Saturday, July 17, 2021

Foraging with Old Mary


Hello, My Dears,

As you know, I like nothing better than to meander around the Ackley Wood, foraging for herbs and wild flowers to use in my medicine. The recent rain has kept me from my leisurely walks but today was a fine day for a walk. My friend, Martha Ingle, from Rushton, is visiting with me and accompanied me on this morning’s walk. I like being in the wood early in the morning, to hear the birds, to feel that freshness only morning can bring. We had an enjoyable stroll and filled our baskets with several plants which I shall make into my medicines.

Martha commented on the teasel which is just coming to the bloom. She uses the dried flower heads when she is carding wool, to help align the fibres so they are easy to twist into threads. She does this with great ease, but tis not an easy task, this I know, for I have helped on occasion, trailing far behind Martha’s nimble fingers.

The dock was in abundance as was the couch grass, both beneficial to my medicines. Our baskets were fragrant with mint and lemon balm also. The hyssop was in bloom, looking very inviting, we taking a bit for our needs, and leaving the plant to replenish itself for future use.

As we walked, Old Foxy trotted out from the trees ahead of us, stopped to see what we were up to and then went on his way. I wonder what that rascal has been up to? No wonder we saw no rabbits, they know when Old Foxy is about and take to their warrens.

The brambles are all in bud so we may look forward to blackberries in a few weeks time. The hazel nuts are also nearly ready for the picking. I must remember to come and check on them and take what I need before the squirrels have them all and I none!

We knew the chestnut was in bloom for the distinctive scent wafted around us. Tis not such a pleasant aroma, however the nuts are most welcome to eat or to grind into flour. The primroses were rallying for their second bloom of the season, a pretty sight in the wood.

After taking a bit of horse radish root, our baskets were full and we made our way back to my cottage. We had spent the better part of the morning in the wood, for time has a way of slipping away when we are pleasantly occupied. Setting our baskets aside we prepared our lunch and afterwards tended to our herbs and flowers. Such an enjoyable morning.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

A Letter From Lady Elizabeth Marlowe

                                                                                           3rd July 

                                                                                          Nº 42 St. James Place


My Dearest Friends,

Charles and I have been in Town for over a fortnight now, enjoying the company of the Count and Countess Von Alland. Life has been a whirlwind of entertainments and of course shopping. My first order of business was to have the modiste visit; Veronique and I both indulging in new gowns and accessories.

There were many friends to be met on our arrival and still more to call upon, every day has been full and lively. We have been to the Theatre, have attended Almack’s, Charles’ friends from Parliament have been quite generous in inviting us to dine and to their Salons, while Veronique and the Count’s friends have included us in their invitations. We are also to attend Carlton House and be presented to The Prince.

You all know my love of music so you will be as surprised as I was at arriving at Ranelagh to discover we were to be privileged to hear Haydn play. Such an evening, I shall never forget it. There is talk his young protégé, Beethoven, shall come to Town later in the year; I hope I may have the good fortune to see him also. I have attended other musical evenings, making certain to speak with the musicians hoping, perhaps, I may entice them to Carlyle House for one of my own soirées so I may share their gifts with you all.

I thank you all for your kind letters, I have tried to make my responses ut I find my time is not always my own, I hope you will forgive my lack of diligence in this. Sophia tells me the girls are getting on well with the dance master I have engaged for them, although William is none to pleased to be importuned into making an even number. Poor William, he would much prefer being out on his horse than dancing, I am quite certain.

Jenny has accompanied me to London in Flossie’s stead so she may meet with her friend Pauline, Veronique’s Lady’s maid, whom she befriended when the Count and Countess visited us at Carlyle

House last summer. She and Pauline have renewed their friendship and are enjoying their visit. It is good for Jenny to be distracted thus while Major Venning is in battle in Corsica. I pray this war will soon be at end so Jenny and her beloved may be reunited and begin their life together.

We are set to return to Amberleigh on the 16th July and I must say, I welcome the peace and slower pace of the village. I long to see the children. On my return, I shall invite you all to tea so I may tell you of the wonders of London.

Until then, my dear friends, I remain your constant friend,


The Geography of Amberleigh Series, Part 1

 26th June 

The River Farrow 

The Farrow River, a free flowing river, west of the town of Cheltenham, is one of the many tributaries of the Severn River. Originating near Sudeley Castle, the river wends its way southward, its most ample course passing by the Village of Amberleigh at a depth of 15 feet, finally its mouth is at Lake Eage. Along the way, it is home to various mills, provides a venue for local boat travel and fishing as well as being a means for transporting goods.

The River boasts a large island, Cutty Island, at its widest point which lies just beyond Carson’s Mill which is a popular pic nic destination in the warmer months. Mandarin Ducks use the island as their nesting ground as do other water fowl of the area. Row boats may be rented to visit the island from the Saxton family whose land is beyond that of Carson’s Mill.

Many of the larger houses and estates abutting the river, have pleasure crafts which they keep in boat sheds at the river’s edge. It is not uncommon to see several boats out on the water in the warmer months, for it is swifter travel and less bumptious than a coach journey.

Fishing rights are owned by many of the homeowners along the river, these stretches are private, not open to publish fishing, however, St. Hildegard’s Church Glebe runs down to the river and permission to fish there is graciously granted by the Vicar upon inquiry. Brown Trout is abundant in the river and salmon may also be sourced. Coarse fishermen will find stone loach, carp and dace in the river.

Near Belleville, there is a small area of natural beauty with a waterfall. The name Scur has been attributed to the falls, an Old English word meaning light rain or shower, but the source of that name is unknown. The small waterfall has an outcrop of rocks to each side which taper down to a small pebbled area where children often paddle or look for salamanders and frogs.

The Farrow River is a central part of life in this area of Gloucestershire, many depending upon it for their livelihood, while others use it as a means of relaxation for boating and fishing. The River provides nesting places for indigenous birds and waterfowl as well as small animals such as otters. It is all important for the residents and wildlife who reside along its banks.

A Word From Mrs. Medlyn

 19th June 

Good Afternoon Dear Friends,

Many of you know me, but for those of you whom I have not yet had the pleasure of your acquaintance, my name is Mrs. Susan Medlyn, sister to your good vicar, Mr. Thomas. When his beloved wife Mary died in childbirth, I came to keep house for my brother and raise his daughter. I am widowed recently and thought coming to Amberleigh with my three children would make a fresh start for us.

Young Mary does very well, she is a happy baby and all at the Rectory dote upon her. Tis hard to believe she is already six months old now and growing into a bonny little girl.

The reason for my addressing you today, is that my brother has charged me with organizing the annual church cleaning. After consulting the vicar and the curates, I believe Thursday next to be a good day to accomplish this very necessary cleaning of the church. As a thank you for your hard work, I shall provide luncheon for all who attend.

Ladies, I ask of you that you bring your rags and buckets, for windows must be wiped and floors scrubbed. There is the polishing of the carved woodwork as well as the polishing of the silver. I have engaged the help of our local char woman, Nancy Porter who shall be at the rectory with a few of you to help with laundering the church linens.

Gentleman, I would be most grateful for you help on this day also, there are pews to be moved and candles must be changed in the ceiling chandeliers, the chandeliers also cleaned and returned to their normal position. Mr. Clutterback informs me there are shrubs in the churchyard which are in need of a trim, as well as the low hanging tree limbs. The benches in the churchyard are in need of a scrubbing, and the porch must be cleared of cobwebs and detritus.

Older children would be most useful in fetching water from the public well, for our purposes. This is an essential task which will keep our cleaning efforts in motion throughout the morning.

I should like to begin the cleaning as early as 7:00 in the morning, and would be most grateful if you could spare an hour to two to help us keep the Lord’s house in good order. I thank you most appreciatively in advance.

The Great Boat Race

31st May 

What a day for a boat race, the day was overcast but still pleasant. Both sides of the river were lined with spectators; tents scattered here and there, buntings waving in the breeze and much eager conversation about who the victors would be. In the church tent, the ladies were busy making cups of tea and serving slices of cake and pie while Mr. Clutterback and the newly arrived curate, Mr. Dawson, were busily making paper boats for the children to sail in the shallows of the river; Mr. Dawson declaring himself the Admiral of the Fleet of paper boats, which made the children laugh.

Admiral Endicott arrived in full naval regalia, much to the delight of the crowd. Mr. Penn had asked him to start the race, he being our resident seaman, and he was taking it all very seriously indeed. His enthusiasm was contagious as he wandered through the revellers talking and jesting with them. A small group of boys trailed behind him, watching him with awe, for he had been to battle, his medals many, and his stories enthralling.

Sophia Marlowe, Salley Owens and their new friend Simone St. Cyr had been busy all the week through making rosettes and pennants to sell to the villagers. They happily went along, calling “Rosettes one penny, pennants a ha’penny.” Their baskets emptied quickly as everyone was keen to show their support.

Jenny had mentioned Old Mary intended to watch the race today; we were all eager to see and speak to her. On walking down to Mr. Penn’s tent, a large affair, pitched at a central location on the Glebe, we found Mr. Penn, sherry in hand, sitting in an ornate cane chair, with plump scarlet cushions, amiably bantering with his friends and relations from Town who had made the journey to Amberleigh for the race. Old Mary sat in a comfortable chair, a rug tucked around her, surrounded by well-wishers who spoke excitedly to her and each other at seeing her well again. Old Mary looked tired but was smiling, Dr. Woodforde was concerned it may been too much excitement for Old Mary but she was adamant she was fine. It was a happy sight to see Old Mary amongst us again, Jenny looked cheerful, her charge was doing better and all were merry.

Just before the race began Mr. Thomas said a blessing. The men got their boat, ready to row to the starting point after Admiral Endicott gave our side of the river the rules of the race, while one of the Fullerton men did so on the other side of the river. There was much excitement as it was announced the boats shall begin at Belle’s Bridge and row down the river as far as Old Carson’s Mill. There were judges posted at the end line to make an accurate call on who was first, should it be a close race. When the rules had been conveyed, the men got into their boats and lined up at the starting point which was marked on both sides of the river by a tall pole with a flag upon it. When Admiral Endicott saw the boats were in position and at the ready, he held his arm up and fired the shot that launched the men into action rowing.

The Fullerton crew began the race by taking their oars and pushing Faro’s Revenge to the side and laughing as they gained a lead. Not to be outdone, Mr. Penn’s crew were even more determined to straighten the boat and row with gusto. As soon as the race began, the cheering commenced from the crowds along the banks on both sides of the river. Many so excited they left their pic nics and stood on the river’s edge. A group of boys ran along waving their pennants, trying to keep up, as the boats made their way down the river, calling out to them to row faster, faster.

Seahorse had an edge on Faro’s Revenge for several lengths, but the latter gained on them, little by little, until the boats were level. The cheering grew even more fervent at this point, for it was anyone’s race now. Just before the last length, the men of Faro’s Revenge, urged on by the crowd, took the lead, paddling more purposefully, determined to show the Seahorse crew they were superior, even after the disadvantage they had been dealt at the start.

The Mill grew near, the oarsmen, paddling for their lives, both teams eager to cross the finish line first. The judges on both sides of the river were in place, eyeing the boats as they neared. It was a close race, but in the end, Faro’s Revenge was the victor, causing the crowd on the west side of the river to erupt into a deafening cheer. The men brought the boat to the shore, wearily climbing out, all smiling at their triumph, the crowd rushing forth to congratulate them. Admiral Endicott was on hand to give the purse of 10 guineas to Mr. Penn, who shared it out amongst the crew, happy to have been victorious over the Fullertons.

Afterwards there was much excited talk and merriment on the Amberleigh side of the river, while the crowds on the other side dispersed, downcast at their defeat. What an exciting day it was for all, the oarsmen were the heroes of the hour, the locals cheering, as the men moved through the crowd to find their families. All were loathe for the merriment to end but as the day grew long, pic nic hampers were packed up, children called in from their play and slowly all became silent as the day gently slipped into twilight after a such a glorious day.

A Diary Entry from Alice Powell

Friday, 28th May 

What a fine time we had at Comely Manor last evening. Hetty and I have talked about it all the day through, remembering the evening from beginning to end. Lady Farnsworth is a gracious hostess, making us all feel welcome. Not all the village was present but we were a happy group.

The Chef prepared the most delectable sweets and savouries to enjoy with our tea. There were card tables set up for those inclined to play whist or lotto, though Hetty and I were happy to converse with the ladies on all manner of subjects, the quilting bee being a central topic. We were so pleased to see Jenny, who said Old Mary did wish to join us but felt slightly fatigued and thought she had best stay behind and rest. Twas lovely to see Jenny who looked bonnie and happy to be among those she had not been able to visit with often while she tended to Old Mary.

Jenny told us there was a time when they were very worried indeed about Old Mary’s recovering but there came a turning point and now she does better each day. This was very good news indeed for we have all missed Old Mary’s wit and counsel as well as her healing remedies. Jenny was determined to stay behind with Old Mary but was told in no uncertain terms she must attend and spend time with her friends whom she has seen precious little of these past months.

After a time we entertained one another with song and story. Mrs. Emberhope read Shakespeare, holding everyone’s attention, while Innes O’Cullein enthralled us with an Irish ballad, sung sweetly. Hetty and I sang a duet of The Bay of Biscay, a very emotional song for me, and well received by all. Jenny re-told the legend of the Hermit of Cutty Island. There were tunes played on the pianoforte by Lady Farnsworth and Lady Marlowe, as well as songs we all joined in with, then the carpets were rolled back, the music commencing when the older Turner boys played their fiddle and squeeze box and we danced. What a merry evening it was indeed.

What fun we did have last evening at Comely Manor. We were all of us loathe for it to end, but end it must and we walked home in high spirits, quietly calling good evening to our neighbours.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Jenny's Rose Water Recipe


Hello my Dear Friends,

I remain at The Chestnuts, Mr. Penn’s home, looking after Old Mary. You will be happy to know Old Mary has made progress. Dr. Woodforde has been to visit these past few days and tells me the danger is past and Old Mary is becoming well again. I know you join me all in giving thanks that our prayers have been answered. Old Mary is still frail but her smile is a welcome sight after so many weeks.

Mr. Penn is kind enough to sit with Old Mary, from time to time, urging me to go and take exercise. The vista from Old Mary’s window is inviting; I have enjoyed my free time walking around the grounds, exploring the various gardens and wooded areas. Mr. Penn’s rose garden is particularly beautiful, especially now the roses are all beginning to bloom. My gracious host has given me leave to cut flowers for Old Mary’s room and also to use the roses to make rose water for our wash basins. He is a kind man, and a good friend to Old Mary, seeing to her every need.

As I was preparing the rose water, I thought you may benefit from my recipe to make your own; I share my recipe here for you to add to your home book.

Jenny’s Rose Water Recipe

Gather your roses early in the morning on a fine day, just after the dew has dried, for they are most fragrant then. Remove the petals carefully, discarding the stems, leaves and core of the flower. Use a vessel made of pottery rather than an iron pot, for it will give you a sweeter water. Once you have placed the petals in the vessel, add enough water to cover them and let the pot simmer until it comes to the boil. Move it from the hottest area of the fire and let it simmer gently for five minutes. Strain off the liquid, let it cool, then store it in glass jugs which are tightly covered. This will make your morning wash all the sweeter.

Foraging with Old Mary

  Hello, My Dears, As you know, I like nothing better than to meander around the Ackley Wood, foraging for herbs and wild flowers to use i...