Travel Trales

A journey through time across United Kingdom & Ireland

Buddha & Tea


Buddha made a vow to stay awake and meditate for 9 years. After 7 years he started to feel sleepy and found himself nodding off. He was so angry that he allowed this to happen, that in a fit of anger, he ripped his eyelids from his face and threw them onto the ground. Where they landed, they took root and grew, becoming a tea plant.  Buddha picked a leaf and chewed it to stay awake.

It is believed that Buddhists were the first to cultivate and make tea as a medicine. They believed it vitalised the blood, made us stronger, gave us more energy and gave the body the balance it needs to function to its optimum level.  And when it was first brought to Britain in the eighteenth century, it was sold in apothecaries, before it became an aristocratic luxury.

“Daffodils” (1804)


I WANDER’D lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretch’d in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed — and gazed — but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)


The War & the Fox Brothers

In 1914, almost the whole population of the Somerset town of Wellington, was involved with the War effort. They mostly worked for Fox Brothers, a company that had before the war, woven cloth for the rich and famous. With the outbreak of World War One they switched their production to making uniforms for the soldiers and grew to be the biggest woollen mill in the world.

www.traveltrales.wordpress.comFive thousand people worked on four hundred looms, twenty four hours a day to keep the British army clothed. The putty rapidly became their biggest product, which was one of the major contributors to the war effort.  The putty was made up of two coarse bandages which were wrapped around the top of the soldiers’ boots to keep them dry and clean inside and also prevented their boots from being sucked off when they got stuck in the mud.   During the War Fox produced 82,000 miles of putties as well as heavy, warm Great Coats.

After the War there was a dramatic reduction in the demand for putties and so Fox Brothers diversified to making suits for the rich and famous again, which included Winston Churchill.

Today modern army uniforms have made putties redundant, and the factory only has twenty eight staff members working on eight looms. But there are still men and women working at the factory today who have been a part of this company for generations and had family members working there during the War years.

Incredibly, every soldier in the Great War was a part of the history of Fox Brothers and Fox Brothers was a part of the history of every soldier in the Great War.

Image: BBC

A Cure for Baldness?

Rich or poor, baldness has been a concern for men for centuries. In the seventeenth century wealthy men would boil ivy in water to get the juice and add to honey. They would then “anoint the bald place therewith”.

The poor needed to use what they could get their hands on, and to ‘cure’ their baldness, they rubbed chicken droppings into the scalp.

I do wonder if either of these remedies actually made a difference… Image:

Elizabethan Toothpaste

teeth-whitenig-home-remedies-sage-leafIn Elizabethan times people used what was growing around them for personal hygiene and cleanliness.

Rubbing the teeth vigorously with a linen cloth to dislodge any bits, was the most common form of oral hygiene.  And to strengthen their teeth, they chewed twigs. But, the best way used to clean teeth and to freshen breathe, was to run a sage leaf across their teeth and their gums.  This is still used today in natural health circles as an effective alternative to toothpaste.


Numis vs the Euro

It was 1,700 years before the introduction of the Euro that a single currency was being used across the Roman Empire. The numis coins were recognised and used by merchants in Constantinople and citizens of the Eternal City to soldiers stationed on Hadrian’s Wall.

So, in January 2002 when seventeen European nations formally adopted the Euro after scrapping their own currencies, a single currency was not something new. The purpose of the Euro was to simplify trade across the European continent. Under the Romans, the coin was used as part of the Roman conquest, not for conquest sake, but to help subsidize the Empire and their bartering system and to standardise taxation. The value of the coins was based on government decree and not on the value of the content used in the creation of the coinage. This lead to a very high number of coins being minted and inflation was inevitable when too many coins entered the system.

Diocletian’s tried to deal with the inflation by introducing price controls when things got a bit out of hand, which sadly failed, but his introduction of coin denominations, helped to streamline the system as much as possible.

As with the Euro, the Roman coinage had a standardised design on one side and some kind of representation of the country the coins came from on the other.

The Roman single currency was used for centuries, and the Euro has only, to date, been in circulation of just over a decade. The main reason for this is that only one government, the Roman Empire, controlled the Roman single currency. Today the situation is much more complex as more governments are involved in the management of this financial concept that is, as it was in Rome, tightly linked to politics and global economics.

In 400AD the Roman Empire started to crumble. The Romans retreated from across the Continent and took with them their coinage. This was devastating for the British economy. The currency did not just collapse, it was completely removed from Britain. No money meant no trade. It was the biggest financial disaster Britain had ever, and probably ever will,  be a victim of. People abandoned the cities and the whole country became vulnerable to invasion from all angles.

This ushered in a period of instability and darkness which later became known as The Dark Ages.

Irish Happy New Year

“May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks,
May your heart be as light as a song,
May each day bring you bright, happy hours,
That stay with you all the year long”

Ludlow Food Festival

September in Shropshire is a time of plenty! Bordering Wales, it is one of England’s most rural counties and so when the town of Ludlow hosts its annual food festival at the beginning of autumn, the market town attracts people from across the area. Everyone joins in to celebrate local and seasonal produce. Besides the pressing of apples for the making of cider, the local meats are proving a hit in the area and internationally, and there is a revival of an ancient fruit.

The meat from the local pigs compete with any European meat.  Up in the Clee Hills the pigs do very well, but it is in the Wye Forest that local pig farmers are working closely with the Forestry Commission in a symbiotic relationship.

The Commission is struggling to control the bracken that is taking over the forest.  They are committed to reverting the areas of conifer back to broadleaf.  The bracken just keeps coming and it swamps the natural regeneration.  The farmers have agreed to bring their pigs in to graze in the forest.  Grazing pigs disturb the ground and help rid the ground of the root structure for the bracken to survive. The pigs don’t tend to take away from the regeneration of the trees and the key factor is not to keep the pigs in the forest for too long at any one time…finding the right balance.

How does this benefit the farmers? Pigs are happier and because they have to actively find their food in the forest, they are stronger.  This means they produce a well-muscled carcass with good, dark meat. The pigs are matured for twelve months, as opposed to the four months in other commercial ventures.  The meat has had time to develop and is far tastier, especially for the making of salamis.  It is a win-win situation!

Pdean%20Alderman%20bumAnd in other areas of farming, the Shropshire is England’s oldest pedigreed sheep.  Breeding them is good commercially as they produce good meat and have a well-known fleece.  Forty years ago the Shropshire sheep fell out of favour and numbers of breeding ewes dropped to below five hundred. The breed was put on the Rare Breed Survival Watch List and through hard work and determination, the numbers at the beginning of 2013 had risen to over four thousand.

The sheep are also a great asset for conservation.  They are tree-friendly sheep.  Other breeds nibble branches and even strip bark off trees, but the Shropshire grazes in plantations of small trees and are great to manage the undergrowth.  ‘Special Agent’ is a large, handsome sheep who is used locally to breed the Shropshire and his offspring seem to have the tastiest meat.

The Shropshire prune is a local fruit.  It is of the damson family and sadly, over the years it too fell out of favour. Part of the problem was that the trees were put into hedges to feed the animals and act as more effective wind-breaks. But the locals are doing what they can to save them.

The fruit looks similar to a sloe of the plum family.  It has the same colour just slightly different in shape and in fact the Shropshire prune is a cross between the sloe and the cherry plum.  It is not native to Shropshire or even the United Kingdom as the damson originally came from Damascus, hence its name. It is believed that the tree, with its obscure fruit arrived in the country about 2,000 years ago, and possibly by the Romans.

Not many people really know what to do with them – they are flavourful and have a plummy sweetness.  A local farmer refers to the fruit as a “plumb with an attitude”.  They are great to make syrup for desserts, jam, vinegar, liqueur (wine) and a fruit paste, which is called a cheese.  It is not really a cheese, but more a jam-looking accompaniment to enjoy with dairy cheese or add to a gravy for gamey meats.  A local chef has used it to make a ravioli, which was part of the food on offer at the food festival.

ludlow-food-festivalPart of the festival is held in the grounds of the Norman castle, which was built to protect the border from the invaders of the ‘Wild West’, or Wales. Today the only invaders are the tourists. Since 1995, when Ludlow became one of the first towns in Britain to hold a farmers’ market, the revolution began. And the culture of buying food properly and supporting local produce since medieval times has been revived in  the annual Ludlow Food Festival.

Image sources: &

The Cheviot Hills

The rolling hills that straddle the English-Scottish border are pronounced without the last syllable and the pocket for land here that was used for hunting was known as a chase, thus Chevy Chase.

The Earl of Northumberland, who was based south of the border, would often hunt in the area.  The Earl of Douglas, who was north of the border had banned hunting, so when the Earl of Northumberland crossed the border into Scotland for his hunt in 1388, it was interpreted as an invasion. The ensuing battle cost 110 lives, and was believed to be the basis for the Ballads of Chevy Chase, which tell the story of the famous clash.

The Cheviot Hills are divided into the northern and the southern hills. Most of the higher ground is in the north where the highest hill is 2,674 ft (815 m) above sea level.  The hills that lie north of the Scottish border have traditional rights of access and south of the border it is known as ‘open country’ under the Northumberland National Park.

Chevy Chase is a city in Maryland USA named after the area and the ballads, and the actor with the same name changed his name from Cornelius Crane Chase, just because he liked the sound of it.

Image sources: Across the Britain & Fan Pop

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