Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Monday, September 05, 2016

A Big Day

This post is something of a departure for me as I don't usually write about football! The big day was my granddaughter's not mine though I found it rather exciting as well:) Kaitlyn now plays for Sheffield United Girls Under 11 team and yesterday all the women's and girl's teams went to Bramall Lane to have team photographs taken - the first time the women have been allowed this privilege. Stephen wasn't able to take her so I stepped in instead. We arrived very early as although I know the way to the ground from my own house I've never done it from my son's house so I wanted to have time to get lost! As it happened I didn't get lost at all but went straight there. This gave me chance to take one or two photographs without lots of other people milling about. So here is Kaitlyn about to go in through the Players Entrance. This was pretend but in fact that's the way we did go in eventually.

The statue is of Derek Dooley a much loved and respected former Director and Chairman of Sheffield United who died in 2008.

Kaitlyn's team sitting in the dug out waiting to go onto the pitch for the official photographs. Two of the girls are missing as they were away on holiday. Kaitlyn is third from the right on the front row.

Walking down from the dressing rooms through the tunnel and out onto the pitch.

The Kop which is where my sons and I always sat on our regular outings to watch Sheffield United when they both still lived in Sheffield. We still go occasionally and hopefully will manage to get to a few games this season. I must say I never expected to walk down the players tunnel and out onto the pitch and see the Kop from this perspective though.

These elephants are all over Sheffield at the moment, they are part of a huge public art event and I've seen them in the city centre , the railway station and Weston Park Museum as well as this one. There are 72 of them altogether.
However back to Bramall Lane which is a very historic ground - the oldest football ground in the world as a matter of fact. It was built as a cricket ground in 1855 and is one of only two grounds (the other being the Oval) which has hosted England football internationals (five games prior to 1930), an England cricket test match (a single Test, in 1902, against Australia) and an FA Cup Final (the 1912 replay, in which Barnsley beat West Bromwich Albion, 1–0). W.G Grace played here in 1872 and it was one of Yorkshire's County grounds until 1973. The cricket pitch is now under the South Stand which is behind the girls in the dugout photo. The first football match was played here on December 29th 1862 between Sheffield FC and Hallam FC. Sheffield FC was founded in 1857 and still exists,it is the oldest independent football club in the world. So there you are - some sporting history as well as an exciting morning for Kaitlyn and Granny:)

Thursday, August 25, 2016


For me August has always been a month of waiting - waiting for the first small signs of autumn. It is the crown of the agricultural year but still it is my least favourite month. I think the only place to really enjoy August is by the sea relaxing on a sandy beach and exploring rock pools or walking along the cliffs. I live quite a long way from the sea and to me this time of year always seems tired as though the Earth Mother is exhausted after the exertions of the spring and summer and, like me, is just waiting for the renewed energy that the autumn brings.
The photo shows the field across the lane from my son's house in Suffolk which has just been harvested and is also waiting. Soon the plough will be turning the stubble and preparing the field for sowing the next crop.

There are those who do enjoy August though especially on hot sunny afternoons when they can play in the paddling pool.

Rowan berries - always the first of the autumn berries to ripen and always a welcome sight, a lovely splash of colour among the greens and browns that are the dominant colours in the countryside in August.

Blackberries are beginning to ripen now and there seem to be a lot of good sized ones around this year.

Autumn is my favourite of all the seasons but the one thing I don't enjoy about it is the procession of spiders that come into the house looking for a warm place to spend the winter. I have no problem with snakes, mice, frogs, slugs etc but I'm absolutely terrified of spiders. Nevertheless I do admire the beauty of the intricate webs that some of them spin.

Up on Blackamoor some of the bracken is beginning to turn to the lovely warm golden tones of autumn.

August often brings hot, humid days that don't suit either me or B Baggins. I try to walk in woodland where there is access to streams where he can cool off and have a drink on days like we've been having recently. This is on Blackamoor but the lower part which is wooded and where we pass three streams evenly spaced apart, this makes a big difference to his ability to do this walk.

B Baggins is coming up for 131/2 now and with only three legs he does well to still be able to manage it. There's a pretty steep climb up Lenny hill but it's at the beginning of the walk and once he's at the top it's all flat or downhill the rest of the way. So here he is - he's waiting too, not for autumn but for a treat to appear from my pocket:)

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Bakewell Show

On Wednesday my friend L and I made what may well be our last visit to Bakewell Show which has been declining steadily over the last few years until it now has very little to do with either agriculture or horticulture. I've been going every year since around 1976 and have been a Patron for the last 25 years or more and it's changed out of all recognition until now it's not much more than a big fairground with most of the stands selling tat of one sort or another and very little sign of any animals other than horses - showjumping is the main thing as I believe some of the classes are qualifying classes for the Horse of the Year Show. There are still a few things worth seeing though including the chap with his birds of prey. Above is a beautiful Harris Hawk which was probably my favourite.

Another contender was the beautiful Barn Owl. I took lots of photos of him while he was perching on the trainer's arm but every time I pressed the shutter he looked away so I had to be satisfied with this one taken when he was put back in his box.

The WI marquee is always worth a visit too and we always have coffee and a little something munchy halfway through the morning - cheese and herb scones and a lovely fruit teabread in this instance.

The WI have themed competitions for both cookery and crafts each year for the local Derbyshire WI groups. This year the theme was Shakespeare Plays in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of his death in 1616 but there were very few entries for either the home economics or crafts. This was the winning home economics entry which has to consist of two savoury and two sweet dishes plus a floral exhibit illustrating the theme.

Someone really knew their Shakespeare and this was a very clever exhibit. Each item had a card like the one above with a quote from the appropriate play. I must say that these walnut and honey tarts looked rather delicious in spite of the quote! I rather think that even if there had been a lot more entries this one would still have won.

Vintage cars - always a favourite with me. I would absolutely love to own and drive one these elegant 1930s cars.

Another beauty - a Talbot 7 seater limousine. You could have bought it brand new for £850 in 1935!

Seeing the heavy horses have always been my favourite part of Bakewell Show and there is always a good entry for these classes - these are the handsome Shire horses belonging to The Co-operative Funeral Care.

Of all the heavy horse breeds these are my absolute favourites - the wonderful Suffolks frequently known as the Suffolk Punch. They are the oldest breed of heavy horse in Great Britain dating back to the 16th century. All the ones alive now trace their trace their male line back to a stallion called Crisp's Horse of Ufford who was born in 1768 - apparently he was never given a proper name, he was just known as Crisp's horse! The Suffolks became very rare indeed though the numbers are now beginning to increase slightly. They are still an endangered breed though. I'm a member of the Suffolk Horse Society though I have no chance of ever owning one. Speaking of Suffolk that's where I'm off to next week to spend a few days with my son and his family.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Lughnasadh - The Wheel Turns Again

                                   Month of August...blithesome the bee,
                                   Full the hive; better the work of the sickle
                                                         Than the bow.

                                   Welsh 15th century

Lughnasadh is one of the great festivals of the Celtic year, it's the midpoint of the summer halfway between May (Beltaine) and November (Samhain) and from now on the days will begin to shorten noticeably as we move towards autumn and winter. The all important grain harvest begins at this time and in the past it was also a time of revelry, feasting and the great Lammas Fairs where the general idea was to have a jolly good time:)

An old tradition connected with Lughnasadh is the making of the Corn Dolly. It was believed that the Corn Spirit retreated before the oncoming reapers and eventually took refuge in the last of the standing corn. This was cut and fashioned into a Corn Dolly where the Corn Spirit could rest through the winter months. In the Spring the Corn Dolly would be returned to the fields when the new crop was sown in the hope that as a reward for keeping the Corn Spirit safe through the cold, dark days of winter she would bring a good harvest in the coming year. Making a Corn Dolly is something I'd like to try and I've located instructions for a simple one and a supplier of straw though if I can get some wheat while I'm in Suffolk during August that would be even more authentic. My son's house is surrounded by arable farmland and wheat is one of the crops that is grown in them. Whether my craft skills are up to this challenge remains to be seen!

One of the important harvests crops of course was barley - essential for the making of beer! The old traditional folk song about John Barleycorn belongs to this time of the year. These are the first few lines:

There were three men came out of the west,
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn must die.
They've ploughed, they've sowed, they've harrowed him in,
Throwed clods upon his head,
And these three men made a solemn vow,
John Barleycorn is dead.

If you'd like to listen to it all here is a rather good version by Traffic. Happy Lughnasadh!!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Salmagundi Again

Salmagundi is a 17th/18th Century salad made from cooked chicken,hard boiled eggs, anchovies and all kinds of salad leaves, vegetables and herbs. These are beautifully arranged on a large platter and the finished dish is quite something. But basically it means a mixture of all sorts of things:) I used the title originally in 2007 for this post if anyone is interested. The two babies mentioned in that post are on the left of the photo above and are now 9 and 10 years old:) DH and I both turn 70 this year so we had a small 1920s/30s themed family celebration last weekend and the photo shows us with our five lovely grandchildren. DH had his birthday a couple of weeks ago, mine isn't until September but last weekend was the only one this summer when all three of my children and their families could make it at the same time.

This last week has been our village Well Dressing, the theme for the main board was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. If you click on the link it will take you to a post also from 2007 which explains a little about this old custom.

The main part of the picture is illustrating Romeo and Juliet of course though Juliet's hair seems to be rather a bright yellow for someone who is supposed to be Italian:} There are bits and pieces from other Shakespeare plays too and this photo shows not only Shakespeare's head but also the donkey which Puck transformed Bottom into in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Yorick's skull from Hamlet - 'Alas Poor Yorick' is about the only line from Shakespeare that I can quote other than 'Once more unto the breach dear friends' from Henry V!  I've been so busy this week that this is the first chance I've had to go and take photographs and sadly the other one done by the local Guides had already been taken down. It's a pity as it was marking the 450th anniversary of the Great Fire of London and was actually much better than the main well dressing this year.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I'm a member of our local archaeology group Time Travellers. Earlier this year we were awarded Heritage Lottery Funding to dig at a local Romano-British site on Whirlow Hall Farm. It was discovered in 2011 but it has taken all this time to get funding for further excavation. The Brigantes Group (four of us - everyone else is into Roman or Industrial archaeology!) were asked to put together some information boards about life in the Iron Age. This area would have been under the control of the Brigantes tribe during the Iron Age. It's just a temporary exhibition which is on the wall in the cafe.

This board shows the exterior and interior of a roundhouse, a beehive quernstone which would have been used for grinding grain to make bread, some of the colours that were achieved using natural dyes (the Celts were very snappy dressers and loved colourful clothes), a weaving loom and some of the food that would have been available to them. If you click and enlarge the photos it might be possible to read the information.

A lot of children visit the farm as it is an educational trust so we thought that a board showing the nearest equivalents to Iron Age animals would interest them.

The dig was a definite success with lots of finds of both Roman and Iron Age pottery, a quern stone and a couple of gaming pieces among other things. I was only able to go up a couple of times and didn't do any excavating. My job was washing and cataloguing some of the finds. The line of stones on the left of the photo are the foundations for a Roman timber building. On the right is a ditch and those stones are the top of a revetment wall. It was a farmstead so not in need of the large ditches that would have surrounded a military site.

This is the revetment wall. The really exciting thing though was the discovery of a Roman signal station right at the top of the farm's land. Only about 50 are known in Britain so it's an important find. It was found using geophysics and then an exploratory trench was put in to check that the features that should have been there did exist. I saw the geophiz and it was quite clear even to me. You can see for miles from up there and the signal station stands between the Roman forts of Templeborough (now under the Magna Centre in Rotherham) and Navio in the Hope Valley. Following the link will take you to a post I did which included some info about Navio. This is from 2007 as well, I seem to have been busy that year!

Now I know that this doesn't look very exciting but for those of us who are Brigantes it's very exciting indeed - the small dark circle is an Iron Age post hole!! Of course they only got down to the Iron Age layer right at the end of the dig so I shall have to hope for more lottery funding so that the rest of the site, which is a large one, can be excavated and more postholes found. Personally I'm sure it must indicate that an Iron Age roundhouse stood there - I suspect that the professional archaeologists working on the site wouldn't agree with me though:)

Friday was the final day of the dig and in true Time Team style we had a celebratory drink and some very good cakes to finish things up. It's been really fun and exciting to be part of something like this and another new experience to add to my list.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Moorland Walk

On a coolish morning under a sky filled with heavy clouds a small group of Time Travellers (our local archaeology group) set off on a walk which began with a short but very steep climb up a narrow rocky path onto Birchen Edge in the Peak District. This was the view from the top looking out over the Derwent Valley. The little brown dots in the field are cows which gives you an idea of how high above the valley we were - about 900 feet above sea level at this point.

As we walked along there were great sheets of heath bedstraw stretching out in every direction, it's low growing and likes acidic soil so up here on the moors is a perfect habitat for it. Heath bedstraw is related to sweet woodruff and goose grass and as it's name suggests it was once used for stuffing straw mattresses. It's apparently also useful for staunching bleeding.

Most of the group arrived at Nelson's Monument well ahead of me. Since I'm usually messing about taking photographs I'm almost always racing along trying to catch up with any groups that I'm with:) The Monument was built in honour of Admiral Lord Nelson after his death and victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. A local man called John Brightman paid for it to be erected in 1810 thirty years before Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square was constructed.

These three huge gritstone boulders are known as The Three Ships. Each one has the name of one of Nelson's famous ships carved onto it - Victory, Defiance and Royal Soverin. It's not my spelling that's a bit dodgy by the way - it's the chap who carved it who had his own interpretation:)

This one is Victory, you will probably need to enlarge the photo to see it properly.

This great boulder contains a basin which forms a drinking trough and must be used by many birds and wild creatures. I think this one is a natural formation but in the early 1900s a wealthy local businessman called William Wilson had seventy five drinking troughs carved into large boulders all across the grouse moors that he owned in this area - the idea being apparently to encourage the grouse to stay on his moors and not migrate to any of the neighbouring estates!

Now we are moving into the prehistoric landscape on the moor, there was a surprising amount of activity in this period and the moors around my area are thick with burial cairns, stone circles, barrows etc.You will need to use a good deal of imagination here but take my word for it that you are looking at the entrance to a Bronze Age roundhouse. one large stone on the left and the one which Robert is standing on mark the entrance which faces south east as was usual during this era. Two pits were found inside, one near the entrance and one in the centre, both of which contained burnt bone and were possibly cremation burials. The stones will have formed the foundations for a timber framework filled with wattle and daub and thatched with reeds or turf.

This is a superb example of prehistoric cup and ring carving - or at least it's an excellent resin replica of the original which now lies buried to protect it from further erosion. No-one really knows what these carvings were for but as they are often found near important prehistoric paths and field boundaries they may mark territorial boundaries.

This however,though smaller and less impressive,is the real thing.

This standing stone is about 4000 years old. It was erected around 2000BC and stands over 2 metres high. It is deliberately slanted towards the south and it's believed to be an astronomical marker connected with the midsummer sun.

We passed a lot of this flowering moss which looked really attractive.

Gardom's Edge is part of the Dark Peak named for the dark Millstone Grit which overlies the limestone in this area. It's a rather bleak and forbidding landscape but provides some fantastic views even on a day of heavy cloud as this one was.

We saw many other things including a really well preserved neolithic barrow which was obvious when you looked at it but didn't show up well in a photograph. So here we are nearly at the end of what was a really interesting and enjoyable walk. One thing I (and everyone else in the group) did learn in addition to all the history - never ever go on the moors in summer without insect repellent however dull and cool it is! I ended up with something like 25-30 bites on my face,neck and hands and spent a very uncomfortable few days until the itching finally stopped.