Friday, 28 September 2012

Odd Socks

Like odd socks in the drawer these photos are friendless and alone in this world. They have gathered here in an act of solidarity, thrown together by need for company. Please be kind to odd socks everywhere.

"Hi, I started out in life wanting to be part
of a set of pictures.
.I've waited and waited but
no one's come along."

"I'm a little shy about speaking but
I think I can tell my story
with just my hands.
I'm just an old lady who loves wood."

"I'm new around here.
Wanted to be part of a brave new world but
I find myself in Cambridge, England
(of all places!)
And on a blog that's more interested in
fusty old churches."

"Post? Huh, you gotta be kidding!
There's been no post delivered here for years.
Every once in a while some joker
comes along and takes my photo,
Otherwise nothing."

"Summer grasses and grey skies looming.
I presume you've heard
my story before."

"J H Cooper & Son at your service,
in business for 100 years,
ever since Jabez Henry Cooper traded from 
his horse-drawn cart.
Old-fashioned honesty -
a rare commodity in the 
furniture trade."

"Hello, I'm Clare.
I drifted through University,
afloat on the river.
A reliable, fun-loving girl
with a good sense of humour!"

"Just an old church door.
Who would stop
to look at me?"

"Cottages, castles, cathedrals?
I could show you how 
people really live, baby"

"Hi, I started out in life wanting to be part
of a set of pictures.
I've waited and waited
but no one's come along.
So far"

Take care. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Delighted To Meet Edward Conybeare

While the rest of the country has had floods we were treated to a pleasant early autumn day yesterday. It would have been rude not to accept such an invitation to go for a walk. So I set off with no particular plan in mind but soon found myself heading over Chapel Hill towards Barrington.

It would scarcely merit naming as a hill in some parts of the world but in this flat land it affords magnificent far-reaching views on a clear day, especially that kind of clarity that comes after a day of rain. On reaching Barrington I took a peep inside the church.

It was a nice old building with worn stone floors and that deep tranquillity that comes after centuries of worship.

My eye fell upon the list of vicars of the parish, a list that went back to 1347. The first thing I noticed was that one Thomas Finch held the office from 1775 till 1835, that's sixty years! There must be a story there and indeed there was. During his time the church saw a terrible decline, congregations dwindled and the fabric of the building deteriorated. Rev Finch did not even live in the village but on Sundays would ride to the top of Chapel Hill, look down on the church and, unless the church warden signalled to him that there was important business such a Christening or wedding to attend to, he would turn his horse and ride home without so much as setting foot in the parish. The other name that jumped out at me was that of Edward Conybeare; a name I'd heard before and, lets face it, not a name one would easily forget!

In the belfry was another notice. Here's what it says:

            1. The Bells are Holy Instruments dedicated to the Worship of God
and to be used only for His Glory. They must at all times be regarded and used
2. The Ringers obtain a part in the Sacred Ministry of Gods Church and must
behave always as His Ministers should do. 
3. The control of the ringing belongs by Law absolutely to the Vicar and the
Bells may only be used by such persons at such times and in such manner
as he may from time to time appoint.
4. Every ringer is expected to attend any Service for which he comes to ring
and to join devoutly in GODSWorship.
5. Drinking, smoking loud and boisterous talking or jesting and above
all disputing, are most unseemly amongst GODS Ministers in His House
and are hereby forbidden in this Belfry
                                                                                              Signed  December 1876
                                                                                                          Edward Conybeare
                                                                                                              Vicar of Barrington

Goodness knows what outrage prompted such a notice, but there was that man again, Edward Conybeare.

In fact much of the interior of the church as we see it today is attributable to Rev Conybeare for he spent over two thousand pounds of his own money restoring the church and was also persuasive in obtaining funds from elsewhere.

Here is the pulpit from which Conybeare preached. It is seventeenth century but was repaired at the good vicar's expense. And what is that strange object behind the pulpit? A candelabra?

You've guessed it, one of Mr Conybeare's highly original improvements. Much of the stained glass dates from Conybeare's time including one paid for by his five children in thanks for the idyllic upbringing they enjoyed at the vicarage. Their cousin also visited them there; she became better known as the writer Rose Macauley ("Towers Of Trebizond" etc.)

At a time when there was high unemployment in the village Conybeare set the young men to work making the ornate gate to the rood staircase in the church. He supervised this work himself having been taught the technique by a man from a neighbouring village. He also arranged for a better water-supply for the village to be dug by the unemployed men and ditches to be cleaned on the green.

But, (Google to the rescue) the place from which I knew his name was as the writer of an early book about the history of Cambridgeshire, a book which is often quoted in modern books but which I've never read. I'm sure there is much more to learn about the eccentric vicar but for now we'll leave him pedalling his tricycle through the lanes of Barrington with his wife sitting perched on the handlebars. Now is that the way that GODS Ministers should behave?

Take care.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Further Thoughts On "Baulk And Grind"

 Explorations Of Village Footpaths (part the second)

If you haven't read yesterday's post then you really should; otherwise you won't have a clue what I'm talking about!

We'll set out first on a little side road called the Bridle Way. That's exactly what it is nowadays, a route open to horse-riders, but also to walkers and cyclists. At this end, as you can see above, it's also open to cars though it only leads to a handful of houses that have been built alongside. But it was once the road which led from Grantchester to the neighbouring village of Barton. After the Enclosure Acts it was decided not to maintain this track as a proper road. But the right of way was preserved as a bridleway.

While we're here it's worth peering into some of the little paddocks where horses graze. For here is evidence of the old medieval field pattern in the form of ridges and furrows. As the land was ploughed, year after year, the soil became heaped up towards the centre of the strips to form parallel ridges. If you look at the base of the hedge behind the pony you can make out the gentle undulations which are preserved to this day.

Now a medieval horse- or ox-drawn plough is a long and cumbersome piece of equipment which can't be easily turned at the end of each strip; the ploughman had to steer out and then cut in to get the plough around. This practice caused the strips to take on a slightly curved, reverse-S shape. Look at the photo above - the shape of the edge of the old strips has been maintained by the farm track. The strips actually ended in front of the wooden shed; you can just make out a grassy slope where a track used to run at the edge of the old open field system.

When the fields were enclosed at the beginning of the nineteenth century a new road was planned to run towards Coton. That's it above - can you see the gentle undulations in the road surface as it crosses the old ridge and furrow of the open field? Well, I did warn you that these clues were subtle! 

Nearby is another track between fields which isn't a right of way at all though many people treat it as if it were. It's called "The Baulk", as in the title of this post. The name gives away its origin for a baulk was simply the path that existed to give access to the strips in the open fields.

Sometimes these curving baulks have been straightened by modern farming. In the picture above you can just make out a raised hump where the baulk swung off towards the right. 

The path I've just shown you forms a sort of crossroads with a modern-looking farm road. It comes from nearby Barton with a directness which seems to indicate that it's heading somewhere important. Yes, I know I said that the Bridle Way was the road from Barton, well this is another one! The economics of road maintenance has changed somewhat. Nowadays it would be wasteful to have two roads running parallel to one another but in the past when little was spent on the upkeep of roads it was handy to have two tracks; if one became muddy and impassable you simply swapped to the other! Now, where is that track heading?

The concrete road comes to an end but behind the hay-cutte another path continues on the same line. It dives between two thick hedges.

A little further along the village road maintains the same line.

And then it passes through a gap between walls. Modern gardens have encroached on the old road from either side but the right of way is preserved by law so they can't pinch all the land! And where is this track leading us?

To the Millpool, that's where. The route we've been tracing was the old waggon road which brought corn to be ground at the water-powered mill. At some time there must have been a waggoner sitting atop his cart whistling away and little realising that he was on the last waggon that would ever pass this way. 

Oh, yes. "Baulk And Grind". I've still got some explaining to do. The "grind" is "The Grantchester Grind", the footpath that runs from Cambridge through picturesque meadows to Grantchester. It's much favoured by students and tourists - few of whom incidentally notice that they are walking through a well-preserved medieval field system - but that's not who caused the path to be there originally. Newnham, which is now part of Cambridge, was once part of the parish of Grantchester and people would have walked along the path to attend church; it heads straight for the church, in fact.

And many people must stop to gaze down towards the river at this point. And many wander down to the riverbank. But do they realise that they are walking down a path whose original duty was to bear carts carrying milk-churns down to the river where they were stood in the shallows to keep cool till they could be transported down to Cambridge by boat?

Take care.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Baulk And Grind

A Stroll On Village Footpaths (part the first)

When we were boys we roamed all over. Our unofficial map of Grantchester was criss-crossed by dozens of possible routes. For we knew every gap in the hedge, every ditch that could be jumped over, every garden that could be cut across without the owner's knowledge. We wandered by headlands and hedgerows, climbed the churchyard walls and knew every faint track through the trees.

Gradually as we became older our travels close to home became less adventurous and we stuck to the recognised paths. Some of my contemporaries seldom venture from the village roads nowadays, confined as they are to travelling by car. But there is a network of footpaths to explore, quite legally and without fear of trespass, so lets take a wander and discover how this came to be.

Before the landscape settled into its current form there existed a different reality. A reality which had evolved from medieval times. Beyond the tight knot of dwellings and small paddocks which formed the hub of the village there stretched wide, unfenced, hedgeless fields on all sides. These were the medieval open fields which were divided into countless strips of cultivation. A farmer would have strips of land scattered throughout the parish. All very medieval and very inefficient.

All this was swept away and the land reorganised into the present pattern by Acts Of Enclosure (this happened in 1799 in Grantchester) which parcelled up the land into farms with rectangular fields. These same Acts regularised the roads and footpaths in each parish in much the same way as our boyish sorties became whittled down by time and respectability!

The Acts were supposed to preserve the rights of villagers to wander where they had wandered "since time immemorial". They didn't. That would have been impossible; there were just too many possible routes. Occasionally something like the old pattern of paths still exists over small areas of Cambridgeshire and if you ever walk through one of these places, as I have, you'll soon get lost in the intricate maze of paths (as I did!) Elsewhere powerful landowners have exerted their influence so that their estates are without any footpaths at all. But over much of the county a good old British compromise exists.

Did I say "all this was swept away" a couple of paragraphs ago? If it had happened recently it would have been. Bulldozers would have been brought in and memories the medieval would have been erased from the map. But instead subtle nuances of landscape still remain to intrigue and inform the observant wanderer. Come back tomorrow and we'll continue our stroll on these same footpaths - there's much of interest to see on the photographs I've used here. If you're good I'll even explain "Baulk And Grind", the odd title of this piece!

Take care.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Haslingfield Scarecrow Festival (2)

Inspired by The Olympics and our summer of sport... 

Nothing to do with sport but I can't resist putting this one in too..
...just to remind you to...

Take care!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Haslingfield Scarecrow Festival (1)

The village of Haslingfield in Cambridgeshire seems to have a higher percentage of enthusiastic, creative and imaginative people than most other places. And when they organise a Scarecrow Festival you can be sure that many will get behind the project to produce...well, lets take a look...

You'll not be surprised that there were also 
several scarecrows inspired by The Olympics and our
summer of sport; 
I'll show you those soon.

Take care.