Taken a few winters ago. This year we’ve only had frost. So far.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s a favourite spot with dog walkers, and naturally there are some fine views in several quarters:
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.
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.
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.
And finally a little jug of sunshine: allotment nasturtiums and pot marigolds all self-sown, but going strong through most of November:
The turn of the year: light and shadow; one summer gone, another planned for:
In Townsend Meadow…
Around the town: winter wheat sprouting, highland cattle lounging…
At the allotment: October morning glories on the pea sticks and in the polytunnel, bucket planting of endive and chicory for winter salad, summer squash and the last sweetcorn eaten, a sudden blooming of nasturtiums…
Final floral fling in the home garden:
Over the garden fence (sunshine and lots of rain)…
On the Linden Walk:
The Changing Seasons: October 2021 Please join hosts Ju-Lyn at Touring My Back yard and Brian at Bushboys World for this monthly challenge
The old railway line
Becky’s entertaining Past Squares month is nearly done, and this week Cee’s black and white photo challenge is vanishing point, and so the two notions seemed to coalesce…
Wenlock Priory ruins
The Linden Walk
Path to Bradley Farm
Those who come here often will know that our cottage in Much Wenlock sits at the foot of Townsend Meadow, a field that rises quite steeply to the west and towards the summit of nearby Wenlock Edge. At the Edge top (c 1,000 feet above sea level) the land plummets through hanging woodland of beech, ash and yew to the Shropshire plain below. From our perspective in the undulating Edge uplands above this drop we see the sky above a false horizon that turns this vista into a gallery. Every moment we are treated to ‘cinematic’ sky doings, either viewed over the garden fence, as in the header photo, or from the upstairs’ rooflights as in the next two photos.
There can also be curious effects – strange prisms of light that may be due to cold air rising from below the Edge, a bit like a fire rainbow. I’m sure a weather person can tell me. This next was spotted in early summer on a sunny evening:
I’m also often treated to some good cloud installations when I’m on the field path, to-ing or fro-ing the allotment. A good storm brewing up is always exciting:
Or a quieter top-of-the-meadow sunset:
The wood at the top field corner behind the allotment also goes in for its own cloud formations:
There is a noiseless little railway running through the valley, and there is an ancient little town lying at the abbey-gates – a town, indeed, with no great din of vehicles, but with goodly brick houses, with a dozen ‘publics’, with tidy, whitewashed cottages, and with little girls…bobbing curtsies in the street. But even now, if one had wound one’s way into the valley by the railroad, it would be rather a surprise to find a small ornamental cathedral in a spot on the whole so natural and pastoral. How impressive then must the beautiful church have been in the days of its prosperity, when the pilgrim came down to it from the grassy hillside, and its bells made the stillness sensible.
Henry James on Much Wenlock Portraits and Places
A long shot taken back in early February. I was probably standing on the higher slopes of Townsend Meadow, further up the field from the gap in the hedge to the allotment and challenging my camera’s zoom facility to its limit. Here then are the elevated remains of Wenlock Priory’s erstwhile church along with next-door roof glimpses of the Prior’s House, now a private home called The Abbey.
You can also see a cluster of Corsican Pines. I’ve no idea who planted them or why, but there are three groves of them around the Priory so I’m assuming the Milnes Gaskells who once lived at The Abbey (and had Henry James to stay on several occasions and also had the ruins as their own personal garden feature) may have been responsible for their arrival. They are anyway magnificent trees.
There’s more about The Abbey, the Milnes Gaskells and Henry James’ visits at an earlier post: Going behind the scenes in Wenlock Abbey
And also at: When Henry James came to Wenlock
I have no idea why this red-legged partridge decided to visit the Farrell domain. I don’t believe I have ever seen a sign of one around Wenlock’s field margins, although it ought to be ideal territory. They apparently like open farm terrain and feed on seeds, roots and small invertebrates. Also when disturbed they prefer to run rather than fly.
Yet here was this one, having clearly flown, atop the old garden privies (now sheds) and showing off for all the world to see. It was there for ages too, giving me ample opportunity to snap away from the bedroom window. The light was perfect, a crisp March morning last year. I watched while it scanned the neighbourhood, and at one point went in for some loud hallooing partridge style. I wondered if it was advertising for a mate. In any event none appeared, not unless it was running-not-flying over in the field and I couldn’t see it. So the mystery was never solved and after a quarter of an hour the visitor departed, never to be seen since, which is a pity. A partridge on the privy would be a pleasing garden addition.
The red-legged partridge has French origins and was introduced to the British Isles in the 1700s as a new game bird for land-owner shooting types. It apparently has over 73,000 breeding sites in England, Wales and lowland Scotland, and is a much more colourful character than the UK’s native Grey Partridge.
A male Common Blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus ), spotted one summer’s evening on my way home from the allotment. And despite the name, these butterflies are not at all common in our corner of Shropshire. Not only that, if you do happen to see one they don’t usually stay to have their photo taken. A very lucky shot then. And even in this next more distant view, still a magical sight:
You can find out more about them on the Butterfly Conservation website HERE
Sunshine yesterday after days of rain and general dankness, so we took ourselves off for a short walk up Windmill Hill. It was ages since we were last there – probably July when the pyramidal orchids were still in full bloom and there were drifts of yellow ladies bedstraw amongst the meadow grasses. Now the hill’s plateau top where the Windmill stands has been mown. It is practically a grassy sward up there.
And the reason for the mowing is that the kind Windmill Trust people, who are caring for the place, are trying to ensure the wellbeing of the old limestone meadow. In the recent past it was grazed over the autumn and winter months by ponies, but having field stock is anyway problematical when it’s such a popular spot for local dog walkers. So mowing it was, and I gather they managed to sell the grass for cattle feed, which all helps to support the Trust’s work.
Anyway, it was as I wandering around on the grassy top that I remembered the wolf farts. They featured in one of my early posts on matters Wenlockian and I hadn’t bothered to look for them since. And the reason I’d looked for them back then was because they cropped up in Guardian newspaper piece by journalist and nature writer of repute, Paul Evans, who happened to live in Much Wenlock.
So: what are wolf farts but the common puffball, Lycoperdon (from the Greek lycos wolf and perdomai to break wind) perlatum (gem-studded). Another name is devil’s snuffbox. My first introduction to them was in winter when they had dried to empty husks, their spores dispersed. The ones in the photos are at most 2.5 cm (a good inch) across.
I later read that squeezing them at the ripe stage was to be avoided. The spores are fine as dust and breathing them in can lead to lycoperdonosis, a life-threatening respiratory condition caused when the spores lodge in the lungs. A very nasty prospect.
But there were no such dangers of evil inhalants from the ones I spotted yesterday (header photo). They were freshly formed. And this reminded me of the recent marvellous foraging essay from Margaret at From Pyrenees to Pennines in which she describes finding “a magnificent puffball weighing in at more than a kilo, which – thickly sliced and dredged first in beaten egg, then breadcrumbs and grated parmesan and fried in butter – made splendidly tasty steaks.” As a fellow forager I was mightily excited by this piece of deliciousness. Somehow, though, I don’t think our tiny Windmill Hill wolf farts will quite come up to snuff on the tasty steak front.
More about the common puffball HERE
Of Wolf Farts, Windmills and the Wenlock Olympics original post
Summer came back this week, a few days of full-on sun before tomorrow’s promised thunder storm. As you can see, the helianthus in the guerrilla garden are all of a glow, caught here yesterday evening – sun dipping over Wenlock Edge. Even Townsend Meadow, recently doused with herbicide, looked quite good in sundowner light. The story here is that after the barley was harvested in July, much of the fallen grain germinated, turning the field into a grassy sward. This has now been dealt with. Next comes the ploughing and drilling. It is also the season of muck spreading, though thankfully not in the field behind the house. Even so, the odour is wafting about the town, especially pungent when combined with a heat wave. All of which is to say, beauty presently comes with a bit of a whiff.
Meanwhile back in the Farrell jungle, all is gold…