Pages

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

If you go down to the woods today. Sway Treacle Mining

There is no doubt about it, I live in a pretty strange part of the world. Don't get me wrong, I love it here, I've lived here since I was a small boy. The New Forest is a beautiful part of the U.K. and as a result it has attracted over the years some pretty wonderful people. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a house in the forest and Alice Liddle (Alice in Wonderland) is buried in Lyndhurst Churchyard. But there are stranger stories that I have heard which definitely need further investigation. Sway Treacle Mines is one such tale.
Each time I've heard the tale told, the listener usually has a peculiar grin which is then followed by a strange chicken-like-laughter known as chuckling (if you've never heard a chicken laugh you need to get here soon!) I must confess that the first time I heard the tale I suffered the same symptoms. However, since receiving a mysterious phone call last Sunday I fear that my laughter may have been a little premature.
The phone call was from a Mr Tate, a resident of Sway for many years. He asked me to meet him at a secret location, where, he said 'the truth of the myth would be proved'.
I met Mr Tate late last Monday, just before dusk outside of Setthorns enclosure. He then led me to the secret location, about a mile into the enclosure, he then turned and led me to a small bush like shrub and beckoned me closer. 'This is it!' He explained. 'This is the key to the story. This is the missing plant of the Forest - the treacaldii suagardii'!
Not being an expert on such matters, I enquired why nobody else had ever mentioned the existence of such a plant. Mr Tate explained that the plant name had been removed from all records during the eighteenth century. The reason for this was because of the conspiracy set up by the sugar importers. The plant has a very sweet flavour and a natural stickiness, the sugar importers feared that if such a plant were to become widespread, then obviously their business would suffer.
When I asked Mr Tate how he had come to know of such a plant, he admitted that he had been searching for it constantly for the last 50 years. He'd come to know of it's existence from his grandfather, a My Llyle, who had sworn him to secrecy during his lifetime.
I took a closer look at this amazing plant and discovered that it was, in fact, slowly but surely dying. Mr Tate said that this was probably due to the light - the opening in the tree cover had only recently occured and the extra light was not helping the rare plants survival.
The myth of the treacle mines themselves was explained: A few members of the New Forest community started to dig holes within the woods, the holes would then be covered and camouflaged and the forbidden plant grown within them. A rare blend of black market treacle followed which was richly sought after.
Unfortunately, the black market treacle smugglers were to come to a sticky end! The sugar importers employed a group of men known as the 'trafia', their job was to seek out and destroy all 'mines' and their plants. Needless to say, they were very successful and the 'treacaldii sugardii' was not seen or heard of again, until now of course.
Mr Tate and myself took the precaution of removing this last plant from the forest floor to protect it from prying eyes and heavy feet. I hope that Mr Tate will have success in propagating further plants and, who knows, there could well be treacle mines in Sway once more.
Sway is a wonderful place. I'm going to show you around it here today. This picture on the right was taken in Setthorns and this one here is taken at Longslade bottom.
I got a little nostalgic today as I reseached this piece and I thought you might like this vid I made, sorry about the wind noise...


video

Sunday, 12 June 2011

New Forest 'Yeti' Discovered

Today I had 'Yeti' another slight Victor Meldrew Moment. I was in Tesco's buying some broccoli and realised that I was going to pay, by weight, for the stalk that I was going to cut off and throw away. What's the point of that I ask you?......Can you guess what I did before purchase?...I don't believe it!
My anger puts me in mind of 'Yeti another abominable tale'.......there's a pun there , trust me...! Quite a few years ago now I was carefully propping up the bar in a popular New Forest hostelry when I happened to bump into that elusive character, - Mr Tate. 'The very man!' says he. 'Why?' I asked,' has our treacle plant matured so soon?' 'Oh no,' said Tatie, ' but there are some strange 'appenings goin on 'ereabouts. It's all to do with some strange animal sightings.' The plot thickened.

I've heard of similar strange happenings on Exmoor in Somerset, where many people have reported the sightings of a large cat-like creature roaming the moors and sometimes damaging property. There are similar stories from Scotland and Yorkshire of large 'cats'.
Many folk believe that the cats could be a remnant from prehistoric times. Could it just be possible that these wild cats are still roaming free in modern Britain? And what has been sighted here in the New Forest? Is this the New Forest 'Yeti', yet again?
According to Tatie, several of his friends had spotted the Yeti walking home from the pub one night. (Sorry I'll re-phrase that last sentence) Taties friends were walking home from the pub one night when they spotted the Yeti ( I think I liked it better the first time around. I wonder what it drinks?) . I asked Tatie the obvious question; ' were your friends in an inebriated state, and if so, can we be sure that it wasn't pink elephants they were seeing?' After several seconds thought, Tatie informed me that they were all totally plastered! I rest my case!
Not being one to let sleeping dogs lie I decided to continue with my investigation. Tatie pointed out his friends at the other end of the room, trying to hold the bar still with a gentle leaning action. As we approached them I realised that they were probably in a similar state of intoxication as on the night in question. Determining this state is not easy as most foresters believe that if you can lie on the floor without holding on, you're not drunk!
Several drinks and lengthy conversations later, I found that I was none the wiser about the mystery. However, my old instinct told me that there was something amiss. If I used the information that I had gleaned from Taties' friends I should be looking for a seven foot hairy midget with two heads, eight feet and big ears. There was only one answer to my dilemma and consequently I instigated a fresh search for the thing,....after closing time of course!
In my book, seeing is believing and anyone who has ever seen four men doing the conga whilst looking for the New Forest Yeti certainly wouldn't believe it! After about half a mile or so the much talked about Yeti appeared, right on cue. Taties friends disappeared into the undergrowth shouting and screaming . Tatie and I were totally bewildered as we stood before the seven foot hairy midget with two heads, eight feet and big ears....because it looked remarkably like two small donkeys!
In the cool light of day (and sobriety!) the explanation becomes obvious . What we had come across in the dark was a pair of New Forest donkeys! As Tatie pointed out 'at one time there were hundreds of 'em'. They were bred specifically for the Forest, they were smaller than normal donkeys. Why were they smaller you may well ask? The answer is easy. They bred these small donkeys for use in the nearby treacle mines, didn't they?

video

The New Forest has some pretty unique inhabitants, here I'm talking about the animals. The Forest is 900 years old, created by King William the First in 1079 as his private hunting ground, it's around 141,000 acres and the animals who graze here have all the rights. They are owned by foresters who are allowed to graze them here (it's called forest rights and controlled by the Verderers and their court) When you travel through the New Forest on the roads you have to remember that the ponies, donkeys, cows and pigs (the pigs are put out in the autumn to eat the acorns, the acorns kill New Forest ponies if they eat them but not the pigs, it's called pannage. and the right goes back for many hundreds of years) always have the right of way. You have to stop for them as they roam around grazing. In 2009 113 mares(41 killed) and 46 foals(24 killed) were injured in road accidents. More are actually killed by local people driving too fast than tourists.


video

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Gathering Nuts in Sway

Sorry, I've had another Victor Meldrew moment today (please check out this link, it's the Honda song!) whilst driving across the forest; I spotted some rubbish that some ******* had fly tipped onto our beautiful forest....and it made me so angry. I stopped and took these pictures because I really couldn't believe it! In the picture with the ponies you can just see the rubbish behind them, this is their home, how could someone do this? My story continues because whilst I was out of the car getting these pics, a Police car arrived in the car park and the officer was taking a great deal of interest in my car (well, Lyn's car actually, before the exhaust fell off yesterday!) As I walked back to the car he turned and approached me. (Seriously, he looked like he was about 12 years old!)
"Are those valuables on your seat Sir? Looks like a camera case?" I opened the car and showed him my glasses case which was empty (I think he was really looking for sweeties!) Joking aside, he was making a serious point about car park thefts in the forest and valuables not being left on display tempting thieves. It was ideal really because he left it open for me to rant on about the fly tipping episode in front of us. I felt a lot better afterwards, he just got into his little panda car and zoomed off. I digress, please read on..
video

Fact is often stranger than fiction, so I am told. This could possibly be one of the reasons why I am unearthing strange facts which appear to be fictitious. On a recent expedition to the local library I was fortunate enough to make an accidental discovery, it was a long forgotten recipe for a very rare cookie!
I made the discovery whilst delving into 'Peakes' reference book of commercial 'cookies'. The 'So-So' or 'Suggestive' cookies were actually manufactured here in the New Forest area. In fact they were made in the old part of Sway.
Sway has certainly been put on the map recently but I think that the credit that Sway is now receiving is long overdue. A few hundred and more years ago, Sway was a central part of the Forest's industries and crafts, during that period many tales emerged that are confusingly re-told today. I believe, what I have discovered here is a link with the old Sway story of the 'biscuit quarries'.
The 'cookie' or biscuit that I have come across has even been given a special section in the names section of 'Peakes'. Apparently, it originally got it's name from a reaction of a well respected cookie freak, a certain Mr Fren. When he was asked for his opinion of the Sway biscuit he simply said that it was, "So-So" and the name was born. It's second name 'suggestive' , was a nick name used by the people of Sway when they accidentally discovered that the 'So-So' cookie was quite an acceptable aphrodisiac.
It is thought that the reason for the biscuit having this particular quality is largely due to one local ingredient, the Sway nut. Now it's simply a myth but once there were vast quantities of these nuts around Sway (there are still a few people who believe that Sway may still has some nuts today). The nut was supposed to have been found deep underground and could only have been commercially available if quarried.
The most likey location for the quarry would have been behind the old ale house known locally as the Three Horseshoes in Pitmore Lane. In some of the old documents there are a few hints of the 'Sway nuts', in this area. The nuts were a little like monkey nuts in shape except that on 'Sway nuts' the shell was also regarded as part of the nut itself.
The men who quarried the nuts became known locally as 'Sway nutters' and were always well respected by others in the local community. The nuts were usually transported to the bakery which, in those days, was situated in 'Back lane', Sway. It was here that the ancient recipe was used to make the cookies. Obviously another prime ingredient in the cookies were the leaves of the sugardii treacaldii (Treacle plant), which enhanced the final flavour.
When the secondary properties of the Sway cookies became widely known the local people found it hard to meet the rising demand, ( and the baking powder shortage didn't help)! During the 1850's the cookies were being exported around the world. Eventually the quarry dried up around 1865 and the cookie faded away.
As I said at the beginning, fact is stranger than fiction, who would have believed that a small New Forest village such as 'Sway' could have contributed so much to the countries economy? Who indeed...?


Recipe for Sway 'suggestive' Cookies
To make 18 cookies:- Ingredients;
4oz Plain Flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4oz semolina
4oz butter
4oz sugardii treacadii
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of milk
3oz Sway nuts
Bake for 20 25 minutes at 375F
Enjoy !

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Ze Mad Professor

I was wondering how many of you had managed to make my 'So So or suggestive cookies' from my last post? It's a great cookie recipe.
There I was wondering what I should blog about next as Lyn drove us back from our daughters; as we approached our little village we were stopped by the three way traffic lights that we have had to suffer for the last three weeks and I noticed that Gas company ( it was their hole!) had finished their roadworks but left the signals, signs and barriers in place over the weekend( and still in place today) . Victor Meldrew came over me again! What's the point of traffic lights and barriers when there is no hole? There was a hole and it was reported that that some Gas workers had actually been seen working there ( Though neither Lyn nor I have ever seen seen anyone working here in the last three weeks!) . Please zoom in on the picture and you will see that they have finished their works and refilled the hole and re-tarmacked it and replaced the white lines! But still the traffic lights, barriers and inconvenience. I don't believe it. (it must be good because Lyn stole it and put it on her blog! That's her in the little black car coming around the obstruction!)

I thought that as my blog has been up and running for three weeks I should pay homage to my initial thoughts, the 'Treacle Mines' ....! But with a new Twist, 'Ze Mad Professatory'.




If you go down to the woods today. Sway Treacle Mining

There is no doubt about it, I live in a pretty strange part of the world. Don't get me wrong, I love it here, I've lived here since I was a small boy. The New Forest is a beautiful part of the U.K. and as a result it has attracted over the years some pretty wonderful people. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a house in the forest and Alice Liddle (Alice in Wonderland) is buried in Lyndhurst Churchyard. But there are stranger stories that I have heard which definitely need further investigation. Sway Treacle Mines is one such tale.
Each time I've heard the tale told, the listener usually has a peculiar grin which is then followed by a strange chicken-like-laughter known as chuckling (if you've never heard a chicken laugh you need to get here soon!) I must confess that the first time I heard the tale I suffered the same symptoms. However, since receiving a mysterious phone call last Sunday I fear that my laughter may have been a little premature.
The phone call was from a Mr Tate, a resident of Sway for many years. He asked me to meet him at a secret location, where, he said 'the truth of the myth would be proved'.
I met Mr Tate late last Monday, just before dusk outside of Setthorns enclosure. He then led me to the secret location, about a mile into the enclosure, he then turned and led me to a small bush like shrub and beckoned me closer. 'This is it!' He explained. 'This is the key to the story. This is the missing plant of the Forest - the treacaldii suagardii'!
Not being an expert on such matters, I enquired why nobody else had ever mentioned the existence of such a plant. Mr Tate explained that the plant name had been removed from all records during the eighteenth century. The reason for this was because of the conspiracy set up by the sugar importers. The plant has a very sweet flavour and a natural stickiness, the sugar importers feared that if such a plant were to become widespread, then obviously their business would suffer.
When I asked Mr Tate how he had come to know of such a plant, he admitted that he had been searching for it constantly for the last 50 years. He'd come to know of it's existence from his grandfather, a My Llyle, who had sworn him to secrecy during his lifetime.
I took a closer look at this amazing plant and discovered that it was, in fact, slowly but surely dying. Mr Tate said that this was probably due to the light - the opening in the tree cover had only recently occurred and the extra light was not helping the rare plants survival.
The myth of the treacle mines themselves was explained: A few members of the New Forest community started to dig holes within the woods, the holes would then be covered and camouflaged and the forbidden plant grown within them. A rare blend of black market treacle followed which was richly sought after.
Unfortunately, the black market treacle smugglers were to come to a sticky end! The sugar importers employed a group of men known as the 'trafia', their job was to seek out and destroy all 'mines' and their plants. Needless to say, they were very successful and the 'treacaldii sugardii' was not seen or heard of again, until now of course.
Mr Tate and myself took the precaution of removing this last plant from the forest floor to protect it from prying eyes and heavy feet. I hope that Mr Tate will have success in propagating further plants and, who knows, there could well be treacle mines in Sway once more.
Sway is a wonderful place. I'm going to show you around it here today, This picture on the right was taken in Setthorns and this one here is taken at Longslade bottom.