Photography competition winners announced

Howden Rotary Club has announced the winners of its recent photography competition… Rebecca Andrews won the 13 to 19 years age group and Jackie Halliday emerged victorious in the adult category.

Each of the winners received a prize of £20 to donate to the charity of their choice.

Rebecca, who only turned 13 in May and attends Howden Senior school, took her winning photograph on a family walk in Gilberdyke during lockdown. The talented teenager chose to donate her prize money to Mission Trinity in Goole.

Jackie, who captured her winning image (below) on a walk at a local nature reserve, opted to give her prize to homeless charity Shelter, explaining: “It always upset me when I was passing through the car park in York near the river, on seeing someone so young living rough and on his own.”

Two runners-up – Leah Coates (13) and Graham Garrett – were each awarded £10 for their chosen charities.

Howden Rotary Club President Ray Guthrie said: “On behalf of the members and committee of Howden Rotary Club, I would like to thank all the photographers who entered photographs in our competition; the standard of the entries was excellent.

I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Ken Duck, who had the extremely difficult task of judging the competition. Ken has been a local photographer for many years and is a member of Howden Camera Club. Although he is now retired, he was a qualified member of the British Institute of Professional Photography, so we are most grateful to him for his time and expertise.”


Local singing star is bound for the big smoke

By Emily Collins

Florence Taylor is well known to local audiences, having performed at many events and venues around Howden from a young age.

But now, the mezzo soprano singer is also becoming well known to audiences up and down the country, thanks to her talented vocals and spine-tingling performances.

At only 22 years of age, Florence is just starting her career in the industry but has already performed at York’s Grand Opera House and sang with the Northern Academy of Performing Arts. She was even invited to perform at BBC Countryfile Live at Castle Howard last summer, a performance that she describes as the highlight of her career so far.

After graduating from Leeds College of Music last year she’s now heading to the prestigious Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance to study for a master’s degree in music.

Florence says she is delighted to be attending the school, adding: “I am so excited to move to London in September. Although the Covid-19 pandemic means things will be slightly different, I have decided to go ahead with my masters and am really looking forward to it.

“I will be living with my boyfriend, which is really exciting too. I lived in Leeds during my undergraduate degree, but living in London will be a completely new experience.”

With several impressive performances under her belt, Florence is set to make waves in the capital and revealed that she has big dreams for the future: “The list of places I would love to perform at is as long as my arm, but my biggest goals are to perform on a West End stage or at the Royal Albert Hall.

“At the moment though I would just love to perform on any stage!”

With all theatres and venues forced to close during the lockdown, it is several months since Florence was last in her ‘happy place’ – up on stage – but she has not let that stop her spreading joy through her singing.

She explained: “I started doing Quarantine Concerts on my Facebook as a way to bring some music into people’s homes and keep myself entertained throughout the lockdown. However, it has now become so much more than that. So many people have been isolating on their own, including many of my friends and family, and throughout the last few weeks I have realised how special it is to be able to cheer people up through my music.”

When her online performances began to gain popularity, Florence also decided to use her platform to help raise money for key workers. Last month she teamed up with family friend Timothy Gorton to produce a special rendition of Let It Be (Stay At Home), to show support for the NHS, with all proceeds going to the Laura Hyde Foundation, a charity working to support the mental health needs of frontline workers.

The kind-hearted singer has now also started producing special videos for couples who have been unable to get married due to the virus.

She explained: “I realised that many couples had been left devastated at having to cancel their wedding, so I wanted to do something to help.”

Florence decided to offer custom-made videos for couples, singing what should have been their first dance or walk down the aisle song and adding a montage of photographs of the ‘nearly wed’ couple, again with all profits going to the Laura Hyde Foundation.

We asked Florence to share some of her top tips with Howdenshire Magazine readers who want to follow in her footsteps and pursue a career in music.

She said: “My biggest tip has to be…learn your music! I really struggled with my nerves at first and I realised that, until I could get to a point where I could literally concentrate on a bird singing outside or what I was having for dinner, there was no chance of me conveying the song properly and enjoying what I was singing without nerves.

“Also, always warm up! When I haven’t in the past it has done terrible things to my voice.

“Finally, just go for it. If you want to learn to sing, insecurity and holding back are some of the worst things for the voice and can really strain it, so let loose and belt it out!”

Despite already having achieved so much, Florence remains very humble and says she just loves to see the reaction of her audiences and put a smile on their face.

Quick-fire Q&A with Florence Taylor:

What’s  your favourite thing about Howden?

“Well apart from Kitchen, it has to be the people. Having grown up in Howden, I know how friendly everyone is and I really feel at home there.”

What is your favourite place to eat in Howden?

“Well I guess I have already answered that, Kitchen!”

What is your favourite shop in Howden?

“I love them all! That is another great thing about Howden, there are so many unique small businesses. If I had to choose just one I think I would say Tom Loves, I wish I could buy everything in there!”

What’s your favourite musical?

“That’s a really hard question, but I would have to say Les Misérables. In 2015, I had the opportunity to take part in a West End Summer School and we were lucky enough to meet the cast of ‘Les Mis’ and that is what really made me know I wanted to go into music. I can never watch it and not cry.”

What is your favourite song to perform?

“A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, or any of the wartime songs. I just love seeing the reaction of the older generation, who were alive during the war, remembering the songs that they listened to in their childhood.”

  • For more information on how to support Florence’s fundraiser for the Laura Hyde Foundation or to watch her Quarantine Concerts, visit her Facebook page.

It’s a life of crime for local author

The peaceful village of Swinefleet may seem an unlikely place for a successful crime novelist to find inspiration, but it’s where author Ray Clark (pictured) has lived and worked for the last 30 years.

Ray embarked on his writing career in 1995 and has an extensive back catalogue of published work to his name, some of which has been shortlisted for awards.

Explaining where his passion for writing began, he said: “I enjoyed writing at school but, like most kids, I’d start something and not finish it. It was when a read The Manitou by Graham Masterton – a book full of Indian legends – that my interest was piqued and it started from there.”

Although Ray initially wrote horror stories, his interest in crime writing was inspired by the work of bestselling author Peter James.

He explained: “I liked what Peter was doing with crime writing and – no pun intended – horror was a dying market. Peter has since become a good friend and opened lots of doors for me; he takes a real interest in my writing.”

When asked where ideas for the dark scenes in his novels come from, Ray revealed: “I’ve always had a good imagination, but I grew up watching Hammer horror films. In fact, I’ve just returned from Transylvania, where I enjoyed a good look around. Although it wasn’t quite like in the Hammer films, it was still very atmospheric!”

Ray’s first full length crime novel, Impurity, was published by Caliburn Press in 2016 and was followed by Imperfection in 2017 and Implant in 2018. 

His latest novel, Impression, has now been released by his UK publisher, The Book Folks. It sees detectives Stewart Gardener and Sean Reilly called out at midnight to a housing estate in Batley, where they discover the dead body of a young woman pinned to the floor with a bayonet. Before the investigation is underway, Gardener takes a call informing them that there is another dead body propped up in a shop doorway in Birstall, only three miles away. There’s a connection between the bodies, and that is only the beginning.

Impression is available in Kindle e-book and paperback formats from leading wholesalers, including Amazon. It can also be ordered from traditional and independent bookshops and  The Book Folks website.

The wildlife artist of the Wolds

The floor-to-ceiling window in Robert Fuller’s studio frames an unspoilt view of the bird feeders in his garden, the hedgerows that he planted to attract wildlife and the green dale beyond. When I arrive, the celebrated wildlife artist is putting the finishing touches to a painting of a male kestrel and informs me that his subject is a frequent visitor to the garden. In fact, Robert has been watching the same family of kestrels for several years and they’ve become so used to him that he’s able to sit just ten metres away as they feed. 

Robert explains: “A lot of time is spent getting the subjects into the right location, especially with the owls and kestrels; it could take months or even years. The kestrels I’ve been painting have lived in the garden since 2008 and I feed them every day on day old chicks – they’re cockerels that come from the egg laying industry – and mice. I think a lot of people don’t realise that the subjects of my paintings are often birds that I know well.”

Typically, Robert will take a huge number of photographs of his subjects, often at high speed to capture every movement, before starting work on a new painting. He goes to great lengths to attract wildlife to his property so that he can study it up close; there are 14 cameras trained on different locations, including the residence of a family of stoats and a number of nest sites. Robert has also created several hides from which he can watch and photograph wildlife. 

The artist lives and works in an idyllic former farmhouse near the village of Thixendale in North Yorkshire, together with his wife Victoria and their young daughters Lily and Ruby. It’s just a stone’s throw from Givendale, the village where he grew up, and, since moving there in 1998, he has planted 1,200 trees and more than 500 metres of hedgerow, as well as digging several ponds. He has also erected countless nest boxes and has a daily feeding routine for both garden birds and birds of prey, explaining: “Some people don’t want certain birds in their garden but if I feed the tawny owls, kestrels and sparrow hawks they’re not doing damage to the other species.”

For Robert, adding a spacious purpose-built studio to the family home four years ago was one of many high points of a career that has enabled him to travel the world. It’s not bad going for someone who openly admits that he struggled at school and was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia. 

He said: “My mum was a teacher and she really used to try with me but I had no interest. I only developed my reading and writing skills as an adult when I had children of my own.”

Uninspired by school, Robert found solace in sketching and painting wildlife, and admits that his parents were probably ‘relieved’ when the full extent of his talents became apparent. 

Robert credits his father, Richard, with instilling a love of wildlife and conservation in him from a young age, adding: “At a time when people were still ripping out hedgerows, my father, a beef farmer, was planting them, as well as digging ponds for wildlife. He was a keen conservationist and very much ahead of his time.”

When Robert left school shortly before his 16th Birthday, York College of Art and Technology beckoned. From there, he headed on to Carmarthen College to complete a more specialist course in wildlife illustration. At the ripe old age of 18, he made his first commercial sales to staff at Chester Zoo, where he’d worked during the summer, and was soon earning a regular income from his work. 

He recalls: “I sold £1,200 worth of paintings to people working at Chester Zoo the day I left college, which bought me half a car!”

In 1992, Robert exhibited for the first time and, since then, his paintings have appeared in galleries worldwide, including the prestigious Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature in Paris and the Tryon Gallery in London. Painting has given Robert the chance to travel extensively; he’s been to Africa on many occasions, as well as the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. These days, Robert’s family accompany him on his trips abroad, and his young daughters already share his passion for wildlife and adventure. He laughs: “Lily has already snorkelled with sharks; in fact she’s always one of the most confident in those situations!”

Although Robert counts Africa as one of his favourite destinations because of the sheer wealth and diversity of wildlife that can be seen there, it’s the creatures of the Yorkshire Wolds that inspire him most, particularly the owls and kestrels. He works in either acrylic or oil paints, first creating the background and then gradually adding the detail, and also produces bronze sculptures. The walls of Robert’s studio are lined with images of wildlife that he has photographed around the world, which provide the inspiration for his artworks. Although Robert’s family home is very much off the beaten track, the adjoining gallery and shop attracts a steady stream of visitors all year round and his original artworks now sell for thousands of pounds. Yet, despite such acclaim and commercial success, Robert is clearly happiest when pottering around Thixendale feeding, watching, photographing and painting the many wild species that he’s happy to share this particularly beautiful corner of the Yorkshire Wolds with.

The fascinating tale of Joshua Barrett of Snaith

By local historian Susan Butler

Ever since J K Rowling featured mandrake root in her Harry Potter books, most people have heard of it. In her stories, mandrake roots are depicted as having the appearance of human babies with leaves growing out of their head. When they are removed from the ground their cry is fatal to anyone who hears it.

In fact, the mandrake plant has been used since ancient times as a medicinal plant and was traditionally associated with magical activities. The root can be up to eighteen inches long and often resembles a human figure. For centuries it has been used as a painkiller and a sedative and, when rubbed onto the skin, was said to help cure rheumatism. But what connection does the mandrake plant have with our local history? 

In late Victorian times, Mr Joshua Barrett and two of his sons moved to Snaith from London. Joshua was a farmer’s son from Bluntisham near St Ives. He was originally a commercial traveller selling lace but, in the 1880s, he went into business producing and selling his ‘Barrett’s Mandrake Embrocation’, which he said would cure ‘Headache, Earache, and Toothache instantly … also Sprains, Sciatica, Lumbago, Gout, Neuralgia, Chilblains and Bronchitis’.

Joshua also made other products, such as Mandrake Liver Powders and Mandrake Tonic. He probably used English mandrake, sometimes known as white bryony, and grew it on his family farm. Joshua mainly sold his ‘cures’ at fairs and shows, and advertised in newspapers.

In the 1890s, Joshua moved into a house on Gowdall Lane, which he promptly named Mandrake House – it still bears the name. His wife remained in London.

Many years later, in 1993, a book named Fragments out of Time was published; it was a lightly disguised account of life in Snaith (renamed Priors Ings in the book). The author was the former Sadie Nash, writing under the pen name of Sarah E. Francis.

Sadie lived in Mandrake House from the 1930s onwards with her younger brother, John, and parents, John and Sarah. Her father had come to Snaith before the war as the chauffeur to Mr and Mrs Roderick Shearburn of Snaith Hall and had fallen in love with Sarah Fairbairn. After the war he worked as a chauffeur in Pittsburgh, USA for a director of the steelworks there and earned enough money to come home, get married and buy a piece of land on which he erected the garage near Carlton Bridge.

In her book, Sadie describes how ‘in the early part of the year many people took their Sunday walk down Gowhill [Gowdall] lane and stopped to peer over the hedge of Owd Mandrake’s garden. There in the middle of the lawn, picked out in yellow and purple crocuses, was the shape of a drake’s body with a man’s head wearing a top hat. Owd Mandrake himself was an impressive figure in his striped trousers, frock coat and top hat. He wore a tea rose in his button hole and his thick white beard was neatly trimmed.’

She also writes of the visit by Harold Barrett from Australia. He was Owd Mandrake’s son. Harold explained he and his brother were at boarding school (probably the school at Drax), but, during the holidays, were looked after by the housekeeper, Martha, who was a ‘real tartar’ and kept a diary of their misdemeanours, which she read to their father every evening.

Harold also described how his father, Joshua, made ‘the elixir of life’ from the mandrake roots which grew in the garden. He brewed his medicine in a workshop in the orchard. Harold said his father was living proof of the efficacy of the medicine as he drank bottles of it himself.

Joshua Barrett eventually left Snaith just after the war and moved to Blackpool. There he married his housekeeper, Martha, and, again, named his new house Mandrake House. He died in 1931.

Sadie’s book (still available online) is an evocative look at Snaith. Before moving to Mandrake House, her family lived in the middle of the town. She writes of the High Street being full of stalls on market days which were ‘lit at night by flaring naptha jets’ and how the fogs in November were so bad that two people meeting in the street could only just recognise each other in the pool of light thrown down by the mantle of the gas lights.

She also writes of the Snaith clog sole mill (now a brewery premises) which supplied clogs all over the country. A particularly large number were bought by Lancashire cotton mill workers as the wooden soles were waterproof. 

Before the First World War, the timber for the mill, mainly beech or alder, was brought up the River Aire by boat. Later it arrived on large articulated lorries. The air was often full of sawdust around the mill, which ran six days a week and employed many local people. Those living in the town would set their clocks by the clog mill buzzer, rather than rely on the ‘fickle church clock’.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter is about how Snaith was affected by the terrible floods of 1947. Mandrake House was flooded up to the first floor and Sadie, her mother and elderly uncle had to be carried by her young brother through the rapidly rising waters to the nearby railway cottage.

People stood at street corners ‘watching the water ebb and flow past the clog mill’. The army brought amphibious ‘ducks’ in but they were apparently useless in the narrow streets and one had its bottom ripped out when it ran over a submerged car.

Sadie’s brother and a friend made a raft and sailed back to Mandrake House to rescue their chickens by chopping a hole though the shed roof with an axe and lifting the birds out into a tea chest. 

The family were able to return home after a month, and the house and furniture dried out during the hot summer which followed.


The Howdenshire farm offering lessons in self-reliance

When Di Hammill’s three children were younger she spent several years living completely off-grid in a remote dale in the North York Moors. There was no TV in the house and the family would collect firewood, forage for food and bathe in the river. Di would even line her children’s Wellington boots with the fur of rabbits that had been killed on the roads.

At the time Di was a single mum and admits: “It was very lonely and isolated, but I wanted to get as back to nature as I could and take the kids of away from popular culture to let them develop in their own way.”

Ten years on, Di and her children, who are now teenagers, are living a much more conventional existence here in Howdenshire. Di rents a former farmhouse close to the village of East Cottingwith, which has become the headquarters for The Wild Harvest School of Self-Reliance, a business venture inspired by the years the family spent living a totally self-sufficient lifestyle.

Di explains: “My kids are normal teenagers now, it wouldn’t have been fair of me to impose that lifestyle on them as they got older but they do say that the values asserted in our childhood come back to us; they certainly did with me. It’s true as my daughter can make pretty much anything.”

It was Di’s own childhood that equipped her with her fierce independence and steely determination, together with a ‘make and mend’ approach and a raft of practical skills, such as the ability to make traditional remedies from plants. 

She was raised by her father and grandfather but acknowledges that she pretty much brought herself up, explaining: “I was given to my Dad in a custody battle, which was rare in the 1970s. He was a single dad and a hippy. I was brought up by him and my Grandfather, who both expected me to become self-reliant from a young age; they’d kind of forget about me at times, each thinking the other was looking out for me. They even taught me how to break into the house when they’d accidentally locked me out! I wouldn’t change anything though; I’ve seen friends who had it all – two loving parents – and they’re weak as anything!”

Di continues: “If Dad wanted something, he would grow or make it, we had a very simple life. When I had my kids I started to see notice how everything is farmed out; we’ve become deskilled as women. Once we’d have cooked everything from scratch and known what plants to treat our kids with when they were ill. I wanted my kids to have these skills, and be quite tough and self-disciplined.”

She adds proudly: “They are pretty tough; they’re never ill!”

Keen to share what she’s learned with others, Di began running wild food walks showing people how to forage for ingredients and self-sufficiency workshops. 

She explained: “I was already working as a teacher and some of my skills, such as willow weaving, are self-taught, but I wanted to reskill myself so I went on loads of courses, usually with the kids!”

The Wild Harvest School of Self-Reliance really took off when Di moved to Boundary Farm near East Cottingwith following a spell living York and working as a teacher. She has established a network of self-sufficiency experts who she can call upon to run different courses, covering everything from bee keeping and wild medicine to an introduction to permaculture.

Boundary Farm’s old foldyard and brick outbuildings make a charming setting for the day courses that Di runs and she can now offer craft retreat weekends, with accommodation provided in a series of white tipis with wonderful views of the Howdenshire countryside. 

With a camp fire and quirky outdoor kitchen, not to mention the family’s Silkie hens and pet dogs roaming freely among borders stocked with herbs and medicinal plants, the farm is restful and creative environment for people looking to escape the rat race for a weekend or those who simply want learn some new skills.

The retreats are proving particularly popular with hen parties, who jump at the chance to try their hand at a wide variety activities during their stay – everything from making rag rugs, candles or bath bombs to willow weaving and archery. Di is keen to demonstrate that self-sufficiency ‘can be an urban concept’, rather than an exclusively rural way of life, and she regularly stages wild food walks in the centre of York, which have attracted students from as far afield as France. She’s an in-demand speaker at events nationwide and hosts workshops as part of the annual Country Living Fairs in Harrogate and London.

Like the mother, Di’s children can turn their hands to almost anything. The family grow their most of their own vegetables and Di has an apothecary stocked with remedies made from wild plants. 

Although she admits that she’s not such a ‘purist’ now her children are older because she doesn’t want deprive them of the typical trappings of teenage life, such as shop bought hygiene and beauty products and iPads, her mission remains the same; to empower people to provide for themselves and their families using the natural resources around them. 

  • For more information about day courses and craft retreats at the Wild Harvest School of Self-Reliance, visit


Giving nature a foothold

It’s almost eight years since the last crop of barley was harvested from a ten-hectare arable near Riccall that forms part of the Escrick Park Estate. Since then, Three Hagges Woodmeadow, as it is now known, has become one of the most important wildlife habitats in the Howdenshire area. But what, you may ask, is a wood-meadow and why is it so important? Lucy Oates visited the site with Rosalind Forbes Adam, whose family have owned the land for the last 350 years, to find out more:

Wood-meadows were widespread throughout Europe prior to and during the medieval period, but this unique ecosystem has largely disappeared. With so few forested areas left in England today, it’s easy to forget that ancient wildwood was the natural landscape across much of the country from the time of the last Ice Age and we were, in fact, a forest people. Although the ancient wildwood was vast, there were spaces within the canopy and it was the combination of light, dark and shade found at the forest’s edge that created the all-important wood-meadow habitat. Woodsmen, who cyclically cleared small areas of the forest for fuel, were key to preserving this unique ecosystem and it’s no coincidence that the Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterfly was once known as the ‘Woodsman’s Friend’.

Rosalind Forbes Adam, who is a trustee of the Wood Meadow Trust that was set up in 2015 to manage Three Hagges Woodmeadow, explained: “We had two key objectives when making the wood-meadow; we wanted to create and manage the site for the benefit of nature and the recovery of biodiversity, but we also wanted to use it for education.”

In 2015, Bodgers’ Den – a traditional shelter made of materials found in the woodland – was created to provide a base for school visits and volunteer events. ‘Spotter sheets’ can be downloaded from the website ( to enable visitors to the site to identify and tick off the different plants and wildlife species found there as they see them.

Ros continued: “We’re very lucky to have a fantastic team of people, many of them volunteers, who monitor and record the butterflies, mammals, snakes, bats, moths and the botany we have here. We believe in open data, which means sharing the information we gather with anyone who is interested. 

“On average, each new plant species will bring four of five different species of wildlife to the site, but for some plants that’s as many as 150!”

After the barley was harvested during the summer of 2012, 10,000 native trees and shrubs were planted. A unique, native seed mix gathered from the flood meadows of the nearby Derwent Ings was sown and the Hebridean sheep that graze the land for several months of the year helped to ‘tread’ this in. Paths are mown through the woodland to create grassy ‘rides’; areas of open space where a wide variety of wildlife and plantlife thrives. The site includes areas of both wet and dry meadow, as well as a pond frequented by dragonflies and damselflies, and a bee hotel. 

Nick Hall of Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire is one of the many volunteers who works closely with Rosalind to monitor the species visiting Three Hagges Woodmeadow.

He explained it’s significance: “It’s one of the best places to see butterflies in Yorkshire because so much life happens on the edge of woodland.

“Every county should have wood-meadows to bring people closer to nature. They really help people to connect with butterflies and make them relevant.”

Nick describes the site as ‘a dream in July’, when it’s ‘a blaze of flowers and buzz of insects’, adding: “We’ve recorded 24 different butterfly species there, including Brimstones, which are ‘harbingers of spring’ and are said to have put the ‘butter’ into the word butterfly because of their pale yellow colour. You can also see Meadow Browns, Common Blues, Small Coppers and Marbled Whites.”

  • Three Hagges Wood Meadow is open to the public, free of charge, all year round. For more information or to download the ‘spotter sheets’, visit

What’s in a name?

Three Hagges Woodmeadow takes its unusual name from the old Norse word for an area of woodland that has been ear-marked for cutting, or coppicing. Maps of the Escrick Park Estate dating back to 1600 show a number of plots with names based on different variations on the word, including Rickall Hagge, Child Haggs and Helm Hag, which are a legacy of the Vikings who famously settled in this part of Yorkshire.  Rather fittingly, the term ‘hag’ or ‘hagi’ can also be used to refer to a pasture or enclosure. Although the modern definition of the word ‘hag’ has less pleasant connotations, it’s thought to be a corruption of the original word for soothsayer, a term once applied to the wise women of a village. The name Three Hagges Woodmeadow is, therefore, also a nod to the three wise women who first set out to create it.