A Visit to a Japanese Garden

Last Friday afternoon, my blogging daughter, Louise (at thestorytellersabode) and I decided to drive out to the Japanese Garden, located at North Clifton, near Newark in Nottinghamshire. It’s a mere 6.4 miles from where I live, so it took no time at all to get there. I hadn’t visited the Garden since 2008, and Louise had never been before, so it made a nice change for a gloriously sunny day.

The Garden has been described as ‘One of the Inspirational Gardens of the World’ (AA) and as ‘The Best British Garden’ (ITV). It covers a relatively small area but is packed with all the traditional features of a Japanese garden. Water features and ponds with Koi carp, winding paths, bridges, moss, bamboo, pagodas and stone lanterns all blend with a sprinkling of English plants:

There is also a Crystal Garden – an indoor garden consisting of rocks, crystals and different marbles:

The Meditation Centre and Garden were created by a lovely man called Maitreya, who is often around the Garden. This is a summary of how it all came about from the information leaflet we were handed on entry:

Maitreya (Koji Takeuchi) was born in Handa, near Nagoya in Japan. In his teens he began a search for the truth. He was first led to Christianity but found it did not give him the direct experience of Jesus he wanted. So he turned to meditation and attended an intensive meditation course at a Zen monastery – and had the experience of ‘enlightenment’.

Aiming to become a meditation master, Maitreya went on to complete an MA degree in Buddhism and lived the life of a Zen monk for a time – a life he found too harsh and rigid, and out of date. After travelling and teaching meditation in Thailand, Nepal and India, on the invitation of a friend, he eventually came to England. After staying at various universities around the country, teaching and lecturing, he came across a property for sale in North Clifton, Nottinghamshire. This became the base from which he taught meditation: ‘Pure Land’ came into being in 1973.

In 1980, Maitreya began transforming a flat, 2 acre field – a ‘wilderness’ – into a Japanese garden. His aim was to create a peaceful area which guests to his Centre could enjoy. He had no previous gardening experience, but he set about creating small ‘hills’ in this flat place that would remind him of his mountainous homeland, Japan. The material for these came from the earth dug out to create the ponds. The large stones placed around the ponds came from a quarry in Derbyshire and the winding paths were determined by the positioning of the stones.

Refreshments are available at a Japanese Tea House, which is also where payment is made on entry ((£7 for adults). A variety of teas are offered, including Japanese and English tea and various fruit teas. (I couldn’t say whether coffee is available as Lou and I asked for tea). People can either sit inside the very small place, or outside in the garden, as we did.

An extra feature every year is that of the ‘Lantern Lit Evening Garden’, which can be enjoyed every Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights during August and September.

There are a few reviews of the Japanese Garden online but not all are favourable. It’s undoubtedly a pretty site, but it is small. The main criticism about it is the price – that £7 is too much for such a small place. Admittedly, it’s possible to walk round quickly, but most people tend to linger and spend time sitting at various nooks around the place or in the tea garden. We also walked around more than once in order to catch things we may have missed or overlooked the previous times. It isn’t cheap, but I suppose it depends what you want from a visit to a place like this.

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Bodnant Garden Revisited

Bodnant is a world famous garden, situated in the county borough of Conwy in North Wales, with wonderful views of the Conwy Valley and the Carneddau Mountains of Snowdonia. It is owned by the National Trust and visited by 190,000 people every year.

Bodnant is a perfect place to visit at any time of year – as my aunt and uncle, who live almost on its doorstep, will confirm. It’s open for 362 days every year, closing only on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The 80 acre garden is magnificent and has become a perfect venue for weddings. It is “home to the National Collection of Champion Trees”.

Yet there’s much more to Bodnant than trees.

The last time we visited Bodnant was on a lovely sunny day in early June, 2015. Due to my aunt’s mobility problems at that time, we stayed in the Upper Gardens, close to the Entrance and Garden Centre, as well as Bodnant Hall (which I’ll say more about later on). There’s plenty to see in this area alone, without heading down into The Dell (valley), including the Italianate Terraces and the many shrub borders edging the pathways and expansive lawns. The famous Laburnum Arch is also in the Upper Garden – which we were fortunate to see in flower in June 2015. Delightful ponds add to the tranquility of the setting. Roses of all descriptions were also in bloom in June 2015, so in late July this year we were treated to completely different displays of foliage and colour:

This fabulous garden was founded in 1874 when Leicestershire man, Henry Davis Pochin, bought the estate. He employed a local apprentice named Edward Milner and together they landscaped the hills and valley and planted American and Asian conifers on the banks of the River Hiraethlyn. The stream banks were reinforced to create woodland and water gardens and there is an unusual bridge across the stream called Waterfall Bridge:

Pochin’s daughter, Laura, married Charles Mclaren, the First Baron of Aberconway, and the Hall has been in that family ever since. It took successive generations of the Mclaren family to create Bodnant as we see it today, and although the gardens were given to the National Trust in 1949, the Hall remains the possession of the present Lord Aberconway and is not open to the public. However, Lord Aberconway and his family are still actively involved in the Garden’s management and improvement.

On our way down to The Dell it started to rain (no surprise there!) so we spent a while sheltering under the trees. But we still had some great views of the Old Mill:

At the furthest end of the valley, and Bodnant as a whole, is a large pond called the Skating Pond. I can only imagine it got its name because it froze over in winter and was used (literally) as a skating pond. But it’s a pretty pond anyway, with a boat house to one side and edged by trees, including a few huge willows.

Car parking at Bodnant is across the road, but pedestrians reach the gardens via an underpass. There are four places at which to find refreshments. One of the cafes, which serves actual meals, is next to the car park and one that serves snacks and sandwiches is by the Entrance. The other two small places for light snacks and drinks are down in the Dell – one close to the Old Mill and another, which we’ve never used, is by the Skating Lake.

To finish with, this is a photo of the famous Laburnum Arch. If you want to see it in flower like this, June is the time to visit.


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Boiling Point – FFfAW

Boiling Point

Zak’s temper boiled and finally erupted. He stomped round the room, fists striking at empty space. How could she! After the months of fun they’d had, he’d never imagined she’d betray him. All he’d asked was her support of his work – and her discretion.

Jodie claimed she was good at keeping secrets, and she’d more than benefitted from their affair. The costly gifts he’d showered on her after successful operations always made her smile – and very compliant…

His rage was rising again and he cursed. If he ever set eyes on Jodie again he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions.

‘Sit down,’ one of the burly officers snapped as they entered. ‘Chief Inspector Roberts is on the way. And don’t try any sweet talk. Roberts isn’t known for being nice.’

‘Morning Zak,’ Roberts said as she swept in, a polythene bag full of jewellery in her hand.

‘Jodie…!’ he croaked. ‘You’re a stinkin’ cop… You bitch! ’

Jodie smirked. ‘That’s me. Now, just for the tape, remind me of where this little lot came from…’

Word Count: 175

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This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers The prompt was kindly provided by artycaptures. It’s the first flash fiction I’ve done for a while – in fact, it’s the first thing I’ve posted at all for a few weeks – so I thought it was time to change things.

FFfAW is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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Ambling Along into August


August is the eighth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars and the fifth month of the year to have 31 days. In the UK, the hottest days of the year are often in August and it is a busy time for holidays as it falls in the six week summer break for schools. Similarly, in many European countries, August is also the holiday month for workers.

In the southern hemisphere, August is the equivalent of February in the northern hemisphere.
The original Latin name for August was Sextillis as it was the sixth month in the then Roman ten-month calendar, when March was the first month of the year. August became the eighth month around 700 BC when January and February were added to the year by King Numa Pompilius who gave it 29 days. The extra two days were added by Julius Caesar when he created the Julian calendar in 45 BC.

In 8 BC the month was renamed August in honour of the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar (who ruled the Roman Empire from 27 BC until AD 14). Augustus is said to have chosen to name this month after himself because it was the time of several of his great triumphs, including the conquest of Egypt. The Latin term Augustus mensis means Month of Augustus. 

Statue of the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar (27BC-AD14) as a younger Otavian. Sculpted artwork dated around 30BC. Located int the Mus

So what else can I say about this summer month? Here are a few facts:

  1. August’s birthstones are the peridot and the sardonyx:

2. Its birth flowers are the gladiolus and poppy. The gladiolus represents beauty, strength, love, marriage and family. Poppies come in different colours but it is the the red one that is associated with August and it signifies pleasure.

3. The zodiac signs for the month of August are Leo (until August 22) and Virgo (from August 23 onwards):

4. The Anglo Saxon name for August was Weodmonath, meaning Weed Month. The word could refer to herbs or grass, as well as the unwanted plants we think of as weeds today. August was the month when all plants grew the most rapidly. The Venerable Bede (672/3 – 735) tells us: ‘Weodmonad means ‘month of tares (vetches), for they are plentiful then’. (The spelling of the word here is how Bede spelled it and (for a change) isn’t a typo on my behalf!)  Unfortunately I have no photos of weeds, as Nick won’t allow them to grow in our garden 🙂 but I have a not-too-wonderful photo of vetch growing along the lane:

5. Henry VI Part 1 and The Tempest are the only Shakespeare plays that mention August.

6. Warren Harding was the only US president to have died in the month of August.

Warren Harding. Photo taken 1882. Author:unattributed Public Domain

7. Certain meteor showers occur in August, including the Kappa Cygnids and the larger Perseids meteor shower.

156 (meteor) bodies detected in the sky on a single photographic plate during the Leonid meteor shower in 1998. Source: Astronomical and geophysical observatory at Comenius University in Modra, Slovakia. Author: Juraj Troth. Creative Commons

8.  In Ancient Rome, the festival of Supplica Canum was held in August every year. It was an annual sacrifice in which dogs were suspended from a furca, (fork) or a crux (cross) and paraded around the city. In the same procession, geese were honoured by being carried around adorned in purple and gold. The tradition stemmed from a nighttime siege of Rome by the Gauls during which the watch dogs failed to bark. On that occasion, it was the noisy, honking geese that alerted the city to the attack. The failure of the dogs led to them being ritually punished every following year. Gruesome!

9. On a more cheerful note, August is National Goat Cheese Month in the  U.S. I believe it involves the promotion of goats cheese as a healthier option than cheese made from cow’s milk. I love all cheese. In fact, I think I’m probably a cheeseaholic.

10. Lammas Day is in August and is a holiday celebrated in some European countries as a thanksgiving for the harvest. The name, Lammas, comes from the Anglo Saxon word hlaf-maesse, meaning loaf mass. The festival of Lammas marks the beginning of the harvest  and people say prayers in church for the first corn to be cut. (Note that in Britain ‘corn’ has traditionally referred to the cereal crops of wheat, barley oats and rye and not maize.)

Medieval illustration of men harvesting wheat with reaping hooks on a calendar page in Queen Mary’s Psalter. Dated around 1310. Author: Anonymous. Public Domain

In the medieval period, farmers made loaves from the new wheat at Lammas, and gave them to the church to use in the Communion. The custom ended when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church in 1534. Today, harvest festival services are at the end of the harvest in September, with Michaelmas Day (Sept 29) traditionally being the last day of the harvest season.

Lammas Day used to be a time of foretelling marriages and trying out partners (trial marriages). This was usually for 11 days, the duration of the fair. At he end of that time, if the pair didn’t get on they simply parted. Lammas was also a time when farmers gave each of their farm workers a gift of a pair of gloves. And to bring good luck, farmers would let a loaf of corn bread go stale, then crumble it up into the corners of their barns

August is a month for several festivals in Britain. These are 3 of them:

  1. The Edinburgh Festival. This was started in 1947 to celebrate the performing arts and includes concerts, plays, ballets and operas.

A street performer in the Royal Mile at the Edinburgh fringe in 2004. No machine- readable author provided. Creative Commons

  1. The Royal National Eisteddfod in Wales. Eisteddfod is an old tradition which was revived in 19th century. It originated in medieval times as a gathering of bards and minstrels, all competing for the prized chair at the noble’s table. It is held in the first week of August and attended by people from all over Wales.

Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales, in 2012. Flag bearers in traditional Celtic dress parade in a festival of traditional folk music and dancing. Shutterstock image

3. The Notting Hill Carnival in London. This festival is held on the last Monday of August i.e. Bank Holiday Monday in the UK. It is a colourful procession with elaborate costumes. It originated in the 1960s to celebrate the cultural traditions of the many Caribbean immigrants who came to Britain at that time.

The Notting Hill Carnival in London, 2014.Author: David Sedlecky. Creative Commons

I found this great quote which fits in so well with the theme of festivals in Britain – and Europe in general. (Harry/Henry Rollins is an American musician, actor, writer, television and radio host, and comedian.):

Every summer, from late July and into August, I find myself in Europe, performing at any festival that will have me.’ – Harry Rollins

There are many anniversaries to be celebrated in August, worldwide, and  these are merely a few of the many British ones:

  • August 1st 1774: Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen at Bowood House in Wiltshire
  • August 4th 1914:  the First World War started.
  • August 14th 1945: the Second World War ended.
  • August 15th 1872: the first regular police detective force was formed.
  • August 25th 1919: daily flights between London & Paris began, thus starting the first international air service.
  • August 31st 1997:  Princess Diana was killed killed in car accident in France.

And to finish with here are some photos from the lanes around our village and in our garden:

All are bright with developing fruits and berries. Many of the early (sown last autumn) barley fields have already been harvested, although there are still a few fields of spring-sown barley around. The wheat has yet to be harvested:

And absolutely lastly, here are a few photos of our garden as we amble along into August. I was delighted to see the lovely butterflies in our front garden this morning (August 1st). They really love the Buddleia davidii bush!

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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):

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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 –^

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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.

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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.)

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Paint Me Green!


Paint Me Green!

Sidney waited for the groundsman to put him down and stared at the figure ahead of him. ‘Glud…’ he croaked, confused and a little scared. ‘Where are we? ’

Glud turned and Sidney hooted. ‘Oh boy, you should see the size of your eyes! They never looked like that before they painted you.’

The green man bristled. ‘Well you should see the size of your teeth! And weren’t you listening to those blokes who painted us? They were making us look interesting so someone would buy us for their garden.’

‘Why would they do that?’

‘We’re garden ornaments, Sidney. Don’t you Earthlings know anything?  I’m green with big eyes ’cos I’m an alien, and they’re always popular. I think you’re a squirrel.’

‘Oh no! That means I’ll have to eat nuts. Yuk!’

‘We’ll soon find out. Smile nicely and these folks approaching might buy us.’

‘Don’t leave me!’ Sidney squeaked as Glud was carried away by a nice-looking family. ‘Paint me green and I’d look like an alien, too. Aliens can have big teeth…’

 

Word Count: 175


This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. I thought I’d have a bit of fun with this great prompt, which was kindly provided by anymark66

FFfAW is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It involves writing a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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A Visit to Beamish Museum: Part 2

There is so much to see at Beamish Museum in County Durham that I’ve had to split my post about it into two parts. Part 1 was an introduction to the museum in general and a look at the first of the four main areas on the site: the 1900s Town.

In this post I’ll show the three other main areas of the site: the 1900s Pit Village, the 1940’s Home Farm and finally the 1820s Pockerley Hall. Between them, the four sites give visitors a good overview of the life and work of people in the North East of England over the centuries.

The Pit Village naturally sits alongside the Colliery. It is opposite the town and is the closest of the sites to the entrance on the above map. As most villages, it catered for the immediate needs of the people who would, perhaps, take trips into the Town for goods that couldn’t be bought in the village, or go to the bank, or to visit professionals such as the dentist or solicitor. For a special treat they may well head to the Town Park on a Sunday to listen to the brass band play.

These are a few photos of the Pit Village, the biggest attractions there being the old school, the Wesleyan Chapel (in which Sunday School was held) and the Village Hall. One group of visiting primary school children were dressed up in period costume for their lesson with a rather strict schoolmistress.

And these are a few views of the colliery:

We didn’t go into the drift mine on this occasion, or into the winding engine house and adjoining heapstead building where the coal was weighed and the large lumps separated from the  fragments and dust. Time was ticking on and we’d been in these places a couple of times on previous visits.

Next we moved on to Home Farm, which represents farm life in the area during the 1940s. and, of course, WW2. In the photos below, the bedroom shown had two single beds to accommodate two land girls. In one of the outside barns was a cafe for visitors to buy tea, coffee and small snacks, decorated as cafes had looked during wartime.

We then hopped on another tram and headed to Pockerley Hall, which represents the house of a well-to-do tenant farmer in the 1820s. The lands around the hall that he would have farmed can be seen on the plan above. A house has stood on this slight hilltop since 1183, and its defensive location suggests there could have been an Iron Age hill fort there long before that. I won’t go into the history of the families who have lived in this hall, except to say that it was linked to the de Pockerleys in the 13th century, as well as several other families over the years. A tenant farmer lived in the hall until 1990 when it became part of Beamish Museun. After restoration work, the hall opened to visitors in 1995.

The following picture shows how Pockerley New Hall (red-brown roof) was built to adjoin Pockerley Old House (right hand side of photo).


These are a few more photos of  the 1820s hall and gardens:

The adjoining Old House is a medieval strong house, dating back to the 1440s. It would have been a place of refuge during conflict and raids (border reivers) and boasts very thick walls and small windows. It was very dark in most of the rooms inside so I’m afraid some photos aren’t very clear.

And finally we headed over to the 1820s Pockerley Waggonway. It represents the year 1825, when the Stockton and Datlington Railway opened.

The first waggonways opened in Britain around 1600 and by the 1800 they were common in industrial areas. The North East was Britain’s biggest coal producing area and coal was taken to rivers like the Tyne and the Wear by waggonway. After 1800, iron rails and steam engines started to replace horse or gravity powered ones: the modern railway had arrived.

We saw replicas of three different early engines there, including the famous Puffing Billy. The engine in use for pulling the little train on the day we visited was the Steam Elephant.

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