Cornwall

Helicopter

At home I spend many a happy hour musing on possible sites to land a helicopter –specifically an air ambulance — basically there is nowhere within two miles that is flat or not festooned with power lines or patrolled by ferocious cattle.  The only flat place on the farm is where Alan has built an enormous bonfire which was too dangerous to light all summer and is now too wet!

Anyway, as everyone knows, no one ever gets around to being sure that they are ill enough to call an ambulance in the morning.  We have our lunch at 3pm and it’s dark by 4 — the Welsh Air Ambulance doesn’t fly after dark which is as well with all the mountains and the above hazards.

We’ve been in Lostwithiel in Cornwall — on the Fowey River.  There was a colossal roar the other day — so tantalizingly loud that Pedro and I had to go and investigate!

50 yards from the house we found the source of the row — a Cornwall Air Ambulance –come to pick someone up from the adjacent medical centre.

Here they are being loaded:

See –it’s already dusk, but note how wonderfully flat it is.

Then it started to roar again and the rotor blades which were drooping started to rotate faster and faster and got flatter and flatter and louder and louder until one thought it couldn’t try any harder — but it did  and, as Pedro sank to the ground and covered his ears, it lifted lightly up and turned to face us.  

It flew directly at us (must have seen the camera) then rose up in an aerial pirouette —

— and set off towards Plymouth.  Good Luck!

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Cornwall, Wales, Welsh History

Madrun

When you meet someone for the first time, it seems to me, that you can nearly always find something that you have in common — places you have lived, people you have known, views, tastes, maybe you have the same sense of humour — we humans like to do this, to forge bonds with new people.

I have just met Madrun and she is a remarkable woman.  She’s been dead 1500 years. 

Whatever you call her, Madrun or Materiana, this woman must have learned a thing or two from the turbulent power struggles that raged around her in her early life.  She was born a princess, eldest daughter of Gwerthefyr Fendigaid (Vortimer the Blessed), the 5th century warrior king of Gwent who opposed the Saxon invaders from Germany who were allied with his father.  He temporarily overthrew his father and took power but eventually is said to have been poisoned by his Saxon stepmother (that’s a recurrent theme!)  On his father’s death, his daughter, Madrun, succeeded from her grandfather and rulled with her husband Ynyr (descended from Roman emperor Magnus Maximus). (Thankyou, David Nash Ford for this information from Early British Kingdoms)

The details of her life are obscure but we know she was Christian and that, like many of her contemporaries she travelled to Ynes Enlli (Bardsey Island — at the tip of the Llyn peninsula in North Wales) as a pilgrim. 

Looking towards Bardsey Island,  Ynys Gwylan in the foreground

On the way she and her servant Annun stayed a night at Trawsfynydd.  I have visited this area — infact I blogged about the visit and the spooky nature of the place.(Off the Straight and Narrow) 

Madrun found it spooky too.  She and Annun both dreamed a dream of  founding a nunnery there, which they did –the church there still bears Madrun’s name.

Circle of hills around Trawsfynydd –slate wall in foreground

Yesterday we were at Tintagel, Cornwall, in a magnificent gale, shouting greetings to fellow walkers with excited wind-tousled dogs.  We watched the huge swell and the breakers hitting the offshore islands and sending spray 60 feet into the air.

The Sisters, Tintagel.

As we drove away we caught sight of a small church on the cliff and we were drawn to look.  Here it is — St Materiana’s (that’s the same Madrun — she ended her days in Cornwall)

Saint Materiana’s Church, Tintagel, Cornwall

Relatively modern –rebuilt in 12th century!  But there’s been a church here since the 6th century — I bet you Madrun’s buried here — look at the view.

Someone is keeping an eye on it anyway!

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Hill Farming, Humour

Chutney Days!

As I get older my back aches a bit and my trousers get tighter otherwise I feel much the same but I notice that the people around me seem to ail more and the things that fill my days are changing.  A lot of the things that we do hardly merit a blog — I can’t promise you a riveting account of my breast screening appointment next week.

This week I have scratched the new car and got stuck in the car-wash but I have mostly been making chutney — apple chutney.  Well, I’d cleaned the house after the cider episode (the floor no longer clings hysterically to my shoes as I walk, nor the door handles to my hands) so I thought, I’ll fill the kitchen with vinegar fumes, taint the washing on the dryer and torture myself with chilli fingers when I remove my contact lenses!

I can feel exceedingly green by recycling jam jars, soothing my hands in warm soapy water, marvel at the amazing adhesiveness of modern labels  and turn a blind eye (still red from the chilli) on the amount of sugar that goes in — much less than in  jam! 

All because I read somewhere that the reason the days seem to fly past as we get older is because we don’t do enough different things– distinguishing things — that-was-the-day-I-made-the-chutney things!  

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Hill Farming

Sticky Situation!

We have a decrepit apple tree — the sheep barked it, a hedge has swamped it, it has die-back and more lichen than leaves and has produced about ten apples in as many years — until this year.

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It still doesn’t look very healthy but, by God, this has been a good year for apples!

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A fraction of the crop.

Trouble is everyone has had an exceptional year — Alan was bemoaning this fact at the pub and the fact that we no longer had a cider press (actually that was a huge relief — we are trying to cut down.)

Next day a friend arrived with, guess what!

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State of the art cider apple masher and…

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Cider Press!

It takes a lot of apples and a lot of mashing and pressing to produce a gallon of cider.  We’ve got through about 200 pounds of apples.

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The kitchen is now full of demi-johns bubbling away — it smells like a real farmhouse kitchen and everything is sticky!

I don’t think I can face bottling it so we will have to rack it off (to remove the sediment) and insert bungs into the big jars — that will mean we have to drink it a gallon at a time — Happy days!

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Hill Farming, seasons, Wales

Before the Storm

It’s a misty autumn morning with dew on the pasture where Aby is getting to know her new companion.

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The other sheep (including her old friend Twts) have gone to meet the ram.  Aby, who had retired from lambing, has a new friend to keep her company  — no sheep is happy to be alone (although this particular, hand reared one might well prefer to be back in the kitchen with the dog and me).

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That’s why she looks so grumpy — to top it all, the new friend (who is very undersized) is getting extra rations which is very irritating to Aby who is on a diet!  New ewe lamb who is from a neighbour’s farm, is still nameless but was an orphan like Aby, so is very bold with humans but still not at ease with Pedro, the dog.  She stamps her feet in an unfriendly way when he comes near — it’s early days.

As the sun appears over the hill the whole area is bathed in amber light reflected from the dying bracken.

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The woods are glowing with new colors.

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and dew, on spider silk, drapes the dead stalks of yarrow in gossamer.

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and polishes the mellowing bramble.

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Hill Farming, Sheep, Welsh culture

Highlight of the Farming Year

Llanidloes Ram Sale — a proper country Sheep Fair — where breeding sheep are traded locally just before the onset of the proper farming year, when the tups are turned out with the ewes at the beginning of November — for lambs in the Spring!

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All the sheep looking their best and relaxed — no frayed tempers today even if the hormones are beginning to flow.

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Perhaps the tups are a bit too laid-back — but then the ewes are down wind on the other side of the marquee.

Here’s a pen of fine young Blue Faced Leicesters —

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They may end up servicing  these beauties —

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–or these very tidy Black Faced ewes (I think they may be Beulahs)–

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to produce a valuable breeding Mule.

But best of all (to my mind) are the lively and hardy White Faced Welsh Mountain sheep.

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Best behavior in the ring but glad to be out of it!

High Flighers!

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Cornwall

Taking Pointing to a Whole New Level

I’ve done a lot of pointing in my time — that’s the hacking out of old mortar from ancient masonry and replacing it with fresh, new, lime mortar.  I like doing it — it’s very relaxing and, if you are not alone, you can chat in a particularly unguarded way, with your mind half on the methodical job in hand.

But look at this chap!

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Not so relaxed!

You can’t see his little pick in the photo but I could hear it.  And he didn’t stop there,  above the 700 year old octagonal lantern of the parish church of St Bartholomew, in Lostwithiel, Cornwall.

I don’t know how he got his rope to the top of the tower but here he is higher:

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hacking at the mortar of the church, the body of which was built in the heyday of the town in the twelfth century when it was one of the most important ports in Britain — before the river silted up with the waste from streaming tin on the hills which, ironically, was the source of the town’s wealth.

It is no longer the capital of Cornwall — but a very picturesque and quiet village in which to enjoy a cream tea and watch the twenty-first century go by.

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