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History of the Shipwreck on Rhossili Beach, South Wales

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When I was living in the Swansea Valley, one of my favourite walks was the 3 mile length of Rhossili Beach, on the Gower Coast.  The remains of the shipwreck are often submerged by water, but when the tide is out they are a reminder of the dangers that often occurred during the days when wooden ships sailed the seas.  

The Gower Coast, just a few miles outside of Swansea, is a very popular tourist area, and I’m sure some of my readers will have visited it.  I have never heard the full story of the shipwreck so when I found this article on Wales Online,  I thought you may like to read it too!

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Almost completely submerged in the heavy wet sand, the rotting timbers of the Helvetia shipwreck rise out of a Gower beach like ribs from an unknown animal.

Helvetia was once a proud ship: her sails billowing as she scudded across the Atlantic Ocean and her deck a hubbub of activity as sailors shouted to each other in the winds.

Now all that remains is a carcass, visible only at low tide, as the ever-hungry sea tries to reclaim her timbers to the deep blue.

The remains of the Helvetia, a Norwegian oak barque, have become a landmark of Rhossili, attracting photographers from all over keen to catch a glimpse of the relic from a bygone era.

(Image: South Wales Evening Post)

Standing high on the cliffs looking down on the bay, the shipwreck is the only thing that punctuates the golden sands, which stretch for three miles into the distance.

But what is her story, and how did a ship, originally from Horten in Norway, come to rest on Welsh sand?

Stormy seas

On a stormy evening on October 31, in 1887, the Helvetia arrived off the coast at Mumbles.

Captained by a man named Stevenson, she had sailed from Cambeltown, New Brunswick on the east coast of Canada, loaded with 500 tonnes of timber and bound for Swansea Harbour.

According to the late Ron Tovey, in his “Chronology of Bristol Channel shipwrecks”, the crew were five miles from her final destination, where Stevenson ordered for “signals to be burnt” to guide them into the harbour.

But a “fresh breeze” sprang up from the South East, forcing the crew to stay where they were for that night.

Abandon ship

By the next morning, the winds had grown stronger, blowing the oak-constructed barque of the Helvetia down the Bristol Channel.

Disaster struck as she hit the dangerous sandbank of Helwick Sands, a good 10 miles away from the harbour.

With the next turbulent swell, she escaped the shallow waters, but was swept around Worm’s Head and into Rhossili Bay.

Stephenson took the decision to drop anchor here and was taken ashore by the coastguard.

He refused to abandon his ship altogether, fearing looters might try to strip her of her cargo. He ordered his crew to stay aboard the barque for the night.

But by nightfall, as the incessant wind reached galeforce, the Helvetia could not be stayed and her anchor was ripped free from the sand.

(Image: South Wales Evening Post)

As she strayed perilously close to the expansive sands of Rhossili beach, the decision was reluctantly made to abandon the ship.

Shipwreck

The next morning, when Stephenson and his crew returned to the beach, they discovered the tortured wreck of their ship.

She had come to rest upon the sands, the remains of her wooden cargo scattered all around her on the beach.

During the following weeks, the timber was collected from the beach and gathered for auction sale.

South Wales timber merchants bought it at a bargain price, planning to take it off Rhossili by ship in the summer months.

The wreck was sold cheaply to a local man, who intended to strip the precious copper keel from the vessel.

But before he got the chance, the Helvetia had already sunk into the sand. Local rumour suggests he had to settle for salvaging the ship’s deckboards, which he used for the floor in his kitchen.

(Image: South Wales Evening Post)
(Image: South Wales Evening Post)

Anna Stevens, who lives in Llangennith and works at the King’s Head Hotel, has collected a whole file of information on the Helvetia.

“I started to research the history of the King’s Head, and that’s when I came across the stories about the Helvetia shipwreck,” she said.

“I have never heard about whether wood from the Helvetia did ever end up in the local buildings. I don’t know if that is merely rumour or local hearsay.

“I do know that wood from another shipwreck, the infamous Dollar Ship, was used when that ran aground off the Llangennith coast. The spoils were used to build Dollar’s Cottage, a small cottage in the village.”

Unceremoniously stripped of anything that had any value, the Helvetia has lain on Rhossili ever since.

A tragic sequel

In the springtime after the disaster, a steamboat from Llanelli called The Cambria was used to retrieve the timber.

A big ocean swell, combined with low tides, almost caused the boat to capsize. Only escaping certain wreckage with help from the coastguard, The Cambria lost her anchor which was dragged back over the sands to the corner of the bay at low tide.

Returning some months later to retrieve the lost anchor, The Cambria’s master, John Hopkins, sent a boat ashore with some day-tripping landlubbers.

After spending the day at ‘The Ship Inn’, they finally retrieved the anchor.

Unfortunately, the weight of it, accompanied by the weight of the six rescuers, proved too much for the boat. It capsized and all six men were thrown into the ocean. Only one of the men made it to the shore alive.

The shifting sands and relentless tides on Rhossili Beach still do their utmost to reclaim The Helvetia.

One day, she won’t be there.

But as long as her prow continues to rise high and proud out of the sand, she will always attract photographers from far and wide.

List of Craft Shows & Events in UK

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A few years ago I put together a list of events for Crafters on this blog under the tab of craft events, but unfortunately it was too complicated to keep it up, altho you can  still find the old dates and click on the links to see the current dates etc.

There does seem to be a lot going on this year, and so I have copied the listings from two different sources – hence the change of style half way down! – so do have a look and see if there is something that catches your fancy.

UK CRAFT SHOWS & EVENTS

Take a look at the fantastic range of events taking place from August to November
The British Wool Show 2018 
Whatever your chosen craft there will be exciting treasures for you to discover as you explore the stands at the show.
York Auction Centre, Murton Lane, Murton, York
YO19 5GF
10th – 11th August 2018
Click here for more information
Festival of Quilts
Visit Europe’s leading quilt show where you can view over 1,000 amazing quilts as well as stocking up on fabric and other quilting suppliers from the 300+ exhibitors.
NEC, Birmingham
9th – 12th August 2018
Click here for more information
Henley Handmade Fair
Explore marquees and outdoor markets filled with handmade jewellery, homewares, clothing and more – all lovingly created by specialist Craftspeople.
Stonor Park Henley on Thames RG9 6HF Oxfordshire
24th – 27th August 2018
Click here for more information
Southern Wool Show
Visit wonderful stands selling a wide range of products, workshops and free demonstrations allowing people to share their passion and skills for woolly arts and crafts.
Newby Racecourse, Newby, RG14 7PN
1st September 10am to 4pm
Click here for more information
Great Northern Needlecraft & Quilt Show
Patchwork and quilting exhibition and needlecraft with trade stands selling all items within the needlecraft trade.
The Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate, HG2 8QZ
31st August – 2nd September 2018
Click here for more information
The Creative Craft Show
Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts is where you’ll discover ideas, inspiration and all the supplies you could ever dream of! Discover new products and innovations, watch demonstrations and take part in workshops.
EventCity, Manchester, M41 7TB
6th – 8th September 2018
Click here for more information
Perth Festival of Yarn 2018 
Bringing together independent dyers, farmer, small-holders, knitters, spinners, felters and weavers
Dewars Centre, Glover St, Perth PH2 0TH
8th – 9th September 2018
Click here for more information
The Handmade Fair
The Handmade Fair is brought to you by Kirstie Allsopp and is all about appreciating the beauty of handmade, and learning the skills to become a maker yourself! |
The Green, Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, KT8 9BU
14th – 16th September 2018
Click here for more information

Cornish Yarn Festival

15 & 16 September 2018, 10am to 4pm St John’s Hall, Penzance

http://www.cyfonline.biz

Shetland Wool Week

22 – 30 September 2018

A busy week dedicated to celebrating Shetland wool and textile heritage.

Includes classes, talks, drop-ins, art. See website for the full events listing.

shetlandwoolweek.com

Masham Sheep Fair

The Wool Event, Masham Sheep Fair

Saturday 29 Sep and Sunday 30 Sep 2018, Masham Town Hall

Craft market and fleece stalls, specialising in British wool to compliment the sheep-related events that fill the square of Masham over the weekend.

http://www.mashamsheepfair.com

Yarndale

Yarndale

29 and 30 September 2018, Skipton Auction Mart, North Yorkshire

For you if you love yarn and are passionate about all things woolly. It aims to celebrate the beauty and diversity of wool, cotton, linen and silk fibres in all their forms.

yarndale.co.uk

Bakewell Wool Gathering

Bakewell Wool Gathering

Bakewell Agricultural Centre Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 October

An event for wool lovers in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales.

There will be exhibitors, demonstrations of fibre crafts and a fleece stand selling plenty of local fleece.

bakewellwool.co.uk/

West Wales Wool Show 2018

West Wales Wool Show 2018

Saturday October 6, Queen’s Hall and Plas Hyfryd Hotel, Narberth, Pembrokeshire

A celebration of all things woolly. From beautifully hand crafted items, clothing and footwear to knitting wool, fleece and all the equipment needed to make at home. Demonstrations run throughout the day with stall holders sharing their skills and knowledge with visitors plus wool skill workshops such as felting.

westwaleswoolshow.weebly.com

Kendal Wool Gathering

Kendal Wool Gathering

Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th of October

Kendal Wool Gathering mixes demonstrations, fun activities and displays, all connected to the cloth on which the town’s wealth was built.

Stands and stalls representing all aspects of commercial wool products, including carpets, looms, spinning wheels and crafts will be on display at a large unit at Kendal Leisure Centre. Outside there will be livestock, walks and talks. Linked fun events take place throughout the Kendal.

www.kendalwoolgathering.co.uk

Nottingham Yarn Expo

Nottingham Yarn Expo

Nottingham Conference Centre Goldsmith Street Entrance, Nottingham. NG1 4BU

Workshops Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 November. Market place Sunday 11 November

https://www.nottinghamyarnexpo.com

Dyeing with Dandelion Leaves – gives you Yellow!

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Dandelions are normally treated as weeds, which have long tap roots and are difficult to get out of your lawn, if you prefer a perfect green, nicely mowed lawn.  But before you get rid of them, think again – they could be useful as a dye for wool!

rivillaRiihivilla is the name of a small business based in Helskinki, Finland, which specialises in hand dyeing, with plants and mushrooms – and I was interested to find this post thro’  hand-spinning-news.com.  The original blog post, written in Finnish and English can be found here.

If you haven’t used natural dyes before, this will give you an idea of what is involved, but there are simpler ‘recipes’ for all kinds of flowers, leaves, and even wood!  It’s a fascinating subject and if you want to discover more about what colours you can get, there is more information on the Riihivilla blog, and there are many books on the subject.

KUVA4564

I dyed with dandelion more than a week ago,(May 2018) when they were beginning to flower. Now they are still flowering. I collected a bucketful of leaves and flowers, mostly leaves though, and they weighted 1,9kg.
I simmered them for an hour (with added some washing soda) and let the bath cool until the next day. Bath was dark reddish/brownish yellow.
After straining off the bath I dyed 100g of yarn in it, mordanted with alum and CoT. I thought that it is better to put too little yarn in it rather than too much. The colour became very nice lemon yellow, a bit like you would get from a weld bath. To a yarn with no mordant the colour didn’t take hardly at all. I found from Liber Herbarum pages that dandelion contains many flavonoids which also act as dyes, including luteolin, which is the same dye as is also in weld, so it was no wonder that the colour I got is similar to weld colour.
I don’t know if I’m happy or not that there are not that many dandelions in the garden: they can be an awful weed in a flowerbed but on the other hand they could be used for dyeing!

Young dandelion leaves can also be used in salads, and I’m told that beekeepers rate the early season dandelion honey as the best there is!

 

 

Sheep Shearing in the UK

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Following on from my previous post – the video of shearing a shetland sheep in USA – I thought I’d add a couple of my old photos of sheep shearing, taken about 30 years ago!  I can’t remember where I took them – somewhere in South Wales.

 

 

These are scans of the A6 sepia postcards I published of the original photos – which is why they aren’t very sharp.  The sheep were being sheared in a field, and they were penned to make it easier to do the shearing as quickly as possible.

I did a search for shearing in the UK, to get a bit more info on when shearing is done here, and found this useful piece, oddly enough, published under the name of Sheep Shearing in the UK by Indie Farmer.

 

 

These are a couple of colour photos from that site.

And this is the first part of the blog – written in July 2014

The sheep shearing season in the UK (roughly mid May to mid July) is pretty much finished now, so farmers will be pleased that one difficult and time consuming job is over for another year, and the sheep will be happy to have got rid of their thick fleeces in this hot weather.

Shearing requires both skill and a lot of hard, physical work in hot summer conditions.  Some farmers shear their own sheep but many, especially those with large flocks (anything over a few hundred sheep) hire specialist shearing gangs to do the work for them.  Shearing gangs typically have three to eight members, and travel the country going from farm to farm, shearing every day during the season.  It is a hard life but pay can be good, about £2 a sheep and a good shearer can shear 200 sheep per day.  When the UK shearing season is over, the shearing gangs often travel to other countries where the shearing season is at a different time of year, in what is known as ‘the shearing circuit’, travelling from the UK to Norway, the USA, the Falklands, New Zealand, Australia, and pretty much anywhere that you can find plenty of sheep!  It is a very tough, hard working and hard drinking lifestyle, but it’s a good way to see the world, have fun and make some money.

Wool used to be where the main profit was in sheep farming, with meat as a useful sideline.  Many of the great Cathedrals and castles of the middle ages were built using the profits from the wool trade.  The Lord Speaker in the House of Lords still sits on a ceremonial Woolsack to represent the importance of wool to the economy in former times.  Now, however, sheep farmers make their main profit from meat, with wool being a very minor sideline.

It’s always useful to know a bit more about where your wool comes from!  Especially for spinners who are carding and spinning the raw fleeces!

PS. PLUG!

wingham-carders-standard-pair_Fotor

pair of standard hand carders – 72 pt

I sell hand carders that can deal with raw fleeces and all types of wool fibres – and also are quite useful as brushes for sheep and other animals if you are tidying up your stock for Agricultural Shows.  The current listings can be found if you click on the links below.

Listed on julzcraftstore.com here

USE THE COUPON CODE  customer10%off  at the checkout to get 10% off your order.

Listed on etsy here

Listed on ebay here

Sheep Shearing Video

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Just thought you might like to see how sheep are sheared – for those of you who’ve never seen it!  Shearing is done very fast, and doesn’t hurt the sheep, if it’s done by an expert – and the fleece is rolled up to be processed and, hopefully sold.

This video comes from a farm near Niagara Falls, New York, who actually specialise in Shetland Sheep.  Shetland Sheep are the smallest of the British sheep breeds. They are bred for their wool, which is very soft and fine, a delight for handspinners. Shetland Sheep are very hardy, and easy to care for. They are ideal for families with smallchildren, handspinners and breeders.

The original post can be found HERE.

 

Review: Anni Albers On Weaving

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A 52 yr old book by an iconic weaver has been republished – I haven’t yet got a copy, but at least I have a review for those weavers and artists who might be interested!
“Albers began her artistic journey by enrolling in the Bauhaus as a painter, but she was pressured by administrators to focus on the more “womanly” activity of weaving.”
Published on Friday, October 27, 2017 – by the American Craft Council
Anni Albers Black Mountain
Anni Albers in her weaving studio at Black Mountain College in 1937.

Courtesy of the Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina

Few craft books have had as inauspicious a start as On Weaving, by Anni Albers. When she was offered the opportunity to write an essay on handweaving for the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1963, Albers (1899 – 1994) was well-established globally as an innovative weaver who had transformed the ancient craft into modern textile art. That commission planted the seed for her book, which was published in 1965, but its arrival disappointed many craft-minded readers, who were frustrated that only a handful of weavings were illustrated in color. Over one hundred weavings, examples of masterworks ranging from the ancient Peruvian to Albers’ own, were reproduced in dull monochrome.

A new expanded edition, released earlier this month by Princeton University Press, replaces the earlier version’s 112 black-and-white plates with radiant color weaving reproductions. That alone is a reason to rejoice. The afterword by Nicholas Fox Weber, a writer and essayist who runs the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, is another illuminating addition. And if craft is a means of exploring the world for you, this travel guide beckons.

Even with its photographic shortcomings, the original On Weaving found an appreciative audience not only among crafters, but also among lovers of modernism. Albers began her artistic journey by enrolling in the Bauhaus as a painter, but she was pressured by administrators to focus on the more “womanly” activity of weaving. The book offers Albers’ memory of moving past the initial frustration:

In my case it was the threads that caught me really against my will. To work with threads seemed sissy to me. I wanted something to be conquered. But circumstances held me to threads and they won me over. I learned to listen to them and to speak their language. I learned the process of handling them.

This excerpt is marked by recollection, but the book is much more than just an artist’s memoir. On Weaving presents a taste of an artful retelling of a life, but it also reads on occasion like an encyclopedia article – appropriately, given its origins – and serves as a tribute to the ancient Peruvian weaving tradition that most inspired Albers. In all, On Weaving presents Albers as a daredevil artist, experimenter, and educator, often in tandem with her renowned husband Josef, himself a painter and educator. The preface makes clear that Albers considered her life to be first and foremost a creative provocation, a meandering adventure interlacing warp and weft, hands and mind. Albers writes, “Though I am dealing in this book with long-established facts and processes, still, in exploring them, I feel on new ground…Thus tangential subjects come into view. The thoughts, however, can, I believe, be traced back to the event of a thread.”

The fact that Albers frames a thread as a happening, a process-initiator instead of solely material, signals that this 52-year-old book is as fresh and vital as ever. It reminds us that craft materials matter as more than raw objects. From Albers’ perspective, materials are alive and on the move, speaking to us, demanding attention. Threads can take us anywhere.

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