Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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Death of a maiden

Holly Cross church Illam, Staffordshire,  there has been  church here for a long, long time

Ilam was not recorded in the Domesday Book, though there was without doubt a church and settlement here at that time. The earliest written record comes from 1004 when King Aethelred confirmed the gift of Ilam to Burton Abbey in the will of a lord named Wulfric.

It’s a church in need of a little TLC, but then most are, but it had a smell, a little more on the side of decay than just old and dusty. There were several things to intrigue the curious ( with a fair wind, I can probably spin it out to three blog posts).

Now what are these, hung in the arch?

Illam church

It was tricky to get a good look, and we could see no information (even when we had found the light switch, which we were invited to use so long as we turned them off when we left). Clusters of paper flowers and a glove? I’ve never seen anything like them before in a church.

Illam church Maiden Garland Crants

Later I turned to the Internet for answers.  I discovered they are maidens’ garlands or crantses, they were made for the funerals of young women,

a special garland for the funeral of a young, unmarried girl; i.e. for one who had died chaste. These “maidens’ garlands”, also known as crantses, from a Dutch word meaning a crown or chaplet, were originally a simple circle of flowers placed on the head of a deceased maid to symbolise her purity. They were perhaps an echo of the bridal crowns which are still to this day held symbolically over the heads of a couple during the wedding service in the Eastern Orthodox church.

The earliest surviving crantses, that can be dated, was made in 1747  

I may have to and see if I can find some more, when I’m on my travels, there is a full history here

A poem by Anna Seward, 1742-1809

‘The gloves suspended by the garland’s side,
White as snowy flowers with ribbon tied,
Dear village! long these wreaths funereal spread,
Simple memorials of the early dead.’

Illam church Maiden Garland_

And now I find Anna Seward was involved with the Lunar Society and that her friend was married to Richard Edgeworth.  It was a small world then?

You have to wonder how on earth any Crantese have survived,  now I’m off on the history of paper making in the UK, would they be paper or vellum? I might be gone for hours, I love how blogging does that.

There were two major developments at about the middle of the eighteenth century in the paper industry in the UK. The first was the introduction of the rag-engine or hollander, invented in Holland sometime before 1670, which replaced the stamping mills which had previously been used for the disintegration of the rags and beating of the pulp. The second was in the design and construction of the mould used for forming the sheet. Early moulds had straight wires sewn down on to the wooden foundation, this produced an irregular surface showing the characteristic laid marks, and, when printed on, the ink did not give clear, sharp lines. Baskerville, a Birmingham printer, wanted a smoother paper. James Whatman the Elder developed a woven wire fabric, thus leading to his production of the first wove paper in 1757.

Illam church Maiden Garland Crants 2

Mr Uphilldowndale observed that the  untimely death of two maidens, didn’t seem very many, considering how short life expectancy was back then! (Maybe he’d been looking at the Mills and Boon books at the back of the church.)

Mills and Boon_

Many garlands have passed.

For all their fragility, many garlands would have survived but for being discarded during church restorations or simply removed, as at Hope, where in 1749/50 churchwardens were paid one shilling and sixpence for ‘removing ye Garlands to make ye Church lighter’.

If there were enough to keep the light out of the church, that was a lot of maidens.

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At a crossroad

I’m still here, not that you would think so, from the lack of posts.

I’ve been busy putting a project to bed, its nearly done now, I’ve only a couple of days work left to do. What next, I don’t know,  I suppose you could say I’m at a small career crossroad .

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This extravagance of signage for a modest little junction, is at Wetton Mill in the Manifold Valley


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Downy nest down

Spud the dog and I found a nest today, a crushed cornucopia, a squashed tricorn hat, with an extravagant plume of horse hair. Mosses, lichens, feathers and webs, felted into a snug bivi bag of a home.

nest

The fact we found iton the ground suggest its not a story with a happy ending.

nest 2

We found it under the apple tree, near the conifer. I think its the nest of long tailed tits, one of my favourite birds. I’m guessing a magpie had something to do with its demise

nest down


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Inside Eden

We decided on balance, we’d rather be warm and wet than cold and wet, so we didn’t linger outside in the grounds of The Eden Project, we went in to the rainforest biome,

Eden weather

It took a while for my lens to clear and even then, it was hard to capture the scale, I’ll settle for  telling you it is massive.

The Rainforest Biome covers about 16,000m² and is 50m high – you could fit the Tower of London inside it! The structure weighs 465 tonnes and contains 426 tonnes of air (dry air at standard temperature and pressure).

You can walk along  the canopy walkway, taking you high amongst the tree tops.

Eden mist

Beautiful orchids amongst the lush foliage.

Eden orchid

This reminded Mr Uphilldowndale and I of our visit to Borneo, many many moons ago, we were privileged to stay in a tribal longhouse;  I wonder, and worry if that part of the world still has it’s rainforest.

 

Eden long house

We ambled around in and amongst a party of lovely school children from Gordano school, who were having a ball.

eden school girls_

Their teachers told us The Eden Project has exceptional educational materials for the kids to use. We waited our turn to go up, right to the very top with them, Mr Uphilldowndale was not keen about the height,

Eden sky walk 2

But he was determined, he stayed in the centre of the platform, whilst I had a peek over the side, it was a long way down,

Eden sky walk 3

In this shot you can see the next batch of children patiently waiting to come up (not the place for overcrowding!)

Eden sky walk

The platform and the steps are suspended from the roof by wire ropes, so the steps sway a little, nothing  too dramatic, but enough to slow down even a teenager!

eden school boy

A magical place.

Eden flower

 


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Outside Eden

So you’ve discovered, reclaimed and restored the lost gardens of Heligan, what do you do for an encore, what is the next great quest? How about building the worlds largest green houses in a china clay quarry, in the heart of Cornwall? That is what Tim Smit and friends did next. The Eden Project, this is what they started with.

Image result for eden quarry image devon

And how it looks today

Eden Project, St Austell, Cornwall

I’ve visited before, way back in 2009, Mr Uphilldowndale had not, I was very keen to show it  to him, it’s grown a lot.

Eden domes_

As with nature the Eden Project is constantly morphing and changing,  and as with Heligan it has a delightful dash of creativity, with added playfulness.

Eden mirror.jpg

It’s an educational charity.

Eden Ext

Part of the vision for the Eden Project was that the domes should remain hidden in the depths of the quarry, revealing themselves as you approach. As we approached, the main entrance, revealed to us on the information boards, photos of Mr Uphilldowndale’s  late aunt and uncle, they are in the foreground, the photo captures them perfectly, with their bright enquiring minds and love of lively conversation.  Sadly, they are no longer with us, they died in 2009 and  2011, they lived not to far away in South Devon and were early visitors to Eden, the public were encouraged to visit, before it was even finished, to engage with the dream and watch the project grow.

Eden info board.jpg

It is fascinating to see how the lunar landscape of the quarry has been brought back to life since 2000,  it was a millennium project. Especially how they solved the engineering challenges, I think we’ll have to bring Joe along next time we visit.

 


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The lost gardens of Heligan

If you garden you soon come to realise that you are trying to keep control of a force far greater than you, or any number of gardeners, turn your back on your plot and it will revert to a path of its own. Nature will reclaim.

In the benign climate of Cornwall the gardens of Heligan, went there own way, like so many gardens of the ‘big house’ after WWI, when the carnage of  war wiped out a generation of men, who worked the pleasure grounds and productive gardens.  Heligan house was sold, but the land was not. This has resulted in a time capsule.

Heligan tree ferns

Heligan, seat of the Tremayne family for more than 400 years, is one of the most mysterious and romantic estates in England. A genuine secret garden, it was lost for decades; its history consigned to overgrowth.

Heligan jungle

Hop on over to the website for the story of how this magical place was rediscovered, or better still read Tim Smit’s book, I really enjoyed it, Smit, Rob Poole and John Nelson’s drive and determination to restore the gardens was  both epic and obsessive! You can only start to imagine how overgrown it must have been.

Rhode Heligan

We were there before the crowds, Spud the dog was welcome on a lead, we headed down into the jungle. Full of tree ferns, palms and tropical plants, gathered with such vigour by the Victorian plant hunters;  we swung by the Burmese rope bridge. Spud wasn’t allowed on here ( and we know just how much a dogs leg can cost to repair). Spud had to sit on the bank and admire his masters aura, from afar.

Heligan Aura

Cornwall’s gardens are famed for their camellia and azalea.

Camelia Heligan

There were beautiful woodland walks,  listen to the birdsong

Heligan primrose

As well as the time capsule of the old, their was the new, with sculpture and art, you can’t keep a good plant down.

Heligan Head

My favourite part was the productive gardens,  there you can really get a feel for the people who worked here. I just love the anemones in this image, got to be one of my favourite flowers.

Heligan Anemone Glass house 2

But it wasn’t just fruit veg and flowers,  these are bee boles

Bee Boles_

I had plant pot envy.

Heligan plantpots

The head gardeners bothy

Heligan Head Gardners office

The curved shadow are from the distinctively shaped panes of glass

Heligan Glass house

The magnificent pineapple frames, heated by horse muck.

Pineapple frame Heligan

Rare, exotic and hard to grow, Pineapples were a symbol of great status and wealth in Victorian times. A pineapple on your dining table meant you were a person of discernment, style and affluence.

We believe that we have the only working, manure-heated pineapple pit in Britain today. It was unearthed in 1991 and architectural and horticultural historians spent many months researching the history of its construction and technology. The first structure here was probably built in the eighteenth century.

I loved this green house, its light, warmth and scent, and because it reminded me of the painting by Eric Ravilious

Geranium Heligan_

The poignancy of the effects of WWI on the Heligan gardens if perhaps best capture, by the Thunderbox room (the toilet) written on its white washed walls ‘Do not come here to sleep or slumber’ and a list of signatures and a date 1914.

Thunderbox room Heligan

When the guns fell silent so did the gardens.

Heligan leaves and flowers

Take a tour of the lost gardens of Heligan

 


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Seasonal variations

My the weather is a little lively this afternoon!

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Thunder, lightning, hail and a little sunshine.

It strikes me I  still have a whole holidays worth of photographs awaiting blogging, from our week in Cornwall,  back in March. If I don’t get a wiggle on, I’ll think they are to ‘unseasonal’ to post.  I’d best get cracking.