Down Amongst the Woodland Fairies

In April Flowers the flowers were large enough to be easily seen. Yet many a woodland plant has flowers small, that are often tucked away amongst the general foliage . . .

Woodland Floor Flowers 3

Lesser Celandine, Bluebells and Wood Anemone , , , that’s what easily seen . . .  and that only if you are looking. Not so easily seen is the Moschatel’s flowers.

Moschatel

A whole patch of Moschatel, hiding away amongst the sycamore seedlings and the foliage of Cow Parsley and Herb Robert

Moschatel close up

Close up on the Moschatel’s inconspicuous yellow-green flowers

Wood Anemone pink

Close up on the Wood Anemone . . . pink variety

Wood Anemone

And here an unusual white variant.

Woodland Floor Flowers 1

Often all that’s seen is foliage. Though this isn’t a woodland floor. All this luxuriant growth is smothering a log.

Wood Sorrel patch

The delicate flowers of the Wood Sorrel awaiting the sun . . .

Wood Sorrel close up

Close up on the Wood Sorrel

Climbing Corydails

Easily missed, the Climbing Corydalis hasn’t the stature of its larger wasteland and wayside kin

Woodland Floor 2

Herb Robert and Bluebells, just a few of the flowers more easily seen on this woodland floor

Herb Robert

Close up on Herb Robert, a member of the Cranesbill (Geranium) family

Dovesfoot Cranebill

Cousin to the above, the Dovesfoot Cranesfoot, a wayside plant

Dovesfoot Cranebill, white var.

Ditto above . . . except this is a white variant. I’d not seen it before. It grew in the same stretch of hedge as the more usual pale lilac version

So next time you’re out walking . . . turn your eyes down. Who knows what treasures you’ll find growing just by your feet.

 

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April Flowers

Spring seems to have come early this year. Everywhere, flowers not usually in bloom till May are putting forth their colourful blossoms. Here are a few seen on my walks this month . . .

Apple Blossom

Apple blossom, tight in bud

Apple blossoms 2

And apple blossom full-open, a fit bouquet for any spring bride

Wild Cherry blossoms

The Wild Cherry was blooming even in March. But I found some still holding on . . .

Hawthorn blossom

Cast not a clout till May be out. Despite it’s still only April, this May blossom was already ‘out’ (aka the Hawthorn)

Bird Cherry blossom

Another cherry . . . . this one’s the Bird Cherry

Black Poplar leaves of spring

Not all of spring’s colour comes from the flowers. These fantastically coloured leaves belong to the Black Poplar

Horse Chestnut flowers

The Horse Chestnut tree shows the first signs of its flowers

Cowslips

Cowslips . . .

Oxlip

. . . and Oxlips, seen now in meadows and tucked into hedges

Primrose purple form

A variant on the usual pale ‘primrose’ colour. This one’s more of a mauve. It grows prolifically around Surlingham

Alexanders

And already our hedgerows take on that distinctive acid-yellow tunge of the Roman-introduced Alexanders

Cow Parsley

Along hedgerows and into the woods . . . Cow Parsley

Meadow Saxifrage

Despite its name . . . Meadow Saxifrage . . . I found this on an abandoned train embankment

Pendulous Sedge in flower

Turning to wetter places . . . so many species of sedge, but this one at least is easily identified. The Pendulous Sedge.

Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigolds began to show themselves in March. Now into April their bright yellow flowers echo the sun

Few-flowered Garlic

This was a new one on me: Few-Flowered Garlic!

Ramsons

But this is a favourite from childhood. Ramsoms, aka Wild Garlic

Large Bittercress

Is it Watercress? No. It’s purple stamens says it is Large Bittercress. But they grow in the same marshy lands

Marsh flowers

Nature’s flower garden in this wetland setting . . .

Lords and Ladies

Back to the hedgerows (and into the woods) with this ‘Lords and Ladies’

Bluebell woods

Bluebells . . . yet this photo was taken 22nd April. The bluebells in this particular woods aren’t usually in flower until into May

Bluebells upclose

Bluebells . . . close up and personal

Red Campion

Where the are bluebells, there are usually Red Campion.

Spring Beauty

My first ever encounter with Spring Beauty, an unusual flower, here in a hedgerow.

Sun Spurge

On the edge if a field . . . Sun Spurge

Dandelion, Forgetmeknots and White Dead Nettle

I do wonder if displays like this were inspiration for the English love of the mixed flower border. Here, Forget-me-nots, Dandelions and White Dead Nettle easily vie with any gardener’s efforts

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Lord of the Dance

COW4 Lord of the Dance   Continuing the time-slip story, <em>Can of Worms</em>, a 16 year old girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial-killer . . . Read on  Music. Loud. The drums thrum through me. They stir my blood, they make me move. How can I sit still? But tapping my foot, clapping my hands, that’s not enough. I glance at my mother—No, that’s not my mother! She looks nothing like. But whoever she is, she isn’t looking at me and that pleases. I’m up on my feet and weaving my way to where the others are dancing, away from the fire-pit, the tables and door.  I stay away from the mist-wreathed ‘white wasps’: two women, nasty creatures, seductive to men, spiteful to women. How do I know that? And how know their names that reel through me—Atall and Zelina—and that they’re scornful to me and my mother? Regardless, I find a space far from them.   But now I’m directly in view of the lord’s high table. That’s not by intent, by Johan and Jove, it is not. For that delivers me plain in sight of my mother-who’s-not-my-mother. Her disapproval plays loud in my head. I ignore it, now music-taken.   I care nothing for pipes, it’s the drums. That god-drum, that big drum; it holds me and sways me and lifts up my feet. I jump—I can’t help it. I swirl and stamp. The drums take me to some joyous place, nary a care. I dance, whirling about me the rune-rod. I’ve become unseeing of the men who number most of the dancers; unseeing, too, of those mist-haloed beings that sidle between them. I’m not with them, I’m alone with the music. The music and me.   My mother’s discomfit sounds again, doubly thick with disapprobation. I can feel her invisible hands as she forces my head to flex around, to look at Stefan. More memories flood me. Stefan, lord of this feast and this hall, my guardian since Uncle Nihel died eight mournful years back. Stefan, devout and cerebral, more of a cleric than a warrior-lord. How well he and my mother are suited—except, though Stefan tolerates the mist-haloed beings in his hall, he doesn’t approve them. And now he has issued an edict: Within the week, all must be gone.  As I turn my face sharply from him I raise up a curtain between us. I have that ability. Ethereal, yet that curtain forms a wall as impenetrable as that raised between this hall and Hindrelagh. Ethereal, yet full-real to me. And I grin, to be no more wound about with their disapproval.   This is our last night in the hall, my mother, myself and these others—Stefan at least has the grace to feast us. It’s <em>their</em> last night in the world of men, but not mine. My mother-who’s-not-my-mother won’t allow me to go off with them to their various homelands. <em>She</em> has other plans for us, plans I’ve had no part in the making. Plans I don’t particularly like. And now tears well though I try to stop them. How dare I have tears to ruin this night when all I want is to dance and be happy.  Metallic fingers, hard and cold, encircle and close on my arm, unregarding of my flesh. Those fingers drag me from the dance. Pointless to struggle: I know that grip belongs to Hegrea. And I know no one will notice what’s happening here, for Hegrea has powers far beyond me.   Away from the crowded fire-warmed hall the night air slaps me. I stumble backwards, released from her grasp and the god-drum’s hold. A stone wall catches me.   “Never have I known a more ungrateful child in all my years.” Hegrea now becomes a ghostly vision in the moon’s light. She growls at me, “<em>You</em> should not even exist, begotten after the Oath. And <em>you</em> complain you haven’t a will of your own?”  “I’ve said nothing. I’ve kept my complaints to myself. And neither am I a child. Since a few months back I‘ve been of age.”  Hegrea has no need to snort her derision, I feel it cutting through me, mocking at my naivety.    “Fool! You don’t need to voice words. We all can see them, clear as log-sparks in the night air. Aye, so you don’t want to go to Brittany with your guardian. Well that I do understand and with that I can sympathise. He makes little secret of what he’ll do with you there. Consigned to a convent, out of his way, sorted for life. Aye, unjust, isn’t it, when your brother Edmund is to be made his man, knighted, girded and besworded. Unjust that a Bellinn knight might exist where a Bellinn woman might not. But that’s the world we live in, child. What have I heard you call it? <em>This world of men.</em> Aye, how rightly said. And you know nothing of it, yet.”  I try to speak but Hegrea won’t have it. I have memories of knowing her all my years yet I’ve never seen her angry like this. She exudes a light that roars like a fire around her, though within it she remains pale as a moon-kiss.   She shakes her head at me, her anger cooling. “Yet you and your mother, you refuse to flee with your nearest kin. There, amongst them, at least you’d be safe. There <em>you</em> could dance—dance till you wear your feet to stumps. But, nay, nay, not her, not you, for you neither like Atall and Zelina, and no doubt many others. I shan’t ask you why. You might have to think of a reason.”  I try to cut in a word. Yet even as I open my mouth I’ve forgotten what I would say.  “It was your mother gave you life after the Oath,” she says. “<em>We</em> owe you nothing. <em>She</em> is all that you have. Unless you want the life that Stefan offers. Nay—is it nix? Then you’ll accept what your mother has for you. And, for Hlæfdi’s sake, do be careful with that stick!”  “It’s a rod,” I snap at her. “A gift from Nihel. Jealous?”  “What, you think <em>that</em> compares with what Nihel gave me? How much you’ve to learn, little one. Now, you think on what I’ve said, of your choices.”  Choices? Huh! I have none.  It seems Hegrea is all angered-out. And now she speaks directly into her head. <em>I, too, find it unjust. I, too, am grieving for Nihel. Grieving, too, that now we must leave what once was your father’s hall. But, child, you know such things must be accepted.</em>  “Will it be so tragic to go south with your mother?” she asks, again resorting to mouth-speech. Tenderly, with a pale hand, she strokes my tear-stained cheek. “Though I confess, child, I’ve not her confidence in her family, that they’ll be as willing to take her in as when her own mother took her there in need of shelter. Yet at least there you and she will still be in the ‘world of men’, which seems to be what the both of you want.”  She reverts to head-speech. But I have to strain to hear her, her voice now fading. <em>Listen, and remember. As well as your mother’s, you are and always will be Le Roussel’s daughter.</em>   . . .   A spectral light seeped through the curtains. It was coming on dawn. A dream, but not one I’ve had before. And it had left me with several questions—of the ‘Bellinn’ this Hegrea mentioned; of the mist that haloed the musicians and singers, most of the dancers—my dream-mother, her kinswomen, all aglow with coloured lights like they’re Christmas tree fairies. And there in that dream I was holding a wand; waving it, whirling it around me.   I strained to look over my shoulder at my shelf, my cabinet of curiosities. But that wasn’t enough, I had to hold it. For a long, long time, I sat on the edge of my bed, just looking at it.   <em>Nyd Is Hægl . Rad . Wynn Rad Eoh Tir Os Nyd</em> N.I.H. Could that be ‘Nihel’? Could this really be the same wand as the one in my dream?   I shivered, my stomach churning. For if that dream were in any way real . . . what of that other dream, of being decapitated?  LINE  Next episode, <em>All This G’Boody</em>, Wednesday 3rd MayContinuing the time-slip story, Can of Worms, a 16 year old girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial-killer . . . Read on

Music. Loud. The drums thrum through me. They stir my blood, they make me move. How can I sit still? But tapping my foot, clapping my hands, that’s not enough. I glance at my mother—No, that’s not my mother! She looks nothing like. But whoever she is, she isn’t looking at me and that pleases. I’m up on my feet and weaving my way to where the others are dancing, away from the fire-pit, the tables and door.

I stay away from the mist-wreathed ‘white wasps’: two women, nasty creatures, seductive to men, spiteful to women. How do I know that? And how know their names that reel through me—Atall and Zelina—and that they’re scornful to me and my mother? Regardless, I find a space far from them.

But now I’m directly in view of the lord’s high table. That’s not by intent, by Johan and Jove, it is not. For that delivers me plain in sight of my mother-who’s-not-my-mother. Her disapproval plays loud in my head. I ignore it, now music-taken.

I care nothing for pipes, it’s the drums. That god-drum, that big drum; it holds me and sways me and lifts up my feet. I jump—I can’t help it. I swirl and stamp. The drums take me to some joyous place, nary a care. I dance, whirling about me the rune-rod. I’ve become unseeing of the men who number most of the dancers; unseeing, too, of those mist-haloed beings that sidle between them. I’m not with them, I’m alone with the music. The music and me.

My mother’s discomfit sounds again, doubly thick with disapprobation. I can feel her invisible hands as she forces my head to flex around, to look at Stefan. More memories flood me. Stefan, lord of this feast and this hall, my guardian since Uncle Nihel died eight mournful years back. Stefan, devout and cerebral, more of a cleric than a warrior-lord. How well he and my mother are suited—except, though Stefan tolerates the mist-haloed beings in his hall, he doesn’t approve them. And now he has issued an edict: Within the week, all must be gone.

As I turn my face sharply from him I raise up a curtain between us. I have that ability. Ethereal, yet that curtain forms a wall as impenetrable as that raised between this hall and Hindrelagh. Ethereal, yet full-real to me. And I grin, to be no more wound about with their disapproval.

This is our last night in the hall, my mother, myself and these others—Stefan at least has the grace to feast us. It’s their last night in the world of men, but not mine. My mother-who’s-not-my-mother won’t allow me to go off with them to their various homelands. She has other plans for us, plans I’ve had no part in the making. Plans I don’t particularly like. And now tears well though I try to stop them. How dare I have tears to ruin this night when all I want is to dance and be happy.

Metallic fingers, hard and cold, encircle and close on my arm, unregarding of my flesh. Those fingers drag me from the dance. Pointless to struggle: I know that grip belongs to Hegrea. And I know no one will notice what’s happening here, for Hegrea has powers far beyond me.

Away from the crowded fire-warmed hall the night air slaps me. I stumble backwards, released from her grasp and the god-drum’s hold. A stone wall catches me.

“Never have I known a more ungrateful child in all my years.” Hegrea now becomes a ghostly vision in the moon’s light. She growls at me, “You should not even exist, begotten after the Oath. And you complain you haven’t a will of your own?”

“I’ve said nothing. I’ve kept my complaints to myself. And neither am I a child. Since a few months back I‘ve been of age.”

Hegrea has no need to snort her derision, I feel it cutting through me, mocking at my naivety.

“Fool! You don’t need to voice words. We all can see them, clear as log-sparks in the night air. Aye, so you don’t want to go to Brittany with your guardian. Well that I do understand and with that I can sympathise. He makes little secret of what he’ll do with you there. Consigned to a convent, out of his way, sorted for life. Aye, unjust, isn’t it, when your brother Edmund is to be made his man, knighted, girded and besworded. Unjust that a Bellinn knight might exist where a Bellinn woman might not. But that’s the world we live in, child. What have I heard you call it? This world of men. Aye, how rightly said. And you know nothing of it, yet.”

I try to speak but Hegrea won’t have it. I have memories of knowing her all my years yet I’ve never seen her angry like this. She exudes a light that roars like a fire around her, though within it she remains pale as a moon-kiss.

She shakes her head at me, her anger cooling. “Yet you and your mother, you refuse to flee with your nearest kin. There, amongst them, at least you’d be safe. There you could dance—dance till you wear your feet to stumps. But, nay, nay, not her, not you, for you neither like Atall and Zelina, and no doubt many others. I shan’t ask you why. You might have to think of a reason.”

I try to cut in a word. Yet even as I open my mouth I’ve forgotten what I would say.

“It was your mother gave you life after the Oath,” she says. “We owe you nothing. She is all that you have. Unless you want the life that Stefan offers. Nay—is it nix? Then you’ll accept what your mother has for you. And, for Hlæfdi’s sake, do be careful with that stick!”

“It’s a rod,” I snap at her. “A gift from Nihel. Jealous?”

“What, you think that compares with what Nihel gave me? How much you’ve to learn, little one. Now, you think on what I’ve said, of your choices.”

Choices? Huh! I have none.

It seems Hegrea is all angered-out. And now she speaks directly into her head. I, too, find it unjust. I, too, am grieving for Nihel. Grieving, too, that now we must leave what once was your father’s hall. But, child, you know such things must be accepted.

“Will it be so tragic to go south with your mother?” she asks, again resorting to mouth-speech. Tenderly, with a pale hand, she strokes my tear-stained cheek. “Though I confess, child, I’ve not her confidence in her family, that they’ll be as willing to take her in as when her own mother took her there in need of shelter. Yet at least there you and she will still be in the ‘world of men’, which seems to be what the both of you want.”

She reverts to head-speech. But I have to strain to hear her, her voice now fading. Listen, and remember. As well as your mother’s, you are and always will be Le Roussel’s daughter.

. . .

A spectral light seeped through the curtains. It was coming on dawn. A dream, but not one I’ve had before. And it had left me with several questions—of the ‘Bellinn’ this Hegrea mentioned; of the mist that haloed the musicians and singers, most of the dancers—my dream-mother, her kinswomen, all aglow with coloured lights like they’re Christmas tree fairies. And there in that dream I was holding a wand; waving it, whirling it around me.

I strained to look over my shoulder at my shelf, my cabinet of curiosities. But that wasn’t enough, I had to hold it. For a long, long time, I sat on the edge of my bed, just looking at it.

Nyd Is Hægl . Rad . Wynn Rad Eoh Tir Os Nyd N.I.H. Could that be ‘Nihel’? Could this really be the same wand as the one in my dream?

I shivered, my stomach churning. For if that dream were in any way real . . . what of that other dream, of being decapitated?


Next episode, All This G’Boody, Wednesday 3rd May

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Conveyor of Souls

Immature Mute Swan 4

An immature mute swan . . .

From Japan to Ireland, stories are told of the Swan Maiden. The details might differ, but the general picture remains. Vulnerable without her protective ‘cloak’, she is found/captured by a prince. They marry, she gives him a variable number of fine daughters and sons. Until the day she finds her ‘clothes’ . . . then she ups, out of a hole in his roof, and flies away.

I see in this two references. One is to the shamanic practice of flying to the Otherworld, courtesy of hallucinogens and a ‘magical feathered cloak’—exit from the tent is achieved via its sky-hole. (In the shamanic culture of Manchuria and Siberia the Tungus even carved wooden swans atop their sky poles.) The other is a reference to the swan’s vulnerability during the moult (July-August). Without her flight feathers, the swan (Swan Maiden) cannot escape the hunter.

Immature Mute Swan 2

. . . on a tree-enclosed pool

We don’t know how old this story. That it’s so widespread throughout Eurasia doesn’t automatically date it to a time when the peoples shared common tongue, common land or common ancestry. There are no boundaries to a good story, and a good story is one that resonates deep, as does the Swan Maiden.

However, we can track our ancestors’ interest in the swan, and perhaps infer their beliefs.

During a 1975 excavation in Denmark—at Vedbæk, for a new school—a most interesting find was made. Not only was a cemetery discovered, dating to 5,000 BCE (Mesolithic). But one of the graves yielded the bodies of a young woman who had died in childbirth, and her newborn baby. The baby had been prematurely born. It was placed in the grave, cradled in the wing of a swan.

But long before that—at least by 35,000 years ago (the Palaeolithic)—people made flutes from swan bones.

Around 20,000 years ago, in Central Siberia, our ancestors were carving swan pendants from mammoth bone. While at around the same time, others were depicting swans on the rock walls. One in particular sits atop a pole—where, later, the sun-wheel would sit. So not surprising, by the Bronze Age, ca. 3500 BCE, we find in Serbia, a figurine of male solar deity in a chariot driven by swans.

Immature Mute Swan 1

. . . at the confluence for rivers Tud and Wensum . . .

Amongst the later-known creation myths is that of the ‘earth diver’, common throughout Central and Northern Asia and Native North America. Here a divine being dives into the primordial ocean and brings up mud or earth in order to create the world. The Altaian Tatars described this divine being as a white swan.

In Hindu mythology, it’s a swan, Kalahamsa, that laid the cosmic egg (though in later versions she only ‘assisted’ Brahma in creating the cosmos). It’s probably safe to identify Kalahamsa with Saraswati, the goddess consort of Brahma and personification of the sacred river Saraswati—which, like the Nile, was deemed an earthly reflection of the Milky Way.

Immature Mute Swan 5

. . . close by a Neolithic henge . . .

Which brings us neatly to the Cygnus Constellation. Cygnus, i.e. the Swan, alias the Northern Cross, marks the start of a dark band of interstellar dust cloud (the Great Rift) that splits the Milky Way in half for about a third of its length—resembling legs if conceived of as the body of a goddess—or the roots where they split from its trunk if conceived of as the World Tree. Which allows me another neat segue.

In Norse myth, two swans swim upon the ‘Well of Origin’, situated at the base of the World Tree.

Coincidence? But then factor in this: Ca. 17,000 to 6,000 years ago the Milky Way could be seen to stretch from Scorpio—which is also imagined as a dragon or serpent—to Cygnus: the swan that sits upon a pole. And? The World Tree also has a serpent encircling its base, and a bird perching in its uppermost branches. Moreover, that pole upon which the swan (Cygnus) sat would have been Deneb, brightest star in its constellation—which at that time acted as the Pole Star.

Still with the Norse . . . the valkyries, who were known also as swan maidens, were undeniably psychopomps—conveyors of souls. They gathered the souls of the slain from the battle field and brought them safely to Valhalla.

Oddly—or not—it’s amongst the Norse traditions that we find the oldest recorded Western version of the Swan Maiden tale, in the Eddic poem Völundarkvida. Here, Völundr—better known in England as Wayland the Smith—and his brothers come upon three swan maidens (valkyries) bathing in a lake, their feather cloaks left unattended. The usual plot device follows (the brothers hide the cloaks) and each marries one of the stranded swan maidens. It’s not till nine years later that the valkyries find their cloaks and soon are gone.

Immature Mute Swan 3

. . . where offerings would have been made to the spirits that dwelt there

I could pull in many more examples. But why? It’s plain to see that the swan has always been more than a graceful white bird, at home as much in water as in the air. A liminal creature that snaggles our memories and sparks our imagination.

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The Two Mills of Tunstall

Tunstall Dyke Tower MillLiving in Great Yarmouth, and making frequent journeys by bus along the Acle New Road (A47), I am rather blasé about our windmills, so many of which can be seen from that road. Yet, apart from one visit to Berney Arms Windmill—in a snow blizzard—until recently I’d seen none up close. Even the Stracey Arms Windmill, which sits right beside the road, I’d only seen through the screening murk of a bus window. I decided to remedy that lack.

The bulk of the windmills in this area sit in the parish of Halvergate, immediately west of Great Yarmouth. Of the original 14, some 8 survive is various states of decay, renovation, restoration. The small village of Tunstall, with its two mills, occupies the northwest sector.

A Brief History of Halvergate, Village and Marshes

Surprisingly for a parish which consists largely of grazing marshes, Halvergate has a long history. Neolithic and Bronze Age remains have been found on the ‘higher’ ground—which at Halvergate reaches a mighty 15 metres above sea-level! Don’t laugh. When all around lies at sea-level 15 metres constitutes high land.

Halvergate marshes

Halvergate marshes . . . endless stretches of level land

That higher land excepted, the parish once was beneath water; part of the Great Estuary (see Broadly). Which explains why during the Roman occupation and Early Saxon period Halvergate served as a port. But by 1086, and the Domesday Survey, the once mudflats had grown to be salt-marshes with tidal creeks, grazed by sheep . . . 960 sheep in fact. Dotted around its perimeter were numerous salt-works.

What with sheep and salt, the landholder would have been a very wealthy man. That, pre-1066, was the Anglo-Breton, Ralf de Staller (father of the rebellious Ralf de Gaël, exiled in 1075). His own father was a thegn in the court of Queen Emma, coming to England at the marriage of Emma of Normandy to King Æthelstan II. Ralf de Staller subsequently served as steward to Edward the Confessor. At the Norman Conquest, William raised him to Earl of East Anglia. But he died soon after, in 1069. Possibly the younger Ralf was expecting to inherit everything of his father’s. But King William allowed him only part of his father’s titles and lands; he was made Earl of Norfolk and Suffolk, not of ‘East Anglia’. That was probably contributory to his later rebellion.

With the exile of Ralf de Gaël, the land reverted to Crown, to be later awarded to Hugh Bigod when he was created 1st Earl of Norfolk by King Stephen in December 1140/January 1141. It then stayed with the Earls of Norfolk and through to the Dukes.

Map: Tunstall in Halvergate

Drainage

For the marshy land east of Halvergate to be used, even for summer grazing, it had first to be drained. One look at the map shows how it was done! The entire area is crisscrossed by channels. It wasn’t until the post-medieval period that the windmill finally arrived here to help pump the water off the land.

Drain, water-weeds and culvert

Water-plants thrive at this culvert, built to enable livestock and tractors to cross the drains

Windmills

There are two basic types of windmill: horizontal, and vertical.

With the horizontal windmill, invented in eastern Persia in the 9th century, the sails rotate in a horizontal plane around a vertical axis. It doesn’t take much technical know-how to figure out how this design works. But, easy though the design, it didn’t really catch on in Europe.

The vertical windmill is more complicated. The sails rotate in a vertical plane thus requiring cogs (and other technical stuff) to drive the vertical shaft. This more complex machine was favoured in Western Europe, where it appeared in Northern France, Flanders and Eastern England by the late 12th century. These, however, were intended primarily as grist-grinders.

In Mediterranean countries, where this design was first developed, the winds are less erratic, more predictable. Catching that wind wasn’t the problem that it was further north. Here the wind can veer from north to east to south to west, and all points in between, in less than a half day. And its strength can change from a breeze to a gust to a gale. It would not do to have the sails set to catch wind from only the one direction.

Enter the post mill. Here, the entire upper structure could be turned to catch the wind, rotating around its ‘post’. That post was driven hard and secure into its purpose-built mound. With a few amendments, this became the most common design until 19th century when the development of the tower and smock mills replaced them.

Introduced as early as the 13th century, the solidly brick-built tower mill was topped by a rotating cap. Such convenience! For now only the cap need be turned to best set the sails to catch the wind. Moreover, the mill could be built taller, to catch more wind. However, the design required more of an investment, and so at first was reserved for more ‘profitable’ industrial uses.

A further development of the tower mill was the fantail: like a mini windmill set high on the mill’s cap, which acts rather as a wind-vane to automatically turn cap to the right direction.

By the 18th century, these tower windmills had been brought into use as drainage mills. The wind turned the sails, the sails turned the shaft, the shaft turned either an Archimedes screw or a scoop wheel. Lo, water is lifted and moved from here to there.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Having built bigger and sturdier windmills, the trend now was to miniaturisation.

The smock mill replaced the hefty, pricey masonry tower with a light and cheap to make wooden frame—the smock. This was usually octagonal and covered in various lightweight yet waterproof materials, e.g. slate, sheet metal, tarred paper, or boards. This made these mills ideal for use where subsoil was less than stable. i.e. as drainage mills. Being light and affordable, they also appealed to the corn-miller.

Tunstall Mills

Despite the past week I’d been checking on the Met Office’s site and every day the forecast for Tuesday 28th March had been the same—sun, low wind, warm—I woke on the day to thick fog. I checked with the Met Office. The fog was supposed to clear by 11 am. Okay, so I’d go later than usual. Give the sun a chance to burn off the fog.

The bus crawled along the Acle New Road, the fog tenacious, particularly around the Tunstall turning—not that I was taking that turning. I was to set out from Acle. A three mile walk across the marshes; plenty of time for the fog to clear before I reached the mills. I wasn’t long through Damgate when I stopped to chat to a local chappie who did his best to turn my spirits. “Nah, that fog won’t clear. Same as yesterday; it hung around here all day.” I wasn’t even aware we’d had fog yesterday, there’d been none in Yarmouth. I trudged on.

I had already decided I’d take no photos on the way there. High humidity, the camera doesn’t like it. So the camera stayed warm, dry and cosy in its its own little bag despite I kept seeing flowers and trees and . . . everything. But I mentally earmarked them for attention on the way back.

A gate for cattle

A gate for cattle, a style for hikers . . . but you can’t see that cos I’m sitting on it. It’s where I stopped for lunch on my way back, glad of the shade

The number of times I had seen these two mills from the bus without realising they sat one either said of a drain. Actually, it’s not a drain as such. It’s the Tunstall Boat Dyke, a staithe, and probably predates any organised draining of the marshes. But I couldn’t miss it when I was drawing the accompanying map, using an Ordnance Survey map of 1881 for reference. I was amazed that a bridge is marked on the map where the Acle New Road crosses it. Though the road still crosses what seems now a reed-clogged silted ditch, there is no discernable bridge—at least, not one that’s visible from the road.

Now dry head of Tunstall Boat Dyke

The now-dry head of Tunstall Boat Dyke

I spent a full day trying to find any reference to this bridge across the Tunstall Dyke on the internet. No doubt had I discovered it sooner I could have hit the library for back copies of the local newspapers. I found only one online reference on a site devoted to Norfolk Mills.

A report in the Norfolk Chronicle dated 23rd April 1831, the year they built the Acle New Road, not yet labelled ‘A47’, of a meeting at the Suspension Bridge (P.H.), on North Quay, Great Yarmouth, of the Acting Trustees of the new Acle and Yarmouth Turnpike:

It appears that the bridge over Tunstall Boat Dyke is complete; the arches and trunks over Land Spring Drains, the Mill Drains, and the entire line of road formed, and that to complete it, previously to its being opened to the public, the materials (which are broken stones and shingles) remain to be laid on, and these are actually prepared, and landed over the river wall, whence they will be conveyed in boats down the dykes to different parts of the roads.”

That ‘Acle and Yarmouth Turnpike’ was to cut three miles from the journey from Acle to Yarmouth. Previously traffic had had to make the circuitous route via Caister and the Trinity Broads. It was that older route which, until 1935, bore the A47 designation.

I wondered what happened to that bridge. The road has been resurfaced several times in the intervening 186 years, and the marshes undergone several drainage programmes. I can imagine that bridge has long since been replaced by a smaller, almost invisible, culvert. A shame if no drawings of it remain . . . though I shall continue to search.

I walked out to the more easterly mill first. Tunstall Dyke Smock Mill, the only surviving drainage smock mill in Norfolk. Built around 1900, it was restored in 1994.

Tunstall Dyke Smock Mill

Tunstall Dyke Smock Mill, octagonal, of board construction. Though it appears white from the road, up close it seems in need of a new coat!

As I walked along the bank of the old Boat Dyke, and cleared a young plantation, I was teased by the sight of Tunstall Dyke Tower Mill. I found a footpath that seemed to lead to it, only to be confronted by a wide tract of water. There was nothing for it but to continue out to the smock mill.

Young plantation

Young plantation on bank of the boat dyke, emerging now out of the fog

Tunstall Dyke Tower Mill from east

Tunstall Dyke Tower Mill as seen from opposite bank

The fog was still laying thick across the marshes to the east. But at least now the sun was visible as a milky disk in the sky. It broke through just as I arrived in spitting distance of the mill!

Tunstall Dyke Smock Mill up close

Tunstall Dyke Smock Mill up close, its top decidedly aslant!

I gorged my camera on the smock mill, then turned back and gorged it again on the tower mill that sat across the dyke from me.

Tunstall Dyke Tower Mill

Tunstall Dyke Tower Mill as seen from across Tunstall Boat Dyke

It took a walk all the way back to the head of the boat dyke before I could venture out to that great black beastie. The walk took me through an enchanting tunnel of wild cherry blossoms. The trees were everywhere, dusted with their pure white flowers.

Cherry blossom tunnel, Tunstall dyke

A veritable tunnel of cherry trees, all in blossom, line the Tunstall Boat Dyke near its head

Wild Plum blossom

The pure white flowers of wild cherry

The second walk out was along the edge of an arable field, following in the tire-churned tracks of the farmer’s tractor. A tad muddy, but worth it—even if, again, I couldn’t venture near to the mill. It stands on a mound, apparently surrounded by water, though I’m guessing there is access via that plantation.

Tunstall Dyke Tower Mill from west

Tunstall Dyke Tower Mill, with the Smock Mill beyond, the sky still white with the fog.

Tunstall Dyke Tower Mill from north

Tunstall Dyke Tower Mill stands high over the water . . . .

Tunstal Dyke Tower Mill close up

The Tower Mill close up

After a bout of feverish clicking, it was time to walk the 3 miles back, arriving at Damgate Carr on the edge of Acle where, in January, I had discovered some amazingly bright bracket fungi (see A Wet Woodland Walk). By then the sun was blazing and I’d had to strip down to t-shirt.

Despite that morning fog, it turned out to be, altogether, a very good day.

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And The Rain Torrenches

Ep03 And The Rain TorrenchesContinuing the time-slip story, Can of Worms: a 16 year old girl’s rune-aided hunt for a serial-killer . . . Read on

The light flickered. Fluorescent tubes hidden behind a translucent false ceiling. Excellently timed: Madeleine, the friendly psychiatrist, had just said of me hearing voices. Then, before I’d yet said a word, there came the reverberating crack of thunder. And now the heavens would open and down come the rain, probably in torrents. I didn’t want to talk; I wanted to watch out the window—not that I could see very much, the window screened by Venetian blinds. Meanwhile, Madeleine was waiting.

“Do you have problems with thunder? I know many people do,” she said.

I shook my head. “It’s the rain. Dad has three fields of standing grain. If the wind gets up too, it all could be ruined.” I flicked another look at the window.

“Ah,” she said. “Failans Farm, of course. And I ought to have asked: Is it arable, fruit, dairy . . .?”

“Organic,” I said. “Free-range stock, mostly. We do some veg—for the local market—but it’s mostly pigs, hens and eggs. The grain’s part of the winter fodder.”

She nodded as if she understood but which I knew she did not. “So, these voices. You want to tell me about them?”

“They’re not voices,” I said. “Not like Joan of Arc or . . . I hear people’s thoughts.”

The first drops were falling. Great fat beasties that splattered the window. I prayed the wind wouldn’t come. I guessed Dad would be praying, too, to whatever the warlocks’ god.

“All right,” she said. “So these thoughts that you hear, how do you know they belong to others; that they’re not your own thoughts?”

“Content,” I said, half my attention still on the window.

Those fat drops were slithering down the window like slugs on speed. But that didn’t stop me catching her thoughts.

“I’m not delusional,” I said.

I’d already noticed, she had a thing, while listening, of holding her hand—the left—loosely to her chin. With that same hand she signed me to chill.

I ignored it. “I am not!” I said, pouring concrete into the delivery.

She nodded, and smiled. “So tell me, what is it of the content that cannot be yours?”

I started to say, several times, but couldn’t find the words, couldn’t order my thoughts. In the end I said, somewhat weakly, “They’re inappropriate.”

And, yea, I knew what she’d make of that: Inappropriate thoughts, must be denied so blame them on others. Like I wouldn’t know about that. Like I don’t read book and don’t watch TV.

“Please, I’ll explain,” I said. “Like, we’ve this teacher at school, yea, who takes us for Geography. He’s getting on a bit but . . . well anyway, he has the hots for our English Lit teacher. And it’s not just me who knows it; it’s common knowledge. But I hear his thoughts. And feel his feelings. I’m a girl of sixteen who’s never been kissed yet alone had that. You think I’d be thinking those kind of thoughts? Man-thoughts? Intimate thoughts? Detailed? Like a porn movie going off in his head? And before you ask, no, it doesn’t excite me.”

I spared a glance at the window. The rain was coming down properly now, but it was coming down almost straight. As long as the wind didn’t change . . . it was the wind did the damage, laying flat the rain-sodden crops.

Meanwhile Madeleine, hand still loosely to chin, was softly nodding.

“Go on,” she prompted.

“It’s the same with my father. I couldn’t think the thoughts that he thinks every time he watches those gyrating dancers on some of those music videos. And he does that with Mum in the room.”

“Is it only men’s thoughts you hear?”

“I know what you’re thinking,” I said. Hadn’t I just told her that? “These are not my thoughts projected on others.”

“What other thoughts do you hear?”

I took a mighty inhale. I wanted to tap on her head and say, Hello, are you listening in there? Or are you too busy finding a label for me?

“I hear my mother’s thoughts all the time. Not that they’re interesting. Wondering what to feed us, what to buy, and can we afford a new washing machine. Mundane drivel. She complains about Dad, that he doesn’t wash-up outside, though we’ve got the facilities. But, no, he comes and splatters muck all over her kitchen. She once had the hots for one of their coven. She used to be always daydreaming of them kissing. Unlike Dad’s thoughts, it never went further. And even then she’d justify it. ‘But, Lady, don’t you bid us to love all Creation?’ You think I’d think those things? And even if I did, why would I deny it and project onto her. I am not psychotic,” I said. “I’m telepathic, is all.”

And there came the word delusional again. Followed by attention seeking, and distortion of self-experience. And there was me, thinking she was different.

I said, “I don’t want to be known for this-this trait. I don’t want to go help researchers prove once and for all that telepathy is possible and that it exists. I certainly don’t want to make a career out of it.” So let her stuff that up her conventional theories. It was her in denial, not me. Just like Dr Snide, the GP.

“When did you first hear these thoughts?” she asked. “How long ago? Or how old were you?”

I shrugged. I didn’t know. They seemed always to be there. “But I can tell you, I was about seven when I realised others didn’t hear the thoughts too.”

She nodded—and leaked puzzlement. She was also concerned at my exhibited anger. But it wasn’t anger, it was fucking frustration.

“And how does this of hearing thoughts impinge on your life—your social life, your school-work . . .?”

“It’s bloody distracting is how. How can you concentrate on, say, trigonometry, when you’re hearing thoughts from all around you? And no, I don’t use them to cheat in exams. That would be silly cos how would I know if they were right. And that’s why Dad wants this sorted. Before I go to college.”

Again she nodded, now leaking understanding—though I wasn’t sure if that was understanding of my problem, or my father’s motivation.

“And socially?” she asked. “How does it affect you socially.”

I pulled a face. “You get to know who you friends are. But at home, at least of late, I’ve learned to block it.”

“And how’d you do that?”

“I sing.”

A single eyebrow rose in query.

“Mostly bits from my mother’s music,” I said.

“Not your own?”

“Mostly the music I’m into don’t have words.”

Again the raised brow.

“Techno,” I said. “Drum-an-Bass. Instrumental. And before you ask, I like the beat—boom- boom- boom- boom.”

“Are your friends into ‘Drum and Bass’ too?”

She didn’t fool me with her roundabout questions. There was that bit on the GP’s report of me being socially isolated.

“My parents are witches,” I said. “A multicultural society, but there’s still stigma on that. Witches are still misunderstood. So there’s not many parents will encourage a friendship with me. Add to that our pigs out in the fields, stinking to high-heaven, and I’m not the most welcome of persons.”

“You don’t have friends,” she said. Statement.

“Nah, I have some. I have one at school and two over at Aunt Maggie’s.”

“Aunt Maggie?” she asked.

“My father’s sister. Lives up by the Agricultural College. I’ll be staying with her come September. Mum takes me there every full moon, and Aunt Maggie brings me back the next day.”

I could hear the unvoiced why loud in my head.

“Full moon,” I explained. “The coven meets. My father won’t have me there. Says we should all come to our own beliefs in our own time. He doesn’t want to influence me. Well, that’s what he says, but it’s not what he thinks. He’s dead scared he’ll be accused of child abuse.”

“Ah, the mass panic in the 80’s: Satanic Ritual Abuse. Of course,” she said. “Wise man. So you do have friends. What are their names?”

“At school. Hermione Potter. Yea, don’t laugh. Guess it’s because of our names we gravitated. And Rachel and Donovan, Aunt Maggie’s neighbours.”

She nodded again. “And what about Gillan?”

“Gill—?”

“Your mother reported several angry one-sided exchanges with this person called Gillan.”

“But I don’t know no Gillan.”

Chuffing ‘ell! Where in her glorified world did my mother find that name? I could feel my eyes literally popping out of my head! My mother really was trying to stitch me. But why?

“No, not even someone at school in another year that I don’t even speak to. Not any of the teachers. Nobody in the village. Not even the guy at the Coop checkout who’s kinda cute—though if I’m having angry words with him I suppose he’d more likely be a nasty bully.”

And to cap it, outside the rain now was torrenching.

LINE

Next episode, Lord of the Dance

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Nature. Reserved.

Surlingham

Surlingham village sign

. . .  a small village off the main highway southeast of Norwich qualifies for both the blog projects I’ve set myself for this year—Norfolk Broads, and A Hundred Walks (walks in the old hundred of Henstead). But I confess, I did the walk in two parts, a week and a half apart, there being too much to see to cram it all into one day. But that suits the theme I’ve discovered of Surlingham, one of ‘duality’.

1: The village forms the northeast corner of the old Henstead hundred, kissed by the River Yare on both sides (see map)

Wheatfen and Surlingham Map

2: In the past the village has looked both to the adjacent fens, marshes and broads—for reed and sedge for thatching, for fish and eels, for the eggs, feathers and flesh of waterfowl—and to the land that rises from that flatland into rolling fields that hide beneath their fertile soils the spoils of the Ice Age—clays and gravels that provided the basis for a thriving brick industry until recent years.

Sedges

Sedges coming into flower at Surlingham Church Marsh

Reeds and alder at Wheatfen

Last year’s reeds at Wheatfen

Last Years bullrush

Last year’s bullrush, vaguely resembling a sodden cotton-bud

Field of Rape

A fertile field of rape, sweet-smelling in the (rather stiff) breezes this day

3: Until 1710 there were two Surlingham parishes: that of Surlingham St Mary, and of Surlingham St Saviour.

St Mary's church Surlingham

One of 124 round towered churches existing in Norfolk. But, alas, St Mary’s church shows a mishmash of styles

chancel of St Mary's Surlingham

Chancel of St Mary’s showing strong post-Reformation influence

Bell ropes at St Mary's Surlingham

The bells ‘Mary‘ and ‘John‘ have been in place since 1381. There are now 6 bells at St Mary’s.

While St Mary’s church has suffered from heavy post-Reformation restyling, St Saviour’s church is now a ruin, its rugged flint walls topping a small rise that overlooks the river valley.

St Saviour's ruins at Surlingham

St Saviour’s church was in use until 1700s.

Between the two parishes ran (still runs) a small stream, through mire and marsh.

Stream at Surlingham

The quiet little stream that separates the churches if St Mary and St Saviour

4: At the time of the Domesday Survey (1086), Surlingham hosted two main landholders.

188 of its acres were granted to Roger Bigod, then sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk and steward to the King’s Household, progenitor of the later Earls of Norfolk and Suffolk; he let the manor to Aitard de Vaux. The de Vaux family were holders of the barony of Gilsland in Cumbria, an area much disputed with the Scots.

Hellington church east window

The church at Hellington doesn’t really belong to this account . . . except that I had to pass it, and I couldn’t possibly do that without stopping to take some more photos. (see ‘The Confusing Case of  the Norman Arches‘). And I’m glad that I did. See next photo.

The Confusing Case of  the Norman Arches

Hellington Church north door

North door, Hellington church. Perhaps not as ornate as the south door but all the more enchanting for that . . .despite I had to wade through an overgrowth of vegetation to reach it. But it was worth it.

Roger Bigod held a further 68 acres, distributed across the Henstead parishes of Surlingham, Yelverton, Bramerton and Rockland, which by 1086 he had put into the hands of Ranulf fitzWalter.

Bridge over Hellington Run

Looking back at Hellington and the bridge over Hellington Run . . . of old, the boundary between the Hundreds of Henstead and Loddon

The second main landholder was Godric ‘the Sewer’, onetime steward to the rebellious Ralf de Gaël, Earl of Norfolk and Suffolk (exiled in 1075). Godric held a total of 300 acres spread across Surlingham and neighbouring Holverston, Rockland, Bramerton and Kirby Bedon. This was all land previously held by various freemen of Edwin, a household thegn of Edward the Confessor’s whose will is extant. It is believed this Edwin was uncle to Godric—i.e. that Godric was son to Edwin’s sister, Wulfgyth, whose will is also extant—which would explain how Godric came to be granted so much of Edwin’s and his men’s former lands, and that of Wulfgyth’s other two sons, Ulketil/Ulfkil and Ketil. The same Ulfkil (Ulfketil) held various smallholdings throughout the area, with 12 acres in Surlingham.

Rockland St Mary pond

Village pond ablaze with Marsh Marigolds, at Rockland St Mary, on the way from Hellington to Surlingham

William, Bishop of Norfolk and Suffolk, whose see at the time was still at North Elmham, a small village north of East Dereham, also held a small manor of 35 acres of the king, half of which he let to William de Noyers.

River Yare at Surlingham Ferry House

River Yare at Surlingham Ferry

5: And finally, there is that other feature for which, today, Surlingham is best known: it has two nature reserves. Wheatfen, and Church Marshes.

Surlingham Church Marsh

Managed by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), the marsh is sited across the river from RSPB’s other Yare reserve: Strumpshaw Fen. The two reserves provide much the same habitat—reedbeds, fens and pools—for much the same species of birds—marsh harriers, kingfishers, water rails, reed and sedge warblers, bitterns, gadwalls and shovelers and various other native or over-wintering wetland birds. The difference? Church Marsh is open all year round, with no entrance charge!

Surlingham Church Marsh grazing

Rugged cattle grazing at Surlingham Church Marsh . . .

I confess, I only skirted the reserve’s southern edge, this being my second visit to Surlingham in less than two weeks and my eyes had been somewhat glutted on deep reed-beds and river edges. And so I probably missed out on the unique wetland flora. (And with my luck, I’d have probably missed out the birds as well).

Horsetails at Surlingham Church Marsh

Horsetails . . . I’m guessing they are the ‘Water’ variety.

Horsetails 2 at Surlingam

More horsetails, but these are probably either the ‘Wood’ or the ‘Marsh type

Rolling Hill at Surlingam

No tricks; it’s just a rolling hill . . . it rolls down to the marsh!

Speckled Wood butterfly

Forget the birds, I saw butterflies. This is a Speckled Wood, my first ever sighting. And it most obligingly posed for me!

Wheatfen Nature Reserve

According to the Ted Ellis Trust, who manages the reserve, “Wheatfen Broad is one of the few remaining areas of the once extensive Yare Valley swamp…a strange primitive area recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest…one of the last tidal marshes of the Yare Valley.” The reserve warden told us it had flooded 25 times that winter!

a drain at Wheatfen

The visitor’s first sight of the reserve, however, is more of a ‘managed’ site . . .

But, swamp. And primitive. Apt words for the 130 acres of woodland, open fen, reed beds, sallow carr and two small broads, Wheatfen and Deep Waters. In choosing photos to use for Wheatfen I have kept these words uppermost in my mind.

Swamp Wheatfen

Black mud reflects the light and causes sharp shadows in this drying swamp-land at Wheatfen

The Ted Ellis Trust was founded to preserve this fragile ecology, to keep the land and its wildlife accessible for everyone interested in Nature.

a shadowed pool at Wheatfen

I’m sure there should be a ‘Jenny Greenteeth’ emerge from here, to carry down to their death any impertinent young men!

To snaffle another quote from the Wheatfen website, this given by TV botanist, author, and environmental campaigner David Bellamy, patron of the Trust:

“Wheatfen Broad is, in its way, as important as Mount Everest or the giant redwood forests of North America. It is probably the best bit of fenland we have because we know so much about it. That is purely because one man gave his life trying to understand it – Ted Ellis”.

Wheatfen Broad

One of the two broads at Wheatfen

Ted Ellis DSc FLS (1909-1986)

Ted Ellis, known to readers of the local Eastern Daily Press for his nature column, and to viewers of local television, was from 1928-1956 Keeper of Natural History at the Castle Museum, Norwich. From 1946 till his death in 1986, he lived with his wife in a cottage at Wheatfen Broad (the cottage still exists). A naturalist with a national reputation, his research work highly respected by the academic world, yet with the ability to communicate his enthusiasm to everyone.

Willow at Wheatfen

Willow at Wheatfen . . . reflections on wildlife

His enthusiasm certainly did much to encourage me. I remember reading his columns, and seeing him on TV. It was a delight to walk around this reserve—though it took far longer than I’d intended.

Distant view of Rockland Broad

Beyond the field of rape there lies Rockland Broad . . . which I would have visited (on both my visits to Surlingham) if I’d had time. But it must wait for another day.

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