Thursday 31 October 2019

Fall's Paradise

Last year.....
"It was actually two years ago, John"
…….OK, two years ago then, I went to take photos of Downing College in Cambridge and ended up photographing the Autumn leaves. This year I thought I'd take some photos of the leaves against the stonework of the buildings. It didn't really work out that way and I wandered on to other colleges too. Here's what happened.....




Sidney Sussex

Believe it or not that last photo, weird as it may seem, is not a double exposure or any other kind of technical trickery. Behind me there was a tree which was reflected in an old window that had somehow been double-glazed and gave a double reflection. Beyond the window, on the other side of the room, were more windows and beyond them stone arches. 

All four colleges visited - Downing, Emmanuel, Christ's and Sidney Sussex - are on a half-mile (800 metre) stretch of Cambridge's main street. They are all worth a visit, both for their historic architecture and their gardens. Better still they don't charge you a penny to walk around and take photos. All they ask is that you remember that this is a learning environment and kindly keep off the grass. Remember though that all colleges usually closed to visitors from mid-April to mid-June for exams.

Take care. 

Monday 28 October 2019

The Hills Of Tatmore

At the very edge of Hitchin town there is a narrow arcing footbridge which lifts you high above the headlights of the morning traffic and into the gently waking countryside.

The plan for today is nothing more complicated than to walk into this land of hidden lanes, quiet woods and occasional field paths and experience the scenery from the first tentative whispers of daybreak to the full-blown golden harmonies of midday.

The English Longhorn cattle are already up and about in the fields around Maydencroft Manor Farm. I gather from the farm's website (they sell beef direct to the consumer) that they also keep native breeds of sheep; I didn't see any today but will be looking out for them when I walk this area in future.

You've probably never heard of the Tatmore Hills before and, to be honest, neither had I till recently, even though I've walked in the area before. But I noticed on my map that a section of our walk is along Tatmorehills Lane, so logically these must be the Tatmore Hills. A quick look on the internet confirms that indeed they are. Mind you, we'll later be walking along Dead Woman's Lane, so I hope all place names are not so literal!

We're just about on the edge of the Chilterns here; that is to say that the ground beneath our feet is part of the chalk ridge that forms those hills, though we're not in the Chilterns Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I hope you'll soon agree that the bureaucrats who made that decision got it all wrong; plenty of beauty to enjoy here.

These ancient lanes, etched into the landscape by centuries of travel, connect isolated buildings that were once busy farms. They even pass though a little valley that was the site of the deserted village of Wayley Green, no sign of which remains on the ground.

My company on this wander is changing as the morning progresses. The early flocks of linnets and goldfinches are making themselves scarce as the rooks and black-headed gulls are moving on to the freshly tilled fields. Pheasants and partridges are also a lot less bold, as they have good reason to be; men with shotguns stalk these fields from time to time. Soon hunters of a different kind will announce themselves as buzzards and red kites take to the skies.

The number of people I encounter will rise as the sun ascends. In the first part of my walk I see one runner and a man standing in a field surrounded by a dozen or so dogs. At about halfway I meet a young woman who immediately informs me that she is not mad and was not talking to herself, although she admits she does do that too. Oh no, she was talking to some cows!

I assure her that I do that sort of thing all the time!

A few more place names spotted on today's map: Sootfield Green, Offleyholes Farm, Wain Wood, Austage End and Wellhead. In Wain Wood there's a place called Bunyan's Cottage and it's known that John Bunyan preached in the wood at a place still known as Bunyan's Dell. The area has a long history of religious non-conformism, probably because the only village of any size, Preston, didn't have a church, so this large tract of land was officially in the parish of Hitchin, from which it was quite distant.

It still feels rather isolated today, though with modern transport you can soon be in Hitchin, or even London, though you'd have to begin your journey on a road like this....

As I was strolling along, all my initial hurry having evaporated in the presence of such timeless scenery, I'm thinking about that name "Tatmore Hills". The first bit, "tat" could be derived from "toot" which is an old word for an outlook or observation post, a use to which it would be admirably suited as it commands broad views across open country.

And the "more" part of the name might mean "big", which comes from the ancient languages of Britain and is related to the Welsh word "mawr". If that's all so then the name Tatmore could be well over 1,000 years old.

But I'm getting nearer to Hitchin now, lots of people are out running, or walking their dogs. I'm going to have to re-tune my mind to the twenty-first century and start thinking about times of trains to get me home.

Take care.

Saturday 26 October 2019

Seven Skies

The weather we've been experiencing lately, with band after band of rainclouds sweeping from west to east, separated (sometimes) by narrow clear interludes, has produced occasionally interesting skies, especially around dawn. Here are seven such...

Before dawn, with lemony shades along the eastern horizon. The view may be ethereal but the location is more prosaic - the village recreation ground, just a short stroll from my back door.

Sometimes we're blessed with some candyfloss pink at dawn.

One can see how people could imagine that there might be gods dwelling up there among these heroic-looking cloud formations. A little later in the day it takes on more usual colouring....

I love to see these broken clouds over the fields and in such a flat landscape as Cambridgeshire you can often see a huge area of sky. 

Sometimes grey overcast conditions break up into these patterned clouds that are generally known as "mackerel" skies. And sometimes you come upon something that is unique and inexplicable....

The temptation is to say that it's been somehow caused by jet contrails, there is certainly plenty of air traffic over East Anglia, but it doesn't usually leave great gashes through the cloud layer. It might be a very long and narrow "fall-streak hole", perhaps caused by pollution from a jet exhaust.  It could also be some sort of wave cloud but I really don't know. Though I do understand roughly what's going on in the photo below....

"We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that the savage has, because we know how it is made. We have lost as much as we gained by prying into that matter".

Mark Twain - A Tramp Abroad

Take care

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Top o' the Heath

The Heath begins just a few hundred yards from the centre of the little town of Royston, which is just a four minute train ride from home. It's not really a heath at all; there's no heather here just a gently sloping grassland, grazed by sheep and walked by golfers. Officially it's the scarp slope of a chalk escarpment and along the top of the slope is a straggly band of trees which in places forms small woods. It's much walked and there are numerous paths among the trees. Here's what it looks like in early autumn.

As you'll have seen there are plenty of autumn fungi around and just a tinge of autumn colour, just a rumour of gold in these hills. We don't really get the fiery reds in this part of the world. Then walking back through Royston.....

Take care.

Sunday 20 October 2019

October's Garden

A walk around the Botanic Garden's little lake on a drizzly morning:

I'm not sure if this one's a photo or not.....

Take care.