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Winter 2004        http://www.nbnrs.org.uk

Merry Christmas!
Happy New Year!

Come and join us on our

* Yuletide Ramble!   

Noak Bridge Nature Reserve
Sunday, 12 December 2004
10:00am - 12:00pm
then enjoy
Mulled Wine and Mince Pies at the Village Hall

   Greetings from Chairperson Betty Haynes

Here we are again, Christmas almost here. If you made your sloe gin or vodka it will be ready for bottling and drinking!

We are not having a work party in December - we have plenty to do ourselves so work parties will start again in January and we shall be busy bees then, Feel free to join us, third Wednesday of the month, 1pm - 3pm, all tools provided. We are still waiting to have the fish removed from our ponds. The Environment Agency will begin working on it in January. Just a reminder to all of our members - The Christmas Ramble takes place on Sunday, 12 December from 10 am - 12pm. starting at the Eastfield Road entrance and finishing at the Village Hall for some mulled wine and mince pies! Come and join us!

Your committee wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year! - Betty


We now have total of 54 households currently signed up. Subscriptions may be given to Weed at 44 Lower Street or to Janet Bircham at 42 Crouch Street. For information please contact Weed on our website or by telephone at 289577. Weed is conducting a membership drive, distributing the Society's brochure and memberships form to all the homes in the village.


Don't forget to look at our web-site. Weed updates the information regularly -

   Work Parties

Meetings begin again in January, third Wednesday in the month - 1pm - 3pm with Mark Williams. Please look for our notices in the Chemist's shop.

   Pond Weed

Basildon Countryside Services are concerned about the arrival of some fast-growing pond weed in the reserve. Discussions about its removal and disposal are in progress.

Just Before Christmas
    A Ghostly Tale
                        by Betty Haynes

It is almost Christmas again and this year we are going away to Cornwall for a few days. Here we are on the 23rd December, bags packed already. Today's the day, flask ready and a few sandwiches made, two rugs in the boot of the car and away we go. We're rather late leaving, I was hoping to be on the road by 1 o'clock at the latest but we are on our way now and it should only take five or six hours.

The roads are really busy - didn't expect to see amount of traffic. It is going to be slow-going. There should be a service station soon where we will stop for a break for drinks and toilets. It is five o'clock already and now quite dark.

We've been driving for seven hours and we will soon be turning off the main road to pick up the quieter roads - here's our turning now. I don't know if it is my imagination but there seems to be no traffic at all along this road and there are no lights here because it is more like a country lane. I'm beginning to think I may have taken the wrong turning after all; there is no sign of life anywhere, no sign of cars or dwellings, nothing, and the temperature has dropped to freezing. Have to stop the car, drink the coffee and get out the blankets to try and keep warm as the car heater cannot cope with the extreme cold.

Just noticed the time! It is 11:30pm! We're really late now, just hope we can make it to our hotel soon. Suddenly there are some lights twinkling just around the bend in the road. There is a little hotel, WELCOME sign glowing and they have vacancies - what a sight for sore eyes! We'll stop here for the night.

The door is opening and there is an elderly couple waiting to greet us. They are Mr and Mrs Smedgeling - unusual name. They take our overnight bags straight to our room and ask us if we would like something to eat or drink. There is a lovely smell of roasting turkey and there is a log fire well ablaze. It is so warm and cosy we decide to order a fry-up and a brandy. Bliss! All the time our hosts are telling us the history of the hotel. After a couple of hours we say goodnight and head for our beds. There is a smell of lavender and it doesn't take long to fall asleep.

In the morning and we are up and dressed ready for breakfast at ten o'clock. Bacon, eggs and mushrooms - the best we have ever tasted. Time to say goodbye to our hosts and pay our bill. It is just thirty-five pounds! We pay them forty pounds and they give us a receipt. We thank them again, start up the car and wave until they are out of sight.

Back on the road again it doesn't take long to find the hotel we had booked into for the Christmas holiday. We have a look around the area which we have never visited before. It is very cold but we don't think we will have any snow. This looks like the local pub so we will give it a try.We are welcomed by a nice friendly crowd downing a few pints and we are soon warm and glowing.

We start to tell them about our journey and our overnight stop at the little hotel but the listeners become very quiet as the story progresses and then a man who had been sitting in the corner of the bar comes over to us. He says that we have made a mistake about where we stopped for the night. We ask him to explain and he tells that he is a nephew of the couple who owned the hotel. He also says that Mr and Mrs Smedgeling died twenty years ago!!We must be mistaken.Then I remember the receipt they gave me. I take it out of my pocket and show to the nephew who turns quite pale as he sees their signatures on the piece of paper. Also in my pocket is the forty pounds I had given the couple! How did they do that without my knowing? And why did this happen to us?

It seems the old hotel building is going to be pulled down so next day we go to have a look at the hotel that no-one wants any more. When we see it again we fall in love with it and decide to buy it. We have it renovated and restored to the way it looked in its heyday. Eventually there was a Grand Re-opening, guest of honour the Smedgeling's nephew who gasped in wonder and said that it was just as he remembered it as a lad.

Now we know why we were chosen to visit on that day, just before Christmas.


The Oak

Can any other plant or tree have so many myths and legend surrounding it? Here are a few of the less weird ones.

Because of its deep roots the oak symbolizes a god whose law extends to heaven, earth, and the underworld.

The oak is said to be sacred to many: Allah - Jehovah - Zeus - Jupiter - Thor - Mars - the Dagda - Hercules - Hou, the Oak God of Guernsey - Janicot, the Basque Oak God - El, the Middle Eastern Oak God - Jove - Picus - Cernunnos - Herne the Hunter - Taranis - Teutates - Belenos - Donar / Dunar / Thunar - Perkunas - Perun - Taraa - Baldur - Viribius - Janus. It is also the tree of the Wild Ox-God.

The image of Jupiter at the Capitol in Rome was originally an oak tree.

Mary was worshipped as Our Lady of the Oak in Anjou, France. She appeared to shepherd children in Portugal, as Our Lady of Fatima crowned in roses and hovering over an oak tree.

The oak is sacred to all thunder and lightning gods. Hercules attracted thunderstorms with magic, by rattling an oak club in a hollow oak, or by stirring a pool with an oak branch.

Clubs were made of oak in ancient Europe. Woodpeckers were thought to be knocking for rain when they tapped on oak trunks. Black animals were sacrificed to the thunder god for rain. Oaks were believed to court the lightning flash, hence the old English saying:

Beware of an oak
It draws the stroke.

The Romans awarded oak leaves to military heroes. Primitive Europeans believed that oak fire strengthened the sun. Sacrifices were made to sacred oaks in Europe until well into the Middle Ages.

It was a crime to fell an oak tree in pagan Ireland. Kildare, where the nuns of St. Brigit maintained the sacred fire, means Shrine of the Oak.

In British folklore ancient, hollow trees called bull oaks in England, bell oaks in Scotland and Ireland are trees that stood in old sacred groves. They were often believed to be the home of spirits, elves, fairies or demons. You were supposed to turn your coat or cloak inside out to neutralize their magic:

Turn your cloaks
For fairy folks are in old oaks.

Their spirits were believed to enter houses through the knotholes in oak timbers.

Druids stood their sacred circles of stones under the shadow of a spreading oak or in a grove of oak trees. Pliny says that the Druids believed that anything found growing on an oak tree had been sent from heaven, a sign that the god had chosen the tree and made it sacred. Mistletoe found on oaks was held especially sacred. The Druids cut it each year with a golden sickle in a ritual emasculation of the sacred oak, the royal sun disc. Mistletoe does not usually grow on oaks, so it is likely that they grafted it. They associated the oak with heavenly fire. An oak tree had to be more than 30 years old before Druids would harvest mistletoe from it.

Lithuanians offered sacrifices to oak trees for plentiful crops.

Oak trees in Siberian groves were swathed in cloth and made offerings of kettles, reindeer hides, spoons and other valuable household articles. Orthodox Christians in Russia worshipped a holy oak until the 1870's. They fixed candles to its trunk and branches and prayed: "Holy oak hallelujah, pray for us."

Acorns were the Celtic symbol for Zeus, the Roman symbol of Jupiter.

Toothaches were cured in the 18th century by driving a nail into the tooth or gum until it bled, then driving the nail into an oak tree. (I think I would prefer the toothache).

It is also worth remembering the very real part this tree has played in England's role in world history. For hundreds of years oaks provided the building material for her naval warships, the source of England's "Hearts of Oak."

Researched by Joan Fynn

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last updated - 16 August 2015
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