Foxgloves – also known as Fairy Gloves, Lion’s Mouth and Witches’ Fingers – have long featured in herbal medicine, the leaves used as infusions and compresses. But it was in the 1780s that William Withering, Shropshire-born botanist and physician, discovered the plant’s most potent use is for the slowing and strengthening of the heartbeat. In 1785 he published An account of the foxglove in which he outlined his findings and the results of his clinical trials. Foxgloves are also highly toxic, so getting the precise dosage was absolutely critical. Nevertheless, efficacy won over potential risk and eventually the active principles, digitoxin and digoxin were isolated and purified. These are still used in mainstream medicine, though the source of choice is a European species Digitalis lanata.
In his Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey also tells the story of how my corner of Shropshire on Wenlock Edge played its part during World War II when the import of European foxglove supplies was foiled by war. Apparently the foxgloves growing on certain areas of eroded limestone were especially potent. And until 1949 large quantities of the plants were also gathered across the county by members of Women’s Institutes, the leaves put to dry in nets in bakery lofts and clothes drying rooms.
The foxglove in the photo is growing in a shady corner of the garden. It brought itself there a while back and in real life is of a colour more rosy pink than purple. In monochrome, though, there’s a compelling eeriness about it. Witches’ thimbles, eh.
Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: flowers
I took these photos on Sunday afternoon in a fit of late-day sunshine. These are the allotment apple trees, their produce free for anyone to pick. The only problem this year was the crops were so plentiful, and the October winds so fierce, that most of the apples were blown off their stems and into bruising piles. And then there are only so many apple crumbles and pies you can eat if you do not wish to expand to fill one’s particular lockdown premises and so be inextricable by the time we, along with our personal resident viral-bacterial populations, are liberated to the wide world. In the meantime the wildlife of the creeping, pecking sort has a plentiful store to graze on, which in turn serves as a timely reminder that there usually is a positive side to most situations; someone benefits.
Passing thought: the chair in real life is a weathered sage green plastic effort, one of a pair that sat outside my polytunnel for years before I donated them to the communal apple-tree-tea-break-zone. It’s strange it looks so white and also unfocused in these photos; something oddly reflective going on here.
Perverse, I know, to be featuring this wintery scene as summer arrives in the northern hemisphere. Still, it seems to fit quite well with this week’s b & w challenge over at Cee’s. I’m thinking too that those poor souls who are presently being broiled by unnatural heatwaves across Europe might be glad of a cooling vista.
Cee’s Black & White Challenge: Lines and Angles
This week Cee says we can choose our own topic. I don’t think I’ve posted this view of Marloes Sands before, but if I have then its worth a second look with its dreamscape rock formations. It was shot in monochrome.
Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge Open Topic
Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge This week Cee says to show her something small
Those of you who come here often (thank you faithful readers) will know that our cottage garden overlooks a field called Townsend Meadow. Ironically, few of today’s Wenlock residents probably know this unless they have looked at the old tithe map. Doubtless our good neighbour Trevor knows because he has lived his whole life here, and his father before him. The manorial landlord and his agent probably know it too. Anyway, as to origins, the name says all. The field’s present fence-line along the Sytche Brook (which gathers in the run-off from nearby Wenlock Edge) once marked the northerly limit of Much Wenlock.
Of course the town has sprawled beyond it since, but not very far. The presence of two great limestone quarries with their regular programmes of blasting and accompanying dust storms well into the 20th century, probably discouraged development, though did not deter the erection of the Lady Forester Memorial Hospital opened in 1903, now a care home, or in 1953 the building of the Much Wenlock Modern School (now the William Brooks School), the latter proving in 1981 to be well in the flight path of exploding debris from neighbouring Shadwell Quarry when three pupils were injured during a blast. Now the quarries are abandoned and silent, and out on Townsend Meadow it is usually pretty quiet too, apart from the calls of rooks, jackdaws and buzzards. Now and then the farmer arrives with another dose of agri-chemicals.
This field has been our view for twelve years now. We never tire of it, and especially the play of light and cloud movement along the false horizon to the west. I never stop taking photographs of it either – usually on my way to or from the allotment. So here are some of my monochrome images, taken with my Lumix point-and-shoot digital camera on its monochrome setting. i.e. they are not edits of colour images, and some are taken in low light conditions which accounts for the grainy look.
First comes summer and a view that makes me wonder if we should have been calling for ghost busters:
And in winter:
Taken this afternoon on the winter wheat:
Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Field Many thanks to Cee for hosting this challenge.
This week at Black & White Sunday Paula asks us for an ‘After and Before’ – i.e. a colour photograph converted to monochrome. She wants us to use this device to look at our work with fresh eyes. It is an interesting exercise.
This shot was very spur of the moment’, and into the sun to boot – taken as the bus to Llandudno swung round a sharp bend down and past Conwy’s mediaeval town walls. But I liked the juxtaposition of ancient and new, the impressively static versus the transient. For some reason I also like the ‘one way’ traffic road sign – as if it might mean something other than the obvious.
Overall, as a composition I’m not sure what to make of it, but I keep looking at it just in case it might have something important to say, and I think the monochrome version has a certain drama. The first version is in ‘Cyan tone’ according to my Microsoft editing programme. This next one is what happens when you press the ‘Black & White’ option:
And here’s the original:
Now over to Paula’s at Black & White Sunday for more ‘Afters’.
I know most of us gardeners curse dandelions, but don’t they look lovely in sepia? Little constellations. Firework bursts. Spreading those all too viable seed parachutes here, there and everywhere. You can’t keep a good weed down.
But these plants do have their uses too. Young leaves are excellent in salads. Dandelion leaf tea has long been used by herbalists to cleanse the kidneys and lower blood pressure, while the root is mainly a liver remedy, helping to boost the immune system. I do quite like dandelion coffee, perverse as this may sound, although it has to be the real roasted roots, and not the instant stuff, and it’s definitely improved with a sprinkle of raw cacao powder, and a pinch of cinnamon.
The plants of course can develop prodigious root systems. The main tap root drills down into the depths of poor soil, and so helps bring up trapped nutrients. This is one of the reasons why they are so darned difficult to dig up – they are so very busy nourishing the ground. Well that’s their story anyway. I have tried roasting the roots to make my own coffee. Very fiddly. A lot of scrubbing. And then I ate the crunchy roasted bits and didn’t have any left to make coffee. They tasted like root vegetable crisps – weird but vaguely compelling.
And I suppose I have to say too (somewhat grudgingly) that the flowers’ bright yellow faces are very cheering, although I was a bit cross to find them already grinning at me up at the allotment. In February, for goodness sake? Please give us a break, dandelions. How about a September blooming instead?
Anyway this is my entry for the last week of Jude’s monochrome garden photo challenge. With this particular composition, I’m also thinking a little of Sue Judd’s negative space challenge over at Paula’s. But please drop in at Jude’s The Earth Laughs In Flowers to see what she and others have been doing with their monochrome compositions. Next Sunday there will be a new theme: garden wild life, and a chance to show off visiting my reptiles. Yay!
Inspired by Laura Bloomsbury at Tell Tale Therapy who was in turn inspired by Linda G Hill’s Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday. I love the way one blog leads to another. Go to both links for quick-fire creative responses to Linda’s prompt: the letter ‘T’. The rule is no forward planning. Just write.
Badge by: Doobster @ Mindful
Secrets, conspiracies, tragedy, dark comedy
– a fast-paced novella of interwoven tales
set somewhere in East Africa