Tuesday, 31 May 2011


It is one hundred years today since HMS Titanic was launched from the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast. Everyone has heard of the iconic Titanic and its tragic sinking off Nova Scotia on 15th April 1912 with the loss of 1500 lives.

But today - at just after 12noon - a service is being held to commemorate its launch'

A few years ago now the farmer and I went to Halifax Nova Scotia and to the graveyard where the Titanic victims were buried. It is a sad place. The gravestones are set in the form of a boat and they include two children who nobody claimed so have no names. That makes the whole place even more sad.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Our Northern climate

One of the interesting things about going South on holiday is the difference in climate. We may only be a small island but going into Essex from here in North Yorkshire meant that the May blossom was fully out, that the roses were in bloom, that the gardens were full of Summer flowers. We came home to none of these.

Now, a fortnight later, everything is beginning to burgeon in the garden - yes we are a fortnight behind. It is said that in this country you can add two days for every hundred feet. Well Essex is more or less sea level and we are seven hundred feet above it, so that would be about right.

Every hedge down there was covered in wild roses; on our walk after lunch today with Tess I saw my first wild rose. Anyway, I have taken a few photographs of flowers coming into bloom in the garden - the herbaceous geraniums, the iris sibirica, the aquelegia, the lovely little yellow pacific hybrid iris. We even have roses in bud and a forecast for warmer weather by the weekend - so things are definitely looking up.

And to add to the joy they are getting ready to bring the racehorse brood mares into the field by our house. I always look forward to that - they are such elegant animals even if they do remain rather snooty and aloof. Photo as soon as they arrive.

Sunday, 29 May 2011


One of the Saturday newspapers - either the Times or the Guardian I think - is running a competition asking readers to write 200 words on their fathers and the best will be published on Father's Day in a fortnight.

It is poignant that this should appear in the paper on the very day when surely one of the best Dads in the world died. Tom Daly, the Olympic diver, has been diving since a very young age and is still only a very young man. Throughout his diving career his father had been by his side, giving him unqualified support, cheering him on, always being there for him. For some time Tom's dad has been suffering from a brain tumour and yesterday that tumour claimed his life.

Over the years he has been such an inspiration and our hearts go our to Tom and to his family. The world really is a poorer place without him.

My dad was pretty influential in my life and it brought up a thought in my mind. I know that memes are out of fashion at the moment, but wouldn't it be lovely if some of us took the opportunity on Sunday June 19th to write a short piece on our fathers - maybe with a photograph. What do you think to the idea? I will remind you again nearer the time.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

A Bank Holiday Week-end.

It is the May Spring Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK and our little market town is absolutely heaving with people. It is the Farmers' Market Day, the hotels and guest houses are probably full, people with caravans are bringing them up for the Summer and in addition to all that, it is the run-up to the Appleby Horse Fair. It is nose to tail traffic and no spaces in the car park.

However, in spite of all that we did our usual coffee in The Golden Lion in the market place - a good place to people-watch. We had not been there long before two traveller 'buggies' pulled by horses came into view. I knelt in the window of the Golden Lion and took a photo through the glass. You can see just how congested everywhere is. The buggy owners just parked their horses there, went and got a few pies and pasties from Thomas the Bakers, ate them and then they were on their way again to Appleby.

Appleby is in Cumbria, maybe about forty miles from here and the gathering is one of horse-traders, gypsies, travellers and folk who love the fair. Horses are washed in the river there, groomed, trotted up and down the main street and then sold. It is an ancient gathering and a tradition which goes on from year to year. Many of the caravans have come many miles to get here and quite a lot of them come through our little town.

Our Auction Mart also allows a few to park overnight in their field and my friend W kindly drove into the field so that I could get a shot of a caravan and of some of the horses. Reader I cannot tell you the awful horsey smell which came into the car when she wound down the window. I took two hurried shots, neither of them very good but I hope you get a bit of the flavour of the event (without the smell). There was also a lovely piebald horse but, frankly, there were bits of it showing that I am sure you would rather not see!

I always love to see these enthusiastic people on their way to their annual event. Each year I think I would love to go and see it, but then I think of the crowds and dismiss the idea.

On the farm - Goldie, my most ancient hen, has gone broody. We have cleaned out the little hen hut, filled the nest with straw, put in corn, pellets and water and put ten eggs into the nest. Then the farmer fetched Goldie, already sitting on a nest in the chicken hut. As he picked Goldie up to transfer her, my lovely Buff Orpington cockerel, gentle, kind and very friendly dashed up and attacked the farmer for stealing one of his wives!

However, all's well that ends well. Peace has descended, Goldie is sitting for the moment - I shall keep you informed of progress. As they so rightly say - don't count your chickens before they are hatched. We can but hope.

Friday, 27 May 2011

A Love/Hate Relationship.

Does anyone else feel the same way I do about cars?

When I was a child in rural Lincolnshire there were only two or three cars in our village. The rector had one, the doctor had one and our next door but one neighbour, who was a Painter Decorator, had a van.

My father as a boy could remember seeing his first car. He and his brothers had 'taken' a field for singling beet (in those days beet was sown in rows and had to be thinned out by hand. It was traditional for a family to take a field, do it all and then share the money between them,) As they were working in the field they saw a man with a red flag walking down the road - and behind him a rather grand motor car. They ran to the gate to watch it go past.

By the time the Second World War was over almost everyone owned a car or had access to one through a son - or maybe even a daughter, although girls were not emancipated like they are now!

So when we went to Finchingfield on the Suffolk/Essex borders last week it was with a sense of annoyance that I found all my photographs of this very pretty village
were totally ruined by all the cars lining the roadside. It is a much-photographed village and appears in lots of calendars. Somehow the photographer has managed to photograph it without the offending cars - no such luck from me I am afraid.

I would hate to be without a car. We would not have been able to go on our holiday had we not had one. Even shopping in our local town or at Tesco would be difficult without a car. We seem to have become entirely reliant upon them.

But they do clutter up the place, make a noise, pollute the air and generally detract from the beauty of the surroundings don't they?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Down on the farm.

While all this has been going on - the holidays, the visits to churches, to art exhibitions and the like - life on the farm has gone on just as it has for generations. Nothing much changes; everything at this time of the year depends to a large extent upon the weather. And this year so far the weather has not been kind here to farmers, in spite of that wonderful early hot spell of sunshine.

The cattle are now all out in the fields. The winter loose housing still has the bedding, where it rots away and warms up delightfully so that it can be spread on the fields later in the year. In the meantime it is the favourite resting place of the farm cats - warm and within watching distance of the nesting swallows above in the rafters.

Swallows have returned and taken up their old nesting sites in barns and buildings, cleaning them out, busying themselves and finding some damp mud in the midden to help with the new-build. House martins have returned to the eaves of the farmhouse; sitting up in bed drinking my morning tea I watch them darting back and forth after insects.

My new Buff Orpington cockerel has settled in well and seems to be looking after his flock of assorted hens. But they are all quite small and he is a very big lad, so they seem to be doing their best to keep out of his way! Not a single one has gone broody yet but I shall watch out for a broody one as I would like to raise some chicks if I can (in spite of the farmer's opposition to the plan).

The Summer eatage cattle have come. Fifteen Belgian Blue cross heifers - thirteen of them very young and two in calf for the first time - are in the big pasture. They have settled in well but are very curious and follow us up the field getting as near as they dare without actually touching. Turn around and face them and they back off immediately. Tess is just a little scared and stays close until we are through the gate, where the heifers congregate to watch and dare each other to move an inch forward to my outstretched hand.

In the other big pasture thirteen heifers loll about in the grass, some of them stretched out flat to keep out of the wind. Both lots will stay in the pastures all Summer long.

The meadows are desperate for rain. It is silaging time but there is not enough grass on yet to make it worth while. Several farmers in the area have already begun. The weather has not been kind to farmers here in the North East. During the whole of May we have only had a little over an inch of rain and the grass is not growing as it should.

In the vegetable garden things are also at a standstill. There is a spurt of growth if the farmer waters with the hose pipe. We bought some runner bean plants at the weekend and because all danger of frost is not yet past we put them in our greenhouse (it has only limited glass in it as it is in such a bad place and we do not use it but it offers a little bit of shelter) Here on Monday the winds were reaching seventy miles an hour and they blew every single leaf off the runner bean plants and absolutely shredded the raspberry leaves.

The sheep and lambs came at the weekend. Each mother has two lambs and they have settled into the remaining pasture at the bottom of the yard. It is nice to see the fields full of stock again - even if it does all belong to somebody else.

Now the farmer waits to silage and haytime. He does haytiming for several people round about - mainly horsey people who have just one field and need the hay for winter feed. So now all depends on the weather.

In the meantime the grass under the Scots Pines usually has young birds of one kind or another. Demanding young blackbirds making a noise as the parents frantically gather food for them, young wood peckers learning to balance on the peanut feeders, young collared doves, hard to distinguish from their parents except that their plumage is somehow paler and neater.

Yes everything is as it should be here on the farm. All we need now is several days of still, warm, pouring rain.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


The last of my holiday photographs are of the town - and the church - of Thaxted, on the Suffolk/Essex border. Sir John Betjamen summed it up when he said -
"There is no town in Essex - and very few in England - to equal in beauty, compactness and juxtaposition of its Medieval and Georgian architecture, than the town of Thaxted."

We stayed with farming friends there for a few days. The farmer was most interested as this is an arable area - the complete opposite of the yorkshire Dales, which is almost completely grassland, sheep and dairy herds. The farm we stayed on - in a house that was partly very ancient and which creaked and groaned - and which had bees nesting in the wooden beams - grew nothing but wheat, barley and rape.

One morning we went into the town of Thaxted, only a mile away. It was quite hard to drag the farmer away from the fields, but the town itself is very beautiful, and the church, which Betjamen described as "one of the finest parish churches in the country and a building of outstanding beauty and grandeur" was indeed magnificent.

The old guildhall (what a pity that there are cars everywhere to spoil the views) dates from 1462 and is in a remarkable state of preservation and still used for Parish meetings.

The whole area was in complete contrast to up here - flat, large fields, pretty colour-washed houses - such a change and all the better for it. Enjoy my photographs.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A day out.

There has to be a break in holiday photographs today as I have just had a lovely, unexpected day out with a friend (thank-you G). She called this morning and suggested we go out - so the poor farmer was left to get his own lunch yet again!

We only went into Richmond, which is a mere six miles away. But we went first to see the beautiful garden at Millgate House. The house is a Georgian townhouse which stands at the bottom of the Market Place. From its facade you would never guess that behind is the most lovely garden.

Created by the owners, Austin Lynch and Tim Culkin, it is a wonderful mix of foliage, roses and herbaceous planting and is a joy at any time of year. If you are ever anywhere near Richmond I do urge you to call in.

They also do a magnificent B and B and there is a cottage for rent in the garden. It is very close to the A1, so is a good stopping off point on any journey to the North.

Afterwards we had lunch at The Station and looked at an art exhibition. But what stayed with us both throughout the day was the wonderful sense of the peace and tranquility of this exquisite garden. Enjoy the photographs.

Monday, 23 May 2011


I promise not to make too many more blogs about our holiday, but I couldn't resist showing you a couple of absolutely beautiful English churches. I really do think our churches are the best in the whole world - that has nothing specially to do with religion as I am not a religious person, but architecturally there is nothing to beat them as I am sure you will agree.

Today's church is a medieval wool church in Suffolk and one which I have wanted to visit for many years. Wool churches were usually built by people who wished to show off the prosperity of the wool trade and this one is no exception, being founded by John Clopton, a wealthy cloth merchant. Building started in 1467. It is Holy Trinity Church at Long Melford.

One of its rarities is that it has a separate Lady Chapel - an exquisite little building. The photograph of the 'back' of the church is actually of the Lady Chapel wall. It is such a quiet, peaceful intimate little building which was used as a school in the 17th and 18th centuries.

I hope my photographs go some way to capturing the rare beauty of this church. The rose was one of many old-fashioned roses growing alongside the wall between the buttresses. Visiting it was one of the highlights of our holiday.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


Sorry but for the last two days my computer has been poorly and blogger has simply refused to publish anything I have written. However, thanks to Dominic's ministrations - hopefully all is now well. So it should be normal service resuming from tomorrow.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Visiting the Wash.

The Wash estuary is not the most exciting place in the country - it is flat and at first glance can seem very uninteresting. But it does have a certain wildness and a wonderful atmosphere.

We visited two Bird Reserves, heard skylarks for the first time in years, saw lots of baby birds, heard the cuckoo, met some interesting people and had some good walks. What more could anybody wish for?

The hedges were full of red "May" (hawthorn) - hence the photograph. The villages in Norfolk, with their houses built of the local materials - flint - were so different from the stone houses here in Yorkshire and the crab sandwich I ordered at Cromer (where else?) was big enough to feed a small army!

In the afternoon we visited Sandringham, one of the smaller homes of the Royal Family. We went round the house and then round the beautiful gardens and pools - again plenty of baby birds and a lovely avenue of pleached limes.

Arriving at Heacham Manor Hotel - our home for the next few nights - was welcome. We had a lovely room, good food and again met some really interesting people. I might well tell you about them on another day.

Can you spot the coot on its nest at the Bird Reserve?

Thursday, 19 May 2011

First port of call.

Yes, some of you guessed correctly - it was Lincoln Cathedral. Although I originally come from Lincoln, I have not been back to explore it for fifty years - and my how it had changed.

To start with there is a University of Lincoln now, so that the city is full of young people - that makes it so vibrant compared with what it used to be like.
Morning AJ correctly guessed just about where we were staying to get that view of the cathedral from our bedroom window. We stayed in the White Hart Hotel which is just a stone's throw from the West front.

I managed to walk (with my arthritic knee!) down Steep Hill, along through the Usher Gallery Grounds with their very pretty flower bed, up Lindum Hill and back up Greestone Stairs, past my old school, Lincolm Girls' High School. This school moved from this building many years ago and the building is now part of the University - but isn't it a splendid red brick edifice?

Then, naturally, we went into the Cathedral. I was sad to see that the lovely old wooden chairs in the nave had been replaced with blue plastic ones, which just don't seem to fit in with the beauty of the surroundings. Then I thought - if they are more comfortable, then perhaps that is what matters.

In the afternoon we caught the Walk and Ride bus outside the hotel and went into Downtown Lincoln, walked along the side of the River Witham through Glory Hole and sat awhile on the side of the Brayford Pool. The farmer counted sixty swans but we couldn't see the two famous black ones. Then we walked back up to the hotel, finding just two shops which were still there from the days when I lived there - lovely to see them.

Delicious food in the evening - sadly I have gained three pounds during our ten days away - so getting that off is my next job. Every pound for me means increased blood pressure, so I can't allow it to happen. I have put on a photograph of one breakfast so that you can see how tempting the food was!