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Have we found the Bedd – Part 2

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Regular readers will remember a recent blog wondering whether we had found the Bedd (grave) which gives the house and stream its name.  Well, it appears we probably hadn’t.

By chance, last week I received an e-mail from a colleague on the Brecon Beacons Local Access Forum.  He just happens to work (at the moment) for the Clwyd-Powys Archeological Trust, so I pinged a reply and asked if he could see if the Trust had any records which might give the answer.

Yes they did.  There are two possible Bronze Age round barrows on Pen Twyn Mawr, just at the top of the Nant-y-Bedd stream.  To the untutored eye they don’t look like much, and both appear to have modern stone cairns built on top of them.

Archeological site CPAT5104…

..described as:  Possible burial cairn comprising disturbed area of turf-covered stone around 4m across x 0.2m high. A modern cairn lies adjacent. 

This cairn was apparently first noted on the Ordnance Survey in 1916.

and

Archeological site CPAT65001..

..described as :  Possible cairn comprising spread of partly turf-covered stones c. 6m across x 0.2m high, lying beneath a modern cairn.

So there you have it, from the ‘horse’s mouth’ as they say, the true origin of the name.

Many thanks to Jeff Spencer and the Clwyd-Powys Archeological Trust for the info and photos.

Ferns unfurling

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I did a blog about ferns some years ago, but at this time of year they always look so spectacular as the fronds poke out from what looks like a dead lump of brown crud and slowly unfurl into the graceful leaves that persist for the rest of the year.

Here in no particular order are some shots I took late on Sunday as the sun was going down and the ferns were coming up. Hopefully the cold snap won’t affect them.

Will it really look good eventually?

 

Tight and hairy

tongues

in the grass

early birds

… OK just one more

New venture

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We’ve taken a major step this year by joining in with the Gardeners’ World Magazine 2for1 scheme.  In other words, with one of their cards, two of you get into Nant-y-Bedd for the price of just one of you!  More details are in this month’s Gardeners’ World issue which comes out today!

One of only 23 gardens in Wales, we’re in great company.  Here’s a selection of others: National Botanic Gardens of Wales (not bad for starters, eh?), Powis Castle, Veddw House, Dingle  Garden and Dyffryn Fernant.

So get out there, get your magazine and make the most of the offer!  By the way, you’ll find us on page 60 of the guide or here

For those with a photographer’s eye, the magazine is asking for your favourite shots of participating gardens to be sent in via ‘social media’ to possibly be featured in a monthly round-up of the best shots.

Have we found the Bedd in Nant-y-Bedd?

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After the tremendous storm in November last year which washed away the central part of ‘Daffydd’s Wall’,

Dafydd’s wall, as it was

All gone, after the storm.

we have finally got around to having it rebuilt, by Bruce Rogers.

Bruce’s new wall and Ian’s metal fencing

But that’s not what this is really about.

With the new wall came the opportunity to re-align the fence above it, by the maple and walnut trees.

On the weekend, I pulled out the old fence which was erected by Sue’s Dad about 25 years ago.  I have to say he did a superb job.  The wire fence itself was in first class condition and there were so many staples holding it in place that it took all of Saturday morning just to get the wire loose!  Most of the posts came out easily, but the corner one took a long time and a lot of head scratching before a solution could be found. Inserted to just over 2 feet it was a swine to get out!

The new fence is in line with the wall and so we have gained a bit of extra ‘garden’. Sorry, sheep.

When Sue started to clear the rank growth and hard rush, she came across a couple of large flat stones.  Could this be the Bedd? {Regular readers will know that the name of the house – Nant-y-Bedd – means Stream of the Grave}.   We have wondered for many years about the location of the Bedd and maybe now we’ve found it!

Trying to dig out a mass of hard rush, the spade kept hitting solid rock, just a few centimetres below the surface.  Abandoning the rush removal for a few moments, we started to strip back the soil and there it was, a perfectly flat, large stone – a grave stone?  Carrying on, we found five more big, flat stones covering an area about three yards square – a mass grave?

Mass Bedd or something else???

There seems to be some space under at least one of the stones – it sounds hollow when tapped – but I’m too superstitious to go lifting a gravestone.

We’re going to make a feature of it, maybe with a couple of seats or a bench, where visitors can sit and wonder who is beneath their feet.

Alternatively of course, it could simply be where the generator which supplied the house with electricity before the mains came was situated.  But that would be boring wouldn’t it?

Elf and Safety

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January is a time for getting matters sorted out for the coming season, and one of the things on the (long) list was finding a way to make the bridges safer, particularly after a drop of rain – not that we’ve had much of that recently as my hydro returns clearly show.

When wet, all the bridges become a bit like skating rinks – or ski jumps in the case of the rope one – as algae forms a sort of slimy but invisible surface on the timbers.  The only recourse to a safer crossing is regular scrubbing with detergent (Ecover, of course, so that the stream doesn’t get polluted by normal detergents!).  It’s hard work and time consuming and doesn’t last very long.

We thought about covering them with chicken wire, which you often see on stiles and bridges in the countryside, but rejected that idea as being potentially as hazardous as the algae in the longer term.

A lot of Google searching came up with a company that supplies, among others, the Brecon Beacons National Park. So what works for them must work for us.

A long exchange of e-mails later with the long-suffering Barry – trying to work out the best balance of cost and safety – led to four big packages arriving a week or so ago.  This meant a looong day of scrubbing before a further day or so of screwing!

Beforehand the treads on the bridges looked a bit like this..

Slippery!

Slippery!

… then on to work with the scrubber…

Before and after

Before (bottom) and after

… then on hands and knees fitting the treads.  Here’s the first two..

below the turbine house

below the turbine house

No more slipping for Indiana Jones!

No more slipping for Indiana Jones!

The one by the house however posed a bit of a problem.  The treads have a slightly raised middle, to let water run off more easily.  The width of the non-slip patches meant they didn’t secure sufficiently, so it was back on the phone to Barry who came up with a solution.  Cut the patches in half and put one on each tread rather than alternately.  He arranged to collect them, cut them and return them – all of which took only four days.

new

new “Mini-treads”

After about 650 screws – fortunately self-drilling and self-countersinking! – all was done and Oreo came to inspect.

dscf4356

Who are this wonderful company?  They are called Gripclad (www.gripclad.co.uk) and Barry was as helpful as anyone could possibly be.  Not a cheap option, but the saving in time and effort, plus the peace of mind that visitors will be safe makes it worthwhile. Hopefully it will be a scorching hot summer and they won’t be needed, but we all know what Welsh weather can be like..

Garden booze

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It’s the booze making time of year again.  It all seems to need to be done at once, so this year I’m splitting up the cider making with a bit of grape pressing.

We have had an excellent crop of Tom Putt apples (as recommended by the Marcher Apple Network) this time round – it all depends on the weather at pollination time – but we have also been given a load of what look like mainly cookers by our friend Linda.  The Tom Putt’s weighed in at just under 100lb, though it might have been a lot more if the badger hadn’t spent every night nicking the windfalls.  Linda’s weighed about the same, so we should get around 7-8 gallons in total.  I’ve also done a small amount using just crab apples, either to blend in or as a probably very dry cider.

To do it in this sort of bulk a few bits of kit are preferable.  Firstly a press and secondly a scratter.  Many moons ago I made a wonderfully efficient press, but unfortunately it got lost in the move from Kent to here – I think it got sold erroneously at the farm sale.  So this set up is from Vigo Presses.

So first set up the scratter on the press:

The full works

The full works .. with accompanying H3 tasting vessels

In go the apples, just as they come off the tree or the ground:

...not too many at a time

…not too many at a time

Turn the handle a few (well quite a lot of) times:

keep your fingers out of here when it is going round!

keep your fingers out of here when it is going round!

.. and this is what you get

ready for pressing

ready for pressing

Apply some serious effort to the screw thread and the juice flows.

Bootiful!

Bootiful!

After the juice has finished running, remove the pomace (technical term for this stuff)..

Solids 'cakes' of apple

Solid ‘cakes’ of apple …

…  which then go onto the compost heap

No waste in this process

No waste in this process

Take the pressed juice into the house and place beside the Esse for a week or so until the fermentation  (from the natural yeasts on the skins) has died down.  Depending on quantity now bottle it or store in plastic polypins which deform as the cider is drawn off, keeping air out.

Now comes the final and most difficult bit.  Sit and watch it for a month or six whilst it clears naturally and the flavour develops.

Then, as the old Wurzels song says, “Drink up ye zider, George, there’s still more in the jug”.

Grapes go very much the same way, except for killing off the natural yeasts, which are unreliable for wine, adding fresh yeast and sufficient sugar as there is rarely enough in home grown grapes to make a sufficiently robust wine that will keep.

Another great crop this year of the red, but virtually nothing on the white again.  Its days may be numbered!

Plenty of low hanging fruit

Plenty of low hanging fruit

just over 35lbs ready for the press

just over 35lbs ready for the press

Iechyd da!

Thank you, dormice!

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About a month ago we had a phone call from our friend Mick (he of pond and Cedric fame) asking if we would be interested in hosting a chainsaw course.  Intrigued we asked why.  It turned out that he needed to get his certificates up to date and the original venue for the course was now off-limits.  The reason: dormice!

To cut a long story short, Tom, the tutor, came and had a look and two days later Mick and Mark were being given their instruction.  As you would probably expect I’d laid down a few ground rules:  all brash to be neatly piled up; all felled trees to be cut to exact 4ft lengths (to accommodate 2x 18in for the Esse cooker and 1x 12in for the Handol woodburner).

Over the two days they dropped about 17 trees of varying sizes – most of which they seemed to manage to get ‘hung up’.  All good practice for the future I suppose.

The log piles sat there for a couple of weeks whilst I cleared space in the outdoor woodsheds, then we set to work to get it all up and drying. Most of it went into the lean-to sheds, but there was a significant amount still in the forest. At which point Sue had an “idea”!!

If our experience is anything to go by, pretty much everyone has now got a copy of Norwegian Wood by Lars Myttingwhich must have been last Christmas’ best seller by far. If you haven’t seen it, it is all about cutting, stacking and drying firewood.   One chapter is about different stacking techniques, one of which is the Holzhauzen. Sue decided that we should have a go at making one.

Looks simple on paper!

Looks simple on paper!

First all the cut lengths had to come up from the forest in the transport box on the Fergie.  Fortunately I was able to get close to each stack in turn as there were some chunky bits of timber amongst them.

Some of the cut logs

Some of the cut logs (in the foreground)

In all the Holzhauzen was constructed out of about 95 x 4ft logs of varying widths.  I saved the biggest till last!

This one made the Fergie grunt a bit (and me putting it on the splitter!)

This one made the Fergie grunt a bit (and me, putting it on the splitter!)

It looked a big pile.

Ready for cutting

Ready for cutting

……at which point a couple of 60-somethings had a short rest.

Two old codgers at rest

Two old codgers at rest

Discussions were then held as to the best length to stack them at, and therefore the size of the finished circle.  After trying 3ft lengths, we felt that 18in would be better, with the foot long pieces thrown in the middle.

With me cutting….

.. with the trusty, scary Ferguson saw bench

.. with the trusty, scary Ferguson saw bench

…. and Sue stacking, we soon got into a rhythm and the sides began to rise.

It's on the way

It’s on the way

At this point we got joined by a cat.  Normally, as regular readers will know, Smudge can’t ignore a good work opportunity.  But this time it was Emily who decided to come and check out the quality of the work, departing only for yet another turn at the food bowls, she spent most of the afternoon slowly getting higher off the ground.

Quality control from Emily

Quality control from Emily

Bad light eventually stopped play – the chickens didn’t get their corn again – with just the ‘roof’ to do.

This turned out to be possibly the trickiest bit, but I think we finally got it about right, even though a bit more timber had to be found and another tree dropped.

So here it is.  Not as tall as some in the book, but a bit different from just putting the wood in sheds.

Our own little Holzhausen

Our own little Holzhausen

Thanks to: Dormice, Lars Mytting, Tom, Mick and Mark, Fergie and all his hangers on and Emily for Quality Control!

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