Monday Photo

The Monday Photo

Behind the Green Man

This pub is on the Market Square, Aylesbury. It’s not particularly old or noteworthy, but for many years if you wanted entertainment, through the arch on the side of the pub to the building that stood behind it was the place to go.

At different times over the years there you could see performers like Genesis, The Who, Roxy Music, David Bowie, or Ronnie Barker, or even watched a film.

The Green Man  Aylesbury

There’s been plenty of live music. Ronnie Barker might not have sung on stage there, but like David Bowie, there’s a statue of him in the town.

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The Monday Photo

Goosey Bridge  OlneyPhoto by Alan Bradbury

On The Island

This 1796 bridge gives walkers access to Goosey Island on the Great Ouse at Olney; it's a popular spot. But why is there an island there at all?

I think it’s because there used to be a water mill downstream, on the far side of the main road. To get the water to drive the mill wheel, some of the flow has to be diverted so that it arrives at the mill high above the natural level of the river. The water falling from one level to another under the influence of gravity is what drives the mill.

The river valley is quite flat here, so the diversion has to start quite a long way upstream from the mill. Over the years the river has broken through and there’s now a weir in place to control the water levels.

Up to around the middle of the twentieth Century there had been a weir and a sluice gate in a different spot, about 180 feet North of the present one.

There had been a mill at Olney since the Domesday Book, but a fire gutted the last one in 1965, and the remains were demolished.

At one time there had been another mill a little way at the foot of Clifton Hill, and you can see another island (just about) near there, too. And upstream there are other places in North Bucks where there used to be working mills; you can often find where they were from the islands just upstream.

Are there any places in North Bucks that you have puzzled over? If you have, let me know, and I’ll see if I can solve the mystery for you.

The Monday Photo

Wolverton Works pillbox

Railway Defense

What are these strange little windows set in concrete on a corner in Wolverton? They are loopholes in a pillbox that was built to protect the entrance to Wolverton Railway Works, in World War Two.

The pillbox is on Stratford road on the corner with Radcliffe Street, at the bottom of the garden of the Roman Catholic church of St. Francis de Sales.

There’s a second pillbox on the far corner, partly concealed by the bus stop, and together they covered over half a mile of Stratford Road. The first Germans coming into sight in either direction would get a nasty surprise.

Last time I looked (this isn’t a recent photo) this nearest pillbox had a statue of the Virgin Mary and is nice and tidy inside. The further one has had its loopholes blocked up and is now a very substantial garden shed.

The bus stop that used to partly conceal the far pillbox has been removed since I took the photo.

Do you know of any strange things where you live in North Bucks?

High Voltage Rain

Pylon and cows in rain

The Monday Photo

It was a grey wet day, and as I took this picture, I could hear the high voltage power lines crackling above me. It’s an electrical effect known as a Corona Discharge.

What I could hear was the sound of the air breaking down electrically, and moisture in the air helps to speed the effect. Sometimes you can hear this crackling it’s snowing, or when there’s a heavy fog.

If you are very lucky when you hear it, you can see the blue luminous “crown” of tiny sparks that gives this breakdown its name; “corona” is Latin for crown.

But when I took this photo, the heavy rain stopped me from seeing anything very clearly; it could have been happening right above me and I’d never have known.

The higher the voltage in the wire the more likely is the discharge to occur, and this pylon near Winslow carries 400,000 volts, nearly 1,700 times the mains voltage in your home.

This huge voltage doesn’t seem to bother the cows, grazing under the lines at the far side of the field. They are just getting on with it.

There’s been research on whether cattle, and also some deer, behave differently under these lines. There’s supposed to be a magnetic effect. But the four articles I read, all about the same piece of research, contradicted each other.

I couldn’t make any sense out of it, but what do you think?

Blackberry Ways

Buckinghamshire blackberries

The Monday Photo

Autumn is nearly here. Out taking photos for last week’s Thursday post on the East West Rail project, I found plenty of ripe blackberries in the hedges by the lanes, so I picked quite a lot and ate them on the spot.

But these lovely ones in the photo were way out of reach. Oh well, there were plenty more further along the hedge.

I’m told that there are hundreds of species of blackberries across the country. Over the centuries the blackberries have bred differently from the ones on the far side of a line of hills, or on the other side of a big river.

That day I had some blackberries from Winslow, and more near the old Swanbourne station perhaps two and a half miles away. The bushes seemed spikely alike to me and the berries all tasted the same, but perhaps some from twenty miles away might be different.

I’ve made a nice drink from blackberries, from a recipe my dad gave me. It’s very simple:

Pick a load of blackberries. Remove any twigs, but do not wash them.

Put the blackberries in a demijohn; do not fill it over half way. Add the same volume of sugar, and put a cork and trap in the mouth of the demijohn.

Natural yeast on the blackberries will ensure fermentation. Leave the demijohn for about a year in a warmish spot, making sure the trap always has water in it. Collect a few empty spirits bottles over the year; you will need them.

You’ll now have a demijohn full of dark red liquid. Filter the liquid and add vodka; 1 part liquid to one part vodka. It doesn’t have to be the good stuff. Put it all into bottles; you'll also have to bottles the vodka came in.

Clean the demijohn, cork, and trap, and start again with that year’s crop of blackberries.

You can see that a quarter of a demijohn of blackberries and the same volume of sugar will give you about four pints, two and a quarter litres of liquid. This is doubled once you add the vodka. But it isn’t something you can drink a lot of at once. Even with the vodka it’s still a bit sweet as I know from the couple of times I’ve made it.

Having said all that, I have about a gallon’s worth of blackberries and sugar that has been left fermenting for about five years. If I ever get round to finishing the process I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Have you ever made something like this? Do you have a recipe? Please comment below!

The Maid’s Church

St Edmunds  Maids Moreton

The Monday Photo

Why is this village, just North of Buckingham, known as Maids Moreton? It used to just be called Moreton, and it’s all to do with the church, completely rebuilt around the middle of the 15th Century.

Two sisters, the Maids, paid for the rebuilding work, and so the name of the village changed.

Some say the sisters were daughters of the Pevre family, but others say they could have been Alice and Edith de Moreton, who held part of the manor from 1393 to 1421.

The church was built in the perpendicular style, where advances in design meant that the windows could be made very large without compromising the strength of the walls. This means that St Edmund’s is a bright and airy church.

Another church built in this fine style is at Hillesden.

St Edmund’s was rebuilt around 1450, and I think this would be the completion date; it would have been a long process when everything was done by hand. It’s quite a large church for such a small village.

The chancel was first to be rebuilt, and we think this because there are clues in the way the stonework is jointed between the chancel and the nave.

The West doorway, at the bottom of the picture, is thought to be unique with its elaborate canopy supported by fan vaulting.

The big perpendicular window above has remnants of the original glass. Those long tall recesses with the louvres for the bells at the top are also unique.

This church is close to being unchanged since the 15th century. Perhaps that’s why although village churches are nearly all Grade 2 listed, this one is proudly listed Grade 1.