Monday, 15 December 2014


After a long silence we look to the future.

The Old Medicine House
3rd December 2014

3rd December 2014 was the 10th anniversary of the founding of The Blackden Trust.

In October 2014 Alan Garner turned 80.   
10 years and 80 years: 10-80
We shall be celebrating this serendipitous conjunction in 2015.   10-80 will be a special season of funding and fun.  We shall be fund-raising for our planned future expansion and having fun to mark the combined anniversaries.  There will be some one-off activities and some goods in the shop that will be unique to the season.  We shall also add extra features to our established events. 
One of the special activities is a competition in two parts.  The first part is to identify 10 photographs of objects in The Blackden Trust’s collections and displays.  These will appear once a month on our website and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.  All the answers can be found in the display cabinets at The Old Medicine House.  
Here is a taster.


What can it be?

The second part of the competition is to identify the location of 8 photographs of a place; one place for each decade of Alan Garner’s life.  Each place is associated with one of his novels.  The challenge is to match the place to the novel. These photographs will appear once a month, starting in January 2015, when we shall be giving details of how to enter the competition.
The prize will be a signed copy of one of Alan Garner’s books.   And there are not many of those about!


Saturday, 15 December 2012

Goostrey Parish Archive

We’re just about getting used to the huge variety of work here at The Blackden Trust.   It’s a real eye-opener of how much goes into running the Trust, and it’s become our weekly highlight.   

Over the last few weeks we’ve been market researching everything from rare books to creative writing lessons, and prices for future courses, trying our hand at blogging, drinking a lot of hot chocolate and helping to create something very exciting: the Goostrey Parish Archive.

Goostrey is a village with a long and fascinating history, but that history’s survival depends on local people.   So, a group of volunteers (including us) are aiming to create an archive of documents, photographs, oral history and any other kinds of artefacts from local people, so that we can make Goostrey’s history available to the public.  This is great news and we can’t wait to get started, especially because we’ve already seen a glimpse of the wonderful things that there are in the village...

... like this brilliant, but faded, photograph of St Luke’s Church, taken in the late nineteenth century.

And this engraving made before the graveyard was extended in about 1860.
Bethan and Phil

Thursday, 6 December 2012


Tucked in at the northeast facing gable of the Old Medicine House, enclosed by the glass window of the link and the retaining brick wall in front of Toad Hall is an enclosed space: the Labyrinth.   Easily missed by the casual visitor to the garden, but once found and walked, it hums in the mind: it is a journey along a blue brick path set into a square of cobbles to find wisdom.  The wisdom that in folktales is found at the well. 

“What can you see in the well?”
“Ferns on the wall and a dead frog in the water.”
“What else?”
The child leans over the parapet and looks into the water.
“I can see myself.”

Then the walk back along the outward ripple of the path, through the big stones of the constellation of Orion and the cobbles that echo the sun’s shadow at the equinox.

The Labyrinth shows a different face every time you are there.   A special and a private place.

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Owl Service

This week we scanned book covers  for The Blackden Trust website, where the Trust is planning to sell books online.  Among the books on sale will be one of our childhood favourites: The Owl Service.

Here's the beautiful dish that inspired the book - the real Owl Service. The decoration round the edge seems to be floral, though some people clearly see owls' eyes staring up at them.

So what happens if you put the "owl" motifs together?

A complete owl, with wings and a body.

More next week,
Bethan and Phil

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

A Mysterious Day

Arriving for our work experience at The Blackden Trust for the first time, we were greeted by a sneaky looking fox and a mysterious pile of feathers. Great fun for the cats, but not for the hens.

We're two local sixth form students. We're going to be here until the summer, helping out at the Trust and keeping the blog up to date with weekly snippets of Blackden goings-on.

The doorbell's ringing. Who could it be?

There's nobody there...

It's definitely a mysterious day.

Till next time, Bethan and Phil

Friday, 13 July 2012

Bursting Berries and Flying Fruit cages

Two weeks to go to the Goostrey Gooseberry Show.  Tension mounts.  Reputations are at stake.

In a bid to grow the heaviest berry, the trees have been thinned of small berries to concentrate the nourishment in the bigger ones.    For that you need fertilizer and water, but not the unremitting rain we have been having.

Berries burst if the tree sucks up too much water too fast.   And burst berries are discarded.  Only whole berries may be weighed in the show.   The trees in the Frank Carter collection are covered in burst berries.  Disaster for any grower.  The more I pick off, the more seem to appear.  Something has to be done.  So, with the help of my young gardener friend, I do what all gooseberry growers do: cover the trees. 
Not a problem when you grow trees in three foot high pens, which is the preferred method of most gooseberry growers, but our trees are grown in a six foot high fruit cage to make them more accessible to visitors. 

We pull a tarpaulin over the frame.

With the tarpaulin tied securely, I stand back satisfied that I have done my best to protect the berries from an excess of water.  With a bit of luck, some berries might be worthy of their breeder at the show.

‘Mind you,’ says my young friend, ‘with this wind, the whole cage could fly off!’

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A Place of Making

Fifty five years ago at 11 o’clock in the morning of 7th of June 1957 Alan Garner turned the key in the lock of the ‘cottage’ at Blackden for the first time.  His memory of that day:

The doorknocker was, and still is, a brass replica of the Lincoln Imp.  I had marked it as a favourable omen at first sight, but now there was no need for me to use it, because I held the key.  I opened the door.

For the first and last time I saw the house untouched by habitation and could appreciate the size of the rooms and the scale of the timbering.  If I’d had any doubts they would have been dispelled.  Here was something ancient and big.  The smells were of oak and lime and thatch and wood smoke, a permanent ambience, touched briefly by the fading odours of floor swabbing and disinfectant.

I carried in my maternal great-grandmother’s chair, a part of her trousseau.  My cousin helped me manoeuvre our paternal grandfather’s table over the threshold.  Another story had begun.

Alan Garner

The cottage was in fact half of a medieval hall that had been divided into two cottages some time in the 1880s.  The tenant of the other cottage was Betty Carter, the daughter of the first tenant. 

Between Betty’s mother and Alan the occupants of the two dwellings had been agricultural labourers, servants, laundry women, signalmen, house painters and teachers.  Alan, the son of a house painter himself, is the first writer to be nurtured by Blackden.  The second is his daughter, Elizabeth. 

Here is Alan in 1960, the year of the publication of his first novel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.  This patch of Blackden is where he works and where he has written all his novels. 

And The Blackden Trust continues the creating and making with our visitors.