Posts Tagged ‘Llanymynech Limeworks’

The Monty – Week 38 of the Oswestry Heritage Comics

Oswestry sits at the junction of a number of canals that lead to Llangollen, up to Ellesmere and down to Welshpool. Today, they are scenic havens for wildlife and places to go for relaxing afternoon walks. But back in the late 1700s and early 1800s, canals were Shropshire’s industrial transport network, and linked rural parts of the county to the growing urban centres of the Midlands and the Northwest. Canals linked small market towns like Ellesmere and Welshpool to cities like Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, making new kinds of trade possible. But this trade was secondary to the main purpose of the canals, which was to distribute agricultural lime from the quarries at Llanymynech Rocks. When added to fields, lime does four important things: (1) it increases the pH of the soil, making it less acidic, (2) it adds calcium and magnesium, (3) it allows oxygen to penetrate deeper into the soil, and (4) it increases the uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in plants. All these things make soil much more fertile by improving the growth of plants and increasing the diversity of soil bacteria – meaning fields will become much more productive. Powdered lime straight from the quarry is effective, but lime that has been first burned to create “slake-lime” (calcium hydroxide) will produce much faster results in soils that have never been ploughed or planted before. Limestone was cut out of the quarries at Llanymynech and then burned in lime-kilns to produce slake-lime. This was then transported by canal to farmers up and down the Borderlands. The resulting boom in agriculture meant the growth of communities and market towns, and an ever-increasing need for efficient transport links. Lime-burning requires six tonnes of limestone and one tonne of coal to create three tonnes of slake-lime – canals were used to bring coal to the lime-kilns as well as take agricultural lime away.

The Montgomeryshire Canal was dug in stages between 1794 and 1821, and when completed, ran from Llanymynech down to Newtown, and connected at Llanymynech via the Ellesmere Canal to Ellesmere. But by the 1840s, a new form of transport – the railway – had appeared. Profits on the canal were squeezed, and there were suggestions that it be closed as early as 1847. But it was amalgamated into the larger Shropshire Union Canal Company and continued to make a small profit through the end of the 1900s. By the 1920s, however, almost all the trade that used to be carried by the canal was now taken by road and rail. The Shropshire Union Canal company was eventually purchased by the London Midland and Scottish railway, and by 1944 the canal was closed. But the history of the canal was not over. When the construction of the new bypass around Welshpool threatened the remains of the canal in 1969, a local volunteer group got together and – recognising that the canal was an important part of their local heritage – campaigned for changes to the planned road, and began work to restore the abandoned canal. Despite continued – and acrimonious – opposition by the town council – there was huge local support for the canal restoration, and eventually the bypass route was changed.

Since then, progress to help restore the canal has been slow and steady. Through the 1980s and 1990s, new sections of the canal were slowly cleared, repaired and made navigable. SSSI-designated nature reserve areas were created, new locks built, new bridges built, and major engineering works undertaken to sections of the canal that had been altered by the modern drop in the water table. Today, the canal can be travelled by boat all the way from Ellesmere to Gronwyn Wharf, just below Maesbury Marsh. The canal has been restored beyond Gronwyn to Redwith Bridge (where the road from Llynclys to Knockin – the B4396 – crosses), but the plants established along the banks need to bed-in. The section from Redwith Bridge to Crickheath is currently being restored. When complete, this will see the Monty restored for navigation as far down as Penarth Weir, not far from Newtown. The restoration work has been a major undertaking – but more still needs to be done. If you can help, the Shropshire Union Canal Society would love to hear from you! Restoration Work Party dates for 2018 have already been scheduled – the March dates are this coming weekend. Restoring the Monty has breathed new life into this important part of our industrial, rural and cultural heritage – and it’s great to see it finding new meaning as a leisure, tourism and green resource. But it couldn’t have happened without a lot of people donning gloves and boots and getting stuck in. They deserve a big thank-you – as do you if you head down to Llynclys this weekend to help out!

If you are interested in joining the restoration work parties, please contact David Carter on dcartersucs@gmail.com or 01244 661440. New volunteers with any level of experience are welcome, our work parties are an opportunity to learn new skills under the guidance of experienced people. Something resembling tea is provided three times per day, just bring your own lunch. And maybe a cake!

The Oswestry Heritage Comics are a year-long series of weekly newspaper comic strips about the archaeology, history and heritage of the area around Oswestry, Shropshire in the UK. The comics are published in the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertizer every Tuesday, and on Facebook. The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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Week One: 340 Million Years of Heritage

The first of the new, year-long Oswestry Heritage Comics is in this week’s Oswestry and Border Counties Advertizer. I think it takes the prize for the longest time-interval I’ve ever covered in a single comic. This one does, indeed, cover 340 million years – from the Carboniferous period, when the limestone and coal around Oswestry were laid down – the present day, where we are surrounded by evidence of how that distant time impacted Oswestry’s archaeology, history and heritage. This part of the country has been shaped by its geology, and it’s that I wanted to try and capture in this comic. There’s more to this story, of course: the local geology affected the fertility of the soils, the patterns of water-drainage, even the shape and form of the hills which became the border between England and Wales. If you want to see more ways the geology affected Oswestry’s history, check out the Oswestry Town Museum, which has some interesting information on local geology and geography, and definitely pay a visit to the Hoffman Kiln and Llanymynech Rocks quarry in Llanymynech.

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The Archer - John Swogger, 2013; 40x30cm - on exhibition at Underhill Farm, May 4-6

The Archer – John Swogger, 2013; 40x30cm – on exhibition at Underhill Farm, May 4-6

It’s the Underhill Farm Art & Wild Craft Fair this Bank Holiday weekend, and (in addition to organising the event!), I’m hanging a recent print inspired by Llanymynech quarry above the farm. It’s a slightly off-beat work, I suppose, but thoroughly in keeping with recent prints that I’ve exhibited at Cafe Radio in Oswestry and The Hand at Llanarmon.

The print is another in my series inspired by Japanese woodblocks, and uses many of the visual motifs and devices developed by woodblock print artists during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I’ve been using this style to approach representation of landscape in the Welsh Marches in a different way for about a year or so now, and the results have been really interesting. As my familiarity with the style, and the evolution of my own artistic response has developed, so I have started not just to represent the landscape differently, but I have started to see it differently.

It’s inevitable that as an artist, one naturally translates a view or landscape into the medium and presentation format one is most familiar with. Not being a landscape artist particularly, I found myself most often mentally translating views of the Marches into watercolours or semi-abstract oils, or quick pen-and-ink sketches – media that I do work in, but that I’m not particularly comfortable in. What I never found myself doing was mentally translating what I was seeing into styles that I used everyday in my illustration work.

Now, however, I do. Using the model of Japanese woodblock prints seems to have unlocked something in the way I look at landscape. Now I find myself seeing things that I didn’t really see before – not details in the landscape, but elements that inspire me draw and produce prints entirely concordant with my usual way of working. It’s been something of a revelation. And what’s more, this whole issue of not just representing but also seeing and looking through the lens of a particular style or medium seems to carry with it big implications for what I’m doing with comics and archaeology.

So, the piece I am hanging at Underhill Farm this weekend is only the first in quite a big series of prints which I’ll be finishing up over the course of the year. The series is entitled A Way of Looking at Time, and at the moment consists of eight prints, but will probably end up being expanded to twelve. Each one is linked to all the others, both physically (each print connects, left and right, to others in the series), and thematically – exploring the layering of landscapes, experience and time with artistic responses growing out of the Underhill Farm artists’ group. The series will be exhibited at Underhill Farm first, and then at other venues around the Borderlands.

Printed at NOW Art. Thanks to Ollie, Nick, Pete & Mo at NOW Group.

Underhill Farm Art & Wild Craft Fair – Sat., Sun, Mon., May 4 – 6, 10-4pm. Underhill Farm, Shropshire: SY10 9RB. More info at: www.insideoutart.co.uk

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Spent the day out around Llanymynech Limeworks and quarry with the Inside Out Art Group for their monthly sketching day. With various thoughts about comics and field work buzzing through the back of my mind, I did a lot of fast sketches – about two dozen (a selection, above) – trying to catch the place as quickly as possible. It’ll take me a while to figure out how to use a comics approach to capture the practice of a sketching day like this, but today pointed me in a few possible directions.

I always like sketching at the quarry and around the limeworks – there’s something about the big, massed quarry cliffs and the stark bulk of the buildings hidden amongst the greenery that really appeals.

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The Crushing Mill, Hendre Quarry – 30x45cm print from pen and ink (2012)

I’m taking part in the Inside Out exhibition Ceiriog at The Hand in Llanarmon D.C. in October. I’m putting in this print of the Crushing Mill at Hendre Quarry, down near Pandy. It’s taken from some very quick sketches I made during our art walk to the quarry at the beginning of the month.

The print is one of a number I’ve been working on at the moment, based on places such as Hendre Quarry, the Llanymynech Limeworks and the Llangollen and Montgomery canals between here and Welshpool. It’s been nice to do some larger-scale work in black and white – and to do work based on local sites as well. I have been tempted to do several reconstruction views of these places, too. Perhaps as the Ceiriog exhibition continues I might do a few of those at some point.


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