Defining bioregions in these islands

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Catchment Area of Essex & Suffolk Rivers Trust

In a recent post, I mentioned how ‘I’m still struggling to articulate a suitable spatial scale for bioregional praxis in the Atlantic Archipelago’ and part of this struggle will be identifying particular bioregions within the Archipelago. Today I received a message from Kate Swatridge who had attended Ed Tyler and I’s session on bioregions at the UK Permaculture Convergence asking about this issue. She wrote: Continue reading “Defining bioregions in these islands”

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Landscape Scale Land Management

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Aerial photo over River Crouch taken 30th May 1966 by Simmons Aerofilms https://ncap.org.uk/frame/11-1-2-107a-289?pos=48
(Higher resolution images are available from NCAP)

At the Oxford Real Farming Conference I attended the session ‘Shaping our future together’ organised by CTRLShift and facilitated by Andy Goldring. Rather than a presentation from the front, this session was designed to create a space for collaboration and planning between organisations, practitioners and networks building on the process started in Wigan, March 2018 at the initial CTRLShift: An emergency summit for change event.

The session began with a brief introduction and then encouraged participants to introduce an area of focus they would like to discuss.  Folk then clustered according to which area they found richest and most relevant to them at that time in order to discuss that topic through the lens of three questions: Continue reading “Landscape Scale Land Management”

A forest of raspberry canes

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As part of the research I’ve been doing into the local history of fruit production, I came across William J. Tate’s 1899 book East Coast Scenery: Rambles Through Towns and Villages; Nutting, Blackberrying, and Mushrooming; Sea Fishing, Wild-fowl Shooting etc. which was apparently illustrated by Arthur Rackham. The book is a collection of articles contributed to ‘the columns of the Civil Service Guardian in 1890-91, and the Bristol Times and Mirror in 1897-98.’ Amongst his trips about the Eastern counties Tate and an associate visit Burnham and Southminster, and in his account of the two locales he reveals Continue reading “A forest of raspberry canes”

Dengie Hundred

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Map from ‘An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 4, South east’ (HMSO, 1923)

‘Has been the scene of some important events in the history of the nation, but in ages so remote that there is no written record to identify them with the locality; and in traversing the district, we find few of those ancient relics by the aid of which their memorials may be traced out. On the shores beyond Bradwell stood the city of Ithanchester, in which Cedde, the first bishop of the diocese, in 658, baptised Mary in the new faith, built a church, and endowed priests and deacons to minister in it. In a later age, the Danes took possession of the Hundred, and long made it their head-quarters or camp along the coast, from which they sent forth their expeditions and plundered the other parts of the country. It was in a manner their recognised home in their earlier struggles for the mastership of the land, as its present name implies — Dengie being derived from Danes-ig, “the Danes island.” A thousand years have passed since that time, and a great change has been wrought in the scene. Flocks graze undisturbed on the rich marshes beyond which the long narrow war-vessels were moored. The carol of the ploughman and the tinkle of the sheep- bell are heard at twilight, instead of the martial signal. The fierce chieftain has subsided into the skilful farmer. The steel that glitters in the sun is that of the sickle or the scythe ; and instead of the wild warrior returning to his den with his prey, the rich heavy wheats of Dengie are sent forth to help to feed and fatten other parts of the kingdom. This Hundred contains the following twenty-one parishes, irrespective oft he borough of Maldon which is described separately : — Woodham Walt, Woodham Mart, Hazeleigh, Purleigh, Cold Norton, Stow Maries, North Fambridge, Latchingdon, Snoreham, Mundon, Steeple, Mayland, Altborne, Cricksea, Burnham, Southminster, Asheldham, Dengie, Tillingham, St. Lawrence, Bradwell.’

A.D Bayne, Royal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical, (n.d)

The Wild East

English Activities

‘The landward farms produced not only corn, cattle and sheep but great herds of half-wild horses and ponies with a sprinkling of donkeys. They roamed free as the wind over the wide rough grass marshes bordering the sea-wall. When the day came for them to be rounded up and sent to market at Wickford and elsewhere, the scene was like something out of the Wild West. Rough riders on horseback, with cracking whips and yelling in broad Essex, hustled the horses, with flying manes, flourishing their tails like banners, into wooden corrals where they could be sorted out, branded and taken quietly up the lane to the farm on the way to market.’

– James Wentworth Day, A Garland of Hops (1978) Continue reading “The Wild East”

Azimuthal Projections, RetroSuburbia & Solarpunk

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Azimuthal Projections is not a progressive rock album but ‘a map projection in which a region of the earth is projected on to a plane tangential to the surface, usually at a pole or the equator.’ I just came across (via Transit Maps) this azimuthal equidistant projection of Columbus, Ohio, USA which is catchily titled:   Continue reading “Azimuthal Projections, RetroSuburbia & Solarpunk”

Desk Research: Dengie Woodland 2

A rainy Easter Monday, but Burnham & District Museum reopened Good Friday for its 2018 season so I went there to renew my membership and review their library. The good selection of books there allowed me to do some more work researching the history of woodland cover on the Dengie. The Domesday Book period of 1086 CE and thereabouts gets the most attention as it remains the first substantive account of England. Several people have attempted to turn the records of the Domesday Book‘s purely textual account into a visual cartographic form – and one of the map elements frequently reasoned inductively is woodland cover.

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Map from A.C. Edward’s A History of Essex; with Maps and Pictures (1962)

Continue reading “Desk Research: Dengie Woodland 2”

Desk Research: Two Horseshoes

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When it comes to catastrophic flooding in Essex 1953 tends to get all the coverage, but the inundation of 1897 was equally noteworthy – after breaches in the sea walls 30-35,000 acres of farmland were underwater. Eventually most of that land was re-claimed, but a stretch of the north bank of the Crouch, near North Fambridge, still reveals an area that was lost. Known locally as the horseshoes (not to be confused with the Three Horsehoes on Burnham Road) these artificial bays reflect the fall back defensive line that eventually became the de facto border between land and water when the original sea wall could not be rebuilt with the labour and resources available, The Google aerial view reveals something of the lost wall  and lines of wooden stakes are visible at low tide marking where it would have been. Continue reading “Desk Research: Two Horseshoes”

Desk Research: Dengie Woodland

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Illustration by Matthew Ayres from A Popular History of the Dengie Hundred

Mixed-bag of weather today that made walking far undesirable, especially after yesterday’s puddlicious Southend trip. Burnham’s little library has a small local history/topography collection with enough in it to hold one’s attention quite a while – including a copy of the book of the great Chapman/André 1777 map of Essex.

Another map has captured my imagination more recently however, the one above taken from A Popular History of the Dengie Hundred by M.J. Ayres, R.J. Blaney & T.J. Wood. This map is a highly speculative rendering of how the Dengie might have looked in a period for which we have no good contemporary rendering. I’m attracted by the suggestion of woodland on the higher ground, as it gives some impression of what might have been lost locally (only 2% of Essex is covered by ancient, semi-natural woodland, Essex is the second least wooded county in England – and Maldon district has only 3% woodland cover of any kind), and because it visualizes a suggestion made by P.H. Reaney as to the etymology of the name Dengie itself: Continue reading “Desk Research: Dengie Woodland”