Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kelston Round Hill and boxing hares

Kelston Hill in September

Recently I had an email from someone writing a book about racecourses, he wanted to know about the 'sun disc' on Lansdown.  Now up to a couple of years ago the lansdown had been part of my walking life with my dog, a place to wander and think.  Over the years I accumulated a lot of history about the barrows, Roman sites, etc.  But its greatest treasures were the birds and wild flowers, the great ash trees that lined the sides of the valleys.  The deer early in the morning as they browsed the edge of the woodlands, the little muntjac that would run somewhat ungainly across the open to the safety of the trees, and old brer fox, wandering idly back from a night out hunting.
But once a few years back, when we had got to the viewpoint looking out towards Kelston Round Hill, where you are supposed to see seven counties, including two in Wales, I saw in the field below, boxing hares, a rare site for Somerset. They are a rarity round Bath probably because they get shot, but the dog did once chase one from one end of the course to the other, a good mile, he did'nt catch up though.
Well this week my Resurgence magazine came through the letterbox with a lovely photograph of a winter hare on the front cover, a reminder that March is the month for mad boxing hares.  And it also reminded me of a blog I had written about  Saint Melangell in Wales, who protected the hare.

Toadflax on the race course
The race course was undergoing some drastic changes when I left and I fear for those wild flowers so easily crushed beneath the weight of earth moving vehicles, the animals will always be safe though, the rugged nature of the landscape means that the woods that cling to the sides of the valleys are virtually impossible to eradicate.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Whitby;  There is a 'buzz' about Whitby even when  it is windy and cold, and raining as it is today.  Looking out of my bedroom windy and the abbey stands on the cliff tops, , shadowed by the mist and rain.  This house is cold, its tall windows rattle with the wind, the children's voices echo from upstairs, they have to walk quietly because the plasterer has been in to do a hallway ceiling, so no thumping down the stairs.
The small cottage, which is now mine, I approached with some trepidation a couple of days ago, but it is as I remembered it and very cosy. 
Now of course is just the start, probably gas central heating to put in, plus a new bathroom and the chimney to be resealed, but to be truthful it would be easy enough to move in today.
Going to the solicitors for final signings and he had a great fat folder of its history, which we both explored.
The land dates back to 1612, Chumleys were the owners, it presumably was abbey land in Whitby, and the Chumleys took over the abbots land after the Dissolution of the abbeys.  The cottage has a date of 1712 on its front, but like all these small tenement places in the yards, had been added to and rebuilt over the last 300 years.
Yards are common in Whitby, tiny cottages grouped round a small square, sometime in the past, if you went up the steps  I would have owned a 'privy', nothing remains of it now, but I do have a tiny space where I can grow plants against the large wall just in front of the house.  This would have a 'kitchen' in times gone by, what the deeds uncovered is, that this bit of land had  not been registered on the land registerybut  it is mine. 
My next door neighbours came out and explained my 'rights' yesterday, they are a very sweet old couple, and said they had learnt that I loved flowers, and showed me the rather grotty flowerboxes I had inherited plus of course a large rhodendron, also my 'dustbin' which was  rather grotty, but they very generously offered me the use of theirs.All in all it is quite exciting, exploring all this new stuff.  People, are of course very warm up North, ready to talk, and best of all they have real flowers at the greengrocers.  Not those terrible coloured monstrosities you get at the supermarkets, but bunches of daffodils - bliss!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bits and pieces

the weather was good for gardening today, clipping and tidying; lavender, mints, and a whole host of things at the front.  Daffodils, tulips and crocus pushing through, in the pub garden miniature irises poke their bright purple heads through. 
I have managed to mostly finish my kitchen dresser though it awaits french polish and gilded door knobs,plus of course dusting some sawdust off which the accurate camera eye reveals.So my mind thinks about the next woodwork project, a corner cupboard maybe, or even a davenport desk?

Then there is the cottage in Whitby everything finalised last friday, and a long trip down there next week, to see what there is to be done, a certain amount of trepidation and excitement.  An article written on Isobel Smith - archaeologist.  One of my gripes is that there are not that many women archaeologist who have gained fame.  There was a Times letter on the issue of reburial of  bones this week, 40 professors, 38 male, 2 female!
Isobel Smith wrote up the notes of Alexander Keiller's excavation of Windmill Hill, and Avebury, I think he had become ill, so she devoted several years to this job and being of an unassuming nature her name does not appear on the front of the book.  She went on to become a senior investigator for the then Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, and then on retirement lived in a small cottage in Avebury. 
so who else, Maud Cunnington - early 20th century and of course Jacquetta Hawkes who wrote with such elegance about history and archaeology.  Not many, true we have a few more 'leading light' female archaeologists now, but still not enough.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blakes Wood

A moss covered path leading to the glade
A blue skied day (the only one) sandwiched between grey, grey days, and whatever comes our way tomorrow!  The above photo is slightly Japanese in its mossiness, but the woods are still bereft of greenery.  Though heart shaped leaves of the violets are pushing through, catkins of course, and honeysuckle leaves  starting to show.  Plus of course the whine of a chainsaw as a great tree came down, we didn't see it but it made a loud noise when it hit the ground.
The computer lost its internet connection yesterday, due to my security system closing it down when a 'hacker' presumably tried to connect.  LS spent a couple of hours with BT on the phone trying to get the connection back but no luck, But a phone call to Dell, and my computer programme got whisked through the airways to Delhi, and a technician cleared the problem.  Tis a wonder of this world, watching someone take over your computer and zoom through all the programs.
It reminded me of the time when my old computer was plugged into Skype and Ghana.  Coming down one lunchtime to it, I could hear the steady drip of water and someone moving in the room, but no it wasn't in Bath it was in Accra thousands of miles away, Ephraim must have moved his computer into the kitchen.

Old Giant

Children often build hideways in the wood

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tissue thin paintings

Bamboo ink painting

Recording LS in the studio, or at least taking photographs of what is happening is an ongoing interest of mine. To be honest many of the scrolls are not to my taste, but the complicated putting together of the many facets of a scroll is fascinating.
Two paintings,if not more on the drying boards, are being restored. The first is a bath scene with two women squabbling. The other is a brush and ink painting of bamboos.

Bath House

The choosing of papers and silks is complicated, mostly done by the collector, but then there are scroll knobs to be found, braid to be bound, and often the added expense of the boxes they are kept in.
The bamboo ink drawing is large, and when finished will probably be bigger than the work bench. From the following photos it can be seen that the papers used are tissue thin, and water has to be applied to take off the two backing papers on either side of the painting. Luckily the old papers came off easily for this bamboo painting, the right amount of paste had been applied 50 years ago, though one false move as they are removed and you tear the painting.

Old paper removed

New ones added
If a hole does appear, or is already there, the wet method of repair is used whereby a small piece of tissue/paper is introduced to the hole and 'wet moulded' to fit, weft and warp of paper matching....
Sometimes paintings can be left on the drying boards for weeks at a time at a tension, and the humidity of the studio has to be watched, this tension helps with the creases, that may have had 'strengthening strips' (another complicated process) to iron them out.

All of this requires a lot of patience, but is fascinating, to watch last year there was a great 18th painting of the Buddha in the studio, it required a lot of work, but one of the fascinating aspects afterwards was the computer expert who had to record it for a catalogue.  He analysised it through a special programme to get the colours rights and also to highlight the seals hidden in the paintings, that told of the school of painters and collectors scroll, the following photo shows the seal of the artist.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Imbolc or Candlemass

February 1st for Imbolc, when the first shoots of greenery are to be had, and the lambs are born. An Irish festival, celebrating the four cross-days, and the beginning of spring. Candlemass of course is the 2nd February and is the christian tradition. Photos from 2007 of the neodruids walking around the bounds of Avebury stone circle...

A good companion

One of the things I haven't written about is my dog Moss, who stayed with my ex-husband last year.  He was a very special dog, my companion on holidays and walking the downs, - Somerset, Wiltshire and Wales we wandered quite happily together.. Collecting all his photos for one album, I realised he had been everywhere with me.  Well just before Xmas he suffered a series of fits and had to be put down, it was a great shock at the time and plenty of tears.  When I thumb through my photos for megalithic stuff he was always there, so as it is his birth date tomorrow (he would have been 11 years old) I decided to put all his photos in one album, well 50 so far, and I realise I shouldn't be too sad because he had a damn good life.
He was beautiful, a blue merle collie with a dash of spaniel, came from Pensford out in the countryside and was a pack leader, sensible and intelligent, he protected me and always managed to find the right path back to the car.   He would chastise young male dogs by taking them by the scruff of the collar and giving them a good shake, but would tolerate small yappy dogs nipping his legs. He carried his ball around most of the time, in fact walking him was wearisome always throwing the ball, and it would have to be hidden.

Anyway to that gorgeous little puppy that grew into an obstreperous teenager who gave me such problems for a while, till he got castrated, who then became the gentle dignified dog for the rest of his life who was much loved  - thank you.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sacred spaces

Greensted Church, its Saxon timbers caught up in the buildings of later centuries

A rather lovely explanation of the word Temenos, from which the sacred grove or Nemeton arises, see down below......

roses and honeysuckle

Blogs on sacred groves (Devon) and gods