Westonbirt in Colour

December 17, 2014

It is scary the way time flits by. I understand that time drags if you are not busy and rushes by if you are. Oh well, I suppose it means I am (or rather we are) busy.

I find it hard to credit that it was 13 years ago that we went to see the trees in Westonbirt arboretum illuminated by weird and wonderful coloured lights.  The event still runs in December (so it is on as this is written) but  the Enchanted Christmas, as it gets called, is different every year so my photos from long ago may not be anything like you’d see now.

In 2001 I was using a 1.3 mega pixel camera. We still have it and it still turns out some good pictures. But it didn’t have anything like night time settings so it was hand held long exposures for me.




Different trees – different colours.

Well, it was quite a fascinating experience. Maybe we should get back there some time.

A safety cutter

December 16, 2014

From about 1985 to about 2005 I used to attend computer and technology shows. Sometimes this was in connection with work. Sometimes it was work for on occasion I helped man technical advice stands and sometimes it was just a leisure and pleasure day out. Sometimes an equally childish friend and I had competitions to see who could scrounge the best freebies out of stand holders. I reckon I had an advantage for I wrote for a couple of computer magazines and plenty of software publishers knew me and were keen to make sure I stayed on side.

But sometimes a company found an interesting way to get a message across. Netnanny would like to make the internet safe for children, protecting them from things it is deemed better they shouldn’t come across. So their message is one of safety and at one show they were promoting that message with a safety paper cutter. Mine is actually well used and shows signs of age. It’s a great little freebie.

This little plastic wallet houses their cutter.


The cutter itself looks just like a piece of plastic, carrying a web address.


Yes, that piece of plastic allows easy cutting of a sheet of paper. More or less under the http of the address there is a miniscule blade. It will go through one piece of paper, but not two.


Drag it across the paper as shown and it will cut it, leaving the piece underneath more or less unmarked.

You can drag it along the edge of a ruler for a straight cut or use it freehand if you wish to do something more artistic.

What a cunning little freebie – and it works as an advert. I think the device is useful and I am bringing it to the attention of the readers. But it is up to you whether you are interested in the product advertised. I neither endorse it nor do whatever the opposite is. It isn’t for me to tell others how to run their lives.

But the little cutter really is safe.


Train Spotting

December 15, 2014

I do take the opportunity to see a steam train when one passes locally. Most recently, that was on December 2nd when a train taking a slightly devious route from London to Bristol passed through. When the train finally appeared it was exciting enough but the wait made me wonder why I did it.

From the information I had I estimated the train should pass through where my local station once was at just about midday. I got there a bit early in case the train was ahead of schedule or in case other nerds got the limited spots available for a photo.

By 12.35 when the train finally arrived I was frozen to the marrow. No other train had passed but I had enjoyed a fly past by ducks and also by a buzzard which was being harried by a crow. The train should have been nearly in Bath by the time it passed me. It was obviously going to be late!

If the sun had been out I had a good enough position, but I got the wind wrong. The passing locos (yes, there were two of them) smothered me in steam. I expect that, as a teenage spotter I’d have made sure I saw the number on the second loco known as the train engine. The front loco in double heading is called the pilot. As it was, the train loco passed by in a haze of steam. Actually, it was very dramatic.

Of course, I made sure I got photos. I got a long shot as the train came into view around the curve.


It may look as though all that lovely steam will blow away from me, but the curve continues. I’m actually standing on the right side of that track as we can see as the train got closer.


Now we can see that the steam from the pilot is drifting down over the side of the train engine and train. And seconds later that steam will engulf me as well. I’d better add that I am safely off railway property and behind a fence.

The train itself was suited to the locos. They are ex London Midland and Scottish Railway engines and the coaches were in the maroon livery used on that line when I was a real train spotter. There was a Pullman car in the train formation.

For the real train spotter the two locos were 44871 and 45407. 45407 carries a name as well – The Lancashire Fusilier. Neither came to my attention when I was a real train spotter!

Slide Rules

December 14, 2014

When I was a student in those heady days of the late 1960s, my subject was physics. It’s a particular pleasure of mine that many people seem to assume I’m a historian Actually,, the Grammar School I was at when I was 14 deemed I wasn’t clever enough to study history so that ended any formal studies I had in that subject. To be honest, it wasn’t just history they deemed me not clever enough for. Physics was deemed far too complex for the likes of me and so was chemistry.

I suppose I found ways to prove that school wrong. OK, I wasn’t in the top five per cent or anything like that, but I always felt very put down by that school who in nearly every respect failed to inspire me – just as much as I failed to inspire them. I can be very pleased that education has moved on and these days teachers seek to find the way to inspire individuals rather than insisting they must be clones of everyone else.

Anyway, with help from another school – a Comprehensive School – I more or less made it and was able to continue my education after the age of 18 and as I said, I studied sciences which the old Grammar School had denied me.

We scientists were probably all a bit geeky. We seemed to be made to work harder than our colleagues studying artistic subjects and had that bit less time for leisure and pleasure (but in truth we had plenty). We also needed our badge of office and for us that was a slide rule – or guessing stick as we called them. Of course, I still have mine although I have to say it is never used.

But back then, in the 60s, before computers and before electronic calculators, the slide rule was a must have item for we science students.


It already looks just a bit fearsome to many people but really they were little more than aids for multiplication or division. They just seem to have a baffling array of scales and numbers.


The truth is that most of us ignored most of the scales and used just the most straight forward A and B ones. You could actually very easily multiply and divide. There was a certain limit to how accurate you could be but you actually used a slide rule as a check of your own calculations. But most of all you made sure it was visible about your person to mark you out as a boffin who actually knew how to use it.

My slide rule is modern enough to be made of plastic. My dad had a much older one which was wood with (sorry) a layer of ivory for the scales to be marked on. Mine has a plastic case to protect it. His had a leather case.

So times moved on even in the long gone world of slide rules.

Aysgarth Station

December 13, 2014

I have done a blog about the Wensleydale Railway in the past. You can click here to see what this heritage line was like back in 2006.

Regular readers may realise that we recently had a holiday in Wensleydale, a little to the west of the railway’s present terminus at Redmire and about a mile from the closed station at Aysgarth. We took a walk from the cottage we rented in Carperby to look at the waterfalls at Aysgarth. The walk took us past the station, recognisably an old station, partly because of a clear railway bridge crossing the road.


The station approach heads off left and has a gate which is clearly labelled PRIVATE. We stood by the gate and I could make out what I thought was an old station sign.


At this point a chap in car and trailer arrived and opened the gate. Did he recognise railway nerds? He promptly invited us to take a look round the station. Seemingly he and two others had taken on the task of making the station look presentable whilst awaiting the arrival of tracks – years down the line yet – from Redmire. He gave us a guided tour.

Still from the gate – a general view of the station yard.


On the right we have the coal depot, roughly in the centre there is the main station building and to the left there is the goods shed.

Now we’ll walk forward and see the coal yard and depot.


Something like this would have been standard at every country station. Coal, now a despised fuel, used to be King Coal, of course.

The station building is big enough to form two dwellings at the moment. One is privately owned and the other is owned by the Wensleydale Railway and in use as a holiday let.


This is the goods shed.


Outside they have an 1880s truck given as a project by the National Railway Museum.


A railway museum is being created inside. They have a variety of signs and items.


Billingham is a station. The sign below comes from a signal box.


They have a photo history of the line as well. And lots more signs.


The weighbridge is an original feature of the shed – still in situ.


Outside the trio of men are laying some track. They hope to be able to offer very short rides.

They have acquired a diesel shunter loco which is stored outside, under wraps.


We were taken to see the waiting room and the signal box.


This has been restored from a rather smashed up wreck.


The person arriving at platform one was the 10am from Carperby for Aysgarth Falls. We apologise for the late running which was due to a fascinating bonus trip around Aysgarth Station. Fortunately, a signal had been found in undergrowth and erected at the platform end. Just near it is a quarter mile post similarly located.

Next stop is the waiting room which has been given over to a model railway showing the station in the 1930s.


That’s lovely – with a camping coach parked at the platform end and all the other features we can still see. The waiting room is the small shelter on the right hand platform.


And so to the signal box.


Beautifully restored and with a signal operator in the doorway.


Yes, it did operate that signal on the down platform. Our chaps had station clutter stored in the box but that sign in the background took the eye.


That’s pre 1923 when the North Eastern Railway got absorbed into the LNER.

Fantastic visit. Thanks chaps!

The project to get the line to Aysgarth is worthy of support. The station is perfectly placed for the waterfalls and so a working railway will help to keep cars away from the narrow lanes. BUT there is a nearby carpark for present day visitors to the falls. If you happen to go there, maybe you, too, could visit the station and enjoy the almost unlimited enthusiasm of the men who volunteered to make it a station in waiting.

Feeding wild boar

December 12, 2014

A little treat we had on a November holiday in Wensleydale, was seeing the wild boar being fed at Castle Bolton. The castle itself was closed for the winter – we knew that – but the luck that can follow us did that day. The pigs in the wood still need feeding and are just as exciting a spectacle whether the castle is open or not.

We had walked around the little village and were returning to the car when I became aware of a pig on the edge of some woodland.


Here’s an extract from my diary.

‘More appeared and started to get very excited. The castle may have been closed but feeding the wild boar still had to go on – one of the attractions of a castle visit. We were in time to witness it on this chill November morning. It was exciting – utter bedlam really. And so hard to get decent photos!’





Other beasts of the wood turned up to enjoy the bounty provided by man.



Dad looked pretty bear like.


Let’s finish with a friendly face, seeking out the pig nuts.


The Stone Country

December 11, 2014

We recently spent a week in Wensleydale – one of the Yorkshire Dales. I think most of the other Dales – Swaledale, Wharfedale, Nidderdale etc are named after the river that flows down them. The river in Wensleydale is the Ure. Wensley is one of several small villages in the dale.

Let’s take a short walk from Carperby, a village on the north side of the dale down towards Aysgarth which is on the river. I have called it the stone country. You’ll see why.

Small fields are divided up with stone walls. Many of them feature stone built sheds like this one which can offer access, or at least shelter, to two fields.


Some of these sheds have fallen into ruins.


The walls, too, tend to fall into disrepair but that makes for bigger field areas more suited to 21st century farming.


Walls, shed and the village of Carperby with not a brick in sight.


Stone walls as far as the eye can see.


The walls, of course, are dry stone – no mortar has been used in their manufacture.


Let’s finish with another shed – such iconic features of this landscape.


Pointe Chevet

December 10, 2014

Pointe Chevet is a headland just west of St Malo in France. At a time when we may all be feeling the weather in the UK has been a tad gloomy, I felt it was time to enjoy the look of some sun, sea and sand. The photo date from 26th July 2002.


This is just about 130 miles from the English coast – it would be a couple of hours by motorway but we seem to have captured a different world on the northern French coast.

It does look lovely!

As a final thought, I got google to tell me what Pointe Chevet means. It seems it means bedside tip!

Clowns in Firle

December 9, 2014

My Firle relatives – Great Auntie Nellie and family, liked their bit of fun and seemed ready to take part in village events. I never saw Firle at bonfire night but that was clearly a big event. There was also a summer fete. Or maybe this was a bit of sisterly fun.

Here we see a clown at Firle.


This is one of those photos, probably taken by my grandfather, for which I only have a negative. It has no caption but I’m pretty well certain this is Nellie’s sister, my Great Aunt Sue who lived in Ringmer. My guess is that this dates from the 1920s. Sue was born in 1882 and stayed a spinster until 1932. Rumour always had it that she had lost a boyfriend in what we now call the First World War. Sue died before I was born so I never had an opportunity to ask her. Not that I would have done. Youngsters just don’t ask.

I don’t think the photo has anything to do with bonfire night. The sun appears to be quite overhead, casting the short shadows of the summer season. Sue is dressed as a clown and seems to have a very clownish bicycle – devoid of an awful lot of items which might be deemed useful or even essential.


It seems to be without tyres and inner tubes, brakes and even pedals. Oh well! At least it has a bell!

Sue looks very much like a lady in charge.


What a lovely photo of a past age – but there’s more.

It’s the same costume so probably the same occasion but this time we see another sister of Nellie. This time it is my Granny – Ethel who was ten years younger than Sue.


It certainly looks like happy times.

Mr and Mrs Camper

December 8, 2014

When we went camping, every summer, we weren’t always the only people in the area. Quite near the water supply we often encountered Mr and Mrs Camper as we called them. They seemed a happy and cheerful couple with a VW Beetle car and quite a small tent and they seemed happy to be called Mr and Mrs Camper by us.


That looks like Mr Camper looking in the boot of the car. Mrs Camper is just behind the vehicle. I know we children were quite fascinated by the car – well we didn’t have one so cars were generally fascinating, but of course, the Beetle had a rear engine. I recall us kids used to share a joke about a VW Beetle which broke down. The owner got out and opened the bonnet.

‘Goodness,’ he said. ‘No wonder it won’t go. The engine has gone’.
At his point another VW drew up and the driver asked if he could help.
‘I doubt it,’ said the said the driver of the broken down car. ‘I seem to have lost my engine.’
‘You’re in luck,’ replied the helper. ‘Would you believe it? I have a spare engine in my boot’.

I’m sure Mr and Mrs Camper were not so stupid.

Above the tent we can see the tail end of Mount Caburn, ranging its way towards Ringmer. That helps me fix location and people. This is a photo for which I only have a rather poor negative – one my dad didn’t think was worth printing. I think I have just got away with it. The picture dates from the mid-1950s.

It was years later that I learned our Mr and Mrs Camper were in fact Mr Somebody and Mrs Somebody else. When it became possible they married but they always remained Mr and Mrs Camper for me.


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