Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Village Lock Up

Prior to the 1839 County Police Act, sometimes known as the Rural Police Act, most villages of any size had a 'lock up', where law breakers could be detained prior to a court appearance.  The Act allowed for the appointment of a professional police constable, rather than the part time Parish constable, to be employed 'for the preservation of the peace and protection of the inhabitants'.  It also stipulated that a police house had to be constructed, along with appropriate cell accommodation.  The Old Police House is up on the Cirencester road in Arlington and looks as if it was built around the time of the Act.  However, the photo above is of the lock up.  It must have been a grim place to have spent anytime at all, never mind a cold winter's night.  The only window is a very small one to the rear which is heavily barred and the door is hugely thick and riveted.  It looks a little unloved at the moment, but it would be fascinating to find out who has languished within and why they were there!

The rear, and only, window.  Along with modern fag ends.

A great old oak door.  Imagine that slamming behind you!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Brown Trout

The cold clear weather has brought the brown trout out.  For a few weeks they have been lying low in the deeper waters, but now with the brighter, drier weather they are basking in the shallows.  Life must be good for a brown trout in the Coln as some of them seem to reach excellent sizes.  The one in the photograph above must be around the 3lb mark and it was fixed to the spot for ages in the fast flowing water, which must take considerable effort.  Perhaps it is waiting for food, in the form of insects, to float down or to settle on the surface, or maybe they find it relaxing just to swim slowly against the current.  I'll nip out at lunch time and see if it is still there.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Sloes and Berries

It occurred to me yesterday that the hedgerows may be at their best at this time of year.  In spring they are bursting with life and movement, but at this time of year they have a much calmer beauty.  The above is a snap of woodbine berries amongst some sloes, which really caught my eye.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Feeding the Ducks

Bibury could be called the wedding capital of the Cotswolds.  A sort of Las Vegas in limestone.  There can be up to ten weddings in a weekend here so we become very used to wedding parties parading through the village.  It certainly cheers me up seeing so many well dressed people enjoying themselves.  The couple in the photograph above were married this morning and had a photo call on the medieval clapper bridge which leads to Arlington Row.  The were asked by their photographer to feed the ducks.  He supplied several loaves of bread until he had enough shots and I think even the greediest of ducks was quite full.

I've just sold a bookmark and four Bibury coasters to a couple of Rome.  When they said where they were from Rome I thanked them for building some of the roads around here.  It just slipped out.  They were amused and I think secretly pleased!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

A Mysterious Stone...

This big chunk of limestone is laid into the verge by the road that goes through the hamlet of Ready Token, which is about 2 miles from Bibury.  The road is the old Roman road of Akeman Street which linked the Fosse Way with Watling Street.  No one knows why the stone is there, but some people say that it was ploughed up and then removed to the verge so it would no longer interfere with cultivation.  I think that it looks too 'worked' for this to have been the case.  It is not a milestone as the ones on this section of the road are remarkably complete and this is not one of them.  Perhaps it was part of the old Roman road's construction?  In any case it's a big old thing and I'm sure it will be there fore many years to come.  

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Game Holes

I've always been intrigued by the little game holes in Cotswold stone walls.  There are many in the stone walls around the village and their primary purpose was to allow grey partridge to travel from field to field.  Being a ground bird the partridge tend to walk in flocks, or coveys, as they feed and are well camouflaged in the grass, stubble or crop.  If they were forced to jump over the walls they would become easy prey.  The hole in the wall therefore allowed them safe passage from field to field. 

The grey partridge was once very abundant, but numbers declined to critical levels post WWII due to the use of pesticides, herbicides and the removal of hedgerows.  However, they are making a small comeback and some farmers are now encouraging them to thrive once more.

Frost and Fog

The village is swathed in fog this morning and Jack Frost is also nipping hard. The place is deserted apart from myself and a couple from Melbourne, Australia who are frustrated at the lack of unmurky photo opportunities. Being an early riser I have noticed on frosty mornings that it is relatively warm first thing in the day and that it only becomes really cold when the sun rises. This seems a bit of a paradox, but I'm sure that there is a rational explanation.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

A Competition.......

Below is a fruit which is ready to pick at this time of year.  There is a tree near the Square which is full of them.  But what is the name of the fruit?  The winning answer will be drawn on Saturday 18th December and the prize will be a Bibury worktop protector [the one with the brown trout and the rainbow trout] which will be sent to the winner completely free!  Please email any answers to richard@rawilliams.com with the address you would like the prize to be sent to - Good Luck!!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Old Map

The rain is teeming down outside and the cars are sploshing down the road.  The shop is very quiet at this time of year and it has given me time to study an old map of the village which was hand drawn in 1769.  The copy I have was kindly given to me by a friend, who procured it from the County Records Office.  The one thing that is most striking about the map is how few buildings there were in the village at the time.  The Church [of course], the Bibury Court, Arlington Mill and Arlington Manor are the most prominent ones and then there are a few cottages scattered here and there.  Arlington Green was then a collection of four or five houses and seems very different from the hotch potch of cottages that it became in later years.  It makes me realise how busy the village was during the last part of the eighteenth century, when most of the village seems to have been constructed.  It appears that the village boomed during these years of the Agricultural Revolution and it must have been a noisy, bustling place and far from the rural idyll that we often project onto the past. 

The rain clears at last.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Cider Making

My cider making season ends soon and what a productive one it has been!  I estimate that I have made nearly twenty gallons which should be ready for drinking around Christmas time.  There are four different types of apple; dessert, culinary, cider and general purpose.  Gloucestershire has hundreds of different varieties of apples which range over the four different apple types.  Many villages have their own specific variety which historically was put to one use or another.  Some colourful examples are Arlingham Schoolboys, Bastard Underleaf, Hagloe Crab and Hens Turd.  The latter is from the village of Rodley and the origins of its name are a mystery. 

Although we have loads of apples here in Bibury there does not appear to be one specific local variety and the closest ones appear to be the Ampney Red [from the village of Ampney Crucis being around 3 miles away] and the Siddington Russett [which is about 6 miles away].   Both of these are dessert apples.  I wish I could report on the 'Bibury Bastard' or even the 'Arlington Crab', but alas no. 

This part of the county does not appear to have been historically a cider making area.   Cider making was a very important part of the rural economy, in most areas, up until the First World War.  Each farm would have had its own cider mill and press and for much of the 18th and 19th centuries farm workers would have received part of their pay in cider. 

Due to the apparent lack of cider making locally, I am unable to find any cider apples and make do with a mixture of Bramley's [culinary], dessert apples and crab apples.  The latter are found in hedgerows and are a close relation to the cider apple being high in tannins and acids, both of which are crucial for a good cider.  The dessert apples add the all important sugar which is fermented into alcohol during the cider making process.  I have sourced these from two derelict orchards near to the Church which are full of different varieties and must have been glorious in their prime.

If you are interested in Gloucestershire apples then please go to the Gloucestershire Orchard Group website http://www.gloucestershireorchardgroup.org.uk/ which is an excellent organisation.  If you are visiting the Cotswolds then an afternoon spent in the Severn Vale part of the county would be time well spent.  Only half an hour away from here and a fascinating place.  If you would like a glass of my cider then call into the shop around Christmas time and you will be more than welcome to have one.  Cheers!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Hawthorn Berries

This autumn there has been an abundance of hawthorn berries.  These little red berries have long been a part of English folk lore and country tradtion.  There are several old sayings which relate to the haw:  'when all fruit falls, welcome haws' is one that I especially like as they do make a particularly good wine.  Last year's haw wine is now ready to drink and the flavour encapsulates all that is good about the hedgerow. 

Another medieval saying regarding the haw which fills me with foreboding is 'many haws, many snaws'.  If this one holds true then we are in for a bumper crop of snow this winter.  A lovely family from Finland, where they really do have cold weather, came in to the shop last week, and for some reason we chatted about windows.  Apparently, in Finland it is illegal to have anything other than quadruple glazed windows.  I explained that here in Bibury, where most of the buildings enjoy Listed status, it is illegal to have anything other than single glazed windows.  Better get some logs in then!