Julians Bower

 

Julians Bower is a fine example of a turf-cut maze cut into the hillside overlooking the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Trent. It’s exact origins are a mystery, but it was first recorded in 1697. Several theories about its origins exist, some linking the maze to a Trojan Warrior who brought the idea of turf mazes to Britain ( in some parts of the country these turf labyrinths are still known as Troy Towns).
Other theories link the maze to a cell of monks that cut the maze to represent the either the path to heaven, or for use in penitential rituals.
Whatever the truth of its origin, it is a remarkable place. The hill it sits on has no great height, but overlooks a huge flood plain formed but the Ouse and Trent, and the tidal waters from the Humber. Sunset here can be a magical experience as acres of flooded ground turn golden in last moments of daylight, and the Sun slips below the horizon.
Places of great antiquity will always draw the curious, and those that wish to incorporate them into rituals not necessarily contemporary with the age of the site. This can readily be seen at Stonehenge and the many other stone circles in the UK at the times of Solstice and equinox, and certainly was the case here when I visited on the Solstice a few years ago. Whatever the original intention of the people that built the maze, Its good to see that the special magic of the place is still recognised and treated with respect.

Happy Solstice everyone

Tower to Tate

 

Some of the most enjoyable walks happen when I set off with no predetermined route. When walking in the peak District, broad open moorlands or weathered gritstone formations can be discovered almost by accident, by following a previously unknown path. Wandering rather than walking. It was in this wandering mode that I set off from Tower Hill underground station.
The walk along the Thames from Tower Bridge to the Tate Modern is full of discoveries, iconic landmark architecture rubbing shoulders with centuries old historic buildings to create a skyline that tantalises and enthrals. The journey is punctuated with street sculptures and buskers, to a soundtrack of diesel engines and commentaries from the passing river boats.
This short walk was intended to be an afternoons diversion, but it is one that will last a lifetime, and one I hope to continue very soon.

St. Botolph’s , Skidbrooke

 

The isolated church of St. Botolph in Skidbrooke , Lincolnshire. The Church dates from the 13th century and had various additions and alterations throughout its history. It was made redundant in 1974. it is now under the care of the Churches conservation trust, who do their best against a rising tide of vandals, satanists and ghost hunters.
Centuries of Marriages , Baptisms and Funerals have undoubtably left their mark, permeating the fabric of the place with tears of joy and sorrow, rejoicing in the living and lamenting the dead.
Do not come here looking for Ghosts, Ghouls and Vampires, but visit on a summer afternoon and marvel at the medieval craftsmanship, and enjoy its tranquil beauty.

Spurn Head

 

Spurn Head is a sandy peninsula on the east coast of Yorkshire that reaches into the North Sea and forms the north bank of the mouth of the Humber estuary. It is approximately 3 1/2 miles long, and in places is only 50 yards wide. Its location in the entrance to a very busy shipping lane, makes it an ideal location for a lighthouse. There have been many Lighthouses on Spurn over the years, the first being recorded about 1425 and the present lighthouse which was completed in 1895. Because of the areas strategic importance it had a large gun battery during both world wars, which was served by a small railway.
I first visited here in 2009, and remnants of the peninsulas past were much in evidence. Bunkers from both wars and even parts of the small railway system were visible. The big tidal surges that occurred in December 2013 were to change everything, washing away evidence of the first and second world war structures, drowning a flock of sheep and killing most of the grass snakes on the peninsula.
The work of volunteers and passage of time have seen the peninsula slowly regain its remote beauty. It is a privilege to walk along its sandy beaches and gaze at its ever changing skies.
The poet Philip Larkin was particularly drawn to its beauty would often cycle out here. He would go on to sum it up in his foreword to A Rumoured City: ‘Behind Hull is the plain of Holderness, lonelier and lonelier, and after that the birds and lights of Spurn Head, and then the sea’.

The Natural Navigator

 

In his book “the Natural Navigator”, Tristan Gooley states that in the northern hemisphere, isolated deciduous trees will often show heavier growth on their southern side. This directional growth of a tree influenced by light, is known as Phototropism. Armed with this knowledge, it should be possible to navigate ones way through the landscape, taking directional cues from the trees.

Finding trees that support this fact isn’t as straightforward as one might expect. Trees are also influenced by the prevailing wind and the proximity of other trees, buildings and the contours of the land they occupy. When testing this navigational aid, I found myself looking for trees that supported this idea, rather than using the trees to support my navigation. This particular tree does support Tristan Gooley’s statement, but once spring has worked its magic and the tree is in a more verdant state, the effect is less easy to recognise.

Far better for me to enjoy the tree for what it is, enjoy the clouds floating lazily by, but never leave home without a map and compass.

The Headstone Viaduct.

 

The Headstone Viaduct , built by the Midland Railway in 1863. The viaduct elegantly spans the River Wye and was a part of the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway. John Ruskin famously wrote critically of it 1871, saying :

“There was a rocky valley between Buxton and Bakewell, once upon a time, divine as the vale of Tempe; you might have seen the Gods there morning and evening, — Apollo and all the sweet Muses of the Light — walking in fair procession on the lawns of it, and to and fro among the pinnacles of its crags. You cared neither for Gods nor grass, but for cash (which you did not know the way to get); you thought you could get it by what the Times calls “Railroad Enterprise.” You Enterprised a Railroad through the valley — you blasted its rocks away, heaped thousands of tons of shale into its lovely stream. The valley is gone, and the gods with it; and now, every fool in Buxton can be at Bakewell in half-an-hour, and every fool in Bakewell at Buxton; which you think a lucrative process of exchange — you Fools Everywhere.”

Fors Clavigera, letter v (1 May 1871).

Nowadays it sits elegantly in the landscape, spanning the River Wye , and carrying walkers and cyclists alike along the 8.5 miles of the Monsal Trail.