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Tintagel Part 14 – An Heir is Born

In the last episode everyone got married.  Now Ygerne breaks the news of her pregnancy to Uther…

It was the morning after the wedding.  Ygerne sat by the window of the throne room, sewing, while Uther conferred with Merlin nearby.

Uther descended from his throne to take a turn about the room, easing the stiffness from his knees.  Ygerne seized her moment, “My lord?”

“Yes, my love,” the king smiled at her.

“May I have a word with you in private?”

“Of course.” With a low voice he dismissed Merlin.  “Now what may I do for you?”

“Nothing,” said Ygerne mechanically. “I just wanted to tell you that I’m pregnant.”

Uther’s face lit up, “Ygerne, that is wonderful news!”

Ygerne managed a feeble smile, “Yes, indeed, my lord.”

“I am to have a son and heir!  I love you, Ygerne!” He bent and kissed her on the mouth.  Ygerne returned the caress as well as she was able.

“Congratulations, my king and queen.”  A smooth voice made them break apart.  “I foresaw this joy for you.”

“Merlin!” the king cried. “Of course you did.”

Ygerne looked upon the magician with bitter dislike.  She could not stand the weasel cunning of the man, especially as he had helped to deceive her.

“But I have some bad news,” he continued.  “My king and queen, you will not like what I am about to say, but I have foreseen the future.”

The king’s face went still. “Well, go on.”

“You are indeed to give birth to a son, my queen, who will come to reign and be one of the most glorious kings England will ever have.  But…I must break it to you, King Uther, that you do not have many years left.  If you keep the boy with you, there will be much strife and bloodshed over the succession, years of civil war due to his youth.  He may even be assassinated.  If you will give the child to me, soon after his birth, and tell no-one he is your son, I swear before God, and by the good of this land, that I will keep him safe from enemies, and see that he has the training fit for a king.  I will make sure he comes to the succession at the proper time, and I will be with him as he rules.”

Ygerne hung her head in numb horror.  The words of the king and his magician came from very far away.

“And this is what you believe, Merlin?”

“This is what I have foreseen as the most likely future.”

“Then I agree, Merlin.  You are my most faithful advisor and I trust you.”

Spots danced before Ygerne’s eyes.  Without even asking her they were giving away her baby?

“My lord,” she managed in a high, tinny voice. “You would take my child from me the moment it is born?”

“I am sorry, Ygerne, but you heard Merlin.  It is best, for his own safety and for the good of this land,” said Uther.

“You may visit him, my queen,” surprisingly Merlin intervened, “and I will see to it that you are kept informed of his progress.  But no-one must know of his existence.  This is imperative.”

“Not even your daughters, wife,” the king echoed. He and Merlin left the room together, speaking in low voices.

Tears blurred Ygerne’s sight and she threw down her sewing.  Was it really for the good of her son – if it really was a boy – to bar him from his true family?  She had no faith in Merlin’s supposed gift of prophecy.

Until her pregnancy showed, Ygerne occupied herself with visiting her daughters; helping Elaine adjust to her new role as queen and mistress of a large household.  Elaine was incredibly quiet, but she had a new dignity and courage about her.  They shared their joy over another baby, for Morgawse was pregnant as well, and then prayed for one for Elaine.

A few months later she was only able to hold her baby boy, Arthur, for a week before Merlin took him away by night, to the house of one of Uther’s knights, a very respectable man named Sir Ector.

Ygerne strained her eyes after the hooded and cloaked magician as he rode away, catching the last glimpse of her son.  One day, she vowed, one day after Uther is dead, they will not keep my son from me.  He will meet his real family. He will know who his mother is.

Settled on Scilly

The Isles of Scilly are connected to the rest of Britain by ferry from Penzance (summer only) and plane / helicopter from Land’s End, Newquay or Exeter.  These, along with a thrice weekly cargo delivery, all arrive to the main island of St Mary’s.

The population of the Scilly Isles is dispersed across 5 inhabited islands – St Mary’s, St Martin’s, St Agnes, Tresco and Bryher.  The off-islands, as the others are called, each have a well-stocked shop / post office, a pub, a church and a regular connection to St Mary’s, weather permitting.

The islands have primary schools (Bryher pupils travel the short distance across to Tresco) but for secondary school the children go to St Mary’s for the week, returning home for weekends.

Each island also has a fire station, which operates as a general emergency centre, with access to coastguard and first aid.  There is a hospital on St Mary’s, which has a minor injuries unit, but anything major requires a helicopter ride to the mainland.

St Mary’s has the main settlement – Hugh Town.

Here you find all the shops and services that you would expect in a small town.

It even has a rush hour – just before the departure of the boats to the off-islands.

Tintagel Part 13 – The Weddings

Last week Morgawse and Lot made a plan to get the king’s consent.  Will they make it to the altar?

The weddings took place two months later.  Lot had come down from Scotland, making it in record time of only a week, during which time Morgawse watched Uther in desperation in case he picked too quickly.  Lot and Morgawse had both pretended to be delighted to see each other, and then no more acting was necessary, as all they had to do was to be together as much as possible.  After a few days, Lot and Morgawse presented themselves before the king and asked permission to marry.

Uther was in a good mood that day. “Well, so you fancy each other, do you?”

“Yes, if you please, sire.” Lot spoke boldly.

“Well, these days are days of rejoicing,” he glanced up at Ygerne, standing patiently beside him.

He agreed to the marriage, on condition that Lot’s parents also agreed.  Knowing this to be no problem, Lot and Morgawse beamed at each other.

After official consent had been got, they prepared for their wedding, in a rush of new clothes and marriage settlements.

“I must admit, I am a little nervous,” Morgawse confided. “This is very permanent.”

“As am I,” Lot whispered back, “but we chose each other, and that is what we have to hold on to.”

A more honest couple it would have been hard to find.  Certainly not Elaine and her betrothed, King Nentres of Britanny, a man in his late twenties.  In the days leading up to the weddings Morgawse observed them.  They talked a little, and he appeared to be kind, but that was all she could see.  Poor Elaine was being expected to grow up overnight and there was not much anyone could do about it.

Things were a little better for Morgan.  After making secret enquiries of Morgan’s old teacher, (for everyone on the network of magic knew each other), Ygerne had found a noblewoman in Devon who was willing to take Morgan to live with her, and keep teaching her magic.  Ygerne presented the idea of this woman to Uther, and won his consent.  Morgan was to leave as soon as the weddings were complete.

In late summer sunshine, Ygerne stood on the steps of Winchester Cathedral by the side of the king, making her vows, after having watched her daughters make theirs.  She had done her best for them, but she wished it could have been more.  At least Morgawse was happy.  It was Elaine who would need her now, but hopefully, love would grow.  Looking at Morgawse and Lot, it was likely to start off well, and go downhill, but hopefully their good friendship would carry them through.

Ygerne placed a fleeting hand on her stomach.  It was not easy to hide her sickness every morning, but she seemed to have managed so far.  She would tell Uther after the wedding.

“I’m pregnant,” she told her amazed mind once again.  “I thought I was through with having kids.”

Where? – 18 – Places in Children’s Literature

As with last week’s post on paintings, there are so many options for a literature theme.  To narrow it down a bit, I have limited this to children’s literature, and where there is a very clear link to an actual place, as opposed to just inspired by.

As usual, print out a blank outline map.  You can use the one below.

The best way to learn where things are is to put them on a map, but if I just give you a completed map, that won’t help much, so grab a blank map and a pencil, and find somebody for a bit of competition.

Have a guess at the location of these places by marking your map with a small circle and writing the name of the place next to it.

  1. Ashdown Forest – Winnie the Pooh
  2. Bantry Bay – The Cottage at Bantry Bay
  3. Coll – Katy Marag
  4. Isles of Scilly – Why the Whales Came
  5. Lake District – Peter Rabbit, Swallows and Amazons
  6. London – Mary Poppins, Paddington, Peter Pan
  7. Norfolk Broads – Coot Club, The Big Six
  8. North-West Highlands – Kidnapped
  9. Sherwood Forest – The Adventures of Robin Hood
  10. Thames Valley – The Wind in the Willows
  11. Walton-on-the-Naze – Secret Water
  12. Watership Down (North Hampshire) – Watership Down
  13. Yorkshire – The Railway Children, The Secret Garden

If I’ve missed any of your favourites, do add them to the list.

Then when you are ready, scroll down, past my pictures, to find the answers.  If you are having a competition, then 2 points if your spot touches mine.  Spots 5, 7, and 8 can have 2 points for anywhere within the dotted line.  Spot 13 is roughly in the middle of Yorkshire, but it’s a big county, with a wiggly shape so I haven’t drawn the area.  You can have 2 points for anything within 1cm of spot 13.  And as usual, if no one scores 2, the nearest person gets 1 point.

Bantry Bay
Bryher, Isles of Scilly
Lake District
Thames valley

Finally check your inbox for a map with all the dots in roughly the right place, ready for labelling.  (Fill in the form in the side bar if you have yet to sign up.)

And this is the last in this series.  I hope you enjoyed it!

Assessing Dunes

Sand dunes are fun to explore.  There are lots of ups and downs and little paths to follow and being just behind the beach, they are a good place to find shelter on a windy day.

However, sand dunes are a vulnerable environment that is easily disturbed.  Strong winds from the beach readily move the loose sand around, blowing it further inland and rearranging the dunes, covering whole plants in one place and exposing the roots in another.

As we go tramping around our feet kick the sand about.  The plant roots cling on to the sand as best they can, but it is easy to disturb everything just a little too much.

Let’s investigate:

  • Is there more evidence of people just behind the beach or further inland?
  • Does the impact decrease as you get further away from the car park?

To assess the impact on the dunes you need a chart:

This is a basic outline, but you can add more rows and more things to investigate.

You need a copy of the chart for each site that you are going to assess.  You’ll need to visit 3 or 4 sites, at different distances from the sea, or different distances from the car park. You could pace out the distance between them.

At each site look around you.  Then put one tick on each row of your chart.  So with the first row, if it is really noisy then put a tick under -2; if it is really quiet then tick +2.  If it is somewhere in between – well you have 3 options.  Do each row in the same way.

When you’ve finished work out the total score for each site.  The best site, with the least evidence of people, will have the most positive score overall.  The worst site will probably have a negative total score.

You can adapt your chart to other situations too, by changing the descriptions at the ends of the rows.  Just keep all the bad stuff on the left and all the good stuff on the right.

Which is the best beach?  The best footpath?  The best village?

Nature Wins

Today the mines underneath the town of Northwich have been made safe. Concrete has been pumped into the caverns so that the rock above is once again supported. Solution mining at Middlewich is carefully controlled. The landscape is again stable.

The past remains very much in evidence.

The area is still criss-crossed by pipes…

…and there are bits of industrial junk.

The flashes, which were once a dumping ground for industrial waste from nearby factories, are now being reclaimed by nature.

The vast lakes attract birds…

…and the birds attract bird watchers.

Marshall’s Wood is growing on top of a lime waste pit.

The lime enriched soils provide a unique environment and attract species that are otherwise scarce in Cheshire.

All of this can be accessed via a network of routes.

There is access for cyclists and horse riders as well as on foot.

There’s art to admire…

…and rest on…

…as well as puzzle over.

And it is put to practical use to keep the area safe.

So that wraps up our look at this part of Cheshire. Today’s landscape tells quite a story…

Conservation on Scilly

Most of the land in Scilly is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.  Some of it is rented out to tenant farmers but the untenanted land (over 60% of the landscape) is managed by the IOS Wildlife Trust who rent it for the token sum of 1 daffodil per year.

As well as being involved in the Seabird Recovery project, the trust keeps an eye on the various habitats,

creates nature trails,

tends the numerous ancient monuments

and looks after the footpaths.

The main islands are all circled by a coastal path and this does need regular inspection and maintenance due to the ever encroaching sea, which gradually undercuts the cliffs.

The shores on the outer edges of the islands are often battered by huge Atlantic waves.  Undercutting at the bottom of the cliff can cause the whole slope to slide down the hill, taking the path with it.

You can clearly see the line of the new path.  Look below it for traces of the old one.

There are 30 miles of footpaths on St Mary’s alone, and the IOS Wildlife Trust do a great job, ensuring that they are safe to explore.

Tintagel Part 12 – Planning

Last week Morgawse and Lot became engaged.  But how will they win over King Uther…

They looked at each other, giddy and fearful smiles growing.

Lot flashed a playful glance at her. “May I kiss you again.”

The memory of their first kiss jumped out vividly.  She nodded and without another word Lot led her into a corner of the hall.

“Ahem,” loud coughing brought them back to reality.  Blushing, Morgawse dragged herself out of Lot’s embrace to meet the mocking eyes of the king and queen.  “So is all arranged, then?” the king asked.

Lot took her hand and led her forwards. “Yes, we are to marry.”

“Excellent,” said the king.  “Now all we need to do is make sure King Uther picks you, Lot.”

“Oh yes,” Morgawse cried. “I forgot about that.  How could we manage it, Lot?”

“Well, we are friends with him, aren’t we?” Lot asked doubtfully.

“Yes, officially.”

“Well then, all we can do is send a letter, surely, father.”

“Wait, I have an idea coming,” cried the queen. “What if we were to send Lot down on an official visit, husband?”

King Cynfarch nodded, slowly smiling. “And he just happens to see Morgawse there, at the court…”

“And most romantically falls in love with me.” Morgawse’s eyes lit up. “That is a very good idea, Your Majesty.”

After some more discussion they determined that Morgawse would return with Morgan, and then Lot would set out for Camelot early the next morning.

Nothing remained now but to wait until Morgan woke up.  Lot and Morgawse withdrew slightly, talking in hushed whispers about the future, confiding their hopes and fears.   It was about an hour later when Morgan came up to them, rubbing her eyes. “Well, Morgawse, did you achieve your quest?”  Her eyes fell on their clasped hands and she smirked. “I see you did.”

They bade farewell to the king and queen and were soon standing outside the palace with Prince Lot.  He kissed Morgawse one last time. “I will see you soon, sweetheart, I promise.”

Morgawse nodded, and they locked eyes until they were whisked away from his sight.

Morgan had aimed slightly better on their return trip, and they found themselves in the courtyard of Camelot.  Exhausted, they stumbled to their apartments.

In their sitting room they were confronted by the sight of Ygerne, asleep in an armchair, with a book open on her lap.  Morgawse felt a great rush of love for her mother.  She turned to Morgan, who was once again swaying on her feet.

“You go to bed.  I’ll wake mother and tell her what happened.  And,” she gathered her sister’s hands in her own, “thank you a thousand times for what you did for me tonight.”

Morgan nodded and went blindly through the archway that led to the bedchambers.  Morgawse shook her mother’s arm. “Mother, we’re back.”

Her eyes flew open. “Morgawse?  Is it you?”

“Yes, mother.”

Ygerne breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness, I was beginning to worry.  Has Morgan gone to bed?”

“Yes, she has.  And mother, we were successful.  Now, if we can persuade King Uther to agree, I am betrothed to Prince Lot.”

Ygerne immediately threw her arms round Morgawse. “Well done.  Congratulations.  One of you at least has a chance.”

Morgawse hugged her back, joy beginning to flow from her at last.

Where? – 17 – Places in Paintings

There are loads of landscape paintings out there, but often the view is a general scene, with little clue as to the location.  However, many of Turner’s landscapes are clearly located, and there’s loads of them too.  I could have made a whole post with just his paintings, but I’ve added in a few other artists, to include some famous works and to ensure a good range of places.

As usual, print out a blank outline map.  You can use the one below.

The best way to learn where things are is to put them on a map, but if I just give you a completed map, that won’t help much, so grab a blank map and a pencil, and find somebody for a bit of competition.

Each location has a link to the painting.  Maybe that will help with the geography…or maybe not.  Anyway, do have a guess, by marking your map with a small circle and writing the name of the place next to it.

We’ll start with paintings by Turner (1775 – 1851).

  1. Beachy Head  
  2. Dover
  3. Durham
  4. Edinburgh
  5. Harlech
  6. Melrose
  7. River Clyde  
  8. Isle of Skye
  9. Snowdon
  10. Connemara by Henry
  11. Dublin by Ashford
  12. Eton by Canaletto
  13. Powerscourt Waterfall, Wicklow Mountains by Barret
  14. River Stour by Constable
  15. Salisbury by Constable
  16. Westminster by Monet
  17. Weymouth by Constable

When you are ready, scroll down, past my photos, to find the answers.  If you are having a competition, then 2 points if your spot touches mine.  If everyone is way out, then the nearest gets 1 point.

Isle of Skye

Finally check your inbox for a map with all the dots in roughly the right place, ready for labelling. (Sign up form is in the side bar.)