Sunday, 15 December 2013

Post 16 The Scrapyard

The Scrapyard

Since the beginning of November I've been stopped at a scrapyard near Eastbourne in Sussex. Tarateeno, my cob has pulled my wagon down from Stranraer, Scotland, 921 miles in 10 weeks. Averaging  13 miles a day or 92 miles a week. 

In the scrapyard I drove the wagon over the weighbridge, Tarateeno weighed 500 kilos ,[1100 lbs] and the wagon weighed 880 kilos , [1940 lbs]. Tarateeno is about 15 hands tall,[a hand is 4 inches] or 153cm. I like to weigh my horses, to check they are not losing condition, [you can tell this by looking too] but also so l know how much wormer or medicine to give.
In 2010 l put Tarateeno on the weighbridge at Appleby and as a 4 year old he weighed 460 kilos, then my wagon weighed 680 kilos. In the winter my wagon weighs more, because l tend to have more clothes and bedding, also a bucket of coal and a couple of days firewood for the stove. It's always a battle to keep weight down. As well as my tinsmithing tools and sheets of copper, l have a riding saddle, spare harness, bridles, lunge lines,lariat,3 tether pins and chains, l need these in case l get more horses or have to train any.
A wagon like mine shouldn't weigh much more than 500 kilos when it's empty.

When horses are worked constantly they get jaded and need a rest, just like us. Behind the scrapyard there is about 30 acres of very good grass and I've turned my cob out with some other horses.
Tarateeno resting

Mick, who owns the scrapyard, is very interested in wagons and cobs, and when he can, he goes off for a few days with his wagon. He's got a nice lish little open lot, suitable for a smaller cob of 14 hands.
I'm in the yard next to a pile of old car engines. One day they'll be put in a furnace and heated up to separate the Ali [aluminium] from the steel. 'Irony-ali' is not worth much, separated they're worth much more. In the past I've earned money going out with a horse and cart collecting scrap metal, it's quite interesting, you never know what people will give you. Horses that have done this kind of work soon get quiet and sensible. Scrapyards have a kind of beauty, but l also find them depressing reminders of our careless aspirational desires. I like wandering around the yard looking at the twisted piles of metal, sometimes a piece of metal asks me to make it into something. I enjoy making things and tin smithing  helps satiate that desire, l try to make items that are functional and aesthetically  pleasing to look at.

View from the wagon
I find it quite difficult to stop and rest and for a while felt a bit depressed here, luckily the Pevensey Levels are quite beautiful and I've kept busy making clothes pegs and coppersmithing and doing maintenance on my wagon. Mick is very kind and helpful and I'm glad to be here for a bit. I borrowed a treader  and cycled down to the beach at Pevensey. There is a lovely old Norman Castle there.
Pevensey Levels 12th December at Dusk
Bruce Chatwin wrote in his book, Anatomy of Restlessness, ' The argument, roughly, was as follows: that in becoming human, man had acquired, together with his straight legs and striding walk, a migratory 'drive' or instinct to walk long distances through the seasons, that this 'drive' was inseparable from his central nervous system and, that, when warped in conditions of settlement , it found outlets in violence, greed, status-seeking or mania for the new....... 'Also why Buddha, Lao-tse  and St. Francis had set the perpetual pilgrimage at the heart of their message.......
Talking of greed and a mania for the new,reminds me it's almost Christmas, a time when the philosophy of futility temporarily reaches its pointless zenith, I've given my two daughters a little gift each and some cash, for the rest of you this post is my gift.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Post 15 Kent and the storm, into Sussex

Black Heath, photo by Francis Dickinson
I really enjoyed stopping at Blackheath and met some very nice kind people.
I headed south through Bromley, this part of London is without charm for me, dismal 1930s ribbon development, l had to put a shoe on Tarateeno on the way as the nails had given up, l was on my way again in 15 minutes, 12 miles to a small common just north of Biggin Hill. A grey sort of day, lit stove and rested. A park attendant came along, said there'd been a complaint and l couldn't stop there. I explained in a friendly way that l was stopping there and just refer it to the police. He went off apologetically. Later on 3 police officers came along and took my name and wished me good night. Several people warned me a storm was on its way.
The next day l went south to Edenbridge, l was getting  tired and the clocks have changed, so the days are short, l was very glad when a Traveller came by and told me to stop at Marsh Green a mile away. It's a lovely place, l tucked the wagon in the lee of some shrubs away from any trees. Later on the Traveller came and showed me photos of his wagon and horse, he had also travelled in the north and we knew  some of the same places and people. A bit later on another Traveller came and gave me some sausages and chips, really kind of him. The weather was coming in bad and l put a rug on Tarateeno, stoked the fire up and put some coal on it and went to bed. By 2 am the wind was really strong and gusting  badly, the wagon rocked violently on its springs and l could do no more than doze. By 7 am the wind had eased off, the stove was still warm so l got it going and made some tea and had a nice shave, feeling slightly euphoric  that I'd survived the storm. There is always the danger that the wagon can be blown over in strong winds. It's important to have the back of the wagon to the wind and try and be in a sheltered spot, but away from any trees, because of the danger of them falling on the wagon.
Tarateeno, Ashdown Forest
At 10.30am l set off and went to the Ashdown  Forest, quite a few trees had come down in the night, and l was glad l hadn't stopped near any, even quite a small branch can do a lot of damage especially if it lands on your head. The road was strewn with acorns and sweet chestnuts and l collected some to roast. It was a hilly journey  and l was glad to get there as both Tarateeno and l were tired. 11 miles. I got the stove lit and had  a cup of tea, this is a beautiful forlorn spot where I'm stopped. At dusk l watched a white hart, [a white stag] it came within a couple of hundred feet of the wagon, perhaps it means  good fortune is just around the corner, although l feel quite lucky already.
Steve and Lisa
The next day l caught up with two friends, Steve and Lisa, who are also in a wagon and stopped with them a couple of days, we hadn't seen each other for several years and had lots of catching up to do. We sat around the fire, chatting and sharing useful information about stopping places, ways of earning a living, people we knew, plans for the future.......  We traded  a few bits and pieces and made our farewells. Who knows when we'll meet again and where?

Friday, 25 October 2013

Post 14. London.‏

Thursday 24th of October. 3.30am, the noise from the motorway has woken me. I doze until 7.30am. It's a lovely still, bright sunny day, slightly frosty,  I lit the stove and heated water, had a good wash, then put my smartest clothes on.This is the day to go through London. A lady, who'd visited the day before came to say goodbye and wish me luck on my journey.
I set off at 9.30am and went down through Loughton, Whipps Cross, stopped to rest Tarateeno at Lower Clapton, gave him some hard food and l managed to pull into a park so he could eat some grass. My friend Ken joined me halfway and walked with me and we had a good laugh, it was nice to have the company. l went through Hackney , down Mare Street, through Bethnal Green, to Whitechapel. Although the traffic has been quite heavy at times it has flowed nicely and hasn't been a problem. I'm really enjoying seeing all the different people from around the world, many of them in their traditional clothing. The smell of food cooking, coming out of the cafe's  is tantalizing, Jamaican, Asian, Turkish... l would like to stop but I've got a long way to go.
Leabridge Road

Blind Beggar, Whitechapel
It's really captured people's imaginations,many people beep their horns in a friendly way, people on buses  are waving, one lady ran over to me with some carrots, hundreds of people are taking photos, several people shout out,  ' I was born in one of them.' An old double decker bus with an open top , hired for a wedding goes by, the bride and her friends cheer and wave, a Muslim lady covered from head to toe  in a veil, her eyes light up with pleasure.
An attractive  young woman runs over and excitedly invites me to stay with her,unfortunately she doesn't have any grass.... it was a nice offer though and l thanked her. I went past the East London mosque, l have heard that Muslims  believe that time spent with horses, is added onto your allotted time on earth. l like the idea.

 Held up in traffic

Heavy traffic on the approaches to Tower bridge.
Ken managed to take a photo as l trotted across the bridge.
Trotting across Tower Bridge London

The next few miles through Deptford the traffic was very heavy but l was able to use the bus lane and for some reason there weren't any buses. It's a long pull up Maze Hill to Blackheath after a long day and Tarateeno was tired. 8 hours to do 22 miles. We walked most of it . I got to Blackheath about 5.30pm, just in time as it's not long until the sun goes down. It's a good time to arrive and any park attendants have gone home. I sold some clothes pegs to people who came to have a look. There are busy roads all round the Heath and all night long you can hear police sirens and traffic, but that's London. I feel quite safe and at home here.
Elated to get to Blackheath

I slept quite well and decided to stop here and rest a day. I walked down to the shops and treated myself to some croissants from the bakery and a  'Latte ', l don't normally drink coffee, but it did smell good, and when in Rome......
Later in the morning three officials came to see me and were anxious about me stopping here, one of the officials was worried about horse droppings but I explained that as the police exercised their horses on the Heath it was difficult to say which droppings belonged to them and which belonged to my cob.  l reassured them, shook their hands and they went away happy. The people of Blackheath seem delighted I'm here and I've had many nice visitors. I mentioned to one lady that l would go tomorrow as there wasn't much firewood here, she came back later with a net of logs for me. A cyclist came by and chatted and asked if there was anything l needed, l told him l needed some butter, he laughed and said he'd just bought two packets and gave me one. I also got given some cans of beer and some tangerines. I gave several of the people clothes pegs as presents and also gave some people walnuts that I'd collected in Essex and dried. They enjoyed eating these. One man gave me some sweet chestnuts that he'd collected in the park, they were really nice roasted on my stove.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Post 13 Essex‏

21st October. It's been quite wet the last few days, l haven't been able to play my pipes in any towns for a few days as it's no good when it's raining, l don't mind having a break from it though. Tarateeno has been looking filthy, it's very difficult to keep him groomed when his coat is wet, happily this afternoon it came out sunny and l spent a pleasurable hour brushing him. This part of Essex has some lovely old buildings, many of them are thatched. The traffic is getting busier on the lanes as l get nearer to London. I'm about 25 miles north of it now. I didn't pass any shops today, but purchased some eggs and honey from a couple of peasants, they were friendly. There are quite a few walnut trees in this part of the country  and I've got quite a lot of walnuts drying in the wagon. Delicious to eat. Tonight I'm stopped at Stebbing Green, the locals I've met have been friendly. It's not far from Braintree . You can hear the traffic from the A120 which is a mile south and the aeroplanes  are quite noisy from Stanstead airport, 10 miles away. I'm glad I'm only stopping the night and don't live here.
Nice quiet lane, Essex
22nd Oct. Had a lovely journey through narrow country lanes, very little traffic to Matching Green  about 15 miles. There's acres of  good grass here. I went in the pub, the other people in there  appeared to be successful gangsters who  had managed to escape from London's east end. On the way l went by an old Rolls Royce rusting away in a front garden, so l took a photo.
Rolls Royce quietly rusting away
23rd Oct. A violent squall woke me at 4.30am, the wagon shook violently and the wind whipped through the willow trees next to me, after the squall had passed  it was very still and quiet. I looked out the window, Tarateeno was fine.I read my book for a bit then fell back to sleep. Set off at 9am and got to Theydon Bois at mid-day, 11 miles. I stopped on the green next to the duck pond, handy for getting water for the horse. People are surprised to see the wagon and horse, but are pleased and friendly.

Locals friendly, Theydon Bois, London

I've had a lot of visitors this afternoon, apart from one young woman, who angrily demanded that l leave straight-away and told me l had no right to be here, people have brought me gifts of chocolate, cans of beer and water and have turned my visit into a positive experience.To have a break, as it's quite tiring being polite and friendly and talking, l went and sat on a bench a 100 yards away and read a book. I watched a man come and knock on the wagon door and then write a note for me. After a while l went and read the note, it was from Epping District Council, politely enquiring, could l ring them and let them know how long l intended to stay? l rang back and left a message. A bit later on two jobsworths, wardens  for Epping Forest came along and demanded l leave, l suggested that they contact the Police Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Officer if they had a problem, as it's important to follow the correct protocol when dealing with unauthorized encampments like mine, they went away after they told me that they'd called the police.  About 10 pm two police officers turned up, they were very courteous and after asking my name and how long l intended to stop for they wished me good night. Whilst chatting they asked if l got lonely , l told them that l got a lot of visitors, they joked, probably a lot of police, but l told them that it was really a rare occurrence. This year l think they've only been to me twice. I expect l will get more  visits going through London.
Almost all my stopping places are categorized as unauthorized encampments, however the police and other public bodies must still as public servants, show common humanity to those they meet and be careful to follow the correct protocols. They must determine if interference is justified and proportionate and welfare  enquiries should be carried out. As I'm on my own, Section 61-62 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 can not be used against me.

This extract from the By-laws of Hampstead Heath is a disgrace, imagine substituting the word Gypsies, for Jews or Asians , there would be outrage.
People like to take photos and l often take one for them while they sit on the wagon.
I'm a bit anxious about going through the east end of London as there is such a lot of traffic, l shall try and take the quietist route and hope for the best, I've no idea what reaction I shall get.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Post 12 Suffolk

Southwold  Common 
I went to Southwold, it's a nice town on the North Sea coast. I did well playing my pipes there and enjoyed watching the ships going up the coast. I stopped by some old water towers on the common. It was a bit out of my way but I'm glad l went there.
Blytheburgh, Suffolk

Now I'm heading south again, Suffolk has some lovely old buildings.
Laxfield, Suffolk, Belle sold

I stopped in the village of Laxfield  to do some shopping and sold Belle to a nice lady. I missed Belle for a bit but it's much easier for me now, and  my wallet is a bit fatter. Tarateeno is glad as he no longer has to share carrots with her, he never liked anyone giving her carrots as he believed they were all his, horses are not generally good at sharing titbits and l don't really like people hand feeding them.
 The next day l had difficulty finding a good stop, after 19 miles l finally  did find a place at the end of a bridleway. There  wasn't a lot of space and l was glad l didn't have Belle anymore. At this time of year the grass loses a lot of its goodness and l need to start feeding Tarateeno extra food. The next day l went by a farm and chatted to the old farmer. He was dressed in old blue overalls, with a leather belt  holding them together, he had one Wellington boot on and  on the other foot an old workboot without a lace. He was very friendly. I asked him if he could sell me some rolled barley for my  cob, he didn't have any but said he had some proper horsefeed. He shambled  off and after a while returned with a whole sack of really good horsefeed  and didn't want any money for it. I thanked him and gave him some of my clothes pegs. South of Lavenham l stopped the night by a gun emplacement from the last war. There is a whole line of them and they  protected a nearby railway line, ironically the railway was destroyed completely by the British  government a few years later.
WW2 Pillbox nr Lavenham

Two old men in their 80s came by in an old truck and stopped to chat, despite their age they were still earning money selling firewood. They said they could remember the gun emplacements  being built. They took my 5 gallon water container and filled it with water for the horse. I was really glad.Suffolk is mainly arable country so there are not many troughs  to water the horse.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Post 11 Norfolk and Suffolk‏

 Malcom, Foulden Common October 8th

Stopped on a lovely common near Stoke Ferry , what a beautiful peaceful place. Some places have a really nice feel to them. There is a handy stream to get water for the horses and plenty of grass and firewood. I've had some nice visitors and sold some pegs and a candle holder. On the way here l met a man driving a cart pulled by a Welsh cob. He came and had a cup of tea. I've not travelled in Norfolk and before. It's always harder travelling in unknown country where l don't know the stopping places, but it's exciting too and good to meet new people. I like the cottages and churches faced with flint stone . There are a lot of Munt Jac deer. They have a funny sort of bark a bit like a dog. They're about the size of a big dog. There was one grazing on the next village green l stopped on.
Merton village green
When l stop on a village green it's interesting to see what reaction l get. At Merton l stopped on the green, after a while there was a loud knock on the wagon door, a brusque, slightly indignant voice said, 'you're on my land', l looked out, smiled at the old man and said, 'that's alright l don't mind at all.' We got chatting and he was quite interesting. He didn't really mind me being there and why should he?  Earlier in the day I'd been to the supermarket and many people came and said , how lovely etc, but when l stop on the village green they're not always so enthusiastic. It might  be  a case of, 'not in my back yard.'  Often people are delighted, you never know, either way it's not my problem. You might very well own a house on the green and your neighbours hate you. At least l can go in the morning. You certainly can't please everyone.
Supermarket at Watton, Norfolk
There's been a lot of wind and heavy rain the last few days. Flurries of conkers,acorns and chestnuts keep falling off the trees onto me and the horses, the road is carpeted in them and they make a pleasing crunching sound as we go along. Sunday 13th October. Pouring with rain until 10am, lit the stove and went back to bed until it stopped. Went through Halesworth and stopped on some rough grass at Blyford opposite the Queens Head and the church. The Christians are celebrating harvest festival this afternoon. On Sundays they drive like the Devil's after them, or because they're late for church. After church they drive like the Devil because they're worried about their joint in the oven burning.
Two of the Christians have parked their cars very close to Tarateeno. While they're in church worrying and praying the Sunday roast doesn't burn, Tarateeno is enjoying rubbing his bottom on their cars. Once a car parked too close to Tarateeno, he saw his reflection in the car window, mistakenly thought he was being confronted by another horse, bared his teeth at it, his reflection bared its teeth back and Tarateeno struck out with a front leg and made a big dent in the side of the car. Realising his mistake he immediately  forgot about it and carried on eating. The owner of the car took longer to get over it.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Post 10 Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire

It's October, but nice warm weather. I've been busy tinsmithing, making clothes pegs and playing my pipes in the towns. One evening a family of travellers came and sat round my fire and we enjoyed talking about the different  parts of the country we'd travelled in. I played a couple of tunes on my pipes for them. It was a pleasure to have their company.

Ryalla, Verity and her lovely chavvies
Stayed with Sylvia for a few days and gave the horses a rest. Sylvia took me out in her cart to get some shopping, her cob is forward going and trots  out well. I put new brakeblocks on the wagon, the others were worn out after 1600 miles. It's  important to have brakes on a wagon to take the weight off the horse when going downhill. The horse can hold it back a bit, but it's better to use the brakes, easier and safer for the horse. It's mostly flat around here but the roads are smooth and slippery.
Sylvia trying to have a deal
After Newark l went to Spalding, lovely travelling country, some of it on bridleways . Near Spalding l stopped at the Gordon Boswell Romany Museum. Gordon and his family are very hospitable. Gordon has collected the very best of wagons  and other interesting artefacts  for his museum and it's well worth a visit. It's also possible to arrange a trip out in a wagon.
Making a lid for Gordon's water jack

I stopped a couple of days with Gordon and got busy making copper candle holders and a new lid for a water jack. The next day l went over to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire , 20 miles, walked most the way, hot sunny day, l don't know the Fens well and it's not good for stops, l was getting tired, luckily l happened on some people l know and pulled into their yard. They also needed a lid repaired for a water jack, so l got my tools out and did it straight-away . They were pleased and gave me dinner and l had a nice shower. Sold them one of my candle holders too.
 Gordon leaving his yard, Spalding

Stopped and played my pipes for an hour in Wisbech, the horses are quite happy in town and enjoy resting and often fall asleep. While l play l enjoy watching the people go by, Wisbech seems to have quite a lot of poor people, many of them were Polish and Romanian , people were generous and it was a pleasure to play. There is a bit of skill getting right into a town centre  with a horse and wagon and knowing where the best place to play is, I've done it hundreds of times. It would be no good with horses that haven't been trained to stand nicely. Every horse needs to know how to stand quietly, many don't.
Field of pumpkins
I went by huge fields of pumpkins. In the next couple of weeks they'll go all over the country by lorry to supermarkets so that children can hollow them out for Halloween, they're not very interesting to eat. It might be better if children learned to grow their own pumpkins,easy to grow.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Post 9, Heading South

Belle rolling by Soulby Bridge

Good to be back travelling along the edge of the Pennines. The villages are attractive with their sandstone buildings. I stopped at a village bakery to buy a pie, the lady gave me several cakes  that she said she wouldn't be able to sell. That was kind of her. Went back through Appleby and stopped at Soulby  by the river. Sat in the sun and made some clothes pegs. There is a good flush of September grass, l want the horses to eat as much as they can, they need it. This is quite hilly country and they'll work hard for the next few days.

Rainbow near Hawes 17th September

Tough journey up past Mallerstang to the Moorcock Inn, 14 miles into strong wind and heavy  driving rain. I neglected to put my waterproof trousers on and my Wellington  boots literally filled up with water. I didn't mind and my feet were nice and clean. I had the stove stoked up with wood before l set off, so it was  soon nice and hot in the wagon and I got changed into some dry clothes and warmed up. Later on l went in the pub, had a pint and sat in a comfy armchair  and fell asleep reading a book. The next few days l headed along Wensleydale with the wind behind me, which makes it much easier for the horses. Since leaving Cornwall in April I've done 1400 miles. The horses are in good condition. The days are getting  shorter and I'm mentally preparing for the winter. I stopped down Tinkers Bottom, near Great Ouseburn, many people have stopped here over the years. My friend Clare sent me this picture of her stopped in the same place about 15 years ago in the snow.

Tinkers Hollow                                                Alec and Clare's Wagon

Solar shower Yorkshire 22nd September

Some months ago a friend gave me this solar shower, you're supposed to lay it in the sunshine for some hours until it's nice and warm, this is fine in July, now it's the 21st of September and there isn't  enough sun, so I put two kettles of cold water in it and one kettle of nearly boiling water and this works fine. I hang it in the porch of the wagon and stand on the footplate of the shafts. I wait until no ones around and then have a shower.
View from window

It's autumn equinox and now the night's are as long as the days. I pass the evenings practicing my tin whistle or pipes, I like to learn new tunes so I don't get bored busking. I also read books in the evening and can watch films. I have a portable 12volt DVD Player. I don't have a radio or TV by choice. 
Practicing Tin Whistle

Sunday 22nd of September, woke up at 6.30am, read until 7am. Had breakfast, put new hind shoe on Belle, soon had it on, she'd worn the other one out, had horses yoked up and on my way by 8am. Beautiful morning. Sold two clothes pegs as lucky charms to a lady on the way, 50pence each, it all helps. Walked about 5miles, trotted about 5miles, watered horses on the way, got two pails of water from a lady who was in her garden, horses thirsty, hot day. Walked the next 5miles, did shopping in Howden and stopped in my normal stop almost under the M62 where it crosses the river Ouse. Got more water for the horses from a lake nearby, although l'm next to the river Ouse it's much to dangerous and difficult to get water from and it's tidal. I pegged out the horses, made a meal then lay on the bed and slept for an hour. After I'd rested I collected firewood, brushed the horses and made a lovely pot of tea. Then I enjoyed taking photos and played my pipes under the bridge. Lovely sound!

Lincolnshire, September 23rd‏
A misty start, no good going anywhere in the mist, so l gave the wagon a good sweep out and tidy. By half past nine the sun was out and l went into Goole. On the way l saw a grass snake about 3 feet  [1metre] long. It had just been hit by a car and was dead. I stopped and took a photo. Every day l see lots of creatures that have been killed. They often have interesting  expressions on their  faces, sometimes angry or sad. I pulled the wagon into Goole  high street and stopped for an hour and played my pipes. While l play, the horses just stand and go to sleep. They don't need to be tied up, they know the routine, they like the towns as there are no flies. After busking l head down beside the river Trent for 15 miles to Amcotts. I stopped in one village and chatted to an old lady of 86, l tried to sell her my spotted pony and we had a laugh . She enjoyed feeding the horses an apple. On the way a kind lady gave me a homemade steak pie and a can of cold Guinness to wash it down. I was glad as it was a hot sunny day. The pie was lovely. I was also given some courgettes , tomatoes , spinach and some  apple's. l thanked the lady and gave her a few clothes pegs. A bit further on the postwoman  stopped and gave me an ice-lolly , we'd  stopped and chatted 3 years before.  I collected some branches of dead elm for my fire. That evening l cooked some Basmati rice, flavoured with Star Anise, and l  fried the courgettes  and tomatoes in olive oil and steamed the spinach. A nice simple meal. Later on an old farmer came and sat by the fire and shared some cans of beer he'd brought.
Near Goole

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Post 8, N.W.Cumbria.

 Solway 1st September

North West Cumbria. Went round  around Carlisle on a lovely new bypass, I've never liked Carlisle, so l think it's a great idea. Stopped on the shore at Allonby, cold windy day. Lit my woodburner and cooked scrambled eggs. A retired couple who live in the village invited me over for a drink, that was kind of them. Much warmer  and sunny the next day and l went to Maryport and played my pipes. These  pictures were taken by my friend George Bell. The people in this part of Cumbria are nice and friendly. Lots of the lads have a few cobs  and will drive a wagon to Appleby horse fair for their holiday. One old man said to me , "that's a lall cob, feeet ." I think that translates as, "that's a nice fit cob."  One night l stopped down  'potter's lonin '[lane]. In the old days Gypsys  were often called potter's up here, this is  because they would  travel around hawking pottery that they'd  bought in Staffordshire. When l got to the top of a hill near Caldbeck , l stopped and had a rather poignant look north, back across the Solway to Scotland, l did have a lovely time there and wondered when I'd be back.

 A handfull of pegs

I visited 'Swanny.' He has several good cobs and a wagon. He asked me to show him how to make a clothes peg. It looks easy when you watch someone do it but takes a bit of practise, especially if you're going to make them quickly. I usually have my secateurs  on the porch of the wagon and cut a few wands out of the hedge as l go along. Hazel is best but Sally willow is ok. I couldn't get rich selling pegs, but l like making them and keeping the tradition alive. Only a handful of people make them now.
Swanny and his Grandson

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Post 7

Wayne with his van stuck

I stopped one night on the shore of Loch Ryan. On the shoreline there are thousands of cockleshells and they make a very satisfying jingling sound as you walk on them. There were two Scottish ladies, sisters about sixty years old, stopped near me in their car. They were on holiday and simply slept in the car, quite a small one. The car had broken down and the electric windows no longer worked. The ladies were completely unconcerned  [och  nae bother] by what would have been a calamity to most people. They had been there some days and when they wanted shopping they walked the couple of miles into town and then got a taxi back. They seemed to be very content and spent their time reading, chatting and laughing. They were very friendly and kind and one of them collected some driftwood for me for my fire. They told me they'd  arranged for a breakdown truck to collect them at the end of the week. By contrast,  a couple of days later, whilst going over the hills towards  New Galloway l met Wayne. Wayne was ,hot, tired, anxious and frustrated. He'd got his small van stuck in a ditch and needed help. Very few people use this road, luckily l was  able to pull his van out with my cob , Wayne was very glad and relieved that I'd been able to rescue him. Later on he came back with some cans of  beer, a loaf of bread and a pineapple for me. That was kind of him.  The following day l went to the Ken Bridge Hotel to get some drinking water and a beer. The landlord  said, " are you Michael? I said "yes,  why?" "Wayne's  got you two pints in!"

My cob pulled it out, very calmly...
I had a good trip over the hills from Stranraer to Dumfries, staying on quiet roads through dramatic wild country .  Visited my friend Gabrielle in the woods to see the tree house she was living in. It was nice but l prefer my wagon. She helped me make a new cowl for my chimney. I stopped one night at the Grey Mares Tail waterfall and had a good swim and shower . I enjoyed browsing on raspberries , blackberries  and cherries and  soft hazelnuts. I like to walk beside the horse, so l can pick fruit on the way. Our eyes are really developed to work best at a walking speed. Travelling on a bicycle or by car you really miss a lot.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Post 6, Tinsmithing

 Tinkering or tinsmithing

Tinsmithing is one of the ways I can earn a living. It is a traditional craft of the road. In the picture I am making a small bucket out of some galvanized sheet that I unscrewed from the back of a scrap tumble dryer and a cooker. Sometimes I show other people how to make a small item, and in the picture below my friend John has made a copper candle sconce out of a scrap immersion heater. He worked hard on this and was really pleased with it. While he was stopped with me he cooked some lovely meals and it was a fair exchange.

 In this picture my friend Gabrielle is learning how to make copper rivets, so that she can rivet a handle on.
 Here Gabrielle is finishing off her candle holder. We were stopped by a lovely old-fashioned hay stack. The little girl was holding her pet hen, (called Henrietta, I think).
 Gabrielle is making the handle using the stake for folding.
Here is a picture of the tools I use for tinsmithing. It's really satisfying making items to sell on the way, and people come over to watch and like to buy what I've made.