Photo taken this week on All Hallows Eve on the path to Croft Ambrey hillfort.
Photo taken this week on All Hallows Eve on the path to Croft Ambrey hillfort.
And when we’ve trashed this one, there won’t be another (see postscript).
In case you’re wondering where I’ve been for the past week – we’ve been staying in a barn in the Derbyshire High Peak where we woke to views of Higger Tor and Millstone Edge (haloed here) and the wide vistas of Hope Valley. The barn in question was one my maternal ancestors would have known and used, though not in its current luxurious holiday-let manifestation of five bedrooms, three bathrooms, plus central heating, range cooker, vast TV screen and free Wifi.
For around two centuries the Fox family lived at Callow Farm, tenants of the Eyres, and later of the Dukes of Devonshire who bought the Highlow estate from the Eyres/Archers in the early nineteenth century. The Foxes were also in this particular vicinity (around Highlow and Offerton in Hathersage Outseats) for at least the preceding 500 years, although trying to unravel the multiple generations of Georges and Williams is proving pretty impossible. All the more tantalizing when we know a 19th century list of Derbyshire Charters has a certain William Fox holding a few acres at Offerton in the late 1200s.
The more recent tenant Foxes owned some land too, and so in their way were very minor landlords. This in itself is a puzzle, since from earliest times this whole territory was controlled by abbots and monarchs and thence parcelled out to sundry lords and lordlings who taxed, tithed and generally reaped the rewards of ordinary mortals’ labours.
In High Peak the bulk of those returns included a large annual cut from the proceeds of the lead mined and processed by Derbyshire yeomen farmers like the Foxes – a raw and life-threatening trade carried out when they were not engaged in growing oats, making cheese and butter from their small dairy herds, cutting mill- and grinding stones from the precipitous millstone grit edges or minding their sheep. I have evidence of some of these multiple activities from local newspaper details of October 1892 when my great great grandfather George Brayley Fox sold off the Callow Farm stock before leaving the farm. This also means I know precisely what was in those barns at that particular time.
I have also now witnessed what the Dukes of Devonshire did at Chatsworth with the income from their tenant farmer-lead miners. The extravagant display of the 6th Duke in particular is jaw-dropping. But for all this and more – see upcoming posts.
For now here’s a daylight view from Callow farm fields, looking across the Derwent Valley to Hathersage: Higger Tor on the far right, Stanage Edge along the skyline to the left.
And here is Callow Barn – now cut off from the next door farmhouse, the properties being privately and separately owned and perhaps originally sold off from the Chatsworth Estate in either the 1930s or 1960s, both occasions when the estate’s massive death duties required the sale of extensive property and farmland.
And finally Callow Farmhouse as seen from the public footpath to Leadmill:
P.S. Much of Derbyshire – the uplands and dales – lies within the National Park. I learn this morning from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE is an organisation well worth supporting) that our government wants to bury nuclear waste in our National Parks, wilderness areas that are now used by many hundred thousand citizens for walking and cycling, and whose consistent presence there through much of the year significantly supports local rural economies. The Derbyshire national park in particular positively teems with humanity at weekends, happy families and dogs out for a jaunt and some very fresh air, away from the nearby cities of Manchester, Sheffield and Derby. Words fail.
copyright 2018 Tish Farrell
I have no idea why other people’s washing is so fascinating to humankind; nor perhaps should one enquire too deeply into the rhyme and reason of it. In scenic foreign places (i.e. not at home) it does have a certain art-installation allure. So here’s some Greek washing you haven’t seen, and coming up is more Greek washing that was hung out to dry in an earlier post. I thought is was worth a second airing. A washing line with a view of the Taygetos and the Gulf of Messenia. How uplifting must be the daily act of pegging out. (Not metaphorically of course).
copyright 2018 Tish Farrell
This sheep popped over the cattle grid so fast, I didn’t actually see it in action (one second it was on the far side, the next it was among the pink geraniums), but all its friends and relations in the next-door field saw. Goodness, what a commotion they kicked up. How did you do that! Wait for us! BAAAAAAA!
We’d just had lunch in the Apple Store Cafe on the Brockhampton Estate (see previous posts), and were about to head home. But at the last minute I thought I’d like a photo of the parkland with its grazing sheep, although the light wasn’t promising. And that’s when it happened – the great escape – ovine-style.
A couple of other sheep who had been paying attention to how it was done, soon followed their leader. The rest stood at the fence and whinged. BAAAAAAAA!
In the Pink #8 Today Becky is truly ‘in the pink’.
Six Word Saturday While over in St. Albans, Debbie’s climbing high – a three towers challenge. Go for it, Debbie!
Godetia is another ‘good old gardener’s’ annual flower that I grew from seed this year. They are a bit pink for my taste, but very obliging. This particular plant is accompanying the chives and some Persian basil in a pot by the kitchen door and, flower-wise, is taking over blooming duty from the drumhead alliums which are now palely drooping. Yesterday it was also hosting a new bug – new to me that is. You can spot it making an entrance top right.
When I first glimpsed it, I thought it might be a dreaded crimson lily beetle, though I don’t grow lilies. They have very nasty habits (their larvae, very cunningly for larvae, disguise themselves from predators by coating themselves in black excrement while they chomp through the lilies, bud and leaf).
A closer look, however, revealed…
… and after a few quick snaps, sent me searching on the internet, where after googling ‘orange and black bug UK’ its ID was swiftly established. So here it is, a cinnamon or rhopalid bug Corizus hyoscyami. Originally only common in southern Britain, it is now spreading. This one is probably newly emerged, August to September being the time slot for a new generation. It likes dry habitats, and has no unpleasant habits: i.e. it does not emit smelly effusions that some other bugs are wont to do. Nothing I read indicated culpability in the plant damage department. So, until I learn otherwise, I think we may simply admire it for its very snazzy livery.
Later it hopped over to the Persian basil, where I thought it looked particularly fetching.
…marches Graham with his morning mug of coffee. A touch eccentric perhaps. But then if you have a handy field you can walk into from the house, and the sun is shining, why not?
Actually we always get excited when the farmer harvests Townsend Meadow. We watch over the crop, usually wheat, but this year oil seed rape, for the whole year. And then comes a brief interlude before the ploughing and re-sowing when we feel we can rush out there and romp. In Graham’s case the romping is a purely cerebral activity as you may judge from this contemplative pose.
We could, however, have done without Wednesday night’s momentous dust storm that followed the combine harvester. The crop looked totally desiccated before it was cut, and the seed pods wizened, and now we are left with a desert of chaff that lies in deep drifts between the stalks. Please, weather gods, keep your stock of gales, winds, and even light zephyr breezes well contained otherwise we might have to hoover the garden. And ourselves too.
Please visit Debbie and her v. stylish ATM
This plant is a Spear thistle Cirsium vulgare also known as the Bull or Common thistle, and the most likely candidate for the role of ‘National Flower of Scotland’, although this particular one is growing in Much Wenlock beside the allotment hedge. I’m not sure why the Scots particularly took thistles to heart (a prickly enterprise if ever there was one), though there are possibly clues (not always decipherable) in Hugh MacDiarmid’s 1926 epic stream of consciousness in which one features. It is called A Drunk Man Looks At A Thistle, and at 2,685 lines long, and written in Border Scots dialect, is a challenging read, though the version at the link above does provide a glossary here and there. Go there if you wish to discover some stunning Scots vocabulary.
Here are two tiny, rather more accessible excerpts, the first describing the thistle seen in the moonlight; the second likening it to the chief drone on a set of bagpipes:
The thistle canna vanish quite.
Inside a’ licht its shape maun glint,
A spirit wi’ a skeleton in’t.
Plant, what are you than? your leafs
Mind me o the pipes lod drone
– And aa your purply tops
Are the pirly-wirly notes
That gang staggerin ower them as they groan
And then this is what happens next, in my version of reality that is:
…a ‘pirly-wirly’ explosion of would-be thistles. Those floating seed heads get everywhere, making it yet another highly successful pest of farm fields and gardens. In its favour, the flowers are much loved by moths, butterflies and bees (as well as being most striking to look at) and birds, especially goldfinches, like to feed on the seeds.
Today’s take-away special is definitely the oregano nectar smoothie. The Cabbage White butterflies and the honey bees have been gorging themselves, and while I am not too thrilled about feeding up the Cabbage Whites – given the mayhem they can create among my cabbages and broccoli – I have to admit they did look very lovely flitting around in the guerrilla garden. In fact I think I shall rename our unofficial planting behind the back fence ‘the biodiversity plot’ because, even as I write this, there is an awful lot of it going on there.
Noteworthy action includes crowds of longhorn beetles busy replicating in the spearmint flowers and on some ragwort that has recently arrived uninvited; skipper butterflies on the lesser knapweed, ringlet butterflies on the phlox and oregano; also passing tortoiseshells, peacocks and commas, and some rather small hoverflies.
Most of the bumble bees, however, are inside the garden still scoffing on the drumstick alliums. Now for a gallery of some of today’s lunch-time clientele:
Sunday 8 June 3.15 a.m.
I had woken early, anxious not to miss our passing under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (that connects Staten Island to Brooklyn), a feat that had to be timed precisely to occur at 4.45 am to accommodate the soaring height of Queen Mary II. We had been at sea a week – for that’s how long the Queen Mary’s Trans-Atlantic Crossing takes – even now – and as the song goes – there had been nothing to see but sea. I was growing used to the meditative sameness of the view, and thinking I might just like to go on sailing forever. But then it was chilly too, and much of the time overcast; we saw not one sunset or sunrise, though one day I saw four dolphins. We spent our days and evenings after dinner roving the ship. You could walk miles, and often, despite the presence of 2,000 passengers and as many staff, we would find ourselves in utterly deserted quarters; silent but for the hum of ship’s engines. It was often very eerie, the more so after attending one of John Maxtone-Graham’s lectures on Titanic. He was Cunard’s resident historian, and his morning talks in the grand auditorium were one of the few activities we took part in.
On some days there were strong winds that put the top decks out of bounds – the doors firmly roped to prevent access. This was where the tennis courts, swimming pools and golf range were sited; also the pound for all those sea dogs who were accompanying their owners on the voyage. I spotted a labrador, dalmation, terrier and cocker spaniel, all under the care of the dog stewards. It made me think of the Trans-Atlantic Walking the Dog sequence in the 1937 Astaire-Rogers film Shall We Dance. (You can see a clip at the link.)
At 3.15 when I opened our veranda door it was like stepping into a steam bath. Somehow in the few hours between going to bed and making landfall there had been a complete climate change. All around were small craft, distant shore lights, sea birds flitting by like bats. It was a shock to see so many signs of life out there. Soon the little Sandy Hook Pilot boat was heading our way, disappearing astern to deliver the pilot. A little while later I saw the boat veering off again, lights flashing. It seems that not only the pilot had come aboard. Later still, I came across two hugely scary flak-jacketed security men, one wielding a very large weapon. Overhead a chopper dogged our slow progress. The passage under the Verrazano Bridge went smoothly, complete with accompanying loud-speaker commentary from John Maxtone-Graham. It was all immensely theatrical like much else on Queen Mary II.
The regal arrival next involved a stately three-point turn in front of the Statue of Liberty, this in order to dock stern-first at Red Hook, Brooklyn. We put in at 6.a.m, right on schedule, a blood-red sunrise over the new IKEA building. We’re here. New York. The last time Graham made this crossing he was three years old. They had sailed on Cunard’s much smaller Medea, a civilised first class only ship. He and his parents were set to start a new life in London, Ontario, where his father was project managing engineering works in a new power station. This new life would begin with a few days in Manhattan and a visit to the Empire State Building before heading to Canada. There was another connection too. We were carrying with us a copy of a letter written by one of Graham’s ancestral family members, Robert Baxter, a Northamptonshire farmer’s son who made the crossing to New York in 1852, and described the appalling conditions he witnessed in steerage when he had to go below to fetch water for his own cabin. At that time the voyage took 21 days and passengers had to do their own cooking, although Robert said he felt so sick for two of those three weeks that he could mostly only manage to eat the home-made cake he had brought with him. There would have been no Statue of Liberty to greet their arrival. She did not sail in until 1885.
Here is the last paragraph from Robert’s letter home. He had gone to America to make his fortune. There is no doubting his sense of excitement:
New York is a dirty place but a wonderful place for business. It is very large. It appeared rather curious to see the telegraph posts and wires in all the principle streets and the railroad carriages running every quarter of an hour drawn by horses. They are beautiful carriages lined with silk plush. You can ride 3 miles for 5c. It is beautiful travelling. It is a splendid sight to see the fire engines and that is nothing new. I have seen them out 6 times in one day.
Arrival in a new country is often fraught with anxieties, and US immigration is particularly fraught-making. We began our own adventure with mixed emotions, but then thoughts of Robert Baxter’s enthusiasm proved infectious. A week in Manhattan and old friends to catch up with. It was bound to be good.
Please visit Debbie to see her stunning views of St Pancras Station. She kindly allows some of us to overstep the 6-word mark – just so long as we have a 6-word title.
copyright 2018 Tish Farrell
This is my absolutely favourite Much Wenlock place (apart from home and the allotment), and it’s just across the road from the house. The Linden Walk borders the Gaskell (Linden) Field, and until the 1960s, steam trains would have been chuffing past just a few metres to the right of the tree cutting sign. In Victorian times there used to be an Olympic Special that every year brought in hundreds of spectators to watch the July Olympian Games masterminded by the town’s doctor, William Penny Brookes. The handsome station was only a hundred yards behind the point where I’m standing to take this photo.
Dr Brookes was also responsible for bringing the railway to Wenlock and for nagging his friends into helping him plant this double row of lime trees (Tilia x europaea). This was done in the 1860s, and I wonder if he foresaw then how lovely it would be. I’m guessing he would. He was a man of vision and a great believer in devising means to cultivate both the physical and mental well being of the townsfolk.
Apart from being a physician, he was also a keen botanist and, before taking over the town’s medical practice from his father, he had studied herbalism at the University of Padua. Doubtless he would have known that preparations of lime flowers have strong sedative and pain relieving properties, a remedy to be treated with some caution.
I’m also sure he had in mind the blissful effect of simply wandering beneath an avenue of limes on a hot June day, absorbing the soothing green shade and breathing in the delicious fragrance of the trees’ inconspicuous cascades of blossom. Now the trees are at peak leafiness they create a continuous arcaded canopy. The small hermaphroditic flowers also produce nectar which means there are bees. Blackbirds and squirrels forage round the roots. There is birdcall in the treetops, and even though the tree cutting sign suggests the barking of chainsaws, there was only quietness when I took the photo. The trimmers of the lime trees’ epicormic growth must have gone to lunch. You can see the effect they have had if you compare the trees with those in the second photo taken the day before. While the overgrowth is boskily attractive it can get out of hand; limes are prone to fungal diseases, and so are probably best protected by improving ventilation.
In fact the continued good health of the Linden Walk it taken very seriously. Cricket club supporters and bowling club members are no longer allowed to drive their cars along the avenue as they were wont to do, an activity that threatened to compact the tree roots. In fact we’ve been told by a Professor of Lime Trees that the trees could live another 150 years if we look after them. What a treasure Dr Brookes left behind – for us and a few more generations yet.
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