Saturday, 22 February 2014

Sojourn on the Severn

Working on the premise that if it's not raining, you need to get out quick because it will be soon, we headed for Severn Beach this morning.  Which - if you haven't been there - isn't exactly palm trees and cocktails (despite the t-shirt).  

It was, however, looking its best in bright sun and with lots of turbid water rather than mud flats (although I think they're beautiful too, if not to everyone's taste.)

In olden times we were taught that the Severn Estuary had the second highest tidal range in the world after the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. These days it's more often described as having one of the highest and I have seen mention of Ungava Bay as being higher, which does seem a bit greedy of Canada.  Whatever, it's a powerhouse and quite intimidating up close ... 

... and I still find it staggering that Dru and poet Jo Bell travelled up it in a pair of narrowboats.

Beyond the new bridge, the rocks were splotched with lichen that looked as if it should be on a pair of dodgy 1970s curtains.
We soon reached New Passage, where - a local story goes - Prince Rupert was chased over the river during the civil war, and the Methodist hymn writer Charles Wesley nearly died in 1743 when the ferry he was travelling on foundered in  a storm.

Beyond New Passage lies Northwick Warth saltmarsh, haven to birds, and up ahead, the ethereal grace of the old Severn bridge.  

Back by the new bridge it was clear that the tide had already receded a fair bit ...  

... the mud so deeply carved, it was hard to tell it from rock in places.  

I ventured out to get this shot of both bridges ... 
... while Ted barked me back to the bank. (He likes his herd together.)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Another Inking Bitterns business trip to Somerset.  As we whizzed through Glastonbury, we noticed, alongside the hippy paraphernalia, a profusion of green wellies, Barbours and umbrellas.  Maybe this is why.

This the view south from Walton Hill, just outside Street. 

Glastonbury Tor in sunshine

Looking west towards Brent Knoll  
We ventured as far as Somerton.  On the return journey, Nythe Road from High Ham to Pedwell Hill was all but under water.  So strange to see, up close, the fields turned to seas.  Through the car windows the ripples on the water seemed almost to have frozen, as if they were shifting in a different time.  

At Shapwick we popped into the church but it had been restored to within an inch of its life and lacked quirk or much of interest at all.  Outside in the lanes there were rainbows.  
At Westhay Dru popped into the Peat Moors Visitor Centre.  The staff mentioned how quiet it had been there lately.  I suppose it's because it's difficult to work out, simply from watching the news on telly, which parts of the Levels are navigable and which aren't.  

We diverted to Meare, which stands on the site of pre-historic lake dwellings.  This is the 14th century Fish House, which was where the Abbey fishermen lived and worked.  
Sharp-eyed Dru spotted the towers of Wells Cathedral nestled in a cleft in the hills.   
There was another rainbow arcing over the flood ... 
... but that's not much cop when it's still raining.
We stopped at the signpost on Mudgley Hill, outside Wedmore. Last October, it looked like this. 
Now it's somewhat wetter.   
One last stop on Dundry Common, with its grand view over Bristol that includes both Severn bridges and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Then home, thankfully, to the warm and dry. 

(Can't spot the bridges?  Here they are.) 


Monday, 17 February 2014

Buy 'Dart' for 99p ... or 99¢!


'Dart' is available in the Kindle Countdown Deal on Amazon

Here are some quotes by real people about 'Dart' and why you might enjoy reading it:

'"Dart" will whirl you away to a time and place distant yet familiar' 
Julie Hearn

'Taking us back to rural Devon of the 1340s, Dart follows young Tobias, his family and fellow villagers as a mysterious danger sweeps across the county.

The villagers must fight their fears of this unknown enemy 'the fog' and Tobias must find the courage to tell the wholesome Beatrice how he feels about her, before it's too late, all the while struggling to keep his family safe from this merciless plague.  

This charming tale is laced with mystery and adventure and the wonderful descriptions of the landscape make you long to visit the Devon of simpler times.'
Claire Swindell
Devon Life

'I am very glad to find this book on Goodreads. I read it earlier this year of 2013 and really enjoyed it. It is worth buying this book for the front cover illustration and the map of Dartmoor by Dru Marland alone. 

One of the main reasons why I liked this book is because Deborah Harvey is a poet and it shows in her prose. The way her characters are bound to the landscape and the weather of Dartmoor, through the seasons, reminded me of the way the characters in "The Return Of The Native" by Thomas Hardy are bound to the landscape and weather of Egdon Heath.  Thomas Hardy, of course, was also a poet and that was revealed in his prose.

"Dart" is set in the Middle Ages, on Dartmoor.  All the characters in the book are at the mercy of the Black Death and all their lives are blighted by it, but they  manage to laugh still and love and talk about ordinary things.  The most moving and powerful part of the book for me was the meeting of Tobias and Isabella, a strange, exotic woman, who some consider a witch, but whom Tobias politely calls a wisewoman.

As well as recommending her book, "Dart", to everyone who likes a tale finely, poetically told, I recommend Deborah Harvey's blog, called The Red Dress of Poetry, in which she will take you on a walk across Dartmoor, complete with some fine photographs and prose.'

Philip Dodd 

'I read "Dart" in a day, and was troubled by it, in the way that books trouble me that stay with me for life.  That is not a criticism!  I need to reread it and I'll keep you informed!  I love most of the characters, and could not stop reading.  So it troubled me in the way that very old tales and myths have always troubled me.'

Bob Mann
Longmarsh Press
Totnes, Devon

'I was looking forward to reading this book as soon as I learned of its existence, and I was no disappointed when I finally got it in my hands last week.

I had really enjoyed "Year of Wonders" by Geralding Brooks, which is a historical novel about one of Britain's later encounters with the plague.  Dart is set in the time of Britain's first encounter with it, long before Shakespeare's time, when Middle English and Cornish would have been spoken in the area of Dartmoor.  In writing about life in such an early time, an authot must make a lot of choices about how much accuracy can be traded for accessibility.  The overall impression is not unlike a Tolkien talek and the fine map drawn by Dru Marland enhances that impression.

The target audience may have been teenagers, but it works for all ages.  All elements of a great story are present: young love, sibling rivalry, mystery, death, travel and adventure.  The beautiful landscape, along with the spectre of a disease that would end up wiping out half the population are characters always in the background.  

The main part of the narrative is framed as a story told by the ageing hero to his children years later.  He has become a master storyteller and the tale begins and is punctuated with verse recitation that reminiscent of the story-poems of the era.  

A Wise Woman or Witch who has travelled to far distant lands is a major character, and I wish I could read more of her story.

There are graphic descriptions of the effects of plague, and some scenes are gritty to say the least, but the overall feel of the story is stately and engrossing. I am not a fast reader, but I found it hard to put this book down.'

James L Giddings 
Greenville, Hew Hampshire

Friday, 14 February 2014

Glass Workshop in Holt

Cathy and I braved the storms and floodwater to go to Holt a couple of days ago for a glass workshop with Jan Lane, who is more usually pottering about, and Helen Bousfield, who plays bass, flute and concertina with The Orient Express.  It was so good to be cosied up in Helen's kitchen while the wind marauded around outside.


I still have two firings of my little kiln to go before all the things we made are finished, but here's some evidence of the day's creativity.

These two lovely pieces are awaiting firing.