Saturday, February 28, 2015

Anglo-Saxon brooches

Stunning 7th century gold Anglo-Saxon brooch found in South Norfolk, albeit a bit grubby.  Latest find by an archaeological student with a metal detector in a field, and properly excavated to boot.
I include the later 9th century Strickland brooch for comparison and also the 7th century Street House brooch, with the familiar Anglo-Saxon garnet inlays.  Four large garnets equally spaced occur in all three, though the central bosses are different.  The Strickland brooch has a quatrefoil cross in it's centre and being much later of course a thoroughly 'Christianised' piece of work, the Street House brooch also has a distinctive Christian gold cross pattern, lying behind  the central roundel.   Whereas the Norfolk brooch central area seems to be raised beneath the dirt but at the moment has no defining pattern due to its uncleaned state at the moment.
The visual messages and stories to be read, are there in the brooches, the status of the wearer in the use of gold and silver, religious significance, Christianity wrapped round the Scandinavian love of the natural world with it's animals and birds.  Woden/Odin may possibly be found, with his two ravens, protecting the wearer from possible dangers.   There is a text which we may not understand but like a book can be read.  Though this is only speculation it would appear that the four equally spaced large garnets  are to do with the four corners of the earth, not that they knew the earth was round, but if you contemplate your own body and vision, these four stations morphed somewaht boringly into N/W/S/E, would describe the known world then.

7th Century

 7th century - Street House excavation in Yorkshire @ Creative Commons

9th Century - Strickland Brooch

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bee musings

Kate Lynch painting taken from the Beekeeper and the Bee

It is obvious by now that I love things that are about nature and the world around us, so this painting, though slightly blurry will not come amiss.  It illustrated a story in Resurgence magazine. The article I was reading had the title 'We Need New Stories' and discussed how our world evolves through the story we live through in the present and of course how the past narrative evolves the present.  My reality is not the reality of the person reading my blog, we travel a certain part of the way in our thinking and then we divide into our own personal perspectives but we share our western European values, which at the moment seem to be under threat but that will pass.

Stories are important, read Aesop Fables for morality, and stating the obvious.  It was while I made the bread this morning, sifting its powdery substance with yeast, salt, sugar, seeds and water, it was like the Universe with a million stars, the grains so finely milled down, a million stories  sliding through my fingers.

I am not sure what story the ecological 'green' story will bring to us, there are plenty of people to write and theorise about it, but the 'happening' of it has a long way to go, and therefore we find apocalyptic stories about catastrophes that could or could not happen, we seemingly fight endlessly to save the bee, or tiger, or elephant, I could go on, but each thing though small, transforms into a wider knowledge of how our behaviour should adjust.

The writer, Jonathon Dawson, wrote the story small, for humans only? "An essential element of the journey to a new story fit for the 21st century may involve little more than creating spaces in which people  can enjoy a lived experience of relations mediated by care, community and cooperation".  I would rather tell the story of Gaia, though again I know there is a myth wrapped up in the idea that our world lives in a state of homeostasis and is self-adjusting.

So to another painter, J.C. Young who captured the solitary standing stones in Pembrokeshire, for me her paintings are so peaceful, the timeless stones forever captured in a landscape I know so well.

Waun Lwyd Stones - Mynachlog Ddu

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Creative Commons;  Original by John Tenniel

Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind face 'Cash for Access' Allegations

Did you wonder perhaps yesterday that Lewis Carroll had materialised out of the skirting board  and the Mad Hatter's Tea Party was unfolding in front of your eyes? Yes I am talking of Messrs. Rifkind and Straw, as we watched these two vain arrogant men from the hidden camera positioned at eye level at the tables they sat at, whilst being interviewed by obviously attractive females! Did the mote finally fall from your eyes as they glibly boasted of positions in the House of Lords,  it's a foregone conclusion as far as they are concerned.  Did you jaw not drop a little when Straw boasted he expected £5000 a day for 'favours' in parliament, and you get a free tour round its illustrious corridors thrown into the bargain!  Rifkind doesn't seem to work for 75 % of the times so he says, he has bags of time to fulfil your needs, (spends most of his time walking and reading,) and for a slightly higher day fee, maybe £8000, though I would add an addenda here he doesn't actually work ALL day, just a morning or an afternoon, but hey these two 'grandees' have been ministers in their time they know all the 'right' people.   You could not make it up, just sit there and giggle hysterically ;)

So we might be on the move, and it is to be Church House if everything goes through successfully, and there are still long days to May when the vendors for this house want it.  Slight panic yesterday as no one could get in touch the seller of the Normanby house, but he turned up later in the day thankfully.  So I have already prepared my speech for the vicar, ' I am an atheist but love churches' and will be happy living next to your grave yard, because although I don't believe in ghosts, at least I can get up on All Saints night and just check if the walking dead are around...  The house has been on the market for quite a while, and though solidly (but boringly) built is near to the River Seven which can flood and I expect might have put people off, but who would not live in exciting times.  Morning Minion (Sharon) congratulations on your final move to the farmhouse, which I saw on your F/B page this morning, this house is not to be our 'forever house' so my love says but I can have my chickens and dogs whilst residing there;) as he can have his shed to potter around in....

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Spotted creatures

Links for notes....

What have metal detectorists done for us? A case study of Bronze Age Gold in England and Wales

Fascinating, is there a slow acceptance of metal detectorists becoming more law biding, and given the archaeologists rather poorer show of finding hoards and single gold objects does that mean the hobby will be pulled round to a lawful pursuit. Times will tell......
And to something completely different, how do two similar tombstones look alike - job lot in tombstones in the Viking era, or perhaps two artists using the same drawing....

Viking gravestone with a Ringerike-style beast (reconstruction drawing showing original colouring)St.Paul's churchyard, City of London 11th century (Drawing Eva Wilson) Taken from Anglo-Saxon Art.
A photo on Flickr shows the tombstone which is exactly like the top drawing

So did this 'Saxon/Viking tombstone drawing below get copied from the London Viking tombstone drawing, or are they identical?

This of course comes from the Great Canfield Church in Essex

"Even though the ornamentation and in some cases the runic inscriptions of this group of Ringerike style stone sculpture point to a Scandinavian background, the shape of these slabs is also found on other sepulchral sculpture in South-East England;
note; check Ringerike carving from Rochester.
In addition there are parallel-sided, square-headed grave markers, amongst the the above mentioned, St Paul stone, from the same period.
This indicates that Ringerike style stone carvings in England cannot only be viewed as Scandinavian ornamentation and Anglo-Saxon grave forms.
The group also mark interfaces between Scandinavian and also A/S burial and memorial traditions, places where interchanges of ideas and practices apparently took place in the early 11th C.  In connection with this, the often cited rune stone from Navelsjo in Smaland should also be taken into consideration.  It is raised in memory of Gunnar who was laid in a stone coffin (stainpro) in Bath, England by his brother Helge.  Like the Ringerike style stone sculpture it clearly illustrates intertwined A/S connection as well as Scandinavian knowledge of English Grave monuments.
St. Paul stone;  Had engraved 'Ginna and Toke had this stone laid'.  The stone originally had a roughly dressed lower portion for insertion into the ground...

Taken from; Early Christian Grave Monuments and the 11th  C context of the monument marker - Hvalf

Acquisition - Viking Hoards

Saturday, February 21, 2015

River Severn Bore

Courtesy of The Independent.
The wave travels 25 miles inland, presumably losing height and force as it goes.

It's that time of year, the foolhardy round Somerset ride the great wave that washes up the Bristol Channel, as the tidal sea rushes down the river, the wave is thrust through the narrowing banks of the river.
For the tales of Nennius you must read this old blog, and how it swept away the Roman army and its horses as they crossed into Wales.
For today's news 'Riding the Bore' you must read The Independent and watch the video, and I hope that swan emerged unscathed at the end of the video!

Friday, February 20, 2015


I am frozen in time, suspended in movement, we have people coming to look at the house, so tidiness must rule, time to bring order; I sit at the computer filing photographs.  The photos below are an expansion of the one above.  The Winterbourne on a cold morning some years ago.  I love water, its movement, its reflections, and also the sound of it.  The old willow, not really a stump it has just had old branches removed, one has fallen in a storm.  Of course to follow this path you must head for Avebury, park in the car park, cross the road and then take the path to Silbury,

The Winterbourne will after crossing the road under a bridge by Silbury Hill, curve round a field and then join the Kennet river at Swallowhead spring.  Which also has an old willow, this one normally regaled in Pagan bits and pieces.  This site is seen as 'sacred' to many people, but it is also a 'fortuitous happening', the meeting of two rivers at the spring below Silbury, and whether this has anything to do with the great mound of Silbury being built is anyone's guess.

A certain amount of my time on the internet has been to do with the protection of Ancient Scheduled monuments, Silbury of course went through a great deal of work, when a hole developed in the top some years ago.  It has now been filled in, no great 'king' was found buried in its midst sadly and the myths and legends that abound round the mound and its river are the stuff of stories, whether you see the great 'mother goddess' in the form is another thing but speculation abounds round this watery place.  There is even a ditch round the mound which will of course fill up in winter....

Silbury, Neolithic mound built around 2400 BC

The Winterbourne winding its way to the Kennet

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cricket bats and willows

The following photos of a walk we took along the river yesterday, the day had started crisp and frosty, but by mid-morning the paths had turned to mud.  It had been raining the night before, and the river was high, its muddy waters almost spilling across  the path.  There was a lot of activity, and we later learned that the banks were getting their annual clear up by volunteers.  A dozen or so large willow trees had  also  been cut down and had been replaced by tall saplings at their side.  
The man in the yellow machine chatted away to us, and said, that the willow trees were all going to be made into cricket bats, and they would be sold world wide.  Not quite trusting him, I looked at the internet and true enough it is a company in Great Leighs that cut the willows here and also somewhere along a Suffolk river.  Sad to see these trees go, their gray-green leaves rustling in the breeze but I suppose they will have some glory in winning the Ashes cup.  Selling the trees pay by the way for the tidying up of the river, what worries me with all this beautifying is that the land has been earmarked by a large company for a 'waterside park', though building on this land which floods regularly would not be a smart move....

Could not bring myself to photograph the cut stumps close-up

Hard core on the path, which the little machine is shuffling along

The Mill

A slightly blurry  picture of the tumbling mill race

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday 17th February

You would never guess what this platform is at Skinning Grove for, if I did not give it a caption.  It is the platform on which something like a dragon is burnt on Bonfire Nights for which hundreds of people come to watch as the fireworks light the sky.  We came on this several years ago, the 'we' is the family we had been following the coastal road, past the great potash mine, the deepest in the country, and then down we swooped to this rather drab village  and this strange wooden frame on the beach.  Allotments clung to the steep hill, and the whole scene set my soul into a downward spiral, and our arrival at some bleak seaside town did nothing to cheer me up.

If I could find the set of photos, there would Matilda soaking wet wrapped in my cardigan, after a great wave suddenly rolled onto the beach, catching her tiny legs and dragging her under, so that our laughter turned to fear as we all rushed to pull her out.  Lillie, a baby then, wrapped tight in her father's jacket as we faced the cold North wind, a typical seaside day in England.  It reminds me of my own childhood, holidays in Bournemouth, coming out cold from the sea, wrapped in a towel, teeth chattering, goose pimples........

Bleak cold Yorkshire beaches!

Something more cheerful a photo taken yesterday on a walk round our area.  A small copse of snowdrops, they intrigue me.  This back lane belongs to the neglected outskirts of Chelmsford, forgotten land given to flooding, was there once a cottage here beside this small copse and that first clump replenished itself a thousand times I wonder? no history comes to light.....

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Fonts and Links - Avebury Church

The heart of a 1700 year old yew at Alton Priors, Wiltshire

I find this tree extraordinary and perhaps it should be the header but not for the moment, the font at St.James church in Avebury but whilst reading and sorting some of the stuff on my other blog, 'Poem, Paintings and Photos I came across the following Dragons and Yews, from which the new header is taken, which led to St.James church at Avebury which  has the spectacular font from which all sorts of stories can be gathered.  As I pottered all through  in usual fashion getting completely lost with the links I chased.,  I came across Meanderings which probably gives a much fuller picture.  Did I really write and research all this.... can't believe it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thursday 12th February

I know I should not publish this, but if anyone caught half of what went on in Prime Minster's question time yesterday, will know exactly the feeling of pure despair as the two leaders waltzed round the actual subject matter of tax evasion that has gone through the Swiss bank of HSBC. Childish behaviour does not even begin to describe it.  I am so pleased that Guardian cartoonists exist. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

It's Arrived!!

Moss's drawing arrived yesterday morning, as the postman rapped at the door, LS said 'it's here' and I signed for it.  Beautifully packed, it was a thrill to actually see the real thing, and I must thank Em for drawing him a second time. The frame is bought and both will be united together sometime today.
I put him on my facebook page, and several people have recognised him from the past, which I was not really expecting.

As I explained to Em, Moss was a special dog in my life, and when he died five years ago it broke my heart.  Moral being of course, never let animals into your life, because they live so much shorter lives than you!  Well last night, I dreamed of puppies and a rather large hare, so what with Easter coming and Jan the sheepdog who should be ready for mating in February, perhaps it is a dream of the future.  Roy, Jan's owner has said he would give me a puppy, which should arrive in the summer if all goes well.

Talking of weird dreams, the night before I dreamt the postman (he must have been very small) peered over the kitchen window with my letter!   This dream was bought on by three robins the day before having a territorial fight in the garden (spring is on its way) and the smallest and probably last year's brood, with the brightest chest,  coming and peering through the kitchen window at me, we locked eyes  and off he went.

So here he is in all his shaggy beauty, drawn so beautifully by Em,
She has captured his essence, that awareness of life going on around him, an intelligence that saw me through many long walks in strange places, as sometimes I got lost, he would hone in on the path to take, leading me through a tangled maze of gorse.  

Framed Em..

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Living on the outskirts

A 'Yggradsil' god maybe
I start with this news from the Saturday Guardian - The March of the neo-pagans gathers pace in Iceland with a strange lookalike Scandinavian god figure found many years back on the front of a canal boat at Bathampton.  In Iceland neo-pagans have become popular, again it is a gentle rerun of old pagan Scandinavian history; no sacrifices, and three gods and three goddesses are evoked in the ceremonies of pagan weddings.  And if you happen to live in Iceland, there is a religious tax which goes to the churches, so this movement will one day have its own place of worship...

"This thin carved branch is a goddess figure called Nerthus, found at Foerlev Nymolle in 1961." Taken from 'The Bog People' by P.V.Glob

But really, finding the photograph bought back memories of the canal, river and railway line that winds out from Bath to Bradford-on-Avon through a very pretty valley.

@ Avon Wildlife Trust

It is a 6 mile walk or cycle ride, both of which I have done on a few occasions.  There was a prospect of a cream tea in a small restaurant by the side of the river, and then the the great tithe barn in Bradford-on-Avon, one day I shall go back and photograph this barn, and of course the Saxon church to see.  A pretty town which once had mills on the banks of the river Avon.

But finding the photograph, also brought the next few to light.... Bath had/has a colony of 'hippies', they lived in the derelict houses just past the last residential area of Bath by this part of the river, they occasionally lived on the barges that lined the river, sometimes camping on the slopes  in summer.  So what you see is a miscellany of barges with their rooftop gardens....

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Please don't eat the daisies

Supermarkets have been warned to keep daffodils away from the vegetables so we don't eat them, so the news greeted me this morning.  I could just see the shock horror on people's face as they contemplated this ridiculous Health and Safety warning.  But read the article and you will find that those slender stems of unopened buds are very similar to Asian garlic chives, and it is Chinese people unable to read English that have been fooled.  So before you judge, in that English, or that Welsh manner, it is funny to start with but just has a little bit of commonsense in the sting of the tale.

Udo @ Creative Commons
Yesterday my Permaculture magazine came, and in it was the vegetable Udo, it looks just like forced rhubarb, and in fact is grown in a very similar way to chicory, the stump of the base of the endive planted in a large pot and then covered with another black pot to exclude light.  And for Pat, chicory simmered till just  cooked,  most of the water squeezed out,  then  wrapped in ham, cheese sauce on top and  baked in the oven - delicious!

But to get back to Udo, Family - Araliaceae it is an Asian vegetable, and because I love words a description in several languages; Chinese - Shi Yong Tu Dang Gui;  English - Japanese Asparagus, Udo;  French - Aralie a feullies Cardees;  German -Japanische Bergangelika and  Japanese - Udo.
Never seen it on the shelves.  But in Japan you find it wild on the mountains, and there is another sort called Aralia glabra which is a high mountain udo

I think Udo has a somewhat strong flavour, (perhaps similar to the ransomes - strong garlic taste) we find in early spring in woodland.  Udo is often chopped and added to the Japanese Miso soup, but can also be eaten raw with a salad dressing, or the flower buds are used in summer fried in tempura.

A great show of ransomes in the Langridge area

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wednesday 4th Feb.

The weather has been cold the last few days and we have had  fires in the sitting room to cheer the place up so life is quiet, nothing much to talk about.  There have been rumblings from Stephen Fry a humanist on what a 'wicked' God we have, allowing such terrible things to happen in this world.  But I myself would rather blame it on the humans, who interpret belief writings to their own advantage in the pursuit of power, and also the uncompromising natural world that allows us to prey on each other.

The good news is that the beavers in Devon have been given a stay of execution, if they behave themselves and do not cause disease to others, the powers that be 'Natural England' have given them time to settle in.  So when are we going to see the wolves and bears roaming Britain, not any time soon is the answer that comes back ;) but the beavers ability to turn their ecosystem  into a lively corner of the world to encourage other insects, birds, plants etc is of course how nature expands....

George Monbiot of course explains it in his video 'How Wolves change Rivers', it is called the 'trophic cascade', that elusive butterfly's flutter of wings causing chaos in some far distant corner of the world, as nature ever hungry fills the vacuum with verdant growth.

My first intention was to write about neo-paganism, the new found 'religion' of last century, though of course it followed on through earlier centuries, the myth of a mysterious otherworld travelled through the eyes of those great mystics 'The Druids'.  For this I turned to Stuart Piggott's 1968 book on the subject and to quote...

"The Druids make comfortably comprehensible, historical people like the Roundheads, the Crusaders, or the Romans and to attribute Stonehenge to them makes a sort of sense, as a welcome cliche grasped because it avoids the necessity of thought"

Such a dry wit as Piggott probably reflects my own view on the state of paganism today, it never quite makes it to the intellectual side of any belief and his last paragraph looks forward to a future such as the following...

"Can we dare hope that the Druids will once more come into their own, backed by a fine confusion of Hyperborean myth and the lasting bronze of the Coligny Calendar, and that our own age too may may have the druids it desires, who, white robes exchanged for white laboratory coats, will be astronomers writing computer programmes in Gallo-Brittonic?"

Well Piggott is long gone and what we do have today are 'tribes' of neo- pagans arguing the toss about 'ownership' of ancient monument sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury, though 'King Arthur Pendragon' has of course a seat at the table of English Heritage when it becomes time for the discussing of Solstice at Stonehenge

So a few photos I took at the opening of the Visitors Centre on the 18th December 2012, of that troublesome lot, in bleak, grey winter with their druidical robes whipped by the wind,  I still admire them though, I find them so outlandish in the grey world of the politically correct....

Marching away

There is something totally brave about people gathering together to make a statement

Alighting  from the car with a banner

This is another demonstration at the back, monitored by the police. I think these were the 'travellers' who lived next door to the stones on the 'green lane'.

And why did this come to mind is because we have just passed the day of Imbolc, or St.Brigids Day,
and as I have just laid the twigs and coal for a new fire in the hearth, the promise of spring seemed to beckon in the sun...

Imbolc was believed to be when the Cailleach—the divine hag of Gaelic tradition—gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she wishes to make the winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. Therefore, people would be relieved if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over. At Imbolc on the Isle of Man, where she is known as Caillagh ny Groamagh, the Cailleach is said to take the form of a gigantic bird carrying sticks in her beak.