The recently discovered Augsburg Book of Miraculous Signs reveals a 16th Century society gripped by anxieties that we can relate to today, The illustrated manuscript is now available, edited by T. Borchert and J.P. Waterman.
Between the River Crouch and the River Thames in Essex a footpath leaves the land at a place called Wakering Stairs and heads due east, straight out to sea.
Several hundred metres offshore it curls northeast and runs in this direction for around 5kms, still offshore, before cutting back to make landfall at Fisherman’s Head, the uppermost tip of a large, low-lying and little-known marshy island called Foulness.
This is the Broomway, allegedly “the deadliest” path in Britain,
and certainly the unearthliest path. It gets covered by the tide twice a day and usually these rise and fall more quickly than most human explorers. The Broomway is thought to have killed more than 100 people over the centuries; it seems likely that there were other victims whose fates went unrecorded. Sixty-six of its dead are buried in the little Foulness churchyard; the other bodies were not recovered.
Edwardian newspapers, alert to the path’s reputation, rechristened it “The Doomway”.
The Broomway is known as the most perilous path in Britain – and is a favourite walk of writer Robert Macfarlane, who describes it in his book The Old Ways.
The path leads towards a white light.
Milton’s Paradise Lost is 350 years old this month.
William Blake, a most brilliant interpreter of Milton, wrote of how “the Eye of Imagination” saw beyond the narrow confines of “single vision”, creating works that outlasted “mortal vegetated Eyes”.
In more than 10,000 lines of blank verse, the poem tells the story of the war for heaven and of man’s expulsion from Eden. a meditation on challenging and longing.
In Paradise Lost, Milton conjures the spirits of blind prophets. He invokes Homer, author of the first great epics in Western literature, and Tiresias, the oracle of Thebes who sees in his mind’s eye what the physical eye cannot. As the philosopher Descartes wrote during Milton’s lifetime, “it is the soul which sees, and not the eye”.
Now, there are many ways to see through blindness. One is by scanning tunnelling microscopy which can give images on an atomic scale.
Hedgehog numbers in that part of England are falling. Pesticides poison them, cars run over them, and fences stop them.
Hedgehogs featured in Beatrix Potter’s tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, the tiny lady who stole handkerchiefs. Major Coles founded the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. It had 11,00 members, including 700 carers who looked after injured animals. They put out water and food in dry weather and promoted gaps in garden fences. They also lobbied parliament and brewed ale.
The BHPS held its tenth anniversary at the Golden Cross pub in Clee Hill, Shropshire. The pub was renamed The Cross Hedgehog for the occasion and brewed Old Prickly.
About half a million years ago, in the midst of an Ice Age, a land bridge connected Dover in the South of England to Calais in northern France.
Immediately to the north of it, was a huge glacial lake, which had formed at the edge of the ice sheet that covered much of Europe.
When it started to overflow, vast amounts of water crashed over the land bridge, forming a series of very large waterfalls.
The lake overflowed 450,000 years ago, damaging the land link. Then a later flood fully opened the Dover Strait.
The scars of these events have recently been found on the seabed of the English Channel. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications by S. Gupta et al. on 04 April 2017.
Decades ago, engineers who were surveying the seabed for the Channel Tunnel, discovered a series of mysterious large underwater holes (fosse) between Dover and Calais, caused by the lake overspill (black regions on the map above) The fosse are now in-filled with sediment and show up as a line of isolated depressions 100m-deep carved into the bedrock and hundreds of metres to several kilometres in diameter.
450,000 years ago, the glacial lake water plunged over the rock ridge as a series of waterfalls from Dover to Calais, which then eroded and carved out these depressions.
A second catastrophic flood took place about 150,000 years ago forming a huge valley about 10km wide with a lot of features suggesting flood erosion. Perhaps an ice sheet broke off, collapsing into the lake, causing a surge that carved a path for the water to cascade off the chalk ridge. As the channel floor slowly eroded by these torrential floods, seawater from the Atlantic Ocean rushed into the resulting channel, isolating the British Isles from the mainland.
What really happens in this picture is this: land heats up faster than water. When the sun comes out, the land heats quickly, forming an area of low pressure directly on the island. This results in an area of higher pressure offshore.
Since air moves from high to low pressure, the marine moisture as well as moisture from the island gets drawn into the low pressure over the island. Low pressure creates upward vertical movement, causing the warm moist air to rise, cool and condense into a cloud directly over each island.