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May 2006


Round and About

Summer is A'Cummin In.


It is comforting to know, in this somewhat materialistic age, that there are a number of rural stalwarts determined to nurture the early customs and ceremonies from our less sophisticated past.  People, today, tend to laugh when they see grown men wearing silly clothes with flowers in their hats, dancing about with bells on their legs.  They care little for where these customs come from and but for a few enthusiasts many of our mediaeval traditions would be lost forever.

Our ancestors,  mainly of peasant stock, worked long hard hours, usually at subsistence level, and did not know what the word "holiday" meant.  The nearest they got to a holiday was to celebrate a "holy" day and these came few and far between.  On these occasions it was seen as a time to throw off the cares of everyday life, relax, and probably drink too much, and have a somewhat  raucous time.  Most of our early customs and festivals are based on these festive days, offering occasions of bright splashes of colour to relieve the drabness of their lives.  Amongst these occasions one of the most popular was the celebration of May Day.

May Day was the harbinger of summer.  A day to celebrate the coming of long, hot, days with longer, lighter, evenings.  A time when nature would supplement their meagre diet with the bounty of the hedgerows and the forest floor.  The peasant folk lived in dark, dank cottages with a fire in the middle of the floor.  The atmosphere was rank, and full of smoke.  The longer, warmer days meant they could move outside into the fresh air and shed a layer of clothing.  No wonder they looked forward to spring.  May Day was the official day marking a time that meant "summer was a'cummin in".

The day was eagerly awaited, the preparations were made.  The hedgerows were heavy with the sprays of May blossom, the meadows carpeted in spring flowers.  This was a time for joyous celebration.  They burst from their cottages and danced down the street with flowers in their hair and sprays in their hand.  Frequently such processions were led by a man dressed all in green,  "Jack in the Green" (probably a throwback to The Green Man).  He would lead the happy dancing throng to the village green where a huge, decorated pole had been hoisted into position.  The pole became the centre of the day’s merrymaking.  It was known as the May Pole. 

Probably they drank too much and danced too long.

These celebrations were generally frowned upon by the Clergy and the State.  Perhaps they thought the common folk were having too much fun.  Perhaps the Church was unhappy about the

undoubted pagan roots of the ancient celebration.  Several attempts were made to ban May Day.  On one occasion in the 16th c. when they banned the celebrations, the protests were so strong riots broke out.  Hundreds of people were arrested and 64 rioters were hung.  The civil outrage was so great Henry VIII is said to have pardoned a further 400 who had also been sentenced to death, in order to pacify the fury of the mob.  Oliver Cromwell was a trifle more successful.  Following the Civil War, Cromwell and his Puritan followers took control.  They considered singing and dancing to be sinful and many celebrations and festivals were cancelled.  Describing May pole dancing as "heathenish vanity generally abused by superstition", legislation was passed and the village May poles came crashing down throughout the country.

Dancing did not return to the land until the Restoration and the return of Charles II.  To ensure his popularity Charles re-instated many of the celebrations, including May Day, so recently banished by Cromwell.  He even erected a massive pole in The Strand said to be over 40 metres high.  The recent short break with tradition brought about some changes.  May Day became a little more organised.  Brightly coloured ribbons appeared on the new May poles. It became the custom for people to pair off, and clasping a ribbon, complicated dance steps were introduced so that as the dancers processed around the pole, the ribbons formed intricate patterns, or plaits.  Villages became very proud of their individual patterns and woe betide anyone who forgot their steps - the ensuing tangle was there for everyone to see.  The dancing would be followed by the crowning of the May Queen who, sitting in a flower decked pony cart, would be led around the area, frequently led by that familiar character, Jack in the Green.  Other dancers began to appear on the village green to accompany the occasion: the Morris Men, clog dancers and floral dancers.  It was all a part of the May Day scene.

In the West Country they introduced another character called a Hobby Horse.  This would be a man wearing a wooden mask roughly resembling that of a horse  He would have a wide hoop around his shoulders from which a full skirt would drop to the ground.  This wildly gyrating and cavorting figure was led through the streets by "teasers".  In the fishing villages floral garlands would be carried through the streets by the dancing, merrymakers, until they reached the harbour, or sea, when the garlands would be tossed into the water for "good health and fortune".  In some areas the fishing boats, gaily adorned and garlanded overall, would carry posies out to sea where they would be cast upon the water

May poles can still be found right across the country.  Today, however, it is the schoolchildren who dance around the May Pole, still often accompanied by a character wearing green.  In Bedfordshire at Ickwell Green the dancers are accompanied by "medieval moggies", two weirdly dressed characters who carry besom brooms whose duty nowadays is to wave the brooms in the faces of the spectators gathered to watch.  You can still find teams of local floral dancers, Morris dancers and cloggies turning out to welcome May Day.  The crowning of the May Queen, who is carried through the streets in a flower-covered carriage, is still the centre of many village celebrations.

In Oxford, May Day is celebrated from the top of Magdalen College with the singing of a Latin hymn or Carol of Thanksgiving, followed by the ringing of the college bells, which in turn signals the start of the celebrations in the streets below.

Many of these festivities have now been formalised and modernised and often bear little comparison to their somewhat raucous beginnings, but they do represent a bright reflection from our distant and unsophisticated past.    Barbara Corley


We were unfortunately let down by our speaker this month. We had been unable to contact her so had not had time to re-arrange the evening. Instead, a very pleasurable evening of ‘Beetle Drive’ was enjoyed by the members, with lots of talk and laughter. Some seemed to have much more luck than others - I had several headless beetles. At the end of the evening the person who had amassed the most points was Joyce Knight; her hours spent playing Beetle at the Women’s Fellowship in Harrold had obviously paid off!

Our competition this month was a ‘Keep Fit Poem’ which was won by Barbara Corley. At the end of the evening we felt we should do at least a little stretching which should have been included in this month’s talk so we all did the actions to Barbara’s poem. I recommend it to you!

Keeping Fit

One and two, touch your shoe

Two and three, feel your knee

Three and four, reach the floor.

Four and five, come alive

Five and six, hands on hips

Six and seven, reach for heaven.

Seven and eight, stand up straight

Eight and nine, get in line

Nine and ten, start again.

May meeting

It is our A.G.M on the 9th of May at 7.30 p.m. in the Village Hall, the time we review the past year and thank those who have helped to keep the W.I. active in Odell. We will also be looking forward to the coming year with our new programme. By the end of the evening we will have discussed and voted on this year’s resolutions which will be debated at the National Conference of the W.I. in June.


Hostesses are Jane Eshelby and Lynette Hall.

Rachel Halton 720572

Jazz in the Garden

Summer is on its way! Wodehill Jazz Band will be playing in the garden of The Bell on Friday 19th May at 6.30pm, weather permitting.

Future dates at The Bell are 16th June and 18th August.

Odell Parish Council AGM
The Parish Council Annual General Meeting will take place on 15th May at 8.00 pm in the Village Hall. Everyone welcome.

Harrold/Odell Country Park

Lots of events to look forward to in May as we will hopefully be experiencing warmer weather and longer days. You will need to contact us if you want to take part in the following. There is not a charge for events but donations will help us put on more events in the future.

Charcoal Making - Wednesday 17 May

10am – 2pm

Join the Countryside Officer cutting willow to make charcoal, loading kilns, setting off a burn and unloading a kiln from the previous day. Charcoal made at Harrold has not travelled thousands of miles to get here, is cut from a sustainable source (nature reserve) and is widely reputed to burn easily, hot, clean and long. Charcoal will be available for sale at the end of the session.

Mini Beasts! - Wednesday 31 May 1 – 2.30pm

An event for all ages. What’s under that stone? What’s made that strange mark? What’s disappearing through there? Come on a discovery session to find out about the weird and wonderful world of mini beasts that live in the Park

Making Garden Obelisks - Thursday 15 June 10am – 2pm

Using materials from the Park make an obelisk to support your garden plants as they twist and turn through the structure. Show them off to their best advantage.

Friends of the Park Conservation Tasks

Join in with some practical work to enhance the Park both for wildlife and visitors. You can get fit and enjoy yourself at the same time! The next sessions are on Monday 22nd May and Monday 26th June. All tasks start at 10am and last until around mid afternoon but you can leave when you want to. Please wear practical clothing and footwear.

Tel: 01234 720016


Remember, Remember?

Does your memory go back long enough to recall the W.W.2 munitions factory on the old Elstow Storage Depot site? If so we need your help!

Gallagher Estates are working in joint venture with the landowners, RWE npower, to create a new settlement, called The Wixams. The development will eventually cover a large area that includes the depot site. The Joint Venture wants to record a history of the area, including the munitions factory. Did you or any of your family or friends work there? Do you have any stories about the place, or photos or memorabilia?

If you can help please get in touch with Julia Holmes, Community Planning Officer, Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity, The Old School, Cardington, Bedford MK44 3SX. Tel 01234 832646 or email

For more information about the development do visit the website

Village Hall News


If you have an idea or can help with these let us know, and if you would like a venue for a private function, the very reasonable hire fee helps us maintain the hall.


Saturday 13th May, 7.30pm.

Always a very popular event so book your table well ahead. Tables of 6, £2 per head.

Wednesdays – Line Dancing; Thursdays – Yoga.

Waste Paper Collection – thank you for bringing your waste paper to the bins. Though the return is very small, every little bit helps financially and of course the waste is recycled.

John Zaradin concert

We are very pleased to announce that we will be having a Cheese and Wine Evening on Saturday 5th August at 7.30pm, with John Zaradin and Eric Hill performing "Azraq Suite for two Guitars", written by John.

"Azraq Suite" is an exciting new work in 6 movements which creates a kaleidoscope of the

contrasting moods evoked by the territories inhabited by the Spanish guitar - from its life in the old world of the East, North Africa and the Iberian peninsula, crossing the Atlantic to the American continents and the new world.

Tickets are £10 (which includes a glass of wine) and are available from Sue Robinson, 720113 or Karen Fulford, 721590

Do please support our events, and do suggest to us your ideas for alternative activities.

Rob Lee (720730) on behalf of the Village Hall Committee.


Podington Cricket Club

Have you been inspired to play cricket by England’s Ashes victory ?

Podington Cricket Club is a friendly village club which has two Saturday teams in the Northamptonshire County Cricket League. It also has a friendly Sunday team. Throughout the season there are also additional tour/benefit/friendly games and

social events.

The Club has a particularly strong junior section, fielding teams at Under 11,13, 14, 15 and 17 age-groups. Practice/net sessions are with ECB qualified coaches.

For more details contact:

Seniors: Mick Parsons (01933) 650436

Juniors: Phil Garlick (01933) 312781


Leslie Knowles in Cancer Research Charity Run

On Sunday 2nd April Leslie Knowles took part in the Cancer research 10km run at Burghley House in Stamford. Running with 500 others, he came in 130 in 55 minutes 32 seconds and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

So far Leslie has raised over £500 thanks to the overwhelming support from everyone. Anyone wishing to add to the total, just drop any

donation to Leslie at 4 Mill Lane. Many thanks.    Leslie Knowles


The Mill Theatre, Sharnbrook


Return to the Forbidden Planet

Friday 12th – Saturday 20th May, 7.45pm.

Shakespeare’s forgotten rock musical, by Bob


This cult rock musical is based on William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. Fasten your seatbelts, listen very carefully for ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and ‘the Young Ones’, then ‘Shake, Rock and Roll’ yourself through 1950s sci-fi. We leave you in the safe hands of Captain Tempest and his crew…

Tickets available from:

Sharnbrook Post Office – in person – Your local booking point.

· Bedford Central Box Office # 01234 269519 (Credit/Debit Cards accepted)

· Party bookings (01234) 781372 (10+? 10% discount, excl. Charity/Gala performances)

Access for the disabled: new Foyer to first floor Lift – easy access via Clubroom – Bar – covered river view balcony to 2 wheelchair positions - (please book at Bedford Box Office), also to Rows A, B and C – NB 3 steps.

…and to look forward to…

The Diary of Anne Frank – 26th – 30th September

Advance booking during ‘return to the Forbidden Planet’.

Read-throughs: Tues 23rd and Fri 26th May, 7.45pm; auditions Sunday 28th May 2pm.

Oklahoma! – 17th — 25th November

Advanced booking during ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’.

Workshops Wed. 24th and 31st May, 7.45 pm; auditions: non-principals Sun 4th, principals Mon 5th June.

For production details/confirmation of both ‘the Diary of Anne Frank’ and ‘Oklahoma!’: telephone Peter Allen, 01234 708308 (evenings).

Youth Summer School 24th – 29th July: aged 9-18? Act now! A few places left. Details: Erica or Peter Lester, 01234 781210

Bedfordshire Parish Paths Partnership (P3)

What is P3?

P3 is a scheme that encourages

people to explore, enjoy and understand their local countryside. P3 can help to improve access to your countryside by replacing stiles with

kissing gates, joining in and leading guided walks or producing leaflets about paths and places of interest. You can take part in practical projects, learn skills like hedgelaying and basket making, and tell people about your countryside in leaflets, web sites and noticeboards.

Who makes P3 happen? P3 brings together highway authorities, local councils, community groups and volunteers to develop ideas and

projects in and around the local countryside by providing grants and with advice on funding and a range of training and events. P3 works in close partnership with the Greensand Trust, Forest of the Marston Vale, Ivel and Ouse Countryside Project and the North Chilterns Trust. P3 is funded by Beds C. C. and South Beds D. C. To find out more please contact: Steve Halton / Ed Burnett Phone: (01234) 228426/228759.



Mon 1st 10.00am Fete sign painting at the Wheelers’.

Wed 3rd 10.30am Meeting Point at Jane’s, Newton House, Avenue Rd., Newton Bromswold, Rushden.

Tues 9th 7.30pm W.I. AGM, Village Hall.

Sat 13th 7.30pm Quiz, Village Hall

Mon 15th 8.00pm Odell Parish Council AGM, Village Hall.

Wed 17th 10-2pm Charcoal making, Harrold/Odell Country Park.

Wed 17th 10.30am Meeting Point, Catherine’s, Manor Cottage, Harrold.

Fri 19th 6.30pm Wodehill Jazz Band, The Bell.

Mon 22nd 10.00am Conservation tasks in Harrold/Odell Country Park.

Wed 31st 10.30am Meeting Point at Doris’s, Goodly Heritage, The Bury, Pavenham.

Wed 31st 1-2pm Mini beasts, Harrold/Odell Country Park.

Magazine Deadline

Please send all entries for the June magazine to Tricia Hudson ( or Catherine Corkery by May 12th 2006 at the latest. May we remind you that the editorial team exercises the right to edit, shorten or alter any items that are submitted. Also, the opinions expressed in the articles are those of the contributors and are not the responsibility of the editorial team.




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Last revised: May 01, 2006.