September ! Where d’ya go ?

So, the whole month, just gone by, woosh, gone.  It came in whilst I was in Dorset, a hot flush that lasted a short time.  A week later Beulah Show took place and more of my visitors from the ‘Home of the Brave’ arrived just in time to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 – except they didn’t want to remember. A week of touring followed, acting out my altar-ego of Tourism Ambassador, taking them to the ‘must see’ (in my view anyway) places in this little Land of ours.

Blooms for Beulah

Blooms for Beulah. The real essence of show day, beautiful artistry as always.

As always the village show provided a wonderful display of the artistry of the locals.  Floral displays, children’s chocolate cakes, amazing matching vegetables and the usual unusual like the longest stinging nettle or thistle or whatever this year’s was.  As usual I find myself shamefaced in the presence of the gardeners of this Beulah land.

My simple role was to shepherd the mechanical elements of the Vintage Tractors and to escort the road run safely around the lanes of the Chwefru  and Dulas valley.  This year I had the great pleasure to lend my International 434 1968 tractor to my young Carolinian summer visitor to drive in her first ever Road run.  Admittedly her head had been turned by all the tractors on show at the Dorset Steam Fair and my tractor is not exactly in concourse condition – ahem – but she ‘did the business’ and was well regarded by the other roadrunners.

International 434 with beautiful driver !

All vintage tractor road-runs should have one of these, I mean, what's more attractive !

The Trotting Races are always the main afternoon attraction and brings in a major crowd.  One of the early races saw a calamity, which actually occurred just in front of us, when one of the gigs caught a fence post and flipped throwing the rider.  The guy was not seriously hurt fortunately but it was a distressing event for those who witnessed it.

The show chairman allowed Miss Carolina to judge the vintage tractors with him, although I understand he did not agree with her view that either a Massey 35 or a 135 should be awarded ‘best in show’, instead he voted the Ford Dexta of which there were two on the run.

The winning Dexta at Beulah show 2011

Whitney and Tom Evans were the judges at the Beulah show vintage tractor display.

The following day saw us heading off to the wonderful Willow Theatre at Penlanole near Llanwrthwl for the annual ‘Apple Day’.  This event is a mixture of apple pressing, music, crafts and general joviality at the end of the summer season.  I agreed to put on a small display of agricultural artefacts and, as usual, was rewarded with some interesting and useful contributions in the form of memories from some of the more mature landed gentry.

Apple Day at Penlanole

My small display at the Penlanole / Willow Theatre day.

The event was very well attended and the weather stayed good.  My visitors thoroughly enjoyed the company of the gathered masses.  We had lunch with the hosts and some of their guests.  At first it was a little stifled as many new each other but not us, then a bizarre conversation about a Discovery Channel series (and I confess an absolute ‘must see’ for me) called ‘Swamp People’ which follows the exploits of Cajan alligator hunters in the Louisiana byous.  It was quite amusing to both myself and and my stateside friends that such a programme should spark real agitated conversation amongst a gathering of Shakespearean intellectuals !  I of course have a certain sympathy with the alligator which put me at odds with my house-mate who could not see anything slightly questionable about killing the poor creatures.  However, only through the annual cull, which is clearly well controlled and policed, can the whole ecology of the area be preserved.  I would definitely put it on my agenda if I get over to the southern states.

The other event of note at Apple day was the official raising of the sluice which Whitney and I had constructed in the cart horse wash.  Disappointingly the pool had not filled very much and as well as leakage through the boards of the sluice gate – something I expected until the wood sealed up – there is clearly substantial leaking through the dry stone surrounding walls which have been devoid of clay since the machine cleared the silt.  I imagine some puddled clay will have to be pushed into the wall below the required water-line before the pool fills to a sufficient depth to overflow through the smoot.  The hosts, Phil and Sue, were insistent that our American super wall building apprentice should perform the official opening which was done to great cheer from the gathered crowd, and, I suspect, much embarrassment to her !  I did notice however a rather proud look on the faces of her parents !

American wind up (of the sluice at Penlanole Apple Day)

American wind-up ! Whitney raises the sluice gate using the old C19th mangle that she and I had installed a few weeks prior to the Apple Day event.

A lot of time seemed to go on pleasurable activities this past few weeks, with trips to west and north Wales and a much awaited visit to the Victorian Farm at Acton Scott near Church Stretton.  Now famous for the television series (The Victorian Farm) which was filmed there, the museum is a living history site and is wholly devoted to farming as it would have been done over a hundred years ago.  It’s a sweet shop to me of course.  I must have been very boring to my companion, always saying “I’ve got one of those” or some-such.

Pole lathe in operation

A wood turner working a pole lathe, made me a lovely hand turned pair of handles for an old seeder and a single handle for my butterchurn.

There is altogether too much to record at Acton Scott but some items are worth my mentioning.  Firstly I was fortunate that a wood turner was displaying the simplicity of a pole lathe.  I have needed to get some new wooden handles turned for an old seeder I am restoring and for my butterchurns.  To have them made while we watched was even more than I could have wished for and at £5 each they were too cheap by far.

The other great discovery was that the museum had a Radnor Wheel Car, a strange hybrid of a wheeled cart and a sled.  I have written previousky about the new wheels I had from the excellent young wheelwright, Mike Davies, of Hundred House.  They were commissioned especially to fit my own wheel car which was made by the same wainwright that made the Acton Scott example (unbeknown to me Mike had visited the museum to examine their cart while making my wheels).  Seeing the wheel car gave me added inspiration to get my example completed.

Radnor Wheel Car at Acton Scott

The Acton Scott wheel car is in very good condition and allows me to examine the more intricate details and even copy the small dripple at the front.

The exhibits and demonstrations – we spent a good time watching butter being made – make for a worthwhile day out and the admission price of £6 has to be the best value of any visitor attraction I have been to in a long time.

The other interesting find at the museum was the number of one-day courses that they run – I am seriously considering having a go at heavy horse driving or learning how to sharpen and use a scythe correctly !

My last activity of the month was actually a little work – we had actually done quite an amount of walling during the month in case you think it’s been all fun ! – a little project back in the village of Llanfallteg.

The local history group and hall committee had commissioned a copy of an inscribed standing stone called the Vortipore stone (now in Carmarthen museum) which had been discovered not far outside the village near the route of the Roman road running west from Carmarthen to Haverfordwest.  Following the departure of Roman control in 43AD the Irish were increasingly making attacks and penetrating raids into the coastal areas of west Wales and eventually penetrated quite a way inland as far as the Garth Madrwn area around Trecastle and Brecon.  The stone is inscribed with a primitive alphabet form called Ogham, in effect a series of strokes cut into the stone at the corner.  A copy of the stone was inscribed by the top Welsh artist blacksmith David Petersen from nearby St. Clears and was installed outside the community hall.  I had the job of filling in the underside of a small bench which had been placed next to the stone.  There was little room and I decided to copy the method used by my artist friend Howard Bowcott of Penrhyndeudraeth.  He has mastered the art of using thin slivers of slate to make beautiful sculptures one of which adorn the entrance to nearby Narberth.  I thought that given the small area I needed to fill, small slates would give a better sense of scale.  With my able assistant Hadyn (he of excellent woodworking and boule piste skills) to assist – mixing cement ! – and on the wettest Saturday morning ever, we built the sculptured bench in-fill.  It is perhaps worth mentioning that most of the village had swanned off on the annual coach trip to a very sunny Cardiff.  At least that meant I was not plagued by ‘watchers’ all morning.

Stone inscribed with Ogham at Llanfallteg village hall

The Vortipor stone carved by Dave Petersen and my little bench outside the village hall in Llanfallteg.

So, the end of September came creeping, and with it the end of the journey which had begun in North Carolina and took in dry stone walling, metal artistry, tractor driving, culture and sculpture, steam and smoke and wonderful community.  I can only say what a delight it was to host the Carolinians and show them parts of Wales, and what a privilege it has been to work and play alongside a most remarkable young woman who now sets ‘Swamp People’ amongst her most favourite of TV entertainment !

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One Response to “September ! Where d’ya go ?”

  1. Whitney Says:

    My, that section of wall to the right of the sluice is particularly attractive! Another fine entry, sir.

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