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Archive for October, 2011

Big BenBritish Summer Time ends: clocks go back – Why?

 

The clocks will go back by one hour at 2.00 am on Sunday 30 October. At 2.00 am, the clocks will return to 1.00 am as British Summer Time ends for another year.

British Summer Time

British Summer Time (BST) starts each year on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October. On Sunday 27 March the clocks will go forward, meaning we lose an hour. British Summer Time is due to end this year on 30 October.

BST is operational on the following dates:

  2011 2012 2013
Start of BST (clocks go forward) 27 March 25 March 31 March
End of BST (clocks go back) 30 October 28 October 27 October

Summer time changes on standard dates throughout the EU. Britain and Ireland constantly remain an hour behind most of Central Europe.

The history of daylight saving time

In 1907 an Englishman, William Willett, campaigned to advance clocks by 80 minutes. He proposed four moves of 20 minutes at the beginning of the spring and summer months, and to return to Greenwich Mean Time in a similar manner in the autumn. The following year, the House of Commons rejected a Bill to advance the clocks by one hour during the spring and summer months.

Summer time was first defined in an Act of Parliament in 1916. The clocks were moved one hour ahead of GMT from the spring to the autumn.

During the Second World War, double summer time (two hours in advance of GMT) was introduced, lasting until July 1945.

Since the 1980s, all parts of western and central Europe have co-ordinated the date and the time of their clock changes.

Why Change the Clocks?

Twice a year the clocks change, forward in the Spring and then back again in the Autumn. But why?

It happens twice a year. We all change our clocks and watches by one hour. In the spring, we add an hour, and go onto what is called British Summer Time, while in the autumn, we do the reverse, and adhere to Greenwich Mean Time.

Why bother?It’s all to do with saving the hours of daylight, and was started by a chap called William Willett, a London builder, who lived in Petts Wood in Kent.

Basically, he reckoned that you could improve the population’s health and happiness by putting forward the clocks by twenty minutes every Sunday in April and do the opposite in September.

EconomiesHis idea was not taken up, even though a ‘Daylight Saving Bill’ was introduced some five years before the outbreak of World War One. But once the war started, it was considered prudent to economise, to promote greater efficiency in using daylight hours, and in the use of artificial lighting. And so in 1916, ‘Daylight Saving Time’ was introduced.

Even though most countries abandoned this after that war, some eventually decided that it was a good idea, and most of these nations began to keep it throughout the year.

ExperimentSince 1972, Britain has decided to go with Greenwich Mean Time in winter, and British Summer Time in Summer. But back in 1968, Britain tried a four-year experiment by advancing time one hour ahead of GMT throughout the year.

But those living further north, particularly in Scotland, found it most unsatisfactory, with dark mornings for much of the year, and the experiment was dropped.

But the arguments rage on….and on.

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If you find yourself gasping, “Wow, that tree’s fatter than anything else like it around here!” the chances are you’ve probably found an ancient tree

The mighty Bowthorpe Oak, near Bourne in Lincolnshire is Europe's greatest girth English Oak at a massive 42 feet Photograph: Alamy

The mighty Bowthorpe Oak, near Bourne in Lincolnshire is Europe's greatest girth English Oak at a massive 42 feet Photograph: Alamy

What is an ancient tree?  The definition varies from species to species, so a silver birch may be ancient at 150 years old, while an oak of the same age is still a baby. But if you find yourself gasping, “Wow, that tree’s fatter than anything else like it around here!” you’ve probably found one. If you’re tempted to hug it, don’t hold back – ancient trees are essential to biodiversity, providing homes to thousands of species. Hugging is also the easiest way to measure a tree’s girth, to get some clue to its age. The “British standard hug”, as defined by the Woodland Trust, is 1.5 metres (5ft) from fingertip to fingertip.

Here are a few notable specimens; you can find 80,000 more, or log your own discoveries, at ancienttreehunt.org.ukAncient Tree Hunt.

Fortingall yew, Perthshire

Estimated to be at least 3,000 years old and possibly 5,000, this is the oldest yew in Britain. In 1769 its girth was recorded as about 17 metres (55ft). Today you can see only remnants of the old plus new growth amounting to no more than two hugs – a shadow of its former glory but still remarkable. 

Bowthorpe oak, Lincolnshire

This 1,000-year-old tree stands in a field at Manthorpe, near Bourne. Its hollow trunk has been used for parties; at one point, it is claimed, three dozen people managed to stand within it.

Llangernyw yew, Conwy

Possibly more than 4,000 years old, the tree in the grounds of St Dygain’s church in Llangernyw is one of the oldest living things in Wales.

Belvoir oak, County Down

This fine oak is thought to be somewhere between 500 and 700 years old, making it probably the oldest tree in Northern Ireland. It is one of many ancient trees in Belvoir Park Forest.

Tolpuddle Martyrs’ tree, Dorset

Under this sycamore in the village of Tolpuddle in 1834, six poverty-stricken agricultural labourers formed the first trade union in Britain.

Spanish chestnuts, Croft Castle, Herefordshire

Among more than 300 veteran trees in the grounds of this castle near Leominster is an avenue of magnificent sweet chestnuts. Some of them are rumoured to have come from nuts from the wrecks of the Spanish Armada in 1592.

Link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2011/apr/09/ancient-trees

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Archaeologists have found the first intact Viking boat burial site in the UK. The 5m-long grave contained the remains of a high-status Viking who was buried with an axe, sword, spear and bronze ring-pin.

”]Excavations at the Ardnamurchan Peninsula [Credit: Ardnamurchan Transitions Project]
The 1,000-year-old find, on the remote Ardnamurchan Peninsula, in the Highlands, was made by Ardnamurchan Transitions Project, a team led by experts from the universities of Manchester and Leicester, CFA Archaeology Ltd and Archaeology Scotland. 

Other finds included a knife, a sharpening stone from Norway, a ring pin from Ireland and Viking pottery. 

Dr Oliver Harris, project co-director from the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, said: “This project examines social change on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula from the first farmers 6,000 years ago to the Highland clearances of the 18th and 19th century. 

“It has also yielded evidence for what will be one of the best-dated Neolithic chambered cairns in Scotland when post-excavation work is complete.” 

Source: This is Leicestershire [October 18, 2011]

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Samhain marks one of the two great doorways of the Celtic year, for the Celts divided the year into two seasons: the light and the dark, at Beltane on May 1st and Samhain on November 1st. Some believe that Samhain was the more important festival, marking the beginning of a whole new cycle, just as the Celtic day began at night. For it was understood that in dark silence comes whisperings of new beginnings, the stirring of the seed below the ground. Whereas Beltane welcomes in the summer with joyous celebrations at dawn, the most magically potent time of this festival is November Eve, the night of October 31st, known today of course, as Halloween. 

Samhain (Scots Gaelic: Samhuinn) literally means “summer’s end.” In Scotland and Ireland, Halloween is known as O�che Shamhna, while in Wales it is Nos Calan Gaeaf, the eve of the winter’s calend, or first. With the rise of Christianity, Samhain was changed to Hallowmas, or All Saints’ Day, to commemorate the souls of the blessed dead who had been canonized that year, so the night before became popularly known as Halloween, All Hallows Eve, or Hollantide. November 2nd became All Souls Day, when prayers were to be offered to the souls of all who the departed and those who were waiting in Purgatory for entry into Heaven. Throughout the centuries, pagan and Christian beliefs intertwine in a gallimaufry of celebrations from Oct 31st through November 5th, all of which appear both to challenge the ascendancy of the dark and to revel in its mystery.

 

In the country year, Samhain marked the first day of winter, when the herders led the cattle and sheep down from their summer hillside pastures to the shelter of stable and byre. The hay that would feed them during the winter must be stored in sturdy thatched ricks, tied down securely against storms. Those destined for the table were slaughtered, after being ritually devoted to the gods in pagan times. All the harvest must be gathered in — barley, oats, wheat, turnips, and apples — for come November, the faeries would blast every growing plant with their breath, blighting any nuts and berries remaining on the hedgerows. Peat and wood for winter fires were stacked high by the hearth. It was a joyous time of family reunion, when all members of the household worked together baking, salting meat, and making preserves for the winter feasts to come. The endless horizons of summer gave way to a warm, dim and often smoky room; the symphony of summer sounds was replaced by a counterpoint of voices, young and old, human and animal. 

In early Ireland, people gathered at the ritual centers of the tribes, for Samhain was the principal calendar feast of the year.   The greatest assembly was the ‘Feast of Tara,’ focusing on the royal seat of the High King as the heart of the sacred land, the point of conception for the new year. In every household throughout the country, hearth-fires were extinguished. All waited for the Druids to light the new fire of the year — not at Tara, but at Tlachtga, a hill twelve miles to the north-west. It marked the burial-place of Tlachtga, daughter of the great druid Mogh Ruith, who may once have been a goddess in her own right in a former age. 

At at all the turning points of the Celtic year, the gods drew near to Earth at Samhain, so many sacrifices and gifts were offered up in thanksgiving for the harvest. Personal prayers in the form of objects symbolizing the wishes of supplicants or ailments to be healed were cast into the fire,  and at the end of the ceremonies, brands were lit from the great fire of Tara to re-kindle all the home fires of the tribe, as at Beltane. As they received the flame that marked this time of beginnings, people surely felt a sense of the kindling of new dreams, projects and hopes for the year to come. 

The Samhain fires continued to blaze down the centuries.  In the 1860s the Halloween bonfires were still so popular in Scotland that one traveler reported seeing thirty fires lighting up the hillsides all on one night, each surrounded by rings of dancing figures, a practice which continued up to the first World War. Young people and servants lit brands from the fire and ran around the fields and hedges of house and farm, while community leaders surrounded parish boundaries with a magic circle of light. Afterwards, ashes from the fires were sprinkled over the fields to protect them during the winter months — and of course, they also improved the soil. The bonfire provided an island of light within the oncoming tide of winter darkness, keeping away cold, discomfort, and evil spirits long before electricity illumined our nights. When the last flame sank down, it was time to run as fast as you could for home, raising the cry, “The black sow without a tail take the hindmost!”

Even today, bonfires light up the skies in many parts of the British Isles and Ireland at this season, although in many areas of Britain their significance has been co-opted by Guy Fawkes Day, which falls on November 5th, and commemorates an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the English Houses of Parliament in the 17th century. In one Devonshire village, the extraordinary sight of both men and women running through the streets with blazing tar barrels on their backs can still be seen! Whatever the reason, there will probably always be a human need to make fires against the winter’s dark.

Divination at Halloween  

Samhain was a significant time for divination, perhaps even more so than May or Midsummer’s Eve, because this was the chief of the three Spirit Nights. Divination customs and games frequently featured apples and nuts from the recent harvest, and candles played an important part in adding atmosphere to the mysteries. In Scotland, a child born at Samhain was said to be gifted with an d� shealladh, “The Two Sights” commonly known as “second sight,” or clairvoyance. 

Apple Magic
At the heart of the Celtic Otherworld grows an apple tree whose fruit has magical properties. Old sagas tell of heroes crossing the western sea to find this wondrous country, known in Ireland as Emhain Abhlach, (Evan Avlach) and in Britain, Avalon. At Samhain, the apple harvest is in, and old hearthside games, such as apple-bobbing, called apple-dookin’ in Scotland, reflect the journey across water to obtain the magic apple. 

Dookin’ for Apples
Place a large tub, preferably wooden, on the floor, and half fill it with water. Tumble in plenty of apples, and have one person stir them around vigorously with a long wooden spoon or rod of hazel, ash or any other sacred tree. 

Each player takes their turn kneeling on the floor, trying to capture the apples with their teeth as they go bobbing around. Each gets three tries before the next person has a go. Best to wear old clothes for this one, and have a roaring fire nearby so you can dry off while eating your prize!
If you do manage to capture an apple, you might want to keep it for a divination ritual, such as this one: 

The Apple and the Mirror
Before the stroke of midnight, sit in front of a mirror in a room lit only by one candle or the moon. Go into the silence, and ask a question. Cut the apple into nine pieces. With your back to the mirror, eat eight of the pieces, then throw the ninth over your left shoulder. Turn your head to look over the same shoulder, and you will see and in image or symbol in the mirror that will tell you your answer.

(When you look in the mirror, let your focus go “soft,” and allow the patterns made by the moon or candlelight and shadows to suggest forms, symbols and other dreamlike images that speak to your intuition.) 

Dreaming Stones
Go to a boundary stream and with closed eyes, take from the water three stones between middle finger and thumb, saying these words as each is gathered:                        

         I will lift the stone
           As Mary lifted it for her Son,
           For substance, virtue, and strength;
           May this stone be in my hand
           Till I reach my journey’s end.
 

(Scots Gaelic)
          Togaidh mise chlach,
          Mar a thog Moire da Mac,
          Air bhr�gh, air bhuaidh, ‘s air neart;
          Gun robh a chlachsa am dh�rn,
          Gus an ruig mi mo cheann uidhe.

Carry them home carefully and place them under your pillow. That night, ask for a dream that will give you guidance or a solution to a problem, and the stones will bring it for you.
Article from ‘The Stonehenge Stone Circle’ Website

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I don’t normally do articles on ancient sites outside of my own Country,  Britain.  However I felt this was a significant discovery in Europe and has a Stonehenge connection.

General plan of the early Celtic burial mound with sky constellations.

General plan of the early Celtic burial mound with sky constellations.

A huge early Celtic calendar construction has been discovered in the royal tomb of Magdalenenberg, nearby Villingen-Schwenningen in Germany’s Black Forest. The order of the burials around the central royal tomb fits exactly with the sky constellations of the Northern hemisphere.

Whereas Stonehenge was orientated towards the sun, the more than 100-meters-wide burial mound of Magdalenenberg was focused towards the moon. The builders positioned long rows of wooden posts in the burial mound to be able to focus on the Lunar Standstills. These Lunar Standstills happen every 18.6 year and were the corner stones of the Celtic calendar.

Archaeo-astronomic research resulted in a date of Midsummer 618 BCE, which makes it the earliest and most complete example of a Celtic calendar focused on the moon.

After the complete destruction of the Celtic culture by Rome, these types of calendars were completely forgotten.The full dimensions of the lost Celtic calendar system have now come to light again in the monumental burial mound of Magdalenenberg.

Like other European Iron Age tribal societies, the Celts practiced a polytheistic religion. Rites and sacrifices were carried out by priests known as druids. The Celts did not see their gods as having human shapes until late in the Iron Age. Celtic shrines were situated in remote areas such as hilltops, groves, and lakes.

Roman reports of the druids mention ceremonies being held in sacred groves. La Tène Celts built temples of varying size and shape, though they also maintained shrines at sacred trees and votive pools.

Druids fulfilled a variety of roles in Celtic religion, serving as priests and religious officials, but also as judges, sacrificers, teachers, and lore-keepers. Druids organized and ran religious ceremonies, and they memorized and taught the calendar. Other classes of druids performed ceremonial sacrifices of crops and animals for the perceived benefit of the community. Neo-druidism is still practiced today.

Sources: Examiner, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, via AlphaGalileo and Science Daily

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VisitWiltshire has launched a new handy sized Wiltshire Downs & Market Towns pocket guide and map, offering helpful information as part of an on-going campaign to attract and retain visitors to the county.
Wilsthire White Horse

The 24-page pocket guide details a host of attractions and activities to suit all ages, with information about events and festivals, food and drink, history and heritage, and the great outdoors.

David Andrews Chief Executive of VisitWiltshire highlighted the need for the guide: “This new guide is all part of the work we’re doing to celebrate the diversity of the county’s tourism product and to raise the profile of Wiltshire as a must-see holiday destination.  This is a new title for us and I’m particularly pleased that we’ve had such strong support in producing this guide from the local travel industry.”

The Wiltshire Downs are home to some of the UK’s most exciting and iconic attractions including:

The White Horses cut into the chalk hillside
The Ridgeway long distance path, which has been called the oldest road in Britain
Crofton Pumping Station, which houses the oldest working beam engine in the world
Caen Hill locks, arguably the most impressive flight of locks in the UK
Avebury, one of the most important Megalithic monuments in Europe consisting of 200 standing stones in two great circles.  This is combined with a massive bank and ditch which covers more than 28 acres
The new guide is split into clear sections making it easy for visitors to find just what they are looking for.  Amongst the highlights are events listings, suggestions for days out and plenty of pages dedicated to food and drink.  There is also a map showing the location of each individual attraction and activity.

David Dawson, Chair of Devizes Area Tourism Partnership and Director of Wiltshire Heritage Museum said, “We are delighted that VisitWiltshire has produced this timely new Wiltshire Towns & Market Towns Pocket Guide.  Given all the changes to tourism in Devizes lately it’s fantastic to see VisitWiltshire proactively targeting new visitors in this way, informing them of the best to see and do in the area.  Many of our attractions are now acting as mini tourist information centres and will be stocking the guide for anyone to use.”

As well as local circulation, the print run of 30,000 copies will be distributed proactively as part of VisitWiltshire’s marketing drive to bring additional visitors to the county.  Additional content is available to visitors online at www.visitwiltshire.co.uk.

Copies of the free ‘Pocket Guide and Map’ are available from VisitWiltshire by calling 0845 602 7323 or can be downloaded from the internet by visiting www.visitwiltshire.co.uk.

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Each year, the beautiful area between the stunning Bath Abbey and the internationally renowned visitor attraction, the Roman Baths, is transformed into a Christmas shopper’s haven – the Bath Christmas Market.  We are delighted to announce that the Bath Christmas Market is now running for an additional week – a total of 18 days! Dates for the Bath Christmas Market 2011 are 24th November – 11th December 2011. 
bath-christmas-market

Click here to view the opening times of the Christmas Market.

In the heart of Bath’s main shopping district, 129 traditional wooden chalets adorn the streets; each one offering unique, handmade and unusual gifts, decorations and food items – everything you will need for the perfect Christmas celebration. 

The World Heritage Site of Bath is one of England’s most beautiful places to visit, so why not make your visit to the Bath Christmas Market the focus of a private tour.  A populr itinereary from London is Stonehenge, Lacock Village in the Cotswolds and Bath.  We can also arrange tours from Bath os Salisbury.

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