This Morning Over The Garden Wall…

P1060315

…we have a forest of Granny’s Bonnets. How did so many of them blow in and settle here?

We do of course confess to a spot of guerrilla gardening on our boundary with the field, and this does involve a tacit understanding with any passing flower life that if we clear back the couch grass and other less interesting invaders outside our hedge, wall and fence, then they are welcome to drop in for the spring and summer season. Two years ago we had the profusion of opium poppies. Then there was a borage jungle. This year the aquilegias are claiming the stage.

Further along the boundary behind our old privies, creamy flowered comfrey has also arrived, and feverfew is a frequent visitor there too. Beyond the privies is the fence, upon which he-who-builds-sheds-and-binds-books likes to lean while ruminating on the next project. Here I have encouraged purple-spired toadflax, wild stock, pink campion, moon daisies and foxgloves to multiply and, in the past, scattered corn cockle seeds that now self-propagate and put on annual show. I also move any ‘spare’ herbaceous perennials out there too – especially plants of the late summer, clump-forming variety that will stand in when the wildflowers have gone their way: Rudbeckia, perennial sunflowers, Golden Rod, Michaelmas daisies, phlox and helenium.

It’s a sort of give-and-take gardening with borrowed landscape (and in every sense). It gives great pleasure, not only to us, but to anyone passing on the field path. You never quite know what will be happening out there. At present, too, the rapeseed blooms are providing a golden backdrop. Though not for too much longer because, even as I am writing this, the crop is busy setting seed. Then it will be on to the next scene  at the guerrilla garden theatre. Us the ever-willing audience.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

P1060306

Following In The Footsteps Of The Green Man

Clunton and Clunbury, Clungunford and Clun, are the quietest places under the sun.

A E Housman A Shropshire Lad

P1050735

We arrived in Clun last Tuesday in summer weather and headed for the Bridge Cafe. The little South Shropshire town was indeed quiet, although the young woman at the cafe apologised for still being in a bit of a confusion after the town’s two-day Green Man Festival. It was quite a do from all accounts, and the Green Man duly defeated the Ice Queen after heavy battling on the bridge.

One can easily imagine, too, that if the Green Man still lived anywhere, then it would be in the Clun Valley. The mysterious manifestation of spring renewal has ancient roots, possibly Celtic, or maybe older still, back in Stone Age. Trees and greenery have anyway long been reverenced in many cultures across the world. And you will certainly see his face peering from a garland of leaves among the carvings and gargoyles of many medieval churches.

crop

But I forgot to look for him at the parish church of St. George, our next stop up the hill from the cafe. I was too diverted with other finds there. Most particularly the graves of playwright John Osborne and his journalist wife, Helen Osborne. John Osborne blazed into the theatrical world with Look Back In Anger (1956) and The Entertainer (1957) changing British theatre forever. In fact he changed the air we breathed in post-war England, especially in the sixties when his plays were often performed. We grew up questioning establishment mores. These were the days of activism.

After his death, Helen honoured his wishes to hang on to their house, The Hurst, at nearby Clunton – this despite massive debts – and later ensured that it would serve future would-be writers. It is now one of the three homes of the world famous Arvon Foundation that nurtures creative writing and writers on its residential courses.

P1050748

Let me know where you’re working tomorrow night and I’ll come and see you

Inscription on John Osborne’s grave

*

The church itself is very old, begun in the C12th, but added to in the C13th, C14th, and C17th centuries and considerably and carefully restored in 1877. It has some fine Norman arches, and a magnificent timber ceiling with added angels. Also in the porch are some interesting C18th and C19th boards announcing  donations by the well off to the poor of the parish. Beyond the acts of generosity, the public proclamation of them at the church door rather struck me as more of a bid to ensure holy favours for the donors.

P1050743

 

*

One of the most pleasing aspects of St. George’s are the fine views of the countryside from the churchyard. The town itself has a population of around 700.

P1050758

From the church it’s back down the hill and over the river, and up another hill into the main street where there is a butcher’s, a Spar supermarket, two inns, a gift shop, hair salon, hardwear store, cafe and (in the old town hall) a small museum. By the time we got there, after stopping to eat some very fine fish cakes in the Malt House Cafe, the summer weather had gone, so the following photos have lost their sunny lustre.

The museum is well worth a visit – mostly for its quirkiness. It is very much the community attic (and none the worse for that in my professional museum person’s opinion). It houses a melee of artefacts and memorabilia dating from 10,000 years ago (Mesolithic micro-flints used in the making of harpoons) to the silk dress worn by one Mrs Nora Bright in 1928. Hanging on the wall there is also a horrific mantrap (use illegal in England since 1827 apart from within houses at night to deter thieves). Alongside are spears and various agricultural implements, and in nearby Victorian display cases there’s an array of prehistoric flint tools, a Roman bead, and the once personal belongings of Clun’s inhabitants. Upstairs the display is more themed and mostly features military and war-time service uniforms with associated period objets. You can also rifle through three files of the town’s photographic collection – a must for those with tendencies to nosiness.

P1050863

 

 

*

Back into town:

 

We had saved the best of this visit until last. Because Clun also has a castle – or at least some very dramatic ruins thereof. The only problem was, by the time we reached it, the weather gods had opened the door and let winter back in. So much for the Green Man’s conquest of the Ice Queen. Not only was it too cold to explore – the sudden wind cutting us in half, but the light was very poor. So these next photos only give a quick view of this ancient Norman motte and bailey fortress. But just look at the scale of the earthworks – and think of the enforced human-power necessary to construct them.

Norman rule was all about domination of locals. The castle was built to control the rebellious souls of the Welsh Marches in the late C11th  by one of King William’s marcher lords, Picot de Say. In 1155 it passed by the marriage of Isabella de Say into the powerful Fitzalan dynasty (later known as the Earls of Arundel).

P1050806

P1050808

*

English Heritage kindly provide a visual reconstruction for the year 1300 as drawn by Dominic Andrews, by which time life was less martial in aspect, and lords in castles also went in for pleasure gardens. You can see them in the right hand top corner. The castle also had its own farm (bottom right) and accommodation with associated trades for the soldiers and servants (left outer bailey).

P1050812cr

P1050823

P1050803

P1050814

P1050813

And with this final very green view of the Clun Valley and of St. George’s church, Dr. and Mrs. Farrell hotfooted it back to the car before it started to rain.

I’m linking this to Jo’s Monday Walk. I’m thinking she might have paid Clun a wee visit during her Shropshire safari last summer.

A Bit Of Magic On Monday ~ Quintessentially Exquisite Quince Flowers

I discovered the quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) at the allotment only last year. It was hanging in large golden fruits like overfed pears. They had a subtle fragrance too. And I was entranced. It seemed as if the tree had materialised from out of some ancient Persian painting. Later I discovered that this was indeed one of its homelands (in that belt of southwest Asia between Armenia, Turkey, North Iran and Afghanistan). On Saturday evening as I was going home, I caught the tree on the last lap of flowering – petals like finest Dresden porcelain. What a treasure. And then I started thinking about quince jelly and quince ‘cheese’ – the dulce de membrillo – as made on Spain’s Iberian peninsula and eaten with Manchego cheese. And then I thought how very generous is the plant world to human kind.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Look What I Found At The Allotment Yesterday – An Unexpected Cauliflower

IMG_3280

As vegetables go, cauliflowers are sneaky entities. I could swear there were no signs of this one a few days ago. In fact  when I ventured to lift the protective mesh to give the outer leaves a prod, I decided it was probably a cabbage. It and the four other ‘cabbages’ were looking pretty healthy too – an astonishing feat after three lots of winter snow and months of never ending rain.

I bought the seedling plants on line in October from Delfland Nursery, along with sprouting broccoli plugs which have also grown strongly and served us well. I’ve used this company several times, and they are brilliant when you have forgotten to think ahead and sow for autumn and winter crops. Or just forgotten.

Anyway, after the long overwintering I thought the ‘cabbages’ deserved a feed and gave them the last of some vintage homemade comfrey liquor which I discovered in the polytunnel during an unlikely phase of tidying. That was a couple of days ago. And look what happened. I’m going to try for giant beanstalks next, though promise not to facilitate the advent of any outsize fee-fi-fo-fumming individuals. A hen that lays golden eggs might be fun though.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Inside A Copper Beech Looking Out

The beech tree is in Much Wenlock’s Linden Field ~ the place where the modern Olympic Movement had its beginnings in 1850

And every July the Wenlock Olympian Games are still held on and around the Linden Field and at the adjacent William Penny Brookes School, which is fittingly named after the Games’ founder.

Six Word Saturday

Coming Home From The Allotment ~ The Priory Ruins At Sunset

Lately heavy labouring on the Farrell allotment plots has been taking precedence over blogging. Tasks have included sowing, weeding, mulching, path mowing, plot edging, erecting pea and bean sticks, planting out the broad bean seedlings (long pod, crimson flowered and the Sutton varieties), beetroot (golden, boltardy and cylindrical), cauliflower, broccoli and pea seedlings.

I have also recycled several builder’s pallets (rescued from the communal bonfire heap) to make two new compost bins, and to extend an existing one into a double-bay effort. And I have been gathering comfrey, grass cuttings, shredded cardboard, household peelings and whatever greenery I can crop from neighbours’ neglected plots to feed the bins. I am aiming for mega-quantities of compost come the autumn so I can give all the raised beds a deep protective layer that will hopefully prevent the soil from turning into concrete over the winter, which is what happened to any exposed surface this year.

In the polytunnel over-wintered lambs lettuce, Chinese mustards,  leeks, Russian and Tuscan kale are being eaten and/or cleared to make way for the tomatoes, peppers and the single cucumber plant that I managed to germinate. All in all, it feels like a gardening marathon, but doubtless it will (mostly) be worth it. And one good thing about being up at the allotment at this time of year is the chance of taking sunset photographs of the town on the way home.

First though evidence of the labours:

And now we’ve got the gardening done, more early evening shots around town as I head home; views from south through east to north-east:

P1050500

P1050893

P1050563

P1050565

P1050895

P1050733

P1050568

Daily Post: Place in the World

Flower of the Day ~ Wild Arum Lily

P1050695

Last week I found an arum lily behind our garden fence. On Sunday afternoon I found another fine specimen growing in the shade of the lime tree walk in our nearby Linden Field. I had gone there to photograph the lime trees coming into leaf, and the avenue was a haven of leaf shadow and dappled light, and wonderfully cool in our unexpected heatwave. There was also the heady whiff of wild garlic. The plants whose leaves I had been cropping earlier in the year were bursting with white star flowers. You can eat those too. But you definitely can’t eat the arum lily, also known as Cuckoo-pint (pint to rhyme with mint), Lords-and-Ladies, Parson in the pulpit and Willy lily  – though the roots were apparently once crushed to make household starch for crisping up Elizabethan ruffs (Richard Mabey Flora Britannica).

P1050685

Cee’s Flower of the Day