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  • Archived Weblog Entry - 09/29/2010: "Devils, Giants and folklore"
    Needles on the Isle of Wight he threw his cap at Corfe Castle in Dorset but again he missed and lost his cap Not far away at Agglestone there is a monument known as the Devil s Cap a reminder of his failure This country is also rich with stories of giants Apart from the fellow who tossed stones at Semerwater with the Devil a giant is said to have built Giant s Causeway in Ireland and on the North York Moors it was the giant Wade who is said to have built Wade s Causeway which is in fact the remains of a Roman road In the distant past it was believed that a race of giants roamed the entire British countryside and it is thought these stories came from our Celtic ancestors A good example is the story of the cruel Giant of Penhill in Wensleydale He terrorised the local people until his own dog Wolfhead turned against him and caused him to fall to his death over a cliff There was also a terrifying one eyed giant at Dalton Mill near Thirsk who did not feast on bread made from the flour of that mill but who killed children and women grinding their bones to dust from which he made huge loaves The giant of Sessay was equally wicked who turned to eating children whenever his supply of stolen cattle was exhausted County Durham also had giants Three of them lived near the area now known as Muggleswick in the north west of the county One was known as Mug as in Muggleswick the other Con as in Consett and the third as Ben as in Benfieldside They amused themselves by tossing huge hammers to one another and when they failed to catch them they landed on

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/00000075.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Archived Weblog Entry - 06/09/2010: "St Barnabas"
    verse reads Barnaby bright Barnaby bright longest day and shortest night Barnaby bright is an old term for good weather but now of course Barnaby Day is not the longest day neither is it the summer solstice Because of its fine and sunny reputation Barnaby Day was the time to begin the hay harvest hence Barnaby s role as patron saint of hay time and it was said On the feast of St Barnabas put your scythe to the grass On the continent similar sayings helped agriculturalists For example the Spaniards would say On St Barnabas Day the sun is here to stay whilst the French believed that rain on St Barnabas Day was good for grapes and in some countries he was invoked against the hailstorms that are so damaging to the grape harvest Here in England Barnaby Day fairs and horse fairs were frequently held and in fact Appleby Horsefair which is one of England s oldest continues to this day in Cumbria when hundreds of gypsies and travellers converge to buy and sell horses meet with friends and relations and celebrate their music history and folklore Some of these fairs were staged on the actual date of Barnaby s feast and at other times on the nearest Saturday Barnaby tarts were eaten too but I do not have a recipe for them whilst before the Reformation many of our churches were decorated with garlands of flowers to mark the occasion In life Barnabas seems to have been quite a character with little or no connection with our hay harvest He is thought to have been related to St Mark and was described as a good man full of the Holy Ghost and of faith He was introduced to St Paul shortly after the latter s conversion and

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/00000074.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Archived Weblog Entry - 04/21/2010: "Abergavenny"
    the nearest one to London with easy access and there is an information centre in the mountains providing rest and refreshments activities and advice about the area It is rather confusing to see the Black Mountain in the singular Y Myndd Du to the west and the Black Mountains plural Y Mynyddoedd Duon to the east of the park but they are quite separate from one another One soon becomes accustomed to the system of naming but even more interesting are the Welsh names for locations Among the other mountains here are Bannau Sir Gaer and Fan Brycheinoig along with a legendary lake called Llyn y Fan Fach where a fairy woman made an historic appearance On local sign posts most locations appear in both Welsh and English reminding us that we are in Wales We drove from Abergavenny to Brecon along the Usk Valley using winding back lanes through the pretty villages Much of our route was alongside the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal surely one of the most beautiful in Britain with its canal paths and ancient packhorse bridges Once a vital means of transport for the gathering and distribution of industrial materials and products it is now part of the tourist industry and is very popular with visitors Brecon a small historic market town is the capital of that region with a strong military history In fact there is a museum devoted to military matters There s also an art gallery and a tiny cathedral that is now the parish church Its origins are uncertain but may date to the 11th century One curiosity is that the church tower was not erected for religious reasons it was for military purposes and one local legend says that Sir Dafydd ap Llewelyn Davey Gam of Shakespeare s Henry IV ran his sword through a man right there outside this church Later we drove up onto the hills above Brecon to explore the surrounding mountains The area is known as Mynydd Illtyd and is one of the largest areas of common land in Wales Here farmers have the right to graze their sheep and horses and to cut bracken Some leaflets suggest the Welsh ponies running free on this land are wild they are not They are domestic animals but roam free on this wide expanse of upland and indeed two of them came to us for a pat and a chat The terrain though marshy is fairly level and walking was easy We spotted a red kite a species that is plentiful in this part of Wales and a raven Several skylarks were singing in the heavens and a meadow pipit competed with them in its own distinctive manner On our return to Abergavenny beneath the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain we visited St Mary s Priory founded in 1087 by the Benedictines There we marvelled at one of the world s finest pieces of medieval sculpture the Jesse Tree This is a 15th century wood carving of Jesse the biblical

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/00000073.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Archived Weblog Entry - 02/08/2010: "Otters"
    water Sometimes Bruce and I would join him to see the various stages of growth of those tiny fish They were used for re stocking the Esk and my grandfather seemed to know a great deal about them and their behaviour Trout were present in the river the whole time but adult salmon were migratory returning here from the sea in spring to spawn in late autumn With such an abundance of fish it is not surprising that the Esk was also the haunt of otters During my excursions with Bruce we would find dead salmon on the banks with chunks bitten from their bodies whether that was the work of otters I cannot be certain I was mere child at the time However to counteract the impact of the otters upon the fish stocks my village had its own otter hunt because otters were then in the 1940s regarded as pests and had to be controlled During the late 1950s and into the 1960s however otters began to decline not merely in the Esk but elsewhere This was not due to hunting but to loss of their natural habitat and the increased use of insecticides on farmland in particular dieldrin and aldrin These impregnated the earth and water courses to such an extent that many creatures including otters and birds of prey were poisoned The catastrophic reduction in otter numbers led to otter hunts including the one at Glaisdale voluntarily ending their activities The decline became of great debate and in the 1980s animal welfare organisations conservation groups and individual landowners worked towards conservation of otters and also to outlaw or control certain chemical pesticides and insecticides especially dieldrin and aldrin An attempt was also made to lure otters from wilder parts of the country that had been free

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/00000072.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Archived Weblog Entry - 11/17/2009: "Sundials"
    those divisions became smaller and a twelfth of the day became normal for each one Surprisingly that was achieved by an astronomer called Berosus as long ago as 300 BC Working examples of his dial survived for centuries Here in England during Anglo Saxon times some early sun dials appeared on the walls of parish churches These had a vertical face with a pointer called a gnomon that cast the sun s shadow upon the dial as the day progressed These did not mark the hours or even split the day into twelve parts but instead divided it into four parts each of three hours duration Those divisions were called tides These old dials followed a fairly common pattern Installed on church walls and known either as scratch dials or Mass dials they were carved in stone or sometimes merely scratched on the surface with a gnomon that was generally of wood In all cases a vertical noon line was present with lines at right angles marking 6am and 6pm but sometimes with more lines depicting 9am or some other important hour such as the time of Mass In some cases later additions were made by marking each tide with divisions of an hour Fewer than thirty examples still exist around this country with one of the finest being above the door of the ancient Kirkdale Minster near Kirkbymoorside in North Yorkshire This is thought to be the most complete example of its kind anywhere in the world Sometimes called St Gregory s Clock it shows the eight hours of the Anglo Saxon day and in 1711 was discovered hidden under plaster Like the Minster it is named after Pope Gregory the Great who despatched St Augustine to Canterbury as its first Archbishop The long Anglo Saxon inscription on either

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/00000071.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Archived Weblog Entry - 10/06/2009: "Saltburn"
    be enjoying the scenery and the freedom to explore The old iron girder bridge that spanned the foot of the ravine that houses the Italian gardens in the Glen has gone and we explored the woods and gardens through the courtesy of the miniature railway with its cheerful crew as we followed the route of Skelton Beck to the tearoom hidden among the trees We did all the usual things one does at the seaside walked along the beach paddled in the sea gazed out from the end of the pier watching the boats and surfers had a pub lunch and enjoyed ice creams Sadly the small Smugglers Museum was closed due to recent flooding The small knot of houses close to the beach known as Old Saltburn was formerly a noted smuggling area with houses so close to the sea that they were regularly awash at high tide The Ship Inn where we lunched once had a strong reputation as a smugglers paradise but no longer Now it has an impressive wine list As the tide was well out we were able to walk along the beach and marvel at the scale of the forbidding Hunt Cliff once the

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  • Archived Weblog Entry - 08/20/2009: "Invitation to Buckingham Palace Tea Party"
    we could take pictures on our mobile phones as we waited outside on the pavement The nice thing about using the main gate is that you get to go through the Grand Entrance into the Palace itself It felt very special treading the thick red carpets and we marvelled at all the fine gilding and crystal chandeliers Then it was out onto a terrace and into the gardens where it was a case of finding a good vantage point from which to watch proceedings We took the sensible option and claimed a table and chairs near the tea tent and spent the next hour fascinated by the procession of guests strolling by On such a beautiful day everyone looked splendid in their Sunday best from the purple robed Archbishop of Canterbury with his bishops and canons in their colourful robes to numerous military personnel police officers firemen and others in pristine uniforms But the most impressive were the foreign diplomats and wives who presented a dazzling array of colours in their various native dress Two military bands were playing alternately throughout the afternoon then at 4 o clock precisely the National Anthem heralded the arrival of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on the Palace terrace to begin their walkabout They were accompanied by Prince Edward Prince Michael and Princess Michael of Kent and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester The crowds surged forward to get a better view but as we couldn t see a great deal we left our table to move closer Unfortunately about 3000 other guests had the same idea and we caught only brief glimpses as the royal party made their way through the throng ultimately disappearing into the Royal Marquee for refreshments At this point we decided to return to our own tea

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/00000069.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Archived Weblog Entry - 04/30/2009: "May"
    villagers steadfastly refused to destroy their maypoles There are lovely stories of battles to save the maypoles At Sinnington near Pickering for example in 1701 a band of Puritans known as Broadbrims due to the style of their hats invaded Sinnington during maypole dancing They set about violently trying to destroy the pole and its ribbons and to disrupt the party atmosphere Other groups of Puritans did likewise at Helmsley Kirkbymoorside and Slingsby However the local lads managed to beat them off and it was said that at Slingsby there was a great dordum of a fight Today maypole dancing has returned to its former glory in many villages in this region In most cases maypole dancing is not performed on May Day but upon the nearest Saturday or Sunday often with school children being the dancers I have a record of maypoles in Foston Staithes Roxy Slingsby Sinnington Langton near Malton Masham West Burton Bolton on Swale Appleton Wiske Crakehall Whitby Robin Hood s Bay Coneysthorpe Welburn Clifton near York Thorpe and Burnsall in Wharfedale Skinningrove Ovington near Richmond Otley Aldborough near Boroughbridge with the daddy of them all being at Barwick in Elmet near Leeds At 86 feet high this is the tallest in the country and requires a crane and a great deal of manpower to erect it I am sure there are other maypoles elsewhere within this region In many case morris dancing and the election of a May Queen accompanies the maypole dances One very popular game when I was a child in Eskdale was known as May Gosling It was rather like the April Fool pranks played on April 1 because children played jokes upon each other and anyone who fell victim to a joke was known as a May Gosling Rather like April

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