Cheshire is a Cat & a District in England which Includes Bears, Ice Cream, and a Lake

There was one day left in England before heading to France and we had things to do, besides pack. Denise and I drove into Congleton after a stop at a post office where I mailed home an expensive box filled with inexpensive souvenirs. (But it was worth paying for it just so I wouldn’t have to lug it around France plus be charged for a 2nd additional bag on Ryan Air.) Of course, in a busy British neighborhood post office, on a Saturday, was one of the very few times on this trip when my debit card wouldn’t work because of the changing credit card ‘pin system’ going on in Europe now. On top of that, I hadn’t gone to the cash machine first, so luckily Denise came to the rescue as the lone Postmaster was very patient and understanding with the whole situation. The line was almost going out the door behind me and I felt embarrassed for holding things up, although the postmaster assured me that it was quite all right, they would just have to wait, and he was open until 3 (it was about 11) so there was plenty of time. I love that laid back British attitude.

The Cheshire District in the North Country of England seemed to bring out my inner kid. This was even where Lewis Carroll lived awhile and naming the “Cheshire Cat” in Alice in Wonderland after this district.

Then there is the town called Congleton, which is known for bears, among other things. Funny thing is, my late mom loved and collected bears (mostly very cool miniature figurines) and she would have loved to know that her cousin lived in a town that was known for its bears.

IMG_6253

20130406-142159.jpg

The first settlements in Congleton were Neolithic, Stone Age, and Bronze. Much later, Congleton became a market town after the Vikings destroyed Davenport. The Romans are thought to have been here, too, which is no wonder even if they haven’t found evidence of that…yet. William the Conquerer gave the district of Cheshire over to his nephew, the Earl of Chester. Much history follows with it’s first charter signed in 1272 by the 3rd Earl of Lincoln, Henry de Lacy, to not only hold fairs but also to behead criminals. On that note, the town charter was stamped with approval.

In 1451 the River Dane flooded and the town was destroyed, they rerouted the river, and rebuilt Congleton on higher ground.

In the 1620s, cockfighting and bear-baiting became popular sports in Congleton. But officials wanted larger crowds so they needed a bigger and meaner bear. Rumor has it they sold the town bible to acquire funding for a new bear. However, the truth was, they used the money they were going to pay to get a new bible, to actually buy the bear, and when the crowds increased putting more money in the coffers, they were able to replenish the fund to buy the new bible.

Another publicized story from Congleton, is about John Bradshaw, mayor and lawyer, and, as this article I was reading called him, a regicide, because he penned his name as the first signature on the decree to execute Charles I in 1649. On the wall of The White Lion public house, there is a blue plaque stating that Bradshaw’s attorney office was here and he served his articles from here in this 16th century building. (Note that this White Lion still has some old Christmas, um, holiday trees, (which have seen better days) hanging on the facade.)

20130406-155709.jpg

Fast forward to the 21st century and Congleton is still a market town with a nice pedestrian area where we stopped for some pastries (The photo showing the pastry shop isn’t where we actually stopped for pastries. This is called poetic license as I didn’t have a photo of the one we went to but did have a photo of this one just up the street). It’s a pleasant little town where having a cappuccino in a little covered walkway was a pleasant experience.

20130406-161042.jpg

20130406-161003.jpg

20130406-160951.jpg

20130406-160935.jpg

20130406-160912.jpg

20130406-161144.jpg

Congleton was also an important player in the textile industry well known for leather gloves, silk and lace (my kind of mill!). Interesting and diverse product line.

This little village park celebrates not only awards for being pretty but back in the early days of film, used to show silent movies in the little clubhouse with musicians playing mood tunes and is now celebrating the current Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee. I do recall seeing other celebratory remnants of last year’s big occasion when in London two weeks prior, too. It was a big year for London with the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. And now a royal baby on the way who could well be a future monarch. All very exciting stuff for royalists (like me).

20130406-162459.jpg

20130406-162517.jpg

20130406-162536.jpg

20130406-162553.jpg

Later, John took me to what would be my very own version of Stonehenge, especially since I have never seen the real Stonehenge nor the Avebury standing stones (which are said to be better since you can actually walk amongst them). This little out-of-the-way monument appears to be a pretty low key tourist attraction, with me being the only tourist. (John hung out at the car at the far end of the long driveway, not sure why, but maybe I was on private land and this place called for another ‘quick getaway.’) Now, this was my kind of tourist attraction. Quiet. Rundown. No one else to step around while I took photos. And it was just pretty darn cool. Such history. And how many different ways can a person photograph a few rocks? Let me show you:

20130406-163633.jpg

20130406-163655.jpg

20130406-163707.jpg

20130406-163724.jpg

20130406-163741.jpg

20130406-163802.jpg

20130406-163823.jpg

20130406-163844.jpg

20130406-163900.jpg

20130406-163917.jpg

20130406-163928.jpg

20130406-163957.jpg

20130406-164016.jpg

A brief rundown of the history of these is they are called the Bridestones Neolithic Chambered Long Cairn (thanks, John!). It’s the only known tomb in Cheshire to date to the Neolithic period 3500-2400 BC. It is on the west flank of Cloud Hill facing westerly over Cheshire County. Apparently, from what has been gathered historically by Antiquarians, these stones are mere remnants of a more extensive monument. When I later told my 7 year old grandson, Gabriel, about this, he suggested we do some digging (literally) to find out what caveman is buried there. We decided he/she must have been important due to what the original size of the monument was estimated to have been. Perhaps Manchester University will fund sending more students to do further research one day.

Now, on to more important matters. There really is an Ice Cream Farm in Cheshire County

20130407-121652.jpg

Oh. My. I felt about 6 years old right then. This was a real ice cream farm! The cows make the milk for the ice cream, they sell the ice cream to their visitors, and they seem to have very happy cows who (a) look forward to visitors (see shot of black and white young cow looking up at me from the barn below), (b) whisper Beatle tunes into one another’s ears (“Listen, wooowaaaeeee, let me whisper in your ear….”), (c) they like to be petted, and (d) they have skylights in the big barn giving them natural Vitamin D from the light. Even the cats like to hang out in the pen with the happy ice cream cows.

20130407-122830.jpg

20130407-122855.jpg

20130407-122922.jpg

20130407-122936.jpg

20130407-122958.jpg

20130407-123022.jpg

The ice cream was delish and everything was just so darn quaint and cute.

20130407-123323.jpg

20130407-123341.jpg

20130407-123409.jpg

20130407-123421.jpg

20130407-123433.jpg

20130407-123447.jpg

20130407-123526.jpg

20130407-123601.jpg

And I can’t even begin to describe the farm and the beautiful land it sits on, so I won’t even try. A picture speaks a thousand words.

20130407-123919.jpg

20130407-123937.jpg

20130407-123952.jpg

20130407-124007.jpg

20130407-124033.jpg

20130407-124051.jpg

20130407-124108.jpg

20130407-124124.jpg

20130407-124139.jpg

20130407-124155.jpg

20130407-124217.jpg

20130407-124233.jpg

20130407-124252.jpg

20130407-124311.jpg

20130407-124326.jpg

20130407-124338.jpg

20130407-124402.jpg

20130407-124416.jpg

From the top of Cloud Hill, there is this view of the district which includes the industrial plumes of Liverpool in the distance, and on the right side of the photo there is the humongous observatory, Jodrell Bank Observatory.

20130407-124923.jpg

Lastly I learned one more last fascinating fact about the area. There is a Lake Rudyard. Coincidentally, it just so happens that my mother, remember she passed away just before her long-lost first cousin John, who had just driven my USA born and raised self to the overlook of this lake, happens to live in this part of England. He also happens to be the one responsible for finding me after he and his family had been looking for my mom for 65 or so years, because he just so happened to see my mom’s obituary online last year, after a two year hiatus from looking, when he was possessed by the urge to go back online one night. I had purposely written the obit with key words like her father’s name (John’s uncle) and the city of Shanghai (where she was born), just in case someone was looking for her like I had looked for them. And because I wrote my full name and the metropolitan city in the U.S. where I lived, and I had taken a random photo of a baby seal on the beach the month before, which our small town e-paper published with my name, he was then able to find my address. Doreen, his sister, wrote to me, and here I was, a year later, by a lake called Rudyard. It just so happens that my mother loved Rudyard Kipling and had several of his books and when I was young I started reading Kipling, too, and now I was accidentally at the lake where Rudyard Kipling’s parents met, which was how their son, Rudyard, was given his name. (All these years I thought he and his family were from India.) I was standing in the middle of some remote place in England, I had never heard of, in front of a lake I never knew about, thinking how it should be my mom standing here. How she would have loved it. How she loved ice cream, bears, and animals and would have been in heaven to spend a whole day at an ice cream farm eating ice cream with those animals. And maybe she’s orchestrating this whole chorus of “Happenings” from her perch here on Cloud Hill to remind us all that anything is possible “If” you believe that it can happen.

This one’s for you, Mom, wherever you are.

20130407-131210.jpg

20130407-131228.jpg

20130407-131254.jpg

Onwards to France…

11 thoughts on “Cheshire is a Cat & a District in England which Includes Bears, Ice Cream, and a Lake

  1. Oh! Your mom was there by your side–I’m certain of it!
    What a lovely day & places & histories. Really beginning to wish I was part of your family & could go experience these things too!
    (And I loved how one sign said “No Picnics” while the other said to go “Feed the Ducks”! Refreshing-being told TO feed the ducks instead of not to!)

    • Ugh! Sadness!!!

      “The Bridestones consist of a chambered cairn, built in the Neolithic Stone Age, near Congleton, Cheshire, England. It was described in 1764 as being 100 metres long and 11 metres wide; it contained three separate compartments, of which only one remains today. The remaining compartment is 6 metres long by 2.7 metres wide, and consists of vertical stone slabs, divided by a now-broken cross slab. The cairn originally had a stone circle surrounding it, with four portal stones; two of these portal stones still remain….
      “The largest single ransacking of the monument was the removal of several hundred tons to construct the nearby turnpike road. Stones from the monument were also taken to build the nearby house and farm; other stones were used in an ornamental garden in Tunstall Park. The holed stone was broken some time before 1854; the top half was found replaced in 1877, but was gone again by 1935.
      “While the southern side of the main chamber was originally a single, 18-foot-long stone (5.5 m), it was split in 1843 by a picknicker’s bonfire. Of the portal stones, only two remain, one of which is broken and concreted back together. This was reputedly caused by an engineer from the Manchester Ship Canal, who used the stone to demonstrate a detonator.
      “Excavations of the site were done by Professor Fleur of Manchester University in 1936 and 1937, with the aim of restoring the site as much as possible to its former condition.”

    • Cool, isn’t it?

  2. Some fantastic photos on here, especially of The Bridestones. Cheers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s