The Changing Seasons ~ This Was November

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Well, we’ve had lots of gloom in Much Wenlock, a morning of fog, twenty four hours of frigid gales, a night-time sprinkling of snow, woken up to some light frosts, and enjoyed a few days of bright sun and clear skies. We’ve also had huge quantities of leaf fall this year, which is always bound to gladden this gardener’s heart. Anyway, I’ll feature the best bits –  November high spots in the garden and out and about on the Linden Field and Windmill Hill.

First, though, some orientation. I know several of you love the Linden Walk, but you may not have a gist of the overall lay of the land. For some reason I’ve not thought to provide it before now. So: in the next photo I’m standing inside the lime tree avenue, intent on capturing the Linden Field to the left, and therefore the position of the old windmill on the hill just above it (and barely visible far left centre because (drat and double-drat) the sun was shining on it). The field was used for the Much Wenlock Olympian Games (started by Dr. William Penny Brookes in the 1850s and still going today) and the hillside below the windmill once provided a natural auditorium for the games’ attendees.

In the foreground is the cricket club pitch (orange fencing) and beyond it the hedged and tree shaded corner of the town’s bowling green.

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Now the old railway line, which often gets a mention here, runs along the right side of the Linden Walk (i.e. looking at photo above). These days all that is left is a deep and tulgey cutting. Dr. Brookes lobbied for the building of the railway to Much Wenlock, and every year a special Olympian Games train was put on to bring thousands of visitors to the field. In the next photo, and turning back on ourselves, you can see the entrance gate. The station stood to the left of the gate, and is now a private house.

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About face once more, and then head up the Linden Walk until your reach the field boundary. Here, running along the base of Windmill Hill is a single avenue of specimen oaks and conifers, all planted over the last 150 years or so to commemorate various Olympian Games events. At this point you can carry straight on and join the old railway path, or turn left for the windmill.

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It’s a bit of a climb, but this ancient limestone meadow is always interesting, no matter the season. Just now the grasses are golden, punctuated with dark stems of knapweed seed heads.

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It’s a favourite spot with dog walkers, and naturally there are some fine views in several quarters:

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Behind the windmill is Shadwell Quarry, long disused and earmarked for development. A somewhat treacherous path runs around the quarry’s perimeter fence, but I like it because, if need be, you can always grab hold of the chain-link fencing, and there are also some handy posts to serve as camera tripods. You get quite a different, almost ethereal view of the windmill from here.

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The wood below windmill hill is another favourite spot. There’s an unexpected copse of beech trees on the hill slope, terrain that, long ago, looks to have been dug into for railway track-bed ballast. Now there’s a mysterious quietness about this spot, and at the moment a stunning beach leaf carpet all around.

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On the home front the garden is descending into vegetable chaos, but the shrubby convolvulus and geraniums Rozanne and Ann Thomson having been flowering boldly, and the crab apple tree on the garden fence is putting on its usual autumn show, pigeons allowing. At the allotment too, the pot marigolds and nasturtiums have flowered and flowered until the recent frost. Up there it’s been a time for tidying away bean vines and sweet corn stalks, making compost heaps and gathering fallen leaves to make leaf mould. With the arrival of frosts I’ve tucked up the polytunnel salad stuff in horticultural fleece, and in the outside beds begun to harvest the parsnips which are all the better for a good chilling. The recent gales have blown over the sprouting broccoli, but it seems to be continuing to sprout on the horizontal, which is making it much easier to harvest. Once I again I omitted to stake the plants securely. Ah well. Next year.

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And finally a little jug of sunshine: allotment nasturtiums and pot marigolds all self-sown, but going strong through most of November:

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The Changing Seasons: November   Hosted by Brian at Bushboys World and Ju-Lyn at Touring My Backyard.

Hinterland

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Wales on cloudy winter’s days can yield some  broodingly dramatic expanses of blacks and greys. There is certainly a lack of light as we drive through Snowdonia’s national park one Christmas Eve. (These photos were taken from a moving car). Even so, there is no lack of colour. If anything the rugged moorland russets of bracken, turf and heather are heightened by the grey-black backdrops.

Here, then, are landscapes of the mind, settings for the doings of ancient Celtic heroes, wizards and shape shifters, whose remnant tales still survive today, albeit in transcribed and edited forms in the Mabinogion.

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Life in Colour: black/grey

Chasing The Light Over Townsend Meadow

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Those who come here often know that our Shropshire cottage overlooks a field that once marked Much Wenlock’s northerly boundary. It’s all in the name of course – Townsend Meadow. In times past it was pasture for dairy cows. The farm, long gone, was in the corner of the field, and the dairy, where the milk was collected, was a few doors down from our house on Sheinton Street. But in the years since we’ve lived here the field has been used solely for growing arable crops; wheat mostly, but now-and-then oil seed rape, oats, field beans and barley.

Our further view, beyond the field, is of the woods along the summit of Wenlock Edge. You can just make them out in the middle distance of the first photo. This vista and this field and the sky above, are the places where I endlessly discover events and effects. In this sense you could call it a source of rich sustenance; the everyday world that is never commonplace.

When it comes to photography, I belong to the ranks of happy snappers. I have zero technical skills, though somewhat perversely I’m particularly drawn to taking photos in challenging light conditions – to see what will happen, I suppose. The first photo is a good example. It was taken by opening the rooflight window in my office to the horizontal position (which also involved standing on the spare bed) resting my Lumix point-and-shoot camera on the back of said window – that is, on the outside frame nearest me – engaging some zoom, and hoping things are as focused as can be. And there we are.  It is a strange photo. A bit quantum physics-ish. Lost realms and parallel universe kind of stuff.

Here are some rather more obvious low-light Townsend Meadow moments.

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Lens-Artists: Follow Your Bliss Lindy has set the challenge this week.

Christmas Past On Ynys Mon

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That this first  photo worked at all is something of a mystery. There was hardly any light (as you can see) and I was using my very basic Kodak EasyShare digital camera. But then it was Christmas Day and we were staying on the Welsh island of Anglesey (Ynys Mon) with its millennia of mystical associations – druids, saints and seers. When I took the shot I was standing above the little town of Beaumaris looking towards the Welsh mainland and the foothills of Snowdonia. The Menai Strait lies between, obscured by trees. It is a zone of extraordinary light-through-cloud displays.

Here are some early morning shots taken further along the Strait, rooftops of Beaumaris in the bottom edge foreground:

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Life in Colour: Black/Grey

So What’s Missing Here?

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We were walking along the top of Wenlock Edge earlier this week – Edge on the left of this photo, Ironbridge Gorge right of centre. This is a circular walk that can include Windmill Hill as a slight detour, but otherwise takes you out of Much Wenlock before sending you up a field path (with fine views of the Wrekin) to the Edge above Homer village.

The final climb to the Edge top is quite steep and rocky, but once negotiated, you step out on a  pleasingly level track, farm fields on one side, hanging woodland on the other. I should say, though, that for those nervous of heights it doesn’t do to stop and look down into the wood. There, the huge ash, beech, oak, and sycamore trees grow hugger mugger on prodigiously tall, straight trunks that cling to several hundred feet of near vertical hillside. Here and there, between rare gaps in the canopy, you can just glimpse the fields of the Shropshire plain way below.

This is a winter’s day view of the Edge trackway, the seeming benign but beetling Edge wood on the right:

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There’s a point further along this track where a path hives off at right angles, taking us back and down to the town. There’s also a particular fence post here that I often use in lieu of the tripod. I used it to take the header shot, including the grass stem pointer,  but in the past I used it to capture these views – the cooling towers of Ironbridge Power Station, shortly to be developed into a very large riverside housing complex:

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Here’s another winter’s view with the cooling towers steaming away, and to the left a glimpse of the chimney beacon that finally came down this summer:

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All gone now. This may well be a good thing. On the other hand,  we need to think very hard and carefully how, and at what precise cost, we will heat and power our homes in the future. At present there is, to say the least, something of a technological shortfall. Nothing, it seems, is settled.

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Seasons Past ~ In The Shropshire Hills

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This first photo is a ‘family favourite’ square due to its being the view of Ragleth Hill from my sister’s house taken last Christmas when we were gathered there for lunch. A perfect winter’s day too – sun and moon and no snow.

Across the valley from Ragleth is the Long Mynd, an extended spine of hill, its flanks riven by a number of small valleys, locally known as batches. The best known is Carding Mill  Valley, a busy local beauty spot in all seasons.

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And back to Ragleth Hill in summer:

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Past Squares #21

Flypast ~ Squaring The Circle

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I suppose it’s rather bizarre, but three Septembers ago I arranged a family gathering in the very buildings where my Derbyshire great, great grandfather  once kept his horses, oats store and cheese press along with all the usual 19th century small farm paraphernalia. Of course by 2018 the said buildings had been transformed into very smart holiday accommodation which we were renting for a week’s holiday, and by then too any actual family connection with the place and the nearby farmhouse had long been severed; back in 1892 in fact, when the Fox family left Callow Farm after nearly 200 years there.  

But then there are other kinds of connection, less tangible, but in some ways more visceral – the place, the landscape, the knowledge that past family members had lived and worked here, had been born and died here, their mortal comings and goings marked in the records and gravestones at St. Michael’s church down in the valley at Hathersage:

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The header photo was taken from the barns early one morning, looking across the Derwent Valley to the high moors above Hathersage. Here’s a daylit view:

Across Derwent Valley

And here are the barns:

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And Callow Farmhouse, now a private home quite separate from the barns, but once home to the Fox family c1700-1892:

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You can read more of this story at an earlier post:

So what did Great Great Grandfather George Brayley Fox keep in his barns in 1892

Past Square #17

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Ordinary Extraordinary ~ Past Perfect Encounters

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It is often on the field path to and from the allotment that the seeming ordinary catches my eye. Often too it’s the result of collaborating elements. Take this apple, one of a bucket of windfalls that a neighbour had tossed over the hedge into Townsend Meadow. Then came the blackbirds who, through the autumn, nibbled at the flesh until only this translucent skin remained. Then there was some frosty winter weather and a lowering late-day sun over the Edge. And so we have an apple lantern. And I just happened to be passing as it lit up…

The allotment plots are also fertile grounds for the extraordinary ordinary and finding them can provide protracted and absorbing diversions from weeding and digging. Who can guess what this is?

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On the home front too, the multifarious parts of my unruly garden can be an endless source of distraction whatever the season, though autumn can yield some especially fine moments.

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Lens-Artists: Ordinary  This week I. J Khanewala asks us to explore the commonplace with fresh eyes. A focused look at the ordinary can suddenly transform into the extraordinary.

Past Squares #10