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Doodlecat's Homepage

Picture of Doodle - a 
black cat

Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

I would love to be able to say that Doodlecat is all my own work, but it isn’t. Much of the outdoors content is courtesy of the splendid people who participate in the annual TGO Challenge (there is a section entirely devoted to this unique event) and many others.

To help in tracking down that elusive morsel on Doodlecat, the search facility under the title bar above is tailored to help you find it, either on this home page (Doodlecat's Blog) all the rest of the site (Main Site) or – if all else fails - the internet!

So have a rummage around the old cat basket and enjoy your time with us!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

July - and lots of new stuff coming up!

Yes indeed, another month has passed, but in Mike Knipe's Howgills series there is a slight pause for breath before we plunge on into the July walk. So join Mike for a short interlude before enjoying the penultimate walk in the Howgills.

Later this month we have an Ultimate Challenge story from 1987. In the spirit of all the best 'teasers' I'll say no more now, except that it is of the highest level so far!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Black Shirt & Tithe

Another delightful walk in Suffolk. The hills, such as they are, are undemanding and the countryside is easy on the eye. Pastoral – that’s the word. Gainsborough, and Constable captured the beauty of this landscape and would still recognise much of it today. A bucolic idyll, with rolling fields and meadows full of fat cattle.

But the neatly manicured countryside and woodland hide secrets – and some pretty nasty ones at that. We stumbled on one episode in this secret history during a delightful amble, when we came across this plaque in the village of Elmsett. It's placed directly opposite the church - so as to be seen by the rector every day.

Detail of inscription on Tithe memorial
The Elmsett memorial was built by Charles Westren who had furniture and goods to the value of £1,200 confiscated in 1934 in lieu of his failure to pay a £385 tithe. He emigrated in 1943, leaving this memorial as a permanent reminder.

I thought that tithes had died out long, long ago - not so. They were officially abolished in 1836, but even after "abolition" many farms remained liable to pay tithes right up to the beginnings of WW2, and indeed seizures in lieu of payment were still being made as late as 1941. The Church of England, it seems, is an uncompromising creditor.

The bailiffs were enforcing “Queen Anne’s Bounty” – a system of tithes (or taxes) originally designed to supplement the income of poor clergy. It was a perpetual fund of ‘first fruits and tenths’ set up in 1704, and reinforced by Act of Parliament in 1714. Trouble was that by the 19th century, the tithes took so much of the net income, and the collection was so ruthless,that some farmers were driven to suicide. Indeed, over a century before Charles Westren we learn of one of his predecessors:

William Bull of Elmsett, 60, tenant farmer on Rookery Farm. Unable to pay the yearly tithe of £40 and feed his wife & 11 children, he hanged himself in the barn next to the farmhouse. August 1816

Well, the church was pretty decent about the suicide, and allowed him to be buried in the churchyard on 13th August. Two of his sons later succumbed to suicide as well. No doubt about it, with the C of E battened on to you like a vampire, life as a farmer in desperate times was not easy.

Under Ramsay MacDonald’s socialist government, when you might think a fairer system would have been established, things actually got worse. The tithes had been assessed before the depression of the twenties, and were collected at the same rate, irrespective of the collapse in farm incomes. The governors of Queen Anne’s Bounty assured MacDonald that tithes would never be enforced in cases of genuine hardship – and I guess it was convenient for MacDonald to accept this assurance at face value, for nothing was done and the rapacious tax gathering continued.

Enter the Blackshirts



Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosely saluted by his blackshirtsFascist leader Sir Oswald Mosely saluted by his blackshirts

There's a similar memorial near Wortham where a confrontation took place at the rectory between the police, fascist blackshirts and landowners fighting the tithe system. In 1936, massed lines of police confronted blackshirts picketing outside Wortham Rectory. The Fascist movement was strong in Norfolk and Suffolk, particularly among non-conformist farmers, who recruited the British Union of Fascists in their campaign against the Church of England's demands for tithes. Norfolk writer Henry Williamson (author of Tarka the Otter), was both a farmer and a member of Moseley's British Union of Fascists, and helped gain sympathy for their cause.

The first resistance to tithing was by the Levellers in 1645, but their cause was crushed by Cromwell, and sixty years later Queen Anne strengthened the tithe's grasp. They were finally brought to a close by the Tithe Act in 1936. Queen Anne’s Bounty was dissolved in 1947, but much of the Act of 1714 remains in force and today its powers are devolved to the Church Commissioners.

Amazing what you find out on a walk in the country! Ramble through these villages today and there is no hint of the booted blackshirt…but then, here people no longer feel dispossessed or oppressed.

Worth a little study, this history stuff.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

A Dunnerdale Daunder

Regular readers will know that after a thoroughly enjoyable Pre Walk Daunder I had to forego the TGO Challenge to have a few weeks of radiotherapy. This was a bit of a setback, as I felt as fit as a butcher's dog at the time. Anyway, the RT finished three weeks ago and I've now got five more months of drug therapy before, with any luck, I'll finally get the all clear - just in time to apply for next year's Challenge!!

So it's now time to get back to fighting fitness all over again. Miss W, with her customary efficiency, planned a series of walks of gradually increasing distance and finally declared me fit enough to go and try a couple of hills. So an invitation from Alan Sloman to join him for a little jaunt in the Lakes was irresistible - and we were to be accompanied by Shirley 'Peewiglet' Worral and her six month old Border Terrier, 'Piglet'.

"Aha", I thought. "With Shirl having a wee puppy to slow her down, this will be a breeze"

How wrong can you be ?

We arrived at Turner Hall Farm campsite in Dunnerdale ( after an inspection of the Newfield Inn whilst waiting for the rain to stop) and pitched in what we thought was a sheltered spot, before returning to sample the full range of real ales and have a meal with lots of chips. The night was clear with the moon rising over Brown Pike as we turned in, looking forward to a good kip and a great walk over the tops in the morning.

During the night the wind got up and I woke up to the sound of the Akto rattling as though it was in a wind tunnel with the rain hitting the flysheet like shotgun pellets. We finally awoke to grey skies, wind and persistent rain, but got ourselves breakfasted and packed as Shirley turned up with Piglet. With a temperature of just 7 degrees (this is June!) and foul weather, the plan to go and wildcamp high was abandoned in favour of a walk up and over Walna Scar Road to Coniston, and then to see what developed.

Walna Scar RoadWalna Scar Road rising from Longhouse Gill

Less than halfway up the hill I began to feel that something wasn't quite right. I was as weak as a kitten. And the 'puppy' that I expected to tire easily and provide some respite was belting on ahead. I resorted to my standby solution to running out of gas (eating a few Jelly Babies) but to no avail. There was nothing left in the tank. I called a halt and said that I was turning back, and felt really, really bad when Alan and Shirley ignored my protests and insisted on escorting me to the bottom of the track before they started the ascent again. The wee dog scampered up and down, impatient to get on.

Sitting here at home I have (belatedly) read my radiotherapy notes which say "Tiredness can be a problem for some months after the treatment has finished...". Maybe that was the problem ... maybe the night in the Newfield Inn. Maybe I was attacked by vampires. Who can tell?
Platypus Wine Preserver
Fortunately I was able to do something useful by driving over to Coniston to scout out and book a campsite. Then I met Shirley and Alan at the Bull for haddock & chips and couple of beers after their very wet and windy walk. We ambled back to the campsite at Coniston Hall, and, when the tents were up, Alan produced a bottle of decent claret from his wine Platypus
and we enjoyed an impromptu Cheese & Wine party in the improving afternoon weather (smashing saucisson from Shirley as well). Then a walk back to Coniston to enjoy another pub's selection of real ales and for the still bouncy Piglet to woo some new friends who all went
"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah...."

stepping stones over River DuddonSunday morning: no rain! We drove back to pick up Shirl's car and parked under High Tongue for a walk up the river Duddon, over to Birks, back through Dunnderdale Forest to the river and then down Wallbarrow Gorge to Seathwaite and the pub for lunch.

It's a very scenic walk (and easy too!) with just a few grunts up and down in the gorge. Maybe it was the improved weather, or maybe the lack of a long daunting climb, but I felt full energy levels beginning to kick in and thoroughly enjoyed the morning. No Jelly Babies required.

Which was just as well. During the drive over from Coniston Piglet was in the back, and after a while she stopped looking out of the window and disappeared amongst the rucksacks. Shirley said that she thought Piglet had found my Jelly Babies on account of the contented snuffling sounds.

"Nah, don't worry, they're zipped up in a pocket", I said.

On arrival I realised that I had underestimated Piglet's ingenuity. The pocket was mesh, and she had managed to get the bag inside to split and then sucked the Jelly Babies through the mesh, like multi coloured spaghetti. Yuck!!

Piglet, the Border TerrierThe innocent look of a Jelly Baby blagger - this is Piglet

I had a great time even with the falling over bit. Thanks to Alan, Shirl and the Jelly Baby guzzling Piglet for a thoroughly pleasurable weekend.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Year in the Howgills - June

For those waiting for their monthly fix of the Howgill fells from Mike Knipe, wait no more - it's here.