In The Red ~ Iron Bridge Makeover

IMG_1727cr

For much of last year this 240-year-old bridge was under wraps while English Heritage engineers carried out major repairs on the iron work. And it was during this process that the original paint colour of the world’s first cast iron bridge was discovered – a rusty red. This seems to have struck many as surprising, probably because in the living memory of most Shropshire folk, the bridge has either been lugubrious black (as I remember it in the 1960s) or battleship grey – its most recent shade before the overhaul.

P1000843

*

And this is how it looked last week bathed in May sunshine. A much more jaunty effort.

IMG_1711

That the bridge was originally this colour, or as near as can be recreated, was documented at the time. While Abraham Darby III was having it built (between 1779 and its official opening in 1781) he commissioned some promotional artwork from William Williams. He wanted to show the wide world what marvels could be created using cast iron.

Iron Bridge

William Williams c 1780 Cast Iron Bridge near Coalbrookdale  Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust

*

Needless to say, as with all propaganda, inconvenient truths have been elided from the view, and we have instead notions of paradisal punting and extreme millinery rather than the filthy outpourings of riverside ironworks and coke burning furnaces that were actually in the vicinity. (And don’t forget the ear-splitting soundscape of clanging steam hammers and the general clamour of the wharves and boat-building yards).

In fact if you want an image of where man-made global warming began or a metaphor of how some of us prefer to deny responsibility for the damage caused by our industrial excesses, then this painting could well serve the purpose. Beguiling, isn’t it?

Standing on the freshly caparisoned bridge today and looking at a river empty of the the fleets of trading barges that once plied these waters from early monastic times and into the 19th century, the lush hanging woodland of the Severn Gorge all around, it is hard to believe that the Industrial Revolution had its roots here; that the innovations in iron making and casting made by the Darby dynasty and John (Iron Mad) Wilkinson sparked the multiplier effect of technological invention (from the soul-sapping iron-framed textile factories of the north to the transport systems of Stephenson and Brunel) and so on around the world; and that now, after all the excitement and technical derring-do and ingenuity we’re left to contemplate the mess that industrialisation has made of the planet.

However, on a warm afternoon in May, with the little town of Ironbridge quietly hosting the season’s first sightseers, it seems altogether like too much irony (cast, rolled, puddled or wrought). We’ll just enjoy the views then.

IMG_1713

IMG_1714

IMG_1715

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Six Word Saturday Pop over to Debbie’s to see her wonderful naked man.

Columbine Clouds ~ The Wednesday Garden

IMG_2153

As may have been gathered by those who come here often, a lot of cloud watching goes on at Number 31. Hours can drift by as we monitor movements above Wenlock Edge, the visual effects further enhanced by the false horizon created by the rising slope of Townsend Meadow. But then, with the full-on blooming of the columbines over the fence, I had the notion of cloud watching from a new perspective, one that involved some activity on my part.

It turned out to be a tad challenging on the knees, but I was pleased to have this bugs’-eye view of the flowers, and also to spot a tiny spider sheltering under the columbine canopy.

So many ways to avoid writing the magnum opus.

IMG_1441

Today Is World Bee Day

IMG_2164

Three days ago the World Wildlife Fund and Buglife published their joint report on the state of British bees in the East of England. Their findings were based on the monitoring work of research institutions across a region whose great range of habitats make it potentially bee-rich territory. Some 228 species were included in the study.

And the conclusions:

• 25 species (11%) threatened

• 17 species (7%) regionally extinct

• 31 species (14%) of conservation concern

And the reasons? Climate change, habitat loss, pollution, disease and agricultural pesticides of the neonicotinoid variety (now banned by the EU). The report gives a county by county list of lost species, the ones most affected being solitary and rare species that occupy very specific wildlife niches: e.g. coastal dunes, heaths, woods, wetlands and brownfield sites such as old quarries and gravel pits. But it is not all bad news. At least that is to say there has been an increase in common food pollinating bee species – possibly a result of the more extensive growing of oil seed rape and efforts by farmers to create field margins to support bee populations.

For anyone interested in bees the report is packed with species specific information and excellent photos, and outlines many practical strategies for re-establishing lost diversity and habitat. In other words WE CAN DO SOMETHING.

Talking of which, my bee photos were taken yesterday morning, the first of the year, and out in the guerrilla garden on the field margin, where I have planted (among other things) verbascum grown from seed a couple of years ago. It is such a stately plant and comes in many colours (common name mullein). Certainly this particular little bumblebee (red-tailed, male?) seemed very excited by the newly opening flowers.

IMG_2163

 

Related: UN World Bee Day

Delicate Distinctions In The Great Rift

Scan-130601-0004

Scan-130601-0003

I mean to say are these my memories caught in decomposing film, the photos taken long ago on the shores of Lake Elmenteita? Or are these scenes simply mirages?

There’s no way to be absolutely sure.

But then I do recall distinct sensations – eyes stinging in the corrosive cocktail of flamingo guano and volcanic soda – a circumstance that could well account for the blurriness of these vistas. The acrid deposits along the water’s edge also made my nose curl and run. And then there was the disorientating honking and grunting of lessers and greaters, so oddly amplified over the shallow lake. That pale pink mist was strange too, as if some unseen hand had released it for theatrical effect. And finally there were the chilly first-light temperatures which ever argued with a determined point of view that equatorial climes could not possibly be so frosty.

Sometimes in Africa it was hard to know which way was up.

IMG_0003

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Lens-Artists: Delicate This week Ann-Christine shows us delicacy in many exquisite forms. Please pay her a visit and be inspired.

Today In The Garden ~ Granny’s Bonnets Galore

IMG_1614

I’ve said before there’s a lot goes on in our garden that has little to do with me. This month’s aquilegia/columbine/granny’s bonnets invasion is just one of them.  Year after year they self-seed and appear in subtly new colour variations. Sometimes the mauve palette predominates, sometimes the pink and claret. This year there are several white ones with mauve hints, and also some new salmon pink ones that have chosen to grow in amongst the Gloire de Dijon climbing rose which is just about to break into blooms of the very same shade. Makes you wonder if the Grannies have more than bees in their bonnets. I mean, did they plan this?

IMG_1607

Out in the guerrilla garden (between our back fence and the field) the Grannies are growing in thickets. They have also crept round to front garden for the first time this year, though last year I did plant a species yellow one out there (a plant rescued from an abandoned allotment plot) in hopes that in time it might mingle with the residents and create some new shades.

IMG_1563

IMG_1561

IMG_1586

And then besides the Granny’s Bonnets, there are the self-gardening Welsh poppies, forget-me-nots and perennial geraniums (which also mingle and change colour). Soon there will be foxgloves and corn cockles, and if we’re lucky, the opium poppies may visit us again. When friends ask us if we’re going away, we always feel a touch bemused. With so much going coming and going outside the back door, why would we need to?

IMG_1618

IMG_1589

IMG_1599

Whenever we can, we sit on the bench at the top of the garden, stare at clouds (though there wasn’t a single one this morning when I took these photos), listen to the racketing of rooks, the keening call of buzzards, watch the jackdaws fly over, hear the garden buzz, observe the wood across the wheat field as it changes in shade and texture day by day, exchange greetings with a passing walker on the field path. And we think – this is a good place to be; a very good place.

IMG_1556

Garden Gold ~ Calendula Officinalis

IMG_1532

In medieval times the flowers of the common pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) were included in ‘a cure’ for bubonic plague – added to the finely ground shells of new laid eggs and stirred in with treacle and warm beer; to be drunk night and morning. I’m not sure about the powdered egg shell, but the rest of it sounds quite heart-warming. And that’s the best thing about marigolds: simple to catch sight of them lifts the spirits, and lifted spirits are an essential part of wellness and wellbeing. So here is some Friday morning ‘medicine’ from the allotment, marigolds self-sown and grown without one finger’s worth of help from me – a free and lovely gift from Planet Botanic.

Copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

All Quiet In The Mara?

Scan-140726-0025

This week at the Lens-Artists, Tina explores the concept of harmony. There are of course many ways of thinking about it  – physically and metaphysically, in terms of colour, music, flavours, composition, structures, relationships, (angelic choirs even). My first thought, though, was of the East African plains: harmony in the sense of the natural cycle of things; every species occupying its niche within the grasslands ecosystem; harmony with edge since eating and being eaten also come into it. This photo, taken at sundown, could also be seen as harmony – at least from the human perspective – a case of the pathetic fallacy perhaps: disparate creatures roaming and grazing peacefully together in the  wilderness idyll, all bathed in golden late-day light. On the other hand, and I am not absolutely sure about this,  but there could well be a hyena on the prowl – the tiny brownish entity, slightly dog-like, a zebra and a half in from the right, and just below the bough of the right hand thorn tree. Harmony about to be interrupted then.

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Lens-Artists: harmony

April’s Changing Seasons: Leaves, Lambs And A New MacMoo

 

IMG_1524

We’ve had three seasons this April – spring, summer and winter, some frost, lots of cold wind, a week of barbeque weather, more wind (thank you Storm Hannah), but no April showers, or at least only a couple of days’ worth. And now spring is back and we have leaves – lots and lots in their best, shiniest, juiciest green. In the last ten days the Linden Walk has turned from this:

IMG_8172

…to this:

IMG_1513

Also this week we have a new Highland bull calf in the Cutlins meadow. This morning as we were lingering on the path watching him, an elderly Wenlockian passing with her West Highland terrier informed us that the proud mother is a Welsh champion. We agreed she certainly has a fine set of horns, but she doesn’t strike us as the sort of cow who would be much impressed by awards. While we were there she was anyway much engaged with a tree stump trying to relieve a very tenacious itch. Meanwhile young MacMoo was attempting to muscle in on the scene.

IMG_1475

IMG_1477

IMG_1478

IMG_1485

IMG_1465

IMG_1460

IMG_1452

The magpie in the last shot looks to have found a handy source of nesting material.

And now a general Wenlock April round up.

 

The Changing Seasons

Pop over to Su’s for more changing seasons.

From The Side-lines ~ Digging Not Flooding

P1070549ex

Our cottage is rather short, the upstairs rooms being contained mostly by open roof space rather than walls. Also, the house itself is set in the side of a steep bank between Townsend Meadow and the main road, which means the best views  (our only good ones) are from the bedroom roof-lights. These windows all face west and overlook the field towards Wenlock Edge and the big sky above.

Much time can pass at these windows, studying cloud movements or the wheeling of rooks and jackdaws.  Sometimes the odd soul (with or without companionable dog) walks by on the field path just beyond our garden gate, and sometimes on Monday mornings, the town’s entire ‘walk for health’ mob, several dozen strong with high-vis vested leaders and bringers-up of rear, trails by. Now and then, too, the farmer can also be spotted, driving his latest substance-spraying rig back and forth across the crop (this week it was a top-dressing of fertiliser for the wheat which – after the rain – is already shooting up like multiples of Jack’s beanstalk). So given this general lack of activity out back, the appearance of a big digger and very large dump truck on the near horizon was an exciting event.

The work in progress (over the brow of the hill and out of sight in the field’s top corner) is the excavation of an attenuation pond. (There is another larger one to the south of the town). They are basically reservoir basins, but without water – designed to stem the impact of any flash flood off  Wenlock Edge. The town sits in a bowl between the Edge and several hills, and has been designated a rapid response flood zone. This sounds alarming, and indeed could well be, but the conditions for flash flooding are very particular: i.e. if a severe storm hits our catchment after prolonged periods of rain when the ground is sodden, or in winter after hard frost. Water that cannot drain into the land flows into adjacent roads which then act like rivers, speedily conducting the run-off into the town centre. This can all happen in the space of 20 minutes.

As far as we know, and despite its shortness and low-lying position, our house has no history of being flooded. In the last big flood of 2007 the water seemed to flow around us. I watched the rain pour off the garden terraces behind the house, flow by the kitchen door in a fast running stream before emptying on to the main road where it doubtless contributed to the flooding of properties downstream of us.

It was unnerving to see, and later we heard that at least 50 houses in the centre of town had their cellars and ground floors deluged. That evening, coming home from work across the Edge, Graham had to abandon the car on the far side of town and take an upland ‘cross-country’ route home.

How well the ponds will serve us is yet to be demonstrated. After 12 years without a flood, it is easy to imagine that it won’t happen again, though last month The Man from the Environment Agency did come specially to town to tell us we must remain vigilant. As many round the world know to their cost, climate change is responsible for an increase in extreme weather events and, in the most extreme scenario, our ponds will only slow the flow, not stop it. There are probably further measures that could be taken: urging (enforcing would be better) landowners to plant more trees, create more flood plains  round water courses, stop selling their land for large housing developments whose roofs and access roads accelerate run-off.

For now, though, all thanks are due to the workforce who toiled, excavating and landscaping the ponds, which may one day save our most vulnerable residents the distress of having to spend a year and more drying out a flooded home. In the meantime, I keep watching the sky over Wenlock Edge. At times when the rain closes in, day after day without let up, it’s easy to wonder: is this flooding rain?

P1070129cr

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

 

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: from the side