Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Acorns and the Rights of Pannage

(Click on photos to enlarge)

I thought of this yesterday when I was having to pick up and remove bucketfuls of acorns from our top field, where Itsy is going for the winter now. Some ponies develop a real taste for acorns and whilst there is grass to nibble, they shouldn't be a problem, but as the acorns can cause a cumulative Vitamin B deficiency in horses, I'm leaving nothing to chance. I know of a pony who died from acorn poisoning and every year on the New Forest, there are acorn poisoning fatalities. They are also fatal to cattle, of which there are ever increasing numbers grazing the Forest.

These fatalities happen despite the Commoners taking advantage of the Rights of Pannage (or 'common of mast') and turning their pigs loose on the Forest. The exact date for the pigs to be turned out varies from year to year and is decided by the Verderers*, as does the exact ending date - in 2006 for example the season was extended to December because of the extenstive acorn crop. The third week of September is the norm for them to be turned out, but I was there in early September and there were already some pigs out. Breeding sows may be turned out all year round as long as they return to their holding overnight - though this is a common practice, rather than an actual Right. The minimum time for the Pannage duration is 60 days. The pigs will happily eat fallen crab apples and beech mast too. Between 200 and 600 pigs are turned out on the Forest each Autumn, a fraction of the numbers in Victorian times, when every cottager had a few pigs and something like 6,000 were turned out. Nowadays each pig can be identified by an ear tag, and they also supposed to have a ring through their nose to stop them rooting too deeply for food.

I know in past times in the countryside, small boys were paid (a piffling amount no doubt!) by the sack for acorns which they had collected and which would help fatten a village pig.

* The Verderers (the word comes from the French : vert, meaning green and associated with woodland) were originally men in charge of the Royal Hunting Forests of William the Conqueror. They were in charge of judicial matters and dealt with more minor infringements of Forest law. A Chief Justice was appointed to travel the circuit and deal with more serious matters. In Victorian times, a Commoner had to hold 75 acres or more in the Forest, with Commoners' rights attached, before he could be considered as an Agister. They controlled the grazing and health of the animals turned out on the Forest, made local byelaws and regulated the rights of common. Now DEFRA, the Forestry Commission, Hampshire County Council and the Countryside Agency control the Verderer's Court, whose headquarters is still in Lyndhurst. Other verderers still exist in the Forest of Dean and Epping Forest.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Howgill Fell - another view

(Click on photos to enlarge).

These photos were taken out of the car window when we were driving up in April this year. It is just such a magnificent sight. Not sure if I'll ever get the energy to go walking up them, but I can dream.


This link will tell you a bit about the area, including the town of Sedburgh which sounds a lovely place to visit . . . next time perhaps?

Breakfast in the Lake District . . .

(Click on photos to enlarge)

I drew the short straw to take our middle daughter back to University "oop North" this past weekend. I didn't mind too much as I love travelling and exploring and going somewhere away from our little corner of Wales. I stayed overnight in her brand new Uni flat before setting off back home at first sparrow cough.

I intended to have my breakfast in the Lake District, putting a little dog leg in the journey to go via Kendal. It was very foggy crossing the Pennines, so much so that I couldn't see the road a hundred yards ahead, and as it was steeply downhill for quite long stretches towards Brough, my heart was in my mouth.

Fortunately it cleared by the time I got on the Kendal road and I was able to take some photos, including the amazing Howgill Fells, which are achingly beautiful when viewed from the M6.

The fog lifted as I drove towards Kendal, where I intended to stop for a stroll round and some breakfast (think, a chocolate bar and a can of Diet-Coke here . . . I needed waking up!)

From Kendal, I drove to Sizergh Castle, which a friend had visited recently and her photos had inspired me to visit also. Sadly, I had arrived far too early - it would be an hour before the gardens opened, and three hours before the castle opened too - by then I was in Oswestry. Another time - perhaps on the way up to pick my daughter up next spring. Here's a photo of what I missed:


Saturday, 27 September 2008

Old and new Southampton - Tudor House Museum

(Click on photos to enlarge)

The juxtaposition of old and new - obviously something that never bothered town planners in Southampton!

A more pleasing view of the Museum. In my childhood, throughout the winter, I would visit here every Saturday, on my way to the swimming baths.

This lady made her own gown, and looked every inch a proper embassador for the Museum Open Day.

These date back to the Tudor period. All the exhibits had been removed (all I can remember now was a stuffed Dachshund in the Victorian parlour!) so that extensive renovation work could be carried out. This meant that in parts you were really back to how the house looked in Tudor times. Inside the Museum, work has revealed hand painted vine tendrils on some of the beams.

In one corner, a tiny Tudor doorway. Gosh, they must have been short and thin in those days . .

Wonderful old beams in one of the earliest parts of the Museum - though back in the 80s "someone" saw fit to take down the walls in between the Tudor house and the late Medieval part abutting it to make one big room for displays - which was a pity, as these were actually external SUPPORTING walls of both properties, just a hand's breadth between them and the whole building then started to lean rather nastily to one side. It has now been put right I'm glad to say, with the use of modern technology. (These beams are tied to one another with metal hawsers attached to a very solid metal upright which goes down to the ground floor.)

I love this old and new picture, with the Medieval add-ons and the Regency "modernisation" of another part of the building.

Another view of the back of the building. I love the yellow ochre colour of the limewash (similar to what we have used on our farmhouse).

Another view of old and new. The beautiful Tudor knot and herb gardens - and in the background, the awful intrusion of the De Vere hotel . . . Very in keeping - NOT!

Another view of the garden.

A pretty bower of vines.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Revisiting my childhood - Southampton Museums

(Click on photos to enlarge)

God's House Tower (above)

When I was down in Hampshire recently, Tricia and I spent the day in Southampton, as it was a free Museum Open Day. We packed quite a few in. Even the Archaeology Museum, at God's House Tower, which I used to go past on the bus and always wished it would be open (it never was) on this occasion, was functioning, open and free. After the delights of two stores selling fabric and wool in East Street (which hasn't changed so much since I lived on the edge of So'ton in 1980), we went to God's House Tower first. I'm afraid I took some photos, lots of photos, not realizing that cameras were not allowed. Perhaps I can sneak just one or two in on here and hope that the camera police won't be knocking on my door . . .

Adjacent to the Museum was this French religious building, inside a walled garden, and with this beautiful doorway set in one wall. There was Medieval carving over the door frame by the look of things. I don't remember this building AT ALL from when I lived in Southampton - I'd just never noticed it.

It was an interesting Museum, and they had some splendid finds. Southampton has a long long history, including the Romans at Clausentum (bottom of Bitterne by the river Itchen) and the later Bitterne Manor, which was a distribution point for wine and salt (the latter being panned from the river). In Saxon times, the focus changed to the Six Dials/St Mary's/Chapel area of the city, on the other side of the river, where the settlement of Hamwih grew up. I can remember a very interesting talk about this Dig inside a polytunnel over a Saxon street in Six Dials, on a broiling summer's day which made suffocation seem a real possibility at one point! This was a centre for industry and merchants lived and traded here. Many pits were found, one containing evidence of large-scale bronze-working including ingots and crucibles. Elsewhere a furnace and hearth associated with iron-working was found. Loom weights, thread pickers and spindle whorls were also unearthed - hardly surprising in an age where everything was hand-made - and a small much-decayed and stained fold of Saxon material (a very rare find indeed) . Later examination showed that it was made from a fine wool worsted. Bone working was also carried out in one premises on the site, with the vertebrae of Little Piked Whale being used as a chopping block! Bone weaving tools, spindle whorls, handles, gaming pieces, combs, comb-cases and pins were all artifacts found on site.

Medieval pottery above, and below, a loom which my fingers were fair itching to try out . . .

Viking raids on Hamwih meant that by the early Medieval period, the focus of Southampton had shifted again, and walled defences built. There are good lengths of the town walls still standing, but only the Bargate remains of the entrances to and from the walled town. Following the Norman conquest, Southampton became a major port and the point of entry and exit between Winchester, then the capital of England, and Normandy. The castle was built in the 12th century and the port saw the importation of French wines in exchange for English cloth and wool.

God's House Tower was built in 1417 and was the first purpose-built artillery fortification in England. We went up onto the roof and the views were panoramic, right across the Solent towards the New Forest in one direction, and across the length and breadth of Southampton on the other 3 sides.

Looking up-river with the tower of the Royal Pier to the left. We used to go dancing at "the Pier" on a Monday night. Sadly the end of the Pier is no more, and the building remaining beneath the tower is now a Balti restaurant. How times change.

Looking back across the park towards the Railway terminus and hotel, when cruise liners left the port in the days of P&O and the White Star Line, who used to have their offices on the right of this picture.

Looking across the Solent towards the New Forest. I think that was the Isle of Wight ferry just leaving.

More ruins (King John's House??) behind God's House Tower. It was very peaceful here and there's a little garden beyond it where people were going for lunch. This is as I remember it from my childhood.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Thomas Hardy - The Darkling Thrush

For Diane at Tomato Soup Cake - the poem I promised you.

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be
The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.

Dec. 31, 1900

Robert Frost - Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

(Hedgerow along our top field last winter)

Over on Tomato Soup Cake, Diane's memorable blog, http://tomatosoupcake.blogspot.com/
there was a little fragment of this poem, written as "graffiti" on a downtown wall. I thought it deserved remembering again in full . . . Those of you who visit regularly here, will know of my interest in the Georgian poets who settled for an interlude in the hot summer before WWI, in the villages around Dymock.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there's some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

What I do when I'm not on the computer.

Itsybits . . .

I care for Itsy, who is now looking much more her old self, and the pink powders for her tummy have given her a superb coat. She has her grass tummy back, but that will lessen with regular work - once I can find another rider for her, as my middle daughter goes back to Uni this weekend.

I turn an old Indian skirt which had got ripped in the wash, into two new cushion covers for my daughter's room up at Uni. As the material was so thin, I had to back it with a deep red glazed cotton. I have enough material left for some more recycled cushion covers too . . .

When I was down in Hampshire recently, I drove over Stony Cross to Linwood, and picked these wildings, and two bags of smaller crab apples. I chopped them up and covered them in water, then cooked them until they looked like this:

This mash has now been through my jelly bag (which hangs from a convenient nail on the main beam in the kitchen) and today I will add the sugar and boil it up for pots of fragrant Crab Apple jelly.

Whilst we have this sunshine, I have been busy out in the garden. There used to be a thicket of briar roses here, but they were getting too boistrous and overgrowing the path. The Madam Hardy rose I planted about 15 years ago had reverted to its briar rootstock too, so I decided that could come out too. Now I am digging up the roots (a job for the mattock again) of the Polygonum superbus, as that haas also outstayed its welcome. It's been there about 15 years too, and just spread and spread. I tolerated it because it was such a good bee plant, but this year there have been no bees . . . I shall plant this area up with cottage garden flowers - annuals and perennials, underplanted with bulbs - there are a lot of snowdrops there already, which I have been careful to save whilst I was digging.

My husband isn't idle either. Here is a lid for my old butter churn. He was looking for the right piece of wood, which he eventually found at the back of the woodshed, along with the piece which made the handle. I like to think that we can still replicate those skills that all countryfolk had in the past, when you had to turn on your own resources to repair what you owned, in the days before the throw-away age. I grew up with parents who mended things too so I was never a chucker-outer.

Here is the finished butter churn (the handle is inside). It will go downstairs in the bottom kitchen, where I have a lovely old cream seperator to go with it.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Give me sunshine . . .

Windfall Apple Chutney . . .

In the words of Eric and Ernie, that's what we had yet again today. I could get used to this - it makes me feel SO much happier and more positive.

As we had to fill up the car with diesel as I am taking our middle daughter back to Uni at the weekend, we did an early grocery shop in town straight after dropping our son off for his school bus, and also went down to our favourite butcher in St Clear's to stock up on decent meat. That is locally-reared meat or from known farms. Along with the steaks for our daughter's back to Uni special meal, we got a buxom chicken, free range and organic, for just £7.50. That's gone in the freezer, but I know it will have flavour, texture and there won't be explosions in my oven as the water and junk they inject into the carcases of supermarket chickens hits the hot fat in the roasting pan. This will be a Quiet Chicken . . .

The moment we arrived back we had unexpected visitors - a Dutch chap and his wife who used to live here back in 1986 (a couple of years before we arrived). We showed them round, with me wincing at the untidiness and clutter. Ah well . . . this is what you get when you sacrifice the housework in favour of the autumn tidy up of the garden, playing with fat bay mares and making chutney and crab apple jelly.

Talking of fat bay mares, Itsy and I went for a walk for an hour or so this afternoon. She faced one of her demons - the barking dogs down at a neighbour's cottage. In fact, not only did she face her demons, she stood her ground and then put her head over the gate and blew on them! She was SO good bless her, and walked, trotted and halted on command - the moment the first syllable was uttered in fact. We did enjoy ourselves. The first ribbons of leaves are making their way downstream. Soon they will become flotillas and finally stout rafts of beech, hazel, ash and sycamore.

I have trashed the long border behind the wall and taken out all the briar roses and Madam Hardy, and some of the roots of the Polygonum superbus, which is a proper thug and had colonised half the border. It is ALL going to come out and be replanted with cottage garden annuals and perennials, underplanted with bulbs.

My Windfall Apple Chutney is now made and potted, and turned out very well. The Crab Apple Jelly will be done tonight, now I have the jam pan empty again.

Just before tea, my dear husband went jogging, and I said I would walk and meet him, which I did, down by the river. I then jogged along behind him for about 1/4 mile, which is unheard of for me, and I didn't get out of puff either. Then I did a sprint and am still enjoying the endorphines that produced!

The sun has dropped behind the hill now, but the view this afternoon across the valley was so lovely. A spectacularly white cow was grazing on top of the bank of the Iron Age hillfort and the lengthening shadows were stretching down towards the valley bottom. So peaceful.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Breamore House & Museum of Rural Life (II)

Do I detect a note of "OMG, not MORE photos from that bloomin' Museum" yet? Do tell me if your eyes are glazing over. I realize that what interests me must make other folk reach for the off button, but hey-ho - there are a few more to go yet!

This is a scene from the Dairy. If you look underneath the table, you will see a butterchurn of the sort that I have . In fact, my dear husband made me a top for it today, with a handle too, as I'd been nagging him for a few weeks now. It will go on display in the downstairs kitchen as we have plenty of room in the Inglenook down there. I am drawn to these things like I know them, so reckon I must have been around in a previous (Victorian) farm life . . .

A page from the farm wage book 1844. Towards the bottom you will see the name John Bryant. He is a relative of mine through marriage with the Bolt line from Devon.

Here are various old horsey bits and pieces. Top left is a docking iron (used pre 1948 for cutting horse's tails off short - e.g. through the tailbone). Then a pair of hobbles, then a tooth rasp, below that a syringe pump, curved trimming scissors, folding hoof pick bottom centre and then a sweat scraper. Above these centre is a very old fashioned mane comb and then two cauterising irons . . .

In the old saddler's shop, there was a mouldy slipper stirrup, which would have been used on a lady's side saddle.
The bit on the wall with the bent back mouthpiece is a Scamperdale Pelham - that sort of mouthpiece prevented the horse from getting a sore mouth if it was fussy in its mouth. The spikey object is actually not horsey at all, but would have been worn by a calf that the farmer wanted to wean. Needless to say, the mother would not have been at all impressed when the calf tried to suckle!

A long view of a corner of the saddler's shop, showing his tools. Leaning in the corner of the window, the cricket bat shaped object would probably have been used to flatten and even out the stuffing in the lining of a saddle or heavy horse collar.

Another long view across the shop, with all sorts of bits and pieces of saddlery. The seat has been covered with some Tattersall check flannel material which was usually employed on the lining of a work horse collar (when leather wasn't used).

An old Scotch collar (lined with the flannel) and a cart bridle. The snaffle bit would have been made by the blacksmith in Victorian times. How do I know it's Scotch? Because it goes up into a high point at the top. Normal English harness collars were rounded.

A display of thatching tools.

Traps - all sorts - from rat traps upwards. Across the bottom were two man traps.

Finally various weights and measures, including a chain which was used to measure the distance of the same name. It would be 22 yards long. 10 chains made a furlong; 80 chains one statute mile. Then there were rods, poles and perches . . .