Monday, 11 October 2010

Combe church wall paintings

I think it was in July that we were in the pretty West Oxfordshire village of Combe for a game of cricket. The grounds are set just to the village edge, overlooking the small but imposing church of St Laurence - originally built in the Norman era and rebuilt in the late 1300s. Inside, to my delight, my eyes first fell on this magnificent 'Doom' wall painting showing the Last Judgement.

Discovered in 1894 by the Rev. S.Pearce, it is thought that they were painted around 1440 by the monks of nearby Eynsham Abbey. In the centre, wounds showing, is Christ triumphant.

To his right, Apostles and the Saved, rising from their graves.

More ghoulishly (and perhaps more entertaining) - are the unsaved, suffering terrible agonies and being devoured by a Hellish demon monster. How rich the natural colours are, even after all the centuries.

Just beneath, a Crucifixion scene.

Over the South door, the commandments write large, flanked by Moses - only a faint tracery on the left - and Aaron with his mitre, to the right.

Dating from the seventeenth century, it covers an earlier mural of St Christopher - the most visible remains of which are a mermaid and fish.

The Annunciation - a partner to the Crucifixion on the other wall side - is badly decomposed, but the Angel Gabriel can be seen announcing 'Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum' (Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee). And the hand of God reaching down from the Heavens. These two paintings, teamed with the Doom painting looming over them, would have shown the community the simple core of Christian thinking - Christ the son of God, born of Mary the Virgin, crucified that mankind might be saved to rise again on the final day of Judgement. Or not, as the case may be.

Higher up, angels glow jewel-like, preserved fragments of Medieval stained glass, dating to around 1450.

I returned thoughtfully to the cricket, pondering the paths of time; once the monks of Eynsham Abbey built and decorated the church at Combe. Today, our team - Eynsham - were playing the locals at cricket, in the shadow of St Laurence's, nestling in the surrounding trees, to the left.

Monday, 4 October 2010

October woods

Monday was glorious - after days of rain we were treated to a balmy remnant of summer and despite suffering yet another cold I felt drawn to the woods as if seeking sanctuary there.

All manner of insects had emerged to enjoy this treat - from little red ladybirds zooming furiously about, like small red flying machines, to a large bumble bee queen clumsily bustling hither and thither; she was over an inch in length and making her presence felt. I was headed to the central beech grove where I knew I would find many toadstools - sadly several had been kicked over (a personal bete noire of mine).

These rather ugly specimens are, I think, 'Charcoal Burners' which vary in colour - I didn't think to rub them at the time, which would have been the give away as the skin is greasy to the touch.

These are new to me - Velvet Shanks - I didn't discover until later that they are edible, though the rather slimy coating is a little off putting.

This was a great natural composition, the trio of Panther Caps - with a little flash of violet behind the far left hand one -

Which was a pair of pretty tiny Amethyst Deceivers next door to an even smaller unidentified toadstool.

As is this one; I trawled my fungi guides but could not find it. The cap was a magnificent 6 inches wide.

Now that autumn is falling upon us, the woods take on a witchy, tangled atmosphere. I startled a Muntjac deer somewhere in this density, which began barking a loud alarm call. It would only have be the size of a small dog - knee high - but it sounds like a creature three times it's size.

Another Panther Cap - pleasing to look at, but very poisonous. They are commonly confused with Blushers, which are technically edible, but the two are so similar I would not risk it. The Panther Cap is much darker and it's stipe (stem) remains white when broken...

...while the Blusher is a pretty apricot-buff colour with a stipe that tinges pink when damaged, hence the name.

Towards the end of my walk I found this pretty theatrical scene, a setting for a fairytale, the spotlight of sun just waiting for some one's grand entrance and the fungus nestling in the tree roots like an elaborate stage piece.

Only two hours of rambling around, alone in the woods and when I emerged the sun was still hot.

Waiting for me quietly in the hedge, was Marjorie, my new travelling companion. If you read my other blog, then you might know that poor old Hercules, my trusty bone shaker who has featured in so many of my blog posts here,
came to an ignoble end and is in retirement. But I can certainly go faster and further with young Marjorie - and yes, she is firmly locked to the fence.

ADDITIONAL NOTE - I am merely a hobby fungus spotter, my identifications are not to be taken as expert opinion and I am always happy to be put right. Do use a good fungus guide relevant to your part of the world if you want to be certain of anything.
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