Black & White Sunday ~ Traces of the Past

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The old railway bridge over the Mawddach River at Barmouth, Gwynedd, Wales

And mazy sands all water-wattled
Waylay her at ebb, past Penmaen Pool.

Gerard Manley Hopkins Penmaen Pool – from a poem written for the visitor’s book at the George Hotel 1876

Black & White Sunday: Traces of the Past

St Bride’s Castle ~ After And Before At Black & White Sunday

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Over at Lost In Translation, one of Paula’s recurrent themes is the conversion of a colour image to monochrome. It’s always interesting discovering what will or will not work; which details become more or less significant. Sometimes there are quite striking and unexpected differences in mood. All of which is to say, I’m not sure why I even thought of converting this first photo to monochrome. As an indoor, night-time shot with too many light sources, I wasn’t expecting it to work at all. But then I found I rather liked the monochrome version. It somehow has a more formal or stately feel about it. It was taken in the hall-drawing room of St. Bride’s Castle.

Coming up is the front entrance. I don’t think the conversion does much for the image here:

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This next exterior shot perhaps works better: austere geometrical silhouette against active clouds:

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And I do rather like this clump of monochromed daffodils found in the castle grounds:

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Black & White Sunday: After and Before

More about St. Bride’s HERE

In which Six Go Potty In Pembroke With Cockapoo Puppy  – holiday snaps #10

Lincoln Cathedral ~ Black & White Sunday

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A few years ago we spent a very satisfying three days in Lincoln. Not only is the town bursting with historical buildings and atmosphere, it is a very visitor-friendly place. The cathedral is undoubtedly the star, although the monochrome edition here makes it look rather stark. In real life the stonework has an amber glow. You can see that version in an earlier post: Walking Through Time On Lincoln’s Steep Hill.

It is astonishing to think that this building – begun in 1088, and later suffering fire, earthquake, and many phases of rebuilding, is still standing. Art critic John Ruskin claimed it to be the most precious exemplar of British architecture, and worth two of any of our other cathedrals. I’ll take his word for it. In fact I agree. The extraordinary craftsmanship and feats of engineering, if not their overall purpose, truly impress me. The towers were built in phases from the late 1200s – constructed ever taller and more elaborately. The central, and tallest tower was raised to 271 feet/83 metres in 1311. With spire added it is said to have outdone the Great Pyramid of Giza for tallness, a record it enjoyed until 1549 when the spire blew down.

The cathedral’s presence in the townscape is indubitably breath-taking, but the thing I liked best when we were there was that peregrine falcons have taken to nesting way up on the tower ledges. As you walked around the peaceful precincts you could hear their plaintive calls in the tower tops. These birds normally nest on sheer cliff faces so you have to admire their nouveau urban style – pinnacle of early English Gothic.

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Black & White Sunday: Traces of the Past  You have till a week on Sunday to post your own traces of the past and link to Paula’s blog here.

Frosted Bracken ~ Black & White Sunday

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When we left Hay-on-Wye on Friday morning we headed west into the hill country above the Wye valley. The lane wound up narrowly from Clyro to Painscastle, the hedgerows bathed in high-definition sunlight. But there were also rafts of ice – here and there, where the road dipped into shadow. It was exciting to see – real ice, even if it was swiftly turning to slush.

We were taking a somewhat round-about route to our immediate destination – the Erwood Art Gallery whose leaflet says it is the biggest privately owned gallery of contemporary art and craft in Wales. It is also in an isolated spot in the woods above the Wye, and to add to its interest is housed in three Victorian railway carriages left over from the days when the train came this way. Into my mind’s eye puffs a doughty steam engine pulling a long tail of carriages. I imagine rattling along the wide river valley, hills and farms and sheep pasture all around. And think: it’s a crying shame this loss of Britain’s most scenic railways – killed in the ‘60s by the wretched Dr. ‘Let them drive cars’ Beeching, he with his most undiscriminating axe that has done so much to promote the slow misery of dying rural communities, and the clogged up byways of our small island.

But enough ranting. It’s too fine a day. When we reach the moorland tops of The Begwns, and before our descent to Erwood, we stop to admire the view. And that’s when I come across the frosted bracken…

Black & White Sunday: texture

Our Very Own Treasure ~ Wenlock Books

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Aren’t we lucky to still have our own independent bookshop when across Britain such places are sadly becoming a thing of the past. So here it is, Wenlock Books, a landmark on the High Street, and housed in a wonderfully restored 14th century building. Its owner, Anna Dreda, is passionate about book selling, and has nurtured it and us for over twenty years, creating a haven for book lovers of all ages, from infants upwards. Downstairs the shelves are brimming with crisply published new books, while upstairs you can sit in cosy corners surrounded by ancient timbers and read the pre-owned and antiquarian books. Or if you are nosy like me, you can look out of the window on to the street below and surreptitiously see what Wenlock’s citizens are getting up to.

Also when you pop into Wenlock Books for a good browse, don’t be surprised if you are offered a cup of tea, or invited to join one of the reading groups that meet around the big upstairs table. The most recent book on the go in the Slow Reading Group has been George Eliot’s Middlemarch wherein those taking part, week by week discuss a single chapter over coffee and biscuits. The next slow read starts in September with Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory. That month too there will be the Children’s Book Launch,  starting with local writer, Sarah Griffiths, who will be reading  her book Douglas’s Trousers  to 2-8 year olds.

It will not surprise you, then, to learn that the bookshop has won national awards. Anna was also the founding force behind the hugely successful Wenlock Poetry Festival which over several years has hosted poets of international standing, and has Britain’s former Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy as its patron. (You can what poetry lovers get up to in the town HERE.)

This year the festival has taken a break. Anna also has been very unwell, but I’m glad to say, she tells us that she is feeling very much better.

So all best wishes, Anna, for your continuing good recovery.

In the meantime, if you go to the Wenlock Books link, you can meet Anna in a splendid 3 minute video. You can also have a snoop inside the bookshop and see just why it and its owner are so very much loved and appreciated by all of us.

Black & White Sunday: Traces of the Past

Monochrome Strawberries ~ A Challenge Too Far?

 

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I don’t know about you, but the transformation of luscious red strawberries into non-colour is more than a little disturbing. For one thing it’s challenging my atavistic hunter-gatherer impulse to be drawn to a much-loved, ripe and ready fruit. My hand is reaching out to pick even as I am anticipating the sweet juiciness on my tongue and the inevitable dribble down the chin.

But what am I to make of the monochrome fruit? At the moment I’m thinking not only do they NOT entice, but I would also give them quite a wide berth. I’m also thinking I could be onto a whole new weight-loss-fad – ‘The  Monochrome Diet’ anyone?

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

 

P.S. Many thanks to Paula at Lost in Translation for her intriguing ‘After and Before’ photo editing exercise. It throws up all sorts of perceptual conundrums.

Windswept On Llanddwyn Island

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I’ve chosen a very literal interpretation of Paula’s theme at Black & White Sunday. First of all I thought you could not get any ‘lower-lying’ than at sea level, at least not without immersion in said sea. And then I thought of Marram grass being laid low in the gale, and how I was attracted by its bowing texture.

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And then I thought of the sand beneath our feet:

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These photos were taken last Christmas on a beach walk to Llanddwyn Island on Anglesey, North Wales. You can see more about the island HERE.

 

Black & White Sunday: low-lying

Maasailand In Black & White

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I do not think of Africa in black and white, and when we lived there during the 1990s it was still in the days of conventional photography, and only colour film was readily available. So I am rather intrigued by these monochrome edits from the old Africa photo file.

They were taken in August – in the cool, dry, gloomy season, and the time of the wildebeest migration. We had driven down to the Maasai Mara from Nairobi under lowering skies, taking our visitors, Chris and Les, on safari. The roads were dusty and the bush country parched and dreary looking for mile after mile.

Amongst other things, the first photo shows how empty the landscape can be of wildlife,  or indeed of people. In the distance is the Oloololo Escarpment which forms  the north west boundary of the Mara Triangle. The tented camp where we were staying was on the Mara River outside the park, and part of the Mara Conservancy, a reserve managed by the Maasai themselves.

The lone tree is a Desert Date (Balanites  aegyptiaca ), and is typical of the open savannah where its presence is highly valued by humans and grazing animals alike. It fruits under the driest conditions. The tree has also long provided traditional healers with remedies; like the baobab, Balanites is one of Africa’s tree pharmacies. The fruit’s outer flesh was used for treating skin diseases, and preparations of the root and bark were used to combat malaria.

The oil within the fruit in fact has a host of remarkable properties. It has long been known that it kills the freshwater snails that carry bilharzia and the water fleas that are vectors of guinea-worm disease  (Trees of Kenya  Tim Noad and Ann Birnie). It has also been studied more recently by Egyptian scientists who reported their findings in the the 2010 Journal of Ethnopharmacology.  Their laboratory tests revealed anticancer properties for certain human carcinoma cell lines, as well as demonstrating selected antimicrobial, anthelmintic, and antiviral activity.

An all round useful tree then.

The shape of the trees in the photos is also typical. The result of having their canopies nibbled by passing giraffes, although there are none in sight here – only wildebeest and Thomson’s gazelle.

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Black & White Sunday: typical

Traces Of The Past ~ Monuments To Cornwall’s Tin Miners

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My very good chum Lesley, took me to Kit Hill for a sun-downer walk back in May. It is an amazing spot, the highest point in Cornwall’s Tamar Valley. From the summit you can see for miles and miles  – south across Cornwall, north to Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor.

The hill itself is an outcrop of the Cornubian batholith, a mass of granite rock formed 280 million years ago, and covering much of the Cornwall-Devon peninsula. The granite is formed from crystalized and solidified magma that has boiled up from deep within the earth’s crust. The resulting rock is mineral rich: principally the tin ore cassiterite, but also copper, lead, zinc and tungsten.

There are signs of mining dating back to medieval times, although this involved only surface quarrying of weathered out tin stones, or ‘shodes’. It was not until the eighteenth century that men were working in deep-shaft mines, drained by adits (horizontal shafts driven into the hillside.)  However you look at it, tin mining was a tough way to make a living.

The ornate chimney in the first photo dates from 1858. Now it is used to house various masts. Back then, and until 1885, it was part of the pumping arrangements for several mining concerns on the hill. Further down is the the chimney of the South Kit Hill Mine (Bal Soth Bre Skowl in Cornish), and the town of Callington below it.

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The shaft of this mine reaches a depth of over 90 metres (300 feet). The chimney served the steam engine house which operated machinery to crush and sort the ore. The mine was worked between 1856 and 1882, but foundered as the quality of accessible tin declined and the business became mired in legal actions for fraud.

Now these chimneys serve only as mysterious and dramatic landmarks within a 400-acre countryside park. It is a wilderness place rich in wildlife: deer, badgers, skylarks, buzzards, stonechats and sparrow hawks. There are signs of ancient humankind too – a 5,000 year old Neolithic long barrow, and some 18 burial mounds, dating from the Bronze Age, including one beneath that ornate chimney stack.

When Lesley and I were there we were treated to some marvellous views of a cuckoo – a bird  more usually heard than seen, it having well known tendencies to sneakiness and stealth. There was also a rapid fly-past by two small raptors – too swift for identification but probably sparrow hawks since this is their well-known milieu. Stone chats and pipits bobbed about in the gorse, and around us the land stretched out as far as the eye could see, its fields and boundaries, in their own way, a document of human activity and endeavour over many centuries. And a very special place. Thank you, Lesley.

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copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

 

Black & White Sunday: Traces of the Past