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♫    Music to dream by ....
from Sleepy Head Recordings

Out of Time
Luke Jackson

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Luke Jackson ©vcsinden2012


    April 30th 2013     May Eve - making ready for the Beltane dawn ....  

'The Maying' Arthur Rackham
May Day - final verse by Edith Nesbit

   Maying tomorrow, rise with the sun and gather the dew - but oh mortal maids take care if you go to the woods to gather may branches. Be aware, tis a centuries old wooing day for the young, and young hearts should never be ensnared with the first snap of a blossom branch. 'Give a kiss and take a kiss and go home free.'

      The Poem - is the final verse of Edith Nesbit's heartfelt warning - 'May Day'  - read it all here and take heed!
  The Illustration - 'The Maying' Arthur Rackham - from 'The Romance of King Arthur' pub. Mcmillan 1917



     April 26th 2013     The Rossetti painting that wasn't there ....   

Red House, William Morris in April ©vcsinden2013
Red House, mid April - the marriage house of William and Janey Morris

    As part of the much mentioned Stella Fae studies, Muddypond is expected to take 'arty history' to heart, and so she visits places! Faerie tribes have a definite bias towards all things 'Pre-Raphaelitey and Arts & Crafts Movementy' so two houses designed by architect Philip Webb were on the agenda.

   Red House in Bexleyheath   (now owned by the National Trust)   built for William Morris, was the only house he owned outright. He lived there with new wife Janey for just five years - a planned extension for their friends the Edward Burne Jones's (who painted decorative mural panels in the main house) was never built.

   Knowing that Dante Gabriel Rossetti had painted a wooden settle as a wedding present for the Morris's and especially for Red House, I went to see .......  one of the panels had long been a favourite ....... a detail on the right reminding me of last night's full 'willow' moon.

Left - 'Dantis Amor' - unfinished panel from the Red House settle - now in the Tate Gallery, London.
Right- a composition sketch for the design in Birmingham Museum & Gallery.

   The panel 'Dantis Amor' has another name - 'Love that Moves the Moon and Stars' and is based on the story of poet Dante and his unrequited love for Beatrice - she is shown framed by the moon as she ascends after her death at the age of twenty-four. (The angel is not holding a Crystal Singing Bowl, which is a shame, but an unfinished sun-dial!)

   But it wasn't there! Whaaaa ..... this fae should have done her homework - the settle was apparently demolished decades ago, and the main panel is now saved in the Tate. Hmmm, I think it might be happier in the home is was painted for - shouldn't that have been its destiny?

Red House - bird weindow pnel by Philip Webb ©vcsinden2013
Red House - bird weindow pnel by Philip Webb ©vcsinden2013
Red House - bird weindow pnel by Philip Webb ©vcsinden2013
Philip Webb birds  - glass panels in the entrance corridor windows.

   Did enjoy these cheery birds though - and there are more! A quirky touch by the Red House Architect Philip Webb. 

  He also designed and built Standen in Sussex, a superb house, again now owned by the National Trust, with a huge collection of Morris & Co wallpapers. Muddypond visited last weekend, in bright April sunshine. The Trust has a contract for copies of the very early electric light bulbs that have been lit in Standen since 1894.

Standen, East Grinstead Red House - bird weindow pnel by Philip Webb ©vcsinden2013
Standen, original lighting ©vcsinden2013
Standen, original lighting ©vcsinden2013
Standen - an 'Arts & Crafts Style' house by Philip Webb in Sussex. Still retaining its early, original electric lighting..

If you are interested in the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,
there is a truly awe-inspiring online resource for you to browse from The Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery.



   April 12th 2013     Refreshing the faery wardrobes at Violet Time ......

'Cinderella Tunic' from Etsy shop 'Paulina722'   'Gypsy wrap skirt'  from 'Wildskin' on Etsy


     One glimpse of spring sunshine - and one glimpse is all we've had! - and us fae can't resist rootling about in the woods or ancient quarries to find bits and pieces for a fine new spring outfit. Down in 'Gnark's Quarry' this week there's a long bank, ablaze with darkest violet faery-flowers and scented with etherial violet perfume. Heady stuff!

   Here's a choice of pretty, pretty things for you mortal ones - perhaps you need a new ensemble for the First Day of May, which'll be with us before we can sneeze.

Elfin shoes from Fairysteps for violet time Handfelted necklace by Anna Wegg on Etsy Leafy Elven Cuffs from Artmode on Etsy Violet fairy wings from the UK - handmade at Fairylove

'Titania' - handmade faery shoes

Hand felted neck wear
'Anna Wegg'
'Green Leaves' hand felted cuffs - 'Artmode'
UK hand made double faery wings

Violets in April - Hurst Wood, Charing ©vcsinden2013 Elfin Cape by Angela Shannon on Etsy

Beautiful hand felted 'Elven Cape' -
perfect for May Eve - made in Kent
by  Angela Shannon at 'Folkowl'


     March 27th 2013      Re-introduction of Britain's endangered small mammals ... fine fellows that they are .... 
       (Making magic?  Full Alder or Lenten Moon tonight - time to pick a twist of  rust-red Alder wood to make a powerful wand)

       When Muddypond was a faery-sprig (sigh: here she goes again!) we were encouraged to think of all animals, but especially small ones, as anthropomorphic. In our minds they kept us company, chatted about this and that, dressed up in coat-tails. scarves or pinnies and set off by themselves for picnics and adventures.
In our books and favourite illustrations they 'messed about in boats' and spent idyllic, long spring and summer days busy or idle as they pleased in the meadows and hedgerows.

And that, to us faere-folk of the woodlands is how they still are ...

Racey Helps dormouse in 'The Tail of Hunky Dory'
Dormouse waking ©vcsinden 2013
Racey Helps dormouse in 'The Tail of Hunky Dory'
A hazel dormouse at Wildwood Trust, and painted by Racey Helps in his 1958 book 'The Tail of Hunky Dory'

   Nowadays, this whimsical viewing of the animals is positively discouraged. An agent will reject a book almost out of hand as 'old-fashioned' should it have the audacity to feature a rabbit in a beanie-hat. Having hounded and poisoned much of the natural world to extinction, mortals now believe that creatures should be treated respectfully as they really are. Good attitude change? For conservation? yes, probably - for children's imagination and literature? emphatically no. A little of both would go a long way.
     Two wonderful animal books with ecology at the forefront and never a scarf to be seen are of course 'Watership Down' by Richard Adams, and 'Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nymh' by Robert C O'Brien but these were both early 1970's publications with strong messages of their own. Me, I like my animals both ways - dressed up or au naturel.    

Sleeping dormouse ©vcsinden 2013
Dormouse, still fast in winter sleep,
in the safe hands of conservation officer Hazel Ryan.

  This week, I was lucky enough to be able to spend a second day at 'The Wildwood Trust' in Kent with chief conservation officer Hazel Ryan, learning about their 'Small mammal captive breeding programme'. Some of the dormice were just preparing for a slightly early wake-up. Here's a snippet from the 'news' page on the Wildwood website

March 13     Wildwood prepares captive bred dormice for release

Wildwood’s dormice prepare to head out to the wild in Wildwood’s latest release programme

Whilst people in the UK are hiding under their duvets to escape the wintry weather, the sleepy dormice at the Wildwood Trust are being woken from their slumber for an important mission to help save their species from extinction.

The tiny creatures, all bred at Wildwood, are part of the Trust’s captive breeding programme designed to repopulate areas of the UK where dormice have become extinct.


   The course was made available by the People's Trust for Endangered Species PTES, the Kent branch works closely with Wildwood. As well as their extensive dormouse breeding programme, water-voles, water-shrews and harvest mice are all bred here for re-introduction into the wild.

    Below -   more of the animals for re-introduction , au naturel and with imagination added ....

Water vole ©vcsinden 2013 Ratty - Ernest Shephard
A water-vole, quite a large fellow compared to the others - 20cm without tail -
and in character as Ernest Shephard's Water Rat from The Wind in the Willows.
The Wildlife Trust's website tells us  'The Water Vole is Britain's fastest declining wild mammal and has disappeared from many parts of the country where it was once common.'
Harvest mouse ©vcsinden 2013
The tiny harvest mouse - barely 5cm, who builds a wee round nest on strong corn stems near harvest time. -
here Jill Barklem has imagined the interior in 'Autumn Story' from Brambly Hedge.
'The loss of our field margins, hedgerows and grassland habitats is a threat to this species.'   Wildlife Trust.

Badgers at Wildwood, Kent in their see through set ©vcsinden 2013       Although the small mammal breeding areas are not available for public viewing, Wildwood is a wonderful day out for adults and families alike. They show a huge variety of British Wildlife in a setting of the ancient Blean woodlands, including a wolf pack, badgers (you can see them here on the right inside their set), otters, British owls and much, much more. They run an education centre and many of their own courses and events for all age groups.

  Not only is it a lovely day out, BUT - Muddypond is delighted to note that the way-marker signs for youngsters feature a BADGER in a COAT ! Yay!

Wildwood, Kent

If you'd like to see a few more arty dormouse things
you can find them on Muddypond's 'other' blog.
'Poor old dormice - will it EVER be spring?'




    March 21st 2013     Baskets from the hedgerow ...
  (Making magic?  The  Ogham wood  is now  Alder - Fearn,   March 18th - April 14th)

From 'Gnomes' by Rien Portvliet.

Illustration by Rien Portvliet in 'Gnomes' first published 1976

  Mortal folks stole the skills of basket-making untold centuries gone-down from magics. Forest dwelling gnomes built sturdy frame-baskets for logs (proof above).   Elves and the Faere took adaptations and twirled up containers for everymagicwant. They used light woods and hedgerow twigs such as silvery-grey ash, or shrubby dark hornbeam and bright dogwoods, adding wool, berries, leaves - anything to make them practical and pretty.

Hedgerow canes ready for baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 Hedgerow basket weave by Mussypond Green on a course at AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013
Tempting materials conditioned and ready - with a closer look at those I chose for my basket weave.

   AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 It's still a woodland craft which it's as well to learn properly, faere folk or not - and last weekend Muddypond was lucky enough to have a place on Alan's 'Hedgerow Basketry' course. (Alan Sage at AJS Rural Ways). I was only able to get on the waiting-list last year so had looked forward to it for a long time.

   In the first session we learned when to cut the various twigs, canes and rods - in winter when there is little sap and the leaf buds haven't broken - how long to dry them -roughly six weeks depending on the wood - and to soak - up to two days before use.

  By the way - making a basket from Hedgerow Materials is the task for Inquest Levels 135 - 9 of the Stella Fae Exams! I suppose I'll get there one day - there are only 413 Levels after all!

 On the right, a tiny corner of Alan's classroom which is housed in an old stable.

Hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 Hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 Hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013
New friends concentrating on their chosen baskets. Teacher Alan in the centre picture bends to help with another stage in the process.

  This fae did break the 'conditioning' rules by weaving a long strand of fresh ivy leaves through the framework, but ivy lasts for ages especially if you rub glycerine into the stems and leaves. I also plaited a tangled coil of 'Old man's beard' (without seed-heads) and wound this through the sides.

Making hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 Muddypond's hedgerow basket made at  AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 Making hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013

   Below is a flash of me, proudly preparing to take my basket back to Hurst Wood for use in the First Day of Spring Solstice. Next week I'll take it down to old Burnt-Sienna Brown (Stella Fae examiner of wondrous years) to find out if it's good enough to pass my Inquest. Fingers crossed.

Faery Muddypond with her home-made hedgerow basket made at Hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013




    March 12th 2013     Of murals, creatures great and small and artist John Ward .....

Details of birds from the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013

       Not so very far from Muddypond's wood, standing high up on the Kentish North Downs is the village of Challock. The villagers are proud of their church, even though it was long-ago left isolated among one or two farms over a mile or two down, down, down a winding country lane. Now. it has a service every Sunday and a thriving church community as modern transport makes attendance more possible.

   It isn't the stone and flint part 12th century building of St. Cosmos and St. Damian, beautiful though it is, that makes this place so memorable however - it's the remarkable modern murals.Part of the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013      


Almost every wall
of the church is decorated, but the two newest murals, painted some forty years apart by artist John Ward (1917 - 2007) will stop you in your tracks.

    These show scenes from the life of Christ, set in modern day Challock, with the village people and events going on all around.

    On the largest wall, directly opposite the entrance, is the Millenium Mural. A depiction of the vast yew tree which stands outside the church, and under it Christ on his mule, crossing the village green while local children carry reed-like palms and flowers to welcome him.


The Prince of Wales admires the year 2000 mural with artist John Ward photographed working in the church.
These two images are on show in the church.

   If the paintings as a whole are stunning, then the smallest details are even more so ....

Detail of the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013
Detail of the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013
A scene depicting the annual summer 'Goose Fair' - under the table, if you search, much loved pets peer out at you.

    The Millenium mural was paid for in a large part by donations from the villagers, who in return were painted into the scenes, as were their houses and favourite objects, birds and animals of their choice.

Detail of the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013   Here's hoping you'll find an opportunity to visit and admire the paintings for yourself - and spend time marvelling at all the tiny details from nature. Although the church is normally kept locked, the ancient key can be made available to you (details in church porch).

The massive church key has its place in the mural (left) - and here it is for real (right)

   Faere-folks are fascinated by ancient keys you know, because we have our own ways to unlock doors and chests and drawers, so a key is an anathema to us. Should they be made of iron (and we think mortal creatures add iron delibarately) we have to hold the key in a large leaf, (docks are recommended) for fear of minor burns to our fingers!Detail of the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013

You might have to search quite hard for these chaps - and after last week's entry (see below) I couldn't possibly omit the hedgehog.
I discovered her at the last minute, almost down on the stone floor!

St.Cosmos and St.Damian is also well known for its snowdrops - see more on Muddypond's Kentish Snowdrop Page




March 5th 2013     Thinking about hedgehogs - and the magical animation of Yuri Norstein ...

‘The Hedgehog in the Fog’ illustration by Franchesca Yarbusova
‘The Hedgehog in the Fog’ illustration by Franchesca Yarbusova
The delicious artwork by Franchesca Yarbusova. for her husband Yuri Norstein's film 'Hedgehog in the Fog'

     Russian animator Yuri Norstein is responsible for some of the best loved animated films ever made. Perhaps the most well known, and certainly the most "awarded", is 'Tale of Tales' - but Muddypond's favourite has to be 'Hedgehog in the Fog'. The beautiful, understated artwork has also been featured in a book, giving Franchesca Yarbusova full credit. And who, looking at it now, would believe that the animation will be forty years old next year?

     Perhaps you've never heard of this enchanting short film - possibly it was made long before you were born? Possibly you had forgotten all about it?  Or, perhaps it's a favourite of yours too?  However that may be - we faere-folks believe it's time to remember.
     Such a gentle, sweet in its nicest sense, little story. A bear, a samova, a white horse, an owl in the dark, some raspberry jam and the stars - not much more - except hedgehog of course - dear hedgehog. 



  Now, I've mentioned this before I know - but - when I was a faery-sprig, and even as a faery-of-a-certain-age, hedgehogs were quite a common sight even in towns. They snuffled over the evening grass into pools of light from the half-curtained windows. In woods they were abundant enough, if rarely seen. Too many of course were seen killed on the country roads, but now, when did you last see a hedgehog, either dead or alive?

  In the first ten years of this century - just ten years! the already rapidly dwindling hedgehog population in Britain is thought to have declined by 25% !  Here is a link to the document  'Evidence of a declining hedgehog population' based on surveys up to 2011.

‘The Hedgehog in the Fog’ illustration by Franchesca Yarbusova
‘The Hedgehog in the Fog’ illustration by Franchesca Yarbusova

   Please - be enchanted by the animation of  Yuri Norstein and his wife, artist and illustrator Franchesca Yarbusova.
Then, join the help groups Hedgehog Street , The Britsh Hedgehog Preservation Society BHPS, and / or Tiggywinkles - Wildlife Hospital and see what you can do to help - before it's too late!  Diole' le' - thank you.