Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I have been listening via BBCiplayer this morning to Jonathon Porritt on Schumacher, only to learn that Schumacher vaguely   influenced our prime minister Cameron in his 'Big Society' idea.  Well knock me down with a feather, can a green guru influence Cameron, doubt it given the big world of The City and banks he has to keep happy, but still a nice thought, even Thatcher had read him.
Satish Kumar was on as well, in fact in the latest Resurgence celebrates the 100th anniversary since the day of Schumacher's birth  the magazine had also  printed Schumacher's 'Buddhist Economics' from 1968.

While the materialist is mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist is mainly interested in liberation. But Buddhism is "The Middle Way" and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical well-being. It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them. The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence. From an economist’s point of view, the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the utter rationality of its pattern—amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfactory results.

Even so, I have read all those 'green' books over the years, my sustainable credentials stem from such philosophies so it was like meeting old friends again.  I was spinning at the time, yesterday dyeing and finishing a cushion cover I'd made, all rather simple things... Has the world taken the path of Right Livelihood, a very debatable question and the answer I would give is no, but if there is a coming economic storm when everything goes belly-up again, it would be wise to remember that 'Small is beautiful'.
They also touched on the Findhorn Community, this shows some of the eco-buildings on the original caravan site  , and I notice they have spiritual retreats on the Isles of Iona and Erris, not sure I would want to go on a retreat where I had to share a bedroom with someone else - too much chattering.
But it did bring to mind the Retreat house at St.Non  near St.David , which is set in a beautiful peaceful setting overlooking St.Bride's Bay, a small ruined chapel sits inside a presumed stone circle.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Patchwork and sewing machines

This week I bought a new sewing machine, electric no less, for years I used an old Jones hand sewing machine but it was becoming too heavy to lift, so I reluctantly left it behind in Bath. It had history and belonged to my ex-sister-in law Sylvia, she had lived and studied in America and patchwork and quilting was a hobby of hers.  The machine had been taken over to Blonay when she moved back to Switzerland, and she had given it to me, and I carted it to England, and it is on this machine I did a lot of patchwork.  Mainly for the dogs and cats I had at one stage, Moss, Suki, Tiger and James to be precise, the last, two cats that lived to grand old ages.
Sylvia had a quilting frame, and her work was beautiful, tidy and a work of art, she still does them for the grandchildren but her eyesight is not so good now,
So I have decided to start again with the patchwork, hopefully my impatient nature will calm down and I will sew neatly but simply, small squares are the easiest for me.
The following patchwork is Sylvias', she gave it to my daughter who somehow passed it on to me, but she still 'owns' it; she has a very possessive nature.  I see that the animals have been sleeping in the centre, because there are light mud marks that have'nt come off in the wash.  I am not sure about the pattern, too many bits of material have been used but it must have taken her hours...

The penny has dropped about the pattern,  it is based on a kaleidoscope

I can never achieve her quilting skills or patience,  but the use of materials is interesting, though I said she had lived and studied in America, she went on to work in Hong Kong as a lecturer, so that materials often reflect the different places she has been in.  My first introduction to patchwork had been my mother-in-laws patchwork dressing gown,(I had one to) which she had made for my 3 year old daughter, it was cute but made out of Thai batik materials.

Looking on the internet last night I came across Japanese materials for patchwork, strangely enough a bit like the silks in the studio used for the hanging scrolls

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Diary keeping

Another quiet week, though on the heritage front, two shocking things, well at least for those that care, the first story we covered was a stone circle on Penwith Moors in Cornwall, the moors had been enclosed by fencing within the last couple of years, and under an agricultural scheme they were to be grazed by a local farmer's cattle (for which he gets paid).  The moors are very popular, walkers, tourists and horseriders enjoy walking across it, but new 'furniture' in the shape of gates, stiles and gridded cattleways has made quite a few people unhappy.  Then came the cows, no ordinary creatures but rather beautiful long horned cows who amble along rather menacingly but are probably harmless to humans.  But not to the stones, and they have been using the rather small stones  of the circle to rub against, something natural to cattle.
English Heritage has said that they will look into it, lets hope they do it soon, Scheduled Ancient Monuments are protected under the law.....

Not a very good photo but it was 'fastcaptured' from a video.
The second thing to happen was the revelation that part of one of the circles of the Priddy Henges had been bulldozed, this was more serious as there is no going back on bulldozing earthworks.  The Priddy Circles/henges are of course unique, especially in North Somerset, aerial photography captures them best, three circles across the landscape followed by a fourth at an oblique angle.  The reason why is still unclear, the field belonged to a house that is now on the market, the damage done is irreplaceable though. Again English Heritage seems to know about it but in this instance the case is still to be dealt with.

So apart from above, life is quiet, the cottage (hurrah) is in the process of being plastered, two rooms down and a third to go an email tells me this morning, plus of course some slight repair to the chimney.
Photographs in the garden show my inability to capture the bumblebees and hoverflies that feed on nectar. 

Snapdragons planted for bumble bees

I planted a lot of lobelia this year just for its pretty tumbling affect, but tiny bees and hoverfly manage to land on its flowers.

The bees land on the lip of the bottom petal of the flowers, travelling further in the bee gets pollen rubbed onto its back by the stamens, when the bee comes out they 'groom' the pollen off their 'furry' backs into the little sacs by their back legs.

The two linear bronze age barrow cemeteries near to Priddy circles.....   


Friday, June 17, 2011

This week

Lillie and Matilda (dancing around as always) in the shop*

This week I wanted to be in Whitby, firstly for the little one's birthday, and the birthday tea, but they all went for a meal to a fish and chip restaurant, which Lillie chose for the best chips, she is a connoisseur of both chocolate cake and chips.  But there was no point as the cottage still is not finished, work hardly started.

After a long 6 week wait for the bathroom stuff to arrive, there were other calls on my son-in-law's time and so it stagnated. But work has started, the last of the woodchip is scraped off the wall, the plasterer is coming next monday, to plaster it smooth rather than rough, and then the central heating and bathroom will go in.  After that painting, carpets and furniture, so I begin to get excited and choose the beds and sofas I need, heeding the need to measure everything and then plot it out on the floor, just like Kirsty Allsop who I've been watching on tv, she romps around full of energy, trying different skills and crafts but she is way out of my league, and I'm not sure I want to go round poking around in skips, but there are auction rooms in Whitby which I'm looking forward to.

* The shop is no longer in the family, no one is missing it at all, and though it was pretty inside, a bit like my cottage, flooding in the basement and a bad absent landlord meant that nothing was done.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

St.Botolph's Church puddingstone

A trip out to the Rodings today to checkout a stone in Beauchamp Roding. The church sits all alone in the centre of some fields, we passed barley on one side and broad beans on the other. Following a small, almost dried out brook, but the meadowsweet was just about to come out into flower. The church setting is very tranquil it sits at the highest point of the ridge, and that is not very high in Essex!. Its Norman, details below, and in dire need of repair, the ivy growing on the outside wall is also growing inside through a great crack that is separating the nave from the chancel.
Great yew trees round the edge, with at least two badger setts at opposite ends of the graveyard, plus the ground is riddled with rabbit holes. A ditch runs all round the church, giving it the appearance of a moated grange, I don't know. There are plenty of moats round this area of Chipping Ongar, an early medieval form of defence maybe, or to keep animals at bay from straying from the common land.
We had gone to see if the stone that resides in the grave yard was prehistoric, it is again difficult to tell, it is indeed partly puddlestone, and the theory has been put forward that it is part of the Puddlestone Trail which would have carried Neolithic axes from Grimes Grave in Norfolk to Stonehenge and that area.
Could well be that there is a Saxon origin here, Greensted church is a few miles away, the stone standing on a trackway, but there is no archaeological record at SEAX.

Perfectly simple and beautiful

Meadowsweet in a rather dry brook up to the church

The Puddingstone in the grave yard

Badger hole under old yew tree

St.Botolph's Church and its bank

Clearer view

The ancient parish church of ST. BOTOLPH stands on rising ground, the churchyard being completely surrounded by fields. The dedication suggests that there was a church at Beauchamp Roding before the Norman Conquest. The building consists of nave, chancel, west tower, and south porch. The walls are of flint rubble mixed with freestone. The nave is built on an 11th- or 12th-century plan but the present structure probably dates from the 14th century. In the 15th century the tower was added and the chancel rebuilt. The porch dates from 1870.

Botwulf of Thorney (also called Botolph, Botulph or Botulf; d. c. 680) was an 
English saint  of travellers and the various aspects of farming...

Reflecting on the fate of these out of the way churches, decline in church attendance and you know that St.Botolph's will eventually fall into decay and ruin, there is really not enough money out there to repair all the churches that are slowly dying of neglect.  What is the answer, sell them on as family dwelling places, its a bit spooky having a garden full of grave stones, there is no answer for isolated churches.  Mundon church is being repaired by Friends of Friendless churches but their grants are a small drop in the ocean.  Fairfield church which we visited recently has the same air of closure, St.Peter on the Wall has been restored for its link with the Roman forts, and Great Canfield will also be looked after for its pagan depictions on its doorway and painted surfaces inside.
The book I'm reading at the moment is about John Piper the painter, he lived through the last century and lived a busy and fruitful life.  One of his interests were churches, some of his stained glasswork is beautiful see Coventry Cathedral, but he went round with his friends such as John Betjman and Geoffrey Grigson studying and sketching the churches and belonged strangely enough to the Friends of Friendless churches, a bit like an earlier favourite painter of mine, William Morris who was against Victorian restoration of churches.
So is the stone prehistoric in the church yard? I think yes, given that we have seen stones at Alphamstone Church and Ingatestone Church, there is often a direct association of pagan 'rememberance' at some churches, not all of course.  Bartlow Church with its 'v' shaped paths, one leading up to the church, the other leading round the church to the great Romano-British barrows behind with their native Iron Age chiefs buried in state.  There are fragments of the past, some strongly Saxon, Broomfield church with its rich warrior Saxon grave has pudding stone in its fabric, and so many churches we have seen have roman tile as well.  These Roman villas would still have been extant when the Saxons invaded. They chose to ignore such building material and built in wood such as Greensted church, so there is very little remaining of Saxon churches, but it is still there in the later wonderful timber, lathe and plaster storied cottages to be found round Essex.

Ivy growing inside the church

view of the Essex countryside from the church
Badger sett under the yew tree


Thursday, June 9, 2011


Every now and then, I get obsessed by colour, this time it's orange and yellow.  I have been dyeing wool with turmeric and sappanwood recently, both giving the colours of Tibetan Buddhists monk's robes. They have such clear colours very similar to  the nasturtiums in the garden. Colour is fascinating to play with, if you single ply some silk then ply together with wool, interesting shading and contrasting colour will appear when dyed. You can even get obssessive about spinning and dyeing ending up with too much wool to knit.  As an inspiration Alison Daykin and Jane Deane have been doing this for years.

Turmeric chips


Elderflower made a couple of weeks ago

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Paper Mill Lock

Yesterday I fancied carrot cake and tea at the wooden hut tea place at Paper Mill lock, its very popular, people potter along the riverbank with dogs, bicycles, children and mess around on their boats. The river itself is full, though we have hardly had any rain for months, the ducks also potter around amongst the tables cadging food.
Of the dozen or so photos I took of the large hawking dragonflies only one came out but there was emerald/turquoise demoiselles, their wings like furry eyelashes; brown and blue hawker dragonflies and the very large blue/green one with golden eyes. Of the damsel flies, groups of turquoise/blue slender insects spiralled around, landing on the great water lily pads. The colours of this large group of insects is hard to describe, metallic like the coloured beatles in the garden they have a radiance that needs capturing with paint..

Evil Hogweed unfurling rather beautifully.  The square (or spotted) stems of plants tells of their poisonous habit.

Ducks and white water lilies

Barges and tea.  This barge was just setting off laden with food and white balloons, probably a wedding reception will be held on board, and as it was heading upstream the little Ulting Church by the riverside would probably fit the menu nicely.

I often wonder if the boats ever go out for a sail

five minutes from the clutter of boats

Blue bodied dragonfly

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Boyd River

I have'nt written in my blog for ages, writer's block perhaps, or the fact that I've been spinning furiously the Bluefaced Leicester wool I received last week.  I should write an article or two for elsewhere but nothing comes, so heigh-ho.... but I did come across the following poem. My mind had been wandering down the events of this week, firstly, Marlborough Mound in Marlborough College has a prehistoric foundation, it was thought to be a Norman motte but core drilling has proved otherwise.  Silbury Hill down the road in Avebury (the biggest artifical mound in Europe) has a 'sister' it seems now, though not so big but nevertheless large artifical 'hills or mounds', seem to be part of the sacred landscape scheme for this part of Wiltshire, there is also the large Hatfield barrow (now destroyed) as well. 
Then on a forum people were talking about 'Springwatch' and it bought to mind another TV show which I enjoyed far more than Springwatch this was something called 'Secret River' in which husband and wife (and their two young children) team naturalists explored the river running alongside there cottage.
It was the River Boyd in South Gloucestershire, and one I had walked along.  It runs through a beautiful gorge, now quarried, though a great deal of it is a nature reserve called the Golden Valley, it also at one stage had an ochre factory in it in the 19th century...  but which, before I run on, has a fairly large barrow at the point where the River Boyd runs into the the larger River Avon (the mother river)..

So if we take the second line of part of the poem; The two villages now are Doddington (Deington) and Wick (Weeke) and the cliffs are of course the gorge in Wick. 

And thou sweet Boyd that with thy watry sway

Dost wash the cliffes of Deington and of Weeke
And through their rocks with crooked winding way
Thy Mother Avon runnest soft to seek
In whose fair streams the speckled trout doth play
The roche the dace the gudgin and the bleeke
Teach me the skill with slender line and hook
to take each fish of river pond and brook.

John Dennys is described as the first poet to write on angling, in the early 17th century (The Secrets of Angling) three books I believe of poetry to the fish, angling and beautiful countryside round his home, Wick by the way is only a few miles from Bath and falls on the boundary between Somerset and Gloucester.

As a child, catching the little minnows that swam in the ponds in the park, was later augmented by fishing in Bovey Belle's river, though I'm sure she doesn't own it! But for the moment can't think of its name. As children we were sent away to farms in the school holidays, the one in Wales we were sent to had the river running through the bottom field.  Here I learnt to 'tickle' trout, often in the company of the farm pig, who was a friendly creature and followed us children around like a dog.  The only thing I can remember about this huge pink sow, was how large spidery things rushed through the dense prickly hair of the creature, cannot think what they were...
My grandfather also spent weekends fishing here for salmon, which would be brought home and would fill the old refrigerator in the scullery, these were the days when food was still restricted after the war late into the 1950's.  So though I  frown on the sport of angling as it is conducted today, catching and then throwing the fish back,  line fishing for one's supper is the best way to go about it.