Thursday, 29 November 2012

Christmas is coming

It's that time of year again! Stay calm and shop local's what I say. Here's a couple of ideas for where to go for unique gifts, locally made....

TOP IMAGE: Mandy Evans (Buttons & Lavender, Louise Taylor-Bowen (Tiddly pom-pom) and Cathie Shannon (Mary's Orchard) are makers of handmade and unique Vintage Style Jewellery, Hair Accessories, Corsages, Necklaces, Bags, Lavender filled Birds, Hens, Hearts and Butterflies...buttons, materials, trims and many more decorative items available.
Vintage & Handmade, The Old Warehouse Studio (next to Mortimer Gardens) Nailsworth
Open Fri and Sat Dec 7th and 8th and Sat Dec 22nd Old Warehouse Studio

BOTTOM IMAGE: Modern Leisure makers market is a pop up event happening for the first time this winter, in Stroud. Join them and peruse a plethora of unique goods crafted by local artists and designers, whilst enjoying live music and a range of delicious locally prepared food and drink.
Modern Leisure pop-up event Badbrook Hall, Bath St. Stroud GL5 3BZ
Open Fri Nov 30th (6-10 pm), Sat & Sun 1st - 2nd Dec, Sat & Sun 8th-9th Dec Modern Leisure

....and don't forget Stroud Goodwill Evening on December 7th when you will be asked to DIG out your hippie flares and get down man as this year it has a late 1960s flower power theme. As usual traders will be joining in with 60s themed shop windows and there will be a treasure trail for the youngsters.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Use it or lose it!

It was a dispiriting trip into Nailsworth the other day. 

Opening its doors for the last time at the end of November is Nailsworth IronmongersRun by Gordon and Debbie, this wonderful emporium is a distillation of the seasons. In January it would be my first port of call for heritage varieties of seed potatoes and onion sets. By spring I’d be in to buy new buckets and lids for making elderflower champagne and cordial (the old ones having been commandeered by my other half for home brew projects of his own or as rhubarb forcers). It’s May and we’d need citronella tealights and mozzie repellant for long al fresco evenings (well - a few this year anyway). Autumn welcomed the jam and jelly makers and Gordon was there with maslin pans, kilner jars, thermometers and jelly bags. And in Winter we were back for a new galvanised dustbin incinerator along with our regular supply of bird seed to help our feathered friends, plus we’d brought our broken tools (a spade and fork with broken shafts) that we felt still had life in them to the ‘NI hospital’ for a little tlc from whence they’re returned as good as new.

Gordon prides himself on selling loose items rather than large packets. If he doesn’t have what you are looking for, he will know a man who does - and he’ll give you his name and number! And that’s what we’re really going to miss...the sort of service you simply don’t get any more in our bigger, more impersonal stores. It may be a cliché but, 'You don’t know what you have till it’s gone' is soon going to ring true to a lot of people.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Look what we made!

It was probably the last glorious sunny day of the year. You could definitely feel autumn in the air though when we set out. The mist was hanging in the valley, gossamer cobwebs dripped with dew and we prayed the weather would hold good for the next 8 hours. We arrived at Day's Cottage at about 9 o'clock. There were to be 5 of us on the dry stone walling course that day. Mark (our tutor) had spent the previous day making sure there was a gamut of tools and piles and piles of different sized and coloured stone. There were picks and shovels, buckets, hammers of every conceivable shape, tools for spitting stone, tools for dressing stone and a pair of shears (I quickly discovered what these were for upon bending over whilst laying foundation stones and getting rudely stung on the backside by nettles)

We began by marking out the wall, then started digging the foundations. Then it got interesting - laying our first stones. As each layer was laid down we slowly learnt the ancient art of dry stone walling. It was like doing a giant 3-D jigsaw. You had to complete each layer before moving onto the next which meant in-filling to lend support to the exterior structure. We learnt which stones complimented others, not to align the stones vertically, to make sure the structure always tapered towards the top and to ensure each stone placed didn't lean into the wall where water might drain inside rather than run off.

In no time at all we'd laid our base on a gentle curve about 20 foot long and it was lunch time. We ate in the beautiful 12-sided canvas roofed outdoor workshop nestled amongst old orchards, but we only stopped long enough to refuel - we were all too absorbed in the project to stop for long.

There was no way we were going to be able to complete the wall in a day but by jove we had a jolly good go! Just look at what we achieved! For more information on courses or dry stone walling contact Day's Cottage on 01452 813602 or call Mark Stevenson on 0799 094 7934

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Outdoor pursuits

Learn a new skill!
Ever wondered how our beautiful dry stone walls are made to fit together so neatly like some neolithic jigsaw? Well, here's your chance to find out. Mark Stevenson is doing a one day course at Days Cottage Orchard Centre in Brookethorpe. Bring a packed lunch and sturdy boots. £30 per person. Be warned - book early as places are limited. Telephone: Mark Stevenson on 0799 0947934 
or email:

Down to Earth Co-operative is looking for enthusiastic volunteers to join them in harvesting local fruit and nuts So if you enjoy fresh air and good company, why not join us out and about in our glorious countryside? Days will vary to suit the weather, transport can be provided.
For more information ring us on 01453 700011 or email

Thursday, 19 July 2012

My kingdom for a horse: Part Deux

As I continue on the sharp learning curve that is making rocking horses I'm in awe of everyone at Tetbury Rocking Horse Works. This is no production line - we all have to know the skills required for every step of the process.

Step 1: Multiple shoulders cut out with the bandsaw
Step 2: My 'bodies' (hollowed and made from 3 rectangular wood pieces with square 'ends' attached to the legs) have been glued together, the heads attached. Having successfully created the basic angular bodies for several 'steeds'we make sure the shoulders fit exactly - we don’t want to have to ‘fill’ and any pockets of air will weaken the horse. Shoulders are glued onto the body.
Step 3: A pile of rocking horses waiting for me to glue the shoulders in position.
Step 4: Shoulders clamped firmly in place. These will be left to ‘set’ overnight.
Step 5: I now start cutting out muscles with the jigsaw for forequarters and hindquarters which, with their overlap of the leg/body join, will help make the horses stronger.
Step 6  These are then carefully glued into place (making sure the right muscles are at the front and back!) and clamps applied to ensure there's no air left between joints and the pieces are in exactly the right positions.

My next lesson will be in 'turning' to make the beautiful carved posts that the safety rockers are supported on. Fingers crossed (if I still have them) that I don't muck it up! Watch this space....

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Crown jools

If you've ever fancied making your own jewellery but didn't want to commit yourself to weeks of evening classes or long courses, here's your chance to learn new skills at Summer School classes and make your own pieces using a variety of techniques. There are just a few places left on the workshops including one where both adults and children can participate.  The tutor, Tamsin Leighton-Boyce is  an artist/maker who works with metals and recycled material. To see examples of her work check out her blog -

Saturday, 30 June 2012

My kingdom for a horse

I’m only now beginning to realise just how labour intensive it really is making a rocking horse. Steve and Bea (my tutors and mentors) from Tetbury Rocking Horse Works have been in the business for 30 years and are, very kindly and patiently, passing on their skill and knowledge to me. They make it all look soooo easy. I’ve tried to document the days I’ve spent so far putting this knowledge and skill into practice, so here goes....

Step 1: Using the template, mark up in pencil the outline of the components for each horse....head, legs and body. On the head, using a bradawl, mark eye and bit positions where indicated. Note the letter ‘A’ on the plank - this is the size horse I’m have to match all the body parts or you’ll be in trouble!
Step 2: Using a power drill create a cylindrical hole at the bit position.
Step 3: Note how the template is positioned to give minimum wastage when cutting multiples for a large order.
Step 4: Using a bandsaw I cut the outline of the horse head. Steve drew gently curving lines on waste bits of wood for me to practice on. Power tools like this are completely foreign to me. ‘Imagine you’re driving a car and you’re approaching a bend.’ Steve said, ‘You don’t drive right up to the bend, then turn. Start going into the curve before you reach it.’
It took me all morning practicing before the eureka moment kicked in and I stopped going ‘off line’ as Steve called it.
Step 5: Completing cutting the mouth out.
Steps 6, 7 and 8: We move onto the jigsaw for the tighter curves under the horse’s chin. First I used the power drill again to make a cylindrical hole between the neck and jaw as the curve there was just too tight even for the jigsaw. Then I clamped the head to a base to leave both hands free to guide the saw round (what were to me) complex curves. Again Steve set me to practice on waste bits of wood with ‘S’ shaped curves drawn on them. This time it felt much more natural since I’d practiced so much with the bandsaw.
Steps 9, 10 and 11: Shows how the horse’s head looks now the mouth/jaw is complete.
Step 12: The legs have been cut out using the same tools I’ve used on the head. The top of the legs have been cut at an angle of 15 degrees as have the indents to fix the legs to on the body base. This will create the ‘splayed’ legs that will fit over the ‘rocker’. Note the F(ront) and R(ear) pencilled onto the body base. It’s terribly easy to attach the wrong legs to the wrong end! I’ve marked in pencil the screw hole positions on the legs -I checked and re-checked the screw positions and still nearly attached a leg incorrectly. Front and back can look awfully similar to the uninitiated.
Step 13: Clamp the base to a workbench.  Drill screw holes at a 15 degree angle (parallel to the cut of the leg) in position and paint the inside and top of the leg with PVA glue. Position the leg to the body base and screw in tightly. This requires some pressure and the screwhead needs to be indented into the wood (not stand proud at all).
Step 14: All four legs correct and in place. 
Step 15: You can see the splay of the legs at this angle. I’m so proud, yet we’ve barely started.

Future stages will be posted as each part of the project is completed, but for now I need to get rid of a ton of sawdust and shavings that seem to have formed a rather fetching hoodie that goes right down to cover my boots!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Big Lunch

Well it may not have been the sunniest day of the year but we had a massive turnout for the Big Lunch here in Amberley. Even if not everyone in our village was interested in the Jubilee, this was a rare chance to meet the neighbours and for the kids to play together in a safe environment which really helps to build community spirit. Just in case the weather was unkind the lunch itself was moved from the school green to inside Trinity Church (upstairs and down) - a very wise move as it turned out. Coronation Chicken and trifle were on the 'set menu' and no amount of rain could dampen everyone's spirits. Congratulations to all those who put in so much time and effort to make this the huge success it was. Our thanks also to Nicholas Bechgaard for all the wonderful photos shown here. Have a look at our amazing Diamond Jubilee party at the link below. 

 click here for link to event Amberley Big Lunch

Friday, 1 June 2012

Celebrating in style

Our Summer issue is out now and wouldn't you know it - just because we've got a feature on cooling summer drinks, the sunshine's disappeared! But everywhere I look there's bunting and balloons and people getting ready for the Jubilee matter what the weather, let's celebrate our local communities getting together and letting rip! (See below for details)


Stroud Valleys Artspace, Stroud Disco Sucks underground disco music plus lights, smoke and patriotic projections. 9pm to 3am. Tickets £5 from Trading Post or £7 on the night.
Whiteshill Playing Field music, attractions, stalls, competitions, barbecue and more. Teas, cakes and icecreams available at the village shop. 2pm to 6pm.
Frampton-on-Severn Street Party Phillimore Gardens. 2pm to 8pm.
King's Head Kingscourt, Rodborough live music featuring Four King Hell, Flee, Rollin' Sixes, Lost Monkey and Three Kicks. Entry free. From 6pm.
The George, Newmarket, Nailsworth right Royal Jubilee cabaret featuring John Broomhall at the piano with Andy Janik singing songs from 50s. Free entry. 8.30pm.
St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, Nympsfield Jubilee Fair. Fairground rides, Punch and Judy, stalls with a Royal theme. 9am to 3pm.


Minchinhampton High Street Jubilee street party with two life-size cardboard cut-out figures of the Queen. Bring and share lunch, activities, noon to 3pm. Ceilidh with fireworks finale, 7pm.
Villa Field, off Selsley Road, Woodchester Big Lunch parish picnic. Bring your own picnic, with games and live 50s music. Children's king and queen parade and adults can dress up in 50s style. Bring-and-buy cake stall and raffle. Family games and a tug of war between North and South Woodchester. Live music from two bands playing tunes from the 50s and later. Diamond Queen steam engine and showman's caravan. Noon to 4pm.
Under the Edge Arts, Chipping Hall, Wotton-under-Edge drop-in children's craft workshop. £3 per child. 10am to 4pm.
Holy Trinity Church, Amberley Celebration Service, 10am. Followed by The Big Lunch on the school green, noon. £6, £3 children.
Uley Village Hall Rock'n'Roll evening with Rhythm Slicks and DJ Simon Flintstone. Bar, 50s dress optional. Prize for best dressed male and female. 7.30pm. £9.


King's Stanley Jubilee Celebration. Starts Marling Close with a pageant by Stanley Players, then grand procession to the church, followed by a children's fancy dress competition. Bouncy castle, barbecue, beer tent, WI refreshments, King's Stanley Band, stalls and games. 2pm to 5pm.
St Mary's Church, Fretherne Grand Plant Sale and Crafts Fair. Plants, locally-produced jewellery, ceramics, turned wooden bowls and stained glass lanterns, wooden toys, handmade chocolates, local honey, farmhouse icecream and cheese. 10am to 4pm.
Conygres, Wotton-under-Edge Diamond Jubilee music festival. Bar and BBQ. Tickets from Ladies' Circle, Bear Street Garage, Paper and Cotton. 6pm to 10pm.
Eastington Community Centre and Owen Harris Memorial Ground Royal Diamond Jubilee Fun Day. Noon until 5pm.
Bisley Soapbox Derby from High Street to the wells. 10am to noon.
Arkell Centre, Nailsworth Jubilee Fun Day. Unicycling, stilt-walking, magic show, balloons and music. Burgers, hot dogs and icecreams. Noon to 2pm. Afternoon tea and cakes, 3pm.
1 Marling Close, Amberley Royal Garden Party. 2.30pm to 4.30pm.


Box Village Green Diamond Jubilee Celebrations. 4pm.
Stratford Park, Stroud Picnic Party in the Park. Bring a picnic and join the old fashioned fun and games outside the Museum in the Park. 11am to 4pm.
Throughout Jubilee weekend:
Nailsworth Garden Centre tips on Jubilee planting with patriotic baskets, tubs and containers.
National Arboretum, Westonbirt bring a picnic and bunting. Fun activity sheets for children. £8, £7 concessions, £3 under-fives. 8am to 8pm.
Under the Edge Arts, Chipping Hall, Wotton-under-Edge Jubilee Art Exhibition from Saturday to Tuesday. Work by pupils from local schools depicting themes from the past 60 years.
Cromhall Treasure Hunt. £5 a team.
Woodchester Mansion open Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Regular guided tours and tea shop will be open. On Tuesday, traditional English teas will be served in the drawing room. Minibus from car park.
All Saints' Chruch, Bisley display of flowers, arts and crafts and memorabilia from Coronation.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Of radishes and kings

Good grief...I blinked and Spring had turned into Summer. We seem to have a glut of 'cut and come again' salad leaves and the radishes have grown to extraordinary proportions. I'm not complaining (natch), but there's a mass of jobs to do now that the warmer weather's arrived. Net your fruit bushes at the first sign of ripening, remove unwanted shoots from raspberries, put straw round strawberries and de-slug, de-slug, deslug as often as possible. Sweet corn, runner beans and French beans sown in pots in early May will be ready to plant out in June. Sow cucumber, marrow and melon seeds as well as rows of lettuce seeds in fortnightly intervals to keep your table well stocked with salad leaves over Summer.
Now sit back, chill and gird your loins for the next onslaught of slugs!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Spring is in the air!

The daffodils stand tall amongst the woods alongside carpets of delicate indigo bluebells and, covering every unadorned square foot of woodland floor, wild garlic spills its starry white flowers. There's nothing quite like crushing the leaves underfoot and capturing a whiff of that heady garlic aroma. After a recent walk I picked a basket of wild garlic leaves and followed forager Rupert Burdock's recipe for wild garlic pesto....there's nothing quite like it, so simple and simply delish!


100g fresh wild garlic leaves, 
50g fresh goosegrass, 
100g pinenuts, lightly toasted
50g grated parmesan cheese
100ml olive oil (plus extra to top up)
Juice of half a lemon
salt and ground black pepper

Wash and chop the leaves. Place all the ingredients in a blender and blitz. To keep, place in sterilised kilner jars. Press down firmly with the back of a spoon to ensure there’s no air left in the mixture. Top up with olive oil to cover and seal the surface.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Shop Local!

The last few days have brought it home to me - just how lucky we are to have a 'village store'. I've been so busy I just didn't have time to go to town, park and shop. So it was a real pleasure to be able to get my whole week-end's provisions at the Amberley stores literally a five minute walk away. For a while we thought we were going to lose this little gem when Jean retired, but Kevin stepped up and lo, we're back in business. Now the store stocks organic bread from Sunshine, fresh fruit and veg from World Foods, local meat from Taylors in Minchinhampton, plus gorgeous speciality breads like focaccia and fougasse (made locally in Minch). Kevin also has a range of small independent producer's goods such as delicious honeycomb, glorious gooey cheeses from Woefuldane and Kitchen Garden and Selsley preserves. The focaccias disappear almost as soon as they're delivered, so, if you're keen to try something different, it's a good idea to order these. Taking into account the cost of driving to Stroud or Nailsworth, never mind the impulse shopping involved with going to a supermarket, I reckon I came out squids ahead.

Monday, 23 January 2012

New Year, new leaf

Determined to start the New Year as I meant to go on I joined a like-minded group of fellow locals on a forage yesterday with Rupert Burdock. It was a magical day - a three hour walk, followed by an amazing meal. I honestly didn't think we'd find very much given the season, but Rupert is a fount of knowledge and we found a basketful of a variety of delicious mushrooms along with a glorious array of herbs and 'greens'. A highly recommended activity for all the family which I'll be doing again in the not too distant future!

Top: Oyster mushrooms   Below: A blewit