A Very Merry Christmas

Well, not much happened this year at The Travelling History Company, most of our activities and retreats had to be cancelled. We particularly missed our excavation and school outreach on Guernsey and our annual commemoration of the Battle of Cropredy Bridge. The latter takes place every year over the second weekend of August and is always augmented with three days of amazing music, beer, company and doughnuts deep in the Oxfordshire countryside.

However we have had plenty of opportunity to put together some great new initiatives for 2021. For example we have been looking at trees. Lots of them. This is with a view to exploring social history and archaeology through the narrative of diarist John Evelyn and his groundbreaking 1662 book, Sylva. Yew trees will play a big role in this but we also head back to geological history and into the Jurassic for an amazing example of arboreal resilience.

We have also been spending time looking at windows, mainly arched ones! Indeed we have prepared an entire unit of medieval learning through the medium of stained glass in Gloucester Cathedral. Halos to heraldry, medieval sports to fallen angels, a veritable fenestration of narrative depicting tales of medieval life. This beats textbooks any day. Here we have St. James the Lesser; sporting a red halo (or nimbus) and the fuller's club. This project was inspired by the amazing Book of Halos (that has pride of place in the Travelling History library) by our Gloucester Home Ed group and corresponds cleverly with the Royal Mail 2020 Christmas stamps.

This week of course has been the week of the "Great Conjunction" as Jupiter and Saturn have been closing in on each other all month. The night sky plays a significant part in our histories and in true festive spirit the press have commented on possibility that such as event might account for the star of Bethlehem. The great Johannes Kepler considered this in the 17th century and whilst perusing a paper on this subject by W Burke Gaffney (Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada of 1937) we enjoyed his conclusion that "No matter how close together two planets come.....Wise Men would not mistake them for a single star."

Despite the lack of retreats and outdoor learning during 2020 we have been very busy in school teaching humanities both in the classroom and on Zoom. We have also been teaching PE, our students have marvelled at our efforts to replicate medieval sporting pastimes although most of our ideas didn't make it past the risk assessments!

We had a couple of events that very nearly happened - our history of Mars evening high above the River Severn in the Forest of Dean for example and an exploration of Iron Age life on Midsummer Hill in the Malverns. We are looking forward to having another go at these in 2021 together with our home education activities and picking up on some plans we had with Bristol schools. Overall, we are simply looking forward to being back in the historic landscape.

Despite our inactivity, we have had an extraordinary number of views of our Facebook page over recent months, for those reading this through a Facebook link, welcome and do feel free to sign up for our very occasional blogs.

We wish everybody a very happy Christmas and a much improved 2021.

John Swann

The Travelling History Company

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