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Illustration above - by Swedish Fairy-tale artist Lennart Helje

 

 

    New: just slipped in below the 'East Kentish Yuletide' entry  -scroll down to 'Munich Christmas Markets'. Dec 16th

    December 26th 2018
                            .... no East-Kentish Yuletide can be complete without its Hooden Horse ....

    Many, many thankyous to The Deal Hoodeners for making that come to pass this year. Carolling in Deal High Street, beside the seaside strangely ablaze in sunshine!!  The morning of Christmas Eve, after the Hoodening and the Carols, we had coffee and mince-pies sitting outside watching the sun light up the sea!  That's not how I remember things!

The Deal Hoodeners, carolling with their Hooden Horse on Christmas Eve ©vcsinden2018

The Deal Hoodeners, carolling with their Hooden Horse on Christmas Eve ©vcsinden2018The Deal Hoodeners, carolling with their Hooden Horse on Christmas Eve ©vcsinden2018

            As a smallish faery-sprog, my favourite story for the Winter Festival was without a shadow of a doubt
"Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas" by Alison Uttley, with pictures by Margaret Tempest
I looked this week for my best remembered illustration - it took a whole double page spread - I looked in an edition from 1976 and was horrilfied to find that it had been left out of that book!! I had to go back to my own old and most magical copy to find it. What a sad thing - to leave out pictures and descriptions simply to make the newer editions cheaper!!

            Here it is in all its double page glory:




                                  

'Across the snowy fields padded little dark creatures, all filled with curiosity to see the glowing lights in the tree. Some were thin, and some were lame, and many were poor, for it had been a hard winter. With them romped the gay little rabbits, the squirrels and field mice. the family of Milkman Hedgehog trudged through the snowdrifts.  The carollers and market people were there, and Water Rat in his brown velvet coat. Even Wise Owl flew down to see what was the matter, and Rat with his wife and baby stood on the edge of the crowd.

" Help yourselves," cried Mole, waving his short arms. "It is Christmas. Eat and drink and warm yourselves. Take away as much as you want for your store-rooms."  '

Alison Uttley

 

 

          December 16th 2018
                            ....  Yuletide markets and magick in Munich .......

       If you seriously wish to experience a European Christmas Market, and you have a few days (and twinkly nights) to spare for your adventure - then it's to Munich in Bavaria, Germany that you must travel. Really - yes - it is so!

    Why Munich?  Well, you see, as well as the main, traditional market in the beautiful heart of the city - the Marienplatz, it has sixteen others. Some are far from traditional - and will indulge your most outlandish humours!  Muddypond managed to visit eight. Each so different to the last.

Munich Christmas Markets - Muddypond Green in the Marienplatz ©vcsinden2018
Muddypond visits the Marienplatz, Munich's biggest traditional Christmas market.

Munich Christmas Markets - glass©vcsinden2018

Munich Christmas Markets - Galaria Kaufhof Christmas window©vcsinden2018

Total enchantment - Galeria Kaufhof  on Karlsplatz has a window display of about 20 meters long showing animated Steiff toys going about their Christmas business. You think Hamleys window in London is good - wait til you see this!

Munich Christmas Markets - giant Christmas Pyramid at centre of a little market©vcsinden2018

   You can visit a delightful Museum of Toys at the Marienplatz and learn more about Margarete Steiff and her amazing bears.

  A giant 'Christmas Pyramid', a traditional mechanical family decoration, forms a perfect centrepiece for the small market round the corner between the Marienplatz and Crib market.

    Below, a cheese stall and folkloric spices, cones, cinnamon and scents at the Viktualienmarkt, where every Christmas foodie treat can be found - along with the essential fresh greenery.

Munich Christmas Markets - spices©vcsinden2018

Munich Christmas Markets - greenery©vcsinden2018

Greenery and Cheese - at the ViktualienmarktMunich Christmas Markets - cheese at the Viktualienmarkt©vcsinden2018

      If you're looking for some serious Christmas presents, then 'Tollwood' is the place for you!  Built for Christmas on the grounds of the vast and famous 'Oktober Fest' the market is a huge tented city for displaying amazing handicrafts, entertainment and refreshments. And all only a couple of stops on the underground, where the dedicated station leads you straight onto the grounds.

     You will need plenty of time, and energy. The wares are fabulously out of the usual run and the place is enormous!

Munich Christmas Markets - Tollwood©vcsinden2018

Above and below :  Tollwood - THE showpiece for all handicrafts and unusual presents

Munich Christmas Markets -Tollwood ©vcsinden2018

          Back in Munich centre, you can find a Bavarian Royal Palace, known as The Residenz. It is now a fine museum and Royal Treasury- which houses an enchanted collection of priceless Crown Jewels. Many are centuries old.. The crowns are the epitome of every child's imagined Prince and Princess fairy tale.

Munich Christmas Markets - The Residenz market - animatronics©vcsinden2018
   The Crown above, housed in the Royal Treasury, is called 'The Crown of an English Queen' and dates from 1399.

    In the fine courtyard of The Residenz, there is a pretty little market - very traditional - where I met this life-sized animatronic moose, earnestly reciting a Christmas folk-tale to a wild boar!

Munich Christmas Markets - paper stars©vcsinden2018

     A lot more modern is the Marchenbazar  (below)  - an interesting tram-ride from the centre. I found this one disappointing as it's also known as 'The Fairy-Tale Market' - indeed 'Marchen' translates as 'Fairy-tale' - but frankly there was nothing fairy-tale about it - and not much market either. It is however thriving as a place for meeting up for food, drink and parties - and has a focus on decoration with recycled materials. Interesting - but no fairies, tomten, elves or otherwise enchanted creatures, so not one for Ms. Muddypond!

Munich Christmas Markets - The Marchenbazar©vcsinden2018

Munich Christmas Markets - The English Garden curling rink©vcsinden2018

The pretty and traditional market in The English Garden, is all amongst the trees.
Stalls ring the Chinese Tower and teams can sign up for the Curling Rink.

Munich Christmas Markets - the Crib Market©vcsinden2018

     The most traditional of all - the famous Crib Market - dedicated to crib figures, animals, lights - add one each year!

   One to visit - not so far from the centre is the Pink Market. Now this one is different - set in part of the centre where gay bars and shops thrive - but, of course, for everyone. Good pancakes and Gluhwein all about - and yes - of course it IS all decorated in PINK.

Munich Christmas Markets - The Pink Market©vcsinden2018

Lots of fun at the Pink Market

      To finish - one of my firm favourites - The Medieval Market. High quality stalls with beautiful handcrafted knitwear, food, glass and woodwork. Also fantastic stalls catering to the Re-enactment groups, with drinking horns, furs, robes and shoes. Dozens of people in medieval dress parade through and around the square, and the music and entertainment are all appropriate to the theme. This one can get VERY crowded!Munich Christmas Markets - The Medieval Market©vcsinden2018

Stilt-walkers and fire jugglers in the magnificent Medieval Market.

  Let's leave Munich on a very festive note - and flavour!  Here I say 'Cheers' with a Feuerzangenbowle. This is a gluhwein in a special cup, which has a sugar cube on its lip. Brandy is poured over the sugar and then set alight.  Delicious.

 Ein frohes Weihnachtsfest und alles Gute zum neuen Jahr!

Munich Christmas Markets - Feuerzangenbowle©vcsinden2018

A proper Feuerzangenbowle at the Medieval Market

 

 

 

       November 24th 2018
                            .... England absolute .... a Cotswold hideaway for November days ......

       Oh my American friends - you must visit this magical fragment of middle-England.
       You must - Muddypond has spoken!
Stay a few days in 'Spring Cottage', belonging to the National Trust - here it is below, one of the two tiny ones in the centre of the row.

National Trust cottages in Snowshill, Cotswolds England ©vcsinden2018

     The cottage is in the unspoiled village of Snowshill, Gloucestershire (just). Across the road is the quirky 'Snowshill Manor' which you can visit (but only at weekends in the winter months). One hundred yards away, opposite the ancient church is a welcoming country pub, 'The Snowshill Arms' serving excellent lunches or suppers!

Springhill in Cotswolds England ©vcsinden2018

The village of Snowshill, near Broadway in the Cotswolds

    Here are some spellbinding sights and places that I believe you would love, all so close .... (wonderful walks all around you with the Cotswold Way looming large, but transport of your own would be a must) ....

    The small town of Winchcombe has to have some of the longest streets of unspoiled medieval houses in the country, it would be easy to spend a whole day there - but do visit the church, it has 40 beautiful gargoyles!

Winchcombe Church gargoyles in Cotswolds England ©vcsinden2018
Winchcombe Church gargoyles in Cotswolds England ©vcsinden2018

      Winchcombe Church also boasts an extraordinary embroidered altar-cloth. Sheltered now behind a curtain and special glass, the cloth is made from panels taken from fourteenth century church robes. Catherine of Aragon, staying at nearby Sudely Castle, is said to have sewn the panels together and added extra embroideries,
Winchcombe Church - famous embroidery ©vcsinden2018

   
        There are several beautiful, well-marked walks from Snowshill
and its surrounds to Broadway Tower (picture below). Happily, because it sits on the crest of one of the highest hills around, you can also drive! There's a nice restaurant / tea shop, out of sight but really almost next door. The Tower was built as a folly in 1798, but has been used in lots of ways, most famously perhaps as a Summer getaway for William and Janey Morris, where they hosted other artists of the Pre- Raphaelite Brotherhood. There's an exhibition about the work of Morris inside.

Cotswolds England -Broadway Tower ©vcsinden2018

 Broadway Tower, 18th century folly and erstwhile getaway for William Morris et al.

 

  Other things Muddypond loved:  

Mad Hatter Bookshop -Cotswolds England ©vcsinden2018

Mad Hatter Bookshop, Burford High Street -
a hat and book selection to keep you browsing (and buying!) for hours.

Cotswolds England -Burford High Street ©vcsinden2018

Full of character, and not too chocolate boxy - Burford

Thatching finial or ornament -Cotswolds England ©vcsinden2018

A variety of  Thatched House Roof Ornaments --- or craftsman signatures ----  in the village of Stanton

Thatching finial or ornament -Cotswolds England ©vcsinden2018


Thatching finial or ornament -Cotswolds England ©vcsinden2018
Thatching finial or ornament -Cotswolds England ©vcsinden2018 Thatching finial or ornament -Cotswolds England ©vcsinden2018

  A kangaroo?  Well that must be a rare one surely? !
See more about the history and art of Thatch Ornament and finials at  www.strawcraftsmen.co.uk/finials.php

Cotswolds England -broadway readying for Christmas ©vcsinden2018
The impossibly pretty little town of Broadway - just getting ready for Christmas.  Beware Summer crowds!

Cotswolds England -Spring Cottage - Hygge©vcsinden2018
Back to Spring Cottage for the woodburner, wine and cosy socks! A little Scandinavian Hygge!

 



    August 20th 2018
                            .... down to Devon to satisfy a folk-beast fetish ........

 

  The Aardman Award for Best Beast 2018 at the Sidmouth Folk Week, together with his pal Morph.                 Aardman Aninmations Trophy for Best Beast - with Morph,  Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018  Aardman Aninmations Trophy for Best Beast - with Morph,  Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018               

"An all-comers event for Hobby Horses, Unicorns, Goats, Morris animals and other Beasts of Disguise.
Canter along to the Hub for a bit of horseplay."
Peter Lord, Aardman Aninmations Trophy for Best Beast ,  Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018   

       The "Sidmouth Horse Trials",   a light hearted competition for folklore beasts, was in its third year down by the seafront, and seems likely to become a popular annual event at the Sidmouth Folk Week.

   The Trophy that you might win is priceless quite honestly - made and donated by Aardman Animation (Morph, Creature Comforts, Wallace and Gromit et al).

   The event with its illustrious prize was instigated by one of the founders of Aardman from some forty and more years ago - folk tradition and Morris fan, Peter Lord. (Photo left).Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018

Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018

Some of the eager beasts await their entrance

Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018

Jazza, a small zebra, son of my friend n'Dobbin from Pilgrim Morris  - and a frisky hooden start to woo the big crowd
(See n'Dobbin at the wonderful 'Guildford Summerpole' gathering here)

Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018

Rare sighting of a Mari Lwyd, (a Yuletide Welsh grey mare) out in the hot summer sun

     The "Sidmouth Horse Trials" are open to any Beast, not necessarily a horse, but the rules state that it MUST be a Beast which turns out with a Morris or Mumming group to dance, collect and entertain. It cannot be a Beast simply invented for the day. (Or so I believed, perhaps this is no longer the case?) - anyway, first it must sign up before the big event. 

     The Beast and perhaps his wrangler must :

(1)  parade around the ring with all the groups

(2)  perform en solo, a short routine for the judges

(3)  cavort chaotically before the crowd en masse in a heart-warming manner, trying to gather as much attention as possible

 

        

          

 

Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Wee - Outside Capering Crew ©vcsinden2018

               A nimble horse from "The Outside Capering Crew" (winners 2017) recalls his skills

Sidmouth Horse Trials, Winner 2018,  Folk Week ©vcsinden2018

The 2018 Winner was the flirtatious pairing of hobby-horse 'Malarkey' and rider Julie Page.

 

 

 

 

     July 3rd 2018
                      ... Sweden - for Midsummer traditions ...

Midsommarstång

Elsa Beskow

This illustration is from a beautiful book which I bought in Sweden, a thick compilation from one of my favourite Swedish artists Elsa Beskow (1874 – 1953).

The book is "I Tradgardsland Och Blaarsskog" published by Bonnier Carlsen and records seasonal traditions, nature and pastimes.

  

                 

           

 

Midsummer in Sweden - Hölen ©vcsinden2018

Raising the Summer Pole at Hölen

Midsummer in Sweden - Mora ©vcsinden2018

The children's ceremony at Mora - decorating the pole

 

 

    June 15th 2018
                                ........... looking forward to Litha - Midsummer ...

            This year, to celebrate Midsummer, Muddypond will be out in the countryside near Mora, in Sweden, looking forward to the late-night-sun celebrations and the Summer Poles.

            But before that, hopefully the fullfillment of a long held ambition  -  to visit the exhibtion of illustrations by the folk legend John Bauer at the Museum in Jönköping.

                      

                  Unused illustration by John Bauer 1882 - 1918

 

     May 1st 2018
                                ........... the Dawn Rising  ...

May Dawning, Muddypond Green watches the sun rise ©vcsinden2018

Muddypond Green, Wood Guardian Fae, watching the May Day Dawn at Sambrook Farm in Shropshire.
Frost in the long grass, mist rising through the trees and over the water,
bird song and early morning lambs calling all around.

In spite of lots of travelling, she believes that England is the most magickal,
so bewitchingly beautiful - and what would we be without the changing seasons?

 

 

 

    April 2nd 2018
                                ........... seven days on Rapa Nui - at the other end of Earth

Rapa Nui - Ahu Tongariki©vcsinden2018

The Travelling Moai watches over the entrance to 220m long Ahu Tongariki with its 15 statues

     So I haven't seen you for a while now - this fae has been travelling again, to put her little woodland home and Kentish surroundings into some perspective (as required by Stella Fae Exams - still not passed!).
 Rapa Nui - LAN airline arrives in the rain ©vcsinden2018 Nearly a month in Chile, and I'd like to show you a tiny Easter Island viewpoint - from what is said to be the most remote, inhabited Island on the planet.

       Rapa Nui - rare information sign ©vcsinden2018First, you must travel to Santiago, Chile's capital city, and from there take a further flight of nearly five hours to reach this remote, green speck in the Pacific ocean. 
       

   Rapa Nui (as Easter Island should rightly be called) was born from the tips of  three huge volcanos which pushed up from the ocean floor - making a triangular shaped island just 15.3 miles at its longest point, and 7.6 at its widest.  Only one airline flies there, and lands at the only small town - Hanga Roa. Around here the whole population of the Island lives and works.

     The climate can be hot and tropical, but there are often heavy downpours of rain. The small population is ever aware of its ocean legacy, and the island's perilous position as a single rock in thousands of miles of water in every direction.

Rapa Nui - the fishing port Hanga Roa Otai ©vcsinden2018

Moai stands proud on his platform at Hanga Roa Otai, the tiny fishing port.

      It's to spend time with the extraordinary Moai statues that people travel so far - and once you've arrived you don't have to go any distance to find them if you don't want to, they're everywhere around the coast, even in the town itself!

    The huge stone Moai were once believed to represent Gods, but are now thought to be specially comissioned memorials to important and recently dead ancestors.  They were cut from the rock of the huge quarry riven into the side of the volcano Rano Raraku and transported for miles to their coastal positions on carefully constructed platforms or 'ahu'.

      Some are on beaches, some atop cliffs, some along the low coastal paths, singly or in groups. They all face inwards to the island, watching over their people, with backs to the wind and rough seas.

Rapa Nui - Anakena Beach ©vcsinden2018

One of the most famous groups, seen here way in the distance, across the popular sands of Anakena beach.
See them closer below.

Rapa Nui -  the Moai with topknots at Anakena©vcsinden2018

Moai with topknots (hairstyles cut from different stone) intact, guarding the sands of Anakena Beach

    The Moai are thought to have been carved and transported over several centuries - from the 10th to 15th AD.  Diaries from Captain Cook's expedition in 1774 talk in detail of many standing statues. But at some stage between then and an outsider's recorded visit in 1838 , every one of them was pushed onto its face and some completely destroyed by the Rapa Nui - the Island and its people was in serious decline. The Guardians were not performing their task.

Rapa Nui - fallen Moai on the coast road ©vcsinden2018

   Many of the Moai are still fallen and eroded by rough weather, and that is how they will now be left. Around fifty or so have been re-erected since Thor Heyardal's famous experiment in the 1950s.

Rapa Nui - The Giant - Rano Ranuku quarry ©vcsinden2018

     Moai were carved at the quarry of Rano Ranaku, where stone was cut from the sloping sides of the volcano.

       The volcano and quarry of Rano Ranaku now shows us the amazing spectacle of scores of Moai heads - heads since their bodies have been gradually buried beneath the steeply sloping earth - and some still in the process of being hewn from the rock, when the time came to abandon the whole idea.

   Rapa Nui - evocative Moai at Rano Ranaku ©vcsinden2018

Abandoned, untransported statues at Rano Ranaku - giving some of the most evocotive photo opportunities!

     The island of Rapa Nui  has more to offer its visitors and residents than stone statues only, too much to be able to tell of here. It may be a tiny place in the middle of a vast ocean, but  ......

   There's Hanga Roa, its pretty little town, with enough restaurants, crafts and cafes to keep the most exacting tourists happy. Dawn and sunset skies that must be seen. Fiercely windy volcano and cliffs where the Bird Man Cult was centred. Its church - a showpiece for its fine modern carvers. A lovely small museum. Cliffs and rough seas but also long hours of sunshine and two wonderful sandy beaches with warm, warm waters.

Rapa Nui - The Church of Holy Cross, Hanga Roa ©vcsinden2018 Rapa Nui - statue of Mary, Holy Cross Church, Hanga Roa©vcsinden2018

  The Church of the Holy Cross in Hanga Roa, and a wonderful Mary, Stunningly influenced by Rapa Nui culture.

Rapa Nui - horses free to roam ©vcsinden2018

Horses everywhere - wild, burnished horses who wander free - take care on the little roads!

Rapa Nui -sunset on the coastal walk near the town ©vcsinden2018

Sunset at Ahu Vai Uri, Tahai

     Do stay for much longer than a couple of nights - hire a car - take in the views and the mysteries in your own time. Sit with the Moai. You have travelled a long, long way - it's worth it.

Rapa Nui - the cemetery of Hanga Roa©vcsinden2018

Last word - Hanga Roa Cemetery

 

 

 

       March 30th 2018
                                ........... a litle silly spring crafting! ...

Crocheted spring rabbits ©vcsinden2018
So this is how Wood Guardian fae spend their wet spring evenings - a little hygge by a fire, crocheting Easter creme egg cover rabbits of many garish wools for friends and for you, to say Happy Easter holidays.

Not to mention a flower pot full of primroses !

Crochet primroses ©vcsinden2018

A pot of crochet english primroses©vcsinden2018

 

Also, long overdue - coming as soon as I can - sharing my travels in Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Chile -
below, my proudest photo to whet your appetite (hopefully!)

Moai, Rapa Nui ©vcsinden2018

    

  

        January 21st 2018
                    ........  Going Welsh with the Mari Lwyd  .....

         An important part of Welsh folk history which was never really extinguished, but now enjoys riding the wave of folk revival, is the Mari Lwyd - also known as Y Fari Lwyd. The grey mare.

       Associated with mid-winter folklore, at around the time of Christmas, New Year and Old or New Twelth Night, Mari would be led out by her keeper(s). They would go from house to house (often the Public House!), peering in the windows and banging on the door to be let in.
     The chilly outside Mari party would sing traditional verses (in Welsh of course, as indeed they still do) begging for entrance. The fire-warmed inside party would reply, also in song, telling Mari to go away! 
      Eventually, after a longish song-battle, the door is opened and Mari enters, bringing good luck to the house.

     A variety of Mari's enjoying a catch up outside the two pubs at the bottom of Bridge Street and
circling the apple trees as part of the Wassail at the foot of the castle walls
.

     The 'Chepstow Annual Wassail and Mari Lwyd' is a lovely 'revival' event, where Mari's are welcomed from all over Wales (and further) to take part in a combination of Mari Lwyd 'Open Door' plays and Wassail in a gorgeous setting in old castle dell, where a little apple orchard has been specially planted.  
     Later, there's a unique evening meeting where rival companies, English at one end and Welsh at the other, meet at the centre of the Old Bridge. There's much flag waving, Morris dancing and Wassail drinking before all return as friends, led by many Mari's and a big Gloucester Old Spot Boar (for the English of course)!

  Mari's around the pretty old town area of Chepstow - undaunted by a rather wet day in mid-winter.
Below: The dark punky fella 'Penkevyll' comes all the way from Cornwall's Land's End !

You can find more about the Mari Lwyd tradition, and the Chepstow Mari here on my website  - scroll down to January 27th