Sunday, 28 June 2015

June 28th 2015 - Project month 6 part 2

The weeks are fair skipping over and I am at a rush to post the remaining June images before I photograph the July one's next week. How does time fly so quickly. And so at a gallop and a run, here are the remaining 10 Images from both June and January for comparison. The remaining 7 images can be found on the June 9th posting

Quite a dramatic change to the Strawberry Live feel - cold and wet in January, hot and sunny in June, explaining the numerous cyclists passing by as I took this.

The Thatcher's Cider orchards are just verdant

Hard to believe this is the same view six months apart (although I have pulled back a bit to increase the interest)

By June the barn has disappeared

Such a huge change at Woodspring Priory, it has disappeared behind the trees and the field, well it's almost unrecognisable.

Being at the seaside in January was.....cold!!

I remember taking this image in January it was almost too dark, in June almost too hot.

Cows and sun, can't beat it.

This is the biggest change over the six months. The ploughing up of permanent pasture for maize, as Farmer Green moves towards his beef change over from dairy..shame as this has been pasture for decades, but that's farming, it's a business not a plaything.

The tide was in in June.
Next images to be taken July 4th or 5th

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Time Gentlemen Please

I have it here;  bookended on the page between timbrology (an outdated word for stamp collecting) and timenoguy (a rope stretched from place to place in a ship).

concept arising from change experienced and observed: a quantity measured by angle through which earth turns on its axis : a moment at which, or stretch of duration in which, things happen : season: due, appointed, usual time : hour of death or parturition…”

And it continues in that vein for two more pages. I’m talking of course about time. That theoretical concept of movement;  we look back to a time with fondness, rush to be present at a point in time, and look forward to a moment in time with excitement.

My thoughts on time gathered pace yesterday. I believe it is because of the effect Wiltshire has on me. It makes me think and feel in an altogether different way than anywhere else I know. I slow down. Time stands still somehow.

I began ruminating on the process of time after arriving at the Waggon and Horses pub in Beckhampton. This ancient public house in the Avebury hinterland, hard by Silbury Hill was, and remains so, a favourite pub of ours. And, in addition, the inspiration for the famous coaching inn scene in Charles Dickens’s ,The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (also known as The Pickwick Papers).

"Tom cast a hasty glance at the upper part of the house as he threw the reins to the hostler, and stuck the whip in the box. It was a strange old place, built of a kind of shingle, inlaid, as it were, with cross-beams, with gabled-topped windows projecting completely over the pathway, and a low door with a dark porch, and a couple of steep steps leading down into the house, instead of the modern fashion of half a dozen shallow ones leading up to it. It was a comfortable-looking place though, for there was a strong cheerful light in the bar-window, which shed a bright ray across the road, and even lighted up the hedge on the other side; and there was a red flickering light in the opposite window, one moment but faintly discernible, and the next gleaming strongly through the drawn curtains, which intimated that a rousing fire was blazing within. Marking these little evidences with the eye of an experienced traveller, Tom dismounted with as much agility as his half-frozen limbs would permit, and entered the house"

The book continues on to report groaning table of fine vitals in this comfortable coaching inn, whereupon the characters of the novel meet and exchange a bonhomie story or two before the inevitable disaster strikes.

And bonhomie it remains.

I was due to attend a Trustees meeting at the Richard Jefferies Museum near Swindon. Finding I had a couple of hours to spare, time enough to visit the Waggon and Horses for a light luncheon before the main event.
The bar was quite empty for a Friday lunchtime. A couple of middle aged men in working attire reading the papers, pint glasses in hand;  an elderly chap on a table by himself surrounded by a selection of post vitals crockery, a pair of ladies in deep conversation in the window seat, gin and tonics in hand, and a characterful dog cum engaging ragged mat called Katy who was causing consternation to her owner perched on a bar stool, by wandering about getting her lead entangled in table and chair legs.

Low beams, dark wood, old paintings of stagecoaches, wooden floors, every time I enter this favourite hostility it feels like a timeless place to rest the traveller’s bones.

I last came here in 1947 when I was stationed at Larkhill just after the war

I’d just sat down with my pint of Wadsworth’s bitter when the old gentleman hidden from view behind the settle announced to the two paper reading gentlemen opposite this point in time.

It’s changed a lot since those days, yes, I last had a pint in this pub in 1947 – great days, I was stationed at RAF Larkhill, me and the boys would come down on the Garry and spend the night here, no breathalysing in those days, how we got home I’ve no idea. I’m 87 you know but I still drive. I was stationed at Larkhill you know, it’s a long long time ago, a whole lifetime ago. This place has changed so much since then

The newsprint pair joined in this conversation and as it wheeled around I half listened, to their conversation. All of which was reminiscing of the good old days, things were never as good again, more especially from the octogenarian how much this place had changed since his last visit, a lifetime ago.

It abruptly ended when a lady arrived and remonstrated with the Larkhill wanderer;

There you are, I’ve been sitting in the car for ages, I thought you’d gone there

One only has to guess why the lady, presumably Mrs Larkhill was in the car, or why Mr L had not joined her there. But all was well and they left out the very same door Charles Dickens would have entered close to two centuries ago en-route to Bath, when presumably like me he observed the goings on at this ancient pub and then put pen to paper.  My guess is should Charles Dickens have returned in 1947 (unlikely considering his demise in 1870, but stick with me) he too would have struck up a conversation bemoaning how much the place had changed since his last visit.

Time has that effect on life, and on the generations, and therefore time distorts.

There is an environmental discipline which has many names, such as baseline shift,  but the term generational amnesia is one that is growing in popularity. Origins of this recent idea are vague but in 1995 a marine biologist Daniel Pauly used the term ‘shifting baselines’. This attempts to define the way in which each generation develops a set point in time (a base line if you like) when they are accustomed to the way their countryside and environment looks and feels. This for that generation is the norm from which everything else is judged, what went before was possibly better (greater biodiversity in nature terms), everything which has happened since their developmental stage shows how much the environment has degraded over time. In other words time distant clouds exact knowledge and function in history. It was different back then.

Of course it was, time moves on.

This generational amnesia also applies to life in general. We all look back with fondness to our childhood and formative adult years. Experiences were new and exciting. That first tree climbed, our first kiss, the first car, first holiday without parents. All markers in the passage of time.  Inevitability in one’s lifetime.

I feel blessed myself that memories of my early years remain razor sharp, it’s only what I did this week that fails in my 51 year old brain.

The scent of wet grass, the bubbling sound the river coquet made over riverbed pebbles, my parents endless house parties, playing with friends in a disused market garden, my father in his art studio seeming always covered in glitter, mother always in the garden or talking to people as I wished to keep walking, glorious pre-school breakfasts on the beach, endless summer days and day trips in the car to the Lake District, Yorkshire or Scotland. Pleasurable events and should I suffer from generational amnesia then this was the norm. Life was always picnics, sunshine and happiness.

It wasn’t of course.  I remember the dull drudgery of November Sundays where boredom literally clawed at my soul. I can still remember one such afternoon, dark, cold and miserable and in the distance an ice cream van’s optimistic jingle attempted to lure people into the grey forbidding streets of the Colliery Village a few miles away (where we from our village never dared to go).  Village life as an only child could be excruciatingly tedious.  Mastering the ability to ride a bicycle alleviated some of this as I could travel far and wide, well at least as far as the coast 3 miles away to have an ice cream. 

Ninety six thousand one hundred miles and one tenth it read. A six digit confirmation of this rusting decayed artefact as it travelled through time.

Having arrived at the Museum I was eager to see the changes and I have to say astonishing improvements in the last 6 months. The Jefferies Museum in 2015 is definitely not one that has stood still recently; it has changed quite a bit, time has not stood still here. Dr Mike Pringle the Museum Curator and Hilda the Education Officer have worked tirelessly to rescue this fading gem, and as volunteers for little financial reward.

One of these changes is the arrival of a miniature railway to the back of the Museum. Swindon Borough Council is building this at their Coate Water Country Park, the boundary of which abuts the Museum grounds.  Negotiations are now complete and a station, or more correctly a halt, will be created at the Museum, allowing visitors to arrive by train. Something Mike is sure Richard Jefferies himself would have approved of.  The Museum is actually the farmhouse where he was born and where his formative years were spent. These formative years rooted Jefferies in a love of the pastoral countryside around this part of Wiltshire, something he wrote fondly of as an adult having moved away for work and living near London.

What marks Jefferies out from many countryside writers is that he did not dwell on the past as if in a golden hued aspic, he embraced change and lived very much in the time, that time being the expansion of Victorian engineering, quest for knowledge and societal development. He looked forward too, to a time he would never see, in such works as his 1885 novel After London an early example of "post-apocalyptic fiction": following an unspecified catastrophe, England is depopulated and the land reverts to nature. What few survivors remain, return to a quasi-medieval way of life. Many now say this is the time this may happen as we degrade the environment beyond its ability to recover.

Likewise the rusting speedometer I discovered in the Museum grounds had befallen an unspecified catastrophe and was slowly reverting to nature. It had been unearthed as part of the general clearing of the Museum area which over decades has become a dumping ground for all manner of detritus. And there it lay having travelled, within a vehicle of course, for 96100.1 miles.

I have absolutely no idea what car or vehicle this came from, this however is part of the history of time I love. Rusting and decayed, no longer able to work, yet this can inform us of so much of the passage of time, should we let our imagination run wild.

In a time not too distant past, a brand new vehicle would have rolled out of a garage showroom. Mileage 00001. The new owner excited at his or her gleaming purchase, maybe children excitedly in the back seats looking around in wonder at the shiny new seats and bright metalwork.  The adventure begins.

As in life, there would have been a honeymoon period. Everything was new and exciting, it all worked beautifully, it went on holiday, to picnics, to the workplace. As this mileometer travelled over hill or dale, what did it see I wonder? Gazed at continuously by its owner, a relationship and bond would have developed. It would have informed of the passage of time, 500 miles, 1000 miles, endlessly it’s numbers crept up as time after time it served the owner well.  I love this car.

Yet time took its toll. Eventually irritating hiccups developed into annoying breakdowns and in time the milometer became unloved, a reminder that age was increasingly making this vehicle unreliable.  At 96000 miles this car was a wreck, hiccup, was that the last breath, destined to become nothing but scrap. Its gleaming hedonistic days of 00001miles but a distant memory, a new generation of faster, more powerful vehicles now criss-crossed the roads.  I’d love one of these new cars, this pile of rust is not worth keeping any more.

Outdated and unloved at 96099 miles it still ran, but only just.  Barely connect to an engine and body it like a dying swan performed its last mile, the engine revs dropped, the wheels stopped moving and with a final click of the ignition key it stopped. Time had caught up with it and with the engine cooling silenced forever. It was a good innings 96100.1 miles.

The world never stands still.  Had the vehicle this belonged to survived battered but intact maybe in an old barn, a new generation would have discovered it and now it would be a much loved object again. Restored as a classic car, it would be paraded and feted with maybe children excitedly looking around in the back in wonderment at how something ‘so old’ could have such shiny and bright metalwork.

Dad this is a lovely old car, can we have a car like this?”

Not today son – but I remember my grandfather having one – ahh happy days going on summer picnics in the back, they just don’t make cars like they used to in the old days son, these were proper cars,  had such characters, wonderful memories, I wish he’d kept his, would be worth a fortune now

Tempest fugit forgets the oil leaks and dodgy breaks, handling of an ocean liner, thin tyres with no grip, headlamps with the candlepower of a firefly, wipers that never worked, no heaters, picnics in rain soaked cars, or the 0-60 speed of 2 hours!

You see, time changes everything quite a bit, for every generation.

Now where did I put my watch…

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

June and the Midsummer Solstice

For many the summer solstice is seen as a time to celebrate the arrival of the longest day.

Certainly as I arrived at Avebury Stone Circle in Wiltshire on the evening of June the 20th, I realised a lot of people wanted to celebrate the setting of the midsummer sun. Planning is everything and on that warm June evening, my planning had been what many would describe as, deplorable. After a dummy run for anywhere to park up and walk back to the stones, followed by another vain return route attempt to circumnavigate every blocked parking space or route we would normally use to visit Avebury, all attempts to celebrate with the thousands of people there were abandoned, we headed for the Pewsey Downs.

This was going to be a busy weekend and so it proved. Having woken in Somerset, we had a full morning planned to clip six, yes 6 box parterre of a client of Julie’s. In Wiltshire.

And not just a part of Wiltshire say near to Bath, but a part of Wiltshire less than a gnats crotchet from the Berkshire border; turn right before Hungerford, shimmy back and we’d be there. In fact very close to where Julie lived until a year ago.

Duly arriving at 10.30 am we set to. Shears flashing like egg whisks across the Buxus hedging we toiled for a goodly while. I found myself facing the man’s hedge, sizeable mushrooms of greenery and a hedge around a small patio, the steps to which were flanked with yew – also to be trimmed into submission. Julie meanwhile remained at the front shaping the 12 inch high parterre box hedging containing a cornucopia of mauves and pale pastel plants, literally dripping with buzzywussies.

Noises off alerted me to the grounds man who seeing me (for the first time) struggling with my shears suggested I use the strimmer. I’ll go and fetch it, returning in a few minutes later with a leviathan 24 inch petrol hedge trimmer. Man’s tools for man’s work I thought.

Man's tools for man's work!

After an hour wielding that beast over all of the garden, I felt more mouse than man. It did a splendid job but boy they are heavy – and noisy. Common sense, something I’m not entirely sure I have, would have suggested ear defenders and maybe a shoulder harness. But no, this man from the north strode on manfully sweating buckets, smoke billowing from the exhaust, all the while adding to Wiltshire composting mountain without a care in the world.

Julie has earlier booked us to have lunch with friends of hers at 2pm. These lovely people were once gardening clients, but now she is considered their 5th daughter as they looked after her when Julie was going through a rough patch a few years ago. This meant that at 1.30pm a portly gentleman could be seen stripping, less Poldark, more needing the dark to remove a box flagellated shirt for his pristine luncheon attire.

Crayfish salad pushed across the larynx it was time for a nap, and just 4pm. Overnight accommodation was at friends of Julie's who own an equestrian business with a B&B room. It seems odd staying just a mile from where Julie used to live, but it is lovely there. And now is a base to pootle about back in Wiltshire. A nap was had prostrate on the lawn listening to swallows and martins swooshing by.

Which brought me to being up on the Pewsey Downs to celebrate the Solstice. It is lovely up there. We walked up to Adams Grave Long Barrow, a steeply enjoyable climb to 262 m above level sea. And what a view, back down the vale of Pewsey and along the chalk ridge towards the Giants Grave above the hamlet of Oare to the east.

Knapp Hill from walk up to Adams Grave

Knapp Hill and the Vale of Pewsey

The wind was howling up here, with low clouds scudding across the sun and sky. Dramatic, brooding and just what we needed for the Solstice. A handful of people and being at one with nature. We were surrounded by skylark, some just singing while perched onto the grass, due to the wind. The wind up there dominated our time watching the sun set. I asked Julie to cup her hands round her ears and listen to the wind pulsating across the tall grass producing a sound like a rapier being flashed through the air. Slash, slash slash silence, slash, silence, whoosh, slash... It's a sound that will stay with me for a long time, man and the elements in an audible harmony.

Remembering the rapier grasses

View from Adam's Grave

Giant's Grave hill bathed in the last of the sunlight

All too soon we retraced our steps back down the hill, past the skylarks still singing and at the car park watched a mêlée of young bullocks being very frisky in the field. Perfect.

As the sun sets over the Pewsey Vale

Sunday; after waking at 4.20am to see the sun rise over the farm (and take a wobbly record shot to boot), we mosied back along the M4 to meet up with friends in Thornbury near Bristol. Another super luncheon was partaken of followed by a walk along the 'small' Avon river near Tortworth. I had been duped into visiting Tortworth with the promise of a strawberry cream tea. Plus our original plan was to haul ourselves up May Hill, an activity curtailed by one of the party injuring a foot the week before. 

Nonetheless, what I enjoyed was a lovely walk along a river, including a minor detour to visit the 800+ year old Tortworth chestnut, before for a few moments just being able to sit by the river and watch the world go by, marvel at the sunlight on the water, listen to the breeze through the trees, lose myself in the day and the year very slowly moving, taking hours to complete minutes, much like it used to do as a began exploring the natural world as a child, when a whole day seemed a lifetime in length.

A juvenile dipper piping up the river ended that weekend wonderfully, that and sitting watching a Vulcan bomber fly by almost to the minute of the Solstice at 5.30pm. These long June days are so special, we must embrace every moment we have to enjoy them, for soon the days will shorten, mists and mellow fruitfulness are knocking at the door. The Wheel of the Year that is so important to me.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

June 9th 2015 - Project month 6

I can't believe that I am 6 months into this year long photographic project. Yet as I type this at 10pm on June 9th I know it is a long way from January the 3rd and 4th when I started this. Then it was wet, cold and blustery. This weekend I took the June images - well to be strictly true I took 14 of the images on Friday June 5th and the remaining 3 images on Monday the 8th. In between this period I drove to and from the north east.

So as I watch a superb summers dusk developing, starling eggshell blue merging with salmon pink, merging with deep yellow and then the blue grey of the Welsh hills as a backdrop, I shall do a retrospective. In this posting I shall cover the first 6 images, one from January and one from June. After all this is meant to be a project illustrating the passing seasons and therefore unless I scroll back and forth its hard to get an idea of how much everything has changed in 6 months. So here goes.......

Image 1 - the Village and church of Wick St Lawrence : In a way not much has changed, other than the vegetation has increased. But in a way that is a village scene. The wheelie bins and post van were in situ when I arrived and as its a rule to photograph what I see on arrival, they remain in the shot.

Image 2 : The field in Wick St Lawrence : Well I can safely say the field is a lot drier now than it was in January, the grass has grown and there is a sheep water tank in the field now. Quite a bit of work has gone on in this field this year, so I'm hoping next time I come here there will be sheep.


Image 3 : The River at the bridge. Big changes here as one would expect. I love seeing this view develop over time. In January I stood on the bridge freezing, yet on Friday it was hot, sunny, two chiffchaff sang in the tree and various insects buzzed me - summer in North Somerset.

Image 4 : Puxton Church. As I'd expect really the church doesn't change, but it looks different. Hot sun backing its ancient stones. The sodden grass of the winter now form to walk on (and dug up by badgers) and of course, shadows.

Image 5 : The road to Banwell : Again I'm not expecting great changes here but they are there. In winter this area felt remote and free of population. Visiting on Friday many cars and cyclists passed by. We think an are remains timeless, when in fact its on a roller coaster of change. Each day different.
Image 6 : The orchard : I should call this Paul's orchard now I know its owners name. Huge changes here. In January this felt neglected, lost in a dark forbidding landscape. In June the sheep have arrived as he said they would and lay contentedly under an apple tree as I arrived. I had to approach carefully otherwise they were in a mood to scamper off - maybe a good thing it was a hot June day, they just wanted to remain in the shade.

That's the first six posted. I'll post another six in a week or so.