Sunday, 24 May 2009

Another day out

After a week of torrential rain, today dawned bright, clear and warm, such a relief.  So it was off for a good long walk, with a picnic lunch in the rucksack.  We went to a place we often visit, it's not far from home, and is called Musbury.  This is a picture of the valley, taken from the deserted village looking up the valley.  The wall on the right is from the best preserved house. Do click on any of these photos for a better look.

This valley was settled for centuries, part of it was made into the Earl of Lincoln's deer park in the late thirteenth/early fourteenth centuries.  You can still see some sections of the enclosure ditch dug 7 centuries ago in this valley and the next one.  The farmers here grew oats, reared sheep, spun wool, were handloom weavers and at times illegal whisky distillers, before Wesley came along to tame those he described as "wild men".  Some of my ancestors came from here, so for me this valley has a strong resonance.

Small mills were built by the water at the bottom end of the valley by the end of the 18th century, providing employment for the 2000 people who lived here - this valley and others like it were the birthplace of the industrial revolution.  But when big mills were built further away, powered by water from a new reservoir, the life became uneconomic and people drifted into the nearby towns to work in the factories.  All the houses in this valley were pulled down to prevent squatters moving in.   They tended to carefully take off the roof tiles and timbers to be used elsewhere before pulling down the walls, but these roof "tiles" (they are actually made of stone, the traditional local roofing material) were never collected and are still here.  The village and almost all the farms had gone before the end of the nineteenth century, so these roofing tiles have been here for about 100 years.

So now the valley is left to the grass, trees, sheep, some cows, occasional horses, the birds, lizards and, it seems, the stoats (or weasels, hard to tell which).  I saw one of these today, was only a few metres away when it sat up to get a good look at me.  Unfortunately my camera was in my bag so I missed the best chance I've ever had to get a picture.  Off it went, like a flash.

One one side of the valley is the old quarry.  Stone from this and the other quarries in this area paved the towns and cities of England in the nineteenth century.  Now all that's left are huge piles of stones, abandoned buildings and the path of the old tramway (centre of the picture) which moved the stone to the funicular which took it down to the valley bottom.  You may notice that in all of the photos today the hills have flat tops - every single one has been quarried over the centuries.

I don't know the botanical name of this plant, I have always called it "cotton balls", since it resembles cotton plants.  It grows on peat bogs, of which there are several in this area.
The land round here is steep, with lots of gullies in which trees and bushes congregate.  The flowering tree is a rowan, very pretty at this time of year.  
At the end of our walk I noticed this geranium.  I've never seen one like it before - it was growing by the side of the road.  A stunning flower.

Normal gardening resumes tomorrow.
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