Saturday, April 30, 2011


Blakes Wood; This old wood is like a treasure trove of wild flowers, tumbled trees, the chainsaw has already been at work in another part of the wood, great piles of logs stacked up, the brushwood also piled high. Again we hear a cuckoo, twice in one week, are they making a comeback? There is also the noise, the branches rubbing together as the wind takes hold of them, creaking sometimes like an old sprung mattress. Dogs bark excitedly somewhere else, a labrador trots past his lower half wet where he has been in the stream.

starwort as well

pyramidal bugle amongst the bluebells


shaded areas giving a deeper blue

yellow rattle

Catching up

Keeping up with the world, all the excitement of yesterday has gone, the horses, carriages and soldiers, it went with a marvellous precision.  To be honest the horses were what I wanted to see the whole paraphenalia of jangling harnesses and tossing heads.  Their gleaming dark coats as they stood patiently (some not so patiently) waiting for the show to begin.  The couple happy, everything relaxed and informal.
I do not like London, in all the time I lived in Bath I never ventured there, except perhaps when there was an exhibition at the British Museum.  The horses funnily enough jogged a memory, I had been to see the carriages and horses with an old friend many years ago.  I never quite fathomed whether the stables were open to the public, or that she knew someone.
Of course we took the grandchildren to 'see' London last year, walking everywhere all day.  The British Museum was so crowded, jostling round the mummies, with a hundred languages drifting in and out of your ear.  Lillie posing by a naked goddess, much to the amusement of the onlookers.  Matilda dancing around, we ended up at Horse Guard Parade, and she posed with the sentry on duty.  But when they changed over, with the gruff voice of the sergeant barking out orders, Lillie fled terrified and threw herself into my arms.  The abiding memory is seeing her on someone's shoulders, making her 'loser' sign to her brothers with a great grin, as she was carried above the crowd.
This week I have been mulling over making a miniature Japanese teahouse, they are fairly empty inside, but to be truthful it is the marvellous rock gardens that have taken my fancy. I shall start with the inner 'sacred' space.
We walked by the river yesterday, cow parsley in all its glory lined the banks, a thick sweet smelling carpet following the curves of the river.  There was even the sound of the cuckoo a couple of days back, and of course the hawthorn is out, a glorious show of white along all the hedgerows.  Pale purple wistaria's tumble off houses, and we still have'nt been out to see the bluebells.  But the tiny meadow cranesbill are to be seen in the fields, and the trailing purple of the pea vetches as well.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

St.Peter on the Wall 2

Yesterday we went to St.Peter on the Wall Chapel and as I have already written about it here, there is not much to add, except.............. well for a start we went on Good Friday, that most holy of days if you are a catholic (and I'm not, agnosticism is more my line), but it is the atmospheric austere Celtic chapel which pulls you back into spiritual contemplation. Historically it  probably represents an early tumultuous religious time, the time when the Roman church won the battle over the  British Celtic church and the Pelagius Heresy, a split that had profound implications in the underwriting of religion in this country.  But again this is not why we should feel awe at this modest church, it also lies on the line of the Roman forts that traversed this part of the coast, it is built from Roman materials of the old redundant fort of Othona. Again a milestone in history, when Britain was devastated by the Romans and their legions slaughtered the natives till they gave way to subjection and slavery.  Rome may have encapsulated  a great empire, but like all empires, it sought only gain and economic wealth, and Britain was ripe for the picking.

The three stones that are shown on the altar, come from the North, two of the stones come from the  Lindisfarne and Iona islands, both islands ravaged by the savage raids of the Vikings. To be a monk a this time was to court sainthood by horrendous barbaric death.

There was nothing gentle and calm in these ages, only blood and death and when you look at the high windows  of the church, you must remember that it is a defensive building as well as a place of spiritual contemplation. Also like Britain the building has suffered many changes, for centuries it was used as a barn, and you can still see the outline of the great arched doorways that would have been needed to bring in the wagons and their horses.

But now the land around is peaceful, flat is the word that comes to mind, a place where the sea tips over the edge of the world into a vast space below.  The Dengie marshes that is the watery barrier between land and sea, have the pale colours of grey and brown, this palette enlivened by the sea-green colour of plants.  Water squelches under foot should you walk into it, salty to the tongue, this is a place of mournful birds, I would say the peewit, but don't know its cry! 

To the right, below the great bank that protects the land from the sea, is a little wooden cottage, set high on a grassy knoll, it must belong to the Othona Community that lies behind the wooded copse to the north of the church.
Spiritual contemplation is what we go for today, for it welcomes all from any denominations and non-believers too, the myth of Jesus on the cross is there to see, but also this is a place you can ask many questions as to why religion sits  uneasily in so many souls. For me it is nature that holds the sacred key, oblivious to our need to make war and cultivate the soil, it goes on season after season, creating beauty without even questioning the nature of beauty.  The strong force of nature bringing forth new life, the male blackbird in the garden tamed by the need for food for his young to beg; the plants reaching out to the sun;  the pale green of new leaf on old trees; the little lane its hedge bank toppling over with the creamy foam of cow parsley underscored by the white starwort.  Bluebells are showing in the woods, their translucence difficult to define, perhaps it is the play of shadow and sunlight. Spring has no equal for a short while.

Bradwell on Sea village, one mile from the St.Peter's church, and about two miles from the decommissioned nuclear plant!

Part of the estuary, Oyster Spit I think; bungalows and boats are the main things to be found here

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The first cowslips I've seen in Essex, and sadly on the water meadows where development will at some time take place

Rape flower, so dazzlingly bright it hurts the eye

Life is seemingly quiet at the moment, must be all that glorious weather we are having. The world seems full of nature, our squirrel comes down and eats all the sunflower seeds from the bread thrown down for the birds, a little robin's nest was spied at the garden nursery centre the other day.  Tucked away behind the ferns on sale, 6 small eggs, apparently the robin does it every spring.
Yesterday we went for a meal at the pub in celebration of getting a new bookcase finally settled at home.  In the field where the gypsy horses are kept is a new young foal, the first of the season.  He was still finding his rather long legs awkward, copying his mother drinking, he had to splay his legs like a giraffe, the mares are still bickering amongst themselves though.
The bookcase was bought from T.K.Max, that shop where everything is supposed to be cheaper.  It is  large and has glass panels, so we decided we could'nt fit it in the car, but the shop did'nt deliver, so what to do...  Well the Yellow Pages turned up someone in Gt.Dunmow who moved stuff and he came yesterday with a big white van and the deed was successfully done.  My books have been in crates for about 6 months so it was good to unpack them.
He kept bantams so we reminscienced about how friendly the little creatures are, how they would sit on the back of your bench and chatter in your ears.  Mine were the same, always joining you for tea and coffee and muttering away to themselves as they busily cleaned their feathers..there is a lot to be said for bantams! Anyway I now have his address should I require bantams in the future..
Easter approaches, and I signed up to Jacquie Lawson, that purveyor of musical cards, so loved by my granddaughters. Lillie, aged 4 is learning to write emails, she is at that moment in time when letters and words are suddenly coming to focus in her mind, and plays endless word games on cbbc. 

And if you haven't seen it the T.Mobile Advert

Back view with his 'aunt' he gets told off at some stage

soft beigy coat and quite a pretty face

As he is a male not sure of his fate, after seeing the dartmoor ponies on Countryfile this weekend that are culled annually.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blog Awards

For which I am very grateful, but not quite sure what to do with them - be quiet at the back!

My first always pops up on links  to various blogs and is from misswhistle in America, who writes on so many subjects that I am  overawed, but if it comes to nominations then she must be on my list as a nominee....
I love dogs, horses, food and the small miscellany of life that she writes about, and the glimpses that it gives me into American life.  Also I would like to add Morning Minion who has also been a favourite read for a few months now.

My second nomination came from Bovey Belle in Wales, land of my dreams of course, we are very similar in what we write about a keen delight in history and the world around us, and I have visited her fabulous house in the middle of nowhere ;) but is a place of ghost stories and beams...
Anyhow, this is, the photo of which I can't upload...
 The Liebster Award which is designed to be awarded to ‘small’ blogs with less than 300 subscribers to spread the blog love and get them out to a wider audience.

The rules are:
1. Post displaying the award, linking back to the person who awarded you.
2. Choose your own blog picks and let them know they’re awarded.
3. Hope everyone discovers some new favourites.
4. Revel in the blog love! Here are my choices to receive the award. Enjoy!

Well to be honest I enjoy everyone's blog, so I am not choosing, there is a big list down the side of my blog and I am quite happy with that!!

The last of the dyeing

My bluefaced leicester wool for spinning is coming to an end, so the last few hanks to be dyed was  firstly, turmeric, (in wood chips rather than powder form) sappanwood (Japan) which is a very red bark, but gave orange, and redyeing some indigo with the artificial dye.
The turmeric came out a bright yellow, cream of tartar (for softening the wool) and white vinegar for fixing the colour.
Sappanwood, though giving a deep dark red dye in the pot, and turning the muslim cloth into purple; the wool actually came out as orange with the added cream of tartar and vinegar..
But the indigo was the most exciting.... I had dyed some wool last year but without any special chemical which you need to fix it, it had turned blue but the dye came off the wool on your hands.
Tracking down some washing soda, (its all cillit bang out there, the cleaner that must take the skin off your hands looking at the adverts!) which I needed, though you can use some form of wood ash, I also got Spectralite, which does some magic as well in the dyepot - well beyond my means of understanding - and I was ready to experiment.
Indigo is a fascinating natural dye, in this country we used woad, first year plants have the strongest dye colouring but they have to be soaked (in the olden days in urine) to release the colour.
So this is what happened in the dyepot... both agents Spectralite and washing soda was added to the water, and foamed away quite happily, the dark blue wool already wet was added, then the colour started to disappear so that eventually it went back to its original cream. The water had turned a pale green,  when it came to the simmering point I took the saucepan outside and hung the hanks of wool on the washing line.  Slowly from the pale creamy-green they turned blue, due to the oxidisation that was taking place. Magic.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Books on the move


Yesterday whilst walking down to our retail centre over the green, happened to spy a book on a bench. So went over and picked it up. It was a Margaret Atwood book, deliberately left to be picked up it had gone 'wild'. The name of the person was inside alongside the number of the book, with email address....
So I logged on added that I picked this book up, I think part of the campaign (there are I believe a million books out there) is to see how far they travel.
Well as there are 600 odd pages to read my temporary loan will be quite long, mulling over where to leave it, maybe York Station or even Whitby one can see dangers for releasing books into the wild, but it is an engaging challenge...
I found a book on a bench outside Tockmarton church a couple of years ago, but left it as the title was not very interesting and it seemed better to leave the book in the village.
The Blind Assassin is pretty good, 200 pages so far!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Blakes Wood

Coppice and wood anemones

violet, wood anemone and celandine making a pretty vaseful
wood spurge

not sure, but pretty tiny flower

incredible blue sky

primroses in a cleared patch

this may look unexciting, but the unopened stalks are bugle.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Colour shocks and spring

Quintessential Essex, water, mill and a beautiful red chestnut tree!
Coggeshall Abbey Mill
The weather is glorious, a time for sowing seeds and gardening, pots to be filled, tomato plants to be brought.  Saw the first swift fly overhead yesterday(think it was a swift it was longtailed) which was a great thrill they are always somewhat later on the Lansdown. Birds bicker and sing their songs loudly in the garden, the doves chasing the thieving magpies.  The cherry blossom is at its most beautiful with large bumble bees bumbling around  and the Bowles Purple wallflower is full of the little pulmonaria bees with their long probiscis's.
So apart from gardening yesterday also dyed wool, which I have been spinning the last few weeks.  I used my acid dyes, with cream of tartar and white vinegar to set the colour, and produced some rather vivid colours, the chartreuse hits you in the eye every time.  Different colours are useful for fair isle work.

The dollhouse is also undergoing renovation after 30 years, yesterday I made a small photo album of its restoration for my youngest granddaughter who is full of chicken-pox at the moment, poor little mite and very miserable. Its a sort of joke in the family that there are three houses being renovated - the dollshouse being the simplest.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Beckford Tower

Looking at it, I realised that I had meant to write, or at least put on my blog the photos I had taken of Beckford Tower.  The hat shop has a golden cupola very much like the one on top of the tower.
Now William Beckford was an eccentric in the 18th century, he built Fonthill Abbey, which fell down after a few years due to shoddy workmanship of the builder AND its tower was too big.  So Beckford moved to Bath bought a Georgian terraced house on one of the upper slopes, and then bought another house on the other side of the lane, and promptly built a bridge (very much like Pulteney Bridge in Bath) to join them up.
From here he made a path (about half a mile) to the top of the Lansdown, where he built his tower, and he would ride up each day and read/write his books.  When he died the gardens of the tower were turned into a Victorian cemetery, with the most exotic and glorious gravestones I've seen in a while.
The garden itself was sunken, probably square, and what you see today is a tumbledown, ankle breaking grave yard filled with primroses and violets in spring.

Tower in the distance

Part of the slopes of the Lansdown, a steep walk up from the village, but early morning there often would be deer in the fields.

Jumbled gravestones
This is Beckfords grave, mounted on something that looks like a barrow with a ditch. Its rather empty, his wife had died before him and his daughter obviously did'nt want to join him.

These are a favourite because of the detail on the gravestones

The three intrepid photographers being taught by me on how to take interesting photos, not of each other all the time.  The camera was brought for the trip to Ghana