When I acquired the latest copy of the Midlands Meander from a very friendly Estate Agent in Nottingham Road (I had left my copy at home), she asked me where we had been on previous visits. She suggested we drive along the Dargle Valley and Lions River roads for awesome views with various stops along the way. I’m sorry now that we didn’t stop more often for me to take photographs of the lush valley but it was lovely to sit back and enjoy the drive. Farms interspersed with forests, farm roads, cattle grazing, rows of trees in autumnal shades, farm workers, tractors … all very rural and ever so pretty
Our first stop was Tsonga before we reached Piggly Wiggly after which is the valley road. For a couple of years there was a Tsonga shop in one of our local shopping centres, where I always admired the shoes, boots and bags in the window as I walked passed and always said to myself that I must go in and try on some this handmade soft leather footwear. The shop closed it’s doors before I stepped over the threshold. Serves me right for not entering sooner. They moved further afield to a shopping centre/s I don’t frequent. The genuine leather goods of Tsonga are made in the Midlands … used to be here at this establishment on the R103 but has moved it’s main factory to larger premises in Howick
The shop assistant told us that the handbags and smaller items are still made here
I finally got to try on some beautifully soft leather pumps but unfortunately there was a problem with the signal at that time and paying by bank card was a problem. So my shoes, that I was so finally going to purchase, are still in that box above 😦
Onward we drove along the Dargle Valley road making our way to Dargle Valley Pottery. Before taking the road to the pottery place, we stopped at a very quaint country church, St Andrew’s. Originally built in 1882 – present red brick structure dates back to 1934
Magnificent view of the valley …
We turned into the gravel road following the signs to Dargle Valley Pottery. On the opposite side of the entrance is the farm Lavender and Co. (mentioned in my post on Piggly Wiggly) How I would have loved to have had a walk-about on that farm (It’s closed to the public)
Entrance to Dargle Valley Pottery
It was like stepping into another world … a world of Hobbits came to mind!
I found a wonderful article on potter Ian Glenny … Art at Work Today Worth a read, giving his background and accomplishments world-wide.
What a fascinating man! He told us that he had bought the farm 30 odd years ago when he discovered the property had a waterfall and perfect clay for his pottery. He built his house himself, overlooking the waterfall. It must have been a gorgeous cottage-style house in it’s day, but now is in need of lots of TLC, hence he said, is the reason why he moved into his workshop. His Mexican ovens and tagines are now his best sellers telling us there would be an advert in the Country Life Magazine in July and showed us the photograph of the oven which will be used for the ad. I had to buy the magazine 🙂
Where he’s standing is a large room filled with old furniture, tables with bits and pieces of homemade crockery, old books on a bookshelf, wrought iron bed in one corner, fresh veggies on a table .. and all sorts of household items. It’s here he told us about his house needing a new roof as a result of which he had moved into the workshop. It looks as if he’s lived there for a long time. When he explained the making of his Mexican ovens ie type of clay, firing etc, and what he cooks in them, which appears to be everything he eats (he’s a vegetarian), he also said they are marvellous for heating not only the room they situated but adjoining rooms as well. Hence the invitation for us to see one working .. in his living quarters ..
For such a small fire, it was surprisingly warm
He invited us to enter another room to feel how warm it was in there too. How I would have loved to have taking many photographs but I didn’t want to pry. We were there for the purpose of seeing how the oven worked, not to be nosey. I couldn’t help it but my eyes wandered round the room briefly. Also a large room with lounge area and partitioned off bedroom area with another gorgeous old wrought iron bed, knitted and crocheted blankets, more books etc. I felt quite embarrassed actually being in a complete stranger’s living quarters. It was fascinating though !!
The gallery …
Beautiful Mexican ovens. He told us his son, who lives in Hermanus, also makes Mexican ovens but uses different glazing and firing
Choosing what to buy was difficult as there were several I would have liked. And, I just had to purchase something even if it was small. I decided on a garlic jar as he makes them from the clay near the waterfall on his property … not painted or glazed. Mine is the small one
Also bought the small blue vase …
My ‘Ian Glenny’ pottery vase at home
He invited us to have a walk-about passed his house to see the waterfall and the dam
What a beautiful tranquil spot !!!
I believe Dargle Valley Pottery is mentioned in the travel book “The Lonely Planet”, alongside Ardmore Ceramics and Granny Mouse Country House
Note : Several places in the Midlands that we came across don’t accept bank cards and only accept cash (as is the case at Ian Glenny’s Dargle Pottery)