Archive for August, 2011

Photography – Summer in England: Ashford Hangers, Hampshire

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s official – the UK has just experienced its coolest summer since 1993.

There’s been a lot less sunshine around and, in many places, it’s been wetter than usual. The temperature has also been lower than average. So there … lots for us Brits to moan about!  The weather … such a wonderful topic. Will we ever tire of it? I think not. Anyway, here’s looking forward to a nice Autumn!


Travel – Amberley Church and Castle, West Sussex, England

August 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Amberley is a small but quaint village in West Sussex, England, situated at the foot of the South Downs. It‘s fairly close to Arundel with its impressive castle. The village has long been known for its hotchpotch of thatched cottages. Amberley has its own station stop on the Arun Valley Line plus a popular rural life museum.

The village is ‘picture-postcard Sussex’ set on a slope above the river Arun, all pretty cottages, gardens and thatch. Amberley also has a castle with high forbidding walls, now a Country House Hotel. The ‘castle’ was actually a fortified manor House, built next to the Norman church of St Michael.

The villages of Amberley and Bury across the Arun were joined, since Charles II’s reign, by a ferry, operated by the occupants of a cottage on the opposite bank but sadly the ferry ceased operating in 1965.

The Bishops of Chichester had a summer residence here, probably before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Although there are references to the lands at Amberley being granted to St Wilfrid in 670 by the Saxon King Cedwalla, there is no mention in the Domesday Book of a church here in 1086. Soon after the Norman invasion, an earlier Saxon wooden church was replaced by a stone structure and the church was enlarged around 1150-1160, the work of Bishop Luffa who also built Chichester Cathedral.

The magnificent chancel arch dates from this period as does the square font, with its shallow blank arches carved in the Purbeck marble. The interior is completely dominated by this arch carved in the Norman style: row upon row of zig-zag carving covers the sides and underneath of the arch, supported by robust smooth-leaf capitals.

To the south of the chancel arch are 12-13th century wall paintings, depicting scenes from the life of Christ. These are known as ‘Passion cycle’ paintings similar in purpose to the English Mystery Plays, telling in narrative sequence, the story of Christ’s Passion and death, sometimes continuing to the Resurrection and beyond. There are similar wall paintings in the Parish church at Kempley in Gloucestershire.

Outside the church, the high walls of the castle dominate the churchyard. Set in the castle wall is a wooden door through which the Bishops presumably walked to the church: it is named in honour of the most eminent of their number, St Richard of Chichester.

Saint Richard was the Bishop of Chichester (b.1197, d.1253) and was canonised in 1262. He is perhaps best known for his popular prayer of Christian devotion (see below).

His statue now stands outside the West Door of the beautiful cathedral church at Chichester.

‘Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ

For all the benefits Thou hast given me

For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me

O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother

May I know Thee more clearly

Love Thee more dearly

and follow Thee more nearly’

The prayer of Saint Richard: Bishop of Chichester 1245 – 1253

Opinion – Support your High Street – Local retailers and small shops

August 11, 2011 4 comments

Listening to Liz Pilgrim, a riot-hit small retailer from Ealing on BBC R4 tonight was an inspiration, providing a strident rallying call for support to the High Street.

Events of this past week have demonstrated that the UK High Street is hurting badly – in more ways than one. Shops in riot affected areas will have an uphill struggle to get their businesses back on track. Retailers everywhere are finding it hard work to make headway against strong and adverse economic headwinds.

If these local businesses are forced to leave their High Streets, it will be very hard, if not impossible, to open them again. Does that matter? Yes, I think it does. Those communities losing local traders are negatively impacted in a considerable way. We could all do much more to help – by stopping to think whether we can buy locally, by switching our purchasing from the internet to local shops (where possible) and from chain stores and supermarkets to the local trader. Yes, there’s often a price differential and I know that we all have time constraints but there is a positive social impact.

Some of you might say that it’s already too late. It’s not. You can make a real difference locally.

So much of retail in the UK is comprised of fairly small units and these outlets provide considerable levels of local employment in so many of our towns and cities. It cannot be all about Tesco’s and Debenhams.

Use local markets wherever possible as these too continue to help commercial life to thrive in our neighbourhoods and communities. Yes, it’s hard to do this but it’s also worthwhile. At the moment, any help for smaller retailers, and sole traders in particular, is very welcome.

 If you agree with this please ‘like’ it and post it elsewhere and let’s help bring more footfall to our High Streets. Do we really want to live in a homogenous world? Do we want all of retail life to move online? We all have to buy ‘stuff’. The only question is; where will we actually do our purchasing?

So go on – Support your own High Street. Support your local retailer. Support your small shops. Support your local Market. You might even enjoy yourself!


Update and postscript:

The key figures for UK retail. (Source: Dept for BIS)

• UK retail sales are around £300bn, the 3rd largest in the world, after the USA and Japan.
• The retail sector generates 8% of the GDP of the UK, and 5.2% of GVA.
• The retail industry employs around 3m people. One in ten of those in employment currently work in the retail sector – the highest proportion of UK private sector employment.
• Retail is the largest private sector employer in the UK with one in ten of the workforce working in retail.
• There are 450,000 shops in the UK owned by 300,000 enterprises, including 9% (190,000) of all VAT-registered businesses.
• Shops account for more than a third of consumer spending.
• Despite being the third biggest casualty of the recession with over 6,000 insolvencies, the sector continues to grow.
• The value of overseas shoppers in London is around £2bn p.a.
• Despite strong growth in recent years, internet sales currently account for only around 7.5% of total sales.

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