• Seems weird that these are not fruits or berries

    Up in one of the Wye Valley woods yesterday and several of the female yews are absolutley laden with cones. I say cones, but of course these bear little resemblance to most peoples' idea of a cone - typically the pines. A single seed is contained within a pink fleshy aril, which is actually a modified scale. This is sweet and edible, while the seed inside is toxic. I remember the last time I visited the famous yew forest in Kingley Vale in Sussex there were little piles of regurgitated yew berries dotted across the turf - the results of thrush glutony. I have tried the aril - sweetish and somewaht tasteless, but not a pastime to be recommended - accidents will happen. The sheer beauty of the vivid pink against the dark needles makes for some pretty pictures.

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  • Found for a pound is back. No beef here.

    Yes, the ongoing adventures of Found for a Pound continue. Picked this up the other day & am absolutely sure that the folks who were selling it hadn't a clue what it was. It is in fact a hand blown glass baby feeder from the period 1820-1840. It has a glass teat shape to the feeding end and a ground off pontil scar at the pointed base. The problem with these, and more so with the contemporary ceramic ones, which couldn't be seen through, was the fact that they were difficult to clean and thus contamination often occurred, sometimes leading to gastroenteritis or worse, which was responsible for many infant deaths at the time. This is a truly remarkable bit of social history & I have to say extremely rare. I have never found one before.

    On a different tack, but still very exciting, is this beautiful hand painted tile panel in the porch of an old butcher's shop in Corwen, North Wales. Spotted on our return from Snowdonia on Monday, I just had to nip out of the car & grab a shot, even though the light conditions were difficult. I think it's supposed to be an Aberdeen Angus & if the shop has closed for good one has to hope that someone will think to save this before anything tragic happens to it. Another super example of the Victorian tile makers' skills.

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  • The wildest Wales I've ever weathered

    Just back from a four day trip to Snowdonia. Four of us in a cracking little farmhouse below Llyn Ogwen. Thank goodness we had a warm and comfortable bolt hole since the weather was absolutely awful. Low cloud, driving rain and well nigh gale force winds on the summits. Saturday - up Devil's Kitchen & across the Glyders and down again. Sunday - north ridge of Tryfan & back down along Heather Terrace. Wet & greasy rock along with only marginally better weather than Saturday made the ascent a little hairy in places. As we came out of the clag at the bottom of the hill the first blue skies burst through & we squelched our way back to the farmhouse along the far side of Llyn Ogwen.

    No matter. Good to be out with old mates. Companionship on the hill and after - easing tired limbs in the hot tub outside the house, waving at the tour buses chugging down to Bethesda, quaffing a beer.

    Thanks to all for a great weekend, excellent sounds, crackling log fire, splendid food, and the odd bottle or three of red.

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  • One of the oldest apple varieties and a dab of the hallucinogenics

    Out for a quick foray on the Common yesterday and found that fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushrooms are popping up all over the place. They are usually considered to be associated with pines, but here they are mainly around the birch trees. The colours are magnificent, but I was interested to see a great variety in the amount of spots displayed. Have a look on Wiki for a brilliant description of these fungi and all the chemistry associated with them. Hallucinogenic properties may bode a weird trip, but a lot of other nasty side effects would make you feel pretty lousy & very occasionally they could kill you.

    Back in the orchard just before sunset I realised that we've had a few apples on our Court Pendu Plat tree. It doesn't fruit prolifically, and the fruit is a little dryish and only has a very subtle, nutty flavour, but it's just rather nice to have one of the very oldest varieties known - recorded back in about 1611, and thought by some to have been brought over by the Romans. Obviously it's of French origin and the name means 'short suspension flat' or effectively a short stemmed apple. Flattish shape perhaps, but not as obvious as other varieties I think. The extremely matt skin is very tactile and the soft array of pinks and yellows are very pretty.

    Apparently it was very popular with the Victorians.

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  • Mystery ancient oak found for a pound

    Popped into one of our local shops this afternoon & spotted a little basket on the floor full of old postcards and photographs. I worked my way steadily through the bundle, more in hope than expectation, when suddenly I came upon this lovely little image of a chap with his dog beneath a truly magnificent old oak....in fact, judging by the scale of the tree, an ancient oak. Flipped it over to see where it was, but nothing written on the back. Rats!

    No matter, paid my pound and added a lovely new (and possibly unique) image to the archive.

    The print is 3.5" in diameter and I knew straight away that this was taken on a Kodak No.2 camera. Turns out this was in production from 1889 to 1897, so I've given the image a date of c1895, but of course it could be a little later.

    So, now it's down to a bit of research to find out where on earth this tree was...or maybe still is. Is it a named tree? Was it famous? Any bright ideas gratefully received.

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