Monday Photo

Weaselly Found

Weasel Lane

The Monday Photo

This is ancient Weasel Lane. We are out in the countryside just North of Mursley, but the lane stretches all the way from Bletchley to Winslow, and is part of National Cycle Route 51.

I took this photo in May 2015.

At Bletchley the lane starts from the old Buckingham Road, opposite one end of the golf course. Don’t confuse Weasel Lane with the blocked off turning at the other end of the course and close by the roundabout; that’s part of the old road to Buckingham.

From Buckingham Road, Weasel Lane cuts across the fields, crosses the road not far from Newton Longville, and less than a mile later, passes the spot where this picture was taken.

Behind the camera, the lane (and the cycle route) cross the disused railway line and a few miles later reach Shipton, just outside Winslow.

National Cycle Route 51 runs from Felixstowe to Oxford, and Weasel Lane is a five mile stretch in the middle of the route. The lane get its name from “Was Hael”, a Saxon Salutation between travellers.

A Visit From the Boys


The Monday Photo

I walked across the field to the Hawthorn trees in the corner. They were on the river bank. It was a warm sunny evening. In the field, bullocks were calmly feeding. I had come to photograph the May blossom for last week's Monday Photo.

I concentrated on photography, my back to the field. I could hear the bullocks moving around as they cropped the lush grass, but I took little notice.

A few minutes later I felt a snort of warm breath. I turned round to see a bullock having a good sniff at me, his huge white head not an inch away. Around and behind him, every other bullock in the field had come with him to see what I was up to.

He sniffed at me again, and as I looked at them they drew back a little. I began taking their pictures, but with me now facing them they soon drifted away and left me on my own.

I turned back to the Hawthorn blossom and raised my camera again.

May Days

May blossom

The Monday Photo

It’s May, and the hedgerows are decorated with great sprays of small white flowers. It is May blossom, the flowers of the hawthorn tree.

The hawthorn is the most common small tree in much of England, and it’s all because of sheep. When the great open fields of medieval times were enclosed for sheep farming, the farmers planted countless miles of hawthorn saplings on the edges of fields. Once grown, the spiky trees made a very effective stock-proof hedge.

Even today, you can see Hawthorn trees everywhere in hedgerows, and they are still used to make hedges. You can buy 105 plants at once if you want to; that’s enough to make a single row hedge 85 feet, or 26 metres long.

A Hawthorn will revert to its natural tree form given a chance, and livestock will be able to breach the hedge. That’s where the hedgelayer comes in, laying the hedge by cutting the stem near the base and bending it over, forming a thick and bushy hedge that animals can’t get through.

In May in North Bucks you can easily spot the hawthorn trees as they present their May blossom in hedgerows everywhere. 

The Hawthorn supports hundreds of insect species. It provides nectar and pollen for bees. 

Dormice eat the flowers, and birds nest safely in the dense foliage. I would plant a hawthorn in my garden today if I could find enough space for it.

Crataegus Monogyna is
the latin name for Hawthorn.


Track Bike

Levis Motorcycle

The Monday Photo

It was July 2010. I had borrowed this bike from its owner Graham and ridden a short way up this track at Clifton Reynes, which leads to footpaths that go across the river to Olney.

I wanted to photograph the bike for a range of biker’s greeting cards I later went on to produce.

I moved the bike around a couple of times, then settled on this composition for the card. To get a nice low viewpoint I lay in the middle of the lane. I thought I would be safe enough as the track doesn’t see vehicles from one month to the next.

Then from behind me I heard another bike. Two vehicles in one day! It was Graham. Some comedian we both knew well had told him that I had a tendency to fall off borrowed bikes (a lie!) and as I’d been gone quite a while, Graham rode up to see that all was well.

He was very relieved to see that we were both okay. I had already got my shot, so we rode back down to the pub garden where we’d started.

Graham tells me that the bike is a 1932 Levis (pronounced Le-vis, not Lee-vize like the jeans). It has a 350cc 4 stroke, single cylinder engine with overhead valves; quite high tech for the times. You might have noticed that has two exhaust ports and two exhausts, even though it’s a single cylinder engine. This was quite common on bikes between the wars.

The bike was built by Butterfields of Birmingham, who made bikes between 1911 and 1940. They built competition winning 2 strokes up to 1928 which did very well in road racing, including the TT, while the 4 strokes took to the mud with trials and scrambling.

This bike was hill climbed with great success by Pete Robson from Market Harborough.

Pete competed in motorcycle trials and scrambling all his life, and was a leading figure in the Vintage Motorcycle Club before his death a few years ago.

Graham still has this Levis and it’s close to 90 years old now. But remember, we don’t own old motorcycles, we just look after them for a while.

Mystery Club


The Monday Photo

If you’ve heard all the stories about mods and rockers doing battle on the sea front, you might think bikers and scooterists were once all mortal enemies. But that wasn’t always true, and here's proof.

In (it’s thought) the 1960s, the Buckingham and District Motorcycle and Scooter Club met in the Woolpack pub in Well Street, Buckingham. This cast metal badge would be fixed to a member’s bike or scooter.

In the 1970s the landlord of the pub, a Mr. Steers, found a small heavy box full of these badges, tucked away in the pub. He thought that they dated from the previous decade.

The badge design is based on the county coat of arms. There’s a red and black background, and the county swan is wearing a duke’s coronet and a gold chain.

That’s all I could find out about this club. Does anyone out there know any more?

The Miser’s Head

Miser's head

The Monday Photo

John Camden Neild was a recluse and a miser, and this less than complimentery carving is of his head. It’s on North Marston church. It’s a recent carving, made when the 15th Century tower was restored in 2004-2005.

John Camden Neild had lived in Chelsea, but when he died in 1852 he was buried in the chancel of the church; he had owned property in the village.

He left most of his fortune  of £500,000 (worth £29 million today) to Queen Victoria, even though he had never met her.

The Queen used the money first to see that Neild’s servants were taken care of, then had the chancel of North Marston church restored and had the new East window installed with its fine stained glass.

Then she bought the Balmoral estate in Scotland and had it remodelled, at a cost of £31,000.

This head is a label stop; it’s on the bottom edge of a label (or dripstone, or hood mould); a carved stone ridge above a church window that directs rainwater away from the glass.

When this Grade 1 listed church was inspected a few years ago, the tower was found to be in very poor condition. Some of the eight inch thick facing stones were down to two inches or less.

Specialist stonemasons Boden and Ward made a fine job of restoring the tower, (there's more about it at the link) and carved this head, and the one of John Schorne that’s on the other end of the label.