Table of Contents
Chairman's Letter - February 2016
Medieval Graffiti: the hidden histories...
Stour Valley Farming
"The Godly Kingdom of the Stour Valley"
Keeping It Special in the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley Project
Lodge Farm, Rectory Road, Wyverstone Street, Suffolk
A Miscellany of Information about British Birds
Another Suffolk Success Story
Harvest, Fires and Fynbos
'Looking Forwards, Before I Get Left Behind….'
Annual General Meeting and Summer Party
This has been a year of uncertainty, waiting, with some concern, as to how the Government's insistence on a huge increase in new houses by our District Councils may affect our area, and, particularly, how this may result in the Councils allowing development in unsuitable rural locations to meet their required quota. As an Association we cannot set our face against this need for many more houses, but we can legitimately object to development in unsuitable locations which despoil our country- side, cause congestion on our country lanes and create excessive pressure on our local schools and services. To this end our policy is to try to work with local parish councils, wherever possible, particularly over development within the village envelope. We are grateful to the number of Parishes who have affiliated and are here to lend our support on issues of common ground.
To meet this pressure for more housing, both Braintree and Babergh have had to produce new Local Development Plans, which are yet to be finalised. Braintree District Council alone needs to build between 12 and 15 thousand new houses between 2013 and 2033. A major risk to the plan is the highway network. There are still no plans, as yet, by the Government, for the A120. It is expected that Braintree's final draft Plan will be published for consultation in the summer, with final approval from the Planning Inspectorate not until autumn 2017.
Despite rumours of a large number of unsuitable sites which have been optimistically submitted by landowners, when Braintree called for sites as part of its Site Allocation consultation, we are cautiously optimistic that Braintree's final Plan will limit development in the countryside by centralising development around its urban centres; although there will be some permitted infilling. Importantly, the policy will, it is anticipated, protect the upper Stour Valley governed by the Stour Valley Project, including the area proposed for the AONB extension.
Within Babergh there may have to be a greater amount of development in some of the identified core villages. However, so far as our area, the majority of new houses will be to the North of Sudbury where permission has already been granted for 166 houses at Great Cornard, close to Abbas Hall and 1,250 more houses, with integrated facilities and green spaces, being sought at Chilton Woods on the Northern outskirts. There may well be more development off the A134 at Cornard. To accommodate all this new development there is likely to have to be a North South bypass to the West of Sudbury connecting the A134 and A131, but the route should not have to pass through the water meadows.
I apologise for devoting so much of my letter to the above and in such a boring factual way, but this is the major issue of the moment. Clearly, if there has to be so much more building, it is better if development pressure is taken off the rural areas by concentrating it around urban centres. Provided the core values of our local market towns are protected and provision made for schools and services, this may be as much as we can hope for.
I recognise that there is an important ongoing debate outside of our area as to whether there should be a large scale new town close to Great Tey. Nothing I have said should be taken in anyway as supporting this.
On the more specific issues; there is an outstanding application, pending consideration, for 100 houses and 22 apartments on the former brown field factory site at Stafford Park near Liston. There has been much local opposition, including from your Association. Liston and the local country lanes should not have to tolerate such a huge increase in traffic, quite apart from the serious issue of flooding and pressure it would put on local services.
Horkesley Park is no longer the issue it was. Although there is likely to be some housing development on the site of the old greenhouses, it is anticipated that this will be combined with legal restrictions preventing any development within the AONB land to the West.
There are as yet no new applications for wind turbines or large scale solar farms, although we are continually vigilant. The Association has an adopted policy for all new applications within the area.
When the Bramford to Twinstead new electricity line resurfaces, as it will, we have no reason to suppose that National Grid will not keep to its decision to underground the cables across the Stour Valley to Twinstead, including that part within the applied for AONB extension.
So far as the AONB extension, it looks as if it will be several years before any decision is made. We have now learned that only one application at a time will be considered, each taking some time to progress and that there are at least two and may be more before the Stour Valley Project's application comes forward. Given the enormous support our application has received locally, we remain realistically hopeful it will succeed in due course.
Many of your committee members have been on the Committee for some years now, including myself. We need new blood. We are sad to lose Simon Ward and Anthony Keniry who have each served the Association for some years; Simon as a past Chairman and Anthony overseeing the Babergh side. We are very grateful to both. Jeremy Hill, a former chairman and stalwart supporter of the Association for very many years, has also asked to stand down from the Committee, but agreed to continue as our President, for the present. We have enjoyed the very many articles Jeremy has written for our magazine and thank him enormously for all he has done for us.
We are very pleased to have co-opted two new younger members on to the Committee: Hugh Petre, who lives at Ferriers, and Charles Crawshay, who is moving to Simon Ward's former house at Bulmer. Both are very keen to see the Association taken forward for the next generation. More younger Committee members are needed, as are more members of the Association. If, looking at the list of members at the back of the magazine you see names missing who should be invited to join, I reiterate again, do please give me their names and addresses or, if you prefer, contact them yourself, with the enclosed membership form. It may be they have just moved into the area or, as likely, not know about us and what we stand for. A nudge from you or me should do the trick.
I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at either our AGM, when we are expecting an illuminating talk on Munnings or at our Summer Garden party, which Charles and Alice Raymond have kindly agreed to host in their lovely garden at Belchamp Hall.
Medieval Graffiti: the hidden histories...
Today graffiti is seen as something that is destructive and anti- social, and certainly not something that we would want to encourage in the historic buildings of our region. However, medieval graffiti left by members of local church congregations is now the focus of a project that is, quite literally, rewriting some of the history books. The Norfolk and Suffolk Medieval Graffiti Surveys are recording many thousands of previously unknown medieval inscriptions, and in the process revealing a long forgotten hidden history of the medieval parish church. The multi-award winning survey, first established in Norfolk a little over five years ago, is part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The actual surveys themselves are entirely undertaken by volunteers, and the project has already made a number of nationally important discoveries, and recorded inscriptions in our local churches that date all the way back to the twelfth century.
The study of medieval church graffiti is really nothing new, and has been quietly going on since at least the late nineteenth century. For the early researchers though things were far from easy. To record medieval graffiti meant either taking rubbings of each individual inscription, something which is no longer encouraged, or taking traditional photographs, all of which had to be expensively developed in a laboratory. A church containing several hundred inscriptions could soon lead to significant expense on the part of the researcher - and with Norfolk and Suffolk alone containing over a thousand medieval churches, those costs would soon become quite crippling. However, the introduction of affordable modern technology, in the form of cheap digital cameras, has suddenly made it possible to undertake large-scale surveys at very little cost, and the results have been really quite impressive. In the last five years the volunteers have discovered over 28,000 early inscriptions in Norfolk alone, with almost as many being recorded in Suffolk. In almost every single case, these inscriptions have never before been recorded. It is, put simply, an entirely new and unstudied source of medieval history. And what the volunteers are finding is really quite remarkable.
The walls of our medieval churches are covered in a very different form of graffiti than that which you might expect. Here you won't find too many examples of 'Kilroy woz ere', or 'Jon luvs Angie', but instead a parade of medieval ships, mythical beasts, jousting knights and prayers for the long, long dead. Medieval demons gambol across the wall pursued by hunting hounds, heraldic shields jostle for space amongst the leering laughing faces, and birds take flight across the stonework. All of the medieval world is to be found etched into the very stones of our churches, and the hopes, fears, dreams and dreads of the medieval mind are writ large on the wall. However, of all the many thousands of graffiti inscriptions that are being discovered, one particular type appears time and time again. It would appear that whatever church you enter, whether in darkest Essex or far away Northumberland, if early graffiti is present then the chances are that one of the first things you will stumble across will be a 'Witch Mark'.
These markings, also known as 'ritual protection marks', were designed to serve a single purpose - to ward off evil, ill-fortune and, most particularly, the ever present effects of the 'evil eye'. One of the most common type of witch mark is the compass drawn designs, sometimes referred to as 'hexafoils' or 'daisy- wheels', and these can be found in churches all across the region. Fine examples are to be found at Kedington, Finchingfield, Clare, Bures and Wormingford, but the chance are that if you come cross a church that contains any early graffiti, then at least one of these compass drawn designs will be present. However, one of the most common designs to be found etched into the walls of our medieval churches may strike many people as being a little strange - perhaps even sinister...
The five pointed star, or pentangle, is today largely thought of as being associated with witchcraft, black magic and devil worship, and yet it is to be found all over the walls at churches such as Bures, Stoke-by-Clare, Finchingfield and Clare. If such symbols are stumbled across by the odd unwary churchwarden they can certainly come as a surprise, and in some cases lead to accusations of dark magical practices having taken place within the building. However, what few people today understand is that the pentangle has only become associated with witchcraft in relatively recent centuries. Prior to that, and most particularly during the Middle Ages, the symbol was thought of as being wholly Christian in nature, and it is one of the few ritual protection marks for which we have any written evidence. This unlikely evidence is contained in the fourteenth century Arthurian poem 'Gawain and the Green Knight'; which tells the story of the young knight's quest to hunt down his supernatural enemy. The unknown poet states that Gawain had a golden pentangle painted upon his shield, and goes on to explain that the motif represented the 'five wounds of Christ', the 'five virtues of the knight' and was a symbol of 'perfection'. Given such clearly stated associations with Christian imagery it really is hardly surprising that we are finding numerous examples carved in to church walls across East Anglia, and clearly indicates the spiritual nature of much of the graffiti that is being recorded.
What many people new to the study of medieval graffiti find perhaps most surprising is how little of the graffiti is actually the written word. Whilst the majority of modern graffiti tends to be text in some form or other, over ninety percent of the earlier inscriptions are pictorial. Medieval text, perhaps reflecting the lower levels of literacy during the late medieval period, is a rarity. However, there are still many surprisingly fine examples to be found in the region at sites such as Belchamp Walter, where the names of long dead parishioners are to be found carved into the door surround beneath the tower arch. A few miles north at Cowlinge Latin prayers are carved into the stonework, alongside a mass of other medieval imagery. However, there are a handful of churches, and they are rare, where there are almost as many text inscriptions as there are images. At Lidgate church the pillars are covered by an absolute mass of early graffiti, including an unusually large number of neatly written text inscriptions. Whilst not all of the inscriptions have yet been deciphered, and some are in such poor condition that this may never be possible, what can be made out is absolutely fascinating. On the pillar nearest to the south door is a tiny Latin inscription that translates as 'John Lydgate made this, with licence, on the feast of saints Simon and Jude'.
Although not as widely known about today, John Lydgate was one of the literary celebrities of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. A near contemporary and great admirer of Geoffrey Chaucer, Lydgate's poetry is perhaps better known today for its length rather than its quality. However, at the height of his fame he was commission by royalty and representatives of many of the most ancient noble families of medieval England. Little enough is known about the man himself, except that he spent most of his life in the nearby monastery at Bury St Edmund's, and that he was born and brought up in the humble parish of Lidgate. Was this inscription then created by 'the' John Lidgate? Is this one more surviving piece of text by a medieval
literary superstar? Well, we can never really be certain. All we really can say is that it is the right name, in the right place, at the right time - and created by someone very used to using Latin and the writing arts. Beyond that, no matter how great the temptation, we really cannot go.
Whilst the walls of our beautiful churches can occasionally be found to contain the names of our medieval forebears, it is far more common to find yourself looking at images of people upon the walls. If you stare at the stonework hard enough, you'll often find the stones staring right back at you. In almost every church that contains early graffiti you will come across faces, portraits and even, at sites such as Kedington, full length figures of elegantly dressed medieval men and women. At Stoke-by-Clare a series of little faces are to be found cut into the wall's surface, each either shown singing or playing a musical instrument. Although several are now quite worn and degraded, it is thought that they might represent members of the medieval choir, or perhaps musicians associated with one of the many festivals of the medieval church. And very, very rarely it is possible to discover the actual music that this long departed choir may have sung. Although one of the very rarest type of graffiti inscriptions to be found, medieval music has been recorded at many of the larger sites such as St Albans and Norwich cathedrals, and even more rarely in smaller parish churches such as Steeple Bumpstead and Lidgate. This doesn't of course mean that music was any less important within the smaller parish churches than within the monumental cathedrals. It is simply a reflection of the fact that music in the medieval parish would very much be taught in a more personal one-to-one manner, with the teaching of more formal musical notation largely confined to the larger monastic establishments. It is no coincidence that many of our still famous singing schools are still to be found attached to medieval cathedrals.
Alongside the imagery of the lower orders of the medieval world are occasionally to be found those of the very highest. A large number of inscriptions have been recorded that are clearly related to the nobility and their heraldry, with heraldic shields and armorial crests being found at many churches. These can range from the simple stylised shields at Finchingfield and Belchamp Walter, to elaborately carved coat of arms at churches such as Troston. At a few sites such as Worlington, close to the Norfolk/Suffolk border, detailed inscriptions of heraldic lions and other beasts are clearly depictions of known coats of arms, whilst others at sites such as Bures are far more generic in nature. Exactly who created these inscriptions, as with so many other types of early graffiti, is unclear. Were they created by the nobility themselves, or by the lower orders seeking to emulate them or show some form of allegiance? Again, it is likely that we will never know for sure. What is clear is that these graffiti inscriptions appear to reflect many aspects of medieval life, and sometimes produce as many questions as they do answers.
From an archaeological perspective these discoveries are a fascinating insight into the real lives of those people who lived in the medieval parish and worshipped in the village church. For the vast majority of the medieval parish, the church building was the focus for both their social and religious life. It was a symbol of local pride, of Church authority and religious salvation. The church building formed the central core of parish life. For the common people of the parish, life within the community began at its font, marriages took place within its porch and vigils for the dead were watched beneath its roof. And yet, despite playing such a fundamental role in the rights of passage of countless generations of commoners, we still know very little of how these individuals, the vast majority of the medieval congregation, actually interacted with the church on a physical level. Their voice is a largely silent one.
In the majority of areas of medieval history the evidence that survives tends largely to relate to the elite. The interior of the surviving churches, their stained glass, alabaster tombs and monumental brasses tell us only about those who created them or caused them to be created. In most instances this is either the upper classes of the parish or, in the case of larger institutions, the nobility of the surrounding locality. They evidence trends and styles, the hopes and ambitions, of those in a position to cause such lasting memorials to be fashioned; quite simply, those who had the money to buy the immortality of alabaster. Where here then is the voice of those who worked the parish land, who worshipped in this splendid monument to their betters? Where then can we find a voice for the commonality of medieval England?
This then is perhaps the most unique aspect of the discoveries being made by the surveys: the surviving images and inscriptions cross the boundaries of wealth and class. They can have easily been created by a commoner, priest or nobleman. They can have easily been inscribed by man, woman or child. In this they are unique and, as such, they can be regarded as truly reflecting the hopes, fears, humour and ambitions of the people of the medieval parish.
Matthew Champion is a freelance archaeologist and is currently Project Director of the Norfolk and Suffolk Medieval Graffiti Surveys. His latest book, 'Medieval Graffiti: the lost voices on England's churches', was published by the Ebury Press in July 2015.
1. Lidgate Church 2. Lidgate Windmill 3. Lidgate Music
4. John Lydgate, Lidgate 5. Lidgate Circle 6. Bures Compass Drawn
7. Belchamp Walter Shield 8. Finchingfield Dragon 9. Cowlinge Ship
10. Worlington Shield 11. Troston Shield 12. Clare Pentangle
13. Kedington Figure 14. Kedington Sword 15. Cowlinge Text
16. Wormingford 17. Stoke by Clare Figure 18. Stoke by Clare Figure
Stour Valley Farming
We as a family have been farming on land in the Stour Valley for 65 years as the Rix's and prior to that my late mother's family the Page's who held many tenancies prior to the first war.
The natural topography, geography and geology of the Stour River Valley has created a very diverse landscape and pattern of land use. The changing soil type and slope creates both opportunities and constraints to land use and has restricted the rather mono-cultural farming seen in other parts of the country.
The river valley typically offers good summer grazing for sheep and cattle along the flood plain river meadows either side of the Stour. A very good area of sandy loams form the lower slopes of the valley with excellent growing potential for a wide range of crops. Rising further up the escarpment the land rises quite quickly with some steep slopes and a very changeable soil type which restricts the farming pattern to less intensive cereal crops or grassland grazing.
This diversity of opportunities has been very instrumental in steering our own choice of farming enterprises and created our current range of activities.
Water availability has another strong influence. Being situated in one of the lowest rainfall areas of the country, it has influenced our patterns.
Investment in a very large number of water storage reservoirs both by us and many other land owners has allowed the winter excess flow to be harvested and then applied as irrigation during the drier summer months.
Sustainable farming is wholly dependent on diverse crop rotations and is most easily practised when the land is of sufficient quality to grow a wide choice of crops.
Within our own system we have a rotation made up of Onions, Wheat, Potatoes, Barley, Sugar Beet and lettuce. A mixture of six different species, some autumn planted and others spring drilled gives enormous cultural choices.
The Onion crop was introduced to the Stour Valley by my late father Peter Rix, John Slater and George Storey during the mid- sixties. Development of drying and storage techniques allowed the crop to expand and replace a large quantity of imported onions predominately from Spain and France at this time.
Further developments have allowed us to supply onions to our customers for the whole 52 weeks a year from the Stour Valley Production. Potatoes have been part of the Stour scene for many generations and still form a very important part of our business. Production of a wide range of baby new potatoes, salad potatoes, early baker potatoes and specialist storage potatoes allows us to use individual soil types to their best advantage.
Irrigation is a very important resource to both crops and without it we could not produce consistent quality or quantity to fulfil our customer requirements.
Sugar Beet is another interesting crop which has been on the scene since about 1918 and now faces challenging times. Overproduction of sugar in Western Europe is in severe competition with South America and Australian production and the economic survival of the crop has become critical. It is a shame because the crop again is a different species, spring sown and creates diversity to our cropping.
The mainstay of arable farming in this region has been cereal crops of Wheat and Barley and still accounts for over 50% of the local land use. Oilseed rape for oil and animal feed production is not part of our system. The crop generates a severe weed burden and slug population to the detriment of other more important crops.
Livestock production along the Stour Valley has continued to survive on land which cannot produce higher value crops than grass. The severe decline of the dairy industry in this area has seen the loss of at least 14 milking herds in the last 30 years in the lower area of the Stour Valley. To my knowledge there are now no milking herds left in the Stour Valley.
Suckler beef breeding herds have replaced the grazing animals and along the Stour you can see Lincoln Reds, Charolais, South Devon, Simmental, Limosin and many cross breeds of Hereford and Friesian types.
Like many of the local estates we have adopted many of the government schemes to improve and develop the conservation and landscape features of the vale. It is a significant part of our business; 200 acres of Field Corners, Field Margins, Pollen and Nectar strips, wild bird covers, grass margins and unharvested cereals are annually managed under the Higher Level Scheme (HLS).
Historically, the restrictions of water courses, roads and topography discouraged the wholesale removal of hedges. Our average field size over 6,000 acres is still less than 25 acres, which is relatively small for modern arable farming.
Hedgerow planting and management to replace dying Elm Coppice has involved 14Km in the last 10 years. During the 1950s the elm tree made up in excess of 40% of the standard trees in the vale.
Cultivation of cricket bat willows alongside water courses has created a new landscape to replace the traditional willow pollards.
During the last 25 years the Farm Woodland scheme has supported us in planting and managing 35 acres of new woodlands on land that the family owns.
In 2015 we commissioned a Solar Park on 56 acres on Langham airfield on an area of less productive land. This generates 19Mw of power which actually makes our farming business carbon neutral from less than 1% of our land.
Farming along the Stour will always be interesting and will continue to present challenges to us all.
J G Rix
John Rix, is in my view an outstanding farmer, as he still takes care of the land that he farms and uses traditional methods of farming as opposed to getting everything done in as short a time as possible by the cheapest means available. It certainly shows in everything he grows.
"The Godly Kingdom of the Stour Valley"
Thus did John Winthrop, widely acknowledged as the pre- eminent founder of New England, describe his homeland, the area from whence came much the largest portion of the 700 plus passengers on those first 11 ships which set forth for Massachusetts in 1630.
'Stour Valley' is an imprecise description, but Winthrop must have meant both the cloth villages and towns along that river and those near the valley namely Sudbury, Long Melford, Lavenham, Clare, Glemsford, Haverhill, Boxford, Bildeston, Kersey, Lindsey, Hadleigh, Stoke by Nayland, Nayland and Bures. He may also have thought of Halstead, Hedingham, Coggeshall, Braintree and Bocking as within "the Godly Kingdom."
What stimulates intense interest in early American history on this side of the Atlantic is the fact that, between 1630 and the Civil War a dozen years later, all but a few immigrants were from England. It was their culture and values which overwhelmingly shaped the early decades of the growth of New England, whether one is talking of language, culture, politics or religion.
Indeed, what some historians call the 'folkways' of that extraordinary country were and remain disproportionately influenced by the four main waves of British immigrants up until 1775. As, for example, William Graham Sumner explains, the values and customs of New England "still show deep traces of the Puritan temper and world philosophy. Perhaps nowhere else in the world can so strong an illustration be seen, both of the persistency of the spirit of mores, and their very ability and adaptability." He goes on to note that that early English influence permeated later settlements by waves of immigrants from elsewhere and "won control over them." On the American side this whole riveting subject seems, if anything, even more germane, despite fewer than 1 in 5 Americans today having British ancestry.
However, generalisations about early New England can be misleading. If the early immigrants were mainly Puritan, there developed a growing proportion primarily there for economic reasons. So, too, the anti-Royalist, anti-Establishment character of the colony can be overdone. Few wanted complete separation from England in those early decades, valuing their roots, besides operating under Royal Charter.
What is, however, indisputable is that it took powerful reasons and motives to embolden, emigrants (often travelling as families) to face the manifold dangers and uncertainties of such a venture. The ocean crossing alone would have deterred all but the most commited and hardy individuals. Of the 700 plus emigrants in 1630 nearly a quarter died either going out or by the end of that year. Mind you, with a two-month crossing and no certainty of adequate supplies of medicines or food (complicated by having cattle, horses etc. aboard) that can be no surprise. Of the deceased, incidentally, 21 were from Sudbury alone.
So what made this corner of England the epicentre of America's foundation? I believe one needs to go a long way back to trace the beginnings of that independence of spirit and character which marked the 21,000 or so pre-war immigrants from these islands (not forgetting that by 1642 there was a reverse flow of men coming back to support the Parliamentary cause).
It may seem fanciful, but I like to think that it was no accident that Boadicea, the Queen of the Iceni tribe and scourge of the Romans came from our neck of the woods! It is also true that the Domesday Book (1086) records a far higher proportion of freemen in Suffolk than anywhere else in England. That also related to the fact that the Vikings were the most mercantile and resourceful of people. The southern extent of Viking territory abutting that of the East Saxons was indeed the River Stour. It is tell-tale that all the towns and large villages were and still are situated on the Suffolk bank between Haverhill and Nayland with afforestation then dominating the Essex side. Then there was notable support here for the Lollards and Peasants Revolt.
The early thriving of the weaving industry in and around the Stour Valley was reinforced first by the early influx of Flemish weavers with their state-of-art techniques and later by the fleeing Huguenots who introduced their renowned silk skills. They soon came out here from Spitalfields to utilise the talents of the hordes of unemployed wool weavers in the mid 18th century. Much of our cloth was from early times exported and depended on and fortified those independent traditions. By the by, it also facilitated smuggling into the valley of Coverdale's Bibles, the first in English, in the 1530s.
The same mindset was inevitably paralleled in the religious sphere and begat a conscientious resistance to Episcopal, or indeed royal, dictates as to how and what to believe.
A graphic demonstration of that, still vividly remembered in 1630, was the number of public burnings of 'ordinary' citizens during the reign of Queen Mary in the 1550s. Essex and Suffolk suffered more such martyrdoms (as they were perceived) than anywhere. The deeply etched memory of their fortitude did more, I surmise, to entrench the primacy of personal conscience in the popular culture of future generations than is now realised. Foxe's Book of Martyrs' – a contemporary and longstanding best seller – helped ensure that.
It can be no surprise, therefore, that this part of England was particularly resistant to most of the catholicising 'reforms' of James I and Charles I, which helped provoke the 1630 sailings by those principled malcontents who felt impelled to risk all to gain all.
In those days life was so much more localised than it is now. When someone then talked of their "country" they invariably meant their "county". The villages and towns were marked by stability, their own customs and social autonomy. Eccentricity thrived and reputation meant everything. Commonality and mutuality were intense, as were loyalties and allegiances. The 'Godly Accord' agreed to in Boxford is a typical example of that, where the inhabitants established a consensual modus vivendi. Consider, too, how the solemn oaths required of the multitudinous office holders in Boroughs like Sudbury made for civic solidarity. Furthermore, the strong inter-connection between local politics and local religion, particularly as fashioned by local squires and clergy, was unsurprising given that very many of the former had patronage over appointment of the latter.
Looking back, the number of truly exemplary clergy who served in and around the Stour Valley in those vibrant and changeable years is remarkable. Several went on to achieve great distinction within the established church with many more doing so in the non-conformist realm. Some examples of the latter are Henry Sandes of Boxford, Samuel Crossman of Sudbury, Henry Jessey of Assington, Ezekiel Culverwell of Felsted, John Ward of Haverhill, John Wilson of Sudbury and William Jenkyn, Thomas Weld of Terling, Thomas Jenner and John Owen of Fordham and so on and on. A few emigrated to New England; all were sympathetic to its promise.
As for the Knights, Squires and Gentlemen, they largely ran the county institutions, particularly as Justices of the Peace and MPs. In the Civil War the County Committee of Suffolk and that of the Associated Counties of East Anglia – acknowledged as the backbone of the Parliamentary cause - were again dependent on support and solidarity amongst the same leading families. In Suffolk and north Essex, the clear majority were Parliament/Puritan supporters. One indication of that is that fewer than one in ten landed families in Suffolk had their estates sequestrated during the Civil War, though the yield from them was the highest in England, which may well be a mark of the relatively uncorrupt collection process.
Collection of imposts and taxes, whether demanded by monarch or Parliament. That invariably involved "farming" which entitled the collector to retain part of the sum collected. But, since the collector often determined how much was due, the incitement to corrupt deals was strong. Such positions were often bought, as were monopolies and charters.
Robert Reyce (from Preston, within the Godly Kingdon), in his contemporary "Breviary of Suffolk," wrote of "the covetousness of this world, not content with any moderate or large bounds of gain" so that the rich grew richer, too often through ill means. It is no accident that radical Puritans talked of 'common wealth'.
Reyse also noted that the gentry "met often, conversing most familiarly together, which so winneth the goodwill one of another, with all reverent regard of the meaner sort... that divisions are soon smothered and appeased." Thus although many honestly wavered in their views and harboured qualified loyalties between the two sides, a generally conciliatory example was set by local leaders. There was also much inter-marriage across the divides with its multi-generational amity. That historic goodwill was further underpinned by a certain class solidarity.
All these ameliorating factors rendered those turbulent times extraordinarily free of civic brutality in the valley, especially when compared with events in Europe, let alone Ireland. Most impressive was the restraint amongst the 'lower orders'. In the Stour valley, only the wholesale sacking of Melford Hall, Lady Rivers' abode, and the mansion of Sir Francis Mannock at Stoke- by-Nayland – both owners being unpopular Catholics – created pandemonium and even then there were no casualties.
Returning to the birth of New England, what finally lit the emigration fuse? By 1630 John Winthrop was describing the Country's predicament as one of "common grievances groaning for reformation." Apart from corruption, those certainly included the economic plight of the later 1620s (hitting weaving disastrously); the reactionary and aggressive religious policies of the Anglican church, particularly via Bishop (later Archbishop) Laud; the attempt by Charles I to halt the expanding power of Parliament by bypassing it via the forced loan of 1626 and then by its dissolution in 1629 which led to his personal rule until he had to recall it in 1640; and a deeply unpopular and counter-productive foreign policy.
The offensive micro management of public worship meant, for example that, not wearing a surplice was an offence, as was not bowing. No one could go to another church to hear another preacher without licence, even if there was no sermon in the home church. Then there were the church lectureships which had sprung up in increasing numbers in eastern England from the 1580s, and which were very popular, especially on market days in places such as Boxford and Sudbury. But they were much disliked by the church authoritarians and an ecclesiastical edict of 1629 prohibiting them was for some the last straw.
It is enlightening to contextualise these controversies in relation to the cultural trends, started in the reign of Elizabeth. One has only to utter the names of Shakespeare, Milton, Johnson and Donne, amongst many, to understand how and why the unleashing of the vox populi became eventually uncontainable.
The resulting diversity was ineffable. Most poets and playwrights openly took very public sides in the Civil War. Surprisingly, from one viewpoint, Milton, Marvell and Dryden served in Cromwell's Foreign Office when he was Protector. What bureaucrats! But one must be careful not to judge attitudes then by today's standards. Thus John Winthrop, who might have been expected to champion democracy in all its modern essentials, couldn't go all the way because he believed it to be inconsistent with the Fifth Commandment.
Let me give one particular case history of how King James and then King Charles gradually antagonised many of their most forceful subjects: that of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham. Uniquely, he was the intimate and dominant adviser to both Kings, and a lover of the former. The foreign policy of the two monarchs under Buckingham's sway could scarcely have been more counter-productive, at different times alienating the Netherlands, France and Spain and, in the process, closing vital markets for our local cloth output.
As it happens, Buckingham, was assassinated in 1628 by John Felton, whose family home in Pentlow near Cavendish backed onto the Stour. The fact that the event was greeted by public celebrations and ringing of church bells throughout the land says everything. A further twist is provided by the fact that Buckingham's son, the no less controversial second Duke, married the granddaughter of Parliament's second most famous General, Lord Fairfax, her family home being at Tilbury juxta Clare, only a few miles from Felton's Pentlow.
Perhaps the most notable Stour Valley personage in those years was Sir Nathaniel Barnardiston who had six remarkable merchant sons. No account of the Godly Kingdom would be complete without him. He was incarcerated in the Tower of London in 1626 for refusing to pay the loan which Charles I attempted to force from the well off without the sanction of Parliament. He was a highly successful foreign merchant, twice MP for Sudbury (as was son Thomas) and a man very much of Winthrop's ilk. They and their families were close and intermarried along with mutual friends, like the Gurdons and Brands, many of whom provided emigrants to New England in the early days. Barnardiston was the archetypal good Puritan – principled, idealistic and public spirited.
As for the travails of John Winthrop, he had become a very disappointed and pressured man. He had lost his position as a JP in 1625/6. At the same time, he failed to be selected as Sudbury's second MP along with Sir Nathaniel Barnadiston. Worse were the effects of Winthrop's appointment to the lucrative position as an Attorney of the Court of Wards and Liveries in 1627. The strains of serving this remunerative but corrupt institution and the ethical compromises that went with it may well have contributed to the serious illness he suffered in December 1628. Overall his predicament may have convinced him that his mode of life was incompatible with his deep beliefs, so that to turn his back on it all was what he was being called upon to do. (Read Francis J. Bremer's revelatory biography, "John Winthrop - America's Forgotten Founding Father")
To buttress such introspections, the plague was at large locally; there had been a disastrous drought; and there was an intensifying collapse of trade, not just in weaving, which spawned poverty on every hand with no relief in sight. Indeed, in Sudbury and other nearby towns there was real unrest. So emigration it was to be.
One cannot now comprehend the complexity of putting together that first convoy of four vessels in March/April, and of the further seven ships which followed before the summer was out. With the primitive means of communication which existed (perhaps the greatest contrast between then and now), one's imagination is beggared in trying to understand how such a sensitive and intricate operation could have been undertaken, not least the crucial task of attracting, selecting and organising the passengers.
But undertaken it was, and the new world which grew from it satisfied, to a remarkable degree, the hopes of the emigrants from 'The Godly Kingdom' and beyond. But then, as Winthrop wrote to his fellow-emigrants at the time, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house."
Andrew Phillips (Copyright retained)
Andrew Phillips was born in Long Melford and raised in Sudbury, where he now lives. After Cambridge he qualified as a solicitor in Sudbury and in 1970 established his own firm in London. He served in the House of Lords as 'Lord Phillips of Sudbury' from 1998 until 2015. He has had extensive business, print and media engagements (best known for his 24 years on BBC2 as 'Legal Eagle' on the Jimmy Young Show). He founded or co-founded three national charities and is still very involved in the voluntary sector in the town and county. He is married to Penelope and they have three children and five grandchildren).
Keeping It Special in the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley Project
As manager of a publically funded team whose aim is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and special qualities of an area of countryside along the Stour Valley I am often asked...
'What is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, what do you actually do and why do you do it?'
My response to that question is outlined below, but the brief answer is that an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is an area of land that has been deemed so important to society that it is designated by Government. The legislation relating to these protected landscapes ensures that public bodies and statutory undertakers, for example utility supply companies, have to demonstrate they have paid due regard to the purposes of the designation, to conserve and enhance its landscape, when carrying out their operations. The area is also subject to both local and national planning policy to ensure the area is protected for the nation. In planning terms the designation is equivalent to National Park status.
What we do relates to protecting the natural beauty of the area by influencing planning policy and consents, facilitating projects that enhance the area's landscape and wildlife and inform as many people as possible about its special qualities.
Returning to the original question, this is something I often reflect upon, not least when I am seeking to justify the public investment in our work and in the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Stour Valley Project. As is often the case, it is when my children, friends and members of my family are sitting around the dining table and conversation turns to work that I have to justify what the team does. When I think what the staff team does, I often struggle to encapsulate our work in a perfect 'soundbite' that is so often expected in a time of instant responses.
At these times and for those with a wider and perhaps longer perspective perhaps, I ask them to think of their favourite place in the Stour Valley. The response is often a view, a walk or a glimpse of wildlife and I can then bounce off their interest to discuss our work.
I have already said that we are a publicly funded team and although this is true, we are working to reduce the reliance on the public purse to pursue our aims. I do however feel that the investment is justified when we consider that the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) designation of the Dedham Vale is a national decision made by the Government's advisors on the natural environment and should be supported by the state. Indeed 75% of our core costs for the AONB work comes from central Government (DEFRA), with the rest coming from local Government. I use the phrase core costs carefully as for every pound we take from the public purse we match with another pound from sponsorship, donations, grant applications and income generation to deliver project work, thus doubling our 'turnover' and ability to conserve and enhance this special area.
Little Bradley - river restoration project with volunteer support. The Stour Valley
Box Valley powerlines Long Melford, Stour Valley volunteers
It should also be noted that a recent appeal to parish councils and societies such as the Colne-Stour Countryside Association to give ongoing support for the work of the project team has been very generously supported by both parish councils and this Society.
The team has also reduced its costs to reflect the fall in contributions from the public purse since 2010. We have restructured the team twice in the last 5 years, reduced our operational costs by moving office and developing our volunteer support that has added up to a reduction in our core costs by around 35%. We have maintained a functioning staff team and a grant scheme, known as the Sustainable Development Fund, worth £30,000 to improve the environmental, social and economic aspects of the Dedham Vale.
The Stour Valley is a special area, recognised not just by those that live and work in it but by many from around the country. A couple of years ago we co-hosted the National Association for AONB's conference and I was over whelmed by the number of delegates who knew of or had a connection with the area and relished the opportunity to come back and explore the area. Maybe that is in part due to the apparent omni-presence of images of the area in prints of world famous works by the great artists, Constable and Gainsborough, in almost every small hotel, guest house and restaurant in the country. Behind that recognition lies what the DEFRA minister responsible for AONBs described as a hidden economic powerhouse of protected landscapes. A recent publication – "So Much More Than The View" – commissioned by National Parks England and the National Association for AONBs revealed that the value of these special places to the national economy was over £20 billion annually and the core AONB teams cost society as little as 6p per person per year. Locally, the value of tourism in the Dedham Vale AONB is nearly £52 million per year, up nearly £7 million in four years, which demonstrates that our finest landscapes are worth so much more than a beautiful view and a desirable place to live.
The value of these landscapes includes the health benefits that they can provide. Numerous studies demonstrate that physical and mental health can be improved through access to natural spaces, and the Stour Valley is one of those places that can be enjoyed without damaging the very essence of what makes it so special. If, by encouraging people to enjoy the Stour Valley and thus improve their physical and mental health, this can help in reducing the £141 billion being spent on health in 2015/16 then surely it is a positive investment for the national good. These concepts can sometimes seem too vast to comprehend, so think instead of the individual who we know enjoys an invigorating walk in the country and feels better the next day! And if you add a meal at one of the many fine establishments in the area you are also doing your bit for the local economy.
Beyond some of these bigger national concepts what does the Project actually do? Firstly we should acknowledge the staff team is accountable to a Joint Advisory Committee made up of local councillors that provides a scrutiny function on expenditure and business planning.
Behind that lies the AONB Partnership, which comprises all JAC members plus representatives of environmental, business and agricultural interests. The Partnership receives reports from members as well as promoting policies to ensure that the Stour Valley's natural beauty is maintained and enhanced. Threats to the valley are discussed and with members representing such a wide range of interests, these can be countered with great effect. There is a statutary management plan whose drafts are commented on by all members so that it can be finally endorsed and agreed by the whole Partnership.
Langham Dedham looking towards Manningtree
Canoes on the Stour Flatford overhead lines due to be undergrounded in 2016
The staff team works in a number of ways. Although it intervenes in the planning system, the Project understands that the countryside is an evolving entity. We work to ensure the development that does go ahead contributes to the natural beauty and special qualities of the area. It is not, however, a team that sits commenting on the plans of others but is out there seeking to influence land management and directly undertaking projects to enhance the conditions for wildlife and access opportunities to quietly enjoy the area.
We run teams of dedicated and amazing volunteers that undertake a variety of environmental project work. We also support parish councils and community groups throughout the valley to undertake projects that enhance their local area.
The staff team seeks to improve the understanding of what is an historic landscape, facilitating archaeological projects, often funded from external partners. We seek to communicate what is so special about the area through our website, a bi-annual newspaper and through a series of public events including the ever popular annual forum. We also work on transport related projects such as the Dedham Vale Hopper Bus and projects to help our wildlife. It is widely reported that 60% of our recorded wildlife is in decline and the AONB team has facilitated projects to help barn owls, otters, the native black poplar tree and bats, as well as undertaking habitat management of grasslands, planting trees and hedgerows and clearing invasive scrub from delicate habitats that help our less well known species of wildlife.
In the last three years we have hosted a River Stour Project Officer, funded by the Environment Agency and Anglian Water, to seek to improve the environmental factors along the whole of the River Stour catchment. This has been a hugely successful project with some really exciting improvements delivered. It has been a lesson to all of us in balancing the needs of the environment, flood defence, the navigation (where projects are on the main river) and landowners/managers. What has at times been a difficult balancing act has bought a wide range of interests together for the common good of the area. There are now areas in the upper and mid Stour where the sound of a babbling river can be heard again. This has contributed to the enhanced environmental qualities of the river and its potential for wildlife, but perhaps more importantly to many, the evocative sound of the river is once again adding to our enjoyment of being in the countryside.
I cannot contribute to an article for the magnificent Colne-Stour Countryside Association without making a reference to the AONB boundary review. As many reading this will know, the boundary of the nationally designated AONB is to the east of Bures. What some will also know is that it is an aspiration of the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership to seek an extension of that boundary westwards further up the Stour Valley. It may be that not everyone will share that aspiration but if the project is to proceed there will be many opportunities to put forward views and arguments to back your individual view.
That said, any review of the boundary can only be undertaken by Natural England, the Government's advisor on the natural environment. In October 2015 the Secretary of State approved a project to extend the boundary of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. The next timetabled boundary review to be looked at is the Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB, which has been seeking to have its boundary reviewed for the last 20 years. Following that review, expected to take around 2 to 3 years, Surrey Hills AONB has been promised that it will be next in line. After that review it is not clear how Natural England will prioritise what I understand to be around 15 requests for boundary reviews and new designations for National Parts and AONBs, although Natural England are well aware of the aspirations in the Stour Valley.
To build on this Dedham Vale aspiration, the Project has commissioned a study from a nationally respected consultancy, using funds contributed by parish councils and societies such as the Colne Stour Countryside Association, to look at the factors that contribute to natural beauty and special qualities of the existing AONB and an area upstream of existing western boundary of the AONB. This will also help us to assess the merits or otherwise of development applications in the Stour Valley and may support further major grant applications.
So in answer to the original question I posed myself… what do you actually do? For a team of less than three and a half full time individuals my answer is… an awful lot! I think that the team makes the Stour Valley a better place for residents, businesses and visitors alike. The team's contribution has its own value but also assists economic recovery through the support it gives to the important tourism sector. A recent study by Visit Suffolk, and yes I am acutely aware that half the Stour Valley is in Essex, noted that 75% of visitors cite the countryside as one of the reasons they have chosen to come to the area. Therefore I would suggest that a superb natural environment can help our rural economy and literally make us all healthier.
So enjoy our Stour Valley and help us to ensure that it remains the fantastic place that it is today. By reading this article and newsletter I would assume you have an interest in ensuring that the area does retain its special qualities, so I urge you to support local initiatives to further enhance the area and, if minded, to make a contribution to the Stour Valley Environment Fund, a Community Fund hosted by the Essex Community Foundation, to ensure that this beautiful place will remain for many years to come.
AONB Manager, Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project
Simon Amstutz has kept us up to date with the on-going progress of The Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Project having given an in depth account of Managing a Masterpiece in the 2013 Magazine.
SVV at Clare Castle 2015
Lodge Farm, Rectory Road, Wyverstone Street, Suffolk
(TM 0331 6773)
An Archaeological Record
Lodge Farm lies in open, arable countryside approximately 1km west of Wyverstone parish church and on the southern edge of what appears to have been a small medieval green onto which the farmyard has encroached. The farmhouse is a mid-16th century structure of 'Yeoman' status with a fine moulded ceiling and queen-post roof. The southern half of the adjacent farm complex includes a contemporary four-bay timber-framed barn which has been much altered and is accordingly unlisted but contains evidence of an original floored stable and is of considerable historic interest. The eastern range of the yard in front of the barn is formed by an exceptionally rare timber- framed structure of the late-15th or early-16th century that is not shown on the parish tithe map of 1838 and may have been moved from behind the farmhouse to form a cow-shed in the mid-19th century. This building is listed at grade II as a former stable, but at 27 feet in length by 13 feet in width probably represents the smallest known Tudor 'public building' in the country. In all but scale it closely resembles buildings elsewhere in the region which are known to have been designed as manorial or market court halls and gildhalls, and there is evidence that it had already been moved from its primary site before the 19th century. The structure has lost its queen-post roof and original ceiling, but retains evidence of seven 'diamond' mullioned windows, two external arched doors opening into its two ground-floor rooms, and a third external door which led directly to an undivided upper storey spanned by two decorative open trusses. The present conversion plans include the removal of these original doorways.
The northern half of the farm complex is a mid-19th century 'model' development of white brick which includes a good and largely unaltered single-storied stable range. This range preserves a boarded manger and hay rack together with a tack room, loose box and an unusual, completely enclosed chaff box. Two shelter sheds, one of which retains its manger, also survive, together with a contemporary walled yard which is now covered by a 20th century roof. An adjacent 19th century vehicle shed and stable incorporate a 16th century timber-framed wall which follows the same alignment as the farmhouse and probably indicates the boundary of the medieval green.
Historic Context: Documentary Record
Lodge Farm lies in open, arable countryside in the hamlet of Wyverstone Street, approximately 1km west of the village centre and the church of St George. The site abuts Rectory Road to the north, but formerly adjoined what appears to have been a triangular medieval green as indicated by the parish tithe map of 1838 (figure 19). The grade II listed timber-framed and rendered farmhouse is a mid-16th century building of 'Yeoman' status that is typical of the region, with a fine roll-moulded ceiling in its hall, a plank-and-muntin cross- passage screen and a queen-post roof structure; there is no 15th framing, contrary to the description in the Schedule of Listed Buildings (which misinterprets a crenellated mid-rail at the service end of the hall). The parlour at its eastern end is an enlargement of the late-16th or early-17th century.
The property was a substantial tenanted farm of 201 acres at the time of the tithe survey, owned by Andrew Caldicott Esquire and occupied by Edward Eaton, with approximately 40 acres of pasture and 160 of arable. These proportions are consistent with the status of the farmhouse and may have changed little since the 16th century. The list description refers to a three-armed moat to the west of the house and notes that it was formerly known as Manor Lodge, but the moat is not shown on the tithe map and the present name appears on the first edition Ordnance Survey of 1880. Copinger's 'Manors of Suffolk' (1909) identified only one manor in Wyverstone, which presumably lay in the standard position adjacent to the church where the Ordnance Survey indicates a moat and 'Hall Barn on the Site of Wyverstone Hall'; there is no reason to associate Lodge Farm with manorial status, and the nearby house known as 'The Manor' was in fact built as the parish rectory in circa 1830.
The tithe map shows the recognisable present outline of the farmhouse with its rear service lean-to in pink to the west of the site, and the central pond also remains largely unaltered. The 16th century barn (2) is shown in the south-eastern corner of the yard, with southward projections much as today, but the 16th century listed 'stable' (building 1) is conspicuous by its absence. Note the outbuilding to the south of the farmhouse, which may represent the 'stable' before it was moved to its present position. The 16th century northern wall of the S- shaped structure immediately west of the pond appears to survive today as the partition between the Cart Shed and Cart Stable (14 & 15). Area 137 is labelled 'Homestead' on the tithe apportionment, which does not provide individual field names.
The farmyard, like many others in Suffolk, was transformed in the mid-19th century. Only the farmhouse, pond and barn (2) remained constant between 1838 and 1880. A complex of buildings was built to the south of the barn's existing lean-to structures (3 and 4), but these had been demolished prior to the aerial photograph of 1966 (photo A2.16). Mr Brian Spofforth, who acquired the farm in 1963, reports that they had contained pigs in the 1950s. Building 1 is shown in its present position north-east of the barn, and the building of similar proportions shown behind the farmhouse in 1838 has disappeared. (The present shed on its approximate site was built in the mid-20th century to house the large 'tip-up' wagon of the then owner, who operated as a cattle slaughterman and used it to transport carcasses.) The complex of sheds, shelters and yards now known for planning purposes as 'North Barn' (6-16) are shown in their present form, although a separate group of buildings to the east has been demolished. The individual components of this complex are analysed below, but consist chiefly of white brick and appear to date from the 1850s or 1860s when many local farms were forced to diversify from arable to mixed dairy production.
The Ordnance Survey of 1902 uses broken lines to indicate open- sided buildings, and clearly shows areas 11 and 12 in their original form as open-sided shelters serving a pair of enclosed animal yards. Similar shelters are shown in the paddock to the east (now demolished). The roof of the shed in the north-eastern corner of the surviving complex continued along the northern edge of the yard to form another shelter, but this was removed when the present roof was built over the entire northern yard in the mid-20th century. The demolished building south of the barn (2) is also open-sided to the west. If the northern yard was designed for horses, as suggested by its extant fittings, the remaining yards would have housed cattle. The situation was unchanged in 1928, as shown overleaf.
Figure 5. Block Plan of Site (showing the surviving historic components)
1. Building 1. Listed 16th Century 3-bay timber-framed structure of uncertain original purpose, moved to its present site in mid-19th century. Possibly a stable, but probably a public building such as a manorial court hall.
2. Barn. Mid- to Late-16th century timber-framed five-bay structure with northern entrance. Narrow western bay originally floored and probably used as a stable.
3. Timber lean-to against eastern gable of barn (2). Wide half-hung doors suggest it was used as cattle stalls.
4. Brick 19th century lean-to against southern wall of barn (2) with external access.
5. Brick 19th century lean-to against southern wall of barn (2) with internal access.
6. Stable. Brick, mid-19th century, with hay rack and manger.
7. Chaff Box. Brick and timber, mid-19th century (i.e. and enclosed feed store with window-like apertures but entirely lacking a door).
8. Tack Room (harness room). Brick, mid-19th century, with harness hooks and access to chaff box.
9. Loose box. Brick, mid-19th century, with access to chaff box.
10. Enclosed horse yard, latterly used for cattle. Mid-19th century.
11. Open-sided shelter. Brick, mid-19th century, with boarded manger.
12. Open-sided shelter, now partly enclosed. Brick, mid-19th century.
13. Enclosed cattle yard, originally open but with mid-20th century corrugated iron roof.
14. Cart or trap shed. Brick, mid-19th century.
15. Cart or trap stable. Brick, mid-19th century, but with 16th century timber- framed north wall retained from earlier structure. Retaining a hay rack.
16. Loose box. Brick, mid-19th century.
1. Building 1
(grade II listed as an early-16th century stable)
Building 1, in figure 5, is a remarkable timber-framed structure of great historic interest, not least because it has no known direct parallel elsewhere. Very few small, non-domestic buildings have survived from the 16th century, and a lack of context renders precise interpretation of this example problematic.
The building is aligned on a north-south axis at right angles to the nearby barn (2) and 5.5 feet distant from its north-eastern corner. It extends to just 27 feet in length by 13 feet in overall width (8.2 metres by 3.9), but is complete in itself with evidence of 'diamond' mullioned windows in all four elevations. Its walls now rise to approximately 10 feet (3 metres) at their eaves but no original ground sills remain and the relatively low level of the mid-rails and door heads suggests they were initially up to 2 feet higher. Each wall contains studs of approximately 7 ins by 4 (18 cm by 10) interrupted by a mid-rail and arranged in three equal bays with 8 feet (2.4 metres) between the jowled storey posts. There is a high proportion of elm, although some timbers are of oak. The present roof structure is a 19th century low- pitched replacement covered with pantiles but both gables, which have been reduced in height, preserve brace mortises for an original queen-post structure. The two open trusses are otherwise intact, with tenoned arch-braces and steeply cambered and chamfered tie-beams which contain queen-post mortises in their upper edges and one sawn-off queen-post base. Although now open to its roof in the manner of a barn, the building was designed with a ceiling throughout, as indicated by pegged binding joist mortises in the storey posts. There is also evidence of a secondary ceiling at a higher level, as discussed below. The framing is difficult to date closely in the absence of decorative features, particularly as queen-post roof structures are found locally throughout the 16th century, but the likely profiles of the missing door arches suggest a date in the final quarter of the 15th century or the first quarter of the 16th century. Carpenters' marks in the form of Roman numerals are visible on many timbers; most are shallow and incised in the medieval and Tudor style, but some, particularly on the principal posts and arch-braces, are deeply chiselled in a form normally found only during the 17th century and later. (Medieval carpenters worked with easily marked green timber, while later buildings consisted largely of re-used, seasoned material, and the method of incision changed accordingly). The presence of two separate series of numerals strongly suggests the frame has been dismantled and re-erected, and this is borne out by the building's absence from the parish tithe map of 1838. It was evidently moved to its present position between 1838 and its appearance on the Ordnance Survey in 1880.
The individual timbers contain the usual notches and grooves for wattle-and-daub infill, and this would have extended across the external walls as the outer surfaces of many studs and posts are waney (i.e. their best faces were displayed internally as they were unseen externally). The presence of external daub is confirmed by the presence of elm, which cannot endure exposure to the elements, and by the internal braces which rise to the tie-beams from each corner post (with the exception of the gable brace in the south-western corner which descended to the mid-rail in order to avoid a window). The walls are currently clad with a variety of materials, consisting chiefly of tarred weatherboarding to the lower storey and clay daub to the upper. The present daub is not original as it avoids the aforementioned notches and is thinly applied to vertical poles attached to horizontal external laths. Much of the internal daub finish has been renewed or lost, but the older panels are of historic interest as they preserve a series of incised circles varying between 9 and 16 inches in diameter (23 to 40 cm) as shown in the accompanying elevations (figures 7 & 8). These features are worn, but also include eye-shaped devices formed by intersecting arcs and at least one series of six 'petals'. A number of impressed triangles form a border at the top edge of the upper panel which lies north of post E. These devices are well-known apotropaic symbols used between the 17th and 19th centuries to protect animals and crops from unseen harm, and are often found in buildings that may have been converted from other purposes. In this instance they can be dated to the period between 1838 and 1880.
Original Layout: First Floor
The original layout of the building is shown in figure 6. The upper storey was undivided and well lit by four windows containing diamond mullions, as indicated by the latter's empty mortises. The gables contained large windows each with four mullions, while the front and rear elevations contained smaller examples with two mullions in their central bays. The smaller first-floor windows are associated with neatly cut shutter grooves, obeyed by the adjacent chamfers, while the other windows in the building are flanked by shallow rebates that would have been provided with nailed cover-boards to form the necessary grooves. This difference probably relates only to the greater thickness of the roof-plates when compared with the mid- rails and tie-beams, which permitted a complete groove to be cut. The upper storey would have been open to its original queen- post roof structure, with ample headroom of almost 6 feet (1.8 metres) in the centres of its steeply cambered tie-beams. This floor was reached by an external stair at the southern end of the eastern elevation, as shown in figure 6. The position of this stair is indicated by a fully-framed doorway and a pegged mortise for a stair trimmer in the mid-rail (figure 7). The mid-rail is deeply chamfered above this doorway in order to avoid injuring those climbing the stair, and both rail and northern jamb contain external door rebates (the door of necessity opened outwards to avoid the stair). The asymmetrical position of the first-floor window in the southern gable also relates to the stair, which would have obstructed access to the shutter of a central window.
Original Layout: Ground Floor
The ground floor was divided into two unequal chambers by a framed partition between posts E and F. The southern chamber of two bays extended to 17 feet in length by 12.5 feet in internal width (5.2 metres by 3.8) and the northern to 8.5 feet in length by 12.5 in width (2.6 metres by 3.8). The presence of the dividing partition is indicated by the small size of the binding joist mortise in the adjacent posts and by notches for wattle-and-daub beneath; the binding joist between posts D and C was some four inches thicker at approximately 10 inches square and its upper surface was level with those of the common ceiling joists tenoned into it – the same joists were simply lodged on the partition rail. The larger space was lit by opposing narrow windows in the central bay, each containing two diamond mullions, and entered by an external door beside the stair door in the eastern elevation. This door contained an arched head, the pegged mortises of which still survive in the original jambs (each of which is 12 inches (30 cm) in height and double pegged, suggesting a relatively steep arch when compared with the more shallow arched heads of the mid and late-16th century). The smaller chamber was entered by an identical arched door which abutted post E (the southern narrow jamb of which is lacking, like that of the stair door), and lit by at least one adjacent window containing two diamond mullions. The rear, western wall of this chamber has been entirely rebuilt and it is now impossible to determine whether a second window or door existed here. With the exception of two fragments, the studs of both gables have been replaced, but their mid-rails survive and contain no evidence of windows to mirror those immediately above.
The front elevation of the building, which now faces east, contained no fewer than three doors in its short length, of which two contained decorative arches; the stair doorway lacked any such arch as its rectangular door opened outwards and would have obscured it (and an arch would have reduced headroom on climbing the stair). The description of this structure in the Schedule of Listed Buildings refers to 'three entrances all with 4-centred arched heads' and a cross-entry in the northern bay; in fact, however, only two of the three doors possessed arches (probably but not necessarily of four centres) and the rebuilding of the northern bay's rear wall renders the identification of any cross-entry impossible at present. It may be feasible during future conversion works to remove a length of timber which now obscures the northern side of post F in order to determine whether infill notches are present – their absence would suggest a door as opposed to a solid wall. A cross-entry is, however, unlikely given the narrow proportions of the room. The list description also refers to 3, 4 and 5-light diamond mullioned windows, but there is no evidence of a four-light example. It should be noted that current plans for the forthcoming conversion (Keith Day Architects, August 2007) identify the most important timbers of the frame, i.e. the various original door jambs, as secondary features and propose to remove them.
Original Function & Historic Significance: Stable or Public Building?
Building 1 is undoubtedly a remarkably rare survival, but its original purpose is not entirely clear. The list description identifies it as 'stabling with loft accommodation', suggesting the inspector was also reluctant to commit himself. Any firm identification is hampered by a lack of contemporary parallels and, more importantly, by lack of site context: the building has evidently been moved from elsewhere, probably on more than one occasion, and there is no means of determining where it began its life. It seems likely that it lay immediately behind the farmhouse until its removal to the present site in the mid-19th century (as suggested by the coincidence of a building of similar proportions disappearing from the former and appearing in the latter between 1838 and 1880), but there is evidence this was not its first journey. The building was apparently dismantled to insert a secondary ceiling, higher than the first, which was itself removed prior to the application of the present wattle-and-daub – and therefore prior to its arrival in its present location. Timber- framed buildings were often dismantled and moved in the late- 16th and 17th centuries, particularly if their original raison d'etre had vanished. Guildhalls, court halls and other 'public' buildings fell into this category, and frequently made their way into farmyards where they were readily converted into barns and stables.
If the building was indeed designed as a free-standing stable, which is by no means impossible, it is probably the best example of its type in Britain. Stables which pre-date the 18th century are notoriously rare, and only a handful of Tudor examples are known from high- status sites (normally in brick and designed for the numerous animals of gentry households). There are however, a number of problems with such an interpretation, not least of which is the existence of a perfectly ample stable in the western bay of the barn. Early stables were usually provided with at least one long, blank wall against which a number of horses could be tethered facing their hay rack and manger: the width of the barn would, for example, have offered ample space to accommodate a series of horses facing the gable. Given the presence of either doors or windows in the longer front and rear elevations of building 1, in contrast, the only available space for animals was against the narrow gables or internal partitions. The orientation of the building therefore seems inappropriate for the purpose; it would have been more sensible to place windows in the two ground-floor gables and arrange the animals along the rear wall. The presence of large and small rooms, each with a separate external entrance, is also unusual in this respect, although stables often contain inner anterooms for harness and tack. The heights of the structure are also inappropriate for stabling, offering no more than 6 feet of headroom on the lower storey even where the studs are extended as shown in the reconstruction drawings; if the upper floor operated as a hay loft, as would certainly be expected in an early stable, why was it provided with so much unnecessary height at the expense of the ground floor? It is very difficult, in addition, to imagine even a standard 16th century horse, shorter but stockier than its modern counterpart, squeezing through the two arched doors of barely 2.5 feet in width (75 cm). Whatever happened on the ground floor, the upper storey was undoubtedly a fine and imposing space, with finely chamfered and finished trusses of a kind normally associated only with domestic and public display. It bears little resemblance to the low, utilitarian spaces found even above far larger and more expensive contemporary stables.
It is far more likely, in my view, that building 1 was designed not as a stable but as a public building. Its internal layout, proportions and quality are all consistent with such an interpretation, and in all but one respect there are many direct parallels elsewhere. Most parishes in Suffolk possessed at least one such building and often several, serving as gildhalls, market halls, church houses and manorial court halls – many of which eventually found their way into farmyards where they were readily converted into barns by simply removing their ceilings. Such buildings were not heated and typically contained fine undivided halls on their upper floors reached by external stairs and two or more ground-floor chambers, also with separate external access, that served as stores or 'committee rooms'. The only respect in which building 1 differs from this norm is its diminutive size. Most extend to 30 or more feet in length and 16 or more feet in width, but figures 17 and 18 illustrate a strikingly similar building in Mount Bures, Essex, that is just 28 feet long and differs only in that its stair entrance lies between its two ground-floor doors; this building is believed to have served the small manor as a court house, and is larger than building 1 only insofar at it increases the width of its hall with a jetty. Smaller examples were probably once commonplace but were less saleable when their original purpose in a market place, church yard or manor house yard disappeared, and were destroyed rather than moved for conversion. Could building 1 have started life in or near the empty moat that marks the site of Wyverstone Hall? Or perhaps on the site of the long defunct village market, for which a charter was granted in 1231? Whether it represents the smallest freestanding stable to survive from late-medieval England or, as is far more probable, the smallest public building, it is of national importance.
The evidence of extensive dismantling and reconstruction in the timber frame increases the likelihood that it was designed as something other than a normal stable. As discussed above, the timbers display two sequences of carpenters' marks that confirm the building was moved to its present site from elsewhere. The appearance of the chiselled secondary marks is more consistent with the 17th century than the 19th century, and may well relate to an episode prior to the building's arrival here after 1838. The storey posts of the two internal trusses (C-D and E-F) both contain large, well cut mortises for the binding joists of a secondary ceiling 18 inches (46 cm) above the first (which rested on the original corbel blocks of the four posts); all but one of these secondary mortises is pegged and the tenons of their respective binding joists could not have been inserted without dismantling the frame. It therefore seems likely that the structure was dismantled, moved from its unknown primary site and re- erected behind Lodge farmhouse with a higher ceiling that would have been more appropriate to a stable. This may have occurred in the 17th century and coincided with the removal of the barn stable to increase space for cereal storage. The building was again moved in the mid-19th century, when or shortly before the northern yard complex was laid out. The present plaster may be presumed to date from this second process, but was finished internally after the removal of the secondary ceiling (as it would have been impossible to create a smooth finish from mid- rail to roof-plate had the intermediate ceiling been present). The building was therefore re- erected on its present site as a barn- like open shed without a ceiling. The present floor of red brick set on edge contains a well-defined axial drain close to the western yard, which indicates that animals were stalled facing the eastern wall. The presence of animals also explains the use of more durable boarding beneath the mid-rail, with vulnerable render confined to the area above. No original fittings survive, but large, square notches in the storey posts suggest the sometime presence of stall divisions. If the northern yard was designed primarily for horses, as indicated by its fittings, the southern yard and the building in its present form were presumably designed as cattle accommodation (which purpose it is understood to have served in the mid-20th century). The present door at the southern end of the western elevation allowed access from the yard (13), while the opposite door enabled animals to be taken out to pasture. The interior was lit by two small apertures in the eastern wall. Building 1 therefore seems to have descended the social scale during the course of its existence from public building to stable to cow house.
Structure and Date
The unlisted barn at Lodge Farm is an impressive timber-framed and weather-boarded structure of five bays that extends to 64.5 feet in length by 22 feet in overall width (19.6 metres by 6.7) and rises to 11 feet (3.3 metres) at the eaves. Its layout and internal rear (southern) elevation is shown in figure 11. The walls were largely rebuilt in at least two phases during the 18th and 19th centuries, making use of machine sawn softwood with primary bracing and red brick, and its roof-plates and rafters (now covered with corrugated iron) were entirely renewed in the 20th century. Despite the extent of these alterations, which explain its unlisted status, the barn retains a great deal of historic interest. The open trusses (i.e. the jowled storey posts, tie-beams and arch-braces) remain intact as shown in photo A2.9 and there is no reason to suppose they are not in situ despite the absence of any fabric between them. The arch braces are rare survivals as most were removed to accommodate grain bins and farm vehicles in the 19th and 20th centuries. There is no evidence of queen or crown-post mortises in the upper surfaces of the cambered tie- beams, and the original roof structure was presumably of side- purlin type which suggests a date in the mid or late-16th century.
The eastern gable of the barn retains its original studs and braces as shown in figure 12, although its tie-beam is a pine replacement. These timbers are of unusually large scantling, with each stud averaging 8 ins in width by 4.5 in depth (20 cm by 11) compared with the standard 6 ins by 4, and the internally trenched brace is 2.25 ins (5.7 cm) thick. This size was necessary as the timbers are elm rather than oak and were more vulnerable to rot, which probably explains the need to replace so much of the wall fabric. The studs contain notches and grooves for wattle- and-daub infill but none remains, and their waney external surfaces demonstrate that the frame was designed to be rendered externally rather than exposed to view. The present tarred weatherboarding is an addition of the 19th century. The western gable was rebuilt in brick during the 19th century, and incorporates a high pitching door to match the insertion in its eastern counterpart. The western tie-beam survived this reconstruction, however, and contains mortises for arch-braces rising from its corner posts like those elsewhere in the barn; the braces of the eastern gable are unusual in radiating from a central post in a style more commonly found in medieval structures, and were presumably intended for decorative impact.
Original Layout: Entrances
The barn's five bays are of unequal length as shown in figure 11. The two easternmost bays are each of 13 feet, but the central bay which contains the present entrance extends to only 11 feet. Threshing bays were typically narrow in this manner, and the absence of infill notches from the flanking storey posts in the north wall confirms that the entrance occupies its original position. The opposing posts in the south wall do contain infill notches, however, and indicate that the original rear door was of small proportions, as suggested in figure 11, and that the present wide aperture is an insertion. Early barns typically contained small rear doors in this manner; sufficient to create a draught for threshing purposes but not a vehicle thoroughfare. There is evidence of a further entrance at the eastern end of the northern elevation, where the mortise of a door lintel survives in the corner post (immediately beneath a wall brace mortise, as shown to the left in figure 11); this door may have allowed access to the barn when the large doors were closed, but its location is not convenient to the farmhouse and it probably provided a link to a demolished structure forming the eastern range of a contemporary courtyard.
Floored Stable in Western Bay
At 15 feet in length the bay which adjoins the midstrey on the west is slightly larger than its eastern counterparts, but the end bay is far shorter at just 8 feet. This westernmost bay also differs from the rest of the barn in that its front and rear walls contained mid-rails which interrupted the studs; the framing of its rear wall still survives, together with several studs in the penultimate bay as shown in figure 11, and the front storey post contains an empty mortise for an identical arrangement. These mid-rails were designed to support the joists of a ceiling (attached to a missing axial joist), and the bay was divided from the rest of the barn by a framed internal partition which is now indicated only by a series of empty stud mortises in the tie-beam. Floored end-bays of this kind are common in Suffolk barns (but rare elsewhere), and are usually interpreted as stables. There is no remaining evidence of an entrance in this instance, but the internal space of 8 feet by 21 (2.4 metres by 6.4) could have accommodated as many as 10 animals stalled across the width of the structure with a hay loft above. It has been suggested by Wade-Martins and others that a horse was necessary for every 20-30 acres of an arable farm, so this stable would have met the needs of the 7 to 10 animals required here (even assuming the 201 acres of 1838 had not increased since the 16th century).
Despite the replacement or removal of most external studwork, the barn retains a great deal of historic interest given its proximity to a contemporary listed farmhouse and the evidence of a floored stable at its western end. Those elements of the fabric which are most vital to its historic structural integrity, i.e. its storey posts and open trusses, have escaped alteration, and the building therefore remains worthy of listing at grade II.
3 - 5. Lean-to Structures Adjoining Barn
Three red brick 19th century lean-to structures with 20th century low-pitched corrugated iron roofs adjoin the southern wall and eastern gable of the barn (2). The gable lean-to (3) is divided into two compartments entered from the east by unusually wide half- hung doors and appears to have contained loose boxes for cattle grazing in the adjacent paddock (now occupied by a modern house). Additional doors link this structure to the adjoining southern lean-to (4), the covered yard to the north (13) and the site of a demolished range of buildings which formerly adjoined it to the south. This missing range contained a yard with an open sided shelter shed that abutted lean-to 4, which may have served as a cattle shed. The lean-to behind the barn midstrey (5) initially contained a wide doorway, now blocked by boarding, and may represent a mutilated porch. These various structures are not of particular historic significance in themselves.
6-13, 16. Northern Yard Complex
The northern range of farm buildings consists largely of white brick and was built between the tithe survey of 1838 and the First Edition Ordnance Survey of 1880. A date in the 1850s or 1860s seems likely on stylistic grounds, and the complex is typical of the major investment in animal accommodation seen across the region at this period. The eastern side of the walled yard (10) is formed by an impressive and well-preserved building that extends to 58 feet in length by 14 feet in overall width (17.5 metres by 4.3) and is divided into five compartments as shown in figure 5. Area 6 is entered from the yard by a central doorway and lit by two flanking windows, and preserves a long boarded manger and hayrack against its opposite eastern wall (which lacks doors and windows). The height of both the manger and hay rack (the latter is 5.75 feet (1.75 metres) above the floor) suggest this building was designed as a stable rather than a cow shed, despite the absence of a hay loft and reports that the yard was most recently used for cattle awaiting slaughter (in the 1950s). This interpretation is confirmed by the presence of several harness hooks in the adjacent tack room (8) which is formed by deal boarding and lit by a window in its western wall. A box-like compartment (7) alongside the tack room has no access door, and can be reached only by a window-like aperture in the partition which divides it from the tack room. This compartment also possesses shuttered 'windows' to the exterior and adjacent loose box (9), and is presumably a feed store. Spaces of this kind are sometimes described as chaff boxes, by which term it was known by its previous owner, but few have survived later alteration. The enclosed shed at the southern end of the building (9) is entered from the formerly open-sided shelter (12) which faced south to the yard in front of the barn (13), and was presumably a loose box for calves or fat stock. It contains no original fittings, but is lit by a shuttered window to the east and communicates by a similar shuttered opening with the chaff box. This building is an unusually complete example of a mid-19th century 'model' stable, which improved ventilation by omitting the hay loft found in most earlier examples.
The yard to the west of the stable is enclosed by a white brick wall and was provided with a corrugated iron roof in the 20th century when the yard was used for cattle. It initially possessed an open-sided shelter alongside the road to the north (shown on the Ordnance Surveys), formed by continuing the roof the eastern loose box (16) along its perimeter, but this was demolished when the roof was added. A small sub-enclosure lay in its north- western corner. A pair of back-to-back open-sided contemporary shelters still survives to the south however, although the south- facing example (12) was largely enclosed by boarding to form a shed when the adjacent yard (13) was partly roofed in the mid-20th century. The northern shelter (11) retains a boarded manger, and the two are connected by a doorway against the stable. The southern yard was enclosed by a brick wall but, like its northern counterpart, could be entered from both east and west to allow animals to circulate from the eastern paddock (access to the east was available via opposing doors in building 1). This paddock contained an additional range of open-sided shelters and sheds of which no trace remains (as shown on the Ordnance Surveys), although an enclosed shed which probably served as a loose box still survives in its north-western corner. Despite the alterations at the northern end of the yard, these various structures reveal the well-built, inter-connected nature of the yards and buildings that characterised High Farming in mid-19th century Suffolk.
14 & 15. Cart Shed and Stable
The red brick building that divides the northern and southern yards contains a pair of sheds at its western end that are entered from the farm track. The smaller, northern shed (14) possesses double doors and operated as a vehicle store (probably for the owner's trap or cart) while its southern counterpart (15) preserves a narrow hay rack and was evidently intended for the driving horse or horses. Separate housing was often provided for road animals in this way. It is notable that the hay rack is positioned at the same height as that of the stable (6), i.e. 5.75 feet above the ground (1.75 metres). The dividing wall between the shed and stable is of particular interest as it consists of a section of 16th century timber-framing with a jowled post and internal brace (on the side of the stable). The present infill between the studs consists of 19th century brick, but this wall presumably represents the only remaining fragment of a fourth Tudor building on the site (in addition to the farmhouse, barn and 'building 1'). Aligned east-west in the same plane as the house it was a low, single-storied structure of unknown function, but the fragment at least serves to demonstrate the presence of a northern range forming a yard in front of the barn (the eastern door of the latter suggests the presence of an eastern range). The northern wall of this building probably marked the edge of the green, with the pond serving the common need (along with others, as shown on the tithe map) prior to its 'enclosure' by the owner of Lodge Farm.
Leigh Alston has contributed articles for the last three years. These have given an in depth description of Hold Farm, Bures; Alston Court, Nayland and now a fascinating description of Lodge Farm, Wyverstone Street, Suffolk, and its extraordinary past. I am grateful to the Archaeological Service of Suffolk County Council for allowing me to publish this. It was the TV programme "Grand Designs" that alerted me to the existence of these remarkable buildings which, although not in the CSCA area, are quite unique and worth reading about.
A Miscellany of Information about British Birds
There are over 570 birds in the British List that occur naturally in the wild. Some live here all the year round, others are migrants travelling to and from various parts of the World depending on the time of year.
This article is a miscellany of interesting pieces of information about a selection of British Birds which we find in our gardens and in the surrounding countryside.
Why do birds sing? Primarily to attract females as a prelude to breeding and, at the same time, to repel rival males from invading their territory. With very few exceptions only the males sing. The peak time for birdsong is normally April and May, the Dawn Chorus being a star experience for those humans keen enough to get up very early. Sadly, research has shown that a songbird's lifespan is rarely more than a year or two.
Robin: One of Britain's favourite birds, the Robin really comes into its own at Christmas when it features on a great variety of cards. Robins may look cute but they do suffer from frankly violent behaviour; they are notably feisty, defending their territories vigorously attacking with a flurry of wings and claws - sometimes fighting to the death! Their song is magical and they sing all year round; it can sound ethereal in the autumn starting loudly and fading into wisps of sound. The female Robin is one of the exceptions to the 'only males sing' rule and sing to defend their territory in autumn and winter.
Wren: [Collective noun: a Herd (older and more common) or Chime of Wrens] In the Spring, the male Wren makes up to 6 nests which he then shows to his prospective mate; if she is impressed, she selects one to produce her family. To survive the winter, Wrens collect together in nest boxes to keep each other warm. The largest recorded number in a single nest was 63 birds. The RSPB has a separate record of over 90 Wrens coming out of a hole in the side of a barn in the spring!
Cuckoo: Arrives from Africa in the spring to find a mate. Once paired, a female can lay up to 25 eggs singly in different songbird's nests (Dunnocks, Warblers, etc.). The parents return to Africa in about 2 months. Quite remarkably, the young are brought up by their surrogate (songbird) mother and, when old enough, make the trip to Africa without having met either of their parents to give them any guidance.
Nightingale: [Collective: a Watch of Nightingales] The magic harbinger of spring, nightingales have the most diverse and complex song of any bird in the UK. Although we think of them as a night singing bird, in fact they sing during the day as well - one just cannot hear them because there is too much other noise. We are lucky in East Anglia to host large numbers - The Essex Wildlife Trust Reserve at Fingringhoe is a magic spot to visit in April/May: in 2014 they recorded over 40 Nightingales.
Swift: [Collective: a Flock of Swifts] The most dramatic of fliers as they scythe their way through the sky over our towns and villages screaming as they go. They make their nests under house eaves; the parents fly unbelievable distances searching for food for between 7 and 8 weeks until their young are fledged. Once the young leave their nests they are on the wing for over 18 months until they return to breed; during their lifetime they can fly 1.5 million miles.
Barn Owl: [Collective applying to all Owls: a Parliament of Owls] Also known as the screech owl due to its loud shrill call. It is the wonderful "ghost" who glides over the ground (often by day) hunting small animals like voles to feed its young. A brood of 4 chicks can mean the parents catching 1500/2000 voles until they fledge. Unlike many birds, who wait until the whole clutch of eggs is ready before they start incubating, Barn Owls start to sit on their eggs as soon as they are laid, meaning that a single brood contains youngsters of very different sizes. In good years they may all survive, but in lean ones the older chick may sometimes feed on their younger siblings: this cannibalism ensuring their survival.
Tawny Owl: Mainly nocturnal, produces the iconic 'to-whit-to-woo' owl call. This is actually two tawny owls, a female ('to-whit') and a male ('to-woo') calling to each other, keeping in contact across their territory as they hunt and establish their territory. They have special feathers on the edge of their wings making them excellent stealthy hunters.
Goldfinch: [Collective: a Charm of Goldfinches] With its tinkling crystalline song this little bird has become one of the most successful of songbirds, partly due to the introduction of Nyger Seed to our bird tables; they also love Sunflower Seed. The crimson circlet around their bill is said to be because a goldfinch took pity on the crucified Christ, and pulled thorns from His crown. Due to the Victorian love of cage birds and the consequent wholesale trapping, it nearly became an endangered species, being rescued by the newly formed Society for the Protection of Birds at the eleventh hour.
Yellowhammer: The song of the yellowhammer has been interpreted as "a little bit of bread and No cheeeeese!" Bill Oddie famously likened it to a reluctant country milkmaid being wooed by an amorous farm hand: "No-no-no- no-no pleeeeese…."
Buzzard: Due to no longer being poisoned by agricultural chemicals like DDT, the Buzzard has become the commonest bird of prey. They now colonise every county in England. They are most often seen high in the sky wheeling and soaring and calling in their plaintive mewing call. Their success is now causing threat to game birds, giving rise to lobbying from some pheasant breeders for their control.
Kingfisher: This gorgeously brightly- coloured little bird flashes along the water like a missile, almost faster than the eye can see. Sadly, they rarely live longer than a year and are very vulnerable to floods and ice. To compensate, each have up to three broods of up to half a dozen chicks in a single season. They need to catch more than 100 fish a day to feed them.
Sparrowhawk: Sparrowhawks have experienced an explosion of numbers since the banning of many agricultural pesticides since WWII. This has resulted in a serious decline in songbirds - smaller males are the main enemy of the songbird - the larger female can down a pigeon. Like them or not, the Sparrowhawk is a very impressive hunter. They use the cover of hedges and fences to perform the perfect ambush, all at extremely high speed.
Kestrel: A Victorian poet called the Kestrel the "Windhover" which perfectly describes this bird's incredible ability to hover over a roadside verge facing into the wind, and barely needing to beat its wings, making minute adjustments with its tail to hold itself stationary. It keeps its head completely motionless allowing it to pinpoint its prey such as mice and voles.
Magpie: Top of the list of "garden villains" they are generally regarded as a big menace for songbirds stealing their eggs and killing their young. They have the long-standing reputation of being the kleptomaniac of the bird world, stealing bright things like rings. Yet despite this, our relationship with magpies has also been one of joy and celebration. Even this century, when we see the bird, we recite the verse "One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a wedding, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret that's never been told". My father-in-law, whenever he saw one, raised his hat twice and spat out of the car window. D'Esterre Stuttaford used to say "Good Morning m'Lord".
Greenfinch: Sadly the Greenfinch population has been decimated by Trichonomosis or "fat-finch" disease; this causes a "cheese" or lesions in the bird's crop - the birds can eat but the food does not reach their stomach causing starvation. Bird table cleanliness is vital with regular water replacement - this will help to reduce the spread of the disease. The male Greenfinch in springtime is able to perform the most remarkable display flight. Trilling loudly, he launches himself from the top of a tree or shrub and flaps his wings in slow motion, careering around his territory looking more like a bat. This is designed to impress the females and fend off rival males. The principle is that any bird that can fly so slowly and flamboyantly, staying aloft instead of crashing to the ground, must be fit enough to be a suitable father!
House Martin: [Collective: a Richness of Martins] A joy to have nesting under the eaves of our houses, if you can stand the mess and the loud calls. They may be familiar to us, but they hold one big secret: we don't know where in Africa their main wintering grounds are. It is intriguing that a bird with whom we share our homes can still be such a mystery to us.
Swallow: [Collective: a Light or a 'Gulp' of Swallows] – It is the sign that Spring is here when the Swallows arrive from their amazing migration; some come from as far as the southern tip of Africa - a round trip of almost 12,000 miles. They are very smart looking birds with long, forked tails; some males have tail streamers longer than their peers and we now know that female Swallows find this attractive and are more like to choose the longer tailed male as their mate. At the end of summer when they start collecting for their long journey home they are known to meet up with Swallows from Scandinavia before setting off.
Blackbird: One of the finest singers, its fluty and fruity song tells us in lighter evenings in March that winter will soon be over. In mild winters they may begin as early as January. They are very territorial in winter announcing their presence with loud "mik-mik" calls. The resident birds are very edgy because large numbers of continental blackbirds from Scandinavia, the Low Countries and Germany come here to escape freezing conditions at home. Some of the 'foreigners' can be recognised by the young males having black instead of yellow bills. In winter you rarely see the brown female blackbirds as they often disappear to southern England where the food is better.
Chaffinch: This is one of our commonest and most widespread bird and the male in breeding plumage is one of the most stunning. In spring you may hear a rapid series of notes, something that has been compared to a cricketer running up to deliver a ball. Chaffinches are unusual, in that, unlike most other birds, they have distinct regional accents. Their name refers to their habit of flocking in stubble fields to sort through the 'chaff' for seeds.
Song Thrush: Smaller than the Mistle Thrush (with its folk name - the Stormcock) The Song Thrush is becoming increasingly rare. Its song is one of the most beautiful and varied: it has the habit of repeating each phrase two or three times before moving on to the next. The male Song Thrush boasts a repertoire of more than 100 different phrases, enabling it to vary his song continually. During the breeding season he may sing more than a million phrases in all!
Jay: [Collective: a Band, Party or Scold of Jays] A harsh screech like the amplified tearing of linen shatters the peace: it is the call of one of the most colourful of all British birds, the Jay. When you see a Jay flying away its brilliant white rump shows up like a light bulb. They are strikingly coloured, mainly pinkish brown with that vivid patch of blue on their wings. Jays are renowned tree planters: in September/October they can be seen with their beaks crammed with acorns - far too many for the bird to eat, so they plant them in a cache for the winter. One study estimated that a single bird hid about 5,000 acorns each day. Though highly intelligent, they cannot remember where they are all hidden, so many germinate into young oaks. Should the continental acorn crop fail, thousands of Jays come over here to forage.
Starling: [a Murmuration of Starlings] Gatherings of Starlings (known as Murmurations) assemble in the growing gloom, jostling one another to find the best place to roost for the night.
Vast flocks can be seen performing the most spectacular flying displays before they finally settle. Great sightings can be seen in Somerset, Gretna Green and on Brighton pier amongst many others. Good displays have been seen at Minsmere Reserve. Theories as to why Starlings gather like this are many - mass protection from predators such as a passing peregrine or sparrowhawk, a terrestrial predator like a fox, or just a good way of keeping warm in cold weather. Some travel to a gathering from as far as 20 miles away, the theory being that by congregating together weaker birds can associate with stronger ones. When you can see them close up they are the most stunning birds with their glossy plumage gleaming with green and purple in summer and dotted with white in winter.
House Sparrow: House Sparrows are one of only two representatives of mainly tropical African and Asian birds to have made the long journey north with our prehistoric ancestors, still live with us today. Their wonderful chirpy singing is so familiar to all of us. Sadly sparrows have vanished from many of their former haunts, particularly on farmland; the reason why is difficult to say but they feed on seeds and grains left in stubble and today's farming practice to plough immediately after reaping has a lot to do with it.
Dunnock: This little bird used to be called the Hedge Sparrow, but being a member of the Accentor family it is not a sparrow. Very plain and unassuming - few other birds can match its raunchy and unpredictable sex-life. Most birds are monogamous, pairing for life, but Dunnocks are far more adventurous, practising 'polyandry' (where a female mates with more than one male) and 'polygyny' in which a male mates with several females. Dunnocks are an important host for baby cuckoos.
Blue Tit: Apart from the robin and the blackbird, no other garden bird inspires so much affection as the Blue Tit. This tiny bird punches well above its weight, jostling larger birds off the feeders. They are the most widely distributed of all British birds. The male and female look identical, but Blue Tits can tell each other apart due to their special visual abilities. Birds can see colours in the ultraviolet spectrum that are invisible to us and it has been discovered that the male's blue crown feathers reflect ultraviolet light. Because the more dominant and experienced males reflect more ultraviolet light, it helps the females to choose the fittest partner. When milk bottles were left on our doorsteps, Blue Tits had the talent to realise that by removing the foil cap they could reach the cream. They have the distinction of producing some of the largest clutches of any songbird, with up to 16 eggs.
Great Tit: This bird has one of the most familiar bird sounds: the 'tea-cher, tea-cher song. They have more than one string to their singing bow; each bird has a repertoire of up to 8 different songs. No wonder that when even experienced birders hear a bird call or song they cannot quite place, it often turns out to be just another Great Tit!
Coal Tit: The smallest member of the Tit family, the adult weighs just 9 grams. Because of this they are not very high up the pecking order and tend to swoop in to a table as quickly as they can to grab a seed. They also take food away to stockpile for later (known as 'caching'). As long as they can remember where they put it, they can be sure of food when the weather turns bad.
Long-tailed Tit: "The small flying lollipop" - Before you see them it's the volley of sneezes and splutters interwoven with high-pitched needling cries that you hear first. The sounds get louder as one, then another, and then another shoots past a gap in the hedge; a family of long-tails is on the move. The flocks that you see are made up of relatives: sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. Co- operative breeding is rare in the bird world. Long-tails travel and feed together and roost together at night, huddling up against each other on the same branch to keep warm - a strategy that saves lives in the winter.
Simon Foord has veered off course from his master subject, "Antiques" and given us an insight into the life of so many of our feathered friends. It is sad that he and Gay are moving to Sussex to be near their family. They will be greatly missed.
Another Suffolk Success Story
In the 2013 Magazine I wrote an article about a thriving business that had been started from the farm buildings behind a country house in Stoke by Nayland.
A few miles to the west lies the village of Leavenheath, where I spent my youth, and a good many other years. As a village there was nothing in the 1950s apart from two hamlets joined by the A134 and I remember Jack Warner telling me that in his youth it had been decided to join the two hamlets by making a track from the southern end of the village at Honey Tye to the northern end around Harrow Street and The Hare and Hounds pub and someone took a line to what was known as Keebles then on to the north creating the road that exists to-day, except that it went past the pub up to a T junction with the Stoke Road. When we first arrived in 1950 the road was single track and the dip in front of the church had not been made into an embankment. It was a quiet road with very little traffic and sheep and cows were regularly driven along it from field to field. To-day it is a major route between Colchester and Bury St Edmunds and the dreaded A14. However tucked away down Harrow Street is a thriving little business 'Churchill Brothers', who specialise in making bespoke country kitchens. To me the name 'Churchill' conjures up visions of greatness, and I can say from personal experience that our Churchill Kitchen ticks all the right boxes.
The business is family run by brothers Will and Olly, two out of a family of five Churchill brothers. Another brother, Dan, works as a sub-contractor on Kitchen fitting, and various other family members are involved. John, and Anna, offer part time support in the office. The remaining two Churchill brothers are doing well in computing. The business, situated amongst the fields off Harrow Street within an old cow shed, was originally conceived by their stepfather in the 1980s when the family moved to a new home in Leavenheath. The three of them made pine furniture, windows doors and 'a couple of kitchens' in a barn behind Hunters Lodge. These premises soon became too small and they moved to outbuildings at Harrow Street Lodge, then to where they are to- day. 25 years later the cow shed still stands but is flanked by a fully operational joinery and office building. Planning permission has recently been granted to develop the cow shed and create a purpose made building to expand the business in years to come. Today the concept is to offer a totally bespoke service starting with the clients "wish list" through to finality. With the joinery and building division on site they can provide the whole package, project managing and delivering their customers sought after kitchen.
The success of the business, which has weathered two recessions, has depended on a stable and expert workforce, which today consists of nine full time staff, and includes a joinery apprentice. Nick is the longest serving member of staff, who began as an apprentice at 18 years old in 2001. Today he is a vital part of the site team, fitting kitchens and also undertaking renovation and building work.
2015 was a particularly successful year, producing an unprecedented 18 kitchens alongside numerous joinery projects from wardrobes, and office storage, to laying wooden floors, and supplying and fitting doors, and windows. The ambition is to build on this success with a 40% increase in kitchens for 2016, as well as launching a new 'off the peg' range of furniture, including dressers, and pantry cupboards, which will soon be available to purchase via the website.
Will overseas production and coordinates site activities, with the office headed by Olly. Clare and Ali manage the day to day administration as well as designing and planning the implementation of kitchens.
Once the measurements of a proposed kitchen are determined, the challenge is to get the balance between appliances and storage right as well as considering the flow of the kitchen in relation to the 'holy kitchen triangle' of fridge, cooker and sink. Many clients want too many appliances, and have to be persuaded otherwise! The design "Cad" system demonstrates the end result and can be tweaked until the Customer is satisfied with the layout and the look of the kitchen. The fun part is then choosing colours and details that add the finishing touches, such as worktops, knobs, and handles, and tiles.
The aim is to source the best quality timber products and components as locally as possible. Tulip wood is imported from the USA by Thorogoods in Ardleigh and Sepele and Oak are purchased from Brooks Brothers in Maldon. Customers often visit the workshop and are able to see their kitchen under construction. I did just this.
Clare loves the design work and inter-reacting with customers and fulfilling their requirements, including sourcing their chosen appliances. Here Churchills are able to obtain competitive prices to keep costs down.
We are thrilled with our Churchill kitchen, which was ready on schedule, and installed to our timescale. After initial installation we were visited by the "Perfection Team" who checked that everything was as it should be! The dove tailing of drawers and other items is a work of art and I cannot find fault with anything, and I am very particular about good workmanship. That says a lot for the Churchill Team!
Our visits to Corpusty Mill followed by Elsing Hall, were judged to be a success by those who came on the day out in June 2015. Corpusty Mill is a large garden with many small distinct and very different areas including follies, a grotto and a formal Mediterranean garden and a lovely river running through it, as you would expect where there is a mill. We were allowed to eat our picnic lunch on the lawn before moving on to Elsing Hall. This is in a magical setting with a superb moat. Some of the roses were spectacular as were some very blousy peonies in unusual yellow and orangey colours, as well as other herbaceous plants. We were given tea and cakes before our return back to Bures.
Visit 2016 Wednesday 15th June
In last year's Magazine I mentioned that I had provisionally booked to go to Coton Manor and Cottesbrooke Hall. This is all now confirmed and as I thought that it was likely to be a sell-out Members were given the opportunity at the end of last year to reserve a guaranteed place before I could confirm final the final costs, which have not changed.
Coton Manor is owned the Pasley-Tyler family and has magical gardens leading down from the Northamptonshire stone house and includes a large wildflower meadow and bluebell wood. There is a restaurant in the Grooms Cottage which has been reserved for our exclusive use at 13.30. Lunch will consist of home-made sandwiches, cakes, tea/coffee, soft drinks etc.
The garden opens at 12.00, when we aim to arrive. We will leave after lunch to go approximately 4 miles to:
Cottesbrooke Hall, which is owned by the MacDonald- Buchanan family. The house is a classic Queen Anne Grade 1 listed building and contains one of the best collections of sporting pictures in the UK, known as The Woolavington Collection. It also has some outstanding English and French furniture as well as English and Chinese porcelain. The gardens have won many awards and there is a statue walk containing statues from Stowe, (I wonder how these got here?) and the house is surrounded by formal gardens. We will be given a guided tour of the house before being allowed to roam the gardens.
The cost will be £45 per person which includes all admissions and the guided tour of Cottesbrooke Hall and lunch at Coton Manor. This also includes the cost of the CSCA taking out liability insurance. We will offer refunds if you drop out and your space is subsequently filled by someone else.
We will aim to be back in Bures around 19.00.
Members who have internet will have received the formal details in February but at the time of writing this, there are still a few spaces left. Can I suggest that you contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01473 824550 to find out if there are places available. You can then complete the form and send your remittance. If we are over-subscribed I will start a waiting list.
The Future of Garden Visits
I started the garden visits eight years ago when a new member was surprised that, apart from trying to protect the countryside, all we did was hold an AGM and Summer Party! Since then we have visited in 2009 East Ruston Old Rectory, 2010 Sissinghurst and Great Dixter, 2011 Highgrove, 2012 Thenford Manor, 2013 Blickling Hall, 2014 Bradenham Hall and Hilborough House, 2015 Corpusty Mill and Elsing Hall. After running these visits for that length of time I feel that someone else should take over and whilst I will provisionally book 2017 I am NOT going to organise it! I have in mind the garden of George Plumtree, the Chief Executive of The National Gardens Scheme, at The Manor, Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire. There will be a second garden but this has not been confirmed. Please step forward someone who is prepared to take over running these visits from me, failing which the visits will come to an end. The CSCA aims to make a small profit from these visits which helps defray the costs of the Magazine, which has for a number of years developed into what I hope is an interesting and much enjoyed publication, judging by the comments that I receive. However the production costs are considerable.
Harvest, Fires and Fynbos
The world weather is indeed out of control - or so it seems! Floods in the north of England, drought in Southern Africa, blizzards on the East coast of the USA with balmy December temperatures, all totally beyond predictable expectation. Climate change it seems is here and a force to be reckoned with.
Here in The Cape Winelands of South Africa we have experienced one of the hottest harvest periods on record. Add to that, the driest year in 22 and you have a truly unique vintage. Searing heat 35/38 Celsius and very little precipitation simply wreaks havoc on vines, especially pregnant vines carrying their fruit to the final stages of ripeness!
Smaller berries, good for fruit concentration; lower yields, bad for net income; and rising sugars against slow phenolic development, ensure an "interesting" harvest.......Choices will be made, many of them compromises "to salvage the best" the wine produced will be way less, probably 30/40% down and the quality could be wonderful due to the extreme concentration of the fruit and the tiny berries. A true test and solid affirmation that nature is firmly out of our control, the best that we can hope for on this wild ride, is to somehow remain in the saddle and deal with the consequence of weather.
To add to the complexity, many vineyards (especially those planted on the mountain sides) have invaded what used to be natural fynbos (a hugely diverse collective category of indigenous grasses, flowers and herbs). One of the particular aspects of fynbos is that, in order to reseed and regenerate, it requires fire approx every 10 years, a recurring cycle of renewal. However, where vineyard plantings abut the indigenous fynbos, this obviously becomes a serious problem and, fanned by the prevailing summer Southern winds, a fire started by spontaneous combustion or a shard of glass or, worse still, by an errant cigarette butt can very quickly get way out of control and even aerial water bombing and extensive firefighting teams on the ground face huge risks and have only marginal success rates.
Clearly, we need to consider better isolation of the vineyards, effective firebreaks and perhaps reticulation of water at strategic points (fire hydrants on the mountain).
The fires are here to stay and we need to manage this situation with the aid and support of local government. The old adage of an ounce of prevention rings true!
The FMC 2013 is a hand selected Chenin Blanc, primarily from low yielding, old bush vines (planted in 1974). The grapes are harvested at full maturity and, due to repetitive harvesting, some botrytis is always present. This wine is rich, layered with dried apricot, vanilla and honey. The most recent awards include:
International Wine & Spirits Competition 2015 – Gold Outstanding and Chenin Blanc Trophy
Nedbank Green Wine Awards – Bloggers' Choice Winner IPW Platter's 2016 - 4½ stars
Vivino – Nr. 6 overall wine on Top 50 White Wines of 2015 and Nr. 3 Top 50 Under $50 Wines list
I have continued to feature The Forrester Vineyards as it is remarkable the way they continue to receive awards for their wines which we drink when in South Africa, but are also available over here. The problem of fires was all too evident when we were near Franschoek in January this year when whole mountainsides were engulfed in flames and we thought we might have to evacuate the Babylonstoren wine estate where we were staying. The upper slopes of one vineyard within view went up in flames.
Please visit www.kenforresterwines.com
'Looking Forwards, Before I Get Left Behind….'
Trends, trending, trendy? So what's trendy nowadays anyway? With the Cereal Killer Café on Brick Lane where you can get milk and cereal for a fiver and apparently Danger Mouse is back saving London on the CBBC, crikey, I'm getting all muddled up between what's new, retro or just plain old. For drinks; is it fashion, is a trend in rosé wine spurred on by Brangelina or is it simply a matter of changing tastes? I'm not sure, but I'm going to take a look at a few up-and-coming wine and beer trends, a few that I hope are here to stay for a while.
Starting with rosé, much more recently than the much maligned Mateus Rosé from Portugal, there's been a welcome shift away from the fad of sickly sweet, almost synthetic pinks from the USA, towards a drier style, namely from the Provence region in France. Now, although I'm not totally convinced that the trend lies solely on the shoulders of Brad and Angelina's vineyard and their Château Miraval Provence Rosé, it certainly has helped. Or, possibly, our sophisticated palates have miraculously realised that this style of wine is delicious. Provence rosé is usually dry, subtle and delicate with a restrained red fruit character but, interestingly, made from grapes with all of the opposite traits such as the robust and heady Grenache, earthy Carignan and opulent Cabernet Sauvignon. Adnams predicted this trend for a drier style of rosé, and just in time for summer added a Provence Rosé to their
Adnams Selection range and it proved so very popular throughout our stores that we have had to ship every last drop the winery could let us have. It really is superb, and even though rosé is perfect as a summer apéritif wine, I think this will see you through the winter and spring too, as a delicious alternative food pairing with wintery Moroccan influenced fish or chicken dish or salads with spring lamb.
Equally, I can't see an end to the ever-growing trend for Prosecco! It's a global obsession now; Italians and Americans are just as mad about Prosecco as are us Brits. I've already heard possibly 'enhanced' reports of harvest shortfalls and increased demand, but I'm sure we'll all do OK. Adnams, always on the ball, added a Prosecco to their Adnams Selection range two summers ago. You can actually get a range of styles and qualities in Prosecco, from the lighter, fruitier 'frizzante' style which has slightly less fizz, to the classier, drier style with concentrated fine bubbles. Cleverly, the Adnams Prosecco sits firmly in the middle ground and is perfectly popped as a crowd pleasing fizz for all occasions, be it for Friday evening telly-dinners or big, celebratory bashes with friends and family; it also comes in a magnum sized bottle if you're that way inclined.
My greatest eye opener, in terms of wine, was a recent trip I took to Argentina. The country is currently experiencing a massive boom in sales here in the UK, boasting a massive increase of over 30% in the past twelve months. Why? The short answer is probably Malbec. The silky, juicy wine from South America's signature grape, hits all of the right notes with red wine drinkers, ranging from the big and brash with lots of oaky, spicy/toasty flavours, to the perfect party 'quaffer' when the wine is kept simple and drunk fresh and young. This range in styles, but absolute consistency in quality, means that Malbec is reliable, and, I think, fairly priced. Shrewd and skilled winemaking and lots of investment in state-of-the-art kit by the wineries has certainly paid dividends. Our Adnams stores stock a range of six Argentinian Malbec, from £6.99, through to £16.99 and all of them have the typically bold flavours with varying levels of oak and spice to suit your palate. Look out for more than just 'Malbec' on the label as more wineries try and showcase the many sub-regions of Mendoza such as the Uco Valley and Lujan de Cuyo regions, each with their own distinct styles of Malbec. When I was there and talking to the winemakers however, I often found them enthusing more about their blended wines. They are justifiably very proud of their winemaking skills with Malbec, but often feel that this grape is still a little one dimensional on its own, and that blending the wine with Cabernet Sauvignon, or the local grape variety Bonarda (one to watch out for, I promise…), opens the possibility for more and more complex and interesting wines that retain the plump and ripe Malbec character, but take on an extra layer of complexity that the winemakers think should be embraced! As yet, they don't seem to export very many of them, so finding these blends can be tricky, but well worth a go if you can find one.
Sticking with the theme of trends, trending and trendy, it has been interesting for me as a beer lover and working for a brewery-led company, to observe the booming 'craft beer' market in America, where there are now over 4000 craft breweries. The trend there is to 'bottle' their beer in cans; beer in cans is back - and better than ever! Aluminium is readily recyclable, lighter to transport, cheaper to produce, quicker to chill down in the fridge and you don't need a bottle opener! The list of environmental and consumer pro's goes on and on. Coupled with the super-quick rise of craft breweries and the massive increase of all beer sales which, like the Prosecco boom, has also been a global trend, has meant that finding a retro and cool way of defining 'craft' beers was needed. Lots of craft beers are now bottled in the 330ml format, partly to differentiate themselves from the more traditional 500ml bottles.
Add to that, the quality of canned beer no longer has that 'tinny' taste; the small format 330ml can is an obvious choice. In my opinion, no-longer should canned beer have a bad rep; some of the best new beers on the market are sold solely in cans; some of the UK's favourite breweries now only sell cans, no more bottles. I think the Adnams 'Jack Brand' range is the perfect example of modern thinking from a traditional brewery. Our interpretation and production of a modern craft beer in cans has already won us awards. We now sell the 'Jack Brand' Crystal Rye IPA and award winning Dry Hopped Lager in 330ml cans and they are as good as ever. The move for Adnams was sparked by the popularity of the canned version of our Ghost Ship Pale Ale - which recently won gold at the inaugural Indie Beer Can Festival, which is actually 'a thing' now - apparently!
So it seems that whichever way you move or whatever trend you follow, you - like me - will probably catch up, albeit, eventually.
Adnams Selection Provence Rose, 75cl £8.99 or £8 when you buy 6. Adnams Selection Prosecco, 75cl £9.99, 150cl Magnum £19.99. My favourites from our range of Argentinian Malbec; Adnams Selection Malbec £8.99, Ben Marco, Uco Valley, Malbec £16.99.
Adnams Ghost Ship in 440ml cans are 4 for £5 or £26.99 for a case of 24. Adnams 'Jack Brand' Rye IPA and Dry Hopped Lager are available in 330ml cans at 4 for £5 or £26.99 for a case of 24.
Dan manages Adnams Cellar & Kitchen Store in Holt, north Norfolk. Born and brewed in Suffolk, Dan is a performer, song- writer and lives in Norwich.
Assington Mill has many interesting features, such as four strawbale buildings (largest collection in East Anglia, if not the UK and possibly the world!), two ground-source heat pumps, a thatched story-telling hut, a two-storey barn owl tower, complete with a pair of barn owls, an electricity-generating waterwheel, an array of solar panels in the field, a herd of English Longhorn cattle in the summer, and we are a private nature reserve with an alder carr woodland (rare), dormice, small fields, wetlands, woodlands and scrub areas, all good for the wildlife.
Adnams continue to be great supporters of the association. Please read the article about some of their wines and remember that if you go to the Hadleigh store you can ask for a 10% discount. Helen, the Manager, has a list of Members.
Savills have supported us from when we first started taking advertisments and continue as long term advertisers.
A & G have been long term supporters and now sell a lot of items on the internet so if you need gardening equipment go on line.
NFU continue to insure my house and contents and pay claims when they regrettably arise.
The Pheasant This gastro pub is well worth a visit as the food is excellent.
Whites Farm Willow Fencing Angus Scobie offers a bespoke service and he will make all shapes and sizes of willow fencing.
Bates Wells & Braithwaite handled the sale and purchase when we moved to Hadleigh and I found them very thorough.
Mansfield 4 x 4 are specialists in off road vehicles in every shape or form and offer a highly personal service.
I have edited the magazine since 2006 when it consisted of only a dozen pages and Jeremy Hill was the main contributor with an article every year, but apart from that there was virtually no content so I started to expand it with a selection of varied articles which have ranged from the history of Cole & Sons (Wallpaper manufacturers) to Flint Knapping, Hold Farm and its water wheel, articles on antiques and china and two articles on Sparrow Farm, Great Henny, to name but a few. It is not easy getting contributors, and advertisers, and I feel that I should pass the buck to someone else after next year, so if you know anyone with a flair for writing and editing, please let me know, as next year will be my LAST. I am happy to help until my successor gets himself or herself settled in.
Once again I am indebted to Rory O'brien for proof reading and correcting punctuation, grammar and spelling!
Annual General Meeting and Summer Party
For a number of years Members have been able to send acceptances to these two events using the internet: however we have continued to send out details and a reply slip for those who do not have email access. The time has come to move on as last year only twelve Members used the reply slip, and it has clearly reached its sell by date! Therefore here are the details, and if you cannot send your acceptance by email, or get someone else to send it for you, please just send a card to me, Mark Dawson, Black Swan House, 4 Benton Street, Hadleigh. IP7 5AT. Do NOT tell us if you are NOT coming! With Sat Nav being used by so many people I am not going to attempt to tell you how to get there. Alternatively there is the good old map. To accept by email use the following link eventsignup
Annual General Meeting
This will be held, as usual, at Ferriers Barn, Bures. CO8 5DL on Thursday 12th May when a speaker from The Munnings Art Museum, Dedham will give a lecture. Wine will be served from 19.30 for the talk at 20.00 followed by the AGM. To accept by email use the following link eventsignup
Invitations have been included with the Magazine.
This will be held on Thursday 14th July at Belchamp Hall, Belchamp Walter, Sudbury. CO10 7AT by kind invitation of Mr and Mrs Charles Raymond. 18.30 to 20.30. To accept by email use the following link eventsignup
The main variations between this year's accounts and 2014 are on the receipts side where the surplus on garden visits was considerably less and on the debit side it was necessary to make a one-off payment to a member to correct bank errors. The Executive Committee continued to support the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership with a further donation of £500. The net result was a small shortfall on the previous year, leaving the association's capital largely intact.
Postage costs have been lower because of the generosity of one of our members who handled this for us in 2015 and who has kindly offered to do so again this year. In return we have made a donation to a local charity.
A periodic audit of member payments highlighted a considerable number who had ceased to pay the annual subscription. Those who had not done so for more than two years were delisted. Because of this total membership at the year end was 9 lower at 676. Parish councils and other organisations remained unchanged at 27. It would be a considerable help if Annual members would check that their banks are paying the right amount. If you are not sure please contact me.