Tuesday, 24 June 2014

X O'Clock

Roman numerals to the rescue when it comes to the X week of ABC Wednesday. This particular X is telling me it is 11 O'Clock and its summer time.
Taking a step back you can even see my position on the planet on the rim of this sundial, an amazingly flawless piece of polished blue grey slate engraved with an hour scale, calibrated to fifteen minute intervals. The seven declination lines mark the six divisions for the 12 zodiac signs which are engraved on the rim. None of our little group could remember what symbol any zodiac sign was so that part was a bit of a mystery to us all, as it will be for you but for a different reason, the signs which are highlighted in gold leaf on the far sides don't show up in my photograph.
Here is the sundial in its setting, a wild flower meadow on the Holker estate in Cumbria. Weighing in at a tonne and measuring 5' 1" (155cm) with a depth of 15" (38cm) its placement on the large rock beneath it makes it look deceptively small.  Designed by Sir Mark Lennox-Boyd of the British Sundial Society it is a homage to the ancient scaphe sundials invented 2,300 years ago by astronomers on the islands of Samos and Kos.  The Greeks and Romans both used large stone sundials like this based on a partial sphere or scaphe which could tell time accurately if carved to a true sphere and correctly calibrated for a given site like this one. 

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at X here

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Water Feature

Leaving the formal gardens of Holker Hall in Cumbria the eye is immeditately taken by these two limestone obelisks and a tempting path leading to the steps in the distance.
Those first steps lead to a plateau and fountain, water gushing into the air, and as I discovered, misting over the photographer if you get too close. Continuing past the fountain uphill eventually leads to a god surveying the scene,
Who else but Neptune riding his sea horse (a marble statue created by Italian craftsmen in the 17th Century).
The Neptune Cascade
This is his view down the water cascade which flows over an inlaid zig-zag slate pattern at either side of the path, the fountain can be seen in the distance at the bottom. The owners of Holker Hall, Hugh and Grania Cavendish. were inspired by water features in Rajasthan in creating this cascade. One of the businesses they own is Burlington Slate Quarry whose blue grey slate can be spotted decorating many parts of the gardens but this is the most extensive use. 
The mallard ducks don't care about that they just enjoy the water.
And the cranes are forever bathing in the fountain. The cascade climbs through rhododendrons and oaks, and is a good reason to visit the gardens in spring when the rhododendrons are in full flower throughout the 25 acres of garden and woodland.
Detail on fountain surround
An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojouring at W here

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Cities, Football and Macaw

The wait is over and the World Cup is about to kick off, its that time of optimism for all the teams and supporters before a ball has been kicked.  The symbolic bird of choice is the macaw, hybridised especially by the artist in the colours of Brazil.
Each of the host cities have their own poster (which also appear on a stamp set) and one of my favourites happens to be the place where England start their Word Cup campaign in the heart of the world's largest rainforest. I wonder what the two macaw are saying?  Continuing a theme of goal posts here is the first ever World Cup poster
designed by Guillermo Laborde (1886-1940) in one of the golden eras of poster design and whose paintings now hang in the same city as the inaugural  tournament, Montevideo.  Of course Uruguay won the first ever World Cup final and  England will be meeting the present day team on the 19th in Sao Paulo, an area that has the nickname Terra da Garoa (Land of Drizzle).  Coming from an island whose climate involves rather more than drizzle I hope this is good omen
It will not be the first time Sao Paulo have hosted World Cup matches

for that was in 1950 when the World Cup trophy was renamed Jules Rimet in honour of the 25th anniversary of the FIFA president. Once again Uruguay won the cup, this was unexpected as Brazil were the favourites. England were also part of a one of the great upsets, defeated 1-0 by a team of amateurs that played soccer, the USA.
Flying on to Belo Horizonte (whose stadium can be seen in the background of this poster)  England will either play their last match here on the 24th against Costa Rica or will be on the move into the Second Round to either Rio or Recife.  I will not tempt fate by including the posters so here is the official 2014 World Cup poster designed by Karen Haidinger showing

the exotic flora and fauna of Brazil in the design with the shape of the country contained within the legs and border.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Venus de Frog

This old stone byre once a home for cows and goats now becomes an artist's hideaway at Clearbeck House gardens. Located amongst the Tatham Fells in north Lancashire the land was once a farm but the Osborne family have over the decades changed it from dereliction to a mix of formal garden and wilderness with follies and sculptures.  Lets take a walk around the corner of this old byre
As you can see from the ferns and mossy tree trunk this is a  damp and shaded corner.  No need to squint at the sign I'll go closer
and here it is "Venus de Frog",
and here she is, keeping an eye on the frogs,  The byre had been built with a stone arched niche to contain the Victorian plaster cast  of the Venus de Milo.  It has to be kept dry, as must all plaster, and she watches the flow of Clear Beck at her feet.
I would love to know about the Victorian farmer who dreamt up this idea and it does rather typify the wonderful Victorian mindset.  Why have a plain structure when there is an opportunity to embellish.   The original Hellenic Venus de Milo was discovered in the 1820s and became a sensation so perhaps that might have been something to do with the choice of sculpture.  Alternatively as she is Aphrodite (Venus in Roman mythology) who is not only goddess of love but also purity and one would hope the high fell spring water would be pure. I imagine in past times the beck would be the only source of water.  

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at V here

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


In last week's ABC Wednesday I showed a pool on the Cumbrian coast teeming with tadpole life so this week I would like to take you from that pool at Haverigg out on to the sands and the flotsam and jetsam that finds itself there.  This is the Duddon Estuary which opens out into the Irish Sea.
There is a great tidal range and the tide can go out up to two miles uncovering a vast stretch of sand.  In 2011 one of the channels moved and uncovered a wreck that had been there for over a hundred years and now can be seen at very low tide.  I'd just walked out, curious to see what the solid block on the horizon was, but as it was not an extremely low tide so this is as far as I could get.  Lets zoom in
This was the 'Ariel' built in 1887 which sprang a leak and foundered here in 1904 on Duddon Bar, drifted and eventually settled on this spot half a mile away and is now unseaworthy but still hangs on to its ship shape, despite being covered by sea life over that century underwater .  Known locally as McNally's Wreck it shows how oral history can capture the essence but not always the truth as the captain at the time of its sinking was called McNish.  Steve of the Cumbrian Sea Sports Association has a fascination with the wreck and has pictures at a very low tide which shows more of the 'Ariel' and more history he has uncovered here    
Duddon Estuary and Black Combe
Well time to turn back and head towards land before the tide comes in.
Passing by this lone jellyfish left behind from the last tide whose gelatinous form is 98% water and of course famously the painful sting of jellyfish can be treated by urine, I think on balance I might prefer the other alternative of vinegar.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week drifting by U here