Halsway Manor’s Golden Garden for our 50th Anniversary by Bonny Sartin

sleepers 002In the early summer Maureen and Graham Knight asked me to help create a Golden Garden for the 50th anniversary of the forming of Halsway Manor Society and the purchase of the Manor. This sounded like a very positive project and if there’s one thing I enjoy its a very positive project. Maureen and Graham have their work cut out looking after the garden so I thought a little assistance would not come amiss.

dancers 005The plot allocated was the one in front of the Summerhouse which hadn’t been dug over for years. When we went to attack it we quickly discarded forks and spades and got the pick axes out. It was, ‘As hard as hells bells’, as father used to say. The water was not soaking in at all but just running off the top and in the first few days we only found one lonely worm. However, as we progressed and the piles of rubbish, roots and stumps grew, people began to take an interest in our activities and stop for a chat. We found that they were very enthusiastic about the Golden Garden and with their support, our ambitions and the size of the plot seemed to grow and grow. During the summer I bumped into some friends from Coventry. I told them what we were about and when they came to the Big Sing weekend in October they brought a bag of compost with them. Brilliant!!!

2013 summer wendy house 002My sister-in-law made us two golden folk dancing figures and these were installed at the end of September, just before the A.G.M. They make a great centre piece and, so far, have stood up to all the storms that mother nature has thrown at them.

We received a donation, which paid for some solid oak sleepers to put around the edge of the garden and Graham and I heaved these into place in the middle of October. Just behind them we have planted hundreds of daffodils which Maureen and Graham have saved from other parts of the garden. We have also put in some Winter Aconites so there should be some gold showing as early as January.

sleepers 008The main planting will take place in the Spring of 2014. Many of the people staying at Halsway seem to be keen gardeners and we have already been given a lot of advice and promised a variety of plants. Two big and potentially expensive jobs need to be done too; taking a couple of branches of the beech tree and re-thatching the summerhouse, but I can see filling the plot with flowers is going to be relatively cheap. Incidentally with the breaking up of the soil the worms are coming back so we must be doing something right.

If you are interested in helping Maureen and Graham to keep the garden under control they are organising Garden Working Days on the 13th and 20th of December.

Bonny Sartin

 

 

The Halsway Shop – Full to the brim and run by fabulous volunteers.

This week we thought we would tell you a bit about the shop that we run at Halsway Manor. The shop is run by volunteers who open it during each event and all profits from the shop go directly into raising funds for Halsway. 

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The majority of our stock is sourced locally or made by a team of volunteers who meet on Tuesdays to craft and produce jewellery, sew, knit. There is a large variety of items for sale in the shop, including essentials such as toothbrushes, brushes, combs, nail files and flannels for those that have forgotten to pack them! We also sell promotional items like sweatshirts, polo shirts, pens, melamine table mats, hand crafted chopping boards, coasters, canvas bags and mugs. We have a fabulous selection of jars from locally produced Honey in Wiviliscombe and jams, marmalades and pickles from Mrs Mops, in Carhampton.

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Our wonderful volunteers make hand painted silk scarves, ties and evening bags and as well as great stocking fillers like socks with musical designs. We have postcards of Halsway and the surrounding area too as well as maps, so there is no excuse not to write home or indeed to get lost as you explore the local area!

The shop also stocks the William Winter Tune book, The Ruth Tongue songs and stories, the Halsway wall hanging and the history of Halsway, all of which have been published by Halsway Manor.

We have recently purchased some lovely little jute bags that can be filled with your choice of jars, such as  jams and pickles. These make a great present at any time of the year, but with Christmas coming up, they would make a wonderful gift to loved ones as you return from your trip, a hostess present or a gorgeous present for under the tree. 

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The shop is open when we have events on, though it is possible to purchase items at other times. Please see Viv, our events and bookings manager if you wish to purchase something out of hours, or you missed the opening of the shop, because you were too busy having fun!

A lovely bit of feedback!

There is nothing quite like receiving a card or a letter these days – there is still something so much more personal about handwritten notes, than an email – especially when it contains some great feedback!

We received this letter a few weeks back and the only reason for not posting (technically) it sooner, was that we wanted to write to the author to ask permission to use it… so what did we do? We sent them an email…There is just no stopping the flow of process – nor should we – but I can’t help but feel the difference between the two types of media, even if for speed it was more valid to use email. However – I digress and snail versus email is definitely a discussion for another day – either way, we were happily given permission to share so here it is…

Dear Viv,

I am enclosing the voucher for our booking for the next storytelling weekend, next year – I enjoyed the storytelling weekend so much, it was the 4th time I had come and I can’t wait for the next one. The events are very well organised and so much is fitted in, the tutors are excellent!

I am always sorry when it is time to leave, Halsway Manor is a beautiful place and all the staff make you so welcome. The meals are marvellous and I would like to thank everyone concerned for making it so special.

Best wishes

Valerie Marchant

So – there we have it! Another satisfied customer! It puts such smiles on all our faces and is so fabulous for morale when people write and tell us how much they enjoy coming to Halsway – it makes all the hard work so worthwhile. So, many thanks to Valerie for putting pen to paper and letting us share (in) her appreciation! Halsway is a wonderful place, but it wouldn’t be the same without all the wonderful people that come to visit.

Here’s to more special moments, special events and special people at Halsway Manor.

Don’t forget that if you would like to give us feedback, positive or otherwise, please do write to Paul James, CEO@halswaymanor.org.uk

From Bagpipes to Nyckelharpa – an instrumental journey

Vicki_Pipes3Our guest blogger this week is Vicky Swan who tells us of her own personal journey in learning, playing and discovering these wonderful, yet quite different instruments. Over to Vicky…

These two instruments might seem poles apart and in many respects they are, so how did I get to become a player of both? My Dad was piper and entertainments manager at a hotel up in Scotland one year, where he met a Swedish lass on holiday – the rest as they say is history. As my Dad was a piper, the pipes naturally came first. He was an excellent teacher and ran the Brentwood School of Piping, which was later to become a full-blown competition pipe band. I like to think that I got my pedagogical background from him; his mother and sister were also both teachers. I tried at many different times to take up the Highland Pipes, but they just weren’t quite right for me, so when I discovered the Scottish smallpipes I was instantly away. Unfortunately my Dad died quite early on in my piping career, but I know he’d be proud of what I’ve done. I’m sure we’d have had many discussions on style and grace notes. He would definitely be proud of the teaching work I did for my Masters degree in Education and the subsequent tutor that I wrote.

quartet1Having spent several years teaching students with no face-to-face interaction as a teacher on-line I decided to put myself back in the position of being a learner with no teacher of my own. What better instrument to choose in the UK but the nyckelharpa. Being half Swedish I had the advantage that I’ve always known about this stunning instrument and I could speak the language and was able to get hold of one. It was a major turning point in my life. I discovered that I could never really be a beginner again, I have too much ‘prior learning’ and too many ‘transferable skills’ to eve really be a beginner. Initially it was just an instrument I could sing and play with but gradually it has taken over my life.

quartet1With my Swedish connections I do as much as I can to bring instruments into the country and unite them with new owners. I have a little stash of instruments that I can let people use to see if they like the instrument. It’s not likely that anyone wouldn’t want to take it up, but it can be a big outlay for an instrument you’ve never tried. Not everyone can take the risk I took of ordering one before I’d really seen one properly live (at the Swedish Church in London as a small child doesn’t really count).
My leap of faith paid off but if it hadn’t I’d have had no difficulty in selling it on as nyckelharpas are like gold dust! Of course I haven’t forgotten about the pipes and since taking up the nyckelharpa I’ve added English borderpipes and Swedish bagpipes to my collection. It’s a lot of up keep, practicing all these different instruments but luckily I love playing and it’s really not such a hardship. The only problem is deciding what instrument to play first!

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Vicky will be running a Nyckelharpa Workshop Weekend on 1st to 3rd November at Halsway, and a Scottish smallpipes workshop weekend 29th November to 1st December.

If you would like further information please contact vicki@swan-dyer.co.uk or to book, please email office@halswaymanor.org.uk.

Somerset Folk Songs for Midsummer – Yvette Staelens writes…

_DSC2565Wow – the alchemy of song never ceases to amaze me. Somerset Folk Songs for Midsummer at Halsway brought together twenty strangers to a Somerset Manor House, plus two exciting tutors with their stash of ancient ditties, ballads, chorus songs plus bags of enthusiasm.  Yvette Staelens is our guest blogger this week, and here she tells us all about the wonderful weekend of Somerset Folk Songs for Midsummer…

Friday evening, we settled in the bar after a lovely dinner and discovered the incredible folk song legacy of Somerset. I presented slides and stories of the collectors who shared a passion for seeking out and recording ‘the songs of the people’ and then introduced those who sang to the collectors. Wonderful photographic portraits of singers and sometimes their families, taken by collector Cecil Sharp. We saw the, now famous, John England, gardener at Hambridge vicarage standing proudly in the vicarage garden, hoe in hand, having sung ‘The Seeds of Love’ to Cecil Sharp and his friend Reverend Charles Marson. A song that was to start the two men on a collecting journey seeking out the songs of the villagers and towns and hamlets nearby. We met Emma Overd of Langport who gave Sharp over 50 songs and who now has an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for her contribution to English cultural heritage. We saw photos of Louie Hooper and her half-sister Lucy White of Westport standing outside their cottages in pinafores and shawls. We heard about Sharp’s visit to a gypsy, Lucy Carter, who set off a musical box playing

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‘The Bluebells of Scotland‘ which despite, at the request of Sharp, her best efforts to stop it playing, continued for 15 minutes almost driving him mad! The evening ended with conviviality in the bar!

Saturday brought more sunshine and lots of people who said that they had slept really well in the peace of Halsway. It was our chance to become a shanty crew and to sing sea songs and shanties from John Short of Watchet and others, followed by William Woolley‘s un-censored version of ‘No John No’, ‘The Beggar’ and then some work on harmony singing. Lots of other songs were explored including a rousing version of ‘Dicky of Taunton Dean’. There was lots of laughing too when things went a bit…er ..awry and there was a bit of ‘part swapping’ too, and why not?

_DSC2654The evening concert was a blast, I took the part of MC and welcomed the audience and thanked them for their support for Halsway and later conducted 25 members of the Halsway Choir squashed together on a very small stage through a folk, african-american, Baka people, English repertoire ending with Sezenina ‘What have we done?’,. A South African song  from the apartheid era in one of the Zulu languages. It included the verse ‘Wenzenina u Mandela’ and we felt incredibly emotional as we remembered the man and his struggles for his people and with lots of encouragement, the audience joined in with choruses which was wonderful! James Findlay’s set wow-ed everyone, powerful voice, great instrumental skills and lots of stories and cheeky banter…and CDs only £10!!! – according to the advert on his Mac Airbook which he placed on stage for all to see!!

_DSC2674Sunday brought real treasure. The course participants were invited to bring a song to share. We learned about the legend of the ‘The Halsway Ghost’, then stunning twin female vocals accompanied by autoharp, then ‘Johnny’s lost his marble’ had us singing along. There was a little Somerset song about pancake days and the accompanying fun had at Chilton Polden in the early 1950s, and some lovely classical guitar. The temptation to check on the ‘Murray match’ at Winbledon proved too much for some; the library TV was switched on and there was a run to the library to check the score. We finished the day learning the four-part west gallery song ‘Halsway Grace’. It sounded wonderful. The sun shone, lots of friendships were made, people smiled and laughed a lot and the traditional Halsway Sunday afternoon cream tea ended what was a magical weekend.

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Halsway has the ability to draw you in and then somehow, you never want to leave, but we had to. My best memory of the weekend? The spirited singing of ‘don’t go kissing the girls at Bridgwater fair’.

All images kindly supplied by James Findlay, who when he wasn’t playing or singing, was photographing! Thank you James!