Thursday, 20 September 2018

When Johnny Came Home From The Fair

When Johnny came home from the Bedford Steam & Country Fair he found he had a lot more photos than he knew what to do with. So here are a few which I know certain people who read this blog will enjoy.....

For those who love horses.....

And for those who like interesting old tractors...

This 1935 Pattison tractor was designed specifically for work on golf courses or public parks.

For anyone who likes reflection photographs...

And one for the ornithologists and bird watchers....

Some people like a stylish car.....

Others will settle for something simpler....

This is the Peel P50 which was manufactured on the Isle Of Man. It has no reverse gear but has a handle at the back allowing it to be physically manoeuvred  if necessary. Only about 50 were made.

Postman Pat?

Anybody like to see shiny brass?....

Here's how you do it....

Lets finish off with another of those mighty horses....

Take care.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

A Garden In September

A handful of yellowing leaves on the birch tree in my street always starts the neighbours talking about Autumn. Meanwhile, in this favoured corner of the country, summer sunshine lingers on. So it was with mixed expectations that I hopped on the train for the short ride into Cambridge to make my monthly pilgrimage to the Botanic Garden.

Autumn crocuses and even Autumn leaves, sure signs of September and some of the first flowers I saw on entering the garden. This part is known as the Autumn Garden, though it's still far from the russet and gold splendour that it will hopefully achieve later in the year.

These sunflowers, on the other hand, seem to be saying that it's still high summer. As this is the University garden, these flowers were not here just to look pretty, but to demonstrate how plants adapt by branching if their growing points are removed. In front of these gangling specimens were others exhibiting low, branching growth and looking for all the world like a different species.

In the woodland glades there was just a tinge of yellow.

This, the little label informed me, is a Kentucky Yellowwood, Kladrasis kentukea. Now that must rate as one of the more pointless achievements of academia - translating "Kentucky" into Latin!

This little bee firmly believes that it's summer, though it definitely has a limited choice of blooms at this time of year.

The apparent "jungle" is still thriving beside the lake.

Though nearby the attentive photographer could indulge in this reflected fantasy.

Lily Of The Field was flowering profusely in the Systematic Beds.

Dried grasses are quite a feature of the September garden.

Somehow I've never shown you the School Garden on our monthly tours. It has a very grand sign which doubles as an "insect hotel".

This part of the garden is run with help from a local primary school and exists to provide inspiration for both young people and their teachers.

Elsewhere red berries contrast nicely with the afternoon skies.

More dry grasses catch the light around the fountain.

And we'll end up, almost back where we started, with this tiny cyclamen growing beneath the trees in the Autumn Garden.

Take care.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

The Smell Of Steam

The sweet scent of steam coal, lubricating oil and Brasso were mingling once more in the skies above Old Warden Park in Bedfordshire this weekend as the Bedford Steam Engine Preservation Society were holding their annual Steam And Country Fair.

Somebody helpfully posed his steam-roller right in front of the Manor House. But surely there was more than just one traction engine, John?

Oh yes, lots more. 144 more according to the man on the public address. And that's not all...

There was a marvellous collection of old agricultural tractors....

....and many old motorbikes....

....old cars too, like this glorious Oldsmobile...

...or would you like to see something far more futuristic? As far as I can find out this was built by Bill Carter and goes by the name of Topcat. He built it in 1991 basing his design on the cockpit of a Tornado jet fighter and powering it with a Jaguar engine. According to one source it could legally be driven on British roads. Don't know how much the insurance might cost though!

I've spent many happy hours sitting in a garden chair looking at an old lawnmower, but I've never taken things to the extremes of these three fine fellows.

Many of the exhibitors camp for the weekend, but few in such traditional style as this family.

Or this gentleman from the Historic Caravan Club.

Around midday things get more interesting and there are demonstrations such as this steam-driven sawmill.

And there's a big arena called the Playpen where the various steam engines can be put through their paces.

And the traditional funfair comes to life.

Guess who had a ride on the Big Wheel...

But also many of the machines move (slowly and carefully) around the exhibition ground, often making stops to fill up their tanks with water - or for the drivers to pop into the bar for refreshment.

Ah, the nostalgic smell of burning coal!

Take care.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Considering Clavering (And Additional Arkesden)

The walk we did in the previous post passed very rapidly through the village of Clavering, though in reality I couldn't pass through without making a detour to its church.

Yes, we're heading towards the church but first lets have a look at the building on the left. Judging by the angles of the corners and the windows it's been here for a long time and has sunk down and made itself comfortable in the landscape. It's now a private house but it's called "The Old Guildhall". It dates from the fifteenth century and is a Grade II* Listed Building. That little * after the II means that it's in the top 8% of Listed Buildings in the country, that is those buildings which have special laws applied to them designed to ensure their preservation.

It's difficult to get a comprehensive view of the building but here it is looking in the other direction. Medieval Guildhalls were where the Guilds held their meetings. Whole books have been written about these Guilds and even then a lot of questions remain unanswered. In country areas like this they were usually closely connected to the church, as indeed most things were in those days. Avoiding time spent in Purgatory was a very important consideration for people then and one method of improving ones chances of a speedy entry to Heaven was thought to be the giving of alms. This had important social consequences as it was the only provision for helping the poor. The Guilds had the function of administering these funds within the parish.

The very wealthy also contributed money to the church and it was often the case that the more prosperous the village the larger the church would be, often with little regard to the size of the congregation, though here the church and village are both fairly large. Like many churches it's a Grade I building, meaning it's in the top 2.5%. 

At first glance it looks to be a fairly standard church of the kind you'd expect to find in a large English village. But I can see something that's definitely of interest and a few things I'd like a closer look at. First those windows...

Did you notice that the coloured glass is only in the top parts of the windows? This is sometimes a sign that the smashing of the glass images by the seventeenth century iconoclasts was done imperfectly and remaining fragments have been pieced together and reinserted at a later date. So that glass is very old indeed.

The rood screen (between the nave and the chancel) also looked ancient and on the dado panels are the faint traces of paintings of saints. Some of these have their faces scratched out, again probably the work of iconoclasts, but others seem to have fared much better. So perhaps the job was done hurriedly or half-heartedly. It's unusual to find old painting in this state; it's more often re-painted or completely invisible.

The pulpit is of "wine-glass" design, which always looks highly precarious till you realise that the steps, which are rather hidden in shadow, also help to support the structure. According to some information I found online the "stem" is rather older than the pulpit itself (fifteenth century and seventeenth century respectively).

I've shown you a few of these before, but this is a particularly fine parish chest. The registers of births, deaths and marriages would be kept inside along with any other important documents relating to the village. There were always several locks to these chests and each of the keys would be kept by important people in the village so that nothing could be removed without the knowledge of all parties. Even so many parish records are incomplete.

I'll finish up with another couple of cottage photos from Arkesden:

OK, there's three in that "couple"! A bonus for regular readers.

Take care.