Friday, October 9, 2015

A ruined church and Harvest Festival

A strange day, although the weather was beautiful, Turner would have needed a very large canvas to paint the skies of this Yorkshire day, the clouds strung from side to side in a bitingly blue sky, so different from the grey rainy day before.  We decided to go to Wharram Percy, the most famous deserted medieval village in England.  Somehow I always thought that I would never see this place, excavated by Beresford for 40 years, the lumps and bumps of this small village lie in a valley through which runs a small stream.

You arrive in a small car park and the path leads from there for three quarters of a mile, down you go there are small copses and the hiccuping sound of pheasants, the path runs deep below banks on either side, till at last you come to an open piece of land and then cross the small rivulet of water on a bridge.  Climbing upward you are now on the track way through the village.  A DMV is of course only lumps and shapes in the ground, we call these 'crofts and tofts' the regular setting out of house platforms in their gardens, a small self sufficient community of probably 185 people lived here once.  But their numbers gradually faded and then the local overlord turfed these last people out of their homes, so that he could have better grazing for his sheep.

What is strange though is the 18th century 'improved' farmhouse, that stands like a 'gingerbread house' in the hollow of the valley.  It is shuttered and empty but perfectly preserved, behind this farmhouse are the ruins of the church.  This church has apparently many manifestations over the centuries, being enlarged then made smaller, and is surrounded by grave stones.

Picturesque is of course the first words to fall off one's lips, we missed the fish ponds, basically I think because there were two people sitting there talking,but this valley had always had a source of water and had been occupied, probably from prehistoric times, evidence of Roman occupation was there also.

You can see the traces of the settlement in the far field

Ruined tower of the church
The old farmhouse

St. Martin

St.Martins Church, its development over the centuries

this is a site of one of the two manor houses

We plough the field, and scatter,
the good seed on the land

In the evening we went to the Harvest Festival in our church next door, it was very well decorated with polished red apples on the window ledges pretty flower arrangements, marrows, etc.  No sign of tins of baked beans though, there are not many children living in the village.   About 26 people attended, Jo had rung the bells for attendance, and there were refreshments afterwards.  LS forgot his glasses so could not sing the hymns, as this was the first time we had both attended church for sometime he has been silent as to the effect, though of course being gloomy about the fate of churches he sees them falling into disrepair through dwindling attendance.

Harvest Festival was 'invented' in 1843 by the eccentric Robert Steven Hawker vicar of a parish (Morewenstowe in Cornwall.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thinking aloud - Hochdorf Burial

There is a new series on BBC4 - The Celts (Blood, Iron and Sacrifice), the two presenters, Alice Roberts and Neil Oliver are the 'face' of a lot of archaeology on television, and they did their stuff winding their way through the complex history of these Celtic people.

There was an over emphasis on the written record of the somewhat biased Romans, the Celts did not write, or to be more precise, there is no evidence as yet to prove that they did.  The title says it all, battles, bloodshed and butchering a somewhat male interpretation of a people.  Ask questions as to how their day to day life went on, and we only got the salt mines of Hallstatt, fascinating as they were, and a brief description of almost 5000 burials here, presumably most with grave goods.

All this of course needs, the daily wherewithal of food, clothes (yes I know they fought naked) and the acquisition of exquisite jewellery and trappings, not only for themselves but for their horses as well, life was not only ever to be found at the point of a sword, there must have been weavers, potters, blacksmiths and farmers, and of course women played an equal role in society.

During the programme they mentioned the Hochdorf burial in Germany, something we had seen on our visit there to deliver some scrolls.  The museum had a very elegant reconstruction of the burial of the chief/prince, also of the excavations that had taken place, so for once not the vision of men slaughtering each other, this by the way, if you look at our own medieval history, is still a common thread of many a historic tale, but a few photos of the settlement and the inside of the museum.  

It had taken years by many experts, to produce the burial scene, everything is a replica, the dedication that had gone into the museum and the reconstructed barrow was there to inform in a manner that educates as to the whole picture and not just scrappy interpretations of Celtic warriors battling and savagely sticking victims heads on spike, (we haven't  come to that bit yet}, but can't you remember from school history the savagery of being hung, drawn and quartered and the head of the poor victim speared on the outside of the city walls for a long time in our own history?

There were farm steads excavated, and the museum has a small area of Celtic buildings


Not sure

stand up loom

The burial reconstruct

loom weights

the great gold cauldron for feasting

The rebuilt barrow amongst the snow - it was very cold!

Outside the museum, the curving pipe is the height of the barrow

Isn't he pretty ;)

This 'sofa' was crushed into a thousand pieces when excavated from under the barrow, though of course it is not the original one, which we saw at the Stuttgart museum Celtic Exhibition

So I shall await the next two episodes, with a somewhat critical air maybe, but the ability of television to whip you to Hallstatt in a blink, and show you a landscape that is both beautiful and difficult, does bring these mysterious people closer, and those salt mines did open my eyes to actual commerce that took place in times long gone, and the visit to Hochdorf Museum etched out a more docile people, or at least people who had an everyday life far removed from battle.....

Monday, October 5, 2015

Thinking about David Inshaw

There are two good articles in the Guardian Review this weekend one is on David Inshaw, part of the group called The Brotherhood of Ruralists, and the other article by Mary Beard on the Romans and the parallel with our modern society.

The David Inshaw article features his most famous paintings two females playing badminton, there is something of menace in the tall dark evergreen trees, and the equally tall, rather ugly  house, but of course it is also quintessential of the English landscape, and gardens of our larger formal houses.  The excessive clipping of the box shrub, shows a leisured way of life, gardeners employed to shape and trim. The same neatness is found in the following painting, the untidiness of graves outlined by mown grass.  I love also of course his Silbury paintings, one with an owl flying, there is though a reservation in how much I like him, he captures the forms of trees dancing down the landscape, but his neatness goes against my untidy nature. he reminds me that I have a similar feeling when I see the great houses like Castle Howard and their formal parks, so neat and tidy devoid of 'wilderness'.  We may thank Capability Brown for designing landscapes but was he not too 'surburban'?

The May tree - David Inshaw
What of course drew me to this artistic group was the fact that they lived in the village of Wellow for a while in the old railway station.  Wellow was a favourite haunt of mine, Moss and I would walk along the green lane to Stoney Littleton barrow, crossing the pretty brook, up the hill, and I would heave Moss over the stile and there we would contemplate the world from this marvellous tumulus. Yet this has struck me every time I have read or looked at the works about The Brother of Ruralists, why did they not draw this barrow and the the little Wellow brook?

David Inshaw Pastoral Landscapes

Sunday, October 4, 2015

That blessed day called Sunday

Well yesterday we went to Castle Howard nursery centre to browse.  The house is £12 entrance fee to go in per person, so that was no go.  As we approached the gateway, we had to follow a huge piece of farm machinery which took up all the lane.  This is something you get used to, at times there seems more farm machinery on the roads than cars.

Autumn colour has descended on the trees almost over night, the day is beautiful and sunny, night time almost down to zero temperature.  Along this lane we went up and down a series of small hills, here I believe it is the Howardian Hills, the only Northern outpost of Jurassic Limestone, something I know little of, further south towards Malton you have the Tabular Hills, where the first prehistoric settlements took place in this area.
I did not take many photos of Castle Howard,  I had always thought it was the set for Downton Abbey, but no it is Highclere in Berkshire that fulfils this role.  It is impressive of course, and the whole estate  seems to be run for visitors, there is an arboretum, with its own peacock, seen here trying to snaffle sugar lumps at the cafe.

The  garden centre is large and well stocked, and there is a delicatessen selling all kinds of food, a butchery that sells venison and rabbit, all rather pricey and the inevitable gift shop.

When we first arrived we stopped off to look at the lake, and there was a coach parked with Chinese visitors so I watched with fascinated interest as they took 'selfies', this is the girls of course not the boys, exchanging hats and scarves for the best pose, jumping into the air, stylising themselves against the fence.  How times have changed I said drolly to myself, these photos will be placed in albums to take the fancy of their children, but are we all such terrible tourists?

The other thing of interest in the village yesterday was the event of the Jehovah Witnesses, a dozen turned up, and made the 'ritual' rounds of the houses.  We noticed A was one of their brethren, a young girl who looks after pets whilst you are away.  LS told them he had been a Zen buddhist monk for a time and would they like to borrow some of his books, but the offer was not taken up, we did not buy the Watch Tower, though they are such nice, if somewhat naive, people, that I feel I should read it!

Friday, October 2, 2015


The mist has burnt off quickly this morning and the sun is trying to come through, when I came down two rabbits by the grass mound greeted me.  Yesterday the baby hedgehog sunned itself in the afternoon for an hour or so, and the chickens roamed freely.  They enjoyed the garden, keeping close to us as we worked or wandered around amongst the flowers.  Getting them to go back is fairly easy at the moment, like me they love toast, so just wave a bowl under their beaks and they happily go back into the run.

At the moment I am reading Olive Laing's To The River, about a walk she made along the length of the River Ouse in Sussex.  She keeps as her companion in mind Virginia Woolf who was as we know was to drown herself in the river, filling her coat's pocket with stones.

Why does 'madness' haunt writers like Woolf, and earlier William Cowper, does the ceaseless ferment of the mind drive them to distraction?  There is a somewhat miffy review in the Guardian of the book in 2011, and I  agree with the idea, that a long walk over weeks will give rise to another book on  subjective nature.  Laing was trying to get over a broken relationship, Robert Macfarlane is also similar in his writing, the biographical vein, gives rise to an excessive verbiage of words, one needs a pen to cut through...

Robert Macfarlane by the way is joining with Jackie Morris (a children's illustrative artist) to redeem the words that the Junior Oxford Dictionary left out of their latest edition.  A poem mentioning the 'lost words' can be found here on an earlier blog, fancy a heron not being named!

Something else Laing mentioned, that if given a Catholic education, the ability to believe in that that is not there, is part of the make-up of the child as they grow up.  Having had at times a Catholic education, I tend to agree with this. For me as a child the worlds of dust motes were little tiny places where life could be played out, I never actually believed in god from an early age.  The moment of enlightenment was looking at a prayer book, and studying the page of 'believers' so carefully drawn, and a simple question went through my mind, so how can our god be so powerful but not have the rest of humanity believing in him?  Of course now I have grown up with a multitude of gods and they are fascinating but are of course just figments of people's imaginations.  A need to give credence to why we are born and die, humans can never quite equate their fates with a humble fly who dies without even knowing what death is....or perhaps they do?

Thursday, October 1, 2015


We need a small two seater sofa for the small room downstairs, not the one above, it only illustrates the poem below by William Cowper in the 18th century.  But internet shopping brings up so many, Laura Ashley a bit too expensive, DFS what is 'the comfort factor' in their cheaper stock. IKEA you have to put together the flat pack sofa - no way says LS.  
Well whatever we end up with, Cowper's part poem below about sofas seems to fit the bill, 200 years ago, challenged by a lady friend to write about sofas, he wrote 'The Task'....
At length a generation more refined
Improved the simple plan, made three legs four,
Gave them a twisted form vermicular,
And o’er the seat, with plenteous wadding stuffed,
Induced a splendid cover green and blue,
Yellow and red, of tapestry richly wrought
And woven close, or needlework sublime.
There might ye see the peony spread wide,
The full-blown rose, the shepherd and his lass,
Lapdog and lambkin with black staring eyes,
And parrots with twin cherries in their beak.

   Now came the cane from India, smooth and bright
With Nature’s varnish; severed into stripes
That interlaced each other, these supplied,
Of texture firm, a lattice-work that braced
The new machine, and it became a chair.
But restless was the chair; the back erect
Distressed the weary loins that felt no ease;
The slippery seat betrayed the sliding part
That pressed it, and the feet hung dangling down,
Anxious in vain to find the distant floor.
These for the rich: the rest, whom fate had placed
In modest mediocrity, content
With base materials, sat on well-tanned hides
Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth,
With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn,
Or scarlet crewel in the cushion fixed:
If cushion might be called, what harder seemed
Than the firm oak of which the frame was formed.
No want of timber then was felt or feared
In Albion’s happy isle.  The lumber stood
Ponderous, and fixed by its own massy weight.
But elbows still were wanting; these, some say,
An alderman of Cripplegate contrived,
And some ascribe the invention to a priest
Burly and big, and studious of his ease.
But rude at first, and not with easy slope
Receding wide, they pressed against the ribs,
And bruised the side, and elevated high
Taught the raised shoulders to invade the ears.
Long time elapsed or e’er our rugged sires
Complained, though incommodiously pent in,
And ill at ease behind.  The ladies first
Gan murmur, as became the softer sex.
Ingenious fancy, never better pleased
Than when employed to accommodate the fair,
Heard the sweet moan with pity, and devised
The soft settee; one elbow at each end,
And in the midst an elbow, it received,
United yet divided, twain at once.
So sit two kings of Brentford on one throne;
And so two citizens who take the air,
Close packed and smiling in a chaise and one.
But relaxation of the languid frame
By soft recumbency of outstretched limbs,
Was bliss reserved for happier days; so slow
The growth of what is excellent, so hard
To attain perfection in this nether world.
Thus first necessity invented stools,
Convenience next suggested elbow-chairs,
And luxury the accomplished Sofa last.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Everything is quiet, the two men who have been erecting the fence are coming today at 10 to finish making the gates, the 'wall' has gone up!  Chickens should be pleased because they will have the run of the garden eventually.  The men worked efficiently over the two days and got a lot done without too much damage to the garden, now we must start to plan some beds and what to plant.
Photos are higgledy piggledy, a young hedgehog in the grave yard, apples from a neighbour over the road, (we will be trading eggs) and a find from the holes dug,  a small pottery, maybe mustard pot, and a small glass bottle, which should go into the small 'Victorian shop' that the 'apple' neighbour has made in his cottage.

before and after photos

LS pondered long and hard on angles to this fence, we are copying the slanting design of the pub next door, the small gate is an afterthought, because of roaming animals and opening the large gates......

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A day of quietitude

What to write about, nothing much is happening in the garden, Sue brought me a dwarf budleia which has been planted, but I cannot buy any bushes until the fence is up.  This should start happening tomorrow, I have also been looking at the Blue Cross animal rescue site the last few weeks for a dog, and have just filed an application for a black spaniel, 8 and half years old called Tia, whether I shall get her or not remains in the lap of the gods, and the judgement of the people at Blue Cross which is at Thirsk.
I have ordered spring bulbs, not arrived yet and want to go to Castle Howard nursery centre for a hedge for the front of the house.  Then there is the Lavender place just down the road from Castle Howard to York which everything is on hold once more.
This photo of the shadowed hare on the wall, is something I see when we have coffee in the morning, it reminds me of the rabbit I see out of the window occasionally, a dark silhouette in the field.

Evening sun lighting up the coke house
William Cowper the poet kept three hares as pets, he wrote a poem about Tiney, and his last hare Puss lived to 11 years of age.  He seemed to have lived on the edge of his nerves, any grief unsettling him. Attempts at suicide, then being placed in an asylum, for a couple of years; modern divination puts it down to 'manic depression'.  But it wise to remember him in the evening, with his three hares playing on the 'turkish rug' that was their green field, his gentle manner making note of their mannerisms.........

Friday, September 25, 2015


Yesterday we went sightseeing with our visitors, and ended up at Rievaulx Abbey.  All change now that Autumn is just around the corner, the big field for parking cars had been gated and two horses grazed within, so we wandered down the lane and went inside the 'slipper' church, no, not the place you leave your shoes, though I believe they do it at Walsingham, and walk the last mile with bare feet but... according to Wikipedia
  "The word 'Slipper' comes from the word 'slipe' (or 'slype'), meaning to slide, to move out of the rest of England into the holy land of Walsingham, and probably has nothing to do with pilgrims actually walking in slippers or even barefoot."

Though here in this PDF, it states that the 'Gate Church' was situated between the gates of the abbey and people changed their shoes here for lighter wear.
Older tractors here, the little hamlet is very pretty

Thatched cottage, with a glimpse of Lillie on the lead

Approaching the church

Austere and plain.
We stopped off to wander round Helmsley, G being very taken with it, wandered into the craft display in the centre, and chattered to a potter, elegant but expensive ware, and then went to find a cup of tea at about five past four.  Tea shops were closing down, at the precise hour you have a cup of tea.  It was almost as if the turning of the season, and less tourists had dictated a retreat at 4 p.m.  We did find a place eventually, after dismissing The Swan Hotel as too expensive at £19 for a cream tea......

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Going Slow

The sun is just breaking through the mist, a day to be  spent with people coming to do things.  The antique man is coming to look at the chairs in the garage, the electrician from Whitby to put up an outside lamp.
A blog started and never finished, but they have both gone clutching half a dozen eggs each! I started to browse other blogs, and came across this 'slow movement', in this instance not slow food, but the slow wardrobe , and immediately became inspired, it was on Tom Holland's blog, a person who teaches darning, and the blog I followed through was to Wovember.
Well I do not have a large wardrobe of clothes, I replace when needed, in fact only half a wardrobe, three dresses, a few skirts and jeans. I do however knit, so I have plenty of jumpers, and also spin, which I have just started again.  The wool I am spinning at the moment is blue faced leicester, and my latest knitting project, which I wasn't quite happy with is finished, and I am on to my next piece of knitting.  What I am looking forward to is making a cot blanket for a baby yet to be born in December, LS's first grandchild, and boy is he happy over this event, for he thought he would never become a grandfather....

The sweater spun and knitted, which did not turn out too badly..

Patching and darning could of course become fashionable, remember patching my old tent when I was widowed, and my daughter and I had holidays in it, it looked pretty the blue fly cover patched in Laura Ashley materials....

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday - 20th September

Yesterday, a beautiful still day we decided to go for a walk in Keldy Forest, did not quite make it as we stopped off to explore a public footpath into another wood, called Spring Wood.  A mixture of old indigenous trees and then the forestry plantations of pine intermingled all along the road to Hutton-le-Hole.  The land is hilly, and sits on rock, as we wandered round there is evidence of small scale quarrying with old trees seemingly growing out of the rock.  Wild flowers are not to be seen in amongst these acid loving trees, though I did find water mint, at one old overgrown quarry.

soft silver-green downy leaves - mint

a path we did not take

The path we did take took us down a small lane leading to Lingmoor Farm, we did not make it to the farm but turned down a rutted forestry path alongside a dry beck.  No blackberries but a wet and muddy trackway which we wandered along for about half a mile, then turned and came back. Rejoining the small lane and exploring the old bridge over the beck, and I decided there must have been a small hamlet round here at one time.  We had come through a small village called Keldholm - the place by the spring/water meadows, which had at one time a priory.... 
Photos only show the green coolness of the woods, a tangle of scattered twigs and branches....

Ferns and nettle in an old quarry
Yesterday a strange hen wandered into our garden, and spent most of the day round our chicken run. as we do not have any more room in the hutch, we had to find the owner.  Well it wasn't Nigel across the road, he guessed that it probably belonged to Nelson, a recluse.  So in the evening we went in search of Nelson.  We knew he lived in a mobile home on  land that belongs to the pub that runs beside the river.  Discovering a gate in what seemed to be  solid fencing, opening it to be greeted by hens, ducks, geese, and Nelson himself.  He came round to get the hen, apparently he had just bought 50 from one of these terrible battery places.  He sells his eggs, and keeps bees as well.  their hives he keeps up on the moors for the nectar from heather, and also sells the honey on an old table just outside the pub. His lifestyle is different, and yet he was a good person, and very chatty.  Apparently a few years ago, his first mobile home burnt down, killing his small dog, and then he built himself a steel enclosed one.  Whilst we worry about finding homes for all the refugees, it is well to remember that other people also do not have permanent homes, they live on the fringes of our society (not paying council tax as a passing neighbour complained) protected to a greater extent by the people around them - thank goodness ;)

Lingmoor Cave or Excalibur Cave