• They spread and they spread

    When we arrived in Herefordshire almost 30 years ago we soon got our bearings and using old maps, latterly a wonderful 25"/mile sheet from 1904, came to understand how the landscape around us had changed in a century. Dozens of orchards had disappeared - a trend that was still ongoing when we moved here, but has slowed down considerably in the last 20 years as thankfully a handful of people have come to realise how ecologically valuable old orchards can be. We found footpaths and bridleways that had been long forgotten and cottages that had been erased completely.

    Barely 500 yards along our track and out across the fields a tiny triangular copse marks the site of one of these erstwhile abodes - now reduced to a few ridges and mounds and forlorn, forgotten bits of rusty old ironwork and scattered bricks. The cottage must once have had its own little garden with a few clumps of snowdrops that burst forth every January. Abandoned, the garden has all but disappeared beneath brambles and nettles and yet every January the snowdrops spring back to life, multiplying, spreading throughout the copse. Any human influence here fizzled out over 70 years ago, but nature ploughs on regardless. I love it!



  • A little piece of 300 year old ephemera - an Act to save trees

    Acquired this lovely little piece of ephemera dating to 1716 concerning the preservation of trees and woodland in the realm, or more specifically, endeavouring to curtail the mischief of, 'divers lewd and disorderly persons, and others, [that] have sometimes in a clandestine and malicious manner, broke down, cut up or otherwise destroyed such timber-trees, fruit-trees and other trees to the great discouragement of the planters and owners thereof..' and provides legislation enabling the judiciary to commit offenders to, 'the house of correction, there to continue and be kept to hard labour for the space of three months,' or where no such institution is available, 'to such prison as is appointed for other criminals, there to continue for a space of four months; and shall also order and adjudge that such offenders shall be publickly whipt by the master of such house of correction once every month.' Alternatively, where there is no house of correction, 'offenders shall be publickly whipt by the hand of the common hangman or executioner once every month, on the market day,,,, between the hours of eleven and two of the clock.' In addition the Act refers to, 'divers woods, underwoods, copices [that] have been heretofore, and lately set on fire, or burnt, to the great discouragement of planting,' and hence, 'such malicious setting on fire, burning, or causing to be burnt, shall be and is hereby declared and made a felony, and the offenders shall suffer and be liable to all penalties and forfeitures.'

    Obviously the destruction of trees and woodland was taken extremely seriously - and rightly so... perhaps we should replicate such severity with some of the vandals who destroy trees needlessly today. One might start in a certain city in south Yorkshire!

    Thought you might enjoy a bit of detailed examination of the superb royal coat of arms and the elaborate capital letter woodcuts.



  • A rare Herefordshire print - niftyatfifty

    As part of my recovery program I allow myself to make occasional browsings in the local charity shops. One never knows what will turn up next. This morning discovered a tatty little frame (modern) containing a small copper engraving of the Ruins of Clifford Castle (over 200 years old). Over the years I've seen many early engravings of Herefordshire landmarks - usually from the period 1820-50, but this is one I've never encountered before. After a little tootling back & forth on the Internet I discovered that the print comes from Duncomb's "History of Herefordshire", 1800. This appears to have been a view that was only made to accompany this text and unusually it doesn't bear any evidence of either the artist or the engraver.

    The castle isn't particularly well known even within the bounds of the county, although it touches on a very colourful event in history. The daughter of the 12th century Walter Clifford was one Rosamund - a woman of famed beauty who became the mistress of Henry II, however it was all doomed to end tragically when Henry's wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, interupted this daliance. See lots more about the history of the castle and its various Lords on the Completely-castles.co.uk website.

    Anyone taking the trouble to visit the castle today will find very little masonry left compared to this 1800 view. As with so many historic sites the stone was probably robbed to build new dwellings, farms and barns in the locale.

    Anyway, I think you'll agree - a rather splendid little find for 50p!



  • Rocking into the new year

    First of all - a happy new year to anyone dipping in. To those who pop by occasionally I have to apologise for lack of activity in the last month or two. A combination of full on marketing and distribution of "ASH" has kept my mind on other things and nursing a snapped achilles tendon has meant that I've had little opportunity to be out and about. Half way through recovery & hopefully driving again by April/May.

    We were having a bit of a tidy the other day and came across a whole box full of pebbles and rocks gathered over the last twenty or thirty years from a variety of mountains, rivers and beaches. I know I'm not alone in picking up pebbles as keepsakes, so hope that you enjoy some of the weird shapes, inclusions and colours among these few.

    Incidentally "ASH" is selling steadily and I have had some really positive feedback from happy customers. It's listed with Waterstones and the National Trust and I've got several other leads lined up for this year. However, if you want a signed copy (the limited 500 edition is going fast) do please get in touch directly. See books page for more details.



  • Whiteleaved Oak finally expires

    Sad day on Tuesday. I'd been told by someone at one of my recent talks that the celebrated Whiteleaved Oak had finally expired. Sitting on a small mound near the southern end of the Malvern Hills, the adjoining hamlet named after the tree (or its predecessor), the Whiteleaved Oak grew at the conjunction of three counties - Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire - as well as the meeting of several ley lines and had thus become a focal point for many people with a spiritual leaning. This had resulted in the tree hosting celebrations such as weddings, wakes, birthdays and anniversaries as well as gathering all manner of amulets and tokens of good luck, health and happiness (a tree sometimes called a rag tree or in Scotland a cloutie (cloth) tree - somewhat esoteric maybe, but rather beautiful in its own way.

    When I first met the tree back in 1990 I did get a certain sense of something special but inexplicable about the place & that was before so many followers had adopted it.

    How old was it? We can only guess, but 400-500 years wouldn't be out of the way. It will be missed by a host of tree lovers.



Archie Miles photography

Archie's Blog

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