"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Following in the Footsteps of an "Edwardian Lady" - Part 7 : River Blythe, Marsh and Meadow at Widney, Solihull

Two of my favourite books are the "Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" and "Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady" written by Edith Holden in 1906 and 1905 in the form of Nature Diaries and published in facsimile form following their rediscovery in the 1970's.

Last year I visited a number of locations mentioned by Edith in her diaries and did a series of "Following in the Footsteps" posts. There are still many places she mentioned in her diaries that I am hoping to discover and visit.

In the "Country Diary" she writes of visiting the Widney area of Solihull several times in June 1906.

The week before last I drove over to Widney and parked by the River Blythe near to Blythe Bridge.

On 2nd June, 1906, Edith mentioned that at Widney "many of the meadows are golden with buttercups...." and on the 8th June when she cycled to Widney she mentions that "all the buttercups were flowering in the meadow - bulbous and creeping varieties".

So you can imagine my delight to find meadows shimmering with gold as far as the eye could see!

Unfortunately no public footpaths run through this particular meadow so I was unable to see if other flowers she mentioned later in the month such as sorrel, purple tufted vetch, yellow vetchling etc. were in flower.

One thing is certain Edith wouldn't have been listening to the hum of traffic from the M42 just a hundred yards up the road nor would her views have been cluttered by electric pylons!

Sadly nowadays you cannot access the River Blythe in either direction from the bridge at Widney but when I did my plant survey at the beginning of the month I did walk as far as I could along the public footpath towards Widney until eventually it petered out and I got quite close to the Widney area so here's a few photos of the river, woods and a stream.

Marsh Thistle

Edith mentions seeing yellow irises flowering in the marsh on 23rd June but when I visited there was no sign and I was probably too early for them - oh well, there is always next year! She also saw a Beautiful Demoiselle over the River which landed in the rushes. No sign of any dragon or damselflies when I visited.

And another photo of the beautiful buttercup meadow.

Edith and her family moved from the Dorridge/Knowle area in 1905 to a house which they rented in Kineton Green Road, Olton where she lived until 1911. They called the house Gowan Bank. At the time there were only four houses in the road and looking at an OS Map from 1901/02 the house was surrounded by fields and country lanes. Today Kineton Green Road has hundreds of houses and is surrounded by housing development.

Gowan Bank today


Countryside Tales said...

What an interesting post. I love those diaries too. What a great idea to follow in the footsteps. Fascinating to see how things have changed and developed since then and also to see her house.

Bovey Belle said...

I have to say, I devoured these books when they were first on the market, and treasure my copies still, plus having a good biography about Edith Holden. I also have spin-off Country Diary tablecloths, bedlinen, china etc too . . . Oh, and books of beautiful x-stitch charts from which I've sewn several pictures.

I really enjoyed this post and will have to go and check out the others now. What a shame you couldn't explore properly because of the lack of footpaths at Widney.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Many thanks. Glad you enjoyed the post :)

Bovey Belle - Many thanks. The books are lovely. I remember when my husband gave me a copy of The Country Diary when it came out in a special carrier bag covered in Edith's illustrations :) The biography by Ina Taylor is superb. Would love to see your stitch pictures - would imagine they are beautiful.

Em Parkinson said...

I remember when her books went mad in the 1970's when you could buy notepaper and everything else they could think of with images plastered all over them. Lovely to read your very sensible post about the true woman. Lovely river pictures. I haven't seen any Yellow Flag out yet; I think everything is incredibly late.

Ragged Robin said...

Em Parkinson - Oh gosh there was stuff everywhere - have some tins somewhere. Don't see many related items these days except for Marks and Sparks. Brian got me a Country Diary Calendar for Christmas!

Of course she never intended her work to be published.

Yellow flag is only just starting to flower in our bog garden. I would go back to Widney to look again but things a bit hectic at present. Birthdays and Wimbledon not helping :)

SeagullSuzie said...

Beautiful buttercup meadow. I've noticed daisies and buttercups are doing very well this year and are very pretty. Love the river photos and what a great idea to visit these places, I hope to see more and will have a look at your other Edith Holden posts later this week.

Wendy said...

A lovely post. It is fascinating work out what has changed, but I imagine the first thing Edith Holden would notice, as you say, is the traffic noise. Fields of buttercups are looking beautiful at the moment, especially in the sunshine.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Many thanks - yes the buttercups seem very prolific this year :) Hope you enjoy the earlier Edith posts - they are all called "Following in the Footsteps... Part 1, Part 2 etc."

Wendy - Many thanks. Looking at the early OS map and reading her diary the area has changed beyond belief but I suppose that is true of many areas with housing and industrial development, shopping areas, roads etc. etc.! :(

ShySongbird said...

Hi Caroline :-) I know you won't be surprised to read how much I enjoyed this post. The buttercups are a lovely sight, such a picture massed together like that. Your photos are lovely, so well composed.

It was really fascinating to see the house as it is today. Now all you need to do is find a way of infiltrating the place :-) Wouldn't it be fun to have a peek inside and to look into the garden where she fed the birds etc. I wonder if the people who live there now are aware of whose home it was.

Hope you are enjoying Wimbledon, it was quite a day today one way and another! Did you see the documentary about Andy Murray at the weekend. It was really interesting and very moving when he spoke, or attempted to, about that terrible fateful day at his primary school in Dunblane. Moving also to hear his mother speaking about how she stood outside with the other distraught parents not knowing whether her sons were alive. I remember that day so vividly....

ShySongbird said...

Meant to say I liked the Green Carpet and Bird's Wing moths on the last post :-)

Ragged Robin said...

ShySongbird - Hi Jan :) I thought you might enjoy the post :) Thanks for your lovely comment about the photos and post :) Quite chuffed as my son is always complaining I don't take time to compose photos :)!!!!

It would be fun to infiltrate wouldn't it especially the garden :) I gather from the Ina Taylor book that that garden and house were both smaller than their previous properties. I'll try and get a photo of the Dorridge house one day and possibly the ones in Darley Green and Lapworth. I know where the Dorridge one is but still trying to work out the other two :)

Yes thanks - enjoying Wimbledon here too :) Can't quite believe that both Nadal and Federer have gone out so early - though it might help the Andy Murray cause! Perhaps this will be his year!!

No, I missed the documentary - we went out for a meal for Brian's bday. David has watched it and its on iplayer so I hope to see it that way. The Dunblane incident was just awful and so tragic - David and Emily were at primary school at the time and I remember at the time thinking how traumatic it must have been for the parents. I think days like that stay in your mind for ever.

David has a biography on Andy Murray too which he reckons is well worth a read.

Glad you liked the moths - just emptied the trap and found two gorgeous moths - both new species for garden - you will love them :)

Toffeeapple said...

A lovely read, you know how much I am enjoying the series. Haven't the Buttercups been marvellous this year, so pretty?

Love the picture of the house,so good to know that it is still extant.