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

Stepping Through Time And Space In the Malvern Hills [Cue Edward Elgar]

Lately I’ve been thinking you don’t need to go far from home to find other worlds; places where you feel taken out of yourself and far removed from familiar routines. And so it proved last weekend. We crossed the southerly border out of Shropshire, and climbed into the Malvern uplands. On either the hand, east and west, the farming shires of Worcester and Hereford spread out beneath us, Gloucestershire to the south; in every sense, then, the green pastoral heart of England. And it was all thanks to my sister Jo and her chap, Bob, who were kind enough to take us away with them for three nights in Peacock Villa in a quiet wooded corner of the Eastnor Estate.

IMG_8085

I should say at once that the cottage did not come with peacocks, but it did have a fine view of an obelisk. And there was silence too. Lots of silence when the pheasants weren’t calling or the woodpeckers drilling. And by night the kind of darkness that allowed you to gaze and gaze at the stars.

When I woke on Saturday morning this was the scene from the bedroom window.

IMG_1135

The 5,000 acre Eastnor Estate belongs to descendants of the Somers Cocks family whose antecedents arrived in Eastnor at the end of the 16th century. The family grew in wealth and status during the 18th century, and by 1811 was building for itself a Neo-Norman extravaganza that is Eastnor Castle, a country pile of (deemed) appropriate grandeur for the Ist Earl Somers. The obelisk, which stands on the highest easterly point from the castle displays inscribed highlights of the Somers Cocks family’s political successes and dynastic unions. It also commemorates the loss of a son, an intelligence officer on the Duke of Wellington’s staff who died in 1812 during  the Peninsular War (1807-14) (wherein British forces were protecting Portugal during the conflict between Napoleon and Bourbon Spain). If you stand with your back to the westerly face of obelisk you can see the castle and the deer park. On a hazy late March day it all looks more than a touch surreal.

IMG_1234

Later that morning we took to the path through Gullet Woods behind the house, climbing ever upwards on well-worn tracks to the Malvern Hills. Our objective, a mile or so along the ridgeway from Swinyard Hill (though after much upping and downing) was British Camp on the Herefordshire Beacon. This magnificent prehistoric cum early Middle Ages site, is a multi-phased hillfort begun in the Bronze Age three and half millennia ago, re-worked and massively ramparted and inhabited in the Iron Age and then, a thousand years on, adapted into a Saxon ring and bailey castle, perhaps by Earl Harold Godwinson himself (the future but short-lived king of England). Next, under Norman rule and during The Anarchy (1135-1153) of King Stephen’s reign, the motte and bailey  were refortified and serially occupied by Waleran de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Worcester, and then by his brother, Robert de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Leicester.

At its highest point British Camp stands at 1,109 feet (338 metres), and when you reach it and look out on the ridgeway tracks that snake over hill after hill you know you’ve reached the top of the world; that you’re standing on ground once walked over by prehistoric Celts, that resounded to the drumming hooves of horses as Harold and his men set off on a day’s hunting; that later rang to grim sounds of battle during The Anarchy, and finally to the shouts and hammering of determined demolition in 1155 under King Henry II.

All of which is to say my photos scarcely do British Camp justice, nor show the scale and immensity of the hand-dug Iron Age ramparts, but you can find some stunning aerial views and a detailed survey of the site  HERE

IMG_1013

IMG_1166

IMG_1172

IMG_1177

IMG_1183

IMG_1182

IMG_1190

IMG_1191

A VERY BIG THANK YOU, JO AND BOB

 

And now for Elgar who loved and lived near these hills during different phases of his life.

If ever after I’m dead you hear someone whistling this tune on the Malvern Hills, don’t be alarmed, it’s only me.

Edward Elgar referring to his Cello Concerto:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HqkrwgbsZ8

 

See also Ken Russell’s marvellous, if rather dated b & w  1962 film on Elgar, Portrait of a Composer. This is the link to the first of 4 parts. Watch it, if only for the opening sequence:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JM2YGJCjAEA&list=PLA4421A4FC372EEDE

 

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

 

Linking this to Jo’s Monday Walk

Please pop over there for a marvellously blue-sky excursion.

 

Out In The Late Day Sun

IMG_0593

Usually when it comes to lime tree photos, I’m snapping the Linden Walk which is just a short trot from the house. But when I walked up there on Sunday afternoon the photos I took of it looked flat and gloomy. It was only as I was heading for home that there was a sudden change in the weather. Sun. Here it is shining through the lime trees that line the road beside the Linden Field. And here it is marking an end to our recent bout of storms and rain. At least for the next week or so. Time to get sowing and planting.

Spiky Squares #20

Signs Of Spring In Rookery Wood

The things I do. Yesterday’s twilight with its magnificent post-storm sky had me standing on the cabin bed in my study and resting my camera on the open rooflight. If I use lots of zoom I can spy on the rooks in the wood on Sytche Lane.  At this time of year there’s much to watch. For one thing they are making some serious extensions to their old nests.

IMG_0627

For another, now is the time when the more spectacular ‘fly pasts’ begin. There seem to be two modes. The first kind involves a sudden outburst in the rookery (there are jackdaws in the wood too). For no apparent reason all the roosting birds whoosh out over the meadow, bowl around in a swirling mass and then return to the trees as if nothing had happened. The second kind is a much bigger production and usually happens around sunset or shortly afterwards. It seems to be about a gathering in of rook cohorts from the four quarters, a reconfirmation of rookery membership perhaps (?) –  this after their day’s foraging around the fields.

As they return to the rookery so the aerial dance begins: sometimes high above Townsend Meadow, at others in high-speed mass swoops at ground level. It is very exhilarating. And perhaps that’s it. The display is an expression of rookish joi de vivre. And why not? If I were selling my house, I would say the view of rooks from the study rooflight is a very particular asset, though maybe not for the ornithophobic or anyone with a tendency to vertigo.

IMG_0630

Spiky Squares #18

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Thursday’s Special: Desert Dawn

37

We’ve been suffering serious gales and wetness in the UK, and it’s set to persist, bluster and precipitate for several more days yet. Which has me thinking of dryness and deserts and heat and stillness and no wind. This photo was taken early one morning in the desert outside Dubai. It was around 5 a.m. and I had just given up the battle of trying to sleep in an igloo tent while close by our guide snored loudly in the open back of his 4×4. And when I walked out alone and saw all this, what could I say. Who cares about mangled limbs and a sleepless night? Why would I?

Thursday’s Special  This month Paula challenges us to show her any or all of the following: inversion . circuitous . corniculate . sabulous . interstice . I’m definitely claiming the last two in this shot, and also some circuitous tyre tracks. And then there’s inversion – the up and down-ness of the dunes and sand ruts, the light versus shade, the cool of sunless valleys versus sun-warmed peaks. I suppose at a push too, you might say the distant small lumps and bumps are reminiscent of newly erupting horns?

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

February’s Changing Seasons: All Catkin Gold In Wenlock

The last day of February, and we had been promised a change in the weather, an elemental side-swipe from the Atlantic bringing an end to our surprise spring fling and our ‘nearly 10 degrees warmer than usual’. So I thought I’d better get this written yesterday as a small celebration of a final perfect day (cue Lou Reed). At lunchtime the errand of posting a letter turned into a full-scale ramble around the town. It had to be done. The sun was hot, the air still, and the lane to Downs Mill beckoned. But first there were the highland cattle to commune with, and bees and tortoiseshell butterflies in the Cutlins cherry blossom, and on the lane past the priory ruins there were sunny banks of violets and celandines, while in the parkland fields on either hand, sheep-mothers-to-be were quietly grazing, waiting for lambs to happen.

Here, then, are some scenes from my perfect Much Wenlock day. Thank you, beneficent nature entities, and especially for all those happy humming bees in the cherry tree.

*

And now for the ‘aaah’ moment:

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

P.S. The weather people were right. We woke to rain on the skylight and grey skies and February more as we know it.

 

Changing Seasons: February 2019

 

Strange Cloud Over The Edge And Other Isolated ‘Objects’

The Allotment Power Line. I take many photos of this particular pole:

P1000584

*

Ash Tree in Townsend Meadow and sun setting over Wenlock Edge:

P1000591

*

A mysterious item found on my way to the allotment. It might just be a dinosaur egg about to hatch. It has anyway disappeared since I took this photo:

P1000567

*

My summer path to the allotment – a throng of Queen Anne’s Lace:

100_5622cr

 

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Isolated Objects

Maasai Mara Landscape ~ A Warrior’s View

Scan-140726-0014 (2)

Scan-131109-0032

Scan-131114-0001

Scan-140731-0030 (2)

I’ve written about the Maasai Mara in other posts. Here’s an excerpt from a piece that was long-listed in the Brandt Travel Guide competition ages ago:

Dances with warriors

Night on the Mara River – darkness wraps round, close as a Maasai’s blanket.  It is cold, too, on the river’s bend. We press closer the campfire, our white faces soon roasting red. No one speaks. There’s too much to listen for. A hyena whoops across the water?  It sounds close. It sounds unearthly, sending shock waves through vulnerable bones – mine, conjuring packs of predators, out there, circling our ring of light. And even as I think it the Maasai are on us.  Six warriors, spears in hand and naked to the waist.  Their leader tosses his ostrich-feather head-dress that looks like a lion’s mane.  He is fearless.  He is lion.

Then the singing starts, a nasal falsetto that resonates through time and space – the winds’ whine through Mara grasses.  The Maasai girls trip lightly into the firelight, their wraps like flames – yellow, red; close-cropped heads hung with beads; chins jutting forward as the crescent necklets – tiny beads so patiently strung – rise and fall on skinny chests.  The moran start to leap – higher, faster.

Their dance fires the blood as it was once meant to in the days when the young morani proved their courage by killing a lion; but we see the collecting box left discreetly in the grass.  These kids are from the nearby settlements, but before I unravel the question of exploitation – theirs or ours – the dancers pounce, dragging us into a conga, pastoralist-style.  I let the Maasai girl take my hand.  She’s about fourteen years old and she is boss. After all, this is her land – the big skies and the rippling oat grass, and our small camp in the outer reserve remains there only on her clansmen’s say-so.  The hand that grips mine is small and hard.

So I follow her, graceless in the rhythms I cannot fathom, wend with the snake of dancers on and round the camp. The dancers know we’re squeamish and should not be put at risk, so we stray no further than the firelight’s edge, never crossing the bounds of the vast out there.

And of course, being on safari, and staying at a luxury, tented camp, we have been taken to visit the vast out there. We went earlier that day and naturally, being tender wazungu, we ventured only in daylight, with the rising sun at our back, and we went, not on foot, but in the Land Rover whose solid sides we were sure would protect us from too much closeness with the wilderness.

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Continues HERE

 

Lens-Artists: Landscapes