Today’s Treasures – Ever Thought about Running a Marathon?

Have you ever thought about running a marathon?

Nor me – but we went to the Chester half marathon (13 miles) to cheer on some friends – and our eldest son who ran for the first time.  Although quite fit, he was very apprehensive and wasn’t at all sure that he would be able to finish the race but he said that, once he started, he felt he had to carry on.  When he reached 6 miles, he was getting tired but he said there were so many people shouting and clapping, and cheering him on, people standing on the doorsteps of their houses, bands playing, runners in front of him wearing T-shirts saying ‘keep on running’, that he felt he had to go on – he realised: “Failure would be worse than not carrying on”.

So he finished the race.  We were standing on the last bridge before the finish line, clapping and shouting with everyone else.  We met him at the finish line afterwards – once he had collected his medal – and his T-shirt – and he was exhausted but euphoric.  He said.  “I’ve never felt anything like it – it’s like meditating – but incredibly more powerful.  All those people – over 6,000 runners – and all the volunteers, guiding, handing out water bottles, the paramedics and first aiders – and all the onlookers.  Such a feeling of goodwill, from good people – so different to what you see on the news on TV every day.”

“I felt like I was running for life itself – there were people fighting cancer, fighting to the finish – and I was one of them, fighting with them, sharing an amazing experience and sense of achievement.”

So if you’ve never been to watch a marathon – go and see this incredible experience for yourself.  If you’re feeling down, it’s the best anti-depressant you can take – with no side effects – and no addictions. Dane had to be helped to the car, but this day will stay with him – and us – as a memory to treasure forever.

Published in the May edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Whitchurch, Home of Canals, Clocks and Cheshire Cheese

Whitchurch, home of Canals, Clocks and Cheshire Cheese

Whitchurch, located on the Cheshire and Welsh borders, is the oldest continuously inhabited town in Shropshire being the site of an early mediaeval castle. Built on a low hill, Whitchurch provided a perfect location for the Roman town of Mediolanum (meaning “The place in the mid plain”) on a major Roman route, half way between Chester (Deva) and Wroxeter (Viroconium).

 

 

The name ‘Whitchurch’ comes from the original Norman Church made from ‘white stone’ – the current church of St. Alkmund was built in 1712 of red sandstone and its clock workings were made by J.B. Joyce & Co, the oldest established maker of tower/turret clocks. Joyce clocks can still be found all over the world from Big Ben in London to the Customs House in Shanghai – and the Eastgate clock in Chester, one of the most loved and photographed clocks, was made in Whitchurch.  The original J.B. Joyce building still exists in Whitchurch High Street.

Despite being in Shropshire, Whitchurch is widely considered to be the home of Cheshire cheese, one of the oldest recorded cheeses in British history.  In the early 1900’s Cheese fairs were held in the old market hall in Whitchurch on every third Wednesday.  When the Whitchurch Arm of Thomas Telford’s Llangollen Canal opened in 1811 cheese was transported by horse drawn boat to Ellesmere Port (65 miles) and took 24 hours, non-stop – except for changing horses along the way.

Local cheesemakers Belton Cheese, Applebys and Windsors are all still famous for their cheeses.

     

There’s lots going on in Whitchurch all year round with a market every Friday and a Makers Market on the first Saturday of the month.

In May there is a Walking Festival, closely followed by a Food and Drink Festival

In June it’s music and mayhem at the Party in the Park

September sees the Canal Boat Rally and October 7th Blackberry Fair, the wildest, wackiest street festival you will ever find, full of actors, musicians, street theatre, fire-breathers, clowns – fun for people of all ages. The theme is sustainability and the name simply signifies Autumn.

    

Further information can be found at www.whitchurch.info

This article was published in the April edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Spring is just around the corner … or is it?

Spring is just around the corner … or is it?

The snowdrops are out and the frogs are hopping around the pond looking for mates, primroses are in bud and daffodils are peeping tantalising flashes of yellow ready to blossom into sunshine flowers. Then, just when you think Spring is finally on the way, the #BeastfromtheEast arrives and we’re in the middle of a snowstorm again.  Only in England!

But it won’t be long before the primroses are out in profusion and daffodils and tulips will be swaying gently in the breeze. The birds are already dressed in their Spring colours and singing their Spring songs joining in the dawn chorus – and they know that the snow will soon be gone.

The hens don’t mind the snow, they are always eager to rush out into the fresh air and scratch around outside.  The Spice Girls (our ex-battery hens – see previous post) have settled in and have become part of the family – at least two of them have – one didn’t survive the move and another managed to get lost somewhere – but Ginger and Meg (Nutmeg) now rush out to greet me every morning.  They seem to be so grateful now they have settled into a ‘normal’ lifestyle.  They still haven’t got many feathers (I tell them they will freeze in this snow but they take no notice) but their feathers should grow back eventually.  They still don’t perch at night – they settle down in one of the nest boxes whilst the other hens roost in the rafters. But apart from that, they act like ordinary chickens and are part of Dillon’s flock (he’s the cockerel and definitely rules the roost).

When it’s cold and snowy the wild birds seem so grateful for the food on the bird table.  I always thaw the water in the birdbath if it’s frozen and put extra food out.  I watch them for hours – the long-tailed tits arrive all of a flutter, twittering to each other, the tiny wren, and of course the robin, showing off his best red waistcoat.  We’ve seen lots of different birds this winter – even a bullfinch graced us with his presence for a few days.

Published in the March edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Meet the Spice Girls our Ex-battery Hens

Meet the Spice Girls

We have adopted some ex-battery hens through the British Hen Welfare Trust @BHWTOfficial.  We’ve called them ‘The Spice Girls’ – there’s Cinnamon, Meg (nutmeg) Corrie (coriander) and Ginger.

I received an email from the Trust advising that they had 350 hens needing new homes in the Wrexham area so I offered to adopt some.  I’ve kept hens for years so was somewhat surprised to receive lots of advice on how to look after them – although I do appreciate that there would be quite a few new foster families who had never kept hens before.

What surprised me even more were the recommendations for caring for ex-battery hens.  I had to go and get some layers mash (which is basically crushed layers pellets).  My free range hens are mainly fed on corn (locally grown wheat) with some layers pellets during the winter. Evidently ex batts need the food they are used to for a while – I found this out when I tried to tempt them with some bread – they looked at me as if I had gone mad!  Goodness knows what they will do when they eventually encounter a worm!

Our hens have a very large hen house and I was advised to keep our new arrivals in a smaller pen inside the hen house initially.  So I shut them in a little pen for the first three nights.  On the fourth evening, I took the top off so they could get out but (as I was told but didn’t quite believe) they were all still in their little pen in the morning.  I went out at lunchtime to see how they were getting on and Ginger was ‘gingerly’ exploring the hen house, carefully negotiating around obstacles and looking curiously at the food trough full of corn.  Head on one side she studied everything cautiously.  Then Doris came in with Dillon to see what I was doing and if there were any titbits.  Amazingly they ignored Ginger – even Dillon – who usually jumps on everything that moves – it was like Ginger belonged to a different species.  Usually there’s a bit of a scrap when new hens arrive – until they have sorted out the pecking order.  Next morning, they were all in their little pen once more.

The Spice Girls are missing a lot of feathers and their combs are pale and droopy.  Hopefully they will all be feeling better soon and their combs will be bright red again.  Here are some of the other hens outside with Dillon – our Dorking cockerel – wonder how long it will be before the Spice Girls join them?

It’s fascinating looking after livestock – you never know what you are going to find when you go out in the morning – there’s always something interesting going on.  My hens come running when I call them – and of course they give me presents of beautiful free-range eggs!

Published in the February edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

What will the Spice Girls make of Dillon?

What will the Spice Girls make of Dillon?

I was wondering what the Spice Girls (our newly arrived ex-battery hens) would make of Dillon – our Dorking cockerel – he’s grown into a really fine specimen.  He was a bit small when he arrived and I wasn’t sure if he would grow to full size, but, as you can see, he has.  I put an ad on www.preloved.co.uk when I lost my last cockerel and a very kind family from Kent donated him.  A friend of theirs was visiting family in Cheshire and she offered to deliver him.  We met at Audlem (which is how I came to write about Audlem for Today’s Treasures).  It was a baking hot day and she was worried he might get too hot – she was also worried that he might crow all the way there but he was really good and arrived safely.  I racked my brains of a way to say thank you – then spied the pumpkins – and thought they might be a good idea (it was September) so swapped Dillon for two pumpkins – one for Dillon’s taxi driver and one for his previous owner.

The Spice Girls have settled in – and are laying eggs!  But (as I was warned) have stayed pretty much in their little pen.  However, I went out at lunchtime to see how they were getting on and Ginger was ‘gingerly’ exploring the hen house, carefully negotiating around obstacles and looking curiously at the food trough full of corn.  Head on one side she studied everything cautiously.  Then Doris came in with Dillon to see what I was doing and if there were any titbits.  Amazingly they ignored Ginger – even Dillon – who usually jumps on everything that moves – it was like Ginger belonged to a different species – or was invisible.  Ginger ignored them too.  So I guess it will be a while before they realise they are all chickens and then there will be a bit of a scrap until they have sorted out the pecking order – and the Spice Girls will eventually find out that Dillon’s a cockerel!

Today’s Treasures – Snowflakes

Snowy Shropshire

The snow transformed Shropshire into a magical winter wonderland, blanketing the fields in white, icing branches and fences with a layer of glittering frosty snow and, even as I write, the hilltops and field edges are still highlighted in wintry white – although a smudge of snow and a carrot are all that is left of our snowman!

There’s something hypnotic about watching snowflakes falling – each one a tiny unique crystal different from the rest, softly fluttering to the ground and gradually, relentlessly, changing brown and green to dazzling white.

The snow brings lots of hungry birds to our bird table.  Coming into the warm with frozen fingers after feeding the birds, there’s something really satisfying about watching them enjoy the peanuts and seed cake – and sipping water from a birdbath you have just thawed out.

All the places I have written about this year will look very different in the snow to the photographs I took – Grinshill, Audlum, Brown Moss, Wollerton Garden, Stokesay Castle – but at all of them there is a touch of magic in every season – even in the darkest days of the year – a robin singing, the scent of a late winter rose, bright red holly berries – if you stop for a moment – use all your senses – you can feel the magic of life around you.

All of us suffer sadness at some time in our lives.  Sometimes that sadness is hard to dispel and that’s when Today’s Treasures can help – finding something lovely in every day and enjoying that moment with all your senses.

A kind word, a thoughtful act – a smile for a stranger – is sometimes all it takes to bring sunshine to someone’s life – and make them feel better.

Wishing you all many moments to treasure in 2018.

 

Published in the January edition of the Whitchurch gossip

My 12 days of New Year Today’s Treasures

Special moments to treasure every day #mentalhealthin2018

Day 1:  A free range egg for breakfast from #happy #hens #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 2:  Herbal tea made with fresh #herbs – camomile, mint, hyssop, thyme, sage will all grow in windowsill pots #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 3:  Watching the wild #birds eating the food I have put out for them #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 4:  Eating fresh fruit #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 5:  Walking in the #sunshine – even if it’s not sunny – fresh air helps clear your mind #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 6:  A vase of wild #flowers or winter berries on the kitchen windowsill I can look at whilst washing up #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 7:  A smile – smiling makes you feel better, sharing a #smile makes two people feel better #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 8:  Listening to the birds #singing especially the robin – beautiful, mellow, liquid notes #mentalhealthin2018

 

Day 9:  #hugs – everyone needs hugs – if you don’t believe me just try it with an open #mind #mentalhealthin2018

 

Day 10:  #music – but especially sharing live music #mentalhealthin2018

 

Day 11:  #sunset watching the sun go down #mentalhealthin2018

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Day 12:  Writing helpful happy #tweets and posting pretty pictures on #twitter #happiness #mentalhealthin2018

Today’s Treasures – Grinshill

Grinshill

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Grinshill is one of the smallest parishes in North Shropshire but with one of the best views across the English Countryside.  It’s quite a steep climb up the meandering path but, when you finally reach the rocky outcrop at the summit, it’s well worth the view – patchwork fields speckled with sheep and cows, dotted with farms, criss-crossed with lanes and hedges, all bright and sparkling in the morning air.  The reds, golds and dark greens of autumn frame a landscape of peace and tranquillity sleeping in the autumn sunshine.

The Hill rises to 192 metres (630 ft) above sea level and evidence has been found showing it was used during the Mesolithic to Neolithic period.  From the top you can see many other hills and ancient settlements including The Wrekin, Caer Caradoc, Corndon Hill, Cefn y Castell, Titterstone Clee, The Long Mynd, Breidden Hill and Haughmond Hill.

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The buff-coloured sandstone quarried at Grinshill since at least the 12th century has unique properties.  It was subjected to volcanic heat giving it its buff colour and making it extremely tough giving a sharp straight side whichever way it is cut.  The Romans recognised these qualities and used it to build Wroxeter (Viroconium Cornovium), once the 4th largest city in England.  You can also see it at Haughmond Abbey, Welsh Bridge, Shrewsbury Railway Station – and even at No. 10 Downing Street – the lintels and door surround are made from Grinshill sandstone.

Whatever time of year you visit Grinshill, and whichever way you walk to the summit, there’s always a great sense of achievement to reach the top and see that panoramic view spread out in front of you.

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There is a car park at Corbett Wood and there is also a more direct path from Clive church. It is a site of special scientific interest because of its geological importance – exposed rock faces show fossilised skeletons and footprints and distinctive features such as fossilised sand dunes and rain prints.

Published in the December edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Blackberry Fair

Blackberry Fair – Ten Glorious years!

This is the 10th year that Whitchurch has been transformed into a living, breathing festival of music, song, dance, poetry and street theatre, complete with Lost Luggage (below) – the metallic beastie from a long lost planet – and The Urban Astronaut – bringing hope to a dying world.

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When I arrived, Urban Astronaut were just positioning their lifting machine ready for moving into action outside the Civic when someone spotted a mouse hiding in one of the speakers.  Much to the amusement of onlookers, he was carefully rescued and set free before they trundled off down the High Street to save the rest of the world.

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Sustainability is what Blackberry Fair is all about – a carnival filled with the rustic spirit of nature, growing things, Meres and Mosses, the Wild Zone, scarecrows, recycling, herbs and herbalists, the Fairtrade town becomes a magnet for artists, poets, actors, dancers, singers and musicians; a haven for food lovers, real beer drinkers, nature lovers, photographers and writers.  It inspires, fires the imagination, screams innovation; young and old are all captivated, drawn in to the spirit of sustainability, saving the earth – mesmerised by Urban Astronaut’s street theatre.

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The afternoon culminated in the Carnival of Plenty, celebrating the spirit of harvest with Morris dancers, stilt-walkers, and fire breathers – and the music carried on into the evening with incredible poetry and music and dancing into the night.

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See more photos at www.blackberryfair.co.uk

Published in the November edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

Today’s Treasures – Audlem Wharf

Today’s Treasures – Audlem Wharf

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Take a walk on the waterside this autumn – along the Weavers Way at Audlem – the towpath along the Shropshire Union canal which was designed and built by Thomas Telford.  One of his last projects before his death in 1834, it includes a flight of 15 locks and an aqueduct over the River Weaver.

 

It was a beautiful autumn morning, warm and sunny with just the hint of a breeze stirring the branches overhead, dislodging yellowing leaves which fluttered down like confetti to drift lazily along the surface of the canal, dappled sunlight painting patterns on the sparkling water,  ripples chasing each other along the canal banks to finally swirl in eddies and whirlpools at the lockgates.

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Brightly patterned barges were tied up at the permanent moorings – chimneys smoking and washing  fluttering in the breeze – and part of me longed for the simplicity of canalside living – so different now from the days when narrow boats worked the canals carrying everything from coal to cheeses, spending their whole lives on the canal and stopping only when the ice was so thick it froze them to stillness.  This towpath remembers horses hooves plodding along pulling working boats behind them, the locks a real hindrance to momentum – once the boats were moving it only took slight pressure to keep them going but a standing start takes a lot of horsepower.

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Next to the Shroppie Fly is Audlem Mill, built in 1915 for H Kingsley Burton, a local miller – it was one of the first mills powered by a diesel engine.  It was converted into retail space in 1973 and is now a treasure trove for canal enthuiasts and needlework artists.  The ground floor has an extensive selection of canal ware – from windlasses and neckerchiefs through jigsaws, candles and teatowels to canal books and maps.  The first floor is (to quote the leaflet) ‘An Aladdin’s Cave of every kind of product and accessory for needleworkers’;  sewing, knitting, weaving – whether you are making cushions, bonnets or rugs – it’s a paradise for anyone who loves art and crafts – with some wonderful gift ideas.   Audlem Mill hosts workshops on all these skills throughout the year visit www.audlemmill.co.uk for details.

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Part of the Canal and RiverTrust, The Towpath Taskforce at Audlem welcomes volunteers to help to maintain the towpath.  They meet on the second Saturday of each month at the wharf outside the Shroppie Fly pub at 10.00 am.  If you think you might be able to help please contact Neville Preece on 0303 040 4040 or at [email protected]

Published in the October edition of the Whitchurch Gossip