“Loveliest Of Trees, The Cherry Now…

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Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Is hung with bloom along the bough,

And stands about the woodland ride

Wearing white for Eastertide.

 

Now, of my threescore years and ten,

Twenty will not come again,

And take from seventy springs a score,

It only leaves me fifty more.

 

And since to look at things in bloom

Fifty springs are little room,

About the woodlands I will go

To see the cherry hung with snow.

A E Housman A Shropshire Lad

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The Loveliest of Trees is the second poem from the Shropshire Lad  cycle, and probably the one best known.  It is easy from today’s perspective to dismiss the apparent simplicity, sometimes ditty-like quality of these poems. But Housman was a scholar of Olympian proportions, an atheist too and, it is said, suffering in love for a man who could never love him in return. Sensibilities run deep here.

The verses speak of love and loss and going to war; the fleetingness of things; all set against landscapes seen only in the mind’s eye, or as if looking from a long way off across time and space. There are many voices too, even ghostly ones, the sense of old country airs remembered. It is not surprising that they spoke so compellingly to composers who then set many of the poems to music: George Butterworth (Bredon Hill and Other Songs), Ralph Vaughan Williams (On Wenlock Edge), Ivor Gurney (The Western Playland), Samuel Barber (With rue my heart is laden ) to name a few.

Here is Butterworth’s evocation of the cherry tree, sung with perfect poise by Roderick Williams. If you choose to listen you may imagine Shropshire here today. As I write this we are having flurries of light snow just like falling cherry blossom.

Butterworth: Six Songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad’ (Excerpt) – BBC Proms 2014 – YouTube

 

Bright Square #5

Another Snow Day In Wenlock

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By this morning most of yesterday’s snow had washed away in the rain. But then back it came at midday, leaving a layer deep enough for some happy sledging on Windmill Hill and giant snowball rolling in the Linden Field. Wenlock dogs were fizzing with delight and even the grown-up humans were having a good play. Nothing like a snowball fight if you’re well wrapped up. And it was bitterly cold this afternoon even as the trees began to drip and drip.

I had only popped out in the garden to photograph the crab apples, but one thing led to another, and soon I was heading for the Linden Walk, and then across the old railway line towards the Priory ruins. And while I was there I thought I’d carry on and have a wander round the Church Green, and see if I could get a photo of the Prior’s House from over the graveyard wall.

Time passed as I stood to watch the Highland Cattle tuck into their silage. So did lunch-time. He who binds books and lives in my house was very glad when I finally did turn up to make some soup. I made no excuses for absence without explanation. Nor did he expect any. He knows as well as I do:  you have to make the most of snow-days. The only thing lacking was a spot of sunshine to brighten up the place. Now as I write this, a frost has set in for the night, and there’s a fat moon shining over the Linden Field.

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Taking The Long View On The Linden Walk

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This photo was taken last weekend, and no, autumn has not come early to Much Wenlock. The leaf litter gathering in drifts along the Linden Walk and the town’s many byways are the papery parts of shed lime tree blossom – the heady, heavenly scent that suffused our atmosphere back in June already forgotten. But hold on now, in the northern hemisphere we still have summer ahead of us; no giving way to the tristesse of ‘Autumn Leaves’, at least not yet. (Note to self: resist posting Yves Montand’s Les Feuilles Mortes until the actual autumn.)

The three little girls in the distance here were part of a multi-family group. They had been having a picnic on the Linden Field, several sets of parents and lots of little kids, dads commandeering the football and tumbling about on the grass with abandon. It was a heartening scene – families at play. Even the swings and slides were back in use after weeks of being wrapped in ugly tape. People having fun and exercise in the fresh air. I’m thinking that Doctor William Penny Brookes, the town’s physician, who back in the 1860s chivvied his chums to help plant these lime trees, would have approved.

 

Square Perspectives #31 A BIG thank you to Becky for keeping us so well entertained this month. Her own retrospective perspective today is a tour de force  Red rose.

Quietness In Times Of ‘Isolation’

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In these corona days people who live alone may well feel they have had far too much quietness thrust upon them, while many family members, forced together into states of furlough, home working and home schooling, may long for some personal space and silence. In either case heartfelt commiserations are due. Meanwhile here in Wenlock we are lucky to have many peaceful spots, and though they are a little busier than in pre-lockdown days, there is still a chance for some quiet meandering, and especially here along the Linden Walk. These photos were taken a few weeks ago during the lime trees’ first flush.

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Mostly, though, we Farrells hardly need to leave our little domain for our ‘quiet moments’. He who is presently constructing a scratch model vintage Great Western Railway wagon has his shed in one corner of the garden, whither soft strains of classical music and the whirring of the lathe waft out over the flower beds. That or the sounds of heavy man-pondering.

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At the other end of the garden we both have the benefit of the garden fence to lean on, which we do often with a mid-morning cup of coffee or a sundowner glass of wine, while surveying the sky, the field, the guerrilla garden or saying hello to the odd passer by. At times we can stand in the field and chat (loudly) with the next door neighbours, who have been sheltering for medical reasons, over their garden fence.

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Near the back gate, between the honeysuckle and the Smoke Bush there is also the old Seat of Wisdom. This particular facility serves all who sit on it with a dousing of sage essence, this from the bush that insists on growing through the back of the seat no matter how many times we cut it back or move the seat. Recently we have let it get on with it, now certain that this ad hoc herbal treatment is most beneficial for body, mind and spirit. In fact I seem to remember sage figured largely in medicinal remedies during times of the  Plague.

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Finally on the daily-quiet-resort front there’s the field path to the allotment, which a little like Charles Darwin’s thinking path, though without the angst of evolutionary rumination, is a good place for my own brand of heavy pondering – on matters horticultural, or indeed for some silent ranting about the state of life, the universe and everything. For here’s the paradox: despite the immense good fortune of having at hand all these lovely places for peaceful contemplation, I can still feel another lockdown-regime rant coming on.  Time to head to the allotment then – execute a few weeds.

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Lens-Artists: A Quiet Moment  This week Patti invites us to capture peaceful interludes, places for reflection and the recharging flagging spirits.

Top Run!

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Lots of people around the town have been keeping fit. Hats off to them. And so, as well as admiring the energetic zeal of this determined young woman, you also get to see the august lime trees of Much Wenlock’s Linden Walk just coming into leaf. Every day the green haze grows greener.

There’s a strong connection too, between these trees and physical exercise. The limes were planted by the town’s physician and his chums in around the 1860s. Dr William Penny Brookes knew a thing or several about people staying healthy – in body, mind and spirit. It was why he invented the Wenlock Olympian Games (begun in 1850) which still take place every year on the field to the left of this avenue. On the right of the Linden Walk ran the railway – whose arrival in town was also facilitated by the wise doctor’s lobbying. It once brought thousands of people from far and wide to see the games. I think Dr. Brookes would be very pleased us – we’re all shifting ourselves one way or another  – gardening, walking, cycling, running.

Talking of shifting, it’s gone 5 pm and the allotment calls. Time to trot across the field and get some spuds in.

Square Tops #16

The Changing Seasons ~ October In And Out Of The garden

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It’s been Michaelmas madness over in the guerrilla garden. November today and these stalwart daisies are still going strong, the late flowering white ones being especially vigorous. I rather hated them when they were inside the garden. They wanted to take over, and when they weren’t doing that, they flopped everywhere.  But now set free along the field boundary, they have come into their own: pale drifts that seem faintly luminous in the autumn light.

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There have been all sorts of other unlikely hangers on. Cosmos for one. And then a couple of weeks ago the shrubby convolvulus sprouted a host of buds, and now they’re popping open, each day several new silvery white flowers with pale pink stripes. They’ve not been put off by days of downpours, gusty winds or early morning frost. The perennial sunflower Helianthus Silver Queen, with her tall sprays of lemony flowers, has been putting on a show too. She seems to think October is her month to bloom.

Out around the town the lime trees are turning to gold and beginning to shed their leaves. England tends not to go in for spectacular vistas of autumn colour – more a case of subtle fading through many shades of rust and amber. But this year the Coxes apple tree in the garden made some very red apples – good enough for wicked queens to entrap the likes of Snow White. They weren’t many though and now they’ve mostly  been eaten in a Tarte Tatin.

The Changing Seasons: October 2019

A Path For All Seasons ~ Wenlock’s Linden Walk

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Those of you who come here often will know that the Linden Walk is Much Wenlock’s best loved path; mine too as it is only a couple of minutes from the house. It is always beautiful – whether in storm, snow, rain, sunshine, with or without leaves. It is also the enduring gift of the town’s physician, Dr. William Penny Brookes, who with his friends planted it in the 1860s. Thank you. Dr. Brookes. I should remember to say this more often.

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Lens-Artists: path

The Linden Walk ~ A Leafy Arcade

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This is my absolutely favourite Much Wenlock place (apart from home and the allotment), and it’s just across the road from the house. The Linden Walk borders the Gaskell (Linden) Field, and until the 1960s, steam trains would have been chuffing past just a few metres to the right of the tree cutting sign. In Victorian times there used to be an Olympic Special that every year brought in hundreds of spectators to watch the July Olympian Games masterminded by the town’s doctor, William Penny Brookes. The handsome station was only a hundred yards behind the point where I’m standing to take this photo.

Dr Brookes was also responsible for bringing the railway to Wenlock and for nagging his friends into helping him plant this double row of lime trees (Tilia x europaea). This was done in the 1860s, and I wonder if he foresaw then how lovely it would be. I’m guessing he would. He was a man of  vision and a great believer in devising means to cultivate both the physical and mental well being of the townsfolk.

Apart from being a physician, he was also a keen botanist and, before taking over the town’s medical practice from his father, he had studied herbalism at the University of Padua. Doubtless he would have known that preparations of lime flowers have strong sedative and pain relieving properties, a remedy to be treated with some caution.

I’m also sure he had in mind the blissful effect of simply wandering beneath an avenue of limes on a hot June day, absorbing the soothing green shade and breathing in the delicious fragrance of the trees’ inconspicuous cascades of blossom. Now the trees are at peak leafiness they create a continuous arcaded canopy. The small hermaphroditic flowers also produce nectar which means there are bees. Blackbirds and squirrels forage round the roots. There is birdcall in the treetops, and even though the tree cutting sign suggests the barking of chainsaws, there was only quietness when I took the photo.  The trimmers of the lime trees’ epicormic growth must have gone to lunch. You can see the effect they have had if you compare the trees with those in the second photo taken the day before. While the overgrowth is boskily attractive it can get out of hand; limes are prone to fungal diseases, and so are probably best protected by improving ventilation.

In fact the continued good health of the Linden Walk it taken very seriously. Cricket club supporters and bowling club members are no longer allowed to drive their cars along the avenue as they were wont to do, an activity that threatened to compact the tree roots. In fact we’ve been told by a Professor of Lime Trees that the trees could live another 150 years if we look after them. What a treasure Dr Brookes left behind – for us and a few more generations yet.

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Six Word Saturday

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Flower of the Day ~ Wild Arum Lily

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Last week I found an arum lily behind our garden fence. On Sunday afternoon I found another fine specimen growing in the shade of the lime tree walk in our nearby Linden Field. I had gone there to photograph the lime trees coming into leaf, and the avenue was a haven of leaf shadow and dappled light, and wonderfully cool in our unexpected heatwave. There was also the heady whiff of wild garlic. The plants whose leaves I had been cropping earlier in the year were bursting with white star flowers. You can eat those too. But you definitely can’t eat the arum lily, also known as Cuckoo-pint (pint to rhyme with mint), Lords-and-Ladies, Parson in the pulpit and Willy lily  – though the roots were apparently once crushed to make household starch for crisping up Elizabethan ruffs (Richard Mabey Flora Britannica).

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Cee’s Flower of the Day