Tag Archives: NAIB2

A tunnel re-opened, but closed for the night.

A flying visit to Saddleworth, where the moorland fires are now out, allowed NAIB and I to walk to Diggle along the Canal, We managed a very little foraging, just to be able to say we had done it: a few tiny bilberries, raspberries almost as small, and a handful of blackberries between the two of us.

We turned around at the Western or Diggle Entrance to the Standedge Tunnel. Narrow boats may pass through in one direction at a time behind a pilot boat. No more were moving yesterday so the gates were closed for safety.

Note the sculpture of the leggers. In the days of horse power bargees walking, or legging, along the sides or roof of the canal was the only means of propulsion for 3¼ miles. No wonder there was a pub at either end!

The blue plaque commemorates Thomas Telford, engineer of the Menai Bridge and many other surviving structures, whose intervention enabled the tunnel to be completed in 1811. The date on the later portico is misleading.

Read more about the tunnel here. 

We visited the Menai Bridges on 21 April 2015: Menai Bridges

Turnstone on Tap


Faversham’s Food Festival gathered us, including Mrs T, NAIB, and HDGB. NAIB and I were lagging behind when we spotted Turnstone Ales’s stall in Preston St. Before we knew what was happening we were testing the samples the Brewer thrust into our hands, brew by brew, till we’d tasted them all.

It was not just the name that was impressive; so were the beers. We brought some home where they can stand a while to clear their heads. We could hardly avoid shaking them up a bit as we carried them round town.

A treat to look forward to.

The picture comes from Turnstone Ales’s Facebook page:



Mrs T brought bags to church on Sunday, intending to gather pine cones for winter fire-lighting. This happens every year, you could almost set your watch by it. And then we got sidetracked.

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Following the success of her apricot jam, Mrs Turnstone has caught the preserving virus  from her daughters and husband. She gathered sloes on the way home, while I threw in rowan berries; with bramley apples the latter made a tart jelly that will go well with lamb or venison (fat chance of that, but I had to pass by on the other side when I saw a road-killed roebuck whilst on holiday!) The sloe and apple jelly will go well with meat – turkey or goose or duck.

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Then while I was at work Mrs T went out  to gather blackberries and elder to add to apples and a few sloes for a hedgerow jelly. Even on her own, she reported, she thoroughly enjoyed herself. Purple fingers! Making this jam 12 years ago in Shropshire started NAIB’s addiction. We threw in rose hips and haws on that occasion; the recipe is flexible.

Oh yes, we gathered pine cones too. It’s as well my brother Chris was not with us; I recall his ambushes over at our old blackberry patch, with cones whizzing part the ear, and knocking pots of berries over; but he did help make the jam when all was gathered in.

Friendly foraging

Lunch with the cuckoo was special enough, but I had arrived at the Goods Shed just as Enzo was taking the bread from the oven. My loaf was wrapped in a flash and straight in my bag. Back home, I spread it with wild garlic pesto, tomato paste, cheese and olives. Satisfying!

Read NAIB’s account of foraging Welsh wild garlic, below.


Mrs Turnstone is trying to grow some in a shady part of our garden, thanks to a gift from a friend. We’ve allowed ourselves no more than a couple of leaves for salad this year, hoping the patch will spread.

Over the Menai Bridges to Anglesey


We crossed the Britannia Bridge to stay near the Menai Straits, with views across to Snowdonia: well named on our arrival as the tops were white. We enjoyed four seasons in a week. The first weather to impose itself was the wind, sweeping across the island from East to West, blowing NAIB into my arms as we climbed the steps to Our Lady Star of the Sea in Amlwch. Later in the week rain did not prevent her joining the old folks across the Menai Bridge in Caernarfon while G studied. IMGP5106Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge is older, built in 1826 for the Irish Mail Coaches to Holyhead, and strengthened since to take modern traffic. Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge was built in 1850 for the Railway, but vandals destroyed the track and the iron tubes carrying it. The piers remain, with a new road and rail bridge built between them in 1970. We were pleased to cross them both!

The evening sun shone when these pictures were taken, full on the Menai Bridge but, seen from the East, shining through to emphasise the grace of the 1970 structure between the Britannia’s piers.

Battle of the Birds

A week across the border with Mrs T, NAIB and HDGB: the students preparing to finish their courses deserved a reading week on Anglesey, Ynys Môn. Peace among the daffodils to gather thoughts onto paper or disc.

The sun shone and we sat out of doors with our coffee. A call drew eyes to the sky where six big birds circled on the thermals. ‘Buzzards’, suggested HDGB, but no buzzard ever barked like that. ‘Ravens’, I asserted.

The species are similar in size, both have fingered ends to their wings, though their tails differ. As we watched, it became clear that neither of our identifications was wrong. A pair of buzzards were being attacked in mid-air and sent packing by the ravens, swooping in and pecking the hawks’ wingtips.

We once witnessed a similar display over our heads in Kent, when rooks were asserting their territorial rights. This time the buzzards soared back towards the mainland as the sun’s brightness took them from our sight.

A Walk along a byway of history


In Search of Bifrons House
After Andrew Abbott and NAIB2 roused my interest in Bifrons House, and the c1700 painting in Yale’s Centre for British Art, I took advantage of Mrs Turnstone’s choir date in Patrixbourne Church to see what there might be to be seen. I knew by then that the house shown in Yale’s painting had long gone.


This bridge over the Nailbourne leads to the site of the old house, so I decided to follow the right of way across it.
Before opening the field gate I looked back towards Patrixbourne and realised that the artist’s viewpoint was somewhere on the hill opposite.


The slope is much less dramatic than the artist makes it appear when he sat –

About here. The woodland to the right is double-fenced, suggesting that nowadays shooting pheasants is more popular and more profitable than chasing foxes. The woodland in each picture has been grown since the painting was made; the site of the house, roughly straight ahead from here, is obscured by trees. From here today there is no chance of spotting the church spire, which still looks the same as in the painting, seen on the right hand side of the picture.

The hunting party are following the bridle path that still hugs the field edge, but the area to their left is now tree-clad. The bridge is behind the tree on the left of the painting. The houses shown below are on the street running to the far (Easterly) face of the Church. Go to http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1668544 for a bigger, clearer image of the painting, and for a mini lecture by Dr Jennifer Kowitt, try: http://video.yale.edu/video/treasures-yale-bifrons-park-kent .


Once across the bridge you get a glimpse of the site of the house from about the same bearing but at just above river level, before you climb up to walk alongside the busy London – Dover A2 road. At a field edge you come to this well-made track, doubtless a souvenir of the house’s occupation by the Royal Artillery in WW II. They needed good roads for all their heavy equipment. As with many a stately home of England, the later Bifrons House suffered at the hands of the military, and was burnt to the ground in mysterious circumstances after the end of the war. Something similar happened to Canterbury Cathedral soon after the Normans arrived, but they could get the poor and the nobles to pay up for a splendid replacement. Bifrons was replaced with utilitarian barns.


And here is the site of the house,  unfortunately due S of the camera early on an October’s afternoon, low sun playing havoc with the lighting.


The wellingtonia tree at the back is one of several across the parkland, though much of that is now down to beans and winter wheat instead of the grass lands seen in the painting.

These are the converted C19th stables of the house that was destroyed after WW II. Lovely polychrome brickwork.
This lodge is from the original house’s entrance to the village of Patrixbourne. The Jacobethan builders loved chimneys!

Maybe a century after the lodge was built, the Cromwellian soldiers vandalised this C12th church porch, destroying ‘graven images’.





While here are a few old houses in Patrixbourne.

My walk ended with a concert by Kerry Boyle and her choirs, collectively known as Canterbury Voices, in aid of the Church heating fund. They need it!

Almost St John’s Eve

Anticipating Saint John’s Eve, Mrs T and I welcomed NAIB2 and Harry to al fresco lunch under the vine. John may have died because of a drunken promise at a debauched feast; this was a more decorous affair. We did eat lamb in his honour, marinaded in our home-made wild garlic pesto from the Lake District, (see the post, ‘First Forage) with garden herbs, mustard and more (cultivated) garlic, all wrapped in vine leaves to keep it tender.

As evening finally fell, I splashed the bath water onto the plants in pots and thin soil round the house and garden. A warning chuck from a blackbird suggests they are nesting, or at least roosting, in the ivy again. On the way up Abbot’s Hill to Church this morning we had found a greenfinches’ nest fallen from a pine tree, with a blind, half-fledged chick still crawling back into it. The nest was a beautifully crafted bowl of mosses and feathers; the baby doomed; a black cat was watching from the garden wall, an ants’ nest active nearby. Had puss killed the woodmouse a few yards away that the ants were already swarming over?

But just now the pipistrelles were flitting around, snapping up the moths around the lamppost at the corner of the garden. There were plenty of insects at ground level, too, ants, little beetles and bugs, and the spiders were getting active. The snails and slugs were wise not to be out, as Mrs T is at odds with them for eating her new thyme plant. Perhaps she dug it in too close to the hosta, which they’d reduced to a tatter overnight last week. They would be wise to fast for a week or two and lull Mrs T into a false sense of security.

Past generations

This is from last year, before I began blogging. It tells about the woodmouse’s mother who was our commensal. And no, we did not  borrow the cats, and would not have done so; sealing off the cupboards did the trick. In the present day, Junior Miss Tittlemouse came out to entertain NAIB2 and Mrs Turnstone this afternoon.



23rd August:

Mrs Turnstone’s mouse should not be in the house. She’s not even a house mouse, but a wood mouse who really ought to be at the other side of the French windows, scurrying among the ivy, eating apricot stones and grass seed and even beans and peas. (She did have my first sowing of runner beans, to be fair.)

We know she’s a wood mouse because she comes indoors most evenings to entertain us. The catch-her-alive traps do not work. She seems to have worked out that they are dangerous and avoids entering them by the trapdoor. Last night she was trying instead to get at the peanut butter by nibbling at the side joint, but shunned the welcome mat at the front.

In an old house like this there are innumerable ways for Mrs Tittlemouse to come in and out without our seeing, though she does seem to use the French windows if they are open. Under the floorboards she can progress from front room to living room – let’s hope she doesn’t take up residence in the sofa stuffing. All the mouse-friendly food, including Alphege’s dog biscuits, is now in tall plastic boxes that she cannot climb; the one kitchen cupboard she could get into now contains tins and jars only, but still she scurries about as though she owns the place and merely tolerates us. She comes close enough to tickle my feet with her whiskers, but I’m not fast enough to catch her.

We don’t want to borrow our daughter’s cats!