Saturday 30 June 2012

No Special Photograph.

I was hoping that I might have a very special photograph for you today.

Amongst our fields there is one very neglected field which does not belong to us. Nothing has been done to it this year and the grass is very long and full of weeds and briars. For the past week there has been a female deer in the field.

When a deer sees a human it usually runs away, clears the nearest fence and disappears into the distance. However, there is an exception to this. If the deer has had a baby it will move just a few yards and watch the intruder carefully hoping that he or she will go away. And this is exactly what has happened here. Today we approached the site carefully (in the next field, which belongs to us) and peeped over the fence, but there was nothing to be seen - just a flattened hollow where something has been lying. We assume that she has moved the baby on.

I just hope they are both safe and sound and snug and warm somewhere. July tomorrow and there has been a downpour here this afternoon and the temperature is more like early April than July. Still, as the farmer is fond of saying - we have to take what comes.

Friday 29 June 2012

The Old By-ways.

Out walking in the fields after lunch, accompanied by the farmer as I wished
to go through fields full of British Blue heifers who are to say the least 'frisky',
we came across these two stones. Of course I had seen them many times
before as they lie in our barn pasture, but today the farmer and I got talking
about them. It seems that they have laid exactly where they are for as long
as he can remember - that is at least the last sixty-five years. Probably they
have laid there much longer than that.

They are stile markers, blocks of stone which would have been upended when there
was a hedge across the field, to point the way for walkers to get into the next field.
It set me thinking - at what point did people walk the fields entirely for pleasure?
As our land at one time would have been part of the sheep pasture attached to Jervaulx
Abbey, there would have always been monks from the abbey walking back and forth
through the fields; and judging from the axe head we found some years ago, since very
early times men would have been here.

But what I am asking is at what point did walking for pleasure only become part of
our lives? The farmer walks with a group of friends every other Sunday - they take
it in turns to plan the walk.

As a child I walked with my father as often as we could, searching for wild flowers, birds
nests and the like. But I wonder how much further than that it goes back. Yes, John Clare
in the early 19th century and Francis Kilvert in the late 19th century both walked the
fields and wrote about it. But they seemed to be walking from A to B rather than just
a country wander.

I suspect that country people in the old days, most of whom worked the fields by day and worked their gardens by evening in order to have enough food to live on, noticed the wildlife as they worked, but rarely walked just in order to see it.

I hope these old stile stones lie exactly where they are for generations to come. The hedge that they were part of has long disappeared, apart from one or two stunted ancient hawthorn trees. But the stones themselves are a reminder of a past age which has gone for ever.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Stormy weather.

I have been to Sedbergh today to meet my God-daughter for lunch. It is one of my favourite journeys - around thirty miles through the most beautiful scenery and right over the watershed of the Pennines. Both the River Ure and the River Eden rise at the top - one flows into the Irish Sea and one into the North Sea.

The hedges on either side of the narrow roads are now fully in leaf and at the moment are swathed in wild roses in all shades from cream to deep pink. As they grow they stretch their tendrils out into the road so that you feel as though you are driving through an arch of wild roses in some places. The cow parsley is finished and in its place, along the verges, are ox-eye daisies and the wild blue cranesbill, which is so common up here.

There are few villages but there are cottages dotted here and there on the road side, most of them washed white and most with hanging baskets outside. I have one or two places which are landmarks in my journey and one of these is a delightful little cottage called Badger Dubb. Today their garden is full of larkspur - a gigantic splash of blue as you drive past.

On Sedbergh Moor and sheep are loose and the lambs - by now half grown - saunter across the road taking absolutely no notice of the scant traffic. Some of the sheep have already been shorn, so that they look lumpy and ungainly. The rest - probably belonging to a different farmer - wait for the shearer to arrive.

Between Leyburn and Sedbergh I went through sunshine, drizzle and heavy thundery rain. In Leyburn it was 15 degrees and very cloudy; in Hawes it was 22 degrees and bright sunshine. When we came out of the cafe after lunch (brie and cranberry sandwich with salad since you ask)there was the most horrendous downpour. I suppose we would call it a cloudburst. When it finally eased off enough for me to start my journey back the water was pouring off the fells on to the road and then down the road into dips, so that every once in a while there was deep water on the road. I found it quite scary but managed to get behind another vehicle so that I wasn#t the first one to 'dip my toe' in the water.

Home safe and sound at 4pm with delicious pieces of wedding cake for tea. We sat in the back of the car and looked at my god-daughter's wedding album - wonderful photographs which brought the day back as though it were yesterday (it is already three months away).

Tuesday 26 June 2012

The Times they are a'changin'

Well, of course they are. They always have done and they always will do. Maybe it would be better if we said 'evolving' rather than changing. Ever since the days of the Luddites (and probably since the days of the Stone Age) whatever was set to come afterwards was never seen as being as good as what we had now.

But two pieces of news in today's newspapers have set me thinking. First of all in the farmer's Yorkshire Post where Ian McMillan writes on a Tuesday. Today he writes about how he thinks we are becoming a 'Headline Society' - and I do think there is some truth in what he says.

I usually read other folks' blogs while the six o'clock news is on. At two minutes to six I will say to the farmer 'I'll just watch the headlines' - and I do. If there is something really interesting to me then I will watch further but usually the headlines are enough to keep me up to date - or so I think.
But Mcmillan suggests - and I think there is food for thought in what he says - that we are in danger of becoming less subtle in our thinking. Today's headline tells us all we need to know and we don't want to be bothered with the rest. Headlines no longer give us a hint of what is to come (like a chapter heading in a book), now they sum up the whole situation and we accept it as all we need to know.

I wonder how this relates to teaching and learning in school. Because this leads me to the second piece of information which I found interesting in today's Times. It seems that one of the major supermarkets recruited staff for a new store in an area where jobs were scarce and unemployment was high. They had far too many apply and after interviews they appointed what they thought were the best young people for the jobs of stacking the shelves and serving the public in the shop.

The trouble was that once these young people started the job their social skills were so poor (this has nothing to do with the skills of literacy and numeracy) that three quarters of them had to go on a remedial training course, teaching them things like how to turn up for work on time, how to treat customers, how to make eye contact - all the things which my generation learned automatically at school.

I am not sure whether these two things are connected. If they are then the connection is at the most tenuous. But one thing is for sure - things do not always change for the better. People will no doubt blame the mobile phone, texting, lack of conversation and the like. But then the Luddites blamed the invention of machines. We have to move forward but we must be sure that we don't stop looking more deeply into things and that when we communicate with folk we can at least look them in the eye.

Any comments?

Monday 25 June 2012

The Ground-nesters.

After walking round the fields with Tess this afternoon, after the silage bales have gone, I really fear for the offspring of this year's ground-nesting birds. In our fields we have pheasant, partridge, curlew and oyster-catcher, the occasional snipe and here and there maybe a wild duck.
They would have all hatched off within the last three or four weeks.

Where the tractors and trailers have pulled out of the fields on to the lane the land is churned up like a ploughed field and as you walk around the field you can feel the water lying underfoot. Imagine what it would have been like when the rain was pouring down (we have had plenty of that), the wind was blowing and the grass was still long. Tiny new-born chicks have little chance of surviving in that environment.

Partridge, the farmer is fond of telling me, are little bigger than bumble bees when they are born and all of these birds are quite frail until they get going. As I walked round today I didn't see a single young bird (I usually see a few who haven't managed to hide in the hedge bottom before I reach them) and - more importantly - I never heard a single warning cry from a parent bird. Usually at this time of the year the curlews and oyster catchers are calling loudly and trying to attract the walker's attention away from their young.

Our barn owl is still hanging about and flitting from barn to barn. I intend to e mail the R S P B about getting a barn owl box once we have found somewhere to put it. Our friend and neighbour has such a box in one of his barns and last year a pair of barn owls raised two young. This year they have been ousted by a pair of jackdaws. I really can't think that owls would be turned out by jackdaws but whatever the reason there are now young jackdaws making a racket in the owl box.

The seasons seem to be haywire this year and even though it is not raining today it is by no means a settled day - there is a lot of ominous cloud around and very little sunshine.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Autograph Books.

Birthday friend, M, gave me a little book when I called for her birthday. "Another Time Another Age" is a collection of 'jottings' edited by Delia R Smith. In it are a collection of writings from the last part of the nineteenth and the first part of the twentieth century.

The Editor found these jottings amongst the belongings of her Godmother, Bertha Green, when she died aged 98. They were in small albums which in those days I think were called 'Autograph Albums'. I have just such an album which belonged to an Aunt of mine who died in 1954.

She belonged to that generation of women who never found a husband after the terrible loss of young men in the first world war. The album begins during that war, when I know she had a relationship with a young officer in the army. The relationship ended disastrously when she found out that he was already married and from that date on there are no entries in the album. It is really a testament to a very sad life. In the back of the album a newspaper cutting is folded. It is a poem headed 'Consolation' and of course one wonders - did he send it to her after the relationship ended or did she find it in the newspaper and cut it out and keep it for consolation?

When we think of autograph albums these days we think of collections of signatures which often turn up on programmes like Antiques Road Show, where someone has collected the Beatles and so on. But when I was young we kept Autograph Albums and asked everyone to write in them. What resulted was a collection of verses and bon mots. And this is what this little book contains.

It is a delight to read. And what strikes me also is that all the handwriting is very similar. The same is true of my aunt's album. In those days it seems, if you could write, then you were all taught to write with virtually the same hand. I remember my mother encouraging me to write rows of what she called 'pot hooks' long before I started school - presumably that is what they did in school in those days to get all handwriting the same. (I find many of my American friends now write in a similar hand - do they learn a particular script in schools there?)

I particularly love this little one from the book. It was added by someone called H Busby on February 27th 1916:

In the rainstorms of life
We need an umbrella.
May yours be upheld
by a handsome young fella' My sentiments exactly.

I don't suppose the book is still in print - it was printed and sold in aid of the Shaftesbury Society
- a society which enables people in great need to achieve security, self worth and significance. It
is a registered charity - 221948.

Friday 22 June 2012


Today was the birthday of a dear old friend who lives in the village. This afternoon I went round for a cup of tea and found that her daughter had come up from London (quite a drive) for her birthday and had brought her a batch of cup cakes that she had made and a cup cake stand to put them on.
She took a photograph for me to put on my blog (I had forgotten my camera). It has just taken me half an hour to find out how to transfer it from an e mail to my blog - but as you can see from the picture it has been well worth it - the display is delightful and I can assure you that the cakes are delicious. Lucky M - have a lovely birthday. While I was there she had a constant stream of visitors and I am not surprised. She is such a good friend to so many in the village and she remembers everyone's birthday - consequently they all reciprocate when hers comes round.

I just wish the sun could have shone for her. Happy birthday M and many more to come.

Thursday 21 June 2012

An English Summer

Three fine sunny days and then a pouring wet one, to be followed - if the forecasters are correct - by three or four days of highly unsettled weather. I am pleased to report that the silage was
wrapped before the rain came down, so that is one headache out of the way.

Now that our Dutch friends have returned home I looked at a rather empty calendar this morning.
Now, having switched on and read my e mails I have added - friends for the weekend shortly, afternoon tea on Sunday, a Greek evening in July and a lunch date next Thursday. Aren't e mails good for filling up the social calendar?

A friend has taken a dozen fertile (I hope) pullet eggs for her incubator. As I am not raising any new chicks this year, this is the next best thing and I look forward to the new births in three weeks time and hope that most of them are hens rather than cockerels.

Today is the Summer Solstice and therefore the longest day. It is now 7.01pm and already I have to have the light on in order to type this. At this rate it will be dark by 8pm as the cloud cover is so heavy.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Olympic Torch and all things sporting.

The Olympic Torch comes to our little market town at lunch time today so there will be mass
disruption of the roads. It is only being carried for a short way - maybe half a mile at the most - and then will travel on to Richmond where again a runner will carry it for a short way. The farmer suggested we go to see it, but our farmer neighbour has a full slurry tank and urgently needs it emptying so that has to take precedence. Can't say I am sorry as all the schools are being let out to watch it,so there will be little room and most of the parking places are closed off.
I am finding it difficult to become enthusiastic about the Olympic Games but shall no doubt feel differently when they start as it is certainly a wonderful spectator sight on television, where you get all the action without the crowds and the standing about.

Similarly the England Football Team are through to the Quarter Finals thanks I understand to Wayne Rooney who scored a goal - thanks also to the other side having a goal disallowed (which has since been seen to be a goal!). With all this modern technology why do they have to object to using it in such circumstances?

I have never been much of a sporting person. I shall watch the last few days of the Wimbledon Championships but the early rounds don't interest me. I am pretty pathetic really when I think
of the immense dedication these people put into their sport in order to reach that level.

Glorious weather here today, so I shall now go and get the wheelbarrow and go into the front garden and fill the barrow with weeds - I think there is a lorry load so I shall not make much of an impression, but every little helps. The trouble is that I love a wild garden and it has gone over the top - alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle) has taken over and burgeoned.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Wild life on the farm.

We all know about the farm animals - the cows, sheep, farm dogs, farm cats, hens etc. who contribute to the economy of the farm (although the farmer may well dispute the use of the words 'contribute' and 'economy' in the same sentence as my hens,) But if we take the trouble to look carefully the farm buildings and land support such a lot of other wild life - both plant and animal.
And it is this side of things which gives me such joy, which takes me back to my childhood days wandering the lanes in our Lincolnshire village with my father - a great lover of nature.

Rarely does the farmer take Tess out for her last 'wee and poo' wander without meeting one or two hedgehogs on the prowl for slugs and snails; quite often he walks the fields and surprises a deer lying in the grass; occasionally a fox slinks along the hedgeback early in the morning on his way home after a nights hunting; there are hundreds of rabbits everywhere. And in the hedgerow the wild roses are beginning to bloom; the hawthorn blossom, the crab apple blossom and the cow parsley have all died back now.

But there is other wildlife which we rarely see. For a week or two now we have heard what we were pretty sure was a barn owl. We have heard him at dusk in the Scots pines by the farm house and yesterday the farmer found the first evidence that he spends a lot of his time here in our buildings. In the doorway of the loose housing was an owl pellet -a pellet regurgitated by the owl and containing the bones and fur of small animals he has eaten. I photographed it for you to see and then, using two cocktail sticks, I pulled it apart to reveal a mass of tiny fragile bones, I suppose mainly of tiny field mice.

And then there is the hedgerow itself - what a wealth of species there are there. In the piece I have photographed I counted spindle, hawthorn, field maple, wild rose, holly, elder, blackthorn - and that was without really seriously looking. And I know for sure that in the tighter bits of the hedge - the holly for example (well-hidden from prying eyes and beaks) there will be nests. At our bird feeders we have chaffinch, yellowhammer, greenfinch, goldfinch, woodpecker, siskin, hedge house and tree sparrow and many of these species nest in the hedge or, like blue, coal and great tits, in holes in the trees in our fields. All this activity is going on under our noses and we walk past barely noticing it. Perhaps it is as well because birds certainly don't like interference in their nesting affairs.

Of course Tess is only interested in one kind of wild life - the rabbit. This same hedgerow has plenty of rabbit holes underneath it and the only sign that they are there is the telltale rabbit runs through the grass. Tess finds them all and makes a bee line down them to see what she can see.

Here today the sun is shining, the cut grass in the fields is drying nicely and there is a sharp wind blowing - just the thing to make it a good silaging day, so keep your fingers crossed that it lasts.

Monday 18 June 2012

A Quiet Day?

Visitors gone home, nobody scheduled to call today, I thought it would be a quiet, rather lonely day. When visitors have gone it always takes me a day or two to get used to the quiet again. But how wrong I was. What a pleasant and busy day it has been.

At last the sun is shining and it is a warm June day. Only forecast to last until Thursday, when it is due to turn cold and wet again, but this little "window" means one thing to farmers at this time of the year -SILAGING. So the first thing that happened is that our fields are being silaged; all the grass is already cut and every three or four hours it is being shaken up in an effort to get it dry quickly so that it can be baled and wrapped before the rain.

Then the Solar men came. We have decided to go over to Solar power and are having panels fixed onto a South-facing building in the yard. The men chose to come today to fix them, so there was plenty of activity in the yard.

Then friends who are over here from the States rang to say they were coming for coffee this morning and as they arrived so did another local friend, M - so what a lovely, chatty morning we had.

In addition to all this I had to go into our local little market town so it has been a busy day.

I managed to get in a walk with Tess after lunch. There are buttercups everywhere. Nicholas Culpepper wrote "Buttercups grow so common everywhere that unless you run your head into a hedge you cannot but see them as you walk." This is still true today and what a beautiful sight they are. I also saw the first of the wild roses - my favourite wild flower.

Once the silaging has been done and the bales have been collected up, then the cattle are turned into the field to 'pike' round the edges, where the cutter couldn't reach the grass. And then the crows descend in their hordes to poke their long beaks into the cut grass and seek out the leather jackets. Our neighbour's fields are already at this stage so I took a couple of photographs for you.

So, a busy day after all and an enjoyable one too. All that remains to be done is a huge pile of ironing (I couldn't resist doing two loads of washing as it was such a good drying day). Shall I tackle it tonight or shall I leave it until tomorrow when it will be twice as hard to iron as it will have dried too much overnight? Decisions, decisions.

Sunday 17 June 2012

My new header

Thanks for the kind comments and words of encouragement after I was unable to leave comments on anybody's blog. I have defragmented this afternoon (my computer, not me) - whatever that means - and as a result the machine is working much faster. The bad news is that at present there are no blogs at all on my side bar! So I am putting on a new blog and hoping all is well when I return to my site.

I'm glad you like the new header. I have been saving it up for a few weeks. For those who don't know about such things, here are a few bits of information. The cattle are Limousine heifers, all in calf. The yellow ear tags are compulsory as all cattle have to be registered and have a passport - done through the Cattle Movement Service of Defra. They are registered, and issued with a passport and an ear tag, at birth. This information stays with them throughout their lives. And - no - I don't think it hurts them particularly when the tag is put into the ear. I suppose it is a bit like us having our ears pierced - it is over before you notice the pain.

Today is June 17th and the farmer and I have just realised that (only four days before the Summer Solstice) we have had our wood-burning stove working every night of the year so far.
It is cold and showery and certainly not warm enough to be without any heat source.

And yet everything in nature has gone on as usual. The trees are in full leaf and looking as beautiful as they always do before wind and rain begin to sully them; all the wild flowers are out at their allotted time; vegetables in the garden are growing at their usual pace; the birds are nesting and already there are young sitting on the tree branches outside the kitchen window demanding to be fed. We have siskins this year and the young are off the nest. A young one hit the dining room window full pelt shortly after lunch today and lay on its back under the window. I went out to look at it and by the time I got there it had turned over onto its stomach. It lay there for an hour or so and then when I looked again it had gone, so I presume it had recovered - I certainly hope so.

In the fields the rabbits are well, breeding like rabbits. Tess caught a young one this morning and brought it to the farmer, saying "Look at me, dad, aren't I clever." We will draw a veil over what the farmer did next.

Among our fields is one field which does not belong to the farm and this year it has been totally neglected and the grass is high. When we walked past a couple of days ago a roe deer stood up in the grass at our passing. Now we are wondering if she has dropped her fawn there.

Now that our Dutch friends have gone - they went over on the Hull to Rotterdam ferry last night and will be home by now - we are feeling quite sad. Isn't it strange? Some visitors one tolerates as being a necessity, some one enjoys seeing now and again and others feel like a part of the family. Well our Dutch friends fall into the latter category - we were delighted to see them, we had a lovely time while they were here and we were really sorry to see them go.

We did, however, feel that it was a great strain on them having to struggle to speak English all the time they were here. Both of them have excellent English but I am ashamed to say that neither the farmer nor I have made the slightest effort to learn the Dutch language.

At the top of this post I have put two photographs of Studley Royal Water Gardens. They are very beautiful and also very peaceful. Together with our friends we had a lovely walk round them after our visit to Fountains Abbey (they are next door).

In one photograph you will see a 'temple' in the background. In the other photograph our friend is coming out of the door of that temple having just tested the acoustic by singing part of an aria and a bit of Gregorian Chant - and beautiful they sounded too.
Please note that I am having extreme difficulty in getting on to your blogs - and even more difficulty in leaving a comment. I am reading you but can't let you know at the moment, so please keep reading me!

Saturday 16 June 2012

An Outing to Fountains Abbey

Our Dutch friends have been staying and we made a list of places to go - actually we made two lists - a wet weather list and a dry weather list. Luckily Thursday was a dry day, although rather cold, so we went to Fountains Abbey.

It is such a splendid building, dating back to 1132 when the order was started by a group of break-away monks. It stands in extensive and beautiful grounds and our friends were thrilled with the whole visit, not least because they say that with the Netherlands being such a small country with a large population, there is little room for extensive 'parks' like this one.

We had a bowl of soup in the splendid restaurant at lunch time and then in the afternoon we walked in Studley Water Gardens next door. More of that tomorrow. In the meantime, please enjoy enlarging and looking at the photographs above.

On the farm, life has gone on as normal. Poor Tess suffers from pollen allergy and has to have regular anti-histamine injections to keep it at bay. I had to take her again for another one yesterday before she chewed her feet off.

In the fields there is little hope of silaging yet as everywhere is so very wet. The grass is long but it is dying off at the roots because of the damp conditions. This dampness and long grass is not helping a lot of the birds, who have young to feed. Curlew, oyster-catcher, pheasant and partridge should have brought chicks off the nest by now (they are ground-nesters and nest in our fields) but it is a struggle for them to survive in the long wet grass and many will perish. This morning when the farmer walked the fields with our farm dog and Tess, he saw a wonderful silent barn owl swooping low over the grass in broad daylight - a sure sign that feeding at night is difficult. I do hope the barn owls find enough food (mainly field mice, voles and the like) to rear their young. They are such magical birds and deserve a future.

Our friends have just gone off on their journey home. They have been in Wales for ten days (in very wet weather) and have been here since Wednesday with their touring caravan. I must say that this kind of visitor makes it very easy because they pulled their caravan up onto the lawn by the side of the house, used our downstairs loo and wet room, so there are no bedrooms to clean after they have left. I enjoy cooking and did all the meals until last evening when they took us out for a meal - and delicious it was too.

Now we are 'back to normal' and I shall spend this afternoon with my feet up, reading the papers. We shall miss our friends for a few days as they are such good company and we love them dearly. Have a nice weekend.

Monday 11 June 2012

A Few Days Gap.

Our friends from the Netherlands are coming to stay for a few days, so there will be a gap in blogging until Saturday, when I should have one or two photographs of nice places we have visited while they were here - weather permitting.

Sunday 10 June 2012


Chariots of gold, said Timothy.
Silvery wings, said Elaine.
But, a bumpety ride on a wagon of hay
for me, said Jane.

Were the Summers of our childhood always warm and sunny? Was the hay always ready to cut by
the end of June? Was the air always full of the sound of the bees buzzing? Were all our childhood Summers idyllic - or does memory just make it seem so?

I was reading Ronald Blythe this morning about the 'grass toys' of Summer and it set me thinking. I certainly had very few 'toys' as such, once I started school. My one cuddly toy, a knitted doll I imaginatively called ' Woolly' disappeared when I was about six and when I enquired where Woolly had gone (he always slept in my bed with me) my mother said I was too old for such a toy now.

But lack of toys (Woolly excepted) didn't make me feel deprived. On the contrary, I don't think any of my friends had a great collection either (apart from my friend, Janet, who had the most marvellous farm of tin people, fences, trees, implements and animals. She still has it in a box and still treasures it. She was a frustrated farmer - and in her late seventies she still is!

But we did make our own toys in the Summer (and if you count snowballs and snowmen, then in the winter too - because didn't we always have a heavy fall of snow, and wasn't there always sledging to be had?) And it was these that Blythe reminded me of.

Do you remember making daisy chains - threading the daisy stalks together and making bracelets and necklaces and putting them on each other and on our cats and dogs who usually patiently sat and let us adorn them? And what about goose-grass? Who hasn't picked a stalk, crept up behind a friend and popped it on their back, so that it stuck there - for stick it really did, clinging with all its might.

And we would have fights with plantain heads, curling the stalk over so that we could pop the head of the plant off and try to hit our opponents. Or we would pick an ear of barley and slip it up somebody's sleeve, so that it crept up towards their shoulder.

And let us not forget horse chestnuts - conkers - roasted in the over or soaked in vinegar to make them impregnable, then strung on a string to fight contests for the best conker.

One of my happiest memories of childhood is of riding home to my Aunt's house in the village of East Markham in the Dukeries on the top of a wagon of hay, pulled by a cart horse. And the icing on the cake was that as we walked alongside the railway embankment which ran along the edge of the field, the Flying Scotsman tore past on its way to Edinburgh. It might as well have been going to Timbuctoo for us children on the hay wagon.

Were things really as idyllic as this? One thing is for sure - there was no such thing as Health and Safety Regulations.

Saturday 9 June 2012

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

An old Dalesman has died this week after a two or three year battle with cancer. A battle borne with courage, strength and good humour by all accounts at his funeral today.

Funerals here in the Dales, are great occasions. This was as great as they come because he was such a well known dealer in hay, straw, cattle and sheep. He knew every farmer within a wide radius and they knew and loved him.

The farmer, of course, went - along with our neighbour. They travelled the seven or so miles to the church together, thinking that parking might be a problem. But a local farmer had opened up a field. And, by golly, it was needed. The church - semi-redundant now - is still opened up for weddings and funerals. It is a lovely church and very large. By the time they got there there was not even standing room in the church and by the time the service began there were as many outside the door as there were inside - so maybe five or six hundred people there. They certainly gave him a good send-off.

There were refreshments afterwards in the Village Hall and then a final toast to "Aud Les" in the local pub. What a splendid occasion and what a wonderful tribute to the man who, in spite of his illness, planned his own funeral - the hymns, the prayers, everything - in advance.

It may seem rather old-fashioned to some "townies" that Dales funerals still take place like this - but I say - long may they continue in this vein. I hope the present generation take note and vow to continue the tradition whether they are religious or not.

Friday 8 June 2012

An English Summer.

One of the photographs above is of a typical English Summer scene - a field of buttercups in the sunshine. I took the photograph at 1.22pm today; by 1.25 it was raining again. By 1.35 there was almost enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor's trousers, so I took Tess (and my umbrella) for a walk. By 1.45 it was raining again. Lord knows we have seen precious little sunshine and blue sky for the past week, but between 8pm last night and 8am today we have had an inch and a quarter of rain. Will it never end?

One bonus I suppose is that it makes everything so lovely and green. The pedigree Limousin cattle opposite the farm are very inquisitive and they do look lovely surrounded as they are by fresh greenery. Another plus is that the damp air does seem to enhance the bird song. The mellifluous tones of the blackbird and the chaffinch accompanied me on my walk - they were exquisite.

Our friends from the Netherlands are set to visit us for a few days next week. They came over from Rotterdam to Hull on the ferry last Friday evening and are at present in Wales - coming up here in the middle of next week. Our hearts go out to them - if we are wet then a pound to a penny Wales is wetter. The only thing is that it does not seem to be better anywhere in Europe. The Times today suggests that if you want warm weather on a last minute holiday then go to Marrakech. This brought back memories of Hotel La Mamounia and afternoon tea to the tinkle of a grandpiano - shorts and sandals forbidden - an echo of a bygone era. This was almost twenty years ago - wonder if it is still the same today or has it been 'modernised'? (what a horrible word.)

If you are here in the UK and you get a snatch of sunlight (and that is all it will be) enjoy it while you can.

Thursday 7 June 2012

The Busby Stoop

When we went to Nunnington Hall on Monday, I couldn't resist taking this shot of the Busby Stoop
Inn, which is just outside the little town of Thirsk. This inn is very famous around these parts by virtue of the fact that it is said to be haunted.

The inn takes its name from one, Thomas Busby, who in 1702 was hanged for the murder of his father-in-law; and what is more he was hanged just across the way on a gibbet specially constructed.

He was sitting in his favourite chair slumped in a drunken stupor when he was dragged across the road and hanged. As he left the room he cursed his chair and said that anyone who sat in it would soon die.

Apparently there were deaths and now - to eliminate the risk - the chair has been removed and sits in Thirsk museum where it is safe from bottoms who are tempted. It is said that among those who have died as a result of sitting in it are:-

an RAF pilot during the war.
a motorist in a car crash.
a motor cyclist.
a hitch hiker.
a local who had a heart attack.

Whether you believe it or not is up to you but, frankly, nothing would have persuaded me to sit in that chair. And furthermore, I would not care to walk past there on my own at the dead of night. Make of it what you will.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Nunnington Hall.

From my last post I think you will agree that we do things rather well as a nation - our organisational skills are rather good and the final effect is polished.

Well, the other area which is done rather well is that of the 'Stately Home', especially if it is in the care of the National Trust. I was a member for many years but when I moved to North Yorkshire I let my membership slide as there didn't seem many properties within striking distance. However, when we decided to spend a week in Northumblerland it seemed sensible to join again.

Now we have returned home we have been looking at properties within striking distance and on Monday afternoon we drove over to Nunnington Hall near Helmsley, on the edge of the North York Moors. It was a miserable afternoon here and very cold, but over there the sun was out and as the whole place is enclosed within a high wall it was warm and sheltered - a Summer's day in fact.

The gardens are a delight. There is a giant chess board, a giant draughts board, plenty of gazebos to sit under for a cup of tea, a delightful cafe with the best cakes I have seen for a long time (and all home-baked). The roses were just coming into bloom and the parts which have been left as meadow for the bees are just ready for cutting.

Inside is interesting. There has been a house on this site since 1249. The present house really
evokes a feeling of the time between the two great wars - maybe the 1920's when it was a much-loved family home. In the house itself many of the rooms looked as though somebody had just left to go to another room.

The highlight for me was the Carlisle Collection of Miniature Rooms on the top floor. The collection was amassed by Mrs FM Carlisle over a period of forty years. She died in 1979 and left her collection to the National Trust. It was later transferred here. I have taken a couple of photographs to show you.

The miniatures came from three different sources. Firstly some were probably made by furniture makers as traveller's samples - a popular thing of its day; secondly Mrs Carlisle sought out skilled craftsmen and commissioned them to make pieces for her; thirdly some were given to her by family and friends who knew that this was her all-consuming passion. The two you can see in my photographs are The Palladian Hall and Staircase and The Music Room. All the petit point was done by Mrs Carlisle herself. I would say that the whole was her life's work really - and what a legacy to leave for the nation. I was totally charmed by it and I challenge you to look at them and realise that they are miniatures - they look just like the real thing (until you see them, when each would stand on top of a table.)

Tuesday 5 June 2012

It's all over bar the shouting.

Well, that's the three days of celebration over and I must say it was all very well done. I have been feeling a bit under the weather, the weather has been cold and damp and I have watched much of the coverage of the Diamond Jubilee on the television.

First the Pageant. Stephen Fry, writing in the Times, said he found it 'mind-numbingly boring' and I must say that I was disappointed after the build-up it got. The poor Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stood throughout. It was cold everywhere but I am sure it was colder on the water, as it always is. I like to think that when HM popped below it was for a quick tot of whisky to warm her up. I do think it went on far too long but - stalwart that she is - she stayed the course.

The concert last night was tremendous. I am not a pop fan and because I have quite a severe hearing loss, my hearing of music is badly distorted. But nevertheless, I enjoyed the spectacle and thought the organisation and continuity were tremendous.

Today's service, parade and appearance on the balcony for the flypast was so British it brought tears to one's eyes. All in all a splendid weekend of celebration.

I am not particularly a Royalist - but when I think of the alternatives then I think on balance I prefer things as they are. Judging by the crowds (almost half a million in London I think) most people think the same. There was a tiny anti-royal protest - but it was tiny. If the percentages are anything like the two crowds then royality are safe for a long time to come.

As one would expect, the Queen bore it all stoicly. So did the Duke, but sadly he went down with a bladder infection and I am sure that would not be helped by the chilly wind on the water on Sunday.

So - back to normality. Once again the Appleby Horse Fair has come round. It happens once a year; the travelling community all congregate in Appleby in Cumbria to buy and sell horses. It is a spectacular occasion and the farmer and I mean to go every year and never actually manage it (the thought of parking puts us off I think). But it is interesting here in the Dales too because many of the gypsy caravans pulled by these strong little horses make their way through the Dales on the minor roads. They are already well on the way and when I was out and about I took a few photographs for you.

They tend to congregate on village greens overnight. They cook food on fires and their horses eat the grass and keep the greens short. Next morning they move on, one step nearer to their destination. Enjoy the photographs.

Sunday 3 June 2012

Typical Bank Holiday.

It is damp and cold here - eleven degrees - typical bank holiday weather. There is plenty to look at on the television as it is the Diamond Jubilee weekend. Yesterday the farmer and I watched racing from Epsom. We are neither of us racing fans but we enjoyed the sights and sounds and also the racing.

Today is the Thames River Pageant and we are looking forward to that too. Stove has been lit as though it is winter again and we shall sit and enjoy the spectacle.

Tomorrow our village is doing the celebrating with a mass photograph on the village green, followed by Childrens' Fancy Dress Parade and Sports and then a tea in the village hall. On Monday night at half past ten a beacon is being lit on the highest ground in the village. This is in addition to the official one on Pen Hill in Wensleydale.

Normal service will be resumed here after the Bank Holiday.