A Raft of Apples

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Monkey Puzzle

Here is a conifer on the very start of its journey when instead of looking down we will be looking up to eighty, a hundred or more feet.  This is the Chilean Pine which used to be abundant in that country but a million have been burnt in forest fires as the climate becomes hotter and drier and the fires become more frequent.  The English speaking world knows the tree more familiarly as the Monkey Puzzle and you can judge its hight here below by the house in the background..
The seeds of the tree are edible (although do not appear until the trees are 30-40 years old). When the botanist Archibald Menzies was served them as a desert at a dinner given by the Governor of Chile in 1795 he pocketed a few and grew them on the ship back to Europe, of the resulting 5 healthy plants two were planted at Kew Gardens.  Fast forward to 1850 and Charles Austin (a barrister who made his fortune during the Victorian Railway Mania era) was being shown around a garden in Bodmin, Cornwall and made the comment "It would puzzle a monkey to climb that" and the tree became popularly known as the Monkey Puzzler and then the current name of Monkey Puzzle.  The French call them dĂ©sespoir des singes (monkey's despair)
Like the set of four trees above most were planted in the landscape gardens of large houses in the 19th Century and these trees from the Jurrasic era (sometimes called a living fossil) were quite a status symbol.  In the 1900s and especially the 1920s they became a very popular plant for the suburban garden where they just grew and grew.  I seem to remember there used to be a lot more around but perhaps their large size and sharp pointed leaves may have overwhelmed the owners, or maybe I just found them fascinating as a child so noticed them more.  Today a lot of these long lived trees have tree preservation orders on them so they cannot be cut down and remain to entrance us.  Perhaps I am wrong about the numbers for Sarah Horton in a labour of love is mapping Monkey Puzzles here  and blogs about it here joined by her Monkey Puzzle agents to potentially photograph and map the Monkey Puzzle world, although as she is based in Liverpool there may be a British Isles bias.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at M here 


Saturday, 3 October 2015

Small Tortoiseshell

Small tortoiseshell enjoying the  unusually warm October weather amongst the flowers.
which are as brightly coloured as it is.
Soon it will be time for winter sleep and a dreaming of cloud flowers. 

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Little Lines

Little trains on little lines and running today, well actually Sunday afternoons from March to October in Barrow Park.
The signals up, the engine's steaming and a wave from the 'station'
The little lines run in a quarter mile circuit on an elevated 3.5 and 5" gauge track and various model locomotives pull the 'carriages'.
Here is one of the diesels running past the old Furness Railway Signal Box (Devonshire Road) which provides water for the steam engines
and copious cups of tea for the member of the Furness Model Railway volunteers.  I'm not sure how long this little railway has been running in the park but the society itself was formed in 1956 and in the 1960s the Devonshire Road Signal Box was still located on the old railway line on the Low Road.
Photo from: http://www.southlakes-uk.co.uk/userrequested.html
Returning to the present here is one of the little trains completing its circuit.
Of course every railway has an engineering shed and the Furness Model Railway is no exception
On a beautifully warm September afternoon the best place to tinker with the rolling stock
is under clear sunny skies
Walking through Barrow Park today all was quiet, the signal was at stop,  the signal box locked up (I'm cheating here as I took this photo back in March), the lines were empty but nearby there was still a set hobbyists in place but in this case, model ships rather than trains, and putting their  
sailing ships through their paces round the buoys of the park lake for Tuesday is their day.
 An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at L here 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015


The kine are gathered by the bridge. Do you think they look like cows? You'd be right. The word kine has fallen out of use but it is the plural of cow and one of the rare words in English that has no letters in common with its singular form. The only other ones I can think of are -  I/we and me/us.
The bridge is over Kirkby Pool, another name to confuse because it isn't actually a pool but a river.  I thought I had a photo of  it with he traffic sign indicating vehicles keep to a 5mph limited over the bridge and only cross one at a time but could only find this side view.  The building to the left is Moss House Farm, maybe the kine are from there. 
Lets take a closer look at this one with the cute kink in its coat between its eyes. 

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at K here

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

John Laird Centre

I took this photograph some time ago for two reason, I love Victorian buildings and the added bonus was it started with the letter J and I knew it would could in handy for ABC Wednesday, however I kept forgetting my intent and diverted into other Js as the rounds past by but eventually it now makes an appearance.

This was originally the Laird School of Arts, the first public art school outside London, and the first ever purpose built college of art and science in England which opened in September 1871.  John Laird not only financed its construction but the also running costs and it was given to the town of Birkenhead.  Laird is most famous as part of the shipbuilding company Cammell Laird but he was also a great philanthropist and endowed many of the fine buildings in Birkenhead, would become its first mayor of and then retire from shipbuilding to become Birkenhead's first Member of Parliament.     

The school closed in 1979 and the building was purchased by Stanton Marine to use as their headquarters when it was extensively renovated and renamed The John Laird Centre.  Stanton Marine later became part of the British East India Company who now use the building as their headquarters which is rather appropriate, and perhaps the building has come full circle, because Cammell Laird built most of their ships in the 19th Century.

 An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at J here

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Isle of Dogs

Taking the water bus down the Thames I passed the Isle of Dogs and the new waterside developments between Burrell's Wharf and Millwall Dock
Burrell's Wharf
This place has a long history of change and is located in the meander of the river surrounded on three sides by the Thames and the old East Indies Dock on the other.
It was such a beautiful day that once we were on dry land decided to take a stroll and idle along the riverside and with no destination in mind we enjoyed the skyline views while passing
through little parks (this one complete with what looks like a scouting group), residential properties and somehow ended up on the Isle of Dogs
where I imagine you could take your small boat down this slipway.
We wondered if we would come across the docks coming away from the river and down the road passing by the parish church of Christ and St John with St Luke.  (They were certainly covering all the bases rounding up a spiritual trio). We did walk further along but got lost in a maze of streets and with no map to guide us retraced our steps
past the post office and its post box
and the Great Eastern pub in Tower Hamlets.  I was not aware at the time but since learnt that the vast iron sailing ship imagined and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1858 (at the time the largest ship ever built), was constructed nearby at the shipyard of John Scott Russell in Millwall. I believe there are remnants of the launch ramp at Canary Wharf.   A missed opportunity there!  The Great Eastern is always referred to as 'the ill-fated', for despite Brunel's vision of it journeying to the far east carrying 4000 passengers, the boiler exploded on her maiden voyage, J Scott Russell went bankrupt and Brunel had a stroke. It did eventually sail across the Atlantic but it was not a success and was later modified into a cable laying vessel. Eventually she was beached at Rock Ferry, Liverpool and broken up just thirty years after her launch.
Great Eastern harboured at Milford Haven by Unknown - Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org

A little bit of her still stands proud in Liverpool as the flag pole at the kop end of Liverpool's Anfield ground once was one of Great Eastern's topmasts (Source: From Millwall to the Kop).

Meanwhile we left the Great Eastern pub behind to continue our walk back and stopped for refreshment at the
Island Gardens Café in its peaceful surroundings with a tea pot and cup embellished in the buildings brickwork before going back to the other side of the river via the foot tunnel.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at I here 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015


In the fields and woods around the hamlet of Haverbrack it looks as though nothing has changed for centuries, apart from the field gate, oh and the tarmacadam lane.  I rather like the stile with its steps, the limestone supports (which look like old field markers) and the fact they really do mean the "please shut" written on the gate because not only does it have a spring hinge there is the rope loop.
The post box in the barn end across the road is quite modern as well as it is an 'Elizabeth Regina' model, although as she will become our longest reigning monarch on 9th September, her innings, so far, of 63 years covers a reasonable time span.  Opposite the barn is one of the hamlets 17 houses and if I had planned this post I might have taken a picture of it with the children playing outside but we were just strolling along the paths and byways in the summer sunshine.

I find the name of the hamlet, Haverbrack. interesting but wonder how it gets its name.  One idea is that it is from the Old English:- hafri  - which is a ridge of land sown with oats and brack - a piece of ground broken up for cultivation.  (Place names starting with Haver are common around here).
Perhaps this is the ridge once sown with oats as we look over the river towards Farleton Fell
To complete the bucolic scene there are some wonderfully large and mature trees.  On the other hand if one looks through the historic records after the Norman invasion of 1066 when land was being doled out to the French victors those granted here in 1087 went to one named Haverbrec.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at H here