It is exactly a year since I first posted about bluebells, and here we are again – bluebell season. The difference this time is that we are in coronavirus lockdown so we have been walking close to home and enjoying a nearby small wooded dale.
My post last year stated – ‘Here in the UK we have more than half of the world’s bluebells and you can see them in woods up and down the country each spring. They are powerful magnets for photographers and artist alike, although strangely not always the easiest of subjects to photograph and capture the colour accurately’. The photographs this year were taken in the little known local bluebell woods. There is no car parking nearby and consequently they are only used by nearby residents and they do not attract people from other parts of the town. This year they are being used by local families were the parents are clearly on the ‘home schooling’ duties. What better classroom?
Last year I also wrote ‘Native bluebells are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It’s against the law to dig up bulbs in the wild and landowners aren’t allowed to dig them up to sell them either’. This year we have our 3 and 4 year old grandchildren with us and whilst it is a pleasure to see their joy and excitement when seeing bluebells it can be quite difficult to stop them picking them and taking some home. I remember one shortened and simplified version of the official Countryside Code was ‘Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints’. Today, I only took photographs but the ground was dry and firm so I didn’t even leave any footprints.
We 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.
Due to an unusual set of circumstances, our daughter and her two children, ages 3 and almost 5, are staying with us. They have been living overseas, came to stay with us for a while and now find themselves caught up in the coronavirus precautions and in lockdown with us. We have gone from only seeing our grandchildren twice a year to having them in the same house 24/7. We often said we wished we could see more of them but didn’t quite have this in mind!
However, we are thoroughly enjoying the time together and they certainly keep us occupied. When it comes to self-isolation we feel grateful that we live in a quiet area, close to the countryside, have an enclosed secure garden and on our daily walk we see like-minded people, keen to observe the 2 metre rule and exchange pleasantries in a good humoured fashion we Brits are so good at.
It has become a nostalgic time for us, especially doing things with our grandchildren that we did with Rachel, and our son Adrian, almost 40 years ago. We have played in the garden, provided a sandpit and rediscovered footpaths close to home that we haven’t been on for quite a while. On one such walk, Rachel asked if I could photograph the children from behind, just like ‘Walking with a friend’.
Mum had shown me the verse, probably found in ‘The Friendship Book’ or something similar 30 something years ago. It’s a bit twee, but at the time I was learning calligraphy, so I wrote it out and mounted alongside it a photograph of Rachel and her friend Claire. It was displayed on mum’s living room wall from that time onwards. Rachel could even remember the verse and I had no hesitation in taking the requested photograph. Who knows, it may be around 30 plus years from now!
To quote Ratty in full, ‘Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing… about in boats — or with boats. In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not’.
In my case, this postcard was the result of just messing about with photo editing software and apps. Just passing time, nothing special in mind other than messing about with a photograph taken a few years ago on a fairly dull March morning at Esthwaite Water, near Hawkshead in the Lake District.
The 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
The group of ramblers on the first postcard will include leaders, followers and friends, although not quite ‘beside each other’ as they cross one of the many small bridges over the River Windrush at Bourton-On-The-Water.
“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend”. Attributed to Albert Camus, French philosopher, author, and journalist who won the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44 in 1957, the second youngest recipient in history. It made us realise that each day we switch seamlessly from leading to following, or not leading, not following, but hopefully walking beside each other as friends.
We saw the quote a few weeks in the Lettering Arts Centre at Snape Maltings. It was presented as a piece of beautifully hand-written calligraphy. Had it been a cheap plaque in a souvenir shop, or a fridge magnet at a garden centre, I may have dismissed it as a piece of sentimental sugar-coated trivia. However, it was displayed in a respected gallery, alongside other impressive works of art, and that seemed to give it more authority, gravitas and meaning.
The quote stuck with me and I knew that it was destined to be used in a postcard blog post. Back home, I searched through various files and folders of jpegs and found the following, hopefully appropriate selection. The first few showing ‘walk beside me and be my friend’ on the wonderful beach at Filey.
But perhaps not so much leading or following in the following one…
More ‘walking beside each other as friends’ this time on the unique cobb at Lyme Regis.
Moira 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.
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.
I noticed that at the last three cathedrals we visited there was a pillar box close by and I began to wonder if there was some unwritten rule that a pillar box should always be provided near any cathedral. Why is there such a need for pillar boxes there? Who are the avid letter writers? They almost look out of place, as if they have escaped the hustle and bustle of a busy city centre or commercial area, to find peace and solace in the cathedral green or precinct, and who can blame them?
The most noteworthy of these three photographs is this Penfold hexagonal Victorian pillar box near Durham Cathedral. However, it is not actually a Victorian box. It is a replica, (is that a polite word for fake?) which was installed in the late 1980’s. Once you know that, and look at the overall condition, you realise it is not as old as it claims to be.
The Community of Cuthbert arrived in Durham from Lindisfarne in 995 and built an Anglo-Saxon cathedral. Construction of the Cathedral as we know it today was started in 1093 by Bishop William of St Calais. Amazing to think the construction of the cathedral and the unveiling of this pillar box spans a period of over 900 years.
The second postcard if from Gloucester Cathedral. This is the closest a pillar box got to the door of the cathedral so far!
And finally, a pillar box located at The Close adjacent to Lichfield Cathedral.