The Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire - Badsey, Bretforton, Blackminster. Emms, Jelfs and Purple Eggs.

The Hob Gnostic Chapel

an ancient chapel stands on staddle stones
an ancient chapel stands on staddle stones

The Vale of Evesham

The Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire, is a strange place, even by the standards of the English West Midlands. The local telephone directory is unique in England for not having Smith as the commonest name (though it is still common enough). Around Evesham, and nowhere else in the country, more people are called Emms or Jelfs. Ever heard these names before? I thought not. The village of Badsey, just outside Evesham, is reckoned to be the incest capital of the UK, but they offset that by growing the world's finest plums, called yellow eggs and purple eggs. That's OK too, because here the hens lay plums. They also grow asparagus which they call gras, except for the early thin stalks. These are called sprue unless you've lived there long enough to call them prue.

One of the best pubs in the area, and the only pub in the world to be named after asparagus, is the Round of Gras, in Badsey. It's a few years since I've visited, but for a time it was a twice weekly event, when I used to play badminton for an even smaller local village, Bretforton. Good times, and great guys.

You see, the Vale of Evesham is the land that time forgot. Its great days have always been in the past. Simon de Montfort, often credited as the first Parliamentarian, was killed in the Battle of Evesham in the early 14th Century. Out-maneuvered and outnumbered by Henry III's army, Simon and his men were forced into a loop of the River Avon, cornered and massacred to a man. The best wine I ever made was from brambles gathered on Dead Man's Ait, the ait (blind branch) of the Avon where Simon wasn't actually killed but might have been - such is the mix of local rumour and history. The place felt dark.

About 300 years later, the Civil War created some excitement in and around Evesham, but nearby Worcester captured most of the headlines. And later still, the Industrial Revolution bypassed the Vale completely as a rural irrelevance without clay or coal. (If you are a history student, don't quote me. This is a five-beer late-night hub, ok? Then again, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings - though I don't much care for either epithet).

Which is why the Vale made it to the late 20th Century with its 14th Century traditions largely intact. I have not been there since 1998, so I can't, in conscience, guarantee that the rarest tradition of all, that of the Hob Gnostic Monastic Brethern, is still active. But if it is not, it should surely be revived, before memories fade.

Hob Gnostics

(The Ritual of the Bengeworth Order of Hob Gnostics)

The River Avon winds through Evesham
by Corporation Meadow and the Crown
where Henry Workman set his triple arch
to couple Bengeworth parish to the town.
And crouching in the Meadow under limes
an ancient chapel rests on staddle stones,
its oaken frame age-blackened but unbowed,
its lapped larch boards displaying sombre tones.
And here Hob Gnostic faithful come to pray.
Time hallowed rites are theirs. No passing fad
or fashion sways them from their ritual.
They bear the scorn of all who think them mad.
The priestly hands are raised and in the choir
strange books are read but not a note is sung.
Hob Gnostic choirs are silent as the grave
of which they read. Then, to the aisle, among
the worshippers is brought the holy font
full charged with molten cheese, a rare Gruyere.
With hands up-raised and fingers splayed they wait
for solemn peace to follow silent prayer.
And bending low they dip their fingers in
the liquid cheese, a symbol of their love
for humankind, then, straightening as one,
draw cords of flowing gold to heaven above.
The choir still reads of death, quite silently,
as Avon bears its secrets to the sea.

Thank you for reading!

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Comments 47 comments

rosariomontenegro profile image

rosariomontenegro 6 years ago from NEW YORK

Holy crackers, you didn't invent this one, did you? No matter how many beers, this is beyond what alcohol induced hallucinations usually produce. So please, could you tell us more about this cheese fondue communion of old?


pgrundy 6 years ago

Wow. Well, I like a little cheese on a cracker. Sounds like just good sense to me! Merry Christmas PG!


ArchDynamics profile image

ArchDynamics 6 years ago from Orlando, FL

We have some interesting plums here (although from whence they come, I have no idea) ... they come in red and purple and yellow, all being flecked with spots.

In someone's stroke of marketing genius, they were renamed 'Dinosaur Eggs', forcing reluctant mothers to submit to the wailing of their children, begging for these plums.

Brilliant.

I remember some of those '5 beer nights', although I suspect that there was some magic mushroom brew in one of those. Ah, those were the days.

Thanks for an intriguing post!


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Rosario - let's put it down to a fertile imagination, or a misguided youth, or whatever seems most appropriate.

Pam - there are worse rituals out there in the real world. Merry Christmas too :)

AD - I like the dinosaur egg idea! I wonder if we could market spinach with a similar approach?


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

Emms or Jelfs, never heard before, Dave, and what about the dinoaur eggs hehe, hmmmmmm, makes me wonder about this place, seems forgotten, a good peep or look at that place must be awesome too, Have a good day, Maita


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Maita - It's a lovely place, but the locals say things like 'I han't seen 'im since 'e moved away', and you find that 'moving away' means 2 miles down the road to the next village. Where time forgot ;)


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks

Does it hurt to dip one's fingers into molten cheese?


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Only the first few times. A bit like playing on steel strings.


dusanotes profile image

dusanotes 6 years ago from Windermere, FL

My, my, my! Reading your Hubs is like sitting at the feet of Aristotle, Dave. I do appreciate knowing about this gnostic sect in the middle of England on the west. My people come from England, but I've not heard of that area in my family history. Keep up the great Hubs, would you? Don White


Bieberella profile image

Bieberella 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

Very interesting. Sounds like someone needs to write a best-seller novel with this place as the focal point!


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Don - this was just a fun one. The prose description of the Vale of Evesham is all true, but the Hob Gnostics, well...

Bieberella - In fact Evesham already has/had a fairly successful local novelist, Fred Archer. He was trying to be, to the Vale, what Thomas Hardy was to Wessex. But never in the same league as Hardy, his appeal was never widespread.


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

Brilliant, Paraglider! Thank you for an entertaining read :)

I did think of your own particular fun kind of Wessex till I read your last comment. The pentametre as always, flows so well and is such a joy to read!


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Shalini - there's definitely a Wessex potential here in Qatar, but not while I'm still living in the area! Maybe some day..


itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

Paraglider-

Intrigued by this information-never heard of it.Most impressed by your poetry-seriously good!


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

iatkins - thank you, and welcome :)


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Wonderful stuff - thanks for sharing so entertainingly!

I love lost and forgotten places like the one you describe. In South Africa there is a valley in the Great Karoo called in Afrikaans "Die Hel" (The Hell). It has only in recent times been connected to the rest of the country by anything resembling a usable road. Andre Brink wrote a novel about it but I can't remember the title right now! But it's a very entertaining read.

Love and peace

Tony


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Tony - Another trait around the Vale is incomers are always just that - incomers. You never become part of the community. It that respect, living there was good practice for coming to the Gulf States!


cheaptrick profile image

cheaptrick 6 years ago from the bridge of sighs

As a charter member of the"Five beer" club I'll tell you it was good before but Great afterwards!I thought you were kinda Proper and I'm sure you are when appropriate but SO COOL that you can Imbibe and still write so Well.You are my and my kids"Breath of fresh Air"...


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Cheaptrick - let's just say that I don't remember having an 'AFD' in the last twenty years. I was minted before such days were invented ;)


quicksand profile image

quicksand 6 years ago

Greetings Paraglider,

Your hubs have been informative, educative and more importantly interesting. I wish you a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!!! :)


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks Quicksand - always welcome, and season's greetings to you too!


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US

Hi Dave, I just came by and say hope you arrived safely, It is cold here at Dallas and it snowed, three inches, my first white christmas,

Maita


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 6 years ago from The Other Bangor

You are so, so funny -- thanks, Dave -- entertaining and (ahem) educational. Season's greetings, and hob nobs to you, too. . .


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Maita - yes, safely arrived home, where the Christmas snow has now gone, but more is expected today. Hope so!

Teresa - Seasons Greetings back, and keep the erudition flowing - (how about doing the first words of the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?)


Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

Tatjana-Mihaela 6 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

Thanks for interesting reading, wishing you very Happy 2010 ...


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Tatjana - all the best to you too, for the year ahead!


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

Emms and Jelfs? Tolkien must have visited this place and it must have made a huge impression. Great story. I love the idea of islands of yesterday.


dragonbear profile image

dragonbear 6 years ago from Essex UK

Fascinating and fantastic - in the true sense of fantastic! An interesting read.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Dolores & Dragonbear - thanks for the read. I was back in Evesham briefly in January. It hasn't changed!


Number6 profile image

Number6 6 years ago

It has changed...Woolworth's has gone. But the Regal has reopened.


AARON99 6 years ago

Simply brilliant, i must say. Keep it up.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Number6 - Woolworths I knew about but the Regal back? That's good. Is the whale bone arch still standing in Waterside?

Aaron99 - thank you :)


Number6 profile image

Number6 6 years ago

Despite the River Avon flooding about eight times a year, the famous Evesham landmark, the whalebone, still stands tall and strong. If you are on Facebook, check out the community movement that is "The Regal Cinema, Evesham." Tis

inspiring stuff.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks, I will. I experienced plenty of these Avon floods in my Evesham years. Fortunately, my place was on higher ground.


Number6 profile image

Number6 6 years ago

In the Belltower?


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Even higher - up Greenhill


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

This is terribly interesting, my friend. I love a good game of badminton, even today. I enjoy your articles, always. Thank you for this fine bit of history and poetry.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi James - thanks for the visit. I'll get back to HP in time, I hope. Just a bit buried in work and house moves right now! Now, why do the tennis stars get all the fame and money when the top badminton players are lucky to pay their way?


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

That's a good question. :D

You're welcome.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California

Not bad for 5 beers, late at night. Frankly, completely fitting for my present state and attitude. I had some time, but not enough to read a book, so, I thought I'd check in on you. You're posting as infrequently as I am.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Shades - yes, I've become an endangered species here. Thanks for the reminder. I should make an effort to avoid extinction!


robie2 profile image

robie2 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

Breezing through Hubpages for the first time in a few moons and fell upon this-- lovely Paraglider-- just lovely. Thank you for a wonderful armchair visit to a place I'd love to visit for real. Sounds like my kinda town:-)


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Robie - I spent 8 happy years there, before embarking on my extended foreign travels, and it certainly has lots going for it. This is the time to visit, in Asparagus season :)


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I just don't like cheese that much. Thank you Sir!


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Ah, you can enjoy it without eating it! Cheers Micky :)


Badsey 6 years ago

Hi, i was born and raised in Badsey, i left when i was 20. Luckily i lost my accent at young age and my family is not inbred, so i was able to adjust to the outside world.

The couple over the road from my family house are in their 90's and have lived on the same road all their lives! That said it was a brilliant place to grow-up and was inspriration to jrr Tolkien who lived here at some period and i went to school with his greatgrandson!!


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Badsey - My memories of the place are happy ones. (I lived in Evesham for 8 years). But I think you'll admit that my affectionate parody is at least partly deserved! Thanks for the visit.

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