Thursday, 27 April 2017

W is for Whistlejacket …

Whistlejacket as painted by the British artist George Stubbs showing the Marquess of Rockingham’s racehorse approximately at life-size, rearing up against a plain background.
Canvas is
9 1/2 feet x 8 feet
"Whistlejacket" by George Stubbs

The art work has been described as “a paradigm of the flawless beautify of an Arabian thoroughbred” … it can now be seen in the National Gallery.

Whistlejacket in another context is a “Mahogany” – and in Yorkshire it is considered a traditional cold remedy … a rather daunting mix ….

Opihr Gin

… a curious liquor peculiar to the Cornish Fishermen in the late 1700s … it is made with two parts gin, and one part treacle, well beaten together … and was made into a ‘very good liquor’.

The pirates of Cornwall … note that in a biography of Ashley Hutchings, the founder of the folk-rock bands Fairport Convention and SteeleyeSpan, the members mentioned this drink … they remembered “Mahogany” but very little else about the night!!


That is W for What Should be a Well Forgotten recipe for a Walloping cold, but is W for a Wondrous Work of Whistlejacket, the Arabian thoroughbred  … from Aspects of British County Rare Breeds …

Counties with the letter W … 
(note some Counties have been retired!, or amended over historical local government … but some I’ve included)
England: Warwickshire; West Midlands; Westmorland; West Sussex; Wiltshire; Worcestershire
Northern Ireland: None
Scotland:  West Lothian; Wigtownshire
Wales:  Wrexham

Pyracy - Cornish Sea Shanties ...  see notes in this site

The Old Foodie ... James Boswell - Pepys' biographer ... describes the drink ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

V is for Vaynol Cattle …

Vaynol Cattle are one of the UK’s rarest breeds with fewer than 150 breeding animals registered in the UK.

Temple Newsam 1880

The cattle had been at Vaynol Park near Bangor, Wales since 1872 … they are a semi-feral breed and were maintained under minimal management supervision … this prompted the RBST to step in and move the herd to Temple Newsam.

Well we can see it's approved ... 

In 2006, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust set up a five year conservation programme at Temple Newsam farm, run by Leeds Council in order to establish a genetic profile of the breed … aiming to reduce the levels of inbreeding …

Five calves

In 2007, the first calf was born by artificial insemination from semen collected from a bull 30 years ago.

Two new satellite herds have been established in Lincolnshire and in Scotland …

Vaynol Cow

There has been some intervention … but the herds are left to their own devices to retain the wildness and distrust of humans as per their ancestors.

Temple Newsam from the air - the
farm is bottom right
Temple Newsam is a magnificent country mansion set within 1,500 acres of beautiful parkland, complete with a rare breed farm … a place to visit and explore …

Temple Newsam Park - Ideal for the Rare Breeds

That is V for a Variety of Very Rare Vaynol cattle … Verdantly Vegetating on Thane land outside Leeds … from Aspects of British County Rare Breeds …

Counties with the letter V
(note some Counties have been retired!, or amended over historical local government … but some I’ve included)
England: None
Northern Ireland: None
Scotland:  None
Wales:  None

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

U is for Unicorn …

The most familiar of the heraldic mythical animals is the Unicorn, which pairs up with the lion as a Supporter of the royal coat of arms.

The gentle and pensive maiden has the
power to tame the Unicorn:
Fresco by Domenico Zampieri (1602)

I’m sure we all recognise the Unicorn from our childhood – as that beautiful white beast conjured up in so many tales.

Unicorn Statue on Council Offices,

In heraldry the Unicorn is drawn with 

the body, head and mane of a horse, 
the tail of a lion, 
the beard of a goat ...
with its own distinctive horn.

The Unicorn Penned - number 7
of the original tapestries now
in the Cloisters
The origins of the Unicorn myth were that it was the fiercest beast in the forest, so fierce it would rather die than be captured …

A series of seven tapestries: "The Hunt of the Unicorn", dating from between 1495 and 1505, bought by JD Rockefeller, now hang in The Cloisters in New York, were probably woven in Brussels or Liege.

Stirling Castle - with one of the
copied tapestries in situ

Historic Scotland commissioned a copy of a set of hand-made tapestries for Stirling Castle as part of a project to furnish the castle as it was in the 16th century.

Fee of the blog Wee White Hoose gives a wonderful post about The Unicorn: Scotland’s National Animal … including some lovely photos … and is well worth a read.  

The Royal Coat of Arms England on the left ...
        the Scottish one on the right 

Then of all the mythical animals, the unicorn seemed to be the most likely to exist in reality … with explorers hoping to find its habitat well into the 19th century.

That is U for Under the radar, the Unique Unicorn … from Aspects of British County Rare Breeds …

Counties with the letter U … 
(note some Counties have been retired!, or amended over historical local government … but some I’ve included)
England: None
Northern Ireland: None
Scotland:  None
Wales:  None

My post on the Skeletons found and identified in the kitchens of Stirling Castle when it was being restored ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday, 24 April 2017

T is for Turkey …

T for This Time … you get the history – the T for Turkeys in the UK and USA are much the same … so not a lot of British information available for me to post up …

Slate Turkey

Turkeys have been around for millennia (originating in Mexico/ Americas) … but were brought to Britain in the 1520s (via Spain) by Yorkshireman William Strickland, a navigator, who sailed on early voyages of exploration to the Americas …

The Lectern in St Andrew's Church
showing the turkey carving and
Coat of Arms below

… on his return to Bristol he sold the birds and is credited with their introduction into Britain … being granted a Coat of Arms … the bird motif is incorporated into it. 

c/o Britain Express photo
While in St Andrew’s Church, Boynton, East Yorkshire the lectern has been beautifully carved in the shape of a turkey …

The Poultry Club of Great Britain - link below - we have the nominate race here - the bronze with white in its tail ... was the breed introduced to us ... 

A Norfolk Bronze
The birds had been identified as a type of guineafowl … and in those early days were called “turkey fowl” before being shortened to just “turkey”…

... this was because there were 'Turkey Merchants' bringing in a range of goods from the Middle East to be traded ... thus 'turkey' was appropriated for the bird ...

Henry VIII was the first English king to enjoy turkey, although Edward VII made eating turkey fashionable at Christmas … it replaced peacocks on the table in Royal Courts.

Bourbon Red Turkey

By 1720 … turkeys were walking from Norfolk to the London markets in small flocks of 300 – 1,000.  They started in August and fed on stubble fields and feeding stations along the drove … as with geese their feet were dipped in tar …

Narragansett Turkey Hens

There are 43 breeds of turkey in the UK … but many of them are very similar to their American cousins … so the best place to look is the RBST site for Turkeys under the Poultry section … 

That is T for Turkey Treats and Treasures of the Thanksgiving Table and the Christmas Table … from Aspects of British County Rare Breeds …

Counties with the letter T
(note some Counties have been retired!, or amended over historical local government … but some I’ve included)
England: Tyne and Wear
Northern Ireland: Tyrone
Scotland:  None
Wales:  None

Turkey History and Other Facts ...  c/o British Turkey Co

Poultry Club of Great Britain - history of Turkeys

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 22 April 2017

S is for Sheep ...

The Rare Breeds Society Trust registers pedigree animals bred and living in the UK, including some semi-feral populations …
Sheep in a Summer Landscape by
Thomas Sidney Cooper - who is known for his
cattle paintings ... see my C

… they monitor the threat from disease and work to reduce geographical isolation of breeds, while if necessary relocating animals away from any threats.

There are 24 Sheep breeds listed in a Watchlist status … ranging from: 

Critical (very few left:), 
Endangered (a few more, but not many), 
Vulnerable (says it all), 
At Risk (slightly better), 
Minority (improving) ….

British Postal Stamps issued 2012 - showing:
Welsh Mountain Badger Face; Dalesbred; Jacob;
Suffolk; Soay and Leicester Long Wool

Their website gives numbers etc … but the priority is to get each breed up to viable numbers so that in-breeding and genetic erosion can be eliminated: thus the breed is improved and thus conserved.

The Isle of Man - the southernmost
red island - detail of islands
in a historical sense circa 1100 AD
"The Kingdom of the Isles"

I show a few of the breeds here and through the A-Z have mentioned one or two others … while more may be seen at the RBST (Sheep) site …

Some of our many (over 6,000) smaller islands can be used for flocks of sheep, where they can be better protected from disease.

Balwens in the snow

Balwen Welsh Mountain sheep – the name comes from the Welsh elements bal, “blaze”, and wen “white” …

The River Tywi (Towy)
They come from one small area of Wales – the Tywi valley .. and were particularly badly hit in the severe British winter of 1946/7.  With some outcrossing with other types of Welsh Mountain sheep their numbers are increasing …

Manx Loaghtan on Jersey
Manx Loaghtan – an Isle of Mann breed … which appears at rare breed farms on the mainland, and has been introduced into Jersey – as it is believed to be the closest surviving relative of the now extinct Jersey Sheep.

Red-billed Chough

Interestingly it appears there is a link between the Manx Loaghtan breed and the ability of the Chough to thrive on its coastland sites …

Devon and Cornwall Longwool

Devon and Cornwall Longwool - the breed is relatively local and there are few flocks outside of the South West.

Dorset Horn

Dorset Horn - the sheep of Dorset were known for their unusual ability to breed out of season as far back as the 17th century.

The breed’s prolificacy and capacity for lambing all year round, makes it easier to breed flock replacements and build a closed flock …


Wensleydale – it has a grey blue face … with long “Rastafarian” ringlet-like locks of wool … this is acknowledged as the finest lustre long wool in the world …

Wensleydale showing its long fleece

The fleece from a purebred sheep is considered 'kemp' free and curled or purled on out to the end. 

Kemp is generally chalky-white, brittle, weak fibres – which are often detached from the skin … and thus are not desirable at all in a fleece.

Sheep are useful in many ways … for food as lambs, or hoggets (one to two year olds),  milk for yoghurt or cheese, their wool for clothes, rugs etc …

The Leafy Spurge - an invasive

… they are effective conservationists – eating invasive grasses over native species.

Herdwick Sheep in the Lake District form a vital part of that landscape ... "Herdwyk" means sheep pasture - while the term "hefting" means the lambs learn from their mothers where to graze ... which removes the need for fencing.

Herdwicks grazing on the Cumbrian

Beatrix Potter bequeathed 4,000 acres so that Herdwicks could continue to roam and graze the Fells.

William Holman Hunt (1790 - 1864)
"Our English Coasts" (1852)
[Strayed Sheep]

They are raised in relatively natural surroundings … without the need to feed them high-concentration grain feed as with other animals.

Sheep therefore offer different husbandry methods … and as is noted … any animal is not a cog in the machine of profitability it is a living creature that demands our understanding and should receive our understanding and sympathy … being bred to further the type of genetic needs – which benefit us all … 

With a proverbial 'black sheep' in their
midst - this is in Spain
That is S for Sheep in early Spring with lambs going towards Summer … Some Sheep are in Severe Survival circumstances … but the Survival Trust will do their best to ensure all breeds Survive to provide us with Sufficient Stock to Secure these native breeds … that is S for Sheep from Aspects of British County Breeds …

Counties with the letter S ...
(note some counties have been retired!, or amended over historical local government ... but some I've included)
England: Shropshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex
Northern Ireland: None
Scotland: Selkirkshire, Shetland, Stirlingshire, Sutherland
Wales: South Glamorgan

However - to make sure I comply and answer questions (which I'll do more of once the A-Z is over) - and be the proper blogger I be ... Jacob's Sheep raised their head ... the Jacob is not a Rare Breed in this context ... 

A Jacob Ram
They originated in the Middle East and are believed to be the oldest breed in the world – being mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Genesis.

The Moors took them to the Iberian Peninsula in the 8thC AD; eventually they were imported here in Elizabethan times as an ornament for country house parks!

They are now a mainstream British breed … more can be found here at the Jacob Sheep Society site … 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday, 21 April 2017

R is for Rare Breeds Survival Trust ...

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is a conservation charity, founded in 1973 to preserve native breeds and since its establishment, no UK-native breed has become extinct.

 It maintains a watch list of native breeds of cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, goats and poultry, and an approved list of farm parks.

Boeray Sheep - critical:
in the St Kilda archipelago off the west
coast of Scotland

Projects have included the collection of genetic material to ensure the future of rare breeds in a farm animal “gene bank”.

They also support the marketing of meat from rare breeds …

British Lop  - endangered.
Originating from north Cornwall/west Devon areas

Some of the breeds I have mentioned … but as you’ll see from the A-Z series I’ve broadened my horizons … so I can vaguely comply with the A-Z.

Sussex Hen - these are common
and have been around since
Roman times

Between 1900 and 1973 we lost 26 native breeds of livestock, as well as many varieties of poultry.  There are adjunct rare breed organisations for Poultry, Turkeys, Geese and Waterfowl …

Welsh Mountain Pony

There are also individual breed specialists … and the watch-lists get added to as and when necessary … while the society also keeps an eye on the feral populations …

Feral Goat in Findhorn Valley, Moray, Scotland

Breeds of Irish origin, which are found in the UK, and historically have been part of British Agriculture are included in the monitoring process: Kerry cattle; Galway sheep; Irish Draught Horse and Connemara Pony.

Dales Pony - critical

The UK has a wide variety of genetic resources available to respond to disease threats … and to keep the gene bank in a high state of alert … something that has become more and more obvious in today’s agricultural market place.

Whitebred Shorthorn - critical

That is R for those Rare Breeds, which are native to the United Kingdom … so we can Retain and Record and Protect our Rare Breeds … from Aspects of British County Rare Breeds …

Counties with the letter R
(note some Counties have been retired!, or amended over historical local government … but some I’ve included)
England: Rutland
Northern Ireland: None
Scotland:  Renfrewshire; Ross and Cromarty; Ross-shire; Roxburghshire
Wales:  Radnorshire

Rare Breeds Survival Trust ... this trust covers all breeds

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories