Table of Contents
Chairman's Letter - February 2015
The Story of Sparrow’s Farm, Great Henny – Part 2
On and Off The Antiques Roadshow
Unlocking the Artist Within: Fine Art Landscape Photography
Badgers – love’em, or hate’em?
Forrester Vineyards, South Africa
Not so much to report this year. However, no one should be unaware of the Government’s pressure on Local Authorities to build many more houses than previously planned for. Both Babergh and Braintree District Councils have had to come forward with new Local Plans to meet the Government’s revised housing figures. To give you an idea of the task facing them, Braintree District Council’s previously adopted Core Strategy set an annual average target of 272 new homes in the District. It now has to come forward with a revised Plan to provide between 750 and 950 new homes every year to 2033, with the necessary infrastructure to go with it. This is a huge increase. Nevertheless, BDC is aware of the need to protect the Upper Stour Valley. In its consultation paper it recognises the importance of the rural landscape in the upper Stour Valley, where it states:-
The impact of development proposals in the Upper Stour Valley will be particularly carefully assessed in light of the sensitive nature of this landscape and should support the...objectives of the [Project’s] Management Plan and not prejudice the long term aim to enlarge the area included in the AONB.
Let’s hope this language will be included in the final Local Plan. Although we are working closely with The Dedham Vale and Stour Valley Project and supporting the application to extend the AONB, our area extends well outside of this. We will also need to ensure adequate protection is included in Babergh’s revised Plan and be even more vigilant to ensure our open countryside is not over developed.
Some of you will have been aware of the threat to build 300 new homes and a new secondary school on the site of the existing school and adjoining farm land owned by Marks Hall Estate charitable trust, which caused strong local opposition. Despite the increase in housing, no extra school spaces were to be included, Marks Hall Estate were going to make available charitable trust land for school playing fields North of the A120, and many thought this was not a proper use of trust property. The proposal has now been withdrawn as Essex County Council, which owned the school, did not support the scheme. However, the Marks Hall Trustees have submitted the farm land south of the A120 for building in response to BDC’s “call for sites”.
The “call for sites” has provoked a massive response from land owners all over the District, especially from members of the so called Gateway 120, who are proposing 11,000 new homes between Coggeshall and Marks Tey, which would create a whole new town almost equivalent to Witham! A new campaign organisation, CAUSE (Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex), which is doing sterling work to try and prevent developer- led building on greenfield sites but instead ensure that new housing is so far as possible based around existing urban areas to encourage use of public transport, with brownfield sites and empty houses developed first. A good number of our members already support this worthwhile campaign.
Those of you, who have taken a close interest in the old Horkesley Park Visitor Centre site, will want to know what is happening. W & H Park Ltd, which acquired the site from the Administrators, is proposing to form a joint venture with local developers, Mersea Homes, to build what can be described as a hamlet on the footprint of the old greenhouse site, with a mix of houses and designs, suitably screened from Little Horkesley and protecting both the setting of the Church and Chantry. Before any formal application is made there will need to be a Landscape Impact Assessment and full Public Consultation. The developers will also need to obtain the support of English Heritage. Although these outline proposals are clearly superior to what we were threatened with by Buntings, I understand the developers will still have to persuade CBC to agree to a new Local Plan permitting this kind of development in such a location.
The issue of wind turbines and solar farm sites continues to focus attention. The enormous single turbine outside Clare was a ghastly mistake and should never have been allowed by the Bury St Edmunds planning committee in the face of sustained opposition. As invariably happens once one has been allowed, there is now a second proposal to erect yet another turbine of the same size on the adjacent farm. Although Bury St Edmunds has required an environmental statement before any formal application can be submitted, we must be prepared to oppose this. As for solar farm applications, we continue to be threatened by large scale applications particularly in the Bulmer/ Foxearth area. The refused Big Deere Lodge application is now awaiting an appeal decision. The Committee has agreed to object to any which are within or close to the area managed by the Project including, in particular, the area to be within the extended AONB, or which will otherwise have an adverse impact on the landscape.
Also in this same area is a proposal to build around 150 houses at Stafford Park (the Bush Brook Allen site at Foxearth). The site is quite unsuitable, with problems of access, flooding and ecology, being next to an SSI. It is thought that a formal application may be made quite shortly.
The application to extend the AONB has now been made; however, as only one application will be actioned at any one time by Natural England, we must be patient. It is likely to be some considerable time before our application comes forward for review.
We objected to the new application by Persimmon Homes to build 165 new homes on land East of Carsons Drive, Great Cornard, because of its adverse impact on the setting of Grade 1 Abbas Hall. Abbas Hall, and the views of Great Cornard Wood, are inextricably tied in with Gainsborough. In view of the application to extend the AONB, we should be doing all we can to protect what many describe as” Gainsborough Country.” We are still awaiting a decision.
There is nothing further for me to report on National Grid. It is only a matter of time before this is revived.
The unsightly Anglian Water pumping station near the river below Mount Bures continues to be an issue. Unsatisfactorily, it seems that CBC failed to require a suitable design and facia colouring to make it blend in with the landscape. It may be that there can be some improvement to the screening, but this is a good example to us all of why we must be alert to pick these applications up before it is too late.
Readers should not assume from what I have written above that our raison d’être is to oppose all housing and renewable energy development. It is not. We will support sustainable development and renewable energy proposals in the right location and work, where possible, with Parish Councils and local communities to ensure that their views are properly recognised.
On better news, we held an excellent Summer Party last summer in the fabulous garden of Geoffrey and Ellen Foster-Taylor. We were blessed with good weather. If you could not come, you missed a great occasion. Generously, this year Robert and Sara Erith have agreed to host this year’s summer party for us to enjoy their lovely garden and walks. Don’t be deterred even if it looks like rain on the day as they have a wonderfully restored barn.
Our speaker at this year’s Annual General Meeting will be Mark Bills, the curator of Gainsborough House. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at one or other event.
Sadly, as many of you know, Gill Eadie died. She was a very long standing member of our Committee and was always available to help, whether with distribution of the magazine, the Summer Party and so much else. We will all miss her.
There is one thing certain, and that is, that you will not nod off when listening to Will Lord, probably the best knapper in this country. Will was born in 1970 when his father was the custodian of Grimes Graves, near Thetford, Norfolk. Grimes Graves is the site of a series of Neolithic Flint mines that produced some of the best flints available. If you wander through Thetford Forest you are likely to come across flint mines which were made by the Stone Age people searching for good flints, which they ultimately found at Grimes Graves some 4,000 years ago. These flints were fashioned into survival tools: axe heads, arrow heads, scrapers, burins and other associated essential tools for living in this period of the late Stone Age. Some 500 years later saw the start of the Bronze Age when ancient man began to smelt bronze to make axe heads etc.
If we go further back in history some 55,000 years ago, we find Neanderthal man hunting mammoth and there is evidence of this in a quarry at Lynford outside Swaffam. Will personally owns the only unfinished hand axe out of 70 hand axes that were discovered at Lynford amongst the bones of a significant mammoth hunting site, and is able to demonstrate a story within schools as to why this may not have been completed.
Happisburgh beach on the North Norfolk coast has become significant for Will as he is able to demonstrate how our evolutionary timeline has been shifted back to one million years due to sedimentary based flint artefacts.
When I arrived at Will’s house he noticed that I had, on the front seat of my car, two pieces of flint, which he examined and announced that they were Neolithic hand tools. Colchester Natural History Museum, and its archivists, had said they were just bits of flint. However, I was not convinced and had kept them to show to a greater authority, and Will demonstrated, that due to the shape of the shock waves caused by the influence of flint knapping, man had been involved in their production. I was encouraged to learn this as I was convinced that they were man-made due to their shape. I had unearthed them in my garden in Lamarsh.
From an early age, Will became fascinated by flints, and their ancient usage, and by 1975 he was known at school, as “Nipper Knapper”. He started to learn the art of knapping flints to make facing stones for buildings. In 1987, after leaving school, he became a mechanic, but at the same time he joined his father, who had relinquished his role as Custodian at Grimes Graves, in the production of flints for facing buildings, and he worked with his father for seven years. Throughout the next few years Will ventured into various territories, some more successful than others. However Will always knew in his heart of hearts that he wanted to recreate the skills of Stone Age man. In order that he could pass this knowledge on to future generations, he set about refining his skills working on flints and exploring the ways our forebears had lived and hunted.
In 2008, Will set himself up near Bury St Edmunds as a prehistoric re-enactor and at exactly the same time an opportunity presented itself for him to supply flints to the black powder industry making gun flints, where he went on to provide vast amounts, in excess of 60,000 hand- made gun flints per year. As well as supplying the UK market, these were exported mainly to Europe, the USA and Australia. On a good day he could fashion up to 300 gun flints.
He used the manufacture of gunflints to finance what he had always envisaged: recreating and demonstrating the way our ancestors had lived. So began his “acting” career, which combined his many skills of creating Stone Age and Bronze Age tools, hunting, and living off the land.
In Will’s garden, behind his house, is a wooden chalet, in which he shows some original, and some copies, of two million year old fashioned stones, from Africa, and other tools as well as reproduction bows and arrows, deer skins, and paintings on stretched hides. He obtains natural pigments for the colouring, for example, lumps of ochre from The Forest of Dean, where it has been being mined in the Clearwell Caves for over 4,000 years. There is also a collection of reproduction Bronze Age implements made on site. Just across the lawn from the chalet is a re- creation of a Neolithic hut with a fire in the centre, surrounded by seats bedecked with hides. Just behind the hut is a large pile of flints ready for Will to demonstrate his skills. While we were talking he collected one flint measuring about 10 inches by 6 inches by 3 inches and began to chip away at it gradually reducing it in size and creating a point and a rounded end to fit the palm of one’s hand. Bit by bit he knapped away until the two sides were sharp to create a Palaeolithic hand-axe. After no more than ten minutes he handed me this implement. It could have been the real thing!
In this same hut Will smelts bronze in the same manner as over 3,000 years ago. He grinds pottery and mixes it with horse dung and fresh clay to create a furnace measuring about 15 inches in diameter and about 20 inches high, with a small hole at the bottom into which he can insert a pair of bellows made from skins. (see photo) The temperature in the furnace can reach 1400 degrees and can smelt bronze in forty five minutes.
To create the moulds for the axe heads, he can fashion a head in wax, which is then encased in clay after which the wax is melted out and the liquid bronze poured in. Malachite is the primal source of copper, the main ingredient of bronze, and this was originally obtained from Llandudno in North Wales after people from ancient England were educated by foreign travellers from Europe that it could be extracted through the use of intense fire.
Will has gained the title of one of Britain’s leading reconstructive technology experts and he is also seen as a true bushman. Will explains that to be a real bushman/hunter we need to revisit stories of the past where young passionate children, who wanted to hunt, were not allowed to hunt a deer until they had gained the skill to stalk it to a point where they actually touched the deer’s back. This may be something that seems unreal and unachievable to many modern hunters.
Will also describes that when walking through woodland, you have to accept that your presence is noticed by all of the woodland residents who will naturally recede from your approach. This will always hinder your hunting, until such time as you learn to drop away from the end goal of hunting, and find some peace with your environment.
After a successful hunt, which would today provide our modern world with venison for the plate, Will uses the skin, the brains, the bones, the tendons and the stomach for a massive wealth of tools and opportunities to take on further hunting trips, warm clothing, glues and water proof vessels.
During 2014 he was approached by a producer from The Garden Production Company, who were working with Channel V to produce a film about life in 10,000 BC, to be filmed in Bulgaria. They needed the reproduction clothing essential for the film. He made the garments for twenty people, leather trousers, leather tunics, reindeer skin coats, loin cloths, and shoes as well as two reproduction Mere Heath sinew bound longbows from the Neolithic period and, believe it or not, six arrows, when in reality they would have needed not less than sixty. In order to meet the tight production schedule Will took on a helper, Simon, who is now full time and part of Will’s act when it comes to school visits and workshops. When giving demonstrations to groups Will, the inland hunter/gatherer, and Simon, the coastal forager, dress up in full primitive clothing consisting of deerskins, fashioned expertly into clothing, including deerskin boots (see photo) Their aim is to give a serious look back in time and offer a much clearer understanding of our fore- bears and how they lived, using the age old techniques of brain tanning and smoking, and he and Will intend to run workshops making reindeer coats and shoes. One of Will’s aims is to educate children at schools and summer camps and holiday clubs by offering a day described as “a caveman in the classroom”: a full day of prehistoric fun. Will and Simon will come dressed as cavemen wearing real skins with their faces painted with ochre and whilst they will speak modern day English they will make the guttural sounds from the past. They use a story type approach that emphasises that they live in a vastly different way to how we live to-day, with the need to go out to hunt to get the next meal for the table. Will demonstrates the tools he uses to survive, such as flint spears, daggers, ropes made from stinging nettles, and he will create a flint axe head from a large flint stone.
The story will go on to show how to make a fire using a bow drill and dried grasses, then adding wood over which to cook.
Children are given ochre to paint their faces, or for cave art. Natural fibres are on hand to make string. However the biggest thrill is to share the caveman’s lunch of venison or freshly caught fish cooked over the open fire in front of them. Dried fruits, berries and seeds, including “jerky”, described as dried mammoth, are also available to try out.
Will has a captivating manner and it is impossible not to be fascinated by his skills and his wish to demonstrate these. As to the future, Will naturally wishes to expand his business so that he is known as the pre-eminent re- creator of prehistoric man. I suggest that anyone wanting to see Will visit his website www.will-lord.co.uk If you are a school then use the following www.will-lord.co.uk/will-lord-schools.html
Will has suggested that I take along a small group of members and he will cook venison over an open fire for a summer supper and will demonstrate flint knapping. As you will have read above, Will’s way of life and acting provides for his wife and family and to take part in one of these experiences involves a charge of £15 per head, which is a one off special price for the CSCA. If you would like to be part of a Neolithic experience then email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you on a list and organise a date after which I will then confirm to you. Numbers will have to be limited.
Alston Court forms the southern side of the former market place in the centre of Nayland, close to St James’ church. Its modest exterior and high-walled garden conceal one of the most important and spectacular medieval merchants’ houses in Britain. I first saw the place as a budding architectural historian in about 1990 (architectural historians notoriously blossom late in life), and was struck by the coincidence of names: surely it had to be my ancestral seat. Sadly I discovered any connection I might have with the eponymous family of solicitors which owned the house for two centuries was sufficiently distant to render any legal claim highly tenuous. As I couldn’t afford the central heating bill let alone the asking price I decided instead to unravel its many secrets for the benefit of posterity.
Listed at grade I the house dates in part from the 13th century and preserves an impressive 15th century open hall along with some exquisite carving and possibly the finest collection of early-16th century heraldic stained glass in Britain. The fully enclosed rear courtyard is completely hidden from the street and forms a time capsule, almost unchanged since the Tudor period, complete with a picturesque array of oriel windows and brick nogging between its exposed timbers. These windows survived as they were blocked with plaster and converted into cupboards, perhaps in response to the window tax of 1696, before being re-opened in 1902 as part of a major Edwardian restoration.
1. Alston Court from Nayland's medieval Market Place. The anonymous right-hand wing dates from the 13th century and may be the oldest two- storied timber-framed and jettied structure in Britain.
2. The fine early-16th century oriel window of the left-hand parlour cross- wing, complete with original tracery and carved animals. Similar windows were probably added to the rest of the 15th century facade as part of a Tudor upgrade, and this example survives only because it was bricked over for centuries and re-discovered in 1903.
3. The inner courtyard looking north towards the 15th century open hall with the brick-nogged early-16th century rear parlour and solar in the centre. The stair turret to its right was heavily restored in 1903.
4. The courtyard looking south.
5. Photographs of the courtyard before 1903 when the Tudor windows were still covered with lath-and-plaster (kindly provided by Alston family historian Edward Liveing Fenn of New Zealand, whose grandfather restored the house).
6. One of the Renaissance-style figures carved on the jetty bressumer of the rear parlour.
7. Another figure on the jetty bressumer, wearing a close-fitting hooded tunic with what appear to be tassels on his elbows and hood. Is he dancing, or playing a game with a dished bat?
8. The fine shield on the window sill of the solar. Its shape is identical to the internal shield but carries a well known Marian device (i.e. a cipher combining all five letters of MARIA).
9. The rear parlour (now the dining room) with its largely complete early- 17th century panelling and carved ceiling. This was a kitchen in the 19th century and the oriel window formed a cupboard containing three shelves.
10. A carved ‘halberdier’ in the rear parlour. This figure retains traces of paint that may be original.
11. Some of the rare early-16th century heraldic glass in the dining room. The arms to the left are labelled Payn but had been adopted by the Abell family before 1573. This glass was moved to the dining room in 1903 from the solar and another first-floor room in the western wing.
12. The early-15th century open hall. Evidence of a 13th century open hearth was found a metre below the present floor during excavations of 2003. The lighter timber is Edwardian but the carved crown-post in the roof is original and still encrusted with medieval soot.
13. The early-16th century solar above the rear parlour. The carved ceiling here is almost entirely original and among the finest of its period in the country. The iron tie-beam was inserted in the 19th century to prevent the walls from spreading but was removed in the 1920s – before being rapidly reinstated.
14. One of the two false hammer beams in the solar, carved as bearded ‘prophets’. The shield beneath is of the same date as the oriel window but hides mortises for a missing post and both it and the window represents early alterations or a change of plan during construction. The crowned A is a medieval cipher for Amor Vincit Omnia, as recorded by Chaucer, but the Tudors loved a good pun and it may also represent Abell, Anne Abell and Katherine of Aragon. Not to mention that fine old Anglo-Saxon surname: Alston.
15. The bearded prophet on the eastern side of the solar.
16. The central boss of the solar, profusely carved with pomegranates.
17. A detail of a figure holding a goose carved on a bracket in the solar ceiling.
18. A unicorn in the solar, as fresh and sharp as the day it was carved in the early-16th century.
19. Another beast carved on a bracket of the solar’s vaulted ceiling.
20. Two beasts in the solar, one with his tongue lolling out. Traces of old limewash can be seen between his teeth.
The original building faced the market place to the north and reflected the usual medieval domestic layout with a central barn-like open hall, heated by a bonfire burning on its clay floor, flanked by service (i.e. storage) rooms to the right and a parlour to the left. The right-hand cross- wing is the least decorated part of the house but is probably the oldest and most complete two-storied timber-framed and jettied structure in the country. Its wall timbers are widely spaced, in contrast to the ‘close- studding’ that became fashionable later in the Middle Ages, but it contains archaic carpentry features such as notched-lap joints, passing braces and splayed scarf joints usually associated with 13th century halls and barns that were aisled like churches. The roof design is strikingly similar to that of nearby Abbas Hall in Great Cornard for which the timbers were felled in 1289. The scar of a low-walled but very wide aisled hall can still be seen internally, along with the arched recess of a service door, but the present hall and parlour cross-wing were rebuilt on the same site in circa 1420. The older wing appears to have been given a matching new facade at the same, but this is now plastered externally.
At the beginning of the 16th century a new rear parlour and first floor ‘solar’ with carved decoration of the very best quality was inserted into the middle of the 15th century parlour wing, leaving the latter’s rear bay intact. A large but plainly-built new range was added to the rear of the 13th century wing at approximately the same time; this contained a single, undivided chamber on its upper storey with three rooms below that were entered from the courtyard. The central room appears to have been designed as a commercial dye-house as cloth manufacturing was the only source of significant wealth in Tudor Nayland and its ceiling contained a large aperture to accommodate an open furnace with smoke-blackened rafters and evidence of a louver above. The southern room of this wing overlapped what appears to have been the northern parlour of an entirely separate late-15th century property that was jettied towards the church on the east. A small additional early-16th century structure, jettied to front and rear, was built to link the corner of this formerly separate property with the 15th century parlour wing, thereby enclosing the courtyard.
The ownership of the building is unfortunately uncertain until it was named as ‘Grooms’ in the 1606 will of Andrew Parish, a Nayland clothier. It retained this name until the Edwardian restoration, when it was rechristened in honour of the Alston family of lawyers who acquired it in 1768, and remained in effective possession until 1968. The earlier name probably derives from the family of William Groom of Nayland, who left a will in 1475. Research into the builder of the fine rear parlour and solar, points towards two of the wealthiest clothiers in Nayland during the 1520s: John Payn and John Abell who died in 1526 and1523 respectively. The stained glass illustrates the connections of the Payn family which originated in Norfolk, but by 1573 the Payn Arms had been adopted by the Abell family, suggesting a marriage between the two. The Abells were far wealthier than the Payns, with extensive lands and manors across the region, and are more likely to have been responsible for the new work which is far above the usual standard of even the richest local merchants. John Abell’s eldest son, Thomas, became chaplain to Henry VIII’s queen Katharine of Aragon in the 1520s, publishing a book in her cause and spending several years in the Tower for his trouble – before being hung, drawn and quartered in 1540. Could Thomas have had a hand in the new work at Alston Court? The carved ceiling and jetty beams are certainly smothered in pomegranates – Katherine’s famous symbol – and the letter A carved on an original shield in the solar could be read as a multiple pun: a crowned A is a well- known medieval device for Amor Vincit Omnia (love conquers everything), worn as a badge by Chaucer’s Prioress, but it could also represent Abell, Aragon, and Anne Abell the young widow of John Abell. Every good house should retain a few unanswered questions.
Leigh Alston is an expert in old buildings, as was evident from his article last year, on Hold Farm. If you live in an old building and want to know more about it, why not contact him? He lives in Bures.
It is all too easy to inflict one’s opinion and tastes on others, particularly as regards a personal hobby horse, but organic wines are here to stay and despite their association with open-toed sandal-wearers, they represent a growing category on Adnams’ shelves.
Over the past twenty-odd years, organic wines have become a relevant part of Adnams’ buying ethos, and while we certainly endeavour not to force (or pour) them down our customers’ throats too literally or too often, they do warrant a mention lest this ethos be overlooked.
Whilst researching some background information on a new wine recently, I came across a short paragraph in the blurb of a Spanish winery, which reminded me what organic and sustainability are all about. Up in the foothills of the Sistema Iberico, the mountain range that runs from Navarra in the north to within sight of Valencia in the south, are vineyards as high as 850 meters above sea-level – an altitude that provides a superb environment for the slow ripening of organic grapes, ideal for making wines of flavour and distinction. This environment also offers the perfect home for the indigenous wildlife found here. About the fauna, which is present in their vineyards, the winery says…‘A wealth of ecosystems and landscapes, along with a non-intensive agriculture system, sustains a huge diversity of wildlife. There are abundant insects, particularly in the warm spring and summer months, when butterflies, bees, praying mantis and dragonfly can be found in a large number of vineyards. This is important for the pollination of our vines and for the rest of the food cycle. Reptiles and amphibians, including lizards, snakes and frogs, can also be found, although the most obvious species are the birds; it being common to see eagles, kites, owls and insectivores such as partridge, swallows and different types of finches. The mammals tend to be quite shy, although they can be seen at night: wild boar, foxes, hedgehogs, bats, hares, rodents and occasionally genets and martens in the mountain’. (A genet is a long, lean carnivore with a tail at least the length of its body: it resembles an elongated grey cat with dark spots and the face of a bush-baby – in case you wondered!)
All of which encapsulates to the letter why organic or bio-dynamic wines should matter. This ecosystem and food-chain exists entirely due to the fact that chemicals have never been used, whether to enrich the land, spray the weeds or treat the vines. Nature, when left to itself, provides its own deterrents. The crops will be smaller but the purity and flavour of the finished wines will be significantly greater, hence the marginally higher price that such a winery must charge in order to survive.
There are degrees of ‘organic-ness’, each of which is a step in the right direction. Thousands of young and enlightened growers across the world are adopting sustainable farming, as they take on family vineyards from parents who knew nothing other than ‘chemical warfare’. The French use the term ‘lutteraisonné’ -a kind of ‘reasoned battle’, whereby the vigneron only sprays the vines if and when he has to as a curative fall-back, rather than as part of aregular, preventative, spray programme. The soil is cultivated, resulting in an abundance of wild flowers, weeds and/or grass in some vineyards -infinitely preferable to barren, herbicide- treated earth, unable to sustain a solitary earthworm or gnat. ‘Organic’implies that – if necessary - expensive, natural treatments may be applied but chemical sprays are out of the question. ‘Bio-dynamic’is pretty much the same but has its roots, literally, in the teachings of Rudolf Steiner - an advocate of such practices in the early 1900s - and involves a very much more holistic approach to everything, from planting the vine to subsequent homeopathic soil treatments.
There is ‘a fourth way’, which deserves a mention, if only to stop its stuttering progress which we have witnessed over the past couple of years, and that is of the ‘natural wine’ movement. The small ‘n’ is intentional, because we don’t feel the need to draw attention to something which is nothing other than a fad, nor give it any unnecessary credibility, lest it should mislead our customers and the general public into believing that these wines are in some way a new and healthy option. They are not. It is a passing fashion, which has garnered column inches in the newspapers, and air-time on the radio, and generally speaking are pretty unpleasant wines. What sets ‘natural wine’ apart from organic or biodynamic wine is the absence of sulphur dioxide (SO2)in the wine, used since the year dot to stop it from oxidising. Its absence, in our experience of tasting, buying and drinking, produces wines that are lifeless, listless, lacklustre and rather dreary. As it is, the level of SO2 in white wine today is minimal, thanks to modern wine-making techniques and technology; and the level in red wine is minimal anyway, as the tannins act as the preservative. I suspect the perpetrators of natural wines are those seeking new markets, possibly because they can’t compete with the masses of excellent wines on the market, and are trying to carve out a niche for their own. Many of these wine- makers believe that their wines are best suited to food; all I can say is you certainly wouldn’t want to drink them on their own! I recently ate at a chic little diner in Paris’11th arrondissement, where each dish was paired with a different ‘natural wine’, and where all the flavours created at this iconic ‘modern French’ eatery, were simply muddied bi-oxidised wines. Apart from a scintillating glass of Champagne, which wasn’t natural, most of the six wines poured were the colour of, and tasted much like, scrumpy; a sure sign that the wine is sulphur free and heavily oxidised. You have been alerted!
We use a ‘Green Leaf’ symbol in our list to identify the wines that we know to be organic, although this must also involve a degree of mutual trust. Many of our growers don’t subscribe to the bureaucracy and expense involved in applying for organic certification so, in a way, our word has to be as good as their word, which has to be our bond. Whilst on the subject of wine categorisation, the rise and rise of Fairtrade wines over the past twenty years has thrown up another quandary. We are all very keen that a percentage of the price of a bottle should go towards improving the lives of disadvantaged vineyard farmers and workers, that they should get a fair price and improved rights and empowerment. What Fairtrade doesn’t necessarily cover is quality and, although this is generally getting better all the time in South Africa, there is arguably still a lot of less-than-brilliant wines being exported…so caveat emptor. For purity of flavour and enjoyment, I have listed a handful of current organic favourites – all of which are available at well under a tenner - where the difference is evident once the cork or screw-cap has been removed. All can be purchased in our shops, and Helen and her team at our Hadleigh store will undoubtedly enthuse further about their merits.Menade, a dry white from Rueda, with its electric green label, comes from northern Spain. It is purity personified, made from the local grape variety, Verdejo. Clean, fresh, citrusy - differently delicious.A pair of Sicilian wines from the Fedelewinery; the white is made from Catarratto and the red from Nero d’Avola – two varieties indigenous to the island -offering sun- drenched, full-flavoured, characterful wines; and from France, Domaine de la Séminaire, a Côtes-du-Rhône which is everything a Rhônered should be – spicy Grenache and Syrah, wrapped in southern warmth and slippery red fruit flavours.And if you couldn’t give a fig about organics but instead wanted to try a really good Fairtrade wine from Wellington, in the Cape, crack open a bottle of the Phambili Pinotage/Viognier – an intriguing hybrid of South Africa’s ‘own’ red grape variety, Pinotage, blended with the white Viognierof northern Rhône origin, which gives this wine delicious aromatics and adds a bundle of flavour. This and the Phambili Chenin Blanc are our first Fairtrade wines to date. Here, eighteen formerly disadvantaged workers at the Wamakersvallei Winery have established a separate trading entity, the INKQUEBELA PHAMBILI EMPOWERMENT TRUST. In total, 87 people, including dependents, stand to benefit from this project. Bravo and bon degustation!
Adnams’ Fine Wine Manager
Rob Chase has previously contributed to the Magazine, and clearly his knowledge of wine is exceptional. Adnams have agreed to continue to offer Members a 10% discount on everything in their shop in Hadleigh as long as it is not on special offer. They have some very special wines, and their own Red and White Burgundy are difficult to beat. I also find their White Fizz and Pink Fizz are an excellent drink for a party and a lot cheaper than champagne, although I have to say that the Adnams Champagne is excellent, and reasonably priced before the 10% discount! Helen is the Manager and has a list of Members.
The Story of Sparrow’s Farm, Great Henny – Part 2
Following the article about Sparrow’s Farm in 2014, I would like to explore some more of the history of the Farm in the 19th century and also describe the work to bring the farm into a productive state, as well as enhancing the wildlife conservation.
I have had an opportunity to research the history of the farm further; in particular to study Edmund Cook’s remarkable record of farming over 50 years between 1837 and 1887. This was recorded in his set of 50 annual account books which are preserved in the Essex Record Office. I also read the extensive study based on these records. This was carried out by Valerie Martindale in 1965 when she studied Edmund Cook’s farming practices and his success through different economic and farming conditions over more than half a century.
Sparrow's Farmhouse from the west
Edmund Cook was born on 19th October 1804 at Sparrow’s Farm to Edmund and Mary Cook. He was the second child and had an elder sister, Sarah Anne, and a younger brother, Jacob Manning. The family had owned Sparrow’s Farm for several generations as his father Edmund Cook senior was born there. There is evidence that his grandfather, also Edmund Cook, ran the farm and extended the large kitchen and bakery to the north of the farmhouse (now Sparrows Cottage) in 1747. The initials E.C. 1747 are inscribed in the plasterwork in the attic now covered by a later addition to the building. This addition was possibly a cheese room, evidenced by the traces of extensive shelving in the room, which may have been used for maturing cheese.
It is not known who built the large 10 bay barn at Sparrow’s Farm, but it was certainly central to the farming of the large acreage farmed by Edmund Cook, including Grove Farm, Sparrow’s Farm and parts of Hill Farm and Great Hagbush. The barn is listed as being 17th century, but expert opinion would make it possibly later than this so it could have been built by Edmund Cook’s father or grandfather. It certainly does not appear on the Chapman and Andre map of Essex published in I777 (see below), although this map is not detailed and is inaccurate about the topographical details of the local area. It is interesting that the farm remained in the Cook family until the death of Daphne Machin Goodall in 2008 at the age of 93. Her mother Margaret Goodall was a descendant of the Cook Family. It seems therefore likely that the family had owned the farm for at least 300 years or more.
Edmund Cook married Alice Pung, daughter of the widow Alice Pung of Grove Farm Great Henny, on 19th May 1835 when he was 30. The marriage set up Edmund very well, as the newly -weds were given Grove Farm, thus bringing Sparrow’s Farm and Grove Farm together as one holding. Further legacies and acquisitions led to Edmund Cook owning 237 acres, 0 roods and 39 poles and eventually with rented land farming 428 acres, 1 rood and 2 poles, hence his need for a large barn and additional stabling for the 16 horses needed to work the farm.
Original outside wall of Sparrow’s Cottage with initials ‘EC’ and date ‘1747’ – built by Edmund Cook’s Grandfather, also Edmund Cook.
Original outside wall of Sparrow’s Cottage with initials ‘EC’ and date ‘1747’ – built by Edmund Cook’s Grandfather, also Edmund Cook. Edmund Cook employed about 21 men; at that time the wages were 10s 6d per week for the best men down to 2s 6d for a boy. For example, he paid his head horseman John Braybrook 10s 6d and the other 4 horsemen, all from the Humm family, were paid 10s a week. Three horsemen were based at Sparrow’s farm, with 10 horses, and 2 at Grove Farm with 6 horses. The stables for the horses are still present adjoining the east side of Sparrow’s barn and there is a fine brick stable behind the farmhouse where the riding horses were kept.
At the time that Edmund Cook started farming in 1835, the country was just emerging from a serious agricultural depression which followed the farming prosperity of the Napoleonic wars. There was much unemployment among farm workers. Edmund Cook (senior) gave evidence about the Parish of Great Henny in 1834 to “His Majesty’s Commission for Enquiring into the Administration of the Poor Law”. He reported that in the Parish of Great Henny there were 40 more farm labourers than were needed on the farms in the village and that up to 20 men were, at times, in need of Parish relief. The impression from the account books is that Edmund Cook (junior) had the same men working for him for many years and that, although he did not pay the highest wages, he treated the men well and there is mention in his accounts of building cottages for them. He clearly liked having families working for him, as he employed 5 members of the Humm family and 3 members of the Tuffin family amongst his workers.
Edmund Cook ran a mixed farm, although he had mostly arable land. He also kept a considerable number of sheep, cattle and pigs as well as the horses, which provided the motive power on the farm. At Michaelmas 1837, when he began his farm accounts, he had 142 ewes, 91 lambs, 3 cows and 32 Steers, 64 pigs including 8 breeding sows. There is mention of him having 44 acres of pastureland, which would be a rather small amount of land to keep this number of animals, especially taking into account the need for winter feed. Edmund Cook operated a 4 year rotation of crops contrasting with the modern 3 year rotation. The rotation followed the following sequence: 1st year Barley, Rye or Oats; 2nd year Roots (turnips or mangolds); 3rd year Wheat; 4th year Clover, although this was also varied with beans. It is likely that he was able to graze his animals on the clover crop part of the rotation as he would have about 90 acres of this each year. This explains why he was able to keep quite a large number of livestock and sell a good number each year. As agricultural conditions deteriorated after 1870 from the previous good years, he increased the amount of sheep and cattle and decreased the arable land.
In each Farm account book Edmund Cook lists all his fields and the crops planted each year in line with his four year rotation. We have been interested to discover and use the old field names, which are recorded on the Parish Tithe maps, so we can follow what he was growing in the same fields more than 150 years ago. Many of the field names refer to the particular quality of the soil conditions in each field, while others have historical connections.
Sparrow’s Farm from Chapman and André map of Essex 1777.
We discovered that Leaden Croft is well named because it has a thick layer of heavy clay which becomes very heavy in the winter. Equally Swamper, being in the bottom of the valley, becomes wet and marshy; while Stonefield is dry and stony. Each field on the farm has a very different character as the soils change radically in a small area in the glaciated landscape. It seems that Cook had to employ a lot of labour on draining the fields, as during the year one man was engaged for many months on water furrowing which seemed to be a term used to describe digging and clearing field drains. We have certainly discovered how wet the fields become in the winter months.
One man spent several days a month catching rats, and a mole-catcher was employed for £6, 18s and 3d per year, dividing his time between Sparrow’s Farm and Grove Farm.
Looking at the records for each week, it is striking how much hard work had to go into hoeing the various crops in the days before chemical weed control. Equally, before Cook’s purchase of a threshing machine in 1857, many hours were spent each week throughout the year threshing and winnowing the crops. The beautiful old herringbone gault brick threshing floors survive in the barn midstreys where the large doors could be opened to provide a draught for winnowing the corn. On a trip to Ethiopia a few years ago, we saw exactly the same technique of winnowing the corn to separate it from the chaff by throwing it into the breeze.
When he purchased the Threshing Machine in 1857, Cook was one of the first farmers in the area to have one. It required a large number of men to keep it going, carrying water for the steam traction engine, feeding in the sheaves into the machine and stacking the straw. Then the threshing was carried out in concentrated periods rather than being spread throughout the year.
Edmund Cook continued his innovations in farming and, following the purchase of the threshing machine, in 1865 he acquired a Hornsby’s Patent Reaping and Mowing machine and a Boby’s Patent Corn Screening machine. These machines enabled the harvest to go much more quickly, although he still had the whole of the farm workforce doing the harvest but in a shorter time. It is noticeable that, in those days, the harvest began much later. In 1838, the harvest began on Monday 13th August and all the workers were fully engaged with this for 4 weeks. That year, the harvest brought in a total of £1,180, 7s, 4½d, which was the major income from the farm, although the livestock sold brought in an income of £627, 3s and 10d.
Apart from the 5 horsemen, one man spent all of his time looking after sheep of which there were about 230 in 1838. Edmund Cook does not relate the breed of sheep that he kept, but most likely they were Suffolk Sheep. He fed them on turnips in the winter. He mentions that the cows kept for milk were Alderney Cows (now an extinct breed) and he describes having Welsh Cows and Pollard Scots Cows. There is no mention of Suffolk Red Polls at that time.
Edmund Cook was generous in his gratitude for a successful harvest and he held a large harvest home party each year. In 1848 he entertained 178 people – 71 men, 71 women and 36 children. A large tent was erected to house the party. Each man was allowed 6 pints of beer and each boy 4 pints, so it would have been a lively event. He does not record what the ladies had to drink. He provided a generous meal of mutton and a pudding. The whole party cost him £29, 0s, 7d.
As Sparrow’s Farm is heavily wooded and contains damp meadows and a variety of soils, and had not been farmed actively for many years, in Daphne Machin-Goodall’s old age it became overgrown with a richness of wildlife. Bat surveys have showed the presence of colonies of Daubenton’s bats, barbastelle bats and noctule bats (our largest native species), as well as the more common pipistrelle bats. In the summer months, we are visited by the hobby, which is fast enough to hunt the noctule bats when they come out at dusk and can hunt swifts and swallows on the wing. We have a resident pair of buzzards who are nesting locally and always to be heard calling over the meadows. This winter there have been a number of snipe in the wet meadows and we have seen woodcock in flight.
Woldsman Admiral, the Red Poll bull, at Sparrow’s Farm.
On the north of the farm, there is an area of ancient woodland called Nub Hill, which contains great pollard oaks and is rich in bluebells and dog’s mercury, a species indicative of ancient woodland. The overgrown wood and scrub land is an ideal habitat for nightingales and, in May, up to six males can be heard singing; the more experienced singers outdoing the younger males with the richness of their song.
At Bures Mill, we have established a regular pattern of school visits from Bures Primary School and other local schools, where there is an interest in farming and natural history as well as the history of farming. We hope we will be able to extend these farm visits to Sparrow’s Farm, because of the interest of a traditional farm and the variety of the wildlife.
Red Poll cows and calves at Sparrow’s Farm.
The small herd of Red Poll cows has thrived well at Sparrow’s Farm and we have extended the shelter sheds on the back of the barn to accommodate them for the winter months, when the land is too wet. The winter feeding of the cattle has required us to put down proper hard tracks around the barn to prevent the vehicles becoming bogged down in the wet ground during winter. Sparrow’s Barn has proved an excellent place for lambing and, last year, we had 120 sheep lambing ( Llanwenog ewes and Welsh Mountain Mules) in the whole of the barn, with 240 lambs born in that period with very small losses. The Red Poll cows have produced some fine calves, which have been sold to Norfolk and Aberdeenshire.
The fencing on the farm was derelict and we have now managed to re-fence all the fields. This has required about 9½km of fencing and 28 new wooden field gates. We have used chestnut for the fence stakes and, in many places, alders for straining posts. We are grateful to the Chambers brothers of Bures for their excellent work on the fencing, and on weatherproof tracks and yards. The fencing has required us to cut back large areas of brambles, which had invaded the field edges by as much as 10-15 yards. We have also cleared back some of the invasion of alder trees from the wet Loshes Meadow, although we have left several acres under a thick growth of alders. We have cleared many ditches, which have been silted up and filled with the spoil from the numerous badger sets.
We have planted 800 metres of new hedging to replace hedges which had deteriorated or were grubbed out in the past. We have used a mixture of native hedging, including a lot of hazel as well as the usual hawthorn, blackthorn, spindle, dog rose and field maple. We have included hazel to encourage the dormouse population and we have planted hazel in the areas of woodland, too. In addition, we have planted 200-300 trees in the areas of woodland and are felling the Norway Spruce conifers in the overgrown plantation to encourage the mixed deciduous trees. We have planted more trees in the ancient Nub Hill woodland to replace areas that had become bare and overgrown with elder scrub. We are in the process of erecting barn owl nesting boxes, as we have a regular visiting population of barn owls. We have also planted a dozen black poplars from local stock in very wet areas at the bottom of the valley. All the new hedging planted last winter has made good growth. As we have learned from our experience of hedge planting at Bures, it is important to provide the hedge with a heavy mulch of wood chippings to give it a chance against the strong competition from hedgerow weeds – particularly nettles. The fields at Sparrow’s Farm have benefited from being grazed by the sheep, particularly the Hebridean Sheep who have a predilection for ragwort and docks, but ragwort remains a problem that is not easily eradicated.
We have learned a lot about how to manage the land and reading Edmund Cook’s account books has helped us to understand how to farm it. In contrast to him, we will have very little arable land and much help from machinery. We hope to find the right balance of sheep and cattle and to allow the natural meadows to flourish. We have moved on considerably in the last year, but there are still many tasks to tackle to bring the farm and its buildings into a good shape for the future.
Last year, Nick Temple, gave us a first glimpse into the farm he had bought in Great Henny. I had driven past the house on several occasions over the years, and I felt sure that more lay behind what was visible, as has now been shown. I am sure there is a lot more that will be discovered in the future. Nick has previously written about Bures Mill, where he lives.
On and Off The Antiques Roadshow
Many of you will remember ‘Going for a Song’. It was the forerunner of ‘The Antiques Roadshow’ and ran from 1965 to 1977 with Arthur Negus as its main antiques valuer and Max Robertson as its presenter. Arthur went on to record a pilot programme for the first ‘Antiques Roadshow’ in 1977, which proved so successful that it has continued in almost the same format ever since.
The programme’s first presenter was Bruce Parker (of ‘Nationwide’ fame) until 1979. Angela Rippon followed for a brief period and then Hugh Scully took over for a long spell until 2000. Arthur stayed with the programme until 1983 when he retired. He died in 1985.
My involvement could be said to have started in the late 1960s when I was working on the main reception counter at Sotheby’s. In those days the specialists would value items at the counter and it was an invaluable learning experience. From reception I did a short stint in the silver department where it was easy to learn the marks, although I’ve always found silver somewhat cold and characterless. I then progressed to the furniture department where I learned about pre-Victorian furniture - anything after George IV was considered ‘modern’ in the 1960s! Early furniture has remained my favourite discipline.
In those days antique dolls and automata were included in the back of the furniture catalogues, and one of the furniture directors, Charles Walford, took it upon himself to catalogue them. Charles was very generous with his knowledge and taught me a great deal, and although I have never been a ‘dolly’ sort of person, I became interested in the domestic history behind them.
In the 1970s Sotheby’s had an affiliation with a west country auction house and one of their specialists sent Charles a photograph of a doll asking if it was Chinese. I recognised this doll and said that it was of international importance and should be included in a London auction. Charles and I were duly instructed to get on a train to Cornwall to collect this doll and bring it to London. On the train Charles suggested we go to the restaurant car for a cup of tea, and there he told me that, as I now knew as much if not more about the subject as he did, he had been instructed by the directors to ask me if I would like to start a department devoted entirely to dolls and automata. Of course I said I should be delighted!
The west country doll was the star lot in my first sale in 1982 (See Illustration 1) and indeed created a first auction record for a bisque doll of £6,000. In the Daily Telegraph the next day there was a photograph of me holding the doll, our faces in profile looking at each- other with the caption ‘Bunny Campione with the new world record doll (Bunny on the left)!’ It was in fact a rare Jumeau ‘character’ doll, mould number 208, French circa 1889.
In 1983 I went on to stage the first Teddy bear auction and, after publicity of further auction records, more and more dolls, automata and soft toys started to be brought to the Roadshow. As nobody else wanted or was able to value them, my name was put forward for the Roadshow.
My first ARS was horrible – I think it was in a sports hall in Bournemouth. David Battie kindly brought me a pile of magic lantern slides, glass in wooden frames, and asked me if I’d like to record them. I gratefully accepted and gingerly took them from him, but one of them was loose in its frame - it slithered to the ground and smashed into smithereens, whereupon I handed the rest back to David, burst into tears and rushed to the loo! What on earth was I doing on this terrifying programme?
It took me a long time to stop being extremely nervous, and even now I find it a nerve-wracking experience. It was only when I realised that the people with whom I was filming were much more nervous than I was that I started to relax a little. Sometimes these people have been waiting for several hours, during which time both men and women have to be professionally made up, and it is not unknown for some women to go off to the hairdresser. Most of these people have never been on television so it can certainly be a daunting experience. Hugh Scully used to say it was a conversation between two people with 14 million eavesdroppers!
For anyone who has never been to the Roadshow it is a fairly sizeable operation. People I’ve met who have been to it all say they were amazed at the enormous amount of organising and professional planning that must have gone into it. An average attendance is 3,000 visitors during the one day, and apparently the number of objects valued can be as many as 20,000. There are approximately 30 technicians/ directors and crew, and 20 specialists. Most of the filming is outside now, whereas in the old days we filmed in sports halls as well as inside large houses. Of course the British weather can be very unkind, and it is on those occasions when we have to crowd into a tent which is never large enough to accommodate all of us and the public as well.
One of the worst outside broadcasts was at the Castle of Mey on the north coast of Scotland, home of the late Queen Mother. Not only did it rain heavily the whole day, but the wind got up to such as extent that you could hardly hear yourself speak for the pounding of the rain while filming in the tent. The organisers had been worried that we wouldn’t get enough public to come to the venue so they laid on a ferry from Orkney for the day. The only trouble was that by the end of filming, when the ferry was due to take them back, the wind had become so strong that the ferry was cancelled and the poor people had to find accommodation in the surrounding villages!
For anyone coming to a show for the first time, having parked your car, maybe a few hundred yards away, you start by queueing. In Accrington many years ago the queue started at 5.30a.m. During the night, the temperature had plummeted to minus 10 degrees, and by the time the gates opened there was a woman who had a metal synthetic ear which had frozen to her head. Before she was taken to hospital by St. John’s Ambulance (always on duty) she insisted on having her porcelain bowl valued by David Battie!
Twelve years ago, for the ARS’s 25th birthday, one man was determined to be the earliest person to queue on the day and that was 12.01am! He was a baker and had baked a special birthday cake to present to the show. There was a sugar Teddy bear on the top and he wanted to present the cake to me and Michael Aspel. Michael, a little unkindly I thought, insisted I give him a hug – not a pleasant experience with someone who has been up all night and was sweating with excitement...
At the head of the queue is the Reception desk where four general valuers ask to see what you have brought along to be valued. If you have a piece of porcelain you are given a slip of paper printed ‘ceramics and porcelain’; if you have a picture you are given a ‘picture’ slip. If you also have a piece of jewellery and a book - there is no limit to the number of pieces people can bring - you end up with four slips of paper and then start queueing to see a specialist at one of those tables.
It can take several hours of standing, sometimes on concrete, sometimes on wet grass and very often in the rain before people are seen. I once filmed a 90 year-old with her doll who had been queueing for four hours! She was a bit deaf so I don’t think she heard me value her doll at £800, but she pulled the doll to her face and kissed it and said ‘I’ll never sell you, darling Rosalie’. It made good filming.
We specialists are always encouraged to find out as much as we can about the history behind a piece we want to film, but we never tell the owners the value or anything else about it until we film. Reactions are therefore always spontaneous. Out of approximately 27 reels of film only about two are used for any one show. Rather surprisingly, we specialists never know if we have been cut, while the person who has been filmed will be told in advance if he or she is on and the date it will be shown.
Large pieces which cannot easily be carried to a Show are brought in the day before. We call this the ‘Furniture Round’. Two months before filming, advertisements are put in stationers, shops and libraries of the nearest town, encouraging the public to send to the BBC in Bristol a photograph with dimensions of anything too big to bring on the day, and a removal van and driver with a general antiques valuer visits each home. Sometimes they go to pick up a table and might see an interesting picture on the wall and suggest they bring that too. The owners are promised the pieces will be valued but not necessarily filmed. They are also given an entry ticket so they don’t have to queue.
There are two types of camera: one is called a PSC (or portable single camera), together with a director and sound and lighting technicians. This team can film short pieces without too much waiting around for the public. It is fine for a short piece which doesn’t need too close a shot. It is one of these teams who film the presenter going round the venue. The other film crew is a much larger set-up with around four or five cameras, two producers, directors, floor manager, lighting and sound technicians. There is also a producer’s assistant who monitors the list of filming every quarter of an hour throughout the day.
If someone brings a really exciting piece to the Show towards the end of the afternoon it is more than likely that the filming list is full and it has to be turned down. This happened when we made two programmes in the Channel Islands, Guernsey on the Tuesday followed by Jersey two days later on the Thursday. Eric Knowles particularly wanted to film a rare porcelain item in Jersey, but unfortunately the woman brought it in too late, so the producer told him to suggest to her that she bring it to Jersey, where he would make sure it was filmed. When Eric relayed this message the woman was heard to exclaim “Young man, if you think I’m going to let myself be seen by all my friends filming on Jersey you are very much mistaken!” (There is still an underlying hostility between the two islands, ‘old’ money and ‘new’!)
On Guernsey a very old lady brought an 18th Century wooden doll. We filmed this on the PSC and just before we started filming I asked her if the doll had a name and she said it didn’t. The camera showed the whole doll, with me pointing out various things including the wooden hip joints and the lack of any knickers, thus emulating 18th Century ladies of the day. I then pulled her dress down at the bust to show her moulded wooden bosoms and pointing out that the dress was 19th Century while the doll was 18th Century.
At the end of each recording the camera has to zoom in for close-ups of all the places we have picked out, which are known as ‘cut-aways’. Just before we started filming the old lady said to me “Do you mind if I call my doll Bunny?”; of course I said I should be delighted. The director continued the filming, asking if I could pull up ‘Bunny’s’ skirts again to show that ‘Bunny’ wasn’t wearing any knickers, and to pull down the top to show ‘Bunny’s’ bosoms! By this time we were all falling about giggling so much that the piece was eventually cut, probably due to our behaviour!
I also unwittingly caused some amusement at Layer Marney. An extremely large Teddy bear was put on the bonnet of Nick Charrington’s vintage car on one side of me, with the owner on the other side, an audience of several people standing behind us (see Illustration 2). The floor manager’s arm indicated and I started filming. Looking at the Teddy bear I said “I’ve never in 25 years had one as big as that before”, and I turned to look at the owner who was convulsing with laughter, as were the onlookers behind me. I suddenly realised what I’d said and compounded it by saying “I mean a Teddy bear”! The producer e-mailed me the day before it was shown, apologising but saying that it was too amusing to cut!
At The University of East Anglia I was singled out to film a large group of porcelain canaries which a man had collected over the years. Very appropriate with Norwich City called ‘The Canaries’! (See Illustration 3).
In Northern Ireland when we filmed at Mount Stewart, a delightful Irishman brought in a Teddy Bear. He said it had been kept in a bag in a cupboard and a dealer had suggested he take the bear to London and perhaps he could get £2,000 for it. I recognised this bear as a rare Steiff ‘Clown’ bear of 1928 and told the owner to add a nought. He reacted wonderfully and said in his lovely lilting Irish accent ‘Will you ask somebody to take me home in a wheelchair?’ ! (See Illustration 4).
Sometimes between recording a piece and when it is shown to the public, the owner has decided to sell it. The Mount Stewart clown bear was just such a one. I get all the toy catalogues and in a Christie’s catalogue what should be coming up for auction but this bear. Of course my valuation of £20,000 was pretty high and it worried me that if the bear was knocked down in the saleroom for £10,000 or less, I would look a fool. The day of the auction arrived and I nervously hid behind a pillar. The bidding hovered around £10,000 and then stopped. I gulped. Finally it continued, and eventually the hammer came down at £20,000, which, with the buyer’s premium, was £22,000. I was saved.
I love filming in Ireland; we’ve had some quirky and amusing stories there. At one venue first thing in the morning when the doors open at 9am an Irishman was at the head of the queue and Eric Knowles valued his tea- set. By 3pm the same man was again at the head of the queue, with the same tea-set, and when Eric said he thought he had told him all he wanted to know about it, the man said “Oh yes, I know, but I thought you were such a nice man I’d come and see you again”!
The BBC has filmed many Roadshows overseas. In each case the host country pays for us to go there so the costs don’t come out of the British public’s purse. We’ve been to Jamaica, Scandinavia, France, Belgium, Holland, Australia and Canada.
In this year’s recent filming we went to Barrington Court in Somerset, and two sisters brought in a most unusual Steiff starfish stool (you try saying that when you are filming!) The talkative sister looked just like a blonde version of Liza Minnelli (See Illustration 4)
Many letters are written to the BBC about the show or the specialists, some are personal. The BBC forward these to us and reply to the sender saying that we may not reply. I’ve had letters from two different prisoners in different prisons, who both said they wanted to be my pen-pals! Antiques Roadshow venues for 2015 will be available soon on www.bbc.co.uk/antiquesroadshow
I am grateful for yet another article from Bunny Campione who happens to live in the same village as myself, Lamarsh. She, and her husband, Iain Grahame, have been regular contributors, and Iain has an article on Badgers elsewhere in this issue.
Unlocking the Artist Within:
Fine Art Landscape Photography
A view across the Stour Valley from Hickbush - Fine art?
Some amongst us might be alarmed at the idea of fine art photography. After all, our valleys have been and are blessed with some notably fine artists. Patrick George’s painting Hickbush (1961–5) hangs in the Tate Gallery and can be seen by Googling “Tate Hickbush”. As arrogant as my opinion might seem, I would not have been happy to produce such an image though this is probably an opinion born of ignorance. I clearly do not get the esoteric aspects of the painting though I understand a recent Prime Minister to have had this painting hung in 10 Downing Street. Clearly Mr Brown did get it. I however am happy with my image above after much faddling on my computer. Our landscape views are highly layered and that’s what I hope my picture says.
So for those of us who are not artists, this article provides a look at yet another way to engage with and enjoy our valley landscapes and go on to produce minor works of art simply to please ourselves. I should start by stating that despite the content of past articles, this one is pylon free and is more a response to my need to capture and speak of the beauty I find in the Colne and Stour valleys. I am also motivated by the sense of irony that flowed from having played a very small part in pushing for an extension to the AONB: I realised that there is a genuine dearth of high quality photography that readily speaks of why we see our valleys as outstandingly beautiful. Indeed the proposal for the extension of the AONB took the form of words - not pictures - because that was what was called for by Natural England.
A view across the Henny landscape from Hickbush – A view Patrick George must have known. The nearby tree curls around the view framing it and lending it an air of intimacy.
Having been a keen amateur photographer for over forty years I have concluded that, instead of photographing things I don’t like in support of various campaigns, I would prefer to do something more positive and try to capture and represent the loveliness of our country- side with my camera and computer. What follows is intended to be empowering. The taking of photographs teaches us to look at the world from a different perspective. Sure, you can simply take a snap that shows others what something looks like. But you can also capture an image with a view to taking it home, working on it, developing it and ending up with something that does far more, telling of your response to the landscape and what you find inspiring in it.
All of this has become possible because of the coming together of affordable technologies. Modern digital cameras, even modest ones, can capture the starting point for a beautiful image. Combine this with the software that either comes with or is cheaply installed on your computer, and you have a system for producing images that can please you and say things about your revelling in the natural beauty that surrounds us that words alone can never amply describe.
The Stour at Rodbridge
Here I was trying to get something of the feel of Gainsborough’s skies into my picture.
The Stour at Rodbridge
Now this is no technical article. If Santa brought you a nice new camera for Christmas, then you are half way toward owning the tools through which to discover the fine artist within you. I always find it easiest to learn about things that enable me to do the things I want to do. To work out what we want to do, we need inspiring. Try going online to 500px.com. There you will immediately find stunning examples of fine art landscape photography. If you think “yes, I would like to be able to do that” then go to YouTube and search "landscape photography". Photographers such as Serge Ramily give free tutorials on processing your pictures on a computer. And there are now programs that enable you to tweak your pictures to reveal what you really feel you saw in a scene. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of all of this is that a couple of evenings tinkering and learning can have almost any of us producing quite remarkably pleasing results.
In my opinion, the best of the current generation of photo editing software is Adobe Lightroom. This provides the capability to bring out the sky, lighten the landscape, make the coloursmore rich and make all manner of other changes in an easy and intuitive way. And that’s the important bit - the software works intuitively and isn’t horribly technical.
The Stour below Lamarsh.
Processed in Lightroom the motivation for producing images like this can’t be so very different to Gainsborough’s in painting "Wooded Landscape with a Cottage and Shepherd” - available to view by Googling this title. And yes, I did edit out the man-made structures. But then, Constable painted out the owner of the little dog in The Hay Wain because it spoiled the composition. Take a close look at the painting at the National Gallery and you will see this for yourself. So there’s a strong artistic precedent for editing out the things you don’t want to look at.
There is an argument that technology democratises photography, making it possible for us all to produce something which is for ourselves, rather special and more than just reportage. Gainsborough produced landscapes for the love of it - why shouldn’t we do the same? Why shouldn’t we edit our works of art for the same reasons as Gainsborough did?
You might now ask why I think other readers want to produce inspiring images of our landscape? Well in response to my earlier call for images of the Stour Valley for a website to support the application to extend the AONB, I received, amongst other beautiful images, one of the view across to Cornard from Lamarsh. Its colours were boosted and the picture included a frame, surely a suggestion that its creator saw it as art rather than simple reportage.
I cannot paint a picture to satisfy even myself. But I can take a half decent photograph. Amongst the readership of this magazine, I feel sure I’m far from alone. Within this article are images taken around the Stour and then processed on my laptop computer to produce what you see. I claim no artistic virtue in them but some would be regarded as fine art images in the world of photography. Let me be frank, if I can do this, so can you - if you want to.
The Stour towards Bures.
Another aspect of photography that is of enormous value comes from the fact that it causes you to look at things differently. A camera puts a frame around a view. Where should the horizon be? Where should strong diagonal lines exit the picture? Should I include near objects in a distant view? These are all issues of composition just as they are for a painter. The "rule of thirds" that says you should place the horizon two thirds of the way up a picture where the landscape is the main subject and one third of the way up what is essentially a skycape is just as relevant to photography as it is to painting landscapes. The strange thing is that if you take an interest in this, you will find yourself looking for composition in views whilst out walking even when you have left your camera at home. You will also quickly learn (if you haven’t already) that just after dawn and just before sundown are magical times to explore our valleys, when the light brings special qualities to what you see no matter where you left your camera.
The Stour below Lamarsh
The Stour towards Bures. An image reduced to a cartoon like quality with inexpensive computer software.
A young swan drift gently down the Stour towards Bures.
Thomas Gainsborough captured the nature of our landscapes in a way that few cameras can. To start with, he could balance up the depth of colour in the sky and landscape lifting the shadows to provide detail and colour where the camera alone delivers blackness or a bleached out white sky. Modern digital photography brings together camera, computer and human to enable to get much closer to providing you with the ability to represent what you see, more as Gainsborough did.
A young swan drifts gently down the Stour toward Bures. My computer enabled me to darken a bleached out sky to reveal its true colours whilst at the same time allowing me to lighten the foreground, add colour to the leaves on the trees and sit the swan in a pool of light rather than hide in the shadows.
Today, we live in valley landscapes that are better maintained, better understood and perhaps more beautiful than they have been ever since photography was invented a century after Gainsborough walked our valley. We all seem to own cameras and computers these days and learning how to achieve remarkably beautiful results with them working together is just a free YouTube tutorial video away. This being so, the biggest question for me is why are there not more wonderful inspiring images of the Colne and Stour Valley landscapes washing around the internet? I guess we just enjoy it for what we find in it already. But I feel inspired to tell the world that this place is wonderful - look!
In fine art photography we have a way to speak of how we feel about our countryside as well as showing what it looks like. In photography we all have yet another way to revel in its beauty. We are all surrounded by a fabulous subject and blessed with the toys that can enable us to capture images of it that can please ourselves and perhaps inspire others. There really is no excuse for not getting out there and rejoicing in our surroundings and showing it through our own fine artistry.
When we think of the name, David Holland, the association is with that invasive species the Pylons! David has been a leading light in opposing the next line of Pylons, which have been put on hold. However do not kid yourself, they will re-emerge, sooner than you might hope. Once again CSCA will support David and work with others to defend our fragile environment.
Badgers – love’em, or hate’em?
Despite the fact that very few people in this county have ever seen one – road deaths excluded – it is hard to think of an animal that currently arouses such strong feelings as the badger. On one side are the many wildlife lovers who see poor ‘Brock’ as a much persecuted and maligned creature. On the other side are farmers whose livelihoods are threatened by the increasing incidence of TB, and people whose lands or lawns are home to the badgers’ favourite diet of the earthworm.
Prior to 1908 badgers had precious few friends. Badger baiting and badger digging were still commonplace activities, and keepers trapped or shot any creature that they considered a threat to their precious game birds. That year, however, saw the first publication of ‘Wind in The Willows’ by my namesake Kenneth Grahame. Since then children and adults of all ages have revelled in the timeless adventures of Mole, Ratty (a water vole), Toad and Badger, the last named destined to become the emblem of the wildlife trusts.
Enter now Lord ‘Boofy’ Arran, whose wife (a cousin of mine by marriage) at one time held the world land speed record. ‘Boofy’ was the prime mover of two bills, both of which were finally enacted by Parliament. The first was the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, that liberalised homosexuality, while the second was the 1973 Badgers Act, which finally gave Mr. Badger legal protection from persecution.
(Arran used to delight in telling his friends that his sole parliamentary contribution consisted of two acts, one of which prevented people badgering buggers, while the other prevented people buggering badgers).
This legal protection cannot in itself explain the phenomenal population explosion of these animals that has occurred in many parts of Britain, especially in the last twenty or thirty years. One factor, however, is undoubtedly the scientifically accepted fact that a species can multiply or decrease in direct correlation to its food supply. Apart from the huge increase of chemical fertilizers, pig-, cow-, and horse-muck have never before been so liberally applied to the land, be it farm or garden. This has brought with it a massive increase in the earthworm population, of which a single badger can consume over two hundred in a night.
Speaking personally, I must confess to having a love-hate relationship with these creatures, of which we probably have around thirty on this reserve. Many people, young and old, have enjoyed magical summer evenings, sitting quietly with me and watching the delightful antics of our badgers and their cubs. When, as is often the case, I go up there on my own, the cubs are even more confiding. Last year I nearly lost my shoe one evening. I had put a dollop of honey on it and one cub wasn’t content to just lick it off! On occasions when they dig up the lawn, however, my language becomes unprintable.
Once again Iain has written an interesting slant on a controversial subject. There is no doubt that the badger population is, in my view, getting too great. A couple of years ago I could take you to over thirty setts within half a mile of my house. Why do the public love them so, when they only come out at night, and they never see them? Their only predator is a motor vehicle.
Elsing Hall is thought to have been built in about 1470 on the site of an even earlier house; possibly 11th or 13th century. It is surrounded by a working moat and the remains of old fortification walls, a corner tower and a gatehouse are still visible today. The modern day gardens were established in the 1980s by Shirley Cargill. Shirley had a particular love of old English roses and a multitude of varieties are still present to this day, many giving off truly marvelous scents. The current owners arrived in 2006 and, whilst respecting the wonderful legacy of Shirley Cargill, have slowly developed the gardens to their current state. Some new features have been introduced and other modifications made. The moat has been cleaned out to restore it to its former glory, providing a magnificent setting for the house and gardens. A mound has been constructed out of some of the sediment from the moat and planted with Lonicera Nitida with a spiral path. A new peony parterre has been created and the Victorian greenhouse restored. In addition much new planting has taken place giving interest from early Spring right through to the Autumn.
Corpusty Mill Garden covers five acres by the River Bure in Norfolk.
It has evolved slowly since the 1960s and is in a blend of styles both formal and romantic with lush planting. One of its features is a series of Follies - a Grotto, Gothic Tower and Classical Pavilion, and water features prominently throughout the garden in ponds, a lake, streams and fountains.
It has appeared in many books and articles. The water mill at Corpusty stands on a very ancient site, as a mill was recorded here in the Domesday book. Dates of the current buildings range from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
A small garden existed here in the 1840s but it was not until the mid-1960s that the present garden began, on what then was a level and virtually treeless site. All the design work. planting and upkeep was carried out by John and Roger Last. A complex sequence of spaces was created to one side of the house; a main lawn with herbaceous planting with pools, a woodland garden, a water garden, a walled formal Mediterranean garden, and a contemporary rill garden. Those spaces were further enhanced by the design and building, again by John and Roger Last only, of several distinctive buildings, some of them follies; a gothic arch, a domed pavilion, a flint bridge, a gothic ruin and a notable dark and mysterious four chambered grotto. The whole garden was then bordered by a tall and long flint wall, internally decorated with heads of Roman emperors set into roundels.
After the death of his brother in 1990, Roger Last has continued to expand the garden, which now covers five acres. Two landscaped meadows have been added, one with a small lake and a contemporary folly, a twenty foot high stainless steel spire, and here too is a cascade. The other landscape meadow has sculpture, a pool, bridges and a surprising and hidden viewing platform. Both meadows are bounded by the River Bure, and water plays an important part in the garden design as a whole. The planting throughout the garden’s three distinct sections is lush and knowledgeable, and the number of trees here in what was a treeless site is remarkable. Many consider this to be one of the most original contemporary gardens to be found in Norfolk and beyond.
Garden Visit 2016
I know this is a long way ahead, but I have provisionally booked to go to Coton Manor, Coton, Northants, and Cottesbrooke Hall, Northants, on Wednesday 15th June 2016. If you Google both these gardens, they will come up. I have no costings at this stage, but do not imagine it will be much different to this year.
Forrester Vineyards, South Africa
Last year Ken Forrester wrote an article on the winemakers of Stellenbosch. I was sent the following note by his charming PA Allette and I think it is worth sharing with you. Do try and find his wines as they are outstanding.
The historic farm Scholtzenhof is one of the oldest wine farms in the Western Cape and was originally granted as Zandberg in 1689. It is now home to Ken Forrester Wines which is situated on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain, in the heart of South Africa’s most famous wine region Stellenbosch.
In 1994 the first wines were produced under the Ken Forrester label, and soon the award-winning wines were at the forefront of the Chenin Blanc revival. The grapes are sourced from vineyards – some of them more than 30 years old – in the cool Helderberg region of Stellenbosch.
Over the years our range of top quality wines has received massive national and international acclaim with literally hundreds of awards and accolades over the last 21 years and is broadly available in well-reputed restaurants and exported to various countries around the globe.
Ken Forrester's philosophy has always been to create a range of handcrafted, individually made wines that suitably compliment a wide variety of food styles. Thus the reason behind producing three Ken Forrester ranges including;
The Petit range is mainly from contracted vineyards that we manage from pruning to harvest, specifically sourced to suit a fruit forward profile, to offer soft, market ready, instantly pleasing easy everyday drinking.
The Ken Forrester Range
Here we are solely responsible for the cultivation of the vines and selection of the fruit, mostly from our family property in Stellenbosch, just 4 miles from the cool Atlantic and in the sheltered lee of the majestic Helderberg Mountain.
The Icon Range
Stand alone parcels from single vineyards where we nurture and coax the vines and at harvest we may pass through up to 6 times hand picking and selecting the bunches individually. Destined to be limited by provenance and finally after barrel aging, we only select the very best individual barrels to go into bottle, ensuring a unique superlative wine, justifiably the pinnacle of our efforts.
Ken Forrester – Mr Chenin
Ken Forrester started a career in the Hotel industry with Southern Sun, in the early days of Sol Kerzner, way back in 1977, after a 3-year course in Hotel Management at the Johannesburg Hotel School. He then went on to specialise in the restaurant trade, buying a share in one of the busiest eateries of the day, Gatriles in the centre of Johannesburg, and from there a string of other restaurants and related activities culminating in being elected Chairman of the Federated Hospitality Association of SA (FEDHASA).
Then in 1993 with a young family, he and his wife Teresa set their hearts on an historic vineyard in Stellenbosch. Originally granted in 1689 as Zandberg, this beautiful farm, complete with historic Cape Dutch homestead built in 1694 had stood vacant and derelict when they bought it on a public auction in 1993. A massive renovation was undertaken, both in the vineyards (Ken) and the house (Teresa!).
With most of the vineyard planted to Chenin Blanc it was decided to enlist the help of good friend and Top Winemaker, Martin Meinert, with the quest to produce Chenin Blanc that could rival any white wine in the world. That was 11 years ago, since then the wines have been poured at numerous grand events including the opening of The Scottish Parliament (Ken has been known to wear a tartan kilt – the Forresters have their origins in the Western Isles of Scotland!) as well as the 85th birthday of our own icon, ex President Mandela.
The wines have received massive international acclaim with literally hundreds of awards and accolades and the growth of the brand has been nothing short of meteoric, in a 10 short years.
The picture perfect vineyards beneath the Helderberg Mountains are testimony to the quest for perfectly ripe fruit and show the commitment and attention to detail that is required for benchmark wines in this day and age of immense competition and much improved quality. The farming is in the hands of a small highly dedicated team. Ken does all the sales and marketing, travelling around the world promoting South Africa and their great wines, happy to pour any South African wine far from home and carry the flag. It’s a tough job, socialising and meeting great people in the relaxed environment of food and wine but someone has to do it!
Please visit www.kenforresterwines.com
Being your Editor does not get any easier! Having thought that I had got the right number of articles, a contributor dropped out at the last minute, but I think I have managed to put together an interesting series of articles.
I am already working on 2016, but if any of you have any ideas or subjects you would like to write about, do please get in touch.
I would like to thank all those who have contributed to the Magazine. Without you there would be no magazine. Once again I would like to thank Rory O’Brien for correcting grammar and punctuation and also for correcting poor English.
As usual, I would like to thank the advertisers, who, by their contribution to the CSCA coffers, make the Magazine an item of no cost to the Association.
Adnams continue to support us, and once again their wine buyer has written an interesting article, this time, on Organic Wine. Please remember to visit the Hadleigh store where you will get a 10% discount on non- sale items. The Manager is Helen and she has a list of Members.
A&G continue to repair and service my garden equipment. Assington Mill continue to run some unusual and fascinating courses.
Savills have supported us for many years and their name will be known to you.
The Pheasant at Gestingthorpe. If you have not been there then you should go and find out how good the food is! Whites Farm. The swimming pool is excellent, especially if you are recovering from leg or arm problems, and I speak from experience! The Scobies also produce Paeonies in May/June. Apples in the autumn and their own blend of apple and pear juice whilst stocks last. Then there is the Nursery and Baby Nursery not forgetting the Baby Barn which is on the same site but owned independently.
NFU continue to insure my property at highly competitive terms.
Daniel Piper are a family run business offering exceptional service looking after your vehicles. They will even restore that old jalopy that you have been meaning to get back on the road! Nothing is too much trouble.
Mansfield Motors are a specialist 4X4 garage in Bury St Edmunds. They are a family run business offering to do that little bit extra that makes all the difference. Local farmers and landowners should pay them a visit.
Bates Wells & Braithwaite have been handling the legal side of selling my property and buying our next house. Their lot has not been a happy one as my purchasers solicitor is living in the dark ages! They have not even got e-mail!
Deputy Editor. For several years I have appealed for help, which is likely to be more necessary, as we are hoping to move to Hadleigh, when we leave Lamarsh. If you would like to become more involved with the CSCA, then please do get in touch by e-mail email@example.com or try my mobile 07754 867977. Like most mobiles it has its “no reception” areas and I fear one of these is Hadleigh!
Website. This has been fairly quiet this last twelve months as there have been no major matters that have needed airing. As usual the Magazine will be on the website from May.
E-mail. I do encourage Members to take the plunge and get connected! It will transform your life. You can order your groceries on line. You can book air flights, theatre tickets, cinema tickets, or you can download books. No one is too old to learn.
AGM Speaker. Mark Bills is the new Curator at Gainsborough House and he has set about transforming the way the house operates and given new life to the place.
AGM Replies and Summer Party Replies. Once again those of you with Internet access can respond by using the following link. www.colnestour.org/eventssignup.aspx DO NOT TELL US IF YOU ARE NOT COMING! For those of you with quill pen please complete the form that is enclosed with the Magazine. Although we may have moved, our mail will be forwarded, so send your reply to:Cooks Green, Lamarsh, Bures CO8 5DY
2014 AGM Minutes. We no longer print the Minutes in the Magazine, but these will be handed out at the AGM, together with the standard agenda. We do not record details of those of you who cannot attend, so please do NOT tell us!
From an accounting perspective 2014 was an entirely satisfactory year with income up and expenditure down. The end result was an increase in the Association’s capital balance of 6.4%.
Receipts benefitted from an increase in the number of advertisers in the magazine and a reduction in costs relating to the garden visit. Outgoings were lower reflecting the previous year’s one-off payment of £1,000 to the Stour Valley Action Group fighting the Buntings garden centre development. The Executive Committee however, gave £500 to the Dedham Vale AONB and Stour Valley Partnership, and has committed the Association to a similar amount in each of the next two years, subject to review thereafter.
Membership continues to grow at a modest rate with an additional 30 individuals joining during the year. Allowing for deaths and resignations the total at 685 showed a net increase of 3%. Parish councils and other organisations remained constant at 27.