This month Paula’s pick-a-word challenge gives us the words splash, marine, scenic, feathered and canicular. The seaside photos cover the first four, and I’ve posted them as an antidote to the ongoing hot weather that is melting many of us in the northern hemisphere. They were taken in March on Broadhaven Beach and at St. Bride’s in Pembrokeshire, and I’m relishing the thought of a brisk sea wind on my face and an invigorating paddle in some chilled Welsh waves.
This next photo is my stab at canicular – the state for which I need the antidote – the laid out, inactive, sweltering dog days of July, the grass turning brown before our eyes, sunset heatwaves. Phew!
I took this photo last night as I was coming home from the allotment. The sun was setting over the rapeseed field and illuminating the grasses along the headland. This is a broad strip of land on the town side of Townsend Meadow, left uncultivated as a defence against flash floods. The variety of grasses that grow here is bewildering, and I’m sorry to say I have never tried to learn which is which. They are very beautiful though in the evening light.
Grasses (Gramineae) are among the most successful plants on the planet and, excluding the polar zones, cover 40% of the earth’s surface. They of course include cereal crops, rice, bamboos, and pasture grasses and so are of immense importance to humanity. Grass is also an elephant’s food of choice, making up a substantial part of its 300-400 lb daily vegetable intake. I mention that fact here because our headland grasses have so benefitted from the agrichemical feeding of the rape plants uphill from them that they are now doing a pretty good impression of elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum) also known as Napier Grass. This particular grass featured in he-who-builds-sheds’ doctoral research on grass smut in the Kenya highlands, and so is a species close to our hearts, and we both know how to identify it.
Coming up is another grass I know: wild oats. The sun was reflecting off its spikelets, which was all rather mesmerizing.
Thursday’s Special: Lost in details This week Paula has given us an intriguing challenge and photo to match. I’m interpreting it here both in words and images
Just before sunrise outside the Maasai Mara Reserve. These lionesses had eaten well during the night, but now as day dawned the hyenas were moving in to take what remained of the kill. More of this story and photos at Hyena Heist in the Mara HERE.
Thursday’s Special: The Blue Hour
Last week we were in Ironbridge inspecting the restoration works on the C18th cast iron bridge that gave the town its name. People come from all over the world to see the bridge, so to find most of it shrouded in plastic would doubtless be a big disappointment. English Heritage, the conservation body whose engineers are carrying out the repairs over the next few months, thoughtfully decided to make a spectacle of their operations. Just beneath the main span they have constructed a walkway with perspex covered viewing portholes along its length. Now visitors have once-in-a-lifetime access to view the structural parts at close quarters.
And while doing this I happened to notice that, at certain angles, the portholes and their surrounds created multiple reflections. Suddenly the town appeared meshed in the dove-tailed struts and roundels of the bridge supports. It seemed fitting somehow – the town within the bridge that gave rise to it; a glimpse of the Gorge whose lucky combination of natural resources: iron ore, coal, fire clay, limestone, made the construction of the world’s first cast iron bridge in this location possible: the now quiet resort place that some call the crucible of Britain’s Industrial Revolution, a once horrifying hell-hole of pounding steam hammers, sulphurous fumes, and streams of white-hot iron.
Thursday’s Special: reflective
copyright 2018 Tish Farrell
P.S. Click on the English Heritage link above for more about the restoration project and a very good short video.
Here in Shropshire, May has been a month filled with much welcome sunshine. Everywhere you look, the countryside is brimming with green-ness, so no colour enhancement was needed for this view across the River Severn at Arley (just south of Bridgnorth). It was taken last Saturday at the Arley Arboretum Plant Collectors’ Fair – post to follow.
I’m sorry you can’t see the river, which is actually quite wide at this point (hiding behind the foreground hawthorns). Nor can you see the railway line that runs midway across the frame. For this is the landscape through which you will pass if you have the good fortune to board the Severn Valley Railway, and chug along the river behind a good old coal-fired locomotive, trailing its long white steamy banner as it goes, and not a few smuts. Clackety-clack and much toot-tooting and many a rustic halt en route. Oh, the nostalgia!
Thursday’s Special: saturation
How Green Was My Valley a 1939 novel by Richard Llewellyn set in Wales: tales of the Morgan coal mining family. Also a 1941 John Ford film.
This week Paula’s set us a very different kind of challenge. She asks us to show her a zoomed in – zoomed out image. I’ve applied so much zoom to this photograph that the detail is abstracted. I rather like it – the patchwork quilt effect. It is a view of smallholder farms at Escarpment, just north of Kenya’s capital Nairobi. I was out with Graham (in his capacity as Smut Survey Team Leader) looking for outbreaks of a fungal infection on fodder grass. You can read the full story at an earlier post Looking for Smut on Kenya’s Highland Farms. Escarpment was one of the locations we surveyed, and living up to its name, it lies on the easterly elevation of the Great Rift Valley.
(Click on the image for a larger view). The old volcano in the Rift is Longonot, and the zigzag of road seen faintly to the right of the valley bottom takes you to Lake Naivasha. Even now, after so many years away from Africa, this view stops my breath. And then I find myself breathing in – thinner air at 8,000 feet – whiffs of dust, thorn trees, diesel, roasting maize at a roadside trader’s hearth…
Thursday’s Special: zoom in/zoom out
This month Paula has given us 5 words to spark our photographic imaginations: dawning, condensed, coalescing, verdant and sempiternal. This skyscape view from our house on Wenlock Edge says everlasting (sempiternal) to me, though that could be wishful thinking on my part – to think the world as I know it will always remain the same. I think, with the different cloud formations, this image also covers condensed and coalescing. No hidden verdant though, for this is a winter scene – the big bare ash tree in the corner of the allotment. And it was definitely taken at sunset and not at dawn.
Sometimes it takes me a long time to reach the allotment. I set off with great purpose, shouldering a big bag of vegetable waste for the the compost heap. It is only a short hike across the field, although after rain it can be treacherously slithery, thus requiring due care and attention to avoid all outbreaks of undignified slippage. And then there are the distractions. And if I happen to have a camera in my pocket: well then, gardening must wait.
So that’s what happened when I spotted these apples that someone had slung over their hedge in the autumn. During the winter the blackbirds had nibbled the insides so neatly that only the skins remained. Not only that, the delicate apple ‘shells’ had now accrued quite new and surprising properties. Lying scattered in downtrodden grass and browning leaves, they were now capturing and emitting that too rare glow of winter sunshine. Thank you, blackbirds. A fine light show.
Thursday’s Special: recycled
copyright 2018 Tish Farrell
This gateway stands beside the path to Marloes Sands in Pembrokeshire – a scene captured during one of our best outings on a recent family holiday at St. Bride’s. I included the image in my March Changing Seasons gallery, but as several of you good followers remarked on it, I thought I’d give it a ‘featured image’ opportunity. I also thought it fits with Paula’s ‘Way’ theme at this week’s Thursday’s Special.
Marloes Sands must count among the world’s stunning beaches, and it is good to know that it, and its approaches are safely in the care of the National Trust. The beach features in my new header photo, taken by he who builds sheds and binds books and only sometimes gets his camera out. His photo is responsible for my theme’s new cool blue look. I pressed the ‘match the header photo’ button in the WP customize menu, and hey presto! It is now causing me to try out my monochrome shots with a ‘blue rinse’ edit.
Coming up next is the clifftop path to the beach:
Marloes is best visited on an outgoing tide, because only then are the sands exposed. At high tide you have to scramble around on very big boulders, and it all becomes quickly undignified, if not downright perilous. On the other hand, the beach-side cliffs are always astonishing, their geology monumental and otherworldly, and therefore difficult to capture in their full grandeur.
This is the path down to the beach. You can just make it out left of centre:
And out on the sands, definitely the best way to explore:
And out at sea:
And the path back:
In which Six Go Potty In Pembroke With Cockapoo Puppy – holiday snaps #5
These ruins of the Bishop’s Palace at St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, South Wales stand on the site of the monastery of Menevia founded in the 6th century by St. David, patron saint of Wales (500-589 CE). The nearby cathedral (coming up below) was consecrated in 1131, but has undergone many phases of re-building, including major remedial work, first after an earthquake c 1247, and then after the devastation wrought under Cromwell’s Commonwealth of the 1650s. Welsh architect John Nash oversaw extensive repairs in 1793, but his work, proving substandard, made it necessary for the whole cathedral to undergo complete restoration by George Gilbert Scott in the late 19th century. A bit of a mash-up then, architecturally speaking – Gothic and Perpendicular not the least of it – but still an imposingly handsome building. It also hosts a very excellent cafeteria.
St. David’s has long been a place of pilgrimage, papal decree stating in 1123 that two pilgrimages to St. David’s was the equivalent of one to Rome. England’s monarchs from William the Conqueror onwards hot-footed here, which probably accounts for the increasing grandeur of the Bishop’s Palace, still apparent today despite its ruinous state. After confession comfortable lodgings and some fine dining would doubtless be the next royal requirements.
The cathedral’s presence confers city status on the community of St. David’s. This may seem a trifle curious for a place scarcely larger than a village. With a population of less than 2,000, it thus has the distinction of being the United Kingdom’s smallest city, and so by default the loveliest – its peninsula siting bounded by scenic coastlines west, north and south and its hinterland composed of rolling Pembrokeshire farmland. A good place to visit then, although perhaps best done out of season.
P.S. The daffodils on the cusp of opening in the header photo are the national flower of Wales and worn on St. David’s Day on the 1st of March.
Thursday’s Special: Traces of the Past