Shropshire’s Most Unsettling Hillscape: The Stiperstones

IMG_5502

Well, the name alone is enough to set the nerves jangling. Stiperstones. There’s more than a hint of menace here, and local Shropshire folk will tell you exactly what that menace is. They will say that when the mist settles on this ridge of strange and craggy outcrops, that the devil has come, returned to his quartzite throne to preside over a gathering of witches and evil spirits.

P1080552

P1080554

IMG_5520

P1080572

These photos were all taken on a summer’s day, though it’s hard to believe looking at them here. For more about that particular visit and more about the Stiperstones go here.

Lens-Artists: creepy  Ann-Christine has set the challenge this week. She has posted some marvellously creepy images. Please take a look.

Kalamata Layers

P1020448

Late September and the locals had abandoned Peroulia Beach because, they said, ‘it was too cold’. Even to us Brits the sea was a touch cooler than hoped for. Still, you can’t come to Greece and not have a swim. And the glass-clear waters of the Messenian Gulf were so beguilingly blue. And then there was the backdrop view – the Mani that never quite came into focus all the time we were there, the rugged scarps of the Taygetos ever mirage like. Perhaps we dreamt it.

P1020643

Lens-Artists ~ Layered  This week Amy wants to see layered looks.

Atmospheric Lines

IMG_4361

Mist, mountain, dune grass, sand – with a touch more abstraction it might have the makings of a seaside Rothko. Artworks apart though, it wasn’t a very promising start to our short  break in Newport. A Monday morning feeling made manifest by land, sky and sea.

But there again if you have taken the trouble to get yourself to the beach in the face of unpromising conditions, and have the trusty little camera to hand, there’s usually something to spot. So I had a happy half hour scrambling around in misty sand dunes. And the camera enjoyed itself too, taking some of the below on its own mysterious potluck settings. Carpe diem and all that.

IMG_4368

IMG_4371

IMG_4379

IMG_4373

Line Squares #15

* Latin tag: ‘seize the day’

Squarely Filling The Frame In Townsend Meadow

IMG_4135

Today by way of an intermission from Two Go Pottering About In Pembroke, I’m back on home ground here – the field behind our house just after the wheat was cut in early September. It’s nice to recall the glorious sunshine too (since we returned from Wales it has been wet, wet, wet, the country locked inside jet stream weather effects). Also I thought I’d combine Becky’s line squares with Patti’s challenge to fill the frame. So here goes: bales, stubble, light and shadow, false horizons, landscapes and cloudscapes, textures and colour blocks. And lots of stalks.

IMG_3978

IMG_3969b

IMG_3963

IMG_3992

Lens-Artists ~ Filling the Frame

Line Squares #11

Land And Sea Lines ~ Pen Dinas From Parrog Quay

IMG_4628

It was decided. We would have a sun-downer supper at Parrog Quay, sitting in the old seaside shelter above the little estuary. Behind us the Mountain of Angels, Mynydd Carn Ingli, already shadowy, to the west the rounded promontory of Dinas Head (Pen Dinas) backlit by sunset, the little row of stalwart, old sea salt dwellings along the quay, before us the mud flats and their moored small boats where the last of the light still lingered here and there, and curve of the Nevern with a lone canoeist heading out to sea, the still, wide expanse of Cardigan Bay beyond.

We’d gathered provisions in a delicatessen in Fishguard – runny Brie cheese, fat olives stuffed with garlic, some Welsh cheesy crackers that looked like waffles, black grapes and a few slices of salami. There was a bottle of French organic wine brought from home (grand merci Virgile Joly), and I’d also thought to bring my large wool Indian wrap in case we grew shivery later. The day had been warm but already the nights were saying autumn.

IMG_4613

*

And then we sat and we watched, and watched and watched, until the light was gone.

IMG_4976

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

 

Line Squares #2

September’s Changing Seasons ~ Late Summer Days

IMG_2675

September in Shropshire has been pretty perfect until the last few days. Now we have bouts of heavy rain, weighing down the garden flowers, washing out the last of summer colours. But between the downpours there are still bees and butterflies about, though nothing like the clouds of them we had earlier in the month when I’d find the allotment verbena covered in Painted Ladies. Of course it’s pretty much the last chance for all the insects to stoke up on dwindling supplies of nectar; sunflowers, Michaelmas daisies and sedum being the busiest bug take-aways.

At the start of the month the wheat behind our house was finally cut. As I said in an earlier post, the dust cloud was monumental, covering the garden in chaff. But that’s a small price to pay for the freedom to roam across an empty field. Doubtless, it won’t be like that for much longer. The field will be ploughed and sown. Farmers  no longer leave stubble fields to overwinter, so providing forage for wildlife, particularly native bird species, during the hardest months. For now though, the straw bales left behind have been providing some of  Wenlock’s youngsters with new play venues, even if scaling them  has been proving something of a challenge.

As Cyndi says: ‘Girls just wanna have fun’.

And from this morning’s garden on the last day of the month, and between the rain showers:

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

The Changing Seasons: September 2019

To The Mountain Of Angels ~ Mynydd Carn Ingli

IMG_4404

We were past it in a second – the road sign that warned of wild horses ahead. I blinked – mentally anyway. Had I seen such a sign before? The equine form black on white, lissom, tail whisking out, suggestive of a sprightly canter. And no sooner had I thought this, than there they were – in the flesh, and nothing less wild could be imagined. Two colts, flat out and dozing in September sunshine, while below the lush farmland of north Pembrokeshire joined them, stretching out and out.

IMG_4421

It was last Tuesday, just after breakfast, and we had taken the hill road out of Newport (Trefdraeth in Welsh) where we were having a few days’ holiday. My notion at least had been to climb Carn Ingli to explore the ramparts of the Iron Age hillfort that surrounds the summit. I’d read it was one of the largest hillforts in West Wales with traces of  25 hut circles within. A fortified village then, perhaps seasonally occupied.

And not only  this, there are also Bronze Age burial cairns and the suggestion too that the mountain top was first enclosed in Neolithic times. In fact the whole area, from coast  to hinterland and all across the Preseli Hills is littered with traces of prehistoric occupation: henges, standing stones, chambered tombs, hill- and promontory forts, burial cairns. The land of ancestors indeed, and for those of you who know your Stonehenge prehistory, you will recognise the name Preseli, and remember that the so-called bluestones of the inner circle were transported 140 miles from West Wales to Wiltshire. Recently the actual prehistoric quarry sites were discovered by a team of geologists and archaeologists. You can read the report here.

By the time we had gathered ourselves and tried to fathom the map, the wild horses had peaceably regrouped and we were joined by two mares, one in foal. Overhead the sun bore down very hotly for September; two ravens cronked and glided; the air filled with the scent of gorse and fading heather.

IMG_4403

We set off up the track, eyed by a white-faced bullock. The path went up and up, past tumbled rocks which may or may not have been part of some ancient hut circle.

IMG_4415

But the higher we went, the further we had to climb, and I was soon aware that he who is not so passionate about ancient relics was thinking thoughts that contained words like ‘wild goose chase’ and ‘hare-brained’. We gave it up, gazed awhile at the upland vistas and then drove on, wending on narrow lanes overhung with beech and hazel and ash, following the steep cleft of the Gwaun River valley down to Fishguard on the coast.

IMG_4412

*

P.S. In case I’ve whetted you appetite for a better glimpse of the hillfort, coming up is a view taken a couple of days later when we attempted to climb up from the seaward side. You can make out weathered ramparts. Below is Nevern Estuary and the tiny settlement of Parrog Quay, once a thriving ship-building yard and port for nearby Newport.

IMG_4797

IMG_4802

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Lens-Artists This week Amy asks us to show her countryside or small towns.

The Changing Seasons ~ August And The Turn Of The Year

IMG_3843

There’s been a sense of autumn happening all month. The wheat harvest began extra early, some weeks ago in fact, then stalled during heavy rain, then started up again, the combines’ drone resounding from the hills around the town. But over the hedge behind the house the crop remains uncut, though it received its chemical drench last week, the mega-tractor leaving great tracks of smashed crop as it sprayed – a herbicide no doubt. It’s not my wheat of course, but somehow I find this a disturbing sight, though quickly suppose there must be a ready reckoner knack for weighing up the benefit of bad weed removal over good crop loss. Now it is raining again and by yesterday the ears that were pale ochre had acquired a coppery glow. At this rate the grains will take a lot of drying out, and we’ll be hearing the grain driers’ drone instead. When activated, they go all night. Or that’s my impression.

*

But as to the autumnal feelings, the lime trees have a lot to answer for. After magnificent flushes of tiny green blossoms that filled the byways with delicious scent, the flowers’ seed wings have fallen everywhere in drifts, filling the gutters, strewing the Linden Walk like so much sea litter,  and thereby also doing a very good impression of autumn leaves before we’re ready for them.

IMG_3862

IMG_3863

*

We’ve had high summer intervals too, days when the garden has been filled with blossoms, bees and butterflies, and especially Painted Ladies which have appeared in huge numbers this year, apparently on a reproductive a high in a ten-year cycle. There have been lots of Gatekeeper butterflies too, and Peacocks and Tortoiseshells and Commas. Also Cabbage Whites, which I’m not at all keen on, since no vegetable defence system seems secure against the breeding imperative. The guerrilla garden over the fence has been spectacular, and the garden within very pleasing, if unruly.

*

At the allotment all the gardeners are heavily into ‘harvest home’ mode – baskets of runner beans, courgettes, tomatoes and potatoes being gathered, armfuls of dahlias, asters and gladioli borne home to share with friends and neighbours. The place is alive with pollinators of every kind, flocks of Gatekeepers and Painted Ladies on the abandoned plots where teasels, verbena and oregano are running rampant among the weeds; lots of bees in my butter bean blossoms and courgette flowers too.

*

So all in all, things in Wenlock have been pretty good this August, and we are very lucky to be here. The weather may be weird, our democratic system such as it is coming apart at the seams, no one really knowing what Brexit will mean, but Rip Van Winkle Land is alive and well, and just to prove it, here’s a somnolent evening view of the town from the allotment.

IMG_3666

 

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

The Changing Seasons: August 2019

Out In The ‘Blue Remembered Hills’

P1080521

Into my heart on air that kills

From yon far country blows:

What are those blue remembered hills,

What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,

I see it shining plain,

The happy highways where I went

And cannot come again.

From A. E. Housman’s  A Shropshire Lad  1896

*

We are lucky enough to live on the edge of Wenlock Edge whose ridge-top road delivers us straight to the heart of Shropshire’s hill country. Caer Caradoc, Lawley, Ragleth, Long Mynd, Stiperstones are some of the most well known of our uplands, each striking in its own way and often featuring in old tales and mysterious legends. This is not surprising considering that humans have been walking these lands for at least the last 9,000 years when the ice sheets retreated.

The whole area is rich in prehistoric remains – burial cairns, standing stones, hill forts, Bronze Age field systems, trackways, drove roads and trade routes. This photo was taken from the northerly flanks of the Long Mynd, on the lane to Ratlinghope and Bridges, and looks over the Lawley to the long blue-green spine of Wenlock Edge.

July Squares #18