Black & White Sunday ~ Traces of the Past

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The old railway bridge over the Mawddach River at Barmouth, Gwynedd, Wales

And mazy sands all water-wattled
Waylay her at ebb, past Penmaen Pool.

Gerard Manley Hopkins Penmaen Pool – from a poem written for the visitor’s book at the George Hotel 1876

Black & White Sunday: Traces of the Past

Traces Of The Past ~ The 330-Year-Old Hedge

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It’s hard to imagine that this gigantic bastion of ancient yew trees began three centuries ago as a formal terrace row, each tree cut into a neat, small cone or obelisk. Back then in the 1680s, when these trees were first planted, the taste in grand garden design was for the linear and geometric, following the French notion of strict plant control.

A hundred years later it was all change.  In keeping with the new romantic landscape style of English gardening, the yews were allowed to grow as they pleased. The aim was to create vistas of idealized nature.

But this more liberal attitude did not last either. Around the time of the yews’ two-hundredth birthdays, Victorian garden men armed with sickles and step ladders intervened, and began creating this  arboreal rampart of free-form topiary. Both fascinating and overbearing, I feel. The gardeners apparently hung onto to their ladders with one hand, while pruning and shaping with the other.

Today, the effect is still maintained by National Trust gardeners, now using electric hedge trimmers. Every year four of them start work in late August, and keep on trimming until mid-November – three months’ toil.

The yews are to be seen at one of the National Trust’s outstanding properties – Powis Castle, near Welshpool in Powys, just over the border from Shropshire. We called in there on our way home from our recent stay on the Mawddach Estuary in mid Wales. I’m afraid that on this occasion it was more for a good cup of coffee than for culture.

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The castle dates from around 1200 when it was the stronghold of the last Welsh princes of Powys. In the sixteenth century ownership passed to the English Herbert family who acquired the title Earl of Powis. Indeed, they appeared to have acquired it on three separate occasions through history until the title eventually stuck fast to the family.

One of the Herbert daughters married the son of Clive of India (Robert Clive 1725-1774) – he who plundered the subcontinent under the auspices of the British East India Company. The Clive fortune paid for repair and development of the castle, and Robert Clive’s collection of valuable arts works gathered during his India days are on display there. You can tell I have very mixed feelings about this. But scruples aside, the house is well worth seeing and it contains many treasures.

The garden, though, is the best part. The setting is magnificent, with stunning views of the Welsh borderland. A whole day (and indeed several days at different seasons) could be spent exploring the many layered terraces, the lawns and woodland walks. The planting is on an epic scale with many unusual herbaceous varieties deployed. Specialist garden history talks are also available, and when energy flags (and as intimated earlier) there’s a good restaurant-tea room for re-charging purposes. Although to be on the safe, take your own picnic as well. It’s a long way from the grand lawn to the courtyard refreshment station.

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

Please visit Paula at Lost in Translation for more traces of the past. This theme is going to be regular every-other-month challenge on her blog, which is good news. Thank you, Paula. I have lots more traces in my archive.

Unexpected: Monochrome Mawddach Sunset

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The most unexpected thing about this shot is that it came out at all in such low light conditions. I do love the Dynamic Monochrome setting on my Lumix. It creates all kinds of unforeseen magic, even with much added zoom.

I suppose the other piece of unexpectedness here is the perversity of shooting a limpidly pastel sunset in monochrome. But I like the way it silhouettes the old railway viaduct across the estuary mouth. In Welsh it is called Pont Abermaw, and in English, Barmouth Bridge. It was constructed mostly from wood during the 1860s, and included a drawbridge section that would open allow tall masted ships to pass through, sadly not a facility much needed these days.  It would be fine sight though, so please add your own sailing ship to this vista.

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Black & White Sunday  This week Paula requests we show her the unexpected. Please drop in there for more creative renditions of the theme.

 

#MagesticMagicalMawddach

Magnificent Magical Mawddach

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We drove through one hundred miles of rain to reach it. From South Shropshire to the Welsh coast clouds piled on clouds and the rain dashed down the windscreen with only brief interludes of drizzle. Climbing and climbing the precipitous road through Dinas Mawddy, sky and mountains closed in, reminding us that we humans are rather puny ineffectual things, and that the motorized carapace that transports and shelters us may just  not be enough in a land like this. Even the sheep, inured to the place, stand hunched and motionless on the hillsides, backs to the downpour.

And then at last we’re here, on the banks of the Mawddach Estuary, just downstream of Penmaenpool, and the rain recedes,  leaving stillness and shadow, the slow curves of the river, Welsh Black cattle grazing the salt marsh, a buzzard calling, canoeists returning to base, and on the far horizon the knowledge of the sea, though unseen,  marked by a sudden flush of brightness out in the bay.

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copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

Curve

#SnowdoniaNationalPark

 

The River Runs Through It: Afon Mawddach Between Land And Sea

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I’m on the last lap of Ailsa’s current challenge with this post. These photos were taken last September when we were staying near Dolgellau in Gwynedd, mid Wales. The Mawddach (roughly pronounced Mouthack) Estuary is a glorious place -for mountains, birds and all round peacefulness. You can walk or cycle beside much of it, too, following the Mawddach Trail that was once the railway line from Dolgellau to the holiday town of Barmouth.

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The old toll bridge at Penmaenpool

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We followed the route to the most southerly point where the Mawddach meets the sea, at the bleak little town of Fairbourne. You could call this place a failed resort. In the late 1800s, and after the arrival of the railway, baking flour magnate, Sir Arthur McDougall developed it into a holiday destination for English East Midlands workers. These days, though, it has a desolate air, although it does have a magnificent beach. We bought an ice cream at the dingy seaside caf,  but when we broached the sea wall to see the sea, it was so windy it blew our ice creams away and all over us. That’s not supposed to happen when you go to the seaside. Nor did we have Mummy to wipe us down. What a pickle.100_6564

Fairbourne Beach looking towards Barmouth

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Related:

Now that summer’s done, we take the Dol Idris path

Thursday’s Special: Manscape to Landscape

 

Where’s My Backpack: Where Land Meets Water