Let Nature be your teacher

6x4 strawberries backJust over a week ago we took our grandchildren strawberry picking at Scaddows Farm, a few miles from us. We arrived soon after they opened and followed the well organised Covid-19 precautions, including hand sanitising upon entry. When we reached the fields it was clear that after weeks of ‘home schooling’ many young families were enjoying a morning outdoors. You could almost see the relief on the faces of parents and children alike. And who could blame them? What better classroom than this?

I left this post as a draft, hoping to find a suitable quote about strawberries, but surprisingly nothing came along, even with the help, or lack of help, from google. (If you find one please feel free to comment). Then out of the blue Suzette at Suzette B’s blog posted the quote ‘Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher’ by William Wordsworth.

I searched the quote and discovered that it’s from The Tables Turned. I always need help interpreting poetry so I found a useful analysis of it. Basically Wordsworth is saying don’t double in size by sitting at a desk pouring over boring books. Get outside and look and listen. Nature is full of wealth and wisdom. You can learn more about humanity, good and evil from a tree than from a sage. Go out, ready to learn with “a heart that watches and receives”.

By the way, the strawberries tasted as good as they looked!

The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you’ll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?
 
The sun above the mountain’s head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.
 
Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There’s more of wisdom in it.
 
And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.
 
She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.
 
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
 
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.
 
Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

Spring

Just over a year ago I wrote about ‘Mid May Landscapes’.  Mid-May Landscapes

Here is this year’s offering of such photos, again taken at Rosliston Forestry Centre, part of The National Forest. Rosliston Forestry Centre

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Spring 2020The car park and centre are closed due to the pandemic restrictions but access to the footpaths is still possible for walkers. It is a minor disadvantage not being able to park at the centre (they have promised to extend out annual car park pass!) but the big plus is that there are very few people there so it is good to enjoy the peace and quiet at this wonderful time of the year, especially in such good weather.

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A perfect spring day – or is it?

St Mark's front

St Mark's backWe continue to follow the official advice and guidance and this week have taken several walks starting from home rather than jumping in the car and driving a few miles first. It does have its advantages. We see things which we would not normally see, have a chat with people we probably wouldn’t usually talk to, and I have taken the opportunity to update photographs of local landmarks and places of interest.

One such landmark is that of our parish church, St. Mark’s, Winshill. It was built in 1869 at a cost of £6000. Like several churches in Burton on Trent, it was provided by one of the town’s influential brewers, in this case John Gretton. The cynics may ask if they saw such gifts as their ticket to heaven, but generally speaking the brewers such as Bass, Ratcliff and Gretton were great benefactors, and often provided facilities which were of great benefit to the people of the town.

The peaceful scene, on a perfect spring day, is a welcome ray of sunshine midst the encircling gloom.

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National Memorial Arboretum Illuminated

NMA Illumintated

NMA backThe National Memorial Arboretum, near Alrewas, Staffordshire, is always a fascinating place to visit, and being just down the road from us, we have been many times in all seasons. However, this week much of the arboretum is illuminated and this adds another dimension and atmosphere to the experience. The complete trail is about a mile long and the illuminations were tasteful and varied. I include a couple of comparisons with daytime shots.

National Memorial Arboretum Illuminated

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Moira Furnace

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Moira Furnace backMoira Furnace was built in 1804 by the Earl of Moira. It was a coke-fuelled, steam-engine blown blast furnace for the smelting of iron from local iron ore, with an attached foundry for the manufacture of cast-iron goods.

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The furnace was supplied with iron ore, coke, and limestone delivered by means of the adjacent Ashby Canal. The finished iron products would be dispatched by the same means. The furnace was built low down which made it easier to feed raw materials by taking them up the ramped bridge over the canal and feeding them into the top.

Although much thought and innovation went into the design it was a commercial failure. It was used intermittently until 1811 but it experienced continual problems. Bad design, bad construction, bad raw materials, and bad management were all to blame.

The furnace now has another life as a country park, museum, shop and home to numerous leisure activities including canal trips, fishing and the starting point of several walks around the National Forest.

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https://www.moirafurnace.org/

All is safely gathered in

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1 backA post which was prompted by a question asked by a listener on Scala Radio last week – ‘When is all safely gathered in?’ In other words ‘when is the harvest complete?’. We weren’t in the car long enough to hear all the answers suggested by other listeners but I know there isn’t a set day when all the farmers can lock up their combined harvesters for another year, put their feet up and enjoy a well-earned rest after all their hard work. No doubt the finishing date of the harvest depends very much on the type of crop, weather conditions and geographical location.

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DSCF8498It’s our church Harvest Festival this Sunday and we will be following the practice of recent years of not offering gifts of fresh, home grown produce, but instead, providing non perishable items which in turn will be donated to the local YMCA food bank. This has significance in more ways than one; firstly, that most people in the congregation no longer grow their own fruit and vegetables, and secondly, the ever-growing need for food banks in 2019. This is a commendable idea but I do miss the sight and smell of all the potatoes, carrots, greens and apples which greeted us in earlier years.

Of course some things will never change as no harvest service is complete without the obligatory ‘We plough the fields…’ or ‘Come ye thankful people come…’!

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.

 

 

The Ferry Bridge

10postcard back 2 2A postcard from home, taken during an evening stroll by the nearby river Trent. In fact, we crossed the Trent via the Ferry Bridge, a familiar landmark to all Burtonians. The bridge leads to a walkway, Stapenhill Viaduct, which links Burton town centre to the suburb of Stapenhill, around half a mile on the other side of the river.

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Before the bridge was built, the only way across the river at that point was by a small ferry.  The bridge was gifted to the town in 1889 by the brewer, Michael Arthur Bass.

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Around that time the population of Burton was growing rapidly, mainly due to the expansion of the brewing industry. The Ferry Bridge must have been welcomed and appreciated by the large number of brewery workers who lived on one side of the river but worked on the other side. They could finally cross the river free of toll.  (Not such good news for the ferryman).

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The bridge is described as a semi-suspension bridge. It was the first of its kind in Europe to be built to this design and possibly the only one remaining. It is made of wrought iron and cast iron, and is Grade II listed. Two or three years ago it was completely refurbished.

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It is still used by hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists every day. A real turn-around is that cycling across the bridge was strictly prohibited when the bridge was first build until quite recently. Those who ignored the warnings ran the risk of a fine of forty shillings (£2.00) in the early days, which eventually rose to £10 before the rule was finally abolished. Now, a narrow cycle lane is marked and this is part of National Cycle Route 63.

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The viaduct part of the walkway is necessary as it crosses the Trent Washlands, an area which can be very wet and boggy and in fact floods from time to time.

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At the Stapenhill side of the river are the Stapenhill Gardens, an area very popular with residents. Locals will tell you this is the largest swan in England!

Mid-May Landscapes

We have been out and about this week taking a few mid-May landscapes. I only tell you this so that I can use the expression ‘mid-May landscapes’.

I first heard the description over 30 years ago, when a colleague, who was also interested in photography, told me he would be taking his mid-May landscapes the following week. Ron’s birthday was in the middle of May and each year, without fail, he would book the whole week off work. This was partly to celebrate his birthday but mainly to capture his mid-May landscapes.

Each day of that week Ron would load his car with his camera gear and set off in a different direction, towards the open countryside, sometimes with a destination in mind, but more often than not, just follow his instinct, the light, the dramatic sky or whatever else caught his eye. He would drive down roads and lanes he had never explored before and thoroughly enjoy his week of self-indulgence.

I hadn’t heard the expression until I met Ron but I immediately realised that it meant the time of the year when the leaves are new, fresh and vibrant; when the grass is lush; when the whole of nature buzzes with life and energy and the light often has a special quality about it. I thought perhaps it was a well-known term used by photographers and artist which had somehow passed me by.

That was back in pre-internet days but the term stuck with me and several years later I consulted Professor Google expecting to find a long list of famous artists or photographers who had used the description, but nothing. Perhaps it was an expression Ron had made up, or had once heard and it stuck with him just as it stuck with me and perhaps after today, with you too.

6x4 Mid-May landscapes

Mid-May landscapes

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