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

3D9E7B1B-7177-407C-B39D-7B9C81EDEEFF

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!

Savour a Long Walk in the Lowlands of Scotland

The Loch Leven Heritage Trail

A view across the icy blue water of Loch Leven
The view across Loch Leven, Perth and Kincross

A perfect path

Get your boots on and get ready for a long walk in the lowlands of Scotland!  Loch Leven is the perfect place for a long walk in the lowlands.  There is an excellent, all-abilities path around the perimeter – the Loch Leven Heritage Trail.  The trail can be accessed from several points around the loch where there are good car-parks.  It is a freshwater loch near Kinross in Perth and Kinross, central Scotland.  The loch is about 6km at its longest.  Kinross lies at its western end and Loch Leven Castle lies on an island just offshore.  Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned there in 1567.  There are ferry trips across to it during the summer.  And it is here that we chose to take a long walk – and a bike ride!  

Part-way round Loch Leven is a surprise beach. Great for dogs!
Part-way round Loch Leven there is a small beach area

Walk it or bike it

My friend and I started the walk from Loch Leven cycles http://www.lochlevencycles.co.uk/ where our husbands were kitted up with helmets and bikes.  The lady there was extremely helpful.  I would definitely recommend a visit, especially if you are a ‘pedal-head’!  Anyway, my friend and I got a head-start on a glorious, bright, chilly morning. The path was easy to navigate and easy to walk.  Nice and flat. Just how we like it.

A glimpse of Saint Serf’s Inch Island can be seen in the middle of Loch Leven
Another stunning view of Loch Leven with a glimpse of Saint Serf’s Inch island

A view of St Serf’s Island

As we left Kinross behind us Loch Leven opened out before us.  If you are lucky, and the water level is right, several islands can be seen in the loch.  St Serf’s Inch is the largest of the islands and it was the home of a  Culdee (a Christian monastic community) and then an Augustinian monastic community,  St Serf’s Inch Priory.

Not a soul in sight, just the bronzed bracken and the icy water of Loch Leven
Not a soul in sight, just bracken and Loch Leven

There is a good choice of refreshment stops.  Take a short detour off the trail to Loch Leven’s larder, https://www.lochlevenslarder.com/  where I am reliably informed that the carrot cake was the ‘best ever’.  Then there is the RSPB Visitor Centre https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/loch-leven/ about half way round.  Again, good facilities – and cake!

The final stretch

Finally, it’s worth having a wander around ‘Todd and Duncan’, to have a look at the cashmere – some gorgeous stuff in there. https://www.todd-duncan.co.uk/ Oh and cake too!  This is where our 13 mile walk around the loch ended and we met up with our cyclist partners.  It seems they had a great day too.

The baby-blue, endless sky ove loch Leven
The endless sky over the the Loch Leven nature reserve

National Nature Reserve

Loch Leven is the main part of the Loch Leven National Nature Réserve.  It is the largest lowland loch in Scotland and an important site for waterfowl.  Over 35,000 birds can be around during the winter months.  The birds arrive at Loch Leven from some far flung places, such as Greenland, Iceland, Siberia and northern and central Europe. A bird-watcher’s – and fungi spotter’s paradise!

Red, forest fungi. All manner of wildlife can be spotted on a walk around Loch Leven
Red, forest fungi

Savour a Walk in the Highlands

Linn of Tummel Circular Walk

Linn of Tummel walk
View from Garry Bridge

Easy to park, easy to walk

It was free to park the car which was a bonus. The day was dry, slightly overcast and not too cold although the sun did peek through at points. Perfect weather for a good, long walk. After a flight of steps down to the river bank it was almost all flat. A well-worn path with a few steps here and there and a few tree roots along the way.

Pitlochry

Pitlochry https://www.pitlochry.org/index.html is world-famous for its ‘Salmon Leap’ which is a spectacle in the springtime when the salmon ‘leap’ to return to their spawning ground.  This was our stop of choice at about the half way point of the walk. It is a pretty, touristy, small town which has its own railway station, quite a few shops selling Tartan and shortbread.

Loch Faskally
Loch Faskally

This one is definitely worth a visit…

A particular shop that caught our eye was the whiskey shop http://robertsonsofpitlochry.co.uk/   This little place is a real gem. It has a phenomenal range of whiskeys… and gins, some with a phenomenal price tag too! Attached to the shop is what looks like a small restaurant but is actually a whiskey-tasting experience room. Each place is set with a wooden, glass-holder which takes about 5 small glasses. There wasn’t a ‘tasting’ when we were there but we did buy a couple of glasses. A lovely reminder of our visit to Pitlochry.

Malt glass
A souvenir of Pitlochry

‘Keep right on to the end of the road’

A quick coffee in the cafe across the road and we were off again to complete the circuit. We did this walk fairly recently and so the trees were decked out in their autumn colours. Just amazing, although my pictures don’t really do them justice.

Linn of Tummel circular walk
Linn of Tummel circular walk

If you ever take the ‘High Road’ to Scotland do yourself a favour, pack your walking boots and head for Garry Bridge.

Linn of Tummel circular walk
View of Garry Bridge

Yes, even more Soup

Celery soup

Celery Soup

Today’s soup recipe is not to everyone’s taste but most people I know like it.  It’s smooth delicious and nutritious!  A quick and easy recipe.  Almost impossible to go wrong and it freezes well.  This soup has a lightness and it’s great for filling a flask to accompany a Winter walk.

Recipe for Celery Soup 

(Makes enough to serve 8). 

The equipment you will need:

  • a sharp veg prep knife and chopping board
  • a large soup pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • a hand blender
Soup making ute sils
Equipment for making soup

Ingredients

Celery soup ingredients
The ingredients for celery soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 whole head of celery, washed and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Few shakes of ground white pepper
  • 2 veg stock cubes I used https://www.oxo.co.uk/ made up into 1 litre of stock
  • 150 ml milk

Step 1

Peel and chop the veg

Chopped veg
Chop all the veg

Step 2

Heat the oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes until translucent.  Add the diced potato.  Cover and cook on a low heat until potato is tender about 5 minutes. Add the chopped celery, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the hot stock, stir well, cover and cook for 10 further minutes. Add the seasoning. Stir well. Cover and cook until all veg are tender.

Step 3

Remove from the heat. Blitz with a hand-blender add the milk. Serve hot,  or portion and freeze when cold.

Celery soup
A bowl of flavoursome celery soup

Variation

Sprinkle on grated mature cheddar cheese and serve with crusty bread. Or crumble some Blue Stilton cheese on top.

 

Thank Goodness for Soup!

Tomato and Basil Soup

Yes, I have been soup making – again.  You can expect more of this.

Second soup-making session of the season

I had the sudden desire to make soup again yesterday.  Tomato and Basil this time.  Even though I say so myself, it was pretty good!

Recipe for Tomato and Basil Soup 

(Makes enough to serve 8). 

The equipment you will need:

Soup making ute sils
Equipment for making soup
  • a sharp veg prep knife
  • a veg peeler
  • a chopping board
  • a large soup pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • a hand blender

Ingredients

Tomato and Basil Soup ingredients
Everything you need to make Tomato and Basil Soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Few shakes of ground white pepper
  • 2 veg stock cubes I used https://www.oxo.co.uk/
  • 2 1litre cartons of tomato juice
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • Large handful fresh basil

Step 1

Peel and chop the veg

Prepared veg for Tomato and Basil Soup
Prepared veg for Tomato and Basil Soup

Step 2

Heat the oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes until translucent.  Add the diced potato.  Cover and cook on a low heat until potato is tender about 5 minutes. Add the tomato purée and white wine vinegar. Crumble in the stock cubes, stir well, cover and cook for 2 further minutes. Add the seasoning. Stir well.  Add the tinned tomatoes. Cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the 2 x 1 litre cartons of tomato juice. Stir. Cover and cook for a further 15/20 minutes or until all veg are tender.

Step 3

Remove from the heat.  Add all the basil (I don’t think it is possible to have too much basil, although it is possible to have too little!)  Blitz with a hand-blender. Serve hot,  or portion and freeze when cold.

Tomato and Basil Soup
Freshly made Tomato and Basil Soup

To make it even more heart-warming, sprinkle on grated mature cheddar cheese and serve with crusty bread.

 

It’s Soup Season!

Ingredients for carrot and lentil soup

Hurrah! It’s the season for SOUP!

I love to make soup. I find it very therapeutic and relaxing.  It’s a good feeling to make it in batches and then freeze for cold, winter days.  The only drawback is I probably make too much, the hubster tells me off for filling up the freezer.

First soup of the season

I got the urge to make soup yesterday.  Carrot and lentil.  I thought I would share the process with you.

Carrot and Lentil Soup enough to serve 12.  (Good for a bonfire party or to freeze). Scale down for smaller quantities.

The equipment you will need:

  • a sharp veg prep knife and chopping board
  • a large soup pan
  • a wooden spoon
  • a hand blender
Ingredients for carrot and lentil soup
Carrot and lentil soup ingredients
  • 500g red lentils
  • 1kg fresh carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small onions
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground back pepper
  • half a teaspoon of turmeric (or more to taste)
  • half a teaspoon ground cumin (or more to taste)
  • 2 veg stock cubes I used https://www.oxo.co.uk/ made up to a litre with boiling water.

Step 1

Peel the veg, soak the lentils

Peel the veg and immerse the lentils in cold water

Step 2

 

Chopped veg
Chop the veg

Step 3

Heat the oil. Sauté the onion and garlic for 3 minutes until translucent.  Add the carrots, stir well, cover and cook for 3 further minutes. Add seasoning and spices.  Stir well.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add soaked lentils. Stir. Add stock. Stir.  Cover and cook for a further 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Step 4

Blitz with a handblender. Serve hot,  or portion and freeze when cold.

Carrot and lentil soup
A comforting bowl of carrot and lentil soup

Variation

Add chilli flakes and extra cumin to spice up to taste.  Serve with crusty bread and perhaps sprinkle some mature, grated cheddar on top – watch it melt! Delicious.

 

How to make a Lavender bag

Capture the smell of lovely English lavender now

Now is the time to harvest the lavender that is probably growing in your garden.  If not your garden then someone else’s close by!  Let’s make a traditional, English lavender bag together.

Snipping lavender spikes in the garden

Granddaughter Evie came to stay and so she was put to work with the scissors in the garden.  A good bunch of lavender spikes later makes a lovely display as they dry out for a couple of days – without water.

Fresh lavender without water

Ready to create an English lavender bag

OK so now we have our lavender spikes.  Here’s what else we needed:

What you need
  • A meter of netting (cost £1.50 from the local market)
  • A meter of ribbon (cost .75p from the local market)
  • Scissors
  • And of course… lavender spikes

And here’s what we did with the lavender

  • After leaving the lavender spikes for a couple of days to dry out pull off the flowers into a pile onto some paper
Lavender bag
  • Cut x2  9”/23cm squares of net, lay one on top of the other for double thickness
  • With the net partially placed under the paper, push a quantity of lavender onto the net as shown
Transferring the lavender onto the net
  • Draw up the corners and sides of the net without letting the lavender escape
  • My able assistant then tied a length of ribbon around the enclosed lavender – very tightly.  Learning to tie a knot in the process.
Tying securely

A souvenir of a lovely summer

We made enough lavender bags to give to Mummy to make her drawers smell nice and even one for Daddy for the car.  The smell in the kitchen was just divine.  When we learned that the smell is ‘soporific’ and relaxing grandson Jack said that he would like one for his bedroom ‘Because sometimes it’s just too hard to get to sleep!’

 

 

All is safely gathered in. (Winter is coming!)

 

Harvesting in the dark

Update: Harvesting in the dark

On the way home from a night out – the farmers are still harvesting.

The hubster and I went out for out for a wander yesterday afternoon.  We could hear the distant hum of the combine harvester.

You may have seen a couple of images on Twitter @SavourtheMomen1 and Instagram @Sharon28.sr. Here they are again:

Clouds of dust heading our way

Townies!

We are relatively new to this area.   It is still an absolute delight and a wonder to see the continual change in the fields around us.  This incredible summer has provided the most amazing fields of gold.  Our neighbours might well take this for granted as they have always lived in this environment – but they are far more in tune with the change in the seasons than we are.

Combine harvester up close and loud

Harvest dust gets everywhere

Our bird’s eye view was from the nearby canal towpath.  Several vehicles: combines, grain collectors and even bigger grain collectors, followed by bailers, all work together like partners in a dance.  The huge expanse of barley (yes I can recognise it now) was ‘done’ in little under an hour.  Great clouds of light-brown dust billowed up and made its way across the canal.  It left its tell-tale film on the water, to be absorbed overnight to sink to the bottom.  We took shelter behind a hawthorn hedge.  Even so everything, yes everything, inside and outside the house… and the car, has a light covering of beige dust.  I suppose it goes with the territory!

Harvesting barley

A different way of life

The machine operators certainly know what they’re doing and understand the crops, the land and the weather.  At this time of year and in this area, there is no such thing as an eight-hour working day.  The headlights of the vehicles in the fields can be seen as they work into the night.  At a guess I would say it is probably three solid weeks of working 18/20 hour days.  I could be wrong, it might be more.

Then comes the tractor.  They pull huge trailers of hay stacked so high they barely make it under the bridges.  They shower the roads and paths with yellow confetti. 

The harvest is almost finished now and the moon will soon shine on the freshly harvested fields to turn the gold into silver.

Almost done

It will always continue to fascinate.  It really is a spectacle to see.  I recommend that you take the time to go and look for yourself, before it is too late.

Hats off to the farmers.

A Snapshot in Time

This image keeps popping back into my head even though I took it well over a year ago.

We were on a camping trip with my son, Luke and his family to Clapton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire.  The campsite, owned and run by an elderly lady, was dominated along one side by a big, old, dark brown barn.  Some of the slats were slipping,  leaving just enough space for an iPhone to take aim.  It was late evening, the sun was sinking and a blackbird sang.  It was as though each object in the barn had been specifically placed in order to create this composition. 

A look through a peephole into an old barn

I can tell you know more, it is just a snapshot in time.  Another moment to savour, it reminded me of:

Adlestrop  by Edward Thomas (about a Gloucestershire village station):

Yes. I remember Adlestrop

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat, the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came

On the bare platform. What I saw

Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,

And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,

No whit less still and lonely fair

Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

 

GONE FISHING!

I think I may have mentioned this before but I live very near to the Chesterfield Canal http://www.chesterfield-canal-trust.org.uk/ and that I have started a new regime of jogging along the tow path.  Well, this lovely waterway is attractive in other ways too…

During the long school summer break, my four grandchildren (aged between five and nine) come to stay either in twos or altogether – like yesterday, when we spent some time making our own fishing nets.  All each of them needed was: 

Make your own fishing net
All you need to make a simple fishing net
  • A 5 ft garden cane
  • A wire coat hanger
  • A piece of netting
  • A needle and thread

There was much amusement as they put their sewing skills to the test plus a bit of help from Grommar and Poppar of course. In the end all four of them finished with a very respectable fishing net.  Naturally, they were all desperate to put them to the test so plans were made that Evie and Jack could go fishing the next day, as they were staying here with us and Josh and Harry could go the following week, when they would be staying with us.

Evie and Jack fishing
Homemade fishing nets in action

It was a golden couple of hours as Evie and Jack searched along the canal bank for the perfect spot, looking for tiddlers along the way.  Neither had ever ‘fished’ before so they soon learned that splashing around in the water and making grand swooping gestures with the net was not going to catch them any fish.  After a demonstration by Poppar they soon got the hang of it and it wasn’t long before each of them had a jar with a couple of tiddlers, some other creatures and some bits of weed.

Evie and Jack try out their fishing nets
Learning to fish

We had taken a picnic lunch with us and as we ate lunch, we saw a kestrel, heard a yellow-hammer, a buzzard, swans with signets, pondskaters, water boatmen and blackberries almost ready for picking – probably a task for next week.  It was a couple of hours very well spent and could be replicated anywhere there is a body of water – just make sure you take every safety precaution and notice of any safety warnings – or else you will have to answer to your kids!

Fishing takes patience
Fishing on the Chesterfield Canal

This is also one of the things to do on the https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/documents/50-things-activity-list.pdf

Trust me, it was a day to treasure.