December 2015



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8th December


Looking for an unusual Christmas present for the history lover in your life? Then let me recommend some music from this wonderfully-named band, The Legendary Ten Seconds (see left).


Recently I was fortunate enough to be contacted by singer/songwriter Ian Churchward, and presented with a CD from his trilogy about Richard III (below left, complete with free beermat; the other albums are called Loyaulte me lie and Tant le desieree). I can honestly say I've never heard anything quite like it. The music is a folk-flavoured, melodious mix of medieval and modern instruments with some lovely soaring guitar passages; the lyrics, from the first track 'Sheriff Hutton' to the last, 'How Do You Rebury a King', tell Richard's story; and the catchy songs are interspersed with narrative - historical mini-lectures on various aspects of his life. It's very different - an extremely interesting listen - and reminds me of a cross between Jethro Tull and one of the great classic concept albums like 'The War of the Worlds'.


So I thoroughly enjoyed it - and if you fancy trying it yourself or giving it as a Christmas gift, you can order the CDs for £10; they're also available as digital downloads (you can hear samples and find full purchasing details on the band's website). Very aptly, a percentage of the profits go towards the scoliosis charity S.A.U.K, around £700 having been donated to date - so as well as snagging some good music, your purchase will support a good cause and help people with the same condition that Richard III suffered from.


Alternatively, if you'd like to hear a live performance, you can catch The Legendary Ten Seconds in concert at the York House Centre in Stony Stratford on 20th February 2016; tickets are £5 and must be pre-booked either by email or by phone on 07957 157273.


Meanwhile if you order a CD from the band's website before Christmas, you'll receive this delightful free gift (see right): a Ricardian Christmas Special CD put together for friends and fans. The front cover image of Middleham Castle by moonlight is painted by Francis Quinn, and the gold angel on the back (like the beermat image) is by Graham Moore. The 11 tracks include reprisals of songs which appear elsewhere; I particularly liked the opening track, 'Middleham Castle on Christmas Eve', and the acoustic version of 'Richard Liveth Yet.' (You can also download it from CD Baby on


And talking of Christmas presents, remember you can order signed copies of any Herstory publications directly from me by emailing [email protected]!

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16th December


What a difference twelve months can make! It's only just over a year since we took on management of the plots of land at Newmillerdam, and in that time they've changed almost beyond recognition. The image above left shows our smaller plot, Beckside, last winter - picturesque in its way but frankly a mess, full of rubbish and massively overgrown with brambles and bindweed. Below left shows what the same area looks like now: a nursery orchard containing 25 newly-planted apple trees ordered from the specialist supplier Adam's Apples - a mixture of eaters, cookers and cider apples including some ancient varieties dating back to the 17th century, growing on a fresh sward of 'grazing mix' grass (which we hope, one day, will be grazed by a pair of geese!). The trees are all 'first-year maidens' with no side branches - so Hubcap has just spent a happy afternoon pruning off the tips to make them grow into a proper branching shape. We won't be seeing fruit any time soon, but I look forward to our first harvest - I'm sure it'll be well worth the wait.


Mick is also cock-a-hoop because he's just had a successful meeting with Wakefield Council's Tree Officer about his plans for the land. Because this is a conservation area, trees can't be felled willy-nilly - one has to have permission to do so, or face a fine or prosecution. But when the officer saw how well and carefully Beckside was being looked after, its great transformation from a piece of tatty scrubland to a properly-managed woodland garden, and the sheer number and range of trees we've planted to compensate for any that have to be taken down, he was so impressed that he agreed to all Mick wanted to do (and more). This means that he can start coppicing - in other words, cutting trees down to ground level to produce small timber for firewood and other uses, then controlling their re-growth - a type of woodland management which hasn't been carried out in this area for many decades. Result!


30th December - Happy New Year!


In my last post of 2016, here's hoping that you had a Merry Christmas unmarred by the dreadful storms and floods which have made this year's festive season so dark and wet. On the left, you can see how Hubcap and I spent a grey, dreary Christmas morning - giving the resident ducks, geese and gulls of Kettlethorpe Lake and Newmillerdam Country Park a little treat before the heavy rain set in again, and in the process working up an appetite for lunch. (Ironically, this featured a roast containing - yes, you guessed it - duck and goose!). Despite the rotten weather we had a lovely time, and as well as something for the local wildlife, I did my bit for the environment by spending an hour litter-picking in the alley and woods by our house, which made me feel very virtuous!


But my main news to close the old year is that the new one will see me embark on a new business venture, (in some ways a logical extension of Herstory writing and public speaking services), as a National Federation of Funeral Directors funeral celebrant.

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On the right you can see me receiving my training certificate from Dr. Geoff Gardner on 17th December; and my new service, which includes supplying SafeHands funeral plans, is now up and running with its own website and Facebook page. It may not be the most cheerful of areas to work in - but having had the honour of delivering eulogies at two family funerals and conducting the service for a dear friend who died in October, it's one I feel privileged to move into. And on that rather sobering note, let me wish you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous 2016!