Monochrome Favourites

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Ash trees at St. Brides Castle, Pembrokeshire

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This week Cee says we can pick our own black and white images. These are some of my favourite shots of Welsh winter scenes.

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Llanddwyn Island, Anglesey

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Farm fence, Aberffraw, Anglesey

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P1060515edWinter dawn, Menai Strait, Anglesey

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Family gathering, Penmon Point, Anglesey

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: favourites

Urban Fantasies In Downtown Manchester

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This is the wheel that was, aka the Wheel of Manchester, a version of the London Eye, which was sited in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester until  2015 when its licence with the City Council expired. This photo was taken in April of that year. It finally came down in the following June. I’m not sure what my camera was doing to produce the washed-out, somewhat retro look, but I rather like it. In fact everything about it says ‘urban’ to me – the sense of detachment/isolation/alienation/coldness; an environment overwrought to the extent of being pointless.

You can tell I’m a country lass.

Though having said that, generations of my maternal ancestors worked in the Manchester cotton trade that created the city and all its wealth: hand loom weavers, yarn winders, blouse finishers, machine weavers, bleachers, fustian cutters, fly and spindle manufacturers, cotton merchants and one mill owner. And then there were the bricklayers who helped build the place. So perhaps, after all, I do have some investment there – at the cellular level.

Here are more odd photos taken on that visit…

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Last walls standing: the facades of the old wholesale fish market, preserved as the perimeter entrances to an apartment block courtyard garden.

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Not sure what’s going on here – Steam Punk meets Mary Poppins the musical?

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A tribute to city high-rise window cleaners perhaps?

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The Bridgewater Hall international concert venue. We were there to see Buena Vista Social Club on their farewell tour.

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Affleck’s in the Northern Quarter – an indoor market specialising in alternative clothing and music and retro-gaming

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The Palace Hotel where we were staying (now The Principal Manchester). It was a long climb to find our room in the converted former Refuge Assurance Office built between 1891-1895.

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Lens-Artists: Urban environments  Sofia has set the theme this week. Please pay her a visit.

There’s A Storm Coming…

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Over the garden fence this afternoon. And yes, after weeks of drought, we’ve had some rain, though the showers have not been as generous as these clouds seem to promise. I watched them roll out across Townsend Meadow towards Wenlock Edge. A cloud serpent, or a Chinese dragon in many shades of grey. There were pigeons flying every which way and some horizontal lightning.

Nothing like a spot of wild weather to stir the spirits.

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The Changing Seasons ~ August 2022

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Harvest time in Much Wenlock came early this year. With the brief heatwave that lasted less than a week, but the months of drought, some crops looked baked-in-the-ground. Without regular rainfall, our heavy Silurian soil very quickly turns to concrete and cracks open.

The field beans in Townsend Meadow behind the house that started off so well in spring, did not make good, fat pods before they started turning black and drying out. The plants themselves have been standing in the field, blackened and leafless for weeks. Until today that is (September 1st), when they were finally harvested amid a great dust storm. I dare say  the beans that have been harvested will be very well dried, but probably only suitable for animal feed.

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Thistles and the field bean crop just before harvest

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Now when it comes to apples, both wild and cultivated, it’s a whole new story. Here is the crab apple tree in our back garden. The fruit is tiny, but what a crop. I’ve never seen this little tree so laden: enough to make crab apple jelly and leave plenty for the over-wintering birds.

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Up at the allotment, the Discovery apple tree is also cropping earlier than usual, and again, weighed down with fruit. The skins are bit tough though; again likely due to lack of rainfall:

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Windfalls in August

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Since the three very hot days early in the month, we’ve had lots of cool and cloudy days, when we were sure it was going to rain. We’ve even had weather forecasts that threatened deluges. But no. They did not materialize. Only one passing shower that teased all the plants, and this gardener into thinking things were about to improve.

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Here’s the allotment bonfire in waiting. It looks very autumnal. The stalks of the artichoke plants on the pile, dried so hard they could not be chopped up for compost.

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Teasels already

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In the home garden, many plants have struggled without rain. The phlox that usually flowers all summer, bloomed and then was quickly desiccated. Hand watering simply did not cut it. Now though, some of the helianthus (perennial sunflowers) are trying for a bold recovery, and I spotted the first Michaelmas daisy yesterday. The geraniums, too, have soldiered on valiantly. Things in pots (cosmos and echinacea) are probably faring better because it’s easier to manage the watering. Which also means we have a jolly new sunflower just out by the greenhouse door. It’s sharing a tub with some tomatoes.

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And finally a view from Wenlock’s old railway line, taken yesterday:

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The Changing Seasons ~ August 2022:   Please visit hosts Brian at Bushboys World and Ju-Lyn at Touring My Backyard

Here Comes The Sun

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Snowdonia, North Wales from across the Menai Strait

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Wales tends to have a reputation for being short on sunshine and  long on rain (washed out family holidays often looming large in people’s memories). And it’s true it does receive a lot of rain from the Atlantic. And yes, it can often be a question of catching  it while you can. But then when you do, the combination of mountains, sea and active weather systems can produce some other-worldly effects. The island of Anglesey in December and January puts on some specially good sunlight shows, and what can be more heart and spirit-lifting than winter sun.

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The Pilot House, Penmon Point, Anglesey

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In Henllys Woods

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Aberffraw Beach: January sunset

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Lens-Artists: Here comes the sun  This week Amy asks to see our sun photos and anything under the sun.

Glory Be!

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Thank goodness. Our second day of COOL, with a good 10 degrees C completely vanished in thin air. It’s back to grey skies too. They often feature in British summers, and for once we’re thankful. The Morning Glories seem to feel the same way. There were eight blooms out this morning: four Flying Saucers with the sweet peas on the downstairs terrace, and some white ones with purple flashes among the Sun Gold tomatoes in the upstairs garden. They don’t last long though, even without the blazing sun curling their petals.

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We even had some gentle showers yesterday, this after weeks of drought. Hopefully there will be more purposeful rain tomorrow so I can sow spinach and carrot seeds, and plant out the lettuce that survived the baking.

I’m anyway feeling seasonally confused after the heat wave. Everywhere around the town, the trees and fields have a parched, end-of-season look that has me thinking already of autumn, and of the things I might sow in the polytunnel for winter salads. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re only just half way through August, and there’s still the tomato and cucumber crop to nurture. And in the home garden, even as today’s blooms fade and crumple,  there are plenty more glories to come.

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Up The Creek In Dubai

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We had a brief stay in Dubai while we were living in Kenya. We needed a break from a long spate of El Nino rains. The stop-overs in UEA bookended a sunny week on a small island in the Maldives, but when we flew into Dubai, it was lowering skies and big puddles on the runway. Not at all what we expected. The nights were chilly too and very windy, the beachside palm trees swaddled in sacking. We did have a couple of fine days, though, as this very fine sunset on the Creek shows.

You can just make out the dhows moored along the further shore. (And in the bottom right corner, the woman who had come specially to feed the gulls).  I bet the Dubai skyline looks nothing like this now. There was a frenzy of construction going on when we were there in the late ‘90s. It is a city state endlessly in motion, constantly reinventing itself.  I’m wondering, though, if the dhow trade is still as vibrant as it was when we were there. We saw cars, trucks, refrigerators, car parts, sink units and all sorts being loaded  for onward Indian Ocean destinations – a far cry from the days when the Creek was nothing but a fishing village, and the local lads made a living pearl diving. The way things change.

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Lens-Artists: motion  This week Patti wants us to feature movement.

Earth Marvels

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If ever I were to begin to pin down my beliefs, then I might say they relate to earth, the planet, the universe, the creative forces that we humans scarcely understand, although that doesn’t stop us from telling ourselves plenty of stories about them. Indeed, throughout our short existence on the planet, it seems we have always told such tales, and it’s probably worth considering how many of them have proved false and fanciful.

And so when it comes to taking photographs, these are the kinds of thoughts that may be drifting through my mind. I mean, really – existentially – how do you explain this peacock butterfly – its form, colours and intricacies of behaviour? Of course for taxonomic purposes, entomologists may have a great deal to say on all these aspects, but in the natural scheme of things this organism simply IS, albeit occupying its own very particular evolutionary time and space.

Through my human eyes, then,  I see it as a marvel, because I also judge it to be beautiful and so worthy of my full attention. It is also very pleasing, exhilarating even, to see it, take its photo and then to share it. So in this sense it is also a celebration. At the same time I note that I am, as most people would be, uneager to similarly celebrate housefly larvae, dust mites, garden slugs or sooty mould; yet they all have their place in the biosphere. All of which is to say we humans are very selective when it comes to the things we ‘see’ and don’t ‘see’. I also think it’s worth thinking about this proclivity when it comes to our earth stories.

For now though, more celebratory earth snaps from today’s August garden. It’s bee and bug heaven out there…

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And yesterday I discovered a newcomer to the garden. This is one of a host of tiny bees presently foraging on the tansy flowers over the fence in the guerrilla garden. They are less than a half inch/centimetre long with banded abdomens of yellow or bluey-grey tones. I think they are a Colletes species/plasterer bees and therefore fairly recent arrivals in the UK.

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Lens-Artists: What’s your photographic groove?  Anne at Slow Shutter Speed  wants to know. Please pop over to her blog.

In Case The Flood Comes

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Our small and ancient town of Much Wenlock sits in a hollow beneath Wenlock Edge. The Edge itself is an uptilted Silurian seabed, formed some 400 million years ago, and the farm fields around the town rise steeply to the Edge top. In consequence, flash flooding has long been a problem and in recent years (after the 2007 storms when the town centre was badly inundated) our locality has been designated a rapid response flood risk zone, the danger coming mostly from field run-off feeding onto roads and lanes that run into the town.

And so finally in 2017, after much humming and ha-ing, the Local Authority commissioned engineers to excavate two flood attenuation ponds at either end of the town. They are basically reverse reservoirs in that they remain empty with the aim of catching up the worst of any flood should a particularly bad rainstorm hit the Edge.

One of the ponds is at the top of Townsend Meadow, behind our house, and given the upward slope of the field, I found myself much taken with the sight of the big digger and dumper on my horizon  as the work was underway. I think I’m also happy to have the pond above our house, although the Farrell domain did not flood in 2007, and some experts have equivocal views about the utility of attenuation ponds in rapid-run-off situations. Anyway, so far so good. Besides which, the guerrilla garden behind the garden fence is on a small rise and forms something of bund to protect us.

Now for more digger views, far and near:

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Busy with purpose