Sunday, 27 July 2014

Chanctonbury Ring

Sorry for the break  - but it was needed. Hopefully it will now be back to the usual weekly postings!

So this weekend was a trip to see some friends in Chichester.  I've posted from there in the past and I was sure this trip would provide no new material but I  had completely failed to realise how close it is to Chanctonbury Ring.

So a detour on the way home. Fortunately the heat of yesterday had moderated as it's a long climb up. The gradient isn't too bad but there is the ever present hazard of the trail cyclists to contend with - one almost flattened some fellow walkers pet spaniel.



The view from the bottom. Thanks to the magic of a zoom lens it doesn't look that far...





I was glad to see the final approach though! The beech trees were originally planted in 1760 but many were blown down in 1987. They have been replanted and are now of a reasonable size. As well as beech there were ash and oak there today. I was eyeing up the oak apples but they were still green and I left them for the moths.





Whilst the South Downs path which runs alongside the hill fort was busy with walkers and cyclists, most were giving the ring a wide berth and for the most part we had it to ourselves. Whether this was due to its rather sinister reputation or familiarity/disinterest I have no idea but I wasn't complaining.

There is a Romano/Celtic temple on the site but it is now covered by undergrowth - mostly nettles and I wasn't brave enough to venture off the paths that criss cross the small fort. Legends abound here especially the tale of the devil offering a bowl of soup/porridge in exchange for your soul should you circumnavigate the fort x number of times. An old folk memory of ancient rites? Who knows.

It is reputed to be a haunted and "creepy" place where no birds sing and no animals live. There are plenty of tales of people attempting to stay the night and being frightened off and of dogs and horses refusing to pass.

I loved it.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Climbing The Skirrid

Safe in the magic of my woods I lay, and watched the dying light.
Faint in the pale high solitudes,
And washed with rain and veiled by night,
Silver and blue and green were showing.
And the dark woods grew darker still;
And birds were hushed; and peace was growing;
And quietness crept up the hill;

And no wind was blowing

And I knew That this was the hour of knowing,
And the night and the woods and you
Were one together, and I should find
Soon in the silence the hidden key
Of all that had hurt and puzzled me --

Why you were you, and the night was kind,
And the woods were part of the heart of me.
And there I waited breathlessly,
Alone; and slowly the holy three,
The three that I loved, together grew One, in the hour of knowing, Night, and the woods, and you

And suddenly
There was an uproar in my woods,
The noise of a fool in mock distress, Crashing and laughing and blindly going,
Of ignorant feet and a swishing dress,
And a Voice profaning the solitudes.
The spell was broken, the key denied me
And at length your flat clear voice beside me
Mouthed cheerful clear flat platitudes.
You came and quacked beside me in the wood.
You said, "The view from here is very good!"
You said, "It's nice to be alone a bit!"
And, "How the days are drawing out!" you said.
You said, "The sunset's pretty, isn't it?"     

 By God! I wish -- I wish that you were dead!

Rupert Brooks 1909 

And the above just about sums up my feelings on today's little jaunt.  The Skirrid - the Holy Mountain, full of families, children, dogs, noise, etc. Normally it's easy enough to escape the crowds but not today. Not on the ridge to the top at any rate. And yes if I am lying down on the grass with my camera pointing at an early anemone  I probably am photographing it and yes it is very pretty, thank you......

 
 Ranting apart, the Skirrid is very pretty indeed on the lower slopes which I guess is why it is so popular. It's a steep pull up through the woods though to get to the mountain itself and I'm a bit out of condition...




Made it to the ridge and although I've managed to make it look empty here  - it wasn't. It was a day that required patience... The ridge forms a natural path up to the summit -would have made an ideal formal processional to the Hill fort at the top or to the church of St Michael which was built on top of it. Little trace of both remain now other than some earthworks and a few stones near the trig point.




It's a walk of false summits - as you crest one in the hope that it is "the" top, yet another one looms in the distance... still once you're up on the ridge the gradient isn't too bad and there are some interesting rock formations to provide a distraction.


Rather like these in fact. You can't see the family and dogs climbing all over it. I've had to be creative with my camera angles today. You do get an idea though of how high the mountain loams above the plains.


Having reached the top we decided to take the steep way down to the path that circumnavigates it. This is my attempt to show how steep it was  - and that is the Sugar Loaf peak in the distance. This bit was horrible. The path was pretty much non existent and it was very steep.





Add some people and the gradient is much more obvious.



This was our final objective  - the Devil's table. Getting here was a real challenge. Most of the pictures of it are taken from the ridge and having scrambled over rocks and terrifyingly steep gradients i can see why.

However it was worth it  ( I think). Understandably we were the only ones daft enough to do this.


Actually it was well worth it if only to find this little glade on the left of the stones. A perfect little hollow with rocks and grass and twisted hawthorn trees. And most of all silent, blissfully quiet.

Apart from the raven calling overhead. I don't mind them though.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Severn Bore

Apologies if this is even more disjointed and rambling than usual. I've been up since 5am and I do like my sleep.

The early start was needed if we were to catch the Bore. Despite living fairly close to the Severn I've actually not seen it before. Today though was supposed to be a good one so...

The river Severn has the third highest tidal range in the world, only the Bay of Fundy in North America  and Ungava Bay ( Hudson Straits) are bigger.
 
The tidal range on the Severn can be as much as 15m (49ft), this combined to the 'funnel' shaped estuary causes the incoming tide to create great a bore. The front of the oncoming surge of water creates the wave.


Just waiting. The bore doesn't keep exact time; it can be early or late.

As you can see we were not the only ones awaiting its arrival. You can  just about see it starting to come around the corner



The first indication it was close was the noise and the smell of salt in the air. The surfers were all ready and waiting. And then the bore arrived. Here the surfers are just picking up the wave.


Passing by  - the surfers give an idea of the height of the bore this morning. It was expected to be a 4* one so worth catching.




The Bore hit the banks with a bang,


This gives a good impression of the impact on the banks as it went passed.


Compare the shot of the river one the Bore had passed with the first one. The sand banks have disappeared and the river is a seething and writhing mass of water. Very surreal in that the water in the middle with the tidal impetus was rushing inland whilst the water at the edges was still making its way down to the sea. The result was patches of pure calm, almost like velvet intercepted by undulating waves of water.

 Pure Magic

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A break in the clouds

A weekend day with no rain? Unheard of!

Quick let's go to the seaside and enjoy the sun...



Beautiful blue sea and sky at Weymouth


Even a miniature ruined castle. Built in 1541 most has been lost to coastal erosion.   It was designed specifically as part of the king's network of coastal defences to protect against both French and Spanish attacks.

After 1664 it  was  considered to be of no military importance and was struck from the military register. The castle dungeons were even used as a mint for striking coinage at one time.


 The weather had been so bad that most of the boats seem to be tucked up for the winter still. Many of the harbourside houses have sandbags heaped up against their doors to keep the high tides they've had recently where they belong.


Chesil Bank . One of three main shingle features in the UK, this is a barrier beach. Although the ridge is 48ft above mean high tide, the recent weather saw waves breaking over it and the JCBs are busy putting the shingle back where it belongs.


This seems appropriate given the Winter Olympics going on at the moment. Weymouth hosted the sailing events for the London 2012 event.



One final shot  - sunset over Portland Bill. No time to really wander around here so a return trip will have to be planned.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Given Up but Going for Gold anyway

No not blogging! But trying to go walking in this weather. Spent a very nice afternoon in Bath though listening to Prof. Hutton give a talk on the Ancient Mysteries. Much better than trying to tramp through the mud at the moment.


These are a few pictures from the new Dvizes Museum's Stonehenge exhibition showing the treasures excavated around the monument.

It's a new £750K state of the art gallery which means lots of space around the artifacts and lots of pretty graphics. Personally I prefer the older style displays with more content than style but then I'm a bit of a luddite I guess.

Still on with the pictures:



Firstly a reconstruction of the Bush Barrow burial

Many of the artifacts on display were found here including the two gold lozenges. A very high status burial indeed.



This large lozenge was found on his breast



And the small one to his side. It is somewhat overpowered by the display!






Another small gold disc. This is a gold fitting for a dagger sheath.


Some gold jewellery as well  - a gold cylindrical bead bracelet or necklace



Finally more body adornments- these were labelled as belonging to the Shamen.













It was lovely to be able to see some of the finds from Stonehenge and the surrounding area and fitting that they are now displayed at Devizes rather than in a remote museum in London.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Imbolc? Candlemas? even Groundhog Day...

Getting tired of all this rain.

Thankfully I don't live on the Somerset Moors ( the Levels) but even up high the rain is endless, the ground sodden and the grey depressing. It hasn't even been terribly cold so it doesn't feel like winter has even begun let alone started to give way to spring.

Unusually there was a bit of blue sky today but no one felt like going far. More storms are forecast and it is only a temporary respite.

So we headed out to Stoney Littleton barrow again with the plan of walking a bit in the general area.


 Some definite signs that things are starting to grow. But then again they haven't really stopped. There is still flowers and ripening fruit on the alpine strawberry in my front garden. It really shouldn't be doing that until early summer...



An absolute torrent rushing through the stream which is far higher than usual.


The barrow  - I've photographed this many times before and really my heart wasn't in it today. Still it looks pretty.

There was someone just inside communing with the ancestors so we didn't want to disturb him by lingering long.

Walking on  it was muddy. Really really muddy. Even with proper boots and gaiters it wasn't pleasant and wellingtons would have been better.




We did persevere for a while but faced with this and a long stretch that was actually flooded we gave up and retraced our footsteps back to the car.

I opted out of the boot cleaning that was subsequently required. Well it wasn't my choice of venue so it wasn't my fault the boots got so filthy was it!!

A nice afternoon spent watching the rugby instead especially as Wales won yesterday so no need to fret about the score. That may change through as the competition progresses...

Sunday, 12 January 2014

ToninĂ¡ - a site for those with a good head for heights!

ToninĂ¡ had a reputation of being an aggressive city - much of the carvings show the ruthless way it dealt with its enemies and it still had the power to terrify me....

There is no way my pictures can do justice to the sheer enormity of this construction nor convey just how impressive a city structure this is so here are just a few samples

From a distance the plateau on which the site is built is impressive enough.


Then the building starts to rise from the plateau . The acropolis covers 7 terraces and it soon became apparent that we were going to be climbing them.

All of them.


It was very humid but it was possible to escape briefly from the sun - at least near the bottom.

Everywhere on the terraces are the remains of buildings. As an engineering feat this is incredible.


As is the usual Mayan practice, each new ruler built  over his predecessors structure, unlike the Egyptians who built new from scratch each time.





As a result the Mayan remains are like a time capsule with the archaeologists able to peel back the layers to the earlier rulers. Much of there work is very well preserved.


The view form the top. Yes it is very high indeed.










The following pictures are not for those of a nervous disposition!

Mayan steps are very steep, very uneven and there are no hand rails or nets to stop a fall. In the UK you wouldn't be allowed anywhere near the top of these structures. The Mexicans though are not so bothered about such things.


Going up to the top was bad enough....

But coming down was far far far worse - this gives you an idea of what the last bit was like. I was frankly terrified.

Fall here and there was little to stop you until you reached the bottom.


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