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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

House of Marbles

Marble by Cuneo
The House of Marbles is a fantastic place for a family visit and should keep the whole family entertained for at least a couple of hours. If you happen to go when they are blowing glass out the back, that will hold you there even longer. There is a gallery to walk round so you can look down on the work happening in the blowing furnaces.

Apart from the workshops to look at there is a museum with lots of examples of marbles from around the world and also information on how marbles are made with some machinery on display. You can see some 'Heath Robinson' type marble run contraptions and one is so massive it takes up the whole wall at one end of this large building with the marbles being about the size of an average fist. You can have your children's hands and feet cast in glass and there are also glass making courses.

Close up of green marbleThe shop holds lots of things for both adults and children and I can recommend their own marble runs made out of plastic - our little girl loves playing with it as do her friends - keeps them quiet for a good long time. Actually, it does me too!

Their web site: http://www.houseofmarbles.com/

Address
The Old Pottery, Pottery Road
Bovey Tracey
Devon
TQ13 9DS

Telephone
01626 835 285

© Britain-Visitor.com

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

River Dart At Totnes

The River Dart is one of England's loveliest rivers. Meandering down from Dartmoor to the sea at Dartmouth, the river gives its name to many places along its route: Dartmeet, Dartington, Dartmouth and of course Dartmoor itself.

River Dart At Totnes

From Totnes to the sea the river is tidal and the history and economy of both Totnes and Dartmouth are based on the access to the sea the river provided.

Now the Dart Valley is an excellent place to enjoy walking, angling, white water rafting, kayaking and canoeing.

Image © Jake Davies

© Britain-Visitor.com

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dandelions


A perennial, herbaceous plant with long, deeply indented lance-shaped leaves. The dandelion's official name is Taraxacum officinale, which means "official remedy for disorders". The common names for dandelions include "priest's crown" "Irish daisy", "monk's head", "telltime", "blowball" and "lion's tooth". The word 'dandelion' means "lion's tooth" (dent-de-lion), probably an old French reference to its jagged leaves. I have heard that the dandelion originated in Europe and also China or it may be even older than that: "The dandelion has no origin; rather, its seeds came into existence at the Big Bang and dispersed through all the dimensions of spacetime, like background radiation and logic."

A dandelion flower is actually hundreds of tiny yellow flowers surrounded by leafy bracts. They are produced individually on hollow stalks 2.5 to 18 inches tall and clustered at the base of the plant. Unlike most composites, there are no disk flowers. The common dandelion can be confused with the false dandelion 'Hypochoeris radicata' which looks similar.

Their seeds easily ride the wind currents, dropping into the smallest of openings in the ground to propagate. A taproot up to 3 feet long, but usually between 10 and 12 inches, allows it to survive drought and competition with other weeds. Pulling the taproot as a means of removing a dandelion is problematic; the root is thick and brittle and easily fractures and any fraction of the taproot that remains in the ground will regenerate. The upper sections of the root have the greatest viability. Stems contains a milky, latex sap.

Dandelions are beneficial to a garden ecosystem as well as to human health. They attract beneficial creatures such as ladybirds and provide food for them in the early spring. Through experiments it has been found that ground with dandelions has more ladybirds than ground free from dandelion and fewer aphids, a favorite food of the ladybird. Also the Dandelion's long roots aerate the soil and help the plant to accumulate minerals, which are added to the soil once the plant has died.

Dandelions are good for your health too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reckons a serving of uncooked dandelion leaves contains about 280 % of an adult's daily recommended intake of beta carotene and more than half the recommended intake of vitamin C. Dandelions are also rich in vitamin A. Though never cultivated as a vegetable in Europe, dandelions were first brought to the market in England in the 19th century when lettuce and endive plants were scarce. In Catalonia the pheasant or duck dish 'el faisà o l'ànec amb queixals de vella' is often prepared with dandelions and in Macedonia 'Radíkia Me Rízi Tis Kyrías Agápis' is a dish of dandelion and chicory cooked with rice and pine nuts. Dandelion greens are wonderful in salads, sautéed or steamed. They taste like chicory and endive, with an intense heartiness overlying a bitter tinge. These days we are so conditioned into eating overly sweet or salty processed food that we dislike bitter flavors, previously we enjoyed certain bitter plants. Mixed with other flavors, such as in a salads, dandelions improve the flavor.


Eating Dandelions

Nearly all parts of a dandelion can be eaten. Regardless of which part you intend to eat, make sure the dandelions have not been treated with chemicals and wash them thoroughly to remove all soil and insects from the underside of the leaves or roots. Dandelion greens are very nutritious. The leaves, which are are high in calcium, potassium and iron, are best when they are young and tender and most flavorful in early spring before the first flower buds appear. They can be consumed fresh or cooked in boiling water for about 10 minutes to take away some of the bitterness. Or dress the greens with lemon to reduce the bitterness. The slightly bitter young dandelion leaves make a good substitute for chicory, arugula, escarole or curly endive or for cooked spinach.

Dandelion roots can be eaten as a vegetable having a turnip-like flavor if dug in early spring. The outer skin is very bitter, so peel them first. Boil and season the roots as you would carrots. Dried and roasted 2 year old roots can be used as a caffeine-free substitute for coffee.

Dandelion blossoms can be eaten fresh and are sweetest when picked early in the season. They should be used immediately after picking because the flowers close up quickly. The flowers can also be used to make wine, tea or jelly, or young buds can be boiled, pickled, sautéed, or cooked in fritters.

Try sautéing them for about 20 minutes with onions and garlic in olive oil, adding a little home-made wine just before they're finished cooking. If you're not used to the slight bitterness, cook them with sweet vegetables, especially sliced carrots and parsnips. Boiling dandelions in one or more changes of water reduces their bitterness to a much milder flavour. Early spring is also the time for eating the crown, it tastes good sautéed, pickled, or in cooked vegetable dishes.

Medicinal Value

Dandelions are also useful in herbal remedies. The white sap from the stem and root can be used as a remedy for warts whilst the whole plant can be used as a diuretic and as a liver stimulant.

Herbal medicine reports the dandelion as a virtual pharamcological wonder with properties to cure everything from acne to yeast infections. The latex-containing sap is reported as a styptic and combats acne, boils, diabetes, eczema and warts, while preparations of the leaves or roots are purported to be a non-potassium depleting diuretic useful for treating fluid retention, cystitis, nephritis, and hepatitis, and obstructions of the bladder, gall bladder, kidney, pancreas and spleen obstructions, as well as for snakebites, colon cleansing, nonspecific heart distress and cooling energy to "cool out excess liver functions". Plus it is reported to protect against cirrhosis of the liver and cancer! But some caution is recommended as due to its high potassium content those with diabetes mellitus, kidney problems or taking ACE inhibitors should not take this herb. Also, some people may be allergic to dandelions and the latex in the sap can give skin disorders. Be cautious of ingesting too many roots as they are reported to be both a diuretic and a laxative.

Ecological ways to Kill Dandelions

Pulling them out:

Water the lawn first as it will be easier to get the long tap root out without it breaking. Make a deep cut into the soil down the side of the dandelion using a knife or long trowel and wiggle it to loosen the soil around the root.
Get as good a grip on the dandelion as you can by gathering as many leaves as you can and gently pull. If the taproot yields, great, pull it out. If it doesn't move make further incisions around the taproot, wiggle and continue to pull gently until it does come out of the ground, hopefully without breaking.

Biological warfare:

Vinegar is a good ecological herbicide for Dandelions, the acetic acid giving its herbicidal potential. The higher the % of acetic acid in the vinegar, the better. Cooking vinegar is relatively low in acetic acid (about 5%) but if boiled down its strength will increase. Apply the vinegar directly onto the dandelion's leaves making sure you don't apply it to any plant you don't want to kill (such as grass).

© Britain-Visitor.com

Colour Perception


The human brain is a strange and wonderful thing. It's ability to perceive colour is by no means straight forward.

For instance, take the colour red; it has a tendency to come forward so that a red object looks comparatively closer to the viewer than it actually is. Some people have put forward the suggestion that this is because the earth's atmosphere is blue and that objects far away will have a blue cast to them as the light from them passes through more and more blue atmosphere and that this produces the psychological effect of bringing red objects closer.

Sounds reasonable doesn't it. But at night, green objects look closer and red looks less 'forward'. Try seeing if you can notice this effect with traffic lights, comparing daytime to nighttime.

Most people think of their eyes as the organ that sees the world around us. This is not strictly true as the real visual processing is done with our brains; if the central processing unit (CPU or microprocessor) is the computer equivalent of our brain then our eyes would be the equivalent of the keyboard; they are simply the input device. Our brains are far more complex and capable than any current computer's CPU and this is reflected in the way it works.

For example think of a photograph you have taken indoors, almost certainly with a sodium light bulb (normal household lamp). The photo had an orange colour cast didn't it. That is because the camera can only reproduce what it sees and what is saw was a room flooded with orange light; sodium lamps produce more of the red colours of the visible spectrum than the green/blue end (all the colours of a rainbow mixed together produce white light - literally). If you take a photograph of a room lit by fluorescent lamps the colour cast in the print will be green. But you didn't see an orange or green room when you took the photo did you.

That is because the brain is using its power to 'normalize' the view. It looks at the entire spectrum it sees before it and registers where the ends of the light spectrum are (red at one end and blue the other). It then moves the visible spectrum of the view along so that everything fits into what it thinks is correct. If there is a piece of pure blue paper in the room, the orange lamp would make it look less blue and more orange and a camera would reproduce this effect in the print. However, our brains see the blue paper as being the bluest object in the room otherwise others colours would not fit into its know spectrum. So it slides the spectrum along so that you see the paper as being pure blue.

Moreover, it can make these adjustments at an incredibly fast pace. If you walk out of a shop lit by fluorescent lamps (green cast) you do not momentarily see everything with a blue tint as you walk into the street, the scene in the street outside the shop is immediately corrected to the right colours and no disorientation takes place.

© Britain-Visitor.com

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mole Valley Farmers

Mole Valley Farmers is a store for farmers and outdoor types, stocking clothing, husbandry and garden items.

Mole Valley Farmers

Mole Valley Farmers
Tel: 0845 6033622

Mole Valley Farmers has stores throughout the south west in Devon, Cornwall & Somerset.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tavistock

Tavistock on the western edge of Dartmoor sits on the River Tavy and is a prosperous market town with a population of around 11,000.

Tavistock, Devon

The town has some fine buildings dating from its heydays in the late nineteenth century. Tavistock's places of interest include the ruins of its once massive abbey destroyed by Henry VIII and the Tavistock Museum (Tel: 01822 612 546), which displays surviving items from the abbey and exhibits from Tavistock's brief boom period in the mid-nineteenth century as a copper mining town.

Tavistock, Devon

Tavistock's Pannier Market received its charter in the 12th century and is still going strong. Now Pannier Market is housed in a 19th century covered market building built by the Duke of Bedford, who's family has owned most of the town from the 16th until the early 20th century. The main market day is Friday with more specialized craft and antique markets held on other days. Tavistock Goose Fair (Goosey Fair), dates fom 1116 is Tavistock's biggest event and takes place on the second Wednesday of October. Tavistock Farmers Market is held in Bedford Square on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month, from 9am to 1pm.

Pannier Market, Tavistock, Devon

Tavistock's history is bound up with the fortunes of the Russell family, who as the Dukes of Bedford and Marquesses of Tavistock were the main beneficiaries of Henry VIII's dissolution of Tavistock Abbey in the 16th century. Russell Square and Tavistock Squares in London owe their names to the Russell family's holdings in the capital. The present Duke of Bedford has a personal fortune estimated at £490m.

Tavistock's most famous son is Sir Francis Drake (1540-95), ruthless privateer, adventurer and the first Englishman to sail round the world.

Tavistock, Devon

Access

Tavistock is on the A386 road to Plymouth. There are frequent buses to Plymouth, and less regular services to Okehampton and Princetown. There is no longer a railway station in Tavistock.

Tavistock Tourist Office
Tel: 01822 612 938

Tavistock Museum
Court Gate
Bedford Square
Tavistock
Devon
PL19 0EA
Tel: 01822 612 546

© Britain-Visitor.com

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Ship Inn Exeter

The Ship Inn on Martin's Lane is one of Exeter's most historic pubs. Reputedly Sir Francis Drake's favorite watering hole (though there is not much evidence to substantiate the claim), the wood-lined pub is a favorite with tourists, Exeter University students and locals alike.

The Ship Inn Exeter

During the English Civil War (1642-46) however, it is known that Royalist troops were billeted in The Ship.

The pub's latest refurbishment was in the 1990s and the previous fittings were exported to Russia to open an English-style pub there.

There is an extensive menu and good ales on tap. The Ship Inn is directly across the lane from The Royal Clarence Hotel.

Ship Inn
1-3 Martins Lane
Exeter
EX1 1EY
Tel: 01392-272-040

© Britain-Visitor.com

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral is one of England's most beautiful churches. Set between the lovely streets of Cathedral Close and Cathedral Place and fronted by a grassy square, the Cathedral Church of St. Peter was begun in 1114 by the Normans and the sturdy, rather squat cathedral towers date from Norman times.

Great West Front, Exeter Cathedral, Exeter, Devon

The cathedral was remodelled in a decorative Gothic style over a century beginning in 1270 by Bishop Walter Bronescombe. Influenced by the architecture of nearby Salisbury Cathedral, the church was built using local stone, including Purbeck Marble.

Exeter Cathedral, Exeter Devon

Entrance is through the magnificent Great West Front and the carved figures above the door represent the largest collection of 14th century stone carving in the UK. The weathered figures include those of Alfred the Great, Athelstand, Canute, William the Conqueror and Richard II and were originally painted in bright colours.
The beautiful 90m-long ceiling vaulting is another first - the longest, continuous Gothic ceiling in the world.

Norman Tower, Exeter Cathedral, Exeter Devon

The 15th century Exeter Clock in the north transept is a fine example of a medieval astronomical clock. The clock is in full working order and chimes every hour.

The cathedral was damaged during the English Civil War (1642–1646) and again in World War II (1939-1945) being repaired each time.


Exeter Cathedral
1 The Cloisters
Exeter
EX1 1HS
UK
Tel: 01392 285 983 (Visitors' officer)
Hours: 9.30am-5pm

Exeter Cathedral

A donation of 4 GBP is recommended for visitors. There are free guided tours from March to October at the following times:

Monday to Friday, 11.00am, 12.30pm* and 2.30pm
Saturday, 11am and 12.30pm*

* only during July, August and September

Exeter Cathedral map

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Exeter Quay

Exeter Quay is one of Exeter's most pleasant areas. The historic area of red stone warehouses, pubs, antique shops, teahouses and cafes has been transformed from the rather intimidating area of cobblestones and rough nightclubs in the 1980s.

Exeter Quay

Once the site of the much missed Exeter Maritime Museum, the Quay is now the perfect place to eat and drink al fresco on a summer's day.

The quay on the River Exe was founded in Roman times but access to the sea was lost by the 14th century when a weir was built across the river to force the wool trade to Topsham to the south, which enjoyed a prosperous business with the Low Countries.

Exeter Quay

In 1563, the enterprising John Trew built Britain's first ship canal to restore access to the sea.

The Quay House Visitor Centre (Tel: 01392 271 611) dates from 1680 and has more information on the area's history plus a small gift shop selling local pottery, maps and books.

Butt's Ferry, is a rope pulled ferry across the quay which actually dates from the 17th century but was saved from closure in the 1970s by a local man George Butts who petitioned the local council to keep it open.

Exeter Quay

The quay has open-air jazz concerts on Sundays in the summer as well as Slow Food Markets on the third Saturday on the month between April and October and is the starting point for Exeter's annual Dragon Boat races!

It's possible to hire bicycles or kayaks at the Quay from Saddles & Paddles (Tel: 01392 424 241) and get down to two of the area's best pubs: The Double Locks (Tel: 01392 256 947) and the Turf Locks Hotel (Tel: 01392 833 128).

© Britain-Visitor.com

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Exeter Roman Wall

Exeter was once a Roman city, named Isca Dumnoniorum, after the Roman legions took over the town from the local Celtic tribes. Isca seems to have been the local name for the Exe River and the Dumnonii were the tribe then inhabiting Devon and Cornwall.
Exeter was the most south-westerly Roman fortress in England and became the starting point of the Fosse Way Roman road.

Exeter Roman Wall

The Roman presence dates from 55 CE and parts of the 2 mile wall they built to defend their settlement still survive, though the wall was added to in Saxon times by Alfred the Great and again during the time of the English Civil War in the 1640s when the Royalists held out against Cromwell.

Exeter Roman Wall

The wall makes for an interesting history trail and the Exeter Tourist Office can supply you with a free leaflet to help you understand the different historical aspects of the wall. The original wall was construction with locally-quarried grey volcanic stone and stood at a height of about 6 meters.

Exeter Roman Wall

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Devon - The Name

As well as being the name of an English county, "Devon" is also used as a personal name for both men and women.

There is Devon Aoki, the American super-model, Devon Michaels the porn star, Devon Werkheiser the actor, Devon Malcolm, the ex-England cricketer, Devon White the MLB slugger, Devon Harris the Jamaican bobsledder, Devon Wilson a girlfriend of Jimi Hendrix and the subject of the song "Dolly Dagger", Devon Murray the Irish actor in the Harry Potter movies and even Devon Loch, the racehorse.

The name Devon may originate from a British tribal name which could have meant "worshippers of the god Dumnonos".

The name Devon seems particular popular for West Indian boys and can be pronounced "DEE-VON".

© Britain-Visitor.com

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bovey Tracey Mansion Party gone wrong

Last month we posted about a party gone wrong in a beautiful Devon mansion. The party was supposed to be for a hundred people, but thanks to a shout out from BBC radio around two thousand "guests" turned up and proceeded to wreck the place, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage. You can see the video of this wild party below.