The Rye and Camber Tramway

March 28, 2015

Now here’s a little railway in Sussex which I never knew. It opened, under the direction of Holman Stephens in 1895. It was closed on the outbreak of war in 1939 and never reopened.

I have a little book about the line, given to me by my father.


Peter Harding had this book published thirty years ago, in 1985. It is well illustrated; the little line was clearly well photographed. Here we see the steam loco which was called Camber.


Perhaps we can gauge the lack of local population from that photo.

What makes the book special for me is that my dad put a record card in it.


Dad’s writing was never easy so I’ll transcribe.

I travelled once only Rye – Camber – Rye around 1930. A Sunday School treat took us to Rye and as there was not much for a 9 or 10 year old we spent some of our scarce pocket money on the train. There was nothing to do at Camber either so we came back. I should have remembered an antique steam engine and am fairly certain that the train was petrol hauled.

So presumably Dad was hauled by this little beast, illustrated in the book.


What fascinates me is that such an antiquated form of transport was still in operation within living memory – for people over 80. Actually, a future post might show a similar loco still in operation.

Hillworth Birds

March 27, 2015

The park in Devizes, known as Hillworth Park has had an aviary with pretty birds in it ever since I have lived in the area – and that’s 45 years. The park was recently revamped and is much more of a place to go than it used to be. The birds are still there and were given a splendid home. I don’t really like caged birds, but these have space to fly, to nest, to be on their own or with the crowd so I guess it isn’t an unpleasant environment for them. Of course they are well fed so one might say they don’t have a care in the world.

From time to time we took our children to see the budgerigars in the park. Now we take grandchildren and there is a wider variety of birds. Let’s start with a zebra finch.


All photos have to be taken through that hefty mesh. If your lens is large, the trick is to put the camera lens right on the mesh. As if by magic, the mash bars seem to vanish. There is one in that picture which shows faintly as a very blurred grey area. You can see it above and below the letter C on the feed tray.


Love birds or budgerigars?  The out of focus metal bars show up at left and right side. I could call it a form of vignetting.

This is a variety of sparrow. The aviary has a good board telling you what the birds are. My memory failed on that one. Is it a Java sparrow?


There are ground level scavengers in the form of pretty chickens. The board said they were silkies but I’m certain this is not a silkie.


Granddaughter enjoyed the birds – just like her dad and aunty had a generation earlier.

My Wife’s Farm

March 26, 2015

No doubt many of us older folk – not that we are that old – had farms where the items were cast in metal. My wife had an altogether classier set of kit than I ever had. Some of her bits of farm are really lovely. Here is some of it.


Like many a farm, gathered together in an ad hoc manner, it isn’t all to scale. The delightful round haystack is not much bigger than the stooks of corn.

Some of these individual items are just grand. How about the farm cat, in a basket with a kitten.


There’s a grand shepherd.


His sheepdog waits patiently in his kennel.


A rabbit emerges from its burrow.


A hen has gone into a coop.


It can be shut in to make it sit on a clutch of eggs and keep it safe.

There are simple things, like a milk churn which still has its detachable lid.


And here’s one for the historians.


This is a bee skep made of straw in real life.. I have to say I have never seen a real skep in use. Hives, designed by humans for bees, allow for easier extraction of honey and far easier been inspection.

My wife has a great little farm here.


March 25, 2015

Tangmere is a small village in Sussex a mile or so east of Chichester, Nearby, in the Second World War there was a Royal Air Force base – RAF Tangmere.

But sorry, folks, this post is actually about a steam engine and here it is.


It’s an unusual looking loco and is seen here passing close by my house a few days ago.

Tangmere was built during World War II and it seemed appropriate to name the engines after people and places significant during the Battle of Britain. As a result this class of engines was called the Battle of Britain (or BB for short) class. They are virtually indistinguishable from engines called the West Country (WC for short) class. This particular engine was called Tangmere.

They look unusual and they were unusual in many aspects of their design. Oliver Bullied was responsible for these engines and he had trained under Nigel Gresley who designed such famous locos as Flying Scotsman and Mallard. But Mr Bullied was working under wartime constraints which dictated that express passenger locos were not to be built. The engines were supposed to be just as handy with a heavy goods train. All sorts of innovations were dreamed up to save weight (and therefore metal). The wheels were not spoked. Bullied came up with a lighter style. The mechanism for opening and closing valves to let steam in and out of the cylinders was chain driven. And for a touch of ‘glamour’ the boiler cladding was described as ‘air smoothed’ although many people called these engines spam cans.

I note that in my 1962 shed directory this loco was based at Salisbury so it was in its one time home county as it rushed by on my local line.

Many of these locos were rebuilt to look more conventional and also to change that chain driven valve gear – a good idea which suffered from oil baths which leaked oil onto rails causing engine wheels to fail to grip the track. In either form some survived to the end of mainline steam in the south in the summer of 1967.

The Alton turnstiles

March 24, 2015

The twin villages of Alton Barnes and Alton Priors in mid Wiltshire are lovely little places. Whether your interest be thatched barns, ancient yew trees, Saxon churches (or a Norman one), modern glass engraving or maybe just really pleasant ambles in the countryside – the Altons have it for you.

But my favourite are the delightfully chunky and simple turnstiles at field boundaries along the often cobbled footpaths. For me they are really lovely little mechanisms.


They might be enough to stop a cow, but for a man with a dog these are very easy.


There’s lovely for you – and so is the chap. He’s the husband of a distant cousin found through genealogical research.

Forty Winks

March 23, 2015

I’m going to start this post by looking at a tin.


It is clearly old and well-worn which is not surprising as it belonged to my grandparents. The tin was a Sharp’s chocolate or toffee tin.


I do like the idea of the factory being the Kreemy Works which was at Maidstone in Kent.

I’m afraid I can’t date the tin with any accuracy – but now we turn to the contents.

This tin was where my grandparents kept tiddly winks – probably more than forty of them.


We played occasionally using a table with a blanket on it as the surface. I recall that Grandad was much more skilled at it than me.

The winks do not look like modern plastic ones with a totally uniform colour. They are Victorian and made of bone. The cup is made of bamboo – according to the site at which I quote from below.

Wealthy Victorian children amused themselves in their spare time with board games, dressing up and performing plays, playing word games and learning tricks. As well as playing traditional games such as draughts, dominoes and solitaire, children played newly invented games such as halma and tiddlywinks. The game of ‘Tiddledy Winks’, as it was known then, took off from 1890 onwards and continued as a craze for almost a decade. 
Tiddlywinks is a game for four players who play in two pairs. It would have been played on a table or the floor with a pot in the centre. Players used a larger disc called a squidger to flip the different coloured winks into the pot. The player who got most winks into the pot was the winner.
The tiddlywinks set shown here is original. The pieces are made from bone and the cup is made from bamboo.
Tiddlywinks is still played today.

This web site also has a photo showing an original box.


As you can see, it is the same set my grandparents had.

Midvaag Post Office

March 22, 2015

was recently contacted by somebody else whose father served in the Faroe Islands during World War II. I was able to look at his photos, which made me think I should do another Faroese post.

Midvaag is one of the villages on the island of Vagar. That was where many of the British troops on the islands were based. Nearby there was an area flat enough for a landing strip for aircraft and also a lake big enough for landing sea planes.

My father in law took a photo of the Post Office when he was based on Vagar in 1944/45.


Father in law did a very good job captioning his photos. This image is clearly labelled as ‘Post Office’ and the whole page in his album is dedicated to Midvaag.


Back in the 1940s the island was given its name in Danish rather than in the Faroese language. Similarly the place is now Midvagur

You might note the two small trees near the post office door. Sixty years on, in 2005, they came to dominate the scene.


Trees are a rarity on the islands but these two seem to have coped with the potentially wild weather of the North Atlantic.

The local starlings thought these trees were a great place for a roost!


That picture shows the top of our car as well. Back in 2995 it was possible to get a car ferry from a British port (Lerwick on Shetland) to Thorshavn, the capital of the Faroes. An undersea road tunnel links the island of Streymoy (Thorshavn is on that island) to Vagar.

Let’s finish with another image of that Post Office.


Eclipse – March 20th 2015

March 21, 2015

For the 1999 total eclipse I got (with the family) to a place called Mars which is quite near Nancy in France.

For the 2015 eclipse there was no chance for me to find a place for totality. In fact I had a job to do at Stonehenge, much beloved of sky watchers, of course.

As I pulled into the carpark there was a good opportunity for a photograph. A dark black cloud had just the right density to allow the grinning sun to shine through.

Actually, by the time I was able to press the shutter on the camera, the cloud had moved. I still got a photo but it would have been better a few seconds earlier.


I didn’t have my better camera. I thought it would be too much of an encumbrance for the rest of the day so I need to do a lot of digital zooming with that image.


Earlier in the day, at home,  I had made a pin-hole camera consisting of a piece of card which I pierced with a small screwdriver and a piece of paper that happened to be about. My wife and I were able to safely see the shape of the sun through that with no risk to our eyes.

I’d also done a point and hope shot with my zoomier camera.


As you see, it was cloudy which probably produced a better photo

Stonehenge is about 12 miles from my house. All the laybys on the way were filled with the cars of eclipse watchers. Stonehenge was awash with sky watchers. Or rather I should say the area around the visitor centre was. In a day at Stonehenge I never actually saw the stones! We picked up stories of exotically dressed folk beating drums and chanting. Maybe they were just having fun, or maybe they were driving away the dragon that was eating the sun! Or maybe they were marking the spring equinox. Starting tomorrow, day is longer than night in the northern hemisphere.

Holmbush Forest – 1955

March 20, 2015

I have a photo today, taken by dad just about 60 years ago for it was at Easter in 1955. The photo was taken in Holmbush Forest. The forest is situated near Crawley, where we lived. Colgate is to the south and Faygate is near the northwest corner. These days the enormously busy A264 road skirts the northern edge. Part of the forest is now the Buchan Country Park.

Did I just say we lived in Crawley? It wasn’t true back then for we lived in the village of Ifield which was subsumed in Crawley as the New Town was built. I left Sussex years ago and have lived in Wiltshire for 44 years now.

But that’s a digression. Let’s look at the photo.


My dad never did stick to the rules. He’s taken this picture into the sun to give what I think is a very pleasing silhouette effect. The three people in the picture are, from the left, my sister, me and my brother with the forked stick.

My dad liked this picture and although it was taken at Easter it found use as a Christmas card.

I’m afraid the photo makes me a little melancholic. I am the only survivor of my childhood home – but at least I have happy memories in my head and a goodly stock of photos to look at from those happy and carefree days.

Strolling on the pier

March 19, 2015

It isn’t all that traditional to laud weather forecasts. They tend to get remembered for the things they get wrong but most of the time, these days, they are spot on.

March 4th was such a day. They picked it as a bright sunny, but cold and a tad breezy. We decided that sounded ideal for a trip to Swanage. They got it right and we had a glorious day.

We decided to walk out on Swanage Pier, paying our money for two people ‘strolling’.


What you get for your money could be said to be ‘not much’. This is no pleasure pier with all the fun of the fair. Rather it is a quite historic structure and by purchasing a ticket you are providing a little bit of cash to keep the pier going.

This extract comes from the pier’s web site at

The original Swanage Pier was constructed in 1859/60 by James Walton of London for the Swanage Pier and Tramway Company and opened by John Mowlem. The Pier was built primarily for shipping stone. Horses were used to pull carts along the narrow gauge tramway which ran along the Pier and seafront.

As you walk to the pier you’ll note those old railway tracks have been safely incorporated into a promenade.


And here is the pier as seen from the Peveril Point area.


The near end of the pier – still on fairly solid ground, is devoted to a dive school and there are information boards about what divers might manage to see. There’s also a museum but that wasn’t open in early March. It is fun when it is open for it features early pier type penny in the slot machines. There is a café as well.

For me, the real pier begins when it turns into the wooden walk. The decking planks get sponsored and people pay to have their brass plaque attached. Here’s one such plaque.

image008I photographed this one because my wife and I are Roger and Sue. But not the Roger and Sue with a plaque. This couple are 36 years after us when it comes to getting married.

There’s a very negative quote and I don’t agree with it or know where it came from. It goes, ‘Life’s a bitch and then you die’. One plaque on the pier spoofed this and is altogether more pleasing. ‘Life’s a beach and then you dive’.  Now that’s much more seemly.

Go out on Swanage Pier for the best views of Swanage.


Or enjoy the sea view to the Isle of Wight.


This is actually the remains of the original pier. You can just make out the western end of the Isle of Wight.

You get a good view of some of the stacks around ‘Old Harry’.


That’ll be Bournemouth in the background.

And to finish with – a pair of posers on the pier.



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