For Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week, we are looking at the ground. I often find the ground quite interesting because it is full of history.
The first image I’ve chosen shows an example of the Concretionary Magnesian Limestone on our North East England coastline. If you’re a geologist, you’ll certainly have heard of this well-known rock formation. The rocks were formed during the Permian period, over 250 million years ago, after rising sea levels flooded the adjacent sand dunes. The UK was still part of a large landmass at that time and lay just north of the equator. I always find it fascinating that we can just look down at the ground and look back so far into pre-history.
Another aspect of this particular spot that always strikes me as we walk across it, is the contrasts in texture. The sand is smooth, soft and usually cool, as the rising tide is normally casting its white foamy fingers across it. The Concretionary Magnesian Limestone is, by contrast, very rough. It really does look like concrete, with lumps of stone set into it, created entirely by the forces of Nature without any human help.
My second image is of the old road that runs through our woods. It still retains its old surface of local sandstone gravel, though some parts have been reinforced with newer limestone. Unsurprisingly, this road is known as the Stoney Road and a hundred years ago was the main road linking our village to a neighbouring one. We often walk along the old road when we go into the woods, to see the carpets of bluebells in Spring or the carpets of leaves in Autumn but it is also a cool green tunnel in high Summer. I’m sure this old road would have many tales to tell, if only the ground could talk!
There’s nothing quite like a wet woodland walk for reviving the senses and uplifting the soul – and such a walk was a perfect prescription for me this week as I have been rather busy dealing with an irksome legal issue. It also gave me a great opportunity to grab some photos for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week as the theme is Water.
On the day I flung down my papers and pencils and announced that I needed some air, it had been raining all morning. I think up to that point the weather had completely passed me by – my head was definitely elsewhere, full of words and arguments from the problem I was wrestling with.
Living on a northern English hillside means we see quite a lot of rain so we’ve come to enjoy the out-of-doors in pretty much all kinds of weather. Rain was just fine for me today – in fact it was rather soothing as it pattered down on paths and in puddles. I love the way it runs down the tree trunks making networks of rivulets in the patterns of the tree bark. Some of the beech tree trunks were soaked and stood dark and sombre. In stark contrast, the wet lichen on them had adopted a bright, almost other-worldly, iridescent green glow. It was quite beautiful.
Walking in the rain also meant that I was carrying my umbrella, which in turn meant I didn’t really have many spare hands for taking photographs. My son liked this as it meant I didn’t stop quite so often!
We headed off down through the woods towards the river. For some reason this seems to be a direction we are often drawn to on rainy days. Not too surprisingly, we passed no-one as we strode along, gulping in deep breaths of the gloriously fresh air. It was my son who uttered the phrase on this occasion, but it’s always said on days like this – “I love the smell of wet woods!” It really is amazing, especially now, in Spring. You can smell green. Yes, I know green is a colour – but in damp woods in Spring, green takes on another dimension. It colours the air with a heady aroma of newly grown leaves and flowers. Ah, yes! You can smell green!
Today there was a yellow afterglow too – gorse! For everyone who doesn’t know, gorse is a very common prickly shrub here in the UK that bears the most beautifully yellow pea-type flowers. In a light Spring breeze you will know you are in the presence of gorse when the gorgeous honey scent reaches your nostrils.
Along the path where we normally spot lots of bees, butterflies and other interesting insects … today we saw just one brave moth! However, the trees were full of birdsong, which we enjoyed as we walked.
Soon we were approaching the river. The river has a smell of its own – earthy and distinctive. It rises high up on the moors and gathers its waters as it flows down through the wooded valley. In the part of the valley we were heading to today, the river runs through a rocky gorge and is fed by steep sided streams (we call them ‘burns’ up here in the north 😉 ).
This part of the river is known as ‘the crags’ as there are some substantial sandstone cliffs. It is amazing to think these rocks have been around about 300 million years! They were formed during the Upper Carboniferous period when our part of the world lay next to the equator and these rocks were part of a tropical swamp with huge primitive trees, tree ferns and dragonflies. Our sandstone crags are the remains of fossil soils.
I wouldn’t say it was tropical today – rather cool in fact! Though, even on hot sunny days it stays cool under the trees along the river. I love the coolness by the river. It is a tranquil and restful place – just what I needed today 🙂