Castles in Wales: Chirk Castle
Chirk Castle (Welsh: Castell y Waun) is a castle located at Chirk, Wrexham, Wales.
The castle was built in 1295 by Roger Mortimer de Chirk, uncle of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March as part of King Edward I's chain of fortresses across the north of Wales. It guards the entrance to the Ceiriog Valley. It was the administrative centre for the Marcher Lordship of Chirkland...
The castle was bought by Thomas Myddelton in 1595 for £5,000 (approx. £11 million as of 2008). His son, Thomas Myddelton of Chirk Castle was a Parliamentarian during the English Civil War, but became a Royalist during the Cheshire Rising of 1659. Following the Restoration, his son became Sir Thomas Myddelton, 1st Baronet of Chirke.
During the 1930s the Castle was home to Thomas Scott-Ellis, 8th Baron Howard de Walden, a prominent patron of the arts and champion of Welsh culture. The Myddelton family resided at Chirk Castle until 2004. Lieutenant-Colonel Ririd Myddleton was an extra equerry to Queen Elizabeth II from 1952 until his death in 1988.
The castle is presently in the ownership of the National Trust and is open to the public between March and October, with limited opening dates in November and December. Access is by road; the castle itself is located 1.5 mi (2.4 km) from the Chirk railway station. The property is also notable for its gardens, with clipped yew hedges, herbaceous borders, rock gardens and terraces and surrounded by 18th century parkland.See more
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Recipes: WELSH CAWL
Perhaps a national dish of Wales because it uses fantastic (and famously) Welsh ingredients – lamb and leeks – Cawl is Welsh for soup and I was brought up on it come the colder months. Autumn is when t...he root vegetables are harvested and this recipe makes them shine. To pick and mix your favourite roots and enjoy. It definitely warms the cockles and reminds me of home.
900g of lamb
50g pearl barley
3-4 scraped and sliced carrots
2 sliced onions
1 peeled and chopped swede
3 Leeks chopped into chunks (keeping the greener end as this adds colour and flavour)
Small bundle fresh thyme leaves, picked from their stalk
900g potatoes cut into big chunks
1 tbsp chopped parsley
10 black peppercorns
Trim the meat of fat, cut into big chunks put in a deep pan with plenty of water, bring to the boil slowly and skim (throughout the cooking process you need to ensure there is enough liquid to cover the ingredients).
Add the pearl barley, carrot, onions and swede. Bring back to the boil, add half tsp salt and the peppercorns, then the thyme and bay leaf bundled with string, and simmer gently for 2 hours.
Add the potatoes and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add the leeks and simmer for a further 5-10 minutes.
Serve with garnish of parsley, warm, crusty, wholesome bread and Caerphilly cheese.
The Cawl will be fine to eat for 24hrs but is best eaten within 18hrs. If eating the next day you might need to add some water with lamb stock added to thin.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Shepherd's Pie with Cheese-crusted Leeks
This recipe can be made with either fresh minced lamb (shepherd's pie), fresh minced beef (cottage pie) or minced leftover beef or lamb from a cooked joint (in which case, cut the initial cooking time to 15 minutes). In the following recipe we're using fresh minced lamb, and what puts this dish in the five-star category is the delicious crus...t of cheese and leeks.
1 lb (450 g) minced lamb
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
3 oz (75 g) carrot, peeled and chopped very small
3 oz (75 g) swede, peeled and chopped very small
½ level teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 level tablespoon plain flour
10 fl oz (275 ml) fresh lamb stock
1 level tablespoon tomato purée
salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the topping:
2 oz (50 g) mature Cheddar, coarsely grated
2 medium leeks, cleaned and cut into ½ inch (1 cm) slices
2 lb (900 g) Desirée or King Edward potatoes
2 oz (50 g) butter
salt and freshly milled black pepper
Begin by taking the frying pan or saucepan and, over a medium flame, gently heat the olive oil. Now fry the onions in the hot oil until they are tinged brown at the edges – about 5 minutes. Add the chopped carrot and swede and cook for 5 minutes or so, then remove the vegetables and put them to one side.
Now turn the heat up and brown the meat in batches, tossing it around to get it all nicely browned. You may find a wooden fork helpful here, as it helps to break up the mince. After that, give the meat a good seasoning of salt and pepper, then add the cooked vegetables, cinnamon, thyme and parsley.
Next, stir in the flour, which will soak up the juice, then gradually add the stock to the meat mixture until it is all incorporated. Finally, stir in the tomato purée. Now turn the heat right down, put the lid on the pan and let it cook gently for about 30 minutes.
While the meat is cooking you can make the topping. Peel the potatoes, cut them into even-sized pieces and place in a steamer fitted over a large pan of boiling water, sprinkle with some salt, put a lid on and steam until they're completely tender – about 25 minutes. While this is happening, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).
When the potatoes are done, drain off the water, return them to the saucepan, cover with a clean tea cloth to absorb the steam and leave them for about 5 minutes. Next, add the butter and mash them to a purée – the best way to do this is with an electric hand whisk. Don't be tempted to add any milk here, because the mashed potato on top of the pie needs to be firm.
Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
When the meat is ready, spoon it into the baking dish and level it out with the back of the spoon. After that, spread the mashed potato evenly all over.
Now sprinkle the leeks on top of the potato, scatter the cheese over the leeks and bake the whole thing on a high shelf of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the top is crusty and golden.
Recipe found on DeliahOnline
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Castles in Wales: Dolwyddelan Castle
Dolwyddelan Castle (Welsh: Castell Dolwyddelan) is a Welsh castle located near Dolwyddelan in Conwy County in North Wales. It was built in the 13th century by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd and North Wales.
The castle was built between roughly 1210 and 1240 as one of the Snowdonian strongholds of the princes of Gwynedd. It consisted of two rectangular towers linked by an irregular curtain wall.
The Welsh castle functioned as a guard post along a main route through North Wales. On 18 January 1283 it was captured by Edward I of England's forces during the final stages of his conquest of Wales. The castle was then modified and strengthened for occupation by an English garrison.
Edwardian troops maintained a military presence here until 1290. As the long-term strategy of control in Wales began to rely on military and administrative centres accessible by sea, the inland castles became obsolete.
In the 15th century, an upper storey was added to the keep by local lord Maredudd ap Ieuan. It was restored and partly re-modelled in the 19th Century by Lord Willoughby de Eresby, who added the distinctive battlements.
The castle is now under the protection of CADW, which is part of the Welsh Assembly's historic environment division.
In 1980 the location was used for all the outdoor shots of Ulrich's castle during the making of the film Dragonslayer.
The Welsh (or Welsh-Americans) have a way of popping up in the strange!: The other Jefferson Davis. Union General Jefferson Davis shared a name with the Confederate president, a circumstance that didn’t cause as much confusion as might be expected—with one notable exception. During the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863, as darkness fell on Horseshoe Ridge, members of the 21st Ohio saw a swarm of men approaching but couldn’t tell if they were friend or foe. Most assumed they were Union reinforcements, but a few feared they were Confederates. As the troops grew closer, one Union soldier called out, “What troops are you?” The collective reply was “Jeff Davis’s troops.” The Ohio soldiers relaxed, believing they meant the Union general. A few moments later, they were staring down the muzzles and bayonets of the 7th Florida. The Ohioans surrendered. The Confederates won the battle.Read more: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2011/11/the-civil-war-8-strange-and-obscure-facts-you-didnt-know/#ixzz2cWVnsMj6
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Welsh Traditions: Cerdd Dant
Cerdd Dant (string music) is the art of vocal improvisation over a given melody in Welsh musical tradition. It is an important competition in eisteddfodau. The singer or (small) choir sings a counter melody over a harp melody.
Cerdd Dant is a unique tradition of singing lyrics over a harp accompaniment. Traditional singers who sang in stately homes tended to sing in a Welsh language that had strict rules about metre, rhyme, and acceleration. Cerdd Dant is usually a soloist singer with a harp accompaniment; however, you can also have choirs with several harps. A common form is have a harp melody written down or a well known tune, while the vocalist improvises their own harmony while singing a poem.
When sung in a competition, there are strict rules about rhythm and cadences. When finishing a piece, the final verse has to end on a perfect cadence that is close to the home key so that the ending of the song is clear. In Wales, during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, two arts flourished side by side: cerdd dafod (the craft of the tongue, poetical craft) and cerdd dant (the craft of string music). The poets and musicians were part of an all-embracing bardic system. The poets wrote verse of an occasional nature, praising the exploits and virtues of their patrons: the Welsh nobility and high-ranking clergy. They also provided elegies, devotional poetry, commemorated the generous acts of their patrons and satirised certain people in verses which might have the intensity of curses. The art of poetry was learnt orally, i.e. examples were learnt by heart and exercises given as spoken instruction. Part of the poet or musician's craft was the ability to remember the important work of previous generations. One of the spurs to the active and generous patronage of poets must have been the prospect that one's name and deeds would live forever.
In descending social order came: poet, harper, crwth player and the specialised singer of bardic verse, datgeiniad. The crafts of poetry and instrumental music were interdependent and the performance of a new poem, at its most splendid, probably required the services of the datgeiniad, harpist and/or crwth player; no doubt superintended by the poet. Between the beginning of the 14th century and the end of the 16th century Welsh poetical forms were brought to an extreme pitch of elaborationSee mo
Valle Crucis Abbey was founded in 1201 by Madog ap Gruffydd Maelor, on the site of a temporary wooden church and was the last Cistercian monastery to be built in Wales. Originally founded in the principality of Powys Fadog, Valle Crucis was the spiritual centre of the region, while Dinas Bran was the political stronghold. The abbey took its name from the nearby Pillar of Eliseg, which was erected four centuries earlier by Cyngen ap Cadell, King of Powys in memory of his great-grandfather, Elisedd ap Gwylog.1) Facebook: history of Wales
Madog was buried in the then-completed abbey upon his death in 1236. His heraldic slab was excavated from the site in 1956. Not long after Madog's death, it is believed that a serious fire badly damaged the abbey, with archaeological evidence that the church and south range were affected.
The location on which Valle Crucis was raised was originally established as a colony of twelve monks from Strata Marcella, an earlier abbey located on the western bank of the River Severn near Welshpool. The original wooden structure was replaced with stone structures of roughly faced rubble. The completed abbey is believed to have housed about sixty brethren, 20 choir monks and 40 lay-members who would have carried out the day-to-day duties including agricultural work. The numbers within the church fluctuated throughout its history and the monks and the abbey itself came under threat from various political and religious events. The abbey is believed to been involved in the Welsh Wars of Edward I of England during the 13th century, and was supposedly damaged in the uprising led by Owain Glyndŵr. Numbers also fell after the Black Death ravaged Britain.
The fortunes of Valle Crucis improved during the 15th century, and the abbey gained a reputation as a place of hospitality. Several important Welsh poets of the period spent time at the abbey including Gutun Owain, Tudur Aled and Guto'r Glyn. Guto'r Glyn spent the last few years of his life at the abbey, and was buried at the site in 1493.
In 1537, Valle Crucis was dissolved, as it was deemed not prosperous compared to the more wealthy English abbeys. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the site fell into disrepair, and the building was given to Sir William Puckering on a 21 year lease by Henry VIII. The lease was renewed under the reign of Henry's son Edward VI in 1551, but after Sir William's death in 1574, the property was passed to his daughter, Hestor. In 1575 Hestor married Edward Wotton, 1st Baron Wotton, and the lease was extended to Baron Wotton in 1583 by Elizabeth I. By the late 16th century the eastern range was converted into a manor house. Valle Crucis remained with the Wotton family, and was inherited by the 2nd Baron Wotton, but upon his death it was passed to Hestor Wotton, his third daughter. Hestor married Baptist Noel, 3rd Viscount Campden and the abbey entered the family's ownership, before being sold shortly afterwards when the estate was sequestered by Parliament in 1651. By the late 18th century the building that remained were re-roofed and the site was used as a farm, before excavations were undertaken in the later half of the 19th century. The site is now cared for by Cadw, and is an open visitor attraction.
Valle Crucis Abbey consisted of the church plus several adjoining out buildings which enclosed a square courtyard. The church itself ran West to East in the traditional cruciform style, today much of the original church is ruined, though the west end front wall survives, including the masonry of the rose window. The outbuildings including the adjoining east range, which survives mainly intact and the west range, which housed the lay brethren’s frater, but is now demolished. Completing the four sides of the inner courtyard was the southern frater and kitchen, which faced the church; these two building are also now ruins, with only foundation stones remaining. The east and west ranges housed the cloisters, with the east range also leading to the final structure, the abbot's lodgings which settled between the range and the church but outside the courtyard. The site is also home to the only remaining monastic fishpond in Wales, but suffered from being remodelled as a reflecting pool in the 18th century.
As well as the west end front wall, extensive parts of the east end of the structures survive to the present day. The chancel walls, the southern part of the transept, the east range of the cloister together with the chapter house and sacristy and the lower part of the reredorter all survive mainly intact. In 1870 the west end wall was restored by George Gilbert Scott.
EMBLEMS OF WALES(1) Facebook: history of Wales
The leek and the daffodil
According to legend, St David ordered Welsh soldiers to wear leeks in their helmets in battle that took place in a ...field full of leeks against the Saxons to avoided striking their own countrymen and it helped to secure a great victory. What is known is that in the 14th century, possibly at the Battle of Crecy, Welsh archers used green and white uniforms to identify themselves and in the 16th century there is a reference to the leek in the account book of Princess Mary Tudor. Shakespeare then refers to the custom of wearing a leek as an "ancient tradition" and whose character Henry V tells Fluellen that he is wearing a leek "for I am Welsh, you know, good countryman."
Throughout the years, leeks have been associated with the practice of medicine. The famous Myfddfai Physicians of Carmarthenshire used the vegetable to cure a variety of illnesses. It was highly regarded as a cure for the common cold, a protection against wounds in battle or being struck by lightning, a means of foretelling the future, of keeping away evil spirits and a tasty, healthy ingredient in cawl, the traditional Welsh broth. If placed under a pillow, leeks could help young maidens see an apparition of their future husbands as well as assist in alleviating the pains of childbirth.
The leek is worn in the caps of today's Welsh soldiers every year on St. David's Day. On the same day, in the prestigious Welsh Guards Regiment, a large raw leek has to be eaten by the youngest recruit to the cheers of his comrades. The green and white plume worn in the "Bearskin" hats of the Guards also identifies them as belonging to the Welsh Regiment.
The leek is often substituted with the daffodil, probably as a result of the similarity of their names in Welsh, as the Welsh for leek is Cenhinen, while the Welsh for daffodil is Cenhinen Bedr. Over the years it has become adopted as a second emblem of Wales.