Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Stow Fair

On my way back from work I came through Bourton on the Water and noticed that the King Family are back.looking extremely scenic with their wagon with carved lurchers on the side, three fortune telling boards.....a bit like the swallows they are a sign that Stow Horse Fair will soon be here. Thursday 12th May and the town will be buzzing. Its not the same as it used to be and a lot of my old friends don't go anymore..but if you have never been it's worth going...not the same as the old days but life moves on. On the Wednesday afternoon the field is often busy so if you can't make Thursday pop over. The fair was initially granted by Edward 111 as a seven day fair in 1330, then it changed in 1476 to two fairs one  in May and the other in October . Originally it was probably more of a sheep fair with other produce but now it really is a gypsy fair with market stalls, wagons and horses. When I first went it used to be in a field and lane on the other side of town with a few wagons and a auction, and a small fair in the market square.
I stopped to take a couple of photos of the oil seed rape..personally I don't like it but it is an amazing colour. I also don't like the smell and especially don't like honey tasting of it. When I was on the road with wagons there seemed to be a generally noticed that horses kept next to oil seed rape fields seemed to get brain tumours. I don't want to start a mass hysteria because since then I have never heard that view...It is probably more likely to have been the pesticide used, and maybe if the horse was tethered next t the field rather than being loose...I don't know maybe you do. Later I sometimes see fields of linseed plants, with a breeze they look like moving water . The next field I saw was full of left over forlorn stalks of brussel sprouts...don't forget sprouts aren't just for Christmas...

Then I passed Jim Henson's...I mean Adam Henson's farm it just me or do you think it is rather naff ?.( by the Way apparently it is said that Ronnie Barker invented the word Naff !I thought it was a military word...anyway I mean naff to mean tacky rather than any other meanings. )..oh dear I am having a little gripe...only a tiny one..probably because I'm trying to knuckle down when I'd rather be walking in my favourite woods !
Well my painting work went well today, and I got paid so I am smiling really !

Monday, 25 April 2011

Happy Easter

Just a quick blog to show a beautiful bluebell wood in The Forest of Dean....wonderful scent too !

Saturday, 23 April 2011

The meaning of flowers

What a beautiful morning, I've been sat on the doorstep sitting in the first rays of the sun as it rises over Stancombe Hill....drinking Chai from a new pale blue and white spotty Cath Kidston mug that a friend gave me yesterday. Idyllic sounds of morning birds, geese flying over and the cuckoo ! Theres certain things I have to do through the seasons, for example find a carpet of snowdrops, or celandine...see the bluebells in the woods, find banks of primroses and cowslips...and of course later walk through fields of just has to be done. So if I don't hear a cuckoo in the spring then it doesn't seem right...blimey I'm a right old romantic..but most of us love the sights and smells that are free . The pictures are a couple of the shields that I painted on a lovely juvenile roundabout owned by John Barker. I decided that all the images would have secret each of the shields have flowers say something.  Pansies mean loving thoughts,and the bluebells mean constancy and campion is love.
The colours also have different meaning
Red-love and emotions
Pink-Admiration rather than passion
White- Peace and innocence
Yellow- Both friendship and Jealousy
Lavender-pride, admiration and refinement

It's fun putting secret meanings into my paintings, but I'm sure not many people realise..but a few might recognise the painted lady butterfly that I try to sneak in.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Bluebells and asbestos !

One of my pastel drawings of the woods.
After a few days in the Forest of Dean I came back to see masses of bluebells in my garden. The front garden is pretty wild but its so full of flowers ...and I like it.Of course I'd love to live in an idyllic cottage in the woods or a bothy in the Hebrides ..but right now a 1930's house with chain link fencing and old render will be fine. Luckily for me the previous owners hadn't done much so it still has victorian fireplaces, picture rails, and old doors. I would love to take the plastic double glazing out and put the original windows in but right now I can think of better ways of spending what money I blooming MOT's ! There are also  masses of acquilega , iris and roses are getting ready to flower. I think i may have the Spanish bluebell because there are white and pink ones as I have been told by some people that I should dig them all up and kill them off ...personally I like them and I hope my garden flowers aren't endangering the native species. If you know more please let me know.

This is someones workshop at Parkend in the Forest of Dean...great aren't they ..wish I could have them in my garden...but perhaps not the asbestos if that is what it is.Talking of Asbestos reminds me... Years ago I worked in a horrible packaging factory called Giltspur on the Kingsditch estate in Cheltenham....funding college etc. At one point we had to pack brake shoes, and they wouldn't supply any masks..and there we were working in an un ventilated horrible unit with no windows to the outside world with clocking in  and clocking out machines....Still theres one thing I learnt and that is I would try my hardest never to have to work there again !

Monday, 18 April 2011

Standing stones

THE LONG STONE, STAUNTON SO 55931205Last night I went out to Monmouth and saw a singer musician play called James Hollingsworth. He was really good and obviously loved playing and I think he would have carried on playing till morning. . I drove back with a fabulous full moon at around midnight, following the road to Coleford, when to my left reared a large dark figure ! It was the The Staunton Longstone.  A seven foot tall bronze age stone. Apparently if you prick the stone at midnight on Midsummer's Eve it will bleed. The photo is from the following website, that lists lots of other standing stones in Gloucestershire.

Saturday, 16 April 2011


Hi, I've been trying to redesign my websites but I've managed to make them both go pear shaped! Apparently if you don't have the font papyrus on your computer then it automatically puts in times roman which looks totally lop when I have a spare five minutes I'll be working on it again..or put the design that my sister did for me back up !..I thought I'd really achieved something....oh well I've learnt something else...big learning curve for me with computers...but hey the suns shining who wants to be sat in front of a screen anyway...I'm off into the woods...yippee!
Ps Theres a history event at Tintern Railway Station this Sunday that sounds good...hopefully I'll get to carboot then whizz over.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Forest of Dean Blacksmith

Last weekend, Coleford was celebrating the life of Robert Mushet, ( 200 years since he was born) ,. Robert and his father perfected the Bessemer process of self-hardening steel, which made it possible to create strong railway tracks leading the boom in trains and the industrial Revolution. He was born in Coleford, worked in Whitecliff and then built Dark Hill Ironworks.You can find more information by clicking on the following link.

Unfortunately I missed the celebrations but my Dad and myself did visit Gareth Thomas a very good local Blacksmith working in Longhope near Mitcheldean. He produces beautiful traditional hand-forged ironwork and is passionate about his craft and it's history . We first met him at an event at Soudley Heritage Centre...he had to leave because they needed the space for storage or something like that...very shortsighted of Soudley, I think...Craftsmen like Gareth that are skilled, knowledgeable and are happy to talk about history are hard to come by The photos show examples of his gates...if you are interested in buying them or commissioning him his email address is  Between him and my Dad we talked all about the Forest industries including Horlicks ...Horlicks malted milk was also born in the Forest of dean. James and William Horlick came up with the recipe at their parents home in Ruadean. They then took their recipe to Chicago where it was produced and eventually sent back to England. The Malthouse in Ruadean is still there. Apparently Horlicks is very fashionable now and can be ordered in the Private bar of the Embassy Club...if you're into that sort of place !...guess what Ribena is bottled in Coleford Too !
I have opened a shop on Etsy

Saturday, 9 April 2011


On the 16th April The Winds of Change Gallery  will be starting It's Wood Engraving Exhibition. ( Wood engraving is produced by cutting a design into the end grain of a tightly grained wood such as Box. Wood cuts are usually cut designs into the length of the grain.)
Years ago while I was at college I decided to have a go at Wood engraving. A friend had a good friend called Kathy Lindsay, still a very good engraver....and I was inspired. I was told to go to T.N.Lawrence in Bleeding Heart Yard, London.T.N.Lawrence were manufacturers of Boxwood printing blocks and also supplied other equipment...In Dickens's Day Bleeding Heart yard was a court made up of factories and overcrowded dwellings for struggling working class families. It features in Little Dorrit as the home of the Plornish Family. Greville Street links the yard to Another street and Saffron Hill the home of Fagin.
Anyway, i was told that it was quite hard to get in so as I was looking a postman came out of the door so I shot in and went up the wooden stairs. At the top of the stairs was a little room and there was Stanley Lawrence. An elderly man with a big smile. He was so helpful to me telling me which tools I needed and showing me pictures. In the end he gave me some extra tools , some box wood and a couple of little books featuring well known wood engravers!I still have the tools, books and a couple of the blocks that he gave me. ( the picture above is only 3inches high.) I feel guilty that I only did a few but there's still time for me to try again.
One coincidence was a man in the street where I lived in Cheltenham produced the lead type at The Whittington Press, just up the road towards Andoversford. I went over to watch..wish I had had a digital camera then....not..don't wear open toed sandals while watching hot lead being poured ! The next coincidence was that Mr Lawrences grandson had a book published by the Whittington press as a present for his eightieth birthday. It is called 'Tales of Bleeding Heart Yard' stories about Stanley Lawrence, written by Simon Lawrence. I'd love to see it one day .

Friday, 8 April 2011

Swedish folk art for sale in Winchcombe

Two of the antique shops in Winchcombe both have lovely pieces of Swedish Folk art. Mark Newsum ( )has a beautiful old 'Bonad' a decorative wall hanging. They were painted by itinerant artists and often commemorated a birth or marriage. A lot of them feature scenes from the bible. They were originally attached to the wall of the main room and were very highly prized. Now they are rarely found outside Swedish museums ..but Mark has one for sale,so please call him if you are interested in buying it. 
Over the road and up near the T junction is Antique Interiors owned by Bruce.  He has two Swedish trunks, one very large pine trunk with very nice iron strapping and handles. The other is a 'Hope' chest, also known as a wedding dowry trunk. They were often made by a member of the family or local carpenter and were painted by itinerant professional artists. Inside the lid is a lovely circle of leaves and flowers with (probably) the initials of the bride and the year of her marriage which in this case is 1813. mainly deal in french furniture but they sometimes have more folky decorative furniture from Norway and Poland.
In 1985 I was lucky enough to stay in Sweden for a couple of months...a great and very beautiful country. One of my favourite places was The Skansen Museum.  ..I spent days and days drawing, and have lots of good memories. I'll dig out my sketch book from then and post a few drawings from it tomorrow.....I even came back on Concorde ! But that's another story !

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Colour superstitions

Good Morning, This is the boat that I've been asked to letter, not traditional colours but throughout time people have always either used the company's colours, their own favourite or whatever paint they could get their hands on. Reminds me of a hamlet in Lancashire where a friend used to live. All the houses were suddenly sandy yellow,it was around the time of another of England's blooming awful wars ...(they seem never ending) and someone had got hold of an excess of army sand paint !
It is interesting which colours are thought to be lucky and others unlucky. Green is fine on gypsy wagons but not on boats. On land people thought it was unlucky to wear green because it was the colour of the fairy folk. At sea ,I was told, that men used to be wrapped in a green cloth before having a burial at that's why they didn't like it. In the Theatre it used to be unlucky to wear green but when plays were performed like Robin Hood the actors performed on a large green cloth, perhaps thinking of the village green where plays would originally have been performed.And of course a lot of people don't like green cars but bright apple green seems pretty popular these days...personally I don't care as long as it goes and doesn't cost too much to run !
 Blue is unlucky for wagons but is fine on a boat. Years ago ballerinas wouldn't wear blue unless there was a bit of silver on the costume. Burgundy and red seems to be a favourite for boats, wagons and farm carts. But Black is a no-no for wagons and Boats. There is a designer that does have a gloss black showman's wagon with a black and white interior but give me bright colours, gold scrolls and flowers any day!

Monday, 4 April 2011


I've just joined Twitter . Hey! and in less than twenty mins I already have a follower..Broadway Manor..How does that work ? It's all magic to me and still fun ! Jane from the Winds of Change has been telling me about it for ages now I'm tweeting. Not quite sure how to tweet others yet or send messages but It'll all dawn on me eventually. The box office for the Winchcombe festival of music and arts opens tomorrow in Jane's Gallery.To see whats on please click on to see whats happening. Jane is soon to be hosting one of my favourite exhibitions. It is the Society of wood engravers 73rd annual exhibition. It starts on the 16th April Monday to Saturday. All the prints are done by the best engravers in the country...including Kathy Lindsay from Skye. I haven't seen her for fact the last time was at The Falkland Arms in Great Tew where I was playing in a band called the Mothy Band, with great friends Polly and Julian. That night the chap running the pub a northern irish man had run off with the takings leaving a huge plugged in ghetto blaster attached to some cigarette papers on the bar...we were all daft and most  thought it was a bomb. If I remember correctly most of us went into the next room behind an old thick stone wall while one chap unplugged it..saying well, we have two chances !

cutlery overboard!

I've just watched another of Guy Martins boat programmes ,and they make me smile..This one was about beans on toast which involved making a tin can, making the beans, making cutlery at Sheffield and baking a Hovis loaf. I made me think of washing up on the boats...years ago no one really thought anything of tipping the bowl overboard...and I'm sure every bowl still had a teaspoon in it ! Goodness knows how many are lining the cut. When I was in a wagon countless teaspoons ended up in hedges or down storm drains. Now I'm in a house I'm still seem to lose them !
There is a lovely lady called Dorothy in Winchcombe , 99 this year and full of great stories and knowledge of the countryside. She used to own a mixed farm in Warwickshire with her husband. During the war her farm was chosen to have a canning store all the local fruit etc...and a relative of hers went out to America prior to the war to help with the designing of canning machines. Dorothy also used to work at Atherstone Hat factory. The coincidence was that years ago while on the boats we could stop near the factory and get a new felt hat for far as I know it was an old custom that bargees could always have a new hat. Funny how you can watch a programme and it brings lots of memories back.
Blackpool lads on their way back from Appelby, mid 1990's. Would you believe of all the really stunning wagons going up and down that road, most people loved this one...It certainly has character. The horses pulled Landau's on Blackpool Prom. Most of the Landau owners and drivers used to drive up and back to Appleby with all sorts of wagons and carts..I'm sure they still do.

Friday, 1 April 2011


I've just sat and watched a couple of catch up programmes on BBCiplayer..'The boat that Guy built '..By 'eck, blooming brilliant. Guy is so full of enthusiasm and has a huge love of British heritage but doesn't try to know it all...and is really impressed by all the knowledge that others have. The first programme shows his boat and sets the tone. He decides he wants to have tea in mugs he ended up making at The Wedgwood factory, Stoke on Trent and made his own cast iron cauldron at The Black Country Museum, Birmingham. It was funny seeing him bumping his way on his first outings. Years ago I had friends who worked the coal boats out of Gas Street Birmingham and the Coventry Ring. In the summer the boats were filled with bunk beds and did holiday trips, if you were the first out you sometimes woke with coal dust on your face. The canals or 'cut' had their own 'jungle grapevine' so I remember news of a friends first trip out got back very quickly...which bridges had got bashed etc. The painting is one I did as a Christmas card and is based on The Black Country Museum..They have a shed with a porch made up of an upturned boat..I love much character. It would always make you happy if you had one. The stools are money box stools that I painted a few years ago. Anyway, time for bed although I could easily sit up and watch all Guys other programmes...they make you smile.


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