THE COLNE-STOUR COUNTRYSIDE ASSOCIATION

Kentwell Hall
Little Maplestead
Pentlow Mill
Melford Hall
Paycocke's
Cavendish

Table of Contents

Chairman's Letter - February 2014
St. Stephen’s Chapel, Bures
The Stellenbosch Wine Route – The people and the dogs!
The ups and downs of a Flight to Stellenbosch and back
A Suffolk Success Story – Jim Lawrence Ltd
Hold Farm, Bures St Mary; A Rare Tudor Watermill
The Story of Sparrow’s Farm, Great Henny
Your Countryside – fight for it now!
Tunbridgeware
Extending the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - Update
Garden Visits
Editor’s Notes
Treasurer's Report

Dear Member,

This has been an eventful year, with the sudden, and for some unexpected, postponement of National Grid’s new power lines and substation, the financial collapse of Buntings & Sons and their consequential failure to call any evidence on the Horkesley Park Visitor Centre Appeal and the announcement that there would be no second runway at Stansted.

Before mentioning some of the specific issues which may affect some of you, I would like to say something about the threat to our countryside. To stimulate the economy and meet the housing shortage there is mounting pressure from central Government to increase development in the countryside, including on green field sites, by for example, no longer requiring the protection of environmental impact assessments in many more cases, and enabling developers to push through development where Councils are considered to have delayed unnecessarily, dealing with applications. We must be vigilant. Helpfully however, Braintree DC has recognised the importance of our area in its Landscape Character Assessment, and accepted the need to protect it in the Site Allocation & Development Management Plan, now going forward for final approval. It is now up to the Planning Committee to see that this is followed.

A major issue now facing some of us in this part of North Essex, is the threat from a large number of solar farm applications in the Belchamp/Foxearth area, prompted by Government subsidies, and proximity to the UK Power Networks substation. At the time of writing this letter, there has been one application for 25,000 PV panels on a 17.5 ha site at Belchamp St Paul. There are known to be two more in the pipeline (for 60 and 40 acres) and the possibility of yet another. Although your Committee is not opposed to all solar farms, as a matter of principle, and recognises that if appropriately located, and screened, they may be acceptable, we are exceedingly concerned about the cumulative effect these could have on this very attractive open landscape. Some of you will be aware that because of public concern over the growth of large-scale solar farms, the Department of Energy & Climate Change issued guidance last November to ensure that the landscape, visual impact, heritage and local amenity were protected. The Minister said in no uncertain terms, that he would “crack down” on inappropriately sited solar PV.

Even though the Department’s letter made it clear that Planning Authorities should listen carefully to the views of local communities, Braintree paid little attention to the letter and allowed a somewhat smaller and less obtrusive Solar Farm at Great Henny, in the face of very strong local opposition, and in the knowledge that this was likely to be within the area for inclusion in the extended AONB. Brooks Newmark, MP raised the threat of a large influx of solar farms in the Belchamp area and Braintree DC’s apparent disregard of the letter, in a recent Parliamentary debate. In response the Minister made it clear that the guidance must be followed, that the character and beauty of the landscape, and views of rural communities within it, must be recognised and that, where possible, siting solar farms on high grade agricultural land should be avoided. Whether Braintree will now pay greater attention to the guidance remains to be seen.

Whilst on renewable energy, unfortunately, and in the face of substantial opposition, permission was granted by St Edmundsbury Borough Council for a single 78m wind turbine near Hundon, to the West of Clare. Construction has yet to commence. Permission has also been granted for a wind monitoring mast between Stoke-by-Clare and Hundon to test wind strength for a possible wind farm of 10 turbines up to 126.5m high, which could have a devastating effect on this lovely area. The test mast has not yet been constructed, and no application for the wind farm itself has so far been made. We will be carefully monitoring this.

Following years of uncertainty, Stansted is now not to have a second runway until at least 2050. Nevertheless there are too many night flights permitted; 12,000 per year. With Manchester Airports Group (The new owners) looking to increase passenger flights, all those particularly affected should support Stop Stansted Expansion’s attempt to get the number of permitted night time flights reduced.

I shall say nothing here about National Grid or the progress in extending the AONB, as both are dealt with extensively in separate articles by David Holland and Robert Erith.

We may have received the Secretary of State’s decision on the Horkesley Park Visitors Centre appeal by the time of the Annual General Meeting; expected to be announced on or before the 6th May. The financial report by the administrators, Deloittes, reveals that Buntings and Sons had been very heavily insolvent for some time and were not in the end even able to fund Counsel and experts to present their case at the appeal. Although the outcome cannot be predicted for certainty, the evidence presented to the Inspector at the hearing was strongly against the project. It looks as if they may have been intending, for some time, to sell the site on to a developer, if they obtained planning permission, just as many of us always suspected.

Those of you who have driven down from Wormingford towards Bures may have noticed the large grey clad pumping station down near the river, and wondered how such a building could have been allowed. It appears that it was not taken up sufficiently seriously by the relevant Parish Council, and insufficiently addressed by the planning officers at Colchester. Neither we, nor the Stour Valley Project, picked it up when the application was made. Recently, however, the Project and the Association have had meetings with Anglian Water to see if they can come forward with proposals which will help to blend the building in with its surrounding area. We are awaiting suggestions.

Persimmon’s application to build 170 homes east of Carson’s Drive, Cornard, in view of the Grade 1 listed Abbas Hall, was refused by the Inspector, following a public inquiry, but I doubt this will prevent them coming back with yet another revised scheme.

We have, as usual, an interesting summer schedule. The speaker at this year’s Annual General Meeting on the 1st of May will be Michael Kuhn, a film producer probably best known for Four Weddings and A Funeral and Notting Hill. Until recently Michael had a weekend bolt hole in Little Henny. (See full CV in Editor’s Notes) Mark has again arranged two interesting gardens to visit at Bradenham Hall, and Hilborough House, both in Norfolk. (See Garden Visits).

We are exceedingly fortunate to have our Summer Party with Geoffrey and Ellen Foster-Taylor at Tilbury Hall, Tilbury Juxta Clare. Those of us who braved the awful weather, last time we went there, were able to glimpse a little of what is a truly magnificent garden. To whet your appetite, it features in Tim Richardson’s book, “The New English Garden”. I hope to see as many of you as possible there.

Finally, we have a continuing need for more members, particularly younger members. If any of you are able to recruit family or friends or know of newcomers into the area who may be unaware of us, do please see if you can get them to join. You can always contact Mark for more copies of the Magazine and Membership Forms to hand out, or give their names to Mark, or myself, for us to write to them.

Thank you all for your continuing support.

Charles Aldous

 

 


St. Stephen’s Chapel, Bures

 

Exterior of St. Stephen’s Chapel, Bures.
Exterior of St. Stephen’s Chapel, Bures.


St Stephen’s Chapel stands in a secluded spot on a hill half a mile east of Bures village. It was built in the second decade of the 13th century as a manorial chapel by Gilbert de Tawny, a local landowner. We know that the chapel was abandoned at the Reformation but, mercifully, was found useful so, rather than being allowed to become completely dilapidated, was used variously as a barn (hence the local name Chapel Barn) and in 1734, as a hospital during a local plague. Thereafter, it became a school, farmworkers’ cottages; and finally a barn. In about 1918, the place was bought with the surrounding land and house by Isobel Badcock, a distinguished Victorian water-colourist. She set about laying plans with her brother-in-law, Colonel William Probert, to restore the Chapel. On December 5th 1940, the year after her death, her dream was realized when restoration was completed and St Stephen’s was re-consecrated by the Rt. Rev. W.G. Whittingham, Bishop of St Edmundsbury.

So far unremarkable, except for two things. The first is that tradition has it that St Stephen’s Chapel was built on the very spot where King Edmund was crowned on Christmas Day 855AD.

Like all good, ancient traditions the story is somewhat shrouded in mystery and has its sceptics. We know that Edmund was crowned in 855AD by Bishop Humbert of Emham because his contemporary the Welsh Monk Chronicler Asser (later Bishop of Sherborne) recorded the fact. And we hear much later from the chronicler Geoffrey of Wells, writing around 1150, that ‘Edmund was consecrated and anointed King at ‘Burum an ancient royal hill, the known bound between East Essex and Suffolk situate on the river Stour’. Burum, we can assume was a variation of the name Bures. The story is repeated by Mathew Paris writing around 1230 in St Albans, perhaps copying Geoffrey of Wells, although he does name it correctly as Bures not Burum. Or, quite probably, both Geoffrey and Mathew drew from an earlier source as Geoffrey admitted his material was compiled from what he had heard and read elsewhere. It also appears in the 1120 Annals of St Neots as “at Burna”.

We presume that the early 13th century stone chapel was the successor to an earlier wooden structure, perhaps like the 9th century wooden chapel at Greensted near Chipping Ongar in Essex. And we know that the current stone chapel was consecrated by none other than the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal of Rome, Stephen Langton, on St Stephens Day 1218.

Inevitably, the story has its doubters who point out that the Archbishop’s presence can be explained by the fact there were Langtons (presumably cousins of the great man) living in the village in the 13th century.

But these sceptics have their own explaining to do. Mediaeval hagiographies of saints were indeed famously fanciful, but why would the chronicler Geoffrey, sitting in Wells, be so very precise about a hill on the Essex Suffolk border on the river Stour ‘a river flowing rapidly in both summer and winter’. The river Stour today is quite slow but the river became an important artery of commerce in the 17th to 19th centuries and was much altered by the time of the by the banks, weirs and locks made famous in John Constable’s paintings. But the Assington Brook below the chapel of St Stephen’s does indeed, to this day, flow rapidly in both summer and winter. And would the Archbishop of Canterbury really travel all this way just for the consecration of a chapel built by a friend of his relative? After all, in 1218 Langton would only just have returned from a two year exile from England for refusing to excommunicate the barons in his long running war with King John.

So, we in Bures will continue to defend the spoken tradition that ‘the chapel in the corn’, as it was known in the 19th century, stood on the site of St Edmund’s coronation.

The second thing that lifts the Chapel out of the ordinary is the presence inside of three tombs of the Earls of Oxford which, as Simon Jenkins observed in his ‘1000 Best Churches in England’, are more suited to Westminster Abbey or Warwick than to a remote Chapel in Suffolk. But St Stephen’s was not where the tombs were first housed. The de Veres, who were one of the premier mediaeval dynasties in the land, chose the small Priory at Earls Colne in Essex, five miles west of Bures, and the inner sanctum of their empire, as their burial ground. It is believed that by the time of the Reformation there were 22 tombs in their mausoleum and following the death of the 16th Earl in 1563, his relict the Countess struggled on for a while. According to Sir George Buc the Master of Revels, writing in 1619 in a digression on John de Vere the 13th Earl of Oxford, the Priory was demolished and ‘all the sepulchres and noble monuments of John’s ancestors razed to the ground and the bones of the ancient Earls left under the open air. . .within six score years of John’s death’, which dates the destruction of the Priory around 1570. Fortunately, the three tombs that survive, the 5th Earl, 8th Earl and the 11th Earl and his Countess, had by then been moved for safekeeping to the Parish Church of Earls Colne.

At his father’s death in 1563 Edward, the twelve year old 17th Earl, was bundled off to London as a Ward of Court of William Cecil. By the time he was in his 30s he had run through all his money and had sold most of his inheritance, including the sale in 1583 and 1592 of Earls Colne itself to his stewards, the Harlackendens. This may have been because he was a spendthrift or because of sharp practice on the Harlackendens side or, in all probability, it could have been an injudicious mixture of the twain.

In 1629, the antiquary Robert Cotton was in discussion with Richard Harlackenden about the ten surviving effigies and engraved slabs still on site. They planned to take them from the lumber room in the remnants of the Priory and cart them by water, presumably to London. Harlakenden promised to do this subject to the 18th Earl’s agreement. Unfortunately, the plan fell through and they were left in the decaying remnants of the Priory until 1736, when they were chopped up by Harlakenden’s descendant, John Wale, to make fireplaces for his rebuild of the house at Earls Colne.

Nor were the three surviving tombs allowed to rest either. In 1825, Wale’s current descendant at Earls Colne Priory, the Reverend Henry Carwardine, who was rebuilding the house, erected a gallery outside the house into which the tombs were moved and re-erected higgledly piggedly. The family tradition was that he did so because the then Vicar was ‘improving’ the church and had threatened to bury the tombs. There they remained for 100 years until 1935. By then, Colonel William Carwardine Probert, a descendant of Henry Carwardine, had inherited Colne Priory, apparently because he had paid off the racing debts of his second cousin, Florence Keeling, nee Carwardine, who was the last of the Carwardines to live there. Probert, who had his own place at Bevills, Bures decided to sell the Priory and as he was by then in the middle of restoring St Stephen’s Chapel, effected the removal of the tombs from Colne Priory to St Stephen’s Chapel, where now they stand. Shortly afterwards, they were joined by the slab of Alberic de Vere, father of the first Earl of Oxford and the first of the line to bear the office of Lord Great Chamberlain. The slab had been found in a rock garden in Earls Colne and, in recent years, a sarcophagus was discovered in a wood at Colne Park.

So here in one quiet corner of Suffolk we have the site of the coronation of St Edmund, King and Martyr; a chapel consecrated by Archbishop Langton; and the tombs of one of great mediaeval dynasties.

Geoffrey Probert
Camilla Melville-Ross


Geoffrey Probert and Camilla Melville Ross are brother and sister and will be known to many members. Geoffrey lives at Bevills, Bures, and his estate featured in the article on Extending the AONB in last year’s Magazine.
 

St. Stephen's Chapel Tombs facing altar
St. Stephen’s Chapel Tombs facing altar.
St. Stephen's Chapel Tombs
St. Stephen's Chapel Tombs seen from the altar.
 

 


The Stellenbosch Wine Route – The people and the dogs!

Vineyard in the beautiful mountains of Stellenbosch
Vineyard in the beautiful mountains of Stellenbosch.
 

Heralded as the world’s first official “wine route” way back in 1975, this picturesque coastal wine region sprawled around the second oldest city in South Africa, has continued to dominate wine competitions and awards both International and local, with a steady stream of almost legendary, award winning wines.

Recent history tells us that three close friends, luminaries, and as it turns out, all visionaries got together and started the Stellenbosch Wine Route:

Spatz Sperling of Delheim, Oom Neil Joubert of Spier and Frans Malan of Simonsig and so initially there were just 3 estate wineries, that all grew the grapes, made and bottled their wines on the estate, with special tasting facilities to receive guests and present tastings and stories and not a few late night parties and the Wine Route grew from this humble start.

I recall many fond memories of going to visit Oom Neil at Spier. One seemingly couldn’t arrive and not stay for the next meal of the day, so an early call and morning coffee, extended to a walk through the cellars and tasting the new bottling. This was invariably followed by lunch and, yes, wine tasting and more wine tastings and if you weren't careful it became dinner and wine tastings! But it didn’t end here, this could go on and then later in the evening from the little cellar under the staircase in the house out to the dusty cellar in the old barn, and here Oom Neil would wisely counsel that one’s body “actually provided the services of filtration, therefore if it spent all night working on filtering young, tannic wines, one would undoubtedly wake up tired!” Hence after midnight we never drank a drop that wasn’t at least 10 years old! He had some fine dogs, huge beasts that lay about, seemingly unaware, but frequently one would notice just one half interested eye observing the late night goings on and their tails were lethal! They could knock a glass off a table effortlessly, a most dangerous sort of canine indeed.

These stories of wine tasting experiences in Stellenbosch abound and are oft recounted amongst friends of old. One of our living legends, a Springbok rugby player, before the game became professional, one Jan Boland Coetzee, is often in the middle of these old stories. Only a few people can attest to ever having seen him in shoes, unless they were rugby boots. He speaks with the broadest Northern Cape accent, in fact to an untrained ear he sounds almost Welsh, (even early on any given day, that is to say before any “tasting”) a true Western Province rugby hero and Springbok rugby legend. Not to forget another such legend, Hempies Du Toit, with his own estate Annandale, dating back to 1688. Enough of the bulky forwards let’s move to the back line, that remarkable wing Jannie Engelbrecht who scored 2 tries with a broken collarbone to beat an opposition team and win the series for The Western Province. Ah yes those were the days, no substitutions, you played a full game, for the full duration and it was glorious, often muddy, always hard, running rugby. However I digress - there are plenty more legends, lots of their dogs to meet and loads of new wineries. Today the Stellenbosch Wine Route boasts over 190 members and, amongst our members, we are proud to have stalwarts and pioneers, from the early days, the likes of the Myburghs of Meerlust, Billy and Ursula Hofmeyr at Welgemeend with the Cape’s first Bordeaux blend, Gyles and Barbara Webb, of Thelema, she now almost 30 years later, still a top marathon runner having just completed the polar marathon! From Politics of the day, Paul Sauer and the Krige’s of Kanonkop, with their fine bevy of dogs. Hidden up in Ida’s Valley, underneath the Hell’s Hoogte pass another legendary Cape Estate and historic cattle stud Rustenberg, just now again transitioning from one generation to another, with young Murray Barlow having just been crowned “Young Winemaker of the Year!” The early export pioneer Rust en Vrede, The First Lady of Cape winemaking Norma Ratcliffe and Warwick, Stan, her husband and a man of uncommon common sense always kept some fine canines, and the property is now headed by son and CEO Michael, a major mover and shaker, auctioneer and public speaker. There were others that played a role before the next wave, The likes of Vergelegen, and then also Boschendal the jewels in the crown of mining giant Anglo American and adjacent, almost in silence, the demure, super consistent, stylish Morgenster, owned by one of the finest gentlemen in the business, Julio Bertrand. He too keeps a fine hound. And so the industry grew and grew and local Bosch boy, who did really well in Johannesburg in the banking sector, GT Ferreira with his ever so statement like Tokara, perched at the top of the Hells Hoogte, like a beacon and another Johannesburg mogul, Jeremy Ord a technology giant established Waterford with the aid of Kevin Arnold, who is also known for some fine hounds, large Rhodesian Ridgebacks and the like. Dare I say we launched Ken Forrester wines in this era, the early 90s, a new political dispensation, with Mr Mandela as President and South Africa had seemingly managed a miracle transition, investments were flowing and confidence returned under the guidance of President Mandela. We saw the multi- million rand development and establishment of Kleine Zalze, complete with immaculate De Zalze housing estate and magnificent 18 hole golf course, with the multiple award winning Kleine Zalze wines, closely followed by Camberley and then Clouds, both at the top of Helshoogte and then Ernie Els cellar standing as a sentinel on the Helderberg. At about the same time Murray Boustred, also ex Johannesburg, started Remhoogte on the slopes of the Simonsberg and filled the tasting room with some of the finest work of local taxidermists, trophies of every wild beast that ever roamed the African plains, lovingly stalked and hunted by Murray, a great African Bwana.

Tasting room overlooking Helderberg Mountain.
Tasting room overlooking Helderberg Mountain.

 

Of late, a new flurry, Delaire-Graff, destined to be one of the great wineries of the world, a newcomer that raised the bar seemingly forever now already almost 5 years old. This multi award winning winery, exquisite boutique hotel, fine restaurants and lush gardens to rival perhaps even Babylon is a must see, the views, the architecture, in a class of its own! Now with foreign interests renewed, French wine nobility, the Madame May de Lanquesang from Chateau Pichon Lalande, came and established a magnificent property, an amphitheatre of vineyards and a massive, modern gravity assisted cellar. Glenelly wines are certainly worth seeking out. She was followed by local nobility, South Africa’s richest woman, Wendy Appelbaum, and her husband Hylton at De Morgenzon; horse breeder property magnate, insurance heiress and tireless crusader for the underdog (that reminds me I digress, there are still many dogs to introduce you to, she in fact keeps a pair of fearless Jack Russells, and a secret cat, but that’s another story. . .).

Since then, more recently there’s been a slow but steady flow of new investment to Stellenbosch and the winelands, notably Michael Jordaan, outgoing CEO of First National Bank and businessman of the year 2013, and his vivacious wife Rose, a very clever architect in her own right, settled back in the home he was brought up in, high on Bothmaskop overlooking the Simonsberg after he clinched a deal to buy it back! Meanwhile in the valley below International businessman Adriaan Van Der Spuy revived a beautiful old vineyard, Oldenburg, a very fine location and some great wines already. Closer to the town of Stellenbosch in Devon Valley, a Belgian Industrialist Fons Aaldering has revived an old vineyard to establish his eponymous label, Aaldering. Another property development guru, Tom Breytenbach, and his wife have recently joined the industry and stepped in to rescue and revive another old vineyard, now called Brenaissance, complete with cattle stud and winery as well as what has fast become the home of pizza local! And so the beat goes on, Swartland is having its own revival with an eager young bunch of “terrorists”, making wonderful wines and cleverly capturing the imagination of the press. Both local and foreign journalists flock to the annual “revolution” and a host of small volume, quirky wines that are often snapped up within weeks of coming to market.

Remarkably Stellenbosch still however garners the lion’s share of all the awards medals and competitions, with just on 12,000 ha of vineyard, representing approx 10% of the national vineyard. Stellenbosch manages almost 70% of all the awards and certainly some of the very best names in the business. The area is remarkably complex, too wide really to be one single definition and to this end it has evolved from one to five separate routes, governed (rather practically) by their road access, to allow visitors to understand each sub route and make navigating easy. The five routes are Bottelary on the North West, Simonsberg in the North, Stellenbosch “berg” to the East, the Helderberg to the South and Stellenbosch Hills to the East.

Truly a remarkably broad area that really needs closer definition, if one considers that it runs from Villiera in the North West to Hellshoogte in the East, to the Hottentots Holland mountains and Journeys End in the South, all the way to Faure and Meerlust in the west; a vast, complex and varied topography, with a myriad soil types and multiple opportunities for varied and specialised viticulture. This complexity has the possibility to yield awesome deep rich Cabernet, wonderful, spicy Syrah, full rich buttery Chardonnay, some exceptional coastal Chenin and uniquely expressive Bordeaux styled blends that have placed Meerlust and Kanonkop firmly on “first growth” footing. Although one UK pundit would have it, that one only needs to have made one vintage and that from grapes purchased from someone else’s vineyard, in order to be elevated to First Growth status, but again I digress. Now where was I, ah yes I must introduce you to the vineyard dogs!

One of the most famous was a resident mutt, on the original Mulderbosch Farm before it moved, yes surely that’s easy enough to understand - why shouldn’t a farm be able to move? Just look at an old map and compare a recent one! however that’s entirely another story for another day, as I was saying. . . the farm needed considerable clearing, planting and development when Larry Jacobs and Mike Dobrovic set about crafting their first Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc and this faithful mutt would follow Mike through the vineyards all day and eventually take a nap under an elevated shady tree and then follow Mike home, but never actually came that close. He maintained a distance, but then as far as Mike is concerned one can understand that! succumbed to snakebite, named from an early Tom Waits song. The dog was called “small change” and today a very special Chenin Blanc is presented in a tin with a coin slot to collect your small change!
 

Mike with his dogs.
Ken with his dogs.

 

Today he has been immortalised on the Faithful Hound label a delightful Bordeaux style blend, crafted by Mike in honour of the mutt, but Mike had a soft spot and he made one more contribution to the canine wall of memory, he immortalised a fearless Jack Russell who succumbed to snakebite, named from an early Tom Waits song. The dog was called “small change” and today a very special Chenin Blanc is presented in a tin with a coin slot to collect your small change!

Beyers Truter, who famously fifteen years after we had first met, once asked my brother how long he had known me?! Now Beyers is the, did I say THE Pinotage man, from a solid grounding and years at Kanonkop he realised his dreams at Beyerskloof and his Flagship wine is named for a faithful hound called “Diesel”, certainly a brave name for a Pinotage!

The hounds of Stellenbosch abound and we too are not immune at the Forrester household. We seemingly have a season ticket to the local SPCA/Animal Welfare shelter and currently have 7 mutts, 4 German Shepherd types (approx.) and 3 long-legged Jack Russell’s; life is seldom dull, I can assure you.

So when next in the “Cape of Good Hope,” as King John of Portugal would have had it in the 14th century, do come and meet some of the old dogs, the rugby legends, the new dogs, the big city moguls, the imports and some great local strays. There be great wine, great stories and great people too, here in Stellenbosch at the very heart of the South African wine industry.

Ken Forrester

Ken is the leading light and owner of Forrester Vineyards, Stellenbosch, which he has built up over the last 21 years. He, with his wine maker, produce some outstanding wines such as FMC, an iconic Chenin, full and rich. The Gypsy, a wine made with predominantly Grenache, with some Shiraz, matured in oak for 24 months. These are very special wines but there are others for everyday drinking, try Workhorse in M&S. He is also one of the founding shareholders of a first rate restaurant close to his Vineyard called 96 Winery Road.

Assington Mill

 


The ups and downs of a Flight to Stellenbosch and back

Map of Africa

 

Sometimes you read an article and think "I'd like to do something like that" and so it was in 2009 that Martin (a.k.a. Bear) Gosling decided to see if he and Annette could make an adventure of flying in their small plane, a Robin D400, to South Africa.

Bear had read of an ex- army pilot who had made a business of leading such adventures, and so it was that after much planning, Sam, who flew a Robinson R44 helicopter, and another seven aircraft gathered in Corfu in February 2011. The group consisted of a Turbine Engine Cessna 206, a Mooney, a twin engine Cessna Crusader, Bear and Annette’s Robin DR 400, an MCR 4, which had been built from a kit, and ran on car fuel! A Piper Archer, a Grumman AA5, and finally the leader in the Robinson R44 helicopter, christened "The Egg Whisk".

Sam, the leader, had spent several months organising fuel at the more remote airfields in Africa, as well as organising accommodation along the way. Bear and Annette had left their private airstrip in Wickham St Paul’s on 5th February, flying via Troyes and Le Casstellet, in France, to refuel and from there on to Bastia in Corsica. From there it was on to Salerno to refuel, and then to the RV, in Corfu.

All the aircraft and their crews assembled on Friday 11th February, and were given a long and detailed briefing by Sam, and so the next day they all set off in the early morning, and were told by air traffic control to climb to 11,000ft, which is considerably higher than the normal flying height of 2,000 to 4,000ft. The first stop was Benghazi, and from there it was on to Kufra where bureaucratic delays meant two overnight stays in an appalling hotel. The next stop was Dongola in the Sudan, but take off from Kufra was delayed whilst awaiting permission to enter Sudan. During the flight Bear’s rev counter gave up, and could not be replaced until Stellenbosch, so instinct took over.

Refuelling at Dongola was from drums using a variety of pumps carried by each aircraft. From there it was on to Merowe, only to be told that passports had been improperly stamped on entry into Sudan and that “Entry Stamps” had to be obtained at Khartoum the next day. However the delay at Kufra meant that the reserved rooms were full with other guests, and the group were forced to sleep in a communal annex with the only loo a hole in the ground in a box shed in the yard, with a tap outside as the sole washroom.

Tuesday 15th saw the group delayed waiting for clearance to fly to Khartoum. However, when this was not forthcoming, it was decided to risk it, and all planes took off. On arrival all planes were made to park almost touching each other. Refuelling was from drums with a little man insisting it was his job. However in true British style, as soon as he was not looking, each pilot did the refuelling, and the little man admitted defeat.

Wednesday was a day off, and a visit was made to the Nile before the planned flight to Addis Abba in Ethiopia. Whilst the Mooney and Cessna would have range to fly direct, the other six aircraft would have to do a drum refuelling stop at Damazin in South Sudan. Khartoum airport is a very busy place, and delays in take-off meant that Bear’s engine overheated and had to be switched off to cool down.

Eventually six aircraft set off for Damazin, flying between the Blue and White Nile. Damazin turned out to be a dump of an airfield with potholes and cracked concrete. However there were a lot of official looking people waiting for the arrival of the British Ambassador.

After refuelling from drums all aircraft were ready for take-off. With four planes airborne and just the Cessna Crusader and the Grumman AA5 waiting, the Grumman came on the radio and announced that the Cessna had nose-dived into the runway. Fortunately it turned out to be the nose gear that had collapsed, but the plane had slid along the runway and was a write off and was blocking the runway for the Grumman and the British Ambassador, and his delegation. Sam, in the helicopter, returned to sort out the mess, whilst the others took three hours to reach Addis Abba only to discover that the fuel had not arrived.

Having located some fuel, only Ethiopian money would be accepted, so it was off to the Bank to change dollars into local currency, to return and be told that the fuel was not after all allowed for resale. After three days Sam came to the rescue having purchased some drums of avgas, hired a Cessna Caravan (a plane) and flown it to Addis. Having refuelled there was some urgency to get airborne as the next stop was in Kenya at a private airfield. However at this point two pilots mutinied and stayed behind, whilst Bear and the Mooney flew to Lokichoggio to refuel, before making a final dash to the private airfield at Barclay at a height of 7,000ft. However, with dusk fast approaching, they returned to Lokichoggio and spent the night in a camp for visiting pilots.

The following morning, Monday 21st February, the decision was made to fly direct to Nairobi to refuel and then on to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to clear customs, before going on to the gravel strip serving the Serengeti. However the mutineers would have to fly to Zanzibar, and Sam was nowhere to be found. On Tuesday 22nd those of the group who had managed to get to the Serengeti strip went for a game drive, witnessing the amassing of thousands of Wildebeest for their annual migration. It was then back to the airstrip, and off to Zanzibar to be reunited with the others, including Sam, who had arrived by a commercial flight.

Evening drinks at the Serengeti camp.
Evening drinks at the Serengeti camp.

 

The plan had been to depart on the morning of Wednesday 23rd February to go to the island of Barazuto off the coast of Mozambique, but once again clearance had not materialised so another night was spent in Zanzibar with a visit to an enormous market selling everything, and then on to the old slave market where the guide announced that he was one of twenty three children fathered from two wives and he in turn had eighty seven grandchildren.

Thursday 24th, still no clearances, however these came through the following morning, and so it was off to Pemba en route to Barazuto. A night was spent at Pemba Dive Bush camp, which was basic, to say the least, then the next morning it would be off, at last, to Barazuto. The Cessna 206 and the Mooney had a range of six hundred miles, but the rest of the group would need a refuelling stop at Qualimane which advised that it had avgas. However, when within radio contact of Qualimane advice came through that there was no avgas. Sam, once again, took charge and suggested a mix of fuel in the planes with mogas at a ratio of 50/50. The Piper Archer pilot refused to go down this route and said he would not budge. That left three planes, and one hundred and thirty five litres of fuel sourced in Qualimane, and which was shared out. Meanwhile Sam’s helicopter was in Beira, and as he was negotiating to go and buy fuel in Vilanculos a Cherokee 6 arrived, and the pilot said he had jerry cans of fuel in a shed, and Sam could buy some.

Sadly the many delays meant that the co-pilot of the Piper Archer had to go home, however the pilot was rescued by friends from South Africa, bringing fuel and a new co- pilot, but not until 4th March!

Monday 28th February saw the group leave Bazaruto to fly to Vilanculos some eight hundred miles from the final destination of Stellenbosch. Much to everyone’s surprise, Sam announced that he was returning home to fix the North bound sector, and the others would choose their own route to Stellenbosch. Bear routed via the Kruger as his entry point into South Africa. On landing he was told to empty his aeroplane. With a streak of stubbornness he refused, and told the officials that if they wanted it emptied, then they would have to do it. After a vain attempt they gave up.

The next flight was a short hop to a legendary bush pilot’s airfield at Barberton and from there, the next day, it was on past Durban to Margate, for an overnight stay and refuelling. From there it was on to Mossel Bay and finally into Stellenbosch, twenty six days after leaving England and sixty five hours flying on the clock. On reaching Cape Town the helicopter was dismantled for shipment back home. The Robin DR400 was in need of a service and the replacement tacho cable. Bear and Annette explored Stellenbosch, and along the coast to Hermanus, and Cape Town and Cape Point.

The North bound route would be up the West coast, with a four hour flight to Keetmanshoop in Namibia, as an entry point. All planes left Stellenbosch for Cape Town International in order to clear exit formalities. However, when about to take off Bear noticed that his oil pressure gauge was dangerously low. As this had happened before, due to a poor earth connection, he decided to risk it and go, as all the other instruments were giving normal readings.

Keetmanshoop was devoid of everything, apart from the pre-ordered fuel. Customs were disappointed in the nil declarations and then immigration took an hour to turn up to stamp the passports. However, when it came to paying for the fuel, the credit card machine would not work, so in spite of offering the use of mobile phones, to get matters moving, credit card details were recorded and the group announced that as they had the fuel, they were off. Surprise, surprise, to be told that the credit card payments had miraculously gone through.

From Kleetmanshoop the flight took the group over the Namib Desert, which was picturesque with jagged ravines and seaweed like patterns in the bright orange sand. The destination was Walvis Bay where the controllers gave all pilots a dressing down for not obtaining permission to fly above 1,500ft. Finding the runway was a problem, as it was the same colour as the sand. However radio help was on hand, and saying find the golf course and you will see the runway!

Ruacana Falls in spate – Namibian border.
Ruacana Falls in spate – Namibian border.

 

Once again, the intrepid group were reunited, as the Piper Archer had flown in from Qualimane with the new co- pilot, and meanwhile Sam had joined the Cessna 206 having returned from home, hopefully having fixed the return arrangements. The group left Swakopmund on Wednesday 16th March to fly to Mokuti Lodge airstrip, which serves The Etosha Game Reserve. The flight was a bit hairy, as cloud came down to 5,500ft and the land rose to 4,000ft. However these conditions only lasted for some fifty miles. An overnight stop was taken at the recently restored Mushara Lodge, where a game drive had been organised for the afternoon. There was a substantial amount of rain overnight, and, when the time came to leave, the sand runway was covered in puddles, so all elected to use the 500 yard concrete runway, and hope that they were airborne before it ran out. During the flight to the exit stop out of Namibia, at Ondangwa, they encountered the previous night’s rain. At Ondangwa planes were refuelled for the last time from a proper installation, rather than drums, which would be the order of the day until reaching Algiers. The next flight took a dog leg route to fly over the Ruacana Falls on the Namibia/Angola border, an awesome sight. It was then over the Etosha Salt Pans of Angola, a vast dried up lake of pure white salt. Elsewhere the countryside was flooded due to very unusual weather. Haven’t we heard that before in 2014? Then on to Lubango, at a height of 5,750ft, a night’s rest, then off once more to Sumbe, after another case of bureaucratic checks. Sumbe is two and a half hours north, and is a small coastal airfield with hills not far off the end of the Eastern edge. Three of the six aircraft had to abort their landings due to irregular wind currents, and the Mooney’s wheels locked less than ten yards from some sand dunes. After much checking and rechecking the officials allowed the group to depart for their hotel. The next day was a day off and a chance to visit some places of interest, such as a river crossing where slaves used to be loaded on to ships bound for Portugal and Brazil. The river here is now the local laundry with groups of twenty plus women washing clothes. From there, it was on to a small fishing village, where the fish are dried in the sun, to be sent to Zaire or Zambia. In Angola, by tradition, the women do all the work whilst the men watch TV, drink beer or joyride on motor cycles, also finding time to father offspring.

In the evening it was a serious briefing about the next day’s flight, as it involved avoiding at all costs, the (Un) Democratic Republic of Congo. The route was to an airfield at Cabinda, the exit point from Angola, and then on to Pointe Noir in the Republic of Congo. (Previously French Congo) Whilst refuelling, the pilot of the Mooney, noticed that one of the undercarriage doors was hanging down with a sheared linkage so the decision was taken to fly with the door open to Cabinda but this would use more fuel and so the other planes donated enough fuel for the Mooney to get to Port Gentil, as none would be available at Pointe Noir. Having arrived at Pointe Noir the Mooney undercarriage doors were given a temporary repair but when tested the next day, this failed. However, a search of a helicopter organisation on the airfield, produced a piece of steel of roughly the right thickness which was cut and drilled and taken off to be welded by a man on the side of the road using a large stone as his workbench. The Mooney was jacked up and the repair completed. The doors were then tested four times and the aeroplane was pronounced fit to fly.

Whilst the repairs were going on, the Mooney’s pilot had been calculating fuel requirements to get to Port Gentil in Gabon, and realised that he would need more than he had in his tanks, and since he could not use mogas the MCR4 donated his fuel which was replaced with mogas. Bear donated 25 litres of canned fuel, and another 45 litres from his tanks, which was replaced with mogas. Then it was on to Gabon some 300 miles, and Port Gentil, to discover that the fuel had not arrived. Surprise, surprise!

Bear and Annette at the Cape of Good Hope.
Bear and Annette at the Cape of Good Hope.

 

The next day Sam sent the Cessna and the MCR4 on ahead to the resort island of Principe, some one hundred and sixty five miles out to sea off the North West coast of Gabon. Meanwhile, those left behind waited, and waited, but still no fuel; that was Tuesday 22nd March. On the Wednesday, information arrived that the fuel, which was being brought from Cameroon, had reached the border, but the driver lacked a visa so a lorry had to be sent to collect the fuel, and take it to Libreville, where it would be transferred to a speed boat, but that had no fuel, and the driver had no money to buy any, so Sam transferred funds, and the boat set off for the eighty mile journey to Port Gentil, where the drums had to be floated ashore. The aircraft were refuelled and after a flight of an hour and a half, they reached the others, who had gone on ahead to the tiny island of Principe.

The next stop was Port Harcourt, where they would enter Nigeria – not a holiday destination on anyone’s list! After a two hour flight in poor visibility, they reached the coast, where they were made to stack before landing. To their relief, the fuel was waiting, and after refuelling there were more airport formalities, that took forever, until Sam finally managed to extract all the passports, and the group was ready to leave for the hotel. As this is Nigeria, two armed policemen with AK47s had been hired for protection. The driver of the people carrier announced that he was not stopping for anyone or anything, until he reached the hotel, and he drove at maximum speed sometimes on the wrong side of the road, but they were meant to be Police, and perhaps they thought that they were immortal, unlike their passengers, who were terrified.

The chosen hotel, The Bay Marriott Garden City Hotel, was given a minus star rating by the group, and was as uncomfortable as it could be.

The return journey to the airport was in daylight, which made it less frightening, and the group were relieved to get airborne by late morning, bound for Kano, four hundred and fifty miles North but still in Nigeria. Refuelling was carried out and the planes were parked on a vast concrete apron, to be told that that they had to be moved in case they were in the way of some dignatory. The hotel here was as bad as the previous night. The next morning, the weather forecast was appalling. However Sam went on ahead in the Cessna to Agadez, with a view to reporting back on conditions, and as the plane could use Jet A1 fuel, they could turn round and return, if necessary. Whilst Sam’s weather report was indifferent, the others decided that they had had enough of Nigeria, and took off for Agadez, flying three hundred miles, relying on instruments, and GPS, and locating the airport at 1,000ft. This is Niger, which is incredibly poor, but the group ended up in a Moroccan style oasis in the middle of nowhere – this was the Hotel Auberge d’Azel. Everything worked, even Wi-Fi.

The next day was Monday 28th March, again poor conditions, but the group set off for Tamanrasset, and as they approached the runway visibility improved, and the runway became visible from five miles out. It is both a civilian, and military airfield. Officials asked for forms in duplicate, but became hostile when the drums of fuel arrived. However, after assurances that the fuel was Algerian, and had been paid for, senior officials allowed refuelling.

The group were met by a Swiss lady, who had developed a tourist camp with her husband some twenty years previously. He had died, and she had married a camel breeder from Agadez in Niger. Her camp was simple - too simple for some, who opted out of the communal showers and loo blocks and went to a government hotel. The others stayed for a comfortable yet simple night.

The next day, saw an early start for El Golea, with a refuelling stop at In Salah, where a strong cross wind tested the pilots. Refuelling from drums went according to plan and then it was another two hundred miles to El Golea. The Mooney, being the lead aircraft, was told to land on Runway 10 but the others were told to use Runway 36. Runway 10 was blocked by the Mooney which had suffered a burst nose wheel whilst taxiing. Fortunately Bear had prudently brought two spare tubes. Whilst repairs were being carried out, the co-pilot of the Piper Archer was seen walking along the runway and, when asked why, said that his pilot had terrified him by not seeing a ten inch drop in the runway, and then ending up in sticky tar, halting the plane completely, and then having to be pulled out by a fire truck.

Once again the group found themselves in the only hotel, and it was another with a minus star rating. All rooms were unhygienic little boxes, with no bed linen as we know it, and the loo facilities were dreadful.

Out of Africa.
Out of Africa.

 

The group could not wait to leave for their final destination in Africa – Algiers. Overnight, the Mooneys tyre had deflated, but it was decided that the Piper Archer, the Grumman AA5 and the MCR4 should go ahead, and Bear, and the others would remain behind to help fix the Mooney. After much heaving and grunting the wheel was removed and taken into town to be repaired. Whilst this was going on, the other Mooney pilot discovered water in the fuel tanks and after much work the water was cleared. Just before lunch, the last three aircraft were ready to depart for the four hundred mile flight to Algiers, and a much awaited four star hotel. However the weather deteriorated, and the lead group had diverted to Bejia, one hundred miles along the East coast of Algiers. There was no avgas, and there was not enough fuel amongst the lead group to get to Algiers, and the second group was asked to bring what spare fuel they had, which could be shared around. As the Mooney had plenty of spare fuel, it went to Bejaia. The Cessna 206 also went ahead as it could be used to shuttle fuel from Algiers, if the need arose. Meanwhile Bear decided to go to Algiers, not without problems in making radio contact with the control tower, but a Scandinavian airliner came to the rescue and acted as a relay radio station. After a perfect landing Bear’s starboard wheel burst and he was stranded, meaning airliners had to divert around him. With much huffing and puffing going on, amongst airport officials, until the airport manager arrived, and managed to get a jack and lift the plane so that the tyre could be taken away for repair. Whilst this was going on, the other five aircraft landed, and smirked at Bear’s predicament. Eventually the tyre was brought back repaired, and the group left for the El Djazir Hotel. They had finally reached real five star accommodation, crisp clean sheets, clean towels, flushing loos and a good restaurant. This was the final night before the finishing post in Ibiza.

With the end in sight, it was foolish to think that all would go well on the final leg, however, the control tower failed to advise take off times for each aircraft, and only two could leave, whist the rest had to wait to be given new take-off slots from Brussels Euro Control! Eventually the final four aircraft left, relieved to be out of Africa.

After refuelling in Ibiza the group left for the Ocean Hotel where there was much hugging and kissing and champagne (Coke for Bear) followed by dinner and speeches from all. The next day was April Fool’s Day and Bear and Annette set off for, what looked like an easy final leg home, only to stop to refuel at Limoges, and be told that another flight plan was required by Toulouse, so an hour was lost, before finally reaching Wickham St Paul’s at 18.05. What an adventure, but not one for the faint hearted.

The group were away for 57 days, and visited 21 countries. Bear flew 120.15 hours. The longest leg was 4.05 hours. The maximum height was 11,500ft. Drum refuelling happened at 21 different airstrips and Bear’s aircraft used 4,673 litres of fuel.

Mark Dawson

When I suggested to Bear and Annette that they might like to write an article on their flight to and from Stellenbosch, South Africa, which would tie in well with an article on the Stellenbosch Wine Route, I had not expected to end up writing it! Bear had written a twenty one page A4 diary in small type, and I had to précis this down to some six pages. I hope you have enjoyed reading of an extraordinary adventure. Bear is the current British Air Racing Champion having won the competition in 2013.
 

 


A Suffolk Success Story – Jim Lawrence Ltd

A Portabello Lamp with a handmade Cylinder Lamp Shade is a great example of the elegance and period inspired look of Jim Lawrence designs.
A Portabello Lamp with a handmade Cylinder Lamp Shade is a great example of the elegance and period inspired look of Jim Lawrence designs.

 

It is reassuring to know that there are still 100% British manufacturers creating goods made entirely in Suffolk!

The Lawrence family are not new to manufacturing as Jim’s father had a family business making top quality upholstered products in North East London. It supplied a lot of the furniture to the Royal Yacht "Britannia".

Jim Lawrence started his working life looking after cows and pigs at the family farm in Stoke by Nayland. However this was not profitable and in 1993 he decided to set up a forge in one of the farm buildings with a view to making a few specialist items, such as iron candlesticks, for friends. However by 1995 he was employing one person and with his wife Sheena, he made gates, railings and curtain poles. His break came when he received his first substantial order, from a local farmer, for a kilometre of park fencing.This enabled him to refurbish the farm buildings in order to be ready to expand and he took on a second worker and started selling by mail order. He was then asked by a customer if he could make the candlesticks into electric lights and this was the start of what is now the lighting side of the business and is 60/70% of turnover. There is a remarkable similarity in the way Jim started off and a business set up in the late 1940s by my cousin, once removed, Basil Thwaites, who started making motorised wheel barrows in the late 1940s with the local blacksmith, in one of his farm buildings. This became Thwaites Engineering which is one of the major manufacturers of dumpers, and again 100% British.

By 2000 Jim’s business had expanded to such a degree that he knew he had to move and since most of his fifteen staff came from Hadleigh he chose to look for premises on the industrial estate where the old Erben factory was empty. He was fortunate to be able to acquire the premises and the move achieved the desired result, as the business took off, and by 2007 he was employing 50/60 staff.

Jim, and his wife Sheena, are the sole Directors, so decision making is straightforward. From the very start they made a conscious decision to sell only direct to the public and not to employ any sales staff other than those working on an average of 1,800 telephone enquiries to the sales office every week. There are no outlets, other than the very impressive showroom, which is within the Hadleigh building.

Since moving, there has been a steady growth in the business averaging about 6% a year. I would be very surprised if you have not seen a Jim Lawrence advertisement as they appear in many glossy magazines and this is their main marketing platform, together with the website, which has been a major source of orders, now accounting for some 50% of sales. Many of the products come in various guises and lampshades come in different shapes and sizes and have many different combinations of coverings. They estimate lampshades could have as many as 20,000 variations! The main product range is about 3,000 items, of which about 80% are in stock. Very occasionally, due to the handmade nature of their products, they run out of some items and in that case it will be created in the workshop to order, so that no matter what it reaches the customer within 14 days.

Different advertisements carry different telephone numbers, from which it is possible to analyse where the orders were generated. In the office the order lines are closely monitored to show the number of calls taken by individual operators and the source of the order. This is all displayed on a large screen in the telephone operator’s office. If an item is in stock it will be sent out for delivery the following day.

The 'Old Gold' paint effect is applied by hand to create the luminescent finishnewly released Sussex Wall Light
The products are all hand finished at the workshop. The 'Old Gold' paint effect is applied by hand to create the luminescent finish seen in the newly released Sussex Wall Light shown here.

 

It is not surprising to learn that the company has been approached by some of the major retailers wanting to sell the Jim Lawrence products. However Jim has maintained total control over all sales, and to this day you are only able to buy Jim Lawrence products directly from the company itself. By doing this Jim is able to make sure he can personally guarantee that every product they sell meets the exacting quality control standards they have set themselves and for which the brand is renowned.

The main product ideas come from Jim and Sheena, as well as customers, wanting something not in the catalogue. There are two technical draughts people in the office.

Currently there are over one hundred members of staff, both male and female. Whilst computer controlled machines do a lot of the work they still have to be overseen and kept supplied with raw materials. Soft furnishings are all hand-made, as is the fitting of lampshade covers and the wiring and fitting of switches and bulb holders etc. Most of the staff are taken on as a result of recommendations from other members of staff, and potential employees are asked to try out their possible role for a day before doing a six month apprenticeship. It was gratifying to see so many happy faces.

A CAD operated water jet cutter enables the operator to cut any size or shape of steel required for the designs.
A CAD operated water jet cutter enables the operator to cut any size or shape of steel required for the designs.



As with most businesses these days, computers play a vital role. Computers control most of the manufacturing processes from the precision cutting up of sheets of brass or steel, to the welding together of the frames of lampshades and the cutting up of the lampshade covers, a job originally done with a pair of scissors! Walking round the factory I noticed an unattended milling machine working away.

I have seen laser cutters slicing through inches thick steel plates at great speed, but leaving rough edges, but nonetheless still much smoother than cutting using oxy acetylene. Until my visit I had never seen brass or steel plates being cut by water jet. The plate is submersed in water and cut, by a jet of water with garnet sand which acts as the abrasive, leaving totally smooth edges. If this cutting were done other than submerged, can you imagine the mess!

The week’s work is input into the computer which then details what each machine operator will do on any given day and will tell the stock controller what items need to be delivered to any manufacturing station. It will also produce a list of daily tasks for everyone in the factory.

Whilst I was researching and writing this article it was announced that the Company had won a prestigious award at The House Beautiful Awards. This was the firsttime they had entered the competition. The Gold Award was for their Boathouse Outdoor Light, in the Best Lighting category. There were more than 250 entrants in 22 categories covering homes and gardens, where they were up against companies such as John Lewis, Laura Ashley and Next to name but a few. The winning light is made of solid brass and whilst traditional in appearance incorporates an integrated LED bulb that lasts 50,000 hours.

The showroom on the Hadleigh Industrial Estate is impressive with well spread out displays of door furniture, such as door latches, brass and steel door knockers, letterbox covers etc. lamps, light fittings, a myriad of lamp shades, forged iron curtain poles, finials, brackets and rings, also made in brass, curtains, cushions and fabrics. The showroom stocks a large supply of LED bulbs. To keep parents with young children on the buying trail, there are toys and train sets to keep them amused, whilst the parents discuss their needs, and place their orders! There is a very good real coffee and tea machine. Go to www.jim-lawrence.co.uk

Mark Dawson

When writing this article I initially spent a couple of hours with Jim talking about his business and then going round the workshops. Thereafter I had a number of meetings with Cassie Rowland, Jim’s Marketing Manager a very energetic and enthusiastic gofer! She was an absolute delight to deal with.

Adnams Red Burgundy

 


Hold Farm, Bures St Mary; A Rare Tudor Watermill

This article is an abbreviation of a report prepared by Bures-based architectural historian Leigh Alston for English Heritage in 2010. Thanks due to the owners, Mr and Mrs Tom Hills.

 

Hold Farm from the south, showing the truncated eastern end of the Tudor mill to the left.
Hold Farm from the south, showing the truncated eastern end of the Tudor mill to the left.

 

Summary

Hold Farm is the earliest secular watermill in Britain and merits listing at grade II* or grade I. It is currently listed at grade II as a ‘former farmhouse, said to have been a flax mill’. Medieval and Tudor watermills are exceptionally rare, with fragmentary examples surviving at four or five monastic sites in the country (including Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire and Abbotsbury Abbey in Dorset), and Hold Farm is of national importance. It illustrates the standard layout of early mills, which typically straddled their mill streams and required a separate wheel for each pair of stones before the advent of multiple gearing in the 17th century. The isolated building lies in open countryside alongside the Assington Brook, which flows into the River Stour 750 metres to the south, and may occupy the site of the 'molendinum de Smalebrug' mentioned in a document of 1090. The remains of Smallbridge Hall, the Tudor brick mansion of Sir William Waldegrave, to which the present mill and much of the parish belonged in the 16th century, lies on the northern bank of the river 1 km to the south- east. The original structure consists of a brick ground storey with a timber-framed upper storey in five bays and an intact crown-post roof. A pair of finely moulded brick arches in the front and rear elevations framed the mill race which passed through the building and drove a pair of wheels within (the water diverted upstream from the nearby brook). The framing of the upper storey is largely exposed and contained roll-moulded window mullions designed for external display, although the internal timbers are plain and utilitarian, but much of the brickwork is now hidden by modern render. Photographs taken during the extensive renovation and extension of the building in 1988 reveal evidence of additional arched doorways and large windows. The building continued further to both east and west (beneath the gravel drive and the eastern extension of 1988) but was truncated after its conversion into a farmhouse during the 17th century. The front (southern) range is an addition of the mid-19th century. Excavations of 1993 uncovered substantial foundations to the west but unfortunately the importance of the site was not recognised in 1988 and the opportunity to excavate elsewhere was not taken. The currently proposed alterations to the eastern extension may exposure more archaeology during any necessary groundwork, and the proposed unblocking of an original window may reveal additional moulded mullions.
 

Illus. 1. Hold Farm from the south in the dry summer of 1994, showing the course of the mill stream which formerly passed through the building as a green line on the lawn.
Illus. 1. Hold Farm from the south in the dry summer of 1994, showing the course of the mill stream which formerly passed through the building as a green line on the lawn.


 

Illus. 2. The twin Tudor arches of the mill race seen from the
19th century southern extension. A pair of water wheels lay side-by-side between the arches, each driving a pair of grindstones to right and left as shown in figure 1 below. Note the fine hood moulding, which preserves traces of original red pigment.
Illus. 2. The twin Tudor arches of the mill race seen from the 19th century southern extension. A pair of water wheels lay side-by-side between the arches, each driving a pair of grindstones to right and left as shown in figure 1 below. Note the fine hood moulding, which preserves traces of original red pigment.


Illus. 3. The grade I-listed 14th century mill at Abbotsbury in Dorset, which provides a close parallel, although as it is embedded in sloping ground its two wheels were overshot (the water delivered from above) and it lacks an arch in its rear elevation.
Illus. 3. The grade I-listed 14th century mill at Abbotsbury in Dorset, which provides a close parallel, although as it is embedded in sloping ground its two wheels were overshot (the water delivered from above) and it lacks an arch in its rear elevation.


Reconstruction of the Abbotsbury mill, showing the two wheels of the central mill race and the stones on both sides. Note the symmetry of the building, which might have been expected at Hold Farm. Published in the 'Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society', 1986, and reproduced in 'The Mills of Medieval England' by Richard Holt, 1988.
Reconstruction of the Abbotsbury mill, showing the two wheels of the central mill race and the stones on both sides. Note the symmetry of the building, which might have been expected at Hold Farm. Published in the 'Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society', 1986, and reproduced in 'The Mills of Medieval England' by Richard Holt, 1988.



In the following analysis, which describes the origin and development of the building in more detail, any technical terms in Italics are defined in the accompanying glossary. Detailed plans and elevations are provided in the Appendix.

Historic Fabric

Hold Farm lies in the shallow valley of the Assington Brook 750m north of its junction with the River Stour. The building occupies an isolated location in open countryside between the village of Bures St Mary 1.25 km to the west and the remains of the Elizabethan brick mansion of the Waldegrave family on the northern bank of the river 1 km to the south-east. The structure is approached by a dedicated track from the lane between Bures and Nayland to the south, and consists of an early- 16th century rear (northern) range with a 19th century 'double-pile' addition to the front and a large new cross - wing of 1988 to the east.

The house is shown with its present outline on the first edition 25 inch Ordnance Survey of 1886 (omitting the modern cross-wing), but a Smallbridge estate plan of 1849 lacks the southern extension and shows the rear range extending substantially further to the west. The building was evidently truncated as recently as circa 1860 when the farm yard was completely rebuilt. Excavations of 1993 revealed massive 16th brick century foundations beneath the gravel drive, and evidence of the rear projection (perhaps a large chimney) which is also clearly shown on the 1849 plan. These foundations did not extend beneath the lawn and appeared to terminate in a timber- framed gable which lacked foundations of any kind.
 

Internal elevation of the south wall (L-G).
Internal elevation of the south wall (L-G).



The 16th century range contains a brick ground storey with a timber-framed upper storey in five bays on an approximately east-west axis and extends to 14 m in length by 4.75 m in overall width (46 ft by 515.5 ft). The walls of the lower storey are 45 cm thick (18 ins) producing an internal width of just 3.8 m (12.5 ft) at a time when a domestic house of any quality would normally exceed 5.5 m (18 ft). The upper storey was initially open to its roof of plain crown-posts with cranked purlin braces, and divided into at least three chambers. The crown-posts of the present gables (i.e.trusses A-G and F-L as indicated on the ground plan shown in the Appendix) contain pegged mortises for external braces, proving that the 16th century building continued further to both east and west, and the first-floor framing of the eastern gable (F-L) contained an arched door head until it was destroyed in 1988. A similar doorway existed in truss D-J (indicated today by a gap in the empty stud mortises of its tie-beam) while the remaining trusses of the upper storey were open. The ground floor was ostensibly undivided, although the mill race between the brick arches would have provided a barrier, and contained a utilitarian ceiling of plain, unchamfered joists. An arched doorway was uncovered and photographed in the southern elevation of bay J-K in 1988, but subsequently hidden, and a similar door must have existed in bay K-L where the ceiling contains an original framed stair trap. The upper storey, which presumably operated as a grain store, was evidently reached by an external stair in the usual manner of warehouses and agricultural granaries elsewhere, but was also accessible by a first-floor loading door in the northern elevation: this is now blocked, but its presence is indicated by an absence of both stud and window mullion mortises in bay C-D.
 

Illus. 4. Western bedroom of upper storey showing the open truss B-H with the foot of its central crown post beneath the 19th century  ceiling.  The  re-set  roll-moulded  mullions  in  bay B-C (above the mill race) are visible to the left, and the position of a blocked original window which may retain similar mullions to the extreme left. The walls of the en suite bathroom are partly modern, but 17th century partitions survive above the tie-beams.
Illus. 4. Western bedroom of upper storey showing the open truss B-H with the foot of its central crown post beneath the 19th century ceiling. The re-set roll-moulded mullions in bay B-C (above the mill race) are visible to the left, and the position of a blocked original window which may retain similar mullions to the extreme left. The walls of the en suite bathroom are partly modern, but 17th century partitions survive above the tie-beams.


Illus. 5. The whitewashed plain crown-post of truss B-H seen from the east (now covered in green wood preservative) with the remains of a 17th century lath-and-plaster ceiling beneath the horizontal collars. This ceiling survives in better condition elsewhere.
Illus. 5. The whitewashed plain crown-post of truss B-H seen from the east (now covered in green wood preservative) with the remains of a 17th century lath-and-plaster ceiling beneath the horizontal collars. This ceiling survives in better condition elsewhere.



The positions of the ground floor windows are indicated today by recesses in the modern render, but a pair of roll- moulded timber mullions survives on the upper storey in the northern elevation of the wheel bay B-C. These have been truncated and re-set (probably in 1988) but seem to be original; the presence of rectangular mortises elsewhere indicates the mullions were certainly moulded in the usual manner of high-status merchant’s houses rather than the diamond mullions found in most contemporary buildings. It is possible that moulded

mullions also remain in a blocked original first-floor window in the northern elevation of bay A-B; great care should be taken to avoid damaging historic fabric if this window is re-opened as part of the currently proposed alterations to the property. While the interior was undecorated, the mill’s exterior was highly ostentatious, and the arches of the mill race were chamfered and hood moulded in the latest Tudor fashion. The arches were pointed to a smooth surface and painted with red-ochre to resemble stone, while the brickwork of the vertical jambs was incised and painted to create a perfect bonding pattern. This technique was applied to most 16th century brickwork, and would have extended across the entire building; it was intended to disguise the irregularities of pigment and texture in the individual bricks of the period. The southern arch is well preserved within the 19th century extension and its extensive red ochre is of considerable historic importance.
 

Illus. 6. The original door arch removed by the previous owner from the eastern gable (F-L) in 1988, photographed by the author in 1992.
Illus. 6. The original door arch removed by the previous owner from the eastern gable (F-L) in 1988, photographed by the author in 1992.



While the mill’s layout was probably typical of medieval watermills, as discussed below, its expensive brickwork and ostentatious exterior suggests it was designed as much to reflect the wealth and status of its owner as for normal commercial or domestic purposes. The crown- post roof and the relatively steep arches suggest a date at the beginning of the 16th century, and the brickwork is strikingly similar to that of the large chantry chapel added to Bures church by the Waldegrave family in 1514. At this period the Waldegraves were among the most important families in East Anglia, having acquired Smallbridge Hall and most of the parish during the late- 14th century. Sir William Waldegrave entertained Elizabeth I at the hall on two separate occasions in the 1560s and 1570s, and might well have taken the opportunity to show off the impressive watermill serving his large estate. The present hall is a mid-16th century fragment with a typologically later side-purlin roof than the crown-post structure of Hold Farm.

By 1680 the mill had been converted into a farm known as The Hold Farm or Russells Farm (see below). The present internal partitions of both the upper and lower storeys date from this 17th century conversion, although the first-floor ceilings and part of the central bathroom are insertions of the 19th and 20th centuries respectively. The whitewashed lath-and-plaster of the higher 17th century ceiling still survives in the roof-space (nailed to the rafters and the soffits of the collars). The whitewash of this ceiling and the crown-posts has recently been extensively spattered with green timber-preservative (it was not present at a previous inspection in 1992). The blocked trap in the ground-floor ceiling above the mill race may relate to a 17th century chimney which has since been lost, but this is not certain.

Operation of the Mill

Contrary to popular belief, medieval watermills often lay on small watercourses rather than major rivers as their waters were easier to divert and control. In a region with few steep hills and torrents it was necessary to dig lengthy channels known as ‘leets’ to create a sufficient headwater to drive a wheel. It was not possible to gear more than one pair of stones to a single wheel until the 17th century, and early mills required as many wheels as they possessed pairs of stones. The main mill in the village of Bures contained three wheels in 1439 used respectively to grind malt, grain and a set of cloth fulling hammers. The Abbey mill at Abbotsbury in Dorset, which provides the closest parallel to Hold Farm, retains two wheel pits in a single, central race as shown in figure 1, and similar archaeological evidence may await discovery here. It was sensible to combine pairs of wheels in this manner in order to drive as many stones as possible from a single channel (as each channel was expensive to dig and maintain), and mills often straddled their races accordingly. Additional external wheels and races might adjoin each gable. This practise was no longer necessary after the 17th century when a single wheel could power six or more pairs of stones. The local legend that Hold Farm was used as a flax mill may have some basis in reality, but flax was always a very minor crop in the Stour valley and the milling of grain and malt would have been its primary (and probably only) purpose.
 

Illus. 7. Detail of the hood moulding and smooth pointing of the arch, which contrasts with the scored joints of the vertical jambs and gave the impression of a red stone arch on pencilled brickwork (i.e. brickwork painted with a bonding pattern). The internal surfaces of the two arches were unpainted and crudely finished in contrast.
Illus. 7. Detail of the hood moulding and smooth pointing of the arch, which contrasts with the scored joints of the vertical jambs and gave the impression of a red stone arch on pencilled brickwork (i.e. brickwork painted with a bonding pattern). The internal surfaces of the two arches were unpainted and crudely finished in contrast.



The farmhouse lies at the southern end of a narrow water meadow between the sloping arable land to the east and the Assington Brook to the west. The steep lynchet (bank) which marks the junction between the meadow and arable land can still be traced in the modern lawn to the north and south of the house, and clearly ran through the wheel race. In all probability the builders of the mill deliberately placed it over the boundary ditch and used it as a ready-made leet to avoid the cost of digging a new channel (although it was probably deepened). By using sluice gates to divert the brook into the ditch – perhaps several hundred metres upstream - they produced an adequate fall of water to drive the wheels whenever power was required. The headwater pool above the mill may have been lined with brick or boards, but the recently exposed foundations to the east of the arch may relate only to a projection shown on 19th century maps. The mill stones may have been placed on the upper storey, in the manner of a post-medieval mill, but could have been suspended at a lower level and fed from above as suggested in figure 1.

Documentary Evidence & Historic Significance

The Waldegrave family gradually lost its wealth and land during the 17th century and finally sold Smallbridge Hall in the early years of the 18th century. By 1680 the Smallbridge estate had been reduced to three adjoining farms, named as Over Hall (1 km to the north-east), Little Mill Farm (now Little Mill Cottage, 750 m to the south) and Russells Farm (Suffolk Record Office ref. 324). Little Mill Cottage is a converted 17th century cart lodge and nothing remains of its farmhouse, but the site lies in the approximate direction of Hold Farm when viewed from Smallbridge and it may derive from Hold Farm’s original name. This is by no means certain, however, as a second medieval mill is known to have existed on the river until the 16th century just 500 m to the west of the same site (known as a curdmill is was used to manufacture cheese). Russell’s Farm was an alternative name for Hold Farm, and a document of 1819, when the estate was bankrupted and sold again, refers to ‘an ancient map of the estate surveyed in 1726 by J. Kendale entitled An actual survey of Small Bridge, Overhall, The Hold Farm and Little Mill’. Unfortunately this map no longer survives. Later 19th century maps label the site as The Hole or Hole Farm, but ‘the Hold Farm’ is probably the older name and may relate to the building’s use as a grain store and mill (cf. a ship’s hold – although ironically this use of the term is thought to derive from 'hole'). In 1819 Hold Farm contained a modest but respectable 63 acres of land.
 

Figure 1. Hold Farm on the First Edition Ordnance Survey of
1886 showing a new barn and farm yard and the present truncated outline of the farmhouse. (omitting the large eastern wing of 1988)
Figure 1. Hold Farm on the First Edition Ordnance Survey of 1886 showing a new barn and farm yard and the present truncated outline of the farmhouse. (omitting the large eastern wing of 1988)



The Smallbridge estate was purchased at auction in 1849 by one George Wythes of Reigate, from whom it passed by marriage to the Bristol family of Ickworth. Its three component farms, Over Hall, Hold Farm, and Smallbridge itself (now incorporating Little Mill Farm) were eventually sold separately. A survey prepared for Wythes in 1850 describes the condition of Hold Farm's buildings and land as 'most wretched and disgraceful', and recommends dire consequences for the tenant. Wythes carried out extensive improvements to his new estate, and the Victorian range to the south of the mill probably dates, like many of the hedgerows, from the 1850s. Wythes invested heavily in a new model farm at Smallbridge Hall (among the finest in Britain until its piecemeal destruction in recent years) which included its own watermill powered by diverting the Assington Brook into raised ditches and eventually into an iron chute which delivered water to the wheel.

It is unclear whether the Waldegraves erected their mill on a new site in circa 1520 or rebuilt on older mill. Every manorial lord required his own mill in the early Middle Ages as he could oblige his tenants to use it and benefit accordingly; in consequence the parish of Bures contained at least seven during the 14th century. The main Domesday manor of Tany possessed a ‘winter mill’ in 1339 lying on a stream so small it dried up in summer; Gilbert de Tany’s private chapel of 1218 still stands on the hill above Hold Farm (600 m to the north-west), but his mill probably lay on one of several nearby tributaries of the Assington Brook rather than the brook itself (which flows strongly all year round and powered the main medieval mill in Assington 3.5 km upstream). The manor of Over Hall also possessed a water mill, and a mill at ‘Smalebrug’ is mentioned in a charter of Stoke by Clare priory (which held the church and parsonage manor in Bures) as early as 1090. The bridge over the Assington Brook to the south of Hold Farm may be the small bridge in question, as no bridge capable of spanning the Stour is likely to have been described as small by the standards of the 11th century. The Stoke by Clare Priory cartulary (Suffolk Records Society, 1983) contains a charter of 1090 whereby Gilbert Fitz-Richard donates his income of 20 shillings a year from his mill at "Smalbruge" to the monks of St John at Clare for the lighting of their church. The mill is listed as ‘Smalbreggemell’ on the Priory's Bures rent rolls between 1382 and 1502 (when its tenant, Sir William Waldegrave, paid 15 shillings for it), but is conspicuous by its absence from the next surviving rental of 1541. The Over Hall mill also disappears from 16th century records, having appeared separately in 15th century inventories and a comprehensive survey of Waldegrave manors taken in 1577 records only the two Stour mills at Nether Hall and Wormingford.

The mill at Hold Farm mill comfortably fits these date parameters and it seems clear that between 1502 and 1541 the Waldegraves rebuilt the ancient Smallbridge mill to serve as the demesne watermill for their substantial local estates, either on its original site or that of the Over Hall mill. It was designed as a showpiece by one of the wealthiest families in the land. To my knowledge it survives as the earliest secular mill in the country, and one of a handful to illustrate the nature of medieval mills before the advent of multiple gearing in the 17th century. As such its historic importance is difficult to exaggerate, and any future groundworks or alterations to the fabric should be carefully monitored. The present listing at grade II, which fails to recognise Hold Farm's true form and significance (it wrongly describes the front elevation as jettied, for example) should be increased to grade II* or grade I (as at Abbotsbury and Fountains Abbey), and any repeat of the substantial losses to the original fabric which occurred in 1988 should be avoided.
 

Illus 8. Hold Farm from the south-west, showing its proximity to the Assington Brook, seen here in flood.
Illus 8. Hold Farm from the south-west, showing its proximity to the Assington Brook, seen here in flood.



Drawing Convention

The drawings accompanying this report seek to record the features of the original building, and do not necessarily include later alterations. Broken lines indicate timbers or walls for which evidence exists but that are either concealed or missing, although some features are reconstructed from photographs taken in 1988. All exposed joint pegs are shown, and scales are in feet.

Leigh Alston

Leigh Alston is a building archaeologist and medieval historian who specialises in the recording and analysis of timber-framed structures. He lectures in the Department of Archaeology at Cambridge University but also undertakes commissions on a freelance basis for English Heritage, the National Trust and various county archaeological units. Recent publications include 'Late Medieval Workshops in East Anglia' in 'The Vernacular Workshop' edited by Paul Barnwell & Malcolm Airs (Council for British Archaeology and English Heritage, 2004) and the National Trust guidebook to Lavenham Guildhall (National Trust 2004).
 

 


The Story of Sparrow’s Farm, Great Henny

Sparrow’s Farmhouse from the west.
Sparrow’s Farmhouse from the west.

 

Early in 2011, my brother-in-law, Charles Horton, a farmer from Gloucestershire, came to view a small flock of Llanwenog sheep in Great Henny. He is a judge of this breed of sheep from West Wales and he came to certify the flock. The sheep were on the meadows at Sparrow’s Farm, which was then vacant following the death of its owner Daphne Machin-Goodall. Charles came back to us at Bures Mill saying that there was this romantic little farm, which was for sale and needed enthusiastic owners to care for it. Needless to say, Elizabeth and I went to look at Sparrow’s Farm and immediately fell for its charm. After many months of negotiations, we managed to buy it.

Sparrow’s Farm lies tucked away in the deep overgrown valley of the Loshes Brook, which is a tributary of the Stour. The farm adjoins the Loshes Meadow Nature Reserve and includes the original damp Loshes Meadow, where marsh, spotted and bee orchids grow. The farmhouse is situated at the junction of the parishes of Twinstead, Great Henny and Lamarsh and some of the farmland is in the parish of Alphamstone. The valley is steep enough to imagine you are in Devon rather than the border of Essex and Suffolk. The farmhouse is an ancient timber-framed Hall House, which dates probably from the 14th century. The blackened rafters in the roof show that it had an open fire in the centre of the house and the smoke found its way out of the gable ends of the roof.

Wall plate and rafters with heavy soot blackening, showing that the building was built as an open hall.
Wall plate and rafters with heavy soot blackening, showing that the building was built as an open hall.

 

With difficulty, we had squeezed into the roof to discover these blackened rafters. The house was altered in 1572, indicated by the date on the front of the dormer window. At that time, the chimney was inserted and the floor was put in to create a two storey building from the original lofty Hall House. It has not been possible to date it precisely with dendrochronology because the timbers are not large enough to include at least 30 annual rings. The oak was grown rapidly with wide annual rings. We are grateful to Brenda and Elphin Watkin for their historical study of the farm and its buildings. They have carefully traced the alterations to the farmhouse, the barn and the cottage over the centuries through examination of the timber structure and brick chimneys.
 

Sparrow’s Barn from the east.
Sparrow’s Barn from the east.



Sparrow’s Farm has a large listed barn of ten bays, which stands opposite the farmhouse on the other side of the road. The barn is much bigger than would be needed for the present acreage of Sparrow’s Farm and indicates that, at an earlier date, it was part of a much larger farm. There are eight stables attached to the south side of the barn and the record of the Cook Family in the 19th century indicates that the farm had 16 carthorses to pull 8 ploughs and to cart the harvest. There is also an ancient cottage on the farm, which appears to have originally been a detached farm kitchen or service wing and bakery. It may have also been used for drying hops. There is a bread oven on the side of the cottage, where the bread for the farm was baked and, in our restoration, we have exposed the original entrance to the bread oven which was hidden at the rear of the fireplace. Before the 18th century there were a lot of hop gardens in the local area and the two large old riveted coppers in the cottage were possibly used for brewing beer. Unfortunately, the coppers were stolen when the farm was unoccupied, but we have been able to replace them. In the roof of the cottage, the date of 1747 is incised on the plasterwork with the initials EC, which indicates the possibility that an earlier Edmund Cook completed work on the building at that date. The tithe records show that Edmund Cook Jnr., born 1804 at Sparrow’s Farm, was the son of Edmund Cook Snr. and the grandson of the Edmund Cook whose initials are in the attic of the cottage.
 

Interior of Sparrow’s Barn.
Interior of Sparrow’s Barn.



There is a remarkable record of farming at Sparrow’s Farm by Edmund Cook (1804-1887), who kept a meticulous farm diary and accounts for 50 years from Michaelmas 1837 to 1887 when he died. This unique record of 19th century farming is in the Essex Record Office and has been used as the basis of a PhD study on 19th century farming practice. Edmund Cook recorded details of the work taking place each day and the amount that he paid his men. His most skilled men received 10s6d a week and a boy received 2s6d. He was employing 21 men and boys in April/May 1838, including 3 horsemen. This shows what a large workforce was needed in the 19th century to manage a mediumsized farm. In the records, it shows that the men worked many days on hoeing the crops. Edmund Cook was an innovative farmer and he was reputed to have been the first man to use a threshing machine in the district. The barn contains two large midstreys with gault brick threshing floors where they would thresh and winnow the corn by using the draught through the barn to separate the grain from the chaff. There is record in Edmund Cook’s account book of threshing of wheat and barley in October 1837 and of threshing rye in February 1838.
 

Gault brick threshing floor in barn midstrey.
Gault brick threshing floor in barn midstrey.



Edmund Cook married Alice Pung (from Grove Farm, Great Henny), thus bringing together Grove Farm and Sparrow’s Farm into a substantial farm of 428 acres, which perhaps accounts for the large barn at Sparrow’s Farm. We have some of the tithe records of Edmund Cook’s fields from the four parishes of Alphamstone, Great Henny, Lamarsh and Twinstead. These include the ancient field names which indicate the nature of the soil in each field. For example, a field to the south of the farm which is called ‘Leaden Croft’ is extremely heavy clay and, in the deep valley to the east, there is a field called ‘Swamper’, which is very marshy. On the old maps, to the north of the farm buildings, is an ancient orchard which is now overgrown with Blackthorn but still has some old pear trees in it, as well as one large apple tree, which we have not yet been able to identify.

Sparrow’s Farmhouse and the adjacent buildings have a number of colonies of honeybees living in the walls, which are reputed to have been there for a century. Some of the colonies are of immense size and it was necessary for us to remove two of them from the bedroom wall in the farmhouse, because they made a constant buzzing and heated up the walls with their activity, as well as, at times, coming up through the floorboards. Fortunately, we managed to transfer the bees, by use of a vacuum system, into new hives which are now located in the old orchard beyond the barn. We also removed over 60lbs of honey from the walls. We hope the bees will be happy in the newly restored orchard, once it is clear of the Blackthorn.
 

Daphne Machin-Goodall in her
later years.
Daphne Machin-Goodall in her later years.



Sparrow’s Farm had remained in the same family for about 300 years until the death of the redoubtable Daphne Machin-Goodall at the age of 93 in 2008. She was a descendent of the Cook Family on her mother’s side and had been at the farm all her life. Daphne was renowned in the neighbourhood for her strong character, her sharp tongue and her expertise in horsemanship. She wrote several books on horses, including ‘A History of the British Native Pony’, ‘The Observer’s Book of Horses’ and ‘Horses of the World’. After the war, Daphne helped her sister, Vivien Boon, breed and train show jumpers, including ‘Neptune’, who won the Olympic Horse Trial with Vivien at Harewood in 1953 - the first such event won by a woman. Daphne also bred Suffolk Punch horses. There are many tales about her, including her going around the district in her horse and trap, with a long whip which she might use to emphasise her views, especially on people’s horsemanship. She had also bred Aberdeen Angus cattle and exported pedigree bulls to Argentina. She remains with us on the farm, as she is buried on top of Round Hill, at the highest point of the farm, with a view of Great Henny Church. At her funeral, her coffin was pulled to the top of the hill by a team of horses. The sheep like to sit on her grave and rub themselves on her gravestone!
 

Sparrow’s Farm from the east.
Sparrow’s Farm from the east.



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 falcon, which is fast enough to hunt the noctule bats when they come out at dusk and is fast enough to hunt swifts and swallows on the wing. The hobby looks like a giant swift in flight. In June, we were visited by four hobbies who hunted the field voles which had been disturbed by the hay-cutting in the meadows. We have heard nightjars churring in the meadows on summer nights. The farm, as well as having areas of damp meadow with orchids, also has meadows with sandy acid grassland, with the characteristic species such as pearlwort and lady’s bedstraw. This dry, acid, lowland grassland is now rare in East Anglia.
 

Ancient pollard oak and bluebells in Nub Hill wood at Sparrow’s.
Ancient pollard oak and bluebells in Nub Hill wood at Sparrow’s.



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, which are species indicative of ancient woodland. The overgrown wood and scrub land is an ideal habitat for nightingales and, in May, six males were singing within earshot of the farmhouse; the more experienced singers outdoing the younger males with the richness of their song. There are barn owls because of the thick, rough grassland and we are providing nesting boxes for them in the barns and in trees. The profusion of hazel in hedgerows and woodland has meant there is a population of dormice, which we hope to encourage by further planting of hazel in the hedges and the woods. It has been possible to enter Sparrow’s Farm into a Higher Level Stewardship Scheme, which gives support for the conservation of wildlife, alongside farming. We are in the process of a major fencing project to renew all the fences on the farm to accommodate our small herd of 20 Red Poll cows and our bull, Woldsman Admiral. He is of vigorous disposition and among his exploits is swimming the river at Bures Mill (our sister holding) and going through two fences in pursuit of one of our neighbour’s delectable cows which was in season. We could see where the term ‘bulldozing’ derived from. The new fences will contain our sheep, which include Black Hebrideans, Llanwenogs and Welsh Mountain Mules. The sheep have done a great job on the dense swathes of ragwort which covered the fields since they have a special taste for ragwort, despite its toxic nature.
 

Llanwenog sheep grazing on the ragwort at Sparrow’s Farm.
ALlanwenog sheep grazing on the ragwort at Sparrow’s Farm.



Sparrow’s Farm has had something of a problem with electricity pylons, since close to the northern boundary by the Loshes Brook, stands the giant Twinstead Tee pylon tower, where the 400,000 volt line from Bramford divides into two – one line going south towards Braintree and the other going off in a westerly direction towards Halstead. There is also a 132,000 volt line built from the old Cliff Quay power station at Ipswich, which goes in a westerly direction. As a result of the many wind turbines which have been built in the North Sea, close to the Suffolk coast on the Gabbard and Shipwash Sands, there is a need for a new 400,000 volt line to come through from Bramford, which would follow the route of the original 132,000 volt line. Fortunately, as a result of the great efforts of Colne Stour Association and the Stour Underground, the new 400,000 volt line will run underground across the Stour Valley to the south of Sparrow’s Farm, which will lose all the overground lines and towers that cross the fields.

Dek and Jo McKinnon are living at Sparrow’s Farmhouse and are running the farm together with the land at Bures Mill, which is also mostly pasture and old water meadows. We are together gradually restoring the farm, replacing all the fences and gates, replanting hedgerows and woodland, repairing the farm buildings and building yards to accommodate the cattle during the winter. We are producing Red Poll beef and lamb on the farm meadows and hope to sell all our produce locally. We hope that we can have a productive farm alongside preserving and encouraging the wildlife, which abounds at Sparrow’s.

Nicholas Temple

Nick wrote an interesting history of Bures Mill for the 2011 Magazine. He thinks there is so much more to be discovered about Sparrow Farm that I have asked if he will do a follow up for 2015.
 

 


Your Countryside – fight for it now!

your Britain fight for it now



My title paraphrases the 1942 wartime recruitment campaign slogan. But you will note that the vision of Britain worth fighting for was one based on its rural beauty. Today it is the vision worth fighting for that needs protection. This poster view could almost be one in either the Colne or Stour Valley.

In a time when the natural beauty of our countryside is under threat from various energy developments, how are we to fight for that most valuable asset: the natural beauty of our countryside? In this article I set out to update you on the pylons saga, explain recent developments, show that you are not being told the whole story and explain what is needed to protect our beautiful landscape for both us and future generations.

Back in November 2013, National Grid (NG) announced that they were shelving their Bramford to Twinstead Connection Project. Accordingly the threat to our countryside from new pylons and a substation has been put back: delayed but not cancelled. This they said was because they finally accepted what Stour Valley Underground (SVU) had maintained for several years: that many of the new generators on which the project’s need case was predicated were either unlikely to ever be built or would not need connecting to the grid until much later than originally planned. For example, according to the developers, Sizewell C is still scheduled to come online in 2020 - 21 but that is clearly impossible. A nuclear power station has never been built in under a decade.

NG initially wanted to build the new connection with its 3/4 pylon, 1/4 underground cable mix by the end of 2017. National Grid now say they don’t need the connection until the early 2020s. Following NG’s announcement, there was some ill informed crowing in the media that this was some form of victory but in reality it is only a stay of execution. This provides us with time for which I propose a use. The current situation is that the building of the proposed pylons and substation has been put back by say 5 years. And it is important to realise that, as things stand, NG intend to resurrect the consultation and go to the planning inspectorate with the pylon, underground cable, routing and substation location planning proposals as they stand. Indeed, when the consultation resumes, there will follow a spate of recap meetings promptly followed by the formal consultation which will be short and very demanding for all community representatives if we are to defend our interests.

Having had some success in arguing for underground cabling and routing that would deliver environmental benefits, community groups including SVU singularly failed to change NG’s wish to build a new substation on a greenfield site close to the A131 at the gateway to the heritage landscapes south of Sudbury. An NG representative had stated in 2011 that they would press ahead with this plan and nothing subsequently was allowed by NG to have consultation change that. The consultation NG organised on the substation was in truth a desecration of the very word consultation and a corruption of the concept of community engagement. Sounds harsh?

In March 2012, NG led the communities to believe that there were essentially 3 areas in which the substation could be built: Castle Hedingham, Twinstead and a site in between near Wickham St Paul. There are around 1900 people living in the potentially effected communities of which 1000 live in beautiful and historic Castle Hedingham. By October 2012 NG had decided that for transport reasons, a Castle Hedingham location was not viable. And yet they did not tell the people of the village. Instead, in early 2013, they led them to believe that their village was under threat and the result was that the biggest community, outnumbering all the others put together, expressed a preference to put it somewhere else. All very clever but SVU exposed what had happened and that it invalidated any conclusions from public responses to the consultation. Put this together with other facts such as NG exaggerating the cost of one substation option they did not want by over £45m and you soon realise that the whole consultation was grossly misinformed.

All local government bodies and community representatives supported the SVU proposed option of installing any needed substation equipment at Braintree with underground cables to link it to the local distribution network. NG accepted that this solution fulfilled its technical requirements but it was never really put to the public at the consultation events. NG claimed it would cost £25m more than their preferred option but given the huge cost estimate errors we had seen during the consultation, we found this costing questionable. In a final twist, we discovered that the very reason why NG had rejected Castle Hedingham as a possible substation site had been a complete guess. The given reason was that a bridge in Gosfield would have to be upgraded at a cost of £1m to carry the weight of a huge substation transformer in transit. But we checked with NG’s consultant and this figure was drawn out of the air: no survey was carried out and the Highways Department was never consulted to asses the engineering need and costs. So was the £1m figure an expert guess or a necessary expedient to support NG’s preferred option? This all seemed very smoke and mirrors.

Having covered what we have been told by NG, I now want to turn to what you haven’t. There is much more to understanding what (if any) new grid capacity is needed here than has been presented by NG. By way of example, an undersea grid to coordinate and connect the offshore windfarms is currently being researched by NG with Ofgem’s support. As energy giant Siemens told us, undersea grids can be designed to reduce on-land grid capacity requirements. Shale gas could be a true game changer altering the geography of generation in the UK significantly as could renewable energy exported from Ireland into the UK. Ireland is currently in political turmoil over pylon proposals to deliver this last. And the people of Mid Wales fight to defend their landscape from NG’s proposals for pylons that will feed the Irish energy into the UK grid. Undersea connectors will run from our eastern shores to mainland Europe to integrate us into the European Supergrid. All of these things will in my belief happen and will impact what’s needed in terms of grid capacity requirements in our valleys.

So my previous paragraph indicates both unaddressed significant factors and great cause for uncertainty over whether NG will still need what they are currently proposing when their Bramford to Twinstead project resumes in (say) 2 to 5 years. But no matter what new electricity infrastructure is proposed for this area, there is just one factor that will greatly influence precisely what (if anything) gets build and that is the government’s National Policy on energy and the planning policy framework. Accordingly that’s what I want to turn to next, because national policy is something we can influence.

Currently, national policy on energy and the planning policy framework are plainly failing to protect high value landscapes and are disabling local communities with respect to protecting local assets from inappropriate developments. Ministers in both the energy and communities ministries seeing the impact of the deficiencies in the policies for local communities have published formal Guidance to refine said policy. Sadly, the planners see this as having no basis in law and so completely disregard it. This impacts our ability to defend our countryside from proposals for various forms of energy infrastructure including wind turbines, overhead power lines and solar PV. With respect to solar PV for example, we have recently seen Braintree DC grant planning permission for a solar farm on a site that is plainly within the area to be included within the proposed extension of the Dedham Vale AONB. The planners and committee were made aware of the Guidance from the minister and totally disregarded it, also disregarding their own emerging policy on not compromising the ambition to extend the AONB.

Given the current stay of execution on the pylons and substation issue plus new and increasing energy industry related threats to the countryside, it is very clear to me what we should use the time that has unexpectedly become available. We should lobby for two things. Firstly, the best protection for our cherished pylon threatened countryside would flow from inclusion within the AONB and Bob Erith ably covers this elsewhere in this magazine. I strongly urge you to support his worthy and important efforts. But gaining this designation will take time and we need to protect the landscape in the meantime to ensure that it remains worthy of such status. This brings me back to National Policy for my second objective. The ministerial guidance that was issued by Greg Barker (DECC) and Eric Pickles (DCLG) is clearly needed and yet ineffectual. If enacted it would directly aid our ability to protect our countryside during and after the interim period before any expansion of the AONB is sanctioned. Thus we need to lobby politicians of all colours to have the objectives of the guidance enshrined in statute by incorporating it into National Policy.

As we enter 2014 our countryside is under greater threat than ever from energy infrastructure of more forms than just pylons. We are blessed with 12% more sunshine than the UK average and our valleys play host to connection capacity for solar PV that does not exist across most of our region. To the threat of pylons we must now add the threat from solar panels carpeting over the south facing slopes of our valleys. The key to protecting our wonderful heritage landscapes from energy industry threats is political, through revision to national policy. And there is an election looming. Now is the time to press for change. We must not allow “national interests” to continue to always trump countryside ones. It is our countryside: we must fight for it now.

David Holland
Chair of Stour Valley Underground


David has been a tower of strength in taking on National Grid and quite often putting them “on the spot”. He has built up a font of knowledge and the CSCA have backed his Stour Valley Underground Group (SVU) all along.

Jim Lawrence

 


Tunbridgeware

The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells  by H. Hollamby 1860
The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells by H. Hollamby 1860



Tunbridgeware: Introduction The medicinal qualities of the Spa Spring at Tunbridge Wells were discovered early in the seventeenth century but it was not until after the restoration of Charles II that ‘spa fever’ gripped fashionable society. Expansion at Tunbridge Wells was particularly marked after 1680 and the area near the Well was laid out in the form of walks flanked by colonnaded buildings, where the places of amusement and the traders concentrated. The sale of fine decorated woodwares on these walks was first mentioned in 1697 by Celia Fiennes in her account of a tour round the country, during which she sampled the attractions of a number of spas.

The earliest instance of the use of the name ‘Tunbridge Ware’, however, was earlier, in 1686, in connection with production in London and it is probable that at this period the items on sale at Tunbridge Wells came with the traders who moved in for the season only, many from the capital. There is clear evidence of production in this Kentish town by about 1720. The identification of wares manufactured and sold as Tunbridge Ware in the period prior to about 1800 is difficult. This would appear to be because the name was applied - especially in London and south-east England - to all fine decorated woodwares which might appeal to an affluent clientele.

Confirmation of this comes in the form of an oval harewood tea caddy, circa 1790, decorated with floral marquetry and bearing the trade label of ‘Joseph Knight, Tunbridge Ware Maker to Her Majesty, Tunbridge Wells’. Items of this kind would not normally be thought of as Tunbridge Ware in the absence of such a label.
 

A similar harewood Tea Caddy
A similar harewood Tea Caddy

 

From the early nineteenth century the picture is clearer. The period to circa 1830 saw the development of two distinct types of Tunbridge Ware.

Whitewood Wares:

The first of these were whitewood wares, both latheturned items and boxes, decorated with paint or prints. George Wise of Tonbridge was a major supplier of these whitewood wares to East Kent resorts, while Brighton developed its own extensive industry.
 



Parquetry:

The other type of ware to be developed during this period were boxes covered in cubic parquetry and with borders of contrasting triangular-shaped segments of dark and light wood known as Vandykes (after the artist’s famous beard).
 

Another form of parquetry composed of square, diamond and other geometrical shapes utilised to form borders and bandings, are found on wares of the 1830s and 1840s often in conjunction with early tesselated mosaic panels.

Stickware and half square mosaics were produced by assembling and gluing prepared sticks of triangular or lozenge cross-section, in contrasting woods, in bundles, often round a central plain wood core, which could be removed subsequently to produce hollow wares. The process was also used to produce patterned veneers for box decoration.

Examples of Stickware and some smaller items incorporating cube work:
 



Tesselated Mosaic: 1820s onward throughout the 19thC:

Said to have been invented by James Burrows in the late 1820s, the tessellated mosaic technique involved assembling slips of woods in bundles, following patterns drawn on squared (graph) paper. First a basic motif was selected and redrawn on the graph paper in polychrome, each colour representing the colour of wood to be selected. Alternatively an actual Berlin woolwork pattern might be used.
 



The selected woods were then glued together, sliced transversely and reassembled into secondary blocks, which could be cut into a series of identical veneers and applied to the item being produced. The Tunbridgeware manufacturers had a good selection of local woods available, such as oak, holly, yew, sycamore and maple, which they combined with a number of foreign timbers and were able to achieve a range of colours, including green, which was obtained from oak trees attacked by fungus. In the 1840s manufacturers had a choice of some 40 native and foreign woods; by the end of the century well over a 100 and in the 1920s the Tunbridge Wells Manufacturing Co. advertised about 180 different woods used in the mosaics.

Size of tessera (each tiny square you see in a design) varies, the majority measuring about 1mm (0.04 inch) but there were a few veneers made in exceptionally large or small gauge. For the Great Exhibition of 1851 Edmund Nye displayed a sailing vessel made from 110,800 pieces (each measuring 3mm across). By contrast one of the butterfly panels on a bookstand contained 13,000 pieces, some scarcely 0.5mm in length.
 



Extraordinarily fine work can be seen in the portrait of Queen Victoria on the lids of the rarest top quality stamp boxes.

It is interesting to note that at almost the same time similar mosaic work was being developed in Italy in the neighbourhoods of Sorrento and Amalfi. Sorrento work is just as fine as Tunbridgeware but the geometric lines are often wavy and there is greater use of wood dyed in various colours. The designs obviously have an Italian flavour.
 



Examples of Tunbridgeware Mosaic:
 



One of most famous pieces is shown at the beginning of this article. It depicts the Pantiles in the centre of Tunbridge Wells. It is usually framed as a picture. Here the design has been incorporated in a fine workbox together with examples of the Berlin woolwork technique around the edges of the lid and base.

The most numerous products of the Tunbridge Ware industry were boxes. Tea Caddies, work boxes, games boxes and jewellery caskets are the most frequently found. Designs chosen were influenced by the popularity of Berlin woolwork embroideries at this period and, not surprisingly, bouquets and sprays of flowers feature frequently, with borders of floral, leaf or geometric nature. Rarer are shells.
 



Views of castles, abbeys and country houses were depicted with great skill, particularly by Henry Hollamby. Views included Battle Abbey, Bayham Abbey, Dover Castle, Hever Castle, Tonbridge Castle, Eridge Castle, Windsor Castle and the Pantiles.
 



An indication of the extent of Henry Hollamby’s trade is to be found in the pieces decorated with views of Muckross Abbey and Glena Cottage, Killarney. Hollamby also used the mosaic technique to spell out on smaller boxes the name of resorts, or the purpose for which a box or item of ware was intended. Also of great interest is a stationery box decorated with the Prince of Wales’s feathers in mosaic, possibly by James and George Burrows - and several items depicting a boy in a kilt with a dog and parrot. These are believed to be an expression of the public interest in Queen Victoria’s eldest son, who was born in November 1841 and these designs must therefore date from the 1840s.

Examples of a different style of Tunbridgeware.

These items were made by Robert Russell who specialised in Geometric Marquetry design (similar to a jigsaw).
 





Boxes were not the only products of the industry, however. Other items include thermometers of the Cleopatra’s Needle pattern, combined thermometers and compasses of Henry Hollamby’s manufacture, pin cushions, pin poppets, thread spools, ink stands, paper knives, rulers, cribbage boards etc.
 



Particularly rare are such items as the Bilboquet Cup and Ball game, spinning tops, tape book markers and fine Bezique marker and card boxes.

Most of the items of this period were manufactured at either Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge and the trade labels of Edmund Nye and Thomas Barton his successor, are to be found on a number of the more desirable items. Rarer are the labels of William Upton, one of the last of the Brighton makers. The finest period of Tunbridge ware production was between 1840 and 1890. The business of George Wise Jnr. closed in the mid 1870s, that of Henry Hollamby in 1891 and Thomas Barton died in 1903.

Barton’s business did, however, carry on trading until circa 1910, conducted by his nieces.
 



After circa 1910 the only maker remaining was the partnership of Boyce, Brown and Kemp. From 1916 the business passed through a number of hands in quick succession before taking on the guise of The Tunbridge Wells Manufacturing Co. between 1924 and its closure in 1927. The industry has never effectively been revived since this date in the Tunbridge Wells area.

I have demonstrated the minutest fraction of Tunbridgeware items that were made. The Tunbridge Wells Museum holds a large collection for further study. If any reader has an item with a castle which needs identifying I may be able to help.

Simon Foord

A tiny selection of very special examples:



 


Extending the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - Update



You will be interested to know that our campaign to extend the AONB westward towards Sudbury has made significant progress over the past year.

The Dedham Vale AONB & Stour Valley Project, was surprised and delighted last June to find itself one of 15 AONBs invited to submit suggestions as to why Natural England should consider making an AONB Variation Order to extend the boundaries towards Sudbury.

Katherine Potts, the Project Manager, has submitted our proposals based on the Project’s existing boundaries to enable Natural England to make an initial assessment of the suggestions. The submission included letters of support from Essex and Suffolk County Councils, Colchester Borough Council, Braintree and Babergh District Councils and all the parish councils in the area under consideration. There were also supporting letters from Tim Yeo MP and Brooks Newmark MP, Members of Parliament for the area concerned, all the amenity societies, including the Colne Stour Countryside Association, and Essex University. There were no objections by any individuals or organisations. If and when we are invited to get into the formal process of boundary review, wide ranging consultation will take place and all views will be considered.

The initial screening exercise will, hopefully, be completed by the end of March 2014, after which those suggestions which are seen as potentially suitable, will be asked for “a formal proposal supported by Landscape Character Assessment based evidence identifying indicators of natural beauty.” We are warned that if this Stage 2 proposal is requested, submitted and then approved by Natural England, it could then enter a formal designation process (taking up to three years) which would include full, formal consultation on the proposals. Natural England is likely to deal with only one AONB designation or Variation Order at a time.

Whilst this may all seem frustratingly slow and bureaucratic, it does represent a real advance and we now await the response from Natural England. We will advise members both on the website and in this magazine of further developments.

Robert Erith

Last year Robert wrote an article on extending the AONB and the above brings you up to date on the progress being made. He is President of the Dedham Vale Society and is a Committee Member of the CSCA.
 

 


Garden Visits



Bradenham Hall Gardens.
Bradenham Hall Gardens.



Last year we went to Blickling Hall. The event was well supported although there were a few spare places on the coach. The azaleas were still in full flower due to the late spring but some of the herbaceous plants were way behind in coming into flower. However the garden is spectacular, and must be glorious when the roses and borders are in full flower. The house is impressive and has a very interesting interior. It was built in the period 1616 to 1624 for Sir Henry Hobart. It was the first house to be given to the National Trust in 1940 by Lord Lothian, who was a confirmed batchelor, who had been responsible for setting up the National Trust’s Country Houses Scheme. Members lunched in the on-site restaurant and we were all disappointed at the quality of the food, which was far from cheap. I reported our complaints to the supervisor and an apology was received. I hope they have overcome their problems!

Garden Visit 2014. Wednesday 4th June

I have booked to go and see two gardens next year. They are both very special.

I have previously mentioned Bradenham Hall (Once the home of Ryder Haggard) in Norfolk and had intended visiting a year or so ago. However, the owners (Christian and Panda Allhusen) had to move out of the house for three years to allow for it to be re-plumbed and re-wired as without this work they could not get insurance. The re-wiring used over ninety kilometres of wire!

I first visited this garden as a teenager as my parents were friends of Christian’s parents who had bought the house in 1951. I have watched the garden and arboretum develop ever since. Go to www.bradenhamhall.co.uk You will find a description of the garden and a list of the 800 plus trees.

We will go to Bradenham first to arrive around 10.30, when we will be offered tea and coffee before being given a conducted tour of the 27 acre garden and arboretum. We will aim to leave at 13.30 to go to Hilborough House, the home of the Van Cutsem family. I suggest that you bring a sandwich lunch (and a drink) with you to eat whilst transferring from Bradenham to Hilborough. Hilborough House was only completed in 1997 and an outstanding garden has been created around the house. The garden was featured in the 11th September 2013 issue of Country Life. To see pictures of the house and garden Google “Hilborough House Norfolk”.
 

Trees at Bradenham gardens.
Trees at Bradenham gardens.


Beautifully kept gardens at Hilborough House.
Beautifully kept gardens at Hilborough House.



We aim to arrive at Hilborough at 14.00 and will be given a conducted tour of the garden followed by tea and cakes. We will aim to leave by 17.00 arriving back in Bures at 19.00.

The coach will arrive outside the Eight Bells on Colchester Road, Bures at 08.00 and we will aim to leave at 08.30. You can park on Colchester Road or Station Road or elsewhere in the village. The overall charge will be £40.00. This includes the cost of the CSCA purchasing Public Liability Insurance.

As in the past, outline details of the visit were sent to Members who have email in the autumn of last year, then in January this year I sent out final details and cost, together with an Application Form. The visit was fully subscribed within a couple of weeks. If you want to go on the waiting list, you need to let me know by telephoning 01787 227088. There is an answering machine if we are out. Please leave your name and telephone number.
 

Well-established trees at Bradenham Hall.
Well-established trees at Bradenham Hall.



Garden Visit 2015 (Date to be advised)

I have made provisional arrangements to visit, what look like two stunning gardens, for next year. The owners have agreed that we can go and I have got to settle on a date in the next few months. The gardens are Elsing Hall, Elsing and Corpusty Mill Garden, Corpusty. Both gardens are near Norwich. I think the cost will probably be the same as this year, (£40) but this is dependent on the cost of the coach. The Elsing Hall garden was featured in the Country Life of 15th January 2014. You can see it if you go to www.elsinghall.com and for Corpusty Mill, Google Corpusty Mill Garden.

If you are NOT on email and would like details at the same time as I email Members about the visit, then I will send you a Reservation Form by post, but you will need to send me an SAE. (Stamped, addressed envelope) I anticipate sending out details in January 2015.

My address is Cooks Green, Lamarsh, Bures, CO8 5DY.

Costing of Garden Visits

From when I first started the Garden Visits, I have underwritten the cost in the event that there was a low take-up of spaces. I therefore set the breakeven point at between 33 to 35 people. Therefore, if there are more than this number, the CSCA will make a profit.

Mark Dawson
 

Iris borders at Bradenham Hall.
Iris borders at Bradenham Hall.


 


Editor’s Notes



An Editor’s lot is not always a happy one! Persuading people to write articles is one thing, but getting finished articles is another. I started speaking to some of the potential writers for this year’s magazine in 2012 and thought that I probably had sufficient material earlier this year, but then two contributors dropped out, and I began to get worried. However some others have stepped into the breach, and I think we have some really interesting articles for you to read. I have tried to make some changes to the routine and have strayed out of the Colne- Stour area as far as South Africa! I am already working on 2015, and if you think you have an article you could write, please let me know.

I would like to thank all those who have written this year. As usual I would like to thank Rory O’Brien for proof reading and correcting poor English and grammar!

I would like to thank the advertisers, several of whom have been supporters for a number of years.

Adnams were featured in articles in the last three magazines and their wine buyer has written a short piece about the Red Burgundy they have been seeking for some time. I have given it to guests and it has been given due credit. If you go to the Hadleigh shop, remember that as a Member of the CSCA, you are entitled to a 10% discount. The Manager, Luke, is very helpful and he has a list of members. Whilst in Hadleigh why not go and have a look at the Jim Lawrence showroom? It is just up the road.

A & G have continued to service and repair my mowers and hedge cutters very efficiently.

Assington Mill continue to feature on our website and they continue to run some very challenging and interesting courses.

Bates Wells & Braithwaite are long term supporters and are my solicitors.

Savills have been very loyal in their support and will be well known to all Members.

Jim Lawrence are featured in an article I have written. They make some excellent products and if you are thinking of redecorating then go and have a look at their showroom. If you do buy anything please say that you read the article and were persuaded to go to see their showroom as a result of reading the Magazine. They are very keen to know where their enquiries originate.

The Pheasant at Gestingthorpe. This is a very good watering hole and has an excellent restaurant, and I speak from experience.

Ken Forrester Wines. You may have noticed, or even read, the article on Stellenbosch wines. When in South Africa I have a penchant for Ken’s wines and if you want to try them then they are available through his UK Agent (or M&S!).

Whites Farm. This advertisement only covers the swimming pool, which I can vouch for as being an excellent pool, ideal for aiding recovery from injuries through swimming and walking in water. I was strengthening a quadriceps muscle that had been repaired after it had snapped. The pool is kept at 31.2 degrees centigrade and is 4ft 1 inch deep throughout, so it is perfect for exercise and confidence building. Whites Farm also offers Pippins Nursery and Baby Nursery for 0-5 year olds which has been operating successfully for over 21 years. Whites Farm is also known for its beautiful paeony flowers, harvested during June and also for its apple and pear juice produced from the apples and pears grown there. This fruit is available from late August through to early in the new year. Although under different ownership, there is a very good “baby shop”, selling anything from nappies to prams.

NFU continue to insure my house and contents. Interestingly, last year at The Dedham Vale Summer Party, there was an insurance broker offering to give money to the DVS for every person who was prepared to let them quote for their insurance. I gave them my name and they came out and went through all my details. However they could not match the NFU terms.

Charles Stanley have been my stockbrokers for a long time and I have found them, not only successful, but knowledgeable. They have a free hand to invest as they wish within my agreed guidelines.

Deputy Editor
I have had a look back at the old magazines from when I first was asked to help get it printed when the Chairman was away. That was in 2005. The magazine only had 12 pages, of which two were Minutes of the previous AGM, and over half a page was blank. How things have changed!

I have been asking for someone to become Deputy Editor for the last two years but no-one has volunteered. I really would appreciate some assistance and I need to find someone who will be prepared to take over from me at some stage in the future. If you feel you would like a challenge, then please do get in touch with me.

Website
This has been fairly busy with information being regularly added on the Pylon situation and the Bunting saga. You can read the latest in Charles Aldous’s Members letter. The Magazine will be on the website from May, so if you would like a friend to read an article please direct them to the website www.colnestour.org

Email
This continues to be the most efficient way of keeping Members up to date on matters where the CSCA are involved. Once again Pylons, Buntings and Solar Farms have been matters that have been drawn to Members’ attention. No-one is too old to learn to use a computer and I do encourage those of you who are not yet using one to see if you can master what is a very logical system. Why not go to PC World or any other computer store and give it a try? Email is the only way we can keep in touch with Members during the year.

AGM Speaker
Michael Kuhn was educated at Dover College and Clare College Cambridge and qualified as a Solicitor. He joined Polygram N.V. in 1975 and in 1991 set up Polygram Filmed Entertainment, which made and distributed over 100 feature films, and which between them won 14 Academy Awards. These films included Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Dead Man Walking, The Usual Suspects, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Elizabeth, Trainspotting and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

He set up Qwerty Films in 1999, producing features including I Heart Huckabees, Kinsey, Severance and the The Duchess. The company’s current projects include The Last Days on Mars (a Sci-Fi Horror based on a Sydney J. Bounds short story) and is set for worldwide release, coming to the UK in April 2014, having completed shooting in Jordan and Elstree Studios. The company’s next film, Suite Francaise, is based on the novel by Irène Némirovsky, directed by Saul Dibb and starring Michelle Williams, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Kristin Scott Thomas, and is currently in postproduction.

His book 100 Films and a Funeral was published in 2001, and a documentary based on it was released in 2009.

BAFTA awarded him the Michael Balcon Award for outstanding contribution to British Film, in 1998.

Among other positions, he is a Patron of Skillset, and Chair of the Independent Cinema Office, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He was appointed Chair of the National Film and Television School in 2002, and awarded a fellowship in 2008. In addition to Qwerty Films, he is on the boards of Northern Ireland Screen Council, and UK Jewish Film.

AGM replies. Garden Party replies.
This will be the third year when you can let me know if you are coming to these events by going to the website and then going to the drop down menu on the left hand side of the opening page. Click on Events Sign Up and enter the names of the attendees in the appropriate part. DO NOT WRITE COMMENTS! Once again we have sent you a Reply Form, but you will have to use your own envelope. DO NOT TELL ME THAT YOU ARE NOT COMING! My address is Cooks Green, Lamarsh, Bures, CO8 5DY.

2013 AGM Minutes
This will be the second year when we have purposely omitted the Minutes from the Magazine, as no-one ever managed to bring the Magazine to the meeting, so they were pointless! Minutes of last year’s meeting will be handed out at the AGM together with the Agenda.

Mark Dawson
 

 


Treasurer’s Report



The Association’s capital balance remains virtually unchanged on the year, with a shortfall in the current account of £56. Income was down due to lower receipts from advertising and a reduction in the surplus from the Garden Visit.

On the expenditure side the item for postage is considerably lower because of the stamp reserve held over from the previous year. A one-off donation of £1,000 was made to the Stour Valley Action Group as the committee believed that supporting the campaign against the proposed Buntings’ development was necessary. The lower sum for Website costs was due to holding over an invoice to the current year.

Not shown in the accounts is a problem we have encountered with fraudulent attempts to take money from the Association’s funds by direct debit. In all cases these have been recovered through the bank.

Twenty-eight new individual members have joined the Association during the year along with one parish council, however a considerable number of magazines were returned by the Post Office, indicating that people had died or moved away. Crosschecking these against annual subscriptions resulted in the removal of a considerable number of names, so the net result was an increase of 3 to 666. Any ideas for increasing membership would be welcomed by the Executive Committee.

Michael Goodbody