Wednesday 31 August 2016

Tall Tails and Short Tails

The warden of the local nature reserve very kindly opened out of hours for us and took us on a guided walk around the reserve earlier in the week.

Seeing wildlife in the evening is not something I get the chance to enjoy very often so it was a delight to see a skein of grey lag geese flying overhead to their night time roost. "Don't open your mouth" he warned as they swept above us. At this time of year they are moulting and the mill pond around which the reserve is based is full of shed feathers now.

Time spent in the biggest hide revealed a very proud Little Grebe with his youngster paddling along in front of him. The female has made herself scarce by now but he continues with his parental duties. The two were the same size [quite dinky actually] but with different markings. We caught a glimpse of sandpiper and the back view of a kingfisher as it shot off away from us. This year's brood of herons were also at the water's edge. The adults have already headed off down to the coast and will not return until December when they start nest building again. This crop of youngsters will be seen off and will only come back a year later when they too will be able to breed. It was interesting to hear that the first lot of Red Kites tried to nest at the site this year....they rather unfortunately chose the heronry and the bully boys soon had them evicted.

Wandering around the warden was constantly feeding us fascinating details about what we were seeing and explaining some of the problems they are currently facing. They are almost totally reliant upon the efforts of the volunteers to carry out the maintenance and bring forth the vision they have for improving the area and attracting even more wildlife species. Thankfully they are able to call upon a very dedicated band of helpers- 40 people turn up twice a week to move things forward as well as all the others fundraising in the background.

This past couple of years the woodland area has been greatly opened out to create glades and butterfly rides. One of the former muddy paths is now a tremendous bark chippings affair and was all the work of the members of the Green Gym. Immaculate at the close of day the warden would return every morning to find the chippings thrown all over the place and the edgings wrecked. This ongoing problem was put down to kids coming in at night time and in a bid to stop the behaviour a camera was installed. They found the culprits but not the bipeds they were expecting but a cete of badgers [don't be impressed goggle is my friend!] digging for worms! It is hoped that these changes will encourage the dormice to expand their territory which they have been very reluctant to do so far.

Some of my personal favourite snippets were the roe deer which come into the feeding station every evening to hoover up the seed that the birds have dropped during the day [we saw one in action], the tawny owls that have discovered a love of fishing in the lake [bones found in the pellets] and the harvest mice which insist on living in an area which floods in the winter. The solution has been to leave unsightly clumps of goat willow for them so that they don't drown. Their numbers are dwindling but they breed well here and many are transferred to other sites owned by the council to increase the success.

I feel lucky to have seen some new things- Cricket Bat Willow, White Poplar [originally planted for matchsticks], Gypsywort and this one Sneezewort. It gained its name from the tradition of drying its leaves and using them as sneezing powder. The light levels were dropping too fast to take any more than this single shot. A thoroughly enjoyable experience.


Tuesday 30 August 2016

Flying High

It's been gloriously sunny here again today and this fellow has been catching the thermals high above the main roads near here looking for road kill to scavenge. How can I be this precise you may wonder? I haven't miraculously morphed into the next Kate Humble but have instead been on an evening walk at our local nature reserve and I am merely parroting the words of the warden who led it! Mr GBT dashed out and photographed the buzzard when he caught sight of three of them circling above GBT. I have often seen them but didn't witness this spectacle this morning.


Monday 29 August 2016

Chalking and Walking

"Wondered if you might be interested in doing a bit of voluntary work for the National Trust over at Uffington?" asked a dancing chum a few weeks back. Remembering my manners to not bite his hand off, I didn't need asking twice and so it was that a car full of some of my Mythago chums travelled over to Oxfordshire yesterday.

Discussing it we'd come up with a cunning plan to make a day of our trip and frankly I haven't roared so much with laughter in some time. We're all Druids and to say we can be quite earthy at times may be the understatement of the day but let's cut the waffle shall we Aril!

My suggestion was a quick stop off at the Seven Lambourn Barrows. This is a discovery Mr GBT and I made a few years ago when we used to travel up from Sussex to visit my late MIL who was in a nursing home near there. It doesn't seem as well known as some of the other ancient sites in the area and I've yet to ever find anyone else there at the same time even though it's just off the road. Being both a Scheduled Monument and an SSI, it is the peacefulness of it which is part of its personal appeal for me. The natural grassland has been left alone to thrive and it's full of wild flowers aswell as barrows. The oldest is a Neolithic long barrow and along side sit several Bell barrows [they are surrounded by a ditch] and a couple of of Disc barrows with a ditch and outer bank. Awed by the work of our ancestors and the beauty before us we all naturally fell silent. None of the others knew of it, but all came away saying that they will definitely return. I have visited many such sites before but this is my number one. There is an ambience I haven't found elsewhere.

One of the barrows with a beech tree growing on top.

Greater Knapweed

 Devil's Bit Scabious. The plant was believed to be a cure for scabies. The devil took exception to its medicinal qualities and in a rage tried to bite all its roots off. That's apparently why it has such short roots....

 After a quick breather we went on up to the White Horse at Uffington for a spot of this....

Chalking the White Horse no less. That big white dot is its eye. What a privilege. Best show you our handiwork then. We were working on the top of the head. I always love anything like this. Doing conservation work as a National Trust volunteer was how I met Mr GBT so it makes complete sense that I was in my element.

Despite the forecasted rain we were lucky that it stayed dry which allowed me to drink in the views. The ridges are known as the Giant's Stairs and were caused by glaciation. The mound below the horse is Dragon's Hill which is a natural feature with an artificially flattened top. On a previous visit I stood on the top of that with several Red Kites circling just above my head. It was amazing to see them at such close quarters.

We'd booked for an hour's worth of chalking [unsurprisingly it's a popular activity and the Trust are never short of numbers] so having downed tools we wandered up to the White Horse hill summit to view the well preserved remains of the Iron Age Uffington castle. You can pick up the Ridgeway from the back of the hill and a mile along it you come to Wayland's Smithy. It's yet another extraordinary example of the engineering feats achieved by our ancestors. The long barrow was built upon an earlier tomb and dates to 200 years after West Kennet in Wiltshire. The four remaining sarsen stones at the entrance look quite small from a distance but are more akin to the Avebury ones in scale once you are near them. Left to me I'd have chosen the same stone for its eyecatching diamond shape too! I know I'm a bit blurred in the final one but it makes a change for me to be actually laughing in a photo for once that I thought I'd include it just for its novelty value. My friend was making me giggle and it sums up the feel of the whole day perfectly. You'll have to forgive the lairy trousers!

If you want to do the chalking the NT hold sessions twice a year. It's free but you need to book [they last 30 mins but we booked two] and if you aren't a member you will need to pay for parking. They provide the kneeling pads and hammers.


Saturday 27 August 2016

Signs of the Times

I'm currently in a catch-up/review phase so am looking at different options and tweaking things. This is quite a regular thing with me as I don't like to stagnate. In a bid to claw back a bit of time...or put it another way stop twonking about unproductively I've closed my social media account and posts here may be a little less frequent. One of things I have been doing is editing and sorting out my backlog of photos. Whilst doing this my funny old brain puts all sorts of strange connections together [my wiring is quite off beam sometimes!] and ideas for future material. Today's content is a product of one of my simple observations.

Always partial to a contrast I clocked these signs on my travels. The one referring to the sat nav is one I've only started seeing in the last few years. It is very much of now and hopefully has saved a few unsuitable vehicles becoming stuck in places they were never designed to tackle in the first place. This is the first time I've been able to photograph one as I'm usually in a moving car!

A much old style of signage. I'm sure nowadays it would be up on a post rather than stuck on the side wall of the corner cottage.  It is apparently a pre Worboys sign. A committee headed up by Walter Worboys in 1963 met to decide upon how traffic signage should be designed with the resulting changes being rolled out on 1st January 1965.

Finally this one....a survivor from bygone times. It hangs on the wall of a hotel in Bishop's Castle.

Formed in 1878 the CTC still exists, but underwent a name change this year. It's now Cycling UK.


Thursday 25 August 2016

Significant Numbers

The dare devil teen has completed his latest thrilling quest this week[the next one is a 10000' skydive]. He's climbed the roof of the O2 and fortunately for him, the weather was perfect and the views across London were stunning. This time he was helping special needs young people on an outing for a local charity that he volunteers for in his spare time.

Discussing the details of his trip he gave me a few juicy facts about the construction of the Millennium Dome as it was then. The tidy part of my brain immediately sat up and took does so like a bit trivia about symbolism! The dome is 52 metres high representing each week of the year, 365m wide for each day and has 12 spokes representing both the months and a clock face as a nod to its siting on the Greenwich Meridian.

These deliberate links between key numbers and structural elements of a building has put me in mind of the Rushton Triangular Lodge in Northants. It's a place I have only read about so far, but is one I will definitely visit if I'm ever in that neck of the woods. Designed and built by Thomas Tresham between 1593 and 1597, it is a reflection of his staunch Catholicism. Imprisoned for refusing to convert to Protestantism, his belief in the Holy Trinity is echoed throughout with the repeating use of three. Deliberately choosing a triangle for his folly it has three walls which are all 33' long and which in turn each have three triangular windows with three gargoyles mounted above them. There are three floors and each facade has a Latin inscription upon it made up of 33 letters. It will come as no surprise to discover that the chimney follows suit and is triangular. One assumes he managed to get his message across! More info here


Tuesday 23 August 2016

Where did you get that hat?

Buying a new hat when I danced at the recent Eastbourne Lammas Event wasn't part of the plan for the day. Most of Mythago wear hats between stands, but it's not obligatory and I have a bit of love/hate relationship with them [hats that is not Mythago]. I've already had one abortive attempt at finding a suitable hat and bought one from Ebay, However, when it arrived it was huge and I felt really self conscious so that eventually made its way into a charity shop bag and out of the door. This one though is lovely. It fits me a treat and is not too showy. I think it's also the only red one on the side- from memory all the others are black. The lady behind these creations trades as the Henna and Hat Lady and most of our creations are far more outlandish with a definite Steampunk bent. The first one I tried on had a raven and a cup of tea on it! These are more typical of her One of my fellow dancers bought a smaller and slightly toned down version of that very same tricorn. All good fun!


Monday 22 August 2016


These stripey petunias simply made me feel cheery. I have never seen this yellow version before and I snapped them on a whim whilst I was going about my business a few weeks ago.

Sunday 21 August 2016

Your Money or Your Wife.

I'm at a pivotal stage in life here where our teens are flying the nest and a few couples I know have decided to divorce. Until the first court was set up in 1857 it was extremely difficult to obtain a divorce and back in the 19th century it would cost £3000 [15k in today's money]. Wives were still considered as chattels and it was the custom in some rural areas for husbands to sell their wives as they would any commodity.

Leading his wife round the market with a halter round her neck monies would be exchanged and she would leave with her new partner [sometimes a complete stranger but often already her lover]. Tales abound of drunken celebrations ensuing after successful transactions and it being a satisfactory outcome for all parties with the ending of an unhappy union. The outcomes could be surprisingly...some women went on to happily marry their new partners, others ran away/married other men or some returned to their original spouse.

The last known instance of wife selling in my home town is of one Ann Holland known as Pin Toe Nanny. Mr Johnson who bought her had to sell his watch in order to afford her and she stayed with him for a year in which time she bore him a child. After doing her duty she ran away and later married one Jim Smith! The practice eventually was outlawed and those who engaged in it faced a six month prison stretch if caught. 


Saturday 20 August 2016

Troublesome Tots

A quick one from me, but one to amuse and warm the cockles of your pandas getting up to and into mischief. Aww


Friday 19 August 2016

The Drinks Are On Me

Waiting for your offspring's exam results is akin to having the Sword of Damocles hanging over you I have decided. Neither is particularly pleasant, but I am pleased to be able to report that the teenogre met the grade for his second choice of university and is off to study up the other end of the country next year. His Ma and Da can now heave a sigh of relief.

Would you care to join me for a free drinkie to celebrate. Sadly we have already quaffed the bottle of champers so all I can offer you is either coffee or the rather intriguing Earl Grey and rose petal tea. Both donations received from kind freecyclers this week.

The teen will no doubt be out on the lash celebrating whilst frankly all his Father and I desire is an early night and the restored ability to sleep!!!


Thursday 18 August 2016

Childhood Tales

I spent yesterday doing a final clean for my chum Icebadger by way of a thank you for all her hard work in making my coloured tatters and as it was technically my day off, I decided to carry on up the road to the village where I spent my formative years. 

Parking up near our old house which was a new build back in the day [we're talking 1970] I cut through the churchyard. I don't often visit, but when I do I like to note and pay my respects to the little girl who died in 1975 aged only five. I was a few years older than her, but I remember her short time at school before she lost her battle to cancer. It still saddens me. Then it was off down the steps opposite and across the road to the Six Bells.

I have much happier memories of this pub garden. During the summer months we used to go there with our parents and a set of family friends and just relax. My sister and I thought we were the bees knees with our Coke in a bottle and a packet of crisps. This was always a huge treat...fizzy drinks and savoury snacks didn't feature regularly. At the time the then vicar used to drink in the pub on a Saturday lunchtime...he could often be seen to exit the bar at high speed and hare up the steps to the church just before he was needed at a wedding. I'm not sure the clergy would get away with it these days!

A short wander along brought me to this familiar hall. What I hadn't noticed before though was it is called the Women's Hall.

I took a photo to remind me to find out about it and now I have discovered that it was built in 1923 on land and with money donated by the Bliss sisters. Ellen and Edith were contemporaries of the Pankhursts and promoters of women's welfare. The hall was set aside as a place for women to meet and socialise and it was joined by the Mother's Garden next door in 1926. The idea of women's rights and needs was still very much in its infancy at the time.

Crossing the road brought me to the Unitarian Chapel. It's a very simple affair, but a spot which immediately offers tranquility to those who open the gate and spend time in the grounds. I'm always pleased to see old, worn tombstones and ones with the odd putto or two add a note of Victorian melodrama

There's a little sign on the door which asked simply that you showed your respect for the sacred space by making no noise and leaving no litter. This charming little fellow disregarded any such instructions and continued to photobomb me in an attempt to get my attention. In the end I gave in...he was a sweetie

Just a little break in my daily schedule, but one which I thoroughly enjoyed.


Wednesday 17 August 2016

Lack of Black Cat Appreciation Day

17th August is apparently Black Cat Appreciation Day. A certain black cat called Humphrey begs to differ....look at the sadness upon his little face....

Forced, yes forced, to sleep in a small space below the airing cupboard for obviously we have no available beds, chairs or even a settee upon which he could rest his weary head [nothing to do with him being too lazy to heave that great girth of his up onto a higher surface you understand]. Then there's the face of betrayal.....meant to induce guilt into the heart of the hardest human.

Oh why do you suffer so poor, dear Humphrey. Is it because that wicked owner has donated the three lots of cat food pouches she was given to the local rescue centre from whence you came.....I'm afraid their need is far greater than his for he works hard to retain his tubbiness despite me keeping him on the diet dried food for he has a penchant for petit f[o]urs between meals....that is little furry things with four legs. Sigh. Out of the kindness of my heart though I have held onto this tub of snacks which the same lady gave me [to be meted out slowly] and are several notches above anything I ever buy him!

Seeing as Humphrey's life is such a tragedy here at GBT he is unable to muster the enthusiasm nor the energy [all down to lack of food] for any Halloween preparations...unlike some of his chums who are already up and showing off their skill set on Youtube!

Seriously though this fellow brings me much joy and he is a contented, loving and very spoilt, if rather round, black cat whose antics I greatly appreciate!


Tuesday 16 August 2016

All frocked up.

A dancing friend mentioned in passing last week that she had a dress which was too small for her, but she thought I might like. She brought it along at the weekend and I am delighted to say it had its first outing yesterday. It's got a tie waist so is more fitted than it looks in the picture.  As you might imagine I am cock-a-hoop with my new threads and have been able to press into service a little matching cardi which I bought from a jumble sale last year. It was so kind of her to think of me.


Monday 15 August 2016

Olympic Gold Medal

#TeamGB. I could be up there with our incredible team if only they introduced this as an Olympic event....I just know that I could win gold!


Sunday 14 August 2016

Go wild!

Other than giving the names I'll let the pictures do the talking. All these were seen along the unsprayed edges of the fields up above Clun. These little corridors allow the wildlife a breathing space in which to thrive.

Orange Hawkweed


Field Pansy

Pineapple Mayweed [it smells faintly of pineapples if you squeeze the flowers]

Wild Angelica

Common Fumitory


Friday 12 August 2016


Olympics addict signing in here. Can't help it but everytime it happens I'm there glued to the coverage as much as I can decently get away with. The internet and additional channels have only made it worse. Hell yeah though it's good to have a passion [maybe not an obsession granted] and I have absolutely no guilt whatsoever. If you want to join me I'll plump up the cushion, crack open the vino and maybe even go wild and open a few packs of savoury snacks!

This fellow sits above a doorway in Bishop's Castle. 


Thursday 11 August 2016

Down In The Dumps

Fear not no doom and gloom here! Just a recently discovered blog about a chap who wombles treasure from other people's trash after they put it out on the pavement to be collected as refuse. Some he cleans up and sells, some he offers for free at his garage sales and other items he passes on to those who can make use of them rather than letting them sit in landfill.

Although I don't have the quite the same opportunities here as this chap does in Montreal, it's got me thinking about the contents of GBT many of which have come to me via freecycle, friends and family. The balance between new and used tipped in favour of the latter years ago.

Specific examples which were destined for landfill are an interior door complete with puppy gnawed edges no less that Mr GBT filled and then painted, our stainless steel kitchen sink again intended for a skip and more recently our kitchen bin that I found abandoned near some dustbins locally. Once everything had been cleaned up it was all found to be in excellent condition.

Personally I think it's important to keep the circle of reuse closed so we too move our unwanted items on to those who can make use of them. The latest in this category was our lawnmower....having dug up the grass and replaced it with gravel it was taking up valuable space in our garage.

If you want to take a gander this is the link to the blog which has inspired me these past few days It makes me determined to keep upping the ante and do more.


Wednesday 10 August 2016

Savoury Tooth

Hello my name is Aril and I am crisp monster....except crisp packets are not recyclable oh apart from ones that come in cardboard tubes [where there's a will there's a way....snigger]. I still very occasionally buy them in the foil packets, but in a bid to reduce my landfill rubbish yet further I have donned my thinking cap and come up with a couple of solutions.

Cleaning the cupboards before I went away I found an opened packet of popping kernels. They are slightly out of date but what the heck. They are a much cheaper option than any premade stuff and I hope to have a bit of fun experimenting with new flavours over the next couple of months. First off was salt and smoked paprika. Though I say it myself very moreish....even the teenogre gave it the thumbs up when he staggered in from a long shift on Saturday night, scarfing down a bowl full before he shot back out of the front door on some secret social mission.

This was yesterday's savoury snack of choice. Marmite and poppy seed cookies. Obviously being a tight fisted old bird it was the supermarket own brand version of yeast extract, but they too have met with approval from the chaps here at GBT. Recipe here for anyone who wants to venture out into new waters Mine were quite crumbly but that maybe down to the fact I used all plain flour.


Tuesday 9 August 2016

Heavenly Hydrangeas

"Every flower must grow through dirt."

Laurie Jean Sennott

These are all in the front garden of a house I walked past on my way home from the town centre at the weekend. They remind me of a holiday in Brittany. Always gorgeous.


Monday 8 August 2016

The Three Ls....Part One

Lusciously lovely locations beginning with L from our recent hols. Highlights from each over the next couple of posts.

Starting with was the first official slow town encouraging the slow food movement and it certainly has that relaxed vibe to it

The castle has had a turbulent history. At points it's been owned by the crown and was the property of Richard, Duke of York and later became the property of his son Edward IV. It was seized by the Royalists at one point during the Civil War and has also served as the Council of the Marches in Wales. Nowadays it is run by English Heritage.

 Naturally we paid a visit to St Laurence's [you have to earn your stripes as a church crawler you know!!]. It is particularly well known for the incredible set of misericords it boasts, but I shall show those another day. This I rather like. It's the Housman quilt which was made by the Borderers Patchwork and Quilting Group to mark the centenary of "A Shropshire Lad". The hills are depicted in blue to reference the poet's "blue remembered hills".

Currently underway within the church is a reconstruction of a medieval organ. Like the blousy, brightly coloured interiors of the contemporary churches I think this would have blended in perfectly at the time. It looks strangely garish and almost fun fair like to my modern eyes.

Strange faces and carvings abound within the church. However, I shall show restraint [for once...probably never again so make the most of it folks] and just show you one of the roof bosses to give you a flavour. Quite a dramatic Denis Healey set of eyebrows she's sporting there!

The famous Feathers hotel. Built in 1619 it sports some tremendous Jacobean carving. Sadly I am unable to bring myself to cross the threshold for fear of being evicted since a memorable visit at age 16 with my parents where I disgraced myself. I allowed myself to pass wind silently and unfortunately it was one which would clear a crowd at 100 paces. My family still remind me of this faux pas with great glee and I suspect there remains a wanted poster with my face upon it within to this very day! Anyway back on topic....close ups of the roof line and some of the figures.

The main streets are a mass of the most gorgeous black and white timbered buildings and beautiful floral displays. Definitely always one I enjoy going back to.



Being a soul who could win an Olympic Gold if overthinking was ever included as a sport, one thing which really helps me to slow down and be...