Swallows and starlight: Memories of Brampton Bryan


Our journey started in Hertfordshire and finished in Herefordshire; two places often confused on address labels, but they are very different! We towed the press for 4.5 hours before arriving at our destination for the weekend – Aardvark Books at Brampton Bryan, deep in the quiet lanes of the ‘Marcher’ land of England and Wales. For centuries this border country was roamed by soldiers and the region is dotted with fortifications, although peace now reigns supreme. We were there to commemorate the local siege of 1643, as mentioned in last week’s post.

Having set up the press in the barn that looked out over the rest of the Living History display, we went to camp in the adjoining field. The usual residents are sheep and they had been moved out for the duration, but in the morning we looked out to see dozens of swallows there for the summer. They perched on telephone lines before swooping down en masse to take their breakfast on the wing – curving, swerving, diving and climbing to catch unwary insects emerging from the dewy grass.

Time to start the display! There are many artists and craftsmen in these hidden hills, perhaps attracted both by the beauty of the landscape and the nearness of Ludlow, a town known for quality food and artisan skills. So, many visitors knew what they were looking at, and asked interesting questions.

It wasn’t all work- there was time to browse the shelves of the Book Barn, which houses an enormous number of second hand books on every subject. The Living History cooks provided an excellent lunch, and of course, when the main attraction – the battle – took place, everyone flocked outside to see it, leaving us time to have a drop of tea and a rest.


When the day was over, our hosts had organised a barbecue and after that as night fell, we sat round the camp fire with talk, songs and laughter. It was a moonless, clear night – shivery cold after a warm day. One of the number pointed above. “I can see the Milky Way!” We looked up to see thousands of stars in the black night sky. Some fun was had in spotting satellites and shooting stars, but mainly the mood was one of awe at the sight of the universe beyond our planet. Back home the night sky is generally street-light orange. I guess that’s the difference between Herefordshire and Hertfordshire.

Thank you to Aardvark Books for inviting the Press to your event which proved to be a weekend that will live long in the memory.

One of the quietest corners of England

One of the quietest corners of England

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