Looking Back: Traces Of The Past


I took this photo on a whim, just to see how it would turn out. This old farm-field post was one of several on the footpath to the Hathersage stepping stones that cross the River Derwent just outside the town. For those of you who read my earlier Derbyshire posts, you’ll know I was on a quest to follow in my great grandmother’s footsteps, taking the path that she once took from Callow Farm and into Hathersage.

I don’t remember ever seeing stone posts like this before, and don’t know how old it is. But I think it’s safe to say that this and others were there in the late 1880s-90 when Mary Ann Fox passed by to do her shopping.


You can read more of her story at Stepping Stones Through Time and Stronghold – The Telling Of Family Tales

There was also another idea running through my head when I took the photo – a far cry, too, from Derbyshire and my ancestors. When I saw the hole in the stone I was reminded of the 1960s young adult novel The Owl Service by Alan Garner. It is set in Wales and explores the rival affections between three teens through a parallel tale from the Welsh medieval story cycle of the Mabinogi.

It’s a great story, both the original and Garner’s use of it. Here’s a quick version of the myth.

The magician Gwydion makes a woman, Blodeuwedd, from flowers. She betrays her husband Lleu with a man called Gronw who tries to kill Lleu with a spear. He turns into an eagle and escapes. However, rough justice allows Lleu to have his turn to throw a spear at Gronw who may only use a stone for protection. Lleu throws the spear so hard, it passes straight through the stone and kills Gronw, and to punish Blodeuwedd for her part in all this, the magician Gwydion turns her into an owl.

So the first shot is my photo version – the stone of Gronw.

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell



If you want to post some of your own ‘Traces of the Past’ please visit Paula at Lost in Translation


September in my garden


This year, for some reason, the Japanese anemones have decided to take on their close neighbour, the Japanese crab apple tree, in a ‘let’s see who can grow tallest’ contest.

Admittedly, the tree is a small one,  three metres at most, but some of  the anemones are already two metres tall.

This is the kind of gardening I love: where the plants come up with their own ideas. I did not plant the anemones directly under the tree. They seem to have moved in there by themselves, and now use the tree’s protecting arms as they grow ever taller.

Nor is this a colour scheme I would have thought of concocting – pale pinkish-purple, russet red and green. But somehow it’s very pleasing, and especially on the dull days we’ve been having lately.

Every day, too,  I see the tiny crab apples turning a deeper shade of red: perfect Garden-of-Eden miniatures,  which reminds me of a comment made by Melanie at My Virtual Playground. One of the times I featured my crab apples she told me they were called pommes sauvages in French – wild apples – an altogether much prettier name. I agree. Although my ‘wild’ ones have been much inbred, and don’t have quite the same sense of abandon of the truly wild ones found in our field hedgerows.


The tree is Malus Evereste by the way. It is glorious in spring too. (You’ve seen the picture). It’s growing in a tall bed which gives us an all-year good view from the kitchen French windows.


Elsewhere in the garden things are  looking a little dreary round the edges, but there is still some stalwart blooming going on. The red geraniums look bright in the garden pots despite the recent downpours, as does this lovely penstemon:


I think it’s my favourite version of this most obliging plant. If you cut down the stems after flowering, in a few weeks time you get another showing, perhaps more vigorous than the first. This variety is called Apple Blossom, but it makes me think of raspberry ripple ice cream – a rather shivery thought on this gloomy day.

Growing in the bed just behind Apple Blossom, you can see Teasing Georgia. She’s in bud again too. This is such a lovely rose, and opens into dense whirls and whorls of pale gold.

I’m hoping she’ll open before the weather turns weirder than it already is. Forecasters are now promising us the coldest winter ever. But endlessly prone to optimism, I’m further hoping that this is the same order of forecast that in March promised us a barbecue summer and drought. (Hands up all of you in England who managed to fit in more than one barbecue between the wind and showers).


Our garden is all over the place and on different levels. This is because circa 1830 the house was built into a steep bank between the field behind, and the road in front.  Later occupants then dug out a rear yard, and added a tall terrace bed, and behind it, a high retaining wall.

I have yet to get to grips with gardening in so many dimensions, which is why I rather depend on the garden to follow its own design. I also notice that it is devising its own timetable. For instance, what does this June-blooming foxglove think it is doing amongst the late summer rudbeckia?


Just to the left of the foxglove is the dead head of meadowsweet. It has a pink flower, which also surprised me this year. This is something else the garden has come up with: creating (somehow) a very vigorous hybrid from the original wild, and cream-flowered meadowsweet that I originally planted.

I shall definitely encourage the new version, and plant out any seedlings. It is a statuesque creation, very tall, and softly scented. Also Meadowsweet, apart from being used to flavour beer and deserts, has its place in Welsh legend. In the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, the 11th century transcription of age-old tales, there is the dark story of Blodeuwedd (flower-face), a beautiful woman created by the magicians, Math and Gwydion from the flowers of oak, broom and meadowsweet. The tale does not end well. Blodeuwedd (pronounced: blod-EYE-weth) is also the name for owl, a fact, along with a reworking of the Mabinogion story, that was famously explored in teen fiction by Alan Garner in The Owl Service.

And thinking of  flower-faces, here are two growing in a pot by the old privies (now our two dysfunctional  garden sheds – i.e much head-banging on lintels, followed by standing in one’s own light so you can’t see what’s in there). These sunflowers have taken ages to come out, but it’s nice to see them at last, and especially now the real sun has gone away. It’s hard not to smile back at them, isn’t it?


Happy Wednesday!

Inspired by (but with added fruit)  Cee’s Flower of the Day