1978-Sep-pg3-5_Summer Excursions

1978-Sep-pg3-5_Summer Excursions

This article came from the Chronicle published September 1978. Pages 3-5




The first of the ‘summer’ outings, on Saturday 15th April, saw members gather at Bridport for a conducted tour of the town by the Rev.E.B.Short who had aroused members’ interest by the address on Medieval Bridport ha had delivered at our meeting the previous November. In a very detailed afternoon walk-about, Mr Short pointed out features mentioned in his lecture, these included identifying a part of the Saxon ramparts, over which we walked, the ancient chantry, the changed and eroded course of the river Brit, and the formed limits of the town’s boundary which was traversed. Mr Short commented on how the town’s centre had shifted from its site near the 13th century church to a position a quarter of a mile north. Also visited was the 17th century Nonconformist Church and its history described; the Friends’ Meeting House was also pointed out.

A half-day coach outing on Saturday 6 May led first to Raleigh’s Cross where members had a somewhat chilly view of the hazy countryside from the top of the incline of the West Somerset Mineral Railway. An interesting fact subsequently to emerge was a Yeovil man’s involvement in the enterprise, The fact comes from the minute book of the company, as recorded in Roger Sellick’s book of the S.W.M.R.,the entry for 30 January 1857 reads: ‘The Engineer has purchased for the purpose of the works from Mr R.B.Ritson of Yeovil, 20 earth waggons at £6 10s each, delivered on board a vessel at Dunball’, and on 25 February it was resolved to buy another 20 from Ritson, at the same price. One would rather like to know if the route he delivered the waggons was by the Yeovil to Durston railway line, which was then in being, and then from Durston to Dunball on the main Taunton Bristol line. From Dunball the ship would have carried the waggons to Watchet – the Taunton-Minehead link not then being constructed.

On leaving Raleigh’s Cross the coach proceeded to Cleeve Abbey where members explored the ruins of this Cistercian foundation, and though the Latin inscription over the gatehouse may be translated ‘Gate open be to honest folk all free’ there was, nevertheless, a charge for admission: Continuing on to the tiny tidal port of Watchet, where the Mineral Railway terminated, the party were able to persuade a not-unreluctant proprietor of a tea-shop to extend his opening time sufficiently to provide us with sustenance for the return journey, after a brief look at the harbour.

Those who enjoyed the fine evening of Friday 19 May on an excursion to Limington (Wolsey’s curacy) and Tintinhull were enlightened at both places by Secretary Chapman’s dissertations which, in addition to descriptions of the architectural features of the churches and a look at former house-platforms at Limington, were augmented with Domesday and later descriptions from Collinson’s History of Somerset. At Tintinhull several of us were intrigued by an unexplained and curious design incised on one of the exterior buttresses on the south side of the church, while the evening light also revealed at least seven scratch, or mass, dials. Many members, too, were puzzled by what appeared to be a large stone memorial near the south porch. This is commented on in a paper in the Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological Society for 1886, written by a former vicar, the Rev J.B.Hyson. He said that in an account of 1515 there is an entry. ‘Stuff for making the “Stonyng” Door . . . 8s 0d.’ and continues:’As this “Stonyng Door” was erected by the Prior of Montacute, wino was rector of Tintinhull at this time, it seems highly probable that these stones came from the ruins of the Castle which Earl Moreton had at Montacute, This “Stonyng Door” stands now at the western entrance to the churchyard and was for many years an archaeological enigma, it seems now to be a relic which the Prior was anxious to preserve, and which, if the surmise indulged in as above be correct, contain portions of Earl Moreton’s castle, it had inscribed on the “Parson’s Close” side: “Venite igitur lætitiam in domo Domini” (Let us go into the house of God rejoicing). On the churchyard side: “Vera locus (iste) sanctus, est” (“Truly this is a holy place”). This block of stonework bears a strong resemblance to the door cases in the Vicars` Close at Wells.’

The hot sunny day which was provided for our whole-day excursion to Wales on Saturday 3 June, when former secretary Edgar Silcox resumed the role of conductor in the absence of Bill Chapman, on holiday, was marred by the breakdown of the coach soon after joining the motorway at Wembdon. The enforced sojourn on the hard shoulder for some two hours before the arrival of a relief vehicle, resulted in the curtailment of the projected programme by the omission of the visit to Penhow Castle. An alfresco lunch was taken at the Brent Knoll picnic area before moving on, over the Severn Bridge, to the Roman town of Caerwent where, after a conducted tour of a church full of interest, a stroll around the visible ruins and part of the town walls was made. While in the church individual members were able to point out to our guide that what had been described as a stone carving of a fleur-de-lis was much more likely to be an acanthus of Roman origin, and that Llandaff Cathedral appeared on the pulpit together with an inscription. Mr Hayward’s knowledge of Latin was also called for in deciphering some of the Roman and other inscriptions. Chepstow Castle, the next venue, engulfed the party until tea-time when, after a brief look at the town, the coach was re-embarked for a pleasant journey home.

A half-day journey into the hinterland of the Somerset Levels took place on Saturday 17 June under the, leadership of Brian Storer and his colleague, J.Langridge, who boarded the coach at Beer Cross to direct the driver to Turn Hill. Whilst viewing the magnifioent vista spread below, Mr Storer explained that we were standing on what had been the beach in former times with the cliff rising behind us. Toiling up the hill he pointed out plants which grew only on the dryish calcareous soil. There were yellow-wort, clary, thyme, and several climbers including madder, whose roots once provided dye (synthetic now!) and the white bryony with its curious extending coil of tendrils, Membors, were also given the leaves of the ‘roast beef’ plant, a delicate minature iris rejoicing in the name of ‘Iris foetidissima’ or stinking iris! A badger run and the web of the hawthorn moth caterpillar were noticed mid during the day greenfinches, chiff-chaff, willow warbler, and even the cuckoo were heard, while also seen was a blackcap. Down on the moors our attention was drawn to various fields, some cultivated, other ‘improved’ for pasture, while others were left as they had always been, a profusion of flowers and grasses with yellow irises and water violets, in the ditches. In the Catcott Nature Reserve we saw marsh orchids, marsh cinquefoil, bog myrtle, grass butterflies and dragonflies. Various experiments in conservation had been carried out – at the edge of a small pond Brian Storer’s day was made when with a cry of joy he observed the marsh-pea which had been planted there was in flower. Following a welcome tea-break at Glastonbury, the final venue was Ashcott, passing en route the commercial peat cuttings which, we were told, would eventually form a series of lakes and for which a leisure centre is planned. Though unable to see the ancient trackway over the moors, it was explained that in order to preserve it, it was necessary for it to be covered, and we were led along a more modern drove to examine the sphagnum moss and sun-dews, pyramid, heath and lesser butterfly orchids. One fearless photographer recorded them on his knees in the squelchy sphagnum. The conductors of the afternoon’s excursion were thanked by Mr Brooke, in the absence of the chairman, and thanks were also expressed to the driver for his expertise in negotiating the tortuous tracks through which we had journeyed, and Bill Chapman for having organized the outing and for his command of the weather.

A well-patronised whole-day coach outing took place on Saturday 1st July to Gloucestershire where the first stop was to view the extensive excavations of Kingscote Roman town. The rain-swept party were given a hastily conducted tour of the site before seeking shelter in the site museum where tea and biscuits were laid on. Outstanding among the impressive extent of the buildings so far revealed (and being worked on despite the weather) was a very fine tessellated pavement and a remarkable restoration of a very large wall painting. The rain having stopped, members took a further look before moving cuff for Ashelworth where, after a riverside picnic lunch, the church of SS Andrew and Bartholomew provided much to interest, particularly the immense Royal Coat of Arms said to be either Elizabethan or maybe even Edward VI. A scratch dial inside the porch together with ship and other graffiti, were also noticed as members left for the next stop at the Priory Church of St. Mary at Deerhurst which contains much of the original Saxon fabric together with Jacobean woodwork. Directed to the outside remains of the apse and the ‘Deerhurst Angel’, a few members then sneaked off so snatch a quick view of nearby Odda’s Chapel which was dedicated on 12 April 1056, as the ‘Odder Stone’ records. Arriving at Tewkesbury at 4p.m. the party were given an illuminating conducted tour of the fine Norman, Early English and Decorated Abbey, after which tea was sought at nearby cafes and a hasty glimpse at the town’s 16th, 17th, and 18th century buildings. Leaving to cacophony from the nearby fair – it was Tewkesbury’s Carnival Day – the coach returned via Bath, and before members dispersed the Chairman, Miss Rendell, thanked Mr.L.C.Hayward for having reconnoitred the route beforehand and provided such able commentariea, and Mr.Chapman for other arrangements, saying that despite the showers this had proved once more a most enjoyable occasion.

An afternoon excursion to the Somerset Rural Life Museum at Glastonbury on Saturday, 15 July, was enjoyed by members who gathered at the Abbey Barn to view the permanent display of domestic and agricultural exhibits. Here is staged the apparatus and materials of the craft of Somerset basket-makers from the growing of the osiers to the finished product, here too is a fine collection of farm waggons, binders, reapers, and threshing machines. In the Museum House an authentic record of a farmworker’s life in the 19th century was revealed through the display of photographs and their accompanying captions. Everyday utensils to be found in a country worker’s home included these employed in cheese-making, butchery, a pantry and kitchen.

Coinciding with Yeovilton Air Day, the half-day excursion to the American Museum at Claverton Manor, near Bath, on Saturday 5 August was, nevertheless, well patronised. Despite a slow start because of heavy traffic to Ilchester (allowed for by the Secretary!) and a rainy journey, once again the sun shone while members toured the house before taking tea and enjoying the pleasant grounds of the Manor. In the house members were treated to a display of authentic American life-style covering the period of the early settlers from Europe to that of the ‘Cotton Kings’ and the Colonial era. Rejoining the coach a short journey brought us to the Limpley Stoke lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal where members descended to the towpath to inspect extensive restoration work being carried out. From here the party proceeded to Bradford on Avon where an intrepid band braved muddy paths to walk beside a now-derelict section of the canal behind the Tithe Barn, to emerge at the lock gates beyond which the canal is navigable, and where, after negotiating the lock gates, a long narrow canal boat was moored. A briefly-mislaid passenger being recovered, the coach left for the homeward journey which culminated in thanks to the driver and Secretary being expressed by Mr.R.Clynick, in the absence of the Chairman.