Monthly Archives: February 2016

Snow Dog

I’ve been working away from home this week in the Midlands. I really miss Phil and the boys when I’m stuck in a hotel room on my own but we have started to use FaceTime which is way better than a phone call. The view out of my city window was blue skies and winter sunshine but I was surprised to see snow out of our window in Armathwaite. Phil sent me these lovely pictures of our Snow Dog … Rigsby. He loves to roll in it whereas Shackleton doesn’t quite get what’s so great about it !

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Boxing clever!

For my 50th birthday Phil gave me a  Gardenature cedar wood nesting box with ultra high resolution camera system. His thorough research paid off as he found one that provides a unique side-on view rather than the conventional top down image.

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Photo courtesy of Gardenature website

 

 

 

 

 

 

The camera is excellent; it’s a Sony Effico with a light sensor which will turn on the infra red LEDs when there is insufficient natural light. There’s an opaque window in the roof of the nest box to let in sufficient light to provide a good colour image. And here’s the cherry on the top …. it has an inbuilt microphone so we will be able to hear as well as see what’s going on! All we have to do now (Phil) is mount it on the wall and feed the cable through to the TV.

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So, in a few weeks time we should be able to share some pictures with you of Mr and Mrs Tit, house-building and preparing for the first hatchlings late May.

Grey Yauds & King Harry’s Stone

A short distance away from us near Broomrigg is a fell known as King Harry Fell or King Harry Common. An article written in 1906 by THB Graham noted that ‘not many years ago, there existed one of those rude circles of stones which never fail to awaken in our minds a lively sense of wonder.’

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Chris ….. “I wonder where it is?”

It is known locally as Grey Yauds or Grey Mares, Yauds being an old Cumbrian word for  mares. In documentation from 1777 it is described as ‘consisting of 88 pretty large sparry stones, set nearly in an exact circle of about 52 yards diameter; and one single stone, larger than the rest, stood out of the circle about 5 yards to the north West’.
In later accounts they were described as ‘granite stones lying in the middle of a dark and dreary waste, and being comparatively small, the largest not exceeding 4 feet in height, but nevertheless distinguishable from a distance’.

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A dark and dreary waste

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There are further descriptions later in 1882 by a Rev G Rome Hall who found the number of stones ‘now much reduced, by the supposed necessities of agriculture; the stones having been broken up and used for the adjoining field walls.’

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The locals of the time said that King Harry once pitched his camp here and that he used the large stone to help him mount his horse. However, the stone is over 6 feet high and as far as we know, no Kings named Henry who lived before 1268 ever came to these parts although it is known that Henry II as a youth of 16 was knighted 10 miles away at Carlisle in 1148, by David King of Scots.

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King Harry’s Stone

Prior to visiting the site, Graham made further enquiries with the locals and although they had heard of the place known as Grey Yauds, none of them could recall a stone circle being there. What he found at the site was a solitary block of stone, standing at a point marked on his OS map as a dot and ‘stone circle’ but this had entirely disappeared. He did note the foundation of the wall along the western end of the pasture was formed of ‘large blocks of sparry granite’, and concluded these to be the old grey stones or their fragments.

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Keen to preserve what was left, he proposed that the stone should be fenced ‘to prevent damage by cattle or irresponsible persons who carve their initials into the stone.’ When he mentioned this to a local resident, the suggestion was laughed at and Graham noted ‘such is the mind of the average rustic, and so wanting in imagination, that he actually appraises these venerable relics of a bygone age at their value for road metal!’

 

Periodic Table ware …

It was St Valentine’s Day last Sunday and Phil surprised me with a beautiful Victorian hyacinth vase. It’s very unusual as it made from Uranium glass which glows under UV light ! I set about researching this as I’d never heard of it before and found the following on a site called 1st-glass.1st-things.com

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‘Uranium salts (Uranium Dioxide), as found in their natural state, are a vivid yellow. So it’s easy to understand why it has been added to glass as a yellow colourant since the early 19th century. There have been claims that its first use was as early as 79 AD following the discovery in 1912 of a glass mosaic in an excavation on a Roman Villa near Naples in Italy but this has never been proven. Some others consider that its first use was by Josef Riedel at his Bohemian glassworks in the 1830’s. There is no doubt though, that in 1835 experiments with uranium as a glass colorant were being carried out by Whitefriars Glass Works in London and that in 1836, a pair of uranium glass candlesticks were presented to the Queen. Production of uranium glass in Britain ceased by the end of the second world war but a small amount is still being manufactured in the USA and Czechoslovakia.
One of the most significant aspects of uranium glass is that it is radioactive and does give a positive reading on a geiger counter. This may cause some concern as to its safety with regard to health but research from 2003 confirmed that the radiation levels detected were low and quite safe with normal use.

The other significant aspect of uranium bearing glass and that which is of major interest to collectors, is that it glows a vivid bright green under Ultra Violet light (blacklight). This is due to the Ultra Violet radiation exciting the outer electrons of the uranium atoms which as a result give off energy and which is seen by our eyes as a bright green glow. This is called fluorescence. The more intense the UV the brighter the green glow and the less that the original yellow colouring can be seen. Uranium glass also has a slight green glow in daylight due to the Ultra Violet component of daylight acting on it. This glow is paler due to the effect of the other components of white light also striking our eyes.’

My vase is pink through the top section and this is due to the inclusion of gold in the manufacturing of the glass. It’s known as Cranberry glass and is made in craft production rather than in large quantities, due to the high cost of the gold. The gold chloride is made by dissolving gold in a solution of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid (aqua regia). The glass is typically hand blown or molded. The finished, hardened glass is a type of colloid, a solid phase (gold) dispersed inside another solid phase (glass).

He never ceases to surprise me !

 

Broomrigg Plantation stone circles

Phil’s brother Chris has a special interest in stone circles and travels all over the country to see them. Within walking distance of our village are the remains of a Bronze Age settlement and associated stone circles, which we had failed to explore although right on our doorstep. Chris had a stop over with us recently and arrived with just enough daylight to explore the plantation.

To the uninitiated the stones would appear to have no significance as a random collection of boulders barely breaking above the vegetation. The plantation contains nine separate sites of archaeological interest.

The following information is from the website pastscape.org.uk

BROOMRIGG  A ….. The remains of a large, irregular circle of standing stones located within Broomrigg Plantation. Originally circa 55 metres in diameter, only the northwestern arc of stones remains largely in situ. Outliers to the northwest are interpreted as an alignment comprising two parallel rows of three stones each. The stones are of red sandstone, and excavations in 1950 showed that where unweathered, they appear to have been hammer-dressed. Each stone was set 8 or 9 inches into the ground in sockets which were packed with stone.

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BROOMRIGG A. Photo Chris Dutton

BROOMRIGG C ….. The remains of a small stone circle, now comprising 14 standing stones which enclose an area of circa 16 metres by 13 metres. Excavations were undertaken in 1948-9. In the southwest sector, the surviving (seven) stones are very close set and form an arc which does not match the remainder of the circle. The sector had previously been the site of a cairn which covered a deep pit containing a stone-lined cist, which when excavated contained no finds, and no human remains survived. A smaller cist is said to have existed in the same sector, but was apparently destroyed by vandals during the excavation. The southeast sector contained a series of cremation burials, some associated with pottery and others with jet beads. Two fragments of bronze were also found.

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BROOMRIGG C.  Photo Chris Dutton

BROOMRIGG D ….. The remains of a small stone circle in Broomrigg Plantation. It comprises six standing stones which enclose an oval area circa 5.2 metres by 3.8 metres.

BROOMRIGG G ….. The site of a single standing stone (known as Broomrigg G) located in Broomrigg Plantation. The English Heritage scheduling details standing stone as a roughly rectangular flat-topped granite stone measuring approximately 2.5 metres by 1.5 metres and up to 1 metre high (although in 1972, the Ordnance Survey were unable to locate anything resembling a standing stone in the area). Hut circles have also been reported from the vicinity, although again nothing resembling a hut circle could be identified by the Ordnance Survey. The standing stone is scheduled.

BROOMRIGG F ….. Two adjacent rings of stones circa 12 feet in diameter suspected to represent hut circles. They were excavated in 1950, the only finds being some flint flakes and a quantity of iron oxide. The sites have been scheduled, and described as an irregular spread of earthfast stones which partly protrude through the vegetation cover, although during a visit by an Ordnance Survey field investigator in 1972 it was noted that the area had been deep-furrow ploughed and re-afforested since the excavations, and nothing resembling hut circles or rings of stone could be seen.

BROOMRIGG B2 ….. The possible site of a Bronze Age cairn and its retaining circle. Originally, a small circle of stones 4 to 5 feet in diameter and surrounding a conical stone-lined cist/pit was noted. The suggestion that a cairn had once covered the site appears to be based on analogy with a nearby monument (NY 54 NW 10). Ordnance Survey field investigation in 1972 was unable to locate the site. The area had been re-afforested since the site was first noted, and it may well have been destroyed by deep-furrow ploughing. The site was scheduled, but has now been descheduled.

BROOMRIGG B1 …..The remains of a small circle of standing stones at Broomrigg Plantation. It originally comprised seven stones. According to the scheduled monument description, only four of these remain and only three of are still upright. In contrast, Ordnance Survey field investigation in 1972 noted “one large earthfast stone and two haphazardly placed boulders”. They enclose an area of circa 3.4 metres diameter. The scheduled monument description also refers to a slight turf-covered mound within the interior which “indicates that the stones originally encircled a burial cairn”, although the Ordnance Survey also dismissed the possibility that the site might be a denuded cairn. Excavation in 1950 located a stone-lined conical pit within the enclosed area, the sole find being a single small flint. Scheduled.

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Broomrigg B1. Photo Joseph Dutton

BROOMRIGG P ….. The scheduled monument comprises the remains of a medieval shieling known as Broomrigg P. It is located in Broomrigg Plantation and is a single-roomed shieling of which only the north and east walls remain above ground level. These walls are of drystone construction, survive up to 0.3 metres high, and measure 7 metres long by up to 1.5 metres wide.

BROOMRIGG I ….. A standing stone, now fallen, known as Broomrigg I. It is located in Broomrigg Plantation and comprises a roughly rectangular boulder measuring 2 metres east-west by 1.6 metres north-south and 1 metre high.

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BROOMRIGG I. Photo Chris Dutton

On some sites BROOMRIGG C is described as the most interesting of the group. We failed to find a single stone although the site was clearly marked by the Plantation management. Due to failing light we also had to abandon our search for BROOMRIGG D. At the time of exploration we were unaware of the sites P. G and B2. Worth a revisit when the weather gets better.

Game, Shot and …

We woke up this morning to a very different kind of birdsong and I dashed upstairs with camera to shoot our new visitor! He is a splendid male pheasant and was standing on our garden wall drinking from the water feeder. We often hear them as they are bred locally for shooting and as it is now the season for hunting game, this fellow is lucky to have found sanctuary in our garden.

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Ring-necked pheasants are native to China and East Asia, but they have been successfully introduced in other parts of the world, including North America. They were first introduced to the UK by the Romans 2000 years ago and have graced the tables of kings and clergy. It is said that Thomas Becket feasted on pheasant the evening prior to his violent murder in Canterbury cathedral in 1162.

In autumn, pheasants form flocks in which they will live until the following spring.

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Tarn Wadling; another tall story…

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Alongside the High Hesket to Armathwaite road, a shallow grassed depression is the only clue to existence of Tarn Wadling – a large natural lake associated with Arthurian legends. It was near here that the giant, Owen Caesarius, cast a spell on King Arthur, which could only be broken by providing the answer to the question: ‘What is it that all women desire?’ Unable to solve the riddle, Arthur meets a wizened old hag at Tarn Wadling who knows the answer but in return for giving this information she demands to be married to one of King Arthur’s knights. Sir Gawain volunteers and Arthur is given the answer that women want ‘is to have their own way in all things’. The spell is broken and Gawain marries the old woman only to discover that she turns into a fair damsel on their wedding night. But she can only be beautiful by day or by night and asks Gawain what he would prefer. The knight diplomatically allows her to choose (i.e. to let her have her own way) and she remains beautiful ever more.

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In the early 1800’s Lord Lonsdale issued an instruction to drain Tarn Wadling to turn it into agricultural land. However, after heavy rain, the lake makes a temporary reappearance. The adjacent woodland is owned by the Woodland Trust and open to public access. Owen Caesarius, the giant of Tarn Wadling, who features in our post ‘a very tall story’ is said to have lived in the castle above the tarn.

Known as Castle Hewin (Owain’s Castle) one description reads “Near to it is Tarn Wadling, a lake of 100 acres, which breeds some of the finest carp in the kingdom, and borders upon a declivity that rises 600 feet above the Eden. There were some years ago, on the crown of the lofty eminence on the north east side of the lake, the remains of a very strong and ancient building, 233 feet by 147, called Castle Hewin, but no traces of it are now left. Tradition says it was one of the strongholds of Ewaine, king of Cumberland.” (From the book ‘Beauties of England & Wales or deliniations 1802)

The tarn must have been considered of great importance as Tarn Wadling and Windermere are the only bodies of water to feature on the Gough map in the north of England. The map is thought to date from around 1375 and is held in the Bodlean Library, Oxford.