“…the bright day is done…

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…and we are for the dark.”

The back of our cottage looks towards the edge of Wenlock Edge, we atop the twenty-mile escarpment, the land dropping off to the west, falling straight, many hundred feet,  through hanging woods of beech and ash, oak and yew, wild cherry and service trees, hornbeams, whitebeams, wych elm, field maple, chestnuts, holly, hazel and lime; these the trees that settled here, each species in its own time as the ice sheet retreated from Shropshire some ten thousand years ago and the new soils built up on our 400 million-year-old upthrust seabed.

This thought of departing ice and arriving soil and trees reminds me that the climate has always changed, and is ever changing; even during ice ages there were warm periods. In one such warm phase 125,000 years ago, animals that we of the north now associate exclusively with Africa – hippos, lions, elephants, hyena inhabited the Thames basin where the city of London now sprawls. It’s quite some thought. Another is, and not so flippantly either, that today’s wind across the Edge is so bitingly frigid, that it rouses the suspicion in this gardener’s mind that we might actually be heading for colder times.

All of which is to say that the congruence of time and climate and geology have much to do with the fine skyscape displays behind our house. That the land drops away beyond the Edge provides us, on this side, with a false horizon, and thus expansive views of atmospheric activity, ever shifting and endlessly absorbing. This particular sunset (header photo) appeared during our recent brief warm spell. A few days ago it came instead with ice-pink ribbons.

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Quote from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra act V, sc 2, l 192

Copyright 2021 Tish Farrell

Bright Square #7

After The Storm: Big Skies On Wenlock Edge

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Late afternoon yesterday, calm restored after Storm Francis’s racketing about the place, we took ourselves off and up for a walk along the Edge. It was scarcely a hike, more of a ramble, though the climb up through the fields beyond Sytche Lane is a touch demanding. But then that gives me a good excuse for a breather while I snap a view of the town.

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This flank of Wenlock Edge has been good wheat growing land for centuries, but this year, in the fields that could not be harvested early, the crop is looking grey and mildewed. Too much rain when it was least expected. I suppose it will be ploughed in. The hedgerows, on the other hand, were bursting with wild produce: wall to wall sloes (wild bitter damsons) which, after a good frost or a spell in the freezer, are excellent for making sloe gin or vodka; brilliant red haws on the hawthorn bushes; elderberries and rosehips beginning to ripen. All very autumnal.

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Turning away from the town to the south: Clee Hill.

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Once up on Wenlock Edge, and now heading in a northerly direction we come upon a view we had not seen before. Something was missing since the last time we were here – which just goes to show that we should go rambling more often. So what’s missing: guesses anyone? Clue: Ironbridge Gorge dead ahead.

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From this point the path along the Edge runs out flat and even, fields on the right, ancient hanging woodland on the left where the escarpment falls alarmingly away to the Shropshire plain below. I thought of A.E. Housman’s poem ‘On Wenlock Edge’, (number 31 in A Shropshire Lad) and wished I’d come up here on the morning of the storm. It would have been exciting – all thrashing boughs and wind rush:

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

And finally, since Housman has kindly provided the caption, coming up is the Wrekin, as seen from the homeward path.

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There’s an Iron Age hillfort on the summit, once a stronghold of the Celtic Cornovii clans who inhabited the Welsh borders and English Midlands. After the Roman occupation, the local Cornovii became the Romanized inhabitants of Wroxeter/Viroconium Roman City whose remnants still survive (just off-screen to the left) beside the River Severn. The Wrekin itself, as all locals know, was made by a very grumpy giant called Gwendol. You can read my version of that story HERE.

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I’m linking this to Jo’s Monday Walk: she is an inspiration to all of us to get rambling. This week’s expedition includes some very fine Portuguese Roman remains at Mirobriga, an archaeological site which also has Iron Age connections.