In The Morning I’m A Gardener

This is a song about trench gardeners in World War 1. Soldiers on both sides of the trench made gardens to grow flowers & veg. The prisoners of war of both sides did too; the Germans were kept in a camp by Alexandra Palace where they had allotments & the British were kept on a racecourse near Berlin. The British prisoner gardeners got affiliated with the Royal Horticultural Society & had seeds sent from Blighty.

garden_3045596bI find this image compelling. I first saw it at the Garden Museum exhibition on WW1 gardens last year. I wrote a song about it. I am currently putting together material for the next GentleFolk record & revisited the song, making some lyrical  & musical amendments

The Lucky Dandy

One of my favourite pastimes is playing songs from the roaring 80s in the old time style. Here is a banjo picking version of Cure favourite, A Forest. I have crafted an entire set of these in my Lucky Dandy alter ego. Come to the Longwave Bar by Elephant on the 28th for banjo mayhem. If you are Wessex based you will be delighted to know that I will be playing in a brewery in Wimborne Minster on the 18th December. What could possibly go wrong with that combination?

The Jack Cade Rebellion

There is a rather fantastic mural on the side of the old Peckham Civic Centre (now Everlasting Arms Ministry) on the Old Kent Road. It is known as The History Of The Old Kent Road. I have put a link to a ceramics blog which gives a detailed history of the mural if you are interested. I walk past it most days & my favourite part of the mural is the part showing the leader of the 15th century Kentish peasant rebellion Jack Cade riding down the Old Kent Road. His tale is an interesting one. He lead a force of 5000 or so peasants into London, struck the London stone with a sword & declared himself mayor. The initial rapturous response of the Londoners waned somewhat as the rebels got drunk & started looting. They were ejected from the city with a battle on London Bridge to ensure that the men of Kent realized that they had squandered the good will. Henry VI got one of his bishops to broker a pardon, the peasants went home, and the leaders were rounded up. Jack died in a skirmish in Medway regions & his body was brought back to London where it stood trial then hung drawn & quartered with the remains deposited around Kent as a warning to future rebels.

Little is known about Jack, history being written by the victors. England has a long history of rebellion which seems to get swept under the carpet.

This ditty is quite likely to make it onto the next GentleFolk album…

Save Southwark Woods


I’m very pleased that the band I’m in, GentleFolk, will be playing at a benefit for the Save Southwark Woods  campaign. This is a good cause with the aim of protecting some ancient woodland (remnant of The Great North Wood) from needless destruction. The venue is the fantastic Ivy House, one of the finer pubs in London. An amazing pub theatre, great music & comedy & a good cause. What more could we possibly want?


& on the 24th I am hosting Nigel Of Bermondsey & friends at the rather good Longwave Bar by Elephant & Castle. A free evening of music in an urban setting somewhat reminiscent of Berlin 1998. Come & feel urbane….

Into The GreenWood


The band I’m in, GentleFolk have released our first record, Into The Greenwood ! We are so pleased with the nice reviews we have had for it.

“Charming & mesmeric” Guardian

“Engagingly idiosyncratic” Prog

“One of the most intelligently written & interesting albums of 2015” Liverpool Sound & Vision

“Genuinely & gently joyeous” Fatea Records

“Calls to mind the Incredible String Band” R2

“Perfectly epitomises folk music in principle & execution” Sonic Bandwagon

“Begrudge not their joy” froots

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Into the Greenwood is a journey through the old woods of England in story & song. It is a piece that follows Herne the Hunter around the woodlands of the South of England. Here is a little more background on some of the songs.

Cernunnos: Cernunnos is the Celtic hunter god. He is often depicted as a stag headed man. Herne the hunter is the English analogue of Cernunnos. When Southwark Cathedral was being renovated a decade or so ago, workmen found a well which had been ceremonially closed containing a stone effigy of Cernunnos dating back to pre Roman times…

The Blean: Blean Woods, near Canterbury in Kent, is an ancient place. It has been forested since Saxon times, is a refuge for Nightjars & boasts some wonderful Wild Service Trees, also known as Checker Trees. Thanes used to drive the sheep & cattle along specific trails to seasonal grazing pastures, foresters would coppered the trees & pleach the hedges to stop the animals roaming. The Checkers trees would yield fruit which would be used to brew beer…

The Elms: You may not know that when Dutch Elm Disease went through Europe it did not wipe out the Elm. The beetle which carries the Dutch Elm Disease has a very specific height at which it flies: between 30 & 31 feet. Never below. Any tree under that height is safe. Some trees are immune. When the disease hit Britain most councils elected to fell all their mature Elms irrespective of whether they were infected or not. Brighton council was different; they figured that the prevailing wind coming in from the sea coupled with the natural barrier of the south downs would provide protection from the beetle. They separated the roots of trees growing close to each other & arranged to have the trees watched for signs of illness, culling only the ones which sickened. As a consequence Brighton has a thriving population of about twenty thousand Elms!

The Hidden People: The fairies have long been believed to be resident of the woods & were feared by the people. The Cornish believed that the fairies were angels who refused to take a side when Lucifer rebelled against God. So when Lucifer was cast out & made Hell his preserve, the fairies were sent to Earth being unworthy of Heaven but to good for Hell. They steal away children & leave substitute changelings in their place. They raise the children & marry them into the Fairy community as they cannot bear children on their own. It is unwise to cross a fairy, or even to see one. If a fairy strokes you, the places it touches will become paralysed forever…

Blood On The Oak: Rufus Stone in the New Forest is where the son of William the Conqueror, William Rufus, died in a hunting accident. Tyrell, the king’s huntsman loosed an arrow at a stag & it ricocheted off the animal’s back lodging in Rufus’s heart. Tyrell fled to France, riding his horse backwards to Portsmouth to evade pursuit before catching a boat.
It is rumoured Rufus’s body bled all the way to Winchester; a sign of foul play.
He was killed on the day after the Celtic harvest festival, a day associated with human sacrifice to the gods for a good crop. Royalty was considered to be close to godhood so Rufus would have made a good lamb indeed…

Something Impossible Is Overtaking: Badbury Rings, near Wimborne Minster in Dorset, is an Iron Age hill fort. It is rumoured that King Arthur is buried here, ready to awaken when Britain calls…

Wild & Free: Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor is an old oak wood. It is said that the Wild Hunt emerges from there with giant hounds & a stag headed man & witches & warlocks to roam the moor on dark nights to catch the unwary…

All For The Life Of The Land: The Rowan tree has much significance for Celtic folk. The Irish believe that the seeds were dropped as a gift from the Tuatha Day Danan, the fairies, as a gift.
It is believed to have a protective function against bewitching, Farmers would often make their yokes out of Rowan to protect the cattle & crops. Dairy equipment would be made out of Rowan to stop the milk curdling. Shepherds & wanderers would often make their staffs out of Rowan to ensure safe passage. Cradles were made out of the tree. Heathen Angles believed that the Hawthorn had an analogous effect…

The Green Man: this is a song by Bankside poet & seer, John Crow, about the Green Man who is come to bless our garden…

Against The Sun: When a child was born with a hernia or cleft lip the cunning folk of the locality had a cure based on sympathetic magic. An Ash tree would be located nearby & a cleft would be cut into it. For 7 days, 7 men would carry the child at dawn to the tree & as the sun rose they would pass the child through the cleft from west to east, against the sun, 7 times over. After the 7 days the cleft would be tied together & as the tree healed so would the child…

Song Of The Forest Trees: this is an adaptation of a traditional poem from Ireland, also heard in Dartmoor, with instructions on which are the best woods to burn of a winter time…

More stuff going on


Very much enjoyed The Dulwich Folk Choir on Saturday with their fine singing in the chapel at Nunhead Cemetery


Delighted to find out that there is a wine called GentleFolk! I am in a band going by that name…


We played a support slot at Stick In The Wheel’s album launch on Saturday. Stick In The Wheel were great.


On Monday Ian from Stick asked me to come & identify some trees in Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. Spotted an Elm, some Sycamore, Tree Of Heaven, Juniper & Plum.


Here is Ian in an al fresco environment playing some of the stuff they have written about the site. It’s brilliant.


Here is the dew on the grass just up our street this morning.


& the sun on the cobwebs & stones in Nunhead.

I’m looking forward to playing at the Shortwave Bar near Elephant & Castle tube tomorrow evening about 7ish. It’s free.

I’ve been busy


Busy going to Boscastle


Busy finding stone circles on Bodmin Moor

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Busy organizing the 1st Bermondsey Folk Festival.

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& busy taking pictures of acoustic guitar icons in interesting settings. Here is Wizz Jones next to Iceland in Bermondsey.

I am looking forward to more business involving the fantastic band I play with, GentleFolk, whom are playing in Nunhead Cemetery this coming Saturday at 2.30pm & have an album coming out this week called “Into The GreenWood”.

I am also looking forward to playing 80s classics in the style of 20s ragtime on a banjo as part of the Elefest on the 26th

I am also looking forward to giving a talk on “The life & times of William Lilly, Christian Astrologer” at the Extremists club on the 29th


Nice: a review for the new GentleFolk Album in The Guardian

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Yesterday’s Observer had a nice review of the GentleFolk album, “Into The GreenWood”, in it. I believe the reviewer nailed it when he called us “Slightly Rickety”!

The album is coming out on Dharma records in mid September. Follow the link to hear previews of the songs in iTunes!

Once In A Blue Moon


I very much enjoyed the blue moon this weekend. After a small summer hibernation I am very much enjoying a month of fun events with a gig in a strawberry picking farm on Thursday, the Golden Hinde on Friday & an RSPB nature reserve on Saturday. Nice

The Glad

Some pubs are great. The Gladstone, on Lant Street SE1 is in that category. I am delighted to be playing the Glad with my merrie band, GentleFolk on Monday 20th at 8.30pm
It’s a free gig & you are very welcome…