Monday, February 27, 2017

Stonehenge - Miscellaneous

William Turner of Oxford - Twilight at Stonehenge.  Totally beautiful how can anyone  else ever capture a sky like this?

A colour study by J.M.W. Turner 1827

So dramatic the clenched fists coming out of the clouds, shame there are no gods to shake their fists at the foolish dramas that are unfolding round Stonehenge at the moment.  Taken from this Apollo Magazine article

Monday 27th February

This is how the weather is, rain spattered windows, a sharp westerly wind continuously blowing, but life was enlivened by my daughter and Lillie coming for the weekend.  Karen my daughter is a manager for two TIA shops, (greyhounds rescue) and she is on her phone most of the time, directing from a distance.  She tells us tales of the people who come into the shop.  Last week for instance  an oldish man came in with a companion, he wanted a shirt, picked one told that it was £5 but handed over £200 to the shop.  Apparently, according to his companion, because the man was rich he handed out money to all animal charities..
This is the time for the 1970s in Egdon Bridge, bright, colourful and cheerful, so anything that has the 70s age flies off the shelf.  Of course there are people at the other end of the scale as well, so she always puts a £1 rail up, and at the end of the day a box full of stuff out onto the pavement with everything free inside.  A mother and her little boy came, not well off and the mother wanted to buy a china horse in the window for the boy, the mother tried to negotiate a lower price, which is not really on but the boy was so in love with the horse, so in the end K halved the price.  Charity shops are very evident in all town high street centres now, a second way of shopping or passing the time of day away.  Perhaps they reflect that we have too much 'stuff'.

Lillie and I took the dogs for a walk, Teddy, a whippet always has to be kept on the lead, because he is a great chaser, the hens would not stand a chance with him.  Lucy gets on with him, having first established who is top dog in the household, and he takes over her fur basket for the weekend.  She will not sleep in it anymore because of his occupancy, even though we have washed it several times.

We had people dropping in on Friday, one for eggs which was Christine, and the other Jim, our retired tax accountant.  Tales of the Howards of Castle Howard, actually apparently he is an earl.  But Jim was scathing about the way the gentry dodge taxes, in this instance....

Earlier this year, the Castle Howard estate won a high-profile case against HMRC at the Court of Appeal, with a landmark ruling that the custodians should pay no capital gains tax on the £9.4million sale of a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

And the elder brother forces out his younger sibling in the year 2014.  Though the exuberant journalism of the Daily Mail takes some believing, and I notice a year later, the brothers are selling some of the treasures of Castle Howard for upkeep - so working together.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday 24th February

The great storm has passed, leaving our bit of the world unruffled, think we were in its 'calm eye' missing its tempestuous mood.  Though chairs got hurled across the lawn, and it rained a lot.
Went for a walk with Lucy a couple of days ago, we ended up at the Roman Cawthorn camps. trying to find the barrows that are supposed to be in on of the three camps.  Dead heathers cover the remains of goodness knows what, think there was a late village within one of the Roman camps, the dark of the trees making it feel gloomy.  Lots of dog-walkers come here, I have even heard of dogs going missing as they head off into the woods..  The dog walkers are polite and urbanised, someone chatters to me about Lucy and her plumpness, my fault of course she implies, should be more strict.  Lucy does not leave my side in places she does not know, but scampers around like a young thing.

A rather blurry photograph (messing around with settings unfortunately) that the camps overlooked, and defended?

In my ongoing survey of snowdrops, what you find is their ability to start out from a house deep in the countryside and then to spread along the verge in leaps and bounds.  They have naturalised themselves, embedded would be a better word into our woods and verges with a beautiful tenacity.
Turning to W.Robinson (1895) and I find he has written 8 columns on this little Galanthus.  It is not just white, but can be green, or there is even a yellow one from Northumbria, doubt if it exists now.

The snowdrop never looks better then when naturalised amid tender herbage in old orchards and paddocks .... all the snowdrops are hardy and may used in isolated masses on the Grass, or grouped on rock-gardens (remember them?), or in the wild garden, where they may be associated  with Anemone, early crocuses, Winter Aconites, and Early Irises.

Well Mr. Robinson, there are tiny dwarf irises in the garden which gave me such a surprise the other day, though I had planted them and of course crocuses dot their way aroundas well.  But no snowdrops as they are spread around in the church yard next door.  So this tiny white bell like plant has fitted itself securely into the landscape.  The thrush is back, and the birds sing with great joy each morning, tiny bluetit tumbled to the lawn locked in a fight with one of the two robins, and the little squirrel hurled itself from one branch to another in a great flight of fancy this morning.

What else to look out for, well it will soon be time for the Marsh Marigold to come out, an essay on its history, but in actual fact it came to this country from the cold North.

Nikolai Astrup - A Clear Night in June 19
Cannot resist its history ;)

"Marsh Marigold- Caltha Palustris has another historic tale to tell, this time from Geoffrey Grigson. He says that this flower was growing before the Ice Age in Britain and its bright yellow flowers that arrive so early in the year must have forced itself into the consciousness of all who saw it on damp, cold grey days of early spring. In Iceland it appears when the snow is still on the ground, and its flowers surround the farmsteads on the high dry knolls separated from the boggy land below.

The Anglo-Saxons when they arrived as colonists must have welcomed this flower from their home country and they probably called it Meargealla or mersc meargealla. Mear from 'horse' and geallafrom 'swelling' or 'blister', a horse-blob or mare-blob. This is of course conjecture on the part of Grigson but is well to remember that names, and especially Saxon names, have a direct correlation between that which is seen and experienced, and apparently because the round globe flower suggest a round swelling, and the flower itself looks like a large buttercup, whose roots were used as a soothing concoction for blisters."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday and retrospective words

Words that hardly mesh, but are gathered together in my thoughts...

Paul Nash sensed the metaphysical power of trees – how they ‘linked the underworld, the earth’s surface and the skies’.
Pen and Ink drawing of Wittenham Clumps by Paul Nash
Wittenham Clumps in Oxford always reminds me of the Wiltshire downs, soft and rounded, I think when you talk phenomenology, then old essays and paintings say so much more. 

This thought is provoked by Jaquetta Hawkes words, there is an interminable argument about tunnelling under the landscape of  Stonehenge, long or short bored tunnel, it will cost a great deal of money, stop the people from glimpsing it from the A303 road.  Cause great upheaval of course, and what will it achieve but another blot on the landscape.  Her words echo an earlier age when there were barracks at Amesbury for the soldiers in the first world war, as they  stretched their buildings in such a neat manner over the turf of this great prehistoric landscape.

....As he reaches the quiet cross roads on the summit, he will be on the edge of one of the greatest, and certainly the richest, congregations of burial mounds in all Britain. Here was a kind of vast scattered cemetery on ground hallowed by its proximity to the renowned sanctuary. Barrows cluster round Stonehenge on all sides - three hundred of them - but here to the west is the greatest concentration and the area most sequestered from the blighting military activities of Amesbury......

When the ritual and whatever its accompaniment may have been of masks, effigies and offerings have vanished so long ago, when there is no stir of emotion and the ghost which keeps emotion alive, when the very people responsible for raising these mounds have been overwhelmed, absorbed and forgotten, then their detailed study can become lifeless enough. Better perhaps to look at them with knowledge but with knowledge unexpressed, these round barrows that are like the floating bubbles of events drowned in time."

Nash spent a lot of time painting the Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire, the soft plumped folds of the land are so different to his war paintings, when the trees stand stark and blackened under the horrors of war.

War and its aftermath

I saw this painting years ago at a local gallery, it confronted you as you went through the door of the gallery, it has the same heavy theme as his war paintings........  It reflects the world today, a darkening eclipse of war and elitism hangs like a shadow.  

The Eclipse of the Sun - Paul Nash
Words taken from an earlier blog....

"Why did he choose this particular expression of the sun eclipsing the sunflower, he was coming to the end of his life, both through ill health and the war. For him the sunflower had many meanings, for instance the sunflower always follows the path of the sun, and in the classical myth Clytie was punished by her sister who turned her into a flower so that she 'turns with the sun and reflects its colour', and it was in the 19th century that it became the symbol for yearning or unrequited love. And of course an eclipsed sun-disc could also reflect the 'infernal calamity of a global conflict', So this painting represents Nash seeing himself as 'escaping into vast lonely places in complete freedom of bodily action, escaping the land but in death returning to it".

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday - 17th February

I was going to write that the colours of February are brown and gray, the white snowdrop like a symbol of purity against the dark.   But then on looking at the first photo  decided the world is not so bad in sepia colours.  The great mess of dead plants along the bank, looks as if the river has come up this far but I don't think so, is 'policeman's helmet', (Himalayan Balsam) a pretty pink, very tall interloper into our countryside, which will run along the banks of river obliterating everything in its path - a thug.  Just like Japanese knotweed, which also has the same habit.
So I turned to Grigson for the provenance of the snowdrop, introduced or native. and he is unsure as well.  It grew in Elizabethan gardens 'Timely flowring bulbous violet' Gerard's definition, it probably was not called a snowdrop till the end of the 17th century.  'Candlemas Bell' for February of course, but several counties thought they were a Death's Flower and not to be brought into the house.
They have many local names, there was a time when this small country was  unique in its definition of each area of landscape.  So we find  Dewdrops, dingle flower, drooping bell, drooping heads, drooping lily, Eve's Tears and Fair Maids of February, and now we just call them snowdrop - sad.

On Tuesday we went to our local village carvery in the pub next door, about 40 very noisy people chattering away, everyone seemed to enjoy it.  I got a delicious vegetarian lasagne, the girls worked hard, and I won a box of Black Magic chocolates as well.  Next morning there was a loud knock on the door and Jim invited us over for coffee.  One of the things broached at the meal was the fact that a new chairman for the village parish council and a new chairman for the Events committee were needed, LS has been offered the job but refuses, so everyone is handing round the option.  Jim and I had our usual argument about fracking, he is for I am against, his argument that we only use top rain water and not aquifer water - sometimes my arguments are weak unfortunately ;)

David the retiring chairman, has a lovely deep voice, he is a town crier, so that when he stands up at a meeting everyone listens, his wife Jo trots around the lanes with a pony (Charles) and trap.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tuesday or Valentine's day

Questioning whether it was moved or not, the alternative theory that it arrived via glacial movement, rather than was dragged  about 20 miles.  The erection of this late Neolithic/Early Bronze age stone though would have required an extraordinary feat.

The weather warms up and LS says we need to mark Valentine's day, how about going to the Rudston Monolith, which we did.  This tall, 26 feet, stone stands next to the church.  Christianity has overthrown paganism, or has it? the reason is obvious why it is still in situ, probably weighing in at about 40 tons, it would have been impossible to move.  We wander around amongst the gravestones the reluctant Lucy, she just hates leaving a warm car for the cold outside, carrying her own lead not too sure which of us to follow.

The church and the stone sit on a hill, the Gypsey Race runs at the foot of the hill, and I begin to wonder what the stone might be facing in the landscape, somewhat obscured by the trees and church.
Looking up the now destroyed Obelisk stone at Avebury, at 21 feet height, according to Stukley, and the theory has been put forward that the phallic Obelisk stone could have been facing a female stone, in this interpretation, the sun annual round would have united the two stones in a long mating shadow.

Those dratted moles over the road are really giving the ground a good digging over.

The cist, must find out more about this....

Today only an odd stone sits in the North corner of the church yard, which may have been removed from a nearby barrow.  There is also a cist, broken stones with a dark mossy surface to be seen.

Duggleby Howe, measures 20 feet now but would have stood at 30 feet high, one of the largest barrows in Yorkshire

We also stopped and photographed Duggleby Howe an old barrow, that had a central shaft dug out, as had Willy Howe, which we did not see.  There is an early excavation report that the Rudston Monolith had the same depth in the earth as it was on top, which is remarkable if it is true.

Now the Gypsey Race goes through Duggleby and Rudston villages, it seems to take its journey sometimes appearing above ground other places below ground.

The Gypsey Race in Rudston

Stopped for coffee at Sledmere House, which we shall visit the gardens in the summer,  but not the house. The village was surrounded by brick walls and very regimented houses, showing the iron authority of the lordship/landlord of the place in past times....

Notes; Willie Howe seems to have left the usually pragmatic Greenwell mystified. He remarked'Throughout the whole course of my barrow explorations I have never met with anything that I can compare with this mound. It was of more than ordinary size and constructed at the expense of much labour ... Until I opened Willie Howe I had always disbelieved in the erection of such memorials as cenotaphs at the time when these barrows were constructed. That supposition appears, however, to be countenanced by the experience of this mound, and I am forced to admit the possibility that this very large mass of chalk stones was thrown up merely to commemorate, and not to contain the body of, some great personage' (from 'Recent Research in Barrows in Yorkshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire etc' - Rev. William Greenwell 1890). This pit discovered by Greenwell as well as the method of construction and size of Willie Howe would suggest a parallel with Duggleby Howe which stands close to the source of the Gypsey Race just over 10 miles away to the southwest and both barrows along with Ba'l Hill at Wold Newton, the monolith at Rudstone and a number of barrow cemeteries close to the Great Wolds Valley would point to the whole area being a focus of activity during prehistory.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday 13th February

So through the bleak days of February we wander, not much to write about, no outings, books to be read.  Decided I needed a bit of socialist reading, so ordered Paul Mason's Post Capitalism -a Guide to our Future only to find I had tapped on Owen Jone's book The Establishment and how They Get Away with it' still, I can always get Mason's book another day, and Owen's earnest appearance on television, he looks about 16 years old for goodness sake, says he has a clever mind.  Also Naomi Klein This Changes Everything, for more depressing news on the climate.

What about fracking, the latest news says the fight is on, the protest camp is digging in, has even started a vegetable plot.  Scotland, Lancashire, Derbyshire and our Ryedale news.  Going back to the camp just outside the village of Kirkby Misperton, they are constructing a warm place for geri-activists, that will be us then!

What other fights are on there way, the conservatives have it in for the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, a motion has been lodged of no confidence, but he could well survive this.

On a lighter note, the birds sing more loudly as they anticipate spring, there is one at the moment, his single call note greets me every morning.  The gray pigeons hops around the lawn like a herd of elephants, doves lightly pick up the seed discharged from the holder.  Two red robins grace the fence each day.  A multitude of tits flitter through, blackbirds and sparrows by the dozen, and I saw a bullfinch the other day, and a little bird with a tuft on his head...... and just maybe we will find bluebells somewhere in a wood later on in spring, just like these in Essex.

Something I watched over the weekend The London Perambulator, strange piece of documentary about a man walking around the outskirts of London.  Ian Sinclair, wanders around, sometimes in the company of Will Self, and there is some background waffle from Russell Brand as well.  Eccentrics?  Alternative viewpoints, Will Self has no time for psychogeography, or does he? but  that alternative universe he lives in is interesting.  Another book?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday,10th February

Today's walk: Which is not very long given Lucy's paw, but I took the camera along and it sleeted most of the way.  I was photographing the snowdrops along the road, the first picture is just outside Nigel's smallholding, the next lot of snowdrops are way back on the deep verge, and survive because the ride-on-mowers cannot get in there, this is of course how wild flowers survive, being tucked away in corners out of harm's way.

Free from traffic, snowdrops survive here.

You can just see the bank bisected at the top by the bank that protects the fields from the river.  Hundreds of years time they will be no more than faint lines on the landscape.

This is the Barn properties' field, they also have sewn a large area with wild flowers.

Aconites down the bank to the river, now are they wild or introduced.

the river, see the plank caught up in the tree, the water rose very quickly a few days ago.

Mike Pitts - Digging Deeper - Ancient Flowers  Interesting article on how plant remains from Roman bronze pans were found.  There is an air of excitement for these treasures.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thursday 9th February

This is the Winterbourne at Avebury that runs alongside Silbury mound

The theme of water and nostalgia; must be all that rain outside.  I mentioned earlier we want to see the Rudston Monolith, but it took some while to realise that it lies in the valley of the 'Gypsey Race', a small winterbourne that runs down to the sea at Bridlington.  A winterbourne is a small river/stream that appears and disappears through the years, it is normally to be found on a chalk surface.  It begins, I believe at Wharram, not too far from Wharram Percy DMV.  What is interesting is along its short length there is an excess of prehistoric barrows and four  cursus, and at Duggleby Howe, one of the largest barrows to be found in the country.  Are there parallels with the Swallowhead spring next to Silbury I wondered but cannot answer my own question.  Bronze Age barrows of course mean settlements not just death, but why settle next to an erratic source of water?  Again the question must be asked was this of religious significance, the magical appearance of water and disappearance dictated by a bad tempered god maybe.

Apparently Duggleby Howe Barrow is situated near to the source of the Gypsey Race.  I can hear the sound of that water at Avebury all those years back, the deer in the field and the little band of partridges that waddled along in front of us on the path.  Moss quietly by my side, a cold morning.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Monday, 7th february

Order, Order.  Well you know what I am talking about, John Bercow's brave speech against Trump being allowed in Westminster,  I hear a lot of rumblings going round in those chambers, and maybe I fear for his job, but Theresa May will have to watch her step over this one....

To more mundane things, it is raining this morning, yesterday a whole band show rolled up to cut the great branches of I think the sycamore trees that overhung the road, these trees are magnificent they frame our windows like paintings, the haunt of the larger birds, jackdaws, pigeons and of course the owls at night.  The great yew just outside the church porch also had a severe side and top cut, there is a photo in our village history when they were originally planted, small yews a hundred or so years back, now monsters, not really. they shelter so many little birds in their dark cavernous interiors, great pagan trees of the cemeteries.
So the slow build up to spring begins, seeds to be sown and mollycoddled till the warmer weather begins.

Gradually reading through my books, put down Rickman's 'Magus of Hay' last night - very good. I suspect his mixture of history, horror and crime appeals to my 'archaeological' nature..  I enjoy the Cleese books but will try another author soon.

And now to Lucy, a ray of sunshine in this gloomy weather.  Yesterday as I cooked, could not find the teaclothes to get something from the oven searching high and low in the kitchen and utility room, then I heard the slow thump of her tail, and yes she had pulled them down to her rug.  She is so mischievous, and loves teasing us.  LS says she is helpful, though I am not sure carrying cushions in her mouth is helpful, or the fact that we have to play hunt the slipper every day.  But her paw continues to improve after the operation, she had part of her pad removed, maybe she will have to wear a shoe for pavement walking as she tends to limp on hard surfaces.  Of course, a bit like buying shoes for the children in earlier days, there are none on the internet  her size...

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sunday and Saint Neot

I have written a lot about water, its practical necessity and also its slightly more important religious role.  Now whether that be a well with Mary guarding and looking down with such reverence or a pagan well worshipped but it stirred a few memories.  Which was my favourite well, well it will have to be the one at the top St.Keynes well, about a mile or so from the beautiful crystal quartz stones of Duloe stone circle.  It carries all that dark, dank, lichen strewn glamour of a proper well, ferns and greenery clinging to the sides and a tumble of water.
But yesterday transferring photos from the old computer to the external drive I came across another well in Cornwall, after beating my brain as to where it was, remembered the pub called London Inn and there it was St.Neot.  So nostalgia here it comes;  A bright, slightly windy day, as we wandered round this linear village.  The pub was next to the church, and the church had an interesting  worked early medieval stone.

The well head was situated down a green lane and across a small field and the water came from the rock behind it.

It was dedicated to St.Neots, one of the stories told of this saint is that he would stand daily in the well reciting the Psalter, one day by the revelation of an angel, he found three fishes in the well. St.Neot was instructed (presumably in a dream) that he could only take one fish from the water. One day when he was ill his servant Barius took two for a meal and cooked them, the saint horrified told him to take the two fish back to the well, and miraculously they were restored to living fish, good Celtic tale there!  Originally the well would have been a spring with boulders around.

small offerings at the well