Friday 26 February 2021

The perils of walking alone [tongue in cheek]

 Imagine my surprise when I spotted this on one of my recent pavement stomps.....hidden in plain sight, but clear for all those "in the know" to see.....

Our town's very own Whomping Willow. I gingerly tiptoed past for I had now wish to invoke its ire....from memory things didn't turn out terribly well for the little Ford Anglia in HP and the Chamber of Secrets......

Have a good weekend!


Thursday 25 February 2021

Wednesday 24 February 2021



These two disturbing figures are Raving and Melancholy Madness and were created by the sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber in 1676. For most of their lives they were on display near the gates of the Bedlam [now Bethlem] Hospital as some sort of grim advertisement for a place where those who had lost their mind could be hidden away from society and a terrifying warning of what might befall you if you became of one of those lost souls.  Although Bethlem still exists these days, it's very much at the forefront of the treatment of mental health conditions and we can only hope that an enlightened/empathetic attitude continues to grow so that the help people need is available to them. The statues now sit in the foyer of the Bethlem museum which is sited within the grounds of the hospital.

Walking last week I photographed this rather grand looking property and the brick detailing on the back wall. I knew nothing of its history prior to this, but have subsequently read that this house was once the stables of a much larger place called Chestnut Lodge which has since been demolished.

The very existence of Chestnut Lodge is down to the tragic tale of Katherine Fox who was born in 1811 and classed as an "imbecile" meaning at the time those of "weak mind". The initials and date are those of her father Benjamin C Fox who made his money as a lace merchant and he had the house built in 1828 as a private asylum for his daughter to live in. The care of Katherine after his death was obviously of great importance to him as he had another house called Sussex Place built elsewhere in the town. It was to be let out and the income from the rental used to continue to meet both her and her cousin, Elizabeth Hepworth's needs. Elizabeth looked after Katherine until her death in 1869. Elizabeth herself died in 1886 and touchingly the pair of them share a plot in one of the graveyards.


Tuesday 23 February 2021

Surprise, surprise.

 It's not every Saturday morning that the doorbell goes and my parents are on the doorstep...smiling they hand me an unexpected parcel and then head off without explanation.

A very beautiful hare pewter mirror no less made by Archive Crafts. I am absolutely delighted and it's already been found a special place to be displayed on the walls of GBT.


Monday 22 February 2021

Moth eaten

With the little signs of Spring starting to show themselves I am gearing myself up to using my new moth trap [birthday present from last year] and in anticipation I have invested in one of these.

I have just put it out there that, as a completely rank beginner, I would like something easy for starters Elephant Hawkmoth would be perfect. However, I think 50 shades of brown is more likely and it might take me while to correctly identify any that I catch.....perhaps Confused, Suspected and Unknown ones might flutter my way [they are indeed all British moth species].

From a recent illuminating virtual talk I recently attended I now know that there is no difference between butterflies and moths and if you want to attract them into your garden in a low budget fashion then a ripe banana slit along the sides and placed somewhere like a birdtable should bring them in to feast [particularly effective in the Autumn. One of my favourite things I learnt was that many types owe their names to our Victorian forebears. This revelation sent me scurrying to the pages of my new book and picking our a few for your delectation.....Maiden's Blush, Brussels Lace, Chimney Sweeper, Buttoned Snout, Hoary Footman, Slender Burnished Brass, Pretty Pinion and Dusky Brocade. It all creates a rather wonderful vision in my mind of an overcrowded parlour with aspidistras in majolica plant stands, lace covered tables, Staffordshire Pottery dogs and ladies rustling around in fussy crinoline confections......


Friday 19 February 2021


 I did inwardly chuckle when I recently met a lady with her spaniel who was carrying the most enormous stick in his mouth. I can only think it would be akin to me carrying a caber parallel to the path and sideways up our high street on a busy Saturday afternoon. I smiled and merely commented "Blimey" as the determined pooch approached with his quarry....his owner smiled back at me wryly and said "well he's nothing if not ambitious!". It has put me in mind of Julia Donaldson's amusing poem " Stickman" that I saw a few months ago in our poetry corner in the park.

Hope you all have a good weekend. We have our first ever flu jabs to look forwards to!


Thursday 18 February 2021

The final visit

 Am paying a final visit to my weekend walk with E as we packed a lot into our few hours out [plus it means I can write more blog posts.....if I reach drivel point I will shut up until something decent comes along again I promise!]. It wasn't all WWII and beer you know......

E has found great solace in watching kingfishers over the last year and we were hoping that we might catch a glimpse of orange and turquoise dart past us. Alas it wasn't to be....we even checked in the reeds where they often hang out, but common sense tells me they must have been up the other end of the pond fishing because they weren't going to catch anything where we were standing. Those "bubbles" you see are trapped in sheets of ice [it had thawed at the other end]. The pond itself is one of so called hammer ponds and is left over from the Wealden iron industry. Once there would have been a clay dam known as a bay there and as the water stacked up behind it [the levels were operated by sluices] the water pressure was used to drive the overshot wheel of the nearby forge.  The lovely Wealden cottage opposite is called "Hammer Cottage".

All was not lost though in the wildlife stakes....despite the cold conditions we were just about able to make out the small group of fallow deer underneath the trees and we were treated to several flocks of fieldfare feeding on the fareway. The course does rather look like somebody's been at it with a flour shaker!

These weird hump things are ant hills we decided. Much too big for moles and they look like they've been there for quite some time.

Nothing gladdens the heart quite like coming across Snowdrops. Mind you go back a few generations and they were thought to be dangerous things in Sussex. Supposedly they looked like a corpse in a shroud [can't see it myself] and because they grow so close to the ground this meant that they were harbingers of death. If you went off visiting the householder would not have welcomed you into their home if you arrived with a bunch of them for this reason.

The final part of our walk brought us into the nearby small village of Mannings Heath. This former Wesley chapel [built 1869] closed in 1973 and has now been converted into a private dwelling. I took a photo of the little plaque above the central window in the hopes that it would give me some information about the old chapel. It didn't.....instead it reads "Peter's Fable of the Gable 1990". I am baffled by what it means!

This finger post was fully restored in 2012 for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee...the chap who did it does this as his full time job. How brilliant...these things need to be treasured and maintained.

This is the Church of the Good Shepherd [built 1881] and I learnt that it's what's called a chapel of ease. They were built within the same parish as the main church, but were for members of the congregation to attend who lived too far away from the parish church itself. The porch has these simple war memorials. Again I don't know why the WWII dates are 1939-1946...another mystery that maybe one day I might be able to solve!

Every day's a school day!


Wednesday 17 February 2021

The nineteenth hole.

 E and I may not have played a round of golf at the weekend, but I can gleefully reveal that we kept up the tradition of the 19th hole [I only found out about this euphemism very recently and have been dying to find an excuse to weave it into a post at some point!]. Whilst we didn't go in the clubhouse bar, we did manage to squeeze a trip in to a local micro brewery on our walk round.

Until 20 years ago our town had a biggish sized brewery, but then the familiar was taken over by one of the bigger boys and the whole operation was moved elsewhere. It seemed that Horsham's brewing history was at an end, but out of the fire the phoenix rose again and several successful microbreweries have followed on in its wake. Local beer festivals are now ticketed events and sell out rapidly so there's a real passion for beer in the district. Nobody knew how these small businesses would fare when it all had to shut down last year, but the outcome has been healthy. They have adapted and taken different steps to survive....being able to order beer for my Dad's birthday was brilliant and now many of them offer their brews on a click and collect basis. However, that's not why we found ourselves here.....our motivation was somewhat different.

The Kissingate brewery has been going since 2010 and over the past few months they've added a takeaway service for homemade cake and hot drinks. Can you imagine my joy when I saw that bell with the pincers that you can ring for service?😁

As regards the beer as you can see from the designs [all done by the couple who set it up] they do a fabulous range and quite frankly it would have been rude not to leave with out purchasing a few bottles. After much umming and aahing [The Undertaker Varnish one was very tempting] I plumped for the Six Crows one for me and something else for both of the chaps.

Afraid that the beer might go off I felt it necessary to ensure that mine was was consumed that evening as we settled down to watch the latest of the Harry Potter films that we've been working our way through. Delicious it was too.


Tuesday 16 February 2021

On the golfcourse.

 As it's well documented, the golf courses are shut for now. With this in mind E and I had a snout round her local one hoping to spot some wildlife. What we didn't expect to find was so many remnants and reminders of WWII there. 

Not one, but two pillboxes in close proximity. The square brick one is bulletproof and is a type 26. It was deliberately built into the river bank to partly camouflage it and to build an anti tank ditch. There were no visible signs of people having been inside it and I've since learnt that it's only been emptied of soil within the last few weeks. The hexagonal one is a type 22 and came with five openings through which rifles or light machine guns could be fired. There was plenty of graffiti scrawled on the walls inside, but E did well to spot this contemporary piece in amongst it all. This was written just a few weeks after the war had ended and I wonder if Gordon Bullock from Carsdale, Manitoba, Canada was one of the soldiers from the Canadian troops that were stationed in the area. I shall probably never know!

I have to say E was on fire on Saturday with all her spotting...this is a regular route for her with the dog and she's been wondering about this bridge and whether it was another war relic. From footage I've seen it looked vaguely familiar to me and I couldn't resist put the word out on FB to see if her hunch was right.

Well the local war history enthusiasts came up trumps and confirmed that it was a small box girder bridge which was built in 1940.It was designed to be carried on the front of a Churchill AVRE tank so that it could be transported to different locations and then used to cross different obstacles like streams. They were used in the Normandy landings. It seems to have been sitting there quietly with its later wooden top unnoticed until now and people were interested to hear about it.

This memorial though is the reality of the war...on 17th February 1945 a loaded Halifax Bomber caught fire and crashed. Tragically the pilot and the bomb aimer lost their lives.

A poignant reminder. Until tomorrow.


PS Now have had it confirmed that the bridge was made by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company in 1940 and is a markIII.

Friday 12 February 2021

The Northern Lights

 I would so love to see the Aurora Borealis for myself one day...not necessarily from Scandanavia but more probably from Northern Scotland which is on the same latitude as parts of both Alaska and Norway and would cost a lot less. I love the name of the "Mirrie Dancers" that they have up there for them. The reminder for this came from a recent hearing of "Northern Lights" by Renaissance. I hadn't heard it in years.

Have a fabulous weekend.

Thursday 11 February 2021

Industrial Heritage Walk

Seeing as Mr GBT works from home all week he does like to cross the drawbridge every once in a while and have a change of scene. As exploring is confined to "under your nose" I floated the idea of another of the local heritage walks. This time we chose one in nearby Southwater.

I often wondered what this sign represented. Seeing it again spurred me on to find out. This is the winner of a competition in 2005 to create a design that represented the village's past. The big wheel represents the wheelwright business that closed in 1950, the smaller one the railway that closed in 1966 [the old line is now part of the Downs Link which is a public footpath network]  and the chimney is from the brickworks that stopped in 1981.  

These two lovely cottages are some of the oldest buildings and are from 1500. The one on the left is where the wheelwright lived [you can't really miss that massive pair of bellows standing in the front porch can you!!] and the family still live in it and has done since 1823. They paid for all the beautiful stained glass windows in Holy Innocents parish church which depicts the rural life in the village before it became an industrial area.

This sign is a new one. I've not seen them depicted with the poppy on like that.

The cessation of brick making by the Sussex and Dorking Brick Company must have been a real blow at the time, but the district benefitted because the old works have now been transformed into a very popular country park which is hugely popular with all ages. The old gate has been reused as part of the war memorial site. That in itself is notable because of how recent it is. Very few have been built over the last few years and this one was only put up in 2008. Some of the locally made bricks have been incorporated into its plinth. 

There have been a couple of finds of iguanodon bones and one lot turned up in a brick pit. SDBC adopted iggy as their company logo. This fabulous sculpture is the work of Hannah Stewart and was unveiled in 2006. He sits proudly in the centre of the village square.

These bike stands are so much more exciting than their usual functional, but rather dull counterparts and the repro mile stone stands outside the former Victorian school house.

I had no idea Southwater had so much to offer! This was a couple of weeks ago, but have only got round to writing it up this week. Slack Alice reigns supreme!!


Back to the town of painted doors and alleycats

 💕Ah Tewkesbury💕 Do you know what...I flipping love this town with all its curios and layers of history. It is entirely down to Mythago an...