Chittlehamholt Chit-Chat

A section for interesting articles (and entertainments)
about the local area
Articles always wanted!
please e-mail Helen 
(scroll down to view)

  • 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (No not that one... another one!) by Helen Hollick 
  • Tales From A Chittlehamholt Wood #3 :Aliens... Bluebells that is! by Charles Moberly
  • Barn Owl Video by Kathy Hollick Blee
  • As I was going to St Ives a guest post by Hilary Melton-Butcher
  • Tales From A Chittlehamholt Wood #2 : Squelch! by Charles Moberly
  • Misty, Frosty Mornings and Fresh-Air Friday by Helen Hollick
  • The Peace of the Countryside by Helen Hollick
  • Tales From A Chittlehamholt Wood #1 : Autumn by Charles Moberly
  • The Archers by Helen Hollick
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'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (No not that one, another night, another Christmas...)   by Helen Hollick
* is an extra verse which I cut from the Carol Service as I thought it slightly inappropriate for a Church-based service

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the Village,
Came a bluster of Pirates hoping to plunder and pillage.

They went straight to the church, for they had been told,
That’s where they would find the silver and gold.

Maurice tripped over a gravestone and Max fell foul of a bramble,
But nursing their scratches, up the path they did amble.

They hammered and banged on the stout wooden door,
Then hammered and banged and thumped a bit more.
But the door was locked tight, it would not budge
Even though they gave it just one more nudge.

They all looked quite glum, 
So reached for the rum,
But the bottle was empty, which made them sadder still,
For where could they find a decent re-fill?

 “The Pub!” Norman cried, “The Exeter Inn!”
So off they all ran – making a hullabaloo din.
But the tavern was in darkness, all barred and locked.
They rapped on the door, and then once again knocked.

They peered through the windows then round the back they did duck.
The Captain cussing at this run of bad luck,
 “Scuppers, bulwarks, gunwales and Fu…”
(now, now, I don’t know what word you were thinking of using, 
but the Captain said Futtock – which is part of the ships’ rigging... and much more amusing.) *

At each cottage they came to, they peered inside,
Until at last, Mary did confide:
“No one’s in, they’re all out.”
Reluctantly agreeing, Ron nodded – that’s Ronald the bald, not Ronald the Stout.

So back up they lane they all did tramp.
It started to rain, and they got a bit damp.
“Hark?” said Bos'n Gerald, putting a hand to his ear.
“Be that singing” he said, “that I hear?”

Feeling more optimistic they broke into a run,
Laughed Dave heartily, “Oi mates, this could be fun!”

They came to the shop, but did not stop, 
Burst through the low entrance straight into the Hall 
Big Tim crying ‘ouch’ – well, he was somewhat tall.
“No quarter!” they cried as they ran inside,
(Apart from Tim who had dented his pride)

The singing did cease, and everyone looked cross,
“What’s the meaning of this” said the village’s boss
 (the Parish Council Chair: so pirate beware!)

“We’re ‘ere fer the rum” laughed the Captain with a sneer.
“Oh,” said Roz Wright, “but we’ve only got beer.”

“We do have coffee and tea” said Anne with glee.
“And cake and mincepies” smiled Barbara, with twinkling eyes.

Well that changed their mind,
 For they were pirates of a most contrary kind.
They sampled the sandwiches, cheese, ham and fish paste
Then tried out the fruitcake – which they gobbled in haste.

They joined in with the carols and the whole Christmas cheer,
Until the moon rose into the sky, high and clear.
Said the Captain reluctant, giving the villagers a bow
“I’m sorry my friends, but we gotta leave now.”
So they kissed and they hugged and wished each other goodnight,
And the pirates did board their ship... and sailed out of sight.

Now, that chap dressed all in red,
You know, the one who leaves presents at the end of the bed?

You think you hear him shout ‘ho ho ho’ when he’s out and about,
But no my friends, you’ve got it all wrong!
For what he calls when he’s driving his reindeer along
Is a hearty verse from a piratical song.

What Father Christmas delivers, you’ll be surprised to know,
Is a roguish ‘Arrr! and a jolly “Yo, ho!”

So listen carefully and you just might

Hear a shout of "Arrr Merry Christmas! Yo ho and goodnight!

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Aliens... Bluebells that is! by Charles Moberly
another in our series Tales From A Chittlehamholt Wood 
May 2016

We walked through Arshaton Wood in the evening light. The bluebells were magnificent, a carpet of the deepest blue.  These are English bluebells at their best.  But it was sad to think that, long-term, they are under threat. Why?

photo: Tony Smith
We were saddened to see more and more people growing Spanish bluebells in their gardens.  The problem is cross-pollination.  On our land, we have true English bluebells, no Spanish invaders (we grub them up and destroy them as soon as they appear) and a distressingly increasing amount of hybrids.

What’s the difference? Quite a lot, actually. It’s very easy to see the differences between Spanish bluebells and the native English ones.

Spanish are a lot paler, sky blue rather than royal blue

Spanish are much larger, both the strap-like leaves and the thicker stems

Spanish flowers hang evenly on all sides of the stems, 
unlike the English bluebells, where the flowers are on one side of the stem,
making the top bend over

from plantlife website

* Showing the difference in size between the leaves of native bluebell (left)
and Spanish bluebell (right) with a 50p for scale.
If you get down close, look at the colour of the anthers; 
these are cream in natives and a pale-blue in the Spanish.

Sniff the flowers!

You should be able to pick up a sweet aroma from the flowers of the native bluebell whilst those of the Spanish bluebell are scentless.

Hybrids are much more difficult to spot, but it is via hybridisation that the problem is insidiously spreading.  It will be a long time before pure Spanish bluebells reach our remotest woodlands, but hybridisation is already taking place.  This leads to paler, less beautiful bluebell woods.

What can you do? If you have Spanish bluebells in your garden, please destroy them by grubbing them up.  Don’t leave them on top of the compost heap, because bees will still visit the flowers and cross-pollination will occur.  If you still want bluebells in your garden, and why not, you can buy certified native seeds or bulbs from reputable wild plant suppliers.

Continue to enjoy our magnificent bluebell woods and think how they have developed over centuries before the Spanish imposter arrived.

Note from Helen: images marked * are from a very useful website where the difference between the bluebells are very clear:

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The Barn Owl photo and video by Kathy Hollick Blee

February 2016 - hunting in the field behind the Hollick's house

(spot the roe deer as well!)

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As I Was Going To St Ives
A Guest Post by Hilary of Positive Letters

Hilary Melton-Butcher
A lover of life – who after London, spent time in South Africa; an administrator, sports lover, who enjoys cooking and entertaining ... who through her mother’s illness found a new passion – writing, in particular blogging; which provides an opportunity for future exploration, by the daughter, who has (in her 3rd age years) found a love of historical education. Curiosity didn’t kill this cat – interaction is the key!

Hello Hilary - over to you!
Helen asked that I write a short article for her village blog and I’m happy to do this … 

My mother became terminally ill – living for five and a half years – she was able to communicate … and not having family I needed to have things to talk to her about … there was no way she was going to keep up with ‘life’ as such – yes, the Opening of Parliament, Wimbledon, etc – but I needed something else to stimulate her, and as it happened my father’s brother-in-law, who was local to us here in Eastbourne: hence my blog.

I now write what I think my readers would like to read … and also what I enjoy writing about to stimulate my brain.  So I use the general knowledge that I have … and curate from other sources … pulling ideas together into a post – often with quite a few threads – to keep readers happy and wanting to comment.

I have just done a trip of one night stands (sounds terrible doesn’t it!) around Devon with a foray into Cornwall accompanying a cousin of my mother’s – the family came from St Ives, Cornwall.

Jenny lives in Vancouver Island and had come over as her father’s aunt was Emily Hobhouse, who lived in St Ive, just outside Liskeard.

Emily Hobhouse
Emily was an amazing woman, and Jenny via the trunk of papers she inherited, wanted to at least give Emily a fair hearing for anyone who did some research on her. 

Emily was primarily a welfare campaigner, who came to notice of the British public in her work for the Boer women and children during the 2nd Boer War.  My blog post on Emily will go up once my tour write-up is finished ... in a few weeks.

So this trip for Jenny was a nostalgic one re her childhood, places her parents visited and lived, and also mainly Emily and her life.  There is a small exhibition in Liskeard Museum, and the Church at St Ive, with its two rectories, makes an interesting visit.

Jenny had asked I book the one night stands – just to clarify that point!! We didn’t have long … but we weren’t for wandering around … we were for seeing places Jenny wanted to see.

My write up for the tour is ambling around as I garner more information and add to the story line – Devon was not a place we, as a family, stopped in … we shot through to St Ives or latterly Penzance and the Penwith area.

It was a great opportunity to share the trip with Jenny and spend some time with her – and after my mother died, the offer of driving her round came up.  We’ve done a couple of trips now … but this is the one I wrote up in depth.

As you will see from my blog – I write about all sorts … and because it’s varied the posts suit many people (readers).  It took me a while to settle in to writing … but I do enjoy the repartee and the support all the bloggers give me, as too the extra information re the post – then the added extras of friends like Helen who pop up and take an interest.

I hope this will encourage your community to write some articles so the spread of Chittlehambolt can reach far and wide … and by commenting on other blogs, they in the age of chivalry should come by and comment back.

Good luck with developing the blog and letting the world know more about a range of subjects … either the village, the locality, its history, or by a resident writing articles on their hobbies, or a previous working life … it can be all general, with no specifics.

Well I’m leaving you now – from a wet Eastbourne ... all the best for the blog – cheers

Hilary Melton-Butcher

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Squelch! by Charles Moberly
November 2015

We’ve known worse flooding, but never the ground so saturated week after week. 

The hedge cutter came a month ago with his tractor and flail. The moment he went onto a field he sunk in and had to retreat before he became stuck. He can come back only if the ground dries out (too late for that this winter?) or if we get a really hard frost (what’s that?).

 It’s illegal to cut hedges in the Spring and Summer, rightly so, because of nesting birds. By next winter the hedges may have grown too thick to be flailed, so they would all have to be laid by hand – a delightful result but VERY expensive.  Ugh!

Our stream contains this lovely waterfall.  Did I say stream?  It’s not much more than a ditch really, and in dry summers it trickles and has even stopped flowing.  Now it proudly roars!

We’ve all got our stories of primroses and daffodils flowering in December.  The honeysuckles dropped their leaves in November, and now they’re coming into full leaf again.  

Frosts, please, hard frosts! If not, foreign bugs and diseases will survive and gain a foothold.  Roll on Spring, but can we have winter first?
(the post below of a frost... the cold snap lasted all of two days and never came back!)

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Misty Frosty Mornings and Fresh Air Friday by Helen Hollick
November 2015

There's a thread running n Twitter delegated to #FreshAirFriday ... I think this post counts as a valid contribution!

We moved to Devon almost three years ago....
and this is somewhat different to dreary Walthamstow in north east London!

Early November Morning....

Late November Morning

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The Peace and Quiet of the Countryside by Helen Hollick

Compared to our previous home, Walthamstow, North East London, the Countryside is bliss... well we did live close to the North Circular Road, the M11 Motorway and a very busy roundabout junction (which once upon a time was half the size and held the location of an old and much frequented pub.)

Noise there was primarily traffic, especially sirens - mostly police, while overhead was the stacking area for Stansted Airport. Add to that the junior and infant school opposite our house with something like 500 pupils, and the cramped housing... oh and my 'charming' neighbour who in any conversation - be it to partner, visitors, people knocking at the door, her children, or us, inserted expletives as every other word at the volume of shout. I don't think she could talk without shrieking.
Add the areas' frequent parties / fights/ loud music / TV or Radio at full blast from the other end of the street.... well, you get the picture.

Low Flying Aircraft -
not quite the same as the
 Stansted Airport Stacking Zone though!
We do get the planes and helicopters here - but who resents the Devon Air Ambulance, and even the occasional Chinook is exciting to watch (though please, National Defence, not quite so low over our orchard next time. With my impaired sight  I do worry if I can actually read the markings!) 

Here in Devon we can hear waterfalls rushing, streams babbling, trees rustling, wind gusting. The birds - so many different kinds (I love hearing the buzzards!) Sheep, cattle, the pleasant drone of tractors. Bees buzzing (OK the occasional hornet which quickly gets splatted).

We can even hear our horses in their field when the gallop about, their hooves proving that the hills really are hollow!

At night there's foxes and badgers and other things I haven't identified yet - but mostly owls. To those of you familiar with hearing owls this is probably a 'so what?' sort of thing, but believe me to an ex-townie the sound of an owl at night is fantastic!

Barn Owl
(photo Tony Smith)
(photo Kathy Hollick Blee)
There is only one noise that is irritating.
The Squirrel in the wood next door that is obviously paranoid for it screeches every morning. I expect in squirrel language it is shouting at its partner, the kids or the neighbours, inserting a few expletives here and there. 

You can't get away from noisy neighbours can you?

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Tales From A Chittlehamholt Wood by Charles Moberly
(first published October 2015)

Autumn is nearly here.  The larches will soon become golden.

Our trees have grown well.  Some fungi are welcome:

But not all.  This white fungus attacks and kills wild cherry trees:

Grey squirrels cause extensive damage, gnawing and ring-barking trees. The worst affected species seems to be field maple. Some trees are killed, others merely wounded.

But most wildlife is welcome, including roe deer, which become quite tame. The hinds drop their fawns in our woodland, but they keep them well hidden. Occasionally the hind lets out a warning bark to tell her fawn to lie still when we’re passing. If ever we should find one, we would quickly back away. We would never touch it. Fawns are sometimes orphaned by well-meaning but ignorant people who find them and think they’ve been abandoned.

Smaller creatures bring pleasure too. Can anyone identify this beautiful moth?

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The Archers by Helen Hollick

When I lived in London I was an avid BBC Radio Four Archers fan. I'd tune in every evening for that fifteen minute slot at 7pm, avidly glued to the unfolding drama of 'everyday country folk'.

Except the everyday drama was starting to become over-dramatic. What had happened to the every-day stuff of getting in the harvest, seeing to the pigs, attending the local show with the prize young bullock?
Instead, we were getting brides jilted at the altar, Brookfield (the main farm) about to be sold, torrid affairs....

Is it just me who feels this though?

I liked the Archers because it gave me a slight (OK tentative) connection with being in the country - and believe me, when you live in a place like Walthamstow, a somewhat run-down North East London Suburb, every link with fresh air and open spaces - no matter how tentative - is a pleasure!

But things started getting too unreal in the make-believe farming world. Ambridge weather seemed to be very different to what everyone else was experiencing. While England baked - Ambridge had no worries about water shortages. While England abandoned flooded houses - no one even thought about the water level of the River Am (this  despite the character Linda Snell being flooded out a few years previously.)

And then we moved to Devon. We were now in the heart of the very real thing - with an old farmhouse that used to be a dairy, 13 acres of land, our own hay-harvest and various livestock to look after. (OK the goose, ducks and chickens are pets not farmstock, but that isn't the point.)

Sad to say I gave up listening to the daily radio soap-drama. When you have the real real thing to look at out of your study window, why bother with the unreal?

Click HERE to go back to the TOP

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