Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Where sheep may safely laze

April & May were distinguished by sunshine and heat – July by rain.  It came in swift grey torrents and made the gutters gurgle.
These sheep have grown so wary of the rain’s sudden downpours that they have retreated to the cover of an overhanging hedge, so as to be sure of being out of the wet.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Muse shows a leg

Alton Towers sculpture shows a leg

On top the Colonnade in the gardens at Alton Towers is a line of statues of which this is one.

In her pose, she rather confidently 'shows a leg'; resting her right arm on her thigh, with her right leg stepped up onto a support of what might be small rocks. 

I was surprised, as you rarely see the legs on modest Graeco-Roman sculptures of women - unless it is of Diana, goddess of the hunt (who needed a short skirt in order to run), or, erm, nudes. 

In the catalogue, she is named as Melpomene, the muse of Tragedy, though traditionally it would be her left leg raised. The object she holds is the Mask of Tragedy.

But nowhere can I find the significance of the raised leg. I wonder what its import is?

Friday, 3 July 2020

Elephant ready for grinding

Room at Shirley's Grinding Mill Museum

Well, museums should be re-opening this month... if, that is, they have met the Covid-prevention conditions imposed by the government.

This means that you will once again be able to view these grisly elephant bones at Shirley's Grinding Mill Museum in Etruria. They have been preserved there for over one hundred years as a sort of odd trophy.
The mill ground flint and bone to be used in the china-making process.

Quite how the mill got the elephant bones is another story.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Swapping a crab for a ram

The old Wedgwood Institute in Burslem is a lovely building, built in the Venetian Gothic style.
As you can see, it has an ornate frieze around its top depicting the astrological signs of the zodiac named with their corresponding months and a scene referring to the sign.

But... the makers got muddled up.
As you can see in centre of the the photo, the roundel at the top depicts Cancer The Crab (June 22 to July 22), the month says June, but, er, the scene depicts a man holding down a ram (March, Aries!). 
Where is the usual scene for Cancer, a woman collecting crabs?  Yep, you guessed it: over where the ram should have been.
Somebody clearly wasn’t concentrating.

Wedgwood himself seems unbothered though.

Friday, 12 June 2020

At the heart of Croxden

Croxden Abbey ruins

After his death in 1216, King John's body was carried cross-country for burial from Notingham (where else?!) to Worcester Cathedral via Staffordshire, where his heart was supposedly left, en route, with the monks at Croxden Abbey in the moorlands here. 
(The bits and pieces of royals were regularly extracted from their corpses before burial and distributed. I am not sure why this practice ocurred...)

However, Croxton Abbey (you can see how the confusion arises...) in Leicestershire also claims to be the burial place of the heart.  The various commentators get in quite a spat about it.

Unfortunately Croxden was largely dismantled following Henry VIII's destruction of the monsteries, and is now a ruin as you can see.  So if there was a marker giving proof that this is where John's heart was interred, it was no doubt expropriated or broken up about that time.

But we know for sure that John did not leave his heart in San Francisco.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

A chapel for the Devil

Lud Church (or Lud's Church) is a natural cleft in the rock, about forty feet deep, in the Peak District. A sort of small chasm. You can clamber down into it from entrances at both ends.

It is the supposed setting for the Green Chapel, which features in a scene at the end of the medieval poem, Sir Gawain & The Green Knight, which, it's thought, was written by an (anonymous) monk based at an abbey in nearby Leek.
It is an astonishing poem, and it would be sad to go through life never having experienced it.

On a gloomy day, the place can be very gloomy indeed. Sunlight never reaches certain parts of it ever, which is why the sides are covered in slime of moss.

Can this be the Chapel Green? 
O Lord, said the gentle knight. 
Here the Devil might say, I een,
His matins about midnight!

For more about Lud Church, click here and/or click here 

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Folly pokes up blue

Some of my favourite walks are round the Ecton hills which are almost totally given over to Nature these days.
However, it is not a blue conifer you see in the middle of this photo, it is the high point of Ratcliffe's Folly.  Ratcliffe himself seemed to like isolation, which is perhaps why this house is so on its own on Ecton Hill.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Let loose on a stile

Alstonefield stile

At last. The guidance is that most of us can now drive a distance to enjoy the countryside, albeit also while also advised to follow social distancing rules.  That's ok.  I'm happy not to make others feel uncomfortable.

In the joy of being let loose, the youngsters don't even mind the profusion of nettles, which seem to have gone a bit prolifically mad in our human absence.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Lock-up in lockdown

This fascinating small round building in Alton village in fact must have been rather grim for its occupants. It is the village's lock-up (temporary prison) - and has no windows. It dates to the early 19th century.

The English language is odd.  Is someone consigned to a lock-up... in lock-down?

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Highlight of the day

In lockdown, one is asked not to walk far from home, and to go just for exercise.  So, curiously, going for a walk and seeing the lines of a pylon sketched against the sky at twilight are something of a highlight.

What is also curious is that there are no planes in the sky.