“…the bright day is done…

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…and we are for the dark.”

The back of our cottage looks towards the edge of Wenlock Edge, we atop the twenty-mile escarpment, the land dropping off to the west, falling straight, many hundred feet,  through hanging woods of beech and ash, oak and yew, wild cherry and service trees, hornbeams, whitebeams, wych elm, field maple, chestnuts, holly, hazel and lime; these the trees that settled here, each species in its own time as the ice sheet retreated from Shropshire some ten thousand years ago and the new soils built up on our 400 million-year-old upthrust seabed.

This thought of departing ice and arriving soil and trees reminds me that the climate has always changed, and is ever changing; even during ice ages there were warm periods. In one such warm phase 125,000 years ago, animals that we of the north now associate exclusively with Africa – hippos, lions, elephants, hyena inhabited the Thames basin where the city of London now sprawls. It’s quite some thought. Another is, and not so flippantly either, that today’s wind across the Edge is so bitingly frigid, that it rouses the suspicion in this gardener’s mind that we might actually be heading for colder times.

All of which is to say that the congruence of time and climate and geology have much to do with the fine skyscape displays behind our house. That the land drops away beyond the Edge provides us, on this side, with a false horizon, and thus expansive views of atmospheric activity, ever shifting and endlessly absorbing. This particular sunset (header photo) appeared during our recent brief warm spell. A few days ago it came instead with ice-pink ribbons.

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Quote from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra act V, sc 2, l 192

Copyright 2021 Tish Farrell

Bright Square #7

“Loveliest Of Trees, The Cherry Now…

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Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

 

Now, of my threescore years and ten,

Twenty will not come again,

And take from seventy springs a score,

It only leaves me fifty more.

 

And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room,

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.

A E Housman A Shropshire Lad

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The Loveliest of Trees is the second poem from the Shropshire Lad  cycle, and probably the one best known.  It is easy from today’s perspective to dismiss the apparent simplicity, sometimes ditty-like quality of these poems. But Housman was a scholar of Olympian proportions, an atheist too and, it is said, suffering in love for a man who could never love him in return. Sensibilities run deep here.

The verses speak of love and loss and going to war; the fleetingness of things; all set against landscapes seen only in the mind’s eye, or as if looking from a long way off across time and space. There are many voices too, even ghostly ones, the sense of old country airs remembered. It is not surprising that they spoke so compellingly to composers who then set many of the poems to music: George Butterworth (Bredon Hill and Other Songs), Ralph Vaughan Williams (On Wenlock Edge), Ivor Gurney (The Western Playland), Samuel Barber (With rue my heart is laden ) to name a few.

Here is Butterworth’s evocation of the cherry tree, sung with perfect poise by Roderick Williams. If you choose to listen you may imagine Shropshire here today. As I write this we are having flurries of light snow just like falling cherry blossom.

Butterworth: Six Songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad’ (Excerpt) – BBC Proms 2014 – YouTube

 

Bright Square #5

High-Wire Choir

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I was on my way home from the allotment (Wednesday’s summer’s evening before the big chill reverse) when I spotted the starlings. These once common garden birds are a rare sight nowadays, and this is a newish colony that seems to have established itself at the north end of the town.  I know for a fact that they go every day to a chum’s garden for their elevenses and try to eat all the bird food she puts out. Later in the day I see them around the gardens that border the field path to the allotment. On Wednesday they had gathered on the power lines and were singing away, darting from wire to wire, for all the world like moving musical notes. They made me laugh. Next time if they repeat the performance, I’ll try to film them. For now a couple more bright-spark shots of them.

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Bright Squares #2

Before My Eyes: The Greening

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It has an extra-terrestrial look, doesn’t it – this exploding pussy willow catkin. In fact ‘catkin’ sounds too confining a word for such exuberant expression.

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Elsewhere around the town signs of coming spring are more reserved: delicate cherry and blackthorn blossom on otherwise bare branches, and earlier this week only a slightly seen green haze about the church yard weeping willow; while everything is otherwise accompanied by a bone-biting wind that has the daffodils and me bracing ourselves.

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The Linden Walk still looks wintery, although there are carpets of wild garlic everywhere – the leaves good in soups and stews and salads and for making pesto sauce. I’ve also noticed interesting colonies of lower plant life on the lime tree trunks, lichens and mosses and the like. And squirrels…

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And on the home front the daffodils are lighting up the garden by the road.

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And stepping out of the back garden gate I came upon a cat with green eyes…

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Life in Colour: Green

Catching the Light ~ Menai Strait In Winter

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This week Amy at Lens-Artists has set us a fine task – the pursuit of natural light. It’s one of the aspects of photography that fascinates me most; especially when it’s in short supply. Anyway, I instantly thought of the strange light effects that happen across the Menai Strait between the North Wales coast and the island of Anglesey, caught here during various December sojourns on the island. All the views are looking towards the Welsh mainland and Snowdonia.

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Lens-Artists: Natural Light

Changing Seasons: This Was January 2021

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Apologies for the swift change in temperatures after yesterday’s balmy temperatures on the Zambezi. Here in Wenlock we have been suffering frigid twirls and swirls of Polar Vortex: snow, sleet, wind, frost and in between, torrential rain. But we’ve had some sun too with china blue skies. Here’s the month’s round-up:

Snowy landscapes:  Windmill Hill (including the above with this mysterious snow tree), Linden Walk and Linden Field, over the garden fence…

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Birds and beasties…

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Frost art including some very fancy ice works created by my allotment water butt…

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And the first signs of spring…

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The Changing Seasons: January 2021

Uppity Little Birds, Robins

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But it’s always cheering to spot one. Even more so if they burst into song and brighten up a wintery twilight. But they can be fractious, being fiercely territorial when it comes to seeing off competitors. They are also very demanding. For much of last year I had one appear as soon as I started work on my allotment plot. If I went near any of my compost heaps, it was there at my feet, demanding that I instantly turn over the heap so it could stuff itself with worms. Obviously I had been labouring under a misapprehension thinking I was the allotment holder. Silly me. As I said: robins rule. I was just there as the field hand.

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Square Up #28

Bird Weekly: Lisa calls for brown feathered varieties

Taking The Path Up Windmill Hill ~ Keep Up At The Back Please!

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It’s a place for all seasons, and only a few minutes walk from our house. There are several approaches but I’ll take you up the Linden Walk that runs beside the old railway line. To the left lies the Linden aka Gaskell Field, now the town’s main recreation ground, and site of the annual Wenlock Olympian Games since the 1850s.

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Near the top of the Linden Walk there is a parallel avenue of conifers. At the end turn left by the seat. In fact follow that chap in the brown coat. He knows where he’s going.

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The path next takes you briefly along the wooded flanks of Shadwell Quarry. On the left as you go, at the top of the Linden Field, is a fine parade of oaks planted in the late nineteenth century to commemorate various Olympian Games doings. Watch out for the squirrels.

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The path up the hill is quite steep. In winter the limestone meadow looks like this:

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And like this:

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But in early summer it’s a riot of orchids, lady’s bedstraw, clover, wild thyme, vetches, agrimony and St. John’s Wort:

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And in late summer it’s the grasses’ turn to flower:

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But whatever the season, if it’s not too windy, there’s a good place to sit and admire the view:

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Square Up #22