Square Roots

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Some very wintery views here on the wooded flanks of Windmill Hill. Where the trees stop, the land drops off into the massive, now abandoned Shadwell Quarry. Once freight trains from South Wales came chugging into the vicinity to take on cargoes of Wenlock limestone. It was a highly valued resource – mostly used as a flux in iron smelting, but also burned to make fertilizer or ground to produce lime mortar for building; or simply to build with. It’s hard to imagine this place as a hive of heavy industry, but it was – a stinking, dust-palled quarter too. Now the old railway line that runs below the wood is a peaceful footpath, over-arched with ivy-clung ash, hazel and crab apple trees. It’s a good place for pondering on how things are always changing and that it is only our wilful, wishful, often narrow perception that makes us believe that there ever were times when everything was static and predictable.

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Shadwell Quarry and an impressive slice of the Silurian sea bed, some 400 million years old, and once located somewhere off East Africa.

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Tree Squares #6

On Windmill Hill

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The old windmill is a much loved landmark, seen from many quarters as you approach Much Wenlock. To reach it you can take the Linden Walk which brings you to the wooded flanks of Shadwell hill. Or you can walk across the Linden Field to the far corner where there is an old iron gate that opens onto the well worn trail up to the windmill. It’s a steepish climb mind you, but at this time of year there’s plenty of reasons to stop and gaze: every few steps a fresh wildflower panorama to take in, the scents of summer grasses and of lady’s bedstraw.

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Along the path where the footfalls of Wenlock’s denizens have worn the topsoil to bare rock – wild thyme – a mass of tiny purple flowers, spills over the exposed limestone. There is also pale pink musk mallow, seemingly clinging to the most meagre soil cover. Then by contrast, on either side the path is an exuberant  floriferousness, typical of an unspoiled limestone meadow: a host of flowering grasses whose names, I’m sorry to say, I do not know, purple pyramidal orchids, pale yellow spires of agrimony, golden stars of St. John’s Wort, pink soapwort and pea flower, purple knapweed, yellow vetch and buttercups, pink and white striped bindweed, viper’s bugloss, musk thistles and clovers. One could spend all day up here and not see everything.

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Tree Square #4 This month Becky wants to see trees (header shot) in square format.

Coming Home From The Allotment

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At last! Spring has arrived. Or perhaps I shouldn’t tempt fate by proclaiming it. Anyway, after freezing wind and deluges, here’s the proof of brightness, photo taken two evenings ago. You can see Windmill Hill in the distance. And as for Townsend Meadow and this fluffy looking crop – this year the over-wintered plants that I took for wheat, have recently transformed into barley, their feathery top-knots tall and shimmering in the sunshine. I am in love with the field – the way the light dances over it.

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Lens-Artists: blue and green

This week Tina asks us to find inspiration in blue and green. Please go and view her (as ever) stunning work.

Changing Seasons: This Was January 2021

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Apologies for the swift change in temperatures after yesterday’s balmy temperatures on the Zambezi. Here in Wenlock we have been suffering frigid twirls and swirls of Polar Vortex: snow, sleet, wind, frost and in between, torrential rain. But we’ve had some sun too with china blue skies. Here’s the month’s round-up:

Snowy landscapes:  Windmill Hill (including the above with this mysterious snow tree), Linden Walk and Linden Field, over the garden fence…

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Birds and beasties…

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Frost art including some very fancy ice works created by my allotment water butt…

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And the first signs of spring…

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The Changing Seasons: January 2021

Taking The Path Up Windmill Hill ~ Keep Up At The Back Please!

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It’s a place for all seasons, and only a few minutes walk from our house. There are several approaches but I’ll take you up the Linden Walk that runs beside the old railway line. To the left lies the Linden aka Gaskell Field, now the town’s main recreation ground, and site of the annual Wenlock Olympian Games since the 1850s.

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Near the top of the Linden Walk there is a parallel avenue of conifers. At the end turn left by the seat. In fact follow that chap in the brown coat. He knows where he’s going.

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The path next takes you briefly along the wooded flanks of Shadwell Quarry. On the left as you go, at the top of the Linden Field, is a fine parade of oaks planted in the late nineteenth century to commemorate various Olympian Games doings. Watch out for the squirrels.

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The path up the hill is quite steep. In winter the limestone meadow looks like this:

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And like this:

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But in early summer it’s a riot of orchids, lady’s bedstraw, clover, wild thyme, vetches, agrimony and St. John’s Wort:

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And in late summer it’s the grasses’ turn to flower:

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But whatever the season, if it’s not too windy, there’s a good place to sit and admire the view:

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Square Up #22

Windmill? What Windmill? Perspectives Through Time And Space

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Those of you who come here often will know that Windmill Hill is my home town’s much loved landmark. Lucky for me it is only a five minute walk from the house, and that the walk there is mostly through the Linden Field (with its Linden Walk) where, from the 1850s the Wenlock Olympian Games, devised by William Penny Brookes, the town’s physician, were held every summer. In fact they still are an annual event, and should have been happening any day now, but for the pandemic panic.

Back in the Victorian era there were no large trees around the field as there are today and the slopes of Windmill Hill provided spectators with fine views of contesting hurdlers, hammer throwers and stone putters (featuring only local limestone quarry men and lime burners), football and cricket matches, tilting at the ring (lances wielded on horseback), long and high jumping, sprinting and cricket ball throwing. Needless to say these events did not feature women though there were knitting and sewing competitions for girls. And one year there was an ‘old woman’ race, for which the prize was a pound of tea.

Windmill Hill in 1850s

The above photo shows the Wenlock Olympian Games in action in 1867. I could find no copyright notice for it. It appears, source unacknowledged, in Much Wenlock Windmill  by M J Norrey.

And here’s a more recent scene with the William Penny Brookes Academy on the left and some of its pupils during soccer practice. The oaks at the foot of Windmill Hill have all been planted to commemorate various events associated with the Olympian Games.

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The windmill itself is a bit of mystery. The Windmill Trust who take care of it have done extensive research, and although there are documents from the 1540s onwards relating to successive land owners (i.e. post the 1540 dissolution of Wenlock Priory, the original landowner), there is no information that is absolutely specific to the windmill. Physical surveys of the present tower, however, did uncover two dates of 1655 and 1657 carved within the stone construction layers, but there were no clues as to the kind of milling gear and superstructure that may once have existed here.

Here’s what the inside looks like. These were taken on an ‘open day’ a few years ago:

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And here’s a cropped long-shot evening view taken from allotment three summers ago when oil seed rape was flowering in Townsend Meadow.

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Square Perspective #5

Windmill Hill From Many Angles

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‘A good photograph is knowing where to stand ‘   Ansel Adams

This week Patti at Lens-Artists wants us to think about changing our perspective as we compose our shots. She prefaces her post with this very helpful quote from the great Ansel Adams. It’s certainly a tip worth chalking up in VERY BIG letters on the memory blackboard.

Of course there can be other options –  lying down for instance, which is what I was doing to take the header photo. Then there’s the matter of choosing the time of day, which will then affect where you stand (or lie). Different seasons may well provide new angles. And also the setting of your chosen subject. So with these notions in mind I thought I’d post a gathering of my Windmill Hill photos, taken over the last few years.

Of itself, the windmill is a rather underwhelming subject, and I have ended up taking masses of very flat looking photos. I have discovered that it helps to get beneath it somewhat, whether lying down or finding a good spot further down the hill. I’ve also found that late afternoon light can produce a bit more interest – even mystery. This next photo is my Wenlock version of Daphne Du Maurier’s thriller tale Don’t Look Now. Who is that swiftly retreating little figure in the gloaming?

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Here’s one of the more ‘obvious’ shots. The cloudscape and perhaps also the sun/shadow on the stonework add the main interest:

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Another thought is that even when you’ve fixed on a particular subject, it’s always good to scout around it, to see what else might catch your eye/have some bearing on the composition. E.g. one of the important things about Windmill Hill, besides the windmill, is the fact its hill is an ancient limestone meadow – a rare escapee from the effects of industrial agriculture. So come early summer I’m often lying down, in the next photo among the pyramid orchids, soapwort, white clover and yellow ladies bedstraw. There’s an added benefit too – the close quarters inhalation of bedstraw fragrance. Aaaah! No wonder it was used in mattresses for women brought to bed during childbirth.

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And in late summer my eye is on the knapweed and the great array seeding grasses:

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Midsummer sundown

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And then there are the autumn shots. A few years ago a bunch of small horses used to be brought in at summer’s end to graze the meadow. Then sadly their owner could no longer keep them and they had to be sold. For the past two years the Windmill Trust has had the hill mown and harrowed instead. This new approach has created a massive increase in orchids:

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Winter:

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And then there are the views from Windmill Hill:

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Bunking off games? The William Brookes School is at the foot of the hill.

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Windmill Hill can be a very sociable place. It’s a favourite spot for Wenlock’s dog walkers. There are other gatherings too: windmill open days, summer orchid counting; and in the next photo we are gathered during a solar eclipse when the world turned very still and cold and ethereal:

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Last but not least, here are some long-distance views from Townsend Meadow behind our house. The final photo also shows the oil seed rape in full bloom and a corner of the William Brookes School:

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Lens-Artists: Change Your Perspective

 

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The Changing Seasons ~ Wenlock In June

The header photo was taken early on Friday evening, after my orchid hunt on Windmill Hill. It was hot on the hill, the light reflecting off the windmill’s masonry. No shade up there, only sweeping views of the farmland behind Wenlock Edge. I was glad to retreat to the path through the woods. It brings you to the old railway line and the Linden Walk. Stepping into that pool of greenery was like a soothing embrace. I was struck, too, by the play of light through  the canopy.

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But when I turned to look back across the Linden Field I was amused to see a true sun worshipper, flat out on the grass and soaking up every last ray.

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And in case you missed the last post’s orchid expedition here are more shots. Click on one of the images for larger versions:

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Back at the Farrell house, the garden has also been looking very wonderful, while over the fence the guerrilla plot is thriving, as is the wheat in Townsend Meadow beyond it. ‘Meadow’ is of course a misnomer in this mono-crop context. A meadow is the kind of thing you have just glimpsed above – full of exuberant diversity that lightens the spirits. Still, it looks as if this year the farmer will have a good harvest, and along the field margins there are still havens for grasses, blackberries, dog roses, oh yes and a very tiny crab spider that instantly tried to hide, but then decided I posed no threat and came back to show itself off. I also have to say I quite like the visual drama of the mega-tractor’s agri-chemical delivery tracks, though it does make me wonder what most of us are eating.

The Changing Seasons: June 2019

Last Night On Windmill Hill

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A full moon to the south, sunset in the west, and a shady man on a bench being moonstruck.

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And then the sweet scent of Lady’s Bedstraw which this year has colonized much of the hill, pushing out the orchids…

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And then some  views of Wenlock’s hay-cut fields between the moonrise and the sunset…

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