Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Wandering in the wilderness

It was January's final Sunday and alas another granite grey day, which was issuing absolutely no invitation to leave Dove Cottage's cozy confines.

But it was dry, and with the temperature an almost Springlike 13° Celsius, we made the most of what was on offer and went for a short walk to clear away the cobwebs.


You've seen all my outerwear before: comfortable yet stylish Tweed jacket, purple mohair beret and old multicoloured wool scarf. The blue boots, being a kind of waxed leather, might not have been the best choice for what we had in mind, though.

Note the walking stick, which signifies we were about to tackle rough terrain!



We drove down to De Schorre, a recreational domain and nature reserve on the site of a former clay pit, quiet but for a couple of families out for a walk and, at one point, a gaggle of chattering rainproof clad ramblers.

Several times a year, the quietness is shattered by events taking place elsewhere on the domain and for two weekends in Summer, it is the scene of Tomorrowland, the largest Dance Music festival in the world: its deep thumping basses can be heard and felt at Dove Cottage, more than eight kilometers away.


We parked our car in one of the streets backing onto the nature reserve, entering through a small municipal garden, a pond with some benches and a jetty at one end. A half submerged rowing boat, its timbers battered and rotten, was tucked away in a corner under some trees. 

A red metal sign shouted the word STEEN (stone), a reference to the area's brick-making past. It is part of a fragmented art installation, parts of which can be found all over the domain, poignantly telling the history of the brick industry which used to thrive here. Another clue can be found just a couple of meters further along, in the word KLEI, meaning clay.


Traces of the once-flourishing brick industry are still visible in the landscape laid out on the banks of the river Rupel, which is scarred by centuries of clay-digging and dredging.


Some of the old clay pits are now beautiful nature reserves, where nature has once again reclaimed what is hers, the now water filled quarries havens for dragonflies and damselflies, frogs and other amphibians, as well as several species of waterfowl.


Here at De Schorre, sets of wooden steps take you from street level about 25 meters down to the bottom of the former pit, where a network of boardwalks leads you through the wetlands created by months of rain.

At one point, a stream of mud had avalanched onto the boards. Without any means of escape, there was nothing for it but to risk ruining my boots. Remember that this is no ordinary mud, but heavy clay which sticks and tries to root you to the spot.


The red metal panel here reminds you of the fact that during the industry's heyday at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, there were more than 150 factories in the area, making the industry the biggest in the world. Now, only one factory remains active.


The stepping stones on the bottom left mark the start of a so-called "barefoot path" leading into the depths of the wilderness. Where the stepping stones end the path has turned into a stream, so I guess a pair of sturdy wellies would be the appropriate footwear here!



Soon after the boardwalk path ends, you are faced with a ghost of the past in the form of a ruined and graffitied brick building and elevated tracks on tall brick pillars.


This is a landscape full of stories. The stories of the men, women and children, who once worked here in appaling conditions, performing extremely heavy, monotonous labour, for twelve hours a day, earning a pittance. 


It was Jos, who was born and bred in the area, who took this photograph in the early 1980s, showing the factory still in working order.

Close your eyes and imagine dozens of waggons being drawn up the elevated track towards the engine room, carrying the heavy clay from the pits.



Taking the path around the back of the construction, we walked between trees and along some muddy stretches until another piece of industrial archeology came into view.


This rusty red dredger is hanging on for dear life to the reed clad edges of a water filled clay pit, contrasting deeply with the unearthly green of the water. This is a secondary clay pit, excavated by the greedy dredger, and another 25 meters deep.

Flooding means that you won't be able to keep your feet dry while sitting on that bench.

From here, a steady but gentle climb brought us back to our starting point and our car.



Back home, it was time to show you what I was wearing underneath my jacket. You have already caught a glimpse of my frock, which is a 1980s does 1940s number. At least that is what I think it is. The fabric, featuring a blue, pink and orange print on a chocolate brown background, is satisfyingly swishy, aided by its equally swishy lining.

I accessorized with a blue ring and blue beads. I was also wearing tights in the same blue, which you can just about see in the opening photos of this post.


The pink in my frock's print lead me to choose a pink cropped cardigan with a drawstring at the waist. I must admit I had forgotten all about it and found it shoved at the back of my wardrobe while looking for something else entirely. The large brooch featuring the 1920s flapper girl seemed like the perfect companion.

I'm taking my outfit to Patti's Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style. Do have a look at what all the other visible girls are wearing!


31 comments:

  1. You write so well, Ann, it's always a pleasure to read and see your posts. Yes, Nature does reclaim a great deal; old photos are precious. Love your 80's-does-40's dress, and you're right - next time Wellies for the clay pit! : >

    -Patti
    http://notdeadyetstyle.com

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    1. Thank you Patti! I'd better put my Wellies in the car. Not much use if you leave them in the shed. xxx

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  2. I hope you didn't totally ruin those wonderfully bright blue boots!

    Your walks are always full of history, even the country walks.

    How fun for Jos to return to the place he grew up when so much has changed over time.

    Send some of that weather over here! We are going up to a high of -7 C today. : (

    Suzanne

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    1. Don't worry, Suzanne, I was able to rescue the boots! And to think I have an old pair of boots I'm usually wearing for walks. xxx

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  3. I look forward to your nature posts, once again you've taken some great photos. I love the way you do the landscape shots but you notice and record all the tiny things too, like the lichen on the wooden railings.
    Combined with your outfit photos, it's been a lovely post :-) xxx

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    1. Thank you Sally, your words mean a lot to me. I'm glad you enjoyed the post! xxx

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  4. This was so interesting to read because here in Bedford we, too, had a large brick making industry - we have very heavy clay soil here, ideal for brick making. The London Brick Company (1897 - 2008) was based in the village of Stewartby and produced millions of bricks for the UK construction industry. It, too, is now wetlands.

    I loved your colourful outfit; the boots were amazing and I have my eye on your flapper girl brooch - she is fabulous! You should have worn wellies...
    xxx

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    1. That's so interesting, Veronica! I'm impressed The London Brick Company lasted as long as they did. The industry here has been going downhill from the 1970s onwards. Will have to remember to take my Wellies next time! xxx

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  5. You are such an emotive writer, Ann! You really have a special talent for writing. Such beautiful scenery with such interesting history! I love the colours in your dress and it looks great with that pink cardi. I love the flapper girl brooch too! Hope you're having a great week, Ann. XXX

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Sasha! xxx

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  6. I love these peaceful treks around your area, Ann - it's so pretty, and really does remind me of the wetlands here on the coast. That looks so much like a bog near my mom's house.

    I love that flapper girl brooch! So cute.

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    1. Thank you Sheila! I really love those wetlands. There are quite of few of those waterfilled clay pits in the area. xxx

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  7. rough terrain? ;-DDD
    bravo for taking this nature walk although the sun was not shining... one can see it in the skinny trees - but jos photo shows it clearly - not long ago this was not quiet, peaceful and green but busy, loud and dirty land.
    and it is a gorgeous sign how can nature heal itself!
    again a fabulous brown with bright colors look! hope you could clean the pretty blue boots!
    love&hugs! xxxxxx

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    1. I knew you were going to say that ;-) But a walking stick really makes the going much easier, especially on those slippery steps. And it's very useful for tackling muddy areas, too! xxx P.S. the blue boots have been saved!

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  8. Hope you were able to scrape the mud from your boots. Our mud is of a similar composition and I ruined more shoes and boots than I care to remember living on the farm.
    The pink cardigan is so lovely, I'm glad you found it. Drawstring waists are so nice-I wonder why we don't see more of them made?

    Thank you for the walk-I feel exhausted though, better have a lie down ;)

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    1. Glad to report the boots are ok. What was I thinking, though, I know what that muddy clay can be like! xxx

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  9. The Flapper broach is gorgeous Ann. As is the dress, I like the colour mix.
    Laurie xx

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  10. Great shots! Such a pretty landscape to shoot in and very cute outfit!

    Alex | www.SoFitSoPretty.com

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  11. Oh, your poor boots! I hope they weren't damaged after all that. The photos you take of your walks are always so lovely, and with your writing guiding us, it's almost as if we were enjoying the trek with you. xx

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    1. Thank you Cate, I'm glad you like my walks! I'm happy to report that the blue boots have survived their ordeal! xxx

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  12. Your blog is such a wonderful tribute to your homeland, Ann! Yet another story, told in both beautiful photographs and words, full of history! I love doing the same, many of our traditional walks have some kind of industrial history evidence. Industrialism really did not take care of the nature, and I am always happy to see that some of old sites are being restored (almost) back to what they were, but it is also good to see some sort of remnants, as a reminder.

    I love the brightly colored outfit! Hopefully you are able to clean up your pretty boots from that aggressive clay. Who knew, right? I love this tweed jacket, wonderful details. You look like a 1930s explorer!

    The old photo by Jos is fascinating - it is not such a distant past after all.

    Lots of love!

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    1. Thank you Natalia! Blogging about my surroundings really makes me appreciate them more. As for industrial heritage versus nature, it's such a fine balance. I quite like the idea of looking like a 1930s explorer. Hiking gear can be quite elegant too, don't you agree? xxx

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  13. I concur with Goody, your walk has tired me out 😉

    Lovely walk though. Andy gets cross with me on walks, as he thinks I always manage to find the mud and get it about my person xxx

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    1. I needed a lie down after that walk! As for Andy's remark, I think it's the other way around, and the mud manages to find you ;-) xxx

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  14. Oh my goodness I can't imagine what this site would look like in January with crowds of revellers dancing on it, an unlikely month for a music festival....imagine the mud.
    Thank you for taking us along on your walk Ann, I hope your boots survived? My house was built on the site of a former brickworks, the garden is bog-like at present! xx

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    1. Imagine the festival being in January ;-) I'm not a fan of Dance Music with thumping basses, but I must say that the setting looks quite magical and fairytale like. xxx

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  15. Doh! Why did I think the festival was in January?

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  16. Gosh, I wouldn't like to be any closer to that music festival - what must it be like for people living any nearer?

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    1. I know people who live nearby, and they always book a weekend away. But now they've added a second weekend to the festival ... Needless to say, they aren't too pleased! xxx

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