Tuesday 31 May 2022


One afternoon, some years ago, I fell into conversation with an elderly gent out walking his rather reluctant dog. Somehow he ended up telling me about some houses that used to stand among the nearby fields, some distance from any road and only reachable on foot. "All gone long ago", he added.

When I got home I found some old maps online and there they were on the 1901 map, perhaps ten cottages in what were now agricultural fields. Of course I couldn't stop there; I had to comb the map for more forgotten details. I found that a track that I follow regularly was known as Huckles Lane. Maybe some locals still use the name, I don't know.

It's hardly a lane any more, and nobody now uses it to reach any isolated dwellings, but it's still a right of way for walkers, so it just about remains open.

If this little caterpillar and his mates have their way the encroaching vegetation will have a fight on its hands. This is the caterpillar of the Ermine Moth. They cover trees and bushes with this cobwebby material to discourage birds from feeding on them, then proceed to strip the tree of its foliage. This particular type feeds on Spindle trees and, devastating though it appears, the trees usually recover and grow new leaves later in the year.

There's a wide variety of trees along here which usually indicates an ancient hedgerow. That's pretty much what I'd expect; the Huckles (or Huckyls) lived in the village back in the thirteenth century. Perhaps they had a farm down here. Anyway their name was patiently passed down through generations of farmers - "George, take they sheep down Huckles Lane to graze on the moor".

And there are still sheep to be found grazing on the moor every summer. That sign, blowing in the wind on the side gate, says as much - "Dog owners, the sheep are back, keep your dog on a lead".

Another of the fields just off the lane contains a field of flax this year. It's probably being grown for its seeds containing linseed oil, which is nowadays is mostly used in the food industry.

It forms a smoky blue background for this fieldside poppy.

But this is where the old cottages once stood. This year it seems to have been left fallow, and wildflowers are springing up all over.

Although it wasn't my aim when I set out this morning, I couldn't resist following the footpath around the perimeter of the field.

I had no intention of tramping all over the field, even though it's not in full production this year; once one person does it then others follow and soon it becomes a complete mess. Instead I used a long lens, which I hope gave me some of the dreamy, impressionistic look that I was after.

Then I was off down the lane again, in the footsteps of ploughmen, shepherds, cottagers, blackberry-pickers and the old chap who was, a few years back, walking his reluctant dog.

Take care.

Friday 27 May 2022

Any Way The Wind Blows

Weather vanes are a popular decorative feature of many buildings in the UK, from church spires to garden sheds. Maybe some people glance at them to see the wind direction, though many appear to be stuck in one position. Some are purchased from suppliers offering a wide range of designs, while others seem to be one-off do-it-yourself projects. Here's a selection collected over the last three years.

Take care.

Sunday 22 May 2022

Two Fields

The two "fields", in this case, are the villages of Great Bardfield and Finchingfield, which we visited recently. We had a quick wander around each village to enjoy some of their beauty and quirkiness.

Great Bardfield gives the impression that it once had ambitions to be a small town, and in different circumstances could have expanded into a modest hub for the surrounding villages. However things went in the other direction and there's evidence of many former pubs and shops now converted to dwellings. Commerce's loss has been beauty's gain.

That little building in the last picture is The Cage, the old village lock-up, where minor miscreants could be detained overnight till they either sobered up or could be dealt with by the local magistrates. The half-timbered building in photo number 7 had a sign on it claiming that it dates from 1325. Its official listing confirms that it dates, in part at least, from the fourteenth century. I don't know why anyone would have a life-size model of a deer in their window!

Finchingfield is a very different settlement, being much more haphazard in its general plan and gathered around a central green and duck-pond. It attracts far more tourists than Great Bardfield, especially in mid-summer. There are also many former pubs here - they must have been an extraordinarily thirsty lot around here in times gone by!

For anyone visiting the area, by all means go to Finchingfield, but get there mid-morning, mid-week, to avoid the crowds. But it's also worth exploring many of the villages hereabouts. Many are part of The One-Hundred Parishes, an unofficial body aimed at increasing appreciation of the villages in this little-known corner of Essex, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.

Take care.