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Illustration above - Arthur Rackham from 'Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens'

 

♫    Music to dream by ....   ♫

'All the World is Green'
Tom Waites
From the Album 'Blood Money' 2002

(minimize new youtube window & listen while you browse)

   

   

 

    July 18th 2017
             ........ 'Sabotage Theatre' out on the Marsh  .....

          Sabotage Theatre , Romney Marsh ©vcsinden2017

    "When touring, Sabotage Theatre Company travels across the countryside, cooking on fires and camping. Our theatre wagon is pulled by a horse and we walk from field to forest."

Sabotage Theatre at Fairfield Church, Romney Marsh ©vcsinden2017

 

    Sabotage Theatre were working on Romney Marsh as part of the JAM on the Marsh festival. They travelled down lane and over field with their two caravans, a bold stripey tent and three beautiful horses.to present their new play 'The Looker'.

  "Our players may smell of wood smoke and their costumes may be patched, but they can pull at your heart strings like the bards of yore."

  The players gave two performances in the unbelievably beautiful church of St. Thomas à Beckett at Fairfield. This tiny, remote and perfect church sits alone in a meadow, surrounded by dykes, sheep and the famous, lush Romney Marsh grass, much appreciated apparently by the caravan horses.

   Inside, the audience sat amongst the ancient, high box pews while the actors roamed the aisles, and home-made puppets plucked at emotions from pulpit and windowsills.
   

 

Sabotage Theatre at Fairfield Church, Romney Marsh ©vcsinden2017 Sabotage Theatre , Romney Marsh ©vcsinden2017

Sabotage Theatre at Fairfield Church, Romney Marsh ©vcsinden2017
The audience gathers outside the tiny church at Fairfield for the afternoon performance

Sabotage Theatre - the Looker, programme
Sabotage Theatre at Fairfield Church, Romney Marsh ©vcsinden2017

Sabotage Theatre at Fairfield Church, Romney Marsh ©vcsinden2017

Enchanting!

   This year, Sabotage Theatre has become a victim of cuts to Arts Council funding and has lost its all important grant. Who knows if it will be able to continue into 2018. While they struggle for survival, another unique and magical experience will be lost to us all.

More about Fairfield Church on my diaryblog here - scroll down to February 19th 2013 

Support Sabotage Theatre  - "Save the last UK horse-drawn theatre company! "  crowdfunding here

 

 

      June 23rd 2017
             ........ three midsummer gardens in the Weald of Kent .....

Hidden Kentish gardens -Little Mockbeggar ©vcsinden2017

Topiary amongst the cottage garden of Little Mockbeggar near Benenden, in the Weald of  Kent.

 

     If you are visiting England in spring or summer, you can't to better than to go right 'off the beaten track' to countryside and villages. Pick up a copy of the National Gardens Scheme booklet  (or look online here)  for the counties you might stay in and plan some afternoons out in the wonderful gardens. Unlike our 'big', famous gardens, each of these is open to the public just a few times in a year - for charity. Quintessential England!

   Rosa Mundi - Watergate House, Fordwich ©vcsinden2017As many are so rural, travelling out to pretty villages and then along winding wild flower lanes, it's really necessary to have your own transport. There may be pretty cottage gardens jumbled with fruit, flowers and vegetables - there may be fine houses with formal rose gardens and lakes.

 

    When you've finished exploring and admiring, sit down and take a breather with some of the excellent home made scones and a piece of cake that usually accompany a nice pot of tea!

Hidden Kentish gardens -Little Mockbeggar, Benenden ©vcsinden2017

Tea, profits in aid of the local Hospice, at Little Mockbeggar near Benenden

    First, the garden of  Little Mockbeggar near the village of Benenden. A heavenly, friendly jumble of 'cottage garden' flowers, herbs, and vegetables.There are huge wild flower meadows to wander round, animals to talk with and outbuildings to die for, covered top to bottom with rambling roses, honeysuckle and clematis.

Hidden Kentish gardens - Little Mockbeggar, Benenden - a place for tea  ©vcsinden2017

Hidden Kentish gardens - poppy - Little Mockbeggar, Benenden ©vcsinden2017
Hidden Kentish gardens - sweet peas and beetroot, Little Mockbeggar, Benenden  ©vcsinden2017

Self-seeded poppies abound in the hot sun, while a rustic tunnel of sweet peas frames a fine row of beetroots

     Next in the Kentish gardens is Long Barn, in the village of Weald on the way to Sevenoaks. This was Vita Sackville West's first garden design, evolving long before she and husband Harold discovered Sissinghurst. The earliest part of the house dates from the 14th century. Vita doubled its size by adding a local barn to make an L shaped property hugging courtyard gardens.

     If you'd like to read more, there's a very good article about Long Barn here

     The garden is only open by appointment to groups.

Hidden Kentish gardens  Long Barn, Weald ©vcsinden2017
Beautiful Long Barn - six hundred years of history

Wasp nest  ©vcsinden2017
Hidden Kentish gardens  Long Barn, Weald ©vcsinden2017

A perfect little wasp nest, carefully speared amongst the back door roses

Hidden Kentish gardens Long Barn, Weald ©vcsinden2017

 

 

     My third midsummer garden was visited on one of the hottest days of the year so far.  Watergate House in the centre of the ancient village of Fordwich near Canterbury. The National Gardens Scheme booklet describes it as a 'Magical walled garden near the River Stour'. And so it is - just that!   There's also both a historic church and an old, celebrated foody pub in the little square right next door!

Hidden Kentish gardens  Watergate House, Fordwich ©vcsinden2017

The 'Watergate' of Watergate House - a place to watch kayaks and kingfishers on the Stour

Hidden Kentish gardens  Watergate House, Fordwich ©vcsinden2017
Hidden Kentish gardens  Watergate House, Fordwich ©vcsinden2017

Hidden Kentish gardens Watergate House, Fordwich  ©vcsinden2017

What a way to celebrate the week of Summer Solstice. I count my blessings - almost too many to tally!

 

 

   

      May 25th 2017
             ........ strange and curious London ...... on the buses .....

    Staying for a long weekend beside London's Borough Market - enough of an experience in itself!  Magnificent breakfasts for a start - keep you going all day while you travel very un-touristy and far flung areas searching for the rare and enchanted.

    Plenty of buses to choose from at London Bridge - scramble to the top deck for the cheapest ride in town, superlative views thrown in!

Muddypond green, faery Wood Guardian at Borough Market ©vcsinden2017
New friends at breakfast in Borough Market - the marketeers' favourite - understandably!

 

Here are a few recommendations for London 'Off the beaten track' ...

      There are the old cemeteries, evocative, peaceful and, well, really rather Gothic!  None more so than the 'Magnificent Seven' - huge overgrown spaces filled with ivy, trees, wildlife and dishevelled monuments. Once the idyll of great Victorian planners they're now struggling for survival. Last year it was a bus to Highgate, this time ... the 48 to Liverpool Street, to catch  .....

     The 78 to Nunhead .... this one goes over Tower Bridge itself - just look at those views! .. These buses give you well the best known AND the rare London!

©vcsinden2017
Above:  Over the Thames on Tower Bridge with the 78 bus
Below:    The Tower of London, rather dwarfed these days by the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf

©vcsinden2017

    A walk along leafy roads took us to Nunhead. I liked it better than its more famous Highgate sister as you're not forced to take a guided tour and can explore wherever and as long as you wish. Narrow paths wind through unearthly grave markers leaning perilously; angels toppled by WW2 bombs, damaged urns half covered in ivy. Birds sing and the rain patters gently through the leaves.

©vcsinden2017

     It was our surprise to discover it to be 'Open Day' - serendipidy as the magnificent horse drawn hearse of Francis Chappell and Sons, Funeral Directors, was showing off two of its pairs of beautiful black feathered carriage horses.

   ©vcsinden2017

    Next, Bus 48 to Viktor Wynd's Cabinet of Curiosities, in Mare Street, Hackney

      So you want strange?  It doesn't come any stranger than this .... curiosities and cocktails - so worth a visit!

©vcsinden2017 ©vcsinden2017
©vcsinden2017
©vcsinden2017

©vcsinden2017©vcsinden2017

 

    After your 48 bus has dropped you practically on the doorstep, should you find that drinking your green chartreuse, lime and absinthe cocktail beside a seated lion in a red top hat isn't odd enough, brave the spiral staicase into the dark depths of the cabinet of curiosities - you won't be disappointed.

  Above you can see Mr Wynd (his book!) amidst a tiny fraction of his thousands of ever-changing ecclectic curiosities. The cocktail is a Green Lady (delicious incidentally). There's a mummified faery or two for your edification, and a perfectly displayed flight of little skeleton birds.

 The 'Artisan Cheeseboard' for sharing comes highly recommended also!

 

 

 

Now - well off the beaten track but very lively - try a small industrial estate in Walthamstow!
    It's that 48 Bus again - to Walthamstow station for the Ravenswood Industrial Estate
©vcsinden2017

     Walk through the narrow passageways towards your industrial destination and you'd be forgiven for thinking that you were in an old country village. Tiny terraced cottages with sweet gardens, a 12th century church and a thriving pub adorn the conservation area route. ©vcsinden2017

   

 

    Here you'll find  'God's Own Junkyard', a palace of neon signage,where lighting for film and theatre sets , shops and expensive parties is designed, made, bought, hired and displayed by lighting guru Chris Bracey.

    Make sure you check it out in advance though - sadly it was closed for a private party last Saturday night, and only the little foyer below could be accessed.

©vcsinden2017

       Ravenswood Industrial Estate however is a buzzing place and a fabulous evening was had despite disappointment over the the 'main event'.  Two craft beer breweries with rough seating amongst the distillation tanks and machinery, or outside in the communal factory yard, were on hand to refresh and entertain. Pillars Brewery is the one below - not to mention a german sausage hot-dog stall with oodles of onions and the Mother's Ruin Gin Palace!!

©vcsinden2017
©vcsinden2017

  

Finally, perfect for a sunny weekend in May - a rare treat
It's that number 6 Bus - to Warwick Avenue Station for 'Little Venice'
and The Puppet Barge Theatre

   Caught the number 6 bus in the Aldwych for a magical Sunday afternoon in Little Venice.©vcsinden2017

     Tickets had been booked for the Puppet Barge Theatre - ostensibly for young children, but just as popular with adults and faere folk alike. I use the word 'enchanting' a lot, but it really is the most appropriate adjective - 'delightful' would be good too.

©vcsinden2017
  Photo above left from the website of the Puppet Barge theatre

     Shows are changed quite regularly, so you can visit more than once in the Spring, Summer season (in July each year they move to Richmond) but do be sure to book in advance.

     We saw  "The Hare and the Tortoise and Other tales from Aesop". Visually brilliant, from rainforest to thunderstorm, from a vast spider cleverly constructing her web before our eyes to a crazy monkey "taking his excercise". Each tale beautifully told. What a pleasure!

The Puppet Barge Theatre at Little venice in London ©vcsinden2017
The old barge which has been converted into The Puppet Theatre on the canal at Little Venice

 

 

 

 

     May 5th 2017
             ........ the Summer is-a-coming in ...... dawn rising at Whitstable ...                                                                                  

 

         

            video and photographic material ©vcsinden2017

May hat for the Sun up on May Day - Dead Horse Morris, Whitstable ©vcsinden2017


  

   May Day early risers could watch 'sun up' lulled by the softest of waves over the pebbles of Whitstable beach a few days ago. Here you'd find Dead Horse Morris, bedecked in may blossom, clashing sticks and singing for the first sun-rise of summer.

    After dancing to the waves, they bid goodbye to the impressively pro-active Lord and Lady Mayoress of Canterbury and all set off for Whitstable's picturesque little fishing harbour and danced to the oyster dredgers. Wharves would soon be busy as the oysters, crab, whelks and sea-food restaurants of Whitstable have their own fame.

    A nicely traditional, low key Beltane celebration, accompanied, and at times directed by the Jack-in-the-Green himself.


Whitstable harbour fishing boats at dawn ©vcsinden2017

Whitstable May 1st dawn rising – Dead Horse Morris ©vcsinden2017 Whitstable May 1st dawn rising – Dead Horse Morris ©vcsinden2017

Whitstable May 1st dawn rising – Dead Horse Morris ©vcsinden2017

 

 

 

   April 24th 2017
             ........ a MUST VISIT for anyone following the magickal fae pathways of Britain .... 

The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.  ©vcsinden2017

The Pitt Rivers Museum - Oxford

Unparalleled .. Enchanting .. Astonishing .. Atmospheric .. all that and MORE!

  Artifacts of folklore, human skill and magick - half a million of them, displayed to seem as they were from the museum's conception in 1884. Far more than you can begin to take in at one visit - to study any one of the cabinets at the Pitt Rivers Museum would take a lifetime!

  Allow the sombre setting, black cabinets and dim lighting to simply soak onto your bones. Such anticipation for what you may discover. No installations here. May it please stay this way forever.

Raven mask, worn by a shaman. The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.  ©vcsinden2017
Native Indian medicine bag. The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.  ©vcsinden2017

Left: Shaman's mask or headress, British Columbia. Collected in 1891

Right: Medicine bag and all its contents including 28 small bags of herbs and charms. Canada

Hag stones. The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.  ©vcsinden2017
Amulets against the evil eye. The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.  ©vcsinden2017

 Above Left: Hagstones or Holystones - Europe                       Above Right: amulets against the evil eye - Asia

 

Nigerian witch hunter's costume 19th century. The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.  ©vcsinden2017                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Above: Breathtaking ... this mask and costume collected in Nigeria 1914 has to be one of the highlights of my visit.  
The wooden mask portrays a crocodile and was worn by a hunter in a 19th century witch finding cult.

Collage of labels. The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.  ©vcsinden2017

The displays retain their original tiny handwritten labels. You might need a magniying glass to read some - so perfect!

 

 

 

 

     April 4th 2017
             ........The Kurentovanje .....  (Part 2)

      Below: a flavour of the Kurentovanje in video and slides, concentrating on the traditional folklore side of the festival rather than carnival - for that's another story!

     

          

                                                                                 video and photographic material ©vcsinden2017

           There's a fine Museum at the Castle of Ptuj, overlooking the little town, high, but not so high that a Fae creature can't fly there from the streets below!   On the ground floor of the castle is a fine new room dedicated to the folklore of the Kurents and other characters who made up the old 'Casting off of Winter' ceremonies in this area of Slovenia.

Ptuj, Slovenia – Castle Museum –  historical Kurent mask ©vcsinden2017 Ptuj, Slovenia – Castle Museum – photograph of early Kurent mask ©vcsinden2017 Ptuj, Slovenia – Castle Museum – historical Kurent mask ©vcsinden2017

    Kurent costumes from the 50's and older photos from the fine display in the Museum at Ptuj Castle

          Older costumes on full-sized models, turn of the 20th century photographs, and plenty of history and explanation make up a display that you could linger over for hours. 

        It's so good to know that the little processions in many of the rural villages still go out to the farmers to chase away winter. The Rusa (a character reminiscent of our Kentish Hooden Horse) still calls for luck for the plough horses, and the Picek (cockerel) still blesses the all important chickens and the production of fine farm eggs!

Ptuj, Slovenia – Castle Museum – 1930's Kurent and Plough blessing

A village photo from the 1930's with the plough - Castle Museum Ptuj

Ptuj, Slovenia – Castle Museum – Kurent mask ©vcsinden2017

A wonderful old Kurent mask - just look at his feathered ears and his teeth!  Castle Museum Ptuj

 

Ptuj, Slovenia – the early spring Kurent Festival ©vcsinden2017
Ptuj, Slovenia – the early spring Kurent Festival ©vcsinden2017
Costumed, the town turns out in force
to enjoy the atmosphere and - welcome Spring!
Ptuj, Slovenia – the early spring Kurent Festival ©vcsinden2017
Ptuj, Slovenia – the early spring Kurent Festival ©vcsinden2017

 

     

     March 20th 2017
             ........The Kurentovanje .....  a Slovenian tradition to welcome the Spring ...  (Part 1)

Ptuj on the River Drava, Slovenia ©vcsinden2017

Picturesque Ptuj spanning the River Drava

      Each year, some 40 days before Easter, the pretty town of Ptuj in Northern Slovenia plays host to the Kurentovanje.

     Ptuj - pronounced 'Ptoowee' began life as a stone-age settlement on the banks of the vast River Drava. A fortified castle was built on its central hilltop and, with many changes over the centuries, still dominates the unspoiled streets and ancient buildings of the 'Old Town'.

       Close to the border with Austria, the town has continued bravely through invasions, intrigues, and fires, keeping the old intact, whilst building for the future on its outskirts.

        And what of this 'Kurentovanje' you may well want to know?  Well, firstly you must meet a 'Kurent' - or two.

A fine pair of Kurents at the Kurentovanje, Slovenia  ©vcsinden2017
Long-tongued 'Kurents' sporting handkerchiefs belonging to their ladies'as battle favours.

 

     These fine figures, intimidating in their thick sheepskins, long tongues (like ties) dangling from vast, heavy masks, have been documented in the area from the 1850's. They are rural entities, from the surrounding villages - where they would once (and many still do) go from farm to farm.

    There they make mischief with the noisiest cacophony possible, to chase away the Winter cold and welcome Spring, bringing luck for the new crops.

Kurentovanje, Slovenia  ©vcsinden2017Kurentovanje, Slovenia  ©vcsinden2017

Note the varied masks, each Village can be identified

   Kurents from different villages can be identified by their masks - some have feathers and coloured ribbons, some cow horns - there are many variations. All proudly sport enormous metal cowbells, some all around the body, some only on their backs.

   Kurents are not solitary creatures, they like to run as troops. They weave, run, duck and jump with their unique Kurent gait, shakin' their booties and jangling those bells to make a strident hullabaloo! It must be exhausting!

Kurents frighten away Winter in the town square of Ptuj at Kurentovanje, Slovenia  ©vcsinden2017

Feathered Kurents, jumpng and shaking the bells in the town square. No wonder Winter is in retreat!

    This week Muddypond is off to Oxford to attend a conference about Winter Festivals. On return, she will finish a video so that you can witness the sound for yourself, and much more of the folklore of the Kurentovanje.

 

 

    

       February 13th 2017
           .....looking towards the Spring - and all that ....

Daphne scenting the air in mid February ©vcsinden2017.

Hazel catkins in mid February ©vcsinden2017

 

IN FEBRUARY

The birds have been singing today,
And saying, "The spring is near!
The sun is as warm as in May,
And the deep-blue heavens are clear."

The little bird on the boughs
Of the sombre snow-laden pine
Thinks : ' : Where shall I build me a house,
And how shall I make it fine?

' For the season of snow is past ;
The mild south wind is on high ;
And the scent of the spring is cast
From his wing as he hurries by."

The little birds twitter and cheep
To their loves on the leafless larch ;
But seven foot deep the snow-wreaths sleep,
And the year hath not worn to March.

JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS  c1880

   
     Photos
(©vcsinden2017) taken at Goodnestone Park, Kent whilst on a quest for snowdrops. Today the sweet smelling Daphnes (top), fine Hazel catkins and scented bright witch hazels surpassed the promised 'February's Fair maids'.

 

Witch hazel scenting the February air ©vcsinden2017
Copper witch hazel in mid February ©vcsinden2017

 

 

     January 29th 2017
           ..... it's that time again    ....

January snowdrops at Challock Church ©vcsinden2017

            This picture was taken today at Challock Church - the snowdrops are most definitely getting ready for the February Snowdrop days!
            Have a look on my 'Kentish Snowdrops 2017' page for opening days and times at Challock and many, many more lovely places to visit.  To find out more about snowdrop myth, history and magic try 'Snowdrop magic'.

 

 

    January 26th 2017
           ..... quiet crafting and contemplations at the Cheddar Gorge ....

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset - ©vcsinden2017
A fleet footed and woolly 'Gorge Goat' seemingly clinging to sheer rock!

     Somerset's Cheddar Gorge is a place this writer - Wood Guardian & fae Muddypond Green - has long wanted to visit. I believe the village of Cheddar is renowned for four things:   Cheese,  The Gorge,  long haired Goats  and crowds of summer visitors.
    Being January visitors were few and the wintery long hair of the goats was much in evidence!

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset - on the Black Rock nature trail ©vcsinden2017

Walking at the National Trust's Black Rock Nature Trail in a hard frost

      Silent crafting-meditating bear ©vcsinden2017It was the chance of a long-weekend crafting retreat which drew me over to Somerset.  Learning new skills, free-form knitting, felting, silent concentration, guided meditations and time to walk in the amazing countryside all part of the agenda. Not to mention joining with like-minded friends both old and new.                 

Silent crafting- ©vcsinden2017

A meditating bear and a basket of crocheted rainbow

 Medieval stone style©vcsinden2017

Medieval stone style en route

 

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset -rock strata  ©vcsinden2017
Geology

Silent crafting-free-form knitting ©vcsinden2017

Blue free form


Winter hawthorn  - Huath

Silent crafting- ©vcsinden2017
Gone walking

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset -winter hawthorn ©vcsinden2017

Tiny frost-topped moss and ferns cover the stone walls

Silent crafting- Margaret's basket©vcsinden2017

Margaret's basket

   This wonderful weekend was facilitated by Karen from 'Creative Contemplations'. 
She says - and I quote from her website

'We (also) like to introduce silence for a period of the sessions. The length of silence will be agreed at the start and will be by concensus. We believe the sense of harmony and peace that will arise from a group of people silently creating together will be very powerful. '

It was!

Cheddar Gorge, Somerset - ©vcsinden2017

Cheddar Gorge Goat, Somerset - ©vcsinden2017
This one looks knittable to me!

 

January 1st 2017

New Year card - vintage

Vintage German postcard to wish you a very happy 2017