Frames, Canes & Weather Ordeals

Hard to believe it has been a month since my last allotment update, but alas life (and the weather) has got in the way. Annoyingly, the ground is still too wet to plant anything directly; the potatoes and onion sets should be okay to plant a little later on. It is still frustrating when you want to get on with things but are unable to because of reasons that are out of your control.

We have since erected an archway (well, two that we joined with canes) so that we are able to grow various climbers over the path. Last year we had two bean tepees that grew over the path, but we thought the archways would be more structurally sound.

Whilst we aren’t able to plant anything into the ground, we have started to plant some seeds. We have only planted Jalapenos and Lemon Peppers so far; in regards to edible things at least. We wanted to see how successful the germination would be with our DIY propagator. It seems so have done the trick; 6 Jalapenos and 5 Lemon Peppers have germinated thus far, so we well set up more little propagators on any windowsill we can.

The rhubarb is starting to outgrow its pot. The crown below is one I purchased last year, the other three are currently resting in the compost heap at home. They seem to have recovered quite well and have grown back without any pest damage. Last year, the crowns appeared to have been eaten away by something. We’re planning to make a raised bed for the crowns we have in hope that we can avoid pest damage in the future.

The strawberry patch will also be boxed off soon, the runners have made the plot wider than we originally intended and they will continue to do so once the warmer weather arrives. Even the neighbours have gained some strawberries!

Some more sweet peas were planted about two weeks ago and some have germinated, hopefully more will germinate. The herbs have burst back into life and add some much needed colour to the allotment.

Here’s hoping that April doesn’t bring its showers.

Aquae Sulis & The Roman Baths

It is believed that the Celts of the land worshipped this spring, in honour of their god Sulis. Sulis was the goddess of fertility and the sun. She was a goddess local to the Bath area, with the only mention of her outside of England is in small German town. Sulis was also known as the deity of healing waters.

When the Romans came in 43AD, they took over the area and the sacred springs. The Romans saw their god Minerva in Sulis; eventually leading the two gods to become Sulis Minerva.

The head of a Sulis Minvera statue, discovered in 1727

A temple was soon built on Britain’s only hot spring in around 60AD, evolving into a bathhouse over a 300 year period. Just over a century after the Romans left Britain [in the 5th century], the baths had been completely abandoned. The site had silted up over the years of neglect, leaving it useless. By the 7th century, Anglo-Saxon Christian converts had began building churches nearby; several versions have existed throughout the ages.

Later, in around the 12th century, the Kings Bath was added on top of what was once the Sacred Spring. This bath differed to the Roman one, as it provided seats for bathers. With this, the bathers were able to be immersed in the water up to their necks; to make the most of the waters healing powers. The seat on the south side was added in the 17th century. As you can see, the water level has been lowered to keep it in line with Roman levels.

The terrace and the statues were added in the 19th century, when the site was being prepared as a tourist destination. Unfortunately, the original statue of Julius Caesar was vandalised. The one you see today around 30 years old and of a different, slightly gaudy style.

Even now it is encouraged to drink the water from the sacred spring, due to the plethora of minerals found in it.

Stormy Days

The allotment is starting to really come to life now, the strawberry patch needed weeded and some strawberries were hiding underneath. It is quite surprising to see fruit so early on in the year.

England has been battered by both storm Ciara and storm Dennis in the past week, so we knew we had to try and prepare the allotment. The bird feeder and lose pots were moved inside the shed and the pallets were laid on top of the carpet to keep it in place.

Storm Ciara didn’t cause too much damage to our shed, it just knocked off the fascia board on the front but that was an easy fix. The garden behind us on the other hand didn’t fare so well. The allotment had just about dried out before the storm hit. I was hoping we could finish turning the soil over, but alas it will have to wait once more.

The sweet peas will be ready to plant out by March, the risk of frost should have passed by then. It is important to plant them out before the warmer weather sets in, as sweet peas prefer cooler temperatures. I’ll probably be planting some more seeds up in the next week or two, they’re one of my favourite flowers – they always remind me of my Grandma. I’d like them all around the allotment, it just depends on how many germinate.

Out of the two varieties I have planted so far, the type that have done the best are Mr Fothergills “Twilight, 9 out of the 16 have germinated. The other type I had planted were Unwin’s “Berry Kiss”, but only three out of 16 have germinated. I planted these back in November, so unfortunately I have only had a 33.33% success rate with germination overall. Two seeds were planted per tube.

Perhaps it was due to them being left in the shed rather than a greenhouse, they were left by the window and were wrapped with some insulation but obviously it is no match in comparison to the temperatures you can get in a greenhouse.

We have been forcing the rhubarb and there has been some growth by doing so. The root was only purchased in the summer so is not mature enough to harvest this year, although we will probably take it out of the pot and plant it once the ground has dried out. Hopefully, we will be able to harvest it next year.

Here’s to the warmer, drier days.

The Rollright Stones

The Rollright Stones are located on the border of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire, near the village of Little Rollright. They have stood since the Neolithic era and their history spans over 5,500 years.

Their story starts with the construction of The Whispering Knights, a Neolithic Dolmen [a single chamber tomb], it is even believed that this is one of the earliest burial monuments in the UK. It would have been erected by some of the earliest farming peoples to settle in the area.

The site was used from the Neolithic era right up to the Bronze Age in regards to burials. The cap stone has long since fallen and now rests to the side of the standing stones. The Whispering Knights contains the tallest stone of all the Rollright monuments.

The stones lean into one another, as if they are crowed together; plotting. Legend is that the King’s knights were conspiring against him, the witch of Long Compton turned them to stone before they could carry out their plan to overthrow the King. Although, another tale is that the knights were praying as they were turned to stone by the witch.

It is also said that on New Year’s Day, the Whispering Knights awaken to visit the brook in a near by valley and drink from it.

The King’s Men is the stone circle which dates from the Bronze Age. There are around 70 stones, although it is believed that there once was over 100. It is said to be impossible to count the stones, but if you count the same number three times, you are granted one wish.

The King’s Men takes its name from the local legend. A King was marching his army across England, when they were challenged by the witch of Long Compton. He wanted to conquer England in his name, but she would ensure this would not come to pass. The witch proclaimed, “Seven long strides shalt thou take and if Long Compton thou canst see, King of England thou shalt be!” to which the King replied, “Stick, stock, stone. As King of England I shall be known!”

Upon the King’s seventh stride, the ground before him rose up to obstruct his path. The witch bellowed, “As Long Compton thou canst not see, King of England thou shalt not be. Rise up stick and stand still stone, for King Of England thou shall be none. Thou and thy men hoar stones shall be, and myself an Eldern tree!”

The witch, as true to her word, turned the King and all of his men to stone. She, as an eldern tree, watches over the King’s men. It is not known why the witch wanted to stop the King in his tracks. Did she know something he did not? Was she protecting him? It is said that one day, when the King and his men are needed for battle once more, the spell will be broken.

It is possible that some of the stones were removed in more modern times and reused for other constructions, as is common for standing stones. It is said that the largest stone was taken by a local farmer in order to be used as a bridge over a stream on his land. It took 24 horses to drag this stone, but the stone had cursed him. A farm hand was killed on the way back and once the stone had been placed over the stream, it was found to have fallen in the next day. It was put back in place, but this happened repeatedly, and so the farmer and his horse dragged it back. Taking the stone back required just one horse; perhaps the stone knew it was returning and lifted it’s curse on the foolish farmer.

The King’s Stone is believed to be a Bronze Age burial marker, burial mounds and cairns have been discovered on the site nearby. Cremated remains were found to be marked with wooden pillars. The stone is said to have been an important meeting place during Saxon times. The grave of a 7th century high priestess was found not a few hundred yards away. It is relatively common for ancient monuments to be re-purposed by cultures down the line. Even today, the Rollright Stones have become an important place for new age and more traditional Pagans.

The shape of The King’s Stone has changed over time, much like the other monuments. Whilst weathering has had an impact, the main cause of the peculiar shape of the King’s Stone was down to treasure hunters. During the 19th century, Victorian tourists were notorious for chipping off parts of the stone as a memento. It is also said that a piece of the King’s Stone on your person would keep the Devil away.

The mound behind the King’s Stone is said to be the one that blocked his view of Long Compton. This is where the King has stood, frozen in time. He watches over his men, waiting for the spell to be broken.

The Rollright Trust have the opportunity to finally reunite the King with his men. They have been given the chance to purchase the land from Haine Farmers. If you would like to donate a few pounds, you can do so here. There is also a petition to try and save the Rollright Stones from traffic disruption, if you can sign it here.

All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.

Starting Over

This is our first January on the plot. There isn’t much growing activity this time of year, so we have used this time to try and prepare the plot for the upcoming growing season. This has been a lot harder than it should have been, due to the excessive rainfall over the last few months. It has turned parts of the allotment into a bog. Some of the plots may as well be a pond. Naturally, more rain followed after we started turning the ground over so we will now leave that task until some time in February.

There have been no hard frosts this winter, in fact, it has been quite a mild winter. Meaning that none of the little critters have been killed off. White fly have been our main nemesis; they have decimated our over wintering cabbage and ate the pumpkin seeds that I had left in the shed. Luckily, I still have three pumpkins left so I’ll have plenty more seeds for next year.

With it being so mild, spring bulbs are starting to sprout much earlier than usual. I’ve even seen rhubarb poking out of the ground without the need to be forced! You can force your rhubarb crowns over winter to get an early spring crop.

With all of the items we would like to make over the coming years, a vice has made a nice addition to the workbench.

A cold frame is one of the first items on the list, we are being given some old greenhouse panels which will be perfect for it. We don’t have room on our plot for a full size greenhouse unfortunately.

There are signs of life everywhere, spring is knocking at our door.