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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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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Time machine

Having seen astronaut Tim Peak’s landing craft, we thought we’d see if we there were any tickets available to see the exhibition of 12 Leonardo da Vinci drawings that was also showing. at the National Museum Cardiff,  ‘Yes’ they said, ‘two tickets available right now, come on in.’

144 of Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection are displayed in 12 simultaneous exhibitions across the UK to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing features 12 drawings at each venue, all selected to reflect the full range of Leonardo’s interests – painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.

LD 12

I was surprised we were allowed to take photographs, but we were, so long as there was no flash used. Fumbling around with my phone to take a snap or two to upload to social media, I had a bit of a moment where I realised the phone was about to flash! I quickly bundled into the folds of my fleece, for fear of  a 500 year old de Vinci disappearing like invisible ink, in front of my eyes! (The Banksy incident was running through my mind).

LD 11

Was there anything he couldn’t draw or imagine?

DV8

Great feats of engineering and soft romantic portraits

DV5

The anatomical drawings are incredible.

DV3

Not only in terms of the observation,

DV1

but he clearly had a rich understanding of how the body works, which seems a head of its time, as the information  screen explained.

DV4

Leonardo da Vinci, wrote in backwards, ‘mirror writing’ as to why the jury seems to be out, but as a left handed dyslexic, who was made to write with ink  at primary school, yes a ‘dip pen’  it was 1968 not 1508! But I can remember the mess I made, so I can understand why he wrote the way he did, but not how!

And now I’m seeing the teacher responsible for insisting on me writing in pen and ink in this drawing, you get the picture?

Da Vinci 12

Afterwards we found our way to the coffee shop, to reflect that we had just been transported, from Tim Peake’s space travel, to five hundred years ago, when the polymath that was Leonardo da Vinci was sketching something remarkably like a helicopter all under one roof. Amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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You have reached your destination

We meandered our way through Shropshire, and the South Wales coalfields, to reach Cardiff, our boy Joe has been working in Cardiff on his industry placement year, what a cracking time he’s been having (he’s studying civil engineering at Swansea University). There is a very handy campsite, near the city centre, (book it is you can it is fully booked more often than not) this allowed us to catch up (and feed, what student doesn’t want mum and dad to turn up and take them out for dinner?) with Joe in the evenings and we got to have a good mooch around the city, with Spud the dog, close at hand.

We were on the doorstop of The Museum of Wales, at opening time, along with a large number of school parties, but we were swift of foot, and savvy to getting ahead of school parties, before teacher could raise their clipboard, we were off and in, to see astronaut Tim Peake’s *landing capsule, which has been touring the UK, it’s got a bit of a Sutton Hoo look about it, in the background, the parachute with which it drifted down to earth or came down with a bump, depending whose story you believe.

Tim Peake 8

It was very well lit, so you could see inside, not much room to swing a cat…

Tim 1_

it looks kind of basic doesn’t it, compared to the smart phone or tablet you might be reading this blog on?

Tim Peake 4

We were comforted to see, that if all else fails, there is a ring bider or two you can refer to for instructions what to do next.

Tim Peake 5

Not sure how you recharge it though.

Tim Peake 2

It looks like it took a bit of a knock, I’m sure a bit of body filler or gaffer tape would sort it though, no harm done.

Tim Peake 3

https://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2016/06/Soyuz_TMA-19M_landing

*Tim Peak is a bit of a hero in our books, not only for what he did in space, but with what he continues to do educating  and encouraging young people into studying  STEM  sciences and with his involvement of  The Scout Association

 

 


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Dig Deep

I want to go to Big Pit, said Mr Uphilldowndale, after we’d been wallowing in the history of the industrial revolution in Ironbridge. ‘That sounds interesting’ I said, ‘but I’m not going down it.’ For decades Mr Uphilldowndale has been regaling me with his description of what it was like, back in the very early 1980’s, when he went down to the  48 inch thick coal face of Emley Moor colliery and there was no way I was going to be wriggling around 300 feet underground. Far to claustrophobic for my liking.

So we  headed south into Wales and rolled up at Big Pitt,

Big Pit National Coal Museum (Welsh: Pwll Mawr Amgueddfa Lofaol Cymru) is an industrial heritage museum in Blaenavon, Torfaen, South Wales. A working coal mine from 1880 to 1980, it was opened to the public in 1983 under the auspices of the National Museum of Wales. The site is dedicated to operational preservation of the Welsh heritage of coal mining, which took place during the Industrial revolution.

big pitt

Mr UHDD went to check the lie of the land and came back to tell me that I wouldn’t have to crawl around I could stand up throughout our tour, that admission was free (I had been feeding the dogs) and that we were going down the pit now, as they were expecting 70 school children to arrive in twenty minutes time. So cajoled by added headroom and propelled by the thought of not wanting to be caught up amongst 70 children in a confined space we were on our way down Big Pit.

No photos allowed I’m afraid, cameras, phones, digital watches are all contrabrand

The mine is covered by HM Inspectorate of Mines regulations, because it is still classed as a working pit.[4] Visitors wear a plastic hard hat, safety lamp, and a battery on a waist belt which weighs 5 kilograms (11 lb). Visitors must also carry on their belt a rebreather, which in case of emergency will filter foul air for approximately one hour, giving a chance for survival and escape.[40]

The tour guides are men who used to work at the coal face, or either Big Pit or another colliery, so you got a real flavour of what it was like ‘in their day’ and plenty of history too. Who can start to imagine what it was like for children,  working underground.  There was enough to  see and hear about keep my attention from wandering to the fact, I was in a coal mine, most of the time.  I was surprised about the amount of woodworm in the pit props and timbers though! They can’t treat the timber with chemicals, they just have to keep on replacing it.

They had some beautiful shiny miners lamps, I’ve one at home, it looks a little neglected to compared to Big Pit’s lamps. No canaries down the mine but they did have some in the lamp room (I hadn’t been reunited with my camera at this point!)

Big pit canary

Plenty to see around the mine

big pitt bogies_

Many of the original buildings are accessible,  from the explosives store,

big pitt book

to the medical room,

Medical room Big Pitt

And displays of equipment and ephemera.

Big pit nurse poster

The locker room, what a lot of lockers! I’d never thought about the fact a miner would have two lockers, one for his coal soiled clothes and one for his clean clothes.

lockers

I can imagine both would have been popular.

smoking and spitting_

The arrival of ‘pit head baths’ must have transformed the daily routine, for the miners and the women at home…  I love these towels, their style is on the edge of my childhood memory.

showers big pitt

In the showers they also had a recording of  singing, I thought it was Tom Jones, but then a lot of Welsh miners would have sounded like Tom Jones…

 

 

 


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Much Wenlock

After visiting three of the ten museums in the Ironbridge Gorge, we sought a hearty supper and a welcoming campsite in nearby Much Wenlock.

Much Wenlock is an ancient market town, it was sleepy when we hit the streets early next day, it has many beautiful old buildings,

Much Wenlock timbered building

I was caught by a wave of childhood nostalgia, by a RSPCA collection box, a little bell rang when I put Mr Uphilldowndale’s money in it, lovely, look how loved those noses are!

RSPCA vintage collection box

The Guildhall, 16th century.

 

Much Wenlock Guild Hall

A place you wouldn’t have been wanting to be chained too, back in the day

Guildhall much wenlock

Can graves look cosy? Maybe its just the symmetry.

two graves much wenlock

There was an antique shop, that was very well stocked…

Much wenlock antiques 2.jpg

Certainly not somewhere that has not had a Marie Kondo makeover!

Much Wenlock antiques

Another little flash of nostalgia, my grandmother had a little table just like this, I’m sure she brought back from one of her early early ‘package deal’ holidays, of which she was an early adopter… I must post about that.

Nan's Table

Much Wenlock was the home of the modern Olympics, founded by William Penny Brookes

Penny Brookes

A little town, with much to see and note,

Much Wenlock window

But we must be on our way, underground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Float your boat

You can’t leave canals out of the history of  the Ironbridge Gorge, for transporting all those delicate and valuable china goods, to hauling the coal to fire the kilns, it was by far the best option, the only other way was pack horses on unmade roads.

Brick bottle kiln coalport

The canal at Coalport was frozen over in part, on the day we visited, the ducks waddled along as best they could, occasionally falling through the ice, or swimming along in the style of an ice breaker

Now I may be the ‘creative’ of the household, but I know cracking engineering  solution when I see it. This is the Hay inclined plane, we have few of those nearer to home, but none as impressive as this, ours were used for hauling trucks full of limestone or coal to or from the canals, here they simply moved the whole boat.

Inclined Plane_

The Hay Inclined Plane is a canal inclined plane with a height of 207 feet that is located on a short stretch of the Shropshire Canal that linked the industrial area of Blists Hill with the River Severn. The inclined plane was in operation from 1792 to 1894 and can be visited as part of the Blists Hill Victorian Town and is also a waypoint on the South Telford Heritage Trail. In operation box-shaped tub boats 20 feet long were taken up and down the plane on twin railway tracks, an empty boat would be loaded into the river at the bottom and a full boat would be loaded into the canal at the top, a rope would connect the two so that gravity would drop the loaded boat down to the river counterbalanced by an empty boat being raised to the canal. At the bottom of the incline the rails went underwater allowing the boats to float free.

I participially like the wiggle in the rails

Inclined Plane 3