Sunday, 5 October 2014

Coals to Nowhere

This wasn't intended to be my subject this week but never mind. Having being struck down by the prevailing office cold this week I didn't feel up to much so it seemed a good idea to take a walk down to the Basin to collect some hawthorn berries for brandy and some rosehips for syrup.

It's been a while since I was down there. It's the site of the old Somerset Coal Canal which went out of use over 100 years ago and has since been filled in.  Now it's a green corridor along the Cam. Or it was.

 The Somerset Coal Canal Society have decided the time is right to reopen the canal...

I must admit I had no idea what they were doing so this was a bit of a shock. They have excavated the old dry dock - they believe it to be the biggest in England with room for 3 boats side by side and are currently busy building a replica of the bridge.

The overgrown pathway of the Limestone Link has now been replaced by what looks like the footings for a new road!

Some of the old canal way was lined with stone which is being replaced.

They haven't got to this bit yet but it shows what the landscape looked like before the diggers went in.

Any ideas what this might have been. Obviously it was uncovered in the excavating.

I am really not sure what I think about this. The canal is a part of the local history but whether it should now be re-instated I don't know. I guess it will depend on how the towpath is finished off, If they use tarmac like in Bath and Bradford on Avon it will be a real shame.

And yes I did get my rosehips and hawthorn berries. There are 3 bottles of syrup ready to put away and a kilner jar of hawthorn which I will need to remember to shake daily for the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

An overactive imagination or.....

have I read too many murder mystery novels?

A nice weekend away in the Cotswolds with some friends for the last few days. The weather is quite unseasonal for almost October, far warmer than August was and a heavy sleepy haze hung over the village we parked in to start the walk.

The place was chocolate box pretty. Like going back 50 or 60 years in time and also sort of "creepy". Pretty as it was I really really wouldn't want to live there.

To add to the sense of unreality the church bell was tolling to call the villagers to the church. A steady one note dirge ringing out over the deserted village...

and an unusual church it was too.  12CE and Grade 1 listed, the tower has a "saddleback" roof. Preparations were going on around it for the Harvest Festival that was to be held in the churchyard after the service.

This really is a village of 2 churches. Barely a couple of hundred yards away is a second old church. This one has been decommissioned and stands forlornly just across the river from its more popular neighbour. It's a similar age and also Grade1 listed. The story goes that the twin churches were built by a pair of sisters who had fallen out and thus built their own place or worship. The truth is more prosaic, the river divides two separate medieval manors.

I as I said, despite its prettiness I didn't want to linger there although I couldn't really say why.

Leaving the village to start our planned walk, the walls of roadside were festooned with the berries of Woody Nightshade, Bittersweet.   It seemed appropriate somehow!

Moving out into the countryside the Bittersweet  berries gave way to ropes of berries from   Black Bryony, an equally poisonous fruit.

Miss Marple would have been quite at home here!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Dinefwr Castle

I do like castles - especially Welsh ones and this was one we hadn't visited before.

Although it is under the care of Cadw, the Welsh side of of English Heritage, the adjoining house and car park belong to the National Trust so there is a £6 parking charge unless you an NT member. Annoying. You don't even get into the house for that - another charge.

Still the castle itself is free, even to non Cadw visitors. And well worth a visit too. Originally there was a construction here built by Rhodri ap Merfyn (820–878)Given the fabulous defensive position it commands I would expect the original usage to date well back.

The current remains though are 12CE and later and have been quite heavily restored which improves the "visitor experience"

As usual with a site that doesn't have a car park 10 ft from the entrance it was very quiet.

Always fun looking down the middle of towers!

and working out where the original floors would have been

The restoration allows you to go right to the top of the towers and walk around a lot of the parapet. A chance to enjoy some really spectacular views even though it was a dull grey day.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Fungus Foray 2014

Although it's still only August ( well just) it really feels like autumn is here.

So a day of picking  - a trip in search of blackberries, sloes and hawthorn berries along with anything else we could find.

What we found is that the fungus season has definitely started. I am hopeless at identifying them though ...

These were the first we came across. Like little prickly balls - common puffball?

Couple of these - lovely orange colour

 A real fairy ring!

Not a clue!

Easier to identify where the common field mushroom but as I already had several in the fridge ( from the supermarket!) we left them growing.

In the end the trip provided us with hawthorn berries, sloes for gin, some bittersweet berries to plant in the garden, some yew berries and some wild hops and comfrey.  All in all a very satisfactory walk even if not the most photogenic.

 Finally   this little chap - just because I like him...!!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Virtuous Well

I've been here before but no apologies for that - some places are worth a return visit - The Virtuous Well at Trellech being one of them.

It's had a bit of a tidy up since our last visit and all the detritus of spent offerings removed. We also didn't have the curious horse "helping" with the visit!

 The Virtuous Well is also known as St Anne's Well ( maybe originally named for Black Annis in the pre Christian years?)

The water is said to cure eye diseases and illnesses peculiar  to women.

It is also believed that the water from the well runs under the 3 Trellech standing stones and thus was part of the "druidic rites" performed there.  Might be a bit of a stretch that one but who am I to argue with the Cadw information board.  It is also believed (says Cadw) that fairies dance around the well at Midsummer.

Last tine the water in the well looked very unappealing; no way would I wanted to have put some in my eyes no matter how desperate I was. This time however the water was crystal clear and had clearly been used as a wishing well by someone.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Blackbury Camp

I'm going back a few months here. The remains of hurricane Bertha is making herself felt, sudden downpours, intermittent howling gales and the odd clap of thunder made a walk seem very unappealing. Not to mention the half finished decorating which has turned the house upside down.

So a Sunday at home it was. Having amused myself with some housework and supervising the decorator (!) I was also sorting out a website for a friend (Underworld Apothecary if you want to take a look) so not that relaxing.

Looking back through my files I found some pictures of Blackbury Camp. These were taken in late April when the bluebells were out.

 This is the remains of an iron age hill fort, It was excavated in the 1950s. According to English Heritage they believe that it was the defended stronghold of a wealthy family - a lot of sling stones were found here. The domestic angle is supported by the remains of local pottery and cooking pits and an oven as well as a hut.

Now the site is covered with woodland which makes it hard to imagine what it would have been like. Oh and bluebells. Lots and lots and lots of them...

I can safely say that  I have never seen so many bluebells. There must have been millions of them carpeting the area.

It was early evening when I took this and the light was starting to fail.

This is not the biggest of hill forts, more compact but it is still in reasonably good condition given that it has been reclaimed by the trees. It is possible to walk round the whole ramparts in 10 or 15 minutes but the temptation is to linger..

And yet more bluebells! Fortunately there were tracks clear of them as it would have been a real shame to have to walk over them ( although sadly plenty of the visitors and their dogs were). For early evening and starting to get cold it was still remarkably busy.

Well worth a visit in April/May if you like bluebells!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Lydney - Temple to Nodens

Temporarily grounded this weekend due to the bathroom redecoration project. I keep telling myself it WILL be worth it!

Fortunately due to the 3 month break I do have some trips that I haven't yet blogged on so this week it is the Lydney Park Estate and the Roman temple there. The park has very restricted opening so for much of the year the temple is not accessible to the general public and it won't be open again until Easter 2015.

The Estate is worth visiting for the spring gardens alone. I love the way the bulbs have been naturalised into the grass here at the entrance to the car park.

As usual of course the only way is up. The temple is sited at the top of the hill probably to give a clear view of the Severn Bore when it goes up the river twice a day. It is also within the confines of an iron age hill fort which may also have had something to do with the choice of site.

Did stop a few times to admire the view across the estate. It was a fairly steep climb in places!

Well worth it though. It is a classically styled Roman temple dedicated to the Celtic God Nodens. He is linked with healing, the sea, dogs and hunting. The mosaics survive but are covered by earth and turf and we had to content ourselves with the pictures in the small museum inside the house itself.

He may also have been in the curse business as a lead curse tablet was found  "For the god Nodens. Silvianus has lost a ring and has donated one-half [its worth] to Nodens. Among those named Senicianus permit no good-health until it is returned to the temple of Nodens)"

As well as the Temple, there is a surviving Bath house which would have been part of the temple complex.

Descending back towards the gardens themselves we came across a couple of statues guarding the entrance to the gardens. Whilst the temple probably dates from 364CE and was in use to maybe around 500CE, the date of these are uncertain.  They were originally thought to be Roman but are possibly 16th or 17th century.  Likewise the identities are also unknown  - this is possibly Pan  according to the English Heritage Protection listing

The same source lists this as the Empress Faustina.  They are now sited quite a way from the temple complex but were formerly more closely associated. Her hairstyle reminds me very strongly of a statue at the Temple of Sulis in Bath

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
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