Tuesday, 21 September 2021

A Tale of Two Villages

Mr GBT and I do our best to do something if we find we have a day without any commitments at the weekend. What we do varies according to time of year, weather, budget etc, but walking is always a favourite. The Fancy Free site of straightforward walks has already come up trumps on a myriad of occasions and has become my go-to if I'm lacking inspiration/ideas. On our last most recent free Sunday we opted for one of the Surrey walks around two villages. We live very close to the border so it was no distance for us to get to the starting point and to the best of my knowledge I've never been to either!

Newdigate and Capel. Within spitting distance of one another, but both with a completely different feel.

Both have churches that have been "restored" [for want of a better word] by the rather meddlesome Victorians. Newdigate's was shut, but Capel's was open and welcoming.

Newdigate seemed a much quieter place. It doesn't have the stampede of visitors and is the recommended one of the two to park in. It has a rather stylish carved cricket sculpture sitting hidden round the side of the clubhouse, a brick works that provided London with the materials it needed after the Great Fire in 1666 and a natty red heart made out of old bicycle chains outside one of its factories.

Between the villages you get to enjoy views such as this at this time of year and an old railway sign which is a reminder of the former train track that you follow for part of the route.

Capel has quite a different vibe. Lots more people about and more vibrant. I was rather chuffed to spot that vintage footpath sign just poking out of the middle of the overgrown hedge. The gravestone is the oldest surviving one in the churchyard and records the death of Alys Clarke who died on 28th June 1694 aged 70. Not only did she live to a great age for that time, she also lived through the execution of Charles I, the civil war, the leadership under Cromwell and then the restoration of the monarch. Extraordinary times in the history of our nation.

Over all my years of exploring one of the things I have learnt is to photograph anything that might be termed a curio. Sometimes these things might turn out to be something of nothing and I simply delete the image, but this is often not the case as they are often the ones that provide the most interesting stories. This stone is propped up outside the church and there have been various theories proposed as to what it might be. The more down to earth suggestion is that it was once a well cap, but another is that it was brought over from France by the Knights Templar and it would originally have been positioned close to the altar where the remaining communion wine would have been discarded down through that hole. I'm plumping for the latter proposal...it sounds much more thrilling!

So there we have it....a tale of two villages for you. Until next time.....


Monday, 20 September 2021

Underneath the arches.

There are many worse places I could think of spending my lunchbreak last Friday😉...

Pleased to report that the show went well and that from my personal perspective I greatly enjoyed seeing Sir Tony Robinson [he of Baldrick and Timeteam fame] from afar. He was there in the capacity of a visitor, so people were respectful and didn't trouble him.


Friday, 17 September 2021

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Yew better not believe it!

Back in 1977 the villagers of Capel in Surrey decided to celebrate their yew's 1000th birthday by holding a dedicated pageant. Attaining that great age was certainly something to mark, except that when it was reassessed in 1993 its age was recalculated to be 1700 years old! It's thought that originally it was one of six trees forming a sacred grove around a pond [now filled in]. The local legend has it that if you walk around it 100 times at midnight a ghost of some description will appear, but it's a little light on the specifics! While we were there I couldn't stop but stand back and admire the scarlet berries with their waxy coats....how many generations stretching back before me have stood there and done just the same I wonder! 



Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Noticing the notices.

 Yesterday I touched upon my penchant for investigating notices....some really do turn out to be as dull as ditchwater as was this one in Henfield.

This one in Tewkesbury proved to be worth the effort though. From the pavement all I could read was "Stonemason's Yard" so I expected to be told something about the building.

Wrong! It provided me with a much more interesting story about Glennie Nos. If you double click the image it will enlarge and you can read it for yourself if you wish to.

Looming up at the end of this week is our first show in two years which means I will be technically working with Mr GBT. I say "working"....nattering with all our loyal customers and meeting new dollshouse enthusiasts. However, I might just have a small plan up my sleeve for a couple of hours away playing hooky. This won't provide me with a lot of blogging material for next week, but the plan [famous last words] is that I'll travel back to the summer and write a bit more about what we got up to when we were away.


Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Highlights from Henfield

Henfield is by rights a large village midway betwixt here and the coast. To my mind it's more of  a small bustling market town with an excellent high street full of independent shops and good community facilities. Please allow me to offer up a selection of photos and accompanying snippets and perhaps you'll get a flavour of why I was rather taken with it. 

These two mosaics were made by Creative Waves and installed as part of the 2019 Horsham Year of Culture [it's within the Horsham District]. The first one recalls the violets which were grown locally and the link they had to the suffragette movement which I wrote about here http://gnatbottomedtowers.blogspot.com/search?q=henfield+violets. Since then I have learnt about a local actor and another suffragist called Elizabeth Robins who's shown in the panel below. She used her 15th century farmhouse to shelter the women who had been on hunger strike after the 1913 Cat and Mouse act. She offered them not only refuge, but a change to recover from the ordeal they had suffered in prison. Unfortunately they would then be returned for the whole terrible cycle to begin again. They fought so hard to get the right to vote for women.

Now you might think that this would be a place you would secure your dog [maybe not wise in these times of canine theft] when you popped into a shop....apparently it's only small 🐘 you can tie up here!

It's not often that I get to admire the herringbone brickwork of old houses at close quarters. This one stands exposed on the corner of a side road so I was able to to admire the handiwork of builders from many generations ago.

These sit outside the firestation..I know not why. Slightly creepy if you ask me😱

A Victorian building with a modern door. The combination of bold design and use of light wood works well to my eyes and compliments the brickwork.

Now for this one you're just going to have to squint and believe me when I say there's a circular earthwork there. Apparently it shows up much better from above with a drone. It's all that remains of Stretham Manor. Rather marvellously we know that this was the home of Count Warbald and his wife Tilburga in 770....such rich sounding Saxon names.

Rye Island is an odd one. The village info confirms that "rye" means island and in this case if you bought the 14th century Rye Farm [see photo below in the distance] you literally needed to buy a houseboat too. The area completely floods most years and the house sits surrounded by water. In order to get anywhere you had to row out in a boat. The situation has improved somewhat for the owners these past few years as there is now a raised causeway running alongside it.

Go large or go home I say...if you're going to have a topiary bird you might aswell enjoy it. I was transfixed by the sheer size of it in that front garden, but in a Wow kind of way. That's one heck of a cat scarer!

Inevitably we did poke our noses round the parish church of St Peter's. It's another one that the Victorians got their sticky paws on and "improved"  cue for took anything out that would have been of interest me, but I did spot a couple of bits of protective graffiti they'd missed high up and this rather charming memorial to a lady who sounds like a really lovely person and enriched the lives of those who met her.

The church is sited on the rather unusually named Pinchnose Green [so named because of the horrible smell of the leather tanning industry that once operated near here] along with the extraordinary Cat House. Last time I visited it it was hissing down with rain, but I did cover its intriguing story here http://gnatbottomedtowers.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-damp-jolly.html It was nice to be able to appreciate it in the sunshine this time!

Frankly words failed me when I encountered these two. I'm still not quite sure what look the makers were going for, but they are vaguely sinister looking without their heads.

As you will know by now I am an avid reader of signs [no doubt I drive my husband quite mad as I'm always getting distracted and wandering off to investigate things I've spotted]. It's proved a great way to learn all sorts of stuff. This little poem was pinned up on a noticeboard as we made our way back to car. It may not be quite Poet Laureate quality, but it was a nice little find to wind up our Sunday afternoon exploration.


Monday, 13 September 2021


I picked up this piece of wood when we were out walking over the weekend. It's not the first time I've found pieces that are the colour of copper when oxidation has turned it that beautiful verdigris colour. Each piece carries the hue throughout, but knowing this has never made me stop and wonder why. The colouration is caused by a pigment called xyleindein which is found in a lovely little fungus called Green Elfcup. I've never managed to find either it or the Scarlet Elfcup, but I live in hope. It's nice to have had one little mystery solved though.


Friday, 10 September 2021

The Hop pickers


These are hops grown in the traditional way along wires strung between wooden poles. The branches are called bines and September was the traditional time that people came out of the poorer parts of London together with members of the travelling community to counties such as Kent and Hampshire to earn themselves a small amount of money to pick the hops. It's been going on for centuries, but it became a popular way for people to be able to afford a few weeks in the countryside and almost a holiday. The whole family would go and despite it being a 5am start and hard work it was a chance to socialise and spend your evenings round the camp fires. Everyone lent a hand stripping the hop flowers off from the bines and throwing them in the bins for the tallyman to weigh them. It became such a tradition that even some of the railway companies got in on the act and ran "hopping specials" from London to Kent.

All of the harvesting work was bound up with rituals, but the hopping ones seem to have had few recorded. However, looking through my books and online it seems that there was definitely a penchant for the pickers to throw people into the full bins. One source said it was kept solely for newcomers who would be held in there until the person agreed to kiss the oldest, plumpest woman or pay a monetary forfeit to avoid it in the first place. Another version is that a man and woman would be put into the bin and covered in hops as some sort of saucy fertility rite. At the end of the season there are records of a King and Queen being chosen and dressed in ribbons, but the genders would have swapped roles and a harvest celebration with eating and drinking would follow and in Herefordshire it was deemed lucky to burn their old boots before they left. In the end mechanisation signalled the death knell for the hop pickers and now all we have left are the oral and written recollections.

I think I might crack open a beer [not ale...that's unhopped] in celebration of this rather wonderful green flower! Have a great weekend.


Thursday, 9 September 2021

David liked walking here.

 Sorry late on parade...lots of dancing and other shenanigans going on!!

Following in David's footsteps last weekend we could see why he liked walking here. We were walking by the river Adur and over the water meadows behind Henfield in West Sussex. 

More tomorrow.


Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Finishing off.

The circumstances of the past few months has forced many of us to look closer to home to find things to do. I am just so pleased now to be able to travel further afield again, but over the winter months you will have seen many walks documented here where I just pounded the pavements of my own town. It surprised me just how much these little explorations turned up and just how much more I have seen and learnt. I only headed for the older streets as modern developments hold little interest for me, but it had been slightly irritating me that I had one small part yet to visit before I completed the project. Finally I got back to it after I finished work earlier last Friday.

Nowadays Roffey is a part of North Horsham and where I went to junior school when we moved here, but once it was a separate village that has been swamped by later development. Its original name was Roughheath [sometimes with other spellings] and it was just that a piece of rough heathland with some fir trees. Parts of this same landscape still form part of the local woods, but they are now valued as an increasingly rare habitat. 

Despite it being a relatively short potter and it not being the posh end of town, I did manage to turn up a few bits and bobs that appealed to me.

I can't explain why, but there is something I find endlessly joyful about sunflowers....even better when they're peeking over somebody's wall like naughty children!

Autumn is my favourite season and September my favourite month [not that I'm biased being a September baby and all that!]. Am sure that this will look stunning in a couple of weeks time 

One of the original Victorian enamel road signs. There aren't many left around here these days, so it's good to see this one still in situ.

You know me and my love of clever wordplay....another one to add to my ever growing collection.

Fancy brickwork above a door. It adds interest to the front of this 19th century terraced house. 

This timber bungalow is most unusual for this part of the world. I'd expect to see this in the coastal areas. Houses of the early 20th century tended to be be brick built as we are on clay here. I found out recently that a descendant of the original family still lives in it all these years later.

This one is now private apartments, but it started out life as the final incarnation of the Union Workhouse which had moved sites a couple of times during its history It was designed by Hallett and Newman in 1838 and had a capacity for 250 inmates. In 1861 the Poor Law Board published a national report for all the paupers who had been living in the workhouses for more than 5 years. Some of the descriptions and reasons for staying make for grim reading, but are of the time. Reasons given include "born an idiot", "of weak mind" and "age and infirmity". On the 1881 census the language has changed a little and now people are referred to as "imbecile" under the handicap category. Most were listed as inmates, but a few were singled out as vagrants. The youngest of these was a little girl called Agnes aged 2 who was part of a family group who had been admitted. They must have been desperate.

To finish on a rather more upbeat note an instantly recognisable house sign and one of the road signs which somebody has planted beneath. There are a liberal handful of these sprinkled throughout the district and they really do add a welcome splash of colour.

This is what I was doing whilst Mr GBT was rescuing the sparrowhawk [see yesterday's post]. See why I really couldn't compete in the excitement stakes!!



A Tale of Two Villages

Mr GBT and I do our best to do something if we find we have a day without any commitments at the weekend. What we do varies according to tim...