Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Here is a narrow boat, winter ready, with logs piled up on its roof and moored on the northern reaches of the Shropshire Union Canal (affectionately known as The Shroppie) near Bunbury Locks.  I imagine with the logs burning on a cold winter's night the boat will live up to its name and everything will be 'wine and roses'.  My photograph was taken in December when it was muddy with rain rather than firm ground solid with ice and snow but we all know "as the days lengthen the cold strengthens"  so a supply of logs was a must in 2015, not to mention  the added warmth of the contents of the coal scuttle on the banking. 
By contrast this photograph was taken in June when it looks as though someone with forward planning had split a nice pile of logs to dry out in the sunshine on the Cumbrian coast

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojouring at L here

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Knight Knights

A wooden knight welcomes visitors into the interior of Peckforton Castle which takes its name from the castle's location in the Peckforton Hills, Cheshire.   But all is not as it seems.  This is an example of the Victorians love of the Gothic because it was actually built in the 19th Century as a family home by John Tollemache, a wealthy Cheshire landowner and MP. It took eight years to construct (1844-1852) and to recreate a medieval castle with more than 100 rooms, a rather charming chapel (where he is buried, or at least there is a tomb there) and a stable for 30 horses.  Tollemache became the 1st Baron Tollemache so he had a title to go with the impressive surroundings, considered to be the last fortified home to be built in England.  As you can imagine a man who builds something on this scale was not only very wealthy but just a little eccentric and has been described as a benevolent despot, one of whose foibles was to wear a wig despite having a full head of hair.  His paternalism for his estate workers was based on his belief of  self reliance for the working class by giving them "three acres and a cow" and built 50 farmhouses in the area to bring this idea into practice.
Here is the entrance into the castle which today is an hotel and a popular venue for weddings.  The brasserie located in a corner inside was doing afternoon tea but we were being given a whistle stop tour of the area by family who have just moved to this part of Cheshire. They like to chivvy us along because they know we have a tendency to dawdle and I combine that dawdling nature with photography so am indulged with an extra five minutes.  It was a brief look at the birds of prey who are resident here
taking a picture of a kestrel, which would not be used by a knight in medieval times as it was considered a lowly hunting bird,may only suitable for knaves, servants and children.  According to the "Boke of St Albans" an Old English book of 1468 which details the Falconry Laws of Ownership a knight would have a Saker falcon. No sign of one of those.

But what else would a knight do in his leisure hours if not killing small fury and feathered things well he might partake of a joust
Which brings me to something else that is not what it seems.  This slabbed fireplace of jousting knights and castle was made by Craven Dunnill in the 1930s and is on display in the Jackfield Tile Museum. It has been decorated using the tube-lining technique but it is not typical of the period when the fireplaces were usually just mottled tiles and it is thought it must have been made for an exhibition and harks back to an early time of Arts and Crafts houses.  I recognise the coat of arms on the right as the Scottish lion but the one on the left is bugging me because it looks vaguely familiar. Then again it may just be one made up by the tile makers imagination.

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


Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Inclined Planes

Historically Inclined Planes were used extensively in the Ironbridge Gorge to move heavy objects up and down slopes but mostly all that endures are indentations and grooves running down forested hillsides; however for those interested in Industrial archaeology the Hay Inclined Plane remains to show the infrastructure required to move tug boats up and down a hill.  I believe from rail buffs that these are not the originally rails that would have been used from 1792-1894 but some British Rail cast offs from the national railway system.  Also we need a modicum of imagination for I have been unable to find photographs or drawings of the box shaped tug boats being moved the 207 feet (63m) by gravity, one ascending and one descending on roped up wheeled cradles on the rails from here -

the Blists Hill waterway down to the

Coalport Canal (part of the Shropshire Canal system)
This is the point the tug boats would have run down and into the canal, still on the tracks, which looks rather dishevelled today.  Although the loaded boats were travelling downhill by gravity the brakes were operated by a winding drum operated by a small steam engine in this engine house
And here is a view of the unreconstructed rail system of the other track
It would be nice to see it running but from the Blists Hill miners track you can take a ride down an other inclined plane in another direction  
from the upper waterway whatever the weather in comfort sat in a trolley which leads to a re-creation of a Victorian Fair where one can indulge in a variety of rides.

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

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Hampton Loade

This bridge's distinctive and pleasing shape attracted my attention when I'd seen it in the distance from a train window so why not take a walk along the river to take a closer look. It is the Hampton Loade Bridge to the Water Treatment Works over the River Severn. The tubular blue archways integrated into the bridge are water pipes with a walkway underneath.. The water treatment plant and nearby Cheltmarsh Reservoir were built in the 1960s by Degremont-Laing for Severn Trent Water and it was the first design and build contract for the then national and publicly owned water industry.  (Previously capital projects employed a consultant engineer to carry out a feasibility study and then project manage the resulting contracts).  With privatisation  design and build contracts became the norm.

This stretch of the River Severn is popular with canoeists although I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to catch them going under the bridge.  We didn't inspect the bridge further as our route led us further along the banking (and as it turned out into a thunderstorm) but we did look longingly at

the landing stage across the river on the way past where we had heard the cable ferry ran although the machinery didn't look well used.
however the wiring was still in place nearby
along with the water measurement pole.  The crossing has been here for about 400 years but the floods of 2007 damaged the riverbank and I wondered how far up the pole the water reached.  The owner put the ferry up for sale after the floods and I read that the Hampton Loade villagers now operate the crossing. With the help of Wikipedia here is the ferry in operation 
"Hampton Loade Ferry - 2004-07-24" by © Optimist on the run, 2004 /. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia
and this is the explanation of its workings.  "The Hampton Loade Ferry is a reaction ferry, propelled by the river current.  An overhead cable is suspended across the river, and the ferry is tethered by a second cable, to a pulley block that runs on the suspended cable. To operate the ferry it is angled into the current, causing the current to move it across the river".

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