January 2018




11th January        HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Welcome to 2018 - and I'm pleased to start my news updates for the new year by reporting that 2017 ended on a positive note for us and our local Wars of the Roses heritage site, Sandal Castle. On 30th December, the 557th anniversary of the Battle of Wakefield was commemorated with a very special event conceived and organised by our fellow Kettlethorpe resident, Sharon Whittaker of the Harrington Household. Re-enactors from the Harrington, TBS Frei Compagnie, Clifford and Sir John Savile’s households marched in period costume from Wakefield Cathedral to Sandal Castle via the bridge chapel where Edmund, Earl of Rutland was murdered by John, Lord Clifford of Craven on 30th December 1460, and Manygates Lane, where the Earl’s father Richard, Duke of York fell in battle on that same day. The parade was led by Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield, (left) and followed by around 100 members of the public who observed the prayers and wreath-laying carried out at the chapel and Duke of York’s monument before taking part in a short service conducted by the Bishop outside the former Visitor Centre, now the excellent and very successful Castle Café (see below).


My role was to help staff, and sell my books from, the Friends of Sandal Castle (FoSC) gazebo. However, when Hubcap and I arrived to help set up, we found several Friends struggling to erect it in the gale-force wind; and when we realised that it was more likely to function as a hang-glider than a gazebo, we abandoned the plan! Luckily, the kind proprietor allowed us to set up shop in the café foyer, where I spent a pleasant day with FoSC Secretary Janine Heseltine and other Friends, drinking tea, eating cake, chatting to visitors, handing out literature and selling our wares. I was delighted to make £65 in sales of my two Battle of Wakefield publications – and to present a copy of 'Wakefield Revisited' to the Bishop, who very kindly invited me to speak about the battle later this year at one of the monthly Bishops’ Breakfast meetings held at the Cathedral. I feel very honoured (if rather nervous) at the prospect, and look forward to fixing the date in my diary. (Cont'd below images).


The Bishop with my book (a picture I never thought to see!)

The event was a credit to all the stalwart re-enactors who (unlike me!) braved the weather all day, and in some cases travelled long distances to take part (the Harringtons’ vintner drove all the way from Suffolk). It concluded with some show & tell and a bill-drill, and seemed to be well-received by the public despite the bitter cold, passing showers and strong wind (precursor to Storm Eleanor!). So we’re very grateful to Sharon, her husband Lee and the rest of the Harrington Household for making it happen, and hope it will be repeated – especially since Wakefield Council have voted to spend £700,000 on much-needed improvement works at Sandal Castle, beginning with the recent installation of a ‘kissing-gate’ to prevent unauthorised motorcycle access to the site. An excellent start to 2018 – let’s hope it continues in the same vein!

DSCN4575 DSCN4585 DSCN4579 earnshaws



One of my pet hates is litter – so one of the best things about my new gardening career is the opportunity I get to clean it up! Although I deplore the necessity to clear up after lazy, irresponsible, careless people, I love to care for the environment by properly disposing of the trash they chuck everywhere, and salvaging materials for recycling; on one city-centre job last week, I collected three full sacks of plastic and glass bottles and aluminium cans to recycle, (and that was only the tip of the iceberg, I’m sad to say). Even when I’m not working, these days I seldom walk anywhere without a pair of rubber gloves and a couple of bin-bags in my pocket so that I can litter-pick on my way home – it might only be a small personal endeavour but it makes me feel I’m doing my bit against the terrible tide of waste that threatens the future of Planet Earth and every living creature on it.


So it was shocking to realise how much Hubcap and I had slipped into this awful throw-away plastic culture – but having realised, one of our main resolutions for 2018 is to cut down our plastic waste to the absolute minimum. It isn’t easy. A massive range of products, including staples like bread and vegetables, are packaged in single-use, non-biodegradable, non-recyclable plastic, with the worst offenders being the more processed foods - even 'ethical' wholefoods like Cauldron tofu and falafels, which I love but no longer feel able to buy).




Beat supermarket waste: support local High Street shops!

Luckily there are alternatives, and here are 10 changes I’ve made recently to cut down our plastic consumption:

1. No more shrink-wrapped or plastic-bagged produce. I’ll only buy supermarket fruit and veg if I can get it loose in re-usable poly bags; otherwise I go to Blacker Hall Farm Shop or Earnshaw’s in Horbury, a lovely traditional greengrocer’s shop.  

2. No more pouched cat-food - Henry Wowler now eats food from recyclable tins (saves 7 pouches per week).

3. No more hummus in single-use containers. I’m making my own from tinned chick-peas, fresh lemon and garlic, olive oil, tahini and whatever seasonings I fancy, all squished together – it’s quick, simple and works out a lot cheaper than supermarket ready-made (saves 2 containers per week).

4. No more single-serving yoghurts for Hubcap’s lunch.  I’m experimenting with home-made: one small pot of plain live yoghurt in one litre of milk, kept at body temperature until it thickens. So far I’ve only achieved drinking yoghurt consistency, but the flavour is good so I’m persevering until I get it to set (saves 4 pots per week)!

5. No more single-serving snack packs for our lunchboxes. Instead I’m buying large bags of dried fruit, nuts, seeds and cooked pulses to decant into re-usable containers (saves c. 10 packs per week).

6. No more over-priced, over-packaged, additive-packed gluten-free snacks for Hubcap – or even the lovely healthy cold-pressed raw bars we both love. I’m back to batch-baking nutritious, gluten-free flapjacks, cakes and biscuits from scratch (saves c. 12 individual wrappers per week).

7. No more bottled spring water for Henry Wowler – he’ll get rainwater from the butt from now on!

8. No more plastic bags of anti-bacterial wipes for cleaning, or plastic bottles of hand-wash. I’ve returned to using a solution of good old-fashioned disinfectant in a re-usable spray bottle, with good old washable cloths - and good old-fashioned soap, which is anti-bacterial in itself (saves several plastic bags/1 plastic bottle per month).

9. No more plastic bags of plastic sandwich bags for lunchtime butties – now wrapping in waxed paper or recyclable aluminium foil (saves up to 10 bags per week).

10. Wherever possible, I’m choosing products in easily recyclable containers (cans, cardboard boxes, glass jars/bottles).

None of this has been particularly hard, difficult or expensive – it just takes a bit more thought and a few minor changes to our household routines – and I certainly feel happier for making more effort to protect the environment! So why not give it a go and add some of these to your list of New Year resolutions?


Back to basics: L - R, making yoghurt in a Kilner jar to decant into re-usable cups; home-made hummus with the main ingredients; eco-friendly cleaning spray and a washable cloth.