More Roundhill pics: Dick Bateman

Dick Bateman, learned retired geography teacher and keen walker who knows Kelston Roundhill as well as anyone, has responded to Ben’s pictures below with some of his own.

Maybe its time we revived our photo competition (first prize was a Bath Soft Cheese, consolation prize hard cheese, and past winner in most categories typically the one and only Matt Prosser).

Jackdaws on Kelston Roundhill (please supply your own sound effects)
Kelston Roundhill on the horizon with mist over Kelston and Saltford (looks like from Prospect Style, but Dick may correct me)
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New Kelston Roundhill photo book project by Ben Walmsley

The photographer Ben Walmsley contacts us with some photos and questions:

I am a photographer currently putting together a series of images of Kelston Roundhill for a book. I was wondering if you had any information about the history, I have found that there is something about how it was very important to the town of Kelston a long time ago, but is there anything more you can tell me, or be able to point me in the right direction of where I could find out such information

Where do we start? Maybe with the Kelston History Group, and perhaps the detailed description of Dick Bateman’s 7000 years of enterprise walk from Saltford to Kelston, part of the RGS’ Discovering Britain series.

Thanks for the images Ben. Do share more as we go through the seasons, and best of luck with the book!

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Boxing Day planting bluebell bulbs; a gift from Middle Ground Growers

Boxing Day we planted a mass of English bluebell bulbs in Kelston clump. It always feels like an ideal location for bluebells, but we’ve never seen any flowering in there until spring 2021, and even then it was just a few of the invasive sort.

So we accepted with pleasure a generous Christmas gift from our new neighbour Hamish from the Middle Ground Growers of a bucket of English bluebell bulbs. He said it was 200 bulbs; we reckon we planted about 500 and had a good quantity left over for another round. We dug hem in around the base of trees, and sprinkled some chili flakes and cinnamon to deter pests.

Come and check in April. We’re hoping to see some first flashes of blue. But maybe you’ll just find a bunch of well-fed squirrels…

Super sunny conditions for a Boxing Day outing.
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Two Kelston Roundhill poems to mark Winter Solstice 2021 – by Jon Hamp

Winters lighthouse keeper

There should be a lighthouse here.
Here, high upon this hill
It’s arm would hold us steady
and guard the western wall.

& it’s great light sweeps the stars from white horse manes,
esplayed on Eastern hills

and turns to fracture
snow on beacons
West,  beyond the deeper waters.

Keynsham and Salford from Roundhill Barn, 21 Dec 2021

Solstice City Blue

A cold pearl in the oyster
the grey shell in the pearl –
So, let the city’s nighttime flag
dissemble and unfurl.

Slowly, silent through the dark;
move shimmering Emerald planes.
Diamond cars hiss softly
of sleeping sapphire trains.

Jewels of winter colour, scatter –
strewn across the charcoal sheet
out to where the hope of Spring –
our broken blues and yellows meet

And all these toys beneath us
(Once on front room carpets)
lay Winter at our feet.

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Reflections on 2021 Winter Solstice at Kelston Roundhill

On 21 December a couple of dozen of us dressed warm, gathered at Roundhill Barn and walked up to Kelston Clump to watch the end of the year’s shortest day.

It’s great to mark the Solstice properly; it marks something of fundamental importance about this time of year and has a wonderful way of liberating you to enjoy Christmas more fully.

Sunset on the shortest day of 2021 (photo: Jon Hamp, approaching from the north east around 1530).

Earlier we had the sun break out for the first time in weeks as we set up, so was a spectacular evening. Our very own Kelston Laureate Jon Hamp shared poems, with rich imagery rooted to the spot and that moment: the Roundhill as our lighthouse in a stormy sea.

We returned to the barn and – in a short event put on by Isabel Russo and Craig Kenyon – shared reflections about Solstice, about the beauty of life stripped back to the winter minimum, and how even if we fear the dark it the time we need to dream.

We shared reflections about Solstice, why we fear but also crave the dark, and looked forward to the return of longer days.

Solstice is a great moment for reflection, especially at a time when we’ve all got massive issues and challenges to think about. The months of darkness allow us to winter; to prepare not just for new life but also a renewed scrutiny when the light returns.

It’s good to remember that we dream in the dark, and that we’re now closer to spring than to September

As we rounded up Pete Judge treated us to a Solstice fanfare, and we danced round our circle of intentions. We shared refreshments and mulled wine, and headed off ready to face all that Christmas and to approach new-year challenges with hope. How else can we approach near-lockdown, delinquent leadership, fraught relations with neighbouring countries, a climate crisis and life’s usual challenges?

As we packed up and left around 1930, with Jupiter and Venus visible to the south, the moon started to rise to the east behind the clump.
Where are our photo-heroes Matt Prosser or Tim Graham when you need them? Hard to do the moonrise justice with my old phone, but here’s the best I could do…
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Can spreading curds and whey encourage the growth of mosses and lichen?

Last users forgot four 2-litre milk containers in the fridge for a couple weeks. Here it is sprayed over the courtyard wall.

The conservation architects I used to live with spoke of soaking bricks in ox blood to get an authentic colour and spreading milk and yoghourt on walls and benches to encourage the growth of mosses and lichens.

Does that even work? There’s only one way to find out. Tho my sister and co-owner says you need to mix in manure for best results. And this web site says you need to throw in some moss and mix it in a kitchen blender (like you keep a spare one for stomach-churning experiments). More to this than meets the eye.

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Advent Brushes Clean – poem by Jon Hamp

The weight of winter builds
to lean against the summer dam,
The dark deep waters whisper, fading, softly
Here I am.
Winter trees.
Distant cousins to the summer siblings
that we knew,
Winter takes an artless brush to
paint our reverie
Mountain blue.
The water forces flowers and sticks apart,
Sending sunlit smiles downstream.
as sediment on a coastal shelf
(A family smiling in the surf)
A hilltop moment, headlight beam.

Jon Hamp 2021

Kelston Roundhill on a clear December day.

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Kelston Roundhill from Bristol

People say you can see Kelston Roundhill from many places in Bristol. I think this photo (shared with me by Tim Graham) makes the point pretty well.

This was from a “24 hours in Bristol” photo comp site which – regrettably – seems now defunct. But Tim’s Kelston Roundhill Flickr group is still there, and has some beauties.

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Open-air humanist wedding in Kelston clump (likely not the first or last)

It was a great joy and privilege to host Anna and Owen’s wedding on the summit of Kelston Roundhill. It was a simple and natural ceremony, conducted in the open air in the middle of Kelston clump.

Refreshments were served at a reception afterwards a couple of hundred yards down the hill in Roundhill Barn. The combination worked really well.

The ritual was designed and led by the eminent humanist celebrant Isabel Russo. It included the tradition of tying the knots as a series of vows were made. It’s hard not to imagine these same Celtic traditions begin carried out in the same special location many centuries ago, before the Romans and Christianity.

It was interesting to learn that Catholic orthodoxy declares marriage a “mutually administered sacrament”. Priests are all well and good, but they’re not actually required for a marriage to be valid in canon law. Note however that English law (unlike Scottish) requires a venue to be licensed for weddings to be valid in UK law, and Kelston Roundhill is not licensed in that respect.

Isabel Russo lives locally and is happy to help with births and namings marriages and memorials at Roundhill Barn. People are welcome to hire Roundhill Barn for a variety of purposes: see here for details. It’s a simply equipped off-grid venue with kitchen loos and shower. It’s not a fully-serviced location, so don’t think hotel or pub. It’s akin to an empty secular church building, sitting in hundreds of acres of own natural space in the middle of a working farm (with all that entails).

After the festivities and feasting the wedding guests planted a new row of saplings so all can have a growing memory of the occasion every time they see the Roundhill. The elm saplings are bred to be dutch-elm-disease resistant (would that Kew Gardens could breed them deer-resistant as well).

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Life on a working farm: the Countryside Code

Kelston Roundhill is a working farm, and when you plan an event on a working farm you have to take certain things into account. There’s a reason the Countryside Code is clear about leaving gates as you find them.

This time a herd of cows wandered over the horizon through a gate someone had left open. Full marks to the resourceful guests for having the initiative to save the day: they chased the cows back in their field and had the gate to the main road closed even before we could even get there.

The farmer checks they’re all present. Try counting cows when they’re all bunched up; it’s hard.

That’s why as well as having a “leave no trace” policy we ask users of Roundhill Barn to be aware of and abide by the Countryside Code.

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