And There’s Not Only An Extraordinary Ancient Hedge In Brampton Bryan There Is Also…

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…where book burrowing souls can spend lots and lots of time while being sustained by coffee and delicious home made cakes.

You can find Aardvark Books just up the lane from the 300 yard cloud hedge (see previous post) – a barn full of books – old and new – on a working farm with butterscotch coloured cows out in the yard and fine country views all around.

 

And it’s not only the books, but the inscriptions inside some of the volumes: handwritten words that speak of previous owners, or heartfelt sentiments expressed to long ago friends in the gift of a very particular work, and you the late-comer voyeur can only guess at why it was chosen and wonder at the kind of person for whom it was meant.

But there are also disturbing thoughts beyond the ghosts of relationships past. Standing among these mountains of books, you are also left feeling that if all of them have been well read, shouldn’t we be more enlightened and wise than we often seem to be. Or does the fact that so many books can be discarded like this (hopefully, if doubtfully to be reclaimed by somebody sometime) tell quite another story about our present condition? Time to get thinking perhaps?

 

Time Square #18

The Ancient ‘Cloud’ hedge Of Brampton Bryan

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It’s 300 yards long too, so one can only imagine how much time and effort it takes to keep this yew hedge looking so fine. It surrounds the grounds of Brampton Bryan Hall, and its next-door predecessor, the ruined Brampton Bryan Castle. It and the whole village are remnants of the feudal past, the manorial Harley family having been in continuous residence here for 700 years. I have not been able to find out when the form of this hedge was first conceived, or who thought of doing it. Or, indeed, who has the job of trimming it.

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The village is in Herefordshire, but close to the borders of Wales and Shropshire. There is mention of a castle here in Domesday (1086) and of building work in the 13th century. Doubtless it played its part during the Norman domination of Britain. Four centuries later, during the Civil War it was subjected to two sieges by Royalist forces.

During the first attack of 1642 that lasted several weeks, the castle was held for the Roundhead cause by Lady Brilliana Harley (there’s a name to conjure with) along with a band of locals and 50 soldiers. Her husband, Sir Robert, statesman and member of the Long Parliament which sat throughout both Civil War periods, had left her ‘to man the fort’ while he was in London attending to parliamentary business.

There was something of a truce during 1643, but by this time Brilliana was ailing and she died of pneumonia in October 1643. In the following spring there was a second siege. This time the Royalist forces arrived with mines and more powerful artillery, and so had their way. The castle was sacked and burned, the three Harley children taken off to be imprisoned in Shrewsbury. But not long afterwards the Royalist cause was lost, and Sir Robert was paid the equivalent of £1 million in compensation for the destruction of his home.

Looking around the peaceful little village today, and at that apparently all-enduring hedge, it is hard to envisage the place as a battle ground. These days we have entered the Age of Quaint & Picturesque. Which reminds me, the hall grounds were used in scenes from the Merchant Ivory film of E M Forster’s Howard’s End.

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The parish church stands in front of the castle gatehouse, and my photo of the latter was taken looking over the churchyard wall. Built in the 1660s, it is one of only six churches built in England during the Commonwealth period. Timbers from the castle’s great hall were re-purposed here.

Time Square #16

A Good Crop All Round ~ Thursday’s Special At Hopton Castle And Brampton Bryan

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This week at Lost in Translation Paula asks us to show her photos that we have cropped to reveal detail or improve the composition. I have to say that I crop most of my photos, and certainly architectural subjects almost always benefit from a trim.

Here are some cropped shots in and around Hopton Castle. This mediaeval ruin stands in a rural and rather remote corner of Shropshire near the Herefordshire border, one of a cluster of castles built either to keep the Welsh neighbours in their place or as a piece of lordly showing off. Today, Hopton is romantically and rustically picturesque, although once it was the site of a bloody Civil War siege.  In one of my earlier Thursday’s Special posts I featured the restoration of the monument.

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Not far from Hopton and just over the border into Herefordshire is the little village of Brampton Bryan. One of its most noteworthy features is the free-form yew hedge that shelters the owners of Brampton Bryan Hall from the gaze of passing hoi polloi  and the inhabitants of the pretty estate village. The light was not good, but I think cropping the images has made them passable – at least for ‘guided tour’ general nosiness purposes:

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The Harley family who own the estate, including the village properties with their blue doors, has been around the place since Domesday. Their present home behind the hedge was built after the Civil War in 1660, and remodelled in the 18th century. I snatched a glimpse over the rear churchyard wall, but though imposing it was not very captivating, at least not compared with this next view of their own personal castle ruin. It is not open to the public so I couldn’t get a better photo.

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I can’t help thinking how very wonderful it would be to have one’s own castle ruin out in the apple orchard, never mind the stately pile.

Thursday’s Special: Section