It is rather strange, but when you are wandering round Much Wenlock you are hardly ever aware of its upland surroundings. Yet it sits in a steep-sided bowl between the upthrust strata of Wenlock Edge and various residual hills and hummocks from Ice Age days. It is a place of natural springs and erstwhile saintly wells, with hints, too, from ancient finds that its waters may well have been venerated in Roman times. It was doubtless the reason why the Saxon Princess Milburga established her convent here around 670 CE, ‘cleanliness being next to godliness’ and so on. She was the subject of many local legends, most of them relating to her fleeing the unwanted attentions or lusty males, while conjuring protective streams and rivers to thwart her pursuers. The water from the town well named after her was believed to restore poor eyesight.
The priory ruins and parish church you see in these photos date from six and more centuries after Milburga, belonging mostly to the Norman era wherein the invaders sought to dominate the local populace with overbearing architecture. Wenlockians, though, knew how to take some advantage from the situation. It was said that the best ale in town was brewed from rainwater collected from the church roof.
Life in Colour
This month Jude at Travel Words is asking us to consider the beauty of BROWN – earth colours.
On Christmas Day we drove over Wenlock Edge to Little Stretton to spend the day with our family. It was a bright and chilly day, but as I climbed the steep steps to my sister’s home I saw the spring bulbs already emerging in her terraced beds and some frisky pink primroses freshly opened. The house is perched on a lower flank of the Long Mynd and overlooks Ragleth Hill. So while the turkey was roasting, I stood out on the deck and took these photos, watched a pair of buzzards who live in the garden’s larch trees waft over in the stillness.
And now I’m thinking that these views are rather apt for Jude’s new challenge at Travel Words. She wants us to think about colour through the coming year, and in January that colour is brown: earth shades.
The close-up above was a very ‘long shot’, but I like the way the sun glints off the bare branches of the dark wood; the layers of russet leaves and bracken and the deeper soily looking browns among the ash trees. It could well be a candidate for Jabberwocky’s tulgey wood. It also reminds me of one of those ‘heavy’ Victorian oil paintings – Arcadia seemingly overdone with every expectation of rustic maids and shepherds popping up. But here it is. No time-slipped lads and lasses, just a piece of real Shropshire landscape.
Square Up #5
Becky is keeping us ‘upspired’ during trying times. Interpret ‘up’ anyway you like, but keep it sUPer square.
Life in Colour: brown Jude at Travel Words wants us to really pay attention to colour. This month she asks us to explore shades of brown.
On Saturday night we had high winds and deluge. Rain pounded the roof-lights for hours. The gale buffeted about the cottage. Today we woke to eerie stillness, the sort that only comes with snow.
This is probably the last shot of the ‘guerrilla garden’ for this year. I’ve been enjoying the silhouettes over the fence, so have yet to raze the dead stems of our unofficial planting along the field edge. Golden Rod, Fountain Grass, Teasels, Michaelmas Daisies and the crab apple tree, and in front, the winter’s light on the ash log sundial that a good chum made us one year as a Christmas present. I’m sorry you can’t see what time it’s telling, though I’d say it’s around noon, the sun in the south. And talking of sun, in the northlands the days are already lengthening. Soon there will be signs of spring in my Shropshire garden. You will be the first to know.
Happy holidays to all who visit me here on the Edge.
And a big, big thank you for the many kind words you have posted here in these strangest of times. Wishing us all better days ahead.
Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Gates and fences
I seem to be having a ‘sepia season’ just now. It’s suiting my mood. And I anyway like the ‘antique’, slightly mysterious cast it gives some of the shots. I took them earlier in the week – along the lane from the Wenlock Priory ruins. The magnificent Corsican pines tower over the Priory visitor entrance, the place shut up for months now. I’ve no idea how these trees came to Shropshire, but I’m guessing that the Milnes Gaskells who once lived in the Prior’s House, or The Abbey, as they called it, may have planted them. This would be back in the days when Henry James was a repeat visitor and the priory ruins were something of an extended garden feature for his genteel English hosts.
The next two photos provide views of what was once the Priory ‘parkland’, now mostly owned by Wenlock Estates, a family trust, and grazed by sheep. In the Priory’s heyday the monks apparently had a high old time, hunting on horseback across their extensive domain. And not only that. One wild young monk, William Broseley, headed a gang of bandits, Wild West style, and Prior Henry de Bonvillars in 1302 was charged with raiding and horse stealing over on the Welsh borders.
Sheep were also an important monastic commodity, the wool a source of great wealth in the early Middle Ages. In 1284 another slippery Prior, John de Tycford, caused consternation and monkish fury within the sacred confines when it was found he had robbed the house of its wealth through a spot of canny futures dealing. He managed to sell seven prospective years of wool and then make off with the loot. Things are much more peaceful here these days.
Lens-Artists: You Pick It This week our excellent hosts, the Lens-Artists, invite us to choose our own topic.
Winter light over the sea can make for some mysterious monochrome images. The first photo was taken early one morning, above the small town Beaumaris on the island of Anglesey (Ynys Mon). In the foreground is Menai Strait; beyond it the mountains of Snowdonia in mainland Wales.
For several years Anglesey has been a favourite place for family Christmases. There have been times of hair-raising gales, but also days of brilliant sun and unexpected warmth. This searchlight-sun effect over the Strait is a particular local phenomenon, and you quickly understand why the Celtic Druids, and later the early Welsh Christian saints were so drawn to the place. Landscape as transcendental meditation.
You can hardly see the Strait in the next photo (below the tree silhouettes), and it was anyway just going dark. But even so there’s a luminous glow on the field slopes of the far shore – a reflection off the water? And then there are the snow slopes making their own light. I like seeing how much of an image can be gained from the least amount of light. At the time I was using my little Kodak EasyShare ‘point and shoot’ camera. It was interesting what it could come up with.
The morning we visited Plas Newydd it was broodingly gloomy – as if the sky gods had forgotten to switch the lights on.
But some sunnier days on the beach at Newborough:
2020 Photo Challenge #46 This week’s assignment from Jude: make sure you have contrasts in your image(s). Clear whites and strong blacks will add impact and create attention.
Monochrome with a hint of green. (See previous post).
I took these photos yesterday, late afternoon, as I was going gardening. The hedge runs up beside the allotment, the south-westerly boundary to Townsend Meadow behind our house. As I reached the gap under the ash tree, the unofficial gateway to my garden plot, the sun burst through the hedge bottom. So I ditched the compost I was hauling, and fished out my camera. I was still thinking about the leaf photos in my last post, and decided monochrome could work here too, this time catching the plant-life silhouetted in the lowering sun. I added the sepia glow in the edit. In the northern hemisphere, sunshine in November always seems a specially precious gift, brimming with untapped possibility.
Lens-Artists: the sun will come out tomorrow Anvica’s Gallery has set the spirit-lifting theme this week. Go visit!
This week at Lens-Artists Amy asks us to show her negative space. These photos were all taken at Penmon Point on the island of Anglesey a few Decembers ago.
copyright 2020 Tish Farrell
Lens-Artists: Negative Space