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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Janus am I; oldest of potentates;
Forward I look, and backward, and below
I count, as god of avenues and gates,
The years that through my portals come and go.
I block the roads, and drift the fields with snow;
I chase the wild-fowl from the frozen fen;
My frosts congeal the rivers in their flow,
My fires light up the hearths and hearts of men.

from The Poet's Calendar by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Janus is the god of gates and doorways, beginnings, endings and time and it is for him that the month of January is named. I like the idea of looking both forwards and backwards. In the past lie the experiences both good and bad that have enriched and shaped our lives. We learn from all of them. In the past also lie our memories of friends and family many of them now dead and gone - how empty our lives would be without the ability to recall all the happy times shared with those who have been most important to us. As for looking forwards - a whole new year lies ahead full of possibilities and opportunities. I intend to make the most of it and I hope you all do too.

That's the serious bit - now for a peep into my past. This was taken on New Year's Eve 1997 and may not be quite the way you usually picture me:) My friends had a Barbie and Ken theme at their New Year party. My daughter's first reaction when she saw my outfit was 'You're never going to wear that!' closely followed by 'Whatever you do, mother, DON'T BEND OVER!!' I won the prize for the best ladies costume though - I've never known whether it was for a good costume or the sheer nerve it took to wear it.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day Morning

Bilbo Baggins and I went up on Blackamoor this morning, this is our usual morning walk these days. It was windy but very mild and, being early we had it entirely to ourselves.

The Blacka Dyke was dancing past the moss covered rocks about twenty feet below the path we were on, I love this part of the stream, it always seems a magical place to me.

A little further up the hill and set back from the path behind elders and silver birches is this holly bush which is still covered with berries.I left it untouched when I was gathering my holly and I suspect most people didn't even notice it:)

At the top of the hill is this beautiful weeping silver birch, it is beautiful at all seasons of the year but I love it best in winter with the delicate tracery of its branches outlined against the sky. I have better photos of it taken in different weather conditions but this is how it looked today.

B Baggins again, he's never far away from me on all my walks and I don't take his photograph as often as I should - he's pretty fit for a dog who will be nine years old in March.

This fragile looking lichen in the palest of greens is almost like a flower.

I have no idea of the age of this wonderful beech tree but I think it must be very old, it's a wonderful and huge tree with a canopy that spreads over a wide area.
I should think that what is in the photo is less than half of its full height.

There is still a surprising amount of fungi around and this little patch of warm yellow nestling at the foot of dead tree caught my eye. I have absolutely no idea what it is - any suggestions?

As I walked back up the lane to my car there was a thunder of hooves as William, Holly and Melissa galloped up the field to say 'Hello'. I was so busy talking to them that I never thought to take a photo! As I turned away and walked to my car I suddenly saw this gorse bush covered in flowers, a lovely spot of colour on what was quite a dull morning but definitely not a dull walk.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Here we are again with my traditional Christmas Eve post:)

The Night Before Christmas was always my children's bedtime story on Christmas Eve.
So for all of us who still feel the magic of this night......

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."

May I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Winter Solstice!

"So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!"
- Susan Cooper, The Shortest Day

This is the third year running that I have used this poem by Susan Cooper but it is so perfect for the Winter Solstice that I'm afraid that this will probably not be its final appearance:) The beautiful illustration at the top is by Wendy Andrew from her magical book Luna Moon Hare - she has been kind enough to give me permission to use it in this post.

Today is the shortest and darkest day of the year, there is little colour in the countryside and most of the trees are bare but from this point on the days will slowly lengthen and in a few short weeks we shall see the first signs of Spring appearing. Winter is a time of slowing down and resting and if we are wise we also will use the winter to rest and reflect and renew our energy ready for the coming of Spring. A Happy and Peaceful Solstice to you all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Images for Yule

I thought I'd do a post about some of my Yule decorating, I still have to make a table centre and bring in my little live tree which goes on the kitchen counter but I shall do those on Christmas Eve so that they stay fresh. The wreath above is now on my back door, it was made for my daughter and was hanging on the inside of the kitchen door waiting for her. When she arrived she said she preferred the one I'd made for us so we are left with the reject:)

I love all my tree decorations which have been collected gradually over the last thirty nine years. I have special favourites though and this green Santa is one of them.

The photo doesn't do my little glass hummingbird justice, it sparkles beautifully with the tree lights shining through it.

I cross-stitched this little goose ornament about 25 years ago.

My beautiful porcelain stag cost an arm and a leg at Country Living Christmas Fair a few years ago but I had to have him.

If I could only keep one of my ornaments I think this would be the one I chose.

I made this little primitive pin tuck a couple of years ago. I keep meaning to do more as I have some lovely designs. There's still time......

I love the little mouse peeping out of the top of the stocking, it's another primitive piece that I found at a Christmas Craft Fair at Nostell Priory a year or two back.

The sledge belonged to one of my sons, every Christmas for several years now I have loaded it with holly and added tiny lights, there are actually 80 on there! The holly looks dark because I used the 'fireworks' setting on my camera to try and show the lights without any glare. The boys had a sledge each but Neil's is now in Suffolk waiting for the first snowfall so that Gabriel and George can play on it:)

The wreath on the front of the house - I'm not thrilled with any of my wreaths this year, they took forever and I just couldn't get them the way I wanted so I ended up just settling for what I'd got before I threw them on the floor and jumped on them!

And finally - this tree decoration is 35 years old now. Stephen made it out of egg cartons and silver foil at nursery school when he was 3 years old. I still hang it on the tree every year though not necessarily at the front:)

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Clouded with snow
The cold winds blow,
And shrill on leafless bough
The robin with its burning breast
Alone sings now.

The rayless sun,
Day's journey done,
Sheds its last ebbing light
On fields in leagues of beauty spread
Unearthly white.

Thick draws the dark,
And spark by spark,
The frost-fires kindle, and soon
Over that sea of frozen foam
Floats the white moon.

A short post just to get back into the swing of blogging. The last few weeks have been very busy but now the freezer is full, the tree is up and the presents are wrapped so I'm more or less ready for the festive season. My younger son is here this weekend delivering and collecting gifts so for us the winter festival has started and I have a nice quiet week ahead to enjoy it.  I shall be blogging much more regularly again from now.

I must also belatedly acknowledge the Liebster Award given to me by Susanna Holstein of Granny Sue's News and Reviews. I really appreciate the honour and there are many deserving bloggers that I could pass it on to but at the moment I simply don't have time to do it. Thank you anyway Granny Sue:)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Armistice Day

Roy Milner is one of the young men named on our local War Memorial. He was the younger son of the family who lived at Totley Hall and after leaving Repton School he went to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. On 22nd January 1913 he was commissioned into the 2nd Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters and began his career as a regular soldier. The Milner family were well liked and respected and on the outbreak of war in August 1914 the local people lined the lane and cheered as he left to join his regiment. On September 11th 1914 the regiment landed in France and Roy wrote home to his parents to say that he was on his way to the front and in good spirits. Below is an excerpt from our book describing the last few days of his life. The details are taken from the regiment's War Diary.

On 14 September Sec. Lt Milner and his men of ‘A’ company began the 350 mile march to the area around the River Aisne in Picardy. The following day the battalion marched for fifteen hours in heavy rain. The drenching rain continued as they marched for another twelve hours on the 16th. Finally, weary and footsore, they arrived at Chacrise on the 18th where they were billeted on a farm and were given a 24 hour rest period. On 19 September with three other battalions of the 18th Brigade they moved forward to the village of Vendresse in the steep-sided Troyon valley where they relieved the 1st Black Watch in the trenches. Later that day they were moved back to a reserve line.

20 September dawned wet and cold with heavy rain and sleet falling. The Sherwood Foresters joined other regiments as they attempted, with some success, to retake trenches broken into and occupied by the Germans. Roy Milner, with a fellow officer and most of their men, was cut down by heavy machine gun fire as he led a charge up the valley. On 24 September Mr and Mrs Milner received a telegram from the War Office announcing the news of their son's death. Roy’s body now lies in Grave Ref. 6. C. 5 in the Chauny Communal Cemetery British Extension in Aisne, France. He was just 21 years old.

Remembering also Gt Uncle Harry 1880-1916 and Uncle Harold 1911-1942

When you go home, tell them of us and say
For their tomorrow, we gave our today.

Monday, November 07, 2011

What I've Been Doing!

Once again I've been rather busy and not had much time to either blog or comment recently. There was a rather large pile of letters to answer and I've managed to get some work done in my garden too though there's still a long way to go there I'm afraid. I'd intended doing more outside today but it started drizzling while I was up on Blackamoor with B Baggins this morning so I've done other bits and pieces indoors instead. This afternoon I'm trying to catch up a little with the blogging world. Making the Christmas cake was one of the things that kept me away from the computer. It's turned out OK I think and will be wrapped in clingfilm and put up on top of a kitchen cupboard now until ten days or so before Christmas only coming down briefly a couple of times to be fed with sherry.

I've made the mincemeat as well and used some of the pretty labels that I bought at Country Living Spring Fair earlier this year. On Wednesday I'm off to London again with my friend L for the Country Living Christmas Fair where I'm hoping to find something (or even more than one something!)on which to spend the money I got for my birthday in September. I turned 65 this year and one of my gifts was £1 for each year of my age:)

This is what has really been taking up a lot of my time though. For the last couple of years two friends and I have been researching the lives of the ten men on our local War Memorial who died in the First World War. Jim and Pauline did five of them and I did the other five and also wrote the introduction, a chapter on the village in 1914 and a conclusion. It doesn't sound much but it took ages as I had to do quite a bit of research to discover something about life here at the start of the Great War. It has finally been published to coincide with Armistice Day as that seemed a fitting time for it's appearance. Now we are hoping that a few people will buy it! The vicar of the local parish church is basing his sermon for Remembrance Sunday on our book and Jim, Pauline and I will be laying a wreath at the War Memorial. Last year I did it but this year Jim is going to do it as one of the soldiers is (was?) his uncle.

A couple of peeks inside, this is the first chapter on the village as it was in 1914 and....

.....this is part of the story of Jim's uncle with a wonderful family photo. Hopefully this year instead of being just a list of names on a brass plaque these men will become real people who once lived here in our village and whose deaths will have left a huge gap in the lives of their families and friends.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Short Visit to Wales - Great Orme

A bit of back tracking is involved here as the visit to Wales was made in mid September just as the tail end of Hurricane Katia arrived in the UK! We spent the first night in Oswestry which is just on the English side of the border. Kaitlyn was so desperate to actually be in Wales that late in the afternoon we drove over the border and into the small Welsh town of Llangollen.The photo above is the River Dee which rises in Snowdonia and flows through the centre of Llangollen then on towards Chester.

The next morning we headed for Llandudno on the North Wales coast. My DH had told us that we should go up the Great Orme as it was really worth seeing. We managed to park very close to Victoria Station where the Great Orme Tramway begins its ascent.
This is the only cable-hauled tramway still operating in Britain and has been taking people up the Great Orme since 1902. With wooden seats and no glass in the windows it isn't exactly luxury travel:) The line is in two sections the lower half being the steepest with a gradient of 1 in 4. At Halfway Station you have to change on to another tram to do the second half of the journey to the top.

Journey's end - just outside the little station at the top is a statue of one of the feral Kashmir goats which have lived wild on Great Orme for over 100 years - the original goats came from a herd at Windsor Great Park which belonged to Queen Victoria.

Maybe you are wondering what the word Orme means (or maybe you aren't but I'm going to tell you anyway!)- it's believed to originate from the old Norse word 'urm' which means 'sea serpent'. The Vikings thought that the headland resembled a coiled serpent. The word worm has the same origin.
Our original plan was to do some walking and visit the iron age hillfort and hut circles and also the 12th century St Tudno's Church. The wind was incredibly strong though and once out of the shelter of the station and up on the summit it was obvious that we weren't going to be able to do this. Kaitlyn and Lucy were actually being blown about by the wind and I had trouble standing up in it as well. The different shades of blue and green in the sea were really beautiful but the photo isn't sharp because I couldn't hold the camera still.

Instead we headed down the hill to Bishop's Quarry and looked for fossils. The limestone here is full of the fossils of sea creatures from the time around 300 million years ago when the land that is now Wales was covered by a shallow tropical sea. The fossils you find have to stay put though, you aren't allowed to take any away.

Steve was anxious to visit the prehistoric copper mine so we went back down to Halfway station and followed the signs to the Ancient Mine. Originally there would have been opencast mining and this is an artist's impression of how it would have looked 4000 years ago. You'll need to click on it to see it more clearly.

This is the opencast site as it looks today.

If you want to go into the underground mines then you have to wear a hard hat so after collecting these we set off down the path to the mine entrance which is that narrow opening under the righthand sign! More clicking required here.

Kaitlyn and Lucy absolutely loved it in here much to my surprise, I thought they'd find it either boring or scary but I was wrong! All the tunnels are very narrow and the narrowest could only have been worked by children, some of them as young as five - the age that Kaitlyn is now. The mining was done using stone hammers and bone scrapers and mostly in total darkness. Archaeologists have so far found over 2500 stone hammers and over 30000 bone scrapers in the mine and more than half of it has still to be explored. Every so often as we made our way through the tunnels we found these little information boards.

I love the colours in this photo and it also shows again the narrowness of the tunnels. The tourist route through the mine only goes down through two levels but there are nine levels descending to a depth of about 230 feet/70 metres.

This is the 3500 year old Bronze Age cavern, it's thought to be the biggest prehistoric underground excavation in the world. At this point we were about 80 feet below ground.

These tunnels were blocked up with mine waste during the Bronze Age and are still to be explored by the archaeologists - this is an ongoing archaeological project that will last for many years. It's been estimated that more than 1700 tonnes of copper was extracted from this mine during the Bronze Age, enough to make 10 million axes! The copper was combined with 10% tin to make the hard alloy Bronze which was used not only for axes but also for many other items too including swords and jewellery.

This clearly shows the green malachite which contains copper. It has to be smelted at a very high temperature to extract the pure copper metal - 1100 degrees centigrade to be precise.

Eventually we returned to the surface again after a really interesting and fun visit. We were first on the tram for the second half of the descent back into the town so had time to make a thorough examination of our surroundings:)

The ride back down provides some spectacular views, this is about halfway down with the sweep of Llandudno Bay and, finally, a bit of blue sky.

This is about the steepest part of the tramway and you really,really hope that the cable doesn't break at this point! On the left is another tram on the way up. One day I'd like to go back and spend more time both in the town and on the top of Great Orme but we still had quite a long way to travel before reaching our hotel in Caernarvon. In my next post we'll visit Caernarvon Castle.