Posts Tagged ‘clay’

Mud Pies

April 16, 2014

Back in my early childhood money was pretty tight and post war austerity was in full swing. Enjoying life meant making use of whatever was available. We lived in a place where the subsoil was thick, oolery gloopery clay. Now that clay was a perfect plaything for a small boy. With that clay you could be a bit of a potter. My parents always said I was making mud pies. And here I am, back in 1952, mixing some clay with water in an old jam jar.


No doubt I had plans to mould a little dish out of the clay – not unlike early pots that were moulded into shape by hand. But as a mere child of pre-school age I had no access to adequate firing techniques. All I could do was leave my items in the sun to dry out a bit. And at that point they crumbled away, returning to the clay from which they had been made.

But I persisted, enjoying the process of producing that smooth slippery clay – and no doubt getting filthy in the process.

And that would have meant more clothes for mum to hand-wash, for luxuries like washing machines were well in the future back then.


December 1, 2012

I suspect an awful lot of people won’t know and won’t much care about geology. Yes, they’ll like pretty rocks but it’s the material that lies under the soil that matters to me. It makes so much difference to the way places look.

The plants that grow well vary according to the soil and that, in its turn, alters the animals – all of the fauna – that lives in a place.

The man made environment will vary too. I live in a place without surface rocks and stones so we don’t have walls as field boundaries. Neither do we have much that’s suitable for buildings, without some work first. Again, we have nothing found native for wall building and there are no slates or rag-stones for roofing. Local housing tends to be of cob – that unlikely mix of straw and dung with earth and sand – or of brick. Traditionally, the roofing material was thatch but much of this is now replaced with tiles or imported slate.

Of course, farming is different too. The phrase ‘as different as chalk and cheese’ comes from geology. It is very difficult to keep dairy cows on chalk land – it’s too dry. Dairying – and therefore cheese making tends to be on lower ground with a higher moisture level

Parts of my village are on chalk land – and how I love it. Chalk is alkaline. The plants that grow can cope with that and with the free draining nature of chalk. You just don’t get surface water on chalk uplands

In this photo – a welcome to the year 2002 – the chalk hills form the backdrop.

I’m on the sandstone ridge which, again, is free draining, but slightly acid. A different range of plants grow.

The bulk of the village nestles on the clay. There’s water there and without water no community could survive.

How lucky to live in a place which offers such variety in a short walk.