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.

The Iron Bridge ~ Our World Famous Local Landmark

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Well some of us might be excited by the sight of the world’s first cast iron bridge (a single span built in 1779 to replace a treacherous ferry crossing, while being tall enough to let the Severn sailing barges pass through without de-masting; cutting edge technology of its time). But then none of this appears to cut much ice with the lass on the fence. I love her look of wistful nonchalance. Bridge? What bridge?

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Upstream of the bridge we find a band of happy industrial architecture enthusiasts. They have just enjoyed a spirited ‘Iron Bridge’ talk from the late John Powell, for many years librarian at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust,  and seen here leading the group onwards to other exciting Severn Gorge sights.

Which could well be this, the Coalbrookdale ironmasters’ riverside warehouse (built in Gothic style), the point from which their cast iron goods (especially cauldrons) were exported downriver to the wide world:

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And at the time when these photos were taken, visitors to the Severn Warehouse would also have seen these:

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The cooling towers of the now demolished Ironbridge Power Station.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: on or by the water

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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Changing Seasons: This Was October

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The turn of the year: light and shadow; one summer gone, another planned for:

In Townsend Meadow…

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Around the town: winter wheat sprouting, highland cattle lounging…

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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…

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Final floral fling in the home garden:

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Over the garden fence (sunshine and lots of rain)…

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On the Linden Walk:

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The Changing Seasons: October 2021  Please join hosts Ju-Lyn at Touring My Back yard and Brian at Bushboys World for this monthly challenge

Orange Power

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I thought this marigold square deserved another outing – essence of orange as visual infusion. And yes, I know. I keep writing about this particular cottage garden pharmacopoeia, so just to prove I’m not some old wife telling ill founded tales, here’s a scientific paper that highlights calendula’s potential for all manner of human ills, and calls for a thorough investigation of likely benefits. The list of this plant’s phytoconstituents is breath-taking:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3841996/

The paper also points out that pot marigold, Calendula officinalis, is used clinically around the globe, especially for skin complaints. This has been so for hundreds of years. It would certainly have been found in the monastic physic garden, and the medieval wife would also have grown it in her kitchen garden, since she was the one responsible for dealing with family ills in an era when ordinary folk had to shift for themselves when it came to illness.

Anyway, just looking at my current marigold horde at the allotment cheers me up. So here’s a further dose:

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Past Square #28

Life in Colour: Orange

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

As Seen In Fresh Light ~ Over The Garden Fence

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Of itself the field behind our house (Townsend Meadow) is not very interesting. It is simply a farm field, much subjected to agrochemicals in order to produce year on year wheat, or rape, or oats, or field beans or barley. On days when the light is flat it is plain dull. Most of the time it is the activity above it that catches my eye – cloud movements, and the odd effects created by a false horizon which obscures the further horizon of Wenlock Edge where the ground drops off a few hundred feet to the Shropshire Plain below. But there are moments when the quality of light bestows a certain glamour. Somewhat astonishingly the header photo was taken at first light one February morning – a piece of magic all its own since February in England is rarely a scenic month unless one is thinking about carpets of snowdrops.

Here are some more ‘best’ moments – over the garden fence, or from the office skylight.

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Lens-Artists: It’s all about light Many thanks to Tina for this week’s theme. Please go and see her very inspirational gallery of light works.

Bridge Over The River Teme

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Dinham Bridge in the Shropshire market town of Ludlow is not as old as looks suggest. It was built in 1823 and is sometimes attributed to Thomas Telford, who in earlier decades had been Shropshire’s Surveyor of Public Works. But it seems unlikely that this is one of his bridges; around this time and for several years before he was most often to be found far away in his Scottish homeland, very much taken up with the mammoth enterprise that was the construction of the 60 mile-long Caledonian Canal.

On the other hand, Ludlow Castle, seen here above the bridge, is every bit as old as it looks – over a thousand years old in fact. Work began on the hillside promontory in 1075 and continued over the next hundred years. It was a key defensive position aimed at keeping the nearby rebelling Welsh suitably subdued. The town grew up below its walls from the 12th century onwards, all laid out in the manner typical medieval town planning.

Meanwhile the castle continued to play its part – in the Wars of the Roses, and the English Civil War. It was also the place where, Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales and Henry VIII’s older brother died in 1502, a circumstance that later had much to answer for. In the November of the preceding year, Arthur and his new bride, Catherine of Aragon, had gone to Ludlow Castle for their honeymoon. They were both 15 years old, and had been betrothed since infancy. You can read more of that story in an earlier post Honeymoon Destination Anyone?

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: bridges

Wheels Within Wheels: Or How To Make A Lot Of Hot Air

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In another life I worked at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT). This was back in the days of government funded job-creation projects when these were the only means of beginning a museum career. I did various jobs – education officer, archaeology project supervisor, head cook at the New Inn at the Blists Hill Victorian Village. Fund-raising catering events also featured. I once devised lunch for a thousand Commonwealth University Vice Chancellors, and served apple pie in the Blists Hill  Squatter Cottage to a bunch of bemused Italian Industrial Archaeologists. Then there was the party for the class of Welsh school children in the depths of the Tar Tunnel whither provisions were wheeled in on an old mine truck and we all had to wear hard hats with miner’s lamps, and the poor kids had to tuck into the party food before the dark, dank atmosphere of the tunnel turned the crisps and sausage rolls to mush.

But I digress. This is supposed to be about wheels and a (vaguely) technical explanation of the header photo is called for.

So: back in the early days of IGMT, as in the late 1960s, the putative museum had among its patrons venerable local industrialists, men who were worried that Shropshire’s  industrial heritage would be lost in the van of Dawley (later Telford) New Town development. They had the notion of saving particular technological exemplars and exhibiting them, sculpture park fashion, on one of the Ironbridge Gorge’s abandoned industrial sites. Blists Hill seemed ideal because it was anyway rich in original 18th and 19 century industrial remains: blast furnaces, adits, canal, brickworks, steam-winding engine, and the fabulous inclined plane, (tar tunnel beneath) – all still waiting to be conserved and/or restored.

One of the first ‘exhibits’ to be relocated there was David and Sampson, a huge steam powered air blowing machine that from 1851 to 1900 had been deployed to stoke up the heat in four blast furnaces at the nearby Lilleshall Company.

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Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the two massive beams (obscured here by the protective superstructure) but you can see what they look like at this link. Both beam engines were harnessed to and regulated by a single large flywheel., each connected to a steam cylinder (beside the wheel) and a big air tub (to the rear). Between them, the engines pushed out 12,500 cubic feet of air per minute. As in WHOOSH!

These days, it’s hard to imagine that East Shropshire was once a centre of industry – i.e. from early mediaeval monastic days to the 1960s. The Lilleshall Company that originally commissioned the beam engines from Murdock, Aitken and Co, Glasgow – was active in iron and steel production, coal mining, engineering and brick making over some 150 years, and belongs to the latter phase of Shropshire’s industrial history. (There is more about Murdock, Aitken and Co plus some old photos of beam engines HERE.)

And while we’re at Blists Hill and looking at wheels, here’s the restored pit head of an original 19th century mine, also operated by a very fine (still working) steam engine. The local mines very conveniently produced fire clay, iron ore and coal – just what the industrial entrepreneur ordered.

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Blists Hill pit head, and 19th century brickworks ruins behind.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: wheels

Today A Piece Of Sky Fell In The Garden

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And here it is:

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…a male Holly Blue butterfly Celastrina argiolus on the sedum. Blue butterflies tend to be very skittish, and as far as I know I’d not seen a Holly Blue before, though they are quite common. This one was also very shy, and after he flitted off to feed on the oregano flowers would only show me his underwings. But still, they are also very pretty – at first sight white, but then a shimmer of iced blue.

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copyright 2021 Tish Farrell