Monthly Archives: August 2017

Churches

A library for historians…

Churches

Separate, wooden clad, bell tower at 13th C. Church of St. Augustine, Brookland

Cross the British landscape on any walk and you don’t have to go too far before you either pass a church, or spot the spire of one above the trees in the distance. Countless times I have rested on a seat just outside the church. Invariably, if the church is open, I find time to pop in for a wander round. It is always helpful to have just a little knowledge of church history, design and their features to enjoy them all the more.

Three Points of the Compass resting awhile at the 'Pilgrim's Church' on the North Downs Way. 19th C. St. Martha-on-the-Hill has 12th C. features and is offers great views

Three Points of the Compass resting awhile at the ‘Pilgrim’s Church’ on the North Downs Way. 19th C. St. Martha-on-the-Hill has 12th C. features and offers great views across the Weald

The quiet little Church of St. Thomas. Harty, Isle of Sheppy has undergone considerable changes in its 900 year history. These are two of the four windows depicting the four seasons

The quiet little Church of St. Thomas. Harty, Isle of Sheppy has undergone considerable changes in its 900 year history. These are two of the four windows depicting the four seasons and the wildlife of the island

Bench end carving. Chester Cathedral

Bench end carving. Chester Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needless to say, Shire come to the rescue of the curious with two very informative volumes. The 96 page on Medieval Church Architecture by Jon Cannon looks at the three great Gothic styles: Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular. He also includes some slight mention of other great buildings that have incorporated elements of church architecture in their design. Roger Boswell includes a hundred photographs in his volume, Stained Glass, and looks at glass windows from Anglo-Saxon (AD 700-1066) to the present day.

Author Jon Cannon has aimed at enabling beginners to identify essential styles as they appear in England

Author Jon Cannon has aimed at enabling beginners to identify essential styles as they appear in England

Three Points of the Compass on day four of the Ridgeway, another church offers a brief respite from the trail

Three Points of the Compass on day four of the Ridgeway, another church offers a brief respite from the trail

Two pages from Geoffrey R. Sharpe's Historic English Churches. The author had forty yeras expericne in managing and caring for historic buildings leading up to the publication of this excellent book

Two pages from Geoffrey R. Sharpe’s Historic English Churches. The author had forty years experience in managing and caring for historic buildings leading up to the publication of this excellent book

My other two featured book s are far more indepth. Geoffrey R. Sharpes work is a stand alone effort that is brimming with detail. Sadly, far more than I am ever going to be able to retain in memory. While the definitive Companion to the English Parish Church is just the ticket to quickly leaf through and get the information- Ah, that’s what it is!

Three Points of the Compass left the London Countryway briefly to enjoy the cool interior of the candle lit 13th C. 'Bargees Church'- St. Mary Magdalene, Bovery

Three Points of the Compass left the London Countryway briefly to enjoy the cool interior of the simple, candle lit 13th C. ‘Bargees Church’- St. Mary Magdalene, Bovery

Mrs Three Points of the Compass takes a break on the Wealdway while the 'expedition leader' explores the interior of St. Mary the Virgin, Speldhurst

Mrs Three Points of the Compass takes a break on The Wealdway while the ‘expedition leader’ explores the interior of 14th C to 19th C. St. Mary the Virgin, Speldhurst, this church is famous for its stained glass by Burne-Jones and William Morris

Books in featured image:

The Companion to the English Parish Church, Stephen Friar. Chancellor Press, 1996, ISBN 0 75370 330 0

Historic English Churches, a Guide to their Construction, Design and Features, Geoffrey R. Sharpe. I.B. Tauris, 2011. ISBN 978 1 84885 189 4

Stained Glass, Roger Rosewell. Shire Publications, 2016, first printed 2012. ISBN 13 978 0 74781 147 3

Medieval Church Architecture, Jon Cannon. Shire Publications, 2016, first printed 2014. ISBN 13 978 0 74781 212 8

Sometimes, a church just provides a little shelter. Three Points of the Compass and his family took shelter from the heavy rain in a church porch while completing the Two Moors Way in 2012

Though sometimes, a church just provides sanctuary. Three Points of the Compass and his family took shelter from the heavy rain in the porch of late 19th C St. Peter, Washford Pyne while completing the Two Moors Way in 2012

A library for naturalists…

Fungi

There are any number of books on fungi, the ones shown here are a good selection and you could do far worse than these. There are also a number of guides that are truly, unbelievably awful, with poor drawings or photographs, useless descriptions and even potentially dangerous distinction.

In common with his other photographic guides, the Roger Phillips book on mushrooms is a stunner. I have been on many a fungus foray and this book has proved invaluable when identifying them at home.

Roger Phillips illustrates 914 species in his book. These were al the species that he and a large number of mycologists were able to find and identify over five years

Roger Phillips illustrates 914 species in his book. These were all the species that he and a large number of mycologists were able to find and identify over five years

Many zoned Polypore (Coriolus versicolor) on the North Downs Way

Many-zoned Polypore (Coriolus versicolor) passed by Three Points of the Compass on the North Downs Way

There are over three thousand larger fungi to be found in the British Isles but it is impossible to find all, many are extremely rare. For example Phillips includes a photograph of Lentaria delicata, that had not been collected since first described in 1821. He also found a small mushroom near Wisley that proved to be new to science and was named in his honour. There is an updated edition from Phillips but I don’t see the need to replace the one I have.

The New Guide to Mushrooms is another photographic guide but less formal in layout. It also includes a number of ‘in habitat’ photographs. Less species are included but they are the most likely to be encountered. With the other information included, it makes a pretty good, one stop shop. though it is certainly not the ‘Ultimate’ guide it is purported to be in its title.

Peter Jordan includes just the necessary detail, a requirement in such a large format, user friendly volume

Peter Jordan includes just the necessary detail, a requirement in such a large format, user friendly volume

If you want a traditional field guide, with drawings, that is pocket sized, then the two volume set in the Penguin Nature Guides series is fine. I reckon the drawings are better than those in the Collins field guide that was released some thirty five years later! Originally published in Sweden (in Swedish) by Wahlström & Widstrand in 1977, they were translated and republished a year later by Penguin.

Two pages from volume 2 of the Penguin Nature Guides for Fungi.

Two pages from volume 2 of the Penguin Nature Guides for Fungi

Needless to say, Roger Phillips has produced a handy little pocket volume for Fungi I.D. This is also a useful complement to his larger volume as it includes location photography as well

Needless to say, Roger Phillips has produced a handy little pocket volume for Fungi I.D. This is also a useful accompaniment to his larger volume as it includes location photography as well

The New Naturalist series has been published since 1945. John Ramsbottom's volume- Number 7 in the series- Mushrooms and Toadstools, is a classic first published in 1953, mine is a reprint from 1969. The information in this book has never, to my knowledge, been repeated in any other book on the subject. Obviously some nomenclature has changed in the intervening years but the 'whys' and genus detail is accessible and really puts these fascinating species into context, including detail from when first collected and described

The New Naturalist series has been published since 1945.  John Ramsbottom’s volume- Number 7 in the series- Mushrooms and Toadstools, is a classic, first published in 1953, mine is a reprint from 1969. The information in this book has never, to my knowledge, been repeated in any other book on the subject. Certainly not in such readable manner. Obviously some nomenclature has changed in the intervening years but the ‘whys’ and genus detail is accessible and really puts this fascinating natural history subject into context, including detail from when first collected and described

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is great fun to be had with fungi. While they may be encountered throughout the year, they are especially prevalent in the autumn, when less flowers are to be seen, so do much to restore interest in the forest floor.

It is some years since I last upended a fungi to make a spore print at home, but enjoyed those times immensely. I now content myself with the odd encounter with their various forms, striking colours and wild shapes as I pass them on my path.

 

 

Books in featured image:

Mushrooms and other fungi of Great Britain & Europe, Roger Phillips. Pan Books, 1981. ISBN 0 330 26441 9

The New Guide to Mushrooms, Peter Jordan. Sebastian Kelly, 1997. ISBN 1 901688 26 7

Penguin Nature Guides:

  • Fungi of Northern Europe 1 Larger Fungi (excluding gill-fungi), Sven Nilsson and Olle Persson, illustrated by Bo Mossberg. Penguin Books, 1978
  • Fungi of Northern Europe 2 Gill-fungi, Sven Nilsson and Olle Persson, illustrated by Bo Mossberg. Penguin Books, 1978

 

 

Those 'special' flowers- Orchids and Alpine flowers

A library for botanists…

Those ‘special’ flowers

 

“There can be little doubt that of all European wild flowers few species can rival the indigenous orchids in beauty and variety of form and colour. These attributes, coupled with the adventurous journeys one must undertake in searching for some of the rarer species, have endowed orchids with a special glamour all their own. Often some rare and lovely species has its particular habitat in a region of great natural beauty, remote and difficult of access but infinitely rewarding. The pursuit of such gems is in truth a treasure hunt.”

From the Introduction to Orchids of Britain and Europe

Southern marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), seen by Three Points of the Compass on the London Countryway

Southern marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), photographed by Three Points of the Compass on the London Countryway

Beyond a couple of field guides or home reference works, some groups of flowers or habitats encourage the inclusion of specialist works on the book shelf. These are two such. One to a group of flowers that has always fascinated me, the other to those plants that hang on in often challenging regions, rarely below 1500m in elevation.

Some flowers hold a rare fascination. Despite Orchidaceae being the second largest family of plants in the vegetable kingdom, none are commonplace, though they can be found in almost every habitat other than glaciers. A Field Guide to the Orchids of Britain and Europe contains a key to the plants along with pretty good species descriptions opposite page size drawings.

The area covered by the Field Guide to Orchids of Britain and Europe with North Africa and the Middle East

The area covered by A Field Guide to Orchids of Britain and Europe with North Africa and the Middle East

The zonal ranges of Alpine Plants

The Collins Pocket Guide includes a diagram explaining the zonal ranges of Alpine Plants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The same groups of plants can also, to a large extent, be found the Collins Pocket Guide to Alpine Flowers, however their coverage is far more cursory. This book was lauded on its release as the only portable guide to the flowers of mainly mountainous regions.

Sample pages from the Collins Field Guide to Alpine Flowers

Sample pages from the Collins Pocket Guide to Alpine Flowers

Books in featured image:

Collins Pocket Guide to Alpine Flowers of Britain and Europe, C. Grey-Wilson and M. Blamey. Haper Collins, second edition 1995. ISBN 0 00 220017 1

A Field Guide to the Orchids of Britain and Europe with North Africa and the Middle East, J.G. Williams, A.E. Williams, N. Arlott. William Collins, 1978. ISBN 0 00 219314 0

The Bird Collectors by Barbara and Richard Mearns

A library for ornithologists…

The Bird Collectors

Barbara and Richard Mearns

This is an engrossing and fascinating book, detailing the early ornithologists from the late eighteenth century to the present. Many of these collectors, early scientists, carried out practices frowned upon today but their collections formed the base on which most of our current knowledge is founded.

While many birds were shot as food or trophies, or even simply as ‘sport’, those who actively collected birds were doing so for knowledge; so that their skins could be studied and specimens stuffed or measurements taken. There was an old adage- ‘what’s hit is history, what’s missed is mystery’. This book makes no attempt to justify the killing, it sets out, and I believe succeeds, to increase our awareness and appreciation of those, often brave, early explorers and seekers of knowledge.

A page relaying part of the story of 'The Worst Journey in the World', an expedition in the dead of winter to collect eggs of the Emperor Penguin

A page relaying part of the story of ‘The Worst Journey in the World’; an expedition in the dead of winter to collect eggs of the Emperor Penguin. Dr ‘Bill’ Wilson returned to the Antarctic with Scott in 1910 and persuaded the leader to allow him, accompanied by Henry Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrade, to attempt to visit the penguin colony sixty-seven miles from their base. Setting off on 27 June 1911, they succeeded in collecting three eggs. It was hoped that the eggs and their intact embryos would reveal truths as to the origin of birds. These were subsequently delivered to the British Museum (Natural History) by Cherry-Garrard in 1913. Wilson and Bowers had perished with Scott on the return journey from the South Pole. The eggs were received without thanks

 

Book in featured image:

The Bird Collectors, Barbara and Richard Mearns. Academic Press, 1998. ISBN 0 12 487440 1

Playing with numbers

The Fibonacci Sequence- useful maths for hiking

The Fibonacci Sequence is the series of numbers where the next number is found by adding up the two numbers before it. A simple sequence-

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, et al…

Living in the UK, the default unit of distance for Three Points of the Compass is the mile, however many people prefer to work with kilometres. I agree that it is a much handier unit. But how to convert the one to the other? With an acceptance of a small (very small) margin of error, the Fibonacci Sequence is a pretty useful aid. Look at the numbers above.

There are eight kilometres in five miles (precisely- 8.04672 kilometres), and conversely, five miles in eight kilometres. It continues, fifty five miles equates to eighty nine miles (OK- 88.5139, but near enough).

If you want to convert a number that is not in the sequence, simply add together numbers in the sequence that total the required distance. i.e. if I have a distance of forty five miles to cover over a couple of days, this could be broken down into 21 + 21 + 3 from the Fibonacci Sequence. This gives me 34 + 34 + 5 = 73. Actually forty five miles equals 72.4205 kilometres exactly, so a pretty good fit. And remember, this also works in reverse. The answer is never more than half a percent out from true distance.

A handy bit of math, isn’t it?

 

 

Laurie Lee- As I walked out one Midsummer Morning

A library for those who hike in the shadow of giants…

As I walked out one Midsummer Morning

Laurie Lee

“I was in Spain, and the new life beginning. I had a few shillings in my pocket and no return ticket, I had a knapsack, blanket, spare shirt and a fiddle, and enough words to ask for a glass of water… I suddenly felt the urge to get moving. So I cut the last cord and changed my shillings for pesetas, bought some bread and fruit, left the seaport behind me and headed straight for the open country”

Between the Wars, the nineteen year old author set off across Depression hit England carrying a tent, a violin and a box of treacle biscuits. He followed this with a wander through sun beaten Spain, to the coast of Andalusia, relying for the greater part, on his violin for sustenance, and the one Spanish phrase he knew- ‘a glass of water please?

“I spent the first night in a grove of oak trees, lying on leaves as wet as Wales, under a heavy dew and a cold sharp moon and surrounded by the continuous bells of sheep. In the morning I woke shivering to eat a breakfast of goat’s cheese, which the night had soaked and softened, then watched the sunlight move slowly down the trunks of the pine trees, dark red, as though they bled from the top. Nearby was a waterfall pouring into a bowl of rock, where I stripped and took a short sharp bathe. It was snow-cold, brutal and revivifying, secluded among the trees, and when I’d finished I sat naked on a mossy stone, slowly drying in the rising sun”

Sleeping in fields, olive groves and courtyards, the man made his mistakes happily, and equally as happily accepted fortuitous serendipity when encountered. He enjoyed both great kindness and hospitality, yet saw tragedy and the dark underbelly of a country heading toward its own awful civil war.

“I saw a little farmhouse and knocked on the door. It was opened by a young man with a rifle who held up a lantern to my face. I noticed he was wearing the Republican armband. ‘I’ve come to join you.’ I said. ‘Pase usted,’ he answered. I was back in Spain, with a winter of war before me”

Book in featured image:

As I walked out one Midsummer Morning, Laurie Lee. Andre Deutsch, 1969

Two very different books on the making of a landscape

A library for historians…

The  British Landscape

 “to care about a place, you must know its story”

Nicholas Crane

I could just have easily posted these books under my section- ‘a library for geologists…‘, but they are both as much, if not more, about the people that inhabit a landscape. The two volumes look at a similar subject but approach and share it with the reader in different ways.

The first is very much a scholarly work, but don’t let that put you off. Nicholas Crane is an excellent writer and communicator who may visit again in this series of books from my library. I thoroughly recommend The Making of the British Landscape to just about anyone. The author is proficient in explaining meticulously researched detail in an accessible manner. It is a hefty volume, and all the better for it. Sub-titled ‘From the Ice Age to the Present’, that is an ambitious target and the bigger picture is broken down in to the step-changes that have shaped this country and its people.

Page from The Making of the British Landscape

Page from The Making of the British Landscape

 

“Our country is like a historical onion: layers and layers of human endeavour, overlaid and overgrown, but still visible”

Mary-Ann Ochota

I was unaware of Mary-Ann Ochota’s writing before I came to her ‘Spotter’s Guide‘. I had seen her co-presenting of Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’ but it is mostly through reliance on her formal training in anthropology and archaeology that this book has been produced. It is a very accessible book that looks at big and noticeable features and then attempts to explain them, usually quite successfully in a series of chapters- Lumps and Bumps, Stones, Lines, and, In the Village.

A selection from Mary-Ann Ochota's chapter on Lines

A selection from Mary-Ann Ochota’s chapter on Lines in her book Hidden Histories

Books in featured image:

The Making of the British Landscape, From the Ice Age to the Present. Nicholas Crane. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016. ISBN 978 0 297 85666 5

Hidden Histories, a spotter’s guide to the British Landscape. Mary-Ann Ochota. Francis Lincoln, 2016. ISBN 978 0 7112 3692 9