Sunday, 30 January 2011


As it was a sunny afternoon, though a very cold wind, I went for a walk to see what I could find to photograph.
There were some snowdrops in the stables hedgerow but they're not fully out yet so difficult to see among the dead leaves and twigs. Walking back up the slope Helen arrived so I went in with her.

The horses were all at the top of the field which was lucky - I didn't have to walk down to them.
The grey (above) is Corinne and belongs to Helen's friend; the other is Jiggy, Helen's horse, and the photo below is Jiggy with Indy, her daughter. They are black, brown and white - just like the cat!

Indy will be three in June this year and she's already larger than her mum. She was smaller once - when she was about 4 or 5 hours old... Helen let the puppy, Bella, free to run about the yard and as Tiggy, aka Tigs, came to say Hallo, Bella rushed up to her with an excess of enthusiasm. The black blob is the puppy just arriving!
She took refuge on top of the hay bales. She's been part of the family for some years and hated it when the family lived in a rented house on an estate but when she was brought to the stables she took to it immediately. Fat and happy describes her now. Plenty of 'food on the hoof'.

A few of the chickens were picking over the ground and this is the best shot today. The hens are laying enough eggs for them to be put outside for sale and trusting to the honesty of passersby to put the payment in the letter box. Helen knows that eggs were stolen by people who were sledging during the snow and recently by some youths walking by.
On the way home I saw these hazel catkins which look OK against the dark background.
That all folks!! My 101st Post since August last year...

Friday, 28 January 2011


Today's the first time I've seen a thrush in the garden during this winter, though I don't know whether it's a missel or song thrush. It's all to do with the spots. But it found a snail for lunch, at least.

There used to be several pheasants feeding in the garden during past years but, again, this is the first I've seen this year. He's half way down the garden picking up the fallen sunflower seeds from a feeder. His beak is hidden by the droopy bit of wallflower. The stray black cat finished munching his daily handout of dry food on the doorstep and went off down the path. The pheasant beat a stately retreat and returned later.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Until 1935 Hartwell was a separate parish when it was then united with the larger Stone parish. The main dwelling in Hartwell is Hartwell House, well hidden behind the rough, quarried stone of the wall surrounding the extensive property. It is now an expensive hotel but in the 19th century it belonged to an influential man, Doctor John Lee.

(I traced this picture of John Lee following a tip off from a lady who'd worked in the Royal Bucks Hospital where it once hung - it's now in Stoke Mandeville Hospital.)
He was interested in science, astronomy, Egyptology, geology and many other disciplines which Victorian gentry were drawn to. And there were others in Hartwell and Stone who shared his interests.

On the 3rd April 1850 ten gentlemen, gathered in Hartwell House's library where they resolved to form a society to study the climate and meteorological phenomena. It was named The British Meteorological Society.

The group included four local men - John Lee, Rev. Joseph Bancroft Reade, the vicar of Stone, Rev. Charles Lowndes of Hartwell Rectory and a Swiss man named Vincent Fasel. There was also another man with an interest in Stone, Samuel Whitbread.
The photo above of Rev. Bancroft Reade is copyrighted to Science and Society Picture Library.

Rev. Reade was presented to the benefice by the Royal Astronomical Society. He was an inventor in the field of photography and it was thought for some time that he had produced the first photograph but this has now been disproved. An observatory had been built in the grounds of Stone vicarage for his personal use but both the house and the observatory have now been demolished. An Anglo-Saxon saucer brooch, found in the vicarage grounds, was sold by the vicar to the British Museum for £3. He also offered glebe land for the site of the County Lunatic Asylum and became its first chaplain.
(Copyright photo, British Museum, though drawings available in books.)

Charles Lowndes was in direct descent from William Lowndes of Winslow and is also connected with The Bury and Lowndes Park in Chesham.

Vincent Fasel is shown in the Census for 1851 as aged 32, a classical/math tutor living in the household of Rev. Reade. There are 5 pupils boarding in the vicarage, one of whom is William Whitbread. He is connected to the Samuel Whitbread who was chosen as Chairman but I can't for the life of me find the letter from the then Whitbread Brewery archivist giving the exact relationship. (Another of the pupils is a youth named Oliver Grace who took Holy Orders and christened my Gran in High Wycombe Union House in 1871...)

Samuel Whitbread is descended from the Whitbread family who began the brewery business.

John Lee was very much involved in the life of the parish - he held a huge fete in Hartwell House grounds every summer for the local people under the name of 'The Hartwell Peace and Temperance Festival', admission 3d for adults and 1d for children. He began to build schools but they were never finished and the building is now a house.

The British Meteorological Society? It became The Royal Meteorological Society in 1850, having had its origin in Hartwell. It's now over 150 years old.

Among the members on the list for 1850 is the Countess of Lovelace, who was Byron's daughter and Charles Babbage's assistant for many years - and is probably better known nowadays as a purple clematis!!!

The British Meteorological Society? It became the Royal Meteorological Society in 1850 and is now over 150 years old. It had its origin here, folks!!

As Michael Caine would say, 'Not many people know that.'

Friday, 21 January 2011


Kath asked what insurance plaques look like so I went off to Cuddington because I knew there was a house in the village which had a fire mark.
The gentleman who answered the door when I knocked gave me permission to photograph the mark on his house but didn't know a lot about it, just that it was there when he bought the property.
There are three symbols - a crown, the word ROYAL and what might be a phoenix at the bottom. There was a Phoenix Insurance company and between 1683 and 1730 twenty-three thousand policies were written, so perhaps there was an amalgamation with the two other companies at some time. It's on the front wall, placed high up, almost to gutter height.

I remembered that there had been a talk by Phil Morris on Fire Marks at a Bucks Family History Society meeting and found the report in the journal for June 2005. He told the audience that materials used for the marks varied between lead, cast lead, brass, zinc, sheet and cast iron and ceramics.

One thing leads to another - the brass helmets which Victorian firemen wore became a hazard with broken electrical wires liable to make contact with them with unfortunate results.
King Edward VII liked to go firefighting when he was Prince of Wales and his uniform was kept at a Charing Cross station.
Victorian firemen were recruited from watermen working on the Thames. Is this why each station nowadays has the day split into watches?
In 1833 the London Fire Engine Establishment was formed, the Chief being James Braidwood. He lost his life in the Tooley Street fire in 1861, leading to the founding of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade 5 years later. There is a Street and a Road named after him.
He was suceeded as Chief by Massey Shaw, a name I remember as (prewar) my Mum took a photo of the fireboat named after him. The boat was one of the 'little ships' which lifted men from the Dunkirk beaches in May 1940. It seems that it's now being restored.

Thursday, 20 January 2011


This long implement fixed to the wall in Ivinghoe is a thatch hook. It must have taken several men to be able to wield that effectively.
During the 18th century insurance companies issued small plaques to the houses which had insured with their company. If that particular building caught fire the company's brigade would turn out to save it - but only houses with well-off inhabitants would be able to afford such a payment. The ordinary villagers would expect help from neighbours and others (interested in saving their own homes!) who would use the hook to drag burning thatch from the roof of the burning cottage.
The item underneath it is a mantrap...

Sunday, 16 January 2011


In 2002 the Local History Group put on an exhibition of Stone village's life through history. My brief was to produce a photographic display for the village hall, which I did in over 80 A1 sheets of black paper. I loved researching village history and a couple of the display sheets were of the village street/road names and the origin of the name.

The names for two roads on a newly built estate were taken from the village's War Memorial. Both men were casualties of WW2.

Rowland 'Rowley' Jefferies died in Normandy on 17th July 1944, aged 27. He was in the Oxon and Bucks Light Infantry and died as a POW after he was reported missing. His father was Clerk and Steward of the Bucks Mental Hospital to which the original name of Bucks County Lunatic Asylum had been changed in 1919.

Harfield Faithfull was 20 years old serving in the First Battalion, Grenadier Guards. He was killed on 2nd August 1944. His twin brother, William, lost a leg in the same battle. Their father, William Faithfull, had been the village policeman in the early years of the 20th century.

Saturday, 15 January 2011


There are three grey squirrels which visit the garden from time to time and although I don't like them (too much) and don't feed them with squirrel food they come for the dropped sunflower seeds and peanuts. This spherical peanut holder has a lid - somewhere - so it's easy for these visitors to help themselves until I can find it.
The sunflower seed holder is about 5 or 6' away from the peanut globe where greenfinches are feeding. This is the way to get to the bottom of the container. A bullfinch ignores what the squirrel's getting up to.

The tit family and greenfinches hop in, collect a nut and they're away before you can blink. Last year a collared dove had managed to get itself wedged inside the feeder and although I tried to get it out it was impossible with its dainty pink legs poking through the mesh. I put it in the car boot and went to St. Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital in Haddenham hoping that they'd be able to release it. It's only about 4 miles from home. When I had parked I opened the boot - and, just like a magician's dove, it flew out and away!! I can only imagine that the bumps in the road had shifted the bird enough to let it free itself.

St. Tiggs is a useful place to have on your doorstep, especially when small birds fly into the patio doors and stun themselves. I can't leave them to recover where they are, or bring them indoors, so I take them to Haddenham where they have to be signed over but I imagine they find their way back to their family group. I've tried plastic strips waving in the breeze and bird outlines stuck on the glass but nothing works. The sparrowhawk must have had a headache when he hit the window a few years ago! Not exactly a slow flyer... it did perch for a while before flying away.

The peanut feeder is about 66' down the garden - 11 x 6' fence panels, plus about 10' indoors to my chair... it's trial and error with this new camera at the moment.

Friday, 14 January 2011


Yesterday I found these daffodils poking through the soil and there are more clumps just coming through elsewhere.
Some alliums, too...

The goldfish are awake - nice mossy plant pot on the pond shelf...

More daffs poking through the browned oak leaves. The piece of pipe in the top right hand corner is copper. I banged it (or Gillian did) into the stump of a lilac tree which we'd cut down, too big and in the wrong place. Copper will kill any woody plant which isn't wanted but it takes some time.
And the first primrose!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011


Several years ago I took a writing course. One of the assignments was to write an article so I went to a church in mid-Bucks where I knew I'd find something of interest.

I'd been there previously looking for gravestones for a lady in Australia who was researching her family history. On that occasion I'd parked, taken my camera in a bag and opened the gate to the churchyard. A group of Jacob sheep appeared round the corner and made a beeline for me.I beat a hasty retreat! I made some enquiries and found where one of the churchwardens lived. Luckily he was at home (though I think it was his wife who was the church official) and took me back across the road to the church.

He explained the sheep thought anyone with a bag was coming to feed them - that's why they were so eager to meet me...but they were harmless. I made sure I kept with him as we walked round looking at the names on the graves.
I found what I was looking for and a WW1 Memorial in the church, too, after shoving the sheep out of the porch.

When I returned to talk to a villager she fed them first! Because it is a large churchyard the sheep are the best and easiest way of 'mowing the grass', she told me. They are fed with special food, kept in a small building by the porch door. The new part of the churchyard has a fence round it as the sheep are partial to fresh flowers... I think I was told the sheep went to be shorn every summer - but this is 2006 and the article I wrote (which was published in a C of E magazine) has been tidied away in the roof space. Oh dear...

I wonder if they are still in the churchyard after the two hard winters we've had recently. Perhaps I'll go to see in a few months time.

Monday, 10 January 2011


Yesterday I received an unexpected gift from a friend. A couple of months ago I had made some knitted mittens for her aged aunt who has very bent fingers and so can't wear commercial gloves. I never thought any more about it until yesterday when she turned up with this hellebore as a Thank You from them both.

I think it is Helleborus niger, aka as Christmas rose, as the flowers are different from the ones in my garden, which are Helleborus argutifolius, the common garden ones which used to be known as H. corsicus.
Not quite sure where to keep it for the moment, I don't want to frighten it with the outside temperature!

Friday, 7 January 2011


I'm sorry this print is so small but I don't know how to enlarge it - any ideas?
Every month I get a free magazine with lists of local tradesmen and very useful it is, too. There's an unusual service offered almost at the end of this listing - can you spot it?

Sunday, 2 January 2011


What's this strange sight? Sunshine! Needless to say my garden's in shadow because of the low angle of the sun. At least the beech hedge has caught the sun and you can see all the way up to Waddesdon Hill. There's almost enough blue sky to make a sailor a pair of trousers, as Enid Blyton would have said.
I really must wash up.....


This is an old advert which has been taped inside a shop door for several months now and it grates every time I see it.
Why don't people check spellings before they put their notices in the public domain??? That's rhetorical, no need to answer!

Saturday, 1 January 2011


Well, Happy New Year, to be conventional...

I bought myself a Canon PowerShot SX210 IS camera (in purple!) - it's the one that's shown in the ad of huge insects being biked around St.Mark's Square in Venice - but it's more bloomin' technology to get used to. And the manual is on disk so anything you want to know you have to wake up the computer etc. etc. However, I took lots of closeups of birds in the garden, all dull, grey days, and deleted the majority. It's not easy to get shots of birds when the focus is so close and you can't hold the camera steady...

I took a series of these dodging the seed feeder in the foreground which was swinging in the breeze and this is the one that shows this great spotted woodpecker to best advantage. All these pics are taken from the comfort of my armchair about 10' away from the double glazed window so, not too bad.

This was just a piece of luck, a couple of greenfinches squabbling over the seed cake. These flat seed cakes are made with a recipe I found on and they're OK and easy to make but need a better way of attaching the hanging loop, which tends to pull out after a few days of pecking by the birds. Or perhaps I should make a better job of it in the first place!

A couple of wagtails were regular visitors while there was snow on the ground but haven't seen them since it's cleared (for this time). He's wearing his thermal underwear to keep his body heat in. Birds look 'pretty' like this, all puffed-up, but it's a survival mechanism.
Still grey, dark and 'orrible though the forecast is for cold weather to return in a day or two. Ugh, roll on spring!