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For anyone who’s  wondering what’s happened to the blog, well Abe and Ernst below pretty much explain my obsession with the ‘Pastorm online event’ at the moment, a few more tweaks and then just wait for that lightening strike  to come to life.

Antiques are everywhere in England, the place is going to sink if there’s any more antiques! Maybe though that’s just the perception you get after seeing the tv schedule inundated with antique auction programmes presented by dandy like characters. Anyway as this is Tamworth Timehikes, I started thinking about if there were any antiques manufactured in Tamworth?

I knew about Glascote based Canns and Gibbing the famous terracotta makers largely responsible for introducing terracotta into architecture in England and covering such famous landmarks as the natural History museum and Albert Hall London. Their story is well researched and presented on Alan and Angella´s page. What I didn´t know about though was George Skey´s Wilnecote ceramic works.

George Skey started in 1860 his enterprise and ended up making pretty much anything from clay from the site, from gas ovens to ginger beer bottles. It rapidly expanded and became one of the most  important pottery works in  the country. Anyway don´t let me tell you, take a look below at the extract from The ceramic art of Great Britain, 1878 by LLewellynn Jewit  on Wilnecote works. All the details and praise are there and saves me the trouble of typing it.

It starts off with “The Wilnecote Works, near Tamworth which rank among the……. (continued below, click to view larger or in the original link on http://www.archive.org)

in

A quick search for George Skey on google images and it brings up what looks like a hastily made online museum on some of the fine  products made. Click on the image to go direct to the search.

Most of what´s found on the internet apart from a few terracotta pieces in posh places like Christies are pottery flagons, beer bottles, jugs, packaging basically. A good example is this flagon below taken from ebay(click on image to go to the site) I like the flagon (not making a bid, maybe I should go for a cut for doing promotion!) and other vintage packing, storage found like medicine bottles, beer bottles, etc, etc

It turns out though I´m not the only person who likes them, theres people out there who are crazy for them and digging them up. Called dump diggers, the ideas to look for old Victorian refuse dumps and dig up vintage bottles, from poison to medicine, some of them still unopened! I can understand the attraction. It’s that same thrill of the chase, a main reason for people s reasons for doing activities like archaeology, metal detecting, mushroom collecting, the list goes on.

For a few examples of dump diggers there´s  diggers diary in the Uk and the bottle digging forum in the UK, but what I really love is the dump diggers diary from Canada. I love the effort and unashamedness about what they do, check out the bottle diggers convention(not sure about name) on one of their posts. Theres nothing furtive about it, they´re dump diggers and you know what its cool!

George Skey´s Wilnecote Works

The manufacturing place itself would have been the mecca for bottle collectors  and dump diggers around the world. Wilnecote works was a huge place and functioned from 1860 till 1936 when it was taken over by Doulton. The buildings were finally demolished in 1981. That´s the excavators going in below(click on image to go to home of photo, Staffordshire Past track)

Demolition of Doulton's

I  couldn´t write about Wilnecote works without an honourable mention of the people who actually worked there. Below a great photo of  some of George Skeys workers 1909-1915, taken from Staffordshire Past track. Wilnecote works employed up to 600 people in its heyday. That´s  huge by todays standards but remembering that the pre-war population of Tamworth was around 7,000 people that´s  a hefty chunk of the town´s population.

George Skeys, workers, Skeys Works yard, Wilnecote

Below another evocative photo from Staffspt titled Mr Kinson and his horse ´tut´ in George Skeys workyard, 1936 . He worked for George Skey as a general carter depositing the broken pots in the spoil heap behind.

Mr Kinson with his horse and cart, Skeys, Wilnecote

Aerial views of the works

Below again from Staffs past tracks, the 1899- 1903 ordnance map showing the extent of Wilnecote works served with its own tramway. The place was surrounded and built on coal mines.

T

The same area back in 2007. The area is partially covered by Tame Valley Industrial estate. The rest of the area is wasteland. This was a bottle diggers paradise I imagine. In the centre are some dilapidated industrial buildings were any of them old wilnecote works buildings?

Too late, this post 2007 birds eye image from http://www.multimap.com shows the industrial buildings gone and another housing estate going up. To those bottle diggers from Canada and Australia who´ve just turned up a George Skey ceramic bottle this is what the place that made them looks like now. Maybe its just me but could  have been a good idea to make a reference and tribute to what was there before, give it some sense of place and history. I feel the area really needs this, to be anchored to the area not just another estate floating in a sea of housing estates.

 

 

 

 

 

The blogs been quiet for a while. The reason, well apart from the big long drawn out  move from España to England and all the changes and tumult that brings with it, I´m really excited and been tinkering away with a new way of doing this whole landscape history and exploration thing online.  What does this mean?

AN ONLINE EVENT THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING FROM TAMWORTH

With that grandiose title I know I’m setting the bar high but well you’ve got to reach for the stars! In the meanwhile I’m continuing to tinker away on how its going to work. It should be launched in the next few days when all will become clear. It’s a continuation of Tamworth timehikes blog, it’s the same area, with the same emphasis on the area’s history, but  it’s aiming to be collaborative, getting people  involved,more energy into it and hopefully much more.  Whatever happens its going to be exciting. It’s a first for me and will be one big learning experience.

What will happen to Tamworth timehikes?

The blog will stay open, and the blog and new online event  will feed into each other, the info, ideas and kind generous support will I hope help the new project and Tamworth timehikes will continue to ramble on in fits and starts.

Just to prove I´m serious below is the name and logo below:

Licencia de Creative Commons

more updates and explaining mixed in with long overdue posts over next few days…….

In an effort to adjust back to life in Blighty I’ve looked for similarities between life in Valencia, Spain and Tamworth, UK to little success. I’ve had to delve into the history books again to see if I could find anything similar and woe betold, there was a(sort of) bull ring in Tamworth just like back in Valencia close to my old home.

arrow pointing in direction of my old home, just out of range of the smell of bullshit, no pun intended

Bull baiting was a popular pastime in English town life from the middle ages up until the late 18th century(even later in the West Midlands) and Tamworth was no exception. It consisted basically of tying the bull to a stake in a central square and setting dogs on the animal, pretty unsavoury stuff but in its time it was actually unlawful  to slaughter the bull before being baited. Apparently it gave the bull meat more taste and the fines would have probably been a source of income for local authorities.

bull baiting scene above

This can all be testified in Tamworth, where Charles Ferrers in his resourceful Tamworth  book tells us that the book rolls of the town show us that persons had been fined for killing the animals before being  baited.He goes on to say that the ring (probably at most consisting of railings which together with stake and rope were regularly mended) was at the junction of Bolebridge street with  Coleshill and George Street with the last bull baits happening in the 17th century . George Street he later states  was actually called Bullstake street in reference to the stake used to tie the bull, before being renamed George Street in the 19th century. In looking for more details on the bull baiting I got all excited when I came across the book the history of signboards where it stated that bullrunning was practiced in Tamworth and Stamford. Yes just like the famous Pamplona bull running. This was a double discovery as bull running in England was a new one for me and that it had happened at Tamworth!!! Alas it was too good to be true, the book had mistaken Tutbury with Tamworth where a bull run was indeed practiced. Still the fact that bull running existed in England in towns like nearby Tutbury and Stamford is a great novelty fact to bring up in the conversation or maybe to think about when running like a demon down the slippery streets of Pamplona, Spain.

Getting all misty eyed and nostalgic about Valencia I went to look at the site of the old  bull ring in Tamworth, with the resulting furtively taken photo below:

Incredibly and by accident the bull ring echoed through into the present in the form of the circular brick flooring and the metal posting nearby in the modern day crossroads. Ok maybe I’m reading too much into it and it’s true if you’re  looking for coincidences you’ll find them sooner or later. Whatever though enough of mundane explanations for me it opened up the thought that ancient sites maybe could echo through to the present day through modern architectural accidents. Almost like an unconscious effort on the part of the building developers to pay tribute to old places. Former sites bending the will of modern building developments to produce phantom echos of the past. Ok there’s the idea now more proof in the Tamworth Timehikes area of what I’m thinking about:

Well how about Copes drive written about in this previous post.It’s highly botched pot holed surface with  pebbles showing through isn’t the result of an impasse between local authorities and residents, no  it’s because it’s ancientness is shining through the cracks, being  one of the oldest routes in the Leyfields housing estate.

Below in an attempt to photograph the slight dip in the ground by a house next to the ladybank, Tamworth with the river in front of it. This dip just happens to roughly correspond to the Anglo Saxon ditch surrounding the town(see previous post). Coincidence, or an echo from the past?

Anymore examples out there?

The subject of the woodhouse, Hopwas everyones favourite abandoned house in the woods has flickered back into life on the internet after photos were published on the Hopwas Appreciation society Facebook page of the empty space where the Woodhouse once stood. I don´t want to sound like a broken record though and wallow in despair at what could have been.  Instead I´d like to take the opportunity to quickly review  my desperate last-ditch attempt to save the Woodhouse last August(view previous posts)and see what lessons can be learned from it, what I did right, what I did wrong and hopefully make  a small contribution to  other people bent on saving a piece of integrity in the landscape from the jaws of uniformity  and soulless sanitisation.

Believe in what you´re doing

Starting off with an obvious one, but fundamental as it´s hard work, trying to save stuff, especially starting off by yourself!

Take action quickly

As soon as I got the news about the imminent demolition from Midlands Heritage Forum, my first thought was “sneaky bastards trying to demolish this amazing place behind everyone’s back, I´ll show them,” they demolished it anyway, I made them sweat though. Use that anger as an energy, but be clear-headed about your strategy, I didn´t do the last bit.

Have clear argument

Before shouting your mouth off, have an argument, why shouldn´t they destroy the place, what are the alternatives, . That was pretty easy with the woodhouse  (remember to back argument up when you can with  examples, expert advice)

Get expert support

This was the bit I did best, sending out emails to experts found through authors, university departments I managed to start a conversation with Dianne  Barre, expert on historical  garden landscapes  in Staffordshire, who gave me invaluable info, and was equally angry about the situation. This has the benefit of validating your campaign, and the experts using their contacts.  Also got support from the Georgian society, who even went down to see the place, and the advice from SAVE Britain´s heritage . Expert advice should help in the next bit,  spot listing with English Heritage.


Apply for spot listing with English Heritage

After contacting various people in the council, this was the only course of official action I could really take to try to protect the buildings. The application was done online, the people at English Heritage were helpful, they take cases seriously. By indicating that it was going to be imminently destroyed the application process went quickly and the decision took a couple of weeks after inspections at site and written reports were made. Deep down though I felt I was too comfortable about the whole process, trusted in it too much, in the end the decision was taken by too few people…. really you should..

Make noise to get support

This should be a key part to get more people involved, put the pressure on the decision makers, and share the campaign, you can´t do it all by yourself, the idea is to get the juggernaut rolling, then  share the pain and hopefully joy at the end! Of course nowadays with so many online facilities and so much info, so much to care about, this is the age of campaigning for a good cause! This is the bit where I failed I think, of course I didn’t have much time, it was all last-minute, but admittedly I wasn´t savvy enough in creating that noise, this is what I should have done:

Local media campaign

Otherwise it´s hard that people are going to know about it,  this includes physical local newspapers down to their online versions and the profusion of very active blogs, sites,community pages. My efforts consisted of a letter to the Tamworth Herald and a piece put together by the guys at Lichfield Blog.  A good start but should have been more sustained. Should have talked  to editors, try to include article, could have even gone regional, spice things up a bit with ghost stories, etc. Again though can´t do it all by yourself so important to get people involved by:

social media

Start Facebook group get friends signed up to it,  use twitter(got to get round to this) uses comments on blogs, forums etc. Apart from a call out on the Hopwas Appreciation Society facebook page and Midlands Heritage forum I failed miserably in this part, never again!

Use what you´ve got already, copy, repeat, modify.(above a picture used before of abe and ernst campaigning)

Get in touch with famous people

Don´t laugh, this is the  celebrity age, it could be good for their PR and apparently Sir Bob Geldoff visited the woodhouse! really. Obviously the idea would be somebody with a link with the area and who gives a shit about the subject!

On the ground activity

Don´t get entranced by the media buzz, a lot of social media makes you imagine small nations are behind you, but the online noise has to be accompanied by action on the ground, in the local area, phoning and meeting local movers, connecting with local associations/ initiatives which could share the same objectives. This is really important and something I didn´t do much of apart from trying to contact the enigmatic Friends of Hopwas association! This time though  I´ve got an excuse, I live hundreds of miles away!

CONCLUSION

I don´t know if any of the above would have saved the woodhouse but taking the above approach would have done it´s bit to increase  awareness among people of whats around them, what people are losing, get people involved and go a small way to creating a sense of place in the area. Social media is creating  a real chance here for another more informed democratic approach to our surroundings  and making  collective connected decisions about it ,     now  for me that would be progress.

Victorian railway ruin

Close to the wreck of Ashlands farm in a landscape of wrecks is another wreck, stuck for close to centuries on a curve  of the river Anker, an overgrown mound with a blue brick ruin of one half of a Victorian railway bridge beneath it´s  overgrowth. It´s the most prominent remain of a stretch of railway which crossed over the river Anker and through the Warwickshire Moor connecting the  Birmingham and Derby railway to the London and North Western railway.

There´s scarcely any info out there on the internet, I thought I might have a bit of luck with the ever faithful ebooks, but no luck, not even from  the book  Midlands counties railway travel book printed in 1840. Descriptions full of praise though for other railway architecture such as the still existing 18 arch viaduct in Tamworth with some great illustrations  to boot.

Getting up close

Taking a leaf out of the Preumbalations of Barkfoot´s blog´s explorations. I´ll try to get across the idea of discovering the place photo by photo back in Summer 2010. I think it´s an interesting way to involve the reader in the act  of discovery and the excitement that it entails. It´s just that I need better photos!

Even up close it´s hard to get a sense of what the place was, until you see a glimpse of an arch through the undergrowth,let the adventure begin.

Climbing up the slippery clay bank using any branches to hold onto you´ll come up to flat ridge with an overgrown path along it, it´s more overgrown than I remember as a kid and less well trodden, are kids messing around in the countryside less than they used to?  At least in the central clearing on the ridge there´s signs of recent activity of lighting fires, and ritual drinking activities.    This central clearing owes it´s lack of vegetation to the fact that you´re standing on an impressive arch. Looking over the edge you can make out the brick  buttresses flanking the bridge. The next photo was taken from the vantage point indicated by  orange footprints indicate(my feet really are that big)

Below is the blurry picture taken from the aforementioned vantage point. It´s an impressive blue brick arch rising roughly to about 8 metres(a very rough estimate tinged with the  exageration of memory!) Didn´t manage to get to the base of the arch when taking photo but remember it as an atmospheric place, looks more overgrown than ever down there. The abundant vegetation makes it look like  a  sort of Victorian take on a mayan ruin!

Continuing with my blurry photo series. This is a photo from the river facing front of the bridge.  Consisting of a sheer indented brick cliff face marking a dangerous end to the path along the ridge.

It´s history through maps

I´m going to attempt to tell the little I found out about the place through maps, I´ll hopefully be adding anything I find out later so keep a watch out on this space.

Beginnings

The only reference I found out about the now demolished connection line is the construction date of june 1847  gleaned from the Warwickshire Railways site, a really well put together and endearing site. That date places it in that first wave of railway building.

The above 1884 ordnance map(click to enlarge), taken from  Old maps.co.uk shows the connection. The section which actually spans the river corresponds to the width of the railway line, making me imagine it was an iron viaduct, maybe something like this:(insert picture when have better connection)

Revealingly there´s no railway track along the route unlike the adjacent Birmingham Derby line. Had the railway already packed it in after less than 40 years of service? More to the point what´s the story behind the relatively short lived railway line? Anyone out there there in the ether  got any clues to it´s story…

In the above 1902 Ordnance map taken from  Old-Maps.co.uk the words dismantled run alongside the connection. From now on it´s sit back time, watch the plantlife grow, wars come and go, or speed up in Time Machine style to the year 1962.

The next info I´ve got is from the Tamworth castle dateline page which states that the bridge was blown up by the territorial army in 1962, I´m assuming this was the only bridge blown up in this stretch of the river. It´s destruction is consecrated in the above 1977 ordnance map taken from  old maps.co.uk

Above is a satellite image from flash earth showing what´s left to see now. I´ve marked on the image a few points where possible evidence of the railway line might lie  some of it checked other conjectured or dimly remembered from years back.

1. Flash earth shows up field markings quite clearly. The lighter shaded earth in the field corresponds well to the outline of the demolished connection, what´s going on there?  Next to the current railway is a bulge in the sidings the only reminder of the embankment connecting to the Birmingham Derby railway

2. The surviving section of the bridge, main subject of the post.

3. corresponds to any remains left in the river or on it´s banks. I remember seeing rows of bricks on both banks, no photos, sorry.  Anything lie on the river bed below where the bridge spanned. What happened to that iron viaduct, was it blown up, sold for scrap metal, or lies rusting on river Anker´s bed?

4. The stretch along the Warwickshire moor side has now been replaced wood and scrubland, nature reclaiming the land with renewed energy, a carbon copy in foliage of the old railway route. Are there any remains among the undergrowth?

5. The railway went over a stream near here, I dimly remember a brick bridge, the info my mind stores makes me wonder sometimes!

Historic Books online

This post is the first in  taking on the challenge I put out on a previous post, about putting resources out there and info in aiding the exploration of a given landscape and material for different ways of interacting with that landscape.

In this post it´s historic books found online and free. This post will be under construction all this week finding the time to add the online book links on the Tamworth Timehikes area to the list, correcting typos, etc.

How historic books help us look at landscapes differently

They Provide an invaluable peek at the area in the past, a snapshot, overview with all sorts of information to compare and contrast. They also show how the writers viewed the place and it´s people, how they interacted with it. We can even relearn ways of enjoying the landscape.  It´s a chance to go for a walk with the writer around the place, hear what they have to say and show you, a conversation on your surroundings bridging centuries!

Where and How

It´s amazing what´s out there, it´s not always easy to find, but like all discoveries it´s a rewarding experience when you find it and yes being free definitely adds something. Inevitably googlebooks is the big one. All sorts of 19th and 20th century travel writing, geology etc books are out there. It´s a great resource and means that the book is transported and transformed from some dusty book archived in a basement in an American East coast University onto the bright screens of the some sleek 21st century device. I´ve never worked out how google book searches, and most of the finds have been through randomly entering a couple of key words like cellar and Polesworth and with a bit of luck finding a hidden gem. Like most worthy ventures it takes time, the right feeling and perseverance. Another digitalized book goliath is www.archive.org. A great resource with nice looking viewing methods, found most of the real historic books on this page right back to the 16th and 17th centuries. I find it easier to search on this site too. Theres a lot more digitalized book archives out there like Project Guthenburg but haven´t had much luck in finding books on the Tamworth area. The real hard and rare  finds are the ones found through maybe a community webpage, blogs, forums, randomly finding it through links, these  are the eldorado of the online books and extremely rare, but doesn´t mean you shouldn´t try.

The Tamworth Timehikes historic online book list (so far)

The Tamworth area although forgotten in a lot of areas is actually particularly rich in online books given it´s historic location on the borders of the counties of Warwickshire and Staffordshire meaning it often appears in accounts of both counties. Of course my blinkered explorations means I can´t compare it with other areas of England. Click on the book images below to go to the original source. The list is ordered chronologically indicating the page reference to the Tamworth  area when possible.

The first account chronologically of Tamworth is The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543, Edited by Lucy Toulmin Smith, 1907. The account on Tamworth starts on pages 103 and lasts a couple of pages.

The antiquities of Warwickshire illustrated, William Dugdale.1656.

Account of Tamworth and Warwickshire side of the Tamworth timehikes area, including Polesworth, the accounts with pictures start on pages 805, Tamworth gets the treatment from page 817 onwards.

Britannia, by William Camden, 1674?, short excerpt on Tamworth is in the Staffordshire chapter, which you have to click on.

A survey of Staffordshire, with a description of that county, Sampson Erdeswick, 1820. Extract on Tamworth starts on page 322 (392 on the archive page) originally written in 1723

A topographical history of Staffordshire, William Pitt, 1817, pages on Tamworth start on page 139

School day memories of adventures including time in the Tamworth area from prolific writer and spiritualist William Howitt. A real gem of a find, adventures in Tamworth start on p259

The Boy´s Country- Book, William Howitt, 1839

The oft cited and extremely useful The history of the town and castle of Tamworth:in the county of Stafford and Warwick, Charles Ferrer Palmer, 1845.

The Wanderings of a pen and pencil, F.P Palmer, Alfred Henry Forrester, 1846.

Another luxury find is this charming travel book.   Accounts of Tamworth and especially Warwickshire side including Pooley, Polesworth all nicely illustrated start on pages 71.

The hunting counties of England, their facilities, character, and requirement, Brooksby, 1882. not much on the area, (South Staffordshire description starts on p224) adding this hunting book for varietyies sake

Which witch´s woods

Hopwas Woods always draws me back, it’s the wild mysterious part of the Tamworth area. As Henry David Thoreau said in Walden ” Our village life would stagnate were it not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it.”

People in industrial estates produce objects whereas people in Hopwas produces myths and news stories. Hopwas legend estate! A couple of months back Hopwas was back in the local Tamworth Herald news. The front page  stories ran for a couple of weeks on evidence unearthed for occult activities found in the form of engraved copper tablets and Egyptian style statues.

The first reaction from the scientific, rational community  is usually one of dismissing it out of hand, sometimes angrily,calling them  wild stories, children’s pranks to sell newspapers. Another reaction is to ridicule and belittle the stories and people with the resulting bitchiness on both sides.  Take a look at the heated exchange on the Tamworth Herald article comments page for example. I think though it´s more interesting than that.

Hopwas Hayes as one of the most ancient woodlands in the area together with being on a prominent hill is a prime area for goings on. It´s literally an island of wildness surrounded by thousands if not hundreds of thousands people  in largely urban space and productive agricultural land. Woodlands did once play an important economic role in the landscape, they provided fuel, building material, charcoal, hunting areas. Now it´s  an anomaly, what the hell is it? where does it fit in the modern world, even the army don´t use it anymore?? A place for walking the dog or is more than that
? It´s a non productive space, there´s no museums, woodland trust initiatives, it´s truly a wild place. Maybe even an affront, insult or even frightening unproductive space to some people, but to others could be  the ideal place to  act out  different non-conventional part of their lives from new age beliefs to tree hugging!

Myth becomes reality becomes Myth

My effort to describe the full circle story of the occult and Hopwas below:

prominent point, ancient  woods, thought of as source of energy = pagan practitioners attracted and start performing  in woods =  witches are caught by local police =  local media frenzy = gets lodged in local conciousness= mysterious wood becomes more mysterious = attracts, pagan practitioners, kids messing about, stories, ravers, writers = some people as result may  avoid scary wood = current day news story, occult objects are found, firm solid ´archaeological type´evidence is found, Staffordshire hoard style.

The process has produced the situation today, a  highly charged place full of rumours, attracting and likely to attract certain people from far and wide.

This is all good

This is not a bad thing though this means the wood has become a fascinating place full of meaning  for an increasing number of people. Stories of the occult are extremely attractive they help sell a lot of books, films and as the Tamworth Herald has found out, newspapers. They also help though enquiring minds, people want to find out more. People want to know more about this mysterious place, they´ll add stories to the place.  Also there will be people who want to debunk these mysteries by trying to proving them wrong and providing the evidence for the  history of Hopwas, thus getting to know the history of Hopwas better. People like me will try to use the interest in the strange happenings in Hopwas as a launchpad for my discoveries and encourage exploration of the area. Others like the West Midlands Ghost club have their own research agenda and will keep adding mystery to the place. Witches and non-witches alike will keep dancing.

This is all good, this means Hopwas woods becomes alive with enquiry, exploration for all sorts of people with different approaches and views.  This is not something to be scared of there´s enough for everyone,  what we should be scared of is the places being ignored. By being ignored it could be condemned, the Woodhouse was a victim of being ignored and looked what happened to it.By being ignored, by not being talked about, and leaving it in the hands of a few, the council, English Heritage, Tarmac, whoever, a lot has been lost over the years and a singular view of history encouraged; all country houses, castles and churches!

Adding more to the witches brew

i) Egyptian occult objects in the Hopwas area, whatever,  Tamworth´s used to them. 19th and early 20th century philanthropist Tamworth resident Reverend William Macgregor(nice link and research here) was also a highly respected Egyptologist, he also had one of the most important collections of Egyptian collections in the United Kingdom. He had the collection quartered in his residence at Bolehall Manor, Tamworth with solid rumours that there are Egyptian mummies buried beneath the Palace cinema, now Mcdonalds(this together with Rev William Macgregor warrants a post or blog of it´s own) !  Tutmania right there in  Tamworth! Here´s a video of some strange Egyptian goings on from the great Sun Ra in a place in a forest space somewhere

ii. Mysterious ephermeral cottage in Hopwas woods.

This bit of historic map detective work on my part could add to that whole Blair witch theme going on in the woods, I´m justing putting out the material evidence, do with it what you will. Use it in novels, campfire stories,……

1924 Ordnance survey map showing the cottage and grounds next to the canal

Between around 1920 and 1940, the Woodman´s cottage appears on ordnance maps. It´s close to the canal and bridge  and adjacent to a well trodden raised path parallel to the canal. After WWII it disappears, from maps and from any record, woooooooooooooooooo. (cue me wandering off in white blanket)

The cottage appears to have some type of enclosed land, haven´t inspected it in person, but on this Lidar image of Hopwas you can clearly make out the cleft out piece of land on the hillside where the cottage probably once  stood, is there any more evidence on the ground? what´s the story behind this place?

Lidar image of Hopwas and canal, with cleft out piece of between path and canal

A single oak tree

Spring has started so fitting to go back and renew  this blog which I´ve abandoned over the last few weeks.

continuing with the very delayed  ancient tree series on Tamworth, came along what must be one of the oldest trees in the area. An oak tree well hidden among a hedge between the river Anker and the Ashby road. With age it´s shrunk and taken on a hermit like existence alone among a hedgerow crouching even further down to avoid passersby.

the tree in question on top right, mimicing the surrounding hedge.

I interrupted on its solitude last Summer finding it after scouring the usual 1899 maps from Staffordshire past track. The surveyors  had even gone to the trouble to include notable trees in the area marking a handful of elm and oak trees in this area.  Trees marked would have considerable age or be distinctive in some way so any survivors to the present day warrant  at least a passing  look.

1899-1904 ordnance map from Staffordshire past track showing the oak and now disappeared  elm trees

The oak is the only survivor I could find in the area from the 1899 maps. It´s in bad shape, looks like it might have weathered more than a few storms. Its advanced state of disrepair, trunk mummified in ivy only adds to it´s potential age, although on the other hand it´s trunk isn´t the widest and it´s lost it´s crown so it´s not the largest oak around. It looks like it hasn´t been looked after by humans for a while at least. Oaks on average can live to around 300 years how old without coppicing . How old was this one? Was it around when the Earl of Richford´s forces passed nearby to the battle of Bosworth 1485?  hmmm don´t think so but gives me a chance to include random image of King Richard III.

If I´d known about the hugging technique to age trees well that might have solved the oak´s age there and then. Intrigued well look at this manual from the Woodlands trust.

On the subject of manuals

In a constant search to give this space meaning I´m going from now on to put an emphasis on providing  ideas, different ways of looking at our surroundings and knowledge/tools on how to explore, , interact, discover and ultimately enjoy landscape history both rural, urban and in between  in England, using Tamworth as an example of course.

That’s a pretty big benchmark and would be fantastic to hear from other budding amateur landscape historians, artists, canoeists, dog walkers, tree huggers, archaeologists on the different ways  and takes to do this.

On my search for ancient and venerable trees in the Tamworth area I came along this from the endless resource of Charles Ferrers Raymund Palmer´s book on Tamworth. When Charles focused on a building, boy did he focus on it, his writings on the Moathouse throw up all sorts of info as if gone through with a comb. About the trees in the long drive he´s got this to say:

“The moat house is a very large and handsome structure,……………It is approached from Lichfield street through a long avenue of noble lime-trees, of more than a century´s growth.”

The mentioned lime trees are still there and if we go by the tree´s estimated age written by Charles in 1845 that makes the trees more than 275 years old!!

The moathouse with Lime trees on either side

Knowing little about  trees I quickly googled info on Lime trees and found out that they´ve got nothing to do with limes, can indeed be very old, and you can use the flowers to make a tea for medicinal purposes, old flowers apparently having narcotic effects hmmm, interesting. The idea of using the fruits from a 270 year old tree sounds appealing to me, actually the whole idea of drinking something with great age is appealing although not the same check this out about oldest champagne found and tasted.

Anyway to know more on Lime trees known as well as tilia(the genera) take a look at this and this.

a lime tree(tillus) image with details, click to go to the link

I´m in Tamworth so will duly insert some photos of the brooding moathouse expertly framed by the Lime trees, shame I´m not the best photographer in the world, but just maybe, maybe this once.. Watch this space.