Community Spring Clean with Liam Wildish

So many bags of litter!

Liam’s Community Spring Clean

Liam Wildish has recently become a local hero and celebrity with his community-spirited, clean-up of the area.  He runs his own ‘Clean Scene’ window cleaning business and he took it upon himself to clean the odd road sign or two https://www.cleanyx.com/GB/East-Retford/216885679007526/Clean-Scene-Window-Cleaning.  This snowballed and he was soon cleaning nearly all the road signs that were safely accessible for him – in his spare time and at his own expense.  His work was noticed and he found himself in the local paper and then… before he knew it… on BBC Television’s  ‘The One Show’ being interviewed by Matt Baker and Alex Jones. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/  And he went viral too!

Liam Wildish recruits a team of local volunteers for some community action
21 year old Liam Wildish, the organiser of the ‘Big Retford Town Clean-up’

 

 

 

Litter-picking grabbers at the ready

His Facebook following soon grew and he used his newfound celebrity to launch his ‘Clean Up Retford Campaign’.   He jumped through all the hoops to organise a ‘Sunday Morning Clean Up’ and invited all those who could make it, to join him.  Having checked with the local council, he read out the ‘dos and donts’ and made everyone aware of the  ‘risks involved’ and then handed out hi-vis vests and litter-picking-grabbers!

Hi-vis vests, rubbish bags and litter-grabbers are handed out to the team at the start.
Hi-vis vests, rubbish bags and litter-grabbers are handed out to the team

A good crowd for a first community event

I estimate that approximately 20 people turned up, including some members of the local youth club, a dad with a baby strapped to his chest and even a few people from outside the area.

The team gets organised
Liam’s team gets organised with hi-vis vests, bags and grabbers

Many, many, many, cigarette butts

The litter pickers sorted themselves into small groups and broke off in different directions.   We were to return to the start-point in two hours.  Fortunately the day was fine and warm and friendly banter made the two hours fly by.  Many, many, many cigarette butts and at least twenty full bags of rubbish later, Liam’s first community action was complete.

A growing initiative

I am sure that this initiative will grow and that Liam’s next community event will receive even more support.  Credit due to the lad, he gives his time for free and his enthusiasm is infectious.  His intentions are good and he sets a fine example.  We need more Liams!

 

A member of Liam’s team cleaning up the town
Litter-pickers all over town

We shouldn’t have to rely on someone else to clean up our mess

Retford is an historic, Georgian market town in the Bassetlaw area of North Nottinghamshire and like every other small town it  faces struggles.  I think we all know that resources are scant and we can’t always rely on these already overstretched funds to keep our environment immaculately clean.  It is up to us as individuals to take responsibility for our actions.

the litter-pickers return with bags of rubbish
After two hours the litter-pickers return

If everyone did a little – the effect would be huge and we would all benefit

If only everyone would do just a little bit – like tidying up outside their own front door or outside their business – life would be so much sweeter.  It should only take a few minutes, it would be so worth it and the world be a better place… for everyone.

Every little helps, as some big supermarket once said.

The Barrister in Wonderland

A large red ‘pocket’ watch draped in ivy is set at a jaunty angle from the top shelf

A new member of the Barrister family

The new ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is the latest arrival to the Barrister’s Book Chamber family https://barristersbookchamber.com.  It is entirely dedicated to children’s books all stocked in the new, cosy premises.  You will find it in rural North Notts https://www.northnotts.co.uk/.  But this is not your average high street shop. This member of the family-run business only sells books for kids -in a very imaginative way. ‘The Barrister in Wonderland’ sits on a busy thoroughfare.  It is bright, fun and instantly welcoming.  The perfect place to get lost with a new find.

The striking shop from of the new book shop in town, black and gold with an Alice in Wonderland tea party themed window display
The Barrister in Wonderland, a children’s books shop with a difference

So many children’s books

The ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is at 66 Carol Gate in the heart of the historic market town of Retford.  As you might guess from its name, it reflects the classic story.  It is an adventure inside and out. This is an independent bookshop that specialises in only children’s books.  It aims to appeal to inquisitive minds.

Rows and rows of story books completely cover one wall
Story books galore

My own secret hiding place

The ‘Barrister’s Book Chamber’ itself arrived on the Retford high street eighteen months ago.  However, since then I have taken many friends and family to visit this ‘book shop with a tea shop’.  It is my ‘meeting place’ of choice.  There are nooks and crannies in which to get cosy with a cup of tea and a piece of cake… the cakes, well that’s a whole blog on its own!  So, I was very eager to meet the newest addition to the Barrister family.

Pink flamingos and strategically placed books making a striking display
The Alice in Wonderland tea party themed window

A real delight

This little gem is full of fun artwork, it covers every available surface.  A tea party is the centre of the window display… and also on the ceiling inside!  It is a sight to behold.  Children of all ages will be completely entranced.  There is even a ‘grassy’ area for kids to sit and sample new stories.  See if you can find the White Rabbit disappearing into a hole with his pocket watch.  I promise he is there but not quite where you might expect to find him.

A blue chair and a red table set for tea are secured upside down to the ceiling
A tea party on the ceiling!

 

Story book wall

An entire wall is filled with story books, both new and second-hand.  There is a ‘Young Reader’ section too with easy to find books all sorted alphabetically by author.  Board books for tinies for as little as £1.  Arranged around the counter are vintage and classic story books and annuals.  Then there is a reference or non-fiction section with history, science, maths, cookery, crafts… and of course, a teen fiction section.

An elaborate mirror, decorated with blue butterflies adds a very ‘Wonderland’ dimension to the shop
An elaborate mirror decorated with butterflies adds a different dimension to the shop

Souvenirs of the visit

Unique book-marks, page markers, story blocks and lots more can be purchased at pocket-money prices.  A nice reminder of a visit to a very special little book shop.

A tiny fairy door behind which is another fairy door - lit and decorated. It’s low down near the floor, easily accessible for little fingers
A tiny fairy door behind which is another fairy door – lit and decorated. It’s low down near the floor, easily accessible for little fingers

Open to suggestions

The ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is a children’s bookshop with a difference.  The staff loves kids and kids’ books.  The manager, Laura, is keen to form relationships with local schools.  She would like to hear what her visitors want and will be led by them.  Events will be very much driven by what her customers want.

Shelves of books for Young Readers
The Young Readers section

Inspiration for young minds

This bookshop is completely child-friendly and is bound to inspire and entertain young readers.  It is jam-packed with brilliant characters, tall tales and wonderful stories.  The perfect place to get lost together in a book.

A full size chair and small chair with a table by the fire on a grassy patch
Take a seat by the fire to settle down with a good book

Something for every child

There are bright displays to entice young readers to choose their next read, from board books for babies, to thrillers for teens.  As a result there’s an eclectic collection with something for every child.

A large red ‘pocket’ watch draped in ivy is set at a jaunty angle from the top shelf
A very Wonderland clock

Bookish décor

The ‘Barrister in Wonderland’ is home to some of the cleverest, bookish decor you’ve ever seen.  It is easy to navigate and there’s plenty of space to browse.  Kids will love to explore the shelves and hand-pick their new favourite character.

A six foot high, higgledy-piggledy, stack of books are formed into in archway at the entrance of the shop
A higgledy-piggledy stack of books makes the perfect entrance into the shop

A comprehensive selection

This is a treasure trove of children’s books.  A boutique that has almost every genre of book to inspire young ones to dive into a story.  The in-the-know booksellers are eager to recommend the perfect story, which is sure to encourage a love of reading – in even the most reluctant of readers.

A box contains brown-paper wrapped books a cryptic message on the front, a pot luck blind date with a book
A unique idea – blind date with a book

A veritable treasure trove

This magical emporium is full of second-hand and new wares.  Vintage finds and treasures just waiting to be discovered.  It is exactly what it says above the door – a wonderland of books just for kids.  Perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in some classic and well-loved tales – at a pocket-money price!

Playing cards play an important role in the quirky decor
Quirky, Wonderland themed artwork

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait to see the look on the faces of my little ones when I take them to visit.  This is definitely something to do with the grandkids  https://thegrandparenthub.com/ when you visit North Notts https://www.innorthnotts.co.uk/

Coastal Walk from Flamborough to Bempton

A newly arrived Puffin with bright plumage looking for his burrow in the cliff face

Coastal Walk from Flamborough to Bempton

This stunning coastal walk explores some of Britain’s highest chalk cliffs from Flamborough Head https://www.yorkshire.com/places/yorkshire-coast/flamborough to Bempton.  What better way to welcome the Spring than with this moderately challenging walk.  At a distance of 6 miles in the sunshine along the East Yorkshire coast, there are wonderful views… and the arrival of some our Summer sea bird visitors for company.

An image of Flamborough Head Lighthouse against a blue sky
Flamborough Head Lighthouse

Best Foot Forward

Start from Flamborough Head Lighthouse, a well-maintained and imposing beacon with a lot of history.  The original lighthouse was first built in 1669   https://www.trinityhouse.co.uk/lighthouse-visitor-centres/flamborough-lighthouse-visitor-centre This is an opportunity for refreshment and toilets at the Lighthouse Cafe, before starting out.  Take a walking-pole, you may need it and, depending on the weather, sturdy walking boots.  The walk starts off with some fairly narrow, steep, steps.  Look out for skylarks, corn buntings, stone chats, wheat ears and of course, many butterflies and an abundance of wildflowers.

Rugged cliffs, giving way to the crashing sea below
Stunning views of cliffs, sea and sky

Bright Yellow Gorse in Full Bloom

Skirt the Flamborough golf course, edged with vibrant, yellow gorse in full bloom at this time of year.  The only problem with this walk is the many stops that need to be taken in order to drink in the views and take photographs.  The North Sea is at its best along this stretch of coast.  It is surprisingly blue.  There are lots of places to just sit and stare.

Bright yellow gorse, blue sea and blue sky with whisky white clouds at Flamborough Head
Yellow gorse on the edge of Flamborough Golf Course

Follow Your Nose

It is difficult to go wrong, just follow the coast path up through Thornwick, leaving the bay down below.  There are not many opportunities for paddling.  The cliffs are steep drops to the sea below.  Sadly, there is some coastal erosion in parts.  Great care must be taken.

Dramatic and steep the cliffs are home to thousands of seabirds
A first sighting of Puffins returning to their burrows in the steep, chalk cliffs

Breathtaking

The walk ends at the visitor centre of the RSPB’s https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/bempton-cliffs Bempton Cliffs nature reserve.  Here are viewing platforms to get better sightings of the nesting birds.  And there possibility of seeing a Puffin.  Refreshments are available here too.  The cliffs are a temporary home to razorbills, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, fulmars and puffins – a cacophony of screeching seabirds.  This is one of Europe’s busiest seabird colonies.  Be prepared though, the smell of the guano can take your breath away.

The sun highlights the whiteness of the chalk cliffs tumbling down to the sea below
Another breath-taking view of the East Yorkshire coast

The Stunning East Yorkshire Coast

This has to be one of the most stunning coastal walks in Britain, it’s certainly one of my favourites.  This particular route was voted 50th in an ITV poll to find Britian’s favourite walk. If you’re even mildly interested in wildlife, Bempton Cliffs is the place to be.

The steep white cliffs of the Yorkshire coast reflect the the sunlight in contrast against the North Sea
A view of some of Britain’s steepest chalk cliffs along the East Yorkshire coast

Coffee and Cake with Tracey Whitefoot, Photographer

A lavender field in France, row upon row of lavender plants in flower. The composition is symmetrical, with a lone tree on the mid-point of the horizon of the field. Taken by Tracey Whitefoot.

A stunning image

On my morning scroll-through Linkedin, a contact of mine, Susan Hallam of Hallam Internet, https://www.hallaminternet.com/ had posted an image that stopped me in my tracks.  It was a simple image taken in my home town, Nottingham.  It was predominantly the ‘Council House’, only slightly obscured by some Fothergill Watson architecture, which I visualised to be at the bottom of King Street.  

This is the image that stopped me in my tracks. My home city as I have never seen it before. Nottingham in all its glory, taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
This is the image that stopped me in my tracks, beautiful Nottingham, taken by Tracey Whitefoot

My home town

I could almost be on a vantage point looking down into the city-centre, perhaps on the roof of the Royal Concert Hall? At least that’s how it made me feel.  This image could have been taken anywhere in the world:  Istanbul, Prague, Bruges but no, it was Nottingham.  And how stunningly beautiful it looked too.

A popular post

I don’t usually share images, or any old article about marketing that I come across but this was different; this shouted ‘share me!’  It wasn’t long before my screen lit up with notifications.  Almost 40 likes and over 1000 views in a very short space of time.

I commented on the post and within minutes the photographer, Tracey Whitefoot, had responded to thank me.  I also noticed that she had replied to every single comment both previously and since.  

This is Tracey Whitefoot. she is wearing a pink coat and is holding her camera. It is taken at the Victoria Embankment, Nottingham by Joseph Raynor.
Tracey Whitefoot, photographer.
Taken by Joseph Raynor.

I went to Tracey’s website http://tracey-whitefoot.squarespace.com  and was blown away with her architecture and landscape images.  I wondered if she would agree to a chat over coffee and cake, which I could feature on my blog.  She didn’t hesitate, need any persuasion or even baulk at the 60 mile round trip either. Coffee and cake then at the Barrister’s Book Chamber https://barristersbookchamber.com/ in Retford, north Nottinghamshire.

Two hours just flew by

I had no idea what to expect – neither of us knew the other!  I need not have worried.  Tracey was easy to talk to and to listen to… she was relaxed and generously shared her story and her time with me.  She has achieved so much – and she is on the cusp of more adventures and even greater things.  It was clear that this was going to be no ordinary chat but a fascinating, rollercoaster ride!  

This is an image of Newstead Abbey, bathed in early, frosty, morning light. Evocative and moody taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, the ancestral home of Lord Byron, taken by Tracey Whitefoot.

It started as just a hobby

Tracey is a Nottingham lass, born and brought up in Chilwell and currently living and working out of Carlton.  Most of her work – the bread and butter – is marketing and PR photography, quite a bit of it for both the city and county councils and community-based stuff with colleges, theatres and the local press.  It had always been Tracey’s hobby and she had already made the decision to take up photography professionally but an opportunity came through a colleague .  She was pushed to get out and take some pictures for someone that her friend thought would be a good contact.  It worked and she began to get paid photography work.

Anything that came in after that, if she didn’t have the skill level required, she would do lots of prep and dummy runs the day before!

An image of white tulips taken from an unusual angle. Looking into the sky from the base of the flowers. The light plays an import part in this picture taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
Tulips and light by Tracey Whitefoot’s

Around the world

Tracey went to Australia for the first time in 1998 and worked as a ‘Jillaroo’ on a cattle station.  After which, much of her early career was spent in sales and then after selling the house she returned to Australia in 2004/2005.  She has been all over the world with her camera.  She has no formal training although she did think about it briefly but she was doing quite well enough without it.

I had questions prepared that I thought I should ask but they somehow seemed to be irrelevant.  Like, ‘which photographers does she admire?’  She says that she has great respect for her peers and other female photographers making a living as a professional – like Birmingham-based Verity Milligan and Lincolnshire-born, wildlife photographer Chris Weston, who was a great help when Tracey started out, his books helped her with a lot of the technical aspects of photography. 

The million dollar question

And then, ‘what makes a good picture?’  Her answer, I now see, is staggeringly obvious; ‘the light’ was her response.  This is what makes her get up so early in the morning, this is what motivates her.  It is clear in all her compositions and landscapes that this is the most important thing to her – the light!  Sunrises, shadows, sunsets and shafts of light.  She will go to any lengths for the right light to get the shot that she wants… and it shows.  Visit her website and see for yourself!  ‘The light’ is her motivation.  It doesn’t really matter where, as long as the light is right.

Prolific and vibrant images

If today is stressful then treat yourself to a few moments of calm… look at Tracey’s images on http://Www.alamy.com search for lavender and you will be immediately transported to the lavender fields in France.  You can almost smell the perfume!

A lavender field in France, row upon row of lavender plants in flower. The image is symmetrical, with a lone tree on the mid-point of the horizon of the field and of course, the light. Taken by Tracey Whitefoot.
French lavender and of course, the light, taken by Tracey Whitefoot.

Tracey’s enthusiasm and love of light and life are contagious, she has a real energy.  She says she’s ‘bonkers’, I say she’s a genius!

The next big thing

Her next adventure in search of light will take her to Everest basecamp in 2020.  I for one, can’t wait to see the what she captures there. But then I hope she soon returns to Nottinghamshire’s best kept secret that is Pilgrim Country, perhaps she will find light here too.

If it’s enthusiasm, energy… and light you want, talk to Tracey.

You can buy Tracey’s work to hang on your wall too, it will inspire you.  Please visit her website, you will not be disappointed http://tracey-whitefoot.squarespace.com

I have news for you… Bolton Abbey is nowhere near Bolton

A black and white image of the ruins and grounds of Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey is nowhere near Bolton

I was recently taken on a surprise trip to a lovely little B&B, Throstlenest Farm, https://www.throstlenestfarmbandb.co.uk/ just outside Skipton in the the Yorkshire Dales.  A good base to stay when you want to visit Bolton Abbey.

A black and white image of the ruins and grounds of Bolton Abbey
The stark ruins of Bolton Abbey

The market town of Skipton

On a gorgeous summer’s afternoon in February (yes really!) we arrived in the lovely market town of Skipton.  Busy market stalls, independent gift and craft shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes with a canal-side walk not too far away from the town centre adds up to make a very nice place to visit.  http://welcometoskipton.com/ There’s a castle, museum, historic church and a vibrant high street.

 

As I said, Bolton Abbey really is nowhere near Bolton

Bolton Abbey is about 6 miles from Skipton in Wharfedale, North Yorkshire.  As you might expect there is an abbey in the grounds although the 12th century Augustinian monastery is now in ruins.  It fell victim to King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.  It is actually about 60 miles from Bolton in Lancashire.

A black and white dramatic image of the ruins of Bolton Abbey
Dramatic view of the ruins of Bolton Abbey

Open all day

As a rule of thumb the grounds are open from 9am to 6pm – longer in the summer.  We arrived at the Strid car park at around 10am and left at about 3.30pm.  It is dog-friendly although they must be kept on leads. https://boltonabbey.com/your-visit/admission/

An image of a view through trees from a high point along the river Wharfe
A view along the river Wharfe from a vantage point

You will need £10 to park

The park is open to visitors for most of the year and there are miles of walking routes.   We chose one that included Strid Wood.  This stretch has one of the largest remains of sessile oak trees in the Yorkshire Dales.  The cost to park is pretty steep – £10 per car which can be used at other areas in the park – but then the area is immaculately maintained with excellent paths. A lot of it is pushchair- friendly.  An easy-to-use map with discounts for the various tea rooms makes the parking fee a bit more acceptable.

A view through the leafless trees
A view through the leafless trees

 

Take your binoculars, you’ll need them

The walk follows the banks of the river Wharfe with some inclines that give way to magnificent views.   There was evidence of acres of faded snowdrops, plus the green tips of imminent bluebells and the faint aroma of new, wild garlic.  Spring must be truly stunning in these parts.  Dippers, woodpeckers, grey-wagtails and more were spotted and it seems there are kingfishers and even otters to be seen too.

An image of one of the vantage points seats
One of the vantage point seats

Part of the Cavendish Family

If you have ever visited Chatsworth House in Derbyshire you will see that Bolton Abbey clearly belongs to the Devonshire family.  There is the same immaculate attention to signage and customer service.  And the name Cavendish pops up everywhere.  The 6th Duke of Devonshire and the Rev William Carr created the walks in the early 1800s with strategically placed seats to drink in the views.

 

The Strid

The Strid, a natural wonder, where the river suddenly narrows forcing the water through at great pressure. It was formed by the wearing away of softer rock by the circular motion of small stones in hollows. Clever eh?

Big rocks worn away and shaped by smaller rocks making the unique shaping of the Strid
The unique rock formation of the Strid
A clear blue sky with an amazing view from the road at Barden
This is the magnificent view from the road at Barden in the Yorkshire Dales

A seven mile circular walk

Our walk along the riverside took us to Barden Bridge, over it and along the opposite bank.  We crossed the river Wharfe at one point to visit the Pavilion for coffee to cross back again and on to the stepping stones.  I preferred to take the bridge, only having little legs, to the abbey ruins and back along to the river bank to complete the circuit at the Strid.

An image of stepping stones spaced across the River Wharfe
The stepping stones across the river Wharfe at Bolton Abbey

A good 7 mile walk.

 

 

Take the grandchildren to London!

The highlight of our visit - meeting Bill, the Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London

It started small

Wouldn’t it be great if we could visit London with the grandchildren.  A day trip? But there’s too much to see in a day! Too much to plan! A lot could go wrong!

Retford Station canopy detail over Platform 1
Retford Station canopy detail over Platform 1

This will take some careful planning

A small package of ‘clues’: an ‘I Spy London’ book; a children’s map of London; a London sticker book; a Union Flag wallet, pen and notebook – plus a ‘golden ticket’ – all parcelled up to make a unique and memorable Christmas gift which caused huge excitement.

Save the date

As soon as we decided with our daughter that we could go on the ‘Inset Day’ before the February half-term holiday, we looked for appropriate travel, visit and stay deals.

Travel

The first great deal was with LNER https://www.lner.co.uk/.  Booked in advance, seats reserved and for just a little extra First Class wahay! So that’s brunch sorted!

So excited. We’re going to London
So excited. We’re going to London

Easy to get around

Transport for London TFL https://tfl.gov.uk/make it easy to get around London with an Oyster card, or even more easily, cost-effectively and efficiently with just a debit card.  It can be tapped at the entrance and exit of every underground station – no faffing about with ‘real money’.

And now we’re on the Underground
And now we’re on the Underground

So excited!

Evie eight-and-a-half, and Jack 6 (and their Mum and Dad too) were beside themselves with excitement.  We arrived at Retford Railway Station in time to pick up a Costa  https://www.costa.co.uk/ and see some high-speed trains flash through the station.  And then it was our turn.  It was a special treat and worth the extra to have a late breakfast and unlimited tea and coffee served to us on the train.  Wow!  Did we feel posh!

The Tower of London and the moat in glorious sunshine
The Tower of London and the moat in glorious sunshine

The devil is in the detail

To plan an epic trip like this takes a lot of forethought, time and research. National Rail  http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ have a 2-4-1 scheme on many London attractions – that saves a huge amount of money and made it possible for the six of us to visit our first port of call, the Tower of London https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/#gs.YIrn5iaH.

The Union Flag in the clear blue sky, flies over the White Tower at the Tower of London
The Union Flag in the clear blue sky, flies over the White Tower at the Tower of London

Worth every penny

A call at the visitor centre to pick up an activity pack for the children which included a free badge and pencil and we’re in.  We managed to get onto the 1.30pm guided tour… and met Bill, the Yeoman Warder.  This man imparted so much in a very entertaining and engaging manner – if not a bit scary, he is not a man to be messed with.  The children warmed to him and were thrilled to have their picture taken with him.

The highlight of our visit - meeting Bill, the Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London
The highlight of our visit – meeting Bill, the Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London

The icing on the cake

Earlier planning had bagged us a couple of rooms at a very good rate at the Premier Inn https://www.premierinn.com in Greenwich – if you book breakfast and why wouldn’t you eat-as-much-as-you-want-buffet-style – the kids eat free.  Yes, Greenwich is a bit far out but there’s much to see there.  The Cutty Sark https://www.rmg.co.uk/cutty-sark, the maritime museum, the naval college, the market AND best of all… for a modest fee you can get there via the Emirates Airline cable car https://www.emiratesairline.co.uk/.  Truly amazing views and we were blessed with a glorious sunset too.

A ride in a cable car over the Thames
A ride in a cable car over the Thames

Let’s tick some more boxes

After a comfortable night and a good breakfast we hit the road again.  I had no idea that there is a tunnel under the Thames for walkers from Greenwich to Canning.  This was a novelty.

The Household Cavalry ride by Buckingham Palace
The Household Cavalry ride by Buckingham Palace

The Docklands Light Railway

The DLR took us to ‘Bank’ then the tube to Westminster.  Eyes popped at the sight of Westminster Bridge, Big Ben (clad in scaffolding unfortunately) the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.  A fifteen minute walk to see Buckingham Palace was rewarded with the sight of the Household Cavalry riding by.  Another fifteen minute walk (those poor little legs) to Trafalgar Square to see Nelson and the lions… then China Town still decked out for Chinese New Year and finally Covent Garden which did not disappoint.

Say hello to the lions in Trafalgar Square
Say hello to the lions in Trafalgar Square
Always something to see at Covent Garden
Always something to see at Covent Garden

Covent Garden

This is the place to go if you are on a very limited budget – it just keeps on giving.  We saw performances by a West End dancer, a juggler and his bed of nails, street artists, musicians, a string quartet, an acrobat and a man with a Diablo.  Crikey.

Two new recruits on duty
Two new recruits on duty

Memories that will last forever

Exhausted but we still managed to visit Hamleys at St Pancras and of course the Harry Potter Shop at Kings Cross.  A monumental trip but so worth it!

...and of course, ice cream
…and of course, ice cream

If you can, don’t hesitate, JUST DO IT!

The Tradition of the Clayworth Plough Plays

An image of three of the main protagonists, the Clown, the Sergeant and Eezum-Squeezum

Plough Monday

Plough Monday can be traced right back to medieval times.  It traditionally saw the return to work after the break for Christmas, especially in northern and eastern England.  The traditions for Plough Monday varied from village to village.  Plough Monday was originally the first Monday after the twelfth day of Christmas, 6 January.  Epiphany.

An image of the Clown
The Clown

A unique tradition

The tradition very nearly disappeared during World War 1 and then again in the Second World War.  Credit is due to the players and the landlords of both village pubs for upholding this unique tradition.

The Sergeant in his bright red coat
Enter the Sergeant

Plough Sunday

Naturally, the day before Plough Monday is not surprisingly known as Plough Sunday.  This tradition more often than not, now takes place in Clayworth, North Nottinghamshire, on the third Sunday of January.   

An image of three of the main protagonists, the Clown, the Sergeant and Eezum-Squeezum
The Clown, the Sergeant and Old Eezum-Squeezum

The death of the earth

In medieval times and in the dead of winter it was thought that the earth ‘died’ and there was a possibility that nothing would ever grow again. It was difficult to believe that the earth would ever wake up and again provide food.. 

A battle between Light and Dark, Good and Evil, Life and Death

I am lucky enough to live in the village of Clayworth in north Nottinghamshire, England where the most well-known of these plays still takes place.  The ‘script’ is usually a bit of nonsense but has a hidden, topical message somewhere within.   A pretend battle is fought between Light and Darkness.  Darkness is killed and then brought back to life by some miracle. The death of the Old Year and the arrival of the New Year is symbolised in this tableau.

The village pubs

This year the play was performed as usual in the surrounding villages on the Friday before Plough Sunday. 

The Blacksmith’s Arms in Clayworth     https://www.blacksmithsclayworth.com/ and the Brewers Arms, also in Clayworth,  http://www.brewersarmsclayworth.co.uk/  both play host to the Plough Play on Plough Sunday.

An image of The Blacksmith’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs to host the Plough Play
The Blacksmith’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs which hosts the Plough Play

 

An image of the Brewer’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs to host the Plough Play
The Brewer’s Arms at Clayworth who also play Bost to the Plough Play

It gets very busy

The bar at the Brewers’ begins to fill from 12.15pm and by 12.45pm when the players arrive, it is absolutely heaving. Get there early, get a drink and a seat… and if you think ahead book for Sunday lunch, you won’t be disappointed.

Old Eezum-Squeezum

A fiddler and an accordionist enter the pub, followed at different times by the players: the Clown, the Plough ‘boy’, the ‘Horse’, the Soldier, Old Eezum-Squeezum (sometimes known as Beelzebub), and the Doctor.  Sounds bizarre and yes it is, but highly entertaining and amusing with rhymes and short songs which have been  passed down through the years.  There is even a sword dance! 

It was once common for those who took part in these plays to blacken their faces as a disguise.  They might also include something to associate with nature in their costumes such as a flower or feathers.

A Morris-cum-Sword dance takes place in a very confined space
A Morris/Sword dance in a confined space

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Click here for a taster

Eezum-Squeezum lies dead on the floor surrounded by all the other Plough Players
Eezum-Squeezum – dead on the floor!

It’s a miracle!

The climax of the play is the fight between Light and Dark,  Good and Evil, Life and Death.  It culminates in the slaying of Darkness (Old Eezum-Squeezum) – who is usually brought back to life by ‘the Doctor’ – and everyone lives happily ever after – with a pint in hand!

An image of Bessie singing her lament
Bessie… or Bill Oddie!

Good luck, fertility and wealth

The play brings together farmers and villagers.  The purpose of the play is to bring luck, fertility and wealth.  You need to be there in order to get your share, so put the date in your diary for 2020!

Quick and Easy Super-Soup Recipes

Vibrant veggie soup, Spiced Cerliac and Parsnip alongside Spinach and Pea soup

Two quick and easy, super-soups, both veggie, both delicious, nutritious and low in fat… and low-carb too.

Vibrant veggie soup, Spiced Cerliac and Parsnip alongside Spinach and Pea soup
Vibrant veggie soup, Spiced Cerliac and Parsnip alongside Spinach and Pea soup

Spiced, Celeriac and Parsnip Soup

Approximately 150 calories per mug-full.

Makes enough for 6 servings, freeze it and that’s several lunches for a ‘behave yourself’ kind of diet sorted.

The equipment you will need:

  • a sharp veg prep knife and chopping board
  • a large soup pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • a hand blender

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons  olive oil
  • 1 large onion peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • Half a celeriac, washed, peeled and chopped
  • A sprinkle of chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Few shakes of white pepper
  • Few twists of ground black pepper
  • A sprinkle of sea salt
  • 2 veg stock cubes I used https://www.oxo.co.uk/ made up into 1 litre of stock

Step 1

Peel and chop the veg

Step 2

Heat the oil. Sauté the onion for 3 minutes until translucent.  Add the diced cleriac and parsnip.  Cover and cook on a low heat until the veg  is tender about 5 minutes.  Add the hot stock, stir well, cover and cook for 10 further minutes. Add the seasoning except the chilli flakes. Stir well. Cover and cook until all veg is tender.

Step 3

Remove from the heat. Blitz with a hand-blender.  Sprinkle a few chilli flakes on each serving.  Serve hot,  or portion and freeze when cold.

Spiced celeriac and parnsip soup
Spiced celeriac and parnsip soup

And next Easy, Peasy, Spinach  (and anything else in the fridge that’s green) Soup

Pea and Spinach soup with a swirl of Greek yogurt
Pea and Spinach soup with a swirl of Greek yogurt

Again about 150 calories per mu-full

You will need exactly the same equipment as for the Spiced Cerliac and Parsnip soup.

Makes enough for approximately 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 400g (ish) frozen peas
  • 1 large pack of fresh, baby spinach
  • Any salad leaves, watercress, rocket that might be lurking in the fridge begging not to be thrown away
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1 litre of veg stock
  • A sprinkle of seasalt
  • A shake of white pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional – Half a teaspoon of dried mint

A dollop of Greek yogurt to serve if desired.

Step 1

Put all the I gradients in a pan.  Bring to simmering point. Do not over cook.  Allow 3 or 4 minutes to simmer.   Blitz with a hand blender.

Step 2

Serve with a dollop of Greek yorgurt if desired, or freeze for later in the week.

Pea and Spinach soup with a swirl of Greek yogurt

The Sheer Joy of a Starling Murmuration

The beginnings of a starling murmuration. Photo credit: Eric Richardson

A murmuration is a must see

Starlings swooping then breaking off into separate groups. Photo credit: Eric Richardson
Starlings swooping then breaking off into separate groups. Photo credit: Eric Richardson

I have wanted to witness a murmuration ever since I saw Bill Oddie on tv conducting starlings over the Somerset Levels about ten years ago.  Yesterday gave us the perfect opportunity.  We needed to take our two grandchildren home and it was good to share the spectacle with them.  A minor detour on the way home and a stop-off at Attenborough Nature Reserve http://www.attenboroughnaturecentre.co.uk/.  It was a cold, greyish afternoon.  Not what was forecast – crisp and clear.

Click here to see:A few moments of a starling murmuration

What is a murmuration?

A murmuration is a mass, aerial display of thousands of birds which swoop and dive in unison.  Starlings in particular, do it for a variety of reasons: they fly together to provide safety in numbers, they roost together for warmth, and of course they have  a chance to have a natter together – also predators find it hard to catch a particular bird in a flock of thousands.

The light fades as the starlings get ready to roost. Photo credit: Eric Richardson
The light fades as the starlings get ready to roost. Photo credit: Eric Richardson

Foreign starlings swell the numbers

The numbers of birds swell as the winter deepens.  The amount of starlings in one roost can rise to around 100,000.  Large numbers of starlings visit us during the winter months from overseas, to take advantage of our warmer climate!

Just as the sun sets

The optimum time to see them across the UK is around dusk in winter.  Binoculars are not usually required as, if you are in the right spot, the aerial display will take place directly above your head – although you may need an umbrella! Seaside piers, reedbeds and buildings are favourite congregating places as the sun sets.

Sadly, starling numbers are in decline

Forty years ago starlings would gather in great numbers over city rooftops but now the numbers are fewer and they are more likely to be seen in rural areas.

Starling murmurations

Flocks of starlings arrive from all around, they come together in the sky above the roosting site.  As the numbers of starlings swell the murmuration creates shapes in the sky,  the shapes grow as the flocks merge together. And then, when the light fades, they seem to decide as one that it is time to settle in for the night.  They descend and that’s it, the performance is over.

The gathering starlings in the twilight. Photo credit: Eric Richardson
The gathering starlings in the twilight. Photo credit: Eric Richardson

The children saw a banana, an avacado, a fish, a worm, a motorbike…

Check the RSPB https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/. Wildlife Trust https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/  websites to find a murmuration near you.  The murmuration season lasts until the middle/end of February. See one of the greatest shows on earth.  It’s free, it’s nature and it’s somewhere near you.

A New Year message from Savour the Moment

An explosion of colourful fireworks above the Edinburgh skyline taken in 2015 by Eric Richardson

Hope… for the New Year

A New Year message from Savour the Moment

The beginning of a new year is a time of resolutions and fresh starts.  Dark, winter days can make staying positive very difficult.  But for now, we have hope.

‘Once you choose hope, anything’s possible’.

Actor Christopher Reeve
An explosion of colourful fireworks above the Edinburgh skyline taken in 2015 by Eric Richardson
Hogmanay fireworks, Edinburgh 2015. Photo credit: Eric Richardson

Dark days

Written in 1908 a poem was brought to the attention of King George VI in 1939, when the days were very dark indeed.   He included it in his radio broadcast to the empire. Who knows what the New Year holds for us?  It is so full of uncertainty. Here is that poem, a message of hope for us all.

The Gate of the Year

by Minnie Louise Haskins

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

New Year fireworks Photo credit: Eric Richardson
New Year fireworks
Photo credit: Eric Richardson

Happy New Year…

and as the comedian Dave Allen, popular  in the 1970s famously said: ‘May your god go with you’.