Sunday, 26 April 2015

Fogue

It's been a weekend in the Iron Age for me - more so than usual I might say.

Firstly I got some images from a film shoot I took part in last January on Dartmoor


Fortunately you can't see my feet in this shot. It was freezing and I was switching my authentic period footwear for some thoroughly unauthentic but nice and warm modern ones at every chance I got. 


Anyway I digress - it was another weekend in Cornwall but for walking not filming. Fogues are uniquely Cornish.  Man-made underground "caves" used for who knows what. They are often considered to have ritual purpose and the one at the B&B we were staying in particularly so.


This is Boleigh Fogue - considered to be one of the best. As it is in the garden of a private house you need permission to access it.  As guests of the B&B  though we had unrestricted access to it.


At the entrance ( on the left hand side) is the only known Iron Age humanoid carving in Cornwall. It has been suggested that it is the representation of a deity. It is actually much clearer in the photograph than it is on the stone. I took several pictures of this but only two actually recorded on the card.




And the passage way. There is also a chamber off to the left which has a large stone inside. Far too big to have been squeezed in to the chamber entrance. There are no pictures of this as my attempts to photograph the chamber and its contents failed. The camera simply didn't work there at all. Make of this what you will!






So on to  Bosporthennis Fogue. Now this did take some finding. The forecast was for sunshine and showers. What we actually got was Cornish fog and rain. This one is really off the beaten track but so well worth the effort.


Remains of the associated Iron Age settlement


The fogue ( beehive hut) itself. Unlike Boleigh  this one was not camera shy! Although it is above ground it resembles Carn Euny so strongly in both size and orientation that it is considered a fogue. Maybe it had a earth covering at one time?



The current entrance. There is a small chamber which you can just see to the right. Sadly it was full of the usual polyester ribbon detritus so beloved of some neo-pagans. We were obviously not the only ones to have searched out this site.



Sunday, 12 April 2015

Woodland Wonderland

The extended Easter weekend was spent this year in South Wales ( as usual) but unusually we decided to walk UP to Castell Coch and into the woodlands above and behind it - Fforest Fawr

A familiar sight. The Red Castle itself. A Victorian 19th-century Gothic Revival folly built on a much older and originally Norman ruin.

However we bypassed the castle this time and went into the beech woods behind it. These are home to rare plants and lichens and are a SSSI.


As always seems to be the case it was a steep pull up before the path leveled out and we met a bear...



Well two bears to be exact.



These bears even had their own caves. Actually entrances to some old iron workings.  These may actually look familiar as they've featured in many TV productions including Merlin, Torchwood, Sherlock and Dr Who.

 They've also starred as the dragon's cave in  the BBC show Voyage of the Dawn Treader thanks to the Iron Pyrites in one of the inner caverns.


 

Not so much further on we came across someone else hiding in the trees. Intrigued now we changed direction and followed the path past him. 



 











I think someone dropped their watch?






That looks awfully like a cauldron - getting a bit worried now!


Is that a dragon I see? Well to be expected up in a Welsh forest I suppose. He looks asleep. Maybe we can creep past him...


And where there are dragons there is usually treasure and here was no exception! More treasure than usual I think as we passed a father laying a trail of shiny foil wrapped Easter Eggs for his children to find.

I hope they got to them first before the dragon woke up!




Sunday, 15 March 2015

Brown(e)'s Folly

Nasty attack of inertia this Sunday - nothing of course to do with a very late night? Well maybe

However I remembered that I've never posted these pictures taken late last year high above Bath.

 
 
We started the walk near the bottom and it as a nice climb up past caves and woodland. Remains of the quarries used to source the local Bath stone are everywhere. These are the remains of ancient woodland and home to woodpeckers - not that we saw any mind you!
 
 
 
 
It wasn't hard to spot faces in the rock. This one looks a little stern and forbidding.
 
 
 The quarries were closed in the 1930s and the Avon Wildlife Trust which now runs the nature reserve has closed off the entry into the cave system which now provides a home for the Greater Horseshoe Bat which is now getting very rare. They can be seen in the summer at dusk leaving their roosts. 

We resolved at the time that we should go back at an appropriate time of day - maybe now is the time to consider planning an evening picnic up there with some friends.
 

And the Folly itself - named after it's builder Wade Browne and built in 1848 to provide work for local agricultural workers during a period of hardship. It was later modified to be used for hunting.
 
Like the quarries it is blocked off so it isn't possible to go in. There is some talk about restoration but I guess there isn't the money for it. The views of Bath from the top must be spectacular.
 


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Wayford Woods

Wayford Woods has been much in the news.

Fairy Control

Another report

I'll admit I'd never heard of the place until this week but as it isn't far my curiosity was piqued so why not. We were expecting it to be busy after all the publicity and it was. Fortunately we parked elsewhere and made the woods just a small part of a much longer walk.


It wasn't what I was expecting. The woods were clearly originally a garden with lots of non native plants and specimen trees. Plenty of rhododendron and camellia, some of which was in bloom and looking very decorative even if they play no part in the native ecosystem.  Nice ghost gums though. Fortunately there is no money to keep the garden maintained and the natural plant life is starting to try and make a comeback. I was interested to see that they had cut through a lot of the ivy stems. Normally this is now left as it provides an important habitat and contrary to popular belief doesn't harm a healthy tree.







An attempt has been made in one place to introduce some other plants.


Very pretty hellebore but it's a shame they've chosen some fancy double hybrid.




And so on to the famous "fairy doors". The cull has obviously started as many trees sported hinges but no doors.

This was a nice use of a tree stump.












 Others I'm afraid just look like litter
 
This is probably not going to make me popular but the "cull" is well overdue.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus

Had to be a trip to Wales now didn't it!

Having heard the wind in the night trying to strip the tiles off the roof it was rather a releif to be greeted with a bright sunny morning. The forecast wasn't great so we didn't want to go too far.

It's been a few years since I visited Blaenavon.  It was once one of the most important producers of iron in the world and along with the mines a hotbed of early industrial activity - at a huge cost to the landscape. However since the ironworks closed, nature has gradually crept in and reclaimed the land, although the marks are still there to be seen.

Blaenavon is now a World Heritage Site thanks to its  geological features, industrial relics and nationally important wildlife habitats. Good place for a walk then.

 We parked the car by Pen-ffordd-goch pond ( Keepers Pond)  which was built to provide water  for Garnddyrys Forge. The forge was dismantled in the  1860s but the pond remains.




Nature has done a superb job in reclaiming the spoil tips - when I was young there was little green in places. Now the areas of spoil are only visible where the piles are too steep to be easily colonised.



 Fabulous views of the Skirrid. Look at that blue sky

This is the Sugar Loaf taken from the same vantage point as the Skirrid at the same time - typical Welsh weather closing in fast!


Of course face in the other direction and it's all good. Plenty of remaining  scars from the mining. I wonder what they'll make of all this in 2000 years time when the true origins are forgotten. A 20CE hill fort perhaps?


The rain was starting to hit now - with some hail and sleet mixed in so it was time to turn back and head for the car. The most direct route was across the bog and over the rocky summit. So that's where we went.




The bad weather had cut short the walk so it was a quick drive down in Blaenavon and lunch at the Red Lion.



It would have been nice to take a leisurely trip around the Iron Works after lunch but the weather was now completely foul so we saved it for next time.


Sunday, 22 February 2015

Afloat on the Ganges - Varanasi

On a cold damp Sunday evening in February - time to revisit the warmth of autumn in India. Well I say warmth; it was actually pretty cold on the Ganges!

Varanasi is one of the most holy cities of India. It's where the devout come to be cremated and their ashes cast into the holy river. At all times there are bodies being cremated on the pyres along the riverside. Day and Night. Those who cannot afford to be cremated ( or can't be under Hindu doctrine) are wrapped and the bodies themselves cast into the water. Yes we did see them floating past and no I did not take pictures of them.

Having arrived by overnight sleeper in Varanasi ( an experience in itself....) we spent the evening on the river to witness the regular evening worshipping rituals for the holy river.


The side of the river is covered with "ghats" which are riverside steps leading down to the river. This one belongs to the Jain temple.  Jainism is an ancient religionthat teaches that the way to liberation and bliss is to live a life of harmlessness and renunciation. 

We were just waiting for it to get dark so that the ceremonies could begin.


 The locals are expert at extracting the tourist $$ and everywhere these little floating candles were available to be bought. Made of dried leaves and little pats of clarified butter and decorated with dried flowers these diya were for sale in their hundreds. 




We were far from the only boat on the water and the river was lit - if only for a few minutes at a time - by dozens of these little lights. 

The crowds were starting to gather on the ghats for the worship of the Ganges by the holy men. 



Lots of drumming and chanting and the raising and circling of lights. Whilst this was a big celebration, there were lots of smaller  versions happening along the riverside, some with just one or two participants.



The worship of the river is carried out at both dawn and dusk - so we were of course up at the crack of dawn to get back on our boats....




Sudden large flocks of birds descended from apparently nowhere - it took me a moment to realise that food was being flung overboard from some boats for them. Feeding birds brings good Karma and I guess feeding birds on a holy river brings very good Karma. 







It was pretty cold though - so much for India being hot. Still it was well worth it to have been able to see the sun rise over the Ganges.


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha

This was one of the real highlights of the trip for me - if not the chief one of all.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 BCE in the famous gardens of Lumbini. This makes it one of the holiest places of one of the world's great religions - in fact one of the four most holy places for Buddhists.

The site is still being developed but there are remains Additionally there are the excavated remains of Buddhist  monasteries  of the 3rd century BCE to the 5th century CE and the remains of Buddhist stupas (memorial shrines) from the 3rd century BCE to the 15th century CE.  It has clearly been a place of pilgrimage for millennia.


And it still is . The actual birthplace has been protected within a new building and there are no concessions to the tourists. In fact we were lucky to get entry tickets.  You enter the courtyard barefoot and join the queue along the raised walkway over the remains of more buildings to pay your respects at the stone which marks the place of birth. No photos are allowed inside.

There is no restriction outside though.



The setting is beautiful. The gardens are well kept and a deep stillness and peace envelopes the land despite the visitors nearly all of whom are devout Buddhists.








 Maya Devi,the mother of the Buddha , was said to be  spellbound to by the beauty  of Lumbini and gave birth under the Sal tree.  The tree is still revered today and there is a shrine with offerings tended there.


It's encircled by a ring of holy men with their alms bowls. To give to them is to invite good karma.
 
 
 
 
The sacred bathing pool known as Puskarni. It is believed that Maya Devi took a bath in this pool before the delivery. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This is an amazing place. Words just can't do it justice. Long may it remain so. Will UNESCO be able to balance the numbers of visitors which can only increase with keeping it an active place of holy pilgrimage. One  can only hope so . This is a very special place indeed.
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