history, landscape, Shropshire, Stone

Mitchell’s Fold

the ancient stone circle at Mitchell's Fold with Corndon Hill behind in the distance
Mitchell’s Fold with Corndon Hill behind

No-one knows who they were or what they were doing, but their legacy remains…

There are only two neolithic stone circles remaining in Shropshire, and by far the best is Mitchell’s Fold.  (The other is the nearby Hoarstones)

It’s not like Stonehenge, it doesn’t have the enormous and technologically impressive trilithons,  and it’s not like the village encircling stones at Avebury – it’s a lot smaller (about 25m across), and the stones aren’t nearly as impressive.

The circle dates from about 4000 years ago, and sits 330m above sea level, with some great views.  Some of the stones are 6ft tall, most a lot shorter. Some have fallen over.  About half of them are missing.  One seems to be buried in the centre of the circle (and is a petrified witch, if you believe the rather fanciful local legends).

No-one has any solid idea what it was for, only guesses.

I’ve been meaning to visit for over a year now, but always things get in the way. Mostly weather.  I’ve been trying to interest friends into coming along, and this week the stars aligned and I had both beautiful weather and (beautiful) friends.

It got off to a bad start when the sat-nav insisted we travel most of the way down single-width country lanes – dodging the many and seemingly suicidal baby pheasant – when there was a perfectly good A-road to take us 95% of the way.   When we finally got out of the car we decided to take a shortcut that involved hacking through head-high bracken straight up a steep hill,  although we eventually realised the shortcut took four times as long as the route would have taken otherwise.  We’d have been faster without 3 children and 2 dogs. It got a bit chaotic.

When we finally got to Mitchell’s Fold, we found a small herd of cows grazing between the stones, and in some cases using them as scratching posts.

We ate our picnic, then spent the afternoon up there chatting and throwing balls for the dogs. We’ll definitely be going back.

 

 

Camera, landscape, Photography, Shropshire, Stone, trees

Expired Film, Lomo LC-A

Quantum Leap Sculpture
Quantum Leap Sculpture

I’ve discovered that some of my rolls of film are waaayy past their use-by date, sometimes by ten years or so.  So now my project this year is to use all the really old films before they’re unusable. They are mostly B&W, although there is some colour slide film.

The roll of Agfa APX100 here should have been used by November 2010.

Some film forums advise shooting expired black and white film as if it were half the advertised speed to compensate for the changed film chemistry.  I recently shot some seriously expired Fuji Neopan and found them to be too dark, so this makes sense.   As it turns out these shots mostly came out too bright! Luckily film is fairly forgiving.

The main problem was half of the film being blank – the batteries were failing, so about every other shot the camera’s shutter didn’t open (I didn’t discover this until I got the developed negatives back).  Some of the shots look a little soft, that’s a ‘feature’ of the lens on the Lomo LC-A.

Here then are a few shots of Shrewsbury.

Camera, Nature, Photography, Shropshire, Stone

Stiperstones Film (Finally)

I finally finished the films I shot up the Stiperstones just before Christmas, and just got the developed negatives back. It didn’t take too long to scan them in, as there are only 8 shots per roll when you shoot with 120 film.

The 1st roll was the slowest film I’ve ever shot with – Ilford PanF 50 – and I think that’s why the roll didn’t come out so well – the shutter speed was so slow that the slight wobble of me trying to hold it steady in a strong (and freezing cold) wind created the slight blur, and lost me a lot of detail, and so I only got  a few usable photos.  I’m annoyed, because the most blurry photo (which I’ve included below) would have made the best shot otherwise. Grrr. Next time with this film I’m using a tripod.

Luckily, the 2nd film came out mostly ok. There are a couple of shots I took around town just to finish off the film, I’ll post them separately, in case I confuse anyone and give them the impression there is a river up there on the top of the Shropshire hills.

 

In case this sort of thing interests you, the camera was a 1946 Voigtlander Bessa and the films I used were Ilford PanF 50 and Fomapan 100.

landscape, Nature, Photography, Shropshire, Stone, Voigtlander

Stiperstones

On the weekend before Christmas, I went with friends for a walk up the Stiperstones, a hill in south Shropshire.  The summit ridge runs for 8km, and features several jagged quartzite rock outcrops, which make for dramatic photographs (I hope).

It was a bright, sunny day, but once we got onto the hills it was surprisingly cold*. It always seems bleak up Stiperstones, for some reason.  It’s 20 years since I last went there, and it was bleak then, too.  I was juggling 2 cameras with increasingly numb fingers**, not easy when one is a 1946 VoigtlanderBessa , with some fiddly adjustments necessary just to get the device to open.

One of the rocky outcrops is known as the Devil’s Chair, one of several bits of folklore attached to the area. Apparently the Devil dropped a load of rocks he was carrying in his apron (!) and just left them there, although he does use the rocks as a chair to address evil spirits, witches and the like on the longest night of the year.

In another story, the ghost of Wild Edric rides the hills whenever England is threatened with invasion.  He was last spotted in 1853 before the Crimean war, although I don’t think we were threatened with invasion at that time.  Wild Edric is also said to haunt the Stretton Hills as an enormous black dog with fiery eyes. Of course he does.

*It was late December, that should have given me a clue. At least it didn’tr rain.

**I was in a rush and forgot my gloves. That’s not happening again.

Avebury, Camera, landscape, Photography, Stone, Wiltshire

Some More Avebury Photos

I took quite a few photos during my visit, and never inflicted all that many on you. So, while my roll of film is (finally) getting developed (I misplaced it), here are some more of the digital shots i took.

Avebury, Camera, Photography, Stone, Wiltshire

Avebury

 

DSCF9026 BW

I finally got to see Avebury for myself this week, which is a bit odd really, seeing as I’ve just made an album about it*. Me and Daisy both have lots of photos to share/bore you with, but I’ll leave this shot of the avenue for now, as we’re busy getting the album ready to release.

 

*The words are Daisy’s, she knows this neck of the woods like the back of her hand.

Avebury, landscape, Photography, Poetry, Stone, Wiltshire

The Poem for the Queen Stone – musings and an extract

The Queen Stone (my name for her)
The Queen Stone looms large in my imagination as well as the landscape

The Queen stone of Avebury has been mentioned on this blog before. I identify her as Queen because her top edge resembles a crown and she seems so distinct in shape, generally. Her form is feminine: rounded, generous, sheltering, yes, but sharp-headed and standing strong against the withering, weathering winds of the place. Raindrops linger and shimmer on her upper edges, like a mystic’s pool, or tears of regret on a proud face.

If Avebury was indeed a site of pilgrimage or worship, (holy or heretical, holistic or hubristic), or even simply a gathering place for tribes and traders, there will have been people of rank as well as the common folk making up the crowds, so maybe a queen or a priestess held court there. I imagine this stone as encapsulating this commanding presence.

When I wrote a poem about her, to be set to music by Andy for the upcoming Haven Avenue album, the words tumbled out without much need for summoning or marshalling: the Queen was calling the shots. She had a tale to tell, orders to give, private tears to weep, and she wanted no pity. I felt the form of the poem was vital: like a royal protocol or a formal dance, there was an order and a structure to follow, verse to verse. It imposed itself – yes I wrote this poem, but it found me, bubbling up from within.  I think of my doughty Queen as holding onto power in the midst of change and challenge: she will not cede, not yield, …not yet.   The poem begins thus: for the final verse, you’ll have to check out the album!

She buried him deep, her king.
Refusing to weep, she walked instead.
Trod paths round and round.
Turned thoughts in her head.
Told sons to wait their turn.
After her. Her heart turned to stone.
Her crown, three jagged points.
A Trinity devoid of jewels.
And yet she glitters in the sun.
Her beauty untouched by four thousand years.She buried them deep, her fears.
Refusing to weep, she talked instead.
But made not a sound.
On mud paths she’d tread.
Told us to wait and learn.
Look at her. Her face turned to stone.
Her throne, a chalk circle.
A Divinity devoid of rings.
And yet she welcomes everyone.
Her soul untouched by four thousand years.
(copyright of author, please respect!) ©2015