The History of Things

This is the first in a series I’m titling “The History of Things.” These posts will appear sporadically among normal postings, tagged as HistoryOfThings.

Everything around us has a story; an origin, a history, a future, and an end point. As a naturalist I can’t help but see the world as being made up of this myriad of tales, from rocks; whose existence covers unimaginable stretches of time only to find themselves at weathering to dust at the base of a wall, to a row of trees; planted by some designer long since dead, and demarcating some forgotten boundary.

My goal is to show you these things, and question from where they came, and where they are going. How did they get there? What peoples and events have these inanimate objects watched silently? My goal is not to necessarily answer those questions.  Sometimes, my curiosity will lead me to find out more than is immediately obvious, but often I will only try to infer what I can from what is there.


This stone sits beside the road, between a row of houses and the marsh of the Dee estuary. It sits alone, the only white stone among a series of reds – an unusual limestone in an area dominated by sandstone. The area has a rich history over the past few hundred years, coal mining occurring beneath the estuary. But the road is much newer than that – perhaps only laid in the past couple of decades. Was the stone brought in then from further afield? Perhaps someone’s garden where it had formed part of a rockery? Or had capped a wall at the front of the house? Maybe it was placed here only a few years ago – it is hardly overgrown by the grass around it, but then the grass between the rocks is no more fervent in it’s attempts to conquer the tarmac. A public footpath follows the quiet road, and we might ask how many walkers has this stone watched? Perhaps more interestingly, for the rock and for our imagination, an old pub, the Harp Inn, is situated just a hundred yards or so away – has this stone tripped unlucky drinkers on their way home?

So what lies ahead for our stone, the object that may have only been beside the road for a blink of an eye in terms of it’s existence, though which may have been in the area for much longer? Will it sit here and weather to dust, occasionally helped on it’s path to oblivion by a hiker’s boot kicking off the mud from the marsh?  Perhaps when the road is resurfaced in ten, twenty, or thirty years, it will be kicked aside so as not to catch the wheels of the road laying machines? Or maybe the seas will rise as the climate changes, and the estuary will flood more often, burying the rock in silt and mud, which might then lithify so that in another million years our object of interest stands out as a limestone clast within a mudstone or shale, remaining conspicuously out of place for perpetuity.


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