Thursday, July 29, 2010

The family have gone, arrived safely back in Whitby last night, so I breath a sigh of relief and upload my photos, most of which have been taken by the children.

Not many of London, just the river for its peace and quiet compared to the millions of tourists that swarm everywhere. We managed an awful lot of sightseeing, the children hardly flagged all day, a long lunch at a Moulin Rouge restaurant ending with platefuls of chocolate pudding revived them. I don't like cities and crowds of people, so always knew the day would be an ordeal, the British Museum was packed, the Egyptian galleries are magnificent, but I love stone animals not mummified people, also impressed by the Greek marbles, but can almost see the argument for keeping them in this country though morally we should'nt, but they are displayed in a dramatic manner. The children slide over the funny surface of the Millenium Bridge on their way to the Tate Gallery, LS and I gave the galleries a miss, but managed to see The Globe Theatre.

Next Big Ben for Ben's sake, Houses of Parliament with armed police at the entrance and great black barriers all the way around. Politicians being interviewed and the protesters that had been evicted from their green a few days ago were still there now camped on the pavement, with their signs prominently displayed.

A long walk to Trafalgar Square taking in Downing Street on the way and the changing of the guards (scaring Lillie so that she will probably be frightened of smartly dressed soldiers for a long time yet). Poor men they were flagging in the heat of the sun. After Trafalgar another long walk to Tottenham Court tube station, unfortunately it was the rush hour, hot and terribly crowded, but Lillie was completely self possessed sitting on a rucksack at my feet as I panicked about the crush of people. A family ticket is a godsend, train, tube and bus are all covered and it worked out at about £7 each for eight of us, and pretty good connections all the time, no waiting around.
The second day was quiet, a walk down to the pub for lunch, unfortunately it happened to rain heavily (the first time for months) as we walked, so we ended up like drowned kittens and cats in the restaurant, but dried off during another long lunch. My daughter as she grew up was used to long family lunches in Blonay, dishing the gossip on family and friends so it brought back memories for her, and the children waited patiently for their food, as always finished by chocolate puddings swimming in icecream...
Its weird but by listening to another person's interpretation of a family event, you get a completely different perspective, it never ceases to amaze me, that when my Welsh friend comes over from America, that she can tell me facts about my own family that I never knew, and its the same with my daughter, our recollections of something that happened are often very different.


The Globe Theatre

An untidy skyline of cranes

The other side of the Millenium bridge

The Hat - which you had to talk down to on our walks!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


tomato plants producing well, tied loosely to a drainpipe and no feeding to date with a tomato fertiliser!

This lily wafts scent through the day, and a reminder to buy more lily bulbs next year

Weaving at last, though warping makes me incredibly sick, must be the intense concentration I put into it. I started this small project off for my granddaughter to see, she has the craft bug as well.

Fairstead church, this is one of the old posts of the porch, and it reminded me of the Saxon wooden Greensted church, when the wood seems to turn to stone, a lovely fissured surface.
Tomorrow there will be a full moon, I have watched each night this week the moon coming to its full glory, it is low in the sky and reminds me that the great harvest moon of September will soon be with us. Normally I go to an old Gaelic poem for the moon 'Welcome, precious stone of the night'
but today chose something from Emily Bronte..

I gazed upon the cloudless moon
And loved her all the night
Till morning came and radiant noon,
And I forgot her light -

Emily Bronte

In the Viking Sagas both the moon and the sun ride across the skies in chariots driven by two children and are pulled by magnifient horses. These two children had been punished by the gods, or at least their father had for considering them equal in beauty to the sun and moon. The girl Sun and her horses were protected from the fierce light of the sun by an indestructable shield called Svalin or Iron cool.
The boy Moon on the other hand had to kidnap two more children from earth, a little boy Bil, and his sister Yuki, and they are called the children in the moon, and it is they who make the moon wax and wane......

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fairstead church

This little church was a couple of miles on from Terling village. It actually is quite a surprise for all the 13th century medieval paintings on the walls. These were discovered late 19th century and more were uncovered in the early 2oth century. You can see the chisel marks as the plaster was gouged out.

The church itself has a somewhat neglected air, its in need of Friends of Friendless Churches, though services are still held there. The grave yard is unmown and there are hardly any flowers, wild or otherwise to freshen the place up. Sitting in the porch reading about the paintings, dry leaves and moss scuttled around the floor at our feet, this early drop of leaves is a bit worrying but the countryside on the whole still looks green.

What is noticeable about the tower of the church is the enormous amount of Roman brick and tile that has been used in the building material, the quoins are practically made up of Roman stuff. It says in the church literature that a Roman villa was nearby, and it gives one pause for thought that when the church was built, probably in the 12th century, such ruined buildings still stood in the landscape. England is peaceful now, but the subsequent conquests first by the Romans, then Saxons and then the Normans shows colonisation has and always will be an ongoing process. The A12, or the old Roman road lies a few miles away, the road along which Boudicca and her hundreds of thousands of followers marched to wreak vengeance on the Romans in Colchester and London.

The explanation for all the scenes on the wall can be found here at Painted Churches

This is a painting that was not remarked upon in the above article on the religious art, perhaps its because its a head of a man - with a rather funny hat - that was contemporary at the time, maybe even the painter!

SEAX entry

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


This is a piece of stitched work in the church made in the year 2ooo and one can see all the history of the village neatly stitched out. Terling is a a rather elegant Essex village, with brightly coloured cottages, the village and most of the land around belongs to Lord Rayleigh (no not the Elizabethan Raleigh). From the photos of the green you can see how dry it is, the bees below on the thistle plant are just part of the many insects that floated round this space whilst we were there. The ground was absolutely covered in rabbit pellets, and rabbit holes, we even saw one, a quick flash of 'cottontail' and then he was gone. I wondered if it had been a warren in days gone by, they must have produced a few succulent rabbit pies.


The green

The countryside is thickly planted everywhere, no animals to be seen, apart from horses. But already the wheat is being harvested and we had to back up as giant tractors thundered down the narrow lanes. Maize everywhere, either animal feed or human I don't know, and toadflax and the pale blue of scabious on the verges

The post office, this is in actual fact what we went out looking for; closure of post offices around Chelmsford means going into the centre of town, parking and then waiting half an hour in a long queue, luckily post offices still exist in some villages!

The ford, this is the river Ter, and the ford itself is probably impassable unless you have a car that is high enough, small fry swim in the pond like bend of this river before it turns abruptly to the right at the far end.

Earlier blog on the church

Ladies bedstraw

Ladies bedstraw at Old Sodbury Hillfort

Whilst out the other day I noted that meadowsweet, hemp agrimony and ladies bedstraw was plentiful on the verges, though the weather has been so dry, meadowsweet seems to thrive on the verges though in a raggedy state considering it loves damp, cool places.
Hemp agrimony is a favourite of mine, its pink fluffiness attracting a lot of insects including butterflies, it could almost be classified as a garden cottage plant, distributing its seed very generously and filling up the odd patch in the garden beautifully.
Ladies bedstraw (galium verum) I was so glad to see, it reminded me of Somerset, to gather it is to be reminded of summer and corn fields, for it has the sweet smell of hay when dried, one of its constituents is courmarin, which gives a smell of summer harvests, the other plant that carries the same scent is sweet woodruff.
Geoffrey Grigson says of ladies bedstraw, (the name carries its history of course) was that it was a strewing herb, also something you made a straw mattress out of - it was supposed to keep the fleas away and the devil of course.
And there is the Northern Europe biblical story that when Mary lay on the straw to give birth, the straw was made up of ladies bedstraw and bracken, bracken sadly did not acknowledge the baby and so as punishment has never flowered since!
Herbally it coagulated blood, and was also used as a rennet for turning milk into cheese all over Europe. The Highlanders also used the stems or roots for a red dye, very much like goosegrass or cleavers (galium aperene) which also gives a red dye from the stems and roots.

Hemp agrimony - Wiki creative commons.

But what gave rise to these thoughts about wild flowers was the competition which ran a few days ago in the Guardian, to name species that were under threat of extinction, the news can be found here under Wired Gov. ten species named in true traditional fashion, or at least Geoffrey Grigson fashion by the British public.. The Queen's Executioner beetle in Windsor Park wins the day..

Skeetle (Stenus longitarsis): A beetle that escapes predators using natural “jet skis”

Sea piglet (Arrhis phylonyx): A deep-sea “pseudo shrimp”

Queen’s executioner (Megapenthes lugens): A distinctive “clicking” beetle found only in Windsor Great Park, it feeds on the larvae of other insects

Blue pepper-pot beetle (Cryptocephalus punctiger): A rare leaf beetle whose larvae live in willow leaves

Scabious cuckoo bee (Nomada armata): A “cuckoo bee” that lays its eggs in the nests of other bees

Kaleidoscope jellyfish (Haliclystus auricula): A beautiful stalked jellyfish

St John’s jellyfish (Lucernariopsis cruxmelitensis): A tiny 1cm jellyfish, in the shape of a Maltese cross

Witches’ whiskers lichen (Usnea florida): A lichen with medicinal properties

Pixie gowns lichen (Peltigera venosa): A lichen that turns green when wet

Mab’s lantern (Philorhizus quadrisignatus): A very rare four spotted ground beetle

Sunday, July 18, 2010

River Ter

One of the things about tracing the rivers, is how history reveals itself, not always to advantage though.
Yesterday we went to find the river Ter at Leez Priory. Now from the map I knew that nothing remains of the old priory except a long line of fish ponds that follow the small river. According to a map, there is also a small reservoir near to Lavendar Bridge, which we found eventually.
The river is very similar here as to much further down near Chelmsford, we parked and tried a broad bean that tasted horrible, but there are many fields planted with these beans, either animal fodder or green manure perhaps. The wheat fields look ready for harvesting, even though it is so early, they must have ripened very quickly in this long dry spell.
Leez Priory is now a great red bricked Tudor house given over to wedding parties, the priory must have been acquired during the Dissolution, and one can almost feel a parallel world of rapacious greed that occurred as the Tudor gentry acquired the lands and buildings of the monasterys happening today as this Tory led government seems to be handing over the public sector into the private market - there will be plenty of juicy prizes to be won no doubt.
The source of the Ter is still to be found, but river searching is a very soothing occupation, and the one thing I have noticed about the area around Chelmsford, is that there is a lot of water, not only in the rivers, but in the ponds, quarries, small reservoirs that follow the path of these rivers.

Timber framed house on the way back to Terling, probably an old farmhouse.

Wheat fields everywhere, but the grassy verges still housed plenty of wild flowers

One side of Lavendar bridge, choked with weeds

The other side, trickling through, with what looks like Jacob leafed plants

Tudor Leez Priory seen from a distance

Thursday, July 15, 2010


The Kinder Statue at Liverpool Station

Today is my son's Mark birthday, and have duly sent card plus something and phoned him - sense of relief/guilt banished. I have the unfortunate habit of forgetting birthdays, not so good with my four grandchildren. Last weekend on the phone to my daughter, I could hear Ben in the background, '25th Granny', and yes I had remembered, though sadly had brought the wrong age card which has been rectified.
What to buy, what to buy, runs through my head, luckily all the boys like money, Matilda - Jacqueline Wilson books (note this blog is my diary on remembering things), and little Lille will probably be happy with a large chocolate cake at the moment.
Well there is great excitement on the part of the children for on the 25th July they are hopefully coming down and we are going up to London for the day. The British Museum is top of the list, secret doors and mummies my partner has been filling their heads with, (he once got locked up in the mummies room), with various requests for Buckingham Palace and Big Ben (that of course is Ben's choice). Hopefully no one has asked for Madame Tussaud, which gave me such a fright when I was young, still can remember the man behind the curtain with a hook through his stomach!
We will go on the train from Chelmsford, past the partly built Olympic grounds at Stratford and show them the 'Gherkin' first of all, though i believe there is a larger building to be built called The Shard.
To say that children grow up so quickly is obvious, but there is only 12 years difference between my eldest grandchild and my son, and sometimes my mind muddles who is who. The littlest went for a couple of mornings to school this week (to get a taste for when she starts mornings in the September term). The two middle ones have had good reports, and Matilda has highly commended in 'free dancing'. Tom has finished his 'O' levels (do they call them that still) and awaits results before going up to 6th form. It does'nt seem so long ago that I wandered along the
great derelict river site in Bath for a project for Mark's exams, which is now coming to fruition under the Westernside building project I think. Off he went to UWE university, though I would have preferred Cardiff, so that I had an excuse to visit Wales more often! Then came the seemingly long period of university, their trip to Ghana for a year or so, and then there long stay (all three of them) at Bath - ouch, best not remembered, until jobs thankfully took them away to Bristol.
Although I don't do 'ancestry', it would be interesting to pull out different photos one day and see what we have, (the children and I) or have not, inherited along the way..... Lefthandedness of course being one of the things I always mean to check up on.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Moulsham Mill

Moulsham Mill today as a craft centre

Old photo of Moulsham Mill

Walking back from Chelmsford the other day, via the river path, I took a photo of Moulsham Mill, a profitable flour mill owned by the Marriage family for many years, now of course its a craft centre but its shape has'nt changed much from the much older photo.

A small inlet into the river, with the main road bridge over the water meadows, following the river under the road would have brought me to Barnes Mill, the farmhouse and mill also once owned by the Marriage family - they seemed to have owned many of the mills along this stretch of the river.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lavender and beetle

Collecting lavender to dry yesterday, I accidentally brought a small gold/black beetle into the house, I returned him back to the bush and noticed several more. Taking a photo today could only see one, seems to be stripey through the lense of my camera.
The weather is dry, no rain for weeks, and though my photos of the countryside have looked green, the domestic scene, gardens and parks are beginning to show the yellow of drought, lawns especially. Flowers come and go so quickly, I keep the vegetables watered and tomatoes enjoy the weather as does the courgettes but the sprinkling of rain this morning will do little for the garden.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sissinghurst and Vita Sackville-West

Winifred Nicholson reminded me of Vita Sackville-West, which in turn reminded me of a visit to Sissinghurst many years ago, or about 20 years ago, looking at the age of my son in one of the pictures. The day was very hot, and the 'rooms' of flowers gorgeous, what must have caught my eye was the clematis's over the red brick tall walls. Not sure if the bricks are'nt Tudor, but they have the same small size. The photos are taken with an ordinary camera and have'nt weathered too well. Vita's tall tower where she went to work writing poetry and garden articles for magazines or newspapers is there, as does the small cottages round the tower in which her sons lived early on and now the head gardeners of Sissinghurst occupy them. There are biographies out of this over the top early 20th century female, and one of the interesting facets of why she bought Sissinghurst, is her great disappointment in not inheriting Knole House where she had lived in as a child, it had been in the family for centuries; inheritance went down through the male line though.
Her poem 'The Land' is her most famous, but her style not quite to my liking...

Not sure where this is but its gorgeous, typically small English building looks like Tudor with mock tower.

Knole House

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Winifred Nicholson was someone I had never heard of but her carefree paintings of flowers pushed into vases in a slightly haphazard way are how flowers should be arranged not those terrible brightly coloured flowers in a neat bunch in most supermarkets. She was married to Ben Nicholson, another artist of some fame, though in the abstract form.
Vita Sackville West also had the same habit of having several small vases of flowers on her desk in the great tower of Sissinghurst where she wrote, a reminder of the transcience of flowers but also their beauty, shape and form, and I'm sure there is a Ben Nicholson in her biography as well, but not the same one!