consider doing the same when faced with an uncertain economic future (at least in the short run) in Scotland.
  • Huge economic risk.  Combining the lack of a plan for its currency, the loss of current business, and this time of recession and rising unemployment, an independent Scotland faces a very difficult economic future.

So those are the “rational” arguments put forth by the pro- and anti- Independence camps.  What I don’t see written about, and to me, the huge unknowable factor, is the emotional argument.  Have the Scots, after 307 years of the united experience, simply gotten sick and tired of being the poor relation, dominated and controlled by the richer, stronger partner in the union?  They are a proud people with a rich history and culture.  We wish them every good thing in the future – whichever way they vote in today’s referendum.

(by Mary) 

Posted by: marymarthatours | September 8, 2014

Wonderful Wells, Again

On the Spring Garden tour last May, my husband Collie and I planned ahead to “opt out” of the tour activity one day.  He had never been to the city  of Wells, and I wanted to revisit Wells Cathedral with him.  It is one of my favorite English Cathedrals.  It sits in a large cathedral close.  When you enter through the surrounding wall, you see the imposing west front with over 300 statues and the twin west towers; very impressive and there is more wonder inside.


We traveled by public bus from Bath, about 20 miles, but with stops at countless villages about 90 minutes long.  It was fun to travel as the local folks and school students do and experience the pace of their daily lives.

Wells Cathedral is the very first English cathedral built in the Gothic style of architecture, something new and “modern” in its day.  The first of three major phases of Gothic architecture in England is named “Early English Gothic”, duh, but that does define it as different from the style found on the continent and the later English phases.  Most of Wells, especially the entire exterior, was built in this one style though later some construction was added in the Perpendicular Gothic style, the last phase of the English Gothic period.  Unlike Salisbury, there is a mixture of architectural styles at Wells.

P1010811Most unique at Wells are the scissor arches that support the central tower at the nave-quire-transepts crossing.  They look very contemporary, but are not.  Shortly after the initial cathedral was built, it was noted that the foundation of the central tower was sinking and the tower was likely to collapse and bring down the entire building.  The internal buttresses of the scissor arches were added to disperse the weight of the tower.  Some did not think this engineering devise would work; well, ha, it has for over 650 years.

Everyone marvels at the worn, curved steps that lead up to the chapter house and to another location on the left.  The graceful bend of the Y-shape is so sculptural.  The depressions on the stairs tell of centuries of human feet moving up and down the staircase.  The chapter house is another piece of architectural art in marble and sunlight.  In invites one to simply sit and be inspired.

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P1010098We enjoyed a guided tour of the entire cathedral with a small group of visitors.  The guide told us about the Baptismal Font which dates from 750 AD and was in the Saxon church prior to the building of the current cathedral.  It predates the cathedral by 400 years.  I told the guide how much I like the contemporary font at Salisbury Cathedral.  He said that he doesn’t like it because it is too big and too modern.  I replied that for the builders of the Saxon font the Gothic cathedral that the font was moved into would have been too big and too modern.  This Saxon font was actually only meant to be “temporary” until a proper new font for the Gothic cathedral could be built.  While I do like the little, antique font, maybe it’s now time to construct the “proper” one.  So much in life is “relative”.

And of course, I marveled at the Jane Lemon altar frontals and other needlework throughout Wells Cathedral.  Here her frontals that are not on altars during the current liturgical season are on display in glass cases on the walls.  It is a wonderful way to allow folks to enjoy them and show the beautiful needlework artistry as a permanent part of the art and adornments.  Our guide knew some interesting details about the frontals, where the fabrics came from and how they were constructed.  Oh, to take an M&M tour here for this and all the rest.

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We even enjoyed a noon time organ recital by the Cathedral organist.  The music was from New Zealand, the home of the organist.  It was another one of those extra treats for the day spent well with Collie

(by Martha)


photo credits:  All photos copyright by Collie Liska and Martha Liska, May 2015

Posted by: marymarthatours | August 28, 2014

Exeter Cathedral–A Full and Wonderful Visit


On our tour last May of Gardens of Devon and Cornwall, we stayed for three nights in the Devonshire city of Exeter.  I had never been to Exeter before, so I was particularly keen to “tick off” another English Cathedral on my “to see list”.

P1000725Saturday there was the driver’s day off.  The morning activity was a walking tour of Exeter.  We experienced the history and sights of central Exeter on a tour led and narrated by two delightful local guides.  The afternoon and evening were free time to do as we pleased.

DSCN6557My husband, who traveled with us on this tour, Mary and I spent most of the afternoon at or near the cathedral.  We ate lunch at a sweet (pun) and yummy spot.  Cakeadoodledo is a tea shop and bakery.  The owner, Kate Shirazi, spent a good bit of time chatting with us and even gave me the recipe for the salad dressing I raved about.  It was a gem of a find.

Fortified, we headed to Exeter Cathedral.  First we toured the cathedral on a guided tour.  This is a great way to see and learn about a site especially for a first visit.  The cathedral dates back 900 years and with construction that spanned from 1112 to 1500 AD, the architecture is of four different, major styles.  The two massive towers are Norman, and the main portion of the cathedral is said to be “one of the finest examples of decorated Gothic architecture”.  Two outstanding features are the impressive west front carvings and the “longest stretch of Gothic vaulting (ribbed ceiling) in the world”.  The Bishop’s throne is 59 feet tall and intricately carved from local oak.  The Lady Chapel is flooded with light from the stained glass windows, a very peaceful and serene spot.

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West front carvings and nave vaulted ceiling

After the guided tour we had plenty of time to wander about on our own, to look more closely at the various chapels and details, to take pictures, and to relax and soak in the space.  We were joined by a couple of other tour travelers for the late afternoon Evensong service.  Sitting in the Quire (where the choir sits), we enjoyed the beautiful voices of the combined men’s and girls’ choir.


Exeter Cathedral quire with Bishop’s throne on left

Exeter Cathedral is full of exquisite needlework, some old and most contemporary.  Much of the contemporary work has been stitched by the local Exeter Cathedral Company of Tapisers.  The needlepoint cushions that sit on top of the stone bench along the walls of the nave tell in pictures and words the local, national, and church history from the year 350 AD onward.  The 720 rondels (little windows) convey the story and give the work its name, The Exeter Rondels.  The bright colors sing out along with the words of The Te Deum, a hymn of praise, that is stitched into the 234 foot length of the cushions.  This same group of stitchers created 500 needlepoint kneelers in the nave.  It’s all amazing.

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Some of the magnificent Exeter Rondels

There is more contemporary stitchery throughout the various chapels, some in needlepoint and some in embroidery and other textile techniques.  It makes me think that while stained glass has long been revered for its religious art, now needlework has also become a major medium for expressive ecclesiastical art.

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Oh, how I wish that Exeter Cathedral were more centrally located so we could easily include it on a quilt and needlework tour.  I was in heaven; at least I can share some of it with you via a blog posting.

(by Martha)


photo credits:  all photos copyright Martha Liska and Mary Wallace, May 2015

Posted by: marymarthatours | August 18, 2014

A Tour to England to Keep You in Stitches

Quilt and Needlework 2015 Tour

August 26 – September 7, 2015

Hardwick Hall tapestries, Tony Hisgett, cca2.0

Tapestries and needlework at Hardwick Hall

Back by request:  another tour with a quilt and needlework focus.  In late August 2015, Mary and I will lead a second quilt/needle arts tour in areas of Northern England.  We will have opportunities to see and experience a variety of needlework:  quilts, patchwork, Ruskin lace, needlepoint, embroidery, tapestries, and more.  I have been able to arrange many private presentations and events for this tour.  We will also visit two grand Tudor era manors, gardens, an incredible abbey ruin, a Roman fort at Hadrian’s Wall, the lovely scenery of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, several pretty small towns, historic York, and, and, and…

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Hardwick Hall and Fountains Abbey

This is our first major tour that is being offered as a land-only tour.  Travelers will make their own flight arrangements and be able to add on time ahead or after the tour for other traveling.  Some might go extra early to get to the International Festival of Quilts in Birmingham which is usually scheduled the second week of August.  Some might go to Edinburgh early to experience the Edinburgh International Festival or to York, the first city on our tour, for sightseeing and exploring there.  Some might stay on in the UK to go to London, Scotland or elsewhere after the tour ends.  Several folks have told me that they are interested in one of these possibilities, so a land-only tour ought to work well for this trip.  If we have enough people who want to travel on August 25th and return on September 7th, we might be able to arrange a group flight rate for them.

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Lake Windemere in the Lake District

You can view the tour brochure posted on the blog site for all the details of the itinerary and the locations where we will be lodging.  The brochure includes the application form.  We expect this tour will fill quickly as many of the 2013 Quilts & Textiles of England & Wales Tour travelers plan to register.  Even if the tour is full when you contact Journeys with Jeff, or Mary or me, I encourage you to register for the waiting list.  Last tour, the fourth person on the waiting list went on the tour.  We do get cancellations.  We would love to have you join us for this special tour.

What am I looking forward to most on this tour?  It is hard to narrow down to just a few, but here are several:

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York Quilt Museum and Mainstreet at Beamish, the Living Museum of the North

  • Seeing the collaborative quilt exhibit at the York Quilt Gallery & Museum in York showing quilts from the museum’s collection each paired with a contemporary interpretation by Kaffe Fassett.
  • Seeing the quilts from the archives at Beamish, The Living Museum of the North and enjoying the entire day at this folk-style facility.
  • And seeing the Quaker Tapestry which tells the story of the Quakers in stitchery.  I have seen pictures of these embroidered panels and read about the process of their creation in the late 1900’s.  And an extra treat will be the demonstration of the embroidery stitching used to make them.

I am excited about this tour, both for myself and to see and share the enjoyment of the travelers.  I’ll tell you more about sites and events in future blog postings.  For more details on the Quilts & Needlework of Northern England Tour, see the tour brochure/registration form here.  Even if you are unable to go with us, you can “arm chair travel” by reading our postings and seeing our pictures.

(by Martha)

Photo credits:  Hardwick Hall interior copyright Tony Hisgett and licensed for reuse by CC-BY-SA-2.0 license; Hardwick Hall exterior copyright Trevor Rickard and licensed for reuse by CC-BY-SA-2.0 license; Lake Windemere copyright Abbasi1111 and licensed for reuse by CC-BY-A-3.0 license; York Quilt Museum copyright Collum Liska; Beamish, public domain.

Posted by: marymarthatours | August 8, 2014

Stitched Treasures in Bath Abbey

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Since Bath Abbey was once a monastery church, it is Bath “Abbey”.  It is not a cathedral; that is where a bishop is located.  Yet Bath Abbey is as large and as impressive as most English cathedrals.

bath abbey07 ml4The Abbey was founded in the 7th century and was rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries with major restoration work done in the mid-19th century.  So, it is a mixture of architecture periods and styles.  It is one of the largest examples of Perpendicular Gothic architecture; however, it is atypical of that style for several reasons.   The beautiful fan vaulted nave ceiling which is a trademark of this style was added in the 19th century.  It is very dramatic with its fine ribbing details.

The Abbey, like Westminster Abbey, is jam packed with memorials covering the walls and floor stones.  A total of nearly 1500 in all.  The carvings on the West Front are unique and convey some particular messages.  But for me the real highlights are the textiles.  Many travelers last May went to the Abbey primarily to view the treasures I urged them to see.

First, there is the embroidery work of Jane Lemon and the Sarum Group.  This is a guild of embroiderers, founded in 1978, whose work is prominent at Salisbury, Wells, and Exeter Cathedrals as well as at Bath Abbey.  Jane, a textile and embroidery artist, is renowned for her designs and metal work.  The three altar frontals at Bath and the screen panel behind the altar in one chapel were created by Jane.  The main altar frontal most often in use is one with a fountain of three-dimensional layers of “flowing water” called the Trinity Frontal.  But because May was in the Easter season, the frontal we saw then was the Resurrection frontal.  You can especially appreciate the incredible workmanship of these pieces of textile art when you look closely at the layers of intricate stitches and metal work.

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Trinity frontal and Gethsemane chapel frontal

An even more recent acquisition for the Abbey is the work of Sue Symons, the 35 pairs of illuminations of New Testament scripture entitled, “One Man’s Journey to Heaven”.  Sue was inspired by the Book of Kells.  For each passage of scripture, one panel was created in calligraphy with Biblical text and art, and its partner panel in stitchery (patchwork, applique and embroidery) portrays the text in symbolic imagery and design.  All one can say is, “Amazing, WOW”.

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Two of the Bath Abbey Diptychs by Sue Symons

Here too, you need to look closely for all the details and variations.  It is impossible to pick a favorite.  The set is known as The Bath Abbey Diptychs.  They line the entire north wall of the Abbey.  It’s an interesting contrast of the old and new to see them placed in front of the old and ancient memorials that cover the walls.  And it’s great fun to listen to the comments of viewers as they take time to study each panel.


(by Martha)


Photo credits:  Bath Abbey, copyright Sue H., 2007; all other photos copyright Mary Wallace and Martha Liska

Posted by: marymarthatours | July 28, 2014

London in Miniature Tour – 13-21 May 2015

At the May 2014 meeting of the Midwest Miniature Guild, a number of  Guild members expressed an interest in our proposed 2015 London in Miniature Tour.  We can now announce that the tour is a definite “Go”.

Blackfriars tube sta, PD

We will depart on May 13, 2015, arriving at Heathrow Airport, London, on the 14th.  After our shuttle delivers us to our hotel, we will offer the traditional “Mary & Martha Tube Tutorial” to any of the travelers who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the London transit system.  Because we are staying at one hotel in the Kensington area of London for the entire week, this tour will be “coach-less”; we will rely on public transportation – the tube, city buses, and the train – to get around.  At the “Tube Tutorial”, we will purchase 7-day London Travelcards for all the group members, show everyone how to read the underground and bus maps to plan their journeys, and take a practice run that includes both the tube and a city bus.

Geffrye museum, PD

On Friday morning we will visit the wonderful Geffrye Museum, home of an impressive series of decorated rooms covering hundreds of years of English interior design.  Just the thing to delight and inspire any dollshouse enthusiast.  That afternoon, we will host a private event with one of the exhibitors from the Kensington Dollshouse Festival.  The topic is a surprise for our tour participants (and is even a surprise for Martha and me at this point).

The Kensington Dollshouse Festival on the weekend of May 16-17 was the motivating factor for the design and timing of this tour.  One of the foremost shows in the UK, you can read more about it here.  The two-day ticket is included in the tour price, but, of course, if people prefer to do other things on one or both days, that’s just fine with us.  One of the hallmarks of a Mary & Martha tour is the flexibility that we offer to our travelers.

Two great visits are planned for Monday.  First we will walk to the nearby Linley Sambourne House to see this Victorian Aesthetic masterpiece.  In the afternoon, it’s off to the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood.  With the serendipity that often accompanies our tours, the Museum’s feature exhibition will be “Small Stories: At Home in a Dollshouse”.  Here is what the Museum’s website says about the exhibition:

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Dollshouses at the V&A Museum of Childhood

“This exhibition will reveal the fascinating stories behind some of the UK’s best-loved dolls’ houses, taking you on a journey through the history of the home, everyday lives and changing family relationships. The small stories of 12 dolls’ houses from the past 300 years will be brought to life by the characters that live or work there. Come and meet the residents, and discover tales of marriages and parties, politics and crime.
– See more at:

London 3 PD

What will people do with their totally free day on Tuesday?  There’s so much to see and do in London.  Martha and I will be available to help people decide on the best plan for their interests, energy, and pocket books.  For London newcomers, we like to suggest a ride on one of London’s double decker sightseeing buses.  For art fans, many of London’s fabulous museums and galleries are free of charge.  And, of course, there is the theatre with everything from Shakespeare to the most contemporary dramas, comedies, and musicals.

We’ve saved the best for last with a day-trip to Windsor on our last day of the tour.  We’ll take the train from Paddington Station (keep you eyes open for a bear with a tag) and have a whole day to explore the town of Windsor, see the Castle, and spend time marveling at the magnificent Queen Mary’s Dollshouse.

QM's DH, Rob Sangster, ccasa2.0

For further details of the London in Miniature Tour, see the tour brochure and registration here.  The tour is strictly limited to 14 travelers, with a waiting list for those who would like to go if there is a cancellation.  We’d love to have you with us.

(by Mary)

photo credits:  2 dollshouses at Museum of Childhood copyright by Cristian Bortes and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license; Queen Mary’s Dollshouse copyright Rob Sangster and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 license; all other photos are in the public domain.

Posted by: marymarthatours | July 18, 2014

Salisbury Cathedral–A Treasure Trove

Our spring 2014 tour provided me with the opportunity to visit three English cathedrals and one large abbey church.  Over the years I had visited three of the four, but each time I see and experience something new and different.  This year there were several things that I especially wanted to see.  Over the next several months I will be posting a series of blogs about the four different locations.


View of the Cathedral from the Grasmere Hotel

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The quire (choir stalls) at Salisbury Cathedral

Our tour stayed two nights in the city of Salisbury at the Grasmere Hotel.  Many of the travelers had rooms with views of the Cathedral across the meadows.  At the end of one touring day, a group of us walked across the large Cathedral Close (the enclosed open space surrounding a cathedral) in the pouring rain to visit this very historic cathedral and sit in the quire (the choir section) to experience the beautiful Evensong service.  With the men and girls singing, it was a bit of heaven on earth, peaceful and restful in an ancient, sacred space.


Salisbury Cathedral (minus a bit of the spire)

Salisbury Cathedral is special for several features.  While it is not the first Gothic Cathedral in England, it is unique in that it was built in just 38 years beginning in 1220.  The spire (at 404 feet, the tallest in England) and cloister (the largest in England) were added 100 years later.  Because the cathedral was built so quickly, it is entirely of one architectural style, the Early English Gothic style.  Most cathedrals took hundreds of years to complete and are therefore constructed in a variety of architectural styles. 

Clock_Salisbury_Cathedral, PD

The medieval clock at Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury is home to the world’s oldest working clock dating from 1386.  It is huge, closet-sized, and reminds me of the difference in size from early computers to those of today.  The best of the only four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta (1215) resides here.  This document is significant in US as well as British governance.

The three features that I was most interested to see on this visit to the Cathedral are a bit newer.  First I wanted to see the Biblical frieze in the Chapter House.  The frieze is carved in stone, not painted, and depicts events from the Old Testament books of Genesis and Exodus.  Oh, how I wish I had been allowed to take pictures to share.  This photo, from another source, shows the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

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The story of Sodom & Gomorrah in the Salisbury Cathedral Chapter House

Second I wanted to see some of the work of Jane Lemon and The Sarum Group of embroiderers.  I’ll tell you more about her in later postings.  There were a number of gorgeous altar frontals that I and other marveled at.  The pictures hardly show their beauty, just magnificent, so alive with color and texture.

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Embroidered altar frontals by Jane Lemon and the Sarum Group of Embroiderers


The baptismal font at Salisbury Cathedral

And last, the recently created and installed Baptismal Font.  I love it.  I think the artist created a masterpiece and the Cathedral was very right to place something so “modern” in the ancient space.  The water flows from four points to a small grate on the floor and yet the surface is absolutely still and acts like a mirror to reflect the cathedral and your own face.  Still and running water simultaneously; brilliant.  I find metaphors all around me and symbols sing to me.  I thought before I viewed this font, and found it true when there, that you look into the water and see the face of God in your own image.

I brought some of the font water home to be added to the Holy Water at my church.  One drop will bless all the rest.  And one visit to Salisbury Cathedral will last forever.  I was so happy to share the experience with other travelers, on a journey together.

(by Martha)


photos:  Chapter House frieze – copyright Harrie Gielen and licensed for reuse by Creative Commons 3.0 license; Cathedral quire and clock – Public Domain; all other photos copyright Martha Liska and Mary Wallce








Posted by: marymarthatours | July 8, 2014

An M&M English Village Surprise

Martha and I like to include a few surprises on each of our tours.  Sometimes we don’t give any hints to the tour members until the very last moment, as when in 2013, we stopped in Bampton Village, the filming site for the village scenes in the ‘Downton Abbey’ series.  But for our recent Spring Gardens of Cornwall & Devon tour we gave a huge clue to a surprise right in the tour brochure.  The daily entry for Sunday, May 4th said, “After lunch at Coleton Fishacre, we will head to a small Devonshire village with buildings of a variety of styles all set in lovely gardens”.


It was all true – we did plan to visit a small village – we just didn’t mention HOW small.  Our afternoon stop that day was at the Babbacombe Model Village in Torquay.


Covering over 4 acres of territory, the Model Village includes over 400 structures in 1/12 scale (1”=1’) and over 13,000 miniature people.  The models cover a wide time-span, from prehistoric Stonehenge to a fire-breathing dragon on a medieval castle to the 21st century London Shard.

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The Village is like a 3-dimensional Mad Magazine – everywhere you look, you see some detail that is familiar or just fun.  This is a place that you need to go around a second time in order to see what you missed on the first pass.  “Did you see the nude beach?” one of our group asked me.  I had missed it totally.  But I did see Prince William and Kate leaving the hospital with baby George and the Beatles crossing Abbey Lane.


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It also pays to read the names on the shops and vehicles, because many are wonderful (or awful) puns or plays on words.

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Most amazing of all for many of us on our gardens-focused tour was the landscaping.  I was blown away by the imaginative and creative use of miniature conifers, shrubs, and trees throughout the Village.  In fact, many of the plants destined for use in the Village start as seedlings in the nursery fields of the E. Philpots Garden Centre.  We were a bit early in the year for bedding plants and flowers, but the range of colors in leaves and needles alone was wonderful.




Babbacombe Model Village was a fun surprise for everyone, but for one person on our tour it was extraordinarily special.  When we announced the stop on the coach, she was astonished and thrilled.  It seems that as a child, she had missed a chance to go there and her brother got to go instead.  She had always felt cheated, but was now able to lay aside all her old regrets with her very own visit to this magical “small village in Devon”.

(by Mary)

photo credits:  All photos copyright Mary Wallace and Martha Liska, May 2014.




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