Autumnal Fountains


On Sunday, 25th October, we set off from Newark and up the A1 on our way up to Yorkshire. Along with us was the younger of our two daughters, Louise (afairymind on WordPress). The three of us had decided to have a day out at Fountains Abbey to celebrate our wedding anniversary and Lou’s birthday the previous day.

Fountains Abbey is one of the best preserved Cistercian abbeys in England and is located 3 miles south-west of Ripon, near to the village of Aldfield in North Yorkshire.


It stands in the valley of the River Skell, which flows eastwards from the boggy, Dales moorland until it enters the grounds of Studley Royal Park, past Fountains Hall and the ruins of Fountains Abbey:


The first monks came to this valley on December 27th 1132. The thirteen devout monks had become dissatisfied with the extravagant lifestyle of the monks at the Benedictine Abbey in York and wanted to return to the simpler teachings of St. Benedict. This led to a riot, and under the protection of Thurstan, the Archbishop of York, they fled the abbey to stay at his palace in Ripon. The archbishop’s lands included those alongside the River Skell, which he granted to these monks in order to build their new abbey.

The monks survived the winter by sleeping beneath an elm tree, with only straw for covering themselves. Their only food was the bread sent to them by Archbishop Thurstan. Desperate for help they wrote to Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux in France, who willingly offered to help.

The first wooden church was quickly contructed, to be replaced some years later by a small one of stone. In 1160, masons completed the great Abbey Church – the ruins of which we see today – using  sandstone cut from the cliff on the valley side:

Building work continued until all the structures necessary to the running of a monastery had been completed. These would include: a Guest House, an Infirmary for sick and elderly monks, the Abbot’s House and a Chapter House. Several rooms, some set around the open Cloister, such as the Refrectory (dining room) Warming house and Library, served for everyday needs.

Plan of Fountains Abbey from an early 20th century encyclopedia. Author unknown. Public Domain.
Plan of Fountains Abbey from an early 20th century encyclopedia. Author unknown. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons

The abbey prospered and the area around it would once have been very busy. Lay brothers worked the land to provide grain and vegetables, and tended sheep for meat and fleeces. High quality fleeces were sold as far away as Flanders and Italy. The Water Mill on the Skell would have been in full swing, grinding wheat into flour, and a tannery and brewery thrived. Fountains grew to become one of the wealthiest abbeys in Europe, at its height throughout the 1200s. This model, now in the old Porter’s Lodge, shows what the abbey wooold have looked like in its heyday:


Here are a few pictures of the exterior of the abbey:

Trouble struck in the 1290s when the abbey’s own financial mismanagement led to debts. Sheep disease, and failed harvests due to the changing climate, made the situation very serious. On top of all this were the raids by the Scots (famine in Scotland was severe) followed by the Black Death of 1349-50.

The Black Death killed a third of the population of the country, including monks. There were now too few lay brothers o work the land, so it was rented out to provide income. In the late 1400s, powerful abbots began a revival, which included the building of Huby’s Tower, still seen today. More and more monks were attracted to Fountains and, once again, it became the richest abbey in England … but  not for long.

Henry VIII’s disagreements with the pope over his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, together with his need for more funds, led to the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1537-47. Public Domain
Portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1537-47. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons

At Fountains Abbey, the deeds of surrender were signed in the Chapter House in 1539 – ending over 400 years of worship at the abbey. The lands were sold to raise money for Henry. Its new owner was Richard Gresham, who bought the estate for a hefty £11,000.

The one condition of sale was that Gresham should render the Abbey Church and Chapter House unfit for religious use. The roofs were pulled down using horse and rope, and the lead from them and glass from the windows were sold by to offset the hefty purchase price he’d paid.  With no monastic community to support them, the tannery, brewery, and other workshops just fell into disrepair. The abbey stone became a source of ready-cut building stone for anyone who wanted to buy it.

Gresham and his family rarely visited but 60 years later a local man, Stephen Proctor bought  the Fountains Abbey Estate and surrounding land. It was he who had Fountains Hall constructed – which he was living in by 1604.


But it was not until much later that the owner of the neighbouring Studley Park, William Aislabie, was able to purchase the Abbey Estate in 1767, so combining the two. I won’t go into detail about this, except to say that the lake and water gardens that we walked around, with their follies and statues, were all part of the work done by the Aislabie family. It was they who also had all the rubbish cleared out of the Abbey Church. The deer park and St. Mary’s church are also part of Studely Park. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any deer rutting, although it’s the right time of year. A couple of stags had a little confrontation, but one of then soon backed off, so that was that.

The building next to the lake which is now the Studley Tea Rooms dates back to 1860 and was probably built for the estate stewards of the first Marquess of Ripon.


Finally, here are some photos of the ruins of Fountains Abbey as they are today:

Above a window on the outer wall of the very back of the abbey from the main entrance is a small sculpture of the Green Man – a well known figure in the old pagan beliefs. The reason why he adorns a Christian abbey, as well as many other churches and such like around the country is deserving of a short post in itself. For now, here he is:

538For a visit to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Park (the whole area is designated a World Heritage Site) you need a whole day. The Park alone has much to see, and a visit to the Mill takes a while – which we didn’t do this time. There’s a restaurant at the Visitor Cente at the main entrance, and a couple of tea rooms around the site. Then, of course, there’s Fountains Abbey itself…  Well worth taking time over. And if you’re members of either The National Trust or English Heritage, entrance is free.

If you’d like to see some additional, super photos from around the site, take a look at Louise’s post at thestorytellersabode.



The Infinity Dreams Blog Award


I’m feeling really guilty for not having responded to the nomination for this award earlier. It was September 8th that the wonderful Izzy, at Izzy-grabs-life notified me, and  I replied that I’d get to it once I got back from Malta on September 19th. Well, it will be November next Sunday, and I think I’m just a bit late. So. many apologies, Izzy, and a huge (belated) thank you for nominating me. Izzy is a fantastic blogger and I’d recommend you to have a look at her blog.


These are the rules for this award:

* Thank and follow the blog that nominated you

* Tell us 11 facts about you

* Answer the questions set up for you

* Nominate 11 people and make questions for them.

Now for 11 facts about me:


Having written so many facts about me on previous award posts, I’m rapidly running out of facts – ones that spring readily to mind, at least. So I’ll give my brain a shake up and see if it comes up with anything remotely interesting . . .

  1. I hate most seafood, other than fish, which I love. I have salmon and white fish several times a week. Shrimps and prawns remind me of snails (escargots) which I couldn’t eat in a million years, and the thought of oysters slithering down my throat just makes me shudder.
  2. I’m a perfectionist in most things I do. I keep at a ‘job’ until I’m absolutely satisfied it’s good enough (in my opinion).
  3. I love to bake – I mean specifically baking, as in cake and pie pie making etc. as opposed to cooking meals. I’ve always found baking very relaxing and quite often I’ll go and bake something if I’m feeling bored.
  4. I also love to knit and am used to being jokingly called ‘Granny Noblet’. It’s something I’ve enjoyed since I was four when my grandma taught me. Grandma did all the casting on at that stage, and I didn’t move on to purl stitch for a while. But by the time we were being taught to knit at school when I was about seven (as we were in the distant Dark Ages) I was  already quite a proficient knitter. Right now I’m feeling withdrawal symptoms, as knitting is on hold until I finish Book 3. Then I’ll have a knitting spree.
  5. I hate pink clothes. I haven’t any pink clothes at all, although I daresay pink might have crept into an odd pattern somewhere. On the other hand I love pink blossom on trees… and pink flowers in general. I just don’t want to go around looking like one.
  6. I have boxes and boxes full of both fridge magnets and thimbles stashed away in the loft. I started collecting them years ago from every place I visited, at home and abroad, and gave up a few years ago when I realised the futility of the exercise. I don’t want to throw them out, but they aren’t doing a great deal up in the loft!
  7. I love stories about Robin Hood – partly because we live so close to Sherwood Forest and Nottingham, where the stories were set. My favourite dramatisation of the stories was a 1980s TV series, aptly called ‘Robin of Sherwood’, written by Richard Carpenter. It had a wonderfully mythological and mystical feel, with characters like Herne the Hunter making the odd appearance. The ‘greenwood’ always reminded me of fresh, spring green, and the actors fitted the characters they were playing so well. My two daughters loved this series, too, and the eldest, Nicola, bought all the videos, and later on the DVD’s. I rarely watch anything twice, but some episodes of this series I’ve seen multiple times. No other series, and certainly none of the films, can compare to this version to me.
  8. My favourite colour is blue. It looks like the sky on a bright summer’s day, and the sea – not around British shores though. The Med. is where I have in mind.  Blue is such a ‘cool’ colour.
  9. In winter, I really love an open fire, or a wood/multi-fuel burner, in a room. A fireplace is such a central feature and gives a room a lovely cosy feel. Central heating has its place in other rooms, but in our lounge/living room I am thankful for our multi-fuel burner. We have huge stacks of logs outside from trees cut down by the farmer next door and others around the village.
  10. I hate shopping with a vehemence – and the closer we get to Christmas, the more I try to avoid going into town. ‘Town’, for us is either Newark or Lincoln. The traffic going into Lincoln, even before the beginning of December, is a nightmare – and parking is even worse.
  11. Like Izzy, I hate really high heels and wouldn’t consider wearing stilettos. I have my hiking boots for long walks in winter, and trainers for the rest of the year, and I love to wear sandals in hot weather – if we get any in Britain. When we’re abroad in hot places, sandals and flip-flops are a must. I don’t have wardrobes full of shoes, like some women. I have just boots, trainers and sandals, with the odd pair of what used to be called ‘court shoes’ – smarter shoes but not a really high heel. Killer heels just aren’t my style. Lol

Now for the 11 questions set by Izzy:


1.  What are you looking forward to (later today or this week)

Tomorrow we’re being invaded by my brother and his wife, along with their daughter (my niece, who is the same age as my eldest daughter) and her husband and two children. They’re over here from Runcorn for the week to stay in a lodge near Sherwood Forest – which they do every year during October half-term. So tomorrow it’s lots of catering to look forward to and I’ve been baking today in readiness. Then, at the weekend, my sister and her husband will be here, too. So, it’s family gatherings I’m looking forward to.

2.  What is the last book you read? Who would you recommend it to?

The last book I read was a while ago now, but it was called The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It’s set in Amsterdam in 1687 and has an added element of fantasy. I enjoyed it because it was a little different to most historical fiction I read.

3.  Are you a planner or a go-with-the-flower?

I generally like to plan things carefully, but am happy to go with the flow at times – like when we’re on holiday and so on. I plan my books carefully and ensure I’ve researched things thoroughly.

4.  Have you ever traveled?

I’ve done quite a lot of travelling but still have a very long list of places I’d like to visit. We love to travel around Britain, particularly during the summer, when there’s a chance of good weather! We often go into Wales and up to Scotland and the Isle of Man, as well as to various places in England.  We’ve visited several other countries over the years and here are some of them: France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Malta, Ireland (Eire), several Greek islands -including Crete, Corfu and Rhodes – Egypt, Tunisia, Kenya, Australia, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The only place we have planned for next year at the moment is Italy again. We’ve been to Sorento, Sicily, and Aosta in the far north, but never to Rome or Venice. So next year that’s where we’ll head.

5.  Do you listen more than speak, or vice versa?

I do talk a lot, I admit that, but I’m a very good listener, too. As a teacher (and mother) I had to be.

6.  Would you rather lose an arm or a leg?

If that were an actual choice, I’d be very hard pushed to come to a decision. I’d really hate not being able to walk and losing a leg would be awful for me. I know you can get artificial/prosthetic legs, but still …  As for losing an arm, I don’t know how I’d cope without my right hand if I were to lose the right arm. I can do a lot of things with my left hand, but in many things, like writing, I’m very right-handed. And so many things in life need both hands and arms to do – simple things like tying shoe laces, and getting dressed on general. In reality, if we were to have an accident, or an illness that resulted in the need for amputation of leg or arm, we’d have to make the best of the situation.

7.  Do you have or want kids?

I always wanted children and ended up with six – although they’re certainly not ‘kids’ any more. The eldest is 42 and the youngest, 31. If I’d started earlier I would probably have had more. But in my day, when I was having my sixth child, I was considered an ‘older mother’ and didn’t particularly like that title.

8.  What is one thing your family/friends do that warms your heart?

I suppose the nicest thing that family and friends can do for me is to simply come and visit. I think it’s sad when families/friends drift apart and lose touch.  After having a house full of people for so many years, now that the children have all left home, it gets quite lonely – and quiet – at times. Most of our children live in this area, so we do see them quite often, apart from the youngest, Christopher, whose job takes him all over the world. Other family and friends live further away, but it’s nice that they keep in touch, and we try to visit each other whenever possible. I also have some close friends in this area, and we meet up regularly for coffer and the odd meal.

9.  What is one thing your family/friends do that annoys you?

I hate people to turn up late when I have a meal ready. I hate keeping food warm – just a fad of  mine.

10.  What is your favourite breakfast?

I have very simple tastes for breakfast. I very rarely have a cooked breakfast (as in bacon and eggs and such like) even on holiday. I like those foods, but not for breakfast! I generally have fruit, the type depending on what’s on offer, but at home it’s usually grapefruit or orange. Then I just love my porridge. I’ve been a porridge-lover since my mum made it when I was a child.

11.  What is the last movie that made you cry (hooked you enough to feel such emotions)?

I haven’t been to the cinema for years, or seen too many films on TV, as we tend to go for series or serials. I become emotionally involved  all too easily with characters in both books and films. So much so that I tend to get boxes of tissues thrown at me at the first hint of an emotional scene. The only films I can put names to right now are: TitanicPS I Love You, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Lovely Bones. I found the last two totally disturbing. Both really upset me.

Now for my questions for my nominees:


  1. What is your favourite season /time of year and why?
  2. Were your schooldays really ‘the happiest years of your life’?
  3. Does your personality/character suit your sign of the zodiac? (Even if you don’t believe in all that stuff, I’m sure you’ll know which characteristics your star sign assigns to you.)
  4. Which is your preferred way of expressing yourself creatively? (Do you prefer the written word, photography, art, drama …or what?)
  5. Do you prefer to read an ebook (on tablet/Kindle) or the hard copy version?
  6. What is your favourite genre in books and what do you particularly like about that genre?
  7. Are you a thinker or a doer?
  8. Which type of holiday/vacation do you prefer (e.g. the beach, the mountains, skiing, fishing – or any other sport – sight-seeing etc.).
  9. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
  10. Coffee or tea for you – or neither?
  11. Another nice easy one to finish: do you have a favourite colour?

Here are my nominees:

Andy at Fife Photos and Art

Jay at J.C. Wolfe


Morgan at The Secret Diary of a Computer Science Student

Chevvy at Chevvy’s Studio


Asealskhaki at randommusings

I now have 3 more award posts to fit in over the next couple of weeks, so I’ll leave my nominations at 7 for this one. Apologies to anyone I’ve nominated whose blog is award free. I have looked, and hope I haven’t missed anything obvious.

Word of Week (WOW) – Febrile

wow (1)

Word of the Week (WOW) is a weekly challenge created by Heena Rathore P. It’s a fun way to improve vocabulary by learning new words every week. To participate, simply do a post with your word and leave the link as a comment on Heena’s WOW post for this week (above link).

I’m looking at the letter F this week.

So here is my WOW for this week: 





fe·brile  [fee-bruh l, feb-ruh l or, especially British, fee-brahyl]



Part of Speech


Related Forms:

Noun: febrility


  1. Having or showing the symptoms of a fever: a febrile illness:


2.  Characterised by a great deal of nervous excitement or energy: the febrile atmosphere of the city following the riots:

Riots in the Republic of Korea. Courtesy of Pixabay
Riots in the Republic of Korea. Courtesy of Pixabay


Word Origin:

1645-55 < New Latin, Medieval Latin febrīlis (fever)


Meaning 1:   feverish, hot, fevered, flushed, fiery, inflamed, delirious, febrific, pyretic (medicine), burning, buring up, sweating

Meaning 2:   anticipatory, interested, excited



Use in a Sentence:

1. Dr. Dennis looked levelly at Janet. ‘I must inform you, Mrs. Eliot, that your son’s febrile condition is synonymous with that of patients suffering from malaria, the disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito. I believe he has just returned from the South America. . .?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

2. The atmosphere in the large stadium was febrile as teenagers screamed their approval of the latest hit single by their idol, Frothing Freddie from Framlington:


3. Signor Lorenzo Abbatelli sang with febrile intensity throughout the evening performance:

Image courtesy of Pixabay

If you’d like to view more interesting words, visit Heena’s Page

Word Treasure

Be Thankful Challenge

This is the first challenge post I’ve done since the ‘Three Quotes Challenge’ (twice) a few  months ago when everyone here in the U.K. could pretend it was still summer, despite the cloudy skies and lots of rain in some places – like poor old Cornwall. Although this challenge stems from the coming Thanksgiving Day the U.S. (November 26th) most of us around the world have things to be thankful for, including me. I’m also thankful for many wonderful people, without whom my life wouldn’t be nearly as rich and fulfilling.

Before I go any further, I want to say a big THANK YOU to fellow (and much-younger-than-me) North of England blogger, Morgan Mills, over at The Sectret Diary of a Computer Science Student, for nominating me for this challenge. Morgan’s not THAT young – I just liked this picture from Pixabay 😀 ):


Now for the Rules:

shutterstock_152788070* Share this image (top one) in your blog post
* Write about 5 people in your life you are thankful for
* Write about 5 things in 2015 that you are thankful for
* Spread the love and challenge 5 other blogs to take part 

Five people I’m thankful for in 2015 are:

My husband, Nick. He’s been my constant support since we got married 45 years ago (on Saturday, October 24th – our wedding anniversary – and our daughter’s birthday, too (Louise – or on WordPress, afairymind at The Story Teller’s Abode ). Whilst researching my books, he’s happily traipsed all over this country and Denmark with me, visiting Anglo Saxon and Viking sites. He’s also supported me (and been very patient) as I’ve written two of the books, and is still bearing up as I write the third book of the trilogy.

How could I not be thankful for our six children? (Quite easily, I suppose 🙂 In order of age, they are: Nicola, Richard, Neil, Louise, Thomas and Christopther. They have filled my life with joy (seriously!) for the past 43 years. They have also cost me hundreds of hours of lost sleep, thousands and thousands of pounds (sterling: £) and caused enough worry to give anyone dozens of ulcers. But who’s counting little things like that . . .?  

The wonderful, professional editor, Doug Watts, who edited my first two books (the second one, last year) and is waiting for the third – which he’s expecting before Christmas. I haven’t told him yet that it’s going to be a little late beacuse I’ve been having so much fun on WordPress. 🙂 I’ll put off telling him a little longer, I think. 

My fantastic fellow bloggers on WordPress. If I hadn’t found so many lovely people out there in this great big world of Blogland, I’d probably have closed down my blog ages ago. I’ve got to know so many of you, I almost feel as though I’ve known you forever. The community spirit is amazing and to be able to share ideas and feelings is a fantastic thing to do. Thank you, WordPress bloggers, for making me feel so welcome, and valued. I love reading your posts and finding out what’s going on hundreds/thousands of miles away. I’ve learned so much from you all – and I just love to learn new things . . .

My sister, Linda, who has been so very poorly this year. In fact she’s been ill all her life and I worry a lot about her.  When I was three and she was only 6 months, we both had whooping cough, which was prevalent at that time (early in 1950). Nor were children vaccinated against it then. I got through it all well, being older, I suppose. Linda didn’t. The illness left her with very weakened lungs, which have caused enormous problems ever since, as the bottom lobe on each lung is collapsed. Needless to say, she needs constant treatment. But this year, Linda also fell off a chair she was standing on to retrieve something from on top of a wardrobe! Not only did she badly break her wrist, she also dislodged her shoulder blade and damaged her already bad hip. So, in 2015, as well as hospital ‘stays’ for her lungs, she’s had a hip replacement operation and one to realign her wrist. As always, she’s taken it all in her stride and continued as though nothing has happened. I’m thankful she has a devoted husband of 43 years and three wonderful children to love her. And I’m thankful to have such a wonderful sister.

Five things I’m thankful for in 2015:

Keeping healthy throughout the year. This, of course, applies not only to me,  but to my immediate family and friends. Only my sister causes me worry, as mentioned above. But getting older can be a precarious business! (Personally, I don’t like the idea one bit and think ageing  -or aging, if you’re in the US – should be abolished.  But nobody ever listens to me.) I think myself lucky not to have succumbed to any serious illness, as yet. I do try to keep healthy by not eating junk food and getting plenty of exercise and, boring as that may sound, I think the strategy has worked. So far.

All the kind bloggers who have read and reviewed my books! As you’ve no doubt read on the blogs of many writers out there, reviews are like gold dust to an author – even if they’re only a couple of lines long. They must be perfectly honest ones though. I would never ask anyone to lie for me. I’d much rather have honest opinions. I’m totally indebted to those of you who’ve done this for me. I generally do a post to say when my books will be free on Amazon, and I know that many of you have downloaded copies in the past. My next 5 free days will be sometime in November. I thank you all, whether you did a review or not

For living in a stable part of the world. This, I suppose can be viewed in different ways. Regarding tectonic and meteorological hazrds, Britain is rarely at risk. We aren’t near to a plate boundary, and we don’t experience tropical storms and hurricanes, or the tornadoes that plague the American Mid-West. We do have floods sometimes, both river and coastal ones, but not on the scale of those in tropical latitiudes. We are very fortunate in all this and, like most people I know, am always grieved by news of earthquakes, typhoons and so on elsewhere in the world. All we can do – and as  a nation I believe we do it well – is provide aid for those who so desperately need it. Britain is also politically stable at present in the sense that we’re not experiencing civil war or riots. We might all be moaning about the usual inflation, wage cuts and the rest that I won’t go into, but that happens whichever political party is in power. We all know the saying about not being able to please all the people all of the time.

For the wonderful holidays I’ve enjoyed this year. We seem to have been away from home more than ever this year. Since going to Andalucia in early May, we’ve been constantly out and about. I’m thankful for this for a couple of reasons – besides just loving visiting historical sites or going on holiday. The first is that our visit to Southern Spain was primarily to do research for my third book. The second reason is connected to my blog. Everywhere I’ve visited, abroad or in the UK, has given me lots of material to use on my ‘Travel’ or ‘History’ posts on my blog. Even our week in Malta was a constant round of photography. So, I’m very thankful for being able to do this, and still have lots of posts to write up.

Finally,  I’m thankful that, in 2015, we still have a ban on the hunting of mammals with dogs in Britain. The current Government has said it hopes to repeal this Act, so allowing this atrocious ‘sport’ to return. Without getting into any political debates here (and I must add that this is my personal opinion, and I respect the rights of others to hold their own opinions on this issue – but I don’t intend to discuss it on this post!) all I can say is that I find the whole idea of dogs ripping animals (most often fox, deer, hare and mink) to shreds absolutely horrendous – and dread it becoming legal again. (The Act was passed in 2005, banning it.) I just hope that 2016 will see the ban still in place.


I have so many things to be thankful for, and realise how lucky I am to lead the life I love, with the people I love. What more could I ask?

These are my five nominees:

Joy Pixley

It’s Good to be Crazy Sometimes




Village Life and a Touch of Autumn


A couple of days ago I was chatting with fellow blogger, Lynn – from Lynz Real Cooking – about the lovely colours of Fall. Lynn suggested I do another post about the village in which I live and show what the autumn lanes looked like. The lady on the horse, above, is a neighbour and retired teacher, like me. There are so many people with horses in this village, and the clatter of hooves is a common sound. (Nothing to do with autumn – just part of village life.)


As you can see, much of the landscape around our village is holding on well to its summer green. The trees are turning gold, some species more so than others, as to be expected. But the good old oaks, always the last to give way, are still pretty green, whereas most of the ash trees are bright yellow.  Deep amber, horse-chestnut leaves also litter the ground, with shiny conkers amongst them:


Most of the berries that filled the hedgerows a month ago are now becoming wizened; only the hawthorne berries (haws) still bright red. Haws can usually be seen well into winter, as the birds don’t seem to like them much, and only eat them when all the juicier fruits have been devoured.

The photos below show a mix of lanes, hedgerows and trees, in varying states of ‘browning’. We have little of the blazing red colours common to parts of North America, so our colours tend to be a mix of golds, ambers and browns, with the deeper red of the odd copper beech here and there. We do have the occasional red maple, and they make a wonderfully bright splash aamongst the rest. Many of the fields are now sprouting spring wheat or barley, ready to grow with all haste once the winter’s done:


Here are a few more photos from my walk down the lanes immediately round our house…

And here’s a selection of views from around the village. We have a mix of houses – old and new – some dating back a few hundred years. The church of Saint Helena dates back to the 11th century and old telephone box is definitely past its sell-by date, but there’s still a useable phone in there. I’ve never seen anyone using it, so whether it actually works is anyone’s guess. The dovecote is a rare old thing, too, built in the 13th century (last picture). The amusing name of Washtub Lane has two possible origins, both related to a farmhouse once located there. The name could refer to the lines of washing hanging at the farm, or to the big tubs standing there,  for washing leather and tannery.

Well, that’s it until winter comes along and I can take some frosty pictures, if not snowy ones.  Next Saturday the clocks go back in the U.K. and the dark nights will descend earlier and earlier. Now that is a really depressing thought. 😦

To Market To Market To Buy A Fat Pig … or whatever takes your fancy.


To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog

Home again, home again, jiggety-jog

To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,

Home again, home again, market is done.

All children love this rhyme, and this version of it is from the late nineteenth century. The first version, earlier that century, made no mention of a pig.


And the reason I’m quoting the rhyme at all . . .?

Well, I love old towns, old buildings and anything of historical interest in general. The market town of Newark (full title, Newark-on-Trent) in Nottinghamshire, is simply brimming with history, and I’ll be doing a post about it some time soon. (We lived in Newark for eleven years, before moving out to enjoy village life seven miles away.) Today I just want to share some views of the market and market place in general and a few words about its history. Our eldest son has his butcher’s shop there which, naturally, we visit when we’re in town.

Map of Nottinghamshire, UK. Source: Ordnance Survey OpenData. Author: Nilkamion. Commons
Map of Nottinghamshire, UK. Source: Ordnance Survey OpenData. Author: Nilfanion. Commons

Newark Royal Market is one of the oldest in the UK, dating back to the 12th century when a charter was granted by Henry VI. Originally held on a Sunday, it became the first market in England to operate on a Wednesday. Its Royal Charter was granted in 1549 by Edward VI,  and since then it has continued to be a key trading centre for the region. Markets are held five days a week: general markets on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and ‘collectors’ or antique markets on Mondays and Thursdays (which sound impressive, although few stalls are involved).

The markets are held in the impressive market place, overlooked by the Georgian town hall, with the spire of the church, St. Mary Magdalene, also in the background. Both of these can be seen in the photos below, as well as a few very old, Tudor-style buildings and the old water pump. There are also some stocks – which I forgot to photograph yesterday.

Until relatively recently, Newark was famed for having the oldest cobbled market place in the country, and possibly in Europe. But sometime around 2000, the old cobbles were removed and replaced by new, smoother and flatter ones. I completely understand that this was done for safety reasons – old people, either on foot, in wheelchairs or mobility scooters, and mothers with pushchairs, all found the bumpy cobbles difficult to walk on. For anyone unsteady on their legs, they were obviously dangerous. Yet the destruction of something of such historical value still causes a pang.

And this is my son’s butcher’s shop, also in a really old building, close to the market square:

The cellars beneath Richard’s shop have tunnels running through the shops alongside it, right up to the building facing the market place. They were all once part of that building – an old hotel/inn called The Clinton Arms. The last picture above shows the view from his shop to the market. We’re delighted that it’s such a prime site for him, and his shop is very popular. Not surprisingly, he’s a great butcher, having worked at it since leaving school (and he’s now 41).

So I suppose, if anyone wanted to buy a fat pig (though not a live one) Richard’s would be the place to go . . .


Cave of Darkness: Ghar Dalam


I only have a couple more posts on Malta to do now and this one, along with the one following it, are about two sites we visited on the Thursday of our week’s holiday in September. To travel out to these sites we used the ‘hop on-hop off’ buses that are so well used on both Malta and Gozo:


Ghar Dalam – which means ‘Cave of Darkness’ in Maltese – is a naturally water worn, limestone cave on the outskirts of Birżebbuġa in the south east of Malta. It is one of the island’s most important monuments and the only cave on Malta where the Pleistocene (Ice Age) can be seen in an uninterrupted sequence, dating back 180,000 years. The earliest evidence of human presence on Malta has also been found in the cave, with artefacts dating back 7,400 years to the Neolithic Period.

On leaving the building where the reception and museum are housed we headed down the steps and through a small garden of exotic and indigenous trees. From here there are excellent views across the Dalam Valley, in which the cave is located.

Then it was off to the cave . . .

The scientific importance of Ghar Dalam wasn’t realised until 1865 when a Genoese geologist, Arturu Issel, came to Malta in search of Palaeolithic Man and found the remains of various animals as well as many pottery sherds in the cave. Other scientists soon followed but, unfortunately, so did poachers raiding the bone deposits. These thefts were eventually stopped by the installation of a gate at the cave’s mouth, as can be seen in my first/header photo above.

On entering the cave, it becomes obvious why it was given the name, Cave of Darkness. Without the many lights, it would have been very dark within feet of moving away from the entrance – and it’s 144 metres (472 feet) long, although only the first 50m are open to the public for security reasons. This photo is looking into the cave from just behind the gate:


Like all limestone caves there are stalactites and stalagmites along its length, and there are labels at intervals to explain which types of remains were found at those spots and at what depth. Here are a few photos:

Ghar Dalam’s scientific importance revolves around the effects of the Ice Age on the Maltese Islands. During the time that ice sheets covered most of Central Europe and the northern hemisphere, Malta experienced a Rain, or Pluvial, Age instead. Torrential rains swept animals away and carved out valleys, including the Wied Galam. Falling sea levels created a land bridge, joining Malta to Sicily – across which many animals travelled to Malta, pushed south by the harsh conditions of glaciation to the north. These included elephant, hippopotamus, bear, wolf and fox.

Over the thousands of years these large animals underwent evolutionary change to ensure their survival: a small island could not possibly provide enough food for herds of large animals. The type of adaptation these species underwent on the island is called NANISM -i.e. they became smaller. Sometimes it is referred to as ‘dwarfing’ or ‘dwarfism’. 


There are also examples of gigantism – the opposite of dwarfism – on Malta. This generally occurs in species that breed continuously, so only the biggest and strongest will find enough food to survive. The giant dormouse grew to be the size of a modern guinea pig and the giant lizard reached a length of 70cm (27-28 inches). The giant Maltese tortoise grew to the size of today’s Galapagos Island tortoises.

Malta is not the only one of the Mediterranean islands to exhibit nanism and gigantism, as this (not very clear and in-need-of-editing) map shows:


In the Ghar Dalam Cave there are six distinct layers of deposits, each labelled according to the main species or characteristic material found in it. Animal remains have been found in layers 2, 4 and 6 – where 6 is the uppermost layer. Layer 2 is known as the hippopotamus layer, layer 4 is the deer layer. Layer 6 is the cultural/domestic layer, covering the last 7,000 years since humans arrived on Malta – as well as containing animal remains and pottery.


The Victorian-style museum was opened in the 1930s. Showcases contain bones of similar size and origin mounted on boards in rows, and teeth are held in jars or stacked in rows. Everything was designed to impress through sheer quantity – with little attention given to the exhibit’s scientific or educational value. The mounted skeletons all belong to present-day animals and are not from the cave. 

A second room was opened to the public in 2002 covering different aspects of the cave’s formation and animal and human finds, as well as information on the fossil fauna that were present on the Maltese Islands during the Ice Age.

Ghar Dalam Cave has served as shelter for humans and animals since prehistoric times. The remains of Early Man have been found as well as pottery. Middens (ancient rubbish pits) have revealed animal bones and the cave served as a cattle pen until the excavations of the mid-nineteenth century. During the Second World War (August and September of 1940), 200 people lived in the cave, leaving it when the Royal Air Force wanted to use it for the storage of aviation fuel.

All in all, the Ghar Dalam Cave well deserves to be listed as one of Malta’s most important sites.


Word of Week (WOW) – Ephemeral

wow (1)

Word of the Week (WOW) is a weekly challenge created by Heena Rathore P. It’s a fun way to improve vocabulary by learning new words every week. To participate, simply do a post with your word and leave the link as a comment on Heena’s WOW post for this week (above link).

I’m looking at the letter E this week.

So here is my WOW for this week: 




e·phem·er·al  [ih-fem-er-uh-l]



Part of Speech


Related Forms:

Adverb: ephemerally

Noun: ephemeralness; ephemerality


  1.  Lasting for a markedly brief time:

Eating the chocolate ice-cream was an ephemeral pleasure in Ellie’s otherwise hectic day.

2.  Having a short lifespan or a short annual period of aboveground growth. Used especially of plants – as in chickweed:

Chickweed is known as an ephemeral weed because it produces several generations in one season.

Stellaria Media Common Chickweed. Author: Lazaregadnizda. Wikimedia Commons
Stellaria Media Common Chickweed. Author: Lazaregadnizda. Wikimedia Commons

3.  Noun: Anything that is short-lived, as certain insects – like mayflies.

Mayflies emerge from the water and live for only 24 hours – in which time they must mate and the female lay the eggs on the surface of the water. If enough of them appear at the same time, as in some species, they create a swarm.

Mayfly swarming on Tisza Author: Kovacs,sziland. Commons
Mayfly swarming on Tisza. Author: Kovacs,sziland. Commons

Word Origin:

1570-80; from the Greek ephḗmer (os) meaning short-lived, lasting but a day


evanescent, transient, momentary, brief, fleeting, impermanent, fugitive, passing, brief, temporary, transitory, short-lived, fugacious, short



Use in a Sentence:

  1. The blaze of colour along the valley seemed all the more wonderful to the hikers because it was so ephemeral: choice-975832_1280 (2)

2. Lucy gazed at the old photo of two models wearing 1930’s style swimsuits, considering how fashions were so ephemeral: new ones come in and old ones disappear, perhaps to be reintroduced at a later date:

Fashion Photo: Bathing Suit, Modell Schenk. Circa 1930. Author: Yva (1900-1942). Public Domain: Wikimedia Commons
Fashion Photo: Bathing Suit, Modell Schenk. Circa 1930. Author: Yva (1900-1942). Public Domain: Wikimedia Commons

3. For my third example ‘sentence’ I have concocted this little tale, in which I have attempted to use the various forms of this week’s WOW:


King Eldrin of Elf Land glared at his daughter, Elinora, her pretty face marred by yet another ephemeral scowl. Desperately wanting the wilful young princess out of his hair, he hoped one of today’s contenders would suit her style.

But Elinora had rejected several suitors already, her affections as ephemeral as the beautiful daylilies adorning Eldrin’s palace grounds.

Red and yellow daylily, called a Red Magic Lily. Author: Victorrocha. Commons.
Red and yellow daylily, called a Red Magic Lily. Author: Victorrocha. Commons.

The ephemerality of Elinora’s affections worried King Eldrin, as his daughter was rapidly leaving her youth behind. His worried subjects would soon be assigning her spinster status. He understood too well the ephemeralness of beauty. One only had to look at his wife, Queen Ermintrude, whose rare beauty had rapidly deteriorated post wedlock. Before long she had begun to resemble the cow* after whom she was named.

Today, a handsome young prince named Elandorr would attempt to engage Elinora in ephemerally interesting conversation. As long as it held the girl’s attention for an hour, Eldrin would declare him the victor in this marriage game, as previously arranged. With a bit of luck, Elinora and her ephemeral nature would henceforth be Elandorr’s problem.

shutterstock_275929637* Ermintrude was the name of the cow in the 1960’s cartoon series called The Magic Roundabout – since made into a film. Ermintrude was really quite sweet, so I mean no offence to her! All the pictures I could find of her were copyright, hence I’ve none to show here. 😦

If you’d like to view more interesting words, visit Heena’s Page

Word Treasure

No White Feather – Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a piece of fiction from the photo prompt provided in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. It encourages us to comment, constructively, on other entries, so supporting each other’s writing. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Etol Bagam:

wpid-photo-20151005074310397And this is my story:

No White Feather

Reg swigged back his ale and grinned at his wife, chuckling at the stand-up’s jokes. The music hall was packed, every table full.  Ale was flowing and the noise from the audience was rising rapidly.

‘I knew you’d enjoy it,’ he said, taking her hand.  Some good turns on – though I didn’t know Vesta Tilley’d be singing tonight.’

Agnes nodded. ‘I’ve heard of her. She dresses like a man to make people laugh – and to persuade men to recruit into Lord Kitchener’s Army.  Not married ones, I hope . . .’

Cheers erupted as Vesta Tilley appeared on stage, dressed in a soldier’s uniform. Her first few songs had everyone singing along. Then all fell silent as she stepped down from the stage, wandering amongst the tables singing, ‘Oh, we don’t want to lose you but we think you ought to go,’ touching men’s shoulders as she passed.

As most of the men, Reg rose and followed Vesta back to the stage. He’d fight the Hun for king and country. No white feather for him.

A single white feather close up. Author: Joao Andrade de Frietas. Uploaded by Rex Public Domain.
A single white feather close up. Author: Joao Andrade de Frietas. Uploaded by Rex Public Domain.

’Word Count: 175

If you’d like to view other entries, click the little blue frog below:

For anyone interested, here is a some information about music halls and a few things mentioned in my story that might be unfamiliar to people:

British Music Halls were originally tavern rooms which provided entertainment in the form of music and speciality acts such as short plays, comedy sketches, acrobats, minstrels, dancers, magicians, jugglers and even trick dogs. By the middle years of the nineteenth century the first purpose-built music halls were being constructed in London. Soon there were many around the country:

The Hackney Empire, a typical Music Hall. Author: Ewan Munro from London, UK. Commons
The Hackney Empire, a typical Music Hall. Author: Ewan Munro from London, UK. Commons

In effect, they were half pub, half theatre. The large halls had a stage but in the seating areas, tables were provided so that patrons could continue their drinking and socialising (generally noisily) while the ‘acts’ were on:

The Oxford Music Hall 1875. Public Domain. Uploaded by File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske) Wikimedia Commons
The Oxford Music Hall 1875. Public Domain. Uploaded by File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske) Wikimedia Commons

The halls created a demand for new and catchy popular songs, many composed by professional song writers with their working class audiences in mind. Songs like ‘My Old man Said Follow the Van’ and ‘Waiting at the Church’ described situations which the urban poor would be familiar with.

‘Well oiled’ on cheap beer, the audience chorused songs they loved and abused acts they loathed. In some places audiences would throw things at dud acts, and the bottles carried by the waiters were chained to the trays to prevent them being used as missiles.

Music Hall’s support for the war effort is well documented – although no one can deny that owners, landlords and song writers made a lot of money out of it. By the end of 1914, 30 or more specially composed songs promoting recruitment had been written. Many music hall  performers threw themselves into the effort, including, the most popular of all the singers, Marie Lloyd . . .

Postcard print of Marie Lloyd. Author Louis Saul Langfier (1859-1916). Public Domain
Postcard print of Marie Lloyd. Author Louis Saul Langfier (1859-1916). Public Domain

. . . and the singer most famous for her army recruitment success, Vesta Tilley:

Vesta Tilley had sung in music halls since she was 5 and generally dressed in men’s clothes (although during the day she took care to dress in her usual women’s wear to emphasise her femininity). One of her most popular songs was about a young swell,  ‘Burlington Bertie‘. During the early years of WW1, along with many other music hall performers, she helped in the recruitment of thousands of men.. She dressed as a soldier and sang patriotic songs, including Jolly Good Luck to the Girl Who Loves a Soldier and The Army of Today’s All Right. She was given the nickname of ‘Britain’s best recruiting sergeant’.

Vesta Tilley in her role as Burlington Bertie. Public Domain
Vesta Tilley in her role as Burlington Bertie. Public Domain

In 1914 Lord Kitchener introduced voluntary enlistment to increase British forces. It helped to create Britain’s first mass citizen army. Kitchener was one of the few British leaders to believe that this war would be long and difficult, and not ‘over by Christmas’. Within a year it became obvious that it was not possible to continue fighting by relying on voluntary recruits. Conscription was introduced in March 1916.

Kitchener's First World War Recruitment Poster. Public Domain. Author Alfred Leete, 1882-1993
Kitchener’s First World War Recruitment Poster. Public Domain. Author Alfred Leete, 1882-1993 Wikimedia Commons

The name ‘Hun’ was a derogatory term for German soldiers. It resulted from a remark made by Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany in 1900, when he sent his armies to deal with the Boxer Rebellion in China. He told his troops to show no mercy – just as the Huns, 1000 years earlier, had exhibited wanton destruction as they swept through Europe.

The White Feather has been a traditional symbol of cowardice, used within the British Army and countries associated with the British Empire  since the 18th century. It aimed to humiliate men who were not soldiers.

The White Feather Movement was a propaganda campaign in England during WWI to encourage men to enlist in the army. White feathers were distributed by women of the Order of the White Feather to any man they deemed capable of joining the army who was out of uniform. They aimed to make men realise that women viewed them as cowards. Other men would therefore be so afraid of receiving a feather they would join the army. Conscientious objectors were seen as cowards and received white feathers if their stance became known.

This poster was not one printed for this movement, but a part of the Parliamentary campaign:

May 1915 poster by E.V. Kealey from Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. Public Domain
May 1915 poster by E.V. Kealey from Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. Public Domain. Wikipedia Commons


Gozo: Calypso’s Isle (2)


This is a continuation of my post about the Maltese island of Gozo, which we visited on the Wednesday of our week in Malta in early September. It was a great day out, and we saw a lot of the island, the main site being the Ggantija temples (pronounced like something like J-gan-tia) which my last post on Gozo was about. This time I’m adding a little about some of the other places we visited. So here we go.

After leaving the Ggantijan temples at Xaghra, we headed out to the east coast to the town of Marsalform to take a ride on a little trackless train:


Marsalform itself is the most popular seaside resort on Gozo and is always crowded . . .


. . . but we headed on along the coast to have a look at the 300-year-old, rock-cut Qbajjar Salt Pans, the biggest salt works on Gozo and stretching over 3km. Several tons of sea salt are produced each year, continuing the centuries old Gozitan tradition:

We were all handed a nice little bag of sea salt from an old Gozitan stationed along the roadside. The ‘train’ pulled out so quickly that none of us had chance to even offer the old man a tip! I can only hope the tour company pay him for providing this little ‘extra’ service and keeping the customers/tourists happy.

Heading off across country to the west coast, we stopped en route at a Craft Centre to have a quick look round. There were a variety of goods on display,  one of the main things being traditional Maltese lace:

On to the west coast … and the beautiful Azure Window (my f1rst image on this post). All three of the main Maltese Islands have a ‘blue water attraction’ for tourists to admire. On  the south coast of Malta is the Blue Grotto and on the little island of Comino, the Blue Lagoon. On Gozo, near to Dwejra Bay on the Inland Sea, it’s the Azure Window – a favourite place for scuba divers from all over the world. There is an underground cave close by and the sea is warm for snorkellers and sea bathing. Here’s another picture of it, although it’s little different to the one above:


The Azure Window itself was created by the collapse of two limestone sea caves, and is very lovely to see. It has been featured in many films, including: Clash of the Titans (1981) the Count of Monte Cristo (2002) The Odessey (1997) – and last but not least, even  Game of Thrones!

Close to the Azure Window (behind us as we photographed the arch) is Fungus Rock – so named because of its mushroom-like shape. I wasn’t totally convinced it resembled a mushroom, but who am I to know these things? Well, here it is:


Eventually, we headed for Victoria (Rabat) the capital of Gozo:

Citadella, Victoria (Rabat) Gozo, Republic os Malta. Author: Radoneme, Wikimedia Commons
Citadella, Victoria (Rabat) Gozo, Republic os Malta. Author: Radoneme, Wikimedia Commons

The city’s original name was Rabat, but on Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, the British government changed it to Victoria. Many Gozitans, however, still call it Rabat, so both names stick together.  The city is located in the cente of Gozo.

At the city’s centre is the Citadel or Citadella (pronounced Chitadella) which has its roots in the late medieval times.  But the hill on which Citadella stands has been used since Neolithic times as a sanctuary from attack by Barbary pirates and Saracens.

Unfortunately, we weren’t permitted – mayor’s orders! – to enter the Citadella, as building work was going on. (Don’t ask – we didn’t understand that either!) I don’t think we would have had time, anyway, as the tour guide rushed us back to the coach as soon as we’d had our meal of the day at almost 5 pm. We did manage five minutes inside the Basilica of St. George before we had to rush off.  The other photos were quick snaps as we walked.

There were several plaques and other reminders of St. George along our route. And the door with the key sitting in it was interesting! It seems that burglary is so rare on Gozo that people think nothing of leaving doors unlocked all night, or even leaving the key in the lock for late arrivals.

We eventually got back to the ferry port, where we saw this interesting looking wooden sculpture. I’ve no idea what it’s about, but here’s the photo anyway:


Then it was onto the ferry and back to Malta.