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       Jump straight to August badger entry  

     August 29th 2013     Dartmoor, mystical Britain  ............

Kilbury Manor, Buckfastleigh, Devon ©vcsinden2013
Kilbury Manor -    a fine, fine 'B & B' place to rest faery wings when they have been all night on the moors and under the moonlight.

   This last weekend was spent on Dartmoor - a place of unending magic passed down through millenia and lingering still in every cranny and crevice. The main purpose of my visit being attendance at a thanksgiving festival 'Dusk, Dark and Dawn' - an all night pilgrimage at the heart of the moor.

   But first, some of my pictures, with words from Mrs Anna Bray, widow of the rather eccentric Reverend Edward Atkyns Bray, Vicar of Tavistock. Mrs Bray, who was a novelist, corresponded at great length in the 1840's with Robert Southey on her passion - the moors, and the craggy, granite tors.

Tor in evening light - Dartmoor, Devon ©vcsinden2013

    "On Dartmoor the priests of the Britons appropriated the tors themselves as temples, erected by the hand of nature, and with such majesty that their circles were only memorials of their consecration.

    Over the moor, the Druid moved in the region of the vast and the sublime: the rocks, the winter torrent, the distant and expanded ocean. The works of the great god of nature in their simplest and in their most imposing character were all before his view."

hawthorne on Dartmoor - Huath ©vcsinden2013 Menhir, Dartmoor, Devon ©vcsinden2013
A solitary hawthorn - the ogham tree huath.
A solitary menhir near the roadside


    A striking feature of any Dartmoor journey is its tiny stone built bridges at the bottom of windy, valley lanes, and the most ancient ones of all - the 'Clap' bridges. The pub sign on the right shows the old bridge at Postbridge (see below)

"Amongst the British antiquities of the moor I must not allow myself to forget to mention the rude vestiges of its primitive bridges. ........... the construction of these bridges is exceedingly simple, being nothing more than masses of granite piled horizontally, and thus forming the piers, on a foundation of solid rock, that nature has planted in the midst of the stream.
     The piers being thus formed, the bridge is completed by huge slabs of moor stone laid across and supported from pier to pier."

Clap bridge at Postbridge, Devon ©vcsinden2013

Mrs Bray had plenty to communicate with Southey on the subject of the magical denizens of the moors, from the dangers of getting lost out in the tors and peat bogs, which was known as being 'Pixie-led', to descriptions and encounters with the immortals as told by locals.

" ...... or else the pretty stream lies sparkling in the moonbeam for no hour is so dear to pixie revels as that in which man sleeps and the queen of the night, who loves not his mortal gaze, becomes a watcher. It is under the cold and chaste light of her beams, or amidst the silent shadows of the dark rocks where that light never penetrates, that on the moor, the elfin king of the pixie race holds his high court of sovreignty and council."

Rowan, Luis, Dartmoor, Devon ©vcsinden2013
Dartmoor forest toad ©vcsinden2013
Fernworthy stone circle, Dartmoor, Devon ©vcsinden2013
Moors enchantments - the otherworldly Rowan - Luis,       A diminutive chestnut-brown toad explores a forest path,          Part of Fernworthy stone circle.
Fernworthy Stone Circle, Dartmoor, Devon ©vcsinden2013
The stone circle - Fernworthy Forest

Words from 'Legends, Superstitions and Sketches of Devonshire' by Mrs Anna Bray.
pub 1844 A.K.Newman and Company.



    August 27th 2013    National shame!  The badger cull begins .......

Stop the Badger Cull - Chris Packham has his say

     Chris Packham, influential naturalist and presenter of British television series 'Springwatch' and 'Autumnwatch' voices the feelings of a huge proportion of Britain, as reported in the Telegraph today.  Thank you Chris - and so say all of us.   Read the whole article here.
     (photo from facebookphotowallpublic).


     August 7th
2013    The Kentish Stones -   portals
to past millenia  .....

                 Kent may not be the first county that drifts into faery minds when thinking about megaliths, chambered tombs or standing stones, but here they dwell, of course they do - if you know where to look. They dwelt here indeed at least a thousand years before Stone Henge woke to its first sunrise.

                As with all the ancient stone places, they have the atmosphere of otherworldliness, of betwixt and between, of faerie  - portals to ancient ways, silence and wisdom.

Faery Muddypond Green dowses with unfamiliar metal dowsing rods at Chestnuts megalithic chamber-tomb, Addington, Kent  ©vcsinden2013
Metal rod dowsing. Walking through the central chamber of Chestnuts -
Muddypond with a faery friend in mid-August sunshine.

    'The Chestnuts' is the sister site to 'Coldrum', where I have taken you before - (see here and here).

   One of the 'Medway Megaliths' - each one the remains of a chambered long-barrow built with massive local sarcen stones, each one facing towards the rising sun, in varying states of repair - Chestnuts stands on private land in the village of Addington. Another longbarrow, fallen, can be clearly seen from the road. 
   You are welcome to make a visit by appointment, where the dear lady of the land will tell you its history and allow you to share in her decades of delight.

  She offers you a chance to try out metal dowsing rods (faeries prefer to use hazel twigs as everybody knows - metal rods react too strongly in faery hands).
Standing at the centre of the old chamber, the rods slowly turned in a full 360° circle.


An 18th century etching of the 'Chestnuts' Addington in Kent.   A few stones have been raised and straightened in early 20th century.
Chestnuts, Kentish megalithic chamber-tomb on private land ©vcsinden2013 Chestnuts, Kentish megalithic chamber-tomb on private land ©vcsinden2013
'The Chestnuts'. The huge stone lying flat front-left of first picture is thought to be the fallen capstone.

   As the Chestnuts is a chambered tomb, it would once have been roofed with its capstone and smaller stones then covered in a vast mound of soil, highest over the portal stones, lowering in a wedge shape towards the rear. All the Medway megaliths have revealed human remains in earlier excavation, some can be seen in Maidstone Museum.   

A faery funeral from one of the masters -Brian Froud or Alan Lee.  From "Faeries" first published by Pavilion Books 1995

      I don't believe the archaeologists have discovered the numerous clues to the faery-remains in the Kentish tombs yet, mainly because the little bodies themselves fade gradually a few hours after death. The grave-goods and reliquarys are there to be found though - just search more carefully - attune yourself and keep very silent!
    The wonderful illustration above is the artist's response to a description by William Blake of a time when he saw such a procession - complete with rose-leaf bier and a daisy covering - in his own garden.

Newington Devil's Stone, Kent ©vcsinden2013

Skulls and remains of twenty-two individuals taken from
Coldrum during 19th century excavation.
(Photo: Kent Archaelogical Society)

Kent has its very own 'Devil's Stone' legend. Some say he has left the mark of a hoof on the huge sarcen stone but they have never seen it for actually the Devil was wearing very large boots!

   He was infurated by the sound of the pealing bells from the tower of 12th century Newington Church and one night, bounded up the stone walls, cut down the bells and threw them into a sack. With his plunder over his shoulder, he leaped down into the lane, but he tripped over the stone, leaving his mark for all to see.

  The bells rolled into the stream and since then the water has run clear and fresh, the bells are restored and the stone stands near the church gate.

Kit's Coty House - meagalithic tomb, Kent - 19th century graffiti ©vcsinden2012
Kit's Coty House, Kent ©vcsinden2013
Right: Kit's Coty House looking back across the downs.
Above: 19th century graffiti and damage made before the Victorian railings were erected for the monument's protection.

    The strangely named Kit's Coty House is the best known of the exposed 'Medway Megaliths', now owned by English Heritage. It has been dated to at least 3,400 BC and stands on the top of a down's headland above Aylesford The stones would once have been covered as they are part of a long barrow burial site.
    The giant capstone atop the three uprights towers above three metres in height. Stones marking the length and width of the barrow itself have long since disappeared, and the tall sarcen which stood at the far end, shown in ancient prints as 'The General's Tombstone' was apparently 'blown to bits' in 1867.Kit's Coty House, Kent (grave-goods imaginary!)©vcsinden2012

       For faerie grave-goods, search diligently, very diligently, but leaving no damage behind you to grass, stone, fur or feather - not even a footstep - try to move any that you discover, or even make a photographic record, and they will simply crumble, dissolve then fade away. (Those above are from illustrator Rodney Matthews, who knows that lead-pencil sketching is allowable!)




   July 24th 2013    Badger watching in Essex this week, a sheer delight .... watch over them all ....

  Also - NEW at last on the Ogham Tree Pages is the folk lore and magic of the Poplar - Eadha, ruler of Autumn Equinox

 badger Culling - Say NO!  ©vcsinden2013

                   Illustration left by Hilda Boswell, Enid Blyton's Third Holiday Book 1948 -       right: Muddypond watches as a shy badger snuffles for a worm  Woodland badger ©vcsinden2013

    Much beloved as an icon of British woodlands
, and cherished since our childhoods or faery-sprig days from chance encounters at dusk and the pages of our story books, badgers are being even now slaughtered in their thousands by order of our Government. Culled. Shot.

    As I watched a family on their evening forage, I wondered - how has this been allowed to happen - this idiotic and cruel decision? Shame on us all - is it really what the British people want?  It's widely understood that badgers may spread bovine tuberculosis amongst cattle - may! but is this the answer?


   Right now - in the midst of the decade when the inhabitants and guardians of our little scrap of world are mourning the loss of their hedgehogs, dormice, sky larks, sparrows, honey bees and  countless other species - we allow the needless killing of these innocent creatures, the badgers that we should treasure.

Woodland badger beside set ©vcsinden2013
Badger beside set ©vcsinden2013

  The cubs stay with the parents for many years and are looked after in their own, sociable and boundaried communities. They're not difficult to hunt down and kill - but why exterminate? Vaccinate! Or finish the work on an efficient vaccine for cattle!

   I was so very privileged to meet with this large group of wild woodland badgers, individuals above, on a sultry Essex evening, just before sundown. First one stripey snout appeared, them more of the group took courage, routing for worms and grooming each other near their set entrance whilst I watched, marvelled, filmed and photographed. Here's wishing you and generations to come the same opportunity.

Woodland badgers ©vcsinden2013

Read about the culling and how you can help at the website of The Badger Trust.

If you are feeling summery, there's a little feature about
shells in faery art on Muddypond's 'other' blog.
"Faery Thoughts of Summer Shells"



    July 16th 2013    Back to the English summer - must be festival time ..... the faere folk favour the traditional ...   Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013


    No rain though? Now that's very odd! In fact weeks of hot, hot and hotter weather - and that's how it was when Ms. Muddypond here spent some precious days camping and basking in musical sunshine at the 28th Ely Folk Festival.

    Ducks at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013Glorious music and dance at this folk moot - room to move too - what more could we want! Held partly in the historical little cathedral city with its market place, cloistered greens and river marina, and partly at its own site not far from the centre, for festival stages, food and camping. The festival was an easy-going joy from first to last.

   Mother ducks from Ely introduce their ducklings early to the joys of picnics taken in the shade of the huge cathedral.

    Here follows a scrapbook with a few favourite memories and a smidgen of the music that this fae enjoyed most from the three day programme of music... music... and more music ......

'Witchmen' at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013
'Witchmen' - from the 'daarkside', or Kettering in fact - hurl themselves into the fray.
Catchers of dreams at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013 John Tams with 'Snowfall' at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013

    A peaceful moment for a group learning the art of weaving a catcher of dreams.  On Saturday night, John Tams as part of the group  'Home Service'  gives a heart-stiring performance of   'Snow Falls'  - a song which he wrote for the National Theatre's epic 'War Horse'.

'The Hanging' Ouse Washes Molly at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013 Karine Polwart at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013 Van Gogh the Hooden Horse at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013

      Above, the 'Ouse Washes Molly' group dance outside the cathedral to illustrate a strange and dark tale culminating in a double hanging. Unusual!     Scrumptious Scottish singer/songwriter  Karine Polwart  holds the audience entranced on Friday evening - and an extrememly mischievous hooden horse, apparently named Van Gogh because he lost an ear (since mended) and let out of harness by the Yately Morris Men, fixes me with a rather menacing gaze!

Steve Lockwood & Brooks Williams at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013 Seth Lakeman at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013

      Friday night gave us an incredible set from the matchless harmonica of Steve Lockwood and blues guitarist par excellence Brooks Williams. Wasn't expecting such excitement since this isn't a wood-fae's first choice of musical style - but luckily she recognises pure genius when she hears it !!  
     On Sunday, the 28th festival reached its zenith with the sheer brain-blowing energy of Seth Lakeman. Now there's one that's welcome to drop into a faery-moot down here in Kent on any moonlit night! Always magic.




    July 3rd 2013    Meeting  a wood guardian faery of the human-kind and in hotter climes than mine .....The Toucan Rescue Ranch, Heredia, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013

The Toucan Rescue Ranch owner Leslie Howle with sloth friend ©vcsinden2013
Leslie Howle

         Last month, Muddypond wrote a little about her amazing study-leave in Costa Rica.   She couldn't leave the subject without introducing you to a real guardian of the Earth.   Her name is Leslie, and she spends up to twenty-four hours a day looking after the injured and neglected wild animals and birds in her care.Toucan Rescue Ranch, Costa Rica 

   Leslie Howle and husband Jorge have turned what was simply their home into The Toucan Rescue Ranch.  Creatures find their way to her as lost babies from construction sites, as road or electrical cable injuries or as wild creatures abused and imprisoned in tiny cages as part of illegal trading.

   It all began with toucans!  There was no place for injured toucans in Costa Rica it seemed, and Leslie loves toucans. As her expertise grew and her care became known, the little ranch snowballed and tumbled with sloths, parrots, birds and animals of all varieties.    

    Although the aim is to rehabilitate the animals back to the wild, many can never go back even after life-saving care. For these, huge and beautiful homes are built. Hopefully after a while a partner will arrive and a breeding programme begun. There are seven pairs of toucans now - and first rare hatchlings are eagerly awaited.

The Toucan Rescue Ranch, Heredia, Costa Rica - birds we met ©vcsinden2013

A huge Spectacled Owl and magnificent Barred Hawk listen to the extraordinary sound of  friendly Whistling Ducks

You really SHOULD hear Whistling Ducks!     Click here for a video  from The Toucan Rescue Ranch to listen.

   Here are a few of the wonderful animals that Muddypond had the privilege to meet while staying at The Toucan Ranch ...

Hairy porcupine at Toucan Rescue Centre, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013

  Left - a Hairy Porcupine accepts a flower snack.
  Right- a rare baby Grison, difficult to bottle feed as he turned out to be milk intolerant!

  Below left - Milo the Two-toed Sloth had no control over his body temperature, and is always brought into the house at night. (Yes, he IS real!).
  Below centre - a tiny Armadillo found abandoned, now living in the kitchen for warmth and hand feeding.
  Below right - Kinkajoos, brought in a year apart, now a loving couple -  she helps him with his balance and climbing after his bad accident.

Grisson baby, at Toucan Rescue Ranch, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013
Sloth care at Toucan Rescue Ranch, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013 Armadillo baby at Toucan Rescue Ranch, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013 Kinkajoos - a loving pair, Toucan Recue Ranch, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013

'Millie, the two-toed sloth'

     An enchanting little book about one the first of Leslie's sloth babies tells of the adventures of  'Millie, the two-toed sloth' and some of the friends she meets in her new world. All proceeeds go towards the upkeep of the rescued birds and animals.

   Visitors to Costa Rica can take a pre-booked tour of the ranch, or stay there in one of just two private 'Bed & Breakfast' cottages - a highly recommended and delightful part of any travels - (within easy travelling distance of San Jose airport).

   Leslie is very likely to be mothering a baby sloth or two - in the wild they stay dependant for at least a year. They are magical  creatures but, like most babies, very demanding, needing night and day feeding and cuddles!  Below is the latest and smallest of her treasures ....

Two-toed sloth baby natalie at Toucan Rescue Ranch, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013

Wishing you many faery blessings Leslie - a truly dedicated Earth Guardian.

Find out more about  the work of The Toucan Rescue Ranch, also Tours and B & B here on their website,
and here on Trip Advisor.