Some People Don’t Like Spanish Bluebells

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Naturally I would have to say that nothing compares with the hazy woodland swathes of British bluebells; their slender spires gently nodding; the subtle fragrance that not quite like any other scent.

By contrast, the garden-escaping Spanish sort are much more upright and chunky, more like a skinny hyacinth. They have blue pollen too, or so the Woodland Trust site tells me. And it also says they are a big MENACE. People hate them in their gardens and so dig them up and dump them round the countryside, where they have relations with our native species, so changing them forever.

Without doubt, losing our native species would be a great a shame, but I still have time for the Spanish cousins that pop up around our garden. Admittedly I used to try to dig them up and compost them – until I learned that it was a pretty impossible task to excavate every part of them.

Now when they flower, I pick them. They make excellent house flowers, their bells opening wider and the blue fading over the days. They smell nice too. I’m thinking that cutting them off at the roots might also put a stop to fraternisation, and ultimately weaken the plant. In the meantime, I have the pleasure of them indoors.

Picking the native species is of course very much forbidden. But those of you who live in the UK will soon have the pleasure of spotting them in a wood near you. Reports have it that they will be flowering early this year.

 

Six Word Saturday Now pop over to Debbie’s for more SWS posts.

Frosted Apples ~ Thursdays Special

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This first photo was taken in December before the blackbirds had begun to feast on the stash of windfall apples out in the field. My last post featured a shot of how the apples look now. Yesterday when I was passing by, there was a whole flock of blackbirds pecking away – at least four and twenty. I’ve never seen so many all once that weren’t in a pie or singing song of sixpence! They didn’t stay to have their photos taken.

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Paula’s prompt this week is seasonal. Please take a look at her inspiring photography:

Thursday’s Special: Wintry

Meet T’owd Man ~ AKA The Old Man Of Wirksworth

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He is said to be 800 years old, or thereabouts, this mythic little figure of a lead miner with his pick and kibble (basket). He is presently to be found embedded in the wall inside St. Mary’s Church in the Derbyshire Peak District town of Wirksworth. But this was not his original home. He once lived in the nearby village of Bonsall, where he was found during the restoration of the 13th century  parish church of St. James. This was in 1863, and it was then that T’owd Man found his way (along with other pieces of interesting medieval stone work) into the garden of one Churchwarden Coates.

This highhanded commandeering of the local lead miners’ talisman did not please the general populace, who wanted him restored to sacred territory. Somehow in the argy bargy he ended up being firmly mortared into the wall of St. Mary’s Church in Wirksworth instead – where he has remained ever since for his own good and general safekeeping. He has also become the town’s ‘unofficial’ symbol, so you can pay him a visit, AND get the tee shirt.

But this story of general displacement is making me wonder. What  if T’owd Man is a good deal older than is currently thought.  I’m assuming his 13th century date was given him because he was found in a church of 13th century origins. But to my eye he could easily be a Saxon carving. What if the medieval builders of the Bonsall church had also recycled him?  (There are in fact many examples of Saxon carving within St. Mary’s, all re-deployed from an earlier church. See my post Expressions of Power  ~ Secular and Spiritual? for more of the background history).

Lead mining was a key industry in the area from at least Roman times. There is also documentary evidence of its importance in Saxon Wirksworth. In 835 the township was ruled by Abbess Cynewaru, and in a missive of that time she states that she was every year sending a gift of lead valued at 300 shillings to Christ Church, Canterbury. Much later in the Domesday Book of 1086 the entry for Wirksworth includes 3 lead works.

Wirksworth was in fact the centre for the trade. It was a hard and dangerous business. The miners were also a maverick lot. Many were yeoman farmers who combined hill farming with lead working, and some grew extremely rich on the trade, although many died from explosions in the mines, and the general toxicity of working with lead.

All the miners’ activities were subject to a system of rigorous rules and regulations overseen by the Barmaster of the Barmote Court. This court was held in Wirksworth for at least 7 centuries, and had its origins in Saxon Burg Moots (moot is Saxon for gathering or assembly). The last version of the court or Moot Hall still survives. It was built just out of the town centre in 1814 to replace a grander Moot Hall that stood in the Market Place. It seems the noisy behaviour of the miners, and the congestion they caused in the town centre, led to the earlier building being demolished.

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Wirksworth is a fine town for a visit. Its many surviving seventeenth and eighteenth century houses attest to the general prosperity of the place over many decades.  When the lead ran out in the 19th century, limestone quarrying replaced it. Rivers were harnessed to power cotton mills, and so the industrial age kicked in. And if this smacks too much of ‘dark satanic mills’, don’t you believe it. The town sits in glorious countryside, in the heart of England, in fact at ‘its very navel’ as one-time resident D.H. Lawrence put it. Here, then, are some more views from England’s very green and pleasant navel:

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copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

Thursday’s Special ~ Traces of the Past Check in here to see what Paula and other bloggers have posted.

Moving Pictures ~ Wales Through The Windscreen

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Nowhere does brooding gloom like Wales on a wet winter’s day. This happenstance shot was taken on New Year’s Eve as we were motoring home from Anglesey. I’d propped my camera briefly on the car dashboard as we’d headed through the mountain pass to Capel Curig. Then randomly pressed the shutter and so caught the cyclist.

This week at Lost in Translation Paula asks us to show her ‘unfocused’. She kindly says she doesn’t mind ‘happy accidents’, so here is mine.

Be-eautiful Borlotti

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Well I simply couldn’t miss taking part in Yvette’s inaugural Friday food challenge over at Powerhouse Blog. So here you have them, my favourite beans, caught at the allotment in a sunset glow. Not that they need external aids to enhance their beanificent beauty. Not for nothing do the Italians call them: Borlotto Lingua di Fuoco –  Fire Tongue.

I love everything about them. I love growing them. I love the way their pods change colour through the summer – from green to deep claret. Then, as picking time draws near, the leaves turn yellow, and start to fall, revealing hanging rows of glowing pods.

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But the best bit is shelling them. You never know what colour they will turn out – pea green, cream with pink speckles or claret with creamy streaks. Every bean is different.

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I usually freeze them freshly podded, or you can dry them. Freezing means they are quick to cook, and you don’t need to do the overnight soaking necessary for dried beans. They are highly nutritious, mineral and fibre-rich, and can be used in soups, or to make baked beans. I use them mostly in re-fried bean dishes. This simply involves mashing up a batch of cooked beans with fried onion, garlic, and a few chopped tomatoes, then adding seasoning, chopped parsley or coriander, plus spices of choice (I use chilli and cumin), turning all into a shallow, heatproof dish, topping with cheese, and putting under the grill for 10 or 15 minutes. We eat this by itself with a salad, or as a side dish with just about anything savoury. A poached egg on top would also be good.

You can find out how to grow borlotti beans HERE. Then pop over to Yvette’s for more vegetable offerings:

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copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

Changing Seasons ~ July’s The Time For Lady’s Bedstraw Up On Windmill Hill

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So far July in the UK has featured several seasons. We’ve had April showers, autumnal gloom, wintery downpours, mutterings about frost that just never happens around here in July, and now a heat wave of unprecedented temperatures outside the tropics. Yet three evenings ago when  I took this photo, it felt like October. There was a wild windiness about the place, and lowering skies, and that pang of melancholy that tells you summer is done.

But then as I lay in the grass to frame the shot all I could smell was the mignonette fragrance of Lady’s Bedstraw. Delicate. Hypnotic; gathering in waves across the hilltop. I can well understand why these golden flower drifts were once harvested to dry and fill mattresses. Their scent says essence of high summer. And so it proved. The next morning Octoberal tendencies had evaporated and we woke to wall to wall blue, and the overwhelming hotness, beneath whose onslaught we are currently sweltering. All this climatic chopping and changing of course suits us English. We’ve never had so much weather to talk about all at once.

This photo, by the way, was taken in low evening light conditions using the  ‘Impressive Art’ setting on my Lumix. I’d rather dismissed this setting, not liking the results of shots taken in broad daylight. But in low light the images acquire an other-worldly look – perhaps slightly sinister. I only added a touch of ‘contrast’ and  ‘highlight’ editing.

 

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Please visit the Cardinal for more about this challenge. There are two versions: use one or both. The latest version 2 features a single image/creation that sums up the month for you in some way. Version 1 is a gallery of several photos – all to be freshly shot.

 

#ChangingSeasons

Wenlock: “A Rip Van Winkle Kind Of Place”

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A Rip Van Winkle kind of place – that’s how Shropshire writer Mary Webb described Much Wenlock around a century ago. It was the home town of her teenage years, and the place where I now live and indeed have known for much of my life. Even when we lived in Africa we would visit Wenlock whenever we were on ‘home leave’. We had friends who drew us, and finally led us to settle here on our return to England.

And once we had arrived, we soon found that many of our neighbours, pitched up from far-flung places themselves, had also lived and worked all over Africa. I was therefore only briefly surprised to find that Henry Morton Stanley had once been in Wenlock, staying as a house guest of the Milnes Gaskells, the local gentry who once lived in the old Prior’s House and owned the ruins of Wenlock Priory from which the town had grown up throughout the Middle Ages.

Stanley is not a man I admire, although his brute tenacity is certainly impressive. We also have him to thank for selling the idea of the Congo to another brute of a man, King Leopold II of Belgium, a circumstance from which that Central African state has probably yet to recover.

Still, I won’t go into that now, but I do have a mind’s eye image of Stanley sitting up on Wenlock Edge (the Milnes Gaskells took all their guests there), and picture him scanning the Shropshire plains below as he contemplated the writing of In Darkest Africa.

The landscape that spread before him, with its distant ranges of Welsh hills, could well have reminded  him of that continent. I have seen such vistas in East Africa. But he was a man who ever took his darkness with him. And this makes me wonder. What might our grim legacy have been, in PR terms that is, if he had written of ‘darkest Shropshire’; would the tainted words still be sticking to us today?

It’s a rhetorical question obviously. And I mention all these dark tones and undercurrents only as counterpoint to the  quaint, quiet images above. Much Wenlock definitely has ‘chocolate box image’ tendencies in its now gentrified, ancient streets. I find it good to remember, once in a while, that all is not necessarily what it seems.

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This post was inspired by Paula’s Black & White Sunday Challenge: ‘surreptitious photography’. It is a fascinating theme. The role of surreptitious photographer is something I rather relish, but rarely put into practice. I have a feeling that in this Rip Van Winkle place it risks becoming an obsessive pursuit and, as a writer, I already have enough of those.

But please visit Paula at the link above and be inspired by her photographs. There’s still time to take part. Also check in HERE to see her gallery of  slide shows of all participating photographers’ work. It’s a real treat.

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

Turn of the year in my garden ~ Bench Series 50

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This month Jude at Travel Words is giving us a free hand with our seating arrangements. Please hop over to her place at Bench Series #50 to take part in the challenge and to sample other bloggers’ seats of fancy.  My entry, I confess, is rather off-beam bench-wise, but it summons a sense of its place in my garden scheme of things. The bench itself is not very exciting to look at in real life, but it is a good place to sit. From it you can look out on our bit of guerrilla gardening behind the boundary fence, at the the field and the footpath beyond, and thence up at the big sky over Wenlock Edge. Back in the summer, as I came up the path from the allotment, I would  often find Graham sitting there, waiting to see what I was bringing home for supper. So yes. A good place to simply be.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell