Friday, December 30, 2011

to sail beyond the sunset

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Here are some photos of the sunset on Christmas Eve. I stand on this temporary shoreline and observe the passing of another day and am reminded of the people no longer here. Mind you, there's a fair chance I would have been on my own here anyway, but now these people are no longer at home when I get back and I am unable to reach them by telephone. I have my memories of them and they also make an occasional appearance in dreams, which seems an appropriate place to catch up with those who have gone. I also have to consider that whatever I have lost, it has been a worse year for many other people. There are all these plans for the future and all the time in the world but the time runs out unexpectedly one day.

The sea uncovers the remains of a ship, another hope foundered and was abandoned to the incoming tide. What have we learnt from this loss? The wise king Canute has somehow been misrepresented as foolish by history when he seemed to be demonstrating against the sea to "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." and if there isn't then no matter, for whatever net you may try to throw over the universe to contain it makes no difference in the end when you should already know the reason and the answer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

up the snod

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We leave the dark month of December briefly to look back at this record of a hot and dry morning in late September. The River Sid can be followed inland and upstream to where it connects to The Snodbrook, a small tributary of the Sid, having its source in the hill to the north. A small tarmac lane runs beside the quiet and unseen Snod. In the Sweetcombe Valley we pass by the beautiful Boswell Farm, which originally dates back to pre-Norman times and has a threshing barn built in 1710 which still stands on its original stone monastic pillars.

A couple of cars pass by and then all is quiet again. I don't meet anyone here for the next hour or two and then not until I get back to the bright lights of Sidford. I decide to get off the lane and have a look at the Snod. After working through the abundant plantage the Snod is found to be a dark but clear river about six feet wide. The lane becomes a green lane, unmade and used by ancient packhorses and drovers. These can date back to Bronze Age times, others may be just a few hundred years old. Some are known as Hollow Ways, those that have sunk below the level of the adjacent ground. Hollow Lanes sometimes give the impression of being circular in shape, so you get the sensation of walking down a long tube of flickering light, foliage and track. The lanes in the middle section of the photos are about seven to ten feet wide and are used by the occasional land rover or tractor and for the movement of cows. Gates and other exits or passing places are few and I am glad that I don't meet a herd of cows coming down the lane towards me. The lanes amble around the hills, going nowhere in particular but always connecting the fields and the isolated houses and farms to nearby civilisation.

The word Snod might have its origins in Scotland and the North of England, where it is an adjective used for smooth and sleek or neat and tidy. In old Norse there is snothin - bald and snauthr - bare. It has been suggested by some that it means sweet in Old English. It's a bit like snood, the distinctive headband formally worn by young unmarried women. In Italian Snoda seems to mean winds, in Arabic it might be الرياح . I found it in an extensive Anglo Saxon dictionary produced in 1921, appearing as snoda redimicula, Latin for a band, a necklace, or a girdle. It's even in the Urban Dictionary where Snod is an acronym for Slutty New Outfit Day, described as being when attractive girls wear outfits that are very slutty on the first good day of spring. Snod is also there as drunk and on mushrooms."Dude, I was so snod last night, I don't remember anything...it was awesome!"

These lanes are close to the towns but are quiet and empty and as such they are very much recommended for travel and exploration. The hedgerows contain lots of food, so it is possible to eat as you walk.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

autumn woods

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We walk out into the gloom and ascend the hill, where the sights of Autumn surround us. The woods are quiet, many of the birds have flown though we still have the squirrels and their manic scampering for company as we walk. As lovely as the sight of Autumn is it's actually the smell that is remarkable; rotting leaf matter and strange fungoid aromas fill the air.

We've had a mild Autumn which has so far saved me from burning lots of wood, giving us more fuel for the later part of Winter. It's been so mild that I have seen bees and butterflies this week. Last Winter we began having fires at the beginning of October, but here we are in late November and it still isn't very cold. I'm sure it'll come soon enough. My store of wood seems unusually large this year and upon opening the door to the shed I am confronted by what appears to be a huge breaking wave of wood coming towards me. Exchanging a small pile of paper money for an enormous pile of hard wood has always seemed like a very good exchange to me. We bring the hardened sunlight into the house, and being the thief of fire, release its energy. Our own personal mini sun for heat and light against the dark and cold. How fortunate we are.

Short dark days make for long evenings as the world turns and tilts. It gets properly dark before five now, though some days it hardly seems to get very light at all. The air is still today and all would be quiet, but I can hear the faint sound of a choir nearby, practicing carols as I type this, such a seasonal sound.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Water Sky Moon

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I had some fun filming timelapse on the beach in August. First of all it was a long walk on a hot day which was also very windy. Dangerous weather for me on a beach as I am liable to get burnt to crisp. There isn't much possibility of shade or shelter what with it being cliffs on one side and sea the other but fortunately I made it to some large rocks and was able to shelter behind those for few hours while I pointed the camera up and down.

In the first shot the camera ended up being a bit closer to the incoming tide than I was hoping for, so I moved it and got the shot looking down the beach the other way. I still managed to get the camera and lens covered in spray being blown off the sea, as can be seen in the increasingly obscured shot. I really should look after my equipment better.

Photo number two is the moon rising in June I think. Yes it's a moon in June. The third photo was taken earlier this evening and shows the wind picking up nicely. Time to batten down the hatches by the look of it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

some more from the bus

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Just a quick posting of some photos taken back in the summer that I haven't had time to put up before now. These were taken on a bus trip to Okehampton for a walk I had planned and show Dartmoor in the background. The three peaks are at Belstone, where I took last years tor photographs, and the large round hill is what used to be known as Cowsand Beacon and which is now called Cosdon Hill for some reason. The last two are just a couple that got away that I liked.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The old mill at North Tawton

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From the Middle Ages and until late in the 18th century woollen manufacture was Devon's most valuable industry. The first known fulling mill in North Tawton was at Cottles Barton in 1558. As the nineteenth and twentieth century’s progressed the Devonshire woollen mills failed, one by one, although North Tawton’s was one of the last to go. The processes carried out in the factory included sorting, washing, drying, combing, spinning and weaving.

A brief history since 1930

The mill was brought by Hosken Trevithick & Polkinghorne, trading as Farm industries, for use as a store and wool grading centre.

1939-1951. The new shed was requisitioned by the Ministry of Works, and was a major centre for storing Government wool.

1948. The North Devon water Board abstracted water from the leat. Two pumps were built to extract water and the mains water was augmented by the factory supply.

1950. Ambrosia of Lapford rented a building on the site, for the storage of milk and rice, where ten women were employed sorting the grain.

1957. The North Devon Water Board leased the yard and a shed for storage at £25 per annum.

1964. The British Wool Marketing Board took over the premises, and it became an important wool grading centre. Wool buyers came from all over the country to view the board’s samples. The Wool Board made their own electricity until 1991 and sold surplus to the Electricity Board.

1992. Wool stores were closed at Buckfastleigh, Launceston and North Tawton and the business was concentrated in South Molton. Two of the remaining employees were transferred there. A sad end to what was once a great enterprise. In the Okehampton Times of 17 December 1992 it was reported that: West Devon Council issued a development brief for the wool factory, which, it is suggested, could be put to leisure use, e.g. a public sports hall, the mill leat could be developed for water sports, and buildings converted to a restaurant and/or museum connected with the former wool industry.

In 1994 the premises were bought by a local land owner, and have remained empty ever since.

I visited the site on what turned out to be a day of continual rain, which is fairly typical for Devon and not a problem. The site is very large and takes a good while to walk around even quickly as there are numerous sheds and buildings there. Many of the roofs have given way and the rain is getting into a lot of the buildings making them unstable. Some of the roofs contain glass, some of which has fallen and a lot of which still swings in the wind, so these sheds would be best avoided on very windy days. The large and beautiful mill building also seems to be leaking, as when I was inside there was a constant running and dripping of water on the large wooden stairs, so these stairs and possibly the floors above are not to be trusted. All in all an interesting site which was nearly bulldozed earlier on in the year until the plan for rebuilding fell through again and so the mill remains derelict, and is slowly being reclaimed by nature. Visiting the site is trespassing I believe and caution should also be taken due to the dangerous condition of the place.