Category Archives: countryside

Grand Design for sale

If you caught the recently aired episode of Grand Designs that showed a hexagonal, oak-framed eco house being built in the Cambridgeshire fens, you might be interested to know it is up for sale.

Eco house from Grand DesignsFor anyone not in the UK, Grand Designs is a TV programme that follows ambitious, elegaic, one-of-a-kind house building projects – from the burning eyed optimists clutching architects drawings at the beginning of a build to the broken husks they become at the end. They get worn down by endless problems like the custom-made windows from Germany being millimetres too large for the spaces, or (as always seems to happen) the wife gets pregnant halfway through the build and suddenly any delay to the schedule means she will have to give birth in the caravan they are living in while building their dream home.

Kelly Neville built most of this house literally by himself, coming day after day to a field with some oak beams and hand shaping them and fitting them together in order to make a home for his family. It was fascinating to watch, and the house came out gloriously. There are loads of photos on the estate agent’s website here, and some pics and a description of the build process here. £500,000 doesn’t seem too horribly expensive when you consider it comes with nearly 6 acres of land.

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Foraging in the hedgerows – spring

Today I went foraging in the woods with friends for the fresh green tops of stinging nettles which are just coming into growth to make nettle and ginger beer. I can’t yet vouch for the flavour – it takes about 7 days to be ready to drink, so watch this space.

Even if it turns out barely drinkable it was a good reason to get out into the spring sunshine, which angled through the new leaves and splashed on colonies of white wood anemones. Top tips are avoid anywhere dogs might have used as a toilet, and stick to the bright green top growth rather than the older, darker leaves.

There is a good recipe here – fingers crossed it turns out well, and is worth the odd sting. Go try it!

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Stinging nettle pic by foreby on flickr
Wood anemone pic by Vinje on flickr

Holiday

I’m escaping the mud season here to a much warmer place for a week – back with increased optimism that spring will happen* at the beginning of March.

Steve McCurry Srinagar - boat filled with flowersThis beautiful photograph of India is by Steve McCurry, who has made me completely overexcited about going with his beautiful, atmospheric images. I hope the real India lives up to his books.

*I am beginning to doubt it will happen, even as I sort seed packets and see the green stubs of the first spring bulbs

Edit: I have moved the blog to a new URL at http://flatlanders.co.uk. These posts will remain here as an archive, but do come and join me for more current posts at the new blog.

Memories of the Norfolk Broads

I’ve just been spending time on a fascinating site broadlandmemories.co.uk, an archive of photos and reminiscences of the Norfolk Broads from the 1900’s to the present day.

For me the best part is the photo galleries from the 1930’s and 1950’s – the men in their one piece wool bathing suits, wearing sports jackets in the pubs. Otherwise not much has changed – the same pubs and landmarks in the same places, the ineffable joy of messing around in boats…

Also such fascinating ephemera as original invoices and provisions lists:

Norfolk Broads provisions order formThis is from the 1950’s when Dunham’s stores would deliver to your boat in time for your arrival so you could immediately set sail with your three quarters of a pound of typhoo tea, four pounds of tinned pineapple, six pints of custard powder and three pounds of jam and marmalade. Sounds like they had a sybaritic week in store…

www.broadlandmemories.co.uk

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Arctic blasts

It’s been a cold and chaotic week round our neck of the woods, but today has been beautifully sunny and the snow is retreating. I abandoned the plans I’d had to drive a hundred miles away and instead took a walk over the snow dusted fields to look at some big skies.

Definitely a week to stay close to home and enjoy the simple pleasures of hot cocoa and a wood burning stove.

A couple of weeks ago there were so many signs of impeding spring – bulbs shooting through the soil and a rash of snowdrops. Now all the growth is on hold again, under the snow and ice, ready for next week when it’s going to warm up again.

I took a picture of that tree around harvest time – it’s hard to imagine it’s the same tree.

I love this walk every time of year, with its simple pleasures of flat fields and enormous skies.

And I know, the amount of snow looks a bit pathetic compared to the fuss that has been made, but there was much more before, honest guv!

Also, we came across this, which is rather wonderful on so many levels

NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Aliens – they’re not from round here

Who knew that Suffolk would be considered “a key area for alien visitors to the earth – a link between their world and ours” (by Brenda Butler, who has cowritten a book about alien landings in Rendlesham Forest).

In December 1980 there was a celebrated UFO incident with unexplained lights in the forest close to an American air base – there’s a full, comprehensive and densely footnoted Wikipedia page – which is now referred to as Britain’s Roswell. Lights were seen in the forest at 5 second intervals which in no way were explained by the local lighthouse and its 5 second interval light.

Now, according to the Ipswich Evening Star, it’s happening again and lights were seen in the sky over christmas – if you have been visited by aliens you are encouraged to contact the newsdesk as soon as the probe is removed.

The upshot is that the Forestry Commission, who maintain Rendlesham Forest, have a waymarked UFO trail, which is perfect for a Sunday stroll, being about 3 miles long in some pretty woods by the coast, with a leaflet to help you visualise events. It is in Suffolk’s lowland heath area known as the Sandlings – it’s a beautiful and rare type of habitat, and one of the only places you might see a Dartford warbler, and other diminishing species.

Prewalk  research includes a Rendlesham Forest Incident website and the Halt tape, a dictaphone record of one of the investigating US officers, who was alerted that the UFO was back during a regimental dinner, and joined the search after midnight with dictaphone and geiger counter.

Enjoy.

Getting to Rendlesham Forest Centre is covered on the Forestry Commission website.
Photo of a Lincolnshire Unidentified Flying Object by Eddie McFish
NB If you’re interested in reading more about art, design and culture in East Anglia, please do follow the blog to its new home at http://flatlanders.co.uk/ – you’ll find more posts on everything interesting happening in the area.

Frozen fenlands

fenland skating
It has been cold enough this last week that the old sport of Fenland skating has been revived, with speed skaters out on the frozen flooded fields, the way they have since the early part of the nineteenth century.

It’s a little warmer today, but local commentators are hoping for a further cold snap so the Brithish and Fenland Skating Championships can be held for the first time in 11 years. The fens have been home to some of the country’s greatest speed skaters over the years with this natural resource at hand.

Read more in the Melton Times

 

Edit: I had lunch with family in the fens recently, and it was remarkable how many people in their village broke limbs skating on the frozen fens and have been hobbling through the snow with broken ankles and such. Ah well.

Photo of C.W.Horn, local skating hero from the Welney & District Skating Club website – they’re not updating their website at the moment, but they are the ones who will declare the championships if the ice gets thick enough.