July’s Changing Seasons ~ To Shropshire’s Mysterious Stiperstones

It is a wild and brooding place, one of the strangest in South Shropshire’s hill country. For one thing the Devil has his chair there, and when the mist comes down, this is where he sits – brimming with pent-up malevolence but unseen by us mortals.

We did not encounter mist on Saturday when we ventured there so we assumed the Devil was out. But there were lowering skies, a near absence of light and the threat of rain. Oh yes, and wind, that somehow caused a discontinuity of function between brain and feet, so making the trek over moorland paths strewn with quartzite cobbles somewhat hazardous.

The Stiperstones ridge extends 5 miles (8 km), and at its highest point on Manstone Rock is 1700 feet (536 metres) above sea level.  Standing on the top you can look west across the great expanse of Wales, and on clear days see Snowdon and Cader Idris mountains. Turn east, and you can scan across the Long Mynd to north east Shropshire and far, far beyond.

The ridge has ancient origins and half the world away, some 60 degrees south of the equator. It probably began existence as a quartz sand beach laid down by a shallow sea during the Ordovician, some 495-443 million years ago. Thereafter the landmass moved one inch a year for the next 450 million years to reach its present location 50 degrees north of the equator. A slow, slow journey, then, of 7,500 miles.

You might think, as you look at succeeding images, that it doesn’t look much like a beach these days. In fact it has suffered much folding, sending the beach skywards, and tilting it at angles of 80 degrees in places. Along its length are a series of  quartzite tors described by the eminent Victorian geologist, Murchison, as ‘rugged Cyclopean ruins’ (The Silurian System 1854). Besides the Devil’s Chair and Manstone Rocks there are also Diamond Rock, Cranberry Rock, Nipstone Rock and several other eye-catching outcrops.

The place is also described as ‘relict landscape’, one that is undergoing continuous weathering. What we see today was mostly shaped during the last Ice Age when the quartzite was locked in permafrost. Moisture seeped into the cracks, and as it froze, expanded, causing the rock to fissure and fragment.

The moors below the ridge-top are rich in whinberries and cowberries, and so provided food and grazing for human populations from at least the Bronze Age. These people from prehistory left us their burial monuments – stone cairns along the hill’s spine. Then around 100 CE the Romans arrived, avidly searching of silver, but mostly mining lead, and smelting it in hillside boles to provide material to line their plunge pools, make water pipes, cover roofs, construct their coffins, and for the craftsmen of Wroxeter Roman City to use in the production of pewter.

Down succeeding centuries lead mining expanded dramatically. The flanks of the Stiperstones are littered with adits and the mine shafts that featured so dramatically in Mary Webb’s Gone To Earth.  One of the biggest concerns, Snailbeach Mine, started at the foot of the hill in 1783, employed 500 workers at its height. For a century and more, then, the wild countryside was also a filthy industrial zone of delving, massive spoil heaps, steam-pumping engines and hard-worked men and boys.

Yet somehow this phase too has somehow welded itself into the mythic fabric of the landscape, an impression heightened by the strange visual effect of Stiperstones quartzite – that it somehow looks black against the light, when in fact it is grey and speckled with ice white crystals.

And on that note I’ll leave you with the words of Much Wenlock’s Mary Webb, whose writerly landscape this very much was – and in all senses. This quote is from The Golden Arrow:

The whole countryside was acquiring in his eyes something portentous, apocalyptic. For the personality of a man reacting upon the spirit of a place produces something which is neither the man nor the  place, but fiercer or more beautiful than either. This third entity, born of the union,  becomes a  power and a haunting presence – non-human, non-material.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

Changing Seasons – Please visit Max for this month’s jaw-dropping vistas from his trekking trip to the Romsdalseggen: not for the faint-hearted.

The Changing Seasons: April And the Alien Invasion?

IMG_4369

All right I’m a gardener, and maybe a tad prone to persecution mania on the pest front, but this month it’s been wall to wall dandelions, and no sign of the invasion letting up. Not only are they EVERYWHERE, and especially out in force at the allotment, but they are also showing signs of mutating into mega-weeds, some as big as palm trees. OK. Perhaps not quite that big. But I can see what they’re plotting: world domination in Much Wenlock.

All means of defence seem puny before the onslaught. I’ve tried mowing, hoeing, beheading, excising. Even resorted to engaging in dialogue of the non-expletive variety. But it’s no go. So I thought I’d shoot the varmints instead – photo-wise naturally. And of course, they really are very beautiful – whether in flower or gone to seed – and also so very perfectly designed for maximum coverage of planet Earth.

The one thing I’ve forgotten to do this year is eat some of them – young leaves in salad and for a system-cleansing tea, roots dry-roasted  to make quite a passable coffee that also has health benefits, flowers deep fried as fritters (though I’ve not tried this). And now that I’m seeing them in a more kindly light, and established a little perspective, I’m ready to post a less fraught compilation of April shots taken on and around the allotment.

IMG_4375

IMG_4386

IMG_4378

IMG_4394

IMG_4391

IMG_4385

IMG_4382

P1070674

 

The Changing Seasons: April 2017 Please visit Max at Cardinal Guzman to see Oslo in April and other bloggers’ offerings.

Changing Seasons: September And The Rook Ballet

101_0365

No one quite knows why they do it. Or they didn’t the last time I pursued the matter. But as summer ends so the rooks begin their twilight dancing. There is a large rookery in the wood behind the house. Many scores of birds. Jackdaws live there too. Now each evening, as the sun slips behind Wenlock Edge we watch the rook and jackdaw ballet. Flock after flock flies in, flies out, sweeps up, round, back, spirals, dives in sequences so swift and coordinated that there must surely be some corvid dance-master somewhere orchestrating the moves. The show may last for many minutes, subside into the treetops, then burst out and start all over again. Finally, as the light goes, every bird finds its perch, and the wood subsides into companionable darkness and gentle rook chatter.

 *

To join in this challenge please visit Changing Seasons Monthly Challenge over at Cardinal Guzman’s

TheChangingSeasons_6367

Changing Seasons: June On Windmill Hill

With this shot I’m back to what Meg at 12monthsinWarsaw calls my Monet’s Haystack mode – i.e. there just cannot be too many shots of the old windmill near my house. I succumb every single time I’m there with a camera to hand. I snapped it yesterday in celebration of the summer solstice, caught in a quick walk between supper’s first course of dhal and Staffordshire oat cakes, and the strawberry crumble that was to follow.

I was also taken by the midsummer meadow in all its lushness – so many different kinds of grasses that I cannot name, and masses of pyramidal orchids – far more than last year. There were also spotted orchids, meadow sweet, vetch, red and white clovers, ladies bedstraw, and white bladder campion which is most usually seen growing on seaside cliffs. And also the sky above was filled with clouds that looked like dragons.

 

 

 

Please visit Cardinal Guzman’s Changing Seasons for more on this challenge.

copyright 2016 Tish Farrell

The Changing Seasons ~ May With Zest Of Lime And Cricket

P1040057

Only last week did the lime trees on Wenlock’s Linden Walk show any real signs of coming into leaf. The avenue itself was a faint haze of juicy green. The leaves may be late, but they sum up the sap-filled exuberance of spring.

Another sign of spring around English villages and towns, is the weekend sight of chaps in their whites lingeringly engaged in the friendly cricket match. It’s one of those things, cricket. I scarcely understand the game, but I’m glad someone does. Or to quote the chorus from 10CC’s Dreadlock Holiday  “I don’t like cricket, oh no, I love it”. At least I love the idea of it: a quintessential cultural marker layered with notions of perfect summers that never were.

It conjures ghosts too. The thwack of ball on willow. Resounding cheers at a good catch. An inexplicable sense of something lost. This doubtless explains why many cricketing poems are interwoven with strands of war. Here’s one such from A E Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad cycle, poem XVII. It alludes to young men lost in the Boer War:

Twice a week the winter thorough
Here stood I to keep the goal:
Football then was fighting sorrow
For the young man’s soul.
Now in Maytime to the wicket
Out I march with bat and pad:
See the son of grief at cricket
Trying to be glad.
Try I will; no harm in trying:
Wonder ’tis how little mirth
Keeps the bones of man from lying
On the bed of earth.

*

And now to relieve that sombre note, my May gallery in and around the Linden Field:

 

 

 

Related: Heading for the Light ~ Wenlock’s Linden Walk in Winter

To join in Cardinal Guzman’s The Changing Seasons challenges go HERE

April’s Changing Seasons: Fifty Shades Of Grey And A Little Bit Of Blue

P1030781

We Brits are renowned for an unbridled capacity to talk about the weather, and this month there has been so much of it, and sometimes all at once. In the Farrell household the question has been  hourly batting back and forth between he and she who live in our house: have you seen the weather forecast?

He has a major earth-moving project in the back garden – dismantling a raised bed, and sawing up next winter’s firewood supply since we keep using the logs that have already been chopped. She has a major earth-moving project up at the allotment – filling raised beds with a recycled compost mountain. There is also seed sowing, hardening off and planting out of vegetables to consider, all of which are dependent on weather conditions in general, and knowing how long arctic winds and icy rain will last in particular.

But what can one say about British weather that our greatest poet, William Shakespeare has not already said, since even he, with all he had to write about, was somewhat climate-fixated:

With hey, ho, the wind and the rain…

For the rain it raineth every day.

He’s not too heartening for next month either:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.

Oh well. Better hang on to the woolly hats  and vests, wellies and waterproofs.

*

Cardinal Guzman The Changing Seasons April 2016 Go here to see the Cardinal’s take on April, plus his rules for the challenge. Then join in!

March: Windswept

P1030512

It was blowing a gale when I took the February #ChangingSeasons  photo on Windmill Hill. So too for this March photo. On Sunday the wind was so fierce I could hardly hold the camera steady, and these poor daffodils at the foot of the hill were being whooshed off their roots. You can almost hear their trumpeting distress calls.

So if, as the saying goes, March means to go out as a lamb, and not persist in roaring at us, then it needs to go in a corner and think some calming, and softly woolly thoughts. It does not need to cover us in snow as it did in the early hours of Monday morning. Not that I saw it for myself. I was up far too late, by which time it had melted. Even so, we are left with icy draughts that zoom inside any gap in one’s under-layers, or sting the ears that are silly enough to go outside without a hat.

So what is going on with all this gust and bluster? Is this more El Nino effect? In between the rain and wind storms, spring seems to have been teasing us here in the UK since December. That was when I photographed the first daffodils, albeit in the slightly milder climes of south-coast Cornwall. Meanwhile at home on Sheinton Street, the tulips have been pushing out of the garden pots since January, accompanied by flurries of white flowering currant blossom – all far too early. So spring, if you truly do mean to come this year, please get on with it, and cut out the frigid blasts. Now please visit Changing Season’s host, Cardinal Guzman. This month not only does he give us fine photos, but also a master class in sofa assembly.

Cardinal Guzman: Changing Seasons

There are two monthly Changing Seasons 2016 challenges, and you can join in at any time. Here are the Cardinal’s rules:

The Changing Seasons 2016 is a blogging challenge with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month. Anyone with a blog can join this challenge and it’ll run throughout 2016. It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t join the first month(s), late-comers are welcomed. These are the rules, but they’re not written in stone – you can always improvise, mix & match to suit your own liking:

Rules for Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1)

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Rules for Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

Related: My chosen location for tracking the changing seasons is Windmill Hill  and its associated Linden Field – a few minutes walk from my house in Much Wenlock, Shropshire.  Here are the  January and February posts.

February: Windmill Hill Twilight

There are two Changing Seasons challenges over at  Cardinal Guzman’s.  It’s a monthly challenge and if you want to join in you can find the rules below.

For my February photo I’ve chosen this recent shot of Windmill Hill. I caught it – in this single shot – just as the sun was going down. The landscape is still wintery, but the strange light suggests the possibility of spring. Also the windmill seems more impressive than it usually does in broad daylight. It’s good to see its mysterious side; we actually know very little about how it looked and functioned in this, its 17th century phase, only that it was probably struck by lightning.

Our local archaeologist also thinks it may be standing on or near the site of an ancient trackway, although recent trial excavations have yielded no evidence to support this. But never mind. I anyway like the glimpse (far right) of the swiftly departing small figure in blue. It rather reminds me of Daphne du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now. And yes I know that was set in Venice, but the residual horror is enough to resonate here in Shropshire and so evoke the February chills.

You can see January’s Changing Seasons HERE. In this series I am featuring Windmill Hill and the nearby Linden Field where the world’s first modern Olympian Games were held from the 1850s onwards. The Much Wenlock Games inspired the present day Olympic Movement, a fact that is now recognized. That’s a big claim to fame for our very small town, and I think it’s worth bragging about at every opportunity. Windmill Hill provided a natural auditorium back in Victorian times. Spectators and competitors came from all over Britain, and from the 1860s they could arrive by train, the station conveniently sited beside the Linden Field where most of the events took place.

*

Please visit the Cardinal to see his and others’ changing seasons. And then join in, if not this month, then next.

Here are the Cardinal’s Rules:

«The Changing Seasons 2016» is a blogging challenge with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month. Anyone with a blog can join this challenge and it’ll run throughout 2016. It doesn’t matter if you couldn’t join the first month(s), late-comers are welcomed. These are the rules, but they’re not written in stone – you can always improvise, mix & match to suit your own liking:

These are the rules for Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

These are the rules for Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!