And so amidst another run of high pressure, dry weather and wonderful sunrises, I shall record a second suit wearing, as we shared in remembering the life of Roger Clive-Powell, local architect and friend.
I would not be writing this blog if we hadn’t met Roger, since it was he, all those years ago, who shone his torch into the space behind the dingy old gegin (kitchen) fireplace beam and went into raptures of excitement about the old wicker chimney hood. This is a rare and local design feature of some old houses in this part of the world, which we’d not even noticed on our first viewings of Gelli Uchaf – there never having been electricity in its living space before we took it on, ‘as a challenge’.Roger drew up and submitted the necessary plans to attempt to gain permission to turn it back into living accommodation, this being required since Gelli had been empty for nearly 30 years, and subsequently supervised the early restoration works. Reassured by Roger that we could embark on the project within our tiny budget, we made, and had accepted, an offer subject to this planning permission being approved, and the rest is as they say, history.
Over the intervening years we have come to know Roger and Jen, in much more than simply a client /professional relationship, and at Llanwenog church we gained an inkling of what a special man he was in the lives of many other people. Standing room only, and a series of eulogies that spanned the whole of his life from childhood and university, to the diversity of his work. A considerable breadth of projects often saving the ancient buildings in this part of West Wales, including overseeing the restoration of Lampeter Town Hall to house Jen’s fabulous Welsh Quilt Centre, and his work in protecting many of the local historic churches.
Perhaps appropriate then that he was laid to rest beside his parents in the graveyard of this small rural church, which itself has several dramatic and distinctive features. Roger did indeed bring it back from the brink, after centuries of climatic abuse, beginning in the early ’90’s with a major series of works – the crumbling tower, stabilised in Roger’s unique, innovative way by pouring in fluid based lime mortars into the structure using watering cans; the barrel vaulted ceiling (held together when he first inspected it by “the woodworm holding hands”) was repaired from above with great care; some ancient frescoes were discovered underneath flaking lime wash; and the stunning carved oak rood screen, pew ends and Dragon design lectern, all created by a Belgian refugee during the first World War, who stayed with Roger’s grandfather at the family home of the Highmead estate.
Click here for some images of the church and carvings, which will always be remembered as having been saved by Roger.
But more than all this, many recollections of a genuinely warm, gentle, good humoured and wonderfully enthusiastic man, whose life touched all who came in contact with him, and looked boyish to the very end. Our sympathies and thoughts are with the family at this sad time, and it was entirely fitting for Roger to be carried from the church on a glorious clear sunny day to the Beatles “Here comes the Sun”, as a pair of Red kites wheeled overhead, for Roger did indeed bring warmth into so many lives, and has left such fond memories for so many.
We left Llanwenog, and drove to Poppit Sands, for a bracing and reflective walk.And for the first time, since the tide was right out, made it all the way North across the sands, to where the Teifi estuary curves down to the beach beneath the low cliffs at Gwbert. Walking back along the faceted sand bank which guides the river’s flow at low tide, were some extraordinary sand features, the like of which we’ve never experienced before – anywhere. Tide fossils, to quote my brother Mark’s suggestion – almost indeed like some preserved dinosaur skeleton.
I have no idea exactly how they are formed, or whether they have a specific name, but include several images to persuade others to walk the extra mile, and have a look themselves – I imagine that although changing on a daily basis, they will be a constant presence. But maybe not?
I also include them, because after processing them, I played around with rotating images, as above, to see whether they looked more appealing from different angles. And discovered another illusion, which was new to me, referred to as the ‘Crater Illusion’.
Or is it?
Click here for some lunar examples, and discussion, though I have to say that my brain wasn’t as easily fooled by the images on this site.
Apparently, it’s caused by the brain/eye interpretation of the shadows, created by the low angle sunlight on the fascinating sand ridges around these craters/whirlpools. But it does make one contemplate how easily our perception of the world around us can be misled.
In trying to find out more about these sand forms, I discovered that Poppit Sands also has one of the largest and oldest examples of a fish trap in the UK. Only picked up from satellite images on Google earth a few years ago, the V shaped rock walls are now never visible above water, even at low tide, having sunk into the sand over the centuries, but with nets at their funnel entrance would date back to nearly 1,000 years ago, and were such an effective method of trapping fish, that Magna Carta banned their use from the actual mouths of estuaries – this one is to one side of the Teifi’s mouth.
Back home, a dusk time cloud seemed to reflect the maritime theme with a breaking wave, leading edge, spilling down as it picked up the last of the evening sun, and drifted South.The extended dry spell has allowed me to top some remaining sections of our lower meadows. Initially I’d planned on burning off this excess, fibrous material. but having found our sheep tucking in, thought I might as well mound it up into higher piles, in the style of a hay cock.It can always be burned layer on, but if the winter proves to be as severe as some are forecasting, having a little extra, in-extremis, fodder might be handy.
I was also surprised by how many frogs and toads had already taken refuge beneath the drying windrows, so I guess that the hay cocks themselves will prove helpful hibernation refuges.
The main priority, as I’m gradually learning, is to clear such material from most of the field surface. On a valley bottom meadow such as this, any flopped over dead vegetation simply prevents any water evaporation. And actual drainage is a desperately slow affair on a pretty level saturated surface of seams of peat, overlying clay.
I thought that my previous post’s pictures would be the final amphibian images for the year, but then a night time walk around the croquet lawn with a torch, picked out this immobile newt. I’m not sure if it’s a Smooth or Palmate species, Lissotriton vulgaris, or L. helveticus, which apparently are quite similar, but I’m guessing that like the frogs and toads, it will be off into hibernation pretty soon.
Lately, there’s been more than the usual amount of effort in the garden. With just 36 hours to go until the great excitement of Noel Kingsbury’s workshop here, the weather is going to break tonight with heavy rain and winds, but for now, the scene looks a little better for Thursday.
Finally, for those for whom the simplicity of a life in the hills has a certain appeal, I do recommend the novel ‘A Whole Life’, by Robert Seethaler, currently being serialised on BBC Radio 4, in their book at bedtime slot.
Click here for the link.
A simple novel about the life on a man living in the Austrian Alps, during the last century. 124 pages short.
About life, and living. And dying.