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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    and the Yorkshire Dales Her family had castles in Appleby Skipton Brougham Brough and Pendragon plus the famous Barden Tower in Wharfedale not far from Bolton Abbey There is no doubt she infuriated Cromwell who regarded her as a threat to his Commonwealth and in fact he once told her that he would knock down all her castles and homes about her ears She ignored him and continued her work also restoring churches in the district When we arrived the castle was closed to the public due to some dispute between the current owner and English Heritage but it was worth the trip if only to read the notices on the main gate I won t repeat the wording here because it is too long but in a most distinctive manner it highlights the concerns and frustrations of the present owner Lady Anne Clifford was a very generous person helping to educate the young people and also caring for the aged for example part of each of her many homes was a school for the young which she visited regularly She also built almshouses and there is a fine example in the centre of Appleby where the elderly continue to occupy lovely cottages set around a cobbled courtyard The public are invited to pop in for a quick look but they are asked to respect the privacy of the current residents Appleby is also famous for the annual Horse Fair which is held on the second Tuesday and Wednesday of June It had finished just before we arrived and we passed several horse drawn caravans on the roads heading away from Appleby The fair dates to 1685 when James II granted the right for it to be held here It is the oldest and most important gathering of travellers in England When they arrive they assemble on Fair Hill to celebrate their history music and folklore and to trade in their livestock with lots of bartering the horses being washed in the River Eden close to the town centre One surprisingly handsome structure in Appleby is the police station It occupies a building erected in 1771 as the Westmorland County Gaol and is thought to be the oldest continuously occupied law enforcement facility in this country The original building was enlarged during the 18th and 19th centuries and incorporated debtors and felons cells facilities for condemned prisoners prior to their execution of nearby Gallows Hill a treadwheel and the world s first panoptikon a quarter circle of cells that could be viewed simultaneously by a single warder from one location The police station recently featured in a Channel 4 TV programme when the main car park was excavated by archaeologists that was the site of the original cells and treadwheel house Local police officers are trying to increase public interest in this police station hoping that it will become more customer friendly As with any town or village the churches are of interest St Lawrence s has a tower which

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-062005.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    from wood bells to crows legs In woodlands around this region it can now be seen among the trees although it does thrive in other places such as our coastal regions open scrubland mountains and along our hedgerows It grows from a white bulb with its head of several blue flowers hanging to one side from a single stem which bows slightly at the top tall slender leaves grow around the stem and the bluebell s height can range from about eight or nine inches up to about eighteen inches 20 50cm or so The bluebell is protected by law and digging up the bulbs is a criminal offence a few years ago three convicted criminals were caught digging up more than 7 000 bluebell bulbs and were fined It seems however that picking the flowers does not cause a great deal of harm A bluebell plant can survive without its flowers but the problem arises when people stand on its leaves and crush them The bluebell depends upon its leaves for food and when they are crushed the plant will die The bluebell does not appear in floral histories of this country before 1548 it grew in countries bordering the Atlantic and was not known in either Greece or Rome and so the early herbalists did not consider it important They ignored it even though it grew in profusion here long before 1548 when it was known as crowtoes or perhaps crawtrees in the north It did have some use however The white bulbs were used to make a glue and the plant also produced starch this being used to stiffen the fashionable and very elaborate collars or ruffs worn in Elizabethan times There seems to have been little or no value in the bluebell as a herb it

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-052005.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    of St Tibertius and in some parts of the north gardeners always planted their potatoes on Cuckoo Day One old adage tells us that the cuckoo sings from St Tibertius Day until St John s Day St John s Day being June 24 otherwise known as Midsummer Day The cuckoo s stay in Britain is fairly short and it does not sing throughout the whole of that period It appears that the male announces his arrival by shouting cuckoo cuckoo repeatedly from a high vantage point while his mate s call is more of a bubbling note but those calls become fewer and fewer as the weeks pass By summer we might not hear them at all because the cuckoo may leave these shores as early as July Here in the north the cuckoos are almost certain to have left by then although a very small number might linger until September in the south of England Not surprisingly there was a lot of superstition about the arrival of the cuckoo I ve known old folks turn the money in their pockets at the first sound of the cuckoo this being thought a sign of good fortune If you turned your money at the cuckoo s shout then you would acquire wealth during the year if you made a wish at the same time it would be granted Some thought it lucky if the cuckoo s call was to one s right or to the front but if it was behind or to one s left then bad fortune could be expected In some areas it was thought that if you were looking at the ground when you first heard the cuckoo then you would be dead within a year The Welsh thought that a child born on the day the

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-042005.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    well which is one of four in the village was dedicated to his memory it can be found near the bridge It was that clean pure and fresh water which made wells so important In ancient times and into our medieval past the drinking water of our forebears was often dangerously impure due to a lack of sanitation and care but water from deep wells was pure This made it very special because the people thought it cured all manner of ailments In fact the water was probably not always curative What happened was that it did not make them sick or ill Because people could drink it without becoming ill the pagans thought it was magical and some believed it was the dwelling place of a god For this reason wells became places of pilgrimage with sick people trekking long distances in the hope of a cure When they arrived they tried to influence the resident god of the well by placing precious things in the water things which he or she might find useful This could be anything from coins pins crockery buttons or flowers and greenery as they were thrown in the thrower expressed his or her hopes Those wishful hopes might be anything from wanting good health to finding a life time companion or even becoming rich and by drinking the water which often contained health giving minerals such desires were sometimes granted This served only to enhance the reputation of these sacred wells and it is not surprising some were considered able to grant miracles Those places were holy wells of pagan times granting wishes and helping people to become healthier One must assume that the presence of such gifts in the precious water did not foul it but when Christianity came to these islands

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-032005.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    deliciously thick rashers of the best ham or other meat eaten with fried eggs mushrooms black puddings fried bread and anything else that took your fancy It was the last truly big feast before Lent during which all the good things were eaten up The following day was Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday That s when you made pancakes and ate them with all the sweet and yummy things from the larder which wouldn t keep until the end of the Lenten period As it was forbidden by the church to eat eggs during Lent they all went into the pancake batter Another final feast before the big fast However before sitting down to eat the pancakes religious folk went to church to confess their sins and then be shriven Shriven meant they received absolution from the priest In this way they were shrove hence Shrove Tuesday Church bells would ring to announce the feast of pancakes and the merrymaking would begin In some areas the pancake bell still rings to announce the beginning of pancake races football games and other activities The people of Olney in Buckinghamshire claim that their pancake race is over 500 years old The story goes that a lady was so engrossed in her pancake making that when she heard the shriving bell she ran to church in her apron still clutching her frying pan Pancake bells are still rung and pancake races are held in many places in England Scarborough hosts a Shrove Tuesday skipping race and London s Westminster School observes the tossing of pancakes with great solemnity The cook tosses a massive pancake over a 16 foot high bar which separates the upper and lower schools and the boys scramble for it The one who grabs the largest piece gets a prize

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-022005.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    Offa made reference to stiles in AD 779 while in 1546 there was a note about helping a dogge ower a style along with a later proverb which advised people to look over the hedge before they leapt over the stile It is very likely that the first stiles were invented as a means of necessity Probably when livestock owners first enclosed their animals in a field they realised they would require easy access to the animals whilst at the same time preventing their escape The most simple solution was the basic V shape stile narrow at the bottom and wider at the top to allow access by a man or woman and even a dog but too narrow to admit horses cattle or probably sheep These are plentiful in our modern countryside even if they do vary in the materials from which they are made Some are fashioned from wood whilst others are made from either stone or slate but they are not easily accessed by large people or those bearing bulky backpacks Not surprisingly an alternative name is the squeezer Another very simple device doubtless in use from the earliest times was the protruding stone or plank of wood which served as a step when it was built into a fence or wall Some of these took the form of two cross pieces one higher than the other and pointing in different directions to provide a miniature staircase while another very basic idea was a stout ladder type series of steps over a high wall or even a dyke As estates became larger so these sturdy steps became very popular and they could also be negotiated by dogs or with men carrying shotguns Dogs have great difficulty in negotiating simple stiles and on some of my country walks

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-012005.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    pinewoods smell but the sparks will fly Beech logs for Christmas time yew logs heat so well Scotch logs it is a crime for anyone to sell Birch logs will burn too fast chestnut scarce at all Hawthorn logs are good to last if cut in the fall Holly logs will burn like wax you should burn them green Elm logs like smouldering flax no flame to be seen Pear logs and apple logs they will scent your room Cherry logs across the dogs smell like flowers in bloom But ash logs all smooth and grey burn them green or old Buy up all that come your way they re worth their weight in gold The clear message here is that ash is by far the best timber for our log fires while the wood of fruit trees will produce a pleasant scent in the room and that of conifers will send sparks flying Elm is probably the worst because it smoulders with little or no heat indeed one verse says is like churchyard mould I have another verse which reads Birch and fir logs burn too fast blaze up bright and do not last Make fire of an elder tree death within your house you ll see It is by the Irish said hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread But ash green and ash brown is fit for a Queen with golden crown Yet another verse says that ash wet or ash dry is fit for a queen to warm her slippers by while poplar gives a bitter smoke which fills your eyes and makes you choke It seems that lime will make an excellent firewood too provided it has been cut and stacked for three or four months So far as the elder tree is concerned this used to

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-122004.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    grandeur can only be seen from the bosom of the lake and so we took a short cruise from Bowness to Ambleside to take in some of the splendid vistas that inspired the poet One of the regular sights on Windermere is the ferry which carries vehicles and people across the lake from The Nab just south of Bowness to a point below Near Sawry on Claife Heights The first mention of a ferry on Windermere is probably 1454 when one crossed the lake at its widest point some distance to the north A tragedy occurred in 1635 when 47 people drowned as the boat capsized after a wedding at Hawkshead and the ferry also features in a folk tale Even at the time of this tragedy the ferry was a rowing boat which carried passengers only no vehicles The ferryman would respond to a shout of Ferry when anyone wanted to cross but after this tragedy it was a long time before any ferryman dared to respond They were afraid of the Crier of Claife a fearsome spectre which lived on Claife Heights and which would falsely call for the ferry so that the crew and passengers would meet their death Needless to say we didn t call for the ferry to return us to Windermere Bowness and the adjoining town of Windermere have merged until they are almost inseparable and both owe their popularity to the railway When the line from London to Carlisle was being built in 1847 it was decided to build a branch line from Oxenholme to Keswick but this was never completed and the line stopped at Birthwaite a village overlooking Windermere Then because few passengers associated Birthwaite with Lake Windermere it was decided to rename the station Windermere and so it remains today

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-112004.html (2016-02-17)
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