Posts Tagged ‘Dido’

Gradbach Mill

Good morning all. I’ve got a guest post from Rambler5319 for you today. Sit back and enjoy.


I recently visited an area of Staffordshire which is close to a point where three different counties meet: not surprisingly it’s called Three Shires Head. The three shires are Cheshire, Derbyshire & Staffordshire and they meet on the SW end of Axe Edge Moor. We stayed in a Youth Hostel called Gradbach Mill.

It’s interesting to look at the Ordnance Survey Map of the area and see some of the place/farm names. Here is a sample all within a few miles: Hangingstone Farm, Burntcliff Top, Hawk’s Nest, Wolf Edge, Old Hag, Gun End Farm, Spring Head, Wildstone Rock, Adder’s Green, Daffodil Farm, Green Gutter Head, Far Hole Edge, Cut-Thorn, Wildboarclough & Thick Withins. (If you’re thinking Wuthering Heights that was supposedly Top Withins/Withens and of course in Yorkshire.) Don’t tell me they don’t conjure up a picture, in your mind, of days gone by with very primitive living conditions and people walking across rainy windswept moorland and valley areas (or is that just me remembering Kate Bush).

Bit of history to start. The mill was probably built in the 18th century and was restored after a fire there in 1785. In the reign of George III (1760-1820) imports of flax and hemp had duty charges placed on them and subsidies were given to try to stimulate the domestic production; the mill was initially involved in flax production. The reason for it being in a rather isolated spot is because it was the River Dane that provided the power via a very large waterwheel. Check out the stats on the wheel (which is no longer there): diameter 38 feet (11.6 metres), 96 buckets each one holding 35 gallons (159 litres), one complete turn of the wheel, via the gearing wheels, is believed to have turned the main shaft inside 2,500 times. That’s one big wheel! In later years the mill produced silk but that finished in the 1870s. The next owner used it as a saw mill and for joinery work. At some point in the 20th century the YHA took it over.

It’s only as you drive to the place that you realise how isolated it is because back then most people would be walking.

Here’s a pic of the mill.


And here’s a reminder of the raison d’etre for the whole Youth Hostel Association. The original idea of Youth Hostels came from a German schoolteacher over 100 years ago and the first English ones opened in the early 1930s.

We booked in and grabbed the bottom bunks in our room to save struggling up/down from the top. A quick change and we set off for short(ish) walk. This sign was just opposite the front entrance to the hostel so we headed that way.


We were interested in seeing what Lud’s Church was as we didn’t think there would be a church in the middle of the woods in an isolated river valley.

This is the start of the path


It was totally quiet. Not a sound apart from a few insect-y things in the bushes and trees and the river in the background. I love the sound of running water in the countryside. Then we came to this tree.

Just look at how many roots are showing and how far they spread out.

And en route we passed Castle Cliff Rocks.


Then a confirmation that we were on the right track


It was a really warm day. Then we arrived at the entrance to Lud’s Church

I know what you’re thinking but bear with me.

Immediately we got between the rocks the air was really chilled and as we turned the corner at the bottom there was a mist rising. It almost felt like you were walking into your fridge. Yep that’s right a really warm day and a chilly mist coming up from the ground. Bit spooky. Anyway here’s the view at the bottom. It was quite muddy but there was a wooden plank to walk along to avoid sinking into it.


And a log which had loads of coins bashed into it. Not too sure what the idea of this was but believe from other sources that it is a very recent thing.


So why is this narrow passageway (a few metres wide & 18 metres deep) between sheer-sided rocks called Lud’s Church? There are a few theories and suggestions. The very first mention of the name Lud occurs in the Bible in Genesis ch10 verse 22: the eldest son of Noah was Shem and his 4th son was called Lud. Maybe there’s an ecclesiastical root to the name.

It’s believed to have been a sacred place to early Pagans. Lud is actually a Celtic deity but not necessarily purely local to this area but again a possible religious connection.

Those of you who know something of the Arthurian legends may remember the story Sir Gawain & the Green Knight; some believe the Green Chapel in that story is Lud’s Church. The Green Knight’s outline is supposed to visible once you’re in the right place.

For those unfamiliar with the story it goes like this: one day the Green Knight comes to Camelot (supposedly on a green horse)and issues a challenge to the Knights of the Round Table; Sir Gawain, one of King Arthur’s knights, accepts that challenge; the challenge is that Sir G can strike the Green Knight if he (Sir G) will accept a return strike from GK a year and a day later; Sir G has his go and with one blow chops off GK’s head; job done? No, wait – GK then picks up his head and tells Sir G not to forget the deal. If you fancy finding out how the story proceeds and ends look it up; check out Lady Bertilak’s rather interesting role during the year & day. I wonder what you would have done in Sir G’s place.

There is also a tradition that Robin Hood used the place.

Perhaps more likely is the view that the Lollards (followers of the reformer John Wycliffe, 1320-84) are believed to have used the area for worship in the early 15th century when they were being persecuted by the authorities. A man called Walter de Ludank (or Lud-Auk) was captured there and it’s possible this is where the Lud name came from. Anyway whatever the origin it is just a very interesting place to visit.

We climbed out the other end of the passage and retraced our steps to the hostel. We set about preparing the evening meal in the communal kitchen often to the sound of Dido over the PA; one of the chefs is a fan and so am I. We were struck by the number of chopping boards.

Here they are

Why so many colours? Because they’re all for different foods; and here’s the key to which one to use.


We needed a wooden spoon for stirring our baked beans. We could see only one. How about this?


I mean how big does your pan have to be to need that one? Anyway it did the job. (Wonder if LLM’s Ham House has one of these?)

Remember that isolation I mentioned at the start? If you’re into modern gizmos be aware Gradbach has no reception for modern technology (TV, PC, mobile) although one person said that if you walked for north for about 15 mins and climbed the hill just over the river you could get a few bars on the mobile! We played a few games of backgammon and retired to bed. Day 1 over, day 2 to follow soon.

Five voices

It’s Wednesday and time for Rambler5319 to entertain us again…

Remember LLM’s piece on “Songs that remind me of stuff”. I have those as well but I also have artists that stand out in my musical memories. They stand out because they have endured, not necessarily in terms of long life as 2 died in their early thirties, but because I still love and listen to them today.
In 1999 Yes produced an album called The Ladder and track 11 was called “Nine Voices”. I’ve decided to do five of my favourite female voices. I won’t do the biographies, there’s enough on the internet if you want to look them up but a few facts will be included. They are voices, each unique in its own way, which remind me of particular things. Any musical choice will inevitably be personal and bound to divide opinion so I don’t say these are the best five voices in the world EVER. I simply say that these voices had a great effect on me. They have touched and continue to touch my heart today. They are not in order like a top of the charts list; they are more chronological in that this is the order in which they came into my life. Ok so here we go:


Probably an artist few of you will know but one who was a big part of my growing up musical history. I heard a track on the radio and bought the first album. Then I got each new one as it came out. She sang backing vocals for a number of more well-known artists (Donovan, Ringo Starr, Dusty Springfield who also sang on Lesley’s singles, Walker Brothers). If you check out the track listing for Jesus Christ Superstar on Amazon you will see her as one of a number of singers on many of the tracks. She is credited on Pink Floyd’s (1973) Dark Side Of The Moon and here is a pic of the inside of the album cover with her name in the “Backing Vocals” section (with Lesley incorrectly spelt with an ‘ie’ ending rather than the ‘ey’ which she herself used):


She appears on Elton John’s 3rd album (1970) Tumbleweed Connection. She plays acoustic guitar in a duet with him on her self-penned song, Love Song (Side 2, Track 2). It’s the only non Bernie Taupin/Elton song on the album. She appeared with him in 1974 at The Royal Festival Hall to perform it. According to the Guardian newspaper, it was covered by more than 150 artists (including Olivia Newton-John, David Bowie and Barry White)! It’s worth checking out the lyrics to Love Song. (Also on YouTube.) Elton played piano on Lesley’s first album Sing Children Sing in 1971. Unfortunately she made only the 5 albums you can see in the picture but her voice was very special for me. She died fairly recently, on the Isle of Mull, (her home since 1996), in March 2010 aged 66. The Guardian, in its obituary, said this:
“Her songs had an astonishing emotional depth and her voice a rare combination of warmth and clarity, bringing an intimacy to the experience of listening to her records. For those who discovered her music in the early 1970s, she stood out from all the other pop and rock of the era.” (March 23, 2010).


Interesting the group was called “Carpenters”: there is no “The” in the official name. Karen was initially a drummer in the duo with her brother Richard on piano. She was quite happy to play the drums and sing whilst doing it. She didn’t want to be “out front” but folks wanted more of her – her voice: a contralto voice that spanned 3 octaves. She was forced to reconsider. Eventually she played the drums less and less. I’ve got just the one album of Greatest Hits but what a voice. She was noted for her low range and Richard would adapt songs (& covers) to fit it. Just listen to the way she can hold the notes she sings. Out of the 5 here hers has to be the purest voice and who can fail to be moved by some of those famous songs: Yesterday Once More, Hurting Each Other, Close to You and the ubiquitous We’ve Only Just Begun played at so many weddings around the world. Died a month short of her 33rd birthday from anorexia. Very sad.

I suppose she is remembered, by most people, for her single Big Yellow Taxi (1970) and the rather silly laugh at the end of the song. However, over the last 44 years, she has produced many albums. My collection, of just some of them, is in the pic below:

Hers is a voice that has sung in many different styles with a uniqueness that no-one has come close to imitating. Some of Kate Bush’s songs do give a feel of her style. Joni has ploughed her own furrow not allowing people to be able to pigeon-hole her and constantly changing. Once again a voice I heard and bought one album and then began to add to as the years went by. A very unusual voice and variety of singing styles and unusual cadences make her one of my top five voices.

Lead singer of Fairport Convention for a short time and produced solo work as well. She formed the group Fotheringay (1970) and released one album (Fotheringay). Fotheringay Castle was where Richard III was born (1452) & where Mary Queen of Scots was tried and executed (1587). Sandy was given the accolade “Britain’s finest female singer/songwriter” by three publications at the time. She was voted “Britain’s No.1 Singer” for two consecutive years in the music paper Melody Maker’s readers’ poll.

Amongst others, wrote the song Who Knows Where The Time Goes? (Have a listen on YouTube). And I suppose we all echo that as we look back. Time does pass incredibly quickly. Sadly for Sandy and her fans she died aged just 31 in 1978. One newspaper obituary referred to her as having been: “Equipped with an incredible voice and an immense songwriting talent….” For me, a great voice which stirs up the emotions.


A founding member (in 1969) and and lead singer of Steeleye Span. Who can forget those words: “All around my hat I will wear the green willow……..And if anyone should ask me the reason why I’m wearing it, It’s all for my true love who’s far, far away…”. It’s about a young man whose fiancée has been sentenced to 7 years transportation to Australia. He mourns his loss by wearing a green willow sprig in his hat. Excellent voice range, and a number of projects jointly with the Carnival Band have produced albums of folk versions of many of the old hymns, demonstrate how good it is. Still going strong today.
There are of course many more (Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Kate Bush, Eva Cassidy, Dido, for example) I could have included but the list would never finish. You will have your own favourites and maybe mine might seem a bit old or not of interest but they’re mine and I love them! All I’d say is have a listen before you discard them. If JM & MP have survived for 40 years or more in a very fickle business they must have something special about them; likewise those whose lives were cut short but are still remembered & played today. Go on, give them a listen.