Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pilgrim's Rest

We are back in South Africa again on a very hot Saturday afternoon when we drove up along the Eastern Escarpment of the Drakensberg Mountains to Pilgrim's Rest. This was site of the first great goldrush in South Africa in 1873. A man called Alec 'Wheelbarrow' Patterson discovered gold in a stream now known as Pilgrim's Creek and although he tried to keep it quiet the word soon got out and miners appeared from all points of the compass anxious to try their luck - 1500 of them by the end of that year!!. These men had some wonderful names - Yankee Dan, Black Sam, French Bob, Spanish Joe and One-Eye Spinner among them. Pilgrim's Rest must have been a pretty lively place in those days:) By 1972 the  gold had run out but the village was preserved as a living museum. The top photo is mine and shows the Post Office as it is today and the lower one is a photograph of it in the 1890s with the Royal Mail coach outside. As ever clicking will enlarge my photos though sadly not the old one.

Dredzens was the general store which has been preserved as it was during the period between 1930 and 1950. I found the interior absolutely fascinating, you could buy just about anything in this place.

Looking for a new teapot or some kitchen china? Or maybe you're off on a trip and need a suitcase.........

......and if you're off on holiday better get a pretty new hat and a couple of new shirts and a panama for the man of the house! And maybe a new pair of gloves? A lady would never be seen out without gloves even in summer.

You can buy a wireless or a record player or a new bike or maybe more mundane things like Jeyes Fluid or Vim. And all those barrels - I wonder what they contained? I could have spent hours in here.

Behind the shop are the family's living quarters which are furnished in the way they would have looked during the 1940s. This is the combined living and dining room which was a decent sized area.

Steve and myself (holding Lucy) in the kitchen with the pantry in the background.

The other end of the kitchen with the old shallow stone sink. My gran had a sink like this in her scullery when I was a little girl.

The 1940s bedroom with someone's best frock hanging on the wardrobe and a photo of a soldier on the wall - a son serving overseas perhaps?  Many South Africans served with the Allied Forces in WW2.

The old Garage with its vintage petrol pump now houses a small but interesting transport museum.

Among the exhibits was this fabulous 1928 Chevrolet.

Even more interesting and atmospheric was this transport wagon. These were drawn by teams of up to fourteen oxen and were the lifeblood of South Africa in the 1800s and early 1900s. The journeys were slow as the animals needed to graze for eight hours a day and also needed to rest for eight hours, the travelling was mostly done in the cooler hours of the early morning or late afternoon and they would cover around 18 miles each day.

I bought this book on my first visit to South Africa and it has strong connections with Pilgrim's Rest.Percy Fitzpatrick was a transport rider carting supplies for the goldfields at Pilgrim's Rest and Barberton from Delagoa Bay in what was then Lourenco Marques but is now known as Mozambique. Jock was his dog, a bull terrier who travelled all over what is now Mpumalanga with his master. The story is fascinating for the picture it gives of the lives of these transport riders as they travelled in what was then dangerous and often unexplored country.

Jock became so famous that there are memorials to him all over Mpumalanga where the routes he travelled cross modern roads and this includes the area that is now Kruger National Park.

This is the cemetery at Pilgrim's Rest, I'm not holding my camera at an angle, it really is this steep! Steve and Kaitlyn climbed to the top but it was so hot in the midday sun that I gave up halfway. Hannah, Lucy and Juliette didn't even come this far.

This was the original grave in the cemetery, a man was caught and convicted of tent robbery and banished from Pilgrim's Rest. He was later found on this nearby hill and shot. He was buried in a grave facing north-south branding him as a thief. Every other grave in the cemetery is oriented eat-west.

Many of the graves belong to people who were a very long way from home and at 38 George Davies was two years younger than the average person buried here. Few died peacefully in their beds - snake bite,malaria,dysentery and other diseases,drowning and accidents claimed most of the lives.

No burial records were kept until 1911 but the earliest marked grave is that of a man crushed by a boulder on his claim in 1874. There are 320 known graves but only 163 of them have headstones or markers of some sort. Most are simply marked out with stones like these in a quiet corner near the entrance.

I think there are worse places to be buried than here though with this stark but beautiful view over the Drakensberg Mountains.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Scenes From My Week

A very wet Sunday morning in the herb garden at Hardwick Hall.

On Monday morning I finally caught a glimpse of the deer that I've been looking for on Blackamoor for nearly a year! They were passing through some woodland on Strawberry Lee Lane and were there and gone before I had chance to take many photos. What with them being on the move and B Baggins on his lead and equally interested in seeing them the few photos I did take were poor - but at least I saw them!

All week both in Ecclesall Woods and in the woodland areas on Blackamoor I've been assailed by the wonderful perfume of the wild honeysuckle which seems to be exceptionally abundant this year.

A close up - the honeysuckle does at least stand still:)

There are cattle on the moor at the moment, they are there to help control the bracken which is threatening to swamp the bilberries and heather. These seem to have lost their way and were on the path down from Lenny Hill to Strawberry Lee Lane. I finally managed to herd them back up into the woods - my calm 'Cush Cush's' were interrupted at intervals by yell's of 'STAY THERE' as B Baggins showed signs of making a closer inspection of them! Happily he did as he was told and all was well. I certainly had no intention of putting him on the lead in that narrow space!

These two friends I see every morning grazing in the field at the bottom of Shorts Lane.

On Thursday morning I was surprised to see these two young stags in the field just below where I park the car. Having looked in vain for nearly a year I saw the deer three times this week as they were up on Big Moor on Wednesday too but only on the skyline and much too far away for photographs. I shan't be around for the next week as we are off to our house in Lancashire today. I hope the weather turns out better than the forecast which appears to be wall to wall rain!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Walking Into The Past

In recent months a new archaeology group has started up in our village with the great name of Time Travellers. We are a small and friendly group of enthusiastic amateurs, a mixture of hands-on types and those like me with more of an interest in the results of someone else's hard work:) Earlier this month we had an outing to Creswell Crags to see the prehistoric cave art that was discovered there recently. Creswell Crags was among the most northerly places on earth to have been visited by our nomadic ancestors during the Ice Age and there have been hundreds of finds there of stone, bone and ivory tools.  (All the photos will enlarge if you click on them.)

These are all replicas of the original finds which are now in various museums around the country. Near the top you can see a bone needle which would have been used to sew animal skins and furs into clothing and bags. The bags would have been used to  carry things both large and small. Some of the axe heads and arrow heads are really beautiful when you look at them closely. The replicas are all made by experts in these ancient crafts.

The interior of the cave which contains the cave art, I have to tell you that I was horrified to discover that there were spiders all over the walls and ceiling!! I concentrated very hard on the art which was actually very necessary as you would never spot it unless it was pointed out. This was not painting as in the caves at Lascaux but simply drawings scratched into the rock using a flint tool of some sort.

This is a carving of an Ibis bird, the top photo is borrowed from the Creswell Crags website and the lower one is my photo. It's hard to photograph it as it's done on a curve of the rock and the man (or woman!) who did it used this curve to form most of the body.  At the top is the beak with a natural indentation in the rock forming the eye and then the lines coming down at an angle are the bird's neck. Once you get your eye in it's easy to see but had I been the one searching in the cave the drawings would have remained forever undiscovered I'm afraid.

This is part of what you can actually see on the wall, can you pick out the stag? Look for his eye to the left of the modern graffiti and then try. No? Then move on to....

....the useful interpretation which shows not only the stag but various other things as well!

There are not only caves to be seen at Creswell Crags,the land originally belonged to the Duke of Portland and it is thanks to him that the site still exists. There were plans to put the a railway through the gorge in the 19th century and in order to prevent this the Duke had a large artificial lake made thus preventing the destruction of the archaeology and also providing a home for large numbers of waterfowl including Mama Mallard and her babies.....

.....and this little family of cygnets. Mummy and Daddy Swan were close by too:)

On Wednesday of this week a small group of us went up onto the moors in search of stone circles and burial cairns. On the way up to Frogatt Edge we passed this huge rock which one of our number called 'The Dog Stone'. We all saw straightaway what he meant, if you enlarge the photo I'm sure you'll see it too:)

Here is one of the entrances to Stoke Flat Circle on Frogatt Edge. The Peak District circles are not on the same scale as places like Stonehenge and Avebury of course but this one is unusual because it has two rings of standing stones on each edge of a low bank. The circle is too big to get the whole of it into a photograph unless you are in an aeroplane or have a very much more powerful zoom than I possess.

This is all of the group except me posing artistically by the largest of the standing stones. You can see for miles in every direction from here.

The moors are covered in wild flowers at this time of the year, this is sheep's sorrel (the red stuff) and what I think may be heath bedstraw.

This is a reconstructed burial cairn on Big Moor, it has been excavated and an urn containing the cremated remains of a child was found. I confess that I don't like the idea of burials being excavated even when they are very ancient. No-one would be allowed to go and excavate a grave in a churchyard however old and interesting it might be so why is it OK if the burial is elsewhere? There is great debate about this of course the main excuse being that 'we can learn so much from the remains'. Possibly, but I still don't think that this is a valid reason for desecrating a grave.

This is another cairn burial that has been excavated but it has been left open. The moors are covered with both stone circles and ring cairns - over 40 of them in the Peak District in fact! I knew that there are three circles near here but had no idea that there were as many as that.

This stone circle is known rather unromantically as Barbrook 2 Circle. It's been excavated and then reconstructed to give an idea of how it would have looked originally. There is a stone cist and a cairn inside the circle both dating to about 1800BC.

There are many of these guide stoops on the moors most dating from the 18th century. They were put there to help guide travellers over the bleak and dangerous moorland tracks, this one has a hand pointing to Sheffield in one direction and on the other side is a hand pointing towards Bakewell. Even today the moors can be dangerous, the weather can close in very quickly and it is very easy to become disorientated.This particular stoop is now close to the main road and marked the end of  a really interesting and enjoyable day - and we got home just before the downpour that had threatened all day finally arrived:)

Monday, June 06, 2011

A June Morning

We've been having some beautiful early mornings recently and B Baggins and I have been up on Blackamoor taking advantage of the sunshine and the tranquility. The wild roses are beginning to flower and I could look at them for hours. They are so beautiful and delicate with a lovely faint perfume.

They are equally beautiful when the buds are just beginning to open.

There is often a small herd of cows in the fields at the top of the lane where I park my car. They have several calves with them at the moment but the only time they were right near the road I didn't have my camera with me!

At the bottom end of the lane is this friendly looking ram who has a little harem of eight ewes to keep him company.

B Baggins taking advantage of Blacka Dike to cool down and have a drink before we start the steep climb up to Lenny Hill. A lot of these photos are clearer if you click on them, the sun is so bright that you can't actually tell that he's lying in a river in the small version. The water levels are very low at the moment because we've had so little rain this spring. I don't need to use the stepping stones as it's shallow enough to walk across.

The flowers on this wild rose are white and I think it's a field rose rather than a dog rose but I'm open to correction here.

The highest point of this particular walk, the small mound is the top of Lenny Hill. Just below where B Baggins is standing  four tracks meet so you have a choice of walks from here. I shall be turning down the track to Strawberry Lee Lane as it makes a nice circular walk back to Shorts Lane.

I usually spend a few minutes sitting on this bench which stands where the four tracks meet. Carved around the top of it are these lovely words. I'm not sure whether it's poem or prose but I always read it and this morning I put a small notebook in my pocket so that I could write it down.

Heather welcomes all
Purple petal blowing
Sways of breeze
Cuddle with clouds of fragrance
Gusts of wind tickle softly
And so you carry on your journey.

Where a few weeks ago these branches were thick with blackthorn blossom now they are thick with sloes which will be put to good use in the autumn. They are green at the moment of course but as the year progresses they will ripen to a beautiful deep purple/black.

The huge soft leaves of the burdock with pink clover and buttercups. Burdock roots can be eaten and with the addition of dandelion root plus various spices and other bits and pieces they make the world's most wonderful soft drink - dandelion & burdock:)

I was really surprised to see that the spiky beech nut cases are already very visible and there are going to be lots of them by the looks of it.

Here I have turned off Strawberry Lee Lane onto a footpath that leads down between two farms. Until a couple of years ago it was just a steep,muddy track but now there are steps and a rough surface and happily all the wild flowers are now coming back.

B Baggins was determined to be in this photo! I was actually trying to photograph the plant by the wall which I've always known as vinegar plant because that's what my mum called it. I think it's proper name is common sorrel though. I grew up calling a lot of things by their country names, my dad showed me a bird that he called a peewit and I was an adult before I realised that it was another name for the lapwing. The call it makes sounds like 'peewit' which is how it got its country name.

This pretty daisy is the Scentless Mayweed.

Right at the bottom of the path is a small enclosure filled with ox eye daisies and pink campion. You definitely need to enlarge this to see properly how pretty it looks.

The path must have been straightened here at some point as it now goes past rather than through this lovely old stone squeeze style.

I knew what this was well before I got there because I could smell the wonderful scent of aniseed in the air - these are the seed pods of Sweet Cicely. The leaves can be used when you are cooking rhubarb or gooseberries as it reduces the amount of sugar that you need. The seeds are also aniseed flavoured and can be dried and used rather like caraway seeds. I love this plant for its name alone and have it growing in my garden but it grows wild in many places around here.

Finally we cross the narrow wooden bridge over the stream and walk up the field back to Shorts Lane. It's sheer delight to walk up here at the moment as the fields are thick with buttercups and it looks cheerful even on a dull morning. The whole walk can be done in about 45 minutes if you treat it like a route march but B Baggins and I take about an hour and a half because we are both looking for interesting sights and smells - in my case the smells are wild roses, elderflowers and sweet cicely:) I think B Baggins has a different agenda:)