Sunday, 26 February 2012

Waste not , Want not.

I've been reading a little book from the library called 'A Cotswold Rag-Bag' by Bert Butler.The book is full of small stories and reminiscence's of Winchcombe around 1920. One story talks of the Rag Bag, String Bag and the paper bag. All were saved for future use, clothes had patches upon patches. Emma Dent who lived at Sudeley Castle liked to see her Gardner's with patched clothes,it was a sign of ''thrifty wives,ragbag owners,worthy women indeed''. In my eyes it was more a case of them not having ''two shillings to rub together''....I'm sure Mrs Dent must have realised. I was talking to my Mum about it and she laughed saying that she once got a job because her jodphurs had patches on the knees. Mum looked a hard worker..which indeed she still is. When I first started in business people used to say you can't turn up for jobs in that old moggy (morris van) ,you should have something smart. I haven't changed I still drive old long as they go and pass their MOT then I'm fine.
Another saying is 'As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined' in other words if you are brought up being thrifty then you carry on being so.
The story also tells of the men walking to work always carrying a 'frail'. This was a bag made of woven rushes in which they carried their dinner. On the way back home they would fill it with seasonal food such as mushrooms, apples, turnip tops,rabbits and kindling wood for the fire. The families could  ' make a pound do the work of thirty shillings'.
The wives would do 'sides to middles' to make the sheets last longer and would sun bake brussel sprout stems to fuel the copper. Near my parents house there used to be a beautiful old forest stone cottage, it was a two up two down with a lean to laundry room with a copper. Down the garden was the piggery. I would have loved that house just as it was but it was pulled down and replaced with a large brick house and plastic conservatory.

The opposite saying was ' if they had five pounds of wick they'd still be in trouble'
I do love some of the old simple ways, life seems so complicated these days. I put a little range into my living room. In the winter it is gorgeous,not madly hot but the kettles boiling and there is food cooking in the oven....lovely.
Thank you Bert for your stories.

The following links are to two books, the first 'Emma Dent' and the second to a book my parents gave me when i started college...I've still got it and it's full of information from upholstery to indoor plants.
A very good read is 'the lady of Sudeley' written by our own lovely Jean Bray.

Sunday, 19 February 2012


The question is...Should I really be collecting books because I like their spines ?

but I also love the illustrations inside....

Their contents...

The smell of the pages...

The old fashioned English....

The funny titles...

If it wasn't for running around,family,having friends,music, art, work, computers, TVs, and a need for more hours in the day.....I'd read them all ! 
And while I have space I'll continue enjoying them.

Saturday, 18 February 2012


Driving back from Malmesbury yesterday it was lovely to see copses and woods carpeted in snowdrops. I think they are lovely but because of supersitions they are not always liked. When you see them in woods they can be a sign of an old dwelling ,mainly because they are not native and are thought to have been brought over by Italian monks in the 15th century. This could be why they are often in churchyards and why snowdrops are thought to be unlucky if cut and brought into the house. Although at the same time some people believe they purify the home.

Back at my home I only have a few in my garden, I'm sure I had a lot more but I may have disturbed them last year. Hopefully because my garden gets the cold winds most of them have decided it's not warm enough !Their roots stay alive all year so they can be damaged so It's advisable to move them when they are still in the green. Last year a rare bulb was sold on Ebay for £37 !
One story associated with them is that an angel wanting to give Adam and Eve hope after being sent out of the garden of Eden, turned snowflakes into snowdrops ,a sign that Spring will come.
Their latin name Galanthus means 'milk flower' but they are also known as dewdrops, death flower, drooping bells, Mary's tapers, Candlemass bells , Eves tears, snow piercers and my favourite 'the fair maid of February.'
Linking with Candlemass and my middle name, is the 2nd February St Brigid;s day, the gaelic goddess of poetry, healing and smithcrafts,.The lighting of candles representing the coming of the sun. In the southern hemisphere modern pagans celebrate it on the 1st August,my Birthday.The following link tells you how to make St Brigids cross.
Sudeley Castle
Wisley is the home of more than 350 species and cultivars-The National collection of Galanthus.(milk Flower ) . Locally as well as in the wild they can be seen at Painswick Rococco gardens and Colesbourne. At the moment there is a video on the Painswick site but it is very wobbly and might make you feel a bit odd ! If you'd like to buy snowdrops in the green, here are a few links for you...I haven't bought any from these sites but I'm sure they will be fine. Photo by Quinny

Monday, 13 February 2012

Gloucestershire Giants and serpents

Deerhurst carved animal head
Photo by David Ross
A long, long time ago the villagers of Deerhurst lived alongside a huge serpent that poisoned the men and cattle.They asked for help from the King who said that he would give land on Walton Hill to the person who could slay the beast. A labourer called Smith heard the story came to the rescue. He placed a trough of milk near the serpents lair and waited. After a while the serpent drank the milk and fell asleep under the midday sun.Quickly Smith picked up an axe and sliced off the serpents head. The Smiths owned the land until the 16th century. In the 18th century a Mr Lane married one of Smiths descendants and said that he family still owned the axe...I wonder where it is now ?
If you are passing the Saxon church at Deerhurst is worth a visit.

In Prestbury there is a field called Giants grave. In it was the remains of a Long barrow. I imagine at some time someone imagined that it was where a giant was buried.

Near the Teddington Roundabout is the Tibblestone. Once upon a time there was a Giant who lived nearby. One day he stood on Dixon Hill throwing stones at the ships sailing down the River Severn, when he slipped .The tibblestone is his stone that landed short of the river. Alfred Watkins wrote another story in a book called ''The old straight track''.
Dixton Hill
A long time ago, a giant lived in these parts,and he went up the hill (Dixton Hill ) to fetch a large stone to destroy his enemy's house. When he was carrying it down, his foot slipped, and his heel made a great furrow in the hillside, and you can See it to this day, and he had to drop the stone just where you see it. It is quite true because you can see for yourself he holes where the giant's fingers had hold of it !'
When my son was little we used to invent lots of stories. One was about a giant that lived and hid in Stancombe wood. Very early each morning he'd walk down into Winchcombe to collect an egg for his breakfast from the top of the tower of St Peters Church.....I know its a cockerel........but its a story !
St Peters Church by Katie Morgan

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Cotswold mounds and tumps

I was surprised to find that locally many chambered burial mounds and standing stones have either been destroyed or moved over the last 100 years.
Belas Knap
© Copyright andy dolman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
From rossmythwiki.
 Our most famous mound 'Belas Knap' is luckily still in good order and is well worth a visit. ( excuse the music on the link). It's name comes from the Old English 'bel-cnaepp' meaning beacon mound,or some say 'beautiful mound'..Bel can also mean 'God' and in Celtic means 'shining'. Some people think it is linked to Belenus a Celtic God known as the 'shining one'.The following link is to a little video of Belas Knap..please excuse the music.
 It is a Severn-Cotswold type and was built around 4000 BC. At the same time around he world, Arithmetic was being used by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, Apples were being cultivated in Central Asia, Bridges were being built in Africa, Fragrances were being made in Egypt, Horses were being domesticated in Europe and popcorn was being eaten in North New Mexico.!
A man called John Hurman found that the skulls of remains found in long barrows often had elongated skulls while in round barrows they had round skulls. Just to be awkward most of the skulls are elongated but one was round and placed at  the false entrance.

Some of the barrows that have disappeared or can only just be seen are :
A burial chamber at Notgrove that was back filled after excavation and now is just a lump of a mound.
Slade barn chambered mound destroyed by ploughing.
Hazleton, another that was excavated then destroyed by ploughing.
No signs of the three barrows at Southam.
Leygore manor near Northleach. In 1883 there were three barrows but are now almost gone.
Lineover near Dowdeswell, another barrow in a forlorn state...but there is a lovely wood worth visiting.
Near Spoonley Wood ,Winchcombe there is a long barrow bank near the saltway. I haven't walked over there yet but I can't see anything on the aerial photo.
Very little remains of the longbarrow near Pinnock Wood Farm, Winchcombe, near the Gloucestershire way.
There also used to be a chambered cairn in a field called Giant's grove in Prestbury.
A round barrow on Cleeve hill has also disappeared.
Long barrow in centre of Cheltenham, St James.
The question for me is should they be saved, rescued, signposted etc ? I certainly think they should be protected from any more damage .
Luckily here are still remains of others but none quite as splendid as Belas Knap although there is supposed to be a very good one at Lodge Park near Northleach.
Locally the ones that can be seen are :
Round barrows at Guiting Power,
Sales lot a chambered cairn near Withington. 18 bodies were found here in an excavation in 1963.
The following link is to a really interesting website. You can find details and links to aerial maps of lots of ancient monuments.I think I will make up my own walks to try and find some of them, a great excuse to get out walking..
A gentleman called Tom Brooks has spent a long time researching into the linked geometry of tumps and mounds...please click on link for more details.
Liz Poraj-Wilczynsky -Sensing the Past. Liz is an artist and a sensory archaeologist. She has an amazing amount of stories and information about Belas Knap and local history.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Walk to work

Hello, this is a very short blog showing my walk to work. I don't always work at Sudeley Castle but I've been busy painting murals etc for the last few weeks. Today was cold and grey but very pretty..
Up the bank and across the estate fields...
wooden snail, going my way but I was faster !
Past the cute children's play house...
..and up to the Castle....up lots of stairs, back down another set, along a corridor...
 and back up another set of stairs to Katherine Parr's nursery...sorry can't show you what I'm painting but here's the view out of the window.
 Thank you to everyone who reads my posts.


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