Looking Back: The Old Stones Of Din Lligwy

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We came here last week, Monday 2nd January 2023. I’d been here before – the north-easterly corner of Ynys Mon (Anglesey) and to this field above the sea, where there are ruins of a Norman chapel (12th century) and a Romano-Celtic settlement of the late 300s AD.

And with all these chronological markers in place, I should perhaps add one more and say that it was probably 60 years since I was last here. Sixty years. Ye gods! How time does fly.

Back then, we were visiting what my mother mistakenly called ‘a stone age village’. It was one of my big holiday excitements whenever we came to Anglesey.

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Above and below are the settlement’s two circular houses, inhabited during the later Roman era, but abandoned by 400 AD when the legions departed. So, mummy dear, not a Stone Age village at all, though unknown to me at the time of those childhood visits, there is in fact an impressive Stone Age monument very close by.

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As you can see, the stone houses have massively constructed walls, faced inside and out with huge slabs, and the space between packed with rubble. They probably supported conical, timber-framed and thatched roofs. (A reconstruction HERE)

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There are also at least 7 rectangular buildings associated with the houses. Two of these contained several smelting hearths and were probably iron-making workshops supplying the local Roman legions with tools and weapons. The whole site was then bounded by a pentagonal wall, well over a metre thick, and entered via a gatehouse. There were also further house remains outside the boundary wall.

To me it has the looks of a secure unit. Perhaps with workshops under direct Roman control. By the 4th century the locals could well have been growing restive; itching to arm themselves. This is just my hypothesis. Other interpretations are that the outer wall was for keeping cattle in, and that the defences were considered ‘light’.

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But now a step back in more recent times and the way things were for the Ashford family circa 1960:

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And finally a giant’s leap back – some 5, 000 years:

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It’s only a short walk from the Romano-Celtic settlement, and barely a stone’s throw behind a field hedge, but here we have a Stone Age cromlech, the burial place of some thirty Neolithic farmers, men, women and children. Among their remains archaeologists also found animal bones, flint tools and pottery.

The hugeness of the capstone is breath-taking. It’s reckoned to weigh 25 tons and, in consequence, it’s also thought that the stone was already in situ at the time of construction (a handy glacial delivery?) and that the tomb builders excavated underneath, wedging it on boulders to create the chamber. The whole was then probably covered with turves and soil, and as with similar monuments that were in use over a period of time, may also have included some kind of ceremonial forecourt. But however it was constructed, it surely took a massively concerted effort.

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Our visit over, we turned back to the car. Back to the present. Across the lane from the tomb was the misty view of the Great Orme on the mainland (named by the Vikings during the next invasion phase). Behind us was the  small place called Din Lligwy  – five millennia of human history documented in stone.

On my personal time-scale, I’d like to say I’ll be back there in another sixty years, but it seems unlikely. Still, you never know…

Lens-Artists: Looking Back This week Sofia sets the challenge.

copyright 2023 Tish Farrell

The Best Of All Seasons 2022

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New Year on Newborough Beach, Anglesey –  mainland Wales in the mist

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We began and ended 2022 on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. In between there were meanderings to favourite spots in Shropshire and around and about the town of Much Wenlock.So here we have a random selection of a year’s happy moments and things that caught my eye.

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January walk on Wenlock Edge – looking down on Much Wenlock

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On the Cutlins in February

And finding aconites: first signs of spring

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The Linden Walk in early March

And alder catkins in the Linden Field

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April over the garden fence

Oil Seed Rape in full flourish in the Corve Valley

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May on the Linden Walk

And on Windmill Hill

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June on Wenlock’s old railway line

And on the Stiperstones viewing the Devil’s Chair from a respectful distance

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June in the garden

And on the Bull Ring, Much Wenlock

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July in the garden

And in the Shropshire Hills at Mitchell’s Fold

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August over the garden fence

And with the Cutlins MacMoos during the two-day heatwave

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And after the wheat harvest on Callaughton Ash

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September: harvesting the field beans in Townsend Meadow

Gathering storm clouds, but no rain

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Early October and back to Wales: Barmouth Beach

And October’s end in Ludlow

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November: windfall quinces at the allotment

And a sundowner stroll on Windmill Hill

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December over the garden fence

And on hoar-frosty Downs Hill

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And so back to the beach, Lligwy, Anglesey, January 2023

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Lens-Artists: Favourite 2022 images John at Journeys with Johnbo sets the theme for this week.

Across The Gulf ~ Mirage Or Mountains?

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I’m still not sure if the Taygetus mountains of the Mani Peninsula are fact or figment, and I stared at this view for an entire week – at daybreak, at twilight, in sun and in storm. Real or not, these mountains beckoned. And I was entranced. Still am, when I look at the photos. They were taken from Harakopio (Peroulia Beach) in Kalamata, Greece, overlooking the Gulf of Messenia.

I’ve read my Patrick Leigh Fermor (Mani: Travel in the Southern Peloponnese) which sets off most beguilingly, penetrating on foot this all but impenetrable mountain peninsula (that until recent times scarcely had a road into the interior), but then, after some stunning episodes, the account digresses into convoluted regional history that this reader found more uphill-going than the near-vertical terrain.  Still, it’s a book worth tackling for the magical inside-Mani experiences. It truly is.

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But if the mountains have long kept people out, then it’s a different story for the coastal foothills. Some settlements along the shore, accessible only by sea, have been occupied since Mycenaean times, i.e. the Ancient Greek Bronze Age (c1750-1000 BCE). If you squint, you can see signs of humanity in the first photo.

But that’s enough of the prosaic. These scenes are just for dreaming.

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Lens-Artists: the mountains are calling   This week Amy sets the challenge.

Good Heavens: A Real Sand Castle?

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We did not go inside the castle on our recent visit to Harlech on the Mid-Wales coast. To tell the truth I’m rather offended by the tyranny that these brutish bastions of Edward I  represent. He, the irascible English monarch (1272-1307) built a whole string of overbearing fortifications between 1277 and 1304 (Caernarfon being the very grandest), this in a bid to subjugate the Welsh. Of course, in a nice twist of historical irony, the castles are now major international tourist attractions, bringing welcome income to the Welsh economy. (Take that, Edward Longshanks!)

What interested me was a little photo exploration of the castle’s present setting.

For instance, the header photo is something of a trompe l’oeil. Quite misleading in fact. The castle does not sit among the massive sand dunes that have invaded much of the Welsh coast over past centuries and are still growing. It sits on a 200 foot (61 metres) eminence of ancient Cambrian rock (the Harlech Dome), whose footings were once lapped by the sea, and where ships bringing in supplies would once have docked.

So yes, here we have a fascinating case of falling sea levels, or rather, rising land levels. Parts of  Britain’s landmass have risen, and apparently some are still rising (e.g. Scotland) in response to the post-glacial ice weight reduction (isostatic rebound), as in ten thousand years after the event, while others, e.g. south east England, where there are newer rocks and/or compacting clay strata (as in London), are sinking or eroding each year.

Geology has much to answer for. It is ongoing, never static.  A pity that most of us (and that very much includes Mrs. Farrell) know so little about it, or the forces that have shaped and continue to influence the planet. I seem to remember my geography teacher, aeons ago, telling us that Britain was tilting. And it’s far from being the only place where geology is still  moving upwards or downwards. [e.g. an unrelated phenomenon in the Pacific where satellite data show many atolls and islands are growing in size rather than eroding].

But back to Harlech. There’s a diagrammatic reconstruction of the early 14th century castle’s outer defences and setting above the sea here:

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This photo above gives you a glimpse of the golf course that lies between Harlech  (castle and lower town) and the massive dune system behind the now distant beach.

And looking from the other direction:

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It should be said that the Welsh people did not take English oppression lying down. There were a good few revolts and uprisings, and one in particular in 1400 under Owain Glendwyr, an actual Prince of Wales (as opposed to the  fabricated English ones of recent times). He captured Harlech in 1404 and made it his family home and military HQ for four years. He also held his second parliament there in 1405. However, for all that, Welsh rule was short lived. English forces retook Harlech in 1409 during the reign of Henry V.

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Looking from the castle towards North Wales, to Eryri, the mountains of  Snowdonia, and the plain below where once there was sea.

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It is intriguing how things change, and how if we fail to grasp in what ways they change and why, we truly risk  losing the reality plot. As we headed to the beach I was amused by this sign on the golf course:

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Where once there was passage for ships, the biggest risk is now flying golf balls. Who’d’ve thought it.

And finally an old image of the castle around 1890-1900 courtesy of the Library of Congress on Wikipedia:

Harlech Castle c 1890 Library of Congress

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More about the Morfa Harlech dune system HERE. Yes, it is still growing.

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Lens-Artists: One Subject Three Ways  Patti wants us to look at our subject from different angles.

Over The Home Hill: More Hills

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Wenlock Edge behind our house runs for twenty odd miles, a wooded escarpment that bisects the county of Shropshire on a north-east-south-west axis. It’s not always easy to see out for the tree cover, but here and there, a few choice viewpoints give you a glimpse of Shropshire’s other hills, the Long Mynd living up to its name in the distance here. I’m fumbling for the name of the hill in the middle distance (not recognising it from this angle). It could be Caradoc.

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If we turn right round in the other direction, then we can see Clee Hill:

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Closer to home, you can take the National Trust footpath out of Much Wenlock and head for the Edge landmark, Major’s Leap, from where, on a winter’s day, you may be treated to an other-worldly view of the Wrekin, subject of many quaint Shropshire tales. (My version here).

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And coming down the Edge footpath behind our house you have a fine view of Much Wenlock hugged round by hills, Walton Hill and Shirlett Forest:

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And while I’m showing off our local hills, I can’t leave out the town’s favourite landmark: Windmill Hill with a small turquoise person heading over it:

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Lens-Artists: over the hill  Donna at Wind Kisses has set this week’s challenge.

Light, Shadow, Sun And Storm…

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This week at Lens-Artists, Tina shows us many creative ways to interpret her chosen theme ‘opposites’. I thought I’d choose just one photo – a chance weather moment in Wales – one of those hard-to-credit solar beams piercing a storm-heavy sky. I mean to say, how can that field be so luminously green when the town of Harlech below is so deep in shadow, and the clouds above so full of rain? I even desaturated the image a notch or two. Of course there are other opposites here too: townscape-landscape;  manmade-natural; urban-rural.

Lens-Artists: opposites

Urban Fantasies In Downtown Manchester

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This is the wheel that was, aka the Wheel of Manchester, a version of the London Eye, which was sited in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester until  2015 when its licence with the City Council expired. This photo was taken in April of that year. It finally came down in the following June. I’m not sure what my camera was doing to produce the washed-out, somewhat retro look, but I rather like it. In fact everything about it says ‘urban’ to me – the sense of detachment/isolation/alienation/coldness; an environment overwrought to the extent of being pointless.

You can tell I’m a country lass.

Though having said that, generations of my maternal ancestors worked in the Manchester cotton trade that created the city and all its wealth: hand loom weavers, yarn winders, blouse finishers, machine weavers, bleachers, fustian cutters, fly and spindle manufacturers, cotton merchants and one mill owner. And then there were the bricklayers who helped build the place. So perhaps, after all, I do have some investment there – at the cellular level.

Here are more odd photos taken on that visit…

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Last walls standing: the facades of the old wholesale fish market, preserved as the perimeter entrances to an apartment block courtyard garden.

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Not sure what’s going on here – Steam Punk meets Mary Poppins the musical?

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A tribute to city high-rise window cleaners perhaps?

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The Bridgewater Hall international concert venue. We were there to see Buena Vista Social Club on their farewell tour.

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Affleck’s in the Northern Quarter – an indoor market specialising in alternative clothing and music and retro-gaming

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The Palace Hotel where we were staying (now The Principal Manchester). It was a long climb to find our room in the converted former Refuge Assurance Office built between 1891-1895.

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Lens-Artists: Urban environments  Sofia has set the theme this week. Please pay her a visit.

Trio Of Photo-Favourites From ‘The Old Africa Album’

Mzee Lali

This first photo of Mzee Lali having a nap, with three full-sail Lamu dhows  in our wake  has to be my absolute favourite photograph. It was sheer chance that a) the scene composed itself so beautifully, b) I was alert enough to snap it and c) my Olympus-trip was not on the wrong setting.

It was Boxing Day and we had been out cruising the Manda Strait for several hours. In the morning some of our small party went in for a spot of snorkelling out on the reef. Next, using baited lines, we caught a few little fish which Lali and his nephew Athman scaled and cleaned. At noon when we were moored off Manda Island, Lali waded ashore and knelt down on the beach to pray. Then lunch was prepared, the fish grilled on a portable charcoal (jiko) stove and served up with freshly chopped coleslaw. Delicious.

In the afternoon we meandered back along the strait between the mangrove forests, waiting for the wind to pick up. We passed a large dhow taxi, utterly becalmed, engine stalled. It was brimful with laughing, chattering passengers, all hopeful  that some time or other they would finally reach Lamu mainland to visit their relations.

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This photo was taken a few years later. It’s a favourite because it was a chance meeting that pretty much sums up all that is so powerfully positive about young Kenyans. We were staying at Safariland Lodge on  the shores of Lake Naivasha. Graham was hosting a conference of international crop pest scientists, and I was spending the days wandering around the place, bird watching. One afternoon I met Robert Omondi on the hotel mooring. He sold me one of the hand written booklets he had made, its topic the ecology of Lake Naivasha and the water sources that fed into it. He was visiting all the hotels and lodges along the lake, selling copies where he could, and so raising funds for his next term’s school fees.

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And finally a photo to prove to myself I was actually there, although even at the time I took it, it was hard to believe. Besides which, the Great Rift Valley is almost impossible to photograph and give any true sense of scale or depth. If there isn’t a heat haze, there is often a fog. I was standing somewhere north of Nairobi, on the east escarpment highway which runs up to 9,000 feet above sea level. Below, in the foreground, is Escarpment location, a community of smallholder farmers. The bright green of the plots suggests it must be the main growing season after good rains. In the Rift bottom are the wheat and barley fields of larger-scale farmers, the crater of defunct volcano, Longonot on the left. The low road to Lake Naivasha runs north beneath it along the valley floor.

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Lens-Artists: picking favourites This week Sarah at Travel With Me  invites us to choose three favourite photos (not necessarily absolute favourites). Please go and see her three stunning choices.

Stranger Than Fiction

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And Shropshire’s Stiperstones with its brooding Devil’s Chair outcrop has indeed provided the setting for several works of fiction: the novels of Mary Webb, Malcolm Saville’s still popular Lone Pine adventure stories for children, and also D.H. Lawrence’s novella St. Mawr. And naturally, given its dramatic looks, it also features in local myths and legends, particularly those associated with Wild Edric, the Saxon earl who refused to surrender his lands to the Norman invaders and stirred up rebellion, allying himself with the Welsh princes of Gwynedd and Powys just over the border.

In real life it is an utterly strange place. These photos were taken on a summer’s day, but somehow, when we reached the hilltop, the light leached away. Even so, the grey-white quartzite outcrops seemed to have an unsettling luminosity.  The photos I took using the monochrome setting on my camera are especially other worldly. There also appears to be an odd patch of mist on the next photo. I can’t explain it.

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And in colour, too, the landscape’s disturbing presence is scarcely diminished:

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Lens-Artists: Surreal This week Tracy challenges us to post some surreal images, and believe me, she has her own very original take on the topic. Go see for yourselves.

Cool Cool Convolvulus But Hot On The Plot

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We’re having a two-day heatwave here in the UK, temperatures in the 30s. That our summers for the last few years have been fairly heat-free seems to have erased memories that in times past we also had heatwaves. I remember baking to a crisp day after day on a Welsh beach back in the mid-1950s, and that was in May. And then there was the prolonged drought of 1975-76 when, due to severe water shortages, bathing with a friend was the catch phrase du jour. Wikipedia says this about that year:

Heathrow had 16 consecutive days over 30 °C (86 °F) from 23 June to 8 July[ and for 15 consecutive days from 23 June to 7 July temperatures reached 32.2 °C (90 °F) somewhere in England. Furthermore, five days saw temperatures exceed 35 °C (95 °F). On 28 June, temperatures reached 35.6 °C (96.1 °F) in Southampton, the highest June temperature recorded in the UK. The hottest day of all was 3 July, with temperatures reaching 35.9 °C (96.6 °F) in Cheltenham.

Whatever the weather, this gardener usually tries to avoid going away during the main growing season. At the best of times, watering the allotment vegetable plots and polytunnel seems too big an ask of fellow allotmenteers, and especially so during a dry spell. Summer for me, then, means garden watch. And so with the promise of a hot day ahead, this morning I was off to the allotment at 6 a.m. to see what rescue remedies might be needed after yesterday’s heat.

I needn’t have worried. The polytunnel (a sweat-inducing structure even in coolish weather) was fine. I’d left both doors open and the tomatoes, cucumbers and aubergines, lettuce and herbs looked happy enough. Meanwhile out on the plot, and since I was there, I damped down the mulch around the climbing peas and beans, courgettes and sweet corn, then picked raspberries that were looking a bit cooked, and gave vulnerable beetroot and leek seedlings a good soak.

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And then I wandered around and took these photos, and was home by 8 a.m., by which time it was definitely warming up.  The BBC forecast says 35 C now at midday, though the Norwegian Met Office site YR (which I usually follow as it’s pretty good) says 34. In any event, it will be a much cooler 22C max tomorrow, and in the 20s for the rest of the week. I just hope we get some meaningful rain showers along with the returning coolness.

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Back in the home garden, the borders are definitely struggling  through lack of rain. I can’t begin to water everything. The driest area is over the back fence in the guerrilla garden. Plants there simply have to take their chances, but even so, the tansy and golden rod are running rampant, towering over my head, and the late flowering Michaelmas daisies and helianthus are catching up. Meanwhile Ann Thomson geranium is holding her own against the lot of them. She may get cooked each day, but she’s still comes back flowering each morning. Oh, for such repeat resilience.

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And this summer in the garden I’m really pleased to find that one of my favourite  wild flowers, yellow toadflax, has decided to colonise the upstairs path. I grew it from seed a couple of years ago, and now it’s taken off. I first fell in love with it as a child, on trips into the Shropshire hills where it grows along the lane verges in high summer…

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And talking of the Shropshire hills, I’ll leave you with summer views of the Shropshire-Wales borderland, taken a week or so ago on a visit to Mitchell’s Fold prehistoric stone circle.

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Lens-Artists: Summer Vibes

This week Solaner has set the challenge.