Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Round straw bales above Riccard's Lane

In the great heatwave of July 2006, the corn was cut and for a long time these huge straw bales stood in the field north of Riccard's Lane. These harvest bales are eternally popular with photographers, perhaps because of their standing stone-like quality: heavy, solid, casting a dark shadow, monumentally arranged across brown summer fields.

When I was young straw came only in the much smaller cuboid bales, or loose in stacks, and there was a period when it was regularly burnt where it lay on the ground. I traveled much by train in those days and the lines of flame and black smoke from burning straw were a familiar feature of the English summer landscape.

Bales like those above suddenly disappear. Perhaps someone can tell me if they go for cattle bedding or some other purpose and why they always seem to stand for a while patiently awaiting collection.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Scentless mayweed (Tripleurospermum inodorum)

I found this plant growing on the edge of the car park for Whatlington Parish Hall in July 2006.

It is scentless mayweed, Tripleurospermum inodorum, often confused in the literature with scented mayweed or German chamomile, Matricaria recutita. In Gylfaginning 12th century Icelandic saga writer Snorri Sturluson explains that because of the whiteness of the petals scentless mayweed is called ‘Baldr's brow’ (Baldr was one of the Viking gods): “He is best, and all praise him; he is so fair of feature, and so bright, that light shines from him. A certain herb is so white that it is likened to Baldr's brow; of all grasses it is whitest, and by it you may judge his fairness, both in hair and in body.”

This plant, or its smellier sister, have been said to cure many afflictions, perhaps drawing on Baldr’s virtues. Both are also frequently confused with true chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile and related plants. It is probably the case that scentless mayweed is little more than an attractive, but troublesome, weed.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Whatlington Road, June 2006

25 December 2006. It is midwinter and a friend has reminded me that I have not added to this blog recently. Well, what better way to counteract that than to add some pictures taken in June to warm up these dark winter days?

Both the above were taken as I walked back along Whatlington Road from the parish hall to the church lay by.