Just to let you know …

Sorry it’s been a while since my last post. I think this has been the longest break from blogging I’ve ever had. I’ve had a really difficult time at work since the end of September. There are only three of us in the Office as you know. Bogart went off on his hols for two weeks and when he came back the boss left on her 15 day break. Unfortunately Bogart went sick two days later ( he is still off!) and so I was left to hold the fort on my own. Trying to keep the Office running and at the same time sort out my side of the work ready for my own holiday meant I was working extra hours and fetching bits home with me!

I also had tons of stuff to do outside work – all the Samhuin goodness, preparing a guided walk, answering a glut of correspondence for some tutoring I do (why do they all write at once?) and all the usual household chores. I had something planned for every weekend, which was lovely, but meant I was continually running to catch up with myself. Something had to give and it was the blogging that suffered. Better that than my sanity!

Anyway, here I am back from my hols and about to head off to work (not without some trepidation, who knows what I’ll find) I’ll try to catch up with things here on the blog as I go along, for now here’s a taster of what I got up to on the first day of my holiday.


Monastery 2


I was back up on the Edge at the weekend for our Earth Web ritual. The Warrior’s Call have been calling on pagan groups and individuals across the world to join with them, to work ‘magically and practically’ against fracking and on Saturday they held another of their big international ceremonies. The main event was a large public ritual held at Avebury, with other ceremonies, group and solo, taking place on the same day. They had an interactive map where you could log your ritual and see where all the others were taking place.

Earth Web map We were free to organise our own rituals, but were asked to include a ‘painted’ stone. We were to chose a stone from a favourite spot, paint it with the Warriors Call sigil and then ‘charge’ it at the ritual, returning it to where we found it so that could anchor a web of protection around the earth.

The sigil was to be painted in water, I picked a pebble from work, and painted it with water from Chalice Well at Glastonbury. It was the last few drops in the bottle and was a wonderful red colour where the iron had precipitated out. I’m not an artist but gave it my best shot!


Wildwood Earth Web

The organisers at Avebury did a dreaming to plan their ceremony and the Wildwood decided to do the same, there were interesting similarities in all the journeys. In the end our ceremony was in two parts, calling in Herne to charge the stones with warrior energy, strength and protection, and then the Lady Arianrhod to weave this energy into a web around the globe. I incorporated some of the elements of the Avebury ritual, in particular the Warriors Oath, which is a bit of a tongue twister!

The Avebury organisers decided to use ribbons to illustrate the web, and had worked out how to pass them across the circle to produce a pentagram in the middle. There were only six of us so I knew that would be out of the question for us. Instead I decided to adapt a maypole dance called the Spider’s Web. I placed my staff in the centre and we each attached two lengths of lovely cream chunky wool to it. When we came to weave the web, one of these was attached to a peg in the ground at the perimeter of the circle and the other thread we used to spin the web as we walked around. I’d originally envisioned using staves to hold the threads but we had difficulty getting them to stay upright (the central staff had a system of wooden poles to support it and was still rather wonky until it got pinned down!) Lucky for me, Lindsey had her tent in the boot of her car so we were able to use her tent pegs!


Un-weaving the web looked like it may be a bit of a challenge so in the end we just wrapped it around the staff as I crouched down holding it upright. It looked like it had been cocooned when we had finished. The ritual went really well, everyone enjoyed it which is always a good sign. The energy and atmosphere on the Edge was absolutely fantastic. It had been raining all morning but became dry and sunny while we were working. The little grove was perfect and we were only disturbed by a couple of dogs! I’m really enjoying writing and performing working rituals – that is a ritual with a definite purpose other than the usual celebration of the seasonal festivals.

Claire treated us to some lovely ginger snaps at the end and after we’d tidied up we finished off by visiting the cafe :)

On the Edge – Again!

Engine Vein

Engine Vein

I had a couple of hours up on the Edge again yesterday, doing a recce for the Wildwood event next week. We’re holding it mid afternoon on a Saturday, to coincide with other groups around the world and of course the place is buzzing then. I was guided to a small grove which is far enough off the paths and sheltered enough to perform ritual. All the time I was there I had  a constant background noise of excited kids voices, but I find these things tend to get filtered out when you’re concentrating so it should be OK. The only thing that disturbed me was an old golden retriever who came and sat down next to me on the hummock I had chosen to meditate on. He was obviously bred by the local breeder, who has a stud of dogs that are so pale as to be almost white. I took the event to be a good sign, since it was about as close to a white wolf as you could get around here :)

FaceThere are various carved faces on the Edge. I don’t think this has any great age to it, and no, I don’t know what we’re supposed to save!


I stopped and said hello to the Golden Stone, an old merestone, or boundary marker.

Road to HareHill Farm

This is the view along the lane from the Golden Stone towards Hare Hill

Boundary BankA view of the old boundary bank which runs from the Goldenstone, there are a few of these Parish boundaries on the Edge


An old quarry working, wherever the rock is at the surface you will find these.

  dog poo2    

I had a lovely time sitting under trees, watching birds and making plans. I found a Nokia smartphone in the undergrowth, which I handed in to the volunteer manning the National Trust tent on my way out. I always seem to find something up there! I was very good and emptied my pockets of all the interesting pebbles I’d found before I left the woods and made a mini mandala with them. Mr Stoatie would have been proud of me!

dog pooThere was one thing that really annoyed me and that was the amount of dog poo! There were heaps of the stuff all along the main paths, white with autumn mould, which was bad enough, but then we also had the lazy dog walkers signature – bagged poo left by the side of the trail! I passed two ladies with dogs on the way back to the car park. One dropped a load and the woman bagged it up and said ‘Are we coming back this way? I’ll leave it here, remind me to pick it up’ grrr! How nice of her to leave it where everyone else can enjoy it all afternoon. And do we think she’ll be back? huh!


Last Sunday I went over to the Can y Gwynt Grove to celebrate Alban Elfed. This is the pagan celebration around the Autumn Equinox, which actually occurred in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The Can y Gwynt hold their meetings all across North West Wales, this one is the nearest to us, being held just over the Cheshire border in Mold.

I’d promised to go long before the Wildwood came in to being and so we didn’t hold our own celebration, instead a took a car full of Wildwood/Setantii people over with me! We’re actually holding a ritual as part of EarthWeb on the 4th October instead, which I’ll be writing more about in due course no doubt!

The Alban Elfed ceremony was held on an organic farm which is owned by the Grove’s Pendragon, Stuart. He’s constructed a wonderful circle from tree stumps in the field behind the farm house, and also a labyrinth. I didn’t take any photos as I thought it would be a bit cheeky – I don’t know them very well! We started off with the ceremony which was fantastic, there were 15 of us in total which meant the circle had no large gaps and it went off very well. The Can y Gwynt are quite formal and so we were all in robes which gave it a lovely ambience. It was a lovely sunny and warm day, and we were all relaxed but focussed which made good working.

After the ceremony it was time for a bite to eat and then we all sat in a circle in the front yard for a bit of a meeting. The Grove study a different tree between each festival and this time it was the chestnut – sweet and horse! We had a couple of hours sharing memories, anecdotes, stories and findings. Badger had translated a poem about sweet chestnuts from the original Spanish which he declaimed with his usual aplomb! He is a natural Bard :)

After this we had an extra little ceremony to celebrate Stuart and Carol’s 25th Wedding Anniversary. We were joined by their family and friends and Caryl conducted an Affirmation in the Circle. A ring of family in the centre, surrounded by druids. It was a really touching and moving rite, the directions bound them with ribbons to a wand made from bramble, which was the Tree Moon at the time of their marriage. I should think bramble is one of the more difficult materials to make a wand out of so Caryl did very well, it was beautiful!

Afterwards we all repaired back to the farmhouse for more feasting. Badger had been given a birthday cake by a friend at Thornborough Henge the day before, and he very generously brought it over with him. Carol and Stuart were given the honour of cutting it!

Badger cake


Enormous! This rat caught by Mark Willmot's Jack Russell in a Tunbridge Wells park was frightening

Picture from Daily Mail


For the past few weeks there has been the odd scuffling noise in the loft. We often get birds nesting in the eaves so I didn’t think much of it, until one evening last week when Mr Stoatie and I were in bed and both heard the distinct sound of gnawing coming from the ceiling above us. Needless to say neither of us fancied going up there to take a look, so in the end we made a pact to go up together after work the following day. Of course I made Mr Stoatie climb the ladder first, just in case there was something waiting to spring on head of the first person through the hatch.

We had a good look round and couldn’t see tooth marks or droppings. Most of the stuff up there is in jelly boxes, apart from the girls vast soft toy collection. I had visions of something nesting in the bin bag of beanie babies, which might have been a blessing in disguise, since I can’t get them to part with the things! Mr Stoatie spent some time googling and decided that our visitor was either a squirrel or a rat. We have no trees overhanging the house, or ivy running up it so I couldn’t see it being a squirrel, but I did spot a baby rat on the patio a couple of months ago. It didn’t really bother me at the time because they do live in the field behind the house. I sometimes see them on the compost or climbing on the bird table.

We have had mice in the house again this autumn. I didn’t see them but there were droppings all round the kitchen and  pantry. The ‘pantry’ is actually a tiny utility room we had built on behind the garage, it has a proper back door, a window, the freezer and a washing machine. Eventually it will have kitchen cupboards, a counter and a Belfast sink too. In the meantime it houses the dog food and a basket of wellies and boots. It wasn’t until I decided to go out for a proper walk that I realised that the little buggers had been helping themselves to the dog food and had stuffed every piece of footwear with dog biscuits. It must have taken ages. They had also found some insulation and made nests, chewing up the tongues of two boots in the process. It took ages to clear up and the boots had to be thrown away. Unfortunately it meant we lost two pairs as they were both from different ones.

A couple of days after our loft expedition our next door neighbour came round looking rather apologetic. She had had to call pest control because they’d been hearing noises in their loft and had trapped a rat. She reckoned they’d made a nest in the layer of insulation between ceiling and the new floor. We haven’t heard any more noises since, so maybe there was just the one. The rat man duly arrived and identified a hole where the waste pipe from our kitchen sink exited the house to be their likely means of entry. We have cavity wall insulation so maybe that’s why they then decided to travel to next doors house to climb up the inside of the walls. I felt a bit sorry for them really, but then remembered the mess and damage caused by the mice in the pantry! I imagine rats would make a much bigger mess.

We did have visions of chucking Charlie in the loft when we were arguing about who was going up first. I gave him a stern talking to about letting the terrier side down when I was sorting out the pantry, but I think it went in one ear and out the other!

Begonias and Origami


Bogart went off on his hols yesterday, and the student who has been on placement with us most of the summer goes back to Uni tomorrow, so I’m afraid the blog will probably suffer for a few weeks. I have developed Mr Stoatie’s man flu overnight and am sat here hoping regular doses of paracetamol will see me through the day. So to keep the theme here are a few work related pictures from the past week.

This year the bedding designs at work have been simplified (I’m not sure of this is cuts or because no one got round to sorting them out) and rather than the usual two variety planting, all the beds have been stuffed full of begonias. I’m not really a fan, they always seem too blousy and loud, a bit like a Blackpool hen party. For something so in your face they’re also ridiculously delicate, you only have to look at one too long and the flower head drops off. Still they have brightened up the beds outside the Lodge all summer and have survived all the slugs and snails which usually wipe out half the planting.

origami We had a Japanese Australian lady in the Office last week looking for Ian Curtis’ kerbstone. I gave her one of the lovely new maps and she headed off, only to come back later to thank me and to give me these pieces of Origami. They’re so tiny, the kangaroo is only two centimetres from nose to tail!


Bowland 1

This trip was supposed to be three nights away, but Mr Stoatie forgot to book leave -not for want of reminding! When he realised it was too late, so we only went Friday to Sunday in the end. I went in to work today rather than waste my leave, so maybe we can use the extra day another time. The camp site is on a working farm close to the village of Bolton By Bowland, it is a small Camping and Caravanning site with hard standing and electric for six units and an adjacent camping field. It was a cracking little site overlooking Pendle Hill and handy for Skipton, Settle and Clitheroe, Malham Cove, and the Yorkshire Dales – plenty of good walking and cycling therabouts.

Unfortunately Mr Stoatie came down with a really bad cold and so we didn’t actually get to see much of this! We managed an hour or two in Skipton on the Saturday but he wasn’t really up to walking around and so we spent most of the time chilling out on the site. He’d insisted on taking his bike, which took up a great deal of room in the van I might add (he’s too cheap to buy a carrier!) but didn’t get to use it. We had a little walk on the Friday night and that was about it.

Despite printing off the van list, I managed to miss the fact that we’d took the charcoal out last month and so our meals were a bit disappointing. It was a nippy in the evening and darker early, so a cheery fire would have been just the thing too. That was the only mishap, although a certain someone managed to leave a brand new bottle of fairly expensive shampoo in the shower (and he won’t be allowed to forget it!)

A few shots from the weekend :-

Bowland 2 Wild Hops – these were growing in the hedge either side of the farm entrance.


bowland 3

Maidenhair Spleenwort

 Bowland 4 Seed heads of Burdock – note the tiny hooks on the end of the hairs.


Bowland 5 Wood Ragwort ( I think! )


Bowland 6 There just aren’t enough comfy seats in the van if you want to stretch out . This is a rare photo of Tilly and Charlie so close together – sharing my leg as a head rest.

Bowland 7

Charlie eye view of Skipton from under our cafe table. It never ceases to amaze me that both he and Tilly will walk nicely to heel and completely ignore other dogs when out in a busy town. They’re usually OK at home, unless they happen to spot their deadly enemies whilst out. Tilly hates the black and white dog from up our road and has been known to brawl in the street, and Charlie will strain and yap at the Rottweiler we sometimes pass on our walks – he has no common sense!

I was so very upset to read about the fire at Manchester Dogs Home when I got up on Friday morning, my thoughts are with the staff and volunteers and all those who were involved in the rescue. They’re also with the arsonist and his family, the gods alone know what brought him to do such a deed. I adopted Charlie as a puppy from the Cheshire branch of the MDH, (Tilly was from the RSPCA) and had a previous dog, Sean, from Harphurhey. The accommodation was awfully out dated  – particularly the grim Victorian part, but the care given to the dogs was second to none. Out of the destruction will come creation as always, and so there will be a little good to come from all the sorrow.


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