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An itinerant observer and thinker about life in general, sharing some moments of wandering and wonderment.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


Old Dafad here is struggling a bit with all that I have had to face over the last months trying to get this place sorted out and so the last weekend I just needed a break so took the daft dog for a short walk behind the village on a track we've not been before. The now old gold of harvested fields is starting to turn green again after the recent rain. As I drive round locally there is not a bale to be seen they have all been safely stored and what like houses mad of straw are appearing around all the farmsteads locally. Good winter bedding. Now the tractors are out and ploughing ready for the next crop sowing. Ah but what will it be, we shall see as the seasons change again.
A friend of mine was chopping logs for autumnal fires when the chopping log, literally fell apart and we found this ...
insect nibbled little tracks right under the bark but in amongst the softer wood, these ...
ugly little critters aren't they. They are stag beetle grubs which got fed to the chickens
all part of the free range proteins needed for better quality of hen and subsequently eggs.
Methinks that the ducks on the village pond might have liked a few too. >>>
These new ones are slowly getting used to the dog trying to say hello as he used to do with the old ones that were on the pond. They will come closer now and give out tentative, questioning quacks almost as if to ask "Are you safe?"
All around the village green there are falling leaves. Kids & parents have been shaking the branches of the horse chestnut trees, hoping to find shiny brown conkers inside those spikily armoured shells.

<<< along the back lane as the sun was just starting to set, the sinking rays were casting golden highlights onto some of the foliage like this ivy growing alongside and old back entrance door. Sadly where there were almost wild plums ripening along a part of the hedgerow, the council had been along there with hedge cutters and there was a total wastage of free fruit just lying on the ground alongside blackberries and sloes. One would think that they would have had the common sense to leave them for hedge foraging walkers. What a waste of fruit!
On the old "widershins" (meaning the wrong way round) weathervane, evening sun was highlighting the back drop behind it, causing a dark,  stark silhouette. There are no insect hunting swifts in the evenings now, they have sensibly headed off to warmer climes and will be in Africa for the winter as will other migrating birds such as swallows, house martins and cuckoos. Lucky them!
To end the evening, the sky  seemed to be on fire ... and all those thoughts of logs burning in an open grate, I hope my log chopping friend will have a warm cosy winter. Old brown logs and new golden flames to cheer up the bleak, dank and cold autumn and on the long  winter nights ahead.  May they be cosy and comforting.

Friday, 20 September 2013


<<< Just one depiction of The Green Man. He has many variations and is depicted in various forms around the world as a symbol of rebirth and regrowth come spring time. Now the one shown left, was until today "living here" but this afternoon he went on his travels to adorn the door of a Yurt that a friend of mine is currently building. A friend of years came to visit me and has already constructed the skeleton of his Yurt. Now for those of you that don't know, it is a portable, bent dwelling structure ( rather like a moveable tent but more rigid) and the word yurt originates from the Turkic word describing the imprint such a dwelling leaves on the ground. Probably most folk associate the image of this circular "tent" with Mongolian dwellings as Yak herders in that part of the world are well documented but in Mongolian they are known as a "Ger". They are easily moveable and complete construction takes approximately just two hours.
Anyway I digress as regular readers of my blog know I often do, he came to stay overnight. We caught up on how all his kids are doing, what he plans for the future etc etc and it was lovely to share an evening of singing and him playing guitar. Songs old and new and talk of the past and both our hopes for the future.
Now ... he asked me what the local sloes were like as he has for many years now been making sloe gin. It just so happened that I have just recently spotted a hedgerow, heavily laden with these somewhat bitter fruits. We had a grand time filling two carrier bags full of almost soft to the touch fruits. Now as I have mentioned before, it is traditional to wait for the first frosts to soften the fruits before pricking each individually and then soaking them in gin, until the liquid turns a dark luscious red. But ... with the modern freezer, one can cheat natures way a little and if one cannot afford that much gin at this time of year, one can always start another batch early next year.so, if you've never tried it, look on-line for recipes, it is really simple to make and just delicious  and  ... a lot of folk I know cannot leave it a year to mature. It is too tasty to wait for as long as a year. 
That was just one sign of autumn fast approaching encroaching upon us ...
I found my very first conker of the year just the other day in lovely St Mary's churchyard.
and here just under the oak tree I came across the first boletus (an edible fungi)
But sadly, mouse or slug nibbled before  I discovered it in amongst the acorns just falling.
But today to my delight the local mill was open so I was able to take my friend for a tour.
As I have mentioned before this mill celebrates 200 years and fully restored is working
though sadly not today as there was not enough wind power to get the sails turning.
But even so, it is fascinating to see the inner wooden gearings of this old mill.
They have just started grinding spelt wheat alongside the normal white & wholemeal.
My friend bought a bag of locally ground spelt to bake into bread for his family.
So ... a lovely visit. It is always good to catch up with old friends.
And ... another chance to photograph this lovely old mill, which has just had a new grindstone fitted, they just need wind enough to test it to see how it works.
Organically, wind powered milling. I think the Green Man would approve!.

Sunday, 15 September 2013


Hello folks, it is hard to believe that a week has gone by since my last post written when it was fairly sunny, & reasonably dry, though the weather at the Steam Rally was a bit cool.
<<< I didn't see this old bus there, but it might have been. This photo was taken in July on the village green here, anyway I've added it it today because of the link between old vehicles and the weather and just because it has the word dew on the back of it.
And yes these last mornings have been dew heavy or rain sodden as the weather has changed and the temperatures so high for so long this summer have plummeted as I sit here in early evening, it is cold.

August was lovely a really sunny month with masses of blooms appearing all over local gardens and in the hedgerows too. There were acres of golden fields stretching as far as the eye could see and the harvest began in earnest to get all the grain gathered and the straw  baled to make sure it was in and safely stored for the long autumnal and winter months that face us through until next year.
In the garden here there were masses of butterflies and bees covering the headily scented heads of such blossoms as the buddleia and hundreds of wasps feeding greedily on the early fallen apples which fruited very heavily this year.

The daft dog amused himself in the garden whilst I was trying to sort the garden shed out and generally tidy up around the place and all was sun gold, calm, warm and peaceful.
And then the weather began to change as greyish skies started to loom overhead.
Walking the footpaths that edge along the dykes, teazles were standing in bare headed clusters,
whilst in all of the hedgerows hips and haws were fast turning into rich autumnal reds and the blackberries were hanging in juicy large deep purple clusters bringing forth such lovely thoughts of wonderful winter warming deserts and lots of pots full of home made jam.

Then shortly after that dry walk along the fen dyke, the weather really changed. On came the lead heavy skies and the rain began in earnest. Within just a few days the fields were too sodden to plough and in the orchard here, apples were falling fast as they got bombarded with large water droplets like miniature bullets firing the fruit off the boughs.
Even the wasps were taking cover somewhere, as indeed were we, it was just too wet to be out and indoors the temperature plummeted as the wind picked, up blowing around the house and seeming to suck all the warm air out of it, so that extra jumpers were needed.
I managed a short walk with the dog, the first time I've worn wellies for ages and overnight the change in the scenery was quite dramatic. The paths were all littered with masses of leaves in all different browns, golds and greens. Even as I write this the noise of the rain that has started again ... is loud on the window panes.  Autumn has truly arrived.

Monday, 9 September 2013


I've just been looking through the photographs taken yesterday and ... as not much exciting happened here today, I thought it worth sharing some more antiques with you all.
I suppose that this gives a whole new meaning to the title "Antiques Road Show"!
Take this wonderful old 1921 Burrell Showans Engine, aptly named "Pride of the Fens".
And built even earlier than the Burrell by ten years, a Stanhope 5.5 horsepower vehicle.
Which is larger than the smallest BMW motor that I have ever seen! 
I guess that puts the old much laughed at Reliant Robin into a whole new light. Take the mickey out of this little old, red but roadworthy beastie Jeremy Clarkson!
The above caught my eye because years ago I lived in Linton as a child and never saw this very elegant liveried old delivery truck. Sadly I couldn't find the owner to enquire about it.
Another one grabbed my attention too, because Pauls Animal Feed supliers still exist and one can still spot them on to-days roads and motorways wearing the same colour livery.
Just before we were due to leave, a Farmall Cub was being loaded ready to return home to Saffron Walden, a place I know from my youth. The owner it turned out was a thatcher almost due to retire but working with his daughter. A very skilled job indeed and there are very few expert thatchers around now. He has been in the trade for 42 years  but is looking forward to his retirement and no doubt will be enjoying renovating old machines.
Earlier in the day, an old Kendall tractor was driving round the show ring, it is owned by the guy that did up Matilda, for her 50th birtday, the Landrover that I first travelled in as a two week old baby. Sadly she was stolen a few years ago and after being used in a burglary, was burnt out. More on that another day, but she was a very sad loss to us.
However, those sad memories laid aside the Steam Rally was a joy to go to.
It was a grand day, enjoyed by us all and the children of the family I went with had a good time especially seeing their Grandad drive round the ring on his lovely restored tractor.
 I managed to capture Dad and the kids all with beaming happy faces, a wonderful day.
and just as we were leaving, this number plate caught my eye ... why?
Because many years ago I was on the staff of 642 Gliding School. 
All in all, so many memories of happy, youthful days.
Old Dafad is getting sentimental in old age.

Sunday, 8 September 2013


Well hello folks, what a brilliant day, I went to the 40th anniversary of the Haddenham Steam Rally I have tried to work out the last time I went to it and to my amazement worked out that it was about 20 years ago. How time flies as the years sadly pass us by!
But seeing as I was back up here, I was determined to go and ended up transporting a local family who are very good friends and oh my goodness what a fun day we had there.
<<< This was in the finishing stages as we arrived. Done by one of those amazing wood carvers that use a chain saw to produce seemingly intricate work with a speed that almost defies the eye. I had quite a long chat with him about wood carving for outdoors and he recommended Danish Oil as it "moves with the wood" I personally use a 50/50 mix of teak & linseed oil and then when the wood has soaked it all up & "sweated" I wipe it off and treat it with a good quality beeswax. So, before I had started on things steamy, I had learned something new and useful for the future like using French Polish for my sticks so that the wood shines but breathes.

There was just so much to see and by the end of the day I had taken 150 photographs, so what to choose? It was a hard call, as the day progressed I was so enthralled by all that was going on and to see all those amazing steam engines and the agricultural equipment from the past years of farming, it was just a fascinating, fun day. This >>> 
appealed to me as I was once based near Newquay.
It was on the side of an old truck, but there were other signs too ...

& ... 
Just note the phone number at the end of the above. It is on the last tractor you will see as you read down, just before the Merry Go Round. It is a strange looking beast.
You see, these are the tiny details that mean a lot to me, so where you may ask are the big steaming machines, be patient they were there in great numbers and oh boy that smell!
One just cannot beat the sound of a traction engine bringing up steam, it's a great noise.
Also that unique scent of coal fired energy that fires up inside these solidly built machines.
For me and older generations it brought back many memories but what fascinated me was the kids reaction of excitement when the saw these old leviathans still moving having been lovingly restored by their owners. It really is a great experience for old and young alike and just to prove it, here is a photo of a young lad steering a lovely old engine.
His face as he managed to park it neatly in line was just a delight, he was so very chuffed!
The sound as these old yet still much admired machines came off the show ground all blowing their whistles and grimy faces grinning with white smiles it was quite simply heart warming and that unique steam, grease and oil smell that hung in the afternoon air,
an engineers perfume!
Such unique sights and smells and just wonderful to be amongst so many of them.
All around the show ground there were engines restored and yet still able to work hard,
for instance the stone crushing where yes men had to manually feed it but ...
can you imagine the back breaking work involved in making hard core for roads or other foundations had this all been simply crushed down by hand. Steam power was revolutionary, making so many tasks that much easier, however ... as always with "modern" technological improvements, it also put a lot of men out of work. The tractor most certainly did that when it arrived on the scene. Suddenly a lot of manual labourers were made redundant. Gone were the horsemen, blacksmiths, cart-wrights  leather workers, stable boys and farmhands. Machinery became king with no need for the many servants that the old ways provided for due to need of man power.
Or for that matter "horse power" a term made popular in the 18th century by the famous James Watt who compared the use of steam power output to that of the old draft horses.
<<< of which there were a few on show in the ring today but when you think of how many hundreds of years that the horse had been tamed, cross bred
for strength and relied upon to do heavy work that made life easier for man and then came the age of steam. Thousands of folk across this country alone, lost their jobs ...  farriers, blacksmiths, saddlers, leather workers, carters, even the humble stable boys who just mucked out and groomed. And yet, to some small degree, especially in conservation aware forestry, the placid horse is making a comeback because it causes less damage to the lower level ecological systems than heavy plant machinery does. Hurrah for the horse! Meanwhile back into nostalgia zone and that of old tractors ...
Some (and they were in the minority) were definitely in need of some tender loving care and ... sadly money.
It takes a lot of money to restore of these >>>
seemingly, worthless, rusty old heaps to blazing glory, but ... there are still blessedly those out there who care and it was lovely today to see so many of the younger generations who have no memory of these lovely old machines actually working yet still want to renovate them lovingly and drive them. Poor old "YUK" >>>
she needs someone with love, time & money to bring her back to full working glory! Like these ...

I've never seen a Fordson like the one below before but apparently it was designed to be "lighter footed" on the land. The experiment was not very successful & the design got dropped.Thank goodness at least one remains, lovingly restored to working order.
And just lastly for a bit of fun, though it has been years since I rode on one, this ...
A fully steam powered Merry go Round and as I overheard an old boy say ... 
 "Tiz a long time since I' been one one of they."
Hmm ... me too. Goodnight folks after a long but fun, steam filled day.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


After the long, summer hot days when the local farmers worked long hard hours trying to get the massive acres of grain harvest in and then get the residual straw baled we were due rain. The land had dried up into fissures and cracks & the water butts here were low.
Two days ago with the much welcome wet stuff due in overnight, it was a swelteringly hot day with that clinging humid closeness that one gets heading a weather front. 
We went out for an evening walk chasing the sunset just as a light breeze cooled the sweltering air.
How about that for a bit of parking on the village high street! >>>
The swifts were circling low catching the insects up above. Good luck to them, they are due to migrate very soon and have a 14.000 mile journey ahead of them. That's 22.000 kms. and one of the longest migratory routes in the world. Isn't it amazing that such small creatures as swifts, swallows & house martins will do those distances twice a year.
The sunset was worth waiting for and as the days dust settled on the land I could  hear the Muntjac deer calling in the fen. They are also called Barking Deer and indeed in the twilight can seem like large dogs as the mad mutt discovered when he first came here. He chased a couple until he got the scent of them, stopped stock still and just sniffed the air with a very puzzled look on his face. Tee-hee!
Roe & Muntjac deer are very common here and one sees their hoof prints everywhere along the dyke edges but they are a pest, not just to arable farmers but gardeners too. I've seen them here usually at night ... shadows in the gloom.

The much welcome rain, arrived before morning, so waking to that fresh smell of newly washed foliage was just wonderful.
We headed off in the afternoon as I had a Docs appointment. Whilst waiting for my prescription to be made up I took the daft dog for a gentle stroll around part of the village.
Down a rain-damp, shady lane the hedgerows were just hanging with ripening fruit.
 Heavily drooping clusters of elderberries all going to waste, they make wonderful wine and an excellent winter cordial with cloves, ginger and other spices, great for colds & flu.
Traditionally the sloes are picked after the first frosts which soften the fruit but with our modern home freezers it is possible to be impatient and cheat when making sloe gin.
Somebody however had obviously been blackberry gathering ...
I like Burwell, it is a lovely village with lots of interesting things in it and an Historical Society that places plaques on sites of interest that are just a delight to come across
like these two.
 There is also a fascinating book "BURWELL A Stroll Through History" written by Heather Richardson. It is full of wonderful old black & white photographs and many locally sourced  historical gems.
There is also a museum, that I have yet to visit but it was lovely to see this sight ...
The new cap of St Stevens' windmill looking bright white against a sullen lead grey sky.
It was staring to rain again.
I have just checked on the Burwell Museum website where there is a lot of information about this last remaining mill in the village, built in 1820. There is also a"Windmill Project Blog" with interesting photographs of the raising of the cap which happened on the 29th August this year. I know that earlier in the year they had to wait for the weather to be calmer to remove the old sails and cap. It will be just wonderful to see it all completed.
Heading back ... getting wet again ... I noticed this ...
a droplet decorated rose with the most heavenly scent. Absolutely lovely.
But there was one more thing that caught my eye that amused me.
Who thought that one up? I pity any new postie that has to deliver mail here.