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Town of Sandwich, Kent, UK

My daughter and I just returned from a twelve-day trip to England to visit my mother, who has lived in the UK for about thirty years.  Usually the trip involves tours of local attractions.  This year we went to the town of Sandwich, located near the English Channel between Margate and Dover.  At one time Sandwich was one of the greatest ports in England and is still one of the five Cinque Ports designated by the Crown to protect the coast.

Sandwich is renowned for containing some of the most complete sections of medieval town.  Tourism to view the antiquities began in the 1700s and has not abated.  We stayed at the King’s Arms, an inn built in 1580 on Strand Street.  At that time the street fronted the Stour River.  Since then so much silting-in of the waterway has occurred that there are houses with large backyards on the river side of the street.  The inn was originally called the Queen’s Arms and named for Elizabeth I who visited Sandwich.  The name was changed in 1687, during the reign of James II.

The inn is a charming and largely original structure.  Features such as the cheerful common room with its giant fireplace, huge exposed wooden beams throughout, narrow, steep staircases, and door clearances under six feet high are all proof of this house’s nearly 450 year history.  Our room was number three and our window was the middle one with the orange glow above the parked car on the right side of the first photo.  The elderly single glazed window was quite drafty.  Luckily the weather was warm during our stay.  We had a large, comfortable room with a fireplace that has been closed up.  The included full English breakfast was very good.  The psychic in me is certain residuals of long-gone lives still remain in our room and in the entire building.

Many of the streets in Sandwich are like the one above.  It is single lane, yet accommodates two-way traffic.  Medieval buildings crowd close, their jetties overhanging the sidewalks.  The lane above, Church Street, runs between the King’s Arms and St. Mary’s Church to intersect with Strand Street.  Walking along the streets can be challenging as the traffic is sometimes heavy and the sidewalks are narrow or non-existent.  Many are roughly paved with cobbles.

Sandwich has a long history.  It began as a small settlement on an island in a large, deep harbor.  In AD 43 the Romans established Rutupiae (Richborough) on this harbor.  The population of the area rapidly expanded as the army used Rutupiae for their base in the conquest of Britain.  Sandwich, once known as Lundenwic, stood near the harbor entrance to the wide, deep, important Wantsum shipping channel that ran all the way to London from the sea.  Massive storms with tidal wave surges deposited so much silt with major flooding that the harbor was partially filled in, leaving Richborough high and dry and making Lundenwic the new port town.  After the Romans left, and the Saxons were invaded by Danes, the name was changed to Sandwic, meaning sandy town.  Over time the name morphed into Sandwich.

In the 900s, the town moved to higher ground as continued silting formed a peninsula from the original island.  The channel remained deep enough for large ships.  By the eleventh century Sandwich had become a major English port with a large population and great wealth.  In the middle of that century it was designated a Cinqueport with obligations to provided armed sailing vessels and fighting men for the king in times of war.  In return Sandwich received money from surrounding towns to help with the arming of vessels and men, and privileged trade with the continent free from customs and tolls.

Ever at odds with England, France staged several raids on Sandwich.  In 1217, they burned much of the town.  A toll ferry carried traffic across to Thanet until a bridge was built.  A version of it stands today.  The structure was originally a drawbridge but was rebuilt as the current single lane swing bridge.  Traffic approaches the bridge through the Barbican or David’s (Davis) Gate (photo above.)  The town had been granted the right to have its own municipal court as a cinqueport privilege.  A Guild Hall with a court room was constructed in 1359 that still stands today.  The town had a mayor and all the eligible men of voting age participated in town business including serving on juries.

The Great Storm of 1287 brought a devastating tidal wave storm surge carrying so much silt that the harbor was filled in.  The river remained deep enough for good sized ships to navigate so Sandwich continued as a port two miles inland from the sea.  A wide place in the river called Sandwich Haven provided safe docking for trade ships.  The French attacked several more times including in 1457 when the mayor was killed.  Since that time all the mayors of Sandwich wear black robes of office to signify mourning.  In the 1450s the king became so concerned about attacks by the French that he ordered the town better fortified.  More and higher walls were built and stronger gates.

The end of Sandwich’s days as a port city occurred in the late 1550s when Pope Paul IV lost a large ship. It sank right at the mouth of Sandwich Haven.  Soon silt and sand built up around the wreck effectively stopping up the entrance to Sandwich for large trading vessels.  Attempts to cut a deeper passage failed.

In the 1560s, craftspeople escaping religious persecution in Flanders and France came to England.  Queen Elizabeth granted the refugees licenses to set up shops and manufacture in different parts of England.  Several groups of Dutch weavers moved to Sandwich and began manufacturing broadcloth using wool produced in Kent.  They employed small vessels to carry their goods out to markets.  This created a boom for the Sandwich area.  The photo above is of the Sandwich Weavers building where the Dutch sheltered when they arrived in the area.  Over time many of these weavers became wealthy.

The Dutch influence in Sandwich can also be seen in architecture, ditches, drainage works and farm fields.  Because the area was once part of the sea, it is low, flat and damp.  The Dutch had experience with such conditions.  They drained fields to create farmland and grew crops such as grains, carrots and celery in the sandy soil.  A ditch called the Delf (Old English for ditch) and connected sluices were added in an attempt to bring better water to the town.  It was notorious for unhealthful conditions due to fouled drinking water.  Today the sluices can still be seen, stagnant water filled with duck weed and looking like tiny canals standing below street level in front of homes.  The Delf did not improve conditions as people continued to foul the open waterways and contract illnesses.  An attempt to pump in clean water failed in the 1620s.  The town didn’t have reliable clean drinking water until the late 1800s.

Prosperity brought by the Dutch began to fade in the early 1600s when King James I set up a company of merchants and granted them sole rights to trade in Europe.  With its commercial life strangled, Sandwich faded as a port for anything but the superior crops produced in the area, including its famed carrots.  Poverty became a problem for the locals until tourism began to restore some employment.  The town drew visitors to its quaint, narrow streets and blocks of antique houses.

The fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montague (1718-1792) is fabled to have eaten meals made of slices of meat between pieces of bread while gambling in the Guild Hall around 1762.  The sandwich is named for him.  In 1759 Thomas Paine lived for about a year on New Street in a small brick house.  He had settled in Sandwich after marrying.  His wife died a year after the marriage.  He later departed for the American colonies and found fame there as a patriot.

Today Sandwich has much to offer visitors.  Experience the adventure of staying in a medieval inn, take a leisurely stroll on the walkways by the Quay, enjoy a meal in one of the many fine establishments, amble through the ancient streets or hike along a segment of the well kept Coast Path which passes through town on its way around the entire southeastern seaboard.  Sandwich has something for everyone.

 

 

 

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A Couple of Caterpillars

This has been a good year for butterflies and moths in Maine.  I’ve seen over two dozen monarch butterflies or caterpillars so far.  Much better than a few years ago when there was a dismal year with no sightings!

The other day I found three monarch caterpillars on one well-eaten milkweed plant.  I moved two to a different area that wasn’t being fed on at all.  The little guy above is one of the relocated insects.  It is amazing how fast caterpillars grow!  This one has doubled its size in three days!  I hope to catch one in the chrysalis stage.  I think monarchs have such beautiful chrysalises with the gold colored detailing.

As I was searching for monarchs, I happened upon this beautiful caterpillar.  It is the brown hooded owlet moth.  With such a gorgeous immature stage, one would expect the adult to be stunning.  However, the adult is a fairly drab brown moth with a hump over its head, hence the “hooded” part of the name.  Looks like the species puts all the effort into the caterpillar.

This species is also frequently preyed upon by parasitic flies that lay eggs on the caterpillars.  The developing fly larvae consume the caterpillar.  I hope this caterpillar escapes that fate!  It was happily chomping a golden rod, good job little bug!  We have way too much goldenrod on the farm.

Foster Cat Moon and Kittens

This pretty kitty is Moon, she is a feral cat I am fostering for the Humane Society shelter.  Moon is a very young animal and this is likely her first litter.  She has two adorable babies just 2 weeks old. Because I work socializing the feral and barn cats at the shelter, I met Moon right after she gave birth.  She was living in a small cage to separate her from the other cats.

Moon was certainly hard to approach and having kittens made her even more defensive.  I worked with her for awhile, scratching and stroking her with the long wood dowel I use to touch feral cats.  She stopped her growling and hissing and actually started to rub back and purr.  Under her prickly exterior I could tell there was a gentle, loving cat.

The shelter is pretty much filled to capacity with cats.  Mother cats with litters are usually fostered out to volunteer homes where the babies are raised in a friendly environment.  Poor Moon was too wild to go to a foster home.  The shelter can’t let people take feral cats due to the risk of injury.  Luckily, I am an expert at handling feral cats.  With over 2.5 years of volunteer work at the shelter socializing barn cats, the personnel realized I was up for the job.  I volunteered to give Moon a comfortable room at my house for the duration of raising her babies.

She came home with me today.  At first she was very shy and hid behind the toilet in our upstairs bathroom where she will be living.  Finally I coaxed her into the box with her kittens.  The box is about the size of her cage at the shelter.  I think Moon will be pleased to have so much more room to stretch out.  I plan to socialize her and her kittens so they have chances to find good, indoor homes.  They will be staying with us until the babies are 8 weeks old and ready to leave their mom.  Then Moon will be spayed and made ready for adoption.

I’ve already begun handling the kittens.  Their eyes are just barely open.  They have had minimal human contact.  While mom was distracted I held and patted each of them.  One is black with a bit of white and the other is a yellow tiger.  They both initially hissed and spit at me.  So funny to see such brave ferocity coming from tiny balls of fluff!  By the time the first socializing lesson was finished, both kittens were relaxed, cuddled in my hands asleep.

I love cats and especially adore kittens.  I cherish the opportunity to make a difference for these sweet animals.

Passing of a Rabbit

My beautiful angora buck Marble passed away quietly this morning.  He was eight years old, a venerable age for a rabbit.  I will miss his silly brand of bunny humor, his friendly ways and his thick, lustrous coat of fiber.  I held him in my hand the day he was born, a tiny, warm, pink bundle.

He had been slowing down for the past few weeks and I suspected the end was nearing.  Over a year ago I felt some tumorous nodules on him and it is likely cancer got him in the end, as it does many rabbits.  Nature designed rabbits as prey animals who survive in the wild for just one to three years.  They were not intended to last long enough for cancer to grow.  As they age they are prone to tumors.

Marble spent yesterday outside enjoying a fine May day, eating grass and dozing in the sun.  That is the sort of day he deserved.  He was a wonderful rabbit and an excellent buck, producing several superb litters of fawns.  His last litter is just a month old now, the nicest little bunnies anyone could want.  I plan to keep several of his babies.  His legacy will live on.

Bridge Grafting Rodent Damage Part II

A couple weeks ago I blogged about the extensive damage done to our trees this past winter by an overpopulation of rodents.  A couple dozen apple trees and several ornamentals were chewed extensively.  Some were girdled.  To save the girdled trees, an emergency repair of grafting is attempted.  If the graft takes, the tree will be able to send nutrients back into the roots so the plant can survive.  Without help, trees that have had all the bark removed around the trunk almost always die.

In a normal winter, there is some rodent damage, especially to young trees.  That’s why I protect young trunks with tree guards.  By the time fruit trees reach forty-plus years old, rodents do not usually cause severe destruction as they gnaw on the inner bark to survive.  A little gnawing can be healed.  This last winter there were so many rodents, especially voles, present in the fields and orchards that they were forced to forage in unusual places to find enough food to survive.  Here is a somewhat grisly photo of a vole the cats killed.  The silly thing wandered into the cats’ outdoor cage.  These vermin are the main culprits in tree destruction.  They have rectangular shaped bodies with short legs, lots of teeth and stubby tails.  Voles can grow up to six inches long or more, not including the tail.

To perform the life-savings grafts, it is important to harvest a bunch of one-year-old scion growth from the same species and preferably the same tree as the one being grafted.  The scions are collected in early spring while they are still dormant.  They are closely wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge until grafting time.  When the trees begin to bud and sap is flowing, the bark loosens and can easily be slipped free of the trunk.  Budding time is when grafting is done.

When I collected the scions I also applied wound spray to the poor girdled trees to help preserve moisture, which is why the gnawed area is black.  Using a stout blade, I cut two parallel incisions into the bark above and below the injury.  The blade is used to gently work the bark away from the trunk, exposing fresh wood.  A flap of bark is left to protect the grafting sites.  A scion is selected and trimmed to the proper length.  Both ends are shaped to slightly sharpen and form a smooth surface of fresh wood.

The graft is inserted into the bark flaps of the tree, assuring the freshly cut surfaces press against one another and the tip points upward. Then I use a staple gun with 1/2″ staples to secure the graft to the tree and hold the bark flaps in place.  Over time the staples will rust and dissolve, leaving the graft to grow unimpeded.

I give the grafted scion a test tug to be sure it is held tightly.  The scion is placed with a slight outward bend so it can move with the swaying of the tree trunk as the wind blows.  This will help the graft to stay in place.  Then I thoroughly coat the entire repair including the scion with wound spray to seal out insects and disease and seal in moisture.  Any good tree wound spray will work for this procedure, I am not endorsing a particular brand.  I used up five cans of spray this spring.

These major injuries that remove the tree’s link between the roots and leaves require many grafts placed around the trunk to repair.  They can be placed every 2″-3″.  With so much work to do, the most grafts I managed to place on a tree were six.  If they take and the trees hold in there, I can add more this fall or next year.

As the grafted scion grows into the tree, it will gradually enlarge.  I’m hoping the tree will also grow bark to help cover the wounds.  Some of the damaged trees may not survive.  The rodents actually dug down to the roots and chewed the bark off the roots.  There is not much I can do to prevent or repair that damage.

A little research reveals that orchardists have success repelling rodents and rabbits by painting the entire part of the trunk and even the lower limbs that are buried in the snow or within easy reach of rabbits in winter.  So far I have not encountered any rabbit problems.  I plan to coat the tree trunks with white latex paint prior to this fall.  Maybe that will slow down the gnawing critters.


New Rabbit Fawns

Moonstone, my angora doe, had babies one week ago on 4/28/18. Six healthy, bouncing little ones make a nest-full.  The dad, Marble, is now 7 years old and still doing his job well.  Three appear to be albino, or pure white and their eyes will be red.  The other three are colored!  The darkest will likely be sable, the brownish one chocolate, but the grayish one is a new color for me.  It will be very interesting to see how the coat matures.

Mom is taking excellent care of her little ones.  They are plump and robust.  The eyes are still sealed shut, although I think their ears are opening.  They seem to be able to hear me when I get close.  They certainly can smell me.

Mama rabbit is doing well.  She is eating and drinking copiously to make the milk her fawns require.  The dandelions and grass have greened just in time to give her plenty of nutrients for rich milk.  I have to keep her well supplied with greens, food and water.

In the next two to four days the baby rabbits will open their eyes.  Then mama will be in trouble!  The fawns will follow her off the nest and try to sneak a milk snack whenever she sits still.  Until they learn to behave, she will be hopping around a lot to get away from them.  Rabbits only allow the babies to nurse once per day.  The milk is so nutritious that once a day is enough to grow a rabbit.  When the eyes open and the fawns begin to move around the cage, they start to nibble on hay, greens and pelleted food to supplement the milk.  Little rabbits grow very fast.Moonstone

Chick Hatch 4/29/18

The first hatch of 2018 completed yesterday, 25 out of 28 Silver and Silver x Black Ameraucana chicks hatched from my Brinsea Ovation Eco 28 incubator.  These little guys are one day old and seem very healthy.  This is a rare moment where everyone is resting in a big, fluffy chick mass.  They are very busy and bright-eyed, already eating and drinking.

The incubator is cleaned and warming up for the second set. I hope to have 28 more eggs started this evening. All the eggs from the first set were fertile and grew to term. Not sure why three didn’t hatch. The babies may have had some trouble getting to the air sac. The eggs didn’t even pip so the babies died during the transition time when they put their beak into the air sac and start breathing. Sad, but part of nature. Still, an 89% hatch and 100% fertility rate are excellent for me.

The hatch rate is such an improvement over the styrofoam Hovabator incubators of the past. I would consider myself lucky to get a 50% hatch rate then.  The Brinsea was certainly worth the price!