On the Doorstep: Hidden Histories

There was a point at which we realised that we had got it wrong. That the chapter entitled ‘The Triumph of Horsenden’ should really have been’The Triumph of Bledlow’… but not only did it not have quite the same ring to it, it was the triumph that mattered, not the name of the village… and we had already published. Be that as it may, we really should have gone looking for the church at Horsenden sooner… and the elusive church in Saunderton too, so as it was a sunny day, we braved the cold and went to rectify our omission.

The three churches of Bledlow, Saunderton and Horsenden form another of those groupings so close together that it makes little sense. All three were originally medieval and each is a little more than a mile’s walk from the other, so why build them all in such a rural area? The answer almost certainly lies in the presence of the manors.

Manors were not originally houses, though great houses were usually built on manorial lands which had been granted by the Crown to one of his barons or lords. Anyone living within the bounds of the Manor then looked to that lord for justice and paid their dues to him too. It established the position and relationship between free men, serfs and peasants and their local lord who in turn looked to the king for authority.

Each manor would be likely to establish and maintain a church. There were once two manors and therefore two churches in Saunderton, dedicated to St Nicholas and St Mary. By 1442, the Church of St Nicholas was in a very poor state of repair and the remaining church, first built in 1227, took both names and became the church of St Mary & St Nicholas.

There is a lot of hidden history in the area too, from the granary and hypocaust (central heating system) of a Roman Villa on land belonging to Church Farm, which was unearthed in 1938, to a coffin with human remains close by and a number of burial mounds… prehistoric barrows… many of which have sadly fallen foul of the plough over the centuries. Saunderton also housed the workhouse in the eighteenth century and, being such a remote location at that time, was used to house those who had sought to run away from other workhouses. Which doesn’t seem to sit well with a village whose name may have derived from Santesdune, which may have meant “saint’s hill”.

Near the church are the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle, almost unnoticeable now due to time and vegetation. By  1086 the Bishop of Bayeux held the manor of Saunderton St Mary while Miles Crispin held the manor of Saunderton St Nicholas, both assessed at five hides each… with a hide originally being the amount of land needed to keep a family for one year.

The current church of St Mary & St Nicholas, if you can find it, tucked away behind a nursing home and Trout Hollow, was first built in the thirteenth century then altered and added to throughout the years as is the way of most community buildings. It was finally demolished and rebuilt between 1888 and 1891, re-using as much as possible of the original building.

Until the pandemic allows churches to re-open, we will not be allowed inside, where we are assured that we will find doorways, windows and the piscina all dating back to the fourteenth century. The font is even earlier and has been baptising the villagers since the 1200s, while the altar stands on medieval tiles that hold a fifteenth century memorial brass and the altar rails are made from an older screen. Recycling at its best.

The exterior of the church, built by re-using the flint of its predecessor, has an old timber porch with coloured glass windows and is topped by a bellcote whose medieval framework houses three seventeenth century bells.

The whole place has a lovely, peaceful feel, with chickens mere feet from the war memorial and red kites flying overhead. The names of those lost to the Great War are inscribed on the memorial and Gary Knight has compiled a detailed biography for each of the fallen servicemen, which brings the carved names to vivid life. I hope that we will one day see the doors of this and so many other churches reopen to visitors, for a place where such care has been taken to preserve the past must be worthy of our time and attention.

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Horizon #midnighthaiku

(Haiku written as prompt for Colleen’s poetry challenge)

clouds cover the moon,
beyond dawn’s pale horizon
sun rises unseen

Source of hope obscured

Hidden by storm clouds rising

Still casting its light

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Not Stupid Today – A True Story ~ Graeme Cumming is Hugh Roberts Guest

Reblogged from Hugh’s Views and News:

I’m delighted to welcome Graeme Cumming to my blog. Not only is Graeme somebody I class as a friend, but he’s also a very talented author, writer and blogger.

Graeme’s true story opened up my eyes to something I’d never thought about when it comes to passing on wisdom and mistakes I’ve made in my life to those younger than me. Read his story and let him know how you pass on words of wisdom to the younger generation.

Unlike Bryan Adams, my summer of ’69 had nothing to do with playing guitar. Having struggled to play triangle during a school concert, I think it’s safe to say my musical abilities wouldn’t have stretched that far.

When I chose the wrong moment to hit the triangle, I was even more mortified than I might otherwise have been because my dad was in the audience. He didn’t tend to turn up for school stuff because of work – not many dads did back then.

Continue reading at Hugh’s Views and News

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Solstice of the Moon: A Last Adventure

It is not every day that you can go on a real adventure to see a genuine, bona fide mystery, but that is exactly what we were going to do on the last day of our trip. We had been promising ourselves a bimble with our friend, James Elkington for a long time and finally, we had the chance to do so. The weather was windy and overcast, but at least it was dry as we set off…for the time being.

James is a fabulous photographer and a man who loves the moors around Ilkley as much as I do… and knows them far better than I. My knowledge goes back to childhood and is rooted in love and long-ago memories. James lives close to these moors and knows them intimately.

Which is just as well, because we were looking for something very small and very well hidden in a vast sea of heather and bracken that would seem featureless to many eyes. Even James, who knows where to look, would have trouble… But first, we had to get there and it was going to take a while.

We met on a blustery morning at the Cow and Calf rocks. This part of the moor is often busy, it is a popular place with climbers, tourists and casual walkers. It is also surrounded by ancient sites…rock carvings, cairns and stone circles, all within easy reach of the cafe and car park. The vast majority of visitors to these moors stay within sight of the road and seldom venture above the first ridge. We were going deep into the heart of the moors, far beyond anywhere I had walked since my youth.

‘A bimble’ sounds gentle enough, but don’t let it fool you… we walked for seven hours and a goodly number of miles, all told… and it was wonderful. We revisited many of the sites we have used during Silent Eye workshops on the moors over the past few years, but I also saw places I had not seen in decades.

It is a landscape I love with all my heart. I will not detail the route we took or the places we visited…because of the site we were heading for. I have written so much about these moors and their archaeology that I would be repeating myself for the umpteenth time. Suffice it to say that our route left the main path behind and headed off into the bracken.

Continue reading at France & Vincent

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The City and the Stars (5) – Structure 10: pyramid ~ Steve Tanham

The more the Orkney archeologists uncover, the more it is certain that the settlement on the Ness of Brodgar was the hub of a dynamically influential and spiritual society, 5000 years ago… For example, what’s this pyramid…. yes, that’s right, pyramid?

(1700 words, a fifteen-minute read)

(Above: Illustration of Structure 10 by Kenny Arne Lang Antonsen and Jimmy John Antonsen)

That can’t be right, I thought, looking at the image, again…

Three thousand years BC… Five thousand years ago. That’s a long time, I mused. But I knew that Orkney was ancient, and that the importance of its early civilisation was only just coming to light…

Continue reading at The Silent Eye

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… When the Fenians had risen and come out the following morning, Fin approached Brown, Black and Grey and said, “Do you have anything to relate from the watch last night.”

So, the three newcomers told their respective stories and at the end of their tale Brown and Black handed Fin the knife and cup which they had retrieved.

“You have done great work,” said Fin, “we are sure to have the best eating and drinking from now on,” then turning to Grey he said, “the fate of the old hag, though, nags at me, that third young giant may well return and visit trouble on us all.”

For twelve months after Fin Mac Coll and the Fenians of Erin hunted for sport alone and at the end of that time, Brown, Black and Grey went their way.

Continue reading at France and Vincent

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A Harmony of Eight – Stuart France


The point sits at the centre of the square,

where its two diagonals intersect.



From the same intersection, another square

can be drawn at right angles to the first.

Like this, we create eight equidistant points.



By taking the original squares and extending all

eight sides, a new set of intersections is generated.

Continue reading at The Silent Eye

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The dawn sneaked in without a blaze,
No flash of flame, nor golden haze,
No fanfare played to greet the sun…
And yet, a new day has begun.

Beyond an iron veil of rain
In summer’s absence, tears of pain
That wash the world and cloud the view,
A miracle begins anew.

I watch the silent start of day
Bring colour’s birth and blackbird’s play
And feel the first light grace my eyes…
Although I never saw it rise.

Beyond the cloud, beyond my sight,
Somewhere, the sun is shining bright…
It does not need that I should see,
The light behind the dawn must be…

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Incarnate #midnighthaiku

Within a bubble

Limited by time and space

Consciousness looks out

Seeing itself reflected

Finding a home in  beyond



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Chapter Three: ThreeLegs ~ from Usual Muttwits

One! announces ThreeLegs, eyeballing Βία up and down and all overs before lurching on.

Two! he starts along the cages, carefully counting off three…and four… until he reaches number five. He stops, checking the five toes of his one front paw, glances back at the cages to reconfirm the tally and lurches on. By the time he’s done counting up to fifteen toes on all three paws he stops again, scratching contemplatively at a tic at the stump where his fourth leg should be hanging.

Right then…one! he starts over, counting off his front paws. Etcetera.

Hobbling to the end of the barn, counting off his toes, resetting everytime he reaches the end of three paws. Finally to arrive back at the starting point.

Fifteen he concludes. A grand total of three paws worth of guests.

Wot a muttwit Βία grins.

ThreeLegs bangs his head against her bars that’s not nice

Yor not nice her hackles up, grin curling into snarl.

Before ThreeLegs gets ’round to defending his important ledgerings an unmistakable sniffy-red pervades the barn, a colour darker than the night outside.

“what’sallthisnoise,then?” scritches Freddy.

Just doin’ the ledgerings, yor honours whines ThreeLegs before receiving a lusty kick aimed at his head. ThreeLegs’ three legs back him out of range in the nick of time.

Freddy pokes his eyeballs all ’round abouts the barn before they stop at Scroggy.

“termorra,yergone!” he scritches at the Redbone Coonhound, rubbing his handpaws together.

Freddy eyeballs Βία next “notyous,gotbigplansforyous” before eyeballing ThreeLegs quivering in the doorway “stayawayfromher,Checkers,oryoragona,too!”

Freddy storms out the barn, shaking a warning handpaw at ThreeLegs, and wobbles back to his hindlegs den.

Wot a butt-licking nasty hindlegs mutters Βία.

Freddy ain’t so bad quips Scroggy, wagging his short tail and specially coz he sez I’m gone

A right goner, yu muttwit barks a large mixed-breed called Thunder gone to the Chinese take-away

Wot starts off a few more fours.


Dim sum Scroggy!

Until the whole barn is at it, yapping and howling.

Scroggy Chow Mein

Aromatic crispy Scroggy, pancakes’n’salad

Chop Suey Scroggy

Number sixty four, Scroggy’s fried balls–

Enough of it yuz lots!! barks out ThreeLegs, terrified that all the bruhaha is gonna bring back Freddy.

Shut it, half portion jeers Thunder that’s the only reason why yuz ain’t gone there, yet


Freddy wobbles back into the barn with his heavy stick.

“quiet,theloadofyers!” banging the stick on cages left and right.

Fourlegs cringe at his sniffy-red malevolence.

ThreeLegs desperately does his best to turn invisible. It don’t work.

“rightthen,that’sit” Freddy grabs ThreeLegs by the scruff and drags him out the barn, three legs scrabbling for purchase on the concrete floor. The barndoor slams shut.

Dead quiet.

I reckons that muttwit ThreeLegs is going to the Chinese after all Thunder nods his snout all sagely.

Ifn’t a fully loaded bowl of police brekkers don’t beat it all – urghhhhhh Ahhhhh – erh, right lads? Jax talks-noshes-retches at the same time.

Keeping the peace’s hungry work agrees Duncan, nosing his bowl away from the wall so he can get behind it and tongue up the remains.

Police feeds me – I works police states Shadow.

Brekkers of champions, boys Jax looks up at thems, a string of lamb kibbles running down his chops.

Duncan and Shadow respond in dour munching silence, the results of the obstacle course still rankling both the older and more experienced PDs.

A winning start to the day Jax dollops on a little extra ag.

A short interlude of bowl scraping and water slurping later some familiar voice calls over the walls of the Thames Valley PD compounds.

Friends and fourlegs?

Shadow lets off an ear-flapping fart in response.

Lawmutts of Westley Piddle? the voice continues umm, a furry citizen of this fair city requires assistance, urgent, lyk

Piss off mammal growls Shadow.

That’s not nice replies the voice and, frankly barking, wotz uncharitable behaviour towards one of yor very owns

We’re police workers, muttwit, not charity workers growls Shadow again.

Same difference, kind sirs

Wot’cha want ThreeLegs? Duncan shakes earflaps firmly, stomping away from his bowl and lifting a nosh-covered snout to the skylight wot overlooks the road.

A moment of understanding only

Nah, trot off replies Shadow we gotta sort important police business

Police brekkers business adds Jax.

Dismissive silence terminates the conversation.

HELP! ThreeLegs yelps, changing tack help a poor four– threelegger in distress.

ThreeLegs reaches up with his one front paw, scraping at the wall a soupçon of assistance, that’s all I asks me dear bowl mates

Brekkers nosh murdered, Shadow and Jax sit at their cage doors, awaiting the start of their morning tasks, ThreeLegs already forgotten.

Duncan exhales, hard-wired training and the fourlegs creed reluctantly preventing him from dismissing another fourlegs so readily yuz the last muttwit wot deserves anything, but nows yor here, wotz up?

And ThreeLegs spills the beans.

Woe. It’s all very woey, matey. Cast out lyk I’m streetlegs or somethink – excommunicated from me flock, me guests, lyk – torn asunder from me tender bosom companion, wotz called Freddy

Sorry to hear it grunts Duncan, not particularly sorry at all.

Yessir. Sorrowful. Pitiful. And all coz of that feral bitch, that reeking vixen – that – that – he sighs with a shudder me beautiful Bee-Yah!

ThreeLegs then howls in sorrow.

Who? enquires Duncan.

Who’d ‘ya think? The moneylegs, corss. Bee-Yah the greyhound, corss. Appropriated-lyk by Freddy for cash, yessir, real spondoolies! And – and nows me…ME, cast assunda coz of it. Set adrifts all on me ownsums

Why? enquires Duncan again.

Dog-dammit, Duncan me bestie, I’m out of it. Out of it, beached. Out on the street. Skedaddled from Freddy’s Farm with nowheres to go but me own three paws for company

How? enquires Duncan a third time, had it with all the enquiring.

By that useless pizzle, Freddy hisself!!!

Duncan shakes earflaps, unsure if he’s actually hearing right. He looks to the others for an opinion on the matter. Kicked from yor very own homeden by that sniffy-red scoundrel mustn’t be taken lightly.

ThreeLegs or not, to help a four in distress is what a PD is fed and watered for. Shadow eyeballs Duncan dispassionately. Jax eyeballs are suddenly very interested in the top corner spot of his cage.

A very dirty business sez Duncan, lamely, to everyone.

ThreeLegs answers with prolonged and pitiful retching de-fener-strated is wot I ams

Alright then, Checkers Duncan makes a decision I’ll be out shortly on community walkabout, handling PC Andersen packleader–

And? ThreeLegs jumps in.

And – and I’ll bring yuz some brekkers, mate

Lamb kibbles adds Jax, encouragingly brekkers of champions!

Duncan sighs again, knowing this little bout of unnecessary compassion is all gonna cost more ag than it’s worth.

Yor trouble is Shadow contemptuously points out yor all heart and no plum bobs


Follow Zozo, Jools and the Muttwits crew at their blog, Usual Muttwits

or find them on Instagram: @usualmuttwits and Facebook: Usual Muttwits

Part Four will be published on Sunday


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