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

Leading You Up My Garden Path

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Our cottage is built into a fieldside bank. The garden is broad (as wide as the house), but not deep. Or rather it is deep since it drops off about 8 feet to the right of the frame. The two old privies back onto Townsend Meadow. There’s a very free-form hedge of many plant species behind the foreground flower bed, and a fenced portion (guerrilla garden on the field side) beyond the privies. The deep red smoke bush behind the brolly marks the boundary with next door, and I’m standing with my back against the bespoke, self-built Graham-Shed to take the photo. Here then is the Farrell domain – small and irregularly formed. An upstairs-downstairs-between-floors-short-on-planning sort of a garden.

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Square Perspective #18 A seafood teaser from Becky today.

Six Word Saturday  And a fabulous Vatican shot from Debbie.

Yesterday Was A Good Baking Day

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There are times when the forces of good culinary outcomes are all in alignment, and yesterday in the Sheinton Street kitchen was one of them. The cake worked and the loaf worked. The first, a gluten free orange spice cake, is one I make every now and then, though I keep changing the constituent parts; the second I rarely ever make. I am thus inordinately pleased with this spelt flour creation. It not only looks beautiful it also makes brilliant toast; especially delicious with homemade marmalade.

The cake started out as a Delia Smith recipe from her classic cookery book, but I’ve made so many changes, I think I can claim it as my recipe. In yesterday’s version I replaced the flour with ground almonds and polenta, the butter with coconut oil, the castor sugar with coconut sugar, and the mixed peel with a table spoonful of homemade marmalade and some chopped stem ginger.

Orange Spice Cake

You need an 8 inch/20 cm loose bottomed cake tin – greased (I usually line the base with parchment). Oven 325 F/170 C/160 C Fan assisted. Cooking time around 1 hour.

5 oz almond flour (140 gm)

5 oz polenta (140 gm)

4 oz coconut oil (110 gm)

3 oz coconut sugar (or sugar of choice) (75 gm)

ground ginger – rounded teaspoon

ground cinnamon – rounded teaspoon

ground cloves –  a pinch

grated zest of large orange

2 eggs beaten

3 oz runny honey (75 gm)

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water

1 heaped tablespoon of marmalade or 2 oz (50 gm) chopped mixed peel

1 piece of stem ginger finely chopped

 

Method

Gently melt honey and coconut oil in a pan over a low heat. Set aside.

Sift ground almond flour into large bowl with polenta. Add sugar, spices and orange zest. Stir in melted oil and honey. Add marmalade/or mixed peel/stem ginger, beaten eggs, dissolved bicarb and beat well. The resulting mix is slightly sloppy. Pour into tin and bake. It will probably take about an hour but keep an eye on it. When cooked, cool in the tin and then turn out. And eat!

 

Six Word Saturday

Look Out! Ghosts On The Line

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Last week the Severn Valley Railway had a fit of the Sleepy Hollows: witches, ghouls and other scary entities popping up all over the place; ghosties wiffling off platform lampposts, skellies rising from station gardens, mega cobwebs and evil pumpkin faces. There was even a huge red devil to give you the willies if you were thinking of catching the train from Kidderminster. It was schools’ half-term holiday of course, so there were plenty of kids ready to go in for some serial screaming at Bewdley Station’s gruesome set pieces. It all added to the fun of trundling along on a steam train. We spent the whole day doing it – up and down the 16 mile line – Bridgnorth, Hampton Loade, Highley, Arley, Bewdley, Kidderminister, and back to Bridgnorth in time for tea.

Here’s a gallery of things we saw on the way, mostly through the train window – a very flooded River Severn for one, and also a most surprising sight in rural Worcestershire. But you’ll have to wait till the end for that.

And last but not least in the way of motley scenes and sightings on the Severn Valey Railway: elephants at Bewdley Safari Park.

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Six Word Saturday

What Next: A Cloud Of Herring?

Once it was said the hauls of  herring landed at Fishguard were so great that the fields of West Wales were spread with the excess catch. And if this sounds balmy, decomposing fish would make a good (if environmentally expensive and pretty maloderous) fertiliser. When I read this I then remembered that the farmers of the great Inca Empire of Peru were said to do a similar thing. Before planting their maize seed, they dibbed a hole and dropped a fish in first to feed the growing plant. I’m assuming it wasn’t a fresh one that could otherwise have been eaten.

The sculpture (maker not credited) sits beside the harbour in Lower Fishguard and commemorates the town’s rich herring days. The trade was already established by the 900s CE when the Vikings, who spent a lot of time raiding Wales and Ireland, left off pillaging for a bit of fish buying.  These rapacious sea-raiders called the little inlet Fiskigarðr  and this, according to the town web page, means ‘fish catching enclosure’ in Old Norse. The name Fiscard in fact hung on for centuries after the Vikings were long gone, and only Anglicised at the end of the 19th century. The Welsh name is of course quite different, and probably these days more geographically useful. Abergwaun means the mouth of the Gwaun River.

The herring industry scaled reached industrial heights in the late 18th century. Fifty Fishguard coastal vessels were bringing in catches that were sold in Ireland and the English ports of Bristol and Liverpool. Oats were the other main export, the crop doubtless well fish-nourished on the fields of the West Wales hinterland. It now becomes clear why the town’s shipping was targeted by the American privateer Black Prince in 1779 (see previous post). It looked like the town would be good for £1000 ransom fee. But then looks can be deceptive.

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Line Squares #5

Six Word Saturday

Scenes From The Realm Of Ancestors

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Two thousand years ago the people who lived within the mountain hillfort of Carn Ingli (seen here in the distance) would have looked down on this 5,500 year-old chambered tomb of Pentre Ifan. Back then, the Neolithic burial cairn was probably mostly intact, still covered with an earth mound and extending some 120 feet (36 metres). Over the centuries most of the stones have been removed, most likely for wall and house building; only the most immovable stones remain. The capstone is reckoned to weigh 16 tonnes and is supported on the tips of three larger-than-man-size stones.

However you think about it, this tomb is an extraordinary feat of construction by people who only had tools made of stone, wood and bone. In the next photo I have included men (near and far) to give some sense of scale – height and original tomb length. The burial place, probably used for successive interments and not only for one individual, is also in sight of the sea, the harbour inlet at Parrog, Newport, which may well have been used by trading boat as far back as the Neolithic.

I’m wondering what the ancestors would think of us now: the age when folly and ignorance finally ‘triumphed’ over wisdom?

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Six Word Saturday

Thoughts From The Blue Glass Sea

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Yesterday, 20th September 2019 when young people around the world were on strike to urge politicians to start telling the truth about climate emergency and to take action NOW to save their future, I looked out on this view across Cardigan Bay in West Wales. And I thought: isn’t it time we all stopped killing the planet and thus everything we truly value?

On the 23rd September 2019 the United Nations Climate Action Summit takes place. Let’s hope the world leaders attending have their brains switched on. It will cost us a lot otherwise – the earth in fact.

Six Word Saturday

Communing With Orchids On Windmill Hill

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Yesterday morning he who presently spends his time making a scale model of a static steam engine, surprised me by abandoning house and shed to take part in the orchid count on Windmill Hill. We had the first count last year, but this year the orchids are far more numerous. The hill is in the care of the Windmill Trust, a group of local volunteers, and in the past the limestone grassland was mostly kept in check by a flock of small ponies, brought in to graze at the end of summer. Unfortunately the little ponies had to be sold, so last year at summer’s end  the Windmill Trust had the hill mowed, the hay baled and dispatched to the local riding centre and the ground harrowed. It’s certainly given the purple pyramidal orchids a boost, though later when I went up the hill to see for myself, apart from the pyramids, I could only find this single Bee Orchid and one Spotted Orchid, though I was probably a bit late for the latter; they anyway prefer the parts of the hill where the soil is less calcareous.

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With all the rain we’ve had, the grasses are knee-high and the orchids not as conspicuous as they usually are. But there are also masses of other limestone meadow flowers: wild thyme, mallow, agrimony, viper’s bugloss, knapweed, thistles, ladies bedstraw, hop trefoil, vetches, yellow rattle, cinquefoil, brambles, St. John’s Wort and hawkweeds. The place was alive with insects too – not only bees, but also blue damsel- and dragon flies and masses of Meadow Brown and Small Heath butterflies. Also a Common Blue. I didn’t see the peregrine falcon though that Graham had seen in the morning, but I went home thinking what a treasure place is Windmill Hill.

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P.S. Hot off the press come the orchid count results: 3,574 pyramidal orchids (compared to 864 last year); 129 spotted orchids; 15 bee orchids.

 

Six Word Saturday