It’s A Wonderful World: From Kenya’s Rift To Wenlock’s Edge


Two landscapes a world apart, but for the most part both largely shaped by human endeavour. The first shot is one from the old Africa album: the Great Rift Valley just north of Nairobi. In the foreground is Escarpment, a faulted terrace of the Eastern Rift. The patchwork of fields are smallholdings – some 12 acres, others much smaller. This was one of the study areas for he-who-builds-sheds-and-greenhouses’ doctoral thesis on the smut fungus of Napier grass, an essential staple fodder crop for farmers who, for lack of pasture, zero-graze their cows and sheep (i.e. stock is kept in pens and paddocks and food is delivered to them).

Beyond Escarpment on the Rift floor you can see the yellow wheat fields of large-scale farming concerns. The last time we drove that way from Lake Naivasha there were zebra and other plains game helping themselves to the crop. Zebra in a wheat field? Now there was a sight to excite a Shropshire lass used only to seeing flights of greedy pigeons in her homeland fields.

The hazy peak in the distance is the old volcano, Longonot.

But that was then.

So now to Shropshire – a winter view from Wenlock Edge not far from home: farm fields and the Wrekin, which is not actually an old volcano but a hill composed of lava layers spewed from other volcanoes.


Lens-Artists: wonderful

30 thoughts on “It’s A Wonderful World: From Kenya’s Rift To Wenlock’s Edge

  1. A great post of the two landscapes a world apart. Both largely shaped by human endeavour, fascinating, Tish. Thank you for showing us the difference through your beautiful photos. The farm field is wonderful!

    1. You make a good point, Beverly, and actually we thought the ex-pat community in Kenya – very much international aid types, and of which we were a lowly part, distorted the economic landscape in all sorts of ways.

  2. What a splendid juxtapostion. The view of The Wrekin is almost precisely the one I used to see from home although your lovely shot is from the diametrically opposite side, which just goes to show how symmetrical it is and why it is so distinctive – seeing it always brings me home in a way. Incidentally, I didn’t know it was composed of volcanic rocks and though locals sometimes used to talk about it being an extinct volcano I’d *incorrectly* gathered that it isn’t volcanic at all. But it turns out they were half-correct after all and now I’ve learned something new which is always nice.

    1. Hello, James. Happy to summon your native landscape to the screen albeit from another direction. I always vaguely thought the Wrekin had volcanic origins. I only discovered recently that it was a build up of volcanic ‘residue’.

  3. Both are amazing views, but the African Rift Valley is just exceptional. Pity about all the ex-pats though. I still believe that all foreigners should leave Africa and let them sort themselves out. So much interference hasn’t really helped.

    1. Nairobi is the regional HQ for all the huge aid agencies/UNEP etc I don’t think their presence has done Kenyans much of lasting good in the last 60 years. On the other hand they do create a lot of employment, obviously mostly domestic, clerical and security jobs paid at local rates.

  4. Housman’s ‘coloured counties’ could easily be translocated from Bredon Hill and overlaid on the Great Rift Valley – I can see now why Shropshire has some landscape references to yours and he-who-builds-sheds-and-greenhouses’ past. What larks!
    p.s. I went to a Royal Society talk on the genetic engineering of fodder crops to resist such things as smut fungus – double edged sword no doubt

    1. Lots of Housman allusions in ‘Out of Africa’, so yes, there’s a congruence, Laura. The hills around Lake Naivasha look like a Welsh landscape too. There’s also a view of the Shropshire Hills as you leave Telford in the east of the county, heading west, and the hills line up like a scene from Rider Haggard. That’s interesting about the genetic engineering though. One thing we found was good cultivation practices seemed to avoid it even in an area where smut was prevalent.

      1. Have yet to read Rider Haggard but feel I should as the Riddle of the Sands tantalize!
        Good to hear that there are better ways to prevent smut than GE!!

  5. Beautiful photos. Thanks for the explanation of the landscapes. I did wonder what’s growing in the fields in the escarpment overlooking the rift when we drove past them.

    1. Maize is particular staple, having largely replaced traditional small grain crops such as millet. Beans, squash and sugar cane are also grown. And also a lot of kale, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, potatoes. The Rift smallholder farms produce a wide range of European produce too – e.g. French beans on contract and flowers. V. conveniently there are 3 growing seasons for some produce in this part of Kenya.

      1. I’m not surprised by that. I was taken aback by the vegetable markets. They had a lot of things which are internationally common, but are produced locally.

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