Saturday 30 July 2011

Early morning by the river

One morning this week I woke up very early and decided to have a walk before breakfast. I set out about 7 a.m., just a short walk down along the river, in the hope I might see an otter, but there were none about this far upstream.

The light glanced off the bank and the water. . .

. . . and I tried to capture the sunlight on the leaves and the boulders mid-stream.

Another neighbour's farm can be glimpsed through the trees, up on "top o' bank".

Our neighbour's house has had his roof ladder on it for quite a while now - two years probably. He reckons Pevsner would now consider it an architectural feature!!!

No Dippers to watch on this occasion, but the swirl of the water captivated me, and I watched a leaf being sucked up in a contra-flow of water against the rocks. It progressed several feet upstream until the swirl of the current captured it and hurled it back towards Carmarthen again.

That scourge of river banks and damp ditches the length of the country has finally reached Carmarthenshire and spread wherever it can. Say what you like about it, but the bees and other insects love it, so it serves a useful purpose. It is, by the way, Himalayan Balsam.

These come in a deep rose pink, a paler pink and pure white forms. It's other country name of "touch-me-not balsam" arises from the exploding seed capsules which ensure it is spread far and wide.

Up the hill and a last glimpse through the trees at the hillside across the valley, where Iron Age feet once trod to and from the hillfort atop it.

Sp. Cantharellus? Dunno - Roger Phillips' site not so as helpful as his books so will have to come back with an ID.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Another recent horsey walk - in a different direction!

This is the wild flower my blog is named for - Codlins & Cream, or to give it its official name, Greater Willowherb. Photographed on a recent walk (2 weeks ago) round the lanes, which I bitterly regretted before I'd even got half way as I was starting to feel decidedly off-colour. Ah well, the photographs made up for the tiredness I felt when I got home!

Had I been feeling idle, I could have cut across the fields here and joined the lane two fields away.

Looking across to Black Mountain and Pen-y-Fan beyond and hidden in the heat-haze.

One of the neighbours has several donkey brood mares and foals.

Slightly out of order as this is heading back towards our house (I stopped at the top of the hill to look back).

Above and below: these two were in a separate field and took an interest in me as I walked by.

Part of the brood mare band. These are Section D's (Welsh Cobs).

A chocolate dun mare and her foal which is currently cream, but will probably darken up quite a bit.

Isn't she gorgeous? Little sharp pony ears and a generous eye, and lots of room for a cunning pony brain!

Foaly is really quite a chunky little chap.

It was a hot and humid afternoon and I was glad to be walking DOWN the hill. However, I was thinking that the rest of the walk was flattish - I'd forgotten a couple of significant uphill stretches which had me puffing and stopping to draw breath!

St Johns Wort - I think it was the square-stemmed variety rather than perforate - and Wood Sage on a steep bank near Colomendy.

Purple Betony and the less common White variety growing on a sunny bank.

A thorough mixture of wild flowers in this old sward - Musk Mallow, Self Heal, Hawkbit, Common Centaury, Betony, Buttercups etc.

Musk Mallow growing on old grassland.

The "lump" in the middle of this photo is all that remains of a Norman motte and bailey, put here to control our river valley. Before that, I believe that there was a small Iron Age promontary fort there prior to the Normans.
It was too hazy to see the cairns on the top of the mynydd.

Having lived here for so long now, I am confess sometimes I have taken our surroundings for granted, but on a day like this was the scenery reminds me how lucky we are to live in such a lovely spot.
This yellow Toadflax reminds me of my childhood as it used to grow along the edge of our garden, on a wild plot of land which abutted it. When I was 6 and was given the Observer's Book of Wild Flowers by my dad, it was one of the first flowers I learned to identify.

On the way home, looking across the fields basking in the sunshine.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Spirals and standing stones at the beach

Yesterday we met up with our daughter's partner's parents at Llansteffan Beach, and had a splendid walk along the sands. It was not without some moments of pondering though . . .

Above and below. This amazing beach "crop circle" was perfectly regular and appeared to have been done by a heavy rake. The incoming tide appeared not to have affected it overly as it has been there a couple of days apparently.

Who did it, and why, we can only conjecture . . .

Looking across the Towy Estuary over the Pembrey headland, and beyond, the rising land of the Gower peninsula.

The headland at the end of Scotts Bay.

Looking back towards the Gower again.

What a grand place to live - overlooking the beach at Scott's Bay.

Looking across to the more modern end of Ferryside.

A conundrum. This "standing stone" does not appear on the Sites and Monuments Record, and I can only assume was possibly something to do with marking the ferry crossing to Ferryside, which is almost directly opposite.

Looking up the Estuary towards Cwmbury.

Too lazy to look it up, but I think it's Sea Lavender. It's certainly "Sea" something or other!

Sunday 24 July 2011

Victorian Values

I have a good stash of books about how the Victorians lived - in cities, the labouring poor, rural life, poverty, upstairs/downstairs, criminal world - all sorts. One thing that has stuck in my mind over the years was the parenting of middle and upper class children.

In particular, children were taught how to cope with disappointments. They would be promised a treat - a wonderful day out to somewhere they had always wanted to go. It was talked up and they got so excited. The day arrived, and they dressed up, got together everything they needed, and trooped together in SUCH high spirits to the front door - and then they were told that it wasn't going to happen. It had all been set up by their parents so they would learn how to cope with disappointment.

Today I knew just how they felt. As some of you know, our house has been for sale for a year now. We have just changed to a new (3rd) agent, and this one is reliable and has kept us in touch with what has been happening with the marketing of our house. A week ago we heard from them that someone was coming to view the house, today. I have spent the last week labouring hard to get the house absolutely perfect - it is SUCH a big house so it's not something which can be achieved overnight. By mid-afternoon today there was not a single hair on the carpets or smear on the windows - it was perfect. When I woke up this morning I was feeling absolutely dreadful as I had scarcely slept at all last night. I dragged myself around, accomplishing small jobs very slowly - I felt like I was stuck in a tar pit. Anyway, the witching hour finally arrived - but no viewer. We waited an hour, knowing all along that it had been a complete and utter waste of time. I should have stayed in bed this morning and caught up on my sleep, rather than force myself to do yet more jobs.

So there you have it - a time-waster. Someone who doesn't give a damn about how much inconvenience they have caused. They were due to view our neighbour's property before ours, but she had an offer and cancelled their viewing. They obviously decided not to come to this area at all - or at any rate, not to bother with our house.

To say I am gutted is an understatement. Back to limbo then . . .

Thursday 21 July 2011

Out of Town

It's nearly midnight and I just can't sleep. If I turn the light on to read a bit more of my book (I'm re-reading Lark Rise to Candleford again), I will probably wake my husband, so I decided to write a blog entry.

The theme song to "Out of Town", a programme I grew up with, won't leave my head - having suddenly sprung into it when I laid my book down and put the light out! There were two theme tunes -the first was Max Bygrave's song of that name: "Spring starts to spring, the cuckoo starts to sing, a song to take the edge of winter's frown, and spring cleaning, has a meaning . . . Out of Town . . ." Later, Jack Hargreaves (for it was his country programme which showed on a Friday evening at a 1/4 to 7) changed the music to a soft Spanish guitar melody. The programme ran for 25 years and I vaguely remember that before Jack Hargreaves was Olly Kite, who sadly died young . . .

Isn't it odd how some things just stick in your head like this programme? I can remember him showing unusual countryside objects and asking viewers to get in touch if they knew what they were used for. At Christmas he would suggest suitable presents for the horsey girls in a family - his favourite suggestion being a folding hoof-pick! I can remember him getting a new bridle and soaking it in Neat's Foot Oil to soften it. My golly gosh, I should think you could still tie it in knots ten years on! He had a wonderful workshop where much of the inside filming was done and where he would sit and show you how to tie a fly or how a lark twirler worked! His passion was fishing, and he had the knack of making it interesting even to a totally horse mad girl not even in her teens. He used to show all the sights and sounds of the countryside. HERE'S a clip of him on You Tube. He always had a driving cob about the place, and in later years it was a white mule. I met him once, towards the end of his life, at a tack auction at Dorchester Market. He was looking for a browband for the little white mule - not a bridle, just the browband! He was obviously careful with his money . . .

He died, aged 83, in 1994 and his ashes strewn on Bulbarrow Hill which overlooked the Dorset village where he had spent his final years. HERE is a link to his obituary.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Old Queenie Goddard

As I lay in bed this morning, a sudden image came into my mind. It was the late 1950s and I was playing at the side of our house by the cherry tree. A little figure dressed in black (for some reason I have Queen Victoria in my mind's eye!) came across the road and offered me a packet of biscuits - the sort you could buy in the corner shop, just a little bit of cellaphane sealed around two Malted Wheat or small Digestive biscuits. "Here you are my lovey, would you like these?" Eyes like saucers, for I was convinced she was a witch, because she was old and missing a few teeth I expect, I took the biscuits (always soft and elderly) and the old dear trundled back across the road and through the gate to her cabin.

The cabin dated from between the wars - overlapping panels of creosoted wood with a roof of wriggly tin - and stood back a few feet behind a hedge soldiered by tall fir trees which swayed and sighed in the wind. I vaguely remember the little windows having dark green paint and impenetrable lace curtains and with the trees outside, it must have been very gloomy. It was snuggled between post-war prefabs and the more genteel 1930s houses with their 100 foot back gardens. A double gate at the side led to stabling at the back, where the Goddard boys (her dutiful son Jesse and his offspring) would bring through the horse and cart when they came to tea on a Sunday. If they were just popping in to check on the old lady, Mandy, the stocky dock-tailed dark bay cob mare would be left standing out the front. I suppose they tied her up to the gate, though I don't ever remember this specifically. How they ever caught her without being killed I'll never know, as she was chained (tethered) in one of the fields at the far end of Weston Common, beyond the orchard, and would attack on sight if you went near her.

I have just spent a happy hour researching the history of where I grew up. HERE is a link to an excellent piece on the history of our parish. I am relieved that there is now a walk from Bursledon Road right down to Weston Shore, along the valley bottom where we used to play as children. My friends and I remember the remains of the brickworks (our house used to be the Brickworks Manager's house in fact), and the long-abandoned (wartime?) allotments which still had blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes when we were kids. At this time of year, the (then polluted) stream would be purple with Loosestrife, and despite the pollution, the plop of water voles was a familiar sound.

I discovered that the Goddards (Jesse and his wife Betsy and family) used to go hop picking at Binsted, on the eastern border off Hampshire near Alton. Several of their children were baptized there in the post-1st World War years - Benjamin John and Florence (22.9.1918), and Priscilla Phoebe (what pretty names) on 26.9.1920. followed by Lloyd on 26.9.1926. The pay was good and the living conditions basic . . . I found a link to a photo of one of those old hop picking cabins HERE.

HERE is an earlier post about where I grew up, complete with reference to Queenie and her soft biscuits!

Long after she died, which must have been sometime in the 1960s or early 1970s, a modern pair of semi-detached houses was built on the spot, but always in my mind's eye, the old cabin with its fir trees, still remains.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Knights of St Oswald's Church, Ashbourne

Normally when we are travelling up to Sheffield or back, and we stop in Ashbourne, it is merely to stretch our legs but on a recent occasion we had a look around the antique shops (of which there are several) and the owner of one recommended we explore the interior of St Oswald's Church nearby. She mentioned the tomb of a little girl, which was executed in marble, and so finely worked that the limbs felt like touching skin, the dress like silk and the sash like velvet . . .

What she didn't mention was that there were the tombs and marble effigies of the Co(c)kayne family, some dating back to the early 15th century. Sadly their noses are somewhat defaced . . .

I feel this was a somewhat unflattering effigy, as she looks very pudding-faced! Perhaps she was a little chubby in life. . . Mind you, the effigies were done by a company who were "inexpensive and popular", so you obviously got what you paid for!

A little lion roars at his feet.

As you can see, noses (and chins!) were popular for being a prime subject to be defaced. I fear the subsequent rhinoplasty was not a total success . . .

This is the little girl - Penelope Boothby - I mentioned earlier. This beautiful life-size memorial did little to ease her parents' heartbreak following her death on 19th March 1791. She was their only child. Her mother subsequently left Derbyshire for her Hampshire home, and then on to Dover where she spent her remaining years and had taken her maiden name again. HERE is a link to a Wikipedia article about Sir Brooke Boothby, 6th Baronet and grieving father.

This is so well done I'm sure you would recognize him if you had met him. Perhaps his rather fierce demenour belied a kindly heart.

Without his nose, this could almost have been the model for Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter books.

In life, St Oswald was King Oswald, the Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria from 633 to 642 and he encouraged Celtic missionaries to spread Christianity in his kingdom. His father, King Aethelfrith, had controlled the Northumbrian kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira, but his brother acceded to the thrown on his death and his sons Oswald and Oswiu fled to Iona, where they became adherents of the Christian faith. Oswald was subsequently killed in battle by King Penda, probably near Oswestry in Shropshire and venerated as a martyr, and was subsequently canonised.