Wednesday 28 November 2018

Winter Wayzgoose at Hay on Wye

Hay on Wye sits right on the border between England and Wales. It is an attractive old town nestling in the foothills of the Brecon Beacon mountain range. Its many book shops have helped make it the biggest secondhand book centre in the world - a dream destination for the bibliophile. 
Every book you could possibly want can be bought -  the unusual, the rare, and the collectable. Books of maps both new and antique, and exquisitely illustrated children's books. This small town boasts no fewer than 36 different bookshops.  

There are even cafes tucked away in several of the bookshops serving delicious homemade food.

 There are specialised food stores, 
and eclectic shops selling artefacts unique to Hay. 
 the story of books
"The Story of Books" is a fairly recent initiative opened to create a dynamic working museum that celebrates the ongoing tale of books in Hay on Wye. Through collaboration with experts and enthusiasts in the world of books, they make experiences where stories are told and books are made.
Last Saturday they hosted a Wayzgoose Printers Fair where private presses showed how they make their hand printed and hand bound books. 
Wayzgoose was traditionally an entertainment by a master printer for his workmen each year on St. Batholomew Day. It marked the traditional end of summer and the start of the season of working by candlelight. Later, the word came to refer to an annual outing and dinner for the staff of a printing works or the printers on a newspaper. Although traditionally held in August it has no fixed date these days.
In the late afternoon a launch was held of our youngest son's latest book showing his linocut prints at The Story of Books. This was done by the private press that printed it on handmade paper using a traditional press. 

Afterwards we were invited to join a candlelit Wayzgoose Supper held in the upper storey of the building where we were treated to a delicious variety of vegetable curries and glasses of wine. 

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Post for Lorrie

Lorrie lives on Vancouver Island, Canada, and whilst staying in the Cotswolds one summer she visited Frith Wood which sits on a high ridge between two of our local valleys. On my previous Autumn post showing a different woodland, Lorrie commented 
'seeing the path through the woods makes me think of Frith Wood where we walked several years ago, and I imagine it looks very similar to your photos now'.
Last Sunday it was H's birthday so before having a special family lunch we headed out early to walk the pathway that Lorrie too must have trod during her visit.

Frith Wood is an ancient woodland that spans the ridge between Painswick, known as 'Queen of the Cotswolds', and Laurie Lee's Slad Valley. Until 1801 this ridgeway path through the wood was the main route from Cheltenham heading south. It was an old drovers road where livestock such as cattle, sheep and even geese were driven along to market.
The soaring 70ft beech trees were brought over as seed from Belgian at the same time as the Napoleonic Wars drew to a close. These central European trees grow tall and straight in comparison to our more gnarled native beeches.
They would have been a familiar sight to writer, Laurie Lee, who wandered this self-same pathway as man and boy.
"If ever I saw blessing in the air
I see it now in this still early day
Where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips
Wet sunlight on the powder of my eye" 
    Laurie Lee   
Spring catkins and buds are showing already,

but the fluffy remains of Rosebay Willowherb linger,
a forest floor sparkling with tiny jewels,
along with a potent splash of orange from the Iris foetidissima berries 

In his book, Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee immortalised these beech woods, deep valleys, flower strewn summer meadows, and the village characters who dwelt in Slad - now they are forever a part of our English literary landscape.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Late Autumn

Now Autumn's fires burn slowly o'er hills and dales.

Day by day leaves change colour.

Bright skies beckon, 

come quick, come see,
as the leaves drift earthwards, 
in glittering flurries of gold;

They're covering the sleeping flowers,
in a warm embrace,

and spreading leafy carpets,

throughout our woods.

And as we walk through them,

they chatter and crunch beneath our feet.

Saturday 10 November 2018

'Amazing Grace'

Sunday 11th November is the 100th anniversary commemorating the end of WWl when we remember all of those who were injured or lost their lives in 1918.

 Grace, however, is no war hero, in fact, she despises war and hopes that it will never darken our lives again, but she is keeper of unique memories.
She aptly 'favours' her name being dignified, fair of face, and eloquent.
She was born in Liverpool, but has spent most of her life living here in the Cotswolds. She was brought up by her father as her mother died when she was four years old. She had an elder brother, whom she recalls was a handsome boy with a fine shock of fair hair. When she was 7 years old he left home to live in Australia but she never saw him again. He joined the Anzacs and was killed in action at Gallipoli along with over 8,000 Australian soldiers.
She can remember the day war ended 100 years ago when everyone came out onto the streets singing and dancing. She said that you could do that then as there were very few vehicles driving along the roads.
However, 4 years earlier, an 8 year old Grace learnt that the war had started whilst she was attending school, and vividly recalls wives and mothers crying as they bid farewell to their husbands and sons.
'Amazing Grace', as she is known to her friends is 112 years old, and is the oldest person living in this country. She has experienced the reign of five monarchs and 21 prime ministers. She has seen the outbreak and resolution of two world wars, and lived through the time of the Russian Revolution, the sinking of the Titanic, and all three London Olympics.
When she was born, Grace could have been expected to live until the age of 54. Men had a lower life expectancy of 48. 
In 1906 the most common cause of death was due to infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia until the discovery of antibiotics in 1929.
Grace still takes a keen interest in how she looks and what she wears and has her hair done every week. 
Grace conveys an aura of calmness and serenity.
The above photo of Grace was taken last September on her 112th birthday

Friday 2 November 2018

Wootton Wawen

Visiting Wootton Wawen was to celebrate the life of our DiL's father, a well respected local farmer - his farm and land dwells in Shakespeare's Warwickshire. 
The service was held in the church of St. Peter which sits atop of a small mound overlooking the village, but it reminds us that British architecture embraces hundreds of years of history in and around so many of its buildings. 
This building was founded as a Saxon monastery in 730 by Aethelric, sub-king of the Hwicce, a province of the great Kingdom of Mercia. A copy of the Charter granting him the land for 'ecclesiastical possession' survives and is signed by Aethelbald, King of Mercia.
793 - first Viking raids
871-899 Alfred the Great
980 - Vikings ravage here in Warwickshire
1000 AD - Wootton Wawen is named after Wagen,
the Saxon thane who was lord of this farming settlement before the Norman conquest. During Viking raids the monastery disappeared and the church was damaged, but Wagen repaired and rebuilt it.
1020 - Period of monastic revival begins under Cnut and Edward the Confessor
1066 - Battle of Hastings. 
After the Battle of Hastings, all Lord Wagen's lands were given by William the Conqueror to his friend Robert, the new Norman Earl of Stafford who policed Wootton with a small garrison and a Motte and Bailey castle. The manor remained in the Earl of Stafford's family for the next 500 years. 
However, what happened to Wagen is unknown but it is thought that he may have died at the Battle of Hastings.
Robert, the Norman Earl of Stafford, gave this church to the Abbey of Conches, in Normandy. By 1100 they established a Priory here to ensure that a tenth of all the estates produce was shipped off to France. 
1135/54 - The Anarchy 
Combining England and Normandy together under William the Conqueror finally resulted in a civil war between them causing a widespread breakdown of law and order.
In order to appease and boost the local economy, the French monks endeavoured to turn Wootton Wawen into a market town.
However, in 1140 Beaudesert which is just 2 miles away, was licensed to have a market outside its magnificent castle, and with the rapid development of nearby Henley, this meant that the grand plan for Wootton Wawen came to nothing. 
1189/92 - Third Crusade
1215 - Magna Carta
1265 - Henley and Beaudesert destroyed after the
Battle of Evesham
In 1443 Henry Vl confiscated the priory at Wootton and transferred the ownership of this church to his newly established King's College at Cambridge University. Under their ownership the church was extended to become the building as seen today.  
This brief potted history simply covers the first 700 year period associated with this church. Hopefully it conveys a small insight and a sense of the history that has encompassed not only this building but all of the ancient buildings across these Isles. 
    Within the church of St. Peter is this c17th typically Jacobean style monument which is more than 150 years later than the events already mentioned. It commemorates one Francis Smith (d.1605) lying in what appears to be an extremely uncomfortable posture, but he sleeps peacefully and has done so for the past 413 years - so let's take our leave, but quietly please.