Clamour Of Rooks On Sytche Lane

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Or it could be a parliament, a building, a storytelling of rooks.

The people who lived in our house before us called it Rookery Cottage. We didn’t adopt the name. The house actually sits beside the main road out of Wenlock and the rookery is behind us on Sytche Lane,  with a stretch of Townsend Meadow in between. Even so, we do hear its clamour, especially on spring and summer evenings. And we do have ring-side viewing of the whisking-whooshing corvid ballets that feature over the field in the twilight hours of early autumn. These aerial displays are a sight to behold, and are among the Farrells’ household treasures.

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Birds

Six Word Saturday

Over The Garden Fence

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It does seem perverse to photograph the guerrilla garden’s very colourful crab apples in monochrome. I  anyway didn’t much care for the result. Then I started tweaking the exposure and contrast in my editing programme and thought that this was quite an interesting ‘take’ for Cee’s challenge this week of circles and curves. And then I had a look at the photos I’d taken of the dewy grass over in the field – some very gentle curves and glittery droplets, blue or sepia tinted. Pleasing, I thought.

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: circles and curves

My World In Sepia

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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.

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Lens-Artists: You Pick It This week our excellent hosts, the Lens-Artists, invite us to choose our own topic.

The Monochrome Garden In November

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Of course November in the northlands comes up with its own monochromal schemes. But yesterday and this morning there was and is bright sunshine, and since this week’s black and white theme at Cee’s is things we sit on, I thought I’d take a few photos (using the monochrome setting on my camera) of the back garden seat, which if not beautiful, has its moments in certain lights and with the sage growing through it. It is also of great utility on warmer days and we have indeed sat on it a fair amount during lockdown lunacy, and then arisen all be-saged, and hopefully the wiser for the herbal infusion.

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge

Also linking to Jude at Travel Words and her excellent 2020 Photo Challenge, which this month is featuring black and white photography. Please pay her a visit.

In A Winter’s Light ~ Ynys Mon

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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.

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The morning we visited Plas Newydd it was broodingly gloomy – as if the sky gods had forgotten to switch the lights on.

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But some sunnier days on the beach at Newborough:

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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.

To And From The Allotment ~ The Monochrome Seasons

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When I set off across the field to my allotment garden I often do have a camera tucked in my pants’ pocket. And yes I know very well this is no way to treat a camera. But then the inclination to take photos overtakes the scruples. There is so much to see and consider, both around the allotment plots and along the field path from our house – the different times of day (or night); the changing seasons; the shifts of light; the state of the land; what is growing; what is not.

This month Jude at Travel Words is featuring black and white photography in her 2020 Photo Challenge. And as I’m presently in monochrome mode and most days still going gardening, I thought I’d post a somewhat themed response to this week’s assignment, ‘a retrospective’ using archive shots.

This is what Jude says about the assignment:

‘Look for shadows and textures. Carefully choose your images so that you can angle the light to create a sense of depth with the shadows’.

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Much Wenlock’s Southfield Road allotment plots back on to this field. It’s an adjunct to Townsend Meadow, the field behind our house. I’m guessing this photo was taken in October, though only because the ground looks newly ploughed, but not yet harrowed and re-sown, which is the farmer’s usual habit. I certainly don’t remember him missing a chance to put in some over-wintering crop, wheat or oilseed rape or field beans. On the other hand the ash trees are very bare and the hedgerows very spiky for early autumn. The light, too, and the dead grasses along the barbed wire fence also suggest winter. Even the glint of turned earth says ‘cold’.

Here’s that distant same spiky hedge, but a late afternoon view taken from the Townsend Meadow side:

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This is the field path running up beside the allotment hedge, also a wintery view from a couple of years ago. Much of this grassy margin has been ploughed up now and is presently sprouting winter wheat. The next photo is the path closer to our house, in early summer with the Queen Ann’s Lace going full throttle.

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English allotments tend towards the shambolic – lots of recycled greenhouses, makeshift sheds, cold frames, and windswept polytunnels. They can look very bleak in the winter months, or in the case of the next shot, disturbingly other worldly. It was taken at dusk when the greenhouses seemed to be capturing the last of the light in a distinctly sci-fi manner. The eerily lit straggle of dead tomato plants caught my eye.

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This was the shed I inherited from several previous owners when I acquired my first allotment plot. That was back in 2007. (Goodness how time flies when you’re digging and composting.) Heaven knows how old it was, but never mind. Before I moved to another plot some years later, it served me well despite its tendency to lean to the east and harbour roosting snails.

There had of course been moments when he who builds new sheds from scratch and lives in my house was called in for emergency resuscitation measures i.e. when the leaning reached critical declivity and demanded a hauling back to as near vertical as was humanly possible; a manoeuvre that took our combined effort. One day I found a 1725 halfpenny just in front of the door. Astonishingly it was barely covered by soil, and in a spot I had walked over hundreds of times. I wondered who had dropped it there long ago. Had the old path from the Sytche across Townsend Meadow (now only visible on antique maps) passed under my shed? And who had dropped it and later sorely missed it? A lass on an errand to fetch a jug of ale? A ploughman dropping it from his pocket while reaching for his tobacco?

The shed was also picturesquely sheltered by a very old greengage tree, the light through its foliage making the sunspots you can see on the door. It was more of a copse of several trunks than a single tree. Fruit production was sporadic, but once it a while it produced the most delicious plums ever invented if only you could get to eat them before the wasps did.

These days the shed is no more. For several years it lay abandoned. Then last winter the new plot holder demolished it, along with most of the tree. By then the shed truly was on its last legs, but the same can’t be said of the tree. Now only one spindly trunk remains after fellow allotmenteers objected and stopped the final act of culling. I still think of the tree that was. The creamy spring blossom was spectacularly lovely, the scent so delicate.

But enough reminiscing. We have the tree’s offspring over the hedge at home. I dug up a seedling tree a few years ago and planted it there. It’s already four metres tall and grew four greengages this year, none of which we sampled as they were difficult to reach, though  we were very happy to see them.

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A home-from-the-allotment shot: the ash tree at the top of Townsend Meadow caught with the sun about to slip off the edge of Wenlock Edge.

copyright 2020 Tish Farrell

ABOUT TISH FARRELL

 

2020 Photo Challenge

Through A Hedge Backlit

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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.

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Lens-Artists: the sun will come out tomorrow  Anvica’s Gallery has set the spirit-lifting theme this week. Go visit!

Season Of Leaves

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As a Halloween ‘babe’ (I use the term retrospectively) one might expect a new broomstick for one’s birthday (and actually a good old fashioned witches’ besom would be quite useful) but this year I received a very smart leaf rake – pale ash handle topped by the most elegant splay of shiny stainless steel tines. In fact the new rake is so artily attractive, I was rather  reluctant to take it up to the allotment.

But then yesterday, it being sunnily fine after recent gales and deluges, and with signs of copious leaf fall everywhere, the need to gather the makings for next year’s leaf mould overcame me. Armed with two big bags and rake I set off across the field, intent on making a start on clearing the lane beside the allotment where, the day before, I had swished through a sea of field maple leaves.

And then just as I was leaving the house I grabbed the camera too, switched it to monochrome mode. I remembered that Jude at Travel Words had set us a photo assignment to look for patterns in black and white. So here are the results of killing two birds with one stone. I also have two very full leaf ‘silos’ on my allotment plot.

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2020 Photo Challenge #44  Jude gives us lots of pointers and some striking examples of black and white composition.