This Week Over My Garden Fence ~ Granny’s Bonnets Galore

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You can’t have too many, can you? Aquilegias that is, aka Columbine or Granny’s Bonnets. They self-seed all over our garden, and also outside the back fence where we have a self-gardening border between us and the field. Dame’s violet, feverfew, purple toadflax, moon daisies, corn cockle and foxgloves are the other vigorous self-sowers. The Dame’s violet in particular is welcome for its fabulous scent. This year most of the plants have come up white. Last year they were mostly pinky-mauve as the plant in the next photo. I like the way they give us a change of scheme:

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The border isn’t entirely made up of DIY flora. I have put in a few perennials, along with spreading useful herbs – various mints, oregano, lemon balm and marjoram. This year too, some left over allium bulbs put in 18m months ago, are making a nice show – quite unplanned planting scheme-wise.  They were planted in the places where I could get my trowel in the soil.

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You can also glimpse the transplanted crab apple tree in the top left corner. It’s just coming into full leaf. Next on parade will be the foxgloves. They are opening today under a sudden heat wave – so pictures to come. I’m also wondering if the invasion of opium poppies will be repeated this year. It’s nice to be kept guessing and to have a good garden fence to lean on – to watch and wait, and see what this unofficial garden will do next. It’s certainly keeping the bugs and bees happy.

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Gardens  Please visit Cee for more lovely plants and gardens.

Hurlers And Miners ~ 6,000 Years Of Heritage On Bodmin Moor

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In the last post I featured The Hurlers stone circles  near the Cornish village of Minions on Bodmin Moor. Here they are again, if only a small segment. They date from the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, around 2,000 years BCE.

The landscape around is exposed and bleak, itself  a product of the human intervention that began at least 6,000 years ago, when the first Neolithic farmers, equipped only with stone axes, began the systematic clearance of the forested uplands.

It is an arresting thought that, armed only with stone-based technology, we humans were already consciously rearranging the planet’s surface. Early farmers carried out shifting ‘slash and burn’ cultivation, clearing ground, then moving on to virgin territory when the farm plots lost fertility. By such means the earliest farmers cleared great swathes of forest right from one end of Europe to the other. On Bodmin, any chances of forest regeneration were then reduced by stock grazing, which through subsequent millennia finished what Neolithic communities had started, creating the windswept moorland we see today.

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Of course these days  we know that removing tree cover contributes to climate change and environmental degradation, by altering rainfall patterns, and accelerating soil erosion. But in this case global climate change was also a factor.  During Neolithic-Early Bronze Age times it seems the climate was much warmer, with these uplands offering a more benign environment than today. A quick look at an ordnance survey map shows that Bodmin was a very busy place back then. There are numerous hut circles, burial cairns and tumuli, tor enclosures, stone-walled field systems, ceremonial stone circles and standing stones.

The siting of burial monuments, in particular, was very important – often on the skyline to be seen from one monument to another; or else related to a naturally prominent feature such as one of the stone tors. The Cheesewring Tor is a good example. It lies due north of The Hurlers circles. You will soon see why this weathered granitic pile of rocks captured the imagination of the ancestors, just as it captures ours today.

But there may also have been practical considerations too. When it came to the gathering of clans and families for important occasions, the visibility of man-made and natural features in a landscape without highways would have been the prehistoric equivalent of SatNav.

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Looking southwest from the Cheesewring this is what you see on the skyline beyond the quarry: a series of round barrows:

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But sometime around 2000 years BCE, the climate began to deteriorate and humanity moved to settle more low-lying areas. It is an interesting irony that the combination of human action and natural climate change which rendered the abandoned uplands unsuitable for anything other than grazing, thereby led to the survival of so many of the prehistoric remains.

Farming, though, is not the only agency of landscape change in this area. Shunt forward to the mid-nineteenth century and you will spot the evidence for quite a new kind of invasion. There’s a clue in that first photo of The Hurlers. Here’s another glimpse:

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And closer still:

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This is the Houseman’s engine house, part of South Phoenix Mine, now partially restored as the Minions Heritage Centre. It one of many such mines in the locality, their ruins as dramatic in their way as the stone circles and tors.  For fifty years, between the 1840s-1890s, Minions was the centre of a booming copper mining industry. Over 3,000 people were employed here, including women and children.

Hundreds and thousands of tons of copper ore was extracted, and exported down to Liskeard and the coast at Looe by means  of the ‘Cheesewring Railway’ otherwise known as the Liskeard & Caradon Railway. It was opened in 1844, operated initially by gravity and horsepower, and also carried granite and tin. You can just see part of the granite quarry below the Cheesewring tor. Other signs of Minions’ industrial heyday of miners, quarrymen and railway workers are the humps and bumps of abandoned spoil heaps. The nearby settlement of Minions is also evidence of the industry – it grew up around the junction of several branch lines to house the influx of workers. It is the highest village in Cornwall, and today has a rather desolate air.

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And now for another kind of heritage: legend. There are all sorts of stories connected with Bodmin’s man-made and natural features. I mentioned the origin of The Hurlers in the last post. The Cheesewring tor has also inspired all manner of explanations. One story tells how it was created by Giants and Saints at the time in the early Dark Ages when Christianity was spreading through the land.

The Giants, who were used to tramping about their domain, and doing just what they pleased, were fed up with the Christian Saints invading their land, putting up stone crosses, and declaring all the wells holy. They called a council to decide how to rid Cornwall of the nuisance.

And to this council there dared to come the frail St. Tue. He challenged Uther, the strongest of the Giants, to a trial of strength. They would have a rock hurling contest.

Rock hurling was one of the Giants’ favourite pursuits. Also, seeing the slightness of Saint Tue, the Giants were sure they would win.

Saint and Giant thus then took turns to throw six very large quoit shaped rocks across Craddock Moor and onto Stowes Hill, but to Uther’s surprise the little Saint soon proved a formidable opponent. By the time the Giant came to throw his last rock, his strength was failing. To the sounds of much Giantly groaning, his stone tumbled from the pile. Tue then  went to make his final throw. The rock was huge, but just as it seemed that the task was beyond him, an angel appeared and placed the rock on top of the pile. The Giants were so overawed by the sight of angel wings casting their golden glow about the place, they conceded to the Saints, and by this means Cornwall became a Christian land.

Another yarn has it that if you visit the Cheesewring at sunrise, you will see the top stone turn three times. This is more up my street myth-wise, and I truly would like to be there at dawn to see what happens, and also to hear the wind on the stones making them resound and mutter.

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copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

Daily Post: Heritage

 

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Of Men Turned To Stone And A Cup Of Gold

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We were spending a few days in south-east Cornwall last week and, in between downpours, we managed a trip up to Bodmin Moor to visit The Hurlers. This unique prehistoric site comprises three stone circles set out in a row, and dating from the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age. This would make them around 4,000 years old. It is impossible to capture the full complex without aid of  hot air balloon or hang glider, so here are some piecemeal shots. Also the light, as you can see, was pretty poor.

The local explanation for the origin of these stones is that they are petrified men – turned to stone in punishment for playing hurling on a Sunday. (Cornish hurling is an ancient team game played with a silver ball. See the link for more details. And no, I don’t think that is an ancient hurler on the skyline).

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The circles are 33, 42 and 35 metres in diameter (108, 138  and 115 feet respectively), and none have all their stones intact. The central circle is the best preserved with 14 standing stones and 14 marker stones. This circle and the one to the north of it align with the huge Bronze Age Rillaton Barrow, visible on the skyline to the north-east. It was here that one of the British Museum’s most precious treasures, the Rillaton Gold Cup was discovered during excavations in 1837. At that time it was passed as treasure trove to King William IV and so remained in the royal household. It was only a hundred years later, after the death of George V in 1936 that its full historical significance was recognised. HRH had apparently been using it as a receptacle for his shirt and collar studs.

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Photo: Creative Commons      Rillaton Gold Cup circa 1700 BC

 

Thursdays’ Special: Traces of the Past – Please visit Paula to see her dramatic view of San Geremia church in Venice, plus other bloggers’ posts of relics of times past.

Thursdays Special ~ Spring In My Garden

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This week at Lost in Translation Paula’s theme is ‘vernal’ and she is calling for our spring compositions. So here are a few scenes from my Wenlock garden. Things have been a bit slow this year because we’ve had no rain for weeks and weeks. But today we did – and the garden has come alive with aquilegias and alliums. And I had no time to take photographs because I had a hundred other things to do. Hey ho. So the photos here were mostly taken back in March/early April: ornamental cherry, crab apple, and damson – the flowers of fruit to come.

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Hafren, Sabrina, Severn ~ Please Meet Our Local Goddess Plus A Tale Of Madcap Daring

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She is most usually known by the Roman version of her name: Sabrina goddess of the River Severn. I told her story in the previous post, but thought this close up view fitted the bill for Paula’s ‘pick a word’ at this week’s Thursday’s Special. The five prompts are: confined, jazzy, patulous, momentous and serene. So I’m going for the first and  last – Sabrina serene but confined to her plinth in a pool in Shrewbury’s Dingle.

It also seems she is confined in other ways too.

The statue was the work of Birmingham sculptor Peter Hollins (1800-1886), and made for Shropshire worthy, the Earl of Bradford in 1846. I thought she was carved from stone, but a little googling reveals that the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association National Recording Project ( who knew of such a body?) thinks she may be cast in some sort of metal and then covered with plaster. They also say she is afflicted with a biological growth – so that has ‘patulous’ covered too, though they don’t say what it is. I’m wondering if it’s responsible for the vaguely luminous areas. Poor nymph.

The scarcely legible quotation underneath her comes  from John Milton’s Comus , a mask in which  Sabrina is one of the main characters. This  work also has Shropshire connections having had its premier showing at Ludlow Castle in 1634, presented before another worthy,  ‘the Earl of Bridgewater, then President of Wales.’

Sabrina fair,
listen where thou art sitting
under the glassie, cool, translucent wave,
in twisted braids of lilies knitting
the loose train of thy amber-dropping hair;
listen for dear honour’s sake,
goddess of the silver lake,
listen and save.

And if you find these words far too gluey and overwrought, then here’s an edgier Sabrina yarn, though I must warn you – it does not end well. It was the Public Monuments entry that put me on to it. It begins with a church spire – specifically the one atop St Mary’s Church in Shrewsbury and also one of the tallest spires in England.  This church has graced the town’s skyline for over 500 years, although parts of it are far older than this, dating back to Saxon times c AD 960. Also some of its stones were apparently cut by Roman masons, and carted in from the abandoned Roman city of Wroxeter some miles away.

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I think you might call the spire momentous – even before we get to what happens next.  It is over 200 feet tall.

Enter one Robert Cadman, steeplejack and mender of weather cocks. It is the winter of 1739, time of the Great Frost, and Cadman has been employed to put right St. Mary’s weather cock that has been blown askew. He duly does the job, but he has further plans for the church spire. For Robert Cadman is also a stuntman and, for his daring descent from the cupola of London’s St Paul’s cathedral, blowing a trumpet while sliding down a rope,  he has already earned the nickname ‘Icarus of the Rope’.

He has handbills printed and spread about the town:

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The History and Antiquities of Shrewsbury From Its First Foundation to the Present Time, Comprising a Recital of Occurrences and Remarkable Events, for Above Twelve Hundred Years, Volume 1, 1837

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The River Severn is frozen solid, and so the Great Frost becomes an occasion for fun and festivities. An engraving of the time shows  skaters and people playing table tennis out on the frozen river; there are tents; there are sheep being roasted; several of the great Severn trow sailing barges are ice-bound; there’s even a printing press out there too. All in all, then, Sabrina is providing the perfect arena for the spectacle Cadman has planned.

He attaches an 800 foot rope (240 metres) through a window on St. Mary’s spire. The other end is anchored across the river at Gay Meadow – (well out of shot on the right of the next photo). The show begins with Cadman’s walk up the rope towards the spire:

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His usual act is to ascend bare-chested, performing all kinds of stunts as he goes. When he performed in Derby this walk took around an hour. The return descent, or flight as it was termed then (since there was apparently quite a yen for this kind of flying  in the early 18th century), would be swift. For this part of the act our intrepid performer puts on a wooden breastplate which has a groove cut down the middle. He then lies on the rope and hurtles down, headfirst, blowing a trumpet, and accompanied by a stream of smoke as his breastplate burns with the friction of the rope. Whew!

But on this day, when Cadman reaches the spire, he decides the rope is too tight and signals across the river for it to be loosened. There is a misunderstanding. The rope is tightened, and half-way down, the rope snaps – whipping up in horrible coils as Cadman hits the iron-hard ground, his body apparently rebounding several feet in the air. Accounts have it that Cadman’s wife, who has been moving among the crowd of spectators collecting money, runs stricken to his corpse, throwing away the money as she goes.

Robert Cadman was buried at the foot of the spire and the sorry tale is commemorated in a plaque by the main door of St Mary’s church:

Let this small Monument record the name
of Cadman, and to future time proclaim
How by’n attempt to fly from this high spire
across the Sabrine stream he did acquire
His fatal end. ‘Twas not for want of skill
Or courage to perform the task he fell,
No, no, a faulty Cord being drawn too tight
Harried his Soul on high to take her flight
Which bid the Body here beneath good Night
Feb.ry 2nd 1739 aged 28

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And now just to restore some sense of serenity, here are some shots of St. Mary’s interior. The church is now redundant, but it does have a very good cafe. It also contains some wonderfully ancient stained glass windows. The final image of the set is the Jesse window above the altar and dates from between 1330 and 1350.

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copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

Tulips’ Last Hurrah And A Gardening Legend

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What show-offs – the lot of them. But what a joyous display and just at the moment when most of the other tulips are fading. I spotted these yesterday on a chance visit to The Dingle, in the Quarry, Shrewsbury town’s lovely riverside park. This place was a popular haunt in my teenage years – for meeting up with friends and for the covert smoking of cigarettes. (Naughty us, polluting the place with Consulate smoke).

The Dingle was made out of an old stone quarry, and in many ways is very much a municipal garden with its regimental planting of bulbs and bedding plants. The bosky-dell setting works its magic though, and there was certainly no denying the cheeriness of the colour-scape under yesterday’s gloomy sky. BTW that’s St. Chad’s church in the background – in case you’re wondering. It is notable for having the country’s largest circular nave. Also Charles Darwin was christened there in 1809. Less notably, my Priory Girls Grammar School, along with the Priory Boys, used to traipse here every November for our founder’s day service. It goes without saying that the most exciting thing about the event to us girls was BOYS.

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But back to the gardens.

The Dingle’s formal layout was created by Britain’s first TV celebrity gardener, Percy Thrower. He was Shrewsbury Parks Superintendent from 1946-1974 and very much associated with the famous annual Shrewsbury Flower Show which is still held in the Quarry every August. As a fifties child I remember watching Percy on the BBC. My father was a great admirer, so I followed suit and held Mr. Thrower in high regard even if I didn’t need the gardening advice. At that stage I was into growing oak trees from acorns, and he didn’t seem to cover that particular topic. Mostly I learned to associate gardening with kindliness and a genial practicality, qualities that the sculpture in the next photo captures too. I was touched to find him smiling out over his creation. And that his collar and tie were just as I remembered them.

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I think he would be pleased that there has been no attempt to veer from  his original concept and ‘update’ the planting scheme. And although, in the main, this is not my style of gardening, I can still admire it. I could also see how much pleasure it was giving to people of all ages – a truly hidden haven since there is no view of the interior from the surrounding park. You have to step inside one of several gateways to ‘discover’ it.

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It makes me think: every person on the planet needs access to a garden – whether it be untouched wilderness, manicured parkland, cultivated arbour or even a window box. We need to keep in touch with the growing world that heals, soothes, inspires and nourishes us. Which also makes me think that good old Percy Thrower, who did so much to encourage everyone to garden and to appreciate plants was truly a bit of a hero. Please go and say hello to him if ever you are in Shrewsbury.

Jo’s Monday Walk If you haven’t yet joined Jo on one of her fabulous walks (and you never do know where she’ll be going next), then please put on your hiking boots and follow the link.

A Good Crop All Round ~ Thursday’s Special At Hopton Castle And Brampton Bryan

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This week at Lost in Translation Paula asks us to show her photos that we have cropped to reveal detail or improve the composition. I have to say that I crop most of my photos, and certainly architectural subjects almost always benefit from a trim.

Here are some cropped shots in and around Hopton Castle. This mediaeval ruin stands in a rural and rather remote corner of Shropshire near the Herefordshire border, one of a cluster of castles built either to keep the Welsh neighbours in their place or as a piece of lordly showing off. Today, Hopton is romantically and rustically picturesque, although once it was the site of a bloody Civil War siege.  In one of my earlier Thursday’s Special posts I featured the restoration of the monument.

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Not far from Hopton and just over the border into Herefordshire is the little village of Brampton Bryan. One of its most noteworthy features is the free-form yew hedge that shelters the owners of Brampton Bryan Hall from the gaze of passing hoi polloi  and the inhabitants of the pretty estate village. The light was not good, but I think cropping the images has made them passable – at least for ‘guided tour’ general nosiness purposes:

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The Harley family who own the estate, including the village properties with their blue doors, has been around the place since Domesday. Their present home behind the hedge was built after the Civil War in 1660, and remodelled in the 18th century. I snatched a glimpse over the rear churchyard wall, but though imposing it was not very captivating, at least not compared with this next view of their own personal castle ruin. It is not open to the public so I couldn’t get a better photo.

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I can’t help thinking how very wonderful it would be to have one’s own castle ruin out in the apple orchard, never mind the stately pile.

Thursday’s Special: Section

The Changing Seasons: April And the Alien Invasion?

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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.

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

Collision Course? Present And Past In Conwy

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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:

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And here’s the original:

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Now over to Paula’s at Black & White Sunday for more ‘Afters’.