Category Archives: Beautiful Places

Amergin, Bard of the Milesians, lays claim to the Land of Ireland

Amergin, Bard of the Milesians, lays claim to the Land of Ireland

I am a stag: of seven tines,

I am a flood: across a plain,

I am a wind: on a deep lake,

I am a tear: the Sun lets fall,

I am a hawk: above the cliff,

I am a thorn: beneath the nail,

I am a wonder: among flowers,

I am a wizard: who but I

Sets the cool head aflame with smoke?

I am a spear: that roars for blood,

I am a salmon: in a pool,

I am a lure: from paradise,

I am a hill: where poets walk,

I am a boar: ruthless and red,

I am a breaker: threatening doom,

I am a tide: that drags to death,

I am an infant: who but I

Peeps from the unhewn dolmen, arch?

I am the womb: of every holt,

I am the blaze: on every hill,

I am the queen: of every hive,

I am the shield: for every head,

I am the tomb: of every hope.

Song of Amergin translated by Robert Graves, from The White Goddess, Faber and Faber Limited, 24 Russell Square London WC1. It appears here under the principle of Fair Use.

And here is Celestial Elf’s machinima film of
The Song Of Amergin, A Samhain Story, as referred to in his comment below
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aZsoPRqWqw

Beautiful Places – The Swallow Falls

Betws-y-Coed (“Prayer house in the wood”) in Conwy, North Wales, lies in  a valley near the point where the River Conwy is joined by the River Llugwy and the River Lledr.  It was founded around a monastery in the late sixth century and nearby is the famous Swallow Falls – Rhaedr Ewynnol, in Welsh menaing literally Foaming Waterfall!  This waterfall on the Afon Llugwy has become a familiar natural celebrity over the past 100 years and has featured on film, postcard and canvas.

Rising among the towering peaks of Carnedd Llewellyn the River Llugwy runs eastward towards Capel Curig and Betws-y-Coed, before reaching Swallow falls which is the highest continuous waterfall in Wales. The river hurls itself into a spectacular chasm at the Falls.

Best viewed after heavy rain the river rushes down from the mountains through tree-hung, rocky chasms. Jagged rocks and crags divide the stream into a number of foaming cascades which tumble headlong over boulders between richly wooded banks.

As for Rhaeadr; yes, it means waterfall, but some believe it is two words, dwr meaning water and Rhaea – so one meaning could be the water of Rhea. And who was Rhea? Legend has it she dates back to the Roman battles with Carthage. The oracle at Delphi in Greece informed the Roman army commander that if he wished to defeat the army of Carthage he must carry an icon (a carving in black meteorite iron) of Rhea, mother of Zeus and grandmother of Hercules, before the Roman eagle onto the battlefield. This the commander did and the battle was won. Rhea became the patron saint of Roman soldiers! It is an odd connection. But the Falls are next to the the A5 which was also the first Roman built road in England! Perhaps long ago the Falls were sacred to Rhea!

Beautiful Places – Lincoln’s Inn, London

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Lincoln’s Inn  is one of four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar. The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn. Lincoln’s Inn is able to trace its official records to 1422.   T he Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn is said to take its name from Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln who died in 1311. His own great house was nearby and he is credited with being the Society’s patron. However, the origins of the name may as easily be derived from Robert de Chesney Bishop of Lincoln who acquired the ‘old Temple’ on the site in 1161. The present character of Lincoln’s Inn owes much to the fact that its precincts and buildings – the medieval Hall and Gateway abutting onto Chancery Lane, the late seventeenth century New Square in the centre, and the magnificent Victorian gothic Great Hall and Library beside Lincoln’s Inn Fields – survived nearly unscathed the devastations of the Blitz. Striking as they are, these buildings however are not merely architectural and historical tourist attractions but provide the professional home for the practicing bar and many of the educational facilities for the training of students. It is to meet those needs that the Inn exists and on which it expends the bulk of its resources.

Fifteen English Prime Ministers, from William Pitt to Tony Blair, have studied law here. The names of the novelists Charles Reade, Charles Kingsley, Wilkie Collins, Rider Haggard and John Galsworthy are all found in the membership records. The poet and preacher John Donne was Preacher to the Society and laid the foundation stone of the present Chapel, built in 1623. Thomas More, the author, humanist scholar and statesman, was admitted as a student in 1496 and went on to become a bencher of the Inn.

I just love its soft, old, stones and visit when I can just to wander quietly among its courts.  If you come to London – don’t miss its gentle peace and spirit of its gentle ghosts

Beautiful Places – the Blue Pool, Llangollen

Blue Pool

If you drive up the  Horseshoe Pass just outside Llangollen in North Wales and know where to turn off you will find the Blue Pool.  These days it is also known as the Blue Lagoon and it is a popular swimming spot, but for experienced swimmers only! It is 40 feet deep and can be icy even in warm weather.  When I knew it first, I was a child and there was none of that!  Cars were rare and  it was considered remote and dangerous!  Therefore for me it was mysterious.  We would travel from my home in the Black Country to the bliss of the open spaces of North Wales!  If I was lucky early on Sunday morning, before church, we would drive up to see the Blue Pool.  Sometimes it was misty, making it doubly dangerous and slightly sinister!  No one swam in it then but I loved it!  Nowhere in the world, and I’ve travelled a bit, have I seen water quite so blue as it is in memory!  You can talk to me about copper sulphate levels and tell me the history of the slate mining that made it!  But for me its seems primeval, beautiful and as old as time!

Beautiful Symbols – the Coventry Crosses

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The wooden cross and the cross of nails were created after the cathedral was bombed during the Coventry Blitz of World War II.  My father was there that night as a fireman and his stories of the experience lived on as sad legends in our family.  My mother could see the fire glowing on the horizon from 30 miles away!  The cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, saw two wooden beams lying in the shape of a cross in the ruins and tied them together. A replica of the wooden cross built in 1964, has replaced the original in the ruins of the old cathedral on an altar of rubble. The original is now kept in St. Michael’s Hall below the new cathedral.

Another cross was made of three nails from the roof truss of the old cathedral by Provost Richard Howard of Coventry Cathedral. It was later transferred to the new cathedral, where it rests on its altar. The cross of nails has become a symbol of peace and reconciliation across the world. There are over 160 Cross of Nails Centres all over the world, all of them bearing a cross made of three nails from the ruins, similar to the original one.

One of the crosses made of nails from the old cathedral was donated to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, which was destroyed by Allied bomb attacks and is also kept as a ruin alongside a newer building. A copy of the Stalingrad Madonna by Kurt Reuber that was drawn in 1942 in Stalingrad (now Volgograd) is shown in the cathedrals of all three cities (Berlin, Coventry and Volgograd) as a sign of the reconciliation of the three countries that were once enemies.

A medieval cross of nails has also been carried on board all British warships to subsequently bear the name HMS Coventry. The cross of nails was on board HMS Coventry when she was sunk by enemy action in the Falklands War. The cross was salvaged by Royal Navy divers, and presented to Coventry Cathedral by the ship’s Captain and colleagues. (One Hundred Days, Admiral Sandy Woodward.)

The cathedral is dedicated to St Michael. as you might guess, and he stands guard on the wall of the cathedral!  You can find out more at the Coventry Cathedral Website

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Beautiful Places – Whittington and its Castle

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An extract from the National Gazetteer 1868

“WHITTINGTON, a parish in the upper division of Oswestry hundred, county Salop, 2½ miles N.E. of Oswestry, and 5 W. of Ellesmere. It has stations on the Cambrian and on the Shrewsbury and Chester branch of the Great Western railways. There is likewise a branch line from Gobowen, in this parish, to Oswestry. The river Perry and the Ellesmere canal traverse the parish from N. to S.

It has the ruins of an ancient moated border castle, supposed to have been built in the 9th century by a British chieftain, whose descendants held it till the Norman conquest, when it was given to Peverel, the founder of the family of the Peverels of the Peak, but afterwards passed into the hands of Fulk Fitz-Guarine, or Warine, whose family kept it till 1419. The castle, before its demolition, was strongly fortified with five round towers, each 40 feet in diameter and 100 feet in height, and the walls were 12 feet in thickness.

The towers of the gatehouse are still entire, with some portions of the walls and towers of the castle. The parish includes the townships of Berghill, Daywell, Ebnall, Fernhill, Frankton, Henlle, Hindford, Old Marton, and Whittington, with the hamlets of Babies’ Wood and Gobowen, and contains at present a population of about 1,500. The village was once a market town, and now contains about 500 inhabitants. In the parish are Belmont, Ebnall Lodge, Fernhill, and Park Hall, the last of the time of Henry VIII., with a private chapel, said to have been consecrated by Archbishop Parker.

The Hulston estate also lies in the centre of the parish, but is now a separate parish. A portion of the eastern side of the parish was in 1865 formed into a separate district, embracing also a part of Ellesmere parish. The district church is called St. Andrew’s, and the new district Welsh Frankton. Another portion of the township of Daywell, to the N.W. of the parish, has also been severed, having been assigned to the Hengoed district, the church of which was built in, and the chief part of the district taken from, the parish of Selattyn.

The subsoil is principally gravel with traces of coal. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of St. Asaph, value £965, with 50 acres of glebe. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was rebuilt in 1806. The Independents, Wesleyans, and Primitive Methodists have chapels. There are National schools built at a cost of £1,000, which are partly supported by an endowment of £42 per annum. Mrs. Lloyd, of Aston Hall, is lady of the manor.”

Well worth a vist – my mother grew up here and my parents were married in the village church.  The castle is the only one in England to be owned and run by the local community.

beautiful places – Valetta, Malta, the city built by gentlemen for gentlemen

Courtesy of the Malta Tourism Authority

Image courtesy of the Malta Tourist Board

From megaliths to medieval dungeons and Calypso’s Cave and a countryside dotted with the oldest known human structures in the world, the Maltese Islands are positively mythic. The narrow meandering streets of their towns and villages are crowded with Renaissance cathedrals and Baroque palaces. The Islands have rightly been described as an open-air museum. But the capital city, Valleta, the smallest capital city in the EU, is both beautiful and intriguing.  The back streets on a desert-hot summer day are redolent of all the smells of the Mediterranean – both good and bad! But you are surrounded by some of the most beautiful buildings in Europe!

Valletta owes its existence to the Knights of St John, who planned the city as a refuge to care for injured soldiers and pilgrims during the Crusades in the 16th century. Until the arrival of the Knights, Mount Sceberras, on which Valletta stands, lying between two natural harbours, was an arid tongue of land.   Grand Master La Valette, the gallant hero of the Great Siege of 1565, soon realised that if the Order was to maintain its hold on Malta, it had to provide adequate defenses.  The Grand Master didn’t live to see its completion and he died in 1568. His successor, Pietro del Monte continued with the work at the same pace. By 1571, the Knights transferred their quarters from Vittoriosa (Birgu) to their new capital.

By the end of 16th century, Valletta had grown into a sizeable city. People from all parts of the island flocked to live within its safe fortifications. In the ensuing years, the austere mannerist style of architect Cassar’s structures, gave way to the more lavish palaces built be the rich knights  and churches with graceful facades and rich sculptural motifs.

Valletta’s street plan is unique and planned with its defense in mind. Based on a more or less uniform grid, some of the streets fall steeply as you get closer to the tip of the peninsula. The stairs in some of the streets do not conform to normal dimensions – they were constructed to allow knights in heavy armour to climb the steps. In the evening as the light falls it is easy to feel their presence still in the rich all embracing ambience of the city

Beautiful Places – St Dogmaels, Cardigan,West Wales

St Dogmaels

Cardigan, on the totally unspoiled West Wales coast, is the birthplace of the Welsh National Eisteddfod. With a population of 4,200, Aberteifi (its Welsh name meaning bridge over the Teifi) stands on the banks of the river Teifi where Ceredigion meets Pembrokeshire.  Just outside Cardigan is St Dogmaels, an ancient and tranquil village nestling peacefully around a ruined Abbey at the mouth of the river Teifi.  The monastery at St. Dogmaels was formally established as an abbey on September 10th 1120.  It suffered in the dissolution of the monasteries and is now a picturesque ruin – well worth a visit. Near-by is Poppit Sands,  one of west Wales’ premier blue flag beaches with acres of golden sands and where you can get lungfulls of bracing sea breezes. That is where the wonderful Pembrokeshire coastal path begins.  But it is the river at St Dogmaels that I love best – fascinating in all lights, tidal so constantly changing, but with a wonderful calmness.  Nowhere quite like it on a summer evening with clouds of swallows taking their nightly constitutional before settling to roost! Why don’t you take the lovely winding road across the mountains and visit the place for yourself.

Beautiful Statues Yakushirurikounyorai Buddha Statue, Japan (31.05m)

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Fukushima City, the capital of Fukushima-ken is the southern gate to the Tohoku Region of Japan. It is located in a  basin surrounded by the Abukuma mountain region and the Azuma-Adatara mountain range. Thanks to its big seasonal change in temperature which creates a sharp seasonal difference in the climate, delicious fruit is available throughout the year and it has a reputation as a leading production centre for pears and peaches.   Along the Fruit-line route, you can enjoy picking or gathering a variety of fruit. Fukushima City is also called the “flower country” because it is famous for many kinds of flowers and the alpine plants of Mt. Azuma are also famous.

In this area, the two mountains stand out – Azuma and Adatara.  Deep in the these mountains lies a colorful hot spring – it is here you will find the Buddha.

Beautiful Places – Zen Garden of Kyoto

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Zen Garden of Kyoto

Zen rock gardens, or karesansui (translated as “dry-mountain-water”), originated in medieval Japan and are renowned for their simplicity and serenity. The most famous of these can be found in Kyoto at the 15th-century Ryoan-ji, the Temple of the Peaceful Dragon. “While there are other similar gardens of great beauty,” says James Ulak, curator of Japanese art at Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, “Ryoan-ji remains the ur-site of the type—powerful, abstract, Zen Buddhist landscapes designed to invoke deep meditation.”

Measuring 98 by 32 feet, the Ryoan-ji garden is about the size of a tennis court and is composed solely of 15 large and small rocks, some encircled by moss, grouped in five clusters on a bed of carefully raked white sand. From a distance, the rocks resemble islands, the sand a tranquil sea.

In 2002, a research team at Kyoto University claimed to have cracked the Zen code. Relying on computer models, they found that the garden’s rocks—when viewed from the proper angle—subconsciously evoke the tranquil outline of a branching tree. Over the centuries, however, visitors have discerned images as diverse as a tigress escorting her cubs across water and the Chinese character for “heart” or “mind.” Since the anonymous designer left no explanation, the garden’s exact meaning remains a mystery, which no doubt contributes to its enduring allure.

What will you see?