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Posts Tagged ‘wildflowers’

At every turn along the winding, narrow roads across the moors of Southern Cornwall in June, there were wildflowers in abundance.  Sometimes, they grew so prolifically that they swept along each side of the car as we passed by.

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P1150443 © JT of jtdytravels

With little traffic, we were able to stop often and enjoy their rain drenched beauty.

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P1150445 © JT of jtdytravels

The effect of raindrops on foxgloves, Digitalis purpurea, is just stunning.

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P1060370 © DY of jtdytravels

Spring had come late to Cornwall, so bluebells were still in flower.  These native bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, are often seen in Spring in the UK in woodlands, hedges and other shady places.  These are not the same as the blue bells grown in gardens, Spanish bluebells, Hyacinthoides hispanica, although those can be found in the countryside when careless people dump them.

The easiest way to tell the difference between native and non-native bluebells, I’m reliably informed by the Natural History Museum in London,  is to look at the colour of the pollen.  “If it is creamy white then the bluebell is a native.  If it is any other colour, such as pale green or blue, then it is definitely not native.”

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P1060372 © DY of jtdytravels

Buttercups were everywhere bringing a touch of sunshine even on dull days.

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P1150451 © JT of jtdytravels

The most common of all roadside flowers are the fluffy white heads of cow-parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris.  This member of the umbelifferous carrot family is also known as Wild Chervil, Wild Beaked Parsley and Queen Anne’s Lace.

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P1150361 © JT of jtdytravels

Our wanderings brought us back out to the coast road at the tiny village of Zennor, on the coast not far north of Levant mine.   Here we found an excellent place for lunch; a back packer’s hostel with freshly made food.  Next door is the Wayside Museum; a very good, small, family run museum that has over 5,000 artefacts dating from the Bronze Age to the 1950s.  Items are well displayed with good descriptions to help the visitor understand something of life over the centuries along this southern Cornish Coast.

The museum contains Trewey Mill, restored and working again after 150 years of neglect.  On certain days of the year this Corn Mill still grinds wheat and oats  – not, unfortunately, on the day we were there.  In UK wheat is known as corn and that can be somewhat confusing to those of us from Australia.  If you remember poetry and prose from your school days about waving corn… think wheat!  And those corn dollies were made of wheat or oats.  Before the advent of the corn mill, meal was ground from grain using these querns (above).  Hard work for small results but then not too many people could afford great quantities of grain.

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P1150399 © JT of jtdytravels

The museum is housed in the buildings of a 16th Century Miller’s cottage.  People were much shorter in stature in those days judging by this door.  It was indeed low!

The single storey house with a thatched roof, was built in 1513, in the reign of King Henry VIII.  It housed the family who worked the mill which at that time was a ‘fulling mill’ for making cloth.  When the mill changed to grinding flour is not known but two of the old grinding stones have been used in the floor of the kitchen (just inside this door).  These stones went past their use by date as mill stones but found a new use as flooring.  They have been part of this floor for over 200 years and show barely a sign of wear.  Modern flooring doesn’t last quite so long.

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P1150409 © JT of jtdytravels

Grinding the flour was only the first part of the task of making the daily bread or pasties.   Most of the miners and poorer people’s houses would have had a ‘cloan’ or ‘cloam’ oven for baking.  (Spelling was not a high priority.)  Made of earthenware, these were portable ovens.  They were used from the early 1600s and were still being made in Cornwall in1937.  (David wants one!)

Dried furze or gorse, of which there’s an abundant supply on the moors, was put into the oven and lit.  When white hot, the furze would be pulled out – carefully one would hope.  Maybe the stone floor was an advantage!  The food to be baked was placed in the oven, a door placed in front and the cooking process occurred using latent heat.  I grew up learning to cook on a wood fuel stove so I knew something of the vagaries of this method of cooking.

Now, when cooking in a cloam oven, it was quite likely that the bread would burn on the bottom.  A file or rasp was used to grate off the blackened bits.  When serving bread, it was always polite to give the top piece to those socially ‘above you’ and from that we get the English expression, “Upper Crust”.  The bottom piece, with the blackened bits filed off, would be given to your own family.  And, I suspect from my reading that, within the family, the upper crust usually went to the husband with the bottom bits to the children and wife.  There were, and always are, hierarchies in any society.

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P1150364 © JT of jtdytravels

One of the items in this museum that fascinated and horrified me was this man trap.  These were used by land owners in the 18th and 19th centuries to discourage poachers.  The penalty for being caught in one of these was not just a very sore leg.  The culprit would be deported to the colonies, usually for life, or sentenced to death by hanging, and that was usually an event for witnessed by large local crowds.  It was quite an event.

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P1150391  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1150391 © JT of jtdytravels

Others went to the colony of Australia more willingly, lured by the prospect of free passage and work when they got there.  We came across many such posters in small museums in Cornwall.  Transportation to Australia of so many young men to the colonies had left several ‘holes’ in the demographics of those developing communities. They were short of marriageable single women, skilled young workers and families who would add a sense of community to the growing colonies.  A great many Australians have forbears who answered this call to emigrate, not just from Cornwall but from other parts of England, Scotland and Ireland; many of David’s family among them.  Poor living conditions in the UK at that time were the ‘push factor’ for emigration and posters like these provided a very strong ‘pull factor’.  No one readily leaves their home, their family and their country forever without both of these factors being strong.

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P1160310 © JT of jtdytravels com

And when people did emigrate, it was usually for life.  Their only contact with families was by post and those letters often took months to be delivered.  When it was time to leave the museum, we drove on across the moors along narrow roads that were once just tracks walked by the postmen and women of the moors who brought just such letters and parcels in all weathers and all seasons to the isolated hamlets and farms of the moors.

From notes at the museum we learned that some of these people were easy going, like Postman Bryant, who would stop for a cup of tea and a chat in various houses and even visit the pub on the way.  He would, no doubt, relay the gossip and the news that had come from across the other side of the world.  Others, like Postman Renowden, was a crotchety old thing nicknamed Mr Grumps.  He waited for no-one.  He was often helped by Willy Spry, a very small chap with a peaked cap and turned out feet.  Willy was always tied to a lead and led along by Mr Grumps so that he would not lag behind!

But it wasn’t just men who carried the post.  There are many stories of post women like Old Mrs Kitty White, Mrs Whelan and Annie Christopher, the latter a ‘grand old soul’ and a great story teller who wore long black skirts and hob nailed boots to walk many miles a day with the post.

It’s the stories of individuals like these who make the history of any place come to life.  We were very thankful that some of the stories of the Cornish coast have been recorded before they are lost forever.

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P1150446 © Jt of jtdytravels

Today, not many people walk these roads, still fewer ride horses or drive pony traps.  It’s cars, vans and sometimes trucks that drive across these moorland roads now and they were never really meant for vehicles.  Driving here becomes even more challenging when the hedges become higher.  Wondering what might be coming around the corners can be fun.  We even met the local garbage truck on one of these roads.  Lots of backing up!  But everyone is patient and considerate and it’s never a real problem.  And eventually you do come out onto a wider road that leads to a town.  From here, we turned east to visit coastal towns on the other side of the southern Cornish peninsular; Penzance, Newlyn and the improbably named Mousehole – places where some of David’s forbears had also lived.

More of that anon

Jennie and David

Photography copyright ©  JT and DY  of jtdytravels

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Today we are in ‘The Burren’, just south of Galway in western Eire.

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The Burren is one of the most fascinating parts of Ireland. It’s a huge limestone plateau of shattered rocks where many rare plants and flowers grow. It may look like a barren and stony wasteland in places, but if you take the time to stop and explore like we have been able to do, it’s a place of  fascinating geology, a paradise for looking for wildflowers like the ones below. I haven’t named them all properly yet but will do so when I get home again.

Harebell

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A meadow orchid

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Road through the Burren

It’s amazing how quickly you move between areas of the burren plateau to farm land that has been wrested from the rocks. The roads are narrow, windy and very uneven – to meet a bus on this road is a bit of an adventure !

A Burren platform of rocks

There are several areas of burren rock to explore – carefully – as it is very uneven.

A tiny rock garden

And tiny bit of soil between the rocks is likely to become a small natural rock garden.

Fissure – or grykes – in the rocks.

These platforms of rocks are split in many ways into grykes, making walking across them a little tricky.

A tiny garden like this in a fissure makes the exploring worthwhile.

Poulnabrone Portal Tomb on the Burren

This tomb was built 150 meters above sea level over 5,00o years ago !

The remains of more than 30 people have been found on and around this site on the Burren.

Fences in this area are made of the most available product – rocks!.

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A wide view across the Burren Plateau.

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Rock Garden

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Early Purple Orchid

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Herb Robert growing in a crevice in the rocks.

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Ferns

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Moss in a damper crevice

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Growing by the side of the car park.

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Bright face of a buttercup

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Thistle

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This section of the plateau shows how the rocks split over time.

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As the rocks recede into the distance they take on a purple hue.

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We are thoroughly enjoying exploring this fascinating part of Ireland.

J and A

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The second group of Viking Islands that we visited were the Orkneys, which on a clear day can be seen from the northern tip of Scotland.  As we flew over these islands, they appeared even greener than the Shetlands.

Leaving the Shetlands behind (P1000476 © DY of jtdytravels)

The Orkneys consist of about 70 islands of which 20 are inhabited.  The total population is 20,100.  The islands are not hilly, the highest point, Ward Hill, is only 481 metres high. However, the coastline is often rugged and these rugged cliffs provide a wonderful habit for sea birds to nest and roost.

The islands are generally treeless. That’s really nothing new as deliberate deforestation took place prior to the Neolithic period, about 4,000 BC in this part of the world.

Although The Orkneys are located 59°N, the climate is temperate with an average winter temperature of 4°C and an average of 12°C in summer.  However, this does not take into account the wind chill factor, there often being strong gales in the area.  As with the Shetlands, the islands are often shrouded in fog during the summer months.

Hunter-gather communities existed on the islands by about 3,900 BC.  These early inhabitants left behind chambered tombs, standing stones and stone circles. One we visited was Maeshowe, a burial mound that can only be visited with a guide.  Our guide turned up exactly on time but he looked very glum and disinterested.  This was another case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. He turned out to have a wicked sense of humour as he delivered his spiel.

Maeshowe (P1000488 © DY of jtdytravels)

There’s not a lot to photograph at Maeshowe but its story was interesting. It’s one of the largest tombs in Orkney and is thought to have been constructed around 2,800 BC .  The mound is 7.3m high and 35m in diameter.  There is a 14m wide ditch surrounding the mound.  Under the grass mound is a complex of passages and chambers built out of flagstones weighing up to 30 tons.  The entrance passage is 11m long and is aligned so that the sun, at the winter solstice, shines on the back wall of the central chamber.  This tunnel is only 90cm high which requires visitors to virtually crawl on all fours to get to the central chamber.  The chamber is roughly 4.6m square and currently is 3.8m high although it is thought it could have originally been 4.6m high or even more.  It has a corbelled roof.

Excavations at Skara Brae  (P1000518 © DY of jtdytravels)

Next on our list of ancient piles of stones to be visited was Skara Brae, an early settlement of the cluster type.  This was really a very significant pile of stones.  It was uncovered by a fierce storm in 1850.  The old village had been preserved under the coastal sand dunes for 5000 years.  The homes that were uncovered contained furnished rooms with stone beds and dressers.  Skara Brae has been inscribed on the World Heritage List of the World Cultural and National Heritage Convention because of its exceptional universal value.  Skara Brae is northern Europe’s best preserved Neolithic village.

Skara Brae (P1000520 © DY of jtdytravels)

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The Standing Stones of Stenness (P1000506 © DY of jtdytravels)

Standing Stones of Stenness are not far from Skara Brae.  Originally, there were 12 stones laid out in an ellipse with a diameter of about 32m.  The stones are approximately 300mm thick and stand up to about 5m in height.  A couple have been destroyed by lightning strikes and a farmer, in December 1814, decided to remove the stones altogether as people were trespassing on his land to get to them.  After toppling a couple of the stones, public outrage prevented him from further damaging the stones.  The site is thought to date from at least 3000 BC.

The Standing Stones of Stenness (P1000508 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Crops almost ready for harvest (P1000497 © DY of jtdytravels)

While out exploring, we saw many, many fields of flourishing crops, many of them just on the point of harvest.

Lush green pastures fed healthy cattle (P1000496 © DY of jtdytravels)

These crops are all used ‘on the farm’ to feed animals during the winter months.  What a waste – perhaps all this output should be going to feed those who go to bed hungry each night rather than feeding animals for the tables of the rich!  And, what about all the corn and sugar cane being grown in other parts of the world to produce fuel for our hungry motor vehicles?  Don’t get me started!

As to other Orkney income earners – fishing has declined in recent times with the industry now concentrating on herring, lobsters, crabs and other shellfish and the farming of salmon.  Whisky, beer, beef, and cheese now feature in the islands exports.  Of growing importance is the development of wind and marine energy resources.

Birds-foot Trefoil [Lotus corniculatus] (P1000493 © DY of jtdytravels)

Whilst walking around the standing stones etc. there was plenty of opportunity to see and photograph wild flowers (and weeds!) growing in the surrounding meadows.

Dandelions add colour to the pasture (P1000501 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Heather [Colluna vulgaris] (P1000503 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Phacelia tanacetifolia (P1000509 © DY of jtdytravels)

Indigenous to NW America – a naturalised weed of meadows

A thistle provides food for this fly (P1000510 © DY of jtdytravels)

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A white thistle (P1000512 © DY of jtdytravels)

I liked what I saw of The Orkneys. Another day of exploring here was still to come.   D

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