MILTON ABBEY, DORSET


Milton Abbey, Dorset

Milton Abbey, more properly called ‘The Abbey Church of St Mary, St Sansom and St Bradwalader*’, is a former Benedictine monastery founded in c10. The present building dates from the c14 and c15. The Abbey, with a post-reformation country house attached where the monastic buildings used to be, is now a school. 

Milton Abbey, Dorset - Abbey Church of St Mary, St Sansom and St BradwaladerThe Church building consists of the tower, transepts and choir. The nave is entirely absent, not as the result of the reformation’s destructive zeal (though that may account for the absence of statues in the empty interior niches). In fact, the nave was never built. The blank arch on the ‘front’ side (below) indictes how huge the nave – and the completed edifice –  would have been.

Milton Abbey, Dorset

The country house / school buildings are to the left side of the Abbey. This isn’t the place to detail the comings and goings of the various families who lived there, but it’s all on Wiki and also in an exhaustive entry in the Dorset ‘Pevsner’ – or in more technical detail HERE

We enjoyed a c15 pun high on a wall inside the Church. The date shown on the device looks at first sight to be 1618, but is in fact 1514. Medieval numbering was not formed in quite the way we are familiar with now. The W stands for Abbot William of Middleton (the original town name, shortened to Milton), with his rebus, a mill on top of a tun. Milton Abbey, Dorset (detail)Close to the Church, there is a small stone circle about which I became quite excited. Sadly, a complete lack of mention of this circle in any historical context suggests that it is a modern imposter, perhaps related to a school project. But it’s pretty convincing!

Stone Circle at Milton Abbey, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

*Me neither. And online research doesn’t disclose much about St Bradwalader. Or indeed anything at all.

All photos: Keith Salvesen

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CARL LINNAEUS: CLASSIFYING NATURAL HISTORY (1)


Carl Linneaus Portrait (OS)

‘THE FIRST EDITION’

Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778) is arguably the most renowned Swedish naturalist. Maybe unarguably. Before the age of 30, his orderly and rigorous scientific methodology had created a new standard system for the classification of the natural world. As initial challenges to his great work fell to one side, so he bestrode his present and the future natural world as a great innovator. His system has stood the test of time to this day – and in Latin, too. As the saying goes, “Deus Creavit; Linnaeus Disposuit“: God created, Linnaeus organised. In fact, Linnaeus himself was (rather vainly?) the originator of the adage…

ANIMAL, VEGETABLE & MINERAL

Linnaeus first had to define the broad categories in order to organise them into their component parts. He chose regnum animale, regnum vegetabile and regnum lapideum – the animal, vegetable (plant) and mineral kingdoms. Here are some examples, photographed in the climate-controlled ‘treasures room’ at the Linnean Society, London during a viewing with the Librarian.

The first column of the first substantive page of the first edition of Systema Naturae (1735). This is the start of it all – the ‘man-like’ creatures Man [classed as a quadruped], apes and… 3-toed sloths (Bradypus), later to be moved to a more comfortable place. After that come creatures large and small, wild and domesticated, including lions, bears, cats, weasels, and moles. Canis included not only the dog, wolf, and fox but also… the squillachi. The last one is a mystery – a quick online search reveals only a footballer of that name.

Systema Naturae 1735 - quadrupeds (© KS / Rolling Harbour)

At the bottom of the first column, horses, hippos, elephants and varieties of pig are classified together; followed by varieties of camel, deer, goat, sheep and cattle.

Systema Naturae 1735 - quadrupeds 2 (© KS / Rolling Harbour)

Linnaeus’s achievements in ‘organising’ were twofold. First, he grouped creatures, plants and minerals into similar species, using his prodigious knowledge to arrange the groups into defined hierarchies (and as it was to turn out, not invariably correctly). Secondly, he adapted and refined an existing but somewhat random scheme into his structured binomial system, attaching two names to each creature, plant or mineral. The first name was a general categorisation (‘genera’); the second was more specific (‘species’). Consistency was achieved for the first time. Linnaeus was indeed the ‘father of taxonomy’ as we still know it today. He probably called himself that as well.

Here are some of the birds – grackles, doves, gulls and so on down the list. The latin names will be very familiar to birders, since they are still used today. The birds are followed by columns for amphibians, fishes, insects and sea creatures such as jellyfish, conchs and urchins.

Systema Naturae 1735 - birds (© KS / Rolling Harbour)

Entries in the minerals section, with schist, marble and quartz perhaps the most easily identifiable.Systema Naturae 1735 - minerals (© KS / Rolling Harbour)

PARADOXA

On the right of the bird column shown above is a hint of a ‘random’ category. My detailed photo of it didn’t work, so I include a facsimile copy is below. These were creatures that were known of, or believed possibly to exist but for which there was perhaps scant scientific evidence. The hydra. The monocerous. The pelican. The satyr. The borometz (half-sheep, half-plant), phoenix and dragon. And so on. Bearing in mind the date of this work, it is perhaps not surprising that Linnaeus kept his mind and his options open about such creatures. You can read about all these Paradoxa in an excellent Wiki article HERE

Systema Naturae 1735 - paradoxa (© KS / Rolling Harbour)

SYSTEMA NATURAE (1735)

The title page of the first edition of Systema Naturae (1735). This was the first page we were shown, after the book had been laid reverently on a special cushion by the Librarian. I have to admit to a jolt of excitement, both then and indeed several times more during our visit.

Systema Naturae 1735 - title page (© KS / Rolling Harbour)

Published in 1735 when Linnaeus was a mere 28, Systema Naturae was both revolutionary and evolutionary.The full title of the work spelled out the breadth of the enterprise: “System of nature through the three kingdoms of nature, according to classes, orders, genera and species, with characters, differences, synonyms, places”.  At least 12 further editions were published during his lifetime. Each was expanded as more scientific data was gathered; from 11 pages in the 1st edition to more than 2000 in the 12th, published about 30 years later.  Corrections were also made. For example, the initial assignment of whales to fishes, based on knowledge at the time, was later corrected to include them with mammals.

The Taxonomic Hierarchy (+ Setophaga pityophila)Taxonomic Hierarchy ' Olive-capped Warbler (© Tom Sheley / Keith Salvesen)

IN PART 2: THE COLLECTIONS OF LINNAEUS

The extraordinary manuscript, specimen and library collection of Linnaeus is preserved in this wonderful treasure store. I took this photograph at the end of the viewing. By this stage we had examined a selection of the sample cases – note the open drawers and cases on the table. Also, note the special cushion for the precious manuscripts.

Linnaeus Collection, Linnean Society (© KS / Rolling Harbour)

All photographs © Keith Salvesen; portrait and facsimile scan of Paradoxa, O/S; Olive-capped Warbler (as annotated by me), Tom Sheley; magpie pickings from a wide variety of sources inc. Linnean Society, Smithsonian, Encyclopaedia Britannica online – and not excl. Wiki!

ALPS FROM A GREAT HEIGHT…


Generally speaking, I find that photographs taken from an aeroplane window are less than satisfactory. One has to have a window seat, for a start. And clean, clear, unscratched windows – a relative rarity. And good weather. Occasionally, it can work. I took these views with an iPhone earlier this year as we flew over the Alps. The photographic variables were more or less aligned in my favour…

The Alps from 30,000 feet (Keith Salvesen)The Alps from 30,000 feetThe Alps from 30,000 feet (Keith Salvesen)The Alps from 30,000 feetThe Alps from 30,000 feet (Keith Salvesen)

PENISTONE: THE BRAND NEW ‘MEDIEVAL’ MARKET HALL


Cruck Market Hall, Penistone Yorks (Keith Salvesen)

The historic market town of Penistone, South Yorkshire, lies in the foothills of the Pennines, in a farming area with its own rare breed of sheep. Records of the sheep market date from the c17. The Grade 1 listed church has a mainly c14 interior, with visible older origins. In the c19, the new railway brought prosperity and expansion; then Dr Beeching’s axe fell in the 1960s. The livestock market is long gone, but a general market still continues in a space now somewhat reduced by a Tesco store and car park. 

Cruck Market Hall, Penistone Yorks (Keith Salvesen)

THE NEW ‘OLD’ MARKET HALL

In 2011 a new and innovative building was opened in the town as a covered market hall. I say ‘innovative’, but in fact the splendid cruck building is made using techniques as old as the town’s church. Steel frame and mirror glass it is emphatically not. Built of oak by the firm Carpenter Oak of Devon, this striking building resembles a typical tithe barn of several centuries ago. The crucks, or curved timbers, bear the weight of the frames and beams that support the roof. The joints are held using stout wooden pegs. The use of such medieval building techniques in the c21 has produced a spectacular public space. The recently published Pevsner for Yorkshire West Riding includes the market hall in the entry for Penistone – and a photograph of it, an accolade indeed.

Cruck Market Hall, Penistone Yorks - wooden pegs (Keith Salvesen)

CARPENTERS’ MARKS

Most of the large timbers we saw were engraved with carpenters’ marks. These are traditionally used during the construction of wooden buildings. Their primary purpose is to identify the timbers, the component parts of the frame. Modified Roman numerals are mainly used. Some marks relate to positioning for joints or peg-holes. Sometimes individual carpenters will ‘make their mark’; but this is not such a common practice as it is with masons.

Examples of location markingsCruck Market Hall, Penistone Yorks - carpenters' marks (Keith Salvesen)Cruck Market Hall, Penistone Yorks - carpenters' marks (Keith Salvesen)Cruck Market Hall, Penistone Yorks - carpenters' marks (Keith Salvesen)Cruck Market Hall, Penistone Yorks - carpenters' marks (Keith Salvesen)

An interior timber denoted by a ‘roof’Cruck Market Hall, Penistone Yorks - carpenters' marks (Keith Salvesen)

A couple of different marks from the front of the hallCruck Market Hall, Penistone Yorks - carpenters' marks (Keith Salvesen)Cruck Market Hall, Penistone Yorks - carpenters' marks (Keith Salvesen)

Only one thing detracted slightly from the pleasure of this new old building. Most of the handsome oak pillars inside have already been disfigured by graffiti, much of it lewd or anatomical in the classic c21 manner…

Cruck Market Hall, Penistone Yorks (Keith Salvesen)

Acknowledgements: Carpenter Oak, Devon; Pevsner ‘Buildings of England’ series (West Riding); and a nod to Kate Rusby, well-known & outstanding folk singer, who was born nearby

AN UNUSUAL MAZE AT PAUL, CORNWALL & A VIEW TO DIE FOR


St Michael's Mount from Paul Churchyard, Cornwall (Keith Salvesen)

Paul is a small village west of Penzance, Cornwall. It sits high on the hill above its more famous neighbour, Mousehole. Paul’s historic parish church, St Pol de Léon, has origins reputedly dating from late fifth century. The medieval building was (to my ignorant surprise) badly damaged in a raid by the Spanish in 1595, several years after the Armada. Mousehole also suffered great damage in the same raid. Until visiting Paul this summer, I had no idea that the Spanish had ever managed to breach England’s defences. So I checked online and was quickly led to the BATTLE OF CORNWALL, of which I had never heard. So now I know… I hope Hispano-Kernowek relations have improved.

Paul, Cornwall: the extended churchyard (Keith Salvesen)

The Church merits its own post in due course. For the moment, the maze-collector in me found a different interest in a nearby extension to the churchyard. An engraved stone set into a wall, and a small diagram nearby, led me to a path and a large area of hillside with extensive views out to sea, and east towards St Michael’s Mount.  

Near the more recent gravestones was a sundial; and closer inspection revealed that it was at the centre of a small, overgrown maze outlined on the grass in granite. How I longed, interferingly, to have a strimmer handy. But apart from tracing some of the pattern with my foot, I restrained my quite unreasonable urge to disclose the maze…

Paul Churchyard Cornwall: sundial & maze (Keith Salvesen)Paul Churchyard Cornwall: sundial & maze (Keith Salvesen)Paul Churchyard Cornwall: sundial & maze (Keith Salvesen)

 

BOX TREE MOTH: SEEK AND DESTROY…


BOX TREE MOTH: SEEK AND DESTROY…

Here’s a moth species new to me, that I couldn’t locate on any UK Moth ID site. Then I found out why. The Box Tree Moth Cydalima perspectalis is native to East Asia. It’s an introduced species to Europe, first recorded as recently as 2006 in Germany; 2008 in UK; and nearly everywhere else since. It thrives on Box Buxus colchica, and to an extent the species may have spread with exports of the bush. And it’s plainly a busy reproducer… and now it’s here, it’s probably a stayer.

Box-tree Moth, UK - rapacious intruder (Keith Salvesen)

A few days ago we had one in the kitchen (bonus points for recognising the cookery book it chose to land on). I took some quick photos for ID, failed to find a match online, and resorted to the excellent Moths UK FB page, where mothmaticians quickly respond to images uploaded for ID. I later found out that one of our sons has had two infestations this summer, resulting in total loss of two small rows of box.

KNOW THY ENEMYBox-tree Moth, UK (Keith Salvesen)Box-tree Moth, UK (Keith Salvesen)

The moth lays its eggs on the undersides of Box leaves. The caterpillars feed so rapaciously on the leaves and shoots that they may simply destroy the entire plant. And there are two or three generations gorging each season. Furthermore, there are no natural predators (such as the Asian wasps that target the larvae in their native lands). Maybe in time that will change, with birds and other predator species learning a taste for the things.

Cydalima perspectalis MHNT Imago wiki.jpg

There’s also a quite different brown morph / colour variant of the Box Tree Moth to contend with, which I imagine is just as effective in destroying the host plant.

Box-tree Moth, UK - Wiki

There are apparently various methods of dealing with the problem, mainly involving chemicals, bacteria, nematodes, and pheremone traps. All seem to require intensive repeat applications. Some of these solutions may presumably have an adverse effect on other wildlife. 
Box-tree Moth, UK - Caterpillar (Wiki)
As far as ‘mistake’ species are concerned, the ones that have accidentally (or through escape or deliberate release) colonised places far from where they belong, I reckon a case-by-case approach is needed. Harmless to humans, other life-forms, ecology and the environment? Bring them on. Harmful in any of those respects, parasitic, fast-spreading, predator-proof, potentially ineradicable? Expunge them ruthlessly.
 
I take one of these views about the Box Tree Moth. Look out for the eggs, the caterpillars, the imagos. Report them. Or DIY. A box bush might be a good place to start. 
Top 3 photos from the kitchen; the others thanks to Wiki. There’s a mass of stuff on these critters and their little ways online if you want to find out more. Not trying to be controversial here, btw, but I’d be surprised if you can’t name half a dozen species of animal, bird and plant that are invasive to the UK / Europe, damaging to the new host territory – and would be best eradicated.

ELEPHANT HAWK-MOTH CATERPILLAR IN DORSET


Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

This fearsome creature was within an inch of being crushed by my heedless foot… but luckily it made a surprisingly agile lurch to one side just in time. I had no idea what it was, other than the largest caterpillar I have ever come across. Everyone else will know, of course, that it is the childhood form of what will become an elephant hawk-moth Deilephila elpenor. I haven’t knowingly seen one of those either.

These caterpillars have three ‘poses’. The first is the usual day-to-day one, as it goes about its business with its little snout – or ‘trunk’ – extended. Note the four prominent ‘eye’ markings behind the head. 

Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)At the threat of danger, the caterpillar assumes its ‘elephant’ pose, tucking away its snout and humping its front end so that the 4 ‘eyes’ glare intimidatingly. From the front, there is the hint of a mouth, with two sharp eyes above it.

Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

From above, the creature looks like a formidable, probably toxic adversary, to be given a wide berth.
Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)
The third pose is a so-called snake pose, whereby the caterpillar curves its body, and, as I found, continues to do so back and forth accompanied by alarmingly quick ‘head’ movements, as if squirming menacingly. I backed away, before bravely putting it on a laurel leaf to move into better light in order to inspect it further. At the back, there’s a backward-facing hook or spike – in common with most hawk-moth species I think.
Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

I haven’t investigated how the eyes are constructed, but the white parts are plainly holes rather than surface marking
Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

I had to look up what the actual moth looks like, and courtesy of wiki I can reveal what everyone probably knows already – like this:

Elephant Hawk-moth wiki

 Had I wanted to straighten it out, the caterpillar would have been over 2 inches long. Quite wide, too. All-in-all an impressive beast.