Playing a Viking Game

Way back in what we no longer call the Dark Ages, this part of the world – north east England – was overrun by Vikings.  They came, they saw, they settled.  They left their mark on the language: villages such as Thirn, Thrintoft, Skeldale, Kirkby, Slingsby, Ainsty all betray their Norse ancestry.  Vikings have a reputation for ravaging and plundering, but in fact many of them and their families made their lives here.

The scenery won’t have been so tidily organised back then.

And settlers need some down-time in among the hard work of clearing and working the land and looking after stock: pursuits like this forerunner of the board game, which was played throughout what is now Scandinavia. We found one while walking the Howardian Hills last weekend. It looks like a maze, and it’s called City of Troy.

 

City of Troy, near Dalby, Sheriff Hutton.

It’s one of only eight still left in England, and this one is the smallest- barely bigger than a large picnic blanket.  There used to be one near Ripon apparently, but it was ploughed up in 1827.  Nobody any longer knows how to play this game.  Why City of Troy?  Well, it’s thought that it refers to the walls of that city, which were apparently built in such a way as to prevent unwanted intruders finding their way out.  I’m astonished by the idea that the average Norseman (or woman) was up to speed with Ancient Greek history and myth, but what do I know?

A close up view.

It’s related though to labyrinths found all over Europe.  Every ancient culture: Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Indian, Native American – had their own take on this one-way-in and one-way-out puzzle.  The labyrinth made its way into mediaeval churches.  There was even one in the cathedral local to us in France, in Mirepoix.

The labyrinth in Mirepoix Cathedral.

To Christians of those days, it may have been a symbol of wholeness, and an aid to reflection and prayer.  That spiral path within a circle may represent a meandering path, leading us to our very centre, then back out into the world.

The maze game probably doesn’t run so deep.  But what its rules were, and when and how it was played, out on a hillside some distance from any known settlement is a mystery that will almost certainly never be solved.

Howardian Hills

Early morning mistiness: looking across to the Howardian Hills.

We’ve just come back from a weekend in the Howardian Hills – that slice of Yorkshire that includes Castle Howard, where that iconic TV series Brideshead Revisited was filmed in the 1980s.

For farmers, it’s a wealthy little corner of the county, with fertile fields offering a steady income in return for careful husbandry.  Well-constructed farm gates at the end of tidy tracks are handsomely buttressed by smart stone gate posts.  Crops stand to attention and weeds show their faces only at field margins.  Agricultural labourers are no longer tenants in those postcard-perfect villages.

Trees neatly marching across a hill crest.

Our late August break was not accompanied by late summer weather.  Although it didn’t rain, skies remained sulky and black.  Wind bustled and gusted fiercely against our faces.  The temperature hovered at 11 degrees all weekend.  Perfect for this week’s Photo Challenge, for which brightly luminous blue skies contrasting with the golden hues of harvest simply Would Not Do.

This month's final assignment - Experiment with using two or three Complementary colours. Try to make one or two colours the focus of the image, and use the other colour to enhance the overall image.

I’ve taken images from fields, from distant vistas, and from the one abandoned ruined grange we came across, where farm animals still grazed in the grassy yard. I’ve played around with colour contrast: aiming to make my results what my eyes thought they saw, rather than what my camera knew it saw.

This is what my eyes, not the camera saw.
I liked the only splash of colour here: those orange beaks.

2020 Photo Challenge #35