October’s Changing Seasons

Our October began bathed in the rosy glow of ancestral landscapes, the farm fields and vistas of four generations of maternal grandfathers, the millstone grit uplands of Derbyshire’s High Peak District. It would have been a hard life on Callow Farm, and especially for the grandmothers who would have managed a never ending round home and farm duties while rearing six or even eight children (the parish records suggest that many more Foxes survived into adulthood than were lost in infancy, but then yeoman farming folk would have been well nourished and well aired by comparison with most town dwellers down the centuries).

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By the time we returned home, summer was definitely on the wane in our Shropshire garden although many flowers were still holding their own. Even now, the front garden beside the road is bright with helianthus, sedum, Michaelmas daisies, purple toadflax, small pink roses and the stalwart geranium, Rozanne. And out back in the guerrilla garden there are sunflowers and dyer’s chamomile with its bright yellow daisies. There are also Japanese anemones, hesperantha, zinnias, snapdragons and the shrubby convolvulus still on the go. So kind of the garden to ease us so gently into autumn.

 

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Meanwhile, around the town and farm fields the change of season is more apparent:

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And finally a glimpse of the priory ruins and the little tower on the Prior’s House:

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The Changing Seasons: October 2018

July’s Changing Seasons ~ All Hot Air And Going To Seed

I said in an earlier post that plant life was galloping away to flower and set seed all before being fried. Now with the end of July approaching, we have definitely reached the fried stage. I took the header view of Townsend Meadow as I was coming home from  the evening’s allotment watering. I thought it captured the day’s residual heat in a ‘baked-to-a-turn’ kind of way, a muted version if you like of Vincent Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with crows, a work that always seems to exude its own hotness. It’s a shame the local rooks did not put in an appearance to complete the scene, but sensibly they seem to be keeping a low profile – no doubt roasting quietly in their treetop roosts on the Sytch where the brook no longer flows.

Rain keeps appearing on the weather forecast, and then disappearing. Today’s promised thunderstorms have blown away. I think we’ve only had one significant watering in two months, and the heatwave looks like continuing.

Up at the allotment the harvest has been hit and miss – much bolting of lettuce and wilting of peas; puny potatoes, though wonderfully free of slug spit. The sweet corn continues to flourish and is starting to form cobs, and there have been loads of raspberries. The courgettes keep coming, and even the squashes are producing. In the polytunnel the Black Russian tomatoes are fat and delicious, and the peppers and aubergines beginning to fruit. All of which  means much hauling of watering cans every evening.

Here then, are more scenes of simmering Wenlock in and around Townsend Meadow.

 

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Changing Seasons July 2018

Please visit Su to see her changing season in New Zealand

Much Wenlock’s Changing Seasons ~ Flaming June 2018

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Who’d have thought it? Here in the UK we’ve been having summer and all before it was officially summer; week after week of sunshine, and hardly a drop of rain. May was the warmest May in over a hundred years, and June has continued in like vein. The roses have been flowering their socks off and, along with the pinks and honeysuckle, filling the garden with delicious scents. In fact everything is blooming at high speed, intent on pollinating and seed-setting before being fried. This evening I saw fully formed, if not yet ripe hazel nuts at the allotment. The biological imperative in action then. Already the countryside has the dry and dusty look of late August.

Of course all this sunshine means there’s lots of watering to be done at the allotment, though I’m very conscious that water is precious and I should not waste it.  I’ve been trying to mulch things where I can, and otherwise shelter crops with netting, mesh or fleece. I have not managed to get to grips with the strawberry bed though. Did not put straw down when I should have done, and although the plants have been producing lots of fruit, they looked flat out and flabbergasted yesterday evening  – beyond being watered now.  On the plus side – more heat = fewer molluscs.

All around the town the hay fields have been cut and cleared. And when we drove over Wenlock Edge to Church Stretton this morning all of Shropshire lay sweltering under the sun, and set to bake for another fortnight too.

This raises serious issues – the water supply in particular, and climate change in general. We need to start taking both seriously, and we especially need the water supply and its management back under public control. And if we’re now going to have largely rainless springs and summers, followed by very wet winters with the increased likelihood of serious floods too, then we need more water storage facilities. Many conurbations are still relying on reservoirs built by the Victorians. Birmingham water comes from Elan Valley reservoirs in Wales, built in 1893.

This week in our part of the West Midlands we’ve been having very strange goings on with the taps courtesy of Severn Trent Water whose CEO earns £2.45 million a year.  (She is one of the 9 water company executives who between them have received £58 million pounds in pay and benefits over the last 5 years.) In the evening the pressure drops until water is either absent or only a dribble. Severn Trent say this is happening because increased usage due to the hot weather is causing air pockets in the pipes, and they’re having to pump the air out.

This is an entirely new phenomenon to us, although having lived in Africa we are well used to the absence of water and the notion that we should not take its provision for granted. Anyway the STW explanation rather reminds me of old British Rail’s excuse of ‘leaves on the line’ whenever services went awry. In early March there were similar happenings in the pipes due, Severn Trent said, to an unprecedented number of leaks because of the cold weather.

However you look at it, a delinquent water supply that is so susceptible to changes in the weather, and for which most households pay £400 a year, is not fit for purpose. ‘Take back the taps’ say the GMB Trades Union.

Changes in rainfall patterns, and failure to properly manage rain-fed water supplies is going to seriously affect the nation’s food production. We’ll need to eat different things, learn to grow them in new ways, opt for drought-resistant plants. When we leave Europe, we will have to grow our own vegetables, since most of them seem to come from there. Is anyone taking some action on this, I wonder.

But for now we can go on enjoying the unprecedented warmth, making hay etc. It has many very good points. Earlier this month the town held its two-week arts festival without a drop of rain on its outdoor performances, and on Sunday we had the town picnic on the Church Green, and the whole afternoon was blissful – at least it was if you had a good tree to sit under. Here are some views around Wenlock during flaming June:

And last Sunday’s town picnic:

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Changing Seasons June 2018

The Changing Seasons ~ Today Below Wenlock Edge, Rambling Through Westhope And Easthope

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Today was a golden day – not a breath of air and the landscape lit up by the oak trees that still have their leaves. Here are some glimpses, then, of my corner of Shropshire on a late November afternoon.

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Cardinal Guzman: The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons 2016: January On Wenlock’s Olympian Field

We had the first hard frost of winter today and, after weeks of dreariness and both rising and falling damp, it was a great relief to feel some good crisp cold. Not only that there were clear skies. And sun. And brilliance. Up on Windmill Hill there were also fine views all round, although the midday light did have the strangest quality – creating vistas that were sharp in parts, but soft-focus in others. The landscapes I snapped looked like water colours even before I snapped them. Also the farm fields loomed in unnatural shades of green, at least for January.

As we strode home beside the Linden Walk we passed the frosty picnic tables. They looked as if they had been freshly spread with perfect white cloths, but sadly there was no sign of lunch. It seemed a long way off till summer.

This post was inspired by Cardinal Guzman’s The Changing Seasons monthly photo challenge, which now comes in two versions. Please follow the link for more details.

I’ve chosen to feature Much Wenlock’s Linden Field and nearby Windmill Hill, since this was where the modern Olympic Movement had its beginnings, and was (and continues to be) the venue for the annual Much Wenlock Olympian Games, founded by Dr. William Penny Brookes, the town’s physician, in 1850.

These days the games take place at the William Brookes School just below Windmill Hill, and on purpose built tracks, but in the old days spectators sat on the hillside and watched the events taking place in the field below. Please conjure races on penny farthing bicycles, hurdling, tilting, and all manner of athletic events – not least the Long Foot Race that was only open to Greek speakers. There would also have been cricket and football matches, and fun events such as ‘an old woman’s race’ for a pound of tea, and a blindfold wheelbarrow race.

Dr. Brookes had serious objectives however. He was a man ahead of his time, who embraced a holistic view of human health that included both physical and mental exercise. He also planted the Linden Walk, no doubt because as a trained herbalist as well as a physician, he knew of the soothing effect, and sense of well-being imparted by lime tree blossom on warm summer days. It is good to walk in his footsteps.

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell