An Elephant In The Garden?

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That would be of the hawk-moth variety, Deilephila elpenor. The elephant in the name is not due to its size, though with a wingspan of one and half to two and half inches (45-60mm) it is quite large, but to the appearance of its caterpillar which has a trunk-like protuberance. The caterpillars like to feed on Rosebay Willowherb and bedstraws found in rough grassland, while the moth prefers to sup on the wing, from dusk till dawn, feeding at tubular flowers such as honeysuckle.

Before this particular Elephant hawk-moth was in the garden, it was in the utility room. We found it on the window blind, but decided it would be better off outside with the honeysuckle. It did not react to being moved or having its photo taken. In fact I think it was asleep. A very striking livery though, as moth colour schemes go.

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Over The Edge And Far Away ~ In Search Of Heath Chapel Beneath The Clee

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Between Wenlock Edge and Clee Hill.

[This photo is by way of a prologue, just to give you a gist of place – a glimpse of the ‘lost world’ where we found ourselves last Friday. This is actually an autumn scene taken from the Wenlock Edge viewpoint, the freshly sown winter wheat just sprouting in the field to the left. Beyond the middle horizon lies Corvedale, one of the loveliest valleys of the Shropshire uplands. Today this country is mainly agricultural land, arable and pasture, but back in the Middle Ages coal was mined on the Clee Hills and the valley then would have gushed with fumes and smoke from blast furnaces and iron foundries – an industrial scene then, and well before the actual  Industrial Revolution of centuries later. And generations before the fumes, in 7th century Saxon Mercia, all this land was a small part of the domain held by Milburga, a Saxon princess and abbess of Much Wenlock’s first convent – a double house for both nuns and monks. Doubtless the Saxon villagers who farmed this land back then would have paid tribute to Milburga’s establishment, or to one of its daughter houses.]

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If in a madcap moment you turn off the Craven Arms-Ludlow road that runs out of Wenlock and along Corvedale, and then head down one of the many side-lanes, you will soon find yourself meandering through tiny hamlets of old stone cottages, farmhouses and the occasional manor with surrounding parkland. Oaks and ash trees shade the narrow byways that dogleg round wheat fields and cattle and sheep meadows, nudge between tall hedgerows of wild flowers, scuttle across farmyards, elbow their way in and out of cramped cottage-clusters where the signpost to the place you are seeking is hidden by trees. Progress, then, can be slow and also nerve-wracking. Mostly the road is only wide enough for one vehicle, and passing places, by way of field gateways, are sometimes scarce. One may spend much time going backwards.

There are no shops or inns and and, now and then, only the sight of an isolated notice board at a crossroads alerts you to the fact of a community’s existence, somewhere behind all the greenery. Of course there are old churches whose towers you may glimpse as you wend and bend through the hinterland. And then there are VERY old churches, and it was the pursuit of one particular ancient chapel that last Friday had lured us into uncharted territory (for us that is), if barely a dozen miles from home.

In short, we were having ‘a day out’, a break from the ongoing domestic chaos that had begun with exchanging an old bathroom for a new one, but then morphed into an unexpected schedule of re-decorating – one big mess somehow multiplying into several others. Also, after last Thursday’s 24 hours of rain, we had seen more than enough of the chaos in particular and of indoors in general.

The road out of Wenlock and into Corvedale is narrow and steep, and as main roads go, is more of a lane to begin with. It wanders up and down through Bourton, Brockton and Shipton, then straightens and widens through Broadstone and Hungerford. But before we reached Munslow we left it, turning off at the staggered crossroads where there’s a sign for Wildgoose Nursery (more of which in another post), zigzagging through Baucott down Sandy Lane, skirting Bouldon (though it looked beguiling), taking a sharp left to Heath, peering through overgrown hedgerows.

And suddenly there it was, alone in its field – and looking just like the Shropshire guide book photos – Heath Chapel built around 1150 CE, and at some point in the late Middle Ages left high and dry by its community which, for reasons unknown, simply ceased to be. In a nearby field you can see the humps and bumps of house platforms that were once its village. In fact the map shows a number of deserted medieval village sites along the dale. All rather mysterious.

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The notice board at the chapel gate tells you that key is hanging behind it. At first I was sceptical. But here it was. A good 10 inches of it.

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I was further surprised to learn from the board that loo facilities are available behind the chapel, along with car parking. I also noted the paths that have been mown across the meadow, and the wrought iron seats placed for quiet contemplation in this secluded spot. Although I soon saw we were not quite alone. Across the field I spotted a small graveyard where three young calves were grazing. While Graham manhandled the huge key to open the chapel I went over to say hello to them.

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Back at the chapel door I considered its rustic Norman arch and the time-line progress of humanity that has passed beneath it: the Saxon serfs of some local Norman overlord, monastic labourers perhaps, since the reach of Wenlock Priory under the rule of the French-speaking Cluniac monks was long, and they had diverse money-making projects, most especially in sheep wool. Later, after 1540 when monastic rule was broken, and Wenlock Borough managed by burgesses, town worthies of the rising merchant classes, perhaps the manor’s lord and lady and their retinue worshipped here. No one knows. The chapel is simply there, silent about its history although there are some tantalizing hints inside.

And inside it was dark, dank and musty, though apparently still sometimes used for worship. Only by holding the door wide open was there enough light to photograph the font.

I weighed up the box pews and thought they would have been little defence against the cold rising from the stone flag floor, or a winter’s wind under the door. But I also noticed something else. Here and there, where the white plasterwork had fallen damply from the walls, there were faint outlines of Gothic text and more besides.

It seems there were once religious texts illuminating the walls above the pews. Later I discovered these were added in the 1600s, inscribed atop the whitewash that had blotted out the earlier medieval wall paintings. And then astonishingly up on the south wall there is the ghost of such a painting, and said to be the image of Saint George. It is a full-scale work, and even these faint vestiges suggest that this modest little chapel was once very grandly adorned. But by whom and why here?

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It was good to step back out into the sunshine. Graham locked the door and the chapel continued to keep its secrets. We walked around the field perimeter and, under a large tree at the furthest point from the chapel, we found a small, and discreetly placed garden shed. The loo. There really was one and provided there by the thoughtful chapel custodians. It also proved an attraction of sorts in its own right and made us laugh when we looked inside.

A valuable introduction into compost toileting arrangements then. The same kindly people who created these facilities presumably had also put a pack of bottled water in the chapel. Heath is in on a popular walkers’ route, and so if you’d forgotten, or finished your own water, you could help yourself to a bottle and drop a donation in the box. It was all so heartening; a piece of English heritage that was well loved and cherished and generously shared by unseen souls.

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View from the loo

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The key re-hung and the gate string re-looped, we returned to the car that Graham had parked tidily in a hedge, and meandered on. More narrow winding lanes – more unfamiliar terrain with Clee Hill now looming on our right, more searching for signposts in the overgrowth which involved a U-turn or two. We headed for Abdon, then Tugford, inching past farm vehicles, slowing for a girl on a horse, narrowly missing being run over by a speeding parcel delivery van, admiring picturesque stone houses with pretty gardens, the well farmed fields, and at last regaining the road home at Broadstone.

Back in Wenlock, we felt we’d been a long way away, and for a very long time. It was that well known Rip Van Winkle effect that often happens in Shropshire if, in a madcap moment, you choose to leave the main road.

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Lens-Artists ~ Taking A Break  This week we’ve followed Tina’s wise advice.

The Changing Seasons ~ July’s High-Summer Gold

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Without a doubt July’s stars in the-garden-over-the-fence are the Dyer’s Chamomile daisies, also known as Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria). They have flowered and flowered for weeks now, spilling out on to field path behind the house, tumbling into the garden through the fence. So much gold from a small packet of seeds bought from Jekka’s Herb Farm.

In fact some of you may remember that back in the winter I was worried about the plants’ survival. Some started flowering late last autumn and were still going in December. I was afraid that after such an untimely show, they would keel over and die. I needn’t have worried. I think they have magic powers, though they do have their foibles. For one thing, they are not early risers, and if you catch them too soon in the day, they will not be properly dressed. Each night as the sun goes down they fold back their petals, tight to the stem so they look like a crowd of golden lollipops. Now there’s a thought to ponder on. It makes me wonder if they do this to attract particular  night-time pollinators.

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And talking of pollinators the garden has been humming with hoverflies, bumbles and honey bees. And now as the month draws to a close, hot on Marguerite’s sunshine heels come Helianthus, Doronicum, Golden Rod, while among them, dots of mauve and purple from Centaurea, Phlox and Drumstick Allium add a touch of flair. What a happy garden. Which of course makes us happy too. So I’m passing it on Sun even though today it is raining here in Shropshire.

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The Changing Seasons ~ July 2019

Please pop over to Su’s to see her changing seasons in the southern hemisphere.

 

Twr Mawr Lighthouse On Llanddwyn Island

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Llanddwyn Island on Anglesey is only an island at high tide. Mostly it is a narrow spit reaching out across Llanddwyn Bay to the mountains of the Welsh mainland. It is named after the early 5th century Christian mystic, Dwynwen who, unhappy in love, is said to have retreated to the island, living out her days there alone. Later she became known as the Welsh patron saint of lovers, and in medieval times pilgrims would flock to the island in hopes of divining the faithfulness of their own loves at Dwynwen’s well. In fact so much revenue was raised from the pilgrims’ quest for true love that in the 16th century a substantial chapel was built on what was believed to be Dwynwen’s own place of sanctuary. You see the chapel ruins if you go there today.

The lighthouse was built in 1845 to guide shipping entering the Menai Strait from the south. Now it serves mostly as a very striking landmark, viewed here on a blustery Christmas morning a few years ago.

Lens-Artists ~ Seascapes

Bugs In My Borders And More About Climate Change

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It’s cool today after yesterday’s roasting, and thinking is easier. I’m still brooding on Boris Johnson’s climate change contentions (quote and article link in previous post) and it occurs to me that when an issue becomes polarized between sceptics and supporters, more energy goes into the argument than the resolution. In other words, nothing gets done and the conflict becomes an end in itself.

A poor end, I might add; the kind that happens in marriages, between nations, in neighbour feuds. And so when it comes to the climate-change sceptics, those cash-loaded, vested-interest, shadowy entities who fund political campaigns, and infiltrate their agendas across our mass media through advertising and sponsorship, then such wily bodies with share-holders to appease are sure to understand this very well. Distract. Confuse. Immobilize.

In some ways, then, whether rapid climate change is caused by humans or is the product of the planet’s own cycles, isn’t the point. The point is we need to act, because we’ve known for decades that environmental degradation affects the climate. If you cut down a forest, there will be less rainfall and more soil erosion. If you overgraze grassland you will create a desert. If you crop, mine or drill for natural resources and leave a wasteland of pollution you threaten the lives of the locals and their resulting survival tactics may only add to the problem.

Another fact: humans have been radically changing the natural environment for 10,000 years, ever since they took up cultivation and herding for a living. There is absolutely no doubt that these events happened. Environmental degradation creates and accelerates human poverty in a multiplier vortex of deprivation. Those of us who live in more privileged conditions may then be alarmed by the threat of arriving migrants, and this in turn starts colouring the complexion of a receiving nation’s politics – and not for the better for any of us.

But many of these things can be fixed. If we want to fix them. And since thinking globally is too big ‘a think’ for most of us, then there is much that can be done on local and regional levels. Here is a stunning example from China. Watch the video and be heartened and amazed. This is what it says about itself:

In 2005, the Chinese government, in cooperation with the World Bank, completed the world’s largest watershed restoration on the upper banks of the Yellow River. Woefully under-publicized, the $500 million enterprise transformed an area of 35,000 square kilometers on the Loess Plateau — roughly the area of Belgium — from dusty wasteland to a verdant agricultural center.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QUSIJ80n50&t=1810s

The further good news is, the Loess Plateau model is now being used to tackle desertification in other parts of the world. So you see we CAN do it. Acting locally, regionally, nationally can go global.

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copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

 

July Squares #26

The Colours of ‘HOT’ ~ Bucolic Shropshire Version

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Today in the UK the heatwave continues, the Met Office predicting an all time July temperature high of 37’C. So things are not looking good on the climate change front. Yesterday Greenpeace volunteers wearing ‘Climate Emergency’ vests and sashes briefly blocked the Boris Johnson motorcade en route to Buckingham Palace where he was to meet the Queen.

Greenpeace say they handed the new PM a guide on how to tackle the climate crisis. But will he take action, they ask. It now transpires, as reported by  Peter Geoghegan at openDemocracy, that both he and Jeremy Hunt received campaign funding of £25,000 apiece from First Corporate Shipping Company, the trading name of Bristol Port whose influential owners, the report says, are climate change sceptics. (Hunt has declared the donation here).

But let Boris speak for himself as he pronounces on the 2015 Paris Climate Summit at the end of his account of a most exerting game of makeshift ping-pong at his office Christmas party:

It is fantastic news that the world has agreed to cut pollution and help people save money, but I am sure that those global leaders were driven by a primitive fear that the present ambient warm weather is somehow caused by humanity; and that fear – as far as I understand the science – is equally without foundation.

 

Boris Johnson The Telegraph 20 December 2015

For further insight into the jolly japes chappie we now have as PM, you can read the whole thing HERE

July Squares #25

Dreaming In Africa

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Long ago when we lived in Africa and far away on Manda Strait in the Lamu Archipelago, Captain Lali dreams. It is late afternoon, the day after Christmas Day, and we have been sailing in Mzee Lali’s small dhow, out exploring the reef and catching a fish or two for a seaboard lunch that will be cooked on a little jiko stove, and served with freshly chopped coleslaw. Even wide awake it seemed like a dream to us.

I’ve posted this photo several times before, as some of you will know. The way time is speeding up, it’s rapidly assuming vintage status. So here’s an ancient Swahili tale to go with it, also one I prepared earlier:

There came a time when Sendibada signed on with a strange sea captain. The next day, as dawn was breaking, the ship cast off, a strong breeze filling the lateen sails, and bearing them swiftly out to sea. But towards noon the wind died, and the boat drifted, becalmed, on still waters.

At this, the captain strode out on the bridge, and began to utter words that Sendibada could not fathom. He stared and stared for, to his astonishment, the ship began to rise, graceful as an egret taking flight. Sendibada grinned. He liked a good adventure, and now it seemed this strange captain of his was none other than the most powerful magician.

Up into the clouds they soared, flying, flying until at last they saw a faraway red spot. But little by little the spot grew, until at last Sendibada saw it was a city in the sky, and that every house there was made of copper. Soon they set down in the harbour and, as the crew made to go ashore, from every quarter, lovely girls came out to greet them, bearing on their heads copper trays laden with the most delicious fruits and sweetmeats and tender roasted morsels.

And so it was that much time passed, the ship’s crew enjoying month after month of this most gracious hospitality. Sendibada, though, was growing homesick, and said as much. Now the magician gave him a round mat and told him how to use it.

Sendibada followed the instructions, placing the mat on the ground and seating himself upon it so that he faced the direction of his home town. Then he spoke the foreign words that meant: Behold! We shall all return to it . And at once the mat rose into the clouds, and faster than a diving hawk, set Sendibada back on the beach just outside his home town.

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

The Copper City  retold from a translated text in Jan Knappert’s Myths and Legends of the Swahili

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Related posts:

Lamu Dreaming

Quayside Lamu

The Swahili

Lens-Artists: Dreamy  This week Ann-Christine is hosting Lens-Artists’ Saturday challenge. If you want to join in, please tag your post ‘LENS-ARTISTS’ and add a link to the challenge post. Or just visit their lovely blogs and be inspired:

Patti https://pilotfishblog.com/

Ann-Christine aka Leya https://lagottocattleya.wordpress.com/

Amy  https://shareandconnect.wordpress.com/

Tina https://travelsandtrifles.wordpress.com/

Out Of The Archive: A Favourite Piece Of Historical Sleuthing

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The family who lived in the Palais de Masena

Believe me, the family gathering depicted in these two murals has more tales to tell than most. They could be the very depiction of Tolstoy’s famous opening to the tragic novel Anna Karenina: (And I paraphrase) all happy families look alike, but the unhappy ones are unhappy in their own inimitable way.

The original post Nice Family? En famille at the Massena Palace continues HERE

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So what spurred me to discover more about these set-piece murals wherein members of an elite Nice family gaze at one another across a palace staircase? Silly question really. It was the mysteries that cropped up – once I paid them closer attention.

For instance why has the blue-bloused woman of the second mural adopted such a vulgarly aggressive stance when the keys hanging from her waist suggest she is mistress of the house, the chatelaine? And who is the droopy waif leaning on her shoulder?And why are so many people lurking, or peering between marble columns. And who is the lovely woman with the macaws and exotic tapestry; is the blue-bloused woman’s look of contempt from across the stairwell meant for her? But most of all, one has to wonder why this family would commission well known French artist François Flameng to show them in this way? Was he having a joke at their considerable expense?

The proposed explanations are in the original post so I won’t repeat them here. But I will tell you that the family members are all descended through intermarriage from three ordinary men, plain soldiers, Masséna, Murat and Ney who through courageous acts rose to prominence in Bonaparte’s army, were appointed Marshals of Empire and thereafter acquired all manner of riches and other grandiose titles.

But the reason this archive post is one is one of my favourites is because the sleuthing involved was so fascinating. I was astonished at how much could be gleaned from a few hours trawling the internet. It seemed like magic – lead after lead revealing a few more snippets about a world distant from me in time and space. And I thought then – this is the world wide web at its best; this is what its creator intended: to share knowledge and information; to open minds and eyes; to enthrall, educate and entertain in positive ways. It could still be like that, couldn’t it…I mean without the hate and fakery?

July Squares #19