Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A crocodile in the Cotswolds !

Today on my way to deliver some painted chairs I passed through Compton Abdale. I've driven the same way quite a few times but today I saw something ......a wonderful face of a crocodile with water coming from his mouth.
The crocodile's head was carved by George Curtis of Hazleton in the mid C19th. The spring water comes through Great Oolitic limestone and flows into the River Coln, a tributary of the River Thames.
  Isn't he..or she lovely. Next time I'm taking a bottle to fill.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Beech Tree - Uses and Folklore.

For the last few weeks I've been driving past beautiful beech woods...today in the rain ...I decided to stop and go for a walk. Right now they are my favourite trees, looking wonderful with their fiery leaves. Tonight, I thought I'd write a blog about them...and it gave me a good excuse on a dark wet evening to get some books out, look on the Internet .and see what I could find. It's a bit of a list...and not really in any order...but I've learnt quite a bit.
 Beech leaves used to be used to fill mattresses as an alternative to straw. In France these beds were known as 'lilts de parlement'- speaking beds.
Beech wood is god for making cogs for waterwheels, chairs, keels for ships, clogs, bowls and furniture.
The baskets made for collecting strawberries called a 'pottle' used to be made of woven strips of bark wood.
It is thought that piles of beechwood were driven into peaty marsh to make the foundations for Winchester Cathedral.The wood is used to smoke Herrings.
The nuts are sometimes used as a Coffee substitute.
Oil from the nuts used to be used for cooking and lighting.
Cresoline comes from the wood and used to be used as an antiseptic.
Beech leaves mixed with gin made a drink called 'beech-leaf noyau'.

The Druids thought the tree symbolised ancient knowledge and wisdom. Henwen the great white ancient sow, was said to posses great wisdom from eating nuts from the sacred tree.
The Beech is known as the 'Beech Queen' as consort to the 'Oak King'.
Helen of Troy was said to have carved her lovers initials onto the trunk of a beech tree.
This link is to a poem written on a beech tree trunk. http://berkshirehistory.com/odds/poem_tree.
Jason built the Argo out of beech.
Ogham, an Irish god, was credited with having written the Ogham Alphabet onto Beech wood tablets. http://ogham.lyberty.com/otable.html
Beech was cut into thin slices and was used to create the first books. The anglo-saxon called it 'Bok' and the Swedish word 'Bok' means both book and beech.
Beech roots often look like snakes. Snakes in Celtic Mythology are a symbol of wisdom and rebirth.
In Celtic tree mythology, it is known as the 'tree of wishes'. A fallen beech branch was known as an invitation from the wishing fairies. People would write on the branch and push the stick into the earth where the wish would be taken to he underworld for the Fairy Queen to consider.

You can make a diviner for water out of a y shaped beech stick. It's also know as a wishing rod.  http://www.ehow.com/how_2068140_make-divining-rod.
Beech is the sacred wood of the summer solstice....and is a favourite for yule logs at Xmas.

The marks on beech trees where the old growth has stopped is known as the evil eye.
The Beech tree was revered by ancient Romans, because it was sacred to Diana, goddess of the moon, birth,woodland and wild animals.

Famous Trees
The caged Beech,Burnham Beeches, Bucks - seen in a scene in the film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
Beech Avenue, Kingston Lacy, Wimbourne, Dorset.
The Meikleour Beech Hedge,planted in 1745, North of Perth.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Winchcombe Harp

In 798 Coenwulf The King of Mercia began to build a great Abbey in Winchcombe. The Church was dedicated by Wulfred, archbishop of Canterbury in 811.
In 821 Coenwulf died and his Son the young Kenelm was killed in a wood in Clent. ( see my blog http://thelimehouse.blogspot.com/2010/07/stkenelms-day.html  )Kenelm was buried at the Abbey and became it's Saint. One of the stone coffins in St Peter's Church is beleived to be Kenelms. In 969 during the Benedictine revival Germanus, Dan of Ramsey was made the abbot of Winchcombe.In 1068 William the Conquerer entrusted Athelwig a Norman monk, to look after the Abbey.On the 15th October 1091 lightening struck causing a great fire at the Abbey many chronicles and Psalters were destroyed.
During The Wars of the Roses ,in 1468 the present Parish Church of St Peters was built.

The Zodiac, in 'The Winchcombe Chronicle'
The Zodiac-In The Winchcombe Chronicles
In 1539 the Abbey buildings were destroyed by Henry VIII.
Now this is where I get confused about which Psalters and Chronicles are about and where they are kept. St Peters Church has a few books in the church which give far more detail but I must admit I haven't had the chance to read through them....but I wanted to tell you about The Winchcombe Harp. In 'The Winchcombe Psalter ' there is a picture of King David playing a harp.
King David playing the harp and other Musicians from the Winchcombe psalter. They are playing a crwth, rote, nakers and a pipe.

The Winchcombe Psalter,which is now kept at Cambridge University was written in Latin and Anglo- Saxon between 1025 and 1050 for the new Abbey and contains The book of Psalms. A few people See links, have made a copy of this harp, wouldn't it be great to have someone play one at the next Winchcombe Music and Arts Festival...I mean it's not many towns that can say they have a musical instrument named after them !
Out of interest, there used to be a very old Cello in the corner of St Peters Church, It has now moved back to its original home in Gretton ...not sure if it's in Stanley Pontlarge or the old Church Tower.
http://www.simonchadwick.net/asmus/harp.html This site has a little link to hear him playing...I have to admit it sounds blooming awful, luckily he's not playing 'our' Harp !



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