The Pig Yard

September 09 - Another busy month with plenty to occupy us and others. The weather stayed relatively warm and dry with the talk of a drought being declared in East Anglia if we didn't get some rain in early October. So what with garden activity, cycling, weddings and work the month just flew by.

At the end of the month we were participating in the Cycle 4 Cynthia annual charity event and so we had to get fit. Jane has no problems with this because she regularly cycles, plays squash and table tennis and of course swims two or three times a week as time allows.

She spent a Saturday cycling in aid of Northamptonshire Churches, an unusual charitable activity for an atheist but she explains it is in aid of the church architecture.

Steve on the other hand needs to have a reward for his cycle so there always has to be a stopping point along the route. This picture was taken at Delapre Abbey where they serve teas in the garden and if he's really lucky he might even get some carrot cake.

Jane's niece, Jo, got married this month. The Shepton Mallet registry office was the venue for the official marriage and so we stayed at the Swan Hotel in Wells. The picture shows the view from the front door of the hotel across the cathedral green with the magnificent cathedral as a backdrop.

Our room didn't have such a magnificent view but it was comfortable and the service from reception was very good.

Wells itself is a small market town but because of the cathedral it is called a city.

We had dinner on the Friday evening at the hotel but on the Saturday evening we visited Ask just off the market square for a change of scenery. Steve doesn't like cheese and therefore Pizza is not his favourite but he managed to find something on the menu and enjoyed the experience. Jane can always manage on a side salad and pick over everyone else's leftovers.

Two old friends from college, Steve & Kathy Fox live on the outskirts of Wells so on the Saturday morning we paid them a visit. When Steve was at college his main course was physics and Charlie Fox, Steve F's father was his lecturer so it was great to be able to meet up with him after nearly 40 years. He doesn't seem to have changed a great deal and he still has a wicked sense of humour as you can see from our faces.

We had a pleasant morning coffee with the whole family.

Jo and Lyndon's wedding was quite an event. They were officially married in Shepton Mallet registry office on Friday 4th September, wearing the same clothes they were wearing when they met at the Glastonbury festival hence Lyndon's hat.

Instead of exchanging rings at this stage of events they exchanged goblets which each had decorated for the other.

Outside the registry office there was a photo opportunity although the sky was grey and threatening rain.

The happy couple could not hide their enjoyment and pleasure.

On the Saturday afternoon the happy couple went through a repeat performance with a bit more glamour now that the legal side had been taken care of. Like all brides-to-be Jo was prepared by her entourage who got her dressed, coiffeured and generally readied her for her second big day. The dress was a purchased 2nd hand from Glastonbury for £35. A real bargain as it was a lovely style with the modern lacing at the back which meant it fitted beautifully. Jo looked stunning, a total contrast to the Registry Office ceremony.

The whole event was taking place on a farm so the brides maids had the task of holding up the wedding train as the bridal column walked across farm yards recently occupied by beef cattle.

From the farmhouse to the wedding orchard was along farm tracks before eventually giving way to the orchard's grassland. The procession was accompanied by a saxophone player who, as they approached the gathering of friends and family, played the wedding march.

The journey across the uneven orchard was made all the more precarious because the brides maids got tired of lifting the train and it had to be raised by others.


Like a pagan festival the marriage vows were repeated under the boughs of an apple tree with speeches from bridegroom, bride and Jo's father followed by songs for Lyndon's nieces, sisters and anyone else who wanted to have a go. Song sheets were handed round to all present to sing a group song 'I know I'll never find another you' (New Seekers). Jane took a video of the afternoon and could not resist joining in for the song.. sadly.

As can be seen from the picture this was not a conventional wedding and is exactly what they wanted.

Of course weddings are always an opportunity for the Worts (Jane's side) family photograph. From left to right there is Carol, Ruth, Jane, Jane's mum, Peggy and Richard.

Jane's mum was using the electric buggy that we borrowed to get around the wedding reception area, or barn as it more commonly known as.

Towards the end of the month the village had its annual church fete. Thankfully the weather was very kind and the turn out was incredible. One of the highlights was our postman volunteering to go in the stocks and the children paying to throw wet sponges at him. If only the village had a web site.

The community spirit in the village is quite strong but like everywhere it does depend on the goodwill and hard work of a few people. As local communities gain more delegated powers so the village will need to become more involved in looking after the environment by cleaning the roads, cutting verges and hedges, and looking after the vulnerable young and old. It's a sad reflection on the future economy that local councils and central government will not be able to afford to deliver these services.

For Steve the main attraction of the fete was this steam roller that had parked up in the school playground. This is owned by Mr Dickens in the village who drives it to local events. This one was used in and around Northamptonshire through the nineteen twenties and through the second world wars into the nineteen fifties when it was eventually retired.

The driver would tow his caravan behind him and he and his family would move where the work was. As you can imagine it probably had a top speed of around ten miles an hour so it would take some time to get to the next job so there was little point in driving it back to a central yard every night.

It was surprising how little coal was carried behind the main compartment and proves how efficient the engine was at moving ten tons of metal around.

Slowly but surely we've been tackling the worst job in the garden, draining the pond, removing the leaking pond liner and replacing it. First we had to build a temporary pond and then move the plants and as much of the wildlife as we could rescue. this was a particularly smelly job and we didn't rush to finish. We made several attempts to bail out the water but each time we finished it rained and so we were back to square one. September has been the turning point because we removed all the water and the old liner so that we could determine why the leak had occurred. It turned out that a small, sharp rock had pierced two holes in the fabric.

Our big worry was from the roots of the black bamboo that were both sharp and long. Before laying the new liner we put a vertical slate barrier around the black bamboo and laid some old carpet underlay (rescued from a skip!) across the pond area so it would protect the final, waterproof membrane. Let's hope we don't have to do this again in a hurry.

After much preparation we were ready for Cycle4Cynthia. It was a beautiful Sunday morning and once again we cycled from home to the starting point at the Saints ground on the outskirts of Northampton. We arrived just in time to join the back of the bunch ready to start the 25 mile route.

We got off to a good start and there was good banter with the other cyclists. There was a small team from Grant Thornton the accountancy firm and so Steve jokingly asked them for advice on his tax return, to which the response was "don't pay any".

The picture shows us stopping at Flore fields at the 14 mile mark for a drink of water and a small energy bar. The last ten miles starts to get tiring and we were pleased to finish in 2 hours and 25 minutes although does include the refreshment stop and the time we tried to a return stray sheep back into its field. By cycling to the start and back we completed a total of a little under 35 miles. After a quick cup of tea we then went for our usual half mile swim at the Cripps Centre, impressive for a couple of oldies!

At the end of the month we went to Delapre Abbey to experience something that was billed as a pyrotechnic event. This was Crackers!

This links to a YouTube video taken on the evening but doesn't do justice to the whole atmosphere - click here... And the official web site captures the mood of the moment with sounds, voice overs and music.

We found a great place to stand and could look towards the centre for the projections or towards the outer ring where most of the fireworks came from. It was an incredible night and if the intention was to put Northampton on the map then this certainly helps.

The crowd on the inner circle was estimated at ten thousand people and another five thousand standing outside so as you might imagine it took some time to clear the area afterwards but this was a small price to pay for something so unusual.