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February 2015

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A modern day Long Barrow

Tim Daw

27 February 2015

Building a Long Barrow, a brand new Neolithic chambered tomb in Wiltshire, why? As the press, radio and television have reported on my project this is the question that I’m always getting asked. I have lived and worked all my life in the middle of Wiltshire surrounded by the immense monuments and subtler earthen shapes of an earlier time, where every field is a palimpsest of forgotten lives. I now work at most famous of them all, Stonehenge and spend much of my time explaining, thinking and talking prehistory. Our knowledge of life before written histories comes from what they left behind and the dead and their monuments  are a large part of that. We identify cultures largely by the way they treated their dead, their changing funereal practices. As they moved from excarnation to cremation to burial and back again we postulate huge cultural changes and shifts. But we are living through a time of immense change of how we treat our deceased and our grief, and yet our culture and society are only gently changing. Within the reign of our Queen, without invasion or catastrophe, we have changed from the darkly formal funeral to more celebratory cremations as the norm,  and we now have a huge variety of funereal practices. I'm not sure what this tells us about how our culture is changing but I think it does provide an opportunity to offer different options to the bereaved. So it was not completely unexpected that an idle pub conversation, over a pint, lead to; "Wouldn't it be great to be buried in a barrow, just as our forefathers were". And like most such discussions nothing came of it. But at different times and in different places the problem of what to with our relatives' ashes was raised. Some people have a clear idea of where to catter them, but many don't.  One crisp winter morning I was walking around my farm and I came to the top of a gentle rise and looked across the valley to the sun rising in the distance. The Pewsey Vale was almost silent under a low lying mist, with just tops of trees and a church spire visible. And I thought "I wouldn't mind spending eternity here". By the time I had walked home the idea of a barrow aligned to the winter sunrise, a working barrow, a columbarium for people to use for their ashes had been formed. But could I build it, would people want to use it, what about planning permission, would it be legal, there were so many questions.  I didn't want the Long Barrow to just be for the romantic pagans of Wessex, I felt there were a lot of more conventional people of my age who weren't strongly religious, but were not completely without a feeling for something mystical and slightly spiritual. People who want to connect with a culture, with our land and nature. People who instinctively choose organic, natural, traditional, restrained, you know the type. But more importantly people wanted a place to return to, to remember, to commemorate their loved ones. And if the reader will excuse me, for many of us the municipal cremetorium fails as somewhere we feel comfortable, somewhere the deceased would have felt at home. I used social media, mainly Facebook, to build a community of interested people who provided support and feedback. It also built a relationship with local media companies who could monitor progress. The idea of providing niches for the public within the barrow seemed to interest a lot of people, the feedback I got was overwhelmingly positive, so I spent a year getting planning permission. I think by consulting widely before applying we had gained community acceptance and we didn't have a single objection to the plans, even though it is a green field site in an AONB. There was a wobble when Building Control mused on the need for fire escapes and hand rails, but with some prompting they decided it was a "structure" not a "building" and so was outside their remit. The news of the planning permission appeared in The Times where Martin and Geraint from Riverdale Stone saw it. They approached me and told me it had to be built in natural stone using traditional methods and that they were the people to do it. So they built it, we started building it with a ceremonial turf cutting on 20th Dec 2013 and had an official opening on 21st Sept 2014 – nine months the facade is of large local Sarsen boulders with the interior of limestone walls and corbeled roofs. It is stunning. We had articles in all the major newspapers and on local television and radio and the interest has been phenomenal. There are 340 niches in the Long Barrow, most of them are a standard size which are designed for a pair of urns but will take up to about six. The niches are designed to be sealed with a memorial stone.  The rest of the niches are smaller, either suitable for one or two urns; they have all been reserved, in fact nearly three quarters of all the niches have been reserved .  More details are at www.thelongbarrow.com or find us on facebook, https://www.facebook.com/groups/thelongbarrow/   

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Making Early Learning Fun

Sam Bertram

24 February 2015

Don’t you love looking back at some of the things that inspired your career choices? Lucy Moore of Educational Learning Mats loved the fact that Alan Turner from Emmerdale Farm used to run an estate from a beautiful office with amazing views of the countryside.  On telling that to her school career adviser she replied ‘Well you should be doing Land Economy dear’, so that’s what Lucy went on to study.  What would we have done without our insightful school career advisers of old!  Little did Lucy know that she’d end up developing a range of Educational Learning Mats for Primary School children – a far cry from Land Economy.   When Lucy’s children were in their Early Learning years Lucy found they came home again and again with the same challenges.  This got her thinking that there must be a more attractive and playful way of engaging her children in learning.  So Lucy set out to develop a set of write on wipe clean mats that covered some of the fundamentals – writing, maths and languages. She cleverly tested them with teachers through a whole year of school trials before launching to the public.  The insights and observations from teachers were invaluable and have definitely resulted in a much more fun, engaging and useful mat.   They’re perfect for keeping the kids entertained while waiting for a meal, travelling or just filling in the time! Lucy’s launch in September 2013 was rather a speedy one.  No sooner had the school trials finished when she found out the Telegraph magazine were going to feature her mats.  A mad rush followed with working day and night to get the website up in time.  On the day she was due to be featured her son came rushing up the stairs at 6.30am with mag in hand shouting ‘Mummy and Daddy I can’t find it!’ Lucy was so exhausted and too tired to care, so overwhelmed by fatigue she just shut her eyes and went back to sleep.  However, the feature was run a few weeks later and extremely valuable in creating lots of online business. Daughter to a farmer, Lucy grew up in Snowdonia in beautiful countryside but her memories of her Methodist school are rather grey – weather, uniform, rooms, and faces! Happy to leave school and go on to University in London followed by a Masters at Cambridge, Lucy’s first job was with surveyors in London where she qualified as a Chartered Surveyor.  Following this she went to the city and specialised in Venture Capital and Commercial Property for 18 years.  After moving to Wiltshire with her young children, and feeling exhausted by her five year commute to Canary Wharf, she realised she needed to focus on a business she could run from home. Lucy has lived with her husband John and 2 children Matilda, 14 and Henry, 11 in the pretty village of Calstone Wellington since 2004.  She loves the village - they have great neighbours and most of the village get together at least 4 times a year, whether it is for the village quiz or Harvest supper.   Lucy currently does lots of trade shows but is hoping to drive more direct sales through her website and keen to meet lots of Primary and Prep schools who are looking for more engaging ways to teach children aged 3 to 12 years old.  If you have children or family or friends at Nursery or Primary School you have to check out the mats.  They are fun, engaging and brilliant for helping children get a good start in learning.   www.educationallearningmats.co.uk       

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Foodie's B&B dream

Sam Bertram

13 February 2015

Nancy Lawson from Overtown Manor has always lived in Wiltshire.  In fact she’s pretty much always lived at Overtown except for a stint working in London & Berkshire before moving back in with her husband and two children in 2010.  Even when living in London she was home almost every weekend.  Home is definitely where her heart is and she’s the first to admit it.  She remembers fondly the amazing freedom she had when growing up – riding ponies, helping out on the farm, driving tractors (and occasionally crashing them too!).  And with her being the fourth generation in the house the sentimental attachment is strong to say the least. As well as knowing where she wanted to live, Nancy also always loved cooking. She studied at Eastbourne College of Food & Fashion & then at UWE, cooking as she went along; whether it was dinner parties for people at Uni or holiday jobs in Ski resorts, Scottish lodges or helping out big caterers at weddings.  All this took her to London to do Director's lunches for about 4 years until she met a French Chef called Eric Treuille (owner of Notting Hill's Books for Cooks) who offered her a job cooking in a new eco conference centre in Lambourne (and an opportunity to move back nearer home!).  Nancy worked at Sheepdrove Organic Farm's conference centre for 3 years and had fond memories of the incredible centre with its enormous kitchen at its heart and all the ingredients coming straight from the farm itself. It was on this move back to the shires that Nancy met Percy and following their marriage in 2005 they had two children George, 8 and Zara, 6.  In 2008 Nancy’s father was looking to one of his children to take over Overtown Manor (so they could move into a smaller, warmer house!) and Nancy and Percy stepped up to the challenge.  With Nancy’s catering experience they decided to turn it into a B&B so they sold their 3 bedroom semi and put what money they had into restoring the manor to what is now a 5 star rated Bed and Breakfast.  They put in central heating, all the safety measures, 7 more bathrooms and re-decorated it to be the beautiful, luxury accommodation it is today.  Not only is it beautiful but it’s friendly, welcoming and comfortable and there are 6 bedrooms - 5 double en suite rooms and one single room with a private bathroom. Although closed Friday and Saturday nights the entire house is available for hire at weekends. But no bed & breakfast would be complete without the essential food & drink.  Nancy’s chef background means guests are treated to homemade granola, banana bread and biscuits and everything is sourced as locally as possible.  The bread is from Aston's bakehouse, milk and butter from Berkeley dairy in Wroughton, condiments from Tracklements, the bacon and sausages from Sumblers in Marlborough and eggs from the neighbours.  The drawing and dining rooms are also available for business meetings & team building days. These include coffee, tea and biscuits, a home cooked lunch (using beef from the farm and any home grown produce) and it’s rumoured that the delicious cakes are what keep the punters returning time after time!  Nancy is happy to cater for any special dietary needs so everyone is happy, and its close proximity to Swindon means it’s perfectly placed for many of the businesses there. The National Trust and Nationwide are regulars and often use it for small meetings up to 12.  And there’s no rest for the Lawsons as their next project is to get planning permission to renovate a barn for additional meeting & party space.  Up for a party anyone?  www.overtownmanor.co.uk  

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Wiltshire National Garden Scheme

Trisha Duncan

9 February 2015

The National Garden Scheme has been opening gardens to raise money for nursing and caring charities since 1927. In 2014 the NGS donated £2.5 million to the caring charities we support.   NGS is the largest single sponsor for Macmillan Cancer Care, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Hospices UK, The Carers Trust and several other caring charities.   All this is made possible from generous garden owners and those visiting one of the 3800 gardens throughout the country.  In Wiltshire this year we have 53 gardens opening individually or in groups for you to enjoy a wonderful day out. Whether your approach is down a long drive, walking along a tow path or opening a garden gate, the gardens will give you time to relax, enjoy and to inspire you. The NGS gardens in Wiltshire range from celebrated gardens like The National Trust’s Stourhead, through to large private gardens like Little Durnford Manor and Oare House, smaller private gardens such as North Cottage and Mallards and group village gardens like Easton Royal. The season starts in February at Lacock Abbey Gardens with its carpets of snowdrops, through the summer with gardens full of colour and finishing with the arrival of autumn in September. In Alan Titchmarsh’s recent programme one of the Wiltshire gardens, River Barn (pictured) was voted his favourite working garden. Opening for NGS on 17th May and 6th September.  Your visit would not be complete without the renowned NGS home made teas and often you will find a wide variety of plants for sale.   Many gardens are open for groups and if you would like help with ideas, Sean Magee the county organiser spbmagee@gmail.com can assist. We are always interested in new gardens. If you have or know of a suitable garden, please contact Sean, he would love to hear from you. All the details can be found in localuncovered.com,  The NGS yellow book, our Wiltshire booklet which is widely available, the ngs web site www.ngs.org.uk, Facebook: wiltshire NGS, Twitter: @wiltshirengs and your local press. Your donation, as well as the tea you drink, the cake you eat and the plants you buy will make a real difference to the life of someone who needs care or support at a critical time in their life.  At the same time you will be enjoying your time wandering around some of our varied and stunning gardens in Wiltshire. So follow the yellow arrow signs and you are sure to be welcomed into a Wiltshire NGS garden. tricia@windward.biz  

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