Welcome to our little home on the net. We are Steve & Rosemary and live in Buckinghamshire, UK. This is a blog of our life, sometimes interesting, but mainly boring. It is very picture orientated as Steve loves to take pictures, especially of wildlife. Sometimes he has his arm twisted by Rosemary and takes the odd snap of a weed.
27 July 2023
After a short break, it was back to festivals. I have three in a row. The first is a four-day event at Cambridge. The Cambridge Folk Festival has been held annually since 1965 with a small Covid break. It is held at Cherry Hinto Hall, with extra camping at Coldham Common. I was going on my own, Rosemary did not want to participate, and I was allowed to go on my own. I would meet up with some uni friends for one day on Saturday.
I arrived at Coldhams common at 1.30 and was placed in the main camper van section. Previously I had been positioned along the hedge.
Once set up and ready to go, I headed off to catch the bus to Cherry Hinto Hall. The free bus services (well paid for in the ticket price) is fast and often. I soon arrived on site, refreshed myself with some beer and went to search for some music. I have created a list of bands to see, and those to avoid at all costs. This was done through creating a music play list on YouTube music, and the fabulous crowd populated site called Clash Finder. This allows you to rate the bands, find the clashes, and finally take notes of what you saw. It runs excellently on full screen Web browsers, and as a webapp from a shortcut on your mobile phone.
In the heart of summer, as the sun-kissed fields of Cambridge resonated with the harmony of tradition and innovation, one band stood out among the myriad musical talents that graced the stages of the renowned Cambridge Folk Festival in 2023. Hailing from Scotland’s rich folk heritage, Gnoss delivered a captivating performance on Stage 2 that left audiences both entranced and invigorated.
Gnoss, a quartet comprised of Aidan Moodie (vocals, guitar), Graham Rorie (fiddle, mandolin), Connor Sinclair (flute, whistles), and Craig Baxter (bodhrán, percussion), embody a youthful spirit deeply rooted in the folk traditions of their homeland. The band’s name, derived from the Scottish word for “a fleeting glimpse or glance,” serves as an apt metaphor for their music—a fleeting glimpse into the past, intertwined with a contemporary flair.
As they stepped onto Stage 2 at the Cambridge Folk Festival, Gnoss immediately forged a connection with their audience. The intricate interplay between fiddle and flute, guitar and mandolin, created a musical tapestry that transcended time and space. The band effortlessly bridged the gap between ancient ballads and original compositions, evoking a sense of nostalgia while also breathing new life into traditional melodies.
Gnoss’ performance was a testament to their deep respect for folk traditions. Their renditions of traditional tunes were imbued with a level of authenticity that showcased their reverence for the musical ancestors who came before them. Yet, it was their original compositions that truly demonstrated their prowess as contemporary folk musicians. The melodies and lyrics of these original pieces wove stories of love, loss, and the human experience, resonating with listeners on a profound level.
What set Gnoss apart was their ability to seamlessly blend tradition with innovation. The spirited rhythms of the bodhrán were juxtaposed against the intricate harmonies of the mandolin, creating a dynamic soundscape that defied categorization. The band’s vocals, delivered with an earnestness that reflected their connection to the lyrics, were punctuated by instrumental solos that showcased their technical prowess.
In an age where musical genres often become rigid boundaries, Gnoss stands as a shining example of the possibilities that arise when artists embrace both their cultural heritage and their creative instincts. Their performance at the Cambridge Folk Festival reminded us that music is a living, breathing entity that evolves with each new generation of musicians. It’s a reminder that the melodies of the past can find new homes in the hearts of those who carry them forward.
As the sun began to set and the stage lights bathed Gnoss in a warm glow, their final notes hung in the air, carrying with them a sense of camaraderie that united the performers and the audience. The applause that followed was not just a celebration of a remarkable performance, but a recognition of the power of music to transcend time and bring people together.
Gnoss left an indelible mark on the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2023, their melodies echoing long after the final chords had faded. Their performance was a testament to the enduring magic of folk music—a genre that has the unique ability to transport us to bygone eras while inspiring us to forge new paths. And in this delicate balance between tradition and innovation, Gnoss found their place, reminding us that in the world of music, the past and the present are harmoniously entwined.
In a harmonious convergence of melodies and folkloric fusion, the band Symbio took the stage by storm not once, but twice at the revered Cambridge Folk Festival in 2023. This Swedish duo, comprising Johannes Geworkian Hellman on the enchanting hurdy-gurdy and LarsEmil Öjeberget wielding both the spirited accordion and the rhythmic kickbox, captivated audiences with their unparalleled artistry.
On Stage 2, under the open sky of musical camaraderie, Symbio’s ethereal tunes resonated through the festival grounds, weaving a tapestry of sounds that transcended borders and genres. The haunting yet uplifting notes of the hurdy-gurdy, masterfully handled by Hellman, blended seamlessly with the evocative tones of Öjeberget’s accordion, creating an atmosphere that transported listeners to a realm of pure sonic enchantment.
But Symbio’s enchanting journey didn’t stop there. As the festival’s energy lingered in the air, the duo found themselves enthralling an intimate audience within the marquee at the Coldham Common campsite. Here, their music found an even deeper connection, wrapping around listeners like a comforting embrace, resonating within the cozy confines.
Symbio’s performances were more than just musical interludes; they were journeys of the soul. The intricacies of the hurdy-gurdy and the harmonious dance of accordion and kickbox demonstrated the boundless potential of folk instruments in the hands of true artisans. Their presence at both Stage 2 and the campsite marquee marked a pivotal moment in the annals of the Cambridge Folk Festival, etching Symbio’s name into the hearts of all who had the privilege to bear witness.
It was a warm summer evening in Cambridge, and the crowd was buzzing with anticipation. They had come to see one of the most exciting bands on the folk scene, Ibibio Sound Machine, who blended African and electronic elements into a unique and infectious sound. The band had been formed in London by producers Max Grunhard, Leon Brichard, and Benji Bouton, who were inspired by the golden era of West African funk and disco, as well as modern post-punk and electro. They had recruited singer Eno Williams, whose mother was from the Ibibio people of Nigeria, and whose lyrics were based on folk stories and proverbs from her heritage. The band also featured guitarist Alfred Bannerman, percussionist Afla Sackey, drummer Joseph Amoako, bassist Philip PK Ambrose, trombonist Tony Hayden, trumpeter Scott Baylis, and saxophonist Max Grunhard.
The band took the stage with a burst of energy, and launched into their first song, “Let’s Dance”, which was also their debut single released in 2014 on Soundway Records. The song was a catchy invitation to join the party, with a driving beat, funky horns, and Eno’s soaring vocals. The crowd responded with enthusiasm, clapping and dancing along. The band followed with more songs from their self-titled first album, such as “The Talking Fish”, “The Tortoise”, and “Woman of Substance”, which showcased their diverse influences and styles. The band also played songs from their second album, Uyai, which was released in 2017 on Merge Records. Uyai means “beauty” in Ibibio, and the album explored themes of empowerment, liberation, and identity. Some of the highlights were “Give Me a Reason”, a protest song about the Chibok girls’ abduction in Nigeria; “The Pot is On Fire”, a celebration of life and music; and “One That Lights Up”, a tribute to Eno’s mother.
The band’s performance was electrifying, and they had the crowd in the palm of their hand. They mixed traditional instruments like the talking drum and the ekwe with synthesizers and drum machines, creating a sound that was both familiar and futuristic. They also interacted with the audience, telling stories behind their songs, cracking jokes, and teaching them some words in Ibibio. The crowd loved it, and sang along with Eno when she taught them the chorus of “I Need You to Be Sweet Like Sugar”, a sweet love song from their latest album Electricity, which was released in 2022 and produced by Hot Chip5. The album was praised by critics for its bright, buoyant, and innovative sound.
The band ended their set with a bang, playing their hit song “Electricity”, which was also the title track of their new album. The song was a blast of pure joy, with a catchy hook, a groovy bass line, and a horn section that sounded like a brass band. The crowd went wild, jumping up and down, waving their hands in the air, and singing along with Eno. The band thanked the crowd for their support, and left the stage to a thunderous applause. They had delivered an unforgettable show that left everyone feeling energized and happy. They had proven once again why they were one of the best bands on the folk scene today.
21st July 2023
A group of us visited Addingrove Farm to see their new robotic milking parlour. We arrived at Chilton and were taken down to the farm on the back of a couple of tractors and trailers. On route we drove through a “closed” road, where Thames Water was endeavouring to fix a leak. At the farm, we were divided into two groups to look at the milking parlour.
The barn has room for 200 cows, plus a few more dry ones. Normally they are able to go in and out of the barn and graze the fields, as they wish We were told that many of the cows preferred to stay inside, and when it rained there was a stampede for cover. The barn had feed on both sides. In the centre were the cows water beds where they could lie in comfort. The cows were on slats which robots patrolled, scraping the excrement through the slats into a special processing system down underneath.
There were four milking cubicles, and the cows would enter these of their own accord and be automatically milked. They could be milked up to four times a day. If they entered the milking parlour again, they were not fed, and were ejected. Those cows who chose not to be miked in 24 hours could be identified on the computer screen and action taken to persuade them to be milked.
In the evening, the lights are dimmed to a red glow.
It all seemed to work smoothly, we saw cows entering and being milked, and others, who were trying it on, being ejected.
After the visit we were transported back to Chilton, where we bought beers from the Chiltern Brewery and BBQed burgers from the local butcher. They were excellent burgers, and I did go in for a second round. The money raised went to the church
Following the burgers, we finished the evening at George’s drinking Scotch. As we left at 10.10 I spotted a bright moving light in the sky. I later checked. It was the International Space Station.
Video of the Automated Milking Parlour
14th July 2023
We met up with friends (Bill, Viv, Norman and Valerie) at Packwood House. This was our first visit to this National Trust house. (But why? It is an easy drive from home for us.) The weather was atrocious with torrents of rain. We arrived early and went straight to the cafe. It was a genuinely nice National Trust one which opens at 9.am and was very well used. Many people were there seemingly just to meet up with friends.
Bill and Viv arrived, followed by Norman and Valerie. Having had hot drinks and yummy cakes, we headed out to the house where B&Vs daughter Jenny came to join us and introduce her baby son to us.
Packwood House is a Grade I listed Tudor manor house in Packwood on the Solihull border near Lapworth, Warwickshire. The NT has owned it since 1941. The house began as a modest timber-framed farmhouse constructed for John Fetherston between 1556 and 1560. The Fetherston family owned the house for more than 300 years, until the death of the last member of the family in 1876.
In 1904, the house was purchased at auction by Birmingham industrialist Alfred Ash. Alfred Ash was a bit of a character. He was known for his sharp wit and his love of practical jokes. One of his favourite hobbies was to play pranks on his guests. One of his favourite pranks involved the house’s very narrow, spiral staircase. Ash would often hide at the top and wait for his guests to come up. When they did, he would jump out very suddenly to scare them.
Alfred Ash’s son, Graham Baron Ash, inherited the house in 1925. Graham Baron Ash was also a bit of a character. He was a philanthropist and conservationist. Like his father, he had a good sense of humour.
He decided to restore Packwood House to its former glory, so he spent the next two decades buying antiques, of the correct era, reclaimed salvage. and appropriate artwork. He had the house decorated in a traditional Tudor style. He also worked on the gardens, having them restored and adding a number of new features, including a yew garden and a lake.
Graham Baron Ash was a generous man, and he decided to leave Packwood House to the National Trust in memory of his parents. In his ‘Memorandum of wishes’, Baron Ash stated that all furniture should be kept in the same position, that no extra furnishings should be added, and that freshly cut flowers should be placed in every room. The National Trust has been careful to preserve the house and gardens in their original state. And we duly noted the many vases of cut flowers.
Here are some funny facts about Packwood House:
- The house has a secret passage that leads from the library to the chapel.
- The yew garden is home to a number of topiary shapes, including a dog, a rabbit, and a sheep.
- The house is said to be haunted by the ghost of a former housekeeper.
Unfortunately, not all the rooms in the house were open; some of the downstairs rooms were closed due to being “rested”. There were an extraordinary number of longcase clocks. The National Trust room guides were very informative, and good humoured.
After touring the house, we walked out into the rain and visited the garden (complete with fantastic herbaceous borders), spending a significant amount of time in a summerhouse out of the rain. We did manage to view the topiary shapes, and cloud hedges,
We dried off in the cafe before heading off to Leamington Spa for an excellent supper and the night at Bill & Viv’s. We admired their recently refurbished sash windows and the evidence of Viv’s green fingers. After supper, we played a wooden memory game that V&N had recently discovered, Trickier than it first appeared.
The next day it was bright and sunny but with large rain clouds. At any moment it could be sunny, or it could pour. After a good, hearty breakfast We headed into Warwick on the bus, and after the mandatory visit to the charity shops, we headed to Saint Mary’s Church. Norman had worked here on an archaeological dig in 1975 after leaving Cambridge. This beautiful church is full of history & interesting features after standing for 900 years. The Norman crypt is the oldest part of the church, dating back to the 12th century. It is a vaulted space with pillars and arches, and it is said to be haunted by the ghost of a monk. There was part of a medieval ducking stool on display.
The church has three organs, of which two are operational and used at various recitals.
The Beauchamp Chapel is a magnificent example of 15th-century Gothic architecture. Built to house the tomb of Richard Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick, it is said to be one of the most important tombs in England.
The church has connections with the armed forces, with old military flags on display. St Mary’s Church hosts regular services for military personnel and their families. These services are a way for people to come together to pray for those who are serving, and to remember those who have died in service.
Not so nice was a plaque to the memory of Enoch Powell. Apparently, Powell was a regular worshipper at the church. After his death in 1998, he was buried in the adjoining churchyard.
We ate lunch in a small cafe called the Thomas Oken. Oken was a wealthy Mercer who died in 1573 leaving his fortune ‘for the relief in need’ of Warwick residents. It was full inside, so we sat outside and ordered drinks and food. Then it started to rain. Thankfully, space became available inside. The weather soon improved, and we were able to continue our tour of Warwick in the dry,
Once we had finished, we walked down towards Warwick Castle and visited a small private garden called The Mill Garden. This was super special, quiet, secluded spot. It is a privately owned, half-acre informal cottage garden located on the banks of the River Avon. Julia Measures, is the current owner. Her family has owned the gardens since 1938. Her father Arthur worked on it for 60 years.
We headed back to Leamington Spa on the bus, and then, after a restorative cup of tea & biscuit at B&V’s, we drove home
12th July 2023
We visited Wells Farm in Little Milton. This was an organised trip by BBOWT. The reserve is a working farm, managed on a traditional rotation basis. The hedge margins are more than six meters wide, giving plenty of habitat for insects and birds. The fields have a mixture of soils. from chalk to sand and wet clay. Walking the fields, it became obvious as the soil types changed.
We were given tea and coffee in the Little Milton village hall. A wonderful village hall with an integral community run post office, shop and cafe.
The fields had many flowers and insects. The bird life was sparse, but then there was a group of 40 plus people walking around. It would be interesting to spend time there quietly.
BBOWT have the land on a 999-year lease, on the condition it is managed as an environmental farm. The lease was gifted to them by the previous owner. One does wonder how we could survive if all agriculture was performed in this same way…..