Local rafters

Some six years ago now, we moved to the house adjoining what is now Rumwoldstow. At that time, there were two self-seeded sycamore trees which overshadowed the walled garden almost entirely, being to the south. We somewhat sadly had them felled (we’ve planted other trees in more suitable locations) and one of them had a fine section of trunk that I couldn’t bear to waste, so we had some guys with a mobile sawmill cut it into beams. At the time, Rumwoldstow was a very faint beginnings of an idea and we had little in the way of plan for using the beams. However, thanks to Al’s hard work, they have now come into their own! He has used them to build the rafters for the central gatehouse tunnel; they are perfect, and were just sufficient for the job!

It’s great to make a showpiece of timber that has travelled no more than 50m from where it grew.

Pallets, a most versatile resource
Looking westwards from the working platform

The rafters over the guardrooms to the sides of the gatehouse tunnel are ordinary timber bought from a builders’ merchant. But it won’t be as visible.

Looking down into the west guardroom which now has a floor!
And the view to the south
I’m still hoping we will get one or two pears from the Uvedale St Germain, now in its fourth year
And at last, the Hambledon Deux Ans has recovered enough from the Great Cow Incursion of 2018 to flower and set a few fruits!
Bullocks and heifers on Lake Meadow. These are not the same beasts as 2018 but you still can’t trust them…

One final shot of the garden, which has been strimmed so you can actually walk around it. Slightly inauthentic borage – the Romans had it, and the later mediaevals, but I don’t know of evidence of it in the tenth century. But it’s covered in bees. The Iris Germanica didn’t flower last year, apart from one randomly white blossom, but the plants have filled out excellently and we have some nice purple flowers.

Rule one of tablet weaving: remove the cat

…so I read on the internet, and it is true, but yesterday I was roleplaying with friends and it was the perfect opportunity to warp up and start weaving my mantle trim. And my host has kittens. “Photos or it didn’t happen”, I hear you cry. Fair enough.

This is Gordon. He is a little bundle of fluff and mischief.
Gordone sat on my loom, on my lap…
Chewed the spools of yarn…
…attacked the loom…
…and finally went to play with his more sedate brother, Hennesey
…then Remy tested my new mantle for comfiness. Seems to have been acceptable.
But yay! I did get set up at last, and I wove a couple of inches of Laceby-style pickup.

A herbal infusion

The nuns of Rumwoldstow were delighted this afternoon to receive a missive from the noble lady Wulfruna, who I believe to be an honoured geneat among the people of Cilternsaete. She sent us a gift to help us make our herbal infusions.

Yes, we’ve been given a teabag squeezer! It will live in the scullery drawer, and we thank the lady Wulfruna for her kindness.

Al has cut and fitted the rafters for the guardroom roofs, freeing up the pallets from inside the guardrooms, to now build working platforms for the next state which is fitting rafters in the tunnel area.

Panorama roundup

After spending a frustrating hour or so yesterday trying to find a plugin to display a panorama photo that I took from the temporary working platform in the west guardroom, I’m posting this entry as a roundup and reminder of the different available options.

In all cases there may be settings I’ve missed…

Algori 360 Image

0 / 5. Algori 360 image distorts the image, I guess because it supports up / down movement where this image is simple 360 wraparound. Worse, it doesn’t seem to work at all in the post preview as viewed from the home page – I see a blank space.

Panorama is created with a block called “360 Image”

Panorama Viewer

3 / 5. A Panorama Viewer panorama is created in plugin settings and then embedded in the page as a shortcode block. It doesn’t show up in the post preview, and is by default a little zoomed out so you see black arcs top or bottom of the image. If you zoom in a touch it looks ok, but how many viewers will do that?

Best of a surprisingly rubbish bunch.

Easy Panorama

2 / 5. Easy Panorama is inserted as a block called “Panorama”. Scales OK but again, doesn’t work in the post preview (do any of them???) and the end result is spoiled by a nasty interface. You move on mouseover and it’s very twitchy, giving a nasty visual impression, and it stops at the end of the image instead of wrapping round so the 360 illusion is lost for me.

WP VR / 360 View

0 / 5. 360 View seems to have two names which is confusing. Again, distorts the image and doesn’t work in post preview.


2 / 5. This is the only one that works in post preview! Unfortunately straight lines come out curved, and the view doesn’t wrap. WP-PhotoNav must be inserted as a shortcode and it took me a while to find the instructions. There is no visual cue even on mouseover that this is anything other than a static image, so lacks discoverability.


For several years, I’ve been planning a mantle to go over my Anglo-Saxon nun outfits (working day and posh) so that I don’t have to wear my Viking shawl with them. As with pretty much all early mediaeval English outfits, we have very little material evidence and manuscript illustrations are a main source. In these, women often appear to be wearing an overgarment which allows them to raise their hands, the folds draping elegantly in front and behind. It appears that the front is shorter than the back.

For an example see the portrait of Saint Æthelthryth of Ely from the Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, an illuminated manuscript in the British Library.

The mantle has been variously reconstructed as a poncho and a cope. The Regia Anglorum kit guide shows a nice comparison of different overgarments as seen in manuscripts, but states definitively that the garment was closed, and cone-shaped like an ecclesiatical cope. I don’t think we can be sure of that, and I recently met with a very lovely lady who showed me her interpretation as a circular cloak with an open edge, which has the superb advantage that you don’t have to put it on or take it off over your head when wearing a wimple. She draped it so that the open edge was not particularly noticeable and its elegance and practicality won me over. A small brooch of classic Anglo-Saxon design will fasten the loose edge.

I had already bought a nice piece of grey wool, but it was not large enough for a circular mantle. So I have repurposed that as a semicircular cloak for my “working nun” outfit, a nice plain wool but to wear a semicircular cloak instead of a plain rectangle is definitely showing off! And I bought some lovely light-weight blue wool fabric recently, this time buying four metres to be sure of having enough for the circle. Some friends helped me measure it and I decided on a 120 cm length, to fall just below the knee, to be constructed of sections in a manner not unlike a planked shield.

Today I settled down to cut it out, with Al helping me to manage the tape measure and scribe the circle. I added 1cm to the length for hemming; really I should have done my maths first! See below.

Fabric folded in half lengthways and marked for as much circle as possible either side

Excellent! Thought I…I can cut two segments from the remainder and match selvedge to selvedge to save hemming. I’ve got lots of cloth!

Well, dang!

And…when I pinned the spare cloth to the selvege, I found that I was 2cm short. That 1cm seam allowance was the mischief!

Fortunately the leftover piece from the start of the fabric is just barely big enough to piece in the necessary part, while still using selvedge. Phew, that was close! I have to comfort myself with the knowledge that Anglo-Saxons faced the same problems and used the same solutions. I did it on purpose to be more authentic, honest guv!

Finally, I cut a small neckhole (it’ll expand with hemming) and tore the fabric (to get a straight edge) down to the hemline to make an opening. Hurrah! My pieces are ready to sew, and A Project has been transformed into a simple job.Quite a long job, as the amount of hemming is significant, but straightforward. After that, I’ll design some embroidery for the neckline. Probably. Unless I’m fed up with sewing by then.

A metaphorical milestone

I think we’ve been working on the Roman gatehouse for 2 years now? Yes I could check, that’s why I have a blog, but I can’t be bothered just now. A point of some anxiety has been how to construct the blocks to hold the top of the gate pivot posts. Just as the arches had to be right, the gates also need to look right and move in the right way. Al finally worked out a plan, possibly prompted by the near arrival of Chris the stonemason, and cast the first of the two incredibly important blocks! I keep wanting to call them corbels, but corbels are meant to hold things up, whereas these blocks are for holding something in place below them. Anybody know what they are called? There must be a technical name for them apart from “big stone with a hole in to hold the gate pivot in place”.

The first metaphorical milestone, fresh out of its mould

Al made a rectangular mould with think plywood scavenged from a pallet to form the curve, and a bit of plastic drain pipe to leave the hole for the pivot post. This will remain in place and will be undetectable unless some irritating person goes up there on a ladder with a torch determined to find fault. And none of you would do that would you?

The hole needs to be vertical
Really, absolutely vertical!
And there it is!
Obviously I had to climb up Pallet Mountain for a closer look
The block from above
and Al from above
View from the battlements, to the south…
The north…
and the south-east
The back of the not-corbel, from inside a guard room
Proud builders, Al and Chris
Later in the day, with a course of blocks over it
The second block, just cast!
Honestly, I’d just done a load of pruning and tidying up. It was much worse before.

I took advantage of the spring sunshine to cut back the wormwood, southernwood, costmary and some other plants. And to observe how well traditional plants self-seed where you don’t want them…

Of course I now feel that we ought to have a real milestone. Out along Green Street perhaps?

The three trees of February

The tree specialist in the next village sold me three new fruit trees for the orchard. They had to sit in the shed with their lower appendages swathed in bubble wrap for two days until we had time to get out and plant them. What have we got?

Pear: Winter Nelis. This is a heritage variety known from the early 19th century and its pears are apparently not a super pretty fruit, but sweet with a good flavour. And they’re said to keep into January. On the down side the tree prefers a sheltered spot and our orchard is quite exposed with the chilly meadow to the west.

Pear: Jargonelle. First recorded in 1629 but thought to be older, so a great pear for our early mediaeval orchard. It’s an early pear but to my surprise, our existing Louise Bonne and the new Winter Nelis are apparently all suitable pollination partners. The tree man knows his stuff!

Plum: St Julien. I found very little on t’internet about the St Julien as a tree in its own right, as it is so widely used as a rootstock. But the tree man said it produces a tasty green plum, and is actually one of the earliest cultivars around, so a great fit for us – and unusual, which is part of our thing. One forum post suggested the fruit is best dried, but another described the fruit as complex, sweet when perfectly ripe but potentially acidic. I am excited to let this little tree develop naturally and do its thing, whatever it turns out to be!

The trees as they were delivered!
Al digging a hole for the Winter Nelis
The neighbours’ pony taking an interest
Is that a very small grave? No, it’s a hole ready for my tree!
And here is my Winter Nelis all planted!
The Jargonelle in place
Both new trees!

The Jargonelle and Winter Nelis are quite close together, and to the quince and the Hambledon Deux Ans apple, but the I couldn’t choose between these two and had to have them both, and they needed to be planted further from the place where they diseased Victoria plum was removed last year, which restricted my options somewhat. I will need to keep them relatively small but that will make it easier to pick the fruit. Anyway, more trees for the win!

The St Julian, free to grow its own canopy

Finally, the St Julien plum is so small that I decided to stick it in a pot for a year or two to gain some height, otherwise we’ll lose the poor thing in the undergrowth. This pot had dwarf beans last year which didn’t do well and anyway are an annual, so there was a handy pot with soil and no plants. I might try beans around the side this year and hope for a better harvest. They actually did better in 2019 even though the sheep got out and had a munch at them before exploring the road (and then retreating swiftly when they saw the cars).