Thursday, 21 February 2019

Hoarwithy church

The sight of Hoarwithy village church among Herefordshire's rolling green pastures, hedges and woodlands, strikes the passer by with an interest in historic architecture, as very incongruous. Were to be seen among the dry, stony, sun-baked countryside of Tuscany its tall, narrow tower, rounded arches, apsidal chancel, loggia and roof of Roman tiles would arouse much less interest. The fact is English church architecture of the countryside is invariably Gothic or Romanesque, is rarely Byzantine (or Italianate), and when it is, usually signals the Roman catholic religion. Here it is a nineteenth century building of the Church of England.

photo © T. Boughen     Camera: Olympus OMD E-M10

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Time and stone stairs

There is a dilemma concerning the stone stairs of Britain's cathedrals, castles and other historic buildings: are they to be left alone to show, through their wear, the passage of time and many feet; or are they to be restored, made safe and level, and consequently never cited in a court case involving an accident to one of the many visitors who pass up and down them? The stairs above, can be found in Chepstow Castle. They appear to be untouched since being installed. But have they been so expertly renovated so that the wear appears to be the result of centuries?

photo © T. Boughen     Camera: Olympus OMD E-M10

Sunday, 17 February 2019

St Margaret, Welsh Bicknor

The church of St Margaret at Welsh Bicknor was built in 1858-9 by the architect T. H. Rushforth with lavish funding provided by the vicar, Rev. John Burdon, and Stephen Allaway. It replaced an older building, keeping the bells and several monuments. Given that Welsh Bicknor is a very small community and that the church stands by the River Wye away from the houses the opulence of the building is remarkable. A further oddity is that, like English Bicknor, Welsh Bicknor is an English settlement in the county of Herefordshire. Its name arose because prior to 1844, when the national boundary was adjusted, it was part of the county of Monmouthshire, Wales.

photo © T. Boughen     Camera: Olympus OMD E-M10

Friday, 15 February 2019

Bigsweir bridge

The bridge over the River Wye forms the connection at that point between England and Wales. It was built in 1826-9 to a design by Charles Hollis of London and constructed of cast iron and sandstone, the casting having been done at Merthyr Tydfil. The main span is 55 yards (50m). For today's traffic it is a single track bridge, the crossings being controlled by lights. It was originally a toll bridge and the toll house can just be seen on the Welsh side (left in the photograph).

photo © T. Boughen     Camera: Olympus OMD E-M10

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

St Briavels Castle

The castle at St Briavels was begun in the twelfth century and became a frontier fortress, a royal hunting lodge, a place from which the area was administered. The two "D" shaped towers and gatehouse were added in 1292. For many years it was the main centre in England for the manufacture of crossbow bolts for Forest of Dean iron was mined. In subsequent centuries it was a court and debtors prison. In 1948 it became a youth hostel and it remains so today. Photographing the gatehouse proved difficult when the trees were in leaf, but a winter visit made the job easier despite the dullness of the day.

photo © T. Boughen     Camera: Olympus OMD E-M10

Monday, 11 February 2019

River Wye near Bigsweir Bridge

One of the photographic pleasures of the cooler seasons is fog and mist, phenomena that can transform views adding a chill note of mystery to otherwise pleasant prospects. The photograph above was taken from Bigsweir Bridge on the River Wye during a journey to Chepstow. The forecasters would have described the morning as "improving". However, for this photographer I'd have liked the mist to linger longer.

photo © T. Boughen     Camera: Olympus OMD E-M10

Saturday, 9 February 2019

The Five Alls

English pubs have names that are often of long standing. The Golden Lion, The Red Dragon and The Talbot all refer to heraldic creatures. The Devonshire Arms and the Prince of Wales are named after nobility and royalty respectively, but the Blacksmiths Arms can be seen as poking a little fun at such pretension. Walk through any town or city and you will see names that are many and varied, from Lord Nelson (national hero) or The Mayflower (ship of the Pilgrims) to the Slug and Lettuce (probably a new concoction) and the Railway Hotel (next to the train station). However, this example in Chepstow, Wales, seems to take its inspiration from some of the seats of power in Britain and may be a Victorian invention, hanging as it does on an establishment built in 1849.

photo © T. Boughen     Camera: Olympus OMD E-M10

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Drake goosander

It has been long known that the majority of British resident shelducks travel to Great Knechtsand, in the Heligoland Bight, off the German coast, to moult and then return to Britain for the winter. What was relatively recently discovered is that the Scottish population of male goosanders (and perhaps others) travel to the North Cape of Norway to moult. Whilst there they are joined by males from other parts of Europe. What prompts this gender specific migration is not known, but maybe this male that I photographed on the River Wye at Ross had made that June to October sojourn.

photo © T. Boughen     Camera: Nikon P900

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

The blue tit renamed

When I became interested in birds at around the age of eleven their names were pretty much standardised after a few hundred years during which folk names with regional variations were supplanted and scientific names were agreed. Thus, the bird shown above was the blue tit (Parus caerulius). Beginning in the last quarter of the twentieth century that began to change as science applied its knowledge of DNA to individual birds. Today the blue tit is the Eurasian blue tit (Cyanistes caerulius) because (to quote Wikipedia) "in 2005, analysis of the mtDNA cytochrome b sequences of the Paridae indicated that Cyanistes was an early offshoot from the lineage of other tits, and more accurately regarded as a genus rather than a subgenus of Parus."

photo © T. Boughen     Camera: Nikon P900

Sunday, 3 February 2019

The goosanders of the River Wye

The most common duck on the stretch of the River Wye with which I am familiar is probably the goosander (Mergus merganser). It may be outnumbered by mallards but the goosander is certainly more visible, diving for fish and skimming, arrow-like over the surface if the river. The male is a striking dark green and creamy white bird with a long, red bill. The female is more subtly coloured, soft grey and white with a russet head and a red bill. This trio were caught by the sun as they preened near the shade of the bank, and that highlight combined with the dark water showed them off to perfection.

photo © T. Boughen     Camera: Nikon P900