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.