Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Queen of the Meadows

Meadowsweet


Wabi-sabi "If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi " nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."

This definition fulfils the emotions I often feel, a sad melancholy for things past, for things that have a brief day of glory, such as the peonies that now lie fallen on the grass, their splendid show of petals bedraggled with brown spots. 
Not to be too depressing I shall put up my photos from yesterday's walk,  LS had suggested it as I was not feeling too good and it did indeed cheer us both up.  We walked down to the park, ate our sandwiches and then strolled through the fields down to the river.  A different walk this one, the field is rape seed, now podding and silvery grey, the field edged with poppies and mallows grown to an enormous size.
The river with its boats tied up to small jetties was tranquil, I often think people buy boats on a whim and then leave them to rot gently on the water, there was one boat so dirty that it could not have been washed for the last three years, being advertised for sale for £3,500, tiny fry swam in the water, and the blue demoiselle darted around and the first dragonflies hawked the water, skimming low like little helicopters.
What strikes you in this month now is the changing of the light green of early summer to the deeper greens of midsummer, blackberry bushes are heavy with blossom, the elder flower is over, waiting for those dark purple berries of Autumn.  Meadowsweet scented one lane, growing in an old ditch and three piebald horses in an overgrown field of weeds grazed the scant grass, one had a young foal at heel.
This part of the Essex countryside, really falls into what I would call waste ground, abounding the river the land is overgrown and must be part of a flood plain, Sandford Mill, now a museum takes up quite a bit of the land, there is an air of dishevelment in the overgrown hedges, a faint hint of a once farmed landscape, the land is rutted in places, hopefully not waiting development. One bid for housing for land down by the river seems to have been stopped, though warning 'private' notices went up, which were immediately pulled down by the locals!  People cycle round this area, walk their dogs and walk generally just like us, it is a land that time left behind, Chelmsford Council is very generous in its grass verges and greens that surround the housing estates and I presume must own some of the acres that fall either side of the river Chelmer.








Blackberry blossom, should be a good crop this Autumn

Someone loves their boat as well as their animals

Meadowsweet - Regina Patri or Queen of the Meadow has a very sweet smell, used as a strewing herb in medieval times, Geoffrey Grigson gives one of its local names as Courtship-and-Matrimony, the milky foam of the flower rather nauseating as far as he is concerned when found in great patches, and which has been given another name 'Goat's Beard Barba Caprae,  It seems it can be used in mead to flavour the drink (must try making some mead).  Earlier on in its history, the plant was used for scouring milk churns in Ireland, and can also be used as dye mixed with copper to make black.

17 comments:

  1. Is that chicory in one of your photographs?
    We have very little meadow sweet round here and I am sorry as it has such a lovely smell.
    Sorry you are not feeling too good - hope you are soon better.

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    1. No Pat, if it is the purple one you are referring to it is mallow, which one I am not sure. Just seem to have a chest infection which is gradually going away.

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  2. We don't have much round here either which I'm sad about too. Hope you feel better soon and I feel very sorry for those two horses who don't seem to have much grass to eat!

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    1. Hi Em, I call them 'gypsy' horses, you see them all round Chelmsford in the fields, I hate to think of their fate as they produce foals each year, presumably for a market somewhere.

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  3. You bring back pleasant memories of the mid-sixties when I lived in Hockley but often used to visit Chelmsford -- Thank you!

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  4. Hello John, glad it brought back memories for you. Fascinated by your essays in support of metal-detectorists a subject which is so controversial in this country. Of course the Staffordshire Hoard find supports the argument in favour of detecting and hopefully the Portable Antiquity Scheme will help with the lawlessness....

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    1. Thanks, Thelma, I just heard that a recent study on "nighthawking" had established that there was only an average of 1.5 cases of it per month in the study period, so as crimes go it is fairly minimal. I have not confirmed this report, though. The exciting find, for me is the largest Celtic coin hoard which was recently found in Jersey. It looks like I will be helping with its study (a British forensic scientist will be performing an XRF analysis on a thousand or two of the coins, and he came to Calgary to talk to me about it. Do you ever make it to Hockley Woods? Its' a great place for sweet chestnuts and when I lived nearby there were Spanish soldier ants there! The salt marshes along the River Crouch are also very interesting.

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  5. Hi again, 'nighthawking' is probably only a small problem, treasure hunters come to mind. Destruction of archaeological digs of course is another problem, mostly Roman, though round here with its Saxon history there can be problems as at the Anglo-Saxon cemeteries with their rich trophies of brooches. The controversial Mildenhall Silver Hoard treasure found by the plough in the early 20th century in Suffolk would probably better being discovered by a detector. And therein lies the problem, plough or amateurish detectorist, who only sees the value and does not understand the context.
    The Celtic coin hoard, think it is on TMA news, sounds exciting, they are quite beautiful coins (more interesting than Roman ;).
    As for Hockley Wood, think it is a bit far, but looks beautiful, funnily enough a local nature reserve wood also has sweet chestnuts, bluebells and fungi, we collect the nuts in Autumn.

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    1. Fortunately, stratified graves are usually too deep to be detected, but security measures should be implemented for known sites. Most archaeology here is carried out in secret, but there is considerable respect for cultural matters, and things are often safe even when in full view:

      http://tinyurl.com/d8npu4o

      Sweet chestnuts cannot grow here, and when they appear in supermarkets they seem to be mostly old and dried out -- many of them mouldy, and at about $3-4 a pound. No natural blackberries either, although raspberries can grow here. There is a new strain of thornless blackberries that have huge yields and they will grow here.

      I once jumped a barbed wire fence at the edge of Hockley Wood, a farmer must have let two of his pigs graze in the wood and they charged me. They were huge! Where I lived there was a pig farm to the east and ten acres of roses to the west. Always preferred the west winds! The strangest residents were South American coypu, No one knew how they got there and I think there was a bounty on them.

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  6. To answer your first paragraph, security costs money, and there is very little in archaeology in this country..... and I cannot use the link by the way, for some reason they don't work in comments.
    Not sure about coypu but mink was a great nuisance in this country at one stage, and thy were hunted down. But it is just people releasing wild animals onto the moors, cougars, leopards etc. Sounds terrible and is probably part of folklore myth, when the great black dog was met on a moonlight night and your time was up!

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    1. Actually, electronic surveillance is very inexpensive and can be set up to automatically turn on floodlights, set off alarms and call the local police -- no staffing required (combination of ground vibration and proximity sensors with warning signs).

      Just copy and paste the link, or use the search box on my blog to find "sweetgrass". (29 April, 2913 post)

      I just Googled coypu, Essex. They are now, supposedly, extinct (still a few unconfirmed reports) but it was a big problem all over East East Anglian wetlands. The peak was in the late 1950's with 200,000 animals recorded. (New Scientist, 4th March, 1989) -- coypu fur is called nutria. It was a similar problem to the mink.

      One "legendary" great hound treed me in a wood near Hockley!

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    2. Well as far as copyu and mink are concerned extermination of these creatures was called for because of their presence in the loss of riverside habitation for our indigenous water rat I think. In this country they, meaning the detectorist, would steal the security lamps etc as well as anything they found, the rewards under the Crown Estate are quite substantial, as is of course Ebay...

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    3. In England, the looting of archaeological sites is a miniscule problem in comparison with with other artefact-rich countries. This is due to a combination of legal metal detecting, the policing of the activity by metal-detecting clubs and the Treasure Act of England and Wales. Really, though, archaeological work should not be undertaken without security measures and the ones I mentioned would be virtually 100% effective. Vibration sensors were developed in the Vietnam War for the jungle -- they can detect footsteps on the ground. No one could even reach the lights! The biggest antiquity problem on Ebay is actually fake coins!

      Alberta is the only place on earth where the Norway rat could survive but is kept out. They cannot make it across the Rocky Mountains from British Columbia because the environment is too harsh for them, but the Alberta/Saskatchewan border is "policed" and it is 762 miles long! There is some talk about reintroducing the brown bear to Scotland. Bad plan! As the grizzly is a sub-species, much can be learned from it. The males need 200-500 square miles of habitat, and if food is scarce, they will migrate to where it is not. Once the deer are gone, they will attach livestock and people. They are opportunistic where people live, raiding dumps etc. and they can smell someone cooking meat from two miles away. A friend's brother (Ernest Cohoe), died after a grizzly bit off most of his face not far from a road near a town here in 1980. The bear did not kill him, he committed suicide four days later in hospital, Google the name for the horror story.

      You mentioned the battle of Ashingdon, (near Hockley). No traces of the battle remain, but St Andrews Church was built by Cnut to commemorate it in 1020. It sits on a hill just above the battle site. Well worth visiting.

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  7. o answer your first point, I am not really expert in discussing the ins and outs of metal detecting in this country. The controversy that surrounds it is way beyond my intelligence, that which I do know, is that it is good in certain places not so good in others. I suspect you are talking to a wider audience than myself, and as far as I am concerned there are ways and means in the form of the Portable Antiquities Scheme which will eventually bring it to a more sensible conclusion.;

    Not sure how far the plan to bring the bear to Scotland is, know the beaver and the wolf are definitely on the list, last wolf died out in Ireland I think in the 17th century but health and safety factors I suspect will be in the equation. A friend put up a photo of the little muntjac deer this morning, imported in the 19th it is now an escapee in the countryside. Does not do too much damage and they are rather sweet, we have a good million deer in this country, which may need culling at some stage, though there are plenty of woods for them to browse in.

    As for Ashingdon, no record of the original site of the battle as you say, should have visited the church when we were at Bartlow. We have wandered round a lot of the churches in Wiltshire, and here in Essex, and the overlay of other cultures is quite interesting, Greensted Church near Ongar is the oldest (Saxon) wooden church in Europe, and the following link has Odin and his ravens carved at the entrance porch, as with the Romano-British Bartlow Mounds and its Belgic comparisons, Saxon and Danish history can be found, plus of course Roman tiles used as building material. See the comment below Great Canfield church as to the history.......

    http://northstoke.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/great-canfield-church.html

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    1. Fascinating bas-relief of the fish-tailed serpent. That device also exists on British Celtic coins and a chain-mail hook in my own collection that is Celtic and from Champagne (see my post on the subject: "Celtic chain mail hook from Champagne" Oct. 21st, 2013). The Celtic versions are usually ram-headed and seem connected to Cernunnos, and also Zeus Meilichios. Biting the tail also links to Ouroboros.

      Bringing back extinct species is a risky business. Sometimes it can work, but the effects are almost never predictable. Beavers change the landscape like no other creature and are very useful for creating more wetlands. It was an Englishman "Grey Owl" (Archibald Belaney) who brought about protection of the beaver here. Trees that you want to save are easily protected by a single layer of chicken-wire. That's what we do in Calgary.

      Wolves might lessen deer overpopulation but could also threaten other predators. Many wolves in some parts of Canada prey mainly on mice and other small rodents, others prey on caribou and other larger species -- it depends on what is around and how easy it is to catch them. In Britain, reintroducing the wolf could also endanger other native predators. It would certainly lower their numbers. The balance between wolves and caribou is very important -- numbers of each vary in cycles and when a caribou herd is decimated by wolves, members of the herd migrate to other herds, strengthening the gene pool by preventing inbreeding. Culling just interferes with this process and is harmful to both species (still done, though, by people who believe they know more than Mother Nature).

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  8. I pulled out a book on Celtic religion, Ann Ross and Miranda Green are my authorities on Celtic matters, but could not find Zeus Meilichios, though found him on the web. Thinking about serpents or snakes and remembered Asclepius, the roman doctor who has a snake wrapped round his staff, a reused stature in the wall of the church at Tockenham in Wiltshire,
    the photo can be found in the blog down below. It was thought to be reused from a nearby villa, goodness knows what the medieval builders thought it was.

    A brief note on bringing back animals, these projects will happen in the wilds of Scotland, there is a chap, with enough money to fence a large area off for this experiment. Wolves will eventually get out, just like the muntjac and the wild boar which we have introduced into the supposedly fenced off woods. Wild animals though are instinctively shy of humans, and the only problem is the killing of sheep or pet animals...

    http://northstoke.blogspot.co.uk/2008/01/alton-barnes-church-st.html

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  9. Just to add this link to the conversation, LS's contribution to the debate...

    http://theheritagetrust.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/before-heavy-ploughing-threatened-our-past/

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