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 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.
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.
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 markings
An interior timber denoted by a ‘roof’
A couple of different marks from the front of the hall
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…
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
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I haven’t investigated how the eyes are constructed, but the white parts are plainly holes rather than surface marking
Chastleton House is a fine Jacobean house in Oxfordshire dating from the early c17. In 1991 it was acquired by the National Trust, having been owned by the same family for some 400 years. Its most recent claim to fame is to have featured as ‘Wolf Hall’ in the recent BBC series.
There are fine gardens at Chastleton, kept pleasantly unmanicured. And there is a sundial. I can’t find a date for it – the NT does not give one – but I like the unusually tall slender column that supports the dial.
I was hoping to find some more information online, with little luck. I found a photograph that showed the dial unfixed from the base, and clearly some restoration has been done to remedy that. I’m not sure the rusting bolts were ideal. If I find any other information I will add it in due course.
It took a year before there were many settlers in the new bee house. To begin with, there were just some transients; tiny bees that stationed themselves at the mouth of a hole, retreating from time to time to the depths. I’ve no idea what type of bee they were, but they didn’t leave any building works. And then there were a few wax caps to wonder about.
The box began to weather a bit during that first winter, and to fall apart slightly. That summer, we had mason bees in many of the holes, with around 60% occupancy – plus some waxed caps. The timber homes were clearly preferred to the bamboo sticks, and the first to fill up. Later, we noticed the first leaf cutters moving in, their green plugs slowly turning brown as the leaves withered.
This year, by the end of May, business was thriving. The house was weathered and had no doubt completely lost the heady scent of Garden Centre. The upper storey was more popular than the lower; maybe the horizontal stem of a cox apple tree growing against the old wall was a disincentive for potential downstairs dwellers.
Two months later, as July fades into August, there are a few changes, but overall the house is much the same. So far, there have been no leaf cutters. And no little ‘peeping’ bees either. I’m disgracefully uninformed about the types of bee to which we offer a home. We’ve replanted much of the garden to benefit honeys and bumbles – with a consequent increase in butterflies and hitherto unknown types of moth. The solitaries are still a bit of a mystery. Time I got a grip, I think. Still, the apples are looking very promising…
All photos: Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour