Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for March, 2011

Few things have helped create the look of the English countryside more British Hedgerowthan hedgerows. Hedges have been used for a long time in England, yet for all their antiquity, much of the familiar checkerboard pattern they help create is of very recent vintage.

Hedges have been used as field boundaries in England since the times of the Romans. Excavations at Farmoor (Oxon) reveals Roman hedges made of thorn. The Anglo-Saxons also used hedgerows extensively, and many that were used as estate boundaries still exist. Although these early hedges were used as field enclosures or to mark the boundaries of one person’s property, there was no systematic planting of hedges in England until the first enclosure movement of the 13th century.

The pressures of population expansion led to a widespread clearing of land for agriculture, and the new fields needed to be marked clearly.

Later, farming expansion in the 15th century led to more widespread hedge planting, but the greatest use of hedges came in the Enclosure Movement of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Enclosure Movement is a fancy term that historians use to describe the habit of wealthy landowners enclosing common fields for their own use, usually for the purpose of raising sheep.

Hedges are used as field boundaries in the lowland regions of England. In the highlands, such as the Yorkshire Dales, dry stone walls are commonly used.

Aerial Hedgerow ViewSo great was the need for hedges during the Enclosures, that a whole new industry sprang up supplying hawthorn plants to be used in planting new hedges.

In the process of enclosure many rural labourers lost their livelihood and had to move to the new industrial urban centres. So the next time you sigh over the timeless quality of the English hedge-shaped countryside, spare a thought for the misery and hardship caused by the erection of hedged fields to much of England’s rural population.

Hedge Facts
When: Roman, Anglo-Saxon, 13thC, 15thC, 18th-19thC
Where: Lowland areas
Why: Field boundaries
How
: planting bushes or trees and pleating them together at an angle as they grew
Materials: huge variety based on local availability, but the most common were hawthorn, blackthorn, and holly

A lot of effort and ingenuity has been brought to bear on the problem of dating hedges. Several historians have advanced mathematical formulae for calculating the age of a hedgerow based on the number of plant species found in a certain length of hedge. As an extremely rough rule of thumb, one species of hedge plant per 100 years seems to get close to the truth.

Unfortunately, recent years have seen the disappearance of many miles of English hedgerows. It is easier for modern farmers to string new metal fence wire than to maintain ancient hedgerows. Conservation efforts have introduced incentives to farmers to maintain the hedges, and losses have slowed somewhat. Estimates vary, but there may be upwards of 500,000 miles of hedgerows in England today.

Links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedge
http://www.britainexpress.com
http://www.BestValueTours.co.uk

The Best Tours of the Britich Countryside
HisTOURies UK Private Guided Tours

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

As a Christian symbol, it seems appropriate that its resurrection took place in time for Easter.  Glastonbury’s Holy Thorn tree began to show new buds this week, three months after it was savagely cut down by vandals.
According to legend, Joseph of Arimathea – who some say was Jesus’s great-uncle – travelled to Wearyall Hill after the Crucifixion and stuck a wooden staff belonging to Jesus into the ground before he went to sleep.

When he awoke, the tale goes, the staff had sprouted into a thorn tree, which became a shrine for Christians across Europe.

Every year, the sacred tree flowered once at Christmas and once at Easter, until just before Christmas last year when it was vandalised, leaving the community of the small Somerset town fearing it was dead.

But that was before the council enlisted the help of Peter Frearson, a self-titled pagan wizard who happens to run his own horticultural business.

Mr Frearson said: ‘Well-meaning but uninformed people were putting things like marmalade on the wounds. ‘Mead, an alcoholic drink made from honey, was also popular, as well as various ales and Guinness on one occasion.

‘There’s also been a few ribbons tied round it, as well as lots of people holding hands around it, and circles of people projecting positive energy.’

Sacred: Well-wishers visit the tree in Glastonbury, SomersetSacred: Well-wishers visit the tree in Glastonbury, Somerset

But Mr Frearson, nicknamed the Garden Wizard, had other ideas to ensure the tree’s revival.

He said: ‘We applied a dressing of pine resin and beeswax to stop further moisture and rain getting in, keep out bacteria and fungus, and applied nutrients.

‘We covered it in horticultural fleece, then bubble wrap, then more fleece.
‘Soon after we replaced the bubble wrap with hessian.

‘We mulched around the base of the tree with well-rotted wood chips to keep the moisture off the ground, and we’ve also driven spikes into the ground and filled the holes with compost and bonemeal, and we’ll do it again soon.’

Glastonbury’s mayor John Coles said the display of new buds on the tree was ‘wonderful news for the town’.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1370056/Resurrection-Holy-Thorn-Tree-Glastonburys-vandalised-shrine-comes-life.html#ixzz1Hh02v1NE

Visit the ;Holy Thorn’ on a Glastonbury (King Arthure Country) guided sightseeing tour.

Glastonbury Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours on Ancient Britain

Read Full Post »

STATE of the art technology is being used to create the most accurate digital model ever of Stonehenge English Heritage is using a combination of modern 3D laser scanning and digital imaging technology to survey every inch of every stone that makes up the prehistoric monument.

The survey includes all the visible faces of the standing and fallen stones of Stonehenge, including Station, Heel and Slaughter stones, as well as the top of the horizontal lintels which have never before been surveyed at this level of detail.

Despite the vast amount of archaeological activity and academic study into Stonehenge and its landscape over the centuries, relatively little is known about the lichen-covered surfaces of the sarsens and bluestones that make up the stone circle.

The availability of high resolution laser scanners that can produce highly accurate surface models means that it is now possible to record details and irregularities on the stone surfaces down to a resolution of 0.5mm. It is also hoped that secrets hidden underneath the thick cover of lichens may be revealed in the analysis using sophisticated software.

The study serves a number of purposes. It will provide precise base-line data to monitor the physical condition of the monument which is subjected to daily weathering.

Digital data of this unprecedented level of detail will also be a valuable resource to anyone who is tasked with producing reconstruction models, drawings and computer generated images of the monument for public understanding and interpretation, including the English Heritage interpretation team who is working on the new displays of the proposed visitor centre.

Understanding of the known Neolithic “dagger” and Bronze Age carvings as well as modern graffiti carvings might also be enhanced, and new ones might be discovered.

Dave Batchelor, English Heritage’s Stonehenge archaeologist, said: “The surfaces of the stones of Stonehenge hold fascinating clues to the past. They are like manuscripts, a whole palimpsest of the ideas, efforts and idiosyncrasies that marked the lives of people over millennia. I look forward very much to seeing what we are about to find.”

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/stonehenge-in-high-definition/

Stonehenge Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in British History

Read Full Post »

The Festival returns in 2011 with a packed programme of theatre, dance, circus, film, music and spoken word in locations around the historic city.

On the Festival’s opening night the sky becomes a stage in a performance by world famous Argentine company Voalà.The programme also includes a new music commission, WhereTwo Worlds Touch; outdoor performances of classic Shakespeare;and a performance by Jasmin Vardimon Company.

Read Salisbury International Arts Festival Brochure 2011 – Download

This year’s programme will reflect a focus on the themes of China, Dance and Air, and events will take place across the region in locations as diverse as Salisbury Cathedral, Old Wardour Castle and Stonehenge.

Background to Salisbury Festival
The Festival blazed into life in July 1973. Since then, over a million people have enjoyed outstanding performances of theatre, dance, film and every kind of music, plus literary events and the visual arts. From mid-May to early June each year, the beautiful historic city of Salisbury is transformed as people flock to the Festival, enjoying both ticketed events and free performances

If you are in the UK during May and June this year why not come and stay in Salisbury during this wonderful event.  Even take a tour to Stonehenge ?

http://www.salisburyfestival.co.uk/

Stonehenge and Salisbury Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in Wessex

Read Full Post »

Loosely speaking, thatching is the use of straw or grasses as a building material. Using thatch for roofing goes back as far as the Bronze Age in Britain. At Shearplace Hall in Dorset there are remains of a round hut that shows signs of thatching.

Thatching a roof is an age-old tradition. Not only is it environmentally friendly but also very much back in vogue

Thatching a roof is an age-old tradition. Not only is it environmentally friendly but also very much back in vogue

Thatched cottages and farm buildings were the norm in rural Britain for a millennium or more. Why the attraction to thatch? First of all, the building practices of bygone Britain ran to lightweight, irregular materials, such as wattle and daub walls, and cruck beams. These walls were simply not made to take much weight, and thatch was by far the lightest weight material available.

The study of materials used in thatch buildings can get pretty obscure, but basically, people used whatever was available locally.

This meant materials as diverse as broom, sedge, sallow, flax, grass, and straw. Most common is wheat straw in the south of England, and reeds in East Anglia. Norfolk reed is especially prized by thatchers, although in northern England and Scotland heather was frequently used.

Although thatch was primarily used by the poor, occasionally great houses used this most common of materials. In 1300 the great Norman castle at Pevensey (Sussex) bought up 6 acres of rushes to roof the hall and chambers. Much later, in the late 18th century thatched cottages became an extremely popular theme with the “picturesque” painters, who tried to portray an idealized (Romantic/sanitized) version of nature.

Churches also used thatch frequently. In one humorous episode the parish church at Reyden, near Southwold, was roofed in 1880 with thatch on the side of the church hidden from the road, and with tiles on the side facing the road. Presumably the tiles looked more elegant than the more commonplace thatch.

What caused the decline of thatching? Primarily better transportation. The growing railway network in the Victorian era meant that cheap slate from Wales became easily available all over Britain. Agricultural machinery, particularly the combine harvester, had the unfortunate effect of making wheat straw unusable for thatching. This made Norfolk reed all the more prized, and now the latter material is grown specifically for use in thatching.

So how does one thatch a cottage? First the thatch is tied in bundles, then laid in an underlayer on the roof beams and pegged in place with rods made of hazel or withy.

Then an upper layer is laid over the first, and a final reinforcing layer added along the ridgeline. It is at the ridgeline that the individual thatcher leaves his personal “signature”, a decorative feature of some kind that marks the job as his alone. One lovely cottage I saw on a bicycle tour near Glastonbury (Somerset) has a row of thatch birds marching proudly along the ridge of the roofline!

Although thatching, like many rural crafts, has suffered from the encroachment of “civilisation”, many property owners today recognize the value of keeping their cottages thatched, if for no other reason than that thatched cottages fetch a prime price on the real estate market!

Well thank goodness, for those of us who love traditional British architecture! Sure, it is “corny” but to this anglophile North American at least, nothing says “Great Britain” so much as the sight of a beautiful whitewashed cottage, a blooming rose bush climbing a trellis beneath a roof of weathered thatch. Long live the thatcher!

The phrase “Its raining cats and dogs”
You’ve heard of thatch roofs, well that’s all they were. Thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. They were the only place for the little animals to get warm. So all the pets; dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs, all lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery so sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Thus the saying, “it’s raining cats and dogs.”

There are more thatch work in Wiltshire than any other county in Britain.  Join us on a private tour of Wessx and learm more about the history of this tradional craft.

Links: 

THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF MASTER THATCHERS ASSOCIATIONS

Wiltshire Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in British History

Read Full Post »

Thousands of files with details of UFO sightings and an “alien abduction” in London have been released for the first time by the Ministry Of Defence.
Over the last fifty years thousands of people across Wiltshire have recorded seeing strange sights in the skies – and in many cases the same pulsing lights hovering above one town have been witnessed by hundreds of people.

The previously classified files contain over 8,500 pages that reveal the phenomenon has been discussed at the highest levels of governments worldwide and in 1979 the House of Lords held Parliament’s only ever full debate on the subject.

The files, which also contain pictures, described how for a few hours in 1967 a War Of The Worlds-style incident was treated as a potentially real alien invasion of the UK.

Another startling revelation said in the months before the September 11 attacks, 15 unidentified aircrafts were detected on radar approaching the UK and one was detected on the actual day.

Other revelations from the 35 files include the story of a family capturing on film flashing red and white lights zig-zagging their way through the sky during the early hours in 2003.

You can see from the files that I wasn’t the only one interested in the subject, with the phenomenon discussed at the highest level of government right across the globe

Dr David Clarke – author and senior lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University

Police officers, including a helicopter team, also witnessed the 20 to 30 lights over Bromley, Kent and reported the incident. Radar checks revealed nothing unusual.

The documents read: “A policeman sent to investigate confirmed the sighting. Objects were moving faster than any man-made aircraft.”

In another case a man told the MoD he believed he had been beamed up by an alien craft from his home in Barnes, south west London.

He described having a glass of milk in his garden on a night in October 1998 and “after a few moments I heard a distant roar of engines getting louder and louder.”

The man said he was terrified as a huge “cigar-shaped vehicle” appeared over his house and said it felt like he had gained a whole hour.

A Naional Achives photo

A doughnut-shaped UFO photographed by a retired RAF officer in Sri Lanka.

 “I am now beginning to wonder if I was abducted,” he told the MoD, which wrote back to him saying the clocks had gone back the night before.

The phenomenon of extra-terrestrials has fascinated people for centuries and the files also detail in full the Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and letters from “persistent enquirers” that led to the MoD opening up its files for the first time in history.

Dr David Clarke, author of the book The UFO Files, said since the introduction of the FOI act questions on UFOs were the top three most popular FOI requests received by the MoD.

“You can see from the files that I wasn’t the only one interested in the subject, with the phenomenon discussed at the highest level of government right across the globe.”

A Naional Achives photo

A photo among the 35 files of a sketch of UFO in South Wales.

Another incident detailed is of six small “flying saucers” in a perfect line sighted in southern England.

An investigation found it to be a ‘rag-day’ hoax by engineering students from Farnborough Technical College.

In 1978, the RAF was bombarded with claims that a UFO was zipping across the sky as witnesses described a mystery orange cigar-shaped object with lights covering its base and a white cockpit.

An investigation revealed the sightings coincided with the re-entry of space debris into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The files contain pages of UFO sightings and reports, colour photographs and drawings, RAF investigations, unusual radar detections, parliamentary briefings and – for the first time – documents on the government’s policy on UFOs

Strange Wiltshire Over the last fifty years thousands of people across Wiltshire have recorded seeing strange sights in the skies – and in many cases the same pulsing lights hovering above one town have been witnessed by hundreds of people.

Tour guides at Histouries UK are looking forward to another good crop circle season here in Wilsthire.  2010 saw a record year, what will 2001 bring ?  We have taken 1000’s of people to 100’s of crop cicle formations in the Wessex area.  We know where they are and when they appear.  Follow this blog and our tweets for daily crop circle updates.

Links:
http://www.visitwiltshire.co.uk/site/things-to-do/attractions/crop-circles
http://www.bbc.co.uk/wiltshire/moonraking/spooky_ufo.shtml
http://www.ufo-warminster.co.uk/books/books_direct.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warminster
http://www.wccsg.com/

Crop Circle Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Spooky Tours in Wiltshire

Read Full Post »

Start: Avebury |Finish: Old Sarum
Distance: Approximately 42 miles

Wiltshire is a county of history and mystery set in a dramatic landscape. The combination of heritage and scenery provides a truly memorable day out. So come with us on a journey through the countryside and across the ages as we go back to the time of our prehistoric ancestors. Hundreds of thousands of years may have passed but all over the county there’s evidence of human activity from the end of the Ice Age through the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages right up to the invasion of the Romans in AD43.

Click here for audio / visual tour

This driving tour will take you through the heart of Wiltshire. En route you’ll discover more about how our enigmatic and mysterious ancestors lived, worked, fought and died.

This tour can be undertaken in a variety of ways; as a day-long journey, in short sections or you can use the information as a guide to individual visits.

You might also consider embarking on the tour using public transport but keeping up to date with bus service and timetable changes will require plenty of preparation.

Before you set off make sure that you’re properly equipped. Nothing beats a really good Ordnance Survey map, marked with contours and ancient monuments. A compass and a torch would also be useful. Some of these historical gems are in fields and away from roads or footpaths, so good walking boots are a must. Some sites have few or no facilities and it’s also worth noting that mobile phone coverage can’t be guaranteed in parts of rural Wiltshire. For news of road works or route closures, check BBC Local Radio and bbc.co.uk/travelnews

This guide has been produced with the generous assistance of Phil Harding, Wessex Archaeology, English Heritage, Wiltshire Council Archaeology Service, Bob Clarke, Martin Kellett, David Dawson and the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.

Stonehenge and Avebury Tour Guide
HisTOURies UK – The Best Tours in Wiltshire

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: