Today’s Treasures – Snowdrops, Sunsets and Sunshine

Today’s Treasures – Snowdrops, Sunsets and Sunshine

sunset

As I write, the hotels, cafes, and restaurants are closed again, all events are still cancelled, and a lot of people are still in isolation – but we do have a vaccine, the snowdrops are out, the days are getting longer – and the end of winter is in sight.

snowdrops

Lots of things have changed during the last year.  People have discovered that they really do not need to travel so much – it’s possible to work from home – and it’s relatively easy to hold a council meeting online – and in fact it’s much easier for more people to attend when they don’t have to travel.

Families have become closer – finding things to do together.  Books, jigsaws and family games have come out of hibernation and everyone has learnt about home education.  We home-educated two of our children (under very different circumstances!) and there’s a book telling our story on Amazon

 

The January sunsets have been amazing, the rain turned to snow and snowmen – and women – and snowdogs and cats – in all shapes and sizes (some even wearing masks!) decorated many gardens.  The snow was more magical somehow – knowing that we hadn’t got to go out and drive in it!

sunset Grinshill

We have learned to enjoy dancing and singing, via Zoom, shared music and films, watched wildlife and this year we can look forward to a summer when most of the vulnerable people will have been vaccinated and we can have long-overdue birthday parties and celebrations in the sunshine.

Published in the February edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Soulton Long Barrow

Today’s Treasures – Soulton Long Barrow

Today’s Treasures – Soulton Long Barrow

Soulton Long Barrow

Soulton Long Barrow

During the second lockdown, the Ashton family very kindly offered the opportunity to walk from Soulton Hall, to Soulton Long Barrow following the standing stones marking the way.

standing stone

It’s the perfect site for a modern barrow as signs of a settlement here go back to the Neolithic period (about 5,500 years ago).  In the Bronze Age, a barrow was built to the east, and an Iron Age Hillfort was built at Bury Walls about a mile south east of Weston-under-Redcastle.

The Roman road from Viriconium (Wroxeter) to Mediolanum (Whitchurch) goes through the farm and in the Dark Ages the manor was on the border between Powys and Mercia.

To the north-east of Soulton Hall, the site of a fort is still visible – built after the Conquest of 1066 during the reign of King Stephen and empress Matilda around 1130.  It is thought that the remains of a deserted medieval village are located to the north of the hall along Soulton Road.  The earliest surviving deed for the manor is dated 1399.

Soulton Long Barrow has been built with niches to safely keep the ashes of loved ones in a calm and private space.  Funerals, placement ceremonies and memorial services held there are powerful and moving experiences and the barrow exudes a calm tranquil atmosphere perfect for remembering and celebrating the lives of those who have moved on.

As with all ancient barrows, the burial mound is aligned to the Midsummer solstice – in line with the rising sun on Midsummer’s Day. It stands between two natural ponds, surrounded by trees with a clear view across the fields to Hawkstone Hill.

pool

During 2020 outdoor theatre has been performed in the natural amphitheatre located alongside the barrow.

Published in the January 2021 edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Our Local Businesses

Today’s Treasures – Our Local Businesses

December’s Treasures are all the local businesses that work so hard.  A friend who bought beehives and is now selling her own honey posted on Facebook:

  • Until we started doing it, I had no idea how much a sale means to a small business owner – how exciting it is when someone values something you’ve created, worked hard over and worried about being good enough. With this knowledge, this year every single Christmas present we’ve bought and will buy is coming from an independent retailer, a crafter, handmade and/or upcycled, a voucher for a service and made in the UK. If you can, give it a go, I can guarantee the person you buy from will be excited, grateful and likely give a happy dance – it will help pay a mortgage, feed a family or pay for dancing lessons and importantly it spreads a little love, a little happiness in this craziest of years

So, instead of buying gifts from the big multiples and lining shareholders pockets to pay for another holiday home abroad, buy from a local family business.  Belinda at Mick’s Mill sells everything you need for livestock – and Christmas treats for pets – she also makes her own holly wreaths every year.

We are so lucky in Shropshire as we have lots of Shropshire food and drink producers making wonderful things to eat and drink over the festive season.  You can find a range of local preserves and pickles in many local shops – give a taste of Shropshire for Christmas.

At Maynard’s Farm Shop, as well as their own award-winning bacon, sausages and hams – they sell their own pâtés and a range of locally produced real beers, ciders and wines.  Lots of other local produce too – including Belton Farm’s hand-crafted Red Fox cheese – perfect for Christmas – it’s a Red Leicester with a difference that is guaranteed to surprise taste buds.

It also makes a delicious toastie or panini with Maynard’s ham which you can sample in the Coffee Barn at Holly Farm Garden Centre – and where you can choose a Christmas tree grown locally at Woodfield Christmas Tree Farm.

When you use the local services advertised in this Gossip magazine you are supporting local families, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, chimney-sweeps, garden designers, – we have some unique artisans right on our doorstep – designers like Katrina Kitchens – beautiful bespoke kitchens.

When you buy local, you are not just buying food – you are buying responsibly sourced, ethical, ecological food that tastes really delicious – and when you sit down to your Christmas dinner you know the people involved in producing it have been fairly treated, paid properly and not exploited for corporate profits.

Published in the December edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s treasures – Autumn 2020

Today’s Treasures – AUTUMN 2020

 

This time last year I was writing about Blackberry Fair – music and mayhem, storytelling and skateboarding, street theatre, poetry and painting, dancing and singing, actors and artists, creativity and sustainability, love, life, living things all crammed into one day in our tiny market town.  Here is a glimpse of previous years  https://youtu.be/E9gONwEOwiI

This year we had to use our imagination to conjure up what might have been and create our own music, singing and dancing in our own homes – and look forward to future fairs bringing colours and culture back to the town.

At the moment, we need to make the most of happy memories from the past and ensure we thoroughly enjoy as many good things as we can.  Sometimes, it can be really hard to see that glass half full and we need some happy images stored up to pull out and remember happier times – and believe they will come again.  The internet is a wonderful resource – we might not be able to go to concerts, but we can watch on YouTube – and sing along with our favourite tracks.  Carnivals have been cancelled – but – like Blackberry Fair – we can watch the highlights from previous years online.  You can go on ‘virtual tours’ of many wonderful places that we are unable to visit at present.

Autumn has been beautiful this year – the pumpkins loved our hot summer and grew enormous, rose hips brightened up hedgerows, tomatoes carried on ripening right into November and the squirrels have been busy hiding hazelnuts ready for winter.  Dahlias blossomed in the October sunshine, perfect blooms in a myriad of colours brightening up borders and dancing in the Autumn sunbeams.  Nasturtiums lasted well into November without any frosts demolishing umbrella leaves and wilting flowers.  Toadstools have loved the warm damp air and the elves have had picnics in fairy rings on the lawn and danced up tree trunks on bracket fungus staircases.  Enid Blyton wrote amazing mystical stories about the pixies and goblins that live in our gardens and look after the flowers and butterflies.  Sometimes we simply have to use our imagination to create our own magical moments to treasure.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Published in the November edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – The Llŷn Peninsular

Today’s Treasures – The Llŷn Peninsular

beach

The September sunshine has been such a tonic after all the August rain, and the Autumn mornings have a special sweetness; the leaves are turning, the apples are ripening, pumpkins are peeping through fading leaves and the golden rays of harvest sunshine bathe everything in a warm glow.

We had two glorious days away exploring the Llŷn Peninsular.  The sandy beaches are magical experiences, paddling through wavelets lapping onto the shore, feeling the sand between your toes, watching the seagulls soaring above, or standing motionless in the shallows; listening to the waves whispering onto the sand, swirling around rocks and making little whirlpools with white foaming edges.

Walking down to the beach the paths are decorated with late honeysuckle, curling around orange and red rosehips, sparkling in the sunshine.  A few bright pink campion flowers brighten the grassy verges, along with ox-eye daisies and pale pink thrift.

We drove right to the end of the peninsular – and ate lunch overlooking Bardsey island, listening to the sheep grazing quietly all around us and the gentle whistling of a slight cooling breeze, and drowsing in the warm sunshine.

We stopped for fish’n’chips on the way home and ate them watching the last rays of the September sun set over lake Bala.

You don’t need to go far to find moments to treasure on a sandy shore caressed by whispering waves.

beach

Published in the October edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Llanymynech Rocks

Today’s Treasures – Llanymynech Rocks

View across the hills

This unique haven for wildlife on the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire border of England and Wales is entrancing.  The harsh limestone cliffs rise almost vertically to a height of over 200 feet creating a dramatic backdrop to the sheltered quarry floor which, in spring, is carpeted with orchids.

Common lizards hide in sheltered rock crevices, jackdaws, sparrowhawks, buzzards, and peregrine falcons soar over the cliff face; many different butterflies – including skippers and fritillaries – enjoy the nectar from over 300 species of plants that all find sanctuary in this sheltered abandoned quarry.  Here can be found rare bee orchids and butterfly orchids along with a stunning variety of summer wild flowers including yellow wort, agrimony, red bartsia, wild marjoram and wood sage.

The cliffs at Llanymynech form the southern end of the carboniferous limestone outcrop that stretches from Anglesey and the Great Orme at Llandudno through Llangollen to Oswestry.  This limestone was formed around 360 million years ago and the fossilized remains of corals, brachiopods, crinoids, and bivalves can be found in the spoil heap remnants of the old quarry.

iron image of a quarry workerApart from being a SSSI, it is also a significant industrial heritage site.  From the early 19th Century to the end of the first World War limestone was quarried here – on both the Welsh side and the English side – eventually linked by a railway tunnel.  The Montgomery Canal was specifically built for the transportation of limestone from the hill and reached Llanymynech by 1786.  In 1806 a tramway and incline were constructed to transport limestone to a new wharf on the canal. In 1863 the Llanfyllin branch line, part of Cambrian Railways, opened and had a major impact on the quarry,

The site is managed by both Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trusts, and Offa’s Dyke path runs through it.  There are amazing views across the Shropshire Hills and the Welsh Hills – and you can see Rodney’s Pillar on Breidden Hill – and the historic 42.5 metre tower of the Hoffman’s lime kiln in Llanymynech village – one of only 3 remaining Hoffmann lime kilns in the country and the only one with the tower intact.  Thanks to a conservation project managed by the Llanymynech Heritage Partnership the site has been restored and opened in 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

climber

Published in the September edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Butterflies, Bees and Blackcurrants

Today’s Treasures –  Butterflies, Bees and Blackcurrants

bee on borage

Life can be a challenge sometimes and, although places are opening their doors again, people are still scared to go out – and anyone who had social issues before – has much more to deal with now.  But people have found solace in nature – growing vegetables and enjoying walks and found life’s little treasures all around them in flowers and trees and butterflies and bees.

I walk around the field every morning and there is always something new to see.  When it’s been wet, toadstools spring up unexpectedly overnight and when it’s sunny butterflies dance along the hedgerows.  The buddleia flowers are opening and butterflies of all colours love its purple blooms.

toadstool

I bought a packet of mixed seeds ‘flowers for butterflies’ and planted them in an old wheelbarrow, they’ve been really pretty – corn cockle, cornflower, field poppy, vipers bugloss, forget-me-not, corn marigold.

wheelbarrow of flowers

I always leave some ragwort at the edge of the field for the Cinnabar Moth and in July I check every day for the appearance of their striking orange and black caterpillars.

cinnabar moth caterpillar on ragwort

The blackcurrants are ripe and the kitchen is fragranced with the rich aroma of blackcurrant jelly and the anticipation of that first delicious mouthful on toast the next morning.

The chicks that hatched in an incubator during lockdown have grown.  Dillon III – who was the only one to hatch successfully in the first batch – is the boss and leads them on forays around the garden.  They are quite mischievous and keep finding ways to get out – under or over the fence, trying my patience somewhat!

chicks

The herb garden is at its best – and the bees love all the blues and purples – sage, hyssop, thyme, rosemary, chives, borage and marjoram.

herb garden

Life is not about the destination – but the journey – every day is a gift – fill it with moments to treasure.

Published in the August edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Summer – VE Day and Bank Holidays

Today’s Treasures – Summer – VE Day and Bank Holidays

Summer traditionally starts on 1st May at Beltane – the fire festival.  Bonfires were lit to honour the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun’s light to nurture the emerging future harvest and protect the community.   Houses were adorned with hawthorn blossoms – hawthorn was only brought into the home at Beltane – at other times it was considered unlucky.

The pagan practice of Mayday was disliked by the state.  In 1645, the Puritan, Oliver Cromwell described maypole dancing as ‘heathenish wickedness’ and banned village maypoles – as well as closing theatres.  Charles II was a much more conservative and tolerant king  and when he came to power he re-opened theatres that had been closed by the Puritans – life in Britain was much more fun during the reign of Charles II so it’s understandable why 29th May was celebrated as Oak Apple Day and became a public holiday.

It commemorates the occasion after the Battle of Worcester in September 1651, when Charles II escaped the Roundhead army by hiding in an oak tree near Boscobel House.  He subsequently fled to Europe.  Traditionally, people wore oak apples or sprigs of oak leaves.   Charles II survived the Black Death – in 1665 the death toll from the plague reached 7,000 per week – and in 1666 he and his brother James helped direct the fire crews during the Great Fire of London.

Today, being in the middle of another life-threatening crisis, VE Day celebrations to mark the end of World War II in Europe 75 years ago were somewhat subdued but nevertheless thought-provoking.  Britain still has the courage and resilience of the British people all those years ago, the power that Churchill had with words that spoke to the British people – he refused to surrender and inspired everyone that by working together we could win our freedom – and we did.

Churchill opening the Winston Bar in Berlin in 1945

On Thursday evenings, that same British spirit supports our keyworkers, our doctors and nurses at the front line of a different sort of battle – to win the war against this virus that threatens to overwhelm us.  When we stand on our doorsteps clapping, we remember the spirit of those who fought during the war – on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets, in the hills – and – like them – we shall never surrender.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Treasures “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”

Today’s Treasures

 ‘Always look on the bright side of life’

For Mother’s Day my son bought me a heart with this on it – it’s now displayed in the kitchen and every morning it makes me smile – and reminds me to count my blessings.  Eric Idle always makes me laugh.

 

Always look on the bright side of life
If life seems jolly rotten,
There’s something you’ve forgotten!
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing,
When you’re feeling in the dumps,
Don’t be silly chumps,
Just purse your lips and whistle — that’s the thing!
And always look on the bright side of life

 

 

As I write, all hotels, cafes, restaurants have been closed, all events cancelled, and a lot of people are in isolation – but at least it’s finally stopped raining and the sun is shining – winter is over and summer is just around the corner.

People have discovered that they really do not need to travel so much – it’s possible to work from home – and it’s relatively easy to hold a board meeting online.

Families are discovering each other – and finding things to do together.  Books, jigsaws and family games have come out of hibernation and everyone is learning about home education.  We home-educated two of our children (under very different circumstances!) and there’s a book telling our story on https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=barbara+rainford&ref=nb_sb_noss

As our family watched Boris Johnson last night, it reminded me of my mother telling me about the war – and how everyone used to huddle around the radio to listen to Churchill – and how he inspired everyone with his speeches: “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”  My son remarked: “At least we are fighting a virus now, not other people.” And it’s only toilet rolls that are rationed!

So here’s some happy pictures to cheer everyone up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We can still dance and sing, enjoy music and films, sit in the sunshine and watch the butterflies. The flowers are still growing, the birds are still singing, the fruit trees are in bud, the bees are busy and the buttercups will soon be out again.

So remember:

Always look on the bright side of life’

 

Today’s Treasures High Days and Holidays

Today’s Treasures – High Days and Holidays

Our ancestors celebrated the changing seasons with special ceremonies that marked nature’s cycles.  Country wisdom and folklore have been passed down the generations and, despite the adoption of many days by the church, the Pagan customs still remain and we often celebrate them just as our ancestors did.

21st March – Ostara – is the Spring Equinox – The pagan Saxons would bake ‘cross buns’ at the beginning of spring in honour of the German goddess Eostre – Ostara – most likely being the origin of the name Easter. The cross represented the rebirth of the world after winter and the four quarters of the moon, as well as the four seasons and the wheel of life.  Hence the origin of hot-cross buns.  The daffodil symbolises rebirth and new beginnings.

23rd April – St. George’s Day – the Patron Saint of England – There is more myth than fact in the story of St. George who, according to the story of The Golden Legend, slayed a dragon and saved a princess – but the story was incorporated into Pagan plays and St. George is a prime figure in the famous epic poem The Fairie Queen portrayed as the Redcrosse Knight.  April 23rd (the date of his death) used to be a public holiday, now we celebrate with wearing a red rose – and parades – St. George is the patron saint of scouting.

1st May – May Day – Beltane is a Fire Festival honouring the Sun – traditionally all fires were put out and a special fire was kindled for Beltane.  The maypole is a symbol of fertility, the many coloured ribbons and the ensuing weaving dance symbolise the spiral of life and the union of the Goddess and God, the union between Earth and Sky.  The Young Oak King falls in love with the May Queen and wins her hand.  The pagan practice of Mayday was disliked by the state.  In 1645 Oliver Cromwell described maypole dancing as ‘heathenish wickedness’ and banned village maypoles.  The Green Man Festival is held every year in Clun with Morris Dancing, music, entertainment and a battle re-enactment on Clun bridge.

29th May – Oak Apple Day – This commemorates the occasion after the Battle of Worcester in September 1651, when Charles II escaped the Roundhead army by hiding in an oak tree near Boscobel House. Traditionally people wore oak apples or sprigs of oak leaves.  The oak tree – or one of its descendants can still be seen in the grounds of Boscobel House and you can also see the priest’s hole where Charles II subsequently hid.

It’s good to celebrate these special days – with a family feast – lighting candles and drinking a toast to our ancestors who were much closer to nature than we are today.

Published in the March edition of the Whitchurch Gossip