Thursday 21 May 2015

Back To Mono

When I was 11 I got my first camera, very cheap and very Kodak of course. It took a roll of film which had to be threaded on to a spindle, making sure not to let any light get to the precious film. There was a little lever on the front by which you could set the aperture for cloudy or sunny conditions. A little red window on the back told you how many pictures you had taken. Sophisticated.

If you wanted colour you had to buy colour film which was way outside the budget of my pocket money. Funnily enough though it took pretty good pictures in black and white. 

That camera is long gone but I still like to experiment with black and white from time to time, so here are a few assorted pictures which seem to work better in good old monochrome; though because they were taken on a digital camera then adjusted on the laptop using a photo editing program it was a lot more complicated than just pushing a big old clunky shutter-release.

A mask attached to a tree - no I don't know why.

Church door handle, very old.

Green St. in Cambridge, winter.

In the Botanic Gardens, Cambridge 2015 - or maybe 1915.

Church spire in Saffron Walden.

Wrought iron staircase in the bell tower of a Suffolk church.

Take care.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Topcliffe Mill

Those who saw my last post may remember a smart, board-clad, gambrel-roofed building which I identified as Topcliffe Mill. It stands back from the road opposite the church and is not obvious to anyone driving by. But this weekend is National Mills Day, when around 450 of Britain's historic windmills and watermills are opened up to the public, so lets investigate. 

There's been a mill on this site since at least 1086 when the village of Meldreth was recorded as having eight-and-a-half mills - I'm guessing that one stood astride a stream that formed the parish boundary. The present building dates from about 1780 and operated till 1942.

It is, of course, a watermill powered by the waters of the little River Mel. Sadly there's no waterwheel in place and, although replacing it has been considered, it would be very expensive and it's reckoned that the stream would also have to be modified to produce enough power.

Inside the building however all the mighty machinery seems to be in place and you can figure out how everything worked, though it's hard to imagine how the building would have throbbed and hummed with life when everything was operating.

Here's the miller's desk where he kept a record of the grain he'd milled and how much he was owed by everybody.

Lovely old handwriting; not many of us can write like that these days!

Climb up one floor on a rather basic wooden ladder and you're in the heart of the building where the huge millstones ground the flour and the "crown wheel" turned other pieces of equipment - machinery to clean the grain and hoists which lift the grain up to the top of the mill.

A sign told me that the bit of gear above is called a "smutter" and was used to remove spores of a fungus called "smut" which attacks the grain and spoils the flour.

Here's a wonderful piece of rural technology: at the top of the picture you can see a piece of string which is attached to a wooden chuck, when this chuck is pulled out the shaft swings into the vertical and the gear-wheels engage. Simple but effective.

Ascend more steps to the apex of the roof space.....

the sacks of grain were hauled up here by a system of pulleys so that gravity could then feed the grain down through the milling gear. 

A nice little reminder that we haven't changed too much over the centuries - nineteenth century graffiti. I think it reads IVET.E.FARNHAM  MELDRETH 1867. If I'm right then there was an Ivatt Farnham who lived in the village and who would have been 14 at the time. His father was a corn merchant.

I decided to walk back home via the meadow footpath and couldn't resist one more photo of the mill with a foreground of yellow buttercups.

If you want to know more about the history of the mill and indeed the rest of the village then visit run by the Meldreth Local History Group.

Take care.

Monday 4 May 2015

A Gap Between The Showers.

It stopped raining for a few minutes yesterday afternoon so I popped out to see what was happening in the wood. Bluebells were blooming, as you can see. I'm not sure if these are good old English bluebells or those nasty foreign ones that are taking over in so many places. Pretty anyway.

Even gnarled old trees like this one are resplendent in their new finery as leaves burst out all over.

Down in the meadow - literally down, as in down on my knees - to view the buttercups from an insect's point of view.

Look up, little insect, there are cowslips in the meadow too.

Topcliffe Mill, which was once a watermill to grind wheat and barley, stands smartly in the corner of the meadow, next to the little gate leading to a public footpath. 

That cheerful little flower, Herb Robert, growing in the churchyard. It grows in my garden too, no matter how much of it I pull out! "Fresh leaves can be eaten or tossed into a mug to make tea", or so I've read in a book. Judging by the stink it leaves on your hands I wouldn't want to try it. It also repels mosquitoes, which shows that your average mozzy has more sense than people who write books!

"Pansies, lilies, kingcups, daisies, 
Let them live upon their praises; 
Long as there's a sun that sets, 
Primroses will have their glory,
Long as there are violets, 
They will have a place in story: 
There is a flower that shall be mine, 
'T is the little Celandine."

Thus wrote Mr William Wordsworth of the Lesser Celandine. In fact he wrote three poems about the flower, but despite the poet's enthusiasm few others seem to notice it.

While poets and photographers are down on their knees admiring the flora an almighty storm could be brewing just behind them. Best head for home and get the kettle on.

Take care.