Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Valley of Rocks

From Wikipedia: The Valley of the Rocks or The Valley of Rocks is a dry valley that runs parallel to the coast in north Devon, England, about 1 kilometre to the west of the village of Lynton. It is a popular tourist destination, noted for its herd of feral goats, and for its geology, having good exposures of the Lynton Beds that are among the oldest Devonian rocks in north Devon and are highly fossiliferous. Also of note are the periglacial features formed when this area was at the limit of glaciation during the last Ice Age. The valley is believed to owe its existence to the dissection by coastal cliff recession of a former extension of the valley of the East Lyn River which now meets the sea at Lynmouth.

In late 1797, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth visited the valley together and decided to write a prose tale called "The Wanderings of Cain" set there, though it was never completed. The poet Robert Southey was a visitor in August 1799, and was impressed, describing it as "covered with huge stones … the very bones and skeletons of the earth; rock reeling upon rock, stone piled upon stone, a huge terrific mass". Later, R. D. Blackmore set part of his novel Lorna Doone (first published in 1869) in the valley.

A visit to the Valley in 1974 by the Australian composer Miriam Hyde with her husband led to her writing the piano piece Valley of Rocks in 1975, which became her best-known composition.

There is also a cricket pitch situated in The Valley of Rocks.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Midsummer's Morn

I like to share the odd song on here, usually tree related if I can find one ( I'll give Tie A Yellow Ribbon a miss for now if you don't mind) so I present Oak and Ash and Thorn, written by Rudyard Kipling. Yes I know about the criticisms of Kipling; that he was an Imperialist cheerleader, a freemason etc. but he plays a part in our inherited culture whether we like it or not, and these poems  are neatly tucked away in his books for us to happily ignore if we choose to but some of them are pretty good. This one is from Puck Of Pook's Hill, written for children as an introduction to British history. I showed a copy to my Mother, who remembered reading it as a schoolchild herself.

Of course the next difficult subject is English folk music, and I have to admit I came to it fairly late, possibly because it gets such a bad press in this country, with it's visions of morris dancing and tankards of ale, though it's actually a broadish church, encompassing both the left and the right of politics and with most of it written and originally sung by working class people. I grew up listening to plenty of folk music; largely Irish, Breton, French and to a degree Scottish, but remained generally ignorant of my own musical traditions. I still wonder about how old a song has to be before it becomes "traditional".

Oak and Ash and Thorn is sung here by Peter Bellamy with Royston Wood and Heather Wood, known collectively as The Young Tradition, though this was on a solo album in 1970. He said of the song; "Kipling entitled this poem A Tree Song, and it is to be found in the story Weland's Sword. Both the tale and the song set the mood and pattern for all the stories and poems which follow. The tune is intended to recall those of some of the old wassail and ritual songs."

Bellamy had a distinctive singing style. In a cartoon of 1980, he was given the anagrammatical name "Elmer P Bleaty", a humorous comment on the nasal vibrato of his voice. In fitting music to many of Kipling's poems Bellamy would try and figure out which tunes Kipling might have had in mind when writing, and does a very good job of matching old tunes or tunes he wrote himself to the works. Like a lot of folk songs it's much easier to sing along with after a few beers. I'll put the words underneath for you to enjoy.

Of all the trees that grow so fair,
Old Engerland to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the Sun,
Than Oak and Ash and Thorn.
Sing Oak and Ash and Thorn, good Sirs
(All of a Midsummer's morn)!
Surely we sing of no little thing,
In Oak and Ash and Thorn!

Oak of the Clay lived many a day,
Or ever Aeneas began;
Ash of the Loam was a lady at home,
When Brut was an outlaw man;
Thorn of the Down saw New Troy Town
(From which was London born);
Witness hereby the ancientry
Of Oak and Ash and Thorn!

Yew that is old in churchyard mould,
He breedeth a mighty bow;
Alder for shoes do wise men choose,
And beech for cups also.
But when ye have killed, and your bowl is spilled,
Your shoes are clean outworn,
Back ye must speed for all that ye need,
To Oak and Ash and Thorn!

Ellum she hateth mankind, and waiteth
Till every gust be laid,
To drop a limb on the head of him
That anyway trusts her shade:
But whether a lad be sober or sad,
Or mellow with ale from the horn,
He'll take no wrong when he lieth along
'Neath Oak and Ash and Thorn!

Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight,
Or he would call it a sin;
But—we have been out in the woods all night,
A-conjuring Summer in!
And we bring you news by word of mouth—
Good news for cattle and corn—
Now is the Sun come up from the South,
With Oak and Ash and Thorn!

Sing Oak and Ash and Thorn, good Sirs
(All of a Midsummer's morn)!
England shall bide till Judgement Tide,
By Oak and Ash and Thorn!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Monday, June 06, 2016


Here in the middle of Dartmoor the East Dart and the West Dart tributaries meet, just to the south of these two bridges. The partly demolished clapper bridge is thought to be medieval, though could be older, and the modern road bridge was built in 1792. The bird in the last photo we think is a Lady Amherst pheasant, which we found chasing a cyclist up the road.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

some spring thing

Yes, the spring summer thing is finally here. It's been a long winter, seems like about eight months which is odd as a season is only really supposed to last for about a quarter of a year, but there you go. We have actually had hot sunny days, and we go blinking into the daylight outside, pasty and white and soon to become the look of the lobster so favoured of the visiting touristico's.

You can always spot an imminent bank holiday and half term because the town starts filling up with vintage VW camper vans, vintage sports cars and modern expensive sportscars with the roofs down, driven by unhappy rich men with accompanying sullen teenager in the passenger seat. There's no pleasing some people; they come down here with their big fat bags of London money, buy up any house they can grab hold of and then spend the time they can get down here moping about like the unhappy miserychops that they are. The Maid and me exchanged glances with each other over the sour expression of a woman emerging from a shop with the biggest ice-cream I've ever seen, on one of the first really hot sunny day of the year. Life really is very short people, please try and enjoy yourselves.

The swifts finally arrived back, about three weeks late by my reckoning and in greatly reduced numbers, but great to hear them again with their beautiful busy screeching. Out in the hedge to the front something has nested, a blackbird possibly, and the tiny chatter of hungry chicks fills the hedgerow.

In the winter it doesn't get light here until about eight thirty in the morning, and now the sun actually insists on coming up just after four o'clock, which is the middle of the night really. The winter, although lovely, is far too long in this country and next winter I'm thinking of hitching a ride south with the birds.