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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Step Back in Time

A month or so ago I spent a long weekend in Wales doing a course called 'Food,Farming and Clothes of the Common Man in 1620'. It appealed to me for two reasons - firstly it largely took place on the restored 17th century farm which was used in the television series 'Tales From the Green Valley'. Secondly many of my ancestors were 'ag labs' and I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to gain an insight into their daily lives. It was pure serendipity that I even found out about it as it was a locally run course and not widely advertised. The people who own and are working on the long term project of restoring the farm don't want it's location to become known as it would ruin the entire ethos of the place. The group doing the restoration are mostly re-enactors of the Civil War period (the English Civil War not the American one) and it is a long-term labour of love. I e-mailed Stuart Peachey(above with Gilly), who was one of the people involved in the Green Valley programmes, about some booklets which he has published on cottage gardens, farming and the lives of working people. I mentioned how much I had enjoyed the programme and he told me about the course. I think it was because I had shown a real interest in the subject rather than having written a sort of fan mail thing. I left home at 5.45am on the Friday morning in an effort to be down past Birmingham and onto the M4 before the rush hour traffic got going so I was in Chepstow where we were based by 10am. Since I didn't actually need to be there until late afternoon I had chance to look around the town which was quite a pleasant little place, as I wandered down towards the River Wye I discovered that Chepstow has a castle - rather a well preserved one as far as the outer walls are concerned. I love anything like that so in I went and spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering round. The photo below is of the lower bailey. The castle dates back to the 11th century, in fact the building was started the year after the Battle of Hastings and it is mentioned in the Domesday Book. There is a link here if anyone is interested. It was a beautiful afternoon and the various parts had good information boards but part of the enjoyment was the sense of history and the wonderful views from the walls especially in the upper bailey. Something else that I loved was this door which is an original one from the 11th century - indoors in a small museum now to preserve it . Think of all the people who have walked through that door - the maidservants, menservants, ladies in rich gowns of all periods,men at arms,Royalist soldiers and the great men who lived there over the centuries - William Fitzosbern, the Earl of Hereford, Walter Fitz Richard, the Earl of Worcester who held Chepstow for the King and Sir Nicholas Kemeys who died defending the castle for the Royalist cause. So much romance and tragedy in one ancient door.

It doesn't look that big in the photo but I was on a gallery looking down and it's actually huge and was once the main entrance to the castle I think. This seems to have turned into an essay on Chepstow Castle, so just one more photo of one of the arrow slit windows high up in the upper bailey and looking out over the River Wye and the Welsh countryside.

I'll continue the story of the weekend in another post later tonight or in the morning.


Janet said...

Oh, please do continue with this story. The castle is beautiful if a little stern looking! And the door is wonderful. I would think as you did about all those who passed through it.

The farming and daily life and the clothing of the common man sounds so interesting. I'll check back to read that.

Remiman said...

Now you've really captured my interests!
How foretunate you were to hear about and be able to attend this course. Serendipity for sure.
Terrifc pics. Thanks ;-)

VintagePretty said...

What a beautiful castle! I am really interested in ancient buildings, especially medieval and before - I spent many happy days-out going around Skipton castle which I loved!

Thanks too for your comment! It was really touching to know that I've inspired someone to blog - keep going, it's lovely to read! :)

plainandsimple said...

I'd love to read more about this Rowan. I was a huge fan of Tales from the Green Valley - I'm trying to live simply and seasonally and it was wonderful to see how our ancestors did it! I knew you could visit the farm, but I had no idea they ran courses.

Jacran Cottage said...

I found your blog through Plain & Simple. I'm trying to think where Chepstow is. My Mum used to live in Wales, first in Clwyd for more than 20 years, then a couple of years in Powys. I've been to a few castles, but now Chepstow, although it's ringing distant bells in the back of my head!

I just did a real quick google on Tales from the Green Valley. I looks wonderful! I love that kind of thing ... 1900 House, 1940s House, and a show done here in Canada about two couples living for 10 months as pioneers in 1870.

You are so luck to have found a course like this. It must have been a wonderful experience.

Jackie in Ontario, Canada

Rosie said...

How did you find out about the course at the Green Valley farm?I am a tremendous fan of this sort of programme and enjoyed it so much I bought the dvd of the series so I can watch it anytime and visit the websites of the people eg Alex Langlands regularly hoping that a book might be forthcoming.

petesommer said...

Hi, I'm Peter Sommer the Producer/Director of the series, Tales from the Green Valley. A friend pointed out this post on your marvellous blog, so I thought I'd say hello. Delighted to hear you came to my talk and enjoyed it so much. You may be interested to read a couple of articles I've written about the series which are at

There's also a DVD of the series available from the website should anyone be interested.

Best wishes,
Peter Sommer

Ancestral Celt said...

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog, Rowan. Because of that, I checked out your blog, noticed the link to Peter Sommer's site and found out that you can purchase a DVD of "Tales from the Green Valley". It is one of my all-time favourite programmes and I was diappointed to have missed some. Though, thanks to you, I can now watch the whole series through.

Thank you.