Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Loose Ends

A number of posts on "By Stargoose And Hanglands" consist of snippets of information about things encountered on walks and cycle rides. Things which catch my eye, capture my attention and otherwise divert me from my intended journeys. If you want to view all these posts just click on the 'Roadside' label in the sidebar on the right.

Sometimes, having taken a photo and written a few words on the subject, I find out more or find a better example. So here are a trio of such instances:

Threshing Barns

This barn didn't look very exciting when its smart new roof appeared on the skyline. The general size and shape was right for an old threshing barn and some of the weather-boarding looked, well, weathered. As it was morning and I was in energetic mood I thought I'd take a closer look.

Inside some of the timbers were clearly old, fashioned by hand and retaining the natural curves of branches coming off of the main trunk. The builders knew that nature had designed the shape to hold up a load and reasoned that they couldn't improve on it. Occasional trees were left to grow in hedgerows to supply beams for such building projects.

These barns had a large central door for the waggons to enter laden with sheaves of wheat or barley. The sheaves were stacked on either side and then threshed by hand during the winter months. I've pointed out before that boards were placed across the bottom of the door to prevent the threshed grain from being lost and this is the origin of the word "threshold".

And there it was: the slot which held those very boards, still in place though it's many a long year since any threshing would have taken place here. Quite often, too, you'll find that such door-posts have this "flared-out" shape at the bottom and I'm told this was to push the waggon wheel away from the post in case a tired old horse decided to cut the corner.


I've done a two entries about milestones here and here. These old stones were erected to tell travellers the distance to Cambridge, the exact distance to Great St Mary's church, in fact. I knew that these stones were old and were put up soon after the standard mile measurement was adopted. But recently while wandering past Great St Mary's I noticed this plaque which I must have failed to see many times before.
In case you can't make it out, it reads:

marks the datum point
from which in 1725 William Warren,
Fellow of Trinity Hall, began to measure
the one mile points along the roads from
Cambridge, at which were then set up
the first true milestones in Britain
since Roman times.

Quite why they've chosen to spell the second word of the inscription DISK instead of the more usual DISC (well, it's more usual in England apart from when it's a computer disk) I have no idea. Here's another milestone this, time on the Old North Road near Longstowe:

The Old North Road, once a major road though now less busy, is otherwise known as Ermine Street, one of the major thoroughfares of Roman Britain. But that will perhaps one day be the subject of another post.

Rooftop Animals

And finally - I've written about straw animals on the roof-ridge of thatched buildings but here's a link to something even more surprising!

Take care.



  1. So as not to spoil the surprise for other readers, I'll just say I believe I would have chosen a smaller one.

  2. I love the story in the link:) I wish that the A1 was still called The Great North Road - it has such a romantic and stirring sound to it. The A1 doesn't sound in the least exciting but The Great North Road would make you feel as though you were really setting off on an adventure.

  3. You have a good eye John for picking up the interesting and sometimes quirky things as you go around on your travels. Good post - most interesting threshing barn.

  4. Fascinating - I will look at barns with a renewed interest. Sorry I haven't commented for ages - been so busy.

  5. Lots of interest here John.
    There is usually a story behind most things one finds.

  6. I like old milestones, but so often spotted at the last moment when there's no chance of stopping for a photo.

  7. I totally agree about the two first photos - inside more intesting that the outside.

    PS I have heard that the change from disk to disc is to to the influence of the US "computer-speak"

  8. Beautiful old barns were a familiar part of the New England landscape where I lived for most of my life. I wonder if some, at least, didn't owe their style to English architectural roots. Many of them have fallen prey to hard economic times and diminished agricultural pursuits there, but some remain as testimony to an era of Merino sheep raising and prosperous dairies.


Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'll try to answer any questions via a comment or e-mail within the next day or two (no hard questions, please!).