20 May 2019

Shell - Rock - Shell

The Church, in the form of James Ussher and his The Annals of the World, published 1650, hilariously asserted that all creation commenced at about 18:00 on 22 October 4004 BC. Ussher, Primate of All Ireland from 1625 to 1656, was out by about 13.8 billion years.


Our current best estimate of the age of the universe is 13.799 billion years, plus or minus circa 21 million years. This estimate is based on studies of microwave background radiation, which provides the universe's cooling rate, in conjunction with measurements of the expansion rate of the universe.

The carboniferous limestone rock of Great Britain and Ireland was formed between 363 and 325 million years ago. It is a sedimentary rock that formed in shallow tropical seas, made up of the shells and hard parts of trillions of sea creatures, in a matrix of carbonate mud. In lay terms, limestone is made from shells.

Under the hand of stone carver Lottie O'Leary, of Knucklas, Powys, a shell has re-emerged from a large limestone boulder. The work took five days and was undertaken with an angle grinder and a compressor-driven series of stone carving tools - the small photographs show stages of the carving. The shell is left incomplete to emphasize its origins - and those of the rock.

15 May 2019

Duck 'all

Section of scaffolding tower sunk into pond and joined at top with scaffolding pole. Heavy stretchers run out from bank to atop scaffolding, held in place with metal straps. Suspended deck planked with composite plastic decking, resistant to rotting. Weight over water counterbalanced with railway sleeper attached to frame at landward end. Frame of house built up with 4"x4" and 4"x2" timber. Window inserted to shaded side. Metal mesh inserted to provide ventilation.

Roof formed of 3"x2" timber, covered with sterling board and shed roofing felt. Door cut down and inserted, to provide human access. All framing stained black. House panelled with weatherboarding and floored with sterling board. Pontoon made from four plastic drainage pipe 90° turns, joined together and captured within plastic decking frame. Pontoon covered with sterling board and weighted to sit level with water. Sloping ramp of plastic decking, hinged at head, and captured at foot by a block and coffer, to enable rise and fall with water.

Theory is that foxes will not swim out into the water in order to access the ducks' doorway from the deck. Other than weatherboarding, roofing felt, a box of screws, wood stain, two bolts and a handle, all materials were re-used scrap. Total cost £129. Will be called Duck 'all. No MPs' expenses claimed.

09 May 2019

Brogyntyn - Secret Tunnel

The tunnel beneath Castell Brogyntyn is well known, but the parkland boasts a second, the location of which is kept secret by those in the know, to protect the four lesser horseshoe bats that live within.

(Lesser horseshoes are restricted to Wales, the West Midlands, and the south-west of England. There are about 50,000 individuals in the UK. Their worldwide International Union for Conservation of Nature classification is Vulnerable, i.e. at high risk of extinction.)

The tunnel has Y-shaped adit-like entrances at both ends. It is constructed from the local rock, stacked so as to create a deliberately rustic appearance.

About ten or so yards long, including the splayed entrances, the tunnel curves gently underground, is broadly S-form in plan.

07 May 2019

Brogyntyn - Ozymandian Remnants

The main entrance to the park was by way of a triumphal arch on Mount Road, built 1815 to a design by Benjamin Gummow, of Ruabon, also responsible for Brogyntyn Hall's portico. Presumably a celebration of the defeat of Napoleon.

Grade II listed, the archway has two square projections, highly bijou accommodation for the lodge-keeper.

Wrought iron railings connect the arch to a pedestrian entrance to the south. Large sections of the gateway lie nearby (below).

West of the drive that once ran from the gateway to the Hall, and hidden within a plantation of trees, are the few remains of a semi-circular temple, from which there were views of Oswestry hill-fort.

The temple was built of rendered brickwork, with fluted pilasters and a dentilled pediment in stone. Mere fragments of each remain.

"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

06 May 2019

Brogyntyn - Castell

Castell Brogyntyn is a univallate 'hill fort', supposedly of the Iron Age, and scheduled accordingly as an ancient monument.

It is, however, decidedly symmetrical, and was likely rescarped, perhaps in the 1760s. The very flat interior is understood to have been home, in that period, to a bowling green.

A stone-lined tunnel, about 70 yards long, passes underneath the 'castle', curved such that one cannot see from one end to the other.

Brogyntyn - Swiss Cottage

The two lakes of Brogyntyn were formed by 1800, by damming the Mill Dingle. A rustic bridge once crossed the head of the dam between them. The extant bridge is a modern replacement.

The lakes were linked by a 30 foot high waterfall, formed of Pulhamite, an anthropic rock. There were two types of this. One was a stone-coloured terracotta, for moulding garden and architectural ornaments such as fountains and balustrades. The other, employed here, was a render, of hydraulic lime, sand and other aggregates, over a masonry former, used for constructing rockeries and the like.

A boathouse that once stood at the south end of the upper pool has gone, but Brogyntyn Cottage, to the west of the same pool, adjoining Whit(e)well Lane, remains.

Known as Swiss Cottage, this was built in the early nineteenth century, in the Gothick style. The three-sided verandah is framed by rustic columns and 'capitals', and sports walls studded with quartz nodules.

There are outbuildings cut into the slope of the land (below). Although Grade II listed (1987), the cottage is ruinous. The stained glass has gone.

The condition of the fine rococo interior is unknown. This included ogee windows and inset bookcases, which once housed false books, the titles of which alluded to the romantically concealed nature of the cottage.

Across the lane is a pumping house, belonging to the estate, still supplying water to 13 nearby properties.

Brogyntyn - Home Farm, c.1894