Out for a drive on top of the Mendips I came across this beautifully laid hedge.
I would have loved to photograph it being done, as it’s such a fine country craft. It takes great skill to work with what you’ve got in the hedge and lay it in – you can’t add anything.
What control you need to judge how hard to cut into the stems, so you can bend them just enough without cutting through them completely. It needs a steady hand, a good eye and a lot of experience.
I would like to go back later next year and shoot it again as it grows.
As an exercise in photography it’s quite difficult to get good shots out of it, avoiding a road and the telegraph poles in the field. The attraction is mainly in the varying pattern of lines, but I welcome the discipline of trying to make myself look harder and let what is there emerge from the landscape.
This week I had to go to the little village of Muchelney on the Somerset Levels in connection with a project I am working on. Muchelney has attracted national interest because for the past couple of weeks or so it has been cut off by the flood water that has turned large parts of this low-lying part of England into an enormous lake.
My project is not connected with the flood, but I would like to share some of the pictures I took on the way to and from the village.
On the approach from the north, the main road between Langport and Muchelney is still flooded. The brother of the person who ferried me in to the village had driven it in a Landrover and found the water four feet deep in places. The water came up over his bonnet and, though it didn’t get into his engine and kill it, it did start coming in through his air vents.
So my approach was from the south via the village of Kingsbury Episcopi. Here is the road (yes, it’s a road not a river) seen through the windscreen as we start on the approach to Muchelney.
The water level on the road is at the same height as the flooded fields on either side.
Of course some of the houses in the village have flooded and over 100 people have had to be evacuated (the population is only just over 200). This medieval house stands on the edge of the village and the floods can be seen in the background on the left of the house.
Muchelney was mentioned in the Domesday Book and is famous for its ruined abbey founded in the 10th century and its 14th century Priest’s House. It often floods in winter – Muchelney means ‘big island’ in Anglo-Saxon – but this is said to be the worst flood in 100 years.
Looking across the garden of a house on the edge of the village at the flood water:
In the village itself the roads are dry and free of flooding. Vehicles coming in are he subject of intense interest, as the inhabitants try to gauge from speaking to the drivers whether the flood waters are going down.
At the height of the flood a local farmer laid on a tractor and trailer service to enable people to get into and out of the village. But others have resorted to a different form of transport to cope with the flooding:
At one point I started to walk back from the village into the flood water, just to see what it was like and took a few shots along the way.
But it’s not long before the water starts to get deeper.
I turned back when the water had got about 8-10″ up my Wellingtons and when I realised, from the freezing cold water seeping into them, that they were no longer waterproof.
Later I got a lift back to Kingsbury Episcopi to pick up my car and took a few final shots on the way:
Dry land comes into sight as we start to emerge from the flood water.
This year is the 365th anniversary of a key event in English political history which has a curious link with the current Occupy London movement.
From 28 October – 11 November 1647 a series of debates took place between the radical elements in the New Model Army’ rank and file and their senior officers about the nature of society. The radicals wanted ‘one man, one vote’, authority in the country to be vested in the House of Commons rather than the King and the House of Lords. In addition they declared certain ‘native rights’ for all Englishmen: freedom of conscience, freedom from impressment into the armed forces and equality before the law. Colonel Thomas Rainsborough, speaking as a radical, memorably encapsulated the aspiration for universal suffrage when he said:
For really I think that the poorest hee that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest hee; and therefore truly, Sr, I think itt clear, that every Man that is to live under a Government ought first by his own Consent to put himself under that Government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that Government that he hath not had a voice to put Himself under.
We know what took place, at least for the first few days, as the debates were recorded verbatim until 2 November when all recording ceased.
Clearly the senior officers were alarmed by these proposals, particularly for universal suffrage, which they saw as a step towards anarchy. The King’s escape from capture overtook events and the debates were brought to an end, never published and the radicals in the Army persecuted.
What has this got to do with Occupy?
The events of 365 years ago were probably the first time that a genuine democratic debate involving ordinary people took place in this country, the first time that ordinary people looked at society and thought there might be a different way forward rather than the status quo.
The debates took place at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Putney (SW London). In 2007, on the 360th anniversary, the then rector opened a permanent exhibition to the debates at the Church and organised a series of commemorative events. The rector went on to become Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s Cathedral before the events around the Occupy encampment forced him to resign in October 2011. His name? Rev Dr Giles Fraser.