The Treacle Mines of Wem

Further to Monday’s post I would like to give you a bit more information about the treacle mines of Wem. I mentioned that the locals are known as Treacle Miners and I suspect this is because the town grew up around the mines to house the miners. Now, of course, due to the expansion of the town as time went by many inhabitants earn their living in other occupations, however they are still collectively referred to as Treacle Miners.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my children’s poem on the subject, taken from my book ‘Barking at Nothing’. For more information about the book, which is sold in aid of the charity ‘The Donna Louise Trust’ please refer to my Books page or go to my website at http://www.silverburnpublishing.co.uk.

The Treacle Mines of Wem

If ever I go back to Wem
I’ll visit the treacle mines again.
The best treacle you could hope to find
Is the treacle that is mined
In the treacle mines of Wem.

They dig it up from where it’s found
In sticky globules underground,
They refine it and they ladle it
Into jars and label it,
And happily they’ll show you round.

The mines are dark and smell so sweet,
But you’ll get sticky hand and feet
So they give you special clothes
That cover you from head to toes.
And when you’ve looked you get a treat —

They let you sample treacle pud
And oh, it is so very good.
And toffee-apples you will find
With toffee of the richest kind
Made from Wem treacle, as it should.

So next time I go back to Wem
I’ll visit the treacle mines again.
The best treacle in the world you’ll find
Is the treacle that is mined
In the treacle mines of Wem.
____________________________

There are many other treacle mines in England and, I believe, one or two in Scotland. Mines can be found anywhere from Devon and Somerset, through Kent and Hertfordshire, Yorkshire and Cumbria. In Lancashire too they can be found, immortalised by Ken Dodd and his Diddy Men who worked the mines in Knotty Ash – although come to think of it that was the jam butty mines not treacle mines.

For further information I can refer those of you who are interested to an article which can be found at the British Food History site here, although there is no mention of the Wem mines. (You may wish to note the date of the article).

 

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The Tandem Club

Tandem Club preparing to leave the cafe

Tandem Club preparing to leave the café

We first became aware of the existence of the Tandem Club around the time that we bought our first tandem a few years ago, but at the time we didn’t think about joining it. However a few weeks ago my husband was after a few bits and pieces for a tandem he was building so we went on a visit to a bespoke tandem builder on the outskirts of Telford and not too far from our home. While there we saw an advert for the Tandem Club and noted that there was a local branch serving Staffordshire and Shropshire, offering rides out once a month, always in a different area of the region. So hubby decided to join. Yesterday we went out on our first ride with the club, which met up at Wem in Shropshire, not far from the Welsh border and about an hour’s drive from home.

Wem, of course, is famous for its Treacle Mines, which have apparently been in operation since the time of the first Queen Elizabeth if not longer. The local residents are known as Treacle Miners – but that’s another story!

We had an early start as we needed to be at the meeting place for 10.00am. As usual we were quite early, which was just as well as we did have some trouble finding the correct car park. It was a chilly start and at first I thought I was not going to be warm enough but of course once we got going both I and the weather did get warmer. Including us, three tandems turned up – the organisers and another couple who had travelled from Wales and also on their first outing with the club. There was also a solo cyclist who does own a tandem but apparently his wife was not well so he had come on his own.

We set off for a wonderful tour of local villages at a leisurely pace. We were in no hurry as it was only 15 miles to the lunch stop and we had two hours to get there. Meals had to be ordered in advance and the club works on the basis that if the ride has to be cancelled due to the weather then we still turn up at the lunch stop for a bit of socializing so that the café doesn’t loose out on the booking. I could list all the villages we rode through but that would be boring for those of you who have no idea where they are. Suffice it to say lunch was at a café in Baschurch, where we were joined by another couple of tandem riders who came without their tandem. It was an unhurried affair, the surroundings were very pleasant and the service excellent.

The possibility of showers had been forecast for the day and we did have a short one while we were at the café. It had stopped by the time we left, having hardly wet the ground. The sun came out and we had a delightful continuation of our round trip through the countryside and back to Wem. At one time I was almost too hot and I contemplated removing a layer of clothing but I simply resorted to unzipping my jacket a bit, which was just as well as it was beginning to get quite chilly again by the time we got back to the car park. The round trip was about 29 miles in total which we rode, as previously mentioned, at a leisurely pace, which allowed for conversation on route. The terrain was gently undulating with only one quite taxing hill up to the village of Clive. The other new members had a slight mechanical about half-way up, hubby and I stopped to see if they needed assistance, which they didn’t, and we were soon underway again. Meanwhile the others waited at the top for us to catch up and take a breather.

We got home again around mid-afternoon and were glad of a cup of tea and a warm up. We had taken a bottle of drink with us, I had bought a couple of sample sachets of a new rehydration drink to see what it was like – it was horrible! So we didn’t drink much on the way round and I will not be using that particular brand again, I’ll stick to the one I know and love.

It was a very pleasant outing, more social than trying to cover significant ground at excessive speed and, although we have no details as yet other than the date, we are looking forward to next month’s ride when maybe a few more tandems might come along.

We didn’t have time to visit the Treacle Mines of Wem and saw no signs to indicate their whereabouts but we did pass a shop with ‘The Treacle Mines’ painted on its fascia so perhaps that was the entrance and the mines are underneath the High Street. We shall have to investigate another time. Check out my post in a couple of days time when there will be more information about the Treacle Mines!

 

 

Tumbling

Between the trees snowdrops,
white as starlight in the dark of night,
tumbling down the bank
like a mountain rill, rippling
into the stream below.

Wind-Pruned

Wind-pruned twigs and branches,
lichen-covered, strewn
along the grassy, tree-lined bank.
I carry them home;
fuel for the wood-burner.

Why Cycle?

We went out for a 15 mile bike ride this morning on our modern road bikes. We had expected it to be fine though cold but in fact it was quite mild and sunny – sunglasses needed for the first time in ages; the sun was right in our eyes on the outward journey, still being low in the sky. We passed the spot where a big beech tree was blown down across the road in strong winds a few days ago. The road had been cleared and the main trunk lay like a beached whale in the field beside the road.

While riding I found myself pondering why I like to cycle. Obvious reasons are for fitness and to get out in the fresh air. I have always had a bike but for various reasons have not always ridden a lot, not as much as I do now. I have also always enjoyed walking but my husband now has trouble with his knees and can’t walk very far so he prefers to ride a bike, which he can do without any problems. The result is either I walk on my own, which I do from time to time, or I go with him on my bike. Fortunately we are only a stone’s throw from open countryside which is great as it only takes a few minutes to get out beyond the houses.

Another reason for cycling is that you can see so much more from a bike than you can from driving in a car. You can notice seasonal changes, for example, much more easily as you travel at a slower speed. You can, of course, notice even more walking but you can travel further on a bike in any given amount of time so have greater scope for seeing these changes.

Today, apart from the felled tree and amongst other things, I noticed how the snowdrops are still going strong, I could see bright yellow crocus in gardens that we passed and how some daffodils are already in flower whilst other are still only just pushing through. We also disturbed a bunch of rooks who flew off with their raucous chatter, though I couldn’t quite make out where the rookery was. You also get to hear the birds singing, twittering, calling – something it is near impossible to do from a car.

We did also have to negotiate a flooded road from the recent rains, always a bit risky as you don’t know how deep it is or if any pot-holes are lurking in the murky water. It stretched the full width of the road and was some 20 – 25 feet wide. Hubby went first, the water didn’t come up much more than just over the wheel rims and there didn’t seem to be any hazards so I followed on, rather too fast I think as I ended up quite well splashed!

People often cite road safety as a reason for not cycling and traffic can be a problem – we have experienced many so-called ‘close passes’ when a passing car nearly brushes your leg then cuts quickly in front rather than wait to find enough space to overtake safely. A recent article I was reading on the subject in our Cycling magazine stated that those cycling at below 10 mph were at most risk and those who are safest cycle at above 12 mph. Where does that put us? We usually ride along at a comfortable cruising speed of between 10-12 mph! This is the best speed in my opinion to not cause other traffic too many problems and yet slow enough to enjoy the environment. There is an on-going campaign to educate drivers about cyclists and encourage them to allow 1.5 metres of space when overtaking. This will be included in future editions of The Highway Code, but still only advisory – in many European countries it is the law.

As we cycle along we often pass, or are passed by, other cyclists and usually try to catch their eye and give a cheery greeting. Sadly, many of those who cycle at the “safer” speeds of over 12 mph do not respond. The are simply focused on pushing the pedals round at maybe 16+ mph, eyes fixed a few feet in front of their wheels or on their cycling gizmos for recording their ride and its stats, quite often with earphones in their ears listening to heaven knows what. They are completely oblivious to the world around them and any enjoyment of their surroundings – surely this is a dangerous way to ride. All they seem to care about is beating their own, or somebody else’s Strava record for that particular route. Sad! They might as well stay on their turbo trainer at home.

To my way of thinking there are very few things you can do that costs little and enables you to keep fit whilst enjoying spending time with nature than riding a bike, especially if you take your time to look around you with awareness – after all, if there is something you want to take a closer look at, like when we saw a midday murmuration of starlings recently, you can always stop for a short while; it’s a good excuse for a rest!

Posturing

Two pigeons posturing
at the feeders.
A third, incoming,
sees them off – unfed.

Catkins

Hazel catkins
hanging like lambs tails
in the hedgerows.
Signs of Spring.

Journaling

For several years I wrote ‘Morning Pages’, as writers are so often prompted to do. This is supposed to be ‘stream of consciousness’ writing, without thought, the idea being that when you read over what you have written later there may be something there that provides an inspiration for more serious writing. It never worked for me!

I wrote my Morning Pages religiously, at least 4 sides of A5 notebook every morning before I got up. It was complete and utter rubbish, nothing but pointless waffle, not one iota of inspiration hidden in the dross to inspire anything worth writing. Was I doing it wrong? Well, apparently there is no right or wrong way to do it. So I persevered, as I say, for several years, filling notebook after notebook with scribblings about the worries and concerns of my everyday life – what to cook for dinner, what to buy for someone’s birthday among other occasional more serious concerns and with a few nature observations here and there – but nothing to inspire a best-selling novel or even a decent poem. Stream of consciousness? Often I had to consciously think of something to write about, although I admit that once in the flow of the new topic it did stream out (I’m good at waffle), until I ran out of steam and had to think of another topic.

Eventually I decided enough was enough, I was wasting paper and ink for no apparent gain. For some time now I have not given so much as a thought to the idea of Morning Pages and have burned several of those rubbish filled notebooks, (although there are still some in the drawer of my bedside cabinet awaiting their turn on the fire).

Recently I have had something of a change of heart. Maybe I could do it differently. Part of the idea of these pages was as a form of mindfulness, subconsciously noticing things I suppose, in that stream of consciousness. Well ‘Small Stones’ share something of this idea too and I have also been writing these for many years. I enjoy writing these little poetic observation and have no intention of giving up.

Synchronicity had a hand in it perhaps, but recently I read a book that I picked up in a local charity shop; Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by the late Roger Deakin, ‘a writer, broadcaster and film maker with a particular interest in nature and the environment’. Walnut Tree Farm was his home in Suffolk and for the last six years of his life he kept notebooks about his impressions and observations around his home and other places he visited, people he met. Whether or not he wrote these notes everyday I don’t know, the book only claims to contain ‘the best of these writings’, but it occurred to me that here is my answer, I could do something similar. Most of my ‘stones’ are based on nature observation in my garden or when out and about so why not enlarge this perspective?

During the time I was reading the book I realised my awareness of what was going on around me was actually more acute than I had previously recognised or recorded, details I had thought too trivial to bother with. With this awareness came inspiration for some new poems and, as I mentioned in last Monday’s post, after almost a couple of years without writing a single decent poem I came up with several.

My answer, I decided, was to write my own similar nature notes, make my Morning Pages more meaningful to me, not so much ‘stream of consciousness’ but more specifically aimed, while still dragging things out of my subconscious mind – i.e. a more deliberate and focused ‘Journaling’ rather than the aimless Morning Pages. Also I do not need the stress and pressure of doing this first thing in the morning, I will do it as and when I have something to write about, whatever time of day, while what I have observed is fresh in my mind. Nor do I need to do it every day – if I have had an ‘indoor’ day with no chance to observe then there is no need to write. My writing will not be as share-worthy as Roger Deakin’s, I do not have his level of knowledge and experience, but then mine is not intended for sharing.

I almost wish I had thought of this earlier and started at the beginning of the year, instead of just yesterday, but I have solved that wish by deciding to start with a summary of things I noticed in January and take it from there – no more Morning Pages but Journaling, I think this will suit me better and hopefully be more productive.

Hibernation

It’s cold outside; my inclination
is to curl up with a book
in front of the fire
in hibernation.

Holly Berries

The holly in the front garden
still has berries
that I couldn’t reach to cut
and bring in for Christmas.
The birds have left them uneaten;
I wonder why.

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