Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year

We've only had snow on the hills this winter so I had to dig back into the archives to for a suitably snowy scene for New Year of the fields, the Duddon Estuary and Black Combe taken in March 2013.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Yellow Bikes and Jerseys

When the Tour de France visited Yorkshire with two stages over two days Yorkshire folk got rather excited and painted yellow bicycles popped up all over the towns and countryside.  An appeal went out to knitters for 2,500 little jumpers portraying the famous tour jerseys, yellow for the race leader, polka dot for the best climber, green for the most consistent points finisher  and white for the best young rider.  The knitters went to work with gusto and eventually 23,453 were actually knitted and strung along the streets of towns and villages.
The bicycles appeared decorated and in various stages of repair or
Come the day the 'Games Makers' were wearing their yellow t-shirts, here is one directing people traffic from Harrogate railway station.
and of course there was a good spread of spectators sporting Tour yellow t-shirts and French symbols such as French berets (above) blue and white stripped jerseys and even the occasional string of onions.
There was also a good smattering of punning local businesses signs such as this Indian restaurant featuring Bradley Wiggins (nickname Wiggo) the 2012 Yellow Jersey winner.
The banners were out as the race approached and this one says "Bonjour la France et Mémé" which of course is 'Hello France' but also "and Grandma", I wonder where she was?
Eventually all the build up was over and the race was on.  The true yellow jersey (briefly held by Marcel Kittel here) making the starting roll out from York before the proper racing began.  While watching the race where is the best place to leave your bike?
Well possibly chained to church fencing and this particular church is St Clements, not the famous London one whose bells said oranges and lemons but they have however chimed in with lemon yellow flags.

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

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

X is for Aircraft

Inside the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford 'National Cold War Exhibition' hanger with the tail of XM598, a delta winged strategic bomber, the Avro Vulcan, whose RAF numbers all start with X so although I don't know which one the following photograph is of I can be assured I'm totally 'on theme'
Photo from Wikipedia of  a Vulcan flying  at an Air Fete of 1985
It looks like a giant moth from this angle although I'm not sure if any of them are still flying, perhaps only the XH588 might be which is owned by the "Vulcan to the Sky Trust" and on display at Robin Hood Airport.  
Here is the Cold War Exhibition hanger where XM598 is on display, taken from underneath a Hercules turboprop military transport plane.  .
whose propellers happily gives me another X.  You may be able to judge from the sky in the last two photographs that the RAF Cosford Museum was the perfect indoor destination for a day of inclement weather - four hangers, a shop and a café, there was plenty to occupy us.

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

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Waterfront Warehouses

Bonding Warehouse, York The Bonding Warehouse in York.  
This part of the River Ouse was the principal dockside for seagoing vessels until the 19th Century.  The warehouse was built in 1875 for the storage of imported goods liable to excise duty until it closed in 1958.  A brief history of its intervening years can be found here  It has recently been converted into luxury apartments and offices which includes an escape ladder for the occupants in the event of flooding. 
Northern Docks Warehouses
 Northern Docks Warehouses, Liverpool
There would certainly have been goods here that would attract excise duty for the largest warehouse in the photograph is the Tobacco Warehouse, which when it was built with 27 million bricks in 1901, was the largest brick warehouse in the world and indeed may still be.  The area between it and the Stanley Warehouse in front of it has been nicknamed "pneumonia alley" because it is usually in shade and in this breezy location acts as a wind tunnel.  I was stood on an unusually windless day on the Mersey ferry doing the triangular loop from the Wirral peninsula across the river and back.
Waterloo Warehouse
 Waterloo Dock, Liverpool
I'm on dry land here by the Waterloo Dock and  the converted East Waterloo warehouse apartments to the right.  The Liverpool Dock complex is massive and runs in a continuous row along the Mersey, there are still lots of working docks but it always blows my mind when I imagine what it was like in the past when its 7½ miles was at full pelt with cargoes leaving and landing from all over the world.  Of course the most photogenic of the old Liverpool warehouses are those of the Albert Dock but as I have contrived over various rounds of ABC Wednesday to feature them I'm managing to resist the urge to include them again.
Oliver's Wharf, Wapping
 Wapping, London
Journeying south to the Thames River here is Oliver's Warehouse. Built in 1869-70 for George Oliver in a Tudor/Venetian Gothic style to house general cargo ultimately its main use was the special storage facilities for that favourite beverage of the British, tea . This was one of the first warehouses in Wapping to be converted into apartments and its famous residents have included Alex Guinness and Cher.

Do you get the impression I like taking pictures of Victorian waterfront Warehouses?

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

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


When our tea pot came with a verdant cosy like this a photograph was called for.  It looked like something that would be used by a woodland elf. The Riverside Tea Room  in Ironbridge was a place we called in to more than once on holiday, not only for the tea, the cakes and the variety of tea cosies it is also attached to a crafts centre and I can spend hours in places like that.
Meanwhile down the road awhile this cat was keeping a look out for any construction vehicles
but this one was obeying the notice as it drove through the verdant suburbs of Jackfield.  As the quip goes "I love work and can sit and watch it all day" which is possibly why I like to take pictures of it. 
Being slightly nerdish I zoomed in to the vehicle on my computer, it turned out it was a special one, not the type or  make (Terex),  but the family company that owns it, McPhilips Construction celebrated their 50th anniversary in July this year. Their 250 staff enjoyed a day out but they also seem to have a more permanent commemoration of the anniversary with a '50' sign on the side of the vehicle.

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

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Unspoilt by Progress

You rarely see a clock in a pub for the best ones live in their own alternate reality where time passes convivially and unnoticed.   The Boat Inn on the bank of the River Severn welcomes the visitor into its door with the boast that it is "Unspoilt by Progress".
First licensed in 1840 the pub's landlady thinks that some of the building is much older and could go back as far as 1740, or earlier, as a fireplace and interior timbers have been dated back to Tudor times.   Wondering why there is a lifebelt by the entrance?
It may come in handy.  This is its famous 'flood door' that records past flooding events.  The most catastrophic flood in the Ironbridge Gorge occurred in 1795, but that was before records began, so I'll start with the highest recorded flood marked on the top of the list which is that of 1st November 2000 at 19 ft 6" (6 metres).  The next one down is 19th February 1946 - 19 ft 5" followed by the 21st March 1947 19 ft 1".  The BBC Shropshire slide show on "Flooding through the Ages" has a photo of the Boat Inn in the flood of 1947 here ( See Image 4 on  the link).  I think the building also looks longer in the photo the BBC have used.  Lets go inside.
and indeed the bar area is unspoilt by progress.  Typically Victorian pubs would consist of many rooms but in modern times walls were knocked down to make a larger overall area and original features removed.  Notice the quarry tiled floor, the first appearance of flood water will not be through the door but bubbling through the tiles from the raised water table below.

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


Saturday, 29 November 2014


I inherited a bound set of The War Illustrated from my paternal grandparents. One hundred years after publication I'm exploring its pages to discover the people and their times.
 "The average man soon grows accustomed to a strange environment.  This picture was taken in a vineyard of the Champagne region of France.  A few miles off, the heavy artillery of the contending armies was sending out thunder and death, and the air was reverberating with the din of war.  At the same time troops were marching past to the battle-lines, yet these peasants working in the vineyard pay little heed to the  world-shaking events close by.  Some of them do not even interrupt their work to look at what is going on around them" War Illustrated , 7th November 1914

The champagne produced in 1914 is considered the greatest vintage of the 20th Century.  Maurice Pol Roger famously said it was "harvested to the sound of gunfire but to be drunk to the sound of trumpets".  The weather that year had been perfect and by September 12th the grapes were ready to be harvested but with the men away fighting it fell to women, children and older people to harvest the vines (as can be seen in the photograph).  The schools even closed so that the children could be in the fields.  By October 11th the last accessible grapes had been picked but not without the cost of life (twenty children were killed by sniper fire or shelling).

Amazingly champagne was produced in every year of the war despite 40% of the vineyards being destroyed and fighting continuing in the area but it was 1914 that produced the once in a lifetime vintage.  Reims was also under continual bombarded and shelling so the Champagne houses opened their cellars as a refuge to the local population and also continued operating their businesses from the underground limestone crayères.

Recently one of the bottles produced in 1914 was taken from the Pol Roger cellars and has been auctioned for £5640, the proceeds will go to support the new World War One galleries at the Imperial War Museum.  The unusual longevity of the wine is attributed to the early picking of the grapes which initially gave it acidity but as it matured the flavour blossomed, just like the indomitable spirit of the French wine pickers and producers.     

Additional (with pictures)
1914:  Champagne's Violent Vintage by Tom Stevenson - Wine Searcher

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Talacre Lighthouse

The Talacre Lighthouse sits on the beach at the Point of Ayr in Flintshire, the northernmost point of mainland Wales. I was experiencing a breezy day on Talacre beach but I can't remember now whether the tide was going in, or out.
A lighthouse was placed here in 1776 after a storm wrecked two ships with a loss of 200 lives and cargo and it is considered the oldest lighthouse in Wales.  Around 1818 the original building was destroyed by the sea but Trinity House built this more robust structure in 1820. It stands 60 ft high with a 18 ft diameter.  The aim was to guide ships away from the sandbanks and provide a bearing for the Port of Liverpool and mark the rivers of the Mersey and Dee.  Deactivated in 1883 (and superseded by the Dee lightship) it is now in private ownership.
In the 19th Century the lighthouse would have had red and white stripes and it looks as though it could do with a lick of paint now, although when it featured at the end of the Dulux Dog advert in 2011 it was pure white and this was also the year when the owner put it up for sale (I believe it was eventually sold earlier this year).  The door is only accessible on foot at low tide and at high tide there are 40 yards of water to the beach however the buyer does get a residential ghost which  of course is a lighthouse keeper who stands in front of the glass dome.  It is said that dogs don't like the spooky vibes and run away, 
but this one was too busy enjoying the water to bother about that.  In 2010 as part of an art project a temporary stainless steel figure called 'The Keeper' was erected on the balcony, I wonder if anyone saw double?
The dunes the lighthouse was originally built on have since retreated and that is why it stands in the middle of the beach.  Today the sand dunes are protected and the perfect place for its residential Natterjack Toads.
The 870 mile Wales Coastal Path  runs through Talacre so perhaps The Smugglers Inn would be a place to stop off for a drink.  The sign says they serve Tavern Beers.   

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

Friday, 21 November 2014

O Canada

I inherited a bound set of The War Illustrated from my paternal grandparents. One hundred years after publication I'm exploring its pages to discover the people and their times.
"Signallers of the 1st Mounted Canadian Highlanders at their camp in England after their journey from Plymouth where they disembarked from their transports. The men are of the best physique th Empire can provide, solid specimens of hard muscles and iron sinew"
A Canadian bicycle battalion poses for the camera at Pond's Farm on Salisbury Plain where they would undertake training for their eventual journey into war.  I can find nothing about a 1st Mounted Canadian Highlanders and think they would be one of the many voluntary militia battalions who formed the 1st Canadian Division expeditionary force that landed in England in 1914.  The conditions in the Autumn of 1914 were of unpleasant cold and rain but as can be seen the War Illustrated has great confidence in their heritage of Scottish and Canadian genes and of course their nickname was the "Scotties".
 Here they are settling into a wet England with a shudder inducing open air water pump but the War Illustrated of the 31st October 1914 seems intrigued by the fatigue caps which would possibly be a more familiar sight in world war two when this Jaeger pattern from "Essentials for the Forces" was published in the 1940s.  
1940s Patterns to Knit from the Victoria and Albert Museum
   The Patricias shown on the left are one of the three regular infantry regiments in Canada who were originally raised in 1914 and arrived in France on 21st December 1914.  The Scottie cyclists would take a similar journey in 1915 and  the 1st Canadian Regiment would later suffer 50% a casualty rate at Ypres.  The nursing sisters of the Red Cross on the right would run rest homes and hospitals in England.
On the outbreak of war Canada had immediately offered 20,000 to 25,000 men of which this page pays tribute, however 630,000 would eventually serve on the 1914-18 battlefields.

"Canadian Command During the First World War" by Tim Cook - The Canadian Encyclopaedia
"Cyclist Battalion in the The Great War" forum - Canada At War
"Canadian Corps Cyclist Battalion" by John McKetny - Canadian Cycling Magazine (from which the photo below is taken)  


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Severn

On the Severnway path in Bewdley there are many words in metal lettering along the walkway on maritime and riparean themes reflecting the river through time in words.  Here is written the original spelling of the river -  Sæferne (which I think is Anglo Saxon).  It doesn't show up in this photograph but all the lettering is embellished, the river's name has
fish scales 
which I think this old boy is waiting for a sight of as he sits fishing by the Severn.
We went into the Georgian town of  Bewdley for lunch at yes -  The George
and on the way back past a sleeping cat in a shop window.
On return to the riverbank the fisherman was still optimistically waiting for a bite while a swan sailed by
Four bridges have stood here crossing the Severn since 1447 but three have been destroyed by wars and flood.  The present bridge was designed and constructed by the great Thomas Telford (1757-1834) whose foreman mason was John Simpson and in the unusually dry summer and autumn of 1798 the bridge was built very quickly. Simpson was highly regarded by Telford and worked with him on many occasions. His trust was well placed because the bridge has stood up to many floods and heavier traffic than ever Telford could have envisaged.

The Severn starts in the Welsh hills and takes its 220 mile journey through many counties here passing through Worcestershire, it also has not just one but two deities in mythology, the nymph Sabrina (Hafren) who drowned in the river and Noadu who rides the Severn tidal bore on a seahorse at the Bristol Channel. 

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