Thursday, 9 November 2017

Diversions And Digressions

A few more of the dotty details and hidden histories that add a little spice to any walk in the British Isles.

Deserted, Decayed But Not Quite Destroyed

In the south-west corner of Cambridgeshire there's a cluster of very small villages with populations of less than 200 souls. One of the smallest (though not the least populated as that honour goes to Clopton which is completely deserted) is Shingay. It was not always so insignificant however. In 1144 it became the site of the Preceptory of the Knights Hospitaller who were a military and religious order formed as a result of the Crusades. Their history at Shingay is extremely sketchy though it's thought that there were royal visits, probably because of its proximity to the Old North Road. When the Hospitallers were suppressed in 1540 the buildings continued to be used as the home of the local squire. 

If you want to see what remains of this grand establishment today you can push your way through a hole in the hedge and view the rather overgrown, reedy moat, which these days surrounds nothing but horse-paddocks.

Great White Hope

This fine fellow, wading through Moore's Lake at Fen Drayton bird reserve, is a Great White Egret. A few years ago you'd have been extremely unlikely to have seen one anywhere in Britain, but they're slowly establishing themselves in this country, possibly as a result of global warming.

Thomas The Tank Engine
About 40 years ago two of my cousins from the USA visited and were charmed by the little steam train that was used on road signs to warn drivers that a railway track was crossing the road. Guess what? We still use the little puffer train on our signs today. One day we'll realise that steam has been superseded by diesels and electric trains!

Farmyard Features

It's always worth keeping your eyes open when passing through farmyards (and not just to avoid treading in something unpleasant). Big old threshing barns are now used for other purposes but, if the door is left ajar, you might be able to see the original old beams within. It's not a good idea however to trespass on farm property as there are many dangers from machinery and animals to say nothing of grumpy farmers. But just by standing at the farm gate you might see features like the octagonal building in the picture below...

Sandwiched between cartsheds and cowsheds is an old dovecote from the days when doves were kept on the bigger farms as a source of meat during the long winter months.

The Calm Before The Storm

After 23 years of extreme dullness while the rector of Cockayne Hatley was a man called Bland, they opted for a bit more excitement and appointed the more dashingly named Rev Storm. Though this Storm apparently blew itself out after just 11 years!

Take care.


  1. There wouldn't be much meat on a dove, would there? That dovecote has been lovingly preserved.

  2. We see great white egrets quite often here, they are such elegant birds.

  3. you always have such interesting tidbits of info. pretty pics too.

  4. GWE and cattle egrets being seen more commonly round here, no breeding though

  5. Lol. The Bland before the Storm!

    Such a good news story about the Egret, John.

    Great post.

  6. The vicar names made me chuckle. I came across a church in the States where the pastor was Revd Bliss. It was a pretty village.

  7. I love your diversions and digressions. Always interesting and beautiful!

  8. Interesting tidbits and text John. The train sign is unique.

  9. Hi John - lovely to see and to read ... fun - cheers Hilary

  10. I've really enjoyed your diversions and digressions, great snippets of information:)

  11. Interesting tour as always! Your railroad crossing signs have much more character than ours.

  12. the panel in France by level crossing without barrier or half barrier shows rails and also a steam train also, except that it does not go in the same direction ;)

  13. The barn looks huge! We see a few Great Egrets here, too...anything like that is fun to see.

  14. Egrets are fairly common in my neck of the woods, along with the great blue heron and the little green heron. Bald eagles are being sighted all over the place although I've yet to get lucky. One thing I loved in England was how the roads went right through people's barnyards, very close to the buildings in some cases.


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