A festival of fungi

WE are heading fast for the shortest day of the year and autumn is truly over. Abiding memories of the past few weeks are some of the most magnificent fungi that I’ve ever seen. The top one (above) is known as Lion’s Mane and was spotted growing on a tree in private woodland in Dorset, not far from the Wiltshire border. The other two (pictured below) will have to remain anonymous. Although the Happy Moonraker has been given a beautiful book to help with identification, it has so far proved impossible.


Moving tributes to a lost generation

Moving in both senses of the word: a Royal British Legion lighting installation that projected huge poppies on the west front of Salisbury Cathedral for three evenings. You had to be there to watch as the poppies appeared to tumble gently down before reappearing at the top.

IT is more than two weeks since it all happened, but the memory is no less moving for that.

Yes, the British do it so well but the organisers still had to do a huge amount of planning to ensure that enough people were taking part, were making poppies, coming up with good ideas, attending events, and joining in the many initiatives across the country to mark the end of the Great War 100 years ago.

Like tens of thousands of other families, the Happy Moonraker lost a family member in the conflict, at Ypres. Almost 70 years later, his older sister couldn’t even look at a photograph of him without weeping.

Salisbury Guildhall adorned with hand-made poppies and cut-out models to mark the centenary.

A close-up of the carefully made poppies on one of the pillars of the Guildhall.


Jewellery collection goes under the hammer

Chairman of Woolley & Wallis auctioneers, Paul Viney (left) is pictured with his old friend jewellery expert John Benjamin after the latter’s lecture on the Dr Anne Shannon collection of jewellery. Both men worked together more than 40 years ago at Phillips auction house in London.

THE Happy Moonraker enjoyed viewing all the items that are being auctioned today in the Dr Anne Shannon jewellery sale.

Dr Shannon collected antique jewellery over a period of about 50 years and has now decided to sell the majority of her collection. Almost 300 items go under the hammer in Salisbury at Woolley & Wallis, one of the foremost fine art auction houses outside London.

A retired GP, Dr Shannon began collecting silver pieces by Georg Jensen, the Danish silversmith, from the early part of the 20th century, but she went on to buy items by many other jewellery makers, including Castellani and Giuliano, as well as a stunning Georgian garnet-set gold necklace with matching brooch and earrings dating from about 1780.

Some of the pieces are in their original boxes which makes them even more desirable among collectors.

The sale catalogue is a work of art in itself and it will be fascinating to see how much each piece fetches and whether the majority of buyers are from abroad.

In his introduction to the sale catalogue, jewellery expert John Benjamin wrote: “The sheer scale and range of Dr Shannon’s collection can be seen as a road map of jewellery design over the past 200 years ….”

Jewellery by Giuliano in the Dr Anne Shannon sale at Woolley & Wallis, Salisbury. His workshop was in Piccadilly.

Tough decision pays off for Magna Carta

Canon Chancellor Ed Probert pictured with the Magna Carta in its old display case in 2009.

SALISBURY has been in the news yet again, this time because someone tried to damage the priceless Magna Carta in its display in the Chapter House at Salisbury Cathedral.

At least the right security advice was taken when it was put in a new display behind toughened glass for the 800th anniversary celebrations in 2015.

Before then, the document might well have been vulnerable to such an attack, as this photograph shows.

The Salisbury copy of the Magna Carta is the best preserved of the four remaining copies.

Anthem for Doomed Youth

An aerial view of the ceramic poppy installation at the Tower of London in 2014. Each of the 888,246 poppies represented the life of a British or Commonwealth soldier lost in World War I.

THIS is such a moving poem.

It is the featured poem for September 25th in my rather ancient copy of Poem for the Day, so I read it every year. As you can see, Owen was killed just a week before the end of the war.


Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.

No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,

Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs –

The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;

And bugles calling for them from sad shires.


What candles may be held to speed them all?

Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes

Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.

The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;

Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,

And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

 Wilfred Owen

                      March 18th 1893 – November 4th 1918

Quinoa with roast vegetables

QUINOA is one of those ingredients that seem to be everywhere these days. A staple food of South American Incas for centuries, it is known to be an excellent form of protein and contains many other important nutrients. It is gluten-free and makes a tasty alternative to rice and potato, and, interestingly, it is now being grown in Shropshire. As long as the quinoa is well cooked, this recipe is tasty, healthy and good. Quinoa that has not absorbed enough liquid is rather heavy going, I find.

Quinoa with roast vegetables

(Serves 4)


Enough cooked quinoa (see packet for instructions) to serve four

Note: Use vegetable stock, not plain water.

1 red & 1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and sliced

2 red onions, skinned and sliced

6 chestnut mushrooms, each sliced into 4

4 medium tomatoes, halved

Extra virgin olive oil

Tamari soya sauce

To serve: add 2 tbsps toasted pine nuts and garnish with watercress & chopped parsley


Roast prepared vegetables on a lightly oiled flat tin. Brush a mixture of tamari and olive oil on the vegetables and roast in medium oven at 200ºC (Gas Mk6) for about 40 minutes.

Remove from oven, spoon vegetables on quinoa, sprinkle toasted pine nuts on top and serve.

A happy return to the wood

Tilly enjoying being back in the woods after an enforced absence. She was snuffling in leaves and that is why she has got something on her snout.

FOR many weeks we’ve been unable to walk in our favourite place: the beech wood five miles away.

It has therefore been wonderful to head back there in the past few days.

The Happy Moonraker has happy memories of beech woods, both from childhood visits to Box Hill in Surrey and nowadays in South Wiltshire.

Tilly is pretty keen on them too. She squeaks with excitement from the back seat when she realises where we are going. She recognises the bumpy track and the trees closing in on either side as we head up the hill to where we leave the car.

I was quite surprised to see these fungi in the woods a couple of days ago because I would expect to see them in the autumn rather than high summer.

Fungi growing well in the woods. They obviously don’t have an interesting smell because Tilly always ignores them.