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Illustrations above - 'Snowdrop Babies' by Wanda Lehre,   'Cape Gooseberries' by Margaret Tarrant


♫    Music to dream by ....
from the sound track of the film 'Wicker Man''  1973   

'Willow's Song' by Paul Giovanni
Sung (we think) by Rachel Verney

(minimize new window & listen while you browse)


     January 12th 2015 
         ... Hoodeners at the turn of the year     (cont. from Dec 2014 here)

        (The Ogham tree associated with this day is Beith - Birch - 24thDec - 20th January. Use it for magic and meditation.)

Hoodeners, St Nicholas at Wade, Kent, entertaining at Gad's Brewery, Ramsgate  ©vcsinden2014

♫    "We are St Nicholas Hoodeners with our custom very old
We represent a ploughing team
Who celebrate an ancient theme
Our solstice rights aren't what they seem
Peace offerings so we're told "

      If you're fascinated by folklore and traditions, as am I - (faery-folk seek them out wherever they can to bear them witness and feel past days flowing through present and future) - you will be prepared to travel far.    Imagine the pleasure, on a cold winter's day, of simply skipping to a not-so-far-away brewery (Gadd's)  to keep company with one of the oldest hooden horses in the country and his trusty band of revellers.

Old Dobbin waits in the wings - Hoodeners, St Nicholas at Wade, Kent ©vcsinden2014

Old Dobbin awaits his entrance cue amongst the ale casks!

   Hooden horses have a very strong link with Kentish folklore - and nowhere is the winter ritual so enthusiastically preserved than in the village of St. Nicholas at Wade near Canterbury.

  Each year a small band of players sets bravely forth to pubs and house parties to perform a little play in verse and song. It's along old mumming lines of death and resurrection (old year into new), but always with satirical comment on newsworthy issues from the past year, both local and national.

The plough-boy is thrown from Old Dobbin,
but luckily revives in time to sing the carols!

Hoodeners, St Nicholas at Wade, Kent ©vcsinden2014

    One of this year's main themes for uncomplimentary rhyming was the struggling local airport -
here's a quote from the Daily Mail setting out the issue!
"Manston Airport, near Margate, Kent, - where Dambusters ace Sir Barnes Wallace carried out tests on the revolutionary bouncing bomb during the Second World War has been sold for just £1."Hoodeners, St Nicholas at Wade, Kent ©vcsinden2014
Old Dobbin brings news to the Waggoner and Molly

Hooden horse Old Dobbin disgraces himself - Hoodeners, St Nicholas at Wade, Kent ©vcsinden2014

Hmm - Old Dobbin is seemingly hell-bent on leaving his own satirical comment!

I've met quite a few hoodens in my time, but never one who did THIS ! Disgraceful, but then he is a couple of hundred years old now after all!

       'If ye the Hooden Horse do feed, throughout the year ye shall not need '  - an old rhyme to encourage would-be alms givers!  At the turn of each year, the old horse and the St Nicholas at Wade Hoodeners raise plenty of money for a local charity of their choice

Long may they Hooden!




    January 23rd 2015 
     ... A walk in the January dusk ...  cold but perfectly enchanted ...

        (The Ogham tree associated with this day is Luis - Rowan - 21st January to 17th February.  Use wood or berries for your magic and meditation.)

January Challock, Kent ©vcsinden2015

January rook - Challock, Kent ©vcsinden2015


' There was never a leaf on bush or tree,
The bare boughs rattled shudderingly ;
The river was dumb and could not speak,
For the weaver Winter its shroud had spun ;
A single crow on the tree-top bleak
From his shining feathers shed off the cold sun ;
Again it was morning, but shrunk and cold,
As if her veins were sapless and old,
And she rose up decrepitly
For a last dim look at earth and sea.

James Russell Lowell

Snowdrops, early in january at Challock Church ©vcsinden2015
Snowdrops, early in january at Challock Church ©vcsinden2015

January dusk walk with Guardian Martin ©vcsinden2015





   January 27th 2015 
      ...  The Mari Lwyd - 'A horse's head in the frost' ...

Ghostly Mari Lwyds meet in the Three Tuns at Chepstow 2015 Mari Lwyd ©vcsinden2015
A misty throng of Mari Lwyds chatting by the fire in the Three Tuns, Chepstow, Wales

Father - "Well, there you are - what do you think of them?"
Small Daughter - "I don't like them!"
Father - - "You don't?  Why not?"
Small Daughter - "Because they're dead."

Chepstow Mari Lwyd ©vcsinden2015
The Chepstow Mari Lwyd

     An old Welsh tradition for New Year's Eve and Twelfth Night saw a 'first footing' by the Mari Lwyd  (Grey Mare - Night Mare) - a horse's skull decked out in a white shroud, ribbons, bells, perhaps as a bride.

    At midnight, there might come a knock on the door, or the Mari head, high on a pole, scratching at the window pane, begging for entry in song or verse. Should he be allowed through the door, he would be fed and watered with ale.

    The modern 'Maris' look a friendly enough bunch, each with its own distinct character and they're said to bring good fortune for the New Year, but in times gone by they may have been objects of foreboding.


   To accompany my pictures there are a few chosen verses from
          'The Ballad of the Mari Lwyd'  by Vernon Watkins. 
It's a long and spine-tingling lament with echoing voices and whispers in the dark.

   The Ballad reminded me somehow of the local Kentish legends of the smugglers on the Romney Marshes and the infamous
'Dr Syn'. 

Perhaps you'd like to read it all - find it on this link  The Ballad of the Mari Lwyd, and other poems'   London, 1941


Llantrissant Mari Lwyd at Chepstow 2015 ©vcsinden2015

Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Midnight.
Hark at the hands of the clock.

The breath of a numb thing, loud and faint:
Something found and lost.
The minute drops in the minute-glass;
Conscience counts the cost.
What mounted, murderous thing goes past
The room of Pentecost?
Sinner and saint, sinner and saint:
A horse’s head in the frost.


    Left: The Mari from Llantrissant

Though you come from the grim wave’s monklike hood
And Harlech’s bitter coast,
White horses need white horses’ food:
We cannot feed a ghost.
Cast your Lwyd to the white spray’s crest
That pounds and rides the air.
Why should we break our lucky feast
For the braying of a mare?



                          Right: The Cardiff Mari

Cardiff Mari Lwyd ©vcsinden2015
Lands End Mari Lwyd 'Penevyll'  at Chepstow 2015  ©vcsinden2015

Go back, with your drowned and drunken eyes
And your crooked mouths so small
And your Mari foaled of the starry skies:
Go back to the seawave’s fall.
If we lift and slide the bolt in the door
What can our warm beer buy?
What can you give for the food we store
But a slice of starving sky?

Sinner and saint, sinner and saint:
A horse’s head in the frost.


Left: Mari 'Penkevyll' from Land's End in Cornwall


The slinking dead, the shrinking sands,
And the picklock, picklock, picklock hands

Dread and quiet, evil and good:
Frost in the night has mixed their blood.
Thieving and giving, good and evil:
The beggar’s a saint, and the saint a devil.
Mari Lwyd, Lwyd Mari:
A sacred thing through the night they carry.
Betrayed are the living, betrayed the dead:
All are confused by a horse’s head.



            Right: 'Larcher' the Mari from Carmarthen

Carmarthen Mari Lywd 'Larcher'  ©vcsinden2015
Pembrokeshire Mari Lwyd ©vcsinden2015

‘O crouch and cringe by the bounding flame
And close your eyelids fast.
Out of the breath of the year we came.
The breath of the year has passed.
The wits of a skull are far too great
Being out of the hands of the clock.
When Mari Lwyd knocks on the door,
In charity answer that knock.’



     Left: The Pembrokeshire Mari



O white is the frost on the breath-bleared panes
And the starlike fire within,
And our Mari is white in her starry reins
Starved through flesh and skin.
It is a skull we carry
In the ribbons of a bride.
Bones of the Nightfrost parry
Bones of the Fire inside.’



                                       Right: The Swansea Mari


Swansea Mari Lwyd ©vcsinden2015
Mari Lwyd at Chepstow, Wales - on the Iron Bridge ©vcsinden2015
    Chepstow's Mari returns over the Iron Bridge, leading some aquaintance from the 'English' side of the bank onto Welsh soil.

    My pictures were all taken at the Chepstow Mari Lwyd Day in Wales on 17th January this year. There's a Wassail, an encounter between English and Welsh by torchlight on the Iron Bridge, a Mari Lwyd 'First Footing' in verse to gain entrance to pub and museum, Morris Dance and much frivolity. Eccentrically enchanted enjoyment!

     There are many online places for us to look at Chepstow Mari Lwyd photos,
so I have simply concentrated here on the treasured horse spirits.

     You might like to look at more Chepstow event pictures here  and find more of the history of the Mari Lwyd custom here   

Mari Lwyd at Chepstow 2015 ©vcsinden2015




   February 20th 2015 
       ...  Candlemas and Shrove - February happenings  ....

St. Pancras Church at Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105
The tiny, beautifully unspoiled Coldred Church. Its single bell replaces one made in the 12th century, which has been preserved in the little nave.


       A tradition of the Christian Church for the second day of February is the Candlemas service. There has been a celebration at the beginning of this cold winter's month since time immemorial, and as often happens, the early Christians blended their date of Purification to fit with the older pagan honouring (Imbolc or Brigid's Day - Feb 1st).
Candlemas at ST. Pancras Church, Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105It becomes increasingly difficult to find a real Candlemas service in my part of the world, especially one held on the evening of the actual calendar date of February 2nd. (Many are still held, but on the nearest Sunday). After much searching I found one, and how lucky I was!

  Down a long country lane stands the tiny, ancient church of St. Pancras in the pretty village of Coldred, near Dover.

Although it hardly seats more than thirty souls, the village takes great pride its traditional Candlemas.


St. Pancras Church, Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105
The ancient church of St. Pancras, standing amongst Saxon earthworks and Roman remains at the Kentish village of Coldred.


Snowdrops at Candlemas in Coldred Church  Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105
Early snowdrops decorate the church at Coldred.


    The Festival of Candlemas honours the day when, as was the custom of the time, at forty days from the birthing of her child, a mother wento to a temple where she would be ritually 'purified' and the baby blessed. This custom was known in medeival Britain as 'Churching'.
     It's written that on the occasion of Mary's purification, priest Simeon recognised her baby as being 'The Light of the World'. From this came the custom of processing with candles and bringing, or being given, a candle to be blessed for the remaining winter ahead.

   Traditionally the church is decorated with evergreens and white flowers for the 'Putification', particularly the 'Flower of Hope' - the snowdrop - barely in seasonal bloom at the beginning of February. At St. Pancras there are plenty to choose from, growing beside the church gate.

Candles for Candlemas at St.Pancras Church, Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105

       Seeing Coldred only in the darkness of the February evening, whetted my appetite to explore it further in daylight. The village, much loved and lived in, simply abounds with community and centuries of history.

The memorial Lime Avenue at Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105

  The entrance to Coldred is framed by an avenue of lime trees, now twenty years old and looking very beautiful even in mid-winter.

 The avenue was planted as a memorial to Helen Mummery - what a wonderful tribute!

  If you're searching for a quintessentially British pub, look no further than the 'Carpenter's Arms'.

  Hardly bigger than a cottage, overlooking the green and its pond, there are two little rooms around a bar. Crackling wood burning fires welcome guests, books, papers and of course locally brewed ales persuade him into staying a while.

  It reminded me forcefully of times and places in Malcolm Saville's 'Lone Pine' mysteries!

The Carpenter's Arms at Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105
The Village Pond on the Green at Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105

   The village pond. Every village with a right to that name should have one!

  This peaceful place is at the heart of Coldred, on the green. Inhabited by many ducks, and overlooked by restful benches, even this idyllic hub boasts of strange history ...

  In the mid seventeenth century, local woman Nell Garlinge was accused of witchcraft and 'swum', hands and feet tied across the body, in the deepest part of the pond to test her guilt or innocence!


   This superb example of an old Kentish Staddle Barn stands adjacent to the church.

   The barn is raised high off the ground on mushroom shaped 'staddle stones' to keep the grain stored inside dry and safe from vermin.

The Old Kentish Staddle Barn at Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105

   There is an interesting pdf. document with a history of Coldred, complete with lots of pictures. Written in 1996 by local resident Marjorie Chapman you may follow the 'Coldred Chronicle' link here.


   Then came another February tradition, Shrove Tuesday.  ©vcsinden2105

My faery pleasure and indulgence wasn't for pancakes this year. The choice made was a fine contrast to the woodland ways which normally keep Muddypond busy!

   Brick Lane street art  ©vcsinden2105To East London she flew, Brick Lane to pinpoint her landing place more accurately. Bustling thoroughfare awash with famous graffiti, art galleries, endless curry houses, Indian sweet shops and groceries, markets and street food.

    You know I think, that we faery-folk don't eat exactly as mortals do - apart from a very few 'specified victuals' (dew, mushroom, wild strawberry, pure marshmallow etc.) we take our nutrition from the air. We imbibe it through a process closely aligned to 'smell'. Thus, just walking along Brick Lane, past Curry houses of every kind, is an experience like no other - sheer gluttony and sensory excess!!

    It's little known in Britain (even amongst faere folk) that on the list of permitted 'specified victuals' are sweet Indian delicacies - tiny nibbles from barfi, halwa, jalebi and ladoo. Muddypond knows -and adores them - especially barfi !

Harfi and Ganesh  ©vcsinden2105
My assorted and indulgent barfi - watched over by the little Ganesh statue, brought home from Varanasi.

     Necessary on a visit to Brick Lane (complimentary to curry imbibing!) is a look in one of the Galleries. The exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery Gallery, now until 12th April, is  'The Art of the Brick'.  Amazing!   Art, mostly life sized figures, made up entirely of tiny Lego bricks - tens of thousands for each exhibit - and all by artist Nathan Sawaya. Unexpectedly beautiful and thought provoking!

       There are 14,500 bricks in the hand alone (below).  My pictures (taken on phone) won't even begin to give you an idea - I hope you will  visit the website if you can't get to the exhibtion itself.

'The Art of the Brick' Red Man  ©vcsinden2105
'The Art of the Brick' -life-sized  swimmer  ©vcsinden2105
'The Art of the Brick' - pieta  ©vcsinden2105
The Art of the Brick' the Hand, showing it's real size  ©vcsinden2105

     Being an old fashioned country creature, I'd never seen the modern phenomena called 'Love-locks' - and here beside Brick Lane I discovered some! A present-day counterpart of the 'Clouty Tree' I suppose. Two hearts locked together forever inside a padlock. Interesting - but in Europe already unwieldy and a bit of an eyesore in places.

brick Lane - 'Love-locks'   ©vcsinden2105



    March 20th 2015 
        ...  Pigments, paints and projects for the First day of Spring ...

   (The Ogham tree associated with this day is Fearn - Alder - 18th March to 14th April.  Use wood, catkins or tiny cones for your magic, incense and meditation.)

Margaret Tarrant's Spring silhouette

    Blacks and creams for a silhouette - 1940's postcard illustration by Margaret Tarrant

     The Spring Equinox - a day when the world is in balance, an equal split of daylight and dark - and a wonderful eclipse of the Sun to add to the day's magic. Sadly here in the south eastern corner of Kent the clouds and mist hung low in the sky until past midday, and all hope of a sighting of the Moon's shadow was dashed.

    No early sunshine then, but plenty of Springtime in gardens and hedgerows - and so many months of warmth and light and birdsong to follow  ...

Hazel catkins in Muddypond's wood ©vcsinden2015
Celandines on the bank in March ©vcsinden2015
Snowdrops with primroses ©vcsinden2015
Colour balance for the equinox Ostara. The yellows, ochres and whites of hazel catkins, celandines, snowdrops with primroses, blackthorn blossom and spidery witch hazel.
Blackthorn blossom in March ©vcsinden2015
Witch hazel in March ©vcsinden2015


     Woodland Ostara colours, followed by a colour-burst of sheer Spring exuberance - a little bunting project for Muddypond's small and trusty Campervan Mopsy, who looks forward to many journeys now the evenings are longer.

   Project Bunting - unfinished as yet - crochet (many fine fae folk can do it!). I'll show it to you when it's truly finished!

  The gorgeous flower and owl buttons are treasures from the wonder-house UK craft supplier
   'Paper and String Ltd'.

Bunting crochet project for Mopsy ©vcsinden2015

Bunting crochet project for Mopsy ©vcsinden2015
Bunting crochet project for Mopsy ©vcsinden2015




    April 6th 2015 
       ...  Ducks are a-dabbling - and a-dashing, and a-causing a-commotion!  ....





       Not so very far from Muddypond's wood lies the pretty Kentish village of Smarden.  Its primary school, ancient church, Kentish hall houses, weatherboarded pubs and its fair share of oast houses and trees in early blossom made it an idyllic backdrop to the annual Spring Duck Race!

Smarden, Kent ©vcsinden2015

    Flowing under the little 'Town Bridge' is the River Beult, and it's there, in a flurry of sleek yellow, blue and orange imaginary feathers, that hundreds of small ducks are released to bob their merry way down stream and raise much needed funds for local sports facilities.

Smarden, Kent, Duck Race 2015 ©vcsinden2015

    Above:  a look at Smarden for you - so very Kentish as she is - and my own handsome champion 'Superduck' Number 43 himself!  In the swim for a while, sculling his hardest and with a fixed smile on his face he finished a respectable kind-of 189th or something like that. For a small orange fellow like this it's the trying that counts - and the funds that he raised. He vows to be at peak fitness this time next year.  Well done Number 43!

Smarden, Kent, Duck Race 2015 - the Start ©vcsinden2015




Smarden, Kent, Duck Race 2015 ©vcsinden2015
'Won't you join us?'    &     We have our Winners!'
Smarden, Kent, Duck Race winners 2015  ©vcsinden2015

Smarden, Kent, Duck Race picking up the stragglers 2015 ©vcsinden2015

A helping oar for the stragglers -
and it's count up all the money we ducks raised, and back into training for next year!



"When I awoke the following morning, it was April.
As delicately rendered as a passage from Truman Capote, fleeting, fragile, beautiful.
April, made famous by T.S.Eliot and Count Basie."

Haruki Murakami 'Dance, Dance, Dance'




    April 17th 2015 
Talking to a coot near me ...

Coots in April ©vcsinden2015

       Ah-ho Dame Coot, so those babies are YOURS - I should have guessed since they've all inherited your striking white beak tip! How charmimg they are, how ridiculously charmed - and what a riot of deepest brown fluff and rainbow bright head feathers. I hope the reeds are thick enough to hide your family from harmful eyes - and Dame Coot - take care with those huge lily-pad-wading feet won't you? Welcome to our planet little fuzzfballs.

Coot chick showing his full colours in April Coots in April ©vcsinden2015

Baby coots in April ©vcsinden2015



     May 1st 2015
The Dawn Rising - with Jack-in-the-Green at Whitstable ...

Jack-in-the-Green, May 1st  2015 at Whitstable with Dead Horse Morris ©vcsinden2015

    The Dawn Rising - the most important event for the first day of May.  At 05.10 the sky paints a dazzling picture through the early gloom. The sea gently sucks and pushes pebbles as the tide pulls out. The dancers of  Dead Horse Morris  are ready, the band prepared and Jack himself waits, foliage tinged from the pink glow of the hidden sun on the sea.

Jack-in-the-Green, May 1st  2015 at Whitstable with Dead Horse Morris ©vcsinden2015

     The music pipes up and the gulls are watchful. Sticks clash and the dance begins ...  and there it is - 05.29 precisely- and here comes the Sun !

Jack-in-the-Green, May 1st  2015 at Whitstable with Dead Horse Morris ©vcsinden2015

Jack-in-the-Green, May 1st  2015 at Whitstable with Dead Horse Morris ©vcsinden2015

♫      Hal-an-tow, jolly rumbelow
We were up long before the day-o
To welcome in the summertime
To welcome in the May-o
For summer is coming in
And winter's gone away
-o   ♫ 

Jack-in-the-Green, May 1st  2015 at Whitstable with Dead Horse Morris ©vcsinden2015
Jack-in-the-Green, May 1st  2015 at Whitstable with Dead Horse Morris ©vcsinden2015

So very lucky - the most beautiful Beltane sunrise that Muddypond has seen for many a long year - and I was there, with Jack-in-the-Green, with the Morris Dancers and with the timeless sea.

Jack-in-the-Green, May 1st  2015 at Whitstable with Dead Horse Morris ©vcsinden2015

  For the sky above us,
The mountains, forests and seas before us,
For the earth beneath our feet,
For the spirit within
We give thanks.





     May 11th 2015
        .....    Some days around Delft ...

 Kinderdijk, Netherlands ©vcsinden2015

  Bulb fields near Lisse, Netherlands ©vcsinden2015   

        Exploring again!  Channel hopping to the Netherlands and south to Delft - looking for the traditional and picturesque and finding it everywhere! Along the sleepy canals, past churches and cafe's of the old town, through squares, gazing at cheese shops and galleries of blue and white tiles, accompanied by the unforgettable carillon of 48 bells from the Nieuwe Kerk.

Delft, Netherlands - in the old town ©vcsinden2015

Delft, Netherlands - old town house ©vcsinden2015
Delft, Netherlands - old clogs ©vcsinden2015
Dutch cheeses with 3 year old Brockelaer Delft, Netherlands - old town house ©vcsinden2015


     A Scrapbook from a day at Keukenhof.

     A short ride from Delft by train and bus, are the fabled Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse. The showplace of the Dutch bulb growers is only open for eight weeks of the year.  For the remaining months, hunreds of gardeners re-design and replant the seventy-million bulbs in layers of perfection.

Keukenhof Gardens, view with windmill  ©vcsinden2015

Keukenhof Gardens, pale spring bulb flowers ©vcsinden2015
Keukenhof Gardens, muscari latifoliun ©vcsinden2015
Keukenhof Gardens, slamon daffodil close up ©vcsinden2015
Keukenhof Gardens, hyacinths and spring bulbs  ©vcsinden2015
Keukenhof Gardens, spring bulbs in the pink  ©vcsinden2015
Keukenhof Gardens, parrot tulip ©vcsinden2015

     Close to eighty awe-inspiring acres of Spring flowers, with cool woodland walks, lake and canals, centred by pavillions of floral displays to rival Chelsea! It's a place to spend all day wandering the paths taking in the onslaught of colour and scent. To rest tired feet you can make a short trip on a 'Whisper' barge along canals bordering the gardens to see Lisse's bulb fields.

Keukenhof Gardens, water and woods ©vcsinden2015Keukenhof Gardens, tulip display ©vcsinden2015


      An iconic landscape - the Nineteen Windmills of Kinderdijk    Ducklings at Kinderdijk, Netherlands ©vcsinden2015

Take a bus from Delft to see the countryside and spend a day walking (or cycling of course being in the Netherlands) and boating amongst the extraordinary windmills of Kinderdijk. They were built in 1740 to drain the surrounding polder keeping lowland flooding at bay.

   Most of the mills are now beautifully preserved homes and their function has been taken over by a pumping station, but a couple are working. These are open to climb and view and they tell the story of the families who lived there centuries ago.


Kinderdijk, Netherlands ©vcsinden2015

Kinderdijk, Netherlands ©vcsinden2015

Kinderdijk, Netherlands from the canal barge trip ©vcsinden2015


     Delft, where artist Vermeer lived and worked, is only a short tram-ride from The Hague, and in the Hague, right beside the busy market square is the magnificent Mauritshuis, once a wonderful mansion, now one of the Netherland's best loved art galleries. Open til late on a Thursday evening, and without its daytime crowds, it was a perfect time to make a pilgrimage to see two of my best-beloved paintings.

Mauritshuis in the Hague with 'Girl with the Pearl Earring' and 'The Goldfinch'  ©vcsinden2015

     Unashamedly I admit that these are fairly recent loves, and I owe gratitude to the film and book which made me want to search them out. I had to spend time face to face with Vermeer's "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" and "The Goldfinch".by little known artist Carel Fabritius around which was based the brilliant book of the same name by Donna Tartt.

     Lastly - to Voorhout, a small town on the route of the 2015 Keukenhof Flower Parade.

Keukenhof  Flower Parade at Voorhout - local band ©vcsinden2015

   Keukenhof  Flower Parade at Voorhout- childrens' parade ©vcsinden2015It takes all day for the vast annual Flower Parade to travel from the coast at Noordwijk and ride through the different cities of Voorhout, Sassenheim, Lisse, Hillegom, Bennebroek and Heemstede, arriving in the early evening in the city of Haarlem.

  Each town has its local competitions, bands and traditions and hundreds of towns-folk and associations get involved. The local parade heads the enormous floral floats before these travel on to the next town on route.

It all begins with the children and their magnificent decorated bikes, tractors and carts


Keukenhof  Flower Parade at Voorhout ©vcsinden2015

Keukenhof  Flower Parade at Voorhout - first prize ©vcsinden2015 Keukenhof  Flower Parade at Voorhout - first prize ©vcsinden2015

     The vast majority of  blooms in the bulb fields that you pass in the growing areas are not destined to be cut flowers, but for sales of the bulbs themselves. To produce fine bulbs, the flower heads have to be removed. What better way to use the heads than to have a fantastic flower parade raising thousands for charity?

    Keukenhof  Flower Parade at Voorhout - museum float ©vcsinden2015





June 7th 2015
     .....    A little 'Englishness' ........

(The Ogham tree associated with this day is Huath - Hawthorn - 13th May to 9th June.  Use wood, flowers, thorns or berries for your magic, incense and meditation.)

    It may well be essential for the free-thinking 21st century faery to travel, but when it comes down to it, there's no place like your own woods, hills and streams - when we wander the home-paths we wonder why we ever leave.   
Faery-Guardian Martin smiles amongst the bluebells ©vcsinden2015

Faery-Guardian Martin loves his flowers. Here he smiles amongst the bluebells in our 'Triangle Wood'.

      Recently I've been reading about the strange life of the wife of  19th century American historian Henry Adams. Her name was Clover. Whilst reading 'Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life' by Natalie Dykstra, I was struck by a short passage describing a visit to England. It seemed exceedingly apt ... I love it .....

, " .... this English world is a huge stage-play got up only to amuse Americans. It is obviously unreal, eccentric, and taken out of novels.”

     Here then, for the American friends who sometimes contact Muddypond via her Drax Machine about English ways - a little Englishness!  Pictures from short forays into Kent and neighbouring Sussex and away from her woods during the last three weeks.

The Yeoman's House, Bignor, Sussex ©vcsinden2015

'The Yeoman's House', in the lanes near Bignor, Sussex, dates from 1420
Below Right:  Local flint and oak beamed overhang on upper storey

Bug hotel - Bignor Church, Sussex ©vcsinden2015
The Yeoman's House, Bignor, Sussex ©vcsinden2015
Bug Hotel, close-up - Bignor Church, Sussex ©vcsinden2015

Eco-habitat at its best in 'The Bug Hotel' - Bignor church yard, Sussex

Brightling, Sussex - Mad Jack Fuller's pyramid tomb ©vcsinden2015

This is the tomb of 'Mad Jack Fuller'.    The twenty-five foot pyramid was erected a good twenty years before the death of its prospective occupant. There are several more of his follies in the area around the church in the pretty hillside village of Brightling in Sussex.

    During renovations in 1982 (the tomb is now a 'Listed Building') the Brightling legend which told that Jack Fuller Esq. was entombed in his pyramid seated at a wine laden table, fully dressed in frock-coat and top hat was found to be simply a tall tale.

     Oh what a shame!! What a wonderful picture that painted !

Cow Parsely meadow by Boughton Aluph Church, Kent ©vcsinden2015

The cow-parsely meadow next to Boughton Aluph Church, Kent.
The old English name for this flower of late May is Queen Anne's Lace. 
Below: Faery-Guardian Martin smiles amongst the flowers!
Faery-Guardian Martin smiles amongst the cow-parsely ©vcsinden2015

You will find some faery-art and folklore about 'Queen Anne's Lace'
here on the blog 'Wolf Moons and Muddypond Green'

Part of a row of thatched cottages in the picture-perfect village of Amersham, Sussex. Wonderful tea rooms too!

Faery-Guardian Martin smiles amongst the buttercups  ©vcsinden2015

And lastly -  Faery-Guardian Martin smiles amongst the buttercups, in a meadow just down the road from here!




    June 26th 2015
       .....  At Summer Solstice Muddypond was ........

(The Ogham tree associated with this day is Duir - Oak    10th June to 7th July.  Use wood, flowers, bark, leaves and acorns for your magic, incense and meditation.)

The Ring of Brodgar at mignight on Summer Solstice  ©vcsinden2015

  Last year's Summer Solstice night was spent at Stone Henge. Too many people, but the stones were as serene and majestic as ever, and the dawn sunrise was amazing.  The Ring of Brodgar at mignight on Summer Solstice  ©vcsinden2015


    This year, at the other end of the country - Scotland's Orkney Islands - and the Ring of Brodgar.  A vast, windswept circle of neolithic stones on a narrow bridge of land, with water to either side. The light lingers all night through at Litha - but this night was cold, with dark clouds and a loud,blustery wind.

   At first sight the Ring seems unimposing, but make your way up its low hill to walk amongst the stones, see its proper residence and setting, and you will feel its power and spellbinding presence.

    No-one to be seen when Muddypond played her drum, gathered a little soil for a blessing and gazed in awe at the solemn uprights where energy pounds upwards from dark earth, through stone to sky.

   Many Orkney pictures to show you later on - meanwhile, just the midnight stones in a Solstice thanksgiving to be remembered.






    July 12th 2015
        ....... An Orkney summer - impressions without the stones ......

  (The Ogham tree associated with this day is  Tinne - Holly   8th July - 4th August..  Use its pale wood, flowers, bark, and berries fresh or dried in season for your magic, incense, wand and this time)

Hoy, Orkney Islands - decay and beauty ©vcsinden2015

Orkney - curious cows ©vcsinden2015

    The ancient standing stones, rings and chambered tombs of the Scottish Orkney Islands simply must enjoy a diaryblog entry all of their own. But first - some other impressions - stillness, endless light and vast, windswept treeless views of rolling farmland surrounded by sea.

   'Farming the land and fishing the sea' - how the crofters worked for centuries past, and how life is still lived on the islands albeit in twenty-first century farming and fishery fashion.
            Herston Hall, South Ronaldsay - ©vcsinden2015
                           Herston Hall, Widewall Bay, on South Ronaldsay - the southernmost island of the Orkneys.

     Above is the converted Chapel where Muddypond returned to after a day's saga questing. Nestled between cattle-grazed hills and almost washed by the sea, her rock pools a mecca for eider ducks and sea birds at low tide. You might love to stay there too - you can find it here - Herston Hall.

     If you are lucky, the hall will be surrounded by multi-coloured cows with their small calves- very curious cows! The photo below was taken during breakfast one morning - a face at each of the three arched windows!

Herston Hall, South Ronaldsay - curious cows ©vcsinden2015

             Surrounded too by the legends and the history, palpable, touchable stories of the peat fireside nights. Trows, selkies, giants, witches . Old wives who could make a sixpence selling spells for a 'fair wind' to the fishermen, crooning to the milk as it set into butter, the rythm of the stones as the corn was ground or the endless twisting of the spindle turning the fleece to thread.

Orkneys - Kirbuster Farm Museum - magnificent boots! ©vcsinden2015
Orkneys, Kirbuster Farm Museum - peat fire smells ©vcsinden2015

'Farming the land and fishing the sea'.
Smell the scent of the peat-fire at Kirbuster Farm Museum.

Orkneys - ruined croft ©vcsinden2015

    The islands are rife with the ruins of lords' ancient brochs and the crofters' cottages only abandoned in the last century. Some of the little stone buildings have been saved, whilst others are 'overbuilt' to make low modern bungalows with magnificent flagstone floors. Others still are simply crumbling away and the families who once lit their hearth fires are themselves the stuff of Orkney legends.

Orkneys - treeless landscape with Standing Stone ©vcsinden2015.   

An atmospheric night of story-telling can be found in evocative surroundings at Sandwick. Orkney legends brought to life while the late sun sank behing the hills and the wind buffeted the stone walls. 

                                  Listen - here is the selkie wife, crying for her hidden seal skin.

Orkney Peat Fire Tales - a perfect night ©vcsinden2015

Listen - a young fiddle-player, forced to entertain under the earth-mound
at a trowie wedding.
Take in the scents of the peat smoke - listen.

A grand evening, thank you John and Lyn.. Orkney Peatfire Tales.

Orkneys - my sea monster ©vcsinden2015


          Many of the Orkney Islands have small populations, spread over the hills in isolated farms or clustered in tiny villages by the sea. The only way most can travel between them, or go to a Kirkwall supermarket on the mainland, is by small 'roll on roll off' ferries, like the one below, ploughing the sea between the tiny ports of Houton and Lyness on Hoy.

Orkneys - roll on roll off car ferry to Lyness on Hoy ©vcsinden2015

         Hoy, famous for its high cliffs, rock stacks and wildlife.  Below is Rackwick at the north of the island, loved for its wild beauty. The broken-down, wind pounded crofts of a small community of 19th century fishing folk huddled on the shoreline and under the hills, where one or two are taking on a new life.

Rackwick Bay, Hoy, Orkney Islands ©vcsinden2015

Rackwick on the island of Hoy, a bay of legend, peat fire tales and windswept beauty.

     As a change from the quest after Orkneyinga Saga and Folk tale, a rain lashed day was spent in the 'peedie' town of Stromness, with its mile long high street, houses huddled with their backs to the ferocious sea wind which buffets through the steps and passageways down to back door sea. The home street of George Mackay Brown, late Orkney poet and journalist whose vivid island tales and descriptions formed my pre-questing preparations -my favourite being 'An Orkney Tapestry' first published by Victor Gollancz, 1969.

Stromness High Street - Orkney ©vcsinden2015



    July 19th 2015
          ...... An Orkney summer part 2 - impressions of the stones ......

      Words taken from Orkney poet and author George Mackay Brown in 'An Orkney Tapestry' -
see last entry for more details.

       'In the centre of Orkney, between the two lochs of Stenness and Harray, on a stretch of moor, stands the Ring of Brodgar - a circle of huge monoliths. We will never know what kind of neolithic ceremonies - hymn and procession and sacrifice - went on there, at midsummer, to make animals breed and corn grow.'

Ring of Brodgar, mainland Orkney ©vcsinden2015


Drum, summer solstice a the Ring of Brodgar, mainland Orkney ©vcsinden2015


'The circle itself is the black sun of winter. The offered throat of a bullock, a chant, a stone knife - these instruments and elements were required before the ceremony was complete and the honey-dripping lord of summer walked in power through the sky.'




Left. The Ring of Brodgar, looking towards Harray.

Muddypond's drum, made with tuition from Pat Pica. founder of Eagle Spirit Drums - (see here to read about her making) waits with a shiver of anticipation for her turn to sing, accompanied by the evocative call of the curlews on the shore.
Her magnicent bison-skin drum bag was hand- made by Pat himself.

Ring of Brodgar, mainland Orkney ©vcsinden2015

      Below:    Skara Brae - a complete neolithic village, sheltered from sea-winds by being dug into a vast mound and re-covered in earth. The houses show stone beds, fireplaces, storage shelves and wall nooks. Discovered after a violent storm at the Bay of Skaill. I love the poem, imagining the musings of village inhabitants at the time of the building of Brodgar and Stenness.

Skara Brae, mainland Orkney ©vcsinden2015

     Skara Brae

Here in our village in the west
We are little regarded.
The lords of tilth and loch
Are Quarrying (we hear)
Great stones to make a stone circle.

In the last of the snow
A great one died
In that stone hollow in the east.
A winter sunset
Will touch his mouth. He carries
A cairngorm on his cold finger
To the country of the dead.

They come here from Birsay
To take our fish for taxes. Otherwise
We are left in peace
With our small fires and pots.
Will it be a morning for fishermen?
The sun died in red flames
Then the night swarmed with stars, like fish.

The sea gives and takes. The sea
Devoured four houses one winter.
Ask the old one to make a clay lamp
The ripening sun
May be pleased with the small flame, at-plough-time.

George Mackay Brown

Skara Brae,house with stone bed,  mainland Orkney ©vcsinden2015
Skara Brae, mainland Orkney - house with shelves ©vcsinden2015

                         Burial Chambers


            Maeshowe.   The most famous of them all, and there are many on the various islands!  A vast stone-age meeting and burial place. A unique square chamber, tapered towards the high ceiling, big enough for many to meet in safety, opening on to smaller rooms for the laying of the bones of the dead. No photography is allowed inside.

           Some centuries after Maeshowe's raising, Viking raiders broke through the top, seeking shelter from battle and bitter cold. In their days within the walls, they spent hours carving the walls with graffiti - at least thirty messages including some about nearby buried treasure - all of course in Viking runes. This incident is mentioned in the 'Orkneyinga Saga'.
            Read more about these famous runic inscriptions here.The insert pictures above - by Edwin Rendall - show 'The Maeshowe Dragon' and a word of rare 'stick runes' carved into the stones.

Cuween Hill, neolithic tomb, Orkney©vcsinden2015

The way up to the chamber of Cuween Hill

             Many of the burial chambers are sited near hill tops or cliff edges and are much smaller than Maeshowe. Some are in wild places, such as Cuween and Wideford Hill, with wind howling and ravens winging over the heather. The entrances are low, so you must crawl along the entrance passageways by the light of your torch and explore alone. At the cliff edge 'Tomb of Eagles' you enter on your stomach, pulled on a low wheeled trolley!

Faery Guardian Muddypond Green looking out from the chambered tomb of Cuween Hill on Orkney ©vcsinden2015

Knee pads for crawling into Cuween Hill tomb, Orkney ©vcsinden2015

Muddypond contemplates crawling out of the tomb passageway and back into the sunshine at Cuween Hill. Rather wishing she'd taken advantage of the knee-pads kindly on offer at the foot of the hill!

Stenness, the standing stones, Orkney ©vcsinden2015

The Standing Stones of Stenness


  The immense, lonely 'Watchstone' with its angled top echoing the stones along the path which it guards - back to the Stones of Stenness and forward, past the Ness, to the Ring of Brodgar.


'The essence of Orkney's magic is silence, loneliness and the deep marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.'

George Mackay Brown


The Watchstone, guarding the way to the Ring of Brodgar©vcsinden2015




      August 3rd 2015
        ..... Heads, hats and hoofers' hooves at Ely Folk Festival ........

Ely Folk Festival 2015 Gog Magog Molly, colours on the cathedral wall   ©vcsinden2015

The rainbow feet of Gog Magog Molly resting on the wall of Ely Cathedral

Ely Folk Festival 2015 Headress of the drummer from Bakanalia  ©vcsinden2015 Ely Folk Festival 2015 Headress of the drummer from Bakanalia  ©vcsinden2015
Drummer's headress - Bakanalia Morris from Glenfield, Leicestershire

Ely Folk Festival 2015  amber stockings of the Witchmen ©vcsinden2015

Witchmen footwear - stompy boots and amber stockings faithful to Ely but at home in Kettering, Northamptonshire

Ely Folk Festival 2015   Hemlock musicians ©vcsinden2015

Hemlock Headgear - Bedfordshire group Hemlock Morris

Ely Folk Festival 2015  the amazing Luke Jackson  ©vcsinden2015 Ely Folk Festival 2015   Oyster Band's John Jones ends the festival ©vcsinden2015

My choice of the music -
Luke Jackson in finer voice than ever -
Oysterband's John Jones, a fine festival finale

Ely Folk Festival 2015   leg wear of Pigs Dyke Molly ©vcsinden2015

Monochrome legs, belonging unmistakably to Peterborough's Pig Dyke Molly

Ely Folk Festival 2015   a feminine Hemlock hat ©vcsinden2015
Ely Folk Festival 2015   a male Hemlock hat ©vcsinden2015
Hats of the Hemlock - with shoes quirky and trad with bells on !
Ely Folk Festival 2015   character shoes ©vcsinden2015
Ely Folk Festival 2015  border morris team Bakanalia  ©vcsinden2015 Ely Folk Festival 2015 finest folk band amongst the dance teams - Bakanalia  ©vcsinden2015

If it's black and blue it must be Bakanalia (link above)

A fine festival as always Ely - see you next year!





      August 28th 2015
       ...  Castle Howard, Yorkshire - enchanted place of Brideshead memories

Castle Howard ©vcsinden2015

       As the Second World War ended in 1945, Evelyn Waugh published his novel "Brideshead Revisited".  In 1981 the novel was serialised for television in eleven unforgettable episodes. It was perfection, not just 'of its time' but for all time.

       It's an adaptation with its script bonded like a second skin to the original novel by long, narrative readings by Charles Ryder, played by Jeremy Irons.   The three other stars - the iconic Sebastian Flight, by Anthony Andrews, his soul-mate the Bear Aloysius - and the house - Brideshead - played by Castle Howard!

Castle Howard - statue ©vcsinden2015
Castle Howard The Annunciation - Burne Jones ©vcsinden2015

Life-sized Faery and Angel - please note difference in wing style !
The stained glass is one panel in the Chapel, by pre-raphaelite Edward Burne JonesSuch treasures!

Castle Howard- the Atlas Fountain ©vcsinden2015

The Atlas Fountain, much photographed and starring in several scenes

Me n' the Boys - a Muddypond Green compilation - original photo from Granada TV Castle Howard ©vcsinden2015

"Me n' the Boys"
Muddypond, Charles, Aloyisius and Sebastian

(Original photo from Granada TV)

A stand in Aloyisius lives at Castle Howard now - the original, with Sebastian, left - has disappeared.

     Muddypond loved it here - a spellbinding house, grounds and lake to explore. She will be back.




    September 10th 2015         
         ..... Rush Bearing at Sowerby Bridge  .......

  (The Ogham tree associated with this day is  Muin - Bramble - Blackberry   2nd to 29th September.  You should use blackberries and or fresh or dried bramble leaves for your faery magic, incense and this time)  

      Muddypond has been away on her researches. She's been wanting to see a 'Rush Bearing Ceremony' for many a long year and at last she has her wish. 

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 - head of the parade ©vcsinden2015

       Most of those that are still held take place in Lancashire and its border with Yorkshire. The celebration over two days in Sowerby Bridge, travels to many churches in the little canal-side Yorkshire town and over the hills and moors to neighbouring villages presenting bunches of ceremonial rushes. The beautifully thatched cart is drawn by a team of up to sixty local men.

      Over nearly four centuries, from the mid 1500's to the very late 1800's, church floors were covered with cut rushes for warmth and cleanliness. Once a year a fantastically decorated rush-cart pulled by men or horses in procession would travel to the church with a huge load clean rushes - and the special day became a festival.

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  the cart enters St Patrick's  ©vcsinden2015

   Many of the words which accompany Muddypond's pictures come from
‘Rush Bearing’ by Alfred Burton, published in 1891

 ' MANY of our old customs are fading away into the dim mists of antiquity, and all but  the name will soon be forgotten. This is  much to be regretted, because they were attended with  a great deal of pure enjoyment, and were looked forward to by the people for weeks before the event.

One of these is the old custom of strewing rushes, and its attendant ceremony of the rush-bearing, with its quaint rush-cart and fantastic morris-dancers.


From the Introduction
‘Rush Bearing’ by Alfred Burton

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  the rush cart ©vcsinden2015
Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 - White Rose Morris ©vcsinden2015
The White Rose Morris side from Huddersfield toil up the hill after a sup at the Navigation Inn
Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  WrigleyHhead Morris©vcsinden2015

' Behold the rush-cart and the throng
Of lads and lasses pass along !
Now watch the nimble morris-dancers,
Those blithe, fantastic, antic prancers,
Bedecked with gaudiest profusion
Of ribbons in a gay confusion
Of brilliant colours, richest dyes,
Like wings of moths and butterflies ;
Waving white kerchiefs here and there,
And up and down and everywhere

From: Elijah Ridings ‘Village Festival’ 1848


Pictured left : Two members of Wrigley Head Morris

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  400 Roses ©vcsinden2015
Ladies too celebrate the Rush Bearing - here the colourful 'Four Hundred Roses' entertain.

    From Congleton Town Accounts :
1607.   To the Rushbearers, wine, ale, & cakes - 6s. 0d.  

   From Wilmslowe Town Accounts:
1661.  Paid for getting forth of all mats, rushes,
and makinge the church cleane against the Rushbearinge - - 3s. 0d.

1685.    Paid for the Rushbearing, of the Parishioners and others for their pains - 7s. 6d.

'  The ropes are attached ; the stretchers noosed fast at proper distances ; all is ready.

The music strikes up louder ; the driver clears the way with his long-whip, making it give a loud and clear crack at every stroke — that being his feat — the word is ' Neaw lads,' and at one strong pull and a heave of the shafts the wheels are dislodged from their socket-holes. '

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  the bearers©vcsinden2015
Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  the bearers ©vcsinden2015

'The cart is slowly drawn up to the level sward, amid the loud shouts of the admiring gazers ; and so, with music-clangour, and bell-jingle, and laughter, and words of
caution, as ' Howd on, lads,' 'Gently, lads,' the quaint and
romantically fantastic spectacle moves towards the village of its destination.

From: Samuel Bamford ‘Early Days’ – Chap XV   1893

'There in the midst, throned on a rustic sledge
Frilled high with rushes in their greenness gathered,
The queen of beauty sits, in youthful bloom
The frost of Time's fierce winter shall not nip,
And round her hang a garland of fair maids,
Fair as herself, with wreaths of flowers yoked
In deathless fellowship of fairest fame.

From a poem by Rev. James Dixon
Found in ‘Rush Bearing’ by Alfred Burton, 1891

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 - the ceremonial rushes after presentation at St Patrick's Sacred Heart  ©vcsinden2015


The back of the Sowerby Bridge rush cart
is a memorial, carrying the pewter ale mugs
of past bearers.

 Each church en route is given a bunch of ceremonial rushes.
Here at the church of St. Patrick's Sacred Heart

 The next Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival will be Saturday and Sunday September 3rd & 4th 2016





     September 25th 2015 
             .....  Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral  ...

But where, oh where, were the HOODENS ?

    Muddypond is getting all behind with her celebrations! It's thirteen days now since the Annual Service of Hop Hoodening took place in the Cathedral at Canterbury. A friendly ritual, where the Kentish hops are blessed, with the growers, modern-day hop pickers and the brewers of the beers.

Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral 2015 -  hop decoration ©vcsinden2015

   The Service takes place in the vast nave of the Cathedral, and the altar, placed on the worn steps at the foot of the tower, is decorated with hop bines ready for the occasion.

    A hush falls as rustic dance tunes are heard in the precincts, louder, closer - trouser bells jingling, but I heard no clopping of hoof or clacking of jaw as the procession enters ....

So where, oh where, were the HOODENS ?

Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral 2015 - Wantsum Morris men in the precincts ©vcsinden2015

Wantsum Morris Men dance through the precincts

    Behind the clergy and Lord Mayor comes the Hop Queen and her princesses, escorted under a shelter of hops, followed by the Morris groups ...

But where, oh where, are the HOODENS ?

Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral 2015 -  the Hop Queen ©vcsinden2015

    The sweet and informal service of blessing flowed along, with lusty singing, morris tunes and the traditional dance "Old Woman Tossed Up In a Blanket" dexterously performed by the Ravensbourne Morris Men - seen below in their theatrical 'dressing room' and dancing in the precints ......

Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral 2015 - Ravensbourne Morris Men ©vcsinden2015

   After the service there was beer. Quite right too! There was dancing in the precints and around the city, dodging puddles from early rain but all in glorious September sunshine.

Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral 2015 - Ravensbourne Morris Men ©vcsinden2015

Ravensbourne Morris, from Keston near Bromley, get down to business after the Blessing


      But, shamelessly, Muddypond asks her question again - surely the Hooden Horses of Kent - and believe me there are quite a few in stables not so very far from the Cathedral City - should have been there EN HERD!

Where, oh where, were the HOODENS ?

 Canterbury Cathedral memorial garden   ©vcsinden2015




     October 15th 2015        
         .....   After the Autumn Equinox  ...
(The Ogham tree associated with this day is  Gort - Ivy   30th September to 27th October. You should use Ivy flowers, leaves or woods for your faery magic, incense and this time)  

This little gallery is a bit behindhand I know - but - ah well ..........

Oooooh looook!!!   Hoodens !!!!!    Yeay!!!Hooden Horses head the ceremony at Woodchurch Morris Men Autumn Equinox  ©vcsinden2015
Let the proceedings begin! .........

The Autumn season begins for us faere-folk, not with the first leaf-fall but with the Autumn Equinox.
And with the equinox, not so far from my woods, comes the Woodchurch Morris Men celebrations.
Woodchurch is a historic and characterful village in the Weald of Kent,
boasting two side-by-side, real-ale pubs who love to welcome festivals!Woodchurch Morris Men Autumn Equinox  ©vcsinden2015Wolf's head & Vixen at Woodchurch Morris Men Autumn Equinox  ©vcsinden2015
Wolf's Head & Vixen musicians from Rochester follow Woodchurch Morris as the parade moves through the park

Gunther at Woodchurch Morris Men Autumn Equinox  ©vcsinden2015 Old palace Clog ladies at Woodchurch Morris Men Autumn Equinox  ©vcsinden2015

Gunther and the Oboe joined the party -
high stepping solo folk dancing from Germany

Ladies from Old Palace Clog, Croydon, enjoy the Autumn sunshine.


Mad Jack's Morris - Lintel -at  Woodchurch Morris Men Autumn Equinox  ©vcsinden2015
Woodchurch Morris Men Autumn Equinox - the new Hooden Horse ©vcsinden2015

Experienced Hooden Horse 'Lintel' from Mad Jack's Morris, Hastings.
His head was made from the lintel of a 17th century doorway!

  New Colt on the Block - Woody the Woodchurch Morris horse - replacement for their old, old fellow, sadly spirited away from his Kentish home to Belgium.

Hussar for the Hoodens!!!!Woodchurch Morris Men Autumn Equinox  ©vcsinden2015



      November 1st 2015 
         .....  Socks,  All Hallows' Eve,  or the feeling after the night before .....




  WHOOT  for the SOCKS !!  
(A new infatuation to rival that of the Hooden Horse !)

  Faere Folk enjoy a wee bit of entertainment - especially on and around their special solstice eves.
Thus it was that, come the 30th of October, Muddypond flitted for the umteenth time to the Canterbury Festival.

    There in the 'Speigeltent' she found the 'Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets'.    She laughed - oh how she laughed - and vowed she must share a snippet of this exhilarating experience with you. Only a snippet mind - for you HAVE TO go and see these scintillating socks for yourself !

Then came Samhain.

Pumpkin faces ready for lighting - to keep mischievous spirits from harrassing the visiting ancestral souls

The Hanged Man
and The Warning !  

The 'Smarden Bell' just up the lanes from my wood
takes real ale and the night of
All Hallows
very seriously indeed!



    Below is Muddypond's magnificent midnight pumpkin,
keeping the witching hour safe for the waiting spirits of All Souls' Day.

His innards made a fine late supper - homemade granary bread and pumpkin soup with stilton.





     November 6th 2015 
          ...... A faery Autumn and the yellow hedgerow leaves ....


Yellow leaves in November - apploe ©vcsinden2015
Yellow leaves in November - bramble ©vcsinden2015
Yellow leaves in November - hawthorn ©vcsinden2015


Yellow Leaves, Yellow Leaves

"Yellow leaves, yellow leaves,
Wither do you blow?"
"To the gates of fairyland,
Dancing to and fro...
See we come to bring you
Stores of fairy gold, -
All the elfin treasure
That your hearts can hold.

Fairy gold, fairy gold,
In the sunset skies,
And upon the frilly wings
Of the butterflies;
So our gold we scatter
But the greater part
Is treasure for safe-keeping
In each loving heart.

Hilda W Smith 1904

Yellow leaves in November - hazel ©vcsinden2015
Yellow leaves in November ©vcsinden2015
Yellow leaves in November -cornus, wild in the woods  ©vcsinden2015
Yellow leaves in November - wild cherry ©vcsinden2015
Yellow leaves in November - oak - duir ©vcsinden2015

Leaves in my hedgerows, on the quarry path in Hurst Wood, and the orchard, first week of November

Faery-Guardian Martin on autumn patrol ©vcsinden2015

Faery Guardian Martin, who apparently believes in camouflage ..... !!

Faery-Guardian Martin - donning his camouflage ©vcsinden2015



     November 30th 2015
......  The Hawkhurst Gang - horrid smugglers and exceptional bonfire blazers .....
The Ogham tree associated with this day is  Ruis - Elder   25th November to 22nd December. You should use Elder twigs (with tree's permission - they are tempermental), dried elder flowers or berriess for your faery magic, incense, meditation or this time of year..

Firework spectacular Hawkhurst Bonfire Society ©vcsinden2015

Hawkhurst Bonfire Society ©vcsinden2015

From "Smugglers' Britain - Guide Book - South East England"


'By the late 1840s, the Hawkhurst Gang had developed unprecedented power, and boasted that it could assemble 500 men in the space of a couple of hours.

In the absence of any effective policing, this disreputable group soon became a law unto themselves, taking without payment whatever they wished from the local farmers and merchants, and answering tolerance and patience with aggression and insult.'

Hawkhurst Bonfire Society ©vcsinden2015

Hawkhurst Bonfire Society ©vcsinden2015

    One of the very last of the extraordinary Sussex Bonfire Societies' special fire nights was held at the village of Hawkhurst this year. Hawkhurst is actually in Kent, but so close to the Sussex border that you could throw a sparkler over it - and edging the sinister Romney Marsh - notorious smuggling territory!

Hawkhurst Bonfire Society ©vcsinden2015
Hawkhurst Bonfire Society ©vcsinden2015

    These nights are simply spectacular - performed at a different village or town each Saturday night from September 4th until December 5th.

    Many of the forty societies band together to form long torchlit processions which snake up the village high streets, past local landmarks with an apparent abandonment of the 'elf n saftey' rules which would make you gasp! As will the explosions from the fire-barrels - and thrown bangers with pavement cracklers scaring the proverbial striped faery leggings off the prepared and unprepared alike.

Hawkhurst Bonfire Society ©vcsinden2015

Hawkhurst Bonfire Society ©vcsinden2015

    Although Muddypond is a faery Wood Guardian, she's happy to know that these bonfires are made from scrap originally taken from renewables.  Should our woods cease to be managed, there will be no woods, simply impenetrable forest - even our finest Ancient Woodlands need help!

    If you love traditional British celebrations, follow her advice - she's been trying to get you to go to one of these special Bonfire Society nights for a few years you know!! You might like these earlier Diaryblog pages ......

Ewhurst & Staplecross Society - click link and scroll to diary entry November 5th 2012
Robertsbridge Bonfire Society -click link and scroll to diary entry November 20th 2013
Rye Bonfire Society - click link and scroll to diary entry November 20th 2014




   December 16th 2015 
 A tiny glimpse of Krakow legend ......

   Not so long back from Poland, and the city of Krakow - steeped in legend - just the way woodland faere-folk like a city to be if they are uprooted for a while. There are wonderful stories still told, century old festivals still held, magical places still visited and respected ...

Dragon water spout - Wawel Cathedral, Krakow ©vcsinden2015 Dragon water spout - Wawel Cathedral, Krakow ©vcsinden2015 Dragon water spout - Wawel Cathedral, Krakow ©vcsinden2015
Magnificent dragon water-spouts at Wawel Cathedral
Krakow Folklore Museum - root man ©vcsinden2015

 Dragons, dragons and more dragons - from genuine dragon bones to heroic tales of rescue, from dragon infested caverns to fire breathing statues - Krakow has them all ...

  Do you know of another city which still keeps a set of  DRAGON BONES, the very essence of pre-christian story and magic, hanging from the walls of its Cathedral?    How wonderful - there they are- still fastened by chains, still wondered at hundreds of years after their inception. No jealous and over-zealous gods here - simply a profound respect for the people's tales.

Krakow - beef stew in bread bowl ©vcsinden2015
Krakow treasures ......A root man at the outstanding Folklore Museum   ...   and a traditional beef stew in its bread bowl.

Dragon bones, Wawel Cathedral, Krakow ©vcsinden2015
The Dragon Bones, chained high on the soaring walls of the Cathedral


Dragon statue belching fire, Krakow ©vcsinden2015


  The Great Dragon of Wawel (the high hill on which are built both the castle and cathedral) made his appearance at the time of King Krak. As befits a city dragon, he was fed on maidens. After attempts on his life by knights and soldiers, the dragon turned his malicious eye to Krakow's only princess.

     A young cobbler named Dratewka , hearing of her plight, devised a cunning plan. He bought a sheepskin, stuffed it with black pitch, pepper and sulpherous brimstone.

    Next, he spirited the 'sheep' to the rocky lair under the castle hill. The ravenous dragon swallowed the offering and his insides began to burn. He waded into the river Vistula and drank it nearly dry - then swelled and burst.
  Despite the mess, the young couple lived happily ever after (as far as we know).


    This legend is still so venerated that below the castle by the river walk, a huge statue has been erected. He's very popular and children love to climb up the rocky plinth where he stands and pose bravely for a photograph. Every few minutes he belches gouts of flame into the sky.


  Other treasures .....

The traditional restaurants and cafes of  Krakow's Old Jewish Quarter, Kazimierz, were our sure-fire favourites. Many have Kletzmer musicians to entertain and educate the diners with their unmistakable, time-honoured style. The heart of the district is the square, oddly named Szeroka Street.

Kletzmer music group Nazzar performing in Krakow ©vcsinden2015

"Nazzar" entertain at one of the oldest restaurants in the Kazimierz district, the Klezmer House.,
where perfect roast goose was on the menu.


Krakow - favourite restaurant Once Upon a Time in Krakow ©vcsinden2015 Krakow - favourite restaurant Once Upon a Time in Krakow ©vcsinden2015
   For a less formal any-time-of-day Jewish eatery try the atmospheric "Once Upon a Time in Krakow" - formed from six tiny pre 1940's Jewish shops, the old sign boards and shop interiors kept almost intact, filled with objets d'art and remembrances from the shops themselves.

 Krakow, Kazimierz - the old Remuh cemetery ©vcsinden2015
The fascinating old Remuh cemetery, also found on  Szeroka street, was used from 1551 to 1800


Salt crystal chandelier drops at the Wieliczka Salt Mine, Krakow ©vcsinden2015 The Chapel at the Wieliczka Salt Mine, Krakow ©vcsinden2015

   Just a few miles from the city is the Unesco World Heritage site of the Kopalnia soli Wieliczka - the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Miles of tunnels carved deep underground from the grey salt as it was mined and transported. Its centrepiece The Chapel - a richly carved salt cathedral glistening under vast chandeliers formed entirely of salt crystals.

Once used by the miners, the Chapel is still very much a place of worship.

Irresistible city - Muddypond WILL return !





   December 20th 2015   
 Hoodeners over Yuletide  ......

   I end 2015 as I began, back in January, with the St. Nicholas at Wade Hoodeners.

Dobbin, the Hooden Horse – St.Nicholas at Wade perform at Herne Bay Seaside Museum, Kent ©vcsinden2015


The Hoodeners from St.Nicholas at Wade were out and about over Yule, entertaining in their true Kentish style. Muddypond caught up with them at The Seaside Museum, Herne Bay.    (Picture below from Museum website).





 Now, Hoodeners musn't be confused with Mummers, although there's no doubt that the roots are much the same.

   Mummers perform a definite play, with a familiar "In comes I, " style and traditional characters - the hero, the villain, the mollie, the doctor etc. - all recognisable types whether traditional or modernised.

    Hoodeners, on the other hoof, perform more of a topical ballad - easy to fit into a small space - and with traditional, but different, characters, based around stable life.    There'll be at least one Hooden  (St. Nicholas are proud to have three of the oldest in the country - Dobbin - used here, Satan and -      Also - The Waggoner, The Stable-lad, The Musician,  The Mollie and The Farm Labourer.

    This year, the men have to find a cheap way to fuel a huge renewable "wind turbine" - and a nervous Dobbin is fastened up to the machine so that his 'natural gasses' can be harnessed! And very noisy they were!!

Hoodeners – St.Nicholas at Wade perform at Herne Bay Seaside Museum, Kent ©vcsinden2015
Hoodeners – St.Nicholas at Wade perform at Herne Bay Seaside Museum, Kent ©vcsinden2015



Above left :  Hooden Horse Dobbin has been to visit 'Dreamland' at nearby Margate as a Yuletide treat, and won't be parted from his candyfloss!

   Above right:   The characters lead old-time carols at the end of the ballad - in front of Herne Bay's Seaside Museum 'Bouncing Bomb'exhibition. One of the huge prototype bouncing bombs can be seen, conserved since its discovery on the seabed in 1997. They were tested here on the shore.

   Left:  The bouncing bomb. (Picture from Wikipedia commons)   This little museum, shop and gallery is well worth a visit. It's recently been saved from closure, restyled and run completely by volunteers.


    December 29th 2015 
        ....  Medeival Pilgrim takes shelter at the Chapel   ......

Pilgrim Steven Payne at Newland’s Chapel, Charing, Kent ©vcsinden2015

 "A modern day pilgrim arrived in Canterbury today after recreating a medieval walk to the city for the first time in 500 years.

Steven Payne, who wore period style clothing for his journey from Southampton,  slept in hedgerows, trees and even on a pub floor during the fortnight in which he crossed three counties."

  What that little quote from today's 'Kent Online' doesn't tell you is that upon St Stephen's Day, he took overnight shelter in our 12th century Chapel - the faery chapel just across the lane from the Hurst Wood., less than a hundred yards down the footpath from the Faery Circle.  You know it - Newlands Chapel - with its medieval catslide roof.

  He didn't arrive until just after dark - but here he is, safe inside the Chapel, receiving a gift of apples and oranges for tomorrow's journey. Below, he rests his very weary historically-shod feet, and shows his wonderful, heavy matted wool cloak to a young neighbour.


Pilgrim Steven Payne at Newland’s Chapel, Charing, Kent ©vcsinden2015 Pilgrim Steven Payne at Newland’s Chapel, Charing, Kent ©vcsinden2015

   Master Pilgrim arrived just after sunset, ate, wrapped himself in the cloak, slept amongst the hay and was gone again, trudging the lanes and back through Charing along the ancient Pilgrim's way towards Canterbury ....

"Former teacher Steven, 52, from Petersfield, was following in the footsteps of Carluccio de Carrera, an Italian teacher at the University of Florence who came to England in 1365 and walked from Southhampton to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket, also arriving on December 29."




The Pilgrim Steve, leaving by the main chapel door - and setting off once more - down our lane towards Charing. Good luck on the last part of your journey.
These last two lovely pictures were taken by Gail, who as hostess, rose early to bid her pilgrim farewell.

You can read the diary of Steven's journey, written and pictured as he went along here.



    December 30th 2015 
        .... Letting the old year go - eccentrically ......



How totally Bizarre!   Oddball!    Most Curious!
"Slava's Snow Show" - white out in the Festival Hall, ending 2015 in a paper blizzard - and why not?


    Hope to see you all, whether magicks, animals or villager folks in 2016