Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It once were an island

My Gran's father, Gabriel Duckett, left the parish of Wedmore in 1867 as a young man and went to seek his fortune. He ended up in Victoria, Australia in the gold-mining town of Wedderburn and never went any further. He supported his large family by gold-mining using a method called puddling which involved a horse going round in circle to operate a machine to crush and puddle the mud and quartz in order to extract the gold.

It's all very different from Wedmore. We wandered the village as the bells were pealing for the Sunday morning service, and earlier a knowledgeable and friendly local had very proudly shown us around the church. I was very surprised to learn that Wedmore and the nearby villages of Heathhouse and Blackford where the Ducketts lived and worked are on high country that was an island in Saxon times. "It once were an island" she said. Since then the low country has been drained and is now farmed. The area is still criss-crossed by drains and channels and the farmers can't use it much in the wet months. This is view down to the lowland from Heathhouse and a lane in Heathhouse itself.

And this is the village and farmland of Blackford where Gabriel's grandfather lived. The hedges are all neatly trimmed in the winter and are now coming into bud. I was surprised to learn that hedges are a mixture of species because I had the notion that they were all hawthorn. I have a lot to learn. I was reading about one hedge that had been there since Elizabeth 1's time! We have seen quite a few new hedges being planted, especially in Devon, which is a good thing because there has been a 25% decrease in the number of hedges in the last 40 years.

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