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Rings that remind me of things: Part 12

Part 12 of an occasional series about rings in my Etsy shop that remind me of things.

Ring:

Art Deco green paste ring. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Thing:

The stepped Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, Egypt.

So far I have had rings that remind me of an Iron Age hillfort, an alien spaceship, a cream horn, a radio telescope, Noah’s Ark, an octopus tentacle, spider eyes, Pluto and its moon Charonthe rings of Saturn, The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh and some lichen.

UPDATE: The ring is now sold. Sorry!

Smeaton’s Tower

Last weekend we were in Devon, and visited Smeaton’s Tower on Plymouth Hoe. Now landlocked, this lighthouse once stood on the distant Eddystone Rocks, the third incarnation of the Eddystone Lighthouse there. Designed by John Smeaton, it is an important and historic lighthouse, the first in the world to have the now-iconic curved profile that we all know, with the first modern use of hydraulic lime (a form of concrete that sets under water), and the first lighthouse to use dovetailed granite blocks that locked together and gave the structure added stability. It was built between 1756 and 1759.

Smeaton's Tower in June 2009.

Smeaton’s Tower in June 2009.

Smeaton's Tower on Plymouth Hoe on a rainy May day.

Smeaton’s Tower on Plymouth Hoe on a rainy May day 2016.

The Eddystone Rocks lie 14 km (9 miles) off the Plymouth coast. Plymouth has been a historically important port for centuries, and many ships had been lost on the rocks of the reef. The first lighthouse, made of wood and designed and built by Henry Winstanley, was built there between 1696 and 1698, the first ever off-shore lighthouse in the world. The 60-candle light was first lit in 1698, and the lighthouse operated until the Great Storm of November 1703 completely destroyed the lighthouse and killed the six men in it, Winstanley included. The second lighthouse, John Rudyard’s Light, operated from 1709-1755. This lighthouse was built of wood and stone, stood 21 metres high and was lit by 24 candles. It burnt down in 1755.

Smeaton's Lighthouse.

Smeaton’s Lighthouse.

Smeaton's Lighthouse.

Smeaton’s Lighthouse.

Smeaton’s Lighthouse was the third iteration on the site. Smeaton built the lighthouse with a treetrunk-like shape to give it a low centre of gravity, and used fireproof materials: Cornish granite blocks on the outside and lighter Portland stone masonry on the inside, held with the hydraulic lime concrete he developed and cleverly interlocked for additional structural integrity. The curved shape had the added benefit of dissipating some of the energy of the waves which struck it.

It stood 22 metres high, and was first lit with 24 candles, and later replaced by oil lamps and reflectors, and later still a lens replaced the reflectors, intensifying the light emitted. Going on the number of beds inside, it had a crew of two, and the living areas were small and spartan.

Smeaton's Tower: the kitchen. Lead sink, eek!

Smeaton’s Tower: the kitchen. Lead sink, eek!

Curved furniture.

Curved furniture. Hope they had some cushions.

Access in the lower parts is by central spiral staircases like this, and in the upper parts by ladders.

Access in the lower parts is by central spiral staircases like this, and in the upper parts by ladders.

Original table from 1789.

Original table from 1759.

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The beds were tiny - my 5'8" sister just fitted inside this one, but at least you could close the doors for some privacy!

The beds were tiny – my 1.68 m (5′ 6″) tall sister just fitted inside this one, but at least you could close the doors for some privacy!

Heavy-duty shutters to keep the weather out.

Heavy-duty shutters to keep the weather out.

Looking up into the lantern.

Looking up into the lantern. You can walk around the outside by the lantern, but my not very good head for heights kept me firmly inside.

Gradually heavy weather eroded the rock base on which the lighthouse stood, causing it to shudder in storms. The lighthouse was dismantled in 1882, apart from the bottom few metres which were too solid to be removed and remain to this day as a stub on the rocks, and the lighthouse was transported to Plymouth and rebuilt on the Hoe. Work on the replacement lighthouse out at sea, Douglass’s Lighthouse, started in 1879, was operational in 1882 and continues to work to this day.

The stump of Smeaton's Lighthouse on the left, with the present-day Eddystopne Lighthouse on the right. Photo by Steve Johnson.

The stump of Smeaton’s Lighthouse on the left, with Douglass’s Lighthouse, the present-day Eddystone Lighthouse on the right. Photo by Steve Johnson.

Another view of the stump.

Another view of the stump. Photo by Pline.

The Eddystone Lighthouse is just visible in theois photo, taken from above the Lido in Plymouth. The lighthouse is on the horizon, to the right of the light on the end of the breakwater. Click on photo to enlarge.

The Eddystone Lighthouse and Smeaton’s stump are just visible in this photo, taken from above the Lido in Plymouth. The lighthouse is on the horizon, to the right of the light on the end of the breakwater. Click on photo to enlarge, and then click again to enlarge further. And then squint.

Smeaton’s Tower is a Grade I listed building, the highest grade.

And lurking in the background of a photos of the Beatles at the Hoe in 1967 is the tower, before its red and white striped paint job was reinstated.

The Beatles on the Hoe in 1967, with Smeaton's Tower in the background.

The Beatles on the Hoe in 1967, with Smeaton’s Tower in the background.

Smeaton’s Tower is well worth a visit. The opening times are on Plymouth City Council’s website. There is a small charge for entry.

Plymouth City Council website information on the four Eddystone lighthouses.

Sunday stroll May Day walk: Fonthill Abbey

Yesterday was May Day, and despite the cold, grey weather we headed out for a walk round a small part of the 9,000 acre Fonthill Estate in south-west Wiltshire. The grounds of the Fonthill Estate are notably lacking in public rights of way. As the ruins of the fabulous Fonthill Abbey are in the grounds and normally inaccessible, a rare open day for charity yesterday gave us the chance to have a good old snoop (plus a lovely walk).

I’ve written before about Fonthill and its Abbey, built by the notorious William Beckford between 1796 and 1813, and very shortlived: due to its hasty and poor-quality construction, it fell down (for the final time) in 1825 and was later all-but demolished, apart from a part of the north wing.

Fonthill Abbey: View of the west and north fronts from John Rutter's Delineations of Fonthill (1823)

Fonthill Abbey: View of the west and north fronts from John Rutter’s Delineations of Fonthill (1823). All that remains is the part on the left hand side of the engraving: the low tower with the oriel window and everything to the left of it.

Fonthill Abbey ruins: all that remains, part of the north wing. A modern house has been built in the last year behind it and attached to some of the cloistered arcading.

Fonthill Abbey ruins: all that remains, part of the north wing. A modern house has been built in the last year behind it and attached to some of the original cloisters / arcading.

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It looks like the building work has mainly been completed, with just the hard landscaping (laying of flags etc) to be finished.

Fonthill Abbey ground plan.

Fonthill Abbey ground plan. The small part that remains is at the very top (north) of the plan.

We walked around Bitham Lake, the smaller of the two lakes on the estate:

Bitham Lake.

Bitham Lake.

Bitham Lake.

Bitham Lake.

Ruined small building in the woods.

Ruined small building in the woods.

Beautiful old Spanish Chestnuts with their wonderfully twisted trunks.

Beautiful old Spanish Chestnuts with their wonderfully twisted trunks.

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The long drive leading up to the Abbey ruins.

There is another open day on Sunday 15 May 2016, from 10.30-5.00. Entry is via Stonegate Lodge (SP3 6SP) on the Hindon-Newtown Lane (Grid ref 390900 130650). Donations at the gate: all proceeds go to ParkinsonsUK and local charities.

2017 UPDATE: The walks take place this year on Sunday 30 April 2017 and Sunday 14 May 2017 (click photo below to embiggen/bigify for details):

Sunday stroll: Winterborne Tomson and Fontmell Down

Yesterday we headed south to visit a small church in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, in the hamlet of Winterborne Tomson in Dorset. The church is St Andrew’s Church, a Norman church dating from the early 12th century. It’s tiny –  a mere 12.20 m (40 feet) from end to end and 4.60 m (15 feet) wide. It still has some of the original stone roof tiles, though most are replacement terracotta ones.

St Andrew's Church, Winterborne Tomson, Dorset.

St Andrew’s Church, Winterborne Tomson, Dorset.

The door is studded with nails (and additional pretty orangey yellow lichen).

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Inside it is wonderfully plain, with the only Norman apse in Dorset: a beautiful rounded east end to the building, with the oak beams above echoing the shape and decorated with intricately carved wooden bosses.

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Oak beams and bosses in the apse ceiling.

Oak beams and bosses in the apse ceiling.

The interior is furnished with plain oak box pews, a pulpit, a simple screen, and communion rails, all of which were added in the early 18th century.

Over the door the old rood-loft has been converted into a gallery. It is so wormy and rickety that the public is asked not to climb up there, and certainly looking at it I’m not sure it would have borne our weight.

The view from the pulpit, with the wormy rood-loft gallery, and the nails bent over on the inside of the door.

The view from the pulpit, with the wormy rood-loft gallery, and the nails bent over on the inside of the door.

The pulpit viewed from the east end of the church.

The pulpit viewed from the east end of the church, with the screen.

Inside one of the box pews.

Inside one of the box pews.

The communion rails and altar.

The communion rails and altar.

The church is redundant (ie no longer used for regular services), but still consecrated. It was last used regularly in 1896. It is clearly much loved: there were beautiful, simple vases of flowers around the sides.

Another view from the pulpit. Lots of simple flower decorations.

Another view from the pulpit. Lots of simple flower decorations.

Daffodils and tulips in one of the windows.

Daffodils and tulips in one of the windows.

On one of the interior walls is a plaque commemorating the architect in charge of the restoration of the church from 1929-1931, Albert Reginald Powys: apparently before that time it was used as a livestock pen for the neighbouring farm. The funds for the restoration were provided largely by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB): the Society sold some manuscripts it held by Thomas Hardy, himself a SPAB member for 47 years, to fund the costs.

The plaque commemorating

The plaque commemorating Albert Reginald Powys.

Right next to the church is a farmyard with some very inquisitive (and licky) calves.

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On the way home we had a blustery walk up on Fontmell Down Nature Reserve.

Fontmell Down Nature Reserve on a very blustery spring day.

Fontmell Down Nature Reserve on a very blustery spring day.

The reserve wasn’t looking quite as glorious as the last time we were there, but the common spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) are on their way up: the plants with their well-named leaves were apparent in some numbers.

Leaves of the Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Leaves of the Common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Salisbury Cathedral peregrines 2016

Whoo, they’re back, and they’ve laid: an egg on Easter Monday (28 March), and another eight days later (5 April). Hopefully there will be more to follow: last year the peregrines successfully hatched and fledged four chicks.

Last year Salisbury Cathedral had a link on its website to a webcam by the nest; I hope it can manage the same this year. It will be wonderful to watch the birds’ progress. Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) are such amazing and special birds, and this breeding success is a real achievement.

And if you’d like to get an idea of the kind of views the peregrines enjoy while flying round the spire, watch these (but only if you have a strong stomach / head for heights):

I’ll add the link to the nest webcam as soon as it’s put up and I find it.

UPDATE 13 April 2016:

Still no webcam available on the Cathedral website, but there is a series of photos that show that she laid a third egg on 7 April and by 11 April there were four! Hurrah!

Four eggs by 11 April 2016.

Four eggs by 11 April 2016. That nesting box isn’t going to stay clean for long …

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UPDATE 2 MAY 2016: In response to a query from Steve Hodgkinson (see comments below) about whether the nest had been abandoned, it seems like the eggs should start hatching on or around 8 May.  The Cathedral website says ‘It will take 30 days for the eggs to incubate and the process won’t start until the whole clutch of eggs is laid. Phil Sheldrake, Conservation Officer at the RSPB estimates that we should see the youngsters hatching by the end of April.’ I estimate the hatching date slightly differently using that formula: say she laid her fourth egg on 8 April, 30 days from that date = 8 May. So the eggs should be hatching in the next few days.

UPDATE 23 MAY: All four eggs have now successfully hatched. The first was born on the morning of 16 May; two more followed on the morning of 17 May and the last one on the afternoon of 17 May. The news was reported on the Cathedral’s website, but it appears that they are not providing a webcam link on the website this year, although visitors to the Cathedral can see a live feed. There are other opportunities to see the birds:

‘For those interested in a spot of peregrine watching, a marquee manned by RSPB volunteers with telescopes will offer a grandstand view of the birds from the Cathedral Lawn, Monday-Friday throughout the summer, and there are plans to introduce once-a-week Peregrine Tower Tours with Anya Wicikowski, RSPB Community Officer. Anya will accompany regular Tower Guides on the tour and answer any peregrine-related questions visitors might have. Dates and times of tours will be made available in due course.’

Thanks to Marie Thomas for the hat tip – I hadn’t looked at the Cathedral website for a while so had missed the news.

UPDATE 10 JUNE: Sadly two of the chicks have died – it’s thought the recent cold, wet weather might have been a contributing factor. The remaining two chicks, a male and a female, were ringed on 8 June.

UPDATE 30 JUNE: The male, Raphael, took a tumble during what is thought to have been his first test flight and fell 68 m (224 feet) to the ground: luckily he was okay and cared for overnight by a wildlife charity.

Salisbury Cathedral

I was with a friend in Salisbury on Saturday, and we spent the day looking round some of the sights (Mompesson House, on its first day of opening for the year), St Thomas Church (also known as St Thomas and St Edmunds Church, and as the Church of St Thomas a Becket) with its amazing Doom Painting dating from 1475, and at the end of the day, Salisbury Cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral: the North Front.

Salisbury Cathedral in the gloaming: the North Front.

We were very lucky to hear the boys’ choir practising in the Quire. The light was starting to fade, and the candlelight made it all the more atmospheric. Their singing was absolutely beautiful.

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View from the Lady Chapel at the east end of the Cathedral, looking all the way down to the west end. Behind the fancy ironwork screen is the Quire. The people were looking in, watching the boys’ choir practising.

Two Cedars of Lebanon in the Cloisters.

Two Cedars of Lebanon in the Cloisters.

The 123 m (404 feet) high spire seen from the Cloisters.

The 123 m (404 feet) high spire seen from the Cloisters.

Hopefully the peregrine falcons will be back in a few weeks to nest on the spire again.

John Ruskin

I have long loved the art of John Ruskin (1819-1900). I was given a card in the 1970s with a reproduction of one of his watercolours, and I still have it. It’s a study of a peacock breast feather, held in the Collection of the Guild of St George, Museums Sheffield.

John Ruskin. Study of a Peacock's Breast Feather. 1875. Watercolour, 22.3 x 14.7 cm.

John Ruskin. Study of a Peacock’s Breast Feather. 1875, watercolour, 22.3 x 14.7 cm.

This first got me interested in his art, especially his stunning watercolours (click on all pics to make bigger):

John Ruskin. Rocks and Ferns in a Wood at Crossmount. 1847. Perthshire. Pencil, ink, watercolour and bodycolour, 32.3 x 46.5 cm

John Ruskin. Rocks and Ferns in a Wood at Crossmount, Perthshire. 1847, pencil, ink, watercolour and bodycolour, 32.3 x 46.5 cm.

John Ruskin. The Garden of San Miniato near Florence. 1845, watercolour on paper.

John Ruskin. The Garden of San Miniato near Florence. 1845, watercolour on paper.

John Ruskin. Mountain Rock and Alpine Rose. 1844-1849, pencil, ink, chalk, watercolour and bodycolour, 29.8 x 41.4 cm.

John Ruskin. Mountain Rock and Alpine Rose. 1844-1849, pencil, ink, chalk, watercolour and bodycolour, 29.8 x 41.4 cm.

John Ruskin. Part of the Façade, San Michele, Lucca. 1845, pencil and watercolour on pale cream paper, 33 x 23.3 cm.

John Ruskin. Part of the Façade, San Michele, Lucca. 1845, pencil and watercolour on pale cream paper, 33 x 23.3 cm.

John Ruskin. The Chateau of Neuchatel at dusk, with Jura mountains beyond. 1866, pencil and watercolour, 13.3 x 21 cm.

John Ruskin. The Chateau of Neuchatel at dusk, with Jura mountains beyond. 1866, pencil and watercolour, 13.3 x 21 cm.

John Ruskin. Coast Scene near Dunbar. 1847, pencil and watercolour, 32.5 x 47.5 cm.

John Ruskin. Coast Scene near Dunbar. 1847, pencil and watercolour, 32.5 x 47.5 cm.

The Casa d'Oro, Venice. 1845, pencil and watercolour, with bodycolour, 33 x 47.6 cm.

John Ruskin. The Casa d’Oro, Venice. 1845, pencil and watercolour, with bodycolour, 33 x 47.6 cm.

John Ruskin. Study of a peacock feather and another feather.

John Ruskin. Study of a peacock feather and another feather.

Ruskin was particularly fond of painting peacock feathers. In 1875 he wrote, ‘I’ve to draw a peacock’s breast-feather, and paint as much of it as I can without having heaven to dip my brush in.’

I wanted to get some postcards printed for my Etsy shop – my first attempt at branding – and needed an image. My photography doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny, so in the end I thought I’d just choose an image I love, and that was available for free use. It meant that my postcards wouldn’t reflect what I sell in my shop – probably a huge no-no when it comes to branding, but I’d rather have a lovely picture rather than a crappy one I took of some of my beautiful vintage jewellery. The image I settled on is one Ruskin painted of a kingfisher.

John Ruskin. Kingfisher.

John Ruskin. Kingfisher. 1870-1871, pencil, ink, watercolour and bodycolour, 25.8 × 21.8 cm.

If you would like to know more about John Ruskin – he was so much more than just an artist – his Wikipedia page has much information and many links to more. Also, this blog is an interesting place to start.

Sunday stroll: Portland Bill

Today we went for a walk at Portland Bill, the most southerly point on the Isle of Portland. The Isle of Portland is a strange place, hanging off the bottom of Chesil Beach like a stony teardrop. The island is an outcrop of Jurassic limestone which has been valued as a building stone for centuries. If you know the Tower of London: that’s Portland Stone. And St Paul’s Cathedral. And Buckingham Palace. And the United Nations headquarters building in New York City. And the Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand. I could go on …

The Isle of Portland seen from Ringstead Bay on a sunny summer's day. To the right of the photo is Weymouth.

The Isle of Portland seen from Ringstead Bay on a sunny summer’s day in 2012. To the right of the photo is Wyke Regis, near Weymouth. Chesil Beach – a narrow spit of land, or tombolo – joins the two.

Quarrying has created a weird and atmospheric landscape on the island, with worked-out quarries and others that are still in use, and piles of discarded, sub-standard stone and workings piled in heaps and dumped over the edges of the high cliffs.

At the southerly end of the island is Portland Bill, with its two lighthouses to warn ships of the rocks and the deadly currents – the Race – where the water of the English Channel churns around the tip of the island in a furious boiling wash of water. Pulpit Rock is all that remains of a stone arch that was cut away by quarrymen.

Portland Bill lighthouse.

Portland Bill lighthouse, and the other lighthouse (once the home of Marie Stopes) visible in the mid distance.

The Trinity House Obelisk, a daymarker to warn shipping off the coast during the day.

The Trinity House Obelisk, a daymarker to warn shipping off the coast during the day. All the land in the foreground is made ground, waste dumped by the quarrymen in centuries past.

Pulpit Rock.

Pulpit Rock.

It was a mild and windy day, and we scrambled down to a sea ledge to have a look at the stone and the seascape better.

Fossilliferous limestone exposed on the ledge by Pulpit Rock.

Fossiliferous limestone exposed on the ledge by Pulpit Rock.

Dumped rejected stone near Pulpit Rock. The black dot on the water is a cormorant - we watched it repeatedly dive for food.

Dumped, rejected stone on a waste heap near Pulpit Rock. The black dot on the water is a cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) – we watched it repeatedly dive for food.

Earlier in the day we had been in Weymouth looking for jewellery goodies for my Etsy shop, and met this fellow in the car park:

Herring gull on the bonnet of our car in Weymouth.

Herring gull (Larus argentatus) on the bonnet of our car in Weymouth.

Tuesday stroll: Glastonbury Tor

Today we went for a walk up Glastonbury Tor: it seemed like half of Somerset had the same idea as it was such a beautifully sunny day compared to the mostly soggy grey ones we’ve been having recently. (Click on all photos to embiggen/bigify/largeificate).

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Glastonbury Tor in the distance with the ruins of the church of St Michael’s Church on top, the tor rising prominently out of the Somerset Levels that surround it.

Glastonbury Tor is a small, isolated hill which stands out from the flat expanse of the Somerset Levels around it. It is formed from layers dating from the Jurassic period: the tor itself is Bridport Sandstone, overlying Blue Lias and clay. Only the tower of the church of St Michael that formerly stood there now remains. This dates from the 14th century. Local lore says that Glastonbury Tor is the Isle of Avalon of legend, and is reputedly the burial place of King Arthur.

The tower of the Church of St Michael on top of Glastonbury Tor.

The tower of the Church of St Michael on top of Glastonbury Tor.

South-west face of the tower.

South-west face of the tower.

South-east face of the tower.

South-east face of the tower.

Lovely graffiti on the tower.

Lovely graffiti on the tower by J H Burgess, who visited on 21 May 1864, and revisited in 1869 and 1874.

Panorama from the tor, looking from the north-east (in the first photo) clockwise round to the south-west (sixth photo). The village at the foot of the hill in the middle distance in the second photo is Pilton, and nearby is Worthy Farm, of the famed Glastonbury Festival.

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On the top of the hill is a lovely engraved plaque showing directions and distances to other notable places and features in the area.

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The tor cast a wonderful shadow over the surrounding lower land (view looking north).

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The low-lying Somerset Levels are very prone to flooding and drainage is a very important part of the land management there, with many straight drainage ditches (rhynes, pronounced reens) cutting across the landscape.

Waterlogged fields after the heavy rains of the past few weeks.

Waterlogged fields after the heavy rains of the past few weeks.

The countryside is looking unnaturally green for the time of year, a result of the very mild and wet weather we have been having. We’ve barely had a frost this winter, let alone a prolonged cold spell: compare with photos I took on 16 January 2015 on a walk in Wiltshire, almost exactly a year ago.

Wells

It’s been pretty wet and miserable here for the last few days. This is a photo I took of a rainy day in the beautiful cathedral city of Wells a few years ago. It had been a lovely sunny day, and we’d been for a long walk around the sights – the Cathedral, Vicar’s Close, Bishop’s Palace and the many beautiful secular buildings – and then the heavens opened. We went back to the car and I took this photo from inside through the windscreen as the rain pelted down. I quite like its impressionistic quality.

A rainy day in Wells.

A rainy day in Wells.

Earlier on had been like this:

 

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Vicar’s Close, Wells. Constructed between 1348 and 1430.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral. Built between 1176 and 1490.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral.

Wells Cathedral.

and then the rain blew in. I like the fact that we get such changeable weather here – there’s often drama in the skies (apart from when it’s a flat, dull, grey day – not much drama then).

If you’re a film fan, Wells is the setting for Hot Fuzz: the co-writer and director, Edgar Wright, grew up in Wells. The Cathedral was digitally removed from the film though, I think because it was too imposing and took away from the smaller parish church, the Church of St Cuthbert, that featured in the film. Some of the filming took place in the Bishop’s Palace grounds, though.