The old windmill is a much loved landmark, seen from many quarters as you approach Much Wenlock. To reach it you can take the Linden Walk which brings you to the wooded flanks of Shadwell hill. Or you can walk across the Linden Field to the far corner where there is an old iron gate that opens onto the well worn trail up to the windmill. It’s a steepish climb mind you, but at this time of year there’s plenty of reasons to stop and gaze: every few steps a fresh wildflower panorama to take in, the scents of summer grasses and of lady’s bedstraw.
Along the path where the footfalls of Wenlock’s denizens have worn the topsoil to bare rock – wild thyme – a mass of tiny purple flowers, spills over the exposed limestone. There is also pale pink musk mallow, seemingly clinging to the most meagre soil cover. Then by contrast, on either side the path is an exuberant floriferousness, typical of an unspoiled limestone meadow: a host of flowering grasses whose names, I’m sorry to say, I do not know, purple pyramidal orchids, pale yellow spires of agrimony, golden stars of St. John’s Wort, pink soapwort and pea flower, purple knapweed, yellow vetch and buttercups, pink and white striped bindweed, viper’s bugloss, musk thistles and clovers. One could spend all day up here and not see everything.
Tree Square #4 This month Becky wants to see trees (header shot) in square format.
Here is another woodland find from Monday’s wood chip scrounging mission in the Linden Field. Freshly opened too among the Dog’s Mercury, this arum lily looks like a dryad’s lantern.
The flower’s mysterious (not to say phallic) looks have earned it a host of country names over the centuries, many obviously, but not so obviously, of the lewd variety. For instance the seemingly innocuous Lords and Ladies would have had particular connotations in its day. The same with Cows and Bulls. And the more modern Willy Lily is downright rude. I’ve always known it as Cuckoo Pint, the pint pronounced as in pint of beer. But back in the day it would, most likely, have been pronounced to rhyme with mint. In the sixteenth century, pint was an abbreviated version of pintle, slang for penis.
Other names are Red-hot-poker, Devils and Angels, Adam and Eve, Friar’s Cowl, and Wake Robin. There are many more. And it’s making me think of that classic anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss’ contention in his book The Savage Mind, that human beings have ever used their observations of the natural world to think by. Food for thought in every sense – a trigger for metaphor and story-telling makings, the narrative impulse that defines human nature.
So I’m treasuring the bawdy names, even if I’ve often missed their meaning. Irreverent they may be, but then irreverence may be the only antidote we have to what Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, called “the colonisation of the mind.”
Bright Squares #28
Yesterday morning I set off across the Linden Field on one of my periodic scavenging missions. I’d found the stash back in the winter when it was frozen into a craggy hummock: too hard to prise open the constituent parts. We’re talking about wood chips here. Last year one of the oaks at the top of the field where it meets the foot of Windmill Hill had shed a large branch. The brash was duly shredded and left in a heap by the boundary fence. And what a sight to gladden this gardener’s heart, though I had to wait for it to dry out, first after the thaw, and then after weeks of rain.
It is amazingly useful stuff. Firstly it’s good to add to the garden and kitchen waste that goes into our hot compost bin. Secondly it makes an excellent mulch for the home flower borders. Thirdly, and mostly, I use it at the allotment where I pile it on layers of cardboard set between the raised beds; this in a bid to maintain weed-free paths. When, after a year or two, when the cardboard has melted and the chippings begun to break down, the whole lot can be added to the allotment compost bins, and the cardboard laying and scavenging begins again.
And so that was my mission – out in the brilliant sunshine and still frosty, frosty air to collect fresh path makings. Of course I always take the camera too, which meant that when I reached the heap, I was at once distracted by bluebells. There they shimmered on the flanks of Windmill Hill, proper native bluebells:
through the light/they came in falls of sky-colour washing the brows and slacks of the ground with vein-blue…
Gerard Manley Hopkins Journal May 1871
Bright Square #27
Today, up on the Linden Field, I found the wild garlic is all set to flower. I’d rather forgotten about harvesting the leaves. Now there is a lush Ramsons verge the entire length of the lime tree avenue. And there are carpets of them too along the old railway embankment and in the woods below Windmill Hill. It’s not too late to gather the leaves either, though best to be picky and opt for the newest growth. The flowers can be used too, cooked in soups or raw in salads and pesto sauce. Both leaves and flowers are fairly mild in flavour and consumption provides the added benefit of pepping up the constitution since they are rich in vitamins K and C. The only drawback for many is the smell. It can be especially pungent on warm afternoons and earned it names such as Stinking Nanny and Stink Bomb. But garlicky odours aside, the freshly opening flowers do a fine job, creating their own terrestrial starscapes, lighting up the woods and shady peripheries.
Bright Square #26
That would be wood anemones and lesser celandines – the bright stars of English wildflowerdom. The celandines have been flowering for weeks and weeks and usually are among the first spring bloomers. It’s hard not to smile when you first spot their mini-sunbursts popping out the dreary over-wintered grass.
This year they have also colonised our front flower bed that runs down to the road. There must have been hosts of seeds among the wood chippings that I gathered up last year after tree and branch felling in the Linden Field. A double bonus then: first the autumn mulch, then an unforeseen spring flowering. They grow very low to the ground in coronets of lush green leaves, and so have most discreetly filled gaps between the daffodil clumps. I expect I’ll let them stay. The pilewort common name of course denotes an old herbal application.
I’m not expecting any wood anemones to emerge from the front garden mulch. As their name suggests, they prefer wooded terrain, or at least ground where woodland once was. I found the one in the photo growing beside the path between the Linden Field and Windmill Hill, under the oaks and conifers, keeping company with primroses and violets and dog’s mercury and wild arum. Legend has it that only the wind will make them open their delicate petals. I beg to differ. When I took this one’s photo it was embracing the sun full-on, as you can see. The next day when I returned to the same spot, the anemones were all hanging their heads and shivering in the cold wind. With no sunshine on offer, they looked like bedraggled waifs, much hard-done-by.
Today in Shropshire the snow flurries have stopped. We have sun and wind. A good moment then to check on the plant life in the Linden Field, and also to gather supplies from a fresh cache of wood chips from a felled oak tree. They chips are brilliant for allotment paths and dosing the hot compost bin. The things one does!
Copyright 2021 Tish Farrell
Bright Square #8
It has an extra-terrestrial look, doesn’t it – this exploding pussy willow catkin. In fact ‘catkin’ sounds too confining a word for such exuberant expression.
Elsewhere around the town signs of coming spring are more reserved: delicate cherry and blackthorn blossom on otherwise bare branches, and earlier this week only a slightly seen green haze about the church yard weeping willow; while everything is otherwise accompanied by a bone-biting wind that has the daffodils and me bracing ourselves.
The Linden Walk still looks wintery, although there are carpets of wild garlic everywhere – the leaves good in soups and stews and salads and for making pesto sauce. I’ve also noticed interesting colonies of lower plant life on the lime tree trunks, lichens and mosses and the like. And squirrels…
And on the home front the daffodils are lighting up the garden by the road.
And stepping out of the back garden gate I came upon a cat with green eyes…
Life in Colour: Green
Apologies for the swift change in temperatures after yesterday’s balmy temperatures on the Zambezi. Here in Wenlock we have been suffering frigid twirls and swirls of Polar Vortex: snow, sleet, wind, frost and in between, torrential rain. But we’ve had some sun too with china blue skies. Here’s the month’s round-up:
Snowy landscapes: Windmill Hill (including the above with this mysterious snow tree), Linden Walk and Linden Field, over the garden fence…
Birds and beasties…
Frost art including some very fancy ice works created by my allotment water butt…
And the first signs of spring…
The Changing Seasons: January 2021
Grey squirrels don’t hibernate, though they are said to do less scampering in wintery weather, and when it is very cold, they will curl themselves up, using their tails like duvets.
These photos were taken before the snow when the big oaks at the top of the Linden Field were alive with squirrel-kind seeking out acorns. They were also pretty busy after the snow, doubtless seeking out their respective stashes. But here’s the thing. It seems they are a sneaky lot and will make a big pretence of burying nuts in particular places to fool other squirrels. The little dupers.
Square Up #6
Becky has a wonderful sun for us today.
Hurray for Becky and her January Squares. There are only two ‘rules’: the image must be square, and this month’s theme is UP – however you choose to interpret it. You can post a square a day, or dip in as and when.
My first ‘up’ is a slightly blurry grey squirrel, spotted by chance in the Linden Field while taking the snow photos I posted yesterday. It was perched way, way up in an oak tree, thus requiring lots of camera zoom and steadiness, both of which were hard to effect with frozen fingers. In fact it was sitting so still, it looked frozen to the branch. I think it must have been nibbling an acorn.
Onwards and upwards, everyone!
Square Up #1
Here are some of the many photos taken in the last few days in my various spheres of activity. First: snow scenes in the Linden Field.
And in and out the garden, over the garden fence:
And up at the allotment and surrounding vistas:
And finally my Happy New Year photo: all the very best to everyone in 2021.
The Changing Seasons: December 2020