A PUZZLING SUNDIAL IN THE PYRÉNÉES-ORIENTALES


VILLEFRANCHE-DE-CONFLENT is a small medieval walled town in Catalan country. It is watched over by Fort Liberia, one of VAUBAN‘s massive defensive constructions in this historically strategic area. The town is charming, and additionally famous for being the start of the ‘Train Jaune’, a picturesque narrow-gauge railway that climbs high into the Pyrénées. The amazing altitude rise is from 1250 ft at Villefranche to 5000 ft at the track’s summit just above the village of Mont Louis (which has its own Vauban fort) 

Double sundial, Villefranche-de-Conflent, Pyrénées-Orientales

The sundial above is high up on a house in the church square. It doesn’t exactly draw the eye, and would be very easy to miss. It’s on the house next to the Mairie (right, with the Catalan flag), below the small top windows.

Villefranche-de-Conflent - Sundial

Villefranche-de-Conflent - Sundial

TWO DIALS IN ONE

The main dial is etched and painted on cement, with roman numerals and showing hours, halves and quarters. The long gnomon is attached beneath a small sculpted head from which sun rays radiate – a simple representation of a solar deity. Above the head can be seen numbers, of which only 11 and 8 at the start, and 3 at the end can be made out with any certainty. Possibly, it is a date: the dial (which is not ancient) is otherwise undated and it is very hard to guess its age. I can find no explanation for the initials DS (top left, Gothic font) and ER (top right, normal font). 

The small dial-within-a-dial shows the hours only, with arabic numerals. The gnomon points straight down. I am unsure of its purpose as a supplementary dial on the same plane, but I hope to find out.

Villefranche-de-Conflent - Sundial

INSCRIPTION

The words “COM MES SOL FA MES BE ESCRIC” are Catalan and mean roughly “When it is sunny, I write (show the time) well”. This rather charming inscription was apparently added around 2000 by the village pastor.

Credit: for information, Michel Lalos, who has compiled a comprehensive illustrated record of the sundials of the Pyrénées-Orientales.

ROCK FORMATIONS AT THURLESTONE, DEVON (1)


Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 04

A long weekend spent at Thurlestone, Devon for a family event – a cheerful one – meant time to explore an unfamiliar area. And the rocks on the beach were quite unlike any we had seen before; certainly unlike anything on our part of the Dorset coast, 100 miles or so to the west. So I took some photos. Having no geological knowledge, I can’t say if this is part of the real – or even the flexibly tourist office-defined – “Jurassic Coast”, but I suspect not. Here are some of the strange bumpy many-hued formations.

Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 03Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 02 Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 05Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 01Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 06Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 07Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 08Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 09Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 12Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 10Thurlestone Rocks, Devon (L) 11

HOUND TOR & AN INFORMAL DARTMOOR LETTERBOX


Hound Tor 1 jpg

Hound Tor is a windswept rocky outcrop on Dartmoor at 414m / 1358ft ASL. It watches over the Grimspound, an intriguing bronze-age circular enclosure with the remains of 24 houses, some inhabited until medieval times. It will have a post in its own right in due course. We investigated both with our granddaughter Berry last August during a short holiday together (grandparental treat!) on Dartmoor.Hound Tor 8

Hound Tor 12Hound Tor 5

After exploring the Grimspound, there is no doubt about the next achievement to tackle: a steep stony path leads invitingly from the walls to the top of the Tor. As you climb, the Grimspound gets smaller below you. Hound Tor 23Hound Tor 26Hound Tor 3

Berry was not the only wild creature on the moor…Hound Tor 22

AN EXCITING DISCOVERY THAT WAS DISAPPOINTING

As we climbed, we noticed that the rocks all around were embedded with fossils. Or so we believed. We took lots of photos of these amazing calcified creatures that by some strange process were to be found at nearly 1500ft. Only later, when we did a bit of research online, did we find out the disappointing truth: not fossils, but megacrysts. The technical explanation is as follows:

The main exposure at the Tor is of megacryst granite (also known as “Giant Granite” or “Big-Feldspar Granite”). It is probably from near the roof area of the batholith. The feldpars are of perthitic orthoclase that is porphyroblastic (later replacive crystals) in origin and not phenocrysts (large crystals that have developed in the magma). In some places the southwest England granite megacrysts have been seen to develop into aplite (fine-grained quartz-feldpar veins of late origin), which is possible for porphyroblasts (developing by replacement after the veins) but not for phenocrysts (early and which should be cut through by the veins).

 Hound Tor, Dartmoor. Fossils? No, Megacrysts Hound Tor, Dartmoor. Fossils? No, Megacrysts Hound Tor, Dartmoor. Fossils? No, Megacrysts

A DISAPPOINTING DISCOVERY THAT WAS EXCITING

Tupperware at nearly 1500ft? The plastic rubbish left behind by some idle picnicker? But no… Berry spent some time exploring the crannies of the rockiest outcrops, and in the process made her next ‘Letterbox’ discovery… [The previous year’s find is HERE]

Hound Tor 6Hound Tor 13Hound Tor 20Hound Tor 30

Berry was not the first person to discover the box, which had been left by a girl from Surrey, with a message encouraging people to write in the notebook inside. This was already well-filled with the names, addresses, messages and drawings of previous explorers. There was also a strange mix of ‘souvenir’ items people had left – a car park ticket from Alton Towers, a ‘poppy day’ poppy, a couple of smoothed-out sweet wrappers, a button, and other such debris that walkers might find in their pockets… So Berry added a 1p coin, and added her contribution to the notebook. It may not have been an official Dartmoor Letterbox, but it was a lovely idea to have hidden it for others to enjoy.

Hound Tor 18Hound Tor 17Hound Tor 29Hound Tor 15Hound Tor 31

Credit: photos 4, 5, first megacryst, and all agile activity by Berry

THE BEGWYNS: A TRIG POINT, A ROUNDABOUT & FINE VIEWS IN POWYS


The Begwyns Trig Point Map 5The Begwyns Trig Point Map 4

 ‘ALL THE VIEWS, NONE OF THE CLIMB’

In Welsh border country not far north of Hay-on-Wye are the Begwyns, modest hills in unspoilt surroundings with far views to the Black Mountains to the east and the Brecon Beacons to the south. This is National Trust land: you can see their Begwyns page HERE with a useful circular walk map.  A gentle uphill stroll takes you to a feature called The Roundabout, built for the Millennium. There is a trig point nearby with magnificent views through 270º. It must be wonderful on a sunny day; ours was not, yet we could see for miles. The photos are quite poor, however…

The Begwyns Trig Point Map 1 The Begwyns Trig Point Map 2 The Begwyns Trig Point Map 3

The Begwyns - NT sign

It’s an easy ramble up from the road to The RoundaboutThe Begwyns - Enclosure 1

To the east is the northern end of the Back Mountains – Hay Bluff and TwmpaBlack Mountains from The Begwyns

To the south are the Brecon Beacons, with the summit of Pen-y-Fan in the cloudsThe Begwyns - Brecon Beacons

To the west are distant views towards CarmarthenshireThe Begwyns - Trig Point view W

The Trig Pillar stands at 414m ASL. The first 2 views looks south to the Brecon BeaconsThe Begwyns - Trig Point 1The Begwyns - Trig Point 3

This view looks south east to the southern end of the Black Mountains above CrickhowellThe Begwyns - Trig Point 4

The Trig Pillar and stone-built The Roundabout            The Begwyns - Trig Point & Enclosure

The Trig Pillar taken from inside the RoundaboutThe Begwyns - Trig Point from EnclosureThe Begwyns - Trig Pillar Plate

Within The Roundabout is a stone circle with seats round it, like a medieval meeting placeRoundabout circle

Sadly there’s no view from inside The Roundabout. Here’s the inscribed Millennium StoneRoundabout stone

PORTLAND BILL, DORSET – ROCKS & FOSSILS 1


Pulpit Rock is an artificial stack of rocks at the southern tip of Portland. It was created in the 1870s during quarrying as a relic of the industry. It is climbable and is apparently somewhere that the adventurous like to ‘Tombstone’, an activity beyond my imagining.

PULPIT ROCKPortland Bill, Dorset - Pulpit Rock

The flaggy flat areas near the rock are reminiscent of the ‘Flaggy Shore’ of the Burren, Co. ClarePortland Bill, Dorset - Rocks & Fossils 2Portland Bill, Dorset - Rocks & Fossils

Rock. And a pretty wheatear. There were also meadow pipits, and lots of gulls Portland Bill, Dorset - Rocks & Fossils 3

The rock surfaces all round Pulpit Rock is known as ‘Snail Shore’, embedded with millions of snail, oyster and mollusc shells from what was once the seabed in Jurassic times. Here are a few examples, some surpassingly large.Portland Bill, Dorset - Rocks & Fossils 4 Portland Bill, Dorset - Rocks & Fossils 5 Portland Bill, Dorset - Rocks & Fossils 6 Portland Bill, Dorset - Rocks & Fossils 7 Portland Bill, Dorset - Rocks & Fossils 8

An arty shot of Pulpit Rock to end with, taken into the sun with mixed successPortland Bill, Dorset - Pulpit Rock 2

DARTMOOR ROCK WALL STUDIES: MOSS & LICHEN


The images below come from one small section of rock wall in a remote part of Dartmoor. Every rock shown touched at least one of the others, yet the variety of rock composition, mosses and lichens over one area of wall is astounding.

Dartmoor Rock Wall 1 Dartmoor Rock Wall 2 Dartmoor Rock Wall 3 Dartmoor Rock Wall 4 Dartmoor Rock Wall 5 Dartmoor Rock Wall 6 Dartmoor Rock Wall 7 Dartmoor Rock Wall 8 Dartmoor Rock Wall 9 Dartmoor Rock Wall 10 Dartmoor Rock Wall 11

A STACK OF CHIMNEYS AT OXBURGH HALL, NORFOLK


Terracotta Chimneys, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk 1The medieval core of Oxburgh Hall dates from 1482. In the Victorian era, a number of features were added, including oriel windows overlooking the moat (see above), crow- (‘flemish’) stepped gables and a number of tall terracotta chimneys, all  differently patterned. Here are some of them.

1482Oxburgh Hall Date Terracotta Chimneys, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk 2Terracotta Chimneys, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk 3Terracotta Chimneys, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk 5 Terracotta Chimneys, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk 6 Terracotta Chimneys, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk 7 Terracotta Chimneys, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk 8 Terracotta Chimneys, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk 9 Terracotta Chimneys, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk 10 Terracotta Chimneys, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk 11 Terracotta Chimneys, Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk 12

HELSINKI BUILDINGS: NATIONAL ROMANTIC STYLE & ART DECO


Helsinki Buildings 1 Helsinki Buildings 2 Helsinki Buildings 3 Helsinki Buildings 4 Helsinki Buildings 5 Helsinki Buildings 6 Helsinki Buildings 7 Helsinki Buildings 8 Helsinki Buildings 9 Helsinki Buildings 10 Helsinki Buildings 11

WALL INSCRIPTIONS, CALENZANO ALTO, ITALY


 

Wall Inscriptions, Calenzano, Italy 2Wall Inscriptions, Calenzano, Italy 4Wall Inscriptions, Calenzano, Italy 3Wall Inscriptions, Calenzano, Italy 1

DETAILS OF A SOMERSET CHURCH WALL – ST MICHAEL’S, BLACKFORD


The walls of this church, apparently of uniform colour from a distance, are richly patterned with lichen and varied hues. All these images were taken within about 12 feet of each other, ranging from weathered Ham stone wall to lichen-capped stone face