NOTES FROM THE STORES & THE MOORS

Horrabridge Stores has been reacting to rapidly changing demand for two months now and we asked Dee Hopkins for a few notes on becoming a central player in the local crisis.

She said:

Initially we had hoped our payment card provider would activate the service ‘card payer not present’ for payment over the phone, but alas Paypoint have messed up and that has not been the case. Therefore we have been accepting BACs payments or cash in envelopes at the door.

“Customers ring their order through between 10am and 1pm. Once orders are collated we ring the customer back with the total value and Tony delivers between 1.30 and 2.30.

“By week two, we had several regular customers wishing for deliveries. That along with the need to restrict the number of customers in the shop to two, caused us to restructure our staffing and opening hours. At the moment those hours, for the shop and Post Office have remained 8am until 6pm, 7 days per week.

“Our staff have doubled up and moved to the morning shift. I open at 8am, staff arrive at 9 and 10. They each work five and a half hours and we cover the remaining hours.

“This means we are able to run the shop while having another person taking and preparing orders for delivery.

“Daily obstacles … some stock shortages, which changes regularly. We now have flour, plain, self raising, strong white for bread making, and gluten free; all thanks to The Leaping Salmon’s contact. Plenty of toilet rolls and giant tins of tomatoes, as normal size tins appear to be this week’s issue. Large boxes of cereals to choose from The milk, bread and sugar deals have remained on offer and Bookers substitute some brands of groceries for other brands, keeping us stocked.

“We have a screen at the post office and a makeshift one at our counter. Staff have access to PPE, some of which has been difficult to source. But we were helped by Adam who donated a box of gloves, Janet who donated extra gloves and Richard who helped with some masks.”

.

GLIMPSES OF REALITY

If you want to know what is going on, take a peek in the magistrates court, is a Shed rule of life. The latest round-up of proceedings in Plymouth, Exeter and Torbay, by the Devon Live news service, is a reminder that a lot of street life and crime goes on regardless, even while millions of us are behaving like Swiss citizens running for mayor. And the police are risking, and getting, some backlash from the only people they see any more.

.

NOTES FROM THE SHED: ON TURPS & STUFF

Jeff Howell, whose Ask A Builder column used to run in the Sunday Telegraph, once offered the following summary of cleaners and thinners:

Real turpentine is distilled from pine-tree resin. It smells nice, is expensive and is preferred by artists for thinning oil paints. Turps sub and white spirit are both distilled from oil and are similar. White spirit is a slightly higher-fraction distillate and considered purer; it is more volatile and good for paint thinning, as it evaporates more easily. Turps sub is more oily and not so good for paint thinning, but better for cleaning paint brushes (if you leave them soaking in a jar for weeks, the turps sub is still likely to be there when you come back, while white spirit is more likely to have evaporated).

Find more of his advice at www.askjeff.co.uk/

.

TALKING FUZZ

The Little Book Of Round Yer is scheduled for publication end of this year and the following is the latest entry for it – up for discussion, either on Horrabridge Memories or by email to newsdesk@horrabridgetimes.net/

.

It’s everywhere and in some ways it is wonderful – yellow blossom all year round. When the gorse is in bloom, kissing’s in season, as they like to tell you round yer.

.

But if you ain’t getting kissed on the moors much nowadays, it’s a pain, especially along the river banks, where it has ruined the fishing along most of the tributaries.

.

But for centuries it was a resource – animal feed, fencing material, fuel and tool – doormat, chimney brush, roofing material and many things more. The local courts spent a lot of time issuing orders for the control of furze stores, which were a serious fire risk in built-up areas. Landowners controlled the cutting of it jealously. A weight of furze would often have been part of a land worker’s wages.

.

One of the many things we have forgotten is the importance of firewood. There is an old aerial picture of Horrabridge, from the beginning of the 20th century, in which the shape of the village is clearly recognisable but something is missing … trees and hedges. Every one of them was cropped down to a stub. Before coal, the devastation of vegetation would have spread for miles. Even up to the 1950s, foraging for gorse branches for the fireplace was common. Even now, there are rangers who get snotty about it.

.

A Belgian philosopher on environmental matters, Maarten Boudry, said in The Independent recently that it was a big mistake to think that “once upon a time, humans were living in harmony with Nature, enjoying her bountiful resources but respecting her limits, keenly aware of our proper place within the larger eco-system … Hogwash”.

.

He said: “Our carbon footprints were enormous when we were living as hunter-gatherers. Today our planet hosts 7.7 billion people and our lives are wealthier and healthier than ever. But if we all lived like our forebears, the planet could support 400 million of us at most. Once humans had access to abundant sources of high-density energy, such as coal they no longer had to cut down forests to keep warm and they stopped hunting whales to fill their oil lamps. Three quarters of global deforestation occurred before 1800.”

.

He added: “The energy density of solar and wind is much lower than fossil fuels, which means that you need far more land and raw materials to produce a given amount of energy.”

.

Anyways, furze was a respectable crop for a long time, commonly included in the valuation of estates round here.

.

We have found it written that Tavistock used to be a centre for furze seed, but cannot find any more on this. It is not clear if the trade was for ornamental growing or deliberate farming of the stuff but from the histories of similar territories, especially Ireland and the Isle of Man, it is clear that gorse was part of the strategic planting of moorland, and Devon has a couple of varieties which might be useful in different ways.

.

A structure at Sampford Spiney (photo later) was once described in a local memoir as a furze crusher, although the park archaeologists are not sure that is correct.

.

Col. C.P. Collier, born in 1883 and writing in 1976, said: Most people think it is a cider press – a round rough trough some six feet in diameter, hewn out of a solid block of granite which must weigh several tons, and a slightly dished crushing wheel of 6 feet diameter which was pulled around a by a horse. It was covered by a circular slated roof and stood on granite pillars.”

.

There is an argument that he was mistaken and it would have made more sense as a cider press. But furze mills did exist. A rural museum in Wales lists one and there are descriptions of similar devices in an essay by I.M. Killip on the use of furze in the Isle of Man – of various designs including stone rollers.

.

Why would you want to mince gorse? Well, first it is quite a good animal feed and the more you chop it down the more kinds of livestock can get through the winter on it. But second, very possibly, to make it easier to handle and more concentrated as fuel.

.

Gorse bushes stay famously dry in the middle in a blizzard and the wood is full of oils. It has been discussed as a possible biofuel. Surprisingly, we could not find any evidence it has been tried in a modern boiler. But for centuries, it was the fuel for bread ovens – fill a hole with furze, torch it and cook in the heat left over. Lime burners used it. Probably the tinners did too.

.

* Wessex writer Thomas Hardy described “the furze cutter, carrying the leather gloves and bill hook of his calling; his legs sheathed in bulging leggings as stiff as the Philistine’s greaves of brass”.

.

allfornow …

About the editor 377 Articles
Editor of The Horrabridge Times.