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, October 31, 2012

Happy Samhain!

I don't have time to write a new post so this is a repeat from 2009:)

 Sunset today will mark the beginning of Samhain, the last of the three Celtic harvest festivals. The word Samhain means 'summer's end' and from this point we are in the dark time of the year and the days get shorter and the nights get longer as we move towards the Winter Solstice. The Celtic people measured the days from one sunset to the next so Samhain will end at sunset tomorrow.

This is also the time when we remember our ancestors who have passed on to the Summerlands. I haven't yet set out the candles that I will light this evening but this is one from a previous year. It is surrounded with the herb rosemary for remembrance and tonight there will be individual candles for my parents and grandparents and a single large one for all the many past generations stretching back into the mists of time. I wish both them and you a Happy and Blessed Samhain.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

St Crispin's Day

" This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
 He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
 Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
 And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
 He that shall live this day, and see old age,
 Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
 And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
 Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
 And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
 Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
 But he'll remember, with advantages,
 What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
 Familiar in his mouth as household words- Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
 Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
 Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
 This story shall the good man teach his son;
 And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
 From this day to the ending of the world,
 But we in it shall be remembered-
 We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
 For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
 Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
 This day shall gentle his condition;
 And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
 Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
 And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
 That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."

These stirring words were spoken by King Henry V as he rallied his troops before the Battle of Agincourt and come from Shakespeare's play 'Henry V'. Today is indeed the feast of Crispian - and October 25th is the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. On this day in 1415 King Henry V led his men to victory over a French army who greatly outnumbered them. When I say he led them I mean that quite literally - he fought alongside his soldiers on foot as well as on horseback.

This victory was due largely to the English longbowmen whose reputation was fearsome in Medieval Europe. The archers began their training at the age of 7 and could fire their arrows at the rate of 12 -15 per minute. In 1252 a law was passed requiring every Englishman between the ages of 15 and 60 to equip themselves with a bow and arrows. In 1363 a further law was passed requiring all men to practice their archery on Sundays and holidays and failure to do so carried heavy penalties. There are many old churches where there are marks on the outer walls left by the constant action of the archers sharpening their arrows. Henry's archers were handpicked from the best archers in England and they cut down the French cavalry with a constant hail of arrows. Most of the archers who fought at Agincourt came from Cheshire and many of them from the area where my ancestors lived.Cheshire archers had the reputation of being the best of the best. There are forty seven archers named Wright on the muster rolls for Agincourt and I often wonder whether one or more of them were among my ancestors:)

I shall be remembering those Cheshire bowmen tonight as I watch Kenneth Branagh's wonderful performance as the king in the film 'Henry V'.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Walk on the Moors

On a beautiful autumn afternoon my friend P and I took B Baggins and his friend Bertie up on Big Moor for a short walk. The colours on the moors at this time of the year are really beautiful - the bracken is a patchwork of greens and browns and the grasses have turned to gold. Moorland is a stark kind of landscape but each season brings its own beauty and autumn is my favourite - it starts in late August with the rich purple of the heather and then gains a wonderful golden glow which is accentuated in the sunlight of an October afternoon.
The moors around here are full of stone circles and burial cairns though if you are looking for a Stonehenge or Avebury you will be sadly disappointed. You will need to click on the photo to see the circle of stones surrounding a larger central stone. The circle dates back to the Bronze Age and is around 4000 years old. Quite close by are traces of pre-historic field systems and a Bronze Age settlement. I suspect that there is a lot more of each stone below ground as over the centuries the peat layers will have built up and the ground level will be a good deal higher now than it was in 2000BC. This is purely a personal opinion not based on any archaeological knowledge:)

This is the centre stone and if you look carefully you will see that people still leave offerings here - mostly coins but there are other things too.

While P and I were looking at the stone circle other members of the party were having a good time too! This is mostly Bertie but B Baggins is in there too:) Can you spot him?

B Baggins is a bit more visible here, at this time of year it's often hard to spot him as he blends in with the colours of the fallen leaves and brown grasses.

This is a proper path across the moor and as you can see it's pretty wet and muddy, it was a good deal worse than this in places too. Once you get onto the small tracks the open moorland can get very boggy indeed - peat bogs can be large and deep and dangerous.

About half way along the path is this small reservoir, a stream connects it to a much larger reservoir further up - as this was only a short walk (about an hour and a half) we turned off just before reaching the second one. I love the reflection of the trees in the water here.

We could hear more than one stag roaring as we walked and eventually we spotted this handsome chap standing on the skyline - he was a long way off so even with an 18x zoom I couldn't do any better than this.

Further along we spotted another stag with several hinds, they weren't quite as far away but still too far for a decent photo. In different territory I'd have tried to get closer but it was so wet and boggy here that discretion seemed to be the better part of valour! Clicking on the last two photos will make them a bit clearer.

Just before we reached the road again we passed this guide stoop - these date back usually to the 1700s and were put there to help travellers to find their way over lonely and difficult terrain before the turnpike roads existed. These high moorland routes were used regularly by pedlars,jaggers,salters and tinkers. Jaggers were men who led teams of packhorses carrying all kinds of goods, the salters transported salt from the salt mines in Cheshire over wide areas of the north of England. Mostly the routes were used between May and October, during the winter months the harsh moorland conditions made the journey extremely dangerous. Many lives were lost when travellers lost their way in snowstorms or in the thick mists which can descend suddenly out of nowhere. No mists or snowstorms yesterday though so we made ir safely home again:)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Home Again

I'm back home again after spending five weeks in Suffolk. Happily my son is recovering well and as long as he's sensible and does his physio exercises all should be well.

East Anglia is very flat so it's a marvellous place to see sunsets and sunrises. This was taken one evening from one of the lanes near my son's home.

Autumn is on its way but not as advanced as it is here a couple of hundred miles further north. In Suffolk there are still lots of wild flowers growing in the grass verges along the lanes.This pretty pink flower is field bindweed.

The hedgerows were thick with blackberries and they were really sweet too - I tested a good many during my daily walks:)

Suffolk and Norfolk are still very rural and the farming is largely arable. The farm next door to Neil and Cesca grows wheat, rape and sugar beet which is in the foreground of this photo. The fields further away have been recently harvested but not yet ploughed and I think it was wheat growing there.

The September Harvest Moon when it was new - a beautiful sight.

The huge acorns of the Turkey Oak with their long mossy bristles. It took me a while to discover what type of oak tree this is as I've never seen one before.

Shaggy Ink Cap mushrooms growing on the grass verge outside Neil's house.

I think these are White Bryony berries twining round the tree.

There were lots of lovely seedheads along the lanes,Cesca made a lovely arrangement using these and some Chinese Lanterns - I didn't think to take a photo of it though!

The highly poisonous but very beautiful berries of 'Lords and Ladies' - it's proper name is Arum maculatum and it's a common plant in the woods and hedgerows of England and Wales.

In the later part of my stay when Neil was able to walk a short distance we took the boys to Thornham Walks which has a lovely play area, lots of interesting woodland walks and plenty of places for Neil to sit and rest when he needed to. Gabriel and George love this Leaf Chair.

The local church is one of the round tower churches that are found almost exclusively in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Sadly St Andrew's was heavily 'restored' in the Victorian era so there is little of interest inside in spite of the fact that the tower and nave are Norman and there is mention of a church in this village in the Domesday Book. One of the few remaining medieval features is the 14th century piscina in the chancel.

This is the south aisle which had been recently decorated for Harvest Festival I think, this is by far the most attractive and interesting part of the church. On the left is the shaft and lower half of the bowl of the 15th century font which has now been replaced by a far less attractive modern version. Behind the font are the rood loft stairs. Since they start quite a way up the wall it rather looks as though either the floor levels have altered since the Reformation in the 16th century or, more likely in this case I think, there may have been a wooden stage giving access to the stairs.

There were two gravestones in the interior of the church one hidden by a piece of carpet, this one I found interesting as it is written entirely in Latin which seems to me to be quite unusual. My Latin is distinctly rusty but the grave is the final resting place of John Hobart born 3rd July 1605 and died in 1673. I rather think that his parents Sir John and Lady Barbara Hobart are buried in London in the church of St Botolph Bishopsgate - as it happens a great many of DH's ancestors are also buried there!

The view from my bedroom window - this was ploughed and harrowed during the time I was there and will now be sown probably with winter wheat. Hopefully I shall get round to commenting on blogs during this week and be back posting regularly. Thank you all so much for your concern and good wishes for Neil, it was greatly appreciated.