“Ohhhh, okaaaaay! Hey, is that a castle up there on the hill?”
“It certainly is! And the same family has been living in it for nearly 400 years. The original castle dates back to the 12th century, but some extra architectural bits and bobs were tacked on in the 17th and 18th centuries. Before that, the island was the site of a monastery, possibly from as early as the 8th century.”
“Wow, so this is OLD! Can we go in for a closer look?”
“Yes… Luckily the tide is out, so we can toddle across this beautiful man-made causeway. Or maybe hitch a lift from one of these nice people…”
“Hang on, what do you mean ‘luckily, the tide is out’? What if the tide’s in?”
“Well, St Michael’s Mount is an island at high tide, so the causeway would be underwater.”
“And we’d be swimming over!”
“Ah. Better off this way, so.”
Paddy was even more impressed with the castle at close quarters.
“This looks like my kind of place, Plunkett! Do you reckon they would like to adopt a little woolly monster?”
But Plunkett was lost in his own thoughts. He felt the nice, warm breeze on his face, and noticed the tropical plants that grow outdoors here all year round.
“Hmmmm… Or maybe they’d like to adopt TWO little woolly monsters!”
Join us again next week, when Paddy and Plunkett will be exploring St Michael’s Mount a little more… And maybe making plans to move in!
Hello Beastie friends! Are you ready to go globetrotting again with Paddy and Plunkett? I hope so… Because stone the crows, this week’s destination rocks!
Yes, it’s a pretty easy guess this time! Through the miracle of computer wizardry, Plunkett has managed to transport himself and Paddy into the heart of one of the most recognisable monuments in the world. And since we’re here, how about we take a look around?
Please note that Plunkett’s images may not reflect the actual size of this place. That’s the joy of editing yourself into someone else’s photos.
“Oh, sorry! Here’s one with some humans in it for scale.”
“Wow, Plunkett! This place is really massive!”This monument is believed to have been standing here since round 2500BC, although new findings indicate that some of the stones were quarried and shaped much earlier.
The smaller ones (called “bluestones”) which you can see in the foreground originally came from a prehistoric quarry in Wales. But archaeological evidence at the quarry suggested that there was a significant amount of time (around 400 years) between the stones being cut and their arrival at their current home. So, what happened to them in between?
Well, it turns out that the bluestones are second-hand! After a whole lot of digging on some pretty soggy Welsh hillsides, archaeologists discovered the remains of another, earlier stone circle. One which, after 400 years, was apparently picked up and moved east.
Oh yeah, and how do they know that these were the same stones, you ask? Surely rocks leave pretty samey indentations in the ground, right? Luckily, one of the bluestones broke as it was being removed, leaving a piece behind that could be paired with the end of one of the stones in this famous circle. Amazing!
But the best-known feature of this place is this arrangement of huge standing stones.
So after all that, I’m sure you’ll find it an absolute breeze to tell me the name of this place and where in the world it is! Go on, hazard a guess in the comments.
And where were the boys last week?
Answer – Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo, Japan! Congratulations to Tammie who pinpointed the boys’ exact location – nice one, Tammie! Be sure to swing by her site too… She’s preparing for the launch of her new novel at the end of the month and there are special offers and freebies up for grabs!
Well hello there, Beastie friends! Today we’re joining Explorer Beastie and his good buddy Garcia Beastie for a visit to somewhere a little unusual – Highgate Cemetery!
As you already know, we had a rather soggy day in Kew Gardens…
… During which time the boys found a novel way of staying out of the rain.
“Outta the way, camera! This is a Beastie bag now!”
So we were pretty happy when the next day was dryer and brighter. Perfect for a visit to Highgate Cemetery! And doesn’t it look beautiful in the morning sunlight? I love to visit graveyards when I travel. They provide a peaceful respite from any jam-packed sightseeing schedule, and they can help you see another side of the place you’re visiting. As it turns out, Beasties like them too!
Well, they do find us humans endlessly fascinating. And while there were occasional opportunities for mischief…
… For the most part, they behaved exceptionally well.
For the first part of our visit, we were in Highgate Cemetery East. Humans and Beasties can wander freely around this newer part of the cemetery for a small fee, and there’s so much to see here! While many of the monuments are fairly traditional…
… There are a few less conventional ones dotted along the tree-shaded avenues too. This one, which marks the grave of pop artist Patrick Caulfield, especially caught my eye!
You can also find a few famous faces (or at least their headstones) in the eastern cemetery. I liked these two, which commemorate entertainer Jeremy Beadle and artist/impressario Malcolm McLaren…
… But keep your eyes open as you stroll around and you could also meet Douglas Adams, George Eliot, Karl Marx or Bruce Reynolds, who masterminded the Great Train Robbery!
Then again, this is only half the story. The older, western side of Highgate Cemetery dates back to 1839 – a time when the “cosy” living conditions in Victorian London were mirrored by the extreme overcrowding of local church graveyards. Certainly not ideal if you’re trying to bury your loved ones… And even less so when nasties like typhoid and cholera come along to join the party.
Enter the London Cemetery Company, who made it their business to offer a higher class of resting place to those who could afford it. With landscaped locations on what was then the edge of the city, and exotic architectural features, these “garden cemeteries” were a big hit. A trip to Highgate or one of its sister cemeteries became a popular day out among the living – you could even buy guidebooks to help you find your way around!
The graveyard fell on hard times in later years, though. British burial customs differ from those of many other countries, in that once you’re buried, your grave is yours forever. As Highgate filled up, fewer new plots were bought, and that meant less money was coming in. The company couldn’t afford to maintain the facilities, and it was a downhill slide from there.
Who knows what might have happened if a charity, the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, hadn’t stepped it to get things back on track? The group works hard to ensure that the atmosphere of “romantic decay” that makes this place so interesting is preserved, but doesn’t get a chance to go too far either.
That said, it’s still a bit wild in there, so the only way to see the Western Cemetery is on a guided tour. And this gets a big paws up from the Beasties! Our guide, Brittany (hope I remembered that correctly) was so entertaining and informative that our tour zipped by in a flash… And we totally forgot to take pictures! My camera only made an appearance near the end, so that I could capture this handsome fellow…
Meet Lion, the beloved mastiff of Tom Sayers, a bare-knuckle fighter who rose to fame in the 1850s. Although he was quite short and lightly-built, he frequently took on (and defeated) much larger, heavier opponents. This is probably what made him so popular – when he died in 1865, around 100,000 people attended his funeral! Unfortunately, due to the acrimonious state of his marriage at the time, it fell to Lion to be chief mourner… So it’s perhaps fitting that the grave commemorates him as much as his master.
I’ll leave you with a last look back along the leafy avenues of Highgate Cemetery West…
… To see the rest, you’ll have to take the tour yourself!
Join us again next week, when I’ll have new projects galore to share… See you then!
Hello there Beastie friends! It’s been a wild and windy week here in the North Atlantic, with a couple more storms-with-names (so you know they mean business) battering Ireland and the UK over the last few days. So do you fancy taking it eeeeeasy, and looking at some awesome sculpture? Goody, because I’m excited to share a small percentage (I promise!) of the millions of photos I took of the Dale Chihuly glass pieces at Kew Gardens last autumn.
We were lucky enough to scrape in on the very last day of “Chihuly – Reflections on Nature”, which I was dying to see after reading about it on The Snail of Happiness’s blog over the summer. And of course, I had Beastie help as I did the tour of the grounds. They made sure I didn’t miss anything.
The Temperate House was absolutely packed with these incredible creations, some of them blending beautifully with their surroundings…
… While others were a lot less subtle.
I liked how some of the shapes echoed each other a little, like these two pieces. As above, so below!
Mind you, much as I loved the unearthly, ethereal shapes, there was something a little unsettling about this one… It looks like those white bulbs are poised for a global takeover, starting right here! It didn’t seem to bother the Beasties though – maybe they’re planning a takeover of their own?
But these are just the hothouse Chihuly sculptures! There were plenty more outside, in the wild… And even on a grey English day, they seemed to glow.
They fitted in especially well in the Japanese garden – I feel more Zen already.
And when the rain got a little too heavy, we went to check out the indoor exhibition in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art. In the dark rooms, each of the carefully-lit sculptures took on a life of their own. They looked like flowers, or shells, or living things… But definitely not glass!
Did any of you visit this exhibition during its run? Or is there a Chihuly living in a gallery near you? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
We’ll be back next week with another new Beastie for you to meet – see you then!
Well hello there, Beastie friends! Last week we followed Explorer Beastie as he caught up with his old buddy Garcia Beastie in the colourful surroundings of Kew Gardens. And you might remember that they spotted this place from the heights of the Treetop Walkway…
That’s the Temperate House. It looked a little sad the last time Beasties invaded Kew, as you can see.
But what a difference this time around! Look at all this greenery! It’s the perfect place for a pair of woolly monsters to hang out.
We also thought we’d managed to find the lonely statue I photographed through the windows last time (it’s top left in the collage above)… But if it’s the same guy he’s put on some clothes since our last visit! 😉
And while there were plenty of interesting things to see at ground level…
“Check us out! We’re flowers!”
… The Beasties couldn’t wait to climb up the spiral staircase to the balcony and feel tall!
From our high perch, you really see how huge the Temperate House is. It’s the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world today… And it needs to be big! Since “temperate” covers pretty much any part of the world outside of the tropics and the polar regions, 1500 species of plants from 5 continents and 16 islands call this giant greenhouse home.
And when we were there, it wasn’t just plants that were on display…
We were lucky enough to catch the very last day of the Chihuly Reflections on Nature exhibition! Throughout our wanderings around Kew, we enjoyed seeing the bright colours and otherworldly shapes of Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures peeking out from between the plants. Garcia Beastie especially liked this huge tumble of blue flowers stretching down from the ceiling, but look out for more pics in a future post!
Right, let’s get back downstairs. Well, once I’d managed to get the Beasties out of the rafters… Honestly, they find their way into places you’d never even think of!
But they were soon distracted by many more curious plants and idyllic quiet corners.
“I think we’ve seen everything now!”
“Looks like it. Let’s go!”
But the weather outside the Temperate House is decidedly less temperate…
What now? Should the Beasties stay indoors, or risk getting their paws wet as they explore the rest of Kew? We’ll find out next time we catch up with them… But be sure to join us next week when I’ll have some new Beasties for you to meet!
Hey there Beastie friends! It was a bit wild and wintry when I woke up this morning, so I thought that today’s post could maybe bring a splash of autumnal colour to a January Tuesday!
Continuing on from last week’s London-based post, we’ll follow Explorer Beastie as he steps off the road less travelled and turns his paws towards a much more well-known attraction. Where are you now, Explorer Beastie?
And it looks like autumn is the perfect time to visit. Look at those stunning colours!
And hey, wait a sec… Who’s this?
It’s our old buddy Garcia Beastie, of course! Fancy meeting you here… How about we explore together?
And it wasn’t long before the Beasties found something interesting…
“Ooooh, check this out!”
Explorer Beastie has to go in for a closer look.
And that was is only the beginning. Look at these stunning autumnal shades!
It’s almost possible for Beasties to get lost in among all that colour. Can you spot them?
Of course, you can only see so much from ground level… Especially if you’re a mere 6 inches tall. Time to take this adventure up a level!
The treetop walkway is really spectacular… But the boys really had to hold on tight! It was a little breezy up there!
Still, they were able to spot a familiar sight from those (sometimes dizzying) heights…
“Look, it’s the Temperate House! It was closed last time we visited, wasn’t it?”
“It was! We should probably make that our next stop!”
And I guess that’s where we’ll pick up next time! Be sure to join us on Tuesday for more monster adventures… And if you’ve ever been to Kew Gardens, why not tell us all about it in the comments?
Well lookee here – it’s Tuesday again already! And what better way to spend a January Tuesday than to pretend we’re all on holiday? So let’s step back in time to the end of October, when Explorer Beastie and I took advantage of the pre-Christmas lull to get away to London for a couple of days. And thanks to our local guide, we discovered a real treasure we wouldn’t have known about otherwise – Pitzhanger Gallery and Manor in Ealing, W5!
After fortifying ourselves with a very delicious lunch in Soane’s Kitchen, we went to check out the exhibition.
What’s this then? Perhaps it will help if we zoom out a little.
This is “Memory Palace”, an 18-metre-wide sculpture by British designer and artist Es Devlin. It’s named after the mnemonic technique where memories are preserved by mentally linking them to familiar locations – I’m sure any fans of “Sherlock” out there will recognise the idea! In “Memory Palace”, each feature on this curved white landscape is a place where a significant societal shift took place.
The memories are organised chronologically, so we move from the Pyramids, the Buddha’s Bodhi tree and the Roman forum…
… To the New York skyline and the Berlin wall. Can you spot them?
Mirrors on one wall and the ceiling expand the boundaries of the sculpture, and slightly change the way you see the individual elements… The same way memory can, I suppose!
There was so much to see, we could have stayed for hours.
Explorer Beastie also quite enjoyed the Godzilla-like feeling of striding around this miniaturised landscape.
If you’re interested in checking out “Memory Palace” for yourself, good news! Its run has been extended until the 9th of February 2020. I’d definitely recommend getting there early, or going at an off-peak time – I’m sure we would have missed a lot of the incredible detail if it had been busy.
You can also learn more about the significant moments captured in the piece at the Pitzhanger library, which has been specially stocked with all the books that informed the installation.
Or, for anyone who isn’t planning a jaunt to London in the next couple of weeks… Es Devlin features in season 1 of the Netflix documentary series “Abstract: The Art of Design”. I watched it a couple of years ago and found it fascinating… But only made the connection between artist and artwork today while I was researching this post. Clearly my own Memory Palace could use a spring clean!
We’ll be back next week (if I remember…) with some more travelling Beastie pics! See you then!
Hello everybody, and I hope this new week is treating you well! Today we’re going to catch up with Paddy and Plunkett, who we last saw exploring the weird and wonderful environs of the Lost Gardens of Heligan. This time, they’re much less likely to have to save their woolly skins from prowling mud giants. Their wandering paws have brought them to this peaceful place! This is Buckfast Abbey, home to an entirely self-supporting community of Benedictine monks.
The original abbey at Buckfast was demolished in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the site became a quarry, then the grounds of a private house. But then, in 1882, the land was purchased by the Benedictines, who set about re-establishing a monastic community here.
Building work started in 1907, and took around 30 years to complete. And looking at what they created… … You’d never know that this was accomplished with virtually no mechanical assistance. The monks borrowed a horse and cart from a local farmer for transportation, and their scaffolding was held together with tied ropes! And if you think that’s impressive… … The interior will take your breath away! And outside the Abbey, the grounds also contain a farm, sensory garden, lavender garden and a working water mill. The atmosphere of calm and reflection here really amazed the boys – maybe that’s why they’re not gadding about in front of the camera as much as usual!
However, on the way out, they stopped by the Abbey’s produce shop… … To pick up a Beastie-sized sample of one of the monks’ most celebrated creations – Buckfast Tonic Wine!
“I think it’s important we support all the good work these people do, Plunkett. Now, follow me!” Finding the perfect picnic spot isn’t always easy, but remembering that the monks built an entire Abbey using the most rudimentary equipment, the lads figured they could probably manage a short flight of steps. “Nearly there! Aha, this looks perfect!” Of course, Paddy was first to take a hearty glug from the bottle… I think we can all see where this is going. Then again, Plunkett doesn’t look too steady on his feet either! This is potent stuff! “Paddy, you are my bessshhht friend…”
Uh-oh, he’s away. Quick, Paddy! Help him up! But carefully now, in case you… … Fall over.
Oh well, I suppose we’d better leave them to sleep it off! There’s a lesson here about enjoying your fortified wines responsibly – especially if you’re only 5 and a half inches tall.
And how about you lot? Have you tried any interesting or unusual elixirs lately? Be sure to tell us all about it in the comments!
Wow, it’s been a loooooong time since we last saw Paddy and Plunkett, hasn’t it? So perhaps it’s appropriate that we catch up with them just as they’re about to venture into another place that the world forgot about for a while – the Lost Gardens of Heligan!
First, they took a peek through this hole in the fence, and decided that it would be an excellent place for a day’s exploring. Unfortunately, that window is just a liiiiiiiittle too small for them to climb through. Could it be that they’ll actually have to -GASP- pay an entrance fee for once?
Apparently not. If you’re Beastie-sized, stowing away on a passing wheelbarrow is always an option. And once they were inside, they were quickly able to win over the staff with their Irish charm.
Great! Let’s celebrate with a snack. Pineapple, anyone? You can’t see Paddy in these photos, because he’d already hopped over the wall and started munching. However, Plunkett wasn’t so sure…
“Paddy, it says on the sign that the heat these pineapples need to grow comes from filling the pit trenches with a steady supply of fresh horse manure.”
“Yes, Plunkett, but it also says that the pineapples are delicious… And one of the first ones harvested after this pit was unearthed and rebuilt in the 1990s was sent to the Queen as a 50th wedding anniversary gift! So if they’re good enough for her, they’re good enough for me. YUM!”
And what better way to celebrate the restoration of the only surviving pineapple pit in Britain? Apparently, these were quite the thing back in the 19th century, with gardeners in the “big houses” competing to see who could grow the tastiest pineapples! Unfortunately, the skills involved in maintaining one were pretty much lost – with the decline of apprenticeships, the knowledge was no longer being passed along, and no-one thought to write it down. It was only through trial and error that the staff at Heligan were able to make this project bear fruit… And the Beasties were more than happy to show a little appreciation for their efforts.
Suitably stuffed, the boys wandered a little further, and found themselves in the jungle! Luckily, they’re old hands at jungle exploration, having recently spent time at the Eden Project. And after eating all that pineapple, it’s incredible that this rope bridge was able to take the strain of them walking across it! On the other side, the boys worked off a little bit of their recent extravagance by clambering around on the firewood pile… … But a terrifying sight awaited them on the other side! “Oh no! What happened here?”
But Plunkett was soon able to put two and two together, when he spotted this… “Aaaaaah, this must be where they make the charcoal!”
“What do they need charcoal for?”
“For the barbecue, Paddy! They raise beef right here on the estate, and have big summer barbecues for visitors!”
Paddy went quiet.
“If I had known there was going to be a barbecue, Plunkett, I wouldn’t have filled up on pineapple!”
Oh dear. Perhaps a quick stroll around more of the gardens will help Paddy to work up an appetite for a second helping of Heligan’s tasty treats? We’ll have more from the boys on Tuesday… But in the meantime, do feel free to make Paddy jealous by sharing your weekend dining plans with us in the comments!