• Major Oak - Minor Giggle

    This could be another of my Found for Pound stories - that's all this postcard cost me, but one I've never seen before, and when I turned it over it made me smile. There seem to be hundreds of different Major Oak postcards from the turn of the century. I suspect it was rather like a scrum on a nice summer's day with dozens of photographers (professionals and amateurs alike) all wanting to get their shots. Clearly there was money to be made flogging posties to the visitors...and there were thousands of them.

    When I acquired this card the other day it was very faded, but a bit of Photoshop TLC has brought it back to life. Notice how the title, which must have been written on the negative, has had the J reversed to an L, so The Malor Oak really.

    I wonder if the 'much better' photograph by whoever sent this postie did turn out alright? I also wonder who the rather austere old lady is and are those girls her grandaughters? They look like they're having fun at any rate. We'll never know who they were, but still a lovely image from 1906.

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  • Happy return of 'found for a pound'

    It's been a while since I posted any of the fun things that have turned up in the palm of my hand for the princely sum of £1, but they're still out there waiting to be found. With the new season of car boots well under way I've been out having a bit of a poke around & offer you the following little goodies for your enjoyment.

    The latest find - yesterday - appears to be a Jacobite cause tumbler. The style of the glass looks to me like very early C19th, a few years after the Jacobite cause had petered out, but it may be earlier. The symbolism of the engraved rose and rosebud immediately caught my eye. This is the white heraldic rose of York, the ancient emblem of the Stuart dynasty. This often appears on Jacobite glasses and the six-petalled rose refers to the exiled king James II, ousted by Parliament in the Glorious revolution, whereupon he fled to France. The rosebud refers to the heir apparent Prince Charles Edward Stuart. The monogram JD (the erstwhile owner) is of course a mystery, but the surrounding wreath of flowers I think may be forget-me-nots - again, another Jacobite devise suggesting that the exiled king has not been forgotten.

    A good spell in the last couple of weeks for glasses. The tiny red hand-painted glass, probably for liqueurs or similar strong liquor, is most likely Bohemian in origin. It is very uneven and crudely made with a snapped pontil to the base, C19th but hard to be more exact as these wares were made over a long period. The other little glass with engraved flowers and leaves around the top is quite early C19th - British & again has a snapped or broken pontil to the base. Not sure what the flowers are supposed to be here.

    How about the little pewter spirit measure? Retrieved from the bottom of a box of junk this one, unusually, turns out to be dated - 1895 (see left side of excise mark). Excise mark is VR 464, which places it in Wiltshire. Just near the handle is the standard 1/4 GILL mark. A little biffed about, but for a pound I'm not complaining.

    Finally, this rather handsome tin-glazed Dijon mustard pot seems to be pretty unusual. Very difficult to age, but I've been trundling through all manner of images on Google & still cannot find one just like it. I reckon C19th is very likely. Could it once have had a lid? More than likely, but I'm still very happy.

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  • Largest Herefordshire cherry update

    Can hardly believe it. Popped by to see the folks who own the largest cherry in Herefordshire (see blog entry for 22nd April) only to discover as I rolled down their drive that the gusty weather of a few days back has ripped a large bough off the tree. Very sad.

    Doesn't this just vindicate the need to spring straight into action when you either hear about or see a great tree. It just might not be there tomorrow.

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  • Investigating the familiar

    For more than twenty years I've been thrashing up the M6 and across the Lake District to see my folks in Gosforth. When the weather permits I often make a short cut across Thwaites and Corney Fells, which lops off a big corner. It's a narrow road with some precarious drops off the blacktop, but just as you come up on to the moorland from the Duddon Valley, for a few hundred yards there are lots of rather scruffy looking little junipers. For some misguided reason or another I have never taken the time to burrow further into the juniper scrub further away from the road, but when I took the time the other day I was richly rewarded.

    Some of these junipers, albeit seldom higher than eight or nine feet and with stems or boles rarely greater than 12-18 inches, could easily be in the realms of 400-500 years old. Some have browned and died back - it's possible that Phytophthora austrocedri has invaded this colony as it has on many other upland sites. However there is some evidence of regen, which is cheering. The hugely variable forms of these trees and the subtle and beautiful colouring are thrilling.

    No longer will I be zipping straight over the fells again if the weather is half decent.

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  • Magical trees in a remote valley

    After my morning shoot of the biggest cherry I headed north to meet up with Iris G. who was kind enough to escort me on a personally guided tour of her favourite treescape - Geltsdale, near Castle Carrock.

    What a place this turned out to be! Tucked away in this remote valley is one of Britain's finest upland wood pastures. Here, veteran, and probably truly ancient trees have been growing in on and around each other for hundreds of years. Massive alder coppice stools and long neglected pollards harbour strangulated, contorted rowans. Spawned of bird-dropped fruits perhaps 200 years ago the rowans emerge 'alien-like' from their host trees, eventually bursting the mother tree apart and standing in bizarre isolation on knots of stiltlike roots, sometimes six or seven feet above ground, but this process is very very slow indeed. Rugged birches wrestle from the rocky moorland slopes, some bent double by the gales, others fallen, layered, rooted, walking in slowest motion across the wood floor.

    These are massively characterful trees, dripping with lichens, ferns and mosses, and often containing those weird half seen, half imagined images of confined beasts and tortured visages. Overall this is a deeply moving place where one senses a long lost community, and only further investigations by the archaeologists will turn the conjecture into reality.

    Huge thanks to Iris for sharing Geltsdale with me. Rest assured - I will be back soon.

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