Saturday, 28 February 2009

We are Creatures of Narrative

We are each of us a compound of memories and hopes, and the present is where past and future meet in striving or exhaustion, triumph or despair: each of these states and many others are defined by the relationship of our past to our expectations. We are creatures of narrative; the next instalment of the story interests us crucially; therefore death, either of someone we love, or as the indefinite prospect of our own absence from the story, typically counts as evil...

A.C. Grayling 'The Meaning of Things'

Thursday, 12 February 2009


Mosses at Merryvale

The kingdom of plants can easily be thought of as the nearest neighbour of the kingdom of death. Perhaps the mysteries of transformation and the enigmas of life which so torment us are concentrated in the green of the earth, among the trees in graveyards and the flowering shoots springing from their beds.

Boris Paskernak: Doctor Zhivago

Dew Pond Makers

Downland Dew Pond

A valuable article by the Rev. Edgar Glanfield, Vicar of Imber, Wiltshire Gazette, Dec. 29th, 1922,

“Up to ten years ago the dew pond makers started upon their work about the 12th of September, and they toured the country for a period of six or seven months, making in sequence from six to fifteen ponds, according to size and conveniences, in a season of winter and spring..... They travelled throughout Wiltshire and Hampshire, and occasionally into Somersetshire arid Berkshire, and even into Kent.” The dew pond maker with three assistants at 18s. a week, would require about four weeks to make a pond 22 yards, or one chain, square. Providing all his own tools and appliances he would charge about £40 for the work. “ The work commenced by the removal of the soil to the depth of eight feet. The laying of the floor is then proceeded with from the centre, called the crown, four or five yards in circumference, and to this each day a width of about two yards is added, and continued, course by course until the sides of the basin attain to the normal level of the site. Only so much work with the layers of materials set in order, is undertaken in one day as can be finished at night, and this must be covered over with straw and steined. No layering may be done in frosty or inclement weather. And this is the method of construction:- seventy cart loads of clay are scattered over the area, suggested above. The clay is thoroughly puddled, trodden and beaten in flat with beaters, a coat of lime is spread, slaked, and rightly beaten until the surface is as smooth as a table, and it shines like glass. After it has been hammered in twice, a second coat of lime is applied, to the thickness of half-an-inch, which is wetted and faced to save the under face. A waggon load of straw is arranged and the final surface is covered with rough earth to the thickness of nine inches. The pond when finished affords a depth of water of seven feet." It is then fenced round to keep off cattle and horses, whose hoofs, would break through the bed, and admit sheep only, for whose use the ponds are made. The durability of the dew pond is put at “perhaps 20 years, though “there are ponds in good condition now which were made 36 years ago, and which have never been known to fail to yield an adequate supply of water even in this year of drought (1921). The decay of the industry is attributed partly to the greatly increased cost of the making of the ponds, and partly to the fact that they have been superseded by the windmill pumping water from wells.