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QUERY: War memorials, weeping ash & Japanese maple

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

According to the website of St Andrew’s church, Bothal, Northumberland, the parish war memorial  is ‘flanked by a weeping ash [Fraxinus excelsior, ‘Pendula’] to the left representing the tears of the bereaved.  On the right the leaves of the Japanese maple [Acer palmatum]  turn bright red in autumn, symbolising the blood of the fallen’.

Does anyone know trees being similarly used elsewhere?  If you do, please contact

Two records broken

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

At the 20th Jubilee Sailing Trust Autumn Pumpkin [Cucurbita maxima] Festival was held at Netley, Hampshire, on Saturday 13 October 2018, two new records were achieved for the heaviest squash and the heaviest pumpkin.  Apparently the difference between squashes and pumpkins in this context is that the former have a green skin, and the latter are orange or yellow.

The record for the heaviest squash grown in the United Kingdom, which had been held for 15 years, was broken by Matthew Oliver, a gardener at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hyde Hall, Essex, with a fruit weighing 1085.8 lbs.

Last year brothers Ian and Stuart Paton, of Lymington, Hampshire, achieved a new British record with a pumpkin weighing 2229.4 lbs; this year they broke the record again with their winning entry weighing 2433.9 lbs.

Poppy installation at the Imperial War Museum

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

‘Weeping window’, an installation consisting of ‘a cascade comprising several thousand handmade ceramic poppies’ is displayed at the Imperial War Museum, London Borough of Southwark, until 18 November 2018.  Originally conceived as a key element in the ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’, which was displayed at the Tower of London in 2014, attracting an estimated five million visitors, the installation has since been touring Britain, from Orkney to Plymouth.


Hops in pubs

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |


It seems to be quite common for pubs in parts of southeast England to be decorated with dried hops (Humulus lupulus), as shown here at the Rose and Crown, Burwash, East Sussex, in October 2018.

Does anyone have any idea when such decorations were first used?



Barren ground, Burwash, Sussex

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Beside a lane leading to Franchise Manor, Burwash, East Sussex, is a memorial to Flight Lieutenant Reginald Frank Rimmer, who died aged 21, when his plane crashed into the adjacent field on 27 September 1940.  According to the landowner, the ‘urban legend is that crops show their respect by not growing where the plane crashed, or it could be the aviation fuel’.

Harvest Festival flowers

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |


Harvest Festival decorations, St Bartholomew’s chuch, Burwash, East Sussex, 6 October 2018.




RHS London Harvest Festival Show

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |


The Royal Horticultural Society held its London Harvest Festival Show on 2-3 October.

On arriving at the free event the first exhibits to catch the eye were entries in the giant pumpkin class, the winner weighing in at 618.8 kg (1364.2 lb). This is apparently more than twice the weight of a Shetland pony, but is much less heavy than with the winner in the 2017 Jubilee Sailing Trust Autumn Pumpkin Festival, which weighed 1029.38 kg (2269.4 lb).

Other attractions included ‘Vote for your favourite pumpkin carving’, a heaviest apple competition (the winner weighing 734 g),  an apple identification stall, and the usual flowershow classes for vegetables and fruits, with, inevitably at an autumn show, a large number of apple entries.




Plant-lore Archive: September 2018

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

September started with a visit to sunny Scarborough for the Folklore Society’s 13th Legendary Weekend, which covered ‘Medicine & Healing in Legend & Tradition’,  and which proved to be the usual good mixture of interesting talks.  A talk on the use of dock (Rumex) leaves to treat nettle (Urtica dioica) stings seemed to be well received, and most participants contributed information about their knowledge of this widespread (in Britain and Ireland) cure.   Thanks to Jeremy Harte for organising these enjoyable events.

Later in the month the Society for Folk Life Studies annual meeting, in Cardiff, was attended, and visits to the St Fagans National Museum of History and Cardiff Bay enjoyed.

29 items of information from 27 informants were added to the Archive, meaning that it now contains 7847 items of information from 2329 contributors. 7229 searches were made of the website.

Some progress was made on Vickery’s Folk Flora, but the initial attempt to design its dust jacket has been rejected, as although it was attractive neither of the plants depicted were native to Britain and Ireland, commonly cultivated, or featured in the book.

Image: figurine of woman in Welsh costume with daffodils (Narcissus), purchased in Cardiff, September 2018.

REVIEW: Stoney Middleton Well Dressings

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

David Thorpe, Stoney Middleton Well  Dressings: An Illustrated History, Stoney Middleton Well Dressing Society, 2017.  Obtainable from Paul Fox, 2 High Barns, Middleton Lane, Stoney Middleton, S32 4UB; £6.50, incl. postage & packing.

At its annual well-dressing Stoney Middleton has a small shop selling souvenirs, including a booklet about Derbyshire well-dressings.  When it was realised that the stock of  the booklet was running low the organisers decided to produce their own account of the village well-dressing.  Thus Dave Thorpe, who designed many dressing between 1979 and 2005, has compiled this 48 page booklet.

Well-dressing in Stoney Middleton started in 1936 and continues to the present, when three wells are dressed each year.  Rather than producing a history which flows from 1936 to 2017 the author has adopted a rather less systematic approach.  Thus a section on the village’s first dressing is followed by one on the origins of the custom (‘speculations on the origins … is [sic.] rife’),  then follow sections on the preparation of the dressings, and different themes, before returning to sections covering different decades.  Each section is fully illustrated, but I, for one, would have preferred a chronological approach, so that the evolution of the dressings could have been more easily understood by comparing  photographs of dressings from consecutive years.

As a designer of wells Dave Thorpe is keen to attribute dressings to their designers and photographs are shown of the work of 23 designers.  It would have been interesting to know more about these people, drawn from a village with a population of less than 500, who have produced such talented work.  As it is, we know are told that the author has an ‘artistic background’,  Oliver Shimwell, who assisted his father Ted with the first dressing, was headmaster of the village school, and Ben Milner, who was active in the late 1940s and early 1950s, was ‘a driver for a local laundry’.

Summing up, yes, this is a worthwhile study of Stoney Middleton’s well-dressings, but I’m left wanting to know more: more about the people involved, more about the methods used, and more about associated events – from 1948 until the early 1950s a carnival was included in the celebrations.

Conker shortage

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

According to Metro and the Daily Star of 28 September 2018 Britain is experiencing a shortage of conkers (horsechestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum seeds) due to the dry summer.                                                                                    According to the former, bags of 50 nuts are being offered for £5.70 online, and the shortage has put the 2018 ‘World Conker Championships in Northamptonshire in doubt’.                                                                                      The report in the Star is more extensive, and, indeed, forms the main story on its front page, under the heading ‘Germany conkers Britain’.  Inside, on page 5, it explains: ‘Conkers may have to be imported from Germany after the summer heatwave left this year’s poor crop too tiny and shrivelled up for games.  Panicked enthusiasts at the World Conker Championships, held in the UK next month, fear the event could be ruined due to the weak batch of nuts.’  Hence the Championships organisers are considering importing conkers from Germany, meaning that 2018 ‘would be the first time in more than 40 years the event would be forced to use foreign horsechestnuts’.

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