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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

One Hundred Years Ago

Today would have been my mum's 100th birthday, she was born on 27th August 1910. I have no photos of her as a little girl and very few of her as a young woman. This was taken when she was in her early 40s.

This is my favourite photo of my mum and I'm using it here even though it is damaged - I wonder if you can guess who tore it? :) The little girl is me of course.
My mum was just as nice as she looks in these photographs, she gave me a wonderful childhood and I miss her still. Happy Birthday Mum!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Bakewell Show Again

Bakewell Agricultural and Horticultural Show takes place on the first Wednesday and Thursday of August every year and has been going now for 180 years! I've been going for over 30 of those years but regrettably it is no longer the lovely rural event that it used to be. The farm animals and country crafts have been pushed into the background and the whole thing has become more and more urbanized. I feel that the Show committee are losing touch with their rural roots which seems a pity when there is so much interest these days in the countryside and the old rural crafts and skills. The cattle are now in a permanent building at the side of the Showground which is normally the cattle market and all the judging takes place in the area at the front. If you go early enough you can go and look round inside and the farmers are happy to talk to you about their animals. The photo above is of a lovely Hereford calf. As always, the photos will enlarge if you click on them.

An English Longhorn with her five week old calf. English Longhorns are a very ancient breed, they were used in the medieval times both for ploughing and as a source of milk for butter and cheesemaking.

A closer look at the Longhorn calf who was as interested in J and I as we were in her!

A Red Dexter having her tail combed and fluffed before her big moment.

A Limousin posing nicely for the judge - not necessarily always the case, one or two of the cattle were decidely frisky...

...such as this Black Dexter who obviously could think of more interesting things to do than walking round the judging ring!

This Eagle Owl is at Bakewell every year helping to raise funds for the sanctuary for injured birds of prey. Injured birds are treated and then released back into the wild apart from those who would no longer be able to fend for themselves.

A Harris Hawk was another of the birds of prey on the same stand. I'm hoping to have a closer encounter with one of these soon as a friend of mine has got one that he flies and he's promised to bring her to meet me. She's a working bird though not a pet so how close I get will depend on whether she like s me or not! I'm hoping to be able to wear the glove and hold her on my arm though.

Neither agricultural nor horticultural I admit but oh! how I love these wonderful vintage cars. The next few photos are just a personal indulgence:) This is the one I'd drive off in given half a chance - a fabulous 1936 Aston Martin. Racing green too, my favourite car colour.

1926 Bullnose Morris Cowley Tourer - not as dashing but kind of cute.

A 1936 Rolls Royce and very nice too. There was a really good turnout of vintage cars this year.

A different kind of horse power here, a lovely Shire horse decorated up to the nines. This wasn't work-a-day gear of course but is a reminder of May Day celebrations when the working horses were decorated with garlands of ribbons and flowers, and paraded through villages and around the countryside in order to encourage the health of the horses, and the fertility of crops and fields.

My favourite part of the whole Show is watching the heavy horses, each year there seem to be more teams entering and it's great to think that these wonderful horses are gradually regaining popularity again. This is a pair of grey Percherons pulling what I think is a vegetable cart.

Not a very good photo but it is in because the Suffolk Punches are my favourite heavy horses. Until the 1930s the Suffolks were very much an East Anglian breed and of course it was just as they were beginning to be used in other parts of the country that mechanization took over and the heavy horses became redundant. The Suffolk Punch is the oldest breed of heavy horse in Great Britain and in the 1960s they came very close to dying out. Even today the Suffolk Punch is on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust's critical list.

These are Belgian heavy horses pulling a lovely old Yorkshire Wolds waggon,the horses were lovely but definitely didn't do speed:) I loved the whole turnout because they weren't all professionally done up as all the other entrants in the class were, they looked as though they'd come straight off the farm which appealed to me very much.

I enjoy watching the carriage driving and the Concours d-elegance too.

I always enjoy seeing the display that the National Vegetable Society produce, it didn't seem quite as bountiful as usual this year and we did wonder whether it hasn't been a very good year for vegetables. It isn't a good photo as there was a constant crowd of people in front of it.

Finally some of the prize winners waiting to take part in the Grand Parade, that brief appearance in the main ring is about all that most of the public see of them. J and L both feel that since I'm a Patron of the Show I should write to the Committee and voice my reservations about the direction the Show is taking - not that I think they'll take much notice of a lone voice. On the other hand it may turn out that others agree with me so I shall send them a letter and see what the response is!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Shepherd's Calendar - August

Here are more excerpts from John Clare's poem, it is wonderfully descriptive of the heat and backbreaking toil of the harvest which involved all the village - young and old, male and female.

Harvest approaches with its bustling day
The wheat tans brown and barley bleaches grey
In yellow garb the oat land intervenes
And tawney glooms the valley thronged with beans
Silent the village grows, wood wandering dreams
Seem not so lovely as its quiet seems
Doors are shut up as on a winters day
And not a child about them lies at play
The dust that winnows neath the breezes feet
Is all that stirs about the silent street
Fancy might think that desert spreading fear
Had whisperd terrors into quiets ear
Or plundering armys past the place had come
And drove the lost inhabitants from home
The fields now claim them where a motley crew
Of old and young their daily tasks pursue

When the sun stoops to meet the western sky
And noons hot hours have wanderd weary bye
They seek an awthorn bush or willow tree
Or stouk or shock where coolest shadows be
Where baskets heapd and unbroachd bottles lye
Which dogs in absence watchd with wary eye
To catch their breath awhile and share the boon
Which beavering time alows their toil at noon
All gathering sit on stubbs or sheaves the hour
Where scarlet poppys linger still in flower
Stript in his shirt the hot swain drops adown
And close beside him in her unpind gown

Next to her favoured swain the maiden steals
Blushing at kindness which her love reveals
Who makes a seat for her of things around
And drops beside her on the naked ground
Wearied wi brambles catching at her gown
And pulling nutts from branches pulld adown
By friendly swain the maid Wi heaving breast
Upon her lovers shoulder leans at rest
Then from its cool retreat the beer they bring
And hand the stout hooped bottle round the ring

The ruddy child nursed in the lap of care
In toils rude ways to do its little share
Beside its mother poddles oer the land
Sun burnt and stooping with a weary hand
Picking its tiney glean of corn or wheat
While crackling stubbles wound its legs and feet
Full glad it often is to sit awhile
Upon a smooth green baulk to ease its toil
And feign would spend an idle hour to play
With insects strangers to the moiling day
Creeping about each rush and grassy stem
And often wishes it was one of them
In weariness of heart that it might lye
Hid in the grass from the days burning eye
That raises tender blisters on his skin
Thro holes or openings that have lost a pin
Free from the crackling stubs to toil and glean
And smiles to think how happy it had been
Whilst its expecting mother stops to tye
Her handful up and waiting his supply
Misses the resting younker from her side
And shouts of rods and morts of threats beside
Pointing to the grey willows while she tells
His fears shall fetch one if he still rebells
Picturing harsh truths in its unpracticed eye
How they who idle in the harvest lye
Shall well deserving in the winter pine
Or hunt the hedges with the birds and swine

The paintings are
1.Harvest Time, Lambourne, Berks by Henry H Parker
2.Harvest Rest by George Cole
3.Harvest by Robert Gavin

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Seen On A Lammas Walk

Today is August 1st known as Lughnasagh or Lammas. It's also my 38th wedding anniversary as it happens:) The wheel is turning yet again and this is the beginning of the harvest season. It is the midpoint between Beltaine and Samhain and although people think of August as being summer it is actually the first month of autumn. A walk in the country will produce many signs of this as I found when B Baggins and I went out this morning. Above are rose hips beginning to ripen, the hedgerows are going to look wonderful in a few weeks time as the wild fruit harvest is going to be prolific once again - a sign of another hard winter ahead?

The acorns are beginning to form on the oak trees. These too are going to be abundant which is good news for squirrels,mice,voles, deer and several kinds of birds especially jays.Like squirrels the jays collect and store the nuts ready for the winter. Several of these photographs will look better if you click and enlarge them - especially one near the end with a sort of brown blob in the centre!

This barn was built from bricks left over from the building of Totley Tunnel in the 1890s. The tunnel runs under the moors from Totley to Grindleford and at 3.5miles it is the longest under land tunnel in the UK - at least it was until the very recently opened tunnel near London was built. The bricks used to line the Tunnel were nearly all made locally at Totley brickworks and it was built by men using explosives and shovels to tunnel through the earth. However I digress!

Rowan berries - always the first to ripen. There are a lot of them around here as they are one of the few trees that can survive the harsh moorland environment.

Holly berries - still green as yet and regrettably in a privately owned field so unavailable for use at Yule! I must check the place where I usually get my holly.....

This sheep is one of two pet sheep and she always comes to say 'hello' as we pass. She'd like to get closer to B Baggins and he'd like to get closer to her too! Regrettably he's a sheep chaser so I have to be very careful where I let him off the lead round here.

These are alder cones and they will eventually turn a dark brown. The alder tree is native to the British Isles and grows near rivers and lakes and in boggy ground. Its wood doesn't rot in wet conditions and indeed becomes as hard as stone when left immersed in water and because of this it was used in the construction of bridges, particularly the long heavy piles driven into the ground or sometimes under water to support it. This quality for long endurance under water also made it valuable for pumps, troughs and sluices.

The soft colours and lush growth are typical of this time of the year. The woods and hedgerows are quiet during late July and August as this is the period when the exhausted bedraggled adult birds rest after the hard work of raising their young. They are moulting now and will eventually reappear with strong, pristine new feathers which will help to see them through the cold winter months.

These are the seeds of Sweet Cicely which grows wild in a good many places round here. The whole plant smells of aniseed and I love to bruise the leaves as I pass to release the scent. The leaves can be stewed with rhubarb or gooseberries and if you do this you can reduce the amount of sugar that you use. The seeds can be used in cookery too, in fact the entire plant can be used for various purposes. I have it growing in my garden and it's one of my favourite herbs partly because I love the name. Its Latin name is Myrrhis odorata.

A rather beautiful hoverfly on a pale lavender thistle flower.

All the many varieties of grasses are ripening now, this graceful, ethereal plant has the rather unromantic name of hairy brome, not a name guranteed to set the pulses racing!

Bindweed is a name to put fear into the hearts of all gardeners but its flowers are really very beautiful.

This is a real favourite of mine - the delicate purple flowers of Woody Nightshade along with the green berries that by September will be a spectacular transluscent scarlet. With the sun on them the berries positively glow and are one of the real beauties of autumn for me. It's a very poisonous plant though so never be tempted to try one of the berries!

You'll need to enlarge this photo to see someone showing considerable joie de vivre!

Who, me? Rolling about on the grass? Certainly not!

Remember the brick built barn? This is the stone built farmhouse that you can see just behind the barn in the earlier photo. Lower Bents farm dates back to at least the early 1600s and possibly a bit more than that, the earliest reference to it is 1621. These days it has a lovely cottage garden which I always enjoy seeing as I pass. I consider myself very fortunate to have so many beautiful and interesting places within walking distance of my house.