This week Patti at Lens-Artists wants to see shadows and reflections in monochrome. So here’s a cloudy-day view of the Mawddach Estuary in Wales: upright and upside down. Intriguing, isn’t it. It’s making me think of a Rorschach inkblot test.
And along the board walk at Harlech:
And through the old boat house gate at Borthwnog Hall: the Mawddach Estuary beyond
New Year on Newborough Beach, Anglesey – mainland Wales in the mist
We began and ended 2022 on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. In between there were meanderings to favourite spots in Shropshire and around and about the town of Much Wenlock.So here we have a random selection of a year’s happy moments and things that caught my eye.
January walk on Wenlock Edge – looking down on Much Wenlock
On the Cutlins in February
And finding aconites: first signs of spring
The Linden Walk in early March
And alder catkins in the Linden Field
April over the garden fence
Oil Seed Rape in full flourish in the Corve Valley
May on the Linden Walk
And on Windmill Hill
June on Wenlock’s old railway line
And on the Stiperstones viewing the Devil’s Chair from a respectful distance
June in the garden
And on the Bull Ring, Much Wenlock
July in the garden
And in the Shropshire Hills at Mitchell’s Fold
August over the garden fence
And with the Cutlins MacMoos during the two-day heatwave
And after the wheat harvest on Callaughton Ash
September: harvesting the field beans in Townsend Meadow
Gathering storm clouds, but no rain
Early October and back to Wales: Barmouth Beach
And October’s end in Ludlow
November: windfall quinces at the allotment
And a sundowner stroll on Windmill Hill
December over the garden fence
And on hoar-frosty Downs Hill
And so back to the beach, Lligwy, Anglesey, January 2023
Lens-Artists: Favourite 2022 images John at Journeys with Johnbo sets the theme for this week.
In an earlier post HERE I said the Stiperstones ridge has to be one of Shropshire’s most compellingly strange landscapes. And that its cragginess was wrought by the scything, crushing and cracking action of ice during the last glacial period some 150,000 – 11,000 years ago. Periods of alternating thaw and freeze also made their mark. But now I’m also noticing another striking feature – the way the geology is so determinedly set on the diagonal, the outcrops’ pitch a piece of ‘set-in-stone’ evidence attesting to recent epic earth forces.
When I say ‘recent’ I am of course wearing my prehistorian’s hat. Also I should make clear that the word ‘last’ as in ‘the last glacial period’ does not mean ‘final’, or that we have seen the end of ice ages. We are currently in an interglacial period, otherwise known as the Holocene. In the past, ice ages have occurred in regular cycles, beginning in the Quaternary about 2.5 million years ago, coinciding with the formation of the Arctic ice sheet. There is no reason to suppose that that this cycle has stopped. Today’s sudden drop in temperature is also giving me pause for thought. Thank goodness for alpaca leg warmers and woolly socks is all I can say (and that’s in the house).
Now for more Stiperstones diagonals:
Lens-Artists: diagonals This week Patti sets the challenge and provides an inspiring photo-essay on making the most of diagonal vistas and subjects.
Windmill Hill is probably most Wenlockians’ favourite spot for a short walk, though it does involve quite a steep climb, especially if you approach it from the Linden Field.
When I set off here on Friday afternoon it was under glooming skies. But just as I reached the top, the sun broke through the cloud, lighting up the land all around the town. Here are the views:
Looking west. You can see the allotment polytunnels in the shadows just right of centre.
And to the east, Shadwell Quarry, long disused, but the land around slated for some sort of leisure development (dive school plus cabins). The pool is exceedingly deep, and every time I look, the water level seems to have risen. Peregrine falcons have a breeding spot in the least accessible quarter of the quarry face.
And looking from east to south:
These two photos show land that was originally part of Wenlock Priory’s considerable possessions; once the monks’ hunting ground in fact. After the Dissolution in 1540 the Priory assets were acquired by Henry VIII’s courtiers and sold on to London gentry, men with entrepreneurial flair who were intent on further developing industrial enterprises already run by the monks and their peasant workforce: coal mining, iron smelting, charcoal production.
These days, as you can see, it is an agricultural estate (some 10,000 acres) presently owned by Lord Forester, whose family have held it since the 17th century. The distant tree line in the photo immediately above is Shirlett Forest, the site of early coal mines, where it is said, (and somewhat hair-raisingly) that the miners reached the coal seams by being lowered down shafts in baskets. As may be imagined, for some this did not end well.
And finally looking down the hill to the Linden Field:
Now you can see why it’s a favourite walk. I also discovered on Friday that a brand new bench has arrived there, bequeathed by two well-loved residents. What a very fine gift to us. Two good spots for sitting and dreaming.
This is a walk we did earlier – i.e. back in early October when we staying at Borthwnog Hall on the Mawddach Estuary in Wales. The beaches along this part of the coast from Barmouth to Harlech (where these photos were taken) are stupendous – sandscape heaven with much of the area designated nature reserve.
My only quibble (as a life-long beach-comber and shell gatherer) was the tide had swept the shore so clean, there was hardly a thing to find. So this is my main sighting: the skeleton (test) of a common heart urchin Echinocardium cordatum, also known as a sea potato.
You can see what they look like in real life HERE. When they have all their spines they’re rather hairy entities. They burrow several inches into sandy sea bottoms and both feed themselves with passing particles and avoid getting completely buried with a mobile feeding tube that keeps a clear shaft of water above them.
So there you have it: a heart urchin test. And some rather pleasing red seaweed.
Walking Squares #18 Today Becky is wondering what kinds of things we notice when we’re out walking.
The National Trust owns the north-east facing scarp of Wenlock Edge. There’s a good path along the summit which, in gaps through the trees, offers stunning views of north-east Shropshire. It also skirts the old limestone quarries which now provide quarters for, among others, a garden fencing company and an outfit turning trees into pellets for industrial wood burners. The quarry enterprises are by no means scenic, but they have a certain drama. The National Trust trail and map are HERE.
Looking towards the North Shropshire Plain and the Wrekin
Walking Squares #8 Join Becky on her daily November walks
This feels like a old path, the way hollowed out between field boundaries, the ground worn threadbare to rock and knotty tree roots. As you leave the town and climb towards Callaughton, you need to watch your step, and take the occasional breather. Which is good too, because it means there are chances to stop at windows in the vegetation and look back on the town.
In the next view, I’m looking roughly north, the Wrekin in the distance, and in the far right you can just spot the windmill atop Windmill Hill. The field directly beneath the Wrekin and woods (bordered by a short row of pink roofs) is Townsend Meadow. Immediately forward of the field is the allotment, but you can’t see it for trees.
Now turning towards the east so you can the tower of Holy Trinity Church. It was once part of the Wenlock Priory complex. But the oldest parts of the church are said to date to the days (before the Norman Conquest) when the priory was a convent for both men and women, though they worshipped seperately. It is thus believed to be the site of the original women’s church, but has obviously undergone much rebuilding over the centuries. In fact during reburbishment in 1101, the supposed remains of St. Milburga were found near the altar, she who was the first abbess of Wenlock (675-690). The discovery of the saint’s bones, described in 1190 by Bishop Odo, as ‘beautiful and luminous’, put Much Wenlock on the pilgrim route and led to the town’s rapid growth. Happy days for the Priory coffers.
The path brings you out on Callaughtons Ash, a field on the boundary with the historic township of Callaughton. To our ears the word ‘township’ is perhaps misleading. These days the settlement is little more than a hamlet, and it may never have been much bigger in the past, though records show there was a weeping cross in the vicinity in the 13th century which doubtess attracted the devout. It is anyway one of seven ‘townships’ that surround Much Wenlock and once fell within the town’s ancient parish boundary. Others include Bourton, Farley, Harley, and Wigwig. And I have no idea how the Wigwig name came about.
There’s a fine view of Clee Hill at the top of the path:
Walking Squares #7 Keep walking with Becky.
It’s interesting but when you are walking about in Much Wenlock, you are very rarely aware of how steeply the land rises towards Wenlock Edge, or of the fact that the town sits in a distinct hollow with other not-so-steep hills rising to the east and south.
In this photo I am walking down from the Edge, following the path that ends up on Sytche Lane, a short hop from our garden gate. We’re lucky to have so many good walks on our doorstep, and mostly field paths, too.
Walking Squares #5 Today Becky is taking a walk close to home.
Croft Castle estate, Herefordshire