Thursday, February 16, 2017

Walking in the City - Inwood Hill Park, NY

A planned walk in Inwood Hill Park on Saturday with Shorewalkers turned out to be more of a treat than expected following last Thursday's snowfall which blanketed the park. While the snowy conditions made walking harder work than normal, the additional exercise was more than compensated for by the wintry views.

Looking across the Hudson River towards the Palisades.

Part of the trails on the  Palisades - only visible due to the bare trees and snow

St Michael's Villa sits grandly on the cliffs - regional center and home for Sisters of St Joseph of Peace.

Looking south we had a good view of the Cloisters which is now part of the Metropolitan Museum of New York. In other seasons the lower part of the building is hidden by tree foliage. The Cloisters was built in the early 20th century using stones from numerous French abbeys. The stones were shipped to New York and reconstructed

The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park

Most of the trails were snow covered for the first time this winter so the relatively mild day proved perfect not only for walkers but for cross-country skiers and families with toboggans.

And yes, this really is a part of New York City. And while areas on the edge of the park have been developed to include playgrounds and sporting facilities, much of it has been preserved in its original state. Evidence of Native American life has been found and the park is believed to be the place where Dutchman Peter Minuit bought the island of Manhattan from the Lenape Indians in 1626 for trinkets worth about 60 guilders!

A stone marker memorializes the event:

Apparently, the park is one of the best places in the city to spot a bald eagle. We were not so lucky, but a cardinal graced us with his presence.

For less observant bird-watchers there was a park sign to help them spot some of nature's creatures!

All in all, a wonderful way to compensate for being stuck indoors during the snowstorm.

Mel Parish writes contemporary fiction with a twist of mystery and suspense.

Her latest novel Trust No One  is currently entered into the Kindle Scout competition which lets readers check out the first few chapters of an unpublished novel and decide whether it is worthy of nomination for an Amazon publishing contract. If a book is selected all those who nominated the book get a free copy when it’s published!
You can check out the campaign page at

Please take a look  and, if you like what you see, nominate Trust No One before 10 March 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

Kindle Scout Campaign - Trust No One

I have some exciting news and I’m hoping you might be able to help me out. My latest novel Trust No One has been accepted into Amazon’s Kindle Scout competition and my campaign page is now live at

The competition lets readers check out the first few chapters of an unpublished novel and decide whether it is worthy of nomination for an Amazon publishing contract. If a book is selected all those who nominated the book get a free copy when it’s published!

While the number of nominations is not the only factor determining whether an author gets a contract, building up buzz for the title can only help so I’d be grateful if you would take a look at my page and, if you like what you see, nominate me before 10th March, 2017.

And if you could also share this with your reader friends, family, beer buddies, workmates, social media pals or anyone else you can think of that would be awesome! 


Monday, February 6, 2017

Historic Sites - Old Sarum, Wiltshire, UK

When I travel I like to visit historic sites. The opportunity to get a glimpse of the history of a place or a building and imagine what it must have been like in its heyday is one I find hard to ignore whether it is fifty years old or centuries ago. On a recent trip to the UK I was fortunate enough to fit in several such visits, including one to Old Sarum in Wiltshire.

Old Sarum is one of the oldest historic sites in the UK.  Around 400 BC ramparts were built to create an Iron Age Hill Fort to protect residents and animals.

The site was later occupied by the Romans (during which time it was renamed Sorviodunum) and then the Saxons, but it was after the arrival of William the Conqueror that a castle was built on raised earthwork (known as a motte) in the center of the settlement. It is assumed that the original buildings in the castle were made of timber.

As a sign of how important William believed the settlement to be, in 1086 a ceremony was held at the castle where the men of England swore an oath of loyalty to him. 

The stone structures within the castle are believed to have been built during the reign of Henry I and Henry II. The latter's wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, was held at Old Sarum under house arrest for treason (apparently she encouraged her sons to rebel against their father) from 1173 to 1189 until her husband's death.

Later additions included the Royal Privy. Of course, they didn't flush. The waste dropped into a pit of straw and chippings and when the king was not around someone would be lowered into the pit to clear out the contents. (Makes me wonder whether that is where the expression "it's the pits" comes from!)

the royal privy

the foundations of the cathedral
William had also built a small cathedral on the grounds surrounding the motte. Over the years the cathedral had been substantially extended but by 1220 problems with the site, and the garrison based at the castle, led to the start of construction on a new cathedral a few miles away in New Sarum (Salisbury). This led to a decline in importance of Old Sarum. First, stones from the old cathedral were used in the building of the new cathedral and by the 1500's Henry VIII allowed all the stones from the castle site to be potentially used as building material.

Fortunately for us, I guess all of them were not needed otherwise Old Sarum may well have disappeared completely from view. Instead new information about the site is coming to light. In 2014 archaeologists used ground-penetrating x-rays in an attempt to map the old city around the motte and discovered the buried foundations of numerous houses and what they think is likely to be the largest medieval Royal Palace ever found.

Astonishing fact - In 1295 Old Sarum was granted the right to send two members to parliament, a right which continued until the 1832 Reform Act abolished rotten boroughs, i.e. those with a minimal or non-existent population, a situation which Old Sarum had been in for centuries!

Overall, it was a fascinating visit. The views from the castle grounds show why Old Sarum was such an important location - on a clear day you can see for miles including, nowadays, the spire of the 'new' cathedral in Salisbury.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Walking in the City - Edinburgh

Looking out towards the Firth of Forth

Apparently, on average, Edinburgh gets 192 days of rain per year. Which means you take your chances with the weather if you go for the day. I'm not sure how many windy days the city averages, but unfortunately the day we visited it was both wet and windy. So wet and windy that we decided to head straight for the Castle in the hope we'd find some shelter. The Castle dominates the city skyline meaning even on an overcast day you can see for miles from the battlements.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Walking in the City - Christmas Lights in London

A recent early evening walk from Gloucester Road to the South Bank in Central London gave me the opportunity to take in some of the city’s Christmas Lights.
Outside the National History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum the trees were decked with lights and a small ice-skating rink had been set up in the grounds adding a festive spirit to the grand buildings.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Walking in the City - The Christmas Lights of Mid-town Manhattan, NY

It's hard to believe that Christmas is almost upon us once again. This year I'm spending the holidays in England but wanted to fit at least one trip into New York City to see the lights before I leave. Yesterday's relatively mild weather offered the perfect opportunity for an evening stroll.

My first stop was the Lord & Taylor store on 5th Avenue at 39th Street. Famous for its elaborately staged Christmas windows it is a delight for children and adults alike.  This year the store is surrounded by scaffolding, but the designers didn't let that detract, turning the sidewalk into a grotto of lights and greenery.

How to conceal scaffolding.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Walking in the City - The New York Botanical Garden

With higher than normal temperatures for the time of the year, the last Sunday in October offered the perfect chance to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the New York Botanical Garden

In 1888 Botanists Nathaniel Lord Britton and Elizabeth Gertrude Britton visited the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, England and returned determined to create one of the world's great botanical gardens in New York. The 250-acre garden in the Bronx was founded in 1891 and is now not only one of the world's great botanical gardens but also an international center for plant research.