Clayhidon Friends

July 2018

Where our garden flowers came from

What better way to spend a balmy July evening than listening to Marian Dale tell us all about the origins of where our garden flowers come from. After leaving her career in marketing, Marion bought a barn conversion in Somerset, inheriting an over- run garden. Her appetite whetted,she trained with RHS Barrington and now works as a garden designer.

Marion started her talk taking us as far back as the Romans who introduced many plants for medicinal reasons. Plants such as Camomile, Marshmallow, Opium poppies as anaesthetic and Foxglove for the heart but deadly in overdose. Before the Romans arrived our native fruits were very bitter and they taught us the art of grafting and increasing the sweetness. They showed us that sweet chestnut could be ground into flour and brought with them vegetables; asparagus and cabbages. Their gardens were very green and controlled. After they left the monasteries continued with their work.

After the Romans were 200 years of Crusades. The Crusaders brought back ‘pretty’, not so much medicinal plants. These can sometimes be identified by their Holy names; Hollyhocks, Marigolds and Honesty. They brought back herbs from the Mediterranean; Lavender, Thyme and Soapwort.

Gardens at this time were mainly in the stronghold castles, so only the castle dwellers benefitted. With the growth of wealth Manor Houses were being built, and gardens, still for the rich were cultivated. More of England’s Green and Pleasant land was being cultivated by the Elizabethan Age. Travellers were encouraged to bring back new plants and it was rumoured that Queen Elizabeth played Dudley and Cecil off one another by refusing to visit unless they had a new plant to show her. 

By the 1800 Chocolate Houses were evolving in the cities for people to come and partake of the bitter drink brought back from Chile. The fashion by then was for the ‘Partiere style gardens with box hedging, keeping the medicinal and floral to the Kitchen Gardens. But expectation of the newly discovered was ever growing and travellers were seeking out plants from the Orient; Magnolia, Camelia, Weeping Willow. Captain Cook brought Tree Ferns, Bottle Brush, and Mimosa from Australia.

William and Mary introduced the Dutch style gardens including flowers as well as the formal box. Capability Brown became popular and tried to improve on nature by turning whole swathes of woodland into formal parks for the rich. 

When the railways came into being a huge error of judgement was to introduce Japanese Knotweed onto the railway embankments to stabilise them. It is now recognised as a Thug!

The workers were slowly introducing their own cottage gardens to their plots, to supplement their diets with fresh vegetables. We all know the slogan “Dig For Victory”, which encouraged people during the war to dig up their lawns and grow produce to supplement the food being brought into the country during the World Wars by the brave Merchant Navy.

Gardens go in and out of fashion. The young working family generally has little time for gardening and are mostly ignorant that a Snowdrop isn’t indigenous to England but was brought from the Ukraine. Did any of us know that when the Potato was brought back from The Americas that it had so many nutrients in it? The Germans discovered this when in Sieges they fed their prisoners on them, only to discover the prisoners were surviving the people.

Our Group have been very lucky in having so many interesting Speakers, if you would like to come and join our group, please get in contact with Anne Langford 01823 680086.

June 2018

An enjoyable trip to Payhembury

Along with partners, the Friends congregated at Yellingham Farm, Payhembury. An interesting journey there through winding narrow Devon lanes.  We were warmly greeted by our host, Janet East. Janet gave us a demonstration of her “Work in Progress” tan and white sheepdog. He was very enthusiastic and shows promise of a good working dog.

Janet’s pride and joy was her polytunnel, which made the family and Bed and Breakfast business nearly self-sufficient.  Interesting ways to deter the mice, such as guttering pipes suspended from the ceiling to start off seedlings. They have worked very hard setting up what is one of the smallest working farms in Devon and all that hard work is in evidence. The Orchard has now matured and gives several varieties of apples, overlooking wonderful Devon countryside.

After the very entertaining tour, Janet showed us into the Old Stable, which along with Chesterfield settees and garlanded with fairy lights looked very inviting for our Cream Tea. We were seated on two big tables covered with snowy white tablecloths and Janet and her husband brought out generous portions of (no-egg) fruit cake and cream scones decorated with strawberries. The scones were done the Cornish way of cream on top as a nod to where Janet was brought up. We were visited by their three dogs, one black spaniel looking very well in her latter stages of pregnancy.

We all thoroughly enjoyed Janet’s bubbly personality and ethos of hard work and hospitality.

Lynda Ridout 

May 2018

10 places you will never visit

We were all very intrigued by the title of Ken Atherton’s Talk of “10 Places You Will Never Visit”. He explained to us that he had shortened it from 100!

We were not disappointed and our appetite for the unusual thoroughly stimulated. Who knew that there are so many places the General Public are not allowed into, existed?

In London the General Post Office (GPO now BT) built warrens of underground tunnels. Primarily to house the communication cabling, but big enough to walk through. These join the Ministry of Defence and the Government buildings. Also includes Buckingham Palace and Downing Street, going all the way up The Mall.

Despite being  built for World War I, they continue to be used to this day. What with the Underground Railways vast network, one wonders why more sink holes haven’t appeared in London as they do in the other parts of the UK.

Ken went through the 10 places which included MI5 and MI6. He explained it was not just London that had tunnels. Building such as the “The Doughnut” at Cheltenham which carries on the work of Bletchley Park. The Pindar Bunker which is radioactive proof and houses the Crisis Management Base and would house people in time of Nuclear Attack.

Also outside of London are other buildings we will never enter. Menwith Hill – RAF Yorkshire is surrounded by a high hedge. Initially used by the US in the Cold War, it is now back in the UK hands and used solely to concentrate still on Russia. No one knew it was there until the 2014 Cycle Race which had BBC Helicopters tracking the race but gave a full view of the grounds to the outside world.

The Manchester Guardian Telephone Exchange is much, much more than that. It too conceals underground tunnels. Primarily to house and keep active communications.

An initial innocuous Victorian House in Wood Norton, Near Evesham was bought by the BBC to provide emergency broadcasts during the war if the BBC premises in London were bombed. Now it is used as a training centre but within the grounds is a ten level underground building, which would survive a Nuclear Attack and be able to take over from London to broadcast. One does have to ask the question who, if the UK had suffered a nuclear attack, would they be broadcasting to in the outside, unprotected public world?

After the Talk we were treated to Refreshments by Helen and Margaret, for which we were very ready and grateful for and the chance to discuss amongst ourselves what we had learnt.

I am unable to write in detail here the accounts of all ten places, but hope I have given you a taste of things that the General Public just don’t know about. It was very, very interesting and if anyone would like to read my full account, please let me know.

Lynda Ridout

April 2018

Delightful results with card, ribbon and glue

Members always like a good chance for a chat, and a craft evening is one of those times when we can be creative but catch up with each other at the same time. Jan Rimmer from Wellington brought card, hand-made paper, ribbons, clips and glue which she had already cut to size so that assembly was easy, even for the most fumble-fingered. 
Jan showed us where to bend the card, and where to stick so we could form the basis of a pocket photo album. We decorated it with one of many different coloured hand-made papers (a difficult decision which to choose!) and finished with the attaching of a clip and ribbon - again a beautiful range of colours to choose from.
Everyone was not only delighted with the result, but had thoroughly enjoyed the evening too.
Our grateful thanks to Jan for coming to us, and providing the materials, expertise and her time.
Anne Langford

March 2018

A year in the life of Hemyock

Having survived the snow and water shortages we were all pleased to meet at Clayhidon Parish Hall to watch Jenny Parson’s “Snapshot in Time” Part One. A film about Hemyock.

What a treat and a privilege to see Jenny’s film. She hopes it will be a historical memory of the Village for years to come. Hopefully people will value this and treasure it more than past chronicles that have disappeared over the years.

Jenny’s first film starts off at New Year, outside the Catherine Wheel. Revellers are gathered together to count in the New Year and enjoy the community spirit. How glorious the Church looked with the Christmas Star still shining.

Then into a very snowy January. Jenny is on horseback, out in the countryside and the scenery is truly magical. An impromptu game of Ice Hockey on the pond, with participants using what comes to hand beside the hockey sticks, cricket bats, brooms and bits of wood. The game was still going on into the dark evening with floodlights.

With the oncoming of Spring there is beautiful footage of the snowdrops. Doesn’t everyone feel that Winter is nearly over when those lovely delicate white flowers brave the cold? The Seasons progress, the birds start to sing and the frogs have morphed from tadpoles and bring the pond alive. The birthing of the lambs and calves viewing was not for the faint hearted, but how wonderful to see a new life. Lambs’ games of ‘King of the Castle’ will always bring a smile.

There is some excellent footage going around and watching the Farmers at work. Even, a first for me, watching the Harrier not only change a shoe, but give the horse a good old dental clean. Even cows have a chiropodist! It was so interesting to see how diverse and hardworking all the Farms, Orchards and Chicken Farms and to appreciate how hard a life the Farmers lead. How sad to hear that one of the Dairy Farmers is calling it a day.

The demolition of Dobles Garage on the main road through the Village is captured. He explained how the Garage had been in the family for many, many years. Now a set of houses is built on the land to feed the ever growing demand for more housing.

There is plenty going on in the village besides the surrounding farming. The Annual Parade of Vintage Tractors through the main thoroughfare, the Clay Shoot and the Easter Bonnet competition, won by our very own Ruth at The Healthy Living Centre. A hub of activity and meeting places be it for craft or Keep Fit. The Bicycle Group swamped Ruth overtaking her at various stages of her cycle home, looking for all the world like Miss Marple. A lively Walking Group is captured. Undeterred by the weather. All wrapped up and off for a morning soaking up the fresh air and discovering the walkways of Hemyock.

What an important duty the Parish Hall undertook for the two National Voting Days last year. One to decide if Britain wanted to exit the European Common Market and then a National Election to decide who would take us through that difficult time.

The solemnity of a funeral processing into the Church, with the Catherine Wheel in the background. In a community. It is always sad to part with one of the long term residents. But it makes you realise that, in the natural world as in the human race it is all a Circle of Life.

Jenny is showing Part One and Part two on consecutive nights at Hemyock Parish Hall 22nd and 23rd March. I haven’t been able to mention everything we saw, it was so diverse and interesting I strongly recommend people go to see it for themselves. There is a small charge of £5 towards Village Funds.

Lynda Ridout

February 2018

Talk by a champion for Dementia Friends

Despite the Diversions set up in the lanes due to cable laying, nineteen of us managed to gather to hear a Talk on Dementia by Brian Standing who is a “Champion” for the Dementia Friends. This means he is trained to talk to people and educate every one’s perceptions of Dementia. He hasn’t been trained in the medical side of it. Dementia is a Disease. You cannot catch it! People still need you to be their friend.

Dementia can happen to anyone from the ages of 30 to 90 years of age. Alzheimer’s is only one type of a hundred different types. Every person is unique in the type of Dementia they have. It is impossible to generalise about what a person is going through. Brian told us one of his sayings; “If you know one person with Dementia, you know one person with Dementia”. The message was to not say that a person is ‘suffering’ with Dementia, but say that person is ‘living’ with Dementia. Many people, with adjustments to their lives, manage to carry on their lives for a long while. The disease can progress in stages and also revert backwards and forwards day by day.

It isn’t just about losing your memory. You lose Motor skills such as getting lost, not remembering the sequence and routines you once had. They might lose their inhibitions or their personality changes back and forth from aggression to loving. One day remembering how things are done, the next unable to. They might be unable to cope with escalators or automatic doors.

Although their sight might be perfectly alright, their brain doesn’t always compute what they are seeing. Seeing things as they aren’t, with example maybe seeing a black mat as a hole and standing there in fear of falling into it.

What Dementia people pick up, long after memory has started to fade, is your non-verbal communication. Smile at them, give them a hug if appropriate, and look them in the eye. They can be feeling very lonely. Don’t give up on your relative or friend, they need you more than ever to connect at whatever level they can. It is best not to ask direct questions as they won’t be able to reason it through. Better to say, “I am making a cup of tea”. Don’t say “Do you want a cup of tea?”. Take them for a walk and point and name things that you observe to include them into the trip.

Brian gave us a very graphic analogy to imagine a bookcase with your most recent memories on the top shelf, each shelf holding a different stage in your life with the bottom shelf being all your childhood memories. As things progress all the top shelves start to tilt and fall off and those memories are gone. The last one to go is the bottom shelf with all the childhood and teenage memories. Knowing that, try to communicate with their childhood memories or skills and connect with them through those. Music stays with people and often ignite wonderful times and memories. We were told to think about how you would make a cup of tea. Perhaps the person with Dementia was born before the electric kettle and the milk was kept in a fridge and tea was loose, not in bags. Be aware how confusing the modern things are for them now.

The whole group was very grateful to have listened to Brian, who brought the whole subject over very well. We now feel enlightened in how to communicate with people ‘who are living with Dementia’.

If you are interested in joining the two million Dementia Friends you can contact them through or call 0300 222 5855. You can do as much or as little to help the organisation.

Clayhidon Friendsmeet every second Thursday in the month for sometimes a Talk or sometimes to chat and practise a new skill. Anyone wanting to join in our friendly company please contact Anne Langford on 01823 680086


January 2018 

Fascinating stories and objects of interest

What better way to welcome the New Year than to gather together and share experiences and memories whilst imbibing of some Mulled Wine and superb sausage rolls and chocolate brownies provided by Sarah and Tina.

Sarah started the “Bring and Tell” Evening by showing us one of the tools of her trade in Midwifery. This was a Pinnard’s Foetal Stethoscope. First used as far back as 1650, but used for general heart monitoring and then to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. An unprepossessing trumpet like instrument, so simple, but so effective.

Angela told us of a young boy who used to pass with his seven siblings each day on his way to school. Angela and her husband gave them chocolates one year at Christmas and gathered things throughout the year. By the next Christmas there was an eighth child. Leading up to the next Christmas there were several knocks on the door by the eldest boy with various questions. Just before Christmas he presented her with two pompoms for her and her husband. Angela was so struck with how simple they were, but had been made with warmth of spirit. She was very impressed by how whole family were united, how well-mannered and, how well turned out they were.

Carol showed us two wooden dolls which had been given to her when she lived in Boston and had joined in with a Quilting Group. They thought that as she was English she would know what they were, but she was equally mystified. We all examined the armless, period dressed ladies and came up with various thoughts from lace making bobbins, Amish woodworking or simply just beautifully lathed, tactile ornaments.

Linda had recently been on a fantastic holiday to China and visited the Three Gorge Dam. The peasant locals living simple lives had all been forcibly rehoused in very high rise flats to make way for the Dam that had taken 10 years of 24 hour pouring of concrete. It has successfully provided energy for the area and paid for itself. She had some humorous anecdotes to relate as to how the Chinese did not understand our manners and frequently came out with not quite accurate statements.

Anne had brought a very small girl’s shoe which was discovered in her chimney twenty two years ago, hanging on a hook, with a piece of paper from previous owners explaining they had found it in the rafters. The house has been added onto throughout time, but the chimney was made with stone taken from Dunkeswell Abbey. Anne had researched the custom of putting either a shoe or item of clothing within the makings of buildings. It is thought that it was often a child’s shoe, the child being pure of spirit, to ward off the Devil. There is a Museum in Norfolk which has undertaken to record findings. Shoes are especially used as a lucky talisman and a sign of wealth. This is also why shoes are traditionally tied to the back of a wedding car.

Margaret told us of her strict Victorian Grandmother who had worked in large country estates and in her words ‘seen it all’, at the weekend Shooting Parties. The Grandmother was very strict with Margaret and used to tie a strip of wood to her back and head to encourage a straight back. Her Grandmother maintained that if you had to shop more than once a week, you were not a good Manager and to demonstrate how they did it in those days Margaret displayed a wooden board with essential items printed on it and a tiny flick peg by each item. When the time came to replenish an item the flick peg would be turned over to display the red side.

Another Grandmother story was shared by Lynda. She produced four crystal balls of equal small size. Lynda explained these sat on her Grandmother’s narrow 1930’s tiled fireplace. When her friends came round, she would tell their fortunes by the aid of the balls three stuck together side by side and the fourth on top. Being a typical curious girl, whilst her Grandmother was out room, Lynda picked them up. To her horror she dropped them and they separated. To her everlasting regret Lynda never owned up, just quietly putting them back on the mantelpiece. So much did her dishonesty trouble her that when her Grandmother died she asked if she could have them and still to this day they remind her to be honest

Hemyock Castle was then brought into the discussion by Ruth, who lives nearby. She has seen various occupants live there. Firstly farmers, then university folk, who tried to farm and shared two teats each whilst milking the cow, to the present owners Captain Shepherd and family. They had a Phillipina lady work for them, who Ruth got to know well. When her visa ran out she had to return to the Philippines but often returned on holiday with gifts of pineapples and rice. She lost everything in the Tsunami and the Hemyock villagers all clubbed together to send money towards replacing her son’s boat. He named it Hemyock Castle.

Continuing with a Chinese theme Helen showed us a two inch high statue of a green horse with dark mane. She explained the set of eight horses, all with different stances had been sent to her Mother by her brother who was away with the Royal Engineers. A complete collection is thought to be very valuable. Unfortunately, although well packed each of the eight horses was damaged in one way or another. As the family rarely saw Helen’s brother, a gift was very precious, despite the disappointment of the damage.

Car Boots can indeed produce treasure and Mickey bought along two small prints from one such outing. Not thinking much of them she displayed them because she liked them. Then on a whim she thought she would find out more about them and was thrilled to learn they were original drawings by Arthur Packham the Illustrator of Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland. Now beautifully framed they take pride of place on her wall. 

As you can see from the above The Clayhidon Friends Group have many enjoyable evenings either making our own entertainment at the Parish Hall or jaunts out, or welcoming some very interesting Speakers. We warmly welcome new members and any who are interested in joining our meetings the second Thursday each month please contact Anne Langford on 01823 680086.

Lynda Ridout

Clayhidon Friends
a group which welcomes local
women for friendship.
Meetings are held on the second Thursday in the month at Clayhidon Parish hall, 7.15pm, with a varied programme.
We arrange outings and hold fund-raising activities for our charity of the year. 
The annual subscription is £18, and guests are very welcome.
Contact: Anne Langford, tel 680086.