Friday, 31 August 2012

In Passing

Another collection of oddities encountered while walking or cycling through this pleasant and constantly surprising land.

The Village Blacksmith

In the days before the invention of the car, and perhaps more importantly the tractor, every village had its Smithy, like this one at Thriplow (no longer in use of course) where horses were shod, metal rims made for cartwheels and many farm implements repaired. The pub name The Three Horseshoes often indicates that a blacksmith once operated nearby and that you could get a pint while he went about his business.

Lucky Horseshoes

Everyone knows that horseshoes are lucky but nobody is sure why! One tale says that a blacksmith once put a horseshoe on the hoof of the devil and that since the devil had a cloven hoof it was very painful for him. The devil kicked the shoe off but he's never forgotten the pain and is reluctant to enter where he sees a horseshoe above the door. Or it may be that people feared the powers of the man who could bend iron; the word blacksmith contains the same element as black magic or black arts. Maybe folk who didn't understand the process thought that horseshoes contained some kind of mystical power. Whatever the reason the person who put up all these horseshoes was taking no chances!

In Disguise

The area around Foster's Mill in Cambridge is being redeveloped. Work on the mill itself was delayed by a major fire. But suddenly, overnight, it seems to be finished! But look closely; the blackened building has been hidden by specially painted sheets hung over the walls. What will they think of next?

Dead Ringers II & III

I recently mourned the loss of our rural phone boxes. But new and exciting uses have been found for the now-redundant kiosks. Like the Olympic display cabinet done by Barrington primary school (above) or the mini-library at Wimpole (below). 


When I travelled through the villages of Hatley St George and East Hatley recently I was, unbeknown to me at the time, on the road trod by my ancestors. My learned cousin, who knows about such things, informs me that in 1770 my great-great-great-great-grandparents, William and Susannah, were married in St George's Church, Hatley.

Here Be Dragons!

Meanwhile in Whaddon I stopped to photograph this village sign. It shows a sheaf of grain and a sheep signifying the importance of agriculture to the settlement. It shows the village pump, which you can still see today. It shows an oak bough, which you will understand if you read this post. And it shows a dinosaur! This is a reference to remains that were found nearby. There aren't any around today. Or are there?

Take care, especially if you're in Whaddon!


  1. Another interesting batch of snippets from your travels. The devil and the horseshoe tale is quite new to me.

    I like the idea of libraries in old phone boxes - I going to just enjoy this idylic thought for a few minutes without thinking about the morons who make up a portion of the human race and would ruin the idea in most locations in the country.

    Dinosaurs on town signs :) and I'm sure your getting more than your fair share of blue sky on this blog. I think I might just move south.

  2. Horseshoes images are unique. They really look special in this set. The house on a high elevation strikes stunningly too.

  3. Interesting snippets from the area. I love the little phone box libraries popping up and other uses for them. A great way to keep them going.

  4. Love the devil and the horse shoe tale John and yes if I was a suspicious type I'd have a few up as well (plus some garlic bulbs to keep away the vampires haha) Such a great idea for the unused phone booths and so amazing that they don't get vandalized..or do they?

  5. Another interesting tour. I was especially fascinated by the contrasty between the first and the third photo. The time does not stand still ...

  6. There's a rusty old horseshoe in my yard. I don't know where it came from but I won't throw it away.

  7. The village sign at Whaddon is rather splendid as is the village smithy. As for horseshoes - I found an old horseshoe when I was gardening very soon after we moved here 35 years ago - old and rusty as it is it's been on my porch windowsill ever since. You'll have to go back and have a look inside the church at Hatley - it's always good to tread the same paths as your ancestors.

  8. Another good one, John. Do you know why horseshoes are always mounted with the open end up? I was told it was to keep the luck from running out of them through the open end.


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