Queen Reopens Stately Home Of Sir Walter Scott

Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott
Christian Bickel

The Queen has officially reopened Abbotsford House, a mansion that was once home to Sir Walter Scott, the BBC reports.

The house, located in Melrose, Scotland, was closed for an $18.3 million restoration that is continuing in parts of the grounds. Work included building a visitor center, repairing the roof and making an inventory of Scott’s massive collection of antiques, medieval arms and armor, an extensive library of rare volumes, and thousands of other items such as a clock once owned by Marie Antoinette.

Sir Walter Scott was a hugely influential and popular novelist in the late 18th and early 19th century and wrote enduring classics such as “Rob Roy” and “Ivanhoe.” He died at Abbotsford House in 1832. He spent a great deal of time, money and care building the house and it reflects his passion for history. Basically, he set himself up like some feudal lord from one of his novels. A visit to the stately home gives you a look at what a creative, romantic individual will create if given enough money. There’s a 45-minute circular walk around the grounds that takes you through the broad gardens, a forest, and within sight of the River Tweed, one of Sir Scott’s favorite views.

The house, a visitor center and the gardens are now open. From August there will also be rooms available for people who want to stay overnight.
Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott

Iconic London Skate Park May Be Turned Into Chain Of Shops


A famous skate park on the South Bank of London may be turned into yet another stretch of retail sameness.

Underneath the Southbank Centre, which is home to several performing arts centers, is a covered area that looks like a cross between a cellar and an overly graffittied parking lot. It’s been a meeting ground for skateboarders for 40 years. Every day you can see them doing tricks on the concrete ramps and benches while tourists and locals stop to watch and take photos.

Now the Southbank Centre wants to use the skate park as retail space to fund its new Festival Wing. It’s offered to turn an area under a nearby bridge over to the skateboarders, but the local skateboarding community has rejected this, saying the new place wouldn’t have the same history or sense of tradition. They’ve started the Long Live Southbank movement and launched an online petition to save the skate park that’s garnered more than 38,000 signatures. They’ve also filed a request to the government to make it a protected community space.

While I’m not a skateboarder and am only in London part of the year, I’d be sad to see this place go. I’ve always enjoyed strolling along the South Bank. There’s an open, lively feel to it that you don’t get in most parts of the city, and the skate park is a big part of that. I always stop to watch the skateboarders do their thing. It’s obvious that this place is important to them in a way that it isn’t to me, and I don’t want their community to lose it.

Archaeologists Digging At Lincoln Castle Uncover Early Christian Community

Lincolnshire County Council

Archaeologists excavating at Lincoln Castle have discovered the remains of an early Christian community, according to a Lincolnshire County Council press release.

The team, which was digging inside the castle to clear the way for an elevator shaft, found the remains of a church that dates back at least 1,000 years. Inside a sealed niche in the wall they found human bones. They had been wrapped in finely woven cloth and while the cloth has long since disappeared, it left its impression on the surrounding mortar. Excavators theorize that these may be the remains of a holy person, as it was common to put relics in church walls and altars in order to make them holy.

An even older find included several skeletons and a stone sarcophagus. The archaeological team is planning to put an endoscopic camera into the coffin to see what’s inside without disturbing it.

%Gallery-188672%Both the cemetery and church date to the Anglo-Saxon period, when England was a patchwork of different kingdoms before the Norman conquest. Lincoln had been a walled Roman town. The Romans left Britain in the early fifth century and were soon replaced by Anglo-Saxons coming from Denmark and northern Germany. They took up residence in Lincoln and many other Roman towns.

The present castle was built by the Normans in 1068 on the foundations of a Roman fort. William the Conqueror, after defeating the English King Harold Godwinson at Hastings in 1066, built this castle to control the important town of Lincoln and its surrounding area. While the castle has been modified over the centuries, it’s still one of the best-preserved Norman castles anywhere.

The typical Norman castle has a tower on an artificial mound at the center and with a wall encircling it. Lincoln Castle has two mounds, each with its own fortification and a long wall encircling them both. This tough fortification was besieged twice. The second time, in 1216, was during the Baron’s War, which led King John into making concessions to the nobility in the form of the famous Magna Carta. One of the original copies is on display here.

Back in 2010, an earlier excavation uncovered a secret tunnel at Lincoln castle. Excavations continue at in the castle grounds.

If you visit the castle, also check nearby Lincoln Cathedral, a beautiful Gothic building from the 11th century.

In Fine Style: The Art Of Tudor And Stuart Fashion Opens At The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Tudor
The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, London, is putting on a fashion show, although the fashions are more than 400 years out of date.

In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion” examines the luxurious clothing and jewelry worn by British monarchs and members of their court. It focuses on the two dynasties of the 16th and 17th centuries with everything from ornamental armor for a teenaged Prince of Wales to a bejeweled case for storing the black fabric patches that Queen Mary II stuck on her face to emphasize the whiteness of her skin.

Many of the items are on display for the first time, such as a diamond signet ring given by King Charles I to his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, in 1628. It bears her cypher and the royal coat of arms. Another never-before-seen piece is a pendant of gold, rubies and diamond with a miniature portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. There are also some elegant articles of clothing like a pair of lacework gloves.

Of course, most costumes and jewelry from this period have disappeared, no matter how important their owners. To augment the exhibition there are more than 60 portraits showing royalty and nobility wearing their finest, including a startling portrait of a Duchess dressed as a man.

“In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion” runs until October 6. If you make it to London before July 14, you might also want to see Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsarsat the Victoria & Albert.

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Go Hiking: It’s Better For You Than You Thought

hiking, walkingNot feeling healthy? Go hiking. Two new studies from the UK show that a hike, or even a good walk around the city streets, boosts mental and physical health.

A new survey by Ramblers, the British walking charity, found that a quarter of adults in Britain walk for an hour or less a week. And when they’re talking about walking, they don’t mean hitting the trails in the local nature reserve, they mean all types of walking, including walking to the shops, work or school. Presumably walking to the fridge to get another lager isn’t included. Of the more than 2,000 people surveyed, a staggering 43 percent said they walked for only two hours or less a week.

The Ramblers cites government health advisers who recommend that you get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. Walking counts in this, and is one of the easiest ways to get fit. Not only does it reduce the risk of several physical ailments like heart disease, it reduces weight and improves mental activity and emotional well being. It also saves money on gas and public transport.
The British Heart Foundation has more details on their webpage.

Another new study shows that being outside more is more beneficial than we generally think. While many people worry about the harmful effects of the sun, a new study by Edinburgh University has found that UV rays cause the body to produce nitric oxide, a compound that reduces blood pressure. Researchers suspect that the benefits of exposure to the sun may outweigh the risks.

[Photo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources]