Sheep Smarts ~ Cattle Grid No Object

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This sheep popped over the cattle grid so fast, I didn’t actually see it in action (one second it was on the far side, the next it was among the pink geraniums), but all its friends and relations in the next-door field saw. Goodness, what a commotion they kicked up. How did you do that! Wait for us! BAAAAAAA!

We’d just had lunch in the Apple Store Cafe on the Brockhampton Estate (see previous posts), and were about to head home. But at the last minute I thought I’d like a photo of the parkland with its grazing sheep, although the light wasn’t promising. And that’s when it happened – the great escape – ovine-style.

A couple of other sheep who had been paying attention to how it was done, soon followed their leader. The rest stood at the fence and whinged. BAAAAAAAA!

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In the Pink #8  Today Becky is truly ‘in the pink’.

Six Word Saturday  While over in St. Albans, Debbie’s climbing high – a three towers challenge. Go for it, Debbie!

The Thing I Didn’t Tell You About Lower Brockhampton Farmhouse…

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…was that out in the garden the air was filled with the dreamy scent of cyclamen. They were growing everywhere including under a medlar tree whose unpromising looking fruit is only ready to eat in winter, after it has ‘bletted’ i.e. the flesh softened by frost. Then, so I read, it tastes like apple sauce and can be eaten raw, or else made into a fruit jelly. The tree was introduced to England by the Romans.

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Nor inside the house did I show you the ornately carved Tudor bedstead in the master and mistresses’ bedroom off the gallery above the great hall. Or down below, the huge fireplace where once, in medieval times all the main cooking would be done. The spit-roasting tackle is on the floor beside the cast iron grate.

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Then there was the impressive timbering upstairs in the must-have gatehouse for the family going up in the world. Also in the doorway there was a nice sample panel of wattle and daub, the construction method of choice in medieval England. And then there’s the door itself – very much the thing to keep out unwanted callers with its faux portcullis lattice work:

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Back in the garden there was the swing to linger on, and across the moat the ruins of a thirteenth century Norman chapel. In the orchard the damson trees were hanging in fruit. I’m guessing these might have been sold as much for dyeing as for eating, since this is what they were used for in my part of Shropshire during the nineteenth century, and therefore probably earlier too. The apples in the orchard would have been turned into cider, Herefordshire’s traditional tipple.

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Cheers!

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

See previous post for more of the manor’s history.

In the Pink #7 

Today over at Becky’s it’s all pink wigs and tutus.

Traces Of The Past ~ An English Moated Farmhouse And Why It’s Still Here

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Last Wednesday the power was out on Sheinton Street (the electricity men were in our end of town, trimming off tree branches that were impinging on the lines). A day out was called for. So we set off for unknown territory, over the county boundary into Hereford. Lower Brockhampton Manor near Bromyard was the destination, a 600-year old farmhouse on the Brockhampton Estate, one of the National Trust’s many properties, and the kind of place where the provision of coffee and cake could be guaranteed.

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The Brockhampton Estate is an ancient manor, first documented in 1166 when some worthy called Bernardus lived here. No one knows where, though his house may well have been under the surviving farmhouse at Lower Brockhampton, it being a human habit to re-use a good spot once one has been found.

The earliest part of the house you can see to today is the great hall (in the next three photos), built around 1425 by the Dumbleton family.(A name to almost conjure with for Harry Potter fans). And if you want to know what else was going on around this time well, England’s Hundred Years War with France was still on, Jean of Arc was about to defeat the English at Orléans; Chinese imperial admiral Zheng He was on course for East Africa with his treasure ship fleet of 300 ships and 30,000 crew, and in London some essential repairs were being carried out on London Bridge including building a new drawbridge to facilitate the passage of shipping to the upper reaches of the Thames.

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The house was remodelled during Tudor times, a false floor added to the great hall (above) to provide bedrooms for children and thus privacy for their parents, the need for which being something of a new-fangled notion.

The gatehouse was also added in Tudor times (c. 1545 and so around the time of Henry VIII’s death and the accession of his son Edward VI). The family was clearly going up in the world and wished to show it. I think it is a star piece of historic architecture. Here’s another view – from the window of the great hall (through murky old glass):

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In succeeding centuries the owners of the estate became very grand and built themselves the usual big pile, on a hill a mile and half away from the farmhouse. After the National Trust took over the estate, they wisely decided they had enough stately homes on view to the public, and so leased the more recent estate properties for private occupation, and concentrated instead on the Lower Brockhampton farmhouse.

To my mind the farmhouse, and its 600 years of associated agricultural history, is far more interesting and historically important. Well done National Trust.

BUT THEN they would not have been able to do this were it not for a piece of most enlightened Victorian forethought.  In 1871 the owner of the estate, one John Habington Lutley, commissioned, John Chessell Buckler, a top architect of the day, to restore the crumbling farmhouse. The two men recognised that too much of England’s historic vernacular architecture was being needlessly destroyed because people did not think it could be repaired. They wanted to debunk this notion. So hats off to those two gentlemen.

Once the house was restored, it and its farm fields, continued to be let to tenant farmers. One of the rooms in the house is set in the 1950s, marking the tenancy of Marian and Valentine Freegard who arrived on the farm with their five children in 1952. On their 115 acres they kept  a small milking herd of Shorthorn cattle and reared sheep. They also maintained the existing apple and damson orchards. Valentine had a new Land Rover, a tractor and one working horse called Old George. They sold their milk at the village shop for 2 pence a pint. The next photo could be a scene from my childhood, the Cheshire farmhouses I remember visiting.

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The Freegard children apparently amused themselves by rowing about on the moat in an old tin bath. And in case you’re wondering, moated farmhouses were a common feature of the English countryside from before 1200 and into the Tudor period. A moat could of course be defensive, but it is more likely to have been a demonstration of status.

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Of course one of the cheeriest parts of any farmhouse is the kitchen, and Lower Brockhampton’s is no exception. Unfortunately it was not providing the requisite coffee and cake that had spurred us from home in the first place. For that we had to hike back across the park, through the damson orchard, over a shorn wheat field, past cows, into a wood and up a big hill to the Apple Store Cafe where we had left the car. (There was alternative parking and snack bar nearer the farmhouse, but we thought we needed a walk).

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All in all, the Brockhampton Estate is a marvellous resource. Quite apart from the farmhouse, there are several walking trails through 1,700 acres of stunning park- and woodland. And yes, I know you have to pay to go in, or become a National Trust member, but if it weren’t for the NT, whole swathes of Great Britain’s landscape would have been lost forever, and this includes our magnificent coastal paths which are freely accessible. Better still, they are using the great estates in their care, to pioneer all sorts of environmentally friendly technologies. It’s also good to see that when it comes to family days out, NT properties are increasingly destinations of choice. There is much emphasis on outdoor pursuits and learning about both natural and man-made landscapes; activities where children, grownups and dogs can have plenty of fun exercise, and maybe learn a few important things too.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Traces of the Past

Jo’s Monday Walk

Blushing? I Should Say So…

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…these poor chaps have been abandoned, left to their own devices in a Shrewsbury shopping mall, the shop closed down, and they without a thing to wear.

Of passing interest too? The shopping mall in the frame is the Darwin Centre, named after the ‘Father of Evolution’ who was born in the town. I wonder what he would have made of this scene, or of shopping malls in general, or of having his name hijacked for such purposes. Answers on a postcard please.

In the Pink #5 Pop over to Becky’s for a stunning skyscape; pink of course.

In the Pink At The Allotment And That Includes The Cauliflowers

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I’ve not taken you to the allotment lately. It’s been hard work all summer doing the watering, protecting crops from scorching and defending the brassicas from butterfly onslaught. But just look what cropped up this week. (And yes we have eaten it).

You have to watch cauliflowers. They can sneak up on you. One moment nothing but a bunch of leaves, the next a big head enough for two. If you miss the moment of readiness, they can soon be spoiled by grazing earwigs – the rotters.

With this year’s prolonged drought there have been a few losses and some so-so results. The broad beans and peas struggled fitfully. The runner bean seeds did not want to germinate. The strawberries started off well, then fainted. Some of the greens went grey with white fly and other nasties. The sweet peas went to seed as soon they flowered, then were attacked by aphids and had to be chopped. The French beans, though plentiful, were unusually stringy right from the get-go. And the runner beans are only now appearing at a manageable rate, this with the drop in temperature.

The courgettes, on the other hand, simply galloped away and are still producing. This I do not understand as they like to be watered well, and I have not watered them well, though they did have plenty of compost to grow in. We’ve also had good raspberries, beetroot, carrots, onions, a few squashes, and Swiss Chard which has grown itself. The borlotti and butter beans and leeks look to be doing pretty well, and we’ve had tomatoes and mini cucumbers from the polytunnel. The star success is the sweet corn, both the crop from the seedlings I bought in, and the Lark variety I grew myself. Round of applause for the Lark please even if it isn’t pink…

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And we have asters, which are amazingly pink. I used to think I did not like them, but after last year’s gift from fellow allotmenteer, Siegfried, when he appeared on my plot with armfuls of them, I have been quite won over and decided to grow them too. Some of them come with their own crab spiders.

 

In the Pink #4

Yesterday In The Garden ~ Kind Of Pink With Added Blue

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I love the way these Blue Lace Flowers have leaned in among the plumes of Hydrangea paniculata. It was not planned. In fact I did not know what to expect of the seedlings grown from the free packet of seed that came with a gardening magazine back in March. The water colour image on the packet verged on the surreaI and I was certain I had never seen anything like it in real life.

Didiscus caerulea also known as Trachymene coerulea  was apparently introduced to Britain from Western Australia in 1828 so I can’t excuse my ignorance of its existence by thinking it a ‘new’ plant. Anyway, it is well worth growing – a half hardy annual, delicately scented, good for cutting, long flowering and around two feet tall. The leaves turn a lovely shade of tangerine as they age.

An all round good-looker then, and although dead-heading encourages new flowers, I haven’t persuaded myself to do it so far. When the petals fall the flower turns into a star burst, which then curls up into a little fist of seeds. I’m wondering if it will sow itself, though imagine the seeds would not survive an English winter. But I might try collecting some and drying them for next spring’s sowing.

That the flowers also attract hoverflies is of course an added bonus.

 

In the Pink #3

An Excitement Of Daffodils At Bodnant Garden

Even glimpsed from afar, it was an extraordinary sight – a yellow prairie against a Welsh hillscape. Euphoria was instantaneous. Whether old or young, there was nothing for it but head for the daffodils!

 

Patti at Lens-Artists asks us to show her action. Please visit the Lens-Artists to see their inspirational photos and take part in their challenges. And it’s also ‘In the Pink’ day 2 over at Becky’s.

For the story behind the creation of Bodnant Garden see earlier post  Marvellous Magnolias

Lens-Artists #9: Action

In the Pink #2 Today Becky’s gone batty.

The Changing Seasons ~ August ~ A Change In The Weather In Wenlock

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After three solid months of wall-to-wall summer with broiling temperatures and barely a spot of rain, we have skipped a good month or two and landed in autumn. It’s all very disconcerting. Fields are shorn of their grain crops, the stubble cut, bailed, stacked and now being hauled past the house in juggernaut  consignments. The muck-spreaders are in action too, top-dressing the hard-baked land for the next crop. Dubious odours waft about the place – some of them human.

Our Midlands water and sewage company  do a good trade in what they euphemistically call bio-solids. It has a low-grade, lingering pungency, but having recently watched a BBC documentary on the Secret Life of Landfill (a brief horror clip HERE on YouTube), I’m glad something useful is being done with the stuff. Animal waste also has to be recycled and one morning this week we had four tractors, grisly muck-spreading tanks in tow, thundering in convoy up and down Sheinton Street – to and from somewhere for and with some very potent slurry.

More scenically, early on Saturday evening as we were driving over to friends in neighbouring Staffordshire, we saw two tractors ploughing the red sandstone soil in tandem, a flock of seagulls swirling after them.

I keep wanting to yell, hang on! It’s still summer. Except the sudden 10 degree drop in temperature has me scurrying to the winter vest drawer. But still, out in the back garden it at least looks like summer, so to make up for talk of weird weather and bad smells, here is my August garden gallery. Somewhat perversely, the Morning Glory that has been twining up our small apple tree all summer, has waited for the cool weather to arrive before deciding to flower. A welcome sight, if surprising in the gloomier light. Likewise the Mediterranean-loving zinnias, which have stepped up a gear to full throttle blooming, and continue to be a favourite bee haunt.

 

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The Changing Seasons  Please visit host Su for some fine NZ vistas

Lens-Artists #8 Colourful And please visit Tina and the other Lens-Artists. for some ‘colourful’ photography.  I hope Tina won’t mind my doubling up here.

Tales From Hunter’s Lodge ~ Further News Of The Crocodile

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23 February 1994

This morning when I peered over our balcony rail I could see a pair of well-polished black boots and the shiny black barrel of a rifle propped against the veranda wall of the room below us. A wildlife ranger come to hunt the reptile. I wandered down for a word and found not one, but two young men, both smartly kitted out in Kenya Wildlife Service uniforms. I asked them if they had come for the crocodile.

Probably because I was a mzungu and therefore presumed fervent in my desire to protect absolutely all wild creatures no matter how inconvenient or deadly their presence may be to the locals, their response was defensive. They were clearly expecting an argument: “Crocodiles are very dangerous,” said one. “The manager is very worried about his staff and their children. It will have to be killed.”

I did not disagree, but told them I had seen it a number of times. “And weren’t you frightened?” I said I wasn’t. They seemed so surprised I did not like to tell them I had also been running around after it trying to take a photograph. It would have sounded most foolhardy and eccentric after what they had said. I left them to their watch, wondering who would get a shot first, me or the rangers. I hoped it would be me.

As I sat up on my balcony I was convinced that they would have no luck that morning. I had only seen the crocodile after lunch. Anyway, it did not matter. Soon there was much chattering down below. Rose the chambermaid had arrived and was doing her level best to distract the rangers from their quest. She did so for a good hour or more. Nor was it idle chitchat, although there was much laughter. From the snatches of conversation that were in English. I gathered that she was conducting an evangelical crusade; she had a captive audience and, as a born again Christian, more than enough zeal to win a hearing from even the most obdurate of unbelievers. And not only was she extremely eloquent, but she was also very handsome. Already she was broaching the subject of the sort of man she would marry. A smart young woman.

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16 March 1994

As has become the habit, we collected Dorothy from Pangani en route for Kiboko. There had been rain in the night and the gaping potholes in the roads of the estate’s shopping centre were now red-mud lakes. The women vegetable sellers sat along the broken pavements, in front of them their produce – neat pyramids of tomatoes, red-skinned onions, mangoes, small pink potatoes. A girl stared at us from the clinic doorway; the pile of refuse on the corner of Dorothy’s road sweltered in the humid atmosphere.

The drive from Pangani followed the network of ring roads that take you to the south side of the city without hitting the centre. It was hair-raising. We dodged matatus that either pulled up or pulled out in front of us without warning, sometimes barely a hair’s breadth of leeway, all over-laden with passengers and luggage. Then we nearly collided with a man pushing a wide handcart that lurched along the broken tarmac on wobbling wheels. The sea of traffic swept round the large walled island that serves Kariokor Market (the place for kiondos, the local sisal shoulder bags, and used truck tyres), and on into Haile Selassie, the heartland of the tea and coffee trade. Here humanity and motor vehicles jostle for space and it is all push and shove beneath the looming post-war warehouses of ‘the cup that cheers’.

As we headed out of town on the Mombasa highway we were soon aware of a strong police presence, an armed officer stationed  under every roadside thorn tree; near the airport approach road the flags were flying. Later, we discovered that President Moi was expected to pass that way. He was scheduled to meet the arriving Sudanese President, General Omar Hussan Al-Bashir. Out along a ridgeway, and leaving Nairobi’s industrial concrete wasteland behind, strode a young Maasai herdsman, red shuka shawl draped over his shoulder. Ahead of him trailed a file of motley coloured cattle, their pied shades a smaller variation of the white and grey and black clouds that swelled on the skyline behind them. Africa’s two worlds.

There was much game to be spotted on the Kapiti Plains. Thompson’s gazelle were grazing so closely to the road that at first I thought they were goats. Then, beyond a stretch of whistling thorns I spotted the head and neck of a giraffe. The rest of it was lost from view. It was striding out along a gully that ran parallel to the highway. Soon we were passing several more elegant necks and heads, all south-bound. And then at last, a hundred yards from the road, a gathering of eighteen fully emerged giraffes; as many as we had ever seen at one time and with the russet hides of the reticulated variety that we had not seen before. When giraffes move with intent like this – the loping gait – they seem to dance to rhythms that only they can sense, but you long to join in with. Alongside were kongoni and ostrich too, and we were not even in the park.

Down on the lowland plains the skies were grey. The wasted maize crop from the December planting still clung to the crusty soil, rows of skeleton stems. On some of the plots men were out with ox teams ploughing in the aborted effort. The long rains were expected, and soon it would be time to take another turn of the roulette wheel and sow the seed for the next maize crop.

At lunchtime Hunter’s Lodge simmered gently in the heat. Even the weavers were subdued. As we drew up in the car park we noticed a small overland truck parked right down at the pool edge, the travellers’ washing lines strung out between two acacias and bowed down with wet T-shirts. Out in the water, wading thigh deep were two young Akamba boys, wielding their fishing rods and casting their lines as they went. We had never seen anyone in the water before and we knew then the wildlife rangers had been successful and the crocodile killed.

The afternoon was sultry and I sprawled on the bed and slept. Later Joyce called in with some fresh towels. She told me she had just come back after two months leave at her home in Kibwezi. This small township is about half an hour’s drive south from Kiboko, but if you have to depend on a matatu for a lift, then it is too far and too expensive for her to travel to work each day. And so her husband, who works for the forestry department, lives at Kibwezi with their oldest boy who has just started school there, and Joyce lives with her three year old son in a single room of the staff quarters at Hunter’s Lodge. Sometimes her husband comes to visit at weekends. When I said that it must be hard to live separately like this, she laughed and did not seem to think so.

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Before bed that night we went down to the terrace bar for a soda. Only the manager and the barman were there. It was  as if we were stepping onto an empty stage after the play was done. Yet there was still a sense of drama. The empty white bentwood chairs on the empty lawn glowed faintly at the  edges of the light cast by two lamps hitched up in the acacias. Across the pool, fever tree branches reached out from the darkness. A lone firefly winked on its steady course over black waters. A bush baby cackled, piercing the soundscape of cricket and frog call. Up above, the sky seemed to be bursting with every star in the universe. On the northern horizon the sheet lightning flickered, fitful bursts of a failing element. Against the stars we could just make out the ghosts of bats’ wings as they wafted silently. It was the sort of night you swear you will never forget, but always do.

17 March

The fundi is still at work across the pool, carefully placing the grey fluted tiles on the summerhouse roof. He has a radio on – Congolese rumba rhythms issue faintly. Today there are two young women at work in the garden. One is raking up the dead grass. She wears a turquoise blouse over her kanga wrap and her hair is braided into corded rows from forehead to nape. The other girl barrows the debris away to a far corner of the property. Her hair is close cropped and she has on a brown and orange kanga. Flashes of vivid colour on a parchment-pale landscape; cobalt blue darts of the greyhooded kingfisher as it sweeps the lodge lawn for insects.

It is only 10 a. m. and already it is hot. The girls work slowly, pausing often to exchange a few words. The air is spiced with the scent of the tiny sun-baked acacia leaves that fall in drifts; the chatter of weavers is overlain by the more intense whine of insects. This is how I remembered Hunter’s Lodge all the time I was in Zambia; this was how it was on the day I first came here, two years ago.

Tish on the terrace 1992

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell