Saturday 30 June 2012

making traps for clothes moths

The electric tennis racquet is seldom far from my reach these days, as the clothes moths take to the air all around the flat. Lord knows what awful scenes will be revealed if the House Teenager ever gets round to picking up the clothes ("I don't have any clothes") which lie 18 inches deep across her room.

I've been looking into DIY ways of getting rid of the moths, as, fun though it is to swat them with the ETR, the resulting ZAP accompanied by crackling and puff of smoke is a bit distressing. More for the moth than for me, but you know.

Apparently clothes moths are attracted to fish oil. So....

I boiled up some golden syrup with granulated sugar and a few anchovies

...dipped cartridge paper into the gloop...

...and found that I'd apparently created anchovy toffee. Whoops! set quite hard.

So I smeared a bit more golden syrup on the papers and left them to stop dripping.

And we shall see what happens when they get hung up around the place. Mothmageddon? Here's hoping.... Watch this space!

postscript: after two days hanging up, the anchovy toffee strips caught exactly 0 clothes moths. And they dripped gobbets of toffee onto the floor. Meanwhile, two strips of fly paper from the hardware store have caught 18 moths.


Wednesday 20 June 2012

wandering in the Forest Sauvage

 Sitting on top of the gatehouse tower at White Castle, you look out across rolling woods and fields to the Skirrid and the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains beyond. And if it's a day like Sunday, you will hear the willow warblers singing drowsily, as the swifts zip by below you and the newly-shorn sheep vociferously admire each others' sharply-tailored, natty white undergarments. And there will be a gloop from the moat below as the pike snaps at a roach.

We ate bacon butties and drew pictures, and drank lemonade. Last time we were here I found an owl pellet and a jay feather, and we took the jay feather home and made a pretend fishing fly from it. This time we found the Chumley Warner Brothers, stopping off on their way home from a festival at Builth, and had a nice chat.

White Castle is a prime candidate for the Castle of the Forest Sauvage. Other contenders are Goodrich, Skenfrith and Llangybi. Mix them all together and you've probably got the place in one. But White Castle is the nicest place to sit on a sunny afternoon. Or possibly Skenfrith. Or...


Here's TH White's description, from The Sword In The Stone.

The Castle of the Forest Sauvage is still standing, and you can see its lovely ruined walls with ivy on them, standing broached to the sun and wind. Some lizards live there now, and the starving sparrows keep warm on winter nights in the ivy, and a barn owl drives it methodically, hovering outside the frightened congregations and beating the ivy with its wings, to make them fly out. Most of the curtain wall is down, though you can trace the foundations of the twelve round towers which guarded it. They were round, and stuck out from the wall into the moat, so that the archers could shoot in all directions and command every part of the wall. Inside the towers there are circular stairs. These go round and round a central column, and this column is pierced with holes for shooting arrows. Even if the enemy had got inside the curtain wall and fought their way into the bottom of the towers, the defenders could retreat up the bends of the stairs and shoot at those who followed them up, inside, through these slits.

The stone part of the drawbridge with its barbican and the bartizans of the gatehouse are in good repair. These have many ingenious arrangements. Even if enemies got over the wooden bridge, which was pulled up so that they could not, there was a portcullis weighted with an enormous log which would squash them flat and pin them down as well. There was a large hidden trap-door in the floor of the barbican, which would let them into the moat after all. At the other end of the barbican there was another portcullis, so that they could be trapped between the two and annihilated from above, while the bartizans, or hanging turrets, had holes in their floors through which the defenders could drop things on their heads. Finally, inside the gatehouse, there was a neat little hole in the middle of the vaulted ceiling, which had painted tracery and bosses. This hole led to the room above, where there was a big cauldron, for boiling lead or oil.

So much for the outer defences. Once you were inside the curtain wall, you found yourself in a kind of wide alleyway, probably full of frightened sheep, with another complete castle in front of you. This was the inner shell-keep, with its eight enormous round towers which still stand. It is lovely to climb the highest of them and to lie there looking out toward the Marches, from which some of these old dangers came, with nothing but the sun above you and the little tourists trotting about below, quite regardless of arrows and boiling oil. Think for how many centuries that unconquerable tower has withstood. It has changed hands by secession often, by siege once, by treachery twice, but never by assault. On this tower the look-out hoved. From here he kept the guard over the blue woods towards Wales. His clean old bones lie beneath the floor of the chapel now, so you must keep it for him.

If you look down and are not frightened of heights (the Society for the Preservation of This and That have put up some excellent railings to preserve you from tumbling over), you can see the whole anatomy of the inner court laid out beneath you like a map. You can see the chapel, now quite open to its god, and the windows of the great hall with the solar over it. You can see the shafts of the huge chimneys and how cunningly the side flues were contrived to enter them, and the little private closets now public, and the enormous kitchen. If you are a sensible person, you will spend days there, possibly weeks, working out for yourself by detection which were the stables, which the mews, where were the cow byres, the armoury, the lofts, the well, the smithy, the kennel, the soldiers' quarters, the priest's room, and my lord's and lady's chambers. Then it will all grow about you again. The little people—they were smaller than we are, and it would be a job for most of us to get inside the few bits of their armour and old gloves that remain—will hurry about in the sunshine, the sheep will baa as they always did, and perhaps from Wales there will come the ffff-putt of the triple-feathered arrow which looks as if it had never moved.


Tuesday 19 June 2012

Sally In The Woods Wild Swim (the fifth!)

It's time to start planning for the next wild swim. So....

When and where: Sunday July 15th, 2012, 12:00 meet at Claverton (OS ref ST 789 641 ) a few miles south of Bath, off the Warminster road

Getting there: I'll be driving, because I'll have a canoe on the roof. Cycling is an option; recommended along the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath, either from Bath or from Bradford on Avon.

View Larger Map

The route:

  • Walk (or canoe) along the canal to the Dundas Aqueduct, about 1 mile towards Bradford on Avon.
  • Descend to the River Avon, and those who are swimming get changed; their gear is stowed in the canoe(s). Swimmers and canoeists then proceed downstream to Warleigh Weir, about 1 1/4 miles away. The current is sedate but helpful, the water is deep, the banks are steep. Canoes are intended to help out anyone in difficulties. (Last time was late in the season, and we had one swimmer who had to give up because she was so cold. Hopefully this will not be an issue in July).
  • It isn't possible to walk all the way from Dundas to Warleigh on one side or other of the river; but if anyone wanted to walk the whole distance by riverbank rather than swim, they could start off on the east bank then transfer across to the west bank lower down, by canoe. Probably. And if you are swimming and get too tired or cold, then walking is an option.

The swim should take about an hour. We arrive at Warleigh Weir, where there is a big meadow. And then we get our picnic stuff from the cars, and relax.

Here is the description of last year's swim; and here is the very first big one

Here is a set of photos from the swim.

Here is the Facebook group for the event.

Here is the Environment Agency's river level monitoring station at Bradford on Avon. This tells you the current level of the river.

Here is the EA's water quality monitoring page. As you see, the water quality is graded A, which is the highest quality grade.


Wednesday 13 June 2012

Newt Aid

Newt Aid, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

Put on your spangliest dancing flippers, and get on down to the Attic! Or not, as you please.

It's a benefit gig for the St Werburghs wildlife pond. Here's a Facebook event page for it.

*I did the poster!*

Tuesday 12 June 2012


disestablishment, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

It seems that the Church of England has threatened to disestablish itself from the state, as it finds the prospect of 'gay marriage' (or 'marriage equality' as it is more accurately called) too hard to countenance.

How awful that would be! No bishops in the House of Lords, meddling in affairs of state! Please don't go, C of E! On the other hand... close the door behind you, please.

Saturday 9 June 2012

where the wild swims are

The willows flailed in the wind as we advanced to the lakeside. "Fifteen degrees," John the lake man pronounced, hauling up the thermometer from the water. "Hardy lot, you girls." A crow rose from a conker tree and was flung away by the gale.

Mary was first to the ladder; descending directly to knee-depth, she dived straight in. I was next. "Hesitate and we are lost," I thought. Down in the water and out of the gale, it felt surprisingly warm, at least at first. With a splash, Mal was in too.

Rain on water is much more dramatic at eye level; the way it PLINKs all around you. We had a following wind as we swam down the lake, but looking back the way we came my face was peppered with spray. The great willow hanging by the mermaid sculpture rocked to an especially strong gust, the long trailing branches streaming like crowsfoot in a torrent. The wind picked up water from the surface and flung it across the lake. "Spindrift!" I said. "Who'd have thought it, spindrift in Henleaze...

"...the bird bloke on Twitter..."

"An appropriate place for him to be," Mary interjected...

"Ha! Yes. He said there's fulmars and petrels off Severn Beach this morning. Loads of pelagic birds getting blown in by the storm."

"Pelagic?" asked Mal.

"Deep ocean birds. From the greek. I think."

"That's us. Pelagic."

Saturday 2 June 2012

new work

Some portraits of the nice folk who work at Minuteman Press in Bedminster, Bristol.

The drawings are based on photographs, then coloured in Paint Shop Pro. As is often the case, I learned new stuff as I went along; this time, I learned that I really needed a graphics tablet. I've got a Bamboo Fun. Daft name, but it does what I want it to, and looks nice too.