Saturday 24 July 2021

Dyrham Park

A few days ago my wife and I took a trip out to the National Trust's Dyrham Park, a favourite of ours as it has wonderful views and gardens to enjoy, as well as being only some 20 minues drive away from our house. The whole area around Bristol is full of history, from Iron Age hills forts onwards, which is rather nice as originally coming from the edge of the Fens, there wasn't that much visible history around. 

As you walk around the extensive parkland on the Cotswold Edge, you come to a great view of Hinton Hill fort, where the Battle of Deorham was fought. We put on a demo at Colours 2013 and quite scary to realise that that was 8 years ago. How time flies!

You can just about make out the levels of the hill fort, which is towards the top right of the photo. It extends towards the tree line in the distant left and is now bisected by a road. Despite it's age when you walk across what remains of the ramparts, they are still very impressive, even today.

On a clear day you can see towards Bristol and the Black Mountains, but the heat haze prevented this when we visited. I just love the British countryside!

My wife enjoying the view and the ridgeline to here left in the far distant if where the Battle of Lansdowne Hill was fought.

So after a nice walk we made our way down to Dyrham Park house itself. The house hadn't opened yet when we were there and we haven't seen all the house as it was having its roof restored, so most of the rooms were closed off. Something for another day.

The approach from the East. This was intended to have been more landscaped etc in the plans which can be seen in the Orangery below, but whether it was ever done I'm not sure.

The Orangery has a lovely collection of maps of the estate at various times, as well as a rather nice map of the surrounding area, showing the fields as well as a medieval strip system still in operation, which was quite unusual by then.

One of the maps showing plans for the extensive gardens.

A lovely courtyard used to grow plenty of herbs and rather tranquil too.

The spectacular Western approach to the house.

St Peter's church.

The gardens are being re-modelled to be as close as possible to one of the designs seen in the Orangery. Covid lockdown has delayed things somewhat and they have lost some shrubs, but still it is coming together nicely and should look superb in a few years time.

A nice cascading water feature into...

...the ornamental pond, rather choked with blanket weed. The team of gardeners and volunteers are doing their level best to catch up on over a years worth of jobs!

St Peter's Church is not actually part of the house and park, but is cheek by jowl with it as can be seen in the photos above. It is a lovely church and one that is open to visitors, a rare thing these days and also seemingly untouched by the iconoclasts during the English Civil War and the Commonwealth afterwards.

There is quality of craftsmen's ship everywhere you look. The font is apparently Norman.

The pulpit is beautifully carved and a joy to behold.

The approach to the altar has nice tiled floor, which looks to be Dutch. The Flemish triptych is beautiful.

Rather surprising to see an organ of this quality in a small parish church. However the surrounding area is full of wealthy farms and houses, so maybe not so surprising afterall.

A salutary reminder of those that gave their lives in the War, at home and overseas. There is also a brass plaque with the names of those from the parish lost in both World Wars.

A spectacular tomb of George and Anne Wynter.

A lovely brass, showing a knight in his full armour.

Our aim is to visit more local areas over the Summer and possibly to share them with you too. Landsdowne Hill is definitely on the cards again, plus some in our neighbour hood as there is quite a bit with in a stone's throw of where we live.

Sadly Covid cases continue to rise where we are and don't look like slowing down at all, so maybe out plans might have to be curtailed somewhat. However the extreme heat has broken so I might even get back to some gaming related activity as SWMBO watches the Olympics! So until next time stay safe and keep healthy.

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Hot and Cold

The weather here in Bristol has been frankly too hot to do anything of late, due to some prolonged very hot weather that has seen the first extreme heat warning issued in the UK. Now it's nowhere near as bad as those temperatures seen in the North West of the USA and Canada, but still it's pretty hard to bear as it's in the low to mid 30's C in the bedrooms at night! Thank God a neighbour lent us a fan to help cool things down again as there has been no breeze at all to help.

So I thought I'd post some pics of our garden which after a very funny year on the weather front, is looking good but is some 2 weeks or more behind compared to normal. Fortunately we have a nice space to be able to sit outside and cool down a bit once the sun has begun to set, which has been a real God send!

The view from the patio doors, which we currently can't enjoy as we need to keep the blinds closed to help keep the house cool.

My wife wanted some Jasmine on a trellis and who am I to refuse her? The smell in the evening is delightful.

My hot border that bakes in the sun for most of the day.

The more shady border with shrubs and perennials. Still a work in progress.

Another hot border that needs some editing, but is nearly there.

To counter all this heat and in keeping with my desire to game more of early part of WWII, I bought the following book, which is rather weird to be reading in such heat given the conditions in which it was fought:

I'm only a couple of chapters in, but it is an extremely well written and readable history of a conflict I know so little about. Whether it tempts me to game it remains to be seen as as mentioned previously, the big issue is new terrain and of course troops on snow bases. I am keen to learn more on the Continuation War which is much more doable as it would only require new figures.

So hopefully the weather will break soon and some gaming related activity can return. Sadly Covid cases in our neck of the woods have hit an all time high (60% increase in one week) and hospital cases are on the rise, so little prospect of any FtF gaming for quite some time.

So until next time stay safe and keep healthy.

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Early WWII Wargaming

As a child my primary interest in wargaming centred around Normandy 1944 and the North African campaign, largely due to the Airfix and Matchbox figures that were available at the time. Over the years this interest has broadened into other periods, such as the SYW, ACW and mid-19thC Europe. Alongside these over the past five years or so, my interest has steadily grown in the early years of WWII, from the invasion of Poland through to Operation Barbarossa as a broad guide. My library of books on this 'period' has steadily grown too.

When I first started wargaming in 10mm, I bought plenty of 'toys' to allow me to game the invasion of France and Operation Barbarossa, but only ever completed the British, due to my gaming chums interest in the late War. Of late however my interest in early WWII has been re-kindled, to the point that I have dug out my 'toys' from the attic and have started basing and painting with the aim to game this 'period' in a meaningful way.

My initial thought is to have a core German force that is nominally based around the 2nd Panzer Division, as they fought in Poland, France, the Balkans and Russia, so a nice opportunity for a narrative to develop around each campaign. Late war they fought in Normandy which is useful but sadly not Italy, but with some artistic licence I'm sure they could make an appearance. Alongside the Germans I have the following Pendraken figures:

Well these have been ordered from Pendraken and I am using WWI Austrians as proxies as in 10mm and with the right paint job they should be close enough.

I am using some WWII French as proxies and they are close enough for me once on the table. the Belgian armour is interesting but not the most exiting camo I'm afraid.

These are from there WWI range along side a nice mix of armour, which has some of the best camo schemes of the war!

These are complete bar some additional armour, so are good to go.


I use the British as proxies for these.

Really I've only just started on these, both infantry and AFV's, but the aim is to get enough together for some small actions soon. I do have Fallschirmjager that can be used to at a push.

I've just started basing these and forming up units to see what I have as I bought these years ago and can't remember my plans for them.

Still in their packs but I have a complete force for when it's their turn to be based etc.

In terms of the campaigns to be fought, the following are all on my list:

Khalkhin Gol (Nomonhan) 1939
A passing interest in this Russo-Japanese conflict that could make for a nice little campaign at some point in the future. The biggest issue is the lack of the Japanese tank used in this conflict, unless Pithead miniatures make one of I can find a 3D printed one. Not high on my list of priorities for sure.

Poland 1939
Very much high up on the list to game. A nice mix of units on offer to both sides, with armoured trains a bonus too.

Norway 1940
This has been on my radar for some time and last week I took the plunge and ordered some troops from Pendraken. Plenty of options with French and British involvement too. One issue is the snowy terrain for certain actions, but something that can easily be addressed I'm sure. Also I would love to have a Neubahrfahrzeug tank for the Germans, but will have to check Pithead or 3D print options.

France 1940
It goes without saying really, with so many options for campaign, given that I have Belgians, British and French to play with against the Germans. Also plenty of 'what if's?' to be explored, such as Phoney War invasions of Germany, or if the French airforce had bombed and strafed the Germans in the Ardennes. Also for something a bit left field, the Italian invasion of France towards the end of the campaign.

Operation Sealion
Need I say more?

The Balkans
I've gamed this on and off over the years, with the Littoral area being of most interest to me, with the Italians often having a tough time against the Greeks. I'm now leaning towards the latter stages when the Germans got involved, as it's not something I've gamed bfore, so could be fun.

Operation Barbarossa
Like France 1940, so many options it's hard to know where to start. I have all the toys so just need to paint the troops, as with most of the above! I'm also keen to learn more about the Finnish involvement in this, so need to search for some good books on the subject.

Western Desert
Rather low down on the list as I simply have no terrain for it, nor figures, so a complete start from scratch project. Due to the type of actions fought, I might go down the 6mm route for this to give a sense of the immense open desert that the battles were fought over. Very much low down on my list but would be nice to do some day.

So there we have it. I'm certainly not short of choices to keep me entertained as the nights draw in. Fortunately I have plenty of reading and reference material for the above, so quite easy to get inspiration for actions and/or campaigns, with the latter very much favoured. 

Hopefully I will be able to post some updates soon, but until then, stay safe and keep healthy.

Painting A Little & Often

For countless years my painting used to be done in the evening after everyone had eaten and the kitchen became free, which was the best place for me to paint. However as I got older and the family grew up, there was less free time available for me to sit down and get out the brushes and paint. Not being a fast painter at the best of times, things got even slower than before. Then with Covid and the national lockdown coupled with retiring, evenings became family time and my painting virtually stopped dead in its tracks. I used to enjoy my hour or so of painting after work, which was some valuable 'me time', especially after a stressful day, which was quite often in my old job. But I simply couldn't find the time nor the motivation to paint whilst in lockdown. 

Then recently for some reason it occurred to me that the kitchen was quiet and free in the mornings once breakfast was out of the way and my wife had gone to work. The light would not be a consistent as in the evening, due to the early morning sun shining in, but not a big issue easily overcome by drawing down the blinds. So I thought I'd give it a go and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to achieve, helped in no small part by not being tired at the end of the day!

So whilst the iron was hot I have been able to paint up a load of early WWII German Panzers, which like many things have been on my 'to-do' list for too many years to mention. Not the most exiting AFV's to paint but very, very quick due to the dark grey colour scheme. No three tone camo to worry about here! So far I have managed to paint up enough for a Panzer Regiment for BKCII, which is more than enough for most of my games. Also I have found this new 'free time' is good for doing other gaming related activity, such as basing figures, terrain making etc. I've been spending about an hour each morning, which is enough to achieve visible results, which is nice, as you can see yourself making progress each day. The old adage of 'a little and often' is very true!

I aim to carry on in the vein moving forward, but due to it being Summer (allegedly), it will be variable as I tend spend as much time outdoors as I can, plus with the schools breaking up for the holidays soon, the 'free time' will lessen somewhat. When Autumn approaches and the schools go back, then the aim is to carry on as of late.

So until next time stay safe and keep healthy.