Sunday, 22 February 2009

Angels of Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery in London was described by the poet John Betjeman as "Victorian Valhalla". There are many graves of famous artistic and literary people, most notably the Pre Raphaelites. I found this grave of Frederick Warne, publisher of Beatrix Potter. As can be soon from the photo, the graves are very overgrown and some almost in perpetual shade.

However what impressed me most about Highgate was the melancholy beauty of its angels. I am going back there at some point to explore the monuments more thoroughly. Many are protected by English Heritage for their artistic and architectural merit.

The cemetery was rich in flora and fauna. We saw squirrels, a robin perched on a headstone, and I was delighted by the display of snowdrops which carpet the ground and grow through the cracks in some of the older stones. I find this reassuring as it seems to represent rebirth or growth and the signs of early spring.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Silbury Hill

"Clumsy treasure hunting," Sir Richmond said. "They bore into Silbury Hill and expect to find a mummified chief or something sensational of that sort, and they don't, and they report nothing. They haven't sifted finely enough; they haven't thought subtly enough. These walls of earth ought to tell what these people ate, what clothes they wore, what woods they used. Was this a sheep land then as it is now, or a cattle land? Were these hills covered by forests? I don't know. These archaeologists don't know. Or if they do they haven't told me, which is just as bad. I don't believe they know.

..."To-day, among these ancient memories, has taken me out of myself wonderfully. I can't tell you how good Avebury has been for me. This afternoon half my consciousness has seemed to be a tattooed creature wearing a knife of stone. . . . "

From "The Secret Places of the Heart" by H G Wells.

Waylands Smith

I walked along the Ridgeway, where the winter sun was melting the snow. I like the satisfying crunch it makes underfoot. When I arrived at Waylands Smithy, the snow appeared completely untouched apart from a row of deer hoof prints. The sunlight gave the snow a slight bluish tinge.

What makes Waylands Smithy so atmospheric, is the way it is so secluded and surrounded by beech trees. it is best seen on a sunny autumn day when the dappled sunlight plays on the stones.

The legend attached to the Waylands Smith, is that if you leave a penny on the stones the ghostly blacksmith will shod your horse.

Walking back along the Ridgeway, towards Ashbury Hill, I was amazed how much snow there is still in the fields and hills even though it seems to have melted everywhere else.

" '- here are we at Wayland Smith's forge-door.'

'You jest, my little friend,' said Tressilian; 'there is nothing but a bare moor, and that ring of stones, with a great one in the midst , like a Cornish barrow.' 'Why,' said Dickie, with a grin, 'you must tie your horse to that upright stone that has the ring in't, and then you must whistle three times, and lay me down your silver groat on that other flat stone, walk out of the circle, sit down on the west side of that little thicket of bushes, and take heed you look neither to right nor left for ten minutes, or so long as you shall hear the hammer clink, and whenever it ceases, say your prayers for the space you could tell a hundred, or count over a hundred, which will do as well, - and then come into the circle; you will find your money gone and your horse shod.' "

Sir Walter Scott, Kenilworth.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Snow had fallen, snow on snow...

What can be more Dickensian than a church that looks like something out of a Victorian Christmas card? I was snowed in this weekend, although I managed to visit the local church and take these photographs.

Perhaps a setting for a Christmas ghost story?

Beware of "The Goblins and the Sexton".