Friday, 30 May 2008
Sunday, 25 May 2008
Thursday, 22 May 2008
A massive sarsen stone similar in size to those at Avebury
This little meadow alight with golden buttercups will probably disappear in the near future. On the edge of another housing development it will almost certainly swallowed up as 'real estate'. So here it is on record in all its unsung beauty. Buttercups are apparently poisonous, I didn't know this until I was researching ragwort - buttercups should be avoided by cattle are are sometimes known to country people as crazy as they were believed to cause madness. Another example of the duality of nature. They still, however, give so much simple pleasure to gaze upon.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Sunday, 18 May 2008
It has been described by some as the most beautiful book in the world. For many years it was believed to have been written by angels. This belief was asserted by Welsh historian Giraldus Cambrensis in the late twelfth century. This assertion was due to the extraordinary detail that the book entails. For example, one, quarter-inch illustration was examined under extreme magnification and found to contain 158 interlacements, ten rare and expensive colors (current printing schemes only use four) and no errors. Modern draughtsmen have attempted to replicate the artwork in the Book of Kells and have abandoned the task as hopeless. (ref: Ian Hackman)
The origin of the Book of Kells is debated, but there is strong evidence that the original work began in the Iona Monastery in Scotland by the Irish under the commission of St. Columba and it is estimated that it took no less that thirty years to complete.
I have only visited Dublin once and on that occasion I wasn't able to get to Trinity College, in fact at that time I didn't know about the Book of Kells. Since then I have been to Iona and learnt about the Culdees and their links to the Druids. The Book of Kells is on my 'visit in the near future list' along with Lindisfarne and ..... probably another visit to Iona, a difficult place to get to as an island off an island (Mull) but well worth the effort.
Saturday, 17 May 2008
Queen Victoria was seen wearing mauve at her daughter's wedding in 1858, mauve also became the colour sensation that women of taste had to be seen wearing in England.
"On a dry summer night, when there was no dew, I used to lie on back at full length (looking to the east), on the grass footpath by the orchard, and gaze up into the sky. This is the only way to get at it and feel the stars: while you stand upright, the eye, and through the eye, the mind, is biased by the usual aspect of things: the house there ; the trees yonder; it is difficult to forget the mere appearance of rising and setting. Looking straight up like this, from the path of to the stars, it was clear and evident that I was really riding among them; they were not above, nor all around, but I was in the midst of them. There was no underneath, no above: everything was level with me; the sense of measurement and distance disappeared."
From "The Old House at Coate" Chapter 2: The Seasons and the Stars - by Richard Jefferies
Richard Jefferies was born at Coate Farm near Swindon on November 6th 1848. He lived there for the first 29 years of his life, studying, writing and working for the local newspaper. His writing was prolific. He wrote a very personal account about his love the Wiltshire countryside and the joys of nature in The Story of My Heart.
(Died on 14th August 1887 at the aged of 38 and is buried in Broadwater Cemetery, Worthing).
The Old House at Coate still exists on the corner of Dayhouse Lane by Coate Water Country Park in Swindon and is now the Richard Jefferies Museum.
The house and garden are maintained by a small dedicated group of volunteers and open to the public on the first and third Sunday during summer months.
Friday, 16 May 2008
However, duality is inherent in all things, including Nature. Life is one side of decay, light cannot exist without dark, night gives way to day. So it is in the hidden world of plant life. Nettles are 'beaten back' or cut down even though, in spite of their sting they have numerous beneficial qualities as a herb.
Wild flowers on the other hand, can be deadly. On a beautiful warm May day earlier in this week I spotted this seemingly inoffensive bright yellow plant shining in the sunlight - it turned out to be ragwort which I later discovered causes slow and painful death to horses if they eat it. There are in fact many, many plants that are poisonous to horses, other animals and even humans. Here are a few examples:- bracken, black bryony, buttercup, cowbane, foxglove, laburnum, yew, heliotrope, rhododendron, to name just a few. Some of the brightest flowers are also the most poisonous; though plants like ragwort also have curative properties and it has been used in the past by herbalists for healing wounds and as a mouth wash for sore throats. Plus it is sometimes used to produce a yellow dye.
Thank you to SteveM for the information about the toxic effects of ragwort if eaten by horses and also advising that under the 1959 Weed Act, which classifies ragwort as injurious, local authorities and highway agencies have an obligation to remove this plant before it 'seeds'.
Monday, 12 May 2008
An under-rated herb, the young shoots can be boiled and eaten much as spinach is. Nettles are much valued by herbalists and an infusion it is used to treat a variety of complaints, also as a tonic to enrich and cleanse the blood.
Because of their sting, nettles have a natural defence against grazing animals, making them ideal habitat for insects. They apparently support over 40 different species, including many colourful butterflies.
Nettles have been used to provide green dye and are sometimes associated with spring both in folk practices and in some Christian cultures (ref: Paul Beyerl in his compendium of Herbal Magick). He goes on to say that in some parts of Russia, it is the custom to use nettles as one of the dyes to stain eggs on Maundy Thursday in preparation for Easter Sunday.
Saturday, 10 May 2008
Friday, 9 May 2008
She was married for 58 years, to the same man who she met during the war and waited for even after receiving telegrams saying he was 'missing in action' - he was in fact taken prisoner of war. He too was a very special person named Samuel - they were devoted to each other until he died in 2000. She misses him every day.
Raise your glass to Eileen, a silver lady.
Thursday, 8 May 2008
The birch is the first tree in the Ogham cycle (an ancient 'alphabet') and was known in Celtic as Beth. It corresponds with the sun moving through Capricorn and is the tree of inception and driving out evil spirits.
Coleridge called the birch the "Lady of the Woods".
It may indeed be phantasy, when I
Essay to draw from all created things
Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings;
And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie
Lessons of love and ernest piety,
So let it be; and if the wide world rings
In mock of this belief, it brings
Nor fear, nor grief, nor vain perplexity.
So I will build my alter in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flowers yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to Thee,
Thee only God! and thou shalt not despise
Even me, the priest of this poor sacrifice.
A poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 - 1834)
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
April and the cast of spring flowers prepare the way for May
Feathers that fall from wings of sleep
Bearing the kisses of clouds and sky
To hush the world with lullaby.
Sunday, 4 May 2008
A fine and subtle spirit dwells
Thursday, 1 May 2008
The Winterbourne at the start of a hail storm
Silbury Hill, peace at last - the conservation project officially completed today
Waden Hill - meadow land (dandelions)