Monday 29 January 2024

Horsham's Secret Paradise

 Slightly further out from GBT [25 minute walk max] we have a rather splendid 90 acre wildlife site. It's on land once belonging to one of King Harold's you know things didn't go well for the Saxons during the Battle of Hastings and the upshot was that it fell forcibly into William the Conqueror's lap. Like a hot potato he flung this particular acreage into the ownership of one of his faithful Dukes, William De Braose. There it remained until the story moves onto the Tudor times and by now it's in the mitts of the Howard family...Catherine, fourth wife of Henry VIII, lived here in the Chesworth Farmhouse in her earlier years before her  ill fated marriage and execution. The house is still in private hands and sold for the knock down price [it had to be reduced] of £3million back in 2018. However, despite its impressive lineage and claim to fame it wasn't the first farm on the site nor were the Saxons the first occupants. Research suggests that there was an Iron Age farmstead here and the Romans have done their fair share of poking about too. Now this green haven is owned by the district council and is managed by a mixed team of rangers and enthusiastic volunteers. It's open access for all and specific projects have been introduced to engage with members of the public so that us folks can learn important stuff about our native flora and fauna. The thinking goes that if we are familiar and feel connected to our local environment then we will value it. I've wanted to see the wildlife garden which was launched last year for a while now....that combined with the usually shut visitor centre and free cake....yes I was in there like a shot!

Space wise it's not very big. Impact wise it packs a punch. There right before you are a series of simple ideas that you can take away with you and recreate elsewhere. The big plus is that it's all been done for a very small outlay. You've got a series of small ponds [one has been made from an old bath some helpful soul had chucked in the local river], log piles, a dead hedge to attract invertebrates. a stag beetle stack and even a bee rocket. The bug hotel has come over from the nature reserve near us [featured here often] which has had a recent makeover and the arched concrete used to be a bench in one of the shopping areas in the town centre. Careful planting to bring in the pollinators and five fruit trees including the rather lovely sounding apple called 'Green Custard' and six months later after many hours of toil it's done. 

The Volunteer Centre [possibly called Spring Barn] has been retained from the original farm buildings and shortly the Friends of Chesworth Farm will be sharing the space with the Men in Sheds as they've outgrown where they currently are. All excellent community based groups coming together and combining their skills. There's a monthly litter pick which we think we'll do [I've been doing an occasional one round my road on my own for a few years now] and as we near retirement I expect we'll get more involved on the practical side. Mr GBT and I met doing conservation work [unpaid] for the National Trust originally, so it will be like returning to where we started!

I had planned to blog about my trip up into the Big Smoke with my friend can see I haven't got as far as working out what I want to write as yet. Keep you posted!


Thursday 25 January 2024

Two for the price of one.

 It was drizzly on my way home between clients earlier, but I made myself park up and take a photo of these two...yup the first of the 2024 toppers. Partly motivated by the fact I wanted to see something colourful to brighten today, but I'd also been caught napping. There weren't supposed to be any new woolly wonders until next month yet the ladies have got ahead of themselves and these two have unexpectedly sprung up. Yes I'm on familiar ground and I could pretend that I was repentant for repeating blog material, but clearly I'm not...instead I am delighted on this rather dreary January day. With that may I wish you all a marvellous weekend. 


PS I can now comment on others blogs, but on here I remain nameless and it sends any replies I make into my own inbox rather than publishing them. I will keep trying!

Monday 22 January 2024

The Early Bird Catches The....

This early bird thankfully caught the first beautiful colours of the day and is grateful that she didn't catch the worm! Yup it's the weekly delight from the weekly shop...this time I hadn't even got as far as the trolley park before I was reaching for my phone.....

'Twas a busy, but exciting weekend [well from my perspective anyway!] Another apple howling.....I'll not dwell on it except to say that when we performed at this particular one a few years ago there was about 100 people there [it's only a small orchard], but we were up to over 200 this time around. The audience were really throwing themselves into the proceedings and at one point I took a moment just to listen to people singing their hearts out and watch them dancing away. We're a buttoned up lot us Brits yet if it's dark and there's some music playing we lose our inhibitions. As a thank you the organisers booked the back room of the local pub for us and bought us all a drink. The musos played a few tunes whilst the rest of us gossiped swapping tales from the evening....there was the little brown dog who caused much mirth as it very quietly sneaked round the base of the fruit tree tidying up all the bits of cider soaked toast which had been dropped or hung from low branches it could reach [I wonder if the cider had any effect?] or the friends saying farewell in the carpark at the end who were shouting waes hael/drinc hael at each other rather than the usual goodbye, but my favourite was the little laddie who wore his saucepan on his head with the handle sticking out on the side and with great gusto clonked the pan with his wooden spoon whenever it took his fancy!

Having spend a goodly chunk of my Saturday with the side four of us met on Sunday morning for a reccie on private land. We are hoping to run a completely new event which will see the revival of some Sussex folk traditions and the invention of some completely new, but needed to see if the offered site would be suitable. It looks to be so and although it's early days the prospects are exciting. Whilst I can't say where it is within the county we met the landowner who gave us a guided tour. From my point of view one mention of neolithic burials [including one which has never been excavated] and you've got my attention. The mounds themselves have long since been ploughed out. Across on the next hill [Cissbury] one of the archaeological digs found a female skeleton who was buried upside down. This is what's termed a deviant burial when it veers away from the usual death related practices of the period. An examination of the bones have shown that this individual had abnormally short arms and the thinking is that she was venerated. We obviously can't tell whether this would have been during her lifetime or post her passing, but it's all fascinating stuff. Currently the results of the radio carbon dating of her remains are awaited. Meanwhile in the field next door there is the footprint of a Roman temple at which lots of models of legs have been found. It's thought that those with damaged limbs were leaving these offerings to their Gods in the hope that they would be healed. A thousand plus years later archaeologists have found wax model legs left as votive offerings at saints shrines in places like Exeter Cathedral. Those they were worshipping may have changed, but the human behaviours remain the same. 

I have booked tickets for an upcoming adventure with a friend in a few days time so am looking forwards to being able to share some new material with you. Unfortunately Blogger is up to its devilish tricks again so my attempts to reply to comments have fallen at the first hurdle!


Thursday 18 January 2024

It's a real bugbear of mine.


I met this Mari Lywd at the Dorking Community Orchard wassail [a great event and turnout] last Saturday. Traditionally these beasts are female, but its owner/creator in the photo wasn't so sure about this one. I think she said its name was 'Oakley' or maybe it was 'Oakleaf'. I took on board that the skull was bought on Fleabay, it now has one gold tooth and one made of oak and this was it's first outing all the way from up from North Devon. It makes more sense when you know that Kitty the maker used to dance with the Morris side who had invited us along so it's was fabulous to catch up with her again after a few years since her move down to the South West. That all said it's a real bugbear of mine that I've already forgotten the correct name and I like to get my details correct. In an article I read recently it became apparent that even 'bugbear' can be a bit of weasel word at times....despite being pretty confident that I knew what it meant I couldn't fathom what the writer meant in my latest encounter with it. It just didn't make an iota of sense to me. Usually with a reasonable working vocabulary I can make a decent stab deciphering what's intended from the context in which things are used....bugbear only had me stumped until I discovered that in its archaic form it was an imaginary hobgoblin which supposedly ate children! I find it fascinating how far it has meandered from its original use to its modern day definition. With all that said it just leaves me to wish you all a most excellent weekend and please do enjoy the sunshine. I am delighted that it is due to be dry again when I am out chasing more evil spirits from the apple trees in this weekend's wassail related doings🍎🍏


Tuesday 16 January 2024


You don't need me to tell you that it's bleeding parky out there, but even in a parky park there was much to be admired and swooned over this morning.

This fellow is our park's resident shepherd who is doing a sterling job of minding his flock. Until a few months ago he was missing an arm, but I am glad to see that he's now sporting a new limb and he's properly wrapped up for the conditions. Via the recent publicity about him I gleaned that his dog is called Treacle. 

My primary motivation for choosing this route was to go and see the new living willow sculpture that's just appeared. However, for randomness alone this set of traffic lights lined and idling by the wall amused me. I have a similar reaction whenever I see lorries without their loads zipping along and once even we passed a fire engine on the back of breakdown lorry. 

Domestic cats who are much loved pets naturally have no truck with weather such as this. Ours has taken it as a personal insult that there is frost out there and is hugging the radiator for all his worth. Suddenly he's very keen on having a lap....he's fairly approving of the window display in the local bookshop, but think they've missed a trick by not having a black cat in that chair! 

Just before home the sunlight caught the frost patterns in the bus looks like someone has come and decorated it. Beauty even in the 'ordinary'.

In a week or so I shall be all wassailed out [until March, but that's a whole different story] and different adventures await.


Thursday 11 January 2024


For reasons I know not, Blogger is currently showing me as anonymous every time I try to reply to all of your lovely comments, so for now thank you again. Having addressed that let's press on with an actual post....well I say 'post' that's probably a rather bold claim....more like a cobbled together jobbie sweeping up the crumbs of a quieter week. 

The pace of January is rather sslllloooww after the mad dash which is December😅 However, all it not lost though because it means that I have started and finished a little teeny sewing project already this year. I've wanted my own Mari Lwyd [if you're scratching your head about the name the explanation is here] for some time now. Aside from the distinct lack of space and oh the fact that Mr GBT might not be very keen on sharing our home with a horse's skull [I haven't asked him so could be wrong], these little obstacles aren't going to deter a stubborn dame. When I set my mind to rummage in my craft stash and I've made this. Imperfect, but has filled the gap nicely without parting with a single penny.

For the past couple of years I have really begun to realise how much I enjoy injecting a bit of so called 'children's fiction' [I use the term loosely as these books have many different layers to them] into my reading mix once in a while. Next on the list is the Narnia series as I only ever read 'The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe' and I suspect that I have missed out by doing so. Currently I am rereading the entire HP lot and speaking of which...we have just booked tickets for the Dark Arts Studio Tour. It's not until the Autumn so I am going to have to sit on my hands, but am far more excited than a 57 year old should be😂

This however, is by far my favourite snippet of news this week. I took this slightly blurred photo of the three swans when we went to Knowle Community Park last Sunday. It wasn't that exciting so I didn't bother to share it, but I was pleased to see that the wildlife is already beginning to colonise the newly dug lake.....

It turns out that this was not a small thing, but a rather bigger thing than I had realised. When I got home I found that a notification had been put up that same day to say that these three mute swans had literally turned up over the weekend and thus there was nothing muted about the joy at their arrival🦢🦢

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend....mine is going to involve a lot of standing outside in the cold. Don't feel sorry for me it's my choice!


Sunday 7 January 2024

'Every Adventure Requires a First Step'

Irrespective of the flooding, the grey days and often challenging driving conditions I am continuing doggedly with my one woman campaign to rebrand January and February as enjoyable months and make them count. When it's horrible outside I've been reading, researching, scheming and doing a little sewing for the first time in many months.

 Yesterday I joined my friend Ice Badger for a final brunch before she moves away to the Midlands next week [there's a trip to Birmingham now on the cards!] and today Mr GBT and I have been out on our first adventuring of the New Year to the country's largest village [apparently] of Cranleigh, Surrey. I had to snap the sign just seemed so perfect for blogging content! The quote in this post's title is from 'Alice in Wonderland' and emanates from this carved cat within the church. It's claimed that it was the inspiration for the Cheshire Cat [Lewis Carroll spent a lot of time in nearby Guildford with his sisters and is buried there after he unexpectedly died on one of his visits]. However, there are other contenders in this category! It's certainly inspired the art work on one of a series of painted bollards outside the Art Centre.

The name Cranleigh derives from a woodland clearing used by cranes. There are several references to the bird sprinkled around the centre, but I just captured my favourite one for here.

On an otherwise very unremarkable low modern redbrick building this little brick detail really pinged. It bore a passing resemblance to musical notes which when I turned the corner made more sense as it's on the exterior of the band hall. I liked the fact that someone had thought to include a small, but relevant detail.

On a bright sunny day the colours in this Jubilee window really popped. A local parishioner asked me if I wanted her to put the lights on. I thanked her for offering, but politely declined as I think it would have taken some of the impact away. It's almost ten years to the day since I was last inside St Nicolas's church [I looked it up on the blog out of interest] and I didn't spot it that time. Perhaps my powers of observation have sharpened in the intervening decade!

Should I admit that this little notice on a nearby bench made me chuckle. I do like to be active and on the go, but ooh I do enjoy a good sit down when I've been busy. My job requires several hours of being on my feet during an average week.

This rather impressive obelisk first came to be in 1794 and started out life as a watering place, but within a few years its use had changed as it was displaying road signs made by the local blacksmith [J Champion Foundry] and it came to commemorate the new turnpike road. I'm not sure whether everyone would have been quite so jubilant at then having to pay to use it. Every side lists different destinations so Horsham it had to be.

Cranleigh doesn't take long to see so it seemed a good idea to nip into the recently opened Knowle Community Park. It's a space for everyone and is to be maintained as a nature reserve. Many different bodies have been consulted so that the development plans meet as many different needs as possible with careful consideration given to encouraging and supporting the fauna and flora. Volunteers have undertaken lots of tree planting, removal of invasive species and wildflower sowing. The swans are already on the new lake and dogs are kept on leads [swimming is not permitted] so that the spot on flea treatments can't enter the water and kill insects. There is a performance area and the weekly parkrun is now held there. Although it's a rather blank canvas at the moment it will be fascinating to see how it evolves over the coming years. I'm sure that it will become a sanctuary for many.


PS Sorry can't reply to comments at present because Blogger is playing up!

Thursday 4 January 2024

Peppering Roads

[Image from Pixabay]

Potholes predate the car as the potters used to dig holes in the roads in the search for easily accessible clay. Other road users had to learn to look out for them even back then. Now Winter is upon us once again the little blighters have woken from their summer slumber. For many months they have snoozed beneath the tarmac blankets the council roadmenders popped over them, but now they've cast off their layers and have emerged hungrily smacking their lips at the prospect of their first taste of car tyre. How do I know social media feed is full of those who have fallen foul of their night time antics when they fill up with water and pretend to be puddles, now desperately in search of those who can replace their shredded rubber wheels at short notice. To avoid the same pitfall I must be mindful when driving over the next few months then. 

However, bad road conditions in Sussex are not a new thing.  Thick clay can be challenging when wet and the county was infamous for its oft impassable routes. Edward Lear visited the county in  1829 and whilst staying at Peppering House he  recorded his experiences in this witty poem below😄 

Peppering Roads

If you wish to see roads in perfection
A climax of cart-ruts and stones
Or if you've the least predilection 
For breaking your neck or your bones
If descents and ascents are inviting
If your ankles are strangers to sprains
If you'd ever a penchant for sliding
Then, to Peppering go, by all means.

Take a coach some dark night in November
A party of four with inside
Ah! I once had that jaunt, I remember
And really I pretty near died!
First across to my neighbour I tumbled
Then into the next lady's lap
For at ev'ry fresh rut we were jumbled
And jolted at ev'ry new gap!

So that when we had finished our journey
The coachman who opened the door
Found us tangled so very topturvy
We rolled out all in one bundle all four
And then we were so whisped together
Legs dresses caps arms blacks and whites
That some minutes elapsed before ever
They got us completely to rights!

If you go in a gig you are sure to
Get lost in a mist on the hills
There's a gibbeted thief on the moor too
Your mem'ry with murder that fills
And besides if you ride in what fashion
You will you are sure to get splashed
Till you get quite incensed in a passion
And peppery like mutton that's hashed.

Or if on some fine frosty morning
You make up your mind for a walk
Oh! ere such be your project take warning
For sunbeams will liquify chalk
Step by step you get clogged so for sartin
With chalk round your shoes like a rope
For to comfort eke Day and Martin
You might as well walk upon soap!

From one end of the walk to the other
It's one awful bootjack to feel
One mighty pedestrial slither
For Christian like progress unmeet!
Oh! The peppering roads! Sure 'tis fit there
Should be some requital at last
So the inmates you find when you get there
Amply pay you for all you have passed.

Have a great weekend folks.

Monday 1 January 2024

A Rubbish New Year

No not literally...just an attention grabbing sort of blog title! Litter picking is what has going round my bonce today. There have been a couple of posts about people having been on or about to do beach cleans. That really appeals to me, but then I have to remember that I am well inland so it would be quite a drive to get to one so instead I started thinking about whether there are any locally organised ones. No sooner had the question been asked then I had my answer when I got chatting to a lovely lady on the free organised walk round the nature walk we were on. The second Saturday at 2pm for an hour at another local green space. I rather like tidying up and doing this is not dissimilar. I can't remember if I showed you this seal made from the beach pickings at Naze in Essex. Even though she's made from rubbish the makers have upcycled it all brilliantly. It gets the message across visually without the need to spell it out.

We really did enjoy our truffle around the reserve. It's been featured here on many occasions so all I have to show for it is Kevin the Pigeon. He's the one with the rather impressive fan tail and one of his offspring. What doesn't show up is the beautiful iridescence around his neck and the depth of brown shading on his plumage. 

Before I depart I learnt today that lichen is a type of algae. First day of 2024 and first new fact.


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...