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Archive for May, 2012

The Banksy of the river: Elusive artist’s latest work appears by a quiet countryside waterway.  Crossover graffiti artist Banksy has unveiled his latest work next to a quiet countryside waterway

Firstly, if I was the editor of the local paper, my headline for this piece would be:

“Tales of the River Banksy”.

The artwork appeared in February 2012, but this great little secret has taken a little time to surface. Still today I am not 100% convinced its the real deal, maybe because Lyme Regis seems a very distant, quiet little place for a Banksy piece to appear, but then it makes the perfect location, as it takes a while to surface…

The meaning… well your guess is as good as mine, but I like the idea it symbolises the birth of a child.

I won’t give away the exact location, although the cover  was blown on twitter a little while ago. I will just say “its by the river in Lyme Regis”…

Coincidently there are lots of rats that swim across the river just at this point, and I see them daily. So maybe that helped to inspire the location, following Banksy’s famous Rat characters…

Another great reason to visit Lyme Regis…

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he Dover Boat is one of Britain’s great under-appreciated ancient artefacts.

Older than the Roman Empire. Older than Moses. It would have been in the water at the same time Stonehenge was in use. That’s about 1500 BC – 3,500 years ago.

The Dover Boat after it was discovered in 1992 Photo: Dover Museum

The Dover Boat after it was discovered in 1992 Photo: Dover Museum

There would have been countless others like it of course but they have not survived. Built from planks of oak, stiched together with pieces of yew. Certainly not meant to last thousands of years, which is why the vast majority have disappeared.

So to have found one – or at least seventy per cent of one – and to have preserved and displayed it is nothing short of miraculous. There are boats or fragments of boats which may well be older; the Abydos fleet of Egypt for example or the pine canoes of China’s Zhejiang province. And wood found off the Hampshire coast at Hayling Island in the late 1990s has been carbon dated to 7,000 years ago.

What makes Dover’s boat special though is that so much of it can still be seen and appreciated thanks to a huge rescue and conservation effort.

When it was first discovered during roadworks in Dover town centre it stunned archaeologists. But every hour the timbers were exposed it was effectively rotting away. And so teams of historians and archaeologists swung into action by the roadside. The boat was cut into sections, measured, recorded and cleaned. The bits were taken to a shed in Dover Harbour where they were kept wet in large and hastily-constructed water tanks. Later the ancient wood was strengthened using liquid wax, freeze-dried at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth and finally put back together using an adjustable crane.

The preserved Bronze Age Boat in Dover Museum Credit: Dover Museum

The preserved Bronze Age Boat in Dover Museum Credit: Dover Museum

The Dover Boat is one of Britain’s great under-appreciated ancient artefacts.

Older than the Roman Empire. Older than Moses. It would have been in the water at the same time Stonehenge was in use. That’s about 1500 BC – 3,500 years ago.

There would have been countless others like it of course but they have not survived. Built from planks of oak, stiched together with pieces of yew. Certainly not meant to last thousands of years, which is why the vast majority have disappeared.

So to have found one – or at least seventy per cent of one – and to have preserved and displayed it is nothing short of miraculous. There are boats or fragments of boats which may well be older; the Abydos fleet of Egypt for example or the pine canoes of China’s Zhejiang province. And wood found off the Hampshire coast at Hayling Island in the late 1990s has been carbon dated to 7,000 years ago.

What makes Dover’s boat special though is that so much of it can still be seen and appreciated thanks to a huge rescue and conservation effort.

When it was first discovered during roadworks in Dover town centre it stunned archaeologists. But every hour the timbers were exposed it was effectively rotting away. And so teams of historians and archaeologists swung into action by the roadside. The boat was cut into sections, measured, recorded and cleaned. The bits were taken to a shed in Dover Harbour where they were kept wet in large and hastily-constructed water tanks. Later the ancient wood was strengthened using liquid wax, freeze-dried at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth and finally put back together using an adjustable crane.

Then came another battle – to keep the Dover Boat where it belonged. A world-famous museum was said to have bid for it but had the idea of keeping it in pieces. In the end there was a massive fund-raising initiative and a great gallery was built in Dover Museum with a sealed glass chamber that now keeps the precious object safe in perpetuity.

And all the time historians have been looking at it, examining it, working out how it was built.

Seeing how it would have been hewn from the timbers of mighty trees that would have grown all the way down to the shoreline back then.

Seeing how it would not have had a sail, perhaps not even a rudder. Difficult to tell because the back of the boat is missing.

Seeing how it would have been rowed by about a dozen men using huge oars.

Maybe they wave-tested it off the Kent coast. Maybe it pootled upriver. Debate has raged over whether the Dover Boat was robust enough to have taken to the seas and therefore establish a claim to be one of the world’s oldest surviving seagoing vessels.

It or something like it would surely have rowed along the coast of Southern Britain, hugging the coastline in case it shipped too much water. How can we say that? What evidence do we have to back this up?

Well there are artefacts found in Dover from this time period from as far away as Dorset. Logical to think of them having been brought by sea rather than carried overland in what would have been a cumbersome and time-consuming journey.

And so above and beyond all the theories about why and how our boat was built emerges a tantalising possibility.

That it was put together by people who did not just have skills passed down over a few generations, but boat-building knowledge accrued in their communities over hundreds if not thousands of years.

That something very similar to our rickety-looking, oak-planked, yew-stitched craft was crossing the English Channel and also the oceans way back in Stone Age times.

Imagine what light that would cast on our knowledge of the spread and dispersment of peoples, societies, cultures, even entire civilisations, in that yawning chasm of time before recorded history.

The Dover Boat is that significant. A rare treasure.

Article from ITV News: http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2012-05-12/dover-boat-personal-view/

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Go rambling around England with your little ones, on these 10 buggy friendly walks, selected by Richard Happer from his new book Beautiful Buggy Walks: England

Avebury, Wiltshire

Avebury

Avebury

Strolling through an ancient stone circle is just the start of this adventure. Avebury’s fine historical monument also forms the hub of a cracking day’s countryside wandering. Avebury is the world’s biggest stone circle – so large it has a whole village in its centre – but it doesn’t attract the huge numbers that Stonehenge does. This walk introduces you to the circle via West Kennet Avenue, a ceremonial approach that originally had 100 pairs of stones. It’s half a mile long and still impressive. People can wander freely among the ancient monoliths, unlike Stonehenge. Tourists touch them, kids lean on them and wild-bearded men in rainbow trousers do yoga beneath them. Our tour concludes with a relaxing stretch through the surrounding fields.

OS map: Explorer 157
How far: about 3 miles
Route: Enter the field to the west of the parking area.

• Walk between the stones up West Kennet Avenue.

• When the road to your right joins the main road, cross the smaller road and walk past the trees to the embankment that runs around the ditch.

• Follow the path on top to your right. When you reach a small road, cross it and continue around the circle.

• At the main road follow the path in, towards the centre of the circle, cross the road and take the path out and around the next sector of the circle.

• Detour to your right to visit the café and visitor centre.

• Join the minor road in the village and walk west to east, right through the circle, passing the pub and the point at which you crossed the road earlier.

• You are now walking away from the circle, down a country lane; continue for 1/2 mile, passing Manor Farm, then turn right, down a byway.

• After 1/2 mile, turn right along the edge of a fi eld. Another 1/2 mile will take you back to the start.

Rest and refresh: The Red Lion pub has outdoor space (01672 539266, red-lion-pub-avebury.co.uk). The National Trust visitor centre has a spacious cafe with outside benches. Visitor centre: 01672 539250,nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury

Article Source and more walks:http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/may/06/buggy-walks-family-holidays-england 

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The weather may be more like November than May but the first crop circles have appeared in Wiltshire fields.Wilshire Crop Circle 2012

The first one was reported on April 15 at Hill Barn, near East Kennett in oil seed rape but a more striking one is currently visible, also in oil seed rape, also known as canola, at Yarnbury Castle  near Winterbourne Stoke.

This one was reported on April 28. It will be interesting to see how drier weather and more prolific crops affect the number of formations that appear over the next three months.

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image: [ Morris men making merry ]

In medieval times, May Day was often celebrated by young men and women dancing on the village green around a specially-decorated tree called a maypole.

The branches of a slender tree were cut off, coloured ribbons tied to the top and the revellers held on to the ends of the ribbons and danced. Some villages still carry on the tradition today.

Before the dancing began there was also a procession led by a woman appointed May Queen for the day. Sometimes she was accompanied by a May King, who dressed in green to symbolise springtime and fertility.


[ image: The maypole was a symbol of fertility]
The maypole was a symbol of fertility

In Germany, it was the tradition that a fir tree was cut down on May Eve by young unmarried men. The branches were removed and it was decorated and set up in village square. The tree was guarded all night to prevent it being stolen by the men of a neighbouring village. If the guard was foolish enough to fall asleep the going ransom rate for a maypole was a good meal and a barrel of beer.

A similar festival existed in ancient Rome called Floralia, which took place at around the end of April and was dedicated to the Flower Goddess Flora. On May 1, offerings were made the goddess Maia, after which the month of May is named.

Pagan groups call the fertility festival by its Celtic name of Beltane.

The church in the middle ages tolerated the May Day celebrations but the Protestant Reformation of the 17th century soon put a stop to them. The Puritans were outraged at the immorality that often accompanied the drinking and dancing – and Parliament banned maypoles altogether in 1644.

But when Charles II was restored to the throne a few years later, people all over the country put up maypoles as a celebration and a sign of loyalty to the crown.

May Day had a boost in popularity again in the 19th century when the Victorians seized on it as a “rustic delight”. But many of the significant pagan aspects of the day were ignored by our strait-laced ancestors and instead of a fertility rite, dancing around the maypole became a children’s game.

For traditionalists other things to do on May Day include getting up before dawn and going outside to wash your face in dew – according to folklore this keeps the complexion beautiful.

“Bringing in the May” also involves getting up very early, gathering flowers, making them into garlands and then giving them to your friends to wear. If you are feeling particularly charitable, folklore advises that it is good time to make up a “May basket” of flowers to take to someone who needs cheering up.

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