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.