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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    a yew could be everlasting as well as evergreen but its age can be calculated or perhaps estimated by measuring the girth of the trunk In 1796 the Fortingall yew s girth was more than fifty feet and a girth of only forty feet means a yew is 5 600 years old A ten foot girth means 250 years of age a fifteen foot girth means 500 years 20 foot girth means 1 000 years 25 foot means 1 400 years and 30 foot equates with 2 500 years But these ages can only be approximate due to vagaries of climate location and the tree s individual lifestyle It is highly probable therefore that some of our existing yew trees were growing long before Christianity came to these shores We must also remember that lots have been deliberately destroyed for various reasons although one must wonder whether the old root systems of those lost trees have survived So why were churches built so close to yew trees often with the yew on the north side of the building The answer is that ancient peoples regarded the yew as a sacred tree probably due to its evergreen foliage or even because it appeared to defy death It has been revered for thousands of years with Druids and the Celts in particular regarding it as a holy plant For those who respected or even worshipped the yew for religious reasons it made sense to site their places of worship close to the tree and so they did Many such sites were established close to yew trees When Pope Gregory sent Augustine to England to convert the English and become the first Archbishop of Canterbury he was advised not to destroy the old pagan temples but to re use them as Christian churches

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-102004.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    infant Pontius Pilate played beneath this tree He was the son of a Roman officer and a local girl but was taken back to Rome to later achieve a dubious kind of fame That story has never been proved false We took another step into the past by visiting a crannog a type of ancient loch dwelling found in Ireland and Scotland Some 5 000 years ago crannogs were built off shore as defensive homesteads and accommodated extended families and their livestock They were built and occupied until as late as the 17th century Modern underwater archaeologists have found the remains of several crannogs with remarkably fresh remains such as plants utensils food and even cloth all preserved in the cold peaty water There was even an ancient butter dish with the butter still adhering to the inside and lots of hazel nut shells and cherry stones The crannog we visited is a reconstruction on Loch Tay near Kenmore It is circular with a thatched and steeply sloping roof It has been built using an ancient and authentic method of construction on alder and oak piles driven into the bed of the loch The floor is made from alder the walls are of wattle and the roof thatched with reeds inside the floor is covered with bracken there is a central fireplace on stones and sleeping compartments both at floor level and aloft Built several feet above water level it is approached by a gangway part of which can be raised like a drawbridge for defensive reasons The crannog is open to the public and as well as tours there is a hands on opportunity to try your hand with an ancient lathe simple spinning grinding grain with a millstone or best of all making fire by rubbing sticks together easier than you think if you know how The Iron Age dwellers did know how and were masters at inventing simple tools and methods for their everyday needs There are lots of crannogs under Scottish lochs 15 in Loch Tay alone and many sites can be identified because they now form tree covered islands Some are currently being excavated to reveal astonishing evidence of the ancient past We then visited the Ben Lawers nature reserve Ben Lawers 1214 metres high is a massive mountain overlooking Loch Tay You can take in the slopes of Beinn Ghlas on the way up This mountain range is known for its rare wild flowers and is unique in that the higher slopes have been fenced off against deer and sheep I know of no other mountain which is protected in this way but the outcome is that gentians alchemilla mollis Cerastium and alpines flourish along with a variety of mosses and ferns And the bilberries are wonderful One feature of these mountains apart from their Gaelic names is the number of shielings on the slopes These are clusters of small stone shelters with thatched or stone roofs Shepherds used them and still use them

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-092004.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    interest not only with the spectacular birds and breathtaking views but also with a range of wild flowers butterflies and the possibility of spotting seals and porpoises at sea The best time for seeing the birds is between April and August when they are breeding but any visit to this fascinating place is memorable Tragically the number of kittiwakes that nest on these cliffs have had their worst breeding season since monitoring began in 1985 This year s figures show that only one chick out of every four or five nests is surviving and the numbers are down from 45 000 chicks to 8 000 This is being blamed on the fact that the sand eel population has dropped dramatically Sand eels are small silver fish which lie buried just below the seabed and are a vital food source for the kittiwake In turn the sand eels feed on plankton but as the temperature of the North Sea rises the plankton which is the food source of the sand eels is moving further north to cooler waters and the sand eel population is migrating with it Another factor is that the birds on Bempton Cliffs breed at the same time as the sand eels are being taken by fishermen The oil of sand eels is used to power electricity producing generators and agricultural feed but because of the risk to the sea bird population there is now pressure to impose a ban on sand eel fishing in certain areas of the North Sea This situation is not confined to Bempton Cliffs as breeding sites in Lincolnshire and East Anglia have also been affected and in the Orkneys and Shetlands the situation is at crisis level A spokesman for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee in Aberdeen says that â this is

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-082004.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    the first to kiss the new bride Apparently there was the occasional dispute about this as some vicars claimed the privilege because it was they who tied the proverbial knot Whether the act of kissing the bride was a nationwide practice is rather uncertain but it appears to have been widespread in the north i e Scotland County Durham and the North Riding of Yorkshire in particular In the area around Stokesley and Guisborough it appears the person who gave away the bride was the one who could exercise this privilege whilst in County Durham it was the vicar who claimed the right although it was not unknown for some Yorkshire vicars to enjoy the custom In his book Folk Lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders published in 1866 William Henderson tells two delightful stories about kissing the bride One was in Yorkshire when the clergyman who was a stranger to the county found the wedding party waiting around outside the church after the ceremony as if expecting something else to happen When he asked what they were waiting for the new bridegroom said Please sir you haven t kissed Molly Henderson does not tell us whether or not he obliged The second tale concerns a bride from County Durham who got married in the south of England After the ceremony she expected the vicar to be the first to kiss her and was very surprised when he didn t Not to be outdone however she strode up to him and planted a handsome kiss upon a rather surprised clergyman I ve no doubt he thought there were some funny folks up north So far as Scotland is concerned it seems the custom was not restricted to either the vicar or the man who gave away

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-072004.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    250 acres of parkland it was transformed from a red brick Tudor mansion to the Gothic fantasy it is today but in addition to his writing Lord Lytton also found time to be MP for St Ives and Lincoln a cabinet minister and founder of Queensland and British Columbia He is also said to have written the first crime novel and the house remains a family home From Knebworth we visited the market town of St Albans where we saw a clock tower which was built between 1403 and 1412 now the only medieval town belfry in England It was permitted to sound its own hours and curfew and the original bell known as Gabriel is still in place The town itself is considerably older for its origins date to Roman times when the city was founded as Verulamium Verulamium Park is now a beautiful attraction on the edge of the town and there is a stylish Roman museum too plus a Roman theatre on Bluehouse Hill the only one of its period currently open to visitors in Britain There are other museums too including one specialising in organs and another displaying Mosquito aircraft We found plenty to see and do in St Albans but pride of place must go to the splendid Cathedral It stands on a hill which has been the site of Christian worship since Saxon times and in fact some of the bricks from which it is built came from the old Roman city of Verulamium The mighty church owes its origins to St Alban He was a pagan a prominent citizen in Verulamium when Christians were being persecuted and he sheltered a priest called Amphibalus After talking to the priest Alban converted to Christianity and helped Amphibalus to escape but Alban was caught and condemned

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-052004.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    1818 If the present system is maintained it will not happen again until 2285 The last time Easter Sunday fell on its latest date April 25 was in 1943 In England prior to AD 664 there existed two methods of calculating the date of Easter One was the system used in the rest of the Christian world and which had been introduced here by St Augustine who was sent by the Pope to be our first Archbishop of Canterbury This was the Roman method and it was used widely in the south of England The Celtic branch of the church which had been established in the north by St Columba used a slightly different system This meant there were two different dates for Easter in this country and the problem was highlighted when King Oswy of Northumbria married Queen Eanflaed of Kent She was a southerner while he was a northerner The king wanted a single date for Easter and so he called for the Synod of Whitby to discuss the matter His wish was to unite both traditions of the church in England one matter being that all the monks should have the same style of tonsure and another being that both sides celebrated Easter at the same time It was an important meeting and after a good deal of complicated discussion Wilfred of Ripon said his piece He pointed out that Christ had given the keys of the kingdom of heaven to St Peter so surely the method used by Rome was the right one The Synod agreed and so the whole of this country adopted the Roman method which is still used today It is that Easter Sunday falls on the first Sunday after the full moon which happens upon or next after March 21 and if

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-042004.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    incident in 616 on Fylingdales moor close to the site of the Ballistic Missile Warning Station that changed his mind An assassin was sent by the king of the West Saxons to murder Edwin he was to do so with a poisoned sword Edwin s chief minister a Christian called Lilla was with the King at the time and as the blow was struck Lilla leapt between his King and the sword and died instead of his sovereign Edwin was so impressed by the selfless devotion of his minister that he buried Lilla along with some gold and silver artefacts at the place which now bears his name Lilla Howe It also supports a famous stone memorial cross called Lilla Cross One of our oldest Christian relics it stands literally within the shadows of the 20th century Fylingdales Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station a remarkable contrast between the ancient and the modern That incident led to the foundation of one of Europe s most impressive churches Edwin allowed his baby daughter and eleven members of his household to be baptized into the Church at Easter 616 and a year later adopted the same faith He was baptized by Paulinus at

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-032004.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    visit the bridge which is very close to Glaisdale Railway Station and almost hidden between a road bridge and a rail bridge you ll see a headstone in the parapet A careful examination of that stone will reveal the initials T F and the date 1619 the date he completed the bridge The romance of the story tells how the youthful Tom wary of Richardson s antagonism visited Agnes in secret walking from Egton to Glaisdale for their trysts This meant crossing the River Esk near the bottom of Limber Hill and the story says that when Tom received his orders to join the English fleet he went to inform Agnes but could not get across the river because it was in flood Thus he departed without even a goodbye kiss She waited and so the story goes he returned as a rich man whereupon he decided to build a bridge so that future lovers could cross in safety This enduring tale is a wonderful mixture of fact and fiction Tom Ferris did exist probably being born at Lastingham and his name is spelt in other ways eg Ferries Ferres or Firris Agnes existed too as did her father Aged 14 Tom was apprenticed to a Hull shipowner and spent some off duty time with relations at Egton meeting Agnes at a fair perhaps at Whitby Tom sailed from Whitby on May 8 1588 after which he served with Sir Francis Drake as he beat the Spanish Armada only ten days later then sailing to the West Indies where he engaged in piracy On a captured vessel he returned to London in 1592 still aged only 24 sold the ship and went to Glaisdale as a wealthy man to claim the hand of Agnes Richardson The couple then went to Hull where Ferris established a thriving shipping business becoming sheriff in 1614 lord mayor in 1620 and three times warden of Trinity House He died in 1630 aged 62 and Holy Trinity Church in Hull contains a memorial to him He gave money to Lastingham church for a re roofing project and built a school there then in his will he bequeathed money to Glaisdale church at the time a chapel of Danby parish together with an annual payment to the vicar Agnes died in 1618 it was a year later that Ferris decided to build his bridge at Glaisdale and so instead of being a romantic gesture to enable lovers to cross the flooded Esk the bridge may have been a memorial to her It was completed in 1619 but in fact Ferris remarried in 1620 There is just a possibility however that this was not the first bridge to cross the Esk at that point There is a very similar bridge higher up the river spanning the Esk below Danby Castle This is now known as Duck s Bridge in honour of George Duck who restored it during the eighteenth century but in earlier times it was known

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-022004.html (2016-02-17)
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