Almost the end of Becky’s Past Squares and a final orange fling for Jude’s Life In Colour:
The old railway line
Becky’s entertaining Past Squares month is nearly done, and this week Cee’s black and white photo challenge is vanishing point, and so the two notions seemed to coalesce…
Wenlock Priory ruins
The Linden Walk
Path to Bradley Farm
I thought this marigold square deserved another outing – essence of orange as visual infusion. And yes, I know. I keep writing about this particular cottage garden pharmacopoeia, so just to prove I’m not some old wife telling ill founded tales, here’s a scientific paper that highlights calendula’s potential for all manner of human ills, and calls for a thorough investigation of likely benefits. The list of this plant’s phytoconstituents is breath-taking:
The paper also points out that pot marigold, Calendula officinalis, is used clinically around the globe, especially for skin complaints. This has been so for hundreds of years. It would certainly have been found in the monastic physic garden, and the medieval wife would also have grown it in her kitchen garden, since she was the one responsible for dealing with family ills in an era when ordinary folk had to shift for themselves when it came to illness.
Anyway, just looking at my current marigold horde at the allotment cheers me up. So here’s a further dose:
Today, Jude at Travel Words wants to see examples of edible orange. And just in case you think that only the bumble bees are enjoying my allotment nasturtiums, I have to confess I’ve lately been chomping the flowers whenever I go gardening. At the moment there’s a huge flock of them on the bed where I had broad beans earlier this summer. I’ve no idea how they got there (interspersed with pot marigolds) but they are making a colourful show, and their late arrival (seasonally speaking) means they have escaped depredations from cabbage white caterpillars and aphids.
The flowers are crisp, cool and peppery, and excellent added to salads along with their leaves. The seed heads are also edible, but due to their stronger flavour are perhaps better pickled than eaten ‘neat’.
The garden nasturtium has been much studied for medicinal benefits, and you can see some of the findings in the research paper HERE. This is a quote from the abstract:
The flowers and other parts of the garden nasturtium are a good source of micro elements such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, and macro elements, especially of zinc, copper and iron. The essential oil, the extract from the flowers and leaves, and the compounds isolated from these elements have antimicrobial, antifungal, hypotensive, expectorant and anticancer effects. Antioxidant activity of extracts from garden nasturtium is an effect of its high content of compounds such as anthocyanins, polyphenols and vitamin C.
I shall thus keep chomping until the frost finishes the present crop. Meanwhile, too, the flowers are still available for any late-hibernating bee in need of a pollen fix.
Those who come here often will know that our cottage in Much Wenlock sits at the foot of Townsend Meadow, a field that rises quite steeply to the west and towards the summit of nearby Wenlock Edge. At the Edge top (c 1,000 feet above sea level) the land plummets through hanging woodland of beech, ash and yew to the Shropshire plain below. From our perspective in the undulating Edge uplands above this drop we see the sky above a false horizon that turns this vista into a gallery. Every moment we are treated to ‘cinematic’ sky doings, either viewed over the garden fence, as in the header photo, or from the upstairs’ rooflights as in the next two photos.
There can also be curious effects – strange prisms of light that may be due to cold air rising from below the Edge, a bit like a fire rainbow. I’m sure a weather person can tell me. This next was spotted in early summer on a sunny evening:
I’m also often treated to some good cloud installations when I’m on the field path, to-ing or fro-ing the allotment. A good storm brewing up is always exciting:
Or a quieter top-of-the-meadow sunset:
The wood at the top field corner behind the allotment also goes in for its own cloud formations:
This first photo is a ‘family favourite’ square due to its being the view of Ragleth Hill from my sister’s house taken last Christmas when we were gathered there for lunch. A perfect winter’s day too – sun and moon and no snow.
Across the valley from Ragleth is the Long Mynd, an extended spine of hill, its flanks riven by a number of small valleys, locally known as batches. The best known is Carding Mill Valley, a busy local beauty spot in all seasons.
And back to Ragleth Hill in summer:
There is a noiseless little railway running through the valley, and there is an ancient little town lying at the abbey-gates – a town, indeed, with no great din of vehicles, but with goodly brick houses, with a dozen ‘publics’, with tidy, whitewashed cottages, and with little girls…bobbing curtsies in the street. But even now, if one had wound one’s way into the valley by the railroad, it would be rather a surprise to find a small ornamental cathedral in a spot on the whole so natural and pastoral. How impressive then must the beautiful church have been in the days of its prosperity, when the pilgrim came down to it from the grassy hillside, and its bells made the stillness sensible.
Henry James on Much Wenlock Portraits and Places
A long shot taken back in early February. I was probably standing on the higher slopes of Townsend Meadow, further up the field from the gap in the hedge to the allotment and challenging my camera’s zoom facility to its limit. Here then are the elevated remains of Wenlock Priory’s erstwhile church along with next-door roof glimpses of the Prior’s House, now a private home called The Abbey.
You can also see a cluster of Corsican Pines. I’ve no idea who planted them or why, but there are three groves of them around the Priory so I’m assuming the Milnes Gaskells who once lived at The Abbey (and had Henry James to stay on several occasions and also had the ruins as their own personal garden feature) may have been responsible for their arrival. They are anyway magnificent trees.
There’s more about The Abbey, the Milnes Gaskells and Henry James’ visits at an earlier post: Going behind the scenes in Wenlock Abbey
And also at: When Henry James came to Wenlock
I suppose it’s rather bizarre, but three Septembers ago I arranged a family gathering in the very buildings where my Derbyshire great, great grandfather once kept his horses, oats store and cheese press along with all the usual 19th century small farm paraphernalia. Of course by 2018 the said buildings had been transformed into very smart holiday accommodation which we were renting for a week’s holiday, and by then too any actual family connection with the place and the nearby farmhouse had long been severed; back in 1892 in fact, when the Fox family left Callow Farm after nearly 200 years there.
But then there are other kinds of connection, less tangible, but in some ways more visceral – the place, the landscape, the knowledge that past family members had lived and worked here, had been born and died here, their mortal comings and goings marked in the records and gravestones at St. Michael’s church down in the valley at Hathersage:
The header photo was taken from the barns early one morning, looking across the Derwent Valley to the high moors above Hathersage. Here’s a daylit view:
And here are the barns:
And Callow Farmhouse, now a private home quite separate from the barns, but once home to the Fox family c1700-1892:
You can read more of this story at an earlier post:
Once we Shropshire folk had a very scenic Great Western Railway line that ran along the banks of the River Severn, including passing along the wooded slopes of the Ironbridge Gorge, now a World Heritage site. Just north of Ironbridge there was a branch line to Much Wenlock and South Wales far beyond. Much of the Severn Valley line has gone now, and that also goes for our Much Wenlock branch that once served the limestone quarries and livestock farmers. Mostly all that remains are stretches of track bed that have been overhauled to create walking and cycling routes. But we do still have a working section – the Severn Valley Railway, which is run as a heritage attraction from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster in Worcester where you can also connect with the mainline system. As their strap line claims ‘it’s a great day out.’ And for someone who still remembers travelling in steam trains as a matter of course (visions of Crewe Station where family outings to North Wales began) I still have pangs of nostalgia whenever I’m around a steam locomotive stoking up.
I confess there are times when I think growing our own vegetables is more trouble than it’s worth. On the other hand, I’d be sorry not to have my two allotment plots, though I am thinking of sub-letting a portion of one of them come March. This is mostly because the beds on my newer polytunnel plot are now in a more useable condition after several seasons’ composting. The Wenlock Silurian soil is very challenging, and it’s only taken me a decade and a half to get it to a state where it’s possibly more friable than claggy. Endemic pests are also a problem in community gardens, and especially in situations where plot holders’ early enthusiasm gives way to garden neglect and finally abandonment.
Anyway this last season has had its high points, sweet corn being one of them. We ate the last cobs yesterday, out of a crop of three or four dozen. Doing one’s own growing also means being able to have vegetables that are otherwise only available in tins: e.g. borlotti beans. And then having the polytunnel means that once the tomato and cucumber harvest is over (and that’s been tremendous this year too) I can bring on assorted kales, herbs, lettuces, spinach, endives and mustards for salads over the winter months.
Other successes this year are the raspberries – summer and autumn, strawberries, peas, courgettes, runner and broad beans, beetroot, cauliflowers, carrots, potatoes, onions and pointy cabbages. There are leeks, parsnips, fat winter cabbage, sprouting broccoli, and hopefully butter beans still to come. The squashes were a bit of a failure: two undersized Chioggia efforts, though I did turn one of them into some very good spicy soup today.
As ever with gardening, as one gathers in and eats the produce, so one is ever plotting the next seasons’ sowing, planting and eating.