Glastonbury Encounters – Shops, Shoes, and Sheep

Glastonbury Tor in the mist from the Mendip hills

Losing a sheepskin mitten, the imminent arrival at the start of February of St Brigid’s Day / the Celtic Festival of Imbolc / Candlemass , and rediscovering some photos from the 70s and 80s are the seemingly random reasons behind writing this linked set of posts about Glastonbury and the surrounding area. The process has been reinforced by the inability to travel beyond my “local area” (splendid though it is) and my constant impulse to put words and images together, especially in all this suspended time and wearying weather. 

So these factors have propelled me back Continue reading

Glastonbury Encounters – “England’s mountain(s) green”

Going up the Tor

I’ve climbed Glastonbury Tor a fair few times over the decades, either as an ad hoc detour on the journey to or from my folks who lived not far from there (see this post), or as an outing from Bristol with family and friends, the weather often changing from sunshine on the climb up to showers or freezing cold winds that generated much complaint from the kids, but the vistas and exhilarating atmosphere at the summit usually won the day. The contact strip in the photo above is possibly from my first visit to Glastonbury in 1975. Continue reading

Glastonbury Encounters – Springs and Wells

On the way back to the car after our Glastonbury Tor climb (previous post) we passed the entrance to the Chalice Well Gardens, source of the Red Spring where Joseph of Arimathea is said to have placed the chalice of the Last Supper that also collected the drops of Christ’s blood at the crucifixion – the Holy Grail. I’d taken some German dowsers there in 1988 who were fascinated by the iron oxide-rich water and the powerful responses from their dowsing implements. It’s a lovely space, not just for the well and the water that threads through the site, but for the plants, the Continue reading

Glastonbury Encounters – Brigid, Bridie, Brigantia

The site of St Brigid’s chapel with a glimpse of Glastonbury Tor at the top right of the photo.

Following my two “sightings” of Brigid –  first on the west face of St Michael’s tower at the top of the Tor (see here) and then almost under the ground at the White Spring below the hill (and here) – I did learn more about her over the next few days via the internet and books at home, and what emerged through information, from the esoteric to the mundane, was what an enduring phenomena she was – or is.

A Celtic triple goddess, honoured at Imbolc (the point in the year between the winter solstice and the spring equinox), guardian of sacred springs, keeper of the hearth fire, and a much venerated Christian saint.  Continue reading

A Pill plot – Pasture, Plantations and Pilots; history through the window

My “Window Wanderland” display, in the three windows of an upstairs bay, as seen from the street in the dark February night – and including the unforeseen problem of condensation around the bottom of the apple tree!

This post was started not long after the first Window Wonderland event in our village in February 2017, but sat at the back of my computer unfinished until now! We’ve had two more of these events since then, more on those in a future post.

Our village held its first Window Wonderland event recently, organised by a neighbour (the idea started in Bristol and has become global now, click here to find out more); it’s a charmingly inventive way to brighten the evening streets after the glitter of Christmas has been put away and there still seems to be a long stretch of dark nights to get through before spring arrives – we couldn’t not take part! No theme was specified but I decided to use the event as an opportunity to look back at the past of our house and its surroundings – a topic I’ve always been interested in but the fascination and the urge to learn more has been growing. So I created three images for an upstairs bay window that offered a visual micro-history of our part of the village – and being a bird lover a few resident and regular visiting species appear too! So here are the multiple-layered stories behind each window. Continue reading

Fortunes, fruit and fevers … biography of an orchard, part 1

 Pill Village

The village of Pill, my home in North Somerset, clusters (once attractively I hear) around a deep, muddy, tidal creek formed by the Martcombe Brook rising just a couple of miles south of the village. A ‘pill’ is the West Country and Welsh name for a tidal creek – there are several pills along this stretch of the river, each identified with its own prefix, our old, ‘proper’ name is Crockerne Pill, see below for explanation. The Martcombe Brook spills into the River Avon, two miles or so south-west from where it joins the Severn. Shirehampton is only the river’s width across from us (but a different world Continue reading

Fruit, Friends and Festivities … biography of an orchard, part 2.

Orchard reclaimed (a continuation from the previous post)

Five years or so after the Pill orchard was handed over to the local community in about 2004, a group of committed volunteer enthusiasts (which later became the Friends of Watchhouse Hill) began to organise improvements to the hill area and a reclamation process began on the orchard. Workparties (that are still regular events) vigorously tackled the brambles and the neglected trees were pruned Continue reading

The Brights of Ham Green House – wealth and health, science and slavery

The Bright Family at Ham Green

This post accompanies  “Fortunes, Fruit and Fevers – a biography of an orchard. part 1”

The Bright family of Bristol was a tremendously important and wealthy one, having made its fortune in the slave trade, [West] India dealings and ultimately banking.” Quote from ‘Tempestuous teacups and enigmatic leaves’ Larry Schaff.

From Worcestershire farming to Apprentice Merchant, and success in Bristol

Continue reading

Discovering Sheffield – in the footsteps of family ghosts

Proud neon sign in the excellent Kelham Island industrial museum

Two and bit years ago I visited Sheffield where our son Will had been living for a few years during student days at the University and later working there. He loved the city and had made many good friends but was about to move to Vienna to join his Austrian girlfriend, so this was probably a last chance to explore the city with him to follow up on some family history connections I’d not known about on earlier visits to see him.

I knew my father’s family came from Sheffield but little else of the family’s history at the time Will started at University in 2005 but it was interesting how quickly he felt at home in this city of his ancestors and took so readily to the nearby Peak District that had beguiled my paternal grandparents – they met when they were both members of an early 20th century rambling group I believe and later named their house in Oxfordshire after Winnats Pass. Continue reading

Old Twelfth Night, Wassailing and the ‘Christmas place’

It’s Old Twelfth Night, ‘Twelvey’, 17th January, the date of Twelfth Night in the old Julian calendar before they played catch-up in 1752 to reclaim those accumulated days that we’d lost through miscalculation, or was it just carelessness? This is the traditional day, down ‘ere in the West Coun’ry anyway, when we do our Wassailing – treating the orchard trees to a hullabaloo of singing and saucepan bashing to drive away the evil spirits, Continue reading