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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On Windmill Hill ~ Thursday’s Special

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Yesterday the wind was whistling into Shropshire through the Cheshire Gap, and despite the apparent stillness and bright sunshine in this photograph, it was one big icy blast up on Windmill Hill. I did not stay long. But in the shelter of the woods, lower down the hill, I did stop to catch these mossy tree roots:

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And then among the fallen leaves I found this very strange fungus:

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This week at Thursday’s Special Paula has given us five word prompts to choose from. My choice for these photos is protuberant. Pop over to Paula’s to join in.

Thursday’s Special: Pick A Word

Today It’s Snowing In Wenlock

 

We wake this morning to the kind of quietness that is only made by falling snow. I’m instantly thrilled – aware of the mood shift. Yesterday I felt like vestige-of-road-kill. Now I am fizzing like a firework. How did that happen?

At 8 am the landscape looks like a scene from a post nuclear winter, and as I tell Jo, when I take the header photo, I do not need the monochrome setting.

But by 10 am the sun is out, and the field at the back of the house is all of a sparkle.

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I’ve not yet had breakfast, but I have to go out there. I wrap up in many layers, jump into my wellies. He who is sitting on the sofa reading The Guardian on his laptop, and still wearing his dressing gown, thinks I am nuts. I promise him toast on my return, dash out of the house and head for the Linden Field.

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But even as I cross the playing field to the Linden Walk I know I’ve missed the moment –at least as far as the light is concerned.

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As I pick my way up Windmill Hill, the blizzard begins, although I am briefly distracted from the change in the weather by three woolly dogs – large and small. They too are thrilled by the snow and have to tell me so. Icy muzzles push into my hands. Brrrr. Thanks a lot, dogs.

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They bound away after their people and are soon lost from sight. It is then that I notice the weather is closing in fast. The wind is vicious. Much too cold to linger. IMG_2989

I retreat from the hill the long way round – this to avoid an unseemly slithering, bottom-first.  By now it is hard to see where I’m going. Not only that, I’m turning into the Abominable Snow-Woman. Even the Linden Walk, when I reach it, offers precious little shelter. Goodness! This is the most exciting weather we’ve had in ages.

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But still, enough mucking about in the elements. There’s toast and Greek honey and good hot coffee to be had at home. Besides, any further inclinations to snap snow scenes may be catered for from the comfort of my desk and the window next to it.

Also I’ve remembered that I told Jo the snow wouldn’t last. My mistake. We’ve had several inches in the past few hours. But the best thing is that there is far less traffic out on Sheinton Street, and what there is, is moving so slowly that it is wonderfully quiet. Reminds me that it’s time to put in another request to the Council for a 20 mph speed limit. It’s interesting how a spell of disruptive weather can remind one of what really matters re life and well being.

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Thursday’s Special: sequence

 

Return To Windmill Hill: Black & White Sunday

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This week at Black & White Sunday Paula says choose our own topic. So here is one of my favourite subjects, and one that I realize has been totally neglected for ages and ages. (Meg at Twelve Months in Warsaw  has pointed out – once or twice – that my penchant for snapping this particular local Wenlock landmark is somewhat akin to Monet’s repetitive haystack renditions). Ah well. Another OCD trait to admit to – along with obsessive compulsive compost-making. Also my other slight obsession is to use my camera’s monochrome setting in poor light conditions just to see what will happen. Here I was lucky to catch the last gasp of sunset before it slipped behind Wenlock Edge.

Black & White Sunday