Music and Fun at Woodhall Spa’s 40s Festival 2017

Last Sunday, July 16th, we headed into rural Lincolnshire to the village of Woodhall Spa, considered to be one of Lincolnshire’s most attractive villages. It has an Edwardian character and is set in lovely pine woods. From our Nottinghamshire village on the Notts-Lincs border, we had a drive of 27 miles. I won’t go into the history of Woodhall Spa on this occasion, but yes, it was a spa town in the past. Its history during WW2 is also interesting. Like so many places in ‘flat’ Lincolnshire on the eastern side of the country, it was once an RAF base. (The pine woods were of utmost importance for concealing aircraft and ammunition supplies and such like).

Map of Lincolnshire to show location of Woodhall Spa. Base map from Wikimedia Commons, Author Nilfanion. Creative Commons

Woodhall Spa’s 40’s Festival is a free event – meaning there are no entry fees –  run entirely by volunteers and held over both days of the weekend: July 15 and 16 this year. It aims to spotlight ‘Life on the British Home Front’ i.e. Britain during WW2 – and it delivers on every count. This was the festival’s 6th year and its popularity has grown so much it has become one of Lincolnshire’s most popular attractions. 2016 saw 40,000 visitors over the weekend and this year it rose to 45, 000.

A wide variety of events take place at various areas of the village. A number of living history groups /re-enactors are involved and there are outdoor concerts and live music. Vera Lynn songs blasted out from one area, Glenn Miller music, and Scottish pipers from others. People danced and got into the spirit of the occasion whilst others watched and clapped:

Food and drink stalls were everywhere, including a few ice-cream vans. Of course, I just had to have a nice big cone! (What else are days out for, when all’s said and done?)

There were several little cafés, as well as pubs and hotels offering meals to suit all tastes. And before I plough on, I have to say that dressing in 40’s costume is encouraged. Next year, we may well do what the organisers suggest and take ourselves off to a charity shop, or suchlike, and grab some 40s gear! This smiling young lady looked lovely in her ‘get up’:


One of the first things to watch was the parade, primarily (re-enactors) of 1940s servicemen, as well as military vehicles from a variety of living history groups.

Along the village streets were so many vintage cars, motorbikes and military vehicles, I had a hard job moving (husband) Nick along to look at other attractions!  He was totally besotted with the old motorbikes in particular. These are a photos of just a few of  the  many vehicles:

Visitors in 1940s dress really made the day. They brought the whole 40s theme to life. Here are some photos of a few of the many people we passed on our walk about. Re-enactors mingled with the crowds, so  it wasn’t easy to differentiate between the two!

And this was a regular sight up and down the main street. One way of getting around to the various  parts of the village:


And to add to the authenticity of the event was the fly-past of Spitfires and Hurricanes from RAF Coningsby, less than 5 miles from Woodhall Spa, and home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. Nick assures me the Hurricanes are the ones with more rounded-tipped wings, so I’ll take his word on that. It was overcast and grey as they flew over, as the photos show:

I later learned that a Lancaster bomber also flew over. We left about 3 pm, having been there since 10 am, and the Lancaster obviously graced the skies later than that. I was disappointed to know we missed it, but, when all’s said and done, I’ve seen Lancasters flying over this area before, so I shouldn’t moan. We’d had a lovely day out and, other than a few spits of rain in the morning, the day was fine. Still, some sunshine would have been nice…

Oh. look. Doctor Who just arrived in his/her Tardis! (i.e. 1940s police phone box):

Book Promotion: A Dash of Flash is Free on Amazon!

Just to let you know that the eBook version of my flash fiction / very short stories book, A Dash of Flash, will be free on Amazon until Sunday, July 16.

Many of the 85 stories have been published on my blog but several were written just for the book. Almost two-thirds of the stories are accompanied by colourful images, although they are not the prompts provided by the challenges.

Honest reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads would be SO MUCH appreciated. I’d also love to hear what you think! These are snippets from the reviews I’ve had so far:

a unique collection of short stories…something for everyone

so many delightful characters and plot situations all in the small space called flash fiction. This book is a joy to read, the stories brief, interesting, and cleverly composed

 I loved the variety of stories. This, together with the ultra-short length of the stories, really keep your attention.

Links to my book on Amazon are in the side bar to the right ————–> then up a bit –^

Some Well-Dressed Wells in Derbyshire

Well dressing involves the dressing, or decorating, of wells and springs with flower petals, and, as such, it is sometimes known as well flowering. The custom is an ancient one and seems to be unique to England. It is particularly associated with the limestone villages of the Peak District of Derbyshire and parts of Staffordshire (which I’ll say more about in the next few posts) although one or two other areas also practise the tradition.

Map of the Peak District National Park, UK. Source: Office of National Statistics Geography. Ordnance Survey OpenData. Author: Nilfanion, created using O.S. data

The origins of the custom are still uncertain. Some maintain it could have developed from a pagan custom of sacrificing to the gods of wells and springs in order to ensure the continuing supply of fresh water. As many other traditions, it was later adopted by the Christian Church as a means of giving thanks to God for supplies of drinking water. A tradition of well dressing in the Malverns (a range of hills in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucester) dates from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Some sources hold that the practice began following the Black Death (plague) of 1348-9. A third of the population of England was wiped out at that time, although a few of the villages were untouched.

The Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) by Michael Wolgemut in 1493. Public Domain

The people of those fortunate villages attributed their luck to the clean fresh water supply from their wells and started dressing them as a way of giving thanks. Still other people believe the custom arose during a prolonged drought of 1615 when people celebrated their own wells’ reliability. Then there are those who attribute the custom to the time of another plague – the Great Plague of 1665 – during which time many Derbyshire villages, including Eyam, were decimated. Yet some villages had remained untouched, like nearby Tissington, and the people gave thanks at their wells for their deliverance.

Whatever its origins, well dressing seems to have disappeared for some time in most Derbyshire villages, with only a few still celebrating it in the 19th century. The main one of those villages was Tissington, as mentioned by Ebenezer Rhodes in his book ‘Peak Scenery’ in 1835. The custom was introduced in the town of Buxton in 1840 and was  recorded as being followed in Wirksworth in 1860. With the arrival of piped water supplies, the tradition was extended to include the dressing of not only wells, but taps, too.

The custom of well dressing rose and fell in popularity over the following years. Then, in the 1930s, the Shinwell family of Tideswell made considerable efforts to revive it. Well dressing has since been restored in many villages and small towns and, throughout the summer months, it is one of the attractions that draws people from all over the world to Derbyshire.

Today, the first well dressings are in May, with Tissington village being the first. Naturally, the flower petals don’t last for long, so the villages follow a regular calendar each year. While we  were in Derbyshire last week, we managed to visit four of the five places with newly dressed wells for that week.

Our first view of well dressings was in Buxton, a spa town which has the reputation of having  ‘the highest elevation …. of any market town in England’. These are a few ph0tos of the three ‘dressed’ wells in the town:

The next well dressing we visited was in the busy village of Hathersage. (Little John of the Robin Hood stories is said to have been born in Hathersage and buried in the churchyard there.) These are photos of the well we found. The theme of this one, as can be seen on the board itself, is ‘Give Peace a Chance’.

Peak Forest was the third of the well dressing villages we got to. It’s a small village and its one ‘well dressing’ was beside a tap. The theme was a very rural one:

On the last day of our stay in Derbyshire we headed out to the small town of Chapel-en-le-Frith (which translates from the Norman French as Chapel in the Forest). We found seven well dressings here, all with the theme of ‘Famous Britons’. Some had been created by children’s groups.

The construction of a well dressing is a long and skilful process which can take up to ten days. It often involves the whole population of the village. First, wooden frames are constructed and wet clay is spread to a depth of a couple of inches across the wooden backing board. The required design is sketched out on paper and ‘pricked out’ onto the wet clay.  The picture is then filled out with natural materials such as flower petal and leaves, entire flower heads, moss, sheep’s wool, wheat or barley straw, berries and nuts e.g. beech nuts, as on the Buxton Children’s well, and even immature fruits like the tiny apples on the Isaac Newton well dressing in Chapel-en-le-Frith. Coloured (or painted) stones, pebbles and gravel are sometimes used, too.

Throughout the well dressing season, some of the villages hold festivals or galas and decorate the streets with colourful and fun models. These are a few we came across in Hathersage:

It was very enjoyable visiting all these wells and looking at how they’re constructed. I think next year we’ll try to get out to Tissington in May. It’s a very quaint village, only a couple of miles from where we were staying, and we met some lovely ‘locals’ there. We’re looking forward to going back.

Jogging Along to July!

In Britain, when we think of July we think of  summer, as it’s generally the warmest month of the year, in common with the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, July is the equivalent our our January: in other words, it’s a winter month. In Britain the six week summer holiday for schools starts sometime around July 17th – 22nd (dependent on the area and/or individual schools) and we all start thinking about enjoying some sunshine. Unfortunately, we’re often disappointed in that. Our maritime climate can be very mean to us at times. Some of us will head off to the seaside towns; others choose a quiet – or sometimes a ‘sporting’ – break in the countryside. Some of us fly off to some sunny destination overseas.

Summer is a time for summer dress, barbecues and outdoor living in general. There’s always something special about summer music, too: it has such a lighthearted appeal. In 1970, this song by Mungo Jerry could be heard blasting out all over the place. It sounds so dated now, but back then it really got people singing along with it. The hairstyles are a scream and some of the lyrics are questionable today. The video was uploaded by Carlos Fracoso on October 4 2010.

So what else is interesting about July? Here are a few facts:

  • July is the seventh month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars and is one of the seven months with thirty one days. It was named by the Roman senate in 44 BC in honour of the Roman general, Julius Caesar.

  • Prior to that time July was called Quintillis as it was the fifth month of the Roman year, which then started in March. (Quin means five in Latin – as in quintet and quintuplet.)
  • Until the 18th century the word July in English had the stress on the first syllable and rhymed with duly or truly.
  • The Anglo Saxon names for July included Haymonath, referring to haymaking activities at that time, and Maedmonath, referring to the flowering of meadows.
  •  July starts on the same day of the week as April every common year and January in leap years.
  • July’s birthstone is the ruby. The flower is the water lily:

And these are a some facts from folklore. All three are about the weather:

  • ‘If ant hills are high in July,
    Winter will be snowy.
  • ‘If the first of July it be rainy weather
    Twill rain more or less for four weeks together.’
  • St Swithin’s Day is July 15.  If it rains on that day, it will rain for the next 40 days.
St Swithin of Winchester from the Bendictional of St Aethelwold illuminated manuscript in the British library. 10th century. Author: Monk. Public Domain

Many anniversaries are celebrated in July worldwide and I was hard pushed to pick out just a few as examples. These first few are British:

  • July 25 1586 First potatoes arrived from Columbia
  • July 28 1901 First fingerprints used for identification
  • July 2 1928 Equal voting rights granted to women in Britain
  • July 1 1937 999 emergency service introduced
  • July 3 1938 The Mallard broke the speed record for steam engines by reaching 126 mph.
The Mallard at York Railway Museum. Author: PTG Dudva Creative Commons

And these are a few non-British anniversaries:

  • July 1  Canada Day (obviously in Canada) and International Joke Day
  • July 2 World UFO Day
  • July 4 Independence Day, USA
  • July 6 International Kissing Day
  • July 14 Bastille Day in France
  • July 21 1968 Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon.
  • July 29 International Tiger Day

The lanes around our village have taken on a different look since the spring blossom died off. Now autumn fruits are developing, cereal crops are ripening and summer flowers are blooming.

In our garden the fruits are swelling nicely and are the most noticeable feature at present. The first flush of roses have almost all gone, most totally bashed by the heavy rains of last week. We should see a second flush around late August. But other flowers are adding colour to the garden, in the flower beds as well as the hanging baskets. These are a few photos taken earlier today (July 1st):

To finish with, here are some short poems about July:

The glowing Ruby should adorn
Those who in warm July are born,
Then will they be exempt and free
From love’s doubt and anxiety.
― Anonymous

The Summer looks out from her brazen tower,
Through the flashing bars of July.
― Francis Thompson

‘A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay.
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon.
A swarm of bees in July is not worth a fly.’

‘Hot July brings cooling showers,
Apricots and gillyflowers.’
– Sara Coleridge, Pretty Lessons in Verse

(Gillyflower definition: any of a number of fragrant flowers, such as the wallflower or white stock.)

*****