Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Past and Present

A Happy New Year to everyone, and looking forward to Spring. X

Winter 2010

Whitby in the sun

Whitby in the sun at Christmas, not many people around, but St.Marys had a few looking at the decorated trees.  Far too tired to write now, the trip to Todmorden, and then the long drive back has left me exhausted.

Cobbled path


At one time gate posts.

Old wall

Friday, December 27, 2013

Part two

Beautiful sunny day with blue skies, up to Mirk Mire Moor, there was ice on the lanes so we took it carefully.  The rowan trees were all bereft of berries, as we drove along the razor straight road over the moor, was this also part of the Roman road that can be found further on? I don't know.  The holed stones, two at the fork of the two lanes meeting were measured by LS, still no answer, it did seem to me  that the 4" x 8" approx.  holes are made to a required specific, that these old stones have received another job to do in their lifetime.  The Wheeldale stones that occur every half mile or so are of course way markers for when the moor becomes covered in snow.
Red grouse around, and when we stopped, that beautiful silence broken by the grouses chirruping and that lovely burbling sound of another bird which must be the curlew... Down to the beck, snow caught against the bank as the water rushed bubbling and cascading over the stones. There were a couple of cars there, and as we walked up the forestry path, a man and his wife came down.  The man was in a wheelchair, and had difficulty in getting under the barred pole, which was padlocked.  He stopped to talk, from Edinburgh they had been coming down for 30 years, cycling the area all those years, a fit man once he still loved this place and was very amiable. 
We wandered up the path, to the left there must have been an old steading, all that remained was two crooked gate stones, and a wall, a flat platform with a cluster of stones may have been the 'house'.  The trees are gnarled and grey barked here, twisted into strange shapes, true witch trees.......

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Though there are no photos, a daily reminder  to myself of what we have done. Xmas Eve was sunny, as was yesterday.  We went up the 199 stairs, and I sat for a while on one of the 'coffin rests' musing that if you were a coffin bearer in the 19th century and died of a heart attack going up the stairs than the best thing to do was leave the body up at the church and just bring an empty coffin for burial.  Arriving at the top, we went inside to see the decorated christmas trees.  St.Mary is a strange church, slowly I begin to like it, the old mixed with the rather flamboyant style of a later era, the white 'barley twist' pillars still jar against my need for a more aesthetic grey.  The stove was lit in the centre of the church and we all wandered round the high backed pews.  There is a strong sense of community in this church, in the grave yard the stones are regimented on the cliff, slowly they will fall into the sea as the cliffs erode.  There is no 'Dracula' grave up here, neither Bram Stoker who wrote the story, only a church notice telling us to be respectful in the presence of the church - this I think is to the 'Goths' who come up here to linger round the grave stones, and they are always respectful..
Wandering down through the rather empty town of Whitby, there are quite a few visitors, recognisable by their posh anoraks and 'ski' sticks, when I grew old I shall have a knobbly old cane stick to get around on!

Christmas day was beautiful, quiet and serene, we put the sacrificial (organic chicken) in the oven and then went round to the 'Endeavour' bar, three pubs within 5 minutes of the cottage perhaps tells you the tale of the old Whitby, or at least the tourist infested summer time one.  In the butcher shop there was the most beautiful dressed geese and ducks in the window, will never bring up a bird again when the shops offer so much.
We had taken a walk in the morning along to the East Cliff, quay to see the sea, in all its beautiful slaty- grey colour; out on the horizon three great container ships slowly sailed past, a dog played on the small beach below. Either from the top of the cliffs, or from below one can contemplate the truly architectural wonder of Whitby on the West side. The houses tumbling down the slope the different styles telling of the comings and going of its history.  Flowergate where the cottage is, must be one of the oldest roads, the old coach and horses coming to a stop outside the pub over the road with the stepping stone.

Today we had planned to go up to the moors to measure some stones, it looks like it maybe foggy though so we will wait.  Yesterday I learnt that it is red grouse on the moors, not black, though they look very black to me.  Apparently they are going to do some more burning of the heather for the poor birds, they feed on young heather tips, but nest in the old scrubby heather.  I call them poor birds because their welfare is dependent on the shoots that take place over the moors, mainly it seems that it is overseas visitors who keep the moors economically sound, should the shooting and burning not take place, the moors would revert to semi-decidous trees and shrubs...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Greetings

One I made earlier! You can see it's homemade.The storm has passed through Whitby, though there is another expected tonight, the sea front was the one that got hit during the other storm a few days ago. Wetherspoon which has only recently opened had its wall broken plus there were large silver pipes for pumping the water out.  Yorkshire Trading had apparently used the hamster bedding to protect their door but dear old Whitby is the same as ever.  People crowd Baxtergate chattering away, everyone in the banks and shops are wearing funny hats.  We 'did' Sainsbury yesterday along with a million other people, but there was sweets and mince pies handed out at the till, the storm had just started when we got out.
The cottage is warm and snug, sheltered in its yard we do not feel the wind, just outside is a bush in which the sparrows gather and so I can still feed the birds.  We are off soon to Church Street, and buying some fish and chips for a late lunch, the Magpie is closing at three, as is the fish shop Fuscos.
The shops are full, clothes sales already started, and there are beautifully 'dressed' duck and goose birds at the local butcher shop laid out waiting for someone's xmas dinner.
Miss having my family here, we shall see them at the weekend though, little Lillie going down with Paul to fetch the fish and chips, or Tom perhaps racing along to get them.  Good news is that the uncertainty about uni over his course and talk of giving it up has gone away and now he says he wants to stay.  His results according to his mother are 'fantastic', so this blip was a bit of a worry, but he seems to think he will do a postgrad. course in marketing after this one, we will see.....

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Two bits of poetry for Solstice

Sweet Rowan tree
Grace my land and grow
Ward of evil spirits
And remind me of my heritage of long ago.

Patricia Gale


The lady of the moon is in travail,
her white face waxen as the missel-fruit.
The gravelled path gives way to broken angles,
burials of water. Follow it.
Creep into the hospice of the yew,
its pale lying-place. Curl up there. Wait.

Helen Tookey

This is what Helen Tookey wrote about mistletoe........

 "found a link to a 17th century herbarium – a missel-child is a mysterious being found beneath a mistletoe-covered tree – a changeling “whereof many strange things are conceived”. 

But of course, it was the Roman writer Pliny who linked it to druids, oaks and the golden sickle to cut its bough.  This parasitical plant is of course to be spied around our own country but it has its own separate independent stories to tell. Its seed is sown on different trees, oak is pretty difficult, but the apple tree is considered lucky.

But it was William Stukeley (1687-1765) and those foolish vicars of the 19th century who grew the myth of mistletoe and druidism, these were "the people Avebury and Stonehenge with these shadowy priests whom he made into patriacharl forerunners of Christianity"  The Englishman's Flora - Geoffrey Grigson

Stukeley created a 'Druidical Temple' in his orchard at Grantham, an imitation of two circles, one of pyramidal evergreens, one of nut trees. In the middle was an old apple tree overgrown with mistletoe.  I have written of this story before, he also buried his baby daughter in front of a mock roman temple.  He reckoned that every prehistoric Bronze Age axe found was used for cutting this plant...... Such imaginings

But the book I am choosing to take to Whitby tomorrow to read will be Ronald Hutton's ' Mistletoe and Blood, which gives an outstanding history of this cult of Druidism that washed out the other day at the Stonehenge new Visitor Centre. All I can say is there was a much better disciplined group of white cloaked druids  appearing at the stones in 1950!

The Druid Sacrifice of Yule-Tide by William Stukeley (inset). Note Avebury and Silbury in the background.
Taken from Manga Cartoons by LS

Friday, December 20, 2013


We stopped off at Avebury on the way down for about ten minutes and wandered round the Cove, the sun was starting to set, and taking photos of the stones round this area bought back many memories.

The little barn that sits next to the green 'Saxon Harepath' road up to the Ridgeway.

The cottages of Avebury sitting quietly amongst the stones, the Antique shop right at the end has closed now.

This overhanging tree and stone brings back memories of Moss in the snow, one winter when another storm turned everything white.

Cove Stones

Silbury mound

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Visiting Stonehenge

Things bubble in your mind when you come back from a journey, was it that terrible M25 with its long queue to the Dartford Tunnel inching its way slowly, or the rain clouds that chased us back from Stonehenge.  But the visit was memorable, the new Visitor Centre a classic work of art in the sodden grey landscape of the Stonehenge Downs.
Arriving just before 9.30 and waiting at the gate to be let in, police, security men, and of course the press were there in full force, in fact the car park already looked full from a distance.  The reason it was so full was of course everyone from English Heritage must have been there to, smartly dressed in their new brown anoraks, they welcomed everyone and chatted away; to say that everyone was on a high is probably true. 
The great day had finally arrived, years of discussion, costing much more than the £27 million bill for the centre, and of course the great tunnel under the A303 discussed endlessly but which never materialised.  Denton Corker, the architects had created something unusual in the visitor centre, and many people will find fault, the clever thing about it though is that the roof is built angling at both ends so that it disappears, so that you only seem to be looking at the two end tips, it covers both buildings below. There is an overhanging bit of the roof punched out like lace, very pretty.
We got on to the land train, there will have to more after seeing the coaches pile in later on and the queues grow, the train consists of a jeep and three trailers, seating about 15 people per trailer, though next year 'timed appointments' seem to be the answer. The turning space allotted to them seems small,  but there was an old Salisbury bus there as well, useful for disabled people with wheelchairs.
We walked the last few hundred yards to the stones, there is still of course the remains of the old visitor centre being taken to pieces, and the camper vans (hippy) lining the drove way, legally of course but it is a bit sad to see them clutter the landscape.
Clockwise round the stones, the crows reigning supreme in the blocked off area, as they have done for centuries, the stones their domain.  Stonehenge has a powerful message as a temple and though the theories and books will be written ad infinitum in fact we should just marvel at the elegance and grandeur of these sarsens and bluestones.  Someone was ringing a Tibetan singing pot at the Heelstone, Australians accents behind us and we had travelled down with a Chinese lady, who worked at Cambridge and spoke perfect English.  It is well to remember that Stonehenge is a World Heritage Site and therefore the world comes to visit the stones.
Another quick memory, as we drank our coffee in the restaurant, Julian Richards walked through, and me slightly struck fanwise asked if I could take a photo, which I did.  We had a long conversation with him, he has been round Stonehenge for 30 years or more, so the opening of the new VC, and especially the destruction of the old centre is a great day for posterity.

The Visitor Centre

This is another protest that did not seem to take place, think it was the campers by the stones wanting 'free access'


Protest by Druids

The Land train

Display inside the exhibition 

Julian Richard - archaeologist

I could not quite understand this interpretation, it seems that there is a double trilithon of bluestones

The grass needs to grow

He is one of the problems

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas bears and Druids.

The rain patters softly outside, and we potter around inside, LSs birthday on the 18th, so as a birthday treat we are going to the opening of the new visitor centre at Stonehenge, unless of course it continues to rain for the next two days.  The battery was flat over the weekend but seems cured of this minor fault, and so we can look forward to the trip.  In another part of my life I'm a newshound, (put a page in front of me and I will read from beginning to end no matter what it says - compulsive) the Guardian and the Independent, tells of a pretend 'funeral cortege' up and down the road on the day because locals are cross because the little road used as a 'rat run' has been closed and grassed over and people can now walk to the stones from the new visitor centre, or use the the land train.  Arthur Pendragon, chief druid of the Wiltshire lot will also be there because of the 'display of bones' of his ancestors - yes I know but don't go there because the argument is too emotive for him!
I have come across Arthur several times, once I followed him and his band (it's called the Warband) round Avebury, strolling forth they made the circuit of the stones, staffs in hand, not sure if anyone wore antlers but in their white cloaks quite impressive.  Also saw him once, all by himself on top of Silbury Mound, he was doing a ceremonial service, must have been August, and everyone stood below listening, Professor Ronald Hutton was there to, a bemused smile at all the goings on. I am not being cruel I just love the way the world revolves and if Scientology is to be recognised  well the Druids and their beliefs really have been on the scene for a few hundred years.
The new visitor centre is of course modern and controversial, it blends into the scenery, the car park hidden and is a much better option than the horrible old visitor centre that has now been thankfully demolished.

But what took my fancy this morning, and which I was going to write about, well it was this small Christmas video of the Animal Asia bears finding their xmas presents, perhaps OB will like it, it cheered me up anyway.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Waking up this morning to the green without fog, it has been foggy three days running, it curls round in late afternoon, a light mistiness under the tall trees, figures becoming shadows as they walk along the path.
In Winter we stay in, darkness in the morning and glorious sunsets late afternoon the sky magnificently coloured with deep hues of blue and red - the sun a fiery ball as it descends below the horizon.
Thoughts turn to gardening next year, here maybe or somewhere in Cornwall, too late to start another garden watching fruit trees grow but perhaps one with wild flowers. The hemp agrimony comes to mind, tall pink fluffy heads loved by bees and butterflies, it spread happily round the old garden.  Tall stems of golden rod, the spicy scent of tansy, evening primroses which opens its flower with a shiver of golden delight in the evening.  Watching Monty Don vigorously raking old turf to sprinkle wild flower seed yesterday made me realise that we should fight back against the increasing monotonous growth of grass.
Things that I love in these flowers of the countryside, are the meadowsweets as they fill a glade of trees with their soft haze of white, I see this plant here in Essex alongside the road side verge, and there is that other cloudy white that will fill the lanes and that of course is cow parsley, refusing to die down under the continuous onset of herbicides.  Things I have noticed here are the yellow of ladies bedstraw, clumps of starwort and of course woods of bluebells, the little wood anemone as well.
Cornwall will of course have its own ecosystem of wild plants, thickly clustered in the tall banks of the lanes, looking at houses down there I don't see much in the way of wild flower gardening, so it will be an interesting experiment.
The studio is being 'decommissioned', so my heart starts to believe that we will really be moving, for example the long 12 foot work bench has been put into the garage, also the drying boards, the books have been sorted to what to keep and what to give away.
Uploading photos last night to Flickr, amongst them was the German trip to take six scrolls to the museum there last January,  this was one of the last jobs to be finished with, my love has retired with a sense of relief that he will never have to kneel at the work bench again or ruin his sight with the detailed work of restoration.

Books for sorting

Stacks of Japanese papers!

Silks are kept in canvas bags up above

A proper table to work on

Bietigheimer Museum
Town hall?

Inside the beautifully painted museum

This was of course the replica Hochdorg burial chariot

Replica Hochdorg burial mound

It must be the thought of the coming snow that brings the town of Bietigheimer to mind, it was very cold when we there but everyone was so friendly.  Regina the museum's curator looked after us so well, a translator for the lecture, a guide for us through the town so that there was always something for us to do. We even met the mayor in the coffee shop just in front of the museum he took us round his domain with great civic pride though LS thought him a bit of a rogue!

And if you ever get cynical at Christmas, this advert will make you smile

Monday, December 9, 2013


Anyone who has been to Whitby will know the 'yards' that lie off the main streets such as Church Street.
This street has of course the famous 'Arguments Yard', not because people quarrelled down there but there was a Mr Thomas Argment who once lived here in 1650.  Yards came about very simply over the years from the Middle Ages .Firstly, houses would be built along the streets, with large gardens behind, and then plots of land in the garden would be sold, Mr.Argment developed 5 plots in his garden, and if the 19th century photos of Frank Sutcliffe are to be believed the yards had become scenes of poverty, but also where the people of Whitby would gossip and stand awhile, the fishermen striking in their clothes children sitting patiently on the front door steps.  The first photo shows a short cut we often take down to the quay, to The Magpie restaurant and the 'Jolly Sailors' pub, favourite haunts!
Bakehouse Yard, was of course the public bake house you took your pies and bread to when you had no oven, for a few pence they would be baked, and the decoration on the pies would mark out yours. The 'Smugglers Inn' pub on Baxtergate  is empty but you can peer into its funny little rooms, and ponder about it being 'Loggerheads Yard', the explanation is quite simple, loggerhead was a piece of nautical furniture and the passageway was once called Doctor's Lane, note the ship's figurehead as well, I think that this little pub is the oldest in Whitby

The collapse of house on the East bank earlier this year.

Even our small cottage has a history, situated in its yard with a date above the two doors of 1736 with the initials R.M.B., apparently according to the book I have been consulting 'Whitby Yards' by Alan Whitworth, in earlier times it was called 'Georgian Cottage, and the one next door 'Dolphin Cottage', which it still is.  He mentions bringing a tour guide round the yards and being greeted by the two old ladies who lived in the cottages (maybe one of them was Mary next door) who would invite the small groups in for a cup of tea.  One of the 'joys' is the appropiation of space in the yard ;).  Above us up the steps so to speak lives 'Fraser' whose broad Scottish accent I have difficulty in deciphering, but we get told off occasionally about the placement of the dustbin I spy there, and also Mary reads the 'riot act' on where I put my pot plants, such is the joy of living in the confined space of a yard....

We are going up for Christmas, something I am looking forward to, the family will be visited on the way back on the other side of Yorkshire and we shall have to stop overnight at a Travel lodge somewhere.