July 3rd – I passed Grove Hill near Stonnall late afternoon, under a stunning blue sky with light clouds. Currently with barley on the lower slopes and wheat on the upper, it’s a timeless sight that can’t have altered much in a century or more.
The other thing I like about this is it clearly illustrates the purpose of the hedge and lone three; they are there to limit soil erosion. Think about it.
January 15th – First really cold day of the year, with the lightest, cutest dusting of snow that sat on the landscape like icing sugar. Not yet having fitted the ice tyres, I let some air out and rode the heaviest bike I have. It was gorgeous; the temperature didn’t get above freezing all day, and I got cold and hungry, but it was worth being out in. It was good to be off work but it was also good to be out in the glass-hard, clear day. Stonnall, Wall and Hammerwich positively glowed in the cold winter sunshine.
I’ve needed this for so long.
January 9th – Out for a spin around Stonnall before the rains came again, I spotted another sign of the odd season. The sign announcing one’s entry to Stonnall out by the church has a planter at its base; in the planter, a variety of flowers are in bloom, including heather, ornamental daisies and primroses. I have no idea what the plant is with the orange, marble-sized fruits, but it looks familiar and is very attractive.
A nice dash of colour on a grey day – my compliments to the folk who tend these lovely village features.
May 3rd – An old cycling friend of mine whom I used to meet occasionally in the lanes of Staffordshire – the late, lamented Maurice Purser, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 93 and still rode when he was 90 – would have referred to today as a ‘wolf of a day’, in that it looked nice and friendly, but was vicious with teeth and claws. The sun was out, it was clear as a bell. It was even a tad warmer – but there was the kind of punishing, relentless wind you get in May that makes cycling in the wrong direction a joyless, unpleasant chore.
I kept close to home, and visited some places I knew would benefit from clear air and sunlight; Lazy Hill, Thornes Hill and the the church at Stonnall, and Grove Hill. I drank in the views, enjoyed the oilseed rape and noted that from Lazy Hill the wind turbine near Whittington was clearly visible. The aspect from the rear of the churchyard – just beyond the fence – was as wonderful as ever, a veritable walk across Stonnall’s rooftops. Up on Grove Hill I was buffeted by the wind and took several attempts at the panorama.
This is our area at it’s best, and worst: a grand day that presented the scenery beautifully, but was just too hostile to cycle out to see it.
July 24th – Grove Hill is a local landmark that’s very visible from the Chester Road. The subject of huge mythology, there’s really very little known about it. Presumably, but not necessarily a burial mound, the lone tree on top makes a lovely viewpoint and a distinctly notable feature. I noticed a recent conversation on Facebook where it was asserted that the hill was called Gallows Hill, and was once the site of a military encampment. Sadly, I think the physical geography has a simpler explanation.
I believe the tree still exists – and I doubt it’s original – to keep the soil on top of the hill. It’s windy up there, and soil erosion is a problem. The root system will work to contain the earth, giving the reason why the farmer never removed it and put up with ploughing round it year after year. Note the short ridge hedgerow to the left – it’s on the generally windward side of the hill. The difference in soil height is caused by the hedge doing it’s job, which is also to prevent erosion by the wind.
It’s a lovely spot, with some fascinating folklore. However, like most fantastical tales, I suspect the actuality is somewhat mundane.