Give a cheer for Ginger Beer!

Returning to the theme of old (antique) bottles this week, and today it is ginger beer bottles! What is it about Ginger Beer that sounds exciting?

I’m looking at four stoneware bottles from the late Victorian period of slightly different dates.

All were found in a corner of the garden at our place. From the evidence of a few barrel hoops, much rusted, we guess they were put into a barrel for returning to the seller at some time, but it never happened and the barrel (sited behind what had been a small barn – and is now only a garden wall) got covered up and rotted away, so that when we were clearing the garden we found quite a number of these old bottles in the same area. Many were chipped or broken but an example of each we keep on show as part of the house history.

The earliest one appears to be this Dubbin’s as the name of the producer of this drink has had his name impressed into the damp clay.  We can see that  W. DUBBIN was a business in DEVONPORT (1882- 1916 which is now firmly part of Plymouth but at the time was still slightly apart. The bottle, as are the others, is made of stoneware and has a simple low-shine glaze all over, cream on the inside, brown on the out. (some stoneware bottles at this time glazed only the lip to shoulder outside) The base is unglazed.

One of the other bottles is also from DUBBIN’s – but by now they have really moved upmarket and their bottle is nicely trade-marked and tells you more about the contents.

The next bottle is from BRACHER’S of Plymouth (1897 or earlier  – 1914) with a very clear name and design glazed on the bottle.Cream glaze for the body of the bottle with a darker honey colour from shoulder to lip.

Our final stoneware bottle is from BISCOMBE’S of Plymouth (1850s – 1950s). By far the fanciest design on a very nice bottle, with ivory glaze inside and out.

I find it interesting that this simple drink had quite elaborate bottles to be sold in. They were, as I suggested, returnable for a small refund on them, and I for one am glad they never got round to returning these.

Thinking about this I realise I remember returning glass ‘fizzy pop’ bottles for the penny you got back on them at the shop (and promptly spent on halfpenny sweets) Something I hadn’t thought about for donkey’s years.

It is strange how memories can be triggered. Do you remember activities like this that were normal in your youth but just not done, not required or wanted today? And just why does ‘Ginger beer’ sound exciting??? Do share – I love to hear from you!

[For my FWT cheerleaders – same same this week {I knew a whole pound down in one week was too much at this stage!} so I’m all square and only one and a half pounds from my target!!



Divining an Inspiration

A captured-spring well

Google ‘divining’ and you’ll land in a vehement discussion as to whether it is real and true or just luck and trickery. There seems to be a big divide between those who believe and those who don’t.  I shall nail my colours to the mast. I believe.

Many years ago, after the spring that feeds our water supply reduced to just a trickle, we invested in having a borehole drilled.

Now I am under no illusion that Cornwall, and particularly this part, is a dry area. I know that there are many springs around – it is something that I have done a small historical study on, the domestic captured-spring wells of the parish. Like this one – where the spring has been boxed in by slate slabs (making a dipping pool of about 10 inches deep) with a little stone ‘house’ built over it and even (once) doors to keep out blowing debris and animals.

However, we contacted a guy who later became well known, with a short series on BBC TV, Donovan Wilkins, known as Don the Diviner. His business (based at Chacewater – true!) was borehole drilling and his promise was that when the drilling was made it should produce the amount of water he had predicted or you didn’t pay. Not just water – but the right amount of water.

A hazel Divining or dowsing rod

They came. They being Don and his wife Margaret and he looked around the small paddocks and strode around divining rod in hand, marking a few likely spots. His wife watched. After a while she suggested he try ‘over there on the other side of that gate’. Pointing at the gate to the strip that then led to the big field. So over there they went and within minutes he started sticking rods in all around. Soon he’d marked many lines of underground water and the place where they crossed. He told us how deep they would drill and the quantity of water in gallons per second. (I learned much later, from another renowned dowser, that Margaret was considered as good a diviner, if not better than, Don)

He then offered to show us all how to divine for water. Most of our family had ‘it’ to some extent or other, and #1 son, then aged about 7, was particularly good. Even after relinquishing the rod he seemed to still be able to sense the lines of water underground and described it to me like lights inside his head moving round until they met.

The borehole was drilled and the water found in just the abundance that was promised and an experience was locked into my head. Over time I read up about divining and found that water wasn’t the only thing that diviners could sense.

It was this, of course, that I drew upon when creating my novel Divining the Line, the handsome Cornish water diviner is following a line that isn’t water. It leads him to a nondescript estate in the southeast, a meeting with a woman and a near fatal beating. The woman is at a turning point in her life and ready to follow her own line of discovery that leads them both back down to Cornwall. What comes from this is a story of family, love and loss.  Divining the Line brings the ordinary and the extraordinary together into everyday life. Read reviews here

Of course in such a novel there has to be Divining – and here are two excerpts from DIVINING THE LINE  involving divining for water… firstly from page one….

Perran Lovering stood in the centre of a circle of white steel spears, marking the lines, and thrust a red spike into the earth between his feet. ‘Right,’ he said ‘that’s it.’

            He smiled and looked round the garden, it was about the best place they could have found, close enough to the road to make access easy and far enough away from the old Cornish farmhouse to be discreet.

‘Would you like to try? I’ll show you how,’ he offered, and held out the vee-shaped hazel stick to the owners.  

The wife blushed but held out her hand. As she took hold of the stick she tried to remember how he’d held it, but couldn’t as she had been keener on watching this handsome young man go about his work, than the work itself.

‘Like this,’ he said warmly. He laid out her hand flat, soft white palm upwards, and placed one arm of the dark rod upon it, its end passing just under her thumb, the lead up to the vee crossing her small finger. ‘Okay, now the same with the other hand. Right. Now grip it.’

She did, finding her wrists twisted inwards at an unnatural angle. 

He looked at her, made sure he had her attention. ‘Now pull the rods so that your wrists come straight.’

She followed his instructions feeling warm with embarrassment.

‘Got it?’

She nodded. 


And then from chapter 8

Back in his room he began to work in earnest. He marked the boundary of the first property as far as was known, he shaded in the ‘impossible’ sites, where farm buildings were, ponds, woodland, and other impediments to the machinery  reaching the sites. He took up the pendulum, letting it swing and twist in his fingers. He thought, water once more filled his mind, the pendulum was brought to swing over the site, eyes open he followed its guiding lines, watched as the swing slowed to a stand-still and became a gentle twisting motion. He fixed his eyes upon the point, let the crystal rest, marked the place with the pencil. He breathed as if he’d held his breath. The site chosen by the pendulum was clear of any of the known obstructions. The lines on the map suggested the ground was reasonably level, that is, level for Cornwall. He picked up the pendulum once more, allowed it to find the spot again, then turned his mind inwards seeking knowledge of the depth that the water ran at, and the quantity that coursed through the place selected. Using imperial measurements he sunk his mind by feet, ‘felt’ a major flow at eighty foot, but went on down, finding the best at a hundred and twenty. He next thought of quality and tasted sweet water in his mouth and was satisfied with that. Finally he needed to fix the quantity, the pendulum answered the numbers as he thought them, settling on eight hundred gallons an hour or thereabouts. All this he noted down and when finished shook himself as if suddenly feeling a chill, his innermost mind shivered from exposure.

Divining the Line and my other Novels (Nothing Ever Happens Here and Some Kind of Synchrony) are all available from annmade books and from Amazon

Or you could Win  a copy ….  as of today there are just over 400 places left in the draw I am holding for one lucky person to Win a Kindle – with runner up prizes of a Nero Slate cheeseboard and ecopies of each of my novels – including Divining the Line. To enter you only need to email sign up to this blog (see box above left) Click HERE to get all the details of when and how the draw will be made, how to get extra entries and why you’ll want to tell all your friends about it!

 By the way, for this week FWT? cheerleaders – results for week 16 are now on the drop-down from FWT? button!

Have you ever had experience of water divining or dowsing? Do you believe in it or think it is just hocus-pocus? I’d love to hear from you on this subject!


Daffodils, daffodils and not dieting

Nature Notes for March (very late – sorry – please see last blog for my excuses) and Week 15 FWT?

Our parish hedgerows look stunning at this time of year, and behind their beauty lies a small bit of local history. As you drive around you will notice many of the Cornish hedgerows festooned with daffodils, ranging along the tops, dotted amongst the twiggery, pouring down the sides.  So many, you would be forgiven for thinking it were some free-for-all Britain in bloom affair, but the truth lies in the War Effort.

Many, many years ago, in the early nineteen hundreds, a St. Dominick man, sending other produce ‘up the line’ to London, picked and bunched some wild daffodils that grew here. The Tamar Valley has a micro-climate and produced early strawberries and cherries, and the daffodils were early ones too. They found a ready market in London and soon everyone was growing daffodils as they became a profitable crop. This was very much a market garden parish and not only were whole fields set aside for growing daffs (and a factory set up to treat the bulbs against disease) but most people with a bit of land would grow a few rows and band together with others to send boxes of daffodils off to market.

Now, come the War and Dig for Victory, all the arable land had to be turned over to food production. The daffs had to come out of the fields, and as they were cleared they often got thrown up onto the hedges, and there many thrived, and seeded and grew until now many of our hedgerows look like the photograph (above top) in spring with daffodils in abundance.

As for those homes with a ‘bit of land’ a large garden or an orchard, well the daffodils from those rows are still there – developed into great swathes – like this one that covers most of our orchard (above).

I took the camera round the orchard on one day and took pictures of the daffodils that were in bloom that day. I have to say that many were still in tight bud and would not show for another week or two so this is not the complete range that grow here – but you can see the variety we have.

The Dog loves to cool off by lying in the daffodils  (though it makes a mess of them!)

So my much belated March Nature Notes consist this year of daffodils, daffodils and more daffodils.

The Not Dieting part of this blog is the Fat Woman Thinning? report for week 15, and I can claim yet another one pound loss and half an inch off the waist measurements.  So now at 10st 5lbs. This is much steadier loss than I expected, especially as my weight gets further from the 12st starting point. If you are a late-comer to Fat Woman Thinning and wonder what it’s all about you can look at the FWT? dropdowns from the top bar where it will tell you the why and the how of my losing weight without dieting.

And looking at Bonny (The Dog) in the daffodils – she is very pleased her video has brought more people to enter the fabulous Draw I am holding on my blog here. You only have to sign-up to my blog to enter, though if you are on Facebook or Twitter you can have extra entries – what’s more, as soon as just one thousand people enter, the draw gets made.  And what can you win? Well, first prize is a KINDLE,(Yes a Kindle!) then there’s a Nero Slate Cheeseboard, and then ecopies of my Novels: –  Divining the Line, Nothing Ever Happens Here and Some Kind of Synchrony. If you haven’t entered yet – just click here for all the details, and if you have, don’t forget to spread the word – your friends and family deserve to know about this great free draw!

Does your area put on a particularly wonderful natural show at any time of the year? If so I’d love to hear about it – or any of your comments.



Old Bottle – New ‘Treasure’

A few weeks ago my husband was doing some repairs  to the old lean-to building out the back of the house which houses a toilet (for use when working outside – eg in welly boots and mucky coats). Now this building may have been used for such a function for many years, or it may not. For, when removing some of the slates before repair work to the roof, he came across an old bottle.

There is something beautiful about an old bottle, which judging by its style was probably made in the late 1800s. So, from junk, propped up on the top of the interior wall of an old out-building, it has become  a minor ‘treasure’  – something interesting to be handled and admired.

This bottle was for Percy’s Rennet (click on the pictures to see the words better). 

This would have been made  in a shaped metal hinged mould with the words embossed on the sides and  the glass would have been blown into the shape.


Rennet is used in cheese making, or at the very least, to make junket. You can still buy rennet for junkets in the shops in the local town. If you’ve never had Junket here’s the recipe

RECIPE for Junket – a dessert often given to invalids or children (clotted cream is a Cornish or Devon speciality cream – thick with a golden crust)


2 pints milk
1 tablespoon caster/superfine sugar
2 teaspoons rennet (or follow instructions on bottle for amount to be used)
1/4 teaspoon powdered cinnamon or nutmeg
1 tablespoon brandy or rum (optional)
clotted cream (optional)


– Warm the milk until it feels neither cold not warm (blood temp)
– Put it into a large serving dish and stir in the rennet and sugar.
– Add the brandy or rum. (if used)
– Stir once or twice and leave in the large bowl or or pour into smaller dishes – leave in a warm room to set.
– When set, cover with clotted cream (if used) and sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg.


At another time we also found this little bottle, made from a white glass.

This is my picture quiz for this month.

What did this bottle hold when in use?

The first correct answer left in the comments will WIN an e-copy of

Nothing Ever Happens Here by Ann Foweraker.

Click HERE to read descriptions, reviews and read first 3 chapters in pdf of this book and Divining the Line and Some Kind of Synchrony


I really love to hear from you all.. have you found such ‘old junk’ that today becomes a minor treasure or a collectable? What’s the best thing you’ve found? or just your favourite?  Do share and do have a guess at the picture quiz!

24 /2: It has been a week of thinking and guessing. I believe it is time for a clue as the guesses have dried up .. .  if you have already guessed once you are allowed to guess again!

CLUE 1:  This bottle held a commodity we all use everyday – though it now it comes in a different form

OK – as we are well into March I guess I’ll have to give the answer to this Picture quiz. This little bottle was used for TOOTH-POWDER. It may well have been a ‘sample’ bottle as it is so small – or a ‘travel’ bottle. It dates from the end of the 1800s.  As I mentioned in the comments it is missing a small cap. More often than not Tooth-powders came in a shallow ceramic pot with a decorated ceramic lid – so this is unusual. Thanks for everyone who did have a guess – but I’m afraid as no one was even near, the prize awaits the next quick quiz.


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