Friday, 1 February 2019

Shadows in Somerset

Waking to sunshine on the New Years day this year called for an outing!  Having just watched a fabulous BBC programme about how trees communicate, my choice for a sunny adventure was very easy; a revisit to the Ashbrittle Yew Tree.  With an estimated age of more than 4000 years old, this incredible yew tree is believed to be the one of the oldest trees in Britain and it may well have been the Bronze Age when it first came into being!

Still flourishing, albeit a little lopsided, it has been suggested that the Ashbrittle yew may have been planted as a symbol of ever lasting life and used in its early life for Pagan rituals.  What incredible stories this tree might tell of happenings beneath the shade of its branches in the centuries since.

I so often find myself drawn towards Somerset history.  On another sunny winter morning, this iconic Somerset hill came into my line of vision and the dramatic winter view reminded me that Glastonbury Tor also has huge history.  It is still unknown how the seven deep and roughly symmetrical terraces on the northern slope of the Tor came about and the theories include agriculture, defence and a spiritual spiral walkway.

The history of some Somerset locations is much more low key, as seems to be for Langport in South Somerset.  Langport was indeed once a port and the medieval Great Bow Bridge over the River Parrett had an incredible 31 arches.  Much of the original bridge still exists, albeit buried under the main road that passes through Langport.  The river that flows beneath the bridge today makes for a peaceful and picturesque stroll and it is hard to imagine that it was once the site of a very bloody English Civil War battle.

As was also the location of my next image of Burrow Mump at Burrowbridge.  A thousand years ago, this natural knoll would have been an isolated island in winter months and Alfred the Great is believed to have climbed to the top to scan the landscape for marauding Danes.  A climb to the top of Burrow Mump today is still rewarded by an incredible panoramic view of the Somerset levels, and thankfully the drainage system that makes for all year round inhabitation!

My early photos this winter have reminded me of how I have always been excited and inspired by strong light and shade contrasts.  Oh to still have some of my childhood pencil sketches to see my early observations.  Strong contrasts have always been present in the stitched images I have most enjoyed creating and thinking as I often do of the shadows of history, Shadows in Somerset feels an easy and exciting choice for my theme for creative work in 2019.  I am off the block with my first piece - which I was amazed to sell just a few hours after I made the last stitch.

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