As I leave Janice and Ken’s house to go to Bishopswood with John I notice a little fridge magnet and an eternal truth written down by Cicero a long, long time ago
“If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need.”
Ken says this is here because Janice is a librarian but for me it is a lovely reminder, and a great maxim for transition. If we could all but remember this we’d do a lot less worrying about the future, and keep up our effort to ensure there are gardens for everyone.
Janice has left me a gift of her dried lavender; a beautiful gift, for it has become my salve all for my feet!
John takes me on a short tour of “the most beautiful Georgian town in Worcestershire”; taking in the fabulous town hall and old Shambles where I read that John Leland, in 1539, said
“A man cannot wish to see a towne better…at the rising of the sunne from the east the whole towne glittered”
And I have to say that I cannot disagree with the elegies sung of this town that is not too big and not too small with the river Severn running through it and a steep, steep high street with Grannystap at the top.
Along the river walk, inlaid with little metal discs, on which has been engraved a record of the goods that used to be transported up and down the river, including spices, rice, oak bark (for tanning), all kinds of fabric, and grain, to name just a handful, I learn the tale of Sabrina.
The story of Sabrina (Latin, for the Welsh Hafren or Habren and in English Severn), is that she was the daughter of Estrildis, lover and beloved of Locrinus, son of Brutus (who according to legend first set foot on our island at Totnes) and king of England (http://www.whitedragon.org.uk/articles/Sabrina . She was drowned, along with her mother by the jealous wife Gwendolen, and realising the daughter had no blame named the river for her. Of course the far more ancient legend is that the river had the name first; for a pre Celtic deity of nymph who died there.
Hafren, the original name meant sea born or big circle, and rivers, according to our ancient traditions in this land represent death and rebirth and transformation – apt for our times of transition! Also according to ancient tales the salmon, which once leapt in abundance this river is the oldest and wisest of all creatures.
I learn that the Mortimors owned the land around here and in Herefordshire; the Welsh marches (or Welsh border lands). Wales incorporated Cheshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire and had its headquarters at Ludlow Castle until 1536. First Bristol was exempted in 1562, followed by Cheshire in 1569.
The Welsh council was abolished in 1689 when William II overthrew James 11 of Scotland in the bloodless revolution and victory of the Parliamentarians, and the beginning of modern parliament.
I have been thrilled by the amazing pub names here; ones s I haven’t seen elsewhere, including the Cock and Magpie believed according to a local author’s book on Bewdley pubs to have meant cock and pynot …the male and female reproductive anatomy… and often illustrated as such by students in Shakespearian times. The name was apparently quite common in the day, and given the myths of rivers and association with ancient goddesses, caves, and female genitalia, this is no real surprise that the deities would have been so remembered, though I would hazard a guess they may have been houses of ill repute at one time!
I learn that older than than Bewdley is Wribbenhall, which lies over the river, which was once known as Guerbenhale, though I cannot find a meaning for this word. Also that rope making happened along the banks; with long rope walks, long straight narrow lanes where strands of material could be laid out in the 19th and 20th centuries. It took 200 men to close a 20inch diameter cable laid rope before the coming of steam power, and that before that the hemp has to be combed, or hatchelled to separate the fibres.
Pewter was made in Bewdley from the 16th – 19th centuries and the town on the edge of the Wyre Forest was once the most important in England for the making of it in the eighteenth century.
We go off to Bishopswood Eco Environmental Centre (…)where there was to have been a Tales Training that didn’t happen so I spend the day , grateful, answering my back log of e mails and trying to catch up on my blog, there amongst the strange environment of the nationally and internationally acclaimed environmental centre in a electricity sub station of the national grid in the centre of an ancient woodland, where I hear tales of the students considered no hopers by school system doing the most amazing work building structures that will be of permanent use in the centre out of cob and straw bale amongst other things, and how they come back and work in their holidays to finish things as they are so keen.
John and I share experiences of how many young people of our day have had no stability in their homes take great pride, care and owner hip in their structure building and the need to find the temporary shelters they build on short courses still there as they left them next time, and how important it is they can carry on where they left off next time, giving them experience of something they have never received in their disrupted home lives.
To find out more about this amazing centre see http://www.worcestershire.gov.uk/cms/education-and-learning/be-healthy/outdoor-education/bishops-wood-centre . For those not living in Worcestershire their inspirational John Cree travels and gives courses elsewhere in the country including in Devon at Wildwise.
I spend the night in Jay’s dome, an incredible hobbit house structure built from thin layers of concrete sandwiched around foam by (http://www.dingley-dell.com/ ), inspired by making pizza ovens, and being used to create housing in the developing world. Lucky them, I think, we would be better off if we had them in our land too; they take just 7 days to build, are attractive, low impact, and practical; very different from our own dreadful housing estates, the many examples of which I have seen the length and breadth of the country, inspiring hopelessness wherever they are erected, be they council or private, they are faceless, amenity less, soulless and take up too much space in our precious land, where we could be enjoying our connection to nature, and growing our food. In England, however, Jay’s domes are being sold as garden sheds! Perhaps if we didn’t have such outdated planning laws this would be different.